History On Line
I emphatically disagree
with so-called military experts who say that victory was ours for the taking at
any time during my period of command with the limited forces at our disposal and
without widening the scope of the conflict. We never had enough men, whereas the
enemy had sufficient manpower not only to block our offensives, but to make and
hold small gains of his own .... To have pushed it [the war] to a conclusion
would have required more trained divisions and more supporting air and naval
forces, would have incurred heavy casualties and would have necessitated lifting
our self-imposed ban on attacks on the enemy sanctuary north of the
So argued General Clark
some months after the signing of the armistice. What he was saying, in effect,
was that there was no disposition in Washington toward undertaking the risks or
the losses that military victory would have demanded during the year when he was
in command. The limitations within which the Far East Command had to operate and
the strength ceilings imposed upon the Eighth Army insured that no all-out
effort against the enemy could be mounted. On the other hand, the Communist
forces of Kim and Peng evidently labored under similar restrictions. They made
no attempt to strike at the Japanese base area, giving it the same inviolability that the UNC
granted Manchuria. At the front, Communists troops reacted strongly to attack,
yet showed no signs of preparing to resume major offensive operations of their
own. The rules were tacit, but nonetheless observed in mid-1952; this was a
sparring match and not a fight for the championship.
Holding the Line
Across the front the two
opponents were fairly evenly matched. Stretched from the west coast to the
Taebaeks lay eight Chinese armies numbering an estimated 207,800 men and there
were three North Korean corps anchoring the eastern end of the line with 83,000
troops. (See Map IV) Four U.S. Army divisions, the
1st Marine Division, the Commonwealth Division, and nine ROK divisions, totaling
247,554 soldiers, faced the enemy. In depth of manpower the Communists enjoyed a
much greater advantage, for an estimated 422,000 Chinese, 185,300 North Koreans,
and 10,000 Soviet or satellite troops disposed throughout North Korea supported
the front-line forces. Thus, the 617,300 enemy troops in the immediate and
general reserve plus the 290,800 on the firing line formed an estimated grand
total of 908,100 Communist soldiers in North Korea on 1 May
1952.2 The average strength of UNC forces in South
Korea during May was a little less than 800,000.3
The presentation of the
package proposal in late April occasioned no interruption in the general pattern
of operations at the front. Characterized by patrols, probes, raids, and
limitedobjective attacks, the active defense generated only a low level of
ground action. It was a contest of light jabs and feints with neither side
attempting to sting the other into a violent, large-scale reaction.4
Since the lull on the
battlefield imposed no severe strain upon the Eighth Army's combat troops, Van
Fleet instructed his corps commanders in midMay to take full advantage of the
respite to improve their defensive positions. Noting that many of the present
deficiencies stemmed from the haste in planning and setting up the
installations, he ordered special attention to be given to relocating bunkers
below the topographical crest of hills, to resiting automatic weapons to obtain
maximum grazing and flanking fires, and to strengthening bunkers to withstand
light artillery and mortar fire. In addition, he wanted more tactical wire laid
down and increased consideration devoted to the problem of draining
communications trenches and bunkers before the rainy season arrived.5
indicated that the enemy was
carrying out similar action. Although prisoner of war interrogations revealed no
Communist preparations for an imminent offensive, the enemy was engaged in
improving the quality of his bunkers, planting mines, and stringing more barbed
wire. The enemy defensive positions in many places extended twenty miles to the
rear with adequate lines of communication.6
Perhaps more significant
was the steady growth of enemy artillery firepower during the spring of
1952. From a total of 710 active pieces in April the enemy by June
increased the number along the front to 884. The chief mission of the Communist
artillery was to provide close support for the infantry on offense and defense
and gradually enemy fire had become more accurate. Using eight to ten pieces,
enemy massedfire techniques also improved. The Communists employed deceptive
measures such as the firing of alternate, widely spaced guns, numerous firing
positions, and a number of roving guns to make the task of accurate location of
pieces more difficult for UNC units. By moving his artillery frequently and not
concentrating the guns for long in any one sector, the enemy hindered effective
counterbattery fire by the U.N. Command. Intelligence estimated that the
Communists had about 500
prepared positions opposite the
ROK II Corps alone in Maya Also impressive was the steady climb in the number of
rounds directed at UNC positions. From a daily average of 2,388 rounds in April,
the enemy almost tripled his fire in June to 6,843
rounds a day.8 The increase in
ammunition fired demonstrated that the enemy had over a period of months
gradually increased his forward supply levels.
To counteract the
mounting effect of Communist artillery fire, Clark investigated the feasibility
of utilizing two 280-mm. battalions, then being organized in the United States,
to provide the Eighth Army with more firepower and longerrange weapons.
Unfortunately these battalions would not be available until the end of 1952 and
the joint Chiefs were loath to make a definite commitment so far in
The enemy was not alone
in improving his artillery techniques during the spring. As the Communists
conducted a series of nightly probes in the ROK 1st Division sector in May, the
troops began to practice a ruse designed to inflict heavier enemy casualties.
When the Chinese attacked, the ROK soldiers resisted for five to ten minutes,
then withdrew slightly. After giving the enemy time to occupy the evacuated
positions, artillery, previously zeroed in on the outposts, opened up. Within a
half hour to an hour the Chinese usually withdrew and although the forces
involved were seldom large, enemy losses were comparatively high.10
Operations along the
Eighth Army front during May were confined to smallscale actions that were
quickly broken off by both sides
when the exchanges threatened to grow to larger proportions. (Map 4) In
early June, however, the tempo began to pick up.
The U.S. 45th Division
of the I Corps manned main line of resistance positions from Hill 281, five
miles northeast of Ch'orwon, to the village of Togun-gol, about eleven miles
east of Ch'orwon. Except for Hill 281, all of the 45th Division front lines lay
south of the Yokkokch'on which meandered through a rice paddy valley overlooked
by lowlying, forested hills. Elements of the CCF 38th and 39th Armies
controlled the dominant terrain to the north and in many cases were close
enough to the 45th Division's main lines to enjoy excellent observation of the
division's activities and to have convenient bases for dispatching their nightly
raids and probes. The enemy's advantages became a matter of concern to Maj. Gen.
David L. Ruffner when he assumed command of the division in late May, for they
pointed up the lack of a strong outpost line of resistance. If the 45th Division
could establish a chain of strong outposts across its front, it could deny enemy
observers the use of much of the surrounding terrain dominated by the outposts
and could also provide additional defensive depth to the division's lines.
Map 4. The Old
In early June General
Ruffner and his staff selected eleven outpost sites situated at strategic
locations in front of the division and decided that these sites would be taken
and occupied on a 24-hour basis beginning on the night of 6 June. A twelfth
objective would be raided and the enemy positions destroyed later during the
two-phase operation, which was to be called COUNTER.11
Anticipating that the enemy might
react quickly and strongly to the UNC move, Ruffner instructed his regimental
commanders to carry out the operations after dark and to follow up immediately
with sufficient reinforcements to fortify the outposts before daybreak.
The 279th Infantry
Regiment, under Col. Preston J. C. Murphy, held the eastern half of the
divisional front, and would take
and hold objectives 1-6
and the 180th Infantry Regiment,
commanded by Lt. Col. Ellis B. Ritchie, would seize and occupy objectives 7, 9,
10, and 11.
Objective 8, known as Outpost
EERIE, would be taken at a later date.12
Opposing the 45th
Division from east to west were elements of the 338th and 339th
Regiments, 113th Division, CCF 38th Army; 350th and 349th
Regiments, 117th Division, CCF 39th Army; and the 344th Regiment, 115th
Division, CCF 39th Army. The other infantry components of the
113th, 115th, and 117th Divisions were in reserve, as was the
116th Division, CCF 39th Army. The Chinese had over ten battalions
of artillery positioned along the front in direct or general support
Several air strikes on
known enemy strongpoints close to the outpost objectives took place during the
daylight hours of 6 June. Then, after dark, Murphy and Ritchie sent out their
units, ranging from a squad to almost a company, to take possession of the
outposts. Evidently the enemy had not anticipated the operation, for the attack
units encountered little opposition except at Outpost 10 on Hill 255 and Outpost 11 on Hill 266. The former, which was to become better known as
Porkchop Hill, was taken by two platoons from I Company, 18oth Infantry, after a
55-minute fire fight with two Chinese platoons. On Hill 266, which had won the
name of Old Baldy when artillery and mortar fire destroyed the trees on its
crest, two squads from A Company, 180th Infantry, exchanged small arms and
automatic weapons fire with two enemy squads, then withdrew and directed
artillery fire upon the Chinese.
Pfc. James Ortega, a
forward observer for the 171st Field Artillery Battalion, jumped into a trench
and directed the artillery concentration which pounded the top of the hill with
500 rounds. When the artillery ceased, the men from A Company again probed the
enemy's positions. Meeting intense fire, M/Sgt. John O. White took a squad,
reinforced by a BAR and machine
gun, and made a sweep to the rear of the enemy. "We saw a group of soldiers and
thought they were our own men at first," he later reported. "We advanced to
within 25 feet of them when we heard Chinese voices. Then we opened up and saw
five men run out and get hit." As the enemy resistance crumbled, the infantrymen
from A Company pushed their way toward the crest of Old Baldy. Enemy artillery
immediately began to come in. "There were no bunkers or trenches to get into,"
M/Sgt. Gerald Marlin related afterward," so we started digging while the shells
burst all around us. I almost crawled into my helmet." Despite the enemy fire,
the A Company squads hung on and took possession of Old Baldy shortly after
Once the outposts were
seized, the task of organizing them defensively got under way. Aided by Korean
Service Corps personnel the men of the 279th and 180th Infantry Regiments
brought in construction and fortification materials and worked through the
night. They built bunkers with overhead protection so that their own artillery
could use proximity fuze shells when an enemy attack drew close to the outpost.
They ringed the outposts with barbed wire and placed mines along the avenues of
approach which were also covered by automatic weapons. Whenever possible, they
sited their machine guns and recoilless rifles in positions where they could
provide support to adjacent outposts. Signal personnel set up communications to
the rear and laterally to other outposts by radio and wire and porters brought in stockpiles of
ammunition. Back on the main line of resistance, infantry, tank, and artillery
support weapons had drawn up fire plans to furnish the outposts with protective
fires and a prebriefed reinforcing element was prepared to go to the immediate
assistance of each outpost in the event of enemy attack. By morning the new
24-hour outposts were ready to withstand counterattacks, and garrison forces of
from 18 to 44 men were left behind as the bulk of the forces from the 279th and
180th Infantry Regiments withdrew to the main line of resistance.15
Chinese probes and
attacks on the outposts during the next few days met with no success despite an
increase in their artillery and mortar support. At Porkchop Hill the outposts of
the 180th Infantry Regiment repulsed several enemy drives of up to a company in
On 11 June General Ruffner directed that the second phase of Plan
COUNTER be carried out the following day. While two
platoons of the 245th Tank Battalion mounted a diversionary raid along the
Yokkok-ch'on valley from Chut'oso westward to the town of Orijong, the 180th
Infantry would use up to three rifle companies to seize and hold Outpost 8
(EERIE) and to destroy enemy installations in the
vicinity of the town of Pokkae (Objective A).16
Two platoons from B
Company, 245th Tank Battalion, under the command of 1st Lt. Eugene S. Kastner,
launched the raid toward Orijong at 0600 and ran into difficulty. Six tanks were disabled by enemy mines en route,
but the remainder fired at enemy bunkers and gun positions on the hill mass west
of Orijong and then withdrew. Five of the disabled tanks were later
recovered.17 In the meantime, K Company, 180th Infantry, under Capt.
