Communist Logistics in the Korean War

By Gimbert, Robert A. | Military Review, July/August 1997 | Go to article overview

Communist Logistics in the Korean War


Gimbert, Robert A., Military Review


COMMUNIST LOGISTICS IN THE KOREAN WAR by Charles R. Shrader. 312 pages. Greenwood Publishing Inc., Westport, CT. 1995. $59.95.

This comprehensive book describes logistic systems used by the North Korean Peoples Army (NKPA) and the Chinese Communist Force (CCF) deployed on the Korean Peninsula from June 1950 to July 1953. With the book's excellent charts, maps, diagrams, sketches and tables, the reader can visualize the sophisticated logistic infrastructure developed by communist forces despite hostile terrain, inhospitable weather and the combined effects of determined ground resistance and overwhelming naval and air power.

Author Charles R. Shrader begins with a regional peninsula appraisal. He discusses the country's geography, including its climate, topography, waterways and road and rail networks, and gives detailed data about the age and location of rail lines, availability and capability of rolling stock, location and capabilities of port facilities, navigable waterways and the north-south/eastwest road networks available to combatants.

Next, Shrader describes the doctrine employed by the UN adversaries and the organizations each country developed to support its combat force. He makes the important point that the UN intelligence apparatus grossly misjudged NKPA and CCF capabilities to support themselves in a protracted conflict. More than a decade later, this same myopic view of enemy capabilities confounded US forces in Vietnam with similarly unacceptable results.

The book's most significant part is probably the two chapters about the supply, maintenance, storage and materiel distribution systems. Shrader describes how each supply class was provided throughout the theater. NKPA and CCF doctrine and methods very closely paralleled those of a mechanized army, even though neither was a mechanized force. The communist forces made great use of decentralized command, improvisation and echelonment of logistic units and materiel. Their soldiers and units carried basic loads. Supply points and depots were established along main supply routes, and all available transportation was used to sustain combat forces. …

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