For the first time, many Americans could understand what had happened to Britain at Dunkirk

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War) the American retreat at the start of the Korean War:

But most of the heroic actions had been those of individuals, of single officers or men who fought bravely and well. Because without tight discipline their bravery could not be coordinated into a team effort, many of these men died in vain.

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None of them were equipped, trained, or mentally prepared for combat. For the first time in recent history, American ground units had been committed during the initial days of a war; there had been no allies to hold the line while America prepared. For the first time, many Americans could understand what had happened to Britain at Dunkirk.

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Once aroused, a democracy can match a totalitarian state in every facet of strength — it can be stronger, for totalitarianism has built-in bureaucratic weaknesses. A Hitler can command, and men march — but a Hitler can go mad — and there is no one to say him nay.

But the abiding weakness of free peoples is that their governments can not or will not make them prepare or sacrifice before they are aroused.

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Soldiers fight from discipline and training, citizens from motivation and ideals. Lacking both, it is amazing that the American troops did even as well as they did.

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In actuality, the NKPA held a slight superiority in men on 20 July. By 22 July, U.N. and North Korean forces were on a par, and by the end of July United Nations forces actually outnumbered the Inmun Gun, an advantage they never again lost.

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But men are not ciphers, nor do the battles always go to the big battalions.

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But few correspondents saw that officers, giving crucial commands, could never be sure if their orders would be obeyed. A colonel who sends men to hold a vital hill, and who sees them again and again “take a vote on it with their feet” by marching to the rear, is soon apt to be a straitjacket case.

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