In Search of Seamless Interoperability in Korea: The First Year of the ROK-US Combined Division

*Note: This essay was published at War on the Rocks on June 24, 2016. It can also be found online here (or PDF). 

“You had better get back to Korea,” the messenger whispered in U.S. Army Colonel W.H.S. Wright’s ear.

Wright sat on a Tokyo church pew on Sunday, June 25, 1950, about to put his family on a U.S.-bound plane, when the North Koreans attacked the Republic of Korea. Wright immediately flew back to Seoul’s smoky confusion to command the Korean Military Advisory Group’s (KMAG) 472 American soldiers assigned to build the new ROK Army. Without warning, the next day the entire ROK Army headquarters moved south. Then Wright received a dispatch from Washington promising military reinforcement and the ROK Army headquarters returned to Seoul. The two organizations were reunited.

It did not last long. After dark that night, Wright learned all South Korean Army units (including the headquarters for a second time) were withdrawing south through Seoul. Before Wright could react, a “tremendous explosion” knocked him to the ground.  The R.O.K. Army destroyed the only bridge over Seoul’s Han River, which stranded KMAG on the wrong (north) side. Wright ordered KMAG to withdrawal south, yet, with no way to cross the river, the US soldiers struggled until, at the last moment, South Korean Army Colonel Lee Chi Up led them to a large raft and to relative safety from North Korean forces.

Read the rest at War on the Rocks.


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