Tags: meet the author
By Jim Dolbow
What inspired you to first produce booklets commemorating the Korean War and then later compiling them into The U.S. Navy and the Korean War?
One of my primary objectives during my time at Naval Historical Center (now Naval History and Heritage Command) was to stimulate interest in the vital history of the U.S. Navy in the Cold War era. As head of the Contemporary History Branch and then as Senior Historian, I sought to generate works on this period. We began and completed multi-page books on the USN in the Cold War but I anticipated a need for shorter studies during the 50th anniversary of the Korean War from 2000-2003. With the funding assistance of the DOD Korean War Commemoration Committee and the Naval Historical Foundation, we enlisted authors for the booklets and when produced distributed them to numerous commemoration groups and naval activities nationwide. To reach another key audience (the members of the Naval Institute) I then partnered with the USNI and the NHF to produce the book, which I am pleased to say has generated lots of positive comment.
Who were your contributors on this important project?
In addition to the organizations mentioned above, the most important contributors to the project were the individual authors, some of the finest naval historians around, including the late Tom Buell, Joe Alexander, Dick Knott, Tom Cutler, Curtis Utz, Bernie Nalty, and Malcomb (Kip) Muir.
What was the Navy’s role in the Korean War?
Withouth the USN, the UN coalition would not have been able to fight in Korea. Within a few weeks of the North Korean invasion, US, UK, and ROK naval units were driving North Korean naval forces from the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan; sea control was never in question after that. The Navy’s Military Sea Transportation Service rushed troop reinforcements into South Korea that prevented loss of the peninsula. At the same time carrier-based Navy, Marine, and British aviation forces bombed the North Korean capital at Pyongyang, bombarded the enemy’s supply lines leading to Pusan, and provided UN ground forces with close air support. In addition to the masterful amphibious assault at Inchon which changed the power equation in mid-1950, the threat of other amphibious operations throughout the war compelled Mao and Kim to keep powerful forces away from the front line at the 38th parallel. Naval air both shore and carrier-based was critical to the 1st Marine Division’s successful fight to the sea from Chosin Reservoir (in the process badly beating up several PLA armies). Moreover, the fleet successfully withdrew 91,000 troops and their equipment (and 100,000 refugees) from Hungnam to South Korea and they were soon in the fight again. Naval bombardmente from BBs and other combatants denied the enemy free use of his own coastlines.
How did maritime power keep the first “limited war” of the Cold War era confined to Korea?
With the “neutralization” of the Straits of Taiwan by the Seventh Fleet at the outset of the war and carrier task force sweeps along the China coast throughout the war, Washington made it clear to Bejing that any attempt to widen the war beyong Korea would put China’s coastal cities and industries at great risk. The Soviets were equally concerned about the vulnerability of their remote Far Eastern holdings.
What projects are you working on now?
A few years ago (while I worked at the NHC) in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War (one could pick several dates for that, but I chose 1965) in 2015, I inaugurated a new commemorative booklet series. With invaluable assistance of the Naval Historical Foundation, I enlisted distinguished authors to write individual booklets on the following topics: coastal operations, riverine operations, Operation Rolling Thunder, Operation Linebacker, POWs, naval leaders of the Vietnam War, sealift and logistic support, intelligence, Seabees and naval construction, and special operations. As a consultant to the NHHC, I am continuing work on the project as coeditor with Sandra Doyle, the NHHC’s Publications Editor. We hope to have 14 booklets completed by 2015. Soon the first two booklets in the series will be published; The Approaching Storm: Conflict in Asia, 1945-1965 (Marolda) and Nixon’s Trident: Naval Operations in Vietnam, 1968-1973 (John Sherwood).
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I continue to believe there is much more we all can do to preserve and interpret the Navy’s vital contribution to the nation’s success in the the Cold War. In addition to the Vietnam booklet series, the NHHC and the NHF are embarked on a major project, completing a Cold War Gallery to the National Museum of the United States Navy at the Washington Navy Yard.