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Korean War - "Stand or Die"

On 26 July 1950, LT GEN Walton H. Walker issued an operational directive to his field commands to withdraw to prepared positions along the Naktong River, stabilize the front, and maintain a position from which they could transition to the offense. Units were to maintain contact with the enemy during the retrograde. Though Mac Arthur never alluded directly to Walker's withdrawal plans, he did convey the message that the Eighth Army was expendable -- there would be no "Korean Dunkirk"

On 29, July, LT GEN Walker issued his controversial "stand or die" order outlining what be (and GEN MacArthur) expected. This ultimatum was disseminated to every soldier in the field with varying interpretations. Due to LT GEN Walker's ineptness at public relations, the news media picked up the story and promptly sensationalized his remarks. Many criticized the order because they thought it was impossible to execute. Walker and his Eighth Arm was running out of space to trade for time. Soon there would be no place to withdraw to except into the sea.

Despite the order, Eighth Army units were consistently forced back and, on 1 August, LT GEN Walker ordered his command to withdraw behind the Naktong River and establish a defensive posture oriented on terrain retention. Despite American dominance of the air and sea, the Eighth Army and South Korean units were pushed back to the Naktong River by August 5. Pohang, 63 miles northeast of Pusan, fell on August 11. By early August, South Korean forces were confined in the southeastern corner of the peninsula to a territory 140 kilometers long and 90 kilometers wide. Fifty miles short of the sea, a defensive perimeter (labeled by journalists as the "Pusan Perimeter") was formed. Apart from this "Pusan Perimeter" around the port of Pusan, the rest of the territory was completely in the hands of the North Korean army.

The Eighth Army dug in for a desperate defense in the perimeter around the key port of Pusan. The North Koreans, who had suffered an estimated 58,000 casualties in their drive southward, hammered at the perimeter defenses and managed to secure several bridgeheads across the Naktong, in the west. Taegu, 55 miles to the northwest, and Masan, 29 miles west, were seriously threatened. The front was now clearly defined and more or less static. Consequently, combat multipliers such as close air support and artillery could be employed more effectively while rail and road networks inroads against enemy tanks and mechanized artillery, gave American forces a feeling of security and the will to "stand or die".

At the Naktong, the North Korean Force made its supreme effort - and failed. By now the enemy's lengthened supply lines were under constant air attack, enemy naval opposition had been wiped out, and the blockade of the Korean coast had been clamped tight. During the next month and a half, fourteen North Korean divisions dissipated their strength in piecemeal attacks against the Pusan perimeter.

Walker made maximum use of his interior-line position to shift reserves to trouble spots. By the end of August all Communist penetration attempts had been checked or eliminated. At that time Walker commanded 91.500 Republic of Korea (ROK) troops, 87.000 Americans, and 1,500 British. In September the fighting at the edge of the perimeter showed a gradual diminishment of North Korean offensive power. Meanwhile in Japan, MacArthur organized an amphibious strike behind the Communist lines in the Seoul area.



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