The Forgotten War
ESCAPING THE TRAP
Almond, MajGen Edward Mallory
Major General Edward M. “Ned” Almond commanded X Corps, not as a part of Eighth Army but directly under General Douglas MacArthur. Almond, as a captain, had commanded a machine gun battalion in France in World War I. During World War II he had been given command of the 92nd Division, an all black unit, because General Marshall thought, as a southerner, he understood blacks and knew how to handle them. It was not a successful or happy experience. Almond’s career seemed stuck until, in 1948, he was assigned to the Far Eastern Command where he became MacArthur’s chief of staff. MacArthur was sufficiently impressed with him to assign him to command X Corps when it was formed for the Inch'ŏn landing.
William Sebald, who was General MacArthur’s diplomatic advisor, called Almond “a vitriolic man.” Thomas Mainane, staff secretary to the Far Eastern Command, said Almond was impossible. Very snotty. He would call me up and chew me out about
[absurdly] small things, like there being no thimbles in the PX. I soon developed a very low opinion of him. He gave Walker a bad time.” Another observer had this view: “When it paid to be aggressive, Ned was aggressive. When it paid to be cautious, Ned was aggressive.” His corps G-3, John Chiles, commented, “He could precipitate a crisis on a desert island with nobody else around.”
Blair p 32
At Inch'ŏn he had been demanding, arrogant, and impatient. He had little concern for conventional tactical doctrine which called for a division to be employed as a unit, closed up and operating as a cohesive group. Almond was inclined to deploy his forces in isolated fragments, to create small regimental or battalion sized task forces and send them off on independent missions beyond mutual support. He wanted quick capture of real estate for psychological or publicity reasons. He antagonized his division and regimental commander by flying or driving around the front and giving orders directly to battalion or even company commanders. Grabbing the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry, and sending it off to Chosin before the regimental commander was even aware of it was a good example. Almond was courageous, even reckless, and expected everybody else to be. But this attitude was interpreted by many subordinate commanders as a callous indifference to casualties and the welfare of the men.
General Almond’s inability to identify himself with the men of his command and their perilous situation is illustrated by an incident that occurred one morning after the Chinese attack when he flew into Hagaru-ri to confer with General Smith. Feeling the need to chat up the troops and make himself agreeable he approached two Marines in their foxhole.
“Well men, and how are you today? Pretty cold isn't it." The two, half frozen, grimy, and bearded, peered up at him blankly. “Do you know I wear a plate?" Almond continued oblivious to the condition of the men, "When I got up this morning, there was a film of ice on the glass by my bed."
"That's too fucking bad, General," said one of the men who could not dare to dream of ever seeing a bed again, whose only wish at the time was for another sunrise. Almond smiled and strolled on, still oblivious of the impression he had made. The story was related by his senior aide, Major Jonathon F. Ladd, to Max Hastings.
Hastings, Max The Korean War. New York: Touchstone. 1987 p 160
Almond’s other aide, Al Haig had a lifelong respect for Almond.
David G. Barr, Gen. Almond, Capt. Robert E. Drake
Almond, LtGen. Edward Mallory USA
When the Korean War broke out, Almond was serving as chief of staff to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur at General Headquarters, Far East Command. In September 1950, he was named to command X Corps for the Inch'ŏn Landing.
The performance of these black combat forces was uneven. Sent to North Africa, the 2d Cav Division was declared a complete failure. It was deactivated without seeing combat; its men were assigned to rear area service units. Sent to the Southwest Pacific Theater, the 93d was employed principally to occupy rear areas and perform "service" chores. However, its 25th Infantry, temporarily attached to the Americal Division on Bougainville, did well in brief combat. A battalion of the independent 24th Infantry (the 1/24), which had spent most of its time performing "service" duties (as stevedores, etc.), also did well in brief fighting on Bougainville, while temporarily attached to the 37th Division. Reorganized as an independent unit, the full 24th Infantry later distinguished itself during mopping up operations on Guam and Saipan.
