CHANGJIN JOURNAL  10.15.08   Chapter 72   


Fox 2/7 perimeter in Toktong Pass, Korean War Gallery, National Museum of the Marine Corps, Quantico.
Here the visitor enters the cold of Chosin where they feel and see the battle endured by Fox 2/7, complete with the realistic sounds and flashing tracers of a night battle. - Photo by George Rasula, 2008.



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 Gen. O.P. Smith's Aide-Memoire because they do not follow the chronology of events as known 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 Gen. Smith's coverage of RCT-31 east of the reservoir. In this issue we cover actions taken to open the road between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri, followed by the defense of Fox Hill in the Toktong Pass by F Company, 2/7 Marines.

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.
 


[Click on the map for a much larger image] On 27 November, in addition to the remainder of RCT-5 moving from east of Chosin to Yudam-ni, the last of RCT-7 was also on the move from Hagaru-ri, dropping Fox 2/7 at the top of the Toktong Pass and Charlie 1/7 at the west end of the pass at Hill 1520. This was happening when 2/5 Marines was attacking west from Yudam-ni where they were stopped abruptly by a strong CCF force. - Map by Melville J. Coolbaugh from The Chosin Chronology: Battle of the Changjin Reservoir, 1950, copyright George A. Rasula, 2007

[798-811]
(257) Initial attempts to open up the MSR between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri

At 1400, 27 November, F 2/7, which was still at Hagaru-ri with the H&S Company and Weapons Company of 2/7, was directed by RCT-7 to move to the vicinity of the Toktong Pass and to establish defensive positions there to protect the MSR. On the afternoon of 27 November, C Company 1/7 was sent to TA 4175, 4 miles south of Yudam-ni to guard the MSR. During the night of 27 November the MSR was cut by the CCF between Yudam-ni and Toktong Pass and between Toktong Pass and Hagaru-ri. During the night both F Company and C Company came under vicious enemy attacks. C Company was finally extricated by the combined action of A and B Companies 1/7 during the late afternoon of 28 November and returned to the defensive perimeter at Yudam-ni. This left only F Company on the MSR between the Yudam-ni perimeter and Hagaru-ri. F Company was so heavily engaged that it was impossible for it to disengage and it was forced to hold out at Toktong Pass until a relief battalion (1/7) reached it on 2 December during the course of the breakout from Yudam-ni. The account of the defense of Toktong Pass by F Company will be covered under "Defense of Toktong Pass by F Company 7th Marines."

It was vital to the 1MarDiv to keep open the MSR between Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni. Two RCTs of the Division were in the Yudam-ni area. Stocks of ammunition and supplies had been built up at Hagaru-ri to support these RCTs and the bulk of the 1st MT Battalion was at Hagaru-ri available to transport the ammunition and supplies to Yudam-ni. Furthermore, the C-47 air strip at Hagaru-ri was nearing completion, and, when completed, it would be possible to fly in ammunition and supplies to augment the stocks already at Hagaru-ri. We had not yet considered the wholesale air drop of supplies by the Combat Cargo Command operating from Japan. However, the entire capability of this command (75 tons per day) was not sufficient to sustain two RCTs in heavy combat. On 28 November, we had no information regarding any plans of the Corps for withdrawal. We, ourselves, had stopped the attack but could take no additional steps without sanction of the Corps. It was our responsibility to plan for the continuing support of RCTs 5 and 7 at Yudam-ni. For this purpose we needed to open up the MSR between Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni and this required infantry. Practically all of the divisional infantry in the Chosin Reservoir area was at Yudam-ni. At Hagaru-ri the only infantry components available were the 3/1 Marines (less G), the H&S Company and Weapons Company of the 2/7, and a detachment of the AT Company of the 7th Marines. On the night of 28-29 November, the Hagaru-ri garrison was heavily attacked in division strength and suffered approximately 500 casualties. Manifestly, this garrison would not have sufficient forces to open up the MSR, although it could assist. RCTs 5 and 7 had been heavily engaged at Yudam-ni on 28 November, but it was the judgment of the Division that these RCTs, by rearrangement of dispositions in the Yudam-ni area, could open up the MSR.

