By the time David Hughes went to war in Korea, in November of 1950, the conflict had gone through several distinct phases. By September the United Nations forces had pulled back into what became known as the Pusan perimeter, on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula. Their shortened lines of resupply and communication, coupled with better natural barriers behind which stronger defensive positions could be maintained, enabled the Americans, ROK's and their Allies to consolidate and rebuild their strength with a growing stream of fresh combat units, equipment, and supplies.
Then, in mid-September, they went over to the offensive, executing a planned breakout from the perimeter, timed to begin shortly after the surprise landings far to the rear of the NKPA, at Inchon, on South Korea's west coast, near Seoul. The badly overextended NKPA, lacking air and naval support, had suffered increasingly heavy losses. Faced with MacArthur's stunning tactical surprise at Inchon, the NKPA was forced to retreat northward or face destruction. The retreat became a near route and the UN Forces were soon pursuing a shattered NKPA all the way to the Yalu River, bordering China.
"The boys will be home by Christmas..." became the optimistic rallying cry. The Communist Chinese had differing views, and the rallying cry vanished in the bitter cold, eerie, flare-lit November nights in far North Korea.
Shattered were any illusions of a quick end, with a quick UN victory. It once more was a war of withdrawal, retreat, rear guard and delaying actions, ambushes, and stinging defeats for UN Forces, the vast majority of which were Americans and South Koreans. David Hughes would see the Yalu River, but only briefly. No sooner did he see the Yalu, than he learned the cold, hard facts of life in combat. His introduction to the battlefield became the fighting withdrawal, the retreat, the enemy roadblock and ambush, ferocious and confusing night attacks designed to sow fear as well as destruction. Not a good beginning.
But he was more fortunate than many young officers entering combat for the first time. His company commander was a patient and thoughtful trainer and teacher, a member of West Point's class of '44, and Dave Hughes had been assigned to one of the most illustrious, storied units in all the United States Army.
Go on to Part 5 - Roots and the Making of an Officer
Return to Menu