General Walker's 27 and 28 November reports of the
Chinese attacks on the Eighth Army and General Almond's messages that the X
Corps, too, had been attacked swept away General MacArthur's previous certainty
that the Chinese would not intervene in strength. "We face an entirely new war,"
MacArthur notified the joint Chiefs of Staff on the morning of the 28th. His
"strategic plan for the immediate future" was to pass to the
To develop defensive moves, he summoned both Walker and
Almond to a meeting in Tokyo on the night of the 28th. Listening first to
Walker's appraisal of the threat to the Eighth Army, he turned to Almond for a
report of developments during and following the X Corps' advance toward
Mup'yong-ni the day before.2
X Corps Dispositions, 26
On the eve of
Almond's Mup'yong-ni attack, the 3d Infantry Division with the 1st Korean Marine
Corps Regiment attached was protecting port facilities,
airfields, and supply routes in the
Wonsan-Hungnam area. A primary task of the division commander, Maj. Gen. Robert
H. Soule, was to block three roads reaching the coastal region from the Taebaek
Mountains to the west, where North Korean guerrillas estimated as high as 25,000
were concentrated. One battalion of the 15th Infantry deployed thirty miles
inland from Wonsan blocked the lateral P'yongyang-Wonsan road. (Map 5)
Some thirty miles north, troops of the 65th Infantry blocked a road from
Tokch'on that reached the coastal area midway between Wonsan and Hungnam;
another thirty miles north, a battalion of the 7th Infantry at Sach'ang-ni cut a
lateral road permitting access to the Hamhung-Hungnam complex.3
In the ROK I Corps zone far to the northeast
of Hungnam, Brig. Gen. Song Hyo Chan had taken his Capital Division five miles beyond Ch'ongjin, the
industrial center and port sixty-five miles below the USSR border. Having met
only desultory resistance from the North Korean IV Corps, General Song intended
next to veer inland to Hoeryong, reported to be a mobilization center for new
North Korean units, on the Manchurian border forty-five miles due north.
Map 5. The X
Corps Zone, 26 November 1950
Brig. Gen. Choi Suk had sent the two forward
regiments of his 3d Division out of Hapsu at right angles to each other. Against
light, sporadic North Korean resistance, the 23d Regiment had moved six miles
north of Hapsu toward the border town of Musan, and the 22d Regiment had
traveled fifteen miles west toward
Hyesanjin. General Choi's 26th Regiment was in Tanch'on, near the
coast due south of Hapsu, en route to the 7th Division zone as a substitute for
forces of the 7th being shifted to the Changjin Reservoir area to accommodate
the 1st Marine Division's advance on Mup'yong-ni.
In the 7th Division's zone, the 17th Infantry
occupied Hyesanjin on the Yalu and the area ten miles southwest. The bulk of the
32d Infantry held the Kapsan-Samsu region below the 17th. Division commander
Maj. Gen. David G. Barr was in the process of moving a combat team (the bulk of
the 31st Infantry; the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry; all but one battery of the
57th Field Artillery Battalion; and Battery D, 15th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons
Battalion) into his newly added zone at the Changjin Reservoir. The 1st
Battalion, 32d Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. Don C. Faith, Jr., already had
reached the east side of the reservoir. With Colonel Faith's battalion was a
Marine Corps tactical air control party commanded by Capt. Edward P. Stamford.
Col. Allan D. MacLean, commander of the 31st Infantry and now commanding the
combat team, was still moving the bulk of his regiment and the artillery units
south from various locations along the Pukch'ong-Hyesanjin road en route via
Hamhung to the new zone.4
The lower half of
the long supply road between Hungnam and the Changjin Reservoir and a stretch of
narrow-gage railway lay in the area assigned to the 3d Division. The northern
half of the road and the region beyond rested in the zone of the 1st Marine
Division. The 1st Marine Regiment, commanded by Col. Lewis B. Puller, held three
key points along the supply road. Farthest south, the 1st Battalion occupied
Chinhung-ni, Marine railhead and starting point of the road's twisting ten-mile climb through
Funchilin Pass to Kot'o-ri, where Colonel Puller had established regimental
headquarters. The 2d Battalion manned a perimeter around Kot'o-ri and a small
airstrip above the village. The 3d Battalion, less Company G still to the south
awaiting transportation, was in Hagaru-ri, eleven miles north of Kot'o-ri at the
lower end of the reservoir. The battalion and a variety of service and
headquarters troops were developing a defense of the division command post,
supply dumps, hospital facilities, and airstrip in the Hagaru-ri area.
The Changjin Reservoir (North End)
North of Hagaru-ri, the 5th and 7th Marines
had extended the division's holdings up both sides of the reservoir. The bulk of
the 7th Marines, commanded by Col. Homer L. Litzenberg, Jr., held Yudam-ni,
fourteen miles to the northwest, and the 5th Marines, under Lt. Col. Raymond L.
Murray, had gone ten miles north over a road following the east bank of the
reservoir. Orders for the Mup'yong-ni attack had halted the 5th at this point.
Considering Colonel Murray's regiment fresher than the 7th, division commander
Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith had designated the 5th to open the advance to the
west. Murray's forces consequently had begun to shift west to Yudam-ni, the
starting point of the attack. The 2d Battalion was in Yudamni, having left the
area east of the reservoir upon the arrival of the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry.
The remainder of Murray's regiment remained in place awaiting relief by the
balance of Colonel MacLean's combat team.
