Korean War Pusan Perimeter 1st Cavalry

HERMES CARL P Rank=PFC Serial Number=RA16308160

State of Record=WI County of Record=Brown
Race=1 Year of Birth= Branch=Infantry
Military Occupation Specialty=(4812) Heavy Weapons Infantryman
Assigned Unit=7th Cav Regt (Inf)-1st Cav Div
Place
of Casualty=S Korea Date of Casualty (Year/Mo/Day)=1950/08/14
Casualty Description=Seriously WIA by missile-Returned to Duty (FECOM)

 

It happened before dawn on 25 June 1950. Less than 5 years after the terrible devastations of World War II, a new war broke out from a distant land whose name means "Morning Calm". The decision of the United States to send immediate aid to South Korea came two days after the fast moving North Korean broke through the ROK defenses and sent tanks into the capital city of Seoul. In addition to the Air Force, Navy and Marines, a 1,000 man battalion from the 24th Infantry, including many specialists and noncommissioned officers transferred from the 1st Cavalry Division, arrived 30 June. More help was on the way. "A" Company of the 71st Heavy Tank Battalion, previously assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, arrived in Korea early in July and was immediately attached to the 24th Infantry Division and experienced their first combat at Taejon.

 

On 06 July, General MacArthur called Major General Hobart Gay, Commanding General, 1st Cavalry Division and informed him to plan for the 1st Cavalry Division to make an amphibious landing at Inchon. The 1st Cavalry Division had been weakened by the earlier transfer of approximately 750 noncommissioned officers to the 24th and 25th Divisions to strengthen their combat mission in Korea. It had been stripped of practically every first grader except the first sergeants of companies and batteries.

 

Between 12 and 14 July, the division loaded on ships in the Yokohama area. However, at that time, the steady enemy successes south of the Han River had changed the objective of a landing in the rear of the enemy at Inchon to a landing on the East coast of Korea at Pohangdong, a fishing village sixty miles northeast of Pusan. Its mission was to reinforce the faltering 24th Division. From Pohangdong the 1st Cavalry Division could move promptly to the Taejon area in support of the 24th. The date of the landing was set for 18 July.

 

The command ship Mt. McKinley and final elements sailed on 15 July, in Task Force "go". The landing at Pohangdong was unopposed. Lead elements of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were ashore by 1610 18 July, to successfully carry out the first amphibious landing of the Korean War. The first troops of the 5th Cavalry Regiment came in 20 minutes later. The North Koreans were 25 miles away when elements of the 1st Cavalry Division came ashore. On 19 July, the 5th Cavalry Regiment started toward Taejon. The next day, the 8th Cavalry Regiment followed and closed in an assembly area east of Yongdong by that evening unaware that the strength of Typhoon Helene, which had swept the eastern coast of Korea, had prevented the 7th Cavalry Regiment and 82nd Field Artillery Battalion from landing until 22 July. By the end of 22 July, all regiments were deployed in battle positions; in itself a remarkable logistical achievement in the face of the typhoon that pounded the Korean coastline.

 

On 22 July, the 8th Cavalry Regiment relieved the 21st Infantry, 24th Division, in its position at Yongdong and concurrently the 1st Cavalry Division assumed responsibility for blocking the enemy along the main Taejon-Taego corridor. Their baptism of fire came on 23 July. They were hit by heavy artillery fire and mortar barrage, and North Korean infantrymen swarmed toward their entrenched positions. The Pusan Perimeter continued to hold. With added reinforcements, Pusan became a staging ground and depot for United Nations supplies and soldiers from all around the world. Solders of the United Nations forces became First Team troopers, when they were attached to the 1st Cavalry Units and fought along side of them. The defenders now outnumbered the attackers and they had the equipment and firepower to go on the offensive.

 

On 05 August, "A' Company, 71st Heavy Tank Battalion was reorganized as "A" Company, 71st Tank Battalion and reassigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. By mid September, "A" Company had lost 20 of their original issue of 22 light tanks (M 24s) because their 75mm guns could not penetrate the armor on the Russian tanks. After they lost their tanks in combat, there were enough survivors to form a machine-gun platoon and they spent the next 30 days on the line fighting as infantry. On 16 October, the unit was deactivated and relieved from assignment to the 1st Cavalry Division because of their decimated numbers.

 

On 07 August 1950, the 70th Heavy Tank Battalion arrived at the Port of Pusan on the transport General Brewster and on 12 August, were attached to the 1st Cavalry Division. Soon after their attachment, they joined the division in the launching of a major offensive of probing and striking attacks in multiple directions in the Taegu area to effect a breakout of the Pusan Perimeter. In carrying out the probes, the 5th Cavalry Regiment, with "A" Company of the 70th Tank Battalion, captured several strategic points along the Naktong River, the 8th Cavalry Regiment, with "B" Company of the 70th Tank Battalion, halted the advance of the North Koreans west of Taegu and the 7th Cavalry Regiment, with "C" Company of the 70th Tank Battalion, launched a counter attack. Throughout its remaining campaigns in Korea, the 70th Tank Battalion remained employed as the armored support to the 1st Cavalry Division.

 

On 29 August, the 1st Cavalry Division sector of coverage was shifted to the North and Northwest mountainous areas. By 04 September, enemy pressure along the sector of the 1st Cavalry Division increased tremendously. The 5th Cavalry Regiment was driven from key terrain, however they were able to recapture the lost ground with the aid of the 70th Tank Battalion elements. On 13 September, plans were being laid for an all out offensive, however the enemy exerted heavy resistance and were able to hold their ground all along the Northern Sector.

 

The turning point in this bloody battle came on 15 September 1950, when MacArthur unleashed his plan, Operation Chromite, an amphibious landing at Inchon, far behind the North Korean lines. In spite of the many negative operational reasons given by critics of the plan, the Inchon landing was an immediate success allowing the 1st Cavalry Division to break out of the perimeter and start fighting north. The routes North was heavily mined. Rather than have the engineering battalion methodically screen and dig up the mines, 17 tanks of "A" Company, 70th Tank Battalion were sacrificed to rapidly clear the mines along the routes. It was during this massive offensive that the 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, "C" Company and the "I" & "R" Platoon of the 70th Tank Battalion made the historical mission of "Task Force Lynch", the Pusan Perimeter Breakout through 106.4 miles of enemy held territory to link up with the 7th Infantry Division at Osan.

 

On 27 September, north of Osan at a small bridge, "L" Company, 7th Cavalry, met elements of "H" Company, 31st Infantry, 7th Division. In this rapid advance to Osan, the 1st Cavalry Division cut off elements of the 105th Armored Division in the Ansong and P'yongt'aek area and miscellaneous units in the Taejon area. On 28 September, elements of "C" Company, 70th Tank Battalion, and "K" Company, 7th Cavalry, with the strong assistance of fighter-bombers, destroyed at least seven of ten T34's in the P'yongt'aek area, five by air strikes. Elements of the 16th Reconnaissance Company barely escaped destruction by these enemy tanks, and did suffer casualties.


"70th Tank Battalion"
From 28 September to 03 October, major efforts concentrated on mopping up operations of the large sector assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. By 04 October, the division had re-instated the Northern offensive movements. On 05 October, the 1st Cavalry Division advanced north of Seoul for the purpose of securing the U.S. I Corps assembly area near the 38th Parallel. Led by "I" Company, the 5th Cavalry Regiment crossed to the north side of the Imjin River at Munsan-ni. On 07 October, the 16th Reconnaissance Company entered Kaesong, and that evening elements of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, arrived there. By evening of 08 October, the 7th and 8th Cavalry Regiments had secured the I Corps assembly area in the vicinity of Kaesong. Some of the troops were within small arms range of the 38th Parallel. On 09 October, the 1st Cavalry Division crossed the 38th Parallel.

 

On 10 October, the 89th Tank Battalion was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division to strengthen the armor support for the Northern offensive. On 15 October, after moderate resistance, the 7th Cavalry Regiment and "C" Company, 70th Tank Battalion secured the city of Namchonjam. On 17 October, they made a flanking movement to the right of the main highway to Pyongyang, with the objective being Hwangju. On 19 October, troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division crashed into Pyongyang, capturing the capital city of North Korea. This event marked the third "First" for the division


"First in Pyongyang".

 

On 20 October, the 89th Tank Battalion left the 1st Cavalry Division, moving on North with the British contingent. In late October 1950, orders came from I Corps to saddle up the rest of the division and move north. The Korean war seemed to be nearing a conclusion. The North Korean forces were being squeezed into a shrinking perimeter along the Yalu and the borders of Red China and Manchuria. By now, more than 135,000 Red troops had been captured and the North Korean Army was nearly destroyed.

 

"CCF Crossing the Yalu River"
On 14 October, the Korean War took a grim new turn when the first element of the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF), the 334th Regiment, 119th Division, of Fifteenth Chinese Field Army crossed the Yalu at Andong. By moving only at night, they were able to penetrate the area and move undetected into North Korea in great numbers. Only scout units moved during daylight to determine routes for the next night's march. They were ordered, under penalty of death, to freeze motionless if they heard aircraft. Their only heavy weapons were mortars, but they came in increasingly vast numbers.

 

Trained and battle hardened in guerilla warfare, the CCF carried none of the baggage of a modern army. Masters of concealment, they moved and fought best by night. Wearing thick, padded, green or white uniforms, caps with a red star, carrying a personal weapon, grenades, 80 rounds of ammunition, a few stick grenades, spare foot rags, sewing kit and a week's rations of fish, rice and tea, On 25 October 1950, serious fighting began with the engagement of the ROK 6th Division. The sudden intervention of Communist Chinese forces dashed hopes of a quick end to the war.

 

In spite of urgent reports that the Chinese were preparing to enter the battle in force, MacArthur and other high Commanders remained convienced that these new troops were Chinese volunteers of Korean descent, numbering no more than 30,000, who had joined North Koreans as replacements.

 

On 29 October, the 8th Cavalry Regiment and "B" Company, 70th Tank Battalion had advanced North from Pyongyong to Sukchon, Sinanju and to the vicinity of Usan, with the mission of relieving ROK elements of the I Corps in the area. Later in the day of the 29th, the 8th Cavalry received orders to attack all the way to the Yalu River. On 31 October, at about 1500 hours, the Chinese Communist Forces cut the main road South. Meanwhile, the 5th Cavalry Regiment, along with "A" Company, 70th Tank Battalion was ordered North to cover the planned withdrawal of the 8th Cavalry Regiment. The 7th Cavalry Regiment was called up from Chinnampo to assist in the withdrawal. By 01 November, the 8th Cavalry Regiment had advanced to within 50 miles of the Red China border and the three battalions had moved up to relieve portions of the ROK 1st Division.


"8th Cavalry Engagement 01/02 Nov."
Left "Click" to expand battle situation.
Later in the morning of 01 November, patrols from the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 8th Cavalry, clashed with soldiers clearly identified as Red Chinese. Contact with the Chinese had begun increasing that afternoon, starting in the sector of the 1st Battalion, North of Unsan, then spreading west into the sector covered by the 2nd Battalion. About 1:00, 02 November, Chinese forces had cut the withdrawal route of the 1st and 2nd Battalion.

South of Unsan, the 3rd Battalion had dug in just North of the Nammyon River. By 2:00, 02 November, the Chinese had blocked the last remaining road for a possible retreat overland. By dawn, the entire regiment was completely surrounded. Some men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions were able to break through the Chinese roadblocks. The bulk of the 3rd Battalion were trapped by the Chinese. The bitter fighting which raged for the next five days stands would see many heros and many memorable sacrifices, but it also stand for the most painful chapter in the proud history of the 1st Cavalry Division. On 06 November, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment ceased to exist as a unit. It died gallantly. More than 600 officers and men were lost at Unsan, most of them from the 3rd Battalion.

 

In order to execute their battle plan, the Chinese and the nearly beaten North Korean forces had a trio of powerful allies located half way around the world. Three Britons, two working in the British Embassy in Washington, DC and a third heading the American Department in London, were Soviet agents. The three spies; H.A.R. "Kim" Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, had access to communications between MacArthur and the Pentagon because Great Britain had sent its Commonwealth Brigade to be part of the U.N. military forces in Korea. Copies of communications relative to military planning of U.N. military organizations was sent directly to Moscow and relayed to Peking.

 

A massive confrontation with the Chinese seemed inevitable. But the Chinese did the unexpected; they drew back into the frozen hills from which they had suddenly materialized. On 24 November, General MacArthur launched a counter attack of 100,000 UN troops. Taking a chance, General MacArthur believed it necessary to push the Chinese back across the border. On 25 November, the 1st Cavalry Division moved up to the Taedong River, positioning behind the front lines. On 26/27 November, the enemy shook off heavy casualties and threw great waves of troops at two battle weary ROK divisions. With reinforcements, the Chinese were stopped at Sinchang-ni on 29 November. The counterattack gave the UN time to set up new defensive lines and begin an orderly withdrawal from North Korea.

 

On 15 December, the 1st Cavalry Division moved Northeast of Seol to the vicinity of Uijong-bu and assumed a defensive position. By 28 December, the true extent of the enemy buildup had become clear. There was at least 20 Red Chinese divisions poised for a drive on Seoul. Now there was almost a million and a half Chinese and North Korean troops on the Korean peninsula. The United Nations Command had less than 250,000 seasoned soldiers to repulse this juggernaut.

 

The new year of 1951 began unexpectedly quiet. The First Team defenders readied their weapons, shored up their defenses and waited in the bitter cold. This time there was no surprise when the Chinese artillery began pounding the United Nations lines in the first few minutes of 1951. The units forward of the 38th Parallel were hit by the Chinese crossing the frozen Imjin River. Ignoring heavy losses, the Chinese crawled through mine fields and barbed wire. The United Nations Forces abandoned Seoul and fell back to the Han River. The Chinese drive lost its momentum when it crossed the Han and a lull fell over the front.


"The UN Counter Attack, 1951"
On 25 January 1951, the First Team, joined by the revitalized 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry rebounding from its tragedy at Unsan, moved back into action. The movement, designated as "Task Force Johnson" began as a reconnaissance in force. Its mission was to assess the enemy situation in the area, disrupt enemy attack preparations and destroy maximum enemy personnel and material. Elements comprising "Task Force Johnson" were the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Platoon Heavy Mortar Company and the Medical Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 70th Tank Battalion with "B" Company which had been partially restaffed by tankers from the deactivated "A" Company of the 71st Tank Battalion, "C" Battery, 9th Field Artillery and 1st Platoon, "C" Company, 8th Engineer Battalion. In addition the force was assisted by organic aircraft from the division and a flight of tactical air support aircraft.

 

In the counter attack, the Eighth Army moved slowly and methodically, ridge by ridge, phase line by phase line, wiping out each pocket of resistance before moving farther North. The advance covered 2 miles a day, despite heavy blinding snowstorms and subzero temperatures.

 

On 14 February, heavy fighting erupted around an objective known as Hill 578, which was finally was taken by the 7th Cavalry after overcoming stiff Chinese resistance. During this action General MacArthur paid a welcome visit to the 1st Team. The First Cavalry slowly advanced though snow and later, when it became warm, through torrential rains. The Red Army was slowly; but firmly, being pushed back. On 14 March, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry had crossed the Hangchon River and on the 15th, Seoul was recaptured by elements of the 8th Army. New objectives were established to keep the Chinese from rebuilding and resupplying their forces and to advance to the "Kansas Line", which roughly followed the 38th Parallel and the winding Imjin River.

 

On 22 April, 21 Chinese and 9 North Korean divisions slammed into Line Kansas. Their main objective was to recapture Seoul. At the beginning of the Communist attack, the balance of the 1st Cavalry Division remained in reserve until the complete collapse of the ROK Division in the IX Corps sector had left the Seol-Chunchon axis open to the enemy. The 1st Cavalry Division joined in the defense line and the bitter battle to keep the Reds out of the South Korean Capital. On 25 April, elements of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, with "A" Company, 70th Tank Battalion, closed in on the Kapyong area to relieve the hard pressed 27th British Commonwealth Brigade. Stopped at Seoul, on 15 May, the Chinese attempted a go around maneuver in the dark. The 8th Army pushed them back to the Kansas Line and later the First Team moved deeper into North Korea, reaching the base of the "Iron Triangle", an enemy supply area encompassing three small towns.

 

From 09 June to 27 November, the 1st Cavalry took on various rolls in the summer-fall campaign of the United Nations. On 18 July, a year after it had entered the war, the 1st Cavalry Division was assigned to a reserve status. This type of duty did not last for long. On the nights of 21 and 23 September, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 7th Cavalry repulsed waves of Red Chinese with hand to hand fighting. But harder work followed when Operation "Commando", a mission to push the Chinese out of their winter defense positions south of the Yokkok River, was launched.


"Digging in on Old Baldy"
On 03 October, the 1st Team moved out from Line Wyoming and immediately into Chinese fire. For the next two days; hills were taken, lost and retaken. On the third day, the Chinese lines began to break in front of the 7th Cavalry. On 05 October, the 8th Cavalry recaptured Hill 418, a flanking hill on which the northern end of Line Jamestown was anchored. On 10 - 11 October, the Chinese counterattacked; twice, unsuccessfully against the 7th Cavalry. Two days later, the 8th Cavalry took the central pivot of the line, Hill 272. The southern end of Line Jamestown, along with a hill called "Old Baldy", eventually fell to the determined troopers. The troopers did not know it, but Line Jamestown would be their last major combat of the Korean War.

 

On 10 November 1951, the 70th Tank Battalion status of attachment changed and they became permanently assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. By December 1951, the division, after 549 days of continuous fighting, began rotation back to Hokkaido, Japan. The First Team had performed tough duties with honor, pride and valor with distinction.