We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Will to Win

American Military Advisors in Korea, 1946-1953

Bryan R. Gibby

Publication Year: 2012

The Will to Win focuses on the substantial role of US military advisors to the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) from 1946 until 1953 in one of America’s early attempts at nation building.
Gibby describes ROKA’s structure, mission, challenges, and successes, thereby linking the South Korean army and their US advisors to the traditional narrative of this “forgotten war.” The work also demonstrates the difficulties inherent in national reconstruction, focusing on barriers in culture and society, and the effects of rapid decolonization combined with intense nationalism and the appeal of communism to East Asia following the destruction of the Japanese empire. Key conclusions include the importance of individual advisors, the significance of the prewar advisory effort, and the depth of the impact these men had on individual Korean units and in a few cases on the entire South Korean army.
The success or failure of South Korean government in the decade following the end of World War II hinged on the loyalty, strength, and fighting capability of its army, which in turn relied on its American advisors. Gibby argues that without a proficient ROKA, the 1953 armistice, still in effect today, would not have been possible. He reexamines the Korean conflict from its beginning in 1945—particularly Korean politics, military operations, and armed forces—and demonstrates the crucial role the American military advisory program and personnel played to develop a more competent and reliable Korean army.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.6 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (151.8 KB)
pp. xi-xiii

I served in Korea as an army officer for two and a half years, from 1997 to 2000. I found Korea to be a dynamic and industrious country and the Korean people to be kind and respectful. The older generation especially . . .


pdf iconDownload PDF (145.4 KB)
pp. xv-xvi

read more

A Note on Transliteration

pdf iconDownload PDF (269.1 KB)
p. xvii-xvii

The romanization of Korean words has defied consistency. Contemporary documents tend to reflect the McCune-Reischauer system, developed in the 1930s, though they generally omit diacritical marks. Although diacritics . . .

read more

Introduction: Forgotten Soldiers of a Misunderstood War

pdf iconDownload PDF (317.4 KB)
pp. 1-13

When the conventional forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea attacked across the 38th North parallel on June 25, 1950, the war for Korea had been in progress already for nearly four years. In many respects, this . . .

read more

1. The American Occupation, September 1945 - December 1946

pdf iconDownload PDF (372.0 KB)
pp. 14-39

At the end of the Second World War, the United States began an open-ended political and military commitment in Korea. Here the United States experienced its shortest and least successful postwar occupation while it . . .

read more

2. The War of Subversion, 1947 - 1948

pdf iconDownload PDF (371.6 KB)
pp. 40-61

The failure of the Moscow Conference in December 1945 to produce a coherent allied policy acceptable to all resulted in deep fissures across the political spectrum. All political parties in the south denounced the Moscow . . .

read more

3. The Limited War, 1949 - 1950

pdf iconDownload PDF (413.8 KB)
pp. 62-94

The suppression of the Yosu-S unchon mutiny ended the first campaign of the Korean civil war that began with the Cheju-do uprising in April, but it did not end the internal discontent and turmoil that Bruce Cumings terms . . .

read more

4. The Evolving Structure and Functions of the Military Missions, 1948 - 1950

pdf iconDownload PDF (376.4 KB)
pp. 95-123

It is impossible to understand the combat performance of the Korean army during the early war months of 1950–1951—when the ROKA was most in danger of total collapse and defeat—without understanding the structure . . .

read more

5. Invasion and Survival: Yuk-Ee-Oh (6-2-5)

pdf iconDownload PDF (378.1 KB)
pp. 124-150

The KMAG of the internationalized war was very different from its prewar version. Although Roberts had ensured KMAG’s relevancy during the civil war, he had not been successful at guaranteeing its survivability against a . . .

read more

6. The Chinese Offensives, 1950 - 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF (405.0 KB)
pp. 151-176

The survival of KMAG and ROKA did not engender lasting jubilation. Already in early September the tide was visibly turning, and everyone’s attention turned from the Pusan Perimeter to MacArthur’s amphibious . . .

read more

7. Reformation: A New KMAG Trains an Army, Summer 1951 - Summer 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF (409.8 KB)
pp. 177-203

Reform of the South Korean army began with a small step in May 1951 when Van Fleet requested the assignment of Brig. Gen. Cornelius E. Ryan as the chief of KMAG. Van Fleet recognized KMAG was the right tool . . .

read more

8. Redemption: A New Korean Army at War

pdf iconDownload PDF (388.4 KB)
pp. 204-231

Expectations for an armistice agreement may have restricted Van Fleet’s tactical flexibility, but the protracted negotiations undoubtedly saved the ROK Army. Protected by Eighth Army, KMAG finally had the . . .

read more

9. The Test of Battle: The Summer Offensives, May - July 1953

pdf iconDownload PDF (436.9 KB)
pp. 232-259

Battle is the harshest and most unforgiving of tests. This was especially true in 1953 as the burden of the war shifted to the ROKA’s shoulders. At stake was whether the new Korean army could maintain the strategic . . .

read more

10. S hrimp among Whales: Assessing the Advisory Missions, 1946 - 1953

pdf iconDownload PDF (385.8 KB)
pp. 260-278

A simple Korean proverb states, “When whales fight, shrimp get crushed.” Korea’s twentieth-century history bears out this metaphor with unfortunate accuracy. Caught in the rivalry between China, Russia, and Japan at the end of the nineteenth century, Korea lost its independence in 1905 (first . . .

Appendix A: Korean War Chronology

pdf iconDownload PDF (153.7 KB)
pp. 279-282

Appendix B: Lt. Gen. John Hodge’s Statement to the Korean People

pdf iconDownload PDF (141.3 KB)
p. 283-283

Appendix C: U.S. IX Corps Citation, ROK Capital Division, 1953

pdf iconDownload PDF (145.4 KB)
pp. 284-285

Appendix D: Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF (141.7 KB)
p. 286-286

Appendix E: Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, 1953

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.0 KB)
p. 287-287


pdf iconDownload PDF (644.1 KB)
pp. 289-351


pdf iconDownload PDF (308.1 KB)
pp. 353-361


pdf iconDownload PDF (312.7 KB)
pp. 363-372

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386115
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317645

Page Count: 381
Publication Year: 2012