Korean summers are wet. It was raining and unseasonably cold during the dark
early morning hours of 5 July 1950 when the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry,
reached Pyongtaek. Approximately forty miles south of Seoul, the village was
near the west coast of Korea on the main road and railroad between the capital
city and Taejon, Taegu, and Pusan to the south. Pyongtaek was a shabby huddle of
colorless huts lining narrow, dirt streets.
The infantrymen stood quietly in the steady rain, waiting for daylight. They
grumbled about the weather but, in the sudden shift from garrison duties in
Japan, few appeared to be concerned about the possibility of combat in Korea.
None expected to stay there long. High-ranking officers and riflemen alike
shared the belief that a few American soldiers would restore order within a few
weeks.  (Notes are at the end of chapters.)
"As soon as those North Koreans see an American uniform over here," soldiers
boasted to one another, "they'll run like hell." American soldiers later lost
this cocky attitude when the North Koreans overran their first defensive
positions. Early overconfidence changed suddenly to surprise, then to dismay,
and finally to the grim realization that, of the two armies, the North Korean
force was superior in size, equipment, training, and fighting ability.
As part of the 24th Infantry Division, the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, was
one of several unprepared American battalions rushed from Japan to help halt the
North Korean invasion of the southern end of the Korean peninsula. The change
from garrison to combat duties had come abruptly on the morning of 1 July 1950
when the division commander (Maj. Gen. William F. Dean) called the commander of
the 34th Infantry and alerted the entire regiment for immediate movement to
Korea. At the time the regiment consisted of only two under-strength battalions.
Twenty-four hours later they sailed from Sasebo, Kyushu, arriving in Pusan that
evening. After spending two days checking equipment, organizing supplies, and
arranging for transportation north, the regiment, crowded onto five South
Korean-operated trains, had started north on the afternoon of 4 July. 
The 34th Infantry had not been the first unit of the United States Army to
reach Korea. Part of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry (24th Division), had been
airlifted from Japan on the morning of 1 July. After landing at Pusan it had
boarded trains immediately, and rushed northward. The battalion commander (Lt.
Col. Charles B. Smith) had the mission of setting up roadblocks to halt the
North Korean southward thrust. Part of this force had gone to Pyongtaek and part
to Ansong, a village ten miles east of Pyongtaek.  Without making contact
with North Koreans, the two task forces from Colonel Smith's battalion had
reached their assigned areas during the morning of 3 July. A field artillery
battery arrived at Pyongtaek the next day, and that evening, 4 July, Smith's
entire force had moved twelve miles north of Pyongtaek where it set up another
blocking position just north of Osan. 
About the same time that Smith's battalion had started for Osan, the two
battalions of the 34th Infantry, heading north, had passed through Taejon. One
battalion was to reestablish the blocking position at Ansong; the 1st Battalion
was going to Pyongtaek with a similar mission. A new commander-an experienced
combat officer-had joined the 1st Battalion as the trains moved through Taejon.
He told his company commanders that North Korean soldiers were reported to be
farther north but that they were poorly trained, that only half of them had
weapons, and that there would be no difficulty in stopping them. Junior officers
had assured their men that after a brief police action all would be back in
Sasebo. Officers of the 34th Infantry knew that the 21st was ahead of the 34th
in a screening position. Overconfidence was the prevailing note.
This was the background and the setting for the rainy morning when the 1st
Battalion-and especially Company A, with which this account is mainly
concerned-waited in the muddy streets of Pyongtaek. When daylight came, the
companies marched north to the hills upon which they were to set up their
A small river flowed along the north side of Pyongtaek. Two miles north of
the bridge that carried the main highway across the river there were two
grass-covered hills separated by a strip of rice paddies three quarters of a
mile wide. The railroad and narrow dirt road, both on eight- to ten-foot-high
embankments, ran through the neatly patterned fields. The battalion commander
stationed Company B on the east side of the road, Company A on the west, leaving
Company C in reserve positions in the rear. Once on the hill, the men dropped
their packs and began digging into the coarse red earth to prepare defensive
positions for an enemy attack few of them expected. In Company A's sector the
positions consisted of two-man foxholes dug across the north side of the hill,
across the rice paddies to the railroad embankment, and beyond that to the road.
Company A (Capt. Leroy Osburn) consisted of about l40 men and officers at the
time.  With two men in each position, the holes were so far apart that the
men had to shout to one another. Each man was equipped with either an M-1 rifle
or a carbine for which he carried between eighty and one hundred rounds of
ammunition. The Weapons Platoon had three 60-mm mortars. There were also three
light machine guns-one in each of the rifle platoons-and four boxes of
ammunition for each machine gun. Each platoon had one BAR and two hundred rounds
of ammunition for it. There were no grenades nor was there any ammunition for
the recoilless rifles. 
To the north of Osan, meanwhile, Colonel Smith's 1st Battalion, 21st
Infantry, and an attached battery of artillery completed the occupation of the
high ground north of the village by daylight on 5 July. Smith had orders to hold
in place to gain time, even though his forces might become surrounded.  That
same morning, at 0745, enemy tanks approached from the north. The Americans
opened fire with artillery and then with bazookas, but the tanks rammed through
the infantry positions and on south past the artillery, after losing only 4 of
33 tanks. Enemy infantrymen followed later, engaged Colonel Smith's force and,
after a four-hour battle, almost surrounded it. About 1400, Colonel Smith
ordered his men to leave the position and withdraw toward Ansong. Smith's force
carried out as many wounded as possible, but abandoned its equipment and dead.
The survivors, traveling on foot in small groups or on the few artillery trucks,
headed southwest toward Ansong. This was the result of the first engagement
between North Korean and American soldiers.
Brig. Gen. George B. Barth (commander of 24h Division Artillery and General
Dean's representative in the forward area) was at Osan with the battery of
artillery when the first "Fire mission!" was relayed to the battery position.
When it became apparent that neither the infantry nor the artillery could stop
the tanks, General Barth had gone back to Pyongtaek to alert the 1st Battalion,
34th Infantry, which was still digging in.
The 1st Battalion's command post was in one of the dirty buildings on the
road north of Pyongtaek. It was apparent to General Barth, by the time he
arrived there, that enemy tanks would break through the Osan position. He
therefore warned the 1st Battalion commandeer and instructed him t dispatch a
patrol northward to make contact with the enemy column. Barth's instructions to
the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, differed from those he had given to Colonel
Smith at Osan. Since General Barth now believed the Pyongtaek force could hold
out only a short time if encircled, as apparently was happening to the battalion
at Osan, he ordered the battalion at Pyongtaek to hold only until the enemy
threatened to envelop the position, and then to delay in successive rearward
positions to gain time. 
A rifle platoon from the 34th Infantry went north to make contact with the
enemy tanks. About halfway between Pyongtaek and Osan the platoon met several
enemy tanks and fired upon them without effect. The tanks made no effort to
advance. The opposing forces settled down to observing each other. 
While these events were taking place only a few miles away, men of Company A
at Pyongtaek finished digging their defensive positions or sat quietly in the
cold rain. In spite of the fact that a column of enemy tanks had overrun the
Osan position and was then not more than six miles from Pyongtaek, the
infantrymen did not know about it. They continued to exchange rumors and
speculations. One of the platoon leaders called his men together later that
afternoon to put an end to the growing anxiety over the possibility of combat.
"You've been told repeatedly," he explained, "that this is a police action, and
that is exactly what it is going to be." He assured them that the rumors of a
large enemy force in the area were false, and that they would be back in Sasebo
within a few weeks. He directed them to put out only the normal guard for the
night. Later that evening, however, Captain Osburn told some of the men that
four Americans who had driven north of Osan toward Suwon had failed to return,
and that he had heard an estimate that 12,000 North Koreans were in the area to
the north. He considered an attack possible but not probable.
It rained steadily all night. Beyond the fact that tanks had penetrated the
Osan position, no more information about the fight there came through until
nearly midnight, when five survivors from Osan arrived at the 1st Battalion
command post with a detailed account of that action. The 1st Battalion commander
passed word of the Osan defeat along to his company commanders, warning them to
be on the lookout for stragglers from the 21st Infantry. Apparently no one
passed the information on down to the platoons. The battalion commander then
sent a patrol from Company C to blow up a small bridge about 600 yards north of
his two forward companies. It was about 0300 when this was done. Startled by the
explosions, infantrymen of Company A showed some concern until they learned the
cause. Then they settled back to wait for daylight, or to sleep if possible. At
0430 they began to stir again. SFC Roy E. Collins, a platoon sergeant, walked
along the row of foxholes in the center of the company position. One of a group
of combat-experienced men recently transferred from another division, he had
joined Company A only the day before. He advised his men to get up and break out
their C rations and eat while they had a chance. The evening before, Collins had
stationed a two-man listening post in the rice paddies about 75 yards north of
the company. He called down and told them to come back to the company perimeter.
It was only a few minutes after daylight.
The battalion commander walked down the road between Companies A and B,
stopping to talk with a group of 17 men manning a roadblock on Company A's side
of the road. Lt. Herman L. Driskell was in charge of the group, which consisted
of an eight-man machine-gun squad from his 1st Platoon, and three 2.36-inch
bazooka teams from the Weapons Platoon. 
After telling Driskell to get his men down in their holes because he planned
to register the 4.2-inch mortars, the battalion commander walked west across the
soggy rice paddies toward Company A's command post on top of the hill.
Lieutenant Driskell's men did not, however, get into their holes-the holes were
full of water. A Weapons Platoon sergeant, SFC Zack C. Williams, and PFC James
0. Hite, were sitting near one hole. "I sure would hate to have to get in that
hole," Hite said. In a few minutes they heard mortar shells overhead, but the
shell bursts were lost in the morning fog and rain. In the cold rain, hunched
under their ponchos, the men sat beside their holes eating their breakfast
Up on the hill, Sergeant Collins was eating a can of beans. He had eaten
about half of it when he heard the sound of engines running. Through the fog he
saw the faint outline of several tanks that had stopped just beyond the bridge
that the detail from Company C destroyed two hours earlier. North Korean
soldiers from the lead tank got out and walked up to inspect the bridge site. At
the same time, through binoculars, Collins could see two columns of infantrymen
moving beyond the tanks, around both ends of the bridge, and out across the rice
paddies. He yelled back to his platoon leader (Lt. Robert R. Ridley), "Sir, we
got company." Lieutenant Ridley, having been warned that part of the 21st
Infantry might be withdrawing down this road, said it was probably part of that
unit. "Well," said Collins, "these people have tanks and I know the 21st hasn't
any." The battalion commander arrived at Captain Osburn's command post just in
time to see the column of enemy infantrymen appear. Deciding it was made up of
men from the 21st Infantry, the two commanders watched it for several minutes
before realizing it was too large to be friendly troops. They could see a
battalion-size group already, and others were still coming in a column of fours.
 At once, the battalion commander called for mortar fire. When the first
round landed, the enemy spread out across the rice paddies on both sides of the
road but continued to advance. By this time Collins could count thirteen tanks
from the blown bridge north to the point where the column disappeared in the
early morning fog.
Within a few minutes the men from the enemy's lead tank returned to their
vehicle, got in, closed the turret, and then swung the tube until it pointed
directly toward Company A.
"Get down!" Sergeant Collins yelled to his men. "Here it
The first shell exploded just above the row of foxholes, spattering dirt over
the center platoon. The men slid into their holes. Collins and two other combat
veterans of World War II began shouting to their men to commence firing.
Response was slow although the Americans could see the North Korean infantrymen
advancing steadily, spreading out across the flat ground in front of the hill.
In the same hole with Sergeant Collins were two riflemen. He poked them. "Come
on," he said. "You've got an M1. Get firing."
After watching the enemy attack for a few minutes, the battalion commander
told Captain Osburn to withdraw Company A, and then left the hill, walking back
toward his command post, which he planned to move south.
Out in front of the company hill, the two men at the listening post, after
gathering up their wet equipment, had been just ready to leave when the first
enemy shell landed. They jumped back into their hole. After a short time one of
them jumped out and ran back under fire. The other, who stayed there, was not
The entire 1st Platoon was also in the flat rice paddies. Lieutenant
Driskell's seventeen men from the 1st and the Weapons Platoons who were between
the railroad and road could hear some of the activity but they could not see the
enemy because of the high embankments on both sides. Private Hite was still
sitting by his water-filled hole when the first enemy shell exploded up on the
hill. He thought a 4.2-inch mortar shell had fallen short. Within a minute or
two another round landed near Osburn's command post on top of the hill. Private
Hite watched as the smoke drifted away.
"Must be another short round," he remarked to Sergeant Williams.
"It's not short," said Williams, a combat-experienced soldier. "It's an
Hite slid into his foxhole, making a dull splash like a frog diving into a
pond. Williams followed. The two men sat there, up to their necks in cold,
It was fully fifteen minutes before the two Company A platoons up on the hill
had built up an appreciable volume of fire, and then less than half of the men
were firing their weapons. The squad and platoon leaders did most of the firing.
Many of the riflemen appeared stunned and unwilling to believe that enemy
soldiers were firing at them.
About fifty rounds fell in the battalion area within the fifteen minutes
following the first shell-burst in Company A's sector. Meanwhile, enemy troops
were appearing in numbers that looked overwhelmingly large to the American
soldiers. "It looked like the entire city of New York moving against two little
under-strength companies," said one of the men. Another large group of North
Korean soldiers gathered around the tanks now lined up bumper to bumper on the
road. It was the best target Sergeant Collins had ever seen. He fretted because
he had no ammunition for the recoilless rifle. Neither could he get mortar fire
because the second enemy tank's shell had exploded near the 4.2-inch mortar
observer who, although not wounded, had suffered severely from shock. In the
confusion no one else attempted to direct the mortars. Within thirty minutes
after the action began, the leading North Korean foot soldiers had moved so
close that Company A men could see them load and reload their rifles.
About the same time, Company B, under the same attack, began moving off of
its hill on the opposite side of the road. Within another minute or two Captain
Osburn called down to tell his men to prepare to withdraw, "but we'll have to
cover Baker Company first."
Company A, however, had no effective fire power and spent no time covering
the movement of the other company. Most of the Weapons Platoon, located on the
south side of the hill, left immediately, walking down to a cluster of about
fifteen straw-topped houses at the south edge of the hill. The two rifle
platoons on the hill began to move out soon after Captain Osburn gave the alert
order. The movement was orderly at the beginning although few of the men carried
their field packs with them and others walked away leaving ammunition and even
their weapons. However, just as the last two squads of this group reached a
small ridge on the east side of the main hill, an enemy machine gun suddenly
fired into the group. The men took off in panic. Captain Osburn and several of
his platoon leaders were near the cluster of houses behind the hill reforming
the company for the march back to Pyongtaek. But when the panicked men raced
past, fear spread quickly and others also began running. The officers called to
them but few of the men stopped. Gathering as many members of his company as he
could, Osburn sent them back toward the village with one of his officers.
By this time the Weapons Platoon and most of the 2d and 3d Platoons had
succeeded in vacating their positions. As they left, members of these units had
called down telling the 1st Platoon to withdraw from its position blocking the
road. Strung across the flat paddies, the 1st Platoon was more exposed to enemy
fire. Four of its men started running back and one, hit by rifle fire, fell.
After seeing that, most of the others were apparently too frightened to leave
As it happened, Lieutenant Driskell's seventeen men who were between the
railroad and road embankments were unable to see the rest of their company.
Since they had not heard the shouted order they were unaware that an order to
withdraw had been given. They had, however, watched the fire fight between the
North Koreans and Company B, and had seen Company B leave. Lieutenant Driskell
and Sergeant Williams decided they would hold their ground until they received
orders. Twenty or thirty minutes passed. As soon as the bulk of the two
companies had withdrawn, the enemy fire stopped, and all became quiet again.
Driskell and his seventeen men were still in place when the North Koreans
climbed the hill to take over the positions vacated by Company B. This roused
"What do you think we should do now?" Driskell asked.
"Well, sir," said Sergeant Williams, "I don't know what you're going to do,
but I'd like to get the hell out of here."
Driskell then sent a runner to see if the rest of the company was still in
position. When the runner returned to say he could see no one on the hill, the
men started back using the railroad embankment for protection. Nine members of
this group were from Lieutenant Driskell's 1st Platoon; the other eight were
with Sergeant Williams from the Weapons Platoon. A few of Lieutenant Driskell's
men had already left but about twenty, afraid to move across the flat paddies,
had stayed behind. At the time, however, Driskell did not know what had happened
to the rest of his platoon so, after he had walked back to the vicinity of the
group of houses behind the hill, he stopped at one of the rice-paddy trails to
decide which way to go to locate his missing men. Just then someone walked past
and told him that some of his men, including several who were wounded, were near
the base of the hill. With one other man, Driskell went off to look for
By the time the panicked riflemen of Company A had run the mile or two back
to Pyongtaek they had overcome much of their initial fear. They gathered along
the muddy main street of the village and stood there in the rain, waiting. When
Captain Osburn arrived he immediately began assembling and reorganizing his
company for the march south. Meanwhile, two Company C men were waiting to
dynamite the bridge at the north edge of the village. One of the officers found
a jeep and trailer that had been abandoned on a side street. He and several of
his men succeeded in starting it and, although it did not run well and had
apparently been abandoned for that reason, they decided it would do for hauling
the company's heavy equipment that was left. By 0930 they piled all extra
equipment, plus the machine guns, mortars, bazookas, BARs, and extra ammunition
in the trailer. About the same time, several men noticed what appeared to be two
wounded men trying to make their way along the road into Pyongtaek. It was still
raining so hard that it was difficult to distinguish details. Pvt. Thomas A.
Cammarano and another man volunteered to take the jeep and go after them. They
pulled a BAR from the weapons in the trailer, inserted a magazine of ammunition,
and drove the jeep north across the bridge, not realizing that the road was so
narrow it would have been difficult to turn the vehicle around even if the
trailer had not been attached.
During the period when the company was assembling and waiting in Pyongtaek,
Sergeant Collins, the platoon sergeant who had joined the company the day
before, decided to find out why his platoon had failed to fire effectively
against the enemy. Of 31 members of his platoon, l2 complained that their rifles
would not fire. Collins checked them and found the rifles were either broken,
dirty, or had been assembled incorrectly. He sorted out the defective weapons
and dropped them in a nearby well.
Two other incidents now occurred that had an unfavorable effect on morale.
The second shell fired by the North Koreans that morning had landed near Captain
Osburn's command post where the observer for his 4.2-inch mortars was standing.
The observer reached Pyongtaek while the men were waiting for Cammarano and his
companion to return with the jeep. Suffering severely from shock, the mortar
observer could not talk coherently and walked as if he were drunk. His eyes
showed white, and he stared wildly, moaning, "Rain, rain, rain," over and over
again. About the same time, a member of the 1st Platoon joined the group and
claimed that he had been with Lieutenant Driskell after he walked toward the
cluster of houses searching for wounded men of his platoon. Lieutenant Driskell
with four men had been suddenly surrounded by a group of North Korean soldiers.
They tried to surrender, according to this man, but one of the North Korean
soldiers walked up to the lieutenant, shot him, and then killed the other three
men. The narrator had escaped.
Of the approximately 140 men who had been in position at daybreak that
morning, only a few more than 100 were now assembled in Pyongtaek. In addition
to the 4 men just reported killed, there were about 30 others who were missing.
The first sergeant with 8 men had followed a separate route after leaving the
hill that morning and did not rejoin the company until several days later. One
man failed to return after having walked down to a stream just after daylight to
refill several canteens. There were also the others who had been either afraid
or unable to leave their foxholes to move back with the rest of the company.
This group included the man from the listening post and about twenty members of
the 1st Platoon who had stayed in their holes in the rice paddies. 
Ten or fifteen minutes went by after Cammarano and his companion drove off in
the jeep. Through the heavy rain and fog neither the jeep nor the wounded men
were visible now. Suddenly there was the sound of rifle fire in the village and
Captain Osburn, assuming that the two men (together with the vehicle and all
company crew-served weapons) were also lost, gave the word to move out. Forming
the remainder of his company into two single-file columns, one on each side of
the street, he started south. The men had scarcely reached the south edge of the
village when they heard the explosion as the Company C men destroyed the bridge.
One fourth of the company and most of its equipment and supplies were missing as
the men set off on their forced march.
A few scattered artillery shells followed the columns. None came close, but
they kept the men moving fast. "This was one time," said one of the sergeants
later, "when we didn't have to kick the men to get them to move. They kept going
at a steady slow run." Captain Osburn did not try to follow the high ground but,
when he could, he kept off the road and walked across rice paddies. There were
several wounded men but the 4.2inch mortar observer was the only one in the
group unable to walk by himself. The others took turns supporting and helping
him. His eyes still showed white and he kept moaning "rain" and the men near him
wished he would shut up.
Occasionally the men made wise cracks about the police action: "I wonder when
they're going to give me my police badge," or "Damned if these cops here don't
use some big guns." But mostly they were quiet and just kept moving.
The rain continued hard until about noon. Then it began to get hot-a moist,
sultry heat. The clouds hung low on the mountains. Nevertheless, Captain Osburn
kept up a steady pace. Before leaving Pyongtaek he had warned that the column
would not stop and any men who fell out would be left behind The men were thirst
but few of them had canteens. They drank from the ditches along the roads, of
from the rice paddies.
By noon the column had outrun the enemy fire, and Osburn halted it for a
ten-minute rest. Thereafter he set a slower pace, usually following the road,
and took a ten-minute break each hour. The column had no communication with any
other part of the 24th Division, since the company radios had been abandoned
that morning. Nor did anyone know of a plan except to go south. There was no
longer any serious talk of a police action-by this time the soldiers expected to
go straight to Pusan and back to Japan. The Company A men frequently saw pieces
of equipment along the road, and from this they assumed the rest of the
battalion was on the same road ahead of them. Later they began to overtake
stragglers from other companies. By the middle of the day the men were
By mid-afternoon wet shoes caused serious foot trouble. Some of the men took
off their shoes and carried them for a while, or threw them away. It was easier
walking barefoot in the mud. Other equipment was strewn along the road-discarded
ponchos, steel helmets, ammunition belts, and even rifles that men of the
battalion had dropped. As the afternoon wore on the two columns of Company A men
lengthened, the distance between the men increasing. They kept trading places in
the line and took turns helping the mortar observer. At breaks, Captain Osburn
reminded them to stay on or near the road and, if they were scattered by a
sudden attack, to keep moving individually.
Late that afternoon, during a ten-minute rest period, an American plane flew
low over the men who were lying along the road near a few strawroofed houses.
The pilot suddenly dipped into the column and opened fire with his caliber .50
machine guns. Only one man was hit-a South Korean soldier. The bullet struck him
in the cheeks, tearing away his lower jaw and part of his face. This incident
further demoralized the men. When a South Korean truck came by, they put the
wounded Korean on it.
Early that evening Captain Osburn, at the head of his company, reached the
town of Chonan and there found other elements of the 1st Battalion which had
arrived earlier. It was a shabby-looking outfit. Many men were asleep on the
floor of an old sawmill and others were scattered throughout the town in
buildings or along the streets, sitting or sleeping. Captain Osburn immediately
set out to locate officers of the other units to learn what he could of the
situation. The remainder of Company A was strung out for a mile and a half or
two miles to the north. As the men reached the town they lay down to rest. There
was no organization-they were just a group of tired, disheartened men. The last
men in the column did not straggle in until two hours later. By then Captain
Osburn had borrowed three trucks from the South Korean Army with which he moved
his company to defensive positions a few miles south of Chonan. General Barth
had selected these positions after leaving the 1st Battalion's command post at
Pyongtaek early that morning. He had gone to Chonan to brief the regimental
commander of the 34th Infantry and then south to select terrain from which the
24th Division could stage a series of delaying actions. He returned to Chonan
late in the afternoon to learn that the 1st Battalion had withdrawn the entire
distance to Chonan, instead of defending the first available position south of
Pyongtaek from which it could physically block the enemy tank column. Believing
that the North Koreans were in pursuit, he directed the 1st Battalion to occupy
the next defensive position, which happened to be about two miles south of
It was dark by the time Company A began to dig in at this position. The
company, of course, had no entrenching tools but a few of the men scraped out
shallow holes. Most of them just lay down and went to sleep. The next morning (7
July) Captain Osburn got the men up and ordered them to go on digging foxholes.
Groups of men went off to nearby villages looking for spades or shovels. They
also got a small supply of food from the Koreans, many of whom were abandoning
their homes and fleeing south. When they had finished digging their positions,
Osburn's men sat barefoot in the rain, nursing their feet. Hopefully, they
discussed a new rumor: they were going to a railway station south of their
present location, then by train to Pusan, and from there to Japan. There was
some argument about the location of the railway station, but most of the men
were agreed that they were returning to Japan. The rumor pleased everyone.
Nothing of importance happened to Company A during the day, although the other
battalion of the 34th Infantry, after having moved from Ansong to Chonan on the
previous evening, was engaged in heavy fighting just north of Chonan.
Full rations were available on the morning of 8 July, thus relieving one kind
of discomfort. The fighting for Chonan continued and, by midmorning, the
remaining American forces began to withdraw and abandon the town.  In
Company A's area, the day was quiet until early afternoon, when enemy artillery
rounds suddenly exploded in the battalion's area. Within a few minutes after the
first shell landed, Captain Osburn gave the order to pull out. The entire
battalion moved, part of it on three trucks still in its possession, but Company
A marched, Captain Osburn in the lead and again setting a fast pace. This time
he kept his company together. About the middle of the night the company stopped
and took up positions on a hill adjoining the road, staying there until the
first signs of daylight when Osburn roused his men and resumed the march. After
several hours the three trucks returned and began shuttling the remainder of the
battalion to new positions just north of the Kum River and the town of Konju.
There the entire battalion formed a perimeter in defensive positions-the best
they had constructed since coming to Korea.
By the time the trenches and holes were dug in, it was mid-afternoon of 9
July. Company A got an issue of rations and, for the first time, one of
ammunition. The Weapons Platoon received one 60-mm mortar. This preparation for
combat weakened the rumor about returning to Japan. Instead, Captain Osburn and
his officers told the men or another infantry division then en route from Japan.
The sky was clear, the sun hot and, for the first time in several days, the men
had dry clothing. The battalion remained in the area without incident until 12
July. That morning it registered the 81-mm and the 4.2-inch mortars and issued
more ammunition to the men. It had the first friendly mortar fire and the first
abundant supply of ammunition since early morning of 6 July. That afternoon, at
1700, an enemy shell landed in the area. Others followed and within a few
minutes North Korean soldiers appeared in large numbers. Instead of hitting
frontally, the leading enemy soldiers circled wide and attacked the 1st Platoon,
which was outposting a high point of the hill, on the right flank. After
suffering heavy losses on the morning of 6 July, only ten men remained in that
platoon. Five of these were killed at the very outset of the fighting on the
12th when the North Koreans overran their positions and shot them in their
holes. The five remaining men from the 1st Platoon escaped and joined one of the
The sudden collapse of the outpost placed the enemy directly to the right and
above the 2d Platoon. SFC Elvin E. Knight, platoon guide, turning to determine
the source and cause of the firing, noticed a flag up where the 1st Platoon had
"What the hell's that flag doing up here?" he asked. Suddenly he yelled,
"That's a North Korean flag!"
About twenty enemy soldiers appeared on the high knob. They began firing down
upon the 2d Platoon and several of them started sliding down the steep hill
toward the men, shouting and firing as they came. The flank attack completely
surprised the men of the 2d Platoon, whose positions, selected for firing toward
the front, were unsuitable for firing at the high ground on the right. Almost
immediately someone began shouting, "Let's get the hell out of here!" and the
men started back individually or in small groups. They did, however, take their
weapons and several of the wounded. The rest of the company-those in the 3d and
Weapons Platoons-held their ground and rapidly increased their rate of fire as
soon as they saw what had happened to the other two platoons. Most of the 2d
Platoon moved back several hundred yards, where the other two platoons were
located, and resumed fighting. Until dark there was a heavy volume of fire and
after that occasional exchanges with small arms until about 0230 on 13 July
when, under orders, Company A abandoned its hill and moved very quietly back,
following a river south for a short distance until it was beyond range of North
After daylight Osburn and his men crossed the long bridge over the Kum River.
For another day Company A and the rest of the battalion stayed there while North
Koreans assembled on the north bank of the river. Then, on 14 July, one group of
North Koreans crossed the Kum River and successfully attacked a battery of
artillery in that vicinity. The entire battalion moved out by truck on the 15th
and fell back to the city of Taejon, closing there late in the afternoon. Other
units of the 24th Division, already assembled, were preparing to defend the
town. The 1st Battalion took up defensive positions on the northeast side of
Taejon, on high ground between the main part of the town and the airstrip used
by the division liaison planes.  American forces destroyed the bridge over
the Kum River before withdrawing to Taejon, but the North Koreans succeeded in
crossing and followed in close pursuit.
After the next heavy enemy attack Company A, and the remainder of the entire
24th Division, fell back again, this time to the Pusan perimeter. The attack
began soon after daybreak on the morning of 20 July. In Company A's area,
Sergeant Williams and three other members of the Weapons Platoon were among the
first to discover it. They were manning bazookas with the mission of blocking
the main road leading from the north into Taejon. As daylight increased on the
morning of 20 July Williams noticed movement on hills about three hundred yards
to the right. He watched as three skirmish lines of North Koreans came over the
hilltop. Other enemy soldiers appeared on hills to the left of the road. After
watching for several minutes, he raced back about five hundred yards to a Korean
house in which the battalion's command post was located. The other three men
There was a high, mud wall around the command post. Williams ran through the
gate and into the house, where he hurriedly described the enemy force, claiming
that North Koreans were "just boiling over the hill!"
"Well, Sergeant," answered the battalion commander, "you're a little
excited, aren't you? "
"Yes, sir, I am," said Williams. "And if you'd seen what I just saw, you'd
be excited too."
Just as the two men went through the gate to look, several flares appeared to
the north. Suddenly the enemy began firing tank guns, artillery, mortars, and
machine guns in a pattern that covered the entire city, including the immediate
area of the 1st Battalion's headquarters.
"I guess we'd better get out of here," said the commander, and turned back
into the building.
It was only a few minutes after dawn. Soon the entire battalion was moving
south again. Captain Osburn kept Company A together as a unit-at the beginning
at least-but many men from the battalion were on their own, units were mixed
together, and organization was lost in the confusion. Some men threw away their
shoes again and walked barefoot. Most of them had trouble finding food, and for
all of them it was a disheartening repetition of their first contact with the
North Korean Army. They did not go back to Japan. They had seen only the
beginning of fighting on the Korean peninsula. But when they again came to a
halt beyond the Naktong River, and turned to make another defensive stand
against the North Koreans, they had ended the first phase of the Korean
conflict. Other United Nations troops had arrived in Korea. The period of
withdrawal was over. Members of Company A and the rest of the 34th Infantry had
lost their overconfidence and had gained battle experience. They soon settled
down to a grim defense of the Pusan perimeter.
Before 25 June 1950 Korea was of little import to the American soldiers in
Japan and to the citizens of our nation. Defense of the United Nations'
principles was given lip service but few among us thought of action. Korea was
not in the public mind.
The North Korean Army marched. Our leaders met. And Company A with its
peacetime thoughts, unprepared both psychologically and militarily, found itself
faced with the stark reality of war. With this deal, victory could not be in the
cards for Company A nor for any other company so prepared and so committed. We
should take advantage of their mistakes -all too evident. We invite attention to
them with great humility, for who among us must not say, "There, but for the
grace of God, go I"?
What were some of the specific causes that contributed to the debacle
experienced by Company A? Faulty orientation, poor intelligence, and a lack of
communications are evident. The exact level at which orientation and
intelligence ceased to be adequate cannot be determined by this narrative.
However, Company A was not prepared to fight intelligently when it was called
upon to do so. The individual actions and reactionsthe failure to differentiate
between enemy tank fire coming from the front and supposed short rounds from
supporting mortars-indicate a lack of imaginative and realistic combat training.
The inability of the troops to remedy minor weapons malfunctions is further
indication of inadequate training.
Examples of faulty leadership are frequent in the narrative. Where was the
combat outpost, or adequate local security, of the 1st Battalion? Evidently,
there was none.
Why was a platoon permitted to occupy a nearby position from which it could
not support the fires of an adjacent platoon?
Why was a patrol permitted to rest within three hundred yards of the enemy
without establishing security positions?
It was to take many months of combat and the physical hardening of several
campaigns before the military potential of both officers and men was realized
and they achieved the high military proficiency of which they were capable.
 1st Infantry: war diary, 29 June 1950. See also Marguerite Higgins, War
in Korea, 33, 47-48, 59; and Lt. Col. Roy E. Appleman's combat history of the
Korean War, a manuscript in preparation for the Office of the Chief of Military
History's Korean series. The details of this action, unless otherwise cited, are
based upon a series of interviews with MSgt. Roy E. Collins and with MSgt. Zack
C. Williams, both of whom were platoon sergeants at the time of the action.
These men presented the action at the platoon level. For a general account of
activities in Korea during this time, especially in reference to the 34th
Infantry, see the article by Brig. Gen. George B. Barth, "The First Days in
Korea," Combat Forces Journal (March 195l).
 24th Division, unit war diaries: 34th Infantry Regiment, 28 June to 4
July l950; 24th Division: G3 journal, Vol. 3A, 4 July l950.
 24th Division, unit war diaries: 21st Infantry Regiment, 29 June to 4
July l950; 24th Division: G3 journal, message ROB 052, 031710 July. The dates
and times given here do not always agree with the official records, which are
often incorrect, having been prepared from memory at some later date. See
Appleman, op. cit., chapter 3.
 24th Division, unit war diaries: 21st Infantry Regiment, 4 July l950, and
52d FA Battalion, 4 July l950. Also Appleman, loc. cit.
 The company's morning report lists 138 men and 5 officers for 5 July.
These reports, however, appear to have been made up at some later date, and they
do not accurately record all the changes and events as they occurred.
 Letters, Major Leroy Osburn to OCMH, 21 January and 5 March 1952. Osburn
states the mission of his company at that time. It appears from General Barth's
article (cited in note 1) that General Barth changed the mission from one of
defense to one of delaying action before contact was made with the enemy
 Barth, op. cit.
 For a more complete account of this action, see Appleman, loc. cit. See
also 24th Division: G3 journal, report of interrogation of CO, 1st Battalion,
21st Infantry, 7 July l950; and 24th Division, unit war diaries: 21st Infantry
Regiment, 5 July l950. The number of tanks varies in these reports, but the best
evidence indicates there were 33 in the first column, of which only 4 were
 Barth, op. cit.
 SFC Alfred Beauchamp, Company A, 34th Infantry, in an interview by the
author, 7 August 1951.
 Letter, Osburn to OCMH, 5 March 1952.
 Ibid., 21 January 1952.
 Company A's morning reports for this period list twenty-seven men
missing in action. The report was made up on 8 July, apparently after the first
sergeant and the several men with him rejoined the company. These reports do not
include at least one man (Pvt. Joseph P. Krahel) who was missing in action after
the engagement on the morning of 6 July l950.
 Barth, op. cit.
 For a more complete account of the fighting in Chonan by the 3d
Battalion, 34th Infantry, see Appleman, loc. cit.
 24th Division: G3 journal, 15 to 18 July l950.