CHANGJIN JOURNAL 11.15.09 Chapter 74
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
”Walking the Hagaru Perimeter 3 December 1950”The original of this photo is a color slide, never before published, made on the north edge of the Hagaru-ri perimeter near H Battery, 11th Marines, after the rescue mission on the east road of the reservoir by Lt. Hodges Escue, and rescue efforts by LTC Beall’s group on the ice during 2-4 December 1950. – GAR Copyright © 1950, 2009, George A. Rasula.
IN THIS ISSUE we continue the 2006-09 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 06.10-.09) we addressed the general’s composition and description of enemy forces that participated in the Chosin campaign.
In this issue he addresses the defense of Hagaru-ri. This section contains far more detail than descriptions of actions at Yudam-ni and also the Army units east of the reservoir, probably because the general’s command post was located within the perimeter and records of units at that location survived the campaign. We have omitted some detail in this issue because of length.
Sections (…) and page numbers […] are included for reference purposes. Bold typeface is 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 and how he wished them to be remembered.
(259) Defense of Hagaru-ri
Early Measures for Defense of Hagaru-ri
RCT-7 first occupied Hagaru-ri on 14 November. The first elements of RCT-5 began arriving in the Hagaru-ri area on 19 November, preparatory to passing through RCT-7 and continuing the advance to the north on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir. Bt 23 November, all of RCT-5 was east of the Chosin Reserovir. In the meantime, RCT-7 had begun to move to occupy a blocking position at Yudam-ni, which was accomplished on 26 November. For the time of its initial occupation of Hagaru-ri on 14 November, RCT-7 had been responsible for the defense of that place. On 26 November, when RCT-7 occupied its assigned blocking position at Yudam-ni, there still remained in Hagaru-ri the following units and detachments of RCT-7:
CoHq AT Co 7th Marines
H&S Co 2d Bn 7th Marines
Wpns Co 2d Bn 7th Marines
F Co 2d Bn 7th Marines
H Btry 3d Bn 11th Marines
Det Anglico 1st Sig Bn
The CO, 2d Bn 7th Marines, with the troops available to him, was made responsible for the defense of Hagaru-ri.
Assumption of Responsibility for Defense of Hagaru-ri by 3/1 Marines
On 26 November, as part of the move to have RCT-1 taken over the protection of the MSR between Chinhung-ni and Hagaru-ri, the 3d Bn 1st Marines (less G Company) moved out from Chigyong in two serials and closed Hagaru-ri at 2200.
On 27 November, at 1200, the 3/1 Marines relieved the 2/7 of responsibility for the defense of the Hagaru-ri area. Arrangements were made by RCT-1 for the movement of G Company 3/1 and regimental supplies to Hagaru-ri on 28 November. At 1500, 27 November, F 2/7 moved out from Hagaru-ri to occupy defensive positions on the MSR just west of Toktong Pass. It was planned to move the remaining elements of RCT-7 at Hagaru-ri to Yudam-ni on 28 November, but the cutting of the road by the CCF prevented this.
Events of the Day of 28 November
During the morning of 28 November, the 3/1 Marines sent out patrols to the south and southwest. As has already been noted, the Wpns Company 2/7, on 28 November, made an attempt to open up the MSR between Hagaru-ri and the positions of F Company at Toktong Pass. At 0945, it came under heavy fire in the vicinity of TA 4872I (about 3 road miles west of Hagaru-ri) and was unable to proceed. At 1226, it was directed by RCT-7 (still in command of RCT-7 elements at Hagaru-ri) to return to Hagaru-ri. The company requested assistance by fire from the 3/1 in the disengagement. This fire was furnished and by 1522 all elements were within the perimeter.
At about 0900, 28 November, H Company 3/1 dispatched a platoon reinforced by three tanks of the Prov Tank Platoon to the south along the road to Koto-ri. At 1245, this patrol was in contact with an enemy force of undetermined strength at TA 5368B, about 1500 yards south of Hagaru-ri. The contact developed into a firefight employing both infantry and tank weapons. The patrol continued to observe, estimated the enemy at 200, and reported several roadblocks. At 1530, the patrol, in danger of being outflanked, was ordered to disengage from the enemy and return to the perimeter. It regained the perimeter by 1600 after suffering casualties of 1 killed and 5 wounded.
At the same time the H Company patrol moved to the south, a similar patrol was dispatched by I Company to the southwest in the direction of Hongmun-ni. At 1020, this patrol located about 150 enemy at TA 4970ABC (1½ miles southwest of Hagaru-ri), called for artillery and mortar fire, and dispersed the group. At 1140, the patrol again made contact with the Chinese at TA 4869I (about 2 miles southwest of Hagaru-ri). After a firefight the CCF withdrew, and the patrol was recalled at 1215.
