Patton in Korea/MacArthur in the White House

Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Douglas MacArthur is handling his job as president?

  • Approve

    Votes: 91 87.5%
  • Disapprove

    Votes: 13 12.5%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .
Part I, Chapter 1
  • On December 23, 1950, a tragedy occurred in a land that had suffered a tragic six months. Korea, once colonised, now divided, was again a battlefield as the great powers fought for control of East Asia. Having consumed the lives of thousands of soldiers, and untold numbers of local civilians, one of the Korean War’s top commanders was now dead, killed as his jeep collided with an Army truck. Six years prior, he had been part of the spearhead of Patton’s Third Army as it triumphantly stormed across Western Europe. There, he had earned the nickname ‘Bulldog’ for his aggressive approach to warfare, and that same aggression had seen his armies drive most of the way to the Yalu. Perhaps he had been too aggressive. Surprised by the entry of Red China into the war, his Eighth Army had been forced into a headlong retreat. As Seoul came under threat for the second time, General Walker’s last words were “I wonder what George would have done?”

    This is that story. What if General George S. Patton had fought in the Korean War?

    Note: Any newcomers to the timeline who are interested in the MacArthur Presidency specifically, the election campaign begins at the beginning of Part IV and he is sworn into office at the beginning of Part V. Though I'd encourage you to read the whole timeline anyway!




    Through the travail of the ages,
    Midst the pomp and toil of war,
    Have I fought and strove and perished
    Countless times upon this star.

    June 25, 1950

    For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honour of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting...

    Willie struggled on his lead, straining to break free and smell whatever it was that he found so interesting. He must have walked past this patch of grass a thousand times since he came to his new home in California, but every day brought with it new smells. Less loud scary noises than his old home in the back of a command truck had had too. The dog was more than satisfied with life.
    His master, the now-retired General George Patton, didn’t give a damn about the smell of the grass. He felt like a dog on the end of a long rope all the same. He had ever since Marshall had told him that there was no chance of him seeing a combat command against Japan before the end of the war. The day that had happened, he had been in Boston for the start of a temporary leave. Temporary soon became permanent, as he decided to retire from the army rather than bore himself to death with peacetime service. Even in the early June of 1945, it was becoming apparent that peacetime service in Germany would be a much more political job than anything he had done before it. Patton knew he was a terrible politician. Someone else could have that role. He had come home, intending to write a book about Third Army’s accomplishments. His thoughts had drifted back to the Roman conquerors almost every day since.
    The Republican Party had obviously never been told about his lack of political skills, because six months after he returned, they were calling for him to run for Congress in a desperate attempt to unseat the longtime Democratic incumbent. It was an offer that he declined at Beatrice’s urging, but one he wished he had taken when the election came along a year later. Richard Nixon looked like a real piece of work. When 1948 came around, he considered running as a Democrat, only to be cautioned against it again.
    “If you get a debate with that man, he’ll fight dirty. He’ll make the people remember a lot of things you did in Europe that we’d rather they forget.” Beatrice had warned that day. “If you want a chance to get back into the Army, stay away from him.”
    Her advice had likely prevented him from doing anything stupid in the dark days that had been the 1930s, and she had sworn to do everything possible to get him back into command should another war break out. He was determined not to ruin whatever chances he had. War had looked possible a couple of years ago when that incident happened in Berlin, but things had calmed down a fair bit since. Glory was fleeting indeed: apart from the polo teams he coached, he felt forgotten by the world. That was until Beatrice came running out to him.
    “Georgie!” she called. “The man on the NBC is saying that North Korea has just invaded the South!”
    South Korea was an American ally. If this flare-up didn’t quieten down soon, US troops would surely be sent to fight. This was his chance. As he walked – almost dragged – the reluctant Willie back into the house, he remembered that it was June 24th, 1950. The 25th on the other side of the date line. Technically he was past the official retirement age, but only by a few months. Someone, likely the president, would have to be convinced if he was to go to Korea.
    He asked Beatrice to write a letter to Truman.


    July 5, 1950

    Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith looked through his field glasses somewhere to the north. The day was a wet one, drizzling now after an hours-long downpour during the night. It was also the day after the Fourth of July, but there was little cause for celebration. A week ago the frontline had still been near the 38th parallel, whereas now his ‘Task Force’, a glorified understrength battalion, was twenty miles south of it. As the first US troops to fight in South Korea, their official role was to give moral support to their allies. Unofficially, there were a few dozen T-34 tanks up ahead, and something had to be done about them.
    Smith was no stranger to military disaster: nine years earlier he had been at Schofield Barracks, not far from Pearl Harbour, when the Japanese had launched their fateful attack. Someone had screwed that one up really bad. But if his superiors hadn’t screwed up the situation in Korea just as badly as they did in Hawaii, they had managed to do even worse. The border on the 38th had been something close to an active war zone for months before the In Min Gun came charging south, yet here he was with half a dozen bazooka rounds, no anti-tank mines and too few infantry to have a prayer of accomplishing anything. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that only a handful had seen combat before.
    While his own radio looked to have given out, someone else in the unit appeared to still be able to contact the artillery battery further down the road, as shells began falling around the enemy tanks. Not on the enemy tanks – evidently that was too much to hope for – but close enough that the North Koreans were forced to take notice. Some of their infantry dove for cover in the rice fields. Too many others joined the tanks in shooting at his position.
    Although he had only been here for a few hours, Smith could see that not much more could be accomplished by his unit. Like every other unit that had come in contact with the North Koreans, Task Force Smith was being forced to retreat. Soon he would return to his command post, where communications still worked, and order the company commanders to get their men into trucks. Optimists among them would say his unit was buying time. A lot of others were convinced that the retreats would not end until Kim Il-sung’s troops reached the Sea of Japan.


    July 12, 1950

    Walton Walker looked out the window of the C-54 transport plane as he unfolded a well-worn map. The map was practically brand new, having come off a printing press only a month ago, but had been folded and unfolded so many times that it could pass as a relic of World War II like everything else the Army had in East Asia. The plane and the general had both had extensive experience in that war. So did the tanks and small arms being sent in today’s transport runs to Pusan. Even the airbase they were leaving, not far from Tokyo, counted as old. Before the Stars and Stripes was flown from its flagpole, there had been the Japanese Rising Sun or their Army’s flag in its place. New equipment was supposed to be coming from the States, but until it did, Walker’s Eighth Army had to hang on to their half of Korea with whatever leftovers happened to be hanging around.
    “You are cleared for takeoff” a voice announced through the radio, and the plane began to accelerate.
    Walker looked at his map again. In a couple of hours, he would be back on the ground, trying to salvage something from the disaster unfolding in Korea. Already the Communists had conquered about a third of the country, and were showing no signs of slowing down. To stop them, the 24th Division had been rushed from Japan, and the 25th was set to reach the front shortly. Half a dozen or so ROK divisions were also supposed to be manning the lines, but Walker’s confidence in them was basically gone by now. Their constant retreats were serious problem.
    “General, sir, we’re having a few problems getting off the ground,” Captain Mike Lynch said. Lynch was a good pilot, and Walker was confident he would get through whatever issues the plane was having.
    It was the last thing he heard before the C-54 burst into flames.

    Four hours later, Walker lay in hospital covered in burns and bandages. Everything hurt like hell, and it wasn’t too surprising when a doctor came in saying that he was lucky to be alive at all. He would probably lose his right leg, and God only knew what else had been damaged in that mess. The C-54 was still apparently strewn all across the runway, broken into dozens of pieces, and Captain Lynch was badly injured as well. The piece of map that had somehow survived lay on a small table next to him, prompting him to ask “When will I go back to the front?”
    “Never.” The doctor said flatly. “As I said, you’re lucky to be alive at all. I expect you’ll be getting an honourable discharge in a few weeks, and when you’re well enough they’ll send you back home. The front is your successor’s job now.”
    Walker’s mind immediately flicked back to the chaos of setting up the EUSAK command in the previous few days. “I don’t have a successor named.” he realised. General Dean from the 24th Division was handling things on the ground for now, but Dean had enough responsibilities. He didn’t need Eighth Army added to the list.
    “Sir, if you’d like to name one now, I can have someone pass the message on to Washington.” the doctor offered.
    One name came to Walker’s mind before he even tried to think. “Tell them to send Patton.” Beatrice had sent him a Christmas card last year, so he was sure George was still alive. If his old boss was anything like he had been back in Europe, he would be itching for another command.
    The doctor’s face lit up as soon as the words were out of his mouth. “My brother was at Bastogne, sir.” he explained. “Still says that serving under Patton was the finest thing he ever did.”
    Unable to move anything below his neck, the injured general had to content himself by staring out the window, where he saw a butterfly flying past.

    - BNC
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    Part I, Chapter 2

    In the form of many people
    In all panoplies of time
    Have I seen the luring vision
    Of the Victory Maid, sublime.

    July 13, 1950

    President Harry Truman frowned as he looked at the piece of paper that had been placed before him. It had four names on it, the four people that the Army thought would be best to replace Walton Walker. He had asked for the list as soon as he received the bad news from Japan – although the Army’s brass was more than capable of selecting a field commander on their own, the war in Korea was as much a political job as it was a military one. Although he had the Secretary of State and two of the country’s highest ranking generals in the White House, this was a decision only he would make. The buck stopped here.

    Then, handwritten at the bottom, in an obviously last-minute addition,
    George Patton

    “Talk me through the options, General.” Harry Truman said.
    “Ridgway has been my deputy for about a year,” J. Lawton Collins began. “During the last war he commanded the XVIII Airborne Corps at the Bulge and was set to command a corps during the invasion of Japan. Everyone I have ever spoken to agrees that he is an exemplary officer.
    “Clark was our top commander in Italy and is the only man on that list to have commanded an Army Group. He was also the youngest person to be awarded the four star rank, and I have great confidence in his abilities on the field.” Collins said.
    “Clark also served in the occupation forces in Germany, and has some experience negotiating with the communists.” Dean Acheson added. “I expect he’s the best option we’ve got for winning a peace.
    “We’ve got to win the war first.” Truman pointed out. “Go on.”
    “General Dean commanded a division in France and is currently commanding most of our units in Korea.” Collins continued. “While he is the youngest and least experienced man on that list, his familiarity with the combat conditions in Korea will work better to his advantage...”
    Truman took out a pen and drew a line through Dean’s name before Collins could finish. “We’ve been fighting there for a week, and it has been a hell of a mess. We need someone with experience. Consider Dean for a corps spot if one opens up.”
    “That leaves us with Patton.” Collins said. “I’m sure you know all about him. He liked to boast that Third Army drove further and faster than any other American army in history, and then he retired when he wasn’t given a Pacific command in the June of 1945. He fell off the map after that, as far as I know he coached polo teams in California for a few years.”
    “That sounds about right.” Truman stated. “I got a letter from his wife asking to give him a command two weeks ago.”
    “Politically, he is by far the most dangerous option.” Acheson said. “FDR nearly sacked him twice for running his mouth, and he was even more convinced than Winston Churchill that we should take the fight to the Russians right after VE day.”
    “I only added him to the list because I was told that Walker requested him.” Collins said. “Walker was a Third Army man, and I’ve never met a general so determined to be like his old boss as he did.”
    “Brad, you haven’t said anything.” Truman noticed. “What do you think?”
    “Patton was… difficult to work with.” Bradley said upon finding a suitable word. “He was my boss and then I was his. I didn’t care too much for the man personally. He thinks of war like it is a game or some piece of theatre, always showing off and being dramatic. However he may just be the man we need in Korea.”
    “In what way?” Truman asked.
    “Well, when we landed in North Africa the Army was a mess. Discipline was poor and nobody knew what they were doing. Got sent in at Kasserine, where the Germans chewed them up and spat them out. Then George arrived and within two weeks they were among the finest soldiers I’d seen. A few years ago I said that he got more work out of a mediocre staff than anyone else in the army, and he can do something similar with the GIs too. A lot of them will hate him for it, but by God he knows how to make men fight.”
    “Something about the last two weeks has told me that we might need that.” Collins added. “The budget cuts have been hell on the army. Last week we sent Task Force Smith in to try and stop the North Koreans. They couldn’t even manage to slow them down. We need equipment and need it bad, but we also need someone who can turn those men into soldiers again.”
    “Is he worth the risk? Politically, I mean.” Truman asked.
    “No way to know for sure.” Bradley admitted. “I believe we’ll be fine though. I don’t know how he did it, but he’s kept quiet since he left Europe.”
    “Very well.” Truman said. “Patton has command of Eighth Army from the day he gets there. Cut the orders accordingly.”

    Fifteen minutes later, he was on the phone with Patton. “General, I’ve got a new command for you. Eighth Army in Korea, as soon as you can be flown there.”
    “Thank you very much, Mr President.” Patton replied. “What are your orders?”
    “Wait for the Air Force to send someone to get you on a plane. Once you get to Tokyo, report directly to General MacArthur. Unless the United Nations decides otherwise, you have full freedom to act south of the 38th parallel, but are forbidden to cross it.” Truman said. “And keep your mouth shut about the Russians. This is a limited war and I expect it to remain that way.”
    “I’ll do my best, sir.” Patton promised.
    “Anything else I can do for you?” Truman asked.
    “If you can get them, I’d like a few people added to the command. John Mims, my old driver. William George Meeks, my aide. Both of them were sergeants.” Patton said, as Truman wrote down the names. “General Walter J. Muller, G4, and Creighton Abrams, who was a colonel last I saw him, and a very fine one at that. I want him for my chief of staff.”
    “You’ll have them.” Truman promised. As he put down the phone, he thought he heard the old general begin to cry.


    July 17, 1950

    The Monday morning was bright and sunny, with scarcely a cloud to be seen over Tokyo. Douglas MacArthur sat at his desk reading a letter from a Japanese businessman thanking him for getting the business off the ground again. Quite literally in this case – the factory had been burned out in one of the firebombing raids on Tokyo just before the atomic bombs were dropped. Now it was making some sort of supplies for the army fighting in Korea (what exactly MacArthur was not sure, one of his logistics men had placed the order and he had never heard of this particular factory until today). Like everything in the last three weeks, this too was dragging his attention back to Korea.
    Until recently, MacArthur hadn’t had to worry about Korea at all. His authority as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers had ended at the Korean shoreline, while a series of other people had been tasked with dealing with affairs in South Korea itself. Evidently they hadn’t done a very good job, as the ROK army barely deserved to be called an army any more. His thoughts on the war itself were mixed: on one hand, it was distracting from his efforts to democratise and rebuild Japan. On the other, it was Mars’ last gift to an old warrior, and a chance to win unmatched glory. Operation ‘Chromite’, sitting in a folder somewhere in “Pinky” Wright’s office ready to be turned from a draft into a battle plan.
    Mars, it seemed, had been handing out many more gifts than usual. As soon as he had teletyped to Washington that General Walker had been badly injured, President Truman had decided to interfere, insisting that he choose Eighth Army’s next commander. The following day, MacArthur was told that Patton would be arriving in Japan on the 16th, around nightfall. The news wasn’t particularly welcome: Patton was a prima donna, and if his performance in Europe was anything to go by, was likely to cause all of his superiors a great deal of grief. Hadn’t he told Marshall that he wanted no part of Patton’s theatrics as early as the planning for the invasion of Japan? Still, orders were orders, and it was obvious Truman wouldn’t let this one go ignored.
    When Patton came in for his 0930 meeting, he gave a salute that would have impressed the toughest of drill sergeants, and far surpassed MacArthur’s much more relaxed standards. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all...
    “Have a seat.” MacArthur said as he leaned back in his own chair. “How well do you remember 1918?”
    “It was a long time ago, sir.” Patton said.
    “So it was.” MacArthur agreed, thinking back to his last meeting with his new subordinate. “One day out by the trenches, with shells bursting all around us, I met a young major in the midst of an attack. While all the men around us were taking cover, he stood in front of me. Fearless. That young major was you, George. I’ve never forgotten that moment.”
    Patton too remembered that meeting, and also that he had held a lieutenant colonel’s rank at the time, but MacArthur was already out of his chair, continuing his speech.
    “I shall require you, and the rest of Eighth Army, to be as fearless as you were in France. The enemy currently holds the initiative and until the South Koreans learn to stand and fight, or reinforcements arrive from America, I expect that situation will remain the case. To that effect, you are to conduct a fighting retreat towards Pusan, keeping the front as far forward as possible while men and equipment arrive to stabilise the line. I have requested five additional divisions from Washington, and the 1st Cavalry will land on the peninsula tomorrow to join the existing forces there.”
    MacArthur saw Patton’s eyes light up at the mention of the Cavalry. “You began your career with the cavalry, if I’m not mistaken?”
    “That’s right.” Patton said. “Although I don’t suppose there’s too many horsemen in that outfit any more.”
    “It’s a full infantry unit now.” MacArthur confirmed. “But even if they were mounted, I’d still be putting them in the line. We don’t have enough men of any sort right now. I’ve stripped the occupation forces of all but the absolute minimum, giving us about a quarter of the enemy’s estimated strength. Maybe half if the ROK units maintain cohesion. Until reinforcements arrive from America, we’ll be operating at a disadvantage. As soon as they do, I’ll transfer them to your command.
    “I trust you’ll have no objection to an attack?” Patton asked.
    “Eighth Army is yours now, George. Do what you think best.” MacArthur replied. He doubted that Patton would have listened if he said ‘no’.

    - BNC
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    Part I, Chapter 3

    I have battled for fresh mammoth,
    I have warred for pastures new,
    I have listed to the whispers
    When the race trek instinct grew.

    July 17, 1950

    No-one knew whose idea it had first been to set up a giant Stars and Stripes next to the airstrip at Pusan. Whoever it was had convinced the base commander, and then he had decided to invite the press and as many GIs as could be found in the city. Before long, half of the free part of Korea knew that Patton would be giving a speech upon his arrival in the country before the general did himself. He knew that these first few days in Korea would be unimaginably busy – the frontline either chaotic or outright crumbling nearly everywhere – but he decided a short speech might give the troops the good kick in the pants that some of them seemed to need. Everything came down to morale. In an army, it had to. And this would boost morale better than any yelling at officers might hope to.
    “At ease!” he ordered. The crowd numbered probably several hundred, a lot of them Air Force, but the array of microphones in front of him would broadcast this speech to just about anyone with a radio.
    “Just before D-Day, I said that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.” Patton announced, receiving a great deal of laughter from the audience. “That was true then and it sure as hell is true now.”
    “I’ve only been in Asia for half a day, and I’ve already been told about a new word that some yellow son of a bitch has tried adding to our language. ‘Bugout’. I want all of you to forget that word at once. It does not exist. The only people who have use for such a word are cowards, and America is not a nation of cowards. America is a nation of brave men.
    “We’re out here because some of those goddamn communists seem to have forgotten what brave men like you can do. Now we’re going to show them. Eighth Army isn’t falling back. We’re going to go forward, and forward all the time! If the communists don’t clear out and run back across the 38th, we’ll run them over with our tanks and then toss their guts back into North Korea. I know a lot of you want nothing more than to get out of here. The way to do that goes straight through Seoul, so the sooner we can capture it the sooner everyone can go home.
    “There’s another thing I want you to remember. Three weeks after the start of the Great War, the Kaiser was worried he’d get run clear out of Prussia, so he pulled Marshal Hindenburg out of retirement, and almost immediately won a tremendous victory. We’re three weeks into this fight now. I’m not quite as old as Hindenburg was then, but I intend to do just the same thing.
    “It’s an honour to be your new commander.” Patton finished. “I look forward to leading you wonderful guys into battle, and to victory!”

    As he stepped off the makeshift stage, Patton was greeted by two of the men he had asked Truman to add to his command. Master Sergeants John Mims and William Meeks had both been in Korea for a few days, and had been ordered to Pusan at some point after Patton was given Eighth Army. Unlike just about everyone at the airbase, their shoes shined and their uniforms were in perfect condition. Patton was certain they were the only two on the base, probably in the whole of Korea, to be wearing ties.
    “It’s good to see you again, sir.” Mims said after saluting.
    “It’s good to be back.” Patton said. “Where’s the jeep?”
    “Just down there.” Mims replied, pointing down the road. “I imagine you want to go to Taegu?”
    “No, actually I’d like to go to the front.” Patton decided as they began walking towards the jeep. “Where is that at the moment?”
    “The 24th Division – that’s General Dean’s unit – is currently fighting around Taejon, about halfway between here and Seoul.” Meeks said. “The 25th, under General Kean, is currently in position near Sangju, about forty miles east of Taejon. Rest of the line is manned by ROK troops, between Yongdok on the east coast and Kunsan on the west.”
    Meeks was holding a small folder that looked full of papers. “What’s in that?” Patton asked.
    “Reports out of what would have been General Walker’s headquarters, sir.” Meeks replied. “And a map.”
    Patton took a look at the map, which had obviously been printed recently, and frowned. “Taejon, you say? That means the communists have overrun almost two thirds of the country in three weeks?”
    “That’s what I’ve been told, sir.” Meeks confirmed.
    “Then I want to go to Taejon. It looks like every road in that part of the country runs straight through it.” Patton said. “Phone Dean to tell him I’ll be coming.”
    “Can’t do that, sir.” Meeks said. “We might be able to get him on the radio, but nearly all of the phone lines to the front are out.”
    “Why the hell is that?” Patton asked.
    “Don’t know for sure, sir.” Meeks said. “Quite likely communist guerillas are interfering with our communications.”
    “I suppose we’ll find out once we find General Dean then.” Patton said. “John, get us to Dean’s command as fast as you can. I’m in a hurry.”
    “I understand that, sir.” Mims said, having received such an order at least a thousand times in Europe. “I’ll do my best, but we may not be able to move as fast as we did in France. This road is one of the best in Korea, and most of the others are a lot worse.”
    As Patton got in the jeep, he looked out at what the sergeant was calling one of the best roads in Korea. Really it was a hard dirt track, and no more than twenty feet wide.
    With the bad roads, enemy victories up north and a clearly undisciplined army, the general could have sworn he had fallen back in time eight years, and somehow landed back in North Africa.


    Even with Sergeant Mims driving at speeds far beyond what the bad Korean roads were designed for, the trip to Taejon took close to two hours, greatly frustrating General Patton. He had hoped to visit both US divisions, spend some time at the front and return to Eighth Army’s headquarters in Taegu by nightfall. By 1500, it was clear that the 25th Division wouldn’t see their new commander.
    “What’s the hold up this time?” Patton demanded when Mims was forced to slow the jeep to a crawl for the fourth time.
    “Refugees, it looks like.” Mims replied. “The front line’s only about ten miles up ahead.”
    “Stop the car, Sergeant.” Patton ordered once he got a good look at the crowd of Koreans on the road. Sure enough, they were civilians trying to get away from Taejon, probably two or three hundred in all. Malnourished and disorganised, they weren’t moving very quickly. A bunch of them had carts being pulled by mules who had little interest in moving, others carried their possessions on their backs. They took up all eighteen feet of the road’s width. Rice fields on either side of the road ensured no-one would step off it.
    A pair of MPs were in another jeep that had been following Patton’s. The general gestured for them to come over.
    “What do you need, sir?” One asked.
    “Get this damned road cleared.” Patton said. “Either of you speak Korean?”
    “No sir.” They both replied.
    Patton swore, but wasn’t too surprised. Hardly anyone spoke the language, much less the couple of kids that must have gone straight from high school into the Army.
    “Learn it.” Patton said to them. Then he turned to the refugees, who had stopped moving entirely. “Off the road!” he yelled. “Now!”
    A few of the Koreans reluctantly clambered into the rice fields, but most just stood there. Patton was about to repeat his orders when a Korean man of about fifty stepped forward from the crowd.
    “Sir, the animals can’t in the rice.” he said. His English wasn’t very good – Patton suspected he had once been fighting for the Japanese and learned it in a prisoner-of-war camp.
    “I don’t give a damn about the animals. I need your people off the road. Animals too.” Patton said.
    The Korean repeated Patton’s orders back to the rest of the refugees, which made about half of them get out of the way of the jeep, although not nearly so far off the road as he would have liked. He was about to return to the car when he noticed another boy, who had an unusually stiff-looking Army pack.
    “Let me see that!” Patton demanded.
    The two Koreans – the old man who was now acting as Patton’s interpreter, and the boy – discussed in their own language for a minute, then the boy offered the pack.
    Patton took it – he had received reports that the communists had been including spies in refugee columns. US Army packs were about as hard to find as dirt, but he suspected documents or weapons or something that might be useful to a North Korean agent. Instead he found a few C-ration tins, a book that might have been the Bible, and a length of copper wire that explained why the pack looked so stiff. As soon as he saw the wire he ripped it out and threw the pack to the ground.
    “Where the hell did you get this?” he held up the piece of wire to leave no doubt what he meant.
    “Off the road.” The Koreans eventually explained.
    “Stolen then.” Patton said. He turned to the MPs. “Soon as we get to Taejon, I want word put out to every scrap of territory we control. Anyone caught thieving our telephone wire is to be shot. Standing order for the rest of the war.”
    As soon as the order was given, the older Korean’s face dropped. “You gon’ shoot him?” he asked.
    “I ought to.” Patton said, reaching for one of his revolvers. The boy couldn’t have been older than eleven, and clearly didn’t have any possessions left, so he had a little bit of sympathy for him. “Just get him out of here.”
    With the MPs helping get the refugees off the road, the path was almost entirely cleared. The one exception was a mule that plainly refused to go anywhere near the rice fields. Patton by this point felt he had wasted enough time around here. Rather than waste any more, he pulled out his revolver, and put two bullets into the mule’s skull. More than a few of the Koreans gasped. The MPs didn’t need to be told to haul the corpse off the road.
    “I won’t be held up on account of a jackass crowding up our roads.” It was the only explanation he would ever give for his actions. “MPs, add to that message I gave out a minute ago. Starting tonight, no refugees on the roads after dark, and no animals on any roads wider than twelve feet. Animals can be shot on sight.”
    “Understood, sir.” They replied.
    “Then repeat it back to me.” Patton said. So far he had yet to see anyone follow this practise in Korea, even though it was the best way he knew to ensure an order would be followed.
    “Anyone caught stealing telephone wire, or any animals on roads wider than twelve feet, are to be shot on sight. Refugees are forbidden from the roads after dark.” The MP replied.
    “Very good.” Patton said. Without another word, he got back in the jeep and waved for Mims to drive on.

    - BNC
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    Part I, Chapter 4

    I have known the call to battle
    In each changeless changing shape
    From the high souled voice of conscience
    To the beastly lust for rape.

    July 19, 1950

    Patton frowned as he put down the telephone. He had just been talking with a major in Chonju, who was in charge of a company-strength patrol southwest of Taejon. That part of the front belonged to the ROK Army – there weren’t enough Americans to defend everything – but just because the ROK forces were supposed to be there, it didn’t mean they actually were. Sometimes, such as last night at Yongdok on the east coast, the Koreans were reasonably good soldiers. More often than not, they still fled at the first sign of enemy action.
    That major had given Patton news that he had been dreading. The communists were below the 36th parallel now, and had captured the port of Kunsan on the west coast. Actually the major had said that communications with the port had been lost, and had been for the last twenty-four hours. Phone lines still could not be relied on, although General Whitney, one of MacArthur’s men, had promised more would be delivered soon. Radio was out too, and nothing had been heard from the small ROK force that had been in the city. Unless the Koreans had pulled together a new force, something Patton thought highly unlikely, Kunsan was gone. It had probably been gone yesterday.
    One look at the map pinned to the wall was enough to see that the fall of Kunsan was, while not a disaster in itself, very close to becoming one. While US and ROK troops had formed something of a line stretching from the east coast to Taejon, practically nothing was positioned west of that city. Apart from a couple of regiments in Pusan, Eighth Army didn’t have many reserves. From Kunsan, it would be possible to storm down the west coast, or perhaps down the road through Chinju, and then strike at Pusan from the west.
    Patton traced the path down the map once, then twice, with his hand. It was exactly the sort of manoeuvre he would have tried himself had he been commanding the other side.
    God damn. He thought. This is the same move we used to break out of Normandy.
    “Landrum!” he called to the chief of staff he had inherited from Walker. “What reinforcements do we have coming up?”
    “The 19th Infantry is coming from Okinawa, sir. Should be about four days before they arrive.” Colonel Landrum said at once, referring to a regiment that had just been pulled from occupation duties. “And of course there’s the rest of the 1st Cavalry ready to unload in Pusan when the typhoon passes.”
    “1st Cavalry is no good.” Patton said. “I’ll need those at Taejon before too long. Any others you’re aware of?”
    “The 2nd Division is supposed to be coming from Washington state, although we don’t know when they will arrive.” Landrum said. “Likely to be too late to launch a counterattack with them.”
    ROK troops it would have to be, then. “Cut orders for the 19th to move to Sunchon as soon as they get off the boats.” Patton said. “And find as many ROKs as you can in the area to join them.” Sunchon, on the southern coast of Korea, was far to the south of Kunsan, but it was the furthest forward position along the likely North Korean route where he felt confident a position could be established. Chonju, much closer to Kunsan and the only other city of note along the western roads, would easily be taken in the next four or five days.
    Eighth Army intelligence wasn’t able to determine exactly what units the NKPA was using in the attack along the west coast, but it seemed likely that neither their 3rd or 4th Divisions were taking part – General Dean had reported both as active in the battle for Taejon, as well as a tank brigade. A couple of hours later, when digging through some old papers, they found another division that had been in western South Korea at the start of the war but seemed to have disappeared off the map since – the 6th.
    “I’d say it’s likely to be them at Kunsan.” Patton said as soon as he was informed. He had Sergeant Meeks contact General Willoughby, MacArthur’s chief of intelligence, only for Willoughby to claim that there was no 6th Division before hanging up.
    Furious, Patton called him again. “This is General Patton.” he barked. “I don’t know where you got that bullshit about the North Korean 6th Division not existing, but I’m holding a report dated June 26 saying they were near Inchon then, and my men believe that it is in the Kunsan region now.”
    “General, nobody in this headquarters has any record of such a unit.” Willoughby replied. “Your report is likely mistaken.”
    “It’s not.” Patton snapped. He had seen enough intelligence reports in Europe to be sure this one was good. “If you don’t know where the 6th is, get your men off their asses and have them find it. I won’t have a communist division running around my rear just because you don’t have a goddamn paper saying it exists.”
    “Sir, I’ve been following orders from General MacArthur.” Willoughby said, as if that helped anything.
    “I don’t give a good goddamn. I’m giving you this order. Find that division.” Patton said, knowing that he had two stars more than Willoughby. As he slammed down the phone, he remarked to Meeks, “If that man was on my staff I’d have relieved him for that.”
    As it turned out, Eighth Army would get a new G2 before the week was out. Although he didn’t like removing men from command, Lieutenant Colonel James Tarkenton hadn't been performing as well as he would have liked, and Patton couldn’t afford the time needed for his existing intelligence team to learn on the job. A message was sent to Washington, requesting Colonel Oscar W. Koch be sent to Korea to take up the same role he had held in Third Army. The rest of the intelligence guys would work things out given time. Koch was the best intelligence man Patton knew. He would get things moving, even if Willoughby refused to.


    July 20, 1950

    Not one step back. They were words uttered by many a commander on the eve of a lost battle, and now Patton had given them to the defenders of Taejon. General William F. Dean of the 24th Division knew that Patton was gambling with the lives of the entire division that the town could be held.
    Dean wasn’t feeling confident himself. Until Patton showed up, he had been planning to evacuate the city – indeed he would have done it yesterday – and then make a stand further south. There were at least two, possibly three, North Korean divisions out there, and his unit had already taken 25 or 30% casualties. Taejon had also been filled with roadblocks, installed by North Korean sympathisers either from what little of the local population had stuck around, or more likely elements of their army that had taken off their uniform to act like spies. Now that Patton had ordered the unit stop moving, he wondered if the little bastards would keep building those obstacles.
    “Taejon is the key to everything.” Patton had explained. “We can’t afford to lose it, and as long as we hold it we cramp the enemy’s style.” The comments held some merit: most major roads in the area ran straight through the town. Whatever enemy force had managed to take Kunsan to the west would be relying on a roundabout route if it was receiving any supplies at all, and those routes were being watched all the time by air now. Rumours circulated that Patton had yelled at the boss of the air force until the bombers had been flown out.

    Bombers wouldn’t be much help here. The fighting was much too close for that now. While his staff had evacuated to Yongdong, twenty miles down the road, he was now holed up in the second story of what might have been a bank. An hour ago, a couple of friendly halftracks had driven past on a street that hadn’t yet been blocked by the communists. Orders were to shoot anyone seen building a roadblock, no questions asked. Patton didn’t want Eighth Army laying them – they were bad for morale or something. Civilians had no right to build them, and there was warning enough given yesterday.
    He looked out of a glassless window at that same street. He thought that the street was still friendly controlled, until he saw the T-34 rolling down it.
    “Wish I had a damned bazooka.” he muttered. A few of them had made it to the unit, but a general was never going to be the first to use them. Then he noticed that the tank’s commander, an either arrogant or stupid North Korean, had left the hatch of the cupola open.
    Almost without thinking, he pulled a grenade from his belt and removed the pin. As he threw it out the window, he grabbed his gun and ran into the next room, and then the one after that. He hoped to land the grenade in the tank, but if he didn’t kill it, the Koreans would know where he had been, and a couple dozen pounds of high explosive would be heading there shortly.
    An explosion outside came, and then some screaming. Nothing more. He might have hit something, but the tank was still a going concern. More crashes outside told him the battle wasn’t ending any time soon.


    July 22, 1950

    General Hobart “Hap” Gay watched through his field glasses as the artillery fire rained down on the hills north of Yongdong. 1st Cavalry had been rushed into this position all through the previous night, by jeep, train and 2½ ton truck. The communists had captured a stretch of the road up ahead, cutting the best road and only rail track into Taejon, and Patton was adamant that they had to be regained immediately. The Air Force was dropping supplies east of the city, and had been ever since Patton decided to draw the North Koreans into an urban battle, but Dean’s unit was getting chewed up regardless. As soon as the road was opened again, the Cavalry was going to send two-thirds of its strength to join that fight.
    Every artilleryman’s helmet shined. Everyone wore their tie. More than a thousand dollars lined Gay’s pocket for minor infractions (Patton’s usual fine of $25 had increased to $40 for this war). When their commander toured the unit a couple of days ago, he had brought back discipline with the force of a whirlwind, or maybe a tornado. A week ago, Eighth Army had been sloppy about such things. No more. Gay had been Patton’s chief of staff in the last war. He still remembered how his old boss worked. 1st Cavalry might whinge about the so-called chickenshit, but they would follow it.
    The radio began crackling. “Hap Here.” the general said.
    “Eighth Regiment here, sir.” Someone – Gay didn’t recognise the voice – said on the other end. “Colonel’s down.”
    “Damn it!” Gay cursed. “How’s the advance moving?”
    “Slowly” was the reply. Gay was satisfied with that: the regiment was almost entirely green, and the North Koreans hadn’t been checked too many times anywhere on the front.
    “Tell the men to keep firing.” Gay said. Patton hadn’t had a lot of time to train the troops before he sent them into battle, but he’d made a point out of that. “Doesn’t matter how scared the troops get, they have to keep firing. Make the enemy keep their heads down.”
    It would take until the middle of the next day to fully clear the communists away from the road. Gay might have been happy if he hadn’t heard news making the situation much worse.
    “Chinsan and Chonju have fallen.” Came the message. It referred to a couple of small towns both almost due south of Taejon. As his troops picked over the communist dead and saw the rest of them retreat here in the east, it became apparent that the battle he had just fought had only defeated a diversion.
    And Taejon looked set to be outflanked again…

    - BNC
    Last edited:
    Part I, Chapter 5

    I have sinned and I have suffered,
    Played the hero and the knave;
    Fought for belly, shame, or country,
    And for each have found a grave.

    July 24, 1950

    The mood in Eighth Army headquarters was frantic. It had been for most of the past month, transferring from occupation duties to those of a field army, then receiving a new commander, and then having several top staff replaced. Patton hadn’t enjoyed firing the men, some of which had served with Walker for several years, but there was no time to spare for them to improve, as he might have allowed under less trying circumstances. As things were, most of the men were sent off with words of apology and recommendations for staff positions in the new corps that would likely be formed as Eighth Army grew. The most notable exception to this was Colonel John Jeters, who had been Walker’s G3, in charge of operational planning. Six days under Patton hadn’t been enough to motivate Jeters to have plans to attack anywhere and everywhere south of the 38th parallel. Jeters seemed convinced that the North Koreans were too strong to consider serious offensive operations against. Patton sacked him on the spot.
    All of the men Patton had requested Washington send to replace them had come in today. Koch in intelligence and Muller in logistics, were thrust straight back into the roles they had performed in Third Army. Colonel Abrams had been earmarked with the role of chief of staff, but Eugene Landrum had proven competent and Patton had taken a liking to him.
    “I can’t sack him. He’s a good man.” Patton had explained. “So I’ll put you in as my G3 instead.”
    Abrams was now working with Landrum and a couple of others to develop a plan to break out of Taejon and cut the roads on the west coast. Some reinforcements were starting to come in – the 5th Regiment was supposed to be unloading at Pusan today, and MacArthur had promised a brigade of Marines which would arrive in a week or so. MacArthur insisted that the Marines would only be under Eighth Army control temporarily, as he wanted to use them for an amphibious operation in the future. Patton was determined to get them into the line of battle as soon as possible, not only because the 24th Division was in dire need of R&R, but also to prevent them from being transferred out. MacArthur, it seemed, was more interested in launching this amphibious invasion than he was about actually winning the war, which Eighth Army would be able to do just fine once some reinforcements arrived.
    Patton had been just about to leave for a trip to the front – the troops in front of Sangju had just repulsed a North Korean attack and he wanted to pin medals on a bunch of them – when the phone rang.
    “This is General Patton.” he said.
    “Good afternoon, General. It’s Ambassador Muccio.” the US Ambassador to South Korea said. “I’ve just received a message from Mr Rhee. He’s not happy with you.”
    “What’s his problem? I’ve done more to defend his country than two-thirds of his army.” Patton snapped. He didn’t like Syngman Rhee terribly much himself: they had yet to meet in person, but he had seen enough of Korea to notice the incredible amounts of corruption going on.
    “Apparently he just found out about an order you gave last week forbidding animals on any of the major roads, and is demanding you retract it immediately. His words, I quote, were that ‘it is an insult to the honour of the Korean farmer’.” Muccio said.
    “Tell him to go to hell.” Patton said. “I was held up by a goddamn mule for fifteen minutes that day. Hasn’t he read my book? I need the damn roads clear so I can advance.”
    “Sir, with all due respect, he is our ally.” Muccio said.
    “Then our ally needs to shut up.” Patton said. “If we weren’t here the stinking communists would have pushed him into the sea by now. Let me fight the war so that we can win it. Tell him to take it up with Doug MacArthur if it matters that goddamn much.”
    “I don’t imagine you want me to use those words, sir?” Muccio asked.
    “No, you’re right.” Patton said, suddenly thinking it was a good thing Beatrice had told him not to host any press conferences out here. “Find some diplomatic way to put it. But the order stays unless MacArthur says otherwise.”


    July 28, 1950

    The colonel of the 5th Infantry Regiment had said that this unit was the first American force to be launching an attack in Korea since the beginning of this war. Master Sergeant Carl Dodd doubted that to be entirely true – it was Patton that was their commander after all. In his breast pocket, Dodd carried a copy of Patton’s book, which had come out just after he re-enlisted in the Army. That book came damned close to rejecting defensive action altogether. Indeed, the transport ship that brought him to Asia had only been in port for about ten minutes before word came through stating that the regiment would be heading straight into action.
    Sunchon, their destination, had fallen to the communists a day or two ago after what the colonel described as a valiant effort to hold it by the 19th Regiment. Patton obviously hadn’t given out a ‘no step back’ order down here the way he had further north, as the 19th had fallen back a few miles to regroup. The two regiments would attack the North Korean position together at 1300. In the meantime, Dodd took this opportunity to clean his M1 Garand rifle, a piece of kit Patton called “that magnificent weapon”. This tank, a Chaffee that had once belonged to another unit but found itself taken by his one, would carry him most of the way to the front. Just past Hadong, there wasn’t a lot of danger of the enemy showing up.
    Then, all of a sudden, there was. The other regiment was nowhere to be seen, but here was a squad of North Koreans firing away. He shoved the rag that had just been cleaning his rifle into his belt and began shooting back, off to what was probably the north.
    “Keep shooting!” he yelled out to anyone who could hear. He knew the advice from Patton’s book, and it didn’t surprise him to hear that the order had come from the top. He had first enlisted in 1943 and was well versed in tactics to keep men alive. A lot of others in the unit were not.
    “I thought we were meant to be getting some training before we met the gooks!” one of the privates he commanded said.
    “This is your field training.” Dodd replied, all too aware that the regiment was being thrust into action well before it was truly ready. Almost everything in Korea wasn’t ready. Evidently the time didn’t exist to get them ready. A simple instruction – keep shooting – would have to do until it did.
    The skirmish ended with only one man wounded and the communists scared off by the tank’s machine gun fire. Ammo was cheap, and spending it had just saved who knew how many lives.


    August 2, 1950

    General Patton walked through Taejon. More to the point, he walked through the ruins of Taejon. The battle that had been raging in and around the city for the last couple of weeks was not yet over, with North Korean holdouts blocking a few small parts of the city and the remnants of two divisions occupying the ground between the city and the Kum River a few miles to the north. Enough ground had been retaken to make this a victory for the UN forces. The holdouts would be taken care of in due course.
    General Dean walked alongside him. Neither of them said a word. Both knew that this had been an expensive victory. Dean’s division was something like 45% casualties. Back in Europe, Patton would have withdrawn it from the line at a third of that. Here, throwing every available man into the fight had barely been enough to keep part of Taejon in UN hands long enough for artillery and bombers to take some of the pressure off the infantry. The North Koreans had tried twice to take the city by outflanking it, but their armour faced air attack every time it moved while the Americans scrounged up enough tanks of their own to halt the manoeuvre. The city itself, or at least the roads running through it, were always the goal.
    “Makes you wonder why they didn’t try to go around us.” Dean remarked.
    “They did, but they needed the city for it to be any use.” Patton observed. “Parts of their 6th Division were scattered all across the southwest, I think they were trying to take Pusan by surprise. Unless they could run supplies down this road, they couldn’t do a lot with them.” There were a couple of other roads further west, watched as often as planes could be put in the sky, but the best route was the one the two generals were standing on.
    “I want your men to know I’m damned proud of them.” Patton said. “A battle like this always comes down to guts, and your division showed they have plenty of those.”
    “Sir, right now I think they would prefer a rest.” Dean said.
    “I don’t blame them at all for that.” Patton said, remembering the blood price the 24th Division had paid. “As soon as the Marines arrive, I’ll swap your troops over by the regiment. See if we can’t get some more of the ROKs helping too.”
    “They’ve been improving a lot.” Dean observed.
    “That’s good.” Patton said. “Once you’ve secured the city, I’ll need you to establish a position across the Kum for the Marines and ROKs. Don’t just halt at the river – cross it. Wars have been lost by failing to cross rivers quickly, and what’s left of those two North Korean divisions need to be prevented from regrouping.”
    “There’s not much left of them, sir.” Dean said. Judging by the number of bodies strewn around this part of Taejon, the two crack infantry divisions Kim Il-Sung had sent into Taejon were in even worse shape than his own was.
    “Their retreat was orderly.” Patton observed. “A unit organised enough to retreat in good order is one that can still be dangerous.” Having been unable to prevent the North Koreans from breaking into the southwest, he was determined not to underestimate the enemy again. Every unit in the Eighth Army had been warned to guard its flanks – a basic principle that seemed to have been forgotten over the last few years. As he begun rotating them out of the line, he intended to reinforce that lesson.
    Four Silver Stars and an assortment of other medals sat in his pockets ready to be handed out to troops that had distinguished themselves, so Patton signalled for his jeep to pick him and General Dean up. When it arrived, Sergeant Meeks was riding in it.
    “I thought you were staying at the command post.” Patton said, demanding an explanation.
    “Sir, news from Tokyo.” Meeks replied. “Apparently MacArthur has flown to Formosa to talk with Chiang.”
    Patton didn’t know what to say for a moment – Chiang had already offered several divisions of Chinese troops that would have been very useful in the lines over the last few weeks, but Truman insisted he stay out. Then the words came out.
    “Why, that god damn son of a bitch!”

    - BNC
    Last edited:
    Part I, Chapter 6

    I cannot name my battles
    For the visions are not clear,
    Yet, I see the twisted faces
    And I feel the rending spear.

    August 6, 1950

    Douglas MacArthur considered his trip to Taejon, just his second to Korea since hostilities began, to have been a great success. Reporters and cameras from Life magazine, from the NBC and other radio and television networks, journalists from a couple dozen countries, had all captured the moments he walked through the largest city to be liberated from North Korean control so far. Every one of those reports would have General of the Army Douglas MacArthur front and centre. He was here. He was winning the war. The streets of Taejon, battered as they were, were entirely free again. All because of his leadership.
    Though he would never admit it, not even to Jean, he knew that he wouldn’t be striding through Taejon today if not for Patton. The day that Patton had showed up in Korea, Eighth Army was in retreat basically everywhere, and the troops in Taejon had thought they would be fighting a holding action for just a few days to give the rest of the army time to set up a position in front of Pusan. Patton had done seemingly done it by kicking butts harder and more often than anyone else had dared. It had worked: communications between the units were not perfect, but certainly a lot better than they were. Discipline and troop confidence was also greatly improved. Equipment and manpower remained a problem, but the only way those were being solved was by ships coming from the other side of the Pacific.
    Patton had kicked butts a little too hard though. That was why, as the press folks were leaving and the Bataan waited on a newly recaptured airstrip, he was sitting down with the general in what had once been a bank, and now was merely a building that was missing a good third or more of its south-facing walls. He hated confronting subordinate officers, but Patton wasn’t going to listen to Whitney and had refused to speak with Almond at all. So, after a brief exchange of greetings and congratulations, he decided to get straight to the point.
    “Now George,” MacArthur said. “we have an issue of political sensitivity, and a serious one at that. President Rhee is brewing up a storm with Washington over this order to clear the roads.”
    “Mr Rhee? I already told the ambassador that he doesn’t know anything about fighting a war and should let me do the job properly.” Patton said, already angry.
    “I understand that, indeed I agree with your motivations. Yet the fact remains that Mr Rhee is our ally, and his concerns must be considered. Our mission out here is to help the Korean people after all.” MacArthur said.
    “The orders have to stay. I don’t know how many goddamn times I got held up in France because nobody had a damn clue how to run our logistics. If they’d listened to me I’d have been over the Siegfried Line in two days and a tenth the casualties.” Patton said.
    MacArthur decided to just let Patton rant about what could have been in Europe. He couldn’t afford to sack him: Truman had sent him not three weeks ago, and Washington had already involved itself far too much in the affairs in Asia. They’d already objected to his attempt to get Chinese troops to help hold the line, even though it was clear those troops were desperately needed. Finally, when Patton began claiming that he could have taken Berlin by the Christmas of 1944…
    MacArthur held up his hand once he decided Patton had ranted for long enough. “Don't worry yourself about that, George. I will deal with the refugee problem if the issue comes up again. Your order to keep the roads clear may remain in place. If someone around here had thought of them earlier I might have given it myself.” He didn’t need to mention that had he given that order, it wouldn’t have been by shooting a mule in front of three hundred Koreans. “I’ll explain to Mr Rhee the military necessity of those orders, so as to keep them from further interfering with our operations. I can’t say the same for the fifty thousand Koreans serving in units under your command, and he’s demanding they be placed under someone – anyone – but you. He simply will not tolerate his countrymen to be placed under an Eighth Army that you lead.”
    “You’re splitting the command?” Patton asked angrily.
    “For the sake of cordial relations with our allies, I must.” MacArthur explained. “And as you’re much too valuable to send back to California, I’m going to have to restrict your command to American troops only.” As of yet, Americans and South Koreans were the only troops manning the UN lines, but London had already promised a force to arrive before the end of the month and other countries were preparing contingents of their own. MacArthur doubted any of them wanted to be associated with Patton’s inability to be diplomatic. "The Koreans will of course remain on the lines, under the control of another commander who I shall appoint on my return to Tokyo. Although they will not be formally under Eighth Army's jurisdiction, I will ensure that General Coulter understands your authority."
    “How do you expect me to man the lines if you’re taking half my troops away?” Patton demanded.
    “I’ve already given you the Marine brigade, and Willoughby assures me there are no North Koreans remaining along the west coast. The two regiments there and the Marines will make up for most of the Koreans being removed from your command. And of course, more reinforcements are on the way from the States.” MacArthur explained. “Willoughby is also certain that the North Koreans west of the mountains are greatly weakened after the battle here.”
    “Willoughby is…” Patton caught himself. “No, I’ll keep my mouth shut. But last week Hickey said you’d be taking the Marines away for ‘Chromite’, as well as a division that hasn’t even arrived yet. How am I to advance then?”
    “As things stand, there is little need for further offensives at present. As long as the present positions can be held, ‘Chromite’ will allow us to trap the enemy and we shall win the war there.”
    Although MacArthur had ordered everyone away from the building, a second lieutenant now stood at the doorway. “Urgent message for General Patton, sirs.” he said, announcing his arrival.
    “What is it?” Patton asked.
    “Andong has fallen, sir. Colonel Landrum thinks the communists have launched another big offensive.”
    MacArthur dismissed Patton without a word. Andong was – no, had been – defended by an ROK unit. It hadn’t been implemented yet and already the decision to separate Korean units was looking like a bad one. If only the politicians would let the Army actually fight the war without interfering all the time.


    August 8, 1950

    “Sir, without the Koreans, we simply don’t have enough troops in the sector to do all that you ask.”
    Nineteen words that summed up everything that was wrong with Eighth Army. As soon as they were out of his mouth, Colonel Creighton Abrams knew that his commander would not be happy. Patton never liked being told no, especially when he wanted to launch an offensive. He thought back to his days in Third Army, when Patton would repeat the phrase ‘never take counsel of your fears’, find some supplies that he later found out had come from other US armies, and then order the offensive go ahead anyway. In Korea, there were no other armies to take supplies from (the ROK troops didn’t have anything worth taking).
    For a wonder, Patton didn’t curse him out. Half the headquarters staff it seemed had already experienced that. An hour after Patton called you a son of a bitch, he would be praising you as a fine officer again, but it wasn’t an experience Abrams looked forward to. The exception was Charles Willoughby in Tokyo, who he had decided was incompetent and refused to speak to at all. But instead, Patton listened. Maybe today he was in a good mood.
    “What do we have the troops for?” he asked.
    “You want to train troops up in the rear. You want to attack north from our bridgehead over the Kum River. You want to retake Kunsan. I can give you one of those today without jeopardising our positions, and a second once the 5th and 19th Regiments secure the southwest and turn it over to ROK police. That’s likely to take another three or four days, and they’d need another two to redeploy.” Abrams explained. He didn’t need to explain that those two regiments had taken far longer than expected to defeat the North Korean force still active around Kwangju. None of the battles there had been in any way decisive: heavy fire and the support of some tanks had made the Koreans retreat time and time again, but very few had been killed or taken prisoner. What was really needed down there was artillery, but every spare gun had been needed at Taejon. Kwangju had only been surrounded the previous day, and there was still something like half a division holed up in there.
    “Priorities, then?” Patton said. “Training has to be first. Most of the troops are still green, and don’t know anything about holding a flank or proper patrols.”
    Abrams made a note on a scrap of paper to make sure the commanders assigned to training duties were told to focus on making the troops watch their flanks. “What then, sir?”
    “Seoul.” Patton said. “I expect local attacks to go in that direction even if the rest of the line can’t move forward. We have the enemy by the balls. Time to kick him in the ass.”
    “I’ll have the orders ready.” Abrams said.
    Seoul? That was a long way away. Even counting the two regiments in the south, Eighth Army still only had three divisions, and at least one of those would be combat ineffective for a while yet. Abrams wasn’t confident of getting near Seoul any time soon. He was feeling lucky that the NKPA had decided to strike further east.


    August 12, 1950

    Sergeant Carl Dodd crouched in a hastily-dug foxhole on the outskirts of Kwangju. The book in his pocket said not to dig foxholes, as they were bad for morale and didn’t do much to keep you alive. That might have been good advice if you were charging across the plains of France limited only by the horsepower of the engine of a Sherman tank. He hadn’t been a part of Third Army’s great charge, having served in a training role then. Now he was laying siege to God knew how many North Koreans. The front hadn’t moved much in five days, and no-one was keen to storm the town. Taejon had been an expensive battle for both sides. Word was that Taejon was located somewhere important. Kwangju wasn’t. A siege would do. The gooks had to be low on supplies anyway: every road on the west coast of Korea had been bombed to hell, and Navy Corsairs were a common sight over first Sunchon and then Kwangju itself.
    He peered over the top of his foxhole, rifle at the ready. There was a North Korean coming out towards them. He was about to fire when he saw the white flag. Faint yellow really – whatever that rag he was holding was supposed to be, it clearly hadn’t been washed in a while. The intent couldn’t have been clearer.
    “Hold your fire!” he yelled out, just in case his buddies didn’t see the fellow’s makeshift flag.
    All there was left to do was wait. None of the Americans in his unit spoke Korean, but there were a few ROK troops nearby to take the man back to the command tent. The colonel would make a decision, presumably having already received orders from Patton.
    The wait was long and tense, but Dodd still preferred it to being shot at, or worse, being under mortar fire. Eventually, word came out that the entire North Korean 6th Division was surrendering. He never saw that one North Korean soldier again, but others came out of the town with hands above their heads, so word was correct. Most of them looked starved half to death.
    Later that night, one of the privates in his unit asked him a question that was on everyone’s minds. “Sarge, what are we supposed to do with four thousand prisoners?”
    He thought about it, and then gave the best answer he could. “I don’t know. That’s for the generals to decide.” Had someone told him that not even the generals knew what to do, he wouldn’t have been too surprised.

    - BNC
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    Part I, Chapter 7

    Perhaps I stabbed our Saviour
    In His sacred helpless side.
    Yet, I've called His name in blessing
    When after times I died.

    August 15, 1950

    General William F. Dean was at the front. Half of all the field commanders would be today, and the other half would be tomorrow. A few days ago Patton had decided it would be good for morale if the troops saw more of their commanders, so he ordered all of them to visit the front at least once every second day, and to send their chiefs of staff out any days they did not themselves go. Whether it had any real impact on troop morale, Dean wasn’t quite sure. Everyone got excited when Patton visited, but he was a household name and well known for being successful. Dean wasn’t famous for anything, and a lot of troops really didn’t care if they saw their divisional commander or not. Most of them probably thought they would get fined for unclean uniforms (though very few of those had to be given out any more). It did give him a greater awareness for conditions at the front. Maybe that’s why Patton had given the order.
    “You know today’s the Korean Fourth of July, sir?” one corporal said.
    “I can’t say I had thought about it like that.” Dean admitted. He had been told earlier this morning that it was five years since Japan surrendered, but he had never bothered to make the connection to Korea.
    “Well one of those fellas over there, they captured a gook prisoner a couple weeks ago. Back in that stinkin’ city.” the corporal’s buddy said. “Then one of our gooks start to interrogate him, y’know, back when they were still out here. Bastard said Kim wanted to win by today. Symbolic victory or some crap like that.”
    “We shoved that victory up their asses, eh?” The corporal added.
    “You sure did.” Dean said. “A hundred miles east they launched another attack but we stopped that one too.” He didn’t bother mentioning that it had been ROK troops that stopped the communists in the mountains. These two probably wouldn’t care if he did.
    “Bet Kim’s pissin’ ‘imself for that.” The clearly uneducated buddy said. The corporal laughed.
    “I tell you two what.” Dean said. “You tell me the thing you think would make Kim’s life even worse, I’ll do my best to get it out here.”
    “Artillery.” they said in unison. The corporal added that he “hadn’t hardly heard ‘em the last three, four days.”
    He had asked that question to dozens of men on the line today, and on Sunday, and on Friday. A lot of men said they wanted the ROKs back. Some thought that Pyongyang needed to be hit with an A-bomb. Still too many of them just wanted to go home and leave Korea to its fate. None of those requests could be granted. Artillery though, that was a request that could be met. “I’ll see what I can do.” he promised.
    As he was driven back to the division headquarters, now just down the road from Patton’s army headquarters in Taejon, he wondered if perhaps it would be better if the troops didn’t get the extra artillery right now. The division, or actually most of Eighth Army, had been running on fumes ever since the battle in Taejon. Fighting that action had blown through what little stockpiles there were in Korea, and building those up again would take some time. The area near Munui was very much a quiet sector right now – they advanced a half-mile a day to keep the pressure on the enemy, but little more than that. Maybe it was better if the stockpiles were allowed to build up again.


    August 18, 1950

    The last time Walton Walker had been at this airfield near Tokyo, it had been the day of that terrible accident. To this day, nobody was quite sure what had gone wrong. What was certain was that a fire had started in the plane, ignited something else, and the C-54 had exploded into pieces. The best explanation anyone had come up with was that the maintenance crew had done an inadequate job. A couple of chunks of the plane had been kept – one had already been put on a stone column installed near the door to the airbase’s largest building as a grim warning to anyone who thought about slacking on the job. Another would go in a Tokyo museum before too long. The rest had merely been cleared from the runway, turned to scrap metal, and sold to Japanese factory owners.
    Like it did with any unpleasant events, the world was eager to forget the accident ever occurred. Walker knew he never would, and not just because his right leg had been amputated above the knee and most of his body still hurt like hell a lot of the time, or even that he now used a wheelchair whenever he wanted to go more than about ten feet at a time. Captain Mike Lynch, the pilot that would have flown him to Korea, had bravely fought for a week after the accident to stay alive, before ultimately succumbing to his many injuries. His remains were set to fly back to the United States today, as would Walker himself, on another C-54. One that had been checked over much more carefully than the last.
    Then, when he got back to Texas, his retirement from the Army would become official. He would leave with a fourth star, a ‘thank you’ from Washington and quite likely a way to give him the same rank as the new owner of his last command.
    Today was the day to say goodbye.
    As soon as the doctors said that Walker was fit enough to be flown across the Pacific, MacArthur had decided to turn his departure into a great media event. All of the people from the press that had been covering events in Korea were here, cameras were set up all along the runway. Even that giant American flag that Patton had given a speech in front of was present, adding to the background scenery. Now MacArthur stood in front of it, announcing what an honour it had been to have Walker manage the occupation army and how he had done a splendid job helping turn Japan into a bastion of democracy.
    Patton, who had flown over from Korea, also gave a speech filled with colourful language and stories from their service together in Europe. It suddenly occurred to him that the radio people might be broadcasting the speech live, in which case there were bound to be quite a few shocked ears back in America.
    Finally he gave his own speech, expressing his thanks to everyone in the Army and wishing the UN troops in Korea the very best. He kept it short, because talking would become painful if he did it long enough, and he could be certain that it wouldn’t be very memorable, especially after the performances it was following.

    What the world would remember was a comment he made to Patton, who had seemingly been reunited with his dog Willie (who must have flown in on the same plane that was going to fly him out), as the ground crew were about to lift his wheelchair into the C-54.
    “Fight like a bulldog.”


    August 21, 1950

    “There can be no doubt that the Koreans are planning something big.” Oscar Koch said. “Since we broke their radio codes a couple of weeks ago, we’ve identified at least four enemy divisions in front of our positions near the Kum River. In addition to the 3rd and 4th known to have been facing these positions since July, it appears that the 2nd and 15th Divisions are also in the area. Their intention is unclear, but I suspect there will be an attack centred on the Chongju road.”
    Patton flicked a bit of ash off the end of his cigar. He had called a meeting of the entire staff to plan his own offensive, not hear about an enemy one. “What makes you think that?”
    “Lieutenant General Kang Kon.” Koch said. “Tall for a Korean, and an extremely fierce opponent. We think he was part of the Red Army during the last war. One of the best generals North Korea has. He’s been spending a lot of time around Chonan. If they were going to launch a major attack, he is a likely candidate to lead it. Some of our troops call him King Kong.”
    “Any intercepts explicitly mentioning an attack?” Abrams asked.
    “Negative.” Koch said. “At least that we’ve caught and decoded. If I was Kim Il-sung though, I’d want to launch one quickly. North Korea must know they cannot hope to win a war of attrition, so the only alternative would be a quick victory. Their offensive in the east was a failure, so they would have to look somewhere else. Korea isn’t wide enough to give them too many other options.
    “Any armour reinforcements?” Colonel Landrum asked.
    “Maybe a handful of T-34s.” Koch said. “Although by all accounts the North Korean armour is finished as a significant threat.”
    “Good.” Patton said. “Because I want to hit them with everything we’ve got.”
    He walked up to a map of Korea that had been pinned to a wall and now had all the front lines and divisions marked on it.
    “Here” he said as he pointed to the area west of Taejon, where neither side had many troops, “is where we shall strike them. Station the 2nd Division, those two regiments in the south, and the British troops, as well as most of our tanks. Tie up King Kong in front of the river while we hit him from the side. Then use the 25th to get around him from the east. Surround the army and march into Seoul.”
    “George, we don’t have any of those units there yet.” Muller noted. “Only the regiments are even in Korea.”
    “I’ll have them in ten days, and I expect you to have a plan to get them in position forty-eight hours after they arrive in Pusan.” Patton said. Getting the Commonwealth troops placed under his command hadn’t been easy, but Prime Minister Attlee was eventually called, only to say he would rather they be under his command than under MacArthur’s.

    Once he had dismissed the staff back to their plans for the upcoming offensive, Sergeant Meeks presented him with a pile of mail. “A lot of things for you today, sir.”
    Most of them were letters from Beatrice that had gotten stuck in the mail and were now arriving all at once. Willie was apparently quite sad about having been left back in California, although that wasn’t a problem now that he lay resting under a nearby desk. Richard Nixon was making even more of a fuss than usual as he campaigned for a seat in the Senate. The polo club had found a new coach but had promised to give him the spot back once he returned from the war. Then Patton noticed that the last one in the stack was both rather thick, and had a name on the back that was most unexpected: Field Marshal Montgomery.
    “What’s he writing me for?” Patton wondered. When £1000 fell out of the envelope he became even more confused. Then he read the letter.
    Dear General,
    Sometime near the end of the last war, you and I made a bet about whether England would be at war in ten years. It’s not yet 1954 and His Majesty’s Government is sending troops for you to command, so it looks like you’ve won. Congratulations.
    This isn’t a Flying Fortress, but maybe you could buy yourself one with it.
    Montgomery of Alamein

    “Why would you want to buy a B17?” Meeks asked. “They’re not exactly top of the range anymore.”
    “Beetle Smith bet him one in Africa once.” Patton explained. “When Monty won, he actually made Ike get him it too. I wish I’d seen Ike’s face the day that happened.”
    Meeks just rolled his eyes. It sounded like the stupidest thing he had ever heard.

    - BNC
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    Part I, Chapter 8

    In the dimness of the shadows
    Where we hairy heathens warred,
    I can taste in thought the lifeblood;
    We used teeth before the sword.

    August 23, 1950

    Douglas MacArthur looked at his watch. 1729. In one minute, the most important conference of the war would begin. He and his staff had been working on the plans for ‘Chromite’ for two months. Washington had been informed about the general idea of the plan, but little more. This meeting, with General Collins representing the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Forrest Sherman from the Navy and a group of other commanders, would be when he explained to them the full extent of the plan. They would approve it, and then in three weeks his beloved operation would go ahead and he would win the war.
    “Gentlemen,” he announced as he stood up. “I’d like to begin by taking you back to the winter of 1847. You will undoubtedly recall that we were at war with Mexico. Zachary Taylor had won battle after battle south of the Rio Grande, and California was secured in our arms. Santa Anna retreated from the smoky battlefield of Buena Vista. Had you asked General Taylor where to go from there, he would have asked for supplies and marched south. The way to Mexico City was open. Why did we not follow?” he puffed on his corncob pipe for dramatic effect. “It would not be decisive. All that Taylor would accomplish would be to push the Mexicans into the mountains. It would be the beginning of an endless war, where we fight an unseen enemy the way my father did in the Philippines.
    “A similar situation faces us today. This morning General Patton sent my staff another request for men and supplies. He claims that the defeat of the communists is inevitable. I have no doubt that Patton is one of our most talented officers. We have all studied his campaigns in Europe and Africa.” He puffed on his pipe once more. “Since he arrived just in the middle of July, Eighth Army has averaged an advance of less than one mile a day. This is not the broad sweeping advance of a dashing cavalry general, but a march into the German Westwall. Continuing that advance would not see us reach Seoul for another five months, and all it would do is allow the North Korean army to hide in their mountain outposts, preparing another communist insurrection in the lands of our ally.
    “Therefore, we must invoke the spirit of Winfield Scott, and land at Inchon. Behind the enemy lines, and but twenty miles from Seoul, a landing there would allow us to put a cork in the bottle, trapping the communist army south of the parallel while Patton ensures their destruction. The weather conditions of the region have led me to believe that September 15th would be the optimal date for a landing, and if this operation is successful, as I am confident it will be, North Korean resistance shall be concluded within a month thence. Our troops would be able to return to their previous duties by Thanksgiving.
    “Inchon.” he repeated. “I shall now have my G3 explain the details of the operation.”
    Pinky Wright stood up in front of a large map of the Inchon area and began reciting the details of the invasion. Three divisions, “one from the Army, one from the Koreans and one from the Marines” organised as the X Corps, were to land on three beaches: Green and Red at the city’s north and Blue two miles to the south. A few days before, the Navy would begin shore bombardment to disable any North Korean defences that might be present. On the morning of the 15th, the tiny island of Wolmi-do would be captured, although the tides would not be suitable for the rest of the landing force until that evening. Once the port of Inchon was secured, the landing force would advance inland and capture Kimpo airfield, before turning south to attack Seoul from behind. The North Koreans, faced with this overwhelming attack in their rear, would be forced to pull troops from the frontline to meet it, easing the pressure on Eighth Army and allowing Patton to conduct a simultaneous offensive.
    Admiral James H. Doyle, who was to command the amphibious forces as they landed, then spent an hour and a half explaining every aspect of the naval and amphibious parts of the operation, although to MacArthur’s dismay he did not sound especially confident about the operation.
    “Doyle,” Admiral Sherman broke in, “do I gather that you think this is an impossible operation?”
    “The operation is not impossible.” Doyle said, “But I do not recommend it.”
    Doyle then claimed that according to the Navy, nothing was impossible, but the questions had already begun. Officer after officer raised their concerns about virtually every aspect of the operation. The tides, despite being some of the world’s highest, would be suitable for a landing only for a couple of hours. The channel through which the Navy would have to be passed could be easily blocked if a ship was sunk in the wrong place. It was monsoon season, so the weather could easily interrupt plans, and indeed a typhoon could well tear through the landing sites. One had passed through Okinawa in October 1945 and caused catastrophic damage to the military base there: had the invasion of Japan still been set to go ahead on November 1st that storm might have jeopardised the whole operation.
    There was plenty of doubt in the room – far too much for MacArthur’s liking – but the strongest opposition emerged in General Collins. “If, as you say, it will take five months for Patton to reach Seoul, and the troops at Inchon are held up by a strong communist defence, then the meeting of the two forces will be impossible. The Inchon force would be trapped, and their loss would be a disaster. How can this operation possibly be preferable to using the troops to simply reinforce Patton?”
    MacArthur leaned back in his chair as the room fell silent. No-one said anything for a full minute, before he stood up for another speech.
    “Since Patton crossed the Kum River at the end of last month, the Reds have launched two major offensives against our lines. Once against Patton and once against the South Koreans. I am convinced that they did so because they are desperate for a breakthrough, and to achieve that breakthrough, they have committed the bulk of their forces against the Eighth Army.
    Everyone in this room is familiar with the book Patton published three years ago. Many of our troops brought a copy with them to Korea. It is likely that at least one of these has fallen into enemy hands. Even if they did not, the North Korean General Staff, and the Red Chinese, and the Russians, will all have studied the campaigns across Sicily and Western Europe. They will have studied it again once we announced that Patton would lead the Eighth Army.” That Patton was leading the American troops was no secret: Truman had announced it on the radio in an effort to boost morale. “Patton is an opponent with a well known style of fighting. Every day, he argues that more forces should be sent to Eighth Army, which is exactly what his book would recommend. The communists will therefore be prepared for us doing exactly that. If they have any reserves, they will be positioned in anticipation of an armoured attack by Eighth Army. Just as Patton was used as a distraction to keep the Germans away from Normandy, we may use him in this role once again. As long as our foe believes that Patton will lead the offensive, their defences at Inchon will be unprepared.
    “The Navy’s objections as to tides, hydrography, terrain and physical handicaps are indeed substantial and pertinent.” He said, waving those same concerns away with his hand. “My confidence in the Navy is complete, and in fact I seem to have more confidence in the Navy than the Navy has in itself.”
    “Of course, should my estimates prove to be inaccurate and I run into a defence with which I cannot cope, I will be there personally and will immediately withdraw our forces before they are committed to a bloody setback. The only loss then will be my personal reputation. But Inchon will not fail. Inchon will succeed, and far more brilliantly than Patton’s attempts to push through the North Korean army alone.
    “The arms of destiny await us. Just as Scott’s landing at Veracruz shifted the strategic focus of the war in Mexico, my landing at Inchon will shift the focus of Korea. The capture of Mexico City ensured the end of the Mexican War, and now the opportunity to capture Seoul will enable us to end the war in Korea with one swift stroke.” MacArthur gave one last puff of his pipe. “We shall land at Inchon and I shall crush them.”
    The room sat in a stunned silence until Admiral Sherman stood up. “Thank you. A great voice in a great cause.”
    MacArthur had thought Sherman one of the people least convinced by the Chromite plan, and sure enough, once he spoke up it seemed like everyone else wanted to voice their support for the operation as well.

    The following day, Collins and a number of others returned to voice their concerns about Chromite, but MacArthur remained steadfast. They suggested an alternative landing site, such as a position due west of Osan, which would be just forty miles away from Patton’s present positions.
    “If you were to make a list of every handicap to an amphibious invasion,” one officer remarked, “Inchon has them all.”
    “And that is why we should land there.” MacArthur replied. “The North Koreans will think it impossible, so we shall catch them by surprise. Inchon will not fail.”
    The officers left without comment.


    August 29, 1950

    “General, MacArthur says that Chromite has been approved.” Doyle Hickey said. “He orders you to transfer the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade to his command effective immediately, and see to it that they be transported to Pusan in four days.”
    “He’ll have them.” Patton promised. “I believe MacArthur wishes for me to launch a synchronised general offensive on the same day as the landings. When is that to be?”
    “September 15th, sir.” Hickey said.
    “Thank you.” Patton said, putting down the phone.
    Colonel Abrams was off visiting the front, but when he returned to the Taejon headquarters a couple of hours later, he brought news that Patton had been looking forward to hearing for a while.
    “Sir, the Korean offensive has been stopped in front of Chongju. Our losses were light, the enemy’s heavy. General Gay believes that the enemy’s momentum is shot.”
    “I wouldn’t be quite so confident about that yet.” Patton said. “Every one of the North Korean offensives has begun with a frontal attack, and as soon as that fails they try hitting from the side.” He shouted for Colonel Landrum, who was then ordered to warn Gay against a possible enemy attack along the road between Chongju and the similarly named Chungju twenty-five miles to the northeast.
    “As for you, Abe, I’ve got something important.” Patton said. “I got a call from Tokyo this morning, they’re taking the Marines off us. Chromite is on for September 15. Doug MacArthur wants to surprise the communists by landing in their rear.” Abrams had been briefed on the plan for Inchon days ago, but Patton felt the need to repeat it. “Take the port, take Seoul, win the war, he says.”
    “That’s a big risk.” Abrams said.
    “A stupid one.” Patton said. “That’s not the point. What I want to do is have Eighth Army launch the attack early. Dawn of September 4th. We’ll have all the men we’re likely to get for a while by then, so I can’t see a reason to waste time. Have the plans ready and troops in position for that.”
    “September 4th?” Abrams asked, wondering if Patton had meant to say the fourteenth. “Eleven days ahead?”
    “September 4th. That’s right. We’ll keep it going past the 15th if that’s what he wants.” Patton confirmed.

    That evening, he would offer Sergeant Meeks another explanation for the early offensive. “Just between you and me, I’m going to beat that son of a bitch into Seoul.”


    - BNC
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    Part II, Chapter 9


    While in later clearer vision
    I can sense the coppery sweat,
    Feel the pikes grow wet and slippery
    When our Phalanx, Cyrus met.

    September 3, 1950

    Sergeant Carl Dodd had volunteered to be on the first shift of guard duty tonight. It set a good example to the men, but that had little to do with his decision. The North Koreans liked to attack at night, usually an hour or two after the evening twilight, when they thought the Americans would be off their guard and unprepared. That wasn’t often the case in Eighth Army any more: as soon as 5th Regiment had linked up with the rest of the 24th Division, it had been rushed into a week’s intensive training, where a major handpicked by Patton had emphasised the need to be on guard at all times. Most of the army had been given a similar crash course. He also thought that an attack was likely. The communists attacked somewhere almost every night, rumours said they were getting even more desperate for a quick victory. Hill 699, now known to everyone as the Lump, was the highest ground in the area and captured just three days earlier. It had ‘target’ written all over it, and Dodd’s company was one of two manning the crest of the hill.
    The three hours passed without incident, which was reason itself for Dodd to be nervous. The enemy wasn’t withdrawing from the sector: the quarter moon wasn’t giving a lot of light with all the clouds around, but there was just enough to see the communist lines buzzing with activity up ahead. When he smelt a whiff of the spiced or picked rubbish that Koreans seemed to fill their bellies with at every opportunity, he whispered to the private that was on duty alongside him. “Wake the men.” If his instinct was wrong, he would have to deal with a squad of tired and grumpy soldiers tomorrow.
    A minute, maybe a minute and a half later, the North Koreans fired a bunch of green flares into the sky. That was their signal to attack (someone had told him that sometimes the Americans would fire green flares of their own above heavily defended sectors to bait the Koreans into an ambush, an idea he thought to be quite clever). His squad was up and ready, and others nearby were about to be. No Koreans would be taking the Lump tonight. Some were determined (or ordered) to try anyway.
    Dodd fired his Garand at about the same time as half his squad did. Nobody aimed at anything, or anyone, in particular. A cloud had just moved to obscure the moon, so aiming wouldn’t improve things much regardless. Better to just shoot towards the north, as many times as you could, and scare the enemy off. A couple of fellows in the squad had taken Russian-made PPShs off dead Koreans a while back. Those things spat out lead like you’d never believe. One of them was firing off to the northwest, so Dodd decided to shift his aim in that direction as well.
    As the clouds moved to reveal the moon once more, he could see dozens upon dozens of Koreans scrambling up the Lump. He threw a grenade towards them. One thing was certain: this was going to be a long night.


    September 4, 1950

    Patton was nervous. Almost every time that he was about to launch a major offensive, he felt nervous. For a moment, his mind went back to when he launched is first offensive against the Germans in 1918, when he had been unable to sleep and decided to scout the terrain in no man’s land instead.
    This time, he couldn’t sleep because no-one in Eighth Army headquarters could. Damn near nobody in the entire Eighth Army could. Seven hours before he had planned to launch his own major offensive, the North Koreans had attacked all across the line. In a few places, especially in the sector belonging to the 25th Division near Chungju, American troops had been pushed back. A glance at his watch told him it was 0304. Against the Germans, this would never have been the hour of a major offensive. Koreans, or at least Red ones, seemed to be nocturnal.
    “What’s the latest from the Lump?” Patton asked. Hill 699 dominated the area assigned to the 24th and 2nd Divisions, which were set to be his offensive’s main striking arm. He had concentrated most of his armour with the 2nd, the tanks waiting a mile behind the infantry. There were a few hundred there now, and it seemed that the North Koreans weren’t aware of them. In two hours, they were set to charge straight into the communist flank. If the Lump fell, the tanks might be seen before they were ready to come out of hiding.
    “Seems to be holding.” Colonel Landrum said. “The Reds are throwing a lot of men at it by the looks of things.”
    “Good thing that brave sergeant had been on patrol.” Patton said, looking at the enormous map pinned on the wall. “His actions might have saved that whole position, and I want him decorated. Put him down for a Medal of Commendation. A Bronze Star if you can get it.”
    “Report from General Keiser, sir.” A radio operator in the next room called out.
    “What’s he got?” Patton asked.
    “Says he’s heard no reports about an offensive. No green flares. Nothing.” The radio operator replied. “There’s Koreans in front of him, but it looks like our surprise there is complete.”
    Patton relaxed. He hadn’t heard news that good all night. Then he had an idea.
    “I want you guys to phone Hap and Dean. Find out what their assessments are on the Koreans withdrawing at dawn.”
    “Yes, sir!” the radio operator, and another one next to him, said together.
    “Why’s that, General?” Landrum asked.
    “A few days ago I was at the front.” Patton explained. “This captain, a very fine officer, he said that every time the bastards attacked him at night, they always retreated at dawn. If we can, I say we should attack precisely ten minutes after they pull back. We’ll be ready and they won’t.”
    “We’ve already told all the troops to go forward at 0500.” Landrum reminded him. “Even with top notch communications, there’s no way the entire army can be given the new orders in time.”
    “Sir, General Gay is saying the Koreans already appear to be retreating on his front.” The radio operator said.
    “Good.” Patton said. “Excellent, in fact. Colonel, you’re right, we’ll stick to the plan. Hopefully we catch some of the bastards asleep. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to be at the front. Abe is in charge here until I return.”
    Sergeant Mims had the jeep ready when Patton stepped out of the building. “Where to, sir?”
    “Yesan.” Patton said. “Where the tanks are. I have to see the start of this.”
    Mims had to drive with only the faintest of headlight beams visible, so he couldn’t drive nearly so fast as he would in the daylight. Patton made sure that blackout was taken seriously. The North Korean air force had mostly been wiped out, but the other day a pair of Il-10s had flown over a patch of front he was visiting at the time. He would not allow his men’s lives to be wasted by carelessness.
    They arrived at 0447. Three hundred tanks, hidden behind the lines for the right moment, had rumbled forward to their starting positions. Thirteen minutes later, the artillery began to fire. Tanks began to drive forward, while infantry emerged from their positions. The noise was deafening, but it sounded like victory.


    September 6, 1950

    Douglas MacArthur frowned as he read the report from Korea. “Patton is in Asan, you say. How is he all the way up there? He was under attack two days ago.”
    “All across the line.” Doyle Hickey confirmed. Patton quarrelled with Ned Almond every time they spoke, and refused to speak with Willoughby or Whitney at all. Most of MacArthur’s communication with the commander of the Eighth Army went through his deputy chief of staff. “He says that the enemy attacks are ongoing with maximum intensity, and General Coulter has said the same things in the ROK positions.”
    “Then what is he doing in Asan?” MacArthur asked again. “The front was at Yesan, ten miles to the south. Are you sure you heard the name correctly?”
    “I believe so, sir, but if you would like I can contact the headquarters for confirmation.” Hickey said.
    “Do that then.” MacArthur ordered. “If it is not an error, I’d like an explanation immediately.”
    Hickey saluted and left, leaving MacArthur with a letter from a Japanese textile mill thanking him for the enormous order of socks that had been placed a few days ago. The Japanese businessman would undoubtedly be doing the best he had ever been after this order – which asked for half a million pairs to be delivered within the next four weeks.
    MacArthur thought back to how Patton had insisted upon it more forcefully than anything since that order to clear the Korean road network. The idea to send a pair of socks with the men’s rations each day made a good amount of sense, preventing trenchfoot and keeping men in the fight longer (trenchfoot was no laughing matter either: MacArthur had seen plenty of bad cases back in World War I). Why he thought he needed two million pairs, MacArthur had yet to figure out. He had only allowed it to go through because it would undoubtedly help the occupiers turn Japan into a closer US ally. That, and Uncle Sam was footing the bill.
    Here was Hickey again. “General, sir, I just got off the phone with Colonel Landrum. He confirmed that Eighth Army units are in Asan. An armoured regiment of the 2nd Division specifically. He described the manoeuvre as a reconnaissance in force.”
    “Very well.” MacArthur said. “I’d like you to get on the phone with Patton. Not one of his staff. Remind him that he’s supposed to be holding the line and preventing the enemy from reinforcing Inchon.”


    “Sir, I don’t think General MacArthur is too happy with you.” Sergeant Meeks said as he handed Patton the radio.
    “Thank you, Sergeant.” Patton said. “This is General Patton.”
    “Good afternoon, sir. It’s Hickey.” Doyle Hickey said. “I was just discussing with your chief of staff. Is it correct that you are conducting a reconnaissance in force near Asan?”
    “That’s right.” Patton said, watching a dozen tanks clatter along a nearby road. He had three whole tank battalions up here, and an entire division of infantry. “I’m sure General MacArthur would appreciate the extra intelligence we are able to gain from this position.”
    “I agree, General. MacArthur would like to remind you of your orders to hold the line and prevent the enemy from reinforcing the Inchon area.” Hickey said.
    “That’s exactly what we’re doing.” Patton said. “I can assure MacArthur that our position will not be broken through. There’s at least four, maybe five, Korean divisions up in front of me. My troops have them pinned down. The enemy attack will be repulsed, I give you my word.”
    As Meeks put the radio away, Patton got out his field glasses. The enemy advance, at least in 2nd Division’s sector, wasn’t about to be repulsed. It damn well had been repulsed. The North Koreans in this part of the front had run away, although they continued to fight on further south. If not for the horrible weather, a bad storm if not a typhoon, he knew Eighth Army would have pushed a lot further than the ten miles it had managed here. “Let’s go back to the HQ.”
    “MacArthur wanted you to slow down?” Meeks asked as they drove back to Taejon.
    “MacArthur wanted me to stop, period.” Patton said. “Far as he’s concerned, we’re supposed to sit on our asses for the next ten days. Like hell I’m stopping the offensive now! We’ve got the enemy by the balls!”
    Meeks looked at him, not too surprised. “You know sir, you could just tell him you visited the 24th Division tomorrow. They haven’t hardly moved all week.”
    Patton thought about that for a moment. “That’s a damned fine idea.”

    - BNC
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    Part II, Chapter 10
  • CHAPTER 10

    Hear the rattle of the harness
    Where the Persian darts bounced clear,
    See their chariots wheel in panic
    From the Hoplite's leveled spear.

    September 8, 1950

    Much more so than in any war he could think of, Patton had noticed that the soldiers in Korea liked to give names to their battlefields. Hills that would have been known only by the numbers describing their height now were known best by whatever a group of soldiers first thought to call them. Hill 699, the tallest hill in the area southwest of Chonan, would now be forever identified as the Lump. A smaller ridge to the north – it wasn’t really a hill – was now the Little Lump. Off in the area assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, where he had visited the day before, some of the men had labelled a particularly well held North Korean position the ‘Devil’s Granny’, which had prompted laughter all through the Eighth Army headquarters once he told them about it.
    Because it raised morale, he encouraged it. As far as he was concerned, raising morale was at least four-fifths of the job of being a general. Men that had high morale would be proud to be soldiers, and proud soldiers would fight harder, and would save lives as they did so. Third Army had learned that lesson back in 1944, and their performance had shown its value. Eighth Army wasn’t quite up to the standard of his old unit. It wouldn’t be for months: the kids that filled most of its ranks would need time and training to become the hardened veterans he knew they could be. In the eight weeks or so he had been out here, he had seen a great deal of improvement. Serving with Eighth Army was becoming something the men were proud of. One colonel he had spoken with had said that he would never have expected anything like it after seeing the occupation of Japan.
    “Let this be a lesson to you then, colonel.” Patton had replied. “Next time there’s a war, unless it is the day we finish up here, I won’t be around to kick them into shape again. You perform well, I’ll recommend you for a star or two. Then it’ll be your job. We learned the wrong lessons from the last war, and look what happened at the start of this one. If we learn the wrong lessons again this time, next time will be worse.” He had said before that America would never lose a war. Lack of discipline in the occupation, and Truman’s budget cuts, were making him wonder if that would remain the case forever. Saying so to that colonel would lower his morale, so he kept quiet instead.
    What would raise morale was decorating soldiers that had performed well. That’s why he now stood fifteen metres behind the crest of the Little Lump, presenting Sergeant Carl Dodd with the Commendation Medal. He wouldn’t be the only one receiving a medal today either: E Company had produced several fine acts of heroism and merit this week. He had ordered them remain behind while the rest of their battalion pushed two miles to the north for an award ceremony. In an hour six 2½ ton trucks would return E Company to their battalion.
    “Where are you from, Sergeant?” Patton asked.
    “Kentucky, sir.” Sergeant Dodd replied.
    “The people back there will be proud of you, son.” Patton said, shaking Dodd’s hand. “Your quick thinking on that ridge back there saved a lot of their lives.”
    Then he turned to the rest of the company. “Guard duty is damned important, men. Especially out here. The Koreans will sneak around like skunks if you give them any sort of chance. That’s a chance they will use to shove a bayonet in your guts. The object of war is to kill the other son of a goddamned bitch before he has a chance to kill you. Even when the enemy is running away, like you great men have made him do right now, stay alert all the time. Don’t be the dumb bastard who gets killed because he wasn’t watching what was going on around him.”
    He was giving out four medals today – one of them for a brave young man who had run out of rifle ammo but till charged a Korean position on the Little Lump with a bayonet and two grenades, an act that earned him a Bronze Star. Each one was praised in front of the company, and with each award Patton gave a reminder to the troops about the importance of whatever skill had been demonstrated.
    When he was done, the captain of the company was waiting with the trucks. After salutes were exchanged, he asked “How did you manage to get a couple of Theodores to escort us?”
    “Theodores?” Patton asked, confused by the unfamiliar term.
    “M46 tanks, sir.” The captain said.
    “Captain, I would expect that you know the authorised name for the M46 tank is Roosevelt.” Patton said lightheartedly. The troops gave all kinds of names to things, and this was hardly the most unusual one he had come across today. “I had always thought it was named for Franklin anyway.”
    “Sir, that’s what my mate’s uncle says too, and he helped build the thing.” The captain said. “He said that seeing as the British had the Churchill tank and the Russians have the Stalin, we should have had a tank named after our wartime leader as well. The bureau in charge of naming stuff agreed.”
    “Then how did Theodore get involved? When he was president, tanks didn’t exist.” Patton said.
    “Came out of the field about a month ago from what I’ve heard. When they first arrived in Korea, one fellow who knew his history mentioned that Franklin never served in the Army the way Churchill did, but Theodore had the Rough Riders. His mates started calling them Theodores as a joke, but the name stuck. Say, what do you reckon old TR would say if he saw them going into battle?”
    Patton didn’t even have to think about that one. “I met the man once, in my West Point days. He’d say they were a bully sight indeed.”


    September 11, 1950

    Eighth Army headquarters was overdue for a move. A trip to the front would take at least two hours driving at the recommended speeds for jeeps on eighteen-foot dirt roads, and another two to return. Sergeant Mims could do the trip in a hair under one each way, but it was still an unwelcome delay. If he’d had any other options, he would have moved it forward a couple of days ago.
    Unfortunately, there really weren’t any other choices. The next reasonably sized town north of Taejon along Eighth Army’s axis of advance was Osan, but that had been wrecked in the battle there two days ago. Phone lines had been re-established to connect the divisions back to Taejon, but there wasn’t anywhere near enough spare to connect an Army headquarters too, at least at such short notice. He had commanded the Army from the back of a pair of trucks at times in Europe, but this part of Korea was crawling with communist bandits. He was personally willing to do it again, but faced almost unanimous opposition from the staff. “An invitation to an assassin,” someone had described it, so that option was off the table. He could also have flown to the front in a Piper Grasshopper, but with nowhere to land it north of the airstrip here, there wouldn’t be much point to that. So the headquarters would move once Seoul was taken. The staff was already prepared to do just that.
    Right now though, he wished he was on board a Grasshopper, or in the back of a truck, or even at the front talking with a bunch of GIs. Then he wouldn’t have to answer this phone call from Tokyo.
    “Who is it?” he asked Meeks. If it was Willoughby or Whitney, he would hang up the phone even if they knew he was available to speak with them. He had decided both of them were incompetents whose sole mission in life seemed to be giving unending praise to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur wasn’t so bad (and he couldn’t well ignore his commanding officer). The lackeys could go to hell.
    “It’s General Hickey, sir.” Meeks said.
    “Give him here.” Patton said, reaching for the phone. Hickey had commanded a division under Third Army. In addition to being MacArthur’s deputy chief of staff he had now taken on the role of intermediary between SCAP and Eighth Army. “Good afternoon, General.”
    “Wish I could say the same to you, George.” Hickey said. “Only the weather’s been quite disruptive to our loading efforts.”
    “I know you didn’t call just to talk about the goddamn weather.” Patton said. “Even a typhoon in Japan doesn’t mean a lot out here. What’s the problem?”
    “I need you to stop lying about where your offensive is at.” Hickey said.
    Patton’s mind flicked back over the past week. He’d called the offensive a reconnaissance in force (an old favourite term) for the first three or four days. Since then he hadn’t said a whole lot to Tokyo, and neither had anyone else in the command.
    Hickey must have picked up his silence. “There’s no point in denying it any more. I know you’ve launched a big attack. So does MacArthur. So does Harry Truman if he read yesterday’s paper. I expect even Joe Stalin knows about it at this point. It’s not a big secret, George. It hasn’t been for a while.”
    “And you want to know why I didn’t just sit back?” Patton asked. He didn’t want to get angry at Hickey, but the emotion was coming regardless.
    “I think I know already. I was in some of those offensives myself back in Germany.” Hickey said. “The rock soup method worked, because MacArthur knows he can’t well cancel your offensive now that you’re tearing through the communist lines. He’s not going to order you to stop, and indeed if this typhoon blows over he’ll soon be on a boat to watch the landing. No, what I need is to know how far you’ve gone. Where’s the front at, right now?”
    “2nd and 24th are just past Suwon. The Cavalry are about the same distance, near Yongin. 25th has advanced to Ichon but most of its strength is covering the flanks while the ROKs push forward in their sector. Coulter hasn’t given me their positions since the middle of yesterday. Some bandit cut the lines between his HQ and ours.” Patton said, looking at the large map on the wall.
    “That’s a good ten miles ahead of where MacArthur placed you.” Hickey said.
    “Not that surprising, the damn papers had Osan plastered all over their front page.” Patton said. He had tried to get the press away from the battlefield – they had a habit of getting him into trouble in the last war and he wasn’t keen on repeating that this time. MacArthur had insisted they cover the recapture of Task Force Smith’s old battlefield anyway.
    “They’ll be distracted by Chromite for the next week now. You don’t have to worry about them. Mac’s got the entire press team prepped to repeat that shot he took in Leyte.” Hickey said. “As for you, I’ve got a request for Eighth Army. From me personally.”
    Not an order then. Patton still outranked Hickey. “What’s that?” he asked.
    “Stay away from the landing beaches. I know you’ll likely pass them before X Corps is ready. It’s too late to cancel now anyway. But keep your men away. We’re going to shell the beaches before we land. This war has seen more than enough friendly fire. I’d hate it if you caused more.” Hickey said, almost pleading.
    “I’ll do it.” Patton said. “They’re not on our route north anyway.”
    As he put down the phone, he heard Oscar Koch make a sound halfway between a shout and a cheer.
    “What have you found?” he asked. That was the only explanation he could think of for his intelligence chief to be so happy.
    “A bridge across the Han.” Koch said, quickly getting up and pointing to a location immediately east of Seoul on the map. “One of our Grasshopper pilots thinks it is still standing. Right about here.”
    “We could take that.” Patton observed. It was about twenty-five miles away, but there hadn’t exactly been a lot of resistance lately. “We could take it. Tonight. Landrum!”
    “Yes?” Colonel Landrum asked.
    “Get on the line to Keiser. Tell him I want as many tanks and motorised infantry as he can assemble to move north up the Kyongan-ni road and capture that bridge intact.” Patton ordered. “And have Kean ready to cover the flank.”
    “Yes, sir!” Landrum said enthusiastically. It wasn’t hard to see why he was excited. An intact bridge across the Han would put him within five miles of taking Seoul. That Grasshopper pilot might have just handed Patton the key to the city itself.

    - BNC
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    Part II, Chapter 11
  • 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 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 wondered.

    - BNC
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    Part II, Chapter 12
  • CHAPTER 12

    Still more clearly as a Roman,
    Can I see the Legion close,
    As our third rank moved in forward
    And the short sword found our foes.

    September 16, 1950

    President Harry Truman could not believe what he was reading. “Korea’s not a war any more. It’s turning into a freak show!”
    “Mr President, when I met with General MacArthur he was completely convinced that a landing at Inchon was the only way to salvage the situation.” General Collins said. “He convinced all of us too. The Joint Chiefs, the Navy, the Marines, everybody.”
    “And now all it seems to have accomplished is to give His Majesty another headline.” Truman said, throwing down a newspaper whose front page read ‘PATTON AND MACARTHUR MEET IN KOREA’. “The riskiest operation I’ve authorised in all the time I’ve been here, and it was all a big waste of time. I should fire them for this. Patton and His Majesty both.” He liked to think of Patton as the court jester in MacArthur’s royal court, but saying so wouldn’t be very diplomatic.
    “I can have the orders out and replacements named in an hour.” General Bradley said.
    “Thank you, Brad.” Truman said. “But don’t send them out yet. There’s no way we’ll get anything else approved for Korea if MacArthur goes. Congress worships the man, and midterms are just around the corner.
    “That’s not for me to comment on.” Bradley said. “The Army should stay out of politics. General Ridgway, of course, is already on notice as a potential replacement, but he can’t have both Eighth Army and SCAP. Did you have anyone in mind for the other?”
    “I’ll leave that up to the Joint Chiefs to decide.” Truman said. Last time I chose someone, we ended up with a court jester running an Army. “In the meantime, what’s the story with Patton wanting to cross the parallel?”
    “Exactly what you said, sir.” Bradley said. “His lead forces are reported to be north of Seoul, maybe twenty miles south of the 38 line. If things are anything like they were in Europe, or even the last two weeks, they will be there in a day or two. George is saying that we should move as quickly as possible to prevent the North Korean army from reorganising. Any delay risks ceding the initiative to the enemy. He says that’s why the Battle of the Bulge happened: had he been given the troops he…” Truman waved his hand to say he wasn’t interested in any more of Patton’s arguments.
    “I know Patton wants to attack.” Truman said. “My question is, will he attack anyway?”
    “I don’t believe he would.” Bradley said. “I gave him an explicit stop order when he wanted to advance into Czechoslovakia after Hitler shot himself. He followed it to the letter. I would be quite astonished if he ever disobeyed a direct order.”
    “He disobeyed MacArthur.” Truman noted.
    “In spirit, yes, but not in letter.” Bradley said. “He explains as much in that article. MacArthur never ordered him not to attack. Mind you, he’ll spend a while cursing out an order to stop. Maybe an hour, maybe a day, but in the end he’ll follow it.”
    “Very well.” Truman said. “Send him a reminder just in case. As for this” – he picked up the newspaper again – “I’d like to speak to His Majesty in person. Patton too. We can sort out the matter of the parallel then. How soon could a conference be arranged?”
    “I asked General MacArthur such a question in the days before Inchon was approved. He said he was too busy handling affairs in Asia to travel across the Pacific.” Collins said.
    “He’s too busy to meet with the President of the United States?” Truman said in disbelief. “Well, if he won’t travel to Washington, I suppose Midway Island would be acceptable. Could facilities there be made ready by Tuesday? That would be Wednesday Korean time.”
    “They can.” Collins confirmed. “They will be.”


    September 17, 1950

    “Three days.” Patton said, reading the order from Washington. “Three days until we can strike into the enemy’s lair and purge the Red disease inside.”
    “Sir, that order merely says that you will meet the President on Wednesday.” Colonel Landrum said. “There’s no guarantee there that he will authorise our forces to proceed north.”
    “He will. By God, he will allow us over that line!” Patton said. As far as he was concerned, that was a fact. What would be the point to coming out to Korea to fight communists if he wasn’t going to be allowed to fight communists? “Our offensive must continue. South of the parallel until Wednesday, and this Army will be ready to march north with full force the instant we have approval. We can’t afford to release any of our pressure on the enemy.” That wasn’t quite true – even the ROKs were advancing at breakneck speed now, having just retaken Samchok, and there wasn’t a whole lot of the NKPA left – but Patton refused to even consider ceding the tiniest bit of the initiative to his opponent. “And if the President won’t allow us to march north, the tanks shall drive west instead.”
    The tanks, or more to the point the 2nd Division as a whole, were already doing just that. The map on the wall had a red line marking the present front line drawn on top of it. That line stretched north a little further than Munsan. Eight miles to the parallel. There wasn’t a whole lot of room left to move.
    The phone rang. Landrum picked it up and talked into it for a short while. Then he put the set down and announced “we’re over the Imjin. Tanks and all.” A small party of infantry and engineers had crossed on boats this morning. The rest of the division was still stuck on the southeastern bank.
    Patton looked at his watch. 1324. “Six hours, two minutes delay because that bridge was bombed!” The engineers had worked quickly: the Imjin wasn’t a small river, and there hadn’t been any signs of North Korean troops as they built the bridge (though some had attacked the division the previous night). Still, the delay was infuriating. The US Air Force seemed to be doing more to impede his advance than what was left of the NKPA.
    “Ring Tokyo.” Patton decided. “I’d like to speak with Stratemeyer.”
    Landrum worked the phone once again, and after a few minutes managed to get a hold of the commander of the Far East Air Forces.
    “How can I help you, sir?” Stratemeyer asked when Landrum passed the phone over. “Have my men not been performing to your satisfaction?”
    “Your men have been performing well.” Patton said. “Too well, in fact. Five days ago my advance was held up because your bombers destroyed every bridge over the Han but one, and that one was so far away as to be useless. Today I got held up again because the rail bridge across the Imjin was wrecked as well. I don’t know if the Red bastards put some bombs underneath it as well, and I don’t care. I need you to stop destroying my bridges.” That rail bridge was an even bigger problem than Patton had let on: something more substantial than a bunch of pontoons would have to be set up before too long, and then half a mile of track needed to be relaid.
    “Those bridges have been bombed because they were useful to the enemy logistics, General. I can’t imagine you would ask me to leave these intact for enemy use.” Stratemeyer said.
    “That’s exactly what I’m asking.” Patton said. Stratemeyer was officially subordinate only to MacArthur, but the Air Force wasn’t going to be much use if it didn’t cooperate with Eighth Army. “I’ve seen the Korean logistics system. Utterly abysmal. I’d be surprised if they had more than ten trains in the whole country. Most of their troops carry their rice and ammo by hand, the rest use oxen. Blowing bridges won’t slow them down. It only slows us down. Once the President lets us go north of the damn line, I could be in Pyongyang in two weeks. Let me use its railroads once I get there. Bomb some ammo shops. Old Jap factories or something instead.”
    “I’ll see what I can do.” Stratemeyer promised.


    September 18, 1950

    Brigadier Basil Coad was no stranger to ruined cities. He had seen British cities wrecked during the Battle of Britain, and Dutch, Belgian and French cities damaged after D-Day. The German cities he had gone through before VE Day and after had been devastated by the Combined Bomber Offensive, and Montgomery’s army had helped churn the rubble that was left. Seoul wasn’t like any of those had been. It was worse. The appropriate word for it was demolished. North Korea had bombed it before it was captured, looted it while it was captured, watched B-29 bombers visit it nightly once they held it, and invited Patton to destroy it as they lost control. Patton had done a thorough job too. Except for a small pocket in the city’s northwest, South Korea’s capital was free. Demolished, but free. Coad knew all too well what that freedom had cost: a few hundred UN troops were among the dead, and a couple thousand wounded behind the lines. Many of them came from his own 27th Commonwealth Brigade.
    The 27th was the only major UN formation not a part of either the South Korean or American armies that had yet joined the fight out here. When General MacArthur had decided to reinstate the ROK government in Seoul, he had decided it was proper that every UN member to have contributed soldiers or airmen to the liberation of South Korea have an officer present for the ceremony, as a way of showing that the war was a truly international effort to oppose North Korea’s blatant aggression. MacArthur, like Eisenhower had in Europe, seemed to take the business of being an ally seriously.
    The American representative, of course, was General Patton. He didn’t take being an ally seriously at all. At times he didn’t care about what the United Nations was doing; most of the time he detested it. Coad had visited the Eighth Army headquarters in Taejon (it was set to move to a nearby Seoul building tomorrow) exactly once, and there hadn’t been a single UN flag to be seen. A Stars and Stripes hanging on the wall, another two on flag poles, and Patton’s own four-star flag. That was it. Well, it was unless you counted the portrait of the general hanging on another wall (apparently that had been painted shortly after the Victory in Europe).
    When Coad thought about it, he wondered why Patton had shown up at all. There was a fierce fight taking place in or near Kaesong, Eighth Army’s latest target, and undoubtedly the old general would have rathered be there instead. It wasn’t out of any great love for Syngman Rhee – Patton had called Rhee “an old bastard son of a bitch” back at the headquarters, and his pained expression suggested his opinions hadn’t changed in the three weeks since. ‘Orders’ was a likely explanation.
    The Capitol building, where MacArthur might have wanted to reinstate Rhee’s authority, had taken a direct hit from one weapon or other in the last few months, so the ceremony was taking place on the expansive lawn outside, the wreckage being hidden, in part, by the largest UN flag anyone had ever seen (Patton had given a speech in front of a similar US flag in July, evidently inspiring the creation of this one). MacArthur gave a long and dramatic speech, about how glad he was to, on behalf of the United Nations, restore Rhee to Korea’s traditional seat of government.
    Rhee responded, declaring that the day should be one of forgiveness and of unity. No-one spoke directly of North Korea, or even of communism.
    As soon as MacArthur announced the ceremony over, Coad made a beeline for Patton.
    “Reporting as ordered, sir.” Coad said, saluting his commander.
    Patton returned the salute, which looked even more impressive offered with his extremely fancy-looking uniform. “General, a couple of matters. First, Eighth Army headquarters will be located in that building” – he pointed to what had to be the only fully intact structure within a square mile, off to the southeast – “effective 0800 tomorrow. Make sure your people know. Second, the British Brigade has distinguished itself in this fight for Seoul, and I’d like them to play a leading role in our next attack. How soon can they be ready for transport to Kaesong if I get the trucks for them?”
    “1600.” Coad replied. He thought it would be possible to gather the brigade together in an hour and a half, maybe two – most of them weren’t far away. Saying they would be ready in three would ensure he didn’t upset Patton by being late. “If you don’t mind my asking, where will they be going once they reach Kaesong?
    Patton just smiled, the first time he had done so in more than an hour. “Pyongyang.”

    - BNC
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    Part II, Chapter 13
  • CHAPTER 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.”

    - BNC
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    Part II, Chapter 14
  • CHAPTER 14

    I remember all the suffering
    Of those arrows in my neck.
    Yet, I stabbed a grinning savage
    As I died upon my back.

    September 20, 1950

    So this is how a fifty year career in the Army comes to its bitter end.
    Douglas MacArthur could not think of any other reason that Harry Truman would want to meet with him and Patton here in Midway. He’d already sent his congratulations for the capture of Seoul on the teletype several days ago, and a press stunt for the upcoming midterm elections would have better served the Democratic Party if the President had visited the front lines himself. No. Truman was here to sack him for Inchon. No other explanation seemed possible. Sure enough, Truman was already pointing at a map on the wall, his finger on the city.
    “What happened here?” he asked. “I was told this operation would be a landing deep behind enemy lines, not deep behind our own.”
    “We conducted an amphibious operation that was successful in every sense possible.” MacArthur said, trying to put as positive a spin on the operation as he could (he’d had practice too – every reporter in Tokyo had asked him by now!). “Inchon was secured with an absolute minimum of casualties, and the port’s facilities have already been restored to a fully operational status. The supply burden on Eighth Army has been eased considerably thanks to the efforts of the X Corps and our South Korean allies.”
    “These are of course results that could have been obtained without the additional risk of a naval landing, had Eighth Army instead been reinforced directly?” Truman asked. Yes, he definitely wanted to be given a reason to take the five stars of a general of the army away.
    “We can say that now, with hindsight.” MacArthur grudgingly admitted. “On the day that I proposed the venture however, that was not the outcome suggested by the information I had at hand. For weeks my intelligence officer repeatedly told me that we were greatly outnumbered by the North Korean forces, and it was only two days before the first invasion ships left Japan that Patton reported anything close to a collapse in their lines. By then, it would have been too late to cancel the operation without a disastrous disruption to our supply efforts.”
    Truman raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. Instead, it fell to Averell Harriman to ask Patton if he had anything to add.
    Patton made a small show out of putting his cigar – it must have been at least his third in the last fifteen minutes – down in a nearby ashtray. Then he said something nobody in the room could have expected. “Inchon was a plan that could only have come from a master strategist. Hell, I wish I’d come up with it myself. By landing behind the enemy lines, we could have cut the Huns off before they had a chance to run back into Seoul.”
    “Yet you launched your attack early?” Harry Vaughan – Truman’s military aide – noted.
    “I didn’t launch anything.” Patton said. “I was merely continuing the attacks I’ve been launching against their lines ever since we threw the…” MacArthur noticed Patton catch himself before coming out with some choice insult for the North Koreans “…enemy out of Taejon. I did so to draw as many of their reserves away from Seoul as possible before the landing could go ahead. It seems they ran out of reserves earlier than we anticipated, but the fog of war is a curious beast. The only thing to do was chase them north, which is why half of Eighth Army sits on the 38th parallel. We seek your permission to cross immediately in our full strength, Mr President. A glorious victory lies on the horizon, and we need only be brave enough to take it.”
    Patton’s speech seemed to have stunned the room into silence. MacArthur knew Patton had written poetry in the past, and could avoid speaking in language of the barracks if he made half an effort, but it was rare for him to come out with anything truly eloquent these days. This was a surprise.
    “How did I know you were going to ask to launch another attack?” Vaughan said to break the silence.
    “Have you read my book?” Patton asked, provoking laughter across the room. “Eighth Army knows only one direction, and that is forward. We must go forward. Anything else would surrender the initiative to the enemy after we worked so hard to seize it.”
    Truman waited for the room to quieten again before giving his reply. “With all due respect, general, I cannot allow it yet.” MacArthur expected Patton to immediately launch into a rage, but for a wonder, he didn’t. “There are political issues at play, far more pressing than any that you dealt with in Europe. The United Nations has only given us a mandate to liberate South Korea, not to invade the North. Unless this mandate expands, the war cannot.”
    Patton was putting his cigar down again – not a good sign – when his aide Meeks came into the room. “Terribly sorry, sirs, but I have an urgent message for the general.” Truman nodded, and Patton rushed out of the room. For about thirty seconds, no-one inside said anything. Then a roar came from just outside. “Those dirty sons of goddamn bitches!”
    “What is it?” Truman asked when Patton returned.
    “Rhee’s just thundered over the border with six divisions.” Patton explained. “Apologies for my outburst just then.”
    “Think nothing of it.” Truman said. “Unfortunately, for now at least, that does not change what I said earlier. We cannot go against the mandate given to us by the United Nations, no matter what Rhee does.”
    MacArthur made sure he spoke before Patton had a chance to. “Mr President, I’m sure you understand that the prestige of this nation could not survive such a humiliation as to wait behind the parallel for the war to be over. By failing to cross it, and support our allies, we would be sending a message to the entire communist world that there are no consequences for their aggression. If we hold back here, we would become nothing more than a laughing stock in the eyes of Red China and the Soviet Union.”
    “I agree completely.” Truman said. “Yet we cannot rule out the possibility that either of those nations may intervene in the war should we be too aggressive in an invasion of North Korea. Have either of you received any information suggesting that this is a possibility?”
    “No.” Patton and MacArthur said together. Patton then added “I did get told of a Russian pilot being downed a couple of weeks ago, flying over our territory at the time. Since the Koreans didn’t have an air force at all until a few years ago, I’m surprised we haven’t found more.”
    Truman just waved that off. “Volunteers aren’t a problem. We’ve sent them before ourselves, and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade didn’t spark a war with Spain. That being the case, and seeing as the State Department has heard nothing either, I feel that the situation is such that we should proceed north.” Patton’s face lit up. “To that effect, I’ve already asked the United Nations for authorisation to use American forces north of the parallel but south of the Yalu. Of course, in light of the political risk, I cannot allow you to push all the way to the river.”
    “What do you have in mind?” Patton asked.
    “Upon receiving authorisation to proceed north of 38, which I am certain will come within days, I am prepared to allow the Eighth Army to occupy territory as far as the 39th parallel, as well as the key cities of Wonsan and of course Pyongyang, which is expected to bring about an unconditional surrender of North Korea.” Truman said.
    “If I may?” Patton asked, his eyes already scanning the large map laid out on the table.
    “Go ahead.” Truman allowed.
    “Such a line, from a military standpoint, would leave our forces exposed and divided, in the event that Pyongyang’s capture does not lead to an immediate capitulation.” Patton said. “Germany carried on writhing around a good while after Hitler shot himself, and if we have to overrun the entire country we’re going to have to do it from the south. There’s no second front here.”
    “If you’re asking permission to storm all the way to the Yalu, I cannot allow that.” Truman said. “You already have a reputation for wanting to destroy the communists outright, and Red China is going to see your army near the Yalu as one intending to cross it. Need I remind you that Red China is not our enemy?”
    “I understand that, sir.” Patton said dismissively, “but I am saying we need to be ready if they do enter anyway. We’ve heard nothing of their intentions whatsoever. Mao could have decided he wanted to intervene two months ago for all we know, and just hasn’t scraped up the troops to do so yet. If he has, my troops shouldn’t be stuck holding a line that doesn’t make any military sense just to appease a bunch of cowards in the United Nations.”
    “I presume, then, that you have an alternative line in mind?” Truman asked.
    “As a matter of fact I do.” Patton said, before pulling a marker out of his pocket and drawing a thick red line over a railroad running between Sunchon and Kowon. “I want this railroad, and a few miles north of it. It would be foolish to leave this avenue of supply in our enemy’s hands, while in ours it would allow us to more rapidly respond to any move they might make.”
    “That’s almost half a degree north of 39!” Truman said. Then he took a closer look at the map – it was the first, and really only, lateral railroad in North Korea. Still, moving so far north could be quite the provocation to Red China. Finally, and quite reluctantly, Truman made his decision. “Very well, once I have approval from the UN, you may move Eighth Army to no more than ten miles north of that rail line, on the condition that ROK troops lead the advance north of Pyongyang and Wonsan.”
    Patton flicked another bit of ash off his cigar. “Another request, Mr President?”
    “I’ll hear it.” Truman said.
    “I’d like 600,000 complete winter uniforms to be made available for my troops no later than November 1st.” Patton said.
    “The war will be over by then.” Harriman said.
    “That will be ideal.” Patton agreed, “But I have heard that promise before myself, and it does not always come true. If it doesn’t, I would not like to have to explain to the grieving parents, siblings and wives of our men that their loved ones died of an easily preventable case of frostbite because we couldn’t send a few thousand greatcoats to the front. If we send them and the war ends early, we’ve wasted a few cubic metres of space on a ship or two. If we don’t and it doesn’t, we’ll have wasted ten thousand lives.”
    “Fair enough.” Truman allowed, although he clearly wasn't promising anything. “If I may ask, who promised you that a war would be over before winter? I was never told such a thing until very late in the Great War.”
    “That would be Murat.” Patton said. MacArthur just shook his head – Murat had been dead for seventy years before Patton was even born.


    September 23, 1950

    The afternoon had been wet and cold. Patton had visited the front in the morning, in X Corps’ sector, the only part of Eighth Army that was still moving. Across half of Korea, his troops stood proudly mere metres short of the parallel. Near Chongdan, X Corps still had enough space to continue driving to the west. By nightfall tomorrow at the very latest, they would reach the point where the Yellow Sea met the 38th parallel. Then there would be no attacks left to mount. What spirits the miserable weather didn’t dampen, the prospect of a halted offensive finished off.
    As he tossed another piece of wood into the fireplace, he wondered if he had been right to offer MacArthur his full support back at Midway. MacArthur, he was sure, must have been angry that he had been robbed of any glory at Inchon, and if his entourage in Tokyo was anything to go by, he didn’t like anyone who wasn’t a blind follower, something Patton knew he certainly was not.
    “Meeks, do you mind coming out with me for a minute?” he called out to his aide.
    “What is it, sir?” Sergeant Meeks asked once they were out of the headquarters – thankfully the rain had stopped for now.
    “You saw back at that meeting how I gave MacArthur my full and unconditional support?” Patton said.
    “Have to be blind to miss it. Deaf too.” Meeks said.
    “Yes, yes. Well, before we left for Midway I prayed to the Lord for guidance, and during my rest on the plane, He answered with a vision. I was standing on the frozen bank of the Yalu, about to piss in it, when some Red bastard shot a bullet through my nose. And the first medic on the scene was MacArthur.” Patton explained. “Do you think I did the right thing?”
    “I cannot comment on your relations with the Lord,” Meeks said, “but at Midway it looked to me like MacArthur and Truman disagree on a lot of things. One way or another, you would have to pick a side eventually, and I think you would be more likely to agree with MacArthur’s viewpoint than Truman’s. He is eager to drive north, as much as you are, and if I understand MacArthur right, he’ll remember your loyalty for a long time.”
    “And Truman will hate the both of us now.” Patton said, more to himself than to Meeks.
    “He may well, but he has to consider affairs in Washington as well. If he sacks the both of you, there will undoubtedly be some kind of fallout. I don’t think he’d be willing to take that risk.” Meeks said.
    “Thank you, Sergeant.” Patton said, slapping his aide on the back and leading him back inside.
    “Message from Tokyo, sir. Just came in.” Colonel Landrum said as Patton and Meeks stepped through the door.
    “What is it?” Patton asked.
    “Washington has given permission for us to move north, effective midnight tonight.” Landrum said.
    “Excellent!” Patton said. “Give the orders, I want every division in this army moving north at dawn tomorrow, in accordance with the plan we discussed before.”
    “I’ll do it, sir.” Landrum said.
    “The die is cast.” Patton remarked. Two thousand years ago, Julius Caesar had said the same thing to him.

    - BNC
    Part II, Chapter 15
  • CHAPTER 15

    Once again I smell the heat sparks
    When my Flemish plate gave way
    And the lance ripped through my entrails
    As on Crecy's field I lay.

    September 24, 1950

    Major General William F. Dean had been promoted. Many officers seemed to hold the belief that a general’s spot was behind the lines, fighting the war with a telephone and a map. He had fought in Taejon with a rifle and a bag of hand grenades. To many, such a display would have been an act of utter foolishness. Patton had quite the opposite idea. He had gotten Dean a Bronze Star, and given Washington a recommendation for his rank to go from one star to two. Officially, he had described it as a case of “inspired and effective leadership that played a key role in the maintenance of our position in Taejon”. Unofficially, he said it was just because Dean had been “a brave son of a bitch”. Then everyone forgot about the recommendation until the Inchon operation sparked a new interest in finally organising Eighth Army’s now seven divisions into corps. He was the first to be appointed, and one half of his new IX Corps was made up of his old division. Now he hoped to lead the first American units over the old border.

    Well… not exactly lead.

    As the twilight turned to dawn, he stood atop a small hill a couple of miles behind the 38th parallel, where the 24th Division’s artillery was lined up in preparation for the attack across the border. Every gun in the division was supposed to be trained on a location not far from here. Probably every gun in the Eighth Army was. Except in the west, the front hadn’t moved in the American sector for three days or more. Artillery shells hadn’t been bound by the same restrictions that men were (or if they were, Patton had neglected mentioning it). Neither had the spotting planes. A lot of North Korean strongpoints, manned by those units that had escaped the first assault, were known. In this sector, the mightiest one was Yongpyong.
    “Let ‘em rip.” General Barth said into a radio, and within seconds shells were beginning to fall into Yongpyong. Through his field glasses, Dean saw the men and tanks follow them shortly afterwards. That was until they stalled somewhere just short of the town.

    By 1000, he could see Yongpyong was going to be a major problem. It was only a short spit across the border, but the radio and Barth’s telephone were giving no indication that the battle was going to end soon. He drove back to his command post in Mansedariri and got on the line to General Church, who had his old division.
    “What’s gone wrong up there?” he asked.
    “Looks like the Koreans have Yongpyong fortified to a fare-thee-well. Could be anything from a battalion to half a division in there that needs digging out.” Church said. “We can’t advance towards Wonsan without it. If they have any anti-tank guns in there, which I’m not aware of yet, they would have the range to hit any trucks on the Kumhwa road.”
    “Tell you what, I’ll get General Kean to give you some of his artillery. I want that town silenced today.” Dean said. “If you can, get a regiment on the west side of the town too. Encircle them, starve them out if they don’t give up.”
    “I’ll do it.” Church said.
    General Kean’s 25th Division reported better news: Majonni had already fallen and a bridge had been found over the Imjin.
    “Yonchon is giving us a little trouble, sir. A Red blocking force of some sort is there. I can give you the artillery, but we’ll want it if we’re going to get through Yonchon today.” Kean said.
    “Good. Bypass Yonchon.” Dean ordered. “Leave a regiment or so to watch it, no more than that. We need to secure those mountain passes before the Koreans have a chance to fortify them.”
    And everyone thought the NKPA was finished by now. Dean thought as he put down the phone. So much for that.


    September 25, 1950

    “Good morning, Ambassador.” President Harry Truman said as he picked up the phone. “What can I do for you today?”
    “Good morning, Mr President, and thank you for agreeing to receive my call so soon.” Kavalam Madhava Panikkar said. Panikkar was the Indian ambassador to Peking, and the unofficial messenger between the United States and Red China. “I have been asked to pass on a message by the Chinese Foreign Minister.”
    “And what might that be?” Truman asked. If Red China wanted something from him, it wasn’t going to be good.
    “Minister Zhou would like to inform the United States that the Chinese people will not tolerate foreign aggression, nor will they supinely tolerate seeing their neighbours being savagely invaded by imperialists.” Panikkar said.
    “Is that so?” Truman asked. “Very well, thank you. Is there anything else?”
    “Not right now, Mr President. Unless you are in need of India’s good offices to negotiate an end to the conflict in Korea.”
    “That won’t be necessary at present.” Truman said. “Thank you again.”

    As he put down the phone he said to Averell Harriman “That was Panikkar in Peking. He reckons Red China’s not going to be happy if we cross into North Korea.”
    “Patton crossed it yesterday.” Harriman noticed. “He’s probably twenty or thirty miles past it by now. And Mao’s only just woken up, has he?”
    “It’s late evening in Peking right now.” Truman said, before he realised what Harriman meant. “Yeah, he must have. What do you make of it?”
    “Not much.” Harriman said. “Panikkar’s at least pink, if not outright Red himself. I’d say its a bluff to keep us out of North Korea.”
    “Well, we’re in now, and we’ll have a devil of a time trying to pull Patton out even if we wanted to. MacArthur too for that matter.” Truman said. “The timing is odd too. We were sitting on the 38th for most of a week. If Red China wanted us to stay out, why wait until now?”
    Harriman snapped his fingers. “They’re not ready.”
    “Red China?” Truman asked.
    “Yeah.” Harriman said. “If their leaders only just found out we’re able to cross the line, their army can’t be ready to do anything about it.”
    “MacArthur said yesterday that he thinks Patton will be in Pyongyang in ten days, and the ROKs are getting close to Wonsan.” Truman said.
    “In that case, I’d say we’re likely to beat North Korea before Red China is even ready.” Harriman said. “Why would they enter a war they’ve already lost?”
    “I don’t know.” Truman said. “The Red Chinese have proven quite stubborn in the past, so I’ll see what Acheson and Marshall have to say about it too.” Need to warn His Majesty as well.

    September 27, 1950

    The new Eighth Army headquarters in Haeju didn’t have half as good a conference room as the ones in Seoul or Taejon had boasted. It didn’t have half as good an anything as those had. This building was cramped, smelly and had suffered more bomb damage than was really appropriate for an army headquarters. It reminded Patton of a stable, a far cry from the French chateaus that Third Army had frequently operated out of. But it was an hour closer to the front than Seoul was, at least for two of his corps. The staff could make do for a couple of days.
    “Sariwon.” Oscar Koch said, using a long stick to point at a location on the western part of North Korea. “Sariwon.” he said again. “Flanked on two sides by the Chaeryong river, and by mountains on the third. It sits on the best route, the only good one, into Pyongyang. This is where the North Koreans intend to make their last stand.”
    “How sure are you?” Patton asked. He had the utmost confidence in his intelligence chief, but the North Koreans had already proven themselves much better at hiding themselves than the Germans had ever been. No fewer than four towns along the border had been turned into small citadels, slowing I and IX Corps down far longer than he would have liked.
    “Very.” Koch said confidently. “I am aware we have been fooled before, but I’ve never seen someone hide a force this large completely before. King Kong is there too.”
    “Bastard.” Patton muttered. Kang Kon was easily the most capable North Korean general, and Patton’s chief opponent since he arrived in Asia. At some point early in the war, someone had claimed that he had stepped on a mine, which wasn’t a likely story as most of Eighth Army’s mines remained in crates or boxes back in Pusan. More recently he had been thought to have been captured in Seoul, only for the prisoner in question to merely be an unfortunate private with a similar name. Evidently he had slipped through the net once more.
    “Our radio intercepts indicate the presence of no fewer than four North Korean divisions. The 1st and 4th, which are hardened veteran units. The latter has been nicknamed the ‘Seoul’ division for their success in the first week of the war. I expect both units will be among the best Kim Il-sung can offer. The others are the 19th and 27th, which we have never encountered before and do not believe to have been a part of the initial invasion.” Koch said.
    “They’ll be tough bastards then.” Patton said, before anyone could dismiss them as green or rear-area units. The communists had terrible equipment, no food and not half the manpower they really needed. Too many of them fought like the damned Waffen SS nonetheless.
    “We must be prepared for anything.” Koch agreed. “The question now is, what are we going to do about them.”
    “What’s the status on the bridges over the river?” Abrams asked.
    “Doubtful.” Koch said. Stratemeyer had kept his promise not to bomb any more of them deliberately, but unfortunately the Koreans got a say in whether the bridges still stood. “Sariwon’s their best chance at keeping us out of Pyongyang, and they’ve little left south of the Chaeryong. Only a fool would leave them up in those circumstances.”
    “Were they up last week?” Patton asked.
    “I believe so, some of them at least, sir. But that won’t help us at Sariwon. Why do you ask?” Koch said.
    “The engineers can handle Sariwon, just as they got us into Seoul. I have full confidence in them.” Patton said. “But fighting through Sariwon is going to take time, and the time we waste there is time that the Reds will be using to fortify Pyongyang. Pyongyang sits behind a river too. They know I got held up by fixed fortifications on the Siegfried Line, so they put them here to stop me again.”
    “And if the bridges over the Chaeryong were still up last week, you think the bridges over the Taedong might still be?” Abrams said.
    “Precisely.” Patton agreed. “And I intend to capture them. Sit down, Oscar.” As the intelligence chief sat down, Patton got up and began pointing at the map himself. “Right now, thanks to those bunker cities on the border, I Corps has only made it to here.” he pointed to Pyongsan, about eighteen miles north of the border. “There’s only one good road in the area, and it goes to Sariwon. X Corps will be able to attack the river line tomorrow morning, and I expect that the Koreans will expect me to make a pincer attack on their position there.”
    “That’s what we had been planning to do.” Abrams agreed.
    “Exactly. The Germans had a fellow who had the job of researching me. Told Rommel what he thought I would do. I expect the Koreans have someone like him now. I used Rommel’s book to defeat Rommel. Those bastards must have translated my book by now – I’ll bet anything they want to use it against me.” Patton said.
    “You’re going over to the defensive?” Abrams joked.
    “Nonsense.” Patton said, chuckling. “They expect to meet me on the plains. That’s the good tank country. Therefore I propose we send I Corps up the Suan road. Use it to bypass all of their defences. Drive a great column right through the heart of North Korea, and strike Pyongyang from the east.”
    “It’ll never work.” Colonel Landrum warned. “We already know there’s four Korean divisions waiting in Sariwon. That road we were going to use is one they could use to cut Milburn off. The last time a force that size struck out and created a bulge in the line, we chopped it off. Shouldn’t we put something on the flank?”
    “The hell with the flanks.” Patton said. “Instead of worrying about them ourselves, we make the enemy worry about his. In four days King Kong won’t give a damn about the bulge near Sariwon. He’ll be pissing himself trying to hold on to Pyongyang.”

    - BNC
    Part II, Chapter 16
  • CHAPTER 16

    In the windless, blinding stillness
    Of the glittering tropic sea
    I can see the bubbles rising
    Where we set the captives free.

    September 30, 1950

    “I don’t know what else to tell you, General. I’m sorry.” Douglas MacArthur said. “The president’s word is final.”
    The president’s word was also imbecilic, MacArthur thought. There was no danger whatsoever of Chinese intervention. Their demands to halt the offensive had come late, so clearly they weren’t the least bit prepared to send troops over the Yalu. Washington had no clue what was going on out here. If Pyongyang wasn’t enough, Patton could be at the Yalu in three weeks. Red China couldn’t possibly do anything in that time, and after that it would be too late. Instead, the teleprinter had read “PRESIDENT TRUMAN PERMITS NO CHANGES TO THE EXISTING ORDERS REGARDING THE USE OF AMERICAN TROOPS AT PRESENT”. President Truman was throwing away a certain victory.
    “Sir, you do understand that without American support, the ROKs cannot be expected to maintain their existing standards.” General Coulter said. “And it is unrealistic to expect me to strip out all of the American junior officers as soon as we reach that rail line.”
    “Naturally, I would not expect you to do any such thing.” MacArthur said. “The ROK units may continue north as they have been, it is only that Patton’s units will not follow.”
    “Or charge ahead.” Coulter noted.
    “Or charge ahead.” MacArthur agreed. Anything west of Kaesong was more or less Patton’s personal domain at this point. He had one ROK division under his command, and that only because the South Koreans needed to be given at least some of the prestige of taking Seoul and to make an appearance at Pyongyang. That division had been stuck in the rear hunting partisans since it had been unloaded at Inchon. And in the east, the ROKs had taken Wonsan yesterday. IX Corps entered it this morning. “I give you my solemn word that the ROKs will not be denied air or naval support when they march beyond our stop line, and that is a promise you may repeat to Mr Rhee.”
    “I will, General, thank you.” Coulter said, before he turned to leave the room.
    “One last thing.” MacArthur said. “Feel free to allow the ROKs to expand their reach further west. Just because George is being kept from going there, doesn’t mean we should leave it to the communists.”
    George wasn’t going to like it, but there wasn’t much MacArthur could offer that he would like. One thing he could approve was Patton’s planned entrance into Pyongyang, written down a few days ago and now sitting on his desk. Washington had finally given him terms to offer to the North Korean government, which would be announced following the city’s capture. After reading Patton’s plan, he thought it more likely that the entrance would outshine any armistice. The photo of the landing at Leyte was burned into the popular mind whenever people thought of the war in the Philippines. The flag being raised on Iwo Jima was just as memorable. This proposal could become another moment like those.


    October 2, 1950

    As Patton sat in the turret of a Theodore tank, only one thought was running through his mind. He was damned glad to be out of that awful Haeju headquarters building. Sariwon had fallen, much more quickly than anyone had expected. The position there could have been formidable: the natural obstacles hadn’t been easy to cross. Yet the NKPA was disintegrating. The resistance they offered was brief, but they were quick to realise they could not hold the Chaeryong. Tens of thousands of men scattered, and ran north. Koch thought they had fled into Pyongyang: the bridges across the Taedong had been blown.

    All but one.

    That one had been a close run thing too. The Theodore had just crossed it, a few miles west of Kangdong. I Corps’ thrust had been successful. The North Koreans hadn’t been able to react quickly enough. A few cut wires not far from here had been the difference between a quick strike at Pyongyang and another bloody battle like had been fought at Seoul.
    “Stop the tank.” Patton ordered. “I want to get out. Then you go forward.” The front was only half a mile away – you could still hear the small arms fire banging away.
    As he clambered out of the tank, he waved for Sergeant Mims to halt the jeep behind it. General Gay was with him.
    “How much do you reckon we beat them by, Hap?” Patton asked.
    “Minutes.” Gay said. “The demolition charges are all there. Had they found out our plan any sooner they could have blown it. I’m told there’s half a division up the road?”
    “Can’t be that many.” Patton decided. “Fire’s too quiet. As long as this bridge doesn’t fall in the river like Remagen did, we should be in Pyongyang by nightfall. Hoge has got the X Corps to the river line to the south. You and the British hit the city from the north. Shouldn’t take long to clear the city. There’s nothing left in there. Got to be more communist partisans behind us than there are army units in front.”
    “And then what?” Gay asked.
    “I fly in to Pyongyang.” Patton said.
    “Fly? We don't have control of the airfield yet.” Gay reminded him.
    “You’ll see.” Patton said. “If taking Pyongyang doesn’t win the war, the ROKs are supposed to finish the job for us, while we sit in a giant trench across the 39½ line, near enough, seal off the routes through the hills. Partisans won’t cross, and the ones in the south will die eventually. A hell of an end to the war, isn’t it?”
    “You don’t think the Chinese will enter?” Gay asked.
    “Koch thinks they could, MacArthur says they won’t.” Patton said. “This ‘dig a trench’ stuff is a bunch of crap. We will get ready for the next offensive. China comes in, I attack. There’s no need to hold back from provoking them at that point. China doesn’t come in, then the war’s over. Everyone goes home, and this dump becomes one country again. Retiring again…” he shook his head. That had been awful once. Even sitting in a muddy trench across the neck of Korea for the next three years would be better than going through that again.


    October 4, 1950

    Sergeant William George Meeks stood outside some old North Korean government building or other. He wasn’t sure of its name. Patton hadn’t told him, and didn’t seem to care what building it was himself. It was big, not too damaged, and had a large open field in front of it. Late yesterday afternoon, the general had driven into the city unannounced, decided the place was a good one for his official entrance into Pyongyang, and ordered Meeks to oversee the setting up of cameras, parades, and the rest of the show. A rather large area of the open field was to be kept open, but otherwise George hadn’t told him anything more than he absolutely had to. Whatever he was planning, he wanted it to be big and he wanted it to be a surprise.
    Why not? Unless something very unexpected happened, Pyongyang was likely to be George’s last big conquest, at least for this lifetime. It was worthy of a celebration.
    Everything, and everyone, was in place a few minutes before 1100, when the ceremonies were supposed to start. Meeks checked his watch countless times, as 1100 came and passed. Patton was a stickler for doing things by the clock, even ahead of it. His being late was unthinkable. Whoever screwed this up would be lucky if they only got yelled at.
    Finally, at (he checked his watch again) 1109, he heard an unfamiliar sound coming from the south:


    And… now he had lost 20 bucks to John Mims. Those weren’t the sounds of a column of tanks rumbling into Pyongyang. Somehow, Patton had gotten hold of a helicopter. There were only a handful of them in Korea. It was the last thing he expected to see out here.
    As the impressive vehicle landed in the middle of the field, out stepped first MacArthur and then Patton right behind him. For a good few minutes, they appeared more interested in the cameras, which were undoubtedly turning this grand entrance into pictures for tomorrow’s front pages. It wasn’t every day that you took the enemy’s capital after all. Then they walked over to the makeshift podium, lined with microphones, and MacArthur gave a speech that was undoubtedly the real reason for their arrival in Pyongyang.
    “On behalf of the forces of the United Nations, I now officially declare that the liberation of Pyongyang is complete. All across this country, unfortunately divided at the end of the last war, the armies of communist aggression have been thwarted. Now, I say, the hour of reunification is at hand…” MacArthur’s speech continued on for some time, eventually calling for the North Korean government to lay down its arms and surrender.
    Then MacArthur stepped back, and Patton took his place.

    “Men, I want all of you, wherever you are, to know how much of an honour it has been to lead you into battle throughout the last eighty days. Few generals have been offered the opportunity to return to the service after retirement, and even fewer have been successful after they have done so. Napoleon failed. Hindenburg failed. Instead of failing, we have triumphed.
    “The reason we have triumphed is because of the fighting spirit of the great men who make up the Eighth Army. Every one among you, be you a private, a corporal, a major, it is your bravery, your determination, your courage that has played a vital part in getting this army to where it is today. In forty years of service, this is the first time I have stood in the capital city of a defeated aggressor. For that I say thank you. This victory is your victory.”
    The rest of the speech, Meeks thought, was a disappointment. George was trying to celebrate the victory while also warning of the need to remain vigilant against potential future enemies, which could only mean Red China or the Soviets even though he made sure not to mention either by name. Meeks wasn’t sure he really succeeded in either. More than anything, George looked older and sadder than he ever had. He had worked like a mule ever since he came to Asia, and it looked to be taking its toll.
    One of the fellows from the intelligence staff happened to be standing next to him, and whispered a grim assessment of the speech. “This war is going to kill him.”

    Part III, Chapter 17

    CHAPTER 17

    Midst the spume of half a tempest
    I have heard the bulwarks go
    When the crashing, point blank round shot
    Sent destruction to our foe.

    October 10, 1950

    The great advance into North Korea was over. The line where the troops now stood, give or take a few miles, was Eighth Army’s stopping point. Roughly a straight line stretching from Sukchon near the west coast to Kowon in the east, this position had become known as the Walker Line. Roads varying in quality between mediocre and terrible ran just behind it, and the lateral railroad a bit further behind that. Back in Washington, General Bradley had recommended the original stop line be pushed forward slightly in the centre to straighten, and shorten, the line.
    A stack of newspapers in the back of a nearby truck meant that Patton’s mood wasn’t improved one bit by the extra ten miles he had taken around here. He had taken Sukchon last Friday, a town that was completely unremarkable except that it was a good candidate for a corps command post (Eighth Army was now run from Songchon, which was a few miles from the lateral railroad and close to the centre of the Walker Line). That same day, the ROK forces had taken Hungnam, the last big city and port North Korea boasted. Yesterday they had gotten across the Chongchon River, the last waterway of any consequence before the Yalu. That was where the glory was to be found.
    Instead, his troops had been stuck retaking Chinnampo, a port near Pyongyang that was so thoroughly sabotaged as to be completely useless. POWs thought to be held in this area had obviously been moved, because hardly any were liberated by the time the limits of the Walker Line were reached. The NKPA hardly existed at all any more, but they had managed to drag thousands of captured soldiers into their mountain fortresses.
    “Good to see you again.” General Milburn said.
    “The same to you.” General Dean said, as the two shook hands for the cameras.
    Paeksongni shouldn’t have been a newsworthy location. If the American forces were doing literally anything else, it wouldn’t have been. They weren’t, and the I and IX Corps met here, so tomorrow the New York Times would publish it.
    “So now that we’ve reached this line, what are we doing?” Dean asked once the reporters cleared off.
    “Waiting.” Patton said. “Because there’s going to be another offensive as soon as I can get it approved. Red China’s going to jump us, I can feel it.”
    “What makes you say that?” Milburn said. “Apart from that one warning, and a couple of Russian planes, we haven’t seen anything out of them.”
    “North Korea hasn’t surrendered.” Patton said. “They’ve got no army. We occupy everything that actually matters in this country. Unless they’ve stuffed Kanggye with some sort of wunderwaffen that I haven’t been told about, they’re waiting for something that they think will turn the tide, and there’s only one thing that can be.”
    “We’ll be ready.” Dean said.
    “You better be. Until we get authorisation to go north, I want every man in this army getting ready. Every unit, except those on leave, is to be doing training around the clock. Especially at nights. Too many of the men are still scared of the dark.” Patton said.
    “What about the defensive line?” Milburn asked.
    “What about it?” Patton asked. “We’re not defending anything. Don’t need to. Standard patrols will deal with the partisans, and there’s fifty miles between us and the gooks. We’ll have three days’ warning before any enemy troops get near our position, more if things keep going the way they have. I don’t want to hear of, or see, any trenches, field works or any such crap. That stuff’s bad for morale, you hear me?”
    “Yes, sir!” Both corps commanders said.
    “Good. See to it.” Patton said, throwing his cigar into the mud. “Because the day I get approval I’ll want seven divisions driving north.”


    October 11, 1950

    Brigadier General Walter J. Muller had been Patton’s G4 for the better part of two wars. Despite how often Patton praised anyone who served under him, managing his logistics was a thankless task. Patton had said before that he didn’t worry about logistics – “that’s why I have a G4”. Not worrying about them last time had convinced Patton he could march all the way across France in one great sweep, even if he had to dip into other armies’ fuel stocks to do it. He’d pulled it off too, or near enough as to make no difference. Sometime between his entering retirement and leaving it, Patton’s approach had changed from not worrying to flat out ignoring logistics. That left Muller to deal with the problem. And this time, the problem couldn’t be solved by ‘borrowing’ from neighbours. The South Koreans hardly used any fuel, and the only other neighbours Eighth Army had were the two seas on either side of the peninsula. MacArthur had been generous with his stocks, but Japan wasn’t exactly overflowing with beans, bullets and gas either.
    “Sir, what you are asking for quite simply cannot be done.” Muller said. This was the third time he had attempted to bring the subject up this week. The first time, Patton hadn’t been interested. The second time he’d yelled at his logistics chief and then disappeared off to the front.
    For a wonder, Patton’s mood wasn’t too bad right now. “What do you mean?”
    “We’ve blown through a quarter of our trucks in six weeks. They’re not built for Korea’s shoddy roads, and if we lose them there’s no spare parts.” Muller said. “Chinnampo and Wonsan have more mines in them than Korea has hills. Stratemeyer has scorched every rail yard between here and Taejon. If you push any harder, the whole system’s going to give out.”
    “We’re not pushing at all!” Patton snapped. “Not a damned bit, not anywhere, except those ROK bastards.”
    “Which might be a good thing.” Muller said. “The troops have only been receiving seventy-five percent of the supplies they should be getting as things are. Add another hundred miles to the trip, we might be down to half.” He looked his commander right in the eyes. “The only reason we’re keeping seven divisions in the line up here is because the North Korean army hasn’t been effective for the last month.”
    “You told me we were fine back in Seoul.” Patton said.
    “We were. In Seoul.” Muller said. “Not any more. If the Chinese hit us now as the North Koreans did in June, I expect shortages would force us to retreat towards our bases.”
    “Which is why we must attack.” Patton said. “I’ve been telling Truman that all week!”
    “We can’t.” Muller said. “Not for very long anyway. Say you charge up to the Yalu, then what? We’ll have no trucks, our planes won’t get off the ground and the tanks won’t be able to move. You want the biggest retreat since Napoleon was run out of Moscow, that’s the fastest way to get it.”
    Telling Patton he couldn’t attack was never going to end well. Muller knew what to expect, and ignored the tirade that followed. Then once Patton had vented long enough, he spoke in the firmest voice he could manage. “George, listen to me. I got your forces across the African desert and all the way through France and Germany. I’ve done the same this time around too. I know better than anyone in the world what Eighth Army can and can’t do. You remember when Ike cut off your supplies to give them to the British? Have you ever thought about why he did that?”
    “Ike was kissing Monty’s ass, the coward.” Patton’s response was predictable enough.
    “That time, he had good reason to. Trucks coming out of Cherbourg couldn’t handle it. He needed Antwerp.” Muller said. “We’re in the same predicament as we were then.”
    “And what the hell could you need?” Patton snapped again. “I spent half of last week taking Chinnampo. We got Wonsan. If you ask that son-of-a-goddamned-bitch Rhee he might even let you use Hungnam. That’s every port in Korea but one. We ran Third Army out of one port for six months no problem. Now you’re telling me we can’t use one-third of the strength with five?”
    “Sir, this isn’t France.” Muller said. “The worst roads in France are better than anything out here. Drive a truck out here too long, it falls apart, and we don’t have replacements for anything. I can repair the railroads by stripping combat engineers from the infantry. I can open up Wonsan by sending in minesweepers.” Chinnampo was too badly wrecked: it wouldn’t be operational before January at the best of times. “We’re already doing both of those. But I can’t fix our trucks once they’re wrecked, not without engines, tyres, spare parts.”
    “Fine.” Patton said, leaning back exhausted as if he had run a marathon, not had an angry conversation. “What do you need that will let the offensive go ahead?”
    “Two things. If I get either, we might manage, but I suspect we’ll need both. The first is for you to pull a corps off the Walker Line and station them further south. If all we’re doing up there is drills, them being up there is an unnecessary burden.” Muller said.
    Patton reached for a cigar but didn’t bother lighting it. “Should be possible.” he said eventually. “I’ve been meaning to do something with them for a few days as it is.”
    “Good. The second thing I need,” Muller said. “Is time.”
    Patton looked like Muller had just shot him. “You know we can’t stop the offensive? That would be handing the initiative back to the enemy. Might as well just give him a loaded .45 and tell him to put a bullet through our heads!”
    “We can’t?” Muller asked. “We already have.”


    October 16, 1950

    When Hickey informed him of Patton’s request to meet in Tokyo, MacArthur had been caught off guard. He had known as soon as he was told that Patton would replace Walker that George would be impossible to control, and had given him as close to a free rein as he could in Korea. He sent over troops and supplies as they arrived in Japan, and had been forced into doing some damage control with the South Koreans. Otherwise, he was free to concentrate on finishing the occupation, and democratisation, of Japan. The arrangement suited them both well, and Hickey handled most of Patton’s affairs anyway.
    “Did he say what for?” MacArthur had asked Hickey then. Hickey only shrugged and said “Strategy”, which could have meant anything. He told Hickey to tell Patton it would be acceptable, and set the time for Monday at 1000. That was now.

    “What can I do for you, George?” MacArthur asked after salutes and greetings were exchanged.
    “I’m hoping you can get my next offensive in position.” Patton said. “Do you have a map of Korea? My one is quite worn at this point I’m afraid.”
    “In the box there.” MacArthur said, waving to a box that had been delivered last night. “Though I trust you realise I cannot simply order you to cross the Walker Line. Regrettably, Harry Truman continues to reject my appeals.”
    “He’ll see reason eventually.” Patton said, getting a map out of the box. “Either the ROKs finish the job now, in which case I’m going home, or Red China comes in and there’s no point holding back.”
    Then he laid out the map on the desk and drew a line representing the Walker Line.
    “I was talking this through with my G3 the other day, and the way I see it, there’s three ways we get to the Yalu. First, from Sukchon up the west coast. Second, from Hungnam up into the northwest through the Chosin Reservoir. That way we take the mountain fortress where Kim Il-sung is hiding out. Third, start at Iwon and head due north. I’d like to do all three.” Patton explained.
    “I’ll approve it as soon as Truman says I can.” MacArthur said. “You didn’t need to come all the way to Tokyo for that.”
    “I do if we’re going to do this operation quickly, especially from Iwon.” Patton said. “It’s more than a hundred miles from my closest positions.”
    “Hickey says the ROKs took it yesterday.” MacArthur said. “Driving there unopposed shouldn’t pose a problem.”
    “My logistics chief says otherwise.” Patton said. “And even if we ignore him, I don’t intend to drive there. I intend to land there.”
    “After Inchon?” MacArthur asked. Thankfully the press hadn’t made too big a stink out of that debacle, but Patton, despite what he told Truman, had never thought much of that plan. Another amphibious landing behind friendly lines wouldn’t just be a black mark on his career. The whole page would be black.
    “Yes, but not like Inchon. As you said, we hold it. I was hoping you could unload the entire X Corps there for me on the day we get approval to go north.” Patton said.
    “Iwon’s a small port.” MacArthur noticed. “You won’t get a whole corps off the ships in one day.” Patton had managed to get through forty years in the Army without really worrying about logistics. MacArthur had never been able to ignore them: taking the Pacific back from Japan had been more about transport than it had been about killing Japanese. “One other thing, Iwon’s probably mined.”
    “Sweep it then. Top priority, before Chinnampo or Hungnam. I’m told Wonsan is nearly cleared.” Patton said. “And if it takes landing craft to get the troops ashore in one day, the comparisons to Inchon can be damned. Tell the reporters to go to hell.”
    MacArthur leaned back in his chair and got his pipe going, thinking over Patton’s proposal. It would require a very substantial reorganising of naval assets, and probably the twisting of an admiral’s arm or two. But Patton was right, it would speed up the offensive considerably. Finally he decided.
    “I’ll have to run the operation out of Japan.” he said. “And it will need time to be prepared. If you have the men ready in Pusan by Friday, the operation should be ready to go ahead from the 28th.”
    “They’ll be there.” Patton said. “Thank you.”

    - BNC
    Part III, Chapter 18
  • CHAPTER 18

    I have fought with gun and cutlass
    On the red and slippery deck
    With all Hell aflame within me
    And a rope around my neck.

    October 22, 1950

    Lieutenant General John B. Coulter grimaced as he grabbed a hold of the shaking telephone. It had barely stopped ringing since yesterday evening, and he had had no rest for over twenty four hours. Serving as Patton’s effective deputy and unofficial American commander for all ROK units – ten divisions or so in all – was a stressful job. Or he had thought so until the events of the last night gave him a new frame of reference.
    “Coulter speaking.” he said.
    “Major Harry Fleming, sir.” Major Harry Fleming said. “7th Regiment.”
    Good, another American. That was a small mercy: the poor Korean interpreter had already had to take too many of these calls.
    “What division are you with?” Coulter asked.
    “6th, sir.” Fleming replied.
    “And you’ve been attacked by the CCF?” Coulter asked. He’d heard the story from just about every division the ROKs had. “What’s the situation?” Bad was the most common answer. Awful was becoming increasingly common.
    “We’re down to half strength. The regiment, I mean.” Fleming said, doing his best – but not good enough – to keep the worry out of his voice.
    “In one night?” Coulter asked, without even meaning to. “Never mind, is the road still open?”
    “To Hungnam, yeah. North? No chance.” Fleming said. “We’re on the east bank of the Pujon Reservoir and got hit from the east too, so I don’t know how much longer we will be open.”
    “How far up?” Coulter said. “From the base of the dam?”
    “Two miles, sir.” Fleming said after a short pause.
    “Find Colonel Lim. If he’s gone, the next in line. Tell him to get all your living onto the trucks and pull back to the southern edge of the dam, then to dig in on the double.” Coulter ordered. Patton would skin him for ordering – hell, allowing – a retreat. Well, too bad for Patton. He’d been ordering them all night. What was one more? Or two more?
    “Lieutenant!” he shouted to a lieutenant on the other side of the room. “Get on the line to the 2nd Regiment of the 6th Division. Tell them, I don’t care who, to pull back to the southern edge of the Pujon Dam immediately.” That regiment was on the western side. “They are to link up with the 7th and then to dig in.”
    “You got it, sir.” the lieutenant said.
    Coulter put down the phone – evidently he had forgotten to return it to its cradle in the rush to alert the neighbouring regiment – and looked at the map pinned on the wall. Literally, in this case. Some Korean was going to one day return to his home and wonder why one of its walls had a thousand tiny holes in it. Then he would be thankful he didn’t live across the street, where a block had been flattened by a B-29’s old payload.
    Those thousand holes came from the incredible array of pins marking the positions of various units. Blue ones, where the ROKs were. Red ones, known cells of North Korean activity. And now, far, far too many yellow ones. Chinese. They called themselves the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army, disguising the fact that they were CCF units, “volunteers” most likely only in the old way of volunteer or I kill you. He only knew they were called that at all because of the two green pins – not representing units per se, but the locations where the CPVA had been repulsed. One had yielded prisoners.
    Two small victories in a sea of yellow. A sea, that had come from nothing to form a tsunami.

    October 25, 1950

    President Harry Truman was glad to finally be rid of Louis Johnson as his Secretary of Defence. Johnson had, as was now apparent although may not have been then, gone too far with the economisation policy when it came to the military. The Army, Navy and Air Force had all gone into Korea woefully unprepared – it hadn’t mattered too much as things turned out: Patton had proven a masterful leader of men, but every senior officer was in agreement that, but for Patton’s gamble at Taejon, they would have been holding a small corner of Korea near Pusan to this day. Truman couldn’t blame Johnson too much for gutting the army – he had come up with it himself. He could blame Johnson for annoying everyone else on the President’s staff. Now the papers were going to blame someone for Red China’s sudden entrance to the war. Johnson got the sack that day. Truman hoped the political stink would go with him.
    George Marshall had the spot now. He had been Chief of Staff for FDR. Truman had full confidence in his abilities.
    “What can I do for you, Mr President?” Marshall asked.
    “I have two problems, General. A Chinese problem and a Patton problem.” Truman said. “You have experience dealing with both.”
    “I wasn’t terribly successful with China, I’m afraid, but I’ll do my best.” Marshall said, referring to the time shortly after the last war when he had gone to China to broker a cease fire between Mao and Chiang. “What’s the issue with Patton? MacArthur?”
    “Not MacArthur. What makes you say that?” Truman asked.
    “I was one of his closest friends in the days of the Old Army. I’ve known him longer than just about anyone, and think it likely I know him better than just about anyone too.” Marshall explained. “And if I had to guess anything about him, it would be that he and General MacArthur would not get along. That’s why I denied him the Pacific assignment just before he retired. It’s why I was amazed when you gave him the Eighth Army.”
    “I’m still amazed I did it myself.” Truman said. “He’s been thanking me over the teletype every day for the last month by demanding I let him over the Walker Line. Or actually, MacArthur’s doing it on his behalf. The two might as well share a mouth with how often they think alike these days.”
    “I’m not surprised.” Marshall said. When he noticed Truman’s questioning expression, he explained it. “I mean, I’m surprised about MacArthur, but not about George. He has never reacted well to being held back. Worse than usual.”
    “And that’s why he’s so dangerous for the political side of this war.” Truman said. “You know, if I had any other general out there in charge of Eighth Army, I wouldn’t have the slightest hesitation about sending them forward with the ROKs, at least before we knew about Red China. We wouldn’t even have the divided command at all – before he got Rhee mad we were going to integrate US and ROK units into mixed divisions. As things are…”
    “Wait and see.” Marshall advised. “According to the reports from Tokyo, the ROKs have been pushed back and badly shaken by the Chinese offensive, but I believe they will contain it before too long. From their current positions, there is no immediate threat to the Walker Line. If the situation turns for the worse, we should of course reconsider. Because if we do send Patton forward, China and Russia are going to be concerned that he won’t just stop at the Yalu, but blow right past it. He’d never do such a thing without orders, but they don’t know that. Less political risk in holding back for now. Might make armistice negotiations a bit simpler too.”
    “Would things be helped by making an offer now?” Truman asked. He hadn’t been planning on doing so until the ROK flag waved on the Yalu, but seeing as Marshall had brought it up, another opinion couldn’t hurt.
    “No.” Marshall said flatly. “Not until we throw their offensive back. To do so any sooner would just be a sign of weakness.”

    November 7, 1950

    General Patton was being driven to the front. The Walker Line was a demoralising, poor excuse for a front line, better described as an extensive training camp than anything else. While the ROKs battled the Chinese, often without much success, American, British and now a few other nations’ troops waited, and trained, here. Evidently the order that he only command American troops had been forgotten. For them, this was ‘the front’.
    “Election Day today.” Sergeant Mims said. “At least when the sun rises on the East Coast.”
    Patton gave a noncommittal grunt for a reply. Soldiers weren’t supposed to have politics, although they were still encouraged to do their democratic duties when November came around. Before 1945, he hadn’t paid much attention to politics, and he couldn’t now remember when, if ever, he had cast a ballot in his younger days. Since the end of the last war, politics had changed. A fear of communism tore through the land, splitting states, counties, even families at times.
    For Patton, the last wasn’t quite literal, but it could have been. In 1950, California was electing a senator, either the Republican Richard Nixon or Democrat Helen Douglas. He’s voted Douglas when forces in Korea were offered the chance to vote: Nixon was a shifty son of a bitch who Patton had never been able to stand. Beatrice, he was certain, would have voted for Nixon – she came from a devoutly Republican family and was no less supportive of the GOP herself. He hadn’t told her and never would: it would have been a terrible idea to do so.
    Maybe not so terrible, he thought on a second reflection. He planned to die here in Korea, a glorious death leading the charge of the final, successful battle. It was the only way for a warrior to truly go out. Of course, if he told her that, she might never have let him leave California at all…

    He’d made a number of trips like this over the last couple of days, and what he did when he reached each regiment’s camp depended entirely on what he felt like when he got there. Sometimes he had the troops assemble on the camp’s largest open area. Other times he’d meet the soldiers in the field kitchens or while they were conducting practice exercises. This evening, he decided “drive me to their barracks”. After Mims did so and they both hopped out of the jeep, he called out to those inside.
    “Soldiers, I’ve got something for you!”
    “Is that the General?” someone inside said, obviously to his buddies but loud enough to be heard at the opening of the very large tent (Patton suspected multiple tents had been joined together to create this structure).
    “Yes it’s me, now get moving!” he called back. As the troops assembled, he found an old ammo box and decided it would do well enough for a stage. There wouldn’t be a microphone here. Too much bother to set up, and there were a lot of regiments to get to.

    “Men, on the day after I came to Korea some dumb son of a bitch told me that the 24th Regiment was the worst one in the Army. If you haven’t already realised it yet I want you to know how wrong he was. Every time you men have gone into battle, you have fought bravely and fought well, and if I had to complain about this outfit in some way it would be that we don’t have more like you. You have all done your duties, and you should be proud of it.
    “Alas, there are lots of dumb sons of bitches out here, because I’ve been hearing another stupid thing. People are saying that the war is nearly over, and that there’s no more fight to be had. They were saying the same thing back in France, and then Hitler hit us with the Battle of the Bulge. I think you’re already aware of this, but the Hun Chinese have done something similar to our allies. There’s no such thing as ‘nearly’ winning a war. You either have won it or you need to. We still need to. The way we do it is to go north into those goddamn mountains and shoot the Nazis in the damn nose. We’re gonna rip out their guts and toss them back over the Yalu River. And once we’ve done that, then we can say we’ve won the war. I haven’t ordered you up there yet because our allies are supposed to do it for us. I already know what that means. We’ll wait down here while our allies stuff it up, just like Monty did in Caen and Arnhem, but eventually they’ll decide we’re needed. The day they do, you’ll be prepared. The day they do, we advance.
    “There’s one other dumb son of a bitch’s comment I need to deal with. That idiot thought we wouldn’t need winter kit. In case he hasn’t realised it yet, we’re in November already. There’s gonna be some snow on the damn ground in a few weeks. In the mountains, the Chinese are probably digging goddamn snow trenches right now, because its been falling there for weeks. Koreans have told me about it. Well, I told that man to go to hell, and now there’s a couple of boats in Pusan with half a million uniforms for you. Two for each man. One will be sent for your commanding officer to distribute over the coming days. The others are sitting in the back of a couple of trucks. I thought I’d bring you them myself.”

    He finished the speech off by naming a few good soldiers who had also been approved for decoration, including a DSC for one brave man, and then ordered the unit to assemble in a single file line to collect their new winter gear package. As each man came up, he asked them for their name, what state they were from, who was waiting for them back home, and other such questions. Just as it was important for the soldiers to see their commander, it was important for a commander to see his soldiers.
    Then, once two thirds of the line had collected their new gear, a young black sergeant asked one of his own. “If you’d be willing to answer, of course, sir.”
    “Go ahead.” Patton said. If he didn’t like the question, then too bad for Corporal William Thompson.
    “Sir, a couple of years ago, President Truman signed an executive order saying white and black troops should serve together. This being an all black unit, a lot of us thought you’d bust us up, especially with the reputation we had back then. What I want to ask is, why didn’t you?” Thompson asked.
    “Corporal, I knew what you troops were capable of. I had a tank battalion in France that was black, and they were some of the toughest troops I ever met. I’m not going to bust up a perfectly good unit, and you’ll notice I’ve given your regiment white replacements for your losses.” Patton said. “Truman gets his mixed units, your unit stays intact. Makes everyone happy. Now go on, see if you can’t inspire some of your friends to win that cross like you did.”

    - BNC
    Last edited:
    Part III, Chapter 19
  • CHAPTER 19

    And still later as a General
    Have I galloped with Murat
    When we laughed at death and numbers
    Trusting in the Emperor's Star.

    November 8, 1950

    “They’re gone.” Oscar Koch said. “I just got off the phone with General Coulter, he says that the Chinese volunteers have gone. Everywhere.”
    Patton lit a cigar. He had tried quitting again a few days ago, and had been rewarded only with a miserable two days before he gave up the effort. “What do you mean gone? Any army can’t just vanish into the abyss like that.”
    “The ROKs think that they did. Gone. Vanished. One day, there’s a couple of hundred thousand CCF troops attacking everywhere. The next, not a sign they were ever there at all.” Koch said.
    Patton gave his cigar another couple of puffs, thinking the intelligence chief’s comments over. “How do you rate their capabilities? Not today or yesterday, but all through this attack.”
    “If you imagine a larger and more determined version of the North Korean army, you won’t be far off. Lots of light infantry, carrying nothing more than a few balls of rice and ammo for their rifle. No artillery, although a lot of them have small mortars. No bombers except for the biplanes. But they fight like the devil and are willing to negotiate any terrain.” Koch said. That wasn’t an exaggeration either: the Pujon Reservoir was surrounded by some of the tallest mountains Patton had ever had to negotiate as a commander. The Chinese had crossed them as easy as you would a plain.
    “And our air recon is useless.” Patton noted.
    “Unfortunately, that is closer to being true than I’d like. The North Koreans were good at hiding their tracks. Red China makes them look like amateurs.” Koch said. “They slipped 150, maybe 200 thousand men across the Yalu and through those mountains without anyone seeing a thing. The B-26s got a few tanks hat were left out in the open, other than that we can’t get much from the air force. Planes have been watching North Korea every chance they’ve had. Hasn’t done us a lick of good.”
    “They’re not gone.” Patton decided. “Any more than the German army was in the winter of 1944.” Then he got up, opened the door and called “Abe, can you come and join us?”

    “What do you need, sir?” Creighton Abrams asked. This room wasn’t really big enough for three, but it would do. Better than trying to plan something over the chatter that filled the rest of the headquarters.
    “We’ve lost the Chinese.” Koch said. “All attacks on Coulter’s forces have ceased.”
    “Impressive.” Abrams said. “We’ve underestimated them, that’s for sure.”
    “I think I know where they are.” Patton said. He’d been thinking about this for a little while now. “Actually, I know that I do.”
    “Where’s that?” Koch asked.
    “They haven’t pushed forward – the ROK lines are thick enough now that we’d know if they did. They haven’t run back across the Yalu. That would be stupid. Just like if Monty had landed at Normandy and then ran back across the Channel as soon as he took Caen. Utterly senseless. They’re not where they were last night, a couple of ROK divisions were in the middle of an attack. They’ve retreated, but they’re out there somewhere.” Patton said. “I’ve seen this trick before. I’ve fought this trick before.”
    “Against the Germans?” Abrams asked.
    “No.” Patton’s brow dropped and his face became more fierce. “Against the Russians. There I was, riding with Murat along the old road to Kaluga. We had just defeated Count Bennigsen at Borodino and taken Moscow. For all purposes the Russian Army had been shattered. The old Count knew he could not survive another battle with our army, so he scattered his men into the forest in the dead of night. Then every day, a small band of Russian cavalry was seen heading east. Murat ordered us to follow, only to realise that he made a mistake. So he ordered me to build camp, to watch and wait. A few nights later, a horde of Russians descended upon our corps. We barely got back. We never returned.”
    “Tarutino.” Abrams said. “That’s the name of the village. I studied that battle, a couple of years ago.”
    “I fought there.” Patton said. “On October eighteenth, 1812. Just as we study the campaigns of Washington and Grant at West Point, the Russians must teach Bennigsen and Suvorov. When China went communist, the Red Army sent their experts. And who would the experts teach? None other than my old opponent. It all makes sense.”
    “At Tarutino, Napoleon had no second corps.” Abrams noticed.
    “Napoleon wasn’t there.” Patton said. “I’d have seen – oh, yes, we didn’t. Why do you say that?”
    “Because we, the UN forces, do.” Abrams said. “Yours, and the Koreans. And if the enemy is using Bennigsen’s playbook, which I’m in agreement that they probably are, then I have a plan to win this war before Christmas. Not MacArthur’s boast that we’ll just get to the Yalu eventually. A real plan. Let’s go out there. The whole staff will want to hear it.”
    Patton just nodded. “Lead on.” He’d decided back in 1945 that Abe ought to be made a general one day. He only wore a bird now, and that was because that was as far as Patton could promote him without Congress getting a say. This was the chance for Abe to prove he deserved a star.

    “Gather round, everyone!” Abrams shouted as he laid out a map on the largest table this headquarters boasted. A thick red line had already been drawn where US forces were located. Both sides of Koreans were somewhere north, there wasn’t much of a coherent front up in the mountains. The Chinese had vanished. No need for markers today.
    “You all know by now that the Chinese have disappeared. General Patton thinks he has found them. They’re hiding, somewhere in the far northern mountains. We don’t know where exactly, and we don’t know what their plans are. What we do know is that they will fight again.” Abrams announced. “This withdrawal was intentionally ordered by the Chinese: a lot of the ROK units were still retreating when it happened so it wasn’t due to a collapse of any sort. Armies that stop a successful attack only do so if they can’t attack for lack of supplies, or they have reached their objectives. They’ve captured nothing of note in the north, so either their objective was to scare us or they cannot attack any more. If they’re out of supplies, they’ll have more soon – their dumps are just across the Yalu. If they’re setting up an ambush, Syngman Rhee will order his troops into it before too long. If they’re planning a second attack, it will come. In any case, the ROKs and the Chinese will be fighting each other again soon. I suggest that we let them.”
    Colonel Landrum was the first to speak “Hold off…?”
    “Let him speak.” Patton commanded.
    “We have two choices when it comes to ending this war.” Abrams said. “Either we drive to the Yalu, or we choose a line somewhere and leave the communists with a piece of Korea as a puppet. Even with every improvement in logistics that we can make, the Yalu will be difficult to hold for long. It is far from our bases and right next to the enemy’s. A quick, decisive strike at the Yalu is the only way for the river to mean anything. If it fails, we will inevitably be pushed back. The Chinese can drown us in manpower. A slow offensive will only end in the same result just drawn out over time. An ironclad defence of a chosen line further south, where the Chinese supply lines are vulnerable to our bombers, prevents this manpower challenge from being insurmountable, but I trust no-one on Eighth Army’s staff wishes to fight this war on the defensive.
    “Regarding the Chinese Army, we know from our reports from General Coulter, and the recent offensive, that they can sustain effective operations for a week or two. Like the Russians in the last war, they can push strong and hard for a while, but then have to reorganise. Accounting for the time it will take for our troops to march up to the front, if we begin moving the day after the ROK line comes under attack by the Chinese next, our troops will reach the battlefield at a critical time. The Chinese will be low on supplies, but not so low that they will be prepared to retreat into their mountain hideouts. Think of it like a bar fight: two men are going after each other with broken bottles, concerned only with what the other is doing, while we, the third man, jump one of them from behind.”
    “We use their own game against them.” Landrum noticed. “They hide in the mountains, waiting for the time to strike. Only we strike after they’ve shot their bolt.”
    “Precisely.” Abrams said.

    While everyone else on the staff discussed parts of Abe’s plan, a thought flicked into Patton’s head, reminding him of the one problem he had been facing ever since Pyongyang was captured.
    “Colonel, how do you propose to get approval for this operation?” Patton asked. “Not from me, I think it’s fantastic. From Washington.”
    “Simple.” Abrams said, which Patton was inclined to doubt. “Every time you have asked for authorisation to attack, it has been signed with your name or MacArthur’s. Washington thinks you too aggressive to be trusted with a carte blanche approval on an attack near the Yalu. President Truman, and from what I understand most of the Joint Chiefs, can’t stand MacArthur, and I doubt he’s in their good graces after the Inchon mess. But the Koreans aren’t going to beat China on their own, so eventually some operation is going to have to be approved. Put my name on it, and send it to Washington on the next flight out of here. I’ll deliver it by hand if that’s what it takes.”
    “We’ve got the teletype.” Patton reminded him.
    “For this, no.” Abrams said. “Russian spies stole the atom bomb. They could steal this. I don’t think it worth the risk.”
    “And you’re confident your name will be enough to convince them?” Landrum asked. “Forgive me, but you are just a colonel.”
    “Marshall’s the Sec Def now.” Abrams said. “He’s a great judge of character. I worked for him for a few months when he was Chief of Staff. He’ll back me.”
    “What about Truman?” Oscar Koch asked. “The whole point of sitting here is to avoid provoking the Chinese.”
    “I’d say they’re provoked well enough by now.” Abrams said, triggering more than a few laughs. “Besides, I’m not asking for authorisation to attack. I’m asking for authorisation to win. MacArthur thinks the war can be over by Christmas. Rhee won’t manage it: his troops have been moving at a crawl for days. This way, we might.”
    “We do it.” Patton said. “Send a messenger, not a colonel, to Washington. Other than that, I’ll back you completely.”


    November 13, 1950

    Doyle Hickey had been witness to over a hundred teletype conferences since the war in Korea began. Most of them discussed the routine matters of managing an army, with Washington providing information, questions and instructions, and MacArthur reports, answers and ‘yes, sir’s. MacArthur told his deputy chief of staff just about everything hours before Washington heard any of it. Not many telecons surprised him. One in July had – Patton hadn’t been the commander MacArthur seriously expected to get. This one had done so again.
    As he picked up the phone and asked for Eighth Army, he tried to remember how many times the request for Patton to move past the Walker Line had been rejected. Since Pyongyang, at least. Thirty times? Forty?
    “This is General Patton.” came the voice on the other end.
    “Hickey here, sir.” Hickey said. “Washington just told us, you have approval to cross the Walker Line in accordance with the plan you discussed, conditional on notifying the Joint Chiefs at the earliest opportunity when the Chinese attack comes. Your new boundary will be the North Korean border. I don’t know how you did it sir, but you did.”
    “I have my G3, Colonel Abrams, to thank for it.” Patton said. “While you’re there, can you let General MacArthur know something.”
    “Anything, sir.” Hickey said.
    “If Tokyo hears anything about a major Chinese offensive, I need Hoge’s men loading on the boats immediately. Don’t wait for me or Coulter. Immediately, got it?” Patton said.
    “We’ll do it, sir.” Hickey said.

    - BNC
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    Part III, Chapter 20
  • CHAPTER 20

    Till at last our star faded,
    And we shouted to our doom
    Where the sunken road of Ohein
    Closed us in it's quivering gloom.

    November 18, 1950

    The hour was late. On any other day, Douglas MacArthur would have stopped working by now. He had not intended today be any different from the others. The small but growing stack of papers on his desk, itself a difference and an unwelcome one at that, meant he could not leave his office, not yet. Some meetings had to be had.
    “Sit, General, sit.” he said as Doyle Hickey entered the room and saluted. “I wish for this to be as brief as we can possibly make it.”
    “As you wish, sir.” Hickey said, sitting down. “What do you need?”
    “Read those papers.” he commanded. There was at least a dozen of them, many of them several pages long. Even read quickly, it would take over an hour to get through them all.
    Hickey began to read, and for a couple of minutes MacArthur wondered if his deputy chief of staff would need that hour to get through them all. Then he said “sir, these are speeches by General Patton. And you’ve marked them.”
    “Precisely, General.” MacArthur said. “Read the parts I marked again. Do you sense a theme?”
    Hickey mumbled to himself as he read the papers – much more quickly this time – aloud. Then he realised. “Nazis. Huns. Even a kraut or two. He’s not even referring to his time in Europe half the time.”
    “Not in any of those.” MacArthur said. “Every one of those has him labelling the Chinese with the same insults he would have used in Europe. Curious, really. I’m starting to wonder if he thinks he never left at all.”
    “Sir, why did you ask me to meet you?” Hickey asked. “If it is merely to listen to Patton some more, well I already do that for an hour or more each day, and I hope you understand how tiresome he can be.”
    “Where do you think I got these papers?” MacArthur asked.
    “I beg your pardon, sir.” Hickey said, although he couldn’t possibly have misheard.
    “Where do you think I got these papers?” MacArthur repeated calmly.
    “I don’t know, sir.” Hickey said. “I suppose the soldiers might have copied the speeches down, I know folks who did so when he gave that famous one in England, but a corporal’s diary isn’t too likely to end up on your desk.”
    “That corporal tells his comrades-in-arms. Then they tell theirs. Before long, someone who knows someone in the press corps has told the story. If it comes out of Patton’s mouth, that time is short indeed. They end up in front of my censors. The first of these papers is from September 2nd. The reporter thought it a mistake at first, albeit a strange one, so we changed the word to ‘Communist’ and suppressed the matter.” MacArthur said. “Unfortunately, secrets have a habit of leaking. Our friend George knows that better than anyone – that slapping fiasco was world news four months after it happened. This will get out eventually. When they do, I worry that Washington will start rubbing their noses in the war effort again.”
    “Sir, that does not answer my earlier question. Why do you need me?” Hickey asked again.
    “Because you know Patton.” MacArthur said. “You served under him, and now you converse with him much more often than I do. We both know I would like to retain George in command. I would like your advice on whether that is possible.”
    Hickey leaned back in his chair and sighed. “He has not had one full day of rest, not even on the flight to Midway, since he arrived in the summer. George’s sixty-fifth birthday passed a few days ago, and commanding an army is hard work for an old man.” Realising MacArthur had already passed seventy, he said a quick “sorry, sir.”
    “Carry on.” said MacArthur unbothered.
    “I was talking with a major on Willoughby’s staff the other day, and that major also knows someone on Patton’s intel team. Word is, back at Pyongyang, someone there made a statement, that this war is going to kill George.” Hickey said. “Unless this war ends shortly, I believe they’re right.”
    “How long do you mean by shortly?” MacArthur asked.
    “The end of winter, perhaps sooner if Washington grows concerned.” Hickey said. “The more gaffes he makes, the more likely it becomes.”
    A loud knocking on the door interrupted the two generals. “What is it?” MacArthur called.
    “Urgent message for General MacArthur, sir.” the voice – Almond, MacArthur realised – said.
    “Come in, Ned.” MacArthur said.
    “Sir, the Chinese have launched another major offensive.” Almond said. “All across the line, began less than an hour ago.”
    “Find Pinky Wright.” MacArthur ordered. “Tell him to have X Corps embarked immediately and en route for Iwon.”

    As Almond left, Hickey spoke up once again. “I’d like to amend my previous statement. Make it, ‘the end of this offensive’.”
    “And why is that?” MacArthur asked.
    “Because if this fails, Patton won’t be able to launch another one.” Hickey said. “That’ll kill him worse than any bullet ever could.”

    MacArthur dismissed him and headed to the room where the teletype operators worked. “Put me through to Washington.” he ordered. “Marshall made us a promise and I’m holding him to it.”


    Lieutenant General John B. Coulter hoped the Korean family that owned this place never found out that he had ever been here. The map wall was more pin holes than it was wall at this point: the pins didn’t represent very large units, and North Korea was a big place when you measured it by the battalion. The pins moved, but the holes would remain forever. Since this latest offensive, there were a lot more holes than ever before. Yellow pins, representing the Chinese, were to blame.
    “Sir, it’s Major Fleming again.” one of his aides said, offering the telephone.
    “What is it, Harry?” Coulter asked, taking it. This offensive was far worse than the last had been – there wasn’t any time for pleasant greetings tonight.
    “Our lead elements report that they’ve been surrounded.” Major Harry Fleming replied. “We’re near Toksil, ten miles south of Changjin.”
    “Lead elements? How big are we talking?” Coulter asked. Fleming was attached to a regimental command, but the guy attached to the next regiment in the line had gotten killed about a week ago, so more often than not he spoke for the whole division now.
    “200 men, near enough.” Fleming said. “Colonel Lim thinks the whole 6th Division is going to be cut off if we don’t pull back immediately.”
    “He is to hold his ground.” Coulter said firmly. “No retreats. Dig in and wait. What are your supplies like?”
    “96 hours, maybe a bit more.” Fleming said automatically. Patton, or more likely his logistics bosses, had ordered every Korean unit to keep three days’ worth of supplies on hand at all times. This plan of theirs was relying on the Koreans remaining in the fight for some time.
    “Good. I’ll say it again, hold out where you are. That’s an order from the top.” Coulter said, putting down the phone.

    “So what do you think?” he asked his intelligence chief after another yellow pin went into the wall and he explained it.
    “There’s a lot of them.” Colonel James Tarkenton said. “Just how many, there’s no way of knowing. It could be 70,000 like Willoughby thinks. It could be 700,000.”
    “Koch thinks it’s about 200.” Coulter observed.
    “He thought that.” Tarkenton corrected. “This one’s a lot bigger than last time. Everything I’ve seen of Koch tells me he knows what he’s doing too.”
    “More than you did?” Coulter asked jokingly. They both knew that one of Patton’s first actions as Eighth Army’s new commander was to sack half of the old staff, and that included Tarkenton. Quite a few of them worked for Coulter now instead.
    Tarkenton just chuckled. “None of us had a chance against the Bastogne gang. And if they’re right, the ROKs could be in trouble. 200,000 outnumbers them almost two-to-one. Worse if there’s more. Up in the mountains, it might not matter too much. Can’t move anywhere except straight into the lines. I’d be worried about this area though.” he said, pointing towards the flatter lands of the northwest.
    “Why’s that?” Coulter asked.
    “If those pins have any bearing at all on the enemy’s relative strength, most of the CCF is going to be falling on the ROKs at their weakest point. Patton’s gambling with the lives of his men telling them to hold Onjong.” Tarkenton said.
    “Not our men.” Coulter said. “Koreans. And I doubt he cares a bit.”


    November 19, 1950

    “Sir, you asked to see me.” Lieutenant Commander William T. Amen said, saluting as he waited at the door of the Eighth Army headquarters.
    Returning the salute, Patton ordered him to “come in, come in.” He waved to an empty chair and lit a cigar. “I’m told you’re the only son of a bitch around here who’s managed to knock one of those things down.” A picture, taken about a week ago, was sitting on the table showing a MiG-15 leaving behind a trail of smoke.
    “The new jet? I believe I was the first, sir, but I’m sure the other pilots could do just as well against them given time.” Amen said.
    “Yes, the damned Russian jet. Doug MacArthur will be sending more B-29s up to flatten what’s left of North Korea as soon as this weather clears up a bit, and I want to know what we’re in for.” Patton said. He also knew two B-29s had been lost in a recent raid on Kim Il-sung’s mountain citadel at Kanggye, but the pilot didn’t need to know about those.
    “Sir, put bluntly, they are better than anything we’ve got. I was flying a Panther, a Navy plane, and it was a lot faster than that. A guy I know who flies an F-80 said much the same thing. By the looks of things, those ones are built as interceptors. Send bombers in, a lot of them won’t return.” Amen said.
    “And what did you think of the pilots?” Patton asked. “Russian, or Chinese?” He didn’t even bother acknowledging the possibility of Korean pilots. Kim Il-sung’s puny air force had been wiped out months ago. If they had any crews worth knowing about, they had hidden them well.
    “They’re pros.” Amen decided. “And they don’t want to be caught, that’s for sure. Even with that fantastic plane of theirs, the first thing they do when they see us is turn for the north and scram. I’ve seen them twice in the last couple of weeks, they didn’t hang around for more than a minute either time. But anywhere within fifty miles of the Yalu, especially the west part of the country, that’s going to be dangerous. Unless we get better planes, we’re going to lose a lot of pilots up there.”
    “That smells like the Russians.” Patton said. “If we captured a Chinese, it’d be like the hundreds of the bastards the gooks picked up already. No-one would care. Why the hell would they hide it? The Russians now, they still want to pretend they’re not the ones who started this mess.”
    Before Amen could reply, Colonel Landrum came into the room and said “Sir, Admiral Struble reports the fleet is nearing… the landing sites.” he hesitated saying Iwon, as the operation was still technically a secret even though a Navy man undoubtedly knew about it in some form. “Less than two hours before we begin unloading.”
    “I have to see it.” Patton decided. “You find out everything that Commander Amen knows about the new Commie plane and send the report to Stratemeyer. Commander, it was nice speaking with you.”
    Then he got up and found Sergeant Mims. His plane would be waiting at the nearby airstrip. That could get him to Hamhung, a little more than half the way. A jeep would be waiting for him at the other side. The trip might – just – be possible in two hours. Eighth Army was moving up at full speed now, but it wouldn’t meet the enemy until tomorrow at the earliest. The staff could manage without him. If they couldn’t... he’d have found a new staff years ago.

    - BNC