CHANGJIN JOURNAL 05.30.07
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.
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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.
(235) Steps Taken to Establish a Base of Operations at Hagaru-ri
The Division [Smith] and the Corps [Almond] did not see eye to eye on the implications of the campaign in northeastern Korea. The Corps, undoubtedly under the influence of GHQ [MacArthur], had discounted the intervention of the CCF in early November. These Chinese, which we now know, numbered some 30,000 in western Korea and a like number in northeastern Korea, were apparently considered as volunteers sent in to encourage the North Koreans. Actually these were delaying forces sent in to cover the entry into Korea of the main body of the Chinese forces, which began crossing the Yalu about 13 November. In mid-November, as far as the Corps was concerned, we were pursuing the remnants of the defeated North Korean Army. On this assumption the Corps was able to justify the dispersed dispositions which were imposed on the divisions of the Corps. My impression of the Corps thinking was that the divisions of the Corps were expected to push rapidly forward to the Manchurian border before winter set in and that thus we should not become involved in a campaign under winter conditions. The Division, on the other hand, did not share this optimism. We expressed continuing concern over the dispersion of the Division and the wide open left flank of the Division. The answer of the Corps was that there was no enemy on the flanks.
[I find it interesting that Maj. Gen. Smith used the words “under the influence of” rather than “under the command of” General MacArthur, the CINCFE commander of all forces in Korea. There appears to be no historical evidence that Smith and Almond met personally to discuss these differences, yet Smith found it necessary to address the subject in a personal letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CJ 05.15.07). – GAR]
Since it was apparent that the Corps was fixed in its decision to proceed rapidly to the Yalu and since we, in the Division, felt this would involve a campaign in the mountains in mid-winter, the Division instituted measures to provide for its logistic support under winter conditions. By 15 November, the first blast of winter had already hit the Division and it was readily apparent that the long, narrow, and tortuous MSR behind the leading elements of the Division would be difficult to maintain in operation. It was vulnerable both to the enemy and the weather. We therefore, began a search for a suitable forward base of operations where supplies could be stocked and where it would be possible to construct an airstrip for 2-engine fixed wing transports. We decided to locate the base on the plateau north of Chinhung-ni. The supplies could be trucked from the railhead at Chinhung-ni to the base. The R4D airstrip at the projected base would guarantee to us the capability of evacuating our casualties and of resupply in the event the MSR was blocked by the weather or the enemy. It appeared feasible to construct an R4D strip at either Koto-ri or Hagaru-ri. Hagaru-ri seemed to offer the best possibility because of its central location at the junction of main roads leading to the northwest and the north. On 16 November, on the occasion of a visit to Hagaru-ri by Major General Field Harris and myself we investigated proposed sites for an R4D strip. We agreed that the one nearest the town of Hagaru-ri appeared to be the best. There as plenty of room, but the soil was of black loam and, at the time of our visit, was friable [easily crumbled or crushed into powder]. We realized, however, that when wet and frozen there would be no difficulty in obtaining a hard surface airstrip. Work was begun on the strip on 19 November.
On 19 November, also, another step was taken to insure adequate logistic support of the Division. On this date, a Supply Regulating Station was established at Hagaru-ri under the CO, 1st Service Battalion, with operating personnel from the 1st Service Battalion and the 1st Ordnance Battalion. The 1st Motor Transport Battalion was detached from RCT-7 and was attached to the Supply Regulating Station along with other elements necessary to its adequate functioning. The Supply Regulating Station was made responsible for traffic control between Hagaru-ri and Chinhung-ni from which latter place supplies were drawn from the railhead and trucked to Hagaru-ri.
Collecting platoons of C and E Companies, 1st Medical Battalion, which had been jointly operating a collecting station at Hamhung for RCTs 5 and 7, were, on 20 November, reverted to the control of 1st Medical Battalion, which was directed to establish a casualty holding station at Chinhung-ni employing personnel of the two platoons, to provide attendants on ambulance cars, and to arrange ambulance service to the Division Hospital located at Hamhung. RCT-5 and 7 were ordered to evacuate casualties to the railhead.
(236) Provisions of 1MarDiv OpO 22-50 of 17 November
1MarDiv OpO 22-50, issued at 0800, 17 November, provided for the continued advance of the Division to the Manchurian Border via the east side of the Chosin Reservoir and for the protection of the left flank of the Corps by the Division. The tasks assigned the principal subordinate units of the Division were as follows:
RCT-1 to move through 3ID zone [and seize Huksu-ri; patrol in zone] …
RCT-7 to protect Division’s left flank with a minimum of one battalion in a suitable position between Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni, …
RCT-5 to pass a minimum of one battalion through elements of RCT-7 in vicinity of Hagaru-ri east of the Chosin Reservoir, and … to seize Objective 2 [Sinhung-ni, 7 miles north at the Inlet], and, on order, to seize Objective 3 [RJ, Kyolmul-ni, 20 miles north of Hagaru-ri] ….
Division Recon Company to screen the left flank of the MSR, paying attention to the Majon-dong–Sinhung-ni Valley.
[Others – routine assignments]
For some time the Division had been awaiting the opportunity to relieve RCT-7 [Col. Litzenberg] by RCT-5 [Lt. Col. Murray]. RCT-5 had not been in a serious engagement since the Inchon-Seoul Campaign, whereas RCT-7 had been more or less continuously engaged since 2 November. Hagaru-ri was the first logical place to make the relief. Since RCT-1 had not yet been released from its commitment at Chigyong, it was necessary to assign to RCT-7 the responsibility for security of Chinhung-ni, Koto-ri, and Hagaru-ri. The Division felt that the security of these towns was vital to the protection of the MSR. RCT-7, in addition to protecting the MSR, was given the mission of establishing a blocking position between Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni. Unless forced to do so, the Division desired to avoid committing troops to Yudam-ni or to any great distance north of Hagaru-ri until RCT-1 could be closed up behind RCT-5 and RCT-7.
[In the foregoing section of the Aide-Memoire we sense insecurity while little or no mention is made of the courses of action available to the enemy. These are serious considerations for historians because Gen. Smith finalized this document long after the Chosin experience. Why did Gen. Smith hold his Recon Company back rather than send it north of his leading regiment which was the main effort of his advance? His concerns about the weather and road conditions continue, yet say little about the probable enemy enemy approaches into his zone from the Yalu. From the time he debarked his division at Wonsan, the enemy was his primary mission, be they North Korean or the Chinese that he had already engaged at Sudong on 6-8 November. The Chinese “Volunteers” had already warned the Eighth Army in late October. – GAR]
(237) Advance of RCT-5 Up the East side of the Chosin Reservoir
RCT-7 had occupied Hagaru-ri by 14 November. At this time the headquarters of RCT-5 was at Soyang-ni and it had battalions at Majon-dong, Chinhung-ni, and Koto-ri protecting the MSR. It was the desire of the Division to relieve RCT-7 by RCT-5 to continue the advance to the Manchurian Border in accordance with Corps orders. On 17 November, 1MarDiv OpO 22-50 was issued to provide for the relief. This order directed RCT-5 to pass a minimum of one battalion through element so RCT-7 at Hagaru-ri and seize, as a first objective, the town of Sinhung-ni, about 7 miles north of Hagaru-ri.
In the meantime the entire RCT-7 closed into Hagaru-ri and active patrolling was conducted to the north, east and west. No enemy was encountered by RCT-7 until 1015, 16 November, when patrols of the 1/7 made contact with several small groups of enemy about 1500 yards west of Hagaru-ri. Fire was engaged with the enemy. The development of the situation indicated that approximately 200 enemy were dug-in in strong positions along a line from Sohung-ni to Changhung-ni, about 3 miles northwest of Hagaru-ri. The 1/7 was directed by [Litzenberg] to attack and A1/7 attacked the enemy positions at 1600 after an air and artillery preparation. A Company encountered light resistance during an advance of approximately 1500 yards and the enemy fled to the north. [Did the enemy “flee” or was the enemy using Sun-Tzu’s tactic of withdrawing so as to draw his enemy into a trap on the terrain and time of his choosing? To allow an enemy to flee and not pursue is contrary to the need for intelligence about that enemy. – GAR]
At first light on 17 November, RCT-7 again began patrolling to the front, flanks and rear. Limited ground contact was made during the day by a patrol from A1/7 which received fire at 1020 from an enemy group on Hill 1226 (north of Sohung-ni). Air strikes were called on the enemy position and after the strikes the patrol found 9 enemy dead. At 1330, air strikes were called on a hill in the vicinity of Hongnum-ni (2 miles southwest of Hagaru-ri), when observation aircraft spotted enemy in position on the hill. Upon running the strike, the enemy fled to caves in that area rendering further strikes ineffective. Air, during the day, conducted strikes against Sinhung-ni (7 miles west of Hagaru-ri) and Yudam-ni without observing Chinese troops in the area. On the 17th, General Craig, accompanied by General Lowe visited both RCT-5 and RCT-7.
On 18 and 19 November ground patrol of RCT-7 made no enemy contacts. There were, however, continuing reports from the air of the presence of small groups of enemy to the southwest, west and northwest of Hagaru-ri. Civilian refugees from these areas also reported much enemy activity. [The enemy controlled the countryside at night while the units of RCT-7 conducted their combat patrols for limited distances. Noted is the use of air strikes, yet no discussion about closing with the enemy with infantry so as to capture prisoners and gain intelligence. – GAR]
On 19 November, the 3/7 moved by motor shuttle to Koto-ri to relieve the 2/5. On the same date the 2/5 moved to Hagaru-ri and then passed through elements of RCT-7 at Sasu-ri (3 miles north of Hagaru-ri) taking over the new zone of action assigned to RCT-5. Both RCT-5 and RCT-7 were visited by General Craig on this date.
On 20 November ground patrols of RCT-7 and of the 2/5, made no contacts with the enemy in the Chosin Reservoir area, although there were some sightings and 8 North Korean deserters were picked up. During the day the CP of RCT-5 was displaced to Hagaru-ri and a recon party from the 1/5 reconnoitered their newly assigned positions in the vicinity of Sinhung-ni (7 miles north of Hagaru-ri). The recon party was covered by the 2/5. The air reported that it had destroyed 6 enemy trucks 25 miles north of the Chosin Reservoir and had attacked trucks and gun positions in the vicinity of Sinpo-ri (8 miles southwest of Yudam-ni) with excellent results. At 0940, 20 November, I left Hungnam by helicopter to visit RCT-7. The weather was good on this date. There was snow on the ground but it was melting. At Hagaru-ri, Col. Murray came in while I was talking with Col. Litzenberg. Murray’s CP was temporarily at Hagaru-ri. Progress was being made on construction of the airstrip.
This photo was taken by an unknown marine from a truck while the RCT-5 convoy was moving north on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir. This is the north side of Hill 1221 looking northwest at the reservoir; note the open water with ice forming along the edge. On the night of 27 November, after RCT-31 had relieved RCT-5 east of the reservoir, this large hill became the major CCF block that prevented the breakout of the convoy of wounded on 1-2 December. – GAR
On 21 November, the 1/5 at Majon-dong began a motor movement to its new positions south of Sinhung-ni, arriving at 1300. The positions were consolidated and all-around security was established. Patrol activity was planned for the following day. The 2/5 remained in its forward position at Sasu-ri on the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir. Four patrols were dispatched by the 2/5 during the day. One patrol sighted an estimated 30 enemy east of Sinhung-ni and another patrol was fired upon in the same general area. When the patrol pushed forward the enemy withdrew. The 3/5, on 21 November, continued to protect Chinhung-ni. General Craig visited both RCT-5 and 7 on this date.
On 22 November, 1/5 and 2/5 continued active patrolling from the vicinity of Sinhung-ni and Sasu-ri, respectively. Contact was made with an enemy squad resulting in the killing of one enemy and the capture of another. The 3/5 continued to protect Chinhung-ni, but made preparations for movement to the Chosin Reservoir on the following day.
On 23 November, the 1/5 and 2/5, from positions previously occupied, patrolled without enemy contact. The 3/5 at Chinhung-ni was relieved by B Company (B1/1) and began movement to the Chosin Reservoir at 0800. By 1355 the 3/5, covered by the 1/5, had occupied its assigned positions at TA5282 (north of the 1/5 on the far side of the Pungnyuri-gang [the Inlet]. Security patrols were dispatched 2,000 yards to the front and flanks but no contact was made with the enemy. At 0800 the same date, 1MarDiv OpO 23-50 had been issued directing RCT-5 to seize Objective 1 (Kyolmul-li, 20 miles north of Hagaru-ri), prepared to seize Objective 2 (Tyolmul-li, 30 miles north of Hagaru-ri), and Objective 3 (Tuan-dae). General Craig attempted to reach the plateau by helicopter to visit RCT-5 and RCT-7 but he was forced to return because of lack of visibility.
At 1440, 24 November, the Division notified RCT-5 that 1MarDiv OpO 23-50 had been modified to the extent that the mission of RCT-5 had been cancelled and that RCT-5 would remain in its present positions on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir until relieved by element of the 7th Infantry Division at 1200 on 25 November, at which time it would be prepared to move to the west to pass through RCT-7. Elements of the 7th Infantry Division already in the zone of RCT-5 were placed under the operational control of the 1st Marine Division until the relief was completed by the 7th Infantry Division. During the day the 3/5 Marines patrolled in its assigned area along the MSR to Tongjsu-ri (almost to the northern end of the Chosin Reservoir), with the mission of determining the presence of the enemy in the area and of observing activity at the Chosin Dam. A platoon strength patrol, reinforced by two tanks, encountered scattered groups of enemy in the vicinity of Tongjsu-ri and 5 enemy were killed and one captured. Fire from the accompanying tanks drove off the enemy forces, which the platoon leader estimated as 100 to 150 Chinese. A self-propelled 75mm gun, which had been abandoned, was located by the patrol and destroyed. The Commanding Officer of the 3/5 conducted an aerial reconnaissance by helicopter of the northern end of the Chosin Reservoir and reported no indication of enemy activity in that area. The dam at the northern end of the Reservoir was reported to be in good operating condition, apparently not having been damaged. A patrol from the 1/5 took under fire an enemy group of approximately 20 men in the vicinity of Sesu 2 miles east of Sinhung-ni) and dispersed the group. The 2/5 patrolled without enemy contact. At 1000, 23 November, the regimental CP of the 5th Marines displaced to a location at TA5282J near the CP of 3/5.
The advance of RCT-5 during the period covered had been controlled and not rapid. Several considerations dictated caution in the forward movement of the leading elements of the Division. One consideration was the necessity of building up the level of supplies at Hagaru-ri before pushing units to any great distance beyond that point. Also it was desired to reduce the dispersion of the Division by moving RCT-1 to the MSR behind RCT-5 and 7 before pushing the advance further. Later developments justified this caution.
[This section contains problems understanding the Division’s appraisal of the situation at the time. Keep in mind that this Aide-Memoire was written and finalized after the Chosin experience which leaves the reader confused as to what is fact of the day and what is based on hindsight. The last sentence points that out in such a way as to indicate justification for the decision to go slow. Use of combat patrols as daylight route recon of limited distance with no apparent recon being conducted at night once again leaves units in control of their perimeters, while the Chinese controlled the countryside as they continued positioning units for the final strike. Hindsight reveals that CCF divisions were moving into assembly areas north of the reservoir in preparation for attacks scheduled for 25 November in coordination with the attacks on Eighth Army, although in the Chosin area the Chinese were not ready, result being they attacked RCT-31 units the night after RCT-5 withdrew and moved to Yudam-ni. ]
(239) Advance to the Yalu River by the 17th Infantry
On 22 November, the 17th Infantry of the 7th Infantry Division, which had been advancing north along the Pungsan-Kapsan axis, reached the Yalu River at Hyesanjin. The advance was made over difficult mountain roads in bitter cold weather. The only enemy resistance was from scattered North Korean forces. The CCF never committed troops in that part of Korea. Hyesanjin is 90 air miles northeast of the Chosin Reservoir, where RCTs 5 and 7 then were. There were no friendly troops in this gap. The 17th Infantry was the only American unit to reach the Yalu during the Korean War. Nearly a month earlier, ROK troops had reached the Yalu at Ch’osan in western Korea but had been forced to retire.
I sent a congratulatory dispatch to General Barr regarding the feat of the 17th Infantry. On 23 November, on the occasion of a Thanksgiving dinner party at Corps Headquarters, I met General Barr and he told me that he had had to conduct the operation on a shoestring, never at any time having on hand more than one day’s supplies. With almost impassable roads this was a risky procedure. As a matter of fact, our Air Delivery Platoon made several drops of supplies to the 17th Infantry. We lost one plane in these operations.
[In hindsight] After the Chinese struck on 27 November and the Corps was forced to withdraw to Hungnam, the 17th Infantry was able to extricate itself and return to the coast without enemy interference, but in the face of considerable difficulties imposed by the weather and the mountain roads.
Incidentally, the Thanksgiving dinner at Corps Headquarters included nearly all the appointments found on the mainland: cocktail bar, table cloths, napkins, Japanese chinaware, regular silverware, place cards, etc. Admiral Struble and Generals Almond, Biederlinden (G-1 of GHQ), Harris, Barr and Ruffner were present at the dinner.
[First class appointments in higher headquarters were rather common during the previous war in Europe, although not often seen on the ground during the island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific. Aboard-ship appointments in the officer’s mess were most often first class. For more on this subject see papers about Navy Chaplain Otto Sporrer and resulting investigation by the Inspector General, a subject covered later in the Aide-Memoire. – GAR]
We now see major units moving north on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir which is the only route in this sector to the town of Changjin north of the reservoir, at this time the main effort of the 1MarDiv. Further east in the 7th Division sector is RCT-17 with lead elements already on the Yalu River at Hyesanjin, and RCT-31 units east of the Fusen Reservoir, a distance of only 25 air-miles over the mountains from RCT-5. The fact that UN forces now occupied Hyesanjin on the Yalu was apparently of little concern to the Chinese because it posed no threat to their forces operating to the southwest.
End CJ 05.30.07