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Two field artillery traditions: "Continue the mission," and "Defend the guns" must be instilled in all artillerymen.


The North Korean Great Naktong Offensive


Defense of a Battery Position

* North Korean Communist forces appeared to be near complete victory at the end of August and during the first part of September of 1950. Along the southern coast of Korea enemy troops were within thirty miles of Pusan, the only port and supply base left to the United Nations army. American troops holding this Pusan perimeter at the time consisted of four divisions and a brigade occupying a line in the general area of the Naktong River from Waegwan south to Masan-a straight-line distance of seventy miles. The irregular front line was twice that long. South Korean soldiers manned the northern section of the perimeter from Waegwan to Pohang-dong on the east coast.

At the beginning of September the North Koreans began a powerful drive against the southern end of the perimeter defended by the U.S. 2d and 25th Infantry Divisions. These attacks achieved limited success and carried the combat into the rear areas behind the American front lines. One penetration fell against the 35th Infantry, a regiment of the 25th Division, soon after midnight on the morning of 3 September. The enemy pushed Company B from its position, surrounded Company G and the 1st Battalion command post, and then attacked several batteries of artillery. Among the artillery units, the heaviest fighting took place within the gun position of Battery A, 64th Field Artillery Battalion, which was in direct support of the 35th Infantry. The headquarters of each of these units was located in Haman at that time.

On the night of 2-3 September Battery A was in position two and a half miles north of Haman near a main road and single-track railroad running east and west between Masan and Chinju. The narrow road from Haman joined the Masan-Chinju road at the small village of Saga, the buildings of which were strung along the main road. [1] Because of North Korean infiltrators, artillery units were alert to the necessity of defending their own positions and the battery commander (Capt. Leroy Anderson) kept his area as compact as possible. Three or four hundred yards south of the road there was a low ridge shaped like a half circle and forming a shallow bowl. Here Captain Anderson positioned five of his six howitzers. Since the area was too small to accommodate all of the pieces, he placed the other howitzer on the north side of a railroad track that paralleled the Masan road and divided the battery area. The fire direction center, on the south side of the tracks, was operating in a tent erected in a four-foot-deep dugout within shouting distance of the guns. The wire section had its switchboard north of the tracks in a dugout fifteen to twenty yards south of the cluster of houses, a few of which were used by men of the wire section as living quarters. In addition to the low ridge, there was only one other terrain feature of importance-a gully, about four feet deep, next to the railroad tracks.

Around the battery position Captain Anderson set up ten defensive posts including four .50-caliber machine guns, three .30-caliber machine guns, one observation and listening post, and two M16 halftracks each mounting four .50-caliber machine guns. Four of the posts were on the ridge around the gun position and were connected by telephone wire. The others were within shouting distance.

Until 0245 on 3 September the battery fired its usual missions in support of the 35th Infantry. The night was dark, and there was a heavy fog in the area-a condition common along the southern coast of Korea during the summer. The battery first sergeant (MSgt. William Parker) was the first to suspect trouble. He was standing near the switchboard dugout when he noticed several men moving along the main road.

He called to them, "Who's there?" and then, when they continued walking, he yelled "Halt!"

Three North Koreans were pulling a machine gun (the type mounted on small, cast-iron wheels) down the road. They moved down the road a few more steps and then dropped into a ditch, turned their gun toward the battery position, and opened fire. Almost immediately there was enemy fire from several other directions, a large part of it coming from the ridgeline that partially surrounded the main part of the battery. At the south end of the battery position the North Koreans had three machine guns in action against the gun sections and, soon after the first shots were fired, they had pulled another machine gun into place along the road in Saga. From the beginning, the action was divided between the two parts of the battery, divided by the railroad tracks.

Sgt. Herbert L. Rawls, Jr., the wire team chief, saw the North Koreans at the time Sergeant Parker challenged them. Realizing that there would be trouble, he ran first to one of the native houses by the road to awaken several men from his section who were sleeping there, then to the switchboard dugout to warn those men. Near the edge of the switchboard hole Sgt. Joseph R. Pursley was kneeling on the ground splicing a wire. Just as Rawls got there a North Korean appeared and killed both men with a burp gun. He then threw a grenade into the switchboard dugout. The explosion killed two of the three men in the hole; the third man, Cpl. John M. Pitcher, was not seriously injured. He continued to operate the switchboard throughout the night with the two bodies beside him in the hole.

All this had occurred within a few minutes. At the same time two other events were taking place in the same area. At the first sign of action, Cpl. Bobbie H. McQuitty ran to his 3/4-ton truck upon which was mounted a machine gun. He had parked his truck near the road and now, by the time he reached it, the North Koreans had rolled one of their machine guns (one of the two they had in Saga) up just in front of it. With the two machine guns pointed toward each other at a distance of not more than thirty yards, McQuitty's gun failed to fire. He jumped from the truck and ran across the rice paddies toward the front lines of the infantrymen where he had seen a tank the previous afternoon. He now hoped to get help from it. By this time, neither the other two machine guns on that side of the railroad, nor the quad .50s, could fire against the North Koreans in that area without endangering men of the wire section.

Meanwhile, the communications men whom Sergeant Rawls had awakened just before he was killed tried to get away from the building in which they had been sleeping, hoping to rejoin the main section of the battery. In one room of the building were three men, PFC Harold W. Barker, PFC Thomas A. Castello, and PFC Santford B. Moore. Barker left first, running. He had gone only a few steps when he saw one of the North Korean machine guns directly ahead. He turned quickly and dashed back to the house, but as he reached the doorway a bullet struck his knee. Castello and Moore pulled him back into the building and decided to remain in the house. They put Barker on the floor, and then stood in a corner of the room as close to the wall as possible. Unfortunately, several days before this Barker and Castello had picked up two small pups, which now shared the same room. The pups chewed on some paper and made considerable noise. In an adjoining room there had been another man who also tried to escape, but as he stepped from the building he encountered fifteen or twenty Communist soldiers standing in a group just outside the door. One of them shot him in the mouth and killed him.

Within a few minutes after the North Koreans appeared, five members of the communications section were dead and another man was wounded. Thereafter the enemy fired the two machine guns toward the area of the howitzers but made no attempt to move against the guns or even to search the area for other Americans.

Immediately after the first shot was fired against the men near the switchboard, three machine guns at the south end of the battery position opened fire against the howitzer sections. Two of these were in place on the low ridgeline at the left front of the guns and a third fired from the left rear. In addition, there was fire from a half dozen or more enemy riflemen. Of the six guns, the three nearest the ridge were under the heaviest fire. There was an immediate interruption of the fire missions while the crews took cover in their gun pits, which were deep enough to afford some protection. There was a period of several minutes, then, before the artillerymen realized what was happening and determined the extent of and direction of the enemy fire.

Meanwhile, on the left, an enemy soldier threw several grenades at the pit occupied by MSgt. Frederick J. Hammer's section. One of the grenades exploded inside the pit, killing one man and wounding several others; another exploded in an ammunition pit and set fire to over a hundred 105-mm shells stored there. The men manning the machine-gun posts along the ridge opened fire when the action began but soon realized the enemy had already penetrated to the battery position. They pulled back, going north toward the other halftrack mounting the quad .50s. This weapon fired just a few rounds before its power traversing mechanism failed and, when it could not be operated by hand, the gun crew backed the vehicle a short distance to the gully by the railroad tracks.

It was just about this time that the battalion headquarters called Battery A to ask the reason for interrupting the fire mission. The battery executive officer (Lieut. Kincheon H. Bailey, Jr.) answered the telephone at the fire direction tent. Bailey had heard the machine guns firing but was not concerned about it since at that time the front-line infantrymen were not far away and the artillerymen could often hear the noise of automatic weapons and small arms. In turn, he called the gun crews to ask them. Sergeant Hammer and four other gun sections reported their situation but the sixth section, commanded by PFC Ernest R. Arnold, was under such intense machine-gun fire that no one wanted to reach for the telephone on the edge of the gun pit. Bailey reported back to the battalion and went out to investigate for himself.

During the several minutes required to relay this information to battalion headquarters the situation in the battery position developed fast. Sergeant Hammer, seeing his ammunition burning, ordered the men in his section to make a dash for the gully by the railroad tracks. Within the next few minutes the men manning two other guns managed to escape and get back to this gully. Meanwhile, one of the platoon sergeants (MSgt. Germanus P. Kotzur) had raced over to the howitzer north of the railroad tracks and ordered the gun section to lay direct fire against the hill from which the enemy soldiers had apparently come.

It was about the time the first of these shells landed that Lieutenant Bailey left the fire direction tent to find out what was happening. The powder in Hammer's ammunition pit was burning brightly by this time, illuminating one end of the battery position. As Bailey walked toward that area he saw North Koreans walking around the gun and concluded the crew was dead or gone. He ran back to the nearest howitzer and told the chief of section (Cpl. Cecil W. Meares) to start firing against the ridge. Two howitzers fired a total of eighteen rounds, which burst a hundred and fifty to two hundred yards away. Bailey also urged the gun crew to start firing their side arms against the North Koreans who now occupied the next gun pit-the one Sergeant Hammer's crew had abandoned. For five or ten minutes Corporal Meares's men fired at the enemy soldiers and threw grenades toward the gun pit. Then Bailey and Kotzur decided it would be best to get the crews back to the protection of the gully. They stopped the artillery fire and began calling for the other crews to move back. To give these men some protection, Sgt. Henry E. Baker ran to a nearby 2 1/2-ton truck which carried a ring-mounted caliber .50 machine gun and began firing this toward the North Koreans. PFC Richard G. Haussler went with Baker to feed the ammunition belts through the gun. These two men, although up high where they could be seen from the entire area as long as the ammunition was burning brightly, fired five boxes of ammunition (1,250 rounds) through the gun in about ten minutes. The battery commander (Captain Anderson) set out on an inspection of the battery position to make certain none of his men remained in foxholes or in the gun pits.

It was about 0315 when all of the cannoneers reached the gully by the railroad tracks-half an hour after the action began. As it happened, the Catholic chaplain of the 25th Division (Capt. John T. Schag) had visited the battery earlier in the day and had decided to spend the night there. When the fighting began Father Schag took charge of a group of men who had been sleeping near him and guided them to the gully then used as the battery defensive position. Once in the gully, he gathered the wounded men together and then helped the medics care for them. Captain Anderson and Sergeant Kotzur organized the men for the defense of the gully. Everyone was now in this gully except for three men in the fire direction tent; Corporal Pitcher, who was still operating the battery switchboard; and Barker, Castello, and Moore, who were still waiting quietly in the house in Saga.

Enemy activity decreased after the men of the battery consolidated their position in the gully although there was a brisk exchange of rifle fire. The battalion commander (Lt. Col. Arthur H. Hogan) called several times to find out what was happening and offered help from one of the other batteries in the battalion. One man at the fire direction tent (Sgt. Carl Francis) yelled to Lieutenant Bailey to ask if he wanted some 155mm fire placed in the area, and Bailey said they'd like to have some on the hill in front of the guns. Colonel Hogan was familiar with the hill and, having good original data, got the first shells squarely on the hill.

Bailey yelled back to the fire direction center, "Right 50; drop 100; fire for effect."

The men around him groaned when they heard this command, so Bailey changed it to "drop 50; fire for effect."

Colonel Hogan asked for two rounds from the battery of medium artillery and the rounds fell just in front of the guns. Soon after this a tank came down the Masan road from the north and began firing into the enemy positions. It was the tank for which Corporal McQuitty had gone after his machine gun jammed at the beginning of the action. This helped to reduce the enemy activity although there was scattered rifle fire until the first signs of light that morning. The enemy soldiers then disappeared, and the gun sections returned to their howitzers to assess the damage. The North Koreans had killed 7 men and wounded 12 others of Battery A, destroyed four trucks, and let the air out of the tires on one of the howitzers. On three of the howitzer tubes they had written in chalk the numbers of their company, platoon, and squad. Otherwise, the guns were not damaged. There were 21 dead North Korean soldiers in the battery position when the action was all over. Captain Anderson regrouped his battery on the north side of the tracks and resumed the firing of normal supporting missions.


Every soldier must be mentally trained for the shock of battle and prepared for instant defense of his own and his unit's position. In fluid situations, it must be expected that the front will not be stabilized and that hostile action will develop well to the rear. Under these conditions, artillery position areas must be selected that not only will permit accomplishing the primary mission of fire support but will also facilitate local defense against enemy action that might interrupt the fire support.

This example demonstrates how an attack of limited strength against an inadequately prepared battery position can be effective in neutralizing a battery. To avoid such interruptions in fire support, batteries must obtain an all-around, completely integrated defense. This is accomplished by assigning primary and contingent sectors of responsibility to each gun section, by preparing the firing positions of the individual pieces to insure complete cannon fire coverage of the position's perimeter, and by developing fire plans to cover all possible avenues of approach. Into this plan is integrated the fire of the battery's automatic weapons and rocket launchers. Each individual of the battery must be assigned and be ready to occupy a specific defense position. Specific personnel must be designated in advance as a reserve force.

An alarm system must be established and all battery personnel actually rehearsed in the actions they will take when the alarm is given. Day and night security must be completed by installing sufficient observation and listening posts, coupled with adequate communications and patrols that visit and maintain contact with adjacent units.

This action contains incidents of individual bravery and courage, of demonstrated devotion to duty, of the use of initiative, and of leadership in an emergency. But how was it possible for the enemy to walk down the road and into the battery position? The obvious answer is that the defensive organization was unsatisfactory. Weapons had not been checked to insure that they would fire. An alarm or alert system, if used, did not work. How much better to stop the enemy outside a battery position than to let him neutralize the battery, kill and wound soldiers, and destroy materiel. A well-organized and alert defense would have enabled Battery A to repel this attack with a minimum of effort.


[1] Information used to prepare this account is based upon a personal interview with Capt. Kincheon H. Bailey and six members of Battery A, 64th FA Battalion. This interview was conducted by the author on 3 September l951 near Kumhwa, Korea. Captain Bailey also furnished additional information in four letters to the author. These were dated 13 October 1951, 4 February, 22 February and 1 March 1952.

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