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Movie Brings New Perspective to Key Korean War Battle

Veterans of the Korean War stand on the red carpet outside American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood. They gathered for the first screening in North America of the new movie 'Operation Chromite.'
John Ismay
American Homefront
Veterans of the Korean War stand on the red carpet outside American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood. They gathered for the first screening in North America of the new movie 'Operation Chromite.'

In Hollywood, the Korean War is almost forgotten.  While U.S. movie studios have turned out hundreds of films about World War II and several dozen about Vietnam, movies about Korea are far less common.

Aside from 1959’s "Pork Chop Hill" and 1970’s "M*A*S*H*," it’s hard for even the most avid moviegoer to identify a film set during the Korean War.

But for studios in South Korea, the conflict has been a constant subject of movies since it ended in 1953.

Friday, Korean media giant CJ Entertainment is releasing a new movie called "Operation Chromite" in 130 cities around America, including Los Angeles. It features Liam Neeson as General Douglas MacArthur and some of South Korea’s biggest movie stars.

"Operation Chromite" was the codename used for the 1950 amphibious landing of United Nations forces at Incheon. As the allied troops fought their way into the country, they succeeded in cutting off the North Korean Army’s supply lines. That led to the North Koreans withdrawing, and it allowed MacArthur to press further into enemy territory.

Although Gen. MacArthur has frequently been a character in movies, he’s not the hero of "Operation Chromite." Instead, the film focuses on the true story of a small team of South Korean soldiers codenamed X-Ray.

MacArthur orders the men of X-Ray to infiltrate into enemy-held Incheon and report back valuable intelligence like troop formations and defenses. They’re also tasked with destroying North Korean shore batteries — the large artillery pieces that could fire on allied warships offshore.

In a notable reversal of the usual war movie power dynamic, MacArthur the five-star general is shown hanging on every report from X-Ray’s leader — a young captain. And MacArthur refuses to launch his landing craft until he gets a signal from X-Ray’s leader that the shore batteries have been destroyed.

It’s already the No. 1 movie in South Korea, beating out "Jason Bourne" at the box office.

Most of the the dialogue in Operation Chromite is in Korean, with English subtitles.

“This is the first time the story’s being told of the brave Korean men who were in the war and carried out this operation to allow the overall bigger operation to be successful,” said CJ Entertainment’s Sang Cho. “Which really turned the tide of the war.”

American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood held a special advanced screening of Operation Chromite last week. Many Korean War vets attended.

One of them was retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Howard Phillips. He was part of the assault force that landed at Incheon.

He doesn’t normally like war films.

“Why would I want to go see a movie about the Korean War?” Phillips said. “I spent a lot of time just getting patched up wanting to get back on my feet and be able to go.”

By “patched up,” Phillips was referring to the two years he spent receiving medical attention for a host of wounds he later received at the infamous Chosin Reservoir.

Still, he enjoyed watching "Operation Chromite."

Phillips says he’s proud of what the American and South Korean troops accomplished. He hopes the film will give Americans a sense of what they went through.

Veterans and Military Issues Reporter
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