only one bridge existed on the han, east of seoul; & any "10 miles east" of that bridge would be out past the North Han, so as useless as one at Yoju.CHAPTER 11
See the goal grow monthly longer,
Reaching for the walls of Tyre.
Hear the crash of tons of granite,
Smell the quenchless eastern fire.
September 14, 1950
How glorious the dash across the Han would have been. A bridge across the river would have allowed Eighth Army to sweep into Seoul before the North Koreans had time to fortify it. When the bridge was spotted, the NKPA had just been defeated in a costly battle for the Suwon airfield. With only a few trucks, and an unwillingness to move by day for fear of American bombers, the communists might have made it into the city before Eighth Army got there. General Keiser had been hoping to receive their surrender.
The 2nd Division’s march through the night had gone exactly to plan. The North Koreans were in full retreat, and seemed more inclined to use the direct Western routes into Seoul while Keiser’s tanks drove along the roundabout eastern road. A rearguard had been left at Kyongan-ni, but they lacked heavy equipment and were sent running in a matter of minutes, before surrendering as the trucks caught up with them. There had been no more resistance after that: either the Koreans had died, fled or were hiding out as bandits. Bandits would be a matter for the ROKs to deal with: their army seemed better at fighting them than it did conventional battles. Patton had fought bandits more than thirty years ago in Mexico, and knew it was much harder than fighting a visible enemy. He was impressed by the allied army. Syngman Rhee still wasn’t impressed by him. He wondered if the ingratitude would continue once he retook the bastard’s capital.
Then the tanks, Pershings and Theodores both, came up to… a ruined bridge. The Grasshopper pilot must have made a mistake. He had initially thought the North Koreans had blown it up, but a local Korean woman later explained that the Air Force had bombed it and the others in the area. As far as she knew, there weren’t any crossings over the Han still standing. That wasn’t quite true, one had been found and captured at Yoju, more than forty miles away, but that using it would have made an already bad logistics situation even worse. The detour simply wouldn’t be worth it.
Instead, the Engineers had been rushed north the following morning to throw up a bridge to get the Eighth Army across the Han before the Koreans could mount a defence on the river line. The crossing should have been unopposed, but the North Koreans were ready. It took the 2nd Division two whole days to force its way across. A second bridge had been built next to the destroyed one at Punwon-ni ten miles to the east. The Han was crossed.
“General Keiser just called. He says he’s reached the outskirts of the city.” Colonel Landrum announced.
Patton flicked his cigar. “What’s holding him up?” he asked calmly. Seoul had been a slow battle for three and a half days. He wasn’t expecting something grand from it any more.
“Looks like the North Koreans have fortified the place.” Landrum said. “Kim Il-sung thinks it should be his capital too – it’s been the capital of a united Korea for close to forever. They’re not going to give it up easily.”
“No?” Patton asked. “Then we’ll just have to kill them all until they do. Get me a strength estimate both for the city itself and the surrounding area then.”
An hour later, Koch, Landrum and via the telephone Keiser, had all come up with what they thought to be a fair estimate. “We think we’re looking at ten or fifteen thousand men at a minimum, and more likely double that. Everyone we didn’t catch at Suwon or the Lump is thought to be there.” Landrum explained.
“We also think they might be pulling a couple of units from above the 38th to reinforce them.” Koch added. “By the looks of things, Inchon is completely empty. We haven’t heard anything about units west of the Han for forty-eight hours now.”
“Good.” Patton said, looking at the map again. “If they’ve got thirty, forty thousand men tied up in Seoul, that’s all the better.”
“Sir, didn’t you want to beat MacArthur into Seoul?” Landrum asked.
“I have.” Patton noted. “MacArthur’s not even landing until evening tomorrow, and he’ll need another day to get his troops up to our lines. If we don’t have Seoul by then, he might be able to spare a few men to help us finish the job. But I don’t want to waste time on another Metz.”
Metz. For six years people had said it was his worst battle. It hadn’t been very brilliant. After Ike gave his supplies to Monty and the Moselle River flooded, he hadn’t had any other option that would keep pressure on the Nazis except to strike Metz. MacArthur had reduced his supplies somewhat (Almond, another of Mac’s lackeys, would get whatever he wanted for X Corps and Patton only the leftovers), but without a couple of other Army Groups demanding gas and ammo and beans, Eighth Army was stocked well enough.
“You’re planning something, aren’t you, George?” Koch asked.
“We’re going north.” Patton said. “I need Keiser to encircle Seoul from the north. Dean can hold the south bank of the Han until MacArthur arrives. Those Korean divisions need to be trapped and forced to surrender, so they don’t raise hell further north. The rest of the army is to move north.”
“Sir, the 38th parallel is only thirty miles away. You’re not proposing to cross it?” Landrum sounded surprised. Truman had explicitly forbidden American troops from doing so.
“Not immediately, no.” Patton said. “Until I get authorisation from the President, we’re not going to cross. But I’d like to send him a message on the teletype tonight. We’ll be on the Imjin in three days. Any delay in crossing the parallel after that would only give the enemy time to regroup. Syngman Rhee also won’t stop at the border even if we tell him to, and he’ll be there early next week. We should be driving to the Yalu, not holding back because of some line on the map!”
“Sir, watch what you say to the President.” Sergeant Meeks cautioned. “FDR almost canned you twice, remember, and I don’t think Truman is quite so tolerant.”
Patton made an effort to calm down. That was some good advice. He made sure to remember it as he planned out his meeting with MacArthur that would follow the Inchon landings.
September 15, 1950
Douglas MacArthur looked through his field glasses at the burning battlefield of Inchon. In the morning, the Marines had taken the island of Wolmi-do (someone had told him that it was properly called Wolmi, ‘do’ being Korean for island). Losses had been light, which was a good sign, but there was no guarantee Inchon itself would be so unprepared. The operation relied on surprise, but days of shore bombardment meant the Koreans likely suspected something was up. Chromite was supposed to involve feints against a number of other coastal locations to distract the NKPA from the real target. One against Chumunjin was still going ahead. Patton had taken Kunsan back before the landings had even been approved. If he had wanted to he probably would have taken Inchon as well.
MacArthur was furious with Patton. Apparently Eighth Army was knee-deep in Seoul already. Chromite was supposed to be his great operation that would bring about a decisive, victorious end to the war. Now that Patton had bypassed Inchon, there was hardly any glory left in taking it. The whole operation had been made redundant. Only by that point, cancelling it altogether would have forced him to explain himself to the Joint Chiefs, merely three weeks after boasting it was the only way to win. He had worried before that Inchon could be the risk that ended his long career. If he was made to look foolish in front of Washington, he was sure it would be, even though Washington barely had a clue what went on out here. So Chromite went ahead.
“First wave is ashore on Blue Beach.” General Lem Shepherd announced.
Except for a brief “thank you”, the deck of the Mount McKinley fell silent. Back in Japan, Willoughby had predicted there would be minimal opposition to the landings. Patton’s G2 had also predicted that the NKPA would not be in the Inchon area in strength. Intelligence, MacArthur knew, was rarely entirely correct. He knew the consequences of it being wrong this time could be disastrous. Five minutes passed, Shepherd having disappeared somewhere else to receive reports from the front. Then ten. Then fifteen.
Finally, Shepherd returned. “We’re all clear.” he said. “They’re gone.”
MacArthur clapped his hands together in triumph, feeling a sense of relief. The daring invasion had been pulled off.
Once everyone had shaken hands and given their congratulations to each other, MacArthur had only to wait for an LST to become available to take him ashore. A camera crew should have landed already, with orders to be ready for his arrival at Inchon.
“Say, where is General Patton, sir?” Ned Almond asked. “I’d have thought he would be here by now, telling us that he took the city three days ago or something.”
“A curious question, that is.” MacArthur said. He didn’t want to say so to Almond, but he had fully expected Patton to show up on one of the landing beaches precisely at 1730, possibly with a parade or something of the sort. For all of his claims that he wanted nothing to do with the press, the General’s antics often seemed to be designed for headlines.
“Sir, the boat is ready for you.” Someone from the Marines called.
MacArthur filmed three takes of him and the staff disembarking on the so-called beach south of Inchon. Whichever was decided to be the best one would soon be added to newsreels across the globe. It wasn’t as impressive as the Leyte shot, but this invasion wasn’t as impressive as Leyte either. Patton had robbed it of all its glory. It was a success, and very nearly a bloodless one. He made sure to emphasise that last point when the reporters interviewed him.
Patton drove up to Inchon at around 2100, with just his jeep and another one in front of it with four MPs, presumably in case there were any communists on the road. The press, with the exception of the guys from Life magazine, had retired for the night. That was fortunate: Life had been a strong supporter of his for years. They’d make a good story for him. Bad press could ruin his career as easily as a failed invasion would have.
“General, I thought I gave you explicit orders to hold the line at Yesan.” MacArthur called out.
“I’ve followed them, sir. We still have control over our former positions north of the Kum.” Patton replied. Even in the lamplight, his grin was unmistakable. “You ordered me to attack on the fifteenth, I’ve done that too. I see your landing at Inchon has been a great success.”
“It has, George. Thank you.” MacArthur said. “As, by all accounts, has been your march on Seoul.”
“The march, yes, sir.” Patton said. “I’ve got the city surrounded except for a few roads out west. A couple of divisions trapped there. We’ve captured about a fifth of the city so far.”
“I presume then, that you have come to ask for X Corps as reinforcements?” MacArthur asked.
“Sir, I don’t see the purpose of a divided command.” Patton said. “I’m sure they would do an honourable job retaking the city.”
“I’ll see to it that they are transferred to Eighth Army command tomorrow morning.” MacArthur said. There wasn’t much point keeping X Corps separate any more: another amphibious landing wasn’t likely, not after this debacle. The corps would have to go to someone other than Almond – Patton would fire Ned the moment he had the authority to do so.
As they shook hands and then went their separate ways (Patton back to his jeep and presumably Taejon, MacArthur to the ship on board which he would spend one more night), MacArthur reflected upon the meeting with Patton. To his credit, Patton had at least made an effort to be gracious about the Inchon situation, and seemed to be trying to please his superior. His combat record was exemplary, and if those two divisions weren’t bottled up in Seoul they could have easily turned Inchon into a disaster. That didn’t change the fact that he was a political catastrophe and got into arguments with every second man he spoke with. What ever am I supposed to do with him now? MacArthur wondere
From a US Army 1951 map:only one bridge existed on the han, east of seoul; & any "10 miles east" of that bridge would be out past the North Han, so as useless as one at Yoju.
Those last two maps are from 1947 and 1946, which might explain why they don't have a bridge that a 1951 map has.
Capitol DivisionCHAPTER 13
Once again I feel the anguish
Of that blistering treeless plain
When the Parthian showered death bolts,
And our discipline was in vain.
September 19, 1950
Patton had been up early. Later today, he would be flying to Pusan, and then to Tokyo, and then to Midway. If an emergency cropped up, Eighth Army might be able to contact him during the first two legs of that journey, or have the message meet him in Japan. The flight halfway across the Pacific would be long, and he would be cut off from his command. He could rest then.
The command post in Seoul wouldn’t be official until 0800, another fifteen minutes away. He had moved in early anyway. Abe and Meeks would handle what was left of the Taejon post as his staff gathered their things and drove north. It would be a long drive too – an Army’s command post should never have been more than a half hour’s drive from the front. Taejon had far exceeded triple that at this point. If Korea didn’t lack so much critical infrastructure, he never would have allowed it. Phone wire, code machines and everything else needed by headquarters were arriving in greater quantities now that shipments direct from California were arriving in Pusan and the other ports. If this war didn’t end soon, the Korean battlefield would become as well organised as his previous ones in France and Sicily.
A lot of people seemed to think it would end soon. Either North Korea would give up and accept a return to the status quo ante bellum along the 38th parallel, or the United Nations forces would storm over that line, take Pyongyang (something he thought could be done in two weeks) and end the war that way. Apart from fretting about Red China, no-one from MacArthur down seemed to think any other outcome was possible. After Eighth Army’s defeat of the NKPA, such an attitude could be understood. Patton refused to tolerate it. Unpreparedness had been the only constant he had seen in 1950, much as it was in 1941 (and, he recalled, in 1917). A lot of things went wrong in war. Much fewer did if you were ready for them.
He had been thinking about invading North Korea for about as long as he had been in Asia. In the early days, there had been too many other jobs to attend to, and North Korea fell quite low on the list of priorities. Now it wasn’t, so he had ordered a comprehensive report from every senior member of his staff about how the Koreans fought – North and South, how Eighth Army had performed, and what might be coming up beyond the 38th. Sixty typed pages sat on his desk. They would be reading for the flight. Colonel Landrum had already read it. As he poured himself a scotch, he asked his chief of staff to “talk me through it.”
“Sir, there’s a number of points to note, but the one I feel is most important is that the ROK police have reported a large number of communist cells hiding out in the hills behind their lines and increasingly behind ours as well. A lot of them are armed with our stuff, which either means they took whatever the South Koreans threw away in July or they’re ex-NKPA and are working off captured stocks.” Landrum explained. “You’re already aware of how much captured equipment they use in their army.”
“Yes, yes.” Patton said dismissively – he had seen an enormous supply dump captured intact near Inchon a few days ago. A couple thousand tons of ammo, all of it US made. “I don’t care about those cells – Rhee has his own goddamn SS to silence them. What I want to know is, how the hell did they get there? We already forced two, maybe three Red divisions to surrender, and the MPs have done a fine job escorting them to Jeju.”
“This is of course speculation, but General Koch indicates that he believes they slipped away from the communist lines during the night, and travelled along routes not well covered by roads.” Landrum said. “On page 46 he explains this in detail.”
“The nights and the hills.” Patton said, before he slammed his fist on the desk. “Goddamn it! I said we weren’t doing enough night drills! We control the day and then the bastards rule the night! Our troops don’t get off the roads hardly enough either. We’re inviting the enemy in.”
“Sir, you might want to calm down?” Landrum offered. Patton remembered getting into trouble a few times in the last war for getting too angry about things – so he had ordered them all to remind him whenever he did so this time around.
“Thank you, colonel, you’re right.” Patton said. “I did write about this in my book. I want every officer between the rank of captain and brigadier general to be reminded of my instruction to secure every height in hill or mountain country with a force of at least a platoon, and also to have every unit on training duties to double the amount of night practice. Now repeat that order back to me.” After Landrum did so, he asked “any other urgent issues in that report, colonel?”
“Perhaps not urgent, but if we’re going into North Korea it will soon be important.” Landrum said. “Extensive discussion with the local population has told us that winters in Korea can be quite severe, and Muller thought this worthy of three pages in the report.”
“We’re the same latitude as the top half of California.” Patton said at once. “Barely any further north than Sicily was. How do you mean severe?”
“By the sounds of things, Siberia.” Landrum said. “Ten, twenty below wouldn’t be uncommon in the northern mountains. The middle of December is the usual start to the season.”
Patton lit a cigar. “Guess we better get ready for it then. We’re halfway through September already.”
September 20, 1950
As the Independence touched down on the runway on Sand Island, Harry Truman’s mind decided to remind him of Walton Walker’s unfortunate accident. This flight to the middle of the Pacific had gone without any troubles, but as long as the Korean War was still going, what happened to Walker would be on everybody’s minds whenever they travelled by air. It had been Walker’s bad luck to have that maintenance crew do such a poor job (Truman thought he had been told that those people had been thrown out of the Air Force). Now it seemed to be Truman’s too. If Walker was still in Korea, he wouldn’t be trying to rein in His Majesty MacArthur, and Patton would have been riding his horse out in California. During the occupation, Asian affairs had been orderly. They hadn’t been since July 17th.
“Just look at them.” He said, shaking his head. “They’re not in uniform. They’re in costume.”
Averell Harriman laughed. “You’re not far wrong, sir.”
Patton, to no-one’s surprise, was standing there in the most extravagant dress uniform regulations had a chance of allowing, or maybe a bit more overdone than that. He had several of his medals on, most prominently his World War I and II Victory Medals and a DSC with an Oak Leaf Cluster. His helmet and shoes gleamed so brightly that they must have been polished just minutes before. Truman was fairly sure it wasn’t possible to polish a suit, but he wouldn’t have been surprised if the general had tried.
If Patton had overdone his uniform, His Majesty had underdone it. Instead of a polished helmet, MacArthur had a scrambled eggs cap that was so worn out that it could have been in use during World War I (it wasn’t – apparently someone on MacArthur’s staff frayed new caps out just to give them that effect). His shirt was unbuttoned, with no decorations to be seen. But for the five stars on his collar, he looked like a fresh-faced second lieutenant.
“George is going to love that.” Harriman said. “No tie, no helmet, nothing.”
Before the President could respond, one of the aircrew gave him a thumbs up. “We’re ready.”
As he begun walking down the set of stairs that had been wheeled out next to the Independence, Patton snapped to attention with another one of those parade ground salutes that were being shown increasingly often in the news. MacArthur wasn’t nearly so quick, and for a moment it seemed like he would offer to shake hands with his commander-in-chief without saluting first. Truman wasn’t obsessed with the military rituals the way most drill sergeants and one four-star general seemed to be, but he noticed that.
“At ease, generals.” he said once he reached the ground. “Let’s try to do this with a minimum of fuss.”
“However you please, sir.” MacArthur said, as an Air Force fellow drove a jeep up to the runway.
Eighth Army Headquarters at Seoul was hardly any different from when it had been at Taejon. This building, less than a mile from Rhee’s capital and about the only one close to intact in the area, was remarkably similar in layout to the old one. One room had had a hole blown out of its roof at some point, which was now covered by a tarp. That room didn’t get used much, except for a few assorted supplies that were being stored there. Everyone else had moved in to whichever room was most similar to their position in the old HQ. Patton’s staff worked like a well-oiled machine now, a far cry from the occupation days. Once all the equipment had been set up, no-one seemed to really notice that they weren’t even in Taejon.
Colonel Eugene Landrum didn’t even really notice the general’s absence until the phone rang. At this time of the morning, Patton would usually be at the front, so it wasn’t too surprising.
“Eighth Army Headquarters, Colonel Landrum speaking.” he said as he picked up the phone.
“Good morning, colonel. It’s Coulter.” General Coulter said.
“Good morning, sir. What’s gone wrong?” Patton trusted his subordinates to make their own command decisions, and he’d see for himself when a particular unit was doing well considering he tried to visit every division at least once every few days. Something going wrong, or a message from Tokyo, were the only calls Eighth Army received frequently any more.
“Nothing has gone wrong.” Coulter said. “Quite the opposite, in fact, if you look at it the way George would. The ROK 3rd Division has just reported back with the capture of Yangyang.”
“Where is that, sir?” Landrum asked. There was a map on the other side of the room, but all Korean names seemed to be similar to each other, so it would take a while to find the place. He might be running the headquarters in Patton’s place, but he didn’t have Patton’s ability to recall every insignificant town’s location within a hundred miles of the battlefield the way his boss could.
“East coast, just north of the 38th parallel.” Coulter explained.
“North? We don’t have authorisation for that.” Landrum said. “That’s the whole reason Patton’s gone to meet the President.”
“That’s right, we don’t.” Coulter said. “Mr Rhee has gone and done it anyway. He’s convinced it is his God-given right to reunify all of Korea, no matter what we or the United Nations say. I expect if I order any of his troops to do anything, they aren’t going to listen.”
“The general won’t like that.” Landrum said, in lieu of he’s going to skin whoever ordered the Koreans to get ahead of the Eighth Army and across the parallel before him. “Well, we’ve still got the Capital Division. I’ll try to keep them on a leash.” That would be easy enough, they were still engaged in Seoul fighting what was left of the Northwestern Pocket. “In the meantime, contact Pusan, and get them to contact Midway and tell George. If that doesn’t work, get hold of Tokyo.”
“And then George will try to get Truman to let him chase them into North Korea.” Coulter said.
“Chase them?” Landrum laughed. “If he lets anyone in this army rest in the next forty-eight hours, I’ll be damned. He’ll say we ought to chase them, and then order everyone to take the lead.”
“Sounds about right.” Coulter said, laughing as well. “I’ll get through to Midway. You tell me if there’s any issues with the Capitals.”
the bridge shown on that map is the one the air force destroyed, there are no others on the Han, east to the North Han. minor point? the premise of the story is an other bridge across the Han enabled EUSA quick access to Seoul. a major departure from that premise is that no such bridge existed.What? He literally showed the map with the bridge though.
Don't bog down the discussion here with useless complaints about a relatively minor part of a story as well written as this one. Its frustrating and point
I read it as MacArthur did salute, but it was delayed and was changed from a handshake to a salute at the last minute. So he did do what he was supposed to, but it was clearly done grudgingly. I have a feeling that Patton will be leaving this meeting with a promotion.
Edit: @BiteNibbleChomp would it be possible to use a larger font size for those of us with old eyes and trying to read it on a mobile?
Seeing as we're going to be nitpicky, I did say that the "second" bridge (at Punwon-ni) was also wrecked and the engineers rebuilt that one too, so if the bridge didn't exist in the first place then it can just be a new build. Doesn't really change things too much.the bridge shown on that map is the one the air force destroyed, there are no others on the Han, east to the North Han. minor point? the premise of the story is an other bridge across the Han enabled EUSA quick access to Seoul. a major departure from that premise is that no such bridge existed.
It's not written that way in literally any accounts I have read about the war.Capitol Division
Yeah things are a little different ITTL with Patton around.MEDIA=youtube]rfmejTkQ4Lw[/MEDIA]
Seeing as we're going to be nitpicky, I did say that the "second" bridge (at Punwon-ni) was also wrecked and the engineers rebuilt that one too, so if the bridge didn't exist in the first place then it can just be a new build. Doesn't really change things too much.
I've edited the entry slightly, though TBH I don't see how this is a big deal?
It's not written that way in literally any accounts I have read about the war.
Yeah things are a little different ITTL with Patton around.
"It's not written that way in literally any accounts I have read about the war." you are correct; my mistake.Seeing as we're going to be nitpicky, I did say that the "second" bridge (at Punwon-ni) was also wrecked and the engineers rebuilt that one too, so if the bridge didn't exist in the first place then it can just be a new build. Doesn't really change things too much.
I've edited the entry slightly, though TBH I don't see how this is a big deal?
It's not written that way in literally any accounts I have read about the war.
Yeah things are a little different ITTL with Patton around.
Finally got a chance to read a fair chunk of TRT, all I can say is . Fortunately I don't think MacArthur, even as President, would be half the nightmare that a longer lived Stalin could be (indeed, my #1 aim for the rest of TTL is to deconstruct a lot of the memes surrounding Mac and present a far saner picture of the man)I don't think it would have escalated into a full scale invasion of China or anything, but the pollical and cultural implications of a dead Patton would certainly be very interesting.
I had this idea of TTL getting a crossover with another favorite Post-1900s TL of mine here on AH.com: Twilight of the Red Tsar. Which, for those that don't know, was a TL with a POD of Stalin surviving his fatal stroke in 1953, ruling the USSR for few additional years.....
Granted, with a much shorter Korean War, the extremely violent (As in nuclear and biological warfare kind of violent) Sino-Soviet Split that happened in the TRT TL might be averted entirely, or at least delayed for a few extra years. But assuming that everything else such as Stalin going ahead with the Doctor's Plot/the Second Holocaust, as well his mass purges, a dead Patton that got killed on the banks of the Yalu River would be remembered as a hero who was 100% correct about everything about the communist being just as bad as the Nazis in his final speech. Heck, they might even put up a monument for him in Israel or something.
I don't really see it. Big Mac was big on anti-colonialism, and even criticized Truman for not speeding up decolonization. I just don't see him propping up an invasion of Suez.If the Suez Crisis happen ITTL, I could easily see Mac siding with the UK, France, and Israel.