CHANGJIN JOURNAL  06.30.08      Chapter 71

 
[Click on the map for a larger image] This map shows the location of Marine battalions of the RCT-5 east of the reservoir on 25-27 November. The 1/32 Inf, the lead battalion of Army RCT-31, had arrived on 25 November, occupying positions on the south slope of Hill 1221. The 2/5 Marines withdrew and moved to Yudam-ni on 26 November to prepare for the attack west. If the Chinese had attacked on 26 November, as they had originally planned, the battle east of Chosin would have been fought by two Marine battalions and one Army battalion. – Map by Melville J. Coolbaugh from The Chosin Chronology: Battle of the Changjin Reservoir, 1950, copyright © George A. Rasula, 2007.

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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

 

OPS AIDE-MEMOIRE IN CHANGJIN JOURNAL SERIES

Be advised that we are changing the sequence of documents published in Maj. Gen. O.P. Smith’s Aide-Memoire because they do not follow the chronology of events that existed at the time. In the original A-M the next numbered section was addressed “Development of the enemy situation during the advance to the Chosin Reservoir area,” containing many details about the enemy not known at the time. The page numbers [in brackets] of the original document will not be changed.

 

IN THIS ISSUE we continue the 2006-2008 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 offer comments from various sources that relate to the topic at hand. In the last issue (CJ 01.30.08) we addressed the CCF attacks on the 5th and 7th Marines at Yudam-ni, covering the period 27-28 November. In this issue we move to Gen. Smith’s coverage of RCT-31 east of the reservoir, a topic that will contain many comments by this editor because it not only contains errors, but also exposes his limited knowledge of what had happened in that action, as well as noting an attempt to absolve his command of responsibility for a subordinate command, in this case an Army Regimental Combat Team. The problem involves the title of this section of the Aide-Memoire that contains the words Rescue of Army Task Force East of the Chosin.

 

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 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, and how he wished them to be remembered.

 

[Editorial comments are in italics and brackets, bold for emphasis. Other than occasional use of abbreviations, this is same as the original document.]

 

 

(263) Attack on, Overrunning and Rescue of Army Task Force East of the Chosin Reservoir

         X Corps Warning Order Cite 13069 was received by the 1st Marine Division at 1855, 24 November. This order directed the 1st Marine Division, upon relief on 25 November by elements of the 7th Infantry Division, to move RCT-5 from the east side of the Chosin Reservoir to positions west of the Hamhung-Hagaru-ri-Sinpo-ri road. This was in preparation for the attack of the 1st Marine Division to the west from Yudam-ni. By this same order, the 7th Inf Div was directed to relieve RCT-5 east of the Chosin Reservoir with not less than one infantry battalion by 1200, 25 November. This battalion was to be attached to the 1st Marine Division until the arrival of the CO, RCT-31.  During the day of 24 November, the 1/32 Inf had moved to Sinhung-ni [sic] (7 miles north of Hagaru-ri). [Marine battalions 3/5 and 1/5 were still in the Sinhung-ni (Inlet) area; 1/32 arrived on 25 November and occupied a position south of Hill 1221.]  Although the CO, RCT-31, was to command the Army task force east of the Chosin Reservoir, the first battalion to arrive was one of the battalions of the 32d Inf.

         On 25 November, the 1MarDiv, which now had operational control of the 1/32 Inf, directed that battalion to remain in its present positions at Sinhung-ni with the mission of protecting the right flank of the division.

         By 26 November, all elements of RCT-5 had been relieved east of the Chosin Reservoir by RCT-31. [This is misleading because 1/32 was the only battalion of RCT-31 located east of the reservoir on 26 November, a time when all of the 5th Marines, less 2/5, remained in position. RCT-5 (-) moved to Yudam-ni on 27 November, the same day the remaining units of RCT-31 began to arrive.]

         No record is available as to exactly when all units and detachments of RCT-31 arrived on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir. These units had been moved north in great haste and piecemeal. In their hurried movement they had brought little tentage and few stoves with them. Moreover, many of the men were not properly outfitted with cold weather clothing and equipment. As a matter of fact, one of the battalion commanders requested parkas of the 1MarDiv. We could not comply with this request as we had only sufficient parkas to make provision for our own people. [Hindsight causes one to question why Smith made this entry when the request for parkas came from an attached battalion commander, probably after having seen the heavy parkas that all marines were wearing. More appropriate would have been instructions to his G-4 to check on the source of supply.]

