UN Defensive, 27 June - 15 September 1950. Communist efforts to divide the South Koreans against themselves having failed, the North Koreans decided to attempt their subjugation by military force. At 0400, Sunday, 25 June 1950 (Korean Time), North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel into the Republic and launched their main effort toward the South Korean capital city of Seoul, down the P'och'on-Uijongbu and Yonch'on-Uijongbu corridors. Strong attacks were also directed through Kaesong toward Munsan on the right, and toward Ch'unch'on on the left. On the west coast the Ongjin Peninsula was quickly captured. On the east coast a land column and a small seaborne detachment met near Kangnung.
By 28 June Seoul had fallen, the North Koreans had closed up along the Han River to a point about 20 miles east of Seoul, and had advanced as far as Samchok on the meat coast. By 4 July enemy forces were along the line Suwon-Wonju-Samchok. In withdrawing, the Republic of Korea ("ROK") forces had suffered such serious losses that their attempts to regroup and retain order were almost futile.
On 25 June 1950 the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling "for immediate cessation of hostilities" and "upon the authorities of North Korea to withdraw forthwith their armed forces to the thirty-eighth parallel." When the North Koreans failed to accede to these demands, the Security Council passed a second resolution recommending "that the Members of the United Nations furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and restore the international peace and security in the area."
President Truman announced on 27 June 1950 the t he had ordered American air and naval forces to give cover and support to the South Korean troops (UN Defensive-27 June to 15 September 1950). On the 28th he authorized the Commander in Chief Far East to use certain supporting ground units in Korea, and authorized the U.S. Air Force to conduct missions on specific targets in North Korea. On the 30th the President further authorized the C. in C. Far East to use all forces available to him to repel the invasion, and ordered a naval blockade of the entire coast of Korea.
A Security Council resolution of 7 July 1950 recommended the establishment of a unified command in Korea and requested the United States to designate a commander of these forces. On 8 July President Truman announced the appointment of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as Commander in Chief, United Nations Command (CINCUNC). On 14 July President Rhee placed all ROK security forces under the United Nations commander, an act which consolidated the anti-Communist forces under the United Nations Commend for the purpose of repelling the Communist aggression.
The U.S. forces at MacArthur's disposal included the four divisions in Japanthe 1st Cavalry Division and the 7th, 24th, and 25th Infantry Divisionsand the 29th Regimental Combat Team in Okinawa. The divisions were lacking a third of their infantry and artillery units and almost all their armor units. Existing units were far under strength. Weapons and equipment were war-worn relics of World War II, and ammunition reserves amounted to only a 45-day supply. None of the divisions had reached full combat efficiency, since intensive training had been largely neglected because of occupation duties.
Initial U.S. strategy, dictated by the speed of the North Korean drive and the state of American unpreparedness, was one of trading space for time. On 2 July 1950 Task Force Smith, composed of two rifle companies and a few supporting units of the 24th Division, was flown from Japan to Pusan and moved by train and truck to defensive positions near Osan, 30 miles south of Seoul. Its mission was to fight a delaying action to gain time for the movement of more troops from Japan. On 5 July this small force was attacked by a North Korean division supported by 30 tanks and compelled to withdraw, after a stubborn defense, with heavy losses of men and equipment.
By this time the remaining elements of the 24th Division had reached Korea and were in defensive positions along the Kum River, north of Taejon and 60 miles south of Osan. ROK elements held positions to the east, some 50 miles above Taegu. By 15 July the 25th Division had arrived in Korea and was positioned east of the 24th Division. The 1st Cavalry Division arrived and closed in the P'chang-dong area on 18-19 July. Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, Commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, had been placed in command of all U.S. ground troops in Korea on 13 July, and, at the request of President Rhee, of the South Korean Army as well. As the ground troops of other U.N. members reached Korea, they also were placed under Walker's command.
North Korean forces crossed the Kum River and captured Taejon, an important communications center, on 20 July. U.S. and ROK troops continued to withdraw steadily to the southeast under constant North Korean pressure. During the withdrawal our Army's 3.5-inch rocket launcher was used (for the first time on a battlefield) with highly successful results against North Korean tanks. It was in this period that the 24th Division commander, Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, was reported missing when North Korean tanks broke through the forward unite of his division. It was learned later that he had been captured about 35 miles south of Taejon on 25 August.
The final days of July 1950 witnessed a series of hard-fought battles all along the 200-mile front of the United Nations perimeter. The northern front, a line running inland from Yongdok through Andong, Yech'on, Hamch'ong, and Hwanggan to Kumch'on, was defended at critical points by ROK troops and the U.S. 25th Division. The 1st Cavalry Division was battling on the west flank to keep the Yongdong-Kumch'on-Taegu rail line open. To block the southwestern approaches to Pusan, which the enemy was threatening, the 29th RCT advanced to Chinju, but was ambushed by a North Korean division and suffered heavy losses. Enemy pressure continued from Yosu and Chinju in the southwest to Kwan-ni on the Taejon-Taegu railroad, thence northeast through Yech'on to Yongdok on the Sea of Japan.
By the beginning of August the U.S. and ROK forces had withdrawn behind the Naktong River, a position which the U.N. Command was determined to hold. The area heldin southeastern Korea resembled a rectangle, the southwestern side of which was guarded by the 24th and 25th Divisions to prevent a breakthrough to Masan. The 1st Cavalry Division was deployed on the western front to guard the Taegu railroad approaches. The northern front was defended by ROK divisions from a point south of Hamch'ang to a point just south of Yongdok on the east coast.
Early in August General Walker declared the strategy of trading space for time to be at an end, and ordered a final stand along this 140-mile perimeter around the port of Pusan, which had become a well-stocked Eighth Army supply base and the hub of a rail and road net leading to the battle front. By now the enemy's lengthened supply lines were under constant air attack, enemy naval opposition had been wiped out, and the blockade of the Korean coast had been clamped tight.
During the next month and a half, fourteen North Korean divisions dissipated their strength in piecemeal attacks against the Pusan perimeter. Walker, by rapidly shuttling his forces to meet the greatest threats, inflicted heavy casualties on the North Koreans and prevented serious penetrations. The enemy, determined to annihilate the Eighth Army and take Taegu and Pusan, massed for a two-pronged attack across the Naktong, one prong from the west and the other from the southwest. The principal actions were fought along the river from Waegwan south through Song-dong and Ch'irhyon-ni to the junction of the Naktong and Nam Rivers, and southwest toward Haman and Chinju.
While U.S. troops were fighting along the banks of the Naktong, other battles took place in the southwest. A veteran North Korean division, which had been concentrated for an assault upon Susan and Pusan, was hit by Task Force Kean. Named for the 25th Division Commander, the Task Force was composed of the 5th RCT, the 35th RCT of the 25th Division, the 1st Marine Brigade, and a ROK battalion. It opened a strong counteroffensive on 7 August 1950 to secure the left funk of the perimeter and prevent the enemy from driving on Pusan. Overcoming initial heavy resistance, it defeated the North Koreans and by 11 August commanded the high ground to the east of Chinju.
On the eastern flank of the perimeter the town of Yongdok was lost by ROK units, some of which then had to be evacuated by sea. On 12 August the port of P'chang-dong was attacked by enemy forces led by tanks which mounted screaming sirens. This force poured through a break in the R0K lines and linked up with North Korean advance agents in the port. These agents, disguised as innocent-looking refugees, carried mortars, machineguns, and other weapons in oxcarts, on A-frames and on their persons. While a force of North Koreans took P'chang-dong, the adjoining airstrip, of great importance to the U.N. forces as a base for tactical aircraft. On 13 August the danger was so pressing that all aircraft were evacuated. Within the next five days, however, ROK troops and a small U.S. task force recaptured P'chang-dong and returned it to U.N. control.
During this time a much larger force of North Koreans breached the U.N. positions at some paints in the Naktong River sector, but failed in their attempt to capture the rail junctions at Taegu. To hold a line near the river, Walker rearranged the defensive positions of the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the 1st Marine Brigade, deploying them in a manner which assigned combat zones of 15-30 miles to each division.
The enemy, continuing his efforts to crack the perimeter, massed several divisions above Waegwan to assault Taegu from the north. Despite a bombing raid in which U.N. air forces dropped 850 tons of bombs on the suspected enemy concentration area, the North Koreans launched a powerful attack which carried through the ROK positions and threatened Taegu. Stalwart defense and swift countermeasures in this area on 19 August saved Taegu from almost certain capture, parried the enemy 's three-pronged thrust at the city, and stopped the momentum of the North Korean offensive.
Shortly before midnight on 31 August enemy forces again attacked the Naktong River Line, this time in tremendous force. Disregarding very heavy casualties from U.N. air force bombing and strafing, they mounted a strong offensive against the entire Pusan beachhead from Haman in the south to P'chang-dong in the northern sector. The port of P'chang-dong was captured on 6 September, but again the Communists failed to capture the airfield. Waegwan and the "walled city" of Kasan were lost as the U.N. defenders fell back for a last ditch stand at Taegu. Between 4 and 11 September the enemy made important gains along the Naktong in some of the heaviest fighting of the war; but U.N. forces blunted the drive on Taegu and began to show slow progress of their own against very strong enemy resistance.
On the southern front the North Korean offensive, which opened with a massive artillery barrage near Haman, struck the 25th Division with tanks and waves of infantry, imperiling its forward positions. However, although the enemy had made impressive gains along the U.N. perimeter and General Walker still had to shuttle his units from one critical area to another, a strong beachhead remained in the hands of the U.N. Command.
By mid-August the offensive capability of the Eighth Army had been augmented by the arrival of the U.S. 2d Division, the 1st Marine Brigade, four battalions of medium tanks from the United States, and the 5th RCT from Hawaii. Before the month was out, five ROK divisions were restored to some semblance of order, and Great Britain committed the 27th Brigade from Hong Kong. With the arrival of these reinforcements an attempt could now be made to end the U.N. withdrawal and to begin a U.N. offensive in southeastern Korea.
UN Offensive, 16 September - 2 November 1950. MacArthur planned an amphibious landing at Inch' on, a port of the Yellow Sea 25 miles west of Seoul, to be followed by an advance to recapture the city and block North Korean troop movements and supply routes there. Concurrently the Eighth Army was to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and move northward, driving the North Koreans into the Inch'on landing forces which would be driving south. Maj. Gen. Edward M. Almond, commander of the newly activated X Corps, was to be in command of the invasion troops.
Early on 15 September a Marine battalion of the let Marine Division (which had loaded in Japan for the Inch'on Landing), covered by strong air strikes and naval gunfire, quickly captured Wolmi Island, just offshore from Inch'on. By afternoon, Marine assault waves rode the high tide into the port itself (UN Offensive16 September to 2 November 1950). The remainder of the 1st Marine Division disembarked and pressed toward Kimpo Airfield, the Han River, and Seoul. The 7th Infantry Division came ashore; some elements turned southeastward toward Suwon, south of Seoul, while the remainder of the division joined the Marines in the advance toward Seoul. Kimpo Airfield was captured by the 18th, and put in use by the cargo-carrying planes of the Far East Air Forces to augment the stream of supplies being landed by the Navy at Inch'on. The 187th RCT was flown into Kimpo Airfield to strengthen U.N. defenses in that area. After heavy fighting between advancing U.N. forces and the determined North Korean forces, which had resolved to fight for Seoul street by street, MacArthur announced on 26 September that the city was again in friendly hands; but fighting continued there for several days. On 29 September MacArthur returned Seoul to President Rhee in a ceremony held in the blackened capitol building.
