While the Korean War tends to be “forgotten” in military history, the conflict was rife with battles that changed history and defined future battle strategies. One of these battles, later referred to as the loss of Suwon Airfield, contained some of the first aerial “dogfights” and became an example for future pilots for aerial battle strategy. But the battle was not only fought in the air—upon closer study, it becomes obvious that the ground troops’ behavior is the main reason for the loss of the airfield’s control.
Using documents from the Air Force, Air Force Magazine, United States Marine Corps, and the Army Center for Military History—all verifiable sources that retained information from firsthand participants in the battle for historical use—as well as newspapers from the period, the events of late June and early July in 1950 become clear.
The information in The News and Courier on July 5, 1950 states that the North Koreans invaded South Korea in June 1950 with the intention of unifying the peninsula and spreading the Communist government. As the US forces stationed throughout the Far East rushed to get refugees out of Seoul in front of the North Korean advance while frantically trying to get troops into the area, Suwon Airfield became an important point for refugee pick-up; the airfield had already been an important staging area for the Air Force and supply drops (Warnock, 2000). Unfortunately, the US forces were unable to hold the airfield indefinitely in the face of the massive North Korean troop advance; according to The News and Courier possession of Seoul and Suwon Airfield was taken by the North Korean troops days after the June 25, 1950 beginning of the conflict (United States Forces Korea, 2012).
Suwon Airfield was obviously an important location for the US military. Its position due South of Seoul with local river access and a short distance from the sea made it an easily defendable point for supplies, troop placement, and refugee transport during the Korean War (Warnock, 2000). It was considered an important staging area in the Inchon-Seoul campaigns. But it was also an important area to the North Koreans; capturing Suwon meant that the North Korean military had captured the largest American-controlled airfield in the area, and cut off the Seoul escape route, all important goals for the North Koreans (Warnock, 2000). Unfortunately, goals they were able to accomplish in July 1950 regardless of the even-sided power of the two antagonists in this conflict.
First, the North Koreans did have some advantages that led to their ability to take Suwon so early, the largest one being the amount of manpower available. The North Korean military had a massive amount of soldiers, grossly outnumbering the US troops on the ground at this point in the conflict. While command officers, mainly Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Maj. Gen. Earle E. Partridge (USAF) continued to order troops, airplanes, and naval vessels to the area from Japan and the...