Continuous reports from outposts, air, and civilians indicated that the enemy was moving in small groups toward Hagaru-ri. The heaviest enemy concentrations appeared to be southwest of Hagaru-ri.
At 1100, 28 November, the Division CP was officially opened at Hagaru-ri. The Division Commander and key members of his staff were flown in by helicopter and OY plane in view of the cutting of the MSR between Koto-ri and Hagaru-ri. Over a period of days, personnel, vehicles, and equipment of the Division Hq had been arriving at Hagaru-ri. The remainder of the Division Hq was stopped at Koto-ri because of the blocking of the MSR.
At 1625, 28 November, the Division placed all elements of the Division located at Hagaru-ri under the operational control of the 3/1 Marines for the defense of Hagaru-ri and for night security.
Garrison of Hagaru-ri
The garrison of Hagaru-ri as of the evening of 28 November is shown below. Strength of units and detachments is estimated:
[Click on the map for a larger image. Details omitted in this copy. Marine Corps and Navy total is 3,378. Total attached Army Units is 12. Total associated Army Units listed is 535. Among the Army units listed are units (about 300 troops) located at Hudong-ni east of the Chosin Reservoir until late afternoon of 30 November; not present at Hagaru-ri during 28-29 November. – GAR]
[Click on the map for a larger image.] This is a section of the AMS 1952 topographic map of the immediate Hagaru-ri area. Note the symbol (northwest-southeast) of the airstrip southwest of the town. Grid squares are 1,000 meters; elevation in meters with contour intervals of 20 meters. The terrain east of the reservoir is rugged, with the mountaintop of Puksan only 10 km to east being 2,070 meters (6,791 feet).
Hagaru-ri was on the west side of the Changjin River about two miles south of the southern tip of the Chosin Reservoir. The road from Koto-ri, paralleled by the narrow-gauge railroad, followed the east bank of the Changjin River to Hagaru-ri and thence north along the east side of the Chosin Reservoir. At Hagaru-ri the road to Yudam-ni branched off to the northwest across an undamaged concrete bridge and through the town of Hagaru-ri. An unimproved road also led southeast from Hagaru-ri toward Such’ol-ni (3 miles southwest of Hagaru-ri). The hills closed down on the road and railroad east of the river. Just east of Hagaru-ri a ridge oriented in a southwest-northeast direction rose abruptly from the road to an elevation of 500 feet above the valley floor and merged into the rugged mountain to the eastward. Hagaru-ri itself was on fairly flat terrain west of the river. Just north of the town, about 1000 yards northwest of the bridge, was a low hill at an elevation of about 250 feet above the floor of the valley. On the western outskirts of the town and west of the road leading to Such’ol’li was a low ridge oriented in a northeast-southwest direction, which increased in elevation to the southwest. The principal elevations (all in meters) surrounding Hagaru-ri were:
Hill 1448 3500 yards to the east
Hill 1203 3200 yards east of north
Hill 1124 2000 yards northwest
Hill 1323 4000 yards northwest
Hill 1280 3500 yards west of south
Hill 1278 4000 yards east of south
[Map elevations used as hill numbers are in meters. The reservoir ice was about 1060 meters. – GAR]
South and southwest of the town the inhabitants had the ground under cultivation. When General Field Harris and I had, on 16 November, inspected this area as a possible site for a C-47 strip, the soil, which was of black loam, was dusty and friable. On 28 November, it was frozen solid to a depth of about 18 inches. Both the river and the reservoir were frozen over. There was also a coating of snow on the ground. The airstrip, which was under construction, was southwest of the town oriented in a northwest-southeast direction, the center of the runway being about 800 yards southeast of the bridge across the Changjin River.
There were several buildings in the town suitable for hospital installations and storage. The Commanding General’s group was located in a metal frame house on the southern slopes of the low hill just north of the town. Most of the troops and installations were in tents or vans.
The defense of Hagaru-ri had to provide for the following:
(a) Protection of the dumps of the 1st Supply Regulating Station on the flat ground on the east side of the Changjin River and north of the bridge.
(b) Protection of the Division Headquarters, hospital and other installations in the town of Hagaru-ri.
(c) Protection of the airstrip southwest of the town.
To accomplish the above purposes it was necessary to hold, as a minimum, a part of the ridge east of the town, an area north of the dumps of the Regulating Station, the low hill north of Hagaru-ri, and the low ridge west of the airstrip, tying in across the valley south of the airstrip to the ridge east of the town.
Since the greatest enemy activity to date had been noted to the southwest in the direction of Such’ol-li, particular attention was paid to blocking that avenue of approach. Lt. Col. Ridge had available for the defense of Hagaru-ri only two rifle companies. Manifestly, they could only man a portion of the defensive perimeter. For the remainder of the perimeter defense Col. Ridge had to rely on Hq and Service elements, the elements of the 2/7 Marines remaining in Hagaru-ri, and a small contingent of Army troops including signal troops and engineers. [Army units that were sent to Hagaru-ri to prepare the forward CP of X Corps included a platoon of the 4th Signal Battalion, X Corps, and D Company, 10th Engineer Battalion, 3d Infantry Division.]
Hagaru Defensive Perimeter, 28-29 November 1950. [Click on the map for a larger image.]
From Korean War Commemorative Series: Frozen Chosin, U.S. Marines at the Changjin Reservoir,
History & Museums Division, USMC, 2002.
Utilizing this slender garrison, Col. Ridge distributed the available units around the perimeter in general as follows:
A roadblock on the Koto-ri road about 500 yards southeast of the bridge – Wpns Co 3/1 Marines.
Southwest of the roadblock on the west side of the river – D/1 Engr Bn.
Southwest of D/12 Engr – D Btry 2/11 Marines.
South of the airstrip – H 3/1 Marines
Southwest and west of the airstrip – I 3/1 Marines.
Northwest of the airstrip and south of the Yudam-ni road – H&S Co 3/1.
Astride the Yudam-ni road – Wpns Co 2/7 Marines.
Northwest of the hill north of Hagaru-ri – Div Hq Bn.
On the low hill north of Hagaru-ri – Air Support Sec MTACS-2.
Northeast of the positions of the air section between the hill and the river – 1st MT Bn.
In the flat ground 1200 yards north of the bridge and covering the dump area – 1st Service Bn.
To the northeast of the positions of the 1st Serv Bn in the flat ground – H Btry 3/11 Marines, backed up by the 1st Service Bn. H Battery was in fact in the advance of [outside] the perimeter. [This battery fired in support of F 2/7 in the Toktong Pass.]
Covering the road leading north from Hagaru-ri about 1200 yards east of north of the bridge – AT Co (-) 7th Marines.
On the ridge east of Hagaru-ri to a distance of about 1000 yards northeast of the bridge – an outpost of the 1st Serv Bn, C Co 10th Engr (C) Bn, Det H&S Co X Corps, Det 4th Sig Bn, and Det Wpns Co 3/1 Marines.
The long axis of the perimeter was oriented from southwest to northeast and measured about 2500 yards. The width of the perimeter from northwest to southeast was about 1800 yards.
Enemy Attack on the Night of 28-29 November
Hagaru-ri came under heavy attack at 2230, 28 November, with heavy enemy mortar and small arms fire falling in the Division Command Post area. The weight of the enemy attack initially was against H and I Companies in the southern and southwestern sectors. The enemy broke through the defensive line, slashed tents and sleeping bags in the H Company rear area, and while so engaged suffered heavy casualties from H Company fire. At 2315, reserves from the H&S Company 3/1 were sent to the assistance of H Company. At 2330 additional reserves were sent in from the Engineers and 1st MT Bn. Employing a heavy volume of mortar fire and automatic weapons fire, the enemy inflicted moderate casualties on H Company. However, the line was backed up and held.
At 0030, 29 November, H Company reported a second assault against its positions. More reserves were sent to its positions. I Company was still under heavy attack. H Company was able to reorganize and at 0230 launched a counterattack that gained the ground lost. Persisting in the attack, the Chinese launched two attacks against I Company from the southwest at about 0300. These attacks that were in four waves, were repulsed with heavy enemy casualties. Forming again, the enemy attacked a third time without success. The attack in the southern sector now began to gradually decrease in intensity and by daybreak the enemy had broken off the engagement. Although the attack in this sector resulted in a considerable number of casualties to our troops, the enemy had much higher casualties. On this part of the front approximately 750 enemy dead were counted. [H Company lost 16 killed and 39 wounded this night. – Montross.]
While the action was going on in the southern sector, the south roadblock (on the road to Koto-ri) was attacked at 0115. By 0200, 29 November, the troops on the ridge east of the town were generally engaged. At 0210, the 1st Serv Bn reported a platoon position overrun. (This was the outpost that the 1st Serv Bn was maintaining on the ridge.) At 0325, the Marine officer with D 10th Engr Bn reported a gap to his left from TA5271M to 5271B. This was a spur that led from the ridge in the direction of the positions of the AT Co 7th Marines and the 1st Serv Bn. He was ordered to extend his left and 1st Serv Bn was ordered to extend its right. Both units found this to be infeasible and H Btry 1/11 was then directed to cover the gap by direct fire. At 0400, the Marine officer with D/10 reported that he was bending back his left in order to secure that flank. Shortly after he was killed, the situation in that sector disintegrated badly with virtually the entire engineer company being driven from the hill. (At daybreak we were in possession of only the reverse slope of the nose above the road. At 0530 the situation was critical. A reinforcing column was formed under the Executive Officer of 3/1, the troops consisting of A/1 Engr Bn (less 2d Plat) and other available troops. The best effort could not restore the situation. With the coming of daylight the enemy attack slackened and by 0900 only small arms fire was coming from the ridge. Air strikes were supplemented by mortar and artillery fire. Although the composite force was unable to restore the situation, the air strikes, mortar and artillery fire did keep the enemy quiescent.
Among the troops defending the east ridge were a number of ROK soldiers. The detachment of H&S Co X Corps was composed entirely of ROKs and there were a considerable number of ROKs in D/10 Engr. [D/10 consisted of 77 US soldiers and 90 ROKs.] Colonel Ridge had planned on defending the east ridge with G Company, but G had been stopped at Koto-ri by the blocking of the road and did not arrive in Hagaru-ri until the evening of 29 November after a bitter fight. Intelligence information had indicated the heaviest buildup of the enemy to the south and southwest of Hagaru-ri. Colonel Ridge used his two available rifle companies to cover this threatened flank. The remainder of the perimeter was defended by miscellaneous headquarters and service troops and available Army units. The only Marine units on the ridge east of the town were the outpost from the 1st Serv Bn and a detachment of the Wpns Co of 3/1. In order to insure coordination and control of the Army units on the ridge, Colonel Ridge detailed to each unit a Marine officer and a radio operator. The operations of the Marine officer with D/10 have already been noted. Unfortunately he was killed in action at the height of the attack.
[Although D/10 carried a “combat engineer” designation, most of the troops were ROK soldiers who knew little English and worked as a labor force rather than trained soldiers. Many Army soldiers as well as ROKs were killed during the action on East Hill. – GAR]
During the night of 28-29 November, the reserves in Hagaru-ri were badly depleted as a result of strengthening the southern and eastern sectors. All personnel not essential to operations in the Command Post manned positions on the line.
Contribution of Headquarters, Service and Supporting Troops to the Defense
27 to 29 November
The general description of the Chinese attack on 28-29 November, given above, indicates that troops other than the infantry became seriously involved in the defense of the positions. There was no rear at Hagaru-ri. By an examination of the reports of the various Hq, Service and supporting units, it becomes apparent how universal was the participation in the defense. The following summary indicates the activity of these units.
Omitted from this copy, p.824-837. For reference, units listed in this section are:
(a) Division Headquarters Battalion, (b) Post Exchange Section, (c) 1st Signal Battalion, (d) VMO-6 [Aviation], (e) Air Support Section MTACS-2 [air controllers], (f) 1st Service Battalion [graves registration and supply dumps], (g) C Co, 1st Medical Bn, (h) E Co, 1st Med Bn, (i) 1st Motor Transport Bn, (j) 1st Ordnance Bn, (k) 1st Engineer Bn [airstrip construction], (l) Provisional Tank Plat, 1st Tank Bn, (m) 2d Plat, D Co, 1st Tank Bn, (n) Hq, 11th Marines, (o) D Btry, 2/11 Marines, (p) H Btry, 3/11 Marines [supported F 2/7 in Toktong Pass]. (q) Detachment 4th Signal Bn, X Corps, D Co 10th Engineer Bn, Detachment H&S Co, X Corps, (r) Detachment, 31st Infantry.
Of interest in the foregoing sub-paragraph (q) is the name of Army Major Clarence A. Martin who has not been cited in past publications on the Chosin campaign. In General Smith’s Memoire we read, “These units, comprising about 230 officers and men, were sent to Hagaru-ri on 27 November to prepare for the establishment of an advance X Corps CP at Hagaru-ri. … The senior Army officer with these detachments was Major Clarence A. Martin.
“On 28 November, Major Martin called X Corps Hq by radio link and advised the Corps of the enemy build-up about Hagaru-ri. He was directed to integrate his troops in the defense perimeter of Hagaru-ri. Since his troops were east of the river, he was assigned a defensive perimeter on the ridge east of the town. … As has already been indicated, Major Martin and the Marine officer with D Co 10th Engrs were killed during the Chinese attack on the hill beginning the night of 28 November. The situation on the hill disintegrated and by morning only the reverse slope of the nose above the road remained in our hands. Losses in the units on the ridge were heavy.”
Events of the Day of 29 November
By daybreak 29 November, the attack in the southern sector had ceased. By 0900 only small arms fire was coming from the ridge east of town, but the situation in that sector was critical. At 0930 air came on station and began to run strikes against the enemy on the ridge, supplemented by artillery and mortar fire. An effort was made to restore the situation on the ridge employing a composite force under the command of the Executive Officer of 3/1 Marines. This force included A/1 Engr (less 2d Plat), which had been withdrawn from the sawmill area [north of Hagaru-ri], the troops previously engaged in the defense of the ridge, and other miscellaneous troops. Despite their best efforts little progress was made in retaking the ridge. At 1700 the attack was discontinued and troops dug in on the reverse slopes of the positions they had held. On that part of the perimeter facing the ridge from the direction of the southwest and west were a detachment of Wpns Co 3/1, detachment of H&S X Corps, D/10 Engr Bn, Det 4 Sig Bn, A/1 Engr Bn (less 2d Plat), and a detachment of the 1st Serv Bn.
Throughout the day there were strong indications of preparations for an attack from the southwest. At 1330, an airstrike hit Hongmun-ni and reported excellent results. This was followed by artillery and mortar concentrations.
At 1915, 29 November, G 3/1, D/1st Tank Bn (less 2d Plat), the Tank Plat AT Co/5th Marines, and the Royal Marine Commandos began to arrive at Hagaru-ri from Koto-ri. They had been forced to fight through a series of roadblocks and had suffered very heavy casualties. The fight of these units from Koto-ri to Hagaru-ri is described under “Initial Attempts to Open Up the MSR Between Koto-ri and Hagaru-ri”. In spite of their depleted strength, these units constituted a decisive reinforcement of the garrison at Hagaru-ri and approximately compensated for the losses suffered by the garrison during the night of 28-29 November.
Events of the Night of 29-30 November
In addition to artillery and mortar fire, the night harassing plan included the use of VMF (N) night hecklers. At 2225, 29 November, enemy heavy mortar and artillery fire began to fall in the area. White phosphorus shells fell in front of H and I Cos and a green flare was observed, but an attack did not materialize. Indications were that the enemy had planned to attack in strength on the night of 29-30 November but the attack was disorganized by our artillery and mortar fire. [An assumption.]
Events of the Day of 30 November
In the early morning hours of 30 November, an enemy concentration in front of I Co was broken up by mortar fire.
At 0800, 30 November, G 3/1, reinforced by Hq & Service troops on that part of the perimeter, moved out to retake the ridge east of Hagaru-ri. Air was on station. Enemy mortar fire was falling on our positions around the ridge. The attack continued against stubborn resistance throughout the day. By 1600, G Co had reached the top of the nose of the ridge but was unable to continue on to fully close the gap on the left.
At 1000, 30 November, the 3/1 reported an estimated enemy battalion digging in to the west, while another group of enemy was constructing positions to the north.
During the day of 30 November, an attempt was made to extricate a group of Army personnel reported by OY aircraft to be just south of Hagaru-ri. These troops were assumed to be remnants of B 1/31 which had, on 29 November, attempted to fight its way through to Hagaru-rio with G 3/1, the Royal Marine Commandos, and D/1st Tank Bn. Three tanks of the Prov Tank Plat moved approximately one mile south of Hagaru-ri when they came under extremely heavy enemy fire from native huts on the east side of the road. Returning the fire the tanks hit the buildings with 90mm gunfire, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, who were crowded into the huts for warmth. Upon dispersing the enemy and finding no Army troops in the area the tanks were ordered to return to Hagaru-ri.
At 1900, 30 November, the elements of RCT-31 that had been in position north of Hagaru-ri near Pokko-ch’I [at Hudong-ni], began moving into the perimeter of Hagaru-ri. A Corps directive of 2250, 29 November, had attached these troops to the 1st Marine Division and they were in turn placed under the operational control of the 3/1 Marines. In joining the perimeter the troops encountered minor roadblocks.
[To state that the X Corps order “had attached these troops” without further explanation may be misleading to the reader because at 2250 the previous night all Army units north of the Funchilin Pass had been attached to the 1MarDiv. This included the main body of RCT-31 that continued its battle east of the reservoir with no command and control supervision by the command to which they were attached.]
CCF Attack on the Night of 30 November – 1 December
At 2015, 30 November, I Co heard three distinct bugle calls to the west of its positions. This was followed at 2130 by a green flare, and by 2330 small groups of Chinese were probing the positions of I Co. By 2335 this had developed into a general attack of the southwestern sector of the perimeter.
At 2355, the enemy began probing the northeast sector of the perimeter, and these probing attacks very shortly developed into an attack in force. All supporting arms, including tanks, artillery, and mortars, were used in the defense of the positions. Enemy light artillery fire began to fall, in addition to mortar fire, some rounds of mortar fire landing in the CP area. After a lull, the attack against the northeast sector was resumed at 0110 in great force. The enemy reached the gap to the left of G Co. This gap was taken under direct fire by H 3/11 [artillery]. Some Chinese reached the CP of the 1st Serv Bn but were engaged by the tanks supporting the positions of the AT Co 7th Marines. By 1225, G Co’s left platoon was in serious trouble and C Troop of the 41 Ind Commando was dispatched to secure the threatened flank.
By 0300, 1 December, flash reports were received on enemy artillery in the vicinity of TA 5368I, about 2 miles southeast of Hagaru-ri, a D Btry brought effective counter-battery fire to bear on the enemy guns.
At 0330, the south roadblock successfully repulsed an enemy attack. The southwest and northeast sectors continued to be engaged. Buy 0410, the attack on the northeast had slackened but heavy mortar fire continued to fall in the southwestern sector. By 0500, enemy action was reduced to sporadic small arms fire. By 0800, G Co had restored its positions. The 3d Bn [3/1] estimated 930 enemy had been killed during the course of the attacks.
Contribution of Headquarters, Service and Supporting Troops During the Period 29 November to 1 December
[Not included in this copy (843-848)]
Events of 1 to 5 December
At 0900, 1 December, air came on station. The daylight hours of 1 December were spent in improving the defense, including AP mines and booby traps on all fronts. Enemy in small numbers could be seen digging in on all fronts. All observed or reported targets were hit with air, artillery, or mortars with good effect.
In order to facilitate coordination of the defenses, troops east of the river were put under the control of the CO 2/7, who was stranded in Hagaru-ri with his H&S Co and Wpns Co. The CO 1st Serv Bn, who was also CO of the 1st Supply Regulating Station, was placed in command over the staff of the 1/7. Overall control of the defense of Hagar-ri remained with the 3/1 Marines.
At 1335, 1 December, the first airdrop of supplies by the Combat Cargo Command was made at Hagaru-ri.
At 1450, 1 December, the first C-47 plane landed on the airstrip at Hagaru-ri and commenced the evacuation of casualties. A total of 4 planes landed during the afternoon and 60 casualties were evacuated. More casualties would have been evacuated before dark had not the fourth incoming plane, heavily loaded with ammunition, collapsed its landing gear. Before the plane could be pushed off the runway it had to be unloaded and much valuable time was lost. The evacuation of casualties from Hagaru-ri will be covered separately.
At 1930, 1 December, stragglers from RCT-31, which had been overrun in the vicinity of Sinhung-ni, began to arrive at the perimeter. The account of the fight of RCT-31 is covered elsewhere. [See (263) Attack on, Overrunning and Rescue of Army Task Force East of the Chosin Reservoir, 890-906.] ]
At 0800, 2 December, the airdrop of supplies continued. The operation of air resupply will be covered separately.
During the day of 2 December, known and suspected targets were worked over with air, artillery and mortars. The Wpns Co 3/1, which had been manning the road block on the road to Koto-ri, exchanged positions with Wpns Co 2/7 at the roadblock on the Yudam-ni road. This exchange placed all troops of the 7th Marines on the east side [west side] of the river.
Snow fell during the night of 2-3 December greatly reducing visibility. During the night, G Co on the ridge was able to advance its lines 20 to 25 yards by careful infiltration. The weather cleared with daylight, 3 December, and air came on station at 0815. Enemy could be seen in small groups on the various ridges surrounding the perimeter. At 1300, air, artillery, and mortars combined to reduce enemy concentrations to the northwest of the perimeter. At 1600, all air support was shifted to the aid of the column fighting its way in from Yudam-ni. At 1700, a tank-infantry patrol [made up of Army tanks from RCT-31 and Royal Marine Commandos] was dispatched to make contact with this column with instructions to return before nightfall. The patrol returned at 1830 having failed to make contact. At 1935, I Co reported enemy movement from the west and a green flare was sighted to the northeast.
At 1950, 3 December, the first elements of the column from Yudam-ni cleared the friendly roadblock on the Yudam-ni road and troops continued to arrive all through the night and the following morning. The breakout of RCTs 5 and 7 from Yudam-ni to Hagaru-ri is described under “Regroupment and Breakout from Yudam-ni” [ (266) 917-950 ].
At 0030, 4 December, I Co engaged the Chinese to its front with 60mm and 81mm mortar fire. Some enemy WP was received. At 0700, air came on station, giving first priority to protection of the rear of the column closing in from Yudam-ni.
At 1400, 4 December, a patrol from the 41 Ind Commando reinforced with tanks was sent out the Yudam-ni road to retrieve 8 artillery pieces [155mm howitzers with tractors] stranded [ran out of fuel] about 3000 yards to the west of Hagaru-ri. At 1530, the patrol reached its objective, found 4 guns destroyed and the remainder impossible to move. These were disabled and the patrol returned to the perimeter.
[We have another version in FROZEN CHOSIN: U.S. Marines at the Changjin Reservoir. “The Chinese made no serious objection to the last leg of the march … until about 0200 on Monday morning, 4 December, when the prime movers hauling eight 155mm howitzers at the rear of the column ran out of diesel fuel. … It was a bad scene. The eight heavy howitzers had been pushed off the road, perhaps prematurely, and would have to be destroyed the next day by air strikes.” Earlier the narrative mentions that on 3 December, “Under the aerial umbrella, Davis’ 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, marched along almost unimpeded. In the early evening, Ridge sent out Drysdale with 41 Commando supported by tanks from Drake’s 31st Tank Company to open the door to the Hagaru-ri perimeter.” – GAR]
At 2000, 4 December, small firefights developed on the northeast, south and west fronts. Air remained on station all night and executed planned missions in conjunction with the artillery and mortars.
Probing action by the Chinese against the west front was detected and broken up at 0100, 5 December. Air came on station at 0600, paying particular attention to the MSR north and south of Hagaru-ri.
\ At 1200, 5 December, tactical control of the defense of Hagaru-ri passed to RCT-5 which had reached the perimeter the previous day. It was now possible to release most of the Hq and Service personnel from their infantry duties on the perimeter. G Co 3/1 was relieved on the east ridge by a battalion of the 5th Marines. The 3/1 was concentrated along that part of the perimeter west, southwest and south of the airstrip. The 5th Marines manned the remainder of the perimeter. The operations of RCT-5 in the defense of Hagaru-ri and as rear guard of the division will be covered under “Regroupment and Breakout from Hagaru-ri” [ (276) 1019-1053 ]
The Enemy at Hagaru-ri
The 3/1 Marines identified by POWs the 172d, 173d and 174th Regiments of the 58th CCF Division and the 176th Regiment of the 59th CCF Division. Intelligence indicated that these troops had not engaged any UN forces prior to the attack on Hagaru-ri. 39 POWs were captured by units of the 3/1. Prisoners captured by other units were turned into the Division stockade.
The Chinese troops that attacked Hagaru-ri, according to the report of the 3/1, used weapons and equipment that were not of any standard type. There were Mauser rifles of German, Czech, and Chinese manufacture; Thompson sub-machine guns; US carbines and M-1 rifles; Browning light machine guns; and standard 60mm and 81mm mortars of American make. The CCF no doubt came into possession of the American weapons when Nationalist troops in large numbers defected to their ranks in 1949. There was also American equipment including entrenching tools and canteens. A great many soldiers carried benzedrine pills and opium. Each of the Chinese soldiers searched was found to have a complete set of toilet articles. Their uniforms were of quilted olive drab type with blouses and trousers. Shoes had canvas tops and leather soles. No steel helmets were found. The headgear consisted of a cap similar to our utility cap with fur-lined earflaps. Many of the soldiers did not have gloves [or mittens]. A few bodies were observed in rear of the assault troops whose uniforms were entirely black. It was presumed that these men were platoon leaders or more likely security officers or commissars. Individual soldiers did not carry first aid packets, but each had 4 to 6 concussion type hand grenades. Prior to combat, apparently all rank insignia had been removed, although a few of the officers had not removed the red piping from their uniforms.
The enemy employed highly aggressive tactics in the attack on the perimeter of Hagaru-ri. The 3/1 Marines in its report gives a graphic description of the sequence of events in the attack on H and I Cos on the night of 28-29 November. First, 5 to 9 man patrols were sent forward of the main body of the enemy in an attempt to locate or establish our front lines and flanks. After these patrols had withdrawn or been beaten off, white phosphorus mortar shells were dropped in the lines and used as markers. While this was taking place, the assault troops crawled forward as close as 25 yards from our front lines. When these assault troops had moved as close as possible to the front lines without being discovered, they attacked at a given signal. The signal in this particular instance was three blasts of a police whistle. The attacking troops then rose, and, in perfect skirmishers formation, rushed our front lines. By these tactics the enemy was able to effect a small penetration in H Co’s lines at 2345, 28 November. The enemy penetration was contained and the position was restored shortly thereafter by a counterattack.
During the remainder of the time at Hagaru-ri, enemy units of battalion and regimental size regrouped around the perimeter and were constantly pounded by air, artillery, mortars and small arms. Enemy tactics in subsequent attacks did not vary from the example given.
The 3/1 Marines estimated that the garrison at Hagaru-ri had inflicted approximately 8,550 casualties on the enemy.
It is difficult to assess the casualties resulting from the defense of Hagaru-ri. The 3/1 Marines reports its own casualties for the entire Chosin Reservoir Operation as follows: 33 killed in action, 10 died of wounds, 2 missing in action, 270 wounded in action; 315 battle casualties, 105 non-battle casualties evacuated (probably mostly frostbite casualties); 420 total casualties.
Most of these casualties were the result of the action at Hagaru-ri. The Hq, Service, and supporting troops at Hagaru-ri also suffered a considerable number of casualties. Before the stragglers from the Army Task Force (RCT-31] east of the Reservoir began to arrive at Hagaru-ri or RCTs 5 and 7 had fought their way to that place, and before air evacuation had begun by C-47 plane, the medical installations at Hagaru-ri were overloaded with some 600 casualties. Added to this total, of course, were the dead and those who were evacuated by OY planes and helicopters. This gives an approximation of the casualties suffered by the garrison prior to the arrival of RCTs 5 and 7. RCT-5, in turn suffered additional casualties while it was defending Hagaru-ri and acting as rear guard for the Division in the subsequent breakout.
Significance of the Successful Defense of Hagaru-ri
Hagaru-ri had to be held at all costs. Here was the C-47 strip that provided the means for the air landing of supplies and ammunition and for the evacuation of casualties. Here was a safe dropping zone for the airdrop of supplies beyond the capabilities of landing. Here was accumulated the wherewithal to support the subsequent breakout from Hagaru-ri. Here was a defended perimeter where RCTs 5 and 7 could reorganize, resupply, re-equip, and evacuate their casualties preparatory to the breakout therefrom. Here it was possible to receive the remnants of the Army Task Force [RCT-31] east of the Reservoir, evacuate those who could no longer fight and re-equip those who were able-bodied. Here, finally, was the Division Headquarters and the directing staff to control the breakout.
I am confident that RCT 5 and 7 could have fought their way out of Yudam-ni regardness of the fate of Hagaru-ri. But, had Hagaru-ri fallen, these two RCTs would have faced a bleak prospect. They were burdened with over 1,500 casualties, short of supplies and ammunition, and, under those handicaps, would have had to recapture Hagaru-ri, re-establish contact with the outside world, reopen the airstrip with limited equipment, wait for resupply by air while their casualties were being evacuated, and then continue down the long road to the sea. And the Chinese had not exhausted their supply of fresh divisions. Certainly, it can be said that the successful defense of Hagaru-ri was a very vital factor in the extrication of the 1st Marine Division.
Although General Smith expressed confidence that the two Marine RCTs at Yudam-ni “could have fought their way out regardless of the fate of Hagaru-ri,” these many years later, based on information from Chinese historians, we question his conclusions. Throughout the general’s aide-memoire we learned what 1MarDiv did or did not do based on what they faced at the moment. General Smith did not have access at the time to Chinese plans, capabilities and limitations; whereas enemy eyes were observing his regiments and battalions from every mountaintop. Today we know the Chinese planned to attack one Marine regiment on each side of the reservoir. Unfortunately for the Chinese, their attack units had not arrived in time for the 25 November attack to be launched in coordination with the attack on Eighth Army. The delay resulted in Marine RCT-5 moving to Yudam-ni, being replaced by elements of RCT-31 on the day/night of Chinese attacks east and west of the reservoir – 27-28 November.
When studying the survival of Marine units at Yudam-ni, one must war-game the battle based on the capabilities and limitations of both sides. Every day that passed awakened the Chinese to the fact that the firepower available to their opponent and the American’s ability to control that firepower was a serious threat; they were forced to limit themselves to night attacks. They were exposed to long-range artillery falling on their attacks against Fox 2/7 in the Toktong Pass; while to the east where they attacked RCT-31 units at the Inlet, they were surprised by the many “tanks” that rained .50 caliber and 40mm firepower on their attacking units. The most important factor in determining the outcome of this and most any battle is the ability to communicate.
END CJ 11.15.09
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