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U.S. Marines in the Korean War


U.S. Marines in the
Korean War

Smith

Edited by Charles R. Smith


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Back Cover: The device reproduced on the


back cover is the oldest military insignia in
continuous use in the United States. It first
appeared, as shown here, on Marine Corps
On the Cover: Using scaling ladders, buttons adopted in 1804. With the stars
Marines storm over the seawall at Inchon. changed to five points, the device has con-
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) tinued on Marine Corps buttons to the pre-
A3191 sent day.
U.S. MARINES
IN THE
KOREAN WAR

Edited by
Charles R. Smith

History Division
United States Marine Corps
Washington, D.C.
2007
PCN 106 0000 0100
Foreword

The anthology of articles that follows was compiled by the History and Museums Division during
the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Korean Conflict, 1950–1953. The focus of the various
authors who wrote these historically related works on Korea did so to remember those Marines who
fought and died in what some historians sometimes characterized as the “forgotten war.” Forgotten or
not, the Korean conflict was without parallel in Marine Corps history and no one who experienced it
or lived through this era could ever forget the difficulties that they would encounter there.
The Korean War also represented a milestone in the developmental history of the Marine Corps.
For perhaps what could very well be the last time, the Marine Corps made an opposed World War II
style amphibious landing against a dedicated enemy. Korea was also the opening salvo in what
became known as the Cold War. In reality, Korea represented the beginning of a series of “limited
wars” that would be fought by the United States with the express political purpose of keeping such
conflicts from developing into full blown world wars. Frustratingly for the men and women in uni-
form during the Cold War, political considerations frequently overrode military exigencies and logic.
Having just successfully concluded a total war against an enemy whose objectives were clearly iden-
tifiable, the Korean conflict proved fraught with political twists and turns that made the military’s job
immensely more difficult. This was especially evident during the “stalemate” phase of the war,
1952–1953. No less bloody or violent, this period of the conflict saw the Marine Corps incur a signif-
icant number of casualties.
The Korean conflict was also important for operational reasons. It was clear that from 1950 on, lim-
ited wars fought by U.S. forces would be largely “come as you are affairs.” During the summer and
early fall of 1950, the Marine Corps learned a valuable lesson when it had to scramble to assemble its
landing force for the Inchon operation, getting the 1st Marine Division into theater in the nick of time.
No longer would the United States have the luxury of time in getting forces ready for limited wars.
Next, for the first time, the advent of the helicopter would play a significant role in the combat plans
of Marine units in the field. Experimentation with the concept of vertical assault, using this new tech-
nology took place during the conflict. Korea would also be the first time Marines would be given per-
sonal body armor or “flak jackets” to wear in combat. Such body armor would come in handy as the
war settled into a stalemate along the 38th Parallel. While Marine elements had deployed to extreme-
ly cold locations in the past such as the occupation of Iceland by the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional)
in 1941, Korea would be the first time in the modern era where the Marine Corps would have to fight
in extremely cold conditions. During Korea, the Corps came away with a new appreciation for the
necessity of having the proper environmental gear tested and available for use by its combat and com-
bat support troops. In sum, Korea set the operational tone that the Marine Corps would follow for the
rest of the Cold War.
My special thanks is extended to Charles R. Smith, senior historian and editor of the Korean con-
flict commemorative history series and to Charles D. Melson, Chief Historian. These gentlemen, under
the direction of then History and Museums Division Director, Colonel John W. Ripley oversaw the
painstaking process of editing the eleven separate historical pamphlets produced by the division for
the 50th Anniversary of the Korean Conflict, 1950–1953.
Finally, let us pledge to never forget those Marines who served and sacrificed in this supposedly
“forgotten war.” It was entirely due to their military achievements at Inchon, at Chosin Reservoir, or
in foxholes and bunkers along the 38th Parallel that we have a free and thriving South Korea today.

Dr. C. P. Neimeyer
Director of Marine Corps History

3
Preface

The Korean War was the first major armed clash between Free World and Communist forces, in what
was to be called the Cold War. It was waged on land, on sea, and in the air over, and near the Korean
peninsula, for more than three years. Among the U.S. forces committed on this far-off battlefront, it
was once again the Marine Corps component that stood out in its sacrifice, military skills, and devo-
tion to duty. When rushed into the battle during the first desperate weeks and months of the war, the
quickly-organized and rapidly deployed 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and Marine Aircraft Group 33
helped to restore stability to the shattered U.S. Eighth Army front line around Pusan. It would be the
first time that Marine air and ground elements, task organized under a single commander, had engaged
in combat.
During the daringly conceived and executed United Nations counterstroke at Inchon, Marines
accomplished this incredibly complex amphibious operation and the subsequent recapture of the
South Korean capital, Seoul, with their customary spirit and precision, delivering a tactical blow that
broke the backbone of the North Korean People’s Army 1950 offensive. Never was Marine heroism
and perseverance more conspicuous than during the bitter days of the Chosin Reservoir campaign, fol-
lowing the intervention of large-scale Chinese Communist Forces. Integrated ground and air action
enabled more than 14,000 Marine, Army, and Royal Marine troops to break out of the entrapment and
move south. The lst Marine Division, considered by many to have been lost, properly evacuated its
dead and wounded, brought out all operable equipment, and completed the withdrawal with tactical
integrity, all the while dealing a savage blow to the enemy.
As the war of fire and movement turned into one of positional warfare that marked the final oper-
ations in Korea, the 1st Marine Division and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing again executed their respective
missions with professional skill and dispatch, regardless of tactical problems and the dreary monoto-
ny that characterized the fighting around the Inje River and Hwachon Reservoir in the Punchbowl area,
and the critical 35-mile front in West Korea near Panmunjom.
The more than half-century that now separates us from the Korean conflict has dimmed our col-
lective memory. Many Korean War veterans considered themselves forgotten, their place in history
sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War. This compilation grew out a joint endeavor
by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division and Marine Corps Heritage Foundation to reme-
dy that perceived oversight by highlighting the contributions and honoring the service of those Marines
for today’s Marines and the American people. The well-researched and highly-illustrated monographs,
and now chapters, were written by Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, Captain John C. Chapin, Brigadier
General Edwin H. Simmons, Colonel Allan R. Millet, Bernard C. Nalty, Major General John P. Condon,
Commander Peter B. Mersky, USNR (Ret), and Lieutenant Colonel Ronald J. Brown, all distinguished
historians, experts, or respected participants.
The authors and editor gratefully recognize and thank all who assisted in the preparation of the
original monographs and of this volume by aiding in research and supplying photographs. Among
them are the professional staffs of the former Marine Corps History and Museums Division, now the
History Division, Quantico, Virginia; the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Quantico, Virginia; the
Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.; the Archives and Special Collections Branch, Library of the
Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia; and the Modern Military Records and Still Pictures Branches of the
National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland. And to the more than 150,000
Marines who served in Korea, and the 4,267 killed and 23,748 wounded in action, we say thank you.

Charles R. Smith
Editor

4
Contents

Foreword ...........................................................................................................................3

Preface ................................................................................................................................4

Chapter 1: FIRE BRIGADE U.S. Marines in the Pusan Perimeter


Captain John C. Chapin, USMCR (Ret) ....................................................................7

Chapter 2: OVER THE SEA WALL U.S. Marines at Inchon


Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret)...............................................73

Chapter 3: BATTLE OF THE BARRICADES U.S. Marines in the Recapture of Seoul


Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret)............................................................143

Chapter 4: FROZEN CHOSIN U.S. Marines at the Changjin Reservoir


Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret).............................................209

Chapter 5: COUNTEROFFENSIVE U.S. Marines from Pohang to No Name Line


Lieutenant Colonel Ronald J. Brown, USMCR (Ret)...............................................343

Chapter 6: DRIVE NORTH U.S. Marines at the Punchbowl


Colonel Allan R. Millett, USMCR (Ret) ..................................................................413

Chapter 7: STALEMATE U.S. Marines from Bunker Hill to the Hook


Bernard C. Nalty .................................................................................................479

Chapter 8: OUTPOST WAR U.S. Marines from the Nevada Battles to the Armistice
Bernard C. Nalty .................................................................................................529

Chapter 9: CORSAIRS TO PANTHERS U.S. Marine Aviation in Korea


Major General John P. Condon, USMC (Ret)
Supplemented by Commander Peter B. Mersky, USNR (Ret).................................607

Chapter 10: WHIRLYBIRDS U.S. Marine Helicopters in Korea


Lieutenant Colonel Ronald J. Brown, USMCR (Ret) .............................................665

5
FIRE BRIGADE
U.S. Marines in the Pusan Perimeter
by Captain John C. Chapin, USMCR (Ret)

he Marines have about the forthcoming enemy ported the air arm, Marine Aircraft
landed.” How familiar except it was called the North Group 33 (MAG-33). Two LSDs
the phrase, how Korean People’s Army (NKPA). On (landing ships, dock), two AKAs
extraordinary the cir- board their ships they had seen the (cargo ships, attack), and three
cumstances on 2 situation maps which daily showed APAs (transports, attack) provided
August 1950. Instead of a beach the steadily retreating line of for the ground units. Pulling up
saturated with enemy fire, the defense, as the enemy drove irre- alongside the dock at Pusan, the
scene was a dock in the port of sistably farther and farther into men of the brigade were split into
Pusan in the far southeast corner South Korea. The regular physical three main units: the 2d Battalion,
of Korea. The landing force was fitness drills and weapons target 5th Marines, on the George Clymer
the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade; practice took on an urgent new (APA-27), known to its passengers
the situation it would soon face sense of purpose for the Marines. as the “Greasy George”; the 3d
was one of desperate crisis. Captain Francis I. “Ike” Fenton, Battalion on the Pickaway (APA-
The men arriving on board the Jr., then executive officer of 222), with the regimental comman-
transport ships that day knew they Company B, later recalled: der of the 5th Marines, Lieutenant
were going into battle, and their Colonel Raymond L. Murray, on
brigade commander, Brigadier While on board ship our board; and the 1st Battalion on the
General Edward A. Craig, had training area was limited. It Henrico (APA-45), which came
made his combat standards very was an impossibility to get limping into port last after a series
clear in a meeting with his officers the whole company together of mechanical problems (even
before the ships had sailed from at one location. Consequent- though it was known as the
San Diego: “It has been necessary ly, we used passageways, “Happy Hank”).
for troops now fighting in Korea to boat decks, holds—any space Standing on the pier to meet the
pull back at times, but I am stating we could find to lecture to men was a disparate group of peo-
now that no unit of this brigade the men and give them the lit- ple: General Craig; Marines who
will retreat except on orders from tle information that we had as had guarded the U.S. Embassy staff
an authority higher than the 1st to what was happening in in its perilous journey all the way
Marine Brigade. You will never Korea. from the South Korean capital of
receive an order to retreat from We lectured on the charac- Seoul to refuge in Pusan; some
me. All I ask is that you fight as teristics of the T-34 tank and U.S. Army soldiers; a local band
Marines have always fought.” told the men about the kind giving an earnest but painfully
At sea, no one knew where the of land mines we might amateurish rendition of The
brigade would be committed to expect. A lot of time was Marine Corps Hymn; crowds of
action, and the men knew nothing spent on blackboard tactics curious South Korean on-lookers;
for the fire team, platoon, and and undoubtedly some North
AT LEFT: Moving to attack: A cor- company. We had the 3.5 Korean spies.
poral leads his automatic-rifle rocket launcher, but no one Craig was shocked to see the
man through a rice paddy, present had ever fired one. Marines watching the docking, as
oblivious to the dead enemy sol- they casually leaned over the rails
dier underfoot. Photo by David A variety of old World War II of their ships. He had previously
Douglas Duncan ships had brought the brigade. sent an order through Army chan-
Task Force 53.7 had 10 ships. Two nels for the brigade to be prepared
transports and a light carrier, the to march off the ships, combat
Badoeng Strait (CVE-116), trans- ready, with weapons loaded. His

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Craig concluded: “The Pusan
perimeter is like a weakened dike
and we will be used to plug holes
in it as they open. We’re a brigade,
a fire brigade. It will be costly
fighting against a numerically
superior enemy. Marines have
never yet lost a battle; this brigade
will not be the first to establish
such a precedent.”
After a night of bedlam on the
waterfront, 9,400 tons of supplies
had been unloaded, but the
brigade was to travel light, so most
of these supplies and all personal
baggage had to be left behind.
Thus it was that the brigade was
ready to move out on the morning
of 3 August.
There was still uncertainty as to
exactly where the men would
enter combat. Walker’s headquar-
ters had telephoned Craig at mid-
night and told him to move the
brigade to a town called Chang-
won, where Walker would tem-
porarily hold the Marines in Eighth
Army reserve. This would position
the brigade strategically if Walker
decided that his most pressing
danger was an enemy break-
through threat by the NKPA 6th
Infantry Division and the 83d
Motorcycle Regiment. The division
was a highly professional, well-
trained unit of Chinese Civil War
veterans, and it had won a series
of smashing victories since the
invasion of South Korea a month
earlier. Now these units had seized
the town of Chinju and were
poised to strike at the far south-
western corner of Walker’s defense
immediate, sharp inquiry to an the men would spend the whole lines. Masan was their next proba-
officer on board revealed that his night unloading the ships and issu- ble target, and that was only 35
orders had never been received at ing full supplies of ammunition miles from Pusan.
sea. Accordingly, Craig immediate- and rations, so that the brigade The scene on the waterfront that
ly convened an officers’ confer- could move out on time. After morning was a study in contrasts.
ence on the Clymer. His G-3, making clear that he did not yet On one hand was the panicky
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph L. know where the brigade would be atmosphere of the city of Pusan. A
Stewart, announced that the sent by Lieutenant General Walton Marine officer felt it immediately:
brigade would move out at 0600 H. Walker, the commanding officer “A tension and excitement that was
the following morning. This meant of the U.S. Eighth Army in Korea, palpable . . . you could sense—

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expecting no nonsense,
allowing none. And Marine
leaders had never lost sight of
their primary—their only—
mission, which was to fight.
The Marine Corps was not
made pleasant for men who
served in it. It remained the
same hard, brutal way of life
it had always been.
In 1950 . . . these men
walked with a certain confi-
dence and swagger. They
were only young men like
those about them in Korea,
but they were conscious of a
standard to live up to,
because they had had good
training, and it had been
impressed upon them that
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A1229 they were United States
Life on board ship was busy as the Marines prepared for battle. Here three of them Marines.
are test-firing their Browning Automatic Rifles.
Those young men of 1950
almost feel—fear. The people were book, This Kind of War: undoubtedly did not know that
scared to death. The North their predecessors had been to
Koreans were very close.” In 1950 a Marine Corps Korea before—four times, in fact.
On the other hand, there stood officer was still an officer, and There had been a brief skirmish in
the solid, poised brigade which, a sergeant behaved the way 1871 (where the Marines were
with its aviation components, good sergeants had behaved fired upon by a cannon dated
totaled 6,534 men. The three rifle since the time of Caesar, 1313!). Subsequent landings took
battalions each had only two rifle
Other Marines, in this case members of Company E, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines,
companies, but, taken from the
huddled intently over instructions in the use of their light machine guns.
skeleton 1st Marine Division at National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1291
Camp Pendleton, was a wide
range of auxiliary units: a company
each from the division’s Signal,
Motor Transport, Medical, Shore
Party, Engineer, Ordnance, and
Tank Battalions; detachments from
the Service Battalion, Combat
Service Group, Reconnaissance,
and Military Police Companies; the
1st Amphibian Tractor Company;
and Amphibian Truck Platoon. The
1st Battalion, 11th Marines, with
three firing batteries, was also
attached to provide the vital
artillery support.
These units were permeated
with an esprit de corps that was
unique to the Marines. Author T. R.
Fehrenbach had this analysis in his

9
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1257
A color guard from the South Korean Army, carrying the Korea, joins with a Korean band to greet 1st Provisional
colors of the United States, the United Nations, and South Brigade Marines on the dock at Pusan.

place in 1888 and 1894, and in which officers and men had served High-Level Decisions
1905 Marines served as the together for months . . . . They
Legation Guard in Seoul—little insisted on controlling their own The actual events that had led
dreaming of the ordeal their suc- air support in coordinated actions up to the brigade being poised on
cessors there would undergo 45 based upon years of experience.” that dock were a tangled skein of
years later. Another writer, Clay Blair, in The high-level meetings, flurries of
Two things that were prominent- Forgotten War, pointed out that orders, and long-distance airplane
ly visible on the pier were the 3.5- “the ranks were filled with physi- trips that spanned half the globe
inch rocket launchers (“bazookas”) cally tough young men who had from New York to Washington,
and the M-26 Pershing tanks which joined the corps to fight, not to D.C., to California, to Honolulu,
equipped the Marines—new sightsee. The Marines had superior and to Tokyo.
weapons that the battered Army firepower in squads, platoons, and It all began when alarm bells
divisions lacked. companies.” went off in the pre-dawn of 25
Invisible, but fundamental to the However, amongst all the units June 1950 at the United Nations in
action that lay ahead, were the in the Pusan Perimeter there was New York and the U.S. State
qualities that had been ingrained one point of similarity. Except for Department in Washington. There
into the Marines themselves. Joseph senior generals, no one—soldier or had been a violent, surprise attack
C. Goulden in Korea: The Untold Marine—had more than a vague across the 38th Parallel, an inva-
Story of the War described the men idea of how or why they came to sion of South Korea by some
this way: “They had been in com- be there in a life-or-death situation 90,000 well-trained, heavily armed
bat training in the United States; in a country of which they had soldiers of the North Korean
they arrived in cohesive units in never heard five weeks before. Peoples Army (NKPA). As the star-

10
tling news continued to pour in, it
quickly became apparent that the
half-trained, lightly armed Republic
of Korea (ROK) troops defending
South Korea were being smashed
and overrun.
At an emergency meeting of the
U.N. Security Council that same
afternoon, followed by another
two days later (27 June), there was
a decision to call for armed force
to repel the invaders. That was all
that was needed for General
Clifton B. Cates, Commandant of
the Marine Corps, to seize the ini-
tiative. The next day, 28 June, he
arranged a meeting with Admiral
Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval
Brigadier General Edward A. Craig Operations, and Francis P.
Matthews, Secretary of the Navy,

E dward A Craig was born on 22 November 1896 in Danbury,


Connecticut, and attended St. Johns Military Academy in Wisconsin.
After being commissioned in the Marine Corps in August 1917, he
served in a wide range of posts: in Washington as aide to Major General
Commandant John A. Lejeune in 1926, and in Haiti, the Dominican
and he recommended that the
Fleet Marine Force (FMF) “be
employed.” Their reaction was
noncommittal, since U.S. ground
forces were not yet involved in
Republic, China, Nicaragua, and the Philippines, combined with tours on
board the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise. South Korea. Cates, however, had
By May of 1942 he had been promoted to colonel, and this brought him learned over a long career a few
command of the 9th Marines. He led his regiment in combat on things about combat—whether it
Guadalcanal in July 1943, then that November on Bougainville where he was called by a euphemism such
was awarded the Bronze Star. In December 1943, he was given a tempo- as “police action,” as in this case,
rary promotion to brigadier general. In July-August 1944 his regiment led or was realistically a “war,” in sev-
the attack on Guam. Craig’s valiant conduct there brought him a Navy eral of which he had distinguished
Cross. himself. Acting upon instinct,
Moving to a staff assignment, he served as operations officer, V when he returned from the indeci-
Amphibious Corps, in the assault on Iwo Jima in February 1945. A Legion sive meeting, he sent a warning
of Merit was presented to him for that service.
order to the 1st Marine Division at
Duty as assistant division commander, 1st Marine Division, in China in
Camp Pendleton, California, to get
1947, came with his promotion to permanent brigadier general. Craig then
assumed command of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in June of that ready to go to war. (Due to peace-
year. This brought him back to Guam, almost three years after he had par- time cuts, the strength of the entire
ticipated in its recapture. Marine Corps at that time was only
In 1949, he was transferred to Camp Pendleton as assistant division 74,279, with 11,853 in the division
commander, 1st Marine Division. Very soon thereafter came the attack on and its accompanying aircraft
South Korea, which led to his designation, for a second time, as wing. Thus, in reality, the “divi-
Commanding General, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. This time, howev- sion” was little more than a rein-
er, it moved quickly to combat. When the brigade, after its victories in the forced regimental combat team in
Pusan Perimeter, was deactivated in September 1950, its troops were fighting strength, and the “wing”
merged into a reformed 1st Marine Division. Craig reverted to his former little more than a Marine air group.
billet as assistant division commander. For his noteworthy performance of
Cates’ gut reaction was con-
duty during 1950 operations in Korea, he received an Air Medal with gold
firmed the following day, on 29
star, a Silver Star, and a Distinguished Service Medal.
January 1951 brought his promotion to lieutenant general, and a few June, when President Harry S.
months later, in June, he retired with 33 years of distinguished service. He Truman authorized General of the
died in December 1994. Army Douglas MacArthur, Com-
mander in Chief, Far East, in

11
Tokyo, to use the U.S. naval,
ground, and air units he had avail-
able to support the desperate
Republic of Korea forces.
Now there ensued examples of
the arcane complexities of high-
level decision-making at a time of
great stress. At Cates’ urging,
Admiral Sherman asked Admiral
Arthur W. Radford, Commander in
Chief, Pacific Fleet, how long it
would take to ship out a Marine
regimental combat team (RCT).
Radford replied on 2 July: “load in
six days, sail in ten.” Then, in a M-26 Pershing Medium Tank and Its
time-honored communications North Korean Counterpart
procedure for top-ranking officers,
Sherman sent a private message for
the eyes of MacArthur via his naval
commander in the Far East, Vice
Admiral C. Turner Joy, asking if the
T he M-26 Pershing, shown above, was the backbone of Marine armor
during the first half of the Korean War. The 1st Tank Battalion, Fleet
Marine Force, at Camp Pendleton, replaced its M-4A3 Sherman
tanks with Pershings during the summer of 1950, shortly after the invasion
of South Korea.
general would like a Marine RCT.
Swamped with bad news from Company A, 1st Tank Battalion, sailed for Korea with the 1st Provisional
South Korea, MacArthur accepted Marine Brigade after having been able to test drive and fire only two of its
immediately with “unusual enthu- new tanks. While enroute, 14 tanks were damaged when the cargo hold
of a ship flooded. Landing at Pusan in August 1950, the tank crews had a
siasm.”
brief familiarization period before going into action. In concert with the
Accordingly, he fired off to
close-air support of Corsairs, 75mm recoilless rifles, and 3.5-inch rocket
Sherman in Washington, D.C., that launchers, the tanks gave the brigade a level of firepower that proved very
same day (2 July) an urgent radio effective against the North Korean enemy.
request for a Marine RCT and a
supporting Marine aircraft group Technical Data
(MAG). Engine: Ford V-8 gasoline, liquid-cooled, 500HP
Dimensions: Length: 20 feet 8 inches
A Brigade is Born Width: 11 feet 4 inches
Height: 9 feet 1 inches
Sherman took the request to a Weight: 46 tons
meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maximum Speed: On roads: 30mph
(JCS) for their decision. Although Cross country: 18mph
the Commandant of the Marine Radius of Action: On roads: 92 miles
Corps was not, at that time, a Cross country: 62 miles
Crew: 5
member of the JCS, Cates felt that,
Armament: One 90mm M3 gun
since the decision directly affected Two .30-caliber machine guns
“his Marines,” he should be M1919A4 (bow & coaxial)
involved in it. Showing up uninvit- One .50-caliber M2 machine gun on turret
ed at the meeting, he was allowed
to join it in view of the disastrous T-34 North Korean Medium Tank
news from the Korean front.
After great success early in the war and acquiring a fearsome reputa-
The JCS voted to commit the tion, the T-34, not shown, met its nemesis in the Marines’ anti-tank
Marine RCT and MAG, and with weapons. Supplied from Russian stocks, it weighed 32,000 kilograms and
Truman’s concurrence, gave carried a crew of five men. A V-12 diesel engine gave it an off-road speed
MacArthur the good news on 3 of 30 kilometers per hour. Armament was an 85mm gun, supplemented by
July. (Cates later asked Sherman two 7.62mm machine guns.
how it had all come about, and the

12
admiral replied in a baseball The initial building blocks were
metaphor: “From Cates to there, the 5th Marines at Camp
Sherman, to Joy, to MacArthur, to Pendleton and MAG-33 at the
JCS!”) nearby El Toro Marine Air Station.
Now Cates (and the Marine The critical manpower problem
Corps) had to deliver. On 7 July he was to flesh out these units from
had the 1st Provisional Marine their peacetime reductions so that
Brigade activated, but then a mon- they could fight with maximum
umental effort, carried out at a effectiveness. By telegraph and
frantic pace, was needed to assem- telephone orders went out to regu-
ble the essential manpower, equip- lar Marines all over the country:
ment, and weapons—and to do all “get to Pendleton NOW!” And so
that in one week flat! they came pouring in day and

Marine Corps Historical Center Photo


General Clifton B. Cates

night by bus and plane and train, a


flood of men from 105 posts and
stations.
Captain “Ike” Fenton long re-
membered the ensuing problems:

These men were shipped


from the posts and stations by
air, most of them arriving with
just a handbag. Their seabags
were to be forwarded at a
later date. They didn’t have
The 3.5-Inch Rocket Launcher dog tags and had no health
records to tell us how many
shots they needed. Their

T he 3.5-inch rocket launcher (also known as the “Super Bazooka”)


offered the infantryman a portable rocket weapon, designed to be
used as an anti-tank defense. Introduced in early 1950, the 3.5-inch
launcher gave the Marine Corps the means to pierce any armored vehicle
from a greater distance than previous launchers, and with improved accu-
clothing generally consisted
of khaki only, although a few
had greens.

racy. They had no weapons and


The M20 3.5-inch launcher appeared after its predecessor, the 2.36-inch their 782 equipment was
launcher (developed in World War II), proved ineffective against the incomplete. We had a prob-
Russian tanks in Korea. The M20 was a two-piece, smooth-bore weapon lem of trying to organize
formed by connecting the front and rear barrels together. Weighing only these men into a platoon and
12 pounds with an assembled length of 60 inches, the 3.5-inch launcher getting them all squared away
was easily transportable and could be fired from a standing, sitting, or
before our departure date.
prone position. The M20 rocket had a “shaped charge” that concentrated
the force of the explosion on a very small area, thus allowing the projec-
tile to penetrate armor plate as thick as 11 inches. In addition to the Other officers recalled odd
weapon’s deadly force, a unique gunsight that allowed for various ranges aspects of those hectic days: no
and speeds provided the 3.5 an accuracy up to 900 yards. one got any sleep; some men were
detailed to help in the filming of

13
Hollywood’s “Halls of Monte-
zuma”; other men were detailed to
fight fires in the Santa Margarita
Mountains. The supply crisis was
overcome by a precipitous change
from an attitude of “counting
shoelaces” to “take whatever you
need.” Acquisition of the new 3.5-
inch rocket launcher was made
possible by shipments from all
over the country. There was an
influx of senior staff noncommis-
sioned officers, some of whom
were physically unfit, and this led
to some sergeants major being
assigned to ride shotgun on ambu-
lance jeeps. A number of World
War II officers with no infantry
experience also arrived.
The 5th Marines was beefed up Lieutenant Colonel Raymond L. Murray
by an emergency authorization to
add a third platoon to each of the
two rifle companies, but it proved
impossible to get a third rifle com-
pany for each of the three battal-
B orn 30 January 1913 in Los Angeles, California, Murray grew up to
attend Texas A&M College. While there he was enrolled in the
Reserve Officer Training Course. Graduating in 1935 with a bache-
lor of arts degree, he did a short stint in the Texas National Guard and
then was commissioned in the Marine Corps on 1 July. After Basic School,
ions. This was a serious shortage. he was ordered to duty in China, 1937-1940. A radical change of scenery
It meant that the battalions would led to an assignment as a captain with the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade
have to go into battle without a in Iceland, 1941-1942.
company they could use for Moving overseas in November 1942 with the 2d Division, he was
maneuver or have in reserve. And awarded the Silver Star in January 1943 for his service as Commanding
that would cause extra casualties Officer, 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, on Guadalcanal. Now a lieutenant
in the weeks ahead. There were, colonel, he took his battalion on to Tarawa in November 1943, where he
however, two compensating fac- received a second Silver Star. This was followed by exploits on Saipan that
tors for the shortages. First, the brought him a Navy Cross and a Purple Heart in June 1944.
regiment was a well-trained, cohe- The years after World War II saw Murray in a variety of peacetime
Marine Corps duties, leading to his taking over in July 1950 as
sive unit. Murray put it this way:
Commanding Officer, 5th Marines (a billet normally reserved for a full
“We had been extremely lucky, in
colonel). When his regiment became the core of the 1st Provisional
the previous year we had virtually Marine Brigade in Korea, and then was a key unit in the Inchon-Seoul bat-
no turnover . . . so that we had a tles, he again distinguished himself in combat and was awarded his third
regiment which, for all intents and Silver Star, a fourth one from the Army, and a Legion of Merit with Combat
purposes, had been together for a “V” in August and September 1950.
full year, training.” Further combat at the Naktong River, Inchon, Seoul, and the Chosin
Second, 90 percent of the Reservoir brought a second Navy Cross and an Army Distinguished
brigade’s officers had seen combat Service Cross.
before on the bloody beaches and In January 1951, after nearly eight years as a lieutenant colonel, he was
in the jungles of the Pacific. This promoted to full colonel, and then, after a sequence of duties in
was also the case for two-thirds of Washington, Quantico, and Camp Pendleton, to the rank of brigadier gen-
eral in June 1959. This led to his assignment as Assistant Division
the staff noncommissioned offi-
Commander, 3d Marine Division, on Okinawa. Promoted to major gener-
cers. Here was a group of leaders
al in February 1963, he saw duty as Deputy Commander, III Marine
well prepared for the rigors of Amphibious Force, in Vietnam in October 1967.
combat. After 33 years of highly decorated active duty, Murray retired in August
With the addition of supporting 1968 as a major general.
units hastily assembled, a rein-

14
forced RCT came into being. Such supplies, and weapons. The the 1st Tank Battalion had trained
a unit normally would be com- Marine Corps, however, had an ace in a different, older tank with dif-
manded by a full colonel, but this up its sleeve for just such a high ferent armament, and their race to
case was different. As then- pressure, short-deadline situation switch over, train, and prepare for
Lieutenant Colonel Murray later as this. embarkation was typical of the
recalled: Tucked away in the California pressure to which all hands were
desert was the huge Marine Supply subjected. (Each tanker got to fire
I was sure that a colonel Depot at Barstow. It had been exactly two rounds before depar-
would be brought in. It was- filled five years earlier by following ture.)
n’t until sometime later when a prudent, far-seeing policy that It was the same frantic scene at
I was talking to [Major] countless past emergencies had El Toro as MAG-33 struggled to get
General [Graves B.] Erskine taught the Marine Corps: “When its aviators and planes up to com-
[commanding the 1st Marine you get a chance to stock up, do it, bat readiness. As with the ground
Division] . . . and he told me because you’ll never know when troops, the organizational units
that when this broke, General you’ll really need it!” were mere peacetime skeletons.
Cates told him, “I’ll get you a Thus, at the end of World War II, Thus the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
colonel as soon as I can to get Marine salvage teams had looked (1st MAW) was a wing in name
out and take the regiment,” around the Pacific islands for aban- only, and had to be stripped bare
and General Erskine said he doned equipment. Then they just to give MAG-33 what it need-
told General Cates, “Don’t brought it back to Barstow, re- ed.
need one. I’ve got somebody painted it “Marine green,” stenciled Adding a wholly new resource
who can take the regiment.” “USMC” on it, and “mothballed” it were “the first helicopter pilots of
for future use. From this treasure the United States Armed Forces to
Along with the manpower prob- trove came the old jeeps, the old be formed into a unit for overseas
lem came materiel problems. The trucks, and the old amphibian trac- combat service.” They came from
peacetime economies forced on all tors that would be so vital to the Quantico, Virginia, where, since
the military Services by political brigade’s operations. Brand new, 1947, the Marine Corps had pio-
decisions in Washington had hit however, were the M-26 tanks with neered helicopter combat tech-
hard the resources of equipment, their 90mm guns. The Marines in niques. On their arrival, there were
just 48 hours to join up the four
When a brigade goes to war, it needs a lot of supplies and equipment. Here HO3S-1 helicopters with the four
Marines labor on the dock at San Diego to load up the ships that will take them usable OY-2 observation planes,
to war.
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1063 and have Marine Observation
Squadron 6 (VMO-6) ready to ship
out.
Somehow, it was done under
the unbelievable pressure of time,
and the brigade air-ground team
was ready to sail on schedule.
There was one final vignette that
exemplified the morale of the men.
A reporter-photographer, David
Douglas Duncan, in his book, This
is War!, described a scene where
General Craig had spoken to a
mass meeting of his men just
before they went on board ship.
When they heard they were head-
ed for Korea and Craig referred to
the traditional Marine role, “the
men were dead-panned . . .
expressionless.” But Duncan con-
tinued:

15
Then Craig, with his
Brigade Surgeon standing at
his side, told his men that as
long as there were any
Marines alive in Korea who
could still fire a rifle, or toss a
grenade, no other Marines
would be left behind upon
the battlefield, either wound-
ed or dead. Over four thou-
sand men shouted in unison
as his Leathernecks gleefully
slugged each other in the ribs,
grinned happily and wanted
to know when the hell they
were going aboard ship.

On 14 July the ships left San


Diego, taking Marines to combat
once more.

Preparing the Way


With the troops enroute at sea,
General Craig and Brigadier
General Thomas J. Cushman had
boarded an airplane and flown to
Hawaii. There they met with
Lieutenant General Lemuel C.
Shepherd, Jr., Commanding
General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific
(FMFPac). Craig underscored the
painful shortage of rifle companies;
the missing 105mm howitzers in his
artillery, the 1st Battalion, 11th
Marines; and his lack of motor
transport.
Flying on to Tokyo on 19 July,
the two Marine generals went
quickly to meet General Mac-
Arthur. Craig made his feelings very
clear: potential would be cut about get Marine air under his command
99 percent as far as I was con- as soon as they arrived in that area.”
While talking to General cerned. The discussion continued on a
MacArthur, I informed him harmonious note, with MacArthur
that we were on a peace- MacArthur went on to assure saying, “I’m very glad to have you
strength basis, that we were Craig that the Marines could retain here with the 1st Brigade.” When
an air-ground team and had their planes, and he so informed he learned of Craig’s manpower
trained as such at Pendleton Lieutenant General George E. shortages, he directed that a dis-
and would be very effective if Stratemeyer, commander of the U.S. patch go to the JCS requesting full
left intact. However, I told him Far East Air Forces. This was a great war strength for the brigade.
that if they took our air force relief to Craig, who later stated that (During this time, messages contin-
away from us, our fighting “Stratemeyer was very anxious to ued to fly back and forth regarding

16
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1185
The men of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade have landed in Pusan, Korea, and are marched off to combat.

the mobilization of the full 1st Never again did the North Koreans stay there to absorb all possible
Marine Division for a future cam- come as close to victory.” information on the fluid situation
paign that MacArthur was already Faced with this situation, on the front lines—including a
planning. This led to the call-up of Walker, as ground commander, careful aerial survey he made of
Marine Reserves on 19 July.) had withdrawn all the troops into a sites where his brigade might be
The meeting ended with a direc- last-stand enclave called the Pusan thrown into action.
tive from MacArthur to set up bil- Perimeter. On 30 July, Craig headed for
lets for the brigade in Japan. It was This was a 60-by-90-mile rectan- Pusan, set up a temporary com-
not to be. The situation in Korea gle with the Sea of Japan on the mand post, and wrote out a pre-
had degenerated to a near-col- east, the Korean Strait on the liminary operations order for the
lapse. U.S. Army troops had been south, the Naktong River on the brigade as the NKPA tide rolled
rushed from comfortable occupa- west, and a line of mountains on over Chinju and headed for nearby
tion duty in Japan to bolster the the north. It did have one advan- Masan. Arrangements were made
reeling ROK divisions. Things had tage crucial to Walker. This was his with MAG-33 in Japan to be ready
gone badly—very badly. The offi- ability, in this constricted area, to for action the moment the brigade
cial Army history recounts a con- use his interior lines of movement arrived on board its transports.
tinuous series of problems: tanks to set up a final defensive perime- The next day, still without a
ambushed, sentries asleep, soldiers ter with the capacity to rush emer- decision by Walker on the deploy-
killed while riding in trucks instead gency reinforcements to quell any ment of the brigade, Craig sensed
of marching, repeated retreats, serious enemy threat where a the threat to Masan, looming such
communication breakdowns, etc. breakthrough seemed imminent. a short distance from Pusan, as a
The history characterizes the situa- With the whole beachhead on probable priority. Accordingly, he
tion at the time the Marine brigade the Korean Peninsula now in such decided to supplement his previ-
arrived by stating: “Walker was peril, Craig received new, urgent ous aerial view with a ground
concerned about the failure of his orders on 25 July: the brigade reconnaissance by jeep. Then he
troops to carry out orders to main- would go straight to Korea to serve waited tensely for his brigade to
tain contact with the enemy.” as Walker’s “fire brigade” where arrive.
Overall, it summarized the crisis in most needed. The next day Craig It came 2 August; it moved out 3
stark language: “Never afterwards was in Taegu, Walker’s headquar- August. One historian, Donald
were conditions as critical . . . . ters in South Korea. He used his Knox, crystallized that moment in

17
out to meet head-on the most
urgent enemy threat. It went with a
ringing message from Cates: “The
proud battle streamers of our
Corps go with you in combat. The
pride and honor of many genera-
tions of Marines is entrusted to you
today. You are the old breed. With
you moves the heart and the soul
and the spirit of all whoever bore
the title United States Marine.
Good luck and Godspeed.”
Part of the men (1st Battalion)
went by truck to the staging area
of Changwon. Since the Marines
had been forced by a shortage of
shipping to leave their heavy
equipment back in the United
States, the transportation was made
possible by borrowing two Army
truck companies, with an addition-
al bonus in the form of a loan of
communication jeeps and recon-
naissance company jeeps with .50-
caliber machine guns. Going by
train were the precious tanks and
some of the men. Duncan, the
reporter, described what those
kind of trips were like:
National Archives Photo (USN) 80-G-416920
The F4U Corsairs of VFM-214, VMF-323, and VMF(N)-513, with a helicopter of The first stage of moving
VMO-6, jam-pack the deck of the USS Badoeng Strait enroute to Pusan. up to the front was no prob-
his book, The Korean War: Loading up the old Korean railroad cars, the men have their packs full, and
carry entrenching tools, as they head for their Changwon staging area.
The fluid situation the National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1181
brigade would encounter in
the Pusan Perimeter would
demand the very elements the
Marines had in abundance—
courage, initiative, élan . . . .
morale in the rifle companies
was extremely high. In spite
of what they’d heard, the
Marines knew the North
Koreans could be beaten. The
Marine Corps was sending to
Korea the best it had.

The Fire Brigade Goes to War:


Crisis Number One
It was an early start; at 0600 on
3 August the “fire brigade” moved

18
lem, but it was slow. The
troop trains were sturdy,
wooden-bodied old coaches,
leftovers from the days when
the Japanese had run the
country. . . . The Marines
inside showed almost no
interest in the slowly passing
scenery. They ate their
rations, oiled their weapons,
slept in the vestibules
between the cars with their
rifles held close. They were
professional men riding to
work.

The planes of MAG-33 had a


busy time that same day of 3
August. Under the command of
General Cushman were the fighter
squadrons VMF-323 (“Death
Rattlers”) under Major Arnold A.
Lund and VMF-214 (“Black
Sheep”) commanded by Lieutenant
Colonel Walter E. Lischeid. They
were equipped with 60 of the gull-
winged Corsair F4Us. One of their
partners was Marine Night Fighter
Brigadier General Thomas J. Cushman Squadron 513 (VMF[N]-513)

B orn on 27 June 1895 in Saint Louis, Cushman graduated from the


University of Washington in Seattle and subsequently enlisted in the
Marine Corps in July 1917. Commissioned in October 1918, he
received his naval aviator wings the following year. Duty in Guam,
Nicaragua, and Haiti followed the diverse Marine aviation pattern of the
(“Flying Nightmares”) under Major
Joseph H. Reinburg. This was a
squadron specially trained for
night fighting with its F4U-5N
Corsairs and new twin-engine F7F
1920s.
Tigercats. The other partner was
Next, in June 1933, came a tour in the Bureau of Aeronautics of the
Navy Department, and then, broadening his interservice experience, he
VMO-6, commanded by Major
attended the Army Air Corps Tactical School in 1935. With the commitment Vincent J. Gottschalk, with its four
of Marine aviation in World War II, Cushman was appointed Chief of Staff, usable OY-2 light observation
Marine Aircraft Wings, Pacific. With a temporary rank of brigadier general planes and, for the first time in real
in January 1944, he was next assigned as Air Defense Commander, combat for any U.S. Service, four
Marianas Islands. For these services he was awarded a Bronze Star and the Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopters.
Legion of Merit with Combat “V.” When the ground elements of
When his rank was made permanent in 1947, he became Commanding the brigade were unloading in
General, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, the following year. With the Pusan, MAG-33 had been in Kobe,
outbreak of the Korean War, he was assigned as Assistant Wing Japan. From there, VMF-323 had
Commander, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, in June 1950. With the forward ech- gone on board the Badoeng Strait,
elon of the wing, he provided the air support for the Marine Brigade when
while VMF-214 was based on the
it went to Korea. In 1951 he took command of the wing. His leadership
there brought him his second Legion of Merit and a Distinguished Service
Sicily (CVE-118). VMF(N)-513 was
Medal. based at Itazuke Airfield on
His final billet was Deputy Commander, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, as Kyushu Island. Marine Tactical Air
a major general in 1953, and, after promotion to lieutenant general in 1954, Control Squadron 2 (MTACS-2)
he retired. He died in July 1972. traveled by ship to Pusan. VMO-6
amazed the Japanese citizens

19
when it simply took off in its light
observation planes and helicopters
from the streets of Kobe. Four of
its helicopters and four of its OY
planes made the short hop to
Pusan on 2 August, so they were
there, ready to go with the brigade,
even though they had not been
visible in that memorable scene on
the waterfront.
VMF-214 launched an eight-
plane flight from the Sicily on 3
August and pummeled Chinju with
incendiary bombs, rockets, and
strafing, a small preview of what
the Marines had in store for the
NKPA 6th Division. This attack
took place less than a month after
the receipt of official orders send-
ing the planes to the Far East. (An
Vought F4U-4B Corsair
even earlier mission—the first for
Marine planes—had been on 4 July
when two F4U Corsair photo-
graphic planes from MAG-12 on
the carrier Valley Forge (CV-45)
T he familiar Vought F4U Corsair emerged out of World War II syn-
onymous with American victory in the Pacific and became the air-
craft most closely associated with Marine Corps aviation. The
Corsair was a versatile, tough, and heavy fighter-bomber and night-fight-
er, and was easily recognized by its distinctive inverted gull wings. At the
had joined in a Navy air strike conclusion of the war, Vought’s concentration was in the limited produc-
against the North Korean capital of tion of the F4U-4 models, producing 2,356 up to 1947.
Pyongyang.) The 4B model was equipped with a 2,100 horsepower engine of the
On a succession of those early Pratt and Whitney R-2800-18W type. The aircraft had a top speed of almost
August days, all three of the 450 mph, a climb rate of 3,870 feet per minute, and a range of more than
1,000 miles. Operational altitudes could be reached as high as 41,500 feet.
Marine fighter squadrons kept up a
Standard armament for the 4B were the awesome six .50-caliber machine
steady pattern of bombing, straf- guns, and a payload capability of eight 5-inch rockets and up to 4,000
ing, and rocketing attacks on NKPA pounds of ordnance.
targets. On 5 August, for instance, When the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade made its entry into the Korean
Major Kenneth L. Reusser led a War, supporting the Marines on the ground were both Navy squadrons
four-plane division of Corsairs to and, in particular, the Marine units from the carriers Badoeng Strait and
Inchon, the port of the South Sicily,VMF-214, better known as the Black Sheep Squadron, and VMF-323,
Korean capital of Seoul. There he the Death Rattlers Squadron.
was responsible for the discovery Starting on 7 August 1950, VMF-214 and -323, both of which had effec-
and the destruction of an enemy tively absorbed the lessons of close air support during WWII, provided the
tank assembly plant, an oil refin- brigade support by having four to 10 Corsairs continuously overhead.
ery, and an oil tanker ship. The Flying a total of 6,575 combat support missions, the favorite ordnance car-
ried for close air support missions was napalm, deadly jellied gasoline that
two Corsairs which Reusser flew
was most effective against NKPA armor. The Corsairs usually carried two
on two successive strikes during 150-gallon napalm bombs that weighed approximately 1,400 pounds
his attacks of that day were severe- apiece.
ly damaged by enemy fire. He was During the month of August, the close air support missions from
awarded a gold star in lieu of a Badoeng Strait and Sicily gave everyone a lasting impression. Observing
second Navy Cross for his heroism from the ground, said an Army soldier of the Marine aviators: “The effec-
on this mission. tiveness of Marine close air support astonished Army troops fighting
VMO-6 was also busy. The alongside the Leathernecks.’’ On 18 August, several hundred NKPA fell
squadron had moved west from under the Death Rattler’s Corsairs’ merciless air assault that pounded their
Pusan to Chinhae, a base close to retreat across the Naktong River.
the threatened city of Masan and

20
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A130913
The eyes of the brigade: the OY light observation plane was invaluable in the rugged terrain and endless hills.

the brigade’s forthcoming zone of tions. These included conferences brigade CP, to be relieved at noon
action. This location had been a with Army generals, the need to by two others.
South Korean naval base and return to his CP to issue orders, This new element of air mobili-
ammunition depot, but it had a then to observe his Marines in the ty proved to be a vital asset to the
2,600-foot airstrip with two com- field, as well as the requirement ground troops. Craig pointed out
pleted hangars and quonset huts that he reconnoiter the terrain that “maps were poor, and no one
for housing. So VMO-6 set up before operations began. He then in the brigade had personal knowl-
quickly for business. commented: “My staff faced the edge of the terrain over which we
Craig took off early on 3 August same problems. Time was always were to fight. Helicopters were a
in one of its helicopters and put in pressing. Fortunately, Marine heli- life saver in this connection, as
a remarkable day that demonstrat- copters attached to VMO-6 were they provided the means for even
ed the amazing versatility and use- always available for observation, commanders of small units to get
fulness of the new aircraft. He communications, and control. into the air quickly from almost
stopped to give instructions to the These aircraft made my day! any point and identify roads, vil-
lead battalion on the march; he Without them I do not believe we lages and key points prior to mov-
then selected a site for his forward would have had the success we ing their troops.” The helicopters
command post (CP); and he then did.” soon were employed for a wide
flew to Masan to confer with The squadron’s OY-2 light variety of additional missions:
Walker and Major General William planes were equally useful on that evacuating the wounded; trans-
B. Kean, USA, commander of the day as they flew convoy for the porting supplies to inaccessible hill
25th Infantry Division, to which brigade and made reconnaissance peaks; scouting enemy locations;
the brigade would be attached. flights over the staging area, look- and rescuing downed fighter
Finally, on his return trip, Craig ing for any signs of enemy infiltra- pilots.
landed three more times to meet tion. This proved so successful that Of course, the NKPA was quick
with his unit commanders. VMO-6 set up a regular procedure to open fire whenever it spotted
Craig’s own later evaluation of to have an OY over the brigade one of the helicopters on the
this mobility was very specific. area at all times during daylight ground. Duncan, the reporter, was
After noting that fast travel by jeep hours. To provide this non-stop again on the spot for one typical
was often impossible due to traffic- support, there were shifts with a episode. He was cutting across one
clogged roads, considerable dis- new plane, new pilot, and new of the rice paddies to where an air-
tances to his objectives, and fre- observer coming in relays every craft sat with rotor blades kept
quent tactical moves, he contrasted two hours. Similarly, two heli- spinning for a fast take-off.
these impediments with his obliga- copters went every morning to the General Craig emerged from that

21
helicopter, checking the disposi- reserve, he was wary, for his bother us. A major penetration
tion of his troops. As the reporter Changwon location was very close of the U.S. Army lines at
looked closely at him, a conviction to a vital road junction at Chindong-ni could have been
grew: “I knew that [he] could take Chindong-ni where heavy fighting fatal to us if we had been
anything that Korea could hand was taking place. With the perime- caught in bivouac.
out.” ter shrinking at an alarming rate
Duncan’s account continues: and an NKPA envelopment from The general’s reference to “a lit-
“Suddenly that old familiar bucket- the west headed straight for Pusan, tle trigger-happy” was an under-
swinging swoosh cut out all other Craig decided: statement made some time later, for
sounds and two mortar bombs the first night they were anything
dropped into the riverbed. Great We felt that going into but professional. In pitch darkness,
geysers of mud and gravel mixed bivouac would leave us wide with thoughts of enemy infiltration
with red-hot fragments shot into open for surprise. To ensure making some of the men tense,
the sky. So did the helicopter. our security and be prepared nervous firing broke out among the
Before another bracket of bombs for any eventuality, I deployed Marines.
could fall the aircraft was halfway the brigade tactically. Although there were varying
down the valley, General Craig Although a little trigger- opinions of how widespread the
was in his jeep headed for his CP happy, we were ready for firing was, one private first class
on the mountainside.” combat, even though situated named Fred F. Davidson, later
With the full brigade concentrat- behind the so-called front- recalled:
ed at Changwon by the late after- lines. During the few days we
noon of 3 August, Craig faced a were at Changwon, we knew I raised my carbine and
very uncertain situation. Although we were observed by enemy squeezed the trigger. The
he had been ordered into a observation posts and patrols muzzle flash blinded me. For
“bivouac” status as Eighth Army off on the flank. They did not the next few seconds I saw

22
Weapons
Marine in a rifle company had a wide variety of weighed 41 pounds, and its tripod added another 53

A weapons that he could use himself, or that were


available in other units to support him. As always,
his basic weapon was his rifle.
pounds. Each ammunition belt contained 250 rounds.
Browning Automatic-Rifle,
.30-Caliber, M1918A2
As a mainstay of the rifle squad, the “B-A-R” (as it
U.S. Rifle, .30-Caliber, M1 was always called) was an air-cooled, gas-operated,
The .30-caliber M1 rifle was a gas-operated, clip-fed, magazine-fed, shoulder weapon. Weighing 20 pounds,
air-cooled, semi-automatic weapon. It weighed 9.5 it had a magazine capacity of 20 rounds. The man using
pounds, had an average rate of aimed fire of 30 rounds it carried still more weight in the magazine pouches on
per minute, a muzzle velocity of 2,600-2,800 feet per his web belt. Although maximum range could be 5,500
second, and a bullet clip capacity of eight rounds. yards, its effective range was 500 yards. There were two
Inherited from World War II, the M1 provided strong and cyclical rates of fire for the BAR-man to choose: slow,
accurate firepower for the rifleman. 350, and normal, 550.
U.S. Carbine, .30-Caliber, M1 Two other specialized weapons were invaluable for
The .30-caliber M1 carbine was a gas-operated, mag- the Marines during Pusan and the subsequent street
azine-fed, air-cooled, semi-automatic shoulder weapon. fighting in Seoul. Against North Korean tanks, strong
The weight was only 5.75 pounds. Eight inches shorter points, and snipers in buildings, they were deadly.
than the M1 rifle, it had a muzzle velocity of just 2,000 3.5-Inch Rocket Launcher
feet per second, and a magazine capacity of 15 rounds. Familiarly call the “bazooka,” the rocket launcher
This size and weight led to its issuance to officers, fired an 8.5-pound rocket with a hollow-shaped charge
although it lacked the hitting power of the M1. in its head. It weighed 15 pounds and was usually han-
Automatic Pistol, .45-Caliber, M1911A1 dled by a two-man team.
Regardless of what was officially prescribed, a num- 75mm Recoilless Rifle
ber of Marines carried a .45-caliber automatic pistol in The 75mm recoilless rifle fired conventional shells in
Korea. This was a time-honored weapon featured in the a flat trajectory, weighed 105 pounds, and required a
lore of the Corps. Described as a recoil-operated, maga- tripod in use. Its effective range was 1,000 to 2,000
zine-fed, self-loading hand weapon, the .45-caliber yards.
weighed 2.76 pounds when fully loaded, was 8.59 inch- Mortars
es in length, and had a capacity of seven rounds. The The 60mm mortar was a smooth-bore, muzzle-load-
muzzle velocity was 802 feet per second, while the max- ing, high-angle-fire weapon used by a rifle company.
imum effective range for the troops using it was only 25 With its base plate and bipod support, it weighed 42
yards. In close combat, it often proved invaluable. pounds. Normal rate of fire was 18 rounds per minute,
To furnish a high volume of direct fire in support of using either high explosive, white phosphorous, or illu-
the rifle platoons, there were three types of automatic minating shells. These had ranges varying from 1,075 to
weapons. 1,985 yards.
Browning, .30-Caliber, M1919A4 The 81mm mortar could fire a 6.8 pound high explo-
The .30-caliber “Browning” light machine gun was a sive shell up to 3,290 yards. Its weight, combining bar-
recoil-operated, belt-fed, air-cooled weapon. It weighed rel, base plate, and tripod totaled 136 pounds. Elevation
31 pounds, but with its tripod mount that rose to 49.75 could be varied from 40 to 85 degrees.
pounds. While the “cyclical” rate of fire was 400-550 The 4.2-inch mortar, affectionately referred to as the
rounds per minute, the “usable” rate was really 150 “four-deuce,” fired a round with more explosive power
rounds per minute. Muzzle velocity varied between than a 105mm howitzer. Equivalent to 107mm in cal-
2,600 to 2,800 feet per second, depending on the car- iber, it could fire a 25.5-pound shell up to 4,400 yards.
tridge used. Total weight was 330 pounds.
Browning, .30-Caliber, M1917A1 105mm Howitzer M101A1
The “Browning” .30-caliber water-cooled “heavy” As a light, towed field artillery weapon, this was used
machine gun was extensively used in the battle for in direct support of infantry units. A battalion had three
Seoul and in the trenches at the end of the war. Its effec- batteries with six howitzers each. Weighing 4,950
tive rate of fire was 350-450 rounds per minute. With a pounds, the cannon fired a 33-pound shell to a maxi-
muzzle velocity of 2,800 feet per minute, in direct fire its mum range of 11,000 meters. While usually moved by
maximum effective range was 3,000 yards. This dropped a truck, a heavy helicopter could also carry it. The 105
to 300 yards for indirect fire. Its length was 38.5 inches. needed only three minutes to emplace and could sus-
“Heavy” was an accurate term, since the gun alone tain a rate of fire of three rounds per minute.

23
lights and stars. Andy shouted, Colonel Robert D. Taplett, was bat readiness. He had seen this in
“Hey, you almost hit me!” Oh, designated to move first on 6 a brigade which was activated at
God, I didn’t know I was aim- August. Arriving at Chindong-ni, Camp Pendleton on 7 July and was
ing in that direction. It was so Taplett had to scout out the situa- in combat by 7 August—only one
dark I couldn’t see my front tion, since his battalion was due to month later.
sight. I said to myself, “You be temporarily under the opera- It was in truth a memorable date
better take it easy, ol’ buddy, tional control of an Army colonel for the brigade: exactly eight years
before you kill some Marine.” commanding the Army’s 27th RCT earlier, to the day, Marines had
Over to my rear someone else there. When he got to the Army opened the first American ground
pulled off a round. Next it was regimental command post (CP), offensive of World War II at
someone to my front. the colonel was not there, and his Guadalcanal. The plan now called
Then the firing pinballed operations officer did not know for a three-pronged attack, with
from place to place all over where he could be found, and nei- the brigade on the left following
the hill and back down toward ther could Taplett contact the com- the south (roundabout) fork of the
the railroad track . . . . Finally manding officer of the battalion in main road, the 5th RCT moving
. . . all firing ceased . . . . The Chindong-ni. Its CP was there, straight ahead on the road in the
rest of the night I lay awake, right in the middle of the road, so center (the direct line west to
scared, my finger on the trig- Taplett quickly chose a very differ- Chinju), and a regiment of the 25th
ger. ent location for his CP—on the Infantry Division swinging around
reverse slope of a ridgeline. in an arc on the right to join up
The brigade’s stay at Changwon As 7 August began, Task Force with the 5th RCT halfway to
was brief but useful. The rifle units Kean was ready to jump off on the Chinju.
got a pithy lecture about fire disci- first real American offensive of the It looked good on paper, but the
pline and conducted patrols to the Korean War. Looking back on this NKPA refused to cooperate. The
high ground beside them—a fore- day, Craig later felt that the funda- 6th Division fully expected to con-
taste of the endless hill climbs mental requirement was for com- tinue its unbroken string of victo-
ahead. The tank and artillery units
A Marine guides a work detail of South Korean carriers, bringing ammunition
had a opportunity at last to do
and water to the front lines.
some training in firing their National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1303
weapons, and the Reconnaissance
Company started its probing oper-
ations. Firm communications were
set up with the fighter squadrons
afloat.
Craig made two trips to Masan
for planning meetings with Walker
and Kean, and late on 5 August the
brigade got the word to be pre-
pared to move out by truck the
next day to Chindong-ni with
action to come immediately there-
after. The town was eight miles
southwest of Masan on the road to
Chinju. It was the point now sub-
ject to imminent NKPA attack.
Walker had assigned three units
to this first offensive: the Marine
brigade, two regiments of the 25th
Infantry Division, and the Army’s
5th RCT. They would be called
Task Force Kean.
For the brigade, the 3d Battal-
ion, commanded by Lieutenant

24
ries. Its commander, under orders
to roll into Pusan forthwith, had
issued this stirring proclamation to
his men:

Comrades, the enemy is


demoralized. The task given
to us is the liberation of
Masan and Chinju and the
annihilation of the remnants
of the enemy. We have . . .
accelerated the liberation of
all Korea. However, the liber-
ation of Chinju and Masan
means the final battle to cut Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A413601
off the windpipe of the The pin-point attacks of their Corsairs gave the Marines invaluable close air sup-
enemy. Comrades, this glori- port. Here the F4Us of VMF-323 are being loaded with rockets on board the USS
ous task has fallen to our divi- Badoeng Strait before a mission.
sion! Men of the 6th Division,
let us annihilate the enemy Second Lieutenant John J. H. Company D from Lieutenant
and distinguish ourselves! “Blackie” Cahill from Company G Colonel Harold S. Roise’s 2d
got the job that night of 6-7 Battalion was sent into action on 7
August. Reinforced with a machine August. As the NKPA continued to
Thus, just as Task Force Kean gun squad and a radio operator, he reinforce its troops, the rest of the
launched its attack, so did the 6th set out for the CP of the Army’s 2d Battalion became heavily
Division. The Army’s 5th RCT led 27th Infantry and then the CP of engaged nearby. In air temperature
off on the 7th with its 1st Battalion. the 2d Battalion, 5th RCT. There he of 112 degrees men continually
When it got to the road junction received the astonishing order that collapsed from nausea and heat
west of Chindong-ni, for some his one platoon was to relieve the exhaustion. Water was scarce and
unknown reason it took the left Army’s besieged company and the slopes of the hill seemed to go
(south) fork that was assigned to hold the hill by itself. Moving out on straight up forever. Finally, at
the Marines instead of going through the night of 6 August, the the end of the day (7 August),
straight ahead (west) on the road Marines suffered two wounded Company D had nearly reached
that led to Chinju. Advancing three from fire that proved to be from the crest, but, exhausted, dug in
miles on the wrong road, it left the 2d Battalion, 5th RCT. There where it was for the night.
open to enemy control Hill 342 followed the next morning (7 Meanwhile, the Army company
which overlooked and command- August), the beginning of a hot and Cahill’s platoon on the crest
ed the main supply route that the day, an agonizing series of hill had had a brutal day. Parched for
task force would need. Kean had climbs in untempered sun which water and completely surrounded
ordered that this was to be held “at led to heat prostration and empty by enemy fire, they managed to
all costs.” canteens, and then enemy fire on hang on with reinforcements now
A company of the 2d Battalion, the platoon as it staggered near at hand. And so the day for
5th RCT, had earlier been on the upwards to the hilltop, urged on the 2d Battalion ended in a stale-
hill, but it was now quickly sur- by Cahill and his noncommis- mate with the enemy on and
rounded and cut off. To help break sioned officers. Only 37 of the around Hill 342.
the siege, a midnight order came original 52 men reached the top. There were problems every-
from the 25th Division, via the Once there, Cahill used his radio to where else. The 1st Battalion, 5th
commanding officer of the Army’s call his own 3d Battalion for badly Marines, under Lieutenant Colonel
27th Infantry Regiment, to send a needed supporting artillery fire George R. Newton, was backed up
Marine platoon to help the belea- and air drops of water and ammu- in Chindong-ni because the Army
guered Army company on Hill 342. nition. battalion had taken the wrong
It would be the first infantry action When the severity of the prob- road. Taplett’s 3d Battalion had
for the brigade. lems on Hill 342 became clearer, relieved a battalion of the Army’s

25
27th RCT the day before, but now confused situation that I’ve encoun- was just the converse. Conse-
the latter found itself attacked as it tered in the Marine Corps . . . . quently, our communications, for
tried to move into reserve in the Finally, due to the inability of the the most part, with the Marine units
rear. The 5th RCT was stalled. Army to clear the road junction and on the ground were almost always
The official Army history de- the hold-up of our offensive, very good, and with the other units
scribes this day of 7 August per- General Kean put all troops in that almost always very bad.”
fectly when it refers to “a general area under the Marine brigade When Craig went forward, he
melee” amid “confusion.” The commander, and I was given the found that the 5th RCT, under
problems were compounded when brigade plus the [Army’s] 24th Colonel Godwin L. Ordway, USA,
the NKPA slipped around Chin- Regiment and the 5th RCT.” was still held up, even though
dong-ni and occupied a command- This took place on 7 August, and “enemy resistance was light.” It was
ing height, Hill 255, that dominated now Craig would have to sort clear to Craig that, to break the
the task force’s supply road to things out and get the task force deadlock, he would need to launch
Masan in the rear. moving forward. To do this, he a series of aggressive attacks by all
Hearing of the stalled attack of acted in a typical way: he went his ground units, with heavy
his 5th RCT, Kean was exasperated straight to the front lines to observe artillery and air support.
and took prompt action. He con- the situation first-hand. This kind of Thus, early the next morning, 8
tacted Craig, who never forgot the on-the-spot leadership immediately August, Company D pushed to the
day. His men were relieving the struck Second Lieutenant Patrick G. crest of Hill 342. Cahill and the bat-
Army’s 27th RCT, with Chindong-ni Sivert, an observer overhead in an tered survivors greeted them with
to be the jump-off point for the OY. He was “amazed” on that very enormous relief. It remained, how-
Marines’ attack once the Army’s 5th first day at how close the brigade ever, a touch-and-go situation.
RCT had cleared the road intersec- CP was to the front lines. In con- Enemy fire was sweeping the encir-
tion just ahead. Craig remembered: trast, he noted that “with the other cled position, Marine officers were
“At Chindong-ni I found the most outfits in the surrounding area, it going down, and NKPA riflemen

Exhausted due to the strenuous climb and scorching heat, “first taste of the enemy,” whom they found to be “spirited,
Marines establish a hasty perimeter on a hillcrest west of tenacious, and well trained.”
Chindong-ni. Chingdong-ni would be where they got their Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A12036

26
were slowly and steadily worming with continuous close air support. where the forward air controller
their way up the approaches. A In the first three days of combat, (FAC) with the infantry on the
private in Company D, Douglas the two Marine fighter squadrons ground was blocked from seeing
Koch, felt the pressure: “I felt pret- flew well over 100 sorties. The the enemy target. Sivert found that
ty bad. This was a very hectic time. squadrons had tailored their flight a pattern of effective teamwork
There’d been a lot of climbing, we schedules so that one or the other developed: the FAC would call on
were under fire . . . . Someone was always overhead, ready an OY to spot a target and give
hollered that the lieutenant was instantly to respond to calls for him the direction in which the
dead . . . . Firing was hot and strikes during the daylight hours. bombing runs should be made.
heavy. Guys fell around me.” It The other planes of MAG-33 Sometimes the OY would even
grew worse. NKPA soldiers came were also daily demonstrating their give the type of ammunition to be
right up to the Marine lines. The worth. The OYs had bomb racks used on the target. Then, when the
firefight continued to grow in attached to their wing struts, thus bombing runs had been complet-
intensity. When word was shouted enabling them to carry rations or ed, the OY would furnish damage
that there was a new commanding cans of water to the ground troops estimates to the FAC. Teamwork
officer, First Lieutenant Robert T. panting in the heat and struggling was essential, since the OY could
Hanifin, Jr., it was soon followed up the ever-present hill slopes. only communicate with the aircraft
by the depressing news that he This was supplemented by “daisy by relaying all directions through
had collapsed in the heat. This chains” of South Korean laborers the FAC.
passed command of the company who would pass up five-gallon Helicopters also carried precious
to a veteran gunnery sergeant. cans of water, along with ammuni- supply cargoes to isolated areas. In
Koch knew that there was only tion, to the men on the hilltops. addition, they became invaluable
one thing for him and the sur- The observation planes also in evacuating wounded riflemen.
rounded men to do: hang on. became expert at spotting artillery The fighter pilots developed an
One of the reasons that they fire for the 11th Marines. The OYs enthusiastic appreciation of these
could “hang on” was that the slow speed proved to be a big new “birds” when they similarly
Marines called on a weapon that advantage. Sivert explained: proved adept at rescuing pilots
the enemy had not previously who had been shot down.
experienced: air strikes that were In this type of terrain the The full 2d Battalion was con-
not only immediate but also gave enemy was so adept at cam- solidating its control of Hill 342 on
truly close air support. Panels were ouflage that most of the time 8 August, much to the relief of
laid out to mark the ground posi- high-performance aircraft Cahill (who received a Silver Star
tions, a radio call went to the for- were just too fast to get down for his leadership). Meanwhile, the
ward air controller at battalion and search out a target. We in other rifle units of Murray’s 5th
headquarters (who personally the slower moving aircraft Marines were also very busy.
knew the pilots) and then to the were able to get down much Taplett’s 3d Battalion drew the
control plane in the Corsairs lower, take our time in spot- assignment on 7 August of driving
already orbiting overhead. Down ting a target, and then to the enemy off the strategic Hill
they screeched, strafing and rock- stand off to one side or the 255, which overlooked and
eting. They came close in—very other of the [bombing] runs, blocked the main supply route
close in—to the defender’s lines. and make sure the aircraft (MSR) to the rear. The first small-
Empty shell casings from their were hitting the correct tar- scale attack on 8 August was
machine guns fell into the laps of gets. directed at a lower hill that would
the men below. This was more Too, we were using the give access to 255. It was repulsed.
than the previously all-victorious same maps that the ground The commander of Company H,
NKPA troops had bargained for. commanders were using. Captain Joseph C. Fegan, Jr., was
Their firing slacked off, and the They were able to give us tar- later awarded a gold star in lieu of
crucial hilltop held. Some 600 gets and pinpoint the targets a second Silver Star for his bold
enemy attackers had failed in their with exact coordinates. actions when he personally led the
attempt to cut the task force’s main next assault, after a platoon leader
supply route. Another advantage of the OYs refused to move (Fegan relieved
These strikes were part of was the ability to look down on him for that). It came down to the
Craig’s plan to push his men ahead hills (particularly reverse slopes) messy business of cleaning out

27
meet the NKPA thrusts and launch
his own attacks, Newton’s 1st
Battalion was finally able to move
out of Chindong-ni early on 8
August. Its orders were to proceed
to the now-famous road fork and
take the left (south) route, while
the Army’s 5th RCT was to take the
straight-ahead (west) route. Trying
to approach the junction, Newton
found that the 5th RCT was still
stalled there. The road to the fork
was jammed with soldiers and
Army vehicles; it was a scene of
“congestion and confusion.” With
the advance of the Marine battal-
ion thus blocked, the solution for
progress came in an order from
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2262 Kean to Murray: send your 1st
Supporting fire from the howitzers of the 11th Marines was a crucial prelude to Battalion on a night march to Hill
every attack of the riflemen.
308 to relieve the Army battalion
each enemy foxhole, one at a time, hill, with 255 looming ahead. The that took your south road in error.
for the NKPA troops fought to the company had advanced more than It was expected to be a dangerous
death. Fegan was ably assisted by 1,400 yards in the teeth of a fierce- maneuver. The commander of the
the heroics of such men as ly resisting enemy. It had taken Army battalion felt that his compa-
Corporal Melvin James (Army nine gruelling hours with great suf- nies were “cut off” by the NKPA;
Distinguished Service Cross and fering from lack of water, heat the Marines were to veer off the
Silver Star), and Technical Sergeant exhaustion, and overexertion in main road short of the clogged
Ray Morgan and Private First Class the stifling weather. One man in junction and file in column along
Donald Terrio (Silver Stars). the battalion later admitted: “Guys narrow dikes in a wide rice paddy,
When Company H hastily dug in almost went mad for water. I never totally exposed if fired upon; two
for the night, Staff Sergeant James felt the kind of heat I felt in Korea. South Korean civilians of unknown
C. Davis had his platoon in a for- I just burned up. My hands went trustworthiness were to guide
ward position only 75 yards from numb. I couldn’t help myself; I them through the pitch black night
the enemy. While repairing a began crying like a baby. I was (since the assigned Army guide
defective hand grenade, it slipped ashamed. I felt I could crawl into a never appeared). Newton was
out of his grasp and dropped in mouse hole and die, but I couldn’t deeply upset when the Army bat-
the midst of his men. A posthu- help what was happening to me.” talion prematurely withdrew from
mous award of a Navy Cross This kind of water-deprivation its position without waiting for the
described his immediate reaction: and dehydration in the midst of Marine relief force. As Andrew
“Without a moment’s hesitation, he blinding heat seriously affected the Geer described this unfortunate
chose to sacrifice himself, rather combat strength of all of the bat- development in The New Breed,
than endanger his companions, talions. Murray, the regimental “there was a display of temper”
and threw himself upon the live commander, admitted: “One time I between the two battalion com-
grenade.” figured I had about at least a third manders.
In parallel action by Company G of my regiment lying at the side of By midnight the Army troops
that day, Sergeant Jack E. Macy the road with heat prostration.” had cleared the rice paddy paths,
would later be awarded a In spite of the gruelling physical and the Marines quickly moved
Distinguished Service Cross for his problems—and the fanatical resis- out. To the gratified surprise of the
perilous rescue trips to bring tance by the enemy—the battalion men, they encountered no enemy,
wounded men into safety. By the had now successfully positioned and by dawn on 9 August they
end of the day, the Marines were itself for the final lunge at Hill 255. were safely assembled at the base
securely in possession of the first As Craig jockeyed his forces to of Hill 308. The battalion had been

28
on the move, afoot, for 22 consec- Two of the opposing forces, The Marines learned to
utive hours; the men were thirsty NKPA and Marine, had learned respect a hardy enemy for his
and dog-tired, but they had carried something about each other in skill at camouflage, ambush,
out the relief as ordered. these first clashes. Colonel Robert infiltration, and use of cover.
Kean, meanwhile, had not limit- D. Heinl, Jr., in Soldiers of the Sea They learned that supporting
ed himself to his orders to Murray. summed it up: air and artillery fires often had
He had come up to the deadlock at limited effect on a foe making
the junction, and his next orders The Marines got their first clever use of reverse slope
were short and to the point. taste of the enemy. They defenses to offset Marine con-
Indicating the hill that controlled found him spirited, tenacious, centrations. Thus a ridge
the junction to one of his battalion well trained, and generously might protect and conceal an
commanders (who had earlier equipped with Russian gear. enemy strong point until
failed to capture the hill), Kean Used to having the campaign attackers were too close for
barked, “I want that hill tonight!” It their own way, the North supporting fires.
was finally done. Koreans fought confidently,
The events of 8 August were not but reacted with considerable When this situation developed,
decisive in themselves, and did not surprise when they found with the heavy firepower of the
appear to represent any real themselves facing troops who Marines neutralized, their attack
progress for the task force. gave no ground, hung on to was reduced to the familiar basic
Nevertheless, the groundwork had their weapons, and brought essential of small arms fire fights.
been laid, and Craig now had his in their wounded and dead. In these circumstances, the NKPA
troops where they were in position was able to meet them on even
not only to crush the enemy’s A subsequent article in the terms, man-to-man.
offensive, but also finally to make Marine Corps Gazette by historian Just as the Marines had sized up
real progress of their own toward Lynn Montross analyzed the battle the enemy, so, too, they had
the ultimate objective of Chinju. skills of the NKPA this way: formed their own opinion of the

29
Army units with whom they were and the absence of an aggressive climbed so laboriously and to
in contact. Other judgements were fighting spirit. move along the south road
also being made at this time. An Regardless of Army problems towards the next objective, a vil-
Army colonel had been sent by and wary of a tough enemy, but lage called Paedun-ni. It was a
General Mark Clark’s Army Field confident it could smash ahead, pathetic remnant that was able to
Forces Headquarters to evaluate the 5th Marines made real progress come down that hill. There were
the units of the Eighth Army in late on 9 August. Murray was a driver only 30 men and two officers out
July and early August. On 9 August who knew that aggressive attacks of the whole company who were
he made his report to Lieutenant would, in the end, reduce his casu- able to make it down without col-
General Matthew B. Ridgway, alties. Even though his 1st lapsing. Captain John L. Tobin, in
whose aide prepared a detailed 12- Battalion had barely arrived at the bad shape himself, stayed with the
point memorandum on the find- base of Hill 308, Murray radioed an rest of the men on the hilltop.
ings. order to attack immediately. Once Fenton painfully recalled the
The report was very harsh. It is again it was the familiar story of scene:
quoted at length in a recent book over-tired, thirsty men staggering
by Brigadier General Uzal W. Ent, up one more hill—this time after The troops that had passed
USA (Ret), entitled Fighting on the 27 hours of continuous, tense exer- out had to be left where they
Brink: Defense of the Pusan tion. Fortunately, there was only had fallen, since no one had
Perimeter. The book has Ent’s sniper fire and the crest was the strength to move them.
summary, saying that the report secured, as the men collapsed on The men who had heat pros-
“verbally ripped the officers and the broiling ground. tration, but weren’t out, tried
enlisted men of Eighth Army There was to be no let-up, how- to place themselves along the
apart.” It underscored three “prin- ever, for the beat-up 1st Battalion. ridge where they could cover
cipal deficiencies”: lack of knowl- Murray kept pushing. He ordered their fallen buddies in case of
edge of infantry fundamentals; lack Newton to take his men back an enemy attack. The heat
of leadership in combat echelons; down from the hill they had just reached 114 degrees, and I

30
personally don’t believe that improvise their tactics during these little opposition. Nevertheless, the
our men on the hill could early days in Korea. Ironically, battles that led to the conquest of
have repulsed 10 enemy they had suffered more casualties Hill 255 had cost Company H the
troops. than the riflemen when the task loss of 25 percent of its men. When
force had begun its attack. Then, the 3d Battalion then joined up
Once Newton finally was able to to counter the skillful infiltration of with part of the Army’s 24th
get his survivors down to the the NKPA, the three batteries Infantry, the threat to the rear sup-
Paedun-ni road, they were joined would try to set up with one aim- ply route (Masan to Pusan) had
by his Headquarters Company, his ing to the north, one to the east, been eliminated.
Weapons Company, and a platoon and one to the west, with protec- With these hill captures by the
of tanks. But Newton’s troubles tive foxholes around them. three Marine battalions, the errant
continued. He was stuck with (Because the brigade was moving Army battalion of the 5th RCT,
obsolete Japanese maps which fre- so fast, and with the penchant of which had earlier taken the wrong
quently used different names for the enemy for lightning hit-and-run fork at the junction, could now
towns, had no contour lines for the tactics, the 11th Marines often retrace its steps and rejoin its regi-
hills, and were undependable as to would be able to set up only one ment. At last the 5th RCT moved
roads. This resulted in his taking battery for action.) out west towards a new objective
the wrong fork in the road shortly After the artillery had plastered on the road to Chinju.
after starting. Not one to be out of the enemy positions on Hill 255, This breakup of the log jam
touch with his troops, Murray the battalion’s forward air con- enabled Kean to relieve Craig of
appeared shortly to correct the troller, First Lieutenant Daniel overall command of the task force
problem. It developed that the Greene, got on his radio, and the and allowed the general to return
maps Newton and Murray had Corsairs then came wheeling in, to his own men on the afternoon
were each different. The upshot this time with napalm’s first of 9 August.
was that Murray decided that the scourge of the NKPA. It was a near- With his brigade now moving
whole column had to turn around classic demonstration of the along its designated south road,
on the primitive narrow road, Marine concept of an air-ground Craig planned to exert maximum
retrace its steps, and take the other team. When the riflemen scaled pressure on the NKPA by having
fork. Amidst the milling in this the final crest of the hill, there was the Marine battalions leap-frog
reversal, Newton was probably dis- Marines carefully check individual huts to successfully drive North Korean
mayed to see Craig appear on the defenders out of this village.
confused scene. The general was Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A15986
not pleased, and without knowing
the background, he expressed his
thoughts in vivid language. When
the battalion finally got restarted
on the proper fork, Craig—another
officer who kept in close touch
with his troops—went with them
to supervise the further attack he
was planning. As evening fell, the
1st Battalion had come two miles
from its jump-off and was ordered
to dig in for the night.
Back in the zone of the 3d
Battalion, the payoff came on 9
August for the hard fight the day
before. The day began with a thor-
ough saturation of Hill 255 by the
artillery of the 1st Battalion, 11th
Marines, under Lieutenant Colonel
Ranson M. Wood.
The artillery batteries had to

31
each other, pushing forward hard. with only occasional shots the Marines was not moving blind-
The same procedures would be being fired. ly. Craig was well aware of the
used by the companies and pla- skill of the NKPA in ambushes and
toons. Whether it was advance Moving through the 1st envelopments. He therefore had a
guard, flankers out on the sides, or Battalion, the 2d Battalion had policy of using his helicopters and
in the main column of the brigade, pressed forward through the night OY planes to the maximum for
all the units would rotate. This of 9-10 August, grateful that there reconnaissance of his front and
enabled Craig to keep driving. was no opposition. There was an flanks. In addition, he deployed a
He had Murray pull Roise’s 2d episode with a couple of tanks that reconnaissance platoon in jeeps to
Battalion off Hill 342, and put it on got stuck, bringing both Craig and scout ahead of the lead battalion.
trucks which brought it to an Murray to the spot with some These men, Craig commented, “on
assembly point near Hill 308, a strong words to move the rest of two occasions uncovered very
spot familiar to the 1st Battalion. the column forward. By 0800 on 10 strong ambushes and suffered
Arriving there nearly at midnight August, Roise and his men were in some casualties in getting out, but
on 9 August, Roise contemplated Paedun-ni. they did protect the main column.”
his situation. He had had 9 killed, And so 9 August ended with the One of those riding in a recon-
44 wounded, and a shocking 94 Marine brigade finally all together naissance jeep was a young pri-
cases of heat prostration, the loss as a unit and really starting to roll vate first class. They were rolling
of key officers, and now his tired in high gear down the south road. happily down the road, thinking
men were due to lead the attack in The next day (10 August) brought how quiet it was, when sudden-
two hours—after the past 69 hours some brisk action when the ly:
of climbing, fighting, and march- retreating enemy forces picked
ing. Despite all this, he was strategic places to delay the rapid The North Koreans opened
relieved to see that the morale of advance of the Marine column. As up. [They] cut up the first cou-
his men appeared high. Further- usual, Craig had arrived at Paedun- ple of jeeps pretty bad. My
more, his riflemen had been rein- ni by helicopter, and his refrain to group tumbled and ran for
forced by the attachment of a bat- the troops was to move ahead with the ditch. I landed calf-deep
tery of artillery, a platoon of the “all speed.” Accordingly, the 2d in warm water. I heard
powerful Pershing tanks, and a Battalion, even though it had just machine guns chattering
75mm recoilless rifle platoon. arrived, got ready to move out around me. Dirt kicked up
The attack on Paedun-ni was quickly for Kosong. The 3d along the road that was now
only the first objective enroute to Battalion followed. lined with abandoned jeeps.
the towns of Kosong and Sachon, With only a few trucks available, Sergeant Dickerson shout-
the keys to the final goal of Chinju. part of Company D was put on ed over the noise, “Those
Craig later described his reason- board, with the rest of the troops hills, the little low ones, over
ing: marching behind. As the trucks to the right, we gotta get over
rolled down the road, they were there. Gotta return fire from
This night attack was in preceded by a four-jeep reconnais- there.” I picked up my BAR
addition to an attack during sance team. Some 2 1/2 miles from [Browning Automatic Rifle],
the day, and, although the Paedun-ni there was a section of and, crouched over, ran down
men were very tired and I the road where it made a sharp the ditch.
hesitated to carry out the turn and narrowed along a defile
night movement, I consid- 1,000 yards long underneath a At the same time an OY obser-
ered that, if we could surprise large hill. It was called the vation plane, flying less than 50
the North Koreans and keep Taedabok Pass, and 300 of the feet off the ground, spotted the
moving when the other NKPA were dug in and carefully ambush. With all hope of trapping
American troops had already camouflaged waiting there in the main column of Marines now
stopped for the night, that we ambush. Their mortars, antitank gone, the NKPA poured on the fire.
might gain some added guns, and artillery were ready to An antitank gun smashed a jeep.
advantage—and this proved inflict heavy casualties on any Now, coming up fast and deploy-
to be the case. We marched troops who moved blindly into the ing in counterattack on both sides
throughout the night and pass. of the road, the men of Company
gained quite a bit of distance However, the advance guard of D went after the high ground at

32
1500 that afternoon. Their 60mm going into action, there was not very happy about that order:
mortar fire silenced the antitank enough water to drink and the “It was just contrary to everything
gun, and, when two Marine men could eat their field rations in you’re taught, to go up into
Pershing tanks arrived at 1630, peace. Perspiration-soaked socks enemy-held territory at night, no
their 90mm guns, combined with had brought on ulcer sores on reconnaissance, nothing like that,
Corsair attacks, beat down the their feet and ankles, so it was a and hold it.”
enemy fire. blessed relief to be issued clean, Things got worse at dawn. The
The fact that there had been any dry socks. NKPA hit Bohn’s company.
surprise was on Murrays mind. He As the 3d Battalion moved into Because he had had to feel his way
said later: “We moved pretty well position for its attack, the men up there in darkness, he really did
along this road for a day, I guess, were naturally concerned about not know exactly where he and his
when we ran into an ambush. enemy fire, but the first thing to hit men were, but the enemy attack
Shouldn’t have been ambushed, them was friendly fire. One enlist- revealed:
we should have discovered it, but ed man later recounted his reac-
didn’t. The advance guard failed to tion: I was on the front line. I
spot these people and got hit. was on the forward slope of
Fortunately, though, the bulk of We passed through one of this hill, and my command
the regiment didn’t get involved the other battalions. About group got hit. I got wounded,
initially.” 5:00 in the afternoon two my mortar section chief got
The ambush had delayed the American fighters [U.S. Air killed, and I had a couple of
brigade, but not for long and at a Force F-51s] zoomed down other casualties. But we were
cost to the NKPA of hundreds of the road around 150 feet a well-trained outfit, so we
dead, wrecked vehicles, and large above our heads . . . . No immediately returned fire—I
losses in weapons. Now the matter where I ran, I couldn’t think there were maybe eight
Marines were poised to sweep into seem to find an escape. Their or ten of them, probably a
Kosong. .50-caliber bullets hit that delaying party—and we killed
Reinforcements arrived: the rest hard, dry road and it sounded them all.
of the 2d Battalion on foot and the as if each was exploding. It was very close. It was
3d Battalion by truck. Murray, of There was just nowhere to go hand-grenade range and
course, was there waiting for them. to get out of the line of fire. hand-to-hand in a couple of
He took Taplett up to the top of Someone screamed, “Break instances. I took hand-
one of the hills and they could see out the air panels! Get the air grenade fragments in the
Kosong five miles away. The regi- panels!” The fighters left as neck and shoulder, but they
mental commander, in his usual suddenly as they had arrived. weren’t too serious. It was the
style, told Taplett to move his 3d same hand grenade that killed
Battalion through Roise’s men at By 1830 on 10 August, the lead a Marine right next to me. I
1715 and attack immediately to platoons had jumped off in the killed the guy that threw it.
clean out the pass and clear the attack, but they soon received
way to Kosong. It was an unusual heavy fire from two NKPA machine By the time the attack was final-
“pass through,” since neither guns hidden at the far end of the ly beaten off, Bohn’s cool and
Murray or Taplett could locate pass. During this encounter, some decisive handling of his men
Roise or his command post. Marines at the point were wound- would result in the award of a
This order came as music to the ed, and platoon leader First Silver Star. However, Company G,
ears of 2d Battalion Marines. Roise Lieutenant Jack “Big Jack” which was due to lead the
had had them moving and fighting Westerman made a daring rescue brigade’s advance the morning of
for 88 hours over a distance of for which he was later presented a 11 August, was a half hour late get-
almost 50 miles. In spite of the Navy Cross. Neutralizing those ting to the appointed line of depar-
never-ending hills and oppressive guns took the last of daylight, and ture. John Toland’s history, In
heat, the battalion had won each so Murray had the battalion dig in Mortal Combat, records a remark
of its battles and inflicted more for the night, sending men up the to Bohn: “Murray was furious,
than 600 casualties on the enemy. dominating hills for security. First ‘When I say 0800, I don’t mean
Now it could actually relax for the Lieutenant Robert D. Bohn, the 0801!’ ”
moment. For the first time since commander of Company G, was Company G then moved out at a

33
Sikorsky HO3S-1 Helicopter

R otary-wing aircraft had come too late to have any


effect on the tactics of World War II, although a
few Sikorsky aircraft were used experimentally in
the European and Pacific theaters near the end of the
conflict. Following the war, it was the Marine Corps that
and held three more meetings with his ground comman-
ders.
Besides this role in command, the squadron’s heli-
copters were “always available for observation, commu-
nications, and control.” In addition, there were a wide
took the lead in developing techniques and procedures variety of other missions: evacuating the wounded, res-
for this new combat aircraft. cuing downed fixed-wing pilots, transporting supplies,
In February 1948, the first Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter artillery spotting, and, scouting enemy dispositions.
was delivered to the first Marine helicopter squadron, During the month of August 1950, VMO-6 helicopters
experimental Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), at amassed a total of 580 flights and the HO3S-1s chalked
Quantico, Virginia. Three months later, the squadron up the first successful combat missions. These missions
made the first helicopter troop lift in history. were a harbinger of the large-scale deployments that
Shortly after the Korean War broke out on 25 June would come.
1950, 7 pilots, 30 enlisted men, and 4 HO3S-1 helicopters Aircraft Data
were detached from HMX-1 for service with the 1st Manufacturer: Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United
Provisional Marine Brigade. Upon arrival at Marine Corps Aircraft Corporation
Air Station, El Toro, California, these elements were com- Power Plant: Pratt and Whitney R 985 AN-7 Wasp Jr.
bined with 8 fixed-wing pilots, 33 enlisted men, and 4 Engine 9 Cylinder; Radial; Fan-Cooled; 450
“usable” OY-2 light observation planes to form the Horsepower
brigade’s air observation squadron, Marine Observation Rotor Diameter: 48’: 3 Blade Composite Construction
Squadron 6 (VMO-6). The squadron’s commanding offi- Tail Rotor Diameter: 8’5”; All Wood; 3 Blades
cer, Major Vincent J. Gottschalk, was given just 48 hours Length: 41’ 13/4” Without Rotor Blades
to weld these two elements together before being Overall Length: 57’ 1/2”
shipped overseas. Height Overall: 12’ 11”
Upon arrival in the Pusan Perimeter, VMO-6 set up its Weight Empty: 3,795 Pounds
base at Chinhae on 2 August, ready for business. There Maximum Gross Weight: 5,300 Pounds
was not long to wait. The next day, the brigade com- Cruising Speed: 85 Miles Per Hour
mander, Brigadier General Edward A. Craig, took off in Maximum Speed: 103 Miles Per Hour at Sea Level
one of the helicopters and gave a vivid demonstration of Range: 260 Miles
its versatility. In one day, he stopped to instruct a battal- Service Ceiling: 13,000’
ion, picked out the location for his forward command Fuel Capacity: 108 U.S. Gallons
post, held a conference with U.S. Army commanders, Seating: Four including Pilot

34
fast clip. It would be the pace of a clear example of the payoff from Regiment hurriedly decamped
the point platoon which would the long years of Navy-Marine from Kosong, its timing proved
govern the speed of the entire cooperation: support of the disastrous, for, just at that juncture,
brigade. Accordingly, the advance brigade by Landing Ship Tanks. a flight of Corsairs from VMF-323
flankers moved at a run to keep up Craig fully realized their great appeared on the scene. The pilots
with their platoon leader on the value, for they proved a ready could hardly believe the tempting
road. He, in turn, relieved them solution to the problem of getting targets arrayed before their eyes,
with fresh men as often as possi- supplies by truck on primitive, and the slaughter began; it came to
ble. The fast pace they set proved congested roads. Accordingly, he be known as the “Kosong Turkey
invaluable when they came upon had had his helicopters make a Shoot.” The Corsairs swung low up
any of the enemy. The Marines reconnaissance of usable harbors and down the frantic NKPA col-
came to the first machine gun on the nearby coast. Then the LSTs umn, raining death and destruction
emplacement lurking on the route, would move into a harbor that in a hail of fire from rockets and
and they hit it so hard and so matched the brigade’s advance. 20mm cannon. With the vehicles at
unexpectedly that the five NKPA Craig described the pay-off: the front and rear ends of its col-
gunners were killed before they umn destroyed, the enemy regi-
could fire a shot. Three more When we reached Kosong, ment was trapped. It was a scene
enemy positions fell to the same we had an LST within six of wild chaos: vehicles crashing
aggressive tactics of the point pla- miles of that place on a cov- into each other, overturned in
toon. ered road where we could ditches, afire, and exploding;
With this kind of speed and skill unload and push forward troops fleeing for safety in every
up front, and with two Corsairs supplies and build up a direction. Another flight from VMF-
and an OY cruising overhead look- brigade dump at Kosong. 323 arrived, and, joined by U.S. Air
ing for any trouble, the brigade Wounded could be evacuated Force F-51s, finished off the
came wheeling down the road to immediately to the LST . . . . destruction of the trucks, jeeps,
reach the outskirts of Kosong by We always felt that we had a and motorcycles. Accounts of this
1000. Softening up any potential mobile base of supplies NKPA debacle vary widely in their
defenders, the 105mm howitzers of which we could bring in as tallies of the number of vehicles
the 11th Marines began raining necessary and that, even destroyed: 100-200.
high explosives on Kosong. This though we were separated by One thing was certain: when the
barrage and the onrushing brigade long distance or cut off from ground troops reached the scene,
forced the opposing 83d our rear base, we could the usable vehicles were quickly
Motorcycle Regiment to pack up always depend on these LSTs appropriated for the transporta-
and seek safety in a hasty depar- for supplies. tion-starved brigade. There was, in
ture. fact, a momentary slowdown in
With the flight of the main body With Hill 88 secured, Craig had the fast advance of the Marines to
of the enemy, only a few snipers Taplett pull the men of Company stare. Joseph C. Goulden’s Korea:
remained in Kosong. Company H G back, disregard other hills, and The Untold Story of the War pic-
passed through G and pushed concentrate for an immediate drive tures the scene: “Black Soviet
rapidly into the town. On its heels by the brigade to Sachon. A pair of Army jeeps and motorcycles with
came Taplett and Craig, with their NKPA antitank guns were waiting sidecars, most of which had gone
hands on the helm, always close to on the route, but were discovered into battle in mint condition.
the action. Meanwhile, Company when an ambulance jeep was hit Looking under the hoods, the
G raced to seize control of Hill 88 (killing a Navy corpsman). With its Marines found the jeeps powered
southwest of the town and domi- location disclosed the pair was by familiar Ford Motor Company
nating the road to Sachon. The quickly knocked out and the col- engines—apparent relics of
enemy was waiting there, but not umn surged forward, led by American lend-lease aid to the
for long. The Corsairs swooped in Company H with the forward air Soviet Union during the Second
low with napalm, tank fire poured controller right up with the point World War.”
in, the howitzers of the 11th men. The Marines found other things,
Marines blanketed the position, A few hours later the the march- too. Included in the wreckage
and the crest was quickly taken. ing men came upon an astonishing were American jeeps the NKPA
It was at Kosong that there was sight. When the 83d Motorcycle had captured earlier from U.S.

35
came down close to the jeep and
began firing their revolvers (the
plane’s only armament) at the flee-
ing target. Rifle fire came back
from the jeep’s front seat, but the
officer remained rigid. This contin-
ued for a 20-mile stretch with no
results. Finally, the terrified driver
took one too many looks at the
plane so close overhead, and the
jeep hurtled over a cliff. The officer
never budged from his fixed posi-
tion as he plunged to his death.
Cruising the rest of the day in
advance of the brigade, Marine air
found other targets of opportunity.
Geer totalled up the results:

Score for the day to Marine


Air: vehicles (all types) des-
troyed, 118; supply dumps
destroyed, 2; ammunition
dumps left burning, 2; build-
ings housing troops des-
troyed, 8; southeast section of
Sachon set on fire; concentra-
tions of troops south of
Sachon, north of Kogan-ni
and along route of withdraw-
al neutralized and dispersed
with heavy casualties; one
jeep presumed to be carrying
a Very Important Person,
destroyed.

There was, as always, a price


the Marine aviators had to pay for
these dramatic achievements. One
pilot, Captain Vivian M. Moses, had
his Corsair shot down by ground
Photo by David Douglas Duncan fire. When a helicopter from VMO-
Across the rice paddies and up the endless hills, it was always on foot 6 arrived to rescue him behind
enemy lines, he was dead, the first
Army troops, and Toland asserts Herbert Valentine and Second death for MAG-33.
that there were duffel bags con- Lieutenant Patrick G. Sivert were in Another pilot, Lieutenant Doyle
taining Russian officers’ uniforms. an OY skimming the route when H. Cole, was luckier. Hit, his plane
There was another colorful they observed a jeep making a made a forced landing in the near-
episode which happened on the high-speed getaway from the bat- by ocean. He climbed out onto his
road that led back to Sachon in the tle site. Sitting rigidly erect, arms emergency raft, and almost imme-
rear of the motorcycle regiment. folded, eyes never wavering from diately a rescue helicopter ap-
Andrew Geer’s The New Breed: The straight ahead, a high-ranking peared overhead and dropped to a
Story of the U.S. Marines in Korea NKPA officer sat unmoving in the position close above him. A rope
describes how Master Sergeant rear seat. The Marines in the OY was lowered and he was pulled up

36
to safety. Glancing at the white sum,” deployed his 3d Battalion on in fire from carefully camouflaged
hair of his rescuer, Cole slapped two hills by the road and had them positions above the Marines. The
the old timer on the shoulder and dig in for the night. Sachon lay enemy had brought up reinforce-
said, “Thanks for the lift, buddy!” A ahead, only a day’s march away. ments from Sachon during the pre-
second glance gave Cole a start. The men felt good. They were ceding night and set up an ambush
He saw the star on the dungarees making rapid progress. As the offi- here with the surviving members
and realized that it was Craig. An cial Marine history noted: “the of the 83d Motorcycle Regiment
embarrassed, “Thank you, sir,” enemy seemed to be disorganized and part of the 2d Battalion, 15th
blurted out, followed by a relaxed if not actually demoralized. For the Regiment. The reconnaissance men
reply, “Glad to be of service, first time since the invasion began, had caused the trap to be sprung
Lieutenant.” a sustained Eighth Army counterat- prematurely, before the whole
Down on the road, the brigade tack had not only stopped the Red Marine column could be caught in
sped forward. Taplett and his air Korean steamroller but sent it into the heavy crossfire. Company B
controller were up front with the reverse.” immediately rushed to help its
lead platoon, and any time enemy In this happy frame of mind, the reconnaissance men, but it was
resistance developed, in came the brigade got moving again early on quickly pinned down by the
Corsairs. This immediacy of sup- the morning of 12 August. Enemy avalanche of fire. An article by
port was due to three factors. First, opposition was light, and the 1st Fenton in the November 1951
the Marines had been able to keep Battalion in the lead quickly Marine Corps Gazette told how its
control of their own aviation, as leaped forward 11 miles. Fenton commander, Captain John L.
MacArthur had promised Craig. noted that “the boys took quite a Tobin, took his runners and head-
Secondly, there were no upper bit of pride in the fact that we had ed forward, but halfway there:
echelons of command to delay done all this moving on foot, while
strike requests. Each battalion and Army units moved mostly by An enemy machine gun
the regiment had its own tactical motor. Morale was very high . . . took them under fire, pinning
air control party. These control There was evidence of consider- them down in the rice paddy.
parties each consisted of an officer able enemy disorganization . . . . Things were pretty hot, and
and six enlisted men; they each We had them on the run and want- Tobin noticed one of the run-
used a radio jeep and portable ed to finish them off.” By noon the ners shaking like an old
radios for direct orders to the brigade was only four miles from Model-T Ford. He asked the
planes. They worked with pilots Sachon, and Chinju lay just eight Marine what was wrong and
who had had infantry training and miles beyond that. According to the boy replied that he was
had been carefully briefed on the Geer, when a NKPA major was scared. Tobin put a big scowl
ground situation. In addition, the captured, he confessed, “Panic on his face and replied, “Lad,
brigade staff had an air section sweeps my men when they see the Marines are never scared.”
using four different radio networks Marines with the yellow leggings Just then the enemy machine
for overall coordination, plus an coming at them.” gunner got the range and was
observation section which used the Things looked good—too good. really kicking up the water
OYs and helicopters of VMO-6 to The old hands knew that some- and mud around them. Tobin
pinpoint enemy targets for the Cor- thing unpleasant always followed turned to the runner and
sairs and control parties. Thirdly, the good times. And so it did. With quickly added, “I see your
the Marine fighter squadrons were men from the Reconnaissance point now. Let’s get the hell
very close by, based on the jeep Company on the alert out front, out of here!”
carriers just offshore. Thus they Company B of the 1st Battalion
could be overhead in minutes, poked its nose into a valley with a The Corsairs and their napalm
rather than finally arriving from small village called Changchon. were called in, and, with their sup-
bases in Japan with only enough The Marines took a few shots at a port, then fire from the tanks’
fuel for 15 minutes’ support, which pair of disappearing enemy sol- 90mm guns, 4.2-inch mortars, and
was the predicament of the U.S. diers, the first they had seen all battalion artillery, the rest of the
Air Force. day. The reply was thunderous. battalion cleaned the enemy off
As 11 August drew to a close, From the hills ahead and on either one hill after another in a hard
Taplett, after nearly being shot by side of the road all hell broke four-hour battle. There was aggres-
an enemy soldier “playing pos- loose, as 500 of the NKPA poured sive action by the rest of the

37
Marine column, and a squad leader Marines] would conduct their own delay a reinforced battalion all the
in the 3d Battalion, Corporal prisoners to the rear.” way back to the original starting
Donald D. Sowl, was later award- With all units dug in for the point of the task force’s drive,
ed the Army’s Distinguished night, a rice paddy area of 1,000 Chindong-ni. The Army’s 5th RCT
Service Cross by order of General yards between the two companies was in trouble again; its “push”
MacArthur. of the 1st Battalion was covered by towards Chinju had totally bogged
There was a final flourish at the the preregistered fire of mortars down in what one account called
end of the day. A number of the and artillery in case the enemy had “an epic disaster.” With only two
enemy was spotted sneaking up any thoughts of a night attack. The battalions left, Craig noted in his
the reverse slope of one of the brigade had now covered 29 miles understated way that “the conse-
hills. A veteran noncommissioned of road (and much more counting quence was that our right flank . . .
officer took a squad, deployed the interminable distances up and was exposed. There were many
them along the ridgeline, and told down hills) in four short days. It North Korean troops in that area,
them to wait silently. When the had defeated the NKPA in every and we were, more or less, out on
NKPA soldiers got within 75 feet, encounter, and here it was poised a limb at Sachon.” Now the NKPA
the sergeant gave his men the sig- for the short step into Sachon. Next was cutting the main supply route
nal, and they poured out a sheet of stop after that was the final objec- behind the 5th RCT, and three bat-
fire. All 39 of the attackers were tive, Chinju, now within easy reach teries of the 555th and 90th Field
killed instantly, except for the offi- of the hard-hitting brigade. Again, Artillery Battalions had been com-
cer leading them who was wound- things looked good—too good. pletely overrun by the enemy. The
ed and captured. Turned over to This time the surprise came not Marine battalion was urgently
South Korean police to take back from the NKPA in front but from needed to rescue the survivors
to the battalion CP for interroga- the U.S. Army in the rear. Craig from the shambles and restore the
tion, the enemy officer did not sur- had received orders from Kean late tactical situation.
vive the trip. As Geer wryly in the morning of the day just The call from Kean began a hec-
observed: “In the future they [the ended, 12 August, to send without tic afternoon for Craig. Lynn

38
Montross in his book, Cavalry of la. It was a time of real crisis, and just as Marine tradition (and Craig)
the Sky, stressed the crucial mobil- Walker was calling on his battle- had promised. It was not to be.
ity Craig enjoyed by repeated use proven “fire brigade” to save the Iron-clad orders from Walker to
of the helicopter. In a single after- situation. This presented Craig Craig to Murray to Newton forced
noon, he took off from his CP at with an even bleaker picture: he an immediate withdrawal, in spite
Kosong, then made two landings had to pull the rest of his brigade of Tobin’s pleadings.
to give orders to his regimental out of its successful drive toward Fenton summarized the unani-
commander, Murray, and to Taplett Sachon and rush it north to stem mous feeling:
for the roadlift of the 3d Battalion the enemy breakthrough.
to the crisis spot. Montross contin- Withdrawal in the face of an Twenty-nine bloody, sweat-
ued the story: aggressive enemy is one of the ing miles down the drain . . . .
more difficult military operations. The men couldn’t believe it. I
Next, he spotted two Newton, commander of the 1st couldn’t believe it. It didn’t
columns of Marine trucks Battalion, had gotten the word seem possible, with all the
from the air and landed twice from Murray at midnight on 12 lives we’d lost taking this
more to direct them to dump August to withdraw his men from ground, that we’d now just
their loads and provide trans- their hilltop positions and form up walk off and leave it. Baker
portation for the troops. His on the road below at 0630 the fol- Company’s casualties for the
G-3 [operations officer] and lowing morning. There trucks morning’s counterattack alone
the battalion commander had would move them to their next were 12 dead, 16 wounded,
meanwhile been sent ahead combat assignment—unknown, as and 9 missing in action. And
by helicopter to reconnoiter usual, to the men who would do I’m certain those last nine
the objective area and plan the fighting. were dead, too.
for the Marines to deploy and Before it could get to the road, I found it difficult to see
attack upon arrival. Owing to as the 1st Battalion was preparing men, veterans of the last war,
these preparations, the assault to evacuate its positions on Hill older guys, sitting by the side
troops seized part of the 202, it was hit by a heavy assault. of the road crying. They just
enemy position before dark- The veteran soldiers of the 6th didn’t give a hoot. They were
ness. Infantry Division were experts at tired, disgusted. People just
night attacks, and at 0450 they couldn’t understand this part
This fluid movement of Craig’s struck. It was close-in work. For a of the war.
enabled him, as a finale, to while, the outcome was in doubt.
observe the start of the sunset Separated from Company A, A Relief Force
attack enroute to a conference Company B was on its own. Its
with Kean at Masan. While there entire left flank was overrun, the Leaving the 1st and 2d Battal-
he got the disheartening news that communications wire was cut, and ions temporarily in the positions
Walker wanted him to withdraw two Marine machine guns were they had won in the Changchon
the brigade at daybreak. It was a captured and turned on the com- area, Craig moved quickly on 12
gloomy ride for Craig back to his pany. Fighting back face-to-face, August to organize the deployment
CP where he landed in early dark- the Marines called in fire from their of his 3d Battalion as a relief force
ness. 81mm and 4.2-inch mortars, for the overrun Army field artillery
The meeting with Kean not only together with artillery and 3.5-inch battalions. The orders from Kean
confirmed the overwhelming prob- rocket rounds that pinpointed the had come at 1130 and by 1300 the
lems of the 5th RCT, but also enemy with fire barely in front of riflemen and an artillery battery
brought still more ominous news. the defenders. Finally, at dawn, the were in the trucks, on their way. A
The operations of Task Force Kean situation was stabilized. half hour later Taplett and the
had been in the far southwestern There now occurred “one of the brigade operations officer, Lieu-
sector of the Pusan Perimeter. Now most demoralizing incidents in tenant Colonel Stewart, were air-
the NKPA had crossed the Naktong Company B’s experience for the borne to scout the disaster area by
River in the west center of the entire campaign,” as Fenton later helicopter. They saw plenty of
perimeter, broken the Army’s lines, commented. Tobin was ready at trouble: artillery pieces in disarray;
and were threatening to unhinge first light to move back and recov- jeeps on fire; American bodies
the entire defense of the peninsu- er the wounded and missing men, lying in a stream bed; and, incon-

39
gruously, one white table set in the were not trained along the commander, to Kean revealed the
midst of it all. The Army had “esti- same lines as the Marines. scope of the disaster and led Kean
mated” that 2,000 to 2,500 NKPA to order the rescue mission by the
troops had infiltrated the area, At this time, Kean was under 3d Battalion, 5th Marines.
smashed the Army artillery units, heavy pressure from Walker to get Kean also ordered a battalion of
and were threatening the main the 5th RCT to leap ahead. So the the 24th Infantry to bring relief by
supply route, so Taplett had origi- division commander ordered his an attack towards Pongam-ni. This
nally presumed that there would regimental commander (Colonel effort went nowhere on 12 August,
be heavy combat for his battalion Godwin L. Ordway) to move part and by the next day it was still two
when it arrived. At the scene he of his units quickly forward and a half miles from the artillery
saw no evidence of any such through the pass near Pongam-ni. positions. The 555th had lost six of
quantity of NKPA, and he strongly Then there was indecision, delay, its 105mm howitzers, and the 90th
doubted the estimate. conflicting orders, and repeated had lost all six of the 155mm how-
The chaotic situation the failures in radio communications. itzers in one of its batteries. Along
Marines now saw had its roots in As a result, part of the regiment with some 300 men, probably 100
the events of the preceding day, went through the pass that night, vehicles had been captured or
11 August. Without opposition, and part stopped at Pongam-ni. destroyed (although the NKPA
the 5th RCT had advanced just With his command thus split up, claimed an inflated 157 vehicles
five miles from where it had start- and with enemy fire falling on the and 13 tanks). The Army had given
ed at the infamous road junction supply route to his rear, Ordway the site the name “Bloody Gulch.”
to a small village called Pongam- was in a difficult situation. It got This was the grim situation that
ni. The 555th “Triple Nickel” and worse after midnight on 11 August Taplett faced when his helicopter
90th Field Artillery Battalions when telephone and radio com- arrived on 12 August. He immedi-
were in support, but were not munications with the artillery bat- ately had the aircraft land and he
protected or prepared for an talions was lost and the sounds of looked for the liaison officer who
enemy attack. battle came from their direction. was supposed to meet him, now
Marine procedures were much With the NKPA now on the high that he was coming under the
different. Craig later commented ground above him, Ordway decid- operational control of the Army’s
on this: ed at 0400 on 12 August to try to 25th Infantry Division. No sign of
move the rest of his troops through any such person.
The artillery had been the pass. A massive traffic jam To try to get some information,
trained in Pendleton in the ensued. As the official Army histo- Taplett was finally able to tap into
methods of security. They ry noted: “During the hour or more a telephone line to the division
were armed with bazookas, before daylight, no vehicle in headquarters in the rear and ask
.50 calibers, and everything Ordway’s range of vision moved for orders. The reply was to “do
that the infantrymen would more than 10 or 20 feet at a time.” what he thought was proper.” That
need to defend a position, As the infantry slowly moved vague verbal order was all the lee-
and they were well trained in out, the enemy quickly moved into way Taplett needed for immediate
defense of their artillery posi- the valley. Now the Army artillery, action. A helicopter reconnais-
tions. And they from that stalled behind the traffic jam, was a sance was followed by a juncture
[first] day on took up defen- sitting duck. NKPA tanks and self- with his troops. Then he led them
sive positions wherever they propelled guns were able to by air to the valley from where he
moved. “approach undetected and unop- planned to attack the commanding
As a result we never had a posed, almost to point-blank ridges.
gun overrun. There were range, and with completely disas- Less than three hours after
attempts at sniping and so trous effects.” Enemy infantry from boarding their trucks, the men of
forth, but we never had a the 13th Regiment of the 6th the 3d Battalion were at their
gun taken or overrun; where- Division closed in and added its assembly area, ready to jump off in
as I notice that the Army on firepower. It was a slaughter, and an attack on a cold, rainy, miser-
a number of occasions in the the artillery was completely over- able day. Taplett aggressively
perimeter lost whole batter- run. A traumatic phone call from delayed only 15 minutes for an
ies. It was simply, I think, Brigadier General George B. Barth, artillery preparation and some
because the artillerymen USA, the 25th Division artillery napalm runs by Marine Corsairs,

40
and then moved out the riflemen. First Week’s Results their objectives—first at Sachon-
Without a single casualty, they Chinju and then the recovery of
soon reached the top of the first Things had gone badly for the the Army artillery—only to be
ridge. There they found signs that 5th RCT and its artillery, and the pulled back by the strategic needs
a substantial body of enemy troops commanding officers of the regi- of the Eighth Army. Geer in his
had made a hasty departure, but ment and the “Triple Nickel” bat- account concluded:
this was a far cry from the resis- talion were both relieved of duty.
tance they had expected from the Higher Army echelons were not The brigade came out of
“2,000” or so enemy troops that pleased with their leadership or Changallon [Changchon]
Ordway had estimated had the morale and combat effective- physically tough and psycho-
wreaked such havoc. ness of their men. logically hard . . . . They
At 1900 Barth arrived to take Craig, on the other hand, was knew the enemy to be a
command. Not knowing Taplett’s pleased. He had seen his brigade vicious, skillfully led and
style, he asked when the Marines drive forward with vigor and pro- well-equipped foe that could
would be ready to attack. Taplett fessional skill. His officers were inflict heavy casualties in any
presumably enjoyed a response constantly aggressive, and the rifle- action. They were prepared
one can easily imagine, “Sir, we’ve men had done very well under to meet with heavy losses and
already done that, and my men are fire. He noted that his men were to carry on the attack, and
now digging in on top of the “well trained and well led” by out- were openly scornful of units
ridge.” Barth graciously congratu- standing noncommissioned offi- unable to face these hard
lated him. cers and “professional” officers facts of war.
The next morning, 13 August, who “knew their stuff.” The reason
the 3d Battalion attacked to secure for the brigade’s achievements There had been a price, howev-
the final ridges overlooking the were clear to Craig: er. The brigade had had a total of
pitiful remnants of the lost artillery. 315 casualties, with 66 killed or
Again, there was no opposition, We were a generation of died of wounds, 240 wounded,
and by 1000 they were on top of officers who grew up with the and 9 missing in action (when the
their objectives. Craig later com- Marine Corps’ standing oper- 1st Battalion had not been allowed
mented: “We found quite a number ating procedures (SOPs) for to recover them).
of Army artillerymen scattered amphibious operations. These The action of that week had
through the area, hiding in various were my “Bible” when I orga- brought results on a wider, strate-
places.” Besides those rescued by nized and trained an earlier gic scale. While there had been a
the Marines, some had fled and Marine brigade on Guam dur- failure to occupy Chinju, Task
struggled back to safety with the ing the period 1947-1949. Force Kean had nevertheless been
25th Division. During World War II we had the first real American offensive of
Taplett’s men were now ready repeatedly tested and refined the Korean War. In a report to the
to go down, clean out any enemy, our organization and tech- United Nations, General MacArthur
and retrieve the artillery pieces in niques in landings all over the stated that “this attack not only
the valley, but the Marines once Pacific. These same SOPs secured the southern approaches
more got orders that they could enabled us to deploy to to the beachhead, but also showed
not take the objective they were Korea quickly and fight effec- that the North Korean forces will
poised to seize, but must, instead, tively when we got there. not hold under attack.”
move to the rear to meet the new The official Army history
enemy threat along the Naktong. Equally important, the support- acknowledged in summary that
That marked the final episode in ing arms had coordinated well “the task force had not accom-
the Marine mission to aid the with the infantrymen, with the plished what Eighth Army had
Army’s 5th RCT. With all troops, close air support of MAG-33 believed to be easily possible—the
Marine and Army, now pulled demonstrating a wholly new ele- winning and holding of the Chinju
back to their starting point at ment in the Korean War, flying pass line,” and, omitting any refer-
Chindong-ni, it was the end of the more than 400 sorties in support of ence to the dramatic advance of
offensive to occupy Chinju and, on the brigade and other units of the the Marine brigade, admitted that
16 August, Task Force Kean was Eighth Army. The Marines had the rest of the task force, “after a
dissolved. twice been on the verge of seizing week of fighting, . . . was back

41
approximately in the positions Division and the 83d It was estimated that the
from which it had started its Motorcycle Regiment—had Marine air-ground team killed
attack.” That history, however, never suffered a reverse and wounded 1,900 of the
went on to note “certain beneficial worth mentioning since the enemy while destroying near-
results . . . . It chanced to meet outset of the invasion. Then ly all the vehicles of an NKPA
head-on the North Korean 6th the counterattack by the 1st motorized battalion in addi-
Division attack against the Masan Provisional Marine Brigade tion to infantry armament and
position, and first stopped it and hurled the enemy back 26 equipment. The enemy threat
then hurled it back . . . . Task miles in 4 days from the in this critical area was nulli-
Force Kean also gained the time Chindong-ni area to Sachon. fied for the time being, and
needed to organize and wire in the
defenses that were to hold the A Marine skirmish line attacking over exposed ground to a nearby treeless hill-
enemy out of Masan during the crest. Photo by David Douglas Duncan
critical period ahead.”
The official Marine history could
afford to be positive about the
brigade’s achievements:

The Communist drive in


this sensitive area came clos-
est of all NKPA thrusts to the
vital UN supply port of Pusan.
Up to that time the NKPA
units spearheading the
advance—the 6th Infantry

42
never again became so seri- That rest period was soon over. Korea, Mu had moved his 7,000
ous. Marine efforts assisted Upon arrival at Miryang, the men into position on 4 August for
Army units of Task Force brigade was placed under the a crucial attack across the Naktong
Kean in taking new defensive operational control of the Army’s River. The 4th Division was a
positions and defending them 24th Infantry Division to meet a crack unit, given the honorary title
with fewer troops, thus free- new threat. The situation was of the “Seoul” Division for its tri-
ing some elements for indeed critical. Ten days before, umphant earlier capture of the
employment on other fronts. author Russell Spurr asserts, capital of South Korea. Leading
Finally, the Marines earned General Kim Chaek, front com- the way were the 4th, 16th, and
more time and space for the mander of the NKPA, had 18th Infantry Regiments. They had
building up of Eighth Army addressed his staff. Moving from moved stealthily into action the
forces in preparation for a the past (Sachon) battle to the night of 5 August, wading across
decisive UN counteroffen- forthcoming (Naktong) attack, he the Naktong under cover of dark-
sive. reputedly acknowledged that loss- ness, while machine guns were
es had been heavy, with the 6th pulled along on crude rafts. By the
Interlude Division “reduced by half in the morning of 6 August, 1,000 of
past week.” He then went on to them had established a position
With the conclusion of the drive issue a clarion call for victory: on the east side, soon beefed up
towards Sachon, the Marines by artillery brought across the
hoped for a respite before the next The situation is not irre- Naktong on a hidden, underwater
call to combat, which they knew trievable. We have committed bridge the NKPA had secretly con-
was sure to come. Craig, however, only a portion of our structed. This assault had meant
had received orders at 0130, 14 strength. I am therefore the breaching of the last natural
August, to move his brigade as ordering the 4th Guards barrier which was counted on to
soon as possible to a place called Division to cross the Naktong protect the vital lifeline from
Miryang. Using rail, trucks, and River north of the present Taegu to Pusan. It was at Taegu
even an LST, his battalions made battlefield, capture Yongsan, that General Walker had his head-
the trip of 75 miles in 26 hours. and drive on to Miryang. This quarters for direction of the
When the “Fire Brigade” arrived as you can see from the map, defense of the Pusan Perimeter.
there, it was desperately needed in will sever the main supply This attack had come as a sur-
a new crisis. route between Pusan and prise to Brigadier General John H.
Before the men moved out for U.S. headquarters in Taegu; if Church, commander of the 24th
combat, there was one blessed— we succeed, and I trust we Infantry Division. The subsequent
though brief—interlude of relax- shall, the northern part of the threat was obvious. From the hills
ation: Marines from the rear, from perimeter will collapse. It is the NKPA had seized it dominated
staff positions, even tankers and defended largely by puppet the road to Yongsan, five miles
artillerymen, were fed into the troops and we know how away. Twenty-five miles beyond
depleted rifle companies. (Another they react when outflanked. that lay Miryang, and then the vital
of the many times when there was Pusan-Taegu main supply route
a vital payoff for the Marine Enemy Breakthrough (MSR). As Toland recorded: “Panic
maxim, roughly: “No matter what reached the government offices in
your ultimate assignment may be, The commander of the 4th Taegu.” Walker, however, had
you will be trained first as a rifle- Division was Major General Lee remained cool, and the Army had
man!”) There was a pleasant grove Kwon Mu, a hardened profession- entered a period of continuous
of trees at Miryang, and the men al who had fought with the battle. Some units were overrun
could rest in the shade, get their Communists in China and served and some soldiers had fled as
first-ever bath in the river there, as a lieutenant in the Russian NKPA soldiers appeared on flanks
eat their first hot food, and Army. Awarded North Korea’s and rear. In a confusing period of
exchange filthy, rotted uniforms highest military decorations, the separate confrontations, Army
for a fresh issue. Fegan comment- Order of Hero of the Korean troops had been unable to push
ed: “Not only did I smell to high Democratic People’s Republic, and the NKPA here, and at another
heaven, I also had dried blood all the National Flag, First Class, for point in the north, back across the
over my jacket.” his earlier triumphs in South Naktong.

43
about the brigade. In spite of the
“impossible odds” that he felt it
faced, he described his gut feeling
that it would check the NKPA
advance:

I realize my expression of
hope is unsound, but these
Marines have the swagger,
confidence and hardness that
must have been in Stonewall
Jackson’s Army of the
Shenandoah. They remind me
of the Coldstreams at Dunker-
que. Upon this thin line of
reasoning, I cling to the hope
of victory.

That night, the tone of the attack


was set when Murray told Newton:
“You must take that ground tomor-
row! You have to get on that ridge
and take it! Understood?” Newton
replied: “Understood! Understood!
This battalion goes only one
way—straight ahead!”
The brigade was to jump off at
0800 on 17 August as part of a
planned full-scale effort by the
Army’s 24th Division, reinforced
by the 9th Infantry Regiment.
There was a happy history of link-
age between the Marines and the
9th Infantry. They had served
together in the battle for Tientsin
during the Boxer Rebellion in
China at the turn of the century,
and again in the 2d Infantry
Division in France during World
War I. Now the 9th would operate
on the brigade’s right, with the
Marines as the left wing of the
‘Fire Brigade’: Crisis Number Two Miryang on 16 August to go on the attack. Three objective lines were
attack. Geer records a British mili- assigned to the brigade, with the
That was when Walker called in tary observer who saw them get- first being Obong-ni Ridge. Craig
the Marines. Thus, on 15 August, ting started and sent a dispatch to and Murray made an on-the-spot
Craig met with Church. Walker had Tokyo. He emphasized a “critical” reconnaissance of the terrain
earlier told Church, “I am going to situation in which Miryang could which was a jumbled mass of hills
give you the Marine Brigade. I well be lost, then Taegu would and gullies. Because of the type of
want this situation cleaned up— become untenable, and “we will terrain to the left and the presence
and quick!” Craig made his plans be faced with a withdrawal from of the Army’s 9th Regiment to the
following his meeting with Church. Korea.” In spite of these grim right, the only, reluctant choice
The brigade would move out of prospects, he got a premonition was a frontal attack.

44
action against anyone who
shows weakness.

Preparation by supporting units


for the Marine riflemen’s attack
was inadequate. Artillery fire was
ineffective. When the enemy posi-
tions were later examined, the fox-
holes were found to be very deep,
sited along the length of the ridge
slightly on the reverse slope. Thus
shellfire on the forward slopes
caused few casualties, nor could
artillery get a trajectory to reach
the enemy on the reverse slopes.
Adding to the problem, there was
only one air strike. Moreover, there
would be little or no natural cover
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2246 for the men who had to climb
Marches had the men well spaced out to avoid unnecessary casualties. As this toward the six hills of Obong-ni,
column heads toward its objective, the man second from the rear carries a flame called by the news correspondents
thrower, while the man in front of him has a 3.5-inch rocket launcher. This pic- “No Name Ridge.”
ture was taken during a Naktong battle, showing a burning enemy tank, with
the Marines carefully circling around it to avoid any explosion of its ammuni- The 2d Battalion Attacks
tion.
The shift to the new crisis area selves, for, when only a portion of Murray had an agreement with
was a pressure-laden one for the the promised trucks showed up, the Army’s 9th Infantry on the right
Marines. Stewart, Craig’s opera- many men in the battalion had to flank that the Marines would attack
tions officer (G-3), remembered in march until 0130 the next morning first, supported by fire from the
later years that he was advised that to reach the jump-off point for 9th. He picked Roise’s 2d Battalion
the Naktong River line had been their attack a few hours later. to lead off. It was a very thin front
broken through, threatening the Waiting for the Marines, well line for such a crucial moment:
Pusan-Taegu MSR, and the brigade dug-in and confident of victory, four understrength platoons total-
had to move there immediately to were the 18th Regiment and a bat- ing only 130 men from Companies
restore the front. He recalled: talion of the 16th Regiment of the D and E to lead the assault (with
NKPA 4th Division. Geer quotes a two platoons as reserves). “Red
Things were so hectic that speech by Colonel Chang Ky Dok, Slash Hill” was to be their dividing
Roise, who was commanding the regiment’s veteran command- line.
the 2d Battalion, which was ing officer: One platoon of Company E, led
going on the line below by Second Lieutenant Nickolas D.
Masan in a defensive position, Intelligence says we are to Arkadis, hit the village of Obong-ni
received minimum orders to expect an attack by American at the foot of two of the company
move. In fact, our radio con- Marines. To us comes the objectives: Hills 143 and 147.
tact was out and I wrote on a honor of being the first to Driving ahead through heavy fire,
little piece of brown paper, defeat these Marines soldiers. the platoon fought its way to the
“These are your trucks, move We will win where others slopes beyond. Arkadis’ leadership
to Naktong at once.” have failed. I consider our was later recognized by the award
positions impregnable. We of a Silver Star.
Those were the only orders occupy the high ground and Now both companies were out
Roise ever got to move to the they must attack up a steep in the open, sometimes forced to
Naktong front. But they were all he slope. Go to your men and crawl upwards, met with a contin-
needed in the hectic situation in tell them there will be no uous hail of enemy machine gun
which the Marines found them- retreat. I will take instant and mortar fire with barrages of

45
grenades. Casualties mounted throat and I couldn’t breathe. the battalion, for it might well have
rapidly. Joseph C. Goulden tells of seized the top of the ridge and
a correspondent who was watch- Shinka, after being hit again, did held it. Craig stressed this point in
ing and described the bloody manage to survive, and was later a later interview, noting that “with-
scene: “Hell burst around the awarded a Bronze Star Medal. out a third company, or maneuver
Leathernecks as they moved up Another Company D Marine, Staff element, the battalion commanders
the barren face of the ridge. Sergeant T. Albert Crowson, single- were at a tactical disadvantage in
Everywhere along the assault line, handedly silenced two deadly every engagement. They lacked
men dropped. To continue looked machine gun emplacements and flexibility in the attack. On defense
impossible. But, all glory forever to was awarded the Army’s they had to scrape up whatever
the bravest men I ever saw, the Distinguished Service Cross by they could in order to have a
line did not break. The casualties order of General MacArthur. reserve.”
were unthinkable, but the assault By now, it had become clear Pinpointing an example, Craig
force never turned back. It moved, that many of the casualties were recalled:
fell down, got up and moved caused by heavy enemy fire com-
again.” ing from the zone in front of the This condition became crit-
One platoon of Company D, Army’s 9th Regiment to hit the ical in the First Battle of the
with only 15 men remaining, did flank and rear of the Marines, and Naktong. 2d Battalion, 5th
claw its way to the top of Hill 109 there had been no supporting fire Marines’ assault companies
on Obong-ni Ridge, but it was too from the 9th. Other problems arose took heavy losses in the initial
weak and too isolated when rein- when some men of Company E attack against Obong-ni
forcements simply could not reach were nearing the crest which was Ridge, the strongpoint of the
it, so it had to pull back off the their objective and they were hit enemy’s bridgehead over the
crest. Second Lieutenant Michael J. by white phosphorus shells from Naktong. Since Roise had
Shinka, the platoon leader, later “friendly” artillery fire. Then, later, nothing left to use, the attack
gave the details of that perilous some Marines were hit in a strafing stalled.
struggle: attack by their own Corsairs. Murray then had to commit
By mid-day the men of the 2d 1/5 [the 1st Battalion] prema-
Running short of ammo Battalion, halfway up the hills, turely to continue the attack.
and taking casualties, with could do no more, having suffered This took time, giving the
the shallow enemy slit trench- 142 casualties, 60 percent of their enemy a breather right at the
es for cover, I decided to fall original 240 riflemen. Murray height of the battle. That
back until some of the fire on ordered it to pull back, undoubt- night, when the enemy hit
my left flank could be edly lamenting the fact that he did our positions on the ridge
silenced. I gave the word to not have a third rifle company in with a heavy counterattack,
withdraw and take all wound-
ed and weapons. About A Marine tank bulldozer clears a destroyed NKPA T-34 tank from the road.
three-quarters of the way National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1338
down, I had the men set up
where cover was available. I
had six men who were able
to fight.
I decided to go forward to
find out if we had left any of
our wounded. As I crawled
along our former position (on
the crest of Hill 109), I came
across a wounded Marine
between two dead. As I
grabbed him under the arms
and pulled him from the fox-
hole, a bullet shattered my
chin. Blood ran into my

46
Newton certainly could have of three ridge lines (objectives 1, 2, skill, and determination of those
used another company on and 3) that shielded the NKPA river Marines had caused serious losses
line or in reserve. We were crossing It was now painfully obvi- in the enemy’s ranks: 600 casual-
spread pretty thin, and it was ous that a sharp change must be ties and severe reductions in ser-
nip and tuck on that ridge for made. Accordingly, Newton’s 1st viceable weapons. With his ammu-
several more hours. Battalion relieved the battered 2d nition running low and no medical
on the hillsides at 1600 (17 supplies so that most of his
The original battle plan had August), with Company A replac- wounded men were dying, the
called for an attack in a column of ing E, and B replacing D. NKPA commander’s situation was
battalions, with each battalion tak- While the 18th Regiment had hit critical, as described by Fehren-
ing successively one of the series the 2d Battalion hard, the bravery, bach:

He knew he could not


withstand another day of
American air and artillery
pounding and a fresh Marine
assault up the ridge. Because
he had a captured American
SCR-300 radio, tuned in on
Marine frequencies, he knew
that the 1st Battalion had
relieved 2/5 along the front of
Obong-ni, and he knew
approximately where the
companies of 1/5 were locat-
ed, for the Marines talked a
great deal over the air.

The 1st Battalion Attacks


The relief movement of the two
battalions was covered by what the
official Marine history described as
“devastating fires” from the planes
of MAG-33, the artillery of the 1st
Battalion, 11th Marines, and the
brigade’s tank battalion. Then
Companies A and B attacked up
the daunting slopes. Simul-
taneously, after Murray had gone
to see Church to request a change
in the previously agreed-upon
plan, the 9th Infantry jumped off in
an attack. This eliminated the pre-
vious flanking fire on the Marines.
Helped by the advance bom-
bardment, the two Marine compa-
nies were able to make slow (and
costly) progress towards the crests.
Company A attacked repeatedly,
trying to reach the battalion’s
objective on the left: the tops of
Hills 117 and 143. It proved impos-

47
sible, in spite of very aggressive empty magazine out, stuck it 82mm mortar fire landed
leadership by the officers (and in my jacket pocket, loaded around it. The blast lifted me
gunnery sergeants who replaced and raised my BAR to my off the ground, my helmet
them as they fell). The company shoulder. Before I got it all the flew off. A human body to my
could get only part way up the way up, red dirt kicked up in left disintegrated. Being rather
slopes when it was “pinned down my face. A big jerk at my right shook up and unable to hear,
by a solid sheet of Communist fire arm told me I was hit. I looked I crawled back to the CP . . . .
. . . casualties bled [the] skirmish down and saw blood squirting About the time my hearing
line white and finally brought it to onto my broken BAR stock. and stability returned . . . I
a stop.” thought of the 3d Platoon rifle-
Herbert R. Luster, a private first As always, there were gory man . . . . I returned to look
class in Company A, remembered episodes. Second Lieutenant for him. One of the mortar
his own searing experience in this Francis W. Muetzel in Company A rounds must have landed in
brutal battle: was in an abandoned machine gun the small of his back. Only a
emplacement with his company pelvis and legs were left. The
It was evident no one saw executive officer and a rifleman stretcher-bearers gathered up
the enemy but me . . . . I from the 3d Platoon. He later the remains with a shovel.
pulled back the bolt to cock recalled:
the action of the BAR, pushed On the other side of “Red Slash
off the safety, settled back on The use of the abandoned Hill” that was the dividing line,
my right foot, and opened fire. machine gun emplacement Company B made some progress
The flying dirt and tracers told proved to be a mistake. Enemy until it was pinned down by heavy
me where my rounds were mortars and artillery had fire from a nearby village on its
going. I emptied the rifle . . . . already registered on it . . . . flank. Captain John L. Tobin was
So I pushed the release with Without registration of any wounded, so Fenton took over as
my right thumb and pulled the kind, four rounds of enemy company commander. Calling in an

48
81mm mortar barrage from the bat- tied into each other to dig in night personnel to cover that flank. The
talion’s weapons company, the defensive positions. With the flood mortars and artillery were regis-
riflemen were then able to lunge of casualties, the resulting man- tered on probable enemy
forward and seize the crests of Hills power shortage caused the far left approach routes, including the
102 and 109 by late afternoon (17 flank to dangle dangerously in the crossing point on the Naktong
August). air. Newton threw together an River. Then their harassing fire
The two battered companies set- improvised unit of men from his missions went on all night to try to
tled down where they were and headquarters and service company disrupt the enemy.

Smashing Enemy Tanks


At 2000 that night (17 August)
the Marines had their first con-
frontation with the T-34 tanks of
the NKPA. These were the tanks
that had had such a fearsome rep-
utation earlier in the war. The men
of Company B from their hilltop
perch saw four of them coming
with a column of infantry, aimed to
bypass the Marine riflemen, and, in
a typical enemy tactic, probe to
sow confusion amongst rear ele-
ments.
The Corsairs of MAG-33 were
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1160 called in. They came roaring
Fire from supporting weapons was a crucial element as the rifle companies down, knocked out one tank, and
attacked. Above: 81mm mortars lay down a barrage. Below: a 75mm recoilless scattered the accompanying enemy
rifle blasts a specific target. infantry. With a determination typ-
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1461

49
ical of the hardy NKPA, the other with a direct hit. All three of the assault troops of the NKPA, as
three tanks came on. these tanks were finished off they ran down throwing more
When the news was flashed to by our M-26 tank platoon. grenades and spraying submachine
Newton in his CP, he told Fenton gun fire. A rifle platoon was in
to “let them go and they’d be dealt Back on the hills, the men of the deep trouble, the mortar platoon
with in the rear.” Back at Craig’s 1st Battalion spent the midnight was decimated, the Marine defense
brigade CP, there were two oppo- hours on the alert. The attacks that line was penetrated, the company
site reactions when the news day had cost the brigade 205 casu- was split in half, the battalion was
arrived. A correspondent wit- alties, and, to avoid the punishing assaulted, and the enemy forced
nessed the scene: “Naval Captain Marine air strikes in daylight, the Company A to make a partial with-
Eugene Hering, brigade surgeon, enemy was sure to counterattack drawal back to a spot near Hill
jumped to his feet. “God during the darkness. 109.
Almighty!” he said. “The aid sta- Things were not much better in
tion’s just a quarter of a mile from The Enemy Reaction the Company B zone. With the two
there! [Lieutenant (junior grade) Marine companies split by the
Bentley] Nelson [one of the battal- And it did. At 0230 a green sig- NKPA, the enemy assault smashed
ion’s medical officers] won’t leave nal flare soared into the sky, and hard into Fenton’s men. A platoon
his wounded! If those tanks break the enemy hit—and hit hard. With was overrun under the eerie light
through . . . .” “They won’t,” the their captured U.S. Army radio of mortar illuminating shells. The
general said. “Newton will know tuned to the Marines’ frequency, attackers charged into the CP,
what to do.” the attackers knew the exact place where hastily assembled stray
And he did. Summoning the where the two Marine companies Marines met them in bitter hand-
Marine M-26 tanks and antitank were tenuously tied together, and to-hand combat. Possession of the
weapons, Newton left the NKPA they sought to drive a wedge in two hard-won hills and, in fact, the
armor up to them. Fenton and the there and then envelop each com- outcome of the whole brigade
men of Company B had a ringside pany separately. With Company A attack hung in a delicate, trembling
seat for the clash that followed. He only part way up Hill 117, machine balance.
later wrote: gun fire from the crest and Just at that precarious moment,
grenades rolling downhill covered the phone rang in the CP of
As the first tank rounded
the corner down toward the On top of Objective Number 3, Marines look down on the Naktong River.
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1401
1st Battalion CP, it was met by
3.5” rocket fire from the anti-
tank assault section, and fire
from our 75mm recoilless
weapons in position on the
high ground on either side of
the road. The tank was
knocked out, and the second
tank immediately came up
and tried to go around it. The
second, too, was hit in the
track and skidded off the
road. Our M-26 tanks finished
him off [after a 2.36” white
phosphorus rocket had rico-
cheted inside it, creating a
fiery cauldron]. The third tank
made the same mistake that
the second tank made. He,
too, tried to go around the
other two tanks. One of our
M-26 tanks hit this third tank

50
Company B. It was Newton, calling angle of fire, it was able to search With many officers down and
to say that the position must be out and wreak havoc on NKPA aided by the supporting fire, the
held “at all costs,” and that he was units shielded in gullies which noncommissioned officers took the
pouring in all the supporting mor- Marine artillery fire could not lead in regrouping their units, and
tar and artillery fire he could reach. The company’s command- so the men of the depleted
muster. (This apparently prevented ing officer, First Lieutenant Robert Companies A and B stood, and
the NKPA from feeding in rein- M. Lucy, later recalled: fought, and died, and finally held
forcements to exploit the break- their ground. Typical of the
throughs.) Newton’s main message The 1st Battalion was unyielding defense were the exam-
was a brutally frank reminder that, receiving a terrifically heavy ples of two platoon leaders,
if the Marines retreated, they counterattack. Our company Second Lieutenant Hugh C.
would simply have to grind their was zeroed in on the hill and Schryver, Jr., in Company B, and
way back to the lost positions in the valley in front of the bat- Second Lieutenant Francis W.
the forthcoming days. Then talion. When notified of this Muetzel in Company A. Both offi-
Newton asked if they could hold attack, we began firing our cers, although severely wounded,
on until daylight could bring relief. prearranged barrages. Later, continued to lead their men with
Fenton’s reply has been variously where only one of these bar- the “fierce determination”
reported: “We have gooks all rages had fallen, they count- described in their citations for
around us”; “They’ve turned my ed 120 dead North Koreans awards of the Silver Star. Slowly,
left flank”; “Don’t worry, Colonel. with 12 cart-mounted ma- toward dawn on 18 August, the
The only Marines that will be leav- chine guns, who had been enemy attacks weakened. But the
ing this ridge tonight will be dead massed in this little gulley Marines had paid a fearful price.
ones.” behind the hill, a ridge in Company B had begun the night
The supporting fire from the 4.2- front of the battalion that with 190 enlisted men and five
inch mortar company proved to be would have caused them officers; the next morning there
an invaluable asset. With its high considerable trouble. were only 110 left, with one officer

51
posing gases caused the
cadaver to belch. Black blood
foamed out of its mouth and
nose. I promptly lost my
entire lunch. By the time the
platoon got through laughing,
the tension was broken and
they were ready to go back to
work.

And back to work the company


went, moving aggressively to take
the remaining hilltops. Resistance
was minimal now, and soon all the
heights of bloody Obong-ni Ridge
were in Marine hands. As the men
looked down the reverse slope of
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A-157140 one of the hills, an unusual sight
With an enemy who was adept at infiltration and night attacks, Marines strung greeted their eyes. A clump of
barbed wire whenever they had an opportunity. scrub pines lay below them, and,
as they watched, astonished, the
still standing. Company A was in were too close, only 100 yards “clump” turned out to be a group
worse shape with just 90 men from the target, but a smoke rock- of camouflaged enemy soldiers
remaining from the 185 at the start et was fired into the emplacements who arose and rushed downward
of the night. from the control Corsair, and the in headlong flight.
But the enemy had also paid a next Corsair put a 500-pound The 1st Battalion now counted
heavy price. The sequential attacks bomb right onto the center of the up the enemy weapons destroyed
of the 2d and then the 1st target. The Marines lost one man or abandoned: 18 heavy machine
Battalions and the dogged night- killed, but the enemy was totally guns, 25 light machine guns, 63
time defense had caused hundreds wiped out, and Company A’s fol- submachine guns, 8 antitank rifles,
of NKPA casualties so that, in low-up rush quickly took control 1 rocket launcher, and large stocks
Fehrenbach’s words, “the 18th of the crest. Time: 0734, request air of ammunition and grenades.
Regiment was shattered beyond strike; 0743, bomb delivered; 0748, The seizure of Obong-ni Ridge
repair.” on the crest. was crucial to the elimination of
Craig ordered a resumption of There was a brief pause—well the threatening salient which had
the attack at 0700 the next morn- remembered by Muetzel: been driven into the Army’s lines.
ing, 18 August. None of the men As Geer summed it up, “it was evi-
on Obong-ni had had any sleep In an effort to calm the dent the enemy had staked the
during the night past, but the men after all they’d been defense of the Naktong Bulge on
Corsairs were back on station over- through, I told them to break their ability to hold that key ridge.”
head, the enemy was weakening, out rations and eat while they
and both Companies A and B had a chance. I sat on the Next: Objective 2
moved once more into the assault. side of a hole and dangled
Company B worked men to its left my feet. On the other side of With Objective 1 now secured
to coordinate with Company A’s the hole lay a dead North and the enemy in bad shape,
effort to seize Hill 117. Four deter- Korean. He had caught one Murray kept the pressure on.
mined NKPA machine gunners through the top of the head Taplett’s 3d Battalion moved out
there held up the advance, so the and looked pretty ugly. I was that same morning of 18 August,
company commander, Captain 23 years old and to reassure bound for Objective 2, Hill 207
John R. Stevens, got in touch with the men I tried to pull off a (the next rise west of Obong-ni). It
Newton to call in an air strike. John Wayne stunt. When I was preceded by an intensive bar-
There was legitimate concern was halfway through my can rage from air, artillery, tanks, and
about the fact that his Marines of meat and beans, decom- mortars, including now supporting

52
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A2189
A “turkey shoot” ended the First Battle of the Naktong. Here a BAR man draws a bead on the fleeing enemy.

fire from the 9th Infantry on the the wing guns fired, and all of enemy deaths. There were “all
right flank. the crest of the hill in front of kinds of bodies floating in the
A correspondent in the rear was How Company was a roaring, Naktong.”
awed: jumping hell of smoke and
flame and dust and noise. Final Victory: Objective 3
The 155s began to roar and
the snub-nosed 105s, and to With this kind of preparation, Taplett kept driving. Next target:
one side the mortars were “Objective 2 was not much of a “Objective 3,” Hill 311, the last bar-
barking, and in front the fight,” as an officer in Company G rier before the Naktong River.
squat tanks were slamming said. There was a grenade flurry There was another round of
away with the 90mm guns near the crest of Hill 207, but a pla- preparatory fire, this one featuring
whose muzzle blast can toon of Company H was then able a dose of napalm, and one more
knock a man down at thirty to rush the enemy positions, and it time the riflemen moved out.
feet, and above the hill, was all over by 1237. Things went fairly smoothly for
swooping low, the planes There had been a tide of NKPA Company G which, “brushing
were diving in. troops running for safety. Now it aside light resistance,” was on the
You would see the smoke became a flood, increased by men crest by 1730. Not so for Company
and fire flash of the rockets driven from Hill 207. Everywhere H. It was badly hindered by diffi-
leaving the wings, and then the soldiers of the NKPA’s “crack” cult terrain and an obdurate
would come the great tearing 4th Division on Obong-ni had enemy, and by 1825 was pinned
sound the rocket made in themselves cracked and were flee- down and unable to advance.
flight, and then the roar of its ing westward in a disorganized, Supporting fire from Company G
bursting against the hill. And panic-stricken rout. It became a and an attempted flanking maneu-
after the rockets had gone, field day for the Marine artillery ver by its Cahill platoon (which, 10
you would see the little round and planes—a thunderous ham- days earlier, had had that relief
dots of smoke in the sky as mering that caused massive waves mission on Hill 342) were not

53
So I relieved him. I called
Taplett and said, “I don’t even
want this guy here tonight.” I
made him go back on his
own, back to the battalion,
and wrote an unsat report,
un-officer-like conduct.
It went up to Craig, and the
guy was out of country in two
or three days. It was so easy
to do things like that then.
And he was out of the Marine
Corps. You can’t do that
today. You have to have a
General Court-martial and
everything else. There wasn’t
even a Court of Inquiry.
Everyone agreed that he was
a coward, and he was gone.

The brigade was now relieved


by Army units—not always
smoothly, but at least the tired
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2238
Marines would get some rest.
BGen Edward A. Craig receives the thanks of South Korean President Syngman
Rhee at the Purple Heart ceremony. The victory price for the
Naktong Marines was clear: 66
enough help for H to be able to ly had stayed there to tend their dead, 278 wounded, but only 1
advance. men had had the hands wired man missing in action. That last
It was the last gasp of the NKPA, behind their backs and then were figure was the clearest indication
however. A heavy round of battal- murdered. of the value of Marine training and
ion mortar fire early the next An incident occurred on one of morale; there had been other units
morning, 19 August, was followed these final nights that is very with distressingly high percentages
by a triumphant sweep of the hill- revealing of how personnel prob- of missing-in-action, but, as Edwin
top by Company H, and the lems could be expeditiously dealt P. Hoyt summarizes in his history,
Marine battle to seize the three key with in the “Old Corps”—particu- The Pusan Perimeter—Korea 1950:
ridges in the Naktong Bulge was larly in a combat environment. “The Marines stood and fought,
over. One battalion stood on each Bohn had told his machine gun and they took care of their own.”
of the three objectives, and the platoon lieutenant to check care- The final results for the NKPA
men of the brigade met the Army fully on the positioning and coor- 4th Division were shattering.
troops at the river’s edge. Marine dination of the weapons’ sites. Fewer than 3,000 men were able to
aviators reported, “the enemy was When the company commander get back across the Naktong, leav-
killed in such numbers that the decided to inspect personally, he ing more than 1,200 dead behind.
river was definitely discolored with found wholly unsatisfactory results The Marine brigade recovered a
blood.” and crews who had not even seen large amount of enemy equipment,
During the attack on Objective their lieutenant. Steaming, he including 34 artillery pieces (with
3, the 3d Battalion surgeon came returned to his CP and hauled the five of them being captured Army
across a horrendous sight, demon- lieutenant in for a very brief con- 105mm howitzers), hundreds of
strating the savage brutality of the versation: automatic weapons, and thousands
NKPA. A U.S. Army aid station had of rifles. The Army’s official history
been overrun a week earlier, the I said, “Have you put in the sums it up: “The destruction . . . of
wounded and bed-ridden men machine gun sections? Did the NKPA 4th Division . . . was the
shot and bayoneted, their bodies you get around to check each greatest setback suffered thus far
then mutilated. Medics who brave- section?” He said, “Yes, sir.” by the North Korean Army. The

54
4th Division never recovered from
this battle.”
After the brigade was pulled
back off the hills it had won,
Fenton described what he felt was
the key reason for the Marine vic-
tory: “the finest batch of noncom-
missioned officers ever assembled
in any Marine regiment. Not only
were 75 percent of them combat
veterans, he believed, but they had
often stepped in as platoon leaders
and were “outstanding.” Fenton
expanded on that:

Squad leaders knew their


job to the last detail. Many
times I ended up with
sergeants as platoon leaders
after a big fire fight, and they
did an excellent job. I just National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A1469
can’t be too high in my A high point of the brief interlude in the rest area: mail call!
praise.
In some cases, it wasn’t just General Cates’ message said: “I am miraculously appeared; and new
noncoms. It was the PFCs and very proud of the performance of equipment was issued. But not
privates holding the job of a your air-ground team. Keep hitting enough of it. Fenton frankly noted
fire team leader or squad them front, flanks, rear, and top- that the equipment they had
leader. It was their fine lead- side. Well done.” arrived with in the Bean Patch was
ership, outstanding initiative, in “terrible condition.” It had dete-
and control of the men that Another Brief Interlude riorated badly from exposure to
turned a possible defeat into heat, rain, and frequent immersion
a sweet victory. Thus the men of the brigade in rice paddies.
moved back into bivouac in an In addition, he commented:
On 20 August Craig learned area near Masan known forever
from Church that the brigade had after as “The Bean Patch.” Craig set We were having a hard
been detached from the 24th up his CP there on 21 August and time getting Browning auto-
Division and was now part of reported back again to Kean of the matic rifles. Many of our BAR
Walker’s Eighth Army reserve. Army’s 25th Division. The news men had been casualties, and
There were letters of praise from was discouraging: all the land won we were down to about three
both Walker and Church. The for- in the brigade’s drive to Sachon or four per platoon. You just
mer wrote that the brigade’s was now lost or under heavy couldn’t get a BAR belt in
“excellence in leadership and grit enemy pressure, and the 11th Korea.
and determination . . . upheld the Marines was needed to go back Shoes were another big
fine tradition of the Marines in a immediately to the original starting problem . . . . We reached the
glorious manner.” Church gra- point two weeks earlier, Chindong- point where we had men run-
ciously commented to the Marines ni, to fire missions in support of ning around in tennis shoes.
that their “decisive and valiant the 25th Division. Dungarees were in bad shape
offensive actions . . . predominant- But for the other Marines it was . . . . Our packs, which had
ly contributed to the total destruc- a wonderful, restorative change. been dropped at Pusan and
tion of the Naktong pocket.” Some 800 replacements arrived to were supposed to have been
Perhaps the recognition the men of fill in the painful gaps in the ranks; brought to us by the rear ech-
the brigade appreciated most came VMO-6 helicopters flew in hot elon, never arrived. The only
from their own Commandant. food; letters from home and beer way we could get a clean suit

55
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A1441
Commanders and staff of the 5th Marines assembled for a John V. Huff, Maj Kenneth B. Boyd, Maj Harold Wallace,
photograph during a lull in the battle. Pictured in the front Maj William C. Esterline. Fourth row, Capt Ralph M.
row, from left, are: LtCol George R. Newton, LtCol Harold S. Sudnick, Lt Robert M. Lucy, Lt Almarion S. Bailey, Lt Leo R.
Roise, and LtCol Robert D. Taplett. Second row, LtCol Jillisky, Lt Alton C. Weed, Capt Gearl M. English, WO Harold
Raymond L. Murray and LtCol Lawrence C. Hays, Jr. Third J. Michael, and CWO Bill E. Parrish
row, Maj R. M. Colland, LtCol George F. Walters, Jr., Capt
of dungarees was to wash of the 18 rifle platoon leaders My leggings had been
them or survey the supply at were wounded and four of the thrown away, my trousers
the laundry unit when we killed in action. were out at both knees, my
took a shower. One platoon leader, Second right boot had two bullet
Lieutenant Muetzel, received two holes in it, and my dungaree
There were no shelter halves Purple Hearts (with a Silver Star jacket had corporal’s stripes
either, so the men slept out in the Medal to come later for his heroic stenciled on the sleeves. I
open. A memorable event was a actions on Obong-ni), while the grabbed a fast shave with
ceremony for the award of 87 gunnery sergeant of the Recon- cold water, hard soap, and a
Purple Heart medals, with South naissance Company, a veteran of dull blade. Gene Davis
Korean President Syngman Rhee World War II wounds, received his loaned me a clean set of dun-
in attendance. The attrition rate fifth Purple Heart. It was a strain garees, Tom Gibson loaned
among the officers had been fear- to try to look presentable for the me his second lieutenant’s
ful: five of the six company com- ceremony, as Muetzel later bars, and off I went with my
manders were wounded and nine remarked: troops.

56
tion as complex as an amphibious
assault. There were vigorous dif-
ferences of opinion in Army-Navy-
Marine meetings as to when or
even whether the brigade should
join the 1st Marine Division. On
one hand, the Eighth Army staff
felt, as the official Marine history
bluntly put it, “Army morale would
be hurt by taking the brigade away
at a critical moment.” And Walker
placed an “extremely excited” tele-
phone call to MacArthur’s head-
quarters in Tokyo, saying in effect,
“If I lose the 5th Marine Regiment,
I will not be responsible for the
safety of the front!” Thus there was
strong Army pressure to substitute
an Army regiment for the 5th
Marines at the Inchon landing.
On the other hand, Major
General Oliver P. Smith, Com-
manding General of the 1st Marine
Division, supported by the three
Navy admirals most closely in-
volved, was equally adamant that,
for a tricky amphibious landing, he
had to have the 5th Marines which
was trained for just such an opera-
tion. There was a deadlock.
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A1507
After the First Battle of the Naktong, there was a welcome moment to clean up— The NKPA Attacks Again
with a South Korean boy holding the mirror.
Then, amidst these planning
Future Plans Marines would not arrive at Inchon meetings, harsh reality came crash-
until a week after D-day, with one ing down to complicate further
While the troops were enjoying battalion coming halfway around decisions on the use of the
this temporary lull, some of Craig’s the world from the Mediterranean. brigade. The NKPA, realizing that
senior staff officers were sent to The crucial unit for the forthcom- time was running out for it,
Tokyo to confer on plans for the ing assault was supposed to be the launched a final, convulsive attack
future use of the Marines. battled-tested 5th Marines. It had to eradicate the Pusan Perimeter.
MacArthur had made bold—very already begun shipping its heavy Some 98,000 men in 13 divisions
bold—plans for a daring end-run equipment back down to Pusan, as hit five separate points on the
around the NKPA besieging the plans were drawn to have it join perimeter. Walker faced a brutal
Pusan Perimeter by making a sur- the 1st Marine Division, even series of simultaneous problems.
prise amphibious landing far to the though it was now fully committed Where should he commit his limit-
rear, at Inchon. For this purpose he in combat. Morale soared in the ed reserves—in particular his
had urgently requested the full 1st brigade as the men looked forward proven Marine brigade? The two
Marine Division. Elements of it to fighting side-by-side with fellow thrusts closest to Pusan were one
began arriving in Japan on 28 Marines. against the Army’s 25th Division in
August, but there were massive Meanwhile, in Tokyo there were the same area of the far southwest,
problems to be overcome. The 1st very tense moments. Time was and another against the Army’s 2d
Marines was on hand, but the 7th critically short to mount an opera- Division in the west central

57
When Craig had set up his CP in
Miryang, his brigade came under
the operational control of the
Army’s 2d Division. To old timers
in the Marine Corps it surely
brought back vivid and ironic
memories of another time and
place, when a Marine brigade had
been teamed once before with the
9th and 23d Infantry as a proud
part of the Army’s superb 2d
Division, 32 years earlier in France.
On 2 September, Craig had a
conference with Keiser and the
Eighth Army’s Chief of Staff.
General Shepherd later made a
comment on this meeting which
revealed the inherently gracious
nature of Craig: “The Army divi-
sion commander . . . went to
Photo by David Douglas Duncan Eddie, who was a brigadier, and
The price of victory: a jeep takes two wounded men back to an aid station. said, ‘General Craig, I’m horribly
embarrassed that you have to do
(Naktong) area. A breakthrough to punched a hole six miles wide and this. My men lost the ground that
capture Pusan would mean total eight miles deep into their division. you took in a severe fight.’ And
disaster. (Military analysts in later Obong-ni Ridge, so dearly bought, Eddie, in his very gallant manner,
years would speculate that that was back in enemy hands. said, ‘General, it might have hap-
might well have happened if Now Walker made up his mind: pened to me.’ ”
General Kim Chaek had ordered the new Naktong Bulge had The Army officers at the meeting
only diversionary attacks at four of returned as his priority threat. felt the situation was so desperate
the points, massed overwhelming Blair’s book pointed out the logi- that the brigade should immediate-
strength at one point, and crashed cal, but painful, next step: “Walker ly be dribbled piecemeal into
through there.) came to a difficult and drastic deci- action, even though one of its bat-
The NKPA assigned the 2d, 4th, sion: Once again he would have to talions and its air control section
9th, and 10th Divisions to destroy call on Eddie Craig’s Marines for had not yet arrived. Craig, who
the U.S. 2d Infantry Division help. The decision was drastic also knew when to make a stand,
before Miryang and drive through both because of the humiliation it later remembered, “This was the
to the vital Pusan-Taegu MSR by would again cause the Army, and only heated discussion I had in
way of Yongsan. Smashing into because Craig’s Marines were a Korea with the Army.” His stub-
that division on 1 September, the vital element in the Inchon inva- born view that the whole brigade
North Korean assault quickly made sion plan.” should go into action as a unified
a 4,000-yard penetration. The com- air-ground team was finally accept-
manding general of the 2d ‘Fire Brigade’: Crisis Number Three ed. Its attack would be down the
Division, Major General Lawrence Yongsan-Naktong road toward an
B. Keiser, USA, saw his division That was it. In the morning of 1 all-too-familiar objective, Obong-ni
sliced in half, with his companies September, the orders came for the Ridge. The 9th Infantry Regiment
cut off or totally overrun, his brigade, including the 11th would be on its right, and other
defensive lines hustled back Marines, to move by train and Army units on its left. Now the
almost to Yongsan, and enemy truck back once more to the brigade, for the first time,
infiltration in his rear. Neither Miryang assembly area. The reac- appeared to have flanks that were
Keiser nor his three regimental tion of the men was predictable: secure enough to allow it to attack
commanders had ever led troops going back to regain what they with two battalions abreast, Roise’s
in battle, and now the NKPA had had already won once. 2d on the right and Newton’s 1st

58
massive casualties the brigade had
inflicted on it in the first battle of
the Naktong.

The Marines Attack


The Marine attack was to be
launched early on the morning of
3 September. There were problems
getting things started. Moving
through Yongsan, the Marines
were hit by small arms fire from
snipers, but by 0630 they had
worked their way to the western
end of the town, and thought they
were then headed forward to the
agreed-upon line of departure for
their main attack. Not so! During
the night the Army troops on the
ridgeline had “collapsed” and had
been pushed back 1,000 yards. At
0645 Roise called Second
Lieutenant Robert M. Winter to
bring his tanks forward and lay
down fire to cover the withdrawal
of the Army troops. The original
planned line of departure thus
became the first objective when
the Marines attacked.
The 2d Battalion jumped off at
0715, securing the right flank of
the brigade’s attack. To soften up
his main objective, Roise called
down a massive sheet of fire from
tanks, air, mortars, artillery, and
machine guns. The Marines
pushed doggedly toward it wading
through a rice paddy. Now the
enemy’s 9th Division quickly
found its previous pattern of
steady advances had ground to a
screeching halt.
on the left. Taplett’s 3d Battalion which had successfully advanced Craig, as was his wont, came up
would block any enemy push this far in the new Naktong Bulge. to check on the action. His obser-
along the southwest approaches to Immediately in front of the brigade vation post (OP) was between the
Yongsan. was the 9th Division. This was not tanks and Roise’s OP. Enemy fire
Meanwhile, between 0300 and a seasoned, professional outfit, pounded the area, and Winter was
0430, 3 September, the 2d Battalion such as the one the brigade had wounded and had to be evacuat-
moved into its forward assembly previously broken; rather, it had ed—but not before he offered
area north of Yongsan, with the 1st up to now been doing guard duty Craig a bottle of whiskey from his
Battalion south of the town. at Seoul. Behind it, in reserve, tank. Winter was later awarded a
Opposite them, driving hard for came a reconstituted 4th Division, Silver Star Medal for his leadership
Yongsan, were the NKPA divisions filled with new recruits after the of his tank platoon that day.

59
Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion
also moved out. Its attack route
forced the men knee-deep into
their own huge rice paddy. There
they came under fire, but their
supporting arms searched out the
enemy positions. In particular, the
Corsairs were able to engulf the
NKPA with balls of napalm fire. A
typical time of response was seven
minutes from a strike request to
execution.
This kind of seamless coordina-
tion in the Marine air-ground team
was a source of great envy by the
Army commanders who saw its
decisive results. As Colonel Paul L.
Freeman, USA, commander of the
23d Infantry (well off to the right
of the brigade), wrote to General
Matthew Ridgway in Washington:

The Marines on our left


were a sight to behold. Not
only was their equipment
superior or equal to ours, but
they had squadrons of air in
direct support. They used it
like artillery. It was, “Hey,
Joe, this is Smitty, knock off
the left of that ridge in front
of Item Company.” They had
it day and night . . . General,
we just have to have air sup-
port like that, or we might as
well disband the Infantry and
Photo by David Douglas Duncan
join the Marines.
A distraught Cpl Leonard Hayworth pleads for more grenades, finds none, and
must return empty-handed to his hard-pressed men.
By 1100 the 1st Battalion was at
the base of its ridgeline objective. towards the crest of the hill. Then that we had a battalion to the
Working its way upwards under the long hours of practice on the left of the road, because he
the protection of supporting 81mm rifle range really paid off: Marine was prepared to take that
mortar fire, Company A poised for marksmen coolly picked off most high ground himself. We beat
a final charge. As soon as the fire of the enemy as they ran. him there by a good 10 or 20
lifted, the men sprang forward, Company A immediately rushed to minutes and caught him com-
screaming, shouting, firing every the crest. It was noon. In Company ing across another rice paddy
available weapon. To their amaze- B, Fenton later observed: field. We really had a “turkey
ment, a whole company of NKPA shoot.”
soldiers in front of them, shaken The 1st Battalion was able
by the noise and the sight of charg- to move and seize the ridge Firing now from the heights, the
ing Marines, leaped in a panic out line without encountering Marine riflemen put on another
of their concealed foxholes on the heavy opposition. I don’t display of precise marksmanship
forward slope and fled back believe the enemy realized that must have stunned the simple

60
peasant soldiers of the NKPA: the great publicity. Fifty years ago, in chose to fire at the bottom of
“yellow leggings” could kill with the early days of the Korean War, it the hill. I saw a puff of
aimed fire at 400-500 yards. (Just as was regarded as just one of those smoke. Just that quick a shell
the Marines in that earlier brigade unfortunate things that happened landed near me. It rolled me
in France had stunned the because close combat is always over into a little gully. I lay
Germans at Belleau Wood with unpredictable.) The official Marine dazed. God, I thought, we’re
trained rifle fire that killed at long history did not even mention it, gonna get done in by our
range.) but it was seared into the memory own goddamn outfit. While I
What the 1st Battalion did not of Private First Class Douglas Koch lay with my head down, three
finish off, the 105s of the 11th in Company D: or four more shells hit nearby
Marines did. Those of the enemy . . . . A lot of men had been
who were left withdrew to Hill 117 Down the road from the hit.
in front of the 2d Battalion, but an north rolled four or five
artillery barrage was called down American tanks . . . . All of a Naturally, this kind of ghastly
on them in transit, and wreaked sudden a machine gun mistake was temporarily shattering
more havoc. stitched a stream of fire across to the company, until the officers
In the 2d Battalion zone of the company’s rear. I rolled finally got their men moving again.
attack there were some hard over on one elbow and But Koch and the others went back
moments. When Company D was looked behind me. Someone to their attack “still in shock.”
getting started in its assault, a trag- yelled, “God, they’re shooting This occurrence was, fortunate-
ic episode occurred. (Today, it is at us.” Instead of firing on the ly, a rarity. Elsewhere that morning
called “friendly fire” and results in top of the hill, the tanks of 3 September, Marine tanks were

Capt “Ike” Fenton, caught by surprise, described the grim raining. The radio had gone out and we were low on
moment: “We had been in one hell of a big battle. It was ammunition.”
Photo by David Douglas Duncan

61
doing yeoman’s work. They took finally able to gain the crest of the Three things saved the Marines’
on NKPA antitank weapons, sur- northern spur of Hill 117, and precarious position. First, a bevy of
prised three T-34 tanks and wiped there it dug in, isolated, some 500 their engineers moved in to sow a
them out, then eliminated two yards from the rest of the 2d belt of antipersonnel mines, wired
more in the afternoon. This clean- Battalion. hand grenades, and blocks of TNT
up enabled the M-26s to concen- As the enemy troops filtered into along the flanks. Secondly,
trate their fire to good effect on the zone of the 2d Battalion, the VMF(N)-513 came on station with
enemy weapons and troop posi- men of the 1st Battalion were able its F4U-5N Corsair and F7F
tions confronting the riflemen. to make good progress in the after- Tigercat night fighters. Equipped
Marine air was also very active. noon, with Company B reaching with sophisticated radar, it was the
With the squadrons shuttling so its part of Objective 2, a peak only squadron to fly single-engine
that one was always on hand to across the MSR from Hill 117. planes over Korea at night. Flying
help, seven close air support mis- Company A, using a fancy triple more than 2,000 hours of night
sions were flown for the two envelopment seized its part, Hill missions in one month, it delivered
assault battalions. Other Marine 91, by 1630, and so all hands pre- this particular night six close air
planes, guided by OYs, strafed and pared for the usual night counter- support strikes controlled from the
bombed, knocking out, among attack. Well they might. The 1st two infantry battalions. Thirdly, a
other things, 16 enemy gun and Battalion’s right flank was dangling deluge of rain, accompanied by icy
mortar positions. in air; it was trying to cover a front winds, further hindered any plans
Back on the ground, Company of nearly a mile; and its two rifle the battered NKPA troops might
D’s first objective was Hill 116, to companies were 200 yards apart. have contemplated for a counterat-
try to cut off the enemy reinforce- The 2d Battalion was in an equally tack.
ments coming over from the 1st dangerous position, stretched over As the Marines waited though
Battalion’s zone. Facing two NKPA a 2,000-yard front, bent in a right the miserable, rainy night, even
battalions, the company found angle, with Company D complete- though they had driven two victo-
itself in a bloody battle. It was ly isolated. rious miles west of Yongsan, their

62
thoughts must have turned to the the squad, the platoon, the Battalion and resume the attack at
casualties of the past day: 34 killed company, the regiment, the 0800 with the 1st Battalion on its
and 157 wounded. Muetzel in the brigade, the Corps. Everyone left. In 20 minutes, Taplett’s men
1st Battalion later voiced what else, bug off! reached their first objective, then
must have been a common senti- quickly took Hill 116 with almost
ment after almost a month of This same day, 3 September, no enemy resistance. Next, the bat-
grinding combat: witnessed a final showdown in the talion’s main objective, Hill 117,
Tokyo planning meetings. A com- was overrun by a pincer move-
[Men] came, were killed, promise solution to the deadlock ment of Companies G and H.
and were carried away . . . . emerged. Walker would get Army Incredibly, it was all over by 0840.
I knew this couldn’t keep up reinforcements and could tem- No real enemy resistance had
. . . . We, me, all of us were porarily use the Marine Brigade to turned into a withdrawal, and now
eventually going to get it; it meet his Naktong crisis. But it there were signs that was turning
was just a matter of when would have to be withdrawn by into a disorderly rout—a weird
and how bad . . . . It was just midnight 5 September to join the contrast to the bruising encounters
a god-awful mess—inade- 1st Marine Division for the Inchon the Marines had had the day
quate replacements, insuffi- landing. before.
cient ammo, worn-out clothes The 1st Battalion was simultane-
and boots. No one much gave Continuing the Assault ously moving with equal rapidity.
a rap about anything. Outside Shortly after starting, it occupied
discipline was no longer a Back with troops, in order to what appeared to have been a CP
threat. What could the brass keep the pressure on the next of the NKPA 9th Division. Tents
do to us that was worse than morning (4 September), Murray were still up, equipment was
what we were doing? Each of had ordered Taplett’s 3d Battalion strewn around, and two aban-
us withdrew into our family— to pass through the depleted 2d doned T-34 tanks in perfect oper-

Marines meet almost no opposition as they top this hill in the Naktong River area on 4 September 1950
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A8175

63
ating condition were captured (the paper-thin along a line almost a one man was wounded.
first such to be taken and turned mile long. Taplett’s men were no The 3d Battalion started the day
over to U.S. Army Ordnance for better off. Out of contact with the by showering a rain of fire from its
examination). The men in the bat- 1st Battalion on their left and the high ground down on an NKPA
talion’s steady advance saw the Army’s 9th Infantry on their right, attack on the 9th Infantry off to its
bodies of many dead NKPA sol- they curled up in a perimeter right flank and rear. The 105s from
diers and piles of abandoned or defense. the 11th Marines joined in, and the
destroyed equipment, souvenirs of Expecting the usual NKPA night attack was shattered.
low-flying Corsair strikes and accu- counterattack, the Marines again Now both battalions were ready
rate fire from the 11th Marines had their engineers put out a pro- to charge. And they did. The 1st
poured on the retreating enemy. tective shell of mines, booby traps, Battalion jumped off at 0820 with
Among the litter were captured and trip flares. There was heavy the objective of capturing Hill 125
American guns, tanks, mortars, and incoming shelling during the night, and Observation Hill, the brigade’s
vehicles which were returned to but that slacked off after a visit segment of Phase Line Two.
the 2d Division. The official Marine from the night fighter planes of Obong-ni Ridge was then to be a
history described “a picture of dev- VMF(N)-513. The rain poured special objective. Moving fast
astation unequaled even by the down, but the enemy infantry against light resistance, Newton
earlier defeat of the NKPA 4th apparently had been hit too hard had his men on his two target hills
Division.” This time it was the 9th during the day, and there was no by 1100, and there Murray halted
Division’s turn to be hammered by assault. them until the 9th Infantry could
the brigade. When men are under heavy come up to tie in on their right.
By 1515 Newton’s companies pressure in close combat little Meanwhile, the 3d Battalion was
stood atop their first objectives, things can loom large in their also moving ahead. Bohn had sug-
now less than 2,000 yards from the minds. Fenton gave an example: gested that Company H, now com-
old killing ground on Obong-ni “It had been raining all night, and manded by Captain Patrick E.
Ridge. Moving in coordinated tan- the battalion had managed to get Wildman, serve as a base of fire to
dem with them were Taplett’s some hot coffee up to us, but just pin down the enemy, while he
companies, which had pivoted to when the coffee arrived, we got took Company G around the
the west after seizing Hill 117. the word to move out. We weren’t extreme left flank in an enveloping
Learning of the Marines’ able to distribute any of the coffee. maneuver. “It worked beautifully,”
progress, Keiser gave Craig the go- This turn of events didn’t do the as he later reported, but then:
ahead to have his brigade push on morale any good. The men were
further toward Objective Two. soaking wet.” As we were coming up,
Moving aggressively, using air A more fundamental event took getting assembled . . . the
strikes when held up, the 1st place that same night. Reluctantly North Koreans picked up on
Battalion worked its way to the following instructions from Mac- what we were doing. They
designated area (between Hill 125 Arthur, Walker issued an order that had one of those old Russian
and Observation Hill), securing the Eighth Army would have to [Maxim] wheeled machine
Cloverleaf Hill by 1800. release all of its Marines at the end guns, and I could see their
Thus the brigade had advanced of the following day. officer. He was wheeling it up
3,000 yards and gained its objec- with his people. Jones saw
tives. Hoyt summarized the strate- The Final Day him at the same time and he
gic importance of this: “The blew it up with the first round
Marines had stopped the enemy’s To finish off what the brigade of 75 recoilless . . . . It was
advance, saved Yongsan and the had so successfully begun, Craig sheer luck.
[MSR] road beyond [it], and put the ordered both battalions to move As soon as that happened,
North Korean 9th Division into out in a final attack the morning of of course, we went smoking
retreat.” 5 September. Before the 1st up, got over the top, and
As the Marine battalions dug in Battalion could get started, there once we got to the top . . . we
for the night they were in exposed was an unpleasant moment. Two just rolled them up. It was
positions similar to the preceding U.S. Air Force F-51 fighters came outstanding.
evening. Newton’s men were 1,000 screaming in over the Marines,
yards in front on the left, stretched strafing them. Miraculously, only So it was, that Company G was

64
in good shape on Hill 91, expect- advance of 3,000 yards, was now to the 9th Infantry, which had now
ing to race ahead. Not so. Orders located on a ridge line of Hill 125, come abreast on Company B’s
from Taplett at 1230 directed it to parallel to and only 400 yards from right flank. His message was
withdraw to Observation Hill and Obong-ni. At 1420 an avalanche of urgent: “We need maximum sup-
hold up there. The convergence of enemy fire hit it. It was enfilade porting fire from your artillery, and
the 1st Battalion and the 9th fire, mortars and machine guns, we need it right now!” Meeting up
Infantry had pinched out the 3d smothering both the reverse slope with the adjacent Army company
Battalion’s area, so Company H and the forward slope of the com- commander, Wilson was pointing
joined in a sideslip behind the 1st pany’s position. Fenton’s comment out the target areas when the Army
Battalion to put the 3d Battalion on was curt: “We were pinned down, officer was struck down by
the left flank of the 1st, preparato- and we couldn’t move.” machine gun fire and had to be
ry to a combined attack on Obong- At 1430 the enemy infantry evacuated. So the Marine coolly
ni Ridge. It, too, was told to stay in came on, some 300 strong. Fenton picked up his radio and directed
place; there would be a delay needed help, supporting fire and the Army artillery fire to plaster
before any assault on Obong-ni. lots of it, but at this precise Obong-ni and the adjoining enemy
With the heavy rain and ensuing moment of peril all five of his targets.
fog Marine close air support was radios, as well as the battalion’s A runner had also been sent
grounded, and this gave the NKPA tactical radio, went dead in the down to the MSR to warn the
an opportunity to launch a vicious downpour of rain. An enlisted run- Marine tanks there that three NKPA
daylight counterattack on the 1st ner, 22-year-old Private First Class T-34 tanks supporting the attack
Battalion. Company B, after an William A. Wilson, was rushed off were coming towards them around

Marines assist wounded North Korean prisoners into jeep which took them to medical aid on 4 September 1950
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2130

65
the same bend that had been the hulks littering “The Bend.” George Newton, my battalion
scene of the previous tank battle While this dramatic tank con- commander, who had proba-
two weeks earlier. The message frontation was taking place, bly guessed my situation, sent
was not in time. The lead enemy Fenton’s infantry confrontation a much-welcome platoon
tank surprised the first Marine tank was also reaching a climax. He from A Company with five
with its gun aimed left at Obong- later described the tense situation: boxes of hand grenades. The
ni. Several 85mm rounds knocked enemy had closed so rapidly
out the Marine tank. Its mate, try- I found it necessary to that we just took the hand
ing to edge around the first tank, place every man I had in the grenades out of the case and
was also knocked out. company on line. Rocket tossed them to the men on
Then, out of the blue, a 3.5-inch men, corpsmen, mortarmen, the line. They would pull the
rocket team, dispatched by Fenton, every available man went on pins and throw them. The
arrived at the carnage, soon joined line to stop this counterattack. enemy closed to less than 100
by the battalion rocket team. In To make matters worse, I yards.
short order, they destroyed the first began running low on ammu-
two enemy tanks, and then the nition. I was practically out of Adding to the intense pressure,
third attacker, which turned out to hand grenades, and things the radios had not been function-
be an armored personnel carrier. didn’t look too rosy for us. ing. Finally, at this crucial juncture,
This made a total of eight steel Just at this time LtCol one radio was coaxed into service.

Marines examine two Soviet-made T-34 tanks destroyed by North Korean daylight counterattack to blunt the battalion’s
3.5-inch rocket teams of the 1st Battalion 5th Marines, at assault on Obong-ni Ridge.
“The Bend.” The enemy tanks had supported the vicious Department of Defense Photo (USMC)

66
Fenton quickly gave it to his for- attack, and secured the Marine So the battle-worn Marines
ward observer for the 81mm mor- positions. slogged wearily through the mud
tars who called for immediate “fire Now, from their vantage point, and driving rain for three and a
for effect.” When the mortars had the Marines could see the NKPA half miles to the rear. West of
finished deluging the NKPA attack- withdrawing from Obong-ni. It Yongsan, they finally boarded
ers, there were only 18 rounds of was an obvious signal that the trucks, and by dawn 6 September
ammunition left. enemy was thoroughly defeated, they were on their way to Pusan,
Duncan was with Company B and the door was open for a quick bone-tired but glad finally to leave
during its wild battle and saw and easy push all the way through those cruel hills of the Perimeter
Master Sergeant Leonard R. Young to the Naktong River. behind them.
positioning the men along the But the withdrawal deadline dic-
crest. (The later citation for a Silver tated by MacArthur had nearly Operational Results
Star described Young as “exposed arrived. All units were held up in
to withering fire, [he] walked position. The brigade counted up As the truck riders’ thoughts
upright back and forth . . . placing its casualties for that final day of turned to their fellow Marines, they
men.”) Then, Duncan wrote: battle, 5 September: 35 killed, 91 mourned the loss of good men and
wounded, and, proudly, none close friends. Those hills had cost
He was shot. A machine missing in action. the brigade 148 killed in action, 15
gun bullet went right through At 1600 the battalion comman- died of wounds, 9 missing in
his chest, knocking him into ders all met with Murray to get the action (7 of these were later found
the mud. But not before he official word. Craig’s directive was to have been killed in action), and
had given Ike Fenton the best concise: “Commencing at 2400 5 730 wounded in action, for a casu-
that an old sergeant could September Brig moves by rail and alty total of 902. Included in this
give his company comman- motor to staging area Pusan for total was a special category of men
der. He was still alive when further operations against the who had moved side by side with
they dragged him in across enemy.” the Marines in combat, earning
the slope. Relief and withdrawal at night their undying admiration: the Navy
When they placed him from enemy contact is not as easy corpsmen who had 22 casualties.
upon a rough poncho-litter in practice as it is on paper. Hours Looking back at what they had
he looked up at Fenton, who after they were due, two Army achieved in one short month, how-
stood with his hand touching lieutenants finally showed up to ever, the men of the brigade could
the dripping canvas, and relieve the two companies of the legitimately feel a sense of pride.
whispered, “God, I’m sorry 1st Battalion. Each had only a They had traveled some 380 miles
Captain! I’m really sorry! But handful of men and very few and mounted three difficult opera-
don’t let them fall back! weapons. As Muetzel recalled: tions, each time facing and over-
Please don’t let them fall whelming heretofore successful
back.” Fenton still had not An Army first lieutenant enemy forces who had numerical
said a word when the litter- appeared with about 30 men superiority.
bearers disappeared into the who’d been scraped together The initial brigade drive to
rain, and out of sight down from a headquarters unit . . . . Sachon had represented the first
the hill. I took the lieutenant to the crisis in which a unit of the Eighth
very crest of the hill and had Army had been able to stop cold
A crucial factor in the final, suc- him dig in in a circle. He and then push back an enemy
cessful outcome of this struggle asked me to leave him our offensive: 26 miles in four days.
were reinforcements which came ammo for a 57mm recoilless Enemy casualties: 1,900.
over from Company A: two pla- rifle he had. Marines didn’t The second crisis was a call for
toons of riflemen, plus machine have 57s, so he had a weapon the “Fire Brigade” to stem the
gunners, and mortarmen. Together and no ammo. He asked his NKPA’s dangerous breakthrough in
with the combination of Army sergeant to bring up their one the Naktong Bulge. There it literal-
artillery fire and Marine 81mm machine gun. The sergeant ly destroyed the enemy’s 4th
mortar fire (which finally came told him it had been left back Division, with the Marine air and
within 50 yards of Company B), at the CP. I left behind about artillery arms contributing greatly
this broke the back of the NKPA four cases of hand grenades. to the slaughter. In addition, large

67
quantities of captured U.S. Army also for U.S. Army and South The Navy officers came ashore and
weapons were seized and Korean units. In addition, the OY invited Bohn and all his officers
returned. MacArthur spoke of the light planes and the Sikorsky HO3S and men to come on board, and
enemy division as “decisively helicopters of VMO-6 had tallied then welcomed them with “steaks,
defeated . . . suffering very heavy 318 and 580 flights respectively in hot food” and “all the PX stuff” the
losses in both personnel and just the month of August. Marines had not seen in a long
equipment.” Moreover, the helicopters’ success- time and badly needed now.
In the third crisis, the Second ful first combat role had proven Bohn went on to describe
Battle of the Naktong, the brigade the certainty of their large scale use another way that their deficiencies
had again been rushed in to meet in the years to come. were remedied:
the swift advance of the NKPA 9th An evaluation of all these factors
and (a reconstituted) 4th Divisions. led the official Marine history to I’m probably not being suf-
When its counterattack smashed summarize the overall, operational ficiently critical of the Marine
the enemy units in a mere three results of the brigade: “A careful Corps supply system because,
days, in conjunction with impor- examination of any of these opera- if it hadn’t been for the Army,
tant U.S. Army attacks, the official tions in which Marines engaged we’d have been in trouble.
Army history quoted prisoners as discloses that a single failure We stole everything, includ-
saying that this was “one of the would have a profound effect ing jeeps . . . . We saw some
bloodiest and most terrifying deba- upon the entire UN effort.” rail cars on the siding. My
cles of the war for a North Korean The individual unit commanders Marines just went in there and
division.” As a result, “the 9th and who had led the brigade in its bat- looked. Whatever the hell
4th enemy divisions were not able tles had a more forceful convic- they wanted, they took. The
to resume the offensive.” tion. They felt that they had “saved Army didn’t seem to mind
Over the period of that single the beachhead.” that. Stole beer, too. And it
month, the enemy had paid a dev- worked.
astating price, an estimated 9,900 From Pusan to Inchon
total casualties, and massive losses It worked to such a degree that
of equipment at the hands of the The final chapter in the story of all the jeep trailers in another bat-
Marines. the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade talion were emptied, then stacked
The achievements of the brigade is one that is less dramatic than its full with beer on ice—perfect for
went far beyond dramatic tactical battles, but one which illustrates its the hot, humid, summer weather.
victories in the Pusan Perimeter. It organizational flexibility and skill. First, a big party for its own men,
had demonstrated in its mobiliza- Again, as at Camp Pendleton pre- then for the sailors on the ship
tion a remarkable ability to pull viously, it had too much to do in upon which they would embark,
together and ship out a large too little time. Arriving in Pusan on the Henrico. Then, however,
Marine combat unit in a pressure- 7 September with over-tired men, things sort of got out of hand.
laden, short time frame (six days). worn-out equipment, and under- Muetzel saw a jeep driven by two
It had also demonstrated a vari- strength from casualties, the Marines race by, closely pursued
ety of other lessons in Korea: the brigade had to cope with a thou- by two MPs. The jeep went off the
crucial efforts of previous combat sand details to get ready to move end of the dock into the water.
training on noncommissioned offi- out in a very few days for its next Then two other Marines, who
cers and officers; the value of the demanding combat assignment. had climbed over the fence around
intangible, psychological factor of Sleeping in the open on the the dock area, returned in impres-
Marine esprit de corps; and the daz- docks, the men ate on board the sive style. They were driving a
zling effectiveness of a tightly inte- transports upon which they soon huge Brockway bridge transporter
grated aviation component. Called would sail. (Although Craig and his which they had “acquired.” They
“the best close air support in the officers later recalled the troops quickly abandoned it at the MP
history of the Marine Corps,” the sleeping in the adjoining ware- checkpoint—leaving it nicely plug-
operational statistics of MAG-33 houses.) Bohn remembered the ging the entrance to the dock until
showed a total of 1,511 sorties human side of this return to “civi- a qualified driver was later found.
flown by the three squadrons, with lization.” The ship that had Muetzel went on to say:
995 missions being close air sup- brought him and his men to Pusan
port not only for the brigade, but was once again there at dockside. While we were waiting to

68
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-GR-A2193
After an all-night ride from the front lines, over-tired Marine linkup with the 1st Marine Division for the upcoming
mortar crews assemble at the Pusan docks and prepare to assault on Inchon.
board a U.S. Navy transport. In a matter of days they would

board the Henrico, we were Newton, our battalion CO. men. Although the fresh replace-
required to turn in all the cap- ments’ shiny new utility uniforms
tured vehicles we were dri- These shenanigans were, of contrasted sharply with the bedrag-
ving . . . . This left us unac- course, only a counterpoint to the gled veterans, they soon fit in.
ceptably short of motor trans- serious business at hand. To fill the Craig later commented that the
portation. Consequently, gaps in the rifle unit, a large batch new men “were integrated into the
vehicles were purloined from of replacements was on hand. battalions without difficulty.” Some
the Army. The worst offense I These 1,135 officers and men of them were regular Marines and
saw was the theft of the MP would provide the manpower to some were trained reservists, and
company commander’s jeep. give each battalion the third com- Craig went on to say:
After a fast coat of green paint pany which had been so sorely
and phony numbers were missed in the past battles. Now, for Their [future] performance
slapped on, it was presented the first time in Korea, the 5th of duty was comparable in
to Lieutenant Colonel George Marines reached full strength: 3,611 many ways, outside of, per-

69
haps, their weapons training Army quartermaster. There he afternoon of 11 September, the
and their tactical training in found a group of “scruffy” Marines troops began filing on board ship.
the field . . . . It speaks very being sharply told off for begging The next day, the convoy sailed.
well for the type of training by an immaculate (rear echelon) Then, at 0001, 13 September, the
and the adaptability of the Army major. The Marine group brigade was deactivated and
Marines, both as individuals gave up and left, but Muetzel, became part of the 1st Marine
and as units, that such com- looking like a “refugee” he admit- Division, bound for the historic
panies could be formed in the ted, persisted. amphibious assault at Inchon.
United States, join an active When the neatly-dressed major The brigade was now gone, but
battalion just before landing, turned to go back to his office, not forgotten. There was formal
take part in that landing, and Muetzel pushed into the building recognition of its achievements by
operate efficiently throughout wearing his steel helmet, a dunga- two governments. The first was a
the following campaigns. ree jacket and pants with gaping Korean Presidential Unit Citation
holes, and tattered boots, and car- which recorded “outstanding and
In addition, a complete fourth rying a submachine gun and a .45 heroic performance of duty on the
regiment was attached to the pistol on his hip. Now standing field of battle.” Referring to the
brigade at this time. This was the face to face, the major saw the lieu- Naktong victories, the citation said:
1st Korean Marine Regiment, 3,000 tenant’s bars on Muetzel’s collar, “The brigade attacked with such
strong. The manpower was wel- glanced at his disreputable uni- determination and skill as to earn
come, but there was just one prob- form, and started to say that he the admiration of all . . . . The gal-
lem. Craig explained: “These could not issue any boots. That did lant Marine forces were instrumen-
Korean Marines had never been it! Muetzel burst out: tal in preventing the enemy from
issued arms, although they had capturing their objective and cut-
been trained in their nomenclature I told him, simply, that I ting the north-south lines of com-
and upkeep. They were, however, was just off the line, I was munication. . . .”
well drilled and had good disci- going right back onto the line, The second award was a U.S.
pline and spirit . . . arms were I was an infantry platoon Presidential Unit Citation. This was
immediately issued.” leader, I didn’t have a hell of a lengthy paean of praise for both
For the brigade’s well-used sup- a lot to lose, and I wanted a the ground forces and the aviation
porting arms, there was an inten- pair of boots right then and units. It commended “extraordinary
sive drive to clean up and service there! When he looked at my heroism in action . . . relentless
all the heavy equipment—tanks, boots and noticed the bullet determination . . . sheer resolution
trucks, and artillery pieces. For the holes, he went right back into and esprit de corps . . . the brilliant
infantry battalions, one critical his stock and brought out a record achieved. . . .” The award
need was new weapons. Many new pair of Army parachute covered not only the brigade’s
rifles, BARs, and particularly jump boots . . . . I was ready ground units, but also MAG-33 and
machine guns had been fired so to fight for those boots and its squadrons.
much that the barrels were burned that major knew it. They were fitting tributes to a
out, so replacements had to be special group of men who had
issued. All during this time, the senior truly earned a remarkable series of
Clothing was a disaster. Dung- officers were involved in a differ- triumphs.
arees were rotted all the way ent type of activity. They were It would be a long war for the
through from rain and sweat, with closeted, preparing the after action Marines in Korea, and there would
the camouflage design faded out. reports, organizing the issue of be other much more famous battles
Boots were “falling apart.” supplies for re-equipment, thrash- to come, but the die was cast in
This kind of urgent need led ing out an embarkation plan, and those crucial first weeks of combat
Muetzel to strong measures. He familiarizing themselves with every in August and September 1950. The
badly wanted a new pair of boots, planned detail that pertained to Marine Corps had again decisively
for the ones he wore had two bul- their unit’s role in the forthcoming demonstrated that it was truly a
let holes in the uppers and soles landing. Craig pushed them hard “force in readiness,” and that its
completely worn through. With and soon—all too soon—the few rugged training and traditional
none available from Marine sup- days allotted had rushed by, and it esprit de corps could lead it to vic-
plies, he headed for the Eighth was time to ship out. Starting the tory in “every clime and place.”

70
About the Author Now a captain in retired status, he served for
many years, starting in 1983, as a volunteer at
the Marine Corps Historical Center. During that
C aptain John C. Chapin earned a bachelor of
arts degree with honors in history from
Yale University in 1942 and was commissioned
time he wrote the history of Marine Fighter-
Attack (VMFA) Squadron 115. With support
later that year. He served as a rifle-platoon from the Historical Center and the Marine
leader in the 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Corps Historical Foundation, he then spent
and was wounded in action in World War II some years researching and interviewing for
during assault landings on Roi-Namur and the writing of a new book, Uncommon Men—
Saipan. The Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps. This
Transferred to duty at the Historical Division, was published in 1992 by the White Mane
Headquarters Marine Corps, he wrote the first Publishing Company.
official histories of the 4th and 5th Marine As part of the Historical Center’s series of
Divisions. Moving to Reserve status at the end pamphlets commemorating the 50th anniver-
of the war, he earned a master’s degree in his- sary of World War II, Captain Chapin wrote
tory at George Washington University with a accounts of Marine operations in the Marshall
thesis on “The Marine Occupation of Haiti, Islands, on Saipan and Bougainville, and
1915-1922.” Marine aviation in the Philippines.

Sources There is a wide range of commer-


cially published books. Among those
of the U.S. Marines in Korea (Nashville:
The Battery Press, 1989).
that contained useful material are: John In a different category is a book
There are two basic official sources
Toland, In Mortal Combat-Korea, which the author affirms is based on
for the story of these early days in the
1950-1953 (New York: William actual Chinese sources: Russell Spurr,
Pusan Perimeter. For the Marine
Morrow and Company, 1991); Lynn Enter the Dragon-China’s Undeclared
Corps, Lynn Montross and Capt
Montross, Cavalry of the Sky-The Story War Against the U.S. in Korea, 1950-51
Nicholas A. Canzona, USMC, The
of U.S. Marine Helicopters (New York: (New York: Henry Holt, 1988).
Pusan Perimeter, vol. 1 of U.S. Marine
Harper and Brothers, 1954); Edwin P. Personal interviews were helpful in
Operations in Korea (Washington:
Hoyt, The Pusan Perimeter-Korea 1950 meetings with: MajGen Robert D.
Historical Branch, G-3 Division,
(New York: Stein and Day, 1984); Bohn, USMC (Ret); MajGen Charles D.
HQMC, 1954). For the Army, Roy E.
David Douglas Duncan, This Is War! A Mize, USMC (Ret); and Col Robert D.
Appleman, South to the Naktong, North
Photo-Narrative in Three Parts (New Taplett, USMC (Ret).
to the Yalu (June-November 1950),
York: Harper and Brothers, 1950-51); Information also was contributed by
United States Army in The Korean War
Clay Blair, The Forgotten War (New MajGen Raymond L. Murray, USMC
(Washington: Office of the Chief of
York: Times Books, 1987); Max (Ret), and Col Francis I. Fenton, Jr.,
Military History, Department of the
Hastings, The Korean War (New York: USMC (Ret), who kindly furnished
Army, 1961).
Simon and Schuster, 1987); T. R. postwar copies of The Guidon, a
Also published officially is: LtCol Fehrenbach, This Kind of War (New newsletter of B Company, with person-
Gary W. Parker, USMC, and Maj Frank York: Macmillan, 1963); Joseph C. al memoirs of combat.
M. Batha, Jr., USMC, A History of Goulden, Korea: The Untold Story of the The oral history transcripts at the
Marine Observation Squadron Six War (New York: Times Books, 1982); Marine Corps Historical Center focus
(Washington: History and Museums Robert D. Heinl, Jr., Soldiers of the Sea: mainly on later events in Korea, but do
Division, HQMC, 1982). The United States Marine Corps, 1775- have some observations by Craig,
Three articles that are very helpful 1962 (Annapolis: United States Naval Murray, Bohn, Stewart, Sivert, Lucy,
and share a common publisher are: Institute, 1962); and Robert Leckie, and LtCol Charles H. Brush, Jr., USMC,
Ernest H. Giusti, “Marine Air Over the Conflict (New York: Putman, 1962). relating to the early days. In the
Pusan Perimeter,” Marine Corps A recent publication is by BGen Personal Papers Collection [now locat-
Gazette, May 1952; Lynn Montross, Uzal W. Ent, USA (Ret), Fighting On ed at the Marine Corps University]
“The Pusan Perimeter: Fight for a The Brink: Defense of the Pusan there is a long memoir by PFC Herbert
Foothold,” Marine Corps Gazette, June Perimeter (Paducah, Ky: Turner R. Luster who was a BAR-man in
1951; Col Nicholas A. Canzona, Publishing Company, 1996). Company A (#1918-1A44). The files of
USMCR, “Marines Land at Pusan, Particular acknowledgment is made the Reference Section contain much
Korea-August 1950,” Marine Corps of the valuable quotations in Donald information pertinent to individual
Gazette, August 1985; and Maj Francis Knox, The Korean War-Pusan to biographies and unit histories.
I. Fenton, Jr., USMC, “Changallon Chosin-An Oral History (New York: Acknowledgement also is made to Col
Valley,” Marine Corps Gazette, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985) and David Douglas Duncan, USMCR (Ret),
November 1951. Andrew Geer, The New Breed-The Story for the use of his dramatic images.

71
OVER THE SEAWALL
U.S. Marines at Inchon
by Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret)

ust three weeks the JCS executive agent for the Far informed his boss, Major General
away and there was East Command and nominally Edward M. “Ned” Almond, chief of
still no approval higher in the chain-of-command staff of the Far East Command,
from Washington for than MacArthur—but only nomi- who awakened MacArthur with the
the Marines to land nally. In World War I MacArthur news. The United States was going
at Inchon on 15 September 1950. was already a brigadier general to war.
General of the Army Douglas when Collins was barely a captain. Four days later, and a day after
MacArthur, determined to beat Now MacArthur had five stars and the fall of Seoul, MacArthur flew to
down the opposition to the land- Collins four. Korea in the Bataan, to make a
ing, called a conference for late in On this afternoon, First Lieuten- personal reconnaissance, taking
the day, 23 August, at his head- ant Alexander M. Haig’s task was with him Major General Almond.
quarters in the Dai Ichi building in to lay out the pads of paper, pen- Korea stretched beneath them like
Tokyo. cils, and water glasses on the table a giant relief map. To the east of
of the sixth floor conference room. the Korean peninsula lay the Sea
Planning This done, he took his post seated of Japan; to the west the Yellow
in a straight-backed chair just out- Sea. The vulnerability of these two
As Commander in Chief, Far side the door. Haig, then the junior watery sides of the peninsula to a
East (CinCFE), MacArthur consid- aide-de-camp to MacArthur’s chief dominant naval power was not lost
ered himself empowered to con- of staff, was destined to become, on a master strategist such as
duct military operations more-or- many years later, the Secretary of MacArthur. The Bataan landed at
less as he saw fit. But for an oper- State. Suwon, 20 miles south of Seoul.
ation of the magnitude of Inchon The Marine Corps would have MacArthur commandeered a jeep
and the resources it would require no voice at the meeting. The Corps and headed north through, in his
he needed approval from the high- had neither membership nor repre- words, “the dreadful backwash of
est level. sentation on the JCS. Admiral a defeated and dispersed army.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Sherman, not a strong champion of “Seoul was already in enemy
doubtful of the landing’s chances Marine Corps interests, was the hands,” he wrote in his
of success, had sent out the Army service chief most directly con- Reminiscences some years later.
Chief of Staff, General J. Lawton cerned with the amphibious phase “The scene along the Han was
Collins, and the Chief of Naval of the still tentative operation. enough to convince me that the
Operations, Admiral Forrest P. defensive potential of South Korea
Sherman, to review the situation Opening Moves had already been exhausted. The
directly with MacArthur. Now he answer I had come to seek was
would have to overcome their Only two months before the there. I would throw occupation
skeptical resistance. Collins was meeting of MacArthur with Collins troops into this breach. I would
and Sherman, in the pre-dawn rely upon strategic maneuver to
AT LEFT: The mop-up at Inchon hours of 25 June, 25-year-old overcome the great odds against
turned up a group of young Lieutenant Haig, as duty officer at me.”
North Koreans, left as harassing MacArthur’s headquarters in MacArthur returned to what he
forces. Photo courtesy of Tokyo, received a phone call from liked to call his “GHQ” in Tokyo,
Leatherneck Magazine the American ambassador in Seoul, convinced that to regain the initia-
John J. Muccio, that large forma- tive the United States must use its
tions of North Korean infantry had amphibious capability and land
crossed the 38th Parallel. Haig behind the advancing North

73
combat-ready, to South Korea. His
aim, he later said, was to trade
space for time until a base could
be developed at Pusan at the
southern tip of the peninsula as a
springboard for future operations.
Approval came from President
Harry S. Truman for the imposition
of a naval blockade and limited air
operations. “The Air Force was
under Lieutenant General George
E. Stratemeyer, and the Navy under
Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy, both
able and efficient veterans of the
war,” wrote MacArthur.
But Vice Admiral Joy, as
Commander Naval Forces, Far
East, commanded virtually noth-
ing. Vice Admiral Arthur D. “Rip”
Struble, commander of the Seventh
Fleet, a naval officer of consider-
able amphibious experience,
reported not to Joy but to Admiral
Arthur W. Radford who was both
Commander in Chief, Pacific, and
Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.
Lieutenant General George E.
Stratemeyer commanded “FEAF” or
Far East Air Forces. Subordinate to
him were the Fifth Air Force in
Japan, the Twentieth Air Force on
Okinawa, and the Thirteenth Air
Force in the Philippines.

Cates Offers Marines


Back in Washington, D.C., dur-
ing the first hectic days after the
North Korean invasion, the
Commandant of the Marine Corps,
General Clifton B. Cates, was not
invited to attend the high-level
meetings being held in the
Pentagon. After four days of wait-
Koreans. He put his staff to work Unready Eighth Army ing, Cates drove to the Pentagon
on a broad operational plan: two and, in his words, “kind of forced
U.S. divisions would be thrown MacArthur had at his disposal in my way in.”
into the battle to slow the onrush Japan the Eighth Army consisting “We were fighting for our exis-
of the North Korean People’s Army of four divisions—the 7th, 24th, tence,” said General Lemuel C.
(NKPA). A third division would 25th, and the 1st Cavalry—all four Shepherd, Jr., who followed Cates
land behind the NKPA and in a at half-strength and under-trained. as Commandant. “Sherman and the
flanking attack liberate Seoul, the He began to move pieces of the rest of these fellows wanted to
lost capital. 24th Division, rated at 65 percent keep us seagoing Marines, with a

74
battalion landing team being the A few days before the outbreak Marine Corps forces.
biggest unit we were supposed to of the war Brigadier General “Having been with the 4th
have . . . . Everybody was against William S. Fellers, commanding Brigade in France, I had learned
the Marine Corps at that time. general of the Troop Training Unit, that a Marine unit in an Army divi-
Secretary of Defense Louis A. came out to Japan to inspect the sion is not good for the Corps,”
Johnson, always nagging, Truman progress being made by Forney said Shepherd years later. Enroute
hostile, and Cates carried that load and his team. Fellers and Forney to Tokyo he made up his mind that
all by himself and did it well.” were at a Fourth of July party he was going to push for a Marine
Cates saw Admiral Sherman and being given by the American division to be sent to Korea.
told him the Marines could imme- colony in Tokyo when an urgent General Shepherd met with
diately deploy to Korea a brigade message required their immediate Admiral Joy and General Almond
consisting of a regimental combat presence at “GHQ.” They arrived on 9 July, and next day, accompa-
team and an aircraft group. at the Dai Ichi—a tall building that nied by Colonel Krulak, saw
“How soon can you have them had escaped the World War II MacArthur himself. He told them
ready?” Sherman asked dubiously. bombing because the Imperial that the only hope for an early
“As quickly as the Navy gets the Palace was immediately across the reversal of the disastrous situation
ships,” shot back Cates. way—to find a planning confer- was an amphibious assault against
Sherman, overwhelmed perhaps ence in progress with Almond at the enemy’s rear.
by higher priorities, dallied two the helm. They learned that “Here I was,” said Shepherd
days before sending a back-chan- MacArthur had advanced the con- later, “recommending that a Marine
nel message to Admiral Joy, asking cept of a landing at Inchon, to be division be sent to Korea, and the
him to suggest to MacArthur that called Operation Bluehearts and to Commandant didn’t know any-
he request a Marine air-ground be executed on 22 July by the 1st thing about what I was doing.”
brigade. MacArthur promptly made Cavalry Division—and the 1st MacArthur recalled to Shepherd
the request and on 3 July the JCS Provisional Marine Brigade, if the the competence of the 1st Marine
approved the deployment. latter could be gotten there in time. Division when it had been under
Cates did not wait for JCS Next day Colonel Forney became his command during the Cape
approval. Formation of the 1st the G-5 (Plans) of the 1st Cavalry, Gloucester operation at Christmas
Provisonal Marine Brigade had one of MacArthur’s favorite divi- time in 1943. Shepherd had then
already begun with troops stripped sions. been the assistant division com-
out of the half-strength 1st Marine mander. MacArthur went to his
Division. In four days’ time—on 6 Shepherd Meets with MacArthur wall map, stabbed at the port of
July—the brigade began to load Inchon with the stem of his corn-
out at San Diego for the Far East. Three days after the interrupted cob pipe, and said: “If I only had
Several months before the Fourth of July party, Lemuel the 1st Marine Division under my
breakout of war, MacArthur had Shepherd, just promoted to lieu- command again, I would land
requested amphibious training for tenant general and installed as them here and cut off the North
his occupation troops. Troop Commanding General, Fleet Korean armies from their logistic
Training Unit, Amphibious Marine Force, Pacific, left Hawaii support and cause their withdraw-
Training Command, Pacific Fleet, for Tokyo, accompanied by his al and annihilation.”
had been formed in 1943 for just operations officer, Colonel Victor Shepherd answered that if
such a purpose. Colonel Edward H. Krulak. Shepherd had been MacArthur could get JCS approval
H. Forney, with Mobile Training urged to go to Tokyo by Admiral for the assignment of the 1st
Team Able and accompanied by an Radford, a good friend of the Marine Division, he could have it
Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Marines, “to see MacArthur and ready by mid-September. Mac-
Company (ANGLICO) training find out what all this thing is Arthur told Shepherd to draft for
team, arrived in April 1950. A regi- about.” his release a message to the JCS
ment in each of MacArthur’s four Shepherd saw his mission as asking for the division.
divisions was to be amphibiously being first to ensure that the 1st Bluehearts, which would have
trained. Navy partner in the train- Provisional Marine Brigade was used the 1st Cavalry Division, was
ing would be Amphibious Group used as an integrated air-ground abruptly cancelled. Planning in
One (PhibGruOne) under Rear team and, second, to explore Tokyo, under Brigadier General
Admiral James H. Doyle. prospects for the use of additional Edwin K. “Pinky” Wright, USA, and

75
his Joint Strategic Plans and Radford, General Almond, and and, with all that, a “phenomenal-
Operations Group (JSPOG), shift- Lieutenant General Walton H. ly gifted soldier.” Almond, like his
ed to an amphibious operation in Walker. It had just been idol, General George S. Patton, Jr.,
September. announced that Walker was shift- designed his own uniforms and
ing his flag from Japan to Korea, wore a pistol on a leather belt
Under the U.N. Flag and the Eighth Army would adorned with a huge crested buck-
become the Eighth U.S. Army in le. He did this, he said, so as to be
On that same busy 10 July, Korea, which yielded the acronym easily recognized by his troops.
MacArthur’s mantle of authority “EUSAK.” MacArthur explained his General Walker, a tenacious
was embroidered with a new reasons for cancelling Bluehearts man who deserved his nickname
title—Commander in Chief, United and said that he had not yet cho- “Bulldog” (although he was
Nations Command or “CinCUNC.” sen a new target date or location “Johnnie” Walker to his friends),
From then on operations in Korea for an amphibious strike, but continued the piecemeal buildup
and surrounding waters would be favored Inchon. of the Eighth Army. All of the 24th
fought under the light-blue-and- As soon as the meeting was Division was committed by 7 July.
white flag of the United Nations. over, Collins and Walker flew to The 25th Division completed its
The sailing of the 1st Provisional Korea, where Walker opened a move from Japan on 14 July.
Marine Brigade from San Diego field headquarters at Taegu for his
began on 12 July. Core of the Eighth Army. Collins spent only an Tactical Air Control Problems
ground element was the 5th hour on the ground and did not
Marines; the air element was leave the airport before returning The 1st Cavalry Division was in
Marine Aircraft Group 33. Filling to Tokyo. process of loading out from Japan
the brigade had gutted both the 1st Next day, the 14th, he was in Doyle’s PhibGruOne when
Marine Division and the 1st Marine briefed by General Almond and Bluehearts was cancelled in favor
Aircraft Wing. Admiral Doyle, who had com- of an unopposed landing on 18
General Cates was in San Diego manded Amphibious Group One July at Pohang-dong, a port some
to see the Marines off. His long since January. Before that for two 60 air miles northeast of Pusan.
cigarette holder was famous; not years Doyle had headed the Plans developed for Bluehearts by
many Marines knew that he used it Amphibious Training Command, both PhibGruOne and 1st Cavalry
because gas in World War I had Pacific Fleet. During World War II Division were used for the opera-
weakened his lungs. General he served on the staff of tion. For this non-hostile landing
Shepherd was also on the dock Amphibious Force, South Pacific. the Navy insisted on control of an
and it gave him the opportunity to Collins questioned the feasibility air space 100 miles in diameter cir-
discuss with Cates his promise to of landing at Inchon. Doyle said cling the landing site. This Navy
MacArthur of a full division. Could that it would be difficult but could requirement for control of air traf-
the 1st Marine Division be assem- be done. Before leaving Tokyo, fic over the objective area conflict-
bled and made ready in such a Collins assured MacArthur that he ed with Air Force doctrine which
short time? would endorse the sending of a called for Air Force control of all
“I don’t know,” said Cates dubi- full-strength Marine division. tactical aircraft in the theater of
ously; it would drain the Marine Earlier, during the planning for operations.
Corps completely. Operation Bluehearts, Doyle had Lieutenant General Earle E.
“Clifton,” said Shepherd simply, expressed reservations over the “Pat” Partridge, whose Fifth Air
“you can’t let me down.” use of the 1st Cavalry Division Force Joint Operations Center was
because it was not amphibiously in Taegu side-by-side with
Visitors from Washington trained. His relations with Almond Walker’s Eighth Army headquar-
were strained. He thought Almond ters, protested the Navy require-
In Tokyo, where it was already arrogant and dictatorial and a per- ment that would have caused him
13 July, MacArthur was meeting son who “often confused himself to vacate the control of air over
with visitors from Washington— with his boss.” virtually all of the Pusan Perimeter.
Army General Collins and General Lieutenant Haig, Almond’s aide This began a doctrinal dispute
Hoyt S. Vandenberg, chief of staff and the keeper of his war diary, involving the tactical control of air
of the newly independent Air found his chief “volcanic” in per- that would continue for the rest of
Force. Also present were Admiral sonality, “brilliant” but “irascible,” the war.

76
Major General Oliver P. Smith
tional fame, passed him by; he spent the war years in lone-

O liver Prince Smith did not fill the Marine Corps “warrior”
image. He was deeply religious, did not drink, seldom
raised his voice in anger, and almost never swore. Tall,
slender, and white-haired, he looked like a college professor is
supposed to look and seldom does.
ly exile with the garrison on Guam. Afterward, in the
1920s, he followed an unremarkable sequence of duty,
much like that of most lieutenants and captains of the
time: barracks duty at Mare Island, sea duty in the Texas,
Some of his contemporaries thought him pedantic and a bit slow. staff duty at Headquarters Marine Corps, and a tour with
He smoked a pipe in a meditative way, but when his mind was the Gendarmerie d’Haiti.
made up he could be as resolute as a rock. He always com- From June 1931 to June 1932, he attended the Field
manded respect and, with the passage of years, that respect Officer’s Course at Fort Benning. Next came a year at
became love and devotion on the part of those Marines who Quantico, most of it spent as an instructor at the Company
served under him in Korea. They came to know that he would Officer’s Course. He was assigned in 1934 to a two-year
never waste their lives needlessly. course at the Ecole Superieur la de Guerre in Paris, then
As commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, considered the world’s premier school for rising young
Smith’s feud with the mercurial commander of X Corps, officers. Afterwards he returned to Quantico for more
Major General Edward M. Almond, USA, would become duty as an instructor.
the stuff of legends. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 found him at San
No one is ever known to have called him “Ollie.” To his Diego. As commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 6th
family he was “Oliver.” To his contemporaries and even- Marines, he went to Iceland in the summer of 1941. He left
tually to the press, which at first tended to confuse him the regiment after its return to the States, for duty once
with the controversial Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith of again at Headquarters in Washington. He went to the
World War II, he was always “O. P.” Smith. Some called Pacific in January 1944 in time to command the 5th
him “the Professor” because of his studious ways and deep Marines during the Talasea phase of the Cape Gloucester
reading in military history. operation. He was the assistant commander of the 1st
Born in Menard, Texas, in 1893, he had by the time of Marine Division during Peleliu and for Okinawa was the
America’s entry into the First World War worked his way Marine Deputy Chief of Staff of the Tenth Army.
through the University of California at Berkeley, Class of After the war he was the commandant of Marine Corps
1916. While a student at Berkeley he qualified for a com- Schools and base commander at Quantico until the spring
mission in the Army Reserve which he exchanged, a week of 1948 when he became the assistant commandant and
after America’s entry into the war on 6 April 1917, for the chief of staff at Headquarters. In late July 1950, he received
gold bars of a Marine Corps second lieutenant. command of the 1st Marine Division, destined for Korea,
The war in Europe, where the Marines gained interna- and held that command until May 1951.
After Inchon and Seoul, a larger, more desperate fight
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A8377
at Chosin Reservoir was ahead of him. In early 1951, the
1st Marine Division was switched from Almond’s X Corps
to Major General Bryant E. Moore’s IX Corps. Moore died
of a heart attack on 24 February 1951 and, by seniority, O.
P. Smith became the corps commander. Despite his expe-
rience and qualifications, he held that command only so
long as it took the Army to rush a more senior general to
Korea.
O. P. Smith’s myriad of medals included the Army
Distinguished Service Cross and both the Army and the
Navy Distinguished Service Cross for his Korean War
Service.
On his return to the United States, he became the com-
manding general of the base at Camp Pendleton. Then in
July 1953, with a promotion to lieutenant general, moved
to the East Coast to the command of Fleet Marine Force,
Atlantic, with headquarters at Norfolk, Virginia. He retired
on 1 September 1955 and for his many combat awards was
promoted to four-star general. He died on Christmas Day
1977 at his home in Los Altos Hills, California, at age 81.

77
Joint Chiefs Reluctant
Returning to Washington,
Collins briefed his fellow chiefs on
15 July. He gave them the broad
outlines of MacArthur’s planned
amphibious assault, but expressed
his own doubts based on his expe-
rience in the South Pacific and at
Normandy.
The JCS chairman, General of
the Army Omar N. Bradley,
thought it “the riskiest military pro-
posal I ever heard of.” In his opin-
ion, MacArthur should be concen-
trating on the dismal immediate sit-
uation in South Korea rather than
dreaming up “a blue sky scheme
like Inchon.” Bradley wrote later:
“because Truman was relying on
us to an extraordinary degree for
military counsel, we determined to
keep a close eye on the Inchon
plan and, if we felt so compelled,
finally cancel it.”
The JCS agreed that the 1st
Marine Division should be brought
up to strength, but stopped short
of committing it to the Far East. On
20 July, the Joint Chiefs informed
MacArthur that the 1st Marine
Division could not be combat
Gen Oliver P. Smith Collection, Marine Corps Research Center
ready until December. MacArthur
MajGen Oliver P. Smith, left, assumed command of the 1st Marine Division at
erupted: the 1st Marine Division
Camp Pendleton on 26 July 1950. Col Homer L. Litzenberg, Jr., right, arrived on
was “absolutely vital” to the plan 16 August with orders to reactivate the 7th Marines and have it ready for sail-
being developed, under the code- ing by 3 September.
name Chromite, by General
Wright’s group. A draft, circulated agent for the JCS, that lacking the A New CG
at CinCFE headquarters on 23 July, Marine division, he had scheduled
offered three alternatives: an amphibious assault at Inchon in Late in the afternoon of 25 July,
mid-September to be executed by Major General Oliver P. Smith
Plan 100-B: A landing at the 5th Marines and the 2d Infantry arrived from Washington and
Inchon on the west coast. Division in conjunction with an checked in at the Carlsbad Hotel in
Plan 100-C: A landing at attack northward by the Eighth Carlsbad, California. He was to
Kunsan on the west coast. Army. His message caused the take command of the 1st Marine
Plan 100-D: A landing at chiefs to initiate a hurried teletype Division at nearby Camp
Chunmunjin-up on the east conference with MacArthur on 24 Pendleton on the following day.
coast. July. MacArthur prevailed and on He phoned Brigadier General
the following day, 25 July, the Harry B. Liversedge, the base com-
MacArthur’s mind was now fully chiefs finally approved Mac- mander and acting division com-
set on Inchon. He informed Arthur’s repeated requests for the mander, to let him know that he
Collins, in his capacity as executive 1st Marine Division. had arrived. Liversedge said that

78
Colonel Lewis B.“Chesty” Puller

T he younger Marines in the 1st Marines were ecsta-


tic when they learned their regiment was going to
be commanded by the legendary “Chesty” Puller.
Older officers and non-commissioned officers in the reg-
iment were less enthusiastic. They remembered the long
casualty list the 1st Marines had suffered at Peleliu while
under Colonel Puller’s command. His style was to lead
from the front, and, when he went into Korea, he already
had an unprecedented four Navy Crosses.
Born in 1898, Puller had grown up in Tidewater
Virginia where the scars of the Civil War were still
unhealed and where many Confederate veterans were
still alive to tell a young boy how it was to go to war.
Lewis (which is what his family always called him) went Gen Oliver P. Smith Collection
briefly to Virginia Military Institute but dropped out in and on the parade ground left its mark on the lieutenants
August 1918 to enlist in the Marines. To his disappoint- who would be the captains, majors, and lieutenant
ment, the war ended before he could get to France. In colonels in the world war that was coming.
June 1919, he was promoted to second lieutenant and In June 1939, he went back to China, returning to the
then, 10 days later, with demobilization was placed on Augusta to command its Marines once again. A year later
inactive duty. Before the month was out he had reenlist- he left the ship to join the 4th Marines in Shanghai. He
ed in the Marines specifically to serve as a second lieu- returned to the United States in August 1941, four
tenant in the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. Most of the officers in months before the war began, and was given command
the Gendarmerie were white Marines; the rank and file of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, at Camp Lejeune. He
were black Haitians. Puller spent five years in Haiti fight- commanded (he would say “led”) this battalion at
ing “Caco” rebels and making a reputation as a bush Guadalcanal and won his third Navy Cross for his suc-
fighter. cessful defense of a mile-long line on the night of 24
He returned to the States in March 1924 and received October 1942. The fourth Navy Cross came for overall
his regular commission in the Marine Corps. During the performance, from 26 December 1943 to 19 January
next two years he did barracks duty in Norfolk, attended 1944, at Cape Gloucester as executive officer of the 7th
Basic School in Philadelphia, served in the 10th Marines Marines. In February 1944, he took command of the 1st
at Quantico, and had an unsuccessful try at aviation at Marines and led it in the terrible fight at Peleliu in
Pensacola. Barracks duty for two years at Pearl Harbor September and October.
followed Pensacola. Then in 1928 he was assigned to the Afterwards, he came back to command the Infantry
Guardia Nacional of Nicaragua. Here in 1930 he won his Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune. Next he was
first Navy Cross. First Lieutenant Puller, his citation Director of the 8th Marine Corps Reserve District with
reads, “led his forces into five successive engagements headquarters in New Orleans, and then took command
against superior numbers of armed bandit forces.” of the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor. From here he
He came home in July 1931 to the year-long Company hammered Headquarters to be given command, once
Officers Course at Fort Benning. That taken, he returned again, of his old regiment, the 1st Marines.
to Nicaragua for more bandit fighting and a second Navy After Inchon, there was to be a fifth Navy Cross,
Cross, this time for taking his patrol of 40 Nicaraguans earned at the Chosin Reservoir. In January 1951, he
through a series of ambushes, in partnership with the received a brigadier general’s stars and assignment as the
almost equally legendary Gunnery Sergeant William A. assistant division commander. In May, he came back to
“Iron Man” Lee. Camp Pendleton to command the newly activated 3d
Now a captain, Puller came back to the West Coast in Marine Brigade which became the 3d Marine Division.
January 1933, stayed a month, and then left to join the He moved to the Troop Training Unit, Pacific, on
Legation Guard at Peiping. This included command of Coronado in June 1952 and from there moved east, now
the fabled “Horse Marines.” In September 1934, he left with the two stars of a major general, to Camp Lejeune
Peiping to become the commanding officer of the Marine to take command of the 2d Marine Division in July 1954.
detachment on board the Augusta, flagship of the Asiatic His health began to fail and he was retired for disability
Fleet. on 1 November 1955. From then until his death on 11
In June 1936, he came to Philadelphia to instruct at October 1971 at age 73 he lived in the little town of
the Basic School. His performance as a tactics instructor Saluda in Tidewater Virginia.

79
he had just received a tip from Behind the Organized Reserve Eighth Army began arriving direct-
Washington that the division was was the Volunteer Marine Corps ly from the United States, including
to be brought to war strength and Reserve—90,044 men and women, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade
sail to the Far East by mid-August. most of them veterans, but with no which debarked at Pusan on 3
Both Liversedge and Smith knew further training after their return to August.
that what was left of the division civilian life. President Truman, In Tokyo, General Stratemeyer
was nothing more than a shell. with the sanction of Congress, became agitated when he learned
Smith took command the next authorized the call-up of the that the 1st Provisional Marine
day, 26 July. He had served in the Marine Corps Reserve on 19 July. Brigade, as an integrated air-
division during World War II, com- An inspired public information ground team, intended to retain
manding the 5th Marines in its officer coined the phrase, “Minute mission control of its aircraft. An
Talasea landing at New Britain and Men of 1950.” uneasy compromise was reached
was the assistant division comman- On 26 July, the day following by which the Marines were to
der at Peleliu. Only 3,459 Marines JCS approval of the 1st Marine operate their two squadrons of car-
remained in the division at Camp Division’s deployment, a courier rier-based Vought F4U Corsairs
Pendleton, fewer men than in a arrived at Camp Pendleton from with their own controllers under
single full-strength regiment. Washington with instructions for the general coordination of
When the Joint Chiefs asked Smith in his fleshing-out of the 1st Partridge’s Fifth Air Force.
General Cates how he planned to Marine Division: ground elements
bring the 1st Marine Division up to of the 1st Provisional Marine Reserve Comes to Active Duty
war strength, he had ready a two- Brigade would re-combine with
pronged plan. Plan A would pro- the division upon its arrival in the The first reservists to reach
vide three rifle companies and Far East; units of the half-strength Pendleton—the 13th Infantry
replacements to the brigade 2d Marine Division at Camp Company from Los Angeles, the
already deployed. Plan B would Lejeune, North Carolina, would be 12th Amphibian Tractor Company
use Reserves to fill up the division. ordered to Camp Pendleton and of San Francisco, and the 3d
Essential to the filling out of the 1st re-designated as 1st Marine Engineer Company from
Marine Division—and the 1st Division units; all possible regulars Phoenix—arrived on 31 July.
Marine Aircraft Wing as well—was would be stripped out of posts and Elements of the 2d Marine Division
the mobilization of the Marine stations and ordered to the divi- from Camp Lejeune began their
Corps Reserve. “Behind every sion; and gaps in the ranks would train journey the same day. In that
Marine regular, figuratively speak- be filled with individual Reserves first week, 13,703 Marines joined
ing,” wrote official historians Lynn considered to be at least minimally the division.
Montross and Captain Nicholas A. combat-ready. On 4 August, the Commandant
Canzona, “stood two reservists ordered the reactivation of the 1st
who were ready to step forward Eighth Army Withdraws to Pusan Marines and 7th Marines. Both reg-
and fill the gaps in the ranks.” iments had been part of the 1st
The 33,527 Marines in the In Korea, at the end of July, Marine Division in all its World War
Organized Reserve in 1950 were Walker ordered the Eighth Army to II campaigns. The 1st Marines was
scattered across the country in fall back behind the Naktong River, activated that same day under
units that included 21 infantry bat- the new defensive line forming the command of the redoubtable
talions and 30 fighter squadrons. so-called “Pusan Perimeter.” Both Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller,
Virtually all the officers and non- flanks of the Eighth Army were who, stationed at Pearl Harbor as
commissioned officers had World threatened. In light of this deterio- commanding officer of the Marine
War II experience, but the ranks rating situation, the Joint Chiefs Barracks, had pestered Headquar-
had been filled out with young- asked MacArthur if he still planned ters Marine Corps and General
sters, many of whom did not get to an amphibious operation in Smith with demands that he be
boot camp. Subsequent reserve September. An unperturbed returned to the command of the
training had included both weekly MacArthur replied that “if the full regiment he had led at Peleliu. By
armory “drills” and summer active Marine Division is provided, the 7 August, the strength of the 1st
duty. Someone wryly decided they chances to launch the movement Marine Division stood at 17,162.
could be classified as “almost com- in September would be excellent.” The experiences of Lieutenant
bat ready.” Reinforcements for Walker’s Colonel Thomas L. Ridge’s 1st

80
Battalion, 6th Marines, were typical transferred to Fleet Marine Force, Mediterranean, traveled by ancient
of the buildup being done at a Pacific, in time for staff duty for troop train to Camp Pendleton
dead run. Ridge had just taken Iwo Jima and Okinawa. As an where it became the 3d Battalion
command of the battalion. A crack observer at Okinawa he was twice of the reactivated 1st Marines. In
rifle and pistol shot, he had spent wounded. about 10 days, the two-element,
most of World War II in intelli- Ridge’s battalion, barely half-strength battalion expanded
gence assignments in Latin returned to Camp Lejeune from six into a three-element, full-strength
America, but in late 1944 was months deployment to the battalion. The two rifle companies

Major General Field Harris

D uring the course of the Korean War, Major


General Field Harris would suffer a grievous per-
sonal loss. While he served as Commanding
General, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, his son, Lieutenant
Colonel William F. Harris, was with the 1st Marine
Division, as commanding officer of 3d Battalion, 7th
Marines, at the Chosin Reservoir. The younger Harris’
battalion was the rear guard for the breakout from
Yudam-ni. Later, between Hagaru-ri and Koto-ri, Harris
disappeared and was posted as missing in action. Later it
was determined that he had been killed.
Field Harris—and he was almost always called that,
“Field-Harris,” as though it were one word—belonged to
the open cockpit and silk scarf era of Marine Corps avi-
ation. Born in 1895 in Versailles, Kentucky, he received
his wings at Pensacola in 1929. But before that he had
12 years seasoning in the Marine Corps.
He graduated from the Naval Academy in March 1917
just before America’s entry into World War I. He spent
that war at sea in the Nevada and ashore with the 3d
Provisional Brigade at Guantanamo, Cuba.
In 1919 he went to Cavite in the Philippines. After
three years there, he returned for three years in the office
of the Judge Advocate General in Washington. While so
assigned he graduated from the George Washington
University School of Law. Then came another tour of sea
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A310952
duty, this time in the Wyoming, then a year as a student
at Quantico, and flight training at Pensacola. His new three steps up the chain of islands earned him a Legion
gold wings took him to San Diego where he served in a of Merit. After World War II, he became Director of
squadron of the West Coast Expeditionary Force. Marine Aviation in the Office of the Chief of Naval
He attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Langley Operations (and received a fourth Legion of Merit). In
Field, Virginia, after which came shore duty in Haiti and 1948 he was given command of Aircraft, Fleet Marine
sea duty in the carrier Lexington. In 1935, he joined the Force, Atlantic. A year later he moved to El Toro,
Aviation Section at Headquarters, followed by a year in California, for command of Aircraft, Fleet Marine, Pacific,
the Senior Course at the Naval War College in Newport, with concomitant command of the 1st Marine Aircraft
Rhode Island. In August 1941, he was sent to Egypt from Wing.
where, as assistant naval attache, he could study the His Korean War service was rewarded with both the
Royal Air Force’s support of Britain’s Eighth Army in its Army’s and the Navy’s Distinguished Service Medal. On
desert operations. his return to the United States in the summer of 1951, he
After Egypt and United States entry into the war, he again became the commanding general of Air, Fleet
was sent to the South Pacific. In the Solomons, he served Marine Force, Atlantic. He retired in July 1953 with an
successively as Chief of Staff, Aircraft, Guadalanal; advancement to lieutenant general because of his com-
Commander, Aircraft, Northern Solomons; and comman- bat decorations, a practice which is no longer followed.
der of air for the Green Island operation. Each of these He died in 1967 at age 72.

81
in the battalion each numbering
about 100 men were doubled in
size with a third rifle platoon
added. A third rifle company was
activated. The weapons company
had no heavy machine gun pla-
toon and only two sections in its
antitank assault and 81mm mortar
platoons. A heavy machine gun
platoon was created and third sec-
tions were added to the antitank
assault and 81mm mortar platoons.
World War II vintage supplies and
equipment came in from the mobi-
lization stocks stashed away at the
supply depot at Barstow,
California—sufficient in quantity,
poor in quality. The pressure of
the unknown D-Day gave almost
no time for unit shake-down and
training.
Simultaneously with the ground
unit buildup, Reserve fighter and
ground control squadrons were
arriving at El Toro, California, to fill
out the skeleton 1st Marine Aircraft Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A20115

Wing. The wing commander, Major MajGen Field Harris and a portion of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing staff arrive
at Barber’s Point in Hawaii in early September enroute to the Far East. Leaving
General Field Harris, Naval
the Marine transport are, from left, Col Edward C. Dyer, Col Boeker C. Batterton,
Academy 1917, and a naval aviator
Col William G. Manley, and Gen Harris.
since 1929, had served in the South
Pacific in World War II. More ready for amphibious operations as rifle practice. The “buddy sys-
recently he had been Director of until 1951. Now, the division was tem” was employed—each Korean
Aviation at Marine Corps to get 30 percent of all replace- recruit was paired off with an
Headquarters. He was one of those ments arriving from the United American counterpart.
prescient senior Marines who fore- States. Moreover, a week later, on Major General David G. Barr,
saw a future for helicopters in 11 August, MacArthur directed the 7th Infantry Division’s com-
amphibious operations. Walker to send 8,000 South Korean mander, had been chief of staff of
recruits to fill out the division. several commands in Europe dur-
7th Infantry Division and KATUSA The first of 8,600 Korean ing World War II. After the war he
replacements, straight out of the had headed the Army Advisory
In parallel actions, MacArthur on rice paddies of South Korea and Mission in Nanking, China. He
4 August ordered Walker to rebuild off the streets of Pusan, began now seemed a bit old and slow,
the Army’s 7th Infantry Division— arriving by ship at Yokohama a but he knew Chinese and the
the last division remaining in few days later. This infusion of raw Chinese army.
Japan—to full strength by 15 untrained manpower, called
September. The division had been “KATUSA”—Korean Augmentation 1st Marine Division Loads Out
reduced to less than half-strength of the U.S. Army—arrived for the
by being repeatedly culled for most part in baggy white pants, Loading out of the 1st Marine
fillers for the three divisions white jackets, and rubber shoes. In Division from San Diego began on
already deployed to Korea. Until three weeks they had to be 8 August. That same day, General
MacArthur’s directive, the division clothed, equipped, and made into Fellers, back from Japan, told
was not scheduled to be up to soldiers, including the learning of Smith that the division would be
strength until 1 October and not rudimentary field sanitation as well employed in Korea between 15

82
Colonel Homer L. Litzenberg, Jr.

H is troops called him “Litz the Blitz” for no partic-


ular reason except the alliteration of sound. He
had come up from the ranks and was extraordi-
narily proud of it. Immediately before the Korean War
began he was in command of the 6th Marines at Camp
Lejeune, very much interested in his regimental baseball
teams, and about to turn over the command to another
colonel. When war came he was restored to command
of the regiment and sadly watched his skeleton battal-
ions depart for Camp Pendleton to form the cadre for the
re-activated 1st Marines. This was scarcely done when he
received orders to re-activate the 7th Marines on the
West Coast.
Litzenberg was a “Pennsylvania Dutchman,” born in
Steelton, Pennsylvania, in 1903. His family moved to
Philadelphia and, after graduating from high school and
two years in the National Guard, he enlisted in the
Marine Corps in 1922. Subsequent to recruit training at
Parris Island, he was sent to Haiti. In 1925 he became a
second lieutenant. East Coast duty was followed by
expeditionary service in Nicaragua in 1928 and 1929, and
then by sea service in a string of battleships—Idaho,
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A4718
Arkansas, Arizona, New Mexico—and the cruiser
Augusta. After graduating from the Infantry School at After Inchon, he continued in command of the 7th
Fort Benning in 1933, he had two years with a Marine Marines through the battles of Seoul, Chosin Reservoir,
Reserve battalion in Philadelphia. Next came two years and the Spring Offensive, coming home in April 1951.
on Guam as aide to the governor and inspector-instruc- Soon promoted to brigadier general and subsequently to
tor of the local militia. He came home in 1938 to serve major general, he had many responsible assignments
at several levels as a war planner. including assistant command of the 3d Marine Division
When World War II came, he was sent, as a major, to in Japan, Inspector General of the Marine Corps, com-
England to serve with a combined planning staff. This mand of Camp Pendleton, and command of Parris Island.
took him to North Africa for the amphibious assault of He returned to Korea in 1957 to serve as senior member
Casablanca in November 1942. He came home to form of the United Nations component negotiating at
and command the 3d Battalion, 24th Marines, in the new Panmunjom. At the end of the year he came back for
4th Marine Division, moving up to regimental executive what would be his last assignment, another tour of duty
officer for the assault of Roi-Namur in the Marshalls. He as Inspector General.
then went to the planning staff of the V Amphibious He retired in 1959, with an elevation to lieutenant
Corps for Saipan and Tinian. general because of his combat awards that included a
After the war he went to China for duty with the Navy Cross, a Distinguished Service Cross, and three
Seventh Fleet and stayed on with Naval Forces Western Silver Stars. He died in the Bethesda Naval Hospital on
Pacific. He came home in 1948 and was given command 27 June 1963 at age 68 and was buried in Arlington
of the 6th Marines in 1949. National Cemetery with full military honors.

and 25 September. on 14 August, 10 days after activa- vation of the 7th Marines. Nucleus
Much of the heavy equipment to tion. The Navy had very little of the 7th Marines would be the
be loaded arrived at dockside from amphibious shipping on the West skeleton 6th Marines, which had
the Barstow supply depot with no Coast, and much of the division already lost two battalions to the
time for inspection. General and its gear had to be lifted by 1st Marines. The 3d Battalion, 6th
Shepherd arrived on 13 August to commercial shipping. Marines, a half-strength peacetime
observe and encourage, joined Among the pressing matters dis- battalion with pieces scattered
next day by General Cates. Puller’s cussed by Smith with his superiors around the Mediterranean, became
1st Marines sailed from San Diego Cates and Shepherd was the reacti- the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, with

83
orders to proceed to Japan by way sive series of briefings in the White embarkation date given him by
of the Suez Canal. Fillers for the House on 10 August, culminating Smith. The 7th Marines, filled up
battalion and a completely new in an afternoon meeting with the with regulars pulled away from
third rifle company would have to National Security Council. posts and stations and reservists,
come from Camp Pendleton. President Truman was told that a sailed from San Diego on 1
What was left of the 6th Marines war-strength Marine division was September.
arrived at Pendleton on 16 August. being assembled for service in
The 7th Marines activated the next Korea. Admiral Sherman assured Marine Versus
day. Colonel Homer L. “Litz the the President, however, that the Air Force Close Support
Blitz” Litzenberg, Jr., a mercurial JCS would have to pass on
man who had commanded the 6th MacArthur’s plans for an amphibi- General Stratemeyer, Mac-
Marines at Camp Lejeune, contin- ous operation. Arthur’s Air Force component com-
ued as commanding officer of the On 12 August, MacArthur issued mander, apparently first heard of
7th Marines with orders to embark CinCFE Operations Plan 100-B, the possibility of an Inchon landing
his regiment not later than 3 specifically naming Inchon-Seoul on 20 July. His first action was to
September. as the objective area. No copy of instruct his staff to prepare a small
this plan was sent to the JCS. command group with which he
Joint Chiefs Have a Problem could accompany MacArthur on
O. P. Smith Departs Pendleton the operation. Almost a month
Although the National Defense later, on 14 August, MacArthur dis-
Act of 1947 was in effect, the rela- General Smith sent off the first cussed the proposed landing with
tionship of the Joint Chiefs to the echelon of his division headquar- Stratemeyer, pointing out that
theater commanders was not too ters by air on 16 August. Two days Kimpo Airfield, just west of the
clear. As a theater commander later he closed his command post Han River from Seoul, was the best
MacArthur had broad leeway in at Camp Pendleton and left by air in Korea. MacArthur emphasized
his actions. The JCS faced the for Japan. Delayed by shipping that the airfield must be quickly
Hobson’s choice of asking shortages, outloading of a third of rehabilitated from any battle dam-
MacArthur no questions and mak- Smith’s division—essentially the age and put to use.
ing no challenges, or exerting reinforced 1st Marines—was com- By then news stories were
their capacity as the principal pleted on 22 August. In all, 19 appearing that compared Fifth Air
advisors to President Truman in ships were employed. Force support of the Eighth Army
his role. Following close behind, Litzen- unfavorably with the close air sup-
The Joint Chiefs held an inten- berg beat by two days the port being provided the Marine

USS Mount McKinley (AGC7) was the command center hotel for the large number of VIPs who were in Gen Douglas
afloat for the Inchon landing. It also served as a floating MacArthur’s official party or were simply passing through.
National Archives Photo (USN) 80-G-424523

84
brigade by its organic squadrons.
On 23 August, Stratemeyer sent a
memorandum to MacArthur stating
that the news stories were another
step “in a planned program to dis-
credit the Air Force and the Army
and at the same time to unwarrant-
edly enhance the prestige of the
Marines.” He pointed out that the
Marine squadrons, operating from
two aircraft carriers, were support-
ing a brigade of about 3,000
Marines on a front that could be
measured in yards as compared to
the Fifth Air Force which had to
supply close air support for a front
of 160 miles.
General Walker, collocated at
Taegu with General Partridge,
pulled the rug out from under National Archives Photo (USN) 80-G-422492
General Stratemeyer’s doctrinal Gen Douglas MacArthur, center, greets Gen J. Lawton Collins, Chief of Staff, U.S.
concerns and contentions of Army, and Adm Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations, upon their
unfairness, by commenting official- arrival in Tokyo on 21 August 1950. A critical conference would be held two days
ly: “Without the slightest intent of later at which MacArthur would have to convince these two members of the Joint
disparaging the support of the Air Chiefs of Staff that a landing at Inchon was feasible.
Force, I must say that I, in common
with the vast majority of officers of then returned to Tokyo for the cru- I learned that the division was to
the Army, feel strongly that the cial conference at which Mac- land at Inchon on 15 September,”
Marine system of close air support Arthur must overcome JCS reserva- Smith wrote later.
has much to commend it . . . . I tions concerning the Inchon land- On arriving at GHQ comfortably
feel strongly that the Army would ing. before the appointed time of 1730,
be well advised to emulate the Major General Smith arrived at Smith found that he was to meet
Marine Corps and have its own tac- Haneda airport in Japan on 22 first with Almond, who kept him
tical aviation.” August and was met by his old waiting until 1900. Almond called
friend, Admiral Doyle, the most soldiers and officers “son,”
Top Brass Gathers in Tokyo prospective Attack Force but when 58-year-old Almond
Commander. Smith later remem- addressed 57-year-old Smith as
General Collins and Admiral bered that Doyle “was not very “son,” it infuriated Smith. Almond
Sherman—the latter had not been happy about the whole affair.” further aggravated Smith by dis-
to Korea before—made a quick They proceeded to Doyle’s com- missing the difficulties of an
visit on 22 August to Walker’s mand ship, USS Mount McKinley amphibious operation as being
Eighth Army headquarters at (AGC 7). Smith’s orders were to “purely mechanical.”
Taegu. Collins found Walker “too report his division directly to Having had his say, Almond
involved in plugging holes in his Commander in Chief, Far East, for ushered Smith into MacArthur’s
leaky front to give much thought operational control. His appoint- office. MacArthur, in a cordial and
to a later breakout.” On the morn- ment with General MacArthur was expansive mood, confidently told
ing of 23 August, Collins accompa- set for 1730 that evening at the Dai Smith that the 1st Marine Division
nied Walker on a visit to all U. S. Ichi building. Colonel Alpha L. would win the war by its landing
division commanders and the Bowser, Jr., the division G-3, who at Inchon. The North Koreans had
Marine brigade commander, had come out with the first eche- committed all their troops against
Brigadier General Edward A. Craig. lon of Smith’s staff, gave him a hur- the Pusan Perimeter, and he did
Collins found these field comman- ried briefing on the tentative plans not expect heavy opposition at
ders confident but weary. Collins for the division. “For the first time Inchon. The operation would be

85
somewhat “helter-skelter,” but it high ground north of Suwon. ing with “the best that I can say is
would be successful. It was Thereafter, X Corps—1st Marine that Inchon is not impossible.”
MacArthur’s feeling that all hands and 7th Infantry Divisions— would Collins questioned the ability of
would be home for Christmas, if form the anvil against which the the Eighth Army to link up quickly
not to the United States, at least to Eighth Army, breaking out of the with X Corps. He suggested
Japan. Pusan Perimeter, would deliver the Kunsan, to the south, as an alter-
Smith reported to Doyle his con- hammer blows that would destroy nate landing site. Sherman, in gen-
viction that MacArthur was firm in the North Korean Army. eral terms, supported Collins’
his decision to land at Inchon on After Wright’s briefing, Doyle, as reservations. General MacArthur
15 September. Doyle replied that the prospective Attack Force com- sat silently, puffing his pipe, for
he thought there was still a chance mander, gave a thorough analysis several moments. He then spoke
to substitute Posung-Myun, a few of the naval aspects of the landing. and all agree that his exposition
miles to the south of Inchon, as a Of greatest concern to Doyle were was brilliant. He dazzled and pos-
more likely landing site. Doyle was the tides. A point of contention sibly confused his audience with
having his underwater demolition was the length of the naval gunfire an analogy from the French and
teams reconnoiter those beaches. preparation. Doyle argued for Indian War, Wolfe’s victory at
Next day, 23 August, Smith met three to four days of pre-landing Quebec: “Like Montcalm, the North
again with Almond, this time bombardment by air and naval Koreans will regard the Inchon
accompanied by General Barr, gunfire, particularly to take out the landing as impossible. Like Wolfe I
commander of the 7th Infantry shore batteries. MacArthur’s staff [can] take them by surprise.”
Division. When Smith raised the disputed this on the basis of the As he himself remembered his
possibility of Posung-Myun as a loss of tactical surprise. Admiral summation years later in his mem-
landing site, Almond brushed him Sherman was asked his opinion oirs:
off, saying that any landing at and replied, “I wouldn’t hesitate to The Navy’s objections as to
Posung-Myun would be no more take a ship up there.” tides, hydrography, terrain,
than a subsidiary landing. “Spoken like a Farragut,” said and physical handicaps are
MacArthur. indeed substantial and perti-
Critical 23 August With his concerns brushed nent. But they are not insu-
Conference Convenes aside, Doyle concluded his brief- perable. My confidence in the
MajGen David G. Barr, left, Commanding General of the U. S. Army’s 7th
Smith was not invited to the 23
Infantry Division meets with MajGen Edward M. Almond, Commanding
August conference. Nor was
General, X Corps, to discuss the Inchon landing. The 7th Division would land
Shepherd. The all-important sum- behind the Marines, advance on their right flank, and seize the commanding
mit conference began with brief ground south of Seoul. National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC349013
opening remarks by MacArthur.
General Wright then outlined the
basic plan which called for an
assault landing by the 1st Marine
Division directly into the port of
Inchon. After the capture of
Inchon, the division was to
advance and seize, as rapidly as
possible, Kimpo Airfield, the town
of Yongdung-po, and the south
bank of the Han River. The divi-
sion was then to cross the river,
capture Seoul, and seize the domi-
nant ground to the north.
Meanwhile, the 7th Infantry
Division was to land behind the
Marines, advance on the right
flank, secure the south bank of the
Han southeast of Seoul and the

86
Navy is complete, and in fact inaccurate and should I run Inchon and what was his capabili-
I seem to have more confi- into a defense with which I ty to concentrate there?
dence in the Navy than the cannot cope, I will be there Admiral Sherman was momen-
Navy has in itself . . . . As to personally and will immedi- tarily carried away by MacArthur’s
the proposal for a landing at ately withdraw our forces oratory, but once removed from
Kunsan, it would indeed before they are committed to MacArthur’s personal magnetism
eliminate many of the hazards a bloody setback. The only he too had second thoughts. Next
of Inchon, but it would be loss then will be my profes- morning, 24 August, he gathered
largely ineffective and indeci- sional reputation. But Inchon together in Admiral Joy’s office the
sive. It would be an attempt- will not fail. Inchon will suc- principal Navy and Marine Corps
ed envelopment which would ceed. And it will save 100,000 commanders. Present, in addition
not envelop. It would not lives. to Sherman and Joy, were Admirals
sever or destroy the enemy’s Radford and Doyle and Generals
supply lines or distribution Others at the conference Shepherd and Smith. Despite gen-
center, and would therefore recalled MacArthur’s closing words eral indignation over MacArthur’s
serve little purpose. It would at the conference as being: “We failure to give due weight to naval
be a “short envelopment,” shall land at Inchon, and I shall considerations, it was now abun-
and nothing in war is more crush them.” This said, MacArthur dantly clear that the landing would
futile. But seizure of Inchon knocked the ashes of his pipe out have to made at or near Inchon.
and Seoul will cut the into a glass ashtray, making it ring, But perhaps there was still room
enemy’s supply line and seal and stalked majestically out of the for argument for another landing
off the entire southern penin- room. site with fewer hydrographic prob-
sula . . . . This in turn will par- General Collins still harbored lems. Shepherd announced that he
alyze the fighting power of reservations. He thought a main was going to see MacArthur once
the troops that now face point had been missed: what was again before returning to Pearl
Walker . . . . If my estimate is the strength of the enemy at Harbor and that he would make a

Command Structure for Inchon


Commander-in-Chief, Far East
Gen Douglas MacArthur

Commander, Naval Forces, Far East


VAdm C. Turner Joy

Commander, Joint Task Force Seven


VAdm Arthur D. Struble

Commander,Task Force 90 Commanding General, X Corps


RAdm James H. Doyle MajGen Edward M. Almond

Commander Amphibious Commanding General Commanding General


Group One 7th Infantry Division 1st Marine Division
RAdm James H. Doyle MajGen David G. Barr MajGen Oliver P. Smith

87
final plea for a landing south of in many ways did a good job under Collins and Sherman reported to
Inchon in the vicinity of Posung- difficult conditions.” O. P. Smith Bradley and the other chiefs what
Myun. would not come to share they had learned about the Inchon
Shepherd’s good opinion of plan, repeating their own misgiv-
Disappointment for Almond. ings. On 26 August, Bradley briefed
General Shepherd President Truman and Secretary
Plans Progress Johnson. The President was more
Shepherd, accompanied by optimistic than the chiefs.
Krulak, arrived at GHQ for his The day following the 23 August
scheduled visit with MacArthur but conference, General Stratemeyer ‘Conditional’ Approval
was short-stopped by Almond who directed his staff to develop a FEAF
dismissed the Posung-Myun site, plan to support the landing. The On 28 August, the Joint Chiefs
saying that Inchon had been decid- plan was to be separate from the sent MacArthur a “conditional”
ed upon and that was where the CinCFE plan and was to provide approval, concurring in an
landing would be. The discussion mission direction for all combat air- amphibious turning movement,
became heated. Fortunately, craft not essential to the close sup- either at Inchon or across a favor-
MacArthur entered the room and port of the Eighth Army. able beach to the south. Chief
waved Shepherd and Krulak into MacArthur, on 26 August, for- “conditions” were that MacArthur
his office. mally announced Almond’s assign- was to provide amplifying details
ment as commanding general of X and keep them abreast of any mod-
Shepherd had some expectation Corps. MacArthur had told him that ification of his plans. The Joint
of being named the landing force he would continue, at the same Chiefs specifically suggested prepa-
commander. Admiral Sherman had time, to be the chief of staff of Far ration of an alternate plan for a
recommended, without any great East Command. MacArthur’s pre- landing at Kunsan.
amount of enthusiasm, that diction was that Almond would X Corps dated its Operation
Shepherd command X Corps for soon be able to return to Tokyo. Order No. 1, written largely by the
the operation because of his great The landing at Inchon and subse- facile pen of Colonel Forney, as 28
amphibious experience and the quent capture of Seoul would end August; distribution was a day or
expertise of his Fleet Marine Force, the war. so later. The 1st Marine Division
Pacific staff. General Wright on General Bradley’s assessment of “was charged with the responsibili-
MacArthur’s staff also recommend- Almond was less than enthusiastic: ty as the Landing Force to assault
ed it, but a rumor was prevalent INCHON, conduct beachhead
that Almond would get X Corps. Ned Almond had never operations, seize and protect
MacArthur confirmed this intention, commanded a corps—or KIMPO airfield, then advance to
saying he would liked to have had troops in an amphibious the HAN River line west of SEOUL.
Shepherd as commander, but that assault. However, he and his This achieved, the Division was
he had promised it to Almond. He staff, mostly recruited from further directed to seize SEOUL,
asked if Shepherd would go along MacArthur’s headquarters, and the commanding ground north
as his amphibious advisor. were ably backstopped by the of SEOUL, on order.”
Shepherd hedged slightly. He said expertise of the Navy and O. P. Smith’s division staff, then
he would gladly go along as an Marines, notably that of Oliver on the Mount McKinley, was at half
observer. P. Smith, who commanded strength. Part of the remainder was
Shepherd showed no rancor, the 1st Marine Division, which enroute from the United States;
then or later, at not getting com- would spearhead the assault. part was with Craig’s 1st Marine
mand. He and Almond were both Brigade in the south of Korea. The
Virginians and both had gone to MacArthur had not asked Collins brigade, although an organic part
Virginia Military Institute—Almond, and Sherman to approve his plan of the division, was still under the
class of 1915 and Shepherd, class nor would they have had the operational control of General
of 1917. Their personal relations authority to do so. The best they Walker. Smith’s staff, directed by
were good but not close. Shepherd had to take back with them to Colonel Gregon A. Williams as
later characterized Almond as “an Washington was a fairly clear con- chief of staff, worked well with
excellent corps commander. He cept of MacArthur’s intended oper- Doyle’s PhibGruOne staff. Above
was energetic, forceful, brave, and ations. this harmonious relationship, the

88
tus of the more senior commands detailed plan for the Inchon der, conferred with Joy, Struble,
was indistinct and vaguely defined. Landing was drawn up, and and Almond at CinCFE headquar-
From amidst a welter of paper, mis- two days later an advance ters on 30 August. All that he could
understanding, ragged tempers, planning draft of 1stMarDiv get was a general agreement on
and sleep deprivation, Division OpO 2-50 (Inchon Landing) the adequacy of a CinCFE 8 July
Order 2-50, expanding on the was issued. directive, “Coordination of Air
corps order, emerged on 4 Effort of Far East Air Forces and
September. Time available for planning was United States Naval Forces, Far
Smith wrote later in the Marine so short that the assault regiments, East.” Building on that, Stratemeyer
Corps Gazette: contrary to amphibious doctrine, sent a message to MacArthur, the
would get rigid landing plans gist of it being: “It is recognized
By dedicated work on the drawn up completely by division. that ComNavFE must have control
part of the Division staff, with The always dapper General of air operations within the objec-
the wholehearted support of Stratemeyer, seeking to solidify his tive area during the amphibious
Adm Doyle’s PhibGruOne contention that he was General phase. Air operations outside of
staff, within three days a MacArthur’s tactical air comman- the objective area are part of the

Junior officers and enlisted Marines did not get a briefing by then, because of leakage to the press, it was an open
on their unit’s role in the landing until embarked in secret that the Marines were going to land at Inchon.
amphibious shipping enroute to the objective area. However, Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2681

89
overall air campaign, and during prospect for at least four months. Reconnaissance reports indicated
the amphibious phase contribute In light of this situation, a fresh 106 hard targets, such as gun
to the success of the amphibious evaluation of Inchon was request- emplacements, along the Inchon
operation.” ed. beaches.
MacArthur’s headquarters issued Some of the best beach intelli-
Operation Order No. 1 on 30 MacArthur Protests gence was obtained by Navy off-
August, but neither a copy of this shore reconnaissance. Best known
order nor any other amplifying An indignant MacArthur fired are the exploits of Lieutenant
detail had reached Washington by back an answer, the concluding Eugene F. Clark, ex-enlisted man
5 September. On that date the paragraph of which said: “The and an experienced amphibious
chiefs sent a further request for embarkation of the troops and the sailor. He and two South Koreans
details to MacArthur. Choosing to preliminary air and naval prepara- left Sasebo on 31 August on board
consider the 28 August JCS mes- tions are proceeding according to the British destroyer HMS Charity,
sage to be sufficient approval, schedule. I repeat that I and all my transferred the next morning to a
MacArthur dismissed the request commanders and staff officers are South Korean frigate, and landed
with a brief message, stating “the enthusiastic for and confident of that evening on Yong-hong-do, 14
general outline of the plan remains the success of the enveloping miles off Inchon and one of the
as described to you.” movement.” hundreds of islands that dotted
Later he would write that his The last sentence was manifest- Korea’s west coast. The islanders
plan “was opposed by powerful ly not true. Lack of enthusiasm was were friendly. Clark organized the
military in Washington.” He knew readily apparent at all levels of island’s teenagers into coastwatch-
that Omar Bradley, the JCS chair- command. ing parties and commandeered the
man, had recently testified to Next day, 8 September, the JCS island’s only motorized sampan.
Congress that large-scale amphibi- sent MacArthur a short, contrite For two weeks he fought a noctur-
ous operations were obsolete. He message: “We approve your plan nal war, capturing more sampans,
disliked Bradley personally and and the President has been sending agents into Inchon, and
derisively referred to him as a informed.” The phrase “the testing the mud flats for himself.
“farmer.” President has been informed” His greatest accomplishment was
Both Bradley and Truman came annoyed MacArthur. To him it discovering that one of the main
from Missouri working-class fami- implied something less than presi- navigation lights for Flying Fish
lies and were proud of it. A routine dential approval and he interpret- Channel was still operable. GHQ at
had been established under which ed it as a threat on President Tokyo instructed him to turn on
the Joint Chiefs kept Truman Truman’s part to overrule the Joint the light at midnight on 14
informed, usually by a personal Chiefs. General Collins, for one, September. This he would do.
briefing by Bradley, of the current had no recollection of Truman ever Anticipated hydrographic condi-
situation in Korea. expressing any doubt about the tions were much more frightening
On 7 September, MacArthur success of the Inchon landing or than the quality of expected
received a JCS message which he any inclination to override the enemy resistance. Doyle’s Attack
said chilled him to the marrow of actions of the JCS with respect to Force would have to thread its way
his bones. The message asked for the operation. from the Yellow Sea through the
an “estimate as to the feasibility tortuous Flying Fish Channel. As
and chance of success of projected Beach Reconnaissance had already been determined, the
operation if initiated on planned 15th of September was the best
schedule.” According to the intelligence day of the month because of the
The offending message remind- available to General Smith, the height and spacing of the tides.
ed MacArthur that all reserves in enemy had about 2,500 troops in The morning high tide—an incred-
the Far East had been committed the Inchon-Kimpo region, includ- ible 31.5 feet—would be at 0659
to the Eighth Army and all avail- ing at least two battalions of the and the evening high tide at 1919.
able general reserves in the United 226th Independent Marine In between these times, as the tide
States—except for the 82d Regiment and two companies of fell, the currents would rip out of
Airborne Division—had been com- the 918th Artillery Regiment. The the channel at seven or eight
mitted to the Far East Command. North Koreans had apparently pre- knots, exposing mud flats across
No further reinforcement was in pared strong defensive positions. which even amphibian tractors

90
Terrain Handbook No. 65: Seoul and Vicinity (GHQ, Far East Command, 16 August 1950)
This pre-landing aerial photograph shows clearly the convo- do, the island at the lower left of the photo, the key to the
luted nature of the Inchon “beachhead.” MajGen Oliver P. whole situation. Seizure of Wolmi-do would precede the
Smith, commanding the landing force, considered Wolmi- main landings on Inchon itself.

could not be expected to crawl. Smith’s plan, as it emerged, was ed that the new 1st Korean Marine
to take Wolmi-do on the morning Corps Regiment be added to the
Wolmi-do: Key to Operation tide by landing the 3d Battalion, troop list. The assignment of the
5th Marines, across Green Beach. Republic of Korea (ROK) Marines
Wolmi-do (“Moon Tip Island”), Then would come a long wait of to the division was approved by
the long narrow island that formed 12 hours until the evening tide GHQ on 3 September. The Eighth
the northern arm of Inchon’s inner came in and the remainder of the Army was instructed to provide
harbor, was thought to have about division could continue the land- them weapons.
500 defenders. Wolmi-do harbor ing. The rest of the 5th Marines Almond asked Smith to take part
was connected to the Inchon dock would cross Red Beach to the in a war-gaming of the operation.
area by a 600-yard-long causeway. north of Wolmi-do, while Puller’s Smith saw it as nothing more than
“Wolmi-do,” wrote Smith, was “the 1st Marines landed over Blue a “CPX” or command post exercise
key to the whole operation.” Beach in the inner harbor to the and a waste of precious time. He
Brigade staff officers, headed by south. Designation of the landing sent a major in his place.
their chief of staff, Colonel Edward sites as “beaches” was misleading; Almond inspected units of Barr’s
W. Snedeker, were called to Japan the harbor was edged with cut- 7th Division at their camps—Fuji,
from Pusan. They recommended granite sea walls that would have McNair, McGill, Drake, and
that the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, to be scaled or penetrated. Whittington—between 31 August
be used for the assault of Wolmi-do. Colonel Snedeker recommend- through 3 September. His aide,

91
74 miles an hour, struck Kobe on 3
September. Two feet of water cov-
ered the docks. One ship, with all
the division’s signal gear, settled to
the bottom at her pier. All unload-
ing and loading stopped for 24
hours. Property sergeants, called in
from the outlying battalions,
worked frantically to sort out their
units’ gear.
Adding to General Smith’s wor-
ries, the availability of the 5th
Marines was now challenged.
General Walker, deeply involved in
the bitter defense of the Naktong
Bulge, strongly opposed the release
of this now-seasoned regiment
from his Eighth Army. To meet
Walker’s objections, and influenced
by his own favorable impression of
the 7th Division, Almond sent
Colonel Forney, now the Marine
Deputy Chief of Staff, X Corps, to
ask O. P. Smith whether the 7th
Marines would arrive in time to be
substituted for the 5th Marines, or
alternatively, if not, would the 32d
Infantry be acceptable?
A conference on the proposed
substitution was held on the
evening of 3 September. Present,
among others, were Generals
Almond and Smith and Admirals
Joy, Struble, and Doyle. Strangely,
General Barr, the 7th Division’s
commander, was not there. The
discussion became heated. Smith
argued that the proposal went
beyond a considered risk. If the
substitution were made, he
First Lieutenant Haig, accompanied headquarters. “The front line is the declared, he would change his
him and took extensive notes. perimeter of the place where you scheme of maneuver. He would
With few exceptions, Almond happen to be,” said Almond. call off the landing of the 1st
gained a “good” to “excellent” Meanwhile, the main body of the Marines over Blue Beach and give
impression of the units he visited. 1st Marine Division arrived at Kobe, them the 5th Marines’ mission of
On the morning of 2 September Japan—except for the 5th Marines, landing on Red Beach with the 32d
Almond met with the officers of his which was still at Pusan, and the Infantry following behind.
Corps staff who were involved in 7th Marines, which was still at sea. Admiral Struble (Shepherd
his war game. He pointed out the thought him “slippery”) resolved
necessity for frequent visits to sub- Typhoon Jane the contretemps by suggesting that
ordinate units by commanding offi- Disrupts Embarkation a regiment of Barr’s 7th Division
cers and the need for strong, well- be immediately embarked to stand
organized, defenses for Corps Typhoon Jane, with winds up to off Pusan as a floating reserve,

92
allowing the release of the 1st set sail from Tokyo for Kobe on 4 Battalions of the 1st Marines.
Provisional Marine Brigade. In September, arriving there early the Afterwards he went to Camp Sakai
General Smith’s mind, Almond’s next afternoon. That evening Smith near Osaka to see the 11th
proposal exemplified the wide gulf called a conference of all available Marines, the division’s artillery reg-
separating Army and Marine Corps Marine Corps commanders to iment commanded by Colonel
thinking. As Colonel Bowser, stress the urgency of the operation. James H. Brower, and was favor-
General Smith’s operations officer, ably impressed.” He commented in
remembered it, Doyle and Smith Almond Inspects Marines his diary: “A large percentage of
“came back about 11 o’clock hav- the troops were drawn from active
ing won their point, that the A day later, 6 September, Marine reserve units . . . . The
[Marine] brigade must come out of General Almond came to Kobe to Army should have done likewise
the Pusan perimeter and be part of inspect 1st Marine Division units. but did not.”
our landing force.” He lunched with the staff noncom- In the evening Smith and his
The Mount McKinley, flagship of missioned officers at Camp Otsu staff briefed him on the division’s
the Attack Force—with Smith on accompanied by General Smith operation plan. Again Almond was
board so as to be in a better posi- and Lieutenant Colonel Allan favorably impressed, but he
tion to supervise the out-loading— Sutter, then visited the 2d and 3d thought Smith’s planned subse-
quent moves ashore too slow and
President Harry S. Truman and Marine Commandant Gen Clifton B. Cates deliberate. He stressed to Smith the
exchange warm greetings at a Marine Corps field demonstration at Quantico in
need for speed in capturing Kimpo
June 1950,10 days before the outbreak of the Korean War. This friendly rela-
Airfield and Seoul itself. Smith was
tionship dissolved when Truman, in an ill-advised note, called the Marine Corps
“the Navy’s police force.” less impressed with Almond, say-
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A407260 ing: “The inspection consisted [of
Almond] primarily questioning
men, I suppose for the purpose of
finding out what made Marines
tick.”
In the 1st Marine Division, oper-
ational planning trickled down to
the battalion level. The 3d
Battalion, 1st Marines, under
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas L.
Ridge, had steamed comfortably to
Japan in the General Simon B.
Buckner (AP 123) and was
ensconced in what had been the
barracks for a battalion of the 24th
Infantry Division at Otsu on the
south shore of Lake Biwa. There
was no room for field training and
the best the battalion could do was
road-bound conditioning marches.
The commanding officer and the
three majors in the battalion were
summoned to a meeting on board
the regimental command ship
berthed in Kobe. There had been a
plethora of rumors, but now for
the first time they learned officially
that they were to land at Inchon.
The regimental S-2, Captain Stone
W. Quillian, went over the beach
defenses, tapping a large map

93
studded with suspected weapons President labeled the United September. The brigade had done
emplacements. The S-3, Major Nations intervention in Korea a most of its fighting with a peace-
Robert E. Lorigan, then briefed the “police action.” The enraged time structure, that is, at about
scheme of maneuver. The 3d Marines chalked on the tarpaulins two-thirds its authorized wartime
Battalion would be the right flank covering their trucks and tanks, strength: two rifle companies to a
unit of the main landing. These “Horrible Harry’s Police Force” and battalion instead of three, four
were the D-Day objectives. Tap, similar epithets. guns to an artillery battery instead
tap. This piece of high ground was What had happened was that on of six. The 5th Marines did not get
the battalion’s objective. Tap, tap. 21 August, Congressman Gordon a third company for its three
This hook of land on the extreme L. McDonough of California had infantry battalions until just before
right flank had to be taken. Tap, written President Truman a well- mounting out for Inchon.
tap. The landing would be at 1730; intentioned letter urging that the The Korean 1st Marine
it would be dark at 1900. There Marines be given a voice on the Regiment, some 3,000 men, com-
were no enthusiastic cheers from Joint Chiefs of Staff. The President manded by Lieutenant Colonel
the listeners. fired back a feisty note: “For your Kim Sung Eun, arrived in Pusan on
Then the regimental comman- information the Marine Corps is 5 September to join the 1st Marine
der, Chesty Puller, got to his feet. the Navy’s police force and as long Division. They were in khaki uni-
“You people are lucky,” he as I am President that is what it forms including cloth caps, and
growled. “We used to have to wait will remain. They have a propa- equipped with Japanese rifles and
every 10 or 15 years for a war. You ganda machine that is almost equal machine guns. The South Korean
get one every five years. You peo- to Stalin’s . . . . The Chief of Naval Marines were issued American uni-
ple have been living by the sword. Operations is the Chief of Staff of forms—including helmets—and
By God, you better be prepared to the Navy of which the Marines are each was given one day on the
die by the sword.” a part.” rifle range to fire his new American
The troop list for the landing He had dictated the letter to his weapons.
force totalled 29,731 persons, to be secretary, Rose Conway, and sent Built around a cadre drawn from
loaded out in six embarkation it without any member of his staff the ROK Navy, the Korean Marine
groups. Four groups would load seeing it. Corps (“KMCs” to the U.S. Marines)
out of Kobe, one group out of McDonough inserted the letter had been activated 15 April 1949.
Pusan, and one group—made up into the Congressional Record Company-size units had first
of the Army’s 2d Engineer Special where it appeared on 1 September. deployed to southern Korea, and
Brigade—out of Yokohama. Not all The story reached the newspapers then to Cheju Island, to rout out
units could be combat loaded; four days later and a great public Communist-bent guerrillas. After
some compromises had to be outcry went up. By five o’clock the the North Korean invasion, the
accepted. next afternoon Truman’s advisors KMCs, growing to regimental size,
One Marine Corps unit that was had prevailed upon him to send an had made small-scale hit-and-run
not ready to go was the 1st apology to General Cates: “I sin- raids along the west coast against
Armored Amphibian Tractor cerely regret the unfortunate the flank of the invaders.
Battalion, activated but not yet choice of language which I used.” Craig assigned Lieutenant
combat ready. The Army’s Truman, in further fence-mending, Colonel Charles W. Harrison, until
Company A, 56th Amphibian in company with Cates, made a recently the executive officer of
Tractor Battalion, was substituted. surprise visit two mornings later at the 6th Marines at Camp Lejeune,
a Marine Corps League convention as liaison officer to the KMCs. His
President Writes Letter coincidentally being held in party, given a radio jeep, was
Washington’s Statler Hotel and made up of three corporal
As the Marines combat loaded charmed his audience. radiomen, and a corporal driver.
their amphibious ships at Kobe, Harrison was well-chosen. His par-
the Pacific edition of Stars and Pulling Together ents had been missionaries in
Stripes reached them with a story the Landing Force Korea. He himself had graduated
that President Truman had called from the foreign high school in
them “the Navy’s police force.” General Craig’s 1st Provisional Pyongyang in 1928 and he had a
This compounded a previously Marine Brigade was relieved of its working knowledge of Korean.
perceived insult when the combat commitment at midnight, 5 While the 5th Marines were

94
loading out, a paper, marked briefed him on the 7th Infantry under 18 before sailing, reducing
“Confidential” and giving specifics Division’s plan of operations. the landing force by about 500
on a landing beach at Kaesong, Almond thought the plan ade- men. Those who were close to
was widely distributed and one or quate, but was concerned over being 18 were held in Japan on
more copies were purposely “lost.” possible problems of liaison and other duties and eventually found
Perhaps the word got back to the coordination with the 1st Marine their way to the division as
North Koreans. Division. Events would prove him replacements.
The amphibious assault trans- right
port Henrico (APA 45) known to Second Typhoon
the fleet as “Happy Hank,” had Almond’s Good Ideas
brought the 1st Battalion, 5th Weathermen said that a second
Marines, to Pusan. Now the ship A restive General Almond typhoon, “Kezia,” was following
received the same battalion, its formed, for commando work, a close behind “Jane.” Rear Admiral
numbers, thinned by the fighting Special Operations Company, X Arleigh A. Burke, USN, had arrived
in the Pusan Perimeter, now Corps, sometimes called a “Raider in Tokyo from Washington to be
brought up to war strength. The Group,” under command of Admiral Joy’s deputy chief of staff.
Navy crew did their best to pro- Colonel Louis B. Ely, Jr., USA. With Burke attempted to make an office
vide a little extra for their Marine Almond’s encouragement, Ely pro- call on MacArthur to express his
passengers. The wardroom was posed a raid to seize Kimpo concerns regarding the coming
made available to the officers 24 Airfield. Almond asked Smith for typhoon and was blocked by
hours a day. 100 Marine volunteers to join the Almond. Burke refused to discuss
Marguerite “Maggie” Higgins, a Special Operations Company; the matter with Almond and went
movie-star-pretty blonde reporting Smith, skeptical of the mission and back to his office. By the time he
on the war for the New York unimpressed by Ely, stalled in pro- got there, a message was waiting
Herald-Tribune occupied one of viding Marines and the request that MacArthur would see him.
the few staterooms. She had been was cancelled. As it turned out, Ely Burke hurried back to GHQ and
a war correspondent in Europe and his company would make an explained to MacArthur that if the
during the last years of World War approach to the beach, but the dis- typhoon came up and blew west
II and had been in Korea since the tance from ship to shore proved there could be no landing on the
beginning of the new war. Ribald too great for rubber boats. 15th or 16th.
rumors as to her imagined noctur- Brigadier General Henry I. “What do we do, Admiral?”
nal associations inevitably circulat- Hodes, USA, the assistant division asked MacArthur.
ed throughout the ship. commander of the 7th Infantry “We sail early,” said Burke.
Major General Field Harris, Division, visited Smith on the MacArthur agreed.
Commanding General, 1st Marine Mount McKinley on 9 September. Navy meteorologists had first
Aircraft Wing—O. P. Smith’s avia- Almond, still concerned by Smith’s picked up signs of Kezia off the
tor counterpart—arrived in Tokyo deliberate manner, had come up Mariana Islands on 6 September.
on 3 September. His forward eche- with yet another idea for the swift Whipping up winds of 100 miles
lon of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, seizure of Kimpo. Almond’s new per hour, the typhoon moved
was informed of the Inchon-Seoul plan called for landing a battalion steadily toward Japan and the East
operation three days later. of the 32d Infantry on Wolmi-do China Sea. Most endangered were
Planning for the employment of the evening of D-Day. It would the amphibious ships of Admiral
Marine air was completed on 9 “barrel” down the road to Seoul in Doyle’s Attack Force. The route for
September. Marine Aircraft Group trucks and tanks provided by the all six transport groups to Inchon
33, relieved of its close support Marines. Smith, horrified by a plan placed them squarely in the path
role in the Pusan Perimeter, would he considered tactically impossi- of the on-coming oriental hurri-
be the operating element. Harris ble, told Hodes that he had no cane.
and his forward echelon embarked tanks to lend him. Both Doyle and O.P. Smith, the
at Kobe on 10 September as The Secretary of the Navy, alert- two who would bear the burden
Tactical Air Command, X Corps. ed by parents’ complaints that of directing the actual landing,
Meanwhile, Almond continued underage sons were being sent to were painfully aware that all the
his restless visits and inspections. Korea, on 8 September sent a last- normal steps of preparing for an
On 9 September, General Barr minute order to remove Marines amphibious operation were either

95
Photo courtesy of LtCol Leo J. Ihli, USMC (Ret)
Marines prime an F4U-4B of VMF-323 for take-off from the Sicily (CVE 118), played a companion role in close support
deck of the light aircraft carrier Badoeng Strait (CVE 116) of the assault. The bent-wing Corsairs would prove once
standing off Korea. VMF-214, embarked in sister carrier again to be ideal close support aircraft.

being compressed or ignored com- even time for landing exercises by (CV 45), Philippine Sea (CV 47),
pletely in order to squeeze the the LVTs. Some of the LVT crews and Boxer (CV 21) continued for
operation into an impossibly short had not even had the opportunity the next two days.
time frame. During World War II, at to try their engines out in the water Joint Task Force 7 (JTF 7) was
least three months would have and paddle around.” officially activated under Admiral
been spent in planning and train- Struble the following day, 11
ing for an operation of this magni- Execution September. Almond and X Corps
tude. Beginning with Guadalcanal, would be subordinate to Struble
a rehearsal—or rehearsals—was Marine aircraft squadrons VMF- and JTF 7 until Almond assumed
considered essential. For Inchon 214 and VMF-323 began the soft- command ashore and JTF 7 was
there would be no rehearsal. ening-up of Wolmi-do on 10 dissolved.
Doyle wryly concluded that a good September with the delivery of Preliminary and diversionary air
deal would depend upon how napalm. Operating from the decks and naval gunfire strikes were
skillfully the individual coxswains of the light carriers Sicily (CVE roughly divided into 30 percent
could perform in finding their way 118) and Badoeng Strait (CVE 116) delivered north of Inchon, 30 per-
to the beaches. (“Bing-Ding” to the Marines and cent south, and 40 percent against
Captain Martin J. “Stormy” sailors), the Marine fliers burned Inchon itself. Except for a few gun-
Sexton, a World War II Raider and out most of the buildings on the nery ships held back to protect the
now aide-de-camp to General island. Strikes by Navy aircraft flanks of the Pusan Perimeter, JTF
Smith, said later: “There was not from the big carriers Valley Forge 7—in its other guise, the Seventh

96
Joint Task Force Seven
VAdm Arthur D. Struble

Task Force 90 Attack Force RAdm James H. Doyle


Task Force 91 Blockade and Covering Force RAdm Sir William G.Andrewes
Task Force 92 X Corps MajGen Edward M.Almond
Task Force 99 Control and Reconnaissance Force RAdm George R. Henderson
Task Force 77 Fast Carrier Group RAdm Edward C. Ewen
Task Force 79 Service Squadron Capt Bernard L.Austin
ROK Naval Forces Cdr Michael L. Luosey1

1
Liaison and Advisor

Fleet—included all the combatant to Itazuke air base. From there the group was Lieutenant General
ships in the Far East. Among them they would go by automobile to George Stratemeyer, USAF, who
were three fast carriers, two escort Sasebo. had had some expectation of
carriers, and a British light carrier. accompanying MacArthur as his air
In the final count, the force num- MacArthur Goes to Sea boss. In assignment of spaces,
bered some 230 ships, including 34 MacArthur grandly ignored tradi-
Japanese vessels, mostly ex-U.S. Because of the storm the Mount tional ship protocol and took over
Navy LSTs (landing ships, tank) McKinley was late in reaching port. Doyle’s cabin. Doyle moved to his
with Japanese crews. The French MacArthur’s party waited in the sea cabin off the flag bridge.
contributed one tropical frigate, La Bachelor Officers Quarters, pass- Almond appropriated the ship’s
Grandiere, which arrived at ing the time having sandwiches. It captain’s cabin. O. P. Smith man-
Sasebo with a five-month supply was close to midnight before the aged to keep his stateroom.
of wine and a pin-up picture of Mount McKinley rounded the
southern tip of Kyushu and After breakfast on the morning
Esther Williams, but no coding of the 13th, Admiral Doyle led the
machine. docked at Sasebo. MacArthur and
his party boarded the ship and she embarked flag officers in a tour of
Mount McKinley, with Doyle, the Mount McKinley, hoping to
Smith, and their staffs on board, was underway again within an
hour. With General Shepherd came impress the Army generals that
got underway from Kobe the amphibious operations required
morning of 11 September—a day his G-3, Colonel Victor H. Krulak,
and his aide and future son-in-law, specialization. MacArthur did not
ahead of schedule because of the go along.
approach of Typhoon Kezia—and Major James B. Ord, Jr.
steamed for Sasebo. Winds of the MacArthur had five generals in The absence of General Strate-
typhoon whipped up to 125 miles his party—Shepherd, Almond, and meyer from MacArthur’s party was
per hour. Doyle was gambling that Wright, and two others: Major a clear signal that the Navy had
Kezia would veer off to the north. General Courtney Whitney—his been successful in keeping the Air
Almond held a last meeting at deputy chief of staff for civil affairs, Force from operating within the
GHQ on 12 September to deal with but more importantly his press offi- amphibious objective area—a circle
the urgency for an early sailing cer—and Major General Alonzo P. with a 100-mile radius drawn
because of the threat of Kezia. Fox. Fox was chief of staff to around Inchon. There would be no
General Shepherd, General Wright, MacArthur in his capacity as FEAF operations within this radius
and Admiral Burke attended. That “SCAP” (Supreme Commander unless specifically requested by
afternoon General MacArthur and Allied Powers) and Lieutenant Struble. MacArthur remained above
his party left Haneda airport to fly Haig’s father-in law. Absent from these doctrinal squabbles.

97
Operation ‘Common Knowledge’ What appeared to be a string of place off Inchon. General Craig’s
mines was sighted in the vicinity of embarked 1st Provisional Marine
Neither General MacArthur nor Palmi-do. The destroyers opened Brigade, having arrived from
Admiral Struble favored extensive fire with their 40mm guns and the Pusan, was formally dissolved on
air and naval gunfire preparation mines began to explode. Leaving 13 September and its parts
of the objective area, primarily the Henderson behind to continue returned to the control of the par-
because it would cause a loss of shooting at the mines, the five ent division. Craig became the
tactical surprise. Their concern was other destroyers steamed closer to assistant division commander.
largely academic. All sorts of leak- their objectives. Gurke anchored The Attack Force eased its way
age circulated in Japan—and even 800 yards off Wolmi-do, which was up Flying Fish Channel so as to be
reached the media in the United being pounded by carrier air. in the transport area before day-
States—that an amphibious opera- The remaining four destroyers light on 15 September. General
tion was being mounted out with a took station behind Gurke. Just MacArthur spent a restless night.
probable target of Inchon. At the before 1300 they opened fire. Standing at the rail of the Mount
Tokyo Press Club the impending Within minutes return fire came McKinley in the darkness, he
landing was derisively called blazing back from hidden shore entertained certain morbid
“Operation Common Knowledge.” batteries. Collett took five hits, thoughts, at least as he remem-
The North Korean command knocking out her fire direction sys- bered them later in his
almost certainly heard these tem; her guns switched to individ- Reminiscences: “Within five hours
rumors and almost equally certain ual control. Gurke took two light 40,000 men would act boldly, in
had tide tables for Inchon. Mao Tse hits. DeHaven was slightly dam- the hope that 100,000 others man-
Tung is supposed to have pointed aged. Lyman K. Swenson felt a ning the thin defense lines in South
at Inchon on a map of Korea and near miss that caused two casual- Korea would not die. I alone was
have said, “The Americans will ties. After an hour’s bombardment responsible for tomorrow, and if I
land here.” the destroyers withdrew. One man failed, the dreadful results would
American intelligence knew that had been killed—ironically rest on judgment day against my
the Russians had supplied mines, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) David soul.”
but how many had been sown in Swenson, nephew of the admiral George Gilman, an ensign in the
Flying Fish Channel? The lack of for whom the destroyer was Mount McKinley, had less lofty
time and sufficient minesweepers named—and eight were wounded. thoughts: “None of us boat group
made orderly mine-sweeping From their more distant anchor- officers had ever had any experi-
operations impossible. age, the cruisers picked up the ence operating under such tidal
bombardment with 6-inch and 8- conditions before, let alone ever
‘Sitting Ducks’ inch salvos. After that the carrier having been involved in an
aircraft resumed their attack. amphibious landing . . . . As the
The pre-landing naval gunfire Next day, 14 September, five of morning of September 15
bombardment began at 0700 on 13 the destroyers came back (the approached, we realized we had
September with a column of cruis- damaged Collett was left behind) all the ingredients for a disaster on
ers and destroyers coming up the and banged away again. At first the our hands.”
channel. The weather was good, destroyers drew feeble return fire.
the sea calm. Four cruisers—Toledo By the time they withdrew 75 min- Destination Wolmi-do
(CA 133), Rochester (CA 124), HMS utes later, having delivered 1,700
Kenya, and HMS Jamaica—found 5-inch shells, there was no return L-hour was to be 0630. At 0545,
their bombardment stations several fire at all. The Navy, with consid- the pre-landing shore bombard-
miles south of Inchon and dropped erable satisfaction, reported ment began. Lieutenant Colonel
anchor. Six destroyers—Mansfield Wolmi-do now ready for capture. Robert D. “Tap” Taplett’s 3d
(DD 728), DeHaven (DD 727), Battalion, 5th Marines, was boated
Lyman K. Swenson (DD 729), Attack Force Gathers by 0600. The carrier-based Marine
Collett (DD 730), Gurke (DD 783), Corsairs completed their last sweep
and Henderson (DD 785)—contin- Admiral Doyle had won his of the beach 15 minutes later.
ued on past the cruisers and were gamble against the typhoon. The “G Company was to land to the
about to earn for themselves the Yellow Sea was quiet and all ele- right of Green Beach in the assault,
rueful title of “Sitting Ducks.” ments of the Attack Force were in wheel right, and seize the domi-

98
ships converted to rocket ships—
sent their loads of thousands of 5-
inch rockets screeching shoreward
toward Wolmi-do. The island
seemed to explode under the
impact. Then the landing craft
began the run to Green Beach.
MacArthur, Shepherd, Almond,
Smith, Whitney, and Doyle all
watched from the flag bridge of
the Mount McKinley.
Seven LCVPs brought in the first
wave, one platoon of Company G
on the right and three platoons of
Company H on the left. The land-
ing craft converged on the narrow
beach—scarcely 50 yards wide—
and grounded at 0633, three min-
utes behind schedule. The remain-
der of the two assault companies
came in as the second wave two
minutes later. Resistance was limit-
ed to a few scattered shots.
Captain Patrick E. Wildman,
commanding Company H, left a
small detachment to clear North
Point and then plunged across the
island toward his objectives—the
northern nose of Radio Hill and
the shoreline of the burning indus-
trial area facing Inchon. After a
short pause to reorganize, Bohn
took Company G towards the
southern half of Radio Hill, 105
meters high. Resistance was half-
hearted. At 0655, Sergeant Alvin E.
Smith, guide of the 3d Platoon,
secured an American flag to the
trunk of a shattered tree.
MacArthur, watching the action
ashore from his swivel chair on the
nant hill mass on the island, Radio already awake. They hoped for the bridge of the Mount McKinley, saw
Hill,” remembered Robert D. traditional “steak and eggs” pre- the flag go up and said, “That’s it.
“Dewey” Bohn (then a first lieu- landing breakfast of World War II; Let’s get a cup of coffee.”
tenant; he would retire a major instead they got scrambled pow- Ten tanks—six M-26 Pershings
general). His company was dered eggs, dry toast, and canned and four modified M-4A3
embarked in the fast destroyer apricots. At about first light, Shermans, all under Second
transport Diachenko (APD 123). Company G went over the side Lieutenant Granville G. Sweet—
She stopped her engines at about and down the cargo nets into the landed in the third wave at 0646
0300, the troop compartment lights bobbing LCVPs, which then from three utility landing ships
came on, and reveille sounded cleared the ship and began to cir- (LSUs). They crunched their way
over the public address system. cle. inland, poised to help the infantry.
Most of the Marines were Three LSMRs—medium landing Lieutenant Colonel Taplett land-

99
Moving on to the near end of
the causeway that stretched to
Inchon itself, McMullen found
more North Korean defenders hid-
ing in a cave. One of Sweet’s tanks
fired a 90mm round into the mouth
of the cave. There was a muffled
explosion and 30 dazed and deaf-
ened North Koreans came stagger-
ing out with their hands above
their heads. “Captured forty-five
prisoners . . . meeting light resis-
tance,” radioed Taplett at 0745 to
the Mount McKinley.
Wildman’s Marines were finding
it slow going in the ruins of the
industrial area. Taplett ordered
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2686 Bohn to take the rest of Radio Hill
Reveille in the amphibious ships went at 0300 on the morning of 15 September. and by 0800 the high ground was
Marines hoped for the traditional “steak-and-eggs” D-day breakfast of World War Marine Corps property.
II, but most transports fed simpler fare, such as powdered eggs and canned apri-
cots. Breakfast on board the landing ships was even more spartan. ‘Wolmi-do Secured’
ed from his free boat a few min- nest of about a platoon of by-
utes later. At almost the same time, passed North Koreans. A flurry of Once again Taplett radioed the
Captain Robert A. McMullen hand grenades was exchanged. Mount McKinley, this time:
brought in the fourth wave bearing McMullen signaled Sweet’s tanks to “Wolmi-do secured.”
Company I, the battalion reserve. come forward. A Sherman with a With the success of the Marine
His company, following behind dozer blade sealed the die-hard landing blaring over the loud-
Company H, encountered an angry North Koreans in their holes. speakers, MacArthur left the bridge
By 0655, the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, had landed on shell-blasted tree. An hour later the battalion commander
Wolmi-do and had an American flag flying at the top of a reported resistance as light and 45 dazed prisoners taken.
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-GK-234I-A2694

100
taken and the job completed in
less than two hours. Three Marines
were wounded, bringing Taplett’s
casualties for the day to none
killed, 17 wounded.
Word was passed that some of
the North Koreans who had
escaped were trying to swim for
Inchon. A number of Bohn’s
Marines lined up rifle-range fash-
ion and shot at what they saw as
heads bobbing in the water. Others
dismissed the targets as imaginary.
Mopping up of the island was
completed by noon.
Taplett, growing restless and
seeing no sign of enemy activity,
proposed to division that he make
an assault on the city from his pre-
sent position or at least a recon-
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2798 naissance in force. Smith respond-
Some North Korean defenders of Wolmi-do stubbornly remained in their cave- ed to his proposal with a firm neg-
like positions and had to be burned out by flamethrowers. U.S. Marines were
ative.
readily distinguishable at this stage of the war by their wear of camouflage hel-
met covers and leggings.
Waiting for Evening Tide
to pen a message to Admiral placements. Flamethrowers and
Struble in his flagship Rochester: 3.5-inch rocket launchers burned The remainder of the division
“The Navy and Marines have never and blasted the dug-in enemy. was steaming toward the inner
shone more brightly than this Seventeen were killed, 19 surren- transport area. There would now
morning.” dered, and eight or more managed be a long wait until the evening
Ashore, Taplett consolidated his to hide out. The lighthouse was tide swept in and the assault regi-
gains. His three rifle companies, by
M-26 Pershing tanks, new to the Marines, began to land in the third wave at
prearranged plan, took up defen-
Wolmi-do and were soon put to use against North Korean fortified positions. A
sive positions facing Inchon. The
tank-infantry patrol assaulted and took Sowolmi-do, an islet dangling at the end
empty swimming pool at the tip of of a causeway from the main island.
North Point became a stockade for Department of Defense Photo (USMC)
prisoners.
At about 10 o’clock Taplett
ordered Bohn to take Sowolmi-do,
an islet dangling to the south of
Wolmi-do with a lighthouse at the
end of the causeway. Bohn sent
Second Lieutenant John D.
Counselman, leader of his 3d
Platoon, with a rifle squad and a
section of tanks. As a prelude to
the assault, a flight of Corsairs
drenched Sowolmi-do with na-
palm. Covered by the two tanks
and a curtain of 81mm mortar fire,
Counselman’s riflemen crossed the
narrow causeway, taking fire from
a hill honey-combed with em-

101
be found in the way of targets
within a 25-mile radius of Inchon.
(The D-Day action for the aircraft
on board the carrier Boxer was
labeled “Event 15” and consisted of
a strike with 12 F4U Corsairs and
five AD Skyraiders.) The smoke of
the bombardment and from burn-
ing buildings mixed with the rain
so that a gray-green pall hung over
the city.
H-Hour for the main landing
was 1730. Lieutenant Colonel
Raymond L. Murray’s 5th Marines,
minus the 3d Battalion already
ashore on Wolmi-do, was to land
over Red Beach, to the left and
north of Wolmi-do. Murray’s regi-
ment was to seize the O-A line, a
blue arc on the overlay to the
division’s attack order. On the
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2723 ground O-A line swung 3,000
Marines from the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, escorted a steady stream of prison- yards from Cemetery Hill on the
ers back to Green Beach on the seaward side of Wolmi-do. Landing ships and north or left flank, through
craft could beach as long as the tide was high, but once the tide receded they Observatory Hill in the center, and
would be left high and dry on the mud flats. then through a maze of buildings,
including the British Consulate,
ments could be landed. Marines,
standing at the rail of their trans- A corpsman bandages the forearm of a wounded North Korean prisoner on
ports, strained their eyes looking Wolmi-do. He and other prisoners were moved to one of the several prison stock-
for their intended beaches but ades that were set up on the landing beaches.
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2802
could see nothing but smoke. The
bombardment, alternating between
naval gunfire and air strikes, con-
tinued.
During the course of the after-
noon, Admiral Struble had his
admiral’s barge lowered into the
water from the Rochester (“Roach-
Catcher”). He swung by the Mount
McKinley to pick up General
MacArthur for a personal recon-
naissance from close offshore of
Wolmi-do and the harbor. Almond
and Shepherd went with them.
They swung close to the seawall
fronting the harbor. “General,” said
Shepherd, “You’re getting in
mighty close to the beach. They’re
shooting at us.” MacArthur ignored
the caution.
Naval gunfire and carrier air
sought to hit everything that could

102
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC348839
Gen MacArthur indulged his passion for visiting the “front.” VAdm Arthur D. Struble’s barge. Struble sits to MacArthur’s
During the interval between the morning and evening land- right. On his left is Army MajGen Courtney Whitney, often-
ings he personally “reconnoitered” the Inchon beaches in called MacArthur’s “press secretary.”

until it reached the inner tidal December 1941 and spent the war the British Consulate, and the inner
basin. as a prisoner of the Japanese. tidal basin.
The 1st and 2d Battalions, 5th Roise, commissioned from the “Two things scared me to
Marines, under Lieutenant University of Idaho in 1939, had death,” said Roise of the landing
Colonels George R. Newton and served at sea during the war. plan. “One, we were not landing
Harold S. Roise respectively, In the assault, Newton’s 1st on a beach; we were landing
would land abreast across Red Battalion and Roise’s 2d Battalion against a seawall. Each LCVP had
Beach. The new 1st ROK Marine would come away from the attack two ladders, which would be used
Regiment would follow them transports Henrico and Cavalier to climb up and over the wall. This
ashore. (APA 37) in landing craft. Both bat- was risky . . . . Two, the landing
Newton and Roise had the talions would land in column of was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. This
Pusan Perimeter behind them, but companies across the seawall onto would give us only about two
not much other infantry experi- narrow Red Beach. Newton, on the hours of daylight to clear the city
ence. Newton, commissioned in left, was to take Cemetery Hill and and set up for the night.”
1938 from the Naval Academy, was the northern half of Observatory Captain Francis I. “Ike” Fenton,
with the Embassy Guard at Peking Hill. Roise, on the right, was to Jr., commander of Company B in
when World War II came on 7 take his half of Observatory Hill, Newton’s battalion, sharply

103
Lieutenant Colonel Raymond L. Murray

S eldom does a Marine Corps regiment go


into combat with a lesser grade than full
colonel in command. But when Brigadier
General Edward Craig arrived at Camp
Pendleton in July 1950 to form the 1st
received his third and fourth Silver Stars for his
staunch leadership.
At Inchon, Major General O. P. Smith gave Murray
and his now-seasoned regiment the more complicated
northern half of the landing. After Inchon and Seoul,
Provisional Marine Brigade for service in Korea Murray would continue in command through the
he found no reason to supplant the command- Chosin Reservoir campaign. That battle in sub-zero
ing o f f ic e r o f t h e 5 th M a r i n e s , L i e u t e n a n t weather brought him the Army’s Distinguished Service
Colonel Raymond Murray. The tall, rangy Texan Cross as well as his second Navy Cross. Finally, in
was an exception to the general rule. He had January 1951 he was promoted to colonel.
already made his reputation as a fighter and of Coming home from Korea in April 1951, he attend-
being a step ahead of his grade in his assign- ed the National War College and then was hand-
ments. As a major at Guadalcanal he had com- picked to command The Basic School, since World
manded the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, and for War II at Quantico. Next he served at Camp Pendleton
his conspicuous gallantry had earned his first and Camp Lejeune. A promotion to brigadier general
Silver Star. came in June 1959. Assignments in Okinawa, then
After Guadalcanal, came Tarawa for the battalion Pendleton again, and Parris Island followed. Serving at
and a second Silver Star for Murray, now a lieutenant Headquarters Marine Corps in 1967 as a major gener-
colonel. Finally, at Saipan, although he was painfully al, he was ordered to Vietnam as Deputy Commander,
wounded, Murray’s control of his battalion was such III Marine Amphibious Force. His strong physique
that it brought him a Navy Cross. finally failed him. He was invalided home in February
Novelist Leon Uris served in Murray’s battalion. 1968 to Bethesda Naval Hospital where he remained
Later, when he wrote his book Battle Cry, he used until his retirement on 1 August 1968. He now lives in
Murray as his model for “High Pockets” Huxley, his Oceanside, California, close to Camp Pendleton.
hard-charging fictional battalion commander.
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A42922
Born in Alhambra, California, in 1913, Murray grew
up in Harlingen, Texas. When he accepted his com-
mission in July 1935, after graduating from Texas A&M
College, then the incubator of many Army and Marine
officers, he had behind him four years of the Army’s
Reserve Officers Training Corps and two years of the
Texas National Guard. He had also starred at football
and basketball. After attending Basic School, then in
the Philadelphia Navy Yard, he was detailed to the 2d
Marine Brigade in San Diego. The brigade went to
troubled China a year later. Murray served for a short
time in Shanghai, then moved to a prized slot in the
Embassy Guard in Peking. He came back to San Diego
in 1940 and returned to the 2d Marine Brigade which
within months expanded into the 2d Marine Division.
A 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was pulled out of the
2d Division in the summer of 1941 for service in
Iceland. Murray, now a captain and soon to be a
major, went with it. He was back in San Diego in April
1942 and in October sailed with the 6th Marines for
the war in the Pacific.
He came home in August 1944 and served at
Quantico, Camp Lejeune, Hawaii, and Camp
Pendleton. Promotions were slow after 1945 and
Murray was still a lieutenant colonel when the Korean
War began in 1950. As commander of the infantry ele-
ment of the later-day 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in
the “fire brigade” defense of the Pusan Perimeter, he

104
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2865
Navy transports stand off Inchon and Wolmi-do before the rowed back from the Japanese, was a rusty travesty of the
landing. Amphibious lift for Inchon, some of it literally bor- great amphibious armadas of World War II.

remembered the characteristics of Beach. Puller’s mission was to Blue Beach Two, also 500 yards
Red Beach: secure the O-1 line, a 4,000-yard wide, had its left flank marked by
arc that went inland as deep as the supposed road and its right
Once on the beach there 3,000 yards, and then hooked flank by a narrow ramp jutting sea-
was an open area of about around to the left to cut off Inchon ward. A cove, further to the right,
200 yards. The left flank was from Seoul. named at the last minute “Blue
marked by Cemetery Hill. Blue Beach One, 500 yards Beach Three,” offered an alternate
From the sea it looked like a wide, had its left flank marked by or supplementary landing site.
sheer cliff. To the right of a salt evaporator. What looked to Ridge, with the 3d Battalion, was
Cemetery Hill was a brewery, be a road formed the boundary to to cross the seawall girdling Blue
some work shops, and a cot- the south with Blue Beach Two. Beach Two and take Hill 233, a
ton mill. Further to the right The 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, mile southeast of the beach, and,
and about 600 yards in from was under affable, white-haired on the extreme right, a small cape,
the beach was Observatory Lieutenant Colonel Allan Sutter. flanking Blue Beach and topped
Hill, overlooking the entire After landing over Blue Beach by Hill 94.
landing area and considered One, he was to take a critical road At best, the four assault battal-
critical; it was the regimental junction about 1,000 yards north- ions coming across Red and Blue
objective. Further to the right east of the beach, and Hill 117, Beaches would have but two
was a five-story office build- nearly two miles inland, which hours of high tide and daylight to
ing built of concrete and rein- commanded Inchon’s “back door” turn the plan into reality. Smith,
forced steel. and the highway to Seoul, 22 miles after fully committing his two regi-
away. ments, would have nothing left as
Captain John R. Stevens’ Sutter, a graduate of Valley a division reserve except two half-
Company A was to land on the Forge Military Academy and trained Korean Marine battalions.
right flank. In the assault would be Dartmouth College, had gained his
the 2d Platoon under Second Marine Corps commission in 1937 Assaulting Red Beach
Lieutenant Francis W. Muetzel and through the Platoon Leaders
the 1st Platoon under Gunnery Course, a program under which It would be a long ride to Red
Sergeant Orval F. McMullen. In college students spent two sum- Beach for the 1st and 2d Battalions
reserve was the 3d Platoon under mers at Quantico to qualify as sec- of the 5th Marines. Troops began
First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, ond lieutenants. He then spent a debarking from the transports at
who had joined the company as it year at the Basic School in about 1530. “As you climb down
loaded out from Pusan. Philadelphia before being assigned that net into the LCVP you’re
Three miles to the south of the troop duties. During World War II, scared,” remembered Private First
5th Marines, Chesty Puller’s 1st Sutter was a signal officer at Class Doug Koch of Company D,
Marines was to land across Blue Guadalcanal, Guam, and Okinawa. 5th Marines. “What keeps you

105
four boats on the left carried the
two assault platoons of Company
A. Captain Steven’s mission was to
take Cemetery Hill and to secure
the left flank of the beachhead.
The four boats on the right carried
the assault elements of Captain
Samuel Jaskilka’s Company E,
which was to clear the right flank
of the beach and then capture the
hill that held the British Consulate.
As the first wave passed the
mid-way point, two squadrons of
Marine Corps Corsairs—VMF-214
under Lieutenant Colonel Walter E.
Lischied and VMF-323 under Major
Arnold A. Lund—came in to strafe
both Red and Blue Beaches. They
exhausted their loads and flew
away. Not satisfied, Captain
Stevens called for further air strikes
against Red Beach. Four Navy A-
4D Skyraiders made strafing passes
until the wave had only 30 yards to
go.
On the right, First Lieutenant
Edwin A. Deptula’s 1st Platoon,
Company E, hit the seawall at
1731, one minute behind schedule.
Designated Marines threw
grenades up over the seawall, and
after they exploded, Deptula took
his platoon up the scaling ladders.
A few stray rounds whined over-
head.
Deptula pushed inland about
100 yards to the railroad tracks
against no resistance. The rest of
Company E landed about 10 min-
utes later. Captain Jaskilka (who
would retire as a four-star general)
quickly re-organized his company
going is knowing this is what you pletely masked the beach area. near the Nippon Flour Company
have to do.” The Horace A. Bass, an escort building just south of the beach-
The Horace A. Bass (APD 124), destroyer converted into a high- head. Deptula’s platoon continued
the Red Beach control vessel, speed transport and anxious to get down the railroad tracks to the
slowly steamed ahead with a long into the fight, banged away with British Consulate. Jaskilka sent
file of landing craft “trailing behind her 5-inch guns. She then dipped another platoon to cross the rail-
like a brood of ducklings.” her signal flag and the first wave road tracks and then move up the
The supporting rocket ships let headed for Red Beach. slope of 200-foot-high Observatory
go with a final fusillade of some The eight LCVPs in the first Hill.
6,500 5-inch rockets. The resulting wave crossed the line of departure On the left flank it was not quite
cloud of dust and smoke com- at H-8 with 2,200 yards to go. The that easy. One of the four landing

106
Gen Oliver P. Smith Collection, Marine Corps Research Center
Aerial photo of Red Beach shows the pounding it took in the Battalions, 5th Marines, landed across this beach immedi-
pre-landing naval gunfire and air attacks. The 1st and 2d ately north of the causeway leading to Wolmi-do.

craft, with half the 1st Platoon, Cemetery Hill loomed ahead, but He took out the bunker with a
Company A, on board, lagged Muetzel’s immediate objective was grenade and moved forward
behind with engine trouble. The Asahi Brewery. He slipped south against a second bunker, pulling
remaining three boats reached the of Cemetery Hill and marched the pin from another grenade.
seawall at 1733. Sergeant Charles unopposed down a street to the Before he could throw it, he was
D. Allen took his half of the 1st brewery. There was a brief indul- hit. The grenade dropped by his
Platoon over the wall and received gence in green beer. side. He smothered the explosion
fire from his north flank and from Sergeant Allen, with his half-pla- with his body. This gained him a
a bunker directly to his front. toon, was making no progress posthumous Medal of Honor. Two
Several Marines went down. against the bunker to his front. The Marines went against the bunker
To Allen’s right, Second second wave landed, bringing in with flamethrowers. They were
Lieutenant Frank Muetzel found a the 3d Platoon under Baldomero shot down but the bunker was
breach in the seawall and brought Lopez and the missing half of the taken.
his 2d Platoon ashore. Facing them 1st Platoon. Too many Marines Captain Stevens’s boat landed
was a pillbox. Two Marines threw were now crowded into too small him in Company E’s zone of
grenades and six bloody North a space. action. Unable to get to his own
Korean soldiers came out. Lopez charged forward alone. company, he radioed his executive

107
officer, First Lieutenant Fred F. flare, signaling that Cemetery Hill the Henrico in Wave 5 along with
Eubanks, Jr., to take charge. was secure. It had cost his compa- John Davies of the Newark Daily
Stevens then radioed Muetzel to ny eight Marines killed and 28 News, Lionel Crane of the London
leave the brewery and get back to wounded. Daily Press, and a photographer.
the beach where he could help Coming in on the third and As their landing craft hit the sea-
out. fourth waves, Company C, 1st wall, the wave commander, First
On the way back, Muetzel found Battalion, was to take the northern Lieutenant Richard J. “Spike”
a route up the southern slope of half of Observatory Hill, and Schening, urged on his Marines
Cemetery Hill and launched an Company D, 2d Battalion, was to with, “Come on you big, brave
assault. The summit was alive with take the southern half. It did not Marines. Let’s get the hell out of
North Koreans, but there was no work out quite that way. Parts of here.”
fight left in them. Dazed and spir- Companies C and D were landed The photographer decided he
itless from the pounding they had on the wrong beaches. Company had had enough and that he would
taken from the air and sea, they C, once ashore, had to wait 12 go back to the Henrico. Maggie
threw up their hands and surren- minutes for its commander, considered doing the same, but
dered. Muetzel sent them down to Captain Poul F. Pedersen. In then, juggling her typewriter, she,
the base of the hill under guard. Pedersen’s boat was the fifth wave along with Davies and Crane, fol-
Eubanks’ Company E Marines commander who had decided to lowed Schening over the seawall.
meanwhile had bested the tow a stalled LCVP. Once ashore, Eight LSTs crossed the line of
obstructing bunker with grenades Pedersen had trouble sorting out departure, as scheduled, at 1830
and a flamethrower. His 1st and 2d his company from amongst the and were headed for the seawall.
Platoons pushed through and jumble of Marines that had gath- Seeing the congestion on Red
joined Muetzel’s 2d Platoon. At ered in the center of the beach. Beach, the skippers of the LSTs
1755, 25 minutes after H-Hour, Maggie Higgins, the Herald- concluded that the Marines were
Captain Stevens fired an amber Tribune correspondent, came off held up and could not advance.

108
Magness had taken his 2d Platoon,
Company C, reinforced by Second
Lieutenant Max A. Merritt’s 60mm
mortar section, up to the saddle
that divided the crest of
Observatory Hill. Their radios were
not working and they had no
flares. They had to inform the
beach of their success by sending
back a runner.
Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion’s
reserve company—Company B
under Captain “Ike” Fenton—had
landed in the 2d Battalion’s zone.
Lieutenant Colonel Newton
ordered Fenton to assume
Company C’s mission and take the
northern half of Observatory Hill.
Six Marines were wounded along
the way, but by about 2000 Fenton
was at the top and tied in with the
Magness-Merritt platoon.
In the right half of the regimen-
tal zone of action, Roise was get-
ting the congestion on the beach
straightened out. Company D,
commanded by First Lieutenant H.
J. Smith, had followed Company E
ashore, but had landed to the left
in the 1st Battalion zone. Smith
(called “Hog Jaw” to make up for
his non-existent first and second
names) understood that Jaskilka’s
Company E was already on the
crest of Observatory Hill. Under
that assumption he started his
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A3701
Marines enroute to Red Beach go over the side of their assault transport, down company in route column up the
the cargo net hand-over-hand, and into the waiting LCVP, a version of the street leading to the top of the hill.
famous “Higgins boat” of World War II. An enemy machine gun interrupt-
ed his march. After a brisk firefight
The lead LST received some mortar in a building on Observatory Hill. that caused several Marine casual-
and machine-gun fire and fired A chance 40mm shell from one of ties, the enemy was driven off and
back with its own 20mm and the LSTs knocked out the gun. Company D began to dig in for the
40mm guns. Two other LSTs joined Weapons Company and Head- night. A platoon from Company F,
in. Unfortunately, they were spray- quarters and Service Company of the battalion reserve, filled in the
ing ground already occupied by Roise’s 2d Battalion landed about gap between Company D and the
the Marines. 1830 and came under LST fire that Magness-Merritt positions. The
The LST fire showered Muetzel’s killed one Marine and wounded 23 only part of the O-A line that was
platoon, holding the crest of others. not now under control was the
Cemetery Hill. Muetzel pulled back By 1900, all eight LSTs had extreme right flank where the line
his platoon. As his Marines slid stopped firing and were nestled ended at the inner tidal basin.
down the hill, they came under fire against the seawall. By then Maggie Higgins, after seeing the
from a North Korean machine gun Second Lieutenant Byron L. war, such as it was, found a boat

109
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A3190
Marines go over the seawall forming the sharp edge of Red Baldomero Lopez. Moments later he would give his life and
Beach. The Marine on the ladder has been identified as 1stLt earn a posthumous Medal of Honor.

on Red Beach that was returning to der, came ashore at about 1830 Amphibian tractors, rather than
the Mount McKinley, where, after and set up his command post at landing craft, were used for the
the personal intercession of the end of the causeway that led assault. The seawall was in disre-
Admiral Doyle, she was allowed to from the mainland to Wolmi-do. pair with numerous breaks up
stay for the night. She slept on a Roise wished to stay where he was which it was presumed the
stretcher in the sick bay. Next day, for the night, but Murray ordered amphibian tractors could crawl.
Admiral Doyle specified that in the him to reach the tidal basin. The 18 Army armored amphibians
future women would be allowed Company F, under Captain Uel D. (LVT[A]s) forming the first wave
on board only between the hours Peters, faced around in the dark crossed the line of departure at
of nine in the morning and nine at and plunged forward. Shortly after 1645 and headed toward Inchon.
night. (About a month later, midnight, Roise reported that his At four knots they needed three-
Maggie’s transportation orders half of the O-A line was complete. quarters of an hour to hit the
were modified. She would still be beach at H-Hour.
allowed on board any Navy ship Assaulting Blue Beach The soldiers had the compasses
but would have to be chaperoned and seamanship to pierce the
by a female nurse.) The confusion was greater on smoke and reached the beach on
Murray, the regimental comman- Blue Beach than on Red Beach. time. The second and following

110
First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez

B aldomero Lopez was always eager. During World


War II, he was 17 when he enlisted in the Navy in
July 1943. Most thought him a Mexican American,
but his father, also named Baldomero, as a young man
had come to Tampa from the Asturias region of Spain.
Los Asturianos, the men of Asturias, are known for their
valor and honor.
He was appointed from the fleet to the Naval
Academy in July 1944. His class, 1948A, was hurried
through in three years. Lucky Bag, his class book, called
him “one of the biggest hearted, best natured fellows in
the brigade.” Otherwise he does not seem to have been
exceptional. His nickname at the Academy was “Lobo.”
This changed to “Punchy” after he came into the Marine
Corps in June 1947, because it was generally believed
that he had boxed while at Annapolis. After Basic School
he stayed on at Quantico as a platoon commander in the
Platoon Leaders Class. In 1948, he went to North China
as part of a Marine presence that was in its last days. He
served first as a mortar section leader and then as a rifle
platoon commander at Tsingtao and Shanghai.
When the Marines closed out in China, he came back
to Camp Pendleton. In the early summer of 1950, when
the formation of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade
stripped the 1st Marine Division dry, he asked to be
included but was left behind. He went out, however, to
Korea in the draft that was sent to Pusan to fill the 5th
Marines to war strength before embarking for Inchon. He Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A43985
was given the 3d Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion. whose fire was pinning down that sector of the
Secretary of the Navy Dan Kimball presented the beach. Taken under fire by an enemy automatic
posthumous Medal of Honor to his father and mother at weapon and hit in the right shoulder and chest as
ceremonies in Washington on 30 August 1951. he lifted his arm to throw, he fell backward and
Citation: dropped the deadly missile. After a moment, he
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the turned and dragged his body forward in an effort
risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as to retrieve the grenade and throw it. In critical con-
a Rifle Platoon Commander of Company A, First dition from pain and loss of blood, and unable to
Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division grasp the hand grenade firmly enough to hurl it, he
(Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor chose to sacrifice himself rather than endanger the
forces during the Inchon invasion in Korea on 15 lives of his men and, with a sweeping motion of his
September 1950. With his platoon, First Lieutenant wounded right arm, cradled the grenade under him
Lopez was engaged in the reduction of immediate and absorbed the full impact of the explosion. His
enemy beach defenses after landing with the exceptional courage, fortitude and devotion to duty
assault waves. Exposing himself to hostile fire, he reflect the highest credit upon First Lieutenant
moved forward alongside a bunker and prepared Lopez and the United States Naval Service. He gal-
to throw a hand grenade into the next pillbox lantly gave his life for his country.

waves did not do so well. Rain and sion to stop sending any further Marines, remembered it:
smoke had completely blotted out waves ashore until he could see
any view of the beach. From the what was happening to them. We had been told that a
bridge of his ship, the Blue Beach Permission was denied. wave guide would pick us up
control officer watched the first As Major Edwin H. Simmons, and lead us to the line of
two or three waves disappear into the commander of Weapons departure . . . . Two LCVPs
the smoke. He requested permis- Company, 3d Battalion, 1st did come alongside our wave.

111
The first was filled with pho-
tographers. The second was
loaded with Korean inter-
preters. Two of these were
hastily dumped into my LVT,
apparently under the mistak-
en notion that I was a battal-
ion commander. Both inter-
preters spoke Korean and
Japanese; neither spoke
English. Time was passing,
and we were feeling faintly
desperate when we came
alongside the central control
vessel. I asked the bridge for
instructions. A naval officer
with a bullhorn pointed out
the direction of Blue Two, but
nothing could be seen in that
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2816
direction except mustard-col-
A key objective for the 5th Marines was the 200-foot-high Observatory Hill. Both ored haze and black smoke.
the 1st and 2d Battalions converged on the hill with Marines from Company B We were on our way when
taking the weather station on its top. our path crossed that of

Marines setup a temporary barricade on the causeway to position a 3.5-inch rocket launcher and a machine gun just
Inchon, after mopping up and consolidating their positions in case. The 3.5-inch rocket launcher proved itself adequate
on Wolmi-do. Although not expecting a counterattack, they against the vaunted T-34 tank.
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A2747

112
Department of Defense Photo (USMC)
Amphibian tractors (LVTs) churn away from the landing used chiefly for the assault of Blue Beach within the inner
ships (LSTs) that brought them to Inchon. “Amtracks” were harbor.

another wave. I asked if they vehicles backed off and milled landing either on Beach BLUE-1 or
were headed for Blue Two. around, getting intermixed with along the rock causeway by a con-
Their wave commander the incoming troop-carrying Waves trol boat. Instead they were direct-
answered, “Hell, no. We’re 2 and 3. ed to the right of the two beaches
the 2d Battalion headed for From his seat on the bridge of prescribed for the regiment and
Blue One.” We then veered the Mount McKinley, MacArthur, landed at Beach BLUE-3.”
off to the right. I broke out surrounded by his gaggle of gener- Wave 2 for Blue Beach Two,
my map and asked my LVT als and admirals, peered through with Ridge’s assault companies,
driver if he had a compass. the gathering gloom of smoke, passed through the Army tractors,
He looked at his instrument rain, and darkness and listened to Company G under Captain George
panel and said, “Search me. the reports crackling over the loud- C. Westover on the left, Company I
Six weeks ago I was driving a speaker. From his perspective, all under First Lieutenant Joseph R.
truck in San Francisco.” seemed to be going well. “Bull” Fisher on the right. They
Lieutenant Colonel Sutter’s sec- reached the seawall about 10 min-
The nine Army LVT(A)s making ond wave landed elements of both utes after H-Hour. The tractors
up the first wave for Blue Beach his two assault companies, bearing Company G formed up in
One got ashore on schedule, but Company D, under Captain Welby column and muddled their way up
found themselves boxed in by an W. Cronk, and Company F, under the drainage ditch. Company I
earth slide that blocked the exit Captain Goodwin C. Groff, across went over the seawall using alu-
road. The remaining nine Army Blue Beach One shortly after H- minum ladders, some of which
armored amphibian tractors, form- Hour. Some of his amphibian trac- buckled. Assault engineers from
ing Wave 1 for Blue Beach Two, tors hung up on a mud bank about Captain Lester G. Harmon’s
made it to the seawall shortly after 300 yards offshore and their occu- Company C, 1st Engineer
H-Hour but were less successful in pants had to wade the rest of the Battalion, reached the wall and
getting ashore. The “road” separat- way. Most of Sutter’s last three rigged cargo nets to help the later
ing Blue One and Two turned out waves, bringing in his reserve, waves climb ashore.
to be a muck-filled drainage ditch. Company E, drifted to the right. As Ridge, the 3d Battalion comman-
After exchanging fire with scat- Sutter reported it: “For some der, accompanied by his executive
tered defenders in factory build- unknown reason the third, fourth, office, Major Reginald R. Myers,
ings behind the seawall, the Army and fifth waves were diverted from seeing the congestion on Blue

113
Beach Two, moved in his free boat Most of Company B and some of head on the south. The North
to explore the possibilities of Blue Company A had landed before Koreans were driven out, but at a
Beach Three. He found a mud Hawkins could correct the error. cost. Swanson himself was severe-
ramp broken through the seawall Most of those who landed were re- ly wounded in the thigh and evac-
and some of his battalion was boated and sent on to Blue Beach uated. (Swanson returned to the 3d
diverted to this landing point. An Two. Because of a shortage of Battalion in late winter 1951, was
enemy machine gun in a tower boats, however, one platoon was wounded in the hand at the end of
about 500 yards inland caused a left behind. Marching overland to March, and killed by one of our
few casualties before it was Blue Beach Two this orphan pla- own mines on 15 May 1951.)
knocked out by fire from the toon gilded the lily by picking up Corley’s Company H, less its 1st
Army’s armored tractors. a bag of prisoners enroute. Platoon, moved into the gap
More serious problems confront- The 3d Battalion, 1st Marines’ between Companies G and I. The
ed Lieutenant Colonel Jack reserve—Company H under 2d Platoon, Company H, was sent
Hawkins’ 1st Battalion, which was Captain Clarence E. Corley, Jr.— forward at midnight to outpost Hill
in regimental reserve. Boated in landed across Blue Beaches Two 233, a mile to the front, got
LCVP landing craft, he was ordered and Three. The 1st Platoon, led by halfway there, to Hill 180, and
by Puller, who was already ashore, First Lieutenant William Swanson, received permission to stay put for
to land his battalion. If things had had the mission of securing the the night.
gone well Hawkins should have right flank of the bridgehead. Generals Almond and Shepherd
beached at about H+45 minutes or Swanson slid his platoon behind came in with the ninth wave, along
1815. Veering off far to the left in Company I and moved against a with Admiral Struble, for a look-
the gloom, his leading waves mis- platoon-sized enemy dug in on see at how events were progress-
took the wall of the tidal basin for Hill 94, which topped the fish- ing on Blue Beach. Almond’s aide,
the seawall of Blue Beach Two. hook cape bounding the beach- Lieutenant Haig, had come in to

114
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-GK-234I-A409339
On the morning following the landing, the Marines tage over the mediocre defense force. North Korean resis-
marched through Inchon itself against no resistance. tance stiffened in both numbers and quality as the attack
Initially, the Marines enjoyed a 10 to one numerical advan- moved inland toward Seoul.

Red Beach on board one of the division commander—came a- goes down in the situation report
LSTs. He had with him Almond’s shore at Wolmi-do and, joining as “light to moderate.” Total Marine
personal baggage and the where- Taplett’s 3d Battalion, established casualties for the first day’s fighting
withal to establish a mobile com- an advance division command were 20 killed, 1 died of wounds,
mand post including a van fitted post. Craig had brought his brigade 1 missing in action, and 174
out as sleeping quarters and an staff ashore intact to function as an wounded.
office. In transit Haig had lost two interim division staff. Since his
of the general’s five jeeps, swept arrival in the objective area, Craig Assault Continues
over the side of the LST in the had had no opportunity to meet
typhoon. When Haig met up with with O. P. Smith face-to-face. At about midnight Puller and
his boss, Almond’s first question During the night, Taplett’s bat- Murray received the division’s
was whether Haig had gotten his talion crossed the causeway from attack order for the next day.
baggage ashore without getting it Wolmi-do and rejoined the main Murray was to bring the 5th
wet. body of the 5th Marines on Red Marines up on line abreast of
While the 5th Marines were Beach. Before morning the 1st Puller’s 1st Marines. The axis for
assaulting Red Beach, Brigadier Marine Division had all its first the advance on Seoul would be
General Craig—with his brigade day’s objectives. Resistance had the intertwined highway and rail-
dissolved and now the assistant been scattered—of the sort that road. The Korean Marine regiment

115
On the ground, Roise’s 2d
Battalion, 5th Marines, made solid
contact with Sutter’s 2d Battalion,
1st Marines, on Hill 117. The two
battalions continued the advance
against nothing heavier than sniper
fire. By 1100 elements of both bat-
talions were just short of Kansong-
ni where they could see the smoke
still rising from the fires set by the
battle of T-34s and Corsairs.
Meanwhile, General Craig had
moved his command group into
Inchon itself. On the outskirts of
the city, he found what he thought
would be a good location for the
division command post including a
site close by where a landing strip
could be bulldozed. He ordered
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC348506
his temporary command post
Once ashore at Inchon, the Marines see for themselves that naval gunfire had
moved forward.
destroyed much of the city. Once ashore, the rule-of-thumb was that each assault
battalion would have a cruiser or destroyer available for on-call missions.
Thirty “SCAJAP” LSTs, manned
for the most part with Japanese
was initially left behind in Inchon killing Simpson, but the tank attack crews, had been collected for the
to mop up. was halted. One T-34 was engulfed Inchon landing. Those that were
The day, 16 September, was in flames, a second had its tracks carrying troops did not beach, but
clear and pleasant. The climate knocked off, and a third stood sent their passengers off in
was about the same as our north- motionless on the road. A second amphibian tractors. After the
eastern states at this time of year, flight of Corsairs came over to fin- assault waves had swept ahead
warm during the day, a bit cool at ish off the disabled T-34s. The they did beach, when the tides
night. pilots pulled away, thinking incor- permitted, for general unloading.
Murray elected to advance in rectly that all six tanks were dead. Beach conditions and the mixed
column of battalions, leading off
with Roise’s 2d Battalion, followed The rubber-tired amphibious DUKW pulls a trailer about a mile outside of
Inchon on the first morning after the landing. These “ducks” were used primar-
by the 1st and 3d Battalions in that
ily to move guns, ammunition, and supplies for the artillery.
order. The 2d Battalion’s advance
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC348502
through Inchon was strangely
quiet. The enemy had vanished
during the night.

Corsairs Against T-34s


Five miles to Murray’s front, six
of the vaunted Soviet-built T-34
tanks, without infantry escort, were
rumbling down the Seoul highway
toward him. Near the village of
Kansong-ni, eight Corsairs from
VMF-214 swept down on the
advancing tanks with rockets and
napalm. One Corsair, flown by
Captain William F. Simpson, Jr.,
failed to come out of its dive,

116
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC348504
A curious Marine passes three knocked-out T-34 tanks. The a Corsair fighter-bomber’s rockets to the 3.5-inch rocket
vaunted Soviet-built tank proved no match for the array of launchers in the rifle and weapons companies.
weapons that the Marines could bring to bear, ranging from

quality of the Japanese crews M-4A3 Shermans. Few of the mem- on board ship—not the best place
threw the planned schedule for bers of Lieutenant Colonel Harry T. for tank training.
unloading completely out of bal- Milne’s 1st Tank Battalion—except Major Vincent J. Gottschalk’s
ance. for Company A, which had been VMO-6, the division’s observation
The landing and employment of with the 5th Marines and had the squadron, began flying reconnais-
tanks presented problems. The M-26 at Pusan—were familiar with sance missions at first light on D+1,
Marines had just received M-26 the Pershing. The tankers received 16 September. VMO-6 possessed
Pershings as replacements for their their instruction on the new tanks eight Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopters
M-26 Pershing tanks emerge from the maws of beached LSTs were re-equipped with the Pershings literally while on their
(“landing ships, tank”) at Inchon. Marine tankers, previ- way to the objective area.
ously equipped with the obsolescent M-4 Sherman tank, Department of Defense Photo (USMC)

117
abreast with Company H following
in reserve. Prisoners and materiel
were taken, but there was almost
no fighting. By noon the division
held the 0-3 line, a front three
miles long, secured on both flanks
by water. Smith ordered Murray
and Puller to move on forward and
seize the Force Beachhead Line
(FBHL) which would conclude the
assault phase of the amphibious
operation.
Murray chose to advance in two
prongs. Roise with the 2d Battalion
would continue to advance with
his right flank tied to the Seoul
highway. Taplett, coming up from
behind with the 3d Battalion was
to swing wide to the left. Newton,
with the 1st Battalion, would fol-
low in reserve.
Roise’s battalion, escorted by
Lieutenant Sweet’s five M-26
Pershing tanks, moved up the road
and at about 1330 rounded the
bend into Kansong-ni. Two of
Sweet’s tanks crawled up a knoll
from which they could cover the
advancing riflemen. From this van-
tage point the Marine tankers saw
three T-34 tanks, not dead as sup-
posed, but ready for battle with
hatches buttoned up and 85mm
guns leveled on the bend in the
road. Sweet’s tanks smacked the T-
34s with 20 rounds of armor-pierc-
ing shells. The T-34s went up in
flames. Company D led the
advance past the three burning
hulks. Nearby the Marines found
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A130235
the two tanks knocked out earlier
Maj Vincent J. Gottschalk, commanding officer of VMO-6, prepares to take off in
by the Corsairs. The sixth tank had
an OY light observation aircraft. Among the varied missions of the squadron was
vanished.
spotting and adjusting artillery fire on the retreating North Koreans for the
ground troops. Company D continued for
another thousand yards and then
and eight OY airplanes and had In the 1st Marines’ zone of climbed a high hill on the west
been with the 1st Brigade at Pusan action Puller sent Ridge’s 3d side of the road. Company F joined
where for the first time Marines Battalion to make a sweep of Company D on their left. They
used helicopters in combat. That Munhang Peninsula. Ridge used were still two miles from the Force
day, First Lieutenant Max Nebergall amphibian tractors as personnel Beachhead Line, but it looked like
pulled a ditched Navy pilot out of carriers—a bold but dangerous a good time and place to dig in for
Inchon harbor in the first of many practice—and advanced on a the night.
rescue operations. broad front, Companies G and I On Roise’s left, Taplett’s 3d

118
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC349015
For much of the advance up the axis of the Inchon-Seoul tected along the way by M-26 tanks. The North Koreans, in
highway, and even sometimes traveling cross-country, turn, tried to choke off these advances with ambushes and
Marines used amphibian tractors as personnel carriers pro- antitank mines.

Battalion advanced uneventfully once the village of Taejong-ni and pation—to his front. The sea was
and now held high ground over- now the remnants of a huge ser- to his left.
looking the FBHL. His patrols vice command that had been used South of the 5th Marines,
reached the edge of Ascom City— by the U.S. Army during the occu- Puller’s 1st Marines, having spent
A Korean civilian eager to assist the advancing forces, shows one of the division’s most of the day pulling together its
reconnaissance Marines a large cache of dynamite and ammunition hidden in scattered parts, did not jump off in
a storage cave. It was one of several caches uncovered by Capt Kenneth the new attack until about 1600.
Houghton’s Marines on the division’s right flank. Sutter’s 2d Battalion went forward
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A2821
on the right of the road past
Kansong-ni for a thousand yards
and then tied in with Roise’s bat-
talion for the night. Hawkins’ 1st
Battalion filled in between Sutter
and Ridge. Ridge’s 3d Battalion
had done more hiking than fight-
ing and at the end of the day was
relieved by the Division Recon-
naissance Company, under pugna-
cious Captain Kenneth J.
Houghton, attached to the 1st
Marines as the division’s right flank
element. Ridge’s Marines went into
regimental reserve. Houghton’s
reconnaissance Marines engaged
no enemy but found huge caches
of arms and ammunition.

119
O. P. Smith Opens
His Command Post
General Craig had just gotten
back from his search for a site for
the division command post, when
he learned that O. P. Smith, accom-
panied by Admiral Struble and
General Shepherd, had landed.
Smith was satisfied with Craig’s
recommended site. Craig then took
him for a quick tour of the troop
dispositions and at 1800 Smith offi-
cially assumed command ashore.
During the day, General Almond
visited Red Beach and the 5th
Marines.
Smith was joined later that
evening by Major General Frank E.
Lowe, an Army Reserve officer and
President Truman’s personal Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press
observer, who had arrived unan- Front-line Marines found that stripping a prisoner bare took all the fight out of
nounced. Lowe moved into the him and also eliminated the possibility of hidden weapons. Rear-echelon author-
division command post. He and ities found the practice distasteful and ordered the Marines to desist.
Smith got along famously. “His
rocket launchers attached, all yards he killed the first T-34 and
frank and disarming manner made
under Second Lieutenant Lee R. damaged the second. The remain-
him welcome throughout the divi-
Howard, for that purpose. ing four tanks continued to plow
sion,” remembered Smith.
During the night the North forward to be met by a cacophony
More Enemy T-34 Tanks Koreans formed up a tank-infantry of 90mm fire from Pomeroy’s M-26
column—six T-34s from the 42d tanks at 600 yards range, 75mm
The night of 16-17 September NKPA Mechanized Regiment and recoilless rifle fire at 500 yards, and
was quiet, so quiet, the official his- about 200 infantry from the 18th more rockets, some coming from
tory remarks, that a truck coming NKPA Division in Seoul—some Sutter’s battalion on the other side
down the highway from Seoul miles east of Ascom City. Howard of the road. Private First Class
drove unimpeded through the saw the lead tank at about dawn, Walter C. Monegan, Jr., from
Marine front lines, until finally reported its approach to “Hog Jaw” Company F, 1st Marines, fired his
stopped by a line of M-26 tanks Smith, who reported it to Roise, 3.5-inch rocket launcher at point-
several hundred yards to the rear. who could not quite believe it. blank range. Just which weapons
The tankers, the 1st Platoon, Obviously the North Koreans did killed which tanks would be
Company A, under First Lieutenant not know the Marines were wait- argued, but the essentials were that
William D. Pomeroy, took a sur- ing for them. Howard let the col- all six T-34s were knocked out and
prised NKPA officer and four umn come abreast of his knoll-top their crews killed.
enlisted men prisoner. position and then opened up.
Lieutenant “Hog Jaw” Smith, Official historians Montross and MacArthur Comes Ashore
commander of Company D, 5th Canzona say: “The Red infantry
Marines, from his observation post went down under the hail of lead MacArthur, instantly recogniz-
overlooking the highway was suf- like wheat under the sickle.” able in his braided cap, sunglasses,
ficiently apprehensive, however, Corporal Oley J. Douglas, still well-worn khakis, and leather
about a sharp bend in the road to armed with the 2.36-inch rocket flight jacket, came grandly ashore
the left front of his position to out- launcher and not the new 3.5-inch, that same morning, 17 September.
post it. He dispatched his 2d slid down the hill to get a better His large accompanying party
Platoon with machine guns and shot at the tanks. At a range of 75 included Struble, Almond,

120
just as the Marines knocked out
five tanks.” Shepherd replied,
“Well, Ned, we’re just doing our
job, that’s all.”
MacArthur climbed back into his
jeep and the star-studded party
drove on. Seven dazed North
Korean soldiers crawled out from
the culvert over which MacArthur’s
jeep had parked and meekly sur-
rendered.
Next stop for MacArthur was the
5th Marines command post.
MacArthur went to award Silver
Stars to General Craig and Colonel
Murray only to learn that his sup-
ply of medals was exhausted.
“Make a note,” he told his aide.
The medals were delivered later.
MacArthur finished his tour with
a visit to Green Beach at Wolmi-
do, where unloading from the LSTs
was progressing, and to see the
occupants of the prisoner of war
stockade—671 of them under
guard of the 1st Marine Division’s
military police.
Ashore at Wolmi-do, MacArthur
found evidence, to his great satis-
At a temporary aid station at Pier No.
2, designated Yellow Beach, a wound-
ed Marine is given whole blood by a
Navy corpsman. From this station, the
wounded were evacuated to hospital
ships off shore.
National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC349024

Shepherd, Whitney, Wright, and two great actors shook hands.