The Hagaru Area (East Hill Is In Background)
The Advance Toward Mup'yong-ni
Near the southwest corner of the Changjin Reservoir, roads from the west, north, and southeast met
just outside Yudam-ni. Because enemy forces had not defended this rare road
junction, the Marine division G2, Col. Bankson T. Holcomb, Jr., believed the 5th
Marines would encounter only weak opposition when they started toward
Mup'yong-ni. The absence of enemy patrolling and the failure of ground and
aerial reconnaissance to reveal any large enemy concentrations nearby supported
his judgment. Contradicting it were reports from civilians of sizable enemy
concentrations around Yudam-ni, but these reports were considered
misinterpretations of North Korean Army remnants moving away from and around the
The X Corps G2, Col. James H. Polk, expected
the enemy to resist the attack, especially when the Eighth Army and the marines
closed on Huich'on and Mup'yong-ni. But Polk's estimate of initial opposition
was optimistic. Besides remnants of the North Korean 2d and 5th Divisions withdrawing
northward off to the west of Yudam-ni, Polk believed just two Chinese divisions,
the 89th and 124th, were anywhere near the town. The 126th Division
as well as the 124th, both of the 42d Army, previously had been
identified in the reservoir area. But the 126th
had sideslipped southwestward at least as far as
Sach'ang-ni, as evidenced by a 23 November skirmish between troops of the
126th and the ROK
26th Regiment, then holding the town.
Polk was not sure where the 124th was
located but believed that the division likely had moved into defenses north of
the reservoir. The 89th Division, whose army affiliation Polk had not yet
determined, had briefly opposed the marines at Hagaru-ri on 23 November. He no
longer knew the location of the 89th but considered the division a
probable opponent in the Mup'yongni venture. While allowing that the 124th
and 89th Divisions could be reinforced, Polk proposed withdrawal,
delaying action, and limited attacks as the extent of enemy capabilities. He
offered no order of probability, but he, as well as Colonel Holcomb of the
Marine division, seemed to consider an enemy withdrawal to be the most likely
General Smith, on the other hand, believed his
marines would meet Chinese in strength west of Yudam-ni, a belief that had
prompted his decision to pass the fresher 5th Regiment through the 7th in the
opening attack. Smith's more cautious attitude had been apparent for some time.
He had not shared the mid-November optimism for an early UNC victory, and from
the start of his division's advance toward the Changjin Reservoir he had doubted
the wisdom of stringing forces over a long, poor, and unprotected mountain road.
Supporting Smith's judgment of probable
resistance, three Chinese captured by the 7th Marines on the 26th asserted that
the 58th, 59th, and 60th Divisions of the 20th Army were in
the Yudam-ni area and would move south and southeast from Yudam-ni to cut the
marines' supply road. This information, however, had no effect on plans for the
Mup'yong-ni attack. Neither did incoming reports of strong attacks against the Eighth Army.
Smith ordered the 5th Marines to strike first
for the village of Yongnim-dong, twenty-seven miles west of Yudam-ni, where the
Marines' route of advance joined a road leading southwest along the upper
reaches of the Ch'ongch'on River to Huich'on. The 7th Marines, when passed
through, were to protect the division supply road between Yudam-ni and
Sinhung-ni, a village located in the Toktong Pass midway between Yudam-ni and
Hagaru-ri. Smith appointed the 1st Marines, in and below Hagaru-ri, as division
reserve. His reconnaissance company, then pulling west flank security duty off
the left rear of the division, was to reconnoiter north of Yudam-ni; the 41st
Independent Commando, Royal Marines, only recently attached to the division, was
to come forward from Hungnam to protect the marines' left flank by
reconnoitering southwest of Yudam-ni.6
In planning the
advance, Smith had assumed the full relief of the 5th Marines east of the
reservoir by noon of the 26th. He apparently expected the entire 7th Division
combat team to arrive by that hour; but General Barr had called for the relief
of the marines by a minimum of one infantry battalion, an order satisfied by the arrival of the 1st
Battalion, 32d Infantry. In any event, the remainder of Colonel MacLean's forces
did not reach the new zone by noon on the 26th, nor by 0800 on the 27th, the
scheduled hour of the Marine advance. The full 5th Marines consequently did not
reach Yudam-ni on the 26th, and the plan of attack had to be changed. Since
Colonel Murray was with his forces east of the reservoir, Colonel Litzenberg,
commanding the 7th Marines, took charge of the opening effort.
Forces available to Litzenberg included the
bulk of the 7th Marines and the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines. The 7th held a
perimeter rimming the valley in which Yudam-ni was located. The 1st Battalion
and two companies of the 2d occupied high ground north of town and the terminal
heights of two ridges to the south and southeast overlooking the road to
Hagaru-ri. The 3d Battalion held the terminal hills of a ridge to the southwest.
Between the latter and an unoccupied ridge to the northwest ran the road to
Mup'yongni. The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, was to attack over this road from an
assembly at the edge of Yudam-ni.
Litzenberg instructed the 2d Battalion, 5th
Marines, to seize a pass ten miles to the west in its opening attack. The 3d
Battalion, 7th Marines, was to make parallel advances along the ridges on either
side of the road, and Litzenberg's 1st Battalion was to assume the flank
security roles originally assigned to the reconnaissance company and the 41st
Commando, neither of which had reached Yudam-ni.
