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INTO THE BREACH AT PUSAN: The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in the Korean War
Written by Kenneth W. Estes, a man uniquely qualified to speak with authority on the subject matter, “Into the Breach at Pusan—The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in the Korean War” not only sets the record straight regarding the U.S. Eighth Army saving itself during the perilous Pusan Perimeter campaign in August 1950, but also fills a long-recognized gap in Marine Corps literature: the neglected analysis of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade’s role during the initial 90 days of the North Korean invasion.
A retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served from 1969 to 1993, Estes also penned “Tanks on the Beaches: A Marine Tanker in the Pacific War” and “Marines Under Armor: The Marine Corps and the Armored Fighting Vehicle, 1916-2000,” and serves as editor of the enduring “Marine Officer’s Guide.” He draws upon combat records, command reports and biographical materials to provide readers with fresh insights and interpretation of the joint performance between U.S. Army and Marine personnel along the 150-mile-long defensive perimeter around Pusan, a port on the southeastern Korean coast, as U.S. troopships began assembling for a possible evacuation.
Lest you’ve forgotten, here’s a brief summary of the Korean War: At 3:30 a.m. on June 25, 1950, Communist North Korea, egged on by the Soviet Union and supplied by Red China, attacked across the 38th parallel into the Republic of South Korea. The United States immediately responded by obtaining a U.N. resolution approving the use of force. President Harry Truman selected General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as supreme commander to defeat the North Koreans and unify the country—not just repel the invaders and restore the status quo.
After the North Korean Army quickly seized Seoul, the capital, and drove the U.N. forces down the peninsula to the outer hills of Pusan, GEN MacArthur staged a daring, almost sensational, landing at Inchon, cutting off the enemy supply lines. That, plus the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, allowed the allies to push north toward the Yalu River and the border of Communist China. However, it wasn’t long before hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops poured across the river into North Korea. GEN MacArthur wanted to take the war to China (including the use of nuclear weapons). President Truman, fearful of provoking the Russians, relieved GEN MacArthur.
In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President, and he assisted in the armistice agreement. The result of the 1,000-plus-day war was some 54,000 U.S. casualties, more than 500,000 Chinese and Korean casualties, and the NK-SK boundaries unchanged. We consoled ourselves that we had at least contained Chinese communist aggression.
Estes, however, focuses upon an early aspect of this “not-so-forgotten” war. He writes that his in-depth research and efforts were to recognize the significant role the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade had in the early days of the war, and in doing the research, he found frequent “contradictions,” especially in the Pusan Perimeter campaign.
In the preface he writes: “It became clear that the Pusan Perimeter campaign loomed much larger than most Marine Corps observers realized at the time, and was really the U.S. Eighth Army’s finest hour, still unheralded. Yet the interservice rivalries stand out in most accounts. A closer examination reveals considerable cooperation by all units and services directly engaged at Pusan.”
What he writes next and covers in detail in his book is what many Marines will find most interesting. “It remains my chief finding that the Marine Corps’ efforts in the Pusan Perimeter fighting did not ‘save the Army,’ as Marine historians have claimed, but did in fact contribute significantly to the Eighth Army’s successful defense of the perimeter.”
Slight in size and focused in scope for such an intense military study, “Into the Breach at Pusan,” nonetheless, proves to be a remarkable blend of writing: brief, well-organized, authoritative, and so admirably direct in presentation that it will be read and understood by any interested reader. However, for the military-minded reader, Estes’ frankness and clarity of strategic exposition, along with his shrewdness in evaluating and depicting complex perimeter fighting, as well as elucidating the human factors of high command in battle decision making, lead us not only to a whole new appreciation of the Pusan defense, but also catapults “Into the Breach” as a permanent high-level reference that all military people must read.
INTO THE BREACH AT PUSAN: The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in the Korean War
By Kenneth W. Estes
Published by the University of Oklahoma Press. 216 pages
$26.96 MCA Members. $29.95 Regular Price
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MCA: 100 Years of Service
The Marine Corps Association & Foundation remembers the past and honors the present. Review the first one hundred years of MCA via historical photos and film clips of the organization that serves the men and women of the Marine Corps. Click here to watch the video.
- 40 Years Ago: The Korean War (Magazine Page)
- Marines In Korea (Magazine Page)
- Warrior Six And The First Provisional Marine Brigade: June-September 1950 (Magazine Page)
- Fire Brigade: U.S. Marines in the Pusan Perimeter (Photo Gallery)
- The First Provisional Marine Brigade in Korea: Part I (July 2000) (Magazine Page)
Today in USMC History
Historic Leatherneck Magazine Covers
Leatherneck Staff Artist, Technical Sergeant Robert Fleischauer, felt that our July cover should be commemorative of the Fourth of July. Since the members of the missile units are probably the Corps' best rocketeers, he picked them to perform a standard Fourth of July action. Whether or not the "Honest Johnny" is useful as a combat piece is a matter for debate, but you can't beat it for morale." [July 1957.]
“The Join Up on the Nick” by Major Alex Durr, USMCR, a member of the History Division, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.
Hospitalman Daniel T. Bobic, assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3d Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, rappelled at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, in late April, 2002.
The oldest post of the Marine Corps, Washington, DC, is celebrating 200 years of excellence. Posed near the Barracks main gate were members of the official Color Guard of the United States Marine Corps (left to right): LCpl Joseph N. Keough, rifleman; Sgt Blake L. Richardson, Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps; Cpl Gerardo A. Guajardo, organizational color bearer; and LCpl Gregory A. Serwo, rifleman.
GySgt Verlando Frazier, East Coast Food Service Management Team, looked ready to dig into some of the new items included in MREs.
This photo by Sgt Earnie Grafton of Marines from Fox Co., 2/4 shows varied emotions as they greeted the coalition forces outside Kuwait city.
A fleet of trucks was needed to transport Dr. Felix de Weldon’s original model of the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue from the sculptor’s home in Newport, R.I., to the grounds of the Marine Military Academy at Harlingen, Texas. After the statue’s arrival, a nearly around-the-clock effort by skilled workmen was required in order to have the memorial reassembled and ready for dedication ceremonies on April 16, 1982.
In April this year (1981), two squadrons of AV-8A “Harriers” sailed for the Mediterranean aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau. Purpose of the cruise was to demonstrate the Navy/Marine Corps team’s capability to augment naval forces in any area of the World on short notice and to provide at-sea training for Marine Harrier pilots.
The cover of Leatherneck’s Bicentennial issue is an oil painting by the late Colonel Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. The painting depicts General George Washington’s Colonial troops at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Va., during the French and Indian War.
Sightseeing tours for the men of the Marine Barracks, San Juan, Puerto Rico, include a trip to the El Morro Fortress. San Juan is now retired as a Post of the Corps.
The Marines in Vietnam have found that the programs which work best are those which operate close to the people. Our July cover is a mixed media (acrylic and charcoal) by Art Editor James L. Hopewell. It catches the spirit of Marines who enjoy their relationship with the Vietnamese around them.
In Naples, Italy, Marines are responsible for the internal security of the Headquarters of NATO’s Southern European Command, while the elite Carabinieri Corpa provides external security. PFC Robert M. Mallard’s NATO shield was admired by a Carabiniere as the two men prepared to take up their side-by-side posts at the entrance of the imposing NATO Headquarters, which appears in the background of this cover.
"We've Fought In Every Clime And Place": Stamping out the Caco Insurrection in the Republic d' Haiti.
January 2002: The Marines engraved another mark in the rich history of the Corps when they came from more than 400 miles offshore to establish a forward operating base south of Kandahar in the war on terrorism. The Marine CH-46 helicopter on the cover, photographed by PH1(AW/SW) Greg Messier, USN, fought in the desert sand to land and resupply Marines such as the ones (inset) photographed by Sgt Joseph R. Chenelly.
January 2001: This firefight during the Frozen Chosin Reservoir Campaign of 1950 was painted by “Chosin Few” veteran Jack Cannon, who served with Company B, 1st Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment and resides in the warmer climes of New Mexico. The cover was part of Leatherneck’s 50th anniversary salute to the Korean War veterans.
January 1992: This cover photograph of runners during Marine Corps Marathon XVI in Washington, D.C., was photographed by Sgt Deirdre Hallett.
January 1991: This month’s cover by Ross Simpson captures the Marines’ waiting-but-ready posture in the Middle East.
January 1982: Participants in the Sixth Annual Marine Corps Marathon presented a colorful spectacle as they began the 26-mile, 385-yard run in Washington, D.C., November 1, 1981. The cover photo, by Tom Bartlett, was taken from a bridge overlooking Highway 50 about a half-mile from the starting line.
January 1981: Nearly 7,800 runners participated in the Fifth Annual Marine Corps Marathon held in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. The oldest finisher was 78; the youngest was 10. Leatherneck staffer Ron Lunn pre-positioned himself near the Nation’s Capitol to photograph runners during their 14th mile of the 26-mile, 385-yard course.
January 1972: This month’s cover, by Marine Combat Artist Peter Gish, shows members of the New Corps sightseeing in the Old World. While on liberty in Athens, Greece, the 3d Bn, Eighth Marines, were able to tour the Erektheon Porch and Cariatides. The water color is from the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Art collection.
Originally Published December 1983 -- Something tells us that we could date the cover without knowing when it was published.
Originally Published December 1972 -- We're not sure what's more interesting, Santa or the old style gas pump.
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This November 1992 article in the Marine Corps Gazette looked at the uniform regulations of 1859 and the attempt to standardize uniforms within the Corps. Read the story and see more pics.