CHANGJIN JOURNAL 03.25.07
Click above for the entire map. The whole map covers the X Corps zone of operation showing 1st Marine Division as it advanced from Wonsan to the Chosin Reservoir, and the 7th Infantry Division as it advanced toward the Yalu River. Map by Melville J. Coolbaugh from The Chosin Chronology: Battle of the Changjin Reservoir, 1950, copyright © George A. Rasula, 2007
CHANGJIN JOURNAL 03.25.07
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.You can use Ctrl-F to search for words within this page -or-
Colonel George A. Rasula, USA-Ret., Chosin Historian
Byron Sims, Contributing Editor
IN THIS ISSUE we continue the 2006 series of the Changjin Journal addressing the Chosin Campaign from the viewpoint of Maj. Gen. O.P. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division. We use his Aide-Memoire as a basis, providing the reader with copies of his memoire within which we will offer comments from various sources that relate to the topic at hand. In the last issue (CJ 09.01.06) we covered renewed pressure from X Corps to hasten the advance northward. In this issue Gen. Smith addresses the logistic problems of his division, problems which would soon become more pronounced. Logistics is often referred to as the tail that wagged the dog. At Chosin, preparedness will soon play a vital role for both sides.
Sections (…) and page numbers […] will be included for reference purposes. Bold typeface will be used for emphasis, with editor's comments in [brackets]. Readers are reminded that these documents were not written at the time of the action, but finalized after Maj. Gen. Smith left Korea. His primary sources were unit reports and briefings by commanders and staff, and his own personal diary. However, they do reflect his view of what happened, as well as how he wished them to be remembered.
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(230) Logistic Support of the Division During the Advance to the Chosin Reservoir Area
After the landing at Wonsan, the X Corps plans for the early arrival of resupply shipments of Classes I and III failed to materialize. Fuel for heating added an additional requirement for Class III. As a result of the failure of resupply shipments to arrive on schedule, it was necessary to airlift large quantities of Class I supplies to the Wonsan Airfield, and later to the Yonpo Airfield, to support operations.
Units of Division (less RCT-1, 1st Combat Service Group, 1st Shore Party Battalion, and 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion) were moved to the Hamhung area from Wonsan as rapidly as the restricted rail and highway facilities would permit. The 1st Services Battalion and the 1st Ordnance Battalion were ordered to establish dumps at Hamhung with minimum levels to support combat operations to the north and east by RCT-7 and RCT-5. Considerable quantities of Class I were airlifted to Yonpo airfield. The remainder of Class I and Classes III and V supplies had to be transported over the already overstrained rail facilities.
After clearing Wonsan harbor of mines, CTF 90 was requested to sweep the harbor of Hungnam in order that unloading operations could be shifted to that port. This was accomplished as rapidly as possible, and, on 23 November, the 1st Combat Service Group was moved by water to Hungnam and commenced scheduled operations. The 2d Engineer Special Brigade, USA, had been directed to operate the port of Hungnam and the 1st Combat Services Group was to function as a forwarding depot for all supplies and as a storage and issue deport for items "peculiar to the Marine Corps." Prior to this time the 1st Service Battalion and the 1st Ordnance Battalion had furnished logistic support for all Corps units within the area.
RCT-7, which, during the first two weeks in November, had been advancing toward the Chosin Reservoir, had behind it an MSR consisting of a narrow one and one and a half-lane road that was passable to truck transportation. Parallel to this road was a narrow gauge railroad. Inquiries in the area indicated that a limited amount of rolling stock was available, and the X Corps Railway Transportation Section, already overworked in operating the Wonsan-Hungnam railway, authorized the 1st Marine Division to take whatever steps might be practicable to place the railway in operation. This project was assigned to the 1st Service Battalion, which was able to locate the civilian manager of the line, and very shortly thereafter supplies were going forward on a daily train.
After the decimation of the 124th CCF Division in the Chinhung-ni area and the movement forward of RCT-7, it was decided to establish and operate a railhead at Chinhung-ni to support the operations of RCT-7. The 1st Service Battalion and the 1st Ordnance Battalion were directed to establish and operate this railhead at a level of 3 days Class I and III and one unit of fire for two RCTs. RCT-7, with the 1st Motor Transport Battalion attached, as to take railhead distribution from Chinhung-ni for its further advance. The supply levels established for this railhead were less than was desired but were recognized as the maximum which the overall logistical commitments of the X Corps could support.
RCT-7 pushed forward and occupied Hagaru-ri on 14 November. At this point it was decided to pass RCT-5 through RCT-7 and have RCT-5 advance north along the east side of the Chosin Reservoir toward the Yalu River in pursuance of Corps orders. It was planned to have the 1st Service Battalion and the 1st Ordnance Battalion establish a Supply Regulating Station at Hagaru-ri to support the operations of the two RCTs. RCT-7 was given the responsibility of protecting the MSR between Chinhung-ni and Hagaru-ri and of establishing a blocking position on the road leading northwest from Hagaru-ri to Yudam-ni. (When RCT-1 was released from its commitment in the Chigyong area it took over the protection of the MSR from Chinhung-ni to Hagaru-ri.)
The Commanding Officer, 1st Service Battalion was assigned the Task Force Commander of the Supply Regulating Station. Levels of supply to be established were as follows: Class I, 10 days; Class III, 10 days; and Class V, two units of fire. The Division continued to operate the railhead at Chinhung-ni and the Supply Regulating Station was to take delivery of its supplies at Chinhung-ni and move them by truck to Hagaru-ri.
The road from Chinhung-ni to Koto-ri was one lane, winding, and carved out of the mountainside. This resulted in there being a precipitous cliff on one side of the road and an almost vertical drop of several hundred feet on the other side. Temperatures at this time were already dropping to 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit at night. Such snow as had fallen on this narrow road rapidly became ice under traffic. The engineers were able to widen the road to one and one-half lanes over a considerable portion of the distance, and, eventually, it was possible to pass M26 tanks up the road. From experience, it was determined that the capacity of the narrow gauge railroad to Chinhung-ni was approximately 300 short tons per day. In order to obtain the buildup of supplies required at Hagaru-ri additional trucking would be required to supplement the rail lift. The Transportation Section of the X Corps had by now taken over responsibility for the operation of the narrow gauge railway. The Transportation Section was convinced that the capability of the narrow gauge railway could be increased and proved it to themselves by loading out all the empty cars which were available and concluding that their out-loading capacity from the dumps was their daily capacity. These cars, of course, were merely scattered along the sidings and it was not believed that the daily average of arrivals at Chinhung-ni ever exceeded 300 short tons daily.
At this point, 25 November, the zone of advance of the Division was changed to the westward by Corps order. The new mission assigned, in the opinion of the Division, would require the entire effort of the Division. However, in view of the difficult route to communication and the general estimate as announced by X Corps to the effect that any action contemplated would not involve a force larger than a battalion, and of a certainty not exceeding that of a regiment, the following supply levels for Hagaru-ri were authorized: Classes I and III, 7 days, and Class V, 10 days (equal to approximately 3 units of fire), which included one unit of fire in the hands of the troops.
["At this point" the Aide-Memoire takes a quantum leap forward to 25 November when, in fact, he had been discussing the movement forward by RCT-7 during 12-14 November. The "new mission" was not envisioned at this time, a period during which his mission was to attack north on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir.]
The logistical support of the Division for the remainder of the operation will be covered later.
(231) Initial Measures for the Care and Evacuation of Casualties
After the Division HQ moved to Hungnam, the measures taken for the care and evacuation of casualties consisted of establishment of a Division hospital in a building in the outskirts of Hungnam and the attachment to each RCT of a Medical Company. The H&S Company and A and B Companies of the 1st Medical Battalion operated the Division Hospital. D Company was attached to RCT-1. In the Wonsan area casualties of RCT-1 were evacuated by D Company to the USS Consolation in Wonsan harbor, and, later, at Chigyong, to the Division Hospital at Hungnam. C and E Companies were attached to RCTs 5 and 7, respectively, and supported those units by establishing jointly a clearing station at Hamhung where casualties were moved from RCTs 5 and 7, 30-day cases being transferred to the Division hospital and also, for a time, to the Corps' 121st Evacuation Hospital. Serious cases were evacuated by air to Japan, when practicable. Later, when it moved into Hungnam harbor, evacuation was also to the USS Consolation. After RCT-7 had occupied Chinhung-ni, a surgical team of E Company was sent forward to join the unit at that town and remained with it. Ambulance cars were operated on trains between Chinhung-ni and Hamhung from 8 November to 29 November by medical personnel of E Company. Thereafter, until 2 December, when it terminated, rail evacuation was by the X Corps.
On 22 November, on occasion of the Secretary of the Navy's visit to the 1st Marine Division, I took him to the Division hospital. There were very few Marine wounded there at the time as they had either been evacuated to Japan or had been transferred to the 121st Evacuation Hospital. The Secretary was quite interested in looking over the Chinese and North Korean prisoners who were patients. In connection with the operation of the hospital I was surprised to discover that the Secretary as not aware of the fact that a Division hospital of a Marine Division was run by Navy personnel. When he discovered that fact, he had his picture taken with some of the hospital corpsmen in the administrative section.
The handling of casualties during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir will be covered later.
Logistics has always been the tail that wagged the dog during military operations, influenced not only by enemy action, but often equally by the environment -terrain and weather. The longer the MSR the more difficult the problem of supporting the frontline troops. The logistical tail of both Napoleon and Hitler during their operations against Russia is the crowning example for historians. In this case the problem was growing for the enemy, as Chinese soldiers continued their night marches in tennis shoes from the crossing points on the Yalu.
To this point in our march though Maj. Gen. O.P. Smith's Aide-Memoire, it appears that no one had studied the maps and asked the question, if I were the enemy crossing the Yalu, which routes would I take to meet the 1st Marine Division, and where would I set up my grand ambush? We look forward to future issues.
We take this opportunity to announce the publication of an E-book, The Chosin Chronology: Battle of the Changjin Reservoir, 1950.
This chronology of a military operation a half-century ago is brought back to life by using digital format made possible by present-day technology. It offers a sketch of the battle with minimum text and maximum visual aids (maps and photographs). Readers should employ their imagination in mentally plowing through the snow and cold of northeast Korea when winter had arrived earlier than normal - minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-November 1950. Unmistakably, Father Winter was in command.
When the author began a formal inquiry into the battle of Chosin he saw the need for recounting the untold stories from soldiers who fought the battle east of Chosin as well as the final breakout. To do so he organized seminars at veterans' reunions where soldiers were be able to tell their stories as remembered. Gradually these pieces began to meld with what had already been published, creating the need for a more accurate retelling of this historic engagement.
When reading and viewing the Chosin Chronology, readers should study the map and overlay presented to portray the combat action. Look at the terrain, with the contour lines in meters, and appreciate those massive mini-mountains that infantrymen had to control to survive. An understanding of the distances will answer why they didn't they do this or that.
After the final withdrawal from Northeast Korea we provide the reader with an essay titled "Sacrifice at the Chosin Reservoir." After experiencing the Chosin Chronology, we encourage readers to study, in their own minds, the relationship between the word "sacrifice" and the loss of more than one thousand soldiers who continue their rest in the battleground east of the Chosin - all waiting for the end to the Forgotten War.
After The Chosin Chronology readers will find selected issues of The Changjin Journal emphasizing personal experiences, as well as other important documents, including a Photo Gallery.
Go to http://www.changjin1950.com for purchase instructions.
End CJ 03.25.07