On this day in history, Sept. 15, 1950, US troops land at Inchon, turning the tide of the Korean War
It was characterized as too risky, too dangerous, too out-of-the-question — but ultimately, that didn’t deter the United States of America or Gen. Douglas MacArthur, for that matter.
Just months after the Korean War began and with brilliant scheduling and coordination, U.S. Marines landed at Inchon on the west coast of Korea on this date in history, Sept. 15, 1950.
Inchon was 100 miles south of the 38th parallel and just 25 miles from Seoul.
General Douglas MacArthur, who had been made supreme commander of the United Nations (U.N.) forces in July of that year, insisted on carrying out the landing — a complicated operation and coordination of forces by air, land and sea, as History.com and other sources have noted.
By the early part of the night, the Marines had overcome moderate resistance and secured Inchon.
What was the impact?
“The brilliant landing cut the North Korean forces in two and the U.S.-led U.N. force pushed inland to recapture Seoul, the South Korean capital that had fallen to the communists in June,” History.com noted.
“Allied forces then converged from the north and the south, devastating the North Korean army and taking 125,000 enemy troops prisoner.”
The operation, according to an article published by the U.S. Naval Institute, was “epic in scale” and “audacious in concept.”
“The Inchon invasion dramatically altered the course of the Korean War — and validated anew the importance of being able to project sea power ashore,” the same article noted.
“The amphibious assault at Inchon marked the Cold War rebirth of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps,” the piece said about Operation Chromite, as it was named.
“The expertly planned and boldly executed air-sea-ground attack,” according to the same source, “put to rest the post-World War II argument that globe-spanning warplanes armed with atomic bombs were all that was needed for the United States to fight and win wars of the future.”
Instead, “sea power projected ashore would enable the United Nations to preserve the independence of the Republic of Korea and limit the conflict to the Korean Peninsula.”
The piece went further: “Throughout the Cold War, Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces, aircraft carrier battle groups, and surface warships bristling with guns (and eventually long-range ship-to-shore missiles) discouraged aggression around the world and, when necessary, contributed to the success of American arms.”
The Korean War started on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea, pushing the latter back on its heels.
Yet on Sept. 15, 1950, the tides began to turn when the MacArthur-envisioned plan was implemented and U.N. forces began the drive toward Seoul.
In explaining his rationale to other military leaders, many of whom were dubious, MacArthur famously said, “The Navy has never let me down in the past and it will not let me down this time.”
He also said, “We shall land at Inchon and I shall crush them!”
MacArthur later explained that he felt he could turn the tide if he made a decisive troop movement behind the lines of North Korea’s KPA (Korean People’s Army) — and he preferred Inchon over other locations as the landing site.
He also expressed that he felt the enemy would be caught off-guard by the attack.
By his own account afterward, he also said that because Inchon was so heavily defended, the North Koreans would not expect an attack there; that victory at Incheon would avoid a terrible winter campaign; and that, by invading a northern strong point, the U.N. forces could cut off North Korea’s lines of supply and communication.