On the morning of September 15, 1950, the most daring move of the Korean War was made, an event that was to alter the course of the conflict entirely, and now seen as one of the greatest military manoeuvres in history. At this point the Allied forces had been pushed by the North Korean People’s Army into a small corner of the peninsula around Busan, but General Douglas MacArthur was convinced that a single decisive movement behind enemy lines could be enough to turn the tide.
MacArthur wanted to attempt an amphibious landing on the Incheon coast, but his plan was greeted with scepticism by many of his colleagues – both the South Korean and American armies were severely under-equipped (the latter only just recovering from the tolls of World War II), Incheon was heavily fortified, and its natural island-peppered defences and fast tides made it an even more dangerous choice.
The People’s Army had simply not anticipated an attack on this scale in this area, reasoning that if one were to happen, it would take place at a more sensible location further down the coast. However, the plan went ahead and the Allied forces performed successful landings at three Incheon beaches, during which time North Korean forces were shelled heavily to quell any counterattacks. The city was taken with relative ease. MacArthur had correctly deduced that a poor movement of supplies was his enemy’s Achilles heel – landing behind enemy lines gave Allied forces a chance to cut the supply line to KPA forces further south, and Seoul was duly retaken on 25 September.
Despite the Incheon victory and its consequences, MacArthur is not viewed by Koreans – or, indeed, the world in general – in an entirely positive light, feelings exacerbated by the continued American military presence in the country. While many in Korea venerate the General as a hero, repeated demonstrations have called for the tearing down of his statue in Jayu Park, denouncing him as a “war criminal who massacred civilians during the Korean War”, and whose statue “greatly injures the dignity of the Korean people”. Documents obtained after his eventual dismissal from the Army suggest that he would even have been willing to bring nuclear weapons into play – on December 24, 1950, he requested the shipment of 38 atomic bombs to Korea, intending to string them “across the neck of Manchuria”. Douglas MacArthur remains a controversial character, even in death.