We worked for a considerable time with the British 27th Brigade and found it
a very pleasant relationship, although the large number of units in the brigade
made it difficult for us to provide enough observers and liaison officers. But
this was a minor problem compared with the language obstacle we met in
supporting South Korean troops.
More important than language was the difference between South Korean methods
and our own. The ROK units normally sent small detachments about two thousand
yards forward of the main line of resistance. This greatly restricted our
ability to fire. If we set up our mortar tubes on the MLR so we could reach
beyond the outpost line, we were caught when the detachment pulled back. If we
went into position a normal distance behind the MLR, we were out of range.
1. The chemical mortar battalions of the United States Army were transferred
to the infantry in October 1952.
The ROKs attached us to their division artillery. Partly from pride,
and partly from lack of effective communications, they seldom assigned us a
fire mission. Our men disliked being so far forward, where they attracted
considerable fire, if they didn't have an opportunity to shoot. In time,
however, understanding between the ROK units and our battalion improved.
The 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion was not once pulled out of the line between
October 1950 and October 1951. The only time we were not firing was when we were
moving from one unit to another. The infantry mortar companies normally rested
whenever their regiment was relieved, or went into reserve. The artillery was
back far enough to set up tents and build shelters for their men. But this was
not true for us. Our companies went into position from 500 to 1,500 yards behind
the MLR. Here our men were always under tension, and had to be very careful to
maintain local security.
Although a chemical mortar battalion is designed to deliver massed fire, in
Korea the rough terrain, the broad fronts, and the regimental combat team type
of fighting made this impossible. Still, we had organizational advantages over
the infantry mortar companies. Our battalion commander was in a position to ask
for a sector, guarantee fires, and then insist on being left alone. The
commander of the infantry mortar company seldom had so much freedom. Our T/08cE
gave us enough officers for observation and liaison assignments, while the
infantry mortar companies had only privates first class for those jobs. Our
officers were better trained, and their higher rank made it easier for them to
advise battalion and company commanders.
We had another advantage in that we used artillery firing methods, while the
infantry continued to use the procedures of the smaller infantry mortars. We
used grid-target computing, and the artillery FDC gave us a flexibility that the
infantry did not have.
One of our worst problems in Korea was the shortage of spare parts. Medium
ordnance repair companies of IX Corps did not have base plates, elevating
screws, and traverse nuts in stock, and they had trouble getting them. Often it
took five to six weeks to get a replacement part. Once I had to go to Japan to
get parts so that we could continue firing.
Heavy vehicles to haul ammunition and supplies were always short. We had
enough jeeps, but our heavy rate of fire forced us to haul ammunition tonnages
beyond our capacity. Battalion did its best to stretch the limited
transportation by adding trucks directly to the mortar companies and by
maintaining forward ammunition dumps, but these moves were inadequate when all
three companies were firing for sustained periods.
Thinking back about my experience with the chemical mortar battalions, both
in World War II and in Korea, I cannot help but rate the
M2 4.2-inch mortar a fine weapon. It packs a terrific wallop, can give
accurate support, and has all-around value for close support when given proper
2. Letters from a Commander
Lt.Col. Edgar V. H. Bell, 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion. (Letters to Maj.Gen.
E. F. Bullene, Chief Chemical Officer, U.S. Army.)
13 November 1950
I wrote to Colonel Efnor [Lt.Col. Sam Efnor, Jr.] the other day and told him
of the activities of the battalion. I asked him to pass this information on to
you. There is not much to add at present. We are now with U.S. troops on the
offensive again, and the battalion is doing very well.
I have been promised some new mortars, and when we get them the entire
battalion will be in action. We have had a great deal of breakage of mortar
parts -- elevating screws and traverse nuts are the principal ones. Replacement
parts that we brought from Edgewood Arsenal are nearly exhausted and there are
no other 4.2-inch mortar parts in Korea.
I have not permitted fire over four thousand yards. It has been extremely
difficult to keep the mortars in range. There are no roads as we know them, only
narrow cart trails barely passable (one way) by jeep -- and then only in dry
weather. These cart tracks are nearly always raised well above the surface of
adjacent rice paddies. Once a vehicle is off the trail it is nearly always
bogged down for good. Tremendous frontages assigned to infantry units require us
to do a great deal of rapid movement, so hand-carry is entirely out of the
Ammunition has been a terrific problem, but so far we have never had less
than one hundred rounds per mortar on position. This requires great effort and
much truck movement as supply lines are very long in point of hours of
I am operating a very small forward command post. I have with me the S3, the
assistant S3, the S2, communications officer, and surgeon -- together with 22
enlisted men. The rest of headquarters company, under Major [Merritt W.] Briggs,
is about twenty miles to the rear where they can work in comparative calm and
comfort. This has many advantages, as the administrative personnel can settle
down in one spot and stay there for a week or more while we move nearly every
day. The small
detachment up here can move quickly and does not further clutter up congested
trails. For security we tie in to some nearby infantry battalion or regimental
command post when we stop for the night.
