North Korean Incursion

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The Inchon Landing had changed the fortunes of war almost overnight, insuring a NKPA defeat.  General Matthew Ridgway said if it had been suggested that MacArthur could walk on water, most would have believed it.  But now the Far East Commander made a serious mistake.

On September 27, he was ordered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to cross the 38th parallel without fanfare and with little publicity.  The objective was to destroy the remaining NKPA forces and unite the North under the government of South Korea.  With some reluctance, the U.N. approved this action.  Some of the reasons given (NSC-81) were (1) 2,500 American and 25,000 ROK POWs were being held; (2) Red China, which had massive economic and social problems and with an Army lacking armor, heavy artillery, and air support, would probably not intervene; (3) taking North Korea away from Russian influence would increase U.S. chances of rapprochement with China; (4) if left intact, North Korea might invade again after it recovered; (5) Syngman Rhee was intent on unifying the country and would be difficult to hold in check; (6) Americans were outraged at the atrocities committed by the enemy against U.S. forces; and (7) with the total victory of World War II so recent, it would be hard for the Truman administration, accused of being soft on Communism, to settle for anything less.  MacArthur was to engage any Chinese forces encountered in Korea " long as, in your judgment, action by forces now under your control offers a reasonable chance of success." 

Needing additional port facilities to supply both the X Corps and Eighth Army, and to meet the possibility of stubborn resistance at the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, MacArthur withdrew the X Corps for a landing at Wonsan on the east coast.  It would attack across the "narrow waist" of Korea toward Pyongyang from the east while the Eighth Army attacked from the south.  This was a tragic mistake not only because of the delay it caused, which allowed some recovery among NKPA units and time for Chinese to deploy, unseen in Korea, but it overloaded the transportation system--heavily damaged by U.N. bombing -- to the extent that it was very difficult to keep the Eighth Army supplied for its incursion into North Korea.  It so happened that resistance was light and Pyongyang was taken by the 1st Cav and 1st ROK Division on October 19.  The ROK troops advanced so rapidly up the east coast that they took the landing site of Wonsan before the X Corps arrived by sea.

A well executed air drop by the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team north of Pyongyang was too late to rescue a trainload of U.S. POWs, who were massacred before the paratroopers landed.  A NKPA force of 500 was caught between the 187 and the Australian Battalion, 27th British Commonwealth Brigade advancing to link up with the troopers.  Fearing their fire would hit the Americans, they fixed bayonets, charged the enemy, killed 270, and captured 200, while miraculously sustaining only seven wounded of their own.

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