The North Korean Army launched the "Fatherland Liberation War" with a comprehensive air--land invasion using 231,000 soldiers, who captured scheduled objectives and territory, among them Kaesong, Chuncheon, Uijeongbu, and Ongjin. Their forces included 274 T-34-85 tanks, some 150 Yak fighters, 110 attack bombers, 200 artillery pieces, 78 Yak trainers, and 35 reconnaissance aircraft. In addition to the invasion force, the North Korean KPA had 114 fighters, 78 bombers, 105 T-34-85 tanks, and some 30,000 soldiers stationed in reserve in North Korea. Although each navy consisted of only several small warships, the North Korean and South Korean navies fought in the war as sea-borne artillery for their in-country armies.
In contrast, the ROK Army defenders were vastly unprepared, and the political establishment in the south, while well aware of the threat to the north, were unable to convince American administrators of the reality of the threat. In South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu (1961), R.E. Appleman reports the ROK forces' low combat readiness as of 25 June 1950. The ROK Army had 98,000 soldiers (65,000 combat, 33,000 support), no tanks (they had been requested from the US military, but requests were denied), and a 22--piece air force comprising 12 liaison-type and 10 AT6 advanced-trainer airplanes. There were no large foreign military garrisons in Korea at invasion time, but there were large US garrisons and air forces in Japan.
Within days of the invasion, masses of ROK Army soldiers—of dubious loyalty to the Syngman Rhee régime—were either retreating southwards or were defecting en masse to the northern side, the KPA.
On 25 September 1950 Seoul was recaptured by South Korean forces. American air raids caused heavy damage to the KPA, destroying most of its tanks and much of its artillery. North Korean troops in the south, instead of effectively withdrawing north, rapidly disintegrated, leaving Pyongyang vulnerable. During the general retreat only 25,000 to 30,000 soldiers managed to rejoin the Northern KPA lines. On 27 September Stalin convened an emergency session of the Politburo, in which he condemned the incompetence of the KPA command and held Soviet military advisers responsible for the defeat.
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Circa~70% of the Korean Peninsula is covered by mountains, although there are some arable lands...