The Korean War: Handbook of the Literature and Research

By Lester H. Brune; Robin Higham | Go to book overview

15 The U.S. Navy and Marines
in the Korean War

Lester H. Brune

The Korean War played an important role in U.S. naval history, helping to revive the navy and marines from their post-World War II doldrums caused by budget cuts in the nation's defense operations and exaggerated claims that atomic weapons made the navy obsolete for future wars. Following the bombing of Hiroshima and Japan's surrender in August 1945, strategic airpower advocates argued that long-range land-based aircraft were the only viable means for delivering atomic weapons on enemy targets and that no significant naval force threatened America. At the same time, President Harry Truman's policies to demobilize the armed forces and cut defense budgets required naval leaders to adjust to an era when pre-1941 seapower concepts might no longer apply. These difficulties faded quickly, however, after North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950. During the ensuing war, it soon became obvious that the navy and marines had a central role in carrying out the cold war containment policies the Truman administration evolved between 1947 and 1953.

Beliefs that the Korean War is the "forgotten war" appear to be well suited regarding literature about the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps during that conflict. Although both Dean Allard ( 1985) and Richard Hallion ( 1993) explain that the Korean War was a major turning point for the U.S. Navy in the nation's post-1945 security structure, comparatively few detailed studies examine the naval aspects of the war, except for the official histories. Many U.S. Navy and Marine records are now available on the Korean War, and objective study of these documents could reveal important data about topics such as rapid mobilization, the development of weapons systems, and the navy-marine role in a post--cold war era during which small wars are more likely than the large-scale nuclear conflict that had been planned from 1950 until the Soviet Union's demise in 1991.

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