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In spite of the setbacks of Operation Blueheart, MacArthur was admirable in his courageous "promptitude to act," in the words of Winston Churchill (cited by Starling 1998, p. 298). After Blueheart's execution proved inconceivable, MacArthur immediately proceeded to draft the plans for the similar Operation Chromite. Operation Chromite, like Operation Blueheart, would rally the support of various branches of the military in a sweeping amphibious counteroffensive. MacArthur hoped to achieve the primary objective of American and United Nations presence in the Korean Peninsula: to stymie the communists.
If nothing else, MacArthur wanted to revitalize the spirits of troops stationed throughout East Asia and especially those trapped behind the Pusan Perimeter. On a reconnaissance mission on June 29, 1950 General MacArthur observed lackluster troops and was quoted saying Nobody is fighting," (Ballard 2001, p. 32). The seasoned CINCFE pointed out during the reconnaissance mission that among American and allied South Korean troops "morale was not sufficient" (Ballard 2001, p. 32). In his memoir of Korea the Coldest War, James Brady (2000) refers to the "shabbiness of American forces as they existed at the beginning of the Korean War," (p. 3). Brady (2000) also recalls the "terrible, mountainous terrain" that characterized the Korean peninsula and notes that the Korean War disheartened American troops who viewed the Communist encroachment of 1950 as a sign that World War Two had never ended after all. MacArthur's observations during his reconnaissance mission spurned on the general to complete Operation Chromite as a marker of American victory. MacArthur was also undoubtedly fueled by his personal pride and ambition. He is quoted as saying, "We shall land at Inchon and I shall crush them," (quoted by Carpenter 2000, p. 3).
General MacArthur was no novice at military strategy. First in his class at West Point, MacArthur would become the academy's superintendent. A star-studded post in World War One led to his later becoming Army Chief of Staff and he "surely helped save the U.S. military from disintegration between the wars," (Beidler 2007, p. 64). MacArthur's performance during World War Two presaged his position in the Korean conflict. MacArthur combined Army, Navy, and Marines forces and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his "strategic genius" during the Second World War (Beidler 2007, p. xx). His role in the reconstruction of Japan after the war also earned him accolades; his expertise in the affairs of the Far East ensured his continued posting and his eventual command of the Korean United Nations presence.
His combat experiences and triumphs in World War Two bolstered his efforts in Korea with regards to strategic issues and logistics. For example, MacArthur understood how supply shortages affected "operational reach" and knew how to read "enemy vulnerabilities," (Ballard 2007, p. 32). MacArthur also had exhibited a "keen sense of timing" during the Second World War that made his assessment of when to invade at Inchon reliable ("Operation CHROMITE: The Concept and the Plan"). Yet Inchon presented a whole different set of circumstances for the military commander in chief. MacArthur, emboldened by his already star-studded career, was faced with the challenge of convincing Army Chief of Staff General J. Lawton Collins, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Forrest Sherman, and the Far East expert on amphibious operations, Rear Admiral James H. Doyle that an amphibious offensive at Inchon was feasible. MacArthur needed to show that Operation Chromite would succeed and that the decision to launch a tricky surprise invasion was the correct one. Rear Admirable James Doyle offered the most diplomatic and -- in MacArthur's eyes -- the most affirmative response to the proposition of an amphibious invasion at Inchon in September 1950: Doyle hesitated to stand in the general's way and simply stated, "Inchon is not impossible," (Carpenter 2000, p. 2). Doyle was also "the most experienced amphibious officer in the Far East," (Ballard 2007, p. 33). Although Doyle had thoroughly evaluated Inchon's territory and "attempted to dissuade" MacArthur from invading there, Operation Chromite was ultimately approved by a "concerned" JCS (Ballard 2007, p. 33-34).
MacArthur selected September as an ideal month for the amphibious attack for several reasons. First, September was not too long after the June Communist invasion and so sent a powerful message about the United States and its determination to squelch communism. Second, tidal, terrain and weather conditions "were suitable for landing troops and equipment under fire" in September whereas waiting any longer would render the tides too unpredictable or treacherous ("Operation CHROMITE: The Concept and the Plan"). September 15, the invasion commenced. The immediate goals of Operation Chromite were to cut off Communist supply lines from the North by seizing Seoul and to destroy the Communist stranglehold on Pusan. Both objectives were met within days; MacArthur triumphed.
The media seized the opportunity to champion the quick victory. An October 2, 1950 edition of Life magazine praises the Inchon invasion, almost sterilizing the event. "It took the Marines less than a day to capture the city from a battalion of Reds, who were all but mummified by naval and air bombardment," (Sygmington 1950, p. 23). Sygmington (1950) also claims that American troops were "virtually unopposed," (p. 23). The Life report, although written for a hopeful American public and not for a military audience, was not far off in its description of the Inchon attack. Starling (1998) describes the invasion in similar terms, calling the surprise "total," describing the North Korean army as "demoralized remnants," and also by claiming that MacArthur's "bold stroke paid off" with a Communist retreat (p. 298).
In October of 1950, General Douglas a. MacArthur was an American hero. Yet what the Life magazine article does not address in relation to the Inchon invasion is General MacArthur's willful subordination of his civilian Commander in Chief, President Harry S. Truman. As Johnson (2004) states in an article for Military History magazine, no general in American military history "ever so blatantly and repeatedly challenged the authority of the President and Joint Chiefs of Staff as General of the Army Douglas a. MacArthur," (p. 74). Johnson calls MacArthur's actions a "flat refusal to follow orders" and claims the insubordination a "historic first," (p. 74). "It was believed," notes James Brady (2000) that "the only orders Douglas MacArthur had ever followed...were his own," (p. 12). Johnson (2004) further lambastes MacArthur by claiming that "his power and status made him a head of state in all but name, virtually free from accountability for his actions," (p. 74).
Brady (2000) defends MacArthur's willfulness, proving that the methods the general used to secure success at Inchon and thereafter might not have represented subordination at all but rather, skill and enviable genius. Ballard (2007) also lauds MacArthur for what the author calls promoting "a vision for staff and competent action," (p. 36). Not all of MacArthur's actions can be blamed on his being uppity. While admitting the general was "stretching his orders," Brady (2000) claims that those orders were in fact "fuzzier than they should have been," (p. 11). Even after the successful invasion, "Washington had been watching somewhat passively from the sidelines," (Brady 2000, p. 15). Dorschner (2005) notes that after the June 1950 surprise Communist attack, Washington had "no clear war aims" and that "little thought was given to larger strategic goals and objectives" other than to focus on the immediate needs of troops in south Korea (p. 32). Indecision and hesitancy in Washington had a strong bearing on MacArthur's decision-making.
In fact, MacArthur's incomplete briefings to the JCS might have been due to their lack of involvement in what the General was trying to accomplish with Operation Chromite. Referring to the outright "prohibition issued by the Joint Chiefs themselves against sending American troops to any province bordering China," Brady (2000) implies that the JCS were actually "afraid," (p. 11-12). It seemed as if Washington had lost interest in winning the Cold War. Moreover, MacArthur was sometimes harangued for insubordination when his actions were carried out in frustration over an indecisive, hesitant JCS. Mixed messages were running rampant across the Pacific. For example, MacArthur issued orders to bomb North Korean airfields less than twenty-four hours before the general received an official request from Truman to do so (p. 74). It is highly likely that MacArthur issued his orders after receiving an informal nod, and was therefore acting sensibly and not out of arrogant insubordination.
However, MacArthur's tendency toward emotionalism in his communications reflects one of his most tragic flaws: hubris. His victory at Inchon would ironically predicate his demise as a successful Army general and politician. As Brady (2000) puts it, "the more cavalier the Americans were, the greater the Chinese would be sure they were going to reap," (p. 15). What took place after Inchon would also demonstrate how MacArthur's character and his approach to leadership are integral to any study of the Korean War. MacArthur's personality and his relationships with the JCS and Truman…[continue]
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