Pusan Perimeter

 
When 100,000 enemy troops invaded Korea on June 25, 1950, South Koreans could not withstand the onslaught. The natives of South Korea came very close to losing sovereignty in their country. American troops stationed in Japan were rushed to Korea to help halt the enemy invasion of South Korea.  These U.S. soldiers, followed by U.S. Marines, were sent into the fray in order to stop the entire peninsula from being captured by Communist forces. With great courage and much human sacrifice, American veterans foiled the invasion. Because American veterans tenaciously held on to the toehold known as the Pusan Perimeter, South Korea is free today. - They held!!

The story of the Pusan Perimeter is simultaneously an American disgrace and an American triumph. The triumph is that, on very short notice, against a numerically-superior, highly-trained, and well-supplied enemy, American veterans came to the rescue of South Koreans and stopped Communist forces from taking over the entire peninsula. The disgrace rests squarely on the shoulders of American politicians who sent our young men into battle with insufficient training, insufficient weapons, insufficient clothing, insufficient food, and insufficient information regarding the enemy that they were ordered to face in battle.

It is with a great sense of awe and appreciation for the men of the United States Army and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade that the Korean War Educator publishes their story on the World Wide Web.

[This page is heavily under construction, so visit often to view the updates and changes.] 
Most recent update: February 16, 2006.

Table of Contents

 


Back to Contents

A Few Facts about the Perimeter

Size & location of Pusan Perimeter at beginning of war

It was a rectangular area approximately 100 by 50 miles in the southeast corner of Korea.  Western boundary = Naktong River; northern boundary = a line through the mountains from Naktong-ni to Yongdok on the east coast; eastern boundary = East Sea (Sea of Japan); southern boundary = Tsushima Strait.

First Army infantry unit to arrive

Part of 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Division (airlifted from Japan on the morning of July 1, 1950)

Battalion Commander of above battalion

Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith

Other American early arrivals on the Korean peninsula

  • 34th Infantry Regiment
  • a field artillery battalion of the 24th Infantry Division

The 1st Battalion moved into three early positions

  • Pyongtaek
  • Ansong (a village ten miles east of Pyongtaek)
  • Osan (north of Osan, twelve miles north of Pyongtaek)

Officer in charge of Company A, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, 24th Division

Capt. Leroy Osburn - Co. A had about 140 men and officers at the time.

Commander of 24th Division Artillery

Brig. Gen. George B. Barth

First casualty of the Korean War (of Army ground troops)


(Click picture for a larger view)

This is a controversial subject that has not yet been resolved on the KWE.

Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick of Skin Fork, Wyoming County, West Virginia, became the first reported casualty of the Korean War when he died around 4 or 5 p.m. on July 5, 1950 near Sojong, Korea, from a bullet wound to his chest.  His Serial Number was RA15273308, and his MOS was 04745.  He was born in 1931. A member of a bazooka squad, he was killed as a photographer took his picture after he had fired his weapon at a Soviet-made tank.  When he stood up to see if his ammunition had penetrated the  tank, the enemy struck him down.  The remaining members of the bazooka team carried his body out.  Shadrick's death was reported by reporter Maggie Higgins, who erroneously stated that he was the first American GI killed in Korea.  Higgins was not only among the first reporters in Korea, she was also the first female reporter in Korea.

Those who were in Korea those first days of the war know positively that Kenneth Shadrick was not the first American G.I. killed in Korea.  The battle of Osan on July 5 started around 7:30 a.m.  According to George Weidensall of Beckley, West Virginia, a number of soldiers were killed before Shadrick, who died in the late afternoon.  The KIA's were all members of the 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division.  Who the very first G.I. killed in Korea was is not known, other than the fact that he was a machinegunner in the 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.  Some say he was in B Company.  Others say he was in Headquarters Company of the 21st. 

The 19th, 21st, and 34th Infantry Regiments of the 24th Division stationed in Japan were brought over to defend South Korea when hostilities broke out.  Because men from several companies were hastily mixed together in the first shipment of American troops to form a still-under-strength battalion, Weidensall explained that no one was familiar with all of the members of the regiments fighting on July 5th.  Hence, the names of the first casualties have not been confirmed for the Korean War Educator.  Weidensall said that Kenny Shadrick was in the 34th Infantry Regiment, which was several miles behind the 21st Infantry Regiment on July 5th.   

A reference and footnote in Roy Applemann's book South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, pointed out by KWE visitor Lisa Sholl, state the following, indicating that the first GI killed in Korea was with Headquarters Company:

The two damaged tanks pulled off to the side of the road, clearing the way for those following. One of the two caught fire and burned. Two men emerged from its turret with their hands up. A third jumped out with a burp gun in his hands and fired directly into a machine gun position, killing the assistant gunner. This unidentified machine gunner probably was the first American ground soldier killed in action in Korea. [29] American fire killed the three North Koreans. The six rounds of HEAT ammunition at the forward gun were soon expended, leaving only the HE shells which ricocheted off the tanks. The third tank through the pass knocked out the forward gun and wounded one of its crew members.

[29] Interv, author with 1st Lt Lawrence C. Powers, 2 Aug 51. Powers was Headquarters Company Communications Officer, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, at Osan, 5 July. He said he saw this action.
 

Other early actions in the Perimeter

  • Ch'onan (6-8 July)
  • Ch'ongju (10 July)
  • Choch'iwon (11-12 July)
  • Kum River (15-16 July)
  • Taejon (19-20 July)
  • Yongdong (25 July)
  • Masan (5-12 August)
  • Naktong (12-16 August)
  • Taegu (18-25 August)

America's 8th Army forces in Perimeter

  • 24th Infantry Division
  • 25th Infantry Division
  • 1st Cavalry Division
  • 5th Regimental Combat Team (reinforcement troops)
  • 1st Marine Provisional Brigade (reinforcement troops)
  • 2nd Infantry Division (some regiments)
  • British 27th Infantry Brigade (reinforcement troops from England)

Republic of Korea Army forces in Perimeter

  • ROKA 1st Division
  • ROKA 6th Division
  • ROKA 8th Division
  • ROKA Capital Division

North Korean People's Army forces in Perimeter

  • 1st NKP Division
  • 2nd NKP Division
  • 4th NKP Division
  • 3rd NKP Division
  • 5th NKP Division
  • 6th NKP Division
  • 7th NKP Division (entered war about middle of August)
  • 8th NKP Division
  • 9th NKP Division (entered war about middle of August)
  • 10th NKP Division (entered war about middle of August)
  • 13th NKP Division
  • 12th NKP Division
  • 15th NKP Division
  • 105th NKP Armored Division
  • 83rd NKP Motorized Regiment (detached from 105th Armored)
  • 766th Independent Infantry Regiment

Task Forces in the Pusan Perimeter

  • Task Force Smith

First U.S. Army unit to enter combat in Korea.  Consisted of half of the battalion headquarters company, half of the communications platoon, rifle companies B & C (understrength), a medical platoon from the 21st Regimental Medical Company; and two 4.2 mortars from the 21st Infantry's heavy mortar company.  The mission of Task Force Smith was to provide an "arrogant display of strength" as a delaying tactic until other allied forces could arrive in Korea to help.

  • Task Force Faith

This task force was the combined Army/Marine force that launched the first Allied counterattack of the war on 7 August 1950.

  • Task Force Kean

A combined force of the 25th Division, 5th Regimental Combat Team, and the 1st Marine Brigade (35th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Division;  5th RTC; and the 5th Marine Regiment).  This was the first major offensive of the 8th Army.  It stopped the KPA's southward push to Pusan.  Task force dates: 9-12 August 1950. 

  • Task Force Lynch

This task force included the 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division and elements of the U.S. Army's 31st Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division.  This task force followed the NKP troops that were withdrawing from the Korean peninsula on 23 September 1950.


Back to Contents

1st Provisional Platoon - Camp Pendleton

In April of 1950, a group of young Marines from the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton were selected to form a provisional platoon and to serve aboard the USS Juneau when it joined a fleet of other ships in a peacetime mission to the Far East. The following Marines were serving onboard the USS Juneau when the Korean War broke out.  The ship was in Korean waters the day after the war began and began firing missions from its five inch guns in support of the South Korean and U.S. Army units that had been attacked by the North Koreans.  In the first week of the war, the Juneau, along with other allied ships, was attacked by six North Korean PT boats and general quarters were sounded.  Five of those boats were sunk and one got away.  The Marines, firing their quad forty mm guns, sank one of the boats.   

  • CO - Capt. C.F. Hamlin Jr.
  • PltLdr - 2dLt R.M. Johnson
  • 1stSgt - 1stSgt W.A. Umlauf
  • PltSgt - S/Sgt. G.L. Mason
  • PltGuide - Sgt A.J. Boudreau
  • Msgr - Pfc. G. Dally

1st Squad

2nd Squad

Third Squad

SqdLdr Sgt. - W.S. Gerighten Sgt. R.H. Arnie SqdLdr - - Col. E.B. Carney Jr.
FtLdr - Cpl. A.R. Lewis Cpl. Jim O'Connor Gunner - Pfc. W.H. Gunter
BAR - Pfc. D.E. Armstrong Pfc. V.D. Hack AGunner - Pfc. W.J. Ghrist
ABAR - Pfc. V.A. Akers Pfc. R.A. Hamilton AmmoCar - Pfc. F.R. Brown
R - Pfc. R.S. Deja Pfc. C.E. Puckett AmmoCar - Pfc. N.K. Amstutz
    AmmoCar - Pfc. L.L. Pederson
    AmmoCar - Pfc. P. Meier
FtLdr - Pfc. C.L. Moore Pfc. J.G. Kelly AmmoCar - Pfc. W.H. Popp
BAR - Pfc. J.L. Pope Pfc. F.L. Orrell  
ABAR - Pfc. R.C. Stachulak Pfc. F.J. Palgua AdminSgt. - R. Cash
R - Pfc. W.H. Middendorf PFC M.A. Skinner Supply - Col. R. Olson
     
FtLdr - Pfc. R.E. Dugan Pfc. R.G. Olague  
BAR - Pfc. J.B. Walker Pfc. J.E. Weber Jr.  
ABAR - Pfc. W.K. Crider Pfc. To Moody Jr.  
R - Pfc. F.A. Rowinsky Pfc. J. McGill  

Note: Popp came down with polio in the middle of the firing on Korea in July.  He was the cook.  He was evacuated from the ship Juneau to the Helena.  Later he was flown to Japan.  He survived the polio.  Pederson was replaced by Tom King of Texas because Pederson had tuberculosis.


1st Provisional Platoon - USS Juneau
 


USS Juneau (CL/CLAA-119)
Courtesy Conrad J Rozelle

(Click picture for a larger view)

USS Juneau (CL/CLAA-119)
Grand Canal, Venice, Italy
Courtesy Conrad J Rozelle

(Click picture for a larger view)

Just two weeks after the war began, the Juneau put ashore a small raiding part of sailors and Marines at night to mine a railroad tunnel in North Korea.  The mission was successful and a train was blown up within the tunnel, thereby halting the only North Korean supply route from the north for days.  Following is an after action report on the covert mission:

13 July 1950

Report of Second Lieutenant Richard M. Johnson (049750), U.S. Marine Corps, (0302), concerning the activities on the night of 11-12 July 1950.

At about 1930, the following named officers and men comprising a demolition team of four (4) bluejackets, a security element of four (4) marines, a demolition officer, and a demolition patrol commander, departed from the USS Juneau (CLAA 119) for the USS Mansfield (DD728) by motor whale boat:

Commander W.B. Porter (75778), USN - Demolition Patrol Commander
Second Lieutenant R.M. Johnson (049750), USMC - Demolition Officer
Gunners Mate Chief Myron K. Lovejoy (3369051), USN - Demolition Team
Gunners Mate Third Class Junior E. Wilson (3861715), USN - Demolition Team
Gunners Mate Third Class Howard C. Scheunemann (6105313), USN - Demolition Team
Boatswain Mate Second Class Paul A. Keane (4155817), USN - Demolition Team
Private First Class Willard L. Crider (1090718), USMC - Security Element
Private First Class Robert E. Dugan (1090722), USMC - Security Element
Private First Class William J. Ghrist (1083135), USMC - Security Element
Private First Class Jack L. Pope (1088517), USMC - Security Element

This patrol was assigned the mission of mining a railroad tunnel in the vicinity of Sangchon, Korea.  We carried with us the below items of equipment

2 entrenching tools; 2 pick mattocks; 2 pair binoculars; 6 Lensatic compasses; 10 flashlights; 10 sheath knives; 144 pounds of TNT in 1/2 pound blocks; 40 feet of time fuse; 6 Fuse lighters; 4 rolls of tar tape; 5 carbines, Cal. .30M2; 4 Thompson sub-machine guns, Cal. 45; 1 pistol cal. 45; 400 rounds of carbine ammunition; 261 rounds of 45 ammunition; 10 fragmentation hand grenades; 1000 feet of demolition cord; 40 blasting caps, non-electric; 4 pairs of crimpers; 3 SCR 536. 

The patrol arrived aboard the USS Mansfield at 1945 and completed plans for Naval Gunfire support on call.  At 001, 12 July 1950, the USS Mansfield went to General Quarters and made for its station some 3,000 yards from the beach.  At approximately 0105, the whale boat, containing the demolition patrol and its equipment, left for the beach.  The boat crew was supplied by the USS Mansfield.  Through radio communication from the USS Mansfield and radar facilities aboard, we were kept on course until about 500 yards from the beach.  The Commander navigating, we continued to the beach.  At an estimated 200 yards, we could see the beach, however, all estimates at night were difficult to make.  The surf did not seem too great.  Several large rocks were observed in the water from one foot to 25 feet high.  When it appeared that we were about 30 yards from shore, we dropped our stern anchor and paid out nearly 45 fathoms of line.  Soundings were attempted with paddles, but the bottom, at this point, could not be located.  More line was bent on to the anchor line, because we still had an estimated 20 yards to go to the beach.

At this point, a locomotive appeared, at what seemed to be directly over our heads.  It was found later to be actually about 150 feet up and 500 yards inland.  All hands laid low in the boat until the train passed.  We had not heard the train coming, it just suddenly appeared (we surmised it must have come out of the tunnel) continued on for about 300 yards and disappeared in another tunnel.  We were confident we were on the right part of the beach.

During the above locomotive episode, the boat drifted seaward a bit and when the engine in the boat was started again, the anchor line had become fouled with the propeller.  The Chief Boatswain Mate, acting as boat officer, went over the side and, with difficulty, cut the line loose.  We could not retrieve the anchor without wasting valuable time.  Still some 10 yards from the beach, the sailor acting as bow hook and the Marines disembarked and pulled the boat closer to shore.  The Marines then made a perimeter of defense while we unloaded the boat.  The boat was going to have to lay off shore until we returned because the rocks near and on shore were hazardous.  The surf was not a problem. Two Marines were left on the beach and the rest of the patrol proceeded inland toward the railroad track.

The beach was covered with loose rock and walking was hazardous, especially with the loads of explosive we were carrying.  We estimated the track to be 150 feet to 200 feet above us, up a very steep slope.  I decided to climb to the high ground to look for the track.  Everyone fell on the rocks at one time or another.  After 30 minutes, we reached the high ground, but still could not see the tracks.  I sent scouts out 100 yards in each direction until the track was found.  We had been standing on top of the tunnel.  We slid down the steep grade as cautiously as possible until reaching the tracks.  Once on the tracks, our machinery was set to work.  Into the tunnel, guards were posted and two demolition men, each digging in their explosives with the aid of another man.  The Commander, who had been in constant communication with the USS Mansfield, kept them advised of our activities.  Three charges were laid, two of about 25 pounds each three feet apart and 80 feet away, another single charge of 40 pounds.  All three charges were connected with two lines of primacord, one on the inboard side of each track.  The two 25-pound charges were put within 50 yards from the tunnel entrance.  The 40-pound charge was dug in about 100 yards from the other tunnel entrance.  The ties and track were laid on a charcoal and cinder base.  Since digging with shovels made too much noise, the men dug with their hands.  After the charges were placed in their holes and completely covered, I inspected each position.  I cleared the tunnel of all but one and taped the primacord with blasting caps onto the tracks.  Two pieces of primacord, one on each track, had three non-electric blasting caps taped on, and the primacord was then taped to the track.  The entire operation in the tunnel took about 45 minutes.

We left the tunnel and made a quick trip over a much easier route back to the boat.  We joined the two Marines who were left on the beach, loaded the unused equipment, and waded out to the boat.  All personnel accounted for, we made for the USS Mansfield, arriving there about 0330.  Mission accomplished.  - R. M. Johnson, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps.

After serving about 6 months on the Juneau, the Marines were transferred ashore in Korea, and most rejoined the units that they had formerly served in while stationed at Camp Pendleton.  These Marines, commanded by Capt. (now Major) Curtis F. Hamlin USMC Ret., are now all retired and live all over the USA.  Two of them were later killed in action.  Others have died.  Each year, some of them attend a reunion of the USS Juneau.

 


Back to Contents

Task Force Smith

Task Force Smith Facts
  • Total American troops in Task Force Smith = 406
  • Total enemy fought = 20,000 (two divisions)
  • Total Task Force Smith troops that got out alive = 250
  • Total Task Force Smith troops captured = 83
  • Total killed on the hill = 73
  • Total who came home from the 83 captured = 51
"7 Bloody Hours That Saved Korea"
by Major Walter Pennino

[The following story was reprinted on the Korean War Educator with the permission of Major Pennino's son.  It was published in "Real" magazine around October or November 1952. The major (a Bostonian) died several years ago.  He served in four big campaigns in Europe, was twice decorated for heroism, once wounded.  As MacArthur's News Chief in Tokyo, Pennino wrote the widely published eyewitness account of the Tojo hanging.  On a special mission touring the Pusan Perimeter in the grim days from August to October, 1950, he ran into the story of Task Force Smith.  He later became the commander of the Army Home Town News Center in Kansas City.]

This is the epic story, told here for the first time, of the first handful of American ground troops ordered into combat in Korea.  They were only 406 men, dug in on a hill near Osan, but they blasted hell out of 20,000 onrushing Communist troops spearheaded by 33 Russian-made T-34 tanks.

With their seven-hour gory stand on Heartbreak Highway, Task Force Smith--consisting of only two understrength American rifle companies--forced the Reds to slow down their headlong assault, deploy their forces and thus lose the impetus that would have carried them to the docks of Pusan just a few days after the outbreak of war.

In what may have been the seven most crucial hours of that war, Task Force Smith changed the pattern of the whole conflict and perhaps the course of history.

Of the 406 grim and ill-equipped Americans who manned that hill near Osan, only 250 came out alive...

"The Lid Has Blown Off"

Lt. Col. Charles Bradford Smith, scrappy 34-year-old commander of the 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, was asleep when the phone call came through: "Brad, the lid has blown off.  Get your fighting clothes and report to the C.P."  The routine seemed familiar.  Smith, a West Pointer, had been routed out of bed at Pearl Harbor to rush his 120 infantrymen to defend an eight-mile stretch of Hawaiian beach.  Now it was Korea.

This was on June 30th, four days after the Reds started their invasion of South Korea.  The 24th Division was stationed at Kyushu, southernmost island of Japan.  Less than 12 hours after orders left Washington authorizing the use of U.S. troops, C-54's began landing Smith's battalion on a rain-soaked runway 13 miles out of Pusan, Korea.  On the wall of a barracks, one of Smith's men found time to scribble this classic little jingle: "Clap your hands and jump for you.  You were here before Kilroy!"

There was little joy among this meager, jittery vanguard of the great army that was to halt the Reds.  The men were wet, tired, bewildered.  Swept from a quiet spot in peaceful Japan, they were being tossed to an enemy they knew nothing about, in a sickening country, in a confusing, mysterious war.  And yet this understrength battalion and its 19 jeeps represented the hope of 53 United Nations countries to hold the Red forces plunging toward Pusan.

The Battalion was "Red Hot"

Only about one in seven of the men were combat veterans; the rest were green.  The bulk of the riflemen, machine gunners and mortar men were 20 years old or less.  But the battalion had reached its peak of training; in Army parlance, 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment, was "red hot."

Supporting the riflemen were four heavy machineguns, two 75mm recoilless rifles, six bazookas, two mortars, and a promise and a prayer that a battery of artillery would join them soon.

Major General William F. Dean, commander of the 24th (later captured by the Reds), had said to Smith: "When you get to Pusan, commandeer trucks, trains, anything else you can get your hands on.  Head for Taejon.  We've got to block the main Seoul-Pusan road as far north as possible."

There was no other information; no estimate of the enemy situation; no indication of what would be on the battalion's flanks; and no idea of when it could expect any reinforcements.

At Taejon, Smith met Brig. Gen. John Church, MacArthur's advance commander in Korea.  "Well, Smith, we have a little action up here," said Church, pointing on a map to a strip of main highway south of Seoul.  "All we need is an outfit up there that won't run when they see tanks."

Smith decided to look over the land he was to defend.  Taking a handful of his battalion officers, he drove to a spot north of Osan and surveyed the high ground commanding the two avenues of approach into the town.  Jutting out of the rich Uijongbu valley was a large hill, flanked on the east side by a railroad and on the west by the main highway.

"If we had to fight in this vicinity, here is the spot we could best defend," Smith told his officers.  Then he mapped out supporting fires and final protective lines, dovetailed plans for company and platoon defensive positions and covering fires.

This was to be the first planned American battle line since the end of World War II.

Shortly after midnight, July 5, 1950, all of Task Force Smith moved out to Osan.  By this time, the communists had made a clean breakthrough and there was nothing between Smith and the Red spearhead even to begin to slow the enemy down.  Task Force Smith was the only organized resistance remaining on the bloody highway between Seoul and Pusan.

Task Force Smith Digs In

Smith's men moved into their positions rapidly.  Foxholes were dug, communication wire was laid, ammo and rations were unloaded and distributed.  At the first light, the men scanned their fields of fire.  In spite of the rain they had about 10,000 yards' visibility right down the main highway and railroad bed.  Meanwhile, word had come through that the promised artillery had showed up--Battery "A" of the 52nd Field Artillery was digging in 1500 yards to the rear of Smith's position and was ready to start shooting.  By 7:30 a.m., Task Force Smith was trimming up its positions.  It had test-fired its guns and rifles, and the artillery had fired several registrations on likely target areas in front of the riflemen's positions.

"B" Company with supporting elements was responsible for the highway, one 75mm recoilless rifle was assigned to cover it.  "C" Company was to cover the railroad.  The second 75 recoilless rifle was trained down the railroad tracks.

M/Sgt. Harvey Vann, a Texan, had bought a new car in Japan just before the battalion was flown to Korea.  Now standing on the hill north of Osan, he offered it for sale.  "It's a good buy, men," he assured his dug-in comrades, "And I'm willing to sell it at a loss."  He had no takers.

Daylight brought more rain--and the enemy.  The weather doused any hope of air support for the defense.

At 7:30 a.m., July 5th, the Communists struck.  A column of thirty-three Russian-made T-34 tanks came rumbling out of Suwon down the highway toward the Americans on the hill.

Task Force Smith trained all its guns on the enemy.  The artillery opened up at Colonel Smith's call, but the infantry held its fire, waiting for the order to shoot.  The initial enemy fire attack came when the tanks were at about 1500 yards.  They approached without caution, apparently not expecting to run into a force that would stand and fight.

"They couldn't have been surprised that we were on the hill," Smith recounted.  "After all, we made plenty of noise when we test-fired and registered our guns at daybreak.  They must have heard us."

The Communists Blast Our Hill

The American artillery continued to fire as the T-34's paused on the winding highway to pour shells into the U.S. positions.  Smith ordered the fire of the 75mm recoilless rifles held until 700 yards range because of the shortage of ammunition.  For the rest of the infantrymen, the order was, "Don't shoot till you see the slant of their eyes!" The tanks came on.

Sergeant Pugh was in command of the 75 rifle responsible for the highway.  When the back blast of his gun immediately disclosed his position to the oncoming tanks, the Communists blasted his position, killing one soldier and wounding another.  The sergeant and his remaining men moved the gun about 100 feet and resumed firing, continuing until their ammunition was exhausted.  Because the bulk of their ammunition was the wrong type (probably high explosive and not armor piercing) no visible damage was done by their fire.  The tanks were slowed down, but they weren't stopped.  For an hour, they inched forward toward the American positions.

The tragedy of the defense was the failure of the anti-tank rockets to knock off the lead tank.  Moving under the direction of Lt. Janson Cox, a Missourian who has since been reported missing in action, the bazooka teams edged down to the road to engage the tanks.  "It was heart breaking," reported Capt. Doody of "B" Company, "to watch those men firing pointblank and doing little damage.  Rockets hit the tanks in the tracks, turrets and bogies, and still couldn't stop them!"

Lieutenant Ollie Conner, standing behind a knocked-out vehicle, fired 22 rockets from about 15 feet into the tanks as they went by.  He stood upright in the smoke and the rain, defying the enemy tankers, and cursing as his shots, all excellent hits by World War II standards, failed to cripple the tankers.  Yet before his ammo was gone, Conner managed to knock out two of the tanks, a feat for which he later was awarded the Silver Star.

There were no live demolitions or mines to hinder the enemy.  The tanks moved right through the hail of fire coming down on them from the hill.

"If one anti-tank crew had been able to pick off the lead and rear tank, the others would have been sitting ducks," reported Lt. Col. Miller Perry, the artillery commander, as he recounted the action.  "Four or five tanks, all medium, just sat near our positions with their hatches battened down, blasting away at our line.  The infantry took a terrific pounding as the other tanks came down the road.  The tanks swung their turrets on our artillery positions, letting us have it.  In a direct fire duel at 100 yards range, we struck back with our 105's and stopped four of them."

Battle Was Costly

Colonel Smith moved from company to company to make sure his men held their positions in the tank attack.  It wasn't easy for some men.  When Smith passed the gun emplacement of a young Iowan, Pfc. John Crespo, a 60mm mortarman, Crespo held up the bipod.  It had been shattered by shell fragments.  "What do I do now?" he asked.  Crespo fought on as a rifleman, but following that engagement was reported missing in action.

Not far from Crespo, Brad Smith could see the rest of the 60mm mortar team, blasted by tank fire.  Sgt. Calvin Patterson of Oregon had been struck in the neck with shell fragments, but refused evacuation to the aid station.  "We won't get out anyway," he explained.  He stayed with the small mortars until out of ammunition and then directed his platoon, including Crespo, as riflemen.

The hour-long tank battle had been costly.  About 20 Americans had been killed and wounded holding their positions as the tanks went through and past them, leaving six burning hulls on the road.  Task Force Smith had been ordered to hold.  General Church had said, "All we need is an outfit up there that won't run when they see tanks."  Task Force Smith did not run.

But the main attack had not yet been launched.  On the road south from Suwon, 10,000 yards away, the Americans could see countless trucks loaded with troops.  Why they did not dismount and fight with the tanks is a mystery to Smith.  Had they fought as a tank infantry team, Task Force Smith would have been slaughtered in the first assault.

Forty-five minutes after the tanks had passed through Task Force Smith's position, the trucks started up.  They rolled along the highway much as the tanks had.  None of the troops got out ahead to scout the ground.

A column of enemy five miles long came out in the open, and when the leading elements were within 1000 yards, Task Force Smith "threw the book at them."  The column was raked with machine gun, mortar and artillery fire.  Trucks went up in flames.  Enemy dead and wounded cluttered the road.  Others fled in panic into adjacent rice paddies.  This was not the war the Reds had been used to during the past several days.

The enemy's approach was slowed down, which gave Task Force Smith a chance to consolidate its positions and move up more ammunition.  They discovered then that the tanks had shot up many of the 19 jeeps which had been pooled in the rear.

The tanks continued to speed down the main highway toward Pyongtaek while Task Force Smith engaged the infantrymen to the front.  As the T-34's rolled by, they tore up the communications lines to the artillery battery.  This destroyed the last communications Smith had, other than messengers.  Most of his jeeps were gone, his radios were inoperative from the constant rain, and now the tanks had chewed up his wire.

The artillery was 100 yards off the road in position when the tanks went by.  They suffered only a few casualties, including Col. Perry, the artillery commander, who received a shell fragment in the knee.

Reds Collect Their Wits

Once the tanks cleared, Task Force Smith never saw or heard them again.  What the advance guard of Americans did not know was that by this time the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry of the 24th Division, commanded by Lt. Col. "Red" Ayers, was approaching a new line near Pyongtaek to fight the first in a planned series of long delaying actions.  The T-34's were rolling head on into this force as the Red infantrymen, several miles behind the tanks, were collecting their wits.  The initial shock against Task Force Smith had been severe for them.  Losses were great.

"It seemed that we mowed down hundreds, but it was hard to tell," Smith said.  By 10:45 a.m. the Reds resumed the offensive, this time dismounted.  Artillery and mortar fire began to fall on the U.S. position.  From under this cover, swarms of Communist soldiers 1000 yards from Task Force Smith fanned out in a wide enveloping movement, sweeping in from the east and west up the far slopes of the hill.  Task Force Smith held tenaciously, fighting off wave after wave.

Smith decided that the only way to prolong survival was to bring his forces together on one side of the road and fight in a perimeter defense, Indian fashion, as long as he could.  But getting his men across the road was difficult.  The highway was covered by a screen of enemy fire, and the enemy had already set up machine guns on the slopes immediately below the American positions.

Dug in on the slopes overlooking the Reds was quiet, determined Pfc. Florentine Gonzales.  He was a machine gunner who had always said he would never leave his machine gun.  He had all but hand-carried the weapon from Japan to that hill, and now as the enemy came in his sights he splattered them with a fury of fire.  As his buddies tried to close into the defense perimeter, Gonzales covered them, yelling encouragement as he traversed his gun across the ranks of the attacking Communists.  By the time the last American dashed across the road under Gonzales' covering fire, they noticed that he was bleeding from head to chest.  But his gun was still pouring out a volley of death.  He clung to his gun, half-blind with blood and rage.  All the strength he had left in his body was on the handgrip of his machine gun as the communists swarmed his position.  (He was later reported as a captive by the enemy.)

The perimeter was established but by 2:30 in the afternoon, with one quarter of its force wounded or killed, very little ammunition left, no communications and no transportation, Task Force Smith was virtually surrounded.  The only area from which it was not getting a heavy volume of fire was to the right rear.

Gets No Support

There was no air support, not even a liaison cub plane to guide Task Force Smith out of this hell.  There was no hope of any ground support punching its way through to them, not while 37 Russian tanks were on the highway between Osan and Pyongtaek.  The road was under fire, preventing any opportunity to open wire communications to the artillery.

Sergeant First Class Loran Chambers of Mt. Sterling, Ill. was a rough-tough soldier.  In World War II he had collected five Purple Hearts, and this was the day for his sixth combat wound.  He was a platoon guide in "C" Company, directing all available fire on the attacking North Koreans.  A gruff, profane, but colorful sergeant, Chambers called back over the sound-power telephone for some 60mm mortar support.  The answer came back.  "Won't reach that far."

"How about some 81's?" Chambers shouted.

"We don't have any."

"Well, for C____ sake, throw in some 4.2's."

"We're out of that, too," came the plaintive response from the mortar platoon.

Then Chambers asked, "How about the artillery?"

"No communications."

"How about the Air Force?"

"We don't know where they are."

"Then, dammit, call the Navy!" Chambers demanded.

"They can't reach this far."

Chambers was exasperated but not undone.  "Send me a camera," he yelled over the phone. "I want to take a picture of this."  A few minutes later Chambers was struck by mortar fragments, for his sixth Purple Heart.  He went on to earn five more Purple Hearts and a commission, and was rotated home before his luck ran out.

At 2:30 Colonel Smith issued orders to his companies to fight their way through the light spray of fire to the right rear.  "B" Company would cover the withdrawal as "C" Company with attachments, the medics, the walking wounded and Battalion Headquarters fought their way southward toward a smaller hill to the rear.  From here "C" Company would in turn support the withdrawal of "B" Company.

The positions were littered with American dead.  There were many critically wounded men lying on litters, on the ground and in the air station.  Use of the few remaining jeeps for evacuation purposes was impossible, as the enemy controlled the road, and the rice paddies were rich with mud and fertilizer.  Litter bearers carrying wounded through hip-deep mud in rice paddies would have progressed so slowly that the bearers themselves would certainly have become casualties.

"That's the worst part of a deal like that," Smith said, "to leave wounded and dying men yelling for you to help them, and there was no way to help them. We had a lot of casualties getting out of that position, how many I don't know."

One of Smith's lieutenants, hurt badly, was dragging himself to the rear.  There were six men lying on the ground, unable to walk.  "Lieutenant, what is going to happen to us?" one of them cried out.  The lieutenant passed him a hand grenade.  "This is the best I can do for you."

Machine Gun is Silenced

The withdrawal was made more difficult by an enemy machine gun nest 40 yards away from the route.  It sprayed the hillside and rice paddies every time one of the infantrymen tried to move.

This murderous gun wasn't silenced until Lt. Raymond E. "Bodie" Adams of Baltimore, Maryland, star pitcher and captain of the regimental baseball team, tossed a grenade 40 yards directly into the gun next and destroyed the position.  Bodie Adams, who had to take considerable risk and fully expose himself, got the Silver Star for this action.

There was no indication of where the tanks had gone and Smith did not know how large a force he was fighting.  Actually it was two divisions, led by the tank spearhead that hit him seven hours earlier.  Now these two divisions--about 20,000 men--had already suffered thousands of casualties and were fully deployed along the strategic Seoul-Pusan highway.

"In an obviously hopeless situation with many casualties, no communications, no transportation, ammo gone and the enemy tanks now well behind me, I was faced with a decision: what the hell to do?  To stand and die or try to get the remains of my task force out of there.  I could last, at best, only another hour and then lose everything I had.  I chose to try to get out in hopes that we would live to fight again another day," Smith said.

Smith gave orders to his men to try and find their way to friendly positions.  Certainly other U.S. units were set up by now.  He told his men to assemble in company groups.  The situation on the distant flanks and rear was unknown.  It seemed reasonable to expect that other enemy units were advancing down parallel roads.  The ammunition was exhausted, and Smith felt that small groups of five or six unarmed men would have better chances of survival than company-size groups of unarmed men.  "Meet me at Chonan, 20 miles south of here.  Keep off the main roads. Good luck."

Some Men Made It

Some men walked 60 miles, wading through muddy and malodorous rice paddies and over mountains to get to that position, but they made it.  Others never made it.  Lt. Col. Smith with four or five volunteers sloshed through open rice paddies in hip-deep mud to notify the artillery battery that the infantry was pulling out.  Because of lack of communications, there was no other way to notify the artillerymen who were still in good shape and had lost no equipment.  This seemed a miracle, since Task Force Smith had observed the tanks firing at 100-yard range into the battery position.

For several days men of the battalion filtered back to the rear.  Perhaps the most unusual odyssey of escape was the story of Sgt. William F. Smith.  Hiding out behind enemy lines, he worked his way with the aid of friendly South Koreans to the west coast, where fishermen took him south by boat.  Abut two weeks later, he regained friendly lines where he was hospitalized with a case of pneumonia.

Captain William "Chief" Wyrick, a good infantryman with some Indian blood in him, took a small group south across the railroad tracks.  Wyrick moved east with his group, which included the chaplain.  They ran into a group of about ten Koreans.  Not knowing whether they were South or North Koreans, they forced the natives to join them. They struck out for Ansong and from there south to Chonan.  The further they went the more disorderly the march became.  However, they managed to take care of the wounded, feeding them rice balls which were provided by the Koreans, who turned out to be friendly, and eventually made their way to Chonan.

The artillery battery moved out in its trucks, leaving in their wake destroyed equipment.  En route over open country and back roads the trucks picked up all the infantrymen they could locate.  On July 6 about 185 men from Task Force Smith had reassembled as instructed at Chonan, ready for what might come.

Not Yet Out of Trouble

Task Force Smith still wasn't out of trouble.  As the men straggled into Chonan, they were directed to a schoolhouse where they hoped to rest and get cleaned up a bit.  Just as Smith had gotten out of his dirty fatigues, he received word that the town was now "No-man's land"--in other words, in front of the front lines!

Smith hurriedly dressed and together with some of his men dashed into the town, hoping to scrounge some trucks.  There he saw his "C" Company Commander, Capt. Richard W. Dashner, of Waco, Texas, with a group of 65 men who had just arrived.  This brought the survival total to 250 exhausted men.  Smith told them to stand fast right where they were while he continued on in search of trucks.  Going to the railroad station, Smith and his group were fortunate in securing four trucks from the South Koreans and were also able to borrow six more trucks from the Service Company of the 35th Infantry, which was in the process of moving supplies to the south.

Task Force Smith - now 250 strong - got on the trucks and on General Barth's order proceeded to Taejon for rest and equipment.  About 155 men were killed, wounded or missing in the seven-hour fight at Osan.

But the enemy tanks, which sped down the main highway through Smith's positions while Task Force Smith held its ground, were in far worse trouble.  For one thing they had taken serious losses for the first time since they launched their aggression.  Six tanks were a lot of casualties of the 33 tanks in the short fight.  They did not know how large or small a force they had hit.

Moreover, the Red tankers did not know what was holding up their infantrymen to the rear and therefore, did not dare attack without infantry the positions at Pyongtaek held by the 34th Infantry Regiment.

The 34th got a break then, in that it was able to  move back to a position just south of Chonan with little trouble and there set up a better position for delay.  This time it was with a greater force, including "A" Company and the reminder of "D", the companies Smith had left behind in Japan.

Task Force Loses Identity

Task Force Smith--what remained of it--was soon reunited with the other units of the 1st Battalion, and lost forever its identity as Task Force Smith.  It became once again the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Division.  Its valiant men went right back into battle no longer green kids but bitter and hardened combat veterans.  They now knew what kind of an enemy they were facing in the swarming hordes of fanatical Communists who were determined to drive them from Korea.

It was a long time before any of the men of Task Force Smith realized what they had accomplished.  When they had time to reflect, or when someone who knew "the big picture" explained it to them, they could realize the magnitude of their success.  With 406 men they had forced two North Korean tank-led divisions to slow down a drive that would have easily brought them to Pusan, for on July 5 no firm defense was set up anywhere behind Task Force Smith to stop the Reds.

Two days later, when General MacArthur announced in Tokyo, "The enemy have lost their opportunity for victory in Korea by deploying too soon," he was thinking about Task Force Smith.  He was thinking about the momentous decision which had sent a handful of men against 20,000 well-trained, well-equipped Communists.  He was thinking about Brad Smith's decision to stand at Osan.

It was the seven-hour fight of Task Force Smith at Osan that gave the free world the margin of time it needed to get more troops to the Korean peninsula and stop the Reds.

Letters to the Editor

In response the Pennino's article in "Real" magazine, readers responded with the following Letters to the Editor that were posted under the title "The Lesson of Korea":

"We in the first Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, were proud to lead the United Nations' assault in Korea.... Much of the credit rightly belongs to Brigadier General Richard W. Stephens....  The United States fought the early phase of the Korean War on a shoestring basis--as usual.  Have we relearned the obvious lesson?  Let's stay strong!" - Lt Col. Brad Smith, Fort MacArthur, California

"... I wish to thank you for the opportunity to read the article "7 Bloody Hours That Saved Korea."  Major Pennino has done a fine job of telling the story of Task Force smith, the outfit which "bought time" for us and the United Nations in the early days of Korea.  "Real" is to be complimented on its service in publishing this great story about the Army." - John F. Kane, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Pennino Objects

On April 5, 1995, Walter Pennino wrote a letter to the editor of the Fairfax, Virginia, newspaper in response to an article by Peter Bacque.  Bacque had criticized the United States for "first battles" in time of war, citing deficiencies in Task Force Smith.  Pennino responded in the following manner:

Dear Sir:

"Peter Bacque's account in the Journal that the United States had 'an ugly record in first battles...' picked an inappropriate example when he cited Task Force Smith in Korea.  That unit of only 406 men, less than a battalion of the 21st Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division, had a single mission: to delay the enemy until a greater force could be put in place.  For seven bloody hours, dug in on a hill at Osan, this small force blasted hell out of 20,000 onrushing communist troops spearheaded by 33 Russian-made T-34 tanks, forcing the early deployment of the truck-mounted North Korean infantry and halting the surprised tanks.

Had it not been for Task Force Smith (named after its scrappy commander, Charles Bradford Smith), the North Koreans would have driven, virtually unmolested, to Pusan and the war would have ended in a North Korean victory in just a few days.  By any definition of 'mission accomplished', it was a battle won by Task Force Smith, not a battle lost.  I was there.  I know." - Walter A. Pennino

 


Back to Contents

Beilstein Research – July 5, 1950*


Jim Beilstein on the General Patch on his way to Germany circa 1952.
Photo courtesy Marty O'Brien
(Click picture for a larger view)

The significance of the pictures is that Shadrick was the first group troop killed in the Korean War. A photographer asked him and his partner to pose for a picture, and while he was posing he was killed by a sniper. Very rare photos.
(Click picture for a larger view)

James Beilstein's Research Report... James B. decided that he didn't like having to go to the bottom of a page of reading to find the footnotes on a particular subject, so he inserted the footnotes between each line of text.

His report is available for viewing in your choice of PDF File or MS Word 2000 document:

*KWE Note: Beilstein's research is his own, and it is up to the visitors of the KWE to determine the validity of his facts.  KWE has received about the accuracy of some of Beilstein's sources.  As always, reader comments are welcome.  Send them to lynnita@koreanwar-educator.org.


Back to Contents

Beilstein Research – July 6, 1950

Coming soon...

 


Back to Contents

1st Provisional Marine Brigade

Special Action Report

An excellent source of information about 1/5 Marines involved in the Pusan Perimeter is a Special Action Report that appears on the Pusan Perimeter page of the Korean War Educator.

Brigade Roster (compiled by Bob Speights of Austin, Texas)

Following is a roster of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, Reinforced for August and September 1950 while in action in Korea.  It was compiled by Robert J. Speights, Austin, Texas, who thought it should be done.

Foreward

This roster of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, Korea 1950 is a list of men who raised the title Marine to a new level.  During the months of August and September the pressure on the Pusan Perimeter was relieved to the degree that in three operations better than three North Korean divisions were rendered ineffective.  History is not within the scope of this work, but these are the men who made the legends.

Semper Fi,
R.J. Speights

Compilation

 


Back to Contents

The Pusan Perimeter:  Fight for a Foothold

By Lynn Montross, Historical Division, Headquarters, USMC
Reprinted from June 1951 issue of The Marine Corps Gazette with permission

The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade lost no time at going into action in Korea. On 14 July 1950, when the ground troops sailed from San Diego, their destination was Japan for a brief training period. During the next 10 days, however, the military situation deteriorated so rapidly that Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the Brigade to proceed directly to Korea.

On 2 August, as the men landed at Pusan, the enemy was about 40 miles from that seaport. The next morning the main body of the Brigade moved east by rail to a bivouac near Masan in Eighth U.S. Army reserve. And on 7 August, the eighth anniversary of the Guadalcanal landing, the Marines launched the first of three counter-attacks which would restore Eighth Army lines.

Not much encouragement could be derived at that date from the political and strategic background. As early as 10 May the Defense Minister of the Republic of Korea had warned the United Nations Commission that North Korean forces were moving toward the 38th Parallel. He estimated their total strength at 183,000 men and 173 tanks, including 25,000 veterans of Chinese Communist campaigns. The ROK army, hastily built up from a national constabulary, numbered about 100,000 men. Most of the units had received little training, but there was a general lack of such arms as tanks, artillery, and antitank weapons.

On 25 June 1950, when the first NK columns crossed the 38th Parallel, it could not be doubted that the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea was carrying out Soviet policies. Nor was it any secret that the invading army had been trained by Soviet instructors and armed with Soviet weapons.

The United Nations and President Truman met the challenge with dramatic promptness. Military sanctions were ordered against the aggressors on 28 June, and four days later the first U.S. Army troops landed in Korea.

On 2 July the Chief of Naval Operations, with the concurrence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, granted Gen. MacArthur’s request for a Marine RCT with its own air. This was the inception of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, made up of the 5th Marine Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the 11th Marines, and MAG-33—a total of 6,534 men, including supporting troops.

BrigGen Edward A. Craig commanded this air-ground team composed largely of troops stationed in California. On 13 July, as Marine embarkation began, LtGen Walton W. Walker assumed command of the Eighth U.S. Army in Korea (EUSAK), numbering 43,146 men in Korea and Japan.

Gen MacArthur had already warned the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 9 July to expect a major conflict against a well-trained and equipped enemy. His prediction was confirmed during the next three weeks as U.S. and ROK troops fell back before materially superior invaders. Taejon had to be evacuated on 21 July when the line of the river Kum could not be held. The out-weighed UN forces, their left flank dangling, were unable to prevent the enemy from making an end run in the direction of Pusan.

Nonsan, Namwon, and Hadong fell in dismaying succession to invaders sweeping around to the UN rear, opposed only by militarized ROK police. Gen Walker met the threat on 25 July by shifting the 24th Division (less the 21st Infantry) to the Chinju area with a blocking mission. The North Koreans continued to make daily gains, however, with an estimated two to three regiments of the 6th Division. On the last day of the month they drove southward and eastward to the occupation of Chinju, about 50 miles west of Pusan. On the central front other enemy forces reached the river Naktong, and on the east coast a NK column pushed southward to capture Youngdok from ROK defenders.

EUSAK spokesmen described the situation as "fluid," but the Pusan perimeter was already taking shape. Taegu, the hub of the rail net, was about 50 miles from Pusan, which meant that EUSAK had a larger perimeter than its scanty forces could defend except at key points. The intermittent "line" of defense positions stretched from the secondary port of Pohang on the east coast to the Naktong, then dipped to the south coast in the vicinity of Masan, only 35 miles from Pusan.

This irregular semicircle, about 120 miles in length, or a smaller one, had to be held at the peril of a new Dunkirk. The defenders had only seven under-strength divisions on 1 August. EUSAK consisted of the 24th Division and most of the elements of the 25th and 1st Cavalry Divisions—42,199 men in all, including supporting troops. Air Force units added 3,527 to the total. Alongside these U.S. divisions were four battered ROK divisions, in action since 25 June.

Eleven enemy divisions had been identified by this date. The seven which launched the invasion were those numbered from the 1st to 6th, including a large proportion of veterans of Chinese Communist campaigns, and the 15th. Four more divisions, hastily raised from border constabulary units, were thrown into action before the end of July.

At the outset Gen MacArthur had necessarily to draw upon occupation forces in Japan, including many recent recruits not ready for combat. The first contingents, making contact with the enemy on 5 July, found themselves plunged into a melancholy land of bleak mountains and fetid rice paddies. Friend could not readily be distinguished from foe in a swarming Oriental population, and too often a group of supposed South Korean civilians proved to be disguised enemy soldiers.

Throughout July an atmosphere of failure and confusion oppressed the men at the front and communicated itself to the public at home. Pearl Harbor had been a shock that energized and united Americans in a day. Korea, in contrast, was only enough of a disillusionment to arouse grumbling. It was hard for soldiers and civilians alike to realize that an Asiatic peninsula might become the Spain of a third World War.

August threatened to be a critical month for Pusan, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Thus the arrival of the Marines was timely, following the debarkation of the 2nd Infantry Division and Army 5th RCT at Pusan the day before.

Reinforcements were sorely needed at a time when five of the seven UN divisions had neared exhaustion. Since the perimeter could not be held in strength everywhere, EUSAK orders of 2 August called for counterattacks against penetrations to disorganize enemy columns, keep them off balance, and prevent them from launching a coordinated effort. At this turning point the Marine air-ground team constituted a welcome unit to be shifted from one sector to another as a mobile, self-contained reserve.

On 4 August the Plans Section of EUSAK completed a study of plans, later approved, for a counterattack along the Masan-Chinju-Hadong axis. Two days later Task Force Kean—named after MajGen William B. Kean, CG of the 25th Division—was organized with a mission of driving west toward Chinju to secure Masan, a secondary port, from future enemy attempts. The primary object was to prevent NK forces n the Chinju area from cutting the Eighth Army off from its Pusan base. This peril was considered imminent in view of reported large hostile troop movements toward the southern front. Later intelligence led to the conclusion that the main enemy effort would be made farther north in the Yongsan sector of the central front. But the plans were not changed, as it was hoped that the Chinju operation would relieve NK pressure on the threatened central front.

Task Force Kean had as its components the 25th Division, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade (plus an ROK police company), and the Army 5th RCT. The main body of the Marine ground forces, after proceeding by rail on 3 August from Pusan to the Changwon bivouac near Masan, spent three days in EUSAK reserve. Routine patrols were sent out while the Brigade occupied tactical dispositions astride the Masan-Changwon corridor in preparation for further operations. Nervous bursts of night firing occurred in all battalion areas, but no casualties resulted.

These patrols were believed to have provided the occasion for the first air-drops of rations and water by helicopter as well as evacuation of heat casualties. The presence of an enemy patrol was confirmed only once, but no contact could be made with North Korean soldiers who abandoned their observation post and escaped.

The three days in EUSAK reserve were valuable as an orientation and training period. Despite its hasty buildup, the Brigade could be considered an outfit of combat-ready troops. The 1st Battalion, commanded by LtCol George R. Newton, was fairly typical. About 300 of the men had been training at Camp Pendleton when the Brigade was activated. Most of the remaining 400 troops of the battalion had thereafter joined from posts and stations on the West Coast. The latter had received no training with the battalion on field problems, but all were basically well grounded. An experienced and able group of officers and NCOs provided a high order of leadership. During the trans-Pacific voyage they conducted shipboard instruction at the squad and platoon level.

The Brigade moved into an assembly area at Chindong-ni (Map, page 30) on 6 August after being attached to the 25th Division. Relief of a battalion of the 27th Infantry was accomplished by 3/5, under control of CO 27th Infantry for this action. Gen Craig resumed full Brigade control after his other two battalions moved into attack positions that night.

A new chapter of Marine Corps history had begun, and it was fitting that a rifle platoon should draw first blood. Shortly after dark, while the Brigade was still under Army control, CO 27th Infantry directed that a platoon of 3/5 proceed several miles forward to protect the flank of a company reporting heavy pressure. The 1st Platoon of George Company and a MG section were sent by CO 3/5 with a mission of seizing a ridge line. During the advance the first Marine battle casualties of Korea occurred about 0500 on 7 august when enemy artillery shells wounded tow men. Two hours later Lt John H.J. Cahill led 39 men up a slope swept by NK automatic fire. He took his objective at 0900, after making contact with the 27th’s infantry company, and held for 24 hours under sporadic mortar and automatic fire until being relieved the next morning by Dog Company of 2/5. Six men of the detachment were killed and 12 wounded, in addition to heat casualties.

The story of the war in Korea might have been written in terms of such rifle platoon actions. Although he American public had been conditioned by irresponsible concepts of push-button warfare, the actual showdown called for the timeworn fundamentals of sound infantry training.

The attack plan of 7 August provided for the Army 5th RCT to jump off at 030 from positions just beyond Chindong-ni after a brief air-artillery preparation. These assault troops had orders to pass through and relieve the 27tn Infantry before advancing to clear the road junction west of Chindong-ni . When that mission had been accomplished, the Marine Brigade was to jump off from the road junction and initiate its attack along the route toward Kosong. Meanwhile the 5th RCT would continue to advance along the northern fork of the road toward Chinju.

This plan remained in effect until the Army 5th RCT was held up by opposition northwest of Chindong-ni. CG 25th Division then directed that a battalion of Marines relieve the 2d Battalion, Army 5th RCT, so that the attack could proceed. This mission fell to 2/4 of the Marines, and at 1100 the battalion moved out from Sangnyong-ni. Enemy automatic and mortar fire held up the advance, but the extreme heat did as much to delay troops making an exhausting climb. At dusk the Marine shad not been able to complete the relief, and an early morning attack was necessary to fight through and relieve the Army battalion. Eight men were killed and 28 wounded in the Marine battalion.

Such stubborn enemy resistance had developed in this area that three days and nights of slugging would ensure before the road junction had been fully cleared. This task absorbed the efforts of the Marine Brigade as well as elements of the Army 5th and 27th Regiments. At 1120 on 7 august Gen Craig was directed by CG 25th Division to assume command of all Army as well as Marine units in the area—a responsibility which he held until relieved by oral instructions late in the afternoon of 9 august after the road junction was cleared.

Where possible the Marine Brigade operated in a column of battalions passing through and relieving one another at successive objectives. Not only was the rugged terrain a factor, but the battalions still had only two rifle companies. [At Camp Pendleton, as part of the transition from a peace to war footing, third platoons were activated on 5 July. Third companies did not join the Brigade, however, until after operations ended in the Pusan Perimeter.] The great frontages typical of the Korean operations required battalions to commit two companies abreast, leaving no reserve echelon.

Slow progress in clearing the road junction was made during the daylight hours of 8 August by the Brigade and Army troops against enemy units identified as the 82rd Motorized and the 13th and 15th Infantry of the 6th Division. The Marines learned to respect a hardy enemy for his skill at camouflage, ambush, infiltration and use of cover. They learned that supporting air and artillery fires often had limited effect on a foe making clever use of reverse slope defenses to offset Marine concentrations. Thus a ridge might protect and conceal an enemy strong point until attackers were too close for supporting fires. At that stage the affairs turned into a fire fight with small arms in which the North Koreans were at no disadvantage despite their handicap in air and artillery.

Rear areas and supply routes were seldom safe from infiltration. A noteworthy example was supplied on the night of 8 August when the enemy threw a road block across the Masan-Chindong-ni MSR behind 2/5, delaying the relief of that Marine battalion by a battalion of the 24th Infantry. CG Brigade ordered 3/5 to the rescue form positions in the vicinity, with two battalions of the 24th Infantry in support. Slow progress was made in staggering heat on the morning of 9 August. Artillery fires and napalm strikes were delivered to enable How Company to seize the high ground commanding the road block. Not until late that afternoon was the weary 2d Battalion relieved.

Meanwhile 1/5 had been ordered on 8 August to advance from defense positions at 2300 in conjunction with an Army 5th RCT effort to complete its mission of clearing the road junction. Although the Leathernecks had to cross a mile-long rice paddy to relieve an Army's 5th RCT battalion, not a shot was fired at the single-file column. At 0600, after completing relief, the Marines attacked to seize Objective 1, the high ground to the immediate front. Again the lack of resistance was bewildering, and orders were received to continue to advance along the road toward Paedun-ni. About a third of the distance had been covered without opposition when the battalion set up defense positions for the night.

The late afternoon of 9 August dated a turning point. Army 5th RCT reported that the road junction had at last been cleared, permitting forward movement along the northern route toward Chinju. Three days of hard and often confused fighting had dislodged the enemy and forced him into full retreat along both roads in the direction of Kosong and Chinju. These results had been accomplished during a decisive first phase in which Gen Craig held overall command in the forward area. Then, on 10 August, Army elements of the 5th and 27th Regiments reverted from Brigade command to 25th Division control.

The fleeing enemy offered little opposition to the advance of the 10 August. After occupying Paedun-ni at dawn, the Marines advanced 10 miles along the road without any serious action except an attempted enemy ambush defeated by Lt Col Harold S. Roise’s 2d Battalion with air and tank support.

Fatigue and heat continued on 11 August to be the main foes of troops who had known little sleep or rest in four days and nights. As the Brigade moved toward Kosong against light opposition, the 35th RCT had covered most of the distance to Chinju along the northern axis. Pockets of resistance were encountered, but the enemy was withdrawing everywhere and even abandoning equipment. The 1st Battalion, 11th Marines hastened this process by shelling Kosong. Enemy transport led a disorderly flight from the town, and Marine air had a turkey shoot at the expense of a column estimated at 40 vehicles. About half were destroyed and the rest damaged in repeated attacks by the Corsairs.

Although the UN forces were criticized for being road bound, this episode hinted that the enemy had fewer difficulties because he had fewer vehicles. Only human transport could traverse the rice paddies and hilltops; but the North Koreans were driven to that expedient by UN planes which controlled the roads in daylight hours.

The enemy, according to EUSAK estimates, began the invasion with 122 planes of all types, most of which were destroyed by the middle of July. Only infrequent flights by single aircraft were reported afterwards, and Marine fliers met no resistance in their element. Despite the enemy’s lack of air reconnaissance, his artillery was surprisingly effective at times. As an example, a 122mmprojectile knocked out one of our 105mm howitzers with a direct hit on 7 August, killing two men and wounding eight of B Battery, 11th Marines. Enemy intelligence commanded respect, and his intermittent firing practices permitted well camouflaged gun positions to be long concealed form air observation.

The evacuation of Kosong occurred just as LtCol Robert D. Taplett’s 3/5 passed through the other two battalions. Beyond the town the fast-moving advance troops bore down on the NK 83rd Motorized in the confusion of escape, and infantry combined with air to leave the road strewn with enemy dead and wrecked transport. Some of the Soviet-made vehicles were captured intact and put to good use by Marines slowed by transport shortages and limitations. [Many vehicles were left on the dock at San Diego because of shipping shortages. But the Brigade discovered that even the full allowance of equipment would not have been sufficient.]

