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[Opinion] Remembering the Incheon Landing

Posted September. 10, 2008 03:28,   


U.S. General Douglas MacArthur first reported his idea for the Incheon landing to the Pentagon on July 15, 1950, less than a month after the Korean War broke out on June 25. Top U.S. brass, not to mention MacArthur’s own lieutenants, fiercely opposed the idea. They cited Incheon’s terrible conditions or the need to “rewrite the whole (military) textbook if it succeeded.” The general did not back off, however, saying the operation was the only way to deal a devastating blow to the enemy, though even MacArthur gave it odds of one in 5,000. The Pentagon recommended Gunsan or Pyeongtaek as the landing site given their better natural conditions. MacArthur’s choice to land at a point with bad natural conditions took North Korea off guard.

Waiting for U.S. approval for the landing at the United Nations Command headquarters in Tokyo, MacArthur sent his lieutenant to Washington with an order: disclose the plan on Operation Chromite a day prior to Sept. 15, the date of the landing. MacArthur wanted to make sure that the Pentagon could not delay the operation or change the landing area. When the lieutenant submitted the plan to Washington, Allied warships were already bombarding North Korean troops early in the morning. The bold move saved South Korea from surrender to the communist regime in the North.

In the operation, the Korean Navy and Marines played a pivotal yet unheralded role. Compared with the 1944 D-day invasion of Normandy, the Allies sustained a far smaller number of casualties in Incheon and completed the landing much faster due to preparation by the Korean Navy. Prior to the landing, eight South Korean ships and 110 solders under the command of the battleship Kumkang started landing on Yeongheung and Deokjeok islands from Aug. 16, 1950, to secure the navigational routes around Incheon. Korean soldiers informed the Allies of the North’s defense system and arsenal on the two islands, intelligence which greatly contributed to the landing’s success.

A festival commemorating the historic landing began yesterday. Events are being held mainly on Wolmi Island and around Freedom Park, where a statue of MacArthur is located. South Korea’s largest naval vessel Dokdo is participating in a reenactment ceremony. On Oct. 5, President Lee Myung-bak will review the Navy, the first South Korean head of state to do so in a decade. The Aegis-class destroyer King Sejong the Great, which is armed with cutting-edge technologies, will also join. The South Korean Navy will host this large-scale international event that will honor the historic event 58 years ago.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)