54. The 11th Marines in Korea: |
On 5 July 1950, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was organized at Camp Pendleton for duty in Korea. This brigade consisted of the 5th Marines, Marine Aircraft Group 33, and 1/11. All the units prepared to move out, and, on 13 July, they sailed for Pusan, Korea. The North Korean People's Army (NKPA) had swept into South Korea, routing the South Koreans and the understrength U. S. Army troops who were supporting them. By the time that the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade arrived on 2 August, all of Korea was under the control of the NKPA except for a small area around Pusan. It was the job of the 1st Brigade to reinforce the Army and to help hold the perimeter. Four days after arriving at Pusan, 1/11 found itself at Chindong-ni, where it relieved the Army's 8th Field Artillery Battalion. The battalion position was partly in the center and partly on the outskirts of the town. NKPA artillery was already registered on Chindong-ni, and initially 1/11 was heavily shelled. Nevertheless, 1/11 trained its 105s on the NKPA artillery and successfully outdueled it.
As the 5th Marines moved against NKPA troops, 1/11 was forced to displace often. Because of the terrain, the 105s had to be placed much closer to the infantry lines than is normally recommended. When 2,000-3,000 yards would have normally been the distance between the artillery and frontline infantry positions, often in the Pusan perimeter the distances were 500-1,500 yards. By 12 August, 1/11 had built up positions on the outskirts of Kosong, and 12 August proved to be a great day of triumph for these cannoneers. They were adjusting fire on a crossroad when an enemy motorized force, camouflaged in the houses near the crossroad, began to move out. The 105s fired on the convoy until it was out of range, damaging or destroying almost every vehicle.
The artillerymen returned to Chindong-ni briefly on 14 August and then moved to Miryang, at that time 17 hours away by truck and rail. After an unusually uncomfortable and grueling trip, 1/11 set up battery positions at Miryang in order to support the 5th Marines, which was about to launch an offensive to push the NKPA troops over the Naktong River. The 5th crushed the NKPA soldiers, and, as the Communists attempted to retreat across the river, 1/11 had a good shoot. One battery was firing with fuze quick, one with variable-time (VT) fuze, and the others with fuze delay to kill the North Koreans under the surface.<40> Many North Koreans were shelled to death attempting to ford the river.
Following the Naktong rout, the 5th Marines moved to Masan for a very brief rest. The cannoneers, however, moved back to Chindong-ni to support RCT-5 (Army), which was heavily attacked by NKPA forces from midnight, 31 August, to daylight, 1 September. The 105s of 1/11 were indispensable in crushing the NPKA assaults on the Army positions. Almost immediately, 1/11 returned to Miryang. This time, the trip took only six hours because of many improvements made in the road. The reason for the move was that the NKPA was threatening Yongsan, and, if they took that town, they could break down the whole defense of the Pusan perimeter. The battle for Yongsan was crucial in the effort made by the South Koreans and the U. S. soldiers and Marines to maintain a foothold on Korea, and, from 1-4 September, 1/11 fired approximately 5,000 rounds in helping deny Yongsan to the Communists. The targets were generally mortar, machine gun, and artillery positions, plus a few large troop concentrations.
Lieutenant Colonel Ransom M. Wood, the commanding officer of 1/11, had some complaints about Korea with regard to the terrain and the difficulties that it presented for the artillery. He said, "The Korean terrain certainly is not the best for artillery position areas. Mountains and rice paddies see to that. Ground which often looked favorable was found later to be inaccessible due to lack of solid ground approaches, principally because of ubiquitous rice paddies."<41>
On 6 September, 1/11 left Miryang for Pusan. From 6-10 September, the battalion assimilated new men and equipment. On 10 September, 1/11 left Pusan for Inchon. If the artillerymen of 1/11 throught things had been rough on the Pusan perimeter, it is best that they did not know what awaited them only a few months away. In any case, their morale was high. They were ready to leave Pusan. Lieutenant Colonel Wood felt that he had learned six, valuable lessons as an artillery battalion commander in Korea. They were:
1) Stay out of villages and towns if at all possible in selecting position areas for artillery.
2) Wherever possible, so site one gun from each battery that it may be used in an anti-tank role. Our 155mm high explosive anti-tank ammunition will stop a T-34 or similar tank.
3) As part of the battalion's standing operating procedure, carry local security personnel on the battalion commander's reconnaissance for position. Place local security posts on the hills commanding the valleys, especially those to the rear and the flanks. Establish your own patrols, and always have an aggressive patrol policy in operation. It's good life insurance.
4) Keep civilians, refugees, and especially children, out of the position area or camp if in a rear area. Children were used extensively, especially in the early days of the war, to enter camps for the sole purpose of leaving an armed hand grenade near some unsuspecting person.