Richard J. Shaw, and one platoon of the regimental tank company moved north to
the Pokkae area and engaged the enemy. The infantry closed in to hand grenade
range, but found that the Chinese had honeycombed the heights east of the town
with bunkers, trenches, and tunnels. Since there was little hope of penetrating
and destroying the strong enemy installations on the hill, the raiding party
broke contact and returned to the main line of resistance. Losses were light,
with four men wounded and one tank disabled for the raiders, while the enemy
suffered an estimated sixty-five casualties.18
After an air strike by
Fifth Air Force fighter planes and an artillery and mortar barrage on
EERIE, E and F Companies, 18oth Infantry, under 1st
Lt. John D. Scandling and Capt. Jack M. Tiller, respectively, attacked from the
southeast against heavy small arms, automatic weapon, artillery, and mortar fire
and took the objective. G Company, 18oth Infantry, quickly moved up under the
command of 1st Lt. Richard M. Lee to reinforce its sister companies before the
expected enemy counterattack took place. The Chinese came back strongly and
casualties were heavy on both sides, but the 18oth Infantry units hung on
tenaciously until the enemy broke off the engagement. During the
next two days the Chinese attempted fruitlessly to drive the 45th Division from
From a Chinese document
captured later came an entirely different account of the action in this section:
hours on 12 June 52, the enemy [the UNC] fought against us on Hill 190.8 and
battled heroically for 5 days. The result of the fighting on the 16th was 2300
enemy casualties and 9 tanks destroyed. We had an honorable victory as above.
At 0550 hours on
12 June 52, enemy attacked our positions on Hill 190.8 with a force of 7
companies and 74 tanks which were covered by airplanes against our 1st
Co, 50th Co.
We met the
attackers and killed and injured them. At 0900 hours, they finally occupied Hill
190.8. About 56 squads of the 1st Co., the defending force on Hill 190.8 began
tunnel warfare. At 2237 hours, the 3d Co. counterattacked against the enemy
under cover of heavy artillery barrage and reoccupied the position. Casualties
inflicted against the enemy amounted to 772 personnel and 8 tanks destroyed.
In the dawn of
the 13th the enemy attacked our 1st Co. positions on the 1st, 2d and unknown
hill with a force of 5 companies and 15 tanks which were given air cover by 12
planes. The intense battle continued until 1500 hours. We counterattacked with
the 2d CO, 5th Co and the 1st Co. Enemy casualties
were 600 personnel and 2 tanks destroyed.
For 2 days from
14th to 15th, the enemy attacked the 2d unknown hill continuously but the enemy
was repulsed. The enemy casualties were 56 personnel.
On this night of
the 15th, our 50th Co and 51st Co counterattacked in large force against the
enemy who occupied both of the hills by attacking with a force of 7 companies
which were covered by artillery fire and tanks. After bombarding the positions
for 35 minutes, we made a sudden attack upon them. At approximately 0130 hours on June 16th, the battle
enemy force of over 1000 men who attacked both of the hills were annihilated.
another spot, 4 squads making up the main force bravely resisted the enemies in
tunnel warfare and achieved victory.20
The Chinese resort to
tunnel warfare led to the sealing of tunnel entrances by the UNC troops.
According to later prisoner of war interrogations, Chinese officers had killed a
number of soldiers in the tunnels because the latter had wished to dig their way
out and surrender to the U.N. Command. After the 45th Division forces secured
the hills, they opened the tunnels and captured the Chinese who were still alive
and willing to give up.21
On 16 June the 179th
Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Joseph C. Sandlin, relieved the 180th
on the line and took over the outpost positions on Old Baldy, Porkchop, and
EERIE. Enemy attacks during the next ten days ranged
from platoon to battalion strength, demonstrating the Communist determination to
eliminate these outposts. By the same token the 45th Division's repulse of the
many enemy efforts along this line attested to the division's equal
determination not to be dislodged.22
The contest for Old
Baldy became very heated on 26 June. The hill was the high point of an
east-west ridge and dominated the terrain to the north, west, and south. Almost
1,000 feet west of the crest the Chinese had established positions that posed a
constant threat to the 45th Division outpost and the 179th Infantry Regiment's
troops in the area. Colonel Sandlin decided to destroy the enemy strongpoints.
Early in the morning the 179th Infantry Regiment vacated its outpost on Old
Baldy to permit air strikes and artillery and mortar barrages to be placed on
the enemy positions. Eight fighter-bombers from the Fifth Air Force dropped
bombs and loosed rockets and machine gun fire; then 45th Division artillery and
mortar units began to lay concentrations on the enemy strongpoints.
C Company (Reinforced),
179th Infantry, under 1st Lt. John B. Blount, and F Company, 18oth Infantry,
commanded by Captain Tiller, which was attached to the 1 79th, attacked after the artillery and mortar fire. With C Company
moving in from the left and F Company, supported by a tank, coming in from the
right finger of Old Baldy, the assault forces soon ran into heavy small arms and
automatic weapons fire from the two Chinese companies who comprised the defense
force. After an hour of fighting the Chinese suddenly pulled back and directed
artillery and mortar fire upon the attacking units. When the fire ceased, the
enemy quickly came back and closed with the men of C and F Companies in the
trenches. A Company, 179th Infantry, under 1st Lt. George L. Vaughn, came up to
reinforce the attack during the afternoon, for the enemy machine guns were
making it difficult for men of C and F Companies to move over the crest of the
hill. The attack force regrouped,
with F Company taking over the holding of the left and right fingers of Old
Baldy, C Company holding the old Outpost 11 position, and A Company working its
way around the right flank of the enemy defenders. For two hours the battle
continued as the Chinese used hand grenades and machine guns to repel each
attempt to drive them from their positions. Late in the day two tanks lumbered
up the hill to help reduce the enemy strongpoints; one turned over and the
second threw a track, but they managed to inflict some damage before they were
put out of action. Gradually the enemy evacuated his positions and the 179th was
able to send engineers and several more tanks up to the crest.23
During the night of 26
June and the following day the three companies dug in to consolidate their
defense positions on Old Baldy. On the afternoon of 27 June L Company, 179th
Infantry, under 1st Lt. William T. Moroney, took over defense of the crest and F
Company, 18oth Infantry, moved back to a supporting position. C Company and
elements of A Company held the ground northwest of the crest which had been won
from the enemy.
When night fell, enemy
activity around Old Baldy increased. Mortar and artillery fire began to come in
on the 179th Infantry Regiment's positions and enemy flares warned that the
Chinese were on the move. At 2200 hours the enemy struck the defenders of L
Company from the northeast and southwest. An estimated reinforced battalion
pressed on toward the crest until it met a circle of defensive
fire. From the main line of resistance, artillery, mortar, tank, and infantry
weapons covered enemy avenues of approach. L Company added its small arms,
automatic weapons, and hand grenades to the circle which kept the Chinese at
bay. Unable to penetrate the ring, the enemy withdrew and regrouped at midnight.
The second and third
attacks followed the same pattern. Each lasted over an hour during the early
morning of 28 June and each time the enemy failed to break through the wall of
defensive fires. After suffering casualties estimated at between 250 and 325
men, the Chinese broke off the fight. The 179th Infantry reported six men killed
and sixty-one wounded during the. three engagements.24
Late in the evening of
28 June, the Chinese artillery and mortar fire on Old Baldy signaled the
approach of another attack. Four enemy squads reconnoitered the 179th positions
at 2200 hours, exchanging automatic weapons and small arms fire. About an hour
later the main assault began with a force estimated at two reinforced battalions
moving in from the northeast and northwest behind a very heavy artillery and
mortar barrage. This time the Chinese penetrated the perimeter and hand-tohand
fighting broke out. Shortly after midnight a UNC flare plane began to illuminate
the battle area and the defensive fires from the main line of resistance,
coupled with the steady stream of small arms and automatic weapons fire from the
three companies of the 179th on the hill, became more effective. By 0100 on 29
June the Chinese disengaged to the
north, having suffered losses estimated at close to 800 men. In return the enemy
had fired over 4,000 rounds of artillery and mortar fire and the 179th Infantry
had suffered 43 casualties, including 8 killed in action.25
As June ended, the 45th
Division, despite the lack of combat experience of many of its troops, had
acquitted itself well on the battlefield. In the fight for the outposts the
division had withstood more than twenty Chinese counterattacks and inflicted an
estimated 3,500 casualties on the enemy. It had also won a commendation from Van
Fleet.26 The enemy made one more attempt to wrest control of Old
Baldy from the 45th Division's possession on the night of 3-4 July. Three
separate attacks-the last in battalion strength-met the same fate as their
predecessors as the concentration of defensive firepower first blunted and then
forced the Chinese to desist in their assaults.27 The thorough manner
in which the division had organized the defense of the outposts and the skill
with which it had used its positions during the fighting were a testimonial to
the leadership on all levels and to the courage of its troops.
The 45th Division was
less successful in another field. On 8 June Clark directed Van Fleet to prepare
a plan for capturing Chinese prisoners in the Ch'orwon area. Clark wanted to
discover the identity of the enemy forces in that sector and learn more of their
role. Several days later Van Fleet
submitted two plans, one envisaging the use of a regiment from the ROK 9th
Division and the second a reinforced battalion from the 45th Division. The
latter contemplated tank, air, and artillery support and the 45th Division was
authorized to carry it out as quickly as possible.28
Early on 22 June, the 2d
Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, set out to capture enemy prisoners on the
north bank of the Yokkok-ch'on. The difficulty encountered by the battalion in
taking Chinese prisoners was later succinctly related by the Eighth Army
historian: "The raiding party had destroyed enemy positions, inflicted numerous
casualties and captured three prisoners. The prisoners, however, were not
interrogated: two of them died of wounds inflicted by enemy troops as the
prisoners were being brought to the MLR and the third was killed when he
attempted to throw a grenade after being captured." Despite other efforts on a
smaller scale to take prisoners, the 279th Regiment's total bag for the month of
June was but six prisoners.29
The experience of the
279th Regiment was by no means isolated. In combat the Communist soldier could
be killed or wounded, but seldom taken prisoner during this period. The fact
that General Ruffner issued a letter to his troops in June providing for a
special rest and recuperation leave in Japan to any soldier capturing an enemy prisoner amply demonstrated the
Nevertheless, in July
Clark approved another attempt, this time by the ROK 11th Division of the ROK I
Corps, to capture North Korean prisoners. BUCKSHOT 16, as the plan was dubbed, sent a reinforced
battalion into the sector west of the Nam River on 8 July. The battalion
suffered casualties of 33 killed, 157 wounded, and 36 missing as against
estimated enemy losses of 90 killed and 82 wounded. Not a prisoner was
The results of these
abortive raids convinced Clark that the UNC losses in their efforts to take
prisoners were not worthwhile. On 19 July he turned down Van Fleet's request for
a similar operation in the 1st Commonwealth Division area. If the Eighth Army
did not feel an enemy attack was imminent, Clark did not think the high UNC
casualty rate incurred in such raids was warranted.32
For General Van Fleet,
who may have hoped that the change-over in commanders from Ridgway to Clark
might result in less restriction upon his activity along the front, June and
July may have been disillusioning. Van Fleet's plans for the IX U.S. Corps to
advance to new positions north of P'yonggang and secure control of all the Iron
Triangle met with little enthusiasm from Clark in late June. To the Eighth Army
commander's arguments that the operation would provide intelligence of enemy
positions, give the UNC troops
experience, destroy enemy stockpiles, and utilize U.S. firepower and ROK Army
mobility, Clark listed corresponding disadvantages. The possibility of adverse
effects upon the negotiations, the numbers of friendly casualties involved, the
lack of UNC reserves if a heavy enemy counterattack followed, and the
unprofitable nature of an advance beyond P'yonggang without further
exploitation, Clark told Van Fleet in disapproving the plan, exceeded the
advantages.33 It was evident that the new commander would be as
reluctant as Ridgway had been to step up the pace of the ground war merely to
gain real estate.
disinclination to approve even limited objective attacks lay his realization
that the enemy ground and air strength had almost doubled since the initiation
of negotiations. The Communists' divisions along the front were at full combat
strength and their air forces based in Manchuria now numbered about 2,00o
aircraft of which approximately half were jets. In addition, the enemy had an
increased number of rocket launchers and field artillery, around 400 tanks, an
improved supply situation, and stronger defense lines. Under these
circumstances, Clark felt that the best way to punish the Communists lay in
letting the enemy take the offensive and not vice versa.34
Thus it was not
surprising that the Far East commander became disturbed over Van Fleet's
instructions to his corps commanders on 18
July. Van Fleet told them there
were indications that, in some sectors, the enemy had shifted forces and
evacuated a number of forward positions. When this occurred, he desired contact
with the enemy maintained and the evacuated positions to be occupied for at
least twenty-four hours. Commanders should be ready for a violent Communist
reaction, Van Fleet continued, and complete fire plans should be made and
communications insured.35 As soon as Clark heard of this directive,
he instructed his staff to determine whether the Eighth Army should be allowed
to carry out such a procedure. His own reaction was that all plans for raids by
units of battalion size or larger should be approved by the Far East Command
first.36 In late July, he told his staff that he intended to
discourage attacks against hills like Old Baldy in the future. Clark wanted the
U.N. Command to confine itself to patrolling and let the enemy do the
The concern of the
United Nations commander over the merit in seizing terrain features like Old
Baldy was caused by the resurgence of activity in that area in mid-July. The
enemy had not attempted to take the hill again until the U.S. 2d Division
relieved the 45th Division during midJuly. All of the Eighth Army's corps
followed a policy of rotating their divisions periodically on the line and the 45th had spent over six months
at the front. The Chinese took advantage of the relief as they mounted two
attacks on the night of 17-18 July in strengths exceeding a reinforced
battalion. Through quick reinforcement of the Old Baldy outpost and heavy
closedefensive fires, E and F Companies, 23d Infantry Regiment, who were
defending the hill managed to repel the first enemy assault. But the second won
a foothold on the slopes which the enemy reinforced and then exploited. Chinese
artillery and mortar fire became very intense; then the enemy infantry followed
up swiftly and seized the crest. Counterattacks by the 23d Regiment supported by air strikes and artillery and
mortar fire, did not succeed in driving the Chinese from the newly won
positions. By 2o July the 2d Division elements had regained only a portion of
the east finger of Old Baldy. The onset of the rainy season made operations
exceedingly difficult to carry out during the rest of the month.38
As the torrential
downpours converted the Korean battleground into a morass in the last week of
July, the U.N. Command counted its losses on Old Baldy during the month. Through
z I July the tally showed 39 killed, 234 wounded, and 84 missing for the UNC and an estimated
1,093 killed and wounded for the Chinese.39 Although the totals were
not unusually high considering the intensity of the fighting and the artillery
exchanges, it is not difficult to understand General Clark's concern over the
casualties suffered in the fight for one more hill.
Six consecutive days of
heavy rain flooded the streams and rivers and swept away bridges. As the water
seeped into the ground, landslides began and roads were blocked or washed away.
The task of resupply became a distinct challenge to surmount nature's obstacles.40 Since the Communists
had to cope with similar problems both sides devoted their main efforts against
the common enemy and tactical operations were strictly limited.
When the rain eased off
at the end of July, the 23d Infantry Regiment again sought to secure complete
control of Old Baldy. Since the Chinese had an estimated two platoons on the
crest, the 23d sent two reinforced companies up the slopes after artillery and
mortar preparatory fires on the enemy positions. Edging toward the Chinese
defenses, the 2d Division forces used small arms fire and hand grenades as they
reached the enemy trenches. After bitter hand-to-hand combat, the two companies
finally gained the crest early on 1 August and dug in
to prepare for the customary counterattack, Two hundred flares were distributed
around the friendly positions and fortytwo air sorties were flown during the day
in support. That night the enemy sent first mortar, then artillery, fire at the
crest, dropping an estimated 2,500 rounds on the 23d Regiment elements. But
counterattacks were driven off.
Mines, bunkers, and
additional wire helped to strengthen the UNC hold on Old Baldy on 2 August and
extremely heavy and effective artillery fire broke up another enemy assault on 4
August. For the remainder of the month, the Chinese refrained from further
attempts on Old Baldy.41
In mid-September, the
enemy employed two reinforced companies, supported by artillery and mortar fire
and two tanks, in another desperate effort to regain control of the
controversial hill. Infiltrating groups fought their way into 2d Division
positions on 18 September and hand-tohand fighting broke out. Under the pressure
of the assault, the defending forces withdrew more than 400 yards from the crest
and regrouped. Elements of the 38th Infantry Regiment tried unsuccessfully to
envelop the Chinese defenders on 20 September, but the following day a platoon
of tanks moved up and supported a second two-pronged drive that forced the enemy
to withdraw once more.42
The fight for Old Baldy
was typical of the battles waged
during the summer and fall of 1952, a savagely contested, seemingly endless
struggle for control of another hill. And there seemed to be little hope that
there would be any significant change in the pattern.
Up the Hill, Down the
The renewal of activity
at the front and the lack of great expectations from Panmunjom produced several
intelligence estimates during the summer of 1952 that were discouraging in tone.
In Washington and in the Far East the planners and intelligence experts foresaw
little change in the tenor of the war. The enemy, in his estimate, was strongly
entrenched, had expanded his air and ground strength, and showed no signs of accepting an armistice on UNC terms. On the other hand,
the Communists evidenced no disposition to return to large-scale fighting and
seemed content to rest on their increased defensive strength, confident of their
ability to wait out the UNC. Unless the United Nations Command mounted a major
offensive and broadened the geographical limits of the war, the intelligence
officials did not believe that sufficient military pressure could be applied
upon the enemy to bring about a swift conclusion to the war. Since there was
small likelihood of securing substantial troop augmentations for the U.N.
Command that would have to precede any major offensive, or of gaining approval
of more than limited objective attacks, the prospects of a dramatic shift in the
tempo of the conflict appeared remote. As long as the Communists made no attempt
to alter the status quo, the outlook was for more of the same type of
hill warfare that had characterized the second
year of the war.43
Although the fight for
Old Baldy had received the bulk of the publicity during the summer months,
sporadic excitement had flared up in other sectors. In early July on the U.S. I
Corps front the ROK 1st Division had carried out a successful battalion raid
against Chinese positions south of Sangnyong-ni, approximately seventeen miles
southeast of Ch'orwon. Two days later, on 3 July, the 1st Marine Division sent a
company raiding party against the Chinese positions at Punji-ri, three and a
half miles northeast of Panmunjom. The marines destroyed enemy troops and
bunkers, then withdrew to the main line of
Other forays were not
quite so fortunate: On the ROK II Corps front, the ROK Capital Division's
attempts to take over Communist hill positions near Yulsa-ri, fifteen miles
northeast of Kumhwa, were repulsed. The ROK 5th Division, ROK I Corps, also met
determined North Korean resistance when it tried to drive the enemy from a hill
close to Oemyon, seven miles south of Kosong on the east coast. The North
Koreans mounted a retaliatory attack on to July against a nearby hill controlled
by the ROK 5th Division and held it for four days before they were forced to
In August the limited
ground pressure applied by the UNC
to help its negotiators at Panmunjom led to the outbreak of several bitter,
small-scale battles for favorable terrain features. Four miles east of Panmunjom
elements of the 1st Marine Division on g August lost an outpost to the Chinese
on Hill 58. The position changed hands five times during the next two days, but
the enemy eventually gained the upper hand. The marines then shifted their
attack to nearby Hill 122 which dominated Hill 58 and caught the enemy unawares. From 12
to 14 August a reinforced Marine company turned back Chinese counterattacks of
up to a battalion in strength. Despite the failures of these attempts, the enemy
tried again on 16 and 25 August, sustaining heavy casualties and no success in
its efforts to drive off the marines. Hill 122 won a proud name in these
encounters- Bunker Hill.46
About seven miles east
of Kumsong, on the ROK II Corps front, the ROK Capital Division became embroiled
in another fierce struggle. Overlooking the division's positions stood a hill,
later to be known as Capitol Hill,
where the enemy maintained
outposts. On the night of 5-6 August elements of the Capital Division
infiltrated and captured two of the outposts. The response was immediate.
Building up from a reinforced platoon to two companies, the Communists hurled
their troops against the ROK's manning the positions. For the next four days
control seesawed back and forth, but the ROK 26th Regiment stubbornly fought
back and drove the enemy off. On 10 August, the
Communists broke off the attack, having suffered casualties of 369 dead, an
additional 450 estimated dead, and 190 wounded. The ROK
26th Regiment lost 48 killed and 150 wounded during the action and won a
commendation from Van Fleet for its courageous defense.47
While the negotiators at
Panmunjom were meeting once a week in August and the Korean rainy season
continued, activity along the front eased. Then in early September the weather
improved and the Chinese hit Capitol Hill again. They gained possession of the
crest temporarily until the ROK 26th Regiment joined forces with the ROK 1st
Regiment to retake the hill on 9
September. Up to three enemy companies sought to fight their way back to the top
at a time, but the ROK units refused to be dislodged again.48
Two miles west of
Capitol Hill lay a long, fingershaped ridge, which unsurprisingly soon came to
be known as Finger Ridge. Held as an outpost by the Cavalry Regiment of the
Capital Division, the position was overrun by the enemy on 6 September- the same
day it launched its assault on Capitol Hill. The Cavalry Regiment struck back;
but had to withdraw as the enemy increased his defending forces. Up the
hill, down the hill went friendly and hostile forces as they wrestled for
control during the rest of September and well into October. By mid-October,
Finger Ridge was once more in the hands of the Capital Division.49
After the heavy rains of
August came to an end, the Chinese renewed the Battle of Bunker Hill
(Hill 122 in the 1st Marine
Division sector. On 5 September the Marine positions were first subjected to a
heavy artillery concentration and then to an assault by an enemy battalion. For
two hours the contest for the heights swung back and forth, but the marines
would not give in. Finally the Chinese began to disengage. Over the next ten
days the enemy sent a number of raids and harassing expeditions against Bunker
Hill with the marines successfully defending their outposts on each
The Chinese probing for
soft spots in the UNC lines continued in mid-September. In the U.S. 3d Infantry
Division sector of the JAMESTOWN line there were a series of outposts manned by
forces varying from a squad to a company in strength on the low-lying hills in
front of the main line of resistance. One of these was Outpost KELLY, situated
three miles south of Kyeho-dong and about one mile west of the double horseshoe
bend of the Imjin River. On 17 September C Company, under the operational
control of the 2d Battalion, 65th Infantry, defended KELLY.51
Facing the 65th Regiment
in the area around KELLY were the
2d and 3d Battalions, 348th Regiment, 116th Division, CCF 39th
Army. There had been an increase in the number and aggressiveness of enemy'
patrols in the entire 65th Regiment sector during September and also an increase
in the frequency of enemy mortar fire. These signs usually heralded an impending
On the night of 17
September an estimated enemy company from the 2d Battalion, 348th Regiment,
probed Outpost KELLY'S defenses. When C Company requested reinforcements to
fight off this probe, Col. Juan C. Cordero, commanding officer of the 65th,
ordered B Company to relieve its sister company on KELLY. B Company took over
KELLY and passed to the operational control of the 2d Battalion commander, Lt.
Col. Carlos BetancesRamirez, early in the morning of 18 September.
The enemy mortar fire on
KELLY continued throughout the day and 1st Lt. William F. Nelson, B Company
commander, in the early evening requested that the artillery supporting his
position be prepared to fire variable time fuze shells in the event of an enemy
attack. Less than an hour after his request an estimated two companies from the
2d Battalion, 348th Regiment, attacked the outpost from the southwest,
northwest, and northeast. The northeast attack evidently surprised Lieutenant
Nelson and leis men, for the Chinese swept across the hill and took the B
Company machine gun position on the northwest corner of the hill from the rear.
Killing the gunner, the enemy advanced along the trenches and closed in
handto-hand combat. The sergeant in charge of the machine gun position managed
to escape after he sustained arm injuries in the fight. Communications
between KELLY and battalion headquarters were cut off and the
situation was very confused by midnight, but reports of Chinese herding American
prisoners down the slopes of KELLY indicated that
the position had been lost. There were also reports that some of the Chinese
were wearing U.S. uniforms, but it was not clear whether the enemy had donned
the American clothes before or after the attack.
To find out whether the
enemy intended to occupy the outpost, the regimental intelligence officer
ordered the 2d Battalion to send a platoon as quickly as possible from E Company
to reconnoiter the hill. The patrol cleared the main line of resistance shortly
before daylight on the 19th, but soon ran into machine gun and rifle grenade
fire as it advanced up the hill.
Convinced that the
Chinese planned to remain, Colonel Cordero made an assessment of the situation.
The heavy mortar fire and the attack that had followed had badly depleted B
Company, although there might be some remnants of the company still on the hill.
He assumed that the enemy now held the position with small arms, light machine
guns, and light mortars. There was a waist-deep, circular trench that ringed the
military crest of the hill completely and four bunkers. At the base of the hill,
on the approaches, the Chinese had established combat outposts of squad size.
Colonel Betances, the 2d
Battalion commander, ordered two platoons from E Company to advance on
KELLY on the morning of 20 September. By late
afternoon one platoon under the company commander, 1st Lt. Harold L. Gensemer,
had fought its way to the top. The second was still on the porters' trail moving forward slowly. The
Chinese, however, had no intention of surrendering possession of KELLY for they quickly sent reinforcements to bolster their defending
forces. Lieutenant Gensemer's platoon began to take casualties from the small
arms, machine gun, and mortar fire, and the second platoon was forced to fall
back as it encountered similar enemy opposition on its way to the crest. Faced
with the Chinese determination to hang on to the outpost and the mounting
casualty list, the two platoons withdrew to the main line of
In the meantime, the 1st
Battalion, commanded by Maj. Albert C. Davies, prepared to counterattack through
the 2d Battalion's positions. During the evening of 20 September, A Company,
under 1st Lt. St. Clair Streett, Jr., moved forward to take up the attack from
the south and C Company, under 1st Lt. Robert E. Stevens, advanced to the base
of the hill on which KELLY
was located. The enemy mortar and
artillery became very heavy as the men crossed the valley floor en route to the
As the two companies
began their ascent, B Company moved forward toward the outpost line to support
the attack. Mortar fire came in swiftly and with deadly effect as casualties cut
the strength of B Company to twenty-six men and forced the cancellation of the
The Chinese small arms,
machine gun, and mortar fire was also taking its toll of A and C Companies. In
addition, the Chinese used timefuzed artillery fire as the 1st Battalion troops
edged their way to the top. The airbursts over the heads of A
and C Company were demoralizing and caused panic. Lieutenant Streett had to fall
back and reorganize A Company, while Lieutenant Stevens clung to a finger of the
hill with two platoons. The forces under Streett and Stevens totaled about 6o
men each at this juncture, while the enemy had an estimated 100 men on the hill
and was reinforcing freely.
A UNC artillery barrage
pounded the Chinese positions on KELLY early in the
morning of 21 September. But when the remnants of A and C
Companies tried to close in on the Chinese positions, the enemy again met them
with small arms and hand grenades. Two squads from C Company almost reached the
crest of KELLY shortly before noon only to receive mortar
concentrations that forced them to fall back to the trenches. No sooner had the
enemy mortar fire ceased when the Chinese counterattacked and forced C Company
to pull out completely. In the early afternoon Major Davies ordered A, B, and C
Companies to return to their company areas. They had suffered over seventy
casualties in the fight for KELLY. That night
the 1st Battalion relieved the 3d Battalion and the action around KELLY slowed down for several days.
As the 3d Battalion took
over responsibility for the 1st Battalion positions, Lt. Col. Lloyd E. Wills,
who had assumed command of the 3d Battalion on 2o September, and his staff, drew up an attack plan to recapture
KELLY. Since the previous efforts by forces ranging
from one to four platoons had failed to dislodge the enemy, Colonel Wills
received approval to use his three rifle companies. K Company, under Capt.
William C. English, would attack
from the east and L Company, under 1st Lt. Frederick Bogell, would come in from
the west. 1st Lt. Ben W. Alpuerto's I Company would be the reserve.
At 0520 on 24 September
the 105-mm. howitzers of the 58th Field Artillery Battalion, commanded by Lt.
Col. Mario DeMaio, opened up on the Chinese positions on and around KELLY for thirty minutes. Meanwhile a platoon of tanks from the 64th
Tank Battalion rumbled into position to support the 3d Battalion attack.
Artillery and tanks sent 25,000 rounds against the Chinese in support of the
attack. K and L Companies were in their attack positions by 0540 and launched
their assault half an hour later. As Captain English and his K Company troops
the Chinese opened up with intense
small arms, machine gun, artillery, and mortar fire and soon had K Company
pinned down. The heavy enemy concentration of firepower and the growing list of
casualties led to panic and confusion in the company. With control of the
company disintegrating and the casualties mounting, English asked for permission
to pull back and reorganize. Colonel Cordero at 0800 ordered that this request
be denied and that the company continue its attack. Shortly thereafter contact
with K Company was lost. The artillery forward observer managed to hold together
ten men from the company, however, and Colonel Wills, the battalion commander,
instructed him to continue the attack on KELLY with his small
On the western slopes of
KELLY, L Company assaulted the Chinese positions at o635
hours. Despite heavy mortar fire, one squad reached the top at 0720 and quickly
asked for tank fire. Clinging to the trenches on the
south slope of KELLY,
the L Company squad was unable to
move forward against the stubborn enemy resistance. Chinese artillery and mortar
fire continued to be very heavy.
Since contact with K
Company had not been regained by 0800 hours, Colonel Cordero ordered I Company
to move to the rear of Hill 105, 80o yards east of KELLY, and to prepare to take over K Company's zone. Lieutenant Alpuerto
moved his men toward Hill 105, but the enemy artillery zeroed in on the company
and scored several direct hits. The men began to scatter and drift back to the
main line of resistance. Colonel Wills sent his S-3, Capt. Paul O. Engle, to
help reorganize the company, since contact with Lieutenant Alpuerto had been
lost after the enemy artillery concentrations had begun. Colonel Wills left at
0900 hours to take over the reorganization of both I and K Company stragglers as
they returned to the main line of resistance without weapons or equipment.
With only the remnants
of L Company still on KELLY, and the other
two companies depleted and demorilized, the situation appeared grim. The two
squads from L Company hung on to one of the trenches on the south slope and at
0920 hours Colonel Cordero ordered them to stay there at all costs.
When Colonel Wills
finally regained contact with Lieutenant Alpuerto at 1000 hours, I Company had
reorganized and had two platoons intact; the remainder of the company's
whereabouts was unknown. Colonel Wills telephoned the assistant division
commander, Brig. Gen. Charles L. Dasher, Jr., and informed him that the
battalion had approximately two platoons available for combat. General Dasher told Wills to cease to
attack and to continue the reorganization of the battalion, which had suffered
141 casualties in the action. By early afternoon the squads from L Company had
been withdrawn and the stragglers reassembled. But the division commander, Maj.
Gen. Robert L. Dulaney, decided that the battalion and the regiment should not
resume the battle for KELLY. The 3d
Battalion went into reserve positions on the night of 24 September and the 65th
Regiment confined itself to routine patrolling until the ROK 1st Division
relieved the 3d Division on 30 September.
During the action
between 17 and 24 September for KELLY and the
surrounding outposts, the 65th Regiment suffered casualties of approximately 350
men, or almost 10 percent of its actual strength. Yet the casualties alone do
not serve to explain the weaknesses that arose when the regiment went on the
offense. Colonel Cordero in his command report for the month attributed the poor
performance of his combat units to the rotation program.
During the nine-month
period JanuarySeptember 1952, Colonel Cordero stated, the regiment had rotated
almost 8,800 men, including close to 1,500 noncommissioned officers. Only 435
noncommissioned officers had been received to replace the losses, and company
commanders had been forced to assign inexperienced privates first class and
privates to key positions in many rifle platoons. Out of an authorized strength
of 811 noncommissioned officers in the upper three grades, the 65th Regiment had
only 381 and many of the latter had been developed from recent replacements. The
lack of experienced platoon sergeants and corporals
had affected the combat efficiency of the regiment, Colonel Cordero went on,
despite the high esprit de corps shown by the many Puerto Rican members
of the regiment. In many cases, as soon as the company and platoon leaders
became casualties, the inexperience and lack of depth at the combat company
level became readily apparent. There was a failure to sustain the momentum of
the attack and a tendency to become confused and disorganized after the leaders
became casualties. Colonel Cordero recommended that his regiment be provided
with a monthly quota of 400
replacements including a fair
proportion of the upper three grades so that he could remedy this basic
Although Colonel Cordero
did not mention the language barrier, it should not be overlooked that the great
majority of enlisted men in the regiment spoke only Spanish, creating a problem
of communication between the continental English-speaking officers and the
enlisted men from Puerto Rico.
On the other side of the
coin had been the determination and skill with which the Chinese 348th
Regiment had defended Outpost KELLY. The enemy had
used his artillery, mortars, automatic weapons, and small arms fire extremely
effectively and had sent in reinforcements liberally to blunt and turn back the
65th Regiment's attacks. Thus, the failure of the 65th Regiment to take
KELLY could be attributed both to its personnel
weaknesses and the enemy's strong performance and skill in using his
The Battle for White
Communist activity along
the front increased in the early fall of 1952 as the enemy sought to improve his
defensive positions before the onset of winter. The fight for Outpost
KELLY was but one of several contests for hill
positions waged by the Eighth Army. Perhaps one of the most dramatic came in
early October in the U.S. IX Corps sector west of Ch'orwon.
On 3 October the Eighth
Army learned through interrogation of a Chinese deserter that the enemy proposed
to attack White Horse Hill (Hill 395), , which was five miles northwest of
Ch'orwon on the ROK 9th Division front. White Horse was the crest of a forested
hill mass that extended in a northwestsoutheast direction for about two miles.
Overlooking the Yokkok-ch'on Valley, it dominated the western approaches to
Ch'orwon. (Map 5) Loss of the hill would force the IX Corps to withdraw
to the high ground south of the Yokkok-ch'on in the Ch'orwon area, would deny
the IX Corps use of the Ch'orwon road net, and would open up the entire Ch'orwon
area to enemy attack and penetration.55
Since other intelligence
sources supported the prisoner's story, IX Corps reinforced the ROK 9th
Division, under Maj. Gen. Kim Jong Oh, with additional tanks, artillery, rocket
launchers, and antiaircraft weapons to be used in a ground role. General Kim
stationed two battalions of infantry on the threatened hill and held a regiment
plus a battalion in ready reserve. On the flanks of White Horse he positioned
the tanks and antiaircraft guns to cover the valley approaches. Searchlights and
flares were distributed to provide illumination at night and a flare plane was
made available to supply additional light on call during the hours of darkness.
From the Fifth Air Force came extra air strikes against enemy artillery
positions adjacent to White Horse. As the hour of the attack approached, the ROK
9th and its attached units were well prepared.
Just before the Chinese
began their advance on White Horse on 6 October, they opened the floodgates of
the Pongnae-Ho Reservoir, which was located about seven miles north of the
objective, evidently in the hope that the Yokkokch'on which ran between the ROK
9th and the U.S. 2d Division would rise sufficiently to block reinforcement
during the critical period. Although the water level rose several feet, at no
time did it present a tactical obstacle. But the Chinese did not rely upon
nature alone. They threw a battalion-sized force at Hill 281 (Arrowhead), two
miles southeast of White Horse across the valley, to pin down the French
Battalion astride the hill and to keep the 2d Division occupied. Before the
night was over six additional companies joined in the action. The French held
firm and inflicted heavy casualties upon the attackers. Two later assaults on g
and 12 October met with similar responses. As a diversion to the main attack on
White Horse, Hill 281 proved effective but expensive.
In the meantime, two
battalions of the 340th Regiment, 114th Division, CCF 38th Army, moved up to the northwest
end of the White Horse Hill complex. After heavy artillery and mortar fire upon
the ROK 9th Division positions on the heights, the Chinese tried three times to
penetrate the ROK defenses. Each time they were hurled back by troops of the ROK
Both Regiment, suffering an estimated 1,500 casualties the first night as
against only boo for the defenders. Notwithstanding the heavy losses, the
Chinese committed the remnants of the original two battalions and reinforced
them with two fresh battalions from the same division the following day. Cutting
off a ROK company outpost, the Chinese pressed on and forced the elements of the
ROK Both Regiment to withdraw from the crest. Less than two hours after the loss
of the peak, two battalions of the ROK 28th Regiment mounted a night attack that
swept the enemy out of the old ROK positions. Again the enemy losses were heavy
and a Chinese prisoner later related that many of the companies committed to the
attack were reduced to less than twenty men after the second day of fighting.
By the third day Chinese
diversionary attacks elsewhere along the corps front decreased and the main
enemy effort concentrated on Hill 395. Chinese artillery and mortar fire
averaged 4,500 rounds a day in support of the infantry assaults, and the enemy
continued to assemble fresh troops to renew the battle. On 8 October two
battalions from the 334th Regiment, 112th Division, and one from the
342d Regiment, 114th Division, relieved the depleted Chinese forces
around White Horse. Elements of the 3¢2d fought their way to the crest
during the afternoon, only to lose it to a ROK 28th Regiment
counterattack that night.
Nothing daunted, the
Chinese committed another battalion to the attack on the following day. General
Kim, the ROK 9th Division commander, moved two battalions of his 29th Regiment
over to Hill 395 to help the 28th Regiment. Throughout the day the battle
seesawed as first one side controlled the peak, then the other. Early on
10 October, the 29th Regiment reported that it was in possession of
The UNC forces
apparently were fortunate on g October, for a Chinese prisoner later related
that Fifth Air Force planes had caught elements of the 335th Regiment, 112th
Division, in an assembly area north of Hill 395, had inflicted heavy
casualties upon the regiment, and had delayed its commitment to the attack.
By 10 October the
pattern of the fighting was well established. Regardless of casualties, the
enemy continued to send masses of infantry to take the objective. Evidently,
once given a mission, Communist commanders adhered to it despite their losses.
On White Horse, the Chinese kept funneling their combat troops into the northern
attack approaches where Eighth Army artillery, tanks, and air power could wreak
havoc. The enemy's determination to win White Horse made sitting ducks out of
the Chinese infantry as the IX Corps defenders saturated the all-out assaults
with massed firepower of every caliber.
On 12 October there was
a break in the bitter struggle. The 30th ROK Regiment passed through the dug-in
29th Regiment and counterattacked. In the morning the 28th Regiment moved up
through the Both and pressed the assault. Leapfrogging the battalions of the leading regiment and
substituting attack regiments from time to time, the ROK 9th Division began to
inflict extremely large casualties on the enemy. By 15 October the battle for
White Horse was over.
Although the Chinese had
used a force estimated at 15,000 infantry and 8,000 supporting troops during the
ten-day contest, they had failed to budge the ROK 9th Division. Despite ROK
losses of over 3,500 soldiers during the nine ROK and twenty-eight Communist
attacks, the 9th Division and its supporting troops had exacted a heavy toll
from the Chinese 38th Army. Seven of the 38th Army's nine
regiments had been committed to the White Horse and Hill 281 battles and taken
close to 10,000 casualties.
Throughout the fight,
the timely injection of fresh troops by General Kim on both offense and defense
had sparked the ROK effort. The ROK units had withstood the determined drive of
the Chinese infantry and taken over 55,000 rounds of enemy artillery during the
battle. The performance of the ROK 9th Division under fire provided an excellent
testimonial to the type of leadership, skill, and experience that the ROK Army
was capable of developing and won high praise from Van Fleet.56
The ROK 9th Division
received outstanding support from the air, armor, and artillery units that
backed up the division. During the daylight hours, the Fifth Air Force had
dispatched 669 sorties and another 76 sorties had been sent out on night bombing
missions. In ten days the tactical air support had dropped over 2,800
general-purpose bombs and 358 napalm bombs and launched over 750 5-inch rockets
at enemy concentrations and positions. From IX Corps artillery alone,
f 85,000 rounds of artillery ammunition had been hurled at the
Chinese. Tanks and antiaircraft quad-50's had protected the flanks of the hills
and prevented the enemy from dispersing its attacks. At White Horse, prebattle
preparation, made possible by effective intelligence, added to welltrained
troops, skillfully employed, and backed by coordinated air, armor, and artillery
support, demonstrated what might be accomplished on defense. White Horse seemed
a prime example of the kind of action that General Clark had argued for earlier
in the summer.
In addition to the
diversionary attack on Hill 281, the Chinese had attempted to disperse the ROK
9th Division forces by threatening the ROK outpost positions on Hill
391 almost seven miles northeast of White Horse
Mountain on the eastern divisional front. Sporadic and indecisive fighting
continued from 6 to 12 October when the enemy made a serious effort to storm the
hill. After the ROK units pulled back, a reinforced company from the U.S. 7th
Division attempted in vain on 13 October to regain the lost
Once the White Horse
issue was settled, the ROK 9th Division sent a battalion from the 28th Regiment
to clear Hill 391 on 16 October. The battalion won through to the crest and was
able to maintain control until 20 October, when enemy counterattacks regained possession of the hill for the
next two days. On 23 October, after a bitter handto-hand encounter, elements of
the ROK 51st Regiment drove the Chinese off again, repulsed a counterattack,
then withdrew. On the following night the 65th Infantry Regiment relieved the
ROK 51st on the line.58
Since the unsuccessful battle for Outpost KELLY the 65th Regiment had been
undergoing a vigorous program of training under a new commander, Col. Chester B.
De Gavre. Two weeks of intensive training, however, could not remedy the basic
weakness of the regiment-the lack of experienced noncommissioned officers at the
infantry platoon level-but the unit was again assigned to assume responsibility
for a portion of the main line of resistance.59
On the night of 24-25
October, G Company, under Capt. George D. Jackson, took over the defense of the
high ground immediately south of Hill 391.60 Jackson
Heights, as it was soon to be called, had enough bunkers to house the command
posts of the three rifle platoons, the company headquarters, and the forward
artillery observer, but none of these was adequate for fighting off an attack.
Captain Jackson's plans for improving his defenses had little chance for early
success, since the Chinese artillery and mortar fire upon the heights was
accurate and the enemy had excellent observation of the G Company movements from the
surrounding hills. Facing the company were elements of the 3d Battalion, 87th Regiment, 29th Division,
CCF 15th Army. The 87th Regiment
was commanded by Hwueh
Yianghua. On the afternoon of the 25th the artillery supporting the
87th Regiment began to send direct 76-mm. gunfire against the
Jackson Heights positions from Camel Back Hill, 2,800 yards to the northwest.
Enemy 82-mm. and 120mm. mortars followed and by dusk G Company had received 250
rounds of mortar and artillery fire and suffered 9 casualties.
During the night the
enemy sent out patrols that probed G Company's dispositions and continued to
send harassing artillery and mortar fire onto Jackson Heights. Captain Jackson
used his own 60-mm. mortars and supporting mortar and artillery fire to break up
the Chinese probes.
Late in the afternoon of
26 October the enemy sent over 260 rounds of direct 76-mm. gunfire from Camel
Back Hill and caused 14
more casualties. From the company
listening posts that night came frequent reports of the enemy moving about and
digging in. Two Chinese approached within hand, grenade range of one of the
listening posts on the southwest flank. The men at the post were given
permission to use grenades against the interlopers. As the two men hastily
withdrew, mortar fire was called in to speed their departure.
An enemy platoon probed
the northern approach to Jackson Heights shortly after midnight, then fell back
under interdicting artillery and mortar fire. Another platoon advanced from the
north an hour later and closed to hand grenade range. After a 15-minute fire
fight, the Chinese pulled back,
taking an estimated 17 casualties with them.
The next eight hours
were relatively quiet. Then, about 0930 hours on 27 October, the 76-mm. guns on
Camel Back Hill opened up again. One enemy round scored a direct hit on the
mortar ammunition supply and blew up all but some 150 rounds. By nightfall the
Chinese firepower had reduced the mortar platoon to two mortars and seven men
and the second platoon had lost both its platoon leader and sergeant. Captain
Jackson reported to 2d Battalion that he needed aid for his wounded and wanted
smoke laid about the heights to obstruct the enemy's ability to pinpoint the
company's movements. He was told to be calm, that smoke and aid were on the way.
So were the Chinese. An
hour after Jackson called, they loosed a heavy concentration of artillery and
mortar fire on G Company's positions and then sent an estimated company in from
the north. Using the remaining mortars, automatic weapons, small arms, and hand
grenades, Captain Jackson and his men beat off this attack.
The second enemy assault
of the evening came after the Chinese artillery and mortar crews had fired an
estimated 1,000 rounds at Jackson Heights within half an hour. One estimated
Chinese company struck from the north and a second from the south. Jackson
called for final defensive fire on the area until the situation clarified. His
ammunition dump had been hit again and the enemy attack had fanned out and
become general on all sides.
At this point the
company communications sergeant evidently reported that there were only three
men left in the platoon in his area and
asked battalion for permission to withdraw. Whether the sergeant acted on his
own or not was unclear, but Colonel Betances, the battalion commander, assumed
that the request was from the company commander and ordered G Company to
withdraw. When Captain Jackson learned of the withdrawal order, he attempted to
verify it, but the communications lines were out and radio contact proved
At any rate, Captain
Jackson passed the order to withdraw back to his platoon leaders. The first and
second platoons went down the east side of the heights and Captain Jackson went
with the third platoon down the western slope. His platoon ran into heavy enemy
small arms fire on the way and he was separated from his men during the action,
finally rejoining them on the trail back to the main line of resistance.
When Colonel De Gavre
learned of G Company's withdrawal, he quickly ordered that A Company, commanded
by 1st Lt. John D. Porterfield, be placed under the operational control of
Colonel Betances for a counterattack to regain Jackson Heights. A Company was to
be used for the attack phase only and F Company, commanded by Capt. Willis D.
Cronkhite, Jr., would take part in the attack and then would man the outpost. C
Company, under Lieutenant Stevens, would prepare to pass to the operational
control of the 2d Battalion, if it were necessary to back up the attack.
As daylight broke on the
28th, Captain Cronkhite led F Company toward Jackson Heights. The Chinese
platoon defending the hill resisted with small arms, automatic weapons, and hand
grenades, but F Company won control of the crest by 1000 hours. In the meantime, progress by Lieutenant
Porterfield's A Company had been slowed down by artillery and mortar fire.
Despite the enemy fire, two platoons pushed on and joined F Company on the
heights; the remaining platoon was pinned down by mortar fire at the base of the
The operation seemed to
be well in hand, until the Chinese artillery put all of A Company's officers on
the hill out of action. One platoon leader was killed by a direct hit and then a
shell landed in the middle of the company command post killing Lieutenant
Porterfield and the forward observer and wounding the one remaining platoon
leader. The loss of leadership became immediately apparent, for enlisted men in
both A and F Companies began to "bug out." Slipping away from the heights alone
or in groups, the men drifted back toward the main line of resistance. By late
afternoon only Captain Cronkhite and his company officers remained on the hill;
all of his men had left along with those of A Company.
Efforts by the 2d
Battalion to round up the stragglers and send them back to Jackson Heights met
with no success. The men by this time evidently regarded the hill as a suicide
post and refused to return. When night fell, Colonel Betances ordered Captain
Cronkhite and his fellow officers to withdraw from the hill.
On the following day the
65th Regiment made one more effort to take Jackson Heights. Colonel De Gavre put
Major Davies, the 1st Battalion commander, in charge of the operation. Davies
sent C Company, under Lieutenant Stevens, to Jackson Heights in the morning of
29 October. The company moved up and took
possession of the hill without encountering any enemy resistance. Again all
seemed well. The enemy artillery was quiet and no counterattack developed.
Suddenly fear set in and the enlisted men left en masse. Lieutenant Stevens and
his fellow officers found themselves alone with a handful of men.61
Once more the stragglers were gathered together and ordered back up the hill and
over 50 refused. Major Davies finally recalled Lieutenant Stevens and his little
group to the main line of resistance.
This proved to be the
last attempt of the 65th Regiment to take Jackson Heights. Maj. Gen. George W.
Smythe, the division commander, ordered the 15th Infantry Regiment to take over
responsibility for the 65th's sector beginning that same night.62 In
November the 65th Regiment returned to an intensive training program. General
Smythe requested that a combat-trained regiment be either assigned permanently
or for at least four months while the 65th Regiment underwent its retraining. If
neither of these alternatives were possible, Smythe went on, he favored the
reconstitution of the regiment with 60percent continental personnel and the
assignment of the excess Puerto
Ricans to other infantry units.63
At any rate, the U.S.
15th Regiment took over the defensive positions of the 65th in late October.
Outposts set up on Jackson Heights were subjected to frequent probes by the
enemy throughout the first half of November. By the middle of the month only a
couple of outposts at the base of Jackson Heights remained in the possession of
the 3d Division. Although the Chinese exerted considerable pressure upon the
outposts during the remainder of November and overran them several times,
elements of the 15th Regiment managed to maintain their precarious postions at
the end of the month.64
As the indications that
the Communists were seizing the initiative on the ground became more apparent in
late September and early October, General Van Fleet grew concerned. In his
letter of 5 October to Clark urging the approval of a limited objective attack
on the U.S. IX Corps front, he commented: "It is extremely desirable that we
take the initiative by small offensive actions, which will put the enemy on the
defensive in order to reverse the present situation. Our present course of
defensive action in the face of
the enemy initiative is resulting in the highest casualties since the heavy
fighting of October and November 1951."65
To offset this trend,
Van Fleet recommended the adoption of the IX Corps plan, called SHOWDOWN, that was designed to improve the corps defense
lines north of Kumhwa. Less than three miles north of this city, Van Fleet
pointed out, IX Corps and enemy troops manned positions that were but 20o yards
apart. On Hill 598 and Sniper Ridge, which ran northwest to southeast a little
over a mile northeast of Hill 598, the opposing forces looked down each other's
throats and casualties were correspondingly high. If the enemy could be pushed
off these hills, Van Fleet went on, he would have to fall back 1,250 yards to
the next defensive position. Counting on maximum firepower, consistent with
ammunition allowances, and maximum close air support, the Eighth Army commander
was optimistic about the possibilities of SHOWDOWN.66
Although Clark had
voiced his opposition to hilltaking expeditions in the past, he evidently
decided that SHOWDOWN
offered a better than average
chance for winning its objectives without excessive casualties. If all went
according to plan, two battalions, one from the U.S. 7th Division and the other
from the ROK 2d Division, would be sufficient to accomplish the mission. The
field commanders estimated that the operation would take five days and incur
about 200 casualties. With sixteen battalions of artillery mounting some 280 guns, and over 200 fighter-bomber
sorties in support, the infantry was not expected to encounter serious
obstacles.67 At any rate, Clark approved SHOWDOWN on 8 October, but cautioned Van Fleet to give the operation only
routine press coverage and to stress the tactical considerations arguing for the
seizure of the hills.68
Efforts to treat
SHOWDOWN as a routine operation were doomed from the
start by the Chinese. Although the five days of preparatory air strikes had to
be reduced to two because of the demands of White Horse Hill and because the
artillery support also had to be curtailed, the Chinese were ready for the
attack and soon demonstrated that they intended to hold on to the Hill
598-Sniper Ridge complex.
Hill 598, the objective
of the American troops, was V-shaped with its apex at the south. (Map 6) At the
left extremity of the V lay Pike's Peak and on the right arm were two smaller
hills christened Jane Russell Hill and Sandy Ridge, from north to south. The
resemblance of the Hill 598 complex to a triangle soon led to the designation of
the area as Triangle Hill. On 14
October 1952 the hill mass was
defended by a battalion of the 235th Regiment, 45th Division, CCF 15th
Army, one of the Chinese elite
armies. As usual, the enemy was well dug in, had adequate ammunition supplies,
and defiladed reinforcement routes.
Maj. Gen. Wayne C.
Smith, the 7th Division commander, assigned the mission of taking Triangle
Hill to the gist Infantry Regiment, commanded by Col. Lloyd R. Moses. Although
the original plan had called for the use of one battalion in the assault,
Colonel Moses and his staff estimated that enemy resistance would be greater
than previously anticipated and that it would be impossible for one battalion
commander to control all the forces operating in the entire objective area.
Thus, he assigned the task of seizing the right arm of Triangle Hill to his 1st
Battalion, under Lt. Col. Myron
McClure, and the mission of gaining possession of the left arm to the 3d
Battalion, commanded by Maj. Robert H. Newberry. The forces committed to the
assault had doubled before the operation began.69
After the air strikes and artillery
preparations had placed tons of explosives on Triangle Hill, Major Newberry sent
the 3d Battalion in a column of companies to take the apex of the hill complex.
L Company, commanded by 1st Lt. Bernard T. Brooks, Jr., moved out first,
followed by K Company, under 1st Lt. Charles L. Martin. In reserve, ready to
assist either of its sister companies, was I Company, commanded by Capt. Max R.
As Lieutenant Brooks led
his company out of the assault positions, he ran into immediate trouble. From a
strongpoint on Hill 598 the Chinese sent hand grenades, shaped charges,
bangalore torpedoes, and rocks to disrupt L Company's attack. In less than half
an hour, Lieutenant Brooks and all his platoon leaders became casualties and the
remainder of the company was pinned down in a small depression below the enemy
After the assault bogged
down, Lieutenant Martin moved K Company forward. Securing tank fire to knock out
the Chinese strongpoint that had dominated the fight thus far, Martin rallied L
Company and got the men again moving ahead.
A few men from the two
companies managed to work their way-into the outlying trenches on Hill 598, but
the Chinese evidently had no intention of withdrawing from the crest. They
hurled numerous hand grenades and liberally expended small arms ammunition,
shaped charges, and torpedoes to repel the 3d Battalion.
With the casualty list
mounting and the attack again slowing down, Major Newberry committed I Company
to the battle. Captain Stover took his men up Sandy Ridge, which had been
captured by the 1st Battalion, and
then moved southwest along the ridge line toward Hill 598. Since the Chinese
were well dug in, I Company had to proceed slowly, rooting the enemy out of the
holes and trenches. As night fell, Captain Stover's men began to meet with
increasing artillery and mortar fire. Enemy troops were spotted massing for a
counterattack and Stover called for defensive fire. Disregarding the artillery
and mortar concentrations laid down by the units supporting the 3d Battalion, an
estimated two companies from the 135th Regiment passed through the fire and hit I Company with small arms,
automatic weapons, and grenades.
The fierce enemy
resistance and the growing casualty list led to a consultation between Colonel
Moses and Major Newberry early in the evening. They decided to pull back all
three rifle companies to the main line of resistance. By 2100 hours, the 3d
Battalion had reassembled and taken up blocking positions.
On the 1st Battalion
front, Colonel McClure selected A Company, reinforced, under 1st Lt. Edward R.
Showalter, Jr., to lead the attack against Jane Russell Hill and Sandy Ridge. B
and C Companies, commanded by Capts. William B. Young and Roy W. Preston,
respectively, would be in reserve.
Part of the experience
of the 3d Battalion was repeated as the 1st Battalion attacked. An enemy
strongpoint on Jane Russell Hill quickly pinned down Lieutenant Showalter's men
with small arms and automatic weapons fire. Showalter became an early casualty
during the action arid had to be evacuated. Colonel McClure had to commit B
Company, then C Company, to reinforce the assault and to get the troops moving
forward again. By early
afternoon members of B and C Companies had fought their way to the crest of Jane
Russell Hill and began to prepare defensive positions to ward off the expected
They were not
disappointed. In a very violent reaction to the loss of Jane Russell Hill, the
Chinese mounted four counterattacks to regain possession. Each was preceded by
heavy concentrations of artillery and mortar fire. By the end of the third enemy
assault, Colonel McClure's men were in trouble, because their supply of
ammunition was running low and the Korean supply carriers were extremely
reluctant to run the gauntlet of enemy fire on the hill.
As a reinforced
battalion from the 135th Regiment
began the fourth
counterattack, a strange event occurred. The Chinese assault troops moved right
through both their own artillery and mortar fire and the final protective fire
called for by the 1st Battalion. With a disregard for their own safety that
suggested to some observers of the battle that they might have been under the
influence of drugs, the Chinese closed in on the trenches in hand-to-hand
combat. By this time the 1st Battalion had run out of ammunition and Colonel
Moses decided to pull his troops back to the main line of resistance. Carrying
their casualties and as much equipment as they could bring out, the remnants of
the three companies returned to the main line shortly after midnight.
At the end of the first
day of fighting, the Chinese had shown that they intended to hold Triangle Hill
and were willing to pay the costs. They had blunted and then repelled the
twobattalion attack launched by the 31st Regiment despite heavy casualties. The next move was up to the 7th
On 15 October General
Smith committed two fresh battalions to take Triangle Hill. The 1st Battalion,
32d Infantry Regiment, was placed under the operational control of the gist
Regiment and given the mission of taking Jane Russell Hill and Sandy Ridge. For
the attack on Hill 598 Colonel Moses had his 2d Battalion, commanded by Maj.
Warren B. Phillips.
Major Phillips decided
to use the same plan employed by Major Newberry the day before. The battalion
would attack in a column of companies, with E Company leading off, followed by F
and G Companies.
After artillery and
mortar preparatory fire had been laid on the hill mass, 1st Lt. William C. Knapp
led E Company toward the crest. Against light enemy artillery and mortar fire,
Knapp and his men reached the outlying trenches and started to clean out the
bunkers and strongpoints. They won possession of Hill 598 without meeting strong
resistance and then pushed on to the base of Pike's Peak where they found the
Chinese entrenched in deep caves and tunnels capable of holding entire units.
In the meantime, Capt.
Joseph V. Giesemann took F Company through E Company positions on Hill 598 and
advanced along the northeast arm toward Sandy Ridge. G Company moved up to the
crest of Hill 598 to reinforce its sister companies in case of trouble and to
help prepare the defensive positions for Chinese counterattacks.
Maj. Seymour L.
Goldberg, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, also
employed a column of companies against Jane Russell Hill. A Company, under 1st Lt.
Rudolph M. Tamez, spearheaded the attack, followed by C Company, commanded by
Capt. James E. Early. B Company, under 1st Lt. John H. Green, was the reserve
The attack started
auspiciously as A Company, supported by elements of B Company, met only light
resistance. As they neared the crest, a reinforced battalion from the
235th Regiment swept down and counterattacked vigorously. The
enemy assault forced the 1st Battalion to withdraw and regroup. I Company of the
31st Regiment was placed under Major Goldberg's operational control. The 1st
Battalion (+) then joined the 2d Battalion, 31st Regiment, on Sandy Ridge to
prepare for the enemy counterattack.
Late on 15 October
operational control of the 2d Battalion, plus I Company, passed to the 32d
Regiment, commanded by Col. Joseph R. Russ. Colonel Russ, therefore, became
responsible for the direction of the fight for Triangle Hill at this point.
Heavy artillery and
mortar barrages were laid on the American positions on Triangle during the night
of i5-i6 October, but the Chinese attacks were platoon size and repulsed without
On the morning of 16
October General Smith approved the attachment of the 2d Battalion (less F
Company), 17th Regiment, to the 32d Regiment for another assault upon Jane
Russell Hill that afternoon. Under Maj. Louis R. Buckner, the 2d Battalion won
possession of the hill without meeting serious opposition.
On the left arm of
Triangle Hill, however, the 2d Battalion, gist Regiment, had made no progress in
its efforts to take Pike's Peak.
With the approach of darkness on 16 October, the Chinese began a series of
counterattacks on the 2d Battalion positions abutting the peak. During one of
these, the gallant commander of E Company, Lieutenant Knapp, lost his life. The
2d Battalion fought off the Chinese attempts to dislodge it, but in turn could
not budge the enemy from Pike's Peak on 17 October.
The situation at this
juncture found Colonel Russ with three battalions atop Triangle Hill. His own
1st Battalion was on Hill 598; the 2d Battalion, 31st Regiment, was on the left
arm facing Pike's Peak; and the 2d Battalion (-) , 17th Regiment, occupied Jane
Russell Hill. The Chinese, in the meantime, had committed the 234th Regiment, 45th Division, to the fight. They still held the well-fortified Pike's Peak positions.
On the afternoon of 17
October the 3d Battalion, 17th Regiment, under Lt. Col. James L. Spellman,
relieved the 2d Battalion, 31st Regiment, in place. At the same time the 1st
Battalion, 32d Regiment, was withdrawn from Triangle Hill. Colonel Russ,
therefore, was in operational control of two battalions of the 17th Regiment as
the fight entered its fifth day.
battalion took the task of seizing the one remaining objective-Pike's Peakon 18
October. After heavy preparatory fires were laid on the Chinese positions, L
Company, under 1st Lt. William E. Cantrell, fought its way to the top and began
to organize the defense. I Company, commanded by Capt. Joseph H. Hoffman, passed
through L Company and tried to drive the Chinese, entrenched on the fingers,
off the hill. Again the
Chinese showed that they would not be ousted and forced I Company to break off
During the early evening
hours of 19 October two companies from the 234th Regiment stormed into Company L's trenches and
hand-to-hand combat ensued. Prisoners later reported that they had been ordered
to fight to the death. Colonel Spellman quickly asked for a reinforcing company,
since Lieutenant Cantrell, the company commander, had been hit and the enemy had
rewon possession of Pike's Peak. Platoons from M and H Companies, 17th Infantry,
were rushed up to the aid of L Company, which by this time had lost all of its
officers and was falling back southeastward toward Hill 598. To make matters
worse, artillery and mortar fire supporting the 3d Battalion began to land
uncomfortably close to the withdrawing troops and had to be lifted until the
situation became more stable.
Two companies from the
1st Battalion, 32d Regiment, were dispatched by Colonel Russ to succor the
beleaguered 3d Battalion and all available artillery and mortar fire was
directed against the left arm of Triangle Hill to break up the fierce enemy
attack. The reinforcements and the intense firepower finally slowed and then
stopped the Chinese. About 0600 on 20 October, Colonel Spellman
reported that some of the enemy troops were beginning to "bug out." He asked
that the heavy concentrations of artillery and mortar fire be continued on the
withdrawal routes to Pike's Peak. As the "bug out" became general, Spellman
requested regimental headquarters to "hit Pike's Peak with everything we have."
A parenthetical note following this entry in the 3d Battalion journal
stated simply, "complied with."70
In any event, the Chinese
pulled back to their caves and tunnels on Pike's Peak.
In the lull that
followed, the 1st and 3d Battalions, 32d Regiment, relieved the 17th Regiment's
forces. On 22 October the 2d Battalion, 32d Regiment, under Maj. John W. Szares,
relieved the 1st Battalion on the left arm of Triangle Hill. The 3d Battalion,
commanded by Maj. Thomas W. Brown, defended the right arm.
On 23 October the action
picked up when the Chinese made another attempt in force to clear the 32d
Regiment's forces from the hill complex. Shortly after nightfall the Chinese
artillery and mortar units opened up and pounded the 32d Regiment's positions on
Triangle Hill for an hour. Then a force estimated at from three to six companies
from the CCF 45th Division
advanced from Pike's Peak on F
Company's defensive positions, using small arms, automatic weapons, machine
guns, and hand grenades as they closed in. For almost an hour an intense fire
fight went on. Elements of G Company had to move up and reinforce F Company
before the Chinese attack faltered.
Over at Jane Russell
Hill an estimated two Chinese companies had launched an attack at the same time
as the assault on the 2d Battalion. Only a slight penetration was made in the 3d
Battalion lines and this was quickly restored as reinforcements counterattacked.
As the ROK 2d Division
relieved the 7th Divsion on 25 October, the Chinese still held Pike's Peak.
Twelve days of combat had involved 8 of the division's 9 infantry battalions and cost the division
over 2,000 casualties, mostly in these 8 battalions.
Many of the lessons in Operation SHOWDOWN had been learned before in the
battles for other hills, General Smith's report on the action
revealed.71 The rehearsal of an operation over similar terrain with
all arms and services participating so that each man and each unit would know
their objectives was vitally important to the success of the operation. The
value of closing quickly with the enemy and of keeping the attack moving was
also stressed by General Smith. If the attack leaders would not allow the troops
to become pinned down, fewer casualties would result in the long run. Once the
men had won the objective, General Smith went on, they must dig in quickly and
provide adequate overhead cover for their defensive positions. The enemy's
ability to bring heavy concentrations of artillery and mortar fire quickly upon
positions newly won from him and to counterattack swiftly made rapid
organizations of the defense and the setting up of overhead cover mandatory.
To keep his troops at
the front fresh and to prevent battle losses from seriously affecting morale,
General Smith had rotated his battalions frequently during the fight for
Triangle Hill, much as General Kim had done at White Horse Mountain. He believed
that the use of fresh forces had proved effective in winning most of the hill
complex and in repulsing the enemy counterattacks. Reserve forces must be kept
close to the front in the difficult terrain of Korea, the 7th Division commander
noted, since they could not travel long distances at night, when the Chinese usually attacked, and
arrive in time to reinforce the threatened positions. Finally, leadership,
especially by officers and men known to the attacking unit, was a key factor in
fighting the troops effectively.
Operation SHOWDOWN had an ironic ending. The ROK 2d Division, which had taken over
the U.S. 7th Division's positions on 25 October, had engaged in a bitter and
frustrating fight for Sniper Ridge. Attack and counterattack had followed as the
Chinese and South Koreans had struggled for possession, but neither could win
complete control of the ridge. Thus, when the ROK 2d Division assumed
responsibility for Triangle Hill, it was still engaged on Sniper Ridge.
On 30 October three
Chinese battalions swept the ROK defenders from the crest of Hill 598 and on 1
November the enemy seized Jane Russell Hill after an attack in force. The
Chinese then beat off the ROK counterattacks until the mounting casualty lists
caused the corps commander, General Jenkins, to suspend further attacks on
Triangle Hill on 5 November.
The Sniper Ridge battle
continued until 18 November when the ROK units took part of the ridge for the
fourteenth time since the initiation Of SHOWDOWN. At this
point the Chinese pressure slackened and the probes and light attacks against
the ROK forces during the remainder of the month were repulsed.
Thus, after six weeks of
hard fighting, the UNC forces controlled a portion of Sniper Ridge and none of
Triangle Hill. The original two-battalion attack lasting five days anal costing
200 casualties had drawn in over two divisions and cost over 9,000 casualties.
Although estimates of Chinese losses ran to over 19,000 men,
the enemy had no shortage of manpower. The Chinese time and time again had shown
themselves willing to incur heavy casualties in order to hold on to key terrain
features during the past year. At Triangle Hill they gained face as their
tenacious defense reversed the offensive defeat at White Horse and forced the
U.N. Command to break off the attack.
The heavy fighting begun
in the middle of October subsided in November. As cold weather approached, the
front settled back to the previous pattern of patrolling, probes, and
small-scale attacks. Surprisingly enough,
despite the increase of activity in the combat zone during October, the
Communists actually had fewer forces on the front line than they had had in May.
(Map V) During the six-month period the Chinese reserves had been built
up and enemy armies in the areas behind the lines now contained an estimated
36,000 men each. Four additional artillery regiments
swelled the number of guns and crews available to the Communists. But on the
front there were over 80,000 less soldiers facing the UNC
forces at the end of October.' What this reduction might signify in terms of
future Communist strategy was not clear. Although no indications of a shift to
the offensive on a large-scale were evident, the enemy over-all strength had
increased by over 60,000 during the same time period.
Should it be offense or defense during the winter ahead, the enemy had the
manpower on hand.
1 Mark W. Clark, "The
Truth About Korea," Colliers, vol.
133, No. 3 (February 5, 1954), pp. 34-85
2 Hq Eighth Army, Comd
Rpt, May 52, sec. I, Narrative, p. 7.
3 Ibid., p. 44. The breakdown was as follows: Eighth Army, 229,893; U.S. Marines,
26,843; Fifth Air Force, 35,951; U.N. Forces (less
U.S. and ROK), 34,026; ROK, 866,466; total, 693,179.
4 UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, May
52, p. 13.
5 Msg, GX 5831 TAG, CG EUSAK to CG I U.S. Corps et al., 11
May 52, in Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpt, May 52, bk. 4, pt. 2, incl 11.
6 UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, May 52, p. 29.
7 Ibid., May 52, sec. I, Narrative, pp. 18-20.
8 Ibid., Apr and Jun 52, sec.
9 (1) Msg, CX 69787, CINCFE to JCS, 7
Jun 52, DA-IN 147813. (2)
Msg, JCS 911155, JCS to CINCFE, 13
10 Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpt, May 52,
sec. I, Narrative, p. 29.
11 Opnl Instr No. 58, in Hq 45th Div,
Comd Rpt, Jun 52, G-3 sec., bk. VI.
13 (1) U.S. 279th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, S-3 Jnl. (2) U.S. 180th Inf
Regt, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, pp. 9-10.
14 (1) U.S. 180th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, POR 178, 7 Jun 52. (2) 45th
Division News (13 Jun 52) , pp. 1, 4.
15 See U.S. 45th Div, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, G-3 sec.,
bk. VI, tab 11.
16 Opns Order No. 29, Plan
COUNTER (Phase II), 12 Jun 52, in U.S. 45th Div, Comd
Rpt, Jun 52, G-3 sec.,. bk.
17 245th Tank Bn, Comd Rpt, Jun 52,
18 U.S. 45th Inf Div, Comd Rpt, Jun
52, G-3 sec., POR 283, 13 Jun 52.
19 Ibid., POR's 283 and 284, 13 and 14 Jun 52.
20 Document Captured by 11th ROK
Regiment During the Action on Hill 168, in 45th Inf Div, Comd Rpt, ACofS G-2
sec., an. 2 to PIR 191, 30 Jun 52.
21 See 45th Inf Div, Comd Rpt, Jun 52,
ACofS G-2 sec., POW Interrogation Rpts, 17 Jun 52.
22 See U.S. 179th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt,
Jun 52, S-3 Jnl, 16-25 Jun 52.
23 (1) U.S. 179th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, Jnl, tab q. (2)
U.S. 45th Div, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, G-g sec., POR's
296 and 297, 26
and 27 Jun 52.
24 (1) U.S. 179th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt,
Jun 52, Jnl, tab 7. (2) U.S. 45th Div, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, G-3 sec., POR 298, Jun
25 (1) U.S. 45th Div, Comd Rpt, Jun
52, G-3 sec., POR 299, 29 Jun 52. (2) U.S. 179th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt, Jun 52,
Jnl, tab 7.
26 Msg, G 6671 KGO, CG Eighth Army to
CINCUNC, 27 Jun 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, G-3 Jnl, 29 Jun 52.
27 U.S. 45th Div, Comd Rpt, Jul 52,
G-3 sec., Jnl.
28 (1) Msg, C 69843, CINCFE to CG Eighth Army, 8 Jun
52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, an 4, pt. II, J-6, 8 Jun 52, (Q) Msg, 50431, CINCFE to CG Eighth Army, 18 Jun 5s, in UNC/FEC, Comd
Rpt, an. 4, pt. II, J-15, 18 Jun 52.
29 (1) Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, sec. I,
Narrative, p. 63. (2) 279th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, p. 23.
30 Ltr, Hq 45th Inf Div,
18 Jun 52, sub: Rest and Recuperation in Japan, in Hq 45th Inf Div, Comd Rpt,
Jun 52, G-3 sec., tab 32.
31 UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jul 52, pp. 4-5.
32 (1) Ibid., p. 5.
(2) Memo, Col J. B. Crawford, SGS, for CofS, 11 Jul 52, no sub,
UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jul 52, CinC and CofS, Supporting Docs, tab 21.
33 (1) Ltr, Van Fleet to CINCFE, 10
Jun 52, sub: Limited Objective Attacks, in FEC G-3 Completed Actions. (2) Msg,
CX 50832, Clark to Van Fleet, 25 Jun 52, DA-IN 154621.
34 Msg, C 502 18, CINCFE
to JCS, 15 Jun 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, CinC and CofS, Supporting Docs,
35 Msg, CX 7022 KGO-O, CG Eighth Army to CG I U.S. Corps et al, 18
Jul 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jul 52, CinC and CofS, Supporting Docs, tab
36 Memo, Crawford for
CofS, 19 Jul 52, no sub, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jul 52, CinC and CofS Supporting
Docs, tab 23.
Crawford for CofS , 26 Jul 52, no sub, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jul 52, CinC and
CofS, Supporting Docs, tab 26.
38 (1) U.S. 2d Div, Comd Rpt, Jul 52,
G-3 sec., Jnl. (2) 23d Inf Regt, Comd Rpt, Jul 52.
39 Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpt, Jul 52, sec. I, Narrative,
40 Ibid., p. 52
41 Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpt, Aug 52,
sec. I, Narrative, pp. 67-69.
42 Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpt, Sep 52, sec. I, Narrative, p.
43 (1) Memo, J. Weckerling, G-2, for ACofS G-3, 28 Jul 52, sub: Communist
Capabilities and Probable Courses of Action in Korea, in G-3 091 Korea, 64. (2)
JSPOG Memo, 9 Aug 52,
sub: To Obtain a Military Victory
in Korea . . . , in JSPOG Staff Study No. 410.
44 (1) U.S. I Corps, Comd Rpt, Jul 52, Narrative. (2) UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jul 52, p. 22.
45 UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt,
Jul 52, pp. 22-23.
46 Ibid., Aug 52, an. 4, G-3 sec.,
47 Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpt, Aug 52, sec. I, Narrative, p. 72.
48 Ibid., Sep 52, sec. I,
Narrative, pp. 71-72.
49 (1) Ibid., Sep 52, sec. I, Narrative, pp. 73-74. (2) Ibid., Oct 52, sec. I, Narrative, pp. 59-60.
50 Ibid., Sep 52, sec. I, Narrative, p. 71
51 The following account is based upon: (1) 65th
Inf Regt, Comd Rpt, Staff Sec Jnls and Bn Jnl's, Sep 52; (2) 3d Inf Div, Comd
Rpt, Sep 52.
52 E Company reported 33 casualties when it closed
at the assembly area.
53 65th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt, Sep 52,
54 U.S. 3d Div, Comd Rpt, Oct 52, an.
55 Unless otherwise specified, the account of the White Horse action
is based upon the following sources: (1) Hq IX U.S. Corps, Special After Action
Rpt, Hill 395 (White Horse Mountain), 6-15 Oct 52; (2) Hq IX U.S.
Corps, Comd, Rpt, Oct 52, bk. I; (3) Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpt, Oct 52, sec. I,
56 Msg, GX 30376 KGO-O, CG EUSAK to
CINCUNC, 28 Oct 52, in IX U.S. Corps, Comd Rpt, Oct 52, G-3 sec., bk. V, tab 13.
57 U.S. IX Corps, Comd Rpt, Oct 52,
bk. I, p. 21.
58 Ibid., p. 22.
59 The following account of the action at Jackson Heights is based
on: (1) 65th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt and Staff Sec Jnls, Oct 52; (2) 3d Inf Div, Comd
Rpt and Staff Sec Jnls, Oct 52.
60 Stars and Stripes named the
hill after Captain Jackson.
61 Colonel De Gavre suggested later that the presence of many
dead bodies on the hill and the lack of good NCO's to counteract the fear may
have been responsible for the "bug out." See 65th Infantry Regiment, Command
Report, October 1952.
62 This was not the end of the affair,
however, for during November and December, the only remaining officer of A
Company, twenty-nine members of F Company, and thirty-eight members of C Company
were charged and the majority were tried at general courts-martial. The officer
received a sentence of 5 years and the men tried received sentences varying from
6 months to 13 years for their conduct during the operation. 65th Inf Regt, Comd
Rpt, Nov, Dec 52.
Nov 52, an. 1. The 65th did not
return to the line until 22 December when it took over the 15th Regiment's
sector for a few days before the relief of the 3d Division by the ROK 2d
Division. In early 1953 the bulk of the Puerto Rican personnel were transferred
to other Eighth Army
units and integrated. Some 250
Puerto Ricans remained with the regiment and were integrated with the new
replacements. See 3d Infantry Division, Command Reports, November 1952-April
64 U.S. IX Corps, Comd Rpt, Nov 52, bk. I, pp. 17-19.
65 Ltr, Van Fleet to Clark, 5 Oct 52,
no sub, in FEC Gen Admin Files, CofS, 1952 Corresp.
66 Ibid. SHOWDOWN
was submitted by General Jenkins,
former Army Gg, who succeeded Lt. Gen. Willard G. Wyman as corps commander on g
67 Clark, From the Danube to the Yalu, pp. 78-79.
68 Msg, C 56547, Clark to CG Eighth Army,
8 Oct 52, in Hq Eighth Army, Gen Admin Files, Oct 52.
69 The account of the U.S. Army
participation in Operation SHOWDOWN
is based upon the following
sources: (1) 31st Inf Regt, After Action Rpt, Opn SHOWDOWN; (2) 31st
Inf Regt, Comd Rpt and Staff Sec Jnls, Oct 52; (5) 32d Inf Regt, Comd Rpt and
Staff Sec Jnls, Oct 52; (4) 17th Inf Regt, Comd Rpt and Staff Sec Jnls, Oct 52;
(5) 7th Inf Div, Comd Rpt, Oct 52.
70 7th Inf Regt, Oct 52, 3d Bn Staff
Jnl, 20 Oct 52.
71 See 7th Inf Div, Comd Rpt, Oct 52,
72 Hq Eighth Army, Comd Rpts, May and
Oct 52, sec. I, Narrative.
Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation