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The Front Line Moves South

The Foundation of Freedom is the Courage of Ordinary People

History  Bert '53  On Line

Combat Photos

(Back to Appleman: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu)
There is no one but yourself to keep your back door open. You can live without food, but you cannot last long without ammunition.
Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker to Maj. Gen. Hobart R. Gay, Korea, July 1950

Yongdok and the East Coastal Corridor

While the battles of the Kum River and Taejon were being fought on the main axis south from Seoul, many miles eastward, the enemy 5th Division pressed forward against Yongdok, a key point where a lateral road came in from the mountains to meet the coastal road. (Map III) The ROK 3d Division had orders to hold Yongdok. It was certain that heavy battles would be fought there.

On 13 July Colonel Emmerich and the KMAG detachment with the ROK 3d Division forwarded to Eighth Army a demolition plan for use on the coastal road and bridges. Maj. Clyde Britton, one of the KMAG officers, was to be responsible for giving authority to blow any of the bridges. The long bridge at Yongdok was recognized as the most important feature on the coastal road, and it was to be held intact unless enemy armor was actually crossing it.

At this time interrogation of an enemy prisoner disclosed that the North Koreans had a plan to blow a bridge near An'gang-ni, on the lateral corridor from Taegu to P'ohang-dong and to blow both ends of the Ch'ongdo railroad tunnel between Pusan and Taegu. Destruction of the tunnel would constitute a serious blow to the logistical support for the front-line troops. Two American officers with two platoons of ROK troops went to the tunnel to protect it.

On 14 July, Brig. Gen. Lee Chu Sik, Commanding General, ROK 3d Division, indicated that he wanted to move the division command post to P'ohang-dong and to withdraw his troops south of Yongdok. Colonel Emmerich told him this could not be done-that the east coast road had to be held at all costs. General Walker had given a great deal of attention to the east coast situation because he knew it was isolated from the rest of the ROK command and needed close watching, and Col. Allan D. MacLean of the Eighth Army G-3 staff was in constant communication with Colonel Emmerich.


Support of the ROK 3d Division had stabilized to the extent that large fishing vessels moved from Pusan up and down the coast, supplying the ROK's with ammunition and food, without being targets of the United States Navy. News that a railhead would be established at P'ohang-dong and a daily supply train would arrive there from Pusan promised soon to relieve the situation still further. On land, each ROK commander had his own system of recruiting help and had large numbers of untrained combat troops and labor groups carrying supplies into the hills on A-frames. At this stage of the war, typical food of the ROK soldier was three rice balls a day-one for each meal-supplemented along the coast by fish. The rice was usually cooked behind the lines by Korean women, then scooped out with a large cup which served as a measuring device, pressed into a ball about the size of an American softball, and wrapped in a boiled cabbage leaf. Whether his rice was warm or cold or whether flies and other insects had been on it, seemed to have little effect on the ROK soldier. Apparently the Korean people had become immune to whatever disease germs, flies, and other insects carry. [1]

As the east coast battle shaped up, it became apparent that it would be of the utmost importance to have a fire direction center to co-ordinate the 81-mm. mortars, the artillery, the fighter aircraft, and the naval gunfire. Such a center was set up in a schoolhouse south of Yongdok with Capt. Harold Slater, the KMAG G-3 adviser to the 3d Division, in charge of it and Capt John Airsman as artillery adviser. The ROK 3d Division artillery at this time consisted of three batteries of four 75-mm. pack howitzers and one battery of 105-mm. howitzers.

On 14 July ROK troops withdrew in front of the advancing North Koreans and set off demolitions at two bridges, two tunnels, and two passes between Yonghae and Yongdok on the coastal road. United States naval vessels bombarded roadside cliffs next to the sea to produce landslides that would block the road and delay the North Koreans.

Two days later the ROK 23d Regiment gave way and streamed south. The KMAG advisers considered the situation grave. In response to an inquiry from Colonel Collier of Eighth Army, Colonel Emmerich sent the following message:

Situation deplorable, things are popping, trying to get something established across the front, 75% of the 23d ROK Regiment is on the road moving south. Advisers threatening and shooting in the air trying to get them assembled, Commanding General forming a straggler line. If straggler line is successful we may be able to reorganize and re-establish the line. If this fails I am afraid that the whole thing will develop in complete disintegration. The Advisory Group needs food other than Korean or C rations and needs rest. [2]

On 17 July the North Koreans drove the disorganized regiment south of Yongdok. The loss of this town so quickly was a demoralizing blow, and Eighth Army became at once concerned about it. During the day the first United States artillery to support the ROK's on the east coast, C Battery of the 159th Field Artillery Battalion, entered the fight. [3]

The enemy entry into Yongdok began three weeks of fighting for this key coastal town, with first one side and then the other holding it. Two or three miles of ground immediately south of it became a barren, churned up, fought-over no man's land. The first ROK counterattack came immediately. On 18 July at 0545 an air strike came in on the enemy front lines. Heavy naval gunfire pounded the Yongdok area after the strike. At 0600 the United States light cruiser Juneau fired two star shells over the ROK line of departure. Newly arrived reinforcements took part in the attack as ROK troops advanced behind the screen of naval gunfire to close rifle range with the North Koreans. At the same time, other naval guns placed interdiction fire on the North Korean rear areas. These heavy support fires were largely responsible for a North Korean withdrawal to a point about three miles north of Yongdok for reorganization. [4]

But this success was short lived. Elements of the N.K. 5th Division regained the town the next day, driving the ROK's back to their former positions south of it.

On to July Colonel Emmerich went to Yonil Airfield to discuss with Col. Robert Witty, commanding the 35th Fighter-Interceptor Group, the co-ordination of air strikes at Yongdok. These promised to become more numerous, because on that day the 40th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron became operational at Yonil. General Walker and General Partridge flew to Yonil Airfield from Taegu to join in the discussions, and General Kean of the 25th Division also joined the group there. Emmerich briefed the commanders thoroughly on the situation. General Walker ordered that the 3d ROK Division must retake Yongdok. When Colonel Emmerich relayed Walker's orders to General Lee of the ROK division the latter was upset, but he received instructions from higher ROK authority to obey the Eighth Army commander. [5]

The second battle for Yongdok began on the morning of 21 July. This was a savage and bloody fight at close quarters. Naval reinforcements had arrived off the coast during the night of 19 July, and Rear Adm. J. M. Higgins informed Emmerich that the destroyers Higbee, Mansfield, DeHaven, and Swenson, and the British cruiser Belfast would add their gunfire to the battle. This naval gunfire, U.S. artillery and mortar fire, and air strikes enabled the ROK's to retake the town, only to be driven out again by nightfall. In this action unusually accurate enemy mortar and artillery fire caused very heavy ROK casualties. The second battle of Yongdok left the area from Kanggu-dong to a point about two miles north of Yongdok a smoldering no man's land. The pounding of the artillery, naval gunfire, and air strikes had stripped the hills of all vegetation and reduced to rubble all small villages in the area.

In the attack on the 21st, observers estimated that naval gunfire from the Juneau alone killed 400 North Korean soldiers. Even though enemy troops again held Yongdok they were unable to exploit their success immediately because they were held under pulverizing artillery and mortar fire, naval gunfire, and almost continuous daylight air strikes. In their efforts to execute wide enveloping moves around the flank of the ROK troops over mountainous terrain, barren of trees and other cover, they came under decimating fire. On 24 July alone the North Koreans lost 800 casualties to this gunfire, according to prisoners. One enemy battalion was virtually destroyed when naval gunfire from the east and air strikes from the west pocketed it and held it under exploding shells, bombs, and strafing fires. [6]

The reconstituted ROK 22d Regiment arrived from Taegu, and about 500 men of the ROK naval combat team and its engineer battalion were sent to buttress the east coast force. [7] All the troops on the east coast were now reorganized into a new ROK 3d Division.

Beginning on 9 July a succession of American units had performed security missions at Yonil Airfield below P'ohang-dong; first the 3d battalion of the 19th Infantry, then the 2d Battalion of the 27th Infantry, next the 1st Battalion of the 35th Infantry, and that in turn gave way to the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Thus, in the course of two weeks, battalion-size units of all three United States divisions then in Korea had constituted a security force in the P'ohang-dong area behind the ROK 23d Regiment.

Lt. Col. Peter D. Clainos' 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, had orders to support the ROK troops with fire only. But on 23 July, North Koreans surrounded the 81-mm. mortar platoon of D Company, forcing it to fight at close range. That same day, C Company on Round Top (Hill 181), at the southern outskirts of Yongdok, watched in silence as North Korean and ROK troops fought a seesaw battle in its vicinity. That night North Koreans surrounded the hill and C Company troops spent a sleepless night. The next day when the ROK's regained temporary possession of Yongdok the 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division replaced Colonel Clainos' battalion in the, blocking mission behind the ROK's at Yongdok. [8]

Despite the savage pounding it received from naval, artillery, and mortar fire and aerial bombardments, the N.K. 5th Division held on to the hills two miles south of Yongdok. The ROK's adopted a plan of making counter and probing attacks during the day and withdrawing to prepared positions in an all-around perimeter for the night. The saturation support fires delivered by the United States Navy, Air Force, and Army day and night outside this perimeter caused many enemy casualties. Certain key pieces of terrain, such as Hill 181, often changed hands several times in one day. Unfortunately, many civilians were killed in this area as they tried to move through the lines and were caught by the supporting fires. Just south of Hill 181 and its surrounding rough ground, a small river, the Osipch'on, descends the coastal range to the Sea of Japan. South of it, sheer mountain walls press the coastal road against the shoreline for ten miles in the direction of P'ohang-dong, twenty-five miles away. If the ROK's lost control of the Yongdok area, this bottleneck on the coastal road would be the scene of the next effort to stop the North Koreans.

At this time the KMAG advisers had serious trouble with "Tiger" Kim, the commander of the ROK 23d Regiment. He was extremely brutal in his disciplinary methods. In the presence of several advisers he had his personal bodyguard shoot a young 1st lieutenant of his regiment whose unit had been surrounded for several days. This incident took place on 26 July. The next day Kim used the butt of an M1 rifle on some of the enlisted men of this unit. The KMAG advisers remonstrated at this action, and in order to avoid possible personal trouble with Kim they asked for his removal. "Tiger" Kim was removed from command of the regiment and the commander of the 1st Separate Battalion, Colonel Kim, replaced him. [9]

ROK troops regrouped for another desperate counterattack, to be supported by all available U.N. sea, air, and ground weapons, in an effort to hurl the North Koreans back to the north of Yongdok. At this time General Walker required hourly reports sent to his headquarters at Taegu. In action preliminary to the main attack, planned for the morning of 27 July, ROK troops during the night of the 26th captured seventeen machine guns, but took only eight prisoners. The preparatory barrages began at 0830. Then came the air strikes. The battle that then opened lasted until 2 August without letup. On that date at 1800 the ROK 3d Division recaptured Yongdok and pursued the enemy north of the town. North Korean prisoners said that U.S. naval, artillery, and mortar fire and the air strikes gave them no rest, day or night. They said that in the two weeks' battle for Yongdok the N.K. 5th Division had lost about 40 percent of its strength in casualties. [10]

During the last half of July 1950, this holding battle on the east coast by the ROK 3d Division was the only one that succeeded in all Korea. It was made possible by American air, sea, and ground fire power and the physical features of the east coast, which hampered North Korean freedom of movement and aided effective employment of American fire power.

Of particular note among the battles during the last part of July in the central mountains was the duel between the N.K. 12th Division and the ROK 8th Division for control of Andong and the upper Naktong River crossing there. This series of battles was closely related to the fighting on the east coast and the North Korean efforts to gain control of P'ohang-dong and the east coast corridor to Pusan.

After crossing the upper Han River at Tanyang, the N.K. 12th Division advanced on the road through Yongju to Andong. The ROK 8th Division attacked the 12th on 21 July between the two towns. From then on to the end of the month these two divisions on the road to Andong engaged in one of the bloodiest fights of the first month of the war.

Just when it was encountering this stubborn resistance from the ROK 8th Division, the 12th received orders from the N.K. II Corps to capture P'ohang-dong by 26 July. This order doubtless was occasioned by the failure of the 5th Division to advance as rapidly along the east coast as had been expected. Ever since the invasion began, the N.K. Army Command had criticized its II Corps for failure to meet its schedule of advance. The Army reportedly demoted the II Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Kim Kwang Hyop, to corps chief of staff, about 10 July, replacing him with Lt. Gen. Kim Mu Chong. The order given to the 12th Division was almost impossible to carry out. The distance from Yongju to P'ohang-dong was about seventy-five air miles, and the greater part of the route, that beyond Andong, lay across high mountain ranges traversed only by foot and oxcart trails. Just to march across these mountains by 26 July would have been no mean feat. [11]

Strafing attack by F-80

In an effort to meet the deadline given it for the capture of P'ohang-dong, the N.K. 12th Division resumed daylight marches. U.N. aerial attacks struck it daily. The ROK 8th Division at the same time fought it almost to a halt. But, despite these difficulties the enemy division pressed slowly on toward Andong. At the end of the month it was engaged in a hard battle with the ROK 8th Division for the control of that key town and the upper Naktong River crossing site.

The battle for Andong lasted five days. The river town finally fell on 1 August. The N.K. Army communiqué for 3 August, broadcast by the P'yongyang radio and monitored in Tokyo, claimed the capture of Andong on 1 August with 1,500 enemy killed and 1,200 captured. It alleged that captured equipment included 6 105-mm. howitzers, 13 automatic guns, 900 rifles, and a large number of vehicles. [12]

The ROK 8th Division, and some elements of the Capital Division which had joined it, lost very heavily in these battles. Enemy losses also were heavy. Prisoners reported that air attacks had killed an estimated 600 North Korean soldiers; that the 31st Regiment alone lost 600 men in the Andong battles; that the 2d Battalion of the division artillery had expended all its ammunition and, rather than be burdened with useless weapons and run the risk of their capture or destruction, it had sent them back to Tanyang; that of the original 30 T34 tanks only 19 remained; and, also, that a shell fragment had killed their division commander. This enemy crack division, made up of veterans of the Chinese wars, was so exhausted by the Andong battle that it had no recourse but to rest where it was for several days in early August. [13]

Reorganization of the ROK Army

To a considerable extent the reorganization of the ROK Army influenced the disposition of ROK troops and the U.S. 25th Division along the front.

Naktong River at Andong

Throughout the first part of July there had been a continuing effort by American commanders to assemble the surviving men and units of the ROK Army that had escaped south of the Han River and to reorganize them for combat operations. Generals Church, Dean, and Walker each took an active interest in this necessary objective. As a part of this reorganization, the ROK Army activated its I Corps and with it directed ROK operations on the right flank of the U.S. 24th Division in the first part of July. The 1st, 2d, and Capital Divisions had carried the fight for the ROK I Corps in the central mountains east of the Seoul-Taejon highway. By the time Taejon fell, these ROK divisions were each reduced to a strength of between 3,000 and 3,500 men. The ROK I Corps at that time had only one 3-gun and two 4-gun batteries of artillery. The three divisions reportedly each had ten 81-mm. mortars without sights. [14]

On 14 July the ROK Army activated its II Corps with headquarters at Hamch'ang. It was composed of the 6th and 8th Divisions and the 23d Regiment. This corps controlled ROK operations in the eastern mountains and, to the extent that it could, it tried to control the 23d Regiment on the east coast. [15] But this latter effort never amounted to very much.

Finally, on 24 July, the ROK Army reorganized itself with two corps and five divisions. ROK I Corps controlled the 8th and Capital Divisions; ROK II Corps controlled the 1st and 6th Divisions. The 2d Division was inactivated and its surviving elements were integrated into the 1st Division. A reconstituted ROK 3d Division was placed under direct ROK Army control. The principal reason for doing this was the division's isolated position on the east coast, away from effective co-ordinated control by I Corps with the 8th and Capital Divisions westward across the main Taebaek Range.

The ROK divisions held the east central and eastern parts of the United Nations line. To the right (east) of the American troops was, first, the ROK II Corps headquarters at Hamch'ang, with the 1st and 6th Divisions on line in that order from west to east. Next, eastward, was I Corps headquarters at Sangju (briefly at Andong), with the 8th and Capital Divisions on line from west to east; and, lastly, the 3d Division was on the east coast under direct ROK Army control. This ROK Army organization and position on line remained relatively stable for the next two months. [16]

On 26 July, after large numbers of recruits and replacements had entered the ROK Army, it had an effective assigned strength of 85,871 men, with a total assigned strength of 94,570. The combat divisions at that time varied in strength from just under 6,000 to almost 9,000 men. Table 2 shows the organization and unit strengths of the ROK Army after the reorganization.

The U.S. 25th Division at Sangju

On the next major axis west of the Andong road, where at the end of the month the N.K. 12th Division was recuperating from its heavy battles, lay the town of Sangju. It was a crossroads center for all the mountain roads in that part of Korea. Situated south of the Mun'gyong plateau and the dividing watershed between the Han and the Naktong Rivers, it had a commanding position in the valley of the Naktong, forty-five air miles northeast up that valley from Taegu. Sangju was a place of both confusion and activity during the third week of July. Refugees and stragglers poured south into and through the town. Many ROK units were retreating to Sangju and some had passed south through it. Fighting had already been joined between North Koreans and ROK forces for control of the Mun'gyong plateau when the U.S. 25th Division received orders from General Walker to concentrate there to bolster ROK defenses of the central mountain corridors. [17] General Walker looked to the 25th Division to help the ROK forces in central Korea prevent a movement of major enemy forces into the valley of the upper Naktong.

