A Study of American Air Superiority During the Korean War (1950-1953)

This paper will suggest that once air superiority was established by US forces in 1950 over the Korean Peninsula it was key in allowing the US to conduct air operations. However once outside help flowed in North Korea it became harder for the US to
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  Abstract The Korean War, also referred to as the ‘Forgotten War’ has been largely elapsed bythe historiography of the 20 th  Century, with many historians instead focusing their wors on conflicts such as the !econd World War or the conflict in "ietnam# The last twenty fi$e years ha$e howe$er seen an increase in $olumes published on the Korean War, in light of $arious anni$ersaries# %owe$er little ha$e focused solely on the War in the air# &t is the aim of this dissertation to fill this gap in the historiography and by doing so argue that the war in the air was $ital to 'merican strategy during the conflict#This had been achie$ed by focusing on primary source documentation published by the (nited !tates during the conflict# These documents include memorandums, minutes from conferences, and (nited !tates )ational &ntelligence estimates# These sources ha$e then been analysed *ualitati$ely and combined with secondary source literature to formulate the o$erarching argument of this dissertation# The result is a dissertation which is able to mar a new field of study relating to the Korean War andpro$oe a debate between historians promoting research from not only 'merican sources but sources from +ussian, )orth Korean and Chinese archi$es to further bolster the research conducted by this dissertation and promote further $olumes that are able to focus primarily on nonallied sources#  Introduction This dissertation will focus analytically on the Korean War# &t will suggest that onceair superiority was established by (! forces in -./0 this was ey in allowing the (!to conduct air operations, for eample destroying )orth Korean airfields in order tomaintain air superiority# While the 'merican forces were able to establish air superiority with great ease and success, (! bombing of the Korean peninsula wasineffecti$e and failed to brea the communist will to fight# The following *uestions willbe answered in order to coherently analyse the primary material1 %ow was 'mericanair superiority established %ow successful was 'merican air superiority during thewar What role did (! bombing ha$e during the conflict %ow effecti$e was itWhat was the impact this had on the war 3y answering these *uestions ha$e beenanswered this dissertation will pro$ide an analysis of the air war abo$e the sies of Korea#There are two main schools of historiography that di$ide historians of the KoreanWar# Firstly the Traditional45rthodo $iew held by 6a$id +ees endorses the idea thatthe war was the fault of the )orth Korean aggressors# -  This was the first ma7or publication on the sub7ect and still holds weight in historical circles# +ees wasresearching at a time when the !o$iet and Chinese archi$es were secured andinaccessible to historians# The field has grown substantially since the publication of +ees’ boo with a plethora of academic material appearing in the late -.80s and-..0s# +ees’ boo focuses on Korea as a 9limited war#: %e maintains this focusbecause at the time of its writing the fear of nuclear annihilation faced the world until 1 For more information see; 6a$id +ees, Korea: The Limited War   <=aryland1 !t# =artin’s >ress &nc#, -.?@A#  the collapse of the (!!+ in -..-# 2  %owe$er some of the wor +ees conducted stillholds true today, and most of the wor conducted in this field since has some linsbac to +ees’ wor# 3ruce Cumings’ wor changed the historiography in the -.80sand -..0s, and led to the emergence of the +e$isionist school of thought wherebyhe suggested that the Korean conflict was a localised ci$il war which drew theattention of superpowers who conse*uently became in$ol$ed# B  6uring the -..0s+e$isionism led to the de$elopment of another hypothesis that ey 'merican5fficials including the !ecretary of !tate, 6ean 'cheson, either new that an attacwas coming and did nothing to deter it because they needed a crisis abroad toimplement their plans for rearmament at home, and4or for the same reason they triedto pro$oe it# @ With regards to methodology, this dissertation focuses solely on primary sourcematerial from Foreign +elations documents belonging to the (nited !tates# /  =ostcomprise documents, telegrams, memorandums and official documents all of whichha$e all been used in this dissertation# For the most part it is a comprehensi$ecollection of primary source material# %owe$er there are some limitations with thismaterial which must be addressed# Firstly most of the documents are focused from 2  William !tuec, The Korean War 's %istory16a$id +eesD Korea1 The Eimited War &n +etrospect# Cold War International History Conference.  -..8# http144www#archi$es#go$4research4foreignpolicy4coldwar4conference4stuec#html 'ccessed 224-420-@# 3  For more information see; 3ruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War: The Roaring of the Cataract, 19!"19#$   <)ew ersey1 >rinceton (ni$ersity >ress, -..0A; For +e$isionist wors see 3ruce Cumings, The Korean War: % History   <(!1 +andom %ouse &nc#, 20-0A; andGabriel Kolo, and oyce Kolo, The Limits of &o'er: The World and () *oreign &olicy, 19#"19#  <=ichigan1 %arper H +ow, -.I2A# 4  !tuec,  6a$id +eesD Korea# http144www#archi$es#go$4research4foreignpolicy4coldwar4conference4stuec#html 'ccessed 224-420-@# 5  %ereafter F+(!#  or toward the (! go$ernment so using these sources pro$ides a $ery 'mericocentric $iew of the period# =emoranda appear amongst some of the documentscited, howe$er these ha$e se$eral limitations which affect their reliability as sources#They are published documents but are not always written by people who were thereat the time of specific e$ents# !econdly they ha$e often been through many draftsand therefore can be sub7ect to fre*uent change and alteration# This has a negati$eeffect on their reliability as only the final draft is published# 'nother limitation with thisis that some documents ha$e been edited after publication, again suggesting thesrcinal document has been altered in some way# )ational &ntelligence estimatesalso feature in the catalogue prompting *uestions as to whether the statistics areaccurate during a time when a$ailable intelligence was low#The topic is rele$ant to study today because the Korean War has been described asthe ‘forgotten war’ by historians, probably because it has been o$ershadowed by the!econd World War and the conflict in "ietnam# &t is only within the past thirty yearsthat more boos ha$e become a$ailable# This is mainly due to archi$al resourcesbecoming more readily a$ailable, but also partly down to interest generated for itsfiftieth and sitieth anni$ersaries# This topic is worth studying because it was the firstma7or confrontation of the Cold War and has since had a profound impact onWestern and Communist policy in subse*uent years, notably in "ietnam# J$en withthe publication of large amounts of literature on the Korean War in recent years, littlehas focused solely on the war in the air# Therefore this dissertation will contribute tothe historiography of the Korean War, but with a specific focus on the war in the air,something strangely untouched by historiography and many historians# The purposeof this dissertation is to create a new point of focus regarding the Korean War and  hopefully open up a debate between military historians, promoting more academicresearch to be conducted with the sole purpose of highlighting the effecti$eness of  'merica’s role in the war# 'lthough this dissertation pro$ides an indepth analysis of the air war in Korea, to pro$ide a full study using not only 'merican sources but also+ussian and Korean sources a much more comprehensi$e $olume would need to beproduced#
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