Col. John K. McCormick, G4; Major William H. Barker, Assistant Provost Marshal; Capt. Jasper N. Erskine, Highway Regulating Officer, X Corps; Major Harry J. Dodd, Executive Officer, 52d Transportation Truck Battalion. (Condensed from an article by Lt. John Mewha, 8th Historical Detachment, based on interviews with officers of X Corps.)
Highway transportation has always been critical in Korea. The limited road net has been broken down by 'neavy traffic, and roads through the mountains are often narrow and usable only for one-way traffic. Distances are long and turnarounds lengthy.
When the enemy attack began in May 1951, X Corps found it difficult to carry the greatly increased ammunition tonnages necessary to defend itself while maintaining supply and troop movements at the same time. The 52d Transportation Truck Battalion, which included elements of seventeen truck companies, supported X Corps. Temporary truck organizations were developed whenever it became necessary.
In mid-May the transportation officer of X Corps was directed to furnish forty trucks to assist the 3d Infantry Division's move from south of Seoul to Soksa-ri. Anticipating that the loss of forty vehicles would slow the delivery of supplies, the G4 of X Corps (Col. John K. McCormick) instructed the chiefs of X Corps' technical services to canvass their units for trucks not hauling essential cargos. The result was a collection of 3/~- and 2~-/2-ton trucks and dump trucks, lowboys and equipment trailers. These were drawn from the 4th Signal Battalion, the Ist and 2d Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, the 520th Quartermaster Battalion, the 69th Ordnance Battalion, and the 8224th Engineer Construction Group. The fify to sixty trucks thus gathered were called "the Truck Bank."
Military police check points were set up by X Corps near each ammunition point. All cmpy trucks going north, except emergency vehi-
cles, were loaded with ammunition. Each driver was given a note stating that his truck had been commandeered, and giving the amount of time it had been used. An average of twenty-five vehicles each day were pressed into service this way.
Under the direction of the 52d Truck Battalion, a separate truck group was established to haul ammunition exclusively. Many of the vehicles were taken from units of the 52d, others were borrowed from X Corps units.
A control point for ammunition trucks was established near the railhead at Wonju. To prevent confusion at the ammunition supply point, vehicles were dispatched in serials of five or ten. Normally twenty vehicles an hour entered the ammunition dump. At the control point a driver could get a meal from a 24-hour kitchen, and a service station provided second-echelon maintenance.
Once the ammunition trucks were loaded at Wonju, they drove to ASP No. 50 at Hongchon. Here the ammunition was usually transferredfrom tail gate onto tail gateto the vehicles of the using unit. For accounting and safety, it was against operating procedure for trucks to go directly from Wonju to the front lines, but it is believed that many of them did.
On the driver fell the burden of long hours of work. Normally each truck had two assigned drivers, and the shift was twelve hours. Many drivers, however, stayed at the wheel to the limits of endurance, and some drove eighteen or twenty hours daily.
Special operations required around-the-clock driving. To replace vehicles lost, a group of ordnance officers and men were flown to Pusan. They returned 104 trucks and 30 trailers from Pusan to Hongchon (332 miles) in 48 hours. Road conditions made driving slow and left little time for rest.
On another occasion, X Corps had only a few hours in which to gather three hundred trucks to make troop movements. The 52d Truck Battalion furnished 200 vehicles, and military police commandeered another 94. There was not enough time to notify the units that their vehicles had been taken, and no arrangements were made for gasoline or for feeding the drivers. The individual driver had to scrounge for his own supply. This system of obtaining transportation was used on other occasions.
Many other expedients had to be used when the demand for transportation was so great. Ordnance companies kept maintenance patrols on the road twenty-four hours a day, and light aircraft were used to spot disabled vehicles. Repair of the vehicles was accomplished on the spot, when possible, or the vehicles were returned to the shops for major repair.
Traffic control was carefully planned and supervised. In addition to
standard highway control, light aircraft were used to direct military police to traffic jams. On one occasion, the corps commander's personal helicopter was used to patrol the roads and to assist in traffic control. X Corps approached one hundred per cent utilization of its truck capacity.
Lt. Alfred J. Catania, 377th Transportation Truck Company
Late in July 19S0 a telegram cut short my leave and returned me to Fort Sill. There I found my unit, the 377th Transportation Truck Company, was on overseas alert.
Our assigned men were well trained, for we had completed an exercise only four months before. The training and capability of our replacements was still unknown. As we received new vehicles we ran them through our company motor shop, then through post ordnance, which prepared them for overseas shipment. Trailers were then loaded on and strapped to the beds of the trucks, and the trucks were loaded onto flatcars. This shipment preceded the company and was not seen again until after we arrived in Japan.
We landed at Yokohama on 28 August and were temporarily attached to Yokohama Motor Command. A few days later we received notice that some of our trucks had arrived at the port. It took some ten days to get all our vehicles since they came in several vessels and were unloaded at different piers.
While our vehicles were arriving in driblets we were warned to stand ready to load on one day's notice. This brought about confusion, as we had to requisition equipment from Yokohama Motor Command, and in most cases our own equipment arrived in time to be loaded. Inventories, overages, turn-ins, and paper work resulted.
While at Yokohama all our vehicles were put into running condition and combat-loaded. During the second week of September our personnel boarded a transport, and on about D plus 8 they were unloaded at Inchon. The next day our vehicles arrived and were put to work.
The beaches at Inchon were piled high with equipment. We hauled supplies over the causeway from Wolmi-do, from the beaches, and from shipside in the tidal basin. Our trucks operated around the clock. Each truck had two assigned drivers, and each worked a twelve-hour shift. The demand for transportation was so great that we did not have time to perform second-echelon maintenance. First-echelon maintenance
was performed at the loading or unloading points, while the drivers waited in line. The company wrecker was posted near the tidal basin where all of our trucks had to pass. It carried parts and lubricants, and had two mechanics waiting to make emergency repairs and fix flat tires.
At Inchon we joined several newly arrived truck companies to form the 52d Transportation Truck Battalion. One day in mid-October, however, our company was relieved from the tidal basin haul at 1900, and departed for Pusan at 0200 the following morning. We were loaded with troops and equipment and made the forced march of 350 miles in about 36 hours. Every vehicle made it under its own power. We ran into sporadic enemy fire north of Taegu several times, but all vehicles kept moving and sustained no damage.
At Pusan the company had time to do some needed maintenance work. We left our trucks loaded and ready for movement to the transports. But orders were changed. We had to unload our cargo, haul troops, then reload and drive to dockside. This kept us plenty busy for the five days at Pusan.
Once on board the transports we lay at anchor some nine or ten days before we steamed to Wonsan, in North Korea, where we landed on 1 November 1950. The trucks were transferred to LSTs by the ships' gear, and some were damaged, since the transfer was made in heavy seas.
Our first mission ashore was to deliver the cargo in our vehicles. This included 37 truckloads to the 121st Evacuation Hospital at Hamhung, some 75 miles northeast. When we applied for road clearance, X Corps directed us to keep the vehicles in the Wonsan area as the enemy had set up a roadblock fifteen miles north. Marines cleared the road, and the next day we drove to Hamhung. We returned the following day, and the Wonsan-Hamhung run became our regular route.
Just before midnight of 5 November, the company was ordered to furnish an officer, a driver, and a jeep to the transportation oflficer of X Corps at 0600 next morning. I received the assignment. I reported and was informed I would be the commander of a convoy assembling at 0700 to move part of the 65th Infantry from Wonsan to Yonghung, about forty miles north. I was to control forty-six vehicles assembled from various corps units. I met my vehicles and at the same time reported to the CO of the 65th Infantry. He took the vehicles, parceled them out to his battalions and companies, and I had nothing more to do than follow the convoy and return the trucks when the march was over. The convoy left Wonsan at 0930 but did not arrive at Yonghung until 1600. The movement was slow, and the convoy stopped time and again to investigate groups of civilians near the road, and occasionally to send out a patrol or engage in a small fire fight.
At Yonghung the troops were unloaded in different areas. I designated a rendezvous in Yonghung and waited for my trucks to as
Ambush of Truck Convoy (17K)
semble. The first trucks arriving at the rendezvous I moved out as a serial at 1700. It was 1800 before the rest were ready to go. The return trip should not have taken over two hours, but before I could clear the town I had to wait for a long Marine tank convoy. I was delayed over an hour and it was dark before my serial left Yonghung. My jeep was the last vehicle.
After we passed Kowon, about halfway to Wonsan, I noticed a fire up ahead. I doubled the stopped convoy and at the head of the column I found a 2-1/2-ton truck, loaded with 55-gallon drums of gasoline, on fire. The truck had been burning for some time since the drums were already beginning to explode. The flaming vehicle was in the middle of a narrow, one-lane causeway, with rice paddies on each side. My lead vehicle was halted at a fork in the road. The burning truck was on the left fork, which was the main road. I was quite sure from my previous trips rhat the right fork went through a village, bent to the left, crossed a bridge, and joined the main road about two miles away. I told the ser-
geant in the lead vehicle to reconnoiter the right fork to the main road, checking especially the capacity of the bridge. He took several men with him in his jeep, and on his return said the road was wide enough and the bridge strong enough to support a 2-1/2-ton truck.
The convoy then proceeded by the right fork, but stopped about a mile farther on. Again I doubled the column to see what was wrong. The sergeant told me things didn't look right to him. Although the civilians were under curfew, a civilian had stood by the road as he drove through the village and waved the convoy on. Farther on, seven or eight civilians were standing in the road, but scattered when they came within the headlight beams. I told the men to remount and continue on, but at that moment we were struck by small-arms fire from both sides of the road and in front. We were forced to the rear, and I instructed the men to stay on the road and fire at anyone who approached from the fields on each side of us. This was to prevent our men from firing at one another in the dark.
Making a defense with these 25 to 30 men was virtually impossible. I didn't know them, since they were not from the 377th. Some of them had no weapons. One truck mounted a caliber .50 machine gun, and I ordered the driver to return fire with it. He got into position and pulled at the operating handle, then declared that the weapon was jammed. Later, the enemy turned this gun on us, and I believe that driver just didn't know how to use his weapon. In the circumstances I could do nothing but order the men to move to the rear of the convoy. At the tail of the column I ordered the last four trailers unhitched, the trucks turned, and the men to load up and drive out. Three vehicles were turned around, loaded, and moved out. Then I discovered I was alone with the fourth truck! All the men had left in the first three.
I got into the fourth truck, started the engine, and turned it around. As I did so a North Korean ran alongside. His white clothing stood out clearly in the night. I pointed my pistol at him and fired twice. I either hit him or scared him, because he dropped back, and I drove away.
Half a mile down the road I passed two of the trucks that had preceded me. Both were in a ditch, and one was on its side. Then I came to the third truck, which was halted and blocking the road. A hail of fire began to hit my vehicle from the left and I believe a hundred men were firing their rifles from an embankment. Bullets splintered the hood and the cab of the truck, and I felt one nick my leg. I jumped from the truck on the right side and ran through the rice paddies. I put a good mile between me and the scene of the ambush, but I saw none of the men of the convoy in that distance. Then I lay low for the night.
I heard the enemy soldiers driving the vehicles during the night, and searching everywhere for our drivers. Early in the morning I heard someone walking about, and I saw he was an American. I told him to
be quiet and to join me, but he was so disgusted and tired he didn't seem to care. He said he had been captured by two North Koreans during the night, and that they had debated what to do with him. One obviously wanted to kill him, the other was for letting him go. Finally, they relieved him of his valuables, hit him over the head with his own rifle, kicked him, and let him go.
Late in the night the guerrillas burned all the vehicles, since they could not take them up into the mountains with them. During this night Kowon was recaptured, and the 65th Infantry and the 96th Field Artillery Battalion at Yonghung were both under heavy attack.
When the civilians began to come out of doors next morning I figured everything had quieted down. The enlisted man and I forced a civilian to guide us to the main road, and we started walking toward Wonsan. We hid when a jeep came along until we were sure it was carrying Americans, then we hailed it. The ride took us to X Corps headquarters, where I reported to the transportation officer, and later to G2.
I found I was not wounded in the leg as I supposed, but I had bullet holes through both trouser legs. I never learned what happened to the men of that convoy, for they came from so many different units. Those who escaped just returned "home." My jeep driver came back a day after I did, with a story that matched mine.
Two days later, the 377th moved the equipment of X Corps headquarters to Hamhung. We were billeted in that city and worked directly under the corps transportation officer until the 52d Transportation Truck Battalion and its other companies joined us. About the third week in November we were attached to the 7th Infantry Division and the company moved to Pukchong and worked directly under that division's G4.
We moved rations, ammunition, and gasoline for the 7th Division over one of the highest and most difficult mountain ranges in Korea. The main supply road was only one lane wide over a mountain that was 11 miles uphill and 9 miles downhill (going north). MPs with telephones and radios were posted on each side of the mountain and controlled the traffic. Convoys moved as quickly as they were loaded, and the south-bound trip usually carried troops, prisoners, or empty gasoline drums. A temperature of 10 below zero in the mountains did not contribute to the comfort of any trip.
On 27 November I was instructed to take my truck platoon to X Corps headquarters at Hamhung. There I was to meet a 7th Division liaison officer and receive further instructions. In Hamhung the liaison officer told me I was to shuttle parts of two infantry regiments to the Changjin Reservoir area.
On 28 November I loaded a reinforced infantry company of 325 men and headed for a small town 1S or 20 miles north of Hamhung. I
unloaded the troops and went back for a second shuttle. I was met by a messenger who informed me I was to take the same reinforced company and move it to its regimental CP on the highway east of Changjin Reservoir. The instructions were rather vague as to the CP's location, but I returned and remounted the troops.
About five miles farther north, MPs stopped the convoy and delayed it for about two hours while engineers cleared the road ahead of a landslide.
While we were waiting on the road some North Korean soldiers were captured. They were walking down the road in civilian clothes but our KATUSA (1) troops spotted them. We inquired why our men were so certain, and they replied that the "civilians" had their hair cutstrictly a military operation in Korea. Interrogated, the prisoners admitted their military identities; one claimed he was from a North Korean regiment, the other said he was attached to a Chinese unit.
At 2100 we approached Koto-ri and were halted by U.S. marines. We were told the enemy had a roadblock just a thousand yards farther up the road. Our convoy pulled into the Marine perimeter for the night, and the following morning Col. Lewis B. Puller, USMC, formed all troops in the vicinity into a task force. This included a Marine company, our reinforced company, and a company of British Royal Marine Corps commandos. An artillery barrage began, and then U.S. Marine jet fighters plastered the hills on both sides of the road. I watched the show as I waited at the U.S. Marine command post.
At about 1400 I was ordered to a rendezvous point, but on arriving there found the infantry were still fighting. I stopped the convoy a few hundred yards behind the infantry and went forward on foot to the company commander. I located him in his gully CP and told him I had instructions to carry him up the road. He replied that he was still under fire and didn't see how he could possibly load up or continue through. He dispatched a messenger to inform Colonel Puller of the situation. About two hours later a message came back, again ordering the infantry to load up and proceed.
As a result of loading under fire, the infantry got all mixed up and lost its tactical unity. Other convoys began moving at the same time, and we were soon mixed with Marine and Army trucks. The British commandos were riding with our marines.
The trucks maintained a 50-to-100-yard interval. There were frequent unexplained halts, and by dark my vehicle had made only three miles. I walked forward during a halt to see the cause of the delay. At this point the road was running through a valley some 500 or 600 yards wide, flanked by sharp-rising mountains. To the right of the road was a narrow-gauge railroad in the scant fifty yards between us and the slope.
1 Korean Augmentation to the United States Army.
To the left it was almost five hundred yards to the incline, but a fastflowing mountain stream divided the distance. It was very dark except for the period when the moon was directly over the valley.
Map of Positions Near Koto-ri (27K)
When I was some four hundred yards ahead of my vehicle, I saw five or six Chinese soldiers walking along the railroad track to our right. It was just light enough to identify their quilted uniforms. I warned a nearby truckload of infantrymen and they began searching the area with rifle fire. I pitched a grenade in the direction where I had last seen the enemy. This acted as a signal, and the Chinese began firing on us from the railroad and up on the mountainside to our rightall the way up and down the column. Rifles, machine guns, grenades and mortars, all east of the road, began striking the vehicles and men.
Our trucks were widely separated and there was no great concentration of men at any point. Near me were only a couple of my own men and some infantrymen. Throughout the night I did not see any of the infantry officers, but our convoy was spread over three or four miles, and they could have been anywhere in the column. Because of the confusion in loading, not even squads were together. I took command of everyone near me and directed the men to fall behind the trucks into the field west of the road. There was little cover, however, and it was impossible to dig into the frozen ground.
Casualties were mounting, and I was wounded twice. I was hit once in the back by a shell fragment, and in the shoulder by a caliber .45 slug that broke my collar bone and lodged in my neck. The pain was great. I thought I'd been hit in the neck, and an infantryman even bandaged me there. He also gave me a shot of morphine to ease the pain. I had my head propped up on my helmet and continued to give what little control was possible in the situation.
One of my men told me a truck in the middle of the valley floor had a caliber .30 machine gun strapped to its fender and a box of ammunition under the seat. After the attack had begun the driver had turned this vehicle around and had tried to make a break for it down the
middle of the field, but had abandoned the attempt. As luck would have it, the truck was now in clear moonlight, in the direct line of fire, and the machine gun was strapped to the front fender on the side nearest the enemy. I called for volunteers, fearing that if we didn't get the gun the enemy would. None of the infantrymen would go, but one of my truck drivers volunteered and made the trip. He reached the truck, crawled onto the near fender and reached over the hood to pull the machine gun from its position. He could not get the tripod. Then he got the box of ammunition from under the driver's seat and returned. Throughout the night he fired the machine gun from the hip, and it was an important weapon in our defense. When he ran out of ammunition he threw the gun in a deep hole in the stream. This soldier was later awarded the Silver Star.
With our heavy casualties, and a feeling the enemy was coming in on our flanks, I decided to fall back to the stream at about 0200. At 0430 it became clear we could not remain there either. I told the men to split up, cross the stream, and head for the mountain behind. The numbing effect of the cold seemed to make it less effort just to remain where they were, and I finally decided to move on with just one of my truckers. I had to be helped to get my head up, but then I could walk. As the infantry saw me go they slowly moved out, waded the stream, and started up the hill.
As I got farther up the hill it developed that my own party would be three enlisted men and myself. One of the truckers and the infantryman with us were wounded. Only one driver was unhurt. He helped us along. After all that had gone on during the night, the infantryman still clutched a blanket, and carried it with him.
When we reached the hilltop it began to get light. I knew our feet would freeze if we did not give them attention since we had gotten them wet in wading the stream. I always carried a knife that was fashioned from an old, cut-down cavalry saber, and we used this to cut the frozen laces of our boots. I hoped to take out the heavy, inner-liner socks and warm them next to my body, but they were so frozen to the boots that I could not get them out. I threw away both socks and shoes. I used my pile-liner cap in place of one shoe and tied strips of blanket around the other foot. The men did the same.
Near daylight we became aware of another party near at hand. We were scared, but no worse than the three marines who finally challenged us. We had been within fifty yards of one another for some time without knowing it. I still laugh at the marine challenging us with his carbine. It had gotten wet when he crossed the stream and the bolt was a solid block of ice. He could no more have shot me than he could have shot his dear old grandmother back in the States.
None of the marines was wounded, so I asked them to go back the
three miles to the Marine perimeter and see if they could get us some help. They agreed, but after a two-hour wait we became apprehensive. Finally, our small party began to move painfully back toward the Marine position. Soon it became apparent we would have to return to the road to make the journey. We did so and marched straight down the road to Koto-ri. It was an unusual journey, for we knew the Chinese were all about us and watching us walk. From near us they fired at a helicopter that flew up the canyon. Yet they let us hobble past.
When we reached the Marine perimeter at Koto-ri, I found that the town was surrounded. With the other wounded I was placed on a stretcher in a tent, and stayed there for three days. During the first two days rations were short and I got only one can of C rations and a couple of cups of fruit juice. Food didn't bother me much at that point, however. On the third day an airstrip was opened and the food became much better. Light planes began to fly out the more seriously wounded, and I went out by that method. From Koto-ri I flew to Hamhung, then was loaded on a C-54 for Japan. From Japan I was flown to the United States.
November 1950 was a pretty rough month on the 377th. At the end of that period we had only 21 vehicles left of our original 48. It was pretty tough on my platoons, too. In the ambush above Koto-ri, 18 of my 30 men became casualties: 3 killed, 7 wounded, 8 missing. I noticed 4 of the missing on the POW lists released by the Chinese. They were carried as "members of the 7th Infantry Division."
Capt. Robert J. Gilroy, 3d Transportation Amphibian Truck Company
The 74th Transportation Truck Company was based on Yokohama Motor Command. On 7 July 1950 the unit was inactivated and reactivated as the 8062d Transportation Amphibian Truck Company (Provisional). There had been only 3 officers and 94 enlisted men in the 74th, and these became the nucleus of the amphibian outfit.
Immediately upon activation, the commanding officer (Capt. Robert J. Gilroy) requested additional personnel and equipment, based on the new T/O&E. The company received 100 enlisted men from commands throughout Japan, and 2 additional officers. Even so, there was only one person in the entire companyan enlisted manwho had been in an amphibian truck company before. The company did not receive any mechanics experienced in repairing amphibian trucks (DUKWs), nor
did it receive additional drivers to handle the 71 vehicles the company received instead of its authorized 38.
Almost as soon as the DUKWs were issued, Captain Gilroy was informed that his company was to participate in the assault landings at Pohang-dong. The drivers were given only a short series of training talks before they were assigned the mission of loading the three field artillery battalions of the 1st Cavalry Division.
On 18 July 19S0 the 8062d landed at Pohang-dongcarrying the three battalions of 105-mm howitzers, unloading them, and towing them behind the DUKWs into their battery positions. During the next twentyfour hours the company moved from ship to shore thirty thousand rounds of 105-mm ammunition, and untotaled amounts of rocket and small-arms ammunition.
On 1 August 1950 the company was redesignated the 3d Transportation Amphibian Truck Company, operating under T/O&E 55-37, augmented by one operating platoon. This called for 50 amphibian trucks, but the company continued to operate the 71 DUKWs originally assigned, still with the same number of personnel.
During 1-26 August we off-loaded approximately 26,500 tons of ammunition from nine vessels at Suyong. To handle this operation the company found it necessary to set up, staff, supervise, and operate traffic control systems used by the truck companies assisting us; unloading points in the ammunition dump, traffic nets and systems; and complete organization and control of the transfer points. Cranes were not available at the transfer points, and the A-frames organic to the DUKW company were used instead.
Concurrent with the operations at Suyong, the company sent detachments on various tactical missions. Five are of especial importance.
(1) On 8 August 1950 a detachment commanded by Sgt. Lawrence Riley was sent to operate with the 1st Marine Brigade at Masan. This detachment unloaded supplies from LSTs, then evacuated wounded from Masan under fire.
(2) On 11 August 1950 a detachment commanded by Sgt. James M. Simms was placed on detached service with KMAG for operations at Yongdok. Here the men unloaded badly needed ammunition from LSTs, then evacuated wounded to a hospital ship. All this was done under heavy fire.
(3) On 16 August 1950 another detachment under Sergeant Riley joined KMAG to unload urgently needed supplies from an LST into Pohang-dong. This mission was completed under fire while the North Koreans were attacking the town. Later these men assisted in the evacuation of the town.
(4) On 1 September 1950 a detachment under Sgt. Clifton B. Nelson was placed on detached service with the 9th Infantry to carry sup-
plies across the Naktong River. Before this could be done, attacking North Korean forces made a withdrawal necessary. This detachment helped to evacuate friendly troops under fire.
(5) On 4 September 1950 a detachment commanded by Lt. Jack W. Ley departed on LSTs for the vicinity of Pohang-dong. There the LSTs lay off shore while Lieutenant Ley's detachment evacuated 750 wounded South Korean soldiers from near the battle lines.
On 19 September 1950 two platoons were ordered to the 2d Infantry Division to assist the assault crossing of the Naktong River. One platoon, commanded by Lt. John F. Williams, reported to the 23d Infantry. This platoon made a successful crossing. In the forty hours following H-hour, it carried the 23d Infantry's three battalions and their supplies across the river. During this same period, by lashing a section of ponton bridge between two DUKWs, the platoon ferried 138 tanks across the river. The platoon remained at the site for the next eight days to operate a ferry and to assist the engineers in constructing a bridge.
A second platoon, under Lt. Claude Payne, came under exceedingly heavy fire. The crossing was made and ferry service established, but at a cost of 2 killed, 4 wounded, and 10 DUKWs damaged and sunk by enemy mortar and small-arms fire. All but one of these amphibian vehicles were salvaged and returned to service. Lieutenant Payne's operation was carried out under extremely adverse conditions. Mud the DUKW's worst enemylined both river banks. Enemy fire, ground haze, and lack of information hindered the mission.
On 8 October 1950 an advance party and an operating platoon, all commanded by Lt. Carl E. Glenn, moved into Inchon and set up a bivouac at Wolmi-do. There the 3d TAT Company commenced operations. As there was no site suitable for DUKW operations, the 50th Engineer Port Construction Company was called to blast entry and exit points from almost-solid rock at the shore line.
On 18 October 1950 the entire company was engaged in a sustained cargo haul from ship to a rail transfer point. As the operation continued, wear and tear began to tell on the vehicles. In one period of twenty-four hours, three DUKWs sank as a result of rusted-out hulls. Cpl. Elmo Anderson was awarded the Soldier's Medal for saving the life of a South Korean laborer when the DUKW in which they were riding sank. Using old, rebuilt vehicles, battling a 30-foot, 5-1/2-knot tide, and making extremely long water hauls, the company achieved a splendid mark in tonnage hauled.
On 4 January 1951 a platoon commanded by Lt. Charles A. Boughton was dispatched with elements of the 558th TAT Company to the Han River to assist in the withdrawal of friendly troops from the far shore. That same day, the rest of the company began to evacuate Wohni-do.
When about half of its equipment had been loaded, the company was ordered to evacuate on any ship available because of the nearness of hostile forces. The personnel and equipment were loaded aboard three different vessels. Six DUKWs that had been condemned by the Ordnance Corps were stripped of all usable parts and then sunk in Inchon harbor at 0200 hours, 5 January. The ships sailed at about 0400.
The main body of the 3d TAT Company arrived in Yokohama on 9 January 1951 and began reorganization. New equipment, including fifty new DUKWs, was received. The officer in charge of the rebuilding section of Fuchu Ordnance Center was amazed when he learned of the operation of the old vehicles formerly assigned to the company. He said that at the time those vehicles were rebuilt he had felt it would not be feasible to employ them for any purpose except training.
Capt. Meade D. Wildrick, 8010th Army Unit, Transportation Military Railway Service
I arrived in Korea on 7 July 19S0 in a detachment from the 8010th Army Unit, Transportation Military Railway Service. Our force consisted of 19 officers and 90 enlisted men. These were not enough to have taken over the Korean railroadseven had we wanted to, or had had the authority. Instead, our group was split into ten traffic-regulating teams. Three of these remained in Pusan, two went to Taegu, and one each went to Taejon, Yongchon, Kumchon, and Kyongju.
How well we kept things moving can be seen from our record of those early days. We were told by the U.S. military advisory group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG) and the officials of the Korean National Railroads that we would set a record if we moved more than 12 trains a day north from Pusan. Actually, we soon dispatched 24 trains daily, most of them double-headers pulling 30 cars. The trains going over the east coast single-track line could not take 30 cars, however, since the sidings were not long enough. The Koreans ran the trains; we gave the directions.
As soon as our army came to Korea we realized the importance of the railroads. Because of the long distances and the very poor roads, everyone moving in Korea wanted to go by rail. Pusan Base Section ruled that rail movement was possible only for vehicles over two and one half tons that were going farther than Taegu. Everything lighter, or going shorter distances, had to be driven.
Not long after I arrived in Korea I was assigned to establish a railhead at Masanwith only Sergeant Dennison as my assistant. Dennison was a real help, for he knew railroading and from a previous tour in Korea he could speak the language. Fortunately, the assistant stationmaster spoke English, and so did one of the switchmen.
Masan is about thirty-five miles west of Pusan, and its marshaling yard contained only eight tracks. We had a problem keeping the yard open to receive supplies for the 24th Infantry Division while its withdrawals kept forcing equipment back into our yard. Communications were so limited that we had little opportunity to plan our operations. We received advance notice whenever a train was coming from Pusan, but those from Taegu just blew their whistles as the engines entered the yards. We had to post an officer at the Samnangjin junction to halt trains and call ahead to determine whether they should be allowed to enter Masan.
The 24th Division wished to leave much of its equipment on freight cars, particularly its heavy engineer equipment. I had to explain to the division's officers that the utter lack of yard space prevented holding cars for storage purposes. The division assigned a liaison officer to work with me, and that helped. He told me where the division wanted cars spotted, and I took over from there.
In July 1950 the railroads became congested because too many persons were giving directions in Pusan. Pusan Base Section was put together hurriedly, and it did a remarkable job. However, there were a few extraand I believe unassignedcolonels in the headquarters. They acted as expediters, and would come to dockside or to the marshaling yards and take over operations from the regularly assigned lieutenants and captains. Each had a pet mission, it seemed. They were always saying, "The men need ammunition forward," or some similar statement. Other supplies would be shunted aside and priority in unloading ships and in rail movement would be assigned. Taegu was being swamped with supplies being evacuated, and with others sent forward by the eager colonels of Pusan. The situation eventually reached the point where the port transportation officer complained to the base section commander.
A control system was established to determine daily how much tonnage could be moved to a given destination. A canvass was then made of the technical services. A train was made up to fit the requirements, and clearance was necessary before the train moved. It was not a perfect system, but it took a lot of the "hurry up and wait" out of the situation.
Capt. B. C. Mossman, 6th Historical Detachment. (Condensed from an article based on interviews with the following personnel of the 3d Transportation Military Railway Service: Lt. Col. Jesse M. McClellan, Commanding Officer; Lt. Col. Howard W. Martens, Assistant General Manager, Engineer; Lt. Col. Frank H. Drake, AGM, Communications; Lt. Col. Lawrence R. Anderson, Deputy AGM, Engineer; Lt. Col. Clarence E. Page, AGM, Supply; MSgt. Jack R. Spillers, Chief Clerk.)
Railroad activities in the Korean conflict have been vital to the movement of troops, equipment, and supplies. The military railway personnel have been faced constantly with problems of reconstruction, operation, maintenance, destruction, and then, again, reconstruction of the rail lines, bridges, stations, and communications facilities. All these have had to be handled along with the forward and rearward movement of supply trains as the tactical situation changed.
During the first several months, as the United Nations troops were withdrawing to the Naktong perimeter, there were few technical problems. This was a period in which traffic control and the train movements were the major considerations. When the September drive began, however, the railroads had to contend with destroyed water pumps, bridges, stations and tracks, and communications.
The locomotives of the Korean National Railroads were all steamoperated and required large amounts of water. Pumps were in poor condition originally, but in the recaptured territory they were broken or had no power. The first pumps obtained from the Corps of Engineers had a capacity of only 1C6 gallons per minute. Later, 480-gallon pumps were installed and found satisfactory. To provide electricity for shops, roundhouses and pumping stations, 100-kilowatt generators were installed.
Communications were also a problem. From Sindong to Seoul, communications lines were 75 per cent destroyed; from Seoul to Kaesong, 100 per cent; from Kaesong to Pyongyang, 25 per cent. U.S. signal troops and supplies were not available for repair of the lines. Until December 1950 only Korean communications men could be used, and their work was unsatisfactory.
There was no copper wire for railroad communications lines, and field wire was used in emergency circuits. These circuits would function only for a day or two. Then a second expedient was attempted SCR-399 radios placed at each main station between Taegu and Seoul. This, too, was unsatisfactory.
By late November the telephone line between Sindong and Seoul had been pieced together and was working after a fashion. Early in December a good line was established from Kaesong to Pyongyang, but it was mid-December before the line between Seoul and Kaesong was functioning properly. The circuits between Pyongyang and Sinanju never operated.
The greatest help to the railway communications system was the Mukden cable circuits, provided by Eighth Army in late November and early December. Circuits to Pusan, Taegu, Taejon, Chonan, and Pyongyang were assigned directly to the 3d TMRS switchboard.
During the withdrawal of November-January there was no difliculty with communications. In addition to the Mukden cable circuits, the 3d TMRS now had good wayside communications from Pyongyang to Seoul.
As the troops moved north after the breakout from the Pusan perimeter, the 3d TMRS and KNR personnel repaired tracks and bridges. Such repairs made heavy demands on the engineers for timbers and tools. If the engineers had these, the 3d TMRS got them.
U.S. engineers repaired the Naktong River bridge at Waegwan, the Han River shoo-fly bridge (expedient railroad structure) at Seoul, the Imjin River shoo-fly bridge, and the high-level bridge at Hanpo-ri. Except for these, Korean bridge and track gangs repaired the rail lines during the advance. They opened the lines rapidly by using sandbags, timber trestling, and rail stringers as expedients. The Korean gangs could repair as much in three or four days as the U.S. engineers in ten. However, it was somewhat diflicult to get the lightly clad Korean gangs to work during cold weather.
During the fall of 1950 the KNR had money to make repairs. However, the scale of reconstruction was so vast that in December the money ran out. It was then necessary for the United States to pay all labor, new construction, and repair charges.
By late November continuous operation as far North as the Taedong station was made possible by the completion of the bridge at Hanpo-ri over the Yesong River. On 1 December 1950 the railroad was in operation as far north as Sinanju, but there was no railroad bridge crossing the Taedong River at Pyongyang. Both bridges across the Taedong had been blown and it was necessary to unload the cars at the Taedong station, load the supplies on trucks which crossed a ponton bridge, and then reload trains going north. At the time of the Chinese Communist offensive, thc Korean railroads were carrying four thousand tons daily into Taedong.
When the general withdrawal started, the technical services hurriedly evacuated large quantities of critical materiel. However, certain supplies remained in the north and others were moved northward to
meet requirements. Empty cars were sent into Taedong for south-bound loading.
Successive railheads were set up at points where the division could draw POL, rations, and ammunition. As one railhead was closed, another was opened farther south. This went on for several weeks, all the way south through Chonan.
The locomotives and rolling stock north of the unbridged Taedong River were destroyed because they could not be evacuated. South of Pyongyang, every effort was made to save as much as possible. Rail yards were stripped. Inoperative locomotives were destroyed. Bridges, switches, control towers, and other equipment were dynamited.
A typical closing of the rail line was the operation at Yongdungpo. On 4 January, 23 trains (462 cars) moved south-bound between 0001 and 2030 hours. One of the last trains contained machinery and equipment from the KNR shops and yards. The movement control personnel rode the last train, while the engineer and transportation representatives who demolished the yards withdrew by jeep. By 0200, 5 January, Yongdungpo was cleared, and trains were moving south on both tracks of the main line.
Similar operations took place at Ascom City and Inchon. Heavy traffic moved out by rail over the main line, but much was moved by rail to Inchon and placed on ships. Rail yards at these two cities were blown on the night of 4 January; the railroaders, including the KNR employees, were moved to Pusan by water. Only the last two switch engines working at the docks were destroyed.
During the withdrawal, thousands of Korean refugees streamed south. Railroad yards became so crowded that the refugees had to be driven away before the trains could be made up. This was particularly true at Seoul and Yongdungpo. All south-bound trains carried refugees as long as one more could hang on.
Screening points for the north-bound cars were set up along the main line. Items not needed, or intended for units that had moved, were cut out. But even with this system, the consignee unit was often gone when a car arrived at its destination. If possible, a re-routing or reconsignment was made.
The urgency of the tactical situation brought much disorganized loading. Some cars were not marked, others were marked inadequately, and on some the marks were obliterated. The railroads moved all cars. Screening was carried out along the line, but it allowed many unmarked cars to be brought all the way to the Pusan area.
Early in January, 20 to 30 trains were coming into Pusan area daily. The rail lines could not handle this volume. About 50 per cent of the cars arriving were unmarked. Screening teams, which opened the cars,
often found items for three or four different services loaded into one car. It took months to clear the Pusan yards of the retrograde tonnage.
The men of the Korean National Railroads showed great loyalty and courage during the withdrawal. In several instances train and engine crews moved their trains from a city as the infantry withdrew. At Sojong-ni the infantry had taken up positions south of the town while the KNR crews were still making up the last train.
Capt. Max N. Brown, 714th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion
An American can teach a Korean to run a railroad by our standards, but it takes patience. There are many things we can do in fifteen minutes that take Koreans two hours. This wouldn't make much difference if combat didn't make all operations urgent. But when you realize that the Korean railroads moved approximately 95 per cent of all tonnage to the front, you know the Koreans (and the Americans who assisted them) gave a pretty fair account of themselves.
I commanded Company C, 714th (later 724th) Transportation Railway Operating Battalion. Company C is the operating companyit furnishes the men who run the trains. In Korea we had to tailor our operations to the situation, and many changes were made.
The Koreans provided full crews for their trains, and their hands were on the throttles. In late 1951 we began to bring some diesel engines into Korea, and we placed our own men in the cabs of theseplus a Korean pilot engineer.
Except for this late development, it would appear that we had no job. This was not true. We provided about a hundred conductors. The Korean conductor on each train was in command and, in a sense, our man was an advisor. But on one thing our conductor had absolute control: dropping cars. To prevent wholesale pilferage we insisted that no car could be cut out of a train at a way station unless our conductor approved. He had to check each claim of a hotbox or other failure.
Beginning at Pusan, the 714th Battalion operated beyond Wonju on the eastern railroad and to Tacjon on the double-track main line. Normally, an operating battalion controls 90 to 125 miles of track, but we covered 500 to 600 miles. In this situation Company C was assigned 400 of the 511 men in our battalion, even though the T/O&E gave us
only 289. To get the conductors we needed for our operation we used our unassigned steam engineers and gave others on-the-job training.
The shortage of freight cars placed a severe strain on the railroad system. We had approximately 7,000 cars, but 500 of these were in very bad shape. Estimating a seven-day turnaround between Pusan and the front, we figured 8,500 cars were the minimum to handle the load. We received a one-day advance notice of our requirements, and that kept us jumping to have cars on hand. More than once the cars were not in our yards and we could not meet the demand.
The shortage of cars and their constant use led to several problems. We could not take cars out of circulation to repair them as often as we should have. Also, we could not allow cars to remain on the sidings something that had to be drilled into commanders in the forward areas.
Looking back at our operations in Korea, I believe our biggest problem was keeping the tracks open. We had an unbelievable number of derailmentsI recall six in one dayand we had only one car with a hook on it. The derailments were caused most frequently by the worn-out equipment, but sabotage did occur. We were fortunate in having a group of experienced Koreans clearing the tracks. I marvelled at the ingenuity of the Koreans as they put freight cars back onto the rails with little or no equipment. Everything considered, the Korean railroad personnel have done extremely well.
Capt. James B. Reed, Headquarters, X Corps
I landed at Inchon with the 7th Infantry Division. At the time I was doing a two-year tour with a combat arm. In October 1950 I reverted to the Transportation Corps, and was assigned to X Corps headquarters. When I was asked if I knew anything about air-terminal operations, I replied, "No." It made no difference.
I was ordered to K-27 Airstrip at Yonpo, several miles south of Hungnam. The Army personnel at the field consisted of one second lieutenant (myself) and an enlisted man. Soon we were assigned a jeep, a trailer, and a driver, and later we were augmented by a truck platoon. After several weeks I was replaced for several days by a captain; then I returned to K-27 and again ran the operation.
My mission at K-27 was to document Army cargo and passengers. The combat-cargo officer was glad to have us because the Air Force was not equipped to handle the job. We received a great deal of cooperation and good accommodations.
It was my duty to see that Army passengers were received at the terminal and given transportation to headquarters, or that they were placed on a plane. We gave maximum assistance. Then we checked passenger manifests to see that the lists were correct.
Medical evacuees were handled differently. Their flight was arranged between the surgeon of X Corps and the Air Force base surgeon. The wounded were moved from ambulances to planes, and the Air Force nurses and specialists took over from our medics. I received an extract of the manifest, however, so I could count the evacuees as passengers through the port.
The cargo operation was different. As soon as a plane arrived, an Air Force cargo checker went over the manifest to see what was aboard. The allocation number on each crate showed the service to which it belonged and its general contents. A platoon of marines stationed on the field unloaded the cargo from the planes into our trucks, and the checker indicated the proper section of the in-transit storage area to which each item should go.
We rarely knew in advance what was coming, but sometimes we were told to be on the lookout for a particular item. A small shipment might have the address stenciled on the box. In such cases we quickly notified the consignee, but most shipments did not list the name of the consignee. Every day we reported what was in the in-transit storage area and the consignment number to G4 of X Corps. At corps it was a matter of matching the requests with the receipts. This was done rather haphazardly at first and we had some errors. Once an American hospital requested a shipment, and a ROK hospital made a similar request at the same time. The ROKs inquired and we surrendered a medical shipment to them. We found later that they got the shipment due the American hospital. Many of the supplies were now consumed, and it was necessary to reorder for the U.S. group. It was not always easy to unscramble the shipments, but in time the operation worked more smoothly.
The picture changed greatly during the evacuation of Hungnam. Instead of documenting cargos that arrived, we just loaded and moved cargo and passengers as fast as we could outload them. We forgot about safety limits and carried maximum loads. Still, in the midst of the confusion and evacuation, the Air Force did a peculiar thing. While we were trying to get rid of supplies, planes coming from rear areas brought us drums of gasoline we did not want. It took a lot of time to unload those 55-gallon drums, and then we had to haul the gasoline to Hungnam to get it evacuated. We got the Air Force to stop once, but then the shipments began again. Don't ask me what it was all about. I never figured it out.
Neither the Air Force nor the Army had sufficient personnel at K-27 to carry out terminal operations as completely or efficiently as in
Pusan. There the Transportation Corps loaded and unloaded the planes and controlled the ground operation completely.
Major Lawrence Dobson, Observer for The Quartermaster General. (Excerpt from an oral report of 25 April 1951.)
All food going into Korea had to pass through the port of Pusan. I was utterly amazed when I visited the port on the first of March, for I saw an operation that, had anyone told me existed, I would have said, "No, they can't do it."
Grgo ships were block-loaded; in other words, similar components were segregated within the ship. But they were not being unloaded that way. The stevedores were Koreans, and with no supervision in the holds, everything was thrown into the cargo net. The loaded nets were not lowered, but were dropped. The cases of food were picked up, carried over, and thrown into piles, and segregated later.
Every time a case was broken, something was stolen. When they did not break a case open, the Koreans had small knives with which they were very adept. They cut the cases openespecially the post exchange packs. It was estimated that we were taking a 10 per cent complete loss on all subsistence items passing through the port. My estimate was that 90 per cent of the cases had some damage. This might be only a dented can, but we were still absorbing a loss before it came into the hands of the quartermaster.
I discussed the situation with the commanding officer of the 55th Quartermaster Depot (Col. Louis E. Cotulla). He said he was aware of the situation but had done everything he could with the port command. I later discussed it with the Eighth Army quartermaster (Col. James M. Lamont), and wanted to talk to G4. I was told, however, that there was a change in command coming into Pusan and that the new CG had previously commanded the New York Port of Embarkation. He knew how to unload ships, and he appreciated the cost of supplies.
I went back to Pusan on 30 March and was as astonished as on the first trip. I will not say the condition had been completely corrected, but it had improved so much that the loss was cut to normal.
Now, how did the port situation affect our rations? The 55th Depot would requisition two million balanced B rations. They would arrive by ship, and then the damage would take place. Of course, the damage was not proportionate throughout. Instead of two million balanced ra-
tions, it might be that only a million and a half balanced rations and a half million unbalanced rations were received.
I said that at the time of my second visit that handling was very good. It was, with two exceptions. Some ready-to-use dough mixture, procured in 1947, was packaged in corrugated boxes, and these were falling to pieces. The second exception, hams and poultry, are packed in wire-bound boxes. If the rope of the cargo net hits the space between two hams, the box is immediately crushed and stacking is then difficult. But worse than that, the contents are stolen. I feel we should discontinue the use of wire-bound boxes, unless we are packing something solid.
Not all of our losses occur in Pusan. Between Pusan and the forward elements the loss was near 10 to 15 per cent until about the first of January. Then corrective action was taken. These corrections were minor, but they reduced the loss.
One trick is to use a heavy wire to close the boxcar door, cutting it off short so that pliers are required to open it. Better than anything else, the quartermaster stopped marking the contents on the outside of the car.
There is still a loss in the supply dumps because we have to employ Korean labor, but the loss is greatly reduced. I feel now that the over-all loss from Japan to the forward element does not exceed 10 per cent.
Page updated 30 May 2001
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