The first action between elements of the 25th Division and enemy forces appears to have occurred at Yech'on on 20 July. Company K, 24th Infantry, led by 1st Lt. Jasper R. Johnson, entered the town during the afternoon. When other units of the 3d Battalion failed to take a ridge overlooking the town on the left, he requested and received permission to withdraw from the town for the night. [18]

Total assigned 94,570
Total effective assigned 85,871
Wounded and nonbattle casualties 8,699
I Corps Headquarters 3,014
Capital Division (1st, 17th, 18th Regiments) 6,644
8th Division (10th, 16th, 21st Regiments) 8,864
II Corps Headquarters 976
1st Division (11th, 12th, 15th Regiments) 7,601
6th Division (2d, 7th, 19th Regiments) 5,727
ROK Army Headquarters 3,020
3d Division (1st Cavalry, 22d, 23d Regiments) 8,829
ROK Troops 11,881
Replacement Training Command 9,016
Chonju Training Command 8,699
Kwangju Training Command 6,244
Pusan Training Command 5,356

Meeting at the battalion command post, the commanders of the various units planned a renewed assault for 0500 the next morning. Artillery and mortars zeroed in as scheduled, and soon the town was in flames. By this time, however, Yech'on may already have been abandoned by the enemy. At Hamch'ang, Col. Henry G. Fisher, commanding the 35th Infantry, received early that morning an erroneous message that the North Koreans had driven the 3d Battalion, 24th Infantry from Yech'on. He started for the place at once. He found the battalion commander about five miles west of the town, but was dissatisfied with the information that he received from him. Fisher and a small party then drove on into Yech'on, which was ablaze with fires started by American artillery shells. He encountered no enemy or civilians. The 3d Platoon, 77th Engineer Combat Company, attached to Company K, entered the town with the infantrymen and attempted to halt the spread of flames-unsuccessfully, because of high, shifting winds. By 1300 Yech'on was secured, and 3d Battalion turned over control to the ROK 18th Regiment of the Capital Division the task of holding the town. The Capital Division now concentrated there the bulk of its forces and opposed the N.K. 8th Division in that vicinity the remainder of the month. [19]

General Kean and his 25th Division had to guard two main approaches to Sangju if he was to secure the town. First was the main road that crossed the Mun'gyong plateau and passed through Hamch'ang at the base of the plateau about fifteen miles due north of Sangju. Next, there was the secondary mountain road that crossed the plateau farther west and, once through the mountains, turned east toward Sangju.

On the first and main road, the 2d Battalion, 35th Infantry, held a blocking position northwest of Hamch'ang, supported by a platoon of tanks from A Company, 78th Tank Battalion, and A Battery, 90th Field Artillery Battalion. Colonel Fisher was unable to concentrate his two-battalion regiment here for the defense of Sangju because the 1st Battalion had no sooner arrived on 25 July from P'ohang-dong than it was sent posthaste the next day to reinforce the 27th Infantry Regiment on the next north-south line of communications westward. Thus, in effect, one battalion of U.S. troops stood behind ROK units on the Hamch'ang approach. On the second road, that leading into Sangju from the west, the 24th Infantry Regiment assembled two, and later all three, of its battalions.

The 2d Battalion of the 35th Infantry took up a hill position northwest of Hamch'ang and south of Mun'gyong on the south side of a stream that flowed past Sangju to the Naktong. On the north side of the stream a ROK battalion held the front line. Brig. Gen. Vennard Wilson, Assistant Division Commander, insisted that F Company of the battalion should be inserted in the center of the ROK line north of the stream, and this was done over the strong protests of Colonel Fisher and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. John L. Wilkins. Wilson thought the American troops would strengthen the ROK defense; Fisher and Wilkins did not want the untried company to be dependent upon ROK stability in its first engagement. Behind the ROK and F Company positions the ground rose in another hill within small arms range. Heavy rains had swollen the stream behind the ROK's and F Company to a torrent that was rolling large boulders along its channel.

On 22 July the North Koreans attacked. The ROK's withdrew from their positions on either side of F Company without informing that company of their intentions. Soon enemy troops were firing into the back of F Company from the hill behind it. This precipitated an unorganized withdrawal. The swollen stream prevented F Company from crossing to the south side and the sanctuary of the 2d Battalion positions. Walking wounded crowded along the stream where an effort to get them across failed. Two officers and a noncommissioned officer tied a pair of twisted telephone wires about their bodies and tried to swim to the opposite bank and fasten a line, but each in turn was swept downstream where they floundered ashore a hundred yards away on the same bank from which they had started. Some men drowned in trying to cross the swollen river. The covering fire of a platoon of tanks on the south side held off the enemy and allowed most of the survivors eventually to escape. In this fiasco, F Company lost 6 men killed, 10 wounded, and 21 missing. [20]

The next morning five enemy tanks crossed the river and moved toward Hamch'ang. Artillery fire from a battery of the 90th Field Artillery Battalion knocked out four of the tanks. The fifth turned back across the river, and there an air strike later destroyed it.

The 2d Battalion, 35th Infantry, was still in its position when it received orders on 23 July to withdraw to a point 5 miles north of Sangju. On the 28th the battalion fell back 2 miles more, and the next day it moved to a position south of Sangju. On the last day of July the 35th Infantry was ordered to a blocking position on a line of hills 8 miles south of Sangju on the Kumch'on road. In eleven days it had fallen back about thirty miles on the Sangju front. In these movements it did little fighting, but executed a series of withdrawals on division orders as the front around it collapsed. [21]

The ROK 6th Division continued its hard-fought action on the road through the mountains from Mun'gyong, but gradually it fell back from in front of the N.K. 1st Division. In the mountains above Hamch'ang the ROK 6th Division on 24 July destroyed 7 enemy T34 tanks. Three days later the ROK 1st Division, now relieved northwest of Sangju by the U.S. 24th Infantry and redeployed on the Hamch'ang front, reportedly destroyed 4 more tanks there with 2.36-inch bazookas and captured 1 tank intact. The decimated remnants of the ROK 2d Division, relieved by the 27th Infantry Regiment on the Hwanggan=Poun road, were incorporated into the ROK 1st Division. Thus, by 24 July the U.S. 25th Division had taken over from the ROK 1st and 2d Divisions the sector from Sangju westward to the Seoul-Taegu highway, and these ROK troops were moving into the line eastward and northward from Sangju on the Hamch'ang front. [22]

By 27 July all the Mun'gyong divide was in North Korean possession and enemy units were moving into the valley of the upper Naktong in the vicinity of Hamch'ang. Prisoners taken at the time and others captured later said that the N.K. 1st Division lost 5,000 casualties in the struggle for control of the divide, including the division commander who was wounded and replaced. The 13th Division, following the 1st, suffered about 500 casualties below Mun'gyong, but otherwise it was not engaged during this period. [23]

Simultaneously with his appearance on the Hamch'ang road at the southern base of the Mun'gyong plateau north of Sangju, the enemy approached on the secondary mountain road to the west. On 22 July, the same day that F Company of the 35th Infantry came to grief north of Hamch'ang, elements of the 24th Infantry Regiment had a similar unhappy experience west of Sangju. On that day the 2d Battalion, 24th Infantry, and elements of the ROK 17th Regiment were advancing into the mountains twenty miles northwest of the town. With E Company leading, the battalion moved along the dirt road into a gorge with precipitous mountain walls. Suddenly, an enemy light mortar and one or two automatic weapons fired on E Company. It stopped and the men dispersed along the sides of the road. ROK officers advised that the men deploy in an enveloping movement to the right and to the left, but the company commander apparently did not understand. Soon enemy rifle fire came in on the dispersed men and E and F Companies began withdrawing in a disorderly manner.

Col. Horton V. White, the regimental commander, heard of the difficulty and drove hurriedly to the scene. He found the battalion coming back down the road in disorder and most of the men in a state of panic. He finally got the men under control. The next day the ROK 17th Regiment enveloped the enemy position that had caused the trouble and captured two light machine guns, one mortar, and about thirty enemy who appeared to be guerrillas. [24] The ROK 17th Regiment fought in the hills for the next two days, making some limited gains, and then it moved back to Sangju in the ROK Army reorganization in progress. This left only the U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment guarding the west approach to Sangju from the Mun'gyong plateau.

The tendency to panic continued in nearly all the 24th Infantry operations west of Sangju. Men left their positions and straggled to the rear. They abandoned weapons on positions. On one occasion the 3d Battalion withdrew from a hill and left behind 12 .30-caliber and 3 .50-caliber machine guns, 8 60-mm. mortars, 3 81-mm. mortars, 4 3.5-inch rocket launchers, and 102 rifles. On another occasion, L Company took into position 4 officers and 105 enlisted men; a few days later, when the company was relieved in its position, there were only 17 men in the foxholes. The number of casualties and men evacuated for other reasons in the interval had been 1 officer and 17 enlisted men, leaving 3 officers and 88 enlisted men unaccounted for. As the relieved unit of 17 men moved down off the mountain it swelled in numbers to 1 officer and 35 enlisted men by the time it reached the bottom. [25]

By 26 July the 24th Infantry had all three of its battalions concentrated in battle positions astride the road ten miles west of Sangju. Elements of the N.K. 15th Division advancing on this road had cleared the mountain passes and were closing with the regiment. From 26 July on to the end of the month the enemy had almost constant contact with the 24th Infantry, which was supported by the 159th and 64th Field Artillery Battalions and one battery of the 90th Field Artillery Battalion. [26]

The general pattern of 24th Infantry action during the last days of July was to try to hold positions during the day and then withdraw at night. On the evening of 29 July the 1st Battalion got out of hand. During the day the battalion had suffered about sixty casualties from enemy mortar fire. As the men were preparing their perimeter defense for the night, an inexplicable panic seized them and the battalion left its positions. Colonel White found himself, the 77th Combat Engineer Company, and a battery of the 159th Field Artillery Battalion all that was left in the front line. He had to reorganize the battalion himself. That night the supporting artillery fired 3,000 rounds, part of it direct fire, in holding back the North Koreans.

