Peng Dehuai: Five Campaigns in Korea

Sending Out Troops to Aid Korea

At noon of October 2, 1950, just following National Day, I was instructed to fly to Beijing immediately to attend a meeting. It brooked no delay. At about 4 p.m. the very afternoon, I arrived at Zhongnanhai, in Beijing, where the meeting attended by top Party and state leaders was still going on. They were discussing the problem of sending troops to aid Korea. I was told that Chairman Mao had said: ¡°What you all have said is quite right. But when our neighbor is in danger we cannot stand aside.¡± That night, I couldn¡¯t fall asleep, thinking that if US troops occupied Korea that would pose a threat to Northeast China across the Yalu River. Moreover, they might tighten their control over Taiwan to threaten Shanghai and Eastern China. If the United States wanted to launch an aggressive war against China, they might find any excuse at any time. We must oppose the US aggression. Otherwise, it would be difficult for us to carry out our socialist construction drive. If the United States were determined to launch a war against China, it would probably bring its advantage of quick decision into play, but a strategy of protracted warfare would favor us. The United States might prefer a regular war while we should adopt the tactics we had practiced in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression to cope with it. In addition, we had established the state power and were supported by the Soviet Union, which provided us more favorable conditions than in the period of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. With a view to the future construction of our country, we had to send our troops to Korea as well. Everybody said that the socialist camp headed by the Soviet Union was much superior and stronger than the capitalist camp. How could we demonstrate such superiority and power if we did not send out troops to aid Korea? I repeated the words of Chairman Mao dozens of times to myself, and came to understand this was an instruction combining the spirit of internationalism and patriotism. I fully supported the wise decision.

The next afternoon, the top leaders met again. I said, ¡°It is imperative to send our troops to aid Korea. If the US troops are deployed along the Yalu River and Taiwan, they may find any excuse to stage an aggressive war against us at any time.¡±

The First Campaign

At dusk on October 18, 1950, I crossed the Yalu River along with the vanguards of the Chinese People¡¯s Volunteers (CPV). The next morning, we arrived at the Lagushao hydropower station.

On October 21, a division of the 40th Army of the volunteer army clashed with the puppet troops of Syngman Rhee of South Korean. This was an unexpected encounter, so we had to change our original plan. By the 25th of the month, our first campaign had driven the US, British and South Korean troops back to the Chung Chun River and the Dechuan area, where they set up a defense system with their tank units. We did not pursue them, because we had not yet annihilated the main force of the enemy. We had annihilated only six or seven battalions of South Korean troops and a small part of the US army. The enemy moved quickly, supported by armored divisions. And they built defensive works quickly too. With our existing equipment and technology, it would be no good for us to wage positional warfare against the enemy.

The Second Campaign

We probed the enemy with small units, and made use of favorable topography to build hidden offensive positions in the area, about 30 km away from the enemy. When they launched a major offensive, we would repulse them step by step with small units using grenades and bayonets to counter the superiority of the enemy¡¯s fire power. This pattern of fighting had never been known by the enemy before. So it had the effect of a surprise attack. And it was the correct tactics for us to win the second campaign. One day in mid-November, US General Douglas MacArthur made a tour of inspection by airplane over the battlefield. He broadcast to his troops: ¡°Beef up your battle preparations to push forward to the Yalu River and return home by Christmas.¡± Around the 20th of the month, the enemy¡¯s offensive began. At dusk, the enemy approached the area from where we had planned to wage our counterattack. In the next battle, we captured a total of more than 6,000 enemy vehicles and about 1,000 tanks and artillery pieces. But this equipment was mostly destroyed later by napalm bombs dropped by the enemy. The enemy fled in consternation in all directions, and abandoned Pyongyang, withdrawing to the 38th Parallel. This campaign laid the foundation for the victory in the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea and recovered all the lost territory of the Democratic Republic of Korea.

The Third Campaign

After winning the second campaign, the CPV pursued the enemy in the flush of victory. By mid-December, we had moved forward secretly close to the 38th Parallel. After careful reconnaissance, the CPV troops made preparations for various attacks. On the eve of New Year¡¯s Day of 1951, we crossed the 38th Parallel and seized Seoul. We recovered the port of Inchon and drove the enemy back to the 37th parallel. The enemy changed their operational plan, collecting about four divisions of new reinforcements from Japan and the United States and concentrated them on the Luodong River, and built up a defense line. They also called back veterans from Europe to supplement these forces. Troops evacuated from the eastern frontline were also concentrated on the Luodong River. Their mechanized forces retreated at a rate of 30 km a day, which was just equal to the marching rate of the CPV at night. In a word, the enemy attempted to lure our forces to attack their installations so as to consume our strength and vigor. Then they would launch a counterattack at the front and make a landing on our coastal flanks, in an attempt to cut off our line of retreat.

After experiencing three major campaigns in succession in the harsh winter season within three months, the CPV became extremely exhausted. In addition, they fought without the shield of an air force and never stopped for a rest. The casualties were almost 50 percent. Three armies had crossed the Han River, approaching the 37th parallel. But the main force was still on the north side of the river, along the 38th Parallel. They were building defense works as a preparation for long-term war.

The Fourth Campaign

The enemy at the Luodong River launched a counterattack in late January. We massed five armies to cope with them. During the campaign, we annihilated about two divisions of the enemy forces, mostly South Korean troops and about 2,000 soldiers from the united troops from France, Belgium and Luxemburg, in addition to a US battalion of ground troops. From February to March of 1951, I spent several days in Beijing, and reported to Chairman Mao the situation of the war in Korea and asked for directives about operational strategy. I explained to him that we could not win the war quickly, and had to evacuate the 50th Army from south of the Han River before February 15.

The Fifth Campaign

When the enemy failed to lure our troops to attack their positions on the Luodong River, they launched a major northward offensive in mid-February. We adopted tactics to repulse it step by step. After about 40 days of hard fighting, the enemy pushed forward to the 38th Parallel. But we staged a counterattack on the western front, driving the enemy back close to Seoul. This was the first stage of the fifth campaign.

However, we could not dislodge the enemy either from Seoul or from the 38th Parallel. The CPV troops and some of the troops of the Korean People¡¯s Army (KPA) made a common push on the eastern frontline, approaching the 37th parallel. But because our logistics were not sufficient to support them, they had to withdraw. One division of the 60th army lost 3,000 men because they failed to withdraw in time. This was the second stage of the fifth campaign.

The fifth campaign was a large scale one, involving over 1 million men on each side. Often, it would take us two days to surround and annihilate a regiment of US ground troops, simply because our troops were poorly equipped and the enemy could rush to the rescue with the support of air and mechanized forces. We completely annihilated a US regiment only once during the second campaign, but we did annihilate many battalions. Chairman Mao sent me a telegram in which he instructed that we should not attack the enemy with large-scale assaults but to annihilate him bit by bit. At that time, we turned from ground defensive warfare to underground stronghold defensive warfare. As to the pattern of operations, we further built up tunnel installations deep underground along the 38th Parallel. The enemy was unable to take our positions because our tunnel installations were fortified and strong enough to be defended successfully. From there, we staged offensives against the enemy¡¯s positions. The last offensive was waged on the eve of the cease-fire (one night in late July 1953). That night, we broke through 25-km-wide and deep tunnel works of the enemy, annihilated majority of the four battalions of the South Korean troop and a heavy artillery regiment. This showed the combination of the good political and military qualities of the revolutionary army, creating the most favorable conditions for fighting protracted position warfare.

After we won the campaign, the general commander of the UN forces, General Clark, said, ¡°This is the first time in United States history for a US general to sign his name on a cease-fire document of a war without victory.¡± I was thinking at the moment when I signed my name that we had just finished the preparations for further operations. It seemed a pity that we had not made use of this favorable condition to strike a much heavier blow at the enemy.

We gained rich experience in the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea -- in logistics without air protection and in anti-bacterial warfare.

On the battlefields of the Korean War, the CPV and the KPA fought shoulder to shoulder, and supported each other like brothers. As a result of the three-year-long common struggle, the militant friendship sealed in blood between the CPV and the KPA, and between the Chinese and Korean peoples, will be further consolidated and the feeling of internationalism they both cherish will be promoted.

(CIIC 10/30/2000)