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  1st Cavalry Division  
The Inchon Invasion

"The history of war proves that nine out of ten times an army has been destroyed because its supply lines have been cut off.... We shall land at Inchon, and I shall crush the North Koreans".

Douglas A. MacArthur

It was natural and predictable that General MacArthur should think in terms of an amphibious landing in the rear of the enemy to win the Korean War. His campaigns in the Southwest Pacific in World War II-after Bataan-all began as amphibious operations. From Australia to Luzon his forces often advanced around enemy-held islands, one after another. Control of the seas gives mobility to military power. Mobility and war of maneuver have always brought the greatest prizes and the quickest decisions to their practitioners. A water-borne sweep around the enemy's flank and an attack in his rear against lines of supply and communications appealed to MacArthur's sense of grand tactics. He never wavered from this concept, although repeatedly the fortunes of war compelled him to postpone its execution.

Naval Plans

In making ready its part of the operation, the Commander, NAVFE outlined the tasks the Navy would have to perform. These included the following:

Joint Task Force Seven was formed to accomplish these objectives with Admiral Struble, Commander, Seventh Fleet, as the task force commander. On 25 August, Admiral Struble left his flagship, USS Rochester, at Sasebo and proceeded by air to Tokyo to direct final planning.

On 03 September, Admiral Struble issued JTF 7 Operational Plan 9-50. Marine aircraft from two escort carriers, naval aircraft from the US carrier Boxer, and British aircraft from a light British carrier would provide as much support aircraft as could be concentrated in and over the landing area, and would be controlled from the amphibious force flagship (AGC) Mt. McKinley. An arc extending inland thirty miles from the landing site described the task force objective area. In order to carry out its various missions, Joint Task Force Seven organized its subordinate parts as follows:

For the naval phases more than 230 ships were assigned to the operation. The command post of Admiral Struble was on the Rochester; that of the second in command, Rear Admiral Doyle, was on the Mt. McKinley. Surface vessels of JTF 7 were not to operate within twelve miles of Soviet or Chinese territory nor aircraft within twenty miles of such territory.

MacArthur had selected Inchon as the landing site for one paramount reason: it was the port for the capital city of Seoul, eighteen miles inland, and the closest possible landing area to that city and the hub of communications centering there. Inchon is situated on the estuary of the Yom-ha River and possessed a protected, ice-free port with a tidal basin. The shore line there is a low-lying, partially submerged coastal plain subject to very high tides. There were no beaches in the landing area-only wide mud flats at low tide and stone walls at high tide. Because of the mud flats, the landing force would have to use the harbor and wharf facilities in the port area. The main approach by sea is from the south through two channels 50 miles long and only 6 to 10 fathoms deep (36-60 feet). Flying Fish Channel, narrow and twisting, is the channel ordinarily used by large ships.

The Inchon harbor divided into an outer and an inner one, the latter separated from the former by a long breakwater and the islands of Wolmi and Sowolmi which were join by a causeway. The greater part of the inner harbor became a mud flat at low tide leaving only a narrow dredged channel of about ~13 feet in depth. The only dock facilities for deep draft vessels were in the tidal basin, which was 1,700 feet long, 750 feet wide, and had an average depth of 40 feet, but at mean low tide held only feet of water.

Wolmi-do and Sowolmi Islands

Inchon promised to be a unique amphibious operation-certainly one very difficult to conduct because of natural conditions. Tides in the restricted waters of the channel and the harbor had a maximum range of more than 31 feet. A few instances of an extreme 33-foot tide had been reported. Some of the World War II landing craft that were to be used in making the landing required 23 feet of tide to clear the mud flats, and the LST's (Landing Ship, Tank) required 29 feet of tide-a favorable condition that prevailed only once a month over a period of three or four days. The narrow, shallow channel dictated a daylight approach for the larger ships. Accordingly, it was necessary to schedule the main landings for the late afternoon high tide. A night approach, however, by a battalion-sized attack group was to be made for the purpose of seizing Wolmi-do during the early morning high tide, a necessary preliminary, the planners thought, to the main landing at Inchon itself.

Low seas at Inchon are most frequent from May through August, high seas from October through March. Although September is a period of transition, it was considered suitable for landing operations. MacArthur and his planners had selected 15 September for D-day because there would then be a high tide giving maximum water depth over the Inchon mud flats. Tidal range for 15 September reached 31.2 feet at high and minus .5 feet at low water. Only on this day would the tide reach this extreme range. No other date after this would permit landing until 27 September when a high tide would reach 27 feet. On 11-13 October there would be a tide of 30 feet. Morning high tide on 15 September came at 0659, forty-five minutes after sunrise; evening high tide came at 1919, twenty-seven minutes after sunset. The Navy set 23 feet of tide as the critical point needed for landing craft to clear the mud flat and reach the landing sites.

Another consideration was the sea walls that fronted the Inchon landing sites. Built to turn back unusually high tides, they were 16 feet in height above the mud flats. They presented a scaling problem except at extreme high tide. Since the landing would be made somewhat short of extreme high tide in order to use the last hour or two of daylight, ladders would be needed. Some aluminum scaling ladders were made in Kobe and there were others available which were made of wood. Grappling hooks, lines, and cargo nets were readied for use in holding the boats against the sea wall.

Inchon Invasion Battle Plan

The initial objective of the landing force was to gain a beachhead at Inchon, a city of 250,000 population. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was to land on Wolmi-do on the early morning high tide at 0630, 15 September (D-day, L-hour). With Wolmi-do in friendly hands, the main landing would be made that afternoon at the next high tide, about 1730 (D-day, H-hour), by the 1st and 5th Marine Regiment.

Three landing beaches were selected-Green Beach on Wolmi-do for the preliminary early morning battalion landing, and Red Beach in the sea wall dock area of Inchon and Blue Beach in the mud flat semi-open area at the south edge of the city for the two-regimental-size force that would make the main landing in the evening. Later, 7th Infantry Division troops would land at Inchon over what was called Yellow Beach.

The 5th Marine Regiment, less the 3rd Battalion, was to land over Red Beach in the heart of Inchon, north of the causeway which joined Wolmi-do with Inchon, and drive rapidly inland 1,000 yards to seize Observatory Hill. On the left of the landing area was Cemetery Hill, 130 feet high, on which three dual-purpose guns reportedly were located. On the right, a group of buildings dominated the landing area. The 5th Marine Regiment considered Cemetery and Observatory Hills as the important high ground to be secured in its zone.

Simultaneously with the landing of the 5th Marine Regiment, the 1st Marine Regiment was to land over Blue Beach at the base of the Inchon Peninsula just south of the city. This landing area had such extensive mud flats that heavy equipment could not be brought ashore over it. It lay just below the tidal basin of the inner harbor and an adjacent wide expanse of salt evaporators. Its principal advantage derived from the fact that the railroad and main highway to Seoul from Inchon lay only a little more than a mile inland from it. A successful landing there could quickly cut these avenues of escape or access at the rear of Inchon. An early objective of the 1st Marine Division after securing the beachhead was Kimpo Airfield, sixteen road miles northeast of Inchon. Then would follow the crossing of the Han River and the drive on Seoul.

As diversions, the battleship Missouri was to shell east coast areas on the opposite side of the Korean peninsula, including the rail center and port of Samch'ok, and a small force was to make a feint at Kunsan on the west coast, 100 air miles south of Inchon.

Intelligence Estimates

General MacArthur's view at the end of August that the North Koreans had concentrated nearly all their combat resources against Eighth Army in the Pusan Perimeter coincided with the official G-2 estimate. On 28 August the X Corps G-2 Section estimated the enemy strength in Seoul as approximately 5,000 troops, in Inchon as 1,000, and at Kimpo Airfield as 500, for a total of 6,500 soldiers in the Inchon-Seoul area. On 04 September the estimate remained about the same except that the enemy force in the Inchon landing area was placed at approximately 1,800 to 2,500 troops because of an anticipated build-up there. This estimate remained relatively unchanged four days later, and thereafter held constant until the landing.

American intelligence considered the enemy's ability to reinforce quickly the Inchon-Seoul area as inconsequential. It held the view that only small rear area garrisons, line of communications units, and newly formed, poorly trained groups were scattered throughout Korea back of the combat zone around the Pusan Perimeter. Aerial reconnaissance reported heavy movement of enemy southbound traffic from the Manchurian border, but it was not clear whether this was of supplies or troops, or both. Although reports showed that the Chinese Communist Forces had increased in strength along the Manchurian border, there was no confirmation of rumors that some of them had moved into North Korea.

The Far East Command considered the possibility that the enemy might reinforce the Inchon-Seoul area from forces committed against Eighth Army in the south. If this were attempted, it appeared that the North Korean 3rd, 13th, and 10th Divisions, deployed on either side of the main Seoul-Taejon-Taegu highway, could most rapidly reach the Inchon area.

North Korean air and naval elements were considered incapable of interfering with the landing. On 28 August the Far East Command estimated there were only nineteen obsolescent Soviet-manufactured aircraft available to the North Korean Air Force. The UN air elements, nevertheless, had orders to render unusable any known or suspected enemy air facilities, and particularly to give attention to new construction at Kimpo, Suwon, and Taejon. North Korean naval elements were almost nonexistent at this time. Five divisions of small patrol-type vessels comprised the North Korean Navy; one was on the west coast at Chinnamp'o, the others at Wonsan on the east coast. At both places they were bottled up and rendered impotent. On the morning of 07 September a ROK patrol vessel (PC boat) north of Inchon discovered and sank a small craft engaged in mine laying; thus some mines were to be expected.

As a final means of checking on conditions in Inchon harbor, the Navy on 31 August sent Lt. Eugene F. Clark to Yonghung-do, an island at the mouth of the ship channel ten sea miles from Inchon. There, Clark used friendly natives to gather the information needed. He sent them on several trips to Inchon to measure water depths, check on the mud flats, and to observe enemy strength and fortifications. He transmitted their reports by radio to friendly vessels in Korean waters. Clark was still in the outer harbor when the invasion fleet entered it.

The Ships Load Out

At the end of August the ports of Kobe, Sasebo, and Yokohama in Japan and Pusan in Korea had become centers of intense activity as preparations for mounting the invasion force entered the final stage. The 1st Marine Division, less the 5th Marine Regiment, was to outload at Kobe, the 5th Marine Regiment at Pusan, and the 7th Infantry Division at Yokohama. Most of the escorting vessels, the Gunfire Support Group, and the command ships assembled at Sasebo.

The ships to carry the troops, equipment, and supplies began arriving at the predesignated loading points during the last days of August. In order to reach Inchon by morning of 15 September, the LST's had to leave Kobe on 10 September and the transports (AP's) and cargo ships (AK's) on 12 September. Only the assault elements were combat-loaded. Japanese crews manned thirty-seven of the forty-seven LST's in the Marine convoy.

The loading of the 1st Marine Division at Kobe was in full swing on 02 September when word came that the next morning a typhoon would strike the port, where more than fifty vessels were assembled. All unloading and loading stopped for thirty-six hours. At 0600 on 03 September, Typhoon Jane screeched in from the east. Wind velocity reached 110 miles an hour at noon. Waves forty feet high crashed against the waterfront and breakers rolled two feet high across the piers where loose cargo lay. Seven American ships broke their lines and one of the giant 200-ton cranes broke loose. Steel lines two and a half inches thick snapped. Only by exhausting and dangerous work did port troops and the marines fight off disaster. By 1530 in the afternoon the typhoon began to blow out to sea. An hour later relative calm descended on the port and the cleanup work began. A few vessels had to go into dry-dock for repairs, some vehicles were flooded out, and a large quantity of clothing had to be cleaned, dried, and repackaged.

Despite the delay and damage caused by Jane, the port of Kobe and the 1st Marine Division met the deadline of outloading by 11 September. On the 10th and the 11th, sixty-six cargo vessels cleared Kobe for Inchon. They sailed just ahead of another approaching typhoon. This second typhoon had been under observation by long-range reconnaissance planes since 07 September. Named Kezia, it was plotted moving from the southwest at a speed that would put it over the Korean Straits on 12-13 September.

On the 11th, the 1st Marine Division sailed from Kobe and the 7th Infantry Division from Yokohama. The next day the 5th Marine Regiment departed Pusan to rendezvous at sea. The flagship Rochester with Admiral Struble aboard got under way from Sasebo for Inchon at 1530, 12 September. That afternoon a party of dignitaries, including Generals MacArthur, Almond, Wright, Major General Alonzo P. Fox, Major General Courtney Whitney, and General Shepherd of the Marine Corps, flew from Tokyo to Itazuke Air Base and proceeded from there by automobile to Sasebo, arriving at 2120. Originally, the MacArthur party had planned to fly from Tokyo on the 13th and embark on the Mt. McKinley at Kokura that evening. But Typhoon Kezia's sudden change of direction caused the revision of plans to assure that the party would be embarked in time. The Mt. McKinley, sailing from Kobe with Admiral Doyle and General Smith aboard, had not yet arrived at Sasebo when MacArthur's party drove up. It finally pulled in at midnight, and departed for the invasion area half an hour later after taking MacArthur's party aboard.

Part of the invasion fleet encountered very rough seas off the southern tip of Kyushu early on 13 September. Winds reached sixty miles an hour and green water broke over bows of the ships. In some cases, equipment shifted in the holds, and in other instances deck-loaded equipment was damaged. During the day the course of Kezia shifted to the northeast and by afternoon the seas traversed by the invasion fleet began to calm. The aircraft carrier Boxer, steaming at forced speed from the California coast with 110 planes aboard, fought the typhoon all night in approaching Japan. At dusk on the 14th, it quickly departed Sasebo and at full speed cut through the seas for Inchon.

Preliminary Bombardment

Air attacks intended to isolate the invasion area began on 04 September and continued until the landing. On the 10th, Marine air elements struck Wolmi-do in a series of napalm attacks. Altogether, sixty-five sorties hit Inchon during the day.

The main task of neutralizing enemy batteries on Wolmi-do guarding the Inchon inner harbor was the mission of Rear Admiral J. M. Higgins' Gunfire Support Group. This group, composed of 2 United States heavy cruisers, 2 British light cruisers, and 6 US destroyers, entered the approaches to Inchon harbor at 1010, 13 September. Just before noon the group in Flying Fish Channel sighted an enemy mine field, exposed at low water. It destroyed some of the mines with automatic fire. At 1220, the 4 cruisers anchored from seven to ten miles offshore, while 5 destroyers-the Mansfield, DeHaven, Swenson, Collett, and Gurke proceeded on to anchorages close to Wolmi-do under cover of air strikes by planes from Fast Carrier Task Force 77. The destroyers began the bombardment of Wolmi-do at 1230.

Five enemy heavily revetted 75-mm. guns returned the fire. In the intense ship-shore duel, the Collett received nine hits and sustained considerable damage. Enemy shells hit the Gurke three times, but caused no serious damage. The Swenson took a near miss which caused two casualties: one of which was the only American killed during the bombardment. The destroyers withdrew at 1347. At 1352 the cruisers, anchored out of range of the Wolmi-do batteries, began an hour and a half bombardment. Planes of Task Force 77 then came in for a heavy strike against the island. After the air strike terminated, the cruisers resumed their bombardment at 1610 for another half hour. Then at 1645 the Gunfire Support Group got under way and withdrew back down the channel.

