Military history


In the Never-Never Land

We should not assume that Chinese Communists are committed in force. After all, a lot of Mexicans live in Texas.

— Lieutenant General Walton W. Walker, Commanding Eighth Army, Korea, November, 1950.

AS OCTOBER waned, and the winds blowing off the roof of the world down into the mountains of North Korea turned dry and cold, American and ROK forces advanced steadily northward. Beating its drums, proclaiming its every objective and movement to the world, its every detail, composition, and minute location reported faithfully by its war correspondents, the United Nations Force raced to the Yalu. The war that was not a war continued, but everyone agreed that it was almost over. Somehow, even the men had read MacArthur's words at Wake Island, and everyone expected to be home—or at least in Japan—by Christmas.

But behind the open book of the armies' progress, behind the glowing communiqués, were controversy and confusion.

When the Eighth Army had approached the Han in September, General Walker had begun to worry about the future of X Corps, which had been created to command the Inch'on invasion forces. He felt that it should now cease to report separately to Tokyo and come under his command. But while Walton Walker expressed himself to his staff, he did not formally put his ideas in writing to MacArthur's GHQ.

But on 26 September MacArthur dashed whatever hopes the Eighth Army commander may have had, by informing him that X Corps would pass into GHQ reserve and ready itself to proceed with a GHQ-directed mission, of which Johnny Walker would be apprised in due course.

Instead of merging X Corps with Eighth Army, MacArthur decided to employ it on the east coast of Korea, and to keep it subordinate not to Walker but to himself in Tokyo. The X Corps was embarked for Wonsan, an important port of North Korea on the Sea of Japan—though the ROK Army, moving overland, beat it there—and then went into action, marching toward the far reaches of the north, where the Yalu roared through its gloomy gorges, and where Korea touched Manchuria and the maritime province of Siberia.

No decision was to come under such controversy as this splitting of the U.N. Command on the ground. For as Schlieffen had written, "It is better to surrender a province than to split an army." But MacArthur felt he could coordinate the advance of each column, Eighth Army in the west, X Corps in the east, better from Tokyo than could Walker from Korea. MacArthur's reasoning was based, simply enough, on the Korean terrain.

Above the Seoul-Wonsan Corridor, there is only one good lateral route of communication running across Korea—the P'yongyang-Wonsan road and rail line. North of this, the Taebaek Mountains rise to dizzy heights. Running north and south, they cross the land with rugged crests and vast, dark gorges, forming a trackless waste across which even Koreans do not go. Until the valley of the Yalu is reached, there is no lateral road connecting east and west.

The only routes of advance to the north are in the valleys on either coast. Up these, Walker on the west, Almond on the east, the main bodies had to advance, with junction possible only on the Yalu itself.

Because of the horrendous mountains in east central Korea, contact between the two forces was tenuous, at best. Japan, remaining the staging base, supplied both forces.

Whatever the order of battle, X Corps and Eighth Army were forced to live, advance, and fight in virtual isolation from each other. No matter who had been given command, the mountains would have remained.

As the U.N. advanced to the Yalu, this mountainous gap, approaching sixty miles in places, drew apprehension from the JCS and military men all over the world. But it was never important. The enemy, already in Korea, never utilized it in his plan of action, because the terrain was virtually impassable.

More important than the gap separating Eighth Army and X Corps were the maneuver formations of the armies themselves. The farther north they marched, the more nonexistent roads became. The advance had to proceed up single dirt roads, along parallel valleys. Nothing like a contiguous line or solid front could be maintained. Within regiments and battalions, units began to live and move in virtual isolation, separated by the ever-present hills. As they neared the Yalu, divisions were strung out, as Ned Almond put it, from hell to breakfast.

What the U.N. did, it did in the light of the restricting terrain, and in the view that no real enemy opposed it. And above all else, it was the terrain and a complete failure of Intelligence that brought disaster. Marching north, the U.N. trumpeted to the world its composition, its battle plan, and even the hour of its execution.

Without effort, the enemy knew everything there was to know about the U.N. forces.

The U.N., in turn, never knew the enemy existed—until it was much too late.

For more generations than men could count, soldiers in the Middle Kingdom had ranked low in the orders of society, far down the scale from the scholar and the poet. And for more generations than men could count, China had had no skill or success in war. For more than a hundred years, Chinese military forces had been objects of contempt, possessing neither skill, means, nor the will to fight.

Meanwhile, China had been humbled by one foe after another. Japan and the Western powers took from her what they wanted, as they pleased.

On! 1 August 1927 the newly formed Communist Party of China began the fight against Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang. This date is still carried on CCF battle flags as the date of the Communist Army's founding.

For decades the battle raged across China. In 1934, when it seemed that the Nationalist Army had the CCF ringed, approximately 100,000 CCF soldiers retreated north for Kiangsi Province into Shensi, to far Yenan. It was a march without parallel in history, and one almost without parallel for hardships.

One year later, after crossing 6,000 miles, eighteen mountain ranges, twenty-four rivers, and twelve provinces, 20,000 survivors under a general named Lin Piao made juncture with other Communist forces in Yenan.

During the actual time of march, Lin Piao's forces had averaged twenty-four miles per day, on foot.

In Shensi Province, far removed from the Nationalists and the eyes of the world, the Communist Chinese began to rebuild their base of power. They began to wage guerrilla warfare against the Nationalists.

They were led by men who were now hardened soldiers, men who wanted above all else for China to be again a great power, and who felt that Marxism held out the only hope for its accomplishment.

The vast areas of China were still feudal; there had never been any true capitalism except that administered by foreigners in the coastal cities. And the pattern of Sinic culture had frozen five thousand years earlier.

The new Communist military leaders understood clearly that the pattern of Chinese culture must be thoroughly broken before China could again assume authority in the world. With cunning, courage, and great skill, aided by a centuries-old tradition of corruption that lay across China like a gray shadow, they began to break it.

During the time of war with Japan, the Communists sought not to drive out the Japanese, but to survive. When the Japanese departed, they had an army of 600,000 entrenched across North China. Now they began to war in earnest, fighting not only the Nationalists but also for the peasants' minds. From the first, the Communists understood that in a nation almost wholly peasant, only peasants have any political importance.

Within two years, they won not only the war but the peasants' minds. For the peasants would not understand, until too late, that the Communists want-ed not justice for them, but to overthrow the entire fabric of Chinese life.

The popular morality of what the Communist Chinese have done will probably be judged only in the light of whether or not they made China a great power, and only the future will tell that. If they fail, history will condemn them for the enormous suffering they inflicted upon their land; if they succeed, their own history will largely regard them as heroes, even as Soviet history regards Peter the Great of Russia as a hero, or as the French revolutionists or the Irish Sinn Fein, who resorted to naked force and political murder, are looked upon favorably by millions of their countrymen.

In June 1950, the CCF Fourth Field Army, some 600,000 men, Lin Piao commanding, marched to the Korean border to stand ready for any eventuality. During the summer and early autumn, other field armies followed.

Shortly after United States troops crossed the 38th parallel at Kaesong, on 13 or 14 October, elements of the Fourth Field Army began to move south across the Yalu.

The 39th and 40th armies—the Chinese term "Army" is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Corps; a CCF Army contained three divisions of approximately 10,000 men each—crossed from Antung, Manchuria, to Sinuiju. The 38th and 42nd crossed from Chi-an to Manp'ojin. Over these armies Lin Piao placed the CCF XIII Army Group Headquarters. Artillery and horse cavalry regiments crossed behind them in support.

Three of the Chinese armies deployed in front of the Eighth Army; the fourth took a position in front of the Changjin Reservoir to the cast.

Thus, on 15 October, when MacArthur and President Truman conferred at Wake, 120,000 Chinese veterans were already inside North Korea.

Ten days later, two more CCF armies crossed the Yalu, adding six divisions to Lin Piao's forward forces. Five armies were in the U.S. Eighth Army zone, one to the east in X Corp's zone.

Night after night, all during October and November, CCF armies continued to stream across the Yalu, moving into the deep Korean valleys south of the river.

