CHANGJIN JOURNAL CHANGJIN JOURNAL 03.25.02
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 03.25.02
IN THIS ISSUE we continue our look at Hudong-ni units and personal experiences of the regimental surgeon who was caught in the ambush of his medical company at Hill 1221 on the first night of the Chinese offensive east of Chosin.
SEPARATE UNIT ORGANIZATION The separate companies of the 31st Infantry Regiment, the base unit of RCT 31, consisted of Headquarters & Headquarters Company, Heavy Tank Company, Heavy Mortar Company, Medical Company and Service Company. In the past historians have placed emphasis on combat units with little left to history about the actions of service support units.
Headquarters & Headquarters Company consisted of the headquarters element (COL MacLean and his staff) with the company element made up of the Intelligence & Reconnaissance Platoon (I&R), Pioneer & Ammunition Platoon (P&A), Antitank & Mine Platoon (ATM), and mess and supply sections. Due to the variety of functions the entire company never moved as a unit.
The lead element to Chosin was the Quartering Party under the Adjutant (S-1) followed by the commander and his operations staff (S-2 and S-3 sections). The mission of the quartering party was to post road guides to the areas units were to occupy. This was more of an administrative movement due to the urgency to get to and relieve the 5th Marines east of Chosin. The lead elements included I&R Platoon which the commander kept in the forefront as his eyes and ears.
When RCT 31 was operating in the Fusen Reservoir area, its organic battalions were about 140 road miles from the Chosin Reservoir. Most roads were no more than mountain trails suitable for oxcarts and jeeps. Because of its location close to the Marine MSR to Chosin, 1st Bn, 32d Infantry (1/32) was attached to the RCT and was already east of Chosin in an assembly area south of Hill 1221, the zone of 2/5 Marines. When COL MacLean arrived he established his RCT's main CP in a schoolhouse at Hudong-ni.
UNITS ARRIVE AT HUDONG-NI During late afternoon of 27 November Tank Company was one of the last combat elements to arrive east of Chosin, settling into a perimeter at Hudong-ni to service the tanks in preparation for the move north the next morning. Other elements of headquarters, medical and service units were still on the move. About 2300 hours a Medical Company convoy was moving around Hill 1221 where it met a Chinese ambush.
The northernmost RCT command element was COL MacLean's forward CP - also called a "Jump CP" - established behind 1/32. Why the colonel elected to be at that location rather than at Hudong remains unclear. This was his first mistake. We know MacLean was not going to launch an attack to the north until the arrival of his third infantry battalion, knowing also that 2/31 was not about to arrive in time to attack the next day. At this forward location the adjutant and commo officer, as well as the sergeant major, were supervising about 30 men erecting tents and digging in the CP. At the same time I&R Platoon was moving into the area northeast of the Inlet to cover the threat from the Fusen Reservoir area where on 6 December the 3/31 had its first encounter with the Chinese.
An assortment of units ended up at Hudong-ni. The intelligence officer (S-2) and operations officer (S-3) were set up in the schoolhouse where on this disastrous night BGEN Henry Hodes, assistant division commander, was sleeping in the operations room, just as GEN Barr had done when he visited the CP near the Fusen Reservoir. Hodes was the senior officer of the 7th Infantry Division present in the Chosin area at the time. He was accompanied by an officer from the G-3 section and one NCO. In this area was Tank Company, a platoon of Company A, 13th Engineer Bn, mess and supply personnel, and eventually a small aid station established by personnel who escaped the Medical Company ambush at Hill 1221. About a mile to the rear was Service Battery, 57th FA Bn, positioned between ammo dump at Hagaru-ri and the artillery batteries at the Inlet.
Further to the rear was the headquarters company commander on the way behind LTC Reidy's 2/31. With him were administrative and supply personnel. Farther back on the move was the Rear CP of RCT 31 under the regimental executive officer, LTC Deshon, with administrative and logistics elements. Another attached unit that never made it to Chosin was a 155mm howitzer battery of the 31st FA Battalion (A/31FA), designated to replace C/57FA that remained with 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry (1/31) near Pukchong. These rapid changes taking place on a very tight time schedule caused many problems years later for historians when they tried to follow a paper trail to determine unit locations. In most cases, such a trail could never be found.
The S-3 (operations) section was near full strength in the schoolhouse CP at Hudong-ni. Newly promoted LTC Berry Anderson, the RCT S-3, was the senior officer. MAJ Carl Witte (S-2) was present with his assistant, CPT William Dowell, although his intelligence sergeant was at the forward "jump" CP with COL MacLean, as were most men of the S-1 section. SGT Joe Wells, S-3 operations sergeant, and his clerk Lucian Choate were also present as witnessed by Wells' initials on the RCT Operations Order 25 that was delivered to the forward battalions late afternoon 27 Nov. by liaison officer LT Rolin Skilton. Later the status of the other two liaison officers was learned: LT Hodges Escue was caught in the Drysdale ambush and made it to Hagaru, while LT William Racek was at the rear CP with LTC Deshon. Supervising the nuts and bolts of the S-3 staff at Hudong was CPT George Rasula, who administered the S-3 section and coordinated the missions of the liaison officers. CPT Ronald Alley, artillery liaison officer from the 57th FA Bn who was normally present in the operations center, had moved to the reservoir with his battalion (later captured). A small supply dump existed at Hudong-ni.
A regimental headquarters of the day did not have enough fat to be spread out in so many locations at such a critical time. The enemy chose a good time to attack because a larger American force, the 5th Marines, had moved to Yudam-ni and in doing so left the axis of the enemy's main effort east of Chosin defended by a much smaller force. From a friendly point of view the move was an advantage to the Marines by creating a more powerful force - the principle of mass - at Yudam-ni by consolidating two Marine regiments. On the other hand, had the enemy followed their original plan of attacking the night of 26 November, they would have been engaging one regiment on each side of the reservoir at a time when the convoys of RCT 31 were yet a half-day from the Chosin. These scenarios make interesting war games for our military schools.
Most units formed perimeters for the night with the RCT disposed for an attack to the north. Command and control was sacrificed when MacLean chose to go to his forward CP for the night, once again dividing the RCT's command function. Personnel of the Forward CP eventually became riflemen, joining 1/32 and 3/31 for the disastrous breakout attempt. Approaching units of the RCT were cut off when the Chinese severed the MSR between Koto-ri and Hagaru-ri, leaving a small detachment at Koto-ri, while farther south LTC Deshon would soon be in the process of organizing a new regimental headquarters which eventually came under command of COL John Gavin. Those few survivors who made it to Hamhung would meet strangers, replacements who had arrived to fill the ranks of the company.
MEDICS FACE TRAUMA The first officer of Medical Company to arrive at the schoolhouse CP was CPT Clifford Hancock, a medical service officer (MSC) who, acting as the motor officer, was at the tail of the column as it headed north.
CAPTAIN CLIFFORD HANCOCK, MSC "In the lead vehicles were CPT Galloway, regimental surgeon and commander of Medical Company; CPT Wamble, senior MSC officer and company executive officer; CPT Brown Sebastian, MSC; lst SGT Lee, and one dental officer (I believe a major). I was the motor officer at the rear of the convoy.
"At about sunset that day the mess truck broke down so I stopped to assist. It took some time to make the repairs. Meanwhile, the main body of the convoy had continued north. It was close to midnight when I arrived at the schoolhouse CP where I was informed that the convoy passed some time ago, and that I could continue with lights on as the road was said to be clear.
"About two miles north of the schoolhouse we came upon part of the convoy that had been stopped by enemy action. We learned later the personnel in the area were Chinese. Although we turned off our lights, we drew heavy small arms fire from the left. There were five of us in the last two vehicles and we were able to find six more at the rear of the stopped convoy, including the first sergeant. I was quickly briefed by the sergeant and told that the enemy had been systematically walking down the convoy shooting anyone they found alive. One of the men reported he had acted dead to avoid being shot. Apparently the lights of the vehicles directed at the Chinese had enabled him to make it to the rear. After assuring ourselves that there were no others, we made the decision to return to the schoolhouse. We drew fire for the first hundred yards. About a dozen of us made it back.
"I briefed the S-3 on the situation and just as I had finished BGEN Hodes, the ADC, woke up and asked what was going on. After being briefed he gave the order to send a message to a forward battalion of the 31st Infantry to send a platoon back to get the medics out of trouble, and to retrieve the vehicles.
"My group of medics spent the remainder of the night huddled around a fire in front of the building. None of us had sleeping bags as all of our gear was still in the vehicles. I had a carbine and a pistol, and my camera strapped around my neck."
CAPTAIN HARVEY GALLOWAY, MD Dr. Galloway joined the 31st Infantry at Mount Fuji while the regiment was staging for the Inchon landing. During the Inchon-Suwon operations he served as surgeon of 2/31, and became regimental surgeon in early November when the CP was at Untaek near the Fusen Reservoir. A few weeks before the move to Chosin, Dr. Galloway visited COL MacLean who was suffering fever and a bad cold. Those present on the other side of the screen heard the doctor tell MacLean he had pneumonia and gave him specific orders to take his medications and get to bed, and stay there or he would have him evacuated.
"The Chinese hit our column. In my case, they had merely waited for distance to develop between my jeep and the truck ahead of me, then put a log in the road. That was enough to slow us so they could fire from hidden positions on the side of the road. My driver Jeeter was hit in the arm and I was hit in the right leg, twice in the right arm, and in the brain. Fortunately, I did not lose consciousness and knew just what nerves had been hit and what area of my brain had been hit. Jeeter quickly recovered from his wound enough to put the jeep in low and drive over the log, and on to reach the 3/31 area at the Inlet. I told Dr. Morgan, the 3/31 surgeon, where the Chinese ambush was and urged them to send men back to help those who were following us." Fortunately, Dr. Galloway was one of the few to be evacuated from the Inlet.
"I was taken to the hospital ship (Repose) where I had my first brain operation, two more at the Tokyo General Hospital, then to Walter Reed in Washington where I later took a residency in internal medicine."
CAPTAIN STERLING MORGAN, MD The impact of this ambush and other enemy actions can be sensed in a letter from the 3/31 surgeon, Dr. Morgan, to Dr. Galloway written shortly after Morgan survived the breakout to Hagaru-ri. "You were one of the [few] wounded who were removed by helicopter. During the entrapment of the 2,400 men that finally got together [1/32, 3/31, 57 FA] where you joined us, only about 300 ever survived. [The number 300 refers to those well enough to make up the provisional battalion, not the hundreds of casualties that had been flown out of Hagaru-ri.] The whole 3/31 was officially wiped out, together with 1/32 and the artillery battalion [57 FA] If your belongings were not burned with the rest of the burnables (aid station, etc.), the Chinese have it all. Nothing was left. I kept only my toothbrush, soap and razor of all my possessions in Korea. I even burned some of my clothes because they were too bulky to wear. Jeeter [driver] was first wounded in the arm and SGT Lee through the spine. Both were later wounded fatally when a mortar landed in the box ambulance parked near the aid station. CPT Henry Wamble was wounded first in the chest, then, since he was unable to walk, was in the truck column of 300 to 600 litter cases that was completely destroyed by the Chinese. CPT Brown Sebastian [MSC] was killed instantly by a bullet through the head as the medics were attempting to clear the third roadblock on the way back to the marines who were never reached. Dr. Baido, Dr. Lavides and CPT Hancock [MSC] are all well as far as I know.
"Of the 3/31 medics, only five, including myself, got back to Hagaru-ri, and only about 50 of the whole battalion actually got out OK."
BACK AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE The situation that night was filled with frustration when those in the operations center realized the communications system of the day was failing rapidly. Although commo with forward units was sporadic, it was quickly learned they were under serious attack. Never was GEN Hodes or anyone else at the schoolhouse able to speak directly with COL MacLean or the battalion commanders. Radio signals would drift and fade while the commo officer with most of his signal men were at the forward CP struggling with the same problem. By morning Hudong-ni knew the situation was serious. It was time to do something to relieve the situation - call for tactical air support, attack north with Tank Company, tell 7th Division to hasten the move of 2/31 to Chosin.
At the same time officers in charge of security received reports that Chinese soldiers were seen on the high ground just north of the perimeter. MAJ Witte took immediate action to improve the perimeter by including CPT Drake's tanks. This tank threat could well have been the reason the Chinese never launched an attack on Hudong-ni, but limited their effort to harassing fire by snipers.
END NOTES The story of Hudong-ni will continue in the next issue with the actions of the Tank Company commander, the regimental chaplain, and GEN Hodes after the failed attempt to attack north with Tank Company.