After an uncomfortable night when the
temperature dropped to zero degrees, Fahrenheit, and
a wind off the frozen reservoir intensified the cold, the marines had their
attack under way by 0815 on the 27th. (Map 6)
On the ridge northwest of the axis road, Company
H, 7th Marines, met no opposition and seized the terminal height, Hill 1403, by
midmorning. Below the road, Company G, 7th Marines, moved unopposed down the
southwest ridge and within thirty minutes occupied the next commanding height,
Hill 1426. In the middle, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, moved over the road in
a column of companies, meeting nothing in the first three-quarters of a mile
except several undefended obstacles across the road.
The easy march ended there. The forces both on
the road and on the southwest ridge came under fire about the time the pilot of
an observer plane overhead reported Chinese across the entire Marine front. Help
from the ground and air supporting arms allowed the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines,
to move only another quarter mile before intense enemy fire forced the battalion
to discontinue. A similar additional gain was all Company G, 7th Marines, could
manage on the southwest ridge. All told, the day's advance netted a mile.
The IX Army Group Attacks
Division, contrary to X Corps and Marine
estimates, was not in the reservoir area. It had moved southwest into the Eighth
Army sector with its parent army, the 42d.
But the 89th Division was present, and the Chinese captured on
the 26th had truthfully identified the 58th, 59th,
and 60th Divisions. These four divisions constituted the 20th
Map 6. 5th and 7th Marines at Yudam-ni, 27 November 1950
Sung Shih-lun, the IX Army Group commander,
launched the 20th and 27th Armies in attacks on the night of the 27th. From the north, the
27th Army moved
south on the west side of the reservoir against Yudam-ni and down the eastern
side to seize Hagaru-ri. The 20th struck Yudam-ni from the west and made ever-deepening
southeastward swings at the Marine positions and supply road below Yudam-ni.
Nieh Feng-chin, commander of the 27th Army, sent his 79th Division toward Yudamni and
his 80th Division to seize Hagaru-ri. The 80th
first had to eliminate Colonel MacLean's combat
team, most of which had gone into position north of Hagaru-ri by dark on the
27th. (Map 7) The
1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, sat astride the road ten miles north of Hagaru-ri.
Four miles south, the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, and the 57th Field Artillery
Battalion held positions where the road made a hairpin turn around a narrow
finger of the reservoir at the mouth of the P'ungnyuri River. MacLean's command
post and tank company were in Hudong-ni, a village another four miles south. The
2d Battalion, 31st Infantry, was still en route. By orders from X Corps
headquarters, which controlled all movement of convoys over the reservoir road,
the battalion for the time being was halted at Hamhung.
Liu Fei, the 20th Army commander, committed
all four of his divisions to the southeastward attack. At Yudam-ni, all but one
regiment of the 89th Division moved after dark on the 27th toward the marines on the ridge
northwest of the road to Mup'yong-ni. The 59th
Division started a shallow swing below Yudam-ni
to cut the fourteen-mile stretch of road between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. Below
the 59th, the
58th Division swung
wider to attack Hagaru-ri and cut the road immediately below the town. The
60th Division took
a still deeper route through the mountains toward Kot'o-ri; and, in the deepest
move, the remaining regiment of the 89th Division
started over a mountain track leading south from
Yudam-ni to Sach'ang-ni in the sector of the 3d Division.
Colonel Murray had moved the
remainder of the 5th Marines to Yudam-ni on the 27th as more of Colonel
MacLean's combat team reached the eastern side of the reservoir. Murray's 1st
and 3d Battalions assembled in the valley, creating a substantial reserve for
the ten companies holding the heights north, northwest, southwest, and south of
town. This reserve, a fairly tight infantry line, and the support of fortyeight
artillery pieces and two regimental 4.2-inch mortar companies gave the marines a
reasonably good defense. More precariously situated were Companies C and F of
the 7th Marines, which had outposted the supply road from Hagaru-ri. Each company held an isolated
perimeter, Company C on a spur five miles southeast of Yudam-ni, Company F at
Toktong Pass two miles farther southeast.
Map 7. The 31st
RCT East of the Reservoir, 27 November 1950
At 2100, assault
troops of the 89th Division reached the three Marine companies defending the northwest ridge
at Yudam-ni. (Map 8) Small enemy groups jabbed
lightly at the Marine line for a half hour; grenades and mortar and machine gun
fire came next; then bugle calls and whistle blasts; and finally a sharp attack
on a narrow front at the boundary between Companies F and E, 5th Marines, the
left and center companies. The Chinese quickly penetrated but then found
themselves hemmed in by Marine fire from the shoulders of the salient they had
created. Losing heavily, they called off their attack around midnight. Another
force meanwhile assaulted Company H, 7th Marines, the rightmost company, on Hill
1403. The Chinese knocked the right flank platoon out of position within minutes
but delayed further attempts to advance when Marine artillery and mortar fire
came down on them.
Refilling their forward ranks, the Chinese
renewed their attack at 0300, striking all three Marine companies. They went
nowhere against the left and center companies but by dawn forced Company H, 7th
Marines, off Hill 1403. This gain offered the Chinese an opportunity to sweep
behind and isolate the other two companies. Hence, though the Chinese attacks
dwindled after daylight, the marines were obliged to give up the northwest
In company with the 89th's attack, the 79th Division moved south
through the mountains
confining the reservoir on the west. The division commander committed all three
regiments, directing them first to occupy the high ground immediately above
Four heights dominated the 79th's initial objective, Hill
1167 next to the reservoir and Hills 1240, 1282, and 1384 stair-stepped to the
west. Companies D and E, 7th Marines, occupied the central hills, 1240 and 1282.
