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Combat Ready?

The Eighth U.S. Army on the Eve of the Korean War

By Thomas E. Hanson

Publication Year: 2010

In the decades since the “forgotten war” in Korea, conventional wisdom has held that the Eighth Army consisted largely of poorly trained, undisciplined troops who fled in terror from the onslaught of the Communist forces. Now, military historian Thomas E. Hanson argues that the generalizations historians and fellow soldiers have used regarding these troops do little justice to the tens of thousands of soldiers who worked to make themselves and their army ready for war. In Hanson's careful study of combat preparedness in the Eighth Army from 1949 to the outbreak of hostilities in 1950, he concedes that the U.S. soldiers sent to Korea suffered gaps in their professional preparation, from missing and broken equipment to unevenly trained leaders at every level of command. But after a year of progressive, focused, and developmental collective training—based largely on the lessons of combat in World War II—these soldiers expected to defeat the Communist enemy. By recognizing the constraints under which the Eighth Army operated, Hanson asserts that scholars and soldiers will be able to discard what Douglas Macarthur called the "pernicious myth" of the Eighth Army's professional, physical, and moral ineffectiveness.  

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

C o n t e n t s

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword, by Gen. James C. Yarbrough

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pp. xi-xiv

Battlefield success is the ultimate validation of any army’s training and readiness program. Viewed only at the macro level, one could argue that Eighth Army was not ready for combat in the summer of 1950. Oppressive heat, unforgiving terrain, and an implacable foe combined to deal Eighth Army’s soldiers a defeat of enormous psychological dimensions as first the pitifully weak South Korean Army...

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pp. xv-xv

To those who know me well, the passion I devoted to this work was no surprise. My career as an infantryman, both enlisted and officer, leads me to believe that there is a special place in heaven reserved for members of the profession of arms who are called to do their country’s bidding under the most extreme conditions imaginable. I grew up knowing little more than that my father had served in ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

I am indebted to a host of family, friends, mentors, colleagues, veterans, and archivists, all of whom contributed significantly to this project. In the inter-est of brevity I can thank by name only a few, though my burden to many is By far I owe the greatest debt to my faculty advisors at The Ohio State University. Prof. Allan Millett helped me refine the project after an innocuous...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-12

On a rainy morning in early July 1950, American soldiers went to war for the second time in a decade. Four hundred-two men of Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith’s 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, fought a delaying action against the communist Korean People’s Army (KPA) near Osan in South Korea. Beginning with its June 25, 1950, invasion...

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2. Postwar or Prewar Army?

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pp. 13-28

THE U.S. Army in 1950 was a shadow of its former self. From a peak of nearly 8.5 million uniformed members in 1945, its strength as of June 26, 1950, stood at 591,487 soldiers. Organized into ten combat divisions, eleven separate regiments, and a host of smaller support units and military advisory missions, the force lacked almost 40,000 of its authorized 630,201 soldiers. It boasted just one combat-ready division...

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3. The Bumpy Road from Rhetoric to Readiness

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pp. 29-44

IN the spring of 1949 the U.S. Army’s inspector general, Maj. Gen. Louis A. Craig, visited Eighth Army to check its state of training. In a subsequent re-port to Bradley, Craig identified significant shortfalls in Eighth Army’s readiness. Noting a general lack of skill on the part of junior soldiers, Craig laid some of the blame on the replacement training system...

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4. The 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division

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pp. 45-55

FORMED in 1901 for service in the Philippines, the 27th Infantry Regiment earned the nickname “Wolfhounds” in 1918. That year the 27th Infantry served as part of the U.S. Siberian Expedition sent to guard the estimated one billion dollars’ worth of military supplies sent by the Western Allies to keep Russia fighting Germany in the summer of 1917. ...

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5. The 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division

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pp. 56-74

THE 31st Infantry Regiment was activated and organized on July 1, 1916, at Manila, Territory of the Philippines. For two years the regiment remained in the Philippines on routine garrison and training duties. In 1918 the regiment joined the 27th Infantry Regiment as part of the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia and adopted the regimental nickname “Polar Bears.” ...

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6. The 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division

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pp. 75-90

THE 19th Infantry Regiment traced its origins to President Lincoln’s March 4, 1861, expansion of the Regular Army. As part of the Army of the Ohio the regiment “saw the elephant” for the first time during the second day’s fighting at Shiloh on April 7, 1862. Assigned to the Army of the Cumberland for the remainder of the war...

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7. The 8th Cavalry Regiment (Infantry), 1st Cavalry Division (Infantry)

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pp. 91-108

THE 8th Cavalry Regiment (“Rocking Horse”) began its service in 1866 as one of four new cavalry regiments authorized by Congress to protect westward expansion of the country.1 Scattered across almost every western state in the final decades of the nineteenth century, the regiment participated in eight major campaigns...

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8. Conclusions

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pp. 109-118

THE preceding chapters present a detailed picture of Eighth Army’s readiness. Although it would be incorrect to state that units in Japan were fully prepared for combat in 1950, the descriptions of soft Occupation soldiers offered by most of the authors discussed in chapter 1 simply do not stand up to scrutiny. It is a fact that the U.S. Army in 1950 suffered from...


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pp. 119-140


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pp. 141-152


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pp. 153-158

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443357
E-ISBN-10: 1603443355
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603441674
Print-ISBN-10: 1603441670

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 40 b&w photos. 3 line art. 2 maps. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 680622497
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Combat Ready?

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Subject Headings

  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • United States. Army. Army, 8th -- History.
  • Operational readiness (Military science).
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