The Inchon Landing

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This clever and risky operation of landing at Inchon far behind enemy lines was conceived by General MacArthur on his personal reconnaissance to Korea June 29, but it had to be postponed to commit the troops he planned to use in order to delay the NKPA steamroller pushing down the peninsula.

The Navy and Marines, the country's amphibious experts, as well as most Army people not on MacArthur's staff, were against the operation.  One admiral said, "We drew up a list of every natural and geographic handicap to a landing and Inchon had them all."  The narrow channel to the landing site could easily be blocked, currents were as high as 8 knots, there were no beaches, only the easily defended city of Inchon... and many more.  The worst of all were the 32 feet high tides which left nothing but mud flats at low tide, forcing a 12-hour wait for a second landing.

At a Tokyo meeting on August 23, the Navy spent 85 minutes in a gloomy presentation of the obstacles, but concluded that while it would be a most difficult operation, it was not impossible.  Present were chiefs of Navy, Army, Fifth Air Force, General MacArthur, and some of his staff.

MacArthur then made a masterful presentation of the complex military operation.  "Spellbinding" was how Navy Chief Admiral Forrest Sherman and Army Chief General J. Lawton Collins described it.  Admiral James Doyle said that if MacArthur had gone on stage, the world would have never heard of John Barrymore (famous American actor of the 1920s and 1930s). 

The Inchon Landing became one of the most brilliant moves in American military history.  The slaughter of slugging it out head-to-head and toe-to-toe around the Pusan Perimeter would cease; thousands of casualties would be prevented and a decisive victory would be won.

No other nation in the world had the means and the knowledge to put together, on such short notice, over 200 ships to land 70,000 troops successfully in such a precarious place.  "The Navy has never shone more brightly" were the words of the Far East Commander.

The First Marine Division landed a battalion (2 BN, 5th Regiment) on Wolmi-do (the fortified island guarding the entrance to Inchon) at 6:33 a.m. on September 15, 1950.  An hour later, the island was secure.  Because of the high tides, the next 12 hours would be sweated out before the other landings at Inchon proper could take place.  When they did, the 1st Marine Regiment and the remainder of the 5th reached their objectives with light opposition from the surprised enemy; Marine and Naval air ruled the skies.

ROK Marines occupied Inchon while the U.S. Marines, with their 7th Regiment, moved out toward Seoul twenty miles away.  The 7th U.S. Infantry Division landed and moved south of the city to protect the Marine flank, cut off NKPA personnel fleeing from the South, and link up with forces breaking out of the Pusan Perimeter.

The landing troops were designated X Corps and under the command of Major General Ned Almond, a brusque, overbearing officer who had offended the 1st Marine Division Commander, Oliver Smith.  Smith was suspicious and resentful of being under Army command.  As the Marines attacked the heavily fortified area west of Seoul, General Almond suggested to Smith that he send one regiment to the south and cross the Han river right into the capital city.  General Smith refused, saying that he wanted to keep his regiments together.  As Marine casualties continued to mount, Almond sent the Army's 32nd Regiment across without losing a man or piece of equipment.  They were followed by the 17th ROK regiment.  After a strong attack on the Army unit the major NKPA force withdrew, but their rear guard continued to offer stiff resistance to the Marines fighting into the heart of the city.

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