In these last days west of Sangju, Maj. John R. Woolridge, the regimental S-1, set up a check point half a mile west of the town and stopped every vehicle coming from the west, taking off stragglers. He averaged about seventy-five stragglers a day and, on the last day, he collected 150. [27]

By 30 July, the 24th Infantry had withdrawn to the last defensible high ground west of Sangju, three miles from the town. The regiment had deteriorated so badly by this time that General Kean recalled the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, and placed it in blocking positions behind the 24th Infantry. The next day North Koreans again pressed against the regiment and forced in the outpost line of resistance. In this action, 1st Lt. Leon A. Gilbert, commanding A Company, quit the outpost line with about fifteen men. Colonel White and other ranking officers ordered Lieutenant Gilbert back into position, but he refused to go, saying that he was scared. The senior noncommissioned officer returned with the men to their positions. [28]

Finally, during the night of 31 July the 24th Infantry Regiment withdrew through Sangju. The 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, covered the withdrawal. In eleven days of action in the Sangju area the regiment had suffered 323 battle casualties-27 killed, 293 wounded, 3 missing. [29]

In reaching the upper Naktong valley at the end of July, the enemy divisions engaged in this part of the North Korean drive southward had not gone unharmed. The N.K. 1st Division in battling across the Mun'gyong plateau against the ROK 6th Division not only suffered great losses in the ground battle but also took serious losses from U.N. aerial attack. Prisoners reported that by the time it reached Hamch'ang at the end of July it was down to 3,000 men. The N.K. 15th Division, according to prisoners, also lost heavily to artillery and mortar fire in its drive on Sangju against ROK troops and the U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment, and was down to about half strength, or approximately 5,000 men, at the end of July. In contrast, the N.K. 13th Division had bypassed Hamch'ang on the west and, save for minor skirmishes with ROK troops and the 2d Battalion, 35th Infantry, it had not been engaged and consequently had suffered relatively few casualties. [30]

The 1st Cavalry Division Sails for Korea

At first General MacArthur and the staff of the Far East Command had expected that the 24th and 25th Divisions in support of the ROK Army would be able to check the North Korean advance. Based on this expectation, initial preliminary planning called for a third United States division, the 1st Cavalry, to land in the rear of the enemy forces and, together with a counterattack from in front by the combined American and ROK forces, to crush and destroy the North Korean Army.

In furtherance of this plan, the Far East Command called Maj. Gen. Hobart R. Gay, Commanding General, 1st Cavalry Division, to General MacArthur's headquarters on 6 July and informed him of plans for the 1st Cavalry Division to make an amphibious landing at Inch'on. From this briefing General Gay went to the G-2, Far East Command office, where he was told, "You must expedite preparations to the utmost limit because if the landing is delayed all that the 1st Cavalry Division will hit when it lands will be the tail end of the 24th Division as it passes north through Seoul." [31]

The transfer to the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions, in strengthening them for their combat missions in Korea, of approximately 750 noncommissioned officers from the 1st Cavalry Division had weakened the latter. It had been stripped of practically every first grader except the first sergeants of companies and batteries.

Between 12 and 14 July the division loaded on ships in the Yokohama area. But, by this time, the steady enemy successes south of the Han River had changed the objective from a landing in the enemy's rear at Inch'on to a landing on the east coast of Korea at P'ohang-dong, a fishing town sixty air miles northeast of Pusan. Its mission was to reinforce at once the faltering 24th Division. A landing at P'ohang-dong would not congest still further the Pusan port facilities, which were needed to land supplies for the troops already in action; also, from P'ohang-dong the division could move promptly to the Taejon area in support of the 24th Division. The date of the landing was set for 18 July. [32] The command ship Mt. McKinley and final elements of the first lift sailed for Korea on 15 July in Task Force 90, commanded by Rear Adm. James H. Doyle. The landing at P'ohang-dong was unopposed. Lead elements of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were ashore by 0610 18 July, and the first troops of the 5th Cavalry Regiment came in twenty minutes later. Typhoon Helene swept over the Korean coast and prevented landing of the 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 82d Field Artillery Battalion until 22 July. For three days ships could not be unloaded at Pusan and Eighth Army rations dropped to one day's supply. [33]

Even though it had received 1,450 replacements before it left Japan, 100 of them from the Eighth Army stockade, the division was understrength when it landed in Korea and, like the preceding divisions, it had only 2 battalions in the regiments, 2 firing batteries in the artillery battalions, and 1 tank company (light M24 tanks).

On 19 July, the 5th Cavalry Regiment started toward Taejon. The next day the 8th Cavalry Regiment followed by rail and motor, and closed in an assembly area east of Yongdong that evening. Brig. Gen. Charles D. Palmer, division artillery commander, commanded these two forward regiments. On 22 July the 8th Cavalry Regiment relieved the 21st Infantry, 24th Division, in its positions at Yongdong and the 1st Cavalry Division thereby assumed responsibility for blocking the enemy along the main Taejon-Taegu corridor. [34]

In a conference at Taegu General Walker gave General Gay brief instructions. In substance, Walker told Gay: "Protect Yongdong. Remember there are no friendly troops behind you. You must keep your own back door open. You can live without food but you cannot last long without ammunition, and unless the Yongdong-Taegu road is kept open you will soon be without ammunition." In the week that followed, these words of Walker's rang constantly in General Gay's ears. [35]

Leaving Taegu, General Gay joined his troops and General Palmer at Yongdong. Colonel MacLean, from the Eighth Army G-3 Section, was present and had given instructions that one battalion should be posted four miles northwest of Yongdong on the south side of the Kum River, and that another battalion should be placed two miles southwest of Yongdong. The first would cover the approach along the main Taejon-Taegu highway, the second the approach on the Chosan-ni-Muju-Kumsan road. General Palmer had protested this disposition of troops to Colonel MacLean on the ground that the enemy could encircle and cut off one battalion at a time and that neither battalion could support the other. Palmer wanted to place the 1st Cavalry Division on a line of hills just east of Yongdong and then have the 24th Division withdraw through it. General Gay agreed with General Palmer and stated that he could not comply with Colonel MacLean's instructions unless Eighth Army confirmed them over the telephone. The army headquarters did confirm the orders, and the two battalions of the 8th Cavalry Regiment went into the two blocking positions, the 1st Battalion on the Taejon road northwest of Yongdong and the 2d Battalion southwest of Yongdong. General Gay placed the 5th Cavalry Regiment on the high ground east of the town in a blocking position. [36]

The strength of the Eighth Army at this time, with the 1st Cavalry Division in the line, was about 39,000 men. Less than three weeks earlier, when there were no American troops in Korea, such a number would have seemed a large force indeed. [37]

The 1st Cavalry Division Loses Yongdong

The enemy paused but briefly after the capture of Taejon. After a day's rest in that town, which it had helped to capture, the N.K. 3d Division departed the city on 22 July, advancing down the main highway toward Taegu. The next morning, 23 July, the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, in front of Yongdong, reported it had destroyed three enemy T34 tanks with 3.5-inch rocket launchers in its first use of that weapon. [38] The enemy division was closing with the 1st Cavalry Division for the battle for Yongdong.

Cavalrymen preparing for action

During 23 July the 7th and 9th Regiments of the N.K. 3d Division began their attack on the Yongdong positions. The enemy made his first penetration southwest of Yongdong, establishing a roadblock a mile and a half behind the 2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry, at the same time other units heavily engaged the 1st Battalion northwest of Yongdong in frontal attack.

The next day four different attempts by three American light tanks failed to dislodge the enemy behind the 2d Battalion, and Lt. Col. Eugene J. Field, the 2d Battalion commander, was wounded at the roadblock. General Palmer sent the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, and the 16th Reconnaissance Company toward the cutoff battalion. By noon, enemy troops were attacking the 99th and 61st Field Artillery Battalions which were supporting the 2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, indicating that the infiltration had been extensive. [39]

On the other approach road, northwest of Yongdong, heavy automatic fire from quad-50's, 37-mm. fire from A Battery of the 92d Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, and artillery fire from the 77th Field Artillery Battalion helped the 1st Battalion there to repel enemy attacks.

The large numbers of Korean refugees crowding the Yongdong area undoubtedly helped the enemy infiltrate the 1st Cavalry Division positions. On 24 July, for example, a man dressed in white carrying a heavy pack, and accompanied by a woman appearing to be pregnant, came under suspicion. The couple was searched and the woman's assumed pregnancy proved to be a small radio hidden under her clothes. She used this radio for reporting American positions. Eighth Army tried to control the refugee movement through the Korean police, permitting it only during daylight hours and along predetermined routes. [40]

By the morning of 25 July enemy forces had infiltrated the positions of the 1st Cavalry Division so thoroughly that they forced a withdrawal. Northwest of Yongdong, Lt. Col. Robert W. Kane's 1st Battalion executed an orderly and efficient withdrawal, covered by the fire of the Heavy Mortar Company and the two batteries of Lt. Col. William A. Harris' 77th Field Artillery Battalion. The mortar men finally lost their mortars and fought as infantry in the withdrawal. [41]

Meanwhile, the situation worsened on the road southwest of Yongdong. Concentrated artillery support-with the shells falling so close to the td Battalion positions that they wounded four men-together with an attack by the battalion, briefly opened the enemy roadblock at 0430, s5 July, and the bulk of the battalion escaped to Yongdong. But F Company, 8th Cavalry, the 16th Reconnaissance Company, and the 1st Platoon, A Company, 71st Tank Battalion, at the rear of the column were cut off. Only four of eleven light tanks broke through the enemy positions. Crews abandoned the other seven tanks and walked over the hills in a two days' journey as part of a group of 219 men, most of them from F Company. All equipment except individual arms was abandoned by this group. Others escaped in the same manner. [42]

On this same road, but closer to Yongdong, the 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry, in trying to help the cutoff units of the 8th Cavalry, ran into trouble. Through some error, its F Company went to the wrong hill and walked into a concentration of enemy soldiers. Only twenty-six men returned. Altogether, the 5th Cavalry Regiment had 275 casualties on 25 July. [43]

The N.K. 3d Division used against the 1st Cavalry Division at Yongdong essentially the same tactics it had employed against the 24th Division at Taejon-a holding attack frontally, with the bulk of its force enveloping the American left flank and establishing strongly held roadblocks behind the front positions. The enemy division entered Yongdong the night of 25 July; at least one unit was in the town by 2000. The North Koreans expected a counterattack and immediately took up defensive positions at the eastern edge of the town. Prisoners reported later that the division suffered about 2,000 casualties, mostly from artillery fire, in the attack on Yongdong on 24-25 July. [44] This brought it down to about 5,000 men, approximately half-strength.

The 27th Infantry's Baptism of Fire

Closely related to the Yongdong action was the enemy advance southward on the next road eastward, the Poun-Hwanggan road. The N.K. 2d Division, arriving too late on the east of Taejon to help in the attack on that city, turned toward Poun. Unless checked it would pass through that town and come out on the main Seoul-Pusan highway at Hwanggan, about ten miles east of Yongdong. This would place it in the rear of the 1st Cavalry Division on the latter's main supply road.

The task of defending this road fell to the 27th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 25th Division. Upon first arriving in Korea that regiment went to the Uisong area, thirty-five air miles north of Taegu. On 13 July it moved from there to Andong to support ROK troops, but before it entered action in the heavy battles then taking place in that area it suddenly received orders to move to Sangju. En route to that place it received still other orders to change its destination to Hwanggan, and it closed there in an assembly area the night of 22-23 July. General Walker had begun the quick and improvised shifting of troops to meet emergencies that was to characterize his defense of the Pusan Perimeter. The 27th Infantry's mission at Hwanggan was to relieve the decimated ROK troops retreating down the Poun road. [45]

In carrying out Eighth Army's orders to block the Poun road, Colonel Michaelis assigned the 1st Battalion of the 27th Infantry the task of making contact with the enemy. On the morning of 23 July, Lt. Col. Gilbert J. Check moved the 1st Battalion northward toward Poun from the Hwanggan assembly area. He took up defensive positions in the evening near the village of Sangyong-ni, south of Poun. The battalion assumed responsibility for that sector at 1700 after ROK troops fell back through its position. [46] Colonel Check was unable to obtain from the retreating ROK troops any information on the size of the North Korean force following them or how close it was.

That night he sent 1st Lt. John A. Buckley of A Company with a 30-man patrol northward to locate the enemy. Near Poun Buckley saw an enemy column approaching. He quickly disposed his patrol on hills bordering both sides of the road, and, when the column was nearly abreast, opened fire on it with all weapons. This fire apparently caused the enemy advanced unit to believe it had encountered a major position, for it held back until daylight. When the enemy turned back, Buckley and his patrol returned to the 1st Battalion lines, arriving there at 0400, 24 July. Six men were missing. [47]

Check's 1st Battalion prepared to receive an attack. It came at 0630, 24 July, shortly after daybreak in a heavy fog that enabled the North Koreans to approach very close to the battalion positions before they were observed. Two rifle companies, one on either side of the road on low ridges, held the forward positions. Enemy mortar and small arms fire fell on the men there, and then tanks appeared at the bend in the road and opened fire with cannon and machine guns as they approached. Enemy infantry followed the tanks. Although the two rifle companies stopped the North Korean infantry, the tanks penetrated their positions and fired into the battalion command post which was behind B Company. This tank fire destroyed several vehicles and killed the medical officer. Capt. Logan E. Weston, A Company commander, armed himself with a bazooka and knocked out one of the tanks within the position. In this close action, tank fire killed a man near Weston and the concussion of the shell explosion damaged Weston's ears so that he could not hear. Weston refused to leave the fight, and Colonel Check later had to order him to the rear for medical treatment.

On the right (north) of the road the enemy overran the battalion observation post and B Company's outpost line. This high ground changed hands three times during the day. While the infantry fight was in progress, and shortly after the first tank penetration, five more T34's came around the road bend toward the 71st Battalion. When the first tanks appeared Colonel Check had called for an air strike. Now, at this propitious moment, three F-80 jet planes arrived and immediately dived on the approaching second group of tanks, destroying 3 of them with 5-inch rockets. Altogether, bazooka, artillery, and air strikes knocked out 6 enemy tanks during the morning, either within or on the edge of the 1st Battalion position. In this, its first engagement with American troops, the N.K. 2d Division lost all but 2 of the 8 tanks that had been attached to it a few days earlier at Chongju. [48]

Late in the evening after dark the 1st Battalion disengaged and withdrew through the 2d Battalion immediately behind it. Both Check and the regimental commander, Colonel Michaelis, expected the enemy to encircle the 1st Battalion position during the night if it stayed where it was.

The North Koreans apparently were unaware of the 1st Battalion withdrawal, for the next morning, 25 July, two enemy battalions in a double envelopment came in behind its positions of the evening before but in front of Maj. Gordon E. Murch's 2d Battalion. There they were surprised and caught in the open by the combined fire of American tanks, artillery, and mortar, and the 2d Battalion's automatic and small arms fire. The North Koreans suffered severely in this action. Surviving remnants of the two enemy battalions withdrew in confusion. The 2d Battalion took about thirty prisoners. [49]

Despite this costly setback, the enemy division pushed relentlessly forward, and that afternoon elements of it were flanking the regimental position. Colonel Michaelis issued an order about 2200 for another withdrawal to high ground near Hwanggan. The withdrawal started near midnight with heavy fighting still in progress on the right flank. Major Murch took control of all tanks and put them on line facing north. There the nine tanks of A Company, 78th Tank Battalion, fired into visible enemy troops approaching on the road. Enemy mortar fire, estimated to be eight or ten rounds a minute, fell along the battalion line and the road behind it. F Company and the nine tanks covered the 2d Battalion withdrawal. [50]

The next day, 26 July, the arrival of the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, on the 27th Infantry's right flank eased the precarious situation. But the following day the regimental left flank came under attack where a large gap existed between C Company, the left-hand (west) unit of the 27th Infantry, and the 7th Cavalry Regiment, the nearest unit of the 1st Cavalry Division. C Company lost and regained a peak three times during the day. More than 40 casualties reduced its strength to approximately 60 men. B Company also lost heavily in action, falling to a strength of about 85 men. By the morning of 28 July the enemy had penetrated the 1st Battalion's line, forcing C Company to withdraw. [51]

At this point Colonel Michaelis went to the 1st Cavalry Division command post in Hwanggan and asked General Gay for permission to withdraw his hard-pressed regiment through that division. General Gay telephoned Colonel Landrum, Eighth Army Chief of Staff, and described the situation. He asked if he should attack in an effort to relieve the enemy pressure on the 27th Infantry, or if that regiment should withdraw into the 1st Cavalry Division's area, move south to Kumch'on, and then turn toward Sangju to rejoin the 25th Division. Colonel Landrum called back later and said, "Let Mike withdraw through you." Colonel Collier drove from Taegu to Hwanggan to discuss the situation with General Gay who said, "We are in what they call a military mousetrap." [52]

Before dawn, 29 July, the 27th Infantry Regiment withdrew through the 1st Cavalry Division lines at Hwanggan to a position about a mile east of Kumch'on. That afternoon Colonel Michaelis received orders from Eighth Army to move to Waegwan on the Naktong River near Taegu, as army reserve, instead of joining the 25th Division in the Sangju area.

In its five days of delaying action on the Poun-Hwanggan road, the 27th Infantry Regiment lost 53 men killed, 221 wounded, and 49 missing, a total of 323 battle casualties. The N.K. 2d Division suffered heavily during this time, some estimates placing its loss above 3,000 men. [53]


During the battle for Yongdong the 7th Cavalry Regiment headquarters and the 2d Battalion arrived from P'ohang-dong and took up a position west of Kumch'on. Reports reached them the night of 25-26 July of enemy gains in the 27th Infantry sector northward, which increased the uneasiness of the untested staff and troops. After midnight there came a report that the enemy had achieved a breakthrough. Somehow, the constant pressure under which the 27th Infantry fought its delaying action on the Poun road had become magnified and exaggerated. The 7th Cavalry Regiment headquarters immediately decided to arouse all personnel and withdraw. During the withdrawal the 2d Battalion, an untried unit, scattered in panic. That evening 119 of its men were still missing. [54]

In this frantic departure from its position on 26 July, the 2d Battalion left behind a switchboard, an emergency lighting unit, and weapons of all types. After daylight truck drivers and platoon sergeants returned to the scene and recovered 14 machine guns, 9 radios, 120 M1 rifles, 26 carbines, 7 BAR's, and 6 60-mm. mortars. [55]

While this untoward incident was taking place in their rear, other elements of the 1st Cavalry Division held their defensive positions east of Yongdong. The 7th Regiment of the N.K. 3d Division, meanwhile, started southwest from Yongdong on the Muju road in a sweeping flank movement through Chirye against Kumch'on, twenty air miles east-ward. That night, elements of the enemy division in Yongdong attacked the 1st Cavalry troops east of the town. Four enemy tanks and an infantry force started this action by driving several hundred refugees ahead of them through American mine fields. Before daybreak the 1st Cavalry Division had repulsed the attack. [56]

Patrols reported to General Gay's headquarters that enemy troops were moving around the division's left flank in the direction of Chirye. On his right flank at the same time there was a question whether the 27th Infantry could hold. These developments caused General Gay to decide that although he was under no immediate enemy pressure he would have to withdraw or his division would be cut off from Taegu. Accordingly, he ordered a withdrawal to the vicinity of Kumch'on where he considered the terrain excellent for defense. This withdrawal began on 29 July after the 27th Infantry had passed east through the division's lines. [57]

The 1st Cavalry Division took up new defensive positions around Kumch'on, an important road center thirty air miles northwest of Taegu. The 8th Cavalry Regiment went into position astride the Sangju road north of the town; the 5th Cavalry blocked the Chirye road southwest of it; the 7th Cavalry Regiment remained in its Hwanggan position until the other units had withdrawn, and then it fell back to a position on the Yongdong road about six miles northwest of Kumch'on.

The enemy flanking movement under way to the southwest through the Chirye area threatened the division's rear and communications with Taegu. Eighth Army strengthened the 1st Cavalry Division against this threat by attaching to it the 3d Battalion, 21st Infantry. This battalion had the mission of establishing a roadblock ten miles southwest of Kumch'on near Hawan-ni on the Chirye road. [58] This proved to be a timely and wise move, for, on this very day, the enemy 7th Regiment began arriving at Chirye, only a few miles farther down the road.

That morning, 29 July, a platoon-sized patrol of the 16th Reconnaissance Company under Lt. Lester Lauer drove southwest through Chirye. Later in the morning, Korean police informed Lauer that an enemy battalion was in Chirye. He radioed this information to the Reconnaissance Company and asked for instructions. The company commander, Capt, Charles V. H. Harvey, decided to take another platoon to the assistance of the one beyond Chirye. He set out immediately from Kumch'on with the platoon and fourteen South Korean police. At the outskirts of Chirye this force surprised and killed three enemy soldiers. Beyond Chirye the little column drew scattered rifle fire. The two platoons joined forces at noon and started back.

In the northern part of Chirye, which Harvey's column entered cautiously, the lead vehicles came upon a partially built roadblock from which an estimated enemy platoon opened fire on the column, Harvey ordered his little column to smash through the roadblock. The M39 vehicle pushed aside the wagon and truck that constituted the partially built block, but only one jeep was able to follow it through. Enemy machine gun fire disabled the next vehicle in line; thus the northern exit from Chirye was closed. [59] Several hundred enemy were now in view, moving to surround the patrol.

The patrol pulled back to the south edge of town, set up three 81-mm. mortars, and began firing on the enemy machine gun positions. Cpl. Harry D. Mitchell, although wounded four times and bleeding profusely, stayed with his mortar and fired it until his ammunition was expended. Captain Harvey early in the fight had received a bullet through one hand, and now machine gun fire struck him again, this time cutting his jugular vein. He did not respond to first aid treatment and died in a few minutes. His last order was for the company to withdraw.

Three officers and forty-one enlisted men, abandoning their vehicles and heavier equipment, gained the nearest hill. They walked all night-an estimated thirty-five miles-and reached 1st Cavalry Division lines the next morning. The 16th Reconnaissance Company in this incident lost 2 killed, 3 wounded, and 11 missing.

The Chirye action made clear that a strong enemy force was approaching the rear of, or passing behind, the 1st Cavalry Division positions at Kumch'on. The next day, 30 July, General Gay ordered the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry; the 3d Battalion, 21st Infantry; and the 99th Field Artillery Battalion to Chirye. This strong force was able to enter the town, but the enemy held the hills around it. The next day North Koreans shelled Chirye, forcing the Americans to withdraw to a position northeast of the town. [60] The enemy 8th Regiment together with its artillery now joined the other North Koreans already at Chirye. This meant that the bulk of the division was engaged in the enveloping move.

On 31 July the N.K. 3d Division was closing on Kumch'on. About daylight a squad of North Koreans infiltrated into the command post of the 8th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1,000 yards from the 1st Cavalry Division command post, and killed four men and wounded six others. Among the latter was the battalion executive officer who died subsequently of his wounds. The 7th Cavalry also came under attack. But in pressing forward the North Koreans exposed their tanks. Air and ground fire power reportedly destroyed thirteen of them and set six more on fire. [61]

During its first ten days of action in Korea the 1st Cavalry Division had 916 battle casualties-78 killed, 419 wounded, and 419 missing. [62]

The N.K. 3d Division in forcing the 1st Cavalry Division from Yongdong and back on Kumch'on apparently suffered nearly 2,000 casualties, which reduced it to a strength of about 5,000 men. Nevertheless, it had effectively and quickly driven the 1st Cavalry Division toward the Naktong. For its operations in the Yongdong-Kumch'on area the N.K. 3d Division received the honorary title of Guards. [63]

Stand or Die

On Wednesday, 26 July, Eighth Army had issued an operational directive indicating that the army would move to prepared positions, stabilize the front line, and maintain a position from which it could initiate offensive action. The time of the movement was to be announced later. During the withdrawal, units were to maintain contact with the enemy. [64] Three days later, on 29 July, General Walker issued his much discussed "stand or die" order and seemingly ruled out the previously announced withdrawal. The actual withdrawal of Eighth Army behind the Naktong River in the first days of August further confused the issue.

What prompted General Walker to issue his 29 July "stand or die" order?

For several days both the 25th Infantry and the 1st Cavalry Divisions had been withdrawing steadily in the face of North Korean attacks, often in circumstances that seemed not to justify it, and with troops in panic and out of control. General Walker was disappointed and upset over the performance of the 25th Division in the Sangju area and he made this feeling known to General Kean, the division commander. [65]

General Walker was also disappointed over the inability of the 1st Cavalry Division to check the advance of the enemy on the Taejon-Taegu axis. This was apparent on the afternoon on 29 July when he visited the division command post in a little schoolhouse at Kumch'on. He questioned the withdrawals and ordered that there be no more. General Gay replied that he himself did not know whether the withdrawals had been sound, but that he had feared his communications to the rear would be cut. General Gay had served as Chief of Staff for General Patton's Third Army in Europe in World War II. This, his initial experience in Korea, was a defensive operation and, as he has since said, "he didn't know what to do about it." And always General Walker's earlier admonition to him in Taegu rang in his ears. [66]

General Walker himself was a most determined commander. His bulldog tenacity became a byword in Korea and it was one of the decisive factors in the summer battles of 1950. These characteristics caused him to smart all the more under the poor showing of many of the American units. He understood well the great problem of maintaining morale in his command at a time when Eighth Army was retreating rapidly toward its base of supply and, unless checked, would soon have its back to the sea.

On 26 July, the day Eighth Army issued its warning order for a planned withdrawal to a defensive position, General Walker telephoned General MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo. General Almond, MacArthur's Chief of Staff, took the call. General Walker asked for authority to move Eighth Army headquarters from Taegu to Pusan immediately for security of the army communications equipment which was virtually irreplaceable if destroyed or lost. He said the enemy was approaching too close to Taegu for its safety there. There was no indication in this conversation that General Walker contemplated having the army's tactical units themselves fall back on Pusan. The withdrawals to a planned position Walker then had in mind would bring the enemy to the Naktong River. General Almond told Walker over the telephone that he would transmit the request to General MacArthur, but that he personally thought such a move at that time would have a very bad effect on Eighth Army units and

[65] Interv, author with Lt Col Paul F. Smith 1 Oct 52; Ltr, Landrum to

author, recd 23 Nov 53; Collier, MS review comments, Mar 58.

[66] Ltr. Gay to author, 24 Aug 53.

also on the ROK troops. It might lead to the belief that Eighth Army could not stay in Korea and might be the forerunner of a general debacle. [67]

At the conclusion of the telephone conversation with Walker, General Almond related the substance of it to General MacArthur, strongly recommending that the latter fly to Korea at once-the next day-to talk with Walker. Almond said he felt the situation in Korea was critical and demanded the personal attention of the Far East commander. MacArthur said he would think about it. Half an hour later he directed Almond to arrange for the flight to Korea the next morning. Almond notified Walker that evening of the projected trip.

Thursday morning early, 27 July, the Bataan departed Haneda Airfield and landed at Taegu about 1000. A small group of officers, including General Almond, accompanied MacArthur. Met by Generals Walker and Partridge and Colonel Landrum, the party went directly to Eighth Army headquarters.

During a ninety-minute conference between General MacArthur and General Walker only one other person was present-General Almond. In this lengthy conversation General MacArthur never mentioned Walker's request of the day before, nor did he in any way criticize Walker. But he did emphasize the necessity of Eighth Army standing its ground. He said withdrawals must cease. Later, after lunch and in the presence of several members of the army staff, MacArthur said there would be no evacuation from Korea-that there would be no Korean Dunkerque. He praised the 24th Division and the ROK Capital Division. [68]

Two days later, on Saturday, 29 July, General Walker visited the 25th Division command post at Sangju. There he conferred with General Kean and afterward spoke to the division staff and issued his order to hold the line. The press widely reported this as a "stand or die" order to Eighth Army. A paraphrase of Walker's talk, recorded in notes taken at the time, gives a clear version of what he said:

General MacArthur was over here two days ago; he is thoroughly conversant with the situation. He knows where we are and what we have to fight with. He knows our needs and where the enemy is hitting the hardest. General MacArthur is doing everything possible to send reinforcements. A Marine unit and two regiments are expected in the next few days to reinforce us. Additional units are being sent over as quickly as possible. We are fighting a battle against time. There will be no moreretreating, withdrawal, or readjustment of the lines or any other term you choose. There is no line behind us to which we can retreat. Every unit must counterattack to keep the enemy in a state of confusion and off balance. There will be no Dunkirk, there will be no Bataan, a retreat to Pusan would be one of the greatest butcheries in history. We must fight until the end. Capture by these people is worse than death itself. We will fight as a team. If some of us must die, we will die fighting together. Any man who gives ground may be personally responsible for the death of thousands of his comrades. I want you to put this out to all the men in the Division. I want everybody to understand that we are going to hold this line. We are going to win. [69]

General Walker said much the same thing to his other division commanders at this time, but he did not repeat it to the other division staffs.

General Walker's words reached down quickly to every soldier, with varying results. Many criticized the order because they thought it impossible to execute. One responsible officer with troops at the time seems to have expressed this viewpoint, saying that the troops interpreted it as meaning, "Stay and die where you are." They neither understood nor accepted this dictum in a battle situation where the enemy seldom directed his main effort at their front but moved around the flanks to the rear when, generally, there were no friendly units on their immediate flanks. [70]

A contrary viewpoint about the order was expressed by a regimental commander who said he and the men in his command had a great sense of relief when the order reached them. They felt the day of withdrawals was over, and "a greater amount of earth came out with each shovelful" when the troops dug in. [71]

Whatever the individual viewpoint about the order might have been, General Walker was faced with the fact that soon there would be no place to go in the next withdrawal except into the sea. And it must be said, too, that the troops very often were not fighting in position until they were threatened with encirclement-they left their positions long before that time had arrived. It was actually this condition to which General Walker had addressed his strong words. But they did not immediately change the course of events.

Two days after Walker had spoken at Sangju, the 25th Division ordered its troops to withdraw to positions three miles east of the town-another withdrawal. On the Kumch'on front an observer saw elements of the 1st Cavalry Division come off their positions-leaving behind heavy equipment-load into trucks, and once again move to the rear. [72]

A New York Times article on General Walker's talk to the 25th Division staff commented that it apparently ruled out the possibility of a strategic withdrawal to the Pusan Perimeter. William H. Lawrence of the New York Times asked General Walker if he thought the battle had reached a critical point. General Walker replied, "very certainly, very definitely." The next day the Times ran an editorial headed, "Crisis in Korea." It said the "critical point in the defense of Korea has already been reached or will shortly be upon us. For five weeks we have been trading space for time. The space is running out for us. The time is running out for our enemies." [73]

On 30 July General Walker softened somewhat the impact of his recent order and statements by expressing confidence that the United States would hold "until reinforcements arrive" and that "ultimate victory will be ours." But, he added, the simple truth was that the "war had reached its critical stage." [74]

A few days later, Hanson W. Baldwin, the military critic of the New York Times, referred to Walker's "stand or die" order as a "well merited rebuke to the Pentagon, which has too often disseminated a soothing syrup of cheer and sweetness and light since the fighting began." [75] It is clear that by the end of July the reading public in the United States should have realized that the country was in a real war, that the outcome was in doubt, and that many uncertainties lay ahead.

The optimistic forecasts of the first days of the war as to the American military strength needed to drive the invaders northward had now given way to more realistic planning. By 22 July, some Eighth Army staff officers had even suggested that it might be necessary to deploy ground troops in Korea until the spring of 1951, to accomplish the objectives stated in the U.N. Security Council resolutions. [76]


[1] Col Rollins S. Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57; Interv, author with Darrigo (KMAG adviser to ROK 17th Regt, Jul-Aug 50), 5 Aug 53.

[2] Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57.

[3] 159th FA Bn WD (25th Div), 17 Jul 50.

[4] Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57.

[5] Ibid.

[6] EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 20-24 Jul 50; EUSAK POR 26, 21 Jul 50; GHQ FEC Sitrep, 21 Jul 50; 35th Inf Regt WD, Unit Rpt, 1st Bn, 22 Jul 50; 159th FA Bn WD. 23-24 Jul 50; Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57; Karig, et al., Battle Report: The War in Korea, p. 101.

[7] EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, 24 Jul 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 30, 24 Jul 50 and 31, 25 Jul 50

[8] EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 16-22 Jul 50; Ibid., Summ, 13-31 Jul 50; Clainos, Notes for author, May 1954; 24th Div WD, G-2 Jnl, entry 1533, 230935 Jul 50.

[9] Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57.

[10] EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, 27 Jul 50 and 3 Aug 50; 159th FA Bn (25th Div) WD, 27 Jul 50; GHQ UNC G-3 Opn Rpts 36 and 37, 30-31 Jul, and 40, 3 Aug 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 5th Div), p. 42; Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57.

[11] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 12th Div), p. 45 G-2 PW Interrog file, interrog of Col Lee Hak Ku; FEC, telecon TT3559, 21 Jul 50.

[12] New York Times, August 4, 1950.

[13] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 12th Div), pp. 45-46; GHQ UNC G-3 Opn Rpt 37, 31 Jul 50; FEC telecon to DA TT3597, 30 Jul 50; TT3600, 31 Jul 50; TT3605, 1 Aug 50.

[14] 24th Div WD, G-3 Jnl, 16-20 Jul 50, entry 148, Rpt of Opns with I Corps, ROK Army.

[15] GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 22, 16 Jul 50.

[16] GHQ UNC Sitrep, 27 Jul 50; EUSAK WD, G-3 Rpt, 24 Jul 50, and G-3 Jnl, 25 Jul 50. The reorganization wag effective 241800 Jul 50.

[17] 24th Inf Regt WD, 17-20 Jul 50: 35th Inf Regt WD, Narr, 19-20 Jul 50.

[18] Interv, author with Capt Johnson, 11 Jul 52.

[19] Fisher, MS review comments, 27 Oct 57; 35th Inf WD and 24th Inf WD, 20-21 Jul 50.

[20] 35th Inf Regt WD, 22 Jul 50; Fisher, MS review comments, 27 Oct 57.

[21] 35th Inf Regt WD, 23-31 Jul 50; 25th Div POR 28, 23 Jul 50; 25th Div WD, Narr Rpt, 8-31 Jul 50; 35th Inf Opn Instr, 25 Jul 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 104 (N.K. 13th Div), p. 60.

[22] FEC telecons with DA, TT3566, 23 Jul 50; TT3567, 24 Jul 50; TT3577, 25 Jul 50: TT3579, 26 Jul 50; ATIS Supp, Enemy Docs, Issue 1, pp. 42-48, Battle Rpts 23 Jun-3 Aug 50, by NA unit, Ok Chae Min and Kim Myung Kap; 34th Div WD, G-2 Sec, entry 1616, 271900 Jul 50.

[23] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K. 1st Div), pp. 32-33; Ibid., Issue 104 (N.K. 13th Div), p. 60.

[24] 4th Inf Regt WD, 22 Jul 50; 25th Div WD, Incl 3, 22 Jul 50; EUSAK IG Rept on 24th Inf Regt, 1950. testimony of bn and regtl off, 2d Bn and 24th Inf Regt.

[25] EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf Regt, 1950.

[26] 24th Inf Regt WD, 23-26 Jul 50; 159th FA Bn WD, Jul 50.

[27] EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf Regt, 1950; 24th Inf WD, 29 Jul 50; 159th FA Bn WD, 29-30 Jul 50.

[28] 24th Inf WD, 30-31 Jul 50; EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, Msg 301355 Jul 50; JAG CM-343472, U.S. vs. 1st Lt Leon A. Gilbert, O-1304518, (includes all legal action taken in the case up to commutation of sentence on 27 Nov 50); Washington Post, September 20, 1952.

[29] 24th Inf Regt WD, 31 Jul 50 and app. V.

[30] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K. 1st Div), pp. 32-33; Ibid., Issue 104 (N.K. 13th Div), p. 61; and p. 42 (N.K. 15th Div); Ibid., Issue 4 (105th Armored Div), p. 38; EUSAK WD, G-2 Sec, 2 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 339.

[31] Ltr and Comments, Gen Gay to author, 24 Aug 58.

[32] Comdr, Amphibious Group One, Task Force 90, Attack Force Opn Order 10-50, 131200 Jul 50, Tokyo; Notes, Harris for author, 18 May 54.

[33] 1st Cav Div WD, 12-22 Jul 50, and Summ, 25 Jun-Jul 50.

[34] Ibid., 21-22 Jul 50; Ibid., G-3 Sec, 20 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, G-4 Daily Summ, 22 Jul 50; EUSAK WD, Summ, 13-31 Jul 50; 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl, 21 Jul 50.

[35] Comments, Gen Gay to author, 24 Aug 53.

[36] Ibid.

[37] The strength of the major units in USAFIK is shown in the following:
Total 39,439
EUSAK 2,184
KMAG 473
1st CAV Div (Inf) 10,027
24th Inf Div 10,463
25th Inf Div 13,059
Pusan Base 2,979
Misc Personnel 91
Source: GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 34, 19 Jul 50; Ibid., Sitrep, 19 Jul 50.

[38] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3d Div), p. 32; EUSAK WD, 23 Jul 50; 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl. The 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, had enemy contact at 222100.

[39] 1st Cav Div WD, 23-24 Jul 50; 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl, 24 Jul 50. Overlay 36 to 8th Cav Opn Jnl shows location of enemy roadblock.

[40] 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl, 24 Jul 50: 1st Cav Div WD, G-3 Sec, serial 80, 26 Jul 50.

[41] 1st Cav Div WD, 25 Jul 50: Interv, author with Maj Rene J. Giuraud, 21 Apr 54 (Giuraud commanded the mortar company at Yongdong) Interv, author with Harris, 30 Apr 54 Notes, Harris for author, 18 May 54.

[42] 1st Cav Div WD, 25-27 Jul 50; Ltr, Gay to author, 24 Aug 53 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl, 25 Jul 50: Capt Charles A. Rogers, History of the 16th Reconnaissance Company in Korea, 18 July 1950-April 1951, typescript MS, May 51, copy in OCMH: New York Times, July 29, 1950, dispatch by William H. Lawrence from 1st Cavalry Division.

[43] 1st Cav Div WD, 25 Jul 50.

[44] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3d Div), pp. 38-33; Ibid., Enemy Docs, Issue 2, pp. 66-67 (Choe Song Hwan diary, 21 Jul-10 Aug 50).

[45] 27th Inf WD, an. 2, 13 Jul, and Opn sec, 6-31 Jul 50; Ibid., Summ of Activities, 2d Bn, Opn Rpt, 1st Bn, and an. 2, 21-22 Jul 50.

[46] EUSAK WD, G-3, Sec, 22 Jul 50; 27th Inf WD, Opn Rpt, 1st Bn, 23 Jul-3 Aug 50.

[47] 27th Inf WD, Opn Rpt, 1st Bn, 23 Jul-3 Aug 50 25th Div WD. G-3 Sec, 24 Jul 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94 (N.K. 2d Div) p. 36.

[48] EUSAK WD, C-3 Jnl, 24 Jul 50: 27th Inf WD, Opn Rpt, 1st Bn 24 Jul 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94 (N.K. 9d Div.), p. 36; Col Gilbert J. Check, MS review comments, 25 Nov 57.

[49] 27th Inf WD, 25 Jul 50; Lt Col Gordon E. Murch, Notes for author, 7 Apr 54.

[50] Murch, Notes for author, 7 Apr 54; 27th Inf WD, Summ of Activities, 2d Bn, 25 Jul 50.

[51] EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 26 Jul 50; 27th Inf WD, Opn Rpt, 1st Bn, 27 Jul 50; 27th Inf WD, Hist Rpt, 27-28 Jul 50.

[52] Comments, Gay for author, 24 Aug 53; Collier, MS review comments, 10 Mar 58.

[53 27th Inf WD: Hist Rpt 28-29 Jul 50; Opn Rpt, 1st Bn, 27-29 Jul 50; an. 2, 29-31 Jul 50; Opn Sec, 6-31 Jul 50; S-1 Sec, Cumulative Casualties: S-2 Sec, Act Rpt, Jul 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 28-29 Jul 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94, p. 36.

[54] 7th Cav Regt WD, 26 Jul 50 1st Cav Div WD, 26 Jul 50; Ltr, Gay to author, 24 Aug 53.

[55] 7th Cav Regt WD, 26 Jul 50.

[56] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3d Div), p. 33; 1st Cav Div WD, 26-27 Jul 50: Ltr, Gay to author, 24 Aug 53; New York Times, July 27, 1950.

[57] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3d Div), p. 33; 1st Cav Div WD, 26-27 Jul 50: Ltr, Gay to author, 24 Aug 53.

[58] 1st Cav Div WD, 28-29 Jul 50; Ltr, Gay to author, 24 Aug 53.

[59] 1st Cav Div WD, 28-29 Jul 50; Rogers, History of the 16th Reconnaissance Company in Korea.

[60] 1st Cav Div WD, 30-31 Jul 50: ATIS Supp, Enemy Docs, Issue 4, p. 69 (Battle Rpt of Arty Opns, N.K. 8th Regt, 3d Div, 3: Aug 50); Ibid., Issue 2, pp. 66-67 (Choe Song Hwan diary, 21 Jul-10 Aug 50).

[61] 1st Cav Div WD, 31 Jul 50; Ibid., G-2 Narr Rpt, 31 Jul 50.

[62] Ibid., Summ, Jul 50.

[63] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpt, Issue 96 (N.K. 3d Div), p. 33; GHQ FEC, History of the N.K. Army. p. 57.

[64] EUSAK WD, G-3 Stf Sec Rpt, 26 Jul 50.

[65] Interv, author with Lt. Col. Paul F. Smith 1 Oct 52; Ltr. Landrum to author, recd 23 Nov 53; Collier, MS review comments, Mar 58.

[66] Ltr. Gay to author, 24 Aug 53.

[67] Interv, author with Almond, 13 Dec 51. Even the principal members of General Walker's Eighth Army staff knew nothing of this matter. General Landrum and Colonel Collier, on intimate personal terms with General Walker, indicate that there was no plan in the Eighth Army staff or in the Signal Section for such a move to Pusan at that time; that, in the long-range planning initiated some days later, the proposed site of a rear command post was Ulsan on the east coast and not Pusan; that General Walker would not discuss a removal of the command post from Taegu with his staff until late August, when considerable danger existed that the signal equipment might be destroyed; and that no responsible member of the Army staff had at that time proposed a move of the command post to Pusan. See Ltr, Landrum to author, recd 23 Nov 53; Collier, MS review comments, Mar 58; Interv, author with Col Albert K. Stebbins (EUSAK G-4 at the time), 4 Dec 53.

[68] Interv, author with Almond, 13 Dec 51; Ltr, Landrum to author, reed 23 Nov 53; EUSAK WD, G-3 Stf Sec Rpt, 27 Jul 50; New York Times, July 27, 1950. General MacArthur read this passage in MS form and offered no comment on it.

[69] 25th Div WD, G-3 Jnl, 29 Jul 50, Div Historian's Notes; Barth MS, p. 9.

[70] Interv, author with Maj Leon B. Cheek, 7 Aug 51. The author has listened to many similar comments among officers and men of the Eighth Army with respect to this order.

[71] Fisher, MS review comments, 27 Oct 57.

[72] 25th Div WD, 31 Jul 50; Charles and Eugene Jones, The Face of War (New York: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1951), p. 22.

[73] New York Times, July 29, 30 (Lawrence dispatch), and 31, 1950.

[74] New York Times, July 31, 1950.

[75] New York Times, August 2, 1950.

[76] EUSAK WD, G-4 Sec 22 Jul 50, Basis for Planning Supply Requisitions and Service Support for Military Operations in Korea to 1 July 1951.

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