We Must Remember the Incheon Landing

  • By Chosun Ilbo columnist Kim Dong-seop

    September 17, 2009 13:03

    In a meeting room at the U.S. Far East Command in Tokyo on Aug. 23, 1950, Gen. Lawton Collins, the Army chief of staff, and Adm. Forrest Sherman, the chief of naval operations, tried desperately to stop the Incheon landing. Gen. Douglas MacArthur listened and smoked his pipe then got up on a rostrum and said, "But Incheon will not fail. Incheon will succeed." Nobody was willing to challenge MacArthur's words. Later, MacArthur was to write, "I could almost hear my father's voice telling me as he had so many years before, 'Doug, councils of war breed timidity and defeatism.'"

    Stealth played a key role in the success of the Incheon landing, which turned the tide of the Korean War in favor of the UN forces. The landing had to take place during high tide, when the waters off the coast were more than 9 m deep, for the amphibious landing vessels to unload troops and weapons on shore. But the water levels reached that depth only on three days -- Sept. 15, Oct. 11 and Nov. 3. The U.S. military leaked false information to the media to hide the planned Sept. 15 landing date, and the press in Washington D.C. continued to print articles saying preparations were being made for an attack by UN coalition troops in mid-October.

    Feint operations were also a success. U.S. Air Force fighters pummeled the areas surrounding Gunsan in southern South Korea from Sept. 5 to 13, while around 500 special forces troops were deployed on the beaches of the city on Sep. 12. The U.S. military also dropped leaflets warning Gunsan residents to evacuate the city because a major troop landing was about to take place, and a North Korean radio broadcast said the North's troops thwarted a major U.S. military operation in Gunsan. Due to that diversion strategy, MacArthur was able to land 260 naval vessels, four patrol boats and around 75,000 troops, including one Marine division, seven infantry divisions and South Korean marines on the coast of Incheon.

    In June this year, a ceremony was held at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer in northern France to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, which led to the eventual victory over Germany. French President Nicolas Sarkozy read aloud the names of each nation that took part in the battle and thanked them by saying, "France is indebted to you for its freedom." U.S. President Barack Obama also attended the ceremony and said, "Today marks the day when freedom prevailed." On the 60th anniversary of the invasion, even the German chancellor took part in the ceremony.

    Tuesday was the 59th anniversary of the Incheon Landing. The city of Incheon and the Korean Marine Corps held a ceremony at a memorial hall in the city. Attending the ceremony were 110 American and Turkish veterans and 130 former South Korean soldiers who took part in the operation. One American veteran wept as he recalled his lost comrades, and the image appeared in newspapers the following day. The POW-MIA band he wore on his wrist also caught the attention of many people. The painful memories of war are still fresh in the minds of those veterans. Next year, when we mark the 60th anniversary of the Incheon Landing, the government should hold a ceremony as memorable as the one in Normandy, so that we can truly demonstrate our gratitude to those men.

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