The Briefing


A page for extended coverage of items in The Cannon Report or of general interest

The “Forgotten War”— not forgotten here!

 

"THE FAMOUS USMC CHOSIN RESERVOIR RETREAT" 

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KOREA, THE IGNORED WAR

The story of  a unit in context

by J. Alejandro Amorós

 

Under fear that the Russians would eventually invade and take over all of Korea a group of U.S. Army officers and diplomats, including a then Col. Dean Rusk later, Secretary of State for the Johnson administration and one of the architects of policy during the Vietnam conflict, offered to partition Korea at the 38th parallel. The North would be under the Russian sphere of influence under Kim Il Sung, and the South for the American sphere of influence under Syngman Rhee. All this was determined in a meeting that lasted 30 minutes.

 

On June 25, 1950 the relative peace within the “Cold War” was shattered like an illusion made of glass. North Korean troops invaded the southern part of that peninsula sending shock waves through the militarily unprepared U.S. and the rest of the world.  After the end of WWII the Russians had reached a livable agreement with the Allies, namely that they would be allowed to remain as far as they had reached after defeating the Japanese, from Manchuria to the northernmost part of Korea.

 

In August 1950 the Korean War was less than two months old, and Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment was on its way to the combat zone. The regiment landed at the port city of Pusan on the Korean Peninsula southern tip, where U.S. forces had been holding a perimeter against the Communist North Korean invaders. Sent into action immediately, the Puerto Ricans took part in the U.S. breakout and drive to the north. Following the brilliantly planned and executed surprise landings at Inchon, U.S. and other United Nations forces drove deep into the mountains of North Korea.

 

At that point a huge Chinese Army entered the war. The U.S. Eight Army was overrun, and the 1st Marine Division, with attached U.S. and British Army units, was completely encircled. In one of the greatest fighting retreats in history, the outnumbered Marines battled their way south to the coast.  The first friendly troops they saw on the frozen ridgetops were the Puerto Ricans of the 65th Infantry Regiment, sent to hold the perimeter around the vital port of Hungham. The Puerto Ricans supervised the evacuation of Hungham, finally sailing themselves on Christmas Eve, 1950. 

 

The 65th landed in Pusan as they had five months before, and again fought their way northward. Late January 1951 found them south of the Korean capital of Seoul, under orders to take two hills being held by the Chinese 149th Division. The assault began on January 3lst and took three days. On the morning of the third day the top of the hills were within reach, and two battalions of the 65th fixed bayonets and charged straight at the enemy positions. The Chinese fled. According to official records this is the last battalion-size bayonet charge recorded in the history of the U.S. Army.

 

During its service in Korea, the men of the 65th won 10 Distinguished Service Crosses and 249 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars . The “Borinqueneers” were also awarded the Presidential and Meritorious Unit Commendations, two Korean Presidential Unit Citations and the Greek Gold Medal for Bravery. The 65th Infantry Regiment’s gallant service in a difficult war is exemplified by its regimental motto, “Honor and Fidelity”.

 

No, Americans don’t know how to fight. After the Korean War, in particular, they have lost the capability to wage a large-scale war. They are pinning their hopes on the atom bomb and air power. But one cannot win a war with that. One needs infantry, and they don’t have much infantry; the infantry they do have is weak. They are fighting little in Korea, and already people are weeping in the USA. What will happen if they start a large scale war? Then, perhaps, everyone will weep.”

 

-Joseph Stalin to Zhou Enlai, August 20, 1952.

 

“The U.S. has a population of 200 million people, but it cannot stand wars.”

-Mao Zedong to Pham Van Dong, Prime Minister of North Vietnam, on November 17, 1968.

 

Korean War Brief Background

 1894-1949 

  • After Sino-Japanese War, Korea is declared completely independent of China and Japan.
  • Russo-Japanese War. After defeating Russia, Japan establishes a protectorate over Korea.
  • Korea is annexed by Japan. At a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, during World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek promise in dependence to Korea.
  • At a meeting of Allied leaders in Potsdam, Germany, Russian Premier Joseph Stalin agrees to Cairo declaration of eventual independence for Korea.
  • Following the defeat of Japan in World War II, Korea is divided at the 38th parallel into American and Russian occupation zones. 
  • Fearing a Russian invasion a group of U.S. Army officers and diplomats, including a then Col. Dean Rusk, offered to partition Korea at the 38th parallel.  This was done in less than 30 minutes.
  • United Nations commission appointed to organize democratic elections throughout Korea. Russia will not admit the commission into North Korea. Following the U.N sponsored elections, which are limited to South Korea the Republic of Korea is established with Syngman Rhee as President.
  • Russia reports that its army of occupation has left North Korea.
    United States army of occupation withdraws from South Korea, leaving 500 American military advisers in the Republic.
  • Responsibility for South Korea is assigned to the U.S. State Department (Department of State).
  • Guerrilla activity takes place on both sides of the 38th parallel, and there are numerous border incidents involving troops of the rival Korean armies.
  • Army planners believed next war would be an air war.

 

THE FAMOUS USMC CHOSIN RESERVOIR RETREAT

(excerpt from, "The Forgotten War", by Clay Blair)

(To read Foreword click here)

Elements of the 65th Inf. Reg. on their way to Chosin

      That night and all the next day, December 10, the column, swollen to 15,000 men by the addition of the Koto garrison, crossed the bridge in a steady stream. The Seventh Marines, with the attached “31st Infantry,” remained in the vanguard. These combat forces were followed by the division trains and artillery, Ray Murray’s Fifth Marines, and Chesty Puller’s First Marines. Among the last troops to leave Koto before it was demolished were Reidy’s 2/31 and the Army engineers. One of the 2/31 senior staffers, Richard F. Mitchell, remembered proudly that the 2/31 came out in good order, “shaved, with their weapons and packs.”

      Life photographer David Douglas Duncan was busy that day taking candid photographs of the men in the column. His remarkably vivid and stark photographs, published in Life and a book, This Is War, immortalized the withdrawal. Duncan, a former Marine, tended to focus his cameras on the Marines, almost entirely ignoring the 2,300 Army men in the column. To the Army personnel, who were proud of the role they had played at Chosin, Hagaru, and Koto, this was utterly infuriating. Ironically, in 1985 the United States Postal Service unwittingly chose one of Duncan’s few photos of Army personnel (a medical platoon of the 2/31) to commemorate a stamp honoring Korean veterans.

      During the final leg of the trek—the several miles from the bridge to Chinhung—the withdrawing forces came under the protection of the Marine battalion and then the infantry, artillery, and tanks of the 3d Division’s Task Force Dog. “It sure was a wonderful sight to see friendly troops on the ridges,” George Rasula remembered. “And even better when we passed through the 3rd Division perimeter.” The main infantry element of Dog, Tom O’Neil’s 3/7, with the attached 0 Company of the 2/65, repelled a strong CCF attack at the road during the afternoon and night of December 10, sustaining heavy casualties. Farther south, at Sudong and Majon, the withdrawing forces were protected by the 65th Infantry’s 2/65 and 3/65. At Majon, where the withdrawing forces boarded trains and trucks (40 of the 110 trucks were provided by the 3d Division’s 52d Truck Battalion), the men of the 65th gave them what food they could spare. A 2/31 medic, John J. Zitzelberger, remembered sharing a gallon jar of ketchup and pickles. “God, it was good!” he said.

      The exec of the 65th, West Pointer (1936) George W. (“Chick”) Childs, who had commanded a battalion in combat in the ETO, was the tactical commander of the 65th’s forward units. Under his able leadership the Puerto Ricans continued to perform well. Many were decorated for heroism. One sergeant, Felix 0. Nieves, won not only a Silver Star Medal but a special commendation from Shorty Soule. The 65th could not, however, absolutely guarantee every yard of the way. About midnight on December 10, near Sudong, the CCF cut the road, halting the truck column. In the ensuing battle the CCF inflicted about twenty Marine casualties and destroyed nine trucks.

      The CCF block was broken by a pickup force of Marines led by two senior Army lieutenant colonels: the 52d Truck Battalion commander, Waldon C. Winston, and a X Corps artillery officer, John U. D. Page (Princeton Univer sity, 1926), forty-six. Newly arrived in Korea, Page had gone up to Koto on November 29 to lay some communications lines and had been trapped there. He was killed in the action that night and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

      The Marines and Army forces continued south by train and truck, protected by the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry and Ed Farrell’s attached all-black 3/15. The Marines came out expecting to defend a sector of a Hamhung Hungnam “enclave,” but by that time the new plan to evacuate X Corps and redeploy it in Eighth Army was in effect. Accordingly, the Marines marched straight down to the docks, and from December 11 to 14 they boarded twenty- eight ships. On December 15 the Marines sailed from northeast Korea to Pusan amid a blizzard of heroic publicity. In total, they had suffered about 10,500 casualties since landing at Wonsan: 4,418 in battle and 6,174 nonbattle. (Most of the latter subsequently returned to duty.) The entire division was accorded a rare honor: a Presidential Unit Citation, an award usually reserved to commend smaller units for outstanding performance under fire.

      While the Marines were outloading at Hungnam, Ned Almond deployed the Army’s 3d and 7th divisions into an arc-shaped perimeter to defend Hamhung-Hungnam and the airfield at Yonpo. Shorty Soule’s 3d Division occupied the left sector; Dave Barr’s 7th Division, the right. Clockwise, the defending infantry regiments were: John Guthrie’s 7th; William Harris’s 65th; Charles Beauchamp’s 32d (less its annihilated 1/32); and Herb Powell’s 17th. Dinty Moore’s 15th and the 31st Infantry (less its annihilated 3/31) initially occupied reserve positions inside the arc. The infantry was backed by the artillery, A/A vehicles, and tanks of both divisions, the X Corps artillery, plus an array of cruisers and destroyers standing off the beach, and Marine, Navy, and FEAF aircraft.”

 

USEFUL LINKS 

and other materials

 

MAPS

To enlarge just click on maps

 "The Forgotten War" Foreword

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KOREAN WAR RELATED FILMS, WEBSITES  AND DOCUMENTARIES

“The Manchurian Candidate” (1962)
“The Bridge at Toko Ri” (1955)
“Retreat, Hell” (1952)
“MASH” (1970)
“Pork Chop Hill” (1959)
“Men In War” (1957)
“Tae Guk Gi” (“The Brotherhood of War”, English title) (2004)
“Steel Helmet” (1951)
“All the Young Men” (1960)

http://www.valerosos.com/
http://www.prsoldier.com
http://www.koreanwar.org
http://www.koreanwar.com/
Korean War Resource Guide
143rd Artillery in Korea

For role of PSYOPS IN KOREA
PSYOPS in Korea

For “Prelude to Inchon”:
Prelude to Inchon

Documentaries

Korean War Stories (2001)
Korean War in Color
Korea - The Forgotten War (1987)
They Chose China (2005)
The Korean War: Fire and Ice (1999 History Channel)
"The Unknown War" (1988)