The Korean War: Pusan Perimeter Defense

The first truly huge battle of the Korean War took place in both August and September of 1950 as UN troops were rushed to the southern tip of the Korean peninsula near the port of Pusan.  They fought a narrowly won battle to keep the last vestiges of South Korea from being completely overrun by the invading North Korean troops, who had been winning a series of easy victories against the poorly equipped and undermanned Republic of Korea (ROK) defenses.  As the Americans began to commit to the war in earnest by mid-summer, troops, men, and supplies from the US Far East Command began to make their presence known through several pitched engagements that went poorly for them at first.  By early August, the UN made what could have been its final stand as roughly 100,000 North Koreans faced off against nearly 140,000 American and ROK troops to decide the fate of the Korean peninsula.

In my most recent playthrough of Victory Games' The Korean War, the UN found itself in a very similar situation as in real life.  The ROK had dug in its troops during the turns after Seoul fell and even with some help from American units, the North Koreans pushed into the cities in the west of the peninsula as Taejon and Chonju fell.  By turn 4, the Americans had manged to put nearly a division's worth of men into the city of Taegu, just to the north of Pusan and they centered their defenses around the town.  


Turn 4:  Start of Action Phase 1


Three regiments had just landed in the port of Pusan and the UN player would send two of them slightly to the north to defend against a KPA division that had already run the gauntlet of the defenders. Stuck behind enemy lines and out of supply, it was faced with the choice of either pressing ahead or pulling back and attacking the UN's front lines from the rear.  The KPA generals left their fate to the winds and attacked a regiment of Americans just to the south.  They paid dearly, losing two-thirds of their men in the attempt. 

Meanwhile, the KPA pushed three divisions of its men and tanks at Taegu but with restricted supplies, they found themselves shredded while attacking the entrenched US regiments in the town.  The hope was to combine their attacks together and use the momentum to keep moving south together.  However, the Americans used air support to help the defenders and the KPA was again and again rebuffed in its attempts.

Two KPA divisions were sent southwards to hit at the two ROK regiments and the US regiment to the east of Taegu.  In order to get the general advance moving south and take Pusan, either Taegu or this nearby defense line would need to fall. Both KPA divisions rested just before the attack, which would happen next action phase.  This allowed the Americans to maneuver one of their units around on the east flank to make an attack a KPA division.  The terrain happened to provide the KPA with an advantage, however, and the engagement ended without result.

Turn 4:  End of Action Phase 1
Action Phase 2 could not have started off any worse for the UN.  Despite a level 4 air interdiction on supplies, the North Korean player rolled a 9 and was able to place an accelerated commitment marker on the depot just behind their main lines.  The UN player, on the other hand, rolled a paltry 2 and got only one supply level marker.  This meant a restricted supply commitment and the UN would need to be doing more defending than attacking this turn.  

With initiative for the turn and 3 operation points right off the bat, the North Korean player decided to push back as much as it could.  The two KPA divisions to the east of Taegu slammed into the two ROK regiments defending the east-west rail line between the city and the east coast.  Both regiments were totally eliminated and the KPA moved south after having forced a gaping hole in the UN line.  One of the KPA divisions decided to follow up this success by clearing out the rest of the nearby American/ROK defenders but failed to make any progress.  The KPA was meeting with mixed success with conservative attacks rather than all-out commitment. 

To the west of the perimeter, a KPA division met with ineffective American attacks.  Sitting just six hexes away from the port of Pusan, it was frustrated on all sides from its attempts to break out.  The KPA commander pulled the division back slightly and then sent it down towards the Americans on the right flank, hoping for some kind of success in its attack.  The Americans called in air support, however, and with the failure of the North Korean armor to gain any kind of traction, the unit was fatigued.  The Americans poured everything they had into a counterattack and completely eliminated the division.

Earlier in the game on turn 3, the US Marines had been landed far to the southwest and managed to retake several captured cities along the west coast.  Although the Marines had been eliminated by two KPA divisions, this served the purpose of delaying their progress towards Pusan.  Both units crept towards Pusan along the roads of Kyongsang-Namdo but found the advance too slow as American interdiction flights impeded them.  They arrived at the west end of the perimeter at the end of turn 4, too late to make any real contribution to the battle.

To the east, a KPA division was attacked by American armor and infantry as it neared Pusan but the attack was completely ineffective and the Americans lost a regiment.  By the end of the turn, the US was forced to place further reinforcements in Pusan and delay future plans for an amphibious landing elsewhere.  This one particular North Korean division threatened the port by the end of the turn.  

End of Turn 4:  Action Phase 2 - The Pusan Perimeter holds - just barely.


The Pusan perimeter was held - for now.  The brunt of the KPA attacks had been blunted and US counterattacks had managed to substantially weaken the North Koreans.  Key to the defense had been the defenders at Taegu, who managed to hold on to the center of the line after suffering repeated heavy attacks by KPA divisions during both action phases. Their position had also been incredibly inconvenient for the KPA attackers further east during both action phases as their zone of control had prevented key supplies from being delivered.  With the roads to the north of Pusan blocked, the supply routes for the KPA were lengthened considerably, depriving the KPA of using the 1.5x attack factor benefit for being within primary range of supply depots.

Comments

  1. Oh boy, this is my all-time favourite wargame. I play it whenever I can, allways the campaing, allways UN-side. Greens usually wins. Such a great game. Have you tried it on Vassal?

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    1. Thanks Iván! It's one of my favorite games too. I haven't tried it on Vassal but I want to do it some day!

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    2. Just think in me when you try ;-)

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    3. You bet! Thanks very much!

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    4. Nice playthrough Brad. Thanks.

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    5. Thanks Jason! Glad you enjoyed it. Hope your summer is going well.

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    6. Iván - I think the game is unbalanced in favor of the US, so long as people know what they're doing.

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    7. I have no idea what I'm doing so I'm finding it pretty tough to win as the UN. I just had a limited Chinese intervention in my most recent turn of an advanced game and it looks like Seoul is going to change hands yet again! I enjoyed your videos, by the way, and I bought the game because of them. Thanks.

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    8. I agree with you, Calandale, but even though the game keeps tension and excitment high as situation would change drastically from one turn to another. Also, only once there a military victory happened (and it was the only NK one, call it a UN "distraction") and ussually we have to count VP points.

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  2. Going well, thanks. A little dry here abouts. How about yours?

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    1. We've got a big typhoon starting to hit us over here in Japan. Fun stuff!

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  3. Wow! So that's where all the rain went! Be careful.

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    1. Thanks Jason! It passed without any trouble around here. Have a safe and enjoyable summer!

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