CHANGJIN JOURNAL 09.01.06
CHANGJIN JOURNAL 09.01.06
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
IN THIS ISSUE we continue the 2006 series of the Changjin Journal addressing the Chosin Campaign from the viewpoint of Maj. Gen. O.P. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division. We use his Aide-Memoire as a basis, providing the reader with copies of his memoire within which we will offer comments from various sources that relate to the topic at hand. In the last issue (CJ 03.31.06) we covered the advance of RCT-7 from Chinhung-ni to Koto-ri where they experienced the “first impact of extreme cold weather on personnel of the division,” 6learning also that the weather and environment was affecting helicopter operations. In this issue we note the pressure upon Smith to hasten his advance to the Yalu River followed by the movement of RCT-7 from Koto-ri to Hagaru-ri, followed by OpO 21-50 which orders RCT-5 to move into positions on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir.
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.
(223) Renewed Pressure to Advance to the Yalu River
On 11 November, Lt. Col. Watters, the Marine Liaison Officer to Corps headquarters, informed me that our objective was again the Yalu River. Although the previous orders had not been changed, after the reverses of the 8th Army in the west and our encounter with the Chinese at Sudong, the pressure by the Corps for a rapid advance to the north had not been urgent. Now that the situation in the west had been improved, the Corps was again anxious to resume the advance. Apparently the Chinese we had met were discounted as volunteers sent in to encourage the North Koreans and it was assumed that more would not follow. [The source of this assumption is not stated nor known.—GAR] The Corps apparently was still thinking in terms of driving the remnants of the defeated North Korean Army to the northern border of Korea before winter set in. Unknown to us, at this very moment, the Chinese were beginning to cross the Yalu River in massive numbers. The Chinese we had met were a delaying force sent south to delay our advance and permit the main body of the Chinese forces to get deep into North Korea before meeting us.
[Note here that General Smith is addressing the problem after the fact, again emphasizing the fact that this Aide-Memoire was written long after the Chosin campaign, therefore not providing the reader with his feelings on 11 November regarding his mission and how he saw the enemy to his immediate front.—GAR]
The new orders left us in our previously assigned zone, but the zone was widened at the Yalu River to about 40 miles so that we might approach the Yalu River by two roads, one ending at Huch’anggangu in the west and the other at Singalp’ajin in the east. Behind this final objective was a long, tortuous MSR. That part of the MSR north of Chinhung-ni was subject to being blocked by snowdrifts during the winter. It was approximately 150 road miles from Chinhung-ni to the border. I had continually pointed out to the Corps Commander that our advance had left our western flank wide open. The Division was the left flank division of the Corps and from Koto-ri, where RCT-7 then was, to the right flank of the 8th Army was 70 air miles to the southeast. The Corps’ attitude regarding the open flank was that there were no enemy troops on that flank.
[Was this the attitude of the Corps (commander) or a statement of fact? Of note in this paragraph about pressure is the potential enemy to his front, and how the terrain could favor that enemy.—GAR]
(224) Provisions of X Corps OpOrder No. 6 of 11 November
X Corps OpO 6 issued at 2400, 11 November, reiterated in more detail the instructions for units of the X Corps to advance to the northern border of Korea. Instructions to the principal components of the X corps were as follows:
(a) I ROK Corps, employing the ROK Capitol Division and one regiment of the 3d ROK Division, to operate from the line Chuch’onhujang – Hapsu and destroy enemy in zone. . . . to maintain the 3d ROK Division (less two regiments) in the Sinp’o area (22 miles east of Hungnam) as Corps Reserve and to coordinate with the 7th Infantry Division in clearing the area of guerrillas.
(b) 1st Marine Division to advance to the north and destroy enemy in zone. To be prepared, also, for offensive operations to the west on the Hamhung – Sach’ang-ni axis. . . . to establish blocking positions at Huksu-ri and at Yudam-ni (14 miles northwest of Hagaru-ri on the western arm of the Chosin Reservoir).
[At this time, Yudam-ni was on the boundary line between X Corps and Eighth Army.—GAR]
(c) 3d Infantry Division to relieve elements of the 1st Marine division in zone by 2400, 12 November, provide for the security of the Wonsan area, and destroy enemy in zone. To establish blocking positions to protect the X Corps’ left flank … to be prepared for offensive operations to the west … to provide one infantry battalion as Corps’ Reserve at Hamhung.
(d) 7th Infantry Division to advance north, destroy enemy in zone and be prepared to move one RCT to an assembly area west of Hamhung as Corps Reserve, on order.
(e) 26th ROK Regiment, under operational control of the 3d Division, to destroy enemy in zone.
(f) 1st KMC Regiment (less 3d and 5th battalions) to destroy enemy in zone.
This operation order did in some measure reduce the dispersion of the 1st Marine Division. By its terms RCT-1 was relieved in the Wonsan area and moved 70 miles north to the vicinity of Chigyong. At the same time, however, in accordance with the order, it was necessary to give to RCT-1 the mission of occupying a blocking position at Huksu-ri, 32 miles northwest of Chigyong and of being prepared to attack to the west on the Chigyong – Huksu-ri – Sachang-ni axis. While RCT-1 was occupied in this area, the Division was required to continue the advance via the Chosin Reservoir to the Manchurian border [in zone], detaching a force to move northwest from Hagaru-ri to Yudam-ni to occupy a blocking position thereat. The zone of action of the division was widened south of the Yalu River to include the road running north to the border from Changjin as well as the road leading northeast from Changjin to the border.
The boundary of the 3d Division had been moved north to include Chigyong, but did not include Huksu-ri, where we were required to establish a blocking position. To reach Huksu-ri it was necessary to pass through Chigyong.
(228) Advance of RCT-7 from Koto-ri to Hagaru-ri
At 2130, 12 November, the Division issued a fragmentary order, referring to 1MarDiv OpO 20-50, which directed that RCT-7 continue the advance, seizing the Hagaru-ri area and destroying enemy in zone, at the same time continuing the protection of Koto-ri. RCT-5 was ordered to be prepared to move one battalion to Koto-ri, on order, to relieve elements of RCT-7.
At 0830, 13 November, 2/7 Marines moved toward the assigned objective of RCT-7, the town of Hagaru-ri. Following the method employed in the advance from Chinhung-ni to Koto-ri, the battalion, reinforced by a battery of artillery, advanced astride the road and valley, sweeping the high ground immediately flanking the valley. The objectives assigned 2/7 were Hill 1678 west of the road and Hill 1182 east of the road, both about 3 miles north of Koto-ri. The objectives were seized without serious opposition and patrolling was initiated. South of the objective a small enemy force was encountered which withdrew when struck by artillery and aircraft. The remainder of the RCT shrunk the perimeter around Koto-ri and patrolled the area.
1MarDiv OpO 21-50, issued at 2000, 13 November, confirmed the frag orders issued earlier to seize Hagaru-ri, and in addition, provided for RCT-5 to pass through RCT-7 at Hagaru-ri and continue the advance to the north, while RCT-7 occupied a blocking position at Yudam-ni, 14 miles to the northwest.
[The question arising at this point is why Smith ordered an entire RCT to Yudam-ni when, in fact, he was ordered to establish a “blocking position” which in no way required such a large force. On this day, 13 November, there were no indications that the X Corps left flank boundary was to be changed, nor that the Corps was to attack in any direction other than north.]
On 14 November the 2/7 moved forward from its positions on Hills 1678 and 1182 and occupied Hagaru-ri by 1300 without opposition. Subzero temperatures (minus 4 F.), snow and high winds caused considerable discomfort to the troops with resulting frostbite casualties. All roads into the town were open except for minor obstacles which required bulldozer clearance. Natives in the town stated that the Chinese Communists had evacuated the town 3 days prior and had moved to the north and west. RCT-7 consolidated its positions for the night with the 2/7 on the high ground in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri, the 1/7 on Hills 1162 and 1278 (astride the road 2 miles southeast of Hagaru-ri), and the 3/7 (less G company) still guarding the installations at Koto-ri. The Regimental [RCT-7] CP, protected by G Company was at TA5565C (1 ½ miles south of the 1st Battalion’s positions).
During the day of 15 November RCT-7 closed into Hagaru-ri. Temperatures continued to be low, dropping to 15 below zero F. The 3/7, after being relieved by the 2/5 at Koto-ri, moved by motor shuttle to Hagaru-ri and was positioned to protect the northeastern approaches to Hagaru-ri. The 1/7 protected the northwestern approaches to the village, and the 2/7 was established defensively on the high ground south of the village to protect the southern approaches. Patrolling was instituted. A patrol from 2/7 reconnoitered Pokko-chi (2 miles north of Hagaru-ri) and Poktong-ni (2 miles east of Hagaru-ri. No enemy was encountered by the patrols, but the patrol to Pokko-chi did find an abandoned artillery piece which was destroyed. General Craig spent the day of the 15th visiting RCT-7.
(229) Provisions of 1MarDiv OpO 21-50 of 13 November
1MarDiv OpO 21-50 issued at 2000, 13 November, confirmed various Fragmentary Orders and provided for the continuation of the advance toward the Manchurian border as well as the movement of RCT-1 from the Wonsan area to the Chigyong area. The tasks assigned the principal subordinate units of the Division were as follows:
RCT-1 to move through the 3d Division zone from vicinity of Chigyong, seize Objective 1 (Huksu-ri), and patrol west in zone to the Corps boundary, destroying enemy encountered.
RCT-7 to seize and secure Objective 2 (Hagaru-ri), and, on order, seize Objective 3 (Yudam-ni) and to patrol to destroy enemy in zone.
RCT-5 to protect the MSR from positions at Koto-ri, Chinhung-ni, and Majon-dong, prepared to pass through RCT-7 in the vicinity of Objective 2 (Hagaru-ri) and advance to the north on Changjin (40 miles north of Hagaru-ri).
Division Recon Company to screen the right flank of the Division by operating in the Soyang-ni – Sinhung Valley to the Division boundary (east). [Since General Smith’s concern had been his open left flank, we wonder today why he used his Recon Company on the right flank where the 7th Infantry Division was located; General Barr’s RCT-31 was already operating in the area of the Fusen Reservoir.—GAR]
B Company, reinforced, 1st Tank Battalion to provide local security for the Yonpo airfield until relieved by a designated element of X Corps troops.
11th Marines, reinforced, less detachments, maintain the 4/11, less detachments, in position in the vicinity of Majon-dong, prepared for emplyment to the north, on order.
1st Tank Battalion, reinforced, less detachments, to move the Headquarters and Service Companies, less tracked vehicles, to the vicinity of Soyang-ni, and move the remainder of the battalion to an assembly area in the vicinity of the LST loading area at Wonsan, prepared to move to Soyang-ni by water and road, on order.
1st Engineer Battalion, less detachments, to support Division operations with emphasis on the Division MSR.
VMO-6 to support Division operations.
1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion, reinforced, to provide train and convoy guards as directed by the CO, 1st Combat Service Group.
Subparagraph (xº of the order contained the following miscellaneous provisions:
Responsibility for the coordination between zones, south to north.
In emergencies requiring defense of critical points, all division units in zone were to be under the operational control of the Regimental Commander responsible for combat operations in that zone.
Patrol reports were to be submitted to Division Hq daily at 2100 hours.
Results planned for the next 24 hours. (These instructions were the result of Corps orders. The Corps was not dissatisfied with the patrolling of the 1st MarDiv but was dissatisfied with that of the Army units. The overlays showing patrol routes were published in Corps orders. In view of the extensive character of the patrolling by the 1MarDiv the preparation of these overlays was quite a chore. Apparently the Corps desired to shame other units of the Corps into more active patrolling by setting forth the extensive patrolling conducted by the 1st Marine Division.) [Since “apparently” is not a statement of fact, we wonder why General Smith included this in his Aide-Memoire.—GAR]
Tanks were to be moved forward of Majon-dong only on Division order. (This provision was inserted in order to insure that tanks would not be move up the mountain until the Division Engineers could guarantee the road as passable for tanks.)
X Corps OpO 6 of 11 November directed the 1MarDiv to establish a blocking position at Yudam-ni. It will be noted that 1Mardiv OpO 21-50 of 13 November directed RCT-7 to seize Yudam-ni, on order. By verbal instructions of the Division Commander, RCT-7 was directed to occupy a blocking position at the pass or east of the pass between Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni until such time as additional units of the division could be moved to the Chosin Reservoir area. At this time the total separation of the infantry battalions of the Division amounted to 163 miles. The Division did not share the feeling of the Corps that there was no enemy and that the dispersion was justified.
[p.594 contains the task organization (list of units) of OpO 21-50, continues through p.596.]
Fifty-year hindsight draws our attention to the last sentence of the above paragraph in which General Smith mentions the enemy while directing the reader’s attention to X Corps. We continue to wonder what his plans were to find the enemy that motivates his feeling. Where are the Chinese? No deep recon has been sent north to force the enemy to disclose its positions. Readers are reminded that the Aide-Memoire was written after the Chosin campaign.
End CJ 09.01.06