Leadership Case Study US ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE US Army Command and Staff School Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC

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US Army Command and Staff School

Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC) AOC

Art of Command

Case Study for L400

Art of Command

The Eighth Army Fights Back

Author: Dr. Thomas G. Bradbeer

“It is not often in wartime that a single battlefield commander can make a decisive difference. But in Korea, Ridgway would prove to be the exception. His brilliant, driving, uncompromising leadership would turn the tide of battle like no other general’s in our military history.”

General of the Army Omar N. Bradley[endnoteRef:1] [1: Omar N. Bradley and Clay Blair, A General’s Life, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), 608.]


On the night of 31 December 1950, the Chinese XIII Army Group of the Fourth Field Army, composed of 19 divisions, totaling more than 170,000 men, attacked United Nations forces in their defensive positions along the Imjin River near the 38th Parallel. Its mission: capture Seoul. This same group drove the Eighth Army out of North Korea in early December. Within hours, Chinese Communist Forces (CCF)[endnoteRef:2] penetrated the front lines of numerous units throughout the Eighth Army on a twenty-mile front.[endnoteRef:3] [2: Russell Spurr, Enter the Dragon: China’s Undeclared War against the U.S. in Korea, 1950-1951, (New York: Newmarket Press, 1988), xx. The Chinese identified their army as the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and that portion that operated within Korea as the Chinese Volunteer Force (CPV).] [3: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 38. The Chinese 3rd Phase Offensive is also identified by historians as The Chinese New Year’s Offensive.]

Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway, commander of the Eighth Army, was at his advance command post (ACP) in Seoul when the Chinese attack began. He met previously with all three of his American corps commanders, and all but one of his division commanders. He learned about the coming Chinese offensive and concluded that “our forces were simply not mentally and spiritually ready for the sort of [offensive] action I planned. There was too much of a looking-over-your-shoulder attitude” indicative of a defeated Army.[endnoteRef:4] He directed his subordinate commanders to conduct reconnaissance to locate and determine the intent of the CCF units. During his assessment of the fighting capacity of these organizations, the competence of their leaders, and the terrain, Ridgway confirmed what he suspected, he took command of a shattered Eighth Army, with only three of the seven assigned U.S. divisions in the front line. All three divisions suffered heavy casualties in the first two weeks of December when the Eighth Army retreated under intense CCF pressure.[endnoteRef:5] He concluded that the “intelligence situation [within Eighth Army] was deplorable.”[endnoteRef:6] In one of his first briefings on the enemy situation, the Eighth Army G-2 depicted the location of the CCF “by a large red “goose egg” with “174,000” scrawled on its center. The true figure was closer to 300,000.”[endnoteRef:7] The G-2 also lacked detailed information about the types of CCF units that opposed Eighth Army, their locations, and their capabilities. [4: Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War, (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967), 86.] [5: Robert C. Alberts, “Profile of a Soldier: Matthew B. Ridgway,” American Heritage, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, February 1976, 77.] [6: Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, (New York: Times Books, 1987), 569.] [7: Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, (New York: Times Books, 1987), 569.]

Having studied the terrain in front of the United Nations forces, Ridgway concluded that the CCF’s main effort would strike in the west, with the primary objective of capturing Seoul. To prevent the capture of Seoul, he directed Major General Frank W. Milburn, commander of (US) I Corps, and MG John Coulter, commander (US) IX Corps, to establish their main line of resistance along the Imjin River and prepare to fall back, on his orders, to defensive positions north of Seoul. To prevent CCF artillery from ranging as far south as Seoul and the Han River bridges, Ridgway ordered that the defensive perimeter extend from the outskirts of Seoul northwards to Uijongbu.[endnoteRef:8] [8: Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, (New York: Times Books, 1987), 576.]

