Leadership in the Crucible: The Korean War Battles of Twin Tunnels & Chipyong-Ni

Leadership in the Crucible: The Korean War Battles of Twin Tunnels & Chipyong-Ni

Leadership in the Crucible: The Korean War Battles of Twin Tunnels & Chipyong-Ni

Leadership in the Crucible: The Korean War Battles of Twin Tunnels & Chipyong-Ni


At the pivotal battles of Twin Tunnels and Chipyong-ni in February 1951, U.N. forces met and contained large-scale attacks by Chinese forces. Colonel Paul Freeman and the larger-than-life Colonel Ralph Monclar led the American 23rd Infantry Regiment and the French Bataillon de Corée, respectively, in the fierce and dangerous battles that followed the precipitous U.N. retreat down the Korean Peninsula.

In Leadership in the Crucible, Kenneth Hamburger details the actions of the units in the United Nations counteroffensive following the Chinese intervention, including routine patrols, the harrowing battle of Twin Tunnels, and the pivotal siege of Chipyong-ni. The regiment was cut off from artillery fire support and was resupplied only by parachute drops. Repeatedly attacked by superior Chinese forces during the two nights and final day of fighting, the U.N. units finally welcomed relief by the armored Tank Force Crombez of the 1st Cavalry Division.

From extensive personal interviews and a careful reconstruction of the written record, Hamburger brilliantly analyzes the roles that training, cohesion, morale, logistics, and leadership play in success or failure on the front lines of limited war. He also addresses the vexing problem of when, and at what level, commanders have the right and even the responsibility to question lawful orders they believe are flawed.

In this careful consideration of combat leadership at all levels, Hamburger offers his readers stories of men sustaining themselves and one another to the limits of human endurance. By thoroughly sorting out the chaos, carnage, and courage of the battles, he provides a uniquely detailed description of these two crucial battles and a well-organized discussion of unit cohesion and command that is sure to become a classic in the field of leadership studies.


A colored print posted in the adjutant’s office of the artillery battalion where I began my military service as a lieutenant in the 82d Airborne Division was my first contact with the 23d Infantry Regiment and the battle of Chipyong-ni. It was one in a series of illustrations of famous battles that the U.S. Army distributed to raise soldiers’ awareness of their heritage. As I remember it, the scene was a busy and somewhat muddled composition, predominantly blue, depicting a snowcovered battlefield with excited soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. The print was tacked to the wall behind the adjutant’s desk, and I looked at it whenever I was summoned to his office, wondering whether all battles were as disorganized as the one it depicted. Almost twenty years later, when I was an artillery battalion commander in Korea, the print was still posted in many offices there. It was not until I began serious study of the Korean War in preparation for teaching an elective course on the Korean and Vietnam Wars at the U.S. Military Academy that I started to connect the print with the accounts of the battle. I discovered that the battle was one of the most famous of the war, and the more I studied it, the more interesting and puzzling the battle became. How did the battle come about? How did the isolated and outnumbered United Nations forces manage to prevail? How did the battle affect the outcome of the war? Even more important to me then and now were questions pertaining to how men summon the resources to face overwhelming odds, and how leaders instill and encourage commitment in their soldiers. The profound bond between leaders and the led, a bond that will cause a man to lay down his life for his comrades and for a cause, is one of the esoteric mysteries of military history that can never be fully explained, even by participants who have experienced the phenomenon. I have sought to probe it in this work.

I studied the battle in as much detail as was available during the time . . .

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