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Troop and cargo ships next left Inchon , steamed part way up the coast, then reversed course.

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On 5 March the same ships made an ostentatious departure from Inchon to continue the illusion of an impending amphibious landing. This bombardment, coupled with the occupation of an offshore island by a small party of South Korean Marines , added to the impression of imminent landing operations.

Ridgway had learned that two recently federalized National Guard infantry divisions, the 40th and 45th , were soon to leave the United States for duty in Japan. In an attempt to enlarge the amphibious threat, he proposed to General MacArthur that the departure of the divisions be publicized and a deception plan be developed to indicate that the two units would make an amphibious landing in Korea.

Extending the idea further, Ridgway also proposed creating the illusion of forthcoming airborne operations by having three replacement increments of six thousand men each put on 82nd Airborne Division patches after arriving in Japan and wear them until they reached Korea. Nothing came of either proposal.


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Stratemeyer had emphasized attacks on the rail net since its capacity for troop and supply movements was much greater than that of the roads; he had stressed in particular the destruction of railroad bridges. On 5 March General Ridgway had his five-day forward supply levels in all items except petroleum products. Severely taxed railroad facilities would need two more days to complete petroleum shipments. The PVA 39th and 40th Armies appeared to have withdrawn from the front. With supply requirements all but met, IX and X Corps finishing their advance to the Arizona Line , and no clear indication of an imminent enemy offensive at hand, Ridgway on 5 March ordered Operation Ropper to begin on the morning of 7 March.

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Prize terrain objectives in the central zone were the towns of Hongcheon and Chuncheon. The th Airborne Regimental Combat Team th RCT , currently undergoing refresher training at Daegu , was to assist IX Corps attack should an opportunity arise to employ airborne tactics profitably. Milburn was to retain two divisions, the ROK 1st and US 3rd , in his western and central positions along the lower bank of the Han to secure the army flank and protect Inchon, where five hundred to six hundred tons of supplies were being unloaded daily thanks to Task Force 90 and the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade.

Joseph S. Bradley , was to attack across the Han on both sides of its confluence with the southward flowing Pukhan River. The opening phase of Operation Ripper gave promise that the Eighth Army might reach its final ground objectives almost by default. Attacking with three regiments abreast following heavy preparatory fires on the northern bank of the river and in company with simulated crossings by other Corps' forces, the division reached the northern shore almost unopposed.

Joined quickly by tanks that forded or were ferried across the river, and helped by good close air support after daybreak, the assault battalions pushed through moderate resistance, much of it in the form of small arms, machine gun, and mortar fire and a profusion of well placed antitank and antipersonnel mines, for first-day gains of 1—2 miles 1. The 35th Infantry Regiment , first to reach the phase line, cleared a narrow zone on the east side of the Pukhan River.

Ridgway Duels For Korea

On the west side the 24th and 27th Infantry Regiments occupied heights in the Yebong Mountain mass within 2—3 miles 3. In the main attack, IX Corps advanced four divisions abreast. Advancing steadily against light to moderate resistance, all but the ROK 6th Infantry Division, which the cavalrymen and Marines on either side gradually pinched out, were on the Albany Line by dark on 12 March. By 12 March the team recovered more than two hundred fifty bodies, mostly of men who had been members of Support Force 21, and retrieved the five mm.

The air strikes the support force commander had requested on the abandoned weapons either had not been flown or had not found their targets. The team also retrieved the six M5 Tractors left behind by the support force artillery, evacuated four of the six tanks that had been lost, and recovered a number of damaged trucks that were of value at least for spare parts.

In a well-fought delaying action, KPA forces kept gains short until 11 March, when they began to withdraw above the Albany Line. Against the diminishing resistance, the 2nd and 7th Divisions each placed a regiment on the phase line on 13 March. With forces already well above the Idaho Line in the coastal zone, ROK I Corps meanwhile made only minor adjustments to consolidate its forward positions.

