Operation Strangle (Korean War)

Operation Strangle (Korean War) was a U.S. Air Force (USAF) bombing campaign of the Korean War. In Summer 1951, as the war bogged down into mutual defensive ground warfare characterized by trench warfare, United Nations close air support found fewer and poorer targets for its fighter-bombers. The USAF turned to interdiction of Korean lines of communication in an effort to cut the communist supply lines.[1]

Operation Strangle's 87,552 interdiction sorties were credited with destroying 276 locomotives, 3,820 railroad cars, and 19,000 rail cuts. They also destroyed 34,211 other vehicles. However, by December 1951, the communists repaired rail cuts in less than six hours, bridges in two to four days, and other bomb damage accordingly quickly. By May 1952, it was apparent that the communist supply efforts had actually increased support to their front-line troops despite the air attacks. By June, half of communist antiaircraft guns132 cannons and 708 automatic weaponswere posted along North Korea's railroads.[1]


After July 1951, UN, North Korean and Chinese forces made advancements toward the goal of an armistice agreement. Throughout the negotiations, USAF (United States Air Force) aerial bombing continued until 27 July 1953. This was until the armistice negotiations came to a halt over POWs (prisoners of war). The USAF created a strategy called an “air pressure strategy” to put political pressure on the North Korean politicians, this new strategy sought pass existing political and military limitations on air power. It also used air power as a form of direct political pressure. Colonels Richard Randolph and Ben Mayo oversaw planning for the air pressure strategy, selecting proper targets for air operations. The two kept in mind the scarce targets in North Korea, they suggested that the solution to the problem would be to attack the least maneuverable target. On 26 June 1952, the FEAF Target Committee proposed that FEAF’s combat operations policy should be rewritten sufficiently to follow the Fifth Air Force and FEAF Bomcom to maintain “air pressure” through destructive operations rather than pressing with the old policy. General Otto P. Weyland, commanding general of the FEAF, approved the changes on 29 June 1952. As the air pressure strategy came out as the USAF’s new military plan, North Korean towns and villages were painted as major targets to be destroyed by the bombers. FEAF’s Fifth Air Force selected thirty-five villages as targets for destruction by B-26 light bombers. The numbers eventually grew to seventy-eight villages.[2]

During late August 1951, U.N. forces started "Operation Strangle"—a sustained interdiction attack on the enemy's supply and communications. The North Koreans countered the campaign by moving guns and crews towards the front-line. By the time the movement was complete, North Koreans moved flak guns and positioned them to spread throughout the North Korean rail lines. They also implemented a strategy of having lethal concentrations around important targets. This caused the U.N. heavy casualties and losses. However, despite of the high loss, Operation Strangle has the U.N. to destroy 900 anti-aircraft gun positions and damage 443 positions.

North Koreans had large numbers of radar-directed AA. guns, 88-or 85-mm. (including long-range 120s or 155s). They also had a large quantity of smaller guns which include 37-mm/20-mm cannons and 12.7-mm heavy machine guns. Additionally, they also had radar-directed searchlights, which can hold sight of night-flying U.N. planes. The U.N. used electronic jamming against the communist radar on the radar-directed AA guns, but most U.N. planes lost by the smaller guns.

Operation Strangle has led U.N. forces to hitting targets, knocking out a range of weapons including guns and strategic positions.[3]

See also


  1. Futrell, pp. 471 - 474.
  2. Kim, Taewoo (2012-09-01). "Limited War, Unlimited Targets". Critical Asian Studies. 44 (3): 467–492. doi:10.1080/14672715.2012.711980. ISSN 1467-2715.
  3. Deadly Flak. (1952). Time, 59(6), 40.


  • Futrell, Robert F. (1961).The United States Air Force in Korea 1950-1953. Air Force History and Museums Program year 2000 reprint of original Duel, Sloan and Pearce edition. ISBNs 0160488796, 978-0160488795.
  • Kim, T. (2012). LIMITED WAR, UNLIMITED TARGETS: U.S. Air Force Bombing of North Korea during the Korean War, 1950-1953. Critical Asian Studies, 44(3), 467-492. doi:10.1080/14672715.2012.711980
  • Deadly Flak. (1952). Time, 59(6), 40.
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