Academic journal article Military Review

Striking Back: Combat in Korea, March-April 1951

Academic journal article Military Review

Striking Back: Combat in Korea, March-April 1951

Article excerpt

STRIKING BACK: Combat in Korea, March-April 1951, Edited by William T. Bowers, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2010, 450 pages. $40.00

PASSING THE TEST: Combat in Korea, April-June 1951, Edited by William T. Bowers and John T. Greenwood, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2011, 486 pages, $40.00

STRIKING BACK and Passing the Test are the second and third in a series of Korean War combat narratives edited by William T. Bowers. They describe events from March to June 1951 from battalion and below. Bowers died in 2008 after the first volume was published; he had a second volume nearly ready for publication and a third volume in draft. John Greenwood, a former colleague, saw the second volume through to publication, completed work on the third, and shares credit as editor.

Bowers uses Army historian post-combat interviews to narrate the fighting at the battalion, company, platoon, and individual soldier levels. He intersperses the interviews with passages from division and corps combat reports to provide context by describing the larger tactical situation, and concerns himself with the operational or strategic aspects of the war only as they provide context for tactics. As he compares the interviews with other primary sources, he shows that the confusion of combat remains after the fighting ends.

In Striking Back, Bowers narrates parts of the UN Counteroffensive in the winter of 1951, concentrating on the actions of UN forces in the central mountains, the areas north of Seoul, and in central Korea. In March, UN forces advanced to liberate Seoul, killing as many communists as possible and taking positions north of the 38th parallel in a series of limited offensives. As their offensive wound down, UN troops prepared themselves to meet the fifth Chinese offensive as described in Passing the Test.

In Striking Back, Bowers follows regiments of the 7th Infantry and the 1st Cavalry Divisions in their actions in the central mountains. Here one sees the importance of logistics in an austere environment characterized by poor or nonexistent roads in rugged, mountainous terrain and the ingenious ways logisticians kept the units supplied. The problems occurred as battalions resupplied their companies.

Bowers follows the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team as part of an armor-infantry task force, as it traps and destroys a large portion of the Chinese and North Korean troops concentrated north of Seoul. …

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