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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Essay on United States Military History - Military Preparedness of the United States

            Throughout history, military leaders have been searching for the ingredients that will not only give them edge in battle but will also give them victories in war. For the soldiers, these victories are very crucial since it means avoiding the loss of human lives in battle.  For the military leaders, achieving victories in battle is their ticket to immortality as great military leaders. 

            Use of military tactics is every important for military leaders.  Great military leaders often consult history as a source of treasured lessons that may give them the edge in battlefield. According to Napoleon, "Imitate Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus II Adolphus, Turenne, Prince Eugene of Savoy, and Frederick when fighting an offensive war.  Read and reread stories of their 83 campaigns to build up your understanding. This is the only means of becoming a great commander and learning the secrets of military art. Enlightened in this way your mind will reject the rules that contradict those by which the great people guided themselves." (Ivan Vorobyov, 2002, p.1)

            Past experiences by military leaders throughout our history provide a sea of wealth for every military leader who aspires to become great.  Although it will not give them guaranteed success in battle, it will however provide these aspiring military leaders with significant instructions on how to prepare for battle.  It will also provide them with inspiration and encouragement that may in crucial situations be more lethal than the superior manpower and artillery of the enemy. 

            For students a study of military tactics employed by great military leaders in the past will provide insight from a historical perspective that will serve as a basis for forming their own opinions on the military capability and readiness his or her own country. 

            This argumentative essay deals with the issue of the United States’ military readiness during the Korean War.   Analysis will be made on the military and political goals for sending the United States army in Korea and whether these goals have been accomplished.  Discussion will be made on whether in the course of the battle these goals had changed and the possible reasons for this change.  In the concluding part, I aim to determine whether the US army was prepared for this war.    

US Military Tactics
            Before World War II even began, there was already a marked stagnation and decline in the military forces of the United States.  United States army shrank to the point its readiness prior to the World War II was questioned.  In addition, there was complacency and arrogance among the Americans which were brought about by their victory in World War I.  The economic depression that followed World War I and the dwindling appropriations for the military force also affected the ability of the US Military to respond to an immediate war.  The question that haunted the US government prior to the commencement of World War II was whether there would be enough time to gather enough troops and train them for battle.  Because of these conditions, the US Army was seriously undermanned and under-equipped to the point of ranking 17th in size among the armies in the world. 

            In addition to these problems, the paradigm of the United States Army was still reminiscent of the World War II.  The same is prominent in the weapons used that tactics employed during the World War II as proficiency in the rifle and bayonet was still given emphasis.  Despite the improvements in weaponries, there was a priority on headlong attacks and preference to fighting the enemy by physical encounter.   The troops sent to some of the battles, take Kasserine Pass, for example, were also inexperienced and had no proficiency in using newly developed weapons such as the bazooka.  The Commanders assigned to give guidance to the soldiers were inefficient and slow in reacting to the situation.  Their leadership style was not suited to the kind of battle that the US was engaged in.  The air-ground coordination was poor and often the ground troops were hit by friendly fire.  In contrast, the Axis was powered experienced soldiers, superiority of equipment and the excellent coordination between the air and groups troops.      The US military lost in some of these battles.  Though they have won the war the battles they were engaged were considered as a disaster both strategically and tactically for the United States. 

            The same thing happened during the Korean War.  On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea.  The United States government immediately responded and in June 27, Gen. Douglas MacArthur sent Lt. Col. Charles Smith and two companies consisting of over 400 men to Korea.   The contingent sent to Korea was called “Task Force Smith.”

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            The order by the commander was specific.  The political goal was simply to implement the policy of containment by the United States.  This was the reason why the Korean War was described as a Limited War.  At that time, the United States was weary of USSR which is a rising superpower. Its influence was spreading and there were unconfirmed intelligence reports that the Soviets may attack Western Europe to expand Communism.  In order to prevent the spread of Communism throughout the world and in order to ensure that the United States remains the true super power in the world, it had to contain Soviet’s influence.  It bears stressing that the United States had no political or economic interest in Korea.  This is affirmed by Dr. Donald M. Snow and Col. Dennis N. Drew (1990) to wit: “If there was a basic, underlying issue that defined the American position in and interest about Korea, it was embodied in the nature of cold war competition and the question of implementing the new American national strategy of containment. The Korean invasion was the first overt test of the new strategy, the first time that the Communist world stepped across the containment line and threw down the gauntlet.” (p.2)

Thus, the mindset of the US troops was that they will not have any difficulty accomplishing this mission in Korea.  It is noteworthy that the companies sent were lightly armed.  They had no anti-tank weapons and their weapons were considered obsolete during the time.  The result was a disaster for the American Army.  They encountered the North Korean People’s Army which has a much superior firepower.  Initially the American troops fought back and they performed well considering their lack of firepower.  Eventually, the superior weapons of the NKPA prevailed and realizing imminent defeat, the American troops pulled out. 

            The American army was definitely defeated at the early beginnings of the Korean War.  There are several key factors that could explain the reason why the US army tactically and strategically lost during the Korean War.  The first is its underestimation of the enemy.  The American troops simply thought that their mere presence will cause the enemy to retreat.  This arrogance combined with their lack of manpower and firepower caused the Americans to lose the early battles in Korea.  (James L. George) According to Snow & Drew (1990), even the invasion by the North Korea of South Korea caught the United States by surprise.  They were both unaware of the recruitments being done by the NKPA until the time when the invasion and they were facing the determined NKPA.  

Not only that North Korea had superior manpower, it was also well-equipped with sophisticated firepower and equipment.  The United States Army had no tanks and other anti-tank equipment that will neutralize the superior firepower of NKPA.  The KPA was spearheaded by Russian T-34 tanks while the South Korean forces and the United States army had no anti-tank weapons.  Definitely, the US Army was not ready to face the kind of resistance they encountered in North Korea. 

During the course of the battle, as the United States sent more soldiers to Korea they eventually were able to launch a counteroffensive.  Under the leadership of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the combined forces of the United States, Korean Army and the other delegates from different countries all over the world, were able to drive the NKPA back to the 38th Parallel, the boundary that divides North and South Korea. 

At this point, Gen. MacArthur, emboldened by this seeming victory sought permission to follow the enemies and cross the 38th Parallel for the purpose of totally destroying the enemy. He also dismissed the possibilities that People’s Republic of China will interfere thinking that they were still too weak from their own Civil War that it would not be possible for them to send forces in North Korea. 

This again proved to be a serious miscalculation for both Gen. MacArthur and President Truman.  Firstly, Gen. MacArthur deviated from the original tactic which is merely to contain the spread of Communism by protecting South Korea and driving away the NKPA army from South Korea.  He should have stopped the moment they were able to defeat NKPA and forced them to retreat beyond 38th Parallel.  Yet, they haphazardly changed their plans.  Second, both President Truman and Gen. MacArthur erroneously thought, perhaps due to erroneous intelligence information, that PRC will not intervene in the Korean War.  But the Chinese forces had other things in mind.  The PRC thought that the US forces may eventually enter China through Korea.  In order to avoid the possibility of an invasion in their territory, they assembled an army of 200,000 to hold off the US forces.  This resulted in the loss of lives of many soldiers.

As a result, US forces were forced to retreat back to South Korea where Chinese forces were able to take control of a portion of its territories.  However, as more troops arrived they were once again able to launch their counteroffensive to drive away Chinese forces from South Korea.  By this time, they no longer pushed the war beyond the 38th Parallel.  They stopped their counteroffensive once they were able to drive them away from South Korea. This happened after a portion of South Korea was taken by Chinese forces and after serious losses have been suffered by both United States soldiers and South Korean soldiers. 

            Compared to the Korean War, the US Army was in a high state of battle readiness for the Vietnam War.  They were well-equipped.  The innovations in equipment increased the firepower of the US Army.  These equipments were M79 and the claymore mines.  They entered the Vietnam War as among the best equipped armies in history.
            The US Army however had one major weakness.  They were not prepared for the kind of battle that the Vietnamese gave them.  The People’s Army of Vietnam was skilled in stealth and surprise attack.  They were lightly armed but were well-equipped.  They emphasized on stealth and foot mobility instead of superior firepower.  The Vietnamese army numbered up to 500,000 strong army with a ready reserve of almost half-million.  Their military strategy was that the army is the decisive element in a war.  The Vietnam War taught us that military readiness is not only about superiority in number and in weaponries but also about familiarity with the way the enemies fight their battles.  

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