The next day, D minus 1, the Gunfire Support Group returned. Just before 1100, planes of Task Force 77 again delivered heavy strikes against the island. The heavy cruisers began their second bombardment at 1116, this time also taking under fire targets within Inchon proper. The destroyers waited about an hour and then moved to their anchorages off Wolmi-do. The cruisers ceased firing while another air strike came in on the island. After it ended, the five destroyers began their bombardment at 1255 and in an hour and fifteen minutes fired 1,732 5-inch shells into Wolmi-do and Inchon. When they left there was no return fire-the Wolmi-do batteries were silent.

Securing the Inchon Beachhead

The X Corps expeditionary troops arriving off Inchon on 15 September numbered nearly 70,000 men. At 0200 the Advance Attack Group, including the Gunfire Support Group, the rocket ships (LSMR's) and the Battalion Landing Team, began the approach to Inchon. A special radar-equipped task force, consisting of three high speed transports (APD's) and one Landing Ship Dock (LSD), carried the Battalion Landing Team (the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and a platoon of nine M26 Pershing tanks from "A" Company, 1st Tank Battalion) toward the transport area off Wolmi-Do. Dawn of invasion day came with a high overcast sky and portent of rain.

Inchon Landing Map

Wolmi-do, or Moon Tip Island, as it might be translated, is a circular hill (Hill 105) about 1,000 yards across and rising 335 feet above the water. A rocky hill, it was known to be honeycombed with caves, trenches, gun positions, and dugouts.

The first action came at 0500. Eight Marine Corsairs left their escort carrier for a strike on Wolmi-do. The first two planes caught an armored car crossing the causeway from Inchon and destroyed it. There was no other sign of life visible on the island as the flight bombed the ridge line. At 0530 the Special Task Force was in its designated position ready to land the assault troops. Twenty minutes later, Taplett's 3rd Battalion began loading into 17 landing craft (LCVP's); the 9 tanks loaded into 3 landing ships (LSV's). L-hour was fifty minutes away.

Air strikes and naval gunfire raked Wolmi-do and, after this, three rocket ships moved in close and put down an intense rocket barrage. The landing craft straightened out into lines from their circles and moved toward the line of departure. Just as a voice announced over the ship's loud speaker, "Landing force crossing line of departure," MacArthur came on the bridge of the Mt. McKinley. It was 0625. The first major amphibious assault by American troops against an enemy since Easter Sunday, 01 April 1945, at Okinawa was under way. About one mile of water lay between the line of departure and the Wolmi-do beach.

The 3rd Battalion moved toward Wolmi-do with "G" and "H" Companies in assault and "I" Company in reserve. Even after the American rocket barrage lifted there was still no enemy fire. The first wave of troops reached the bathing beach on the northern arm of the island unopposed at 0633.

The first troops ashore moved rapidly inland against almost no resistance. Within a few minutes the second wave landed. Then came the LSV's carrying the tanks, three of which carried dozer blades for breaking up barbed wire, filling trenches, and sealing caves; three other tanks mounted flame throwers. One group of marines raised the American flag on the high ground of Wolmi-do half an hour after landing. Another force crossed the island and sealed off the causeway leading to Inchon. The reduction of the island continued systematically and it was secured at 0750.

A little later in the morning, Colonel Taplett sent a squad of marines and three tanks over the causeway to Sowolmi-do where they destroyed an estimated platoon of enemy troops; some surrendered, others swam into the sea, and still others were killed. Taplett's battalion assumed defensive positions and prepared to cover the main Inchon landing later in the day.

In the capture of Wolmi-do and Sowolmi-do the Battalion Landing Team killed 108 enemy soldiers and captured 136. About 100 more in several caves refused to surrender and were sealed by tank dozers into their caves. Casualties of the Marines were light with only seventeen wounded.

The preinvasion intelligence on Wolmi-do proved to be essentially correct. Prisoners indicated that about 400 North Korean soldiers, elements of the 3rd Battalion, 226th Independent Marine Regiment, and some artillery troops of the 918th Artillery Regiment had defended Wolmi-do.

After the easy capture of Wolmi-do came the anxious period when the tide began to fall, causing further activity to cease until late in the afternoon. The enemy by now was fully alerted. Marine and naval air ranged up and down the roads and over the countryside isolating the port to a depth of twenty-five miles, despite a rain which began to fall in the late afternoon. Naval gunfire covered the closer approaches to Inchon.

Assault troops of the 1st and 5th Marine Regiments began going over the sides of their transports and into the landing craft at 153O. After a naval bombardment, rocket ships moved in close to Red and Blue Beaches and fired 2,000 rockets on the landing areas. Landing craft crossed lines of departure at 1645, and forty-five minutes later neared the beaches. The first wave of the 5th Marine Regiment breasted the sea wall on Red Beach at 1733. Most of "A" Company men in the fourteen boats of the first three waves climbed over the sea wall with scaling ladders; a few boats put their troops ashore through holes in the wall made by the naval bombardment.

On the left flank of the landing area, the 3rd Platoon, "A" Company encountered enemy troops in trenches and a bunker just beyond the sea wall. There in an intense fight the marines lost eight men and twenty-eight wounded. Twenty-two minutes after landing, the company fired a flare signaling that it held Cemetery Hill. On top of Cemetery Hill, North Koreans threw down their arms and surrendered to the 2nd Platoon. By midnight, other elements of the battalion had fought their way against sporadic resistance to the top of Observatory Hill.

The 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, landing on the right side of Red Beach, encountered only spotty resistance and at a cost of only a few casualties gained its objective. Assault elements of the 1st Marines began landing over Blue Beach at 1732, one minute ahead of the 5th Marine Regiment at Red Beach. Most of the men were forced to climb a high sea wall to gain exit from the landing area. One group went astray in the smoke and landed on the sea wall enclosing the salt flats on the left of the beach. The principal obstacle the 1st Marines encountered was the blackness of the night. the 2nd Battalion lost one man and nineteen were wounded in advancing to the Inchon-Seoul highway, one mile inland. The landing force had taken its final D-day objectives by 0130, 16 September.

Following the assault troops, eight specially loaded LST's landed at Red Beach just before high tide, and unloading of equipment to support the forces ashore the next day continued throughout the night. Beaching of the LST's brought tragedy. Just after 1830, after receiving some enemy mortar and machine gun fire, gun crews on three of the LST's began firing wildly with 20-mm. and 40-mm. cannon, and, before they could be stopped, had killed 1 and wounded 23 men of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. The Marine landing force casualties on D-day were 20 men killed, 1 missing in action, and 174 wounded.

Landing Craft and Bulldozers Stuck In The Mud

The UN preinvasion estimate of enemy strength at Inchon was accurate. Prisoners disclosed that about 2,000 men had comprised the Inchon garrison. Some units of the NK 22nd Regiment moved to Inchon to reinforce the garrison before dawn of the 15th, but they retreated to Seoul after the main landing that evening. To the rank and file of the North Korean soldiers in Seoul the landing came as a surprise.

On the morning of 16 September the two regiments ashore established contact with each other by 0730. Thereafter a solid line existed around Inchon and escape for any enemy still within the city became unlikely. The ROK Marines now took over mop-up work in Inchon and went at it with such a will that hardly anyone in the port city, friend or foe, was safe.

Early in the morning of the 16th, Marine aircraft took off from the carriers to aid the advance. One flight of eight Corsairs left the Sicily at 0548. Soon it sighted six enemy T34 tanks on the Seoul highway three miles east of Inchon moving toward the latter place. Ordered to strike at once, the Corsairs hit the tanks with napalm and 500-pound bombs, damaging three of them and scattering the accompanying infantry. The enemy returned the fire, hitting one of the Corsairs. Capt. William F. Simpson's plane crashed and exploded near the burning armor, killing him. A second flight of eight Corsairs continued the attack on the tanks with napalm and bombs and, reportedly, destroyed them all. Later in the morning, however, when the advance platoon of the 1st Marine Regiment and accompanying tanks approached the site, three of the T34's began to move, whereupon the Pershings engaged and destroyed them.

Destroyed Enemy Tanks On The Road to Seoul

Both Marine regiments on the second day advanced rapidly against light resistance and by evening had reached the Beachhead Line, six miles from the landing area. Their casualties for the day were four killed and twenty-one wounded.

Thus, within twenty-four hours of the main landing, the 1st Marine Division had secured the high ground east of Inchon, occupied an area sufficient to prevent enemy artillery fire on the landing and unloading area, and obtained a base from which to mount the attack to seize Kimpo Airfield. In the evening of 16 September General Smith established his command post east of Inchon and from there at 1800 notified Admiral Doyle that he was assuming responsibility for operations ashore.

Capture of Kimpo Airfield and Advance to the Han River

During the advance the boundary between the 1st and 5th Marine Regiments had followed generally the main Inchon-Seoul highway, which ran east-west, with the 5th Marine Regiment on the north and the 1st Marine Regiment astride and on its south side. Just beyond the beachhead line the boundary left the highway and slanted northeast. The 5th Marine Regiment turned toward Kimpo Airfield, seven miles away, and the Han River just beyond it. the 1st Marines Regiment, astride the Inchon-Seoul highway, headed toward Yongdungp'o, the large industrial suburb of Seoul on the south bank of the Han, ten air miles away.

During the night of 16-17 September, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment occupied a forward defensive position commanding the Seoul highway just west of Ascom City. Behind it the 1st Battalion held a high hill. From a forward roadblock position, members of an advanced platoon of "D" Company, at 0545 on the 17th, saw the dim outlines of six tanks on the road eastward. Infantry accompanied the tanks, some riding on the armor.

The enemy armored force moved past the hidden outpost of "D" Company. At 0600, at a range of seventy-five yards, rockets fired from a bazooka set one of the tanks on fire. Pershing tanks now opened fire on the T34's. The recoilless rifles joined in. Within five minutes combined fire destroyed all six enemy tanks and killed 200 of an estimated 250 enemy infantry. Only one man in the 2nd Battalion was wounded.

Early that morning, General MacArthur, accompanied by Admiral Struble, and Generals Almond, Wright, Fox, Whitney, and others came ashore and proceeded to command post of General Smith, and from there went on to the position of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, where they saw the numerous enemy dead and the still-burning T34 tanks. On the way they had passed six tanks destroyed the morning before. The sight of twelve destroyed enemy tanks seemed to them a good omen for the future.

The 5th Marine Regiment advanced rapidly on the 17th and by 1800 its 2nd Battalion was at the edge of Kimpo Airfield. In the next two hours the battalion seized the southern part of the airfield. The 400 - 500 enemy soldiers who ineffectively defended it appeared surprised and had not even mined the runway. During the night several small enemy counterattacks hit the perimeter positions at the airfield between 0200 and dawn, 18 September. The marines repulsed these company-sized counterattacks, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy troops, who finally fled to the northwest. "E" Company and supporting tanks played the leading role in these actions. Kimpo was secured during the morning of 18 September.

Kimpo Airfield Captured By The 5th Marine Regiment

The capture on the fourth day of the 6,000-foot-long, 150-foot-wide, hard surfaced Kimpo runway, with a weight capacity of 120,000 pounds, gave the UN Command one of its major objectives. It broadened greatly the capability of employing air power in the ensuing phases of the attack on Seoul; and, more important still, it provided the base for air operations seeking to disrupt supply of the North Korean Army.

On the 18th, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, sent units on to the Han River beyond the airfield, and the 1st Battalion captured Hill 99 northeast of it and then advanced to the river. At 1409 in the afternoon a Marine Corsair landed at Kimpo and, later in the day, advance elements of Marine Air Group 33 flew in from Japan. The next day more planes came in from Japan, including C-54 cargo planes, and on 20 September land-based Corsairs made the first strikes from Kimpo.

Continuing its sweep along the river, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, on the 19th swung right and captured the last high ground (Hills 118, 80, and 85) a mile west of Yongdungp'o. At the same time, the 2nd Battalion seized the high ground along the Han River in its sector. At nightfall, 19 September, the 5th Marine Regiment held the south bank of the Han River everywhere in its zone and was preparing for a crossing the next morning.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade relieved the ROK Marines of responsibility for the security of Inchon, and the ROK's moved up on the 18th and 19th to the Han River near Kimpo. Part of the ROK's Marines extended the left flank of the 5th Marine Regiment, and its 2nd Battalion joined them for the projected crossing of the Han River the next day.

In this action, the 1st Marine Regiment had attacked east toward Yongdungp'o astride the Seoul highway. Its armored spearheads destroyed four enemy tanks early on the morning of the 17th. Then, from positions on high ground (Hills 208, 107, 178), three miles short of Sosa, a village halfway between Inchon and Yongdungp'o, a regiment of the NK 18th Division checked the advance. At nightfall, the 1st Marine regiment dug in for the night a mile from Sosa. At Ascom City, just west of Sosa, American troops found 2,000 tons of ammunition for American artillery, mortars, and machine guns, captured there by the North Koreans in June, all still in good condition.

Not all the action that day was on and over land. Just after daylight, at 0550, two enemy YAK planes made bombing runs on the Rochester lying in Inchon harbor. The first drop of four 100-pound bombs missed astern, except for one which ricocheted off the airplane crane without exploding. The second drop missed close to the port bow, causing minor damage to electrical equipment. One of the YAK's strafed H.M.S. Jamaica, which shot down the plane but suffered three casualties.

Ashore, the 1st Marine Regiment resumed the attack on the morning of the 18th and passed through and around the burning town of Sosa at midmorning. By noon the 3rd Battalion had seized Hill 123, a mile east of the town and north of the highway. Enemy artillery fire there caused many casualties in the afternoon, but neither ground nor aerial observers could locate the enemy pieces firing from the southeast. Beyond Sosa the North Koreans had heavily mined the highway and on 19 September the tank spearheads stopped after mines damaged two tanks. Engineers began the slow job of removing the mines and, without tank support, the infantry advance slowed. But at nightfall advanced elements of the regiment had reached Kal-ch'on Creek west of Yongdungp'o.

Other elements of the X Corps had by now arrived to join in the battle for Seoul. Vessels carrying the 7th Infantry Division arrived in Inchon harbor on the 16th. General Almond was anxious to get the 7th Division into position to block a possible enemy movement from the south of Seoul, and he arranged with Admiral Doyle to hasten its unloading. The 2nd Battalion of the 32nd Regiment landed during the morning of the 18th; the rest of the regiment landed later in the day. On the morning of 19 September, the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, moved up to relieve the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Regiment, in its position on the right flank south of the Seoul highway. It completed the relief without incident by noon. The total effective strength of the 32nd Infantry when it went into the line was 5,114 men - 3,241 Americans and 1,873 ROK's. Responsibility for the zone south of the highway passed to the 7th Division at 1800, 19 September. During the day, the 31st Regiment of the 7th Division came ashore at Inchon.

It was not until 18 September when the North Koreans publically announced any details associated with the Inchon landing and then they merely stated that detachments of their coastal defense had brought down two American fighter planes.

Source Material:

"South To The Naktong, North To The Yalu"
The United States Army in the Korean War,
by Roy B. Appleman
Center of Military History,
United States Army, Washington, DC

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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 04 Jan '13 SpellChecked