PART VI Ordnance Corps
1. Mobile ASP
Lt.Col. Walter W. Gerken, Ordnance Officer, 1st Cavalry Division
The Ist Cavalry Division was serving in Japan when it was alerted for
movement to Korea. We planned an amphibious assault at Pohang-dong, but it was
actually an unopposed administrative landing on 18 July 1950.
Before it left Japan, the division was warned it could not count on ordnance
support for at least thirty days after landing. Therefore, we were instructed to
carry a thirty-day supply of ordnance spare parts and replacement items. In
addition, the division ammunition officer (Capt. Charles Russell) was told to
carry a minimum of two extra basic loads of 155-mm. ammunition and five extra
loads of 105-mm. ammunition.
This requirement was not only in contradiction to U.S. Army ammunition
doctrine, but was well beyond our capability. The division ammunition officer's
job normally is to allocate -- but not handle -- the division's ammunition. The
infantry and artillery units clear their requisitions with the DAO on the way to
the army dumps to pick up the rounds. But in this operation the division's
ordnance company was to carry ammunition.
The problem of spare parts and replacement items involved considerable
planning. We took only those things we figured we would need most. Even so, we
had to stuff every inch of the machine-shop trucks, and use the M24 tank
transporters to carry spare parts. There was no space for the additional
ammunition. Captain Russell just loaded it on the landing craft and we figured
to handle it as the situation in Korea allowed.
In Korea the G4 of our division and the G4 of Eighth Army coordinated
activities right on the Pohang-dong docks. It was understood we would need
railroad locomotives and cars, and G4 of Eighth Army
simply asked our requirements. The engineer, quartermaster and other units
made their requests, and we asked for 2 engines and about 25 cars. There was no
railroad transportation officer at Pohang-dong, so Captain Russell performed
From Pohang-dong, elements of the division moved west and relieved the 24th
Infantry Division as it withdrew from Taejon. All our vehicles traveled by road,
but we moved the twenty-five cars of ammunition by rail.
We handled the ammunition by moving the train to a railroad siding a safe
distance behind the front -- perhaps twenty-five miles. Then an engine and five
cars of ammunition would run forward to establish a division ammunition supply
point as close to the infantry regiments as possible. The ammunition was never
dumped on the ground, but was kept completely mobile.
The closeness of the ASP to the guns was such that at both Hwaggan and
Kwan-ni the artillery was grouped around the area where the forward ammunition
train halted. At Kwan-ni one battery was within a hundred feet of the car.
Rounds were carried directly from the flatcars to the guns.
We were shelled at Kwan-ni. Artillery fire fell in the area of the ASP and,
while it did not hurt anyone, it scared the train crew. The Korean engineer
uncoupled the locomotive and was about to take off for safer parts. Had he
gotten started he probably wouldn't have stopped short of Pusan. His departure
would have forced us to abandon the cars and ammunition. But the engine didn't
leave because we kept the engineer in his cab at gunpoint until it was time to
displace. We had some difficulty in getting the train crew to move forward with
the ammunition again.
After this incident we held the ammunition in three echelons rather than two.
The main train was kept well to the rear, a second echelon of four cars was two
or three miles behind the ASP, and only one car was run forward. Even so, we had
an irate Transportation Corps officer complain that we were destroying the
morale of the Korean trainmen.
Labor was easy to obtain for this operation. We recruited as many civilians
as we needed and kept them with us by issuing rice three times a day. We
normally had a car of rice and other provisions with us at all times.
Our operation grew rapidly. We got ammunition from a number of sources. In
the hurried evacuation of Seoul and Ascom City the South Koreans had apparently
shipped out everything they could, and the 24th Division got hold of much of the
miscellaneous ammunition. When we relieved the 24th they gave us their supply.
This ammunition was further mixed by receipt of stocks from the 25th Division
and other units. Whenever we heard some unit couldn't evacuate its ammunition, we
picked it up. After we had been pushed back to Taegu we turned in 106 cars of
ammunition to Eighth Army! We lost no ammunition or railroad equipment in the
This was one occasion when the DAO was more than a pencil-pusher.
2. Artillery and Hand Grenades
Lt.Col. John E. Harbert, 314th Ordnance Ammunition Group
Commanders of tactical units have repeatedly emphasized the fact that the
Korean conflict has been essentially a contest between enemy manpower and U.S.
fire power. Communist forces in Korea have been employed against us on an 8-to-1
ratio. We have countered with a ratio of more than 100 to 1 in fire power. The
pitting of fire power against manpower has led to unprecedented logistical
During a sixty-day period (19 August to 18 October 1951), 158,303 tons of
ammunition were delivered to regiments and battalions of U.S. I, IX, and X Corps
from 17 forward ammunition points operated by the 314th Ordnance Ammunition
Group. This represents 27 Liberty-ship loads, or 3,332 rail-car loads, or 39,527
2-/-ton-truck loads (100 per cent overloaded). The 314th has had over 900 rail
cars of ammunition moving forward from Pusan and Inchon at one time.
Paradoxically, the enemy's "human-wave" tactics and the mountainous terrain
have made Korea a battleground of artillery and hand grenades. As a result, in
this sixty-day period, we delivered across the front 3,092 rounds to each 105-mm
howitzer; 2,579 rounds to each 155-mm howitzer; 1,830 rounds to each 155-mm gun;
1,631 rounds to each 8-inch howitzer -- but only 391 rounds to each C0-mm mortar
and 546 rounds to each M1 rifle. Over 400,000 hand grenades were used by Eighth
Army. One infantry regiment used over 900 in one night.
Such ammunition expenditures are not for the Ordnance field commander to
question. His job is to supply the demand. However, I have often wondered
whether we could maintain such a rate of fire during a global war.
Ammunition supply problems are never present during training. Therefore, when
the fighting starts, organization and methods of providing this combat essential
are too often left to be developed by inexperienced and untrained men. This
causes waste, hoarding, confusion, and sometimes panic at the critical periods
of battle. When logistics meet the demands of tactics, there is little inquiry
into the miracle of ammunition delivery. But the instant a shortage hampers operations, we can
expect inquiries into the most minute details of ammunition movement along the
pipeline. Fear of an ammunition shortage has often led to runs on ASPs -- like runs
Ammunition requirements cannot be measured by bulk tonnages alone, for there
are more than five hundred different types of ammunition and their components.
Substitutions can often be made within classes I, II, III, and IV items.1 This
is not so with ammunition. The key to successful ammunition supply is the
delivery of correct type and amount of ammunition to the right place at the
right time. Requirements fluctuate greatly with the type of combat.
The 314th Ordnance Group developed a unique stock control and reporting
system. Accurate, timely information vital to all commanders was forwarded
daily. The ammunition picture for the entire peninsula was in the morning
ammunition brief. This form analyzed graphically, in nontechnical terms, the
ammunition by type, location, and availability. It greatly helped us control the
flow of ammunition, and it dispelled the fear of shortages displayed by
commanders of tactical units.
3. The Van Fleet Rate of Fire
Capt. David L. Mathews, 69th Ordnance Ammunition Company. (Condensed from an
interview by Lt. John Mewha, 8th Historical Detachment.)
During the defensive Battle of the Soyang River (10 May to 7 June 1951), X
Corps exceeded all previous ammunition expenditures. The fighting was close and
the divisions used "walls of steel" to halt the Communist drive.
The artillery made the greatest demand on ammunition because of the weight
and bulk of their rounds. In this engagement the artillery often fired for long
periods at five times the normal rate. On 22 May the artillery fired 49,986
rounds on the corps front. Artillerymen, firing at a rate of 250 rounds per gun
per day, came to speak of "the Van Fleet rate of tare."
A normal build-up of ammunition in the forward areas had taken place before
the attack. Units carried their basic loads, and the ammunition
supply points at Hongchon and Wonju were well stocked. But in 28 days
the corps expended 25,000 tons of ammunition, and fired more than 1,800 tons in
one day. The supply level became low at Hongchon and trucks often had to make
the longer drive to the supply point at Wonju. Airlift was used to bring hand
grenades and ammunition to Hoengsong, but this never exceeded 300 tons a
1. Supplies are divided into five classes: class 1, articles consumed at
approximately uniform rates, such as rations; class II, articles authorized by
tables of basic allowances, such as radio sets, tools, and arms; class 111,
engine fuels and lubricants, class IV, articles not authorized by tables of
basic allowances but needed for operations contemplated or in progress, such as
barbed wire and construction materials; class V, ammunition, pyrotechnics,
antitank mines, and chemicals.
During the entire battle, the 2d Magazine Platoon, 69th Ordnance Ammunition
Company, remained in position at Hongchon-even though many other division and
corps supply units had been withdrawn. At one point in the battle the enemy
approached to within eight miles of the ammunition dump, so an infantry company
was sent to guard that installation.
The ammunition platoon continued to supply ammunition without interruption.
While a 500-ton capacity is its rated maximum, the platoon maintained a
1,163-tons-per-day level at the height of the battle. During a six-hour period
in the middle of the night of 20-21 May, the platoon loaded 540 trucks with 4
tons of ammunition each.
4. Division Ordnance Work
Lt.Col. Barton O. Baker, Ordnance Officer, 25th Infantry Division
I get tired of hearing people say that the first soldiers going to Korea were
not properly trained. The 25th Infantry Division, under Maj.Gen. William B.
Kean, received excellent training. I have seen our men in Japan going through
mud and grime, and actually using thoroughly realistic time-and-space factors.
What we needed was more men.
Our technical troops were as efficient as the infantry. In the Ordnance Corps
we not only trained our own men but carefully pushed instruction in first- and
second-echelon maintenance and repair as far forward as we could. In Korea our
company did not need corps ordnance support until the division received a great
many attachments. Counting the attachments, the 25th Division at times included
thirty thousand troops!
At least 20 per cent of our repairs were accomplished in the area of the
using unit. We took the parts and tools to the job and used the tank crews and
gunners to help us. It gave them training, let them see the functioning of their
weapons, and, if there had been negligence, they saw the results of it. Sharing
in the repair reduced the amount of carelessness.
Nothing was so outstanding about my company as the high desire of the men to
produce. Two examples occurred about a month apart.
After the fighting reached the 38th parallel, the bulk of our division was
held near the line, but the tank battalion and the 155-mm howitzer battalion
were attached to divisions moving toward the Yalu River. At Anju, about 1
November 1950, our units were relieved from their attachments so they could
perform their maintenance and wait for the 25th Division to move north.
Both the tank battalion and the artillery battalions needed a great deal of
servicing after the hard fighting. The shop officer from the ordnance company
flew north to learn what they needed. He returned, got the parts, and took half
of the ordnance company north to begin work at once. Ten days later, when the
division arrived at Anju, these battalions were in excellent condition.
Early in December the 25th Division was forced to withdraw by the Chinese
offensive. Our SOP provided the following order of march: division trains;
service companies; two infantry regiments; ordnance armored maintenance platoon;
tank battalion; the third infantry regiment; demolitions experts. The role of
the ordnance armored maintenance platoon was to repair or evacuate any equipment
that failed and, on call, to move back through the armor and last infantry
regiment to service or evacuate equipment.
When we reached the small village of Chunghwa we had about twenty trucks we
could evacuate no farther. These were placed near a crossroads and persons
passing were invited to cannibalize them. A more serious problem, though, was
the need to change eight tank engines. This had to be done before the platoon
The temperature was 10 degrees below zero that night. We pulled the eight
tanks into an area near the crossroads of the town, erected tents, started
bonfires, and went to work. We started at about 1800, and by 0600 all eight
tanks had new engines and were on the road. It was a hard, cold night, but
Ordnance did its job. Before noon of that day the enemy was in Chunghwa.
5. Close Ordnance Support
Lt.Col. Joseph M. Heiser, Ordnance Officer, 7th Infantry Div sion
On my way north to become ordnance officer of the 7th Infantry Division in
January 1951, I stopped to talk with the ordnance
officer of X Corps. He told me frankly that ordnance conditions in the 7th
Division were not what they should be, and that I was going into a situation
where my career was at stake. The commander of X Corps (Lt.Gen. Edward M.
Almond) has asked two of the regimental commanders of the division about their
ordnance support and they had told him that the company might as well have
stayed in Japan: the units of their regiments never saw it and they did not feel
it was supporting them. Feeling had reached such a point that ordnance men along
the road were refused food by units of their own division!
When I reached the division I concluded that the ordnance resources had not
been fully utilized. The 707th Ordnance Maintenance Company was located near
Yongchon, 120 miles south of the division's CP at Tanyang. A turnaround between
the company and the division took twenty-four hours.
There were several reasons for the distance between the company and the
division. Part of the division had suffered heavy casualties in the action near
Changjin Reservoir. After evacuation from the port of Hungnam the division had
assembled and hurriedly moved off to fight in a new sector. January 1951 was a
month of uncertainty in the division, and it hesitated to move its heavy
equipment forward as it advanced.
The ordnance company was weighted down by a backlog of two hundred trucks
waiting for third-echelon repairs. In addition, the company was carrying three
hundred tons of ordnance parts above its authorized allowance. It would take
sixty 2-1/2-ton trucks to carry the three hundred tons even with the normal 100
per cent overload! The extra parts were being carried because the former
ordnance officer feared he'd sometime want a part that the ordnance depot
company wouldn't be able to supply him. However, there was no selection in the
parts. Many of them were nonmoving items, and a check of the stock-record card
showed eighteen thousand items. By April this had been reduced to about six
thousand, and I am convinced that it could have been cut further.
The backlog of vehicles and the excess parts kept the ordnance company from
joining the division. Companies and regiments were so far from ordnance that
they had little choice but to run their vehicles until they quit. Then the
vehicles had to be towed back.
Our division had at its disposal the support of the 7th Ordnance Medium
Maintenance Company, yet it failed to use it properly. This support company was
only five miles away, but vehicles were sent there only when the division's
company did not have, or could not get, parts to make a repair. It was ironic
that the support company did not overload itself with parts, yet it more
frequently could get what it needed
because the supply sergeant worked more closely with the depot company.
Shortly after I came into the 7th Division, Maj.Gen. Claude B. Ferenbaugh
assumed command. He was vitally concerned with the problems of the technical
services and gave us much of his attention. I knew he expected aggressive
action, and I meant to deliver it.
I turned over our surplus parts and backlog of vehicles to the supporting
ordnance company. Then I moved the division's ordnance company to Yongju-only
twenty miles behind the division. Within ten days the supporting ordnance
company had cleared the backlog, absorbed or returned the extra parts, and had
moved near us. From this time on the two ordnance companies worked closely with
each other and, on an informal understanding, under my direction. The supporting
company leapfrogged to provide support. Sometimes it sent out detachments to
assist our using units, and it was always available to take over our backlog
when we had to move quickly. In those days we were very careful to maintain our
Before I took over, the division's ordnance company had sent detachments to
the using units only a few times. Immediately after I took command I sent one
third of the ordnance men out in detachments to the regimental combat teams. The
men lived and worked right in the service companies. They taught first- and
second-echelon maintenance and repair, and gave on-the-job training. In an
emergency they even did first- and second-echelon maintenance themselves to get
a unit on its feet. At the same time, the service company trainees did a good
deal of the third-echelon work under our supervision. It was a turn-about
proposition, and we were less worried about echelons than giving training and
For the next six months the close contact between the ordnance men and the
using units was marked. By June, two thirds of the ordnance company was with the
service companies. During this month our regiments were called upon to make a
series of probing attacks. Commanders felt, as they had during the January
action, that they needed ordnance support, but they were reluctant to burden the
forward areas with heavy equipment. Here the well-developed cooperation between
the ordnance men and the service companies paid off. The 7th Ordnance Medium
Maintenance Company and one third of the division's company stayed well to the
rear at Chunchon, while the ordnance service was still being maintained as far
north as Hwachon by our attachments to the service companies. Anyway, preventive
maintenance and careful repair had so cut down the third-echelon repair that we
never had more than 35 vehicles in our shops at one time. Actually, the company
was begging for work!
Another vital service that the ordnance company provided was to supply
qualified mechanics and drivers to the division. Our on-the-job training was
building up a creditable maintenance force, but rotation meant that our trained
men would be leaving. The replacement pipeline did not bring us adequately
trained drivers or mechanics, so we set up a division mechanical school.
The division's G1 screened all of the replacements for mechanics and men
whose civilian experience indicated ability. Every man he found was brought to
our ordnance school. We set up our own staff, consisting of a captain, a warrant
officer, and eight ordnance technicians, and we normally had from eighty to a
hundred in training. We had close coordination with the using units and every
feature of the school was tailored to their needs. If the artillery needed a gun
mechanic, we trained one. If a gun mechanic came to us needing refresher
training, we gave it to him. The captain and two NCOs did the planning, the
others checked the progress. As the training was primarily on-the-job in nature,
we really had as many instructors as there were mechanics in the company.
As soon as the automotive mechanics and others were trained, we formed them
into detachments and moved them out to the using units. We maintained control
over each man, checking to see that he kept our standards. We transferred the
trainee to a regiment when he seemed ready. A gauge of the success of our school
was that we never had a single complaint about a man we trained.
The key to the close support we furnished the 7th Division was the close
liaison. I spent 90 per cent of my time visiting the using units, and my staff
was constantly doing the same. Command liaison was most important, though, for
the commanders wanted to talk with the man who actually made the decisions.
Our coordination was not limited to the division. The strengthened ties with
our support maintenance company made for greater mobility and flexibility. In
March 1951 the 7th Division made a hurried move from Hajinbu-ri to Hangye-a
distance of a hundred miles. Two RCTs were to swing south while the third was to
take a calculated risk and travel a road through country whose status we did not
know. The lone RCT was accompanied by a strong detachment from our ordnance to
assist it in case of breakdowns. The supporting ordnance company split into
three detachments and established maintenance points (garages) along the
southern route. The bulk of the division's ordnance company made an
administrative move. It was, therefore, able to begin operations in the new
In April 1951 another important move was ordered, but the final destination
of the division was not known. We transferred all of our repair
backlog to the supporting ordnance company and it moved straight south.
In this way it was able to support the division regardless of the direction the
division shift might take.
Close support is, and must be, the aim of every division's ordnance
6. Attempted Tank Evacuation
Lt.Col. Herbert W. Wurtzler, Ordnance Officer, I Corps; Capt. Gentle S.
Banks, Lt. Leroy Ingram, MSgt. William T. Wilson, Sgt. Richard L. White, and
Cpl. Earl M. Friday, 57th Ordnance Recovery Company. (Narrative by Capt. Edward
C. Williamson, 4th Historical Detachment.)
In the latter part of November 1950, a withdrawal was taking place along the
whole front of the United Nations forces. The bitter fighting and the casualties
are well known. Something of the cost in equipment and materiel should also be
The 44th Ordnance Depot Company had occupied the buildings of the military
academy of North Korea in Pyongyang for some weeks before the withdrawal. The
fifteen- to twenty-acre drill field was used as a collecting point for disabled
ordnance equipment. Here were massed for repair 30 to 40 tanks, 500 vehicles, an
8-inch howitzer, and three or four 105-mm howitzers. All were reparable, but
none operational. Stored here also were 2,000 boxes of truck engines,
transmissions, differentials, and transfer cases.
The 44th Ordnance Depot Company began its evacuation without enough
transportation to move even its organic equipment. The collecting point was
closed, nothing more was accepted, and every unit had to get its disabled
equipment to safety as best it could. There was now little hope of evacuating
anything disabled in Pyongyang. On 2 December the gates of the collecting point
were thrown open and cannibalization invited. Demolition crews later destroyed
what was left.
The withdrawal brought the 57th Ordnance Recovery Company (Capt. Willard
Baker) of I Corps to Pyongyang and it, too, settled at the military academy. The
normal mission of the company was to handle battlefield recovery of tanks and to
augment the recovery facilities and corps and divisional ordnance units.
In spite of the improbability of evacuating the equipment already in
Pyongyang, the 57th Ordnance Recovery Company still tried to help
units that were having trouble. At 1600, 29 November, the motor officer of
the 6th Heavy Tank Battalion (Captain Lawrence) rushed into Captain Baker's CP
and excitedly told him that nine of the 6th's tanks were limping down the
Sukchon and Sunchon roads.
Captain Baker turned to his operations officer (Lt. Gentle S. Banks) and
asked, "Do you think we can help them?"
Banks replied, "I think so, sir."
While Baker and the mess sergeant got Lawrence some food, Banks called Lt.
Robert L. Brown and Lt. Leroy Ingram to the motor pool. After the three officers
had checked the recovery equipment, Banks assigned Ingram to the Sunchon MSR and
Brown to the Sukchon road.
Brown and Ingram moved north with five tractors from the M26A1 tank
transporters. Their greatest problem was the south-bound traffic. The tractors
crowded the road as they moved along. At 1900 a colonel of the 5th RCT stopped
Lieutenant Ingram. Although the road at this point was 17 feet wide, the colonel
informed Ingram: "This is a tactical drivers-cold. Pull over and give the
traffic going south the right of way." Ingram halted his tractors for about
twenty minutes, but at a convenient break in the traffic he moved on. On the way
he continually received slurring remarks from individual drivers, but was not
stopped again. At 2300, nine miles north of Pyongyang, he discovered some of the
ailing tanks. The drivers-cold, tired, and dispirited-had pulled off the road
and had started a fire.
On the Sukchon MSR, Lieutenant Brown made one halt because of a traffic jam.
At 2130, thirteen miles north of Pyongyang, he met the crippled tanks.
As long as possible the lieutenants let the tanks limp along, then towed them
when they could go no farther. At Pyongyang the tanks crossed the Taedong River
and moved to the Taedong marshaling yards. Their crews remained there with them.
Both tank groups reached the railroad yards by 2400.
It was imperative that the tanks not fall into enemy hands. To get the tanks
loaded and dispatched, the 57th called the 8046th Ordnance Field Group and
requested that coordination and details be arranged. The next morning (30
November) Ingram and Banks went to the railroad transportation officer to check
the availability of flatcars for the evacuation of the tanks of the 6th Heavy
Tank Battalion. Banks learned that no arrangements had been made, that loading
facilities and cars were not available at the Taedong station, and that the
transportation personnel didn't care much what happened to the tanks. As a
result, Banks decided to move the tanks to Sadon station-a small marshaling yard
five miles east. On the way the lead tank damaged a small bridge, and the convoy
had to halt until the engineers made some hasty repairs. The march was completed
by 1130. and the ordnance tractors returned to the
military academy and brought their organic trailers across the
Taedong River. It was now essential to get the 57th's own evacuation under way
because the class 50 bridge was soon to be removed.
At Sadon station the RTO informed Lieutenant Banks that Eighth Army had given
the Air Force priority in loading. The Air Force had an assortment of equipment
at the yards: some vehicles, but a lot of items like mess tables, Korean chairs,
and office equipment. Banks pointed out that most of the Air Force equipment was
boxed and could be loaded without tying up the only ramp. The transportation
officer replied, "In spite of the fact that you need the ramp to load the tanks,
you don't have any cars anyway." Banks answered that if he could get some cars
he would be able to start loading at once, but once the Air Force began they
probably would not give up the use of the ramp. The RTO agreed to confer with
the Air Force lieutenant colonel in charge of loading to see if he was willing
to leave the ramp open for loading tanks. Banks heard the lieutenant colonel
state flatly that he had a priority and that he wanted both the ramp and all the
cars. From the tone of the conversation Banks figured that it would not be worth
while to speak to the lieutenant colonel personally. The Air Force used the
Nothing more in the way of loading could be done at this time, but at 2000, 1
December, a switch engine arrived with six cars of tanks consigned to the 6th
and the 70th Tank Battalions. The ramp was available since the Air Force had
pulled out-abandoning much of its equipment in the rail yard. The ordnance
company helped unload the replacement tanks because it planned to reuse the
flatcars to evacuate disabled tanks. But two of the replacement tanks could not
be started. They too had to be reloaded for evacuation. These, with five other
tanks that had been brought to the Sadon yards from the collecting point, made a
total of fifteen M46 tanks and an M26 tank to be loaded.
After the replacement tanks had been unloaded, the ordnance company began
loading. The night was dark and cold, and only two tanks were loaded during the
entire night. The next morning (2 December) the loading went faster, especially
since some of the tanks helped others. A tank that could be started would pull
another up the ramp and onto a flatcar. The operating tank then moved forward to
a second car and two tanks were loaded in one operation. Even so, it was slow
work finding cars and moving them to the ramp. In this operation flatcars were
used that normally would have been considered too light. All paper work was
dispensed with and the sixteen tanks were loaded by 1130, 3 December. This was
fortunate, because the 57th Ordnance Recovery Company was under strict orders to
leave the Pyongyang area not later than 1200.
Banks notified the RTO when the tanks were loaded. At the same time he
stressed the importance of getting the tanks out. Banks, however,
got the impression that the tanks would not receive a sufficiently high
priority, and he then attempted to telephone the I Corps ordnance officer
(Lt.Col. Herbert W. Wurtzler).
Though Colonel Wurtzler was not at his office, the message was relayed to
him. He notified Eighth Army headquarters that the tanks were loaded and ready
to go. They assured him that every effort would be made to get a locomotive to
move the tanks south. The RTO at Sariwon personally informed Colonel Wurtzler
that he would send a locomotive to Sadon station. Three engines were dispatched
on 4 December, but on 4 December, as the last train went south, the tanks were
still at Sadon.
On 6 December, the ordnance section of I Corps received a report from the Air
Force that it had destroyed sixteen U.S. tanks near Pyongyang. This was the fate
of the tanks the 57th had tried so gallantly to save.
7. Operation Failure Anonymous
Many truck companies and battalions in Korea did not establish adequate
preventive maintenance programs. The result of this was frequent truck failures,
expensive repairs, and threatened failure of their transportation mission.
The primary equipment of a truck company is the GMC 2-1/2-ton truck-the
Army's work horse-one of our finest pieces of equipment. I believe every
maintenance officer will agree that the "Gimpy" is a rugged vehicle, but even
the most rugged piece of mechanical equipment must have maintenance or it will
not operate long.
The truck companies had a difficult, demanding job hauling supplies over
long, rough, mountain roads. On their shoulders often rested the responsibility
for the success or failure of an operation. It was most important that each
truck be so maintained that it could deliver its critical load of supplies at
its destination at the proper time.
One would expect that personnel of the truck companies and battalions,
knowing the importance of their mission, would realize the need of sound
operating procedures and scheduled maintenance. Actually, the story was just the
reverse. Neither at the battalion nor at the company level was there any
evidence of a definite preventive maintenance program.
There are many examples to illustrate this disregard for preventive
maintenance.] A company commander was heard to say: "How can I do any preventive
maintenance on my vehicles? I never see them until they have broken down."
Another said, "We are too busy; we just can't take time." Still another, "There
isn't much use doing anything with these vehicles; they were worn out before we
In November 1950 a transportation battalion commander came to his corps
headquarters complaining that almost all the vehicles in one of his companies
were headlined, and he wondered "how in hell" he was going to do his job if
Ordnance didn't keep his vehicles running. An ordnance officer was present and
asked the battalion commander to go with him immediately to the truck company to
inspect the trucks and find out what was necessary to put them back in shape.
The battalion commander declined, but he did agree to telephone a list of parts
needed for repair. The ordnance officer promised that the parts and ordnance
mechanics would be in the company motor pool next morning.
The parts requirement was received and the mechanics, parts and tools were on
the job next morning. The mechanics promptly discovered that the vehicles in
question did not need the engines, axles, and transmissions that had been
ordered. What was needed was a thorough check, adjustment, and general
tightening -- normal first- and second echelon maintenance.
When the Ordnance representative tried to find what organizational spare
parts were needed, he could find no stock records or any semblance of a company
motor pool. No one knew who needed which parts. Later, he discovered a large box
of jumbled parts and assemblies. Many of the parts duplicated the ones ordered
by phone, and the stock was far in excess of authorized allowances.
In another instance a battalion commander was quite proud of a maintenance
program he put into operation. In his plan all vehicles of his battalion would
receive their semiannual maintenance check at the battalion motor pool. The plan
was fine as far as it went, but there was no adequate plan for the daily,
weekly, and monthly maintenance inspections. He made no provision for the
vehicles while they were on long trips, traveling in convoy over exceptionally
dusty roads. Poor road conditions often necessitate daily attention to filters,
bearings, and bushings that ordinarily would be serviced on a monthly
It is interesting to note that this battalion had to have sixty engines
replaced in one week! Inspection of the original engines showed that the engine
failures were caused by lack of preventive maintenance and improper operation.
On a second occasion this battalion brought forty-eight vehicles into an
ordnance company one day for field maintenance repair. The same day the
battalion's personnel complained to
the army transportation officer that they would not operate efficiently
because so many of their vehicles were Headlined in Ordnance! Seventy five per
cent of the shop work could have been avoided if preventive maintenance had been
1. See "Equipment Without Operators," pages 42-44.
Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation