INCHON - OPERATION CHROMITE
The amphibious landings of 15 September 1950 at
Inchon were General MacArthur's masterstroke. As Eight Army struggled to maintain
fighting room in the southeast of Korea, he had his thoughts fixed upon a
possible landing in the enemies rear to reverse the war. The biggest logistical
challenge was to have all units, their equipment and supplies, as well as
transports, landing ships and craft, and other ships, ready in time for
Preparations for a strategic landing
Of several extraordinary features of Operation
Chromite, the speed with which it was mounted is particularly remarkable. In less
than three weeks, a planning study was turned into the details of operation
orders, the ships were assembled, and the forces prepared - as far as possible -
for the landing.
Inchon was taking a risk, even with superiority
in the air and supremacy at sea. One of them was Inchon's thirty- two-foot tidal
range who was one of the greatest in the world. Only on three plausible dates -
15 and 27 September and 11 October - would the tides be high enough to give the
big landing craft three brief hours inshore, before the coast became once more
an impassable quagmire of mud. In addition, the landing force had to pass trough
a narrow channel, the Flying Fish Channel, which easily could be mined. Sea walls
meant a hazard to the initial assault and the disembarkation of vehicles and
In early July a number of people who had had
experience in the port of Inchon were interrogated in an attempt to gain all
available information. An army warrant officer attached to the Second
Transportation Medium Port of Yokohama, had operated medium landing ships for a
period of about a year at Inchon. He was obtained for the planning and the
execution of the landing. Commander Amphibious Group One in his Action Report
regarded the information furnished to the Attack Force and the Landing Force
after the landing, as "substantially correct". Two civilian aerial photo experts
were flown over to Japan from Wright Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Trough their
and other persons effort with thousands of aerial photos, valuable information in
the variations of the tide, and the enemy defenses, were gathered.
Before Inchon was chosen as the target for
Operation Chromite, other ports had been assessed and rejected. Of the other
possible ports, Kusan was considered to be to close to the besieged Pusan
Perimeter, Chinnampo (Pyongyang's port) was to far north, and Posung-Myon south
of Inchon offered inadequate scope for a breakout inland.
The conclusive meeting for Inchon was held at
GHQ FEC, Tokyo, 23 August
1950 between MacArthur and America's foremost commanders in the Far East.
Rear Admiral James H. Doyle summarized the navy's attitude, concluding
bleakly: "The best I can say is that Inchon is not impossible." MacArthur
answer was a great theatrical performance concluding with the words: "We
must act now or we will die... We shall land at Inchon, and I shall crush
them." On 28 August MacArthur received the formal consent of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff to the Inchon landings.
MacArthur's Chief Of Staff, Lieutenant-General
Edward M. Almond, was given the command of the Inchon landing force, designated X
Corps. Two divisions were grouped in this new formation, the 1st Marine Division
and the 7th Infantry Division. X Corps was given additional artillery, engineers,
signals and administrative elements. A total of 70.000 men with their fighting
equipment and supplies were to be put ashore.
The 1st Marine Division - totaling 20.000 men -
were to be first ashore. A small fleet of cargo ships and landing ships were
gathered to move the 1st Marine Division and their supplies from Kobe, Sasebo and
Pusan to Inchon. This fleet consisted of six Attach Transport Ships, eight Attack
Cargo Ships, three High Speed Transports, one Medium Landing Ship, three Landing
Ships Dock, 17 U.S. Landing Ship Tank, and 31 Japanese Landing Ship Tank.
The Japanese Landing Ships were former U.S. ships from World War II
transferred to the Japanese merchant service after the war. They were recalled to
duty with their Japanese officers and supplemented with personnel flown in from
the United States. According to the British historian Max Hastings these ships
"smelt vividly of fish". He also says:
There was much wisecracking speculation about the
personal histories of their inscrutable deck officers.
Everybody believed, in the words of a Marine, that he was being
ferried to Inchon by a Japanese who had been an admiral at Midway.
There were constant breakdowns of aged machinery:
The whole thing was a rusty travesty of World War II amphibious
The 7th Infantry Division in Japan was to follow
the Marines in the landing. But by early August, there were not much left of the
division, which had posted almost 10.000 of its officers and men to the divisions
in Korea. MacArthur had already directed General Walker to draw Koreans in to
reinforce the Eight Army. Over eight thousand Koreans were sent to the 7th in
Japan in August. Also American infantry and artillery reinforcements from the
U.S. were allotted to the division during the last week in August and the first
in September. The divisional strength rose to nearly 25,000 soldiers, though less
than half of these were effectively trained for battle.
It was decided that the First Provisional Marine
Brigade (5th Marines Reinforced) in the defense of the Pusan Perimeter would be
taken out of the line and sent to sea at the last possible moment. A regiment of
the 7th Division would be kept in Pusan Harbor as a floating reserve to deal
with a possible Eight Army crisis, until it became essential to sail for
The necessary supplies had to be built up to
meet the projected requirements in the operation. As mentioned in the chapter
four, 2nd Logistical Command in Pusan had built up large quantities of supplies
and did not have big problems meeting the logistical requirements for
Operation Chromite. All said in the monthly report for September 1950 about the
landing in Inchon was: "Much coordination within this section, the technical
services, and EUSAK was necessary during the early part of the month when
arrangements were made for the outloading of the 1st Marine Brigade and attached
units for the operation that culminated in the landing at Inchon."
The first Marine Division, less two regimental
combat teams, arrived in Kobe, Japan, in the beginning of September. Their
arrival were from one to five days after schedule. The commercial shipping they
had been embarked upon, had for some reason been delayed. First Marine Division
commenced immediate unloading of the transport ships. Everything unloaded were
together with other provisions, combat loaded onboard the assault ships in Kobe.
It was necessary to make frequent modifications in the original loading plans to
load all assault shipping with the supplies and equipment available. This was
also the reason for Commander Amphibious Group One not to be satisfied with the
coordination of loading plans. He meant representatives from Transport Group,
Landing Force, and Attack Force should have met early in the planning stage, and
prior to the commencement of actual loading. At such a meeting representatives
from the ships had to have with them up to date "ships characteristic pamphlets"
including hold and special stowage diagrams. Nevertheless, due to splendid
cooperation of the Kobe Base Command and Port Command, all supplies, equipment
and troops were embarked 11 September.
Other assault shipping assembled at Pusan for
embarkation and loading of First Provisional Marine Brigade and one battalion of
ROK Marines. The very spearhead of the landing, the Advance Attack Group,
consisting of the Third Battalion, (5th Marines Reinforced) loaded onboard one
Landing Ship Dock and three High Speed Transports. All Marines in Pusan with
their equipment were onboard their ships 12 September.
In order to have a qualified embarkation
officers and assistants on each transport type ship of the Attack Force, a total
of 21 officers and enlisted men were ordered to the Embarkation and Transport
Loading School at Camp McGill, Japan. From 15 August they were given a 10 day
period of instructions.
120 Japanese barges were contracted for,
gathered in Moji, and sent to Pusan. The crews of these barges were not aware of
their ultimate destination of Inchon when they left Japan. When informed, crews
of 28 of these barges refused to proceed from Pusan, and were returned to Japan.
The remaining 92, accompanied by mother and repair ships, were escorted to Inchon
by a Korean Navy light tug and a minesweeper.
Weather played an important part in the
preparations for Operation Chromite. The typhoon "Jane" passed over Kobe 2
September with a resulting interruption of loading for approximately 36 hours.
"Jane" caused minor damage to two assault transports. A second typhoon, named
"Kesia", made trouble in south west Japan from 8 September. It seriously
threatened to delay movement to the objective, while it damaged cranes and cargo
on the docksides, and teared ships from their moorings. Had either storm
necessitated a postponement of D-day, the postponement would not have been
several days but, because of the tidal phenomenon at the objective,
The sources have no sign of any lack of supplies
to meet the requirements for the operation. Also when it comes to any possible
lack of ships for transportation, the sources don't mention it. Even the return
of the 28 Japanese barges to Japan, don't seem to have mattered.