Max Hastings on Oliver P. Smith’s “advancing in another direction”

Vice Admiral Arthur D. Struble, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, and Major General Oliver P. Smith inspecting the Inchon port area (Inchon, Korea: September 16, 1950)

Vice Admiral Arthur D. Struble, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, and Major General Oliver P. Smith inspecting the Inchon port area (Inchon, Korea: September 16, 1950).
Image credit: Department of the Navy - Naval Historical Center

The performance of the 1st Marine Division in desperate circumstances had begun to command the attention of America, so hungry for heroic news at a moment when there was so little to be had. O. P. Smith captured headlines all over the country when he told correspondents who flew into Hagaru on December 4, “Gentlemen, we are not retreating. We are merely advancing in another direction.” His remark was interpreted as a magnificent defiance of reality. Yet, as he said afterward, it was also tactically accurate, as the great military historian S. L. A. Marshall perceived: “Slam was the only one who understood that what we were doing really was attacking in another direction, because you couldn’t withdraw when you were completely surrounded,” said Smith.
General Oliver P. Smith regarding the 1st Marine Division’s retreat from Chosin Reservoir (December 4, 1950). As described by Max Hastings in The Korean War, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), p. 159.

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"The performance of the 1st Marine Division in desperate circumstances"

Alternative Transcriptions

Retreat, Hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.
“War: Retreat of the 20,000″ in Time, (New York: Time, Inc., December 18, 1950).

Misattributions

This quotation is frequently misattributed to General Douglas MacArthur, who led the United Nations Command from 1950-1951 during the Korean War.

Max Hastings Oliver P. Smith Posted on behalf of Max Hastings, and Oliver P. Smith on Monday, April 19th, 2010 under Misattributions, Quotations.

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