Incheon Landing – Seoul Reclaiming Operation

A successful landing operation by the UN forces which became the turning point in the early stage of the Korean War

  • Date:
    1950.9.15~ 9.28

    Location:
    Incheon-si and Seoul area

    Engaged Forces:
    US 10th Corps vs. North Korean West Coast Defense Command Subordinate

    Summary:
    A successful landing operation by the UN forces which became the turning point in the early stage of the Korean War

  • At the next day Seoul was occupied by the North Korean army, at 1950 June 29th, US Far East Commander general McArthur was on his private plane, the Bataan, and scouted the Hangang Riverside. He had a observed the reality himself, and decided what the US forces had to do. He thought that the war was in crisis, and 2 divisions were needed to turn over the war. He thought of a landing operation to win this war like a lot of other landing operations did, during the Pacific War. It was to stop the North Korean attack with 1 division, and land in Incheon with another division to attack their rear end. This was the first idea of the Incheon Landing Operation.
    In the early July, brigadier general Edwin K. Wright, the head of operations of the Far East Command, became the head of the joint strategic operation staffs. Then, they were trying to stop the North Korean attack with the already arrived 24th division and arriving 25th division, and land another division from Japan(US 1st Calvalry Division) to Incheon and successfully surround the enemy to eliminate the infiltration. This operation was named Operation Bluehearts, but due to the bad situation in the front, was canceled.
    It was shown that the North Korean attack was far stronger and bigger than the original judgment. The US 24th division was damaged greatly in the Pyeongtaek – Chunan battle from July 6th to 8th, and the North Korean threat against the central front was also stronger than first thought. In the mid July, the US Far East Command believed that the enemy was the size of 7 divisions and 1 tank brigade, and had to send the US 1st Calvalry Division to Pohang to stabilize the line.
    This canceled Operation Bluehearts, but general McArthur maintained this idea and improved it into another landing operation. When the US joint chief of staffs realized McArthur’s plan on the landing operation was when he asked for the US 1st marine division 3 times without explaining the reason. McArthur insisted that the 1st marine division should arrive at the far east until September 10th without a specific plan. The joint chief of staffs first declined this request, but due to his continuous asking, made him explain about the details of the plan. He briefly explained, but didn’t tell where he was trying to land till the end.
    The landing operation of McArthur was named ‘Operation Chromite’ at July 23rd. The landing was to be done in September, and 3 placed were nominated as the landing site(Incheon: 100-B, Gunsan: 100-C, Jumunjin: 100-D). These 3 places were seemed to bring the best results. McArthur reported to the Joint chief of staffs that the landing operation will start in middle of September, and emphasized that cutting off their supply route by landing on their rear end will be the only way to turn this war over.
    However, the US Chief of Staffs thought that McArthur was planning a very dangerous operation.
    The reason was because the naval staffs already reviewed the geological difficulties of Incheon. Firstly, the difference between high and low water was 2nd biggest in the world. Secondly, there was only 1 waterway for landing besides the time of high tides. Thridly, even though they land despite these difficulties, there was Wolmido Island in front of the port, which made the troops have to go through 2 procedures to land in Incheon. Fourthly, the dock of Incheon was made of a 5 to 6m tall cliff.
    General McArthur personally visited Tokyo to brief this operation to admiral Sherman, General Collins, lieutenant general Edward(air force representative) who came in the behalf of the Joint Chief of Staffs on August 23rd. There were several oppositions, but McArthur insisted that “The plentiful oppositions that you are all telling me will be the very reason for our surprise operation. The enemy will also think that there won’t be a reckless commander to conduct such an operation. The element of surprise is the most important aspect in modern warfare” and also said that “Incheon will never fail, and will decrease 100,000 troops of dying”. The participants were persuaded by this speech, and the Joint Chief of Staffs approved this operation and started supporting it.
    After the Far East Command operation was approved by the Joint Chief of Staffs, they tried several ways to obtain more precise intelligence through the air force, navy and locals. This enabled them to lay hands on specific information such as the size of the troops in Incheon, and about the cliffs on Incheon shore.
    However this scouting activity of the Korean and US army made North Korea to careful. North Korea also obtained information from Japanese spies that the US army was practicing landing operations at the Sagami shore. This made Kim Il-sung to strengthen their defense along the shore. The commander of the front guard commander brigadier general Park Hun-il was called in for the defense of Incheon. Also, he ordered that the defensive installations to be made until September 15th. Incheon was the first candidate for the landing site.
    However, starting from early September, the North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Il-sung started to concentrate all his might for the ‘last offensive’ to occupy Busan in the Nakdonggang River, and started to neglect the possibility of Incheon landing. From China, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai suggested that the UN forces are to land in Incheon or Jinnampo.
    However Kim Il-sung thought that this was a useless concern, and he didn’t additionally support the defense of Incheon. In the view of troops, equipment, or defensive positions, the west coast defense of North Korea was very weak.
