Lt.Col. William Luk, Provost Marshal, 24th Infantry Division. (Interview by Major Robert H. Fisher.)
In the late spring of 1951 the 24th Infantry Division had joined the 7th Infantry Division at Chunchon after a twenty-mile plunge into enemy territory in a double envelopment. Thousands of Chinese Communist troops and Korean noncombatants were trapped!
The day had been heavy with rain and I was wrestling my quarter ton through the gumbo when the commander of the 24th Division (Maj.Gen. Blackshear M. Bryan) flagged me down. I was wet and tired as I sloshed through the mud to the general's jeep. The Old Man was serious.
"I want these people cleared from the division area," he said, pointing to the struggling humanity moving by, "and I believe your military police can spark the effort."
The refugees were not as numerous as they had been during the big buyout of December 1950; nevertheless, their presence created serious problems. The retreating enemy invariably left line-crossers to foment unrest among Korean noncombatants and to gain information. It was next to impossible to tell the difference between line-crossers and friendly noncombatants. The only answer was to round them all up and remove the whole mass from the battle area. The refugees were also a serious traffic obstacle on our newly won but inadequate road net. I knew from previous experience that the presence of noncombatants in a division's area caused a sharp increase in pilferage, assaults, and other crimes. As General Bryan's provost marshal I shared his concern.
The order "Clear them out!" was flashed to the CP of the 24th Division's military police company, and the roundup began. As I drove along the overtaxed main supply road I saw military policemen accumulating groups of white-garbed Koreans at check points, traffic-control posts, and defiles. Once their motion was halted, these Orientals assumed their normal resting positiona docile squat. They stayed at the tempo-
rary collecting points until empty supply trucks could be halted and used for rapid evacuation. As the day wore on, motorized military police patrols directed an increasing number of persons into the temporary collecting points, and the road leading to the division's refugee collecting point, twenty miles to the rear, filled with trucks.
At the division's refugee collecting point I saw our civil assistance officer (Colonel Hanson) busily supervising the screening of the refugees. Those who were in obvious need were given treatment by Korean medical personnel. The Korean National Police maintained order and Korean laborers were preparing steaming kettles of rice so that refugees could be fed before further evacuation.
As I retraced my route toward the main line of resistance, I saw all the military policemen who could be spared from other duties fanning out into villages along the road to evacuate those Koreans who were not on the move but whose presence in a house made it a likely refuge for the line-crosser. It was during this phase that the big roundup slowed its pace.
The removal of thousands of reluctant refugees and noncombatants from their villages and farms in the division's two hundred square miles of mountainous terrain was a task that could not be performed overnight, nor was it a job that could be done by the military police alone. The commander of the 24th MP Company (Major Carl Clark) reported that his men had just scratched the surface, and he estimated that even an around-the-clock operation would keep his company busy for weeks. As I looked over Clark's shoulder at the two gaunt refugees in the back seat of his jeep, I knew that everyone was in on the act, although this operation was just one of our many jobs. We needed help.
In my report at the briefing next morning, I told of our progress and asked for additional help. Our G2 (Colonel Cates) and Colonel Hanson, who had come up from his collecting point, volunteered their support. Messages were relayed to all division units, and the big roundup moved into high gear.
Infantry units on the MLR took into custody all refugees in their area and notified the military police. Artillerymen engaged in surveying gun positions sighted refugees in their transits and sent parties to round them up. Trucks from the MP company, augmented by empty supply trucks from units of the division, moved rapidly to evacuate the refugees from combat units to collecting points. Men of the 24th Reconnaissance Company, although tired from their recent combat mission, screened remote mountain villages and valleys, adding their take to the steadily mounting stream.
As the days passed, the combined efforts of all units of the division turned the tide, and the flow of refugees was reduced to a trickle. Finally, the number of refugees sighted and taken into custody became
so small that military police handled the chore. However, it was a constant duty. Military police motor patrols and MP officers inspecting traffic posts were often seen to dismount to investigate signs of life observed near the MSR. Usually a refugee or a Chinese soldier who had been hiding since our junction with the 7th Division was flushed out.
More than a month elapsed from the time General Bryan gave his clear-them-out order until we were able to claim an almost complete vacuum between the front line and division rear. Any line-crosser would now have to run a 37-mile gantlet.
To insure that control of refugees was maintained, military policemen took frequent observation flights in helicopters and other light aircraft. When smoke was seen rising from a chimney or clothing observed hanging on a line, MP ground patrols were dispatched to investigate. The investigations would frequently turn up some strange doings. One liquor salesman's thriving business in native spirits, two miles behind the MLR, was brought to a halt. And in another raid a busy Korean bordello within walking distance of the front line was put out of business.
By such vigilance the noncombatant vacuum was maintained. The control guaranteed real security to the division from line-crossers, crime, and impeding traffic. Even in this seemingly simple task, teamwork helped to spell success in combat.
Lt. Edgar E. Dunlap, Lt. William E. Peter, Sgt. Claude H. Lusk, Sgt. M. J. Thomasson, Sgt. Thomas E. Griffin, Sgt. George A Batson, Sgt. Eugene F. McCracken, Cpl. Elio Battaglia. (Interviews by Capt. Edward C. Williamson, 4th Historical Detachment.)
The 38th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company came to Korea in July 1950. Its mission was to take the ordnance overflow from the 2d Infantry Division.
On 19 September 1950 the company was in the rice paddies alongside the Chongdo River, a half mile south of the small, mud-hut village of Songso-dong. The main supply road from Chongdo to Changnyong ran by the company's position.
Earlier in the summer there had been some fighting in this area. However, the village was still in good condition. The war was at a standstill on 19 September. As a result of recent rain, the Chongdo River now contained some water, and the men of the company built a dam on the stream so they could bathe.
38th Ordnance MM Company (16K)
An experienced company commander (Capt. Francis P. Smith) had been replaced a week before by Lt. Chris Beaber. Smith had spent nineteen months in Korea before it was overrun by the Communists. He had not allowed Korean civilians into his company area because he thought most Koreans would steal and because he was fearful of guerrilla attacks. However, the attitude of the villagers of Songso-dong was friendly, and they sold the soldiers pigs and chickens.
On the afternoon of the 19th it was planned to move the company to a new location. The men loaded their trucks, policed the area, and threw all their trash into the foxholes. At the last minute the move was postponed, however, since an artillery battalion and a tank battalion had beaten the ordnance company to its new location.
While camp was being broken some 30 adult Koreans and 60 to 70 children gathered on the rice-paddy dikes near the river. Normally the guards would have ordered the civilians away, but in the company's preoccupation with its move, the Koreans were not disturbed.
When it became apparent that the company would not move that day, preparations were made to settle down until a new reconnaissance could be made. The trucks were partially unloaded and the camp routine reestablished. No one took the precaution of cleaning out the foxholes or remounting the caliber .30 machine guns.
After unloading, three sergeants went down to the company pool
to bathe. They noticed a Korean civilian who just sat on the bank and scowled at them.
Sgt. Burt Davis told the others: "I had a run-in with two Koreans on the dike an hour ago. I told them to shove off and they talked back. This made me mad, but I thought that if I harmed them I'd get into trouble."
All the men agreed that these actions by the Koreans were unusual.
The 135 officers and men of the 38th were armed with 7 truck-mounted, caliber .50 machine guns, 3 caliber .30 machine guns, 3 submachine guns, 3 bazookas, 45 carbines, and 76 pistols. The company's alert plan called for sounding the truck sirens in case of emergency. The men were to take their posts by sections. On the south and east sides would be headquarters, supply, service, and recovery sections. These 53 men were armed mostly with pistols. The carbines were primarily in the automotive section (48 men), and this section was responsible for the north and west sides of camp.
That evening a camp guard, consisting of 4 stationary and 2 roving sentries, was formed. The 800-yard rectangular company perimeter had a guard at each corner. Darkness fell at 2000 and it looked like rain. The company did not have electric lights, and the men customarily turned in early. About two thirds of the company slept in lean-tos, the remainder in the trucks.
A sergeant returned from a routine trip at 0030, drove into the bivouac area, and halted briefly with his jeep lights on. At 0100 the guard was changed. Along the main supply road there was an unusual quiet, as the South Korean National Police did not relay their usual messages along their chain of grass-hut posts. Only the sound of a howling dog disturbed the quiet of the night.
Shortly before 0200, a party of 35 or 40 guerrillas reached the rice paddies and began crawling toward the ordnance company. Unnoticed by the two guards stationed to the south of the company, they quietly reached the four-foot bank which bounded the company area. First realization of the attack came with the thud of grenades falling in the company area.
It seemed to the company's men that guns were firing all over the place. Bullets hit the trucks and rocks and ricocheted throughout the area. Men tumbled out of their trucks and lean-tos to find the guerrillas already on top of the south bank and some moving into the company position. The two guards were forced from their positions along the south bank, but fortunately were able to withdraw without being hit.
The enemy action was planned in detail and skillfully executed. The guerrillas centered their attack on the company's command post and the previous location of the gasoline truck. Because of the expected move,
the 750-gallon gasoline truck and other POL supplies had been shifted closer to the MSR. A thermite grenade thrown into the old POL area thus did no damage.
A grenade or a tracer hit one truck and set it afire. This brightly illuminated the company area, and the men had neither cover nor holes in which to hide. The two trucks nearest the blaze caught fire, but were driven away while the fires were extinguished by Sergeant Ellis and Sgt. Paul Easlom. A machine-shop truck burned fiercely after a grenade was dropped into its gas tank. Making the best of an extremely bad situation, many of the men crawled under their trucks while others dispersed themselves behind the river dike to the north of the company position.
A light tank (M24) was inside the company perimeter for repairs, and was combat-loaded when the attack occurred. It could fire from its fixed position. The crew crawled into the tank and remained buttoned up without taking any part in the engagement.
Few of the ordnance company's men fired back at the enemy. Some were so poorly situated they could not fire without endangering their comrades. Some were scared. Others just didn't think of the importance of defending themselves. The entire company might have been overrun had not Sgt. Eugene McCracken taken a hand.
McCracken, dressed only in underwear, was under his wrecker. He helped Lt. Henry J. Moore, who was wounded, and then began to look around. The attack had now been under way for about five minutes, and McCracken suddenly realized that all the fire was incoming. He jumped on his wrecker and attempted to fire the caliber .50 machine gun mounted on it. The gun wouldn't fire.
McCracken could see ten or twelve guerrillas running up and down the bank throwing grenades while three others sat on the bank behind his wrecker and fired small arms. Finally he discovered that the headspace of the machine-gun barrel had not been correctly adjusted, and he readjusted it. The gun worked perfectly and he fired a burst at the three enemy on the bank. These three disappeared and McCracken continued to search the area with fire. Lieutenant Beaber came to the wrecker and shouted, "Can you see any more?" Just then the guerrillas cut loose with another burst of small-arms fire. It missed McCracken but damaged his wrecker. One bullet hit just in front of him, and he let loose some choice profanity. Several men under the wrecker thought he had been wounded, and one shouted, "Mac, are you hit?"
"No," he replied, "but they're sure trying!"
Another man who fired at the enemy was PFC Daniel LeGaspi, who used his caliber .25 pistol. LeGaspi was wounded during the action by an enemy grenade. Sgt. Guy W. Miller managed to set a second caliber .50 machine gun into action, but it jammed after only a few rounds.
The attack subsided after fifteen minutes. A lull followed during which the company moved into a close perimeter defense and section leaders organized their areas. But no more automatic weapons were put in order. McCracken put another box of ammunition (250 rounds) on his gun and then climbed down to wrap up in a blanket for a few minutes.
After five minutes the men of the company heard a whistle blow. Everyone hoped this was a signal to withdraw, but instead it proved to be the beginning of a second assault. Twelve to fifteen guerrillas charged down the bank firing small arms and throwing grenades. Eight to ten grenades exploded in the company area, one six feet from McCracken's wrecker. He again opened with his machine gun and fired a second box of ammunition. His gun suddenly stopped firing and he thought it had jammed. Checking it, he looked in the ammunition box to find it was empty. He put a fresh box on the gun, reloaded, and continued firing, spraying up and down the area.
About ten minutes after the second assault started, the enemy firing suddenly ceased. It was now close to 0230. The second assault had less intensity than the first. Damage was confined mostly to the vehicles. The guerrillas now began to withdraw, setting up a machine gun to cover their movement. Fire from this machine gun came high into the ordnance company area, and McCracken spotted the gun's muzzle blast. Turning his weapon on the flash, he silenced the enemy gun.
Near the end of the second assault a messenger left the company area to get help. Within a few minutes he returned with a patrol from the 622d Military Police Company, stationed in Chongdo. At about 0300 another squad of MPs also arrived, but did not immediately pursue the enemy since it was still dark and their route of withdrawal was not well defined.
In the meantime, the commanding officer of the 622d MP Company made contact with the local police. He learned that the police had been attacked before the assault on the ordnance company. A platoon of 25 to 30 policemen arrived shortly before dawn, went into diamond formation, and headed for an apple orchard where the guerrillas were last seen. Later they sent back for a caliber .50 machine gun, but the guerrillas managed to escape. After dawn the body of a North Korean officer was found, and his papers indicated he was the leader of the guerrilla force. No other dead were found. Seven guerrillas were believed to have been wounded but evacuated.
In the ordnance company, 1 man was killed and 5 wounded. In addition the company lost 3 2-Y2-ton trucks (one a machine-shop truck and another containing an L maintenance set), 1 quarter-ton truck, 3 trailers, and 26 cylinders of oxygen and acetylene. Several vehicles were partially burned or otherwise damaged.
The company made its move to another area at 1100 on 20 September. The men agreed that in the future no one would sleep in a truck and no one would undress on going to sleep.
Capt. Frank D. Secan, 304th Signal Operation Battalion
One would expect that duty with an isolated radio-relay team would be extremely unpopular. I hear many persons express that idea. I also hear that relay men become careless soldiers and signal operators, that they have little discipline, and that they allow themselves to go unshaven and dirty.
There is no question about isolation, or rude living conditions. Yet the men of my relay platoon volunteered for such duty. I believe the disadvantages of this type of service can be largely overcome, and men kept clean, disciplined, and happy, if the right type of NCO is placed in charge of each team.
Isolation is a matter of degree. Relay teams are not completely cut off from the world; they have the monitor channel with which they can keep abreast of things. By this channel they can request supplies and call for help in emergency. Still, the isolation calls for much resourcefulness and men have to take care of themselves. This was especially true when we were in northern Korea.
In November 1950 I sent a team to establish a relay some twenty-five miles from the nearest military unit. The team was commanded by Sergeant First Class Rhodemeyer, an especially self-reliant soldier. Rhodemeyer's team consisted of 12 to 15 signal men, 10 ROK soldiers, and a Japanese interpreter. In addition to their individual weapons the team had two caliber .30 machine guns and a few grenades. They carefully established a perimeter defense with four or five guard posts, and set trip flares in all paths leading to the position.
One night a trip flare went off, and the men knew they were about to be attacked. The raiding party consisted of about fifty enemy with small arms. The attack was repulsed without casualties or damage to equipment. The next night a second attack was made. Again Rhodemeyer and his men were ready, and repelled the guerrillas without difficulty.
Following the second attack, Sergeant Rhodemeyer left a minimum operating and guard force at the radio site, took 5 signal men, 10 ROKs, and the Japanese interpreter and led his party to a nearby village. The
men entered the settlement at gun point, but no resistance was offered. They carefully searched each building and found some sixty weapons and a good deal of ammunition. All this materiel was confiscated and destroyed. No prisoners or hostages were taken, but Rhodemeyer let it be well understood that there had better be no more attacks on the relay position.
The relay station stayed at the same position for ten days after this incident. The entire area remained quiet.
Lt. John Atkins, Lt. Fred O. Blair, Lt. David C. Copell, and Sgt. Vincenzo DiSanto, Medical Company, 21st Infantry. (Interviews by Lt. Martin Blumenson, 3d Historical Detachment.)
The juncture at Sinpori in May 1951, of the 24th Infantry Division, attacking north from Kapyong, and the 7th Infantry Division, attacking north from Chunchon, bypassed a good many enemy groups. On the 26th of that month the Medical Company, 21st Infantry (24th Infantry Division), set up its tents for the night about three hundred yards from the regimental command post and about the same distance from the position of Battery A, 213th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. The camp site was on the side of a hill in a narrow strip between the place where the steep slope ended and, continuing below it, the terraced rice paddies began. A little southeast of the company position a small stream came down through a defile in the hill mass.
The company had a permanent guard force of twenty men and, according to its SOP, set up four guard posts. Enemy troops were known to be somewhere close by, so two men were placed on each post.
In the early hours of the 27th, some remnants of the enemy moved down along the small stream and through the defile, obviously trying to find their way back to their own lines.
At about 0200, the foremost of the enemy soldiers ran into the medical company's guards along the stream bank. One guard challenged the first Chinese soldier he heard or saw, and got a volley of concussion grenades for his trouble. These explosions awakened the rest of the company. Some were sleeping in tents, some on cots or stretchers, and some in trucks. The first reaction of everyone above ground was to get down. The second was to get dressed before going out in the mud and rain to meet the enemy.
The 5 officers and 63 medics were inadequately armed for combat. In
fact, only a few had ammunition. Sgt. Vincenzo DiSanto had a little in the supply truck and put out the first 150 rounds to three guards who came asking for some. This left him with 250 rounds of carbine ammunition and ~ grenades. DiSanto decided to leave his truck and pass out the ammunition to those who needed it. He found that a firing line had already been built up.
Medical Company 21st Infantry (11K)
The ground was such that the only cover was behind a retaining wall a few yards west of the company. This put the company's tents and vehicles right between the firing line and the enemy. In a few minutes DiSanto distributed his small supply of ammunition. He kept one grenade for himself to supplement his pistol.
The enemy was not organized. One group moved down the stream bed to the road and set up a roadblock. Others fanned out and ran into Battery A and the medical company. In the confusion, our troops were fearful of hitting one another.
As Lt. John Atkins visited a post near the stream he heard the guard challenge, yelling, "Who are you?"
"ROK soldiers," the reply came, so Atkins shouted to the guard, "Hold your fire!" He quickly changed his mind when the "ROK soldiers" opened with burp guns.
Several enemy soldiers got into the company area and threw grenades. The grenades were ineffective and led only to the throwers' being killed. The cooks in their white clothing seemed to attract the attention of the enemy more than anyone else. In the shooting, enough rounds were fired by both sides to riddle all the company tents.
The firing line of the medical company was never seriously threatened. The chief effect of its fire seems to have been to deflect the enemy on the medical company's side of the stream into the line of the regimental command post on the left of the company area. A runner sent over to regiment to report the fight found that the command post was fighting too.
Sporadic fire continued until daylight. The company reorganized at dawn. A nose count showed 58 Chinese prisoners, and 23 enemy dead in and around the company position. Casualties for the company were 1 killed and 10 wounded, and the regimental chaplain (Father Francis X. Coppens) was killed in the company area.
Company F and G. 5th Infantry, came on the scene shortly after daybreak and, accompanied by two self-propelled guns, counterattacked. Several men of the medical company joined this force. A hundred prisoners were soon taken, and the prisoner bag for the 5th Infantry and the 21st Infantry during that day was 2,900.
The medical company continued to work as such during the fire fight. Lt. (j.g.) Edward Green, USNR (the acting regimental surgeon!) was wounded on the firing line. He went to the first-aid tent with two other wounded. There he treated these men and remained to treat others as they were brought in. An officer-patient, awaiting evacuation, was wounded as he lay on a stretcher.
The Chinese were more surprised than the men of the medical company. Intent on escaping encirclement, they were unable to launch an organized assault. Had they been able to do so, they would certainly have overrun the lightly armed troops. Nevertheless, the determination of the medical company to resist the assault helped prevent the enemy's escape.
By 0830 the company was extremely cocky. They were "fighting medics," and wanted to know "Who in hell says the medics can't fight?"
Lt.Col. Barton O. Baker, Ordnance Officer, 25th Infantry Division
Every service unit needs to be organized so that it can shift rapidly from its service mission to a security mission and, if necessary, to
1 During this period the Arrny borrowed five hundred Naval Reserve physicians, some of whom saw active service in Korea. Whenever the Navy officer was the senior officer in a unit, he commanded it.
a combat mission. To reach this standard, training, discipline, and a good SOP are necessary. To show how effective a service unit can be in a security role, let me tell you about Task Force Baker.
In early September 1950, a small Signal Corps VHF detachment was stationed on a hilltop about five miles from the CP of the 25th Infantry Division and about twelve miles behind the infantry line. This party consisted of 5 U.S. soldiers and 3 or 4 South Koreans attached for labor and security. The night of 3 September was rainy and miserable, and all the men in the detachment crawled into their squad tent. No guard was posted.
At 2200 a party of guerrillas or infiltratorsit was not established whichfrom the North Korean Army stealthily approached the detach ment and killed them all with small arms and grenades. The newspapers condemned this action as an inhumane massacre, but from a professional standpoint it could be called negligenceor even suicide!
The next morning (4 September) a CID agent and a reporter started toward the VHF site. Part way up the hill they were wounded by grenades. Though injured, these men returned and their wounds were treated at the nearby 8063d MASH in Changwon, at the base of the hill where the action had taken place. It was obvious the enemy had not withdrawn from the vicinity of the VHF station.
Later that day, I was driving through Changwon and stopped briefly at the MASH. Considerable excitement existed as the result of the two incidents nearby, and the hospital officers pointed out to me that mortar fire was falling on the hillside near the hospital. The enemy obviously was well armed, but what he was firing at I don't know. While I was talking, one of the hospital orderlies came in carrying a spent bullet that had just pierced his tent.
The location of a hospital, ammunition dump, railroad, and division main supply road made it vital that this area be protected. I phoned the division CP and reported the situation to the commanding general (Maj. Gen. William B. Kean). When General Kean asked for my recommendation, I suggested that since it was already 1700, we could do little now except post security. I told him 150 men should be adequate. The general asked where I proposed to get the men. I replied that I could use the men from my 725th Ordnance Company. He agreed, and said the division reconnaissance company would come as soon as it was available, and other units also would be dispatched. The force was designated Task Force Baker, and I was to command until the recon company jumped off against the enemy, at which time its commander (Capt. Charles Torman) would take over.
Immediately after talking to General Kean, I called the ordnance company and told the commander (Capt. Ira Snyder) to bring 3 officers and 150 men to my CP location in Changwon. These men arrived in sixty
minutes, with their individual weapons, three light machine guns, a rocket launcher, and four radios. The group was already divided into three platoons, each with an officer.
Task Force Baker (14K)
I had already planned my dispositions, and in the next forty-five minutes the platoons were spread in a semicircular perimeter extending from the ammunition dump on the west to a hill east of the hospital. The two most critical points in the area were given particular attention. I ordered a machine gun placed to fire northwest in a draw that was the easiest and most likely approach. At the point where our perimeter crossed an important north-south road I directed that another machine gun be posted, reinforced by the rocket launcher, and that an officer be there at all times. Radio communication from my CP to each of these platoons was established.
As these dispositions were being made, I went to the hospital and took charge of an engineer platoon that was indifferently providing the close-in security. I informed the engineer lieutenant of the formation of the task force, and directed him to tighten up his defense of the hospital.
Next, I visited the ammunition supply point and told the commander of the ammunition company of the situation. I directed him to form a security screen extending from the left flank of the ordnance position to well beyond his own installation. I also ordered him to place
an observation post in a draw on his left flank. After this, I tested communications.
During the night an artillery officer called me and said he couldn't get any ammunition. I asked why. He replied, "They just won't issue it." I went to the ASP.
As I approached the railroad station that served as a CP, I met no guards but found waiting ammunition trucks lined up bumper to bumper. In the CP building I found the commander and all his men. This officer was scared, and his attitude had infected his troops. Although fifty carloads of ammunition sat in the marshaling yards, the commander would not allow any lights in the area and no identification or loading could take place. Under my direction the captain sent out the security force I had ordered earlier, and then I started him issuing ammunition. We had to take some risks, since we needed the ammunition.
During the night a tank platoon joined our task force. I split this and put half of the tanks in bivouac near the hospital and the others near the ammunition company. Toward morning we were further reinforced by a battalion of ROK marines who arrived from the Chinhae area.
We had one incident during the night. I had been informed that a civil-affairs detachment and some engineers were working north of us, and that they had not returned to the division area. Early in the evening a number of these people were challenged, and then came through our roadblock. We assumed all had returned. Later in the night a jeep came along the road but did not halt when challenged. The roadblock officerwas a former infantryman, and he fired toward the jeep with his Ml as it came on. As the jeep sped by he grabbed two of the passengers and hauled them out. The jeep soon halted, and we learned he had wounded the local chief of police. I ordered him taken to the hospital, but he died from loss of blood on the way.
The following morning the division's reconnaissance company arrived and, as agreed, Captain Torman took charge. The division's ordnance company, the ammunition company, and the engineer detachment held fast while the tanks encircled the enemy and the recon company and the ROK marines moved into the area on foot. At the location of the VHF station the enemy put up strong resistance, using machine guns and mortars. Two American soldiers were killed, but I don't know the casualties among the ROKs. Seventeen guerrillas were captured or killed, including three women. The rest just melted away.
Had the reconnaissance company not arrived when it did, the 725th Ordnance Company would have swept the area. Still, the ordnance company's importance in providing security for the hospital, the ASP, and the MSR should not be underestimated. It maintained the security unt'1 an adequate offensive force arrived. In so doing, the company showed
that well-trained technical troops can be of decisive importance during critical periods.
Capt. Robert L. Strouse, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion
During the Naktong perimeter days, the 65th Engineer Combat Battalion (25th Infantry Division) was split among three infantry regiments. Each regiment operated as a separate combat team. Occasionally they used the engineers as infantrynot only in defensive operations, but also in limited objective attacks undertaken as part of the general defense.
Near Chungam-ni, Company E, 35th Infantry, failed to take a hilltop after three successive attacks. The crest was an isolated strongpoint in the enemy line, and was strongly defended. On 14 September 1950, the regimental commander ordered Company B. 65th Engineer Battalion, to make a supported attack and capture the objective. Only two hours were given the company to prepare for this operation.
In addition to weapons organic to a combat engineer company, Company B's personnel had 2 caliber .30 heavy machine guns and 3 60-mm mortars. These were a special issue to the engineers in view of their frequent commitment as infantry. Company B did not use its mortars but relied on the infantry for this supporting fire.
The attack lasted only thirty minutes, and the objective was taken. The value of the men can be seen in 2 awards of the Distinguished Service Cress (one posthumous), 3 of the Silver Star, and 10 of the Bronze Star. Casualties were heavy, the company suffering 14 killed and 21 wounded, including an officer killed and another wounded. The 3d Platoon suffered particularly, having its platoon sergeant wounded, 2 squad leaders killed and another wounded, and 3 assistant squad leaders wounded.
The loss of leaders was particularly felt when the company returned to its primary engineer role. It meant a complete reorganization and training of NCO specialists. The 3d Platoon had only 13 men left after the attack, and could not carry out a platoon task until it received replacements five or six weeks later.
Lt. Norman R. Rosen, 10th Engineer Combat Battalion
Company D, 10th Engineer Combat Battalion (3d Infantry Division), landed at Wonsan on 20 November 1950one of the last units of the division to arrive. It spent its first week ashore doing road maintenance work near the port, and was then detached from the 3d Division and ordered to report to X Corps headquarters, at Hamhung. I was in charge of the advance party.
On arrival at X Corps headquarters on the afternoon of the 27th, I was briefed on our future operation by the executive officer of the 8224th Engineer Construction Group and the S3 of the 185th Engineer Combat Battalion. Company D was attached to the 185th and ordered to proceed immediately to Hagaru-ri at the base of Changjin Reservoir. There our mission was to build a forward command post for X Corps. I was given the location of the proposed CP and told that a platoon of the 4th Signal Battalion was already on the ground to install communications. Nothing was mentioned in the briefing about the tactical situation, so I raised the question.
"Everything is perfectly secure," the executive officer replied. "I was up there yesterday in my jeep. The marines drive up and down the roads with their headlights on."
The company arrived at Hamhung by motor convoy at 1500. The men had all their equipment except the bulldozer. I passed on the information I had received to the company commander (Capt. Philip A. Kulbes), we refueled our vehicles, and started off on the last fifty miles of our trip.
At Sangtong-ni the convoy was delayed six hours by traffic control on a one-way mountain pass. While we sat along the road we listened to a battery of Marine artillery firing at a target over the first mountain. At that point I began to wonder how secure things really were.
At 0200 we arrived at our bivouac location south of Hagaru-ri. We knew no more of our situation than we had gotten in Hamhung, so we posted security and bedded down.
To us the most pressing problem was the weather. Company D had been in Korea only a week and was not acclimated. In one day's drive of 150 miles we had experienced a temperature drop of from 20 degrees above zero to 15 below zero. In spite of our heavy winter clothing we were miserably cold. We'd have been concerned with more than the cold had we known the tactical situation. Five of our trucks with I officer and 20 men did not arrive. These vehicles had engine trouble, and be-
fore they could catch up, the road from Hamhung was closed by the enemy.
At 0900 we roused the company. It was a slow start and the cooks rolled out with the rest. While we were waiting for breakfast a Korean civilian came into our area and told us the enemy was on the road behind us. We were impressed by this civilian's persistence, so we sent a patrol to investigate.
At this time a Marine Corps officer and his driver walked into our bivouac and informed us they had driven into an enemy roadblock in a defile only a mile south of our bivouac. They had to abandon their vehicle to escape. The driver was slightly wounded and both were wet and cold.
Captain Kulbes and I quickly organized a platoon-sized patrol and moved down the road. We met heavy fire from dug-in enemy. Soon we received word that the marines were sending a force to deal with the enemy, so we returned to our company position. Security was maintained and the men began to dig foxholes. Breakfast was served to small groups.
At 1400 the G2 of the 1st Marine Division arrived at our CP. By this time we had finished our holes and were hauling materials for the construction for the corps forward CP. This may have seemed a little amusing to the Marine major, as the tactical situation was not what we believed it to be. He told us Hagaru-ri was surrounded; that enemy heavy attacks were expected that night; that the Marine lines were thin; and that we should occupy a portion of their perimeter. The position he pointed out on the map was only three hundred yards from where we were, but it was a ridge and almost three hundred feet straight up. We were told there were prepared positions to occupy and that we would tie in on our left with a platoon of the 4th Signal Battalion and would anchor our right on the steep slope which overlooked a Marine Corps roadblock.
There was never a question raised about postponing our mission, or of coming under Marine control. Still, we didn't realize the gravity of our situation and did not move immediately to our new position. Instead, we moved all our vehicles and equipment to a Marine equipment park in their perimeter. We left our tents and stoves in position at the bivouac for future use.
Company D at this time had 3 officers, 1 warrant officer, and 77 enlisted men. In addition, we had 90 men from KATUSA integrated into the squads. Actually we had more acquaintance with Koreans than most American soldiers had. Before going to Korea our division had been levied several times for replacements. The Koreans had joined us in Japan two months before we embarked. Many of the Americans had arrived only days before we sailed.
In addition to individual weapons, our unit had as combat equipment 4 caliber .50 machine guns, 5 caliber .30 machine guns, and 6 3.5-inch rocket launchers. We had no mortars or recoilless weapons. We issued every man three units of fire (288 rounds per M1 rifle), two grenades, and all the machine-gun and rocket ammunition we could load on him.
The weight of the ammunition and weapons made our march up the steep slope very slow. It was late when we started, and it was dark when we arrived.
The ridge on which we organized fell off sharply on all sides except our left. There were lots of holes in the ground, but we found nothing that could be called an organized position. In the dark we could not organize a final protective line, so we did the best we could. The 1st Platoon (SFC Leonard J. Best) was on the right and some fifty feet below the crest. The 2d Platoon (Lt. George E. Smith) was in the center. I had the 3d Platoon on the left. Headquarters Platoon (WO Richard J. Dalke) faced to the rear. Thus our company formed a small perimeter. The company commander (Captain Kulbes) and a Marine Corps liaison officer were in the center of it.
Communications were poor. We had our full allowance of radios, but the SCR-536 sets did not work in this country. Each platoon had its SCR-300, and these happened to be on the same channel as those of the Marine Corps. My own set would not make contact with the company commander, but I did have good contact with a Marine officer who seemed to know the score. It wasn't until later that I learned the marine was our own liaison officer, and that he occupied the hole next to Captain Kulbes.
After I got my squads assigned to their positions I went out on our left flank to tie in with the Signal Corps platoon. Instead of finding Americans, I located a KATUSA labor platoon commanded by an American captain and three or four U.S. soldiers. I made arrangements to coordinate our fire with theirs, and returned.
Our company was in position by 2030. At about 2200 we began to hear firing near our position. Thirty minutes later it was evident that the enemy had cut through the KATUSA platoon on our left and was coming at us from both the left and rear (east and north). My platoon was the first in our company to become closely engaged, and with our flank in the air it was necessary for us to reface the squads, under fire, some ninety degrees. My men were not trained for this type of maneuver. In this change of front I lost most of my left squad.
We held fast during the night, although the 3d Platoon, and the 2d Platoon behind it, had to withdraw 250 yards. The company ended up with all four platoons in a tight knot on the crest of the hill by 0300. The closeness of this position was bad for us when we began to receive heavy concentrations of white phosphorus shells.
The enemy executed a great number of banzai-type attacks on our positions. The American engineers countered this with everything they had. They fired most of their 288 rounds of Ml ammunition, most of the machine-gun ammunition, and at times even fired the 3.5-inch rockets point-blank at human targets. We would stop an attack, things would slow down for a short time, then the enemy leader would blow a whistle and another twenty-five or thirty would rush us. In the morning we learned these were Chinese Communistsour first information that another nation had entered the conflict.
Company D, 10th Engineer Combat Battalion (19K)
While our Americans did well, the KATUSA soldiers did not measure up to the situation. We had difficulty communicating with them, and under the stress of battle they became demoralized. The most incomprehensible thing about them was that when we ran low on ammunition we asked the KATUSA soldiers if they had any, and they replied negatively. Weeks later we discovered that most of them had not fired their ammunition this night, but continued to carry it. At the beginning of our fight we had a great deal of difficulty with our weapons because theywere cold and fired sluggishly. We had gone into action so unexpectedly it had not occurred to us to clean the oil off our weapons. Several of our men abandoned their own weapons and took those of the enemy dead who littered the ground around their foxholes. The enemy, too, had U.S. weaponsmostly Thompson submachine guns and carbines.
During the night our Marine Corps liaison officer was killed, but not before he radioed division headquarters of the seriousness of our situation. We were ordered to hold the position at all costs. No help was at hand and it was almost dawn before a composite force of a hundred Marine Corps rear-echelon personnel reached our position. At 0900 we received an air strike to our immediate front, and it gave us a great deal of help. At about noon of the 29th we were relieved from our position on the ridge and moved to another sector of the perimeter.
Our losses for the night were almost 50 per cent of our total force. Casualties among Americans were 2 officers slightly wounded, 23 men wounded, 10 men killed, 9 missing. Among the KATUSA personnel, 50
were killed, wounded, or missing. Our losses were more serious, considering the key personnel lost to the company. The killed included the supply sergeant, two cooks, and two radio men. The wounded included the first sergeant, a platoon sergeant, an assistant platoon sergeant, a radio operator, and two cooks. The missing included a platoon sergeant and two squad leaders.
The marines tended to be critical of our company for its operations of the nightin spite of our holding the position. They estimated that we had been hit by an enemy battalion of 1,000, and we counted more than 400 bodies in front of our positions when daylight came. No account was taken of our inexperience, or that we were thrust into a combat role suddenlywithout orientation or support. Months passed before the marines gave us recognition for even having been in their perimeter.
All battalion and company commanders of the 314th Ordnance Ammunition Group had a great problem of morale. A majority of the ammunition supply points were located within the division zones, manned primarily by troops who arrived in Korea poorly trained and jittery. Most of the ammunition personnel were selected from castoffs of units in Japan. The courts-martial and disciplinary rates were high.
The morale situation was further complicated by the rotation and recognition systems, which placed emphasis on unit assignment and not on geographic location, service, or hazard. Thus, service and supply personnel in a combat division were often located a hundred miles behind our ASPs; yet they received twice as many rotation points. Division service troops usually got more rest and had other advantages.
I felt that morale was the key to getting ammunition forward. I believed and proved that men who feel their work is important will produce under any conditions.
When I took command in mid-1951, I began working on morale from three directions. First, I demanded the highest standards of soldiering. Colors were brought into the field. Retreat formations were held weekly, formal security guard mounts practiced, cleanliness and neatness maintained at garrison level, and military courtesy required. I was nicknamed "Hard John" for my policies and, in fact, I encouraged the nickname. However, the men loved the soldiering and responded favorably. The neat clothing, proper uniform, and ceremonies gave the men a pride in themselves and in their units. The proof is in the result: 158,000
tons of ammunition delivered to the front in 60 days. This is a peak never before reached by any like group.
My second principle was to keep the men informed. The 314th Group developed a daily bulletin which was designed to appeal to the men. It told the history, tradition, and accomplishments of the Ordnance Corps. It also told in personal terms what their work was accomplishing in Eighth Army, and it stressed the slogan: "It is the piece of ordnance that kills the enemy." I had enlisted personnel from distant ASPs brought regularly to group headquarters for a three-day restplus a briefing on "the big picture" and the way their unit was helping.
The third approach was through recognition and reward. It is very well to recognize the combat soldier for his contribution, but this does not mean that recognition should be withheld from service troops. Divisional service troops share their division's accomplishments. Nondivisional service troops cannot wear the Indianhead, or say they belong to the Wolfhounds, or the Buffalos. Yet, for all of this, some of the ammunition service units have more dangerous jobs and even draw hazard pay. They disarm bombs and go into disputed territory on demolition work. On withdrawals from North Korea during the winter of 1950-51, the ammunition troops of the 314th Group shared the bitter rear-guard action. Often they escaped encirclement by walking over the Korean hills with infantry units. At other times they held positions in the line.
To overcome this lack of recognition, the 314th made "Andy Ammo" its official emblem. Andy Ammo is the man who doesn't question, but humps ammunition day and night. We plastered pictures of Andy Ammo at every ASP. We used his figure for a road marker, and many of our ASPs were called Andy Ammo by their "customers." A song was written about Andy, and our men sang it. Andy Ammo was a going tradition before I joined the 314th, but I encouraged his fame. He is now a legend and an inspiration to ammunition service troops who display the will to serve beyond the call of duty.
Recognition of our men on the rotation policy came partially as the result of a letter I wrote to the commanding general of Eighth Army. We finally received rotation points equal to those given divisional personnel when we operated in a division's zone. This made a favorable impression on the men. It was well deserved.
I gave recognition to individuals who worked hard, regardless of race. I recommended for promotion to lieutenant colonel a Negro officer who was one of my best field-grade officers. I brought Negro officers and men into the group headquarters on a merit basis. Each man was judged on his abilityan important consideration when more than 90 per cent of my troops were Negroes.
I remained with the 314th Ordnance Group only four months but I proved again that leadership is as important in ordnance units as it is in
the infantry. The techniques are the same, yet they are often more difficult to apply when your men are spread over greater distances. Leadership and morale, efficiency and production, soldiering and recognition all are tied together. They should never be overlooked in a service unit. These principles pay off in victory.
Page updated 30 May 2001
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