No ‘Parade-Ground Soldiers’
This is in response to a letter from Gerhardt B. Thamm [November] regarding Task Force Smith, in which Thamm refers to the men who made up Task Force Smith as “parade-ground soldiers.” I take exception to this insulting characterization. None of the soldiers who came from Japan at the beginning of the Korean War deserve to be so labeled. I was a rifle platoon leader in the 27th Infantry at the time.
In 1996 my book on the first three months of the Korean War, Fighting on the Brink: Defense of the Pusan Perimeter, was published. In researching it I contacted more than 1,000 Army and Marine veterans of those early months, and I was able to include the recollections/experiences of more than 500 of those veterans in the book. Chapter 4 was devoted to Task Force Smith.
Disastrous as Task Force Smith was, it delayed the enemy for seven important hours. It was the first delaying action by U.S. troops in the war. All during July 1950 the mission was to delay the enemy, not fight him to the death on every hill. Cumulatively, the delays allowed the U.S. and Republic of Korea troops to gain the Naktong River. There the retreat ended. Under the command of Lt. Gen. Walton Walker the Pusan Perimeter held. Walker refused to give up an inch of ground without a fierce and bloody battle.
Thamm writes about the ineffectiveness of the bazooka. He is correct in criticizing the 2.36-inch rocket launcher; it had proven ineffective in World War II. However, the newer 3.5-inch launcher was flown to Korea in early July 1950 and began knocking out the enemy’s T-34 tanks. Never again was the T-34 king in Korea.
What Thamm fails to consider was the shortage of equipment, the sad state of our jeeps and trucks, and great numbers of individual and crew-served weapons that had been declared unserviceable. These factors impacted adversely on training. It was so bad that one battalion commander suspended training. Of course he was overruled.
The troops took training very seriously. They trained hard, but suitable areas were scarce in Japan. The 25th Infantry Division’s area was a former Japanese army facility near the base of Mount Fuji. It was very small and could not support live-firing exercises.
Then there was the ammunition. It, like the C-rations, was left over from World War II. Some mortar rounds were duds, and some small-arms ammunition contained verdigris, which is a green or bluish deposit that forms on weathered copper, brass or bronze surfaces. As time passes, verdigris builds up, eventually binding copper or brass ammunition cartridges together into a mass.
Finally was the orientation of our troops about the enemy. General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters declared the North Korean soldiers were poorly trained, poorly armed and marched until they dropped (or words to that effect). In fact their soldiers were well trained and well armed. Indeed, thousands of them were veterans of the Chinese Civil War and had fought alongside their Chinese communist comrades.
With all of these shortcomings it is a wonder that our men succeeded in slowing the enemy, then stopping him along the Pusan Perimeter.
Brig. Gen. Uzal W. Ent
Pennsylvania Army National Guard (Ret.)
Bankrolling the French
On P. 49 of the July 2014 issue of Military History there is an identification error of the Martin bomber aircraft purchased by the French from the U.S. in 1939, as reported in the article/excerpt from Peter Moreira’s upcoming book on Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. The article states incorrectly that the French initially purchased 115 examples of the Martin model 166 aircraft (an export version for the Dutch of the Martin B-10, which was originally tested in 1932). But they were actually Martin model 167 (specifically 167F-1) aircraft, called the “Maryland” by the British, an entirely different and brand-new aircraft in 1939. Although Henry Morgenthau may have originally suggested the Model 166 to the French in 1938, as noted on P. 47, that is not what the French actually bought in 1939. More details of the French contract for the Martin Model 167 are on P. 17 and PP. 236 and 237 of the book Air Arsenal North America: Aircraft for the Allies, 1938–1945, Purchases and Lend-Lease, by Phil Butler and Dan Hagedorn (Midland, 2004). The French Model 167 would be used in service in 1940 and in the Vichy Air Force after the French defeat.
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