Of all these black outfits, the 92d Division, commanded by Ned Almond, was the most conspicuous - and controversial. It was committed piecemeal to combat in Italy in September 1944. First to arrive was its 370th RCT (called the 92d Combat Team), which pursued retreating Germans north of Rome with some success. However, when the Germans dug in behind the Arno River, the 370th bogged down. Arriving later, the division's 365th and 371st regiments did no better. To provide the division added punch (and replacements), Fifteenth Army Group commander Mark Clark gave it a fourth regiment, the 366th, patched together from independent black antiaircraft units already in Italy. When all these measures failed to inspire the division, Clark broke it up. He withdrew the 365th, 366th, and 371st regiments into army and corps reserves and substituted two new regiments: the famous 442d, composed of Japanese-Americans, and the 473d, also newly created from deactivated antiaircraft units. The black 370th Regiment, restaffed by "The Most Capable" of the men in the 365th, 366th, and 371st, remained on the battle line with the 442d and 473d, but the latter two did most of the division's heavy fighting. Almond pronounced the 370th to be "reasonably safe" but only with "constant attention" and "careful leadership."
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The exception among his professional confidants was Major General Edward M. ("Ned") Almond, MacArthur's chief of staff and, by virtue of his position, the second most powerful American in Tokyo. Ned Almond was a brilliant human dynamo. Eisenhower, in 1948, rated him as one of the half dozen ablest men in the Army. Almond's mind inspired awe and fear; his energy evoked humor. One admirer, John H. Chiles, said: "He could precipitate a crisis on a desert island with nobody else around." Another, Maurice H. Holden, said: "When it paid to be aggressive, Ned was aggressive. When it paid to be cautious, Ned was aggressive."
Almond's early Army career had been highly promising. Born in Luray, Virginia, in 1892, he was graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1915 and one year later obtained a Regular Army commission. In World War I he won a Silver Star Medal commanding a machinegun battalion in France. During the peacetime years his climb up the career ladder was steady and sure. He was early selected for the Command and General Staff School (1928), the Army War College (1934), voluntarily attended the Army Air Corps Tactical School, qualifying as an observer (1939), and the Naval War College (1940). When World War II broke out, he was among the first of his peers to be promoted to general and the first to achieve every infantryman's dream: command of a division.
The problem was the division. Fellow VMI graduate George Marshall assigned Almond to command the 92d Infantry Division, one of three divisions composed of blacks commanded mostly by white officers. After training the division for a year and a half at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, Almond took it to Italy in late 1944. The division failed in combat and had to be broken up and reorganized.
Almond was not blamed for the failure of his black troops in combat. There was a longstanding and widespread belief in the strictly segregated U.S. Army that "Negroes won't fight." The performance of Almond's 92d Division merely served to reinforce that belief. However, by his taking on the assignment, Almond's highly promising career had been sidetracked, and as a result, he had fallen far behind his contemporaries. Moreover, he had suffered terrible personal grief. His only son, Edward M., Jr., a West Pointer (1943), had been killed in action in the ETO, as had his only daughter's husband, West Pointer (1942) Thomas T. Galloway.
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Despite these professional and personal setbacks, Almond emerged from the war in high repute and with ambition still intact. However, there was not much hope that before mandatory retirement he could catch up with his contemporaries, some of whom were three or four-star generals. In 1946, seeking a change of scenery and faces, he asked for duty in the Far East and was assigned to MacArthur's general headquarters (GHQ) in Tokyo as G1, or personnel expert. Owing to the pell-mell postwar demobilization and restaffing problems in the Far East, this ordinarily humdrum assignment proved to be a monumental challenge. Almond handled it with high competence and loyalty, thereby gaining MacArthur's utmost confidence. As a result, when MacArthur's chief of staff, Paul J. Mueller, was rotated home in January 1949, Almond, who was the most senior and capable general on the GHQ staff, replaced him. Almond thus became the first "outsider" (or "European Theater general") to penetrate MacArthur's inner circle. But it was a dead-end job. With the promotion of his junior, Joe Collins, to Army chief of staff, there was no future in the postwar Army for Ned Almond and, owing to Collins's intense dislike of Almond, probably only a slim chance of a third star on retirement.
