Hydrography's importance to amphibious operations was no more apparent than during the 15 September 1950 invasion of Inchon, Korea. As the Marine Corps looks to return to its amphibious roots, will the lessons need to be relearned-again?
In an October 2007 press release, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James T. Conway, stated that he was concerned that in the wake of the war in Iraq his service was becoming a "second land army" and was losing its expeditionary character and its "ability to launch amphibious support." 1 Being a complicated, inherently joint proposition, the many aspects of an amphibious operation must be revisited and examined if proficiency is to be regained. This call for a renewed Marine Corps emphasis on amphibious maneuvers comes nearly 60 years after the last major amphibious action, General Douglas MacArthur's bold Korean War assault at Inchon. The Inchon operation provides an illustrative case study to analyze how the challenges of an unknown amphibious battlespace were overcome through hydrographic support and how such information fed to the operational commander was critical to mission success. The Inchon operation demonstrates a central thesis: Hydrographic support is a vital skill that must be maintained and exercised as a core competency for amphibious operations.