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 D-day.

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 stores.

     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 operations.

     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 Inchon.

     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, several weeks.

     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.

From safe harbors to successful amphibious landing

     The amphibious landing at Inchon was in its very nature an operation as close to logistics as possible. Before the First Marine Division and the Seventh Infantry Division could take up arms and start fighting the enemy, they had to be on the "beaches" of Inchon. The operations and the logistics from the force left Sasebo and Pusan until well established on dry land, could be looked upon as pure transportation.

     Admiral Struble was in overall command of Task Force 90. It consisted of the flagship, two escort carriers, the bombardment force, screening and protective ships, minesweepers, specialist ships, supply and hospital ships, and the transports and freight vessels carrying the X Corps. This was an armada of 260 ships according to Max Hastings, 230 ships according to the American historian Curtis A Utz, and eighty-five warships and more than one hundred other ships according to an other British historian, Farrar-Hockley. This inconsistency in the number of ships can be due to boats and crafts loaded onboard ships like the four Landing Ships Dock.

     The first ships to leave for Inchon, were the Pontoon Movement Unit, designated to produce pontoon causeways at the objective. They departed Tokyo Bay area as early as 5 September 1950 and proceeded at a speed of advance of no more than 5 knots. The rest of the force left their ports from 8 September until 12 September. The screening force consisted of U.S., Australian, British, Canadian, Dutch and French ships, combined in Joint Task Force 7. Wide ranging air reconnaissance and surveillance was conducted.

     The earlier mentioned typhoon "Kesia" did not leave the force proceeding for the landing, but partly joined them on their trip from Kobe and Pusan towards Inchon. This not only resulted in seasickness, but also that one of the Attack Transport ships lost overboard two of her landing boats on a heavy roll in high seas. The ship was unable to recover the boats. Even if Kesia made some problems, the enemy inflicted no losses to Task Force 90.

     Among all the detailed plans for the landing, there were also a salvage plan. The "Assistant Boat Group" should help landing craft in the vicinity of the landing points in the need of minor towing assistance. For other assistance to landing ships and craft, the Commander Administrative Element would direct the Commander Repair and Salvage Unit. Two landing crafts were specially equipped as heavy salvage boats with equipment for fire fighting and salvage pumping duty. Emergency boat repairs and emergency havens for amphibian vehicles were also prepared.

     Air attacks began on 10 September dropping napalm on the defenses of the island of Wolmi-do. 13 September became the first of several days of shore bombardment. During the period from 13 to 27 September a total of 8842 rounds ranging from 5" to 16" inch were fired by Task Force 90. The same group also fired the impressive number of 140,730 20-mm rounds and 6658 rockets. In one instant a North Korean tank or self-propelled gun had sent some quick fire toward the invading force, only to be met with no less than 165 rounds of 5 inch ammunition from one ship. Could there have been any limitations put on ammunition expenditure? Commander Amphibious Group One reported availability of all ammunition was adequate to meet resupply requirements, except that expenditure of eight inch ammunition by heavy cruisers were higher than loading plans in ammunition resupply ships apparently had contemplated. Overall performance of ordnance material and equipment was regarded as excellent.

     The landing itself was conducted fairly close to the plan, not meeting more resistance than anticipated. The Advance Attack Group, supported by naval gunfire and close air support, assaulted and capture the tactical important Wolmi- Do Island in an operation that lasted an hour and a half in the morning of 15 September. In the early afternoon the remainder of the assault shipping arrived on station and the order "Land the Landing Force" was given as the tide had started to come in. Due to the amount of supplies and equipment the Landing Force desired to embark, most of the ships in the assault echelon carried in excess of the amount which was considered to be normal. Approximately 13,000 troops and their assault equipment were unloaded the first day.

     Improvement of unloading facilities was initiated as rapidly as possible and general unloading was ordered on 16 September. This was the same day as the second echelon of ships arrived with the 7th Infantry Division. During the period D-1 to D-6 unloading continued as rapidly as tidal conditions and unloading facilities would permit. Nearly 50,000 personnel, more than 5,000 vehicles, and 22,000 short tons of cargo was brought ashore in this period.

     With the rapidity this operation was planed, prepared and executed, not everything could be perfect: 7th Infantry Division was put ashore at Inchon without their 30-day replacement supply of medium tanks. The 21 tanks had not been available at time of departure from Japan. By 25 September X Corps reported ten of 7th Division tanks in- operable due to enemy action, and no replacements had arrived.

     "A Stroke of Genius", is what Farrar-Hockley calls the landing at Inchon. And he follows up with: "Vain and devious, he [MacArthur] was besides a man possessing the experience, breadth of vision, and readiness to take risks necessary to turn defeat into victory." This descriptions is fairly easy to understand when it comes to operations. Looking at logistics, the description could be something similar. The logisticians were the ones to make this operation possible. They did this inside the time limits and had the necessary slack to absorb delays and bad weather.

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