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Concentration at Hungnam

By 30 November the changing ground situation had in turn altered the course of UNC air and naval operations. General Partridge, whose Fifth Air Force within its own arena now faced a growing challenge from MIG-15 jet aircraft over northwestern Korea, had received a sharp increase in close support requirements. Admiral Ewen, whose Task Force 77 planes previously had been held to interdiction and armed reconnaissance, also had begun to send close support sorties into both the Eighth Army and X Corps sectors.1

To meet any increased demand for aircraft carriers and gunfire support, Admiral joy not only had recalled ships of the line previously redeployed out of the theater but had ordered those under way to their first Korean assignments to sail at maximum safe speed. He also had deployed Task Force 90, dividing Admiral Doyle's amphibious force into one group on each side of the peninsula, so as to be able to evacuate the Eighth Army from western beaches and the X Corps from the east coast.2

Joy's deployment of Task Force 90, for the time being at least, was only precautionary. General Walker had pulled the Eighth Army out of the path of the Chinese enveloping maneuver and reduced the likelihood that his forces would have to be sea lifted from some isolated beachhead deep in northern Korea. Nor was General Almond then planning any sea evacuation of the X Corps. Almond's purpose, as General MacArthur had instructed, was to pull his far-flung forces into defenses around Hamhung and Hungnam, a task that had its own complications without regard for what might come next. His ROK I Corps had to backtrack some three hundred miles along the coast, 7th Division forces at Hyesanjin faced a 200-mile withdrawal through the mountains, and the Marine and Army forces in the Changjin Reservoir area could expect to fight their way out at least as far as Kot'o-ri, probably farther.

New X Corps Orders

Almond had begun work on plans to carry out MacArthur's instructions, including a westward move to assist the Eighth Army, while flying back to Korea from the Tokyo conference on the afternoon of the 29th. His staff completed the plans that night.3

Almond's 30 November order placing these plans in effect left something further to be done with the ROK I Corps. For the time being Almond directed its commander, Brig. Gen. Kim Paik Il, only to protect the X Corps' right flank and secure the east coast road as he brought his forces south.

The 7th Division forces in and around Hyesanjin were to fall back on Hamhung. General Barr was to protect the corps' northern and northeastern flank, establishing an especially strong position around Sinhung, twenty miles north of Hamhung, to block roads leading south out of the area to be vacated. Barr also was to place a regiment and his tank battalion in corps reserve.

Among several assignments given the 3d Division, General Soule's forces were to protect the Changjin Reservoir road from Sudong south to Hamhung and to continue to block the road coming east from Sach'ang-ni. Almond detached the 1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment and one infantry battalion from Soule's division and placed them under corps control. These two units, designated Task Force C and commanded by Brig. Gen. A. D. Mead, the assistant 3d Division commander, were to protect Wonsan and the Wonsan airfield. Except for one other battalion, Soule was to concentrate the remainder of his division between Chigyong and Yonp'o, about four miles southwest of Hamhung and Hungnam. The excluded battalion was to head west over the road leading to Tokch'on. Almond's written order directed Soule to "attack with strong Task Force . . . and assist Eighth Army." But in a conference with Soule and 65th Infantry commander Col. William W. Harris during the morning of the 30th, Almond reduced the mission to a reconnaissance in force by a reinforced battalion from Harris' regiment.

The separated garrisons around the Changjin Reservoir had to be consolidated before any withdrawal from that sector could begin. Toward that end, Almond late on the 29th had placed all forces in the reservoir area, including those at Kot'o-ri, under the control of the 1st Marine Division. To protect further the vital road junction and supplies at Hagaru-ri, he had ordered General Smith to pull in a regiment from Yudam-ni. He also had instructed Smith to gain contact with Task Force Faith, then to work out a coordinated defense based on Hagaru-ri, and, finally, to open and secure the eleven miles of road between Hagaru-ri and Kot'o-ri.

Almond's order on the 30th enlarged these instructions. General Smith now was to pull in both Marine regiments from Yudam-ni and was to find some way to bring Task Force Faith back to Hagaru-ri. He also was to secure a larger segment of the reservoir road from Hagaru-ri south twenty-two miles to the village of Sudong.

During the afternoon of the 30th Almond met with Generals Smith, Barr, and Hodes at Hagaru-ri to urge speed in falling back on Hamhung. Except for the Task Force Drysdale melee in Hell Fire Valley, the reservoir area had been relatively quiet the previous night. But the respite from strong attack likely would be brief, and the Chinese were becoming active along the reservoir road at and below Kot'o-ri. Just after dark on the 29th a Chinese force had struck but failed to penetrate the Kot'o-ri perimeter, and on the 30th the marines at Chinhung-ni discovered and drove off a Chinese battalion in the heights west of town. Almond consequently wanted Smith to accelerate the movement of the Yudam-ni forces to Hagaru-ri, and he directed both Smith and Barr to come up with a plan and timetable for extricating Task Force Faith. He authorized Smith to destroy all equipment whose removal would delay his consolidation and withdrawal, promising him any needed resupply by air.

