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History  Bert '53  On Line

Back to Ebb And Flow

Withdrawal to Line D

Even as his forces were giving up Seoul, General Ridgway wrote General Collins in Washington that although the Eighth Army was in for some difficult days, he was certain of its intrinsic ability to perform well against the Chinese. Also prompting his confidence was the manner in which the Chinese had conducted operations since New Year's Day. "The Chinese probe on a wide front," he told Collins. "When they strike resistance their overwhelming numbers immediately flow around both flanks and join in the rear."1 As the North Koreans had learned when they met close-knit defenses for the first time at the Pusan Perimeter, this tactic could be countered.

The armament employed by the Chinese had been largely small arms, automatic weapons, and mortars. They had used some artillery in breaching line B, but problems in moving the pieces and in supplying ammunition combined with the Eighth Army's counterbattery fire and air support had frustrated further use of the heavier guns. Although pilots reported they had sighted and attacked tanks behind enemy lines, the Chinese had used no armor in their recent assaults. Nor had they employed air support.2

In Ridgway's appraisal, the Eighth Army was "opposed by an enemy whose only advantage is sheer numbers, whose armament is far inferior quantitatively and qualitatively, who has no air support whatever, meager telecommunications and negligible armor." But while Ridgway believed the Eighth Army to have the strength and means to handle the enemy, most of his commanders and so most of his forces-did not share his confidence. He had "found only one or two cases where a Division has shown any appreciable resourcefulness in adapting its fighting tactics to the terrain, to the enemy, and to conditions in this theater." His dominant problem was "to achieve the spiritual awakening of the latent capabilities of this command." If he could manage this, he was certain that the Eighth Army would "achieve more, far more, than our people think possible-and perhaps inflict a bloody defeat on the Chinese which even China will long remember."3

For the time being there was no escaping further withdrawal. While the last steps in evacuating Seoul were being taken on the 4th, Chinese patrols were observed investigating the Kimpo peninsula off the west flank of the I Corps and were reported to be crossing the Han to the right rear of the IX Corps. This reconnaissance and the concentration of Chinese forces above Seoul indicated that the enemy would advance below the city with hardly a pause.4

It was the shambles farther east, however, that. made a withdrawal to line D mandatory. This segment of the Eighth Army line remained a largehole sieve through which an estimated seventy thousand North Koreans grouped in the Ch'unch'on-Inje-Hong-ch'on area, and possibly Chinese forces as well, could push attacks south on the Route 29 axis through Wonju and through the undefended mountains east of Route 29. Or they could move southwestward to envelop the I and IX Corps, or both. By pulling back to the P'yongt'aek-Ansong-Changho-won-ni sector of line D, the I and IX Corps would no longer be open to envelopment from the northeast, and the X Corps and the two South Korean corps might be able to organize a satisfactory line in the Wonju-Wonp'o-ri sector.5

Withdrawal From the Han

Congestion on Route 29 South of Hongch'on during retreat in the Central Sector, Jan 3 '51
Congestion on Route 29 South of Hongch'on during retreat in the Central Sector, Jan 3 '51

Ridgway warned his forces around noon on the 4th to expect orders to withdraw to line D, all corps abreast. The I and IX Corps in the meantime were to pull back at 2000 to intermediate positions six to eight miles south of the Han and hold until Air Force and Army supplies stocked at Suwon, ten miles farther south and about midway between Seoul and line D, had been removed. Ridgway expected the supplies to be cleared within twenty-four to thirty-six hours.6

Ridgway intended that the starting hour of the intermediate move provide time for the 3d Logistical Command to finish evacuating Inch'on, ASCOM City, and Kimpo airfield.7 (The Seoul airport already had been emptied.) On 3 January Ridgway had notified Col. John G. Hill, commander of the 3d Logistical Command, to cease port operations at Inch'on at noon the next day.8 The deadline seemed reasonable since the gradual reductions of stocks at the port and airfield areas since early December already had brought items on hand to modest quantities. But unforeseen delays in getting some reserve stocks released from Eighth Army staff officers, too few tankers, too little suitable shipping for such items as long lengths of railroad track, and an overestimate of the ammunition that would be issued to line troops had prevented Colonel Hill from removing all stocks by the designated hour.9

Nor would Hill get everything out. After receiving Ridgway's noontime orders, General Milburn, in whose sector the port and airfield lay, instructed Hill to execute his demolition plans as soon as he had removed all troops other than demolition crews. While back shipment at Inch'on did continue through the favorable afternoon tide on the 4th, Hill's main attention was diverted to rendering the airfield and port facilities useless to enemy forces.10

The Port Of Inch'on, Tidal Basin upper right, Foreground Island of Wolmi-do
The Port Of Inch'on, Tidal Basin upper right, Foreground Island of Wolmi-do
(BK note: This photo is composed of two other photos, poorly patched and missing the causeway)

All port units scheduled to travel south by road had gone by the time Hill received Milburn's instructions, and the last Fifth Air Force unit except for Army aviation engineers had flown from Kimpo to a new base in Japan. Through the afternoon these engineers burned the airfield buildings and the drums of aviation gasoline and napalm remaining at Kimpo while Eighth Army engineers from the 82d Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company destroyed the four- and six-inch pipelines between Inch'on and Kimpo and the booster pumps and storage tanks at the airfield.11

Kimpo Airfield Jan 4 '51
Kimpo Airfield Jan 4 '51

Members of the 50th Engineer Port Construction Company began demolishing the Inch'on port at 1800. All main facilities except one pier and a causeway to the small offshore island, Wolmi-do, were destroyed. Prime targets were the lock gates of the tidal basin, which by compensating the Yellow Sea's wide tidal range had largely given Inch'on the capacity of a principal port. The demolitions at Wolmi-do as well as the city itself were completed by 0300 on the 5th. Colonel Hill and his remaining troops left by water for Pusan within the hour.12

Supplies destroyed at Kimpo, ASCOM City, and Inch'on included some 1.6 million gallons of petroleum products, 9,300 tons of engineer materiel, and 12 rail cars loaded with ammunition. While time and tide may have made the destruction of this materiel unavoidable, the extensive damage to port facilities could not be fully justified. Denying the enemy the use of a port was theoretically sound; on the other hand, the United Nations Command's absolute control of Korean waters made Inch'on's destruction purposeless.13

The I and IX Corps left the lower bank of the Han while Hill's engineers were still blowing Inch'on, so Hill had been obliged to put out his own security above the port. These outposts were not engaged. Neither were Milburn's forces as they moved to positions centered on Route 1 at the town of Anyang, nor were Coulter's as they extended the intermediate line northeastward to the junction of the Han and Pukhan rivers.14 (See Map 16)

Late on the 4th, while the I and IX Corps were withdrawing to positions above Suwon, Ridgway ordered the withdrawal to line D to begin at noon on the 5th, by which time he now expected the supplies at Suwon to have been removed. All five corps were to withdraw abreast, meeting in the process Ridgway's basic requirement of maximum delay and maximum punishment of the enemy. Ridgway specifically instructed Milburn and Coulter to include tanks in their covering forces and to counterattack the Chinese who followed the withdrawal.15

Ridgway learned during the morning of the 5th that the supplies at Suwon and at the airfield south of town could not be cleared by noon. Creating the delay was not only the sheer bulk of the materiel but also about a hundred thousand desperate refugees from the Seoul area who crowded the Suwon railroad yards and blocked the trains. At midmorning Ridgway radioed Milburn to stand fast until the remaining Suwon stocks had been shipped out, and he notified Coulter to leave forces to protect the east flank of the I Corps' forward position.16

Milburn received Ridgway's instructions in time to hold the bulk of the 25th Division and the ROK 1st Division at the Anyang position, and Coulter ordered the ROK 6th Division to protect Milburn's east flank. But Coulter did not dispatch his instructions until an hour after the ROK 6th had started for line D, and General Chang did not receive them until midafternoon. It took Chang another half hour to get his division stopped. By that time his forces were almost due east of Suwon, where, with Coulter's agreement, Chang deployed them astride Route 17.17

During the night of the 5th an enemy regiment crossed the Han and assembled east of Yongdungp'o. Patrols from the regiment moved south through the hills east of Route 1 and reconnoitered the ROK 1st Division front before midnight but somehow missed finding the vulnerable east flank earlier left open by the IX Corps. By daylight on the 6th the patrol contact in the center of General Paik's front developed into a general engagement between an enemy battalion and the 3d Battalion, 11th ROK Regiment, but the enemy attempt to dislodge the South Koreans eased by noon and ended altogether at 1400. By then supplies had been cleared from Suwon and Milburn and Coulter could continue south toward line D.18

The two corps completed their withdrawals on the 7th. Since the 15th Infantry and 3d Battalion, 65th Infantry, of the 3d Division in the meantime had arrived from Kyongju and been attached to the I Corps, Milburn was able to keep a substantial reserve and still organize a fairly solid twenty-mile line D front from the west coast eastward through P'yongt'aek and Ansong. The British 29th Brigade and the Thai battalion stood at the far left astride Route 1 just below P'yongt'aek. The 3d Division held a sector across the hills between Routes 1 and 17, which General Soule manned with the 15th Infantry. Lending depth to this central position, the 3d Battalion, 65th Infantry, and the 35th Infantry of the 25th Division were assembled not far behind it. Above Ansong, the ROK 1st Division lay across Route 17. The remainder of the 25th Division and the Turkish brigade went into corps reserve at Ch'onan, thirteen miles south of P'yongt'aek.19

Map 16. Withdrawal to Line D, I and X Corps, 4-7 January 1951

Along a slightly longer front tipping to the northeast and reaching beyond Changhowonni to the Han River Coulter deployed the ROK 6th Division, British 27th Brigade, and 24th Division, west to east. Hard against the right corps boundary twenty miles behind the front, the bulk of the 1st Cavalry Division was in corps reserve at Ch'ungju on Route 13, now the IX Corps' main supply route. To protect the route from attacks by guerrillas known to be located in the Tanyang area twenty miles farther east, the 5th Cavalry had begun to patrol the road from Ch'ungju south through a mountain pass at Mun'gyong.20

The way Milburn and Coulter had moved to line D exasperated General Ridgway. "Reports so far reaching me," he told the two corps commanders on the 7th, "indicate your forces withdrew to `D' line without evidence of having inflicted any substantial losses on enemy and without material delay. In fact, some major units are reported as having broken contact. I desire prompt confirming reports and if substantially correct, the reasons for non-compliance with my basic directives."21 The reports reaching Ridgway were true. Except for the clashes between the Chinese and the ROK 1st Division east of Anyang on the 6th, the I Corps had withdrawn from the south bank of the Han without contact, and the IX Corps had not engaged enemy forces since leaving the Seoul bridgehead.22

Attempting once more to get the quality of leadership he considered essential, Ridgway pointed out to Milburn and Coulter that their opponents had but two alternatives: to make a time-consuming, coordinated followup, or to conduct a rapid, uncoordinated pursuit. If the Chinese chose the first, the Eighth Army could at least achieve maximum delay even though there might be few opportunities for strong counterattacks. If they elected the second, the Eighth Army would have unlimited opportunities not only to delay but to inflict severe losses on them. In either case, Ridgway again made clear, Milburn and Coulter were to exploit every opportunity to carry out the basic concept of operations that he had repeatedly explained to them.23

The immediate response was a flurry of patrolling to regain contact. According to the I Corps intelligence officer, the 39th and 50th Armies were now advancing south of Seoul, and their vanguards had reached the Suwon area. An ROK 1st Division patrol moving north over Route 17 during the afternoon of the 7th supported this assessment when it briefly engaged a small enemy group in Kumnyangjangni, eleven miles east of Suwon. Farther west, patrols from the 15th Infantry and the British 29th Brigade moved north as far as Osan, eight miles short of Suwon, without making contact. In the IX Corps sector, the 24th Division at the far right sent patrols into Ich'on and Yoju, both on an east-west line with Suwon. Both towns were empty. Shallower searches to the north by the British 27th Brigade in the center of the corps sector also failed to reestablish contact. (The ROK 6th Division, at the corps left, sent out no patrols while it absorbed twenty-three hundred sorely needed replacements.)24

General Ridgway considered the attempts by patrols to regain contact at least to be moves in the right direction. What he wanted and planned to see next in the west was more vigorous patrolling by gradually enlarged forces. This patrolling would be the main mission of the larger efforts to acquire better combat intelligence, which in his judgment had been sadly neglected and which was a prime requisite for the still larger offensive action that he intended would follow. His attention meanwhile was drawn to the east, where the withdrawal to line D was still in progress and where North Korean forces, as expected, had opened an attack to seize Wonju.25

Wonju and Hill 247

To promote continuous defenses through the mountains east of Wonju, Ridgway on the 5th had redrawn line D in the ROK III and I Corps sectors, replacing the original line stretching northeastward from Wonju to Wonp'ori on the coast with a new trace reaching almost due east of Wonju to the coastal town of Samch'ok. (Map 17) This 45-degree change in alignment dropped the east coast position some forty miles.26

Ridgway expected the shift south to give the two South Korean corps additional time and space in which to set a defense and to get behind some of the North Korean guerrillas and regulars who, if the original line D were occupied, would be in the ROK rear areas. But as of the 7th his expectation was nowhere near realization. In the ROK I Corps sector, the ROK Capital Division on the coast was just beginning to move from the old to the new line, and the ROK 3d Division, while on the move from Hongch'on in the X Corps area, was only approaching the town of Yongwol at the left of the ROK III Corps sector.27

The ROK III Corps had no line at all. As could best be determined, the ROK 9th Division was fighting its way south in the corps sector but was no farther than the trace of the old line D. The corps' other division, the ROK 7th, was on the way out of the X Corps area, but on entering a mountain road leading eastward toward Yongwol from Route 29 at a point eleven miles below Wonju, the division had run into a large force of North Koreans and was currently stalled about six miles east of its Route 29 departure point.28

The continuing lack of defense between Wonju and the east coast left the mountains east of Route 29 wide open to a southward enemy advance. In the X Corps area, as a result, all of the 7th Division and part of the 2d had occupied or were currently moving into positions along the fifty-five miles of Route 29 from Chech'on south to Andong to protect the X Corps' supply route and to refuse the east flank. General Barr's 17th Infantry and General McClure's 9th Infantry and one battalion of his 23d Infantry were deployed in and around Chech'on. Farther south, a battalion of the 32d Infantry of the 7th Division was assembled at Tanyang, and the remainder of the regiment was moving up from the south to join it. Barr's 31st Infantry was also moving north, two battalions headed for Yongju, below Tanyang, the other battalion for Andong.29

2d Infantry Division Troops South of Wonju, Jan 10 '51
2d Infantry Division Troops South of Wonju, Jan 10 '51

In the western half of the X Corps sector, General Almond had manned a twenty-mile front from Wonju southwestward to the east flank of the IX Corps at the Han. Having gradually gained control of the ROK 2d, 5th, and 8th Divisions as they struggled piecemeal out of the mountains north of line D, Almond placed the 5th along the western third of the front, the 8th in the center, and the bulk of General McClure's 2d Division at Wonju. Since the ROK 2d Division numbered less than thirty-two hundred men, Almond assembled it, nominally in corps reserve, on Route 13 just below Ch'ungju. As of the 7th, the 35th Regiment of the ROK 5th Division occupied the west anchor of the X Corps front. East of the 35th, beyond a three-mile gap scheduled to be filled by the 5th's 27th Regiment, the 16th and 10th Regiments of the ROK 8th Division, then the 23d and 38th Regiments of the 2d Division, carried the front a short distance beyond Wonju.30

Map 17. NK II Corps and V Corps Attacks, 7-22 January 1951

Prisoners taken earlier by the 2d Division-while wedging aside the remainder of the North Korean force that had blocked Route 29 six miles below Hongch'on and during later skirmishes farther south at Hoengsong- had supplied a fairly clear picture of enemy intentions in the east. A boundary between the North Korean V and II Corps appeared to parallel Route 29 just to its east. On the east, the II Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Choe Hyon and operating with the 2d, 9th, 10th, and 31st Divisions, was to seep south through the mountains east of Route 29, avoiding engagements during this move, then was to attack Wonju, Chech'on, Tanyang, and Taegu. Along and west of Route 29, Maj. Gen. Pang Ho San, commander of the V Corps, was to employ his 6th, 7th, 12th, 27th, 28th, and 43d Divisions in frontal attacks to seize Wonju and force a general withdrawal of the X Corps. Enemy guerrillas, numbering between five thousand and seventy-five hundred and currently massed around Tanyang and along the twenty miles of Route 29 cutting through a high mountain spur between Tanyang and Yongju, were to displace south and southeast to disrupt the Eighth Army's Pusan-Andong line of communication. The whole operation, according to the captives, was to be conducted in conjunction with Chinese advances in the west.31

To seize Wonju itself, the North Korean plan called for a two-division frontal attack by the V Corps. The Wonju attack was to be assisted by the enveloping effect of other V Corps attacks farther west and by the II Corps advance on the east. Moving down from Hoengsong during the night of the 6th, General Pang's 6th and 27th Divisions before dawn were poised just above Wonju for the frontal attack. Ahead of these two forces, Pang's 12th Division, previously in the Hongch'on-Hoengsong area, had crossed from the east to the west side of Route 29 and had come south to a position northwest of Wonju, just north of the 10th Regiment of the ROK 8th Division. On the opposite side of Route 29, General Choe's 2d and 9th Divisions had marched from Hongch'on to the area northeast of Wonju, and the 10th Division, coming from Ch'unch'on, was approaching Wonju for the II Corps' thrust through the unoccupied mountains.32

Wonju sits in the bottom of a bowl in the valley of the Wonju River. Hills forming the rim of the bowl begin to rise about a mile from town. To defend the town and an airstrip at its southeastern edge, General McClure had established the 23d and 38th Regiments in an inverted U atop the bowl rim. The 23d was deployed across Route 29 and in an arc to the west and southwest, and the 38th was similarly aligned north, east, and southeast of town. Bulging out as this position did at the northeastern corner of the X Corps line, and, for the time being, the Eighth Army line, McClure's two regiments, in the words of the Eighth Army G-3, occupied an "unenviable salient."33

The leading forces of the North Korean 6th and 27th Divisions punctured the salient before McClure's men realized it. About 0530 on the 7th, some four hundred enemy troops disguised as and intermingled among civilians merely walked down Route 29, by outposts in other areas, and even through some main positions. Their identity was not discovered until they opened fire on two battalion command posts in the rear. McClure's forces, once alerted, rapidly screened out the infiltrators, captured 114, and broke up several assaults that followed against their main defenses. But almost simultaneously with these assaults, the North Korean 12th Division to the west attacked and pushed the 10th Regiment of the ROK 8th Division out of position, leaving the 2d Division's Wonju salient even more unenviable.34

As the North Korean attack developed, General McClure sought General Almond's approval of a withdrawal below town. Almond, having himself foreseen a possible need to adjust the 2d Division's line, agreed to a withdrawal provided McClure placed his forces on the hills edging the town on the south so that they would still control the road hub. McClure, however, assumed a latitude of decision Almond had not really given him and allowed his two regiments to make a substantial withdrawal to the southwest down the Wonju- Mokkye-dong road. By evening of the 7th the 23d Infantry held a line four and a half miles below Wonju, and the 38th Infantry was aligned in depth near the village of Mich'on, another three miles to the south. From these positions, McClure's only chance of controlling Wonju was by artillery fire.35

Almond had no intention of depending on artillery alone. Wonju, in his judgment, was so important and indeed so rare a road junction that any force controlling it had gone far toward controlling central Korea. After learning of the 2d Division's deep withdrawal he ordered McClure to send at least one infantry battalion at first light on the 8th to clear the town and airstrip, to occupy the high ground directly south of Wonju with no fewer than four battalions, and not to withdraw from that position unless Almond himself gave the order.36

McClure gave the Wonju assignment to the 23d Infantry, instructing Colonel Freeman to use one battalion in the attack. Lt. Col. James W. Edwards' 2d Battalion started for Wonju at 0930 on the 8th, moving over the road in a column of companies with Company E leading and with four aircraft overhead in close support. Around noon, as Company E passed Hill 247 overlooking the road from the east two and a half miles below Wonju, the leading riflemen spotted and fired on several North Koreans, who quickly scattered. A half mile farther, they discovered North Koreans asleep in buildings. Finding them was like bumping a beehive. Some of the first to awaken gave an alarm that stirred a swarm of soldiers out of other buildings and carried to troops located in nearby heights. The 2d Battalion killed two hundred during the melee. But Colonel Edwards at the same time discovered that he was being flanked on both the east and west by what he estimated to be a regiment and pulled his battalion out of range to a position south of Hill 247. To the west, in the meantime, the North Korean 12th Division again hit the 10th ROK Regiment and forced it back almost on line with the 38th Infantry at Mich'on. Since this left the west flank of the 23d Infantry, above Mich'on, wide open, General McClure instructed Colonel Freeman to pull the 2d Battalion all the way back to the regimental line and emplace it on the exposed flank.37

Convinced by reports of heavy enemy losses and moderate enemy resistance that a successful attack on Wonju could be made, General Almond ordered McClure to resume his effort to clear the town and airstrip by noon on the 9th. Almond directed that two battalions with air and artillery support make the renewed advance and repeated his previous instruction that four battalions occupy positions just south of Wonju.38

McClure attached two battalions of the 38th Infantry to the 23d to provide Colonel Freeman sufficient forces to hold a defensive position as well as make a two-battalion advance. For the Wonju mission Freeman organized a task force with the 2d Battalion of the 23d Infantry and 2d Battalion of the 38th Infantry, placing Lt. Col. James H. Skeldon, commander of the latter battalion, in charge. In snow that canceled close air support, Task Force Skeldon started over the road toward Wonju at 1000 on the 9th.39

As Skeldon's column approached Hill 247 at noon, fire struck the task force from that peak and heights to the west. Skeldon deployed a battalion on each side of the road and attacked, but by late afternoon his forces bogged down part way up the near slopes of the enemy position. Colonel Freeman considered Skeldon's position unsound, especially after learning that North Korean 12th Division forces to his west again had hit the ROK 8th Division and advanced deep to his left rear before the South Koreans contained them. But, under pressure to clear Wonju and occupy positions just below the town, he held Skeldon where he was for the night, reinforced him with the bulk of the French battalion, and planned to resume the attack on the 10th.40

Frequent snowstorms on the 10th again eliminated close air support, and the ground troops suffered also from far lower temperatures caused by a northerly wind shift. Freeman, personally taking charge of the attack, pushed his forces another half mile into the 247 mass but met increasing opposition and faced a repeated need to spread forces farther west and east to meet North Korean counterattacks.

Around noon he notified General McClure of the growing resistance and of the constant danger of being outflanked, and he advised against continuing the attack. McClure agreed but instructed Freeman to hold his position. Freeman could adjust the disposition of his troops, but he was to do nothin that would appear to be a withdrawal.41

Freeman's change to a defensive stance was followed by hard North Korean attacks that did not subside until well after dark and after Freeman's forces had inflicted, in their estimate, two thousand enemy casualties. Although control of Hill 247 vacillated through the afternoon, Freeman still commanded a good defensive position at the close of the engagement.42

Continuing North Korean attempts to shove Freeman's forces out of the 247 mass on the 11th and 12th had similar results. Reinforced by more of the French battalion and part of the Netherlands battalion and helped by strong air support (including a B-29 attack on Wonju) after the sky cleared around noon on the 11th, Freeman's forces broke up the assaults and killed more than eleven hundred North Koreans. Two weak and failing attempts against Freeman's position early on the 13th ended the V Corps' effort to drive south of Wonju.43

Regardless of this stand at Hill 247, General Almond was dissatisfied with the 2d Division's performance. Largely as a result of the initial withdrawal so far south of Wonju and what Almond considered to be inefficient staff work, poor employment of weapons (especially artillery), improper organization of defenses, and an exhorbitant rate of non-battle casualties (mostly from trench foot, frostbite, and respiratory diseases), Almond on the 13th asked General Ridgway for authority to relieve General McClure. Ridgway was not fully convinced that a relief was warranted. His own impression of McClure, formed in part after a visit to Wonju on 2 January, was of a hardhitting, aggressive commander. He also considered McClure's assignment at Wonju to be a "hot potato" that could burn a person no matter how he handled it. But he felt more strongly that he had to back his corps commander in this instance and gave Almond the authority he asked for. He pointed out to Almond, however, that one of his own guidelines in a decision to relieve an officer was that he had to have a better man available.44

Almond believed he had a better man in the X Corps chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Clark L. Ruffner, and on 14 January sent him to take command of the 2d Division. Ridgway returned General McClure to the United States a few days later with the official status of relieved without prejudice but was well aware that "the prejudice would be there anyway. "45

East of Route 29

General Pang, the North Korean V Corps commander, dropped his push against the ROK 8th Division at the same time he canceled his attack south of Wonju. He had employed at least parts of all his divisions against the Americans and South Koreans but had not won the advantage before casualties and the near exhaustion of his ammunition and other supplies eliminated his chances of gaining an edge. His divisions, to begin with, had been understrength, and his troops were by no means of the same high caliber as those that had driven to the Pusan Perimeter at the beginning of the war. His weapons, too, were limited-mostly rifles, with some automatic weapons and mortars. Judging it useless to continue until he had reorganized and replenished, Pang on the 17th ordered his forces, except for the 27th Division, to withdraw into defensive positions around Hoengsong.46

Although the North Korean II Corps began operations in no better shape than the V Corps, General Choe had more success infiltrating through the mountains east of Route 29. Opening his advance concurrently with Pang's attack on Wonju, Choe sent the 2d and 9th Divisions wide to the east out of the Wonju area, then south through the higher Taebaek peaks toward Yongwol. Farther west, his first move was to send the 10th Division south through the heights bordering Route 29.47

In passing Wonju on the east, part of the 10th Division accidently bumped into the 2d Division. Under Choe's order to avoid engagement, the division commander, Maj. Gen. Lee Ban Nam, shifted his forces farther east to prevent more such encounters but did not sidestep far enough to avoid running almost head on into the ROK 7th Division then moving eastward toward Yongwol eleven miles below Wonju. General Lee disentangled the last of his forces from this engagement on the 8th. On the following day Lee's leading 27th Regiment got past Chech'on but then ran into strong patrols from the 7th Division operating east of Route 29 below the town. General Barr's forces killed almost five hundred of Lee's men and took fourteen captives, who identified their division and revealed its attack objectives to be Tanyang first and then Taegu.48

Behind the 10th Division, the opening through which General Choe could infiltrate forces meanwhile had begun to narrow. On the 8th, the 10th's disengagement with the ROK 7th Division allowed the latter to complete its move to Yongwol, and on the following day the ROK 9th Division, finally free of its isolation to the north, came in at the right of the ROK III Corps sector at the upper Han River town of Chongson. With General Ridgway's approval, the ROK III Corps' new commander, Maj. Gen. Yu Jai Heung, faced these two divisions to the northwest along the Han above Yongwol rather than attempt to push them forward onto line D.49 General Yu set the ROK 7th Division in the heights immediately northeast of Yongwol and deployed the ROK 9th Division in the vicinity of its Chongson assembly. To strengthen the ROK III Corps, Ridgway gave Yu the ROK 3d Division, which also had assembled near Yongwol while moving toward the ROK I Corps sector. Yu placed the additional division in reserve at Ch'unyang, thirty miles souteast of Yongwol.50

Although there were openings in the line, the ROK III Corps by the 10th finally had a position from which to oppose North Korean II Corps movements through the steeper heights east of Route 29. A fifteen-mile gap in the X Corps sector between Chech'on and Yongwol was now the area through which General Choe could most easily pass his units. Judging the movement of North Korean forces through this gap to be the major threat to the X Corps, not the V Corps effort then in progress at Wonju, Ridgway ordered Almond to close the gap and to eliminate all enemy forces who had gotten behind Route 60 between Chech'on and Yongwol.51

To assist Almond, Ridgway moved the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team to Andong and attached it to the X Corps. To hedge any deep enemy penetration below the lateral Andong-Yongdok road, Route 48, Ridgway also ordered the 1st Marine, Division to make the move for which he earlier had alerted it, from Masan to the P'ohang-dong-Kyongju-Yongch'on area.52

Almond initially ordered the ROK 5th Division, so far not involved in the Wonju fight, to move east and fill the Chech'onYongwol gap, leaving the ROK 8th Division to occupy the 5th's old sector. Since the shift of the 5th from corps left to corps right would take time, Almond instructed General Barr in the meantime to send a battalion of the 17th Infantry eastward from Chech'on to make physical contact with the ROK III Corps at Yongwol and to clear all enemy forces between the towns while en route.53

Almond already had ordered all corps units up and down Route 29 to institute day and night patrolling to clear enemy troops from the bordering mountains. Judging that an expansion of this patrolling in the rear would prove more profitable than a linear defense between Chech'on and Yongwol, he reassigned the bulk of the ROK 5th Division to clear the region above Yongju at the corps right rear. Similar rear area assignments to other units by 14 January spread a network of patrols and blocking positions over an area forty miles square. The 7th Division continued to patrol from Chech'on toward Yongwol and, with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, along both sides of Route 29 from Chech'on south to Yongju. The remainder of the ROK 5th Division and a regiment of the ROK 2d Division covered the lateral road leading west from Tanyang to Ch'ungju, joining hands with the 5th Cavalry patrolling Route 13 south from Ch'ungju through the Mun'gyong pass. Almond concentrated the bulk of the ROK 2d Division at the lower end of the Mun'gyong pass, where it could help bottle guerrillas massed in the mountains to the northeast around Tanyang. Already operating against these guerrillas was part of the X Corps special activities group, a small provisional force recently formed by X Corps headquarters around its special operations company for raids and other missions behind enemy lines. The group so far had been fully committed to security missions in the X Corps' rear area.54

Deciding on the 14th that getting additional troops into the Tanyang area was more immediately important than clearing Wonju, Almond pulled the 2d and ROK 8th Divisions out of their positions above Chech'on and instructed General Ruffner to occupy the entire west corps sector, a front of some twenty-two miles, on a line extending almost due west of Chech'on to the Han River. This move freed the ROK 8th Division, which Almond dispatched to Tanyang.55

General Choe, aided by the wild terrain and night movements, seemed to stay a half step ahead of Almond's attempt to blanket the corps area. At the II Corps left, the 9th Division ran into the ROK 7th Division near Yongwol and into infantry-tank patrols from the 17th Infantry along the Chech'on-Yongwol road and got no farther south, but the 2d Division, staying to the west of Yongwol, managed to seep below the road and by 16 January placed its leading troops within sight of Tanyang. Similarly, the 31st Division threaded troops through the heights bordering Route 29 as far as Tanyang, and the 27th Division of the North Korean V Corps, coming south behind the 31st, pushed forces as far as the Chech'on area. Still in the lead, the 10th Division meanwhile changed course after running into 7th Division patrols below Chech'on on 9 January and by the 18th reached within a few miles of its new objective, Andong.56

By appearances, the daily deepening of the North Korean II Corps penetration steadily enlarged the danger of envelopment of the X Corps' east flank. But the heavy patrolling by Almond's forces kept the North Koreans moderately engaged, draining the groups encountered of men and ammunition, and the corps' artillery fire and air support also took a toll. The winter weather compounded these losses. To turn the snow and temperatures that registered as low as twenty-one degrees below zero to an advantage, Almond ordered the destruction of all buildings that might shelter the North Koreans. As many structures as could be reached by patrols, artillery, and air strikes were demolished. According to captives, diseases besides those related to cold weather also struck hard among North Korean ranks.57

The progressive weakening of the II Corps became particularly noticeable around 22 January when X Corps patrols began to encounter only stray soldiers and irregular bands instead of organized formations. Almond dismissed the enemy corps as an effective force on the 25th. "By utilizing armor and armored vehicles in our 'power' patrols where possible, and through systematic search of the mountainous recesses by dismounted forces," he reported to General Ridgway, "we have completely disrupted the cohesion and organization of four North Korean divisions."58

These four, the 2d, 9th, 27th, and 31st, were indeed in bad shape. General Choe recalled them on the 24th, instructing them to assemble above P'yongch'ang, some fifteen miles north of Yongwol. Those surviving the withdrawal, which amounted to an infiltration in reverse, reached their assembly area by the end of January. By Eighth Army and X Corps estimates, the survivors of an original four-division strength near sixteen thousand numbered, at most eighty-six hundred.59

The North Korean 10th Division, too, had suffered heavy losses en route to Andong. General Choe directed General Lee to withdraw to P'yongch'ang on the 23d and informed him that if he could notify Choe of his escape route, other II Corps forces would attempt to clear the way. Aware that Lee's division was all but encircled by X Corps forces above and by the 1st Marine Division below, Choe advised Lee that if he could not get his division out, he was to stay in the X Corps rear and employ his troops as guerrillas.60

Lee elected to stay where he was but made a less than halfhearted attempt to conduct guerrilla operations. When General Smith's marines opened a systematic screening operation in the P'ohang-dong-Andong-Yongdok area on the 18th, they found it harder to locate Lee's forces than to fight them. A 10th Division officer captured some days later explained that General Lee had fallen victim of acute melancholia, brooding constantly over his predicament and directing his forces in no course of action other than one of alternate hiding and flight. After nearly three weeks of combing, General Smith notified General Ridgway that his forces had scattered the remnants of the 10th Division. In Smith's judgment, Lee's forces were not then capable of any kind of major effort, and the situation was sufficiently in hand to permit the assignment of a new mission to the 1st Marine Division.61

As contact with enemy forces diminished, General Almond meanwhile had begun to organize a solid forward line from the right bank of the Han opposite Yoju eastward across Route 29 five miles below Wonju to a point five miles above Yongwol. As of 30 January the 2d Division was moving onto the line between the Han and Route 29 on the west, the ROK 8th Division above Chech'on in the middle, and the 7th Division above Yongwol on the east.62

The 2d Division in fact had instituted a program of patrolling and in the process had reoccupied Wonju. Following the North Korean V Corps' withdrawal above Hoengsong, a battalion of the 9th Infantry on the 23d reentered and set up a patrol base in Wonju and on the next day began sending infantry and armored patrols to the west, north, and northeast. At the right, the 17th Infantry of the 7th Division (the division was now commanded by Maj. Gen. Claude B. Ferenbaugh) had pursued the North Korean II Corps' withdrawal above P'yongch'ang, sending a battalion of infantry and artillery far enough forward to destroy the town with a heavy shelling on the 27th.63

The patrolling north of the corps front during the last week of January was largely a result of orders from General Ridgway on the 20th and 23d calling for infantry-armor patrolling and for a diversion to prevent enemy movement south of the Yoju-Wonju line. These instructions were part of an expanding reconnaissance in force that Ridgway had instituted in the west on the 15th.64


1 Ltr, Ridgway to Collins, 3 Jan 51, copy in CMH. Ridgway at this time urged Collins to press for the addition of helicopter companies to Army transportation facilities: "Such situations [as the Chinese method of attack] could be more effectively met and many thousands more of the enemy destroyed, if we had the capability of putting down small reconnaissance groups on ridges and hilltops, and could withdraw them at will. We could also supply temporarily isolated units in a more efficient and economical way than by parachute."

2 Eighth Army PIRs 173-176, 1-4 Jan 51; IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51. 3 Ltr, Ridgway to Collins, 8 Jan 51; Ltr, Ridgway to Haislip, 11 Jan 51, copy in CMH.

4 Eighth Army PIR 176, 4 Jan 51.

5 Ibid.; Eighth Army G3 SS Rpt, Jan 51.

6 Msg, CG Eighth Army to CG I U.S. Corps et al., 041215 Jan 51, copy in IX Corps Comd Rpt, Jan 51; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nat, Jan 51.

7 A former Japanese arsenal area four miles east of Inch'on had been christened ASCOM (Army Service Command) City by American occupation forces in 1945 and occupied during recent operations by engineer, quartermaster, ordnance and signal supply depots and by Headquarters, 3d Logistical Command.

8 In December Hill had replaced General Stewart, who became the assistant division commander of the 2d Division.

9 3d Log Comd Daily Opus Rpt 103, 4 Jan 51; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Dec 50; Hq, 3d Log Comd, Memo, Col Hill for CG Eighth Army, 9 Jan 51, sub: Major Items Destroyed at the Port of Inchon; 3d Log Comd G4 Hist Rpt, Jan 51.

10 Msg, CG I Corps to CG 25th Div et al., 041300 Jan 51; IX Corps Opn Dir 21, 041500 Jan 51 (confirms oral orders issued 041200 Jan 51).

11 3d Log Comd Engr Monthly Activ Rpt, Jan 51; Futrell, The United States Air Force in Korea, p. 259; 3d Log Comd Daily Opus Rpt 104, 5 Jan 51.

12 3d Log Comd Engr Monthly Activ Rpt, Jan 51; 3d Log Comd Daily Opus Rpt 105, 6 Jan 51.

13 Hq, 2d Log Comd, Memo, Col Hill for CG Eighth Army, 9 Jan 51, sub: Major Items Destroyed at the Port of Inchon; 3d Log Comd G4 Hist Rpt, Jan 51; Field, United States Naval Operations, Korea, p. 312.

14 I Corps G3 Jnl, Sum, 4 and 5 Jan 51; IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 3d Log Comd Daily Opns Rpt 104, 5 Jan 51, and 105, 6 Jan 51.

15 Rad, GX-1-313 KGOO, Eighth Army to C/S ROKA et al., 4 Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-316 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to C/S ROKA et al., 4 Jan 51.

16 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-344 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG I Corps et al., 5 Jan 51.

17 I Corps G3 Jul, Sum, 5 Jan 51; IX Corps POR 306, 5 Jan 51.

18 I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 1 Corps G3 Jul, Sum, 6 Jan 51.

19 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 7 Jan 51; 1 Corps G3 Jnl, Sum, 5, 6, and 7 Jan 51.

20 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 7 Jan 51.

21 Rad, GX-1-526 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG I Corps and CG IX Corps, 7 Jan 51.

22 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

23 Rad, GX-1-526 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG I Corps and CG IX Corps, 7 Jan 51.

24 I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; I Corps POR 351, 7 Jan 51; IX Corps PIR 103, 7 Jan 51; IX Corps POR 312, 7 Jan 51; IX Corps PIR 104, 8 Jan 51.

25 Ms, Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Policies, p. 380.

26 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-403 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to C/S ROKA, 5 Jan 51.

27 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jul, Sum, 6 and 7 Jan 51.

28 Eighth Army G3 Jul, Sum, 7 Jan 51.

29 Ibid., 6 and 7 Jan 51.

30 Ibid.

31 Eighth Army PIR 176, Incl 2, 4 Jan 51, PIR 177, 5 Jan 51, PIR 178, Incl 2, 6 Jan 51, and PIR 179, 7 Jan 51; X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Hq, FEC, History of the North Korean Army, 31 Jul 52.

32 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army PIR 180, Incl 2, 8 Jan 51.

33 2d Div G3 Jnl, 7 Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jul, Sum, 7 Jan 51.

34 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 2d Div PIR 77, 7 Jan 51; 23d Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 23d Inf POR 118, 13 Jan 51 (covers period 4I1 Jan 51); 38th Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 38th Inf PIR 5, 9 Jan 51 (covers period 5-9 Jan 51).

35 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; X Corps 01 61, 7 Jan 51; 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jnl, Sum, 7 Jan 51; 23d Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 38th Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 23d Inf S3 Jul, 7 Jan 51; 23d Inf POR 118, 13 Jan 51.

36 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Rad, X 17082, CG X Corps to CG 2d Div, 8 Jan 51; 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

37 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 23d Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 23d Inf Opn O 19, 8 Jan 51; 23d Inf S3 Jnl, 8 Jan 51; Rad, X 17092, X Corps to Eighth Army, 8 Jan 51; Rad, X 17095. X Corps to Eighth Army, 8 Jan 51; Eighth Army PIR 180, 8 Jan 51.

38 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

39 Ibid.; 2d Div LOI, 9 Jan 51: 2d Div G3 Jnl, Entry J-43, 9 Jan 51; 23d Inf Opn O 20, 9 Jan 51; 23d Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

40 23d Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

41 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 23d Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 23d Inf S3 Jnl, 10 Jan 51; Eighth Army PIR 182, 10 Jan 51; Technical Report, Weather Effect on Army Operations: Weather in the Korean Conflict, vol. I (Department of Physics, Oregon State College, 1956), pp. VII-12-VII-13, copy in CMH.

42 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 23d Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jul, Sum, 10 Jan 51.

43 Ibid.; 23d Inf S3 Jul, 11 and 12 Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jul, Sum, 21 Jan 51.

44 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Interv, Appleman with Ridgway, 2 Nov 51; Interv, Mossman, Carroll, and Miller with Ridgway, 30 Nov 56.

45 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Interv, Mossman, Carroll, and Miller with Ridgway, 30 Nov 56.

46 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51. North Koreans captured in January reported that many of their weapons were those discarded by Americans and that they preferred these because it was simpler to replenish ammunition from stores abandoned by Americans.

47 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

48 Eighth Army PIR 180, Incl 2, 8 Jan 51, and PIR 181, Ind 2, 9 Jan 51; X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 7th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

49 General Yu replaced General Lee on 9 January.

50 Eighth Army G3 Jnl, Sum, 8 and 9 Jan 51.

51 Ibid., 9 and 10 Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-751 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG X Corps, 10 Jan 51.

52 Rad, GX-1-637 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG 187th Abn RCT, 8 Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-661 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG 1st Marine Div, 9 Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-860 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG X Corps et al., 11 Jan 51.

53 X Corps OI 67, 10 Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jnl, Sum, 11 Jan 51; 7th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

54 X Corps OI 64, 8 Jan 51, and 69, 12 Jan 51; X Corps POR 110, Annex 1, 14 Jan 51; X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

55 X Corps OI 70, 14 Jan 51, 71, 14 Jan 51, and 73, 15 Jan 51; Ltr, Almond to Ridgway, 15 Jan 51, copy in CMH; X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

56 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

57 Ibid.; X Corps 0168, 12 Jan 51, and 72, 14 Jan 51; 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

58 Ltr, Gen Almond to Gen Ridgway, 25 Jan 51, copy in CMH.

59 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army PIR 176, Incl 2, 4 Jan 51, and PIR 188, Incl 2, 16 Jan 51.

60 Lynn Montross, Maj. Hubbard D. Kuokka, and Maj. Norman W. Hicks, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953 (Washington, D.C., 1962), vol. IV, The East-Central Front, p. 51.

61 Ibid., pp. 42-14, 48, 53, 56.

62 Rad, X 17435, CG X Corps to CG Eighth Army, 25 Jan 15; X Corps 0184, 85, and 86, 28 Jan 51, and 87 and 88, 29 Jan 51; 7th Div Opn O 41, 28 Jan 51; 2d Div Opn O 21, 29 Jan 51.

63 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 7th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

64 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-1645 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CGs 1, IX, and X Corps, 20 Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-2270 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG X Corps, 28 Jan 51 (confirms Ridgway's instructions delivered orally by the Eighth Army chief of staff on 23 Jan 51); X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Rad, X 17405, CG X Corps to CG 2d Div, 23 Jan 51; X Corps 0179, 25 Jan 51; 2d Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 7th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

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