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The Foundation of Freedom is the Courage of Ordinary People

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The first quality of the soldier is fortitude in enduring fatigue and privations; valor is only the second. Poverty, privation, and misery are the school of the good soldier.


There were 2,700 U.S. and approximately 15,000 enemy casualties in the savage fighting for themaze of trenches and deep bunkers covering these fearsome ridges.

The name* "Bloody Ridge" was given by Stars and Stripes which, for security reasons,did not clearly identify its location. Men fighting there read the S&S stories and wondered where this bloody battle was going on.

Map of The Punchbowl Area
Years of Stalemate

Bloody Ridge

Chapter 16
Bloody Ridge

* Bloody Ridge was so named by Stars and Stripes. Men of the 9th Infantry Regiment (2d Infantry Division), fighting there, read stories of the action which, for security reasons, Stars and Stripes did not clearly identify and wondered in what sector this bloody battle was raging.

(Comment by B.K.)There were 2,700 U.S. and approximately 15,000 enemy casualties. The far greater enemy casualties were due to our superior artillery deployment and total control of the air)

Bloody Ridge consists of three hills 983, 940 and 773 and their connecting ridges. Four razor-back ridges converge on the western extremity of Bloody Ridge to form Hill 983, a sharp and well-defined point and the highest peak of the ridgeline. To the east, and separated from 983 by a steep draw, the 1,100-yard-long center section of Bloody Ridge comes to a peak at Hill 940. Another thousand yards east of this peak is Hill 773.

The maze of enemy trenches on the ridges made it appear to air observers that Bloody Ridge had been plowed. The trenches connected many bunkers which the enemy had built strong enough to withstand artillery fire and air strikes. The larger ones sheltered as many as sixty men. Some protected small artillery pieces or mortars. Detection of enemy positions from the ground was difficult because the hills were partially wooded and enemy soldiers had been skillful with camouflage.

The planning and fighting for Bloody Ridge took place while cease-fire negotiations droned on at the Kaesong armistice conferences. This eastwest ridgeline was considered a desirable terrain feature for purposes of observation, but from Eighth Army's over-all point of view it had little value. The battle for Bloody Ridge was one of several limited objective attacks by which Eighth Army leaned against the enemy in order to prevent the enemy from leaning against it.

Fighting for Bloody Ridge had been going on for twelve days when the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry, made its first attack against the hill mass. During that time an ROK division had seized the three hills, only to lose them the next day. [1] It was a bloody ridge for the South Koreans also. In ten days the ROK regiment that had made the main attack suffered more than a thousand casualties. About one fourth of these were listed as killed or missing. [2]

Supporting units were numerous during the entire Bloody Ridge battle. Included were the four artillery battalions of the 2d Division; two additional battalions of medium artillery; one additional 105-mm battalion; two heavy-mortar companies; two regimental tank companies; and one company from a medium tank battalion. The fires of ail these units were coordinated by 2d Division Artillery.

Beginning on the foggy morning of 17 August 1951, ROK troops launched their attack against Bloody Ridge. They secured it, finally, on 25 August. They lost it again the next day. On 27 August, the 9th Infantry, which had placed its 2d Battalion in supporting positions on Hill 940, attempted without success to seize Hill 983. The 2d Battalion withdrew that evening, going all the way back to Worun-ni. On the 28th, the 3d Battalion, attacking the long ridge from the east, failed to reach even the first objective (Hill 773). Faced with a surprise attack that night, it also fell back to Worun-ni. Thus, before the 1st Battalion made its first attack against the Bloody Ridge hill mass, UN forces had captured the long ridgeline only to lose it again, hill by hill. [3]

On 30 August, the 9th Infantry made a frontal assault, sending its 1st and 2d Battalions straight north against Hill 940. Both battalions got within a few hundred yards of the top of the ridgeline before enemy fire halted the advance. Casualties were heavy. Company A was reduced to half strength. The three aid men with the company became casualties, one platoon leader was killed, the company commander and another platoon leader were wounded. Lt. John H. Dunn took charge of the company.

When it became apparent that neither battalion would reach the objective before dark, the regimental commander ordered both to withdraw.

As an artillery forward observer (Lt. Edwin C. Morrow) crawled toward a knob in Company A's area, he heard a voice behind him.

"Lieutenant, it looks like you'll have to take over."

Turning around, Morrow recognized one of the sergeants from Company A. "Where's Lieutenant Dunn?" he asked.


"How many men are left?"


"What were your last orders?"

"Withdraw and reorganize at last night's position."

While the sergeant told the men to pull back, Lieutenant Morrow arranged for fire to cover the movement.

"This is the fastest transfer of an Artillery officer to the Infantry that I've ever seen," he thought.

Seven artillery battalions fired a smoke mission as the remaining infantrymen carried the wounded men down the hill. They had to leave the dead and much equipment behind.

Not until about 0400 on 31 August did the entire 1st Battalion reassemble in the area it had occupied before the attack. Even then the men were not allowed to sleep. The battalion commander (Lt.Col. Gaylord M. Bishop) notified his company commanders that, because of an expected enemy attack, it would be necessary for all men to stay on the alert. They received rations, however the first that many of them had eaten since the previous morning. When the expected attack had not materialized, after a two- or three-hour wait the battalion moved by trucks to an assembly area south of Worun-ni where the companies were to have two hours in which to reorganize before attacking another hill. Morale was low, the weather depressing. It was foggy and unseasonably cold.

At the assembly area the men received dry socks, hot coffee, and ammunition. There was a supply of oil, cleaning rods, and patches. There was also mail. More replacements joined the rifle companies.

Before noon on 31 August the 1st Battalion loaded on trucks again and rode two miles forward. Its mission was to attack Hill 773 this time from the east. At the detrucking point the infantrymen formed company columns and continued forward, Company C in the lead. There were dead North Korean soldiers all along the road.

At the eastern tip of the ridgeline, where Bloody Ridge ended at the road pass between Worun-ni and the Pia-ri Valley, Company C turned left and climbed toward the first knoll on the ridgeline leading toward Hill 773. The knoll was already in friendly hands, since the 38th Infantry Regiment had maintained an outpost there for several days. The main positions of the 38th were across the road on the high ground immediately east of Bloody Ridge. Since the 38th Infantry's high ground afforded the best observation of Hill 773, Colonel Bishop had established his observation post on that hill east of the road. He and his S-2 (Lt. Charles W. Mallard) were already at the observation post when Company C left the road and started up the ridgeline in the attack.

Colonel Bishop watched the infantrymen, climbing slowly in single file, as they passed the outpost on the first knoll, but beyond that the attacking infantrymen were obscured by the morning fog and haze. Low clouds, as though tethered to the mountain peaks, hung over Hills 773 and 940, hiding them completely.

Beyond the outpost position Company C proceeded haltingly, the scouts setting the pace. There were frequent delays in the long column and it was easy for the infantrymen, even at the rear of the column, to guess that they would soon make contact with the enemy. Those toward the rear sat down and waited quietly.

An enemy machine gun suddenly commenced firing from a knoll 100 to 200 yards beyond the front of the column, setting off a blazing, ten-minute fire fight. Striking the forward elements of Company G the machine-gun fire wounded several men, including the company commander (Lt. Orlando Campisi) and one of the platoon leaders. Although other men returned the fire, it had little effect since the enemy gun's crew had the advantage of a substantially constructed bunker.

Because of the fog Colonel Bishop could not see the action clearly, but the radio operator with the attacking company (Cpl. John J. Truax) notified him by radio that the two remaining officers of Company C were wounded and that the attack had halted. Colonel Bishop ordered Company B to attack through the stalled Company C and continue up the ridge. At the same time he sent Lieutenant Mallard to take command of Company C and provide as much supporting fire as possible for the attacking company. Fog prevented the use of artillery.

Up on the ridgeline the commander of Company B called to Lt. Joseph W. Burkett and told him to take his 1st Platoon forward. The other two companies both with attachments from Company D would furnish covering fire for Burkett's platoon. The top of the hill was still obscured by fog, and Burkett could not see the route he was to follow. After telling his platoon sergeant (SFC Floyd Larney) to assemble the squad leaders, Burkett went off to question men of Company C in order to get a description of the terrain ahead and the location of enemy bunkers and automatic weapons. According to men of Company C, the approach to the first knoll ahead marked the trouble line.

Occasionally the fog lifted. During one of these breaks Lieutenant Burkett planned his supporting fires, then quickly briefed his squad leaders.

"Saddle up!" he called out to his men when he had completed his preparations, and started up the ridgeline.

Under the supporting fire of four machine guns, the platoon advanced without incident and against negligible enemy fire. Burkett's main concern was to maintain control over his platoon. Sixteen of his twentytwo men were replacements who had joined the company within the last two days. Although willing to do their part, they were obviously tense and had a tendency to lag or to bunch a tendency common even among seasoned troops when attacking along a narrow ridge spine that limited maneuverability.

After moving about seventy-five yards, or halfway to the first knoll, Burkett stopped to check his walkie-talkie radio his only contact with his company and his only means of shifting the supporting machine-gun fire. His radio was working.

Chart (207.tif)

At the base of the knoll, which was actually only a small hump on the ridgeline, Burkett and his men expected enemy grenades. None came down. Enemy small-arms fire had picked up but the knoll itself protected the platoon grouped at its base, and the men could not tell whether the fire originated at the crest of the knoll or came from farther up the ridgeline. Burkett, with three men, started toward the top of the knoll, about thirty feet from the base. After asking the others to watch the top and cover him, Burkett crawled forward until he was near the crest, raised up on his knees, pulled the pin from a grenade, leaned back slightly for more leverage, and threw the grenade to the opposite side of the knoll. In so doing he leaned back so far that his helmet fell off. He watched it roll down the side of the ridge. Even before the grenade exploded, the other three men started forward, and all four went over the crest together. They found only unoccupied holes.

Fifty yards or less ahead there was another knoll. Before the platoon had gone far, Lieutenant Burkett noticed that the supporting machine guns had quit firing. He called for his platoon runner who carried the radio. At this critical time, the radio failed. Burkett tried for several minutes to get in touch with his company, but the radio was dead.

Enemy fire had increased in volume and effectiveness, and Burkett was bitterly disappointed that his only fire support had stopped. The mortars, like the artillery, had been silent all morning because of the fog. As Lieutenant Burkett later learned, the machine-gunners quit firing because the fog completely obscured the attacking platoon, which was getting too close to the line of fire as it moved higher on the ridgeline. Because he had neither visual nor radio contact, Burkett now found himself without supporting fire as well. He dropped the radio in disgust.'

Lieutenant Burkett tried moving his platoon forward, but as the fire increased his men strung out until not more than ten remained in a forward group with their platoon leader. About twenty yards from the crest of the second knoll Burkett and the men with him saw several grenades come over the knoll. The riflemen dropped to the ground as the grenades rolled downhill toward them. The explosions caused no damage except to blow particles of loose dirt into Burkett's bare head. More grenades followed, but the North Koreans threw them so hard they landed among the rear elements of the platoon. Burkett spotted several enemy soldiers in a well-camouflaged bunker from which the grenades were coming, and directed his men to keep the bunker under fire. Despite the fire, grenades and an occasional burst of machine-gun fire continued to come from the bunker. Although able to see each grenade as it fell, the replacements made no effort to scramble to one side and avoid them. Several men were wounded. One man was lying prone in the path of a grenade and made no apparent effort to get out of its way. The explosion picked him up and rolled him down the ridge. He was still screaming as he rolled out of sight. [5]

The commander of Company B (Capt. Edward G. Krzyzowski) sent three BAR teams from another platoon to help Lieutenant Burkett's platoon and to compensate for the loss of the machine-gun support. One of these BAR men (PFC Domingo Trujillo) walked up to Burkett, explained why he was there, and asked what he should do. He was grinning, and perfectly calm. Burkett pointed out the enemy bunker that blocked his platoon's advance. Trujillo, standing erect, fired one burst into the bunker and then lowered the gun to his waist. Behind Trujillo was another BAR man (PFC Robert L. Spain). As Trujillo lowered his weapon, Spain sighted into the opening of the same bunker just as a North Korean rose to return the fire. Spain pulled the trigger on his automatic rifle but it misfired. The burst from the enemy gun struck Trujillo in the neck and chest, killing him instantly. [6]

Several men threw grenades in the direction of the bunker, but none was close. Lieutenant Burkett told the men near him to continue firing at it while he tried to get close enough to use grenades effectively. Both the assault platoon and the bunker were on the right (north) side of the ridgeline, the bunker being just below the crest. To avoid the enemy machinegun fire, Burkett crawled over the ridgeline to the south side, then crawled west toward the top of the knoll. He moved slowly since he could not see far in the fog and he did not want to run head-on into another bunker. When he estimated that he was about even with the bunker on the opposite side of the ridge, he crawled back to the ridgeline where he could see the top, pulled the pin and let the safety lever pop before giving the grenade a gentle toss. It exploded right on top of the covered bunker. Gaining confidence, Burkett pitched a second grenade, which exploded in the same area. He called down to a squad leader (Sgt. Charles Hartman) for more grenades in a hurry. Hartman got three and tossed them to Burkett, who pulled the pins and threw all of them. Burkett began to feel like a man who had just won a fight. [7]

About thirty seconds after the last explosion, the North Koreans opened a door at the rear of the bunker and threw five or six grenades at Lieutenant Burkett. Seeing them, Burkett slid down the ridge to get away from the explosions. He stopped by Sergeant Hartman and told him to watch out for the grenades. Just then another landed about six feet above the two men and rolled toward them. The explosion wounded both men. Lieutenant Burkett told his men to move back and establish a line beyond grenade range and hold there until he could return and get help from Captain Krzyzowski.

It was now late in the afternoon. Colonel Bishop ordered Company B to pull back and establish a perimeter for the night with the other two rifle companies. Captain Krzyzowski sent another platoon forward to help evacuate the wounded men from Lieutenant Burkett's platoon.

The fog disappeared at dawn on 1 September. The sky was clear and the morning bright. Colonel Bishop shifted Company A into the lead position for the attack and called for artillery fire to cover the ridgeline between Hills 773 and 940. Lieutenant Ma]lard's Company C, in supporting positions, adjusted mortar fire on Hill 773 and set up two heavy machine guns to fire at the objective.

Advancing by marching fire under this protection, the assault platoon went as far as Company B had gone the previous evening before the enemy, firing from the same bunker that had caused trouble on the 31st, again halted the advance. When the leader and several other members of the forward platoon were wounded, the company commander (Lt. Elden K. Foulk) started forward, leading another platoon to bolster the assault. Machine-gun bullets struck his leg, wounding him seriously. Several other men were wounded at about the same time. Lieutenant Foulk dragged himself back to Company C's position, explained to Lieutenant Mallard that Company A needed help, and then collapsed from shock. When information of this situation reached Colonel Bishop, he decided to commit Company B again, as he had done the day before when Company C needed help.

Captain Krzyzowski led his company through the remaining men of Company A. As two machine-gun crews and four BAR men from Company C fired on the bunker, the assault platoon of Company B worked up close enough to get grenades into it. After a five-minute grenade fight, these men seized the knoll and the bunker that had been blocking the battalion's advance. One of the platoon leaders a replacement officer who had joined the company only fifteen minutes before it moved out was wounded in the attack.

The action was all over by 1000. The 1st Battalion now held the three prominent knolls on the ridgeline leading to the top of the hill. The highest point on the ridge Hill 773 was the next prominent knoll. It was about 250 yards away at the hook end of a narrow ridgeline shaped like a question mark.

At about 1400, Company B, now down to about fifty men, resumed the advance on the ridgeline. Under the control of Lieutenant Mallard, the 60-mm mortar sections from the three rifle companies supported the advance by firing from positions to the rear of Company C. Mallard fired the three sections together, like artillery.

After advancing about a hundred yards along the question mark ridgeline, the lead elements of Company B came upon three enemy bunkers. Immediately, the North Koreans threw grenades which exploded and wounded five of Captain Krzyzowski's men. An enemy machine gun opened fire from a position on Hill 940.

Captain Krzyzowski ordered his company back and called Company A, asking for a bazooka and several rounds of ammunition for it. He also got in touch with Company C and adjusted the 60-mm mortars so that the shells fell directly on the crest of Hill 773. This fire kept the enemy at least partly neutralized while two of Company B's new men, carrying the borrowed bazooka and ammunition, crawled forward and silenced the first bunker.

Crossing to the south side of the ridge, PFC Edward K. Jenkins crawled on his belly until he was above the second bunker, then crossed back and dropped three grenades into it. While Jenkins was knocking out this bunker, an enemy soldier in the third bunker threw a grenade into the group, wounding two men. One of the men tossed three more grenades up to Jenkins; he lobbed two of these into the third bunker and ended the interference from that enemy position.

At this point, enemy soldiers began firing at Company B from another bunker about twenty-five yards farther up the ridgeline. One of the men fired several rifle grenades at the bunker, but could not tell what damage, if any, he caused. Fire from the bunker prevented movement on the north side of the sharp ridgeline, and as men of Company B moved to the south of the question mark ridge to flank the bunker, they were exposed to machine-gun fire from Hill 773 at the top of the question mark, and from the slope of Hill 940, six hundred or seven hundred yards away.

Because of approaching darkness, Colonel Bishop ordered Captain Krzyzowski to pull his company back to the last knoll captured and, with the two other companies, establish a perimeter for the night. Only 22 men were left in Company A that evening; about 20 in Company B. [8]

Early next morning (2 September), 156 replacements, including 6 officers, joined the 1st Battalion. Companies A and B each received 2 officers and 65 men. Company C received 2 officers and 20 men. While the rifle companies distributed these replacements into their platoons, Colonel Bishop moved a tank and a quad .50 flakwagon into a position on the Worun-ni road from where they could fire at enemy positions on Hill 940.

Lieutenant Mallard, acting as the eyes and ears for the battalion commander, established an observation post on the crest of the last knoll captured and from there directed the tank fire by radio and for the first time during the attack made effective use of the heavy mortars. While Mallard plastered Hill 773 with massed mortar fire, an artillery forward observer covered Hill 940 and planes made strikes against the west end of Bloody Ridge.

There was no attack on 2 September. Twice during the day a platoon from Company C probed the approaches to Hill 773, but each time the enemy, armed with an abundant supply of hand grenades, made a spirited defense of his dug-up hilltop and forced the patrols back. The defensive perimeter remained unchanged. [9]

At 0900, 3 September, Lieutenant Mallard alerted one of his platoon leaders (Lt. Arnold C. Jones), a replacement officer who had joined the company the day before. Jones's platoon was to lead the next assault. But before this attack could get under way, Colonel Bishop radioed instructions to hold up until after an air strike that he had arranged for could take place. Colonel Bishop further stated that Lieutenant Mallard was to be prepared to direct the strike by radio. Since Mallard was already directing the fires of the 60-mm and 81-mm mortars by telephone, and tank fire by radio, he asked the commander of Company A to direct the air strike. This was Lt. Robert D. Lacaze, a battalion staff officer who had taken command of Company A after Lieutenant Foulk was wounded on the previous day.

Four fighter planes appeared over the hill at 1030. They dropped eight napalm bombs, only one of which hit the very top of the hill. But the others fell on the reverse slope and close enough to be effective. Lieutenant Lacaze directed the strike to within 150 yards of the battalion's positions so close the men could feel the heat from the burning napalm. The infantrymen, watching the fire mushroom and turn from orange to black, cheered and shouted. A second flight followed, and this time the planes dropped eight antipersonnel bombs equipped with proximity fuze. Then the planes returned and made several strafing runs on the objective. As the planes cleared the area, Lieutenant Mallard called in the artillery and mortar fires again, some on Hill 773 and some on Hill 940.

Between 1300 and 1400, when the air strikes were over, Colonel Bishop radioed instructions for Mallard to resume the attack. Company C's strength on 3 September was about 85 men. The riflemen were divided into two platoons of experienced men and one platoon having a large proportion of replacements. Lieutenant Jones, leading one of the experienced platoons, started forward, attacking around the neck of the question mark. Although enemy bunkers blocked this route, it was still better than trying to take the direct route over the ridge in the face of machine-gun fire from Hill 940. The assault platoon reduced the first two bunkers but suffered so many casualties that the attack stalled in front of the third one. Most of the casualties were caused by grenades that came, not from the bunkers, but from enemy soldiers entrenched on the opposite side of the sharp-edged ridge, only a few yards away. Mallard committed his other experienced platoon, but by the time it had moved up even with Jones's it had lost so many men it was no longer effective. At about the same time, Jones was wounded. Although this was only his second day with the company, he had more combat experience than the other platoon leaders of Company C. [10]

Earlier that day Colonel Bishop had sent several replacements to the rear for a quick course in the use of the flame thrower. Six of these men, carrying three flame throwers, returned in the middle of the afternoon, arriving at Company C at the same time Mallard's second platoon became stalled. Lieutenant Mallard called Colonel Bishop to explain what had happened so far and to ask for permission to commit his third platoon and the three flame-thrower teams. He also wanted a platoon from Company A in order to have a reserve unit within his company. The battalion commander agreed.

The flame-thrower teams and Mallard's third platoon moved out at once. An enemy bullet pierced the pressure tank on one flame thrower, making it useless. The other two operators, however, succeeded in reaching the area controlled by the North Korean grenadiers. Crawling almost to the crest of the ridge, the two operators pointed the flame-thrower nozzles up and discharged the tanks so that the burning jelly fell on the reverse slope of the ridge, forcing the enemy out.

At the same time, the rest of Company C continued around the curve of the question mark and, after destroying two more bunkers, finally seized the very top of Hill 773. Lieutenant Mallard immediately sent the attached platoon of Company A to the hilltop with instructions to prepare to repel a possible counterattack from the direction of Hill 940. The commander of Company A (Lieutenant Lacaze) stationed his men in enemy trenches on the west side of the hill. Thus Company A held Hill 773 facing the enemy on Hill 940, a thousand yards to the west. [11]

Company C, which numbered about 85 men at noon before the action commenced, now had only about 30. Before organizing the defenses for the night, Mallard asked and received permission from the battalion commander to consolidate his company with Company A. Most of the remaining men in his own unit were experienced in combat, whereas most of the men of Company A were recent replacements. By intermingling the men, Mallard hoped to increase the effectiveness of the two companies. As he moved up to Hill 773 to accomplish the planned reorganization, a friendly artillery shell fell short, wounding him. He sent a runner forward to tell Lieutenant Lacaze to take command.

Mallard started back to the aid station. On the way he met Captain Krzyzowski, who was in the process of moving Company B into the positions vacated that afternoon by the other two companies. Krzyzowski had barely completed this move when he was killed by bullets from the machine gun on Hill 940. This left Lieutenant Lacaze and one other officer in charge of all the men who remained in the three rifle companies.

Two days later, Colonel Bishop's battalion occupied Hills 940 and 983 without opposition. The enemy had apparently moved north to strengthen positions on the next prominent terrain feature in that area Heartbreak Ridge.


Until supporting weapons are much improved, they will not be able to remove a determined enemy from a well-constructed defensive position alone. On Bloody Ridge infantrymen had to go forward with flame throwers and grenades after all supporting weapons had failed to dislodge the enemy. Close infantry action is brutal, dirty, fear-inspiring work. Its reward is usually no more than the unspoken thanks of a friend or the knowledge that you have done your best. It requires stamina and individual bravery. But individual bravery is only a contributing factor to victory in battle. Leadership, coordination, and cooperation are often as important as courage. None can deny that the men of the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry, fought, bled, and died gallantly on Bloody Ridge. But who will testify that the battalion its companies, its platoons, its squads were teams when they went into action on Hill 773? Replacements cannot be fitted into a unit in two hours. Even the best leader needs time to know his men before they face the enemy together. Who wholeheartedly follows an unknown leader, or puts his life in the hands of a nearby stranger? Cooperation among friends is the rule. Among strangers it is news!


  1. Capt. Martin Blumenson, "Bloody Ridge," a narrative prepared in Korea.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Unless otherwise noted, the account of the attacks on Bloody Ridge is based upon interviews made in Korea by Major Pierce W. Briscoe with the following members of the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry: Lt. Robert D. Lacaze, Lt. Joseph W. Burkett, Capt. Charles W. Mallard, and PFC John A. Fell.
  4. Lt. Joseph W. Burkett, letter to the author, 27 January 1953. 5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Lt. Charles W. Mallard, letter to the author, 3 January 1953. 9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

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