|Back to "Memoirs" Index page|
Atlanta, GA -
"The members of F Company, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division had shared many stressful experiences since I took command at the end of February. They had proven themselves between 7 April and 18 May 1951 in stubborn defenses, smooth withdrawals, aggressive patrolling, and on tank/infantry teams. The company had lost many of its most experienced men, but had absorbed replacements. The men had experienced boredom, bad weather, monotony, hardship, fatigue, excitement and horror. They had seen, smelt, heard, and touched combat. They had demonstrated their skills and competence in the world’s most dangerous job—that of an Infantryman. "
- Sam Holliday
Up and Down Korea
This chronicle of events is about what actually happened to me and those who served with me in the Korean War. It was primarily written for my family, but I also feel that there is a need for people to know more about what happened in the Korean War. I would like to educate those who know nothing about it and to give a better understanding of what it is like to be in combat to those who are anti-military.
My father fought with an artillery battery of the 5th Division during World War I. He was wounded near Verdun and was the military governor of several villages in Luxemburg. Yet I know nothing of his experiences. I do not want to leave the same void for my family. For many years I had good intentions of correcting this, but I did nothing. Over the Christmas holiday of 2008, I was politely told that I had said I would record my experiences, yet I had done nothing. I was also reminded that if I did not do it soon, this project would be "overtaken by events." I promised not to let that happen. With Up and Down Korea, I have fulfilled my promise.
This manuscript is not a history of the Korean War. It is a chronicle of my experiences as I remember them, written 58 years after the events described. Every effort has been made to record what actually happened, yet as in all wars, no single telling "gets it right." Thus, it is presented as a chronicle of my memories and as a presentation of what I learned from those experiences. Corrections by those who were there, or by their families and friends, are encouraged.
I hope this document might preserve something of the ecstasy of combat, the intensity of life so close to death, the lasting bond of combat camaraderie, the joy and lightheartedness which can be so close to horror and brutality, and that feeling so many have known of something so terrible and so appealing combined into one. During July 1950 until July 1951 all of these were compressed into our experiences as we went up and down Korea.
I also hope this document will encourage others to tell their experiences of this small time and small place. Is all that was learned in the first year of the Korean War to be forgotten? The Korean War is called the "Forgotten War". Indeed, there is real possibility that those experiences will fall into oblivion. If so, all of those happenings might have no real purpose. They might signify nothing. Those of us who lived through it have an obligation to prevent that. It is for us to describe what really happened and to see if we can identify some lessons to be learned.
Chapter One - Start of the Korean War
I grew up in Texas and graduated from West Point in 1948. After graduation I attended the Ground General School at Fort Leavenworth and then attended the Officers Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, as an infantry officer. When the Korean War started in 1950, I was a 24-year-old 1st Lieutenant in the US Army in my first assignment with the 29th Infantry Regiment on Okinawa.
First Two Weeks: In Korea 25 June-24 July 1950
The North Korean People's Army (NKPA) began their attack across the 38th parallel at 0400 on Sunday, 25 June 1950 with 135,000 soldiers. Based on excellent intelligence, the NKPA knew the exact location of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army units and sent superior forces against each. The ROK had 98,000 soldiers. Only one regiment of each of the four ROK Divisions (1st, 7th, 6th and 8th) guarding the border occupied preplanned defensive positions. The other regiments were in their barracks ten to forty miles south of the 38th Parallel. The main NKPA attack was down the Ch'orwon Valley toward Uijongbu, the gateway to Seoul, which was the capital of South Korea.
At 2:00 p.m. on 25 June, New York time, the Security Council of the United Nations convened an emergency meeting and adopted a resolution calling for all members to give South Korea assistance. The Security Council only approved it because Russia was not there to prevent action on the "Korean question." Shortly after 6:00 p.m., the resolution was released. American influence in Asia was now at stake. President Truman ordered General MacArthur, Commanding General of the Far East Command, to take the necessary action, including sending a survey party to determine the situation.
At 0800 on 26 June 1950, the 4th NK Division, led by a column of forty tanks, attacked Uijongbu. There was no effective force to defend Seoul at the end of 26 June. By 28 June Seoul had been taken and the ROK Army in the Seoul area had been destroyed. In western Korea, a disorganized rabble of 22,000 soldiers remained south of the Han River. The best of the ROK Army had been lost north of the Han. The 4th NK Division was past Suwon ten days after the start of the war.
At 1900 hours, 27 June, MacArthur's survey party landed at Suwon Airfield 15 miles south of Seoul, which started events that resulted in the commitment of US ground troops in Korea. In New York on 27 June, the United Nations recommended that members "furnish assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack."
By 30 June President Truman had authorized the use of US combat troops in Korea, but the US ground forces were far from battle ready. They were not disciplined, hardened fighters composed of the underclass converted into men of iron, like the legionnaires of ancient Rome or the regiments of the British Empire. Those in the American Army were basically citizens with professional leadership, ready to defend their country. Many of the soldiers were immature teenagers. They were not a fighting force to which war and dying were to be expected. Yet 54,264 Americans did die during the Korean War, 92,134 were wounded, 8,176 were missing in action, and the enemy captured 7,245.
Few of us at the lower levels had any awareness of how past decisions at the highest level would affect our lives. Budget cuts had created a hollow Army. All units were at reduced strength and new weapons were never shipped overseas. As Cabell Philips of the New York Times noted, it was 'not fat being cut, but muscle and bone.' The emphasis was on Europe. Secretary of State Dean Acheson had failed to include South Korea in America's defense perimeter. The "Big One" had been won, and it was now back to peace.
First US Combat
On 5 July the first US combat unit in Korea was dug in along the main highway south of Suwon and about 22 miles south of Seoul. This was Task Force Smith, the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry of the 24th Division—two under-strength infantry companies with the support of a battery of light artillery. Lt. Philip Day was in TF Smith.
That morning, 34 NKPA tanks came down the road from Suwon. Antitank mines would have stopped them, but the task force had no such mines. 75mm recoilless rifles were fired at the tanks, but the rounds just burst against the T-34 tanks, causing the tanks to turn their 85mm cannons and 7.62 coaxial machine guns on the dug-in defenders. The 2.36-inch rocket launchers did no damage to the tanks.
The tanks passed through TF Smith and headed for Osan. One hour later the 4th NK attacked. LtCol. Charles B. Smith gave the order to withdraw in the early afternoon. The next morning (6 July), Lieutenant Colonel Smith had just over 200 men left. In small groups they had moved south of Osan to P'yogt'aek, 36 miles from Seoul. Survivors straggled in for several days. TF Smith had delayed the North Koreans for about seven hours, but had lost 150 lives.
Other units of the 24th Division were defeated by the 4th NK Division and elements of the 3rd NK Division at P'yong'aek (34th Infantry, 6 July), Ch'onan (34th Infantry, 8 July), and Chonui (21st Infantry, 8 July). On 8 July Major General William F. Dean, Commanding General of the 24th Division, claimed that the NKPA had been underestimated. On 13 July General Walton H. Walker took command of all Korean operations. After defeats at Kun River (34th Infantry and 19th Infantry, 16 July) and Taejon (34th Infantry and 19th Infantry, 20 July), General Dean wandered 35 days in the hills. He was captured and remained a prisoner of war until 1953.
Americans would repeat the failures of the 24th Division again and again:
Refugees are common in all wars. As to be expected, there were long lines of old men and women and young girls and children trying to get away. Most were carrying packs and some had ox drawn carts. They plodded on without knowing where they were to go. In Korea that was another aspect. How many of these "refugees" were the enemy infiltrating? How were they to be screened?
Repeatedly North Koreans emerged without warning from the hills to overrun units in the "rear areas". Our soldiers had seen enemy soldiers in green uniforms change into the white trousers and blouses of the Korean peasant. The next time they saw men in those white trousers and blouses, what should they do?
By 22 July the US 1st Cavalry Division and the US 25th Division had arrived in Korea. They were deployed west of the Naktong River on either side of the corridor from Taejon to Taegu, where they confronted the 3rd NK and 2nd NK divisions. The 1st Cav Division lost Yongdong on 25 July and withdrew toward the Naktong River. The US 25th Division also withdrew because the enemy repeatedly moved through gaps between units to establish roadblocks in the rear of their defensive positions. The remains of the US 24th Division (units of the 19th, 21st, and 34th regiments) were fighting a delaying action against the 4th NK south of Taejon. The 6th NK and the 83rd Motorized Regiment had swept around the southwest of the peninsula, meeting only resistance from South Korean police, and had turned east toward Pusan.
According to an Associated Press map dated 25 July 1950:
On 29 July, General Walker issued his "stand or die" order. Many had been doing just that, but the road-bound US units were being bypassed and damaged more in their rear than by attacks to their front. Yet Walker's demand of a tenacious defense was to become more meaningful in a few days as the Pusan perimeter began to take shape.
These were some of the events that took place in the first two weeks of the Korean War. My first day of combat was on 27 July 1950. Prior to that I was on my first duty assignment in Okinawa.
Chapter Two - Duty on Okinawa
On Okinawa we listened with interest to the news from Korea. Even though we knew it would affect our future, it all seemed unreal. We could not understand how the North Koreans could crush Americans again and again. It was more like a vivid war novel than something that was actually happening.
It was with this feeling of unreality that I stood at the entrance of a small tent one hot afternoon in the first week of July 1950. The 29th Infantry Regiment was in the field for the first time. We were spread out in a bivouac area just outside our barrack area. Our situation was much like the boy who wants to take a camping trip in the woods, yet settles for a tent in his backyard. I had gone over to the large squad tent which was the command post of one of the battalions.
Just as I was about to leave, Lieutenant Colonel Edwards called me over to his tent. Unknown to me, he was scheduled to remain on Okinawa. I saluted and then he came right to the point. "I've gotten word that we're going to have to send some men to Korea," he said. "I'd like to know how you feel about it in case we have to pick who will go. Do you want to go or not?" While I generally look ahead so I will be prepared to act in any situation, this one caught me flat. I did not know what to say. After only a blink of the eyes I just said what came forth: "I'm a professional soldier and it is my duty to fight wherever needed by my country. Right now that seems to be Korea. I sat out the last war while many others did the fighting. Now it is my turn. If some officers have to go from the 29th, I should be one of them."
The colonel thanked me and said he just wanted to know how I felt. I have never thought that my answer had anything to do with what happened. I'm sure I would have gone to Korea in any case. However, from that moment on, the Korean War was much more than news bulletins. I have often wondered where my answer came from. It wasn't the result of thought. It must have come from something within me, but where did I get that inner compass?
On 14 July 1950, the 29th Infantry on Okinawa, was ordered to send two battalions to Korea. The 1st and 3rd Battalions were selected. The 2nd Battalion and the other companies of the 29th Infantry were stripped of most of their personnel. I went from Cannon Company to the 1st Battalion, where I became the S-2 (Intelligence Officer). Men and equipment were also transferred from all over the island to the two battalions being sent to Korea.
These were days of turmoil and confusion. Personnel were assigned jobs, equipment was issued, and everything on the company supply books was packed for shipping—even tropical pith helmets. However, no time was devoted to firing weapons or even the most basic unit combat training. Members of platoons barely knew each other's names, much less had time to develop a feeling of brotherhood. Unfit and unprepared, they were heading into the unknown.
En Route to Korea
On 21 July, these two battalions loaded on the Taka Saga Maru at Naha, Okinawa. Also, 400 replacements, which had just arrived from the USA were marched from their troopship to the Taka Saga Maru. It rained throughout the loading. It was hot, wet, dark and dreary—very appropriate for what was ahead. Over half of the men in these battalions had been with their unit for less than a week. Most had never fired their weapons. The mortars had not been test-fired and had no High Explosive rounds. These were infantry battalions in name only.
Five of us on the ship had been together for six years: Jim Blakeslee, Don McGraw, Tenny Ross, Dick Warren, and me. During the next year, all of us would be wounded, and two would be killed. We were told we would go to Japan for six weeks to get our equipment in shape and for tactical training. Only then would we be sent to Korea. Although this would not be enough time to actually prepare these battalions for combat, we needed any time we could get. We were also told that we would be assigned to regiments already in combat. That way we would get the support we needed but lacked as separate battalions.
The Taka Saga Maru did stop in Sasebo, Japan, but we did not get off for any training. About half way to Pusan the escort destroyers dropped several depth charges at a submarine, but we made the trip with no difficulty except for the hot, overcrowded conditions on the ship. En route we were told we would have two weeks of tactical training in Korea before we joined the 25th Division to become the third battalions of the 27th and 35th Infantry Regiments. Neither of these two things occurred.
"Confusion and uncertainty were a fundamental part of the actual situation." - Sam Holliday
Chapter Three - A Tragic Change
On 24 July 1950 we arrived at Pusan, Korea and the battalions unloaded. For the first night we were moved to a school. We wondered where we would go for the two weeks of training we were expecting. We spent one night in Pusan. By 25 July 1950, Pusan was already the target of the North Koreans. Two of the five drives were from the west. Who knew it?
A message at 1550 hours on 24 July from the Commanding General, 8th Army to the 24th Division said in part:
Did the 8th Army think there was a 29th Regimental Combat Team? Was it not known that we were only two separate, untrained battalions without any logistical or fire support? Or was the 8th Army only concerned with getting bodies west of Pusan? Or was it that the 8th Army entirely missed North Korea's intentions? In The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, David Halberstam is very critical of the quality of the staffs at both 8th Army and MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo.
In order to comply with the message from 8th Army, we left Pusan shortly after daylight on 25 July. The vehicles and a few of the soldiers went by road, but a train was packed with most of the men and their personal equipment. This was one month after the Korean War started on 25 June 1950. I rode in the cab of the engine with my carbine in hand. My job? I was to see that the train kept moving in case we were ambushed. I ate coal dust. I burned from the heat of the engine for the whole trip. We stopped briefly in Masan to shift cars. We arrived in Chinju (Jinju) in the afternoon of 25 July.
Although we did not know it, we had passed by Chungam-ni Pass where the 6th NK Division would be defeated eight days later (2 August) for the first time since it crossed the 38th parallel. We had no idea that on 25 July the 6th North Korean Division had left the Kwangju-Namwon area, had moved through Kurye and was less than thirty miles west of Chinju. Nor did we know that the 4th North Korean Division was moving from Chinan toward Anui. Did 8th Army not know where these divisions were located? Or did they just not send that information down to those at the point of the spear? During the next year I was to learn that intelligence on the location and movement of major enemy units was inadequate at best, and usually just plain wrong. Poor intelligence and the road-bound nature of the American forces were two of the main causes of US failures in Korea during 1950. Of course, the other main cause was a lack of preparedness.
Orders from the 19th Infantry Regiment
The Regimental Commander of the 19th Infantry, 24th Division (Colonel Dennis Moore), gave both new battalions their orders in Chinju (Jinju). As the S-2 of the 1st Battalion, I asked for a report of the enemy situation. I was told that there were reports of some North Korean People's Army (NKPA or Inman Gun) units to the west that had attacked police stations at Choju, Kwangji, Namwon and Suchon. Some of these units were motorized infantry (with motorcycles and small trucks). The size of the enemy units was unknown. Any that could be found were being attacked by swarms of carrier-based aircraft. Also there were local insurgents who supported the Communists throughout the area.
The overall intelligence estimate was that the major North Korean drive would be from Taejon toward Taegu and any attack from the west toward Pusan would be a secondary effort, which was not likely to develop for several weeks. If this was true, why had we been rushed to Chinju? The initial actions against the two battalions of the 29th Infantry revealed that the North Koreans were already engaged in major drives toward Pusan from the west. The two battalions of the 29th Infantry were provided no intelligence on either the 4th North Korean Division or the 6th North Korean Division by the regiment to which they were attached, i.e. the 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Division. Did anyone have valid intelligence on these two divisions driving toward Pusan from the west?
The two battalions of the 29th Infantry were to be the US units blocking the advance toward Pusan from the west. The 19th Infantry and the 34th Infantry of the 24th Division had been removed from contact and were moved closer to Pusan. The 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry was to move to Hadong (twenty-two miles west of Chinju) to destroy any guerrilla force in the area and then hold Hadong. It left Chinju just after midnight on 26 July. The 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry was to relieve the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry in the Hamyang-Anui area (thirty-four to forty-two miles north west of Chinju) and block the roads from the west. Having convinced Colonel Wilson that I knew how to read a map, I led the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry convoy on the morning of 27 July 1950, from Chinju to the Hamyang-Anui area.
Initial Actions, 1st Battalion 29th Infantry
The 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry arrived at Sangun-iang (Hwasan-ni or Umyong-ni) just after noon of 27 July and relieved all elements of the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry except for A Company, 19th Infantry. That company was at Anui, eight miles to the north, blocking the road west from Chonju. The battalion commander of the 19th Infantry told us there were some guerrillas near Anui, but nothing else. He was very proud of his men in Anui. He considered them wise in the ways of combat after having fought the North Koreans for several weeks. He told us, "Just this morning we spotted twenty of the guerrillas on a hill west of our positions. We fired on them and the bastards ran like rabbits. We did get a report of three enemy trucks a few miles west Anui--if you care to believe it. The Koreans tells us those stories all the time. If we believed them we would be chasing shadows night and day." We were also told that the 34th Infantry, 24th Division was at Kochang (Sochang), ten miles northeast of Anui, and that there were remnants of the 7th ROK at Hamyang (Umyong), five miles west of Sanggun-iang.
B (Baker) Company, with 35 men from D (Delta) Company (Heavy Weapons Company), left Sanggun-iang in a truck convoy for Anui. A (Able) Company, 19th Infantry was to use the same trucks to go to Chinju. The artillery battery, which had been supporting the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, went to Chinju with them, leaving us with none of the support an infantry battalion in combat expects. We had no artillery, no armor, and no tactical air controller. We did have one platoon of 4.2 mortars; however, that platoon had only 22 rounds of White Phosphorus shells. Also there was none of the logistical support normally provided by higher headquarters. We had no reliable communication with anyone. We were all alone, 34 miles in front of the nearest US forces at Chinju.
As soon as each company had been told which company of the 19th it would relieve, Lieutenant Colonel Wilson sent Lieutenant Frank Iwanczyk, the assistant S-3, with two jeeps to make contact with the 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Division at Kochang. He also sent me to contact the South Korean forces defending Hamyang (Umyong).
Chapter Four - 27-28 July 1950
My first day of combat was on 27 July 1950. On that day I was in the Hamyang-Anui area, which is in south central Korea. This area was the focal point of two routes from the west toward Pusan. A third route to Pusan swung to the south through Hadong.
Order of Battle:
I was the Intelligence Officer (S-2) for Headquarters, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry. Earlier in the day on 27 July I had made contact in Hamyang (Umyong) with the Commanding Officer of the 7th Republic of Korea (ROK) Division (Col. Min Kin Sik) at the order of our battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Wesley C. Wilson. Colonel Min spoke excellent English and had studied at Fort Benning. Hamyang, headquarters of the 7th ROK, was about three miles away from battalion headquarters. At noon on this same day, I had sent two of my men to Anui with B Company. Anui was about eight miles north of battalion headquarters. I told my men to return just as soon as they could evaluate the situation there. At the same time I was sent to contact the ROK 7th Division, Lt. Frank Iwanczyk was sent with two jeeps by Colonel Wilson to contact the 34th Infantry, 24th Division, at Kochang (Geochang).
Now back at Battalion Headquarters, I was worried. I had returned from Hamyang (Umyong) between one and two hours later, but Lieutenant Iwanczyk had not yet returned. My two men had also not returned from Anui. Lieutenant Dearoff, the executive officer of D Company, reported that he had heard heavy gunfire from the direction of Anui on his return. He had left Anui as B Company started to take over positions from A Company, 19th Infantry. We did not know what had happened to the 180 men of B Company and 35 men of D Company who had gone to Anui in trucks that day. We did know that there were some South Korean police and about 100 men of the ROK 7th Division with them in that town on a main road to Pusan. We also thought that they had been attacked as they relieved A Company, 19th Infantry.
In the early afternoon I told Colonel Wilson that I wanted to go to Anui to see the situation. The colonel was a 44-year-old 1929 graduate of West Point. He had the calm, deliberate manner more typical of a Midwestern businessman with a few extra pounds than a charismatic combat commander. His time in China had not only given him knowledge of the Orient and its people, but also had introduced him to some of the Chinese way of thinking. This green, unprepared battalion was lucky to have him as its "Old Man." Lieutenant Iwanczyk rushed in just as I was about to leave the battalion headquarters. He told us about being ambushed north of Anui.
Lieutenant Iwanczyk Is Ambushed
Lieutenant Iwanczyk was the Assistant S-3 (Operations). He was a good-looking, polished gentleman of twenty-two from New Orleans. He had married the week before he shipped out to Okinawa and had expected his wife to join him there, but the Korean War changed that. In fact, he did not see his wife again until 1953 because the Chinese captured him in November 1950.
He told us that he had passed by Anui eight miles north of the battalion headquarters at the small village of Sanggun-iang (Hwasan-ri or Umyong-ni). He stopped at the crossroads across the river from that town to talk briefly with some members of B Company who were waiting to take over the positions occupied by the 19th Infantry in Anui. After checking his map, he started toward Kochang (Geochang) ten miles to the northeast. Due to the heavy dust, he followed behind the first jeep by well over 100 yards. The lead jeep received machine gunfire after it had gone only one mile from the crossroads. The fire came from a hut at a turn in the road. The driver lost control and the jeep plowed off the road. All four men in this jeep were either killed or badly wounded by the initial blast. Their bodies fell from the jeep into a rice paddy at the side of the road. The second jeep stopped and the men jumped into the ditches on either side of the road.
After three or four minutes of silence, eight North Korean soldiers came toward the jeeps from near the hut. As they passed the first jeep, they shot those who were still alive. When they were within 50 yards of the second jeep, they started to run and shout. Pvt. Sidney D. Talley stood up in the ditch and fired his M-1 rifle at the charging men—the first time he had fired the weapon since it was issued to him two weeks before in Okinawa. He killed two of the enemy and the others stopped. Seeing his chance, Pvt. William C. Stauffer scrambled onto the road and turned the jeep around. The others fired at the enemy while jumping into the jeep. Driving as fast as possible, they stopped briefly at the crossroad opposite Anui to shout what had happened to them. Then they drove back to Sangungu-iang where Lieutenant Iwanczyk told us what had happened. His four men killed were the first of our battalion killed in Korea--but they would not be the last.
I Am Ambushed
"Be careful Sam," was my last instruction from Colonel Wilson as I left for Anui in the early afternoon. I stopped briefly at the A Company outpost but they had no additional information. We went very slowly, as I had no desire to run into an ambush like Lieutenant Iwanczyk had. At each turn in the road we stopped the jeep and two of us walked around the curve. After a few curves, I decided it would be best if we walked all of the time. With Private Woddie L. Tharp in the jeep to our rear, the three of us walked toward Anui. It was a clear, dry, hot day. There were rice paddies near the river. Trees covered the knolls and in the distance there were hills. It was not unlike walking on an unpaved road in rural North Carolina near Fort Bragg. We saw no one.
We had walked a mile or so when we saw a cloud of dust on the road to our rear. It was a ¾-ton truck with twelve South Korean policemen. After much hand-waving, pointing, and nodding, we gathered that they were also going to Anui. I had Tharp pull our jeep over to the side of the road to let them pass. The truck spun its wheels and tore off down the road.
Getting into the jeep, the four of us followed at a comfortable distance. The Nam River was to our left. We saw the truck turn a corner and hen lost sight of it. Suddenly - EXPLOSION! Black smoke came from the area where the truck had gone. Then we heard machine gunfire from the woods on the other side of the river. Rifle fire joined in.
By the time the bullets hit our jeep, no one was in it. Private Tharp and Pvt. Kenneth H. Miller were in the ditch on the river side of the road. Cpl. James D. Gousnell and I were on the other side. He was armed with a Browning automatic rifle (BAR) and had two bandoliers of ammunition. "Are you all right over there?' I shouted to Tharp and Miller. "Yes sir," they replied. "We're both O.K." I asked them, "Can you see where the fire is coming from?" They said, "No Sir, but I think the machine guns are across the river in those trees." Miller shouted, "I see one!" He fired. "Did'ya get him?", Gousnell asked. "Don't know," he said. "I can't see a thing in those trees. I think I did."
The firing seemed to slow. Our jeep was full of holes. "All right, let's move back," I called. In their ditch, Miller and Tharp started crawling. We had just started on our side when there was a burst of bullets and Gausnell cried, "I'm hit!" He fell back in the ditch and held his chest. "How bad is it?" I asked. "Don't know," he answered in a low voice. I ripped open his fatigue jacket, exposing a blood-covered chest. I tore open my first aid packet and placed the gauzed bandage over the wound. "Let me have the B-A-R," I said as I lifted the weapon from his hands. Then I took the ammunition from around his neck and slipped it over mine. One of the bandoliers had been torn and a magazine split by a bullet. "Can you move by yourself?" I asked him. "Yes, Sir," he replied. I told him, "Start moving then. I'll cover you." With one hand to his chest, Gausnell started to crawl in the muddy ditch. I placed the automatic rifle in a position to fire down the road. Bullets hit the jeep and whizzed over my head, hitting the bank. Other bullets skipped on the road and over Gausnell. He kept crawling in the ditch.
Where did those bullets come from, I wondered There was no movement in the green foliage on the other side of the river. Only the sound of several machine guns, then quiet. What appeared to be a thin white line of smoke rose slowly above a bush. I aimed carefully at that bush and squeezed the trigger. Dust kicked up as the bullets from the BAR dug up the ground beneath the bush. I fired again and slipped back into the ditch to load another magazine. I fired again and again. Everything was silent now. I looked down the ditch. Gausnell had passed a small concrete bridge over a small stream and was among some abandoned huts some 200 yards from me. I started to crawl down the ditch. There was no firing. I could hear nothing except the splash of the muddy water in the ditch. I reached the small stream and bridge and glanced back. I saw nothing. Then I started to run in a half crouch to the huts. As I emerged from the huts, I could see four men walking down the road ahead of me. One was holding his chest. One was a South Korean policeman—the sole survivor of the truck. I started to trot toward them. I suddenly realized that I was very tired, but continued to trot. By the time I reached them we had passed completely out of sight of where we had been ambushed. We continued walking until about half way back to the battalion, when we met a jeep which carried us the rest of the way to Sanggun-iang. We had been gone for maybe two or three hours.
At Sangun-iang I checked in with the other companies and I questioned some South Koreans, including police, about what they knew of the location of any North Koreans. Our unit then made three attempts to reach Anui that night. The first attempt to reach Anui was by the 7th ROK just after dark on the 27th. The plan was for a regiment (now reduced to only 180 men) to attack up the road toward Anui from Hamyang as soon as it was dark. A group of South Korean soldiers loaded into four old school buses which the 7th ROK had picked up in their retreat from the 38th Parallel and rattled off into the moonlight. The buses drove as fast as possible up the road until the lead bus was fired on. The South Koreans piled out of the buses and attempted to envelop the enemy position. After an hour of fighting in the dark shadows of the wooded hills, the ROK troops returned to their lines north of Hamyang.
Those of us at Headquarters Company ate some rice balls, and had some hot tea, and moved to the northern outpost of the 7th ROK. There we waited for first light on 28 July so we could move toward Anui. A second attempt was made on the road from Hamyang to Anui by a motorized patrol from the reconnaissance company of the 24th Division. It had come up from Chinju (Jinju) after dark. They got less than halfway to Anui before receiving fire from automatic weapons which appeared to be American .50-caliber machine guns. Since B Company had no such machine guns, they must have been picked up from the US 24th Division. The reconnaissance patrol had no casualties. They returned to the battalion headquarters at Sanggun-iang, and then headed back to Chinju.
Since we still had heard nothing from the men of Companies B and D, Colonel Wilson decided to send a patrol of 12 men from C Company, commanded by Captain McDaniels, with orders for all troops in Anui to withdraw to Sanggun-iang. He asked me to take that patrol on the early morning of the 28th. This time I was to take the patrol through the 7th ROK lines on the west side of the river following the road from Hamyang to Anui.
We did not know that B Company had started to withdraw from Anui at 1900 hours or that they had fought their way through that burning town until midnight. They were attempting to get across the river, but knew they would not be riding the trucks sitting there because they were burning. Those in the 7th ROK headquarters were both excited and worried. They did not know what happened in Anui, but they knew it was not good.
Battle of Hamyang
My patrol was the third attempt to reach Anui, but we got caught up in the middle of the Battle of Hamyang. The North Korean 4th Division that had captured Anui next turned south on 28 July to link up at Chinju (Jinju) with the NK 6th Division moving on Chinju from Hadong. The result was the Battle of Hamyang. West of the Nan River the 7th ROK blocked the Anui-Hamyang road with two defensive lines. The inexperienced troops were in the first line on a low ridge four miles north of Hamyang. My patrol had spent the night just behind that line. The veterans were in the second line, three miles from Hamyang. In reserve were the South Korean Marines. To the left and west on a high hill mass were outposts manned by South Korean police.
A Company, 29th Infantry (commanded by Capt. Leonard Becicka with Lt. James A. Blakeslee as the Executive Officer or XO), with support from the 4.2-inch mortars, was east of the Nam River, blocking the road from Anui to Sanggun-iang. They were even with the first defensive line of the 7th ROK. C Company, 29th Infantry, was on the west side of the Nan River, across from Sanggun-iang.
At first light, just as I was preparing to move the patrol toward Anui, two seemingly endless columns of mustard-brown uniformed men appeared in the distance on the road from Anui. They moved like giant worms toward the ROK positions. A smaller column moved down the road toward A Company. I knew I was not going to take my patrol forward, so I moved it back to where the Marines were in reserve. I then joined the 7th ROK Division commander with his command group to observe the battle. With my binoculars I could see much of the battle. They knew they were being attacked by the NK 4th Division, which had had a string of victories since it crossed the 38th Parallel on 25 June 1950—including the defeat of the US 24th Division at Taejon.
With scattered rifle shots from the first line of the South Koreans, the columns vanished. For more than an hour the North Koreans sent patrols toward the defenders' line, only to withdraw as soon as they drew fire. Then mortar shells started to fall among the defenders. A wave of men advanced against the first line of South Koreans. They broke and ran toward the second defensive line. The same was happening on the east of the Nam River against A Company, 29th Infantry. Only the soldiers of A Company held their positions. The veterans in the second line started to fire on those retreating from the first line. Many stopped and fired back at the North Koreans. Soon the mile between the two defensive lines became a jumbled, confused melee. But the second line held firm.
On the hill mass to the west, the North Koreans now launched an attack directly toward Hamyang. When the South Korean Police holding the outposts on that ridge crumbled under overwhelming strength, Colonel Min Ki Sik, the 7th ROK commander (later the Commanding General of the 5th ROK Division) ordered his reserve, the South Korean Marine unit, forward. They moved through low hills between the main attack and the secondary attack against the police outposts. I saw this as an opportunity to learn what had happened to B Company in Anui. I had my patrol follow the Marines.
This counterattack advanced a half-mile beyond the initial first defensive line and set up on a knob which had been prepared in advance as a defensive position. From there it was possible to fire into the flank and rear of the main attack of the 4th NK Division. My men joined in this firing at targets of opportunity. I realized there was no chance of our patrol moving toward Anui.
With firing on its rear and flank, the main attack of the 4th NK toward Hamyang stopped. The North Koreans moved against our positions on the knob, but this only gave us more targets. For several hours there was an exchange of rifle and machine gun fire, and every now and then a mortar would be fired.
In the early afternoon I heard some horns from the direction of the enemy. "What does that mean? Are they going to assault us?", the Master Sergeant leading the patrol asked me. I said, "I'm not sure. They use horns to give commands in battle, but I don't know their signals." Were they going to launch an overwhelming charge on our knob? The answer came as I noticed the enemy fire diminishing. Through my binoculars I noticed small groups moving back. They were withdrawing! This was followed by a withdrawal of those on the high hill mass to the west. Finally I saw a column of mustard-brown uniformed men on the road going north toward Anui.
On the east side of the Nam River, Able Company had beaten back repeated enemy attacks by what was at least a battalion. They used up all of the rounds of 4.2 White Phosphorus. The enemy fired at them with rifles, machine-guns and mortars as the enemy attempted to envelop them. However, the company lived up to its motto, "Always Available and Able." The enemy was never able to get close enough to make an assault on their positions. Finally, this North Korean force also withdrew to the north. Able Company's actions on 27 July 1950 were arguably the first non-loss defense by any American unit in the Korean War.
By dusk all of the North Koreans were gone, and with this defeat the 4th NK Division gave up the attempt to link up with the 6th NK Division at Chinju. Later we learned that it turned toward Kochang to pursue the 34th and 21st Regiments of the US 24th Division.
As the Sun Sets on 28 July 1950
From prisoners I learned of the defeat at Anui on 27 July. I also learned that some members of Baker Company and Dog Company, 29th Infantry had crossed the Nam River and fled into the hills. With this information I took the patrol back to Charlie Company and went to the battalion headquarters at Sanggun-iang.
Just before dark we received a report that an enemy unit was moving along back trails in an effort to block the road back to Chinju. The first of a series of withdrawals was started after dark on 28 July. We also got word that 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry, which had come to Korea from Okinawa with the 1st Battalion, had been destroyed at Hadong Pass on 27 July. It was not an effective unit again until it was reorganized as the 3rd Battalion, 27th Infantry several weeks later.
Of the some 1,500 men in these two battalions who arrived in Korea on 24 July 1950, 618 were casualties three days later—most known dead or MIA who were never heard from again. Few military units in history have suffered such losses. There are many lessons to be learned from the lack of training, lack of time together, rapid deployment, poor intelligence provided, and lack of support for these two battalions.
During the evening of 27 July 1950, B (Baker) Company lost over half of its men and all of its equipment. The men of B Company had hardly taken their position in Anui (at 1330 hours) before they received enemy fire. The trucks taking A Company, 19th Infantry back to Chinju were stopped by a roadblock just south of Anui (at Tongsan), where I was ambushed when I attempted to get to Anui. They and the drivers left the trucks and moved by trails through the hills on foot. At 1525 hours the ROK (Republic of Korea) troops withdrew from Anui as 300 North Korean soldiers advanced toward them from the southwest. By 1600 only twelve South Korean policemen remained on the left flank of B (Baker) Company. At the same time, another 200 North Korean soldiers advanced down the main road from Chonju to attack Baker, and a large column was seen coming, from the north, down the road from Kochang.
Orders were given to withdraw to a hill across the Nam River from Anui at 1900 hours. From then until midnight there was fighting throughout the burning town of Anui. The survivors of B Company and D Company had to walk several days through the hills fighting skirmishes with enemy patrols. What followed was a series of withdrawals back to the Pusan perimeter.
