Key Point: Americans suffered thousands of casaulties retaking the city from the North Koreans.
On September 15, 1950, the United Nations X Corps, spearheaded by two regiments of the U.S. 1st Marine Division, landed at Inchon, on South Korea’s west coast, 25 miles from the capital of Seoul. The landing was a spectacular gamble by UN Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur and proved to be an equally spectacular success. Despite rampant rumors of an imminent landing circulating for weeks before the actual event, MacArthur’s Inchon assault completely surprised the North Koreans, whose army was largely engaged in attacking UN forces along the Pusan Perimeter, far to the south. Inchon proved to be only lightly defended by the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA), and the U.S. Marines rapidly established a beachhead. The battle for Inchon was quickly over. The next objective was Seoul itself. The capital would prove a much tougher nut to crack.
To Take Back Seoul
War had begun on the Korean Peninsula on June 25, 1950, when North Korean Russian-made T-34 tanks crashed across the 38th parallel and rapidly routed the defending Republic of Korea (ROK) forces. Within days, Seoul had fallen to the North Koreans and the bridges across the Han River had been blown by the retreating ROK Army. American President Harry Truman reacted immediately and forcefully to counter the naked Communist aggression, rushing the U.S. 24th Infantry Division to Korea from occupation duty in Japan to help stem the onrushing Communist tide. At the same time, the United Nations, with the Soviet Union absent in protest of Nationalist China’s presence on the Security Council, voted to enter the war on South Korea’s side.
Undeterred by international sanctions, the North Korean forces continued their drive southward, hemming in the UN forces around Pusan, in the extreme southeast of the country. MacArthur struck back with his audacious amphibious assault at Inchon. American Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey spoke for many when he described MacArthur’s counterattack as “characteristic and magnificent. The Inchon landing is the most masterly and audacious strategic stroke in all history.” Other military leaders called it nothing less than “a 20th century Cannae.” (In 216 bc, Carthaginian leader Hannibal inflicted Imperial Rome’s greatest defeat at Cannae, on the Adriatic coast.)