The Noncommissioned Otl'icer during the Korean War

By: MSG Sam K. Young

SGM Albizu
03 March 2006

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I. Introduction. 1. References a. Fisher, Ernest F. Guardians of the Republic b. Nelson, Harold W . The Army c. Bull, Stephen 20th Century Arms and Armor d. "Korean War" Medal of Honor Recipients, 26 Sept. 2005 2. This briefing is on the Noncommissioned Officer Corp before and during the Korean War. II. Body.

1. Role of the NCO and changes from World War II to the Korean War.
2. Training of the Noncommissioned Officer 3. Weapons used by the NCOs during the Korean War. 4. NCO heroes of the Korean War. III. Closing.

1. Summery - Over the past 15 minutes I have covered the history of the

Noncommissioned Officer Corp during the Korean War.
2. Questions. 3. Closing statement - I hope this briefing has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of the Noncommissioned Officer Corp during the Korean War.

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Noncommissioned Officer Corp during the Korean War The Noncommissioned Officer Corp was established well prior to the Korean War but it had not had the visibility and exposure it would experience during the Korean conflict. The Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) leadership would take a more defined role. The Army would need to address the NCO training to accommodate the new roles ofNCOs. Weapons and ammunition would be an obstacle for the leadership. However, through the hell and obstacles of war, NCO heroes would emerge. The Noncommissioned Officer Corp experienced several changes between WWII and the Korean War. By 1945, the Army had become civilianized. The enlisted soldier had lost the rigid military discipline and began to take a civilian status in their daily routines. NCOs no longer dedicated their lives to the soldiers. In fact, most were married and did not live in the barracks. The era of the professional soldier was dying. A once battle hardened force had been reduced to a mere peacekeeping occupation force. With the focus on occupation duties in Germany and Japan, the NCO Corp was not prepared for what was to happen in Korea. The beginning of the Korean War brought on an entire new type of battle for the United States Army and the NCOs. Until now the Army had fought battles with defined enemy lines, the United States on one side and the enemy on the other. However, in the Korean War the lines were blurred. The U. S was occupying South Korea to fight against the North Koreans. It was difficult for the U.S soldier to distinguish the South Koreans from the North Koreans. In addition this was the first war where the true importance of the NCO started to emerge. The NCO became battle leaders. Most of the engagements were now conducted by small

Young 2 elements of platoons, squads or teams led by NCOs. This created a problem as the NCOs were not prepared for this type of responsibility. At the beginning of the Korean War it was indicative that the NCOs were not ready to fight (Fisher). Though they were not overrun, they found that several soldiers and NCOs did nothing to prevent the enemy from damaging their company. One officer stated that " Sergeants once chosen to sit at the right hand of God because of a singular ability to Soldier and make-jar-head privates see things the Army way-- now shrank from shouting out psychoneurotic yard birds because it might get them in a jam." The NCO was afraid to stand up and take the responsibility. Soldiers during this time simply disregarded the NCOs as rude and went on their way. To make matters worse, society had demanded less stringent punishment for soldiers. This compromised good order and discipline of the units and it showed at the beginning of the war. The Army attempted to solve the problem by replacing NCOs that were not effective leaders. However, it was a failed attempt as there were manpower shortages and not enough replacements to replace the ineffective leaders. The NCOs would have to learn to become leaders through trial and error. The soldiers had less confidence in their units and their leadership. The declining professionalism of the NCO Corp led to frustrated soldiers. During the WWII large battles, the officers were blamed when something went wrong. In the Korean War, more missions were led by NCOs; therefore, when something went wrong the soldiers blamed the NCOs instead of the officers. The attrition rate ofNCOs was higher than it had ever been and the replacements were often substandard. The experience and ability to lead simply was not there. Officers lost confidence in the NCO Corp and circumvented NCOs to talk directly to the soldiers. Soldiers were keenly aware of the problems that plagued the NCOs and targeted their hostilities and frustrations toward the NCOs. Training for the NCOs had become neglected which led to NCOs forgetting their battle drills. The Army realized the need for changes in the NCO training and leadership development.

Young 3 The changes were indicative of the times and extremely necessary. In 1945, the Army trained its NCOs by on-the-job training. There was a need for formal training. The first NCO academies began in Europe around 1947. The NCO Academy was not mandatory and was one course for all levels ofNCOs from the grade of Corporal to Master Sergeant. Since the academy was not mandatory commanders often would not allow their essential NCOs to attend the courses. The Army did not formalize the schools therefore they lacked uniformity on subject matter and course length. Though there were deficiencies in the NCO training it was more beneficial than having no formal training at all. Unfortunately in 1950 the Army suspended NCO academies due to the lack of personnel and budgeting constraints because of the Korean War. The NCOs and soldiers of the Korean War were armed with predominately the same weapons as were used in World War II. The Garand, BAR, and .50m M2 machine guns were all used in a more deliberate manner and as a result stayed in action longer. Despite being thirty years old, the M2 machine gun was the favorite among the soldiers. The Ml carbine was improved to include fully automatic fire, which proved to cause the most problems in the cold weather. Bazookas and recoilless rifles took on a different role in Korea. They were primarily used on bunkers and machine gun nests. The 4.2 inch, 81mll\ and 60mm mortars all performed well and were especially important due to the hilly terrain. Amazingly the bayonet was put to use for its intended purpose and there were even some soldiers who heavily relied upon it. The major problem facing the troops during the Korean War was the supply of ammunition for the weapons. However, the troops only experienced a nature of temporary shortages. There were restrictions placed on how many rounds could be fired per day but the troops consistently fired far more ammunition than the Communists.

Young 4 During the first few months of desperate fighting, instances of poor combat leadership and discipline often led to panic. But veteran NCOs from World War II, who had not forgotten what they had learned in combat, stood out and proved their worth. These NCOs began to demonstrate a renewed spirit and their leadership skills began to resurface. There were seventy­ eight Medal of Honor recipients during the Korean War, fifty-nine of which were NCOs. Among these NCOs were SFC Stanley T. Adams and SFC Travis E . Watkins. SFC Adams was a World War II veteran assigned as the first platoon sergeant for A Company 19th Infantry Regiment. On 4 February 1951 at approximately 0100 hours, SFC Adams' platoon was holding an outpost some 200 yards ahead of the company. They came under a determined attack by an estimated 250 enemy troops. Intense small-arms, machine gun, and mortar fire from 3 sides pressed the platoon back against the main line of resistance. Observing approximately 150 hostile troops silhouetted against the skyline advancing against his platoon, SFC Adams leaped to his feet, urged his men to fix bayonets, and he, with 13 members of his platoon, charged this hostile force. Within 50 yards of the enemy SFC Adams was knocked to the ground when pierced in the leg by an enemy bullet. Ignoring his wound, he jumped to his feet and continued on to close with the enemy when he was knocked down several times from the concussion of grenades which were bouncing off his body. Shouting orders he charged the enemy positions and engaged them in hand-to-hand combat where man after man fell before his terrific onslaught with bayonet and rifle butt. After nearly an hour of vicious action, SFC Adams and his comrades routed the fanatical foe, killing over 50 and forcing the remainder to withdraw. Upon receiving orders that his battalion was moving back he provided cover fire while his men withdrew. SFC Adams' superb leadership and incredible courage inspired his comrades to completely halt the enemy disaster (Medal of Honor).

saving his battalion from possible

Young 5 SFC Watkins, another W orId War II veteran who proved to be a hero, was assigned as a platoon sergeant in H Company 9th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division. On 31 August 1950 an overwhelming enemy force broke through and isolated thirty men of his unit. SFC Watkins took command, established a perimeter defense and directed action which repelled continuous, fanatical enemy assaults. With his group completely surrounded and cut off, he moved from foxhole to foxhole exposing himself to enemy fire, giving instructions and offering encouragement to his men. Later when the need for ammunition and grenades became critical, he shot two enemy soldiers 50 yards outside the perimeter and went out alone for their ammunition and weapons. As he picked up their weapons he was attacked by three others and wounded. Returning their fire he killed all three and gathering up the weapons of the five enemy dead returned to his amazed comrades. During a later assault, six enemy soldiers gained a defiladed spot and began to throw grenades into the perimeter making it untenable. Realizing the desperate situation and disregarding his wound he rose from his foxhole to engage them with rifle fire. Although immediately hit by a burst from an enemy machine gun he continued to fire until he had killed the grenade throwers. With this threat eliminated he collapsed and despite being paralyzed from the waist down, encouraged his men to hold on. He refused all food, saving it for his soldiers, and when it became apparent that help would not arrive in time to hold the position he ordered his men to escape to friendly lines. Refusing evacuation as his hopeless condition would burden his platoon; he remained in his position and cheerfully wished them luck. Through his aggressive leadership and courageous actions, this small force was able to destroy nearly 500 of the enemy before abandoning their position (Medal of Honor). SFC Adams and SFC Watkins are just two examples of outstanding leadership during the Korean War. Despite the difficult beginning the NCO Corp leadership endured, combat studies of the Korean War show that NCOs significantly contributed in every outstanding performance

Young 6 by an infantry company. The changes to the NCO Corp brought on during the Korean War led to the most professional and well respected soldiers in the world. In the Guardians of The Republic, Ernest F. Fisher wrote this about NCOs, " An experienced NCO corps is a key component of Western armies: in many cases NCOs are credited as being the metaphorical "backbone" of their service. By contrast, the weak NCO corps of the modern-day Russian armed forces and those modeled after it is widely blamed for the general ineffectiveness of those militaries." By the end of the Korean War the Noncommissioned Officer had earned the reputation and was recognized as a strong leader in battle (Guardians).

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Works Cited Fisher, Ernest F. Guardians of the Republic. n.p.: n.p., n.d. Hermes, Walter G. U.S. Army in the Korean War, True Tent and Fighting Front. 1988. Medal of Honor Recipients. 26 September 2005 . Korean War. 2 December 2005 <http ://>. Nelson, Harold W. The Army. n.p.: n.p., n.d.

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