C:Usersthomas.bradbeerPicturesKorean War Dec-Jan 1950-1951.jpg

The Chinese Third Phase Offensive, 31 December 1950-7 January 1951. Courtesy: United States Military Academy, West Point

Unlike their previous offensive operations, the CCF began the third phase Chinese offensive with a massive artillery barrage. Following closely behind the barrage were tens of thousands of infantrymen blowing bugles and horns. The Chinese bypassed the US 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions defending the western corridor and focused on the boundary between the Republic of Korea (ROK) 1st and 6th Infantry Divisions, which served as a boundary between the US I and IX Corps.[endnoteRef:9] The Chinese quickly overwhelmed the ROK 1st Division that initiated a chaotic retreat, with devastating second order effects on the U.N. defensive positions. In the process, the US 9th Field Artillery Battalion, supporting the ROK 1st Division, lost four of its 155 mm howitzers and prime movers.[endnoteRef:10] The ROK 6th Division held its ground for several hours before the panic caused by the 1st Division’s destruction spread and all three regiments abandoned their positions, fleeing to the rear. This enabled the CCF to penetrate between the US 19th and 21st Infantry Regiments of MG John H. Church’s 24th Infantry Division. [9: The US 7th Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Division, and 1st Marine Division were refitting in Pusan after their evacuation from Hungnam in December; the 1st Cavalry Division was in blocking positions behind the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions; and the 2d Infantry Division was supporting ROK forces in the Wonju area.] [10: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 51.]

To the immediate right of the US IX Corps, two of the three regiments within the ROK 2d Infantry Division abandoned their positions, but the 17th regiment fought valiantly until it suffered more than 50% casualties, losing six of its 12 infantry companies and twenty-one artillery pieces.[endnoteRef:11] The CCF, supported by the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) II and V Corps, overran the ROK II Corps and its four divisions defending the sector near the key terrain of Hongchon, just north of Wonju. Fortunately, Ridgway previously ordered the US 2d Infantry Division, under the command of MG Robert B. McClure, to move into defensive positions behind the ROK II Corps prior to the CCF attack. Its lead battalions arrived in the Hongchon area as the ROK units hastily withdrew. [11: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 49-51.]

Analyzing the terrain and disposition of his forces in the days before the CCF attack, and piecing together initial fragmentary reports from his units, Ridgway concluded that the collapse of the ROK 2d Division posed a major threat to the Eighth Army’s defensive line. The CCF was set to trap and encircle both US I and IX Corps. To prevent this from happening, Ridgway directed his staff to prepare orders for the Eighth Army to withdrawal as far south as Line D below Suwon. He directed that all units maintain contact with the CCF and position its withdrawing forces so they could conduct “punishing local counterattacks, inflicting maximum casualties on the advancing CCF.”[endnoteRef:12] [12: Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, (New York: Times Books, 1987), 594.]

Ridgway left his ACP and moved to the battlefront to assess the situation in the ROK II Corps area. He did not get very far when he came upon remnants of the ROK 6th Division, in full retreat. Ridgway used his jeep to block their retreat and then stood in the road. Unable to speak Korean, and with no interpreter present, it was of little use. He had better luck stopping six trucks carrying American Soldiers from the 24th Infantry Division. With the help of a squad of MPs, he held them in place while he contacted their division commander, MG Church. Ridgway ordered Church to get the men back to their units, but it was evident to Ridgway that Church and his subordinate commanders, having escaped CCF encirclement at the Chongchon River in December, focused more on withdrawing out of harm’s way than fighting.

To plug the gap caused by the ROK 6th Division’s hasty retreat, Ridgway ordered the IX Corps commander, MG Coulter, to commit his reserve, the 27th Commonwealth Brigade, commanded by BG Basil A. Coad. This was the Commonwealth brigade’s first engagement of the war.[endnoteRef:13] With the Australian battalion in the lead, the brigade moved as fast as it could north towards Uijongbu. At the same time, the British 29th Brigade, under the command of BG Tom Brodie, served as the I Corps reserve. MG Milburn ordered Brodie to move his brigade forward and occupy the positions abandoned by the ROK 1st Division and cover the withdrawal of the US 25th Infantry Division. Of all U.N. forces on 1 January, the British brigade had the toughest task; attack north into the heart of the main Chinese XIII Army Group assault. As the 27th and 29th Brigades moved forward, the two US corps received orders to withdraw to their secondary defense line ten miles north of Seoul.[endnoteRef:14] Both the 29th and 27th Brigades fought well, avoided encirclement and enabled all ROK and US forces to withdraw to their new defensive positions.[endnoteRef:15] [13: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 52.] [14: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 52.] [15: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 52-53.]

Fortunately for Ridgway and the Eighth Army, the CCF stopped their advance to consolidate gains on 2 January, just south of the Imjin River. This pause allowed the Eighth Army to withdraw in an orderly fashion. After consulting with his two corps commanders that afternoon, Ridgway directed his staff to issue orders for all U.N. forces to evacuate Seoul and withdraw south of the Han River.