Chapter Five - Series of Withdrawals
Initial Actions, 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry
The 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry had suffered even greater losses than the 1st Battalion on 27 July. In Chinju the Battalion Commander (Lieutenant Colonel Harold W. Mott) met some Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers, including General Chae, the former Chief of Staff of the ROK Army. They explained how bad conditions were in Hadong and why that city was so vital for the defense of Pusan. They offered to help in any way possible.
The 3rd Battalion left Chinju at 0100 hours on the morning of 26 July. Colonel Moore, the regimental commander, had expected the battalion to move into Hadong at dawn, but at daylight they were only half way to Hadong. Mott attempted to get the orders changed from taking and holding Hadong to establishing a blocking position on the Hadong-Chinju road. Moore insisted that the battalion carry out the original orders.
On the afternoon of 26 July the 3rd Battalion moved to within three miles of Hadong, just east of the Hadong pass. It went into defensive positions for the night. The next morning (27 July), a company was sent up to secure Hadong Pass. The command group followed in order to look down at Hadong in the valley as they planned how to move on that city. A group of soldiers coming up to the pass from Hadong were told to halt by General Chae. Immediately machine gun fire killed several in the command group, including General Chae, and wounded most of the others. Mortar shells began to fall on the pass. Then North Korean soldiers charged from many directions and attempted to block the road back to Chinju. The 3rd Battalion had been trapped.
The fight continued all morning, but the battalion command group, many officers, and many experienced NCOs had been lost. Command of the battalion went to Captain George Sharra. The green troops started to run away. This inexperienced and unprepared unit soon collapsed. By 1530 Captain Sharra had assembled those who could move and they staggered back to Chinju. Over 400 men, most of the officers, and all of the equipment were lost. The 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry had been destroyed on 27 July 1950.
Did the leaders of the 8th Army, 24th Division, and l9th Infantry Regiment know that these battalions was unprepared for the missions they were given? Were these battalions given appropriate support? Or did higher headquarters just not care what might happen to them. Any military professional should have known that only experienced battalion combat teams with adequate fire support should have been assigned such missions.
If good leadership means good judgment, the leadership of those who sent the 29th Infantry into combat was tragically bad. If good leadership means developing adequate intelligence on enemy threats, the leadership of those who sent the 29th Infantry into combat was tragically bad.
It was a long time before we learned of many of the horrors which took place at Hadong Pass—and many more will never be known. Lieutenant Richard L. Warren had been with me in Cannon Company, 29th Infantry on Okinawa, and I had talked with him in Chinju on 25 July a few hours before the 3rd Battalion left for Hadong. Dick never came back. Any time I met someone who was at Hadong Pass, I asked if they knew what happened to Dick. Was he killed? Was he captured and murdered? Where is his body? I never learned anything. The fact that only memories will remain is something that all of those who have experienced combat instinctively know. It is one of the threads that weave combat camaraderie. Tenny Ross, who was also with the 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry on this fateful day, did survive.
The Unknown War
The Korean War was, and remains to this day, the Unknown War. The Vietnam War took place after television news came into its own. The Korean War was reported in newsprint and had little emotional impact on the American people. One author aptly noted how unappreciated the Korean War is by the fact that in 2004 a library in Florida had "88 books on Vietnam and only four on Korea." The three best-known movies about the Korean War are: The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), based on an anti-war novel by James Michener; The Manchurian Candidate (1962), which tells of an American prisoner-of-war brainwashed by the Chinese who turned into an assassin; and M*A*S*H, a comedy about a mobile surgical hospital in the Korean War. The latter came out in 1970 and was actually an anti-war movie designed to influence opinion about the Vietnam War.
Neither the brutality of the North Koreans nor the sacrifices and heroism of those who fought them were ever recognized by the American people. The Korean War was never seen as a crusade against evil to protect our country like World War II. Nor was it a topic of heated debate like Vietnam. The soldiers who fought in Korea were often ignored. It just happened and was soon forgotten.
The 1st Battalion was just as green and inexperienced as the 3rd Battalion, yet the initial actions and specifically the withdrawals were very different. Thanks to Colonel Wilson, the withdrawal of the 1st Battalion was, by comparison, a military masterpiece.
Chapter Six - Withdrawal to Chungam-ni: 28 July-1 August 1950
On 28 July, after I got back to the headquarters of the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry at Sanggun-iang, Lieutenant Colonel Wesley C. Wilson, the battalion commander, called a meeting to discuss our situation. We knew none of our people remained in Anui. We had heard that our sister battalion had been destroyed near Hadong. During that meeting we received a report that the enemy was moving on trails to cut the road to Chinju. At the end of the meeting Colonel Wilson summarized his plans like this:
The First Three Days: 28, 29, 30 July 1950
After dark on 28 July, the 1st Battalion marched seven miles from Sanggun-iang (Hwasan-ni or Umyoug-ni) to positions two miles south of Oso-ri (Ooejang). Thus began a withdrawal to prevent the battalion from being destroyed by the enemy south of us near Chinju or the enemy north of us, which the South Koreans had identified as the 4th North Korean Division. Advance parties from each of the companies had been assigned positions near Oso-ri during the afternoon of 28 July. The elements of the 7th Republic of Korea (ROK) Division in the Hamyang area withdrew through our positions.
Enemy patrols were observed throughout the next day (29 July). They were following us. When would they attack? When would they infiltrate men to block the road behind us? A few men from "B" Company who had taken trails through the hills came in and we learned some of the details of the defeat at Anui on the evening of 27 July. They reported many enemy patrols north of us.
Colonel Wilson had me select the positions we were to use each night during the withdrawal because I could visualize the shape of the ground from the outdated, unclear, black and white topographical maps we were using. The Japanese before World War II had prepared these maps. They had the names of locations in Japanese and/or Korean characters, which no one could read. I was able to tell locations by the shape of the terrain revealed by the spacing of contour lines. Even this was very difficult because the maps were so unclear.
Names in Western letters were overprinted on the maps we received in August. Yet this was not much help because the phonic translations were poor and the names were often not those currently used. Even good map-readers found these maps an enigma. Later maps were redone to US Army standards.
After dark on 29 July we withdrew again in the same manner. I went with an advance party to select a defensive position for each company. The position I selected for the night of 29 July was near the town of Sanch'ong, which was about five miles closer to Chinju. The advance party from each company identified exactly where each platoon would go and was prepared to guide them into their positions when they arrived. This was made difficult by the necessity of a "lights out" order. On 29 July we were in our new positions near Sanch'ong before 2200 hours. On the morning of 30 July, we learned that just before midnight of 29 July, an enemy force had attacked the position that we had occupied south of Oso-ri. We had left that position after it was dark.
Able ("A") Company, reinforced by some local police, prepared defensive positions south of Sanch'ong on 30 July. The rest of the battalion went into positions three and a half miles closer to Chinju near Wonj-dom--as ordered by the Commanding Officer of the 19th Infantry Regiment on 29 July. By now it must have been known at regimental headquarters that the enemy in southwest Korea was not just local communist sympathizers fighting as guerrillas and a few North Koreans on motorcycles. They probably had even identified the unit moving toward Chinju as the 6th North Korean Division. We were never given any such intelligence, but I was getting some information from the South Koreans.
30-31 July 1950
We had assumed that we would withdraw to Chinju where the headquarters of the 19th Infantry Regiment was located. The blocking position at Wonj-dom only made sense if Chinju was to be defended. But to me withdrawal through Chinju seemed unlikely, so I looked for other routes. The map showed a trail from Wonj-dom to Massang. The order received on 29 July that required us to set up a blocking position near Wonj-dom was the last communication we had directly with the 19th Infantry Regiment until 1 August.
We were receiving no supplies from the 19th Infantry Regiment, to which we were attached. The 1st Battalion had even left its Pioneer and Ammunition (P&A) Platoon with the regimental headquarters in Chinju to facilitate the battalion getting the needed supplies. The S-4 instructed all companies to conserve their ammo and to get food from the locals. Most enjoyed tasty meals of chicken "Go Hung" and fruit.
On 30 July more men from "B" Company joined us, as well as two from the 34th Infantry. This was the first we knew of the defeat of the 34th Infantry at Kochang on 29 July. I looked at the map and immediately went to Colonel Wilson. I thought we needed to move quickly. "The enemy is in the outskirts of Chinju," I told him, "so I don't think we'll ever make it through there. The only alternative is a trail to Massang and then on to Uiryong. However, they took Kochang yesterday. They should be well on their way to Hyopchong. If they go down to Massang, we will have no way out." He looked at the map, agreed, and said we should plan to take all of our vehicles to Uiryong. I sent some of my men to check out that route.
The Escape Trail: 31 July-1 September 1950
During the morning of 31 July, Able Company observed enemy patrols around their position near Sanch'ong. By withdrawing after dark we seemed to have gotten the enemy off balance and thus hindered their ability to attack. During the afternoon of 31 July, we learned that the 19th Infantry had withdrawn from Chinju early on 30 July. The South Koreans told us, "Some Americans were left to defend Chinju." We knew this meant Chinju was lost; we would definitely have to withdraw through Massang and Uiryong. After all, the North Koreans that destroyed the 3rd Battalion at Hadong Pass were already at Chinju. At this point we had heard nothing from the 19th Infantry for over 24 hours. Colonel Wilson ordered all of our vehicles moved to Uiryong.
Major Arnold, the Executive Officer, a 35-year-old career officer with World War II experience, was sent with the vehicles on the route through Massang to Uiryong. There was no road between Wonj-dom and Massang. There was only a walking trail. The lack of tracks told us no vehicles, other than maybe motorcycles, used the trail. Certainly trucks did not use it. With the effort of a few men and all the Koreans he could round up, Major Arnold was able to improve the trail just enough. He also established roadblocks north and south of Massang (Ch'on'gol) to hinder any enemy attempting to stop our withdrawal. Finally our vehicles, except for one truck that broke through an improvised bridge on the trail, reached Chungam-ni safely. One platoon from A Company was placed in a blocking position south of Wonj-dom to prevent the enemy from stopping the withdrawal by moving up from Chinju.
After dark on 31 July the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry started a march along the same route traveled by Major Arnold with the vehicles. Two messages were dropped from a small aircraft telling of the defeat at Chinju on 30 July and giving instructions to withdraw. One was dropped on the Battalion Command Post before the march started and the other on the "A" Company platoon near Wonj-dom. After the march started there was to be no halt until the critical crossroad near Wonj-dom had been passed. Then it was on to Massang.
I learned that the South Koreans still held Massang. They told me that the 4th North Korean Division had just captured Hyopchong, but they had not yet turned south toward Massang. Nor had anything moved north from Chinju; they were going east toward Pusan. Therefore, as the battalion neared the crossroad at Massang during the early hours of 1 August, the men were given a few hours of sleep.
We were marching again before daylight. Just after we started we met some trucks Major Arnold had sent. They were able to take some of the men to Chungam-ni. The rest of the men marched on past Massang, and then stopped to wait the return of the trucks.
On The Wrong End of Air Power
At early morning twilight of 1 August, I decided to wait for Able Company, which was bringing up the rear after having picked up its platoon at Wonj-dom. Lieutenant Louis Carapolis, the S-1 (Adjutant), drove up in his jeep. Lou was a Californian, but the antithesis of the happy-go-lucky, beach-loving surfer. He was serious and thoughtful, but at times sardonic. He always had his pipe. He could easily be a college professor. I considered him experienced, wise, and old—after all, he was almost thirty.
After a while we decided to drive back down the trail to meet Able Company. Just as we started, we saw two fighters overhead. Knowing they were ours, I thought nothing about it. Lou said, "I don't think they know we are friendlies." Their action soon made me realize they were looking for targets. One turned to dive at us. I could see only a circle and two lines out to each side. I expected bullets. I had no question about what to do. The driver had the same idea. We both found ourselves in the ditch as low as we could get. Lou had another idea. He shouted, "Where are the panels?" He pulled a panel from the back seat and opened it. After one pass the plane turned, wiggled its wing, and went away. I looked up from the ditch with a sigh of relief.
Days later I learned that during our withdrawal, Navy Task Force 77 had been attacking convoys, troop concentrations, and bridges in an effort to stop the 6th North Korean Division. Unfortunately, the enemy had moved faster than the Navy expected. Nevertheless, there was now hope that our air superiority would begin to take its toll on the enemy.
Shortly after the airpower up close incident, we met "A" Company. I walked on with them and Lou took some of the men in the worst shape in his jeep. We met the trucks just past Massang and rode through Uiryong to Chungam-ni. As we crossed the Nam River, refugees were also crossing
The Fall of Chinju: 29-31 July 1950
In Chungam-ni we were able to learn something of the rapid departure of the 19th Infantry from Chinju. Some of those left behind to "defend" that city did straggle into Chungam-ni, but many never left Chinju. The 6th North Korean Division did not keep prisoners. Graphic descriptions of the killing that took place in Chinju on 30 and 31 July matched those we were hearing from the survivors of the destruction of the 3rd Battalion at Hadong Pass on 27 July.
The capture of Chinju started at 1000 hours on 29 July. That night they attempted to cut all roads around Chinju. The morning of the 30 July brought new attacks, and the 19th Infantry retreated to the east bank leaving the "defense" of Chinju to the remnants of the 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry, our Pioneer and Ammunition (P&A) platoon which the battalion had left in Chinju on 27 July to get supplies to us, and 700 replacements that had just arrived but had not yet been assigned to units. Needless to say, this collection of bodies was not a combat unit. Snipers were firing on all Americans remaining in Chinju after 1400 on 30 July.
By nightfall of 30 July, the enemy had infiltrated into Chinju and was moving tanks into the city. The final assault began at dawn 31 July and by 1000 hours no one was even attempting to stop the North Koreans. Any Americans that had not escaped--those captured or wounded, were killed. These stories did not give us confidence in the leadership of the 19th Infantry, which was especially worrying since we knew they would be telling us what to do. Little did we know that the next day (2 August) we would meet the 6th North Korean Division head-on, and it would be the first time that division would be defeated since it crossed the 38th Parallel on 25 June.
Chapter Seven - First Battle of Chungam-ni Pass: 2 August 1950
Order of Battle:
The 24th Infantry Regiment was also known as the "Duce Fou". It was one of the regiments in the 25th Infantry Division at this time. It was an all colored regiment with white officers. It was generally considered unreliable and was usually kept in reserve, as it was of the first Battle of Chungam-ni Pass. In fact it had not even been brought down into the southern front area to which the 25th Division had just been moved. The 24th Infantry Division had been on the southern front. That is why the two battalions of the 29th Infantry Regiment were attached to the 19th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division. When Task Force Kean was formed, the 5th RCT and the 1st Marine Division were made part of that task forces under General Kean (the Commanding General of the 25th Division) so that the 24th Infantry Regiment would not have to be used. Despite repeated efforts to make it an effective regiment, it never could be relied upon. It was finally disbanded and replaced with the 14th Infantry Regiment.
A low pass four miles southwest of Chungam-ni was to play a critical role in the defense of Pusan. Several battles were fought there and they stopped the 6th NK from reaching Masan and Pusan.
The Naktong River was to be the anchor of the last stand in Korea, but the Naktong River turned east at the Nam River, providing an opening south of the Nam from Chinju (Jinju). This was exactly where the 6th North Korean Division was ordered to drive toward Masan and Pusan. Also the 4th North Korean Division was ordered to drive from Uiryong (Ginei) across the Nam River to Pusan. If successful, this would out-flank and trap the 8th Army.
The first battle of Chungam-ni Pass, which was also called ‘The Notch', halted the victorious 6th NK Division driving toward Masan. Members of the 29th Infantry were the main fighters in the battle of 2 August 1950. Plans for U. S. operations west of Masan called for reconnaissance in force by two task forces using tanks that had just arrived. A task force of the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry, with armor of the 89th Tank Battalion (five M-4 tanks and four M-8 reconnaissance cars), was to move to the intersection at Much'on-ni from Chungam-ni along the north road to Chinju. A task force of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry was to move to that intersection from Chindong-ni, through Kogan-ni and Taejong-ni, along the south road.
All did not go as planned for either task force. After early morning success, two of the tanks of the 27th "Wolfhound" Infantry Task Force were knocked out and the road behind it was cut. The North Korean 6th Division had infiltrated all of the roads around Chindong-ni. The task force had to fight all day to get back to that town. The 29th Infantry Task Force never got past Chumgum-ni Pass.
Preparation for the Reconnaissance in Force
When we arrived in Chungam-ni on the evening of 1 August, we were told we would be making a reconnaissance the next morning. I then made the rounds to talk with the people of the 19th Infantry to get information on the enemy. I was told, "They are out there. They've left Chinju. We don't know where they have gone. When we pulled back from Chinju they sent patrols against us every night." The most recent information came from The Notch just before dark: "three trucks near the lake." Then this was added: "Division has told us that there has been traffic on the road between Taejon-ni and Chindong-ni. It looks like they will attack Masan from there." That was not much information about the enemy, but it was more than we had received when we were sent to the Hamyang-Anui area after we first arrived.
Starting at early morning twilight (EMT) on 2 August, the 29th Infantry Task Force was organized in Chungam-ni. The tanks and armored cars of the 89th Tank were in the lead with soldiers from Charlie ("C") Company riding on them. The rest of the battalion followed in 2 ½ ton trucks packed with soldiers. There was a lot of milling around as the trucks matched up with the soldiers.
I went to see Colonel Wilson in his jeep. I said to him, "I think I'll place my jeep right after the Charlie Company trucks. I can evaluate the situation if there is any action and give you a call to let you know what I think." He replied, "Good idea." We then talked about what we might find. Both of us had heard the same reports from the 19th and had no reason to think this would be anything other than a very routine reconnaissance. "With those tanks up front I don't think many will raise their heads," I offered. "They have not seen U.S. tanks before. Maybe our people won't even have to get out of their trucks. After our walk to get here, they'll like that." He looked at me adding, "Do you want a drink?" It was warm. A little water would be great so I took his canteen. However, it was not water. I choked on a swig of bourbon. I guess the colonel was having a little fun with a young officer who did not drink.
I placed my jeep before the trucks carrying Baker ("B") Company. With me was my driver, one of my men--Lieutenant Kim (my South Korean interpreter), and Kim's "boy." (Kim called him his soldier assistant.) The column left Chungam-ni and the 29th Infantry Task Force moved the four miles to Chungam-ni Pass without incident.
Initial Attacks on 19th Infantry in the Pass
We had no idea that those holding Chungam-ni Pass had been under attack for several hours. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 19th Infantry occupied the right (northwest) side of the pass, and the remainder of the 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry was on the left (southeast) side. All of these units had less than half of their authorized strength.
During the night many of the men, including the company commander, in one company of the 19th Infantry were bayoneted to death while they were sleeping. The company had failed to climb to the high ground on the northwest side of the pass. The North Koreans came upon them as they were climbing up to secure that high ground in advance of the main attack early in the morning. Other defenders were awakened at dawn by communist marching songs as the North Koreans climbed the steep slope toward the pass. When fired on the head of the enemy column stopped and the men fanned out into the woods on either side of the road, but those following continued to come up the road. This was when the 29th Infantry Task Force came over the pass.
Surprise in the Pass
A few yards short of the crest of the pass, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rhea (Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry) was waving and shouting, "It's clear to the lake." There was a small lake in the valley floor on the west side of the pass. It was now 0830 hours. Fifty yards from the crest of the pass the lead tank met enemy troops. The tanks moved slowly down the crooked road. "BOOM, WHMMP". They were firing point blank at those coming up the slope. Then their machine guns: "Rat, Tat, Tat. BOOM, WHMMP."
Machine guns, mortars, ammunitions, and wounded and dead men were left in the ditches. North Koreans scampered into the woods on either side of the road. The soldiers of Charlie Company who had been riding on the tanks and the M-8s jumped off to take cover in the ditches and culverts or to go into the woods.
My jeep came slowly down the road. I thought I was watching a very graphic movie as I looked into the ditches. Men in mustard-colored uniforms were half-dead, dead, and blown to bits by the tanks' guns and machine guns. Men were tangled among their weapons. Some were moving and moaning. Also in the ditches were groups of our soldiers. The tanks firing had left the pungent odor of gunpowder. My mind just could not register it as being real—but it was. "BOOM, WHMMP."
The tanks continued to move down toward the lake. Then a larger "BOOM". Half way to the lake an anti-tank shell hit the lead tank and a hole was torn through the armor. The burning M-4 tank blocked the road. One of the crew members ran up the hill naked except for pieces of his burning clothing. This stopped the column.
Chaos and Death
All of Charlie and some of Baker Company had come over the crest of the pass, but some of the soldiers were still in their trucks. Many were killed or wounded. The others jumped out as fast as possible. This resulted in a melee which was to last several hours.
When the truck in front of my jeep was hit, all five of us jumped into the ditch. As I already mentioned the ditch was full of dead and half dead North Koreans. Some were alive and moaning, but they didn't bother us. I placed my two men facing down the road. Lieutenant Kim and I faced up the road. I then realized that Kim and his "boy" were in great danger, since our soldiers might think they were North Koreans. Some of the soldiers from Charlie Company came crawling up the ditch, their eyes full of fear. My command: "Get back to your company." They did. There was a lot of firing going on around us but it was impossible to tell who was shooting at whom. The North Koreans in the ditch with us were still moaning. I tried to use my radio but couldn't get anyone. I sat back in the ditch, knowing full well that the five of us weren't going to change the situation.
Two more of the tanks were damaged, as were most of the M-8s. The trucks stood empty on the road—some burning. I crawled down the ditch over and around bodies, some of which were Americans, and passed a burning truck. It was a confusing, dangerous, surreal scene. All around Americans and North Koreans were shooting at each other—or trying to hide. I looked into a culvert and saw some mustard-colored uniforms huddled together. I heard voices moving down the road from the pass crest toward us. I recognized their language as English, although I could not tell what they were saying. Then I saw their American uniforms. It was an element of Baker Company coming down to make contact with Charlie. I recognized Captain John C. Hughes (CO of Baker). Knowing that my rear was secure, I decided to move down the road to join Charlie.
I finally reached a small ravine where some 25 soldiers of Charlie Company were together. They were working their way up a ravine to higher ground. I decided that it would be best for us to join them since we were of no use in the melee going on up and down the road. However, we would have to run across an open area that would expose us to enemy fire. About every sixth soldier was getting hit.
To protect Lieutenant Kim and his young soldier, I had one of my men go with each of them. The first two got through safely. When the young Korean soldier tried he got hit, but crawled to safety. I then ran through the open area to join them. The boy's leg was broken and he had a chest wound. We took turns carrying him up the hill. We finally reached the defensive positions of the 19th. I took the young Korean soldier over to a safe spot and laid him down. In a few minutes he was dead.
The Rest of the Battle
I was suddenly very tired. There were a lot of people standing around on the road east of the pass. I walked around talking with them, trying to learn what had been going on while I was in the chaos on the other side of the pass. I questioned anyone who could provide any bit of information. I was not interested in small talk with the onlookers.
This is what I learned. Just prior to the lead tank passing through the pass, the right flank (northwest) company of the 19th Infantry, which had lost many of its men to bayonets during the night, abandoned the highest peak overlooking the right side of the defensive position. This made the whole pass vulnerable. "A" Company, 29th Infantry, which had not yet gone through the pass, was sent to retake that peak and to secure the right flank of the pass. They had to fight their way up to the top of the peak, but they did secure the right flank.
Just before noon the North Koreans attempted to envelope the left (southeast) flank of the defensive position, which was held by the 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry. This flank was reinforced by "B" Company, 29th Infantry. From noon until 1400 hours the left flank positions were being fired on from three directions. The melee along the road and through the wooded slopes on either side of the road continued for several hours. The enemy attempted to use a railroad tunnel south of our left flank positions to get to our rear. The 19th Infantry sent a company to stop that. I suddenly realized that this was the same railroad we had used on 25 July to go from Pusan to Chinju. Although I did not remember this tunnel, we had gone through it on our second day in Korea.
While the fighting was taking place on the left (southeast) side of the pass, the fighting along the road west of the pass was diminishing. A platoon of Able Company was sent down the road from the crest of the pass to clear out the last enemy resistance and to uncover all of the tanks and vehicles on the road. They reached the lead tank at 1500. Soon after that the North Koreans of the 6th North Korean Division realized they had been beaten and started to withdraw toward the lake. Although the fighting stopped at Chungam-ni Pass, the 6th North Korean Division was still trying to reach Masan through Chindong-ni. There they would fight the 27th Infantry for another day--and they would be back during August to try several more times.
Reflection On The Battle
A Time reporter said this about the soldiers who had fought the first Battle of The Notch at Chungam-ni Pass,
By 1600 hours the battle was over. Following hours of chaos and noise the quiet seemed unreal. The wounded and groaning soldiers were now gone. The sides of the road down to the lake were still full of twisted bodies, burned vehicles, and abandoned equipment. Those North Koreans with so many victories to remember, including the destruction of the battalion which came to Korea with us, were now defeated for the first time since they crossed the 38th Parallel on 25 June 1950. Before dark on 2 August 1950, all of the units that had fought the First Battle of Chungam-ni Pass were relieved by elements of the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division.
Several days later the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry began to operate as a battalion of the 35th Infantry and later it was renamed the 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry. We had no idea what to expect from the 35th Infantry, 25th Division or how it might differ from our attachment to the 19th Infantry, 24th Division.
Chapter Eight - Pusan Perimeter: 2-29 August 1950
Order of Battle:
Other Early Attempts to Capture Masan: 2-3 August 1950
A new defensive line along the Naktong River, to be known as the Pusan Perimeter, would not be possible if Masan was captured. This is why the drives by the North Koreans from the west were so critical. The 2 August attack by the 6th North Korean Division on Chungam-ni pass was not the main effort to capture Masan and Pusan. The main attack was further south through Chindong-ni.
The 6th North Korean infiltrated soldiers all around Chindong-ni on 2 August. On the morning of 3 August they attacked the command post of the 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division. By the end of the day that North Korean division had been defeated again and that division was down to about half strength. The rapid drive toward Pusan from the west and south of the Nam had been stopped. This gave the Americans a chance to organize their "last stand". Premier Kim Il-sung's aim of uniting all of Korea under his rule by 1 September had vanished.
Establishing the Perimeter: 3-7 August 1950
Forty-three days after the first combat by U.S. forces in Korea, the battlefield for a "last stand" was established in a 5,000 square mile area around Pusan. The Naktong River was the anchor because the 8th Army decided to defend 65 miles of that river. But the Naktong turned east above Masan, making an attack from Chinju inviting. The US 25th Division was to defend this approach.
The 20 miles the 25th Division had to defend meant units were far apart, but even with this frontage observation, communication, air power, and artillery gave the Americans superiority during the daytime. However, the separation of units allowed the North Koreans to infiltrate between positions at night. They used this to their advantage.
The American leadership did not understand the basic maneuver of Inundation. Focused on conventional war as conducted by Europeans, US military doctrine considered only the maneuvers of Penetration and Envelopment. It ignored a very old maneuver, i.e., one that flows past strong points in the form of self-contained units to strike any weakness discovered. Therefore, US commanders stumbled when confronted with an enemy that used this maneuver. Also, at this time American GI's were not skillful night fighters. They often fell asleep in their foxholes, and night patrols to infiltrate enemy locations were unknown. At times during darkness they engaged in one-sided firefights as soldiers shot at shadows or sounds.
The 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry was kept in reserve as it was being reorganized and trained. Nevertheless, we were getting reports of action by other units of the 35th Infantry Regiment. The North Koreans made nightly probes at Chungam-ni Pass. Too frequently the enemy would creep up on a foxhole and shoot a sleeping GI. The high peak on the right (northwest) flank was a frequent target. One incident there influenced my thinking about the "Pacifist's Fallacy." Instead of the North Korean night fighters shooting a soldier, this time they pulled him out of his foxhole, bound his hands behind his back, and tortured him for several hours. The whole company heard his screams, and many recognized his voice. He was killed before dawn. On reaching his body, his platoon leader found many deep cuts in his flesh and one eye missing. He had also been castrated.
Perhaps this was just a case of sadism, but more likely it was designed to have a psychological impact on others. The Chinese and Koreans have long considered defeating the enemy without fighting to be supreme excellence. This is not only true at the strategic level, but it is true for all levels of conflict. This requires the weakening of the will of an opponent. Fear is one of the ways an opponent's will is eroded.
Task Force Kean: 7-13 August 1950
The commander of the 25th Division, Maj. Gen. William B. Kean, was given responsibility for the first major offensive of the Korean War. He had four regiments. The 35th Infantry was to attack along the north road from Chungam-ni Pass to Much'on-ni. The 5th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) was to attack along the middle road from Chindong-ni to meet the 35th Infantry at Much'on-ni. The 5th Marines were to attack on the southern road from Chindong-ni to Kosong and Sachon. The 24th Infantry was in reserve and was to secure the area behind the three attacking forces. The final phase was to be a drive to Chinju from Much'on-ni and Sachon.
The first days of the offensive did not go as planned. The 6th North Korean Division had moved several thousand troops into the Sobuk-Sun hill mass near Haman. For good reason it became known as "Battle Mountain." It was a mining site and the mine entrances were ready-made bunkers. It was very hot—often over 110 degrees. Many of the soldiers were taken out of action by heat exhaustion.
On 7 August the 6th North Korean Division held positions around Chindong-ni. The 35th Infantry was able to fight its way to Much'on-ni, but was told to halt because the enemy held positions near Chindong-ni and "Battle Mountain". The 24th Infantry fought on "Battle Mountain" until 13 August. On the southern route the 5th Marines were able to clear Kosong by 9 August and to send forces toward Chinju.
The problem was in the center. On 10 and 11 August the 5th RCT fought in the vicinity of Kong-ni and Taejong-ni, but had pushed past Pogam-ni where the artillery set up. On the morning of 12 August, the North Koreans assaulted the 555th Field Artillery with great success in what became known as "Bloody Gulch." Several attempts were made to retake those positions without success. When the Marines reached the hill overlooking Pongam-ni, they could only see enemy troops. The artillery did not exist. On 13 August Task Force Kean was ordered to return all units to their original positions. The 5th RCT withdrew through the 35th Infantry at Chungam-ni Pass. The 555th Field Artillery had to be completely rebuilt. The Marines left to prepare for the landings at Inch'on which would take place on 15 September. The good news was that Task Force Kean had blocked the advance of the 6th North Korean Division toward Pusan.
During this time I had a very sad personal experience. On 9 August I was on a hill watching with my binoculars as a unit of the 35th crossed a small bridge several miles away. I saw a tank crush the bridge as it attempted to cross and slip over on its side. Several hours later I heard that the tank had crushed a Lieutenant as he attempted to guide it over the bridge. I thought no more about it until the next day, when I learned that the Lieutenant was Marty Nelson. Marty was not only a classmate at West Point, but we had been in the same company. My wife Joan and I had often double-dated with Marty and Ginger—who became his wife on graduation. Any death is tragic, but those who are close always hurt the most. Then you experience grieving.
Organization of the Pusan Perimeter: 13-22 August 1950
The 35th Infantry Regiment held ten miles of the Pusan Perimeter from the junction of the Nam and Naktong Rivers to "Battle Mountain". This included the main roads from Chinju and Uiryong to Pusan. The 2nd Battalion overlooked the Nam and Naktong Rivers. The 1st Battalion was several miles east of the Nam River and one mile east of the town of Chungam-ni.
Sector of 35th Infantry
The 24th "Deuce Four" Infantry Regiment, south of the 35th Infantry, was still fighting the enemy holding "Battle Mountain," and north of the Naktong was the 24th Division supported by the 1st Marine Brigade. Our battalion was in reserve near the regimental command post and trains (logistical support units), during 13-22 August. The battalion headquarters was in a temple just south of Chirwon. These eleven days were used to relearn, reequip, and prepare for what we knew was ahead. Here Major Robert L. Woolfolk took command from Lieutenant Colonel Wilson and the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry was renamed the 3rd Battalion, 35th "Cacti" Infantry Regiment, 25th "Tropic Lightning" Division. The 25th Division had been in Japan before coming to Korea. In peacetime it was stationed in Hawaii, and it had long been the primary Army division in the Pacific—thus the name Tropic Lightning.
I did have time to learn a little about the Koreans. They have a history of harsh treatment, both from their own rulers and the Japanese after 1910. Although thin, they carried very heavy loads. The women balanced large bundles on their heads. The men used a back frame to carry 160 to 200 pound loads.
I learned that the Korean language is more closely related to Finnish, Hungarian, and Turkish than to either Chinese or Japanese. Most Koreans read Japanese and usually write in Chinese characters. Many are Presbyterian, and those usually speak English. They have a long Buddhist tradition, and their temples were a good place to rest.
Some of the men wore Western shirts and pants, but most of the peasants wore distinctive white cotton shirts over baggy trousers. The women wore long skirts, usually white, with a waistband. Most wore a white blouse with long sleeves, but women with babies wore a half blouse, which exposed the lower part of the breasts. They were somewhat taller than the Japanese, yet for me hard to distinguish from either the Japanese or Chinese.
Each village had a deep well full of cool water. In the fields there were watermelons, which on a hot summer day are a welcome delight. The Koreans rely heavily on rice and kimchi, a highly-spiced cabbage dish.
None of this information was necessary, but it was interesting and it took my mind away from our immediate crisis. In the future I would have enough dangers and opportunities.
After my interpreter went back to the ROK Army, I was sent a young civilian to interview. "What would you like me to call you?" I asked. He said, "My Christian name is Paul." I responded, "That is appropriate. Paul was a Roman soldier for a time before he was on the Road to Damascus." He said, "I am not that Paul. I believe in the teachings of Jesus more than what Paul wrote." This Paul was an intelligent, thoughtful, cheerful, and sincere nineteen year old. I found him to be a dedicated Christian, a product of the Korean Presbyterian Church. He saw all killings as a sin and thought all war was evil. He wanted peace and harmony. "Why are you willing to be an interpreter for the American military?" I asked. He said, "The Communists are Godless. I want all of my countrymen to have the opportunity to learn of the salvation that Jesus has given us. I do not want Korea to be a Godless country. I hope the American can prevent this." I told him, "But, you know we will be killing those Koreans who are Communists." He said, "I know that, but I will not. I will not be carrying a weapon, and I will kill no one." I said, "Okay. That is up to you. I will never ask you to do anything your Christian convictions tell you not to do. All that I ask is that you give me accurate translations. We will always try to protect you, but this is a dangerous world and you might have to protect yourself some day." Then I went on, "Paul, I am also a Christian and I also hate war. Probably I am not as good a Christian as you since I am a sheepdog." He said nothing, but his face told me he did not understand my analogy. I told him, "As I see it, there are wolves in this world. They are evil and cause conflict and war. There are also many sheep who desire peace and a happy life. But the sheep cannot insure peace since the wolves destroy them. It is the sheepdogs which insure peace, for they keep the wolves at bay." Paul responded, "I guess I'm a Sheep," Thus started our relationship, which was meaningful for both of us.
