why do we need precisely 37,000 soldiers as Seoul "tripwire"?

who decided that this is how many Americans should die in the city of Seoul in the event of invasion to make sure we later on support South Korea? How about 20,000? Or maybe 10,000? What sort of reasoning went into setting these numbers and keeping the Seoul base establishment at the size (and probably cost, given that Seoul is more expensive than anywhere else in Korea) that it currently is?

Your information is old. There has been a drawdown from about 38,000 troops to the current level of roughly 28,000. Cite. There was an extensive study done by the Defense Department in the early part of the decade which resulted in the realignment of large numbers of troops out and around Europe and the Pacific. The drawdowns in Korea have to do with the South Korean military being much more able to defend themselves than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

Also, US troops have essentially been withdrawn from the DMZ, and a large number of small operating bases have been consolidated. The US military is going to consolidate a huge number of its forces at Camp_Humphreys over the next several years, meaning that most (maybe close to all) US troops will be out of Seoul. The land that is now used for our largest military base in downtown Seoul will be turned into a park.

Remember a “tripwire” force needs to be credible. Not like you just plop one American soldier out there and if he gets killed we send in the cavalry.

The force is not big enough to stop a full on invasion on its own but big enough to slow it down giving time for help to arrive.

Actually, I think 28,000 US Marines would be more than sufficient to stop a North Korean invasion – probably not infiltrators and commandos, but any sort of conventional infantry/armor assault would get scythed down by the tens of thousands. I guess 28,000 troops standing alone might not physically be able to cover the whole peninsula, but backed by the South Korean army there should be no problem.

You’re right though about needing a force politically sufficient to act as a tripwire, though.

Also keep in mind the political benefits of having a sizable force stationed in the region. Arguably it’s as much about keeping the Russians and Chinese aware that we have an interest in the region as it is about physically repelling the North Koreans.

Exactly right. They’re not intended to be a sacrifice, but rather to maul an invasion force while, until that day we hope never comes, forcefully letting the North Koreans know we never sleep.

And it wouldn’t be just the Marines fighting. Within an hour or so a massive air assault would be bought to bear on the North Koreans with devastating results on the invaders.

oh, ok, thanks for the updated numbers info.

You know, statements about these troops “mauling” NK invaders sound pollyannish to me. NK will probably start out by massively shelling the entire neighborhood, including with poison gas. How many of the soldiers deployed in the immediate vicinity of Seoul would survive this, let alone be functional/organized enough to fight? I recall reading some of them frankly saying in interviews that they don’t expect to survive/fight in the event they are unfortunate enough to be there when the war starts.


Mind you, I was in Seoul less than 2 weeks. I can not conceive any of the soldiers I met saying this.

However, the military presence is strongly felt throughout the city.

What do you mean, “Later on support South Korea”? The US Armed Forces are here right now to defend South Korea against any invasion by North Korea. The Korean military is not yet at the point where they can defend the country. They’re apparently close to that, though, because in just a few years, operational control of the Korean forces in the event of actual combat will be transferred to the Korean military. Right now the top US commander has that control.

On Edit: I’ve been in Korea for almost five years straight now and I don’t ever remember hearing anyone at all say they don’t expect to fight if the situation escalates. Also, most people have never encountered and are not likely to encounter any US Servicemember. The presence isn’t really that noticeable unless you’re right next to one of the bases.

Does anyone know if our forces in South Korea are equipped to withstand a biological or chemical attack? If they are, are there any diplomatic consequences from that that we know? (That is, you only prepare for something that could reasonably happen, meaning our preparation would be a direct accusation against the DPRK.)

On occasion, when I’m on the bases here, I see the Soldiers practicing the levels of MOPP, to include wearing the protective masks and “MOPP Suit.” When I was on Active Duty, all Servicemembers received such training.

Having the capital at Seoul only 35 miles from the border with 10 million people in the city and 24 million in the metro area, certainly means even if the invasion were stopped or halted that a lot of damage to a lot of people would still be done in any case, if North Korea invaded.

I suspect that a serious build up for such a bombardment by the North Koreans would be detected fairly quickly, and air power and artillery directed at those concentrations very quickly. Possibly pre-emptively.

I’m not saying, to

[quote General Turgidson]
(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/quotes), that the Marines wouldn’t get their hair mussed. I think, though, given that US doctrine and technology all through the Cold War was directed at blunting a massive combined arms assault in Europe, that the combined US/South Korean force should be quite able to stop an attack by a force less technologically advanced than the Warsaw Pact was, with comparatively negligable air power, even less command and control flexibility (given the even more cartoonish rigidity of the North Korean heirarchy), and the defenders having the advantage of more rugged terrain than in Europe. Things can always go wrong, and casualties might indeed be heavy, but the Marine presence in Korea would be a lot more than a speed bump.

Given the population density of Korea, it would be an ugly affair for the civilians in any analysis.

I think the US presence at the border is more about posturing to China and Russia than about stopping or slowing down any ground invasion by the DPRK. In fact, it was on these very forums that I read that South Korea’s military was more able than the North’s, so they could probably handle it all by their lonesome.

Not to mention that all the North would need to do to fuck shit up in South Korea is unleash all the artillery they have aimed at Seoul. Maybe even lob a nuke or two :frowning:

All they’d really have to do is open their border. The flood of refugees would likely collapse South Korea’s economy and infrastructure.

[qoute=Umbriel2]Actually, I think 28,000 US Marines would be more than sufficient to stop a North Korean invasion.
The invasion would start with massive, massive amounts of artillery. The number would never be that high when the fighting started.

It would hardly be the Marines at all. What sort of numbers do the Marines have in South Korea? A dozen or so at the embassy? Maybe a small unit at one of the ports? There is a major Marine presense in Japan, not South Korea.

Not only are all the soldiers issued protective suits and masks, but so are their families. This may have been just for spouses and children living north of Seoul, but I know families as well as soldiers were given protective equipment and were involved in emergency drills.

Well, he did say “survive/fight”, not “fight”. I’ve never heard anyone say they weren’t planning to fight, but it is pretty much the in-joke to make comments like “Why are we bothering to train when we’re all going to die in the first 20 minutes anyway?”, etc.

Better question is why all those people are there when we are at war and are losing because of insufficient troop counts.

Oh, and how messed up is this concept of “tripwire” anyway? “Hey, guys, let’s make sure our soldiers die so that it’s easier for us to convince the American public to fight another war.”

Alliances are often unpleasant and expensive. The North Koreans, and the concept of them conquering South Korea, are vastly moreso.

Any such sentiments about not feeling likely to survive an actual war by US servicemembers in Korea were likely referring in the event if chemical weapons were fired by North Korea. While all servicemembers there have MOPP gear, very few likely wear all of it, let alone most of the time. Besides, most gas masks alone don’t form a perfect seal, even with adjustments. At best, the MOPP gear will probably keep out most of the poison gas.

In the event of a surprise attack by North Korea in which they fired NBC artie rounds into Seoul and any in-range US installations, there would be large American casualties. Assuming the overall weather and wind conditions favored the North Koreans.

My mistake. Somehow I was of the impression that there was a Marine, rather than Army, division based there.

Given that the equipment of an Army division is generally “heavier” and better suited to static defense, I think the likelihood of their repelling an invasion is, if anything, greater.