Military Historical Library

"The War in Korea 1950-1953"

Chief Editor N. L. Volkovskiy
Editor I. V. Petrova
OOO Izdatel'stvo Poligon, Saint Petersburg 2000; 928 pp.
ISBN 5-89173 - 113-4

((pp. 29-55))

Chapter 1. Status of the Armed Forces and Basic Views on the Conduct of
Combat Operations by the Warring Sides
Prior to the Beginning of the War

1.Armed Forces of' the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea

With a goal of protecting the independence of their government, the Temporary Workers' Committee of North Korea made the decision during the first half of 1946 to conduct preparatory work in the creation of armed forces. In accordance with this decision, during mid 1946 one infantry brigade was formed for securing railway lines, bridges and tunnels as well as two schools for training the command and political staff for the army. By the end of 1946 two infantry divisions had been formed.

Manning the forces with private soldiers was accomplished for the most part by accepting volunteers with the active assistance of societal organizations. The army was composed from workers, peasants and the working intelligentsia from the Peoples' Committee.

Together with the fact that the South Korean government strove to capture the DPRK and was constantly organizing provocations in the area of the 38th Parallel, the government of the Democratic Peoples' Republic was forced to take measures to further strengthen its armed forces.

In 1947-1949 the armed forces additionally formed one more infantry division, an independent tank brigade, independent artillery, antiaircraft artillery and engineer regiments, and a signals regiment; they began to form an independent aviation division as well as create a navy. Beside that, the makeup of the Korean Peoples' Army included two Korean infantry divisions (the 5th and 6'h) that had arrived from China, where they had fought as part of the Peoples' Liberation Army against the Kuomuntang.

During the first half of 1950, together with the gathering threat of a military strike from South Korea, the decision was made to reorganize one infantry brigade into an infantry division and to form three new infantry divisions. In April of that year one more independent Korean infantry division arrived from China, which was included in the KPA as the 12'h Infantry Division, as well as independent infantry regiments.

For that reason, during the period from 1946- 1950 the armed forces were created through the efforts of the Workers' Party and the government of the DPRK, with the assigned task of protecting the workers' republic and its democratic achievements. (1) Prior to the start of the war the armed forces of the DPRK consisted of ground forces, air forces and a navy. Leadership of all armed forces was concentrated with the Ministry of National Defense via the General Staff and the commanders of the branches of the armed forces and arms of service. No military districts, army or corps commands were created. (2) The ground forces had their own makeup: nine infantry divisions (3) (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th,6th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th ) of which four (4th, 10th, 13th and 15th) were still forming; the 105th Tank Brigade (4); the 603rd Motorcycle Regiment; an independent artillery regiment (12 x 122mm howitzers and 12 x 122mm guns); an independent antiaircraft artillery regiment (24 x 37nn light AA guns, 12 x 85mm medium AA guns, and 30 heavy antiaircraft machine guns); independent signals (5), engineer-sapper (6) and security regiments; three independent battalions (two infantry, one security); four independent internal security and border security brigades; three military academies and one course for improvement. The overall number of personnel serving in the ground forces was 175,000 men.

The air forces consisted of one aviation division (a ground attack, a fighter and a training regiment, two aviation technical battalions) with 2,839 personnel and 239 aircraft to include 93 ground attack (Il-10), 79 fighters (Yak-9) and 67 specialized aircraft (training, liaison, etc.)

The navy had in its makeup: four ship divisions (one of built vessels - 3 OD-200 naval cutters; one of torpedo boats - 5 G-5 type torpedo boats; one of minesweepers - 2 ex-American UMS type minesweepers and one ex-Japanese; and one of vessels under construction with 7 vessels of 250 to 800 tons displacement), one amphibious base, one military transport of 2,000 tons displacement (a former American ship transferred to South Korea in October 1949) 6 various boats and schooners (60-80 tons displacement), 2 regiments of naval infantry, a coastal artillery regiment, an antiaircraft artillery regiment (24 x 37mm light AA guns and 12 x 85mm medium AA guns), three naval bases, and one naval academy. Overall number of naval personnel was 10,297 of which 3,680 manned the vessels, 5,483 were naval infantry, and 1,134 were coastal defense.

In overall strength the Armed Forces of the DPRK and the forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs numbered around 188,000 Personnel prior to the start of the war.

The core of the leadership of the command and political cadres of the Korean Peoples' Army came from the cadres of the partisan detachments who fought against the Japanese Imperialists. They occupied the leadership posts in the Ministry of National Defense and the positions of formation commanders.

Training of the junior officer cadres for the ground forces was carried out at the 1st Central Officers' Academy, at the courses for improvement at that school, the 2nd Political Academy and the Artillery Academy. On 1 March 1950 these schools numbered 6,346 personnel, and another 3,239 who had been trained. Together with the fact, in 1949-1950 these schools could not completely support the demands of the army for officer cadres, and thus the academies also held accelerated graduations.