If any other chemical units come over here they should bring additional
tentage. We have very little and there is no shelter available. The few
buildings are preempted by higher commands, leaving only open fields for people
like us. It is bitter cold and, though the battalion has drawn special winter
clothing, the men still suffer because there is no shelter. A couple of squad
tents in each company rear would be worth their weight in gold.
I keep the company rear echelons near to me. These consist of the mess
trucks, supply trucks, and motor maintenance trucks -- with the personnel from
those sections. The battalion sees to all supply of rations, ammunition and POL.
We feed two hot meals and one C-ration meal to the forward units. However, a few
of us who are constantly on the move rarely have anything but C rations. The
kitchen crews must be able to bake good bread, for there are no bakeries over
Personal cleanliness is difficult, as there are no laundries or shower
points. The country is crawling with lice and fleas. I require frequent foot
inspection, as I am most fearful of trench foot.
We are fighting mostly against the Chinese now, as the North Korean units are
broken badly and fight principally as guerrillas. The Chinese are well equipped
with small arms, automatic weapons, and mortars. The Chinese usually attack down
draws and bottoms, and in covering these approaches our mortars have done their
best work. The Chinese take terrific losses, but they keep on coming. Our mortar
men get into frequent small-arms fights.
We certainly need the new M30 mortar badly and have hopes of receiving it one
of these days. If I had only one in each company it would be useful in reaching
the 120-mm mortar used by the Chinese. Their mortar has a range of 6,500 yards
and they can sit back and plaster hell out of us while we are out of range. The
best antimortar weapon is another mortar.
There is much more that I could tell you, but I have so little time.
The morale of the battalion is very high and the men are full of fight, wishing
to avenge our losses at Unsan. We do not really need anything here except 36
mortars and three or four more mortar battalions equipped with this new
16 December 1950
Following the withdrawal of all United Nations forces to the Chongchon River
in November, the battalion was attached to the 5th Infantry (24th Infantry
Division) and rushed to Kunu-ri. The 24th Division was relieved by the 2d
Division, and we shifted to that outfit.
Since the withdrawal from Unsan, the battalion has been committed and
shooting every day. We had Company C intact with all three platoons, and Company
B with two platoons. Company A, having lost or destroyed all of its mortars and
nearly all of its other equipment, was out of action.
Early in November, as things were not too rosy, I sent our administrative
section back to Sukchon. I reinforced Companies B and C with officers and men
from Company A. Refitting Company A was a terrific task as we had to go all the
way back to Pusan for the vehicles and most of the equipment. Efforts made to
have corps or army re-equip us were unsuccessful. Only aggressive and
hard-driving action on the part of Capt. [Clair L.] George (battalion S4) and
his assistants got us our equipment. They went to Pusan, drew the trucks, loaded
supplies, and then drove them more than 450 miles over the world's worst
We were able to replace only half of our losses in vehicles and even less of
the communications equipment. I completely reorganized the battalion while in
the lines and redistributed personnel and equipment to have Companies A and B
each with three platoons. We had Company A back and shooting just two weeks to
the day after they were knocked out.
When the drive started about Thanksgiving, we were attached to the 9th
Infantry (2d Infantry Division). We had pushed northeast to a point a few miles
north of the town of Kujang-dong when the Chinese hit us again. The 9th RCT was
badly cut up as was part of the 38th RCT. Company C was overrun and initially we
got only four jeeps, an officer and 24 enlisted men out of the mess. Later most
of our personnel either drifted back or were located in clearing stations. I
sent the survivors back to our rear, which I had just moved to Kunu-ri. We kept
Companies A and B in the fighting, and it was hot.
The next day the Chinese hit again and the big withdrawal started. We pulled
out with what was left of the 2d Battalion, 9th RCT, the last to leave. They had
a total of 274 officers and men, and we loaded them on our vehicles. We
retreated to Won-ni, where we put up a roadblock which lasted just two
hours. It was about 0330 when the infantry battalion commander reported to me
that he had only 30 men left of his 274, so we all pulled back to Kunu-ri. We
went into position there and the following night, at about 1900, received an
order to pull out -- saving what we could but destroying any equipment we could not
get out. At the time we received our march order, we were firing at a range of
seven hundred yards. We lost only one jeep trailer which upset and was
After a rough night, I gathered up the pieces and re-formed the battalion. We
were immediately attached to the British 27th Commonwealth Brigade, this making
our fifth attachment in twenty-five days. That's enough, in itself, to drive a
battalion commander stark mad.
We joined the British and have been with them ever since. I am
happy with this attachment. These people know their business; they know heavy
We have been the covering force for IX Corps since early in the withdrawal,
and the battalion constitutes the light artillery for the brigade. We have not
yet been able to obtain any replacement of our equipment losses at Kujang-dong
by legal means, but as we are the rear guard of a withdrawing army, we have
picked up some gear. Our S4 with a party of thirty-five men is now in Pusan, and
I hope to see them back here tomorrow with enough equipment to place Company C
back into action with two platoons.
We could not operate more than eight mortars per company no matter how much
equipment we had, for our strength is down to 23 officers and 352 enlisted men.
I have cut headquarters company down hard so as to have about 100 officers and
enlisted men in each of the lettered companies. But even to operate only eight
mortars "the bread is sliced mighty thin," and most men have two jobs to do.
While I feel horrible over the loss of so many fine officers and men, it is a
little comforting to know that we lost them while fighting, not while
withdrawing. Company C, for example, knew they were being swamped, but they
fired defensive fires at six hundred yards and had only ten rounds left in the
company when the last rush hit. They were able to destroy eleven of their twelve
mortars. The Chinese got to the vehicles first, as usual.
31 December 1950
We are still attached to the British 27th Brigade and have 24 mortars in
action with a total strength of 338 enlisted men and 23 officers. Of the 33
chemical officers who left Edgewood Arsenal with us, only 19 are still here. Of
the 14 who have left, 5 are missing in action, 2 are wounded in action, 4
hospitalized for noncombat causes, and 3 have been transferred. None of the
hospital cases will be returned within ninety days. This leaves us pretty
short-handed both for officers and enlisted men, but we are doing all right.
You will be interested to know that we have never been withdrawn for
reorganization nor have we received any enlisted replacements. We have received
four officers since we were committed. Unfortunately, these officers knew
nothing of mortars and very damned little about combat troops. We lost one
officer within three weeks, and it was a shame -- like sending a lamb to
I feel very strongly that if the Chemical Corps is to continue to have
chemical mortar battalions, it should procure and train the correct type of
combat officers for this duty. I would not give a tinker's damn if such an
officer did not know one end of a test tube from another, but I would insist
that he have a thorough knowledge of infantry organization,
tactics and weapons. I would not care about a college degree if the officer
had the will to fight.
I also feel that chemical mortar battalions should not be sent to any theater
as chemical mortar battalions unless the use of toxics is contemplated.
The personnel may be sent as filler replacements or the mortar companies may be
sent out as heavy-mortar units, but there just is no slot for a chemical
battalion except where chemical munitions are to be used.
This present attachment is by far the best one that we have had. The 27th
Brigade has no heavy mortars and we fill the gap between their own 3-inch
mortars and the direct-support artillery, thus bringing the brigade's fire power
to nearly that of one of our regimental combat teams. We have an important slot
to fill, but when we are attached to an American division (and we have supported
four of them), we are used only to reinforce the fires of their own heavy-mortar
companies. I have had to fight hard to keep our companies from being attached to
the organic mortar companies. This is a waste of fire power, and worse still, a
waste of man power. A separate mortar battalion has no role in the present army
organization except in the case of gas warfare.
We are in pretty good shape. Morale is high, and while the weather is bitter
cold, our men are well equipped for it and can get along.
12 January 1951
We are still in support of the British 27th Brigade. With them we were the
last troops out of Seoul.
I do hope that one more effort will be made to award our people the Combat
Infantryman Badge. It seems to me to be rank discrimination to keep this badge
from our men simply because of the one word, "chemical," in our unit
designation. The men in the heavy-mortar companies of infantry regiments serve
the same piece, fire the same ammunition, and are subject to the same hazards as
are the men of our battalion. Frequently in Korea, the infantry heavy-mortar
companies have been attached to my battalion for operational control. Of course,
when this was done, the more dangerous assignments were given by me to our own
It is common practice for us to operate jointly with the forward observers of
the infantry heavy-mortar companies, their fire direction centers,
communications and ammunition resupply. Occasionally we perform the security
missions for an infantry mortar platoon, and once we manned their mortars for
them. It is interesting to note that we are able to keep eight mortars per
company in action with present-for-duty strengths averaging less than 80
enlisted men per company. The infantry companies usually run 120 to 155 enlisted
men and only attempt to keep five or six mortars in action. . .
We have very little left of headquarters company, as I have transferred
every possible man to the mortar companies. The personnel section and
most of the motor section are kept well to the rear, while I operate the forward
command post with 3 other officers and 18 enlisted men. It is amazing how much
can be done by so few people, but it is quite difficult and the strain is
beginning to tell. I rotate both officers and enlisted men as much as possible.
A couple of weeks of eating and sleeping back in our rear echelon restores a man
a great deal.
3. Smoke Generating
Lt. Freddy B. Parish and Lt. George D. Sisson, Jr., 68th Chemical Smoke
Generating Company. (Lieutenant Parish interviewed in Korea by Capt. William J.
Fox, 7th Historical Detachment.)
The 68th Chemical Smoke Generating Company arrived in Pusan in October 19SO.
Its early assignments varied from unloading and guarding cargo on the piers to
working at the airfields.
During November 1950, the company was stationed at an airfield near Ascom
City. Part of our men were arming planes, and the rest were mixing napalm and
loading fire bombs. The company field-tested the E3R2 incendiary-oil mixing and
transfer unit (for mixing and pouring napalm) and found it most satisfactory.
The bombs were attached to the planes, and the napalm gel was then blown into
the bombs under pressure. It was an around-the-clock operation with fighters
being serviced during the day and bombers at night.
In March 19S1, the company began its normal mission of generating smoke. It
would be difficult to say that the company was successful during the next six
months. The mountains of Korea produce variable and unpredictable wind currents.
Besides, military units worked close together, and smoke which helped one often
The unpredictability of the wind was illustrated many times. On 4 March 1951
the 68th Smoke Company was called upon to generate smoke as a part of a feint in
Operation WELLSEND. A short test period proved that the wind was from the wrong
direction. On 13 March smoke was again used, but this time the winds changed so
frequently that the smoke was not effective.
From April to August 1951, part of the company remained on alert to screen
Seoul in case of air attack. Many alerts occurred when "Bed Check Charlie"
roamed around at night. On a red alert one night, smoke was generated. The
following morning the Air Force claimed that the smoke limited the vision on a
nearby field to such an extent planes could
not take off. Thereafter the smoke was generated near Seoul only on clearance
from the joint operations center.
On 1 June, the 68th smoked a bridge construction site. Soon an artillery
colonel arrived, complaining bitterly that his observers were unable to see.
When smoke was used on a river crossing, the Filipino troops were frightened by
the smoke and wore handkerchiefs as masks. Even a training mission for the 25th
Division failed. Haze was created to simulate darkness, but the training was
unrealistic when the machine-gun tracers could not be seen.
The only successful smoke mission occurred in July. The 27th RCT was making
an attack near Kumhwa, supported by part of the 89th Tank Battalion and some
quad .50s of the 21st Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion. We were to give a smoke
screen, but were prevented by the wind. In the attack two light (M24) tanks and
a halfback were disabled by land mines. Efforts to recover these vehicles were
thwarted by accurate enemy artillery fire.
On the following morning our 2d Platoon began generating smoke at 0700.
Conditions were ideal. There was a heavy moiseure in the air and gentle breezes
blowing toward the disabled vehicles. It took twenty minutes for the wind to
carry the smoke eight hundred yards to the tanks, and a strong haze soon built
up. Recovery units removed the tanks and halfback within two hours, and no
artillery fire struck the area.
On a basis of number of missions performed and number of men employed, our
smoke operations in Korea were not justifiable. But had enemy aircraft often
attacked our supply installations, then the smoke company would have been
invaluable for passive defense. The mountains and winds, however, made close
support of ground troops impossible.
4. Napalm Bombs in Korea
Col. Donald D. Bode, Chemical Officer, Eighth Army. (Interview by Historical
Office, Office of Chief Chemical Officer, U.S. Army, 1 March 1951.)
Our napalm-filled bombs are made in Japan. They are made of plastic, cost
forty dollars each, and hold 100 gallons. New ones are now being made which hold
The Navy uses Corsairs and dive-bombers to carry their bombs; the Air Force
uses F-Sls, F-80s, F-86s and B-26s. They experimented at one time with carrying
six tanks of napalm on an F-80, but the normal load is two tanks of gasoline and
two tanks of napalm. On an average good day,
the expenditures of napalm are: Air Force, 45,000 gallons; Navy, 10,000 to
12,000 gallons; Marines, 4,000 to 5,000 gallons.
At one time there was considerable difficulty in getting a good mix because
there were no thermometers to test the temperature of the gasoline. The
personnel mixing the gel would get the current temperature from the weather
report, but the gasoline would be from 10 to 15 degrees colder than the air
temperature from sitting out in the cold overnight. That problem has been solved
by using thermometers and the E3R2 mixing unit. The E3R2 is very efficient, and
when standardized will alleviate mixing problems. In a letter to me, one
chemical officer stated that his men formerly worked a 24-hour day on mixing
napalm. Since they have received the E3R2 units, and have been checking
temperature more closely, his man-power needs have been so reduced that his men
spend much of their time helping Air Force personnel in jobs such as loading
After the first few months of World War II, napalm was mixed in England and
shipped in SS-gallon drums to the Continent, where it was handled by air
chemical companies. In Korea two smoke-generating companies are used to mix the
Often, fire-bomb tanks are only half-filled with napalm to lighten the load
so that jets can take off from a short runway without difficulty. This requires
the expenditure of more tanks, but is necessary at times.
The tactics are much the same as those used during World War II. Napalm fire
bombs have been dropped from high-altitude bombers, but with little success.
Dive-bombing at very low levels (25 feet) is satisfactory, but the effectiveness
of the bomb is reduced to some extent by its skipping when it hits.
Napalm is very effective against enemy personnel and as an antitank weapon. A
hit anywhere within fifty feet of a tank is effective. It is used widely and
successfully against dug-in enemy personnel. When the bomb lands, the burning
napalm spreads out and drops down into foxholes. It is especially effective
against trenches and improvised protections such as drainage and irrigation
ditches where enemy soldiers are spread out along a wide front.
The lack of enemy ground fire allows low-level bombing, even as low as 25
feet. However, a number of duds result from drops as low as that. There are
three main reasons for duds: extremely low altitudes, failure to arm the bomb,
and broken arming wires.
The value of napalm is indicated by the great number of requests for its
5. Flame Thrower
Major Charles H. Barclay, Chemical Offficer, 1st Cavalry Division
The flame ehrower is an extremely effective weapon, but it has its
limitations. In Korea the steepness of the hills and the weight of the
weapon were particularly important. Then, too, we found that few men were
trained to use it.
During Operation COMMANDO in October-November 1951, the 1st Cavalry Division
planned to use the flame thrower extensively to clean out enemy bunkers. To do
this we first had to qualify operators. For this training, we generally selected
replacements who had recently arrived from the U.S. training camps. Although
Army Field Forces has a requirement that all recruits be trained in the flame
thrower, we made a survey of 85 men and learned that only 2 had fired the flame
thrower, 12 had seen demonstrations of its operation, and the others had never
even seen the weapon. These men came from seven or eight different replacement
Battalion commanders were urged to use the flame thrower during COMMANDO. As
the attack progressed, we had 97 flame-thrower missions. The problem was to get
the operator within effective range. Too often the Chinese would let the
operator get near, and then drop hand grenades down on him. Of the 97 attempts,
about 90 operators reached a point where they could use the weapon.
Once the flame was discharged, the operator was a sure target. Of the 97
flame throwers sent out, 65 were lost through enemy action or were abandoned so
the operator could escape. Six operators were killed.
The 1st Cavalry Division also employed the flame thrower in defensive
positions, mostly at night. In the 8th Cavalry Regiment a company using two
flame throwers burned twenty enemy on their defensive wire. An examination of
the bodies the next morning showed that none of these men had been shot. Another
night advantage is the three or four minutes of battlefield illumination
afforded by the flame thrower.
In setting up Defense Line WYOMING, the 1st Cavaky Division placed one
thousand drums of napalm in front of the infantry positions, but these were
never used. The drums were filled, set in the ground at a 45degree angle with
the opening facing the enemy. A block of tetryl and an 81-mm white phosphorus
mortar shell were set underneath the drum, and the whole apparatus fuzed with
detonators. This was a defensive weapon, but it would also provide ten minutes
Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation