Douglass Macarthur and the Inchon Decision Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4357 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Military

Inchon

Described as being "the most brilliant and among the most flamboyant American generals of the twentieth century," General Douglas MacArthur would launch an amphibious offensive in Korea that proved a major turning point in the war ("The Politics of Getting an Idea Adopted: The Inchon Decision," p. 295). In spite of being forced to step down from his post not soon after he devised the Inchon invasion, MacArthur demonstrated a skillful command of military tactics and perhaps more importantly, of military communications and resource management. Even more notable than the scale and the sophistication of the Inchon landing itself, which relied on both sea and air forces, was MacArthur's managerial abilities before and during the operation. As Ballard (2001) points out, MacArthur was "not a micromanager," (p. 31). Instead, his strengths emerged while at the helm of joint military management, strategic planning, and execution.

The controversial general garnered support from Washington in the months immediately preceding the invasion by incessantly petitioning the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) for their approval to launch the attack at Inchon and using every opportunity at his disposal to pitch his case. MacArthur, whose full title at his post in Tokyo was Commander in Chief, Far East (CINCFE), was fully aware of his power to make decisions and delegate authority. However, General MacArthur also needed to woo the Marines and the Navy at the same time: no easy political task. After sending "message after message" to the reluctant JCS and eventually bypassing their authority by persuading joint miltiary generals to commit troops, General MacArthur proved his merit as a skillful politician and not just a military maven, ("The Politics of Getting an Idea Adopted: The Inchon Decision," p. 295).

His plans for the operation, dubbed "Chromite" as of July 23, 1950, met with lukewarm reception at best by the JCS and other Washington emissaries. In fact, two joint chiefs of staff were flown into MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo to outright oppose the initiative. Their reservations were understandable. MacArthur had chosen what has been called "the unlikeliest harbor" on the Korean peninsula, Inchon, ("The Politics of Getting an Idea Adopted: The Inchon Decision," p. 295). Geographic and logistical barriers to success made Operation Chromite seem foolhardy. A lack of beaches and raging tides made Inchon a textbook case of where not to plan an amphibious attack ("The Politics of Getting an Idea Adopted: The Inchon Decision," p. 296). Twelve hours would pass between the first and second installment of Marine troops because the tidal range at Inchon was a whopping thirty-two feet. Bottlenecked channels made maneuvering and landing difficult, not to mention the presence of mud flats and other geographic impediments.

MacArthur claimed that the illogical choice of Inchon made the harbor a perfect spot for a surprise amphibious attack. With skilled oratory and rhetoric, MacArthur persuaded a group of military commanders that Operation Chromite was the best course of action for accomplishing American objectives in Korea. MacArthur mentioned how the sudden, dramatic invasion at Inchon would prevent a long-drawn out presence in South Korea that could too easily discourage troops stationed in Pusan and possibly weaken morale if not support for the war effort. The bold septuagenerian general claimed that Operation Chromite would "save 100,000 lives," ("The Politics of Getting an Idea Adopted: The Inchon Decision," p. 298). MacArthur mentioned the low troop morale that followed from successful North Korean military campaigns as well as the high concentration of American army troops within the Pusan Permiter at the tip of the Korean peninsula. Pusan was surrounded by the North Korean People's Army (NKPA). Moreover, MacMarthur pointed out the proximity of Inchon to Seoul and predicated his argument on the fact that Inchon would mean direct and immediate access to the enemy's heart. MacArthur also invoked the words of Winston Churchill, forever linking himself to the celebrated British orator and statesman.

Ballard (2001) claims that with the Inchon decision, MacArthur "established the operational art that guides U.S. joint operations today," (p. 31). MacArthur urged, practically demanded joint efforts from Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines leaders. Operation Chromite therefore remains a stellar case study for military personnel and commanders as well as for students of the military. The incident illustrates several aspects of successful military operations and also key points in military politics, management, and communications. Although the Inchon incident was a major success, driving back communist troops far above the 38th parallel, the Korean conflict ended in a glorified stalemate. Communist forces retained full command of the regions north of the 38th parallel and the United Nations, spearheaded by the bold and brash Americans under MacArthur, would only be able to keep South Korea as an anti-communist stronghold in the ensuing Cold War.

Frustrated by years of relatively unfruitful fighting in the Korean peninsula and possibly more so by a palliative chain of command that "fed him only the intelligence and order-of-battle information he wanted to hear, General MacArthur turned to geo-political bravado and threats," (Beidler 2007, p. 66). By far the most brash move MacArthur made after the Inchon decision was to engage in "unilateral discussions" with Chiang Kai-shek about "bringing Nationalist Chinese forces into the fight," (Beidler 2007, p. 66). For his "insubordination," his "refusal to obey the constitutional authority of the civilian commander in chief," President Truman canned his military counterpart: Commander in Chief, Far East. Even before President Truman fired him, he called into question MacArthur's "mental stability," (Carpenter 2000, p. 2).

MacArthur had always fancied himself in positions of power: this was a man President Roosevelt called "American Caesar," and who "spent much of his legendary life nurturing such a vision of personal destiny," (Beidler 2007, p. 63). Beidler (2007) even claims that MacArthur believed himself to be a modern "incarnation" of George Washington (p. 63). This "self-anointed first consul" made waves way before the Inchon decision but it was in Korea that the aging MacArthur first started to reveal his tragic flaws (Beidler 2007, p. 64).

Most significant was keeping the Joint Chiefs of Staff "in the dark" about the details of Operation Chromite, which was in fact one of MacArthur's communications strategies while trying to persuade Washington emissaries and the JCS ("The Politics of Getting an Idea Adopted: The Inchon Decision," p. 298). Only six hours before the landing at Inchon, MacArthur dispatched a "young lieutenant colonel" to inform the JCS about the invasion that would take place the following morning ("The Politics of Getting an Idea Adopted: The Inchon Decision," p. 298). MacArthur's methods prove that politics and military strategy are inseparable especially when dealing with a heterogeneous military and political system. In hindsight, the operation's success alone leads most military historians to laud MacArthur. Yet the methods MacArthur used to convince his fellow military commanders and the JCS were questionable and pose some serious ethical dilemmas.

Even before the invasion at Inchon in September 1950, MacArthur showed signs of his hubris. He "quickly began to conduct the Korean War pretty much the way he felt necessary," notes Johnson (2000, p. 74). "Without consulting the JCS or President Truman," MacArthur issued an order to bomb North Korean airfields (Johnson 2000, p. 74). Again, "without consultation or approval from Washington," MacArthur acted as a diplomat by traveling to Chiang Kai-shek's island of exile, then known as Formosa, and persuading him to commit troops (Johnson 2000, p. 74). MacArthur went so far as to criticize President Truman openly in the media for his lack of support for Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese nationalists on Formosa (Taiwan), (Johnson 2000).

Yet MacArthur's plan for Inchon proved successful, leading to the capture of Seoul: "the hub of all movement in the South" and "the most critical node in the supply line of the communist attack," (Ballard 2001, p. 32). Strategists could easily argue in favor of MacArthur, pointing out that the CINCFE acted with full authority in the best interest of the troops under his command. MacArthur proposed the Inchon invasion as a key to fulfilling the political objectives that led to the American and United Nations presence in Korea: the destruction of communism.

June 25, 1950 marked the start of the Korean War given the massive and organized Communist offensive that took place that day. Taking American and United Nations allied troops completely by surprise, the invasion demanded rapid response and MacArthur delivered. About one week later, General MacArthur requested a Marine regimental combat team (RCT) and had already begun planning amphibious counterattacks ("Operation CHROMITE: The Concept and the Plan"). The general requested 1200 amphibious specialists from the Marines ("Operation CHROMITE: The Concept and the Plan"). Involving the Marines so thoroughly in what would become Operation Chromite might have actually saved the Marines as a military institution, justifying its very existence (Carpenter 2000).

Because it was a relatively "rapid response" to the surprise June 1950 North Korean offensive, the Inchon counterattack was "both bold and brilliant" according to Ballard (2001, p. 31). Before Operation Chromite was born, MacArthur crafted Operation… [END OF PREVIEW]

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