5) Wherever possible, select and organize positions to be occupied by the battalion so that at least one battery will be able to fire in any direction.
6) Every Marine, regardless of his rank, primary MOS, or job, is essentially an infantryman when it comes to shooting the weapon with which he is armed.
Meanwhile, in the States, the rest of the 1st Marine Division was preparing to mount out, a job that proved to be practically an administrative miracle. The fact that the job got done testifies to the ability of Marines to work very long hours at very tedious jobs to get a task done when the chips are down. As far as the individual Marine was concerned, from the moment he entered the gates of Camp Pendleton to the moment he departed, he was in a continuous rush. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 10th Marines, 105mm howitzer battalions from Camp Lejeune, arrived at Camp Pendleton and were redesignated 2/11 and 3/11; a 155mm howitzer battalion, 3/10,became 4/11. The 11th Marines was now organized with three direct support battalions using 105mm howitzers and one general support battalion using 155mm howitzers. There was practically no artillery training for the cannoneers of 2/11, 3/11, and 4/11, the ranks of which were greatly augmented by inexperienced reserves while at Camp Pendleton. Korea was to be real on-the-job training for them. The 2d Battalion did a little practice firing, but 3/11 and 4/11 did not have the time to do any. These three battalions, along with Headquarters and Service Battery, 11th Marines, sailed from California to Kobe, Japan, and, on 9 September, they left Kobe to take part in the Inchon landing. Six 1sts and one AKA, the USS WASHBURN, were used to move 2/11, 3/11, and 4/11 to Inchon. Three 1sts transported 1/11 from Pusan to Inchon.
Colonel James H. Brower was now in command of the 11th, and his first battalions to land in the Inchon operation were 1/11 and 2/11, which moved onto Wolmi-do in DUKWs at 1845, D-Day, 15 September. These two battalions were prepared to fire by 2145 in support of the infantry units that assaulted Inchon itself. The following day, 1/11 and 2/11 moved over to Inchon and were trailed by 3/11 and 4/11. The 1st Battalion was in direct support of the 5th Marines, as it had been at Pusan, and 2/11 was in direct support of the 1st Marines. When the 7th Marines, which was reorganized and prepared for battle a little later than the 1st Marines, arrived in Korea, 3/11 took over as the direct support artillery battalion for that regiment. The 4th Battalion, with its 155s, was in general support. The artillery was forced to displace frequently in the first days after landing because of the rapid advances made by the infantry. The 11th always displaced one battery at a time so that good support could be provided at all times. Ammunition resupply was very good at this time, and the 11th broke up many enemy troop concentrations along the Inchon-Seoul highway. Communications were initially the greatest problem for the 11th because of the great number of inexperienced men handling worn-out equipment. This problem was alleviated as the men became more experienced and newer equipment was supplied. Artillery was of very limited use to the Marines inside Seoul, but the 5th Marines received good support from the 105s of 1/11 and the 155s of 4/11 in the hills west of Seoul.
After taking Seoul, the 1st Marine Division withdrew and was ordered to land at Wonsan in an attempt to deliver the "coup-de-grace" to the rapidly retreating NKPA. Actually, while the Marines were steaming around to the east coast of Korea, the U. S. Army and the South Koreans were doing such a good job that by the time the Marines landed at Wonsan everybody else had already arrived ahead of them, including Bob Hope and the USO. The day that the Marines landed administratively at Wonsan was a bitter one for the hard- chargers who considered it almost a disgrace for the Marines not to be the first ones in enemy territory.
Once at Wonsan, the units of the 1st Marine Division began to spread widely apart to the north. Major General Oliver P. Smith, commanding the 1st Marine Division, tried to pull them closer together, but he was limited in doing this by his own superiors. The great dispersal of the infantry regiments made it necessary to attach artillery battalions to regimental combat teams (RCTs). As a result, 1/11 joined RCT-5, 2/11 joined RCT-1, and 3/11 joined RCT-7. The 4th Battalion remained in general support and went furthest north with RCTs 5 and 7 to Yudam-ni on the Chosin Reservoir. The 2d Battalion was able to stay a little further south along the Main Supply Route (MSR) with the 1st Marines. Battery D was at Hagaru-ri with 3/1, Battery E was at Koto-ri with 2/1, and Battery F was at Chinhung-ni with 1/1. At Yudam-ni, the 1st, 3d, and 4th Battalions had many problems, most all of which stemmed from the bitter cold that the Marines experienced there. When the temperatures hovered around -20 degrees Fahrenheit, the efficiency of every Marine was greatly reduced. All of the battalions experienced a shortage of ammunition. Most of it was air-dropped, but during the whole time at Yudam-ni only 1,200 rounds of 105mm ammunition was delivered, and 4/11 was never resupplied with 155mm ammunition. The 4th Battalion was limited to counterbattery fire and firing on especially heavy troop concentrations. The extreme cold had an adverse effect on the cannons themselves, and it made air-dropping of ammunition a wasteful practice. Atmospheric conditions such as those of a North Korean winter greatly decreased the maximum effective range of the artillery pieces. "The 105mm howitzer, once fired, will not leap back instantly into battery. It will creep back in 30 seconds or more. Ammunition freezes too. Shells do not go off, and, if they have been air- dropped, perhaps only 25 percent will survive the impact of collision with that rocklike earth."
While the Marines were strung out along the MSR with the 5th and 7th Marines along with three battalions of the 11th and other supporting units extended far to the north, the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) penetrated across the Yalu River into Korea and furiously drove back the U. S. Army troops there. Exploiting the gaps in the American lines that this created, many Chinese divisions soon surrounded the 1st Marine Division, which was forced to withdraw. The only way to do this was to move south along the MSR through the Chinese positions in the crippling cold of a North Korean winter. The Marines held several, isolated points along the MSR, but the Chinese controlled the MSR itself. The problem was to secure high ground along the route so that men and equipment could travel south along it to safety. The 11th Marines displaced southward in such a way as to give maximum, continuous, fire support to the infantry fighting for the high ground. Most of the artillerymen became infantrymen during this march. Only skeleton crews manned the 105s and the 155s. From 1-11 December, the troops doggedly continued south, the Marines leaving no scrap of equipment behind for the Chinese to use. Each battalion of the 11th remained with the RCT to which it had initially been assigned. On 11 December, all the surviving Marines, carrying many of their dead and all their equipment, arrived at Hungnam to embark for South Korea.
The basic problem at Hungnam was to evacuate many thousands of American Marines and soldiers, South Korean troops, and North Korean refugees who could not be left to the mercy of the starving, freezing Chinese. With regard to the enemy situation, Marine air observation showed "continued movement southward to reinforce, with the presence of a considerable number of artillery pieces reported for the first time." The evacuation at Hungnam amounted to a large scale amphibious landing in reverse. In spite of the great number of Communist forces in the area, surprisingly little Chinese and North Korean resistance was encountered, and, by 15 December, all the Marines were gone from Hungnam and North Korea.
The men of the 1st Division spent Christmas of 1950 around Masan, which was a town within what once had been the Pusan perimeter. The 5th Marines had already spent time there the previous August. The division trained and reorganized. On 8 January 1951, General Smith was ordered to move the 1st Marine Division to the vicinity of Pohang in order to block Communist penetrations south of the Andong-Yongdok Road and to protect the Andong- Yongchon MSR. The division moved to the Pohang area on 10 January, and the three RCTs occupied small towns there. The organization of the artillery was the same as it had been in North Korea, 1/11 supporting the 5th, 2/11 supporting the 1st, 3/11 supporting the 7th, and 4/11 in general support. The artillery battalions remained attached to the RCTs. The hardest job was finding the enemy, and this was accomplished by ceaseless and extensive patrolling. The 11th fired in support of these patrols. This action continued until mid-February.
On 16 February, the Marines started on a new offensive along with U. S. Army and other United Nations (UN) troops. They moved to the town of Chungju by truck and rail at the start of Operation KILLER. The 1st and 5th Marines, with 2/11 and 1/11 in direct support respectively, led the attack on Wonju on 21 February. The 2d Battalion, 11th Marines engaged in a lot of counterbattery fire as Chinese artillery attempted to break the attack of the 1st Marines. On 1 March, the 1st Marine Division was ordered to secure a ridgeline running east and west, north of Hoengsong. This time the 1st Marines and the 7th Marines were in the lead with 2/11 and 3/11 in direct support. The 3d Battalion fired 54 missions on 24 target areas during 1 March.
By 4 March, all of the objectives for Operation KILLER were secured, and, on 7 March, Operation RIPPER began. RIPPER was simply a continuation of the previous effort. On 13 March, 2/11 and 3/11 supported the 1st and 7th Marines leading the Hongchon envelopment. Hill 356 fell to the 7th with the help of 3/11 on 14 March, as did Hills 246 and 428 to the 1st after 2/11 had worked on them. All the objectives for Operation RIPPER were taken by 24 March. In a little over a month, the UN forces had sent the confident Chinese reeling northward. After 24 March, the 1st Marine Division moved very briefly into Corps Reserve. RCT-1, including 2/11, went to Hongchon, where the Marines recuperated. The units took on replacements and did some training. RCT-7, however, was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division and crossed the 38th Parallel moving north. On 8 April, the 1st Marine Division crossed the 38th Parallel and relieved the 1st Cavalry Division, regaining control of RCT-7. The offensive continued, until, on 22 April, the CCF rallied and smashed through the 6th Republic of Korea (ROK) Division on the left of the 1st Marine Division.
