The following information about Operation Clam-Up was submitted to the Korean War Educator
by Korean War veteran SFC John Engel, B Battery 987th AFA Battalion:
"Operation ‘Clam-Up’ took place a few months into the year 1952. It
was still cold then, and Lt. Sharp, Cpl. Treaske and myself (Sgt. Engel) were the forward observer team for
Battery B of the 987th AFA Battalion. We took supplies and ammo with us for a one-week stay. We traveled by
jeep to the MLR (main line of resistance), unloaded, and walked a path through a mine field the 2nd Infantry
Division had set up. I joked along the way with 2nd Infantry Division men in their fox-holes, and was glad I
was not one of them. Cold as it was—there were no fires—they must have had one hell of a time keeping warm.
Little did I know I would find out what these grunts were going through. We finally arrived at this hill
(I can’t remember the number) that was held by the South Korean forces. I believe it was the 6th ROK
Division. We had to stay on a path up the hill because the hill was mined. It got to be pretty steep, and
about half way up laid two dead Chinese. It looked like they had been dead quite awhile. We had to step over
them to stay on the path. We finally reached the top and had to crouch walk to our home for a week (our
We were instructed our mission of Operation Clam-Up. We were told
to stay low and to not expose ourselves or fire on any targets. The only thing that moved, I was told, was
our mail trucks. We were to use the BC SCOPE to search for enemy positions, and observe what they were
wearing and what equipment they had. A BC SCOPE is something like a double-headed periscope. [This photo,
loaned by Engels, shows a view of a target from the scope.] You can stay down in the trenches and still look
over the sand bag on top of the trenches. After the first day, the Chinese and North Korean forces started
to get very nervous and started to act up.
At night they would wind up their tanks and move up and down the low flat land. The sound of their tracks
made me very uneasy. At night they could be a way out, but at night sound also travels a long way. Still, it
made me very uneasy. We had about a hundred plus Koreans with three Americans, and only small arms and
grenades for protection. We ate C-rations and drank water from a well below the hill. I always dropped two
iodine tablets in my canteen. We heated with charcoal in two gallon coffee cans and wrapped ourselves in
The Chinese started sending out two men using binoculars. I guess they figured if we opened up on them,
they wouldn’t lose too much. I never saw a weapon on them. [This picture loaned by Engels shows a picture of
his first contact with the Chinese while serving as a forward observer.] This one day while I was searching
the area with the BC scope, I swung out over the top of a ridge about three hundred yards out and to my
surprise, there were two Chinese looking right at my position with binoculars. I called Lieutenant Sharp
over to look at what I had found. He just grinned. I asked him if I could take a shot at them and told him
that if he spotted for me we might drop one of them. He told me, "No, lay low." A South Korean, however,
took one shot and the two Chinese took off.
The Chinese and North Koreans started getting a little brave. To our left down in the valley was a little
village. They would dart in and out of the houses trying to get us to fire. I noticed that their uniforms
were different—more green and new. Some even wore helmets and carried small arms. This is what we were
trying to find out. We had to call in about every fifteen minutes after that. They kept getting braver and
started digging trenches around their area and setting up machine gun emplacements. Other observers from A
battery and C battery also saw this and plotted down these targets.
A lot of crazy little things happened to us during that week. A Korean crawled in our bunker at night
while we were sleeping and stole some of our C-rations. I heard the rumble and called to Corporal Treashe,
"Someone is in here." About that time this figure darted out the bunker door. The Lieutenant and a Korean
officer heard the noise and asked us what was going on. We told them. When daylight broke, the Korean
officer brought the Korean over to us and said he was the one who stole some of our rations. Then he took
him over to the far end of the trench and blew his head off. We really felt bad about that, because he was
only hungry. From then on, only one would sleep for a period of time and the other would stay awake.
The Chinese kept probing our area, but we just stood fast and waited. For one week we didn’t change
clothes, except our socks. I never left my boots off too long, because we all had a gut feeling all hell was
going to break loose. Now I knew how the men I joked with on the way up felt: cold, hungry, and bushed.
Heating with charcoal in the bunkers left our faces black. My nose, eyes, and ears were full of soot. And I
sure needed a bath because I started to stink.
On the second to the last day, it got so foggy you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I needed
to relieve myself and our only place to do that was on the front down side of our hill. I figured with all
this fog nobody would see me. I asked Cpl. Treashe to cover me, telling him that I was going down the hill a
little way to relieve myself. I was crouched down by a tree stump when a Chinese patrol came by. I froze
still. The first five or so didn’t see me—I guess the fog was too bad. The last one looked at my direction.
I will never forget the Red Star on his cap. He looked like he had a grin on. Maybe he was as scared as I
was. He looked away and walked off in the fog. I got to the top of the hill and got on to Treashe and asked
him if he had seen the patrol. He said no, he had lost sight of me in the fog.
The last day before we were relieved, our battalion opened up. The targets we had seen were wiped out. I
don’t know if we did any good in Operation Clam-Up or not. I believe the Chinese used that time to resupply.
I would like to know if any other units along the Korean front felt the same."
Former SFC John Engel
B Battery, 987th AFA BN
Marine Corps participation, Operation Clam-Up:
See pages 242-246, Volume IV, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, "The East-Central Front."