CHANGJIN JOURNAL CHANGJIN JOURNAL 02.28.02
The Changjin Journal is designed to disseminate and solicit information on the Chosin campaign. Comments and brief essays are invited. Subject matter will be limited to history of the Chosin campaign, as well as past or present interpretation of that history. See End Notes for distribution and other notices. Colonel George A. Rasula, USA-Ret., Chosin Historian, Byron Sims, Contributing Editor
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CHANGJIN JOURNAL 02.28.02
IN THIS ISSUE we take a new look at the Chosin story in an area that has received very little attention in the past, that of Hudong-ni where Colonel MacLean established the first command post of RCT 31 in a Korean schoolhouse south of Hill 1221. The 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry (1/32), was the lead battalion of RCT 31 that arrived east of Chosin on 25 November 1950 to begin the relief of the 5th Marines. The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines (2/5) Marines left the area on 26 November and moved to Yudam-ni where it began the attack to the west on the morning of 27 November, while the remainder of the 5th Marines departed for Yudam-ni on the morning of 27 November, the day additional battalions of RCT 31 arrived east of Chosin.
MOON SHADOWS It was the night of the 27th when the November moon was making shadows on the newly fallen snow. The Medical Company convoy of the 31st Infantry had passed by the Hudong-ni schoolhouse, command post of the 31st RCT, heading north to set up near the forward battalions. Soon, radio sets at the command post began receiving rapid transmissions, with sounds of weapons firing trying to drown out the voices of excited radio operators.
A soldier came into the schoolhouse saying he could hear firing not far to the north, steady firing not random shots. I went out to listen, looked at the moon making its shadows, and quickly realized that there was a small war going on. Far off to the northwest I heard the sounds of cannon fire, my mind immediately visualizing artillery of the Marines in that direction at Yudam-ni.
Then one of the medics came rushing to the CP saying his company had been ambushed and had taken serious casualties. They needed help. About that time BGen. Hodes was awakened from his cot behind the screen in the operations center, where Col. MacLean preferred to sleep. On this night MacLean had gone forward to his newly established forward CP, the one we called the Jump CP behind the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry (1/32). Or maybe it was because he preferred to be forward with his troops rather than back in the rear with a brigadier from division breathing down his neck.
At that moment it was nearly impossible to brief the general on the situation because it was changing every second, and the messages were so garbled we didn't know exactly what was going on. Every time we made contact and asked questions, the answers would be cut off in mid-sentence. FM radios were near impossible for some reason. To get accurate answers to the general's questions was to go north and ask, but that was not possible once we learned what happened to Medical Company on that hairpin around Hill 1221. The enemy picked a perfect spot for an ambush and we wouldn't know until the next day how serious it was. The general said we would send Tank Company north after daylight to help the forward battalions, while others were concerned at the moment about Hill 1221 that wasn't very far from the schoolhouse.
That's the way it was the night of the full moon, the night we didn't know what was going on. It was a guessing game until daylight when we could gather the casualties from the Medical Company ambush and learn what had happened and get air support to find out what the battalions were doing.
LTC Anderson appointed Major Witte as coordinator of security at Hudong-ni. We had arrived with an assortment of units, not sure how many were present because units were still on the way. The headquarters commandant, Major Frank Fife, was still on the road with his administrative and supply group. Service Battery of the 57th FA Battalion had set up its supply point about halfway to Hagaru-ri, while another attached artillery unit, A Battery of the 31st Artillery Battalion (A/31FA), a 155 outfit, was still on the road - somewhere. Col. Reidy's 2nd Battalion (2/31) was also on the road far to the rear, which revealed the vulnerability of the entire RCT at the moment the enemy attacked. From our limited knowledge, the Marine situation seemed to be better since they had two regiments at Yudam-ni.
Before daylight I went outside again to watch the moon cast its shadows, anxious to see if any of them were moving. A winter war was upon us; white on white was hard to see. I was reminded of the previous winter training in Hokkaido, and also three winters back on Exercise Yukon in Alaska, and the experience of skiing in moonlight, at other times in a total whiteout. I couldn't resist thinking of a famous battle in the history of my family heritage, when the Finns annihilated two Russian divisions during a similar early winter of 1939, and doing it with only one division. Was this the year for the "Kiinalainen Motti" - the Chinese encirclement?
When our staff prepared RCT 31 Operation Order 25 for continuing the attack north, I recall studying the map covering both sides of the reservoir. The contour lines of a mountain pass showed many more switchbacks than we experienced coming up the Funchilin Pass, ideal terrain for a grand "motti" against a marine column. But the Chinese apparently didn't think that way. Instead, they blocked the route west of Yudam-ni on the morning of 7 November and revealed to the Marines they were there in strength. Although we may call it the enemy's first mistake, it was unavoidable because the U.N. forces were moving north and they were moving south. This became an engagement with initial success awarded to the outfit that knew the most about his enemy.
As I warmed myself over an open fire I realized not everyone was warm. Many were feeling the heat of adrenalin racing through their blood from the excitement of sudden combat. Fifty years later, the mind recalls that excitement, but any thrill is quickly subdued by thoughts of a nearby buddy who wouldn't see the light of the next day, 28 November.
Many years after the Chosin campaign we read various versions of battles, always wondering what really happened, where and when. Authors have offered us interpretations based on their sources with very little detail being published about Hudong-ni and the role it played in the campaign. Almost two decades have past since the early books on Chosin were published, books by Hammel, Appleman, Blair and others. Since that time many survivors of the campaign have surfaced to provide new insights which enable us to update history.
END NOTES In the next few issues of the Changjin Journal we will search the memories of a few participants, with names such as Hodes, Lynch, Anderson, Witte, Drake, Hoehn and Rasula.