This was the start of the CCF Spring Offensive of 1951 in which the UN forces traded ground for live bodies. The first four days were tough, especially for RCT-1 and 2/11, which were on the left of the division. There was intense pressure on the 1st Marines until 26 April, but the accurate, voluminous fire of 2/11 prevented the Chinese from mounting a really conclusive attack. RCTs 1 and 5 dropped back to Chunchon across the Pukhan River before the Communist onslaught. The 11th rained fire on the Communist attacks. The 1st Marine Division gave ground, as did other of the UN forces, but only a small number of lives were lost considering the strength of the attacks, and the morale of the Marines remained high. Eventually, the Chinese offensive simply ground to a halt, incapable of further progress. On 17 May, the Chinese launched a severe assault against the 7th Marines during which the Communists were battered by the 105s of 3/11. This victory by the 7th Marines marked the end of the CCF Spring Offensive.
The UN forces reorganized after absorbing the best punch that the Chinese could offer and marched north again. The Marines moved to Yanggu, and the 7th Marines controlled that town by 31 May. The infantry regiments hopped northward from hill to hill while the 11th prepared the ground for them. The cannoneers had to do almost all of the preparatory work because the weather was usually too cloudy for close air support. One trick that the 11th found effective in this offensive was to fire colored smoke rounds. North Korean and Chinese prisoners said that they believed the colored smoke to be poisonous gas because that is what they were told by their officers. The Chinese sacrificed the NKPA as they retreated northward. The North Koreans were shoved into the front lines, and they held as long as they could while the Chinese ran to the north.
Negotiations for peace began in the village of Kaesong on 25 June 1951. The fighting slackened during these negotiations, and the Chinese used this time to consolidate and reorganize their routed legions. At the end of July, 3/11 was under the control of the 2d Infantry Division, and the rest of the 11th moved into X Corps Reserve. While in reserve, the Marines of the 11th underwent training, much of which was conducted at night. An order was issued stating that a minimum of 33 percent of all technical training was to be at night. The Communist delegates walked out of the Kaesong talks on 22 August, satisfied that their troops were now reorganized and ready to carry on the fight. This meant a renewal of activity for the 1st Marine Division.
The 11th Marines, minus 3/11, along with the 196th Field Artillery Battalion, made up the 11th Regiment Group, commanded by Colonel Curtis Burton, Jr., USMC. As the Marines pushed northward again to the Punchbowl area, the 11th often dueled with the Chinese artillery. Artillery was one of the areas in which the Chinese were able to make great improvements during the lull in the fighting while negotiations were being undertaken at Kaesong. The 11th used up an extraordinary amount of ammunition from 1-4 September, and this caused some logistical problems. There was a six-day halt in the offensive in order to allow the Marines to build up a reserve of artillery and mortar ammunition. Until 20 September 1951, the Marines continued to hop hills moving northward, always supported by the 11th. On 20 September 1951, the Marines continued to hop hills moving northward, always supported by the 11th. On 20 September, "the warfare of movement came to an end, and the warfare of position began."<46>
After 20 September, the 11th stayed in the area of the Punchbowl for a long time. Neither the UN forces nor the Communists made any real gains. The 11th was especially important in its effective counterbattery fire and in breaking Communist assaults. The cannoneers fired many leaflets in the psychological warfare campaign hoping to win over some of the North Korean and Chinese troops to the UN side. Mainly the 11th fired at artillery, mortar, machine gun, and recoilless rifle positions, bunkers, supply dumps, truck convoys, bridges, command posts, and observation posts. It fired in support of the many patrols that were sent out to check on the enemy. On 10 November 1951, the 11th along with all other available artillery, naval gunfire, tanks, mortars, and machine guns fired a grand crescendo on Hill 1052, an important enemy observation post, in honor of the Marine Corps Birthday.
The situation as the Marines approached their second winter in Korea was that:
Ground forces operations throughout November seldom varied from the familiar pattern of squad size patrols nightly and an occasional daytime raid by a company size task force with the support of artillery and air. Supporting arms kept enemy strongholds under almost constant fire, and North Korean activity in the construction or improvement of bunkers provided frequent targets of opportunity.
The Panmunjom negotiations began in November 1951, and "active defensive operations" continued. It became a static war. The Marines ran many patrols, took a few casualties, and gained little. At midnight, 31 December, the 11th along with other artillery and naval gunfire fired a New Year's toast to the enemy.
Nothing different happened in January and February 1952. The 11th fired many propaganda leaflets in the never-ending psychological warfare that was carried on in the frozen mountains. As the new year began, the Korean Marine Corps organized a new artillery battalion, consisting of two 105mm and two 155mm howitzer batteries. This battalion was placed in the Punchbowl with the 11th Marines on 9 January.
Operation CLAM-UP began on 9 February 1952. The Marines feigned a large- scale withdrawal. Throughout the winter, the Marines had done a lot of patrolling while the Communists for the most part remained securely in their positions. They now wanted the Communists to think that they were leaving so that the Communists would do more patrolling to look for them and in that way come out in the open. On 9-10 February, the 11th fired 471 harassing and interdicting missions as if covering a withdrawal. The Chinese came out to check the situation, and the rate of Chinese casualties did briefly increase, but the operation was not as successful as was initially hoped. Attached to the 11th Marines during this period was the 92d U. S. Army Searchlight Company, which provided lighting to enable tanks to snipe at the enemy at night.
The Marines moved from East Korea to West Korea in March 1952. The artillery was repositioned across the allied front with as little interruption of support as possible. The batteries of the 11th moved into their new positions from 18-24 March. From March 1952 until 27 July 1953, almost nothing noteworthy happened to the 11th Marines. It supported patrols, fired leaflets, and engaged in counterbattery fire. During this period, the war became a fight for outposts on key terrain. The most bitter fighting during the final year before the armistice occurred over control of these outposts. One of the most famous, and certainly one of the most bitterly contested, was Outpost "Vegas." The outpost changed hands many times during the final days of March 1953. The 11th expended a lot of ammunition on "Vegas" in support of the infantry. By 1 April, "Vegas" was secure. The 11th fired many rounds in the final months of the war supporting Marines both defensively and offensively on many outposts like "Vegas." On 18 April 1953, the 11th announced that it was holding a raffle. Tickets cost 25, and the prize was the casing of the 2 millionth round fired by the 11th in Korea. It had been fired during the atruggle for "Vegas." The money went to the Marine War Memorial Fund.
When the armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, the 11th Marines moved to Inchon, where it remained until 1955. The Marines trained there and undertook peacetime garrison duty. The 11th fired its cannon at "Bullseye Range." Often the battalions of the 11th would accompany infantry regiments of the 1st Marine Division on amphibious training exercises to the eastern coast of Korea. When they were not on these trips, they remained at Inchon, doing enough work to remain fit and ready, generally waiting for something to happen. The various athletic teams fielded by the 11th Marines proved in almost every case to be the strongest in the 1st Marine Division. In June 1954, a stateside-type rifle range with 200, 300, and 500 yard lines was constructed in 3/11's area. Animal lovers of Battery M, 4/11 collected specimens of Korean wildlife while at Inchon. Two of the cannoneers most notable pets were "Big John," a crow whose wings had been clipped, and "Scram," a fawn that had been captured in the area. On 15 September 1954, a party was given by the NCOs of the 11th Marines for the NCOs of the 42d Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. The British NCOs gave the Americans a sign featuring a cannon, copied from the British artillery insignia, and bearing the inscription "Cannon Cocker's Inn."<48> After two years at Inchon, the 11th sailed on 7 March 1955 for Camp Pendleton, which was to be the home of the regiment for the next decade.
55. The 7th Infantry Division in Korea:
When the Korean conflict erupted in June of 1950, the 7th was under the command of Major General David Goodwin Barr. Barr assembled his Division at Camp Fuji, the tent city on the lower slopes of Fujiyama, and put tlrem through a rigorous training schedule. The Division, which had sent several levies of replacements to the fighting front, was woefully understrength; consequently, 8,000 Republic of Korea soldiers were integrated into its ranks. This was a far from an ideal solution, but it was the best that could be reached undcr the circumstances. The ROK soldiers were willing and resourceful--and later they .showed themselves to be courageous as well. But the language barrier was too much to overcome completely. They had to be taught not only to obey commands, but also to understand what the commands meant. Each 7th soldier was given a Korean "running mate" with whom he was supposed to "buddy" both in training and in combat.
While the 7th trained to a fine edge in Japan, the "police action" in Korea started to assume all the earmarks of an infantryman's shooting war. The U. S. Japan garrison was stripped bit by bit as divisions were rushed across the Sea of Japan in an effort to halt the North Koreans who were riding the crest of aggression behind a vanguard of Russian-made T-34 tanks. The Eighth Army was fighting with its back at the sea when General MacArthur decided on an amphibious invasion of Korea's west coast, designating the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division to do the job.
Soon the 7th Division--code-named "Bayonet" for its movement to Korea--was to board troop transports. A day later the shoreline of Korea was ahead. The old-timers among the men grimaced knowingly long before the embattled peninsula became visible. As many of the GIs expressed it in the letters they wrote home. "You could sure smell Korea a long time before you saw it!"
The amphibious venture was a classic. It put U. S. forces on Korea's west coast while the active front was still on the Naktong perimeter far to the southeast. The landing at Inchon sent the North Koreans reeling, and soon the Gl's and Leathernecks were moving in on the South Korean capital city, Seoul. The Division's 32nd Infantry boldly seized Angyang-ni and South Mountain, terrain features dominating Seoul. Then, with the capital in the bag, the Division turned its attention to the south. The 17th Infantry, yanked out of Eighth Army reserve, rejoined the Division in time to fight a fierce 12-hour battle for two vital hills southeast ot Seoul. Soon Barr's soldiers were in command of all terrain southsouthwest of the Han River; they continued to drive toward the southeast to seize key terrain, and also to cut off possible enemy escape routes. The Division then marched 25 miles east to Suwon to capture the important rail juncture of Ichon.
Suwon was taken by the 31st Infantry Regiment fighting under its battle flag for the first time since its surrender to the Japanese on Bataan. The 31st pushed below Suwon and after a stiff fight cleared a tank-supported enemy pocket near Osan, site of the Commmrist tank breakthrough against the 24th Division some sixty days earlier. Here the Division linked up with the flying column from the 1st Cavalry Division, which had raced 102 miles from the Naktong, through enemy-held country, to clear the way for the joining of the two U. S. forces. With the arrival of troops from the Naktong perimeter the mission of the Inchon landing force was complete, and the 7th started a long overland truck march to the east coast of Pusan. Here training was renewed, and harried troop commanders attempted to get replacements for their combat-thinned ranks.
Soon the Bayonet soldiers were again loading into troop transports. This time the target was the east coast village of Iwon. Their orders were: "Advance to the Yalu!"
The Yalu was the river boundary between North Korea and Manchuria. To its north was the "privileged sanctuary" which supplied the North Korean Army, and which was to play so significant a role in the ultimate fate of the Bayonet soldiers who came ashore at Iwon on the last day of October in 1950.
After an unopposed beachhead landing on the last day of October, 1950, the Division started driving north. Along the way they met a sharp skirmish at Pungsan and a harsh firefight at Kapsan. The push continued in arctic-like cold weather, and on November 20, Colonel Herbert B. Powell's 17th Infantry slogged into Hyesanjin-on-the-Yalu--the first U. S. unit to reach the Manchurian border. Hyesaujin, which means "ghost city of broken bridges" was the northernmost point of advance by the United Nations' command in three years of bitter warfare.
"We swept through the city," related Colonel Powell, "and took a good look around. Then we dropped back to a good hill position to wait for something to happen." They didn't have long to wait.
The Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) intervened in the war on November 27, striking twin blows against Eighth Army in western Korea and X Corps in the east. The enemy attack caught the 7th strung out, with some elements as far as 250 miles apart. The 17th was northwest of the Chosin at Hyesanjin. Neither of the other regiments was intact at the time the action started, nor were they able to get together during the furions action that followed.
Captain Charles Peckham's Company B, 31st Infantry, had been on special detail, and was nearing Koto-ri en route north to rejoin its outfit, the 1st Battalion, which was supposed to reinforce the 3d Battalion on the northeast shore of the Cliosin reservoir. The 2nd Battalion was at Majong-dong awaiting orders. Peckham didn't get through. At Koto-ri his Company was impressed into a hurriedly organized special column called Task Force Drysdale. Composed of Peckham's Company, a company of Marines, and the 41st Commando (Royal Marines), Task Force Drysdale fought its way up the main supply route to crash the Chincse road blocks and bring much-needed supplies and ammunition to the sorely-pressed defenders of Hagam-ri. They sustained heavy casualties en route.
Furthest north at this time was the 1st Battalion of the 32d Infantry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Don Carlos Faith, Jr. Faith's command, beyond the northeast shore of the reservoir, engaged in five days of hellish combat. Fighting in the cruelest weather, surrounded, vastly outnumbered and outgunned, knowing full well that no help could come, they fought to the end.
Behind them was the task group headed by Colonel Allan D. MacLean, commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment. MacLean had with him his 3d Battalion, his heavy mortar company, the 57th Field Artillery battalion, and a fcw self-propelled automatic weapons. In the five days that followed, MacLean's battalion of the 31st suffered nearly as many casualties as the entire 31st had suffered on Bataan.
In one particularly vicious attack the Chinese drove a wedge between Faith's and MacLean's forces. MacLean was conferring with Faith at the time, and was thus cut off from his command. Furthermore, both outfits were completely surrounded. Knowing it was essential for them to link up again, MacLean and Faith decided to mount an attack to demolish the Chinese block between their outfits. In the firefight that followed, MacLean disappeared, never to be seen by his men again; much later they learned he had been taken prisoner.
Faith's soldiers reached MacLean's command just as the Chinese were getting set to launch an attack on the artillery batteries, hit the Communist soldiers from the rear, and drove them off, killing more than 6o of them. Then Faith combined the two U. S. forces, and decided to attack to the south in an effort to reach the base at Hagaru-ri.
His tattered frost-bitten soldiers were in miserable condition. Most of them were walking wounded; some were forced to use their weapons for crutches. Faith rallied the dispirited men and led them down the road toward the enemy strong point which threatened to wipe them out. He called the shots all the way as his men, near the point of collapse after five days of savage close quarters' fighting, followed him to the roadblock. Faith was in the lead, and was finally knocked down; but his men overran the enemy position and found themselves momentarily out of contact with the enemy.
Practically none of the officers or key noncoms were left. The remains of the task force dissolved into small groups for the last ten miles down to Hagaru-ri. It was only ten miles, but it might as well have been ten thousand for some of them. That night, December 1, the dazed and bloodied survivors started straggling in. When the last survivors of Task Force Faith reached the lines at Hagaru-ri on December 4, the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, which had started its march north on November 25 one thousand strong, was able to muster only 181 officers and men.
Nor was the ordeal over. In column with the Marines, the elements of the 7th Division which were in or around Koto ri had to fight their way south to the Hamhung perimeter in a blinding snowstorm with the enemy dogging at them all the way, sniping at them from the ridgelines, and getting closer with each passing hour.
Not all of the 7th Division had suffered the terrible toll inflicted on Faith's Battalion and MacLean's Task Force. A number of units redeployed to the Hungnam port area intact, still fit to fight. But the last days of 1950 were mostly sad ones for a Division which had once been known as the "Lucky Seventh." It had barreled up to the Yalu River, the only U. S. Division to achieve that high water mark, and then had been set upon by the massed divisions of a new enemy and forced to retrace its steps, fighting every inch of the way. Phase II of the Division's combat career in Korea ended with the bitter campaign of the Chosin Reservoir.
Ncw Year's day, 1951, found the Division, spearheaded by the 17th Infantry Regiment, again heading north, attacking at Tangyang in South Korea, and blocking enemy threats from the northwest. Soon all of the refurbished Bayonet was back in action around Cheehon, Chungju, and Pyongchang. The 7th was under a new commander, Major General Claude Birkett Ferenbaugh. The Bayonet engaged in a series of successful "limited objective" attacks in the early weeks of February. Late February found the 17th Infantry Buffalos, now under the command of Colonel William Quinn, driving against a ridge near the village of Maltari. A platoon from Company E inched close to the crest only to be enveloped in automatic weapons fire from both flanks and the front. The leaders of both front-running squads went down, and the leaderless men were dazed and bewildered. Corporal, Einar H. Ingman, a 21-year-old soldier from Tomahawk, Wisconsin, quickly assumed command. He reorganized the squads under fire, then waded into the enemy all by himself, taking out a machine gun crew with grenades and rifle fire. Another enemy gun 50 yards to his rigbt opened up, and Ingman went after it. Halfway there he was hit by a grenade, but managed to keep going. He was almost to his target when the enemy gunner spotted him and fired a long burst that caught Ingman in the head and neck and sent him reeling to the ground. But the Wisconsin soldier rose to his feet and resolutely resumed his one-man war. He wiped out the machine gun crew, then slumped unconscious over the gun he had taken. The two squads followed him and got to the emplacement he had taken just in time to see a large number of the
enemy fleeing down the far side of the hill, throwing away their rifles. Ingman, who had also been woundcd in the fighting near Seoul, recovered from the wounds he got in this furious action, was promoted to Sergeant First Class, and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Bayonet was put in the van of the IX Corps assault, and fought a fierce three-day battle culminating with the recapture of the terrain that had been lost near the Hwachon Reservoir just over the 38th Parallel in North Korea. Here the Division enjoycd a victory that was doubly sweet. In capturing the town bordering on the reservoir it cut off thousauds of enemy troops who were trapped in the important electrical power center, and at the same time gained some measure of revenge for the bitter memories of the Chosin campaign. The IX Corps' attack, Operation Piledriver, continued in the face of fanatical Chinese resistance. The enemy waited for the Gl's in the hills beyond the Hwachon, entrenched in log bunkers and reinforced pillboxes behind heavily-mined roads, coming out to fight at night.
The end of June brought the 7th a welcome assignment to the rear, the first relief from frontline duty since the Division had reached Korea. There was the inevitable reshuffling of assignments. Colonel Quinn was ordered to a new assignment; His successor was Lieutenant Colonel Hal Dale McCown. Lieutenant Colonel Glen A. Nelson, who had been a battalion commander under Mickey Finn back in the Hourglass days of World War II, took over the 31st Infantry Regiment; and Colonel Charles McNamara Mount, Jr., took over the 32nd Infantry.
After a brief rest the Division was ordered into defensive positions north of Hwachon. Toward the end of August, a number of limited objective attacks were ordered to take key terrain features and improve the front lines. In ten days the Division captured five important hills, in what one division historian has described as "the best fighting in tire Division's history."
When the Division returned to the lines after another assignment in reserve, it was to the Heartbreak Ridge sector recently vacated by the 2d Division. The 7th also took in the northern the of the "Punchbowl." About this time General Ferenbaugh left, to be replaced by Major General Lyman L. Lemnitzcr, under whom the Bayonet continued to defend "Line Missouri" through September 1952. By that time General Lemnitzer had been replaced by Major General Wayne C. Smith, who took over while the Division was still on the so-called "Static Line."
The Division's Operation Showdown was launched in the early morning hours of October 14, 1952, with the 31st Infantry Polar Bears passing swiftly through the lines of the 32 Infantry Buccaneers. The target of the assault was the Triangle Hill complex northeast of Kumhwa. The 31st moved against a strategic spot which for obvious reasons was named "Jane Russell Hill."
The next day the Bayonet attacked again. And again on the day after that. Three days later the attack finally succeeded. In one of the counterattacks mounted by the Communists, a strategic Bayonet position on the hill would have been overrun but for the courage of PFC Ralph E. Pomeroy, who calmly pulled his machine gun off its tripod and started walking downhill toward the enemy, firing into them as he walked, hand grenades blew the helmet off his head, but he continued into the enemy's midst. And when he came to the end of the ammunition belt, he swung the machine gun as a club, continuing to close with the enemy until they engulfed him by sheer numbers. He was still fighting them when his buddies of Company E, 31st Infantry, got their last glimpse of him.
The Bayonet remained in the Triangle Hill area until the end of October, when it was relieved by the 25th Infantry Division. It had won an important victory in what Lieutenant General Reubcn E. Jenkins, commander of IX Corps, termed "the most violcnt action of this corps in over a year." General Jenkins also said, "In my opinion there could be no finer assignment for a Corps Commander than to command a corps composed of divisions of the quality of the 7th Infantry Division."
'The New Year (1953) found the 31st Polar Bears and the 32nd Buccaneers holding positions on "Line Jamestown" awaiting the return of the 17th from Koje-do. The Buffalos rejoined the Division in mid-January, to join in the patrol activity around Old Baldy and Pork Chop. April brought a stepping-up of the enemy's ground activity and Operation Littie Switch, the exchange of sick and wounded prisouers. The Communists overran Pork Chop, but the 7th counterattacked and rewon the OP the next day. While the, negotiations continued their deliberations at Panmunjom, the frontline activity continued. July 6 the Reds launched a determined attack against Pork Chop--the strongest display of force the Bayouet had seen in that sector. Five days of savage, fighting followed with the same ground being taken and retaken as the tide of battle surged first one way and then the other.
At twenty minutes before eleven AM. on July 27, 1953, a message was received by the Division--and immediately flashed to all units--that an Armistice had been signed and was to go into effect at ten that night. Collectively and individually the Division breathed a sigh of relief, and each man prayed silently that, having got this close, his luck would hold out another twelve hours.
On OP Westview, where a ninety-minute battle had raged the night before, the Bayonet soldiers wondered anxiously if the enemy might decide to finish the war in a blaze of glory. Those were 12 extra-long hours.
The men checked and rechecked their gear, and cleaned their weapons. At one outpost six rounds of mortar fire fell inside the perimeter during the afternoon, but none of the boys were hit. Around nine PM the 7th soldiers noticed that the Reds had a huge searchlight beam playing on Old Baldy.
Forty-five minutes ticked slowly by. The latest order was passed from man to man: "No firing from now on--it's up to them!"
Then the hour struck; the campaign in Korea had come to an end.
Someone said, "Look. They shut off that damned searchlight." A 7th Division soldier wrote in his diary, "We could hear voices across the line, but for the first time the angry noises of warfare had disappeared."
Forty-eight months after the cease fire the 7th Division was still on duty within shouting distance of the battlefields of 1950-53. But the men who wore the Hourglass-shaped shoulder patch of the Bayonet Division refused to be annoyed when, as often happens, some humorist points to their insignia and says, "Why, there goes the Korean National Guard."
END OF THIS DISK