The officer cadres for the navy were trained at the Naval Academy that had trained 612 men by May 1950.

Prior to the start of combat operations the flight training regiment was preparing pilots for service with the aviation division. By May 1950 the following cadres had been trained: combat qualified pilots - 32 (7) ; pilots qualified on training aircraft - 151; and aviation technicians - 17. Training continued for 120 pilots, 60 aviation technicians and 67 aviation specialists and equipment mechanics.

By the start of the war the majority of the infantry formations were up to strength in manpower and small arms. The artillery was understrength and only had the following percentages of armaments: 45mm guns, 76mm guns and 122mm howitzers - 50-60%; 120mm mortars - 45-55%; and 82mm mortars - 60-70%. The amount of equipment transport and signals assets was particularly bad in the 5th, 6th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th Divisions (the 5th Infantry Division was completely armed with captured weapons). (8)

The artillery staffs of the infantry divisions were incompletely manned and had an insufficient number of experienced officers, for the most part due to the fact that they were not even artillerymen. The training was somewhat better for battalion and battery commanders and fire control officers, but the battalions and batteries had next to no communications means. Battalion and regimental artillery were insufficiently well trained to conduct fire.

The matter of communications organization was completely without advantage. The independent signals regiment, designed to support communications of the High Command and the General Staff, was formed in early March 1950 and due to the lack of technical equipment and personnel training could not cope with the missions given to it. The fact that the General Staff was 120-200 kilometers from its forces demanded the use of permanently established landlines. The signals regiment had but one telegraph operations company, which could not support construction, use and restoration of permanent communications lines. There was no base for deploying these units in wartime. The lack of a sufficient number of landline means could not be replaced by using radio, for the radio battalion only had 3 RAF HF radio sets, 4 RSB radio sets and 10 RBM radio sets. There were no receivers or field switchboards that could be effectively used with the radio sets. The mobile signals company also could not be used in full measure. The motorcycles in that company, due to the mountainous conditions and the high temperatures, quickly saw their machines break down. And finally, the training company of the signals regiment, having 60 students, could not provide for their training the necessary number of junior commander-specialists even for the regiment itself.

There were no complete measures for training the unit and formation staffs either. A sufficient number of trained staff officers and experienced staffs could be said to be lacking.

The rear service organs had only begun to deploy and therefore by the start of the war had not been able to get up to providing continuous supply of necessities to the troops.

The theoretical and practical training of troops and staffs to conduct combat operations was primarily carried out by studying the military art of the Soviet Armed Forces during the Great Patriotic War in consideration of the national character and nature of the terrain of Korea, as well as the basis of partisan warfare fought by the Korean and Chinese peoples in the Far East.

Training ground forces was carried out based on the following views of the conduct of combat operations. Battle, the single most important means of achieving victory, was viewed as combined arms battle, success in which was achieved by melding the goals, place and time of the efforts of all arms of service.

The basic types of combat were considered to be offensive and defensive. But at the same time it was stressed that only a decisive offensive could destroy the enemy. When the enemy had a cohesive defense the offensive had to take on the form of a breakthrough, which came from the position of immediate contact with the enemy. The breakthrough was considered to be a means of creating the conditions for maneuver. The basic types of maneuver were considered to be envelopment and flanking, as well as the combination of this and that with the goal of encircling and destroying the enemy.

One of the important conditions of success was considered to be the concentration of the main effort of troops on the axis of the main strike. The main strike had to come on an axis that had decisive significance in the destruction of the primary force groupings of the enemy.

The width of the front of the offensive and the sector of the main strike were determined by the established mission, the available forces and means, the conditions of the terrain and the nature of the enemy defense.

By studying the conditions of the terrain in Korea, it was proposed that it was possible to make an offensive along different directions with units or even subunits - along mountain roads and paths in combination with flanking movements via mountain crests with a goal of seizing the enemy rear areas and the flanks of the enemy via passes and commanding heights. Along with this it was determined that for supporting combat operations under these conditions a great deal of significance would come from mortar fires and automatic weapons, as well as hand grenades.

Artillery support for troop operations in the offensive was considered as the conduct of an artillery preparation for the attack, artillery support of the attack, and support for the advance of infantry and tanks into the depths. When correlating the artillery preparation for the attack a great deal of significance came from direct fire. The artillery support for the attack had to correspond with subsequent concentration of fires, as well as fires by mortars and guns located immediately with the combat order of the infantry.

