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One bugle, no drums: the marines at Chosin Reservoir.

One Bugle, No Drums: The Marines at Chosin Reservoir. The Korean War is a big hole in most Americans' knowledge of history. In obscurity, it ranks right down there with the War of 1812 and the Spanish American War.

But this "police action," whichlasted from 1950 to 1953, was a bloody business--nearly 55,000 Americans and almost a million Koreans and Chinese died on the harsh Asian peninsula. In winter, they wre struck by howling winds and temperatures that dropped to 40 degrees below zero. In summer, they were overwhelmed by heat. In the desperate fighting around the Pusan Perimeter in 1950, U.S. forces fuffered nearly as many casualties from heat exhaustion as from enemy fire.

But the Korean War was also,once the unprepared U.S. occupation forces in Japan and the hastily-raised conscript army were shaken down and hardened by combat, the occasion of some of the fines military feats in U.S. history.

Hopkins was the commandingofficer of one of the three infantry regiments of the 1st Marine Division--the division military historians contend was one of the finest fighting forces, if not the finest ever, in the long annals of warfare.

Hopkins's battalion made its surpriseattack in the middle of a sn ow storm on the Chinese 178th Regiment that held the hills over the Funchilin Pass. Although the Marines were outnumbered three to one, the Chinese regiment was nearly destroyed. That victory was crucial to the safe retreat of thousands of Marines and U.N. forces from the mountains near Chosin Reservoir.

If One Bugle, No Drums showsU.S. forces at thei rbest, it also shows some of their leaders at their worst. The tactical brilliance of General Douglas MacArthur, the U.N. forces' commander, deserted him after his daring amphibious landing at Inchon. The North Korean army was destroyed, and South Korea's territory was restored, but MacArthur convinced himself and most of his subordinate Army commanders that there was no reason to believe that the Chinese would enter the war even if the U.N. forces drove all the way north to the Yalu River--despite growing evidence from displaced North Koreans that thousands of Chinese troops were hiding in the villages, forests, hills, and mines of that desolate country. At least 300,000 chinese troops were already in North Korea when the Marines and the Army landed.

The Army commanders acceptedMacArthur's assurances and neglected to put out adequate patrols and other security, which cost them tragically. Major General Oliver P. Smith, the commander of the Marine division, took his local intelligence seriously, which was one reason his division survived intact.

Although the Marines and Armywere to attack from different directions through the mountains, their commanders couldn't communicate directly with each other, but had to go through headquarters in Tokyo--one of the main reasons we were defeated in North Korea. (And a lesson that was forgotten in the Grenada operation.)

Hopkins offers another majorreason. Although he credits tactical air support of the ground forces as the most effective backup they had, he blames the indiscriminate bombing of "strtegic" targets, many of which had no military value whatsoever, for turning the North Korean civilians against the U.N. forces. As a result, the North Koreans began to help the Chinese with their supply routes--even though the Chinese, who were ill equipped for the brutal winter and therefore desperate for food and shelter, had forced many Koreans out of their homes and villages. The rate of Chinese artillery fire increased substantially. Until then, says Hopkins, the Koreans have been willing sources of intelligence for the Americans. It was a lesson that should have been heeded 15 years later in Vietnam.
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Author:Dickenson, James R.
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1987
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