In discussions with our two U.S Corps Commanders, with the ROK Army Chief of Staff and with the Chief of KMAG, it became clear that a combination of enemy frontal attack and deep envelopment around our wide-open east flank, where the ROK had fled in panic, could soon place the entire army in jeopardy. I had not found sufficient basis for confidence in the ability of the troops to hold their positions, even if they were ordered to. Consequently, I asked our ambassador, on January 3, to notify President Rhee that Seoul would be once more evacuated and that withdrawal from our forward positions would begin at once.[endnoteRef:16] [16: Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967), 95.]

Realizing that conducting a river crossing is one of the most complex operations to undertake during combat operations, Ridgway directed that the 1st Cavalry Assistant Division Commander, BG Charles D. Palmer, take charge of the crossing of the Han River, with full authority to do whatever required to ensure a successful crossing. Palmer spent the first six months of the war serving as the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery commander. Ridgway knew him from his excellent reputation as an artillery expert, and more importantly that he was “well regarded throughout the Army for his even temper, strict discipline, and ability to get things done without drama or fuss.”[endnoteRef:17] Ridgway’s confidence in Palmer was justified when the entire Eighth Army crossed the Han River with few complications over the next three days.[endnoteRef:18] [17: Stephen R. Taafe, MacArthur’s Korean War General’s, (Lawrence KS; University Press of Kansas, 2016), 161.] [18: James F. Schnabel, “Ridgway in Korea,” Military Review, XLIV, No. 3 (March 1964): 11.]

The CCF resumed their offensive on 3 January as the Eighth Army continued what Ridgway assumed was a fighting withdrawal south of the Han. When he learned on the morning of 4 January that the British 29th Brigade had at least one battalion and several companies cut-off and surrounded, he ordered a relief operation to assist in their breakout southwards. By the time Ridgway understood the perilous situation of the British brigade, it was already too late. BG Brodie appreciated the US planning efforts to assist in a breakout, but realized the most practical course of action was to direct his subordinate units to breakout independently. Informed that the 29th Brigade suffered more than 300 casualties in their breakout effort, Ridgway was incensed. He believed “it was a disgrace to American arms to allow any other U.N. troops to be used as withdrawal rear-guard force in the face of the enemy” and directed shortly thereafter to all of his American commanders that from then on only US troops would be used to conduct rear guard operations.[endnoteRef:19] [19: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 74.]

The Chinese XIII Army spent 5-7 January moving southwards to the Han River, occupying Seoul and sending two divisions across the Han to occupy key terrain as a screening force to maintain contact with Eighth Army units as they withdrew. On 5 January, Ridgway ordered Operational Plan 20 into effect. This directed all Eighth Army units to withdraw to Line D (the Pyongtaek Line) forty miles south of Seoul and the Han River. By 7 January, all units closed on their new defensive positions.


Ridgway was not satisfied with the performance of the Eighth Army during the CCF offensive. It was clear to him that within the first twelve hours of the attack his units did not stand and fight. His disappointment in the performance of the two US corps, as well as the ROK corps, was evident in the letter he sent to his corps commanders on 7 January.

Reports so far reaching me indicate your forces withdrew to [Line D] without evidence of having inflicted any substantial losses on enemy and without material delay. In fact, some major units are reported as having broken contact. I desire prompt confirming reports and if substantially correct, the reason for non-compliance with my directives. From here on, the enemy has but two alternatives: (A) a time-consuming coordinated advance offering us minimum opportunities for inflicting punishment, but at least giving us much time, or; (B) an uncoordinated rapid follow-up, perhaps even a pursuit. The former permits accomplishment of part of our mission and the latter, unlimited opportunity for accomplishing all of it. I shall expect utmost exploitation of every opportunity in accordance with my basic directive.[endnoteRef:20] [20: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 91.]

Fortunately for Ridgway, the CCF ended their 3d phase offensive on 7 January and did not pursue the Eighth Army as it withdrew.[endnoteRef:21] The lack of pursuit was a godsend to Ridgway. It provided him the opportunity to take charge of his new command and correct the many deficiencies he identified during his battlefield circulation.[endnoteRef:22] [21: Only after the war would the three major reasons for this lack of pursuit be revealed. First, the CCF was exhausted, having conducted three offensive operations in three months and had suffered enormous casualties as a result. Second, the CCF could not provide the required supplies to continue offensive operations. Third, and most importantly, the lines of supply, already stretched to their limit, would become even more vulnerable to UN airpower the farther south the CCF advanced. ] [22: Roy E. Appleman, Ridgway Duels for Korea, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990), 83-85.]

In command less than a week, Ridgway identified numerous problems needing immediate correction if he was to set the conditions for the Eighth Army to go on the offensive against the CCF. To transform the Eighth Army from a defeated organization into a cohesive and competent combat unit, capable of defeating the CCF, he believed he must first restore the fighting spirit and esprit de corps of the Eighth Army. Simply put, he believed that the Army must “have pride in itself, to feel confidence in its leadership, and have faith in its mission.”[endnoteRef:23] Ridgway concluded the lack of fighting spirit and low morale were symptoms of a much more critical problem; ineffective leaders at the division and corps level. The defeatist attitude he observed during the withdrawal through Seoul and beyond the Han River, convinced him that most of his subordinate commands required fresh leadership, especially at the division level. He attributed the lack of aggressiveness of his commanders to the six months of hard fighting and reverses the Eighth Army suffered in November and December 1950. On 8 January, Ridgway dispatched a personal letter to the Army Chief of Staff, General Lawton J. Collins, informing him of his initial assessment. [23: Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War, (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967), 85. See also Matthew B. Ridgway, Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956), 204-206.]

During daylight of the first day following the hostile attack [1 January] my instructions were not complied with. That night I repeated them in person and during the daylight period both Corps, at my insistence, made an effort, but in my opinion, an inadequate one. Again and again, I personally instructed both Corps commanders to conduct their withdrawal as to leave strong forces so positioned as to permit powerful counterattacks with armored and infantry teams during each daylight period, withdrawing these forces about dark as necessary. These orders, too, failed of execution. Our infantry has largely lost the capabilities of their honored forefathers in American Military annals. They no longer think of operating on foot away from their transportation and heavy equipment. Let’s pour on the heat in our training and, above all, let’s be ruthless with our general officers if they fail to measure up.[endnoteRef:24] [24: Matthew B. Ridgway, Letter to General Lawton J. Collins, CS, 8 Jan 1951, Folder A-C, Box 17, Ridgway Papers, U.S. Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA. ]

This is Ridgway’s warning order to the chief of staff that he would replace most, if not all, corps and division commanders as soon as feasible. Intent on achieving his end-state of rebuilding the Eighth Army into an effective fighting force, Ridgway knew he must start at the top. To minimize controversy over his “housecleaning,” Ridgway made the recommendation to the Army chief of staff for a new policy that effectively rotated those corps and division commanders who completed six months of continuous duty in Korea back to the states. He also changed out commanders over a period of weeks and recommended that most, but not all, be given positive efficiency reports and promotion if deserved.[endnoteRef:25] [25: Clay Blair, The Forgotten War, (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 581. There is ample evidence that this announced “rotation policy” was successful in sending the message to both the media and civilians back in the U.S. that the officers in question were not being relieved but were being “replaced” after experiencing long, hard months of combat. Time Magazine reported in its March 5, 1951 edition that six corps and division level commanders had been replaced after providing great service in Korea. “Nearly all of the old command teams are back in the U.S. for jobs of first importance: applying battle experience gained in Korea to the training of the expanding Army at home.” Although this was partially true, these assignments were terminal for all but one of the individuals concerned.]

During his first week in command, Ridgway met with all three of his corps commanders; MG Frank W. Milburn (I Corps), MG John B. Coulter (IX Corps) and MG Edward M. Almond (X Corps), and began “housecleaning.” Ridgway replaced MG John Coulter and his lackluster chief of staff, Colonel Andrew Tycheson. Collins appointed Coulter to command IX Corps in August 1950, based on his combat experience, service in East Asia, and positive relationship with MacArthur and Almond.[endnoteRef:26] Ridgway wasn’t impressed with Coulter’s leadership abilities during the withdrawal to the Han, but he believed that Coulter was more useful to the Eighth Army by coordinating future operations with the ROK forces. Ridgway directed Coulter promoted to three stars and made him his deputy commander, serving as Eighth Army’s liaison to the ROK Army and President Rhee, who Coulter knew well from his postwar occupation tour in South Korea.[endnoteRef:27] [26: Stephen R. Taafe, Macarthur’s Korean War General’s, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 80.] [27: Stephen R. Taafe, Macarthur’s Korean War General’s, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 153. ]

Ridgway found both Milburn and Almond wanting, but decided to keep both men on the job. Milburn was an old and devoted friend of Ridgway and Almond was still MacArthur’s close confidant and chief of staff. Ridgway understood that Almond’s close relationship with MacArthur made it unwise to relieve the 10 Corps commander this early in his command tour. Yet this close relationship did not prevent Ridgway from asserting his authority as a commander. In their first meeting, Ridgway, in a fiery counseling session, notified Almond that he would no longer be operating independently of Eighth Army, and he would take all orders from him.[endnoteRef:28] Almond had a good reputation as being ‘a fighting general’ and Ridgway respected that quality in his subordinates. It was a competency that he demanded of all of his leaders. [28: Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, (New York: Times Books, 1987), 572-573.]

Under his proposed rotation policy, Ridgway planned to replace four of the seven division commanders in sequence of when they arrived in Korea: MG Church (24th ID) arrived first in Korea, followed by MG Kean (25th ID), MG Gay (1st CAV), and MG Barr (7th ID). General Almond upset this planned schedule by insisting that Barr was incompetent. Almond held Barr personally responsible for the destruction of Task Force Faith in early December and recommended that Ridgway relieve him first, despite the fact that Barr was only in Korea four months. Ridgway agreed to revise the order to replace Barr first and Kean last.

Ridgway was not the only senior leader dissatisfied with the performance of the senior commanders. As the X Corps commander, Almond relieved MG Robert McClure (2d Infantry Division) on 13 January after an investigation of the division’s unauthorized retreat from Wonju on the last day of the CCF offensive. The withdrawal was poorly planned and executed during a snowstorm, and though Almond wanted to relieve McClure for his poor decision-making immediately, he took several days to conduct an investigation, knowing he would have to explain his actions to Ridgway. Though McClure made a good first impression with Ridgway, Ridgway supported Almond’s decision, believing the corps commander should have a voice in who his subordinate commanders were if they were to become an effective fighting team.[endnoteRef:29] To replace McClure, Ridgway agreed with Almond’s (and MacArthur’s) recommendation to place MG Clark “Nick” Ruffner, the X Corps chief of staff, in command of the 2d Infantry Division. Ruffner was the division’s third commander in less than five weeks. Ruffner possessed strong critical thinking skills, calmness under pressure, and keen use of tact. By assuming command of a division involved in more than its share of combat, subsequent defeats, and poor leadership over the last four months, his abilities as an organizational leader would be fully tested in the coming weeks.[endnoteRef:30] [29: Stephen R. Taafe, Macarthur’s Korean War General’s, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 167-168.] [30: Stephen R. Taafe, Macarthur’s Korean War General’s, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 167-169.]

Visiting each division command post in turn, Ridgway informed the commander of his new ‘rotation policy.’ For several it came as a tough blow no matter how tactfully Ridgway attempted to deliver the message. Arriving at the 24th Infantry Division headquarters, he met with the sickly fifty-eight-year-old MG John Church, who he planned to replace with the aggressive Major General Blackshear M. Bryan, now serving in the Caribbean Command. Visiting the 1st Cavalry Division Command Post, Ridgway reaffirmed his decision to relieve MG Gay and replace him with the tough-minded 1st Cavalry Division’s division artillery commander, Major General Charles D. Palmer, who performed superbly as the overall commander of the Eighth Army’s Han River crossing operation. Ridgway visited the 7th Infantry Division last and informed MG Barr that Major General Claude B. Ferenbaugh, would be the new commander.[endnoteRef:31] Of the six Army division commanders serving in Korea in January 1951, the only commander who remained in command throughout Ridgway’s time as the Eighth Army commander was MG Robert H. Soule, commander of the 3d Infantry Division. [31: Stephen R. Taafe, Macarthur’s Korean War General’s, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 160.]

Soule commanded an airborne infantry regiment and served as the chief of staff of the 11th Airborne Division in the Philippines in 1944-1945. Following the end of the war, he served as a military attaché in China from 1947 to 1950. Ridgway did not know Soule well, but Almond spoke highly of Soule’s “sound judgment, determination, energy and professionalism.”[endnoteRef:32] In Ridgway’s estimation, since Soule and his division arrived in Korea only eight weeks ago, and saw little fighting compared to the other six U.S. divisions, he deserved a chance to prove his abilities as a combat commander. [32: Stephen R. Taafe, Macarthur’s Korean War General’s, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 127.]

To command the 24th Infantry Division, Ridgway selected BG Blackshear ‘Babe’ Bryan. Ridgway and Bryan served together in the Athletic Department at West Point in the early 1920’s, and most recently Bryan served as Ridgway’s chief of staff while he was in command of the Caribbean Command. Unlike most of his peers, Bryan did not see combat in World War II, having served as a policy planner in Washington. Ridgway, however, felt that Bryan had the skills and leadership ability required to transform the 24th Infantry Division into a combat effective organization in a short amount of time.[endnoteRef:33] [33: Stephen R. Taafe, Macarthur’s Korean War General’s, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 160.]

Of the seven American division commanders, the one man who impressed Ridgway the most was the commander of the 1st Marine Division (MARDIV), Major General Oliver P. Smith. His leadership abilities and decision making during the Chosin Reservoir fighting in early December, not only saved his division from destruction, but by disobeying MG Almond’s orders to attack to the Yalu as fast as possible, he saved Almond’s X Corps from even heavier casualties than it sustained.[endnoteRef:34] Smith, a graduate of the University of California, Berkley, spent the First World War serving in the Marine garrison on Guam and did not see combat in the Second World War until the intense fighting on Cape Gloucester, Peliliu, and Okinawa. Having many pre and post-war assignments involving Marine and Army professional military schools, Smith was considered an intellectual. He was lean, tall, white-haired, and proved to be tough in combat and a leader who demonstrated common sense, a quick mind and moral courage. This is why the USMC Commandant selected Smith to take command of the 1st MARDIV in June 1950. [34: David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, (New York: Hyperion, 2007), 430. ]

Shortly after the 1st MARDIV closed in Korea, Smith ran afoul of his new commander, MG Almond, while attempting to share his expertise on amphibious operations during the planning for Operation Chromite-the Inchon landings. Though Almond had no experience of amphibious operations, he ignored Smith’s recommendations and did everything in his power to prevent the Marines from influencing the Army plan for the operation. The relationship deteriorated further during the subsequent landings at Inchon, the Battle for Seoul, and the near disaster in and around the Chosin Reservoir in December.

When Smith met Ridgway for the first time during the last week of December 1950, the two generals were equally impressed with one another. Ridgway later recorded that “Smith was top flight, a splendid commander. He was very calm and had extreme consideration for his troops. If it hadn’t been for his moral courage and doing some of the things he did, which were not in full accord with the instructions he received [from MG Almond] he’d lost a great part of that division.”[endnoteRef:35] Smith learned in their initial meeting that Ridgway had no plans for withdrawing the Eighth Army from Korea and instructed the 1st MARDIV staff to throw away their maps and plans for leaving the peninsula. Furthermore, Ridgway stated that as soon as it was practicable, they would launch limited counterattacks prior to conducting full-scale offensive operations. To the Marine commanders, Ridgway “brought a new fresh attitude, new fresh breath of life to the whole Eighth Army.”[endnoteRef:36] [35: Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, (New York: Times Books, 1987), 579.] [36: Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953, (New York: Times Books, 1987), 579.]


After addressing the senior leadership problem within the Eighth Army, Ridgway directed that during the week of 8-15 January, both I and IX Corps conduct battalion size reconnaissance in force operations north of Line D to determine the CCF defensive positions. Ridgway intended that these small-scale offensive maneuvers instill a renewed fighting spirit in his Soldiers. He repeatedly stressed the seemingly forgotten Army infantry slogan to his commanders to: “Find them! Fix them! Fight them! Finish them!”[endnoteRef:37] Unfortunately, Ridgway’s assessment after the week of reconnaissance operations was not positive. Too many leaders and Soldiers were still looking over their shoulders, in what was termed ‘bug-out fever,’ anticipating a final Chinese offensive driving them to Pusan and eventual evacuation to Japan. This prompted Ridgway to write a personal letter to General Wade H. Haislip on the Army staff: [37: Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967), 89.]

My one over-riding problem, dominating all others, is to achieve the spiritual awakening of the latent capabilities of this command. If God permits me to do t

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