Fox; a bodyguard bristling with MacArthur gave Puller a Silver Star.
weapons; and a large number of MacArthur’s cavalcade next
the press corps. A train of jeeps drove to the site of the still-smok-
was hastily assembled and the ing hulls of the dreaded North
party proceeded to the 1st Marine Korean T-34 tanks that had coun-
Division headquarters in a dirt- terattacked at dawn. Shepherd,
floored Quonset hut where Smith looking at the still-burning T-34s,
joined the party. MacArthur pre- commented to Almond that they
sented him a Silver Star medal. proved that “bazookas” could
MacArthur and his entourage destroy tanks.
then visited Puller at the 1st “You damned Marines!” snort-
Marines’ observation post. ed Almond. “You always seem to
MacArthur climbed the hill. Puller be in the right spot at the right
put down his binoculars and the time . . . . MacArthur would arrive

121
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC348526
On the morning of 17 September, Gen MacArthur, sur- Jr., on the left, is in his usual khakis and carrying his trade-
rounded by subordinates, bodyguards, and photographers, mark cocomacaque, or Haitian walking stick. MajGen O. P.
made a grand and much publicized tour of the Inchon Smith, in khaki fore-n-aft cap and canvas leggings, trudges
beachhead. MacArthur is unmistakable in his crushed cap, along behind Shepherd.
sunglasses, and leather jacket. LtGen Lemuel C. Shepherd,

Almost obscured by the jeep’s windshield, a photographer MajGen O. P. Smith sits smiling in the middle of the rear
peers through his lens at the command echelons of the seat, flanked on his right by MajGen Edward M. Almond
Inchon landing during the 17 September visit. Gen and on his left by VAdm Arthur D. Struble. The unidentified
MacArthur in hawk-like profile stares straight ahead. Marine driver awaits instructions.
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC348522

122
faction, that the enemy had begun
an intensive fortification of the
island. Later he pontificated: “Had
I listened to those who wanted to
delay the landing until the next
high tides, nearly a month later,
Wolmi-do would have been an
impregnable fortress.”
Almond, just before leaving with
his boss to return to the Mount
McKinley, informed Smith that
Barr’s 7th Infantry Division would
begin landing the next day, com-
ing in on the 1st Marine Division’s
right flank. Smith, returning to his
command post, learned that Major
General James M. Gavin, USA, of
World War II airborne fame, had
arrived to study the Marine Corps’
use of close air support.
An airstrip was set up next to
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC348516 the division command post that
FMFPac commander LtGen Lemuel C. Shepherd, VMI 1917, on the right, points same day, 17 September. After that,
out something significant to the X Corps commander, MajGen Edward M. Gottschalk’s VMO-6 flew a full
Almond, VMI 1915, as they move by motor launch from the Mount McKinley to schedule of observation, evacua-
the beach. Shepherd, although relegated to the position of observer instead of tion, liaison, and reconnaissance
corps commander, held no grudge against Almond. flights.

Marine helicopters, fragile and few in number, were found suitable helicopters arrived and the practice became stan-
useful in evacuating severely wounded Marines to hospital dard.
facilities to the rear or at sea. As the war progressed, more Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press

123
found Taplett’s 3d Battalion.
Eventually, Pomeroy reached the
2d Battalion and a road that would
lead to Kimpo Airfield now about
five miles away. He was joined by
his company commander, Captain
Gearl M. English, and another pla-
toon of tanks.
Meanwhile, Roise advanced to
two high hills some 4,000 yards
south of Kimpo. He launched his
attack against the airfield with
Companies D and E in the assault.
They moved rapidly against noth-
ing but light small arms fire.
Captain English brought up his
tanks to help, assigning a tank pla-
toon to support each of the assault
companies. By 1800, Roise’s
Marines were at the southern end
of the main runway. Each of his
three rifle companies curled into
separate perimeters for the night.
Lieutenant Deptula’s 1st Platoon,
Company E, was positioned well
out to the front in the hamlet of
Soryu-li as an outpost.
During the afternoon, Newton
and the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines,
had moved up on Roise’s right
against no resistance. Taplett’s 3d
Battalion, having eased the situa-
tion for the Korean Marines, was
two miles to the rear, again in reg-
Infantry Advances of the densely built-up area of lit- imental reserve.
tle pockets of resistance. Roise
The battle with the T-34s found that the road on the map With 1st Marines
delayed for an hour the jump-off that was supposed to lead to his
for the day’s attacks. The next next objective, four miles distant, Throughout the day, 17
phase line was 19 miles long and was nonexistent on the ground. September, Puller’s 1st Marines had
Murray’s 5th Marines had two- The renewed advance did not get continued its advance. On the left
thirds of it. At 0700, the Korean off until mid-afternoon. flank Sutter, with the 2d Battalion,
Marines’ 3d Battalion had passed The inexperienced 3d Battalion straddled the highway and moved
through Roise’s 2d Battalion to of the Korean Marines ran into forward behind an intermittent
clean up the outskirts of Ascom trouble on the other side of Ascom curtain of howitzer fire delivered
City. Roise himself jumped off two City. Taplett’s 3d Battalion, 5th by the 11th Marines. Essentially,
hours later, Captain Jaskilka’s Marines, in regimental reserve, Sutter was attacking due east from
Company E in the lead. The moved in to help and efficiently Mahang-ri to Sosa, two fair-sized
advance was to be in column and knocked out the moderate resis- villages. He deployed Company E
then a left turn into Ascom City. tance. Pomeroy came up with his on the left of the road, Company F
Company E, joined by 2d platoon of M-26 tanks. Looking for on the right, and kept Company D
Platoon, Company F, spent the Roise’s 2d Battalion and, not find- in reserve. As the 5th Marines
morning in a methodical clearing ing the mythical road, he instead moved to the northeast toward

124
had come ashore to observe the
operations of the Korean Marine
Regiment. (He also received a
MacArthur Silver Star.) Sohn
picked a temporary mayor who
was installed on the morning of 18
September by authority of a 1st
Marine Division proclamation.

5th Marines Takes Kimpo


The night of 17-18 September
was tense for the 5th Marines.
Murray was certain that the North
Koreans would not give up Kimpo,
the best airfield in Korea, without a
fight, and he was right. The airfield
was under the apparent command
Department of Defense Photo (USMC)
of a Chinese-trained brigadier gen-
When not moving from hill to hill, the Marines frequently found themselves
eral, Wan Yong. The garrison,
attacking across flat rice paddies. Ironically, Kimpo, in addition to having the
best airfield in Korea, was also known for growing the best rice.
nominally the NKPA 1st Air Force
Division, was in truth a patchwork
Kimpo, a considerable gap widen- shambles. Most of the city officials of bits and pieces of several regi-
ed between the two regiments. had fled before the North Korean ments, with not more than a few
North Korean resistance thick- capture of the city. Fortunately, hundred effectives.
ened as Sutter neared Sosa. Puller Admiral Sohn Won Yil, the chief of The North Koreans went against
ordered Ridge to move the 3d naval operations of the ROK Navy, Roise’s well dug-in battalion in
Battalion up on Sutter’s right flank.
Shore party operations followed close behind the assault waves and within a few
Ridge decided again to use
days, stocks of ammunition, rations, and other supplies had reached the level
amphibian tractors as personnel needed for the drive to Seoul and its capture.
carriers. Westover’s Company G Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press
clanked up the road behind the 2d
Platoon, Company B tanks, under
Second Lieutenant Brian J.
Cummings. In a defile, some brave
North Koreans tried to stop
Cummings’ M-26s with grenades.
The advance on the road stalled.
Company G got up on the high
side of the defile to the right of the
road. With Sutter’s battalion on the
left, the Marines had a converging
“turkey shoot” and broke up the
North Korean attack. Sutter and
Ridge dug in for the night, each
battalion on its own side of the
defile. To their south, Hawkins’ 1st
Battalion and Houghton’s
Reconnaissance Company had
cleared up Namdong Peninsula.
The night would pass quietly for
the 1st Marines.
To the rear, Inchon was in a

125
oners and had counted about 100
enemy dead.

1st Marines Advances


In the 1st Marines’ zone of
action, Ridge, with the 3d Battalion
outside of Sosa, decided that the
center of North Korean resistance
must be on Hill 123. During the
night he called for naval gunfire.
HMS Kenya, Captain P. W. Brock
commanding, delivered some 300
rounds of 6-inch shells somewhere
between Sosa and Hill 123. Ridge’s
naval gunfire spotter was not sure
where they impacted, but Ridge, in
the interest of inter-allied cordiali-
ty, sent Captain Brock a “well
done.”
At dawn Sutter charged ahead
astride the Seoul highway, Comp-
Department of Defense Photo (USN) 420271 any E on the left of the road and
Fumigation and bath platoons would arrive later, but during the assault phase Company D on the right. Pre-
of the Inchon operation Marines seized the opportunity to clean up when and mature airbursts on the part of his
where they could. Helmets made convenient washbasins. artillery preparatory fires cost him
three badly coordinated attacks. Correspondents and photographers examine a Russian-built Yak fighter in a
The first hit Deptula’s outpost at destroyed hanger at Kimpo Airfield. Captured by the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines,
about 0300 in the morning, the Marine engineers quickly made the airfield operative and ready to receive ele-
Communists using rifles and ments of MAG-33. National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC349036
machine pistols, backed by a T-34
tank. Deptula skillfully fought off
four half-hearted assaults and by
0500 had withdrawn successfully
to Company E’s main line of resis-
tance.
The second attack came from
both the west and east against
Jaskilka’s Company E. The third
attack hit Harrell’s Company F fur-
ther to the south. Both attacks
were easily contained. The routed
enemy fled toward the Han River.
At daylight Roise jumped off in
pursuit. His Marines swept across
the airfield, securing it and its sur-
rounding villages by 1000.
Companies E and F mopped up
and Company D went on to take
Hill 131 overlooking the Han. In 24
hours of fighting, Roise had lost
four Marines killed and 19 wound-
ed. His Marines had taken 10 pris-

126
were with the red-orange scars of
shell holes and trench lines, was
over. The war was getting serious.
Sutter’s 2d Battalion, meanwhile,
went straight ahead, left flank on
the railroad tracks, into a defensive
position about a mile beyond Sosa.
A barrage of mortar shells cost him
14 casualties. Hawkins’ 1st
Battalion continued advancing on
the right and for the third straight
day encountered nothing but a few
rifle shots.

Kimpo Airfield
Becomes Operational
Murray displaced his command
post forward from Ascom City to
Kimpo. His regiment spent a quiet
day sending patrols around the air-
field. The field was in relatively
good shape. A North Korean
Soviet-built Yakovlev Yak-3 fighter
and two Ilyushin “Shturmovik”
attack aircraft were found in near-
flyable condition.
The first aircraft to land at
Kimpo was a Marine H03S-1 heli-
copter. It arrived at 1000 that
morning, 18 September, piloted by
Captain Victor A. Armstrong of
VMO-6 and with General Shepherd
and Colonel Krulak as passengers.
General Craig who had just arrived
by jeep met them.
Captain George W. King’s
Company A, 1st Engineer Battal-
ion, made the field operational
two killed and three wounded. tance, including an antitank road- with temporary repairs. Generals
Behind the 2d Battalion, Ridge block. By noon Ridge had cleared Harris and Cushman came in by
mounted up the 3d Battalion in a the town. His battalion then swung helicopter that afternoon. On their
motorized column made up of a to the left off the road and moved advice, General Almond autho-
mixture of jeeps, amphibian trac- up Hill 123 while his naval gunfire rized the establishment of Marine
tors (LVTs), and amphibious trucks spotter continued to look for some Aircraft Group 33 (MAG-33) on the
(DUKWs). Corsairs from VMF-214 evidence as to where the Kenya’s field.
worked over Sosa, sighted six T- shells might have hit. The 3d Corsairs began to arrive the next
34s beyond the town, and Battalion was barely on the hill day. Harris set up the headquarters
knocked out two of them. Ridge and not yet dug in when a barrage of his Tactical Air Command. Two
thundered ahead in a cloud of dust of North Korean 120mm mortar Corsair squadrons, VMF-312 and
behind the tanks of Company B, shells drenched their position VMF-212, came in. Night fighter
1st Tank Battalion. Together they causing 30 casualties. The romp squadron VMF(N)-542, under
brushed aside some light resis- over the green hills, marred as they Lieutenant Colonel Max J.

127
ate assumption of what had been
the 1st Marines’ zone of action
south of the Inchon-Seoul high-
way.
The 31st Infantry had begun
landing. The 32d Infantry would
be detached from the 1st Marine
Division at 1800. With these two
regiments Barr was to begin oper-
ations. Smith would then be able
to side-slip Puller’s regiment fully
to the left of the Seoul highway.
Almond’s aide, Lieutenant Haig,
who was a fly on the tent wall at
these meetings, observed that “the
Marines’ respect for the 7th
Division at this stage of the war
was ostentatiously low.”
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A3727
1stLt John V. Hanes flew in first Marine Corsair to land at Kimpo Airfield. Advancing to the Han
Having taken hits while on a bombing mission, Hanes was grateful that there
was a friendly airfield on which to land. BGen Thomas J. Cushman, Assistant After that meeting, the peripatet-
Wing Commander of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, greets him. ic Almond went on to visit the
Volcansek, Jr., arrived from Japan. must take over its zone of action command posts of both the 32d
There was a paper shuffle of and free his right flank so he could Infantry and the 1st Marines. He
squadrons between Marine Aircraft concentrate his forces to cross the then proceeded to the 5th Marines
Groups 12 and 33. Marine Aircraft river. Smith already had it in his command post on Kimpo Airfield
Group 33 under Brigadier General mind that the 5th Marines would to discuss with Murray the crossing
Thomas J. Cushman was now in go over first to be followed by the of the Han that was scheduled for
business ashore. MAG-12 picked 1st Marines. His 7th Marines was the following day. Murray told him
up the squadrons afloat. VMFs 214 still at sea. He went forward to that he planned to cross in column
and 323 continued to operate from Kimpo to discuss the matter with of battalions using amphibian trac-
the Sicily and Badoeng Strait, and Murray. tors, amphibious trucks, and pon-
the night-fighters of VMF(N)-513 The first unit of the 7th Division, toon floats at a ferry crossing site
from their base at Itazuke in Japan. the 32d Infantry, landed, as northeast of Kimpo.
promised on the 18th, was A significant range of hills sepa-
Reinforcements Arrive attached temporarily to the 1st rated the 5th Marines on Kimpo
Marine Division. Smith relayed from Yongdung-po and the Han.
On Murray’s left the 2d KMC Almond’s orders to the 32d to During the night of 18-19
Battalion joined the 1st KMC relieve the 1st Marines on the right September, Murray had ordered
Battalion. The ROK Army’s 17th flank and then to operate in the Newton forward with the 1st
Regiment landed at Inchon and, zone of action assigned to the 7th Battalion to seize Hill 118 and then
temporarily under 1st Marine Division. Hills 80 and 85, overlooking the
Division control was given an ini- Kalchon River near where it joined
tial mission of completing the 7th Division Becomes Operational the Han.
clean-up of the unswept area At dawn, before Newton could
between Ascom City and the sea. On the morning of 19 move out, a company-sized North
Almond, pressing forward, con- September, General Barr estab- Korean force attacked Company C
ferred with Smith on the morning lished his 7th Division’s command behind a shower of mortar shells.
of 18 September concerning the post ashore. Almond called Barr While Company C slaughtered the
readiness of the 1st Marine and Smith together at the 1st North Koreans, “Ike” Fenton’s
Division to cross the Han. Smith Marine Division command post to Company B moved against Hill
pointed out that the 7th Division discuss the 7th Division’s immedi- 118. There was the usual air and

128
artillery preparation before the Captain Richard M. Taylor’s more work by the engineers was
jump-off, and Company B took the Company C tanks and had gone lit- needed. At 1900, Sutter ordered his
peak of Hill 118 without suffering tle more than a quarter-mile when battalion to dig in. His Marines had
a single casualty. The trapped the lead M-26 hit a box mine that advanced nearly three miles at a
attacking North Koreans lost per- blew off a track and two road cost of four killed and 18 wound-
haps 300 dead (there is always wheels. The antitank barrier of ed. Yongdung-po was still more
optimism in the count of enemy mines was formidable. The whole than two miles in front of him.
dead) and 100 prisoners. Company column came to a stop. Small-arms Smith moved his command post
C lost two killed and six wounded. fire smashed in from neighboring forward the afternoon of 19
To the 5th Marines’ right, Ridge’s Hill 72. The 11th Marines, the divi- September to a site Craig selected
3d Battalion, 1st Marines, with sion’s artillery regiment, took Hill about a mile and a half southeast
Companies H and I in the assault, 72 under howitzer fire. Corsairs of Kimpo; it had been used for U.S.
moved off Hill 123 toward Lookout from ever-ready VMF-214 came to dependents housing during the
Hill, so-called because it gave a help. A platoon of engineers under occupation. From here Smith was
good view of the Kalchon and the First Lieutenant George A. Babe within easy jeep or helicopter dis-
town of Yongdung-po beyond. blew up the box mines with tance of his front-line units. The
Official historians Montross and “snowball” charges of C-3 plastic abandoned Quonset huts were
Canzona called the attack, which explosive. Sutter used all three of near ideal except for occasional
cost two killed and 15 wounded, his rifle companies to uncover the harassment apparently by a single
“too successful,” because it put minefield and force his way NKPA gun. The backbone for the
Ridge’s battalion well out in front through. His infantry went forward perimeter defense around the com-
of the 5th Marines on his left and a mile into heavy fighting around mand post was provided by a sec-
Sutter’s 2d Battalion on his right. Hill 146 while the tanks waited on tion of the Division Band trained
Sutter’s battalion was advancing the side of the road. A second as a machine gun platoon.
along the Seoul highway behind minefield was encountered, and The 32d Infantry, now detached

129
from the division, was somewhere Captain Robert H. Barrow’s when Hawkins reached him.
to Sutter’s right rear. The Army bat- Company A, 1st Marines, was the Company C, 1st Marines, under
talion that relieved Hawkins’ bat- first to reach Hill 118 and relieve Captain Robert P. Wray, had not
talion had spent the day mopping Fenton’s Company B, 5th Marines. yet arrived.
up rather than continuing the Company C, 1st Marines, was to Barrow, a tall Louisianian and a
attack. replace Company C, 5th Marines, future Marine Commandant, real-
Hawkins’ 1st Battalion, 1st on Hills 80 and 85. Newton was ized the tactical importance of Hills
Marines, was on its way to relieve anxious to pull back his 1st 80 and 85 and radioed for permis-
Newton’s 1st Battalion, 5th Battalion, 5th Marines, to Kimpo to sion to move Company A forward
Marines, an 11-mile motor march get ready for the river crossing the to the two hills. Permission was
from the division’s right flank. next day, and it was almost dark denied. Newton made it known
that he would pull Company C off
the hills no later than 2100. Wray’s
Company C did not reach Hill 118
until 2200; Hills 80 and 85 were left
empty.

Confused Day
Before dawn the next day, 20
September, Hawkins’ Marines on
Hill 118 heard the North Koreans
assault the empty hills. Then they
came on in company-sized
strength in a futile attack against
the entrenched Marines on Hill
118.
Meanwhile, shortly before dawn
a battalion-sized North Korean
force, led by five T-34 tanks fol-
lowed by an ammunition truck,
came down the Seoul highway
against Sutter’s 2d Battalion, 1st
Marines. Companies D and E held
positions on each side of the road.
The column roared through the
gap between them and hit head-on
against Company F’s support posi-
tion. The North Koreans were
caught in a sleeve. Companies D
and E poured fire into their flanks.
Howitzer fire by the 2d and 4th
Battalions, 11th Marines, sealed in
the entrapped North Korean col-
umn. “A fortunate grenade was
dropped in the enemy ammunition
truck and offered some illumina-
tion,” noted the 2d Battalion’s
Special Action Report, “enabling
two tanks to be destroyed by 3.5”
rocket fire.”
The rocket gunner was Private
First Class Monegan, the tank-killer

130
Private First Class Walter C. Monegan, Jr.

N ineteen-year-old Walter Monegan in five days of


action fought two battles against North Korean T-
34 tanks, won them both, and lost his own life.
Born on Christmas Day 1930, he could not wait until
his 17th birthday, enlisting in the Army in November
1947. The Army discovered he was underage and
promptly sent him home. He tried again on 22 March
1948, enlisting in the Marine Corps. After recruit training
at Parris Island in June he was sent to China to join the
3d Marines at Tsingtao. After a year in China he came
home, was stationed at Camp Pendleton for a year, and
then was sent to Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station,
Seattle. He had barely re-enlisted in July 1950 when he
was ordered to return to Camp Pendleton to join the 2d
Battalion, 1st Marines, then being formed.
His remains, buried temporarily at Inchon, were
returned home and re-interred in Arlington National
Cemetery on 19 July 1951. His wife, Elizabeth C.
Monegan, holding their infant child, Walter III, received
his posthumous Medal of Honor from Secretary of the
Navy Dan Kimball, on 8 February 1952.
Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the
risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty
while serving as a Rocket Gunner attached to Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A45432
Company F, Second Battalion, First Marines, First talion Command Post during the early morning of
Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against September 20, he seized his rocket launcher and, in
enemy aggressor forces near Sosa-ri, Korea, on 17 total darkness, charged down the slope of the hill
and 20 September 1950. Dug in a hill overlooking where the tanks had broken through. Quick to act
the main Seoul highway when six enemy tanks when an illuminating shell hit the area, he scored a
threatened to break through the Battalion position direct hit on one of the tanks as hostile rifle and
during a pre- dawn attack on 17 September, Private automatic weapons fire raked the area at close
First Class Monegan promptly moved forward with range. Again exposing himself he fired another
his bazooka under heavy hostile automatic round to destroy a second tank and, as the rear
weapons fire and engaged the lead tank at a range tank turned to retreat, stood upright to fire and was
of less than 50 yards. After scoring a direct hit and fatally struck down by hostile machine-gun fire
killing the sole surviving tankman with his carbine when another illuminating shell silhouetted him
as he came through the escape hatch, he boldly against the sky. Private First Class Monegan’s dar-
fired two more rounds of ammunition at the ing initiative, gallant fighting spirit and courageous
oncoming tanks, disorganizing the attack and devotion to duty were contributing factors in the
enabling our tank crews to continue blasting with success of his company in repelling the enemy and
their 90-mm guns. With his own and an adjacent his self-sacrificing efforts throughout sustain and
company’s position threatened by annihilation enhance the highest traditions of the United States
when an overwhelming enemy tank-infantry force Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his
by-passed the area and proceeded toward the bat- country.

of Soryu-li. He slid down the slope Honor. A third T-34 was captured that day with shell-fire. Puller
from Company F with his 3.5-inch intact. Sutter’s battalion claimed moved to align his regiment for
rocket launcher and knocked out 300 enemy dead. Half an hour the assault of the town. Hawkins
the first and second tanks. Machine after breaking up the North Korean was to take Hills 80 and 85.
gun fire killed him as he took aim attack, the 2d Battalion moved for- Sutter was to advance to the first
on the third T-34. His family would ward in its own attack. of two highway bridges crossing
receive a posthumous Medal of Yongdung-po was drenched the Kalchon. Ridge was to stay in

131
reserve on Lookout Hill. 80 and 85, that had been free for Browning water-cooled machine
Hawkins sent out Captain Wray the taking, the day before. Wray, guns of Major William L. Bates, Jr.’s
with Company C to capture Hills covered by the 81mm mortars and Weapons Company, made a text-

Second Lieutenant Henry A. Commiskey

L ieutenant Commiskey was no stranger to war. As an


enlisted Marine he had been wounded at Iwo Jima
and received a letter of commendation for “exhibit-
ing high qualities of leadership and courage in the face
of a stubborn and fanatical enemy.”
Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1927, he had
joined the Marine Corps two days after his 17th birthday.
He served more than five years as an enlisted man and
was a staff sergeant drill instructor at Parris Island when
he was selected for officer training in 1949. He complet-
ed this training in June 1950. Two months later he was
with the 1st Marines and on his way to Korea.
He came from a family of fighters. His father had been
a machine gun instructor in World War I. One brother
had been with the Marine Raiders in World War II.
Another brother was badly wounded while with the
187th Airborne Infantry in Korea.
In the action on 20 September, that gained Henry
Commiskey the nation’s highest award for valor, he
escaped unscathed, but a week later he was slightly
wounded in the fight for Seoul and on 8 December seri-
ously wounded in the knee at the Chosin Reservoir. Sent
home for hospitalization, he recovered and went to
Pensacola in September 1951 for flight training, receiving
his wings in June 1953 and then qualifying as a jet pilot.
He returned to Korea in April 1954 as a pilot with
VMA-212. Coming home in September, he returned to
line duty at his own request and was assigned once more
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A43766
to the 1st Marine Division. Next assignment was in 1956
to Jackson, Mississippi, close to his birthplace, for three his platoon and was the first man to reach the crest
years duty as a recruiter. In 1959, now a major, he went of the objective. Armed only with a pistol, he
to the Amphibious Warfare School, Junior Course, at jumped into a hostile machine-gun emplacement
Quantico, and stayed on as an instructor at the Basic occupied by five enemy troops and quickly dis-
School. He retired from active duty in 1966 to Meridian, posed of four of the soldiers with his automatic pis-
Mississippi, and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound tol. Grappling with the fifth, First Lieutenant
on 15 August 1971. Commiskey knocked him to the ground and held
Citation: him until he could obtain a weapon from another
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the member of his platoon and kill the last of the
risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty enemy gun crew. Countinuing his bold assault, he
while serving as a Platoon Leader in Company C, moved to the next emplacement, killed two or
First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division more of the enemy and then led his platoon toward
(Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor the rear nose of the hill to rout the remainder of the
forces near Yongdungp’o, Korea, on 20 September hostile troops and destroy them as they fled from
1950. Directed to attack hostile forces well dug in their positions. His valiant leadership and coura-
on Hill 85, First Lieutenant Commiskey, then geous fighting spirit served to inspire the men of
Second Lieutenant, spearheaded the assault, charg- his company to heroic endeavor in seizing the
ing up the steep slopes on the run. Coolly disre- objective and reflect the highest credit upon First
garding the heavy enemy machine-gun and small- Lieutenant Commiskey and the United States Naval
arms fire, he plunged on well forward of the rest of Service.

132
Department of Defense Photo (USN) 80-G-426159
On 20 September, as the loading continues, an LST, cargo. The small landing craft to the right are a 36-foot
beached until the next high tide comes in, has discharged its LCVP and two 50-foot LCMs.
book double envelopment of Hill Lieutenant Henry A. Commiskey repeating his double envelopment.
80 against stubborn resistance. The came in on the right with the 3d Craven set up a base of fire with
1st Platoon, under Second Platoon. Together they took Hill his platoon on the northern slope
Lieutenant William A. Craven, 80. The day was almost done but of Hill 80. Second Lieutenant John
came in on the left. Second Wray went on against Hill 85, N. Guild went forward on the left
Amphibious trucks, “ducks” to Marines, are readied at 1st Amphibian Truck Company, an element of the 1st Motor
Inchon to be moved up for use in crossing the Han River. Transport Battalion.
The division was well supported by the versatile trucks of the National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC348700

133
engineers got away; one, Private
First Class Clayton O. Edwards,
was captured. (He would later
escape from a train taking prison-
ers into North Korea.)
Meanwhile, Sutter’s 2d Battalion,
having begun the day by breaking
up the T-34 tank-led North Korean
attack, had moved forward
uneventfully, except for harassing
fire from their open right flank.
They reached their day’s objective,
the highway bridge over the
Kalchon, shortly after noon. The
bridge was a long concrete span.
The engineers inspected it and cer-
tified it strong enough to bear M-26
Pershing tanks for next day’s attack
into Yongdung-po itself. The sec-
ond bridge, crossing a tributary of
the Kalchon, lay 2,000 yards
ahead. A high ridge, seemingly
teeming with North Korean
defenders, to the right of the road
dominated the bridge. Sutter’s
neighbor on his right was
Lieutenant Colonel Charles M.
Mount, USA, with the 2d Battalion,
32d Infantry. The ridge command-
ing the second bridge was techni-
cally in Mount’s zone of action. At
1300, Sutter asked Mount for per-
mission to fire against the ridge.
Mount readily agreed, but it took
seven hours to get the fire mission
cleared through the layers of regi-
mental and division staffs and
approved by X Corps. It was dark
before Colonel Brower’s 11th
Marines was allowed to fire.
with his 2d Platoon and got almost Signal Battalion hit a mine on the During the day, General Almond
to the top of the hill before being approach to a bridge across the visited Colonel Puller at the 1st
mortally wounded. Commiskey Kalchon near where it joined the Marines’ command post. Almond
went out in front of his 3d Platoon Han. In full sight of Hill 118, two admired Puller’s aggressive tactics
in a one-man assault that earned Marine wiremen were taken pris- and there was also a Virginia
him a Medal of Honor. oner. A truck from Company A, 1st Military Institute connection.
While Wray worked at capturing Engineers, with a driver and three Puller, saying he could not reach
Hills 80 and 85, Hawkins’ com- passengers, unaware of the fate of Smith either by wire or radio,
mand group and Barrow’s Marines the communicators, now came asked permission to burn
watched as spectators from Hill along the road. Barrow tried to Yongdung-po before committing
118. They saw to their left front, to catch their attention with rifle fire his troops to its capture. Almond
their horror, a tracked “Weasel” over their heads, but the truck con- authorized its burning.
with a wire party from the 1st tinued into the ambush. Three Almond’s habit of visiting the

134
Marine regiments and issuing The 1st Battalion on the left would Hill, had grown impatient and had
orders directly to subordinate com- attack across country and the 3d come forward prematurely, getting
manders had become a serious Battalion, occupying Lookout Hill, out in front of both the 1st and 2d
aggravation to Smith. A division would initially stay in reserve. Battalions. Its prospective assault
order went out that any direct During the previous day, companies, Companies G and I,
order received from Almond Captain Richard L. Bland had occu- reached and huddled behind the
would be immediately relayed to pied Hill 55 overlooking the Han dike on the western bank of the
division headquarters for ratifica- with Company B, 1st Marines. Kalchon close to a water gate
tion. Now, shortly after dawn, he took where a tributary entered into the
his company across the bridge that main stream. This put them in
Ready to Cross the Han had been the site of the ambush of good position to watch the
the Marine communicators and approach march of Barrow’s
The shelling of Yongdung-po, engineers. In late afternoon, Company A to the Kalchon.
now blazing with fires, continued Hawkins sent Company C and With Bland’s Company B stalled
throughout the night. Puller’s plan Weapons Company across the on the opposite bank of the
of attack for the 1st Marines on 21 bridge to join with Company B to Kalchon, Hawkins had committed
September was to have the 2d form a perimeter for the night. Company A to an attack from its
Battalion continue its advance During the day, Ridge’s 3d positions on Hill 80 across a mile
astride the Inchon-Seoul highway. Battalion, in reserve on Lookout of rice paddies to the river. Barrow

Following a burst of sniper fire, Marines quickly take cover suffered only light casualties, while the North Koreans had
along a dike near the Han River. So far, the Marines had lost heavily. National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC349026

135
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A3610
Marines of Capt Robert H. Barrow’s Company A, 1st each building and side street but failed to uncover a flicker
Battalion, 1st Marines, move into Yongdung-po. Although of enemy resistance.
the town seemed empty and dead, they carefully searched

deployed his platoons in a classic line on the near side of the dike did the rifle company commanders
two-up one-back formation. As close to the water gate. At his fully understand their capabilities.
they came forward through the whistle signal they started across. Consequently they were pulled
waist-high rice straw, a 3d As they came out of the defilade back to company control and
Battalion officer, watching from his provided by the dike, Maxim employed in battery for overhead
position behind the dike, was heavy machine guns on the oppo- fire in the attack. Now, in this situ-
reminded of the stories he had site dike, perhaps 50 yards distant, ation so much like the Western
been told of the Marines advancing opened up. Jarnagin fell back Front, they would come into their
through the wheat into Belleau dead. His platoon recoiled, some own.
Wood. Without a shot being fired, of them wounded. Denied artillery With their barrels just clearing
Company A waded the stream and support and with his 81mm mor- the top of the dike, the Brownings
marched into Yongdung-po. tars lacking ammunition, the battal- engaged the Maxims, just as they
Barrow radioed Hawkins for ion’s Weapons Company comman- had done in 1918, and it was the
instructions. Hawkins told him to der called up his platoon of six Brownings that won. The 3d
keep on going. water-cooled Browning machine Battalion then crossed the Kalchon
The crossing of the Kalchon by guns. at the water gate, Westover’s
Ridge’s 3d Battalion was less easy. During the rapid cross-country Company G to the left of the tribu-
Going over the dike was eerily like movement toward Seoul the heavy tary, First Lieutenant Joseph
going “over the top” of the trench- machine guns were initially Fisher’s Company I to the right.
es in the First World War. Second attached by section to the rifle Early that morning Sutter’s bat-
Lieutenant Spencer H. Jarnagin of companies. They could not keep talion crossed the second bridge
Company G formed his platoon in up with the light machine guns nor without incident except for fire

136
that continued to come in from Shepherd, Smith, Barr, Harris, and from Admiral Struble to General
across the boundary separating the Lowe—had gathered at Kimpo Almond.
1st Marine Division from the 7th Airfield to see him off. Mutual con- By midnight, five infantry
Infantry Division. Frustrated by the gratulations were exchanged, and assaults against Barrow’s position
lack of artillery support, Sutter MacArthur flew to Tokyo. “He was, had followed the attack by the T-
seized the bit in his teeth and in my opinion, the greatest military 34s. All were beaten back, the
shelled the offending ridge with leader of our century,” mused heaviest fighting being in front of
his attached 4.2-inch mortars General Shepherd, the Virginia Second Lieutenant John J. Swords’
before sending up Companies E gentleman, in 1967. 3d Platoon.
and F to take the high ground. Later that day, in a ceremony at
While they were so engaged, X Corps headquarters in Inchon Pause in the Fighting
Captain Welby W. Cronk took and in accordance with established
Company D along the highway amphibious doctrine, overall com- When the morning of 22 Sep-
and ran into another section of mand of the operation passed tember came, Barrow’s Marines
heavily fortified dike. Heavy fight-
Gen Douglas MacArthur and MajGen Edward M. Almond examine a map at
ing, supported by the ever-willing
Kimpo Airfield shortly before the general’s departure for Japan. MacArthur
Corsairs of VMF-214, continued in
would tell the Joint Chiefs of Staff that “his forces were pounding at the gates of
Sutter’s zone until late in the Seoul.” National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC349084
evening, when Sutter recalled
Companies E and F to tuck them
into a battalion perimeter for the
night.
In Yongdung-po, Barrow could
hear the furious firefight being
waged by Sutter’s battalion some-
where to his right. Crossing the
town against scattered opposition
Barrow reached yet another dike.
Beyond it was a sandy flat reach-
ing about a mile to the Han. To his
left rear was Bland’s Company B.
Barrow dug in on the dike in a
sausage-shaped perimeter. At
nightfall, the Marines of Company
A heard the characteristic chug-
ging clatter of advancing tanks.
Five T-34s, without infantry escort,
came up the Inchon-Seoul high-
way and pumped steel into the
western face of Company A’s posi-
tion. Barrow’s 3.5-inch rocket gun-
ners knocked out one and dam-
aged two others.
Almond had been returning
each evening to the Mount
McKinley, but on the morning of
21 September he moved the head-
quarters of X Corps ashore and
opened his command post in
Inchon.
MacArthur came ashore again
that afternoon enroute to Japan. A
pride of generals—Almond,

137
National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC349054
Navy Hospital Corpsmen Richard E. Rosegoom and Frank J. were available to treat prisoners of war and Korean civil-
Yasso, assigned to the 1st Marine Division, give first aid to a ians; the latter were second in number only to the Marines
wounded North Korean while another prisoner is marched themselves.
to the rear. While always there for Marines, corpsmen also

were able to count 275 enemy Almond, continuing his critique from Inchon rejoined its parent
dead. The four remaining T-34s, of the Marines’ performance, regiment. Now, with one battalion
two damaged, two intact, were expressed his concern over Smith’s to be left behind to cover the
found abandoned nearby. The 1st “open” left flank. Smith explained northwest flank, the KMC regiment
and 3d Battalions renewed their to Almond his use of the 1st prepared to follow the 5th Marines
attack and converged on Barrow’s Korean Marine Corps Regiment, across the Han.
position against negligible resis- also that he had formed a Kimpo Smith’s third organic infantry
tance. Airfield defense force, using com- regiment, the 7th Marines, includ-
Sutter was not the only com- bat support and service units. ing the battalion that had come
mander to complain about the fire Almond appeared somewhat mol- from the Mediterranean by way of
control problems along the bound- lified. the Suez Canal, had arrived in the
ary between the two divisions. The The Korean Marines, leaving harbor. Colonel Homer Litzenberg
7th Division reported Marine Corps one battalion behind in Inchon, asked General Smith what element
fire falling in its zone. Almond met had followed the 5th Marines to he wanted landed first. “An
with Barr and Smith and then told Kimpo Airfield, and made its first infantry battalion,” said Smith.
his aide, Lieutenant Haig, to tele- attack northwest of the airfield on “And what next?” “Another infantry
phone Corps headquarters and 19 September against light resis- battalion.”
straighten out the situation. tance. That same day the battalion Litzenberg opened his command

138
post two miles south of Kimpo. His Coordination between the 1st in the assault. His grimy Marines
3d Battalion, under Major Maurice Marine Division and the 7th gathered together in a bivouac
E. Roach, moved into an assembly Division continued to be poor. An area where they could wash and
area nearby. The 1st Battalion, extensive minefield delayed the rest. The 22 September entry in
under Lieutenant Colonel Thorn- 32d Infantry as it attacked along Almond’s war diary, dutifully kept
ton M. Hinkle, reached Hill 131 a the Seoul-Suwon highway on 20 by Haig, noted that Sutter’s battal-
mile north of the airfield sometime September, but on that same day ion had taken 116 casualties as
after midnight. The 1st Battalion, the 32d did take T’ongdok moun- “the result of aggressive forward
under Lieutenant Colonel Ray- tain and a part of Copper Mine movement without the required
mond G. Davis, stayed in the har- Hill. The rest of Copper Mine Hill artillery preparation.” That
bor to unload the ships that had was taken the next day and, as evening, Almond, after a busy day,
brought in the regiment. night fell, the Army regiment held entertained Admiral Doyle and
Smith made a note in his journal a line two miles south of Anyang- selected staff officers at dinner at
that Almond’s concerns over open ni. The big event of 22 September his newly established mess in
flanks had increased now that X for the 32d Infantry was the cap- Inchon.
Corps’ command post was ashore. ture of Suwon Airfield and open-
With the arrival of the 7th Marines, ing it to friendly traffic. Almond and Smith Disagree
Smith himself could rest more eas- Sutter’s 2d Battalion reverted to
ily concerning the security of his regimental reserve the afternoon By 23 September, the 32d
northwest flank. of 22 September after seven days Infantry had secured its objectives

Loaded in amphibious tractors and trucks, Korean Marines followed the 5th Marines to Kimpo Airfield, made its first
prepare to follow the 5th Marines across the Han River. A attack northwest of the field, and were now poised to liber-
major portion of the 1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment had ate the Korean capital.
National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC348702

139
1st Marine Division Casualties
15-23 September 1950

Date KIA1 DOW2 MIA3 WIA4 Total


15 Sept 20 1 1 174 196
16 Sept 2 1 1 22 26
17 Sept 6 0 0 70 76
18 Sept 7 3 0 92 102
19 Sept 10 1 0 61 72
20 Sept 24 1 3 119 147
21 Sept 30 3 0 198 231
22 Sept 27 3 0 135 165
23 Sept 19 7 0 117 143
Total 145 20 5 988 1,158
1
KIA Killed in Action
2
DOW Died in Action
3
MIA Missing in Action
4
WIA Wounded in Action

overlooking the Han, south and self received a Silver Star from died of wounds, 5 Marines still
southeast of Yongdung-po. The 3d MacArthur as had Barr and Admiral missing in action, and 988 men
Battalion of the Army’s highly Doyle. MacArthur was even more wounded. In turn the division had
regarded 187th Airborne Regiment, generous to Admiral Struble, giving taken, by fairly accurate count,
with Almond’s “GHQ Raider him the Army’s Distinguished 1,873 prisoners, and claimed 6,500
Group” attached, arrived at Kimpo Service Cross. enemy casualties.
and temporarily came under 1st The 5th Marines was now firmly During the day, 23 September,
Marine Division control. Smith across the Han but was having dif- Smith visited the observation post
gave it the mission of covering his ficulty in expanding its bridge- of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines,
northwest flank, freeing the 7th head. Mid-morning on the 23d, which had just taken Hill 108 over-
Marines for a crossing of the Han. Almond met with Smith and urged looking the rail and highway
Almond ordered his command him to put the 1st Marines across bridges, their spans broken, into
post displaced forward from the river. He again complained that Seoul. A Marine major, who knew
Inchon to Ascom City. During the the Marines were not pressing the of O. P. Smith’s study of the Civil
day he visited Barr’s command attack vigorously enough. Almond War, presumed to remark that the
post and passed out a liberal num- suggested that Smith cross the Han position was similar to that of
ber of Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, southeast of Seoul with the 1st Burnside at Falmouth on the north
and Purple Hearts. Smith found Marines and then attack frontally bank of the Rappahannock across
Almond’s practice of presenting into the city. Smith countered with from Fredericksburg in December
on-the-spot awards disruptive and a less-rash plan to have the 1st 1862. General Smith looked with
a cause for hurt feelings and mis- Marines cross at the 5th Marines’ amusement at the major and
understandings. He thought bridgehead. Almond reluctantly patiently explained that he would
Almond was inspired by concurred. not make the same mistake as
Napoleon, but MacArthur was a From 15 through 23 September, Burnside. There would be no
more immediate practitioner. Smith the 1st Marine Division had suf- frontal assault across the river into
had, it will be remembered, him- fered 165 men killed in action or Seoul.

140
About the Author American Revolution, and received his com-
mission in the Marine Corps through the Army
ROTC at Lehigh University. He also has a mas-
E dwin Howard Simmons, a retired Marine
brigadier general, was, as a major, the com-
manding officer of Weapons Company, 3d
ter’s degree from Ohio State University and is a
graduate of the National War College. A one-
Battalion, 1st Marines, in the landing across time managing editor of the Marine Corps
Blue Beach Two at Inchon. His active service Gazette, he has been published widely, includ-
spanned 30 years—1942 to 1972—and included ing more than 300 articles and essays. His most
combat in World War II and Vietnam as well as recent books are The United States Marines: A
Korea. A writer and historian all his adult life, History (1998), The Marines (1998), and Dog
he was the Director of Marine Corps History Company Six (2000).
and Museums from 1972 until 1996 and is now He is married, has four grown children, and
the Director Emeritus. lives with his wife, Frances, at their residence,
He was born in Billingsport, New Jersey, the “Dunmarchin,” two miles up the Potomac from
site of a battle along the Delaware River in the Mount Vernon.

Sources volume account of Inchon.


Among the other useful sec-
Historical Center (MCHC) in
1987, which examined the
The official history, The ondary sources were operation from the viewpoint
Inchon-Seoul Operation by Alexander Haig, Jr., Inner of its principal commanders,
Lynn Montross and Capt Circles (New York: Warner using their reports, writings,
Nicholas A. Canzona, Volume Books, 1992); Clay Blair, The and memoirs. Among the pri-
II in the series, U.S. Marine Forgotten War: America in mary sources used, the most
Operations in Korea, 1950- Korea, 1950-1953 (New York: important were the unit files
1953 (Washington, D.C.: Times Books, 1987); Gen and records held by MCHC of
Historical Branch, G-3 Douglas MacArthur, Reminis- the 1st Marine Division and its
Division, HQMC, 1955), pro- cences (New York: McGraw subordinate regiments and bat-
vided a centerline for this Hill, 1964); Gen Omar N. talions. Also important were
account. Bradley and Clay Blair, A the biographic files held by
Other official histories of General’s Life: An Autobiog- Reference Section.
great use were Roy E. raphy (New York: Simon and Other primary sources of
Appleman, South to the Schuster, 1983); Donald Knox, great use were the oral histo-
Naktong, North to the Yalu The Korean War: Pusan to ries, diaries, and memoirs of
(Washington, D.C.: Office of Chosin (San Diego: Harcourt many of the participants. The
the Chief of Military History, Brace Jovanovich, 1985); most important of these were
Depart-ment of the Army, Marguerite Higgins, War in those of Generals Stratemeyer,
1961); James A. Field, Jr., Korea: The Report of a Women Almond, Cates, Shepherd, O.
History of United States Naval Combat Correspondent P. Smith, Craig, V. H. Krulak,
Operations: Korea (Washing- (Garden City: Doubleday & and Bowser, and Admirals
ton, D.C.: Government Printing Company, 1951); Gen J. Burke and Doyle. A fully
Office, 1962); and James F. Lawton Collins, Lightning Joe: annotated draft of the text is
Schnabel, Policy and An Autobiography (Baton on file at the Marine Corps
Direction: The First Year Rouge: Louisiana State Historical Center. As is their
(Washington: Office of the University Press, 1979); and tradition, the members of the
Chief of Military History, Cdr Malcolm W. Cagle and Cdr staff at the Center were fully
Department of the Army, Frank A. Manson, The Sea War supportive in the production
1972). in Korea (Annapolis: U.S. of this anniversary pamphlet.
Victory at High Tide Naval Institute, 1957). Photographs by Frank Noel are
(Philadelphia: Lippincott, Valuable insights were pro- used with the permission of
1968) by Col Robert D. Heinl, vided by an Inchon war game Associated Press/World Wide
Jr., remains the best single- developed at the Marine Corps Photos.

141
BATTLE OF THE BARRICADES
U.S. Marines in the Recapture of Seoul
by Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret)
ate on the afternoon beaches of Tarawa or Peleliu. insisted, should be the rightful
of 24 September Even smoking Inchon, their place for the triumphant flag-rais-
1950, Captain Robert amphibious objective 10 days ear- ing. Barrow brushed aside the
H. Barrow’s Company lier seemed far distant. Seoul complaints. “Putting the flag on a
A, 1st Battalion, 1st would represent the largest objec- bamboo pole over a peasant’s
Marines, secured the military crest tive the Marines ever assailed. house on the edge of Seoul does
of Hill 79 in the southwest corner of Earlier that day Colonel Lewis B. not constitute retaking the city,” he
Seoul, the enemy-occupied capital “Chesty” Puller, commanding the said. Whether premature or ap-
of the Republic of South Korea. 1st Marines, issued a folded propriate, the flag raising on Hill
This momentous day for Barrow American flag to be raised on the 79 was an exuberant boost to
and his men began with a nerve- regiment’s first objective within the morale at a good time. Chang Dok
wracking crossing of the Han River city limits. Barrow’s battalion com- Palace lay just two miles north of
in open-hatched DUKWs, the mander gave him the honor as the Barrow’s current position, but get-
ubiquitous amphibious trucks of point company in the assault. The ting there in force would take the
World War II. Debarkation on the time was right. Barrow’s men Marines three more days of
north shore had been followed by attached the national colors to a extremely hard fighting.
an unorthodox passage of lines pole and raised them proudly on a By the night of 19 September
“on the fly” of the regiment’s lead rooftop on Hill 79. Life magazine Major General Oliver P. Smith,
battalion and the subsequent high- photographer David Douglas commanding the 1st Marine
tempo attack on Hill 79. Now the Duncan, himself a Marine combat Division, had grounds for caution.
rifle company assumed defensive veteran, captured the moment on
Capt Robert H. Barrow, commanding
positions on the objective, the men film. The photograph proved Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st
gazing in awe at the capital city unremarkable—Hill 79 was no Marines, pauses to raise the first
arrayed to their north and east, Mount Suribachi—but it reflected American flag within the city limits of
sprawling virtually to the horizon. an indelible moment in Marine Seoul on Hill 79.
Thousands of North Korean Corps history. Seven weeks earli- Photo by David Douglas Duncan
Peoples’ Army (NKPA) troops lay er the 1st Marine Division was a
waiting for them behind barricades division in name only. This after-
or among countless courtyards and noon a rifle company from that
rooftops. Tens of thousands of hastily reconstituted division had
civilians still clung to life in the seized the first hill within occupied
battered city. The Marines were a Seoul while all three regiments
very long way from the barren converged inexorably on the capi-
tal’s rambling perimeter.
At left: Lead elements of a Barrow’s flag-raising initiative
Marine rifle squad pause by a enraged the neighboring 5th
captured North Korean barri- Marines, still slugging its way
cade in Seoul to assign the next through the last of the bitterly
objective. Photo by David Douglas defended ridges protecting the
Duncan city’s northwest approaches.
Chang Dok Palace, the Republic of
Korea’s government center, lay
within the 5th Marines’ assigned
zone. There, the 5th Marines

143
National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC348519
MajGen Oliver P. Smith, a veteran of
the Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and
Okinawa campaigns in the Pacific
during World War II, commanded the
1st Marine Division throughout the
Inchon-Seoul-Chosin campaigns.

landed at Inchon and moved


rapidly to cover the exposed right
flank of Smith’s approach to Seoul,
south of Chesty Puller’s 1st
Marines. The 7th Marines’ long,
global journey to Inchon was
about to end. Meanwhile, General
Almond had strengthened Smith’s
light division by attaching two bat-
talions of the 1st Republic of Korea
(ROK) Marine Regiment, green but
spirited sea soldiers.
Against these positive develop-
ments, O. P. Smith worried about
his lack of a significant reserve, the
absence of bridging material
throughout X Corps, the morning’s
requirement to split his division on
both sides of a tidal river, and the
realization that the landing force
Despite the impatient insistence on Two new Marine fighter squadrons would henceforth pass beyond the
speed of advance by the X Corps had commenced flying into Kimpo effective range of the guns of the
commander, Major General Airfield since the 5th Marines cap- fleet. He could also sense that
Edward S. “Ned” Almond, USA, tured it intact on the 18th, and they North Korean resistance was stiff-
Smith knew he led a two-regiment would launch their first Vought ening and the quality of the oppo-
division against an unknown F4U Corsair strikes in support of sition was improving. All signs
enemy defending an enormous the X Corps advance the morning pointed to a major clash in the
urban center. of the 20th. The 32d Infantry week ahead.
On one hand, the pace of the Regiment of Major General David Intelligence analysts on both
allied build-up encouraged Smith. G. Barr’s 7th Infantry Division had division and corps staffs had diffi-

144
culty defining an enemy order of
Principal Commanders, battle after the Inchon landing
because of the chaos the landing
1st Marine Division, Seoul created in the headquarters of the
1st Marine Division NKPA in Pyongyang, the North
Commanding General: Major General Oliver P. Smith Korean capital. Ignoring dozens of
Assistant Division Commander: Brigadier General Edward A. Craig telltale indicators, the NKPA
G-3: Colonel Alpha L. Bowser, Jr. seemed astonished that the
Commander in Chief, Far East,
1st Marines
General of the Army Douglas
Commanding Officer: Colonel Lewis B. Puller
MacArthur, could have landed such
1st Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Jack Hawkins
a large force amid Inchon’s narrow
2d Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Alan Sutter
channels and formidable mudflats.
3d Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Thomas L. Ridge
The Marines’ quick seizure of the
5th Marines port, Ascom City, and Kimpo
Commanding Officer: Lieutenant Colonel Raymond L. Murray Airfield further disoriented the
1st Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel George R. Newton North Koreans.
2d Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Harold S. Roise By the night of the 19th-20th,
3d Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. Taplett however, the North Korean high
7th Marines command finally had major troop
Commanding Officer: Colonel Homer L. Litzenberg, Jr. units on the move to defend the
1st Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Raymond G. Davis South Korean capital. They turned
2d Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Thornton M. Hinkle (Wounded in Action- around the untested 18th NKPA
Evacuated, September 28) Division, bound from Seoul to the
Major Webb D. Sawyer (from September 28) Pusan Perimeter, and recalled a
3d Battalion: Major Maurice E. Roach veteran regiment of the 9th NKPA
11th Marines Division from the southwest cor-
Commanding Officer: Colonel James H. Brower ner of the Naktong River. Most of
1st Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Ransom M. Wood these troops would defend the
2d Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Merritt Adelman industrial suburb of Yongdungpo,
3d Battalion: Major Francis F. Parry directly south of the Han from cen-
4th Battalion: Major William McReynolds tral Seoul, against the 1st Marines.
Other Division Units On 20 September, while
Commanding Officer, 1st Shore Party Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lieutenant Colonel Raymond L.
P. Crowe Murray led his 5th Marines across
Commanding Officer, 1st Engineer Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel John H. the Han River, two significant
Partridge enemy units reached Seoul from
Commanding Officer, 1st Tank Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Harry T. assembly areas in North Korea to
Milne man the northwest defenses
Commanding Officer, 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel against this new American threat
Erwin F. Wann, Jr. above the Han. From Sariwon
Commanding Officer, VMO-6: Major Vincent J. Gottschalk came Colonel Pak Han Lin at the
Commanding Officer, 1st Service Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel Charles L. head of his 78th Independent
Banks Infantry Regiment, some 1,500-
Commanding Officer, 1st Ordnance Battalion: Major Lloyd O. Williams 2,000 untested troops in three
Commanding Officer, 1st Motor Transport Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel infantry battalions. From nearby
Olin L. Beall Chorwon came Colonel Wol Ki
Commanding Officer, 1st Medical Battalion: Commander H. B. Johnson, Jr., Chan’s 25th NKPA Brigade, more
USN than 4,000 strong. Colonel Wol
Commanding Officer, 1st Signal Battalion: Major Robert L. Schreier had received “postgraduate” tacti-
Commanding Officer, Reconnaissance Company: Captain Kenneth J. cal training in the Soviet Union and
Houghton had trained his green troops well.
His newly formed brigade con-

145
tained an unusual concentration of
crew-served weapons, including North Korean Order Of Battle:
four heavy weapons battalions
providing a proliferation of anti- Seoul/Wonsan Campaign
tank and antiaircraft guns, plus
heavy machine guns. Wol led the Defending the Northwest Approaches (Hill 296 Complex and beyond):
two units west of town to prepare 25th Brigade: Colonel Wol Ki Chan
last-ditch defenses along the same 78th Independent Infantry Regiment: Colonel Pak Han Lin
jumbled ridges where the Japanese Seoul City Regiment
had formerly conducted infantry-
training exercises. General Smith’s Defending Yongdungpo:
intuition had been correct. His Elements of 3d Regiment, 9th Division
North Korean enemy would short- Elements of 18th and 87th Divisions
ly change from delaying tactics to
hard-nosed, stand-and-deliver de- Defending Seoul:
fense to the death. Surviving components of the above forces
17th Rifle Division
Two Rough Roads To Seoul 43d Tank Regiment
19th Antiaircraft Regiment
Few things could faze
513th Artillery Regiment
Lieutenant Colonel Murray, the 5th
10th Railroad Regiment
Marines’ commander, after his
month-long experience as the Defending Uijongbu:
Eighth Army’s “Fire Brigade” in the
31st Regiment, 31st Division
Pusan Perimeter, but preparing his
75th Independent Regiment
veteran regiment for an opposed
crossing of the Han River on 20 Opposing 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, at Kojo:
September proved a daunting task.
10th Regiment, 5th Division: Colonel Cho Il Kwon
To begin with, Murray found his
Opposing 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, at Majon-ni:
LtCol Raymond L. Murray, a tall
Texan who had earned a Silver Star Elements of 15th Division: Major General Pak Sun Chol
on Guadalcanal, a second Silver Star
on Tawara, and a Navy Cross on
Saipan, commanded the 5th Marines. command post crowded with high- sections, he still knew nothing of
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A5850 ranking observers and correspon- the river—its current, shoreline
dents. Each wondered how gradients, exit points. Nor did
Murray would execute a crossing Murray know anything of the
of such a broad river without enemy’s strength and capabilities
heavy bridging material; all offered in the vicinity of the abandoned
free advice. Murray abided these ferry site at Haengju. Mile-long
kibitzers for awhile, then cast them Hill 125 on the north bank domi-
out. nated the crossing. Six years earli-
A second situation proved more er Murray had led his 2d Battalion,
troublesome. While Murray felt 6th Marines, ashore at Saipan
confident the 1st Amphibian under direct fire from Japanese
Tractor Battalion could shuttle his guns occupying the coastal hills,
riflemen across in their tracked and he had no intention of repeat-
landing vehicles (LVTs then, AAVs ing that experience here.
now), and while he was reason- Murray asked General Smith to
ably sure Lieutenant Colonel John assign Captain Kenneth R.
H. Partridge, the division engineer, Houghton’s division Reconnais-
could ferry his attached tanks sance Company to the crossing
across by using 50-foot pontoon operation. Murray wanted an

146
believed, but not the numbers (127
strong) to cover the sprawling high
ground along the river. No one
knew anything in advance about
the possibility of enemy presence
in strength along the far bank.
Taplett quietly ordered his staff to
draw up contingency plans for the
crossing.
The North Koreans had not
ignored the former ferry site.
Aware that the Marines would like-
ly cross the Han soon, the NKPA
deployed an infantry battalion in
the underbrush along Hill 125.
Their camouflage discipline
proved excellent. The Marines did
Mary Craddock Hoffman not detect their presence through-
advance party of reconnaissance man a defensive perimeter to out the afternoon and evening of
Marines to swim the Han after dark cover the predawn crossing of the 19th.
on 19 September, stealthily deter- Lieutenant Colonel Robert D. After dark, Captain Houghton
mine any enemy presence, and Taplett’s 3d Battalion, 5th Marines. led 14 swimmers across the 400-
then signal the remainder of the Taplett considered the plan too yard-wide river. An ill-timed
company to cross in LVTs. Murray ambitious. The Reconnaissance artillery mission set fire to a house
then expected the company to Company had the heart, he in Haengju village, exposing the
Marine Corps amphibian tractors and DUKWs ferry troops across the Han River after the assault waves.
Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press

147
experience, he later recounted.
“Amphibian tractors were hardly
stealthy vehicles,” Shutler recalled.
“We received enemy fire as soon as
the vehicles entered the water.
You could hear machine gun
rounds plinking against the
armored cab. Mortar rounds, pos-
sibly from our own ‘four-deuce’
tubes, were exploding in the river.”
In the chaos some LVTs became
stuck in the mud near the far
shore, others veered away.
Captain Houghton sprang into the
river to rally the vehicles toward
the landing site. Mortar rounds
landed in the water near him; the
concussion from one near miss
knocked him out.
men in their final approach to the tight spots. He had spent the Lieutenant Shutler could see
north bank. Technical Sergeant month of August making night none of this from the crowded
Ernest L. Defazio complained the raids from USS Horace A. Bass troop compartment of his lurching
blaze “lit up the place like a (APD 124) in the Sea of Japan LVT. He scrambled topside, dis-
Christmas tree,” but nothing against the North Korean coastline, covered to his horror that the vehi-
stirred. Houghton dispatched four his Marines teamed with cle had turned upstream, broad-
men to check for signs of the Underwater Demolition Team 1. side to the NKPA gunners on Hill
enemy on Hill 125, then sent an Crossing the Han was a dissimilar 125. He whacked the driver,
exultant but premature message to
An LVT-3C of the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion takes off from the south bank
Murray: “The Marines have landed of the Han with a load of American and Korean Marines, while Marine engi-
and the situation is well in hand.” neers prepare a pontoon bridge to carry equipment.
Houghton also radioed his execu- Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press
tive officer to launch the balance
of the company in its nine LVTs.
So far, so good. But few sounds
attract more attention on a quiet
night than the sudden revving up
of nine pairs of Cadillac V-8
Amtrac engines. The noise
seemed enough to wake the dead,
and abruptly the NKPA battalion
on Hill 125 opened a vicious fire
against the approaching LVTs and
Houghton’s small group, now dan-
gerously backlit by the burning
building.
Second Lieutenant Philip D.
Shutler commanded the second
platoon of the Reconnaissance
Company, his men divided
between two LVTs that nosed into
the river in column. Young as he
was, Shutler had already been in

148
jumped into the waist-deep water, before dark. Marine Corsairs Battalion, 5th Marines, crossed the
and attempted to guide the vehicle would arrive soon after sunrise to river with relative ease. Corporal
directly ashore. He saw no sign of pound Hill 125 and scorch the Larry V. Brom, a Company H
the advance swimmers. Seoul-Kaesong highway to dis- squad leader, worried more about
At this point someone passed courage any NKPA reinforcements. the claustrophobia his men experi-
the word to abort the mission and Only a veteran force like the 5th enced in their LVT’s cramped troop
return to the south bank. Five Marines could have made such compartment than “the occasional
LVTs returned, leaving four stuck last-minute adaptations and passed splat of bullets against the armor
in the mud along the far shore. the word to all hands in the plate.” Company H’s LVTs lurched
One of these contained Captain remaining minutes before dawn. out of the river and continued
Houghton’s unconscious body. Taplett’s original skepticism about rolling north, crossing the railroad
Other Marines were missing. the Reconnaissance Company’s and highway to secure distant Hill
Shutler found one of his troops ability to hold an opposed bridge- 51. Corporal Brom led his men in
had died of wounds in the con- head had served 3d Battalion, 5th a mad dash up the rise as soon as
fused melee. The crossing had Marines well; the battalion had the rear ramp dropped, vastly
failed. already prepared worst-case alter- relieved to discover the crest unde-
When Technical Sergeant Ernie native plans. By the time General fended.
DeFazio discovered his captain Almond, Vice Admiral Arthur D. By contrast, Company I had its
missing he promptly led a swim- Struble, USN (Commander, hands full taking Hill 125. The
mer team back across the river. Seventh Fleet), and Lieutenant lower approaches contained scant
They rescued Houghton and his General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., cover. Well-sited NKPA gunners
radio operator, retrieved two of the USMC (Commanding General, scythed down Captain McMullen’s
stuck vehicles and restored more Fleet Marine Force, Pacific) arrived exposed 60mm mortar section and
than a bit of the company’s honor. they found Lieutenant Colonel two sections of light machine guns.
But the night was nearly spent, Murray as unflappable as ever and The situation improved dramati-
the enemy occupied the crossing the crossing well underway. cally with the appearance over-
site in considerable strength, and Lieutenant Colonel Ransom M. head of four Corsairs from
every VIP in the theater—including Wood’s 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Walter E.
General Douglas MacArthur—had pounded the far bank with 105mm Lischeid’s Marine Fighter Squadron
announced their intentions of howitzers; Murray’s own 81mm 214 (VMF-214). The Black Sheep
observing the morning crossing. and 4.2-inch mortars joined the pilots launched at 0551 from the
As assistant division commander, chorus. Taplett’s first wave of six escort carrier USS Sicily (CVE 118)
Brigadier General Edward A. Craig LVTs chugged resolutely on line in the Yellow Sea, southwest of
frankly observed: “The eyes of the towards the far bank. Inchon, arriving over the river just
world were upon us. It would At this point the NKPA battalion in time to even the odds against
have looked bad for the Marines, on Hill 125 opened a disciplined Company I’s arduous assault with
of all people, to reach a river and fire on the LVTs, scoring more than a series of ear-splitting rocket and
not be able to cross.” 200 hits on the vehicles as they napalm attacks against the North
The 5th Marines calmly decided trundled ashore. Fortunately their Koreans defending the high
to approach the crossing as an one antitank gun proved less accu- ground. McMullen spurred his
amphibious assault mission—tight- rate than their small arms fire. men forward, upward amid the
ly coordinated preliminary fires on Taplett pressed on. His LVTs dis- bedlam. Their difficult double
the objective, an intermediate and charged Captain Robert A. envelopment converged on the
final objective assigned, and troops McMullen’s Company I, then crest, culminating in a vicious flur-
organized into boat teams config- pulled away for the return transit. ry of hand-to-hand combat. An
ured to each LVT. Taplett’s 3d McMullen quickly deployed his abrupt silence followed, broken
Battalion, 5th Marines, would lead platoons up the open slopes of Hill only by the Marines gasping for
the landing in assault waves, fol- 125 in a double envelopment. The breath.
lowed by Lieutenant Colonel fighting became point-blank and Taking Hill 125 cost Company I
Harold S. Roise’s 2d Battalion, 5th deadly. 43 casualties; it inflicted at least
Marines, to expand the beachhead; With most NKPA gunners now 200 upon the enemy. It had been
the entire regiment with its taking aim at McMullen’s Marines, a beautifully executed tactical
attached tank company to cross the remaining companies of 3d assault, highlighted by the high-

149
2d Battalion still astride the
Inchon-Seoul highway, the 1st
Battalion attacking through the
hilly countryside below the Han.
Sutter’s lop-sided success in
thwarting the NKPA tank attack
pleased Puller, but the initial view
of sprawling Yongdungpo from his
observation post brought forth
Puller’s trademark scowl. The
prospect of forcing a crossing of
the high-banked Kalchon Canal,
then fighting door-to-door through
this large industrial suburb did not
appeal to the veteran jungle fight-
er. When General Almond ap-
peared from observing Murray’s
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A409336
river crossing, Puller asked him for
Advancing Marines examine the smoking ruin of a North Korean T-34 tank
authorization to employ unrestrict-
recently destroyed in an ambush.
ed firepower in taking the city.
speed, low-level strikes of the hopes. Then NKPA resistance stiff- The corps commander agreed.
Corsairs. General Almond, observ- ened abruptly. It would take the Puller unleashed two battalions of
ing this conflict from barely 500 5th Marines a full week of desper- supporting artillery (Lieutenant
yards away, admitted it was “one ate fighting to advance the final Colonel Merritt Adelman’s 2d
of the finest small-unit actions I’ve four miles into Seoul. Battalion, 11th Marines, in direct
ever witnessed.” The 20th of September also support, and Major William
The forcible taking of Hill 125 began very early for Chesty Puller’s McReynolds’ 4th Battalion, 11th
meant the remainder of the 5th 1st Marines on their final approach Marines, in general support) plus
Marines could cross the river unim- to Yongdungpo. The 87th NKPA air strikes by Marine Corsairs. The
peded. By the time General Regiment launched two predawn Sicily-based Black Sheep followed
MacArthur arrived the crossing spoiling attacks against both their early-morning assistance to
seemed routine. “You’ve done a flanks. The southern attack, led by the 5th Marines with two dozen
perfect job,” he told Lieutenant five T-34 tanks, posed the greatest sorties against Yongdungpo, drop-
Colonel Murray, unaware of the threat. The veteran NKPA troops ping 500-pound bombs and straf-
all-night flail that preceded the endeavored to repeat their high- ing with 20mm cannon and rock-
perfection. Murray by then had his speed, straight-down-the-highway ets. The city began to burn.
eye on the main objective, and he armored tactics that had proven The 1st Marines commenced its
pointed upstream to the convolut- wildly successful in the initial inva- main assault on Yongdungpo at
ed ridges that protected the sion, but their tanks had now lost 0630 the next morning. Neither
approaches to Seoul from the their invulnerability. The armored Sutter’s 2d Battalion or Lieutenant
northwest, the regimental route of column barreled blindly into a Colonel Jack Hawkins’ 1st
advance. “They’ll all evaporate lethal L-shaped ambush set by Battalion could sustain much head-
very shortly,” MacArthur assured Lieutenant Colonel Alan Sutter’s 2d way. Crossing the Kalchon was
Murray. Battalion, 1st Marines. Short-range like crossing a medieval castle
At a glance from long distance it fire from Marine 3.5-inch bazookas moat; clambering over the dikes
seemed that the Supreme Allied knocked out the first two enemy was akin to “going over the top” in
Commander might have been tanks; a storm of direct and indi- the trenches of World War I.
right. Only eight miles separated rect fire cut down the supporting Sutter’s outfit in particular took
Hill 125 at the Haengju crossing infantry, killing 300 men. The sur- heavy casualties. The division’s
site from downtown Seoul. viving North Koreans withdrew to Special Action Report recorded the
Murray’s advance elements cov- their prepared defenses within loss of 17 officers and 200 men by
ered half that distance on the after- Yongdungpo. the 2d Battalion along the canal-
noon of the 20th, raising false Puller pressed the advance, his like river by 21 September.

150
Puller committed elements of artillery support immediately avail- ensued—”heavies against heav-
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas L. able, Simmons chose his Browning ies”—at an interval no greater than
Ridge’s 3d Battalion in the center, M1917A1 watercooled .30-caliber half a football field. The exchange
but a half dozen NKPA Maxim heavy machine guns for the mis- was deafening, but Simmons’ stur-
heavy machine guns took a grim sion. Proven veterans of the World dy Brownings prevailed, allowing
toll of every attempt to cross the War, the heavy Brownings were 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, to cross
water gate sector of the Kalchon. unsurpassed in providing rock- the Kalchon intact.
Ridge ordered Major Edwin H. steady, sustained fire at a rate of The Kalchon proved a barrier to
Simmons, his Weapons Company 450-600 rounds per minute. the entire regiment on 21
commander, to suppress the fire. Simmons massed these weapons September—with one memorable
With his 81mm mortars temporari- with their barrels “just clearing the exception. While the battle raged
ly out of ammunition and no top of the dike.” A fierce duel on both sides—and shortly before
Major Simmons’ machine gun
duel—Captain Robert H. Barrow,
the future 27th Commandant, led
his Company A, 1st Marines,
through a rice field towards an
uncommonly quiet sector of the
Yongdungpo defenses. The North
Koreans may have vacated this
sector in order to more effectively
contest the adjacent water gate
fronting the 3d Battalion, an obvi-
ous crossing site. Barrow, howev-
er, expected to be hit at any
moment. Simmons watched ap-
provingly as Company A, 1st
Marines, advanced past his imme-
diate left flank, each platoon on
line. “They were beautifully
deployed,” said Simmons. “As
they came through the dry rice
paddy I thought of the Marines
coming through the wheat fields at
Belleau Wood in 1918.”
Private First Class Morgan
Brainard of Barrow’s company,
though apprehensive about the
spooky quiet, experienced similar
thoughts as he crossed through the
waist-high rice stalks. As he later
described the advance:

Somewhere off to our left,


beyond the road and out of
sight, beyond a line of trees
we could hear the rattle of
rifle and machine gun fire
where Baker Company was
going in . . . . To our immedi-
ate front, however, there was
nothing but silence, as we
continued to move forward

151
to experience one of those rare
fortunes of war . . . a momentary
opportunity.”
“We passed over the top of the
dike quickly, slithered down the
other side,” recalled Brainard,
“then inexplicably and stupidly
stopped facing a stream [the
Kalchon]. I mean the whole line
stopped.” The company gunnery
sergeant quickly ended their hesi-
tation: “Get in that goddamned
water!”
Company A found itself entering
the main street of Yongdungpo
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A3200 totally unopposed. “It was eerie,”
A column of M-26 Pershings and a bulldozer-configured M-4 Sherman advance said Barrow. “We simply slithered
towards Yongdungpo. The threat comes from the right flank, and firing has
into town undetected.”
already been vigorous, judging from the spent 90mm shell casings alongside the
The 87th NKPA Regiment, des-
road.
perately attempting to patch
through the field in perfect Belleau Wood . . . and I ex- together a defense in depth, had
order. It was a classic-type pected our peaceful scene accidentally left this critical
infantry advance . . . but my would be shattered in a simi- approach unguarded, and Barrow
mind kept racing back toward lar manner at any moment. took full advantage of the opening.
the stories I had read as a boy His 200-man company flowed
of the Marines attacking Captain Barrow acknowledged rapidly into the heart of the city,
through the wheat fields of his serendipity. “We just happened sweeping up surprised bands of

152
the enemy in the process. northwestern defenses. Barrow’s rank with Hunt’s Point and Pope’s
Before dark they had cut the city interlocking machine guns and Ridge [at Peleliu].”
in two. Barrow selected a sausage- 60mm mortars cut down many and The NKPA attacked Company A
shaped dike, 30 feet high and 150 scattered the rest. shortly after dark with five Soviet-
yards long, as the place to make a As darkness fell, Lieutenant built T-34 tanks. The rattle and
stand for the night. “We immedi- Colonel Hawkins knew Barrow roar of their tracks as they
ately recognized that we had a had executed a major penetration, approached almost unnerved Pri-
valuable piece of real estate,” he but he could not reinforce this vate First Class Morgan Brainard.
said. From the dike his Marines unexpected success. Barrow and “The squeaking and engine hum-
could interdict the intersection of Company A would be on their ming was drawing much closer,
the highways from Inchon and own—which was fine with and as I crouched in my hole, I felt
Kimpo. Barrow. “We felt strong,” he said. the ice-like shiver of pure fear.”
Through this intersection at one “We were not ‘The Lost Company.’” The tanks reached the intersection,
point marched a large formation of “What followed,” observed histori- then proceeded in column along a
unsuspecting NKPA infantry, an Jon T. Hoffman, “would road parallel and extremely close
singing political songs as they hur- become one of the great small-unit to the Marines’ positions dug into
ried to reinforce Yongdungpo’s epics in the history of the Corps, to the side of the dike. The lead
vehicle appeared enormous to
Navy surgeon and corpsmen attached to the 1st Marine Division treat a badly
Brainard: “In the moonlight I
injured two-year-old boy on the outskirts of Seoul.
Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press could see its turret with the long
gun on it slowly circling back and
forth, like some prehistoric, steel-
backed monster sniffing for prey. I
pressed tightly against the side of
my hole, and waited for the flash
and fire of its gun.”
The tanks made five deliberate
passes along that parallel track, fir-
ing their 85mm guns directly into
the crowded dike from an ungodly
short range of 25 yards. This was
a terrifying experience for the
Marines on the receiving end, but
the dike’s soft sand absorbed the
base-detonated, armor-piercing
shells, and there were few casual-
ties. Meanwhile, Barrow’s 3.5-inch
rocket launcher teams stung the
tanks repeatedly. “One of the
most courageous acts that I ever
witnessed was those brave young
Marines with the 3.5s,” he said.
The first bazooka round Corporal
Francis Devine ever fired in anger
blasted a T-34 turret off its ring.
Other gunners knocked out a sec-
ond tank and damaged two more.
The attached heavy machine gun
section kept the vehicles buttoned
up and peppered their vision
blocks and periscopes. The sur-
viving vehicles withdrew in disar-
ray.

153
D+6, 21 September, 50,000 troops
had landed, including Colonel
Homer L. Litzenberg, Jr.’s 7th
Marines, supported by Lieutenant
Colonel Francis F. Parry’s 3d
Battalion, 11th Marines, a 105mm
howitzer outfit.
The 7th Marines initially
assumed security duties in the
Inchon vicinity. General O. P.
Smith critically needed them for
the recapture of Seoul, but the
newly formed outfit first required a
day or two to shake itself down
from the long deployment by sea.
This did not take long. Lieutenant
Colonel Raymond G. Davis’ 1st
Battalion, 7th Marines, for exam-
ple, had conducted field firing
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC348715
from the fantail of their attack
Elements of the 5th Marines advance through a burning village after crossing the
Han River. The days of high mobility ended as the Marines reached the enemy
transport each day enroute. “We
main line of resistance in the high ridges on the outskirts of Seoul. fired machine guns, rifles, mortars,
and bullets, rocket launchers, and
The enemy tanks may have ceased before the Marines ran out threw hand grenades at every
been more successful had infantry of ammunition. piece of trash, orange crates, or
accompanied them, but the NKPA At dawn, Barrow counted 210 whatever the ship’s crew would
riflemen did not appear until 0100. dead North Koreans around his toss overboard for us,” said Davis.
Four separate ground assaults fol- beleaguered dike. “Yongdungpo Within 48 hours the regiment
lowed, each beaten back by disci- did for A Company,” said Barrow, moved out tactically, crossed the
plined fire. “I expected to have a “what no other thing could have Han River, and began its own path
lot of promiscuous firing,” said done in terms of unifying it and towards Seoul’s northern suburbs,
Barrow, but “my people didn’t lose giving it its own spirit, a spirit that somewhat northwest of the route
their fire discipline and go bananas said ‘We can do anything.’” of the 5th Marines. On the third
and shoot randomly.” If Barrow’s company had “slith- day Parry’s gunners fired their first
The enemy assembly area was ered” into Yongdungpo on the rounds down range.
so close to the Marines’ defensive 21st, it was now the turn of the By the fortunes of war, the 5th
position that they could hear the 87th NKPA Regiment, having failed Marines would pay the stiffest
voice of the local commander, to oust the Marines throughout the price of admission to enter Seoul.
unmistakably haranguing his night, to slither out of town the General MacArthur’s beguiling
troops into launching another next morning. Barrow had assurance to Lieutenant Colonel
attack. Corporal Billy D. Webb, an skinned the cat, helping Puller Murray that the hills guarding the
Oklahoma reservist “with fire in his capture a very difficult intermedi- northwestern approaches to the
eye,” decided to even the odds. ate objective in two days of fight- capital “would all evaporate”
Slipping out of his foxhole—“for ing. The road to Seoul for the 1st proved famously false. The regi-
God’s sake don’t shoot me when I Marines now lay open, once the ment would suffer a casualty rate
come back!”—Webb dashed 5th Marines could advance east- more reflective of its recent history
through the adjoining maze of ward enough to cover their tactical at Peleliu and Okinawa than the
buildings, spotted an extremely crossing of the Han. Korean peninsula.
animated officer trying to rally his Back at Inchon, now well to the Part of the difficulty came from
troops for yet another attack, took west of Puller’s regiment at the convoluted terrain, a sprawling
careful aim, and shot him dead. Yongdungpo, the offloading of series of hill masses, ridges, and
Webb escaped in the resultant con- fresh troops and combat cargo draws extending from the
fusion, and the night assaults continued around the clock. By Kaesong-Seoul highway in the

154
north to the Han River in the ground. The fact that the Japanese and registering their fire along the
south. “As an exercise in map had long used the same ridges for Marines’ likely avenues of
reading,” observed Marine histori- tactical training meant the preexist- approach. Additional troops in
an Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., ing availability of firing positions, odd-lot specialty organizations
“this ground is confusing and command posts, and observation reinforced Wol during the battle for
deceptive; for the tactician, it is a sites. Colonel Wol Ki Chan the hills, increasing his total force
nightmare.” Massive Hill 296 dom- reached this preferred ground with to nearly 10,000 men. The 5th
inated the landscape; indeed, his 25th NKPA Brigade and Marines, even reinforced by their
many of the other numbered peaks Colonel Pak Han Lin’s 78th attachments and the ROK Marine
and knobs were in reality only Independent Infantry Regiment just battalion, could not match those
protuberances of the hill’s bony in time. Had the North Koreans numbers.
fingers extending to the Han and been held up one more day pass- The 5th Marines had fought
eastward into downtown Seoul ing through Seoul, the Marines against highly experienced NKPA
itself. Confusingly, there were might have seized Hill 296 and all regiments in the Pusan Perimeter,
three Hill 105s in this complex (just of its deadly fingers with hardly a units whose officers and non-com-
as there had been three Hill 362s at fight. missioned officers had years of
Iwo Jima). Regimental planners Colonels Wol and Pak deployed combat experience in China. The
nicknamed them for their linear at least 6,000 troops into the hill North Koreans they now faced
sequence—Hills 105 North, Center, complex. While yet to be tested in lacked that background but made
and South. All three would prove battle, the combined force was up for it with tenacity and fire-
prickly objectives to seize and both well-led and well-trained. power, including well-served high-
hold. Wol’s brigade also contained an velocity 76mm guns and 120mm
The North Koreans found the abundance of heavy weapons heavy mortars. “Their mortar fire
jumbled terrain around the Hill 296 units. Their crews spent the 20th was very accurate,” said veteran
complex to be ideal defensive and 21st digging in their weapons company commander Captain

155
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N-A3860
Capt Francis I. “Ike” Fenton, Jr., center, enjoys a lighter Fenton’s company experienced unremitting fire taking and
moment with the Commandant, Gen Clifton B. Cates. holding Hill 105-South just outside the city limits.

Francis I. “Ike” Fenton, Jr. “They with a small cut, but Lieutenant week, halting only to resist compa-
could really drop it in your lap.” Colonel Lawrence C. Hays, his ny-sized counterattacks that boiled
Lieutenant Colonel Raymond executive officer and fellow out of the draws and defiles along
Murray began the 22d of Tarawa veteran (1st Battalion, 8th the shoulders of the hill mass.
September with three of his four Marines commanding officer at Company H, 5th Marines,
battalions on line: Taplett’s 3d Red Beach Two), was badly hit reached the hill’s geographic crest
Battalion on the left, facing the and required emergency evacua- by the end of the day. Corporal
main crest of Hill 296; Major Ko’s tion. Larry Brom’s platoon commander
1st ROK Marine Battalion in the Murray nevertheless kicked off directed him to deploy his squad
center, facing an exposed slope his regimental attack at 0700 on in a defensive sector along a grove
towards its objective, Hill 56; and the 22d as planned. Taplett’s 3d of pine trees, and Brom supervised
Lieutenant Colonel George R. Battalion, 5th Marines, clawed its his men as they dug night posi-
Newton’s 1st Battalion on the right, way steadily towards the steep tions and selected interlocking
aimed towards Hill 105-South. crest of Hill 296, shaking off plung- fields of fire. Satisfied with their
Lieutenant Colonel Harold S. ing fire from Communist positions preparations, he took off his pack
Roise’s 2d Battalion remained in north of the Kaesong Highway (the and unfolded his e-tool (entrench-
reserve. 7th Marines would not draw ing tool) to dig his own hole for
The battle for the hills got off to abreast to clear these positions the night. The squad had been
a bad start for Murray. During the along the left flank for another uncommonly fortunate, Brom
night a North Korean shell explod- three days). Taplett’s Marines reflected, having lost only one man
ed in his command post, causing maintained a steady rate of to enemy fire throughout the fight-
many casualties. Murray survived advance, the most promising of the ing along the Naktong, at Wolmi-

156
do Island, and the advance east of fires. He also asked General Smith wounded in the first 50 days of
Inchon. Here on Hill 296 their for more air support. This was combat in Korea, along with five of
luck abruptly soured. A North forthcoming—the 1st Marines were the six company commanders.
Korean sniper shot Brom through mopping up Yongdungpo and the Experienced non-commissioned
the foot just after he knelt to 7th Marines were not yet engaged. officers took command of the pla-
unsling his pack. More fire Major Arnold A. Lund led his toons in Company A and contin-
sprayed the ridge crest. A gray- Death Rattlers of VMF-323 off the ued the attack on Hill 105-South.
headed Korean “papa-san” scur- escort carrier Badoeng Strait (CVE Captain “Ike” Fenton led
ried to Brom’s side, scooped him 116), which the aviators lovingly Company B through Company A
up, and carried him piggyback nicknamed “The Bing-Ding,” in 42 late in the day, then, leaning into a
down the reverse slope under sorties in support of the 5th furious barrage from 1st Battalion,
intermittent fire to the battalion aid Marines, the heaviest operational 11th Marines, joined Company C’s
station. Brom gave him a fresh rate since D-Day at Inchon. dash for the crest of 105-South. It
pack of cigarettes, all he possessed Lieutenant Colonel Norman J. was a hollow victory. The battal-
at the time. The old man bowed in Anderson, the airborne tactical air ion had suffered more than 40
gratitude, then returned back up controller for Marine Aircraft casualties, and the enemy had
the hill. For Corporal Brom, a two- Group 33 (MAG-33), directed the mysteriously disappeared—“there
year veteran of the 5th Marines, the strikes, then led one himself, a were no bodies, not even any car-
war was over. spectacular direct hit on Hill 72 (by tridge cases lying around,” report-
The incident of a Marine squad now “Nellie’s Tit” to the 5th ed Fenton. Only later would the
leader being picked off from long Marines) that knocked out one of Marines discover the existence of a
range at dusk by a North Korean Colonel Wol’s few tanks. large cave on the hill’s reverse
sniper signified two developments. Additional air strikes came from slope, now a sanctuary for the for-
The NKPA had deployed front-line the newly arrived, Kimpo-based mer defenders, living and dead. In
troops west of Seoul. Secondly, Lancers of VMF-212, commanded the meantime, punishing fire from
although the Marines had seized by Lieutenant Colonel Richard W. the hills to the northeast began to
the crest of Hill 296, the North Wyczawski and Lieutenant Colonel rake the Marines exposed on the
Koreans occupied defenses in Max J. Volcansek, Jr.’s night-fight- crest. As Heinl described Hill 105-
depth throughout its massive fin- ing Tigers of VMF(N)-542. South:
gers descending to the east and This was spectacular close air
south. support—unerringly directed and [The hill] was no vacation
The situation south of 3d delivered—and many North spot. Before the sun set,
Battalion, 5th Marines’ advance Koreans met their deaths from the enemy heavy machine guns
validated these serious develop- skies, but their withering crossfire began to scythe back and
ments. On the 22d, the Korean never ceased. The Korean Marines forth over the hilltop, while
Marine battalion encountered a were literally stopped in their antitank guns, accurate as a
furious fire from masked guns in tracks. The advance of Newton’s sniper’s rifle and a lot dead-
every adjoining declivity each time 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, on the lier, flash-banged in with
it mounted an attack. Its objective right flank fared better, but only in high-velocity rounds that left
was deceptive. Captain Fenton, relative terms. Attacking across no time for a man to duck.
operating on the Koreans’ right 2,000 yards of open terrain cost
flank, described Hill 56 as “a very Companies A and C dearly. The This was an unwelcome devel-
insignificant looking low ridge that Marines found that one particularly opment to Fenton, who had lost
extended from 296 to 105-South.” deadly NKPA outpost contained a only one killed and six wounded
But the Koreans were advancing U.S. Browning .50-caliber heavy in his assault on the hill. Now,
from low ground, through rice machine gun, captured during the despite digging new foxholes
fields, exposed every step of the first week of the war. Company A along the military crest, his men
way to unrelenting artillery and lost its last two officer platoon would suffer stiff casualties from
mortar fire. commanders in the assault. The their hostile neighbors. “We were
Murray directed Lieutenant cost was endemic with the 5th pinned down by day and counter-
Colonel Ransom M. Wood’s sup- Marines. Seventeen of the regi- attacked by night,” he said. To
porting 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, ment’s original 18 platoon com- make matters worse, the Korean
to give the Koreans priority of manders had been killed or Marines’ lack of progress left 1st

157
Marine Close Air Support
in the Recapture of Seoul
structure served us well, then and ever since, beginning

“I believe the modern ‘Marine Air-Ground Team’


truly takes its departure from the crucible of the
Korean War,” reflected retired Lieutenant
General Robert P. Keller, USMC, in a recent interview.
Keller took command of the VMF-214 Black Sheep after
with the air-ground composition of the 1st Provisional
Marine Brigade.”
Of the four Marine fighter squadrons and two night
fighter squadrons supporting the 1st Marine Division
North Korean antiaircraft gunners shot down Lieutenant during the 33-day period from 7 September to 9
Colonel Walter E. Lischeid over Seoul on 25 September October, the Death Rattlers of VMF-323, commanded by
1950. Comparing this experience with his World War II Major Arnold A. Lund, saw more days in action and flew
service as a fighter pilot and squadron commander in the most combat sorties (784, according to the official
the northern Solomons, Keller pointed to the emergence Marine Corps history of the Seoul campaign). The
of close air support in the Korean War—”by Marines, for record comes with a bittersweet irony. The squadron
Marines”—as the principal difference. While ground had been in the process of a mandated deactivation
Marines had enjoyed Marine air support at Peleliu, Iwo when the war erupted, its pilots reassigned, its planes
Jima, and Okinawa, it was never delivered more close- transferred for preservation. Saved at the last moment
ly, nor more responsively than that provided by the F4- from the draconian cutbacks of the Truman
U Corsairs of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing throughout Administration, the Death Rattlers reassembled in record
the final four months of 1950, from the Pusan Perimeter time. During the Seoul campaign they launched from
through Inchon-Seoul to the Chosin Reservoir. the escort carrier Badoeng Strait (CVE 116) in the Sea of
Major General Norman J. Anderson credited the suc- Japan on missions ranging from reconnaissance to pro-
cess of this air support coordination to the hard work paganda leaflet drops, but their most frequent mission
performed by Marine air and ground officers in the short by an order of magnitude was close air support.
interwar period. “The Marine Corps, having learned The Black Sheep pilots of VMF-214 flew off the escort
valuable lessons late in World War II, went to extremes carrier Sicily (CVE 118), commanded by the legendary
in the late ‘40s to school its air and ground officers naval aviator Captain John S. Thach, USN, a World War
together and to structure its deployments as air-ground II ace who in 1941 invented the “Thach Weave” to
teams under a single command,” he said. “This new counter the Japanese Zero’s technical superiority over
Photo Courtesy of LtCol Leo J. Ihli, USMC (Ret)

158
the F4F Wildcats. Thach became an enthusiastic advo- the Seoul campaign. Superbly assisted by Marine
cate of Marine close air support. “It’s like having Captain Charles E. Crew’s Far East Detachment, Air and
artillery right over your shoulder!” he said. During the Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Fleet Marine Force,
Seoul Campaign, Thach would often leave the bridge to Pacific, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing flew 1,024 sorties in
attend the Black Sheep post-mission debriefings. “They support of the Army division in 57 days without a single
took their work seriously. They really were the top pros casualty to front-line friendly troops, despite bombing
in the business, I think, in the whole world. I had and strafing runs as close as 200 yards. Brigadier
tremendous admiration for them.” General Homer W. Kiefer, USA, commanding the 7th
So did the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division’s artillery, wrote an appreciative letter to the
Division. “The effectiveness of the Marine air-ground Commandant, stating: “The Marine system of control, in
team and close air support doctrine were reaffirmed my estimation, approaches the ideal, and I firmly believe
with outstanding success,” wrote Major General Oliver P. that a similar system should be adopted as standard for
Smith after the liberation of Seoul. Army Divisions.”
For the troops on the ground, struggling to prevail The Korean War as a whole would advance military
against a well-armed enemy they could rarely see in the aviation fully into the Jet Age, and soon the U.S. Air
open, the firepower delivered by their fellow Marines Force would wage epic air-to-air battles between its F-
overhead seemed awesome. Lieutenant Joseph R. 86 Sabers and the Soviet-built (and often Soviet-flown)
Owen, the mortar platoon commander in Company B, MIG-15 fighters. Eventually the Marines would intro-
1st Battalion, 7th Marines, described his first experience duce in the skies over Korea their own jet fighter, the
with a close air strike during the battalion’s battle for a Grumman F9F-2 Panther, well armed for both air-to-air
ridge south of Uijongbu: and air-to-ground missions. It was also the dawn of the
Helicopter Age, and VMO-6 made military aviation his-
The first of the gull-winged, dark blue Corsairs tory when it deployed to Pusan with the 1st Marine
peeled from the circle and dove at the white Brigade in August 1950 with four Sikorsky HO3S-1 heli-
smoke. Red tracers from its guns poured from the copters.
forward edges of the wings. The plane leveled off By contrast the propeller-driven Corsair was now
only yards above the ridgeline. We could see the considered old and slow, hampered by a light payload
pilot in the cockpit and the big, white Marine capacity and too small a fuel tank. Landing the high-rise
Corps emblem on the fuselage. . . . Then the [next] “U-birds” on the pitching deck of an escort carrier
plane came in, this one dropping a pod of napalm. remained “adventurous,” especially with the ship steam-
The black, coffin-shaped canister hit the ground, ing westerly into a setting sun. “That bright red ball
skipped a few feet above the surface, and explod- seemed to be sitting right on the fan-tail,” General Keller
ed into a wall of flame that extended the length of recalled, “and it was difficult to make out the Landing
the North Koreans’ position. Two hundred yards Signal Officer, his signals, or even the deck.” General
below, we felt the shock of its explosion and a Anderson cited another common hazard when trying to
wave of searing heat. land an F4U into a setting sun: “The Corsair frequently
managed to splatter the windshield with oil!”
While equally appreciative of the aviators’ precision Yet the Corsair in good hands proved highly reliable
and valor, veteran infantry officer Captain Francis I. and durable for its age and the operating conditions.
“Ike” Fenton, Jr., commanding Company B, 1st Battalion, The hard-working maintenance crews of VMF-214
5th Marines, suggested even deadlier aerial firepower somehow averaged 95 percent availability of the Black
that could uproot North Koreans who took shelter in Sheep Corsairs throughout the Pusan-Inchon-Seoul cam-
caves or railroad tunnels, as the 5th Marines experienced paigns. And in the absence of a jet-propelled enemy air
in the extended battle for Hill 105-South. “The close air threat during those two months, the Corsair proved an
support in Korea by the Marine Corps was outstanding,” invaluable contributor to the allied victories.
Fenton said. “However, I would like to see Marine avia- Certainly the ground Marines fighting towards Seoul
tion come up with a rocket with a napalm head. This or Uijongbu in the autumn of 1950 were very comfort-
rocket would be great for getting into tunnels, or into able with the presence overhead of their protective
caves....The Koreans showed great fear for fire Corsair, their familiar old “bent-wing widow-maker,” the
bombs....I believe a big rocket, maybe a Tiny Tim, that attack aircraft the Japanese in the previous war alleged-
could carry a fairly good quantity of napalm, would be ly nicknamed “The Whistling Death.” There is no record
an excellent weapon.” of what nickname the North Koreans may have used,
Major General Field Harris’ 1st Marine Aircraft Wing but judging from the ever-increasing intensity of their
also provided close air support to the 7th Infantry ground fire the moment the F4Us swept into view, it was
Division, the other major component in X Corps during probable the Corsairs held their highest respect, as well.

159
both companies were able in time
to approach the higher ground
with acceptable casualties, yet
both suffered heavily in the close-
in fighting that followed. This took
the balance of the afternoon.
George Newton’s 1st Battalion,
5th Marines, had all it could handle
that day and night just maintaining
its exposed forward position on
Hill 105-South. In two days spent
clinging to the hill’s fire-swept
crest, Companies B and C suffered
24 casualties. “All these men were
hit in their foxholes,” said Captain
Fenton. “There was no way to
keep the enemy from delivering
plunging fire right in on top of us.”
Robert Taplett’s 3d Battalion, 5th
Marines, also had its hands full
throughout the 23d in repelling
NKPA counterattacks against the
crest of Hill 296 and trying to
establish fire superiority against the
enemy on a half-dozen circling
hills. Clearly visible at one of these
Communist strongpoints was a tall,
fair-skinned officer with a charmed
life, “Fireproof Phil.” He may have
been a Soviet military advisor, but
whoever he was, Fireproof Phil
exhibited unflagging disdain for
Marine marksmanship. When rifle-
men, mortarmen, and artillerymen
failed to knock him down, Taplett
ordered up an M-26 Pershing tank.
Sniping at Phil with a 90mm gun
proved equally futile. The man
dodged every round and kept
Battalion, 5th Marines’ left flank passed through Hill 56. The exhorting his gunners to return fire
fully exposed. Newton had to peel insignificant-looking rise would until darkness shrouded the scene.
a company back to the starting become known as Smith’s Ridge The Marines never saw him again.
position, and the day ended on the following day. The 2d Battalion held Hill 56
that sour note. Murray committed his reserve, throughout the night, but only by
Lieutenant Colonel Murray ordering Lieutenant Colonel Roise its collective fingernails. The
ordered the Korean Marines to to pass through the Koreans with assault companies were scattered
resume their assault on Hill 56 the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, and con- and vulnerable. Lieutenant Colo-
morning of 23 September, but try tinue the attack. Roise deployed nel Max Volcansek’s faithful night
as they might the ROK troops were Captain Uel D. Peters’ Company F fighters circling overhead helped
stopped cold by heavy fire. No on the right and First Lieutenant H. even the odds, but Marine artillery
one then realized that Colonel Wol J. “Hog Jaw” Smith’s Company D provided the greatest assistance.
had established his main line of on the left. Hugging the terrain Wood’s 1st Battalion, 11th Marines,
resistance along the low ridge that and advancing by squad rushes, fired all night long, illuminating the

160
scorched battlefield and interdict-
ing potential NKPA assembly areas.
“I can’t say enough about the
artillery support we received that
night,” said Second Lieutenant
Tilton A. Anderson, whose platoon
had been reduced to seven men in
the afternoon’s fighting. “It was
magnificent.”
Major General Almond, the X
Corps commander, grew impatient
with the 1st Marine Division’s slow
progress north of the Han.
Pressured by MacArthur to recap-
ture Seoul by the third-month
anniversary of the invasion, and
mindful that the North Koreans
would be fortifying the capital to a
greater extent each day, Almond
urged O. P. Smith to deploy the 1st
Marines well beyond Yongdungpo
to attack Seoul from the southeast.
Almond’s operations officer reflect- Sketch by John DeGrasse
ed his commander’s impatience, The 5th Marines learned tank-infantry coordination under intense pressure in
saying: “The Marines were exas- the Pusan Perimeter. Here, attacking North Korean positions along the ridges
peratingly deliberate at a time outside Seoul, a fire team keeps up with its assigned Pershing tank.
when rapid maneuver was impera-
tive.” Battalion to X Corps to transport while Litzenberg’s 7th Marines
Smith disagreed. Seizing Inchon the 32d Infantry and the 17th ROK sealed off the NKPA access routes
against rear-echelon troops had Regiment across the tidal river the along the entire northern bound-
been a relative cakewalk. Things following day. ary. It was an ambitious and com-
had changed. The tenacity and Smith knew that Almond on his plicated plan. But the first order of
firepower of the North Koreans daily visits to the front-line regi- business remained the destruction
battling the 5th Marines reminded ments had taken to giving opera- of the 25th NKPA Brigade in the
Smith more of the Japanese at tional orders directly to Murray and fortified barrier ridges to the north-
Peleliu or Okinawa. Seizing Seoul Chesty Puller. In a heated private west.
would therefore not be quick and session, Smith asked Almond to The battle for these ridges
easy, Smith argued, and the last knock it off. “If you’ll give your reached its climax on 24
thing he wanted was to wage that orders to me,” Smith said icily, “I’ll September. The day broke with a
battle with his major components see that they are carried out.” low-lying mist, as Companies D
divided by the Han and attacking Neither of Almond’s division com- and F arrayed themselves for the
towards each other. Almond manders, however, would success- assault. Artillery preparations
acquiesced to this logic, but he fully cure the commanding general began at 0610. Company F
also decided to bring in Colonel of his impetuosity. jumped off 20 minutes later, seized
Charles E. Beauchamp’s 32d General Smith directed Puller to the eastern end of the troublesome
Infantry of the Army’s 7th Infantry make his crossing slightly west of railroad tunnel, paused to allow a
Division to attack the city from the Yongdungpo, turn right, enter the Corsair strike by the Lancers of
southeast. Seoul would no longer city along the north bank, then VMF-212 (who would establish a
be the sole province of the 1st execute a difficult pivot move- 1st Marine Aircraft Wing record of
Marine Division. Smith agreed to ment, wheeling the regiment 46 sorties this date), then dashed
move Puller’s 1st Marines across north. Smith planned for Murray’s across the low ground to capture
the Han the next morning, then 5th Marines to fight their way into the heavily fortified eastern finger.
loan the 1st Amphibian Tractor the northwest sector of the city This represented an encouraging

161
start, but Company F was spent, northeast across an open saddle, and rocket launchers. Twice he
having suffered more than a hun- seize an extremely well-defended punched ahead; twice he had to
dred casualties around the south knoll, and continue beyond along withdraw with heavy casualties.
edge of Hill 56 in the past 24 an increasingly wooded ridge. Nor did a flank attack succeed. An
hours. Among the dead was This contested real estate became 11-man squad worked east then
Corporal Welden D. Harris, who Smith’s Ridge. Easily a thousand attacked north. The North Koreans
had killed three North Korean sol- NKPA troops defended this terrain, shot them down to a man.
diers in hand-to-hand fighting and well covered by the same sharp- Abruptly Smith’s company was
been twice wounded the day shooting gunners who had been down to 44 Marines, including the
before. Company F had given its making life so miserable for the 1st 60mm mortar section, now out of
all. Now it was all up to “Hog Jaw” Battalion, 5th Marines, on Hill 105- ammunition and doubling as rifle-
Smith and Company D. South. men.
The recapture of Seoul would Smith began the day with a By this time, the 11th Marines
obviously require a team effort— good-sized rifle company, but the had been bombarding the ridge-
Marines and Army, ground forces mission required a battalion. lines and reverse slopes of the
and air squadrons. But the keys to Lieutenant Colonel Roise—who objective for more than 24 hours.
Seoul’s access really came from would join the ranks of the Ten Marine Corsairs from the
two Marine rifle companies, wounded this day but refuse evac- Death Rattlers had rotated on sta-
Captain Robert Barrow’s Company uation—withheld Captain Samuel tion since sunrise, bombing, straf-
A, 1st Marines, at Yongdungpo Jaskilka’s Company E to exploit ing, and dropping napalm canis-
during 21-22 September, and Smith’s expected breakthrough ters along the objective. Yet
Captain H. J. Smith’s Company D, and roll up the last hills to the east. Colonel Wol’s antiaircraft gunners
2d Battalion, 5th Marines, during Captain Smith sensed what he had taken a toll: five of the
the 23d-24th. faced and relied heavily on sup- Corsairs received extensive dam-
Company D faced the greater porting arms, adding to the age. Smith knew he was down to
challenge. Captain Smith had to artillery fire missions and air strikes his final opportunity.
attack about 750 yards to the his own machine guns, mortars, Smith called for a four-plane fir-
ing run, asking that the fourth
All it took was one North Korean prisoner of war to whip a pistol or grenade from Corsair execute a low but dummy
under his loose clothing and attack his captor. Thereafter the Marines took no pass to keep the enemy in their
chances. Naked prisoners proceed under armed guard past a destroyed T-34
holes until the last possible
tank to a prison camp.
National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC349027 moment. Major Lund’s Corsair
pilots flew this mission beautifully.
As the third plane roared overhead
Smith leapt to his feet screaming
“follow me!” His Marines swept
forward just beneath the last
Corsair’s low-level, ear-splitting
run.
“Over they went,” described
Captain Nicholas A. Canzona of
the engineer battalion in a 1956
Marine Corps Gazette account,
“yelling wildly and firing their
rifles, carbines, and BARs
[Browning automatic rifles]. They
entered upon a scene of carnage
stretching out in every direction.
Driving forward through the
human wreckage, they shot and
bayoneted anything that moved.”
“Hog Jaw” Smith died at the bit-
ter end, becoming Company D’s

162
36th fatality of the assault. Seizing
Smith’s Ridge in fact cost the com-
pany 178 casualties of the 206 men
who had advanced across the val-
ley the previous day. But the
reverse slopes of the complex
looked like a charnel house. The
surviving Marines began to count
the windrows of NKPA bodies,
most blasted hideously by Marine
105mm howitzers, Corsairs, and
mortars. They reached 1,500 and
had to stop counting; the task was
too gruesome.
Company D had knocked down
the center door to the 25th NKPA
Brigade’s defenses, but more sav-
age fighting remained to clear the
final path to Seoul. Captain
Jaskilka’s fresh Company E moved
through the gap between the rem-
nants of Companies D and F, but
encountered an extensive mine-
field and stubborn resistance on
Nelly’s Tit and Hill 105-Central
beyond. The division engineers
cleared the mines, but ridding the
last hills of their die-hard defend-
ers took Jaskilka another 24 hours.
Lieutenant Colonel Taplett’s 3d
Battalion, 5th Marines, had a corre-
National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC349090
spondingly difficult time snuffing
A wounded Marine is carried down from the front lines on the ridges northwest
out Hill 105-North. In close com-
of Seoul. The 5th Marines’ three-day battle for the ridges made the uneventful
bat reminiscent of the Central crossing of the Han by the 1st Marines possible.
Pacific in World War II, most of the
enemy chose to die in place. tle for the northwestern ridges ions eastward into the city, growl-
Colonel Wol’s fate remained made possible a surprisingly ing at the long time it would take
unknown, presumed dead. uneventful tactical crossing of the his Pershing tanks to cross at the
The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Han by the 1st Marines. The 2d Haengju ferry further downstream
managed to maintain its precarious and 3d Battalions crossed by LVTs; and work their way back along the
hold on the crest of 105-South the 1st Battalion and Puller’s com- north bank.
while at the same time dispatching mand group made the crossing in General Smith finally had all
a large combat patrol down to the DUKW amphibious trucks. NKPA three of his infantry regiments
river to cover the crossing of opposition proved negligible. north of the Han and roughly in
Puller’s 1st Marines. The nefarious Lieutenant Colonel Henry P. “Jim” line. This same day, Lieutenant
hill would still represent a hornet’s Crowe, who had created order out Colonel Litzenberg’s 7th Marines
nest to all would-be occupants. It of chaos seven years earlier on experienced its first significant
would take a combined assault by Tarawa’s Red Beach Three, swiftly combat against an NKPA outpost to
the 1st and 5th Marines and an deployed his 1st Shore Party the northwest of Seoul. For
armored column to close the cave Battalion along the landing site to Second Lieutenant Joseph R.
and cut down the final defenders keep troops and cargo moving Owen, commanding the 60mm
later that day. inland, avoiding a dangerous bot- mortar section in Company B, 1st
The 5th Marines’ three-day bat- tleneck. Puller hustled his battal- Battalion, 7th Marines, the moment

163
Marine Combat Vehicles in the Seoul Campaign
ordered the 1st Tank Battalion to deploy with the new

T he Marines mostly fought the first months of the


Korean War with hand-me-down weapons and
equipment from World War II stockpiles. In the
case of combat vehicles, however, the Corps invested in
two critical upgrades that provided a tactical edge in the
Pershings in lieu of its Sherman “Easy Eights.” The hasty
transition was not pretty, especially in the case of the
reinforced company assigned to the 1st Brigade for its
early-July deployment. Few tankers had the opportuni-
recapture of Seoul: the M-26 Pershing medium tank and ty for hands-on operation and maintenance training.
the LVT-3C amphibian tractor. The gunners were lucky to be able to fire two rounds
The sturdy M-4 Sherman tank had served the Marines each—and they had to use the more abundantly avail-
well in the Pacific War from Tarawa through Okinawa, able 90mm antiaircraft rounds instead of the new but
and by 1950 the tank battalions in the Fleet Marine Force scarce high-velocity armor-piercing munitions. And
were still equipped with the M-4A3-E8 “Easy Eight” ver- since none of the new Marine Pershings were config-
sion, featuring a 105mm gun. Yet the Sherman’s success ured as flamethrowers or dozer-blade variants, the bat-
in the Pacific War was deceptive. Japanese tanks had talion sailed with an awkward mixture of old Shermans
provided no particular threat, the vehicle’s narrow track along with the M-26s, the making of a logistical night-
width and high ground pressure had posed mobility mare.
problems in marginal terrain, and the Sherman’s notori- The ragged transition made for an inauspicious com-
ously thin side and rear armor protection had proven bat debut for the Marine M-26s in Korea. Operating in
inadequate against the enemy’s 47mm antitank guns. the Pusan Perimeter southwest corner, one Pershing
The Sherman’s prospects did not look favorable against broke through the planking of a critical bridge, height-
the battle-proven T-34 medium tanks that the Soviet ening fears that its 46-ton weight would prove too heavy
Union exported to client states like North Korea at the for Korea’s road network. A second vehicle threw a
onset of the Cold War. track while fording a stream, blocking the crossing.
The Marines had foresightedly invested in the Army’s Things improved. The Marine Pershings established
acquisition of the M-26 Pershing 90mm-gun tank late in their dominance in a head-to-head engagement against
World War II. Their vehicles did not arrive in time for T-34s in the first battle of the Naktong Bulge, then con-
combat validation in Okinawa; nor could the postwar tinued to sweep the field as the 1st Marine Division
Corps afford to place them into operation, so the advanced on Seoul. The Sherman blade and flame vari-
Pershings sat for several years in contingency reserve at ants also contributed materially, especially in the close
the Marine supply base in Barstow, California. engagement waged by Baker Company’s tanks against
When the Korean War erupted, the Commandant cave-infested Hill 105-South on 25 September.

A Marine LVT-3C Bushmaster from the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion transfers troops to an LCVP.
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A162956

164
National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC348713

In the battle of downtown Seoul, the Pershings of atop the cab. The Marines designated their newly mod-
Lieutenant Colonel Harry T. Milne’s 1st Tank Battalion ified vehicle the LVT-3C, and it proved remarkably well
provided the crucial edge, time and again crashing suited for both salt-water and fresh-water operations
through the North Korean barricades despite intense fire throughout the Korean peninsula. (The Republic of
from the enemy’s ubiquitous 45mm antitank guns. The China Marine Corps employed American-built LVT-3Cs
battalion’s War Diary for September reported the on Taiwan for a quarter of a century after the Korean
destruction of 13 NKPA tanks (which may have includ- War).
ed several 76mm self-propelled guns) and 56 antitank The Bushmasters of Lieutenant Colonel Erwin F.
guns or antiaircraft guns being fired horizontally at the Wann, Jr.’s 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion delivered
approaching Pershings. The battalion lost five Pershings Marines ashore at Inchon, transported each regiment
and one each of the flame and dozer Shermans in the plus the Army and ROK regiments across the Han under
recapture of Seoul. fire, and served as armored personnel carriers and cargo
The LVT-3C Bushmaster proved to be another smart vehicles overland.
investment for the Marines. Borg Warner’s original LVT- The 1st Marine Division was similarly well-supported
3 had developed slowly during World War II, reaching by the versatile DUKWs of the 1st Amphibian Truck
the Fleet Marine Force out of numerical sequence and Company, an element of Lieutenant Colonel Olin L.
more than a year behind rival Food Machinery Beall’s 1st Motor Transport Battalion. (DUKW is not an
Corporation’s LVT-4. Borg Warner built nearly 3,000 acronym but an arcane industrial code used in World
Bushmasters for the Marine Corps. The first vehicles War II meaning an all-wheel-drive utility vehicle with
arrived in time for the Okinawa invasion in the spring of twin rear wheel axles manufactured in 1942—”DUCKS”
1945. to Marines!)
The Bushmaster was a welcome addition to the Unfortunately the Marines fought the Inchon-Seoul
Marines’ ship-to-shore team. Like its FMC predecessor, campaign without the 1st Armored Amphibian Battalion.
the Bushmaster came with a hinged rear ramp and suf- General Smith left the battalion with the division’s rear
ficient cargo space to accommodate either a jeep or a echelon in Kobe as a temporary repository for the 500-
105mm howitzer. By mounting its twin Cadillac V-8 plus, 17-year-olds ruled ineligible for combat by the
engines along the sides of both hulls, the Borg Warner Secretary of the Navy on the eve of the Inchon landing.
engineers provided the Bushmaster with a cargo capac- The X Corps commander partially offset this lost capa-
ity that exceeded the LVT-4’s by 3,000 pounds. bility by attaching the Army’s Company A, 56th
Faced with the need to upgrade their amphibian trac- Amphibian Tractor Battalion, to the Marines. The Army
tor fleet during the austere late 1940s, the Marines opted company’s 18 LVTA-5s equipped with snub-nosed 75mm
to modernize 1,200 low-mileage LVT-3s by raising the howitzers spearheaded each river crossing, thereby prov-
sides, installing aluminum covers over the troop/cargo ing themselves worthy recipients of the Presidential Unit
compartment, and installing a small machine gun turret Citation subsequently awarded the 1st Marine Division.

165
several hundred thousand civilian
residents had fled the capital at the
outbreak of the North Korean inva-
sion, tens of thousands remained.
Chesty Puller had ruefully predict-
ed to a news correspondent that
the North Koreans would defend
the city in such a manner as to
force the attacking Marines to
destroy it. The ensuing three days
would validate Puller’s prediction.
British correspondent Reginald
Thompson would write despairing-
ly: “Few people can have suffered
so terrible a liberation.”
X Corps launched its assault on
Seoul proper the morning of 25
September. Lieutenant Colonel
Erwin F. Wann, Jr.’s 1st Amphibian
Tractor Battalion displaced during
Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)
“First Firefight Above Seoul, B/1/7” portrays the intensity of night action that
the night to Sansa-ri, a former ferry
greeted the 7th Marines as they advanced to cut the roads leading north from crossing 5,000 yards east of
Seoul. Yongdungpo. There, reinforced by
Army LVTs of Company A, 56th
was unforgettable: September and flew to Chesty Amphibian Tractor Battalion, the
Puller’s command post to coordi- Marines embarked the 2d
The North Korean mortars nate the final assault. It was the Battalion, 32d Infantry. Following
came. Spouts of earth and first time the two commanders had a brief artillery and mortar barrage,
black smoke leaped about us, ever met. Characteristically, Puller the Amtracs plunged into the Han,
laced with flame and scream- inquired of Murray the extent of shook off a few 76mm rounds, and
ing shrapnel. The leaves the casualties he had sustained at 0630 disembarked the soldiers
from the bean plants spun in fighting for the northwest ridges. on the far bank. Four Corsairs
flurries, and the ground “He determined how good a fight- from Lieutenant Colonel Lischeid’s
shook. I was suddenly in the er you were by how many casual- VMF-214 Black Sheep squadron off
midst of a frenzied storm of ties you had,” Murray recalled. the Sicily worked just ahead of the
noise. Murray’s grim accounting of the beachhead, coordinated by Marine
5th Marines’ losses during the pre- tactical air control parties provided
By the nature of their northern ceding three days made even the 7th Division for the occasion.
mission the 7th Marines would Chesty Puller blink. The men then The Army regiment completed
have scant contact with the other got down to work. the crossing by mid-afternoon and
elements of the 1st Marine Division This was the time and setting seized South Mountain, the 900-
in the fight for Seoul. The other when Captain Robert Barrow’s foot eminence (the Koreans call
two regiments, however, would Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Nam-san) dominating southeastern
experience a dangerous interface, Marines, seized Hill 79 and raised Seoul. Late in the day, the 1st
the 1st Marines attacking north the first flag in Seoul proper. The Amphibian Tractor Battalion deliv-
through the heart of the city, the 1st Marine Division had entered ered the 17th ROK Infantry across
5th Marines coming in from the the capital. in trace, an exposed crossing that
northwest. attracted considerably more NKPA
Concerned with the inherent The Fight for Seoul long-range fires. Yet by nightfall
risks facing these converging all of General Almond’s maneuver
forces, Lieutenant Colonel Seoul in 1950 was home to more elements were in place north of
Raymond Murray boarded a heli- than a million people, the fifth the river.
copter late in the afternoon of 24 largest city in the Orient. While General O. P. Smith worried that

166
the presence of the two additional Soo Palace of the ancient rulers of Marines and assigned the balance
regiments on his right flank would Korea, on the left. Smith assigned of the Korean regiment as division
create dangerous crossfires and the 1st Marines Objective Able, the reserve. Smith also attached the
accidental meeting engagements, high ground just beyond the city’s division Reconnaissance Company
but the Army units maintained northeastern limit, about six miles to the 5th Marines to screen the
their positions on and around from Captain Barrow’s forward high ground along its left flank.
Nam-san, defending against major position on Hill 79. Murray’s 5th The 3d Battalion, 187th Airborne,
counterattacks, and later assaulted Marines would attack the north- under the operational control of
towards the east, well clear of the west section of the capital, like- the 1st Marine Division, would
Marines’ zone of action. No signif- wise on a mile-and-a-half front, protect the Marines’ western flank
icant control problems developed. seize Government House and below the Han.
At 0700 on the 25th, the 1st Objective Baker, the high ground Colonel James H. Brower con-
Marine Division kicked off its overlooking the Seoul-Uijongbu centrated most of the howitzers of
assault on Seoul. The plan of road from their dearly won posi- his 11th Marines in firing positions
attack developed by Smith and his tions along the Hill 296 complex. on the south bank of the Han near
operations officer, Colonel Alpha Litzenberg’s 7th Marines would Yongdungpo. The big 155mm
L. Bowser, Jr., placed the biggest seize Objective Charlie, the high howitzers of the Army’s 96th Field
burden on the 1st Marines. Puller’s ground along the Seoul-Kaesong Artillery deployed nearby, ready to
regiment would attack to the north road six miles outside the city cen- support either the Marines or the
through the heart of the city on a ter. Smith continued his reinforce- Army, as needed.
mile-and-a-half front, bordered by ment of the 1st and 5th Marines The action for the 5th Marines
Nam-san on the right and the Duk with one battalion each of Korean on 25 September was largely deja

The Marines fought two enemies in downtown Seoul—those ingly hidden in every other window.
who defended behind the barricades and the snipers seem- Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press

167
Corsair squadron commanders.
With the escort carrier Sicily and its
embarked VMF-214 Black Sheep
scheduled to rotate back to Inchon
for repairs and resupply that after-
noon, Lieutenant Colonel Walter
Lischeid led the final sorties in sup-
port of the Army’s river crossings.
A North Korean gunner hit his
Corsair over Seoul. Lischeid tried
to nurse his crippled plane to
Kimpo field but crashed in flames
two miles shy of the airstrip.
In other aerial action on the
25th, Lieutenant Colonel Richard
Wyczawski, commanding the
Lancers of VMF-212, was wounded
and shot down by hostile fire. So
was Lieutenant Colonel Max
Volcansek, commanding the night-
fighting Tigers of VMF(N)-542,
who barely bailed out before his
plane crashed near Kimpo.
Marines flying Sikorsky HO3S-1
helicopters from Marine
Observation Squadron 6 (VMO-6)
rescued both officers—Volcansek’s
rescue helicopter pulled him out of
a rice paddy in a record six min-
utes elapsed time following notifi-
cation—but all hands regretted the
death of Lieutenant Colonel
Lischeid.
Major Robert P. Keller, who had
commanded three squadrons in
the Pacific War, took over the
Black Sheep. When a fellow avia-
tor remarked, “Now you are the
acting commanding officer,” Keller
retorted, “Acting, hell—I’m seri-
ous.” Keller maintained the VMF-
214 commitment to launching five-
vu, the unfinished and still costly ably supported by Marine Corsairs. plane strikes every two hours. The
business of eliminating the residual By now the 19th NKPA Black Sheep pilots first plastered
positions of the 25th NKPA Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment had the ridge from which the antiair-
Brigade along the eastern fingers learned how to deal with the terri- craft battery had fired on Lischeid,
of Hill 296 as described earlier. fying strafing runs by Marine then spent the remainder of the
Here on two adjoining knobs, Corsairs. Increasingly, those anti- day delivering ordnance against
Company E, 2d Battalion, 5th aircraft gunners who survived the targets ranging from railroad yards
Marines, and Companies H and I northwest ridge battles would turn in the North Korean capital of
of 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, Seoul into a “flak trap.” September Pyongyang to enemy troop con-
engaged the North Koreans in 25th reflected this new lethality, a centrations in downtown Seoul,
bloody close combat, again most particularly costly day for Marine the other capital.

168
The nature of Marine close air early start. Puller passed Ridge’s shock action to finish the job. The
support changed as the campaign 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, through tankers and engineers blew away a
entered the streets of Seoul. As Sutter’s 2d Battalion, while, to line of shacks blocking the base of
Lieutenant Colonel Norman Ridge’s right, Hawkins adjusted the the hill, thereby discovering the
Anderson subsequently noted: 1st Battalion’s positions along Hill hidden cave mouth, and moved a
“Bombing by its very nature gave 79 to accommodate the 90-degree flame tank up to the opening.
way to the more easily accurate pivot to the northeast. This done, Sensibly, the North Koreans began
techniques of rocketing and straf- the regiment advanced methodi- to surrender, one or two at first,
ing. . . . I feel we became increas- cally, Ridge and Hawkins abreast, then more than 100, outnumbering
ingly aware of the need to avoid Sutter in close reserve. The North their captors.
what we now call collateral dam- Koreans resisted savagely, and The Marines to this point rou-
age.” The Corsair’s 20mm cannon Puller looked often for his missing tinely made each prisoner of war
could deliver a hellacious strafing tanks, still completing their long strip buck naked, but they were
run, but the “bent-wing U-Birds” run east from the Haengju ferry shocked to find two women
could only carry 800 rounds, limit- crossing the previous afternoon. among this crew. Someone help-
ing the extent of this application. Fresh minefields and sudden fully provided two pairs of long
Anderson wistfully recalled his ambushes slowed Captain Bruce F. johns for the occasion, but the
days of flying Marine Corps B-25s Williams’ tank company, rein- American press had a field day
in the Philippines late in World forced by a platoon each of with the matter later, once the
War II, “a memorable strafer with infantry and combat engineers, women got to the rear and com-
14 forward-firing, .50-caliber once they crossed the river. As the plained. But it was a no-win situ-
machine guns. Many’s the time we armored column approached ation for the Marines. The NKPA
might have put them to good use Seoul they drew fire from the occupants of that cave had killed
supporting Marines in the streets of southeast corner of Hill 105-South, Marines from five different battal-
Yongdungpo and Seoul. Alas, they still unconquered despite Captain ions; they were quite fortunate to
were not carrier suitable.” Fenton’s seizure of the crest three escape the flame tank’s horrors.
On the ground in Seoul on 25 days earlier. This time, finally, the As it was, other NKPA troops near-
September progress came grudg- Marines had a force on the ground by had no intention of surrender-
ingly to the 1st Marines despite its with the firepower, mobility, and ing to the Marines. As Staff
A Corsair flight on a close air support mission against targets in North Korea and
Sergeant Arthur Farrington report-
around the South Korean capital. ed:
Photo courtesy of LtCol Leo J. Ihli, USMC (Ret)
The enemy wounded were
hoisted on board the tanks,
129 bare asses were lined up
three abreast [between the
vehicles] . . . when about 40-
50 [North] Koreans jumped up
to the left of the railroad
tracks. They had been lying
their doggo behind us all the
time. We killed them with
rifle, machine gun, and 90mm
fire as they went across the
paddies.

Captain Williams was under-


standably exultant as he led his
column with its rich prizes into
Seoul, but when he tried to
recount the unit’s success at 105-
South to Chesty Puller, the colonel
cut him short, saying, “I’m not

169
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A3380
Marine riflemen and tanks advance north under fire along Seoul’s principal boulevard.

interested in your sea stories Stalingrad in World War II: “There refugees. Mines accounted for
young man. You’re late. We’ve is firing behind every stone.” appalling casualties among them.
got fish to fry.” The axis of advance of At one point Captain Robert
Puller sorely needed the tanks. Lieutenant Colonel Ridge’s 3d Barrow halted his company along
The North Koreans defending Battalion, 1st Marines, was directly a particularly advantageous rise of
Seoul lacked the numbers to occu- up Ma Po Boulevard towards the ground overlooking the railroad
py every building or side street, so embassies and principal govern- yards and passenger station. For
they concentrated instead on the ment buildings. Major Edwin once he could clearly see the
major avenues and thoroughfares. Simmons later compared his com- enemy troops moving into new
By now each significant intersec- pany’s advance to “attacking up positions, building fresh barri-
tion in the city featured an impro- Pennsylvania Avenue towards the cades, and preparing future
vised barricade, typically protected Capitol in Washington, D.C.” The ambushes. He called in artillery
by rice bags filled with sand or boulevard was straight and wide— and mortar fire, employed his
rubble, piled eight feet high by five ”once a busy, pleasant avenue machine guns and rocket launch-
feet wide, and defended by anti- lined with sycamores, groceries, ers, enjoying his dominant posi-
tank guns, heavy machine guns, wine and tea shops,” according to tion. Strangely, he said, Lieutenant
and mines. Marine historian Colo- Heinl. Trolley car tracks ran down Colonel Hawkins kept urging him
nel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., likened the the middle. Now NKPA barricades to advance. “We thought we were
scene to 19th century France: mushroomed at each intersection. having a turkey shoot,” Barrow
“Every intersection was barricaded Enemy snipers fired from blown recalled. “Nobody getting hurt and
after the fashion of the Paris out windows. Other NKPA troops [us] knocking the hell out of them,”
Commune: carts, earth-filled rice lobbed Molotov cocktails from the but Hawkins said, “What’s holding
bags . . . furniture, and rubble.” rooftops onto the Marine tanks in you up—move out!” When
The Soviet Union’s official newspa- the street below. And throughout Barrow tried to explain his favor-
per Pravda compared the situation all this mayhem fled thousands able position, Hawkins replied
in Seoul to the Russian defense of and thousands of terrified Korean bluntly: “Unless you want a new

170
Street Fighting, 1950
Marines. Hue City in 1968 would take the Marines

M arines battling their way through the contested


boulevards and back alleys of Seoul in
September 1950 did so without benefit of the
modern-day doctrine and training for “military opera-
tions in urban terrain.” Street fighting at that time was an
longer to recapture, but the casualties incurred at Hue,
bad as they were, would not total half those sustained
by the 1st Marine Division at Seoul.
Street fighting in Seoul involved forcibly uprooting
uncommon Marine experience. There had been a the NKPA troops from either their roadblock barricades
bloody two-day fight in downtown Vera Cruz, Mexico, or their isolated strongpoints within or atop the build-
in 1914, where Major Smedley D. Butler and Lieutenant ings. Both required teamwork: engineers, tanks, and
Colonel Wendell C. “Whispering Buck” Neville led their infantry for the barricades (often supported by artillery
men with axes and bayonets in attacking through the or Corsair strikes), and rifle squads supported by rocket
walls of the row-houses. Thirty years later, a different launchers and scout-sniper teams against the strong-
generation of Marines fought the Japanese through the points.
burning streets of Garapan, Saipan, and again on a larg- Door-to-door fighting proved to be as tense and
er scale in the spring of 1945 amid the rubble of Naha, exhausting in 1950 as it had been in Vera Cruz in 1914.
Okinawa. As Private First Class Morgan Brainard of the 1st Marines
But Seoul dwarfed Vera Cruz, Garapan, and Naha recalled the action: “The tension from these little forays
combined. An enormous, sprawling city dominated by whittled us pretty keen . . . . I think if one’s own moth-
steep hills, awash with terrified refugees, and stoutly er had suddenly leapt out in front of us she would have
defended by more than 20,000 North Koreans, Seoul been cut down immediately, and we all would probably
constituted the largest, single objective ever assigned the have cheered with the break in tension.” Brainard’s
company commander, Captain Robert H. Barrow, told a
National Archives Photo (USA) 111-SC-351392
Headquarters Marine Corps tactics review board in 1951
that he quickly came to value the 3.5-inch rocket
launcher in applications other than antitank defense.
“We employed it in a very effective manner in
Yongdungpo and in Seoul in the destruction of houses
that had enemy in them. In many instances [our] 3.5
[gunners] simply shot at some of these fragile houses
killing all the occupants.”
The presence of so many civilian refugees in the
streets and rubble vastly complicated the battle and
necessitated extraordinary measures to ensure target
identification and limit indiscriminate firing. Whenever
troops stopped to reorganize “children appeared among
them,” observed the Life magazine photographer David
Douglas Duncan. “Children gentle and tiny and wide-
eyed as they fastened themselves to the men who first
ignored them . . . then dug them their own little foxholes
and expertly adapted helmets to fit their baby heads.”
Enemy snipers, mines, and long-range, heavy caliber
antitank rifles took a toll among Marines and civilians
alike. The ancient city became a ghastly killing ground.

battalion commander, you will and Barrow soon saddled up his the 1st Marines later concluded
attack at once.” Barrow managed gunners and forward observers that the pressure to advance had
to convince Hawkins to come and and plunged forward downhill into come down several echelons, pos-
see the situation for himself. the maze of streets and railroad sibly from the Tokyo headquarters
Hawkins marveled at the abun- tracks (3d Battalion, 1st Marines, of General MacArthur in his desire
dance of targets under direct had Ma Po Boulevard; 1st to recapture the capital by the
observation: “Get more mortars in Battalion, 1st Marines’ axis of symbolic third-month anniversary
there—get more artillery.” advance was less straightforward). of its loss. “Who knows?” Barrow
Yet Hawkins remained agitated, Barrow and other junior officers in asked rhetorically. “Puller was

171
The front lines were jagged; the
North Koreans occupied several
worrisome salients in close prox-
imity.
Ridge directed Major Edwin H.
Simmons, commanding Weapons
Company, to coordinate the battal-
ion’s forward defenses. Simmons
fortified the roadblock with two
rifle squads, a section of his
Browning heavy machine guns, a
rocket squad, and a 75mm recoil-
less rifle section borrowed from
the regimental antitank company.
After supervising his attached engi-
neers as they laid a series of anti-
tank mines on the bridge,
Simmons established his observa-
tion post (OP) in the cellar of an
abandoned house on a rise to the
left rear of the roadblock, protect-
Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press ed by four additional heavy
The North Koreans built their barricades with burlap bags filled with dirt, rubble, machine guns. His 81mm mortar
or rice. Each position took the Marines an average of 45 to 60 minutes to over- platoon occupied uncommonly
come. Here a Marine rifleman scampers through a recently abandoned barri- close firing positions 150 yards
cade during heavy fighting in Seoul’s downtown business district. rearward, connected by phone

being pushed by somebody in Under the watchful gaze of Joseph Stalin and Kim Il Sung, Marines crouch
division. The division was being behind a barricade as enemy snipers resist their advance.
Photo courtesy of Leatherneck Magazine
pushed by someone in Tenth
Corps, and the corps was being
pushed by the man himself, or
someone speaking for him, back in
Tokyo.”
Top-level pressure notwith-
standing, the two lead battalions of
the 1st Marines could advance only
2,000 yards on the 25th. “Our
advance this day was a foot-by-
foot basis,” said Lieutenant Colonel
Ridge. North Korean mines
knocked out two of Captain
Williams’ Pershing tanks; other
vehicles sustained multiple hits
from direct fire weapons. Ridge
hunkered in for the night along
Hill 97; Hawkins occupied Hill 82
to Ridge’s immediate right rear.
Company G and Weapons
Company of 3d Battalion, 1st
Marines, occupied the forward
position, a roadblock protecting a
key bridge on Ma Po Boulevard.

172
wire to the OP. These were rea- “enemy fleeing city of Seoul on rife with unanswered questions—
sonable precautions given the road north of Uijongbu.” General did Almond envision a five-mile
volatile nature of the street fighting Almond, sensing a great opportu- night attack through the heart of
during the day and the nearby re- nity to crush the North Koreans, the city by converging regiments
entrants occupied by the North ordered an immediate advance by out of direct contact with each
Koreans. Parts of the city still the 1st Marine Division, stating: other? And, by the way, how
burned from the day’s fighting, but “You will push attack now to the could an aerial observer distin-
the streets seemed quiet. limit of your objectives in order to guish at night between a column
Then, shortly after 2000, a flash insure maximum destruction of of retreating troops and a column
message from X Corps arrived in enemy forces. Signed Almond.” of fleeing refugees? Bowser called
the division command post. Aerial The flash message stunned his counterpart at X Corps with
observers had just reported Colonel Bowser. The order was these questions but got nowhere.
Neither did General Smith a
moment later in a call to Almond’s
chief of staff. Smith shook his
head and ordered his regimental
commanders to comply—carefully.
Throughout their smoking third of
the city, the 1st Marine Division
stirred and bitched. As one com-
pany commander queried: “A night
attack without a reconnaissance or
rehearsal? What are our objec-
tives?” Private First Class Morgan
Brainard recalled the grousing in
the ranks that night: “We were all
rousted out and mustered down
on the darkened street by pla-
toons. Scuttlebutt said we were
going into the heart of Seoul in a
surprise night attack.”
After allowing his regimental
commanders plenty of time to
coordinate their plans, General
Smith ordered the advance to kick
off at 0145 following a 15-minute
artillery preparation. The enemy
moved first. Before midnight a siz-
able NKPA force hit Lieutenant
Colonel Taplett’s 3d Battalion, 5th
Marines, on Hill 105-North.
Lieutenant Colonel Murray and his
executive officer attempted to
make sense of the situation: “I’m
afraid we’ll have to delay pursuit of
the ‘fleeing enemy’ until we see if
Tap can beat off the counterat-
tack.”
As Major Simmons listened
uneasily to the sounds of Taplett’s
firefight, less than 1,000 yards
west, he received a call from
Lieutenant Colonel Ridge ordering

173
0153, he heard the unmistakable
sounds of tracked vehicles
approaching the roadblock from
the north, along with an almost
instantaneous crack! of a Soviet T-
34 85mm tank gun. The shell
missed Simmons by inches and
killed his radio operator at his side.
Shaken, Simmons sounded the
alarm. Far from fleeing the city,
the enemy—at least this particular
battalion of the 25th NKPA
Brigade—was charging due south
down Ma Po Boulevard with six to
12 tanks and self-propelled guns,
accompanied by infantry. As his
roadblock defenders cut loose on
the enemy tanks, Simmons called
for artillery and 81mm mortar con-
centrations along the bridge, and
the battle raged. General Smith,
sobered by the ferocity of the
NKPA assaults, postponed the divi-
sion’s night attack indefinitely.
The Marines would soon call the
northwestern nose of Hill 97
“Slaughterhouse Hill,” and from its
slopes this night they inflicted a
killing zone of epic proportions
against the attacking armored col-
umn. Three battalions of the 11th
Marines fired incessantly the next
90 minutes. At that point the tubes
Sketch by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)
became so hot the howitzers had
A Marine artillery forward observer team adjusts supporting fires on enemy bar-
to ceasefire until they could cool
ricades in downtown Seoul. The firing batteries were south of the Han River.
Forward observer teams had to adjust their fire with utmost precision in the down. In the lull, the NKPA tanks
crowded city. surged forward again. Simmons
unleashed his beloved heavy
him to dispatch a patrol to link Simmons admitted. Browning machine guns. “In the
with a similar patrol from the 5th The onset of the artillery light of the burning buildings,” he
Marines to facilitate the forthcom- preparatory fires heightened said, “I could see three [tanks}
ing night attack. Simmons protest- Simmons’ concern for his patrol. clearly, rolling forward on [the]
ed the order. From the volume of Colonel Puller worried that the fire boulevard about 500 yards to my
fire to the west, a considerable was inadequate for a general front.” Simmons saw the tracers
NKPA force had moved between assault. At 0138, he asked Smith from the Brownings whanging off
the two regiments. “I doubted a for a second fire mission, delaying the faceplates of the tanks. He
patrol could get through,” said the jump-off time to 0200. Fifteen asked for 155mm howitzer fire
Simmons. Ridge repeated the minutes later the whole issue from the Army. The 31st Field
order. Simmons assembled a became moot. Artillery Battalion responded with
patrol of Company G riflemen, led Major Simmons first heard awesome firepower—360 rounds
by Corporal Charles E. Collins. sounds of a nearby firefight and along 3d Battalion, 1st Marines’
They departed about 1245. “I felt realized Collins’ patrol had been direct front.
like I was kissing them goodbye,” intercepted. A moment later, at Chesty Puller did not recognize

174
the radio call sign of the Army wheel hit—the self-propelled gun overrun. Making good use of his
artillery liaison officer coordinating burst into flames. But the Marines supporting arms, Colonel Charles
the 155mm howitzer missions that had forgotten to consider the back Beauchamp organized a counterat-
night, but he knew first-class fire blast of the recoilless rifle. “It tack that drove the enemy out of
support when he saw it. “This is bounced off the mud-and-wattle the position and inflicted several
Blade,” he growled into his hand- side of the house behind us and hundred casualties.
set, “I don’t know who in the hell knocked us head-over-heels,” At daybreak, Colonel Puller
you are, but thank God! Out.” Simmons said, adding “we thought arrived at Lieutenant Colonel
The Army fire mission destroyed it very funny at the time.” Ridge’s position. “You had better
or disabled the last of the NKPA Sunrise brought Simmons more show me some results of this
tanks threatening the 3d Battalion’s welcome news. Corporal Collins, alleged battle you had last night,”
roadblock, but several immobi- having ordered the rest of his he warned. Ridge was unper-
lized vehicles maintained a stub- patrol back to the roadblock at turbed. He showed Puller the
born fire. One self-propelled gun their first encounter with the wreckage of the NKPA vehicles
continued to fire at Simmons’ approaching NKPA armored col- north of the bridge, the ruins of
observation post, each shell umn, covered its retreat with rifle seven tanks, two self-propelled
screeching overhead barely a fire, and then took refuge for the guns, and eight 45mm antitank
degree in elevation too high. night in a cellar. Somehow he guns. At least 250 dead North
Simmons feared the coming dawn found a set of white robes com- Koreans lay in clots along the
would make his position terribly monly worn by the Korean civil- boulevard (the official figure of
exposed, so he moved one of the ians. Thus attired, he made his 475 may have included those slain
75mm recoilless rifles from the way through the still-dangerous by Lieutenant Colonel Taplett’s 3d
roadblock to the rubble-strewn streets to the 3d Battalion, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, that same
front yard of the abandoned Marines’ lines and safety. night), and there were more than
house. The crew stared anxiously The North Koreans executed a 80 prisoners in hand. The Marines’
into the darkness just north of the third major spoiling attack at 0500, side of the battlefield seemed cov-
bridge, hoping to get off the first launching a reinforced battalion ered with a river of spent brass
shot at dawn. Finally, in the gray against the 32d Infantry’s positions shell casings. Major Simmons’ 10
half-light, the gunner spotted the on Nam-san. The Army regiment Browning heavy machine guns
enemy vehicle and squeezed his stood its ground and did not get had fired a phenomenal 120 boxes
trigger. The round was a pin- rattled when one company was of ammunition during the night—
30,000 rounds, a feat that even sur-
Marine riflemen evacuate their wounded buddy under heavy enemy fire.
Department of Defense Photo (USA) SC351385 passed the volume fired by the leg-
endary Sergeant “Manila John”
Basilone at Guadalcanal in 1942 in
Puller’s old battalion. Colonel
Puller flashed a rare grin.
Time magazine’s combat corre-
spondent Dwight Martin described
the battlefield the morning of the
26th, as Sutter’s 2d Battalion, 1st
Marines, passed through Ridge’s
1st Battalion:

This morning Ma-Po wore


a different look. The burned
and blackened remains of the
boulevard’s shops and homes
sent clouds of acrid smoke
billowing over the city.
Buildings still ablaze show-
ered sparks and ashes high
into the air to cascade down

175
This page and the next, street fighting in Seoul as captured by Life magazine photographer David Douglas Duncan.

176
177
on red-eyed, soot-faced might not like to admit it, General in Marine and civilian casualties.
Marines. Almond was essentially correct in The city smoked and burned.
his flash message the night of the As Lieutenant Colonel Jack
Given these circumstances, it is 25th—the main body of the North Hawkins’ 1st Battalion, 1st Marines,
not surprising that the Marines Korean defenders, the remnants of fought its way clear of the railroad
greeted with hoots of derision the a division, was indeed retreating yards and entered a parallel thor-
communique by General Almond north. What surprised all compo- oughfare his riflemen stared in
that Seoul had been liberated at nents of X Corps was the NKPA horror at the rampant destruction.
1400 the previous afternoon, the decision to expend the equivalent As it appeared to Private First Class
25th of September. “Three months of an armored brigade in suicidal Morgan Brainard, the scene was
to the day after the North Koreans night attacks and die-hard defense one of “great gaping skeletons of
launched their surprise attack of the main barricades to keep the blackened buildings with their
south of the 38th Parallel,” the Americans ensnared in the city. windows blown out...telephone
message proclaimed, “the combat Analyzing the NKPA decision to wires hanging down loosely from
troops of X Corps recaptured the evacuate the main body of their their drunken, leaning poles; glass
capital city of Seoul.” To their defenders from Seoul is always and bricks everywhere; literally a
astonishment, the Marines learned risky, but there is evidence that the town shot to hell.”
that their corps commander con- pullback resulted as much from Not all the fighting took place
sidered the military defenses of their surprise at the unexpected around the barricaded intersec-
Seoul to be broken. “The enemy is crossing of the 32d Infantry and tions. There were plenty of other
fleeing the city to the northeast,” the 17th ROK Infantry from the NKPA soldiers holed up in the
the communique concluded. An southeast on the 25th—paired with buildings and rooftops. Many of
Associated Press correspondent the rapid advance of the 7th these soldiers became the prey of
reflected the infantry’s skepticism: Marines, threatening the northern Marine scout-sniper teams, some
“If the city had been liberated, the escape routes—as from the steady armed with old Springfield ‘03 bolt
remaining North Koreans did not but predictable advance of the 5th action rifles fitted with scopes, oth-
know it.” and 1st Marines. Regardless, it was ers favoring the much newer M1-C
In truth the Marines and soldiers obvious to Almond and O. P. Smith semi-automatic rifles, match-condi-
would still be fighting for full pos- that seizing such a mammoth tioned weapons graced with cheek
session of the capital 48 hours past objective as Seoul would require pads, flash suppressors, leather
General Almond’s announced lib- uncommon teamwork among slings, and 2.2x telescopic sights.
eration date, but the issue was Services, nations, and combat The snipers often worked in teams
insignificant. The troops viewed arms. Allied teamwork throughout of two. One man used binoculars
the battle from purely a tactical the night attacks of 25-26 or a spotting scope to find targets
perspective; their corps comman- September had proven exemplary. for the shooter.
der sensed the political ramifica- The Marines employed Corsairs Many of the buildings in the city
tions. Of far greater significance at and artillery to soften the barri- center were multi-story, and,
this point was the fact that five cades, then switched to 4.2-inch according to Private First Class
infantry regiments with a total lack and 81mm mortars. The assault Brainard, “it meant going up the
of experience waging coalition companies delivered machine gun stairs and kicking open the doors
warfare with combined arms in an and rocket fire on the fortifications of each room, and searching the
enormous urban center were nev- to cover the deliberate minesweep- balconies and backyard gardens as
ertheless prevailing against a well- ing operations by combat engi- well.” Often the Marines had to
armed, disciplined enemy. neers. Then came the M-26 fight their way through the build-
General MacArthur’s visionary Pershing tanks, often with other ings, smashing their way through
stroke at Inchon had succeeded in tanks modified as flamethrowers or the walls like Smedley Butler’s
investing the city of Seoul in just 11 bulldozers. On the heels of the Marines in Vera Cruz in 1914.
days. In view of the allies’ dis- tanks came the infantry with fixed Colonel Puller led his regiment
heartening performance in the bayonets. The process was from very near the forward ele-
Korean War to date, MacArthur, unavoidably time-consuming— ments. On this day he dismounted
and Almond, had earned the right each barricade required 45-60 min- from his jeep and stalked up Ma
to boast. utes to overrun—and each of these Po Boulevard shortly behind
Further, although the Marines intermediate objectives took its toll Lieutenant Colonel Sutter’s 2d

178
Combat Engineers in the Seoul Campaign
warfare, and many of the mines encountered by the

A mong the many unsung heroes who provided


ongoing combat support to the infantry regi-
ments of the 1st Marine Division in the recap-
ture of Seoul were the dauntless practitioners of
Lieutenant Colonel John H. Partridge’s 1st Engineer
Marines were made in Russia. These mines slowed the
advance of the 1st Marine Division as it reached the
outer defenses of Seoul along the Kalchon west of
Yongdungpo or the avenues of approach to Hill 296 and
Battalion. As did the division as a whole, the engi- its many subordinate peaks and ridgelines. Partridge’s
neers represented an amalgam of World War II veter- engineer teams performed their high-stress mine-clear-
ans, new recruits, and a spirited group of reservists, ing missions with progressive efficiency. This helped
including members of the 3d Engineer Company, sustain the division’s momentum and limited the time
United States Marine Corps Reserve, from Phoenix, available to the enemy to more fully develop defensive
Arizona. positions within the city.
Fortunately, the Inchon landing caught the NKPA In Seoul, the Marines encountered barricaded road-
forces in the region off guard, and the battalion had blocks every 200 to 300 yards along the main boule-
time to shake itself down in non-urgent missions before vards. The North Koreans seeded most approaches
breaking into small units to tackle enemy minefields. with mines. The Marines formulated the necessary team-
The engineers at first cleared beach exits and assembly work on the spot. The rifle company commander
areas in the Inchon area, then moved out to help recon- would shower the obstacle with fire, including smoke
noiter the roads leading east to Seoul. Of immediate or white phosphorus mortar shells. Under this cover
concern to Major General Oliver P. Smith and his oper- the engineer squad would hustle forward to clear the
ations officer, Colonel Alpha L. Bowser, Jr., was whether mines. Behind them would come the tanks, followed
the numerous bridges along the highways and sec- by the infantry. It was dangerous, often costly work.
ondary roads were sturdy enough to support the Sometimes a mine would detonate among the engi-
Marines’ new M-26 Pershing tank with its 46 tons of neers. Sometimes they would miss a string and a tank
combat-loaded weight. would be lost. Most often, however, this painstaking
The Marines encountered the first serious NKPA process worked. Each barricade took an average of 45
minefields (both antitank and anti-personnel) in the minutes to clear. Utilizing this well-coordinated and
vicinity of Kimpo Airfield. The subsequent arrival of increasingly proficient approach, the infantry battalions
highly-trained, first-line North Korean reinforcements in of the 1st Marines advanced an average of 1,200 yards
defensive positions guarding the approaches to Seoul each day—a small gain on a map, but an inexorable
led to minefields of increasing size and sophistication. advance to the North Koreans.
Soviet Red Army advisors had trained the NKPA in mine The 1st Engineers provided another exceptional ser-
Gen Oliver P. Smith Collection, Marine Corps Research Center

179
ing. The Han was a broad tidal river, and its few tion on hand to support the crossing of the 5th Marines
bridges had been blown up during the first week of the at Haengju on 20 September. Lieutenant Colonel Henry
war. The Marines had amphibian tractors and DUKWs P. Crowe’s 1st Shore Party Battalion quickly established
on hand to transport riflemen and small vehicles across a smooth functioning ferry service, doubling their pro-
against the current, but the campaign would never suc- ductivity with the arrival of Partridge’s second pontoon.
ceed without the means of ferrying, first, tanks and Here the 7th Marines crossed, as well as the company
artillery, then heavy trucks and trailers. Major General of M-26 tanks needed so direly by Colonel Puller in his
Edward A. Almond, USA, commanding X Corps, had first full day of street fighting in Seoul. General
proven disingenuous in his repeated assurances that Almond’s bridging material arrived in time to support
heavy bridging material would arrive in plenty of time the crossing of General MacArthur’s official party as
to support the Marines’ crossing in force. “General they arrived in Seoul on 29 September.
Almond promises bridge material,” General O. P. Smith Greater glories awaited the 1st Engineer Battalion in
recorded in his journal. “This is an empty promise.” the forthcoming Chosin Reservoir campaign, where they
Thinking ahead, and acting on his own initiative, cleared an expeditionary airfield at Hagaru-ri and
Lieutenant Colonel Partridge had obtained a pair of 50- assembled the air-dropped Treadway Bridge in
ton pontoons in San Diego and had zealously protected Funchilin Pass below Koto-ri, but their yeoman perfor-
them from the enraged embarkation officer who had to mance in close support of the 1st Marine Division’s
somehow load these unwelcome monsters on ships assault on Seoul set a standard of combined arms oper-
already stuffed with “essential” combat cargo. The pon- ations and greatly facilitated the timely recapture of the
toons proved priceless. Partridge had at least one sec- capital.

Battalion, 1st Marines, as it clawed a lot of men get hit both in this war with large-sized rice bags . . .
its way along each city block. and in World War II, but I think I and also with odd bits of fur-
Sergeant Orville Jones, Puller’s have never seen so many get hit so niture, such as tables, chairs,
hand-picked driver throughout fast in such a small area.” and wooden doors, all piled
1950-55, followed his colonel in David Douglas Duncan, veteran up together. There were
the jeep, a short distance to the Marine and extraordinary combat about ten dead gooks
rear. Sometimes the Marines fight- photographer for Life magazine, sprawled in and around the
ing door-to-door along the street accompanied the 1st Battalion, 1st obstruction, and the black-
would be appalled to see Chesty Marines, during their advance ened antitank gun was tipped
Puller walking fully exposed and through the rail yards towards the over on its side with lots of
abreast of the action, Jones station. Describing the action in unused shells scattered
recalled. “‘Holy Jeez,’ they would his subsequent photo book This is around it.
yell to each other—‘Don’t let War, Duncan highlighted the time-
Chesty get ahead of us—move it!’” ly arrival of Marine Pershing tanks The 1st and 5th Marines were
Yet even the famously aggres- that “growled up across the rail- now converging close enough that
sive Chesty Puller could not expe- road tracks, into the plaza—and Colonel Puller’s men could clearly
dite the methodical reduction of met the enemy fire head on.” see Lieutenant Colonel Murray’s
the barricades. Puller admitted, Then, Duncan continued: “The troops still fighting to clear the
“progress was agonizingly slow.” tanks traded round for round with final eastern finger of Hill 296, the
Said the engineer Captain Nicholas the heavily-armed, barricaded ridge that extended into the heart
A. Canzona: “It was a dirty, frus- enemy—and chunks of armor and of Seoul. Certain riflemen in 1st
trating fight every yard of the way.” bits of barricade were blown high Battalion, 1st Marines, spoke
Army Lieutenant Robert L. into the air. They were killing admiringly of the 5th Marines
Strickland, a World War II veteran themselves at point-blank range.” being “once more on top of the
now assigned as a cameraman for Private First Class Brainard of highest hill in the local vicinity—
X Corps, got caught up in the Company A, 1st Marines, described born billy goats.”
street fighting. He sought shelter a barricade that had just been The 5th Marines may have
in an open courtyard behind a demolished by a pair of M-26 appreciated the compliment, but
burning building, but the enemy Pershing tanks: by 26 September they were sick
fire came from all directions. “We and tired of the steep northwest
got so much fire of all kinds that I We pass by the barricade approaches and the stubbornly
lost count,” he said. “I have seen which had been constructed defending remnants of the 25th

180
NKPA Brigade. Captain Robert A.
McMullen’s Company I, the men
who had spearheaded Lieutenant
Colonel Taplett’s crossing of the
Han back at Haengju and earned
the praise of General Almond by
their double envelopment of Hill
125, would again be in the spot-
light on the 26th. Taplett assigned
McMullen the mission of sweeping
the eastern terminus of the huge
lower spur of Hill 296 that extend-
ed very near the major intersection
of the Kaesong-Seoul highway and
Ma Po Boulevard. Ahead, less
than a mile to the northeast lay
Government House. And not far
beyond the palace was the bound-
ary between the 1st and 7th
Marines. By design, Murray’s regi-
Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press ment, which had sustained the
While the Pershing tank “Dead Eye Dick” advances beyond a captured North highest casualties the preceding
Korean barricade, a Marine sniper team waits for the 45mm antitank rounds to week, was close to being pinched
abate before moving into new firing positions. out and assigned a reserve role.

A brief helping hand from a Marine amid a day of great ter- downed power lines, and scattered families.
ror for the civilians—high explosives, burning buildings, Photo by David Douglas Duncan

181
Private First Class Eugene A. Obregon

B orn in November 1930, Private First Class


Obregon enlisted in the Marine Corps in June
1948. Assigned to the 5th Marines, he was part
of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, which was rushed
to Korea in August 1950. He participated in the bloody
battles at the Naktong River—crucial victories, which
helped save the Pusan Perimeter from collapse.
When the 5th Marines re-embarked to join the 1st
Marine Division for the assault landing at Inchon on 15
September, Obregon again took part. On 26 September,
during the battle to recapture the South Korean capital,
his heroic actions were recognized by a posthumous
award of the Medal of Honor. The official citation reads,
in part:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk


of his life above and beyond the call of duty while
serving with Company G, Third Battalion, Fifth
Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action
against enemy aggressor forces at Seoul, Korea, on
26 September 1950. While serving as an ammunition
carrier of a machine-gun squad in a Marine rifle com-
pany which was temporarily pinned down by hostile
fire, Private First Class Obregon observed a fellow
Marine fall wounded in the line of fire. Armed only
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A43987-B
with a pistol, he unhesitatingly dashed from his cov-
ered position to the side of the casualty. Firing his by enemy machine-gun-fire. Private First Class
pistol with one hand as he ran, he grasped his com- Obregon enabled his fellow Marines to rescue the
rade by the arm with his other hand and, despite the wounded man and aided essentially in repelling the
great peril to himself, dragged him to the side of the attack.
road.
Still under enemy fire, he was bandaging the The fellow Marine, whose life Obregon had saved,
man’s wounds when hostile troops of approximately was Private First Class Bert M. Johnson. He recovered
platoon strength began advancing toward his posi- from his wounds and was returned to active duty.
tion. Quickly seizing the wounded Marine’s carbine, Obregon’s sacrifice was memorialized when a building
he placed his own body as a shield in front of him at Camp Pendleton, a ship, and a high school in the Los
and lay there firing accurately and effectively into the Angeles area were named after him.
hostile group until he himself was fatally wounded —-Captain John C. Chapin, USMCR (Ret)

But Hill 296 and Colonel Wol’s contested ground the balance of the regiment’s arrival in Pusan 53
hard-core survivors were not the afternoon. At day’s end the days earlier.
through with the 5th Marines. Marines held the field but were too Elsewhere during Company G’s
Company I’s stouthearted advance depleted to exploit their advan- day-long fight, Corporal Bert
encountered fierce opposition tage. Captain McMullen fell Johnson, a machine-gunner, and
from the start. At one point wounded and was evacuated. He Private First Class Eugene A.
McMullen led his troops into a had qualified for his seventh Obregon, his ammunition humper,
maze of trenches manned by 200 Purple Heart in two wars. Two tried to set up their weapon in an
North Koreans and forced them Marines in Company G, 3d advanced position. The North
out by the sheer velocity of the Battalion, 5th Marines, fighting in Koreans charged, wounding
assault—only to lose the position somewhat lower ground adjacent Johnson with submachine gun fire.
to a vicious counterattack. The to Company I’s battlefield, each Obregon emptied his pistol at the
two forces struggled across this received their fifth wound since shadows closing in, then dragged

182
to lose a tank to Japanese sappers.
In downtown Seoul on 26
September, however, this distinc-
tive streak ended. A nimble-footed
North Korean darted out from the
rubble, caught 2d Battalion, 1st
Marines’ riflemen by surprise, and
flung a satchel charge atop a pass-
ing flame tank, then vanished in
the blast and smoke. The crew
escaped unscathed, but the tank
was destroyed. Angered and
embarrassed by this bad luck, 2d
Battalion’s NCOs forcibly reminded
their men to watch the adjacent
alleys and rubble piles, not the
tanks. This paid off. The NKPA
launched a dozen more sapper
Photo by David Douglas Duncan
attacks against Marine tanks oper-
Frightened civilians scurry to shelter while three Marine Corps Pershing tanks ating in the center of the boule-
duel with North Korean antitank guns at a barricaded intersection along Ma Po vard; Lieutenant Colonel Sutter’s
Boulevard. troops cut each one of them down.
There was no real “school solu-
Johnson to a defilade position to delivered in support of Puller’s tion” that applied to the kaleido-
dress his wounds. When the advance to his right front. “Chesty scopic action taking place on the
enemy swarmed too close, used a lot of artillery,” Murray said streets of Seoul on the 26th of
Obregon picked up a carbine and later. “And you could almost see a September. Captain Norman R.
emptied the clip, always shielding boundary line between the two of Stanford, commanding Company
Johnson with his body. There were [us], the smoke coming up from his E, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, had as
too many of them, and in the end sector and very little smoke com- much tactical experience as any-
the North Koreans shot him to ing up from mine.” Lieutenant one on the scene, having served as
pieces. But Obregon had delayed Colonel Jon Hoffman, author of a company commander in the 1st
their attack long enough for other Puller’s definitive biography, noted Marines throughout Peleliu and
Marines to hustle down the slope the irony that Puller had been crit- Okinawa. Sutter ordered Stanford
and rescue Johnson. Private First icized six years earlier at Peleliu for to follow Company F up the boule-
Class Obregon’s family would abjuring supporting arms while his vard in trace, then take the right
receive his posthumous Medal of infantry elements shattered them- fork while Company F took the left
Honor. selves in direct assaults against at a designated intersection ahead.
The two rifle companies had Bloody Nose Ridge. By compari- Sutter’s closing guidance was suc-
fought their damnedest, but the 5th son, Colonel Harold D. “Bucky” cinct: “Move out fast and keep
Marines still could not fight their Harris, commander of the 5th going.” But Company F encoun-
way clear of the highlands. Marines at Peleliu, had received tered a particularly nasty barricade
Stymied, Lieutenant Colonel praise for his policy of being “lav- just past the intersection and could
Raymond Murray marshaled his ish with ordnance and stingy with not advance up the left fork.
forces for the final breakthrough the lives of my men.” Now, in the Captain Stanford went forward
on the morrow. streets of Seoul, it was Puller’s turn to assess the delay. From 200
Nor was Murray in a position to to be “lavish with ordnance.” yards away the NKPA barricade
maximize his supporting arms, as Another bitter lesson learned by looked unassailable:
he had been able to do in the ear- the 1st Marine Division at Peleliu
lier assault on Smith’s Ridge. He was how to protect its tanks from I took one look at the AT
noted with some envy the volume suicide sapper attacks. The “Old [antitank] muzzle blasts kick-
of heavy-caliber indirect fire and Breed” was the only division in the ing aside the pall of smoke
the frequent Corsair missions being subsequent battle of Okinawa not over the roadblock, and I

183
glanced at the thin flicker of among the burning buildings and two towering hills, the now-infa-
automatic fire running across the crumbled sandbags of the bar- mous Hill 296 on the right and Hill
the barricade like a single line ricade, and then they broke and 338 on the left. First Lieutenant
of flame and dived off the ran . . . and we butchered them William F. Goggin, the machine
sidewalk into an alley. among the Russian AT [antitank] gun officer, led the advance party.
guns and the Japanese Nambu Compared to all the grief being
Stanford’s radio failed at this machine guns.” Company E lost experienced by the other two reg-
critical juncture. He had the two officers and 18 men in their iments on the 26th, the 7th Marines
option of bypassing Company F headlong assault. Captain Stanford enjoyed what at first appeared to
and the barricade and carrying out was one of the wounded. be a cakewalk. Thousands of
his assigned mission along the Sutter’s battalion, like Taplett’s grateful civilians thronged the
right fork, notwithstanding his along the ridge just to the west, right-of-ways and hillsides, cheer-
naked left flank, or bowling had fought their best, but “the flee- ing the approaching Marines. It
straight ahead through Company F, ing enemy” had limited his was an uncommon experience for
smashing the barricade, and advance to 1,200 yards. Seoul Marines of any war to date, a wel-
attacking with Company E up the would not fall this day. come grace note to serve as a par-
left fork. He had the firepower— Further to the northwest, and tial offset for the horrors to come.
four tanks, an engineer platoon, now not very far away, the 7th The North Koreans, of course, took
rocket squads, and a 75mm recoil- Marines veered towards the capital prompt advantage of this opportu-
less rifle section attached. “I knew in keeping with O. P. Smith’s nity.
that we could go through anything orders to pinch out the 5th The dense crowds prevented
for 250 yards,” he said, risking the Marines. Company D, 2d Company D from maintaining its
second option. He hurled his Battalion, 7th Marines, led the own outriding flank protection
forces forward, towards the barri- advance along the Kaesong along the ridges on both sides of
cade. “We had it hot and heavy Highway as it threaded through the road and caused the van to

184
overshoot the intended linkup though wounded early in the fight- dropped ammunition, rations, and
point with the 5th Marines. The ing, maintained his presence of medicine to the surrounded
company unwittingly entered the mind. He still commanded a large, Marines just before dusk (one
city and the final defenses of one fresh, well-armed company. Once plane, badly shot up by North
of the sacrificial battalions left the civilians vanished and his Korean antiaircraft gunners, had to
behind by the departed 25th NKPA Marines went to ground in good crash-land at Kimpo). During the
Brigade. firing positions, he figured his men night Lieutenant (junior grade)
Sudden machine gun fire from could hold their own, despite the Edward Burns, USN, the regimen-
the front felled First Lieutenant danger. When Colonel Litzenberg tal surgeon, led a high-balling con-
William F. Goggin, halted the col- called to see what kind of help he voy of jeep ambulances through
umn, and created panic among the needed, Breen answered calmly, the enemy perimeter to retrieve 40
well wishers. Then other machine “We’re okay, Colonel.” of Company D’s most seriously
guns opened up at close range Had Company D’s entrapment wounded men.
along the high ground on both occurred two days earlier the ensu- Lieutenant Colonel Parry’s 3d
sides. Another enemy force scram- ing darkness might have proven Battalion, 11th Marines, still in
bled downhill to establish a block- catastrophic, but by now the NKPA direct support of the 7th Marines,
ing position in the rear. Company forces lacked the punch to finish was the first artillery unit to cross
D was abruptly encircled and cut the job. Additionally, Captain the Han. At that point the infantry
off. Breen received some spectacular regiment extended from the north
Captain Richard R. Breen, help. Two U.S. Air Force C-47s bank of the Haengju ferry crossing

By the third full day of the battle for Seoul, the city lay in everywhere, and a thousand fires blazed furiously.
ruins. Shell holes buckled the streets, rubble lay strewn Exhausted Marines regroup for the final barricade assault.
Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press

185
to the edge of Seoul, “a sector of Seoul when we ran into a fire- paign came on 27 September, and
18 miles,” said Parry, which fight. We were moving at most of O. P. Smith’s disheveled
required him to deploy “three bat- night. [There were] green trac- troops seemed to sense the oppor-
teries on three separate azimuths.” ers coming in, red tracers going tunity as soon as the new day
Company D’s encirclement on the out. It was confusing . . . I was dawned. Sunrise brought a special
edge of Seoul on the 26th caused a scared [and] pretty much relief to Company D, 7th Marines,
predicament. The company had hugged the ground. I didn’t after its all-night vigil in the steep
crossed into the 5th Marines zone, even know how to dig a fox- pass at the city limits. Litzenberg’s
and “it was several hours before hole, but the Gunnery Sergeant relief column of tanks, infantry,
we were able to obtain clearance told me how: “Make it like a and engineers fought their way
to shoot.” But Parry’s gunners grave.” into the position against negligible
made up for the delays with pin- opposition. Captain Breen re-
point defensive fires around the The 26th of September, though ceived his second wound during
Company D perimeter throughout devoid of major tactical gains in the extraction of his company, but
the night. “We were credited by the fight for Seoul, ended with a the volume of enemy fire had
the company commander with sav- significant operational break- diminished sharply from the previ-
ing their bacon,” Parry said. The through. At Suwon, 27 miles south ous day. While no one enjoyed
anticipated NKPA night attack did of Seoul, three U.S. Army tanks of being cut off, surrounded, and
not materialize. the 7th Cavalry raced into the pinned down for 18 hours,
By now all of Colonel Homer L. perimeter of the 7th Division short- Company D had acquitted itself
Litzenberg’s 7th Marines had ly before midnight. The Eighth well and learned lessons that
received their separate baptisms of Army had fought its way clear of would prove valuable in the hill
fire. One member of Company B, the Pusan Perimeter, and its lead- fights ahead.
1st Battalion, 7th Marines, recalled ing elements had linked up with X On this day, the 5th Marines
his own first combat encounter: Corps. finally fought their way clear of
For the 1st Marine Division, the Hill 296 and into the city streets.
The company was above climax of the Inchon-Seoul cam- By 0930, Taplett’s 3d Battalion had
linked up with Sutter’s 2d
Marines of Company G, 5th Marines, jubilantly yank down the Communist flag
at Government House and run up the American and United Nations flags. Battalion, 1st Marines. Taplett
Photo courtesy of Leatherneck Magazine wheeled northeast, grimly aiming
for the huge red banners still flying
over Government House and
Chang Dok Palace.
As the lead battalions of both
regiments lengthened their strides,
a sense of friendly rivalry spurred
them into a race to raise the
national colors over key land-
marks. The 1st Marines fought
their way into several embassies,
led by Company E, pausing to
raise the flag over first the French,
then the Soviet (with great irony),
and finally the United States resi-
dences. Growled one gunnery
sergeant: “It looks like the 4th of
July around here.”
Lieutenant Colonel Taplett’s 3d
Battalion, 5th Marines, had a brief
but fierce fight on its final
approach to the palace. Die-hard
North Koreans, bolstered by a pair
of self-propelled guns, fought to

186
Private First Class Stanley R. Christianson

P rivate First Class Christianson was born in January


1925 in Mindore, Wisconsin. After he enlisted in
the Marine Corps in October 1942, he served with
the 2d Division in three World War II campaigns. For
his services, he was awarded a Letter of Commendation.
Following duty during the occupation of Japan, he had
a variety of assignments, including drill instructor at
Parris Island.
When the Korean War broke out, he was a member
of Company E, 2d Battalion, lst Marines, and took part
in the Inchon assault. For his actions at Inchon, he
received a Bronze Star Medal. During the subsequent
battle for Seoul, he gave his life on 29 September, at the
age of 25, on Hill 132. Private First Class Chistianson’s
citation for the Medal of Honor awarded him reads, in
part:

Manning one of the several listening posts covering


approaches to the platoon area when the enemy
commenced the attack, Private First Class
Christianson quickly sent another Marine to alert the
rest of the platoon. Without orders, he remained in
his position and, with full knowledge that he would
have slight chance of escape, fired relentlessly at
oncoming hostile troops attacking furiously with
rifles, automatic weapons and incendiary grenades. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A-43986
Accounting for seven enemy dead in the immediate
with 41 of the enemy destroyed, and many more
vicinity before his position was overrun and he him-
wounded and three taken prisoner.
self fatally struck down, Private First Class
Christianson was responsible for allowing the rest of After the war, his sacrifice was recognized by the ded-
the platoon time to man positions, build up a ication of a statue in his honor at Camp Lejeune, North
stronger defense on that flank and repel the attack Carolina. —-Captain John C. Chapin, USMCR (Ret)

the end. Taplett’s tank-infantry ridgelines to the north, but by dusk mand. Meanwhile, the 31st
teams carried the day. Colonel in the city the NKPA had ceased to Infantry and 17th ROK Infantry
Robert D. Heinl preserved the dra- offer organized resistance. Twelve attacked to the east, successfully
matic climax: “Moving at the high days after the surprise landing at sealing off the last NKPA escape
port up Kwangwhamun Inchon (and two days after routes. There were still small
Boulevard, Company G, 5th General Almond’s victory commu- bands of North Korean troops
Marines burst into the Court of the nique), X Corps had seized sole loose within the city—two of these
Lions at Government House, possession of the capital city of the struck the 2d Battalion, 1st
ripped down the red flag, and Republic of South Korea. Marines, in predawn counterat-
Gunnery Sergeant Harold Beaver The 7th Marines continued to tacks as late as the 29th. The first
ran up those same colors his fore- advance through the high ground occurred at 0445, when an obser-
bears had hoisted 103 years earlier north of the city, cutting the high- vation post on Hill 132 was infil-
atop the Palace of the way from Seoul to Uijongbu on the trated by an estimated 70 to 100
Montezumas.” Two Korean 28th. In this fighting Lieutenant North Korean troops. A second
Marines raised their national colors Colonel Thornton M. Hinkle, com- attack hit the left flank of the bat-
at the National Palace. manding 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, talion a short time later. Both
The fight for Seoul continued, was wounded and evacuated. attacks were repulsed with a loss
especially along the towering Major Webb D. Sawyer took com- of 28 Marines wounded and four

187
killed, among them Private First
Class Stanley R. Christianson, who
subsequently received the Medal
of Honor for his actions. Despite
these counterattacks, the war was
moving north, well above Seoul.
Indeed, South Korean troops were
about to cross the 38th Parallel.
On 29 September, General
MacArthur and South Korean
President Syngman Rhee and their
wives returned to Seoul for a tri-
umphant ceremony, accompanied
by a large official retinue. The
concentration of so many VIPs
within the smoldering city so soon
after the heavy fighting made
General O. P. Smith nervous.
Isolated NKPA antiaircraft gunners
still exacted a price against allied
planes flying over the city’s north-
ern suburbs, especially the slow Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press
flying observation aircraft of VMO- South Korean civilians curiously observe one of their exhausted Marine libera-
6, which lost a single-engine OY tors.
and an HO3S-1 helicopter on the
day of the ceremony. Smith posi- nate that more of those who had ment that from it you may better ful-
tioned Lieutenant Colonel Taplett’s battled so hard for the victory— fill your constitutional responsibili-
3d Battalion, 5th Marines, on the Marines, Navy corpsmen, soldiers, ties.” With tears running down his
hill overlooking the palace and ROK troops, men of all ranks and cheeks, MacArthur led the digni-
Lieutenant Colonel Ridge’s 3d specialties, grunts and aviators taries in the Lord’s Prayer. President
Battalion, 1st Marines, along the alike—could not have shared this Rhee was nearly overcome with
route to be taken by the digni- special occasion. For a moment emotion. To MacArthur he said:
taries—out of sight, but loaded for on the afternoon of the 27th, Seoul “We love you as the savior of our
bear. had seemed their dearly-won city. race.”
Despite the cost of more than Two days later they were being The ceremony at the national
700 Marine casualties in seizing told to remain out of sight of the capital represented Douglas
most of Seoul during the climactic official celebrants. MacArthur at his legendary finest.
three days of 25-28 September, MacArthur conducted the special In the best of all worlds the Korean
only a handful of Marines attended ceremony at high noon in the War would have ended on this
the commemorative ceremony. National Palace, ignoring the tinkle felicitous note. In reality, howev-
Generals Smith and Craig, Colonel of broken glass that fell from the er, the blazing speed with which
Puller, and Lieutenant Colonel ceiling dome windows with every MacArthur had reversed the seem-
Murray were there (Puller barely concussive rumble of distant ing disaster in South Korea con-
so; when a Military Police officer artillery. “Mr. President,” he intoned tained the seeds of a greater disas-
barred his jeep from the sedan in his marvelous baritone voice, “By ter to come in the north. The
entrance he ordered Sergeant the grace of a merciful Providence United States and the United
Jones to drive over the officious our forces fighting under the stan- Nations, flush with September’s
major), but Colonels Litzenberg dard of that greatest hope and inspi- great victories, were fatally modify-
and Brower were still fighting the ration of mankind, the United ing their war aims to include the
war north of the city and the 1st Nations, have liberated this ancient complete subjugation of North
Marine Aircraft Wing senior offi- capital city of Korea . . . . I am Korea and the forcible reunifica-
cers were gainfully employed else- happy to restore to you, Mr. tion of the entire peninsula.
where. In retrospect it is unfortu- President, the seat of your govern- Already there were plans afoot to

188
deploy the Marines north of the people in the West took him seri- est straw, the division objective of
38th Parallel. General Almond ously. Uijongbu, a vital road junction in
took O. P. Smith aside as they were In the meantime, Almond the mountains 16 miles due north
leaving the ceremony and issued a ordered Smith to seize and defend of Seoul. Here the highway and
warning order. The 1st Marine a series of blocking positions north railroad tracks veer northeast
Division would soon be making of Seoul. The 5th Marines attacked towards the port of Wonsan and
another “end-run” amphibious northwest. The 3d Battalion, 5th beyond, an important escape route
landing on the northeast coast. Marines, executed an aggressive for NKPA forces fleeing the “ham-
Other threats materialized. On reconnaissance in force as far as mer and anvil” of the now con-
the day following the Seoul cere- the town of Suyuhyon against verging Eighth Army with X Corps.
mony, Chinese Premier Chou En- what the division special action Smith reinforced the 7th Marines
Lai warned the world that his report described as “moderate by attaching Major Parry’s 3d
nation “will not supinely tolerate” enemy resistance.” Battalion, 11th Marines (reinforced
the invasion of North Korea. Few The 7th Marines drew the short- with a battery of 155mm howitzers
from 4th Battalion, 11th Marines),
plus one company each of
Pershing tanks, combat engineers,
and Korean Marines, and an Army
antiaircraft battery. This constitut-
ed a sizable force, virtually a small
brigade, but Colonel Litzenberg
would need every man in his
three-and-a-half day battle for the
road junction. Intelligence reports
available to Litzenberg indicated
he would be opposed by an amal-
gamation of NKPA units, including
the remnants of the Seoul City
Regiment; the 2d Regiment, 17th
Rifle Division, withdrawn from the
Pusan Perimeter after the Inchon
landing; and the fresh 75th
Independent Regiment, which
reached Uijongbu from Hamhung
the day before the 7th Marines
attacked.
Principal air support for
Litzenberg’s advance would come
from the Corsair pilots of
Lieutenant Colonel Frank J. Cole’s
VMF-312, the Checkerboard
squadron, newly arrived at Kimpo
from Itami, Japan. Cole had com-
manded the same squadron as a
major at the end of World War II
and had trained his new aviators
exceptionally well.
On 1 October, Colonel
Litzenberg led his well-armed force
northward. Advance aerial and
map reconnaissance led him to
conclude that the NKPA would
most likely make a stand at

189
Photo by Frank Noel, Associated Press
A Marine mortar section moves north of Seoul past a grateful band of South Koreans.

Nuwon-ni where the highway forward slowly along both ridges; downed Checkerboard pilot
passed through a narrow defile—a the engineers labored in the mine- Captain Wilbur D. Wilcox near the
veritable “Apache Pass.” fields. But the North Koreans con- village of Chun-chon.
Litzenberg planned for Lieutenant tested every yard, shooting down On 3 October, the regiment
Colonel Raymond G. Davis’ 1st three Corsairs, disrupting the engi- unveiled a good-luck piece,
Battalion, 7th Marines, to execute a neers, and limiting the Marines to General Clifton B. Cates,
tactical feint along the high ground less than a quarter-mile gain that Commandant of the Marine Corps,
on both sides, while Major Maurice day. During this fighting, Second nicknamed “Lucky” Cates for his
E. Roach’s tank-heavy 3d Battalion, Lieutenant Joseph R. Owen, the survival amid the First World War’s
7th Marines, barreled straight mortar officer in Company B, 1st bloodiest battlefields. Cates had
through the pass during the dis- Battalion, 7th Marines, learned bit- flown to Korea to observe his
traction. The plan ran awry when ter lessons in tactical communica- Marines in action. Litzenberg’s
Roach encountered a thick mine- tions. “The North Koreans,” he force put on a stellar show. The
field in the pass. Litzenberg shift- said, “used whistles and bugles for engineers having at considerable
ed both battalions to the high battlefield command, more effec- cost cleared the minefield in the
ground, and the Checkerboards of tive by far than our walkie-talkies.” defile, Major Webb D. Sawyer’s 2d
VMF-312 appeared at dawn on the In addition, Lieutenant Lloyd J. Battalion, 7th Marines, pounded
2d with a vengeance, bombing, Englehardt of VMO-6 flew his straight up the middle. Soon they
strafing, and dropping napalm can- glassy-nosed HO3S-1 helicopter began overrunning enemy field
isters. Davis and Roach scratched through heavy fire to rescue pieces and had the enemy on the

190
run. The NKPA had staked every- days we became a good Marine Major General Oliver P. Smith laid
thing on holding the pass at rifle company.” a wreath on the grave of Corporal
Nuwon-ni and had little left to The battle for the Nuwon-ni Richard C. Matheny, a stalwart
defend Uijongbu. Litzenberg un- Pass marked the end of significant squadleader of the 5th Marines
leashed all his forces. Sawyer’s fighting in the Inchon-Seoul cam- who before his death qualified in
men stormed through the ruined paign. Almost immediately the 1st swift succession for the Bronze
town by late afternoon, the major Marine Division turned over its Star, Silver Star, and Navy Cross.
pausing to telephone Litzenberg— assigned sector to the 1st Cavalry The combined Inchon-Seoul
widely known by his nickname Division of the Eighth Army and campaign cost the 1st Marine
“Litz the Blitz”—saying, “This is the began returning by regiments to Division 2,450 casualties, accord-
Mayor of Blitz!” the vicinity of Inchon for re- ing to the official history (415
The Uijongbu drive cost the 7th embarkation. killed or died of wounds; 2,029
Marines 13 killed and 111 wound- The leading elements of the wounded in action; 6 missing in
ed, but the combat experience was division and other X Corps compo- action). North Korean gunners
worth the price to the newly nents assembled at a United shot down 11 fighters of the 1st
formed regiment. Observed Nations cemetery near Inchon on 6 Marine Aircraft Wing. For their
Lieutenant Joseph Owen: “For October to honor their dead. part, the Marines destroyed or cap-
Baker-One-Seven it was combat Division Chaplain Robert M. tured 47 Russian-built tanks and
training under fire; in those five Schwyhart led the spiritual salute. sufficient heavy mortars, field
guns, antitank guns, machine guns,
From left, BGen Edward A. Craig; the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen
and rifles to equip a good-sized
Clifton B. Cates; and MajGen Oliver P. Smith, inspect the North Korean flag that
recently was hauled down by Marines at Government House in Seoul.
brigade. A preponderance of the
Photo courtesy of Leatherneck Magazine 14,000 NKPA fatalities claimed by
X Corps in the campaign resulted
from the combined air-ground fire
of the Marines.
Such statistics had more rele-
vance in World War II than in the
murky political and psychological
nature of limited warfare in the
Atomic Age. The Cold War
between the United States and the
Soviet Union and their respective
allies and surrogates was fully
underway by 1950. In Seoul in
September of that year, the United
Nations for the first time restored
the freedom of a democratic capi-
tal captured by Communist force
of arms. The fact that all of X
Corps’ hard-fought gains would be
swept away by the Chinese
Communist counter-offensive three
months later added to the bitter-
sweet irony of this protracted war.
In the final accounting, the 1953
ceasefire left Seoul firmly estab-
lished as the capital of the
Republic. Seoul’s flourishing
growth and development over the
ensuing half century remain a trib-
ute to the sacrifices of all those
who fought and died to recapture

191
1st Marine Division Daily Casualties, Seoul Campaign
Date Killed Died Missing Wounded Total Battle
in Action of Wounds in Action in Action Casualties
20 Sep 24 1 3 119 147
21 Sep 30 3 0 198 231
22 Sep 27 3 0 135 165
23 Sep 19 7 0 117 143
24 Sep 68 4 0 217 289
25 Sep 33 4 1 238 276
26 Sep 29 7 0 167 203
27 Sep 33 3 0 153 189
28 Sep 8 4 0 31 43
29 Sep 19 1 0 49 69
30 Sep 11 2 0 48 61

1 Oct 2 1 0 16 19
2 Oct 15 1 0 81 97
3 Oct 2 1 0 35 38
4 Oct 0 0 0 3 3
5 Oct 1 1 0 3 5

Total 321 43 4 1,510 1,878


Appendix J. Montross & Canzana. The Inchon-Seoul Operation, 1955

and protect the ancient city. Wonsan campaign “Operation Yo- Wonsan and other smaller ports
Yo.” along the North Korean coast.
Operation Yo-Yo Inchon and Wonsan serve as Wonsan at the time represented a
The Wonsan Landing book-end examples of amphibious reasonable objective, and the 1st
warfare’s risks and rewards. By all Marine Division had proven its
General MacArthur ordered rights it should have been Inchon, amphibious prowess in the diffi-
General Almond to re-embark X with its legion of tactical and cult landing at Inchon and was
Corps and execute a series of hydrographic dangers, that sput- expected to be available for the
amphibious landings along the tered in execution. Wonsan, new mission in early October.
east coast of North Korea. The 1st scheduled for attack by a larger Wonsan had the best natural
Marine Division would board des- and, by now, more experienced harbor in the Korean peninsula.
ignated shipping at Inchon and landing force against a sharply Located 80 miles north of the 38th
land tactically at Wonsan, the main diminished enemy threat, should Parallel, the port’s bulwark-like
event. The 7th Division would have been a snap. But in the irony Kalma Peninsula provided an
proceed south to Pusan to board of war, Inchon stands as a master- enormous sheltered harbor, a
its ships for a subsequent landing piece, Wonsan as a laughingstock, seven-inch tidal range, weak cur-
north of Wonsan. The original D- as ill-conceived a landing as the rents, rare fog, and a moderate
Day for the Marines at Wonsan was United States ever conducted. beach gradient—all incomparably
15 October. The actual landing In late September 1950, there more favorable than Inchon.
date was not even close. was nothing particularly wrong Wonsan’s near-shore topography
Operation Chromite was the with the concept of a long-distance also offered a decent lodgement
codename for the Inchon landing. “Right Hook” amphibious landing area, suitable for a division beach-
The troops would nickname the from the Sea of Japan to seize head, before the Taebaek

192
Mountains—eastern North Korea’s ways leading west to the North airfield, and continuing inland
long, towering spine—reared Korean capital of Pyongyang, operations as assigned. Three
upwards from the coastal plain. north to Hungnam, and southwest unforeseen developments almost
The port’s strategic appeal cen- to Seoul. immediately knocked the Wonsan
tered on the combination of its On 4 October, General Almond plans into a cocked hat: massive
accessible harbor with a high- formally assigned the 1st Marine port congestion; a drastically accel-
capacity airfield, petroleum refin- Division the mission of seizing and erated invasion of North Korea;
ing facilities, and its location securing the X Corps base of oper- and the successful mining of their
astride major railroads and high- ations at Wonsan, protecting the coastal ports by the North Koreans.
As a consequence, MacArthur’s
celebrated “Right Hook” became
suspended in mid-air, leaving the
Marines (and all of X Corps) hang-
ing in limbo—out of action—
throughout a critical three-week
period. The Wonsan landing,
when it finally occurred, has been
aptly described by military histori-
ans as “the most anticlimactic a
landing as Marines have ever
made.”
The 1st Marine Division opera-
tions order directed a simultaneous
landing of the 1st and 7th Marines
abreast on the eastern shore of the
Kalma Peninsula, each supported
by an artillery battalion and a bat-
talion of Korean Marines. Wonsan
airfield lay directly inland, as close
to the landing beaches as Kadena
and Yontan had been to the
Hagushi beaches at Okinawa.
On 7 October, the day following
the cemetery ceremony in Inchon,
Major General O. P. Smith reported
as landing force commander for
the Wonsan expedition to Rear
Admiral James H. Doyle, USN,
commanding the Attack Force, U.S.
Seventh Fleet. The division began
embarking at Inchon the next day.
It would take a week.
Here MacArthur’s plans began to
unwind. No one, it seems, had
foreseen the tremendous strain
about to be placed on the only two
medium-capacity ports available,
Inchon and Pusan, during a time of
conflicting requirements to offload
the mammoth supplies needed for
the Eighth Army’s invasion of west-
ern North Korea while simultane-
ously backloading two large divi-

193
amphibious assault is an exact and
time-consuming science. The 1st
Marine Division, now fully fleshed
out with the 7th Marines and other
missing components, had 25,840
officers and men on the rolls for
the Wonsan expedition, easily the
largest division of any nation fight-
ing in the Korean War. Admiral
Doyle’s Attack Force contained 66
amphibious ships plus six com-
mercial cargo ships, but many of
the vessels arrived late in the
crowded port, few contained the
preloaded 10-day levels of Class I,
II, and IV supplies as promised,
and the Attack Force still provided
insufficient total lift capacity for all
the division’s rolling stock. The
precise art of combat loading
Gen Oliver P. Smith Collection, Marine Corps Research Center
became the improvised “art of the
From left, MajGen Oliver P. Smith, MajGen Edward M. Almond, and RAdm James
H. Doyle discuss plans for the Wonsan landing on board the Mount McKinley.
possible,” but each compromise
cost time. As the division’s special
sions for the X Corps’ “Right became impossibly congested. action report dryly noted, General
Hook.” The piers, staging areas, Chaos reigned. Almond’s prescribed D-day of 15
and access roads in both ports Combat loading for an opposed October “was moved progressively

194
back to a tentative date of 20 In the meantime, Admiral rampant rumors swept the trans-
October.” Doyle’s advance force commander ports, especially beginning the
As junior officer in Company B, discovered that the North Koreans afternoon of 19 October when the
1st Battalion, 7th Marines, Second had sewn the approaches to task force suddenly got underway,
Lieutenant Joseph R. Owen Wonsan with more than 2,000 anti- heading south. “War’s over!”
assumed the demanding duties of ship mines, both contact and mag- exclaimed many a Marine, “We’re
company embarkation officer. “We netic. The U.S. Navy had only 12 going back to Pusan and then
were assigned an old LST that our minesweepers available in the- heading home!” But the ships
Navy had used in World War II,” he ater—as compared to the 100 were only taking new precautions
said, “but which was now leased to employed in support of the to protect themselves in hostile
Japan for use as a cargo ship.” The Okinawa landing five years earli- waters. For the next week—and a
Japanese captain spoke no English er—and even when reinforced by week is a very long time at sea on
but conveyed to Owen by angry Korean and Japanese craft, the board transports as claustrophobi-
gestures his displeasure at what mission proved overwhelming. cally crowded as these—the ships
seemed to him to be gross over- Two U.S. minesweepers hit mines reversed course every 12 hours,
loading of his ship’s safe lift capac- and sank on 12 October. Heavy first heading south, then north,
ity. When Owen’s runner charged fire from North Korean coast then starting over. Here emerged
the bolt on his carbine the skipper defense guns hampered rescue the sarcastic nickname “Operation
abruptly acquiesced. “There was a operations. A Japanese sweeper Yo-Yo.” As voiced by Marine
shortage of shipping,” Owen ratio- sank on the 18th; the next day a Corps historians Lynn Montross
nalized, “and, we were informed, huge mine practically vaporized a and Nicholas A. Canzona in 1957:
we would be afloat for only a few South Korean craft. Doyle’s exper- “Never did time die a harder death,
days.” iments in dropping 1,000-pound and never did the grumblers have
Private First Class Morgan bombs and anti-submarine depth so much to grouse about.”
Brainard of Company A, 1st charges to create enough over- The Japanese-crewed LST trans-
Battalion, 1st Marines, boarded his pressure to detonate nearby mines porting Lieutenant Owen’s compa-
assigned LST without bitching: “All failed. Even the fact that a linear, ny soon ran low on provisions and
we knew at that moment was that tactical landing had been replaced fresh water. As Owen recalled: “a
we were steaming south; that we by a simpler administrative offload three-week ordeal of misery and
were in dry clothes with a roof over from amphibian tractors and land- sickness . . . . The stench below-
our heads, and assured of two hot ing craft in column did not help decks made the air unbreathable.”
meals a day and the chance to take expedite the problem. Rear Ad- Before long sickness swept the
salt water showers . . . . Our slice miral Allan E. Smith, commanding embarked landing force. Long
of life seemed to be improving.” Task Force 95, the advance force, lines of Marines suffering from
Most of Admiral Doyle’s Wonsan voiced the frustration of all hands dysentery and gastroenteritis over-
Attack Force completed loading when he reported: “we have lost whelmed poorly-equipped sick
the 1st Marine Division and sortied control of the seas to a nation bays. The “Binnacle List” on board
from Inchon on 15 October, the without a navy, using pre-World the converted civilian transport
original D-Day. By that time the War I weapons, laid by vessels that Marine Phoenix ran to 750 Marines
other two factors that would ren- were utilized at the time of the at the height of the epidemic. The
der the planned assault meaning- birth of Christ.” attack transport Bayfield (APA 33)
less had materialized. Five days General Almond’s frustration reported a confirmed case of small-
earlier, Republic of Korea’s I Corps knew no bounds. On 20 October, pox. As a final insult to the divi-
had seized Wonsan by overland with the war fast shifting away sion’s pride, a traveling USO show
advance from the south. On 13 from his active influence (the featuring Bob Hope and Marilyn
October, Major General Field Eighth Army entered the North Maxwell beat them to Wonsan, per-
Harris, commander of the 1st Korean capital Pyongyang the pre- forming for an appreciative audi-
Marine Aircraft Wing, flew into vious day), and with no end in ence of Marine aviators and ROK
Wonsan airfield, followed the next sight to the tedious minesweeping, soldiers while the fierce “spear-
day by the Checkerboards of Almond departed the flagship by head” assault troops rocked in mis-
Lieutenant Colonel Cole’s VMF-312 helicopter and established his ery among the offshore swells.
and other elements of Marine command post ashore at Wonsan. At long last, on 26 October, the
Aircraft Group 12. As for the embarked Marines, 1st Marine Division landed on the

195
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A4313
Finally off the ships, the 1st Marine Division, which ended ashore by Navy LCVP towards Wonsan, North Korea.
its interminable “Operation Yo-Yo” on 26 October, chugs
In the anticlimactic landing of the 1st Marine Division at Wonsan airfield. A chill wind blows in from the looming
Wonsan, troops dismount from a column of LVT-3Cs and Taebaek Mountains.
their escorting LVTA-5 armored amphibians along the Department of Defense Photo (USN) 421366

196
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A130364
The 1st Marine Division suffered the ignominy of landing at umn of soaked infantrymen straggles ashore among good-
Wonsan weeks after South Korean forces had seized the port hearted catcalls by VMF-312, the “Checkerboard” squadron.
and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing had arrived. Here a col-

Kalma Peninsula below Wonsan. Owen encountered more sarcastic territory, beginning with the
“The day was bright and cold,” insults from the ROK troops who deployment of Lieutenant Colonel
recalled Private First Class Brainard had captured the town 16 days Jack Hawkins’ 1st Battalion, 1st
of Company A, 1st Marines, “and before: “They had learned the mid- Marines, on a special mission to
the sea had a real chop to it as our dle-finger salute, which they ren- relieve a ROK force guarding a
[LVT] slid down the ramp and dered to us with great enthusiasm.” supply depot at the coastal town of
nosed forward into the water.” Colonel Puller bristled at the Kojo, 40 miles south.
The captain of Brainard’s ship ignominy of his regiment being Puller’s dilemma reflected the
wished the departing Marines luck categorized as rear echelon troops drastic changes in United Nations’
over the public address system, due to no fault of their own. Then strategic objectives being formulat-
adding that MacArthur’s headquar- Brigadier General Edward A. Craig ed it seemed, day-by-day. The war
ters had just announced that the met Puller on the beach with the in North Korea had evolved from
troops should be “home by welcome news that he had just the establishment of coastal oper-
Christmas.” been selected for promotion to ating bases and the methodical
The airmen of the Checkerboard brigadier general. Puller’s trade- elimination of residual NKPA
squadron hooted in derision as the mark scowl vanished momentarily. forces to a wide-open race to the
infantry streamed ashore, puffing Then he turned to the job at hand. Yalu River, the Chinese border.
with exertion after three weeks of His regiment was about to be dis- General O. P. Smith, accustomed to
enforced inactivity. Lieutenant persed over a huge area of enemy a relatively narrow zone of action

197
in the Inchon-Seoul campaign, be hard-pressed to cover an landing on the 26th. The troops
suddenly found himself responsi- uncommonly large piece of real were still shaking out their sea legs
ble for a zone measuring 300 miles estate around the port of Wonsan. when they clambered into a long
long by 50 miles deep. With The Kojo assignment was but the line of empty gondola cars of a
General Almond already calling for first of several far-flung missions coal train bound for Kojo. It was
two infantry regiments to advance Puller would have to handle. an uncomfortable and singularly
as far north as Hamhung, Smith Half of Hawkins’ battalion dirty ride. Captain Barrow noted
knew Puller’s 1st Marines would departed within hours after their that the residual coal “left a mark
on all of us.” The train had to
make two trips to deliver the entire
battalion, and those units traveling
by road, like the attached artillery
battery, did not arrive until the sec-
ond night.
The troops dismounted from the
train at Kojo stiff and disoriented.
The town itself proved pic-
turesque, but the supply dump had
been largely emptied by the
departing ROK garrison, too many
hills dominated the town, and
there was a critical lack of intelli-
gence about a North Korean “guer-
rilla force” reportedly lurking in
the area. “Quite candidly,” admit-
ted Barrow, “I never understood
our mission.”
The situation bothered Hawkins
acutely. The late-afternoon ap-
proach of 3,000 refugees towards
Kojo made him more uneasy.
These Hawkins diverted into an
assembly area outside the seaport,
but their unimpeded approach
reflected the vulnerability of his
position. The largely depleted
supply dump lay in low ground,
difficult to defend. A well-defined
avenue of approach into the sea-
port lay open from the south and
southwest. “Therefore,” Hawkins
wrote shortly after the Kojo
action, “I decided to place
Company B in outpost positions
to cover these approaches . . . .
The remainder of the battalion
would be deployed on the hill
massif west of Kojo.”
Accordingly, Captain Wesley C.
Noren deployed Company B on
outpost duty along three scattered
hills two miles south of town. As
night fell, Noren placed his men

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