Old Baldy

 
Dear Ed:

The best description of the action "On top of Old Baldy" is contained in the book "Movin On" but even that was from people who not really there but rather they were observing from a distance. Any way, I am sending you two emails because the email letters I received contain too much data for one.

Note that I gathered the casualty list from the Korean War Database. I do not have the database for the wounded or missing; only those who died on 3-4 July 1952.


Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 23:04:31 -0400
From: Ray Hilgart <rhilgart@citizen.infi.net>
To: Bob Fowler <Rbfwlr@aol.com>
Subject: Old Baldy on 3/4 July 1952

Dear Bob:

Thanks for your response to my queries on my friend, Don Shaw. I have received quite a bit of mail from those who were in or close to the action of that night, including the Company L commander, Captain Jack Rose.

Much of the information included below are extracts taken from a book entitled "Movin On, the 279th Infantry Regiment 1950-54"

In late June 1952, the 45th Infantry Division was deployed on the MLR (Main-Line of Resistance) in the area along LINE JAMESTOWN and just south of the line of 12 outposts which were wrested from the Chinese and established by the three regiments of the 45th during the Apr-Jun 1952 time period. It should be noted that these 12 outposts were all north of the MLR and were generally manned by a platoon on a rotating basis.

Included in these 12 outposts were:

  • Outpost 08 (Eerie, Hill 191) Outpost 10 (Pork Chop Hill 234)
  • Outpost 11 (Old Baldy Hill 266)
  • Outpost 12 (Pokkae Ridge)

In late June, along the MLR, Line JAMESTOWN, the 279th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) occupied the right flank sector of the division and the 179th RCT the left flank sector, the sector in which Old Baldy was located. The 180th RCT was in Corps reserve.

At 2100 hours on 1 July 52, the 180th RCT assumed operational control of the right flank of the division sector and the 279th RCT moved into reserve. The relief had been planned for the hours of darkness but rainy and foggy conditions delayed the operation until daylight of the 2nd of July.

NOTES ON THE COMPOSITION OF AN INFANTRY REGIMENT (1952):

An Infantry Regiment generally contained:

  • 3 Infantry Battalions (1st, 2nd, 3rd)
  • 1 Tank Company
  • 1 Medical Company
  • 1 Headquarters Company
  • 1 Service Company
  • 1 Heavy Mortar Company

NOTES ON THE COMPOSITION OF AN INFANTRY BATTALION (1952):

1st Battalions included:

  • 3 rifle companies (A,B,C)
  • 1 weapons company (D)
  • 1 Headquarters Company
  • 2nd Battalions included:
  • 3 rifle companies (E,F,G)
  • 1 weapons company (H)
  • 1 Headquarters Company
  • 3rd Battalions included:
  • 3 rifle companies (I,K,L)
  • 1 weapons company (M)
  • 1 Headquarters Company

On 30th June, the 3rd Battalion of the 279th RCT (3/279) was located not far behind the MLR. Captain Jack Rose, Company L commander, was called to the 3/279 command post (CP) about midnight and was informed that his company was going back on the MLR in the 179th RCT sector under operational control (OPCON) of the 179th RCT. Chinese pressure was increasing in that area and the additional troops were needed to relieve the 179th RCT's A/C Company. This combined unit had been formed out of both Companys A and C because each had been so badly mauled that neither by itself was an effective combat unit. A/C Company of the 1/179 occupied the same general position that Company L of the 3/279 had occupied earlier in 1952.

On July 1, 1952, Capt Rose ordered his Company L men to man their old positions on the MLR inasmuch as they could identify them. These positions were not on Old Baldy itself but rather south of Old Baldy along the MLR. On 2 July 1952, the day after Company L took their positions on the MLR, the remainder of the 3/279 occupied positions of the MLR also.

Company K occupied the MLR to the left flank of Company L.

Lieutenant Dennis J. Harrison, commander of Company I, had the Company I CP positioned on Hill 226 which was north of the MLR about 300-400 meters. The outpost on Old Baldy (Hill 266) was about 300 meters northwest of Hill 226 and personnel from Company I took up defensive positions there although in what strength has not been determined. I suspect that at least two platoons with supporting fire elements occupied the Old Baldy outpost.

Elements of the 3/279 Weapons Company M and Regimental Medical Company were attached to the three rifle companies, I, J, and K.

Captain Rose recalled: "Throughout the day of the 3rd of July, the enemy fired artillery into the area. It was apparently registration fire because they would fire a few rounds in one area and then shift to another. The targets seemed to be the Company L front and the routes leading out of the MLR to Old Baldy and Company I."

By late afternoon of 3 July, Chinese fire intensified greatly, especially pounding Company I fortifications on Old Baldy. Company L was raked by heavy artillery fire and subjected to enemy probes just after dark. Several were wounded and Duane Helms' assistant machine gunner was killed.

Captain Rose continues: "At about 2215 hours on the night of 3 July, all Company L platoon leaders were in the CP and a long, rumbling, continuous noise like a large freight train was heard. This was the opening of the attack on Company I on Old Baldy. This was the closest I heard to a TOT (Time on Target) barrage while I was in Korea. All platoon leaders returned to their respective platoons and prepared for further orders."

About 2230 hours, the intensity of the enemy artillery barrage increased on Old Baldy. Captain Rose continues: "Our artillery was firing constantly and so was the Division Artillery. We also had priority of fire from Corps and Army also. In short order, the Air Force was dropping flares that lit up the whole area. Company L was firing in support of Company I and fired about 2-million rounds of small arms and 1000 or more 60mm mortar. The cooks had to come up to keep water poured on the mortars to prevent short rounds caused by premature cook-offs. They also carried ammunition."

At 2255 a reinforced enemy battalion attacking from the northeast stormed the Company I force manning Old Baldy. From their positions, the men of Company L provided maximum support to the besieged defenders of Old Baldy. In the light of flares from a distance, the attacking Chinese looked like swarms of ants crawling up Old Baldy.

Tremendously outnumbered by the Chinese, a number of positions manned by the Company I defenders were overrun. In fierce hand-to-hand combat, the outnumbered Thunderbirds drove the attackers back about twenty minutes after midnight of the 4th of July.

A second wave of Chinese attacking from the same direction hit Company I again about thirty minutes later in a massive assault that lasted about 20 minutes. Capt Rose, who viewed the Chinese onslaught from a distance by the light of the air force flares believed that Company I was in desperate straits. They were running low on ammunition and were in danger of being over-run.

At 2200, Captain Rose ordered Lieutenant Kenneth G. Herring to take his 2nd platoon and reinforce Company I. To reach Old Baldy, Lt Herring and his platoon had to follow a ridge leading to Hill 226 where the Company I CP was located, then continue on the ridge to Old Baldy (Hill 266).

Upon reaching the Company I CP on Hill 226, Lt Herring found the area lightly defended because what few of Company I had remained at the CP had been ordered by the Company I commander, Lt. Harrison, on up to Old Baldy to help stem the Chinese onslaught.

By 0100 hours on 4 July, the Chinese pressure was such that Lt Harrison ordered Lt Herring to move forward to Old Baldy. The enemy fire targeting the ridge leading from the Company I CP to Old Baldy was devastating. Herring, analyzing the pattern of the enemy barrages delayed his departure until the enemy artillery shifted concentrations.  This enabled Herring to lead his men to the besieged Old Baldy during somewhat of a lull in the enemy fire and in doing so, minimized casualties. His platoon arrived on Old Baldy in time to assist in repulsing the second attack.

At 0210 a third and final wave of enemy troops from the west fought their way to the Thunderbird positions on Old Baldy.

They maintained fierce pressure on the perimeter defense until 0235 hours. Then the remainder of Company L arrived to reinforce the decimated Company I.

Cpl Corbin Beach, a medic assigned to Company L, moved to Old Baldy as soon as the shelling subsided to care for and evacuate the wounded.  Forty years later remembered that only 71 of the 172 men of Company I were able to walk down off the hill on the morning of 4th of July 1952.

Company L took over the defense of Old Baldy for three more days after the 4th of July. The Chinese never made another attack. They had been soundly beaten and they had had enough.

Company I Thunderbirds earned three silver stars and a Bronze Star for Heroism that night of 3/4 July.

  • Pfc Jim Foley (posthumously) BAR man
  • Sgt John J. Kerby (Posthumously) Rifle squad leader
  • Sgt Robert Braaten (medic)
  • Cpl William House (Bronze Star f/Heroism) (Rifleman)

My friend, Donald D. Shaw, was killed that night, reportedly in hand-to-hand combat when a group of enemy overwhelmed his defensive position on top of Old Baldy.

Following are those KIA that night of 3/4 July 1952, almost all from Company I.

  • BROWN JOHN L 11223865
  • CHONG MARCHMONT T 50004120
  • COLLETT WALTER 45042039
  • CRAWFORD GEORGE C 53100199
    DAVIS JERRY 19415653
  • FOLEY JAMES J 51002309 SILVR STAR
  • GARDNER MERRITT H 51092690
  • GORTON WESLEY H 21913932
  • HILL DANIEL G 51037762
  • HOGARTH RAYMOND H 55041693
  • HOOK RUSSELL E 56092034
  • HUTCHISON ROBERT W 55179280
  • KERBY JOHN J 55028473 SILVR STAR
  • KNORR JEROME W 55046793
  • LHOMMEDIEU RAYMOND 55026423
  • MADDEN WILLIAM H 12271724
  • QUEEN RUFF G 53100179
  • SCHWEMER HAROLD G 55046583
  • SHAW DONALD D 16384724
  • STONE CHARLES A JR 51016383
  • TOBIO ANTHONY F 51002296
  • WEEKS HOMER G 56061168
  • WRATHER PAUL D 14385275

Received: (from jrose24@juno.com)
To: rhilgart@citizen.infi.net
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 19:03:57 -0600
Subject: 4 JULY 52

I saw your question reference the fighting on 4 July 52.

This letter was in 1996 and I suppose by now you have received the information you wanted. If not, let me know and I will give you what I have.

The action would have been on "Baldy" and your friend would probably have been in Company I. At that time I was th CO of Company L.

Jack W. Rose
502
Kyle Ave E
College Station, TX 77840
 

 

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