The Army general who set the tone of the northeastern Korea campaign was a contradictory figure even in Army circles, where he was known. He was the object of a special brand of scorn on the part of Marine officers, who failed utterly to understand his style or appreciate his worth.
Lieutenant General Edward Almond was a Virginia Military Institute alumnus in an Army dominated by West Pointers. He had commanded an all-Negro infantry division in the mountains of Italy, and even in the newly integrated Army that might have been seen as a stigma; he was, at all events, a superlative division commander, exceptionally adept at the sort of mountain warfare X Corps was waging in North Korea.
Almond was an extremely intelligent man, and an exceptionally hard worker, who drove his staff to match his own output, an achievement requiring fifteen-to-twenty-hour workdays. He always knew to within a hairsbreadth the location of each battalion under his command, and the contact points of every unit in X Corps. He had been a tireless leader at Inch'ŏn-Sŏul, getting to the front, often under fire, every day he had troops in combat.
But he had shown a serious lack of technical expertise to Marine officers with whom he came in contact. At Inch'ŏn, on seeing lines of amphibious tractors making for the beaches with their loads of Marine riflemen, he had asked a very senior Marine general if he thought they would remain afloat, a possibly understandable lapse by a man who had never before witnessed an amphibious assault. On another occasion he had spotted a battery of Marine 105mm howitzers set for high-angle fire, their barrels pointing almost straight up. The corps commander marveled aloud at the speed with which Marines could set up 90mm antiaircraft guns. That was unpardonable; Almond had certainly seen his share of 105mm howitzers in battery since 1940.
Those were just the sort of gaffes that could turn combat troops away from even as robust a field commander as Ned Almond.
NOVEMBER 27 49
The general's worst problems arose from the ambiguity of his position in the chain of command. In addition to his duties as the commander of an independent corps operating directly under GHQ-Tokyo, Almond served as Douglas MacArthur's chief of staff. But he was a virtual outsider on the staff of which he was, nominally at least, chief. The MacArthur clique was manned largely by highly politicized generals, all personally loyal to Douglas MacArthur; they were men who had served their general throughout the Pacific War, talented sycophants who appear to have shunned Almond both as their superior and as a subordinate corps commander.
While in the field — and he never left it when his corps was in action — Almond was totally at the mercy of GHQ-Tokyo for the support he required if he was to operate an independent command.
There is no way to be certain, but it is just possible that Tokyo intentionally withheld from Almond news of the rout of 8th Army. At the moment the general was being berated by the Marine convoy master, 8th Army was a rabble in headlong retreat. Neither Almond nor any man in northeastern Korea knew that. It is possible, of course, that GHQ-Tokyo merely misdiagnosed the fighting
19501127 1400 047chosin0
on the western wing, never considering the impact it might have upon X Corps. But that is doubtful, for 8th Army had received crippling hammer blows over all of the previous forty-eight hours, and Tokyo never murmured the merest warning. Don France's singularly inept presentation did not move Ned Almond at the eleventh hour mainly because Ned Almond had been programmed by GHQ-Tokyo to accept no such warning.
ALMOND AND GENERAL SMITH
Smith, MajGen Oliver P. USMC
The beginning of the story of the tug and pull between MajGen Edward M. Almond, the X Corps commander, and MajGen Oliver P. Smith, 1st Marine Division commander, belongs chronologically before 24 November 1950.
This aspect of developments is mentioned in South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, and some background is included in chapter 1 above. The beginnings of the Smith-Almond disagreements on the conduct of the war in northeast Korea may be traced to similar differences that began with the Inch'ŏn landing and the 1st Marine Division drive on Sŏul in September. General Smith wanted to follow Marine doctrine about holding a tight perimeter at Inch'ŏn until a strong base of supply had been built up on shore before undertaking a strong push on Sŏul. General Almond wanted him to proceed rapidly against Sŏul with his Marine division and get there before the North Koreans could strongly reinforce the city after the surprise Inch'ŏn landing. And there was also the question of Almond's bringing in the 7th Infantry Division to help in the attack on Sŏul when Smith objected to it and thought there was no need for the Army infantry division to enter the city for that purpose.
The major differences of opinion between the two generals in north-east Korea centered on the way the 1st Marine Division should be concentrated and used in the Chosin campaign. Essentially, General Smith resisted a rapid movement of the Marine division toward Chosin in battalion and regimental combat groups, separated from each other, and a subsequent attack northward, without first building up bases of supply along the MSR from Hamhung and Hungnam and concentrating his division units within supporting distances of each other. General Almond wished to carry out General MacArthur's orders for a northward advance as rapidly as possible. The two views necessarily came into conflict.
General Almond's own personal views on the details of these problems, as distinct from General MacArthur's orders, are not easy to discern. It is a matter of record that, when ROK troops of the 26th Regiment, ROK 3rd Division, captured 16 Chinese prisoners from the 370th Regiment, 124th Division, near Sudong, on the road from Hungnam to the Chosin Reservoir on 29 October, and they divulged to General Almond the next day in his personal interrogation of them that three Chinese divisions, the 124th, 125th, and 126th, of the Chinese 42nd Army were in the vicinity of the reservoir and that the 124th Division was approaching Hamhung on the road from the reservoir, Almond considered this news of paramount importance. When he immediately communicated this news to the Far East Command, it seems clear that the command did not take this intelligence of strong Chinese forces in northeast Korea as seriously during the next two weeks as did General Almond. After the 7th Marine Regiment relieved the ROK 26th Regiment in front of the Chinese 124th Division and, in a series of heavy battles, caused the remnants of the Chinese division to withdraw northward toward the reservoir out of contact with the 7th Marines, the Far East Command issued orders that minimized the possibility of strong Chinese opposition to its plan to advance to the border.
50ESCAPING THE TRAP
Major General Willoughby, MacArthur's G-2 intelligence chief, announced in a meeting at Wŏnsan early in November to assembled Far East Command and X Corps command staff officers that the Chinese encountered were volunteers and numbered no more than 10,000. It is unknown how much influence Willoughby's views had on General Mac-Arthur, but most officers close to both men at the time thought it was limited — that MacArthur formed his opinions independent of most of his staff officers. In any event, General Almond's initially cautious and apprehensive views on the possibility of massive Chinese intervention seemed to change in the next two weeks, and by the middle of November he adopted MacArthur's view that the advance to the border could probably be carried out without serious enemy interference. This led to frequent disagreements with General Smith, who had the main mission of advancing from the Chosin Reservoir.
On 7 November, after the 7th Marine Regiment had decisively defeated the CCF 124th Division in the vicinity of Sudong and Chinhung-ni, be-low the Koto-ri plateau, Smith conferred with Almond and repeated his desire to lessen the dispersion of his Marine forces and suggested that, with the Siberian winter approaching for that part of Korea farther north, the advance should be halted for the winter because of the difficulty of operating in extreme cold and of maintaining necessary supplies farther north in an almost roadless area. Almond listened to his proposal that only enough terrain be held for the winter to secure Wŏnsan, Hamhung, and Hungnam and that they not try to hold positions north of Chinhung-ni. Almond agreed to concentrate the 1st Marine Division, but he felt that it should hold Hagaru-ri on the Koto-ri plateau at the foot of the Chosin Reservoir. He also said he was considering stopping the advance of ROK I Corps on the northeast coast and giving the 7th Infantry Division a smaller zone of action. This conservative view may have surprised Smith. It did show that Almond had been made more cautious by the late October and early November Chinese defeat of Eighth Army units in the west and the X Corps contacts with major Chinese units in the advance from Hamhung to Chinhung-ni.
Almond, MajGen Edward Mallory
JJUMP-OFF FROM YUDAM-NI, 27 NOVEMBER
GENERAL ALMOND, US X CORPS COMMANDER
MajGen Edward Mallory Almond, commanding the US X Corps at the Inch'ŏn landing in September and now commanding the same corps and the ROK I Corps in northeast Korea, was a major figure in the Korean War. He was 58 years old when he faced the Chinese onslaught against his X Corps in northeast Korea in November and December 1950. He was promoted to lieutenant general in February 1951 and held that rank when he returned to the United States in July 1951 and became commandant of the Army War College the next month.
General Almond in 1950 and 1951 in Korea had several nicknames. Generally, he was known to his friends and close associates as Ned. Other names were "Ned, the Anointed," which meant he was a favorite of General MacArthur's, and "Ned, the Dread," which referred to his power, brusque manner, and sometimes arbitrary actions. He was nearly always decisive in his actions.
Almond gave unswerving loyalty and dedicated service to his superior, General MacArthur, thereby becoming controversial at times in the orders he issued as X Corps commander and in the relationship between the X Corps and the US Eighth Army in Korea. To most in the Eighth Army, Almond and his X Corps were thought unduly favored at the Far East Command during September—December 1950. Later, this feeling largely disappeared when the X Corps became a part of the Eighth Army—certainly it did among the more objective and observant. General Ridgway commented that he knew of no evidence that MacArthur favored Almond over other elements of the American command in Korea. Ridgway considered Almond a mainstay and a standout among his corps commanders of Eighth Army in 1951, and stated privately several times that Almond was his best corps commander.
The belief that General MacArthur showed favoritism to Almond and the X Corps at the expense of General Walker's Eighth Army was heightened when, after the Inch'ŏn landing and the capture of Sŏul, MacArthur decided to keep the X Corps separate from Eighth Army. He did not subordinate it to General Walker in a unified Korean command but sent it to northeast Korea to clear the region of scattered North Korean troops, maintaining it as a command reporting directly to him in Tokyo.
46ESCAPING THE TRAP
I first met General Almond on 13 December 1951 at the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. That conversation with him lasted an hour and 15 minutes in his large comfortable office. Later that evening the interview extended for another two and one-half hours at his quarters, the large commandant's home at the old military post. Throughout the years since then, I have had numerous meetings with General Almond and have had a rather voluminous correspondence with him on questions relating to the Korean War and interviews on controversial questions relating to the war.
When I first met General Almond in December 1951, I wondered what kind of reception I would have, because I intended to ask questions that I thought he might find objectionable. I survived that danger. Over the years, Almond demonstrated a profound interest in military history. Even in my last meeting with him, when he was 85, I found him keen of mind, incisive, and able to concentrate without a break for five hours, though suffering from a malady that had stricken him — a picture of courage, firmness, and adherence to lifelong ideals of loyalty and patriotism.
His undeviating loyalty to Gen. Douglas MacArthur is a characteristic that one must know and accept to understand Almond's actions in the Korean War. When I brought up the charge that he had obtained sup-plies for the X Corps in its east-coast landing in October 1950 that should instead have gone to Eighth Army, Almond denied the allegation vehemently and paced the floor, disturbed and angry. He denied any special influence with MacArthur in the matter. To him, the issue was simply one of carrying out MacArthur's orders. The criticism, as he viewed it, I thought, was an attack on General MacArthur. Almond never failed to rise to MacArthur's defense in all matters. In this conversation he said to me at one point that he did "not give his loyalty to a crook — and I will say that to Bradley" (Gen. Omar Bradley, then chairman, joint Chiefs of Staff). He stuck out his chin with those words and glared at me.
My impression of General Almond on this first meeting, in December 1951, maybe worth recording here from notes written that evening: "Hair turning gray, bright blue eyes, ruddy complexion, fairly tight skin over face, several deep horizontal furrows across brow when he frowns, hands rather small — at least not large, nails picked off denoting his excess nervous energy and temperament, medium stature, slightly stooped across shoulders. Obviously positive, energetic, and I would say personally fearless— a fearless fighting man. No doubt impetuous and guilty of mistakes. But he will act."
jump-off from Yudam-ni47
Almost four decades after that meeting, and on the basis of consider-able correspondence and several lengthy interviews with him and many years of study of the Korean War and his role in it, I believed General Almond to have been a man of integrity and courage, an old-fashioned patriot, one who was loyal to his friends, a brave soldier, and probably the best American corps commander in the Korean War. His greatest weakness as a commander in Korea was his conviction that MacArthur could do no wrong. This stance led him to think ill of MacArthur's critics and in turn brought into question his own ability to form independent judgments of enemy intentions and capabilities. This was a view also held even by some of the more devoted and discerning of his own staff in the X Corps operations in northeast Korea and the Chosin Reservoir campaign in late 1950.
Let us pass on from these subjective views to Almond's credentials as a soldier and commander at the time he led X Corps. His whole life and training had been for the Army. Born in Luray, Virginia, on 12 December 1892, he attended grade and high school there and in Culpeper and went on to the Virginia Military Institute, from which he graduated in 1915. The next year he entered the United States Army as a second lieutenant in the First Provisional Class at Fort Leavenworth, and after three months' training there, he was assigned as a second lieutenant with the US 4th Infantry on the Mexican border at Brownsville, Texas. Later he commanded a company in that regiment, and subsequently one in the 58th Infantry. When the 4th Infantry Division was formed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he served in it as a company commander. When it went to Europe during World War I, Almond, now a major, was commander of its 12th Machine Gun Battalion. He served in all its major engagements in the Aisne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne offensives in France. He was wounded in action in August 1918. He held the rank of major, infantry, at the end of the war.
After nearly a year's duty in the army of occupation in Germany, Almond in the next 24 years held a number of varied assignments in the Army, including attendance at just about all the special military service schools in the United States. General Ridgway later described him as one of the best militarily educated soldiers in the US Army in all-around military theory and special military tactical and weapons practices. After World War I he served as professor of military science and tactics at Marion Institute, Alabama; was a student at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, for a year, and then an instructor in tactics at the infantry school for four years; and afterward attended the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth for two years. Upon completing that course in 1930, he was assigned to the 45th Infantry at Fort William McKinley, Philippine Islands, where he commanded a battalion of Philippine troops for three years. He came back to the United States after this duty and attended the Army War College in 1933 — 34; served in the military intelligence section of the War Department General Staff for four years; attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, as a ground officer learning the principles of combat aviation; was a student at the Naval War College; and in 1940 was G-3, VI Army Corps, at Providence, Rhode Island, and later became the corps's chief of staff. He held the rank of colonel at that time.
48ESCAPING THE TRAP
After the United States entered World War II, Almond became assistant division commander of the 93rd Division, and subsequently, in August 1942, the commanding general of the 92nd Infantry Division, a post he held during its training in the United States and in its combat operations in Italy from September 1944 to May 1945, when the war ended there. Almond's command in Italy covered the area of the Ligurian Alps and the coastal area from Pisa and Genoa westward to the French border. At one time he had under his command not only the 92nd Infantry Division but also the famous Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team from Hawaii and the 473rd Infantry Regiment, several tank and artillery battalions, for a strength of about 24,000 men. With this force he drove up the Ligurian coast to capture Genoa and on to the French border and to the headwaters of the Po River, near Tiffin. In this campaign, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, as usual, performed as the principal assault force, with its customary distinction.
At the end of World War II in Europe, General Almond was given command of the 2nd Infantry Division, then assembling from Europe for the purpose of redeploying to the Pacific Theater to assist in ending the war there. But before the 2nd Division and others designated for the purpose could be redeployed, the war with Japan ended. Almond continued to command the 2nd Division in the United States until June 1946, when he and 11 other general officers were transferred to Tokyo. There Almond was assigned as MacArthur's G-1, the personnel officer, for Army matters. After six months in that role, near the end of 1946, he became deputy chief of staff, Far East Command, for Army functions, under Mac-Arthur.
In February 1949, General MacArthur made Almond his chief of staff. He held that important and powerful post until MacArthur, on 12 September 1950, gave him command of X Corps for the Inch'ŏn landing. It seems that Almond actually held two posts — commanding general of X Corps and chief of staff, Far East Command. It appears that MacArthur intended to lend Almond temporarily from his permanent post as chief of staff, FEC, to lead the X Corps in what MacArthur apparently believed would be a relatively short campaign that would end the war. Almond would then return to his chief of staff post in Tokyo. MajGen Doyle O. Hickey, deputy chief of staff, would serve as acting chief of staff for Mac-Arthur during Almond's absence with the X Corps. Almond's dual status caused considerable talk in military circles in the Far East Command, but it was MacArthur's wish that Almond have this status. Almond remained in Korea as commanding general of X Corps until 15 July 1951, when he was rotated back to the United States as commandant of the Army War College. As X Corps commander under Ridgway, he performed outstandingly in command of the east-central front in South Korea.
South then North
General Almond, fifty-eight years old when he assumed command of X Corps, was a graduate of Virginia Military Institute. In World War I he had commanded a machine gun battalion and had been wounded and decorated for bravery. In World War II he had commanded the 92d Infantry Division in Italy. Almond went to the Far East Command in June 1946, and served as deputy chief of staff to MacArthur from November 1946 to February 1949. On 18 February 1949 he became Chief of Staff, Far East Command, and, on 24 July 1950, Chief of Staff, United Nations Command, as well. General Almond was a man both feared and obeyed throughout the Far East Command. Possessed of a driving energy and a consuming impatience with incompetence, he expected from others the same degree of devotion to duty and hard work that he exacted from himself. No one who ever saw him would be likely to forget the lightning that flashed from his blue eyes. To his commander, General MacArthur, he was wholly loyal. He never hesitated before difficulties. Topped by iron-gray hair, Almond's alert, mobile face with its ruddy complexion made him an arresting figure despite his medium stature and the slight stoop of his shoulders.
June 25, 1950
This particular Sunday the return from wince they came did not happen exactly as expected. In Tokyo when of the SCAP staff learned from Edith Sebald that something was amiss in Korea, he quickly passed the word to General of the Army Douglas A. MacArthur, who was quartered at the Dai Ichi Life Insurance building. The General had gotten the word from General Ned [Edward M.] Almond about two hours after the attack began [about 6AM]. FEAF would not learn of it for another three and three quarter hours. It would not be until 11:30 AM that the whole of FEAF was notified of the incursion. In the mean time the General of the Army wanted to be alone with his thoughts. Being so early his wife came in and ask if everything was all right
June 25, 1950
Because the enemy had attacked on a Sunday, telephone circuits between Tokyo and Sŏul were closed. As a consequence, most SCAP staff officers were spared a rude awakening. It was a sunny, pleasant morning; the Huffs and several others were lounging beside the embassy swimming pool, enjoying it, when Edith Sebald arrived and mentioned casually that she had just heard about the hostilities on the radio.
Huff questioned her excitedly and rushed to tell MacArthur, but the General already knew had known, in fact, for hours. In the first gray moments of daylight a duty officer had phoned from the Dai Ichi:
"General, we have just received a dispatch from Sŏul, advising that the North Koreans have struck in great strength south across the 38th Parallel at four o'clock this morning."