At dusk on 11 August, after reaching high ground 2,400 yards west of Kosong, the Brigade halted with orders to attack toward Sachon in the morning. The 1st Battalion leapfrogged the 3rd at daybreak and advanced for seven hours against negligible opposition to a ridge within sight of Sachon. It could hardly have been imagined at this moment that a beaten enemy was coiled to strike his two boldest blows of the campaign.

The first developed when 24th Infantry elements were surprised by enemy infiltrating 25 miles to the rear and overrunning artillery positions on the MSR west of Chindong-ni. At noon on 12 August, CO 5th Marines, carrying out 25th Division instructions, ordered 3/5 to the new road block by motor lift. Arriving at 1600, G and H companies attacked to secure their first objectives before dusk. Several hot fire fights took place the next day before How Company advanced with supporting air, artillery, and 4.2 mortar fires to clear the MSR.

Meanwhile, as the other two Marine battalions continued the advance toward Sachon, the enemy demonstrated that ambush as well as infiltration was an ever-present threat of North Korean tactics. At 1400 on 12 August the 1st Battalion, with a reconnaissance company detachment leading, entered a U-shaped defile east of the town.

This was the beginning of the affair known as the Sachon Ambush. As a test of Marine and enemy techniques, it is perhaps the most instructive fire fight of the operation.

The reconnaissance detachment, acting as the point, promptly unmasked enemy intentions by spotting four NK soldiers hurrying toward their machine gun emplacements (Point C). Fire was immediately opened when return fire revealed additional positions (Points A). Baker Company deployed on the left side of the road and Able on the right.

A platoon of tanks, attached to the battalion, soon got into the fight. Maneuver was prevented by rice paddies lying between the road and high ground. But tank fires were directed by platoon leaders using such SCR 536s as had not been put out of commission by mud and water. CO Baker Company, after orienting himself, further briefed the tanks on his SCR 300. After rogering for this orientation, the tanks put down the fire requested by platoon leaders.

Tanks covered the laborious advance of the 3rd Platoon of Baker Company across an ankle-deep rice paddy to seize a hill on the left flank. Covered by these supporting fires, the 3rd Platoon reached the crest of Hill 202 but was driven back by superior enemy numbers counter-attacking from the reverse slope. Artillery was called into action to get the platoon off the hill. The Corsairs strafed the indicated area with repeated runs, and artillery laid down about 30 minutes of fire.

Nearly every supporting arm had figured in a combat which might otherwise have cost Baker Company far more than the actual three dead and 13 wounded. At 1745 the battalion advanced again to occupy the high ground to defend for the night. This advance caught the enemy withdrawing and killed 38 at no cost to the Marines in casualties.

Word came just before midnight that the Brigade had 25th Division orders to move to a new front. In the 1st Battalion area the two rifle companies were separated by a gap of 800 yards covered by 4.2 mortars and artillery. At 0450, with the withdrawal beginning, a flare revealed artillery as well as 4.2 and 81 mortar fire laid down almost in the laps of the infantry. As a final touch, three .5 rocket launchers were credited with knocking out two machine guns and killing the crews.

By daybreak Baker Company had reorganized for a counterattack, but Battalion ordered the withdrawal to continue as supporting fires escorted the covering 2nd Platoon safely down the slope. This last fight cost the company 12 killed, 16 wounded, and nine missing, presumed dead.

The Leathernecks were reluctant to turn their backs on Sachon with the final objective within grasp. It doubtless seemed to them that the six-day operation had accomplished nothing, since Army units advancing on Chinju were also pulled back from their objective. But events were to prove that the enemy had been stopped cold after penetrating within 35 miles of Pusan—the high tide of the North Korean advance. Never again would the invaders be able to mount a serious threat on this sensitive southern front. In this operation Brigade estimates placed the casualties of the three NK regiments at about 1,900.

CG 25th Division ordered the Marines to withdraw from the vicinity of Sachon by motor and LST to the Chindong-ni area, and the 3rd Battalion (with its road clearing mission completed) reverted to Brigade control. The men proceeded from Chindong-ni by motor lift to the railhead at Masan, where they had their first hot meal since landing in Korea nearly two weeks before. Unhappily, the train pulled in before half of them had eaten. The Brigade reached its assembly area at Miryang on 14 August. There it passed by EUSAK orders to operational control of the 24th Division.

The Marines had scarcely time to clean their weapons at Miryang before being sent back into action again. Enemy pressure in the Naktong Bulge of the central front had created a menace even before the Sachon-Chinju operation ended. This situation resulted in 24th division orders for the Brigade to move by Army and organic motor lift on 16 August to previously reconnoitered positions in the Yongsan area.

 


Back to Contents

Army Veterans’ Memoirs

See these memoirs on the Korean War Educator:

 


Back to Contents

Marine Veterans’ Memoirs

See these memoirs on the Korean War Educator:

 


Back to Contents

Brief Accounts

See these brief accounts of the Korean War on the Korean War Educator, which include summaries of the action in the Pusan Perimeter:

 


Back to Contents

Suggested Reading

  • Korea 1950
    Center of Military History, Department of the Army [CMH Pub. 21-1], reprinted 1989. For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.
     
  • Fighting On The Brink: Defense of the Pusan Perimeter
    BG Uzal W. Ent, USA, Retired, Turner Publishing Company, 412 Broadway, PO Box 3101, Paducah, KY 42002-0121, 1996.
     
  • In Mortal Combat Korea, 1950-1953
    John Toland, Quill, William Morrow, NY, 1991.
     
  • Counterattack on the Naktong, 1950
    Leavenworth Paper series. Dr. William Glenn Roberston, Combat Studies Institute, US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, December 1985. The book studies the withdrawal by the 24th Infantry division to the Perimeter, their defensive battles along the Naktong River and counterattack by the division on August 17, 1950 with the aid of the Provisional Marine Brigade. Available free from the college (USA C&GSC) upon request.
     
  • Combat Support in Korea, by John G. Westover
     
  • Combat Action in Korea, by Russell A. Gugeler
     
  • Policy and Direction: The First Year, by James F. Schnabel
     
  • South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, by Roy E. Appleman

Back to Contents

P'ohang-dong

Introduction
By Marty O'Brien, Augusta, Maine

United Nations Commander General Douglas MacArthur planned an amphibious invasion of Korea as early as June 27, 1950. The plan envisioned landing an invasion force on the Western coast as early as July 20 consisting of the 1st Cavalry Division, an Army Amphibious brigade, an Army Regimental Combat Team, and a Marine Regiment. The goal was the capture of Inchon and Seoul in order to cut off the flow of supplies North Korean Peoples Army troops and supplies to the South. The plan was dubbed "Operation Bluehearts."

Soon, however, events in Korea on the ground forced General MacArthur to scrap the plan and instead send the 1st Cavalry Division to P'ohang-dong to reinforce the Pusan Perimeter. Although Bluehearts was scrapped, it served as the model for the successful "Operation Chromite" or "Inchon Landing" on September 15.

The landing at P'ohang-dong took place over a period of several days, July 17-19. It was an unopposed landing. The main enemy forces were installed to the North, but were taking a pounding from the air and sea. On July 17, a battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment landed near Yonil to secure the airfield there. Typhoon Helene prevented the remainder of the regiment and the 82d Field Artillery Battalion from landing until July 22.

The 5th Cavalry Regiment and the 8th Cavalry Regiment, organized into Regimental Combat Teams, including supporting division troops, arrived on July 18 and 19. Both RCTs quickly moved west by truck and rail toward the vicinity of Taejon, arriving on July 22. Their mission was to relieve embattled 24th Infantry Division troops in the vicinity and to secure the Taejon-Yongdong-Taegu highway corridor which led directly south to the airfield in Taegu and beyond to the ports on the Sea of Japan.

Pohang Attack Force


Task Force 90

Attack Force.  Rear Admiral J.H. Doyle

Task Force 91

Landing Force. Major General Hobart Gay, USA.

Task Group 90.1

Tactical Air Control Group

Tacron 1

Commander Elmer Moore, USN

Task Group 90.2

Transport Group
USS McKinley (AGC-7) fleet flagship
USS Cavalier (APA-37)
USS Oglethorpe (AKA-100)
USS Titania (AKA-13)
USS Union (AKA-106) Captain Virginius R. Roane, USN
1 Amphibious Command Ship
1 Amphibious Transport
3 Amphilious Cargo Ships

Task Group 90-3 - Tractor Group

USS LST-611
15 Scajap LST
USS Cree (ATF-84)
USS Lipan (ATF-85)
USS Conserver (ARS-39)
6 LSU.
Captain Norman W. Sears, USN
1 Landing Ship Tank
15 Supreme Commander Allied Powers, Japan LST as assigned
2 Fleet Tugs
1 Salvage Ship
6 Landing Ship Utility

Task Group 90-4 . Protective Group
90.41 Mine Squadron 3

USS Pledge (AM-277)
USS Chatterer (AMS-40)
USS Kite (AMS-22)
USS Redhead (AMS-34)
90.42 Mine Division 31
USS Mockingbird (AMS-27)
USS Osprey (AMS-28)
USS Partridge (AMS-31)
90.43 Destroyer Screen
USS Higbee (DD-806)
USS James B. Kyes (DD-787) LCDR Darcy V. Shouldice, USN
LCDR Darcy V. Shouldice, USN
1 Minesweeper
3 Coastal Minesweepers
3 Coastal Minesweepers
2 Destroyers (as screen for movement of objective then under TG 96.5)

Task Group 90-7 . Reconnaissance Group

USS Diachenko (APD-123)
UDT-3 detachment. LCDR. James R. Wilson, USN
1 High Speed Transport
Underwater Demolition Team

Task Group 90.8. Control Group.

USS Diachenko (APD-123)1
USS Lipan (ATF-85) ATF 2 LCDR Clyde E. Allmon, USN
1 High Speed Transport
1 Fleet Tug

Task Group 90.9. Beach Group

1 Beachmaster Unit detachment,
UDT-3 Detachment LCDR Jack L. Lowentrout, USN
Underwater Demolition Team

Task Group 90.0 . Follow-up Shipping Group

USNS Ainsworth (T-AP)
USNS Shanks (T-AP)
12 Scajap LST
4 Maru. Captain Daniel J. Sweeney, USN
2 Transports
12 Supreme Commander Allied Powers, Japan Landing Ship Tanks

Task Group 96.5. Gunfire Support Group.

USS Juneau (CL-119)
USS Coller (DD-730)
USS Higbee (DD-806)
USS James B. Kyes (DD-787)
HMAS Bataan Rear Admiral John H. Higgins, USN
1 Light Cruiser
3 Destroyers
Australian Navy Destroyer

Close air support from Seventh Fleet; deep air support from FEAF; patrol
aircraft from Task Group 96.2

1 From Task Group 90.7
2 From Task Group 90.3
32 DD from Task Group 90.4


Famous Korean War Battle Sites in South Korea

[KWE Note: This chronological list of famous Korean War battle sites in South Korea was compiled by the Department of the Army.]

Task Force Smith at Osan, 5 July 1950.  Unit: Battalion combat team from 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.  If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Task Force Smith, comprised of elements of the 24th Division's 21st Regiment, then based in Japan, was the first American unit to fight in Korea.  The initial 406 members of Task Force Smith arrived at Pusan by air on 1 July 1950 and were rushed north by train and truck.  On 4 July they were joined at Pyongtaek by 134 men of their division's 52d Field Artillery Battalion which had crossed from Japan on an LST.

A little after midnight on 5 July the infantry and artillery of the Task Force moved out of Pyongtaek.  Their leader, LTC Charles B. Smith had to commandeer Korean trucks and miscellaneous vehicles to mount his men.  The native Korean drivers deserted when they found that the vehicles were going north.  American soldiers took over in the driver's seats.  BG George B. Barth, Acting commanding General of the 24th Division Artillery, and Colonel Smith followed the task force northward.  On the way, General Barth tried to halt the ROK demolition preparations by telling the engineer groups that he planned to use the bridges.  At one bridge, after talk failed to influence the ROK engineers, Barth threw the boxes of dynamite into the river.  It was only twelve miles to Osan, but it took two and a half hours to get there because ROK soldiers and civilians fleeing south filled the road and driving was under blackout conditions.

About 0300 on 5 July, the delaying force reached the position which Smith had previously selected.  The infantry units started setting up weapons and digging in at the predesignated places.  LTC Miller O. Perry, 52d FA Battalion commander, moved his guns into the positions behind the infantry that he had selected the previous afternoon.  All units were in place, but not completely dug in, before daylight.

In seeking the most favorable place to pass through the ridge, the railroad bent eastward away from the highway until it was almost a mile distant.  There the railroad split into two single-track lines and passed over low ground between hills of the ridge line.  On his left flank Colonel Smith placed one platoon of B Company on the high knob immediately west of the highway; east of the road were B Company's other two rifle platoons.  Beyond them eastward to the railroad tracks were two platoons of C Company.  This company's third platoon occupied a finger ridge running south, forming a refused right flank along the west side of the railroad track.  Just east of the highway B Company emplaced one 75-mm recoilless rifle; C Company emplaced the other 75-mm recoilless rifle just west of the railroad.  Colonel Smith placed the 4.2-inch mortars on the reverse, or south slope, of the ridge about 400 yards behind the center of B Company's position.  The infantry line formed a 1-mile front, not counting the refused right flank along the railroad track.  The highway, likely to be the critical axis of enemy advance, passed through the shallow saddle at the infantry position and then zigzagged gently downgrade northward around several knoblike spurs to low ground a little more than a mile away.  There it crossed to the east side of the railroad track and continued on over semi-level ground to Suwon.

Two thousand yards behind the infantry, Colonel Perry pulled four 105-mm howitzers 150 yards to the left (west) off the highway over a small trail that only jeeps could travel.  Two jeeps in tandem pulled the guns into place.  Near a cluster of houses with rice paddies in front and low hills back of them, the men arranged the guns in battery position.  Perry emplaced the fifth howitzer as an antitank gun on the west side of the road about halfway between the main battery position and the infantry.  From there it could place direct fire on the highway where it passed through the saddle and the infantry positions.

Volunteers from the artillery Headquarters and Service Batteries made up four .50-caliber machine gun and four 2.36-inch bazooka teams and joined the infantry in their position.

The infantry parked most of their miscellaneous trucks and jeeps along the road just south of the saddle.  The artillerymen left their trucks concealed in yards and sheds and behind Korean houses along the road just north of Osan.  There were about 1,200 rounds of artillery ammunition at the battery position and in two trucks parked inside a walled enclosure nearby.  One or two truckloads more were in the vehicles parked among the houses just north of Osan.  Nearly all this ammunition was high explosive (HE); only 6 rounds were high explosive antitank (HEAT), and all of it was taken to the forward gun.  When the 52d Field Artillery was loading out at Sasebo, Japan, the battalion ammunition officer drew all the HEAT ammunition available there--only 18 rounds.  He issued 6 rounds to A Battery, now on the point of engaging in the first battle between American artillery and the Russian-built T34 tanks.

At the Osan position as rainy 5 July dawned were 540 Americans: 389 enlisted men and 17 officers among the infantry and 125 enlisted men and 9 officers among the artillerymen.  When first light came, the infantry test-fired their weapons and the artillerymen registered their guns.  Then they ate their C ration breakfasts.

In spite of the rain Smith could see almost to Suwon.  He first saw movement on the road in the distance near Suwon a little after 0700.  In about half an hour a tank column, now easily discernible, approached the waiting Americans.  In this first group there were eight tanks.  About 0800 the men back in the artillery position received a call from the forward observer with the infantry for a fire mission.

At 0816 the first American artillery fire of the Korean War hurtled through the air toward the North Korean tanks.  The number two howitzer fired the first two rounds, and the other pieces then joined in the firing.  The artillery took the tanks under fire at a range of approximately 4,000 yards, about 2,000 yards in front of the American infantry.  The forward observer quickly adjusted the fire and shells began landing among the tanks.  But the watching infantrymen saw the tanks keep on coming, undeterred by the exploding artillery shells.

To conserve ammunition Colonel Smith issued orders that the 75-mm recoilless rifle covering the highway should withhold fire until the tanks closed to 700 yards.  The tanks stayed in column, displayed little caution, and did not leave the road.  The commander of the enemy tank column may have thought he had encountered only another minor ROK delaying position.

General Barth had gone back to the artillery just before the enemy came into view and did not know when he arrived there that an enemy force was approaching.  After receiving reports from the forward observer that the artillery fire was ineffective against the tanks, he started back to alert the 1st Battalion of the 34th Infantry, whose arrival he expected at Pyongtaek during the night, against a probably breakthrough of the enemy tanks.

When the enemy tank column approached within 700 yards of the infantry position, the two recoilless rifles took it under fire.  They scored direct hits, but apparently did not damage the tanks which, firing their 85-mm cannon and 7.62-mm machine guns, rumbled on up the incline toward the saddle.  When they were almost abreast of the infantry position, the lead tanks came under 2.36-inch bazooka fire.  Operating a rocket launcher from the ditch along the east side of the road, 2d Lt. Ollie D. Connor, fired 22 rockets at approximately 15 yards' range against the rear of the tanks where their armor was weakest.  Whether they were effective is doubtful.  The two lead tanks, however, were stopped just through the pass when they came under direct fire of the single 105-mm howitzer using HEAT ammunition.  Very likely these artillery shells stopped the two tanks, although the barrage of close-range bazooka rockets may have damaged their tracks.

The two damaged tanks pulled off to the side of the road, clearing the way for those following.  One of the two caught fire and burned.  Two men emerged from its turret with their hands up.  A third jumped out with a burp gun in his hands and fired directly into a machine gun position, killing the assistant gunner.  This unidentified machine gunner (survivors of Task Force Smith believe he was PFC Kenneth Shadrock, killed in action at about 0830, 5 July 1950) probably was the first American ground soldier killed in action in Korea.  American fire killed the three North Koreans.  The six rounds of HEAT ammunition at the forward gun were soon expended, leaving only the HE shells which ricocheted off the tanks.  The third tank through the pass knocked out the forward gun and wounded one of its crew members.

The tanks did not stop to engage the infantry; they merely fired on them as they came through.  Following the first group of 8 tanks came others at short intervals, usually in groups of 4.  These, too, went unhesitatingly through the infantry position and on down the road toward the artillery position.  In all, there were 33 tanks in the column.  The last passed through the infantry position at 0900, about an hour after the lead tanks had reached the saddle.  In this hour, tank fire had killed or wounded approximately 20 men in Smith's position.

Earlier in the morning it was supposed to have been no more than an academic question as to what would happen if tanks came through the infantry to the artillery position.  Someone in the artillery had raised this point to be answered by the infantry, "Don't worry, they will never get back to you."  One of the artillerymen later expressed the prevailing opinion by saying, "Everyone thought the enemy would turn around and go back when they found out who was fighting."  Word now came to the artillerymen from the forward observer that tanks were through the infantry and to be ready for them.

The first tanks cut up the telephone wire strung along the road from the artillery to the infantry and destroyed this communication.  The radios were wet and functioning badly; now only the jeep radio worked.  Communication with the infantry after 0900 was spotty at best, and, about 1100, it ceased altogether.

The tanks came on toward the artillery pieces, which kept them under fire but could not stop them.  About 500 yards from the battery, the tanks stopped behind a little hill seeking protection from direct fire.  Then, one at a time, they came down the road with a rush, hatches closed, making a run to get past the battery position.  Some fired their 85-mm cannon, others only their machine guns.  Their aim was haphazard in most cases for the enemy tankers had not located the gun positions.  Some of the tank guns even pointed toward the opposite side of the road.  Only one tank stopped momentarily at the little trail where the howitzers had pulled off the main road as though it meant to try to overrun the battery which its crew evidently had located.  Fortunately, however, it did not leave the road but instead, after a moment, continued on toward Osan.  The 105-mm howitzers fired at ranges of 150-300 yards as the tanks went by, but the shells only jarred the tanks and bounced off.  Altogether, the tanks did not average more than one round each in return fire.

Three bazooka teams from the artillery has posted themselves near the road before the tanks appeared.  When word came that the tanks were through the infantry, two more bazooka teams, one led by Colonel Perry and the other by Sgt. Edwin A. Eversole, started to move into position.  The first tank caught both Perry and Eversole in the rice paddy between the howitzers and the highway.  When Evresole's first bazooka round bounced off the turret of the tank, he said that tank suddenly looked to him "as big as a battleship."  This tank fired its 85-mm cannon, cutting down a telephone pole which fell harmlessly over Eversole who had flung himself down into a paddy drainage ditch.  A 105-mm shell hit the tracks of the third tank and stopped it.  The other tanks in this group went on through.  The four American howitzers remained undamaged.

After these tanks had passed out of sight, Colonel Perry took an interpreter and worked his way up close to the immobilized enemy tank.  Through the interpreter, he called on the crew to come out and surrender.  There was no response.  Perry then ordered the howitzers to destroy the tank.  After three rounds had hit the tank, two men jumped out of it and took cover in a culvert.  Perry sent a squad forward and it killed the two North Koreans.

During this little action, small arms fire hit Colonel Perry in the right leg.  Refusing to be evacuated, he hobbled around or sat against the base of a tree giving orders and instructions in preparation for the appearance of more tanks.

In about ten minutes the second wave of tanks followed the last of the first group.  This time there were more--"a string of them," as one man expressed it.  They came in ones, twos, and threes, close together with no apparent interval or organization.

When the second wave of tanks came into view, some of the howitzer crew members started to "take off."  As one present said, the men were "shy about helping."  The officers had to drag the ammunition up and load the pieces themselves.  The senior noncommissioned officers fired the pieces.  The momentary panic soon passed and, with the good example and strong leadership of Colonel Perry and 1st Lt. Dwain L. Scott before them, the men returned to their positions.  Many of the second group of tanks did not fire on the artillery at all.  Again, the 105-mm howitzers did, however, hit another in its tracks, disabling it in front of the artillery position.  Some of the tanks had one or two infantrymen on their decks.  Artillery fire blew off or killed most of them; some lay limply dead as the tanks went by; others slowly jolted off onto the road.  Enemy tank fire caused a building to burn near the battery position and a nearby dump of about 300 rounds of artillery shells began to explode.  The last of the tanks passed the artillery position by 1015.  These tanks were from the 107th Tank Regiment of the 105th Armored Division, in support of the North Korean 4th Division.

Colonel Perry estimates that his four howitzers fired an average of 4 to 6 rounds at each of the tanks, and that they averaged perhaps 1 round each in return.  After the last tank was out of sight, rumbling on toward Osan, the score stood as follows: the forward 105-mm howitzer and 2.36-inch bazookas fired from the infantry position, had knocked out and left burning 1 tank and damaged another so that it could not move; the artillery had stopped 2 more in front of the battery position, while three others though damaged had managed to limp out of range toward Osan.  This made 4 tanks destroyed or immobilized and 3 others slightly damaged but serviceable out of a total of 33.

For their part, the tanks had destroyed the forward 105-mm howitzer and wounded one of its crew members, had killed or wounded an estimated 20 infantrymen, and had destroyed all the parked vehicles behind the infantry position.  At the main battery position the tanks had slightly damaged one of the four guns by a near miss.  Only Colonel Perry and another man were wounded at the battery position.

Task Force Smith was not able to use any antitank mines--one of the most effective methods of defense against tanks--as there were none in Korea at the time.  Colonel Perry was of the opinion that a few well-placed antitank mines would have stopped the entire armored column in the road.

After the last of the tank column had passed through the infantry position and the artillery and tank fire back toward Osan had subsided, the American position became quiet again.  There was no movement of any kind discernible on the road ahead toward Suwon.  But Smith knew that he must expect enemy infantry soon.  In the steady rain that continued throughout the morning, the men deepened their foxholes and otherwise improved their positions.

Perhaps an hour after the enemy tank column had moved through, Colonel Smith, from his observation post, saw movement on the road far away, near Suwon.  This slowly became discernible as a long column of trucks and foot soldiers.  Smith estimated the column to be about six miles long.  It took an hour for the head of the column to reach a point 1,000 yards in front of the American infantry.  There were three tanks in front, followed by a long line of trucks, and, behind these, several miles of marching infantry.  There could be no about about it, this was a major force of the North Korean Army pushing south--the 16th and 18th Regiments of the NK 4th Division, as learned later.

Whether the enemy column knew that American ground troops had arrived in Korea and were present in the battle area is unknown.  Later, Sr. Col. Lee Hak Ku, in early July operations officer of the NK II Corps, said he had no idea that the United States would intervene in the war, that nothing had been said about possible US intervention, and that he believed it came as a surprise to North Korean authorities.

With battle against a greatly superior number of enemy troops only a matter of minutes away, the apprehensions of the American infantry watching the approaching procession can well be imagined.  General MacArthur later referred to his commitment of a handful of American ground troops as "that arrogant display of strength" which he hoped would fool the enemy into thinking that a much larger force was at hand.

When the convoy of enemy trucks was about 1,000 yards away, Colonel Smith, to use his own words, "threw the book at them."  Mortar shells landed among the trucks and .50-caliber machine gun bullets swept the column.  Trucks burst into flames.  Men were blown into the air; others sprang from their vehicles and jumped into ditches alongside the road.  The three tanks moved to within 200-300 yards of the American positions and began raking the ridge line with cannon and machine gun fire.  Behind the burning vehicles an estimated 1,000 enemy infantry detrucked and started to deploy.  Behind them other truckloads of infantry stopped and waited.  It was now about 1145.

The enemy infantry began moving up the finger ridge along the east side of the road.  There, some of them set up a base of fire while others fanned out to either side in a double enveloping movement.  The American fire broke up all efforts of the enemy infantry to advance frontally.  Strange though it was, the North Koreans made no strong effort to attack the flanks; they seemed bent on getting around rather than closing on them.  Within an hour, about 1230, the enemy appeared in force on the high hill to the west of the highway overlooking and dominating the knob on that side held by a platoon of B Company.  Smith, observing this, withdrew the platoon to the east side of the road.  Maj. Floyd Martin, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, meanwhile supervised the carrying of available ammunition stocks to a central and protected area back of the battalion command post.  The 4.2-inch mortars were moved up closer, and otherwise the men achieved a tighter defense perimeter on the highest ground east of the road.  In the exchange of fire that went on an increasing amount of enemy mortar and artillery fire fell on the American position.  Enemy machine guns on hills overlooking the right flank now also began firing on Smith's men.

Earlier, Colonel Perry had twice sent wire parties to repair the communications wire between the artillery and the infantry, but both had returned saying they had been fired upon.  At 1300 Perry sent a third group led by his Assistant S-3.  This time he ordered the men to put in a new line across the paddies east of the road and to avoid the area where the earlier parties said they had received fire.

About 1430, Colonel Smith decided that if any of his command was to get out, the time to move was at hand.  Large numbers of the enemy were now on both flanks and moving toward his rear; a huge enemy reserve waited in front of him along the road stretching back toward Suwon; and his small arms ammunition was nearly gone.  A large enemy tank force was already in his rear.  He had no communications, not even with Colonel Perry's artillery a mile behind him, and he could hope for no reinforcements.  Perry's artillery had fired on the enemy infantry as long as the fire direction communication functioned properly, but this too had failed soon after the infantry fight began.  The weather prevented friendly air from arriving at the scene.  Had it been present it could have worked havoc with the enemy-clogged road.

Smith planned to withdraw his men by leapfrogging units off the ridge, each jump of the withdrawal covered by protecting fire of the next unit ahead.  The selected route of withdrawal was toward Osan down the finger ridge on the right flank, just west of the railroad track.  First off the hill was C Company, followed by the medics, then battalion headquarters, and, finally, B Company, except its 2d Platoon which never received the withdrawal order.  A platoon messenger returned from the company command post and reported to 2d Lt. Carl F. Bernard that there was no one at the command post and that the platoon was the only group left in position.  After confirming this report Bernard tried to withdraw his men.  At the time of the withdrawal the men carried only small arms and each averaged two or three clips of ammunition.  They abandoned all crew-served weapons--recoilless rifles, mortars, and machine guns.  They had no alternative but to leave behind all the dead and about 25 to 30 wounded litter cases.  A medical sergeant, whose name unfortunately has not been determined, voluntarily remained with the latter.  The slightly wounded moved out with the main units, but when enemy fire dispersed some of the groups many of the wounded dropped behind and were seen no more.

Task Force Smith suffered its heaviest casualties in the withdrawal.  Some of the enemy machine gun fire was at close quarters.  The captain and pitcher of the regimental baseball team, 1st Lt. Raymond "Bodie" Adams, used his pitching arm to win the greatest victory of his career when he threw a grenade forty yards into an enemy machine gun position, destroying the gun and killing the crew.  This particular gun had caused heavy casualties.

About the time B Company, the initial covering unit, was ready to withdraw, Colonel Smith left the hill, slanted off to the railroad track and followed it south to a point opposite the artillery position.  From there he struck off west through the rice paddies to find Colonel Perry and tell him the infantry was leaving.  While crossing the rice paddies Smith met Perry's wire party and together they hurried to Perry's artillery battery.  Smith had assumed that the enemy tanks had destroyed all the artillery pieces and had made casualties of most of the men.  His surprise was complete when he found that all the guns at this battery position were operable and that only Colonel Perry and another man were wounded.  Enemy infantry had not yet appeared at the artillery position.

Upon receiving Smith's order to withdraw, the artillerymen immediately made ready to go.  They removed the sights and breech locks from the guns and carried them and the aiming circles to their vehicles.  Smith, Perry, and the artillerymen walked back to the outskirts of Osan where they found the artillery trucks as they had left them, only a few being slightly damaged by tank and machine gun fire.

Perry and Smith planned to take a road at the south edge of Osan to Ansong, assuming that the enemy tanks had gone down the main road toward Pyongtaek.  Rounding a bend in the road near the southern edge of the town, but short of the Ansong road, Smith and Perry in the lead vehicle came suddenly upon three enemy tanks halted just ahead of them.  Some or all of the tank crew members were standing about smoking cigarettes.  The little column of vehicles turned around quickly, and, without a shot being fired, drove back to the north edge of Osan.  There they turned into a small dirt road that led eastward, hoping that it would get them to Ansong.

The column soon came upon groups of infantry from Smith's battalion struggling over the hills and through the rice paddies.  Some of the men had taken off their shoes in the rice paddies, others were without head covering of any kind, while some had their shirts off.  The trucks stopped and waited while several of these groups came up and climbed on them.  About 100 infantrymen joined them in this way.  Then, the vehicles continued on unmolested, arriving at Ansong after dark.

There was no pursuit.  The North Korean infantry occupied the vacated positions, and busied themselves in gathering trophies, apparently content to have driven off the enemy force.

The next morning, 6 July, Colonel Smith and his party went on to Chonan.  Upon arrival there a count revealed that he had 185 men.  Subsequently, Capt. Richard Dashmer, C company commander, came in with 65 men, increasing the total to 250.  There were about 150 men killed, wounded, or missing from Colonel Smith's infantry force when he took a second count later in the day.  The greatest loss was in B Company.  Survivors straggled in to American lines at Pyongtaek, Chonan, Taejon, and other points in southern Korea during the next several days.  Lieutenant Bernard and 12 men of the reserve platoon of B Company rescued Chonan two days after the Osan fight.  Five times he and his men had encountered North Korean roadblocks.  They arrived at Chonan only half an hour ahead of the enemy.  A few men walked all the way from Osan to the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan.  One man eventually arrived at Pusan on a Korean sampan from the west coast.

None of the five officers and 10 enlisted men of the artillery forward observer, liaison, machine gun, and bazooka group with the infantry ever came back.  On 7 July five officers and 26 enlisted men from the artillery were still missing.

The N.K. 4th Division and attached units apparently lost approximately 42 killed and 85 wounded at Osan on 5 July.  A diary taken from a dead North Korean soldier some days later carried this entry about Osan: "5 Jul 50...we saw vehicles and American PWs.  We also saw some American dead.  We found four of our destroyed tanks.  Near Osan there was a great battle."

For their valiant holding action which delayed the enemy advance for six precious hours, representatives of Task Force Smith, including LTC (Later BG) Charles B. Smith, a 34-year-old West Pointer from New Jersey, were later honored by President Truman at a special ceremony held in Washington, D.C.

Today, on a tree-covered hilltop at Chukmi-Ryung, near Osan, stands an obelisk commemorating the battle at Osan.  The monument was erected in 1954 by the 24th Infantry Division, then based in Korea.  The bi-lingual inscription on the plaque commemorates the spot where the first American ground unit--the vanguard of the UNC--did battle in Korea against the Communists.

Taejon Defense, July 1950.  Unit: 24th US Infantry Division

After Task Force Smith had fought its way out of impending encirclement near Osan, the 24th Division fought successive holding actions at Chonan, Chonui and Chochiwon and south across the Kum River to the important town of Taejon.  It was a natural location for a determined stand by US troops since it is an important communications center and is at the head of a highway and double-tracked railroad which twists through the mountains to Pusan, 125 miles to the southeast.  To protect Taejon, the thinning ranks of the 24th Division were deployed between the town and the Kum River.  Engineers blew the bridge crossing the Kum but, unfortunately, the waters of the river subsided and the enemy was able to ford the river at several places.  On 13 July, before the battle of Taejon began, LTG Walton H. Walker, CG of the Eighth Army, had assumed command of all ground forces in Korea.  He wanted to hold Taejon, but once the Communists forded the shallow Kum, the fate of the city was decided.  Nevertheless, the battle for Taejon was bitter.  There were neither weapons nor troops enough to hold the Communists.  In the west, probing attacks were launched by the enemy up and down the Kum and the established footholds across the river at Samgyo-ri and Kongju.

 

View and/or Sign Our Guestbook
Note, Guestbook entries prior to August, 2008
have been archived to PDF, and can be viewed here:
6/21/2001-7/6/2005
7/6/2005-9/18/2006
9/28/2006-8/13/2008



Your donation helps to
keep this web site FREE.



 

| Contact | What's New | About Us | Korean War Topics | Support | Links | Memoirs | Buddy Search |

2002-2016 Korean War Educator. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of material is prohibited.

- Contact Webmaster with questions or comments related to web site layout.
- Contact Lynnita for Korean War questions or similar informational issues.
- Website address: www.koreanwar-educator.org 
Problems with or Questions about PDF Files - Click HERE for more PDF information.
 

Hit Counter
 
.