The war was now ten days old. American citizens had been evacuated; a carrier air strike had been made against the enemy capital and the enemy air force; the east coast invasion route was under fire from naval guns. In the air the Far East Air Forces were putting forth their best efforts. On the ground the Army had engaged the enemy. Across the Korean Strait a stream of shipping was flowing into Pusan where, prior to the arrival of an Army port company, the unloading of 55 ships with 15,000 troops and 1,700 vehicles was handled by two ECA employees, Alfred Meschter and Milton Nottingham. In Korea the situation was being dealt with to the limit of the abilities of the forces available. There remained the problem of the northern and southern flanks.
What the dimensions of this problem might be, no one knew. If the invasion of South Korea had surprised the United States, and had shown how wrongly intelligence had been evaluated, what faith could be put in estimates of Communist intentions elsewhere?
Suddenly capabilities became important. (They sure screwed up intentions)
The State Department had warned all hands on 26 June of the possibility that Korea was but the first of a series of coordinated moves; the military forces of the United States had gone on world-wide alert; in the Mediterranean the Sixth Fleet had put to sea.
In the immediate theater of operations, no less than on the world scene, possibilities were unpleasant and visibility poor. The Joint Chiefs, it is true, had estimated that there would be no Soviet or Chinese intervention, but there was plenty of history, including a day at Pearl Harbor, to teach the outpost commander that estimates make poor weapons.
What of the northern neighbor, whose airfields at Vladivostok and Port Arthur flanked the Korean peninsula and were less than two hours flying time from Japan?
What of the estimated four-score submarines based in the Vladivostok area? For the air threat, which had caused Admiral Joy to divert the Seventh Fleet to Buckner Bay, FEAF's fighter strength provided some counter, hut the submarine situation was less satisfactory.
The excitement of the first week of conflict had brought forth eight reports of submarine sightings, ranging from Okinawa to the Sea of Japan, and while most were doubtless in error they at least posed serious questions.
Harbor defense equipment was lacking in the Far East, and the shortage of antisubmarine units was acute: of the three American destroyer divisions in the theater, two were needed to provide a minimum sound screen for USS Valley Forge (CV-45). Of necessity, therefore, the patrol planes of VP 47 were employed on local antisubmarine patrol and in the escort of shipping, and long range search had to await the coming of reinforcements.
What were the intentions of the Communist Chinese? In Korea their capabilities could for the moment be largely disregarded, but ComNavFE had been instructed to use the Seventh Fleet to neutralize Formosa, and to prevent attack in either direction across Formosa Strait.
Here Chiang's forces presented no problem, but the Communists had the capability, and both the Generalissimo and Admiral Struble thought an August effort wholly possible. The implications of such a development, added to the situation in Korea, greatly outweighed Admiral Joy's new accretions of force, and he may well have wondered what tools he was supposed to use to do this job.
Some show of muscle, at least, had been made by USS Valley Forge (CV-45) as she steamed north, when she flew an air parade over Formosa Strait and the city of Taipei. But the chance that more would be required, as well as problems of logistic support, had made it necessary, following the P'yŏngyang strikes, to return Task Force 77 to Okinawa.
If Formosa was to be defended, coordinated planning was obviously necessary, and the state of Nationalist morale was such as to require stiffening.
Arriving in Tokyo on the afternoon of 5 July, Struble had proposed a prompt resumption of carrier strikes, this time from the Sea of Japan. But decision on these was delayed, the talk turned to the Formosa problem, and the suggestion of a visit to that island was approved by General MacArthur.
On the 6th, Commander Seventh Fleet flew back to Buckner Bay, and on
the next day boarded a destroyer for a high-speed run to Taipei and two days of
talks with the Generalissimo and the Nationalist military. Another few days
would see the Formosa Strait under reconnaissance by planes of
Fleet Air Wing 1,
but the question of a surface patrol was more difficult. With the gunnery ships
committed up to their ears in Korea, and with the situation there calling ever
more urgently for Task Force 77, all that remained were the submarines of the
Seventh Fleet. On 18 July
(SS-339)was sailed from Yokosuka for a reconnaissance
of the China coast, and was followed on the next day
USS Pickerel (SS-524) .
Finally, the northern sector, so great in undisclosed potentialities, was also brought under surveillance.
On 7 July the first patrol plane reinforcements reached the Far East, and the long range P2V Neptunes of VP 6 were at once assigned to search in the Sea of Japan.
July 23, 1950
On the 23rd the submarine USS Remora (SS 487), escorted by USS Greenlet (ASR-10), headed north from Yokosuka for a patrol of La Pe'rouse Strait.