Security, Combat, Morale
1. Refugee Removal
Lt.Col. William Luk, Provost Marshal, 24th Infantry Division. (Interview by
Major Robert H. Fisher.)
In the late spring of 1951 the 24th Infantry Division had joined the 7th
Infantry Division at Chunchon after a twenty-mile plunge into enemy territory in
a double envelopment. Thousands of Chinese Communist troops and Korean
noncombatants were trapped!
The day had been heavy with rain and I was wrestling my quarter ton through
the gumbo when the commander of the 24th Division (Maj.Gen. Blackshear M. Bryan)
flagged me down. I was wet and tired as I sloshed through the mud to the
general's jeep. The Old Man was serious.
"I want these people cleared from the division area," he said, pointing to
the struggling humanity moving by, "and I believe your military police can
spark the effort."
The refugees were not as numerous as they had been during the big buyout of
December 1950; nevertheless, their presence created serious problems. The
retreating enemy invariably left line-crossers to foment unrest among Korean
noncombatants and to gain information. It was next to impossible to tell the
difference between line-crossers and friendly noncombatants. The only answer was
to round them all up and remove the whole mass from the battle area. The
refugees were also a serious traffic obstacle on our newly won but inadequate
road net. I knew from previous experience that the presence of noncombatants in
a division's area caused a sharp increase in pilferage, assaults, and other
crimes. As General Bryan's provost marshal I shared his concern.
The order "Clear them out!" was flashed to the CP of the 24th Division's
military police company, and the roundup began. As I drove along the overtaxed
main supply road I saw military policemen accumulating groups of white-garbed
Koreans at check points, traffic-control posts, and defiles. Once their motion
was halted, these Orientals assumed their normal resting position -- a docile
squat. They stayed at the temporary
collecting points until empty supply trucks could be halted and used for
rapid evacuation. As the day wore on, motorized military police patrols directed
an increasing number of persons into the temporary collecting points, and the
road leading to the division's refugee collecting point, twenty miles to the
rear, filled with trucks.
At the division's refugee collecting point I saw our civil assistance officer
(Colonel Hanson) busily supervising the screening of the refugees. Those who
were in obvious need were given treatment by Korean medical personnel. The
Korean National Police maintained order and Korean laborers were preparing
steaming kettles of rice so that refugees could be fed before further
As I retraced my route toward the main line of resistance, I saw all the
military policemen who could be spared from other duties fanning out into
villages along the road to evacuate those Koreans who were not on the move but
whose presence in a house made it a likely refuge for the line-crosser. It was
during this phase that the big roundup slowed its pace.
The removal of thousands of reluctant refugees and noncombatants from their
villages and farms in the division's two hundred square miles of mountainous
terrain was a task that could not be performed overnight, nor was it a job that
could be done by the military police alone. The commander of the 24th MP Company
(Major Carl Clark) reported that his men had just scratched the surface, and he
estimated that even an around-the-clock operation would keep his company busy
for weeks. As I looked over Clark's shoulder at the two gaunt refugees in the
back seat of his jeep, I knew that everyone was in on the act, although this
operation was just one of our many jobs. We needed help.
In my report at the briefing next morning, I told of our progress and asked
for additional help. Our G2 (Colonel Cates) and Colonel Hanson, who had come up
from his collecting point, volunteered their support. Messages were relayed to
all division units, and the big roundup moved into high gear.
Infantry units on the MLR took into custody all refugees in their area and
notified the military police. Artillerymen engaged in surveying gun positions
sighted refugees in their transits and sent parties to round them up. Trucks
from the MP company, augmented by empty supply trucks from units of the
division, moved rapidly to evacuate the refugees from combat units to collecting
points. Men of the 24th Reconnaissance Company, although tired from their recent
combat mission, screened remote mountain villages and valleys, adding their take
to the steadily mounting stream.
As the days passed, the combined efforts of all units of the division turned
the tide, and the flow of refugees was reduced to a trickle. Finally, the number
of refugees sighted and taken into custody became
so small that military police handled the chore. However, it was a constant
duty. Military police motor patrols and MP officers inspecting traffic posts
were often seen to dismount to investigate signs of life observed near the MSR.
Usually a refugee or a Chinese soldier who had been hiding since our junction
with the 7th Division was flushed out.
More than a month elapsed from the time General Bryan gave his clear-them-out
order until we were able to claim an almost complete vacuum between the front
line and division rear. Any line-crosser would now have to run a 37-mile
To insure that control of refugees was maintained, military policemen took
frequent observation flights in helicopters and other light aircraft. When smoke
was seen rising from a chimney or clothing observed hanging on a line, MP ground
patrols were dispatched to investigate. The investigations would frequently turn
up some strange doings. One liquor salesman's thriving business in native
spirits, two miles behind the MLR, was brought to a halt. And in another raid a
busy Korean bordello within walking distance of the front line was put out of
By such vigilance the noncombatant vacuum was maintained. The control
guaranteed real security to the division from line-crossers, crime, and impeding
traffic. Even in this seemingly simple task, teamwork helped to spell success in
2. Ordnance Company Under Attack
Lt. Edgar E. Dunlap, Lt. William E. Peter, Sgt. Claude H. Lusk, Sgt. M. J.
Thomasson, Sgt. Thomas E. Griffin, Sgt. George A Batson, Sgt. Eugene F.
McCracken, Cpl. Elio Battaglia. (Interviews by Capt. Edward C. Williamson, 4th
The 38th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company came to Korea in July 1950. Its
mission was to take the ordnance overflow from the 2d Infantry Division.
On 19 September 1950 the company was in the rice paddies alongside the
Chongdo River, a half mile south of the small, mud-hut village of Songso-dong.
The main supply road from Chongdo to Changnyong ran by the company's
Earlier in the summer there had been some fighting in this area. However, the
village was still in good condition. The war was at a standstill on 19
September. As a result of recent rain, the Chongdo River now contained some
water, and the men of the company built a dam on the stream so they could
38th Ordnance MM Company
An experienced company commander (Capt. Francis P. Smith) had been replaced a
week before by Lt. Chris Beaber. Smith had spent nineteen months in Korea before
it was overrun by the Communists. He had not allowed Korean civilians into his
company area because he thought most Koreans would steal and because he was
fearful of guerrilla attacks. However, the attitude of the villagers of
Songso-dong was friendly, and they sold the soldiers pigs and chickens.
On the afternoon of the 19th it was planned to move the company to a new
location. The men loaded their trucks, policed the area, and threw all their
trash into the foxholes. At the last minute the move was postponed, however,
since an artillery battalion and a tank battalion had beaten the ordnance
company to its new location.
While camp was being broken some 30 adult Koreans and 60 to 70 children
gathered on the rice-paddy dikes near the river. Normally the guards would have
ordered the civilians away, but in the company's preoccupation with its move,
the Koreans were not disturbed.
When it became apparent that the company would not move that day,
preparations were made to settle down until a new reconnaissance could be made.
The trucks were partially unloaded and the camp routine reestablished. No one
took the precaution of cleaning out the foxholes or remounting the caliber .30
After unloading, three sergeants went down to the company pool
to bathe. They noticed a Korean civilian who just sat on the bank and scowled
Sgt. Burt Davis told the others: "I had a run-in with two Koreans on the dike
an hour ago. I told them to shove off and they talked back. This made me mad,
but I thought that if I harmed them I'd get into trouble."
All the men agreed that these actions by the Koreans were unusual.
The 135 officers and men of the 38th were armed with 7 truck-mounted, caliber
.50 machine guns, 3 caliber .30 machine guns, 3 submachine guns, 3 bazookas, 45
carbines, and 76 pistols. The company's alert plan called for sounding the truck
sirens in case of emergency. The men were to take their posts by sections. On
the south and east sides would be headquarters, supply, service, and recovery
sections. These 53 men were armed mostly with pistols. The carbines were
primarily in the automotive section (48 men), and this section was responsible
for the north and west sides of camp.
That evening a camp guard, consisting of 4 stationary and 2 roving sentries,
was formed. The 800-yard rectangular company perimeter had a guard at each
corner. Darkness fell at 2000 and it looked like rain. The company did not have
electric lights, and the men customarily turned in early. About two thirds of
the company slept in lean-tos, the remainder in the trucks.
A sergeant returned from a routine trip at 0030, drove into the bivouac area,
and halted briefly with his jeep lights on. At 0100 the guard was changed. Along
the main supply road there was an unusual quiet, as the South Korean National
Police did not relay their usual messages along their chain of grass-hut posts.
Only the sound of a howling dog disturbed the quiet of the night.
Shortly before 0200, a party of 35 or 40 guerrillas reached the rice paddies
and began crawling toward the ordnance company. Unnoticed by the two guards
stationed to the south of the company, they quietly reached the four-foot bank
which bounded the company area. First realization of the attack came with the
thud of grenades falling in the company area.
It seemed to the company's men that guns were firing all over the place.
Bullets hit the trucks and rocks and ricocheted throughout the area. Men tumbled
out of their trucks and lean-tos to find the guerrillas already on top of the
south bank and some moving into the company position. The two guards were forced
from their positions along the south bank, but fortunately were able to withdraw
without being hit.
The enemy action was planned in detail and skillfully executed. The
guerrillas centered their attack on the company's command post and the previous
location of the gasoline truck. Because of the expected move,
the 750-gallon gasoline truck and other POL supplies had been shifted closer
to the MSR. A thermite grenade thrown into the old POL area thus did no
A grenade or a tracer hit one truck and set it afire. This brightly
illuminated the company area, and the men had neither cover nor holes in which
to hide. The two trucks nearest the blaze caught fire, but were driven away
while the fires were extinguished by Sergeant Ellis and Sgt. Paul Easlom. A
machine-shop truck burned fiercely after a grenade was dropped into its gas
tank. Making the best of an extremely bad situation, many of the men crawled
under their trucks while others dispersed themselves behind the river dike to
the north of the company position.
A light tank (M24) was inside the company perimeter for repairs, and was
combat-loaded when the attack occurred. It could fire from its fixed position.
The crew crawled into the tank and remained buttoned up without taking any part
in the engagement.
Few of the ordnance company's men fired back at the enemy. Some were so
poorly situated they could not fire without endangering their comrades. Some
were scared. Others just didn't think of the importance of defending themselves.
The entire company might have been overrun had not Sgt. Eugene McCracken taken a
McCracken, dressed only in underwear, was under his wrecker. He helped Lt.
Henry J. Moore, who was wounded, and then began to look around. The attack had
now been under way for about five minutes, and McCracken suddenly realized that
all the fire was incoming. He jumped on his wrecker and attempted to fire the
caliber .50 machine gun mounted on it. The gun wouldn't fire.
McCracken could see ten or twelve guerrillas running up and down the bank
throwing grenades while three others sat on the bank behind his wrecker and
fired small arms. Finally he discovered that the headspace of the machine-gun
barrel had not been correctly adjusted, and he readjusted it. The gun worked
perfectly and he fired a burst at the three enemy on the bank. These three
disappeared and McCracken continued to search the area with fire. Lieutenant
Beaber came to the wrecker and shouted, "Can you see any more?" Just then the
guerrillas cut loose with another burst of small-arms fire. It missed McCracken
but damaged his wrecker. One bullet hit just in front of him, and he let loose
some choice profanity. Several men under the wrecker thought he had been
wounded, and one shouted, "Mac, are you hit?"
"No," he replied, "but they're sure trying!"
Another man who fired at the enemy was PFC Daniel LeGaspi, who used his
caliber .25 pistol. LeGaspi was wounded during the action by an enemy grenade.
Sgt. Guy W. Miller managed to set a second caliber .50 machine gun into action,
but it jammed after only a few rounds.
The attack subsided after fifteen minutes. A lull followed during which the
company moved into a close perimeter defense and section leaders organized their
areas. But no more automatic weapons were put in order. McCracken put another
box of ammunition (250 rounds) on his gun and then climbed down to wrap up in a
blanket for a few minutes.
After five minutes the men of the company heard a whistle blow. Everyone
hoped this was a signal to withdraw, but instead it proved to be the beginning
of a second assault. Twelve to fifteen guerrillas charged down the bank firing
small arms and throwing grenades. Eight to ten grenades exploded in the company
area, one six feet from McCracken's wrecker. He again opened with his machine
gun and fired a second box of ammunition. His gun suddenly stopped firing and he
thought it had jammed. Checking it, he looked in the ammunition box to find it
was empty. He put a fresh box on the gun, reloaded, and continued firing,
spraying up and down the area.
About ten minutes after the second assault started, the enemy firing suddenly
ceased. It was now close to 0230. The second assault had less intensity than the
first. Damage was confined mostly to the vehicles. The guerrillas now began to
withdraw, setting up a machine gun to cover their movement. Fire from this
machine gun came high into the ordnance company area, and McCracken spotted the
gun's muzzle blast. Turning his weapon on the flash, he silenced the enemy
Near the end of the second assault a messenger left the company area to get
help. Within a few minutes he returned with a patrol from the 622d Military
Police Company, stationed in Chongdo. At about 0300 another squad of MPs also
arrived, but did not immediately pursue the enemy since it was still dark and
their route of withdrawal was not well defined.
In the meantime, the commanding officer of the 622d MP Company made contact
with the local police. He learned that the police had been attacked before the
assault on the ordnance company. A platoon of 25 to 30 policemen arrived shortly
before dawn, went into diamond formation, and headed for an apple orchard where
the guerrillas were last seen. Later they sent back for a caliber .50 machine
gun, but the guerrillas managed to escape. After dawn the body of a North Korean
officer was found, and his papers indicated he was the leader of the guerrilla
force. No other dead were found. Seven guerrillas were believed to have been
wounded but evacuated.
In the ordnance company, 1 man was killed and 5 wounded. In addition the
company lost 3 2-Y2-ton trucks (one a machine-shop truck and another containing
an L maintenance set), 1 quarter-ton truck, 3 trailers, and 26 cylinders of
oxygen and acetylene. Several vehicles were partially burned or otherwise
The company made its move to another area at 1100 on 20 September. The men
agreed that in the future no one would sleep in a truck and no one would undress
on going to sleep.
3. Attacks Unwelcome
Capt. Frank D. Secan, 304th Signal Operation Battalion
One would expect that duty with an isolated radio-relay team would be
extremely unpopular. I hear many persons express that idea. I also hear that
relay men become careless soldiers and signal operators, that they have little
discipline, and that they allow themselves to go unshaven and dirty.
There is no question about isolation, or rude living conditions. Yet the men
of my relay platoon volunteered for such duty. I believe the disadvantages of
this type of service can be largely overcome, and men kept clean, disciplined,
and happy, if the right type of NCO is placed in charge of each team.
Isolation is a matter of degree. Relay teams are not completely cut off from
the world; they have the monitor channel with which they can keep abreast of
things. By this channel they can request supplies and call for help in
emergency. Still, the isolation calls for much resourcefulness and men have to
take care of themselves. This was especially true when we were in northern
In November 1950 I sent a team to establish a relay some twenty-five miles
from the nearest military unit. The team was commanded by Sergeant First Class
Rhodemeyer, an especially self-reliant soldier. Rhodemeyer's team consisted of
12 to 15 signal men, 10 ROK soldiers, and a Japanese interpreter. In addition to
their individual weapons the team had two caliber .30 machine guns and a few
grenades. They carefully established a perimeter defense with four or five guard
posts, and set trip flares in all paths leading to the position.
One night a trip flare went off, and the men knew they were about to be
attacked. The raiding party consisted of about fifty enemy with small arms. The
attack was repulsed without casualties or damage to equipment. The next night a
second attack was made. Again Rhodemeyer and his men were ready, and repelled
the guerrillas without difficulty.
Following the second attack, Sergeant Rhodemeyer left a minimum operating and
guard force at the radio site, took 5 signal men, 10 ROKs, and the Japanese
interpreter and led his party to a nearby village. The
men entered the settlement at gun point, but no resistance was offered. They
carefully searched each building and found some sixty weapons and a good deal of
ammunition. All this materiel was confiscated and destroyed. No prisoners or
hostages were taken, but Rhodemeyer let it be well understood that there had
better be no more attacks on the relay position.
The relay station stayed at the same position for ten days after this
incident. The entire area remained quiet.
4. Fighting Medics
Lt. John Atkins, Lt. Fred O. Blair, Lt. David C. Copell, and Sgt. Vincenzo
DiSanto, Medical Company, 21st Infantry. (Interviews by Lt. Martin Blumenson, 3d
The juncture at Sinpori in May 1951, of the 24th Infantry Division, attacking
north from Kapyong, and the 7th Infantry Division, attacking north from
Chunchon, bypassed a good many enemy groups. On the 26th of that month the
Medical Company, 21st Infantry (24th Infantry Division), set up its tents for
the night about three hundred yards from the regimental command post and about
the same distance from the position of Battery A, 213th Armored Field Artillery
Battalion. The camp site was on the side of a hill in a narrow strip between the
place where the steep slope ended and, continuing below it, the terraced rice
paddies began. A little southeast of the company position a small stream came
down through a defile in the hill mass.
The company had a permanent guard force of twenty men and, according to its
SOP, set up four guard posts. Enemy troops were known to be somewhere close by,
so two men were placed on each post.
In the early hours of the 27th, some remnants of the enemy moved down along
the small stream and through the defile, obviously trying to find their way back
to their own lines.
At about 0200, the foremost of the enemy soldiers ran into the medical
company's guards along the stream bank. One guard challenged the first Chinese
soldier he heard or saw, and got a volley of concussion grenades for his
trouble. These explosions awakened the rest of the company. Some were sleeping
in tents, some on cots or stretchers, and some in trucks. The first reaction of
everyone above ground was to get down. The second was to get dressed before
going out in the mud and rain to meet the enemy.
The 5 officers and 63 medics were inadequately armed for combat. In
fact, only a few had ammunition. Sgt. Vincenzo DiSanto had a little in the
supply truck and put out the first 150 rounds to three guards who came asking
for some. This left him with 250 rounds of carbine ammunition and ~ grenades.
DiSanto decided to leave his truck and pass out the ammunition to those who
needed it. He found that a firing line had already been built up.
Medical Company 21st Infantry
The ground was such that the only cover was behind a retaining wall a few
yards west of the company. This put the company's tents and vehicles right
between the firing line and the enemy. In a few minutes DiSanto distributed his
small supply of ammunition. He kept one grenade for himself to supplement his
The enemy was not organized. One group moved down the stream bed to the road
and set up a roadblock. Others fanned out and ran into Battery A and the medical
company. In the confusion, our troops were fearful of hitting one another.
As Lt. John Atkins visited a post near the stream he heard the guard
challenge, yelling, "Who are you?"
"ROK soldiers," the reply came, so Atkins shouted to the guard, "Hold your
fire!" He quickly changed his mind when the "ROK soldiers" opened with burp
Several enemy soldiers got into the company area and threw grenades. The
grenades were ineffective and led only to the throwers' being killed. The cooks
in their white clothing seemed to attract the attention of the enemy more than
anyone else. In the shooting, enough rounds were fired by both sides to riddle
all the company tents.
The firing line of the medical company was never seriously threatened. The
chief effect of its fire seems to have been to deflect the enemy on the medical
company's side of the stream into the line of the regimental command post on the
left of the company area. A runner sent over to regiment to report the fight
found that the command post was fighting too.
Sporadic fire continued until daylight. The company reorganized at dawn. A
nose count showed 58 Chinese prisoners, and 23 enemy dead in and around the
company position. Casualties for the company were 1 killed and 10 wounded, and
the regimental chaplain (Father Francis X. Coppens) was killed in the company
Company F and G. 5th Infantry, came on the scene shortly after daybreak and,
accompanied by two self-propelled guns, counterattacked. Several men of the
medical company joined this force. A hundred prisoners were soon taken, and the
prisoner bag for the 5th Infantry and the 21st Infantry during that day was
The medical company continued to work as such during the fire fight. Lt.
(j.g.) Edward Green, USNR (the acting regimental surgeon!) was wounded on the
firing line. He went to the first-aid tent with two other wounded. There he
treated these men and remained to treat others as they were brought in. An
officer-patient, awaiting evacuation, was wounded as he lay on a stretcher.
The Chinese were more surprised than the men of the medical company. Intent
on escaping encirclement, they were unable to launch an organized assault. Had
they been able to do so, they would certainly have overrun the lightly armed
troops. Nevertheless, the determination of the medical company to resist the
assault helped prevent the enemy's escape.
By 0830 the company was extremely cocky. They were "fighting medics," and
wanted to know "Who in hell says the medics can't fight?"
1 During this period the Arrny borrowed five hundred Naval Reserve
physicians, some of whom saw active service in Korea. Whenever the Navy officer
was the senior officer in a unit, he commanded it.
5. Task Force Baker
Lt.Col. Barton O. Baker, Ordnance Officer, 25th Infantry Division
Every service unit needs to be organized so that it can shift rapidly from
its service mission to a security mission and, if necessary, to
a combat mission. To reach this standard, training, discipline, and a good
SOP are necessary. To show how effective a service unit can be in a security
role, let me tell you about Task Force Baker.
In early September 1950, a small Signal Corps VHF detachment was stationed on
a hilltop about five miles from the CP of the 25th Infantry Division and about
twelve miles behind the infantry line. This party consisted of 5 U.S. soldiers
and 3 or 4 South Koreans attached for labor and security. The night of 3
September was rainy and miserable, and all the men in the detachment crawled
into their squad tent. No guard was posted.
At 2200 a party of guerrillas or infiltrators -- it was not established
which -- from the North Korean Army stealthily approached the detach ment and
killed them all with small arms and grenades. The newspapers condemned this
action as an inhumane massacre, but from a professional standpoint it could be
called negligence -- or even suicide!
The next morning (4 September) a CID agent and a reporter started toward the
VHF site. Part way up the hill they were wounded by grenades. Though injured,
these men returned and their wounds were treated at the nearby 8063d MASH in
Changwon, at the base of the hill where the action had taken place. It was
obvious the enemy had not withdrawn from the vicinity of the VHF station.
Later that day, I was driving through Changwon and stopped briefly at the
MASH. Considerable excitement existed as the result of the two incidents nearby,
and the hospital officers pointed out to me that mortar fire was falling on the
hillside near the hospital. The enemy obviously was well armed, but what he was
firing at I don't know. While I was talking, one of the hospital orderlies came
in carrying a spent bullet that had just pierced his tent.
The location of a hospital, ammunition dump, railroad, and division main
supply road made it vital that this area be protected. I phoned the division CP
and reported the situation to the commanding general (Maj. Gen. William B.
Kean). When General Kean asked for my recommendation, I suggested that since it
was already 1700, we could do little now except post security. I told him 150
men should be adequate. The general asked where I proposed to get the men. I
replied that I could use the men from my 725th Ordnance Company. He agreed, and
said the division reconnaissance company would come as soon as it was available,
and other units also would be dispatched. The force was designated Task Force
Baker, and I was to command until the recon company jumped off against the
enemy, at which time its commander (Capt. Charles Torman) would take over.
Immediately after talking to General Kean, I called the ordnance company and
told the commander (Capt. Ira Snyder) to bring 3 officers and 150 men to my CP
location in Changwon. These men arrived in sixty
minutes, with their individual weapons, three light machine guns, a rocket
launcher, and four radios. The group was already divided into three platoons,
each with an officer.
Task Force Baker (14K)
I had already planned my dispositions, and in the next forty-five minutes the
platoons were spread in a semicircular perimeter extending from the ammunition
dump on the west to a hill east of the hospital. The two most critical points in
the area were given particular attention. I ordered a machine gun placed to fire
northwest in a draw that was the easiest and most likely approach. At the point
where our perimeter crossed an important north-south road I directed that
another machine gun be posted, reinforced by the rocket launcher, and that an
officer be there at all times. Radio communication from my CP to each of these
platoons was established.
As these dispositions were being made, I went to the hospital and took charge
of an engineer platoon that was indifferently providing the close-in security. I
informed the engineer lieutenant of the formation of the task force, and
directed him to tighten up his defense of the hospital.
Next, I visited the ammunition supply point and told the commander of the
ammunition company of the situation. I directed him to form a security screen
extending from the left flank of the ordnance position to well beyond his own
installation. I also ordered him to place
an observation post in a draw on his left flank. After this, I tested
During the night an artillery officer called me and said he couldn't get any
ammunition. I asked why. He replied, "They just won't issue it." I went to the
As I approached the railroad station that served as a CP, I met no guards but
found waiting ammunition trucks lined up bumper to bumper. In the CP building I
found the commander and all his men. This officer was scared, and his attitude
had infected his troops. Although fifty carloads of ammunition sat in the
marshaling yards, the commander would not allow any lights in the area and no
identification or loading could take place. Under my direction the captain sent
out the security force I had ordered earlier, and then I started him issuing
ammunition. We had to take some risks, since we needed the ammunition.
During the night a tank platoon joined our task force. I split this and put
half of the tanks in bivouac near the hospital and the others near the
ammunition company. Toward morning we were further reinforced by a battalion of
ROK marines who arrived from the Chinhae area.
We had one incident during the night. I had been informed that a
civil-affairs detachment and some engineers were working north of us, and that
they had not returned to the division area. Early in the evening a number of
these people were challenged, and then came through our roadblock. We assumed
all had returned. Later in the night a jeep came along the road but did not halt
when challenged. The roadblock officerwas a former infantryman, and he fired
toward the jeep with his Ml as it came on. As the jeep sped by he grabbed two of
the passengers and hauled them out. The jeep soon halted, and we learned he had
wounded the local chief of police. I ordered him taken to the hospital, but he
died from loss of blood on the way.
The following morning the division's reconnaissance company arrived and, as
agreed, Captain Torman took charge. The division's ordnance company, the
ammunition company, and the engineer detachment held fast while the tanks
encircled the enemy and the recon company and the ROK marines moved into the
area on foot. At the location of the VHF station the enemy put up strong
resistance, using machine guns and mortars. Two American soldiers were killed,
but I don't know the casualties among the ROKs. Seventeen guerrillas were
captured or killed, including three women. The rest just melted away.
Had the reconnaissance company not arrived when it did, the 725th Ordnance
Company would have swept the area. Still, the ordnance company's importance in
providing security for the hospital, the ASP, and the MSR should not be
underestimated. It maintained the security unt'1 an adequate offensive force
arrived. In so doing, the company showed
that well-trained technical troops can be of decisive importance during
6. Secondary Mission
Capt. Robert L. Strouse, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion
During the Naktong perimeter days, the 65th Engineer Combat Battalion (25th
Infantry Division) was split among three infantry regiments. Each regiment
operated as a separate combat team. Occasionally they used the engineers as
infantry -- not only in defensive operations, but also in limited objective attacks
undertaken as part of the general defense.
Near Chungam-ni, Company E, 35th Infantry, failed to take a hilltop after
three successive attacks. The crest was an isolated strongpoint in the enemy
line, and was strongly defended. On 14 September 1950, the regimental commander
ordered Company B. 65th Engineer Battalion, to make a supported attack and
capture the objective. Only two hours were given the company to prepare for this
In addition to weapons organic to a combat engineer company, Company B's
personnel had 2 caliber .30 heavy machine guns and 3 60-mm mortars. These were a
special issue to the engineers in view of their frequent commitment as infantry.
Company B did not use its mortars but relied on the infantry for this supporting
The attack lasted only thirty minutes, and the objective was taken. The value
of the men can be seen in 2 awards of the Distinguished Service Cress (one
posthumous), 3 of the Silver Star, and 10 of the Bronze Star. Casualties were
heavy, the company suffering 14 killed and 21 wounded, including an officer
killed and another wounded. The 3d Platoon suffered particularly, having its
platoon sergeant wounded, 2 squad leaders killed and another wounded, and 3
assistant squad leaders wounded.
The loss of leaders was particularly felt when the company returned to its
primary engineer role. It meant a complete reorganization and training of NCO
specialists. The 3d Platoon had only 13 men left after the attack, and could not
carry out a platoon task until it received replacements five or six weeks
7. Combat Comes Suddenly
Lt. Norman R. Rosen, 10th Engineer Combat Battalion
Company D, 10th Engineer Combat Battalion (3d Infantry Division), landed at
Wonsan on 20 November 1950 -- one of the last units of the division to arrive. It
spent its first week ashore doing road maintenance work near the port, and was
then detached from the 3d Division and ordered to report to X Corps
headquarters, at Hamhung. I was in charge of the advance party.
On arrival at X Corps headquarters on the afternoon of the 27th, I was
briefed on our future operation by the executive officer of the 8224th Engineer
Construction Group and the S3 of the 185th Engineer Combat Battalion. Company D
was attached to the 185th and ordered to proceed immediately to Hagaru-ri at the
base of Changjin Reservoir. There our mission was to build a forward command
post for X Corps. I was given the location of the proposed CP and told that a
platoon of the 4th Signal Battalion was already on the ground to install
communications. Nothing was mentioned in the briefing about the tactical
situation, so I raised the question.
"Everything is perfectly secure," the executive officer replied. "I was up
there yesterday in my jeep. The marines drive up and down the roads with their
The company arrived at Hamhung by motor convoy at 1500. The men had all their
equipment except the bulldozer. I passed on the information I had received to
the company commander (Capt. Philip A. Kulbes), we refueled our vehicles, and
started off on the last fifty miles of our trip.
At Sangtong-ni the convoy was delayed six hours by traffic control on a
one-way mountain pass. While we sat along the road we listened to a battery of
Marine artillery firing at a target over the first mountain. At that point I
began to wonder how secure things really were.
At 0200 we arrived at our bivouac location south of Hagaru-ri. We knew no
more of our situation than we had gotten in Hamhung, so we posted security and
To us the most pressing problem was the weather. Company D had been in Korea
only a week and was not acclimated. In one day's drive of 150 miles we had
experienced a temperature drop of from 20 degrees above zero to 15 below zero.
In spite of our heavy winter clothing we were miserably cold. We'd have been
concerned with more than the cold had we known the tactical situation. Five of
our trucks with I officer and 20 men did not arrive. These vehicles had engine
trouble, and before they could catch up, the road from Hamhung was closed by the enemy.
At 0900 we roused the company. It was a slow start and the cooks rolled out
with the rest. While we were waiting for breakfast a Korean civilian came into
our area and told us the enemy was on the road behind us. We were impressed by
this civilian's persistence, so we sent a patrol to investigate.
At this time a Marine Corps officer and his driver walked into our bivouac
and informed us they had driven into an enemy roadblock in a defile only a mile
south of our bivouac. They had to abandon their vehicle to escape. The driver
was slightly wounded and both were wet and cold.
Captain Kulbes and I quickly organized a platoon-sized patrol and moved down
the road. We met heavy fire from dug-in enemy. Soon we received word that the
marines were sending a force to deal with the enemy, so we returned to our
company position. Security was maintained and the men began to dig foxholes.
Breakfast was served to small groups.
At 1400 the G2 of the 1st Marine Division arrived at our CP. By this time we
had finished our holes and were hauling materials for the construction for the
corps forward CP. This may have seemed a little amusing to the Marine major, as
the tactical situation was not what we believed it to be. He told us Hagaru-ri
was surrounded; that enemy heavy attacks were expected that night; that the
Marine lines were thin; and that we should occupy a portion of their perimeter.
The position he pointed out on the map was only three hundred yards from where
we were, but it was a ridge and almost three hundred feet straight up. We were
told there were prepared positions to occupy and that we would tie in on our
left with a platoon of the 4th Signal Battalion and would anchor our right on
the steep slope which overlooked a Marine Corps roadblock.
There was never a question raised about postponing our mission, or of coming
under Marine control. Still, we didn't realize the gravity of our situation and
did not move immediately to our new position. Instead, we moved all our vehicles
and equipment to a Marine equipment park in their perimeter. We left our tents
and stoves in position at the bivouac for future use.
Company D at this time had 3 officers, 1 warrant officer, and 77 enlisted
men. In addition, we had 90 men from KATUSA integrated into the squads. Actually
we had more acquaintance with Koreans than most American soldiers had. Before
going to Korea our division had been levied several times for replacements. The
Koreans had joined us in Japan two months before we embarked. Many of the
Americans had arrived only days before we sailed.
In addition to individual weapons, our unit had as combat equipment 4 caliber
.50 machine guns, 5 caliber .30 machine guns, and 6 3.5-inch rocket launchers.
We had no mortars or recoilless weapons. We issued every man three units of fire
(288 rounds per M1 rifle), two grenades, and all the machine-gun and rocket
ammunition we could load on him.
The weight of the ammunition and weapons made our march up the steep slope
very slow. It was late when we started, and it was dark when we arrived.
The ridge on which we organized fell off sharply on all sides except our
left. There were lots of holes in the ground, but we found nothing that could be
called an organized position. In the dark we could not organize a final
protective line, so we did the best we could. The 1st Platoon (SFC Leonard J.
Best) was on the right and some fifty feet below the crest. The 2d Platoon (Lt.
George E. Smith) was in the center. I had the 3d Platoon on the left.
Headquarters Platoon (WO Richard J. Dalke) faced to the rear. Thus our company
formed a small perimeter. The company commander (Captain Kulbes) and a Marine
Corps liaison officer were in the center of it.
Communications were poor. We had our full allowance of radios, but the
SCR-536 sets did not work in this country. Each platoon had its SCR-300, and
these happened to be on the same channel as those of the Marine Corps. My own
set would not make contact with the company commander, but I did have good
contact with a Marine officer who seemed to know the score. It wasn't until
later that I learned the marine was our own liaison officer, and that he
occupied the hole next to Captain Kulbes.
After I got my squads assigned to their positions I went out on our left
flank to tie in with the Signal Corps platoon. Instead of finding Americans, I
located a KATUSA labor platoon commanded by an American captain and three or
four U.S. soldiers. I made arrangements to coordinate our fire with theirs, and
Our company was in position by 2030. At about 2200 we began to hear firing
near our position. Thirty minutes later it was evident that the enemy had cut
through the KATUSA platoon on our left and was coming at us from both the left
and rear (east and north). My platoon was the first in our company to become
closely engaged, and with our flank in the air it was necessary for us to reface
the squads, under fire, some ninety degrees. My men were not trained for this
type of maneuver. In this change of front I lost most of my left squad.
We held fast during the night, although the 3d Platoon, and the 2d Platoon
behind it, had to withdraw 250 yards. The company ended up with all four
platoons in a tight knot on the crest of the hill by 0300. The closeness of this
position was bad for us when we began to receive heavy concentrations of white
The enemy executed a great number of banzai-type attacks on our positions.
The American engineers countered this with everything they had. They fired most
of their 288 rounds of Ml ammunition, most of the machine-gun ammunition, and at
times even fired the 3.5-inch rockets point-blank at human targets. We would
stop an attack, things would slow down for a short time, then the enemy leader
would blow a whistle and another twenty-five or thirty would rush us. In the
morning we learned these were Chinese Communists -- our first information that
another nation had entered the conflict.
Company D, 10th Engineer Combat
While our Americans did well, the KATUSA soldiers did not measure up to the
situation. We had difficulty communicating with them, and under the stress of
battle they became demoralized. The most incomprehensible thing about them was
that when we ran low on ammunition we asked the KATUSA soldiers if they had any,
and they replied negatively. Weeks later we discovered that most of them had not
fired their ammunition this night, but continued to carry it. At the beginning
of our fight we had a great deal of difficulty with our weapons because they were
cold and fired sluggishly. We had gone into action so unexpectedly it had not
occurred to us to clean the oil off our weapons. Several of our men abandoned
their own weapons and took those of the enemy dead who littered the ground
around their foxholes. The enemy, too, had U.S. weapons -- mostly Thompson
submachine guns and carbines.
During the night our Marine Corps liaison officer was killed, but not before
he radioed division headquarters of the seriousness of our situation. We were
ordered to hold the position at all costs. No help was at hand and it was almost
dawn before a composite force of a hundred Marine Corps rear-echelon personnel
reached our position. At 0900 we received an air strike to our immediate front,
and it gave us a great deal of help. At about noon of the 29th we were relieved
from our position on the ridge and moved to another sector of the perimeter.
Our losses for the night were almost 50 per cent of our total force.
Casualties among Americans were 2 officers slightly wounded, 23 men wounded, 10
men killed, 9 missing. Among the KATUSA personnel, 50
were killed, wounded, or missing. Our losses were more serious, considering
the key personnel lost to the company. The killed included the supply sergeant,
two cooks, and two radio men. The wounded included the first sergeant, a platoon
sergeant, an assistant platoon sergeant, a radio operator, and two cooks. The
missing included a platoon sergeant and two squad leaders.
The marines tended to be critical of our company for its operations of the
night -- in spite of our holding the position. They estimated that we had been hit
by an enemy battalion of 1,000, and we counted more than 400 bodies in front of
our positions when daylight came. No account was taken of our inexperience, or
that we were thrust into a combat role suddenly -- without orientation or support.
Months passed before the marines gave us recognition for even having been in
8. Efficiency Through Morale Lt.Col. John E. Harbert, 314th Ordnance
All battalion and company commanders of the 314th Ordnance Ammunition Group
had a great problem of morale. A majority of the ammunition supply points were
located within the division zones, manned primarily by troops who arrived in
Korea poorly trained and jittery. Most of the ammunition personnel were selected
from castoffs of units in Japan. The courts-martial and disciplinary rates were
The morale situation was further complicated by the rotation and recognition
systems, which placed emphasis on unit assignment and not on geographic
location, service, or hazard. Thus, service and supply personnel in a combat
division were often located a hundred miles behind our ASPs; yet they received
twice as many rotation points. Division service troops usually got more rest and
had other advantages.
I felt that morale was the key to getting ammunition forward. I believed and
proved that men who feel their work is important will produce under any
When I took command in mid-1951, I began working on morale from three
directions. First, I demanded the highest standards of soldiering. Colors were
brought into the field. Retreat formations were held weekly, formal security
guard mounts practiced, cleanliness and neatness maintained at garrison level,
and military courtesy required. I was nicknamed "Hard John" for my policies and,
in fact, I encouraged the nickname. However, the men loved the soldiering and
responded favorably. The neat clothing, proper uniform, and ceremonies gave the
men a pride in themselves and in their units. The proof is in the result:
158,000 tons of ammunition delivered to the front in 60 days. This is a peak never
before reached by any like group.
My second principle was to keep the men informed. The 314th Group developed a
daily bulletin which was designed to appeal to the men. It told the history,
tradition, and accomplishments of the Ordnance Corps. It also told in personal
terms what their work was accomplishing in Eighth Army, and it stressed the
slogan: "It is the piece of ordnance that kills the enemy." I had enlisted
personnel from distant ASPs brought regularly to group headquarters for a
three-day rest -- plus a briefing on "the big picture" and the way their unit was
The third approach was through recognition and reward. It is very well to
recognize the combat soldier for his contribution, but this does not mean that
recognition should be withheld from service troops. Divisional service troops
share their division's accomplishments. Nondivisional service troops cannot wear
the Indianhead, or say they belong to the Wolfhounds, or the Buffalos. Yet, for
all of this, some of the ammunition service units have more dangerous jobs and
even draw hazard pay. They disarm bombs and go into disputed territory on
demolition work. On withdrawals from North Korea during the winter of 1950-51,
the ammunition troops of the 314th Group shared the bitter rear-guard action.
Often they escaped encirclement by walking over the Korean hills with infantry
units. At other times they held positions in the line.
To overcome this lack of recognition, the 314th made "Andy Ammo" its official
emblem. Andy Ammo is the man who doesn't question, but humps ammunition day and
night. We plastered pictures of Andy Ammo at every ASP. We used his figure for a
road marker, and many of our ASPs were called Andy Ammo by their "customers." A
song was written about Andy, and our men sang it. Andy Ammo was a going
tradition before I joined the 314th, but I encouraged his fame. He is now a
legend and an inspiration to ammunition service troops who display the will to
serve beyond the call of duty.
Recognition of our men on the rotation policy came partially as the result of
a letter I wrote to the commanding general of Eighth Army. We finally received
rotation points equal to those given divisional personnel when we operated in a
division's zone. This made a favorable impression on the men. It was well
I gave recognition to individuals who worked hard, regardless of race. I
recommended for promotion to lieutenant colonel a Negro officer who was one of
my best field-grade officers. I brought Negro officers and men into the group
headquarters on a merit basis. Each man was judged on his ability -- an important
consideration when more than 90 per cent of my troops were Negroes.
I remained with the 314th Ordnance Group only four months but I proved again
that leadership is as important in ordnance units as it is in
the infantry. The techniques are the same, yet they are often more difficult
to apply when your men are spread over greater distances. Leadership and morale,
efficiency and production, soldiering and recognition -- all are tied together.
They should never be overlooked in a service unit. These principles pay off in
Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation