- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

Fifty-two years ago this Sept. 15, the Marines and Army troops of X Corps stormed ashore at Inchon, securing a strategic triumph for Gen. Douglas MacArthur. What few people realize is that Operation Chromite's success was due in large part to a deception plan devised by his chief naval planner, Vice Adm. Arthur D. Struble. Aimed at focusing enemy attention on Kunsan, 80 miles south of the objective, its key aspect was an amphibious feint to be conducted by a newly organized company of volunteers. It would be their first mission.

More than 500 men from Headquarters & Service Group of the sprawling Far East Command had answered the call for a hazardous duty assignment. The 125 selected were all regular Army, many airborne-qualified, some World War II combat veterans. Commanding the newly designated GHQ Raider Company was one of those veterans, Maj. James H. Wear.

Through August 1950, a team of Marines and some of their own officers trained the company at Camp McGill, Japan, where they were augmented by 13 Royal Navy and commando personnel led by Royal Marines commando Capt. Derek Pounds. Along with hand-to-hand combat, demolition and rubber boat instruction, the men practiced night amphibious raids from the high-speed destroyer transport USS Diachenko and transport submarine USS Perch.

In early September, the Raiders embarked the British frigate HMS Whitesand Bay, which got under way immediately, shaping a course around the peninsula's tip, then northward into the Yellow Sea toward Kunsan. What the Raiders did not know was that a special unit reconnoitering its objective the previous month searching for an alternative to Inchon with its tricky, dangerous tides, had been shot at, and that Vice Adm. Struble's plan employed various means to focus enemy attention on Kunsan. In other words, the North Koreans were waiting for them.

On the night of Sept. 12, the Whitesand Bay anchored about 1,500 yards offshore. Assisted by frigatemen, Raiders boarded rubber boats and paddled into the night: First and Third Platoons and "Pounds Force" to beach objectives; Second Platoon to a nearby island.

Third Platoon Sgt. Bob Sizemore wrote in his diary: "We were told there would be no resistance. Not quite. We landed square on the beach with no difficulty, the tide okay and only a small surf."

First Platoon's John Connor later wrote: "As we approached the beach I noticed the sea was extremely phosphorescent. No matter how hard we tried avoiding it, our paddles created a brilliant shower of light with every stroke."

Waiting until the men were well onto the beach, the North Koreans opened fire with heavy machine guns from flanking positions. Maj. Wear gave the unnecessary order: "Retract!" Organized chaos prevailed as Raiders piled into undamaged boats and paddled like hell. Amidst the confusion some remember hearing the unmistakable sound of a mortar flare being fired. They watched it arc into the air then fail to ignite. Late arrivals swam for it, followed by terrifying illuminated bullet trails. Third Platoon leader Lt. Al Noreen swam all the way to the island where he found a severely wounded Lt. Jim Clance and a dead Private First Class John Maines. While the crew that brought them repaired their puncured boat, Lt. Noreen gave Lt. Clance a shot of morphine and a .45 pistol. Back aboard the frigate they were eager to volunteer to return and recover Lt. Clance and Private Maines. Enemy activity and approaching dawn aborted that attempt, creating an angry frustration that still rankles in Raider veteran memories.

Private First Class Raymond Puttin, succumbing to wounds sustained getting off the beach, was buried at sea the following day. The somber mood and mental load would have been lightened had Raiders known how successful they had been; enemy troops had been diverted; Radio Pyongyang had announced a major landing being repulsed. And clearly, the lives of many X Corps troops who would land two days later had been saved.

Though the GHQ Raider Company went on to conduct long-range recon patrols and counter-guerrilla operations in North and South Korea, their first mission, ensuring the success of Inchon, was their most important.

John B. Dwyer is a Vietnam veteran, professional military historian and author of four books and numerous articles.

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