MacArthur, remembering Manila nearly nine years earlier, felt
"an uncanny feeling of nightmare. . . . It was the same fell note of the war cry that was again ringing in my ears. It couldn't be, I told myself. Not again! I must still be asleep and dreaming. Not again! But then came the crisp, cool voice of my fine chief of staff, General Ned [Edward M.] Almond, `Any orders, General?"'
Barring urgent developments, the Supreme Commander said, he wanted to be left alone with his own reflections. Stepping into his slippers and his frayed robe, he began striding back and forth in his bedroom. Presently Jean stepped in from her room.
"I heard you pacing up and down," she said. "Are you all right?"
He told her the news, and she paled. Later Blackie bounded in, tried to divert his master with coaxing barks, and failing, slunk off. Then Arthur appeared for his morning romp with his father. Jean intercepted him and told him there would be no frolicking today. MacArthur put his arm around his son's shoulders, paused, thrust his hands in the pockets of his robe, and renewed his strides.
His moods in those first hours of the new war were oddly uneven. At the prospect of new challenges, he became euphoric. George Marshall, during a recent stop in Tokyo, had thought that the Supreme Commander had
since their last meeting, but now Larry Bunker discovered him
"reinvigorated ... like an old fire horse back in harness."
Another aide believed the General had
"peeled ten years from his shoulders,"
and Sebald noted:
"Despite his years, the General seemed impatient for action."
Yet at the same time he appeared. to be trying to convince himself that there would be no need for action.
June 25, 1950
Confidence in the ROK Army was further reinforced that day by MacArthur's G2, Charles Willoughby. It was contained in the first telecon between Collins and Ridgway in the Pentagon and Willoughby in Tokyo. When Collins and Ridgway queried Willoughby about the situation in South Korea, Willoughby conceded that it was a major NKPA invasion aimed at conquering South Korea but that the ROK Army was withdrawing with "orderliness," the morale of the South Koreans was "good," and the Rhee government was "standing firm." Nonetheless, Willoughby "said," GHQ was proceeding with a prearranged contingency plan to evacuate American personnel (women and children first) by ship from Sŏul's seaport, Inch'ŏn, with appropriate air and naval protection.[3-14]
This first telecon contained a historically fascinating sidelight. Without consulting Truman, that day both GHQ, Tokyo, and the Pentagon decided independently to respond affirmatively to Muccio's request for a ten-day supply of ammo for the ROK Army. When he received the request, MacArthur ordered his chief of staff, Ned Almond, to load two ships immediately. In the telecon Collins asked Willoughby if he was correct in assuming Tokyo was meeting Muccio's request. Willoughby replied: "We are meeting emergency request for ammunition." The two ships would be escorted by air and naval vessels. Thus the Pentagon and GHQ, Tokyo, had made the decision to project American military power into South Korea without presidential authorization.[3-15]
June 25, 1950 0700
It was early morning Sunday, June 25, 1950, when the telephone rang in my bedroom at the American Embassy in Tokyo. It rang with the note of urgency that can sound only in the hush of a darkened room. It was the duty officer at headquarters. "General," he said, "we have just received a dispatch from Sŏul, advising that the North Koreans have struck in great strength south across the 38th Parallel at four o'clock this morning." Thousands of Red Korean troops had poured over the border, overwhelming the South Korean advance posts, and were moving southward with a speed and power that was sweeping aside all opposition.
I had an uncanny feeling of nightmare. It had been nine years before, on a Sunday morning, at the same hour, that a telephone call with the same note of urgency had awakened me in the penthouse atop the Manila Hotel. It was the same fell note of the war cry that was again ringing in my ears. It couldn't be, I told myself. Not again! I must still be asleep and dreaming. Not again! But then came the crisp, cool voice of my fine chief of staff, General Ned Almond, "Any orders, General?"