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The X Corps Advances To The Yalu

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Combat Photos

(Back to Appleman: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu)
Water shapes its course according to the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.
SUN TZU, The Art of War

ROK I Corps Attacks up the Coastal Road

After the landing of the X Corps at Wonsan on 26 October, the ROK Capital Division, already north of Hungnam, continued its attack northward in three regimental combat teams. (Map 25) The ROK Cavalry Regiment of the division, a motorized organization, constituted what General Almond called the "flying column." It was to advance as rapidly as possible toward the border. Almond made arrangements for supplying this flying column from an LST at sea, and he provided it with a tactical air control party from the 7th Infantry Division. Two days after the X Corps landing at Wonsan, the ROK Cavalry Regiment against strong opposition captured Songjin, 105 air miles northeast of Hungnam. At the same time, the 1st Regiment of the Capital Division approached P'ungsan, inland halfway to the border on the Iwon-Sinch'ang-ni-Hyesanjin road. Two days later the third regiment of the division, the 18th, reached the south end of Pujon Reservoir. [1]

Map 25

In front of the ROK Cavalry Regiment on the coastal road an estimated North Korean battalion retreated northward toward Kilchu, a sizable town twenty miles north of Songjin. Kilchu is fourteen air miles inland from the coast, the farthest point inland for a town of any size along the whole length of the east coastal road. Situated beyond the reach of effective naval gunfire, it was a favorable place for the North Koreans to fight a delaying action. The ROK attack before daylight of 3 November developed into a day-long battle whichfailed to win the town. The ROK 1st Regiment joined the Cavalry Regiment in the battle. By daylight of 5 November the two ROK regiments had encircled Kilchu, and they captured it before noon. On the day of Kilchu's capture Corsair air strikes from the 1st Marine Air Wing were credited with destroying 2 enemy tanks, 4 artillery pieces, and 350 counted enemy dead. The next day a count of all the North Korean dead reached 530. In the Kilchu battle the ROK's captured 9 45-mm. antitank guns, 6 82-mm. mortars, and 10 heavy machine guns. The ROK Cavalry Regiment lost 21 killed and 91 wounded. Prisoners said the N.K. 507th Brigade had defended the town. The local North Korean commander reportedly ordered the execution of a battalion commander whose unit had retreated. [2]

After the Kilchu battle, aerial reports indicated that fresh enemy troops were moving south along the coastal road from the Ch'ongjin-Nanam area. Supported by tanks, this force, estimated at six to seven battalions, met the Capital Division on 12 November just north of the Orang-ch'on, thirty miles above Kilchu. In the resulting battle it forced the ROK 18th Regiment to withdraw south of the stream. Bad weather prevented effective close air support, and, since the scene of action was beyond the range of destroyers' guns, the heavy cruiser Rochester was sent to provide naval gunfire support. Clearing weather enabled Corsairs to join in the battle on the 13th, and that afternoon an air strike destroyed two tanks, damaged a third, and forced another to withdraw. Six inches of snow covered the Orang-ch'on battlefield. [3]

The enemy attack resumed and made further penetrations in the positions of the 18th Regiment on 14 November. The next day it compelled the 18th and the 1st Regiments to withdraw again. Close air support for the ROK's prevented the North Koreans from exploiting this success and during the day destroyed 3 more tanks, 2 self-propelled guns, and 12 trucks. At the same time, thirty B-29's dropped 40,000 incendiary bombs on Hoeryong, a rail and road communication center of 45,000 population on the Tumen River at the Manchurian border, 100 miles southwest of Vladivostok. By 16 November the four days of ground battle and three of aerial attack had so weakened the enemy force that it faltered, and the ROK 18th Regiment once more advanced slowly.

A delayed report covering the three days from the evening of 14 November to that of 17 November listed 1,753 enemy killed, 105 prisoners, and the capture of 4 rapid-fire guns, 62 light machine guns, 101 burp guns, and 649 rifles. On the 19th, air attacks destroyed 2 more tanks and 2 artillery pieces. The USS St. Paul now gave naval gunfire support to the ROK's. The enemy force that fought the battle of the Orang-ch'on consisted of about 6,000 troops of the N.K. 507th Brigade and a regiment of the N.K. 41st Division, supported by a battalion of 8 tanks. [4]

The ROK troops fought these battles in northeast Korea under great physical hardship from the cold. On 16 November the temperature in their zone already had dropped to 16° below zero. Their uniforms in most cases consisted of one old suit of fatigues, worn-out shoes, one half blanket per man, and an old U.S. Army overcoat. The situation was about to improve, however, for the next day at Songjin an LST unloaded 26,000 sets of ROK winter clothing. Another LST loaded with shoes, wool socks, underwear, shirts, and field jackets was to sail from Pusan that same day.

By 17 November the ROK 3d Division had moved up behind the Capital Division on the coastal road and had started its 23d Regiment inland from Songjin toward Hapsu. The next day its 22d Regiment started for the same objective from farther north at Kilchu. The larger part of the ROK 3d Division, therefore, was now deployed on the left of and inland from the Capital Division. Six LST's of the Korean Navy supplied the ROK I Corps. [5]

Able at last to resume its advance after the battle of the preceding week, the Capital Division on 20 November crossed the Orang-ch'on and resumed its drive toward Ch'ongjin, the big industrial center 30 miles north of the river and 65 air miles southwest of the Siberian border. A little more than a month earlier a naval task force had heavily bombarded Ch'ongjin with 1,309 rounds of 6-inch, 400 rounds of 8-inch, and 163 rounds of 16-inch shells. ROK troops, following behind a rolling barrage of naval gunfire, enveloped Ch'ongjin on 25 November. That evening the 1st Regiment moved around the city to a point 5 miles north of it; the Cavalry Regiment seized the airfield on its western edge; and the 18th Regiment was on its southern outskirts. The next day, Ch'ongjin fell to the Capital Division. The ROK's now planned to turn due north and inland along the highway and railroad leading to Hoeryong at the Manchurian border. [6]

U.S. 7th Infantry Division Reaches Manchurian Border

The U.S. 7th Infantry Division, in its zone of operations between the ROK I Corps to the north and the 1st Marine Division to the south, likewise made important gains in carrying out its part of the X Corps mission in northeast Korea. On 29 October the 17th Infantry Regiment of the division landed unopposed at Iwon. That same day the 1st Battalion of the regiment; the 48th Field Artillery Battalion; and A Company, 13th Engineer Combat Battalion moved from the beachhead to Cho-ri, a distance of 50 miles. From Cho-ri the 7th Division was to strike north for the Manchurian border at Hyesanjin, 70 air miles away. But over the poor dirt road that twisted its way through the mountains and the Korean upland the distance was much greater. On the last day of the month the 1st Battalion and regimental headquarters moved on to P'ungsan, 120 road miles from the Iwon beaches and approximately halfway between the coast and Hyesanjin. The 1st Regiment of the ROK Capital Division had cleared the road of enemy troops that far. When the 7th Division got all its elements ashore its total strength would exceed 26,600 men. The division on, November counted 18,837 men, almost full-strength, and to this were added 7,804 attached South Korean soldiers. [7]

The U.S. 7th Infantry Division had its initial action in northeast Korea on November when the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, helped the ROK 1st Regiment repulse a strong North Korean attack two miles north of P'ungsan. Col. Herbert B. Powell, commander of the 17th Infantry Regiment, ordered an attack by the 1st Battalion the next morning at 0800 to clear the enemy force from in front of the town. But the North Koreans in approximately regimental strength attacked first, at 0700, starting an action that continued throughout the day. Except for one company, all units of the 17th Regiment arrived at P'ungsan by the end of the day. Colonel Powell's regiment now relieved the ROK 1st Regiment, which turned back to join the Capital Division on the coastal road. [8]

Because the open beaches were wholly at the mercy of the weather and high seas, unloading of the 7th Infantry Division at Iwon went forward slowly. The relatively few vehicles ashore, the long haul, and the low stockpile on the beach combined to cause the 17th Infantry on 4 November to request an airdrop at P'ungsan of 4.2-inch, 81-mm., and 60-mm. mortar ammunition. An airdrop the next day had considerable breakage loss. Patrols on the 4th discovered the enemy had withdrawn from in front of P'ungsan, and the 17th Infantry advanced unopposed to the Ungi River. The temperature stood at 2° below zero. [9]

At the Iwon beachhead, the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, landed on 3 November and the rest of the regiment followed ashore the next day. The regimental mission was to move to the left (west) flank of the 17th Infantry. This would place it in the mountainous country extending to the Pujon Reservoir. ROK troops previously had advanced into that region. [10]

Carrying out its mission, the 31st Infantry Regiment advanced on the division left flank toward the reservoir. On 8 November it encountered Chinese soldiers on the eastern slopes of Paek-san, a 7,700-foot peak twelve miles east of the southern end of the reservoir. This was the U.S. 7th Division's first contact with the CCF. There, during the afternoon, elements of the regiment engaged in a battle with an estimated battalion of Chinese, later identified as part of the CCF 376th Regiment, 126th Division. Before nightfall the 31st Infantry seized that part of Paek-san, and the Chinese force withdrew with at least 50 killed. On this same day a patrol of the regiment met a Marine patrol about midway between Hamhung and the Pujon Reservoir, thus establishing the first contact between the two divisions in northeast Korea. [11]

1st Battalion, 17th Infantry

On the division right flank the next day, 9 November, the 7th Reconnaissance Company moved to Sillyong, east of P'ungsan, to protect a power installation.

On 12 November the division received orders from X Corps to continue the advance northward. The 17th Infantry was to seize Kapsan, and then go to Hyesanjin on the Yalu; the 31st Infantry was to advance on the left of the 17th; and the 32d Infantry was to seize the southeast shore of the Pujon Reservoir. The 32d Infantry, which began unloading on 4 November and was the last of the regiments to come ashore at Iwon, moved southwest from the beach along the coast through Hamhung and there turned northeast to Tangp'ang-ni in preparation for its part in the operation. [12]

In accordance with the corps order, the 17th Infantry prepared to attack across the Ungi River on 14 November. To replace the bridge which the North Koreans had blown, Colonel Powell had ROK troops in the regiment construct a floating footbridge made of planking extending between empty oil drums. Enemy fire on the bridge site was at long range and ineffective. The 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, crossed over this footbridge without difficulty on the 14th and proceeded to the attack.

Generals at the Yalu

LOOKING ACROSS THE YALU, from left to right: Brig. Gen. Homer Kiefer, Generals Hodes, Almond, and Barr, and Colonel Powell.

The 3d Battalion was scheduled to cross the river at the same time over a shallow ford a few miles to the east. During the night of 13-14 November enemy forces apparently opened dams upstream. The water level rose two feet, making the river waist-deep. In the face of heavy small arms and some mortar fire, six men of L Company waded the stream in weather 7° below zero. A few other men entered the water, but it soon became apparent that all who crossed the stream would be frozen and out of action in a few minutes unless they were specially cared for. The battalion commander ordered the men who had crossed to the north side to return. Their clothes had to be cut from them. They were then wrapped in blankets and taken to the 3d Battalion command post tent to warm. Casualties from this abortive crossing attempt were 1 killed, 6 wounded, and 18 men suffering frostbite from exposure in the river. Colonel Powell agreed with the battalion commander that the 3d Battalion could not cross by wading the icy water. Both Generals Barr and Almond concurred in this decision. The battalion subsequently crossed over the oil drum footbridge. [13] The need for shelters and warming areas for the front-line troops led the 7th Division the next day to request the immediate delivery of 250 squad tents and 500 oil-burning stoves. In order to keep vehicle gasoline lines and carburetors from freezing it was necessary to mix alcohol or alcohol-base antifreeze with gasoline.

On 15 November, the 1st Battalion crossed the Ungi River behind the 2d Battalion and moved up on its left, but the two battalions made only small gains. On the 16th, aerial observers reported the enemy forces separating into small groups and withdrawing toward Kapsan. That day the 17th Regiment gained about eight miles. On the 19th, the 1st Battalion seized Kapsan at 1030 after a co-ordinated infantry, tank, and artillery attack. In this action the 17th Tank Company overran enemy troops in their foxholes, while the heavy fire of the 15th AAA Battalion 40-mm. weapons drove other North Koreans from log-covered trenches and pillboxes and then cut them down. Under cover of the combined fire of the tanks and the antiaircraft weapons the infantry then crossed the river. That night the 1st Battalion was eight miles north of Kapsan, only twenty-three road miles from Hyesanjin on the Yalu. The 2d and 3d Battalions followed behind the 1st Battalion. The regimental command post set up in Kapsan for the night. [14]

The next day, 20 November, the 17th Regiment in a column of battalions-the 1st, 3d, and 2d, in that order-advanced on foot nineteen miles over icy roads through and over the mountains to a point only a few miles from the Yalu. Small enemy groups opposed the advance with only brief exchanges of fire, and then fled. On the morning of 21 November, without opposition, the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, led the way into Hyesanjin, and by 1000 had occupied the town and surrounding ground to the banks of the Yalu River. General Almond had flown into Kapsan on the 20th and, together with General Barr and Colonel Powell, accompanied the leading elements of the 17th Infantry Regiment into the town. A week earlier, on the 13th, Navy carrier planes had attacked the military camp at Hyesanjin, burning the barracks buildings and warehouses. The town was now about 85 percent destroyed by this and earlier aerial action. [15]

Upon receiving word that elements of the 7th Division had reached the Yalu, General MacArthur immediately sent a message to General Almond saying, "Heartiest congratulations, Ned, and tell Dave Barr that the 7th Division hit the jackpot." Almond added his own congratulations to Barr on the 22d, saying in part, "The fact that only twenty days ago this division landed amphibiously over the beaches at Iwon and advanced zoo miles over tortuous mountain terrain and fought successfully against a determined foe in subzero weather will be recorded in history as an outstanding military achievement." [16]

The Yalu River at Hyesanjin is not the great river it becomes near its mouth at Sinuiju. At Hyesanjin, near its source on the southwest slopes of 8,000-foot-high Nam P'otae-san, the White Head Mountain famous in Korean history, the Yalu was approximately 50 to 75 yards wide. On the day the 17th Infantry first stood on its banks the river was frozen over except for a 6-foot-wide channel; four days later it was completely frozen over. The bridge across the stream at Hyesanjin had been destroyed before the 17th Infantry arrived there. Upstream about 300 yards on the north side of the Yalu in Manchuria there was an undamaged Chinese village larger than Hyesanjin. Officers and men of the 17th Infantry had mixed emotions, some apprehensive, as they looked across the ribbon of ice and water into Manchuria. There they saw CCF sentries walk their rounds and their officers come and go. [17]

Meanwhile, to the southwest, the 31st Infantry Regiment patrolled extensively and advanced in its zone. This mountainous waste was virtually roadless, and ox-drawn carts were used to transport supplies and evacuate wounded. On 15 November a patrol from the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, reached the eastern shore of Pujon Reservoir. The next day another patrol encountered about 200 CCF soldiers at the northern end of the reservoir and drove them away after a brief fight. On the 18th, patrols ranged both sides of the reservoir. Leaving strong detachments to guard the mountain passes from the reservoir eastward into the division's rear along the Cho-ri-P'ungsan road, General Barr on 20 November began moving the bulk of the 31st and 32d Regiments to the P'ungsan-Kapsan area behind the 17th Infantry. On the division right, ROK troops finally arrived at Sillyong shortly before midnight of the 20th to relieve I Company, 32d Infantry. Unfortunately, in the darkness each group at first thought the other the enemy and a brief fire fight resulted in the wounding of five ROK's.

The 32d Infantry Regiment, concentrating now at Kapsan, prepared to strike northwest through Samsu to Sin'galp'ajin on the Yalu. This would put it on the Manchurian border to the left or west of the 17th Regiment at Hyesanjin. Task Force Kingston, commanded by 2d Lt. Robert C. Kingston, a platoon leader of K Company, started for Samsu on 22 November and entered the town unopposed at midafternoon, followed later by the rest of the 3d Battalion, less I Company. [18]

The Yalu

ON THE BANKS OF THE YALU, two soldiers look across the valley into the mountains of Manchuria.

The 17th Infantry at Hyesanjin was to co-operate with the 32d Infantry by attacking west to meet it. On 22 November, the first day that it attempted to move west to join the 32d Infantry, one of its combat patrols encountered a force of North Koreans about seven miles west of Hyesanjin, and a stubborn fight developed. This set a pattern of action that occupied the 17th Infantry during the next week, as long as it was in that part of Korea-daily fights with small but stubborn enemy forces that blew bridges, cratered roads, all but immobilized the regiment, and kept it from making any appreciable gains. At the same time, in front of the 32d Infantry, enemy forces fought effective delaying actions north of Samsu so that not until 28 November did Task Force Kingston, reinforced, reach Sin'galp'ajin. [19]

The intense cold of northeast Korea in late November took its toll in frost-bite casualties in the 7th Division. The worst to suffer was the 31st Infantry which operated in the remote mountain regions east of the Pujon Reservoir. A total of 142 men in the division were treated for frostbite up to 23 November; 83 of them were from the 31st Regiment. Of the 58 men evacuated because of frostbite, 33 were from that regiment. [20]

Ox-Drawn sleds

OX-DRAWN SLEDS replace trucks for the movement of supplies west of P'ungsan across the icy wastes.

3d Infantry Division Joins X Corps

During November the U.S. 3d Infantry Division joined the X Corps in Korea. One of its regiments, the 65th, had been in South Korea for more than two months. It had embarked on two transports in Puerto Rico on 25 August, passed through the Panama Canal, and sailed directly for Korea. It arrived at Pusan on 22 September and disembarked the next day. The other two regiments, the 7th and 15th, and the division headquarters sailed from San Francisco between 30 August and 2 September. The last ship of the division transports arrived at its destination, Moji, Japan, on 16 September.

Because the division was greatly understrength it was scheduled to receive large numbers of Koreans (KATUSA) for integration into its units. The division, minus the 65th Infantry Regiment, had an actual strength of only 7,494 men on 15 September. Beginning the first of October and continuing through the month, the 3d Division in Japan received 8,500 Korean draftees. Squads often consisted of two American enlisted men and eight Koreans. [21]

The 65th Infantry was the first part of the 3d Division to join X Corps in northeast Korea. Its 2d Battalion, the first to land, came ashore at Wonsan on 5-6 November and was thereupon attached to X Corps for operations. The regiment was composed of white Puerto Ricans, Virgin Islands Negroes, white soldiers from the United States, Negroes from the United States (tank company), Americans of Japanese descent, and, finally, integrated South Koreans. When it sailed from Puerto Rico all the enlisted men in the infantry regiment were Puerto Rican, as were sixty-four of the 206 officers. [22]

In Japan the main body of the 3d Division made ready to outload at the port of Moji the first week of November. A division advance party opened the 3d Division tactical command post at Wonsan on 10 November. The 15th Regimental Combat Team began unloading there on the 11th, and the 7th RCT finished landing on 17 November.

The 3d Division's primary mission was to relieve all 1st Marine Division troops in the Wonsan area and south of Hamhung, to block the main roads in the southern part of the corps zone against guerrillas and bypassed North Koreans, and to protect the Wonsan-Hungnam coastal strip. The 3d Division zone of responsibility measured approximately ninety by thirty-five miles, an area so large as to make centralized division control impracticable. Therefore, General Soule, the division commander, decided to establish four regimental combat teams and to assign sectors and missions to each. These were the 7th RCT, commanded by Col. John S. Guthrie; the 15th RCT, commanded by Col. Dennis M. Moore; the 65th RCT, commanded by Col. William W. Harris; and the ROK 26th Regiment of the ROK 3d Division (attached to the U.S. 3d Division for operations), commanded by Col. Rhee Chi Suh. The 10th Field Artillery Battalion supported the 7th RCT; the 39th Field Artillery Battalion, the 15th RCT; the 58th Armored Artillery Battalion (self-propelled guns) and C Company, 64th Heavy Tank Battalion, the 65th RCT; and A Battery, 96th Field Artillery Battalion, the ROK 26th Regiment. [23]

The 15th RCT had the mission of protecting Wonsan and the area south and west of the city, with the Wonsan-Majon-ni-Tongyang road the probable axis of major enemy activity. North of the 15th RCT, the 65th RCT was to hold the west central part of the division zone, with the Yonghung-Hadongsan-ni lateral road the principal route into the regimental sector from the coast. The northern sector of the division zone, west of Hamhung, fell to the ROK 26th Regiment; included among its missions was that of patrolling west to the Eighth Army-X Corps boundary. The 7th RCT was in 3d Division reserve with the mission of securing the coastal area from Chung-dong, a point about eight miles north of Wonsan, to Hungnam. The 64th Heavy Tank Battalion (-) was also in division reserve. [24]

The 3d Division did not engage in any major military operation during the November period covered in this volume, but beginning on 12 November it did have a number of engagements with North Korean forces in ambushes and roadblocks along the regimental main supply routes, particularly in the sector of the 15th RCT west of Wonsan between Majon-ni and Tongyang. Several of these were serious and resulted in heavy losses of men and equipment. They grew progressively worse toward the end of November; apparently the North Korean actions were co-ordinated with Chinese intervention in the reservoir area of northeast Korea.

7th Marines Clear Road to Reservoir

While the ROK I Corps and the U.S. 7th Infantry Division advanced toward the northeast border of Korea against scattered and ineffective North Korean opposition, the 1st Marine Division began moving up its assigned axis of advance toward the Changjin Reservoir to the southwest of them. Its rate of advance was not to be as rapid as theirs, nor was it to go as far.

At 0730 Sunday, 29 October, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, began loading into trucks at the Wonsan Agricultural College, and an hour later it started on the 83-mile trip to Hamhung. The next day X Corps ordered the 1st Marine Division to relieve the ROK I Corps in the reservoir area. At the end of the month the 7th Marines was in an assembly area north of Hamhung, and the 5th Marines was en route there from Wonsan.

From Hamhung to the southern tip of the Changjin Reservoir the road climbs for 56 miles. For slightly more than half the distance, to Chinhung-ni, the climb is easy and gradual over a two-lane road. From there a one-lane dirt road zigzags up precipitous slopes to the 4,000-foot-high plateau lying just south of the reservoir. In an air-line distance of 4 miles, and a road distance of 8 miles, north of Chinhung-ni, the road climbs 2,500 feet in elevation to the rim of the plateau, two and a half miles south of Kot'o-ri. A narrow-gauge railroad paralleled the road from Hamhung to Chinhung-ni, but from that point to the top of the plateau a cable car incline replaced it. Once on top of the plateau, the railroad track continued north to Hagaru-ri and the Changjin Reservoir. There were four mountain power plants on the road to the reservoir.

Six road miles below Chinhung-ni is the village of Sudong. There, just below the steep climb to the plateau, the CCF 124th Division held its blocking position. Three miles south of Sudong the road, climbing northward, crosses from the west to the east side of a mountain stream. The bridge at this crossing was of importance; if it were destroyed the U.N. forces north and south of it would be separated and those on the north cut off from their source of supply. Hill 698 dominated this bridge from the west, as did Hill 534 from the east. These two hills were critical terrain features.

Early on 1 November the 7th Marines entrucked at its Hamhung assembly area and, together with its attached artillery, the 2d Battalion, 11th Marines, it moved north 26 road miles to defensive positions behind the ROK 26th Regiment, 3 miles below Changjin Power Plant 3. The ROK troops had fallen back more than 5 miles since they first met the Chinese. [25]

At 1030, 2 November, the 7th Marines relieved the ROK 26th Regiment in its position and the 1st Battalion, followed by the 2d Battalion, attacked north. By noon it had confirmed that Chinese troops opposed it, and during the day captured three of them-one from the 370th Regiment and two from the 372d. The 1st Battalion at 1630 began to prepare defensive positions for the night about one mile south of Sudong. The 2d Battalion, nearly a mile behind the 1st Battalion, meanwhile had engaged in a hard struggle for Hill 698 west of the road. Three miles behind the 2d Battalion the regimental headquarters and the 3d Battalion were at the Majon-dong road fork. [26]

Shortly after midnight the CCF launched a co-ordinated attack, calculated to separate the 1st and 2d Battalions from each other and from the regiment behind them. The enemy infantry cut in between the 1st and 2d Battalions and almost overran the 4.2-inch mortar company in position along the road. Fighting was close and at grenade range for both battalions. In the course of the battle the Chinese gained a position dominating the crucial bridge in the 2d Battalion area. With the coming of daylight, Marine aircraft went into feverish action, repeatedly attacking the Chinese and eventually forcing them from their roadblock positions. Sandbagged trucks successfully brought sixty-six wounded marines through CCF small arms fire to the rear. During the day combined ground and air action killed about 700 enemy soldiers. Identification on the dead showed that nearly all of them were members of the 370th Regiment. [27]

CCF Prisoners of 7th Marine

After the heavy battle on the 3d, the CCF apparently withdrew, for the marines encountered only light opposition on the 4th as they entered and passed through Sudong and continued on to the higher ground around Chinhung-ni. At Samgo railroad station, just north of Chinhung-ni, the marines destroyed the last four tanks of the N.K. 344th Tank Regiment.

Less than a mile beyond Chinhung-ni the steep climb began through the Funchilin pass to the Kot'o-ri plateau. The marines could see enemy troops on the heights flanking the road at the pass. Farther north, according to aerial observers, an estimated 400 soldiers and three tanks were moving south from the Changjin Reservoir. Strafing reportedly caused heavy casualties in this column. A critical terrain feature, Hill 750, or How Hill as it came to be called, a mile and a half beyond Chinhung-ni, dominated the road where it made a hairpin loop of 1,000 yards eastward in starting the climb. This hill was, in fact, the

[Caption] CHINESE COMMUNIST POW's, wearing quilted cotton winter uniforms and fleece-lined caps.

southern knob of a long finger ridge that extended southward from the rim of the Kot'o-ri plateau, on the east side of the road.

The 3d Battalion on 5 November moved through the 1st Battalion to start the attack up the pass. From How Hill the CCF stopped its advance. A map taken from a dead CCF officer showed that reinforced battalions on either side of the road were holding the high ground. Marine aircraft repeatedly attacked How Hill but failed to force the enemy from his positions.

The marines had to take How Hill before they could advance farther. The next day H Company made a long flanking march to approach the hill from the southeast. At 1600 in the afternoon of the 6th, H Company reached the position from which it was to make its assault. After half an hour of air strikes and an artillery preparation, two platoons started for the top. Four times the CCF drove them back. When darkness fell the Chinese still held the hill, and H Company withdrew. All night artillery and mortars pounded How Hill, the 81-mm. mortars firing 1,800 rounds. [28]

Meanwhile, west of the road a Marine force had seized Hill 611 without difficulty. A prisoner taken there supplied the second report X Corps had received that two more Chinese organizations, the CCF 125th and 126th Divisions, were in the reservoir area.

The next morning, patrols from the 3d Battalion found that the enemy had withdrawn from the heights behind Chinhung-ni, including How Hill, leaving behind many dead and some wounded. Information gained later from prisoners disclosed that the artillery and mortar barrage against How Hill during the night had caused crippling casualties in the 372d Regiment (possibly the 371st) of the 124th Division while it was moving up to reinforce the line. These losses had caused the CCF to withdraw. On the afternoon of 7 November the 3d Battalion moved ahead and reached the village of Pohujang and Power Plant 1. [29]

During the marines' six days of battle with the Chinese 124th Division the 1st Marine Air Wing had inflicted great numbers of casualties on the Chinese. But according to prisoners, the supporting artillery and mortars had taken an even greater toll. After 7 November the CCF 124th Division reportedly was down to a strength of about 3,000 men. Except for its stragglers, the 124th Division did not again enter the fighting in the reservoir area.

Thus far the action against the CCF 124th Division from 2 through 7 November had cost the 7th Marines 46 men killed, 262 wounded, and 6 missing in action. [30]

For two days after reaching Power Plant 1, the 7th Marines sent out patrols which failed to contact the enemy. On 10 November the regiment moved up over the pass without opposition and occupied Kot'o-ri. Only seven miles now separated it from Hagaru-ri.

In its fight to reach the Kot'o-ri plateau the 7th Marines had captured 58 Chinese prisoners, 54 of them from the 124th Division and 4 from the 126th Division. It had taken its first prisoner from the 126th Division on 7 November. [31]

During the time the 7th Marines was heavily engaged in combat with the CCF 124th Division, a controversy between General Almond and General Partridge over the control of the 1st Marine Air Wing came to a head. Under existing procedure the Fifth Air Force Joint Operations Center at Seoul controlled the assignment of missions to the 1st Marine Air Wing. General Almond felt that, during a period of active ground combat when the local ground tactical situation could change drastically within an hour or two, he, the local commander, should have complete command over the air units supporting the ground troops. On 4 November General Partridge flew to Wonsan to hold a conference with General Almond on the subject. General Almond won his point; the Fifth Air Force ordered the 1st Marine Air Wing to assume direct responsibility for close support of X Corps without reference to the Joint Operations Center. Close support requests beyond the capabilities of the 1st Marine Air Wing were to be reported to the Fifth Air Force.

The first night on the Kot'o-ri plateau, 10-11 November, was to be one painfully unforgettable to the men of the 7th Marines. During the afternoon and night the temperature dropped 40 degrees to 8° below zero-and with it came a wind of 30 to 35 miles an hour velocity. Although the weather later became colder, with the temperature dropping to from 20° to 25° below zero, it did not affect the men as did this first shock of subzero temperature. During the succeeding three or four days more than 200 men of the regiment collapsed from severe cold and were placed in sick bays for medical treatment. Stimulants had to be used to accelerate depressed respiration. Water-soluble medicines froze, and morphine could be maintained in satisfactory condition only when kept against the body. Plasma could be used only after a 60- to 90-minute preparation in a warm tent. [33]

On the plateau and at the reservoir the men found that they needed more energy-giving food. Candy was at a premium. One veteran of the Changjin Reservoir operation said later, "I think we consumed more [candy] in one cold Korea week than we averaged in a Stateside year.... I saw many others do as I did-eat six or seven large Tootsie Rolls within a 10 to 15 minute period." [34]

The Gap Between Eighth Army and X Corps

A glance at a map of North Korea which shows the locations across the breadth of the peninsula of forces under United Nations command at this time, in mid-November, would reveal to any student of war a situation at once startling and perhaps bewildering. In northeast Korea, forces under X Corps command were far to the north, and in some places stood at the northern boundary of the country. In west and central North Korea the forces under Eighth Army command were far south of these latitudes. A line drawn due east from the Eighth Army front after the battle to hold the Ch'ongch'on River bridgehead in early November would cross the X Corps rear areas far behind the corps front. Not only was the X Corps front far north of Eighth Army's, but it was also separated from it by a wide lateral gap. Virtually all of North Korea west or northwest of the X Corps front in November was in enemy hands.

This great gap, seldom penetrated even by army or corps patrols, extended a minimum distance of 20 air miles from the northernmost right flank positions of Eighth Army to the nearest left flank positions of X Corps. Farther south the gap was greater, being about 35 air miles on a line east of P'yongyang and west of Wonsan. This was the distance after the Korean Marine Corps 3d Battalion established its blocking position at Tongyang on 14 November; before that the distance was about 50 air miles when the X Corps' westernmost position was at Majon-ni. The road-mile distances of this gap over exceedingly bad mountain trails-they hardly could be called roads-were far greater. The 20 air miles, for instance, between Maeng-san, the easternmost position of Eighth Army beyond Tokch'on, and that of the X Corps at Kwangch'on just across the X Corps boundary was about 50 road miles.

On any line projected westward north of Hamhung there were no Eighth Army troops opposite X Corps. The enemy held all the territory there from the X Corps boundary west to the Yellow Sea. Accordingly, physical contact between the two commands would have to be made in the southern part of the X Corps zone if it was to be accomplished at all.

This wide gap between the two major tactical organizations of the U.N. Command in Korea caused great concern to Eighth Army and some to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington; but less concern in X Corps, and very little, apparently, to General MacArthur. He believed that the mountainous backbone of North Korea was so destitute of roads and usable means of communication that it would be impossible for the U.N. forces to maintain a continuous line across the peninsula that far north, and that the enemy would be unable to use this mountainous spine for effective military operations. Indeed, it seems quite clear that it was principally because of this forbidding terrain and the lack of lateral communications between the western and eastern parts of North Korea that General MacArthur established the two separate commands in North Korea. [35]

Many times it has been alleged that the Chinese in late November and in December 1950 took advantage of this great gap between Eighth Army and X Corps to defeat the U.N. forces in Korea. But this concept can be refuted. First, a study of CCF troop movements and deployments in November and December 1950, and the subsequent military action, will show that the Chinese forces did not use the area of this gap for extensive or decisive military operations. Instead, they operated against the Eighth Army right flank where the ROK II Corps was on line, just as they had in their First Phase Offensive in late October and early November. In short, they crushed and rolled up the Eighth Army right flank; they did not attack it from the gap, nor did they move around and behind it through the gap between Eighth Army and X Corps. Second, the unified line formed later across Korea by Eighth Army and X Corps under Eighth Army command was farther south where the terrain and communication facilities were much more favorable for a continuous line than in the area which was the scene of operations in November 1950.

While General MacArthur never expected solid and continuous physical contact between Eighth Army and X Corps in North Korea, he did expect communication and co-ordination between them by radio and personal liaison to the extent possible. There was radio communication between the two commands, and there was a daily trip by air of a liaison officer from X Corps to Eighth Army and back. As early as 25 October, before X Corps troops had landed on the east coast, arrangements had been made by the Fifth Air Force Joint Operations Center for two reconnaissance flights daily between the ROK II Corps right flank and X Corps left flank, which were to report on front lines and enemy concentrations. [36]

The two commands made many attempts to establish physical contact between them by means of patrols scheduled to meet at designated points along the Eighth Army-X Corps boundary. The first of these efforts was made on 6 November when the 2d Infantry Division of Eighth Army sent a reinforced patrol from K Company, 23d Infantry, to the designated point (the village of Songsin-ni) on the boundary five miles east of Yangdok. The patrol reached this point the next day but there were no elements of the X Corps there to meet it. At Yangdok the K Company patrol found and destroyed 16 boxcars of 120-mm., 80-mm., and 47-mm. ammunition; 6 self-propelled guns; 16 47-mm. antitank guns; 30 57-mm. antitank guns; 1 120-mm. mortar; 3 heavy machine guns; and 3 antitank rifles. The X Corps sent a radio message to Eighth Army saying that marines from the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, at Majon-ni, 30 air miles to the east, could not meet the Eighth Army patrol because of the distance and intensive guerrilla action in the area to be traversed. It suggested other contact points on roads to the north-at Hadongsan-ni and at Sach'ang-ni. [37]

Upon receiving this message Eighth Army withdrew the 23d Infantry patrol and prepared to send another one from the 38th Infantry Regiment, 2d Division, to Hadongsan-ni on the next lateral road northward. General Almond meanwhile had ordered Colonel Harris, commanding officer of the 65th Infantry Regiment, 3d Division, to place one battalion near the boundary to establish contact there with elements of Eighth Army. For this purpose the 1st Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment, on 10 November after some delay rolled west and established its patrol base at Kwangch'on, about four air miles from the boundary, but double that in road miles. [38]

On 9 November IX Corps of Eighth Army had ordered the 38th Infantry to send a patrol to Hadongsan-ni. But the patrol of the 2d Reconnaissance Company which tried to reach that point was turned back by craters and boulders in the road. The next day patrols discovered all roads leading east from the 38th Infantry area were cratered or blocked by boulders. From the X Corps zone a patrol of the 65th Infantry went to the boundary on 11 November, and the next day it went two miles beyond its boundary without meeting a patrol from Eighth Army. On the 12th the pilot of a liaison plane working with the patrol discovered a ROK force westward and dropped a message to it arranging a meeting for the next day. On the 13th, however, even though it went nine miles beyond the boundary to a point where the road became impassable, the 65th Infantry patrol failed to meet an Eighth Army patrol. Eighth Army had tried to keep the rendezvous at Hadongsan-ni, but its strong motorized patrol built around E Company, 38th Infantry, was stopped by road craters ten miles east of Maeng-san. All the mountain roads and trails leading eastward from this area were examined by 38th Infantry patrols but none were found that would permit passage of motorized vehicles. Some of the craters were about fifteen feet deep and thirty-five feet in diameter. Although work was started on a bypass it appears that it was never completed. [39]

While the 38th Infantry patrol failed to get through to the contact point on the 14th, there was success from another quarter. On the 13th an Eighth Army liaison plane dropped two messages to the X Corps patrol saying that a patrol from the 10th Regiment, ROK 8th Division, was working its way to the contact point along a different route. On 14 November at 1000 the two friendly patrols, a platoon from the 2d Battalion, 10th Regiment, ROK 8th Division, and a patrol from the 1st Battalion, 65th Infantry, did meet near the village of Songha-dong just west of the boundary. The ROK patrol had come on foot from its patrol base at Maengsan, forty-five miles to the west. En route it had encountered an estimated total of 400 North Korean guerrillas and had fought several minor engagements. The round trip of the ROK patrol to the boundary and back to its base took ten days. This should explain why there were not daily meetings between Eighth Army and X Corps patrols at the boundary contact point. [40]

On 18 November, just before noon, a patrol from the 3d Battalion, 38th Infantry, reportedly reached Hadongsan-ni on the boundary where it found a blown bridge which it could not bypass. There were no patrols there at that time from the 65th Infantry in the X Corps zone. Only once, therefore, on 14 November, did patrols from the Eighth Army (ROK II Corps) and the X Corps make physical contact with each other at the army-corps boundary. [41]


[1] X Corps PIR 34, 30 Oct 50; X Corps WD, Summ, 28 Oct 50 and WD, 4 Nov 50, G-1 Rpt, Rpt on Almond-Partridge Conference. Like both AMS maps of Korea, scales 1:250,000 and 1:50,000, the text uses the Korean place names Pujon and Changjin for the two reservoirs that figure prominently in the narrative hereafter. Hagaru-ri is used for the combined areas of the town of Changjin and the village of Hagaru-ri. Because the American forces were using Japanese maps (some early maps gave dual names), they used the Japanese names Chosin and Fusen rather than the Korean Changjin and Pujon for the reservoirs.

[2] X Corps WD, Summ of Opns, 3-6 Nov 50; Ibid., PIR's 39, 4 Nov, 40, 5 Nov, and 41, 6 Nov 50.

[3] X Corps POR 48, 13 Nov 50; X Corps PIR 47, Nov, and 48, 13 Nov 50.

[4] X Corps POR 50, 15 Nov, and 57, 22 Nov 50; X Corps PIR 49, 14 Nov, 51, 16 Nov, and 54, 19 Nov 50; X Corps WD, 25 Nov 50, app. 1, Intel Est to an. AO 7, p. 2; GHQ UNC, G-3 Opn Rpt, 14 Oct 50; EUSAK WD, 16 Nov 50, EUSAK Daily News Bull.

[5] X Corps POR's 52-55, 17-20 Nov 50. [6] X Corps POR's 55-61, 20-26 Nov 50; X Corps PIR's 59-61 24-26 Nov 50; 2d Log Comd Hist Rpt, Water Div, Trans Sec, Nov 50.

[7] 7th Inf Div WD, 29-31 Oct 50; X Corps POR 36, 1 Nov 50. [8] 7th Inf Div WD, 1-2 Nov 50; 17th Inf WD, 1-2 Nov 50; Interv, author with Brig Gen Herbert B. Powell, 13 Apr 54.

[9] 7th Inf Div WD, G-4 Jnl, 4-5 Nov 50; Ibid., 5-7 Nov 50; Barr Notes, 6-7 Nov 50.

[10] 7th Inf Div WD, 2-4 Nov 50.

[11] 7th Inf Div WD, 7-10 Nov 50.

[12] 7th Inf Div WD, 9-12 Nov 50; X Corps Opn Ord 9, 12 Nov 50.

[13] 17th Inf WD, 14 Nov 50; 7th Div WD, 14 Nov 50 Barr Notes, 14-15 Nov 50; Interv, author with Powell, 13 Apr 54; Interv, author with Lt Col Walter Gunthorp (2d Bn, 17th Inf, Nov 50), 13 Apr 54.

[14] 7th Div WD, 15-19 Nov 50; Barr Notes, 19 Nov 50; Capt George H. Worf, "Enroute to the Yalu," Antiaircraft Journal (March-April, 1951), p. 22.

[15] 17th Inf WD, 21 Nov 50; 7th Inf Div WD, 20-21 Nov 50; X Corps WD, Diary of CG, 21 Nov 50, X Corps POR 55-56, 20-21 Nov 50; X Corps PIR 56, 21 Nov 50; Barr Notes, 21 Nov 50.

[16] Schnabel, FEC, GHQ Support and Participation in the Korean War, ch. VII, p. 2, quoting Msg U/CX2867, CG X Corps to CG 7th Div, 21 Nov 50, and Msg U/CX2859, CG X Corps to CG 7th Div, 22 Nov 50. [17] Interv, author with Almond, 23 Nov 54; Interv, author with Barr, 1 Feb 54; Interv, author with Powell, 13 Apr 54.

[18] 7th Div WD, 22 Nov 50; X Corps PIR 57, 22 No 50; 1st Lt Martin Blumenson, Task Force Kingston (32d Infantry Regiment, 22-29 November 50), copy in OCMH.

[19] X Corps PIR 59, 24 Nov 50; 7th Div WD, 22-28 Nov 50; Senate MacArthur Hearings, pt. 4, p. 2954, testimony of Gen Barr.

[20] 7th Div WD, G-1 Rpt, 23 Nov 50.

[21] EUSAK WD, G-1 Hist Rpt, 15 Sep 50; 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50, sec. 1, p. 1: Maj. James A. Huston, Time and Space, ch. IV, p. 117, MS in OCMH; ORO, Utilization of Indigenous Manpower in Korea, ORO (FEC), pp. 54-56.

[22] 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50, sec. III, p. 3; Ibid., G-3 Jnl, entry 1225, 10 Nov 50; X Corps POR 52, 17 Nov 50; X Corps PIR 46, 11 Nov 50; 2d Log Comd Hist Rpt, G-3 and G-4 Secs., Nov 50; MS review comments, Col John H. Chiles to author, Nov 54.

[23] 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50, sec. III, p. 4; X Corps Opn Ord 6, 11 Nov 50.

[24] 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50, sec. III, p. 5.

[25] 1st Mar Div SAR, Oct-Dec 50, vol. II, an. C, 1-2 Nov, pp. 14-16 Ibid., vol. III, an. RR, 2 Nov, p. 12; X Corps POR 34, 30 Oct 50.

[26] 1st Mar Div SAR, Oct-Dec 50, vol. III, p. 12, an. RR, 2 Nov 50; X Corps WD, 2 Nov 50, Msg at 1730 from Maj Sayre; X Corps PIR 37, 2 Nov 50; Lynn Montross and Capt. Nicholas A. Canzona, USMC, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953, vol. III, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign (Washington: Historical Branch, G-3, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1954), is an excellent detailed account of the 1st Marine Division in northeast Korea in 1950.

[27] 1st Mar Div SAR, Oct-Dec 50, vol. 11, p. 19, an. C, 3 Nov 50; X Corps WD, PIR 39, 4 Nov 50: Geer, The New Breed, pp. 234-36: Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 103-109.

[28] 1st Mar Div SAR, vol. II, pp. 23-25, an. C, 5 Nov 50; X Corps PIR's 40-41, 5-6 Nov 50; Geer, The New Breed, pp. 239-41.

[29] 1st Mar Div SAR, vol. II, pp. 27-28, an. C, 7 Nov 50; ATIS Interrog Rpts (Enemy Forces), Issue 19, Nr 2400, p. 1, Wang Fu Tien, 372d Regt, 124th Div.

[30] 1st Mar Div SAR, vol. III, an. RR, p. 34.

[31] X Corps PIR 47, 12 Nov 50.

[32] X Corps WD, 4 Nov 50, G-1 Rpt, Notes on Conference between CC X Corps and Gen Partridge, 4 Nov 50; USAF Hist Study 71, pp. 76-78.

[33] 1st Mar Div SAR, Oct-Dec 50, vol. III, p. 79, an. RR, app. 3, Cold Weather Rpt, and p. 95, app. H, Medical Rpt.

[34] 1st Lt. William J. Davis, "Lessons Learned Up North," Marine Corps Gazette (April, 1952), p. 45.

[35] Senate MacArthur Hearings, pt. I, p. 246, testimony of MacArthur, and pt. 2, pp. 972-75, testimony of Bradley.

[36] EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, Msg 1700, 25 Oct 50; Interv, author with Col LeRoy Lutes, Jr. (Planning Off G-3, X Corps, 1950), 7 Oct 51; Interv, author with Maj Gen Frank A. Allen, Jr., 28 Jan 54.

[37] EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, Msg at 1335 6 Nov, G-3 Sec, 7 Nov 50, and Br for CG, 10 Nov 50. Songsin-ni does not appear on the 1:250,000 revised map of Korea, but the village of Yakhyon-dong is at the map co-ordinates given in the records for Songsin-ni.

[38] X Corps WD, Summ, 10 Nov 50; Ibid., Diary of CG; 65th Inf Comd Rpt, Nov 50, p. 5; Interv, author with Almond, 23 Nov 54.

[39] 2d Inf Div WD, Narr Summ, Nov 50; Rd Inf Div POR's 300, 13 Nov 50, and 303, 14 Nov 50; IX Corps WD, bk. I, sec. IV, Opns, Nov 50; 3d Inf Div WD, G-3 Jnl, 13 Nov 50; EUSAK WD, Br for CG, 13 and 16 Nov 50; 38th Inf WD, 12-18 Nov 50.

[40] 3d Inf Div WD, G-3 Jnl, Msg CG X Corps to Eighth Army, 1500, and entries at 1020, 2220 13 Nov 50; Ibid., G-3 Jnl entry at 141330 Nov 50: X Corps PIR 49, 14 Nov 50; 65th Inf Comd Rpt, Nov 50, p. 4; EUSAK POR 379, 15 Nov 50; EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 14 Nov 50; Lt. Col. Robert C. Cameron, "The Lost Corps," Military Review, vol. XXXIII, No. 2 (May, 1953), p. 11. Cameron was B-MAC adviser to the 10th Regt, ROK 8th Div.

[41] 2d Inf Div WD, POR 315, 18 Nov 50; 38th Inf WD, 16-18 Nov 50.

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