By rail from Shantung Province came the IX Army Group, Third Field Army, comprising nine divisions. It was reinforced with three extra divisions, giving it a strength of 120,000 men. The IX Army Group moved across the mountains to the Changjin Reservoir area.

By the middle of November, 1950, approximately 180,000 Chinese waited in front of the Eighth Army, while 120,000 lurked in the mountains surrounding Changjin Reservoir on X Corps' flank. From Mukden, in Manchuria, Peng Teh-huai, Deputy CCF Commander, assumed direction and control.

While China broadcast to the world that Chinese "volunteers" would enter the Korean fighting, under Kim II Sung, the leaders of the CCF never relin-quished control of their forces. And it would have been considerable news to the 300,000 Chinese soldiers massed in the cold valleys of Korea to learn that they had volunteered. Many of them did not even know in what part of the world they waited.

Lin Piao, and the major leaders of the Chinese Communist Forces, were not simple peasant leaders. The vast majority of the CCF generals were grad-uates of Whampoa Military Academy or of Russian schools. They had studied Clausewitz and Jomini and the battles of Cannae and Tannenberg as thoroughly as any West Pointer, and they had been engaged in war for all their adult lives. But if they did not act upon the field of battle as Western generals did, it was because they did not command a Western army.

The hordes of the Red Army were tough and battle-hardened, but they could not read or write. They had no radios, nor did they have much tele-phone equipment. They had no air force, or any massive artillery. They were weak in motor transport. Their arms were a miscellany of United States, Japanese, and Russian equipment. They had very few of the things a European or Western army required for war.

But the hordes of the Chinese Communist Forces were deployed on an Asian battlefield, not Europe. Peng Teh-huai and his field commanders Lin Piao and Sung Shih-lun proposed to use their forces in a manner calculated to take advantage of their own strengths while discounting those of the enemy.

They had three immense advantages: their own minds, trained to war in the vast reaches of the Middle Kingdom, which instinctively thought in terms of fluid maneuver, without regard to battle lines: the hardihood and sturdy legs of their peasant troops, who could travel long miles on very little; and the enemy's complete lack of belief in their own existence.

Many have found it incredible that American Intelligence would never accept the fact that the Chinese were in Korea in force during October-November 1950. There were reasons. Neither MacArthur nor Willoughby believed the Chinese would intervene in force; both believed the Chinese threats were purely diplomatic blackmail. All evidence that they were in Korea broke against this preset belief. Nor was it easy for subordinate officers to go against the ideas of the FECOM commander.

More important, no concrete evidence that the Chinese were in Korea could be put forth. Americans believed it incredible that any army of significant size could cross the Yalu and deploy in Korea without observation by their air forces. Daily American aircraft flew over all North Korea; and no armies were ever sighted.

Above all, in formulating his plan of maneuver to the Yalu, MacArthur believed his air cover could destroy the Chinese if they tried to intervene. This belief dominated his thinking; he expressed it many times. Upon this foundation he laid his whole campaign. Too late, he would find out what Lin Piao already knew—against a Communist army, in primitive terrain, air power could be important, but not decisive.

The example of one Chinese army, which marched from Antung, Manchuria, to its assembly area in North Korea almost three hundred miles away, explains much: after dark, not sooner than nine o'clock, the Chinese troops began to march. Singing and chanting in the manner of all Chinese, they plod-ded south, night after night, for eighteen nights.

And each night, between nine and three, they covered eighteen miles.

When light came, every man, every gun, every animal, was hidden from sight. In the deep valleys, in the thick forests, in the miserable villages huddled on the forlorn plateaus, the Chinese rested by day. Only small scouting parties went ahead by day, to reconnoiter the night's march, and to select the bivouac for the morrow. If aircraft were heard, each man was under orders to halt, freezing in his tracks, until the noise of the engines went away.

In bivouac, no man showed himself, for any reason. Discipline was firm, and perfect. Any man who violated instructions in any way was shot.

It was not only cunning and hardihood, but this perfect march and bivouac discipline that caused U.N. aircraft to fly over the CCF hundreds of times without ever once seeing anything suspicious. Even aerial photography revealed nothing.

It was a feat that Xenophon's hoplites, marching back from Persia to the sea, could have performed. Julius Caesar's hard legions could have done it, and more—the Roman manuals stated that the usual day's march for a legion was twenty miles, to be covered in five hours.

It is extremely doubtful if any modern Western army, bred to wheels, could have matched it. It was almost impossible for Western generals, even those who knew of Xenophon and Caesar, to credit it.

Half contemptuously, American military men spoke of "elusive" Lin Piao, and of the "poet" Mao Tse-tung. Mao Tse-tung, Premier of China, had already revealed to the world how his Communist armies operated—how they flowed from place to place, fighting when fighting was profitable, biding their time when it was not. What Mao Tse-tung had written was instructive, and intensely practical for a war in Asia—but because the Chinese wrote in poetic language, not in the military terminology popular in the West, no ambitious second-year ROTC cadet would have dared quote him seriously.

After November 1950, many men would grudgingly learn that the thought behind words is more important than the phrases in which the thought is couched. The time would come when every leader in the world would read the writings of the Chinese Communists—for it was barely possible that the war they waged was not so anachronistic as Americans believed. Quite possibly, it was the pattern of all future land wars.

In November 1950, then, one army, in open array, loudly proclaiming its every move to the world, marched against a phantom foe. For the CCF, all that month, was a ghost; now you saw it, now you didn't. It marched by night, under a foggy moon; it sideslipped into the mountains in front of the advanc-ing U.N., and lurked, hiding its time.

When he was ready, the "elusive" Lin Piao would let the Americans find him.

On 25 October, 1950, the 1st ROK Division captured near Unsan an odd individual. Unlike all adult Koreans he spoke neither Korean nor Japanese. But he was quite voluble, however, in a tongue that could only be a dialect of northern China. He was flown to Eighth Army Advanced HQ in P'yongyang, and the top Intelligence brass interviewed him. Within a few days, he was followed by more of his kind.

Up to Thanksgiving, almost one hundred identified Chinese prisoners of war were taken. Yet their interrogation proved strangely unsatisfying.

Only much later would Americans understand there had been something odd about many of the POW's. Some had been deliberately planted, with deliberately misleading tales. They spoke of being from this and that "unit"—which Americans identified as regiments rather than what they were in actuality: CCF armies.

There was a great deal of confusion about the POW’s and the way in which they were captured, indicative of a certain confusion among the enemy. American Intelligence began assuming that the North Korean Army had been reinforced with certain small groups of Chinese from Manchuria. But in the face of Tokyo's steadfast refusal to accept any Chinese intervention in the war, neither Eighth Army nor X Corps openly suggested there could be any massive CCF units south of the Yalu.

For the Chinese had slipped into the rugged land like phantoms, now creeping forward, now hiding from the light of day. Deliberately, Lin Piao was seemingly picking about in confusion, units here, units there, none clearly seen or identified. Chinese troops were deliberately misschooled on their own order of battle, so that, captured, they might tell weird tales. There were clashes between Americans and Chinese "volunteers" in odd places—obviously to draw American attention from where the Chinese planned to strike.

Then, in late October, because the Americans were pushing forward too fast, before he was ready, Lin Piao struck, with what the Chinese called their "First Phase Offensive."

Lightly armed but veteran and well-trained Chinese troops struck against the 1st Cavalry Division pushing northeast from the Ch'ongch'on bridgehead, toward the Chinese area of concentration. Others, in heavy strength, moved against the ROK 6th Division on the Cavalry's right.

East of Unsan, the ROK Division broke. On 1 November the Chinese sprang a carefully prepared trap against the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment. The battalion was surrounded, a roadblock thrown up in its rear. Chinese, fighting hand-to-hand, swarmed over the battalion's command post. Only 10 officers and 200 men escaped; all told, the 8th Cavalry lost more than 600 men. On the Cavalry's right, ROK II Corps losses were extreme.

Along the Ch'ongch'on River, the 5th Cavalry ran into heavy opposition and had to fight sharply to hold the bridgehead across the river.

To the east, X Corps was also struck by Chinese. Moving toward the Kot'ori plateau, 1st Marine Division was heavily engaged.

For several days fighting flared savagely—then, as suddenly as they had come, the Chinese broke contact and melted into the shrouding mountain masses ahead of the U.N. advance. For the "First Phase Offensive" had succeeded. The first contact between Americans and Chinese had been inconclu-sive and bewildering. No one knew what the contact foretold.

Walker, of Eighth Army, in sudden alarm, as Chinese were positively identified as having entered the war, realized the extreme vulnerability of his strung-out divisions. The 2nd and 25th were to the south, beyond supporting range of the van of the army. The 24th had passed into the far northwest corner of Korea, near the mouth of the Yalu—where it could be cut off if the Chinese interdicted the main coastal highway near the Ch'ongch'on bridgehead. The ROK 7th Regiment was already on the Yalu north of Unsan—but significantly, the enemy had boiled up from the hill masses fifty miles south of the border, on the Eighth Army's flank.

He ordered the advance halted, while the Eighth Army consolidated. The 24th Division and the ROK 7th Regiment were ordered to return south of the Ch'onghch'on. While the 1st Cavalry Division held the Ch'ongch'on bridgehead, the 24th returned without difficulty. The ROK'S, more exposed, ran into heavy weather getting back.

The ROK outfit lost more than five hundred men, retreating, but they brought back a bottle of Yalu water for President Syngman Rhee.

Walker ordered the 2nd Infantry Division to move north, onto line. He was now experiencing logistical trouble; the Army as a whole was far north of its permanent bases, and it was in difficult terrain.

Tokyo was immediately on his neck for stopping the advance—but, reluctantly, Tokyo agreed to his consolidation and supply buildup before continuing the offensive.

In the east the Chinese had not been so successful with their spoiling attacks—but the Marines, of their own volition, slowed their painful advance toward the Changjin Reservoir. General Almond expressed his dissatisfaction with Marine progress, but Marines, from General Smith down through the regimental commanders, Murray, Litzenberg, and Puller, were highly dubious of what they were marching into.

Winter came early, in the second week of November, with subzero winds howling down from Siberia. Moving over tenuous, ill-defined roads, facing bitter weather, climbing thousands of feet into high hill masses, the Marine division, strung out in a long and vulnerable column, had trouble enough if they never saw a Chinese. For the Marines were as roadbound in North Korea as the Army.

Only in the far northeast corner of Korea did the advance push forward during November. Here there were no Chinese, and the ROK's and elements of the 7th Division marched against failing NKPA resistance to the Yalu.

The Chinese, by attacking sharply, then disappearing, threw confusion into the U.N. commands on the ground in Korea. Eighth Army staff began to have grave doubts as to what lay hidden in the mountains on their right flank; 1st Marine Division wondered what lay in wait for them north of the Changjin Reservoir. But day after day passed, and no further action by the enemy was apparent.

Air patrolling over the mountains revealed what it had always revealed—nothing. Only heavy, aggressive ground patrolling into the hills could have revealed that the main bodies of two massive Chinese army groups lurked in those deep valleys and forlorn villages, and this action the U.N. never attempted.

In the frightful terrain such patrolling was dangerous. It could not be supported by wheels, and where wheels could not go, neither could sizable units of Americans. And in such horrendous terrain a vast army could be—and was—hidden in a very small area, observing perfect camouflage discipline, waiting.

The weeks of November were a time for worry, snarling, and argument among the Eighth Army and X Corps staffs, whatever official face was put on. General Ruffner, Chief of Staff of X Corps, told General Willoughby, FECOM G-2, that he was increasingly concerned with the large numbers of Chinese units identified by ROK, Eighth Army, and X Corps troops. Willoughby insisted that no full divisions of Chinese were in Korea, but only elements of such divisions.

On one occasion, General Willoughby, with General Doyle Hickey, Acting FECOM Chief of Staff, visited Almond's X Corps HQ in Wonsan. After hearing reports of POW interrogations, Hickey turned to Willoughby.

"If, as General Almond says, these people turn out to be Chinese—"

Ned Almond roared, "What do you mean, 'if'? They are Chinese!"

Willoughby tried to allay their fears. He stated that only a few volunteers were in Korea, and it was most likely that only a battalion of each identified division was actually across the border.

To which Ned Almond asked bluntly, "What happened to the 8th Cavalry over in Eighth Army?"

Willoughby was of the opinion that the regiment had failed to put out adequate security, and had therefore been overrun by a small, violent attack.

As the month progressed, however, FECOM came more and more to the conclusion that there were Chinese troops in Korea. Their numbers were placed at between 40,000 and 70,000. Whether "volunteers," as the Chinese Government claimed, or otherwise, the big question remained as to what they were doing in Korea.

There seemed to be three possibilities, all of which were suggested:

1. The Chinese had come over in limited fashion to help the NKPA hold a base south of the Yalu;

2. They had entered as a show of force to bluff the U.N. into halting south of the river;

3. At the worst, they were a screening force to cover the advance of the main Chinese armies.

No one, either in FECOM or the two commands in Korea, suggested that the CCF were already in Korea in massive force.

But as November passed, and the Chinese did not appear again, gradually American fears and suspicion died. More and more, intelligence officers at FECOM reached the conclusion that the Chinese action was limited, and confined to a mere bluff to deter the U.N. final victory. Willoughby and his chief never wavered from their conviction that the Chinese threats were a form of political blackmail. Their influence on the Eighth Army—which was not so sanguine—was naturally decisive.

Time magazine reported in a November issue, as its own view, that the CCF action in Korea might really be in the nature of political blackmail to win U.N. recognition for Red China at Lake Success—where a delegation of Chinese Communists was already headed, by way of Moscow, to complain of United States "imperialist" policy in North Korea.

Washington did not interfere, whatever information it may have had. Washington still had not learned that while war itself is best left to the generals, international politics are much too important to be so left. But while Washington had numerous political evidences of Chinese intervention, in effect both the CIA—weak in Asia—and the Administration concurred in MacArthur's views. At least they permitted MacArthur to proceed as he saw fit.

Eighth Army consolidated along the Ch'ongch'on; its supply situation, while not good, got better. The first two Marine regiments, the 5th and 7th, moved south and west of Changjin Reservoir. Both left and right wings of the United Nations command were now in position fifty miles south of Manchuria; all that seemingly remained was the final pinching out of a small bit of enemy territory. Once on the Yalu, or a few miles south of it, the U.N. could form a solid defensive line and hold all Korea, come what may.

MacArthur, left with the decision, had the U.N. forces deployed halfway through North Korea. He felt he could not sit still, and allow U.S. troops to be tied up for the winter. The CCF plan might be to make Korea a permanent running sore, and to tie up more than a hundred thousand U.S. ground troops indefinitely. With winter already howling down out of one of the coldest spots on earth, he had to retreat or attack. He attacked.

MacArthur ordered the offensive resumed on 24 November, the day following Thanksgiving. He flew to Korea, and sent a message to the troops, assuring them that the war was almost won and that a final effort would see them home before Christmas. In fact, plans were now being laid to redeploy some of the divisions to other theaters.

High in the bitter land, Americans ate Thanksgiving dinner. Depending on their tactical position, they ate well or plainly—but most received turkey and all the trimmings, brought into this savage country at great effort.

Morale was high, not because they relished the final offensive but because everyone thought they would soon be homeward bound.

Because he had used the magic word "home," the troops believed MacArthur implicitly. Even the staffs and commanders, who had seen harsh evidence of Chinese interference in the "First Phase Offensive," were reasonably confident—after all, for nearly three weeks the enemy had not been seen.

And nothing is more revealing of Douglas MacArthur's frame of mind than the messages and communiqués he released as the new offensive jumped off. To the JCS he wrote:

"I believe that with my air power, now unrestricted so far as Korea is concerned … I can deny reinforcements coming across the Yalu in sufficient strength to prevent the destruction of those forces now arrayed against me in North Korea."

His communiqué of 24 November read:

"The United Nations massive compression envelopment in North Korea against the new Red Armies operating there is now approaching its decisive effort. The isolating component of the pincer, our Air Forces of all types, have for the past three weeks, in a sustained attack of model coordination and effectiveness, successfully interdicted enemy lines of support from the North so that further reinforcement therefrom has been sharply curtailed and essential supplies markedly limited."

To the U.N. in New York he sent:

"The giant U.N. pincer moved according to schedule today. The air forces, in full strength, completely interdicted the rear areas, and an air reconnaissance behind the enemy line, and along the entire length of the Yalu River border, showed little sign of hostile military activity."

It is obvious that MacArthur's reliance on air power was almost absolute. Whatever the weaknesses of his ground forces, whatever their difficult and exposed positions, U.N. mastery of the skies was complete, and air would be the decisive arm. It was a typically American viewpoint.

MacArthur and the men around him had a great deal to learn about Chinese Communist armies.

In the hidden fastness of his screening mountains, Lin Piao knew almost everything there was to know about American fighting men. He did not despise American power. He knew the strengths of the American Army, and Chinese officers read these in a pamphlet distributed to the "Chinese People's Volunteer Army":

"The coordinated action of mortars and tanks is an important factor.… Their firing instruments are highly powerful.… Their artillery is very active.… Aircraft strafing and bombing of our transportation have become a great hazard to us.… Their transport system is magnificent. Their rate of infantry fire is great, and the long range of that fire is even greater."

Americans, Chinese Intelligence said, had machines and knew how to use them well.

Then the pamphlet, entitled "Primary Conclusions of Battle Experience at Unsan," talked of the men behind the machines:

"… Cut off from the rear, they abandon all their heavy weapons.… Their infantrymen are weak, afraid to die, and have no courage to attack or defend. They depend always on their planes, tanks, artillery… . They specialize in day fighting. They are not familiar with night fighting or hand-to-hand combat. If defeated, they have no orderly formation. Without the use of their mortars, they become completely lost.… They become dazed and completely demoralized. They are afraid when the rear is cut off. When transportation comes to a standstill, the infantry loses the will to fight."

The Chinese, knowing they could not slug it out with American planes, tanks, and artillery, in which they themselves were weak, planned to tailor operations to fit what they considered were American weaknesses. They would plan attacks to get in the enemy rear, to cut escape and supply roads, and then to flail the enemy with pressure from both front and rear. They would use what they called the Hachi-Shiki—a V-formation, which moved open and against the enemy, then closed about him, while other forces slashed through to his rear, engaging any unit that tried to relieve the trapped enemy. Simple tactics, they were suited to the violently broken Korean terrain—and they could be coordinated with flares and bugle calls, the only means of communication the Chinese possessed.

"As a main objective, one of our units must fight its way quickly around the enemy and cut off his rear.… Route of attack must avoid highways and flat terrain in order to keep tanks and artillery from hindering the attack operations. Night warfare in the mountains must have a definite plan and liaison between platoon groups. Small, leading patrols attack and then sound the bugle. A large number will at that time follow in column."

The Chinese soldiers to whom the instructions were read were well fed, well clothed, and sturdy. They wore warm quilted jackets of white, mustard-brown, or blue; many had fur-lined boots. They were tough. They did not fear to leave their own lines; they carried their supply and food, even mortar rounds, with them, over hills, through valleys. Their minds were conditioned by the vast, flowing landscapes of China itself; they would move over the land as if it were the sea, caring little whether they were before the enemy or behind him, for on the sea all position is relative.

They possessed courage, and they would obey orders unto the death.

But they were illiterate, simple peasants, and they had almost none of the things a modern army required to make it a scientific instrument. They had no radios, no tanks, very little artillery, and that little they were inept in using. They had no mechanized system of supply, nor any vast stockpiles of goods or equipment; their food and their ammunition they were forced to carry on their backs.

They could move, in any direction, no faster than their legs might bear them. They could not shift rapidly to meet a changing situation, nor could they at once exploit a breakthrough.

In open battle, openly arrived at, an American army might have slaughtered them. On the fields of Europe, or in the deserts of North Africa, they would have died under the machines and superior firepower of a mechanized host. But now, Lin Piao's hosts were not going to engage in open battle, openly arrived at, with the West.

They would fight, in their own way, in their own mountains, and they would inflict upon American arms the most decisive defeat they had suffered in the century.

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