In view of the cutting of the MSR and the fact that the bulk of the Division's strength in the Chosin Reservoir area was at Yudam-ni, the Division at 1750, 28 November, modified 1MarDiv OpO 24-50 to the extent that RCT-7 was made responsible for the protection of the MSR from Yudam-ni to Hagaru-ri [14 miles] instead of only to Sinhung-ni [Fox Hill], and it was directed to clear the MSR between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri.

On 28 November, on that part of the MSR between Yudam-ni and Toktong Pass the action consisted of extricating C Company from positions it was holding at TA 4175, 4 miles south of Yudam-ni. This action relinquished, under enemy pressure, a part of the MSR between Yudam-ni and Toktong Pass, as C Company was withdrawn to the defensive perimeter at Yudam-ni.
[Readers must keep in mind that during the hours of darkness, the entire MSR from the perimeter at Hagaru-ri to the perimeter at Yudam-ni was under control of the Chinese who made free use of the road until daylight to move units in preparation for the next planned action.]

On 28 November, RCT-7 directed the 2/7 (less D, E, and F Companies), which was still at Hagaru-ri, to drive west to join F Company at Toktong Pass. It had been the intention of RCT-7 to move the H&S Company and Weapons Company of the 2/7 to Yudam-ni on 28 November. The blocking of the road by the CCF on the night of 27-28 November made the movement to Yudam-ni infeasible, but RCT-7 hoped that this force could open up the MSR as far as F Company's positions at Toktong Pass. For the time being these units of the 2/7 Marines at Hagaru-ri were still under the command of RCT-7. Elements of the 2/7 moved out from Hagaru-ri on 28 November but were halted by heavy enemy fire about half-way to F Company's positions and were unable to proceed. At 1226, RCT-7 ordered the force to return to Hagaru-ri.

For 29 November, RCT-7 decided to make an attempt to open the MSR by an attack from the Yudam-ni area by a composite battalion and from Hagaru-ri by elements of the 2/7 Marines still at that place.

The Composite Battalion (consisting of a battalion commander furnished by the 3/7 Marines, a rifle company from the 1/7, a rifle company from the 3/7, and A Company 1/5 Marines) moved out at 0900, 29 November, to relieve F Company at Toktong Pass. Also the H&S Company and Weapons Company of the 2/7 Marines moved out from Hagaru-ri at 0930, 28 [29?] November, to open up the MSR to F Company at Toktong Pass. This force was stopped by a superior enemy force at about the same point it had been stopped the previous day, and RCT-7 ordered the force to return to Hagaru-ri. The Composite Battalion, which had moved out from the defensive perimeter of Yudam-ni at 0900, reported a heavy defensive line consisting of many enemy entrenchments about 3000 yards north of Sinhung-ni. In danger of encirclement by superior enemy forces, at 1500 it was ordered by RCT-7 to return to the perimeter at Yudam-ni. Thus, the efforts of RCT-7 to open up the MSR between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri met with failure on 29 November.

