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Coalition Combat: Supporting South Korean Forces

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Journal article

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From 1950 to 1953, with only a partial mobilization, the Army fought in Korea, bolstered its presence in Europe, and organized an air defense artillery system on the homefront. Success in these endeavors depended significantly on the capability of the Republic of Korea ROK army to stand and fight. Firepower, particularly field artillery, was an advantage that U.N. forces enjoyed during the war. Because the Koreans were lacking in artillery, American units were frequently tasked for support. U.S. artillery men had inadequate doctrine, combined operations training, and equipment. Moreover, they had to overcome differences in language, culture, and skill levels, and also fears that the Koreans would collapse when attacked, leaving the artillery men exposed to enemy infantry. Efforts to provide field artillery support were successful overall. American gunners often made the difference between victory and failure despite linguistic and cultural barriers even though firepower by itself could not always compensate for the weaknesses of ROK forces. Thus, a lot of emphasis was placed on expanding Korean firepower in the last two years of combat, especially field artillery, and improving the skill of the units employing it. American field artillery support for Korean units met with mixed results. In instances when both U.S. and Korean units were competent, had dynamic leadership, and developed a long-term relationship, like the association of 1st ROK Division and 10th Group, the results were equal to or superior to those found on average in U.S. units. U.S. firepower could often, but not always, prevent the collapse or destruction of Korean units which, because of weaknesses in firepower, skill, and leadership, became a focus of enemy offensives. American artillery men -- called upon to conduct missions for which they were unprepared in doctrine, training, and resources -- usually persevered, though not without extensive improvisation, hard work, and heavy losses.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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