The Korean War
History of The Iowa National Guard
CW2 David L. Snook
On June 25, 1950, communist North Korea invaded South Korea, encouraged perhaps by U. S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s comment that South Korea lay "outside the U. S. defense perimeter," tempted certainly by South Korea’s lack of military preparedness. North Korean forces, 90,000 strong, trained by Russian advisors, and equipped with 150 Soviet-built T-34 tanks, swept across the 38th parallel and into South Korea.
They easily brushed aside South Korea’s defense forces and four days later were in Seoul, the capital. On June 27, the United Nations recommended that its members support South Korea. President Harry Truman directed U. S. armed forces to intervene, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur in command, under U. N. auspices.
For many weeks, U. S. and U. N. forces could provide only limited assistance. By early August, South Korean forces and the first American units had been penned up in what became known as the "Pusan Perimeter." Only with MacArthur’s spectacular "end run" up to Inchon, in September, did the initiative switch to the South Koreans and the Americans.
At this point, a critical decision was made. The Truman administration decided that the war would be an effort not simply at containment but also at "liberation." Truman gave MacArthur permission to pursue the communists into their own territory. His aim, in the words of a recently approved U. N. resolution, was to create "a unified, independent and democratic Korea."
For several weeks, MacArthur’s invasion of North Korea proceeded smoothly. On October 19, the capital, Pyongyang, fell to U. N. forces. At the same time, parachutists managed to trap and immobilize much of the rest of the North Korean army. Victory seemed near. Slowly, however, the United States was becoming aware of the growing presence of forces from communist China; and by November 4, it was clear that eight Chinese divisions had entered the war. Suddenly, the U. N. offensive stalled and then collapsed. Through December 1950, American forces fought a bitter, losing battle against far more numerous Chinese divisions, retreating at almost every juncture.
Within weeks, communist forces had pushed the Americans back below the 38th
parallel once again and had captured the South Korean capital of Seoul. By mid-January 1951, the route had ceased; and by March, the U. N. armies had managed to regain much of the territory they had recently lost, taking back Seoul and pushing the communists north of the 38th
parallel for the second time. But with that, the war degenerated into a protracted stalemate." (Brinkley, Alan, American History: A Survey
, McGraw-Hill, 1991)
From this point on, President Truman resisted pressure from Gen. MacArthur and others to widen the war. He was determined to seek a negotiated solution that would forestall any possibility that the Soviet Union might enter the conflict. When Gen. MacArthur went public with his criticism, pushing for an all-out war with China, including the use of atomic weapons, President Truman relieved him of command. The new U. N. commander, Gen. Matthew Ridgeway, would fight a limited war of attrition. For the next two years, American soldiers would fight a series of indecisive battles, "defending nondescript pieces of real estate like Porkchop Hill and Outpost Eerie." (MacGlasson, Col. W. D., "The ‘Forgotten War’ Remembered," National Guard Magazine, October, 1995) Ultimately, 54,000 Americans would die before a cease-fire agreement brought the war to a conclusion in 1953.
The Korean War caught the United States woefully unprepared. The entire U. S. army numbered only 593,000 in June of 1950. From the outset, the National Guard and the Reserves would play critical roles in the crisis. During the Korean conflict, 45,000 Air National Guardsmen and 138,000 Army National Guardsmen were called into federal service. Some would go to Korea; others would be sent to Europe to fortify the newly created NATO alliance.
Several Iowa National Guard units were mobilized during the Korean conflict.
The 132d Fighter Wing (Des Moines and Sioux City) was federalized on April 1, 1951. The 132d received its initial training at Dow Air Force Base, Bangor, Maine. In January of 1952, the unit was redesignated the 132d Fighter-Bomber Wing and assigned to the Air Force Tactical Air Command. Many Iowans were later transferred to other Tactical Air Command units worldwide, including Korea, and the unit assumed the role of a reserve training unit. The 132d and its subordinate units, the 124th Fighter-Bomber Squadron (Des Moines) and the 174th Fighter-Bomber Squadron (Sioux City), returned to state control on January 1, 1953.
Other Iowa National Guard units mobilized during the Korean War included the 133d Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron (Fort Dodge), the 232nd Air Service Group (Des Moines and Sioux City), the 3657th Ordnance Company (Cedar Rapids) and the 194th Field Artillery Battalion (Spencer, Algona, Humboldt, Mapleton and Estherville). The 194th FA received its mobilization notification while at annual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in September 1950. It was initially sent to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. After spending the winter of 1950-51 at Fort McCoy, the battalion deployed to Germany, where it served until March 1953, when it returned to the U. S. and reverted to state control.
In 1995, an $18 million memorial to Korean War veterans was dedicated in Washington, D. C. This long overdue thank you from two grateful nations includes a wall of honor, bearing the names of those who never came back, surrounding a "sculptural centerpiece" – a platoon of combat infantrymen in the midst of a mission. At the dedication ceremony, South Korean president Kim Young Sam expressed his nation's heartfelt gratitude to "those Americans who sacrificed their lives on Korea’s battlefront." He went on to declare that the 37,000 American troops still standing guard in South Korea are necessary to "maintain stability in the Pacific-Asia region." (MacGlasson)