A platoon from Company 1, 5th Marines, and an attached platoon of South Korean
police held a spur below 1384. The 237th Regiment
moved against Hill 1384 on the west, the
235th toward Hill
1240 in the center, and the 236th toward Hill 1167 nearest the reservoir. But the 235th and 236th veered too far west and
climbed toward Hills 1282 and 1240, respectively, losing an opportunity to flank
or envelop the Marine defenses via unoccupied Hill 1167.
Finding 1384 unoccupied, the commander of the
237th sent a
company down the spur to the south. The company pushed the two platoons off the
spur, and its fire forced the headquarters and service company of the 3d
Battalion, 5th Marines, away from a position around the battalion command post
in a draw below the spur. Apparently unaware that they had exposed the command
post, the Chinese attempted no further gains. This hiatus gave Company G, 5th
Marines, of the reserve time to organize and launch a counterattack which by
daylight regained the spur.
Map 8. Battle
of the Changjin Reservoir, 27-29 November 1950
To the east, repeated frontal assaults between midnight of the 27th and late
morning on the 28th failed to win Hill 1282 but carried the Chinese to the top of
Hill 1240. High losses so crippled the Marine units that reinforcement or
replacement was essential if the 79th Division
was to be held out of Yudam-ni.
The 59th Division meanwhile completed its short sweep to
the southeast, slicing across the supply road between Yudam-ni and the two
Marine companies outposting the road and through the two-mile gap between
companies as well. Once across the road, the Chinese surrounded and assaulted
both Marine positions but failed to penetrate and backed off at dawn. The
marines, still hemmed in and too burdened with casualties to attempt to fight
their way out of encirclement, could only tighten their perimeters and await
Colonels Litzenberg and Murray dispatched a
rescue force after daylight on the 28th and meanwhile realigned their units at
Yudamni. The realignment, interrupted only by harassing enemy fire, was complete
by late evening. The 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, anchored the new line at Hill
1426 on the southwest ridge. The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, took position on the
same ridge, facing northwest. The 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, carried the line
northward across the Yudam-ni valley and eastward into the northern heights to
and including Hill 1282. Company B, 5th Marines, took over the defense of Hill
1240 while the remainder of the 1st Battalion went into reserve.
Efforts to rescue the two isolated companies
came from both ends of the fourteen-mile stretch of road. From Hagaru-ri, a
company reinforced by three tanks moved toward Company F at Toktong Pass while
the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, struck south out of Yudam-ni toward Company C.
The Hagaru-ri troops made only half the distance to Toktong Pass before small
arms and mortar fire from
Chinese on both sides of the road forced their withdrawal. At the other end of
the road segment, stiff opposition on both sides of the road so slowed the 1st
Battalion, 7th Marines, that dark had fallen by the time it reached Company C.
Lest the battalion be trapped in the darkness, Colonel Litzenberg ordered it
back to Yudam-ni. Hence, only Company C was retrieved. Company F's rescue now
rested on an order issued by General Smith late on the 28th that the entire 7th
Regiment attack south from Yudam-ni to clear the road to Hagaru-ri.
East of the Reservoir
On the IX Army Group's east
flank the leading forces of the 80th Division
moved south toward Hagaru-ri shortly after dark
on the 27th. Liu Yung, the division commander, sent some troops over the road
along the east bank of the reservoir, the bulk through high ground farther east.
The Chinese following the road were to attack the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry,
frontally while the others came westward off the high ground against that
battalion and against the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, four miles farther south.
Those moving deeper also were to separate and isolate Colonel MacLean's forces
by establishing roadblocks above and below the 3d Battalion.
Having heard from the marines that three new
Chinese divisions were in the reservoir area, Colonel Faith had placed his 1st
Battalion, 32d Infantry, in a tight defense. At Faith's left, Company A faced
north. On the right, Companies C and B held a line curving south to face the
high ground to the east. As Liu's forces approached, however, Faith was
occupied with plans for starting the battalion north toward the border at dawn
next day. Colonel MacLean's order for the advance had reached Faith around 2100,
and at 2200 he had assembled his company commanders at the battalion command
post for instructions.
Chinese patrols brushed the battalion line
while Faith was briefing his officers. As company commanders scrambled back to
their units, an attack hit Company A from the north while another from the high
ground to the east struck at the boundary between Companies B and C. In assaults
that lasted the night, the Chinese dented each company position, seized a knob
of ground at the boundary between B and C, and managed to move around Company A
and force the company mortars out of position. Yet when the Chinese lifted their
attacks at dawn, Faith's position was reasonably sound. Through the day Faith
reclaimed all ground lost except the knob on the east, which the Chinese, though
struck by several combinations of air and ground attacks, refused to yield.
Faith's casualties through the night and day approached sixty.
At the lower perimeter, the 3d Battalion, 31st
Infantry, and 57th Field Artillery Battalion came under attack near the same
hour as Faith's forces. Companies I and K nearest the high groud to the east
received the first assaults and were pressed southwest toward the artillery.
Those wounded in the close fighting included the commanders of both the 3d
Battalion and the artillery battalion. The Chinese next forced the men of
Battery A away from their howitzers; but after
combinging forces around the guns of Battery B, the infantrymen and artillerymen
finally halted the Chinese and turned back further assaults until the Chinese
withdrew at dawn. Afterward, the 3d Battalion and the artillery, harassed only
by mortar fire, moved into a tight perimeter near the lower bank of the
ice-covered finger of the reservoir.
Early in the afternoon of the 28th, General
Almond flew by helicopter to Colonel Faith's position. He awarded Faith and two
other men the Silver Star and just before leaving appraised the Chinese
encountered as only remnants fleeing north and announced that the X Corps attack
would continue. But his words apparently were an attempt to raise morale, not a
true appraisal of the enemy. On the previous day he had visited Yudam-ni, where
Marine commanders informed him that they had encountered strong Chinese forces
at three points of the compass. On the 28th, before flying to Faith's position,
he had stopped at Hagaru-ri where General Smith brought him up to date on the
Marine division's situation, and he had visited Colonel MacLean's command post
where the combat team leader briefed him on conditions east of the reservoir.
Almond must have been aware that the strong attacks on the marines and MacLean's
men represented a southerly surge of fresh Chinese forces.
When he stopped at Hagaru-ri on his return
flight to transfer from his helicopter to an L17 aircraft, Almond may have
learned from the marines that a Chinese division was marshaling in the high
ground southwest and south of Hagaru-ri. As the L-17 carried him south to his Hamhung headquarters, he may have seen, as had other
aerial observers, that Chinese had blocked the road between Hagaru-ri and
Kot'o-ri. The 1st Marine Division indeed had become a group of isolated
MacLean's combat team was in the same
condition. At 1000 on the 28th Brig. Gen. Henry I. Hodes, the assistant
commander of the 7th Division who had posted himself in Hagaru-ri, led the 31st
Infantry's tank company, an antitank platoon, a platoon of engineers, and
members of regimental headquarters north from Hudong-ni. The small armored force
encountered a strong roadblock about a mile above the village and lost two tanks
in an unsuccessful effort to reduce it.
Later in the day Colonel MacLean, who earlier
had gone by jeep to Colonel Faith's position, discovered when he attempted to
return south that the Chinese had set another roadblock between Faith's
battalion and the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry. Unable to proceed, MacLean
returned to Faith's command post and radioed a message to the 1st Marine
Division for relay to X Corps headquarters requesting that the 2d Battalion,
31st Infantry, be sent immediately to clear the road above Hagaru-ri. Corps
apparently missed the urgency of MacLean's request, perhaps because that
headquarters already had dispatched Company B of the regiment up the reservoir
road to join the combat team. Corps orders to the 2d Battalion, in any event,
called for the long move from Hamhung not to begin until the following day.
Meanwhile, MacLean's forward battalions remained cut off from Hagaru-ri and from
The Attacks Widen
snowfall hampered operations during the night of the 28th. The 89th and 79th Divisions did not contest
the marines at Yudam-ni during the night or during the day of the 29th. But
forces of the 59th Division renewed their night assaults on Company F in Toktong Pass. The
Marine company held its ground, now called Fox Hill, but casualties grew to more
than a hundred.
General Smith's call for an attack by the 7th Marines to reopen the road to
Hagaru-ri, Colonels Litzenberg and Murray felt that both the 5th and 7th Marines
were needed at Yudam-ni and therefore substituted a composite battalion built
from reserve units for the rescue mission. The makeshift battalion started south
at 0800 on the 29th but moved no more than three miles before Chinese in the
bordering heights opened fire and began an encircling move. When this maneuver
was spotted from the air, Litzenberg ordered the composite unit back to
Yudam-ni. The road remained closed as a result, and the thinnedout company on
Fox Hill faced another night of isolation.
Task Force Faith
East of the
reservoir, the 80th Division resumed its assaults on Colonel MacLean's forces, first against
the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, then against Colonel Faith's battalion. For
twelve hours beginning around 1800 on the 28th, Chinese jabbed the lower
perimeter but made no lasting penetrations. High casualties in Companies K and L,
however, forced the two units to combine.
To the north, the Chinese first struck the 1st
Battalion, 32d Infantry, from the knob of high ground on the east, then opened
frontal assaults against each of the rifle companies. Company B on the right
lost some ground but regained it. Elsewhere, the battalion's heavy defensive
fire beat back repeated Chinese rushes. By 0300 on the 29th, however, Faith's
forces had used most of their ammunition. MacLean hence ordered Faith to move
south and join the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry. Faith was to take cargo off
battalion trucks to make room for the hundred wounded he now had.
As Faith's forces gained respite from assault,
but not fire, they fell back to assemble on the road. The Chinese did not pursue
but increased their fire as the battalion broke contact. Starting south at 0430
with a company stumbling in the darkness over snow-covered high ground on either
side as flank security for the troops and trucks on the road, the battalion
covered threequarters of the way without opposition. At daylight, as the leading
forces entered the upper half of the road segment bending around the frozen
finger of the reservoir, they took fire from Chinese located at the tight turn
of the road near the P'ungnyuri River crossing. This was the roadblock MacLean
had encountered the previous afternoon. Faith halted the column directly across
the narrow expanse of ice from the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, ordered machine
guns and a recoilless rifle into position to return the fire, and dispatched the
bulk of two companies through the high ground to the north to flank the Chinese.
While waiting for the maneuvering force to
destroy the roadblock, Faith's troops on the road received fire from across the
reservoir finger. MacLean, convinced that the fire was coming from his own
forces, immediately started over the ice to stop the shooting. He was mistaken.
Hit at least four times as he crossed, he walked into the hands of the Chinese
who had crept in along the bank of the far shore, apparently in preparation for
an attack on the lower perimeter. Once Colonel Faith realized what had happened,
he formed a skirmish line and led it across the ice. Faith's men killed at least
sixty Chinese and drove off others, but a thorough search of the area uncovered
no trace of Colonel MacLean.
Faith's flanking force meanwhile closed in on
the Chinese blocking the road and scattered them into the hills to the east.
Faith's motor column thus was able to proceed, and the last of Faith's men
reached the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, by 1230.
While Faith fought through to the lower
perimeter, the bulk of the 31st Tank Company and a composite company of riflemen
again attempted to reach it from Hudong-ni. As on the previous day, the
northward move was stopped, this time by two battalions of Chinese. A stronger
effort clearly was required to break through to the isolated force. Now the
senior able-bodied officer present, Colonel Faith assumed command of the two
infantry battalions and the artillery, designating the consolidated units Task
Force Faith. Air-dropped rations and ammunition (but only forty rounds of
artillery ammunition) reached the task force during the
afternoon, and Marine aircraft orbited its position constantly, striking Chinese
forces in the surrounding high ground with napalm, rockets, and machine gun
fire. But while fresh supplies and good air support helped, Faith now pinned his
hopes of avoiding defeat on the arrival of the 2d Battalion, 31st Infantry. He
apparently was not aware that the 2d Battalion was held up for lack of
transportation at Majon-dong, more than thirty miles to the south, he had not
realized the extent of the Chinese roadblocks between him and the relief unit,
nor had he learned that the Chinese attacks had spread during the previous night
By evening on the 28th the bulk of the
58th Division was
concentrated about five miles southwest of Hagaru-ri. The remainder had crossed
the supply road to the south where some troops blocked the route while others
turned north and assembled in the heights east of Hagaru-ri.
Lt. Col. Thomas L. Ridge, commander of the 3d
Battalion, 1st Marines, and officer in charge of the defense of Hagaru-ri, was
well informed of the location, size, and intent of the 58th, though not of its
numerical identity. His S-2, 2d Lt. Richard E. Carey, had had phenomenal success
over the past two days with two Korean agents. By interrogating civilians coming
into Hagaru-ri from the countryside, the agents learned of the approach of the
Chinese. By making a circuit of the high ground around Hagaru-ri, they next
determined the enemy's location and approximate size, and while mingling among
Chinese troops they heard boasts that the division would occupy Hagaru-ri on the night of
the 28th. The roadblock to the south was discovered during the afternoon of the
28th by a platoon of infantry and three tanks who were turned back by enemy fire
when they attempted to patrol the road to Kot'o-ri.
Figuring the time it would take the Chinese to
reach Hagaru-ri after dark, Carey predicted that the first assault would come
around 2130. On this and Carey's other findings Colonel Ridge based his plan of
defense. Using his own battalion, which was still short Company G, and a
hodgepodge of other Marine and Army units, he fashioned a four-mile perimeter
around the Changjin River flats in which Hagaru-ri was located.
To the south and southwest, the most likely
area of enemy attack and the site of airstrip construction, Ridge put his 3d
Battalion on the lower reverse slopes of the high ground in which the major
Chinese strength was located. He faced the remaining troops of the 2d Battalion,
7th Marines, and a mixture of Marine artillery, service, and headquarters troops
northwest toward Yudam-ni and north toward the reservoir. Ridge considered East
Hill, the marines' name for the first mass rising in that direction from
Hagaru-ri, to be the second most likely point of enemy attack. He intended that
Company G, once it arrived, would hold the hill. In the meantime, he manned it
with Marine service units, Company D of the 10th Engineer Battalion (an Army
unit), and detachments from X Corps headquarters and signal units.
Liao Chen-chou, commander of the 58th Division, took longer than
predicted to reach the marines. Amid falling snow, his 172d Regiment attacked on a
half-mile front against the center of the 3d Battalion's line just after 2230.
Staggered by high losses to the marines' carefully prepared defensive fire, the
Chinese managed only small penetrations, and those who broke through were too
disorganized to do much damage. By 0400 the regiment was beaten, and the marines
quickly eliminated the Chinese lingering in rear of their positions. Incongruous
with the fighting taking place only a short distance to the southwest was the
engineers' continuing work on the airstrip, part of the time under floodlights.
Liao had better luck with his secondary
effort, driving off the defenders of East Hill in a sharp attack at 0130.
Company D, 10th Engineers, took the brunt of the blow. Of the 77 Americans in
the company, 10 were killed, 25 wounded, and 9 missing. Among 90 South Koreans
attached to the company, about 50 were casualties, mostly missing. The Chinese,
however, either had no plans or were too weak to exploit their success and
halted their attack after capturing the height.
By 0630 on the 29th Colonel Ridge's forces on
the southwestern arc of the perimeter had restored the line everywhere it had
been punctured during the night. Maj. Reginald R. Myers, Ridge's executive
officer, meanwhile assembled a composite company of Marine and Army service
troops and tried to retake East Hill. But inexperience, a slippery and
exhausting climb, and Chinese fire stopped the group short. At dusk Major Myers
set up defenses on the near military crest of the hill.
Considering enemy control of East
Hill to be a grave threat to Hagaru-ri, Ridge intended to replace Myers'
makeshift unit with
Company G as soon as possible. The company, Ridge knew, had started north from
Kot'o-ri that morning in convoy with the British 41st Commando, an Army infantry
company, and assorted other troops. But word also had reached Hagaru-ri that the
convoy had come under fire and that its commander had requested a decision from
General Smith on whether to continue.
Encounters with Chinese near Kot'o-ri and at Sach'ang-ni on the
28th heralded the arrival of the 60th Division
and the regiment of the 89th Division in their
objectives areas. At Sach'ang-ni, prisoners taken by the 1st Battalion, 7th
Infantry, during a small skirmish first identified the 89th, and strong night assaults
not broken up until after daybreak on the 29th indicated the size of the force.
Reinforcements and new supplies were rushed to the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry,
lest this enemy regiment gain access to Hamhung over the road protected only by
the Sach'ang-ni position.
The presence of the 60th Division was discovered by
Company D, 1st Marines, and division headquarters personnel who patrolled north
from Kot'o-ri during the afternoon of the 28th. The patrol engaged Chinese about
a mile above town in the ground bordering the road. The marines fought all
afternoon without breaking through but returned to Kot'o-ri with three prisoners
from the 179th Regiment, 60th Division.
This encounter, the experience of the patrol
from Hagaru-ri the same afternoon, and air observer reports indicated that Chinese positions along the
reservoir road extended, with gaps, south from the outskirts of Hagaru-ri to
within a mile of Kot'o-ri. At least parts of two Chinese divisions, the
60th, held the
heights on both sides of the road, with their strongest positions on the eastern
edge. Any force moving north from Kot'o-ri would run a ten-mile
By evening of the 28th Kot'o-ri was fairly
full of troops who had been ordered north, principally the 41st Commando, Royal
Marines; Company G, 1st Marines; and Company B, 31st Infantry. In addition, the
Marine division headquarters troops who had failed to get through earlier in the
day with Company D were still wanted at General Smith's commmand post in
Hagaruri. An Associated Press photographer, Frank Noel, also was trying to move
north. Colonel Puller formed a motorized task force from these units, placed Lt.
Col. Douglas B. Drysdale, the commander of the 41st Commando, in charge, and
ordered the force to make its way to Hagaru-ri on the following day.
Task Force Drysdale started north at 0930 on
the 29th, the British marines in the lead, followed by Company G, Company B, and
the headquarters troops. Chinese dug in east of the road about a mile and a half
above Kot'o-ri offered the first resistance. They were eliminated, but a mile
farther north, fire from a stronger Chinese force in the high ground on the east
brought the task force to a full halt by noontime.
Colonel Drysdale, near that hour, received
word from Colonel Puller that two Marine tank platoons would be available at
1300. Drysdale waited for the armor, then with the tanks leading resumed his advance about 1400. Heavy small arms and mortar
fire struck the column almost immediately, and progress was slow as tankers and
foot troops attempted to shoot their way through the resistance. By 1615 the
task force again was stopped after having moved only a mile and a half nearer
Two more platoons of Marine tanks meanwhile
moved out of Kot'o-ri under Puller's orders to join Drysdale. But even though he
was to get additional armor, Drysdale was uncertain whether he should risk
moving his men, now numbering about a thousand, the remaining seven miles to
Hagaru-ri. By radio, he posed the question to General Smith. In view of the
considered need for reinforcements at Hagaru-ri, Smith directed him to continue.
Air-strikes sufficiently dampened enemy fire
to permit the task force to resume its march, but when it entered a mile-long
valley midway between Kot'o-ri and Hagaru-ri, heavy fire from the ridges to the
east again halted the column. As troops jumped from trucks to reduce the
resistance, a mortar round set fire to a truck near the middle of the column.
The Chinese concentrated small arms and mortar fire around the damaged vehicle
to prevent its removal and thus obstruct the road and split Drysdale's column.
Ahead of the truck, Drysdale with most of his commandos, two platoons of tanks,
Company G, and a few members of Company B managed to move on. Drysdale expected
the remainder of the column to close ranks. But behind the burning vehicle, in
what Drysdale later dubbed Hell Fire Valley, about sixty commandos, most of
Company B, and the division headquarters troops remained pinned down in ditches and
depressions along the road.
Only intermittent fire and one strong Chinese
position about a mile and a half below Hagaru-ri obstructed Drysdale's movement
north of Hell Fire Valley. Drysdale was wounded while fighting past the Chinese
strongpoint, whereupon the Company G commander led the column the remaining
short distance to its destination. About an hour after dark Drysdale's four
hundred men entered Hagaru-ri. They were surprised, in view of their own day of
fighting, to find the town quiet and the engineers working under floodlights at
the airstrip to the southwest.
The Chinese meanwhile began the reduction of
Drysdale's forces caught in Hell Fire Valley. Before dark a force sliced west
across the road between the immobilized troops and the two platoons of tanks
coming from Kot'o-ri. Some of the tail-end armored troops, receiving
considerable fire themselves, returned to Kot'o-ri during the night; the
remainder went back at dawn.
To the north, near the damaged truck, another
pre-dark attack isolated about a hundred forty troops from the rest of the
trapped men while the latter gradually gathered in three clusters as they sought
cover from the fire coming in from east of the road. Thereafter until midnight
the Chinese were content to fire on the four separated groups while they looted
the trucks on the road.
In the early hours of 30 November they sent
small forces armed with grenades against the northernmost group. The latter, led
by Marine Maj. John N. McLaughlin, held off the Chinese but took high losses and
by 0430 expended most of their ammunition. During this firefight most of the men in the three
clusters farther south managed to escape into the high ground west of the road.
Though pursued, they managed to reach Kot'o-ri, bringing the total of men who
escaped south to about three hundred. At the northern position, only a few
British commandos were able to slip away toward Kot'o-ri. When photographer
Frank Noel and two other men jumped into a jeep to make a run for it, they were
captured before they had moved a hundred yards.
At 0430 the Chinese sent these captives to
McLaughlin with a surrender demand. Stalling to enable as many men as possible
to escape, McLaughlin finally agreed to surrender himself and the forty
able-bodied men remaining. The Chinese allowed him to place his more seriously
wounded men in a nearby house as the Hell Fire Valley affair ended. Task Force
Drysdale's total casualties exceeded three hundred. About seventy-five trucks
were lost during the day and night.
The Tokyo Conference
Not long after
Colonel Drysdale and the men with him reached Hagaru-ri, they knew they would
soon be making a return trip through Hell Fire Valley. This decision was one
result of General MacArthur's conference with General Walker and General Almond
in Tokyo on the night of the 28th.8
Having heard Walker and Almond on what had
happened in their respective sectors, MacArthur judged that the Eighth Army was
in greater danger than the X Corps. But he wanted both commands to step back. Walker was to make
whatever withdrawals were necessary to escape being enveloped. Almond was to
maintain contact with the Chinese but also was to pull the X Corps out of its
spread-eagle positions and concentrate it in the Hamhung-Hungnam coastal area.
MacArthur next asked Almond what the X Corps
could do to help the Eighth Army. Almond pointed out that the isolated Marine
and Army troops at the reservoir had to be retrieved before anything else could
be done. MacArthur agreed but then restated his question to ask what Almond
could do to relieve the threat to Walker's east flank. The answer to this
question held MacArthur's primary interest.
General Wright, MacArthur's G-3, suggested
that Almond send the 3d Division west over the road leading through the Taebaeks toward Tokch'on to
attack the Chinese pressing Walker's right flank. Almond argued that the road
Wright had in mind did not exist (it did, but it was not made for military
traffic) and that the severe winter weather combined with any strong Chinese
force in the gap between commands might destroy the division. Almond agreed to
the move, however, if the Eighth Army would supply the 3d Division after it
reached the western slopes of the Taebaeks. General Walker offered no such
support, and the conference closed an hour past midnight without a final
decision on the proposed move. But owing to MacArthur's clear interest, such a
maneuver would come up again after Walker and Almond returned to Korea on the
29th to get their disengagements started.
1 Telecon, Gen Hickey and Col Landrum, 1225, 27 Nov 50,
in GHQ, UNC, files; Rad, GX 30065 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CINCFE, 28 Nov 50;
Rad, 069953, CINCFE to JCS, 28 Nov 50.
2 Eighth Army WD, Aide-de-Camp
Diary, 28 Nov 50; Interv, Appleman with Gen Almond.
3 This section is based on the following sources: Sit
Map, no. 155, Part I, G3 Sec, CINCFE Comd Rpt, 27 Nov 50; GHQ, FEC, G3 Opns Rpt
no. 156, 27 Nov 50; X Corps Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50; 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50;
7th Div Comd Rpt, Chosin Reservoir, 27 Nov-12 Dec 50; 7th Div Action Rpt, From
Hyesanjin to Hungnam Outloading, 21 Nov-20 Dec 50; Max Dolcater, ed., 3d
Infantry Division in Korea, 1953; Appleman, South to the Naktong,
pp. 730, 732; Lynn Montross and Nicholas A. Canzona, U.S. Marine
Operations in Korea, 1950-1953, vol. III, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign
4 Prompted by a X Corps
warning order on 24 November to relieve Marine forces on the east side of the
reservoir, General Barr had dispatched his nearest
unit, the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, then at Hamhung en route to join its
parent unit in the Kapsan-Samsu area. The 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry, stayed
on the Pukch'ong-Hyesanjin road to help protect the open west side of the
division's supply road.
5 This section based on X
Corps WD, Sum, Nov 50; X Corps Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50; 1st Marine Div Opn O
24-50, 26 Nov 50; 7th Div Opn O 26, 26 Nov 50; Montross and Canzona, The
Chosin Reservoir Campaign.
6 Earlier, on the night of
12-13 September 1950, the British company had participated in a landing
operation at Kunsan on the west coast of South Korea as part of an attempt to
distract North Korean attention from the coming landing at Inch'on. The unit had
then returned to Japan and been attached to Naval Forces, Far East, until 20
November when, at its own request to serve with American marines, it returned to
Korea and was attached to the 1st Marine Division. See Heinl, Victory at High
Tide, p. 79, and Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign,
7 This section and the one
following are based on USAFFE Intel Dig No. 99, 16-31 Jan 53; Order of Battle
Information, Chinese Communist Third Field Army, GHQ, FEC, 1 Mar 51; X Corps
Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50; X Corps WD, Sum, Nov 50; 7th Div Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-
12 Dec 50; Mono, "Chosin Reservoir," 1st Bn, 32d Inf, 24-30 Nov 50, 3d Hist Det,
copy in CMH; 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50; Dolcater, 3d Infantry Division in
Korea; Captain Russell A. Gugeler, Combat Actions in Korea
(Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1954), pp. 62-87; 7th Infantry Division
in Korea (Atlanta: Ambert Love Enterprises, n.d.); Montross and Canzona,
The Chosin Reservoir Campaign; MS, Lt. Col. C. P. Miller, "Chosin
Reservoir, November-December 1950," copy in CMH.
8 This section is based on Schnabel, Policy and
Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation