Talking Proud Archives --- Military

MiG Alley Korea War, the first jet vs. jet aerial warfare

February 20, 2012

The push to China, China invades


On October 7, 1950, General Walker ordered the 8th Army to move forward into the DPRK after delaying a few days, worried he needed more supplies. The 1st Cavalry Division crossed on October 7 and 8 along with the British 27th Brigade, the ROK 1st Division and the US 24th Division. Resistance was heavy, but they kept moving forward. ROK units captured Wonson on October 11. American forces kept on the move along the western side and captured Pyongyang on October 19, 1950.


By late October 1950, Allied ground forces had driven the enemy north just about to the Chinese border. This photo shows Allied forces hurrying toward the Yalu River.


On October 26, 1950 the 1st Marine Division landed at Wonson.

As a result American commanders concluded they had just about achieved victory. Note two points on the map. First, the Allies stayed away from the northeast where there was a small border with the USSR. Second, major elements of the UN force were at the Yalu River border with China. The Yalu River would become a most important area.

MacArthur told President Truman that he’d have the whole thing wrapped up by Thanksgiving 1950. He also dismissed any chance of Chinese intervention. He told the B-29s to head back to Japan.

MacArthur was wrong, indeed a huge blunder. In retrospect, hard to believe. While he told his superiors he did not think the Chinese would invade, in fact he was mightily worried they would.

But he seemed to ignore Chinese warnings, and his own intelligence. Some believe that MacArthur simply did not want the Chinese to invade, so intelligence was prepared for him to show they would not, falsifying reports. Even those reports warning the Chinese would invade that made it to MacArthur were met with deaf ears.

I cannot go into details here, but US intelligence not only failed to predict the North Korean invasion, it also failed to predict the Chinese invasion. US intelligence collection was a low priority, because up until this time, Korea was thought to be outside the area of US interests. But the main problem seems to have been the US belief that the Soviets were fully in charge of all their client states. Most analysts recognized the Soviets wanted to occupy North Korea, but would not do so and risk a war with the US. Therefore, US analysts concluded that the Soviets would not allow the Chinese to invade either.

Chou En-lai, foreign minister of China, warned:
"The Chinese people will not supinely tolerate seeing their neighbors being savagely invaded by the imperialists."

On October 3 Chinese Premier Choul En-lai, shown here, told the Indian ambassador in Peking that if the UN force entered the DPRK, China would send forces from Manchuria into the DPRK. He said China would not interfere if the invasion force were only ROK.


Let’s pause again for a moment. A lot of us do not know what was meant by “Manchuria.” Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. Whatever the case, it clearly was on North Korea’s northern border.

MacArthur’s own patrols came back saying they saw Chinese troop movements across the Yalu. His air patrols also spotted them. US intelligence estimated 20 Chinese communist divisions had already gone into the DPRK. US communications intelligence intercepts (COMINT) demonstrated Chinese forces were massing in Manchuria. MacArthur’s headquarters concluded on October 5 that at least six such divisions were in the DPRK.

These reports did not fit MacArthur’s assessment.

The Chinese Communist Army, known as the PVA at the time, secretly crossed the Yalu River with the 13th Army Group on October 19, the day the 8th Army took Pyongyang and seven days prior to the Wonson landings. The 13th crossed at night and hid during the day, inhibiting US aerial observation. But it kept moving to the south toward the lead elements of the 8th Army. The forces of the 8th Army and Independent X Corps were stretched out, not easily in touch with each other, and working at the end of extended supply lines. Remember, the X Corps did not marry up with the 8th Army as planned, but moved on its own up the east coast instead. The Chinese confronted US forces on November 1, hitting the 8th Cavalry forcing the 8th Cav to retreat. The Chinese then withdrew into the mountains.

This was a clever maneuver, because it led the US and its allies to believe this only to be an infiltration, not the beginning of a full out invasion.

Unconvinced that the Chinese were launching a major effort, the 8th Army confidently kept advancing northward through northwestern Korea. MacArthur ordered the bombing of the bridges crossing the Yalu, and launched a counter-offensive that MacArthur thought would end the war.


US analysts fought over whether troops they were noting were whole divisions or just elements of divisions. Whatever the case, the Chinese had managed to “infiltrate” from 180,000 to over 200,000 Chinese troops into Korea, with more crossing every hour. This photo shows Chinese forces moving toward the Yalu. The Chinese concluded they had deceived the Allies and were confident they could push the UN force way to the south. The PVA by November 22, 1950 had some 250,000 troops in Korea with another 150,000 on their way, heading to the Chosin reservoir. The Chinese commander authorized an attack.

On November 25 the PVA 13th group struck a second time, in what came to be known as the Battle of the Ch’ongcg’on. It would last through December 2 along the Ch’ongch’on River Valley in the northwestern part of North Korea.

They overran the ROK II Corps and nearly destroyed the US 2nd Division. The 8th Army commenced its retreat. On the eastern front, the 7th Infantry Division Regimental Combat Team and the 1st MARDIV were struck by the PVA 9th Army Group at the Chosin Reservoir. Only with extensive air support and unimaginable bravery and courage did they manage to escape. By November 30 the 8th Army had been expelled from northwest Korea and the Americans crossed back below the 38th parallel in mid December. In northeast Korea the X Corps gave the 9th PVA Group a whacking but had to retreat in order to support the 8th Army’s retreat.

Reunification was now out of the question. The UN sought a ceasefire and proposed such to the Chinese on December 11, 1950. The Chinese responded by planning more advances into the ROK which were countered by the UN and the stalemate developed.

So, for the moment, the enemy’s problems on the ground were solved. The Chinese entered the ground war and pushed UN forces south. This left the problem of air superiority.

The MiG-15 and F-86 make their debut