The night probes against the 1st Battalion become more intense. It was clear that the enemy was moving through the gaps between units, therefore a major repositioning of the 35th Infantry was made. A ROK company was placed between the 1st and 2nd battalions. Love ("L") Company, formerly "C" Company, was attached to the 1st Battalion and given responsibility for the main road. "I" Company, formerly "A" Company, and "K" Company, formerly "B" Company, took up positions on either side of the main road, but two miles behind the forward defensive positions. Headquarters Company of the 3rd Battalion, 35th, formerly the 1st Battalion, 29th, joined the artillery along the road in what became known as "Happy Valley."
The main road and railroad from Chinju to Masan and then Pusan ran through a valley east of Chungam-ni. It started at the junction with the road to Haman. It contained the village of Sinson-ni (Saga). To the north of the valley was the Sanin-Myon hill mass. We called it "Happy Valley" because we were not fighting and we had lost no one since the battle of Chungam-ni Pass on 2 August. We hoped this would continue, however the firing of the artillery at all hours was a loud reminder that beyond our valley all was not happy.
By this time the battalion was battle-hardened. Sergeants and lieutenants practiced tough love. They expected no nonsense and they allowed none, and soldiers knew the importance of self-discipline. Dead and decaying bodies were no longer a novelty. Everyone knew that anyone might provide information to the enemy and knew that, when in doubt, shoot to kill. We knew there would be other attempts to take Pusan and that there would be a major assault in our sector. We had intelligence that the enemy had infiltrated between the units on the front line and were in the hills all around us. We did not know how many enemies there were, nor which of the civilians were their agents.
These hills were covered with pine and alder. While it was not difficult to walk in these woods since the slopes were not great and the undergrowth was not thick, the visibility was very limited. Patrols should have been sent into these hills to determine exactly who was there. But Americans preferred to stick to the roads. They did not yet understand the importance of patrolling, nor had they made night their friend. The front line units were often probed at night. On the roads some vehicles were attacked, but neither the regimental units near Chirwon, nor our headquarters in "Happy Valley" were attacked.
At dusk we could sit on the steps of the schoolhouse in which we were living to look across a peaceful, beautiful, restful landscape. It was still dry and hot, but not like it had been during the Task Force Kean operations. Only a few Koreans remained in the valley and they usually stayed indoors. The artillery for the whole area was located in the valley with us and the roar of the howitzers echoed throughout the night. Yet it was still a happy and relaxed period compared to what we had experienced during our first two weeks in Korea.
One morning I received word that the 1st Battalion had been attacked several times during the night. Since our Love Company was attached to that battalion, I thought I should go up to find out what had really happened. I went to Major Woolfolk and asked if I could go. He said, "No, I need you here." The 1st Battalion was just over two miles up the road. I knew the trip would take about half an hour. I really wasn't doing anything. Thinking perhaps he really didn't mean he did not want me to go, I came back a short while later and asked again. He said, "I told you no." I was annoyed by what I considered the denial of a most reasonable request. I called my driver, Tharp. Together we went to a nearby stream and took a swim. I just cleared my mind—I guess it was a form of meditation. I enjoyed the water and the hot sun. It was very hot—much like San Antonio in the summer. We must have spent almost two hours swimming and washing our clothes. When I returned to the Command Post, I had only entered the door when Major Woolfolk casually glanced over my way and asked, "How are things up front?" I replied, "I don't know, Sir." He looked straight at me and in a stern voice said, "What do you mean you don't know?" I said, "I can't know, Sir, because I didn't go up to the front. I went swimming." He asked, "Why didn't you go?" and I said, "Because you told me not to, Sir." He then went back to whatever he had been doing. Nothing more was ever said. From that time on, however, he relied more on me.
The 35th Infantry Regiment would soon earn a Presidential Unit Citation for the defense of its sector of the Pusan Perimeter.
Chapter Nine - The 25th Division Wins: 29 August-15 September
29-31 August 1950
Despite two months of air attacks seeking to deteriorate the re-supply of the North Korean Army, ammunition, food, guns, tanks and replacements were still getting to units facing the Pusan perimeter on 29 August. Much of the movement to the south was done at night. The ROK Army had been rebuilt to 91,000 men and it was no longer the rabble of 22,000 south of the Han two months earlier. Espionage had been reduced by greater security consciousness and by a policy of shooting anyone moving around military units at night.
On 29 August, I noticed the fields on both sides of the road I was traveling were crushed. I was en route from King ("K") Company to regimental headquarters near Chirwon. The crushed fields created a path about six feet wide. Looking west I could only follow the path a few hundred yards, but in my mind I could see where it went. It would pass between the position of the ROK Company and that of Golf ("G") Company, 2nd Battalion. Looking east, I saw that the path went toward the Sanin-Myon hill mass in the middle of the 35th Infantry Regiment area. There could only be one explanation--larger numbers of enemy troops had infiltrated to our rear during the night. Of course, I had no way of knowing why. Were they going to establish roadblocks? Were they going to attack our supply units? Were they part of a future offensive by the North Koreans? Nor did I know how many of the enemy walked that path during the night.
I went on to the Regimental CP (Command Post) south of Chirwon. I told the S-2 what I had seen and expressed my concern. He thanked me, but expressed no interest in checking it out. I told others, but I could generate no concern or even get someone to go with me to look at the path. I returned to the 3rd Battalion CP. On two overlays I drew three big red circles in the center of the regimental area over Sanin-Myon. I wrote in red inside these circles the numbers 1,000, 500, and 300. I posted one on the map at the battalion and sent the other up to regimental headquarters. I then went outside, looked around at the beautiful scenery, picked up a paperback, and started to read. About two hours later, Major Woolfolk came over and said angrily, "What the hell do you think you are doing? Regiment just called me and wants to know where we got this information about all of the enemy around here." I said, "Oh, those numbers? That's just my estimate of the enemy situation." He said, "I see. But where did you get the information?" I told him about the path I had seen. He left without saying a word.
The next day (30 August), my analysis was partially confirmed. A group of cooks was ambushed while bringing hot food from the trains area near the Regimental CP to one of the companies. This took place on the road I had used the previous day. Two of the cooks escaped, but heard the screams of those being tortured. They got to the nearest American unit and told what had happened. A relief team was sent, but by the time they reached the ambush site the North Koreans had gone and only the rest of the mess group remained. All were dead. I arrived ten minutes after the relief team, but before the bodies had been moved. Their hands were tied behind them. They were all shot in the back of the head. Some had their tongues cut out. Others had their feet cut off. The head cook had been castrated and his testicles were stuffed in his mouth.
It is compassionate to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. This is a teaching of many religions. However, unless all of those involved share moral and ethical convictions, it is naive to think that others will do unto you as you do unto them. In such situations you will probably be the victim of your own compassion before others change their ways.
What is torture? Politicians, lawyers and human rights activists have given us several definitions. But these are only expressions of how they would like things to be. These definitions are an idealized vision of what some think civilized conduct should be. They are an expression of the utopian goal of universal "rule of law," but they fail to realistically describe torture. Torture is action that causes permanent physical damage to a person from an attempt to compel compliance, to influence others, or from sadism. Anything else is only an appropriate technique used to collect intelligence. To think that if you are peaceful and compassionate others will be the same is the "Pacifist's Fallacy" that I mentioned earlier. There are evil people in this world. There are those who use fear as a tactic in order to weaken the will of an opponent.
Too often those with unrealistic views of torture confuse aggressive interrogation techniques and torture. Those with experience in interrogation should make the decisions on which techniques are effective and which are not. Politicians, lawyers, and human rights activists should never be allowed to determine which interrogation techniques are appropriate. To do this will result in unnecessary deaths and an inability to counter threats to national security.
Those who dream of a utopian world of love, peace, and harmony never can understand real torture. For them, torture is a horror to be avoided, ignored, and outlawed. They refuse to recognize that torture has long been one aspect of the human condition that has often been used by evil ones to achieve some goals or desire. They are unable to distinguish interrogation to save lives from the actions of evil ones and torture by evil ones. They are unable to distinguish those techniques which do no permanent physical harm from those techniques that do cause permanent physical harm.
The Attack to Breakthrough to Pusan: 1 September 1950
At the end of August the commander of the Inmun Gun (NKPA), General Kim Chaik, launched the largest offensive ever conducted by the North Korean People's Army. During the early morning hours of 1 September, the 6th North Korean Division and 7th North Korean Division attacked in the sector of the 25th Division in an attempt to reach Pusan. At least three North Korean battalions were already miles behind the front defensive positions of the 25th Division when this attack began.
The attack started as soon as it got dark on 31 August with the 7th North Korean Division crossing the Nam River, using underwater fords a mile in front of the ROK Company attached to the 35th Infantry Regiment. At the same time, the 6th North Korean Division moved up to the vicinity of Chungam-ni. The initial assault was by the 6th North Korean Division against "F" Company, 24th Regiment just south of Love ("L") Company, 35th Infantry Regiment. This was quickly followed by attacks just north of the main road against the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry to which Love was attached.
At the same time, the 7th North Korean Division attacked the ROK Company between the 1st and 2nd battalions. For several hours hundreds of the North Korean soldiers were killed both by the infantrymen and artillery in front of these defensive positions. By 0400 (1 September) the ROK Company had run to the rear and the 7th North Korean Division was flowing through their abandoned positions. This resulted in "G" Company, just north of the ROK Company, being surrounded by soldiers of the 7th North Korean Division. At dawn US tanks counterattacked through the fog to contain the enemy that had flowed through the ROK positions.
The penetration was just as bad on the left (south) flank of the 35th Infantry Regiment. The 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment broke and was streaming to the rear and the 6th North Korean Division moved through the abandoned positions. This made the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry an island in a sea of enemy, with "I" Company and "K" Company becoming the "front lines."
The term "front lines" had little meaning during these days and nights. The artillery in Happy Valley was assaulted by troops that came down from the Sanin-Myon hill mass. Artillerymen are usually behind the front and are not engaged in up-close and personal firefights. But this was not true on the first two days of September 1950. The North Koreans were fighting throughout the regimental area. Two artillery units in Happy Valley were overrun. The gunners pulled their firing lanyards to provide fire support to the front line over a mile away. At the same time they were throwing hand grenades and shooting at those only yards away. Our CP was never actually assaulted, although those within a few hundred yards were. For all of 1 September there were firefights throughout the regimental area with both North Korean soldiers and their South Korean supports. The 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry held its positions during 1 and 2 September. Further north, on the other side of the Naktong River, the 2nd Division was fighting a desperate battle that would continue until 5 September.
By daylight 1 September, members of the 24th Regiment and ROK soldiers were pouring past our CP in Happy Valley. The enemy controlled Haman and most of the area forward of the defensive positions of "I" Company and "K" Company except that actually occupied by the 1st and 2nd battalions. "I" Company and "K" Company, with tank support, spent all day of 1 September clearing out the area between their positions and the positions held by the 1st Battalion. Before dark on 1 September, "K" Company took over the old ROK company position, and the rest of the 3rd Battalion in Happy Valley moved to the old "K" Company position. On 1 September the 1st Battalion, 27th Regiment, with extensive use of aircraft from the carriers Valley Forge and Philippine Sea, counterattacked to retake the positions lost by the 24th Regiment. They drove the enemy out of Haman and by noon on 2 September had regained all positions lost by the 24th Regiment.
Continuation of the Battle on 2 and 3 September 1950
In the early hours of 2 September the North Koreans sent more troops through the gap between the 1st and 2nd battalions in order to continue the attacks on "G" Company and "E" Company. The enemy attempted to dislodge "G" Company for 38 hours. As the division commander said, "If those men had not held the high ground, the breach in our line would have been widened and the enemy could have poured through in a flanking move to threaten our entire front."
On 2 and 3 September the enemy already in the rear area attacked the closest units, including the 64th Field Artillery in Happy Valley. Americans in all branches (engineers, ordnance, transportation, quartermaster, signal, etc.) found themselves engaged in the close combat usually associated with infantrymen. On 2 September Colonel Henry G. Fisher, commander of the 35th Infantry, came to our positions and compared the dead in the paddies in front of the defensive positions of the 35th Infantry Regiment to the slaughter he had seen of the Germans at Falaise Gap during World War II. He then told us, "I never intended to withdraw. There was no place to go." This was true for all of the 35th Infantry Regiment.
On 3 September the enemy had been cleaned up in the area of the 35th Infantry Regiment but the 24th Regiment to our south was still having trouble near Haman. A 155-mm Howitzer, known as the "Little Professor," was moved up into the defensive area of one of our rifle companies. This was to allow its 11-mile range to reach deep into the enemy's rear. Although we did not know it at the time, the North Koreans had moved the 5th North Korean Division up to support the attacks in our area. All of this fighting provided a large number of prisoners. I noted a change in the NKPA. Also, many of those who had infiltrated to our rear areas before 1 September and local guerrillas were still active. Some of the enemy fighters were women. In fact, on 3 September it was a woman who murdered four members of a radio relay station surprised by a group of local guerrillas. They tied up the Americans, looked through the station, and then the woman shot all four.
On 4 September the briefing officer said that the 25th Division had killed or wounded at least 12,000 of the enemy since 31 August. The 35th Infantry Regiment was to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for what it did on 1-3 September 1950.
Task Force Woolfolk
The 24th Regiment did not perform well. It was composed of all colored (as blacks were called then) soldiers. It collapsed on the night of 31 August. General Kean had the 27th Regiment retake the ridge, which was then given back to what remained of the 24th Regiment. A company from the 5th Regiment was also brought in to round up stragglers every night and take them back to their units in the morning. On 14 September the 6th North Korean Division again attempted to gain control of Battle Mountain.
The next morning Task Force Woolfolk was formed to remove the enemy from Battle Mountain. For this task force, Major Woolfolk used the Heavy Weapons and Headquarters companies of the 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment; "A" Company, 27th Regiment; "I" Company, 35th Infantry Regiment; and a company of combat engineers which was now fighting as Infantry.
All day the three infantry companies moved up the mountain against stiff resistance, but they had limited success. "A" Company, 27th Regiment did make it to the top of one ridge of Battle Mountain and set up a defensive position. Almost immediately they were attacked. All afternoon they beat off the attacks, but toward dark their ammunition was running low and they had many casualties. I was on the radio when the Company Commander called to explain the situation. His conversation ended with, "I do not think we can hold off another attack. I can hear them forming up now. I think we need to pull back from this ridge to a small knob down the slope. That way I can make sure my wounded will not be captured." Of course, we all knew what these North Korean did to Americans they captured. I stepped over to Major Woolfolk. I heard rifle shots of the enemy attack and on the radio I heard the company commander. "We've got to get out of here. If I don't get my wounded out now, they are all going to be killed," he shouted frantically. I turned and looked at Major Woolfolk and said, "What do you want me to tell him?" He replied, "I'm not going to be a butcher just to save my own neck. Get them back!" For this he was relieved of his command of the task force and we went back to the battalion. It was renamed Task Force Blair for the new commander, Major Melvin R. Blair.
The fight for Battle Mountain continued, but Task Force Blair was never able to hold the highest ridge. The task force was finally withdrawn. Nevertheless, the enemy on Battle Mountain was never able to move. They just stayed in the mine tunnels and threatened no one. They were just ignored.
Command requires both courage and judgment. It requires someone with the inner compass to be able to do the right rather than the self-serving wrong. All good commanders think of both the mission and their men. To accomplish one at the expense of the other is to fail. Good commanders have the judgment to know how to be faithful to both. Anyone can be given the authority to send men to their death, but only a select few are good commanders.
Unknown to us, Marines were landing at Inch'on on 15 September. In six days we would breakout of the Pusan Perimeter in a counterattack that would take us back to Chinju and beyond. Here we would learn what the North Koreans had done after they gained control.
Chapter Ten - Lull Between the Storms: 15-21 September
15 September 1950 Update
After the dramatic struggles of the first two weeks of September there were a few days of relative calm for the 3rd Battalion before moving up Korea. However, reports from other units about treatment of American wounded and prisoners were most disturbing. It became clear that the atrocities committed by the NKPA and their local Communist supporters, which we had observed, were typical of what had been done throughout the September offensive. Americans were repeatedly tortured and killed in the most barbaric ways. This must have been intentional as a tactic that they thought would break our will since so many different units reported such barbarism.
One of the tragedies of this Forgotten War is that real torture and wanton killing of political opponents, which the North Koreans did again and again, has been forgotten. Worse yet, some lump this barbarism together with legitimate and necessary aggressive interrogation techniques. The elevation of compassion, understanding and tolerance above principle, dedication and aggressiveness is the cardinal sign of the decline and decay of any group. Yet also is the absence of an inner compass which allows individuals to distinguish barbarism from self-preservation, torture from interrogation, and sadism from heroism.
On 15 September 1950 the US X Corps conducted Operation Chromite, a landing on the west coast at Inch'on--the port of Seoul. However, we did not move up Korea until 21 September.
Beacon in the Night
Normally we would place our battalion headquarters in a building. The Headquarters Company Commander, Captain Donald McGraw, would find a temple, school, or house a short distance behind the rifle companies. But after we moved out of Happy Valley on 1 September, we were actually in a defensive position just like a rifle company. There were no buildings. We were using a tent for the battalion Command Post (CP). It sat on the backside of a small knob surrounded by Headquarters Company and a tank platoon.
From 1 September until 20 September everyone knew there were enemy patrols and stragglers outside our defensive positions. At night they were moving about. Sometimes they were seeking to avoid contact and sometimes they were seeking someone to kill. Having the enemy all around us each night resulted in tank-led sweeps being conducted each morning.
I had grown to like and admire Major Woolfolk. He was not friendly or gregarious. He was always the Battalion Commander. He was a knowledgeable, hardworking, intense, manipulative, up-tight military professional. I did not consider him an infantryman. I thought he would be more suited for the staff of a larger headquarters than for leading men in combat. But we always knew where we stood with him and what he expected from us. And he was one of the type of officer the Army needs--trustworthy, honest, dedicated, and capable.
One night we were in the CP tent talking, joking around, and telling stories. There was no activity, therefore all we had to do was answer the phone as the negative reports were called in. There was a lot of laughter. Captain Don McGraw came through the tent door flap and said, "Thanks for the help." I said, "For what?" He replied, "It's dark as a cave out there. I went out to relieve myself and on the return I could not see the tent. But I sure heard you!" Someone said, " So the blackout is working?" He replied, "It sure is. Not a speck of light. But Sam's laugh was a homing beacon—direct to the tent." We all had a laugh. Then back to our bull session. In about ten minutes the Major came in, sat down, and turned to me. "Holliday, you are going to have to quit that laughing or stay out of this tent at night—it is dangerous. Every North Korean within two miles will be down on us." From then on I tried to keep my laughter subdued—no doubt with limited success since my two nicknames were "Smilin' Sam" and "Laughing Boy." But I did my best, since I did not want to jeopardize the safety of the battalion.
Soldiers of the NKPA
I noticed a change in the soldiers of the Inmun Gun (NKPA or North Korean People's Army) captured after the 1 September attacks. Those captured at the first battle of Chungam-ni Pass had fought all of the way down from North Korea. They were either North Koreans or Korean-extraction veterans of the Chinese Communist Forces that were returned to North Korea in June 1950. They were well-trained, experienced, disciplined soldiers. Many of those captured after the attacks of 1 September were conscripts. They lacked the training, skills, or equipment of those who had crossed the 38th parallel on 25 June.
Most had been idealistic young men who had joined the NKPA because they wanted to unite Korea under a socialist regime. They wanted equality more than freedom. They expected government to take from the rich and to give to the poor. They thought in terms of a collective rather than in terms of the individual. They were seeking a redeemer to give them protection from economic, social, and psychological distress. Kim Il-sung was a mirror, a channel, a voice, and the very depth of the Korean soul. He offered absolution from the sin of being Korean--who both Japanese and Chinese considered inferior. There was no reason or logic behind their feelings. No faults or flaws of the generalissimo, president of the North Korean People's Republic, could diminish their feelings, and no arguments were effective against it. Those who came from South Korea wanted to rid their country of the wealthy landowners and the corrupt politicians controlled by foreigners. However, by the time of their capture, most realized that their idealism had turned them into cannon fodder, and their capture was a welcome escape.
The local guerrillas were cut from the same cloth, yet they had not yet realized how the Communist utopia was being used to manipulate them. These guerrillas, about a fourth of which were women, were political activists. They had done whatever they could to advance the Communist ideology and to destroy the Republic of Korea. They thought their guerrilla activities were just another means for advancing a noble cause.
How can you build a nation of free, independent humans with people like this? I noticed similarities in the psychology of these willing Oriental pawns of the political left and those of Western pawns of the political right under Hitler and Mussolini. Why did they seek a utopia through a centralized government and give to the state their ultimate loyalty? Why were the inner compasses of these people of the left and the right so similar and so in contrast with those of most Americans? Was there any hope for a republic with limited governmental powers with people like this? Why were they motivated by emotions and feelings while ignoring facts and reason? I only had questions. It would be many years before I found answers.
Failure to Understand Inundation
Although the 35th Infantry Regiment had been successful in defending its portion of the Pusan Perimeter on 1-3 September, the losses of many US units throughout 1950 reflected a lack of understanding of a basic maneuver used by the North Koreans. The enemy would rarely attempt a Penetration. The initial attack was usually a secondary attack. They would probe to find any weak spots and gaps. Then they would move around the flanks or move through any gaps. At the same time they would establish roadblocks to the rear of the unit being attacked. Most of their damage to US units was done during withdrawal rather than during the initial attack. Since Inundation was not taught in US military schools, it was necessary to learn by experience—often at a very heavy cost.
I raised this issue in 1963 with ‘Inundation: A basic maneuver that shouldn't be ignored' (Army, Vol. 13, No. 6, January 1963, pages 29-32). Before and during World War I this maneuver was called ‘infiltration.' However, infiltration lost any meaning as a form of maneuver. Infiltration became only the method used by individuals or groups to move undetected through enemy positions. Inundation is something different. Inundation is a form of offensive maneuver launched simultaneously against enemy positions. It flows past strong points in the form of self-contained units to strike any weakness discovered. It can be contrasted with Penetration (the main attack seeks to rupture) and Envelopment (the main attack is against a flank).
No doubt the performance of US forces in Korea would have been much better if Inundation had been understood. Unfortunately, to this day it is not taught in US military schools. However, many of our potential enemies around the world understand the maneuver of Inundation.
Everyone's view of what should be is shaped by personal experience. Therefore, my views of the Intelligence failures in the Korean War are no doubt shaped by the fact that I was a battalion S-2. "Where you stand depends on where you sit." Nevertheless, in less than a month as a battalion S-2 I had seen much evidence of one-way information. And for the rest of my time in Korea I would see more evidence of the same.
The staffs of large headquarters are very concerned about getting as much information as they can. Correctly they know that the more information they get the better their intelligence on the enemy is likely to be. However, they have few incentives for pushing information down. Also, they rely too much on what they receive from above. Their primary concern is to provide intelligence to their commander. This means that those at the point of the spear know very little about the enemy situation beyond their immediate environment.
It would be equally dysfunctional to attempt to push all information down since that would result in overload at the lower levels. It is a question of judgment, and good command depends on good judgment more than anything else. Nevertheless, it is essential that information about movement of major enemy forces be pushed down to those who will have to face that enemy.
As unprepared as the two battalions of the 29th Infantry Regiment were on their arrival in Korea, it is clear that many of their casualties could have been prevented and that the Eighth Army would have had combat ready units sooner with more accurate intelligence. It is impossible for those at the lowest level to generate such intelligence. Much of it must be pushed down. Also, it is critical that false information not be pushed down from higher headquarters.
Inch'on Aftermath: 15-20 September 1950
US 1st Marine Division and US Army 7th Division landed at Inch'on on 15 September, and within twenty-four hours had moved far enough to prevent artillery fire on the port area. By 19 September the 1st Marine Division was in the outskirts of Seoul and the 7th Division had cut the supply routes of the North Korean Peoples Army south of Seoul. This was to fundamentally change the Korean War.
The 8th Army planned an offensive to coincide with the landing at Inch'on. The plan was simple. The main attack would be a penetration along the Taegu-Taejon-Suwon route. It started on 18 September and by 20 September the Inmun Gun (NKPA) was in full retreat west of Taegu. With the success of the main attack, it was time for an envelopment maneuver around the left flank. On 21 September the 25th Division returned to Chungam-ni Pass (The Notch) where the 6th North Korean Division had first been stopped on 2 August.
It was a relief to escape the constant concern that anytime we were out of a company defensive position we might have to face an enemy with a gun who wanted to kill us. We anticipated seeing again some of the places we had been during our first days in Korea. But none of us were prepared for what we were to learn about what the Communists did when they controlled much of South Korea.
Chapter Eleven - Up to Taejon (25 September-3 October 1950)
An Incident on Chinju Hill
After crossing the Nan River the 3rd Battalion was initially in the southeastern part of the city, but in the afternoon of 25 September it relieved the 2nd Battalion on the hills overlooking the city from the east. The companies were assigned their defensive positions and they were preparing for the night.
About an hour before dark I saw “Honcho”, the South Korean interpreter for one of the company commanders, walk by the battalion CP (Command Post) with three prisoners. Their hands were tied, and they had tattered uniforms and downcast faces. Thinking he was bringing them to me for interrogation, I called to him, “Honcho, I’m over here.” He answered, “Yes Sir. How are you this evening?”, but he continued with the prisoners. “Where are you taking them?”, I asked. “To village,” he replied. “To the village? Wait a minute,” I said. He stopped and the prisoners stopped. I continued, “What for?” He answered in a matter-of-fact tone, "To kill them." I was stunned, but I managed to ask, “Who told you to?” He replied, “Captain.” I questioned him, for I thought there must be some miscommunication. I wanted to know exactly what was said, when it was said, and why. He stuck to his story that the Captain had told him to take them into Chinju, to find someone who had a relative killed by the North Koreans, and to give the prisoners to that person so the “score could be settled.” I said, “Just give them to me, Honcho. I’ll take care of everything.” I took the prisoners and Honcho left. I turned the three prisoners over to my men to be processed in the normal manner.
The Captain was a good friend. He was a colorful, aggressive, macho man who was loved by his soldiers. He was able to get the maximum from them. He was a great leader--a take-charge kind of guy. Some considered him egotistic. He was courageous and brave. We had enjoyed many good times together at the Officers Club in Okinawa. We had gone to glider school in Japan together and had managed to spend an extra week in Tokyo. He was someone I felt I could always trust, and we had been through a lot together since we arrived in Korea on 24 July. I thought I should go down to see the Captain and check this out personally. I found him in his company area. I said, “Why did you send Honcho to kill those prisoners?” His eyes narrowed, his lips tightened, and he angrily snapped at me, “I didn’t!”
I realized that I had made a mistake by not getting him alone before I asked him about this situation, but it was now too late. I would never get to the truth—whatever it might be. “No f---- staff weenie is going to come down to my company and talk to me that way. I run this company and I’ll do what I damn well please!” I replied, “You sure as hell won’t go around killing prisoners as long as I can prevent it.” My words were equal to his in passion and tone. Other heated words passed between us as he made the point that he was yet to receive any worthwhile intelligence from me. I added a few unkind words about murderers.
I told no one about this incident. We never discussed it again. After several days the incident seemed to have been forgotten, yet we never were as close as we had been. After Korea we did not see each other for twenty years. One day in Vietnam, again in the 25th Division but then as full colonels not captains, we did meet and were able to hug each other as long lost brothers.
What the North Koreans Did
As we liberated cities, towns, and villages in southwest Korea, it became clear what the North Koreans had done when they controlled this region. They had come as conquerors prepared to eliminate the republican form of government and to replace it with a socialist collective under a supreme ruler. The Communists had established a fifth column throughout South Korea long before the North Korean Peoples Army (NKPA) crossed the 38th parallel. As soon as the NKPA gained control of any location, the former officials were jailed and local members of their fifth column were installed as a new government. It made no difference that most of the people were anti-Communist, the Communists quickly assumed control. Then they moved against the wealthy in the name of equality for all people. Many moneylenders and wealthy landowners were executed as soon as they were identified. Those who had worked for Americans were executed. There were no trials—the word of members of the fifth column was enough. They had no plan to convert people to Communism. Rather, the plan was to eliminate anyone who could not readily be assimilated into a socialist collective.
The new government at all levels collected “enemies of the people” and led them to mass graves, hands bound, wired to each other. They were shot. This was all done for a purpose. Lesson Learned: North Korean Cruelty. It was not because the North Koreans were cruel or sadistic. It was because they wanted power. They were eliminating those they could never trust. The Communists were just being efficient. This was the easiest, quickest, and cheapest way to achieve centralized authority. In their eyes it was “the rule of law.” Of course, the law centralized power in a socialist collective.
The other aspect of the Communists' plan was to gain the support of the disadvantaged. They constantly claimed to be the defender of peasants as a collective whole. They would take from the rich and give to the poor. The NKPA was careful to pay the poor any time they required food or lodging. Being an individual was to be eliminated, and centralized authority of some revered person was the only solution. Koreans had always known harsh rule, so what the North Koreans offered was just more of the same. A union of sovereign individuals with limits on government was a strange alien idea. It was easy for them to understand a totalitarian state governing a united Korea, with equality for all, as a utopia worth working and dying for. They viewed this as true democracy.
Back to Where It All Started
Led by the 89th Tank Battalion, we returned to Hamyang on 27 September. I went over to see Lt. Colonel Welborn G. Dolvin to let him know that I had been up the road he was going to travel. He was delighted to talk with someone who actually knew the terrain.
On the road from Chinju to Hamyang we met no real resistance. There were a few mines. We caught up with some enemy fleeing north, but most of them were only on the roads at night. There were far more flag-waving civilians. Probably many of those waving were North Korean soldiers who had slipped into civilian clothes as they headed home. By the time we reached Namwon, only the flag wavers remained. In Namwon we freed 80 Americans from the local jails. Although the North Korean military did not keep prisoners, they had turned a few over to the locals to keep in their jails.
At Iri we stopped for a break. We heard that the 1st Calvary Division had linked up with the 7th Division south of Suwon. Many of the North Korean stragglers had fled into the Chiri-san mountain mass, which had been a stronghold of Communists for years. Later we were to learn that over 3,000 soldiers of the 6th North Korean and 7th North Korean divisions, our old nemeses from the Pusan Perimeter, had taken refuge in these mountains. UN forces were close to the 38th Parallel.
When we reached Taejon, I passed by the trenches where the bodies of over 600 South Korean civilians and police were laid out. All had been murdered. The stench of death was overpowering. People were moving among the bodies with their noses covered, trying to identify relatives. I was told 35 bodies of Americans were identified.
On 1 October General MacArthur demanded the surrender of North Korea. Kim Il Sung did not reply. On 2 October South Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel on the east coast near Yangyang. Our next mission was to capture stragglers and to defeat local guerrillas who controlled many of mountains south and east of Taejon.
Chapter Twelve - Okchon and Hamch'ang: 3-21 October 1950
As the battle lines moved north, the 25th Division remained in the vicinity of Taejon to mop up stragglers. The 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment was initially sent to the Okchon area and then to the mountains west of Hamch'ang. Finally the battalion was sent to the Chinsan-Kunsan area to fight guerrillas in that mountainous region which had long been known as a Communist stronghold.
Capturing the Enemy Near Okchon
In Okchon we attempted to capture soldiers who were trying to find their way back home after fighting in the Pusan Perimeter. They were moving in small groups. After two weeks in the hills these soldiers of the NKPA were weary and hungry. While near Okchon, the 3rd Battalion was credited with the capture of 1374 enemy soldiers during a six-day period. We captured more than we could handle. However, our first days were not fruitful.
At first our patrols would wander over the hills searching, but they saw none of the hundreds of North Korean soldiers that the South Koreans reported to be there. I concluded that the enemy could spot our patrols first and would merely step off of the trail they were using into the brush. There they would hide until our patrol had passed. Not only were these soldiers hungry and weary, but they had been defeated. Their aim was to get back home, not to fight. I thought many might also be disillusioned with the utopian goals of communism.
We knew that many of the North Korean soldiers had changed into civilian clothing. How were our soldiers to tell the difference between those South Koreans living in that area and the North Koreans and South Korans who had been in the NKPA? I decided that we had to get the support of the locals, so I turned to the police chief who had just returned to Okchon. At this time the chief of police was also acting mayor of the city of Okchon and acting governor of the district. He was in full agreement. "Good. Whatever you say Captain," he said. "We work together. I send people with you. What we do? When we start?" I told him I didn't think it would do much good to send his people with our patrols. I had another plan. I told him, "I want you to send local people out in civilian clothes. No uniforms. If they meet any strangers in the hills, just tell them what they have seen. Say, 'Americans are crazy! They give food to everyone. They even give the Communists rice and cigarettes. How can anyone treat enemies like that? They are crazy!'" The police chief/mayor/governor thought it was a good idea. We discussed some other details of the plan. "Never suggest that the Communists surrender," I said. "I do not want the North Koreans to lose face. Just offer to show them where they can get rice, other good things to eat, and cigarettes."
In a few days we filled all the jails in the district and our soldiers were very happy that they did not have to go out to walk for hours through the hills. It would have been good if our soldiers knew how to conduct surveillance without being seen, but we did not have time for them to learn such skills. They were infantrymen trained to shoot and conditioned to kill or be killed. It was finally estimated that at least 3,000 stragglers from the 6th and 7th North Korean divisions, plus 2,000 from other divisions, had attempted to move through the 25th Division's area while we were there. It was good to know that our battalion had captured a far greater number than anyone else.
Local Young Communists
While we were interested in capturing the soldiers of the NKPA, I found out that the police chief was more interested in getting those who had helped the North Koreans while they occupied his district. They had identified former officials, rich landowners, and political supporters of the Republic of Korea. They had helped run governmental affairs for the North Koreans. He had 32 of them in the Okchon jail, eleven of which were women. He asked if I would like to talk with them.
I found them to be very different from the soldier stragglers. I had no way of knowing if they had done the things the police chief said they did. They might just be his political opponents. However, I did get a good feel for whom they were. They were dedicated Communists. They were well-educated and young—eighteen to twenty-six. They hated Americans and thought we were preventing a united Korea of, by, and for the Koreans. They understood the ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence, but did not think we wanted others to enjoy them. They wanted to know why we were fighting people we did not know. They believed in socialism. They thought capitalism exploited the poor for the benefit of the rich. They thought socialism was fair because no one would be poor and no one would be rich. They had not considered if it would really work or not. They did not like me. They wanted to know why I was there. They wanted to unite Korea under communism, and saw America, and me, as preventing that noble goal.
I found that we had some things in common. I, too, wanted the best for the Korean people. They claim to value the principles advocated by the Founders of the United States. I am dedicated to what I think is right, and so were they. Yet they hated America—and me by extension. They would have killed me if they could.