The Eighth Army began its offensive northward on 16 September. The ROK I and II Corps were in position on the north side of the perimeter. The U.S. I Corps, composed to the 1st Cavalry Division, the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade, the 24th Division, and the 1st ROK Division, was on the Taegu front. The remainder of the Eighth Army, positioned along the Naktong, included the U.S. 2d and 25th Divisions and attached ROK units. Progress was limited at first, but as the portent of the converging attacks became clear to the North Koreans, they fled north with heavy losses in men and materiel. Elements of the 7th Division (X Corps) and the 1st Cavalry Division (Eighth Army) made contact late on 26 September just south of Suwon, thus effecting a juncture of U.N. forces. Organized enemy resistance continued in the Eighth Army sector until the last days of September. Although large numbers of enemy troops escaped through the eastern mountains, more than 100,000 prisoners were captured during this period; by 30 September the North Korean Army had ceased to exist as an organized force below the 38th parallel. However, remnants of the army, fighting as guerrillas, continued to pose a considerable threat to the security of the U.N. forces.
During the latter part of September the Eighth Army was reinforced by a battalion each of Philippine and Australian troops. Early in October the U.S. 3d Division arrived in the Far East.
Meanwhile Walker's ROK I Corps crossed the 38th parallel on 1 October 1950 and advanced up the east coast, capturing Wonsan, North Korea's major seaport, on 10 October. The R0K II Corps also crossed the parallel and advanced northward through central Korea. In the west, Walker's remaining forces relieved the X Corps in the Seoul area and crossed the parallel on 9 October toward P'yongyang. By mid-October the U.N. forces had penetrated about 20 miles into North Korean territory.
In the second half of October 1950 the advance quickened as enemy resistance weakened and thousands of enemy troops surrendered. U.N. objectives were the destruction of the remaining Communist divisions and the capture of important North Korean cities. ROK troops spread through central and east Korea. Some turned north toward the industrial area centering around Hamhung and Hungnam, others west along the Wonsan-P'yongyang road. In the west the 1st Cavalry Division, after fighting through pill box defenses at Kumch'on, a few miles north of the parallel, progressed up the Seoul-P'yongyang railroad. The 24th Division drove to the south bank of the Taedong River in the vicinity of Chinnamp'o, the port for P'yongyang. The 1st Cavalry and 1st ROK Divisions entered P'yongyang on 19 October and secured the city in the next forty-eight hours. On 20 October the 187th Airborne RCT, complete with vehicles and howitzers, dropped on Sukch'on and Sunch'on, about 30 miles above the city of P'yongyang, to trap North Koreans fleeing northward. In northwest Korea a ROK regiment, leading the advance of the Eighth Army, entered the town of Ch'osan on 26 October, thereby becoming the first U.N. element to reach the Yalu River. Farther south additional U.N. forces crossed the Ch'ongch'on River at Sinanju and pushed toward the Manchurian border. For all practical purposes the North Korean Army had dissolved by the last week in October, and had melted away in the mountains adjacent to Manchuria and the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile Almond's X Corps had been withdrawn from combat and prepared for amphibious landings on the east coast of Korea. Since the rapid advance of ROK ground units and the fall of Wonsan made a combat landing there unnecessary, the 1st Marine Division carried out an administrative landing at Wonsan on 26 October, despite the heavily mined harbor which caused a long delay in unloading. On 29 October the 7th Division landed unopposed at Iwon, 80 miles farther north.
General Almond, adding the ROK I Corps to his command, set out to capture the industrial and communications areas, the port installations, and the power and irrigation plants of northeastern Korea. The ROK I Corps moved up the coastline toward Ch'ongjin, 120 miles north of Iwon. The 1st Marine Division moved 50 miles north of Hamhung and its port of Hungnam, then turned inland toward the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir, 45 miles to the northwest. Elements of the 7th Division attacked northwestward toward the Pujon Reservoir and the Yalu River.
CCF Intervention, 3 November 1950 - 24 January 1951. On 1 November Chinese elements were identified south of the Changjin Reservoir, and within ten days twelve divisions of the Chinese Communist Forces were identified. In the northwest, strong enemy attacks against the Eighth Army smashed the ROK divisions. Very hard fighting took place near Ch'osan, Unsan, and Tokch'on. While the 24th Division pulled back to Chongju on the west coast, the 1st Cavalry and 2d Divisions fought along the Ch'ongch'on River. In the air over Korea, U.N. pilots were opposed for the first time by speedy Russian MIG-15 Jet fighters.
By 10 November, as the Chinese attacks were abating, the Eighth Army and the X Corps conducted only small-scale operations, and a comparative lull hung over much of the front. By 21 November elements of the U.S. 7th Division occupied Hyesanjin on the Yalu River in northeastern Korea, the most northerly point to be reached by U.S. forces during the war. The ROK Capital Division meanwhile progressed rapidly up the east coast to the Naman-So-dongarea. By 24 November the U.N. positions extended from So-dong in the northeast to Hyesanjin on the Yalu, and thence in a southwesterly direction through the areas around Sang-ni, Handae, Yudam-ni, Yongwen, Ipsok, Patch'on and south of Chongju to the Yellow Sea.
Previous to the entry of Chinese forces in North Korea, MacArthur had ordered the Eighth Army and the X Corps on 24 October to attack toward the Manchurian border and restore peace in Korea before the onset of winter. The difficulty of securing adequate logistical support delayed the attack. In the latter part of the month, brief clashes with Chinese troops posed a new threat. The purpose and extent of the Chinese intervention was not yet clear; but in the face of this new opposition, Walker had withdrawn his extended forces back to the lower bank of the Ch'onch'on River, leaving only a small bridgehead above Sinanju.
The fact of Chinese participation in the conflict caused MacArthur to reconsider his plans for an all-out attack to the Yalu River, but not to abandon them. Walker's forces were to move northward through western and central Korea, while Almond's troops were to attack to the northwest to cut the enemy line of communications and give maximum assistance to the Eighth Army. On 24 November the Eighth Army, with the ROK II Corps, launched its planned offensive. For the first twenty-four hours little enemy opposition was encountered, but on the next day enemy troops initiated a violent counterattack against the Eighth Army in the mountainous territory surrounding the central North Korean town of Tokch'on. The X Corps began its attack early on 27 November, and had made slight advances before evening, when a second enemy force, moving down both sides of the Changjin Reservoir, struck at the 1st Marine Division and elements of the U.S. 7th Division.
It was quickly apparent that the bulk of the enemy forces were organized Chinese Communist units. It was now evident to the UN Commend that the Chinese had amassed two large armies in northern Korea, by marching them from Manchuria under cover of darkness and expertly camouflaging them during the day. They were comparatively safe from detection by UN air observers in the rugged mountain terrain, and UN aircraft were prohibited from making reconnaissance flights across the frontier. Thus the strength of the attacking Chinese forces came as a surprise to most of the U.N. Command.
The main enemy effort was directed against the ROK II Corps, which collapsed under the weight of the Chinese assault. As the Communists strove to extend their breakthrough of the U.N. line, Walker rushed his reserve units (the 1st Cavalry Division, the Turkish Brigade, and the British 27th Commonwealth and 29th Independent Infantry Brigades) to the area, but failed to stem the Communist advance. Assaulted by wave after wave of enemy troops, the Eighth Army front withdrew south across the Ch'ongch'on River. These forces, fighting hand to hand with the enemy along the river banks and retreating over reads choked with troops, refugees, trucks, and tanks, suffered heavy losses. The U.S. 2d Division wee assigned to fight a delaying action until other units could retire and regroup in defensive positions near P'yongyang. On 5 December the Eighth Army fell back from P'yongyang to positions about 25 miles south of the city. By the middle of December it had withdrawn below the 38th parallel and formed a defensive perimeter north and east of Seoul.
On 27 November 1950 the Chinese began their offensive against the X Corps, attacking the Marine and 7th Division elements in the Changjin Reservoir area with six divisions. Since the most northerly UN unitsthe ROK I Corps, the U.S. 17th Infantry Regiment, and other elements at the Yalumight be cut off by the weight of the Chinese offensive, the X Corps was forced to withdraw these elements. Troops at the reservoir were also ordered to fall back. MacArthur then ordered Almond to concentrate the X Corps in the Hamhung-Hungnam area; and early in December directed the Corps to withdraw to South Korea by a waterborne evacuation.
Most of the Corps reached the port of Hungnam without serious incident. However, some 14,000 men of the 1st Marine and 7th Infantry Divisions were trapped in the Hagaru-Kot'o area and were forced to fight their way to the coast along a narrow escape route. As the main column progressed along the road, a provisional battalion of marines and soldiers, aided by close and efficient air support, cleared the Chinese Communist forces from the high ground which dominated the road. Almond sent Task Force Dog, a reinforced battalion of the 3d Division, forward to Chinhung to relieve the Marine battalion there and to assist the withdrawal by providing support and rear guard action. Air Force, Navy, and Marine cargo planes parachuted daily airdrops of ammunition, food, and medicines to the column, and evacuated battle casualties. Fighter elements bombed and strafed the enemy-held mountainsides and Communist troop concentrations. On 9 December 1950 the two forces met in the mountains a few miles south of Kot'o and both moved toward Hamhung to be evacuated.
The water movement of the X Corps from North Korea required 173 vessels. About 350,000 measurement tons of cargo, including 17,500 vehicles, were salvaged; some 105,000 troops and more than 98,000 civilians were evacuated from Hungnam, Songjin, and Wonsan. Evacuation began on 11 December and was completed on 24 December, despite constant enemy fire and observation.
The Hungnam evacuation left North Korea once again controlled by Communist forces. Before the enemy renewed his attacks, General Walker was killed in an auto accident north of Seoul (23 December 1950). On 26 December Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway succeeded him in command of the Eighth Army in Korea.
On 30 December MacArthur warned the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Chinese Communist forces could drive the U.N. forces out of Korea if they so desired. The United States, although anxious to avoid a full-scale war in Korea, was also determined to resist the Chinese-North Korean aggressors. Therefore the Joint Chiefs ordered MacArthur to defend his positions; to retire, if forced to, through a series of defensive positions as far back as the former Pusan Perimeter Line; to inflict as much damage as possible on the enemy; and to maintain his units intact. If necessary to avoid severe losses, he was authorized to withdraw to Japan.
Within this framework of operations, MacArthur invested General Ridgway with complete authority to plan and execute operations in Korea, and ceased the close supervision which he had formerly exercised over the Eighth Army and the X Corps. The latter, which had heretofore been a separate command, was assigned to the Eighth Army, thus placing all U.N. ground forces under that army's control. By this time fifteen nations of the U.N. had troops in Koreathe United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, France, Greece, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, Belgium, and Sweden. As 1951 began, U.N. ground forces numbered about 495,000, of which 270,000 were ROK troops. The U.N. Command estimated that the enemy had about 486,000 men, 21 Chinese and 12 North Korean divisions, committed to the Korean front, and more than a million enemy troops stationed in reserve near the Yalu.
In late December, Ridgway, in establishing the defensive line along the 38th parallel, concentrated the bulk of the Eighth Army in the central and western sectors because of the obvious enemy concentration above Seoul. The west flank was held by the I Corps; the central sector by the IX Corps; and the ROK I, II, and III Corps held the eastern mountainous sector. The X Corps was reorganizing near Pusan. The 1st Marine Division, until recently a part of the X Corps, was held in Eighth Army reserve.
At daybreak on 1 January 1951, after a night of mortar and artillery bombardment, the enemy launched an attack all along the U.N. line. The main effort was directed against the U.S. I and IX Corps in the west and central sectors. A force of seven Chinese armies and two North Korean corps pushed deeply into the U.N. line toward Seoul in the west and Wonju in the center.
As the offensive gained momentum, Ridgway ordered the U.N. forces to fall back to a line which ran along the south bank of the frozen Han River to Yangp'yang, through Hongch'on and Chunmunjin to the Sea of Japan. A delaying force remained around Seoul to deny the enemy use of the Han River bridges. When the attacking forces, following up their initial success, crossed the Han to the east and west of Seoul, it became clear that the Seoul bridgehead could not be held any longer. Ridgway, following a policy of rolling with the punch rather then risking destruction by defending in place, decided to withdraw south to a line in the vicinity of the 37th parallel on 3 January. This line ran from P'yongt'aek, east through Ansong, northeast to Wonju, and in an irregular trace to the east coast town of Samch'ok. When Seoul fell on 4 January, the port of Inch'on was also evacuated.
After the fall of Seoul, Chinese attacks tapered off in the west. Many enemy units were shifted eastward so as to be in position to attack southwestward behind the U.S. I and IX Corps, and capture Wonju and the railroad and highway between Hongch'on and Pusan, the main U.N. north-south supply route. Wonju was abandoned by U.N. forces on 7 January. By 10 January large numbers of the enemy had phased through the gap and into the defensive zone of the ROK III Corps. To meet this threat Ridgway ordered the 1st Marine Division to prevent the enemy penetration from north of the Andong-Yongdok road on the east, and to protect the supply routes of the ROK units.
In the western sector, which was comparatively quiet, Ridgway planned Operation WOLFHOUND, a reconnaissance in force in the I Corps sector, to reestablish contact and secure more exact information about the enemy. On 15 January the task forcethe 27th Infantry Regiment, reinforcedadvanced northward along the Seoul highway toward Osan. On the 16th it reached Suwon with practically no opposition. Satisfied by the reconnaissance, the U.N. Command ordered the task force to withdraw south.
By the third week in January the situation in the central and eastern sectors had eased, and pressure on our troops was gradually decreasing. However, although quiet prevailed on the front, air reconnaissance revealed that the enemy was accumulating reserves of supplies and bringing up thousands of replacements.
First UN Counteroffensive, 25 January - 21 April 1951. A reconnaissance in force by elements of the 1st Cavalry Division on 22 January revealed that the enemy had withdrawn from frontline positions. The task force returned after having met little resistance. Ridgway then scheduled a larger reconnaissance in force, Operation THUNDERBOLT, with each Corps using one U.S. division and one ROK regiment. The operation began on 25 January and advanced slowly and cautiously against light resistance during the rest of the month. U.N. air support destroyed points of resistance and the enemy's lines of communication were subjected to damaging attacks, which kept a large part of his supplies from reaching the front. By 30 January his resistance stiffened and it continued to be vigorous until 9 February. Then it abruptly gave way. By 10 February U.N. forces secured Inch'on and Kimpo airfield, and the U.S. I Corps closed up to the south bank of the Han River.
On the central front, U.N. armored patrols reached the deserted city of Wonju and elements of the X Corps captured Hoengsong on 2 February against light resistance. On 5 February the X Corps began Operation ROUNDUP, a plan calling for ROK units of the Corps to disrupt the regrouping of North Korean forces south of the town of Hongch'on. On the second day of the attack the ROK units met stiffening resistance, and pressure on the X Corps increased steadily as signs pointed to a large enemy buildup on its front. On the night of 11-12 February, Chinese Communist forces struck the ROK divisions north of Hoengsong and made immediate penetrations which forced the ROK troops to fall back rapidly. U.N. troops withdrew south toward Wonju and abandoned Hoengsong on 13 February. On this same day enemy forces struck at Chip'yong-ni, a road junction and key point of the central zone. The U.S. 23d Infantry Regiment and the French Battalion, forming a defensive perimeter around the town, held off a force of three Chinese Communist divisions for three days before enemy pressure melted away. Meanwhile elements of the U.S. 7th Division and ROK units formed a defensive line north of Chech'on, to check a strong enemy force attacking northeast of Wonju.
In the west the U.S. I and IX Corps were gradually taking all ground in the zones up to the Han River, except for a sizeable enemy foothold south of the Han in an area between Seoul and Yangp'yong. On the night of 13-14 February the enemy launched a powerful counterattack from this area toward Suwon, but his effort was quickly contained with heavy losses to his troops. Meanwhile areas far to the south were being harassed by guerrilla and remnants of North Korean troops. U.N. counteractions succeeded in reducing these forces to about 18,000 by the end of February.
On 18 February combat patrols confirmed a report of the IX Corps that enemy forces along the entire central front were withdrawing. Thereupon Ridgway ordered the IX Corps to move forward, which it did against light scattered resistance. By 19 February the initiative all along the front had passed into U.N. hands.
Ridgway was determined to give the North Koreans and Chinese Communists neither rest nor opportunity to reorganize. On 21 February he launched a general advance (Operation KIILER) by the U.S. IX and X Corps to deny important positions to the enemy and to destroy as many enemy troops as could be found. The objective was a line running eastward from Yangp'yong to the Han River east of Seoul, thence to points north of Chip'yong-ni and Hwangsong-ni, and thence eastward so as to secure the east-west portion of the Wonju-Kangnung road between Wonju and Pangnimni.
Advances in both Corps zones were slow and unspectacular. The spring thaw and heavy rains caused swollen streams and deep mud which greatly hampered military operations. By 28 February the U.N. forces advanced to their assigned objectives, and the Communist foothold south of the Han collapsed. By 1 March the entire Eighth Army line was relatively stable.
Although the Eighth Army had attained its geographical objectives by 1 March, a large part of the enemy had succeeded in withdrawing during the bad weather which had disrupted Allied road and rail movement. With approval by MacArthur, Ridgway planned to continue the attack northward in the central and eastern sectors with Operation RIPPER, to seize Hongch'on and Ch'unch'on and a line designated IDAHO just south of the 38th parallel.
RIPPER began on 7 March 1951. After overcoming initial resistance, the IX Corps reached the first phase line on 11 March and began the attack to the second phase line on the 14th. U.N. patrols moved into the deserted city of Seoul on the night of 14-15 March, marking the fourth time that the capital had changed hands. In the X Corps zone, terrain rather than hostile forces proved to be the greatest obstacle; but despite the enemy and natural obstacles Operation RIPPER ground forward. In the east, ROK units were ordered to destroy the remnants of a North Korean division which had infiltrated southward in January. By 17 March, with this threat eliminated, the ROK forces had moved to Line IDAHO. UN forces entered Ch'unch'on, an enemy supply and communications center, on 19 March.
On 23 March the 187th Airborne RCT dropped at Munsan-ni, about 20 miles northwest of Seoul, to trap enemy troops fleeing northward; but because of the rapid enemy withdrawal it failed to achieve its purpose.
By the last of March Ridgway's forces had fought their way generally to the 38th parallel in position along line IDAHO. Again the U.N. Command was faced with the problem of crossing the parallel into North Korea.
Ridgway, with the approval of President Truman and MacArthur, elected to continue the advance, with the hope of achieving maximum destruction of enemy forces. U.N. commanders made their plans to advance with the knowledge that the enemy was engaged in a full-scale buildup of troops and materiel for his expected spring offensive.
On 5 April Ridgway opened Operation RUGGED, a general advance toward a new objective line called KANSAS. This line, running along the commanding ground north of the 38th parallel, was 115 miles long, including 14 miles of tidal water on the left flank and the 10-mile water barrier of the Hwach'on Dam in the center. By 9 April, the U.S. I and IX Corps and the ROK I Corps on the east coast had reached Line KANSAS, and the U.S. X and ROK III Corps in the central and central-east sectors were drawing up to it. The I and IX Corps continued to advance, attacking Ch'orwon, with the intention of seizing a line designated UTAH, an outward bulge of KANSAS, so as to be in a position to strike at the ''Iron Triangle."
On 11 April President Truman relieved General MacArthur of all his commands because of differences over national policy and military strategy, and replaced him with General Ridgway. Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet assumed command of the Eighth Army on 14 April, replacing Ridgway.
Meanwhile U.N. forces continued to edge forward. The Hwach'on Dam was taken on 16 April. On the east coast South Korean forces captured Taep'o-ri. Other ROK troops north of Seoul sent patrols across the Imjin River and far to the northeast. By 17 April U.N. units could not make contact with the enemy, and thereafter the general advance toward Line UTAH was virtually unopposed. Even as it continued, however, evidences of enemy preparations for a counterattack were apparent to the Eighth Army Command. By 19 April all U.S. I and IX Corps units were in positions Along Line UTAH, preparing for an advance to a new Line WYOMING.
CCF Spring Offensive, 22 April - 8 July 1951. On 22 April enemy activity across the whole front suddenly increased and the U.N. advance halted abruptly. The expected spring offensive was at hand.
Following a four-hour artillery bombardment, three Chinese Communist armies attacked the U.N. line in the evening hours of 22 April. The main attack was against the U.S. I and IX Corps in the Seoul sector, coupled with a secondary thrust in the central Yonch'on-Hwach'on area and a p w hin the seat near Inje. U.N. lines held firm except in the IX Corps central sector, where ROK units were forced back in confusion. With the line broken, Van Fleet ordered the I and IX Corps to withdraw through a series of delaying positions to Line KANSAS, thus giving up the ground gained in recent U.N. offensives. When the enemy cut the Seoul-Kaesong highway on 26 April, Van Fleet withdrew the IX Corps back to the Hongch'on River.
Meanwhile, in the I Corps area, the enemy crossed the Imjin River on 22 April and drove the ROK unite south of the KANSAS Line on the 23d. On 27 April the enemy outflanked Uijongbu, forcing U.N. units to pulls back to within four miles of Seoul, and also made an unsuccessful attempt to outflank the city to the east. On the east-central front North Koreans captured Inje. By 29 April, however, their drive had been halted. On this date Van Fleet established a new line, designated NONAME-LINE, extending from north of Seoul to Sabangue and thence northeast across the 38th parallel to Taepo-ri on the east coast. Because the major enemy attack had been in the west, Van Fleet reshuffled his units to put more American divisions there. By the end of April, U.N. forces had stopped the enemy short of Seoul and the Han and held a strong, continuous defense line.
As the enemy withdrew to recoup losses, Van Fleet improved his defenses on NO-NAME-LINE and planned an offensive to carry the Eighth Army back to Line KANSAS; but signs of another impending enemy attack led him to postpone it.
On the night of 15-16 May an estimated 21 Chinese divisions, flanked by 3 North Korean divisions in the west and 6 in the east, struck in the central sector against the U.S. X and the ROK III Corps in the Naep'yong-niNo-dong area. ROK units were again forced back by the swarming columns of Chinese and North Koreans. Once more Van Fleet reshuffled his units, moved in reserves, and laid down a tremendous curtain of artillery fire which exacted heavy casualties and stopped the enemy offensive.
On 17 May the enemy struck down the Pukhan River toward the Han in the western sector, against the I and IX Corps, with a force of about 250,000 men. This attack was also contained after three days of violent action. By 20 May U.N. troops brought the enemy to a standstill, having thus stopped two major offensives in two months.
Van Fleet decided to renew the offensive, so as to give the enemy no chance to gather himself for another counterstrike. On 18 May he opened a series of local attacks. Once more enemy forces pulled back and U.N. forces moved forward against light resistance. Within a few days the I Corps reached the Imjin River north of Munsan-ni and entered Uijongbu and Sinp'al-li. The IX Corps pushed toward Kap'yong, drove the enemy across the Hanch'on River, and moved toward the Hwach'on Reservoir. In the X Corps area the 1st Marine Division attacked Yanggu on 24 May. The 187th RCT headed for Inje, which it captured on the 27th. The Marines were pushing toward the Hwach' on Reservoir and Yanggu. The 7th Division of the I Corps took Hwach'on. By 31 May the U.N. forces scored a significant advance which brought them just about back to the KANSAS Line, and South Korea was virtually cleared of the enemy.
At this point the Joint Chiefs of Staff prescribed that the Eighth Army was not to go beyond the general vicinity of Line KANSAS. The only tactical operations permitted were those necessary to protect itself, to maintain contact, and to harass the enemy. This was the basic pattern of U.N. military operations which was to be followed throughout the remainder of the war.
On 1 June, therefore, Van Fleet ordered his reserve forces to strengthen KANSAS so as to make it virtually impregnable. Meanwhile the I and IX Corps were to continue Operation PILEDRIVER toward Line WYOMING (the bulge north of KANSAS that ran from the Imjin River to points just south of Ch'orwon and Kumhwa and thence southeast). Ch'orwon and Kumhwa were captured on 11 June. Two tank-infantry task fences reached P'yongyang, the northern tip of the Iron Triangle, on 13 June and found it deserted. The dominating high ground north of the city was held by the enemy, however, and U.N. forces withdrew. The Chinese reoccupied P'yongyang on 17 June. Meanwhile the X Corps on the east-central front pushed through mountains toward its sector of the KANSAS Line, which extended over a series of ridges from the Hwach'on Reservoir northeastward to the lower lip of the "Punchbowl," an aptly named circular depression north of Inje. Thus by mid-June the Eighth Army had attained the principal terrain objectives of Operation PILEDRIVER. Action for the rest of the month was confined to developing the KANSAS and WYOMING Lines, and to patrolling and local clashes.
UN Summer-Fall Offensive, 9 July-27 November 1951. On 23 June 1951 Jacob Malik, Deputy Foreign Minister of the U.S.S.R., made a statement in a recorded broadcast in New York implying Chinese and North Korean willingness to discuss armistice terms to end the Korean War. When Communist China indicated that it also desired peace, President Truman authorized General Ridgway to arrange for an armistice conference with the North Korean commander. Both aides agreed to begin negotiations at Kaesong on 10 July 1951. The chief delegate for the U.N. at the conference was Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy. The enemy delegation was led by Lt. Gen. Nam Il.
It was agreed at the first meeting that military operations would continue until an armistice agreement was signed. However, neither aide was willing to start any large-scale offensive while peace talks were in progress. U.N. military action in this period was limited to combat patrolling, artillery and air bombardment, and the repulsing of enemy attacks.
In August of 1951 the strength of all U.N. ground forces under Eighth Army command totaled 549,224. This included 248,320 U.S. ground troops, Army and Marines, 268,320 in the ROK Army, and 32,874 in the ground units of the seventeen other United Nations.
Truce negotiations were broken off by the Communists on 22 August. Van Fleet then launched a series of limited-objective attacks to improve the Eighth Army's defensive positions. The U.S. X and ROK I Corps in east-central Korea fought for terrain objectives five to seven miles above Line KANSAS, among them Bloody and Heartbreak Ridges, to drive enemy forces from positions that favored an attack on Line KANSAS. By the last week in October these objectives had been secured.
Along the western portion of the front, action in September was characterized by local attacks, counterattacks, and combat patrols. By 12 October five divisions of the I Corps had advanced the front three to four miles to a new Line JAMESTOWN to protect the Ch'orwon-Seoul railroad. The IX Corps followed with aggressive patrolling toward Kumsong. On 21 October it seized the commanding heights just southof the city.
On 25 October armistice negotiations were resumed at the new site of Panmunjom.
Second Korean Winter, 28 November 1951 - 30 April 1952. As 1951 drew to a close, a lull had settled over the battlefield. Fighting tapered off to a routine of patrol clashes, raids, and bitter small-unit struggles for key outpost positions. The lull resulted from Ridgway's decision to halt offensive operations in Korea, because the cost of major assaults on the enemy's defenses would be more than the results could justify. Furthermore, the possibility of an armistice agreement emerging from the recently reopened talks ruled out the mounting of any large-scale offensive by either side. On 21 November Ridgway ordered the Eighth Army to cease offensive operations and begin an active defense of its front. Attacks were limited to those necessary to strengthen the main line of resistance and to establish an adequate outpost line.
In the third week of December the U.S. 45th Division, the first National Guard division to fight in Korea, replaced the 1st Cavalry Division in the I Corps sector north of Seoul. The 1st Cavalry Division returned to Japan.
In the air, U.N. bombers and fighter-bombers continued the interdiction campaign (Operation STRANGLE, which the Far East Air Forces had begun on 15 August 1951) against railroad tracks, bridges, and highway traffic. At sea, naval units of nine nations tightened their blockade around the coastline of North Korea. Carrier-based planes blasted railroads, bridges, and boxcars, and destroyers bombarded enemy gun emplacements and supply depots. On the ground, the 155-mile front remained generally quiet in the opening days of 1952. Later in January the Eighth Army opened a month-long artillery-air campaign against enemy positions, which forced the enemy to dig in deeply. During March and April Van Fleet shifted his units along the front to give the ROK Army a greater share in defending the battle line and to concentrate American fire power in the vulnerable western sector.
Korea, Summer-Fall 1952, 1 May - 30 November 1952. In May the enemy became bolder, increasing his probing attacks and patrols, intensifying his artillery fire, and aggressively interrupting U.N. patrols. In May 1952 an estimated total of 102,000 artillery and mortar rounds fell in Eighth Army positions.
As a result of increased Chinese ground action in the 45th Division sector, the division planned an operation to establish eleven patrol bases across its front. Operation COUNTER began on 6 June. By the 7th, ten of the eleven objectives had been taken. The last one (Hi11 191, eight miles west of Ch'orwon) was captured after a 48-hour battle on 14 June. The Chinese immediately launched counterattacks along the entire division front, climaxing their efforts on the night of 28-29 June with an unsuccessful 4-hour attack. The division sustained over 1,000 casualties during the month of June; Chinese losses were estimated at more than 5,000.
Throughout the first half of 1952, the U.N. forces waged a. war of containment. The frontline soldier, meanwhile, hoped that the armistice negotiators would soon reach an agreement.
As the Korean War went into its third year, in June 1952, the deadlock continued. July began with a series of small-scale attacks by both sides. Torrential rains restricted activity in the last week of July and through most of August. For some time the enemy had gradually increased the volume of mortar and artillery fire in support of his attacks, and in September fired a total of 45,000 rounds against the Eighth Army's front.
During the summer of 1952 the air war over Korea intensified. In addition to striking at supply centers, troop concentrations, power plants, factories, and rail and road networks, U.N. aircraft rendered valuable assistance to frontline troops by bombing, or searing with napalm, enemy bunkers, trenches, gun positions, and communications lines. On 29 August the largest U.N. air raid of the Korean War was carried out on P'yongyang, the North Korean capital. During the month of September alone the U.S. Fifth Air Force shot down 64 MIG-15's at a cost of seven Sabrejets.
A series of enemy attacks in October 1952 produced some of the heaviest fighting in more than a year. Most of it centered around two key heights, Hills 281 and 395, northwest of Ch'orwon. The attacks were opened on 6 October with the largest volume of mortar and artillery fire received by the Eighth Army during the war. By 15 October the disputed ground was held firmly by U.N. forces, and the enemy withdrew. Over 2,000 Chinese dead were counted on these two hills after the 10-day battle.
Third Korean Winter, 1 December 1952 - 30 April 1953. Meanwhile the armistice talks had stalled. Discord over several issues, but principally the exchange of prisoners of war, had prevented any agreement in the latter part of 1951. This disagreement was heightened in January 1952. The U.N. delegates proposed to give captives a choice of repatriation, so that those who did not wish to return to Communist control could be repatriated elsewhere. The enemy delegates protested vigorously, insisting that all captives held by the Eighth Army be returned to their side. When the enemy failed to respond to U.N. efforts to settle the question, the U.N. delegation on 7 October called an indefinite recess in the armistice negotiations. Both military operations and armistice talks remained stalemated and, as the year 1952 ended, peace prospects seemed as remote as at its beginning.
Korea, Summer 1953, 1 May - 27 July 1953. There was little activity anywhere along the front as 1953 began. Then, as spring approached, the enemy renewed his attacks against the Eighth Army 's outpost line. By July these attacks had increased in frequency and intensity until they were nearly as heavy as those of May 1951.
In January 1953 Van Fleet had twelve South Korean and eight U.N. divisions to defend the army front. Total strength of combat, service, and security troops was nearly 768,000. Opposing the U.N. forces were seven Chinese armies and two North Korean corps, totaling about 270, 000 troops. Another 531,000 Chinese and North Korean troops remained in reserve. With service and security forces, total enemy strength in Korea was estimated at more than a million men.
Other than a few patrol clashes, little fighting occurred during January and February 1953. On 11 February Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor took command of the Eighth Army as Van Fleet returned to the United States for retirement. The enemy increased his attacks during March, striking at outposts of the 2d and 7th Divisions and the 1st Marine Regiment. During the period 9-10 March the Chinese were successful in ambushing several U.N. patrols, inflicting heavy casualties in each instance. After these flare-ups the front quieted down until late May, when the enemy struck at the outposts of the U.S. 25th Division that were guarding the approaches to the Eighth Army's western positions. Although the enemy was successful in occupying three of the division outposts, he suffered nearly 3,200 casualties.
On the night of 10 June three Chinese divisions struck the ROK II Corps in the vicinity of Kumsong, attacking down both sides of the Pukhan River. Several attacks forced these units to withdraw about two miles. Both sides lost heavily; the Chinese suffered about 6,000 casualties and the ROK units about 7,400. By 18 June the attacks had subsided. By the end of the month, action along the entire front had returned to routine patrolling and light attacks.
Operation LITTLE SWITCH, an exchange of Allied and Communist sick and wounded prisoners, began on 20 April. When it was completed in the latter part of the month, 684 Allied prisoners had been exchanged for more than 6,000 Communists.
Armistice negotiations were resumed in April. The prisoner-of-war question was settled by providing each side an opportunity to persuade those captives who refused repatriation to their homeland to change their minds. By 18 June the terms of the armistice were all but complete; but onthis date President Syngman Rhee ordered the release of 27,000 anti-Communist North Korean prisoners of war unilaterally, in protest against armistice terms which left Korea divided. U.N. officials disclaimed any responsibility for this action; but the enemy delegates denounced it as a serious breach of faith and delayed the final armistice agreement for another month. Enemy forces took advantage of this delay. On 13 July the Chinese launched a three-division attack against the left flank of the ROK II Corps and a one-division attack against the right flank of the U.S. IX Corps, forcing U.N. forces to withdraw about eight miles to positions below the Kumsong River. By 20 July, however, U.N. forces had counterattacked, retaken the high ground along the Kumsong River, and established a new main line of resistance. No attempt was made to restore the original line, as it was believed that the armistice would be signed at any time. Enemy casualties in July totaled about 72,000 men. Out of the five Chinese armies that had been identified in the attacks, the enemy had lost the equivalent of seven divisions.
By 19 July the negotiators at Panmunjom had reached an accord on all points. Details were worked out within a week and the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed at 1000 hours 27 July 1953.