At 1330, 29 November, the Division queried RCT-7 as to the progress being made in its assigned mission of clearing the MSR between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. Receiving a negative reply, the Division, at 1545, issued the following dispatch orders to RCTs 5 and 7:
"RCT-5 assume responsibility protection Yudam-ni area adjusting present dispositions accordingly X RCT-7 conduct operations clear MSR to Hagaru-ri without employing entire Regt X" [X denotes end of sentence.]
(In the records available to me there is a discrepancy in the date-time group of this message. The Division G-3 [Col. Bowser] in his report states that the message was sent at 1545, 29 November. RCT-5 in its report states that the message was sent at 1815, 29 November. RCT-7 in its report does not mention the time. In the absence of a copy of the dispatch, I have accepted the date-time group given by the Division G-3.) At 1710, 29 November, the CO of RCT-7 [Col. Litzenberg] sent a dispatch to the 1MarDiv stating that he was unable to organize a force at Yudam-ni adequate to clear the MSR without endangering the holding of the Yudam-ni area. A request was made that a force, reinforced with tanks, be sent from Hagaru-ri to extricate F Company. Should this plan not be accepted, RCT-7 intended to order F Company to proceed overland to the MSR between Hagaru-ri and Koto-ri [?] on the night of 30 November. This, under the circumstances, was an impractical course of action. RCT-7 was under the impression that its message of 1710 was received by the Division before the Division issued its orders for RCT-5 to pull back to Yudam-ni and for RCT-7 to use the entire regiment to open up the MSR. The Division order was issued solely on the basis of information that a force of one battalion had been unable to open up the MSR and a larger force was required. Even if the date-time group of 1815, recorded by RCT-5 in its report, were correct, there would have been little probability that a message sent by RCT-7 at 1710 would have reached the Division by 1815. Communication between the Division and Yudam-ni consisted of CW radio and was very poor under the circumstances then existing. A time lag of two hours was not unusual in the receipt of a message.

Orders received from the X Corps the evening of 29 November brought about a change in the plans for opening up the MSR between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. The execution of these new plans will be covered under "Regroupment and Breakout from Yudam-ni."

[Readers may note that the foregoing appears to be based on unit and staff reports and not on what Gen. Smith personally witnessed or experienced at the time. Note also that communication between commanders was by radio-teletype (messages) and not by personal contact. - GAR]
 

 


60-mm mortar position at Fox Hill
Korean War Gallery, National Museum of the Marine Corps, Quantico. - Photo by George Rasula, 2008.



(258) Defense of Toktong Pass by F Company, 7th Marines

F Company 2/7, then at Hagaru-ri, was directed by RCT-7 on 27 November to occupy positions at TA 4373Q, southwest of Toktong Pass and about 1500 yards east of Sinhung-ni, to protect the MSR.

F Company moved out from Hagaru-ri at 1500, 27 November, and arrived at the position at 1700. There was a shortage of motor transport at the time and it was only through the loan of artillery trucks from H Battery 11th Marines that F Company was able to avoid the necessity of a road march. Captain William E. Barber, who commanded the Company, and who had preceded the company to Toktong Pass, selected a position for defense at approximately TA4373Q on a round topped, partly brush-covered hill to the north of and above the road. 500 yards northwest of this hill was another slightly higher hill. These two hills were really noses of a much higher hill mass 1300 yards east of north of the hill on which F Company was located. The position selected by Captain Barber was an excellent one which commanded the road and had all-around fields of fire. F Company dug in as best it could; in frozen ground entrenching tools are merely chipping tools. As was normal procedure in such situations, patrols were sent out in daylight hours and listening posts were established at night. A 50% alert was always maintained. The company commander had radio communication with his parent unit, RCT-7 at Yudam-ni, and with the Division Hq at Hagaru-ri, 5 miles to the east. With the company were a forward observer of the artillery and a forward air controller who could bring down artillery and air support. The company was reinforced by a section of 81mm mortars and its total strength was about 220 officers and men. H Battery 3/11 Marines, which had remained in Hagaru-ri when its parent unit had displaced to Yudam-ni with RCT-7 to which it was attached, could just barely reach the positions of F Company with its fires. However, the artillery was unable to register the evening of 27 November because of the traffic on the Yudam-ni road. Air support could be brought in daylight hours.

F Company came under heavy attack from the enemy at 0230, 28 November. The Chinese flowed around F Company and attacked from all sides. The company perimeter was close invested and was broken at one point, but the ground was gained and the Chinese were driven off by 0630 after suffering heavy casualties. Elements of two battalions of Chinese, many times the strength of F Company, were involved in this fight. By morning, 450 of them lay dead in the snow. The losses of F Company had not been light; 20 had been killed, 3 missing, and 54 wounded.

Care of the wounded was extremely difficult because of the cold. Temperatures dropped as low as 24 below zero Fahrenheit. Plasma froze in the bottles and hospital corpsmen had to hold morphine syrettes in their mouths to warm them sufficiently to insure functioning.

On the morning of 28 November, H Battery registered in on the area around F Company/7's position and conducted harassing fires throughout the remainder of the day.

On the afternoon of 28 November, Marine transport planes made an air drop of medical supplies and ammunition. The drop was excellent.

During the day of 28 November, RCT-7 ordered F Company to break contact with the enemy and fight its way to the positions of C Company 1/7 (at TA 4175, 4 miles south of Yudam-ni and about 3 miles northwest of F Company's positions), and to move in conjunction with C Company into the defensive perimeter of Yudam-ni. (It will be remembered that C Company came under attack at 0230, 28 November; that the attack had slackened by 0505, but was renewed from all sides at 0650; and that A and B Companies 1/7 were sent to the aid of C Company and succeeded in extricating it by 1510.) F Company, however, was so heavily engaged with the enemy that it could not break contact and remained in its positions.

The enemy attack, preceded by mortar fire, began again at 0215, 29 November, and the attack continued viciously until about 0600. The enemy attacked along the same lines and in about the same strength as the first night. 150 of the enemy were killed but F Company's losses were 5 killed and 29 wounded.

Were it is well to note the marked difference in the care of the wounded by the Chinese and by Marines. A wound to a Chinese was a death sentence; he was left to die of exposure. Marines could hear the cries of the Chinese wounded, cries which died away as they froze to death. On the other hand, in spite of the cold, Marine wounded were adequately cared for. On 28 November, warming tents were erected and additional medical supplies, blankets, and stretchers were air dropped on the position.

Captain Barber was among the casualties, being painfully wounded in the leg, but he continued in command although it became increasingly difficult for him to move around.

At 1030, 29 November, Marine transport plane again made an excellent drop of supplies on the position. Shortly thereafter a helicopter landed with batteries for the radios. As it descended it came under enemy small arms fire. One round passed through the cockpit and several hit the fuselage. Before any wounded could be placed aboard, the pilot had to take off to save the helicopter from further damage.

During the afternoon of 29 November, Flying Boxcars of the Combat Cargo Command arrived to make an airdrop. They were requested to drop on a large "X" laid out on top of the hill. The drop was off by 600 yards and covering fire had to be laid down to protect the men retrieving the bundles. Part of the drop was recovered in this manner, but the enemy fire became so heavy that it was necessary to delay the recovery of the remainder until after nightfall. With the recovery of this airdrop ammunition was now plentiful.

At 0230, 30 November, the Chinese attacked again, this time from the south across the valley. They were mown down by machine guns and mortars and those who reached the road were finished off with grenades. The Chinese made no further attacks that night.
[Be reminded that the Chinese did not have a resupply capability. Soldiers fought with the ammo they carried on their backs from the time they crossed the Yalu River. The temporary solution was unit replacement but that was difficult because of serious limitations in communication. - GAR]

At 1430, 30 November, another helicopter arrived with batteries for the radios. Like the first helicopter it received heavy small arms fire and was forced to take off immediately after leaving the batteries. These batteries were vital to F Company as the company depended on its radios for artillery and air support.

At about twilight 30 November, another airdrop was made. In the poor visibility the drop was made too soon and some of the supplies landed as far as 800 yards east of the position. Even at this distance little difficulty was experienced in retrieving the drop.

Some four inches of snow fell before midnight, 30 November. At 0100, 1 December, the enemy, taking advantage of the reduced visibility, moved four machine guns into position on the high hill to the north. The fire was not very effective, but Captain Barber decided to bring artillery fire to bear on the guns, with illumination from the 81mm mortars. By one of these coincidences that sometimes occur, the enemy guns were taken out by the first salvo.

After this attack there was a respite. Although the Chinese, in large numbers, remained within seeing distance, there was no further assault. The Chinese had lost their stomach for the attack.
[This relates to General Smith's earlier statement about the logistic capabilities of the Chinese. When they ran out of ammunition, all they could do was observe the battle from a safe distance. - GAR]


Caption Barber on his radio calling for artillery support from H Battery, 11th Marines at Hagaru-ri, also passing requirements for ammunition, medical supplies and radio batteries. The ability to communicate and the resulting logistical support by helicopter and air-drop was the key to survival by Fox Company.
Korean War Gallery, National Museum of the Marine Corps, Quantico. - Photo by George Rasula, 2008.



The day of 1 December was spent in cleaning up the company area: burying ration cans and assembling the equipment of casualties and the captured weapons.

At 1030, 1 December Marine planes attacked the high hill to the north. During the attack Flying Boxcars arrived to make another airdrop. The air strike was called off temporarily to permit the drop. Part of the drop was wide. Then, at the request of the company, the strafing planes came in again to cover the men retrieving the drop.

Both the division and RCT-7 were aware of the situation of F Company from the start, but there could be no immediate relief for the company. RCT-7 would have to fight its way to F Company against bitter opposition. The division at Hagaru-ri could not dispatch ground troops from the slender garrison of Hagaru-ri. This garrison, consisting of an infantry battalion and miscellaneous Headquarters and Service personnel, had been attacked in division strength on the night of 28-29 November and had suffered approximately 500 casualties. It was attacked again in approximately the same strength on the night of 30 November - 1 December. The Division headquarters was able, however, to furnish artillery and air support and to provide pin-point air drops of ammunition, rations, medical and other supplies. On two occasions helicopters were dispatched to F Company with badly needed replacement batteries for the radios.
[Readers may note the support given to this one company as compared with almost no support provided to the attached Army RCT-31 before and during the breakout east of the reservoir on this same day. We note that no mention is made of casualties resulting from the second attack on Hagaru-ri; nor that an Army tank company and other troops had been withdrawn from Hudong-ni east of the reservoir on 30 November, taking part in the defense, as were 16 tanks and about 300 infantry from Task Force Drysdale that had arrived from Koto-ri. - GAR]

Finally, at 0630, 2 December, the 1/7 Marines, which had made a circuitous and harrowing night march over the ridges to the relief of F Company, made radio contact with the company. Such was the spirit of F Company, after withstanding all enemy attacks for five days, that the company commander offered to send out a patrol to bring the 1/7 into his lines. The 1/7 actually reached the positions of F Company at 1125, 2 December. (The description of the operations of the 1/7 Marines is covered under "Regroupment and Breakout from Yudam-ni".)

Toktong Pass was the key terrain feature between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. F Company, by the retention of its positions west of Toktong Pass, materially assisted the main body in the seizure of the Pass. It had held its positions for five days and nights against the attacks of the Chinese in estimated regimental strength. The losses of F Company had been heavy: 26 killed, 3 missing, and 89 wounded, for a total of 118 battle casualties. Six of the seven company officers had been wounded, including Captain Barber. Probably more than 1000 Chinese were killed or died from a combination of wounds and exposure to the extreme cold.
For his leadership in this action, Captain Barber, who commanded F Company, was later awarded the Medal of Honor.
[811]

END NOTES

The experience by Fox Company in the Toktong Pass, especially the leadership and performance at company level, as well as the coordination and cooperation at the division and supporting arms level, resulted in a classic example for study by military historians and small unit commanders of the future. As stated above, this was made possible because of leadership at the company level and the ability to communicate needs to higher command, which in this case was not to the battalion or regimental commander at Yudam-ni, but to the division supporting elements at Hagaru-ri. To keep a radio net of that era operating in cold weather took not only trained communicators; they needed fully charged, warm batteries. In this case the communications were linked to the supply dumps at Hagaru-ri that in turn passed the needs to waiting aircraft for delivery or airdrop. This was not a result of long-range planning, but rather an example of timely coordination and action on the spot. Fox Company was fortunate not to have experienced mid-winter weather conditions of extreme cold and blizzards that, according to available weather data, arrived in January and February. At this point one must conclude that conditions favored the defender, not the attacker.

END CJ 10.15.08


 

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