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Essay: Korean War

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  • Subject area(s): History essays
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  • Published: September 15, 2019*
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  • Korean War
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Korean War

In battle, victory comes to the Army with well thought out strategy, as well as nearly flawless execution. History shows even the strongest Army puts itself at risk of defeat without employing the proper use of intelligence. The Purpose of this paper is to recognize the Intelligence failures of South Korea and its allies, while suggesting possible methods to employ.  The United Nations (UN), Republic of Korea (ROK) army and US forces were in position to win the war, but subtle mistakes in planning allowed North Korea and its allies to keep somewhat of an advantage.  Upon the completion of reading this paper, an alternate conclusion of the Korean War will be described based off opinion and basic intelligence functions.


Post World War II, Korea split in two completely different governments. North Korea was governed under Communist rule, while South Korea was occupied by America under Nationalist rule. The Korean War began when the North Korean Army crossed the 38th Parallel, located in East Asia, which acted as a military boundary in place for the two neighboring areas to avoid conflict (Heller, 2018). North Korea was determined to accomplish one mission: To unify and restructure the North and South. As the Nationalist driven South refused to comply, Kim Il-Sung and his Army invaded South Korea with tanks provided by the Soviet Union (How-did-the-war-end, 2017). The initial invasion was a tremendous hit to South Korea, as they were not equipped in weaponry as well as manpower. The capturing of Seoul, (Capital of South Korea) by North Korea, made defending their territory tougher than expected. The United States quickly responded as General Douglas MacArthur, who was responsible for overseeing the post-WWII occupation of Japan, commanded the US forces. He devised a plan to hold off the North Koreans at Pusan, located on the southernmost coastline of Korea.US, along with the United Nations (UN) and South Korea fought to prevent North Korea from capturing more territory. General MacArthur decided to orchestrate a brutal attack on Inchon, a port on the western coast of Korea. The strategy was successful, recapturing Seoul (Sparknotes, 2018). Instead of being satisfied with victory, MacArthur infiltrated North Korea. MacArthur crossed the 38th Parallel and pursued the North Korean army all the way to the northern most provinces of North Korea. Afraid that the US was interested in taking North Korea as a base for operations against Manchuria, the People’s Republic of China secretly sent an army across the Yalu River. The Chinese army attacked the US/UN/ROK forces nearly all the way down the Korean peninsula (Korean War 2018).

The war only became a battle of attrition, and although peace talks started1951, it ended in a stalemate, with neither side accepting defeat. After evaluating the situation, Dwight D. Eisenhower started to pressure the South Korean president to compromise and let go of some demands in order to speed up peace talks (How-did-the-war-end, 2017). Public Threats of using nuclear weapons arose from US Officials if the war had not come to a stopping point. By July 1953, all countries that were involved in the war finally agreed to end the bloodshed and signed an armistice on July 27(How-did-the-war-end, 2017). The prisoners of war were allowed to choose which side they wanted to live on and yet a new border was drawn between South and North Korea with a demilitarized zone in between (How-did-the-war-end, 2017).

Sigint Intelligence Failures

Each of the military services sustained severe manning issues following the end of WWII. Military intelligence services took a major hit in numbers as well. For example, the US 7th Fleet, which played an intricate part in the Intelligence for the Nationalist, had only one intelligence officer in the Far East Command (Sparknotes, 2018). The first U.S. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) dedicated unit did not arrive in Korea until Mid-December 1950; nearly six months after the war began (Heller, 2018). As the demand for manpower increased, the US were required to fill the required staff positions. A large amount of American cryptologic Soldiers left or were forced to retire (Heller, 2018). The staff numbers wear depleted by almost 3,000 troops. The reductions in personnel as well as a decline in funding led to increased competition between all of the US Forces and its cryptologic agencies. In an attempt to please the political officials, the agencies voluntarily joined the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), which is a SIGINT organization (Heller, 2018).  The strategy seemed beneficial, but the merger resulted in an agency without Korean linguists. The decline in support resulted in a near complete lack of SIGINT operations until three months after the North Korean invasion (Heller, 2018).  The inadequate number of personnel, lack of regional specialists, and failure to work together laid the groundwork for a structure incapable of producing timely and accurate intelligence to decision-makers.

Humint Intelligence Failures

Structural failure and strategic prioritization seriously hindered prisoner-of-war (POW) interrogations (History, 2018). In using the Human Intelligence (HUMINT) function, interrogation of POWs is a reliable source of intelligence in conflict. During the Korean War, in late 1950 as North Koreans surrendered, the POW system was a huge failure to US forces. POWs were misidentified, improperly registered, and could not be relocated for follow-on questioning upon release (Korean War, 2018). Interrogations during the war took place largely at the strategic level with a focus on strategic exploitation tactics (Heller, 2018). However, many POWs had adequate amounts of access to tactical information that was not accurately or under-exploited. Strategic interrogations lasted weeks and in some instances months, as interrogators focused on higher-level requirements directed by their superiors at the expense of time-sensitive tactical intelligence (Heller, 2018). Reporting pipelines for converting tactical reports and field interrogation notes from line units to rear area interrogators were often slow or did not happen at all. On many occasions, units did not properly report the detainees to senior interrogators for extended periods, seizing POWs with valuable tactical intelligence. The use of Commanders Critical Intelligence Requirements (CCIR) would have prevented a number of issues. Not properly addressing questions concerning the enemy and exploiting these requirements forced failure upon the Nationalists.

Alternate Outcome

The lack of Intelligence Operations during the Korean war influenced the outcome greatly. If SIGINT operations would have been conducted with the proper amount of linguist to interpret information, South Korea and its allies could have been better prepared. Having the manpower to use SIGNINT would have given US forces more intel to process and apply to winning the war. The disconnect between Army, Navy, and Airforce would not have taken place, allowing each entity to focus on North Korea. By having the 3,000 troops available for the war, South Korea would have had an efficient amount of personnel to overthrow, the Communist ruled North Korea, resulting in victory. The improper handling of HUMINT operations was also detrimental to the stalemate of the Korean War. I believe the information missed by our forces would affected US forces greatly. They would have been able to process the critical intelligence known by the POWs. The Nationalists would have had prior knowledge on the tactical planning of North Korea, allowing defensive strategies to be assembled and carried out. South Korea would have won the war, initiating a westernized Nationalist government for the entire populous of Korea.

In conclusion, The Korean War was a battle of two different government styles. While both the north and south had the same mission of unifying the country, the disagreement in the type of leadership moving forward post WW II. The failures of Intelligence, and not having the ability to recover from mistakes, cost South Korea and its allies an opportunity to implement a Nationalists government. While South Korea had a strong game plan, the execution of the plan and strategies was poorly conducted. Fort this reason, the Korean War is considered a stalemate, as both North and South Korea strongly believe their respective Armies were victorious. The treaty between the two had no relevancy to becoming a better country. The peace treaty was signed at Panmunjom that ended the Korean War, returning Korea to a divided status essentially the same as before the war. Pride and uncompromising behavior by the opposing sides resulted in Bloodshed the seemed to be unwarranted.

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