Despite the requirement for speed, neither Smith nor Barr saw any quick way of consolidating forces at Hagaru-ri, especially of retrieving Task Force Faith. Almond personally had ordered the 2d Battalion, 31st Infantry, to move northward immediately from Majon-dong to help extricate the task force. But in view of Task Force Drysdale's experience, the infantry battalion most certainly faced serious trouble in running the gauntlet above Kot'o-ri. Forces from Hagaru-ri could hardly be spared for a rescue mission lest Chinese, known still to be concentrated in strength around the town, hit the weakened garrison and capture the vital base. The two division commanders agreed that a relief force could be sent to Task Force Faith only after the Yudam-ni marines returned to Hagaru-ri, and the latter faced the task of fighting over fourteen miles of mountain road while bringing out hundreds of casualties. The alternative, none too attractive, was to order the casualty-ridden task force to fight its way out.

Shaping the Hamhung-Hungnam Defense

To protect Hamhung and Hungnam while the distant X Corps forces made their way south, General Almond had moved forces of the 3d Division into the port complex. He lost his protection on 1 December when General MacArthur took control of the 3d Division and ordered Almond to assemble it in Wonsan preparatorypresumably-to sending it westward to assist the Eighth Army. Almond complied (dissolving General Mead's Task Force C in the process) but on the 3d sent to Tokyo staff members who appealed and obtained a rescission of MacArthur's action. Upon regaining the 3d Division, Almond canceled the westward reconnaissance previously assigned to the 65th Infantry, a pointless venture now that the Eighth Army had withdrawn to the Sukch'on-Sunch'on-Songch'on line. Except for establishing another task force that he kept under his own control, Almond returned the division to the Hamhung-Hungnam area. The task force along with a Marine shore party group was to protect Wonsan and outload the supplies and equipment stockpiled there, whereupon the port was to be abandoned.4

For the 3d Division, the changes in orders over the first three days of December were confusing, especially for the troops of subordinate units who without knowing why shuttled like yoyos to, from, and back to the Hamhung-Hungnam complex. But by nightfall on the 4th General Soule concentrated the bulk of his division in the Hamhung-Hungnam area. With the 1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment attached, he deployed on the 5th to defend a sector anchored below Yonp'o airfield southwest of Hungnam and arching northwest through Chigyong southwest of Hamhung to the village of Oro-ri on the Changjin Reservoir road eight miles northwest of Hamhung.5

By dark on the 5th the greater part of the 7th Division also reached the Hamhung-Hungnam area. To assist the 7th's evacuation of Hyesanjin, the attached 26th ROK Regiment had taken covering positions astride the main Hyesanjin-Pukch'ong withdrawal route about midway between the terminal towns. But General Barr's forces came south without enemy contact. They demolished bridges and cratered the road behind them as far as the South Korean position and in continuing their withdrawal prepared similar demolitions to be exploded by the South Koreans bringing up the rear. Barr's forces, after completing their withdrawal, put up defenses north and northeast of Hamhung adjacent to those of the 3d Division. The leftmost position was not far east of Oro-ri, astride the road leading south from the Pujon Reservoir; the rightmost blocked the coastal road.6

Barr's block at the right was temporary. General Almond's plan for ringing Hamhung and Hungnam now called for the ROK I Corps to hold the northeast sector, including the coastal road. But the nearest ROK I Corps troops were still a hundred miles up the coast at Songjin, the rearmost another forty miles north in Kilchu. To assist the Korean withdrawal, General Almond arranged on the 5th through Admiral Doyle to send five ships to Songjin to pick up the tail-end ROK 3d Division. The ROK I Corps headquarters and the leading Capital Division meanwhile continued to withdraw overland.7

Concentration at Hagaru-ri

On 1 December, as General Almond began to shape the defense of Hamhung and Hungnam, the marines at Yudam-ni and Colonel Faith's forces east of the Changjin Reservoir started back toward Hagaru-ri. General Smith, now commanding all forces in the reservoir area, had given the two regiments at Yudam-ni their withdrawal order the previous evening following his afternoon conference with Almond. Smith placed neither Colonel Litzenberg nor Colonel Murray in charge but merely directed both to "Expedite . . . movement RCT-5 and RCT-7 to Hagaru prepared for further withdrawal south. Destroy any supplies which must be abandoned during this withdrawal."8

Smith sent withdrawal instructions to Task Force Faith at 1100 on the 1st. By that time Smith had dropped all plans for sending a rescue force to Faith, whose forces had taken strong assaults around their lakeshore perimeter during the night of the 30th. Although they had defeated these attacks, it was doubtful they could withstand more. Hence, Smith judged, waiting to dispatch reinforcements to Faith until the Yudam-ni troops returned to Hagaru-ri would be too late. Nor could he use the 2d Battalion, 31st Infantry, ordered forward from Majon-dong by General Almond the day before, since that battalion was only at Kot'o-ri and had had to fight to get that far foward. The two previous failures of the 31st Infantry's rear troops to reach Faith from Hudongni even when accompanied by tanks proved them too weak for a rescue mission. In fact, they had been recalled to Hagaru-ri on the 30th lest they be destroyed by the Chinese below Faith's position. Finally, Smith's previous judgment that none of the Hagaru-ri troops could be spared seemed even more sound by morning of the 1st after the forces defending the base again had beaten back several night assaults at the southwestern arc of the perimeter and at East Hill. Smith's only course was to arrange ample close air support and order Colonel Faith to fight his way south.9

Task Force Faith

Colonel Faith started south at 1300 on the 1st, right after his supporting aircraft came on station. (Map 11) The 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, now commanded by its former executive officer, Maj. Crosby P. Miller, led the way. Then came the 57th Field Artillery Battalion, the heavy mortar company of the 31st Infantry, and at the tail of the column the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry. Battery D of the 15th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion interspersed its .50-caliber and 40-mm. guns among the other units. Faith kept his column short, taking only twenty-two vehicles to carry his six hundred wounded. Before moving, his troops destroyed the remaining vehicles, excess supplies, and the 105mm. howitzers of the field artillery battalion.10

The leading battalion moved one rifle company down the road, the other two in column over the high ground east of the road as flank security. Faith's column received fire almost from the minute it started, and four pilots overhead made the rough start rougher when they miscalculated their runs and dropped napalm on the leading troops. Several men burned to death, and the two front companies became disorganized while scattering to escape their own air support.11

Map 11. Concentration at Hagaru-ri, 1-4 December 1950

After some delay while Colonel Faith steadied his force, the column pushed past small groups of Chinese along the road until midafternoon when the lead troops came upon a destroyed bridge two miles below the point of departure. After a crude bypass was constructed, a halftrack towed each truck across.

East Side of the Changjin Reservoir
East Side of the Changjin Reservoir

Small arms fire ranged in during the crossing, but by late afternoon the last vehicle was south of the stream. A few of Faith's men meanwhile left the column, walked westward to the reservoir, and started south over the ice toward Hagaru-ri. The napalm episode, the near-constant enemy fire, and the delay at the bridge had begun to test Faith's ability to retain control of his column.12

Just below the bridge, the road south climbed into the lower northern slopes of Hill 1221 for a quarter mile, turned east for half a mile for a more gentle ascent, then made a hairpin turn at a saddle and descended to the southwest. As Faith moved east over the half-mile stretch leading to the saddle, small arms and machine gun fire from the sharp turn and the high ground on either side struck the column head on and broadside, damaging some of the trucks and halting all of them. Moving along the stalled column, Faith got an attack started, first to clear the 1221 mass directly above him from where heavy fire was raking his column, then to eliminate the remainder of the Chinese blocking force by an enveloping move via Hill 1221 and an assault from the rear.13

Faith pushed a conglomeration up Hill 1221. The first seventy-five to a hundred men cleared the peak, a half mile west of the hairpin turn in the road. Because they believed some of the Chinese holding the high ground farther east had come in behind them, these troops then moved west to the reservoir and south on the ice toward Hagaru-ri.14

Behind the initial assault, Faith climbed 1221 with a hundred men; behind him Maj. Robert E. Jones, the S-2 of the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, started up with two hundred more. Just before dark Major Jones joined Faith, who by then had moved down the southeastern slopes of 1221 to a point on the road perhaps a quarter mile south of the hairpin turn. Here Faith put troops on both sides of the road and attacked north. Faith himself fell seriously wounded by grenade fragments before his assault force reached the road turn, but his troops fought through the Chinese position and opened the road so that the trucks again could move south.15

Jones took charge of what was left of the column. The dispersion of troops during the effort to open the road, plus casualties that included leaders from platoon to task force level, had now nearly completed the disintegration begun when the first troops trickled off toward the reservoir. Besides the seriously wounded, Jones had no more than two hundred men to take south. The others, in small groups and individually, had wandered off to the reservoir or down the road to find their own ways south.16

Almost all of the trucks had flat tires, and several were beyond repair. Jones' men eventually got about fifteen to run, not enough to carry all of the casualties. Jones made the difficult decision to leave guards with the wounded for whom there was no room on the trucks and to continue south in the hope that the marines at Hagaru-ri, once informed of the abandoned men, could somehow retrieve them.17

Not much beyond a half mile south of the hairpin turn, two burned-out tanks lost earlier by the 31st Infantry troops based at Hudongni partially blocked the road and slowed Jones' column as the trucks squeezed by. Otherwise, the column, except for overtaking several knots of men who had started south on their own, moved without incident until 2100 when it reached the northern end of Hudong-ni, halfway to Hagaru-ri. Here, fire from Chinese inside the village applied the final disintegrant to the withdrawing column. Major Jones and about half the able-bodied and walking wounded left the road and moved west to follow a narrow-gage rail line near the reservoir shore. These men followed the tracks for perhaps a mile before machine gun fire forced most of them onto the reservoir ice. Back on the road, an artillery officer led seventy men into Hudong-ni but was pushed out. For about an hour the troops still with the trucks stood fast, then elected to run the vehicles through the village. Chinese fire killed the drivers of the first three trucks and raked the remaining troops and vehicles. Everyone who could, scattered. Most of the men headed for the reservoir. By midnight only the dead and seriously wounded remained at Hudong-ni. Among them was Colonel Faith, who sat dead of his wounds in the cab of a 2?-ton truck.18

Marines Withdraw from Yudam-ni
Marines Withdraw from Yudam-ni

Survivors straggled into Hagaru-ri for the next three days, almost all of them coming off the frozen reservoir. The Chinese seemed to consider those who reached the ice as out of the game and molested them little. At Hudong-ni the Chinese administered aid to some of the wounded and released them. After the first survivors reached Hagaru-ri, motorized Marine parties searched the reservoir and brought back others. A company-size task force of Army troops and tanks also attempted to move up the road toward Hudong-ni but turned back after meeting strong resistance. A few more than 1,000 of about 2,500 troops who originally composed Task Force Faith eventually got back to Hagaru-ri. Just 385 of the survivors were able-bodied. They received new equipment from 1st Marine Division stocks and with the other Army troops in Hagaru-ri became a provisional battalion attached to the 7th Marine Regiment after the 5th and 7th Marines completed their withdrawal from Yudam-ni. 19

Withdrawal From Yudam-ni

When Colonels Litzenberg and Murray received General Smith's order to withdraw from Yudam-ni, they already were regrouping their regiments under Smith's previous order for one regiment to clear the supply road and rescue the marines on Fox Hill. By midmorning of 1 December all of Litzenberg's and Murray's forces were concentrated astride the road about two miles below town.20 (See Map 11)

The two colonels planned to move down the road toward Hagaru-ri as a single column during the day of the 1st, leaving a rear guard to barricade the front entrance to their position while the main body unlocked the rear door. The key was judged to be Toktong Pass. The two commanders intended to send one battalion crosscountry east of the road after dusk to relieve the Fox Hill troops and secure the pass before the main column arrived.

The leading marines started south at 0900 and by 1930 were four miles below Yudamni, having wedged aside Chinese forces holding heights flanking the road. An hour and a half later the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, started through the mountains toward Fox Hill and Toktong Pass. Darkness and snow cover made maintaining direction through the rugged terrain difficult; climbs and descents exhausted the men, and a minus 16? Fahrenheit temperature numbed them, especially when they stopped to rest. But after pushing Chinese forces off two mountaintops, the cross-country force reached Fox Hill about 1130 on 2 December and a short time later secured the heights overlooking Toktong Pass.

The marines on the road needed a day longer to fight their way to the pass, reaching it about 1300 on the 3d. After a brief rest, and again in single column, they continued over the road toward Hagaru-ri. Largely because of excellent air support, no serious opposition developed on the last leg of the withdrawal, although eight 155-mm. howitzers and the prime movers had to be abandoned when the latter ran out of fuel. Marine aircraft later destroyed them. At 1630 on the 3d, British commandos accompanied by tanks came out of Hagaru-ri to clear a short stretch of the withdrawal route, and about two and a half hours later the leading marines marched in cadence into the Hagaru-ri perimeter. The rear guard entered at 1400 the next day. Between the two regiments were some fifteen hundred casualties.

Withdrawal From the Reservoir

The Hagaru-ri perimeter had been quiet for four days by the time the last troops from Yudam-ni arrived. After failing to take the base during the night of 30 November, the 58th Division had made no more attempts to force its way in. About fifteen hundred dead Chinese counted so far by the marines along with information from prisoners, indicated that the enemy division needed reinforcement and new supplies.21

C-47s Evacuate Casualties From Hagaru-ri
C-47s Evacuate Casualties From Hagaru-ri

During those four days and on the 5th, the evacuation of casualties was a major activity at Hagaru-ri. As of the 1st some six hundred casualties already taxed the base medical facilities, a total that would enlarge considerably upon the arrival of the Yudamni force and the survivors of Task Force Faith. Evacuation so far had been by helicopter and light plane with the highest daily total reaching no more than sixty casualties. With a view to increasing this figure, General Smith on the 1st authorized a trial landing by larger aircraft on the airstrip southwest of town even though it was only 40 percent complete, the runway measuring 50 by 2,900 feet. A C-47 landed successfully that afternoon, and by dark on the 5th some forty-three hundred casualties had been airlifted south.

General Almond on 2 December had ordered General Smith to leave Hagaru-ri as soon as the evacuation of casualties permitted. Since few casualties remained after the airlifts of the 5th and his forces from Yudam-ni had had a day of rest, Smith ordered the withdrawal to begin the following morning.23

General Tunner, commander of the Far East Air Forces' Combat Cargo Command, flew into Hagaru-ri on the 5th with an offer to lift Smith's troops out-at the expense of Marine equipment. But although Tunner believed he could fly ten thousand Marine and Army troops out of Hagaru-ri, and although a withdrawal by air might have minimized troop losses, Smith refused the offer in favor of moving overland so that he could take out the bulk of his equipment, including about a thousand vehicles. General Almond had been briefed by Smith on 2 and 4 December, and, although he earlier had authorized Smith to destroy equipment, he apparently was satisfied with Smith's intention.24

To assist the overland withdrawal, Smith since the 1st had flown in over five hundred replacements on the planes coming for casualties and had brought in supplies at least sufficient to move as far at Kot'o-ri, where resupply would be available. When room on the planes permitted, he sent out valuable but unneeded equipment; before leaving Hagaru-ri, he ordered the destruction of all items that had to be left behind.25

Smith's 5 December order detailed the withdrawal as far as Kot'o-ri and set the scheme for moving all the way to Hamhung. In the overall plan, the forces at Hagaru-ri were to pass south through those at Kot'o-ri and continue withdrawing with the Kot'o-ri contingent bringing up the rear. On the first leg the 7th Marines, with the battalion formed from Task Force Faith survivors and the other Army troops at Hagaru-ri attached, would lead the way to Kot'o-ri. The 5th Marines, the 3d Battalion of the 1st Marines, and the British commandos would be the rear guard and would man the Hagaru-ri perimeter until Colonel Litzenberg's forces were clear. Smith divided the remaining division troops and vehicles into two trains, attaching one to each of the Marine regiments for the withdrawal.26

To insure constant artillery support, the Marine batteries at Hagaru-ri were to leapfrog south, about half the guns always in firing position. Marine artillery at Kot'o-ri was to provide additional support. Overhead, a daytime umbrella of twenty-four planes was to cover the entire length of the withdrawing column while other aircraft searched the ridges east and west of the road. Night hecklers were to come on station to insure round-the-clock support.27

Once his Hagaru-ri forces were well started, General Smith intended to take his staff by air to Kot'o-ri, where he would complete the detailed planning for the remainder of the withdrawal. He already had taken steps to meet two problems connected with the next phase. By the 6th his intelligence indicated that at least two 26th Army divisions, the 76th and 77th, had moved south into the mountains east of the Changjin Reservoir road between Hagaru-ri and Kot'o-ri. They apparently had relieved the 20th Army's 60th Division near Kot'o-ri, and the 60th in turn had moved farther south to block the reservoir road in and around Funchilin Pass. On the other side of the withdrawal route, the bulk and perhaps all of the 20th Army's 89th Division now appeared to be southwest of Kot'o-ri. Forces of the 89th had followed the withdrawal of 3d Division troops from Sach'ang-ni when the latter were pulled back to Hamhung, and the Chinese were reported to be moving east on Chinhung-ni and Majondong.28

Because Smith believed the Chinese might offer their strongest resistance along the winding road between Kot'o-ri. and Chinhung-ni, he wanted to move the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, north from Chinhungni to clear those ten twisting miles ahead of the withdrawal from the north. To do this and at the same time protect Chinhung-ni, Smith on the 5th asked General Almond to furnish a relief force for the Chinhung-ni garrison. Almond turned to the 3d Division for the needed troops, directing General Soule to shape a motorized force around a battalion of infantry, a battalion of artillery, and a complement of engineers. Commanded by assistant division commander General Mead and designated Task Force Dog, this group was to assemble in Majon-dong prepared to move forward on six hours' notice after 0600 on the 6th.29 Soule also ordered the 2d Battalion, 65th Infantry, and the 999th Armored Field Artillery Battalion forward to cover Task Force Dog's advance and to protect the reservoir road from positions in and north of Majon-dong.30

Smith's second problem was a sixteen-foot chasm in the road three and a half miles south of Kot'o-ri. Here, where the road had been cut into the side of a steep slope at the northern end of Funchilin Pass, water from the Changjin Reservoir poured in warmer weather from a pipeline north of the road into four penstocks that carried the torrent down the mountainside to a power plant. A gatehouse covered the upper ends of the penstocks, and where the roadway crossed the penstocks immediately below the gatehouse now lay only the rubble of the original concrete bridge, the remains of a wooden crossing, and the broken sections of an M-2 steel treadway bridge. Since the beginning of their offensive the Chinese had successively destroyed all three, knocking down the treadway spans on either 4 or 5 December.31

Because the gatehouse and the sheer slope prevented the construction of a bypass on either side of the gap, new bridging had to be installed before Smith's trucks, tanks, and guns could proceed below Kot'o-ri. Smith's engineer officer, Lt. Col. John H. Partridge, surveyed the site from the air on 6 December, then made an unusual request of corps for an airdrop of eight 2,500-lb. treadway bridge sections at Kot'o-ri, where Army engineers had two Brockway trucks designed to put them in place. After an unsuccessful trial drop at Yonp'o airfield in which several small parachutes were attached to the test span, a special crew of Army parachute riggers flown in from Japan attached two larger chutes to each section, and on 7 December eight of General Tunner's C-119s delivered the bridging to Kot'ori. One span fell in Chinese territory, and another was damaged; but only four of the remainder would actually be needed to bridge the gap. Plywood center sections also were dropped so that the bridge could carry all types of vehicles.32

From the Reservoir to Kot'o-ri

Since some of the Chinese positions on East Hill dominated the Marine withdrawal route, General Smith's rear guard attacked the height on the morning of 6 December as the 7th Marines moved out of Hagaru-ri. The assault cleared the hill but also prompted hard counterattacks from ground farther east that cost the Chinese over twelve hundred killed before they subsided near dawn on the 7th.33

From the moment they started south the 7th Marines met resistance, particularly just below Hagaru-ri and in Hell Fire Valley. (See Map 12.) But the air umbrella, artillery and tank fire, and coordinated assaults by the foot troops against Chinese strongpoints permitted steady if slow progress. Behind the lead battalion, which reached Kot'o-ri about the time the East Hill battle closed, the remainder of Colonel Litzenberg's force completed its withdrawal before 1700 on the 7th.

By midmorning of the 7th, all of the rear guard except a detachment of engineers, a tank platoon, and the 2d Battalion of the 5th Marines had left Hagaru-ri. These last troops set fire to the Marine ration dump, which on the day before had been smashed and saturated with fuel oil, and touched off explosives to destroy all other abandoned supplies. As the last of the rear guard withdrew just past noon, small groups of Chinese entered Hagaru-ri and began picking over the debris.

Hundreds of refugees who had collected in and around Hagaru-ri followed the rear guard, risking their lives to cross bridges before Marine engineers destroyed them. Aside from this interference with demolitions, the rear guard withdrew easily. Chinese opposition amounted only to small arms fire as far as Hell Fire Valley and a few mortar rounds in the valley itself. Once below this point, Colonel Murray's forces met almost no resistance and entered Kot'o-ri before midnight. As the first stage of the withdrawal closed about thirty-eight hours after it began, Marine battle casualties totaled 103 dead, 493 wounded, and 7 missing

The Destroyed Bridge South of Koto-ri
The Destroyed Bridge South of Koto-ri

From Kot'o-ri to the Coast

To permit the rapid evacuation of casualties incurred during the move from Hagaru-ri, Colonel Puller, the commander of the Kot'ori garrison, on 6 December had set his engineers to lengthening the Kot'o-ri airstrip to accommodate C-47s. The strip was long enough by morning of the 8th, although a heavy snowstorm on that date canceled all but one flight. On the following two days the larger aircraft, observation planes, and helicopters took out all of the casualties, the last shortly before Puller's force left Kot'o-ri to bring up the rear during the last phase of the withdrawal.34

General Smith and his staff had flown to Kot'o-ri during the afternoon of the 6th to complete plans for withdrawing the remaining distance to the coast. Late that night he asked General Almond to move Task Force Dog to Chinhung-ni by the following afternoon. Smith now intended that the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, would move northward through Funchilin Pass at 0800 on the 8th, the same time that the leading force started south from Kot'o-ri. The southern force was to clear the road and a ridge commanding the pass on the east as far as and including Hill 1081, three miles north. From Kot'o-ri, the 7th Marines and a battalion of the 5th were to move over the road and the bordering heights as far as and including the penstocks that had to be bridged a short distance above Hill 1081. Once the withdrawal route was clear and the penstocks were spanned, the division's trains and then the trains and troops of the 7th and 5th Marines were to continue south in that order. Colonel Puller's 1st Marine Regiment (less the 1st Battalion), the 2d Battalion of the 31st Infantry, and the forty tanks of the several armored units were to hold Kot'o-ri until all other troops had left, then bring up the rear as far as Hill 1081. From that point the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was to take rearguard duty until it passed through Task Force Dog at Chinhung-ni.

The Chasm Later Bridged With Treadway Spans
The Chasm Later Bridged With Treadway Spans

To assist the withdrawal behind Task Force Dog, Smith asked corps to assemble freight cars at Majon-dong to take some of his forces to Hamhung over the narrow-gage rail line. He also asked for as many trucks as could be furnished. When Smith's units passed through Task Force Dog, the trucks were to come forward from Majon-dong as far as Chinhung-ni to carry the troops either to the Majon-dong railhead or all the way to Hamhung.

Map12. Withdrawal From the Reservoir, 6-11 December 1950

After receiving General Almond's order to dispatch Task Force Dog, General Soule first moved the 999th Armored Field Artillery Battalion to Majon-dong on the morning of the 7th. Under the fire support of this battalion, Soule next sent the 2d Battalion, 65th Infantry, forward to secure high ground west of the road between Majon-dong and the village of Sudong to protect Task Force Dog's movement. Task Force Dog left Majon-dong an hour before noon and without encountering opposition reached Chinhung-ni about three hours later. The 2d Battalion, 65th Infantry, except Company G, then moved back to protect Majon-dong.

Task Force Dog's prompt arrival permitted General Smith to start the second phase of withdrawal on time and as conceived. But the snowstorm on the 8th kept his close air support on the ground and, in combination with moderate to strong Chinese resistance, slowed the forces approaching each other. The 7th Marines, with the Army provisional battalion still attached, and the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, cleared the road and bordering high ground south within a mile of the penstock bridge site by nightfall; at the same time, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, supported by Task Force Dog's artillery and accompanied by General Mead's engineers and self-propelled antiaircraft guns, moved north into Funchilin Pass within a half mile of Hill 1081.

The sky cleared before morning of the 9th. With good support from the air again available, the 7th Marines pushed to the bridge site about a half hour past noon. The marines from the south meanwhile fought a stiff battle for Hill 1081, capturing the height around 1500. Shortly afterward a patrol from the 7th Marines reached 1081 to make first contact with the southern force.

Behind this scene Colonel Partridge, the Marine engineer, accompanied by both Army and Marine troops, the Brockway trucks, an the treadway sections, reached the bridge site right after the penstock area was cleared. Three hours later the bridge was in place, and near 1800 the Marine division trains began to cross.

Only a few vehicles had used the bridge before a tractor broke through and destroyed the plywood center panels. Colonel Partridge's adjustment of the spacing of the steel treadway sections to accommodate the treads of all vehicles prevented further difficulty at the crossing. Led by the 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines, the trains, the remainder of the 7th Regiment, the bulk of the Marine artillery, and the 5th Marines, with refugees interspersed, passed over the span during the night of the 9th and the following day. Receiving only a few scattered shots en route, the leading battalion reached Chinhung-ni at 0245 on the 10th, the 5th Marines about the same time on the 11th.

The last troops left Kot'o-ri at midafternoon on the 10th. Behind them came the bulk of the refugees. Task Force Dog's artillery fired on the town after it was vacated, and no serious opposition developed as the last units started toward the penstock bridge. But progress was slow. By 0100 on the 11th tanks and a platoon of the Marine division's reconnaissance company at the tail end of the column were still more than a mile above the treadway span. Frozen brakes halted the ninth tank from the rear at that point, and as tankers worked to free the vehicle, Chinese troops among the refugees and in the nearby high ground opened fire. The last seven tanks, the crews of the last two, and three men from the reconnaissance platoon were lost in the melee that followed.

After the remaining tanks and reconnaissance troops passed over the penstocks, Marine engineers demolished the treadway bridge. Denied the use of the crossing, the trailing refugees got past the gap by walking through the gatehouse north of the road. The marines on Hill 1081 were scheduled to bring up the rear after all Kot'o-ri forces passed by but mistakenly took to the road before the last tanks and reconnaissance troops reached their position. The rearmost troops nevertheless reached Chinhung-ni safely during the morning of the 11th.

Task Force Dog Artillery in Chinhung-ni Firing Position
Task Force Dog Artillery in Chinhung-ni Firing Position

By the time these rear forces passed behind Task Force Dog, the deepest Chinese effort to obstruct the withdrawal already had been encountered at Sudong. Between late afternoon on the 10th and dawn on the 11th, Chinese forces struck Company G, 65th Infantry, three times in the heights west of town, and during the second attempt, launched about an hour past midnight, opened fire from houses inside Sudong and swarmed onto the road as the regimental train of the 1st Marines started through town. Lt. Col. John U. D. Page, the X Corps artillery officer, who had moved down from Kot'o-ri with Colonel Puller's train, and Pfc. Marvin L. Wasson, a Marine driver, made a two-man assault against some twenty Chinese during the battle, killing about sixteen. But Page himself was killed and Wasson was wounded.34 Lt. Col. Waldron C. Winston, commander of Task Force Dog's 52d Transportation Truck Battalion, then organized a stronger counterattack using both Marine and Army troops and finally cleared the road and bordering buildings by daybreak.

Unit Killed in Action Wounded in Action Missing in Action Total

X Corps headquarters and service





Corps combat troops





1st Marine Division





Army attached





41st Royal Marine Commando





2d Engineer Special Brigade





1st Marine Air Wing





3d Division





ROKs attached





7th Division





ROKs attached





1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment





Headquarters, I ROK Corps





ROK Capital Division





3d ROK Division










Source: Personnel Section of X Corps Special Rpt, Chosin Reservoir.

No further fighting took place while the men from Kot'o-ri completed their withdrawal behind Task Force Dog. The last of them left Chinhung-ni near 1300 on the 11th and cleared Majon-dong by 1730. Freight cars and trucks carried all but the tank column to the Hamhung-Hungnam perimeter by 2100; the slower-moving armor closed a half hour before midnight. Task Force Dog, bringing up the rear from Chinhung-ni, reached Majon-dong at 2000. Here the task force disbanded and its units along with the other 3d Division forces involved in supporting the withdrawal from the reservoir moved back to help defend Hamhung and Hungnam.

The Marine division's battle casualties during the move from Kot'o-ri to the coast numbered 75 dead, 256 wounded, and 16 missing. 36 These brought the division's battle losses for the entire 6-11 December period to 178 dead, 749 wounded, and 23 missing. The marines also had suffered 1,534 non-battle casualties, a very large percentage of whom were frostbite cases. Marine losses thus totaled 2,484, or just over 20 percent of the 11,686 marines involved in the withdrawal from Hagaru-ri. (Table 1)

Between 27 November and 11 December the Marine and Army troops in the reservoir area had met all three armies, the 20th, 26th and 27th, of the IX Army Group and had engaged eight of the twelve divisions constituting these armies. They had exacted an especially large toll on the 20th and 27th. From evidence gained later through captured documents and prisoner interrogations, high Chinese casualties, both battle and nonbattle, had "rendered militarily non-effective a large part of the 9th CCF Army Group.37

On 10 December General Smith and members of his staff had flown out of Kot'o-ri to Hungnam. Until that date Smith's next assignment had been to put his division in position on the southwestern end of the Hamhung-Hungnam perimeter. But on arriving at the coast Smith learned that developments and decisions in the Eighth Army sector, in Tokyo, and in Washington over the first eight days of December had changed the plans not only for the 1st Marine Division but for the entire X Corps; on the 11th he received a new corps order that proved Admiral Joy's late November deployment of Task Force 90 to have been a well-conceived and timely precaution.


1 Futrell, The United States Air Force in Korea, 1950-1953, pp. 230-38; Field, United States Naval Operations, Korea, pp. 265-68.

2 Field, United States Naval Operations, Korea, pp. 265-66, 268-69.

3 This section is based on X Corps Special Report on Chosin Reservoir, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50; X Corps WD, Sum, Nov 50; 7th Div Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-12 Dec 50; Mono, Chosin Reservoir, 3d Hist Det; 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50; Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign; Interv, Appleman with General Almond; X Corps 01 19, 29 Nov 50; X Corps Opn O 8, 30 Nov 50.

4 X Corps Opn O 8, 30 Nov 50; X Corps 01 20, 1 Dec 50; X Corps 0121, 1 Dec 50; TLCN 558, FEC-X Corps, 3 Dec 50; X Corps 0124, 3 Dec 50; X Corps Special Report on Chosin Reservoir, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50.

5 3d Div Comd Rpt, Dec 50; Dolcater, 3d Infantry Division in Korea, pp. 88-91; X Corps Opn O 9, 5 Dec 50.

6 Action Rpt, 7th Div, 21 Nov to 20 Dec 50, From Hyesanjin to Hungnam Outloading; X Corps Comd Rpt, Dec 50; X Corps Opn O 9, 5 Dec 50.

7 X Corps Opn O 9, 5 Dec 50; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Dec 50, Briefing for CG, 6 Dec 50; Field, United States Naval Operations, Korea, pp. 285-89.

8 Msg, CG 1st Marine Div to COs 5th and 7th Marines, 1920, 30 Nov 50.

9 7th Div Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-12 Dec 50, Chosin Reservoir; Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 240-43; Gugeler, Combat Actions in Korea, pp. 75-76; Field, United States Naval Operations, Korea, p. 277.

10 7th Div Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-12 Dec 50, Chosin Reservoir; Gugeler, Combat Actions in Korea, pp. 77-78. See also, MS, Lt. Col. C. P. Miller, Chosin Reservoir, November-December 1950.

11 Gugeler, Combat Actions in Korea, p. 78.

12 Ibid., pp. 80-82.

13 7th Div Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-12 Dec 50, Chosin Reservoir; Gugeler, Combat Actions in Korea, pp. 81-82.

14 Ibid.; Action Rpt, 7th Div, 21 Nov to 20 Dec 50, From Hyesanjin to Hungnam Outloading; Mono, Martin Blumenson, "Chosin Reservoir," copy in CMH.

15 Ibid.

16 7th Div Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-12 Dec 50, Chosin Reservoir; Gugeler, Combat Actions in Korea, p. 82.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid. Colonel Faith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

19 Blumenson, "Chosin Reservoir"; Gugeler, Combat Operations in Korea, p. 85; Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 244-45, 288.

20 This subsection is based on Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp, 249-75.

21 Ibid., pp. 242, 278.

22 Ibid., pp. 245-46, 278-79.

23 Ibid., p. 399; X Corps 0122, 2 Dec 50; 1st Marine Div Opn O 2550, 5 Dec 50.

24 X Corps Special Report on Chosin Reservoir, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50; Field, United States Naval Operations, Korea, p. 280; Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 281, 307.

25 Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 280-82, 285.

26 Ibid., pp. 283-88, 300.

27 Ibid., pp. 286-87.

28 TLCN 668, FEC-X Corps, 3 Dec 50; Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 285-313.

29 Task Force Dog included the 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry; 92d Armored Field Artillery Battalion (selfpropelled); Company A, 73d Engineer Combat Battalion; a platoon of Company A, 10th Engineer Combat Battalion; 3d Platoon, 3d Reconnaissance Company; 52d Transportation Truck Battalion; a detachment from division headquarters; a detachment from the 3d Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion (self-propelled); a bomb disposal detachment; a tactical air control party; and a detachment from the 3d Signal Company.

30 X Corps Special Rpt on the Chosin Reservoir, 27 Nov to 10 Dec 50; Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 308-09; X Corps 0126, 5 Dec 50; 3d Div Comd Rpt, Dec 50; Dolcater, The 3d Division in Korea, p. 92.

31 Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 309-11.

32 X Corps Special Rpt on the Chosin Reservoir, 27 Nov to 10 Dec 50; Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, p. 311.

33 This subsection is based on Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 286-303.

34 Ibid., pp. 306-35, 356, 382; 3d Div Comd Rpt, Dec 50; X Corps 0126, 5 Dec 50.

35 Colonel Page was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, and also the Medal of Honor in 1956 after Congress passed a special bill to allow the award so many years past the event.

36 No breakdown is available for losses sustained among the 2,353 Army troops, 125 Royal Marine Commandos, or 40 ROK police.

37 Marine Corps Board Study, II-C-125, quoted in Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, p. 356.

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