CHANGJIN JOURNAL 06.25.05
Terrain map showing Hagaru-ri in the south to the
dam in the north, Yudam-ni in the west and the
Inlet in the right center.
(Click on the map for a larger image.)
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CHANGJIN JOURNAL 06.25.05
THIS ISSUE of the Changjin Journal we provide important background material regarding the activities of the 1st Battalion 32d infantry, in the form of a after-action report dated October 1953 by the battalion's executive officer, Major Crosby P. Miller; written from notes make during his extensive hospitalization resulting from wounds and cold injury at Chosin. Students of Chosin will note that historians have had a considerable amount of detailed information available from reports by majors Miller, Curtis and Jones, about the activities of 1/32, yet none from field grade officers about Lt. Col. Reilly's battalion, 3/31; the two majors in 3/31, Couch (XO) and Storms (S-3), were both killed. Maps have been inserted to assist the reader in understanding the battleground. Discussion of content will be included in End Notes.
FAITH'S SECOND IN COMMAND: MAJOR CROSBY P. MILLER
SATURDAY 25 NOVEMBER
On or about 25 November 1950 the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, on a special mission to protect a section of the MSR of the 1st Marine Division between Hamhung and Hagaru-ri, was relieved of its mission by elements of the 3d Infantry Division and ordered to rejoin the 32d Regiment then fighting north to the Yalu River in the vicinity of Samsu-ri.
The Battalion moved out to Hamhung under my command as Lt. Col. Don Faith, battalion commander, went ahead to contact Colonel Beauchamp, regimental CO, for our new mission. While the battalion was moving through Hamhung, I was contacted by a liaison officer, ordered to halt the battalion and to report to the G-3, X Corps, located at Hamhung. I turned the battalion over to Major Wesley Curtis, S-3, to assemble it in the northern outskirts of the city. On reporting to X Corps Hq, I received orders from General Almond and General Barr, 7th Division CG, to move the battalion north to the area of the 1st Marine Division and push up the east side of the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir, moving as far as possible that day; and further, that the battalion was attached to the 1st Marine Division.
The battalion moved north immediately and reached the foot of the Funchilin Pass that night where it was stopped by a Marine traffic control officer. Permission was obtained to move up through the pass at first light the next morning. The battalion pulled off the road and bedded down. During the night, Colonel Faith rejoined the battalion.
SUNDAY 26 NOVEMBER
At dawn 26 November the battalion move up through the [Funchilin] pass, Koto-ri, Hagaru-ri, and into an assembly area on the east side of the Changjin Reservoir (vicinity 5377). The 5th Marine Regiment was relieved [?] by elements of the battalion and moved back to Hagaru-ri to join in operations by the 1st Marine Division west of the reservoir. Major Powell, battalion S-3 [S-2 ?], obtained information from the Marines that only rearguard action had been encountered by the Marines after they had gained the reservoir plateau, and further that patrols of Chinese had been engaged in long range rifle fire exchanges. A Chinese patrol had closed on a Marine outpost two nights previously, attempted to seize a prisoner, but fled with one M1 rifle after being fired on. The Battalion S-2 also had information from higher headquarters of large numbers of Chinese troops to our north, all south of the Yalu River in our zone of operations. Although indications pointed to small scale delaying action by the enemy to the Yalu, Colonel Faith issued orders to keep the battalion alert and prepared for any eventuality.
That night Colonel Allan D. MacLean, CO, 31st Infantry Regiment, arrived at our CP and I learned that the 31st Infantry was to move in behind us and relieve us after two battalions had closed in the area. The first of these, the 3d Battalion, was expected to close in the area with the 57th Field artillery Battalion by the following day. We were attached to the 31st Infantry. Colonel Faith, who had reconnoitered the area forward, recommended to Colonel MacLean that the 1st Battalion (32d Infantry) move forward the following day to an excellent position alongside the reservoir about 13 miles north of Hagaru-ri. Colonel MacLean approved this and the battalion moved forward the next morning, 27 November 1950, using all available transportation to shuttle the troops forward. I sent the battalion headquarters group forward about noon and went forward myself after being sure that all personnel, equipment and supplies had been cleared from the old area.
MONDAY 27 NOVEMBER
While moving to the new position, I took notice of the terrain. The single road running north along the east side of the reservoir was dirt and barely wide enough for two trucks to pass. The ground sloped up steeply from the reservoir and was deeply cut by many stream lines leading to the lake level. The road twisted up and down over these cross-compartments, usually running around the widest inlets but crossing the narrow streams by narrow wooden bridges. The one modern concrete bridge at Sasu-ri (5475) on the entire stretch of road from Hagaru-ri to the battalion position had been blown. However, this stream was fordable by vehicles just below the bridge site. A narrow gauge railroad ran along the edge of the reservoir, at times running parallel to the road and then leaving the road in favor of more level terrain on the shoreline. The railroad crossed streams on its wooden trestles and no deck for walking. The reservoir was frozen over to a sufficient thickness of ice to support foot troops. I have been told since that the temperature was about 27 degrees below zero. This was further aggravated by a piercing wind which never ceased.
EAST OF CHOSIN MAP
1:50,000 topo map EC: This map is one of the original 1:50,000 topographic maps of 1950 vintage with notes showing location of 1/32 units prior to withdrawal to the Inlet (#2), with other notes indicating roadblocks and blown bridges.
When I reached the new CP (5384), I found the battalion position to be on high ground which stretched about a huge horseshoe, the open end of which ties in on the reservoir. In order to cover this ground the battalion was extended beyond its capabilities, but the one road leading north was adequately covered. Able Company on the north and left end of the horseshoe was well disposed to block the road. Charley Company extended east from the right flank of Able Company, along the northern side of the horseshoe to its bend. Baker Company closed off the bend and back along the southern leg to the road. Dog Company, Headquarters Company, and the Battalion CP were in a deep ravine immediately behind Able and Charlie companies. An ammunition dump was also located in the ravine. This ravine area was crowded. The battalion was thinly spread, but the position had excellent control of the ground and the key road to the north. The ground physically occupied was essential for a defense of the area. However, the battalion mission was to attack at dawn, 28 November, to seize the key road intersection at Kalchon-ni (5191) at the north end of the reservoir.
Plans were laid on and orders issued for the next morning's attack, and the battalion settled in for the night after setting out outposts and putting in trip flares. By evening we were informed by Colonel MacLean that his 3d Battalion (31st Infantry) was in bivouac about three miles to our rear on the road. We had spent the rest of the day improving our position, digging in, registering fires of the 57th FA Battalion (located about 1500 yards from the 3d Battalion, and the mortar fires of the 31st Heavy Mortar Company (Captain George Cody's 4.2 mortars), with one platoon of the 32d Heavy Mortar Company attached (Lt. Robert Reynolds). By nightfall the battalion was ready as it ever would be for any attack.
About 2200, trip flares were set off in front of Charley and Able Company. Firing started up all along the hill mass above the CP. Reports began to come in by phone of several attacks along each company position. Quite a few grenade explosions could be heard. The firing increased in intensity. A check of the situation revealed that Chinese patrols had hit all along our position apparently probing for our dispositions. Colonel MacLean called off the dawn attack, deciding to bring forward his regiment to reinforce a very vague but disquieting situation.
TUESDAY 28 NOVEMBER
At about 0030, 28 November, the attack came with a vengeance. Calls for artillery and mortar fire started coming in from Able and Charley companies. A phone call from Able Company reported that Captain Edward Scullion, the CO, had been killed. Shortly thereafter, communications with Able Company by both phone and radio went out. Charley Company reported strong attacks but that it could hold. Baker Company was getting probing attacks but was making out alright. Colonel Faith ordered Captain Haynes, the assistant S-3, to get up to Able Company when the firing quieted down and take command of the company. Captain Biggers, CO of Company D, left the CP with Haynes with the intent of checking on his heavy machine guns and 75-mm recoilless rifle crews and of improving the 81mm mortar fire support which his company was putting out. In about 30 minutes Biggers rushed into the CP stating that he and Haynes had run into a group of Chinese just off the road short of Able Company. The Chinese had shot down Haynes and forced Biggers to clear out. Biggers went back to his company, got some men and went up to get Haynes. They encountered the Chinese and drove them off, losing another man, the mess sergeant of Able Company. Haynes was brought back to the air station which by this time was overflowing into the CP which was the only structure in the area in which heat and light could be provided. Haynes had received bullet and bayonet wounds which, coupled with exposure, took his life shortly thereafter.
During this time, I later discovered, Able Company counterattacked with one platoon and drove the Chinese out of their position. The firing soon died down to occasional rifle shots. As dawn broke, 28 November, I went up to able Company to check on the situation and communications. The company was still cleaning out isolated Chinese in holes and collecting their dead and wounded. They had spent a wild night but acquitted themselves well. Marine Captain Stamford and his tactical air control party had come through the night with relatively light wounds. He already had Corsairs on the scene and was working over the Chinese to our front with Napalm and rockets. 1st Lt. Smith had assumed command of the company.
Back at the CP I was told that Charley Company had several casualties but still was in good shape as was Baker Company. However, the Chinese were still busy. An attack late in the morning drove in the right flank of Charley Company. A counterattack to regain the lost knoll resulted in failure in that the Chinese had brought up several heavy machine guns with which they could rake the crest of the knoll. The battalion Sergeant Major, Master Sergeant Russavage, was hit in this attack and, when the troops were pushed back, he had to be left behind. Corsairs were called in to rake the area but Charley Company still was unable to take the knoll. By this time Baker Company was fighting off Chinese on their front, the battalion rear!
At the same time columns of Chinese troops were observed to the east beyond range, marching openly on the ridges toward our rear. This obviously meant that the Chinese plan was to contain our battalion and bypass our position with the main body. Colonel MacLean, who had joined us earlier with a truck mounted
SCR 399 radio, stated that the same thing was happening to his infantry and the artillery battalion behind us. We watched Chinese troops bypass us to the east the entire rest of the day, 28 November. Two truckloads of Chinese and one tank, a Russian T-34, moved down the road toward out position but were knocked out by the combined efforts of three Marine Corsairs and three Army F-51s. These planes were called in by Marine Captain Stamford, head of our attached TACP (ANGLICO).
Night fell and gain the Chinese hit the battalion positions. By midnight Charley Company was hard pressed and the left flank of Baker Company was also in trouble. A report from a Baker Company lieutenant, Lt. Mazzulla, stated that the Chinese had broken through the company's left flank positions and were in a draw leading directly to the battalion CP. All remaining Hq & Hq Company personnel were moved out to stop the expected attack. It never materialized and Baker Company closed off the gap.
WEDNESDAY 29 NOVEMBER
However, Charley Company was so weakened by continuous attacks that Colonel Faith ordered a platoon of Baker Company out of its position to reinforce Charley Company. This added strength allowed Charley Company to beat off the Chinese once again. Our 4.2-inch mortar fire was dropping off in its intensity because the heavy mortar platoon supporting us was also under heavy attack. I climbed the hill at about 0300, 29 November, to the CP of Charley Company and talked the situation over with the company commander, Captain Dale Sievers. In a short time almost all activity ceased in this area but firing began to build up on the left flank on Able Company's front. At about 0030, 29 November, I received a phone call at Charley Company CP from Colonel Faith who stated that the battalion would withdraw to join forces with the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, to our rear. he directed me to organize the conduct a rear guard action with Able Company. The withdrawal was to commence at about 0430.
I moved over to Able Company and found it under attack with one platoon cut off on the left flank. Lt. Smith, the commander of Able Company, had launched one unsuccessful counterattack to reach the platoon and was about to launch a second. I discussed the withdrawal with Lt. Smith and directed him on my order to pull out down the draw to his rear. Upon reaching the road he was to move done platoon along the ridge line with the company minus, moving back parallel to the road about one hundred yards above it until we rejoined the battalion.
The second counterattack failed but by this time the battalion had cleared. I ordered Lt. Smith to move out, knowing that the protection of the battalion rear was more important than relieving the cut off platoon. Prior to the start of Able Company's withdrawal, the Chinese launched an attack for which they paid dearly as most of them were clearly silhouetted against the snow. The withdrawal of the battalion was conducted with little difficulty even though the Chinese followed closely, blowing weird calls continuously on their bugles. Occasional burst from a light machine gun [which] passed over us landed on the battalion when we started to rejoin, and they opened up on us before we could identify ourselves, but the firing was stopped before any casualties were sustained.
The battalion was halted at (5282) just north of an ice covered inlet on the south side of which I could see positions and vehicles of the 3d Battalion (5481). Upon finding Colonel Faith, I was told that when the battalion moved along the road on the north side of the inlet, it had been fired on from across the inlet. Colonel MacLean, thinking this to be friendly fire, had crossed the ice to inform the 3d Battalion to cease fire. he had reached the other bank after being hit three or four times. Colonel Faith had realized that the fire was coming from Chinese who were surrounding the 3d Battalion. He was able to get some of our troops across the ice and kill most of the enemy along the ice directly below the other battalion positions. These same troops managed to remove the logs blocking the bridge which was subject to small arms fire from the east further up the inlet.
All trucks crossed safely and the 1st Battalion troops linked up with the 3d Battalion. Here I found Colonel Faith who stated that Colonel MacLean had never reached the friendly lines of the 3d Battalion. Colonel Faith [then] assumed command of what might be called a provisional regiment or a task force. I was placed in command of the 1st Battalion; Major Storms commanded the 3d Battalion; and Lt. Col. Tolley (information provided by Major Jones) commanded the 57th FA Battalion which had sought refuge within the perimeter early that morning.
The task force perimeter was organized with 1/32 in position on the north along the south bank of the inlet and bending back to the south across the road and railroad to link up with 3/31. On the battalion line from right to left I had Able, Charley, Baker, with D Company behind them along the road. Colonel Faith directed that a platoon size force of Dog be kept free as a task force reserve. While we were digging in, two airdrops of ammunition and rations were made, controlled by Captain Stamford, who was able to establish radio contact. The area was small and may parachutes fell to the Chinese. The night of 29-30 November was comparatively quiet although far from restful. The Chinese made constant small scale probing attacks which kept all troops on edge.
THURSDAY 30 NOVEMBER
The 30th of November brought mostly harassing mortar fire of about 50 or 60 millimeter in size, and one brief period of shelling by a weapons of about 75mm size. This latter weapons fired about 15 shells which whistled over the battalion CP and burst on a knoll just inside the far edge of the perimeter. All rounds burst in about the same spot with no attempt made to traverse or search. To the best of my knowledge no one was hurt by this weapon. I believe that enemy activity was kept down to a considerable extent by the presence of Corsairs which Captain Stamford had working over the enemy.
THREE HELICOPTERS EVACUATE WOUNDED FROM INLET AREA
[INSERT photo by Donovan, ]
The Inlet perimeter. In center of picture are three helicopters that landed to pick up wounded, landed about 400 yards SW of the bridge. In center foreground is mortar position of L Company, 3/31. Man in photo by the hole is squad leader Sgt. Luther Crump. (See also CHANGJIN JOURNAL 12.15.02 ••
)-- Photo courtesy William Donovan, Company L, 3/31/7.
During the day, General Barr, CG of the 7th Division, flew in by helicopter and talked briefly with Colonel Faith. Two other Marine helicopters evacuated four of the most seriously wounded of the task force. I understood from Colonel Faith that General Hodes, assistant division commander, was trying to get a relief force through to us, using the 31st Infantry Tank company. I was especially concerned with frostbite and passed the word to the companies to be sure that each man changed socks before nightfall. Up to this point, there were few cases of frozen feet in that Colonel Faith did not believe in the shoepac, but in ordinary combat boots and overshoes coupled with daily changes of socks with the extra pair of socks kept under the shirt to dry out from body heat.
We had brought all our wounded out from the first position to the north and a check of the aid station disclosed better than 60 men in the battalion aid station. We were seriously low in medical supplies. The aid station was set up under a canvas tarp stretched across the railroad culvert or cut, with another canvas hung on the sides to cut the wind and a makeshift stove set up inside to dispel some of the chill. A standard GI cook stove was in use to heat soup for the wounded. The battalion CP was of the same makeshift construction and was set up about 20 yards from the aid station. Two sets of telephone wires were run from the CP to each company and to the task force CP.
About midnight, 30 November - 1 December, the Chinese again hit the perimeter, particularly along the road from the southwest into C and B companies. Two dual 40-mm guns and two Quad-50 self-propelled AAA carriages of the 15th AAA located within the perimeter inflicted terrific casualties on the enemy, especially a Quad-50 which had been laid on the road in front of C Company. the Chinese made repeated attempts to knock out these SP vehicles. No penetrations occurred in the area of 1/32, but the reserve was used by Colonel Faith several times during the night to restore positions elsewhere on the perimeter.
FRIDAY 1 DECEMBER
A gray cold morning (1 December) came with a low ceiling and snow flurries with the task force perimeter still intact. The number of casualties was tripled with an unknown number of lightly wounded men staying on the line to fight. During the night the battalion aid station had received a direct mortar round hit which had wounded all the aid station medical personnel. Medical supplies were completely exhausted by dawn. Also, the battalion CP received a direct mortar hit which perforated the canvas shelter, wounded Captains Bigger and Thompson. Major Jones and Warrant Officer Wester who were inside the CP on the telephones were unhurt.
Colonel Faith called a meeting at his CP. As I walked to the meeting I noticed scores of dead Chinese throughout the area. I was amazed to note that many of them wore low quarter canvas shoes similar to a tennis shoe. They also must have been suffering from frostbite. Colonel Faiths stated he was taking it on himself to order a withdrawal and that all communications with higher headquarters were out. Further, no assistance by the Marines was possible. The artillery battalion commander stated that only a few rounds of 105mm ammunition were left in his battalion. The heavy mortar company CO stated he was in the same shape. The AAA ammunition was almost expended.
Colonel Faith issued this order: 1/32 would lead off, penetrate the enemy positions along the road and clear the road for movement of the truck column to Hagaru-ri to link up with the 1st Marine Division. The 57FA Battalion and Heavy Mortar Company would expend the remaining ammunition in support of the assault, destroy pieces and tubes, and fight as riflemen in the center of the task force column. 3/31 was to follow and protect the rear of the task force. All 1/4-ton trucks and trailers would be destroyed and all wounded to be loaded on the remaining operable vehicles. He further instructed Captain Stamford to request support of at least ten aircraft overhead at all times to cover our withdrawal. The attack was to begin on his order after the arrival of aircraft. I asked for one SP gun to lead the truck column, knowing this vehicle would be of help in clearing physical roadblocks. This request was granted.
Back a the CP I found Captain Stamford's radio repairman working on a dead radio, then called the company commanders together. I issued orders for all 1/4-ton trucks and trailers to be destroyed and the remaining vehicles to be unloaded and contents destroyed. Wounded were to be prepared for loading on the trucks. Everything to be left behind was to be destroyed. The companies were to move out along the road in column of companies after an air strike in the order: C, B, D and A. The truck column was to follow the lead company. The lead company was to engage any resistance encountered, destroy or contain it to permit the passage of the battalion and the fall in behind as a reserve. The next company in column was to take the lead and repeat the process. If resistance were too strong to be overcome by the leading company, the second company was to be committed. The move was to commence on my order. All ammunition was to be picked up from the dead and wounded and distributed to able-bodied men.
The air-ground radio was finally repaired (a remarkable feat at 27° below zero) and a request was sent out for air support. There was strong doubt that the Corsair pilots could find the task force as a light snow was falling. However, as our situation was desperate and this was our last chance, the air support request was sent on a "May Day" basis. Corsair pilots took off from the USS Leyte which was supporting us and found the task force in spite of the limited visibility (information from Navy Captain, then Commander, B.E. Day, Navy Air Operations Officer on the board).
FRIDAY AFTERNOON BREAKOUT
At about 1300 Colonel Faith ordered the air controller to bring a strike in over the perimeter to hit the Chinese across the road in front of 1/32. By this time the battalion was ready to go. The lead Corsair dropped a napalm bomb a second early and it struck along side the 40-mm gun carrier. Eight or ten men of Charley Company were set on fire by the flaming gobs of jellied gasoline. Most of these men were seriously burned before they could be rolled in the snow and their burning clothes extinguished. A napalm bomb from the second Corsair landed squarely on the Chinese troops astride the road. Many of them broke and ran even through not actually hit. Charley Company, in spite of its own fire casualties, charged into the Chinese and a pitched battle started. I ran forward on the road, climbed up and looked into the railroad cut. Not ten yards away were three Chinese manning a heavy machine gun and firing into Baker Company on the left flank which was moving forward on my order to help clear the enemy positions. I fired one round from my carbine and it jammed. However, a BAR man sprayed them and put the gun out of action. The fight was over in a matter of seconds and C and B Companies moved out down the road and on the right of the road. At the first slight turn of the road was a log barricade of three or four eight-inch logs. I signaled the SP carrier which moved into the logs diagonally and nudged them far enough to one side to allow the trucks to clear.
The trucks moved out behind the infantrymen. My radio operators (2) were both missing by this time, so I sent runners forward to Baker and Charley Companies with instructions to keep troops on the left of the road; the troops were giving way to the right of the road and the shelter of its embankment. I do not believe the runners were able to accomplish their mission as no change in troop dispositions became evident either then nor later. I started trotting forward to catch the leading company. When I reached the first major stream crossing the road (5379), I could see that the bridge was blown and could see our troops moving up the valley below and to the left of the road which ran diagonally up the hill on the far (south) side of the valley where the road disappeared over the hill through a small saddle (5478). Enemy fire was coming from this hill.
Map 35 from The Chosin Chronology Copyright © 1992, 2005 George A. Rasula
As soldiers were working up the lower slopes of the hill, I was hopeful that, by the time the truck column could get across the stream, the hill would be cleared. The dual 40-mm SP easily crossed the stream, but the trucks, rocking and bumping over hard hummocks of swamp grass and dirt, were unable to cross. It was deep and very narrow, and effectively trapped the front wheels. I immediately turned the SP back to throw a cable on each truck and tow them through. All this time scattered fire was striking from the hill to our front (south). I moved forward to a small house on the far side of the valley where I found Major Wesley Curtis, battalion S-3, now executive officer, with a small group of men preparing to move directly up the hill. We moved quickly to the road without casualties and the men started working up the hill. I moved up the road to find out what was going on there. By this time several trucks had crossed the stream and joined me on the road sheltered from fire from the hill crest by the steep bank to the right (south) of the road. I noticed, at this point, that friendly troops (3/31) on the high ground across the valley (north side) were leaving the hill (5479) and moving down to the road. I assumed that Colonel Faith, whom I had last seen at the blown bridge in the valley, had ordered them forward to assist in clearing the hill from the right flank. These troops, however, were promptly replaced by Chinese who opened up with long range fire across the valley into the exposed left flank of the truck column. Captain Stamford was able to get an air strike on the Chinese across the valley which helped but immediately thereafter his radio battery went dead. Radio communications to both ground and air were completely out.
DETERMINED TO SURVIVE
I moved up the road to discover if the high ground covering the road had been cleared, spotted a heavy machine gun trained on me from just above the road, dove for cover, but was too slow. Just before I reached cover I was hit in the upper left leg (three bullets later removed from leg), and, at the same time, the last three fingers of the left hand were neatly removed by a bullet which I believe came from across the valley. As my first aid packet had been expended long ago, I removed the glove from my right hand and pulled it over the wounded hand to stop the bleeding. The soaked glove soon froze and effectively cut of the flow. Nothing could be done about the leg, so I lay in the ditch taking stock of a very sorry situation.
I sent a lieutenant lying in the ditch near me back to Col. Faith to tell him I was hit and that the only way to clear up a desperate situation was to get troops up to clear the high ground above the road. Apparently previous attempts had failed. Š The ditch and road around me were dotted with dead and wounded with casualties increasing every minute. I tried to get men around the trucks to moved directly up the Hill  and clear it, but each man who tired it became a casualty. After what seemed to be eternity, friendly troops were observed on top of the hill and the truck column moved out. Fortunately for me, Captain Stamford came by walking beside his jeep, spotted me and had me loaded across the hood. The time then was about 1700 hours and darkness was falling.
The column was started through the efforts of persons unknown to me by unloading the wounded on operating trucks and getting them moving. The column inched forward up the hill, through the saddle, past two or three M4E8 tanks. Š The column continued to move slowly down the winding road, past the first bivouac area of the battalion [1/32] north of Hagaru-ri and over a section of narrow-gauge railway trestle to the road again. Jolting over the exposed ties, coupled with wounds and cold, left me, by this time, in pretty bad shape. The column stopped on the road (5377) and I heard someone say there was another road block ahead. During the interminable wait, I checked the five or six soldiers near me and found that those who had weapons (two) had only one or two rounds of ammunition left. No other ammunition was available.
At about 2400 absolute silence was broken by two mortar round bursts to the right of the road opposite the truck column about 100 yards away. Very shortly two more rounds hit the right of the road by closer in. It became apparent that soon we would be bracketed. I could visualize the wounded hit again and possibly a truck set on fire making us an even better sitting target. The leading truck driver (the dual 40-mm had run out of gas far back) came to me and asked permission to make a run for it. He said he had been forward 100 yards and had not seen nor heard any movement. It was a choice of the unknown against the known danger. I told him to move out.
The column moved out and proceeded about 200 yards down the road to a bend. As the lead truck started around the bend, a terrific blast of rifle and machine gun fire hit the column from a hill mass to the left of the road (5376). The lead truck driver apparently was hit as the truck piled into the ditch and blocked the road. The column was stopped cold and being punished mercifully by a hail of lead. I rolled off the hood of the jeep onto the road and into the ditch away from the hill. A wounded soldier was already there. He started crawling across an open space to gain the shelter of the railroad embankment. However, he was silhouetted against the snow, was hit again and killed. Soon the firing died down, and I realized that the Chinese would rush the trucks and, for the immediate time, the best bet was to get clear of the trucks. I knew my hands would freeze while crawling if I didn't get gloves, so I crawled out to the dead soldier. I made sure he was dead, but, before I could get his gloves, a burst of machine gun bullets hit all around my head. Fortunately, none hit me, so I got back to cover.
A few minutes later I crawled down the ditch to the lead truck where I found Lt. Mazzula (?) sitting in the back. He asked me to help get him loose as his clothes were frozen to the seat. I couldn't climb into the truck with the wounded hand and leg, but I was able to hand him my pocket knife. he was unable to cut himself free so he handed back the knife and thanked me. Knowing I could do no more with no help available, I crawled away from the truck toward a pile of ties. A few rounds hit around me but I reached the shelter of the ties safely. Here I found tow GIs both unhurt but unarmed. One started over the RR embankment, but promptly dropped back, saying that some Chinese were moving toward us on the other side of the embankment. We started crawling down the ditch beside the road moving south away from the Chinese. The soldiers soon outdistanced me, but one came back to help. I told him to go ahead while they had a chance, and they both soon disappeared.
A few minutes later someone shot at me from the direction I had come. I lay doggo and no more shots came my way. About ten minutes later I crawled on around the bend, found a stick, got to my feet, found I could hobble on the crutch and struck out across the field toward the town of Sasu-ri, just beyond the Paegamni-gang [river]. Having studied the terrain on the way up I knew exactly where I was. But even though I knew the bridge was blown, I bypassed the schoolhouse near the bridge where the 31st Infantry Hq had once been located, climbed up on the road and walked out on the bridge to the break.
Then I realized that I was in pretty bad shape, wandering around without reason. Also, I realized my right hand was frozen stiff around the stick and the fingers were white and hard as a rock. From crawling in the snow, the remaining fingers of the left hand were also frozen. I retraced by steps to the end of the bridge, got down the bank to the water and started across the stream on ice and rocks. Almost across my foot slipped, and the left foot went in the water far enough to fill the boot with water. I kept on into the town which appeared to be deserted. I found a house with some comforters on the floor, sat down and, after what seemed hours, got out my penknife, opened it with my teeth, cut the left boot laces and got it off. The extra socks under my shirt were dry and I got one on the bare left foot. By this time I felt no pain, just an overall numbness, so I pulled a comforter over me and went to sleep. I woke up in daylight when a Korean woman and her son came in. She was quite frightened, but she dressed my finger stumps with some kind of powder, gave me some milk (GI, powdered, I think) and left hurriedly.
SATURDAY 2 DECEMBER
About 0900, 2 December, I heard shots in the village and realized that Chinese were searching the houses. But I had no place to hide so I lay there. Two Chinese soldiers came in, one armed with a rifle and the other with a typical Russian tommy gun. They each took a cigarette from me, laughed when I pointed out my wounds, and then left. Soon two more Chinese came in. These took my cigarettes and lighter, ransacked the house and left. A third pair came in, took a can of meat and beans from my pocket, searched the house and left.
Nothing more occurred until about 1200 when a young American soldier crept in the back door. No more Chinese were in sight in the village, but we could see approximately a company size unit digging in astride the road on the high ground just to the south (5374). I decided to try to walk around their left flank, advised the soldier to get a stick and hobble as though he were wounded. I realize now that an attempt to get around the enemy left flank was a bad choice, but it was a short-lived attempt at any rate-we got no more than two houses down the street when two Chinese appeared, shoved me into a shed and marched the soldier with me off up the road to the troops on the hill. I heard no shot so I assume he was held prisoner. I can only assume that I was not taken prisoner throughout the whole time because of my appearance. Unshaven, dirty, covered with blood and with frozen fingers now beginning to blister and turn black, I believe I was being left to die. By this time I was again exhausted so I crawled into a shed behind a pile of wood and again went to sleep.
I was awakened by being dragged out of the shed by two more Chinese who took my wallet, tore my ID card in half, but gave me back my folder of family pictures. One enemy soldier threw a round into the chamber of his rifle, pointed it at me, and, after what seemed to be eternity, turned and walked away. At a temperature of at least 20° below zero, I still wiped sweat from my face. I picked up the largest piece of my ID card, found another house back off the street and, entering it, found two soldiers hiding there. One was wounded in the back and the other in the foot. Again I slept.
SUNDAY 3 DECEMBER
The next morning, 3 December, I crawled out and took a look at the hill (5374) to the south where the Chinese had dug in. There was no sign of an enemy soldier. I estimated they had pulled out straight south along the road to Hagaru-ri or had move out around the east side of that town and the marines there. I knew that the odds were in favor of the Marines having to pull out and that I'd better get moving or get left behind.
Considering the condition of my leg and hands, I decided to use the road and move south until I ran across the Marines or more Chinese. I told the two soldiers what I intended to do, but they would not come with me. I hobbled down the road past a knocked out T-34 tank, up the hill past two M4E8 tanks to the top-no Chinese were in sight. I went down the hill to the sawmill town of Sasu (5274). Here a North Korean man came out and led me into a house where another man and two women gave me some coffee (GI soluble) and gave me a penciled note which said in both Korean and English, "Go to the edge of the reservoir and come down it to the Marines." One of the Korean men in broken English told me he would guide me down the road-that the road was open. We started out but when we reached the south edge of the town, we spotted Chinese on the hill to the south. My guide left me and disappeared.
I decided to go over to the railroad on the edge of the reservoir and try to get by the Chinese that way. As I reached the west side of the town, two Corsairs made three passes at the town. I dropped into a ditch when 50-caliber slugs tore up the house behind me. One napalm went over my head, hit about 30 yards behind me and took some of the chill out of the air.
When the air attack was over, I moved on to the railroad and down the side of the reservoir, sweating out the high ground to my left-Hill 1203 (5273). I tripped and fell and almost quit because the snow seemed soft and warm. I felt as though sleep was all I needed. But I remembered a description of the symptoms of freezing told me by a friend of my father's who was an Alaskan expert. I realized I was freezing so I got up and after what seemed hours of effort and stumbled on. I had lost my stick cane in the fall. Finally, I reached a point from which I could see Hagaru-ri with tanks spotted around it. This gave me enough strength to keep going until a jeep came out and picked me up.
The rest is routine-treatment in the Marine aid station where I saw Captain Stamford and was told that Major [Robert E.] Jones and Major [Wesley] Curtis had gotten out, flown out by C-47 (one the last) to Hamhung, then to Japan and then to Camp Pickett, Virginia, by 19 December 1950. Thereafter, it was just a long siege, nine months, in a hospital and then back to duty.
Major Miller's statement was first published to a smaller audience in the June 1991 newsletter of the Army Chapter Chosin Few.
END CJ 06.25.05