After several hours of talking with them through my interpreter Paul, I thanked the police chief and started to leave. He asked me directly, "You want to take her?" He pointed to one of the younger women. Although she had been a prisoner for several days and was obviously not at her best, she was still very lovely. I smiled and said, "No thanks." I turned to leave. He followed and said. "Maybe I give the women to your soldiers? They do what they like." Clearly there was some miscommunication. I knew that the police chief spoke English, but I pulled my interpreter Paul over to me, got face-to-face with the police chief, and said, "I do not want any Americans to touch any of these women." Translation. "I want you to protect all of the prisoners." Translation. "If you do not," I said as I pulled my .45 out of its holster, "I will come over here and shoot you." Translation. "Oh yes, Captain," he said. "Don't you worry! I take good care of them." I turned and left.
That night I wondered what that lovely young woman was doing. I was sure that she was very sad, but not because she had to remain in prison. After all, I had denied her the opportunity to kill an American officer. I am sure this was something she would have done anything to accomplish.
We next moved into the mountains to the west of Hamch'ang (Kansho). Here we had the same job as before, but with none of the previous success. In many ways our time in the mountains west of Hamch'ang was much better than in Okchon. It was more scenic. We attempted to use the same techniques that had proven to be so successful in Okchon, but captured very few NKPA soldiers. It was primarily a good break. The food was the best that we had had since we left Okinawa. We got vehicles and equipment repaired or replaced. We got some new personnel. Major James Lee took command of the battalion.
Without radios or newspapers we really did not know much of what was going on outside of our battalion. We did not really know even what the rest of the division was doing, except we knew they were also attempting to capture the NKPA stragglers going north. We did know American and South Korean forces were moving through North Korea toward the Yalu River (China border), but we had no idea of what units were where or what they were doing. We knew nothing of the debates between MacArthur and Washington on how to conduct the war. And we certainly had no idea of what was going on in Peking or Washington.
Reflections on Behavior
Near Hamch'ang I had time to reflect. There was a small shrine (myo) on the side of the mountain above the battalion command post. It was only a short walk away. It was isolated, but had a beautiful view of the mountains. It was most tranquil at early morning twilight. I never saw anyone when I went there. The slopes were dark green and shadows, with fog low in the valleys. It might have been Southwestern Virginia late in the summer. I would also return as the sun sank behind the mountains to illuminate the clouds. Then there were far-away sounds in the still air. Yet I knew that hidden in all of this beauty there were those who wanted nothing more than to kill me. At the same time, the vastness of the sky and landscape rendered any individual insignificant. Yet I knew that the inner compass of each individual was more powerful than the majesty of nature that surrounded me. Here I was able to reflect on what I had observed during the past three months. In combat, behavior is raw and naked without most of the games, deceit, obfuscation, and camouflage of civil society.
In this shrine I came to some conclusions about behavior and developed a conceptual framework that allowed me to better understand human behavior, regardless of time, place or culture. My view started with the pursuit of happiness and flight from fear, but was also built on the opposites of Action and Thinking. I did not know if it would be of benefit to others, and I did not care. It allowed me to quickly evaluate the significance of what someone did or did not do.
To me it seemed that all of the human behavior I had observed since I came to Korea was the result of either the pursuit of happiness or flight from fear. Both are powerful motivators, yet the pursuit of happiness is the more complex. The brutal and horrifying actions of the North Koreans made fear real and personal. It clarified the Pacifists Fallacy. Also, the trauma of combat triggers a struggle with fear in the mind. Yet it was the various ways that people pursue happiness that I found more interesting.
Flight from fear is much less complex than the pursuit of happiness. It involves a direct struggle in the mind. You either overcome fear or it overcomes you. For everyone this struggle takes place in the here and now, but for some it also lasts after the combat. Those who win this struggle are considered courageous. Those who lose are considered cowards. For some the struggle also lasts after the trauma of combat. For a few who were unprepared for the reality of killing or being killed, the struggle with fear caused by combat lasts a lifetime. The outcome is dependent on both the training received and each individual's inner strength.
Having specific goals is the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of happiness, yet having specific goals is also essential to the realization of happiness. Too often individuals set goals that can be defined in terms of fame, fortune, status, and rectitude. The pursuit of such goals can bring happiness. In fact, if you have no such goals you will probably never achieve happiness. Nevertheless, such goals can also be the cause of great unhappiness, because they can rarely be achieved. Any time any level of fame, fortune, status, or rectitude is reached, there is another higher level. Therefore, each individual must learn to be thankful, content, and happy with whatever level of fame, fortune, status, or rectitude they have achieved through his or her own efforts in the pursuit of his or her bliss. Since this distinction is a very fine line, the most difficult aspect of the pursuit of happiness is finding the appropriate balance.
For individuals to be responsible for their behavior, they must at times reflect on why they behave as they do. If an individual is to be happy in the long run, he or she needs to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the different ways to pursue happiness. Too often an individual finds happiness or protection from threats through a specific behavior and will then keep repeating that behavior without realizing that he or she can achieve happiness through other behaviors. When this repetitive behavior is linked with dreams and desires, the result is addiction. Also, it is easy for an individual to believe that his or her way of achieving happiness is in some way superior to how others achieve happiness. This results in a "true believer." All true believers are extremists who have difficulty accepting those who do not think or act as they do. The bottom line is that attempts to achieve happiness or to escape fear will have bad outcomes when carried to the extreme.
The same relationship exists for another aspect of behavior: the two opposites Action and Thinking. Both are good behaviors, yet when either is taken to the extreme the outcomes are usually bad. Action is necessary to achieve goals. Reputations are made through Action. Action can result in either success or failure, and it is this fact that produces a high. Thus Action is the most visible form of behavior. But happiness through Action is short-lived. It lasts no longer than the action. Happiness from Action is only possible when there is stress--the higher the stress, the greater the exhilaration. However, Action alone can produce great unhappiness, and when carried to the extreme it leads to endless conflict and self-destruction.
Most behavior is related to experience. Not so Thinking. We do what we have been taught to do, have learned from experience, or in accordance with "common sense"--which is learning used to advance self-interest. However, if a person is to do the harder right rather than the easier wrong, that person must think. Thinking starts with ideas, but Thinking itself is the processing, dissecting, refining, and original application of those ideas. Ideas can come from listening or viewing, but new ideas usually come from reading. Thinking can be done in the mind alone, but usually it takes place during writing. Thinking provides openings to creativity, yet it is orderly, brooding, and lacks emotion. Therefore, Thinking taken to the extreme results in extinction through isolation and atrophy. For me, all of these aspects of behavior (pursuit of happiness, flight from fear, Action and Thinking) were neatly combined in Duty, Honor, Country.
The same truth is illustrated by the Christian view of sin. After all, each of the recognized seven deadly sins is something good taken to the extreme:
Trouble in Chinsan
Everything suggested an early end to the war and we expected to be out of Korea by Christmas. However, we kept getting reports of guerrillas south of Chinsan, which were really Communists insurgents of many years. Finally we got orders to move to Chinsan and were given a search and destroy mission. My time for reflection was replaced by the reality of combat.
Chapter Thirteen- Chinsan-Kunsan Area: 21-31 October 1950
In the Chinsan-Kunsan area we faced a much greater challenge than we had in Okchon or Hamch'ang. There we had been trying to capture soldiers who had been defeated and were trying to escape. In the mountains south of Chinsan we faced insurgents who had been active long before the North Koreans invaded the south. Here our enemy was armed and organized local communists. They knew the terrain and they were dedicated and ruthless. Fighting here in the mountains with narrow, winding roads, the insurgents—usually referred to as guerrillas—had a home-court advantage.
Terror and Torture as Tactics
Two trenches were found across a road west of Chinsan. The insurgents had dug them to stop our vehicles from going into an area that had long been a communist stronghold. The Pioneer and Ammunition (P&A) Platoon—which is the battalion's engineer and ammunition supply unit, plus a couple of squads of riflemen, were to be sent by trucks to fill in the trenches. I thought we should also send some men from the Intelligence Section to check out the area while they were working on the trenches. I sent my jeep with Sergeant Gausnell in charge, Paul (my interpreter), a driver, and one other soldier. I considered this a routine task that did not require me.
Gausnell had been with me on our first day of combat (27 July) with a BAR and had received a chest wound. Fortunately, a BAR magazine in a bandoleer he had around his neck took the bullet. His wound was large, but not deep, since the bullet was never able to enter his chest. The magazine had dug into his chest. After some stitches and a few weeks of bandages, he was completely recovered. He had proved to be a reliable and capable leader so I had him promoted to Sergeant. I put him in charge this time, just as I had done many times during the past two months. If I had not been busy with other things, I, not Gausnell, would have been in the front set of that jeep.
Paul was a young Presbyterian who became my interpreter after Lieutenant Kim, who was with me at the First Battle of Chungam-ni Pass (2 August), went to a South Korean division which was being reorganized. Paul was a dedicated Christian and a pacifist. He considered all killing sinful and thought all war was evil. He disliked all things military--as he had known them before the war. His ideal was a world of peace and love based on the teaching of Jesus. However, he thought the Communists were a greater evil than war and soldiers, and he knew of the many atrocities they had committed after they took over parts of South Korea. As a patriot he was, therefore, willing to work with me as an interpreter. For some reason Paul did not consider me one of the soldiers that he disliked in general. He was comfortable working with me and, in fact, he respected me as somewhat of a father figure.
The road repair team never reached the trenches. Some insurgents were dug in on either side of the road waiting for them. At a curve in the road before the trenches, the lead truck with the P&A soldiers stopped because of an obstacle in the road. Then the other vehicles stopped. Immediately all of the vehicles came under fire from both sides of the road. They had no radio contact, so the first word of the ambush came from several men who escaped and walked back.
I went with the rescue force. We found the trucks burning, but no enemy. We also found the bodies of those ambushed. Each body had the shoes removed and had at least two wounds—one always through the back of the head at close range. The bodies of my two soldiers and my interpreter Paul were found together, but Gausnell's body was not found.
I asked myself why was it not my body rather than the body of Gausnell that was never found? Was it fate? Was it the hand of God? Was it just luck? I never found satisfactory answers to these questions. Also, this incident reminded me that the "Pacifist's Fallacy," i.e., to think that if you are peaceful and compassionate others will be the same, is no protection against evil.
We immediately sent patrols to all of the neighboring villages, but no one would admit that they had seen anything or knew who might have staged the ambush. Of course, someone from those very villages probably did it. But how do you know? What do you do? What can you do to find the truth? We looked for weapons or anything that might have been connected to the ambush. We found nothing. In the days of Rome the legionnaires would have started killing the villagers until someone told them who did it and where they could be found. Legionnaires would have kept killing people until they had tracked down and killed those who ambushed their soldiers. Throughout history many other great powers did the same before they passed their peak. Most of those great powers were the most civilized of their era, but their acceptance of the "Pacifist's Fallacy" eroded the ruthlessness of their military instrument, resulting in decline and decay.
Throughout history we can find lessons about the rise and fall of great powers. During their rise the citizens share moral confidence and certainty so that no one hesitates for a moment about taking the action he or she should take. They are decisive and ruthless. As great powers fall there is diversity. Many factions have their own interests and there are many individuals with torments and uncertainties as they search for equality, fairness, and justice. During the decline stages, constraints of 'civilized rules' are imposed on the military and there are enforcers in the military to insure compliance. As a result, the military instrument is no longer hard, ruthless and strong, but it becomes soft, sophisticated, and weak.
In the Korean War we were constrained by rules created by lawyers, diplomats, and politicians for those engaged in conventional war, i.e., symmetrical conflict between the armed forces of states. We were required to follow the constraints of "civilized conduct in time of war" as specified in the Geneva Conventions, following the path of great powers of the past as they became soft and limp in their decline. We would have been punished if we did not comply with such 'international law'.
Yet, in Korea, we were faced with situations that lawyers, diplomats, politicians and human rights activists never considered, could never understand, and would never have to face themselves—situations that differ from both peace and conventional war. We faced situations alien to civil society during peace (when no one is willing or able to use force to achieve political change) in which political theory regarding justice, the rule of law, and law enforcement are appropriate. We faced situations alien to the symmetrical conflict between the armed forces of states, i.e., those for which diplomats, politicians, and lawyers write the rules of war. We did not have what we needed: roles, rules, and standards appropriate for irregular warfare.
What does duty and honor require? What should a patriot do to prevent the decline and decay of his or her country? Do you have an adequate inner compass to allow you to make the correct judgments between right and wrong, between good and bad? Are you willing to recognize the truth? Do you have the courage to do the harder right rather than the self-serving wrong? How do patriots keep the military instrument hard, ruthless, and strong?
For several days we sent patrols out to try to find Gausnell, or at least his body. We never found either. And we could not use the interrogation techniques necessary to get the information we needed from the villagers. We were never able to find out what happened to Sergeant Gausnell. In our search we did find several human fingers that had been cut off at the first knuckle. We did find a Korean man swinging from a tree with a rope around his neck. He had his big toe cut off and a message pinned to his chest. The message was written in blood, no doubt from his own toe. The message was in Korean and the characters were not clear, but as best we could determine it gave the man's name and address. Then it said he was an enemy of the people and he was therefore being killed as an example of what would happen to anyone who did not support the Communists' efforts to give power to the people.
The Geneva Conventions should be considered only treaties between states that agree on what is appropriate conduct for members of their armed forces during conventional war. They should not be considered law. Each state should be responsible for the conduct of the members of its own armed forces. The Geneva Conventions do not apply, although many lawyers claim they do, in conflict with those states which have not signed those treaties and certainly they do not apply during conflict with insurgents who are not under the authority of any state and place no constraints on their own conduct, i.e., during irregular warfare. To do otherwise is detrimental to security, order, and a climate of satisfaction. It also places members of the armed forces in untenable situations and it makes the job of the infantryman even more dangerous.
Each state should determine what that state considers appropriate conduct during irregular warfare, i.e. it should not be constrained by any universal law administered by some world body. Even more important, what is appropriate in irregular warfare should be determined by those who have or will participate in such conflict. Lawyers, diplomats, politicians or human rights activists who seek to impose rules on others which conform to their own political or ideological convictions should not determine what is appropriate in irregular warfare.
It is time for anyone who believes in Duty, Honor, Country to work to achieve a proper understanding of Peace-Warfare-War. See ‘War and Peace Revised: A Philosophy of War-Warfare-Peace, American Diplomacy, March 2006 at: http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2006/0103/holl/holliday_warfare.html.
A few days later I was told, "Paul's brother is here to pick up his body." I wish I could have avoided having to face someone with such a loss, but I knew I had to meet with him to share our common grief and perhaps help him get through this tragedy. I walked over to where he was standing and said, "I'm Captain Holliday. Paul was …." He said, "I know who you are. Paul told me all about you." I told him, "I want you to know how sorry…." Paul's brother replied, " Sorry?" There was sarcasm in his voice and both sadness and anger in his face. "You are a soldier. You enjoy war. Paul's death means nothing to you. No matter what you say you do not understand love or want peace. You killed Paul. You will go on killing more, just like soldiers always do." I was not sure how to reply, but I said, "Paul was killed by the Communists and their ideology." He said, "Yes, yes, I know. It is always like that in war. Paul would not have been here to be killed if we lived the love and peace Jesus teaches--and if you had never come here." We continued to talk, but whatever I said was no more than a leaf falling in a forest. I knew he was going through the stages of grieving. I was too. But his was more intense than mine. He had lost part of himself--his beloved brother who was such a fine young man with so much potential. Also, as a professional soldier I was able to handle it better, as he had suggested. However, I knew that the raw emotions, doubts and anger would be with him a very long time—probably his whole life. I knew he would have:
Insurgents Attack Chinsan
The 3rd Battalion was in Chinsan to neutralize the insurgents but they seemed to be doing a better job of making us look ineffective. Our patrols would wander around the hills finding nothing, only to be ambushed by those that vanished as fast as they appeared.
Colonel Fisher, the Regimental Commander, had come down from Taejon to insure that we found no more enemy. He felt that the war was all but over and he thought it would be best for us just to manage to leave the insurgents alone. Then they would leave us alone, and that would speed our return to Japan. We briefed Colonel Fisher on the situation in our area. He then gave his orders. "Lee (Major James Lee was our battalion commander), I want you to sweep the area for several days, but I do not want you to find any Communists. Send patrols to all those areas where we have had contact, but make sure they don't get into any firefights. I want to see reports that you found no enemy. The South Koreans are going to have to take care of these people after we leave." He replied, "Yes, sir." His orders were merely recognition that conventional war fighting forces and tactics are ineffective against insurgents.
Colonel Fisher decided to spend the night with us. Around the battalion command post was a Rifle Company, a battery of field artillery, and Headquarters Company. The command post was in a schoolhouse with the artillery just outside in the schoolyard. Just for extra protection, I Company was brought in to occupy some hills around the town. After dark, a platoon of half-tracks, with multiple 50-caliber machine guns also arrived. Two of the half-tacks were placed on the main road to the south leading to the strong hold of the insurgents. Feeling very safe. we went to sleep.
I was awakened by rifle fire. Before I got to the window the hills erupted. Rifles. Bazookas. Men shouting. Then the 50-calibers on the half-tracks opened up. It was a cornucopia of sounds and flashes. Colonel Fisher rushed in and said, "Lee, what the hell is going on?" Knowing no more than any of us, Major Lee replied, "I think we're getting attacked, Sir. I'll check right away!" The colonel replied, "Attacked? What stupid bastard would attack all the people we've got? Now get out there and stop those men. They're trigger-happy. You would think this was their first combat."
Firing continued for at least 15 minutes. Finally it began to die down. Reports started to come in. It seemed that a good-sized enemy force had taken over one of the unoccupied hills and started to fire down into the town. Troops on either side returned fire. At the same time, another group of the insurgents attempted to capture the police station. The police station had been burnt several days earlier but it still had a rock tower from which a machine gun could sweep the whole town. The thick stonewalls still stood above the ashes of the destroyed building. It seems the attackers did not know the half-tracks blocked their path to the station. Major Lee reported to the Colonel what we had learned. The Colonel was not happy. I said to Major Lee, "I sure hope we find some bodies out there in the morning.. He replied, "So do I." The artillery now started to fire. Every few minutes they would fire a volley and the whole school building would shake and dirt would fall from the roof. I was sure that the insurgents would not attack again that night so I curled up on the floor and went back to sleep.
The next morning we did find some bodies and a lot of blood. This, I am sure, did not make Colonel Fisher happy, but at least we were off the hook. While we were out taking a look at the bodies, Major Lee said, "Sam, how do you go to sleep after all of that? There you were snoring way as if you were home in your own bed. On the other side of the windows four howitzers could have awakened the dead. You never missed a beat." I replied, "I do not know. Just lucky, I guess." But I did know that I had some mind/body thing that allowed me to shut down whenever I knew that I could. It might be for a few minutes or a few hours, but it came in handy. We actually made few of the sweeps Colonel Fisher had ordered since it because clear that the war was not ending. We were sent up north and the insurgents remained in control of the Chinsan-Kunsan area.
How to Achieve Stability in Irregular Warfare
My experience in October 1950 convinced me that success in irregular warfare could not be achieved in the same way that victory is achieved in conventional war. However, it would take many years of research before I developed my views on how this could be done.
In 1962 I published, Irregular Warfare in a Nutshell, which discussed how to fight both the defensive and offensive aspects of irregular warfare. From 1967 until 1970, while Director of Stability Studies at the Army War College, I wrote and argued about how to 'win' in Vietnam, i.e., how to achieve a climate of order and satisfaction through a bottoms-up approach. From 2002 to 2005, I did the same regarding Iraq.
My views on irregular warfare started with my experience near Taejon in Korea. They can be summarized as follows:
Reflections on Morality
What I had observed convinced me that morality, including ethics and law, needed to be reexamined and revised. Many people have their ideas of morality shaped by an ideal utopian society and world. The same is true for ethics and law. They seek the ideals of peace and love offered by religion, or the peace, cooperation and justice presented by Western liberalism. They want to ignore the fighting, killing, brutality, and dying that are basic realities of the amoral world in which we live. The morality for peace (when no one is willing or able to use forces to achieve a political goal) should not be transferred as the morality for either war or irregular warfare.
There also is a fundamental difference between war and irregular warfare. One is symmetrical conflict between the armed forces of states that agree to certain rules of war and attempt to enforce those rules on their armed forces. War requires a military instrument composed of war fighting forces. The other involves those who recognize the authority of no state or those states which make no attempt to enforce shared rules. Irregular warfare requires a military instrument composed of both war fighting forces and stability forces. Therefore the morality for irregular warfare must be different from that for conventional war.
The morality for peace is just not appropriate for the conditions of either war or irregular warfare. Such morality would make the military instrument soft, sophisticated, and weak. Yet 'situational ethics' in which each individual defines his or her own morality based on personal feelings must also be avoided. Those that use modern technology must be able to kill those they cannot see—both enemy military and civilians. The infantryman must be able to do what infantrymen have always done—kill before being killed. Interrogators must be able to do what interrogators have always done—obtain information in time to prevent death.
How can these differences and contradictions be resolved? That is the challenge of the new moralities for peace, irregular warfare, and war. The first step is to recognize that each of these three conditions is distinctive. The second step is to recognize that universal (natural) law or morality cannot apply for all three conditions. The third step is to establish the three new moralities.
Meanwhile, Up North
On 21 October we learned that the US 1st Cavalry Division and the ROK 1st Division had captured Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. We heard US airborne troops had dropped north of Pyongyang. On 26 October we heard the ROK troops were getting close to the Yalu River, but we also heard that a ROK regiment had been attacked by 7,000 Chinese troops near a town called Unsan. This was the first I had ever heard of Unsan. I found it on a map. It was 70 miles from Pyongyang, north of the Chongchon River and the town of Anju. The Eighth Army estimated that in northwest Korea there were two Chinese divisions. The optimism we had about the war ending soon vanished.
Those of us at the lower level in Korea had no knowledge of the massive troop movements in China toward the Korean border during October. Of course, we had no idea that the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan, who had excellent intelligence sources in China, had been telling Washington that the Communist Chinese would enter Korea if American and South Korean forces got near the Yalu. We were also not aware of the debates between MacArthur in Tokyo and Washington. We did not know that during the first months of the war MacArthur had considered the possibility of Chinese forces coming to the aid of North Korea, but after the breakout from the Pusan perimeter, he thought this was less likely.
I was unable to put together all that I had learned about irregular warfare during October 1950 until several months later when, after being wounded, I spent some time in Japan. Then over ten years of research was needed before I came up with the views expressed in Irregular Warfare in a Nutshell in 1962. As we moved into North Korea, however, I was able to get a first-hand look at what Socialism does to a country.
Chapter Fourteen - Up to North Korea: 1-19 November 1950
The first Chinese prisoner was captured on 25 October 1950. We had just received orders for our movement to Japan. The Chinese launched a major offensive in the Unsan area on the night of 1-2 November as shown on AP Map of 3 November. Our orders to Japan were cancelled. By 6 November the Americans and South Koreans had withdrawn and were establishing a defensive position along the Ch'ongch-on River. We received orders to move north.
The Trip to Kaesong
We left Taejon at 2200 hours on the night of 5 November. By daylight on 6 November we had reached Chonan and we ended up in Kaesong that evening. Halfway through the morning as we approached Suwon, I saw my driver blinking his eyes. I felt I had better replace him at the wheel. It was less than half an hour later that I fell asleep and drove the jeep into the ditch. Two of the men were hurt bad enough to be sent back to a hospital. For the rest of the trip we had to stop every fifteen minutes to fill the radiator with water.
We drove through Seoul during the afternoon of 6 November. We arrived in Kaesong just before dark and moved into some Quonset huts south of town. There I learned that Tenny Ross had been killed that same day. A sniper shot Tenny while he was traveling in his jeep. There were now only three (Don, Jim, and me) of five of us who had been together since 1944. Today battlefield medical care has improved so much that Tenny probably would have survived such a wound.
The mission of the 25th Division was to clean out all armed opposition south of Pyongyang. We were to find and destroy active elements of the North Korean People's Army (NKPA or Inmun Gun) and to neutralize any guerrilla activities by local communists. We identified elements of the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 7th North Korean Divisions—all of which we had fought in South Korea.
The soldiers who made it back to North Korea were now attacking supply trains, ambushing our patrols, and causing many who opposed the North Korean regime to flee their homes. North Korean People's Army (NKPA) soldiers set the town of Kapyong ablaze, causing more than 8,000 residences to flee. On 9 November seven of fourteen soldiers from the 25th Division were killed when a patrol was ambushed. All had been shot in the head, i.e. murdered after they were captured. Although never stated, I think we were the strategic reserve for the west portion of the 8th Army with an additional mission of keeping open the main supply route (MSR) from Seoul to Pyongyang.
It was now getting cold and everything was brown. It was cloudy, and we rarely saw the sun. There was no rain and no snow. It was dry, dusty, and cold. No longer did we have the varied terrain we had been in the first two months or the lovely green mountains west of Hamch'ang. Now everything was flat and brown. The farmers lived in houses of mud bricks and thatched roofs. The towns were a mixture of concrete and wooden one-story buildings with tile roofs. A dark, somber, forbidding feeling was in the air.
We had frequent visits from a team of bug exterminators. We were now in winter clothing with synthetic fur caps, scarves, gloves, and sweaters. Later we would be very thankful for this, but since we wore the same clothes all the time and took no baths, we were all magnets for lice and assorted other bugs. From time to time we got a visit from some medical corpsmen who examined us for lice--which they usually found. Then it was DDT for everyone.
One day we were told some dentists were coming and everyone would have their teeth examined. It was not to be what we expected. There was none of the equipment of a dentist's office. There were three young men with only a few weeks of dental training after they entered the Army. In the open, each one set up two folding chairs facing each other. Next to them was a small folding table—what might be called a TV tray, with a few instruments and some cards.
The men lined up and rapidly went through the procedure. There was no dental work done. Perhaps something was identified for future dental work, but mainly they recorded where the fillings were and their shape. It did not take long to realize what this was all about. They were making records so that, if in the future some unidentified skull was found, they would be able to identify the body. It was just another reality check.
We did make use of local housing. In the warm weather it was often more comfortable to sleep in the open rather than in a building. We would use a schoolhouse or office building in a village for the battalion command post, but often we preferred the outside. However, as it turned cold that was less attractive, so we tried to include houses within our defensive positions. The farmhouse had dirt floors over a hot air system. There was a fire pit on one side of the house, but the heating system was designed so that the vents took the hot air under the floor to come out the other side of the house. In cold weather this was very inviting, but there was one problem. The enemy identified the houses they thought the Americans would use, and then placed some form of explosives under the floor. In the middle of the night there might be an explosion. We learned to look carefully at the hot air vents before settling in for a night's sleep.
These heating systems had another advantage. The same fire that heated the house could be used to heat water. With that we could have sponge baths, which were better than using the icy streams. No doubt there were Japanese-style bathhouses in the cities, but I never spent any time in any city. The Army did have Quartermaster bath units, but I never saw one while in Korea. The Quartermaster did provide clothing exchanges, and this was always a happy event.
Reflection on Socialism
Since this was the first time I had ever been in a socialist country, I took time to learn more of its cultural, political, and economic underpinnings. In the Chosun Minjujui Inmun Kongwhakuk (North Korean People's Republic), I was able to see the results of socialism, to reflect on its strengths and weaknesses, and come to some conclusions regarding it.
First, I noted how socialism of the left, as illustrated in North Korea and China, contrasted with the vision of the founders of the United States. Second, I noted the similarities between socialism of the left (communism) and socialism of the right (that of Mussolini and Hitler, which is often called fascism). Both require the centralization of power. Third, I noted the different meanings given to the terms ‘democracy,' ‘equality,' and ‘the people.'
It is difficult to get a handle on socialism. Most people think of socialism in economic terms and contrast socialism with capitalism. However, socialism has several dimensions (economic, political and cultural), there is considerable emotional commitment to contending views regarding socialism, and the terminology is inconsistent and confusing. Yet I did attempt to determine the fundamentals of socialism and how they differ from traditional Americanism. One depends on the centralization of power and the other depends on power not being centralized.
One aspect is economic. Socialism advocates centralized economic control, or at least planning, by government. The degree of state ownership of the means of production is of no real importance. Under socialism of the left (communism), it is all owned by the state, while under socialism of the right (fascism) it is only controlled by the state. Under both there is no market. The economic aspect of socialism is reflected in the historical struggle between the concentration and dispersion of wealth.
Capitalism permits and motivates people to invest their savings in productive enterprises and promises dividends in return. Socialism claims that such free enterprise results in inequality and injustice because of greed and abuses, which only government can correct. Traditional Americanism favors decentralization and private ownership of the means of production, which benefits society as a whole. Americanism seeks to avoid the corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness which always occur with centralization and control of the means of production by government. I could not see how socialism could ever be successful. Rewards are what motivate people to make great efforts. However, when government takes all rewards away, no one will want--or try to achieve.
The fear of extreme socialism (of either the left or the right) has caused capitalists to seek greater equality of outcomes, and the fear of capitalism has caused socialists to seek greater freedom for individuals and some decentralization. Yet capitalism is the natural ordering of human relations—not a specific ideology. It does not interfere with the way people relate in their own self-interests. As a result, self-improvement and innovation of individuals are the foundations of capitalism. This creates jobs and improves the lot of everyone.
Politically, socialists value equality of outcomes more than freedom and equality of opportunity. They expect government to take from the rich and to give to the poor, and socialists claim they do this. They think in terms of a collective, rather than in terms of individuals. Socialists expect government to give them protection from economic, social, and psychological distress. Their concept of ‘the people" is a collective with the leaders exercising the authority of a sovereign. This results in the concentration of power in the hands of an elite who claim they seek a utopia of equality and fairness. The traditional American concept is of individuals with free will—who are the sovereign, united for the common good. Politically, socialism centralizes authority and Americanism decentralizes authority. Another way of explaining the difference is that socialism centralizes both secular and sacred authority, while Americanism keeps secular authority and sacred authority in balance with neither dominating the other.
Culturally, socialists think capitalism exploits the poor for the benefit of the rich. They think governmental authority should be used to reward or punish in order to progress toward a utopian goal of equality and fairness. Traditional Americans believe in rewards based on merit, and that punishment should be given for antisocial deeds. Thus, there is a clear contrast between free individuals united for the common good under Americanism, but with the opportunity for success or failure on their own merits, and socialism that is a collective in which government insures "fairness" and equality of outcomes for everyone.
The foundation of traditional Americanism is a culture in which each citizen needs an inner compass that guides behavior to do right rather than wrong and good rather than bad. Socialism has no need for individuals to have an inner compass since the rules (laws) are established and enforced by an elite that controls government, thus specifying what is right or wrong and what is good or bad.
Encounter with the Turks
Our battalion conducted search and destroy operations northeast of Kaesong. As normal, one afternoon we selected where we would spend the night. This time battalion headquarters was close to a small village. The rifle companies were on the surrounding hills. We had just begun setting up our defensive perimeter when we got a message from Regiment that a Turkish battalion would arrive before dark to relieve us in place. We had heard of the Turkish Brigade's arrival in Korea, but had never seen them.
Night came, but no Turks. We tightened our defensives, blacked out all lights, and settled down for the night. One of the companies flashed a message to us: "There is a column of lights coming toward us." Then we saw it--a long column of bright lights as far as we could see. They roared through our blacked-out positions and came to stop in the little village next to us. As they halted, it seemed every truck bumped into the one in front of it.
Captain Fraser, the solid, conscious, capable Regimental Assistant S-3, stormed in. He said, "Here are your God damn jerks. Take 'em!" With a scowl on his face, he went over to the stove to warm himself without another word. Finally I went over to him. Trying to defuse his anger with a little humor I said, "How come you were so lucky to get some Turkish delight?" He replied, "I guess someone hates me." He then went on to explain what had happened after he was told to escort the Turkish battalion down to us. He said, "They were to be ready to move at 1600. I was just to show them how to get here. So I got there a little early. I expected them to be in their trucks ready to go. What the hell do you think I saw? A whole bunch of happy Turks sitting around gnawing on loaves of bread, talking, wrestling, and sleeping. The trucks were everywhere. I couldn't find anyone who would do anything. The damn officers said the sergeants would take care of everything. And the sergeants said they could not speak English. I spent an hour trying to get anyone to get the battalion on the trucks. I finally said to hell with it and sat down. My job was just to guide them. By 1800 I expected to have them to you. The trucks were lined up, but the men were still milling around. Then I went around trying to get the men on the trucks. Some would get on and then jump off. At last the officers came out and got into their jeeps. The men jumped on the trucks and we were off. It was now dark, so we had to use lights. I sure hope they can fight, but they look like a mob to me."
I asked him, "How was the trip over here?" He said, "Hell. I was leading the way. We had gone a little over a mile when I looked back. The Turks had stopped. I have no idea why. But in the headlights I could see them jump off of their trucks. They started to search. Unfortunately, this was at a horseshoe curve in the road. It was not long before some from the end of the column were shooting at some from the front. It took them several minutes of shouting back and forth before they stopped. I thought they were going to kill each other." I laughed, but Fraser didn't think it was funny.
He continued, "And that wasn't the end of it. Just then an old Korean man happened to pass by with a cart full of his stuff. My guess is that he was moving during the night to somewhere he thought he would be safe. The Turks decided to search him. In the cold, this guy was stripped. Each piece of his clothing was examined. The cart was next. Each item was removed and thrown on the ground. By the time the cart was empty, the column was ready to move on. The Turks jumped back on their trucks. The poor man was left standing with all of his things on the ground."
After the Turks arrived, we assured them that we controlled all of the surrounding hills and that they would be safe in the village. We asked them to unload their weapons and quietly go to sleep for the remainder of the night. The Turks, however, did not go to sleep. They wasted no time in making themselves at home in the village. First they built fires. Our blackout was pointless. Next there were female screams from all over the village. Finally the squawks of chickens filled the night air. When morning finally arrived, I took stock of the situation. All of the women and girls were leaving. There was nary a live chicken to be found—only feathers, heads and feet. We were very thankful that no one had been shot during the night. Only one house had burnt down—the Turks had made the fire a bit too large.
With much delight we left the Turks as soon as we could after daylight. On our way back to Kaesong, we followed the same route used by the Turks. At most sharp curves we found a truck in the ditch. Nearby there would be several happy Turks around a fire. They waved to us and we waved back. Thus ended our first encounter with the Turks.
Our situation soon became much more serious and frightening as we moved north of the Ch'ongch-on River and confronted the Chinese near Unsan.
Chapter Fifteen - Another War: 20-28 November 1950
We moved north again. In Korean cosmology, north is associated with winter and the ‘Divine Warriors'. We knew we would confront winter, but who would be revealed as the ‘Divine Warriors'—them or us? The countryside was barren, bleak, and brown. The air was brisk and cold. I saw very few people.
On 20 November we drove through the North Korean capital of Pyongyang—a dull, dingy, empty city of gray concrete. We were tired from the long drive. Finally, near Sunchon (Sukch'on), Military Police directed us to where we were scheduled to spend the night. But it was now the early hours of the morning.
It was not until the middle of the morning that the whole battalion arrived. Some of the trucks had run out of gas. We spent the next two days getting "battle ready" and attempting to learn as much as we could about what we might be doing. We learned that we would be attacking toward Unsan, where the Chinese had first attacked the 1st Cavalry Division on 1 November.
On 22 November we moved up to Anju, crossed the Ch'ongch-on River, and relieved the 19th Infantry, 24th Division in the vicinity of Yongsan-dong (Yongyon-dong).
After Giving Thanks
For Thanksgiving Day we had a full turkey dinner--literally from soup to nuts. We were only sixty miles from the Yalu River and Manchuria. On everyone's lips was, "We'll be home for Christmas!" We were sure that the final drive to the Yalu was about to start.
Also on that Thanksgiving, I received a letter from my father. He told me that he and my Uncle Bob had contacted people in Washington about getting me ordered back to some post in the States or to Europe. He said that they all agreed that I had seen enough combat and he was certain that he could work things out. However, he said he did not want to do anything on this until he knew how I felt. After reading his letter, I put it in the pocket of my field jacket.
We knew the 1st ROK (Republic of Korea) Division and the 1st Cavalry Division had been badly mauled at Unsan when the Chinese entered the war on 1 November, but we thought that was only because they had been surprised. Also, it was reported that the Chinese forces were only volunteers sent at the last minute to show China's support for another communist country. Higher headquarters said the Chinese were not prepared for a direct confrontation with the United States. Besides, the whole Eighth Army would advance to the Yalu River, rather than just a couple of divisions--as had been attempted earlier.
Was it too much to expect that higher headquarters, after a month to analyze information, had gotten the intelligence correct? All reports we received indicated that after a face-saving fight, the Chinese would pull back beyond the Yalu and that this final push would bring the war to a close. We knew nothing of the debates going on between MacArthur and Washington, nor what the Nationalists Chinese on Taiwan were telling the United States from their sources.
Our Attack Toward Unsan
The day after Thanksgiving, 24 November 1950, we started the attack toward Unsan. Just before this attack I made what I consider to be the most serious intelligence error I made in Korea as an S-2 (Intelligence Officer). Reflecting the optimism of the reports from higher headquarters, I issued an inaccurate intelligence estimate. I stated that the enemy would most likely put up only rear guard fights as it retreated to the Yalu.
At that time I did not have enough knowledge of international relations or of the Chinese to make my own evaluation of the overall situation. Therefore, I accepted what I received from higher headquarters. After I studied international relations and Chinese history, I realized what a miscalculation had been made. To advance toward the Yalu without assurance that the Chinese would not intervene displaced not only poor strategic judgment, but also was a failure to accurately evaluate the situation and/or a disregard for those doing the fighting in Korea. The Chinese had prepared a trap and we were the prey.
However, the part of my estimate based on my own analysis of our immediate area was correct. I had not only gather information from the South Koreans--military and civilian, I had also studied the maps of the area and studied what the Chinese had done in the Unsan area on 1-3 November. I stated that the enemy would probably counterattack from our left flank between the 1st ROK Division and the 25th Division. I included a sketch indicating exactly where I expected the strongest enemy attack to come--from the Hyangjok-San area driving toward Yongsong-dong on the Kur Yong River. I said they would try to trap any units near Unsan. This turned out to be correct.
Yongsan-dong and Yongsong-dong are on the west side of the Kur-Yong River, with Yongsong-dong being halfway between Yongsan-dong and Unsan. Yongbyon is on the east side of the Kur Yong River, six miles from Yongsan-dong. These locations were very important during 25-29 November 1950.
On the first day of the attack (24 November), the 25th Division advanced four miles toward Unsan with no enemy contact. The lead element on the east side of the Kur Yong River was Task Force Dolvin. The 35th Infantry was on the west side of the Kur Yong River. At the end of the second day (25 November), the 35th Infantry was on the ridge overlooking Unsan, and a rifle platoon got to a small bridge just south of Unsan. All lead elements were past the camel-head bend in the Kur Yong River.
An AP map dated 25 November 1950 shows:
Where To Position the Third Battalion?
The 3rd Battalion was in reserve and had been given no specific instruction except to be prepared to move through the other battalions after Unsan was taken. I was convinced that we needed to go into a defensive position facing west in the pass toward Hyangjok-San and south of Obong-San. To establish a position in that pass would require two companies to move two and a half miles west of the road to Unsan. Some thought this would cause those two companies unnecessary effort and delay things after Unsan was taken. They favored placing all of our battalion in the valley closer to the Regimental Headquarters.
I thought it was essential to defend that pass and I made my case as best I could with Lieutenant Colonel Lee, our battalion commander who was at Regimental Headquarters for several days before Thanksgiving. I argued that the enemy could drive down the valley to the river at Yongsong-dong (where Regimental Headquarters was to be located) and trap much of the regiment, which would be north of that toward Unsan.
On 24 November I picked up some additional arguments. There were very few people in the villages along the road to Unsan, but several told me that larger numbers of Chinese had been there until the night of 23-24 November. Indeed, I found evidence that many Chinese soldiers had been there. More disturbing, when I checked places along the road suitable for roadblocks, I found fresh machine gun emplacements and foxholes. This told me that the Chinese planned to return to these positions at some point.
I do not know if it was my arguments or something else that prevailed. Nevertheless, with nothing better for our battalion to do, on 25 November it was decided that at least one company would guard the pass through Hyangjok Mountain, i.e. facing west toward the 1st ROK Division. I selected the location for K (King) Company and they took their position before dusk. I do not believe the pass would have been defended if I had not repeatedly argued that a counterattack there was likely. It was fortunate that a company was in that pass. In the late afternoon of 25 November, reports came in that the 1st ROK Division to the west had been attacked. Also, we heard that Task Force Dolvin opposite Unsan, on the eastern side of the Kur Yong River, had been attacked. Our lead units overlooking Unsan had still only seen a few people on ridgelines.
On the night of 25-26 November, an enemy patrol crept into King's position and captured several of our soldiers. That night "many Chinese" hit the lead elements of Task Force Dolvin on the east side of the Kur Yong River. E Company, 27th Infantry Regiment and the Ranger Company (commanded by Lieutenant Ralph Puckett) had desperate and bloody fights.
During 26 November we moved L (Love) Company into the left (south) side of the pass and K (King) Company took over the right (north) side. I (Item) Company took a position on the mountain north of the pass. The other two battalions of the 35th Infantry pulled back to better defensive positions south of the camel head bend in the Kur Yong River. They still had not contacted any Chinese, although they had seen several of their patrols.
At about 2100 hours I noted a fire on the very top of a hill behind us. Why was there a fire? There was no reason for our people or any of the locals to be up there. It was not where someone might have started a fire by accident. Why that fire? I was not sure, but I could think of only one reason. The Chinese had started it so their troops would have something to use as a guide during the night. I called our companies and regiment and told them to expect a major attack during the night and to be sure that the artillery was prepared to deliver defensive fires in front of King and Love. I was asked, "Why do you think there is going to be a major attack tonight?" My answer was, "Because of the fire on the hill behind us." I'm sure many did not think that was much of a reason to think there was going to be an attack.
On the night of 26-27 November, Chinese Communist Forces XIII Army Group did launch their major attack against all ROK and US forces in the west with more than 100,000 men. Task Force Dolvin and other units of the 25th Division east of the Kur Yong River received attack after attack. The 1st ROK Division to our west was torn apart. We didn't know how badly until 28 November. The ROK 1st Division, always considered one of the South Koreans' best, was driven out of T'aech'on and retreated to the Ch'ongch-on River. Then there were no South Koreans to our left--only Chinese.
In the pass, Love and King Companies were repeatedly attacked throughout the night. Fortunately the artillery was able to bring fire on groups of attackers as they moved up. But there was still plenty of close combat. The soldiers in those two companies did many brave deeds that night. They held the pass, which meant that the Chinese were unable to drive to Yongsong-dong and were unable to get to the roadblocks they had prepared. They did not close the trap. The enemy did, however, flow around the southern (left) flank of Love. Many pieces of paper marked "Safe Conduct Pass" were scattered along the roads. I picked one up and stuck it in my pocket.
Fighting continued all day on 27 November and the regiment withdrew. First, the Regimental Headquarters moved to Yongsan-dong and the 1st Battalion took up positions northwest of that town. In the afternoon, the 2nd Battalion pulled back to a ridgeline on the right (east) side of the road, one and a half miles south of Yongsong-dong. Finally, just before dark, our battalion pulled back to positions in line with the 2nd Battalion on the left (west) side of the road. Item Company was actually on the road, Love was to go into position on Item's left (west) flank, and King was to go to a small hill farther to the west. They reached their positions after it was dark. The CP of the 3rd Battalion was in a pass a mile behind the rifle companies. This pass, which became known as "The Pass of No Return," was where the 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment became the lost battalion.
27 and 28 November
After dark on 27 November, I noticed a new fire on the top of hill on the east side of the pass in which the battalion CP was located. We were in for more night attacks. By midnight all units were engaged. The 2nd Battalion and Item Company received attacks from the north straight down the road.
By mistake Love had taken up a position on a small knoll in front and to the left of Item. Shortly after midnight, Love was surrounded and attacked from all directions. King, to the far left (west), only had patrol contact. We received word that the 1st Battalion was under heavy attack by Chinese that had broken through the 1st ROK Division near Yongsan-dong. We also heard that the Regimental Command Post in Yongsan-dong was being attacked. Early in the morning of 28 November (0200 hours), we got word to withdraw in coordination with the 2nd Battalion.
All of the trucks of the 3rd Battalion had been sent back during the afternoon of 27 November, so that was done. King was told to come back to the pass. Love was told to break out of their encirclement and to also come to the pass. There was no contact with King for two days until 29 November, when most of that company reached the walled city of Yongbyon. By 0330 hours most of the survivors of Love had joined Item on the road.
Colonel Lee and I went down to the 2nd Battalion Command Post to make arrangements for the withdrawal. Since the 2nd Battalion had failed to send their vehicles out on 27 November, it was agreed that they would get them out as fast as possible. The two battalions were then to march out before daylight. But the vehicles took too long and it was almost early morning twilight (EMT) when they reached the pass. Some of the vehicles did make it out. However, as the column moved down from the pass toward Yongsan-dong, machine gun fire opened up from both sides of the road, followed by some rockets. Several of the trucks were set on fire. In the twilight the fires lit up the scene. Vehicles clogged the road and men were running, firing and hiding. All the time the Chinese were firing from their emplacements on both sides of the road. This 300-yard roadblock certainly had been prepared before 24 November.
Attempts to Get Past the Roadblock
Since the tanks were attached to the 2nd Battalion and it was their vehicles that were on the road, it was decided that they should attack directly down the road to clear the roadblock. At the same time, the 3rd Battalion would attack the hill above the roadblock to the west. When the roadblock had been neutralized, the 2nd Battalion was to suppress any enemy fire and allow the 3rd Battalion to move through. Due to the clogged condition of the road, confusion, and the poor light of the early morning, it was after daylight before the attack got underway. The tanks pushed destroyed vehicles off of the road and neutralized all enemy fire. Riflemen of the 2nd Battalion moved behind the tanks, attempting to neutralize anyone firing at them.
At the same time, Lieutenant Boyd K. Alderdice of Item moved up the hill on the west side of the roadblock. Near the top, Lieutenant Alderdice and four men were killed by well dug in enemy—positions also prepared many weeks before. Their bodies were not recovered. The company commander Captain Leonard Becicka, a Military Police officer serving his required year with a combat branch, checked the progress of his assault platoon. Len was a calm, dedicated professional who was highly trusted and respected by not only the men in his company, but anyone who had spent any time with him. He reported that, without fire support, it was unlikely that riflemen could take the positions on the top of the hill. If an assault were ordered, it would result in unusually high casualties because the enemy had well-prepared positions on the top of that hill.
It was known that Chinese units were closing in rapidly from the north after the 2nd Battalion and Item left their positions. It was impossible to advance to the south except with very heavy casualties. Enemy had been seen advancing toward our position in the pass from the west. A platoon of Item was sent to defend the west side of the pass. Men from many units were crowded together in the pass. Enemy fire into the pass would surely have caused panic.
By 0900 hours all of the 2nd Battalion had passed through the roadblock. We expected them to set up at the far (south) end of the 300 yards in which the enemy had emplacements. The plan was for them to do what they could to keep the road open for us. To our surprise, we could see them moving on over the hills and out of sight.
What To Do?
Everyone was excited in the Battalion Command Group. There were heated debates about what to do:
Of course, we had the "Safe Conduct" passes, and we understood the Chinese followed the Geneva Conventions better than the North Koreans. I did not like any of these alternatives. I had another idea, but could I sell it? Could I pull it off? Also, at some point I would have to answer my father's letter. An answer would be unnecessary if I didn't make it out.
Chapter Sixteen - The Lost Battalion (28 November 1950)
The press reported that a battalion of the 25th Division was "cut off on Monday and Tuesday and encircled by Reds." This could have been some other battalion, but this item probably was from a reporter who heard discussions about the 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry being surrounded in the pass between Yongsan-dong and Unsan. We had no radio contact with either regiment or division. Later we were told that we had been written off as a "lost battalion."
The Pass of No Return
There was actually a collection of men from many units crowded together in the pass--all of I (Item) Company, those of L (Love) Company who had broken out of the encirclement during the night, those of Headquarters Company who had not gone out with the vehicles, and some men from the 2nd Battalion who had been separated from their units during the night. The Chinese were advancing on this pocket of some 400 men crowed together in a pass between two hills north of Yongsan-dong. This collection certainly was not organized to defend its position.
I was able to contact the field artillery by radio. On Okinawa I had spent a year as the Executive Officer of the Cannon Company, 29th Infantry that had 105 mm Howitzers (the last such unit in the Army). I tried to adjust fire in order to provide the cover needed to get past the roadblock, but I had no success. It was almost impossible to adjust. Only a few rounds came in, and they were so inaccurate there was danger they would do more damage than good. It was now obvious that swift action was needed. It made no difference what we did. If we did nothing we were soon going to be dead or prisoners. It was going to be minutes before Chinese riflemen started firing directly on us. If that happened, all control would be lost. There would be panic.
It was decided that we should move through the roadblock as fast as possible. Love Company was to lead the way and Item Company was given the job of holding off the enemy until all of the other men had cleared the roadblock. I was watching as Love started down toward the roadblock when I happened to feel the letter from my father in the pocket of my field jacket. It was still unanswered.
Just then one of the radio operators shouted, "I've got Lieutenant Smith!" Smith commanded the platoon of the 89th Tank Battalion attached to the 2nd Battalion. I said I would speak to him. "Smith, Captain Holliday here. We need you to come back." He replied, "Can do." I said to him, "Just come back to where you can fire into the roadblock area. Shoot wherever you think there might be a machine gun." He replied, "Roger, Out."
The tanks came back and set up south of the 300 yards area held by the enemy on either side of the road. This made it possible for many of those in the Love and Headquarters Companies to get out. Groups of men made a dash through the roadblock area, firing at any enemy they could see. Some made it and some did not. Whenever a Chinese machine gun opened up, the tanks fired at it. The machine guns were in well-prepared dugouts with riflemen in foxholes around them, so only a direct hit would knock them out. They were positioned to fire on the road. The tank fire, at least, limited the effectiveness of the Chinese.
A Better Way
I decided there was a better way which would reduce our casualties. I knew that the Chinese were dug in on the tops of the hills on either side of the roadblock and that 300 yards of the road were in their firing zone. But the sides of the hills were covered with trees so that someone could move through those woods without being seen—or at least without being seen clearly. There were now only the command group and the rear guard (Item Company) in the Pass of No Return. I went over to Colonel Lee, the battalion commander, and said, "I think we can get more men out if we go out on the side of that hill (I pointed to the east hill) rather than attacking through the road block." He answered, "It will be defended. A single file can be ambushed and can't fight back." "True," I said, "but it's the best way to get these men out. If we don't move right now, they are going to be either dead or prisoners. I'll lead the way." Thus started a single file of the remnant of the "Lost Battalion."
I picked a path a little higher than halfway up the hill. I did not think the Chinese on the top of the hill would be able to see us there and I thought those in the roadblock area would not be looking up that high. I knew that I might run into some Chinese, for they might have outposts on the hillside as Colonel Lee had suggested. I started walking with my carbine ready and with the men in my Intelligence Section directly behind me. They had their M-1's ready. There was some rifle fire down at the roadblock. Every now and then I heard the 'BOOM, SWISH, WHUMMP' of a tank firing.
No one in the column behind me said a word. It was all very peaceful. Just a walk in the woods. But I kept looking ahead. We could be ambushed at any moment. I knew that if I could get past the 300 yards of the roadblock it would be all clear. I kept looking down through the trees at the burned-out vehicles in the ditches on the side of the road. There were still a few men trying to run through the roadblock, and occasionally a rifle shot. But it really did not seem like we were in combat. There was a dream-like quality to all of it. But I knew it could turn violent in a second. I could hear the crunch of leaves under my boots. Finally, when I looked at the road I saw that I had passed the roadblock area.
Then we walked over some low hills and saw the road to Yongsan-dong. The command group joined me. Item Company was more or less getting organized as they moved along. Near the tanks we met some men from regiment waiting to tell everyone that Yongsan-dong had been evacuated. We learned that the Regimental Command Post and the 1st Battalion had moved from Yongsan-dong at midnight of 27-28 November to the walled city of Yongbyon on the east side of the Kur Yong River. We were told that we should assemble there, which we did. (In recent years Yongbyon has become well known for its nuclear processing plant.) In Yongbyon, the battalion was able to reorganize on 28-29 November. Survivors of King Company joined us. I have no idea how many of the battalion were killed or captured during these two days of being the "Lost Battalion."
Lesson Learned: Combat Camaraderie
Camaraderie is built on stress and shared stressful experiences. Nothing is more stressful than real combat in which life hangs by a thin thread. Those that face life and death together often form a bond that lasts a lifetime. In addition, there is "combat camaraderie" which all of those with experience in real combat feel—the hallmark of the infantryman. The feelings that create combat camaraderie are something that can be recognized, but which are difficult to explain. Those who have not experienced real combat—even those in the armed forces, rarely understand these feelings. Any explanation is inadequate, but what happened in those forbidding mountains of North Korea on 27 and 28 November 1950 might at least give an impression.
Shared stressful experiences and the randomness of life are known, to some degree, by many people at many times. But it reaches its zenith in infantrymen who have been in combat where life might end at any moment. At those moments, things that must be done and only a person's inner compass can determine what is right and necessary. At such times the infantryman learns that luck, fate, proximity and position all have their part in shaping reality. This creates combat camaraderie.
The basis of combat camaraderie is the realization of the randomness of life. In the past it was called fate. Some might see it as the hand of the divine. Or perhaps just luck. Why was the 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry not destroyed? Why were some killed or captured? What is the difference between life and death? What did Lt. Boyd Alderdice and his men do? Why did they die in such a far-away place? What did others do? Why were some able to find their way back to their units, but others were captured or killed? Why were some able to do heroic deeds, but think they were only doing what was right and necessary? Why did some collapse when faced with uncertainty, chaos, death and horror, and others will never be able to be free of the trauma of that experience? Are those things that were done but will never be known by others as important as those that are known, praised, and rewarded? And finally, each person asks, "Why did I live?"
On 27 and 28 November 1950 many no doubt did many worthy, brave, and heroic things that will never be known or noted. Others surely did things that they would like to forget and hope no one knows. All of those who have experienced combat "know" this. It is the sharing of these feelings that provides the bond of combat camaraderie. I have always thought that what I did on 28 November 1950 were among the most significant things that I did while in Korea. I believe that I saved many from being killed or captured. However, it was only noted by a few for a few days. Such is the human condition--which is magnified in combat.
No one knows what actually happened. Each person of the "Lost Battalion" in the "Pass of No Return" in those far-away mountains will remember things differently. Each remembers only part of the whole. And what is remembered will change over time. Those that say the least will probably know that which is closest to what actually happened. They do not want to relive that experience. Those that say the most might not have even been there--or at least their memories are shaped by their concerns. Some of what is "remembered" is only partially true, and much of what was done will never be known. Most of those that have never experienced real combat cannot understand this. Infantrymen who have experienced real combat will.
It is important that the experience of combat be understood and given value. To ignore this turns some of the most important decisions over to intellectuals, idealists, politicians, pacifists, engineers, managers, lawyers, political activists, scientists, analysts, and technicians. Yet no group can survive and grow if its infantrymen are ignored. Others often look down on infantrymen, finding them lacking in civility, intellect, or morality. However, throughout history it has been infantrymen at the critical place and time who have made the difference between success and failure, between victory and defeat, between freedom and servility. After discussions and support someone must take the final action. It is infantrymen who go the final yards. Infantrymen play a critical role in the rising stages of any group.
The qualities of an infantryman are always the same, be it Horatius at the bridge, Cortez confronting an empire, a teenager charging with Pickett at Gettysburg, a member of a staff pressing the harder right even when it is a career ender, or a Ranger running to the side of a fallen brother. Going the final yards is never easy, but it is essential. Infantrymen all have shared stressful experiences and they feel the randomness of life. They share the bond of combat camaraderie. When any group casts its infantrymen aside, it is in its declining stages.
The Rest of the Winter
The largest ambush of American forces in history had taken place. The euphoria of the rapid move through North Korea in September and October had now turned into gloom and despair. As Homer Bigart wrote in the New York Herald Tribune, "U.N. forces are now paying the initial price for the unsound decision to launch an offensive north of the peninsula's narrow neck."
If we had been the ‘Divine Warriors,' we would have established a defensive line on the Ch'ongch-on River and extended it across the neck of Korea to Hungnam. Then North Korea would have become a small, poor, mountainous buffer between China and a prosperous new Republic of Korea. But poor intelligence and a failure in strategic thinking prevented this. General Ridgway blamed it on, "MacArthur's eagerness to accomplish his assigned mission—a mission of which he had pleaded the destruction of all hostile armed forces on the peninsula" and to "MacArthur's all-too-human weaknesses…. Yet it should have been clear to anyone that his own refusal to accept the mounting evidence of massive Chinese intervention was largely responsible for the reckless scattering of our forces all over the map of Korea. ... But how could any man, not obsessed with his own reputation, have persisted in misinterpreting detailed intelligence reports and actual events on the battlefield." (The Korean War, pages 74-75.)
Lesson Learned: The Military Profession
Ridgway is no doubt correct, but I believe there was probably another reason which Ridgway did not recognize. Both he and MacArthur were conventional soldiers who thought of War and Peace in dichotomous terms. They both considered the military's goal was to achieve victory. They considered success in War to be a military victory, i.e. the destruction of the opposing armed forces. However, success in Irregular Warfare is not military victory. It is stability, i.e. a climate of order and satisfaction in which no one is able or willing to use force to achieve political goals.
MacArthur and Ridgway were two of the greatest military professionals our country has ever had. Their intelligence, brilliance, military judgment, military skills, and personal courage are beyond question. Yet they were products of a military profession in the West as it had developed for some 300 years since the birth of the nation state. They did not appreciate what the Chinese had known for thousands of years--Irregular Warfare.
During 1958-1961 while working with the Republic of China (Nationalist Chinese) on Taiwan, I had an opportunity to learn more about this. Some of the officers involved in providing information to the Americans in 1950 told me that they had repeatedly stated that the Chinese Communists would come into Korea if the U.S. forces moved toward the Yalu. They knew that Mao wanted the world to see Communist China as a world power. Fighting the Americans in Korea would accomplish this. Also, China's coming to the aid of North Korea would demonstrate that they could no longer be exploited by Western powers. Mao wanted to replace the Soviet Union as the big brother of North Korea. To challenge Russia's status as the leader of the entire Communist world by going to the aid of North Korea when the Soviet Union would not send troops would accomplish this.
But the information provided by the Nationalist Chinese was rejected. The United States (MacArthur specifically) ignored the fact that the Nationalist Chinese had excellent sources within the Chinese Communist armed forces. In fact, many of those to be deployed into Korea were former members of the Nationalist Army who had defected to the Communists in 1949. Why was this ignored? MacArthur claimed to "understand the Oriental mind." However, the truth is, this was one of his weaknesses since he was convinced that he knew more than others about something that he did not fully understand. In the end, the Communist leadership was able to have Americans destroy many of the Chinese they supported in World War II, but whose loyalty to Mao was questionable--an excellent example of Chinese strategic thinking.
In 2007 David Halberstam reported in The Coldest Winter, pages 334-391, what I learned about this in 1960. While on Taiwan I had an opportunity to study The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu in 500 B.C. Sun Tzu's ideas were adapted and used by Mao Tse-tung to gain control of China. I had a chance to discuss the long history of these ideas at length with many Chinese military professionals and governmental officials. It became clear to me that Sun Tzu and Mao were not only writing about what we call War, i.e. conventional War between the symmetric armed forces of rival political groups. Sun Tzu did discuss it and so did Mao, referring to it as Mobile Warfare, but both were also concerned with what we call Irregular Warfare—and what Mao refers to as Guerrilla Warfare. As Sun Tzu said:
We were to pay more in the coming months of winter. But the immediate challenge was how to prevent the Chinese from destroying the Eighth Army. We had every reason to believe in Korean cosmology: up north is found both winter and the ‘Divine Warrior.' On this occasion the ‘Divine Warriors' were the Chinese.
Chapter Seventeen - Down to Pyongyang (29 November-6 December 1950)
In the walled city of Yongbyon on 28-29 November the 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry was put back together. We had no idea that in future years this place would become well known as a nuclear processing plant for Chosun Minjujui Inmun Kongwhakuk (North Korean People's Republic). There was snow and this was a bitter winter. But it seemed that the Chinese, not us, were the "Divine Warriors".
Late in the afternoon of 29 November we left Yongbyon and marched toward the Ch'ongch-on River. Before midnight the 3rd Battalion was in a defensive position a few miles north of where the 5th Regimental Combat Term was holding a bridgehead on the north side of the river. Other units of the division were crossing on their way south. During the night of 29-30 November, Chinese patrols repeatedly fired at us. They knew our every move. It was amazing how close they followed. We had to constantly be on guard. However, they were never able to launch an attack against us or get behind us. For the next week we were on the move. We marched, rode trucks, dug in, got shot at, fought back, and were cold.
Near Anju the road was packed with trucks for miles. If the enemy had any aircraft they would have had a field day. It was a dry cold. With our winter clothing it was not bad. After we crossed the Ch'ongch-on River, on 30 November the 3rd Battalion was given the mission of providing the rear guard for the division. The Chinese were constantly probing us and we returned fire. That was all that happened. They seemed to be only interested in knowing our positions, not in actually attacking us. Fortunately the patrols only used rifles; rarely did we receive incoming artillery.
From Sunchon to Pyongyang we continued as the rear guard. In our first position just south of Sunchon, we could see that city burning. Also, the buildings across the Taedong River were burning brightly. Men from the Turkish Brigade, the British Brigade, and the 2nd Division all pulled back through our position immediately after going through what became known as "The Gauntlet"--several miles of the road south of Kunuri.
We were able to hear first-hand about many of the events which were later recorded by S.L.A. Marshall in The River and the Gauntlet: Defeat of the Eighth Army by the Chinese Communist Forces, November, 1950, in the Battle of the Chongchon River, Korea. The Chinese had trapped many on this stretch of road and beaten them badly. As they came through our position, they seemed bewildered. Some talked about what had happened; others just stared and said nothing.
Lesson Learned: Chinese Success
What had happened north of the Ch'ongch-on River made the reasons for the Chinese success clear. First, they had been able to hide many men until they were ready to attack. Second, they had detailed and accurate intelligence on the units they faced. Third, they used the maneuver of Inundation: finding soft spots, skipping through gaps, and taking up prepared positions behind units in order to destroy them as they withdrew. Fourth, they traveled light, which was a short-term advantage. Fifth, they moved at night on trails, not exclusively on roads.
During our rear guard action south of Sunchon, the ground was covered with snow and more kept falling. It was not unpleasant for a few hours, but night and day in it was different. It would be like staying outside for days in Wisconsin during January.
Living conditions in many ways were the best since the drive to the Yalu started on 24 November. Although we rarely had hot food, we still had plenty of C-rations and water, and we were not hungry. Our clothing could handle the bitter cold. At night we could make some use of the native huts with the under floor heating, or we could sleep under piles of straw and hay. There were no trees; everything was bleak and brown. It certainly was not pleasant, but it wasn't too bad. There was one improvement. No longer was there the smell of night soil—human excrement used as fertilizer. Only when close to the barrels in which it was stored was the smell noticeable. Also, we were able to move faster than the Chinese. so they were never able to assault our position or get behind us to set up roadblocks.
We had learned how to handle the Chinese. When we were in a defense position during the daytime, we saw twelve soldiers trotting down the road toward us with a truck following them. At times the truck caught up with the soldiers and others from the truck took their place. Whenever the trotters got close, we fired at them and they disappeared. The truck would hide.
We no longer had a fire on a hill at night behind us to give us advance warning—there were no hills. However, we could tell from the intensity of the patrol action during the day and early evening when the Chinese were getting ready for an attack. We then pulled back after dark to a prepared position a mile or so down the road. We left some flashlights on our old position and had an outpost some 200 yards away to tell us when it was attacked—which was usually around midnight. When this happened, we pounded our old position with artillery. Sometimes we walked a mile or so in the still of the night to waiting trucks. Then we would travel some distance, passing through some other units acting as the screening force.
Excursion to Pyongyang
By 6 December we were in a defensive position a few miles south of Pyongyang. We received word that the western part of the city had been abandoned; the bridges over the Taedong River had been destroyed. A tank unit with the British 29th Brigade held the river line as their engineers exploded demolition chargers and destroyed warehouses.
Bridges over Taedong River
I drove up to the southeast edge of the city where some US engineers were preparing to blow up a small bridge over a stream. "When do you plan to blow it?" I asked. They said, "Just as soon as the Brits come out. They are the only thing left. I wish they would quit dicking around." On the other side of the small bridge was a train track with a string of boxcars and some flat cars loaded with new American tanks. "What are tanks doing over there?" I asked. They replied, "They're waiting for an engine. It's to take them out of here." I said, "How long have they been there?" "Don't know. Maybe days."
I looked over and part of the city was burning. I decided to take a look around Pyongyang until the British tanks came out. We crossed the small bridge. We had to detour around some exploding ammunition stocks. Then we came across the abandoned automotive repair shop of some U.S. unit. We looked around and picked up a few things we thought the battalion might be able to use. Near it was a quartermaster food storage warehouse. To our disappointment, the warehouse had been burned and most of the food had been destroyed. Several piles of food were outside; Koreans were scampering all over the place. Any cans that had not burst open from the heat were quickly carried away.
The Koreans said there was a lot of stuff in the stadium. We drove over. Sure enough there was row after row of boxes and cartons stacked around the track. Happily we drove in, only to be disappointed. Ammunition. Vast qualities of all types and kinds of ammunition. What would happen to it? Would it be used against us? Would our aircraft be sent to destroy it? We could see our planes strafing on our side of the river. They were less than a mile away. I knew it was time to get out of Pyongyang. On the way back, we saw a building that looked promising. We stopped only to find nothing of interest. While inside we heard tanks. "The Brits are leaving. Drive back to the bridge," I said. Before we reached the bridge where the engineers had their demolition ready, I saw some men marching between that bridge and us. "What's this?" I thought. I knew all of our foot soldiers were to have been out several hours earlier. Was this a Chinese unit?
This was a time to be careful. We drove slowly toward the column of marching men. We had our weapons handy. I looked carefully at them through my field glasses. They appeared to be in American uniforms, but it was still necessary to be cautious. The North Koreans had been known to wear captured uniforms during the daytime in order to achieve surprise. Perhaps the Chinese were doing the same. We drove closer and I was then able to see their faces. They looked like Americans, and I was relieved. We moved closer and I shouted, "What unit?" In a clear, unmistakable New Jersey twang came back, "Da Cav." I found out that this battalion of the 1st Calvary Division had been forgotten. It never received the word to pull back. When they saw the British tanks leaving they decided to get out. We drove beside the marching men to the small bridge. Most of the tanks had already crossed.
The engineers were eager to blow up the bridge and get out of there. The train was now burning. The new tanks were still there. The engine had never arrived. Would our aircraft be sent to destroy the tanks? One of the engineers said there was food in the boxcars. Since our trip into Pyongyang had been a bust, this was too much to pass up. The first boxcar had stoves. The next was locked, and then we hit the jackpot: gallon cans of mixed nuts, mince meat, and hard candy. This was all for Christmas dinners, yet that car was burning. I climbed in and threw down all we could carry in the jeep. We drove triumphantly across the bridge as the last Americans to leave Pyongyang—careful to avoid the disgust in the eyes of the engineers. Pyongyang was burning. The last British tank crossed the bridge. The bridge exploded.
Sometime during this retreat I had time to answer my father's letter:
I received no reply, but my mother told me that my father—who was a lawyer and an ethicist, but not a religious person, started to go to church with her and to pray every day.
After I returned, my parents gave me all of the correspondence related to this incident. The final letter was to my Uncle Bob:
Chapter Eighteen - Down to South Korea (7 December 1950-22 January 1951)
The Chinese moved into Pyongyang on 7 December. On 10 December the Eighth Army attempted to consolidate positions along a defensive line south of Pyongyang but north of Sariwon, as shown by saw-tooth line on AP Map 9 December 1950: "A--Marines are trapped near Changjin Reservoir. B & C--US 7th Division and South Koreans pull back." However, the Chinese were able to turn the Eighth Army's right flank on 12 December with two divisions of Mongol cavalrymen and reconstituted North Korean units. By 19 December the enemy was deployed for an attack down the traditional Ch'orwan-Yonch'on-Uijongbu route to Seoul, but the United Nations forces were able to withdraw faster than the enemy could advance. A defensive position along the 38th parallel was established by the end of December 1950.
This was the longest retreat in U.S. military history, yet it did prevent the Chinese from destroying the U.N. forces. The further we went south, the greater the number of refugees poured through our positions. Were enemy fighters intermingled with these refugees? Would roadblocks be established in our rear? The unrecognized heroes of this retreat were the military policemen. Often placed in isolated spots to guide movement, they not only suffered from the bitter cold, but also were often killed by the enemy hiding within the local population.
On the Defensive
After weeks of delaying positions and retreating we set up our first real defensive positions just south of the Imjin River. As our battalion was astride the main road to Seoul, we expected we would face a major attack. Here among the buildings used by the American occupation forces before the war we dug deep holes, built emplacements, strung barbed wire, laid mines, and prepared for a tough fight. "A" Company from the 1st Battalion was deployed in outposts near the Imjin River, but was to pull back whenever the attack started. Captain Sidney Berry, the commander, had 149 Americans and 36 Korean soldiers.
Our main efforts were spent in improving our positions, firing in artillery, sending out patrols, and checking the refugees who flowed by each day. The battalion command post was in a schoolhouse in Musan–ni. There we had Christmas dinner with all of the trimmings. We were told the Eighth Army would make a determined stand to stop the Chinese on this defensive line.
On 28 and 29 December the Chinese probed our defenses: "A-- 6,000 Chinese were reported west of the frozen Imjin River. B--Two Chinese armies, of 30,000 men each, formed 35 miles north of Seoul. C--Patrols attacked the South Koreans near Chunchon."
The Big Picture
We were unaware of all of the military politics, career advancement efforts, and operation disputes going on at Corps, Army and Far East Command levels as discussed by David Halberstam in The Coldest Winter. Nor did we know of the policy and strategy disputes between General MacArthur and Washington. We did know General Johnnie Walker had been killed on 23 December in a vehicle accident. We knew that General Matthew Ridgway had taken command of the Eighth Army, and we learned of his reputation as a fighter and leader. However, we knew nothing of the political maneuvering or the bewilderment and deep dismay that infected higher headquarters which historians have reported. We did not think the Eighth Army had collapsed. We knew that some units had collapsed, but we knew our regiment was now a better fighting unit than it had been in November.
As the conflict moved back down to South Korea, things had to change. Even from the lower levels it could be seen:
This was the situation Ridgway faced. He had to change it in order to prevent defeat. Without changes there was no hope of victory. His primary task was to restore the fighting spirit in all United Nations units—U.S., ROK and others.
In This Kind of War, T.R. Fehrenback noted:
It could be added that U.S. intellectuals, politicians, human rights activists, and lawyers wanted an Army restricted by the provision of the Geneva Conventions--regardless of the enemy, or the conditions. This allowed the Pacifist's Fallacy to trump common sense. The basic questions were:
Chinese Offensive: 1-14 January 1951
Seven Chinese armies and two North Korean corps attacked on New Year's Day, with the major attack down the Uijongbu corridor toward Seoul. Because of the danger of being outflanked, the 25th Division was withdrawn to the outskirts of Seoul. Ridgway decided to give up the South Korean Capitol on 3 January and to move to positions south of the Han.
Pulling Back to Seoul 2 January 1951
Crossing the Han was complicated by thousands of refugees, carrying whatever they could, trying to get out of Seoul. It was a mess. Only military traffic was to cross the bridges after 3 p.m. on 3 January. The refugees waited until the military had crossed. It was very cold. Huge pieces of ice came down the river to pile up against the pontoon bridges.
We crossed the Han on 3 January and immediately went into positions on the main road just south of Yongdungpo. There was a constant flow of refugees. We established a check point where a culvert had been destroyed. The refugees had to get off of the road, go down into a ditch, and then climb back up to the road. I told our soldiers to pull over anyone who looked "suspicious." We actually did very little checking; such an attempt would have backed up refugees for miles and caused many to go off through the rice paddies in order to by-pass our checkpoint.
Leaving Seoul Evening 3 January 1951
From time to time I went down to the checkpoint. I happened to be there at about 2300 hours on the night of 3 January. With nothing better to do, I was helping those having difficulty climbing back up to the road. Today, in the era of suicide bombers, no one would do this. There was moonlight. I saw a mob of people trying to get to safety. They were no longer individuals. To me it was only an endless crowd pushing along.
In the distance fires were burning in Seoul. I knew that the last units would move across the Han the next day, and then the bridges would be destroyed. It was very sad to see these men, women, children and babies trying to get away from the North Koreans who had controlled their city and killed so many during the past summer.
After many hours I paid little attention to those passing. Then I was brought back to reality by a woman's voice saying in perfect English, "Thank you, Captain." I looked and in the moonlight I saw a very beautiful young woman in a fur coat. I managed to say, "You are welcome." She said, "You are very kind. How can I thank you?" I replied, "By having a safe trip and a happy life." She replied, "But Captain, can't you protect me?" I told her, "I'm sure everything will be okay." "Maybe, I hope so," she said in almost a whisper. "Everything was so delightful. I hope we can have such a happy life again." She then joined the crowd and the fur coat vanished in the darkness. Who was she? I have no idea. She was just one of thousands fleeing Seoul. But I often wondered if she had a safe trip and a happy life. I also wondered what fatigue and moonlight had done. In bright lights would she have looked so young and beautiful?
One Korean Family
On page 169 of his book, The Korean War, Max Hastings tells what happened to one Korean family at this time:
U.N. Consolidates on 37th Parallel: 15-22 January 1951
The Eighth Army finally moved to defensive positions fifty miles below the 38th parallel. It would go no further. Ridgway started to change the Eighth Army. He pounded the enemy with artillery and air attacks, and he planned coordinated phased advances. It was to be a cautious advance, using the technological and firepower superiority of the Eighth Army. The long supply lines of the Chinese were now a disadvantage.
Who would be the "Divine Warriors" this time? 174,000 Chinese were reported to be south of the Han in front of us. But again, they were hidden.
Chapter Nineteen - Up to Seoul (23 January-28 February 1951)
The new Ridgway army started to jab with reconnaissance in force. All of the American superiority in technology and firepower was used. Artillery and aircraft took a heavy toll by hitting the enemy in the battle zone and on their greatly extended supply lines. From 24 January until 10 February we moved north to Yongdungpo—just past where we had the checkpoint on 3 January when Seoul was evacuated.
On 25 January we took up positions north of Osan, where the 403 men of Task Force Smith had been the first American unit to fight in the Korean War. It was a ridge across the road and at its highest point was over 200 feet above the road. There was a cold wind blowing as I looked toward Suwon as no doubt Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith did back on 5 July 1950. I understood that it was rainy and overcast back then. Now it was cold, dry, and overcast. Everything was now brown, but it must have been green back in the summer of 1950.
I could imagine what the young men on that ridge, fresh from garrison life in Japan, must have thought. A few days earlier their main interest was when they could get back to that special Japanese girl or how to get one into the barracks. But they had very different thoughts when at 0730 they saw dark objects coming at them from Suwon, and then by 0830 when those objects became a column of 33 low-slung T-34 North Korean tanks firing on them with their 85mm cannons and 7.62 coaxial machine guns. Each rifleman on that ridge had 120 rounds of ammunition and two days worth of C rations. A battery of 105 howitzers supported them.
I knew how that battle turned out, and was happy that our enemy was withdrawing whenever we moved forward in force. Whereas Task Force Smith had one battery of artillery, we had ample fire support.
Suwon According to the United Press
Throughout the United States on 26 January 1951 this United Press report appeared:
What Actually Happened in Suwon
As is often the case, the media didn't report exactly what happened. Here is what happened in Suwon on 26 January 1951.
A week earlier a task force of the 27th "Wolfhound" Regiment had come within a mile of Suwon and fired on the city, but when the Chinese deployed for a major counter attack. the task force was withdrawn to Osan. On 26 January the 35th Infantry Regiment moved from the ridge where Task Force Smith had fought the initial battle of the war. It had orders to take Suwon. The 2nd Battalion was on the left (west) side of the road and the 3rd Battalion was on the right (east) side. The intelligence estimate we received from higher headquarters said that a Chinese battalion was expected to fight a delaying action in Suwon. The estimate reasoned that Suwon was the last built-up area before Yongdungpo, and the Chinese wanted to avoid fighting in the open where our artillery and tanks would give us an advantage. In a straight infantry fight inside the narrow streets of Suwon, they would not be at such a disadvantage.
While I could not argue with the logic of that estimate, my own information and observation told me it was incorrect. As we moved toward Suwon I picked up information from several sources that there had been many Chinese units in Suwon. However, most of the Chinese had left on 22 February. They had gone into the hills north of Suwon, but south of Anyang. These sources said about 200 Chinese had been left in Suwon, but they departed on the night of 25-26 February.
This made sense to me. It was logical that the Chinese would leave a unit behind when most of the troops withdrew to defensive positions in the hills. The unit left behind could send patrols out to see where we were and what we were doing. Two hundred seemed about the right number for such a mission. They would have known we were just south of Suwon during the night of 25-26 February. Then there would be no reason to remain in Suwon. However, I wanted to confirm this through personal observation.
On the morning of 26 February both battalions of the 35th Infantry moved up, with no enemy contact, to the hills overlooking Suwon. From there I was able to examine the town through my field glasses. I was soon confident that my intelligence estimate, not that from higher headquarters, was correct. This was not the first time there had been such differences, and mine had always turned out to be correct. After looking at the town for about thirty minutes I came off of the hill.
I found the battalion command group on a bridge at the edge of the town. Of course they knew of the intelligence estimate from regiment. Also they had heard stories about the 200 Chinese in the cave under the wall. Lieutenant Colonel James H. Lee (who had been promoted) was ready to launch an attack to clean the enemy out of Suwon.
South Gate of Suwon
I was very confident that using the whole battalion plus tanks to sweep the eastern side of Suwon would be a waste of time and effort. I assume the United Press reporter was listening while I was stating my opinion. Colonel Lee was reluctant to accept my opinion because regiment's intelligence estimate had said we should expect to face an enemy battalion to fight a delaying action in Suwon. He did not want to ignore what regiment said. I finally said, "Just let me go in there and look around before we commit the whole battalion in an attack on the town." He replied, " Okay. You have thirty minutes."
I then drove over to the entrance gate of the town with my driver, my interpreter, and one other man. Three of us got out of the jeep and walked around while the jeep followed. We got conflicting stories. Some said all the Chinese had left during the night, but others said there were some Chinese still in a cave under part of the old city wall, which surrounded the town.
We got in the jeep and drove to the location of the "cave." Cut in a chalk-colored cliff at the base of the wall were several openings. I had my interpreter tell several of the children, who were running after us, to go up and play around those openings to see if anyone was still there. They did this as we watched. The children returned to say the "caves" were empty. We then moved up slowly to the openings and found this to be true.
The whole cliff was honeycombed with tunnels connecting the many entrances. Within the tunnels were a variety of items which the Chinese had left behind: mats, ammunition, explosives, and clothing. I drove back to the bridge and told Colonel Lee that the town was clear, and showed him some of the things I had found. The battalion then occupied the right (east) side of Suwon.
General MacArthur's Visit
As we moved out of Suwon on the morning of 28 January 1951, we were told a VIP would visit our battalion that afternoon. We were instructed to find an observation post that could be reached by jeeps. I assume our battalion was selected because we were on the main road north of the Suwon airport. By noon we had moved two miles up the road toward Seoul and our companies were in defensive positions. The enemy was three miles away in the hills south of Anyang. I selected a small knoll just off of the road which had a good view of our positions, but also had a view of the road leading to Seoul with hills in the distance. Perhaps Colonel Lee knew who the VIP was, but I did not.
Colonel Lee and I were waiting on the knoll when we got word that the VIP was on his way. We saw a string of jeeps coming toward us and Colonel Lee walked the twenty yards over to where the jeeps were to stop. Then I saw General MacArthur get out of a jeep, General Ridgway out of another, and finally General Kean, our Division commander, out of a third. Colonel Lee greeted them and brought them up to where I was standing. MacArthur was not wearing his trademark dark glasses and looked old. He was wearing his famous hat and a winter coat with a fur collar. General Ridgway looked like General Ridgway.
Colonel Lee got out his map and started to explain where the companies were located. MacArthur looked off into the distance and said nothing. Several cameramen had moved in front of them and started taking pictures. General Kean and I were standing in the back. There were a few questions, but certainly nothing new was learned from this visit. It lasted fifteen minutes. They went back to the jeeps and left. However, pictures from that visit are the most common images of MacArthur being in Korea "with the troops."
From 28 January until 10 February the 25th Division pushed the Chinese back toward the Han River while artillery and air inflecting great damage. By 10 February it was clear that the enemy was pulling back behind the Han River. They still held Seoul and were reported to be massing north of the Han River opposite the 24th Division and the 25th Division. It was also reported that the Chinese were building up opposite the 7th Division in the east.
The Eighth Army's advance after 10 February 1950 was called Operation Killer, but it was a relatively inactive three weeks for the 25th Division. We continued to get reports of great numbers of Chinese north of Seoul and there was planning for us to cross the Han River, but nothing was definite until the end of February.
General Matthew B. Ridgway
Twelve years later I had the opportunity to discuss the Korean War with General Ridgway. From August 1962 until December 1963 I was at the University of Pittsburgh earning a Masters Degree in Public and International Affairs. General Ridgway lived next to the university and took an active interest in university affairs. In fact, the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies was at the University of Pittsburgh. In the living room of his home I had several one-on-one meetings with the General in which we discussed his views of the Korean War. He also asked me about my experiences.
In 1967 most of what we discussed was published in his book The Korean War. However, in our discussions he was more critical of General MacArthur and his staff than he was in his book. He thought the staff was too concerned with telling MacArthur what he wanted to hear and stroking his ego, thus not serving either MacArthur or his command well. He commented on MacArthur's taking credit for things he did not do and failing to acknowledge errors he did make. He thought the extravagant and grandiose statements make by MacArthur and his challenging of the foreign policy of the President were neither wise nor in the national interests. General Ridgway even suggested that MacArthur held delusions about what was going on in Korea and the use of nuclear weapons.
Chapter Twenty - Command of Fox Company (1-23 March 1951)
I commanded Company F (Fox), 2nd Battalion, 35th "Cacti" Regiment, 25th "Tropic Lightning" Division, I Corps, Eighth Army during March, April, and May of 1951.
Order of Battle:
My first action as company commander was during the crossing of the Han River on 7-9 March 1951. It was cold (really cold: 15-degree Fahrenheit) when the 3rd Battalion crossed by assault boats. The 2nd Battalion crossed during the afternoon of 7 March and initially took a position behind the 3rd Battalion. On 8 March we moved through to take a position on the Green Line. The next day Fox Company made the assault on the enemy's position overlooking the bridgehead across the Han, Chonggye-San.
First Attack, 9 March 1951
There were two ridges running to the top of Chonggye-San, the hill mass that dominated the bridgehead. The left ridge had a large knob about 150 yards from the top. Then there was a saddle over to the top. I planned to have the 1st Platoon and the Weapons Platoon move up the left ridge to establish their machine guns and the 57mm Recoilless Rifles on the knob. They were to support the assault of the Second and Third Platoons when they advanced up the right ridge. I was going to be on the right ridge with the two assaulting platoons.
We moved up the ridges together. Artillery shells were landing on the top where the enemy was located. When the Second and Third Platoons were opposite the knob, I stopped them until the Weapons Platoon could be set up and start firing on the top. As soon as they started fire, I had the artillery shifted and moved the two assault platoons forward. When we got within 60 yards of the top, the enemy fired their final shots and withdrew. The two platoons continued on to the top. I told them not to walk around on the top, but to immediately establish defensive positions. At the same time, I told the 1st Platoon and Weapons Platoon to move forward to join me on the top.
Unknown to me, the Regimental Commander, Colonel Gerald C. Kelleher, who had been an outstanding commander during World War II, was with the 1st Platoon watching the attack. I guess he wanted to see what his new company commander had. Apparently he walked across the saddle to the main ridge before I told the 1st Platoon to move over:
I signaled with my hand for the platoon to follow. Without talking, the Colonel and I walked over to the left side of the ridge top. He was not into small talk. I told the platoon leader where to establish his defense. The Colonel watched. He was a hard-nosed, demanding, courageous, up-front combat leader. He had been a Battalion Commander in the 104th Infantry Division during World War II and because of his heroism had been promoted to full Colonel and given command of the 414th Infantry Regiment. He was big on discipline and expected his orders to be followed to the letter. Each soldier was to always carry his weapon and to wear all issued equipment—including helmets. Jeeps were always to be parked facing out so that they did not have to turn around. There were to be no lackadaisical soldiers in his regiment. It was always: "Be Prepared" and "Don't Just Stand There—Do Something." He was not loveable. He rarely smiled and was a contrast with his predecessor. Colonel Fisher had been stern, but friendly and fatherly. Under Kelleher the 35th Infantry was known as one of the best regiments in Korea. He looked over at me and said, "Carry on Holliday." I said, "Yes, Sir" and he left.
Later, Kelleher concluded his career as a Brigadier General with two Distinguished Service Crosses and five Silver Stars. In retirement he was known as "The General". He died at ninety-five in Florida.
Eighth Army Offensive: 7 March – 23 April 1951
The crossing of the Han was the start of a general offensive involving the whole Eighth Army. It included Operations Ripper, Rugged, and Dauntless. During this offensive General Matthew B. Ridgway was to replace General MacArthur as commander of U.N. forces, and General James Van Fleet became commander of the Eighth Army. Those of us at the lower levels had no knowledge of the struggles going on between MacArthur and Washington.
Fox Company conducted sweeps, established defensive positions, and made three attacks on significant objectives: Easter Hill (25 March), Many Fingered Hill (30 March), and Triple Nickel Hill (4-5 April). By the end of this offensive the Eighth Army had liberated Seoul and established a new defensive line north of the 38th Parallel.
After the Han crossing the 35th Infantry Regiment moved west into a staging area from which it could secure the hills overlooking the Pukham River Valley, the main route to Seoul from the northeast. By 24 March the 35th was in position to attack Sori-bong, a hill mass to the east of Uijongbu. Two roads used by the North Koreans when they captured Seoul in June 1950, and again used by the Chinese when they captured Seoul in December 1950, were joined at Uijongbu—which is why that city was known as the gateway to Seoul.
Building a Combat Ready Company
During March, I focused on improving the combat effectiveness of Fox Company. Fortunately we had no stressful combat until 30 March. I knew that combat camaraderie could only be created through shared stressful experiences; however, I also knew that same stress could destroy a unit.
From when I took command through the completion of the attack of 9 March, my aim was to convince the men, the noncommissioned officers, and the platoon leaders that I was a capable commander they could trust. I felt I had accomplished that with the attack on 9 March, which was not only successful but also planned and executed with skill. Yet I kept building combat readiness.
My immediate task was to prepare them to handle the stressful experiences that I knew would come. The key to combat readiness is not new. As Sun Tzu said in ‘The Art of War':
My aim was to convince all of those in F Company that they had to see themselves as a team if they were to survive. I was realistic, practical, and demanding on everything we had to do to prepare for the battles we would face in the coming weeks. I made sure that each day I talked with each squad. What I did varied. Sometimes I gave instructions, sometimes I taught, sometimes I made corrections. But often I just asked questions and listened. I knew that the secret to success would be the leadership of the platoon and squad leaders.
I always reminded all of the men that they were infantrymen. It is the infantryman who is the point of the spear. There is never victory until infantrymen go the final yards, or hold firm. Being an infantryman is a dangerous job, but one of the most honorable, most selfless, and most demanding of callings.
There were a few things I often repeated:
Routine Activities and Standard Operating Procedures
Whenever possible I had a Korean hut in each platoon area so they could get out of the bad weather. But I also checked to see that there were sentries to prevent surprise attacks while they were resting, cleaning up, sleeping, or just keeping warm. Whenever we were in a defensive position I saw that they had planned their fields of fire, knew where others were, had established communication, and were dug in. It normally took me more than two hours to check defensive positions of the whole company. When I returned to the company command post, the 1st Sergeant (Master Sergeant Bingham) had a foxhole for both of us to share.
I often made reference to some well-known stories. I could work them into our discussions. Many knew of them, but I had to use them with care. I could not allow them to be just stories from the past. The lessons in these stories had to be relevant to them personally. The stories could be used to illustrate the timeless qualities of infantrymen and encourage them to identify with infantrymen of the past. I wanted them to feel this bond and to see themselves as an extension of a noble tradition. I wanted them to have the moral confidence and certainty needed to act without hesitation. I wanted them to free themselves from uncertainties and doubts. I wanted them to act like Beowulf.
When appropriate, these are the stories I used:
I used these stories to remind each individual how as an infantryman he differ from others:
I considered it an honor to be in the company of the Infantryman of Fox Company and I did my best to let them know this. The next four chapters describe what the Infantrymen of Fox Company did.
My Left Knee
It was a rainy day, but it was not nearly as cold as it had been. I was satisfied because I thought Fox Company was battle ready. We were moving near a large hill mass east of Uijongbu called Sori-Bong, which we were to rename Easter Hill.
To get to our new location we had to cross some rice paddies which were muddy with a few inches of water. The closest Chinese were several miles away. There were occasional artillery shells, but they were being fired from such a great distance the chance of getting hit was very low. The company was in several columns walking on the small dikes between the rice paddies. I heard the "SWISH" of incoming artillery. Instinctively I ducked. The shell splashed harmlessly several hundred yards away, however I slipped off of the small muddy dike and twisted my left knee. This was to be a problem for the rest of my command of Fox Company. I tried to straighten my leg, but couldn't. I knew I would have to hobble along for several days.
That night I worked to get the knee back in place and wrapped it with an Ace bandage. In a few days it was better. From then on I kept it wrapped tight and most of the time it was okay. However, I repeatedly hurt it, and as the weeks went by it got worse and worse. I could still go up hills, but going down was very difficult and painful.
Later: The fact that I continued to climb up and down hills no doubt caused additional damage. The medial meniscus had been torn and a piece of cartilage kept getting where it should not be, causing the knee to "lock" and swell. It was operated on in 1952.
Chapter Twenty-One - Easter and Many Fingered Hills (24-31 March 1951)
On 24 March the 35th Infantry Regiment moved into positions to attack Sori-Bong, a hill mass to the east of Uijongbu. Since our attack was on Easter Day, we called Sori-Bong "Easter Hill".
Easter Hill: 25-26 March
In a thick fog and a steady drizzle on 25 March, we started up Easter Hill. The Chinese had held this group of hills for several weeks and had well prepared defensive positions, so we were expecting some heavy fighting. We knew that our goal was not to merely capture ground, but primarily to destroy the enemy. Fox Company was in a valley below and east of G (George) Company. On 24 March George had a tough fight in capturing the south end of Sori-Bong. That night they occupied that end of the ridge. George was to continue north along that ridge, while Fox was to envelop the Chinese positions by attacking from the last peaks of the ridge from the east.
Before we started, a drizzle set in. The trail up the valley toward Chiktong-ni was so muddy the jeeps could not be used. I moved the company forward and over a low pass to a small stream where there was a road. Here I received my final instructions. From the map I knew that the hilltop I was to take was directly to our west, but we could only see a vague outline of the hill because of the rain and fog. As we started our climb, the rain got heavier. In spite of our raincoats we were all soaked and cold. The slope was muddy. As we neared the top, where I expected a fight, I jumped the 3rd platoon through the others. After several anxious minutes I saw a white flare from the top of the hill—the signal that it had been taken. It turned out that the Chinese had left their positions the night before we started our attack.
I was told that our position for the night of 25 March would be another hill to the north overlooking the road west of Chiktong-ni. This required us to move another 1,200 yards along the ridge. This we did with no difficulty. However, my left knee was giving me problems whenever I had to go down a steep slope. I would put my arms around Lieutenant Smith, the forward observer, and Master Sergeant Paul A. Bingham, my first sergeant. This took the weight off of the left leg, then I would hobble down the slope using only my right leg.
On 26 March we moved off of Easter Hill to positions along the road north of Uijongbu. That night we were just southwest of Song-ri and eight miles northeast of Uijongbu.
Each day the 35th Infantry Regiment moved northeast along the road toward Kumhwa. The Chinese conducted delaying actions during the day and patrols around our defensive positions during the night. Eighth Army reported that three Chinese battalions had been captured and there was heavy resistance in our area. On the night of 29-30 the regiment was just southwest of Changgo-ri, where one road turned to the left and then north toward Yongp'yong while the main road continued northeast toward Kumhwa. That night we were twelve miles from Uijongbu and twenty-three miles from Seoul.
Many Fingered Hill: 30 March 1951
Two roads went north from Changgo-ri. The main road followed the river to the northeast. The other went west from Changgo-ri over a low pass and then turned north in another valley. Between these two roads stood what we called "Many Fingered Hill". That hill overlooked Changgo-ri and controlled both roads. It was the critical terrain in the area. It was the Chinese last defensive position south of the 38th Parallel.
On 30 March the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment moved through Changgo-ri without opposition. At the same time, G (George) Company of the 2nd Battalion took a hill directly west of Changgo-ri without opposition. However, the 1st Battalion started to receive fire from the hill northwest of the town. B (Baker) Company of the 1st Battalion then moved toward that hill, but by 1400 hours it was stopped by fire from one of the lower mounds near the main road to Kumhwa. That was when I received orders to take Many Fingered Hill.
After looking over the hill, I decided a frontal attack on the hill was not wise, and developed the following plan. Fox would move up the west road, which was protected by G (George) Company, and attack Many Fingered Hill from the southwest using the high ground on the west side of the pass as a base of fire. However, I was told there was not sufficient daylight left for such envelopment and I would have to attack the hill from the southeast. A platoon of half-tracks with multiple .50 caliber machine guns was attached to me for this attack.
We started up the west road with the 1st Platoon and the Weapons Platoon on the right side of the road. The 3rd Platoon was on the left side of the road, with the half-tracks and 2nd Platoon on the road. At the first knob we found a ditch across the road that prevented the half-tracks from moving into firing positions. I left Lieutenant Craig there with instructions to fill in the ditch and move up as soon as possible. The company moved on up. Against light opposition the 1st Platoon took the first knob on the right with fire support from George Company on a hill south of the road.
Just as we rounded a curve, we found another—and larger—ditch across the road. I moved up to the edge of the ditch. ZING. The dirt on the left (south) bank of the road kicked up. I jumped behind the right bank. I was very glad the shooter was not a good marksman.
I cautiously looked over the bank. I could see no movement, nor could I tell where the shot had come from. This was the first time I got a good look at Many Fingered Hill, although I had an idea of what it was like from the map. Seventy-five yards in front of me a small ridge ran north from the road to the second knob on the right of the road. Past that knob was a valley, and after the valley the road turned north to the pass. I could see five fingers of the hill. One ran directly east from the top peak, forming the right skyline as I looked at it. At the base of that finger, Baker Company was attempting to take one of its lower mounds and had artillery firing further up that finger. The other four fingers did not actually come from the top peak, but from a second peak just south of it. From this second peak one ridge came southeast about halfway down the hill and then split into two ridges. Another ridge from the southern peak came south and split about halfway down the hill into four smaller fingers. All of these smaller fingers ended up in a valley to my left. The pass was on the far left side of the last of the fingers ending in the valley.
I ordered Lieutenant Whitner to cross the road with the 3rd Platoon and take the second knob on the right side of the road with fire support from Weapons Platoon on the first knob. As the 3rd Platoon neared the top of the second knob, it drew fire from the enemy in front of Baker Company. However, this did not stop them. They took the second knob. The 3rd Platoon then overlooked the valley and could give fire support to the 1st and 2nd Platoons as they moved up two of the ridges toward the southern peak from the southeast. The Weapons Platoon on the first knob could also provide fire support to the 1st and 2nd Platoons. Moreover, I moved the artillery fire ahead of those two platoons.
I gave instructions for Master Sergeant Lackner (1st Platoon) and Lieutenant Toomy (2nd Platoon) to cross the valley and move up two of the ridges to the south peak. Lackner was to be on the right ridge and Toomy was to be on the left. They were to join up about halfway to the top of the south peak where the two ridges came together. They were then to move on to take the south peak if they could. I gave instructions to Lieutenant Smith, the artillery forward observer, to have the artillery fire prepared to move up the ridges in advance of these two platoons. The 3rd Platoon on the second knob and the Weapons Platoon on the first knob were to give the 1st and 2nd Platoons fire support.
I had Lieutenant Smith start the artillery where the two ridges came together since I expected that location to be well defended. I told Lackner (1st Platoon) and Toomy (2nd Platoon) to move out. As soon as these platoons were in the valley, they suffered casualties. The fire came from their right—from the enemy in front of Baker Company. Both platoons got across the valley and started up their ridges. They had no additional problems until they got to where the two ridges came together. There they met the enemy that had survived the artillery. By now the half-tracks had gotten past the first ditch and were prepared to provide fire support. I instructed them to fire past where the two ridges joined, however some of the .50 caliber rounds fell among the two platoons. I stopped the firing from the half-tracks and told Lieutenant Craig to move them to where he could provide more effective fire support.
I decided to move the 3rd Platoon (Lieutenant Whitner) and the Weapons Platoon up one of the fingers running south from the south peak in order to relieve pressure on the 1st and 2nd Platoons. I moved up with them. We were stopped by heavy fire just as we got even with the other two platoons.
I concluded that those on top were the Chinese fleeing from the 1st and 2nd Platoons. I then instructed Lieutenant Smith to place artillery on the top two peaks, and I instructed Lieutenant Craig to do the same with the .50 caliber machine guns. I told Lackner (1st Platoon) and Toomy (2nd Platoon) that I thought the enemy in front of them had moved out and for them to try to move forward in order to hit the flank of those holding up the 3rd Platoon. This they did, then all three platoons advanced to the top two peaks. There we found many Chinese dugouts with clothing, ammunition and other things indicating a rapid departure, but no live Chinese.
Night was approaching and no one had moved up to tie in with us. We set up in a tight perimeter. As we were digging in and the 4.2mm mortars were establishing defensive fires, a 4.2 round landed in our position. No one was killed, but several men were wounded.
Battalion called as soon as a wire line was run to us to congratulate the company on a job well done. It was also said that the Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General John H. Michaelis, had watched the whole attack and said that it was the best attack he had seen in Korea. However, my guess is that he was just trying to show his respect for the 35th Infantry. He had been the Commanding Officer of the 27th "Wolfhound" Regiment, another regiment of the 25th Division. He and his regiment had received a great amount of publicity as the "fire brigade" of the Eighth Army. Michaelis himself had been touted in the press as the kind of officer the Army needed and had been promoted to Brigadier General. No doubt now as the Assistant Division commander he wanted to show that he thought the 35th Regiment was just as good as the 27th Regiment he had commanded.
There was no question about the excellence of the attack the company had made on Many Fingered Hill. I was very proud of them. They needed to be complimented. I knew it would have more meaning coming from a General than from me, so I made sure everyone knew what General Michaelis had said.
That night (30 March) we had a searchlight shining on our hilltop. This allowed us to eat a hot meal in full light. The Chinese were long gone, probably north of the 38th Parallel.
On 31 March the 35th Infantry Regiment remained in the vicinity of Changgo-ri establishing new defensive positions north of the pass on the road to Yongp'yong. The press reported, "Two armored patrols with tank guns blazing smashed across Korea's disputed thirty-eighth parallel in pursuit of withdrawing enemy forces." This was a unit of the 25th Division moving north toward Kumhwa on the road from Changgo-ri--a move made possible by the capture of Many Fingered Hill.
Within five days Fox Company would conduct an attack on a dominant hill (555) just north of the 38th parallel which had been developed as a key stronghold before the start of the Korean War. It overlooked two of the roads from the north toward Uijongbu and Seoul. It now seemed that whenever there was a difficult hill to take, Fox Company was called upon. But, no doubt, this is how you always see things when you are a rifle company commander.
Chapter Twenty-Two - Triple Nickel Hill (1-7 April 1951)
The 35th Infantry Regiment moved up the road from Changgo-ri to the vicinity of Yongp'yong just north of the 38th Parallel. The press reported, "little ground action" and "The UN line is virtually at the parallel all across Korea."). General MacArthur's communiqué said the Chinese had stepped up movements of men and weapons for seven armies of an estimated 250,000 in the vicinity of Chorwon (15 miles north of the 35th Infantry).
Orders for the Attack: 4 April
On 4 April the regiment consolidated its control of the Yongp'yong valley and the road west to the Imjin River. Overlooking this area was the Pojang-San hill mass with the highest elevation being 555 meters (therefore causing it be known as Triple Nickel Hill). It was the commanding piece of ground in the region. It overlooked two routes to Uijongbu. This had been one of the North Korean strong points prior to the war, and was now occupied by the Chinese. It was covered with bunkers able to withstand artillery fire, connecting tunnels, and prepared fields of fire. It was really a fortress.
G (George) Company took the first knob (265) on the left ridge after heavy fighting and eighteen casualties. They then moved (north) up that ridge only to be stopped by machine gun fire from a group of bunkers less than halfway to the top. They spent the night on the ridge opposite those bunkers. It was an uneventful night with only patrol action.
Fox Company was eating when I received word that Major Cleves, the Battalion Executive Officer, wanted to see me on a small knoll our company was using as an outpost (126). The outpost offered an excellent view of Pohang-San (Triple Nickel Hill). Major Cleves, a burley, pleasant man, was acting Battalion Commander in the absence of Lieutenant Colonel Hiram M. Merritt, who had been wounded several days earlier. I respected Cleves's administrative ability, but wished Colonel Merritt had been there to give me my orders since we always had a productive exchange of ideas. Major Cleves said, "Holliday, tomorrow morning you are going to take over the attack from Thompson. They are going to spend the night up there." (He pointed to where I knew George Company was, since I had been watching them all day.) "Yes, Sir," I replied. He then said, "If you want you can attack through them, but I think it would be better to attack up that ridge. There are three objectives on it." He pointed to a ridge I had examined on the map and looked at during the day. It started with knob 260 and then had several more knobs up the ridge. I was sure that there would be well-prepared bunkers between 260 and the top. I knew our casualties would be high if we attacked up any ridge of Triple Nickel Hill. I said, "I don't think I want to attack through George." He replied, "Good. When you get to the top, your third objective, you are to turn left to take the main ridge and finally 555 itself. I'll have Thompson join you in the final assault on the top of 555." I said, "Yes, Sir." He asked if I had any questions, to which I replied, "No, Sir. We will be off before daylight tomorrow." He said, "Good luck." I was delighted that he had not been more specific.
The events involving George Company on 4 April convinced me that it was unwise to attack directly up any ridgeline of Triple Nickel. Surely the one starting with knob 260 would be better defended than the one used by George Company. The bunkers on each knob would probably cause any preparatory firing to be ineffective. Any attack from 260 up the ridgeline (north) would face heavy machine gun fire from bunkers on each knob.
As I looked over at Triple Nickel at dusk and then down at my map, I developed my plan for the next day. I had to keep both my mission and my men in mind. If I took care of both, I would consider the attack on 555 a success. If I failed either, I would consider it a failure. I also knew I could explain any variation from what Major Cleves might have had in mind as the "fog of war".
The hill was heavily wooded and the eastern side from 260 was steeper than the ridge used by G Company. I planned to use surprise. Going up the right (eastern) side would place me on the right (east) end of the top ridge of 555—which was actually the third objective Cleves had specified. From there I could, if necessary, come down the ridge to capture the second objective and then the first objective (260), or I could move west along the top ridgeline to 555. I planned to let battalion make that decision after I took objective three.
I would have to go up the valley to the right of the ridge Cleves had in mind as far as possible before turning left for the climb to the top. I knew it would be a very steep and difficult climb, but it would likely surprise the Chinese since they would not expect Americans to take the more difficult route—and the one that reduced the effectiveness of fire from the tanks. With this plan I thought I could achieve my mission with the fewest possible casualties. If anything went wrong, I knew I would be blamed. The easy (and self-serving), thing for me to do would be to attack up the ridge to objective one and then objective two, and finally to objective three. But I decided to do it the way I thought would fulfill my mission with the fewest casualties.
The Surprise Attack: Morning 5 April
The next morning we were lucky. In addition to the "fog of war", there was some real fog. We started well before EMT (Early Morning Twilight) because I did not want anyone to know where the company was until we started our assault on the top of the ridge (third objective). I called battalion and told them we were moving out. I then handed the microphone back to my radio operator, James W. Grimes, and said, "Turn it off and do not turn it on until I tell you to."
We passed a group of huts called Sasong-ni and then started the climb up the valley to the right of the ridge. The 1st and 3rd Platoons were abreast, with the 1st on the right. Although I could not see it, I decided that we had passed the first objective on the ridge and then the same for the second objective. I told Lieutenant Smith, the Forward Observer, to have artillery placed on the right (east) end of the ridge top of 555 (our objective three).
When we were opposite where I thought the third objective would be, I told both platoons to turn left and to start climbing. As I had expected, it was very steep. We found several bunkers and foxholes, but no enemy. It was so steep that at times it was necessary to pull ourselves from tree to tree. It was a very slow climb. The 3rd Platoon reached the crest of the ridge without enemy contact, but as Lieutenant Leo C. Witmer was bringing up the rest of his platoon, he discovered some Chinese in a dugout 25 yards to his left down the ridge. Witmer had those soldiers with him eliminate the Chinese in that dugout. At the same time, Sergeant Emmons, the platoon sergeant of the 3rd Platoon, was caught with a squad in front of another dugout up the ridge to their right. The Chinese machine gun had them pinned down with several of the men wounded.
The noise of the 3rd Platoon's action caught the attention of Master Sergeant Clarence Lackner, who had his 1st Platoon deployed farther to the right. With Sergeant First Class Clifford M. Cameron, his platoon sergeant, Lackner moved over to see what was going on. Seeing the situation he shouted, "Stay down where you can't get hit. I'll come up on their blind side and get the bastards." He told one of his squad leaders what to do. The squad swung around and started to move toward the bunker from the side. "Rat, tat, tat." The machine gun in the bunker again fired on Sergeant Emmons and his men. The squad making the attack hit the ground. Seeing this, Lackner told them, "Get up. We're going in. Line up and start firing!" He marched them toward the bunker firing. Since they were coming in from the side, the Chinese could not use the machine gun on them. Those in the dugout started throwing grenades. Lackner took a piece of a grenade in his right shoulder, but kept his men moving toward the bunker. They killed all of the Chinese in that bunker.
The 1st Platoon then pushed on up the ridge, but before they reached the top they came under machine gun fire from another hidden bunker and rifle fire from foxholes hidden in the woods. As Lackner was organizing his platoon for an assault, his shoulder began to jerk and the bleeding increased. He turned the platoon over to SFC Cameron, his platoon sergeant.
Moving Up the Ridge
While this was going on, I contacted the battalion by radio--the first time since we left before daylight:
I sent Master Sergeant Paul A. Bingham, my first sergeant, to take command of the 1st Platoon and to prepare them for another assault in conjunction with the 3rd Platoon. I sent word for the 2nd Platoon, commanded by Lieutenant Wilber H. Toomy, to move up through the 3rd Platoon, then turn left and go down the ridge far enough to set up a defensive position to prevent a counterattack from the Chinese we had by-passed on the ridge below us. The 2nd Platoon moved down far enough to find some excellent positions which the Chinese had prepared expecting us to come up that ridge. The platoon moved in.
The Chinese launched a counter attack from a knob on the ridge above us, which I was to learn was 475, but the 1st Platoon stopped it. I decided to attack that knob thinking it was our objective three, i.e., the right end of the top ridge. The 3rd Platoon attempted to move up the ridge to that knob, but was stopped by machine gun fire from several positions and also rifle fire. Sergeant Yeikichi B. Hokazu, who spoke Japanese, worked his way up close to the Chinese bunkers and foxholes. In Japanese and a few words of Chinese, he told the Chinese to surrender. A burst of machine gun fire was the answer. He ducked behind a larger rock. After a while he started to talk to them again. This time a sniper knew where he was. We passed his body later during our assault.
Assault of Knob 475
I knew we were too close to the enemy to use artillery. Moreover, I was not sure where we were. I had Lieutenant Smith place fire on the top ridge of 555, which was to our left front, and walk it to the right. From where the rounds landed, I decided we probably faced 475, which was the last knob on the ridge going north before the east-west top ridge of 555. However, I was not sure.
I wanted tank fire on the enemy in front of us, but the tanks were so far away they could not tell where we wanted them to shoot. Using the radio, air panels, and a few trial rounds, we got them on target. I told them to fire rounds for ten minutes. "WIZZZ, WHUMM." The 76mm shells came in, as well as the slower "ZOOOM, BANG" from 75mm recoilless rifle shells dug into knob 475.
I notified the 1st and 3rd Platoons that after the tank shells stopped they were to assault the knob in front of the 3rd Platoon. I told them to fix their bayonets. The 2nd Platoon and the 57mm recoilless rifles were to support the other two platoons. The 60mm mortars were also to support. I made Lieutenant James L. Ashworth, the Weapons Platoon Leader, in charge of all fire support for the assault. The firing of the 57mm recoilless rifle (RR) was to be the signal for the assault to start.
I took Ashworth with me as I went over to talk with Corporal Elwood Ellens, the 57mm RR squad leader. I wanted both of them to understand the critical role of direct fire in the success of the assault. "You will have to move up so you can fire directly at any machine guns firing on us," I said. Corporal Ellens was a tall, jet-black soldier who moved in a slow, deliberate manner. He turned to his gunner and said, "This uns gonna be rough. Ya better let me have that thing." Taking the weapon, he moved slowly up to where Hokazu had been killed. Ellens turned his head and nodded that he was ready. I called and told the tanks and 75mm recoilless rifles to cease firing. I then told Ellens to fire. The glare and blast from the 57mm RR filled the air with dust and flame.
I turned to Witmer, the 3rd Platoon leader, and said, "Let's go." He gave a few short commands to his platoon, which was spread out among the trees. Everyone started forward with bayonets fixed. I was reminded that victory is never achieved until Infantrymen cross the final yards. All of our men started to fire. The crack of twigs over our head told me that all of the Chinese weren't in the bottom of their dugouts.
Master Sergeant Robert E. Lynch, the platoon sergeant of the 3rd Platoon, suddenly stopped. He jumped back, and crouched down. He slowly removed his helmet. He just stared at a deep grove in the helmet and then he placed it back on his head. He looked over at Witmer and me and started forward again. I moved forward a little more with the 3rd Platoon and then I told Witmer that I was going over to see what the 1st Platoon was doing.
After pushing through some heavy brush, I found Sergeant Cameron and part of the 1st Platoon. They were moving forward slowly. To their right, Master Sergeant Bingham was with the rest of the platoon. The foliage was so thick I could only see four or five men at a time. I moved up the ridge with the 1st Platoon. The firing was now quite heavy. The rebel yells and shouts of my men filled the woods.
There was not a line of advancing men, there were small groups converging on the enemy from all directions. Some of the Chinese tried to run away, but they went only a few steps. The men of Fox Company were doing what all good Infantrymen do: closing the last yards with vigor. The Chinese that stayed in their emplacement had to stay low because of the volume of fire directed at them. Some threw grenades, but since they could not see where to throw them, most of the grenades caused little damage. All of the enemy that remained were shot or bayoneted as they crouched in their holes hiding from the hail of bullets.
Capture of Objective Three: Afternoon 5 April
I moved over the top of the knob and down into a saddle. The trees now thinned out. The left side of the saddle was covered with grass and trees covered the right side. I was able to confirm that the knob we had just taken was indeed 475 and the one across the saddle was our objective three (the eastern or right end of the top ridge of 555). To flank the enemy on 555, it would be necessary to take objective three. Bingham came through the trees leading the 1st Platoon. I shouted to him, "Keep going and take that hill." I pointed to the high ground on the other side of the saddle.
Things were now pretty disorganized. Going through the woods it had been impossible to keep a whole platoon together. I recognized the men with Bingham. They were the ones I had been with during the assault on 475. They moved across the saddle using the woods on the right side. I moved along the crest of the saddle with the grass to my left, hoping to see the 3rd Platoon as those men completed their assault on 475.
I had gone about a third of the way across the saddle when I saw Whitner break through the brush on 475 at the head of the 3rd Platoon. I waved them forward. In true Fort Benning form, I shouted, "Follow me! Get to that hill as fast as you can." The whole platoon started across the clearing. They were firing, yelling, and shouting as loud as they could. Some of the men had whistles, which they were now blowing. The din of this rolling sound increased—and INCREASED--as the 1st and 3rd Platoons joined together and assaulted objective three. George Company, which was over 1,000 yards away on the left ridge of 555, heard all of this noise and thought the Chinese were staging a fanatic counterattack against us.
As before, the few Chinese that stayed in their holes were shot or bayoneted. However, the vigor of our attack had the desired effect. Most of the enemy scampered away as we came up toward them. A quick glance told me that this was our objective three. I ordered a defense set up immediately. I placed the machine guns on the left (west) side of our position facing the top ridge over to 555.
The firing of the 57mm recoilless rifle, which had been our signal to start the assault on 475, had also been a signal for our enemy. All of the time that the 1st and 3rd Platoons were moving up the ridge, the Chinese dropped mortar shells where we started. Much of our Weapons Platoon and the headquarters personnel were in that area. They had to take cover and often used the Chinese foxholes. Lieutenant Smith, my forward observer, was wounded. However, his sergeant continued the artillery fire on the top ridge as I had directed.
Defense of Objective Three: 5-6 April
It did not take the Chinese long to reorganize after we captured our objective three. Mortar shells started to fall on us. We had not been able to dig in and the Chinese dugouts were facing in the wrong direction. We received machine gun fire any time someone moved on the forward slope of our position. Some of our most exposed soldiers pulled back for greater protection. This caused the enemy to push toward us. Our fire stopped them before they could get close enough to make an assault. On both 475 and objective three, we found a lot of equipment, some of which had been captured from Americans. Both areas were cluttered with bodies. These Chinese appeared to have been in very good physical condition and to have ample weapons and ammunition.
Major Cleves called on the radio to ask if I could push on to the other end of the top ridge of 555. I told him no, and that we were going to be lucky to hold where we were all night. I mentioned that we had already fought off one attack and we were under constant mortar and machine gun fire. It was beginning to get dark.
I had expected patrols to be sent against us after dark. I told all platoons to be sure to rotate the men in the forward positions so someone would always be awake. I told them to follow all of our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), even though I knew they were all tired. I made my usual rounds to each squad and congratulated everyone on a job well done. The Chinese sent no patrols against us that night.
Over the radio I heard the battalion give "G" Company orders to move up from where they were and where they had spent the previous night. They were to move as far as they could toward the top of 555. At about 2300 hours, Thompson reported that they were setting up a perimeter on a knob just across from the left (west) end of the top ridge of 555. They had no enemy contact as they moved up.
Just after midnight, we received several bursts of machine gun fire from the enemy opposite us--and then silence. The next morning George Company moved over to 555 and then down the top ridge to us without firing a shot. The whole length of the top ridge was a maze of log and stone emplacements and tunnels. Only scattered equipment and supplies, as well as dead and mangled corpses of Chinese soldiers, remained on Triple Nickel, where the day before 500 to 800 Chinese had been in excellent defensive positions. That was before our surprise attack on their flank.
Dead Chinese Soldiers
Eighth Army reported: "Stubborn enemy opposition to the UN advance in the vicinity of Yongp'yong, two miles north of the parallel and 33 miles northeast of Seoul. Yongp'yong straddles a highway stretching northeast to the major Red supply and troop assembly hub of Kumhwa."
The capture of Triple Nickel Hill was the last major attack in this area prior to the Chinese Spring Offensive. The 25th Division went from gaining and holding territory to reconnaissance in force in order to determine the enemy's location and plans. We were now north of the 38th Parallel and we knew the Chinese were preparing for major attacks toward Uijongbu down the two routes on either side of Triple Nickel Hill. The 35th Infantry Regiment started to prepare for a defense in depth on one of the two routes. Our defense was designed to inflict damage on the Chinese, yet keep our units intact. The British 29th Brigade to our west below the Injim River was defending the other route to Uijongbu.
Chapter Twenty-Three - Chinese Spring Offensive (7 April-18 May 1951)
Prior to the Chinese Spring Offensive: 7–21 April 1951
After the capture of Triple Nickel there was a lull. Enemy resistance stiffened whenever advances were made toward Chorwon or Kumhwa, where the main body of Chinese forces was believed to be getting ready for a new offensive. Although the enemy started brush fires to obscure their movements from aircraft, it was reported that 18 new divisions had arrived in an area 5-15 miles northeast of where the 35th Infantry Regiment was located. On 11 April General Ridgway replaced General MacArthur. We were unaware of the debates and politics that caused this change.
Planning was not for the defense of territory. Planning was about how to weaken the will of the enemy by killing as many as possible. Patrols were sent out daily. The administrative and support units of the regiment were moved south of the road junction at Changgo-ri. Troops were placed where they could prevent the Chinese from establishing roadblocks on the MSR (Main Supply Route). We made contact with the British Brigade on the Imjin River to our left (west).
Delaying Actions North of Uijongbu: 22-30 April 1951
The Chinese began the Spring Offensive at 2200 hours on Sunday 22 April 1951 across a 40-mile front. At least 250,000 Chinese and North Korean soldiers were involved. Some estimates place this number as high as 700,000. This offensive was called the CCF (Chinese Communist Forces) First Spring Offensive. It started the last attempt by either side to achieve victory.
The major attack, with six armies, was toward Seoul. The 35th Infantry Regiment conducted delaying actions on one of the main routes to Seoul, however, those defending other routes north of Seoul suffered greater damage than the 35th. These were the Turkish Brigade, British 29th Brigade, and the 1st ROK (Republic of Korea) Division.
During 22-26 April, the 35th Infantry Regiment withdrew as planned. We knew the area since we had moved up through it just about a month earlier. Some of the positions were ones we had used as we moved north. Not only did we establish our assigned defensive positions as usual, but we also planned withdrawal routes through the unit behind us. The withdrawal routes were not on the road used by vehicles during the day, but along foot trails parallel to the road. When we were in the front line, I would contact the commander of the company behind us and we would discuss exactly how we would pull back. I would see that we had a wire line between us so that I could keep him informed of our situation. Someone--usually the platoon sergeant, but sometimes a squad leader, from each platoon would walk the route during daylight so he would be able to guide his platoon in the dark when we withdrew.
We expected ambush teams and snipers to infiltrate to our rear in order to attack us as we withdrew. Before dark each evening, all vehicles were moved behind the unit to our rear. Then it was up to the Chinese. The key to this type of defense was for those in the front lines to be able to distinguish between a patrol, a local probing attack, and an assault. Making this distinguish was my primary job. I had to use my observation of the sights and sounds in front of us and to our flanks and the reports from my platoon leaders. We fired on any patrols and brought artillery down on any probing attack to break it up. This was easy to do. We held our position during these actions.
It was more difficult to know when the Chinese were getting ready to make an assault. We knew that any assault would come in the dark and that they would try to go around our flanks and send several waves against the front of our position. When I determined they were moving soldiers into positions from which they could make an assault, I sent one platoon back to selected positions along our withdrawal route. This was to insure that we would not be ambushed. If there was no assault, that platoon was to return at daylight. Then I kept the others platoons in their positions as long as possible, using artillery as much as possible. When I determined the Chinese were moving up for an assault, I ordered the platoons to withdrawal and I came out with the last platoon. I did this successfully each time we were in the front line. I was at least 100 yards back of our defensive position when we heard the bugles and whistles of the assaulting Chinese. Then I brought artillery down on our old position.
Between 22 and 26 April we fought off many patrols and several probing attacks by the Chinese. But Fox Company was able to avoid all assaults. Thus our withdrawals were routine and we did not experience the repeated waves of the enemy with bugles and whistles that others reported during this period. One time I was waiting with the last platoon for signs of an imminent assault from our front when I realized that larger numbers of the enemy were moving around our flanks. What should I do?
If I took the platoon back from our defensive position, as was planned, there was a good chance the enemy would be waiting for us. I decided that the best thing to do was to move as rapidly as possible through the enemy on our left flank. I order my men to fix their bayonets and to follow me as closely as possible. I expected the Chinese would never expect a tight phalanx of Americas charging at them. We knew the ground better than the enemy and we had surprise on our side. The enemy we met that dark night scattered as soon as we fired at them. I’m not sure if any of my men had to use their bayonets. However, I do know we suffered no casualties. After having moved some 400 yards through the enemy formation, I turned the platoon to the left and we made our way to our withdrawal route.
Our regiment used ammunition, brains, and discipline, while the Chinese used discipline and bodies. We traded space for blood. The 35th Infantry was able to keep out of serious trouble while killing many Chinese with artillery fire. On 26 April, the regiment still held strong defensive positions north of the road junction at Changgo-ri, where the battle for Many Fingers Hill had been fought on 30 March. At this same time, three battalions of the British 29th Brigade just to our west were fighting along another road north of Uijongbu. In his book, The Korean War, Max Hastings describes this as "The Struggle on the Imjin" (pages 208-227).
On 27 April the 35th Infantry made a major move back to defensive positions north of Uijongbu near Easter Hill eleven miles north of Seoul. Here we took up positions to block both the main road from Kumhwa to Seoul and the road on which the British 29th Brigade had withdrawn.
On 28-29 April the 35th Infantry fought a series of battles to hold Uijongbu. The press reported, “The pressure of the Chinese horde was felt in terrific fighting around Uijongbu. An entire enemy battalion was destroyed northeast of Uijongbu by artillery and rifle fire.” The infantry held the Chinese in place so that the artillery could kill them. The weather was now warmer. The howitzers and Long Tom rifles were hurling hundreds of thousands of shells. Mortars were also active when the Chinese got close.
However, things were not holding up as well northwest of Seoul on the route from Munsan-ni. There the Chinese drove to within four miles of Seoul. They even reached the Han River where a move down the north bank would have doomed the Korean capital again. Nevertheless, the Chinese were having very heavy casualties—an estimated 45,000 in the first week of their offensive. Their front line troops went into battle with eight days’ supply of rice and ammunition, and had to re-supply before attempting to take Seoul. The Chinese Spring Offensive came to a halt.
The advance of the enemy along the route from the northwest toward Seoul outflanked the positions held by the 25th Division on the route toward Seoul from the northeast. Therefore, without a fight, the 35th Infantry withdrew from Uijongbu to defensive positions just north of Seoul to tie in with those defending the northwest approach to that city. The regiment held off probing attacks for several days. The press reported, “The big Red spring offensive bogged down Tuesday (1 May) short of Seoul—the May Day goal.”
Stalemate: 1-18 May 1951
After 1 May the Chinese pulled back out of artillery range to regroup. The Eighth Army improved its defensive position, sent out reconnaissance patrols, and used air attacks to weaken the enemy. The 25th Division sent tank/infantry task forces back to Uijongbu, destroying enemy outposts en route and killing as many of the Chinese as possible. The 35th Infantry Regiment became part of the No Name Line. The press reported, “The Reds were building up strength massively in four main sectors—north and east of Uijongbu, and north and west of Ch’unch’on. They tried to hide their movements under smoke screens created by smudge pots and burning brush. The Eighth Army braced for the attack—with barbed wire, minefields and massed artillery. Any night the Chinese might blow their bugles and whistles, set off their green flares, and attack.”
During this period the area near Uijongbu was a no man’s land. Bitter fights were fought throughout this area. On 16 May 1951, 137,000 Chinese and 38,000 North Koreans attacked the eastern part of the No Name Line near Ch’unch’on, with their main attacks against ROK (Republic of Korea) forces. This was called the Second Spring Offensive, and in it the enemy suffered probably their greatest casualties of the entire war. Near Uijongbu, the enemy massed and stepped up its patrolling, but did not make a major attack. The 35th Infantry and others on the western part of the No Name Line made probes north to find the enemy. Foot patrols and tank/infantry task forces were sent out to make contact with the enemy, but no units moved from No Name Line. By 19 May the Chinese were contained, and many Chinese and North Korean troops had been killed. The Chinese were exhausted.
The members of F Company, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division had shared many stressful experiences since I took command at the end of February. They had proven themselves between 7 April and 18 May 1951 in stubborn defenses, smooth withdrawals, aggressive patrolling, and on tank/infantry teams. The company had lost many of its most experienced men, but had absorbed replacements. The men had experienced boredom, bad weather, monotony, hardship, fatigue, excitement and horror. They had seen, smelt, heard, and touched combat. They had demonstrated their skills and competence in the world’s most dangerous job—that of an Infantryman. On 18 May 1951 I was confident that they were as good as any rifle company in Korea—maybe ever. However, on 21 May 1951, Fox Company was to be seriously challenged on Skeleton Hill.
Chapter Twenty-Four - Battle of Skeleton Hill (19-24 May 1951)
On 20 May the Eighth Army started a general offensive. Near Uijongbu, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 35th Infantry Regiment met only scattered resistance, but the Turkish Brigade on their right was heavily engaged.
Attacking Hill 329
There had been a slow rain all morning on 21 May. Now at noon the sky was dark and the air was filled with mist. I sat in a small Korean shrine (myo) with the headquarters group of Fox Company, 35th Infantry, 25th Division. The 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry was on a hill mass (Surak-San) to our west. It was possible to pick out the small black dots as they moved along the skyline. They didn’t seem to be doing any fighting. The Turks were fighting on our east, 1,500 yards south of us.
Fox Company was spread out in a few huts we had found. Everyone was hoping we would be forgotten. On the far side of the valley in front of us there was an extension of the ridge on which the Turks were fighting. The last knob on that ridge formed a hill higher than the rest of the ridge. It was 329 meters high.
All morning I had been watching the ridge through my field glasses since I was sure it would have to be cleared. There were men on each knob of the ridge, yet there was more movement on hill 329, which was to become known as Skeleton Hill, than any other knob. It is a good rule that there are ten times as many people in a defensive position as one can actually see. I concluded that 300 or 400 Chinese must be on hill 329. It was easy to see them going in and out of foxholes on the near side, but the movement also suggested that foxholes were on the reverse side.
“Battalion wants you, sir.” It was James W. Grimes, my radio operator. Maybe they’ll have us button up for the night, I hoped. The order from Lieutenant Colonel Hiram M. Merritt was clear and simple: “Take hill 329. A tank platoon and G Company will support you.” I knew what was coming and had no desire for it. After an unsuccessful attempt to hold up the attack until the Turks had cleared up their end of the ridge, I told the platoons to prepare to move and for the platoon leaders to join me.
New Platoon Leaders
This was the first action for the platoon leaders of the 1st and 3rd Platoons. Both had been civilians only a few weeks ago. They had joined the Inactive Reserve in 1946. Now they were about to lead a platoon in combat. I had placed both of them with Lieutenant Lacker (he had been awarded a battlefield commission) for ten days to help them get their feet on the ground. They were both willing and eager to do their duty, but neither was trained to lead a platoon in combat. Lieutenant English, a cautious, quiet man, had the 2nd Platoon. Lieutenant Jackson, an athletic, energetic, vocal man, had the 3rd Platoon. I had moved Lieutenant Clarence Lackner, my most experienced and most capable officer, from the rifle platoon where he had been since arriving in Korea to the Weapons Platoon. Lieutenant Paul E. Clawson, a brave, young, serious ROTC graduate who had come to the company just after the Battle for Triple Nickel Hill, was the 1st Platoon leader. My artillery forward observer was now Lieutenant Joseph Shankle.
When all of the platoon leaders arrived, I told them, “See that hill?" (I pointed to hill 329.) "That is our objective. Look at the two ridges going up from the valley." (I made sure each of them saw them.) "The 3rd Platoon will go up the left ridge. The 1st Platoon will go up the right ridge. I will start off with the 1st. The 2nd will follow the 1st and will be used as needed. Weapons, a platoon of tanks, and George will support." I then explained the details and answered all of their questions. I made sure each understood what we were going to do. I ended with, “When we get to the top, I do not want to see anyone standing on the top celebrating. We can expect to find a reverse side defense.”
I moved down to talk with the tank platoon leader. I had Clawson (1st Platoon) and Jackson (3rd Platoon) with me. I told the tanker what we were going to do and discussed how the tanks should give us fire support. I could see "G" Company moving into position on the hill to my left. I knew Lackner would place the Weapons Platoon into position on the same hill. The Turks were still fighting far back to our right on the other end of the ridge we were to attack.
Start of the Attack
I called battalion and told them, “We are moving out.” Lieutenant Joseph Shankle, the artillery forward observer, started firing on our objective. Burst of black puffs from VT shells covered the hill, and the whine and crash of 155 shells caused dirt and smoke to cover the top of the hill. It looked like no one could be alive there, but previous experience had taught me how wrong this could be.
The 1st Platoon came up the valley to where the tanks were located and we walked down to where the right ridge started. Clawson started up that ridge. The 1st was to move up until they hit resistance, and then to set up a position from which it could support the movement of the 3rd. I planned to follow the 1st so I could bring the 2nd into action whenever needed, but I decided to continue down the valley with the 3rd until they started up the left ridge.
As Jackson and I continued up the valley with the 3rd Platoon, we heard "ZINGGG"--a rifle bullet. Soon there was more of the same. I called the tanks and told them to move up the valley with us to see if they could stop the rifle fire. The roar of tank engines started, and shortly thereafter there was the heavy chatter of their .50 caliber machine guns and the "BOOM-THUM" of their guns.
The grass was knee-high as we moved up the valley. My right foot was blue and cold, as I was only wearing a native Korean grass sandal. I had injured my Achilles tendon several days earlier and I couldn’t walk with a regular combat boot on that foot. My left knee was still swollen from a series of injuries over several months. I could not straighten my left leg--I could only step down on my toe. I had to be helped whenever I wanted to go down a hill. When I heard the "ZINGGG" of the rifle bullet, I hopped into some water, and I was now both cold and wet.
"G" Company called. “We can see about 50 bad guys in an ambush just ahead of you.” They gave me the coordinates. I stopped and quickly spotted the point on the map. If everything was correct, I knew that the 3rd Platoon would move up the left ridge before they reached the ambush. I asked Captain Thompson, Commanding Officer of "G" Company, to direct mortar fire on the enemy ambush. From the mortar bursts and the comments over the radio to battalion, I knew that all had not gone well for the would-be ambushers.
The men of the 1st Platoon on the right ridge were still walking upright, so I knew they had not yet met any resistance. I noted that the artillery fire had increased on the top of 329. I talked with Clawson over the hand radio. He said everything was all right and sounded upbeat and eager. He had been the platoon leader for over five weeks, but this was his first attack. I could not see the 3rd Platoon and I could not reach its leader, Jackson, on the hand radio. Nor could I reach English with the 2nd Platoon. The hand radios were only useful for less than 200 yards. I sent a messenger back to tell Lieutenant English to follow as close as possible behind the 1st Platoon.
I told Shankle to stop all artillery fire, and I started to climb up with the company command group after the 1st Platoon. At the first clearing, I stopped to see what the 3rd Platoon was doing. They were moving up the left ridge but were keeping off of the crest, so I assumed they had received some fire from their left flank.
The "Rat-Tat-Tat" of a machine gun and a flurry of rifle shots told me that the 1st Platoon had run into something. I glanced back into the valley. The tanks were firing, but the 2nd Platoon had not left the valley. The familiar whine/thud of incoming artillery had stopped even before Lieutenant Shankle notified me that all batteries had ceased fire on 329 (a/k/a Skeleton Hill). Our mortars, our .57mm recoilless rifles, "G" Company, and the tanks were all firing ahead of our platoons. All was going well, but I knew it would not last.
To my left I heard machine gun fire, then rifles. The 3rd Platoon had hit something. An enemy mortar shell landed nearby. I continued to move up. Just before I reached the 1st Platoon, a volley of artillery hit to my right. From the whine of the shells I could tell they were our artillery. I called battalion and told them to get the artillery halted. Lieutenant Shankle did the same over his radio directly to the artillery.
There was another volley. This time it was closer. Shankle said it looked like a battery of 105's was traversing left. Whatever it was, I decided we should get down. I yelled to the 1st Platoon, “Get down! Take cover!” I then moved to a small ditch with the command group. With my face to the ground, I counted the seconds as each volley moved closer and closer. The ground shook as the shells landed to our right. The loud blasts were bad enough, but the incoming "WIZZZ" was even worse because we did not know where it would land. The ground shook again, and branches of the bushes above me were torn apart by shrapnel. The volleys moved across to our left. The smell of cordite filled the air. There was silence. I waited for the scream of “MEDIC!” Only silence. No one in the command group was hit. Battalion called and asked, “Are you okay?” I answered angrily, “By some miracle we aren’t all dead. I don’t know who is hit yet. That could have finished off most of the company. I’m moving up to the 1st Platoon. I’ll try to get them moving.” I started to move, but grabbed the radio handset again and said, “Find out who in hell is responsible for that firing! Damn it, after that I don’t know if I can get them moving again. OUT!!!”
First and Second Platoons
I was not happy as I moved through the men of the 1st Platoon. All were still flat on the ground. I asked them, “Where’s your Lieutenant?” I kept getting, “Up front.” Finally I reached Sergeant Arnold, who was the acting platoon sergeant. Less than two weeks before he had been an assistant squad leader. He had been sent to us from the artillery. Casualties, a lack of NCO replacements, and rotation had cut deeply. The regular platoon sergeant of the 1st Platoon was in Japan on R&R. When I asked him, “Where is the Lieutenant?”, he pointed. On his knees, slumped forward with blood-covered brains down the back of his head and neck, was Lieutenant Paul E. Clawson. I turned to Sergeant Arnold. He was on his right knee and his eyes were blank with a frozen stare. His mouth was open. “Arnold!” He seemed to come back, “Yes, Sir.” “I want you to get this platoon up and ready to change this hill. I’m going to get the 2nd. I’ll bring them up to your right and then all of us will charge the top. Understand?” He replied, “Yes, Sir. But we have also lost one of our squad leaders.” I replied, “Okay.” I went over to Corporal Darell T. Dorsett, the only black man in the platoon. “Dorsett, you are now the squad leader. Help Arnold get the men ready to take that hill.” From what I had seen of Dorsett, I knew that he was a real Infantryman with the ability and courage to lead men in combat. I watched for a few minutes. Arnold went about reorganizing the platoon as if he had done it all of his life. Dorsett was talking with his squad. I was determined that Lieutenant Clawson’s heroism would be recognized.
I looked down the ridge for the 2nd Platoon. It was not there. It had not followed the 1st. I looked through my field glasses and saw some men near the tanks sitting down. I tried to reach the 2nd by hand radio. No success. Maybe it was the batteries. Maybe English had not understood. Maybe my messenger had gotten lost. Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the damn hand radios. At this time, the reason was of no importance. I thought, "How do I make the assault on the top of the hills as soon as possible?" I got the tank platoon leader on my 300 radio and told him to relay a message to Lieutenant English to bring the 2nd Platoon up as soon as possible.
Changes for the Third Platoon
I knew it would take the 2nd Platoon too long to reach us, so I knew I would have to use the two platoons I had. I could see the 3rd on their ridge less than 100 yards to my left. I tried the hand radio again. I got a faint reply—the first contact since we had moved out. I learned that the artillery had not reached them, but they were drawing heavy rifle fire from their left. Also, several machine guns blocked the way up the ridge they were on. I ordered Lieutenant Jackson to bring the 3rd Platoon over to where the 1st Platoon was, and told him that I would give him instructions when he arrived. I told Sergeant Arnold it would not be the 2nd Platoon on his right, but the 3rd Platoon.
Lieutenant Jackson came up holding his .45 automatic in one hand, while the other was covered with blood. Two of his fingers seemed to be barely attached to his hand. His face combined anger and shock. “Don’t you think you had better get that hand taken care of?” I asked. He said, “No, Sir. I want to get those dirty bastards!” This was not the same man I had talked with a short time ago. Looking back down the slope, I could see Master Sergeant Gary J. Emmons moving among the soldiers of the 3rd Platoon. I recognized that Jackson was no longer leading the platoon. He was now only a brave individual griped by pain, anger, fear, and pride. I thought it best to let him go along with the platoon, but I would work with Sergeant Emmons. I knew him, and I knew he would understand. I told Jackson to swing the platoon over to the right of the 1st Platoon, then I walked over to Emmons and told him what I wanted done. He understood the situation. “Don’t worry, Sir. I’ll take care of everything. The Lieutenant is a good Infantryman. It’s too bad we did not have more time together. We will miss him.”
Occasionally enemy mortar shells dropped near us, and there was the "zip" of a rifle bullet now and then. Nevertheless, the 1st Platoon was now reorganized and the 3rd was moved up on line with it. I looked around. Most of the men were crouched low, holding tightly to their weapons. They were all looking toward me. So that all of the men could see me, I stood up. I shouted as loud as I could, “All right, LET’S GO! TOGETHER. KEEP FIRING. Stay in line.” I saw them start to move, and again I shouted, “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! Everyone move together.” A few glances told me they were following me slowly. I said to them, “COME ON, YELL!” The firing picked up and the shouts grew louder. Not words. Just yells of all kinds. I knew both platoons were moving.
I let them pass me, but I continued to yell for them to keep moving and firing. I had to confront some of the laggards and order them to get up with the other men. From time to time in the past I had joked with them that their odds would always be better assaulting the enemy rather than trying to run back past me. I thought I might have to put those words to the test—but I did not. I could not see most of the 3rd Platoon, but from the firing and yells from their direction, I knew they were also moving up.
On the top and around the sides of the hill, men in Chinese uniforms began to appear as they darted from their holes. Most were spotted by the Infantrymen of Fox Company and soon stumbled to the ground. The yelling and shooting seemed to increase. All of the men seemed to be captured by that feeling which only comes to Infantrymen who have gone the final yards and are now killing those who moments ago had been trying to kill them.
To my left I saw a man rise from a camouflaged hole some 15 yards away. He aimed his rifle at me. Hardly had he fired when two of my men turned their rifles on him and he slumped back into his hole. I felt a sharp sting on my right wrist. I looked down. My .45 was gone. My field jacket was ripped. The back of my hand was raw flesh and blood. I tried to move my fingers and they all moved. I picked up my .45.
On the very top of the hill, where an enemy machine gun had been firing at us, I could see two or three of my men waving their hands and yelling for joy. I was both happy and concerned. Happy because they had reached the top, but worried because I knew they were targets for those in the reserve slope defense. Most of the men took up positions near the top, but did not go on the top.