As of the 13th, a regiment of the ROK 9th Division and two regiments of the Capital Division occupied a line reaching northeastward from the Hwangbyong Mountain area to the coast near the town of Chumunjin. The two forces clashed briefly in the Chungbong heights on the morning of the 13th to open what would become a cat-and-mouse affair lasting ten days.

During the evening of the 13th General Ridgway ordered the next phase of the advance to begin the following morning. In the west, the 25th Infantry Division was to advance toward a segment of the Buffalo Line bulging 4 miles 6. In the main attack, IX Corps was to make its major effort in the right half of the Corps' zone, sending the 1st Cavalry and 1st Marine Divisions to clear Hongcheon and then to occupy the Buffalo Line above town to block Route 29 leading northwest to Chuncheon and Route 24 running through the Hongcheon River valley to the northeast.

Only short advances were required in the western half of the IX Corps' zone, by the 24th Division at the left in conjunction with the I Corps advance and by the ROK 6th Division at the right to protect the flank of the forces attacking Hongcheon. Against the continued advance, according to estimates prepared by Eighth Army intelligence as the initial assault concluded, the PVA delaying forces backing away from the 25th Infantry Division and the four divisions of IX Corps were expected to join their parent units in defenses in the next good system of high ground to the north located generally on an east-west line through Hongcheon.

Presenting something of a barrier to this ground in the IX Corps' zone was the Hongcheon River, which flowed into the zone from the northeast to a bend below Hongcheon town, then meandered west to empty into the Pukhan. Colonel Tarkenton expected the KPA forces in the higher ridges to the east to withdraw to positions on line with those of the PVA in the IX Corps' zone but did not expect the KPA defending Seoul and the ground west of the city, all of whom were outside the zone of the Ripper advance, to abandon their positions along the Han.

But on this count, as well as in his estimate of enemy defensive plans, the continuation of Operation Ripper would prove Colonel Tarkenton in error. At the same time, it was incomplete and off the mark in the identification and location of units. What the intelligence staff had reported in mid-February as the entry of seven new PVA armies into Korea was largely the return of the three KPA corps and nine divisions that had withdrawn into Manchuria for reorganization and retraining the past autumn.

Avoiding Route 1 in favor of lesser roads nearby, Corps' commander Lt. Crossing the Yalu at Sinuiju in January, VII Corps, with the 13th , 32nd and 37th Divisions , proceeded across Korea in a drawn out series of independent movements by subordinate units to the Wonsan area, closing there by the end of February. Lee Yong Ho assumed command of the 3rd Division and also the 24th Division , which was defending the coast in that area.

Similarly, on arriving in Hungnam with two divisions, Lt. Thus, by the beginning of March KPA reserves in the Hungnam-Wonsan area totaled two corps with eight divisions and a brigade. Operating in northeastern Korea until late December, the headquarters of the IV Corps had then moved west to the Pyongyang area. Since that time, under the command of Lt. With the return of forces from Manchuria, KPA reserves by early March altogether numbered four corps, fourteen divisions, and three brigades. These and the units at the front, including the 10th Division currently attempting to return to its own lines, gave the KPA an organization of eight corps, twenty-seven divisions, and four brigades.

This force was not nearly so strong as its numerous units would indicate. Most divisions were understrength, and many of those recently reconstituted were scarcely battle worthy. Before March was out, in fact, two divisions, the 41st and 42nd, would be broken up to provide replacements for others. Nevertheless, the KPA had recovered measurably from its depleted condition in early autumn of There was also fresh leadership in to KPA high command.

In a recent change, Lt. Nam Il replaced General Lee as chief of staff. General Nam, about forty years old, had a background of college and military training in the Soviet Union and World War II service as a company grade officer in the Soviet Army. A close associate of Premier Kim Il Sung , Nam had a solid political, if not military, foundation for his new post.

General Kim Chaek , the original commander of this forward headquarters, had died in February. Now in command was Lt. A solid tactician, he was currently the ablest KPA field commander. In company with the change in command, a surge of fresh Chinese units from Manchuria had begun. As these forces entered, the IX Army Group, which had been seriously hurt in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir and which now had been out of action for two months, was well along in refurbishing its three armies, the 20th , 26th and 27th.

The extra divisions had been inactivated, and their troops were being distributed as replacements among the remaining units. By 1 March the 26th Army had begun to move into an area near the 38th Parallel behind the central sector of the front. The Eighth Army intelligence staff quickly picked up the move of the 26th, but even at mid-March the staff had only a few reports-which it did not accept-that any part of the XIX Army Group had entered Korea.

As part of the buildup, four armies of the XIII Army Group, all in need of restoration, were replaced at the front during the first half of March. By the l0th, the 26th Army moved southwest out of its central reserve location to relieve the 38th, and 50th Armies, which had been opposing the 25th Division and 24th Division. The 50th returned to Manchuria, reaching Antung by the end of the month.

The 39th and 40th Armies, which had left the line before the start of the operation and had assembled in the Hongcheon area, meanwhile began relieving the 42nd and 66th Armies in the central sector, completing relief on or about 14 March. On being replaced, the 42nd moved north to Yangdok, midway between Pyongyang and Wonsan, for reorganization and resupply. Like the 38th, the 42nd also passed to Headquarters, PVA control. The 66th had seen its last day of battle in Korea. As these frontline changes were made, another complement of fresh Chinese forces began entering Korea. First to enter in March was the independent 47th Army , commanded by Zhang Tianyun.

Coming into Korea at the same time was the 5th Artillery Division , which because of its means of transportation was known also as the "Mule Division. The final force due to enter Korea in March made up the bulk of the 2nd Motorized Artillery Division. Entering late in the month, the division would join its 29th Regiment already in Korea. When all Chinese movements in March were completed, the strength of the PVA would have risen to four army groups with fourteen armies and forty-two divisions, these supported by four artillery divisions and two separate artillery regiments.

As sensed by Eighth Army intelligence, the buildup was in preparation for an offensive. But the offensive would not originate in the Hongcheon area, as Colonel Tarkenton thought possible, nor was it imminent.


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The movement and positioning of reinforcements from Manchuria would continue through most of March; the remainder of the IX Army Group would not be fully ready to move south until the turn of the month; and the refurbishing of other units, both North Korean and Chinese, would require even more time. In line with the doctrine of elastic, or mobile, defense, small forces meanwhile would continue to employ delaying tactics against the Ripper advance.

With some exceptions, the delaying forces would give ground even more easily than they had during the opening phase of the operation as they fell back toward the concentrations of major units above the 38th Parallel. In ordering the second phase of Ripper to begin, General Ridgway allowed for the possibility that the PVA would set up stout defenses in the ground immediately below Hongcheon and instructed the IX Corps' commander to take the town by double envelopment, not by frontal assault. Accordingly, General Hoge directed the 1st Cavalry Division to envelope it on the west and the 1st Marine Division to move around it on the east.

Hongcheon actually lay in the Marine zone near the boundary between the two divisions. Long range small-arms fire and small, scattered groups of PVA who made no genuine attempt to delay the advance toward Hongcheon were the extent of the opposition the 1st Cavalry and 1st Marine Divisions encountered during the morning. The 24th Division and the ROK 6th Division, which had rejoined the advance in a new zone on the right of the 24th, met no resistance at all in making their short advances in the western half of the Corps' zone.

Prompted by the easy morning gains, General Hoge recommended to General Ridgway that the 24th and ROK 6th Divisions extend their advances to the lower bank of the Hongcheon River and to the Chongpyong Reservoir , located within a double bend of the Pukhan just west of the mouth of the Hongcheon. Ridgway approved, and through the afternoon the two divisions continued to advance, still unopposed, within 2—4 miles 3.

In continuing the attack on Hongcheon, the 1st Cavalry Division advanced against scant resistance and reached the Hongcheon River west of town late in the afternoon. The 1st Marine Division, moving more slowly in descending the Oum Mountain mass on the eastern approach, advanced to within 3 miles 4.


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  • On 15 March the 24th Division at the far left of the Corps' advance moved without opposition to the lower bank of the Chongpyong Reservoir while the ROK 6th Division in the zone between the 24th and 1st Cavalry Divisions also advanced against no resistance to high ground overlooking the Hongcheon River. The frustrated Van Fleet was soon to be in the middle of the greatest single battle of the war. From April , the Chinese and North Koreans struck in massive force, ostensibly with Seoul as the objective.

    Eighth Army elements found themselves in desperate straits as South Korean divisions disintegrated under pressure, thereby placing allied units in jeopardy. The enemy attack was defeated and lines stabilized despite heavy Allied casualties. He also turned his attention to another matter when he cabled Washington of his intention to desegregate the Eighth Army by disbanding all segregated regiments. The men in these units would be transferred to other regiments, thus effectively integrating the Army.

    This proposal had first been suggested by General William Kean of the 25th Division, one of whose regiments was all black. Virtually every general officer favored the plan, as did the Joint Chiefs of Staff; but it was months before total integration became reality.

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    East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950

    The Chinese and North Koreans had regrouped by mid-May while Van Fleet was again denied authority to launch an attack using the Marines in a sea invasion near Wonsan to the east. On May 16, the Communists launched a new attack with some , men, this time east and away from the original Seoul corridor of a month earlier.

    Again elements of the ROK collapsed as 40, men left their positions. Ridgway again made his way to command headquarters.

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    He would not give Van Fleet carte blanche control of all units. He relented in releasing the th Regimental Combat Team, an airborne unit being held as a decoy in reserve, and deploying elements of the 3d Infantry Division to fill gaps and reinforce weakened sectors. By May 30, the attack was repulsed with appalling enemy losses approaching 80, casualties. It was the second defeat of the Communists in two months. They were becoming physically and materially exhausted. They had, however, delivered severe blows of their own against a tired Eighth Army. The going was very slow. Many units were exhausted, and the new rotation of troops policy had taken effect, causing the loss of veterans.

    On June 9, Van Fleet and Ridgway agreed to halt the advance. Washington was concerned about discontent developing in the United States. Human losses began to register. In fact, 21, Americans had been killed by June 25, The possibilities of gaining an Armistice seemed propitious. Ridgway had also come to realize that a decisive victory was out of the question. Also, U. On June 30, they got some relief from their worries as Ridgway was authorized to make an overture to negotiate a settlement. He made a radio broadcast to that effect, suggesting a meeting to take place on a Danish hospital ship in Wonsan Harbor.

    Both China and North Korea responded positively but chose to meet instead in Kaesong, which was very near the 38th Parallel. However, a breakdown occurred almost immediately over the desires of Syngman Rhee for greater territorial advantages north of the 38th Parallel, the demarcation of a demilitarized zone, and the non-repatriation of tens of thousands of prisoners of war POWs , whom Rhee sought to use for political advantage.

    The war entered a new phase-Ridgway understood that any renewed offensive would demand huge resources in men and materiel without which there could be no decisive defeat of the enemy. Eisenhower who would soon become president. General Mark Clark took over the Far East command. Ridgway returned to Washington to become Army chief of staff as Eisenhower was being inaugurated. Years later, he continued to present his views, arguing against the abolition of Selective Service, the admission of women into the military academies, and the concept of an all-volunteer armed force. He was particularly outraged by a order from the Pentagon which tried to abolish the distinctive red beret worn by the airborne troops.

    Ridgway also became an early and strong critic of U. In , the U. Ridgway died in retirement at Fox Chapel near Pittsburgh, July 26, , one day shy of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice ending the Korean War. He was Appleman, Roy E. Ridgway Duels for Korea Blair, Clay. The Forgotten War: America in Korea, Cumings, Bruce, ed. Goulden, Joseph C. Korea: The Untold Story of the War Hermes, Walter G. Truce Tent and Fighting Front, Vol. Kaufman, Burton. Rees, David.

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