Many of the top US generals of the Korean War made contributions to World War II. The military involvement during these two conflicts – and the successful outcomes – required top command from the best of the best. Below is a list – in alphabetical order – of some of the top US Generals of the Korean War.
Brigadier General John H. Church – As the North Korean Army began invading South Korea, Church was sent by MacArthur to head up a team of staff officers to work with South Korea’s US Ambassador – John Muccio – and Korean Military Advisory Group. The group was to determine what assistance the US could offer the Republic of Korea Army. Church would eventually be placed in command of the 24th Infantry Division when Major General Wiliam F. Dean – commander of the 24th - was captured. Church’s command and a well-organized, brave group of men eventually turned the tables on the Communists. Church remained in command of the 24th until early 1951.
Major General William F. Dean – At the onset of the Korean War, Dean commanded the 24th Infantry Division. Their early efforts were unsuccessful against the North Koreans. While retreating from the city of Taejon, Dean – in all the confusion – was badly injured and separated from his men. He was captured by the North Koreans and held POW until the end of the war.
General Douglas MacArthur – MacArthur’s amphibious campaign at Inchon was a masterpiece of both strategy and boldness. The Inchon Landing assault played a major role in the destruction of the North Korean army. He was eventually replaced by Lt. General Matthew Ridgeway when further arrogant actions of General MacArthur resulted in China’s involvement in the war - something both President Truman and the United Nations had hoped to avoid.
Lt. General Matthew Ridgway – Ridgway was sent to Korea by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to clean up the mess in Korea left behind by General MacArthur when the Chinese forced MacArthur and his UN forces back to the Manchurian Border and recaptured Seoul – South Korea’s capital. Ridgway was able to move in, prevent a counteroffensive just 75 miles south of Seoul and eventually reestablish control of the area. He continued to lead his troops in a fight back to the original border between North and South Korea. His containment of the enemy eventually led to their eventual truce agreement.
General Oliver P. Smith – A general in the US Marine Corps, Smith is known for his command of the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir and his refusal to retreat. Instead, Smith led his troops on a 70 mile northern march to the seaport of Hungnam. This march, coupled with his ability to keep his troops together, ultimately may have saved them all from destruction.
Lt. General Walton Walker – Despite the heavy odds against Walker during the Korean War, MacArthur commanded him to press on and informed him retreat was not an option. Walker was finally able to mount a defense when they reached the Nakdong River. Here, Walker was able to shift his troops in a defensive manner and halt North Korean advancements before they received reinforcements. Intercepted radio messages also aided Walker, allowing him to utilize air power and artillery. Reinforcements finally arrived and advantage shifted to the Americans and South Koreans. Walker’s command continued to influence the outcome of the Korean War until his death in December of 1950. Walked was killed when his command jeep collided with a civilian truck.
The information above is but a brief description of the military involvement of these outstanding generals. As mentioned earlier, several of them also made major contributions to World War II, but it was their continued execution of military leadership in the Korean War that permitted them to earn a place on the list of top US military generals.