Sticks started to float through the air, landing on our side of the hill. Most fell among our men on or near the top, but some were thrown so hard they landed near me. They were not sticks. They were grenades with throwing handles. They were exploding all around us. One landed three feet to my left. I fell to the ground and it exploded. I felt nothing except the force of the blast. For some ten minutes my men tossed grenades over to the other side and a constant stream of Chinese grenades came over to our side. There was almost no rifle firing now. There was no longer a line, only individuals crouched down below the crest. I could see only a small part of the 3rd Platoon, but they appeared to be in the same condition. Someway we had to get to the enemy on the other side.
Again I jumped up and screamed, “EVERYONE UP. FIRE. OVER TO THE OTHER SIDE.” The rifles started to crack again. Again the men advanced. Some dropped into holes, then some of the grenades also landed in the holes. One man crawled by saying, “I’m hit in both legs.” I came upon the body of Cpl. Henry W. Berry. Each of the men that crawled back from the crest had grenade wounds. Corporal William F. McCraney hopped by with a smile on his face. “I got a good one, Sir. Japan, here I come.”
No one was left on the top—at least no one fighting. We were getting thinned out, but we would have to get over to the other side the next time or wait until the 2nd Platoon came up. However, the time lost would give the Chinese time to regroup and that would surely increase our casualties. We needed to try again while they were off balance.
Again I stood up yelled and started forward. Again they yelled back, started firing, and moved forward. I had hardly started when something hit my left elbow so hard it spun me halfway around. My arm went dead. I dropped to my knees to check what had happened. I felt no pain, but I could not move the fingers of my left hand and my forearm was numb. I heard Lieutenant Shankle, my forward observer who had been by my side from the beginning, yell, “They’ve got the Captain. Let’s get them. Over the top for the Captain!” He ran among the men of the 1st Platoon and then he ran over toward the 3rd Platoon, ordering them over the top.
When I got to my feet everyone was moving, y, and firing. The first men moved over the top and I followed them. Every ridge on the other side seemed to be covered with Chinese running. My men were firing at them. As more of my soldiers came over the top, they moved down far enough to have some protection. They kept firing at the running figures. Many Chinese stumbled and fell in the brush. Only a few yards from the crest, other Chinese tried to crawl down the hill through the brush and rocks. It was more like target shooting than fighting. I saw one crawling between two rocks just 35 yards away from me. I pointed my .45 at him and fired--more in keeping with the spirit of the occasion than in the hope of hitting him. He fell. Later I checked and he was dead.
Holding the Top of Skeleton Hill
I then moved among my men giving instruction on the zone each platoon would defend. I expected some kind of counterattack. I looked for the 2nd Platoon. They were still moving up the ridge toward us. When they finally arrived, I gave them their zone.
During the next hour there was an occasional crack from a rifle as one of my men spotted an enemy trying to sneak down the hill. But now there was a strange silence. No one was talking. I became aware of a slow drizzle. Five prisoners were brought in and several men with wounds came over to where I had the command group. Lieutenant Jackson came over to report his platoon was in position. The wild look was now gone. He looked very tired and I could tell his hand was giving him great pain. I told him to take the other wounded and the prisoners down the hill to battalion.
Then I walked around our defensive positions. In several of the foxholes we found human bones with bits of clothing attached. We wondered what battle they were from. We thought it appropriate to rename hill 329 "Skeleton Hill". Some of the foxholes had bodies of Chinese in them. Other Chinese bodies were scattered here and there. Abandoned equipment covered the hill: one large mortar, two heavy machine guns, six light machine guns, many rifles, and many boxes of grenades. Everyone in the 1st and 3rd Platoons was wet and exhausted. Those in the 2nd were just wet. While I was with the men of the 3rd Platoon, they told me of the single-handed conquests of Lieutenant Jackson. I then went over to where this had taken place and found the limp bodies of Chinese over their guns. I could visualize the grim fighting that had taken place there.
It now began to rain. Master Sergeant Paul A. Bingham, my first sergeant, had selected a pit--larger than the other holes on the hill, where he, Corporal Edmund F. McCarthey, and I would be. They had removed two bodies from the pit. The bottom was covered with water. In the pit we found a pouch full of maps and paper. They indicated that this had been the command post of the regiment fighting the Turks and that the reserve battalion of that regiment had defended Skeleton Hill.
The Turks moved down the ridge to make contact with us. Battalion told us that the artillery fire on us during the first part of our attack was the predatory fire for the Turks. The Turks did not know that we were attacking the other end of the ridge they were attacking.
The company settled in for the night. There were enough foxholes so we did not have to do any digging—just remove the bodies of Chinese from today’s fight and settle in with the skeletal remains. Communication was set up and defensive fires were fired in. We had a hot meal. The three of us curled up in the pit to spend the night in the mud and water. I had no feeling in my left forearm. My right ankle and left knee hurt. My right hand looked bad, but it felt all right. None of this kept me from sleeping.
The Morning After
The next morning (22 May, I went to the Battalion Aid Station to have my wounds dressed. I also started the paper work to get my soldiers (including Clawson and Jackson) recognized for their heroism. I put both Clawson and Jackson in for a Distinguished Service Cross. Clawson was awarded the DSC posthumously. I think Jackson received the Silver Star. They said I was lucky that the bullet that hit my right hand had only torn up a lot of skin and flesh. There was nothing that would prevent it from functioning. My left forearm had a number of small puncture wounds from parts of a Chinese hand grenade, but they could not tell why my arm was paralyzed. I would have to go be evacuated to determine that. I told them I would come back when my company came off of the hill.
I went back up Skeleton Hill to Fox Company. I was told that 68 enemy bodies had been found, and that in addition to Lieutenant Clawson and Corporal Berry, two others of my men had been killed: Pfc. Ralph E. Dennison and Pfc. George Roller.
I remained with Fox Company until the battalion went into reserve on 24 May. My left arm was paralyzed; the wound on my right hand was bandaged; I was still wearing the Korean sandal on my right foot; and my left knee prevented me from going downhill without help. Yet I was able to command the company, so I remained. We made some minor adjustment in our defensive positions on 22 May--where we remained through 23 May.
Chapter Twenty-Five - While in Japan (25 May-21 June 1951)
On 24 May I went back to the battalion aid station to see what they could do for my wounds. They again changed the bandages on my right hand, but could do nothing for the paralyzed left arm, my left knee, or right Achilles tendon. They sent me to the Division Clearing Station. The doctors there decided to evacuate me to Japan.
From the division until I ended up in a hospital in Kobe, Japan, I remember very little. Perhaps they gave me a sedative, or perhaps I was just sleeping, but I didn’t pay attention to where I was or what others were doing. I just slept and nurses came in and out. I think I was on a train. I do remember being transferred to a ship. The ship took me to somewhere in Japan and finally I ended up in a hospital in Kobe.
In the Kobe hospital I was given a complete examination and the doctors told me:
The doctor’s orders were simple: rest, hot tubs, and physical therapy. That sounded good to me. They removed all of the metal fragments from my left arm except the one causing the paralysis, and my bandages were changed until everything healed. In a few days some feeling came back to the fingers of my left hand, and in time the paralysis faded. After several weeks I was good to go.
My Basic Conclusions
As I was healing, I had time to reflect on what could be learned from my experience in Korea. While in the hot tubs repairing my body, while walking to strengthen my muscles, and while relaxing in the tranquility of Japanese gardens, I developed some initial views about how to establish a sense of order and satisfaction among people. My basic conclusions concerned authority, morality, philosophy and economics. It would take me many years to evaluate how history supported or refuted these views.
I first attempted to reduce what I had learned to the simplest form, i.e., to its essence. My basic conclusions concerned opposites. I concluded that the Chinese idea of Yin-Yang was superior to the Hegelian dialectic and the Adversarial Approach. For me, human affairs can best be understood as interacting opposites as part of a whole. I recognized the superiority of the scientific method for researching specific, definable subjects. I recognized the necessity of laws to control behavior. However, I also recognized the limitations of both the scientific method and the “rule of law”. I concluded that Yin-Yang provided better understanding of human affairs.
The Hegelian dialectic, Marxism, and Western liberalism all assume that contradictions eventually lead to unity as the result of a struggle. This is the foundation of the adversarial approach. For many, this process of continual conflict is considered “progress” and it is a convenient excuse for the centralization of power in government under some elite. This view has become dominate in recent centuries. I found the older idea of balancing opposites not only more realistic, but also a way to achieve the decentralization of power. I was convinced that bottom up dedications and coordination was more efficient and effective in the long run than top down control.
The Hegelian dialectic is based on the concept that one assertible proposition (thesis) is necessarily opposed by an equally assertible and mutually contradictory proposition (antithesis), the mutual contradiction being reconciled in a higher level of truth by a third proposition (synthesis). Regardless of the outcome, many consider the process itself "progress”. Therefore, all “progressives” (Marxists, Socialists, Fascists, Liberals, and Postmodernists) see themselves as caring, compassionate humans on a noble quest to achieve a utopia of equality and fairness among people.
The Adversarial Approach pits those who seek truth in faith and duty against those who seek truth in law and empirical evidence. My view seeks truth through a balancing of subjectivism and objectivism, rather than domination by either. I concluded that my view was compatible not only with Yin-Yang, but also with Aristotle’s golden mean, the stable state of physics, the homeostatic equilibrium of systems theory, and the checks and balances of our founders.
Regardless of how it is expressed, most people recognize that human affairs involve so many changing interdependent variables that they can never be understood fully or that all of the consequences can be precisely predicted. To overcome this limitation, the Adversarial Approach always results in the centralization of authority and power. However, a climate of order and satisfaction is best achieved through the balancing of both secular and sacred authority and the decentralization of power.
For me, it appeared insight is the culmination of intense and complex neural activity in the right frontal cortex—not the result of analytical reasoning. Since the human brain has a non-verbal structure that uses space as a metaphor for time, etcetera, it is possible to consider intuitive glimpses of the internal language of the brain as reality. Also, empiricism seems incapable of dealing with human affairs. The unfocused mind is able to grasp unexpected associations and new ideas. Therefore, I saw the best solution as a whole in which opposites (subjectivism or objectivism) interact to preserve equilibrium. As a result, my conclusions were at odds with those who would take either empiricism, the rule of law, ideology, or group identity to the extreme.
Later, in 1963, when I first studied Philosophy, I realized that these ideas about how best to understand human affairs had been at the core of centuries of debate about the relationship of reason to reality. Subjectivism means that reality is based on feelings and empathy—not reason. On the other hand, objectivism is based on reality being independent of the human mind since it requires knowledge from facts outside of consciousness.
I also concluded that stability, i.e., a climate of order and satisfaction, was more likely to be achieved by the equilibrium of opposites. This would mean that Sacred Authority and Secular Authority should be balanced so that neither dominates the other. It would mean the same for the subject and the object. And I concluded that this was exactly what Our Founders attempted to create with checks and balances. It took me many years to fully develop this view. Finally in 1968, I described it as Stability through Equilibrium (StE).
Another of my basic conclusions was that Peace and War were not dichotomous conditions—as most in the West have assumed for over 300 years—but are various combinations of cooperation and conflict. From this I developed the idea of Peace-Warfare-War being a continuum of three distinctive conditions, each with its unique strategies, tactics, procedures, methods, and techniques, yet there being no clear break between these conditions. They intermingle, overlap, and are often conducted simultaneously. When War and Warfare occur at the same place and time, they can be referred to as Mid-Intensity Conflict (Hybrid War). When Peace and Warfare occur at the same place and time they can be referred to as Low-Intensity Conflict (Containment). Conflict/Cooperation is actually conflict and cooperation continually interacting. However, when it is visualized as a spectrum, or continuum, it extends from unlimited use of force to no use of force. At one end of the spectrum is War and at the other end is Peace. In the middle of the spectrum is Warfare.
Politics is Conflict/Cooperation, without the use of force, within a state during Peace to determine who gets what, when, and how. There will be some use of force, but it is criminal—not political. Diplomacy is Conflict/Cooperation, without the use of force, between states during Peace. Politics and diplomacy use the same means: common identity, argument, spin, propaganda, manipulation, coalition formation, group loyalty, ideological commitment, “horse trading,” bribery, and intimidation.
War is conflict between the acknowledged armed forces of states, each attempting to destroy the symmetrical armed forces of the other or to gain territory. War is diplomacy by other means, with victory going to one side. In total war, at the very end of the spectrum, there is unlimited use of force, which today means nuclear war. Warfare (often referred to as Irregular Warfare) is asymmetrical conflict. It is between sovereign states and insurgents willing to use force to bring about the destruction or overthrow of those in authority. Warfare is politics by other means, with the outcome being stability—not victory. It is protracted, incremental, unceasing, and without a definitive end. Stability is realized when there is a climate of order and satisfaction and no one is willing to use force to achieve political ends. To sever Conflict/Cooperation (i.e., conflict and cooperation interacting within a whole) contradicts reality. At best, separations are a convenience used to classify similar conditions.
Peace and Warfare can occur at the same place and time, in which case it could be called Low-Intensity Conflict (Containment). Also Warfare and War can occur at the same place and time, in which case it could be called Mid-Intensity Conflict (Hybrid War). Conflict can be seen as a continuum extending from zero to maximum intensity, while cooperation can be seen as a continuum extending from maximum to zero intensity.
While any separation of Conflict/Cooperation, when visualized as a spectrum, is artificial, we must have words assigned to portions of any continuum if we are to communicate or conduct effective and efficient operations. Many small, abstract categories are impractical, even though useful for academic research. Therefore, the most useful categories are Peace, Warfare, and War. Using these three categories, the creation of individuals and groups with distinctive career identity, training, and equipment only thus can there be effective and efficient operations in all aspects of Conflict/Cooperation.
Success in Warfare (Irregular Warfare)
White in Japan I had only identified the error of thinking of War and Peace in dichotomous terms and of thinking that the only role of the military professional is to achieve victory in War. It was not until 1958-1968 that I developed a conceptual framework of how to achieve success in Warfare, i.e. stability with order and satisfaction in which no one is willing or able to use force to achieve political goals.
Later I determined that there are six tasks that must be accomplished in order to provide stability. Stability is the homeostatic equilibrium that provides a balance between order and liberty. Actually, these six tasks are overlapping and cannot be separated in practice. It is the campaign strategy for a specific country at a specific time that prescribes the emphasis to be given to each of these six tasks and who will perform the actions to prevent, neutralize or defeat an insurgency.
Tasks 4, 5 and 6 are prerequisites for the other three tasks since 1, 2 and 3 cannot be accomplished until security is established. However, security cannot be seen as an end in itself. It is merely a means to the end of stability. When the focus is solely on security, actions can be carried to the extreme. Such actions actually hinder stability since they do not produce a self-regulating equilibrium.
South Korea as a Model
Since 1953 South Korea has provided an excellent nation-building model. By 1953 attention to tasks 4, 5, and 6 had provided security. Then the Republic of Korea emerged from the war and through attention to Tasks 1, 2, and 3 achieved remarkable industrial changes and some political change within two decades. It is true that support of the Vietnam War gave the Koreans a unique opportunity. Yet it was their patriotism, belief system, energy, nationalism, determination, and organization that allowed them to use the phoenix (bottom up) approach to achieve an economic miracle. Fortunately, they were able to escape the paternalistic neocolonial (top down) approach by foreigners which so many in the American foreign policy establishment advocate. They realized that economic and political change could be achieved after stability has been established, but that “economic and political development” as advocated by many westerners cannot achieve a climate of order and satisfaction.
Psychology of the Infantryman
Who are Infantrymen? A person becomes an Infantryman whenever he enters combat where failure means death: when he must impose his will on an enemy, when no quarter is asked and none is given, when he must use whatever he has to destroy an enemy. The name of his organization is of no importance. It makes no difference how he arrived at the scene of battle. It makes no difference what others might call him. What turns a person into an Infantryman is the reality of being with other Infantrymen after fire support has been lifted in a life or death struggle against an enemy that wants to destroy him and those with him.
The Infantryman is “alive” because death can come at any moment. Few others can be so fascinated by human existence. In moments of danger the Infantryman is absorbed into the reality he “sees”. The awe and astonishment of those fleeting moments will live a lifetime. For the Infantryman there are long periods of boredom and monotony, interrupted by excitement and the fascination of horror and drama. Others in the military and in civilian life never experience these highs and lows, this insecurity, or this variety. The reality of combat can be both sublime and ridiculous. It can combine beauty and the grotesque, and it can have both harmony and havoc. It is this whole that the Infantryman “sees” and “knows”, but that is missing in the lives of those in higher headquarters of the military and in the lives of civilians. It is also what discourages many Infantrymen from talking about what they have experienced in combat.
Infantrymen cannot be understood in terms of abstract notions. They can only be understood in terms of the concrete feelings and emotions that are the reality of combat. The abstractions of academe (be it philosophy, psychology, political science, law or sociology) are not merely false, but they are distortions of reality by intellectuals. So are the abstractions of lawyers and political activists who have a specific agenda to advance. Infantrymen live in the present—the concrete reality that they can see, touch, smell and hear, not the past or the future. Others can use the past to create abstractions with which they can plan for the future. The present of the Infantryman has a powerful fascination which creates hate, love, fear, and belief. For Infantrymen, Duty and Honor carry a specific obligation to those individuals who depend on them and on whom they depend. Reality can be ugly, but it can also be an aesthetic delight, which needs neither education nor intellect to appreciate.
The feeling of belonging together with those who have shared the stress of combat is what makes the Infantryman unique. This feeling might also be found through religion or political ideology, but it is more common in the heat of battle. It is not the cause that is important; it is the sharing of a stressful experience. It is not the abstract good that is the essence of morale; it is loyalty among those with shared experiences. It comes from the spontaneity of belonging. It gives meaning to life.
Only camaraderie and loyalty to the group can provide fighting morale. This can only be learned through experience in stressful situations. It is not in the realm of formal education or abstract thought. Duty and Honor have unique meanings for the Infantryman, but those meanings are very different from that of those held captive by the notions and attitudes of abstract thought. For most of those in the military, Duty and Honor are abstractions, just as rights, responsibility, legality and morality. However, in combat the Infantryman lives in the here and now. The concrete absorbs him. He is awed by the spectacle, by the unusual that his senses bring to him. Others live in the routine, the established, and the known of conventional wisdom—but not a Infantryman.
The love and hate of “we” and “they” for the Infantryman in combat is distinctive. The closer you are to the enemy the less you are likely to hate him. Those in military headquarters will be more rigid, hateful and self-serving than the Infantryman at the point of the spear—unless the Infantryman happens to be a psychopath. The civilian far removed from the reality of combat will be even more bloodthirsty. Only pacifists, holding abstract notions and emotions created by War and Warfare as abstractions, will mistake killing of an enemy with murder, interrogation to insure self-preservation with torture, or heroism with sadism.
Return to Korea
By 21 June 1951, eleven months after I left Okinawa for Korea, I was ready to be returned to duty. I asked to be sent back to the 35th Infantry Regiment so that I could complete my normal tour there. I did not know what my assignment would be or what the future might hold.
Chapter Twenty-Six - S-2, 35th Infantry Regiment (22 June-25 July 1951)
Return to 35th Infantry Regiment
On 23 June 1951 I returned to the 35th Infantry and I was made the Regimental S-2 (Intelligence Officer). Also I was asked to extend my normal one-year tour. I discussed the situation with two classmates who had to make the same decision. Would we extend in order to get another promotion? All of us had been in Korea since June 1950. We were Captains in positions that called for a Major. Sid was S-3 of the 1st Battalion; Don was S-3 of the 3rd Battalion; and I was S-2 of the regiment. We had already received one battlefield promotion; we had been company commanders; had been wounded; and had received several awards. At different times I discussed the options with Sid and Don. Neither of us tried to convince the other what the decision should be, nor did we ever say what our decision would be. We were just friends evaluating an important decision each of us would have to make.
Eighth Army Operations after 20 May 1951
The objectives of the operations of the Eighth Army after 20 May 1951 were to retake territory lost to the Chinese in their spring offensives and to establish stability on the Korean Peninsula. The goal was no longer victory. It was no longer War--it had changed from War to Warfare, even though there would be intensive combat for two more years.
By the end of May 1951 it was clear that the revitalized Eighth Army could move into North Korea if there had been the will in Washington. Peking’s dream of a Communist victory over the United States, which was justified in the winter of 1950, had now vanished. Their hope of unifying Korea had been crushed by the determination to defend South Korea regardless of the costs in blood and treasure. The Chinese forces in Korea were exhausted and unable to stop the Eighth Army. It would have been possible to again advance to the narrowest part of the Korean peninsula in order to establish a border on the Ch’ongch-on River in the west and including Hamhung in the east. This would have established a weak buffer state between the Republic of Korea and China. The future of Korea and the world would have been much different if that had been done.
Yet there was neither the will in Washington or the American people nor support from allies for such a course. On 1 June 1951 the Secretary-General of the United Nations (Trygve Lie) said that he thought a cease-fire close to the 38th Parallel would satisfy the Security Council’s resolutions. On 7 June Secretary of State Dean Acheson told a Senate committee that the UN forces should accept an armistice. Thus, instead of an advance to the neck of the Korean peninsula, there was a stalemate on the existing front and negotiations. MacArthur made a strategic error in November 1950 by advancing toward the Yalu River, an action that was considered a threat by China. In June 1951 the U. S. government and the American people made the opposite strategic error by not having the Eighth Army advance as far as it could. With adequate intelligence it could have been determined that in June 1951 China was prepared to accept a weakened North Korea as a buffer state in the mountains between an enlarged Republic of Korea and its Yalu River border. China would not have considered an advance to the Ch’ongch-on River a threat requiring additional military forces in Korea.
By 30 June 1951 the last large scale operations had been completed and a new battle line had been established. The rest of the battles were to reestablish the defensive line and to secure specific hills: Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak Ridge, Old Baldy, Pork Chop, White Horse, Triangle Hill, Pike’s Peak, Jane Russell Hill, Sandy Hill, and T-Bone Hill.
Discussions about where the representatives of the UN forces and the commander of the Communist forces in Korea would meet to arrange an armistice were under way by 30 June 1951. It was clear to me that the battle lines would solidify and forces would be in a situation much like that of World War I, except that units would be dug in on isolated hilltops rather than in trenches facing each other. I could not see much need for my skills as a Regimental S-2.
Observations of the Upper Levels
Through visits to the headquarters of the 25th Division and I Corps, I was able to compare and contrast the attitudes and interests of those in these headquarters with those I had experienced at the company and battalion levels. To me, the higher level military staffs focused too much on reports, data, maps, and abstract thinking. The lower levels were more organic. There the focus was on common interests and on how to solve concrete problems in order to achieve something together. At the higher levels, it seemed to me, the staff officers focused on narrow concerns. I observed many careerists engage in turf battles, manipulation, and “one-upmanship”. Each of those on the staffs had most accomplished careers, of which each was justly proud—and which each thought should continue. The atmosphere was different from what I had observed in a rifle company and in a battalion. However, as a 25-year old who had never been at the upper levels of any large organizations, I realized there might be reasons for these differences that I did not understand.
Later: In time I was to realize that what I had observed was common to the staffs of all large organizations: business, education, government, not-for-profit, and religious as well as the military. It is one of the outcomes of the centralization of authority. Nevertheless it was disturbing to find out that those at the higher levels did not recognize the lessons I had learned while in Korea. Their thoughts were limited to conventional War—which I had learned was the cause of many of our problems in Korea.
Conventional War is the struggle between two symmetrical forces, each championing its state or cause. War fighting, force development, logistics, and technology for conventional war have been the focus of military professionals in the nation states of the West for the past 300 years. This is the conflict visualized by the Geneva Conventions and the Rules of War. Conventional War has established principles regarding strategies and tactics for achieving victory. Among those principles are: (1) identify the critical mass of the enemy and attack it with overwhelming forces, (2) find them, fix them, fight them, and finish them, (3) use battlefield tactics that best integrate firepower and maneuver, and (4) gain an advantage with technological superiority. In Korea the conventional soldiers assumed that technological advances had made millennia-old realities of conflict obsolete, that machines could replace human beings, and that costly systems and weapons could insure victory.
I understood all of the principles for success in conventional War, but in Korea I learned that they could also be dysfunctional. Yet my efforts to communicate this were merely tolerated. From the body language and words of older, higher ranking officers, I realized such efforts on my part only caused them to see me as a bright young officer who had not yet developed into a true military professional. This was my first realization that what had happened in Korea was unknown even to many of those who were there.
Those in the regimental, division, and Corps headquarters were still convinced that our vast superiority in material and firepower could achieve victory. In other words, the biggest dog in town could dominate not only all the other dogs, but also the cats, snakes, insects, and bacteria. I understood the advantages of massive concentrations of technologically superior air, land and sea forces, but I also understood their vulnerabilities. The tactics of lightly armed hit-and-run forces, which the Chinese had perfected during their civil war, had their own advantages—and vulnerabilities.
Also, many at the upper levels did not consider the importance of strategic communication. While it was understandable that those at the lower levels would only be concerned with their immediate tasks, I thought those at the upper levels should recognize the critical importance of keeping the will of the foreign policy establishment--and the American people, strong. I concluded that this failure was an outcome of how many defined a military professional. They thought it was unprofessional to focus on anything other than finding, fixing, fighting and finishing the Chinese and North Korean military.
Later: In time the Korean War would become the Unknown War because few people knew or cared about what happened from June 1950 until June 1951. But a greater tragedy was that the lessons that could have been learned from the first year of the Korean War were never learned—or were forgotten. Many of the errors made in Korea were repeated in Vietnam from 1965 until 1970 and in Iraq after 9 April 2003 (following 21 days of successful war fighting) until 2005.
Why were the same mistakes made in Vietnam and Iraq? I think there are four reasons. First, the Korean War was unpopular and most people wanted to forget it and return to the glory days of World War II. Second, most people in the west think of war and peace in dichotomous terms and do not recognize warfare, which is neither peace nor war. Third, Americans lack the patience needed for protracted conflict. Fourth, most people do not learn from their mistakes--they just keep trying to do the same things better.
From 1962 until 1965 I became convinced that air power and technologically superior land forces, used with skill by Matthew B. Ridgway, changed the Korean War. He committed superior firepower and technology to destroy enemy forces—not to take terrain. General Ridgway demonstrated how to achieve victory in conventional war. This was the lesson conventional soldiers learned from the Korean War. If there had been the will, the same tactics could have been used to push the Chinese and North Koreans back to the narrow neck of the Korean Peninsula. Yet Ridgway’s solution had limitations, and these lessons were not learned. Our enemies learned that they had to make our machines, techniques, procedures and tactics ineffective. They learned that they had to fight in ways to offset our technological superiority. They learned that they must fight us in the human domain. They learned the importance of strategic communication. We did not learn these lessons.
I also became convinced that the greatest weakness of the United States and the West in general is in strategic communication, i.e., maintain the will of your side while you weaken the will of your opponent. Our enemies around the world learned from the Korean War that impatience and a media that thinks its primary role is to expose errors made by its own government, are our Achilles heel. Apathy and disinterest of the American People, and of those in Europe, made us ineffective in warfare, because it has no end. This handicap will continue until we become more effective in strategic communication. Also, we must always honor those at the point of the spear more than those who stand on the sidelines or find fault with those taking the fight to our enemies. Debates on foreign policy should never be allowed to diminish the honor due those who risk their lives for their country.
Traditional military professionals are frustrated by the fact that warfare is protracted without a definitive ending—and, hopefully, victory. This is what they seek in conventional war. Stability (how success is judged in Warfare) does not give the traditional military professional the emotional lift they get from victory in war. Therefore, the scope of the military profession has to be expanded to include warfare, as well as conventional war, or a new profession has to be created to focus on warfare and how to achieve stability. In general it is necessary to recognize the trilogy of War-Warfare-Peace as three distinctive conditions within conflict/cooperation. This issue is discussed in "War and Peace Revised: a Philosophy of War-Warfare-Peace" at: http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2006/0103/holl/holliday_warfare.html.
Lesson Learned: The Individual/Group Relationship
At all levels individuals interact with the group, yet they do it in different ways. Years later I came to realize that the values and attitudes I had observed in the headquarters of the regiment, division, and corps were typical of the upper levels of all organizations. It is the result of the centralization of authority. In the upper levels priority is given to documents, data, politics, debate, turf, image, “one-upmanship”, and self. This fact suggests that the qualities common to self-serving careerists are functional for larger, centralized organizations. Yet each individual must define the criteria of personal success and satisfaction. I was more comfortable with, and happier in, the atmosphere and camaraderie found in the lower levels, i.e., for the military this means in a company or battalion.
Lesson Learned: On Decentralization/Centralization
From what I had learned about the relationship of the individual and the group, it is a natural progression to consider the advantages and disadvantages of centralization of authority. Actually, I did not fully develop my ideas on this subject until after 1963. However, in Korea I had seen enough to convince me that centralization of authority does provide efficiency to accomplish a specific agenda. Yet I also realized that in the long run decentralization is a better way to achieve a climate of order and satisfaction.
At the company level the advantages of decentralization has some practical applications regarding small unit leadership. A platoon, and even a squad, is a very effective fighting unit if it has good leadership. It is not equipment that is most important; it is the ability to move quickly and to surprise your enemy. This is only possible when those at the lowest level are willing and able to make decisions. It is true that any Infantryman needs certain equipment: weapons, ammunition, and water. However, the small unit leader must think in terms of stealth and cunning and must have the motivation, will and determination to close those final yards and to kill. Although small unit leadership is important in conventional War, it is even more important in Warfare.
Later: After 1963 I expanded and refined my thoughts on decentralization/centralization to even higher levels. Any successful country needs to balance Sacred Authority and Secular Authority rather than allow either to dominate the other. In other words, the inner compass of individuals is as important as the “rule of law.” Also, this conclusion is why I became convinced that Capitalism is better than Socialism (of either the left or the right). It is decentralization that provided best for the common good.
Lesson Learned: How Infantrymen Differ From Others
The bond among Infantrymen who have experienced combat together is an extreme version of the bond of a family who has shared stressful experiences together. Perhaps a sports team, a group of missionaries, or a cell of political revolutionaries can also know these same feelings to some extent.
Infantrymen are not martyrs. Martyrs die for a cause as individuals. The goal of Infantrymen is to live not to die. When they do die, it is with others while attempting to achieve something together. Infantrymen know they are the ones who must go the final yards together. When the debates and discussions are over and when the support has--or has not--been provided, it is necessary for some to go the final yards. This is when the actions of Infantrymen determine the outcome. This is what makes an Infantryman unique. It can be expressed like this: At some point the Infantryman writes a blank check made payable to “those going the final yards with me for any amount up to and including my life.”
This distinction was aptly expressed by Herbert J. Lloyd in The Reason Why (7/01/92, page 51):
Most of those in the armed forces do not share the bond Infantrymen feel. They do not understand these feelings since they have never “seen, felt, heard, and touched” combat as Infantrymen do. For most of them, combat is made up of abstractions they know about rather than reality they have lived. Also, this feeling--this bond, cannot be achieved in the higher levels of any larger organization. It can only be achieved at the point of the spear.
On 6 July 1951 I told Colonel Kelleher I had decided to leave as soon as he could get a replacement for me. He asked me to reconsider. He told me he did not think he could get a better Regimental S-2, and that he thought I would be a valuable asset for the Regiment. However, he made it clear that the decision was mine to make. He asked me to think it over for a few days and then to tell the Regimental S-1 my decision.
Colonel Kelleher with Regimental Staff
On 8 July 1951 the military leaders of both sides met at a teahouse in Kaesong. Plenary sessions for the armistice talks started on 10 July. I concluded that intelligence would now become routine: the analysis of reports and the confirmation of data. I was sure that I would be no better than many others at such staff work. The dynamic situations which I had experienced would be no more and the need for my strengths would be unlikely. The next day (11 July), I told the S-1 I was not going to extend. I started back on 21 July, and left Inchon by ship on 24 July—one year after my arrival in Korea.
Negotiations on the armistice were slow and broke down in August. On 25 August plenary sessions were resumed at Panmunjom and they finally ended with the signing of an armistice agreement on 27 July 1953.
The Korean War differs from all others, as is always true of any conflict. Conflict/Cooperation is always time and place specific. War, Warfare, and Peace are all distinctive conditions, each with their own strategies, tactics, processes and procedures. Yet in reality they are always time and place specific.
We should remember what General Douglas MacArthur said in his 1951 farewell address to the Congress:
But there is a distinction between War and Warfare. That distinction needs to be recognized. MacArthur is correct about War, but not about Warfare. The failure to understand this distinction caused MacArthur to make the strategic error of moving past the narrow neck of Korea toward the Yalu in an attempt to “achieve victory”. While the objective in War is victory, the objective in Warfare is stability, i.e., a climate of order and satisfaction. The Korean War lasted from 25 June 1950 until 20 May 1951. It should have lasted only until Thanksgiving 1950. MacArthur’s failure to shift to Warfare at that time—from seeking victory to establishing stability, was very costly in blood, treasure, and the future of Korea. This was a strategic error of being too aggressive in seeking “victory”. MacArthur should have realized that stability could be achieved with a division of Korea at the Ch’ongch-on River on the west and including Hamhung on the east.
After 20 May 1951 there was a shift from War to Warfare. The objective was no longer victory, it was stability. Unfortunately, this was a strategic error in the opposite direction. Rather than exploiting the military advantage of the Eighth Army, a misjudgment by the foreign policy establishment and a lack of will resulted in negotiations for a cease-fire line near the 38th Parallel. More lasting stability would have been achieved by pushing the battle lines to the Ch’ongch-on River before starting armistice talks.
The United States also failed to learn from the Korean War that Warfare must be fought in the human domain. Overwhelming, force and technological superiorly is no enough. Strategic communication, i.e., maintaining the will on your side while weakening the will of your opponents, is the critical mass in Warfare.
Many lessons can be learned from the Korean War: about the role of the Infantryman, the importance of intelligence, the maneuver of Inundation, the use of torture, the importance of leadership, the nature of aggressive interrogation, the importance of the inner compass of individuals, the appeal and limitations of socialism, the advantages of fire/air support in War, significance of combat camaraderie, and the importance of the human domain in Warfare. The most important lessons to be learned are:
All of these lessons--and more, can be learned from knowledge of what actually happened during the Unknown War—during 1950 and 1951 when we went up and down Korea. It is hoped that ‘Up and Down Korea: The First Year’ will contribute to greater awareness of these lessons.
On leaving Korea I looked forward to seeing Joan and starting the next phase of my life.
About the Author
Dr Sam C. Holliday is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, a former director of Stability Studies at the Army War College, and a retired Army Colonel. He earned a Master's in Public Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in International Relations from the University of South Carolina. Currently he is Director of The Armiger Cromwell Center, a small nonprofit Internet clearinghouse for thinking "outside of the box of conventional wisdom." By means of its online essays, the ACC seeks more effective foreign policies to achieve stability through equilibrium.
Chronology: The Korean War