by PHIL CARRICO
PHOTO WAS TAKEN FROM THE APPROACH HARBOR OF INCHON, KOREA IN THE LATE AFTERNOON OF SEPT 15, 1950. THE UNITED STATES HAD LAUNCHED A MASSIVE AMPHIBIOUS ASSULT ON THIS CITY AT DAWN ON THIS DATE.
U.S. Naval Underwater Demolition Teams 1 and 3 (U.S. Navy Frogmen Units) had always operated in the deep shadows. The units, to this point, had been kept under wraps and had protected their MO from the prying eyes of all the media.
This high priority on secrecy had saved our butts and permitted the units to weigh unrelenting havoc on communist supply lines.
Like mystic phantoms or slick water creatures – they would crawl from the sea in the depth of night and hit the unsuspecting communist in the most vital spot.
The communist armies were in their glory and were all-victorious as they plunged down the narrow neck of the Korean peninsula. The scattered occupation forces of the U.S. Army and the ill-equipped ROK forces had been easily brushed aside.
The only worry, the thing that slowed their advance the most, was those finned devils from the sea and their way with heavy explosives.
I’m quite convinced that each night with the fall of darkness – terror spread like wildfire in communist hearts all along that corridor. Not knowing from where the attack would come, not knowing which approaches to guard – but realizing with certainty that an attack would be made, was the monkey that rode their backs.
What convinced us that our raids were really paying dividends was the fact that the notorious Seoul City Sue came on the wireless and reported how many Frogmen they had killed the previous night. Over a period of about two weeks in 1950, she reported that over a thousand Frogmen had been killed. Since ours was the only active teams in Korea at the time and since we had something less than 100 men in each team, her arithmetic was just a little faulty.
Today we, Team 3, were standing on the deck of an old WW2 LST. The sun was warming our bare backs in the noonday breeze and the fleece clouds were retreating up the peninsula just like the communist hordes. The full might of the United States military machine had finally jumped off. We stood watching as an unending stream of American men and machines poured north out of Inchon.
MacArthur had taken the initiative in a surprising maneuver. The South Korean port of Inchon sat on mud flats and entertained tide changes of an astounding 32 feet. The most hazardous amphibious operation in naval history had succeeded beyond expectations – and now, at last, the communist were being knocked back on their tails.
Our part in the operation was some small recons, placing guide buoys in the channels, patrolling in our LCPR boats and assisting landing barges that ran aground or had some other difficulty. We also placed swimmers in the water to assist troops out of the water. Of course, once the city was secured we spent our time with harbor clean up and assisting the Harbormaster.
The most memorable thing to me was our LST easing into the harbor on the dark morning of Sept. the 15th and enduring that silent, ghostly wait – until our bombardment commenced just before dawn.
In that wait, you could actually hear voices and laughter. All the sounds of the city seemed to funnel right to our ears. We could imagine the shrill laughter of the “B” girls, the guttural commands as the night patrols passed by, even the harangue of the fish mongers as they profited from the invading army.
The things one remembers looking back on an incident that took place over 50 years ago is surprising. The thing that comes to mind about that night most vividly, are not the sounds, but the smells. To describe that smell, I don’t know what to say – the word “foreign” keeps popping into my mind and I guess that word describes it as well as any.
We were witnessing, first hand, the boastfulness and swagger of a victorious army – who was completely unsuspecting and unprepared for the big stick that was about to fall on them.
On the island of Woimi-Do, which sat like a fortress in the mouth of the harbor, we could hear sporadic gunfire. This activity was coming from a few trapped South Korean soldiers who were holding out there from foxholes.
After the bombardment the troops landed and started pushing inland through the city. About mid-morning the tide started going out and every one present was astonished – we all knew about the 32 foot tide change, but no one realized that we would suddenly be sitting high and dry on mud flats. Where we had 32 foot of water under us just an hour ago – now we are sitting on the mud flats that extend 300 yards from the beach. The Navy must have had 300 motor craft siting in the mud, where they would stay until the next high tide. Thank God our troops had already secured the area before the tide went out.
PHOTO SHOWS WHAT TROUBLES THE RADICAL 32 FOOT TIDE CHANGE OF THIS HARBOR COULD CREATE
Our team stayed in the city for several weeks. We worked with the Beachmaster and on the gates of the giant dry-dock. When the gates worked – a large ship could steam in at high tide, they would close the gates and the trapped water would float the vessel. At next high tide it could steam out as pretty as you please.
First week of October, we got the word, “Saddle Up” – next mission – “Wonsan”…
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