         By the night of 27-28 November the Army task force [RCT-31] was distributed as follows on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir: [The list of units and unit strengths at two of the locations contain errors. Be reminded that this detailed information was not available to Gen. Smith at the time, but added later to his Aide-Memoire.]


Positions occupied by units of RCT-31 (after withdrawal of remaining RCT-5 units) during the afternoon and evening of 27 November with 1/32 Inf in position formerly occupied by 3/1 Marines and 3/31 Inf with 57th FA in positions formerly occupied by 1/5 Marines. The 2/5 Marines positions at Hill 1221 were unoccupied waiting the arrival of Lt. Col. Reidy’s 2/31 Inf, while the 31st Tank Company, the RCT Main CP and some support elements occupied the area of Hudong-ni. Note corrections in the A-M chart below. – Map by Melville J. Coolbaugh from The Chosin Chronology: Battle of the Changjin Reservoir, 1950, copyright © George A. Rasula, 2007.]

 

At Sinhung-ni and North Thereof

         In Hagaru-ri itself were some 267 Army troops, 12 attached to the Division and the remainder not attached. These were Corps troops and did not belong to RCT-31. The unattached troops had been sent north to prepare for the establishment of an advance Corps CP at Hagaru-ri. [Units included D/10th Engineers, 3d Div, and a Platoon from the 4th Signal Bn, both in action defending East Hill.]

         During the night of 27-28 November the CCF struck in force the elements of RCT-31 at Sinhung-ni and north thereof. A report from the 1/32 Inf indicated that the task force had come under attack in the early morning hours of 28 November. The enemy, employing mortars and reinforced with tanks, overran the artillery positions and inflicted heavy casualties on the friendly troops. [The Chinese did not employ tanks against any RCT-31 units. It is believed the information available to Gen. Smith (after Chosin) had to have come from Capt. Ed Stamford’s after-action report to the Marine Corps. Any verbal report at the time by Stamford had to have come through pilots to the tactical air control party at Hagaru-ri. There had been a report that someone heard a track-type vehicle north of 1/32 Inf positions. Keep in mind that the Aide-Memoire was written, or at least finalized, long after Chosin.]

         Apparently RCT-31 had pushed the 1/32 Inf, reinforced, to the north of Sinhung-ni and the remainder of the force had remained at Sinhung-ni. It had been the plan for 28 November to have the 1/32 Inf attack to the north to capture the Chosin Dam at the north end of the Reservoir. According to Captain Edward P. Stamford, USMC, the forward air controller with the 1/32 Inf, that battalion was attacked by the CCF at about midnight, 27 November. There was close-in fighting and a considerable number of casualties was inflicted on the battalion. The attack was beaten off by daylight, 28 November. [Faith’s 1/32 Inf occupied the forward position (as directed in the RCT-31 plan) after the withdrawal of 1/5 Marines. The plan to attack north “on order” was Operation Order 25 and was never implemented. The dam was not an objective of 1/32, nor were they to attack on 28 November. Col. MacLean did not plan to attack until the arrival of his third infantry battalion. Lt. Col. Reidy’s 2/31 arrived at Koto-ri on 1 December and remained there in a defensive role.]

         During the day of 28 November, Captain Stamford ran a considerable number of air strikes against the enemy. He worked through TACRON at Hagaru-ri and had no difficulty in obtaining sufficient planes. At about sundown on 28 November, the captain brought in a strike against an enemy force of 300 to 400, supported by a tank and two self-propelled guns, which attacked the battalion’s positions. This attack was broken up in 20 minutes with considerable loss to the enemy.

         Colonel MacClean [MacLean], CO of RCT-31, had come forward to the CP of the 1/32 on 28 November, joining LTC Faith who commanded the battalion. Apparently a decision was reached to have the 1/32 Inf, on 29 November, fight its way back to the positions of the 3/31 Inf in the vicinity of Sinhung-ni. This involved crossing the Pungnyuri River. The river was frozen over and infantry could cross at any point, but it was considered necessary to use the bridge for the wheeled vehicles. The road from the north, upon reaching the arm of the reservoir into which the Pungnyuri River emptied, made a sharp turn to the east and crossed the river about 1800 yards east of the reservoir. The road then turned sharply to the southwest toward Sinhung-ni.

         On 29 November, while engaged in reconnoitering the crossing site, Colonel MacClean [sic] was either killed or captured. LTC Faith of the 1/32 Inf succeeded to command of RCT-31. With the aid of excellent air cover, the 1/32 Inf succeeded in getting its vehicles across the river, although the column was under heavy fire from the high ground to the north.

[We pause here to note a few important points. Gen. Smith covers details here of which he had no knowledge at the time; they apparently came from Capt. Stamford’s report. Note also the lack of detail about 3/31 Inf or the other units at the inlet when they first arrived in the area, especially the names, wounding and disposition of two battalion commanders (Lt. Col. William Reilly 3/31 and Lt. Col. Ray Embree 57th FA). Col. MacLean went across the ice because he saw a column of troops marching north toward the 3/31 perimeter; apparently believing they were friendly troops from Reidy’s 2/31; MacLean crossed the ice in an attempt to stop them, was wounded and captured by the Chinese.]

         When the 1/32 Inf finally fought its way to join the 3/31 Inf, the picture was grim. The enemy had completely surrounded the 3/31 and had penetrated its positions on the high ground to the southeast. The enemy then succeeded in overrunning the artillery of the 57th FA Bn. It was necessary to attack toward the center of the perimeter to recapture the guns. Then the battalion was unable to retake the high ground to the southeast. The forward air controller [Lt. Johnson, USAF] of the 3/31 Inf had been killed and no close air support was available to that battalion until it was joined by 1/32 Inf with the TACP of Captain Stamford. Air drops were made during the day of 29 November, but no 40mm ammunition, which was in short supply, was received. The positions of the 1/32 Inf and the 3/31 Inf were attacked at about midnight 29 November, with the attack reaching its maximum intensity just after dawn on 30 November. There was some infiltration of the positions during the night. The task force, hereafter called Task Force Faith [a term that did not exist at the time.], reported that there was a considerable enemy build-up in the vicinity of Paegam-ni (4 miles south of east of Sasu-ri, which was in turn 4 miles south of Sinhung-ni). [Sasu-ri is south of Hudong-ni (location of Tank Company) and four miles north of Hagaru-ri. Faith did not have the capability of reporting to Smith’s HQ, nor did Smith establish communications with Faith who was then attached to his division. Faith had no knowledge of enemy action south of his perimeter other than reports from pilots through Faith’s air-controller, Ed Stamford.]

         Later during the day of 29 November, I received a telephone call (radio link) from the Corps stating that the whole scheme of maneuver had been changed, that the Army battalions on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir, which were cut off from us, were attached to the Division, that the Division would extricate them, and that one RCT was to be redeployed from Yudam-ni and concentrated in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri.

         On 2218, 29 November, the telephonic orders were confirmed by X Corps OI 19. This OI [Operations Instruction] stated that effective immediately all elements of the 7th Inf Div in the Koto-ri–Hagaru-ri–and Chosin Reservoir areas were under the operational control of the 1st Marine Division; that the Division would redeploy immediately one RCT from Yudam-ni to the Hagaru-ri area; and that contact would be made with elements of the 7th Infantry Division on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir. The Division was further directed to coordinate all forces in and north to Hagaru-ri in a perimeter defense based at Hagaru-ri and to open and secure the Hagaru-ri–Koto-ri MSR. It is superfluous [unnecessary] to point out that no RCT could be redeployed from Yudam-ni without first dealing with the three CCF divisions that surrounded RCT 5 and 7 in the Yudam-ni area, and that no forces would be available to open up the MSR between Hagaru-ri and Koto-ri until RCT 5 and 7 had fought their way to Hagaru-ri. [Note Smith’s use of the term “operational control.” The order attached the Army units to his Division, a very important difference.]

