Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War

indicate that in the North Korean as in the Soviet Army the lack of flexibility granted
individual commanders, particularly at lower levels, has predicated an adherence to
certain preconceived tactical dispositions and maneuvers."27
The Communist attack doctrine, as observed in all major enemy attacks in Korea,
was inflexible. [The same was true of NKPA defensive doctrine since only the
senior commander could order a withdrawal.] Subordinate units were not
permitted to make adjustments which terrain, friendly defenses or other factors
might have indicated as being desirable . . . Preparations for an attack followed
an inflexible and unvarying pattern which soon became apparent to friendly
forces. And finally, enemy insistence, due to inflexibility, on mass employment
tactics proved costly in the face of United Nations air and artillery fire.28
Furthermore, there was no tolerance for failure, and draconian discipline enforced
the rigid will of senior command. "It is a characteristic feature of North Korean Military
doctrine that a commander is expected to accomplish his mission even under the most
adverse circumstances. . . ." The subordinate commander was also responsible for
everything that happened under his command. "According to a captured field order, unit
commanders are held personally responsible, not only for the adequacy of defense
plans, particularly as regards preparation of the ground, but also for the implementation
of these plans."29
North Korean officers and troops alike are directed to hold their ground at all cost
unless ordered to retreat by competent authority and are instructed to commit
suicide rather than surrender to United Nations Forces. To persuasive
propaganda depicting UN troops as barbaric murderers who kill all prisoners was
added the direct threat of execution to hold down the desertion rate and prevent
retreat, notably among the demoralized and ill-trained replacements conscripted
south of the 38th Parallel. Many prisoners relate that their squad and platoon
leaders brandished a pistol and threatened to kill them should they attempt to
surrender. Others purport that in combat units composed overwhelmingly of
recent ROK draftees, special guards were posted right behind the forward
echelon of troops with explicit orders to shoot all deserters. Unit cultural officers,
too, seem to play an important role in preventing desertion; they collect surrender
27 Ibid., 2.
28 Headquarters EUSAK, "Enemy Tactics," 73.
29 Headquarters Far East Command, "North Korean Defensive Tactics," 4, 5.


Montandon, Joshua W. Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War. Denton, Texas. UNT Digital Library. Accessed October 1, 2016.