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B. L. Kortegaard

This site brings together in one place a small picture of the history and infantry weapons of the Korean War. But, over 60 years removed from when I manned an SCR-300 while bouncing around in an LCVP at Inchon, preparing the site has left me numbed at our generally abysmal performance.

Given the huge disparity in artillery, armor, air and naval support, the United States should have crushed North Korea's offensive within the first month of our entry into the war.

China's veteran guerilla armies, victors in one of the most decisive battles in history the previous year against the Nationalists, were a different problem entirely, but we should only have crossed the 38th parallel far enough to establish effective defensive positions for the South.

As representatives of the UN, this was our only valid objective.

No need to consider resorting to nuclear weapons. No need to start WWIII.

But our nation's main concern was self-indulgence. Our political leaders' main concern was staying in office. Our military leaders' main concern was not upsetting higher levels of command. As one consequence, our nation could not easily provide adequately armed and trained fighting forces psychologically prepared to fight a brutal and resolute enemy.

In the end, we were saved national humiliation by small cadres of cynical professionals, and an uneven sprinkling of resolute units and proud individuals. Our capable few who are always prepared.

Against all odds.

Upon reflection, history shows this pattern is one we repeat over and over. Possibly an inevitable result of the arrogance necessary for success in those who seek leadership positions, but certainly a repeating cycle in our history.

The thing is, I had forgotten all that.

To me, Truman, his Joint Chiefs, and the US Army higher command levels all failed profoundly in Korea.

Today's Media, using "McCarthyism" as synonymous with hysterical Red Bashing, seldom mention that the Truman administration ignored McCarthy's insistance that they indict Alger Hiss for treason and instead attempted to crucify Whitaker Chambers, who exposed Hiss as a communist. The Media probably dosn't even know it. But, after their collapse fifty years later, USSR records showed that Hiss had led one of the most powerful groups of subversives in our history. The reasons for this blindness were assumed to be the Truman cabinet beliefs that Communists were peace-loving idealists, and that nuclear weapons had ended ground warfare forever. The facts were otherwise.

Acting on their misperception, Truman's cabinet failed to prepare our ground forces psychologically for the savage realities of infantry combat. Our combat units were conditioned for friendly peacetime Occupation duty.

They had not adequately armed our fighting forces with the 3.5 inch superbazooka and HEAT rounds, to effectively cope with modern armor, even though these had been made standard shortly after WWII.

They initially failed to issue smokeless small-arms ammunition even though both North Korea and the Chinese consistently used it with deadly effect, just as the Spanish Krag rifles had in Cuba over fifty years earlier!

They failed to supply reliable small-unit communications equipment, and special weapons such as infrared night-vision carbines, even though these would have given us a decisive edge in small-unit combat at night.

These blunders are consistent with Truman's belated recognition that nuclear weapons didn't make conventional combat impractical, but rather made it the only practical form of combat. He, and his High Command, had essentially no understanding of the tactics and strengths of the North Koreans, or of the CCF itself. Together, these blunders of command were primarily responsible for our initial defeats by the North Koreans, and for our later crushing defeats by the CCF.

These deficiencies were largely corrected over time, and we did force the Chinese and NK to the truce table, but the politicians and higher command levels responsible for these blunders did not pay for them. The men who paid were those who fought, as well as we could, with what we had.

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