         On 30 November, BGen Hodes, the ADC of the 7th Inf Div, who, with his group, was [had been] with the detachment of RCT-31 near Pokko-chi about 2 miles north of Hagaru-ri, came to see me. [The “detachment” was the main CP of RCT-31, Tank Company, Service Battery, 57th FA Bn, an engineer platoon and a medical detachment, totaling about 350 soldiers located at Hudong-ni, immediately south of Hill 1221.]  The Army troops [Tank Company] at Pokko-chi [Hudong-ni] had made a couple of fruitless efforts to make contact with the main body of RCT-31 in the vicinity of Sinhung-ni. BGen. Hodes reported to me that the cut-off battalions had about 400 casualties and that it was impossible for them to fight their way out. The inference was that they should be extricated by a larger force. The garrison at Hagaru-ri had been attacked in division strength on the night of 28-29 November and had suffered about 500 casualties. It was due to be attacked again [hindsight] in division strength on the night of 30 November–1 December. It was not feasible to dispatch an infantry force from this garrison to extricate Task Force Faith. We did have ample air support available to provide close air support for the task force. It was the opinion of the division that Task Force Faith could, with the help of close air support, improve its situation by working south toward us. Task Force Faith was now under my command and instructions to the task force were necessary. Although General Hodes was not in the chain of command, I asked him to draw up a dispatch in my name to Task Force Faith embodying my ideas. Lt. Colonel Faith was advised [?] that his command was now attached to the 1st Marine Division and that he should make every effort to secure necessary exits and move south toward Hagaru-ri at the earliest. The dispatch further stated that he should do nothing that would jeopardize the safety of the wounded. He was authorized to destroy such equipment as would impede his movements and was advised that in view of the critical requirements for troops to hold Hagaru-ri no actual troop assistance could be furnished but that unlimited air support would be available to the task force to assist it in moving southward.

[The foregoing paragraph contains the first reference in Gen. Smith’s Aide-Memoire to the term “Task Force Faith,” a term that did not exist during the Chosin campaign. His instructions to Faith informed him that, other than air support, he was on his own; Faith had only one air-controller for his entire command, as compared with one or two controllers in each Marine battalion. Of historical importance is the fact that 1MarDiv never did establish a communications link with Faith’s command which could have been used to arrange for aerial evacuation of casualties as well as artillery support during the attempted breakout. The message referred to is believed to have been received by Faith in the midst of the breakout on the afternoon of 1 December, just a few hours before Faith was mortally wounded after which the CCF overwhelmed his force in the area of Hill 1221 and Hudong-ni. – GAR]

        

         During the morning of 30 November, General Barr, the CG of the 7th Inf Div, flew into Hagaru-ri by liaison plane to see me. I loaned him my helicopter to fly into Sinhung-ni to confer with Lt. Colonel Faith. Upon his return, General Barr agreed with me that Task Force Faith, with air support, could improve its situation. [Be advised that Gen. Barr did not have command authority over Faith, which made it a personal visit about which we have no details, nor do we know what Barr told Smith.]

         During the afternoon of 30 November, General Almond flew into Hagaru-ri for a conference [Smith, Barr and Hodes]. He had given up any idea of consolidating positions in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri. He wanted to fall back in the direction of Hamhung and he stressed the necessity of speed. He wanted me to burn or destroy equipment and supplies, stating that I would be resupplied by air drop as I withdrew. I told him that my movements would be governed by my ability to evacuate the wounded, that I would have to fight my way back and could not afford to discard equipment, and that, therefore, I intended to bring out the bulk of my equipment. (The actual order for the withdrawal was not received until 2 December.)

         Gen. Barr was still at Hagaru-ri when Gen. Almond arrived. The three of us discussed the situation of Task Force Faith. Gen. Almond directed Barr and me to draw up a plan and time schedule for extricating Task Force Faith. Gen. Almond told Gen. Barr that if Lt. Colonel Faith did not attack he should be relieved. Gen. Barr objected to any such idea, stating that Faith was an excellent officer in whom he had great confidence. (Faith was later killed in attempting to break out from Sinhung-ni.) [Faith was killed during the final battle at Hill 1221 during the afternoon of 1 December.] Gen. Almond then left, directing Gen. Barr to bring our plan to Hamhung when Barr returned that evening. Gen. Barr and I agreed that there was no question of any detailed plan or time schedule; that nothing effective could be done until RCT 5 and 7 arrived from Yudam-ni, when Task Force Faith could be extricated and the MSR to the south opened up.

         At dawn on 30 November, Captain Stamford had planes on station. The enemy attacks during the day were lighter than previously. During the night of 30 November-1 December the enemy attacks increased in intensity including heavy mortar fire. There was danger of the positions being over-run. [To say that nothing effective could be done opens the door to hindsight. In this case, the 1MarDiv did not establish and maintain communication with the attached commander of RCT-31, Mac Lean or Faith, nor did Gen. Smith participate in the breakout planning as he did for the regiments at Yudam-ni. Unknown or not considered at this time was the fact that the Marine 155mm artillery at Yudam-ni was within range of Faith’s force at the inlet perimeter, while the 105mm artillery at Hagaru-ri was within range of enemy blocks  at Hill 1221. Of serious consideration also and not mentioned here, is that the 31stTank Company and others at Hudong-ni were withdrawn by Gen. Smith on this same day, 30 November, to reinforce his defenses at Hagaru-ri.]


Breakout East of Chosin by units of RCT-31 on 1 December 2008. – Map by Melville J. Coolbaugh from The Chosin Chronology: Battle of the Changjin Reservoir, 1950, copyright © George A. Rasula, 2007.]

 

 

         At daylight on 1 December, Lt. Colonel Faith made preparations to fight south to Hagaru-ri and sent a message to higher headquarters requesting aircraft and advising of his plan. [As stated above, Faith had no command communications with Smith, his immediate superior. Radio contact by the forward air controller through pilots was the only means of sending a message. Pilots flying close support missions were not equipped emotionally with pen in hand ready to copy and dispatch messages.] The troops were ready to move out at about 1000 by which time aircraft had reported on station. All guns left behind were destroyed as were some vehicles. Not all equipment was destroyed. Much clothing and nearly all baggage were left intact as time did not permit their destruction. The 1/32 Inf moved out at the head of the convoy, with the 3d Bn 31st Inf acting as flank guard and the 1st Bn 57th FA Bn [57th FA Bn] acting as rear guard. Aircraft covered the front, flanks and rear of the column. There were a considerable number of casualties but the column continued to move. Apparently after the column passed Sindae-ri 2-1/2 miles north of Sasu-ri where the road turned inland from the Chosin Reservoir) it received heavy fire from the high ground to the north, from Hill 1221 to the south, and from a physical road block on the hill just short of the hairpin turn about 1500 yards southeast of Sindae-ri. The troops moved up the road and forced the road block and for a time it appeared that they had broken through, but they were driven back under machine gun fire, suffering heavy casualties. Close air support missions were run against the high ground but it was difficult to determine exactly where the friendly troops were. It was also difficult to keep troops moving against Hill 1221 to the south and the road block. There was a tendency to drift back to the road where the trucks carrying the wounded were located. By this time it was beginning to get dark and aircraft had to leave the area.

[Note that Gen. Smith did not mention a napalm strike that killed almost a dozen soldiers in the lead unit at the beginning of the breakout.]

         After dark 1 December, the road block was knocked out and the convoy of wounded was set in motion. About this time Lt. Colonel Faith was mortally wounded. The convoy moved through the road block and down the hill in the direction of Hup’o and Hudong-ni. At the foot of the hills it was stopped by a blown bridge. According to Captain Stamford, at this point there was a railroad track, not shown on the map, which paralleled the road. The railroad bridge was intact, and Captain Stamford found a way to cross the stream on the railroad bridge and cut back to the road. Once back on the road, the convoy proceeded for about a half mile when it was surrounded by the enemy and the trucks were grenaded. Captain Stamford was captured but shortly after escaped and made his way to Hagaru-ri. As nearly as can be determined, at his point the task force fell apart and it became a question of each man for himself.

         In the meantime, at Hagaru-ri, plans were made for the formation of Task Force Anderson to assist in the movement of Task Force Faith into Hagaru-ri. Lt. Colonel Anderson was the senior officer of the 7th Inf Div troops in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri. These troops had initially been located near Pokko-chi [Hudong-ni], about 2 miles [3 miles] north of Hagaru-ri. On 30 November, Lt. Colonel Anderson, with the approval of the Division, moved his command into the perimeter of Hagaru-ri. It was planned to have Lt. Colonel Anderson move north on 2 December with the equivalent of a rifle company reinforced by tanks. Air support was arranged and the jump off was to be between 0930 and 1100, 2 December. The size of the force was later reduced to two platoons with tanks.

[It’s important at this time to clarify the foregoing paragraph. Note that Gen. Smith infers that it was at Anderson’s initiative with the approval of the Division (Gen. Smith) that the units at Hudong-ni moved to Hagaru-ri. That was not the case, Anderson was ordered by 1st Marine Division (Gen. Smith) to withdraw from Hudong-ni to Hagaru-ri where, upon withdrawal, they were immediately placed on the perimeter where the 31st tank Company played a key role defending against a major CCF attack that same night, 30 November. Second, at that time Lt. Colonel Anderson was not in command of anything; he was the operations officer (S3) in the RCT headquarters element at Hudong-ni, then upon arrival at Hagaru-ri became the senior Army officer present. Actually Gen. Hodes was there at the time, although he did not come under the command of Gen. Smith as did Lt. Colonel Anderson. Captain Rasula was assistant S-3 to Anderson at the time. The next item to which we take exception is “Task Force Anderson.” There are a few historians, authors and current researchers who believe this task force was organized, manned and committed, as one may be led to believe by Gen. Smith’s memoirs. This was not the case. This action was in the planning stages only. Sources who had personal knowledge of this fact are: Captain Drake, commander of the 31st Tank Company; Captain Rasula, assistant RCT S-3; and Lieutenant Escue, liaison officer in the RCT S-3 section.]


Photo by Captain George Rasula looking north from the Hagaru-ri perimeter. Photo made 4 December, about the time the last Marine unit from Yudam-ni arrived on the west side the Hagaru-ri perimeter.  There was little or no enemy action at this time with reasonably fair weather, about 20˚ F. The Chinese on the heights of East Hill and other surrounding high ground no longer had the ability to attack this concentration of marines and soldiers, an ideal target for heavy mortars. By this time they had also learned to respect the air power of their opponents.

 

         After the collapse of Task Force Faith on the evening of 1 December, groups of men from the task force moved out on the ice of the Reservoir and walked toward the perimeter of Hagaru-ri. During their movement the enemy raked some groups with automatic weapons fire from the banks of the Reservoir and did not fire on other groups at all. The first group of about 125 arrived in Hagaru-ri at 1825, 1 December, and an additional group of about 350 reached the perimeter at about 2000. Fortunately, none of the stragglers was injured by the AP mines and trip flares set out in front of our positions. Some of these stragglers were wounded. Others appeared to be in fair physical condition, although all of the men were suffering from the cold. Arrangements were made to put the men in warming tents and to provide medical attention. Stragglers continued to drift in for 3 or 4 days thereafter.

[On 1 December Lt. Colonel Anderson gave Captain Rasula, assisted by Lieutenant Escue, the mission of establishing liaison at the Marine perimeter to “coordinate the passage of lines” by soldiers arriving from the north. During the first night 1-2 December at the CP/FDC of H Battery, 11th Marines, they processed hundreds of wounded and frostbitten soldiers. During that time Escue received “help me” notes delivered by Korean civilians that motivated him to use a jeep after daylight 2 December to check the road for stragglers. Escue rescued 16 seriously wounded soldiers the first trip by jeep, and many more the second time using two Marine trucks. Chinese watching from foxholes on the ridges next to the road never fired a shot.]

         At 1000, 2 December, Task Force Anderson moved out from Hagaru-ri and advanced north to assist Task Force Faith. Task Force Anderson was ordered not to become so heavily engaged that it might be cut off. After reaching a point about 4000 yards north of Hagaru-ri, the task force came under heavy attack from the flanks and rear and the tail of the column was momentarily cut off. After picking up some 10 of Task Force Faith’s wounded in the vicinity of an enemy road block, Task Force Anderson was ordered to return to Hagaru-ri. The column turned around and successfully reached the perimeter of Hagaru-ri.

[Be it be known that on 2 December, the only activity overland was Lt. Hodges S. Escue’s two ventures by jeep and truck on the only road that existed east of Chosin, during which he rescued many wounded. There was no action by a task force as described by Gen. Smith; it was a plan that was never executed.]

 
Capt. Rasula and Lt. Escue with Marine officers at the CP/FDC of H Battery, 11th Artillery, near the Hagaru-ri north perimeter.

         On his own initiative, the Commanding Officer of the 1st MT Bn, Lt. Colonel Beall, at 0800, 2 December, made a reconnaissance of the southern part of the Chosin Reservoir in search of additional wounded of Task Force Faith. Moving north on the surface of the reservoir he found wounded men of the Task Force endeavoring to reach our line. Word was sent back for additional personnel and jeeps. During the day, although frequently under fire from the hills bordering the Reservoir, these volunteers rescued in excess of 300 soldiers, using jeeps and improvised sleds. All of these men were wounded, with more than 50 percent with severe wounds. During the afternoon, as rescue operations continued, it became necessary to set up a section of machine guns out on the ice to provide covering fire for the rescue parties. Beall, the CO of the 1st MT Bn, was later awarded the DSC [by General Almond] for his rescue efforts.

         On 2 December, also, a CIC agent of the G-2 Section brought in 45 wounded and frostbitten men in ox-carts. These CIC agents were South Koreans and they circulated freely. Usually the procedures was to go out, find groups of wounded and frostbitten men and direct them to move out to the surface of the Reservoir where they would be seen and rescued.

         On the evening of 2 December, Lt. Colonel Beall, reported to me the results of his operations. The plight of the men whom Beall and other volunteers had rescued was pitiful. Some of the men were found hobbling along on the ice, others without shoes were crawling, and some of the men were walking around in circles, having lost all sense of direction. Beall was a very robust man who prided himself on his physical condition. He was always in training and did not drink tea, coffee or liquor and did not smoke. This evening he was beaten down and stated that he was feeling his age [born 1898] (he enlisted as a private in the Marine Corps in April 1917). He asked for some hot water. The Aide, thinking that LTC Beall wanted to wash up, brought in a pan of hot water, but we found that, as part of his Spartan regime, he wanted only a drink of hot water.

         On 2 December, I talked to Lt. Colonel Anderson, the senior officer of the 7th Inf Div in Hagaru-ri regarding the stragglers from Task Force Faith. I directed him to furnish additional jeeps and personnel to assist in the rescue of Army people who might still be working south toward us. I also directed Anderson to try to get some semblance of control over the Army personnel straggling into the perimeter. This was prompted by a report from Dr. Hering that malingerers had succeeded in having themselves evacuated. By this time C-47 planes were shuttling rapidly into the Hagaru-ri airstrip to take out casualties. Dr. Hering was convinced that a considerable number of Army men, who were not in fact casualties, had gotten aboard outgoing planes by malingering. He stated that on the morning of 2 December he had only 450 men in his hospital installations but that by nightfall 260 remained, despite the fact that 919 men had been evacuated by air. Considering the speed with which the evacuation was executed and the fact that our people had not envisaged the possibility of malingering, it is conceivable that a significant number of men who were not casualties did get aboard outgoing planes. It would have been a very simple matter, under the circumstances, for malingerers to join groups of bonifide ambulatory patients awaiting evacuation. If, however, on 2 December, malingerers succeeded in getting aboard planes it was our fault. The Air Force had sent up an “Evacuation Officer” to supervise the loading of planes. The doctors assumed that he was responsible for seeing that only casualties got on planes. The Evacuation Officer had no such responsibility. He did become suspicious and reported his suspicions to Dr. Hering. The following day the situation was under control as far as malingerers were concerned. Lt. Colonel Anderson agreed to make every effort to get the Army personnel under control, but with men dribbling in at all hours of the day and night it was not an easy task. He also had great difficulty in arousing the men to any activity. They apparently considered that as far as they were concerned the war was over.

[We find these words on malingering directed at the soldiers most interesting, especially when, decades later, we have reports from marines about marines who did the same. One may ask, “Did this indicate the early stages of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?”]

         Later, on 4 December, while Lt. Colonel Beall was still engaged in rescuing Army personnel on the surface of the Reservoir, he moved ashore and made a reconnaissance of the site of the ambush of the truck column which had been transporting the Army wounded. By personal observation in each truck he determined that no one remained alive. He reported to me that he had counted 300 bodies. Whether by design or otherwise, Lt. Colonel Beall had air cover while making this reconnaissance.

[Those who were prisoners of the Chinese and present in that area find it difficult to understand how Beall could have counted the bodies in a column of broken-down trucks spread over a distance of three miles without interference by the Chinese who were there at the time, especially since Beall could not have known the location of the first and last vehicle. The air cover mentioned by Gen. Smith may have been available at the time, weather permitting, although to make use of air support Lt. Col. Beall would have needed the assistance of an air controller, which he did not have.]

         Task Force Faith [RCT-31], before its disintegration, reported that the 80th CCF Division had identified in the area east of the Chosin Reservoir. The number of casualties inflicted on the enemy was not determined.

[From Chinese sources it is now known that by the second day the Chinese had committed the 80th and 81st CCF Divisions and a regiment of the 94th Division as part of their main effort to destroy their opponents east of the Reservoir and capturing Hagaru-ri. Had Gen. Smith known this, he may have seen the plight of survivors in a different light. ]

         The casualties of Task Force Faith were heavy. Lt. Colonel Beall counted 300 dead in the abandoned truck convoy. There were, of course, a considerable number killed in the fighting of the two previous days [total of four days and five nights]. No doubt, a considerable number of Task Force Faith was captured. According to the G-1 of the Division approximately 1500 Army casualties were evacuated by air from Hagaru-ri, a figure which cannot now be justified. About 1135 appears to be a more reasonable figure. Not all of these were from Task Force Faith, as Army troops in the Hagaru-ri area suffered a considerable number of casualties. In the opinion of Dr. Hering not all of the Army men evacuated by air were in fact casualties. Of the personnel of Task Force Faith reaching Hagaru-ri only 385 were considered able-bodied enough to continue to fight. The approximate strength of Task Force Faith [RCT-31] was 2500 officers and men. Of this number probably 1065 were killed or missing in action and 1050 were evacuated, including, no doubt, some malingerers. Thus Task Force Faith [RCT-31] suffered approximately 85% casualties. In addition, it lost all its vehicles and equipment.

[Gen. Smith closes his coverage of the action east of Chosin by once again saying that the evacuation included, no doubt, some malingerers, not understanding what had happened east of Chosin when he wrote his Aide-Memoire. Why he continued to harp on this subject will continue to challenge military historians.]

[906]

 

END NOTES

As readers of Chosin will note, the above report by Maj. Gen. O.P. Smith differs considerably from recent writings by Appleman and Blair, as well as writings in this Changjin Journal. These authors had access to testaments of survivors of the Chosin campaign. For personal experiences of the action east of Chosin see previous chapters of the Changjin Journal.

 

Once again, keep in mind that Gen. Smith did not have firsthand knowledge of everything contained in this report at the time of the action, much of which came from written reports by Capt. Stamford, Lt. Col. Beall and other unit commanders. He does not appear to relate the action east of Chosin as aiding in or relating to other actions at the Chosin. The term “Task Force Faith” may have come from Russell Gugeler’s Combat Actions in Korea dated 1954. Smith’s emphasis on the negative performance of Army soldiers is difficult to understand since he makes no effort to explain his role as the commander responsible for supervising this subordinate unit under his command, as he did the other two regimental combat teams at Yudam-ni, RCT-5 and RCT-7.

 

In closing, readers and future historians are asked to reflect once again on the title of this section (263) of Gen. Smith’s Aide-Memoire, “Attack On, Overrunning and Rescue of Army Task Force East of the Chosin Reservoir.”

 

END CJ 06.30.08    

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, grasula@nymas.org
Byron Sims, Contributing Editor


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