Korean War: Inchon Landings

First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, USMC, leads the 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines over the seawall on the northern side of Red Beach, as the second assault wave lands at Inchon, 15 September 1950. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

Inchon Landings - Conflict:

The Inchon landings took place during the Korean War (1950-1953).

Inchon Landings - Date:

The first troops stormed ashore at Inchon on September 15, 1950.

Armies & Commanders:

United Nations

North Korea

  • General Choi Yong-kun
  • approximately 6,500 men

Inchon Landings - Background:

Following the stunning success of the North Korean invasion of South Korea in the summer of 1950, United Nations forces were trapped in the southeast corner of the peninsula in an area known as the Pusan Perimeter.

With the bulk of the North Korean People's Army (NKPA) engaged around Pusan, UN Supreme Commander Gen. Douglas MacArthur began advocating for a daring amphibious strike on the peninsula's west coast at Inchon. This he argued would catch the NKPA off guard, while landing UN troops close to the capital at Seoul and placing them in a position to cut the North Korean's supply lines.

Many were initially skeptical of MacArthur's plan as Inchon's harbor possessed a narrow approach channel, strong current, and wildly fluctuating tides. Also, the harbor was surrounded by easily defended seawalls. In presenting his plan, Operation Chromite, MacArthur cited these factors as reasons the NKPA would not anticipate an attack at Inchon. After finally winning approval from Washington, MacArthur selected the US Marines to lead the attack. Ravaged by post-World War II cutbacks, the Marines consolidated all available manpower and reactivated aging equipment to prepare for the landings.

Inchon Landings - Pre-Invasion Operations:

To pave the way for the invasion, Operation Trudy Jackson was launched a week before the landings. This involved the landing of a joint CIA-military intelligence team on Yonghung-do Island in the Flying Fish Channel on the approach to Inchon. Led by Navy Lieutenant Eugene Clark, this team provided intelligence to UN forces and restarted the lighthouse at Palmi-do.

When Clark's activities were discovered, the North Koreans dispatched a patrol boat to investigate. After mounting a machine gun on a sampan, Clark's men were able to sink the patrol boat. As retribution, the NKPA killed 50 civilians for aiding Clark.

Inchon Landings - Going Ashore:

As the invasion fleet neared, UN cruisers and destroyers closed on Inchon to clear mines from the Flying Fish Channel and to shell NKPA positions on Wolmi-do Island in Inchon harbor. Though these actions caused the North Koreans to believe than an invasion was coming, the commander at Wolmi-do assured the NKPA command that he could repulse any attack. On the morning of September 15, 1950, the invasion fleet, led by Normandy and Leyte Gulf veteran Admiral Arthur Dewey Struble, moved into position. Around 6:30 AM, the first UN troops, led by the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines came ashore at "Green Beach" on Wolmi-do.

Supported by nine tanks from the 1st Tank Battalion, the Marines succeeded in capturing the island by noon, suffering only 14 casualties in the process. Through the afternoon they defended the causeway to Inchon proper, while awaiting reinforcements. Due to the extreme tides in the harbor, the second wave did not arrive until 5:30 PM.

At 5:31, the first Marines landed and scaled the sea wall at "Red Beach." Located just north of the Wolmi-do causeway, the Marines on Red Beach quickly reduced the NKPA opposition, allowing forces from Green Beach to enter the battle.

Pressing into Inchon, the forces from Green and Red Beaches were able to take the city and compelled the NKPA defenders to surrender. As these events were unfolding, the 1st Marine Regiment, under Colonel Lewis "Chesty" Puller was landing on "Blue Beach" to the south. Though one LST was sunk while approaching the beach, the Marines met little opposition once ashore and quickly moved to help consolidate the UN position. The landings at Inchon caught the NKPA command by surprise. Believing that the main invasion would come at Kusan (the result of UN disinformation), the NKVA only sent a small force to the area.

Inchon Landings - Aftermath & Impact:

UN casualties during the Inchon landings and subsequent battle for the city were 566 killed and 2,713 wounded. In the fighting the NKPA lost more than 35,000 killed and captured. As additional UN forces came ashore, they were organized into the US X Corps. Attacking inland, they advanced towards Seoul, which was taken on September 25, after brutal house-to-house fighting. The daring landing at Inchon, coupled with 8th Army's breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, threw the NKPA into a headlong retreat. UN troops quickly recovered South Korea and pressed into the north. This advance continued until late November when Chinese troops poured into North Korea causing UN forces to withdraw south.