Since the KPA had a tank brigade and a motorcycle regiment, they had to be prepared to operations as the means to exploit success on the main axis. There were no tank units and subunits designated for immediate support to the infantry. It was considered possible when rupturing the defense on the main axis to use part of the tanks of the tank brigade for immediate infantry support.

Ground attack aviation was prepared to destroy enemy fire support means, enemy reserves, concentrations of his troops in ravines and valleys in the interests of supporting the success of the offensive by the ground forces.

The defense was viewed as a type of battle in which troops, making use of advantageous terrain, their engineer works and firepower, can hold occupied positions against the offensive of superior enemy forces, inflict significant losses on them, and break up the enemy offensive. The defense can be set up as deep, active, antitank, antiaircraft, anti-artillery and anti-assault landing. The most developed type of defense was set up along tank-accessible axes in valleys. When establishing the combat order it was assumed that reserves were allocated to support the flanks and rear area.

The forward edge of the defense normally was selected for establishment along the slopes of hills facing the enemy. All important heights on the forward edge and in the depth of the defense were converted into strong points and set up to provide all-around defense. The reserves were deployed, as is correct, at road junctions along the most important axes.

A great deal of attention was spent organizing the system of fire in the defense. The system of infantry fires was set up with a view to the destruction of the enemy on the approaches to the forward edge of the combat area with the widest possible use of flanking, grazing and whirlwind fire. Consideration was given to organizing multi- layered fires. Mortars and howitzers were used to shell the nearby approaches and "dead" space.

The antitank defense was based on the combined fire of antitank rifles, artillery located in both open and concealed positions, and antitank obstacles. To reinforce the antitank defense in the first echelon on important axes self-propelled artillery mounts were assigned, and in some cases even tanks, that were deployed in the second echelon and used for the counterattack.

Combat training of forces was conducted in full consideration of the peculiarities of the terrain. The troops were ready to carry on combat operations both day and night. Political work in the army was conducted by the Cultural Enlightenment Directorate of the Ministry of National Defense. There were corresponding cultural enlightenment sections in formations, and in units and subunits, deputy commanders for cultural-enlightenment work. The troops of the Korean Peoples' Army were educated in the spirit of love and faith in their nation, and the protection of the democratic rights and freedoms of the people of the DPRK. The morale-political state of the forces was very high.

As a whole, prior to the start of combat operations the KPA had become a fully harmonious organism. But at the same time, it had no combat experience against a powerful enemy.

2. Forces of the Chinese Volunteers

From October 1950 onward to the end of the war, the Chinese Peoples' Volunteers took an active part in the war in Korea in fighting against the American and South Korean forces on behalf of the armed forces of the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea.

Together with the invasion of the territory of the DPRK by American and South Korean forces and the creation of a threat to the security of the borders of northeastern China during the first half of October 1950, all of China established a nationwide movement to provide assistance to their brother Korean nation. This was led by the Communist Party and the government of China who quickly formed 30 infantry and 4 artillery divisions of Peoples' Volunteers. (9)

The core of these divisions was formed of volunteers drawn from the cadres of the regular army. The basis of their organizational and tabular structure was drawn from the corresponding organization and tabular structure of the infantry division of the Peoples' Liberation Army of China. (10)

The formations of Chinese volunteers were armed with various types of weapons of domestic and foreign manufacture. (11) Peoples' Volunteer infantry divisions were only supplied with 40-50% of their organic artillery and mortars. The divisions had few antiaircraft and antitank artillery assets, observation devices and fire control equipment and had absolutely no tanks or heavy artillery. There were shortages of ammunition, communications means, and truck transport. The Chinese Volunteers did not have a navy nor did they have any aviation. In spite of that, they were very decisive about providing assistance to the Korean nation and driving the enemy out.

The level of combat training of the Chinese Volunteers could be characterized by the fact that they had a considerable amount of combat experience, obtained during their revolution and National Liberation wars, as well as the study of the combat experience of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Their basic approach during the National Liberation War was to wear down the superior forces of the enemy, gather their own forces together and create conditions for the decisive destruction of the enemy. The Chinese Volunteers did not have a great deal of experience in conducting combat with an enemy who was well equipped with combat technology and had tremendous air superiority.

The basic views of the Chinese Peoples' Volunteers in questions of organization and the conduct of combat operations were as follows.

Offensive operations were considered to the primary and most decisive form of troop combat operations, as only a decisive offensive could bring about the total destruction of the enemy. In this special attention was paid to the first engagement. The first engagement had to be to won. Entry into combat would only follow if the first engagement was successful. On the other hand, there were instances when it was better to withdraw, continue to observe and wait for the moment when the enemy had lost his superiority in strength and position. In combat it was necessary to have numerical superiority, operate stealthily and quickly, mainly at night, and to seek a quick end to the battle in short order. Strikes had to be launched from several directions, against the weak spots of the defense, in order to scatter the forces and assets of the enemy and conceal the direction of the main strike by friendly forces.

In the offensive troops must avoid protracted combat with the main forces of the enemy who is defending in previously prepared positions. The enemy must be cut into pieces when he is in movement, using the means of all power from infantry and artillery weapons to attack him in close combat.

In order to encircle and destroy large force groupings of the enemy the troops must move only when they have absolute superiority in forces and when conditions permit the elimination of the encircled enemy force grouping before the enemy can bring up his operational reserves. In the case of enemy withdrawal troops must conduct skillful and decisive pursuit, not denying them any difficulty. The defense was considered to only be a temporary and forced type of combat, with the goal of breaking up the enemy, playing for time, and creating the necessary conditions for going over to the offensive. The defense was to be maneuverable, flexible, and active. The combat order of troops in the defense had to be formed based on the principle of "fewer forces forward and more forces to the rear." It was recommended to retain the main body for decisive active operations.

When conducting a defense troops had to be ready to give up a temporary loss of space to avoid heavy combat with superior enemy forces. With the changeover to the defense from line to line in the rear, the troops had to be ready to break up the enemy and create advantageous conditions for the entrance of the main forces for the counteroffensive.

It was recommended to suddenly change over to the counteroffensive using all forces, after which the enemy had lost his superiority and was deeply involved on territory that was not advantageous to him.

A great deal of attention was paid to preplanned withdrawals. By using the preplanned withdrawal as a maneuver troops could avoid a clash with superior enemy forces, breaking them up in the temporary loss of space, retaining their forces, playing for time, and creating advantageous conditions for the conversion of the main forces to the offensive.

The withdrawal of the main forces had to correspond with planned moves from line to line, under the cover of a strong rear guard. For breaking up the strike force groupings of the enemy between primary phase lines it was recommended that intermediary positions be created.

The primary phase lines and intermediary positions had to be selected based on terrain where it was difficult for the enemy to use his combat technology and provided good conditions for cover and concealment of friendly forces. Combat operations of troops when carrying out a preplanned withdrawal had to carry a quality of maneuver and be of an active nature along with forcing the enemy to change the direction of his main strikes and expend his reserves. Reaching the final line of the withdrawal, the main body must finish its preparations and go over to the counteroffensive until the point where the enemy takes up the defense and has to get his forces in order.

Party-political work in the troops of the Chinese Volunteers was carried out by political organs in the combined formations, formations and units. The primary attention by these political organs was concentrated on education of the personnel to their Motherland, brotherly friendship with the Korean people, and combat activities.

3. The Armed Forces of South Korea

The armed forces of South Korea began to be created at the end of 1945, when the American military administration in Seoul created a chancellery of national defense divided into three offices: ground forces, navy, and police.

In March 1946 the chancellery of national defense was reorganized into a military department, which was later divided up into the main staff of the ground forces and the main staff of coastal defense.

After establishing the government of South Korea, in August 1948 the American military administration formally transferred control of the South Korean armed forces to it. The military department was renamed as the Ministry of National Defense. A staff was created for the ground forces and the navy, as well as the position of chief of the General Staff.(12)

The responsibility of Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces was formally assigned to the President of South Korea. In point of fact, the armed forces were completely subordinated to the American military command.

In 1948-1950 the South Korean command, with the assistance of the Americans, made a number of organizational changes. The Supreme Command of the Armed Forces was divided into the Supreme Council of National Defense (a consultative organ consisting of the Ministers of Defense, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance and the Chief of the General Staff), the military council (an advisory council, named by the President and consisting of generals on active duty and retired generals), and a committee for resources, and the Main Information (Intelligence) Directorate. (13)

The newly created air forces staff also had command of the aviation and air defense units. Coastal defense was reorganized into the navy.

As part of the ground forces, all infantry brigades were reorganized into infantry divisions, and two new army corps headquarters were formed. Measures were taken to increase the level of combat training, rearm the army with American weapons, and increase the size of the trained military reserve, for which a territorial army was created to provide that training.

By June 1950 the armed forces of South Korea consisted of the ground forces, the air forces, the navy and the territorial army.

The ground forces numbered 93,000 men and consisted of eight infantry divisions (14) (1st , 2nd , 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and Capitol), an independent cavalry regiment, 5 independent battalions (3 infantry, 1 signal and 1 military police), 3 independent artillery battalions, and 7 special battalions (1 engineer-sapper, I signal, 2 armaments battalions, 1 military staging, 1 artillery technical supply, and 1 medical).

The air forces numbered 3,000 men and had the following elements in its makeup: 1 aviation detachment (40 aircraft of which 25 were fighters, 9 transports, and 5 training and liaison), an airfield servicing battalion, an air defense battalion (6 x 37mm guns, 4 x heavy machine guns), and a military academy (21 training aircraft). The navy consisted of 5 ship divisions (detachments) (1st, 2nd, 3rd, Training and the Chinhe Naval Base Detachment), a marine regiment, 9 coastal defense detachments, 2 naval training establishments, and totaled 15,000 men and 71 ships (2 submarine chasers, 21 basic trawlers, 5 landing ships, and 43 auxiliary vessels.)

The territorial army consisted of 5 brigades (101st, 102nd, 103rd, 105th, and 106th) prior to the start of the war; all had three regiments except the 105th which only had two. The overall size of the territorial army was around 50,000 men. The territorial army, organized as a reserve for the ground forces, was also used to suppress democratic movements in South Korea. Cadre officers had responsibility for commanding the territorial army.

Beside that, South Korea also had more than 60,000 police. More than 20,000 of them served in detachments securing the demarcation line along the 38th Parallel and consisted of special detachments that would carry out punitive expeditions against partisans.

For that reason, prior to the start of the war the armed forces of South Korea, if the 20,000 security troops are included, numbered 181,000 men.

The ground forces and air forces of South Korea were armed with American weapons. (15) The territorial army and police were equipped with the Japanese Type 99 Model 1939 rifle (7.7mm caliber) and the Type 96 Model 1936 machine gun (6.5mm caliber).

The navy was equipped with American trawlers of the UMS class, American landing barges, Japanese trawlers and auxiliary vessels.

All leadership training, supply and use of armed forces in South Korea was in the hands of the Americans and was carried out by the American military advisor group. Prior to the start of the war this group numbered around 500 men and was headed by the chief military advisor who had a subordinate staff of 19 sections, the advisor groups for corps and divisions, independent unit advisors, the military school and the accession training points. The American military advisors were found in all military sections and in the troops as part of their unit structure - up to battalion level and in some service subunits exclusively up to company level.

Training of the South Korean army was conducted according to American regulations, and therefore the tactics of the South Korean army were correspondingly no different than the tactics of American forces.

The American military advisors and the South Korean command paid very serious attention to the political and morale condition of the forces. For conducting ideological development of soldiers in the army a special apparatus was created, which were named "political training organs." Immediate control over the ideological development of personnel was formally carried out by the "Directorate of Political Development." In point of fact, all of this work was carried out by American advisors. Personnel in the South Korean army were trained in the American model in the spirit of hatred and loathing for the Soviet Union and other countries in the socialist camp.

As a whole the South Korean army was not badly trained or equipped, but it lacked combat experience.

4. Armed Forces of the USA in the Far East

Prior to the start of the war in Korea American forces in the Far East consisted of ground forces, air forces, and naval forces. Command of all US armed forces in the Far East was given to the Commander, Far East, whose headquarters were located in Tokyo.

The ground forces deployed in Japan consisted of the 8'h US Army, made up of the 7th, 24th, and 25th Infantry Divisions, and the 1st Cavalry Division. (16) The 29th Independent Infantry Regiment was in the Ryukyu Islands, and the 5th Independent Infantry Regiment was deployed in the Hawaiian Islands. Around 5,000 troops were on the islands of Guam, the Marshalls and the Carolines, and another 5,000 in the Philippines. Beside that, there were two National Guard infantry regiments in the Hawaiian Islands.

Overall, the USA had a total of 143,000 regular forces troops in the Far East and 6,000 National Guardsmen.

The infantry divisions and independent regiments were fully manned to peacetime manning levels (with the exception of their tank compliment). (17) The tank battalions were only sent out from the US when the war broke out and were then made part of the infantry divisions.

The artillery battalions of the reserve of the high command were organized in the same manner as those in the infantry divisions. The exceptions were those equipped with 155mm guns and 203.2mm howitzers, organized into four-tube batteries, and the 90mm and 120mm antiaircraft gun battalions of the reserve of the high command, which were organized into four-battery battalions.

An American army corps also had an organic artillery instrumental reconnaissance battalion (AIR). The AIR battalion consisted of a headquarters, a headquarters battery, three AIR batteries, which each had sound-ranging, optical and radar reconnaissance assets, as well as a topographic subunit.

The USAF elements operating in Korea were organized as part of the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) and prior to the start of the war had the following combat components

The 5th Air Force, deployed in Japan, consisted of the 3rd and 38th Medium Bomber Groups, the 8th, 35th, 49th, and 347th Fighter Groups, the 374th and 1503rd Transport Groups, the 4th and 6th Independent Fighter Squadrons, and the 512th Reconnaissance Squadron.

The 20th Air Force, deployed on Okinawa, had the 51st Fighter Group.

The 13th Air Force, located in the Philippines, consisted of the 18th and 419th Fighter Groups.

The 19th Heavy Bomber Group was deployed in the Marianas, along with the 215th Independent Transport Squadron and the 514th Reconnaissance Squadron. One more group and two squadrons were deployed in the Carolines.

The 7th Air Division and 1500th Transport Group were deployed on Hawaii. (18)

The 5th, 13th and 20th Air Forces, a well as those aviation elements deployed in the Marianas, Carolines, and Hawaiian Islands, were subordinated to FEAF Headquarters in Tokyo.

All of the air formations noted numbered among them 60 strategic aircraft (consisting of 30 heavy bombers and 30 strategic reconnaissance aircraft), 720 tactical aircraft (140 light bombers, 520 fighters, and 60 reconnaissance aircraft), and 260 transports, or a total of 1,040 aircraft. Of these numbers, 570 tactical aircraft and 160 transports were located in Japan. Beside that, there were also American and British naval aircraft based in the Far East (122 fighters and 18 carrier bombers) and one RAAF squadron (40 aircraft). (19)

The US Navy elements in the western Pacific Ocean included the US 7th Fleet, based in the Philippines and Guam, and the Far Eastern Naval Forces based in Japan, South Korea and the Ryukyu Islands. In overall complexity they numbered 26 ships, including a heavy aircraft carrier, a heavy cruiser, a light cruiser, 12 destroyers, 4 submarines and 7 trawlers, around 140 aircraft and 10,200 personnel. Beside that, there were 20 warships belonging to Great Britain in the Far East, including a light aircraft carrier, two light cruisers, 2 destroyers, and 5 support warships. (20)

The American armed forces, located in the Far East, had received combat experience during the Second World War. The command of the 8th US Army and its formations during their combat in that war had participated in the operations to capture New Guinea, the Philippines, the Marshalls, and Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean basin. The5th and 13th Air Forces had provided support to the troops in those operations. The 20th Air Force made bombing strikes deep into the rear area of Japanese forces and against the industrial centers of Japan, China and Korea. The warships had participated in combat operations in different theaters of operations and received a great deal of experience in sea combat.

All of the American forces were armed with modern weapons at the beginning of the war. (21) A significant part of their small arms, artillery, tank and aircraft armaments had fought on the battlefields of the Second World War.

As to shortcomings in the armaments used by the American Army at the start of the war in Korea, it follows to bring out the facts; first of all, the only tanks they had were several older models (the M24 Light Tank, the M26 and the M4A3E8); second, the weak firepower of several models of weapons (60mm mortar), and the insufficient effectiveness of infantry antitank weapons (the 60mm bazooka and 57mm recoilless rifle).

Training of US armed forces prior to the war in Korea was carried out in accordance with regulations, manuals, instructions and directives developed in light of their experiences in the Second World War and postwar exercises. It was felt that combat had to be fought with a single unified force in order to achieve victory. Modern combat operations were conducted with the participation of all arms and branches of service. Success in combat was possible only when one had air, sea and land superiority. The primary types of combat were the offense and the defense.

The offensive in mountainous terrain, like that in Korea, was considered by the Americans to be a special type of combat operation. Together with that, the regulations stressed that the offensive in the mountains was conducted in concert with general tactical principles used on other types of terrain but with the consideration of its peculiarities. The most widely used methods of offensive operations, in the American view, were envelopment, flanking and breakthrough. Envelopment was recommended for use when the enemy had open flanks. Flanking operations were used with a goal of launching a strike on an important objective deep in the enemy rear area. When the situation did not permit envelopment or flanking, one had to consider making a frontal assault with the goal of rupturing the enemy's defense.

To rupture the enemy's defense, the army, based on its makeup, established mission and conditions of the terrain, would have to launch one main thrust (in a very few situations two) and one (or more) auxiliary thrusts. In mountainous terrain the main strike had to be launched, as is correct, along the major valleys in a narrow sector of the front with strong support from artillery, tanks and air power with the use of deeply echeloned forces. In hard-to-reach terrain it was recommended that independent subunits be used, normally formed of reinforced battalions. The use of armored forces for an offensive in the mountains was found to be extremely limited.

When troops advanced in the mountains important objectives were the mountain passes (approaches), junctions of lines of communication and the dominating heights overlooking them.

Under all conditions, no offensive by the army could be considered without artillery and air support.

The duration of the artillery support, depending upon the nature of the defense and the number of enemy forces defending, the presence of artillery and ammunition, as well as the mission of the troops in the offensive, could last from several minutes to several hours. When breaking through a well-prepared position the recommended number of weapons to use was 100 to 200 weapons and mortars per kilometer of front.

Artillery support to the troops could be carried out by the method of subsequent fire concentration by phase line (or by objective) or by the method of suppressing (destroying) individual targets, or by the method of using both methods simultaneously.

Aviation support was divided up into preliminary aerial preparation, immediate aerial preparation, and aviation support to advancing troops.

Preliminary aerial preparation was drawn up based upon the situation, for example, when breaking through a strongly fortified belt and when making a naval assault landing. The primary choice of aircraft used was tactical, but on occasion strategic aviation would also participate. The duration of the preliminary aerial preparation was determined based upon the established mission, the aviation assets available, and the nature of fortification by the enemy and varied between a few days to a few weeks or even a month.

Immediate aerial preparation normally had to be carried out simultaneously with the artillery preparation. Its duration, based on the experience of combat operations in Western Europe, varied between I and 5 hours or even longer on occasion. The primary effort of aviation during that period would be focused on the axis of the main strike, where the density of destruction was from 100-200, or occasionally 400 or more tons of bombs per square kilometer.

In those instances when combat operations were proposed for coastal districts, on peninsulas or islands, it was recommended that the offensive of the main body from the front be combined with a naval assault landing operation in the rear of the main enemy force grouping.

Along with preparations to conduct the offensive American troops studied the organization and the conduct of the defense, which in principle in mountainous conditions was conducted in a similar manner to the defense on open terrain.

The defense depended upon the mission, forces, assets and situation, and could be divided up as positional defense and withdrawal operations. In this the primary type of defense was considered to be the well-prepared (positional) defense.

Positional defense under all conditions had to be organized with a goal of long- term retention of occupied lines and had to be flexible, sturdy and active. The depth of the defense was achieved by echelonment of the combat order of the defending forces and defensive belts. The stability of the defense was provided by the use of all types of firepower, including aviation, which ensured maintenance of the airspace over designated areas and the conduct of counterattacks and counteroffensives.

The positional defense had to be set up on the principle of independent defensive regions. The defensive regions were created around tactically important sectors of terrain and objects, which if retained would ensure the stability of the entire defense. In mountainous conditions this means the careful preparation of the dominating heights for the defense, as they could be used to conduct observation and fire against the enemy lines of communication and approaches to the defense.

The primary effort of the forces in the defense was concentrated along the axes of the most likely enemy strikes. In hard-to-reach areas of the terrain and in the mountains units and formations were given much wider sectors than on rolling terrain.

Well-prepared positional defense, when completely developed, could consist of the following elements: security belts with a depth of 8-10 kilometers, combat positions (first belt ofthe defense) with a depth of 4-10 kilometers, the corps reserve belts (second belt of the defense) with a depth of up to 5 kilometers, set up 8-20 kilometers from the forward edge of the combat positions, an army defensive line, created 25-60 kilometers from the forward edge of the combat positions; networked, intermediary positions; artillery positions; antitank reserve positions; various engineer-chemical antipersonnel and antitank obstacles.

The defensive belts and lines were equipped, from an engineer standpoint, based upon the amount of time available. The most developed positions were the combat positions. All defensive regions for battalions in the first echelon were prepared for all- around defense.

A great deal of significance was given to the organization of the system of fire and defense. The infantry fire system was set up in consideration that the entire front could be covered with interlocking fires. In mountain conditions it was proposed to use multi-layered fires. Howitzers and mortars were widely used for firing against the near approaches and immediate small arms range sectors.

The antitank defense was set up to combine the fires of antitank artillery, bazookas and antitank obstacles. Tanks were allocated to reinforce the antitank defenses of the first echelon troops on the important axes.

Artillery in the defense was used for artillery counter-preparation, the conduct of fire with the goal of repelling an offensive from the start and to support the counterattack and counterstrikes of friendly forces.

Aviation in the defense was used to fight for and maintain air supremacy, to isolate the region of combat operations, and to provide immediate air support to ground forces on the battlefield.

It was recommended that tanks in a positional defense in the mountains be used for firing points on the forward edge of the combat positions and to launch counterattacks from the depths.

Withdrawal operations had to be used when the goal was to avoid decisive combat up to the point that commensurate measures could be taken to set up a sturdy defense in the rear area, or to switch over to the offensive. They were broken down as the exit from combat, the retreat, and denial operations.

Exiting combat had the goal of breaking off a battle with enemy troops in order to either once again move, or in order to maintain freedom of action. After exiting combat, it could be followed by a subsequent retreat, denial operations or defense from another position. It was recommended that the main method of exiting combat was to carry it out at night, under strong artillery and aviation cover.

The retreat was a withdrawal movement as a means by which troops could strive to break off decisive combat under set conditions and avoid the enemy. During the retreat, it required further breaking away from the enemy, establishing barriers between the enemy and friendly support units (the rear guard).

American regulations recommended the use of denial operations by selecting a number of sequential phase lines, in order to set up an offensive deployment of friendly forces in front of each phase line and to gain time to prepare for the offensive. It was felt that the loss of territory during the course of denial operations would be recovered during the subsequent offensive operations. The troops leading denial operations could not be drawn into a major battle; they had to always remember their primary objective in this defense and simultaneously break off combat and withdraw to the next designated phase line.

In all types of combat activities the American regulations require continuous organization of combat support to the troops. The main task of combat support consists of those measures necessary to prepare a surprise strike by unacquired enemy air and ground forces, interference with enemy observation and support to friendly forces in order to retain freedom of maneuver necessary to ensure commensurate moves by the combat order. Combat support to troops comes from the organization and conduct of continuous reconnaissance, reliable antitank and antiaircraft defenses, combating airborne assault landings, chemical defense, and cover and concealment.

Their regulations pay a great deal of attention to the organization of cooperation between the arms and branches of service and the elements of the combat structure of forces in the place, time and goals. throughout the entire depth of the combat mission of the formations (combined formations) by stages of combat.

When training American troops deployed in Japan, particular attention was paid to training for operations under the conditions found in Korea and China. They were prepared for combat operations primarily taking place in daytime conditions and were completely unprepared for the conduct of night combat.

The ideological development of personnel in the American Army was carried out by a widely proliferated apparatus, consisting of "information and awareness" sections, Army chaplains and "Special Services" that were occupied with the organization of leisure time activities. Officers and soldiers were inspired by the thought of the invincibility of the American Army.

For that reason, American troops forming the core of UN forces in Korea were reasonably well trained and had a significant amount of combat experience. Together with that it follows to take the point that some of the theoretical views of the American command in the conduct of operations and combat under the conditions of the mountainous terrain in Korea during the course of the war were reexamined as unproven; we will speak more of them in future chapters.

As well as the American troops serving in the interventionist combat operations against the DPRK, other independent formations, units and subunits also participated, coming from England, Australia, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Thailand, Turkey, the Philippines, France, Ethiopia, and South Africa in the form of ground, air and naval forces. (22) All of these formations, units and subunits were equipped with American or British weapons and trained according to the regulations and manuals of the US and British armies. They participated in combat as part of American formations and units.

1. 1 The foundation day of the Korean Peoples' Army was reckoned as 8 February 1948.

2. 2 The organization of higher organs of military command and control in the KPA as it existed on 25 June 1950 are shown in Appendix 1.

3. 3 The organization, armaments and firepower capability of KPA infantry divisions prior to the start of the war is show in Appendices 2-6.

4. 4 The organization of a KPA tank brigade prior to the start of the war is shown in Appendix 7.

5. 5 The organization of an independent signals regiment is presented in Appendix 8.

6. 6 Beside this, there were 35 sapper platoons in infantry, tank and mechanized regiments and 11 sapper battalions in infantry divisions and tank brigades. The engineer troops had no road-making or earthmoving equipment.

7. 7 Of this number 22 were ground attack pilots and 10 were fighter pilots.

8. 8 The tactical and technical data on the armaments of the KPA is given in Appendices 9-12.

9. 9 The organization of the artillery and infantry divisions of the CPV are shown in Appendices 13-14.

10. 10 The armament and firepower of a CPV infantry division during the course of the war are shown in Appendices 3-6. In 1952 four CPV infantry divisions using a new organization arrived in Korea (Appendix 15.)

11. 11 The tactical and technical characteristics of these weapons used by the Chinese Volunteers are shown in Appendices 9-12.

12. 12 There was no General Staff as an organ of command and control in South Korea. The Chief of the General Staff was simultaneously commander of the ground forces and chief of its staff. He had two deputies. The air forces and navy were subordinate to him.

13.13 Organization of the higher organs of military command and control of the South Korean armed forces is given in Appendix 16.

14.14The organization, equipment and firepower of an infantry division of the ROKA prior to the start of the war are shown in Appendices 3-6 and 17-19.

15. 15 The tactical and technical characteristics of the weapons of the South Korean ar~ny are given in Appendices 20-23.

16. 16 The designation "cavalry" was traditional. In reality this division was a normal infantry division.

17.17 The organization, armament and firepower of an American Army infantry division are shown in Appendices 3-6.

18. 18 The USAF military air transport in the Far East consisted of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) and Troop Carrier Service.

19.19 The tactical and technical data on US and Australian Navy aircraft are given in Appendix 25.

20.20 The tactical and technical data on the primary classes of UN warships are shown in Appendix 26.

21. 21 The tactical and technical characteristics of American weapons used in Korea are given in Appendices 20-23.

22. 22 The makeup and size of the formations, units and subunits participating during the war in Korea on behalf of the USA are shown in Appendix 27.

Back to Index Page