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2nd Lieutenant Raymond A. Whelan of Mossap, Conn., 1st Cavalry Division, receiving the Silver Star for meritorious services from Major General Hobart R. Gay, CG, 25 August 1950.

The Cav was more battle-ready than most Army divisions in the early part of the war, in the sense that although also understrength and not fully equipped they were prepared to fight. A lot of desperate battles were in store for the Cav before they were worn down and finally relieved Christmas, 1951, by the newly-reformed 45th Oklahoma Guard Infantry Division in the Main Line of Resistance (MLR).

The above is one of Roy E. Appleman's South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu illustrations, a documentary of the first six months of the Korean War.

For Korea, 1950 was a year of brutal invasion and savage fighting, with catastrophic consequences on their people's lives.

Before daylight on Sunday, June 25, 1950, the North Korea People's Army attacked south across the 38th parallel.

Kim Il Sung, the North Korean Premier, had an army 135,000 strong, far superior to that of South Korea: Eight mostly battle-hardened divisions with a large reserve force, spear-headed by 120 Soviet T34 medium tanks, supported by extensive mobile artillery, and an air force of 180 Soviet fighters and bombers.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Army had only 95,000 men and four combat-ready but lightly-armed infantry divisions, supported by a total of eighty-nine 105-mm howitzers. The ROKs had been given no tanks.

The North Koreans quickly crushed South Korean defenses, and butchered a path down the peninsula until they were stopped by United Nations forces under General Douglas MacArthur at the Pusan Perimeter.

Reinforced by the powerful and resolute 5th Marine Brigade, our embattled forces held at the Perimeter until MacArthur had built up an Air-Ground-Naval force and swept over the beaches of Inchon, far behind North Korean lines. This was arguably the most astonishing amphibious assault of the twentieth century. The enemy was routed, Seoul was recaptured, and the pre-war borders were re-taken.

At this point High Command made a fatal miscalculation. The 38th parallel had been an artificial division between the Koreas. Much more defensible bounderies could have been established for the South. Given the North's demonstrated intent to destroy the South, moving into the North as necessary to establish more formidable border positions would have been reasonable.

However instead of simply readjusting the borders ROK forces, and then Eighth Army, launched a full invasion of the North. Some ROK elements and a few units of X Corps even reached the Yalu.

But we had drastically underestimated China's concerns. In November, they sent their veteran guerilla armies into the war in force. Our armies were ambushed, routed, and driven back deep into South Korea in the longest retreat in the history of the American Army.

Eventually, our forces re-grouped and stopped China's advance.

Throughout all this carnage, huge numbers of desperate civilian refugees of both Koreas were swept back and forth like birds in a forest fire, as went the fortunes of war.

And so entered 1951, with its own full share of violence and tragedy.

Today, as we stand down from Iraq and Afghanistan, we face the same decisions in Leadership and Intelligence that we so tragically failed to solve after WWII.


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