    The McArthur command laid hands on very precise information in the early September, and counted the enemy troops not to different from the real number. Actually, the enemy movement information shows the location of each and every cannon in the Wolmido Island and Incheon area. This helped thought about the success of Incheon Landing Operation.
    The readiness of the US forces for the Incheon Landing operation was big and sophisticated. The 1st marine division was selected as the first landing division, and the 7th division was to follow, which made the adding up of 50,000 troops. The fire support was much stronger too.
    Also, the US marine air service directly supported the landing troops, and also distributed their bombarding also to Jinnampo, Incheon and Gunsan, so that the enemy won’t realize the precise landing location.
    The landing operation was planned to start at the time of high tide in the morning and night of September 15th. Additionally, the USS Missouri was to bombard Samchuk in the east coast, and leave tracks of a small infiltration in Gunsan at September 12th. The Air force attacked Wolmido and other important locations to neutralize the enemy before landing.
    The real landing started at the early morning of September 15th. This day, the leading group to land on Wolmido approached the Incheon waterway at 2 o’clock. At 5 o’clock, ship planes on the carrier started to bombard the Wolmido and Incheon area. The landing forces started to exterminate enemies in Wolmido Island at 5:33. The North Korean forces already lost their will to battle by the air force strike, and naval cannons. Most of the North Korean troops surrendered and the occupation of the island ended successfully.
    The second wave of landing started at 17:32 and 33 after the rocket fire and air force bombing and eventually landed safely. The landing troops didn’t find much resistance.
    The Incheon landing operation was a complete surprise attack. With only 21 casualties, 1 man missing, and 174 injured, the massive landing on the Incheon shore ended as a success.
    The North Korean army lost their minds in front of the orchestratic landing operation with the combination of air force bombarding and warship gunfire. Also, due to the bombing on the Seoul-Incheon area, more support was hard to arrive. Later, the US marine regiment started their attack towards the inland on the 16th and got rid of the North Korean remnants and all the red elements in Incheon city.
    The landing force started to march toward Seoul from September 16th, which was their ultimate objective. They succeeded in occupying Gimpo airport, and the rest of the North Korean were no match either.
    However, due to the careful march of the US forces, the North Korean had enough time to lay all kinds of mines. Due to these operations, the North Korean military engineer battalion was able to make a mine area on the Seoul-Yeongdeungpo road starting from the night of September 16th.
    Due to the mines, the operation to free Yeongdeungpo had to be delayed, because the moving distance was limited to 2~3km a day. During this time, the North Korean army was able to make a defensive position in the west side of Yeongdeungpo.
    On September 17th, the panicked North Korean supreme command nominated Choi Yong-gun as the commander of the West Coast Defense Command, and ordered to defend Seoul. However Kim Il-sung didn’t fully understand the importance of the landing in Incheon, and at the same time, couldn’t discard his greed to attack the Nakdonggang River. This made him to rally only the troops close to Seoul and maintain the troops attacking the Nakdonggang River. However this was only a stopgap measure.
    Stalin and the Soviet chief of staffs realized that the measure of North Korea was very poor, and told Kim Il-sung to pull some of the troops from the Nakdonggang River at September 18th, the next day. However they only pretended following this order. This lukewarm measure devastated the intention of the Soviet. The US forces took over the Haengusanseong Fortress, and advanced to the west of Seoul.
    The troops which advanced to Yeongdeungpo struggled at first, but occupied the south side of Hangang bridge at the 22nd after fierce city battle, and blocked the connection between the North Korean forces in Seoul and the North Korean forces in the Nakdonggang front.
    However the US 1st marine division faced unexpected attacks during their attack towards the west side of Seoul at the Sinchon area. Later, US 10th corps commander major general Almond started his idea of surround and attacking the south and east side of Seoul from September 24th and notified this to the 1st marine division. Later, they approached central Seoul without big loss in September 26th, and succeeded in cutting off the enemy route of retreat by connecting with the US 1st division.
    Later the North Korean 1st corps and 2nd corps escaped through the mountain in small groups with all their equipment behind. The US and Korean forces eliminated the remaining North Korean forces and took back their territory. As McArthur looked forward, by blocking Seoul, the North Korean army couldn’t get additional supply of gas and ammunition, and most of the equipment they had started to turn into scrap metal.
    Later our forces got rid of the barricades made by North Korea and approached Seoul City by September 27th, and the Korean marines hanged the national flag on the Capitol Building and made the victory certain. Later, McArthur and President Lee Seong-man and the cabinet of the Korean government had a ceremony of returning to the evacuated government at September 29th with the smell of gun smoke still in the air. General McArthur addressed a speech that countries all over the world are supporting Korea to stop communist threats.

  • The landing troops had an excellent result starting from landing on Incheon to reclaiming Seoul. Most of all, they hit the weakness in the flank of the line and turned the table to North Korea while most of their army were in the Nakdonggang front.
    Incheon Landing Operation was one of the biggest successes with precise preparation through precise information of the geographical features and height of the tides. Various methods of gathering information were used, and the operation of deception hided the target area even the day before the attack..

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