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North Korea’s Surprise Attack, An Important Lesson in Battle Preparation

By James Lint


June 25 is a day that all military planners and intelligence professionals should remember as a lesson in proper battle preparation. On that date in 1950, North Korea surprised the U.S. military with an attack that swept U.S. and South Korean forces into the Pusan Perimeter and almost off the Korean peninsula. Defeat appeared quick and sudden.

It was only nine years after the devastation at Pearl Harbor and no one believed that a surprise attack could happen to U.S. forces ever again. But it did.

For the United States, intelligence focus on a former small Japanese-occupied territory was a low priority. The mistake was missing the buildup of Communist support and the large amount of combat equipment in North Korea compared to South Korea, obvious indicators of battle preparation that we can see in hindsight. Because the U.S. overlooked these signs of impending combat, North Korea’s invasion led to a long, bloody civil war.

How Did This Surprise Attack Happen?

There are several reasons why North Korea’s invasion came as a surprise to the U.S. military:

  • The U.S. was a budding world power and had many places to focus. For example, there were Cold War activities in Europe and Africa. The U.S. had a small intelligence force, with the CIA’s founding in September 1947. By 1950, the CIA was still prioritizing areas to watch and spend assets.
  • The U.S. had won World War II, creating a sense of false confidence that no country would have the audacity to attack the U.S. America was the strong victor who had beaten the Germans, Italians and Japanese. But the U.S. did not take into account that other countries saw the massive drawdown and shrinkage of our active military after WWII.
  • Military and government leaders did not rigorously review intelligence collection management or intelligence collection requirements. The Army was otherwise occupied with disarming former WWII foes. Korea ended the war as occupied Japanese territory and later broke up into North and South Korea. Russia gained influence in North Korea after this division.
  • Military and civilian intelligence services were unprepared for an imminent battle. There was a prevailing sense among intelligence leaders that “a new battle cannot happen”, which proved to be wrong. Even during peacetime, it is wise to be aware of potential combat possibilities and probabilities.

Insufficient Military Forces and Logistics Failure Contributed to U.S. Failure to Anticipate Invasion

Military planners should remember that the military manning the Korean peninsula was insufficient to quickly deploy and logistics had degraded. The 1st Marine Division was not fully prepared to deploy from California and newly recruited Marines had to do their training on the ships that conveyed them to the battlefield. Also, combat personnel had inappropriate footwear for the climate; there were stories of people with dress shoes in wintertime combat.

History shows that most drawdowns go too far. Often, enemies see the possibility for them to advance due to a recent drawdown, especially during the early period of a new war.

Constant Vigilance Against Enemies is Always Vital

This invasion was also an important lesson to intelligence professionals, especially in the military. They must always be energetic and alert for the next December 7 or June 25. Being in the military is not an easy profession. No one hears about the minor successes, but everyone knows mistakes can be costly.

South Korean Post-War Economy Recovers with U.S. Support

U.S. troops have been in Korea since 1945, when they accepted the surrender of Japanese troops at the end of WWII. Many people wonder if remaining in Korea is worth it.

Seoul is a noteworthy story of economic recovery and success after a devastating war. It is an economic power and a member of a vibrant, international business community. The American military assisted in that growth by providing military protection and support. Early on, U.S. support fed a starving population in South Korea. Later, the U.S. helped South Korea to create a strong military for defending the country.

American military support, the Peace Corps and foreign aid all built Korea into a strong country that is now a world-recognized economic power. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks South Korea as the 11th most powerful economy in the world.

The United States took over 200 years to get to our strong economic position. Korea did it in 60 years, going from abject poverty to economic strength with U.S. support.

Strategic Lessons to Be Learned From Korean War

We rarely talk about North Korea’s surprise attack at the start of the Korean War. But it is important to remember our failures and avoid repeating our mistakes. We should remember, that in an attack, the enemy has a vote in the outcome of a battle. Adequate battle preparation can be a decisive factor in combat and can defeat unexpected invasions.

 (Photo Credit:  James Watkins)

About the Author

James Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded the 40th scholarship for national security students and professionals. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence within the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, contractor, and civil service.

James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has served in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and at the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office. James had an active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and also served 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” and a new book “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea.”

Originally Published:  http://inmilitary.com/north-koreas-june-25-surprise-attack-important-lesson-battle-preparation and http://inhomelandsecurity.com/north-koreas-june-25-surprise-attack-important-lesson-battle-preparation

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513th MI Bde

513th Military Intelligence Brigade in Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM

Vigilant Knights in the Desert

On 2 August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia. Four days later, the Army alerted the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade for eventual deployment as part of Operation DESERT SHIELD. By the end of the month, its first elements arrived in Saudi Arabia. Eventually, the brigade’s deployed strength ballooned to over 2,200 Soldiers. With these Soldiers, the 513th MI provided multi-disciplined collection, all-source analysis, and widespread dissemination of theater-level intelligence to LTG John Yeosock’s US Army Central Command (ARCENT).

Deploying from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, the 513th MI Brigade consisted of four battalions that operated at the echelon above corps level. The 201st MI Battalion conducted signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations. The 202d MI Battalion provided counterintelligence (CI), interrogation, and document exploitation support. The 297th MI Battalion supplied imagery analysis as well as ARCENT’s Intelligence Center. Finally, the Foreign Materiel Intelligence Battalion (FMIB) performed technical intelligence operations. In addition to these four subordinate battalions, the 513th later assumed command responsibilities for elements from six other MI battalions.

To follow its initial deployment, the brigade sent Task Force 174, under LTC Robert Butto, to Saudi Arabia. With elements from each of the 513th MI’s four battalions, the task force laid the ground work for the rest of the brigade’s arrival. Butto’s advanced party landed in Riyadh on 1 September. Within 24 hours of its arrival, it had established an Intelligence Center for ARCENT’s G-2 and begun to provide essential intelligence support. One of the center’s earliest studies provided an analysis of the terrain to the west of the Iraqi forces which stated that the ground could support movement by the Army’s armored forces. Briefed to the Central Command’s senior leadership, this assessment helped shape the eventual American ground campaign.

As TF 174 continued its shoestring operations, the rest of the brigade waited for transportation into theater. The need to build up combat power to counter the Iraqi forces meant that intelligence and other support assets were left behind. As it waited, the brigade received a new commander, COL William M. Robeson, on 12 September. Faced with a painfully slow deployment, Robeson traveled to ARCENT headquarters to provide senior on-the-ground leadership and try to push for the deployment of the rest of his brigade.

When Robeson arrived, the 513th MI had just under 200 Soldiers in theater. Although still constrained by limited transportation, he was able to gain approval to bring much of his brigade’s staff to Saudi Arabia in the fall of 1990. The staff was able to make the most of the brigade’s limited assets, establishing limited collection facilities and planning for integrating new equipment—such as the SANDCRAB jamming system—into brigade operations.

By early November the brigade had deployed 500 soldiers—about one-third of its assigned strength—allowing it to enlarge its operations including aerial SIGINT operations and increased CI coverage. Moreover, COL Robeson received permission to call forward the balance of his brigade. At the end of 1990, the brigade’s strength was approaching 90 percent and it received important reinforcements to enhance its theater imagery capabilities.

At the same time, BG John Stewart became the ARCENT G-2 and quickly moved to prepare his staff for more active operations. Not only did he enlarge the staff, he infused it with senior MI leaders from throughout the Army. Both actions benefited the 513th MI Brigade. The experienced leaders supplemented the hard work and enthusiasm of younger Soldiers in the ARCENT Intelligence Center with insight and practical knowledge. Within a few weeks, the brigade almost doubled in size as its battalions finished their deployment and readied themselves to support ARCENT’s offensive.

In January 1991, COL Robeson oversaw the development of key theater intelligence organizations. The 201st MI Battalion coordinated the SIGINT efforts of its ground and aerial assets through the Integrated Ground Operating Facility. Shortly afterwards, the 202d MI Battalion established two joint interrogation facilities and later a document exploitation center. Meanwhile, the 297th MI Battalion provided much of the manning for the Joint Imagery Production Center, which garnered tactical support from theater and national imagery systems. Finally, the FMIB organized the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Center for in-theater technical intelligence. Through these operations, the Soldiers of the 513th MI Brigade provided effective multi-discipline intelligence for Army and theater decision makers, greatly assisting the successful ground campaign.

Despite the challenges of a slow deployment to an undeveloped theater, incorporation of almost one thousand augmentees and the integration of new equipment, the 513th MI effectively linked the corps and divisions to intelligence information from the national agencies. It also produced its own intelligence through its various joint facilities and organic collection assets. As BG Stewart noted in his after action report the 513th MI Brigade was “the” key MI capability at the Army level during Operations Desert SHIELD/STORM.

[This article was written by Michael E. Bigelow, Command Historian, US Army Intelligence and Security Command, in February 2016 for the Moments in MI History series.]

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If you are a veteran, contractor, or civilian worker with involvement in US National Security-we need you! The Lint Center for National Security Studies is committed to the preservation of histories of people involved in the shaping and development of US. National Security history as we know it today. The experiences of veterans, contractors, and civil service members involved in US N.S. are needed to not only to help us better understand our own history but to carry that knowledge forward for future generations.

If you would like to add your experiences to the archive, please Submit Your Story!

*If you are interested in conducting an Oral History interview, or have any questions about the program, please contact our historian at LC-VANS-Hist1@lintcenter.org.

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