1. Critical Transportation
Col. John K. McCormick, G4; Major William H. Barker, Assistant Provost
Marshal; Capt. Jasper N. Erskine, Highway Regulating Officer, X Corps; Major
Harry J. Dodd, Executive Officer, 52d Transportation Truck Battalion. (Condensed
from an article by Lt. John Mewha, 8th Historical Detachment, based on
interviews with officers of X Corps.)
Highway transportation has always been critical in Korea. The limited road
net has been broken down by 'neavy traffic, and roads through the mountains are
often narrow and usable only for one-way traffic. Distances are long and
When the enemy attack began in May 1951, X Corps found it difficult to carry
the greatly increased ammunition tonnages necessary to defend itself while
maintaining supply and troop movements at the same time. The 52d Transportation
Truck Battalion, which included elements of seventeen truck companies, supported
X Corps. Temporary truck organizations were developed whenever it became
In mid-May the transportation officer of X Corps was directed to furnish
forty trucks to assist the 3d Infantry Division's move from south of Seoul to
Soksa-ri. Anticipating that the loss of forty vehicles would slow the delivery
of supplies, the G4 of X Corps (Col. John K. McCormick) instructed the chiefs of
X Corps' technical services to canvass their units for trucks not hauling
essential cargos. The result was a collection of 3/~- and 2~-/2-ton trucks and
dump trucks, lowboys and equipment trailers. These were drawn from the 4th
Signal Battalion, the Ist and 2d Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, the 520th
Quartermaster Battalion, the 69th Ordnance Battalion, and the 8224th Engineer
Construction Group. The fify to sixty trucks thus gathered were called "the
Military police check points were set up by X Corps near each ammunition
point. All cmpy trucks going north, except emergency vehicles,
were loaded with ammunition. Each driver was given a note stating that
his truck had been commandeered, and giving the amount of time it had been used.
An average of twenty-five vehicles each day were pressed into service this
Under the direction of the 52d Truck Battalion, a separate truck group was
established to haul ammunition exclusively. Many of the vehicles were taken from
units of the 52d, others were borrowed from X Corps units.
A control point for ammunition trucks was established near the railhead at
Wonju. To prevent confusion at the ammunition supply point, vehicles were
dispatched in serials of five or ten. Normally twenty vehicles an hour entered
the ammunition dump. At the control point a driver could get a meal from a
24-hour kitchen, and a service station provided second-echelon maintenance.
Once the ammunition trucks were loaded at Wonju, they drove to ASP No. 50 at
Hongchon. Here the ammunition was usually transferred -- from tail gate onto tail
gate -- to the vehicles of the using unit. For accounting and safety, it was
against operating procedure for trucks to go directly from Wonju to the front
lines, but it is believed that many of them did.
On the driver fell the burden of long hours of work. Normally each truck had
two assigned drivers, and the shift was twelve hours. Many drivers, however,
stayed at the wheel to the limits of endurance, and some drove eighteen or
twenty hours daily.
Special operations required around-the-clock driving. To replace vehicles
lost, a group of ordnance officers and men were flown to Pusan. They returned
104 trucks and 30 trailers from Pusan to Hongchon (332 miles) in 48 hours. Road
conditions made driving slow and left little time for rest.
On another occasion, X Corps had only a few hours in which to gather three
hundred trucks to make troop movements. The 52d Truck Battalion furnished 200
vehicles, and military police commandeered another 94. There was not enough time
to notify the units that their vehicles had been taken, and no arrangements were
made for gasoline or for feeding the drivers. The individual driver had to
scrounge for his own supply. This system of obtaining transportation was used on
Many other expedients had to be used when the demand for transportation was
so great. Ordnance companies kept maintenance patrols on the road twenty-four
hours a day, and light aircraft were used to spot disabled vehicles. Repair of
the vehicles was accomplished on the spot, when possible, or the vehicles were
returned to the shops for major repair.
Traffic control was carefully planned and supervised. In addition to
standard highway control, light aircraft were used to direct military police
to traffic jams. On one occasion, the corps commander's personal helicopter was
used to patrol the roads and to assist in traffic control. X Corps approached
one hundred per cent utilization of its truck capacity.
2. Truck Platoon in Korea
Lt. Alfred J. Catania, 377th Transportation Truck Company
Late in July 19S0 a telegram cut short my leave and returned me to Fort Sill.
There I found my unit, the 377th Transportation Truck Company, was on overseas
Our assigned men were well trained, for we had completed an exercise only
four months before. The training and capability of our replacements was still
unknown. As we received new vehicles we ran them through our company motor shop,
then through post ordnance, which prepared them for overseas shipment. Trailers
were then loaded on and strapped to the beds of the trucks, and the trucks were
loaded onto flatcars. This shipment preceded the company and was not seen again
until after we arrived in Japan.
We landed at Yokohama on 28 August and were temporarily attached to Yokohama
Motor Command. A few days later we received notice that some of our trucks had
arrived at the port. It took some ten days to get all our vehicles since they
came in several vessels and were unloaded at different piers.
While our vehicles were arriving in driblets we were warned to stand ready to
load on one day's notice. This brought about confusion, as we had to requisition
equipment from Yokohama Motor Command, and in most cases our own equipment
arrived in time to be loaded. Inventories, overages, turn-ins, and paper work
While at Yokohama all our vehicles were put into running condition and
combat-loaded. During the second week of September our personnel boarded a
transport, and on about D plus 8 they were unloaded at Inchon. The next day our
vehicles arrived and were put to work.
The beaches at Inchon were piled high with equipment. We hauled supplies over
the causeway from Wolmi-do, from the beaches, and from shipside in the tidal
basin. Our trucks operated around the clock. Each truck had two assigned
drivers, and each worked a twelve-hour shift. The demand for transportation was
so great that we did not have time to perform second-echelon maintenance.
was performed at the loading or unloading points, while the drivers waited in
line. The company wrecker was posted near the tidal basin where all of our
trucks had to pass. It carried parts and lubricants, and had two mechanics
waiting to make emergency repairs and fix flat tires.
At Inchon we joined several newly arrived truck companies to form the 52d
Transportation Truck Battalion. One day in mid-October, however, our company was
relieved from the tidal basin haul at 1900, and departed for Pusan at 0200 the
following morning. We were loaded with troops and equipment and made the forced
march of 350 miles in about 36 hours. Every vehicle made it under its own power.
We ran into sporadic enemy fire north of Taegu several times, but all vehicles
kept moving and sustained no damage.
At Pusan the company had time to do some needed maintenance work. We left our
trucks loaded and ready for movement to the transports. But orders were changed.
We had to unload our cargo, haul troops, then reload and drive to dockside. This
kept us plenty busy for the five days at Pusan.
Once on board the transports we lay at anchor some nine or ten days before we
steamed to Wonsan, in North Korea, where we landed on 1 November 1950. The
trucks were transferred to LSTs by the ships' gear, and some were damaged, since
the transfer was made in heavy seas.
Our first mission ashore was to deliver the cargo in our vehicles. This
included 37 truckloads to the 121st Evacuation Hospital at Hamhung, some 75
miles northeast. When we applied for road clearance, X Corps directed us to keep
the vehicles in the Wonsan area as the enemy had set up a roadblock fifteen
miles north. Marines cleared the road, and the next day we drove to Hamhung. We
returned the following day, and the Wonsan-Hamhung run became our regular
Just before midnight of 5 November, the company was ordered to furnish an
officer, a driver, and a jeep to the transportation oflficer of X Corps at 0600
next morning. I received the assignment. I reported and was informed I would be
the commander of a convoy assembling at 0700 to move part of the 65th Infantry
from Wonsan to Yonghung, about forty miles north. I was to control forty-six
vehicles assembled from various corps units. I met my vehicles and at the same
time reported to the CO of the 65th Infantry. He took the vehicles, parceled
them out to his battalions and companies, and I had nothing more to do than
follow the convoy and return the trucks when the march was over. The convoy left
Wonsan at 0930 but did not arrive at Yonghung until 1600. The movement was slow,
and the convoy stopped time and again to investigate groups of civilians near
the road, and occasionally to send out a patrol or engage in a small fire
Ambush of Truck Convoy
At Yonghung the troops were unloaded in different areas. I designated a
rendezvous in Yonghung and waited for my trucks to assemble. The first
trucks arriving at the rendezvous I moved out as a serial
at 1700. It was 1800 before the rest were ready to go. The return trip should
not have taken over two hours, but before I could clear the town I had to wait
for a long Marine tank convoy. I was delayed over an hour and it was dark before
my serial left Yonghung. My jeep was the last vehicle.
After we passed Kowon, about halfway to Wonsan, I noticed a fire up ahead. I
doubled the stopped convoy and at the head of the column I found a 2-1/2-ton
truck, loaded with 55-gallon drums of gasoline, on fire. The truck had been
burning for some time since the drums were already beginning to explode. The
flaming vehicle was in the middle of a narrow, one-lane causeway, with rice
paddies on each side. My lead vehicle was halted at a fork in the road. The
burning truck was on the left fork, which was the main road. I was quite sure
from my previous trips rhat the right fork went through a village, bent to the
left, crossed a bridge, and joined the main road about two miles away. I told
the sergeant in the lead vehicle to reconnoiter the right fork to the main road,
checking especially the capacity of the bridge. He took several men with him in
his jeep, and on his return said the road was wide enough and the bridge strong
enough to support a 2-1/2-ton truck.
The convoy then proceeded by the right fork, but stopped about a mile farther
on. Again I doubled the column to see what was wrong. The sergeant told me
things didn't look right to him. Although the civilians were under curfew, a
civilian had stood by the road as he drove through the village and waved the
convoy on. Farther on, seven or eight civilians were standing in the road, but
scattered when they came within the headlight beams. I told the men to remount
and continue on, but at that moment we were struck by small-arms fire from both
sides of the road and in front. We were forced to the rear, and I instructed the
men to stay on the road and fire at anyone who approached from the fields on
each side of us. This was to prevent our men from firing at one another in the
Making a defense with these 25 to 30 men was virtually impossible. I didn't
know them, since they were not from the 377th. Some of them had no weapons. One
truck mounted a caliber .50 machine gun, and I ordered the driver to return fire
with it. He got into position and pulled at the operating handle, then declared
that the weapon was jammed. Later, the enemy turned this gun on us, and I
believe that driver just didn't know how to use his weapon. In the circumstances
I could do nothing but order the men to move to the rear of the convoy. At the
tail of the column I ordered the last four trailers unhitched, the trucks
turned, and the men to load up and drive out. Three vehicles were turned around,
loaded, and moved out. Then I discovered I was alone with the fourth truck! All
the men had left in the first three.
I got into the fourth truck, started the engine, and turned it around. As I
did so a North Korean ran alongside. His white clothing stood out clearly in the
night. I pointed my pistol at him and fired twice. I either hit him or scared
him, because he dropped back, and I drove away.
Half a mile down the road I passed two of the trucks that had preceded me.
Both were in a ditch, and one was on its side. Then I came to the third truck,
which was halted and blocking the road. A hail of fire began to hit my vehicle
from the left and I believe a hundred men were firing their rifles from an
embankment. Bullets splintered the hood and the cab of the truck, and I felt one
nick my leg. I jumped from the truck on the right side and ran through the rice
paddies. I put a good mile between me and the scene of the ambush, but I saw
none of the men of the convoy in that distance. Then I lay low for the
I heard the enemy soldiers driving the vehicles during the night, and
searching everywhere for our drivers. Early in the morning I heard someone
walking about, and I saw he was an American. I told him to
be quiet and to join me, but he was so disgusted and tired he didn't seem to
care. He said he had been captured by two North Koreans during the night, and
that they had debated what to do with him. One obviously wanted to kill him, the
other was for letting him go. Finally, they relieved him of his valuables, hit
him over the head with his own rifle, kicked him, and let him go.
Late in the night the guerrillas burned all the vehicles, since they could
not take them up into the mountains with them. During this night Kowon was
recaptured, and the 65th Infantry and the 96th Field Artillery Battalion at
Yonghung were both under heavy attack.
When the civilians began to come out of doors next morning I figured
everything had quieted down. The enlisted man and I forced a civilian to guide
us to the main road, and we started walking toward Wonsan. We hid when a jeep
came along until we were sure it was carrying Americans, then we hailed it. The
ride took us to X Corps headquarters, where I reported to the transportation
officer, and later to G2.
I found I was not wounded in the leg as I supposed, but I had bullet holes
through both trouser legs. I never learned what happened to the men of that
convoy, for they came from so many different units. Those who escaped just
returned "home." My jeep driver came back a day after I did, with a story that
Two days later, the 377th moved the equipment of X Corps headquarters to
Hamhung. We were billeted in that city and worked directly under the corps
transportation officer until the 52d Transportation Truck Battalion and its
other companies joined us. About the third week in November we were attached to
the 7th Infantry Division and the company moved to Pukchong and worked directly
under that division's G4.
We moved rations, ammunition, and gasoline for the 7th Division over one of
the highest and most difficult mountain ranges in Korea. The main supply road
was only one lane wide over a mountain that was 11 miles uphill and 9 miles
downhill (going north). MPs with telephones and radios were posted on each side
of the mountain and controlled the traffic. Convoys moved as quickly as they
were loaded, and the south-bound trip usually carried troops, prisoners, or
empty gasoline drums. A temperature of 10 below zero in the mountains did not
contribute to the comfort of any trip.
On 27 November I was instructed to take my truck platoon to X Corps
headquarters at Hamhung. There I was to meet a 7th Division liaison officer and
receive further instructions. In Hamhung the liaison officer told me I was to
shuttle parts of two infantry regiments to the Changjin Reservoir area.
On 28 November I loaded a reinforced infantry company of 325 men and headed
for a small town 1S or 20 miles north of Hamhung. I
unloaded the troops and went back for a second shuttle. I was met by a
messenger who informed me I was to take the same reinforced company and move it
to its regimental CP on the highway east of Changjin Reservoir. The instructions
were rather vague as to the CP's location, but I returned and remounted the
About five miles farther north, MPs stopped the convoy and delayed it for
about two hours while engineers cleared the road ahead of a landslide.
While we were waiting on the road some North Korean soldiers were captured.
They were walking down the road in civilian clothes but our KATUSA (1) troops
spotted them. We inquired why our men were so certain, and they replied that the
"civilians" had their hair cut -- strictly a military operation in Korea.
Interrogated, the prisoners admitted their military identities; one claimed he
was from a North Korean regiment, the other said he was attached to a Chinese
At 2100 we approached Koto-ri and were halted by U.S. marines. We were told
the enemy had a roadblock just a thousand yards farther up the road. Our convoy
pulled into the Marine perimeter for the night, and the following morning Col.
Lewis B. Puller, USMC, formed all troops in the vicinity into a task force. This
included a Marine company, our reinforced company, and a company of British
Royal Marine Corps commandos. An artillery barrage began, and then U.S. Marine
jet fighters plastered the hills on both sides of the road. I watched the show
as I waited at the U.S. Marine command post.
At about 1400 I was ordered to a rendezvous point, but on arriving there
found the infantry were still fighting. I stopped the convoy a few hundred yards
behind the infantry and went forward on foot to the company commander. I located
him in his gully CP and told him I had instructions to carry him up the road. He
replied that he was still under fire and didn't see how he could possibly load
up or continue through. He dispatched a messenger to inform Colonel Puller of
the situation. About two hours later a message came back, again ordering the
infantry to load up and proceed.
As a result of loading under fire, the infantry got all mixed up and lost its
tactical unity. Other convoys began moving at the same time, and we were soon
mixed with Marine and Army trucks. The British commandos were riding with our
The trucks maintained a 50-to-100-yard interval. There were frequent
unexplained halts, and by dark my vehicle had made only three miles. I walked
forward during a halt to see the cause of the delay. At this point the road was
running through a valley some 500 or 600 yards wide, flanked by sharp-rising
mountains. To the right of the road was a narrow-gauge railroad in the scant
fifty yards between us and the slope.
1 Korean Augmentation to the United States Army.
To the left it was almost five hundred yards to the incline, but a
fastflowing mountain stream divided the distance. It was very dark except for
the period when the moon was directly over the valley.
Map of Positions Near Koto-ri
When I was some four hundred yards ahead of my vehicle, I saw five or six
Chinese soldiers walking along the railroad track to our right. It was just
light enough to identify their quilted uniforms. I warned a nearby truckload of
infantrymen and they began searching the area with rifle fire. I pitched a
grenade in the direction where I had last seen the enemy. This acted as a
signal, and the Chinese began firing on us from the railroad and up on the
mountainside to our right -- all the way up and down the column. Rifles, machine
guns, grenades and mortars, all east of the road, began striking the vehicles
Our trucks were widely separated and there was no great concentration of men
at any point. Near me were only a couple of my own men and some infantrymen.
Throughout the night I did not see any of the infantry officers, but our convoy
was spread over three or four miles, and they could have been anywhere in the
column. Because of the confusion in loading, not even squads were together. I
took command of everyone near me and directed the men to fall behind the trucks
into the field west of the road. There was little cover, however, and it was
impossible to dig into the frozen ground.
Casualties were mounting, and I was wounded twice. I was hit once in the back
by a shell fragment, and in the shoulder by a caliber .45 slug that broke my
collar bone and lodged in my neck. The pain was great. I thought I'd been hit in
the neck, and an infantryman even bandaged me there. He also gave me a shot of
morphine to ease the pain. I had my head propped up on my helmet and continued
to give what little control was possible in the situation.
One of my men told me a truck in the middle of the valley floor had a caliber
.30 machine gun strapped to its fender and a box of ammunition under the seat.
After the attack had begun the driver had turned this vehicle around and had
tried to make a break for it down the
middle of the field, but had abandoned the attempt. As luck would have it,
the truck was now in clear moonlight, in the direct line of fire, and the
machine gun was strapped to the front fender on the side nearest the enemy. I
called for volunteers, fearing that if we didn't get the gun the enemy would.
None of the infantrymen would go, but one of my truck drivers volunteered and
made the trip. He reached the truck, crawled onto the near fender and reached
over the hood to pull the machine gun from its position. He could not get the
tripod. Then he got the box of ammunition from under the driver's seat and
returned. Throughout the night he fired the machine gun from the hip, and it was
an important weapon in our defense. When he ran out of ammunition he threw the
gun in a deep hole in the stream. This soldier was later awarded the Silver
With our heavy casualties, and a feeling the enemy was coming in on our
flanks, I decided to fall back to the stream at about 0200. At 0430 it became
clear we could not remain there either. I told the men to split up, cross the
stream, and head for the mountain behind. The numbing effect of the cold seemed
to make it less effort just to remain where they were, and I finally decided to
move on with just one of my truckers. I had to be helped to get my head up, but
then I could walk. As the infantry saw me go they slowly moved out, waded the
stream, and started up the hill.
As I got farther up the hill it developed that my own party would be three
enlisted men and myself. One of the truckers and the infantryman with us were
wounded. Only one driver was unhurt. He helped us along. After all that had gone
on during the night, the infantryman still clutched a blanket, and carried it
When we reached the hilltop it began to get light. I knew our feet would
freeze if we did not give them attention since we had gotten them wet in wading
the stream. I always carried a knife that was fashioned from an old, cut-down
cavalry saber, and we used this to cut the frozen laces of our boots. I hoped to
take out the heavy, inner-liner socks and warm them next to my body, but they
were so frozen to the boots that I could not get them out. I threw away both
socks and shoes. I used my pile-liner cap in place of one shoe and tied strips
of blanket around the other foot. The men did the same.
Near daylight we became aware of another party near at hand. We were scared,
but no worse than the three marines who finally challenged us. We had been
within fifty yards of one another for some time without knowing it. I still
laugh at the marine challenging us with his carbine. It had gotten wet when he
crossed the stream and the bolt was a solid block of ice. He could no more have
shot me than he could have shot his dear old grandmother back in the States.
None of the marines was wounded, so I asked them to go back the
three miles to the Marine perimeter and see if they could get us some help.
They agreed, but after a two-hour wait we became apprehensive. Finally, our
small party began to move painfully back toward the Marine position. Soon it
became apparent we would have to return to the road to make the journey. We did
so and marched straight down the road to Koto-ri. It was an unusual journey, for
we knew the Chinese were all about us and watching us walk. From near us they
fired at a helicopter that flew up the canyon. Yet they let us hobble past.
When we reached the Marine perimeter at Koto-ri, I found that the town was
surrounded. With the other wounded I was placed on a stretcher in a tent, and
stayed there for three days. During the first two days rations were short and I
got only one can of C rations and a couple of cups of fruit juice. Food didn't
bother me much at that point, however. On the third day an airstrip was opened
and the food became much better. Light planes began to fly out the more
seriously wounded, and I went out by that method. From Koto-ri I flew to
Hamhung, then was loaded on a C-54 for Japan. From Japan I was flown to the
November 1950 was a pretty rough month on the 377th. At the end of that
period we had only 21 vehicles left of our original 48. It was pretty tough on
my platoons, too. In the ambush above Koto-ri, 18 of my 30 men became
casualties: 3 killed, 7 wounded, 8 missing. I noticed 4 of the missing on the
POW lists released by the Chinese. They were carried as "members of the 7th
3. Amphibian Truck Company
Capt. Robert J. Gilroy, 3d Transportation Amphibian Truck Company
The 74th Transportation Truck Company was based on Yokohama Motor Command. On
7 July 1950 the unit was inactivated and reactivated as the 8062d Transportation
Amphibian Truck Company (Provisional). There had been only 3 officers and 94
enlisted men in the 74th, and these became the nucleus of the amphibian
Immediately upon activation, the commanding officer (Capt. Robert J. Gilroy)
requested additional personnel and equipment, based on the new T/O&E. The
company received 100 enlisted men from commands throughout Japan, and 2
additional officers. Even so, there was only one person in the entire company -- an
enlisted man -- who had been in an amphibian truck company before. The company did
not receive any mechanics experienced in repairing amphibian trucks (DUKWs),
nor did it receive additional drivers to handle the 71 vehicles the company
received instead of its authorized 38.
Almost as soon as the DUKWs were issued, Captain Gilroy was informed that his
company was to participate in the assault landings at Pohang-dong. The drivers
were given only a short series of training talks before they were assigned the
mission of loading the three field artillery battalions of the 1st Cavalry
On 18 July 19S0 the 8062d landed at Pohang-dong -- carrying the three battalions
of 105-mm howitzers, unloading them, and towing them behind the DUKWs into their
battery positions. During the next twentyfour hours the company moved from ship
to shore thirty thousand rounds of 105-mm ammunition, and untotaled amounts of
rocket and small-arms ammunition.
On 1 August 1950 the company was redesignated the 3d Transportation Amphibian
Truck Company, operating under T/O&E 55-37, augmented by one operating
platoon. This called for 50 amphibian trucks, but the company continued to
operate the 71 DUKWs originally assigned, still with the same number of
During 1-26 August we off-loaded approximately 26,500 tons of ammunition from
nine vessels at Suyong. To handle this operation the company found it necessary
to set up, staff, supervise, and operate traffic control systems used by the
truck companies assisting us; unloading points in the ammunition dump, traffic
nets and systems; and complete organization and control of the transfer points.
Cranes were not available at the transfer points, and the A-frames organic to
the DUKW company were used instead.
Concurrent with the operations at Suyong, the company sent detachments on
various tactical missions. Five are of especial importance.
(1) On 8 August 1950 a detachment commanded by Sgt. Lawrence Riley was sent
to operate with the 1st Marine Brigade at Masan. This detachment unloaded
supplies from LSTs, then evacuated wounded from Masan under fire.
(2) On 11 August 1950 a detachment commanded by Sgt. James M. Simms was
placed on detached service with KMAG for operations at Yongdok. Here the men
unloaded badly needed ammunition from LSTs, then evacuated wounded to a hospital
ship. All this was done under heavy fire.
(3) On 16 August 1950 another detachment under Sergeant Riley joined KMAG to
unload urgently needed supplies from an LST into Pohang-dong. This mission was
completed under fire while the North Koreans were attacking the town. Later
these men assisted in the evacuation of the town.
(4) On 1 September 1950 a detachment under Sgt. Clifton B. Nelson was placed
on detached service with the 9th Infantry to carry supplies across the Naktong River. Before this could be done, attacking North
Korean forces made a withdrawal necessary. This detachment helped to evacuate
friendly troops under fire.
(5) On 4 September 1950 a detachment commanded by Lt. Jack W. Ley departed on
LSTs for the vicinity of Pohang-dong. There the LSTs lay off shore while
Lieutenant Ley's detachment evacuated 750 wounded South Korean soldiers from
near the battle lines.
On 19 September 1950 two platoons were ordered to the 2d Infantry Division to
assist the assault crossing of the Naktong River. One platoon, commanded by Lt.
John F. Williams, reported to the 23d Infantry. This platoon made a successful
crossing. In the forty hours following H-hour, it carried the 23d Infantry's
three battalions and their supplies across the river. During this same period,
by lashing a section of ponton bridge between two DUKWs, the platoon ferried 138
tanks across the river. The platoon remained at the site for the next eight days
to operate a ferry and to assist the engineers in constructing a bridge.
A second platoon, under Lt. Claude Payne, came under exceedingly heavy fire.
The crossing was made and ferry service established, but at a cost of 2 killed,
4 wounded, and 10 DUKWs damaged and sunk by enemy mortar and small-arms fire.
All but one of these amphibian vehicles were salvaged and returned to service.
Lieutenant Payne's operation was carried out under extremely adverse conditions.
Mud -- the DUKW's worst enemy -- lined both river banks. Enemy fire, ground haze, and
lack of information hindered the mission.
On 8 October 1950 an advance party and an operating platoon, all commanded by
Lt. Carl E. Glenn, moved into Inchon and set up a bivouac at Wolmi-do. There the
3d TAT Company commenced operations. As there was no site suitable for DUKW
operations, the 50th Engineer Port Construction Company was called to blast
entry and exit points from almost-solid rock at the shore line.
On 18 October 1950 the entire company was engaged in a sustained cargo haul
from ship to a rail transfer point. As the operation continued, wear and tear
began to tell on the vehicles. In one period of twenty-four hours, three DUKWs
sank as a result of rusted-out hulls. Cpl. Elmo Anderson was awarded the
Soldier's Medal for saving the life of a South Korean laborer when the DUKW in
which they were riding sank. Using old, rebuilt vehicles, battling a 30-foot,
5-1/2-knot tide, and making extremely long water hauls, the company achieved a
splendid mark in tonnage hauled.
On 4 January 1951 a platoon commanded by Lt. Charles A. Boughton was
dispatched with elements of the 558th TAT Company to the Han River to assist in
the withdrawal of friendly troops from the far shore. That same day, the rest of
the company began to evacuate Wohni-do.
When about half of its equipment had been loaded, the company was ordered to
evacuate on any ship available because of the nearness of hostile forces. The
personnel and equipment were loaded aboard three different vessels. Six DUKWs
that had been condemned by the Ordnance Corps were stripped of all usable parts
and then sunk in Inchon harbor at 0200 hours, 5 January. The ships sailed at
The main body of the 3d TAT Company arrived in Yokohama on 9 January 1951 and
began reorganization. New equipment, including fifty new DUKWs, was received.
The officer in charge of the rebuilding section of Fuchu Ordnance Center was
amazed when he learned of the operation of the old vehicles formerly assigned to
the company. He said that at the time those vehicles were rebuilt he had felt it
would not be feasible to employ them for any purpose except training.
4. Railhead at Masan
Capt. Meade D. Wildrick, 8010th Army Unit, Transportation Military Railway
I arrived in Korea on 7 July 19S0 in a detachment from the 8010th Army Unit,
Transportation Military Railway Service. Our force consisted of 19 officers and
90 enlisted men. These were not enough to have taken over the Korean
railroads -- even had we wanted to, or had had the authority. Instead, our group
was split into ten traffic-regulating teams. Three of these remained in Pusan,
two went to Taegu, and one each went to Taejon, Yongchon, Kumchon, and
How well we kept things moving can be seen from our record of those early
days. We were told by the U.S. military advisory group to the Republic of Korea
(KMAG) and the officials of the Korean National Railroads that we would set a
record if we moved more than 12 trains a day north from Pusan. Actually, we soon
dispatched 24 trains daily, most of them double-headers pulling 30 cars. The
trains going over the east coast single-track line could not take 30 cars,
however, since the sidings were not long enough. The Koreans ran the trains; we
gave the directions.
As soon as our army came to Korea we realized the importance of the
railroads. Because of the long distances and the very poor roads, everyone
moving in Korea wanted to go by rail. Pusan Base Section ruled that rail
movement was possible only for vehicles over two and one half tons that were
going farther than Taegu. Everything lighter, or going shorter distances, had to
Not long after I arrived in Korea I was assigned to establish a
railhead at Masan -- with only Sergeant Dennison as my assistant. Dennison was a
real help, for he knew railroading and from a previous tour in Korea he could
speak the language. Fortunately, the assistant stationmaster spoke English, and
so did one of the switchmen.
Masan is about thirty-five miles west of Pusan, and its marshaling yard
contained only eight tracks. We had a problem keeping the yard open to receive
supplies for the 24th Infantry Division while its withdrawals kept forcing
equipment back into our yard. Communications were so limited that we had little
opportunity to plan our operations. We received advance notice whenever a train
was coming from Pusan, but those from Taegu just blew their whistles as the
engines entered the yards. We had to post an officer at the Samnangjin junction
to halt trains and call ahead to determine whether they should be allowed to
The 24th Division wished to leave much of its equipment on freight cars,
particularly its heavy engineer equipment. I had to explain to the division's
officers that the utter lack of yard space prevented holding cars for storage
purposes. The division assigned a liaison officer to work with me, and that
helped. He told me where the division wanted cars spotted, and I took over from
In July 1950 the railroads became congested because too many persons were
giving directions in Pusan. Pusan Base Section was put together hurriedly, and
it did a remarkable job. However, there were a few extra -- and I believe
unassigned -- colonels in the headquarters. They acted as expediters, and would
come to dockside or to the marshaling yards and take over operations from the
regularly assigned lieutenants and captains. Each had a pet mission, it seemed.
They were always saying, "The men need ammunition forward," or some similar
statement. Other supplies would be shunted aside and priority in unloading ships
and in rail movement would be assigned. Taegu was being swamped with supplies
being evacuated, and with others sent forward by the eager colonels of Pusan.
The situation eventually reached the point where the port transportation officer
complained to the base section commander.
A control system was established to determine daily how much tonnage could be
moved to a given destination. A canvass was then made of the technical services.
A train was made up to fit the requirements, and clearance was necessary before
the train moved. It was not a perfect system, but it took a lot of the "hurry up
and wait" out of the situation.
5. Problems in Railroad Operation
Capt. B. C. Mossman, 6th Historical Detachment. (Condensed from an article
based on interviews with the following personnel of the 3d Transportation
Military Railway Service: Lt. Col. Jesse M. McClellan, Commanding Officer; Lt.
Col. Howard W. Martens, Assistant General Manager, Engineer; Lt. Col. Frank H.
Drake, AGM, Communications; Lt. Col. Lawrence R. Anderson, Deputy AGM, Engineer;
Lt. Col. Clarence E. Page, AGM, Supply; MSgt. Jack R. Spillers, Chief
Railroad activities in the Korean conflict have been vital to the movement of
troops, equipment, and supplies. The military railway personnel have been faced
constantly with problems of reconstruction, operation, maintenance, destruction,
and then, again, reconstruction of the rail lines, bridges, stations, and
communications facilities. All these have had to be handled along with the
forward and rearward movement of supply trains as the tactical situation
During the first several months, as the United Nations troops were
withdrawing to the Naktong perimeter, there were few technical problems. This
was a period in which traffic control and the train movements were the major
considerations. When the September drive began, however, the railroads had to
contend with destroyed water pumps, bridges, stations and tracks, and
The locomotives of the Korean National Railroads were all steamoperated and
required large amounts of water. Pumps were in poor condition originally, but in
the recaptured territory they were broken or had no power. The first pumps
obtained from the Corps of Engineers had a capacity of only 1C6 gallons per
minute. Later, 480-gallon pumps were installed and found satisfactory. To
provide electricity for shops, roundhouses and pumping stations, 100-kilowatt
generators were installed.
Communications were also a problem. From Sindong to Seoul, communications
lines were 75 per cent destroyed; from Seoul to Kaesong, 100 per cent; from
Kaesong to Pyongyang, 25 per cent. U.S. signal troops and supplies were not
available for repair of the lines. Until December 1950 only Korean
communications men could be used, and their work was unsatisfactory.
There was no copper wire for railroad communications lines, and field wire
was used in emergency circuits. These circuits would function only for a day or
two. Then a second expedient was attempted -- SCR-399 radios placed at each main
station between Taegu and Seoul. This, too, was unsatisfactory.
By late November the telephone line between Sindong and Seoul had been pieced
together and was working after a fashion. Early in December a good line was
established from Kaesong to Pyongyang, but it was mid-December before the line
between Seoul and Kaesong was functioning properly. The circuits between
Pyongyang and Sinanju never operated.
The greatest help to the railway communications system was the Mukden cable
circuits, provided by Eighth Army in late November and early December. Circuits
to Pusan, Taegu, Taejon, Chonan, and Pyongyang were assigned directly to the 3d
During the withdrawal of November-January there was no difliculty with
communications. In addition to the Mukden cable circuits, the 3d TMRS now had
good wayside communications from Pyongyang to Seoul.
As the troops moved north after the breakout from the Pusan perimeter, the 3d
TMRS and KNR personnel repaired tracks and bridges. Such repairs made heavy
demands on the engineers for timbers and tools. If the engineers had these, the
3d TMRS got them.
U.S. engineers repaired the Naktong River bridge at Waegwan, the Han River
shoo-fly bridge (expedient railroad structure) at Seoul, the Imjin River
shoo-fly bridge, and the high-level bridge at Hanpo-ri. Except for these, Korean
bridge and track gangs repaired the rail lines during the advance. They opened
the lines rapidly by using sandbags, timber trestling, and rail stringers as
expedients. The Korean gangs could repair as much in three or four days as the
U.S. engineers in ten. However, it was somewhat diflicult to get the lightly
clad Korean gangs to work during cold weather.
During the fall of 1950 the KNR had money to make repairs. However, the scale
of reconstruction was so vast that in December the money ran out. It was then
necessary for the United States to pay all labor, new construction, and repair
By late November continuous operation as far North as the Taedong station was
made possible by the completion of the bridge at Hanpo-ri over the Yesong River.
On 1 December 1950 the railroad was in operation as far north as Sinanju, but
there was no railroad bridge crossing the Taedong River at Pyongyang. Both
bridges across the Taedong had been blown and it was necessary to unload the
cars at the Taedong station, load the supplies on trucks which crossed a ponton
bridge, and then reload trains going north. At the time of the Chinese Communist
offensive, thc Korean railroads were carrying four thousand tons daily into
When the general withdrawal started, the technical services hurriedly
evacuated large quantities of critical materiel. However, certain supplies
remained in the north and others were moved northward to
meet requirements. Empty cars were sent into Taedong for south-bound
Successive railheads were set up at points where the division could draw POL,
rations, and ammunition. As one railhead was closed, another was opened farther
south. This went on for several weeks, all the way south through Chonan.
The locomotives and rolling stock north of the unbridged Taedong River were
destroyed because they could not be evacuated. South of Pyongyang, every effort
was made to save as much as possible. Rail yards were stripped. Inoperative
locomotives were destroyed. Bridges, switches, control towers, and other
equipment were dynamited.
A typical closing of the rail line was the operation at Yongdungpo. On 4
January, 23 trains (462 cars) moved south-bound between 0001 and 2030 hours. One
of the last trains contained machinery and equipment from the KNR shops and
yards. The movement control personnel rode the last train, while the engineer
and transportation representatives who demolished the yards withdrew by jeep. By
0200, 5 January, Yongdungpo was cleared, and trains were moving south on both
tracks of the main line.
Similar operations took place at Ascom City and Inchon. Heavy traffic moved
out by rail over the main line, but much was moved by rail to Inchon and placed
on ships. Rail yards at these two cities were blown on the night of 4 January;
the railroaders, including the KNR employees, were moved to Pusan by water. Only
the last two switch engines working at the docks were destroyed.
During the withdrawal, thousands of Korean refugees streamed south. Railroad
yards became so crowded that the refugees had to be driven away before the
trains could be made up. This was particularly true at Seoul and Yongdungpo. All
south-bound trains carried refugees -- as long as one more could hang on.
Screening points for the north-bound cars were set up along the main line.
Items not needed, or intended for units that had moved, were cut out. But even
with this system, the consignee unit was often gone when a car arrived at its
destination. If possible, a re-routing or reconsignment was made.
The urgency of the tactical situation brought much disorganized loading. Some
cars were not marked, others were marked inadequately, and on some the marks
were obliterated. The railroads moved all cars. Screening was carried out along
the line, but it allowed many unmarked cars to be brought all the way to the
Early in January, 20 to 30 trains were coming into Pusan area daily. The rail
lines could not handle this volume. About 50 per cent of the cars
arriving were unmarked. Screening teams, which opened the cars,
often found items for three or four different services loaded into one car.
It took months to clear the Pusan yards of the retrograde tonnage.
The men of the Korean National Railroads showed great loyalty and courage
during the withdrawal. In several instances train and engine crews moved their
trains from a city as the infantry withdrew. At Sojong-ni the infantry had taken
up positions south of the town while the KNR crews were still making up the last
6. Railroading in Korea
Capt. Max N. Brown, 714th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion
An American can teach a Korean to run a railroad by our standards, but it
takes patience. There are many things we can do in fifteen minutes that take
Koreans two hours. This wouldn't make much difference if combat didn't make all
operations urgent. But when you realize that the Korean railroads moved
approximately 95 per cent of all tonnage to the front, you know the Koreans (and
the Americans who assisted them) gave a pretty fair account of themselves.
I commanded Company C, 714th (later 724th) Transportation Railway Operating
Battalion. Company C is the operating company -- it furnishes the men who run the
trains. In Korea we had to tailor our operations to the situation, and many
changes were made.
The Koreans provided full crews for their trains, and their hands were on the
throttles. In late 1951 we began to bring some diesel engines into Korea, and we
placed our own men in the cabs of these -- plus a Korean pilot engineer.
Except for this late development, it would appear that we had no job. This
was not true. We provided about a hundred conductors. The Korean conductor on
each train was in command and, in a sense, our man was an advisor. But on one
thing our conductor had absolute control: dropping cars. To prevent wholesale
pilferage we insisted that no car could be cut out of a train at a way station
unless our conductor approved. He had to check each claim of a hotbox or other
Beginning at Pusan, the 714th Battalion operated beyond Wonju on the eastern
railroad and to Tacjon on the double-track main line. Normally, an operating
battalion controls 90 to 125 miles of track, but we covered 500 to 600 miles. In
this situation Company C was assigned 400 of the 511 men in our battalion, even
though the T/O&E gave us
only 289. To get the conductors we needed for our operation we used our
unassigned steam engineers and gave others on-the-job training.
The shortage of freight cars placed a severe strain on the railroad system.
We had approximately 7,000 cars, but 500 of these were in very bad shape.
Estimating a seven-day turnaround between Pusan and the front, we figured 8,500
cars were the minimum to handle the load. We received a one-day advance notice
of our requirements, and that kept us jumping to have cars on hand. More than
once the cars were not in our yards and we could not meet the demand.
The shortage of cars and their constant use led to several problems. We could
not take cars out of circulation to repair them as often as we should have.
Also, we could not allow cars to remain on the sidings -- something that had to be
drilled into commanders in the forward areas.
Looking back at our operations in Korea, I believe our biggest problem was
keeping the tracks open. We had an unbelievable number of derailments -- I recall
six in one day -- and we had only one car with a hook on it. The derailments were
caused most frequently by the worn-out equipment, but sabotage did occur. We
were fortunate in having a group of experienced Koreans clearing the tracks. I
marvelled at the ingenuity of the Koreans as they put freight cars back onto the
rails with little or no equipment. Everything considered, the Korean railroad
personnel have done extremely well.
7. Transportotion Corps Operations at K-27
Capt. James B. Reed, Headquarters, X Corps
I landed at Inchon with the 7th Infantry Division. At the time I was doing a
two-year tour with a combat arm. In October 1950 I reverted to the
Transportation Corps, and was assigned to X Corps headquarters. When I was asked
if I knew anything about air-terminal operations, I replied, "No." It made no
I was ordered to K-27 Airstrip at Yonpo, several miles south of Hungnam. The
Army personnel at the field consisted of one second lieutenant (myself) and an
enlisted man. Soon we were assigned a jeep, a trailer, and a driver, and later
we were augmented by a truck platoon. After several weeks I was replaced for
several days by a captain; then I returned to K-27 and again ran the
My mission at K-27 was to document Army cargo and passengers. The
combat-cargo officer was glad to have us because the Air Force was not equipped
to handle the job. We received a great deal of cooperation and good
It was my duty to see that Army passengers were received at the terminal and
given transportation to headquarters, or that they were placed on a plane. We
gave maximum assistance. Then we checked passenger manifests to see that the
lists were correct.
Medical evacuees were handled differently. Their flight was arranged between
the surgeon of X Corps and the Air Force base surgeon. The wounded were moved
from ambulances to planes, and the Air Force nurses and specialists took over
from our medics. I received an extract of the manifest, however, so I could
count the evacuees as passengers through the port.
The cargo operation was different. As soon as a plane arrived, an Air Force
cargo checker went over the manifest to see what was aboard. The allocation
number on each crate showed the service to which it belonged and its general
contents. A platoon of marines stationed on the field unloaded the cargo from
the planes into our trucks, and the checker indicated the proper section of the
in-transit storage area to which each item should go.
We rarely knew in advance what was coming, but sometimes we were told to be
on the lookout for a particular item. A small shipment might have the address
stenciled on the box. In such cases we quickly notified the consignee, but most
shipments did not list the name of the consignee. Every day we reported what was
in the in-transit storage area and the consignment number to G4 of X Corps. At
corps it was a matter of matching the requests with the receipts. This was done
rather haphazardly at first and we had some errors. Once an American hospital
requested a shipment, and a ROK hospital made a similar request at the same
time. The ROKs inquired and we surrendered a medical shipment to them. We found
later that they got the shipment due the American hospital. Many of the supplies
were now consumed, and it was necessary to reorder for the U.S. group. It was
not always easy to unscramble the shipments, but in time the operation worked
The picture changed greatly during the evacuation of Hungnam. Instead of
documenting cargos that arrived, we just loaded and moved cargo and passengers
as fast as we could outload them. We forgot about safety limits and carried
maximum loads. Still, in the midst of the confusion and evacuation, the Air
Force did a peculiar thing. While we were trying to get rid of supplies, planes
coming from rear areas brought us drums of gasoline we did not want. It took a
lot of time to unload those 55-gallon drums, and then we had to haul the
gasoline to Hungnam to get it evacuated. We got the Air Force to stop once, but
then the shipments began again. Don't ask me what it was all about. I never
figured it out.
Neither the Air Force nor the Army had sufficient personnel at K-27 to carry
out terminal operations as completely or efficiently as in
Pusan. There the Transportation Corps loaded and unloaded the planes and
controlled the ground operation completely.
8. Breakage En Route
Major Lawrence Dobson, Observer for The Quartermaster General. (Excerpt from
an oral report of 25 April 1951.)
All food going into Korea had to pass through the port of Pusan. I was
utterly amazed when I visited the port on the first of March, for I saw an
operation that, had anyone told me existed, I would have said, "No, they can't
Grgo ships were block-loaded; in other words, similar components were
segregated within the ship. But they were not being unloaded that way. The
stevedores were Koreans, and with no supervision in the holds, everything was
thrown into the cargo net. The loaded nets were not lowered, but were dropped.
The cases of food were picked up, carried over, and thrown into piles, and
Every time a case was broken, something was stolen. When they did not break a
case open, the Koreans had small knives with which they were very adept. They
cut the cases open -- especially the post exchange packs. It was estimated that we
were taking a 10 per cent complete loss on all subsistence items passing through
the port. My estimate was that 90 per cent of the cases had some damage. This
might be only a dented can, but we were still absorbing a loss before it came
into the hands of the quartermaster.
I discussed the situation with the commanding officer of the 55th
Quartermaster Depot (Col. Louis E. Cotulla). He said he was aware of the
situation but had done everything he could with the port command. I later
discussed it with the Eighth Army quartermaster (Col. James M. Lamont), and
wanted to talk to G4. I was told, however, that there was a change in command
coming into Pusan and that the new CG had previously commanded the New York Port
of Embarkation. He knew how to unload ships, and he appreciated the cost of
I went back to Pusan on 30 March and was as astonished as on the first trip.
I will not say the condition had been completely corrected, but it had improved
so much that the loss was cut to normal.
Now, how did the port situation affect our rations? The 55th Depot would
requisition two million balanced B rations. They would arrive by ship, and then
the damage would take place. Of course, the damage was not proportionate
throughout. Instead of two million balanced rations,
it might be that only a million and a half balanced rations and a half
million unbalanced rations were received.
I said that at the time of my second visit that handling was very good. It
was, with two exceptions. Some ready-to-use dough mixture, procured in 1947, was
packaged in corrugated boxes, and these were falling to pieces. The second
exception, hams and poultry, are packed in wire-bound boxes. If the rope of the
cargo net hits the space between two hams, the box is immediately crushed and
stacking is then difficult. But worse than that, the contents are stolen. I feel
we should discontinue the use of wire-bound boxes, unless we are packing
Not all of our losses occur in Pusan. Between Pusan and the forward elements
the loss was near 10 to 15 per cent until about the first of January. Then
corrective action was taken. These corrections were minor, but they reduced the
One trick is to use a heavy wire to close the boxcar door, cutting it off
short so that pliers are required to open it. Better than anything else, the
quartermaster stopped marking the contents on the outside of the car.
There is still a loss in the supply dumps because we have to employ Korean
labor, but the loss is greatly reduced. I feel now that the over-all loss from
Japan to the forward element does not exceed 10 per cent.
Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation