Underestimating our Asian enemies nearly led to defeat in the Korean War

Darrell Todd Maurina
9 min readMar 17

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the armistice that, on July 27, 1953, ended the hostilities of the Korean War, it’s worth looking back at what went wrong, and how mistakes similar to those made seven decades ago may today lead to dire consequences caused by an underestimation of the rising power of China. The attached article from The Atlantic gives a good analysis, written shortly after the armistice, of how American leaders thought what had once been expected to be an easy victory turned into a stalemate. Underestimating our enemy and misjudging what the Koreans and Chinese were capable of doing to the American army was a large part of the problem.

Here’s the link: Our Mistakes in Korea — The Atlantic

How could America go from defeating Japan in World War II to being surrounded in the Pusan Perimeter barely five years later?

We live in a world today in which too many people raise a cry of “racism” and blame it for all problems that befall us, but that doesn’t mean the word doesn’t apply in some cases. Chinese and North Korean forces, knowingly or otherwise, perfectly applied the advice of the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu to mislead enemies into underestimating the abilities of those on the other side of the fight.

To quote the article: “It is said that the original planners mistakenly calculated that they were dealing with a gook army and an essentially craven people who would collapse as soon as mobile men and modern weapons blew a hot breath their way. But the play didn’t follow the lines as written.”

Read that paragraph again. A racial slur that would never be used today in polite company was openly printed in the pages of a liberal publication.

What the author doesn’t mention is that one of the American generals in Korea who underestimated the ability of non-white soldiers to fight against him had a decade-long history of such problems. As the commander of a segregated Black unit of American troops during World War II, Maj. Gen. Edward Almond regularly despised his own troops even when they made heroic stands that in at least one case led, long after the general’s death, to one of his Black officers, 1st Lt. John Fox, receiving the Medal of Honor…