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During the Korean War, Operation Bluehearts was the American amphibious landing conducted at P'ohang-dong on 18 July 1950 by the First Cavalry Division. The town was still in friendly hands, but was in the path of the rapid North Korean advance. The American units quickly joined the defenders. This landing, planned on extremely short notice, attracted little attention at the time, but pointed the way towards critical landing at Inch'ŏn (Operation Chromite).
MacArthur had decided on an amphibious operation against the enemy even before the first clash between American and North Korean soldiers at Osan. On 2 July he asked Washington for a Marine RCT. On the next day he ordered 1,200 specially trained operators for amphibious landing craft. He asked on 5 July for an engineer special brigade trained in amphibious operations and on the same day called for an airborne RCT "to participate in planned operations from 20 July to 10 August."
MacArthur had conceived these "planned operations" a few days after the North Koreans struck. MacArthur then believed that he could land an assault force from the 1st Cavalry Division and the Marine RCT against the enemy's rear at Inch'ŏn as early as 22 July. This force would envelop Sŏul and seize the high ground to the north. At the same time, all forces available to General Dean would attack to drive the North Koreans back against the Han. Maj. Gen. Edwin K. Wright's planning group, JSPOG, worked out the details of this early plan. They assigned to it the code name Operation BLUEHEARTS.
General MacArthur on 6 July called Maj. Gen. Hobart R. Gay, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, to Tokyo and told him of the plan. Some of MacArthur's staff held high hopes for the operation. General Willoughby, MacArthur's G-2, admonished Gay to step lively or be left behind. "You must expedite preparations to the utmost," Willoughby warned, "because if your landing is delayed, all that the 1st Cavalry Division will hit when it lands will be the tail-end of the 24th Division as it passes north through Sŏul."
(1) Information on these requests is contained in previous chapters. (2) Rad, CM-IN 9573, CINC FE to DA, 3 Jul. 50. (3) Rad, C 57248, CINCFE to DA, 5 Jul. 50. (4) The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, had cabled COM NAVFE, Admiral C. Turner Joy, that a Marine RCT could be made available for service in Korea, if General MacArthur desired. Joy called upon MacArthur in Tokyo on 2 July.
MacArthur, who had just returned from a depressing inspection of the situation in Korea, accepted with alacrity and, according to Joy, with unusual enthusiasm. For an account of this transaction, see Montross and Canzona, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953, vol. I, The Pusan Perimeter, pp. 48-49.
(1) Draft Plan, Opn. BLUEHEARTS, JSPOG, GHQ, FEC, Jul. 50, copy in JSPOG, GHQ files. (2) For other coverage of the plans and preparations for the Inch'ŏn landing, see Appleman, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, pp. 488-500: Field, Naval Operations, Korea, pp. 171-83; Lynn Montross and Capt. Nicholas A. Canzona, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953, vol. II, The Inch'ŏn-Sŏul Operation, chs. I through IV; and Col. Robert Deles Heinl, Jr., Victory at High Tide (New York: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1968), ch. 2.
Operation BLUEHEARTS died a-borning. The failure of the weak American and weaker ROK forces to halt the enemy and the forced commitment of the 1st Cavalry Division before 22 July made the operation, in July or even in August, quite infeasible. It was canceled on 10 July and the Pohang Landing occurred on 18 July under the name Bluehearts.
Between 12 and 14 July, the Division loaded on ships in the Yokohama area. However, at that time, the steady enemy successes south of the Han River had changed the objective of a landing in the rear of the enemy at Inchon to a landing on the east coast of Korea at P'ohang-dong, a fishing village sixty miles northeast of Pusan. The date of the landing was rescheduled to 18 July. The new mission of the Division was to reinforce the faltering 24th Division. From P'ohang-dong the 1st Cavalry Division could move promptly to the Taejon area to provide direct support to the 24th Division.
The organization of the 1st Cavalry Division deployment followed standard amphibious practice. The landing force, commanded by Major General Hobart Gay, consisted of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 5th Cavalry, 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry, 1st and 2nd Battalions, 8th Cavalry Regiments, an artillery group of four battalions, a combat engineer battalion, special troop units, along with quartermaster support, administrative units and equipment. These were to be moved to the P'ohang-dong area by a naval transport group designated as "Task Force 90". The amphibious transport group consisted of the
USS Mount McKinley (AGC-7),
USS Cavalier (APA-37)
USS Oglethorpe (AKA-100)
USS Titania (AKA-13)
USS Union (AKA-106)
USS Cree (ATF-84)
USS Lipan (ATF-85)
USS Conserver (ARS-39)
USS Pledge (AM-277)
USS Chatterer (AMS-40)
USS Kite (AMS-22)
USS Redhead (AMS-34)
USS Mockingbird (AMS-27)
USS Osprey (AMS-28)
USS Partridge (AMS-31)
USS Diachenko (APD-123)
USS Juneau (CLAA-119)
USS Higbee (DDR-806)
USS James E. Kyes (DD-787) the
HMAS Bataan (D-191)
an underwater demolition team of UDT-3 and units assigned for reconnaissance, control purposes at the objective, administration of the beaches the like. Deep air support was the responsibility of the Air Force, which by this time had a fighter squadron on the P'ohang-dong air strip. Close air support at the objective would be provided by the Seventh Fleet, which was coming up from Okinawa for the occasion.
On 14 July, as the minesweepers started sweeping the waters of Yŏngil Man Bay - the designated landing site, the tractor group of LSTs, towing the LSUs and with two fleet tugs as escort, sailed from Tokyo Bay. On 15 July, "Task Force 90" command ship USS Mt. McKinley, under the command of Rear Admiral J. R. Doyle and final elements of the transport convoy followed a route south along the coast of Japan, then north by the Bungo Strait. Turning westward through the Inland Sea, the force steamed past Shimonoseki and into the Korean Strait. On the way, their progress was monitored by Russian submarines. Occasionally one of the accompanying destroyers would intercept their path, driving them away for a while. Early in the morning of 18 July, tractor and transport groups joined the ships moved into the Yŏngil Man Bay. Fighting had been reported only a few miles north of P'ohang-dong, but the ROK 3rd Division still held the road at 0559 hours Admiral Doyle signaled the Task Force to "Land the Landing Force in accordance with the plan for an unopposed operation."
The first video clip (L) of the 1st Cavalry Division, is a film of the amphibious beachhead landing at P'ohang-dong, Korea. An animated map of South Korea depicts locations of US landings on the east coast and highlights P'ohang-dong.
As the ships of the transport group lay at anchor in Yŏngil Man Landing Ships, Tank (LSTs) and Landing Crafts head for the beach of P'ohang-dong. Troop landing began at 0715 hours followed by vehicle and general cargo unloading that commenced at 0930 hours.
Nine of the LSTs disgorged their cargo along the jetty wall and on the beaches of the Yŏngil Man Bay, along with the smaller landing craft. Seven were ordered out to Kuryongp'o-ri around the point to unload vehicles. Troopers disembark from landing craft. Support equipment, including bulldozers and trucks are unloaded to supply support to the Troopers, who are advancing rapidly inland.
The second film clip (R), produced by the Signal Corps, brings the highlights of the land operations of the 1st Cavalry Division in the Korean War. Although the Army on horseback, that once known as the United States Cavalry, is no more, but "cavalry" is a proud word in military terminology and no one can display that pride more than the men of the 1st Cavalry Division. They are still designated as "troopers", like their tough forbearers who, a century ago, rode against the Indian tribes of the west. Today, these soldiers of the Division (referenced as "the First Team") keep alive the legendary tradition of cavalry bravery by fighting, when they are called upon to fight, with courage and an indomitable will to win - as depicted in this film.
Lead elements of the 8th Cavalry Regiment landed soon after daylight in the early morning of 18 July, successfully carrying out the first amphibious landing of the Korean War. The 13th Signal Company quickly followed behind the last wave of the 8th Cavalry. The first troops of the 5th Cavalry Regiment came ashore at approximately 1630 hours. Only a small combat air patrol from the carrier Valley Forge was retained overhead to protect the ships and landing forces. All major ships had been emptied by midnight, while the LSTs had discharged all personnel, all vehicles more than half their bulk cargo. More than 10,000 troops and 2,000 vehicles almost 3,000 tons of cargo had been put ashore.
In the last scenes of the film, Major General Hobart R Gay, Commanding General, 1st Cavalry Division held a conference at the commanding post of the 8th Cavalry Regiment which includes Ellis Warner Williamson, Assistant Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division and Colonel Ray D. Plummer, Commanding Officer of 8th Cavalry Regiment. Troopers, moving out on the operation are greeted by welcome signs that were erected by South Koreans.
The North Koreans (NK) were 25 miles away when elements of the 1st Cavalry Division came ashore. At noon on 19 July, General Gay assumed command ashore and the 5th Cavalry started toward Taejon. In the afternoon, with unloading completed, ships of the Attack Force shifted to heavy weather anchorages as Helene, the first typhoon of the season, was reported heading for the Korea Strait. The next day, the 8th Cavalry followed and closed in on an assembly area east of Yŏngdong by evening, unaware that the strength of Typhoon Helene, which had swept the eastern coast of Korea, would prevent the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and 82nd Field Artillery Battalion from landing until 22 July. By the end of 22 July, all regiments were deployed in battle positions, in itself a remarkable logistical achievement in the face of the heavy typhoon that had pounded the Korean coastline.
On 22 July, the 1st Cavalry Division assumed responsibility for blocking the enemy along the main Taejon-Taegu corridor. Concurrently the 8th Cavalry relieved the 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Division, in its position at Yŏngdong. The 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry was deployed north of Taegu, now the temporary capital of South Korea and astride the direct line of enemy advance. The 2nd Battalion was deployed to cover the road from Maju to the southwest. The next morning the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, in front of Yŏngdong, reported that it had destroyed three enemy T34 tanks with 3.5-inch rocket launchers in the first use of the weapon. The enemy began to close on the 1st Cavalry Division for the battle at Yŏngdong. In the meantime the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry was hit by heavy artillery fire and a mortar barrage North Korean infantrymen swarmed toward their entrenched positions.