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Bobby J. Robinson

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho-
Korean War Veteran of the United States Marine Corps

"As the Chinese came close, the infiltrators increased to the point that we were called out several times at night to help the rifle platoon defend our strip.""

- Bobby J. Robinson

 


[KWE Note: Bobby Johnson is hoping to obtain information about action that took place at K-16 air strip in Korea during April and May of 1951. He is asking the head of the Military Awards Branch USMC for reconsideration for the Combat Action Ribbon. Following are his memories of the events that took place there.]



Marine Action at K-16

I applied for the combat action ribbon and was told that I did not qualify because I was an aviation ordnance man.  However, I do believe my service record indicates the action I was in at Airfield K-16 in Korea during April and May of 1951 merits that ribbon.

General Ridgeway had requested Marine close air support for the 8th Army. The 1st Marine Air Wing sent about 100 of us with 12 F4U Corsairs to the air strip called K-16. It was located north and west of Seoul between Seul and Kimpo air strip. I have heard that we were at the Seoul Airport. The problem I have with that is: (1) There was NO surfaced runway where we were. The engineers had leveled the sand duns and laid a steel matt runway. (2) There were no buildings at all, plus no lights and no taxi ways. (3) We were totally surrounded by water. The access to and from the island was by pontoon bridges.

We were on a sandbar in the middle of the Han River. I arrived about the 2nd or 3rd of April 1951. The air strip was very primitive. There were no lights, no fire equipment, no buildings. There were just a few tents with fox holes nearby. We were with the Army's 25th Division. That Division supplied our security. They had four halftracks with quad 50s mounted on each one. Pontoon bridges provided access to both sides of the sand bar. Kimpo K-14 was about five miles west of us.

On April 22, 1951, the Chinese army started its spring offensive. When the Chinese had retaken Uijjongbu, the flood of Korean refugees from Uijongbu and Seoul began to cross over the Han River on the pontoon bridges. Several thousand headed south every day.

One of the Chinese objectives was to take Kimpo K-14 and Seoul. Our airstrip was between the Chinese and Kimpo. I am not sure who was between us and the Chinese. I think it could have been an Australian regiment called the "Diggers", but I am not certain. I know the halftracks were from the 24th Army Division. The Army's 25th Division began to fall back by crossing the pontoon bridge over the Han River. Then came the Army tanks. Close to twenty or more tanks crossed the pontoon bridge. We asked them where they were going. They said they were going to Osan about 30 miles south of Seoul. Then the four halftracks guarding our airstrip received orders to pull back to Osan.

That left us with no security. The 1st Marine Division sent a rifle platoon to provide security for us.  We began to receive nightly visits by the Chinese and North Korean infiltrators. As the Chinese came close, the infiltrators increased to the point that we were called out several times at night to help the rifle platoon defend our strip. The infiltrators would go up stream on the Han River and float down to our airstrip. Several were killed before they made it to the airstrip, because the river split and went on both sides of the sand bar or island. The rifle platoon was not able to cover every area, so we were called out several times at night to help stop the infiltrators from getting to our planes and the ammo dump.

During the day our pilots kept the Chinese from getting to the Han River. Several times the pilots would not get out of the cockpits of the Corsairs. They would land and we would put on all the ordnances we could, including napalm. The pilots would take off and make a 180 degree run, drop their ordnance, and return for more. At this time, we received some sniper fire from houses on the other side of the Han River.

I am not sure who was in command. The squad C.O. was Maj. Don L. Clark from 24 March 1951 until 2 May 1951. The commander of our strip told us that if the Chinese started to cross the Han River in force, then we could cross from our sand bar strip to the other side. However, with close air support and Army artillery, the Chinese offensive failed and some time in late May they pulled our group out. A fresh squadron moved to another airstrip closer to the Chinese.

I believe the action performed by each Marine at K-16 between April and May 1951 is consistent with the requirements for the combat action ribbon. My hope is that I might obtain some confirmation of the action that took place at K-16.

Corporal Robinson can be reached at 1815 Coeur d'Alene Ave., Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814;
Phone 208-664-6282.


Post Script

Former Sergeant E.B. Thompson (SN1137255 USMC, P.O. Box 1437, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83816-1437 (phone 208-667-8062) added: "I also was at K-16 and remember the things that were going on around and near us. I agree with former Corporal Robinson what he has written here. As of yet I have not put in for this medal, but I hope to do it very soon.

 

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