The day after Thanksgiving, D Company moved down the valley another
1000 yards and took up positions on the west side of the road. After
another frigid but peaceful night, D Company moved back onto the road
and into the valley of Yudam-ni.
The Village of Yudam-ni sits in a rather broad valley surrounded by
steep mountains to each side. The road approaching from the south passes
through the village and then forks, with one fork heading northwest and
the other north towards the Yalu river.
The road junction is overlooked by two hills that would be critical
in the defense of the 1st Marine Division units at Yudam-ni.
Hill 1282, just north of the village, would be occupied and defended by
E/2/7 and Hill 1240, to the northeast, by D/2/7 The hills are separated
by a ravine approximately 800 yards wide.
It should be noted that the 2nd Battalion CO, with his
H&S Company, was unable to make the advance with Dog and Easy
companies. They remained in Hagaru-ri and the two orphaned companies
were placed under the operational control of Lt. Col. Raymond Davis of
the 1st Battalion 7th.
Yudamni, Hill 1240 and the Chinese
The Company's 214 officers and men moved into position on 1240 and
attempted to construct defensive positions. However, the ground was
frozen solid and entrenching tools would ricochet off the ground as if
it were concrete. Vegetation was sparse except for outcroppings of
"buckbrush" and the hill was host to a three or four inch layer of snow.
The defensive perimeter was on the south side of 1240 overlooking the
village, road junction and elements of the 11th Marines
(artillery), that had moved in on the 27th and set their guns
in a position directly south of Hill 1240.
The night of 26 November saw the temperatures drop into the -20° to
-30° range with strong winds from the north. It was nearly impossible
for the troops to stay warm so sleep was almost nonexistent. The night
passed without incident from enemy forces. At daybreak fires were built,
coffee made, and C-rations heated. The hot coffee and food did wonders
for bodies that were chilled to the bone. It seemed to take forever to
heat a can of rations, as they were frozen solid. We had discovered
earlier not to eat half frozen rations as it resulted in horrible cases
of dysentery, not something one needed on long marches in minus 30
The Company was advised that it would patrol an area north and east
of our base on 1240. From our hillside position we watched the
5th Marines forming in the valley below in preparation for
its attack to the west. It was around 0800 when the attack commenced and
Dog Company moved out on it's patrol. The arctic temperatures greatly
reduced the stamina of the troops.
D/2/7 had advanced about 2 miles along high ground and was descending
into a flat narrow valley in which there was a small village. A small
frozen stream traversed the valley floor. Suddenly two or three Chinese
soldiers appeared with their hands up, indicating they wished to
surrender. A fire team was dispatched to take them prisoner, but each
time they got closer the Chinese would back up the hill to the east. A
squad then moved out to assist. Suddenly the entire area erupted with
automatic weapons fire from several directions. The Chinese, in control
of the high ground, gained fire superiority. After an intense firefight
with the entrenched enemy along the ridge-line to the north of the small
village, an air strike was called to cover the Company as it disengaged
the enemy and it began its return to positions on Hill 1240. Dog Seven
sustained 15 to 20 killed and/or wounded.. The Company returned to 1240
with it's dead and wounded.
Once there, the CO advised all to return to their respective
positions and to maintain 50% watch as it was a certainty that we would
be attacked by the Chinese. An additional order, "No fires!", was given.
Because of the 800 yard ravine between Dog and Easy Companies,
patrols from each company were established to meet midway every hour
during the night. In the early eveing the Chinese commenced light
probing attacks, primarily on or near Easy company's positions. Just
before midnight Easy Company engaged and killed all members of a Chinese
patrol. The patrols were canceled.
For some never explained reason, one of the machinegun squads had
disregarded the "No fires" order and had a small fire near their gun
position. One of the gunners was chopping small pieces of wood for the
fire with his bayonet when he looked up and saw two Chinese soldiers
warming themselves at the fire. Needless to say, this caused panic and a
during the ensuing struggle with one of the Chinese, one of the gunners
received severe scalp lacerations when he was hit with an entrenching
tool by one of the Chinese. The Chinese escaped.
Near midnight the Chinese began taunting the Marines on 1240 with
"Hey Marines, we kill you, sonobitch, Marines you die". The taunting
died down and then began the irritating sound of noise makers - the kind
you rattle on New Years Eve. Then the bugles blared, whistles blew and
flares lit the sky. The Chinese attacked in mass with the main thrust of
the attack at the center of Dog Company's defensive positions.
Three such assaults were repelled by Dog Company. Although inflicting
huge numbers of casualties on the enemy, the Company sustained many
casualties itself. On the fourth assault, the Chinese were able to
penetrate the defensive line and hand to hand fighting erupted along the
perimeter. The Chinese overran the CP. The order was passed for all
troops to withdraw from their positions to the area of the Company
Command Post. Assessing the situation, the CO ordered the company to
withdraw to the base of the hill. No troops were available for
There were about 40 Marines that were still able to stand although
most of them were wounded. Capt. Hull contacted Regimental HQ by radio
and advised that the Company had lost the hill, and he was promptly
ordered to assault and retake the position. Capt. Hull at first refused,
stating that he had only 30 or 40 Marines capable of bearing arms and
attacking. The voice from regiment stated, "Captain, I only have to
remind you that all of our artillery is right behind you. If we lose it,
we lose it all!" Whereupon Capt. Hull, although wounded twice, gave the
order to attack and led the troops up 1240 to regain possession of the
The Marines got a foothold on the reverse slope of the hill, while
receiving heavy automatic weapons fire from the Chinese. Hull was
wounded for the third time, but refused evacuation.
All night long the Marines attacked, defended and counterattacked.
Their numbers were soon reduced to 16 men to carry on the battle. The
Marines of Dog Company did carry on the battle and held onto Hill 1240
until dawn when a platoon from the 5th Marines relieved the
16 remaining warriors of Dog Company.
It was noted by Andrew Geer in his book, "The New Breed", 1952,
Harper & Brothers, at page 277, "Two of the most savage battles
fought on the night of the twenty-seventh of November were waged on the
hills to the north of Yudam-ni, Hills 1282 and 1240......These two
hills, less than a thousand yards apart, were to be fought over with
savagery unmatched in the annals of small unit warfare."
The Battle Continues
The battle at Yudam-ni raged throughout the night of the
27th. With daylight on the 28th it was evident
that the Chinese had paid a heavy price in it's attack on Hill 1240. The
hill was littered with enemy dead. The Marines of Yudam-ni fought long
and hard to maintain a perimeter on the high ground surrounding the
village, while much heavy fighting continued in various locations in the
valley. The entire defense at Yudam-ni was in peril by mid morning of
the 28th as all units of both Regiments had sustained heavy
casualties. Dog and Easy Companies had sustained such heavy losses they
were no longer considered as viable fighting forces.
On the morning of the 28th Gen. Smith cancelled the
5th Marines attack to the west, and consolidated his
positions on Yudam-ni. The 7th was ordered to open the road
between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. Had the 5th continued its
attack west, contact with the 7th would have been lost, and
the 7th with its depleted forces would not have been able to
hold Yudam-ni the second night. Without question, Smith's decision to
cancel the westward attack and hold the 5th in Yudam-ni saved
the 1st Marine Division from total destruction at the hands
of the overwhelming number of Chinese.
While the Marines at Yudam-ni were heavily engaged on the
27th there was no Chinese activity at Hagaru-ri or Koto-ri.
However, by mid afternoon on the 27th Chinese forces had
successfully established numerous roadblocks between Yudam-ni and
Hagaru-ri, and also between Hagaru and Koto. The 1st Marine
Division was now totally enveloped by Chinese troops. The units at
Hagaru and Koto came under heavy attack, and were able to repel the
Chinese. Great concern was expressed over the situation with Fox Co.
7th, holding Toktong Pass. Col. Litzenberg formed a composite
unit of two companies from the 1st and 3rd
Battlions, 7th to push south and relieve Fox Company. On the
morning of the 28th this unit moved south and soon came in
contact with a numerically superior enemy force halting his march.
Litzenberg cancelled the movement and ordered the unit to return to the
perimeter of Yudam-ni.
On the 28th because of the high casualties Dog Company
7th was disbanded and combined with Easy Company
7th. The total strength of the two companies were but
seventy-five Marines, including men that had been wounded and rejoined
the company after treatment at aid stations. Reinforcements were
received from the Artillery Battalion. Major Hal Roach was given command
of the unit. Roach after reorganizing the unit rejected his assigned
radio call and reported in as "Damnation 6", the name stuck and the unit
thereafter was known as the Damnation Battalion. Damnation was assigned
to hold the shoulders of the high ground through which the troops would
move in the attempt to open the MSR (main supply route) to Hagaru.
When the composite companies were unable to break through in its
effort to reach Fox Company, Col. Litzenberg on the 29th
directed Lt. Col. Davis to take his 1st Battalion
7th Marines overland in an effort to reach and reinforce Fox.
The Damnation Battalion was to follow in trace of Davis. After due
deliberation with Litzenberg, Roach had his doubts about the success
that might be had because of the composite of the Damnation Battalion.
The unit had no staff, and was made up of two severely crippled rifle
companies, without support. The mission was cancelled and the Damnation
Lt. Col. Robert Taplett and his 3d Battalion,
5th Marines lead the attack south on the MSR, at 1500 hours,
1 December supported by the lone tank at Yudamn-ni, D23. Dog-Easy
Company held defensive positions in the southeast portion of Yudam-ni.,
and were hit by light probing attacks by the Chinese. 3rd
Battalion, 5th Marines had continued the assault south
against heavy resistance from the enemy. By dawn of 2 December
casualties had brought the attack to a standstill. Lt. Col. Murray
advised Lt. Col. Taplett that he was going to attach Dog-Easy Company to
his Battalion. When asked how he wanted them deployed, he replied
"straight down the MSR. Dog-Easy assumed the point in the attack to the
Dog-Easy Takes the Point
Dog-Easy Company was ordered to attack down the road between George
and How Companies, 5th Marines. The Company encountered enemy
resistance almost immediately when it encountered a Chinese roadblock
near a deep stream bed, where a bridge had been blown. An air strike was
called, the Company attacked and the roadblock was quickly erased. G and
H Co.'s, 5th Marines attacked south on the ridges while
Dog-Easy Company attacked along the road behind our lone tank, D23. It
is important for the reader to keep in mind, the temperatures remained
in the 15 to 30 below zero range, having severe effects on men and
Most of the Marines in close proximity to D23 developed a deep
ambivalence towards it. It's firepower was cherished when confronting
enemy roadblocks, but truly hated it for the small arms fire it drew
from the Chinese. The ricochets were unnerving to say the least.
The number of enemy roadblocks encountered were many, but it seems as
if there was one every few hundred yards and certainly around every
corner. With each such encounter we sustained more and more casualties
while inflicting heavy losses on the enemy
In the late afternoon or early evening of 2 December the column came
to a halt. D23 had apparently run out of fuel. The officer supposedly in
charge of the point crawled inside D23, leaving the unit without
leadership. Lt. Col. Taplett arrived at the head of the column a short
while later and inquired why the halt in movement and who was in charge.
He was informed that the officer in charge had entered the tank. Taplett
directed a Marine to get on the intercom phone at the rear of the tank
and tell the officer to exit the tank. After what seemed several
minutes, Lt. Col. Taplett grabbed the intercom phone and ordered the
officer out of the tank. The order was not obeyed. Leadership was
provided, fuel brought up from the rear and the column prepared to
continue the attack. As the tank started to move the right track of the
tank slid into the ditch along side the road, and could not extricate
itself even with all hands around the tank pushing. A tractor was
brought up by the engineers and after a couple of attempts, D23 was
back, fully on the road again. It was now past midnight. Typically,
during this period enemy small arms fire continued.
The attack towards Hagaru resumed and several more road blocks were
encountered before Dog-Easy Company joined up with Lt. Col. Ray Davis'
1st Battalion, 7th Marines at Toktong Pass about
mid day on 3 December. Davis and his 1st Battalion took over
the point of the column for the remainder of the trek to Hagaru-ri, and
Dog-Easy Company was once again part of the 7th Marines. The
Company spread out along the column of vehicles in trace of the
At approximately 1900 hours on 3 December, about a quarter of a mile
north of Hagaru-ri, the point came into contact with elements of the
Hagaru perimeter defense. The Yudam-ni Marines of the 5th
7th Regiments stopped, dressed columns and marched
into Hagaru-ri to the cadence of our shoe pacs on the frozen ground. As
the column entered the main perimeter tears could be seen on the cheeks
of the Hagaru Marines. Without doubt every Marine at Hagaru-ri felt that
now that most of the 1st Division had joined, although
greatly reduced in numbers, that there were not enough Chinese in Asia
to stop the Division from reaching the sea.
The troops were directed to tents that lined the runway of the tiny
landing strip. Before we could even remove our parkas we were ordered to
saddle up and move north to assist clearing a couple of road blocks. We
had traveled less than a mile when the movement was canceled, and we
were able to return to the warmth of the tents, and much needed sleep.
Those that didn't sleep away the time were treated to their first hot
food in several days. From the 27th of November to the
3rd of December the 1st Marine Division had
suffered 2,260. 358 had been killed, 153 were missing, 1,749 had been
wounded and 1,072 had become non-battle casualties mostly from
We should keep in mind that during the struggle of the 5th
and 7th Marines in it's attack from Yudam-ni, the Marines at
Hagaru-ri and Koto-ri suffered and fought off numerous attacks by the
Division command decided to delay the attack south until 6 December
to give the troops time to rest and regroup. At 0400 on 6 December
Hagaru-ri came to life in preparation for the attack down the MSR. Fox
Company 7th Marines in the van followed by Dog-Easy Company.
Less than a mile south of Hagaru-ri, the point encountered a Chinese
roadblock. A railroad track paralleled the road on the east. The terrain
leveled out for several hundred yards to a low hill running in a general
east-west direction, from which the column was receiving automatic
weapons fire. An air strike was ordered, and the troops watched with
delight as the F4U Corsairs strafed and napalmed the enemy stronghold.
The attack continued through sporadic small arms and mortar fire. By
mid afternoon the column had advanced about two miles when another enemy
position was encountered. The enemy could not be dislodged by artillery
and mortar fire so an attack was ordered. Dog-Easy made a flanking
attack while Fox Company made the frontal assault. The enemy position
was cleared as the light of day began to wane.
As darkness overtook us the column had advanced nearly five miles
south of Hagaru. As usual with the onset of night the Chinese become
much bolder, and the column began receiving heavy automatic weapons fire
from the ridge on the left flank. This was in Hell Fire Valley where
Task force Drysdale had encountered the Chinese as it attempted to break
through and reinforce Hagaru-ri a few days earlier. After two hours of
fighting, cannon fire from our supporting tanks eliminated the enemy
We had moved less than a mile when the column came to a stop because
of a blown bridge. The engineers repaired the damage and we moved out
only to be stopped again by another destroyed span. During the time the
engineers were repairing the bridges the column was under heavy fire
from the Chinese. It was during the attack near the second blown bridge
that the regimental chaplin, Fr. Cornelius Griffin, was shot through the
jaw by a burst of machine gun fire, while he was administering last
rites to a wounded Marine in a well marked ambulance. The Chinese gave
no mind to the red cross clearly painted on a white background that
adorned our ambulances. In fact they seemed to like to use it as a
During the attack from Hagaru-ri the order was to destroy all
buildings. We were not to leave the enemy any place of warmth or
shelter. All buildings were torched as we moved south. The burning
buildings cast an eerie light in the cold darkness. In this light,
Chinese troops could be seen darting in and out of cover no more than 30
yards to our front. Another destroyed bridge was encountered and the
engineers called to render it passable. When this was accomplished we
advanced to Koto-ri without further enemy contact. 2nd
Battalion, 7th Marines was the first to enter Koto-ri, some
20 plus hours after attacking south from Hagaru. Objective number two
for the Yudam-ni Marines had been earned. After a brief rest the
2nd Battalion was ordered back north again to establish
blocking positions to secure an open road for the rest of the Division.
During this assignment the 2nd Battalion found a couple of
dozen British Marines that had been stranded since the Drysdale force
had been attacked in the last week of November. The rear guard of the
Division entered Koto-ri around 2100 on 7 December, Pearl Harbor Day.
A Bridge to Freedom - The Last Leg
The night of 7 December was cold with snow flurries and by morning,
Marines in sleeping bags were covered with several inches of snow. All
hands were concerned that with the coming of morning and an attack
south, the overcast skies would prevent close support by Marine air.
Near morning a clear spot appeared in the sky and a lone star shed it's
light, giving all hope that the overcast would lift and air support
would be available for the task before us.
Heavy snow fell as the 7th Marines attacked south from
Koto-ri about 0800 hours on 8 December. 2nd battalion
7th was held in regimental reserve while the 1st
and 3rd battalions led the attack. Because of the heavy snows
air operations were suspended. Shortly after 1200 hours, 2nd
battalion was committed and attacked west of the road in an attempt to
flank the Chinese preventing the advance of the 3rd
battalion. During this movement we came upon positions occupied by what
appeared to be dead Chinese soldiers. However, we noticed eye movement
in some and discovered that most were still alive, but so badly frozen
that they could not move any body parts except their eyes. These were
eliminated, more out of compassion than military necessity. Dog Company
was unable to gain it's objective by nightfall, so dug in for the night
and resumed the attack in the morning gaining it's objective.
The attack south was brought to a halt about a mile and a half below
Funchilin Pass. The Chinese had destroyed a 29 foot span section of a
one way concrete bridge. The drop off down the mountain was sheer
without possibility of building a by-pass. Before the attack could
continue a bridge had to be built if the Division was to bring out its
equipment, dead and wounded.
The 1st Engineering Battalion had earlier made an aerial
reconnaissance of the area and it was decided that a Treadway bridge
would be used to span the chasm. Fortunely an army engineer unit had
available trucks especially designed to haul and place into position
sections of a Treadway bridge. Marine Air Delivery was contacted to air
drop Treadway sections into the Koto perimeter. Each section weighed
about 2500 pounds and was difficult to handle. Rigging them with
parachutes to safely carry them to the ground was complicated.
The bridge sections were flown to Koto by eight Air force C-119's. At
0930 hours the C-119's arrived over Koto and after one dummy run the
first section was dropped, followed by five more. One section fell in
Chinese positions, but all other landed on target with little damage.
9 December was clear and cold. Our prayers had been answered and
Marine air support was on station. With the support of air and artillery
the 7th Regiment gained control of the high ground from Koto
to the bridge site. Enemy resistance and been nearly eliminated and what
remained was ineffectual. The Treadway sections were moved from Koto to
the bridge site, arriving at about 1230 hours. By 1530 hours, the bridge
was in place, and the engineers gave the okay for the column to begin
it's descent. The long convoy of men and equipment streamed across the
span all night long on 9-10 December
Resistance from the Chinese had become almost nil from the bridge to
Chinhung-ni. Enemy soldiers captured in this movement made known that
their losses from battle and non-battle casualties had been devastating.
Leading elements of the 1st Battalion, 7th,
arrived at Chinhung-ni at 0245 hours, 10 December. As transportation
became available men were loaded on and the next stop was Hungnam and
The 1st Marine Division had battled it's way through 10
plus Chinese divisions, bringing with it, most of it's equipment, it's
wounded and most of it's dead under conditions of deadly cold and
outnumbered 8 to 1 by an enemy force that had but one objective, to
annihilate the 1st Marine Division. They failed! Earlier at
Hagaru-ri one of the regimental officers had stated, "We are coming out
with our wounded, our dead and our equipment. We are coming out as
Marines, or we are not coming out at all". He was right in his
The lead elements of the 1st Marine Division reached the
seaport of Hungnam the morning of 10 December. The MSR (main supply
route) was now under the protection of the army's 3rd
Infantry Division. By 2100 on 11 December, all units of the
1st and 7th Divisions, with the exception of the
tanks, had reached the port of Hungnam, and by 2330 the tanks had
arrived. Thus ended the breakout of the 1st Marine Division.
On arriving at Hungnam the Marines were treated to pancakes from a
galley set up by an engineering group. Most if not all had disposed of
their mess gear, so many received the pancakes and syrup in their bare,
dirty hands. The temperatures seemed warm from what the troops had
experienced the past month, although the temperatures were still in the
freezing range or below. The sun was shining and many had removed
clothing and sat about with bare chests.
It was the understanding that the 1st Marine Division
would occupy a defensive area southwest of Hungnam. However, the command
upon arriving at Hungnam was notified that the Marines would immediately
embark by ship for redeployment in South Korea. The first elements of
the Division to arrive at Hungnam began loading on ships before the last
elements of the Division reached Hungnam.
During the outloading of the Marines the 3rd and
7th army divisions defended the perimeter, supported by
artillery, naval gunfire and air support by Navy, Air Force and Marine
planes. Loading the Division aboard ships was completed by 14 December.
The Marines were transported to Pusan, South Korea, and some by smaller
ship or land transport to Masan, other were transported by truck.
By 20 December the 7th Division had embarked from Hungnam
and the 3rd Division manned the shore defenses alone, with
command of the defenses passing to Admiral Doyle. The 3rd
Division was to board LST's at 1100 on 24 December. All beaches were
clear by 1430 and, as the last troops loaded on ships, the demolitions
were set off and the entire Hungnam waterfront was blown in one large
In addition to the 1st Marine Division, the army's
3rd and 7th Divisions and the attached ROK troops,
the 10th Corps also evacuated in excess of 100,000 North
Korean civilians escaping from the communist regime. Someone said "they
voted with their feet."
"The running fight of the Marines and two battalions of the Army's
7th Infantry Division from Hagaru to Hamhung--40 miles by air
but 60 miles over the icy, twisting mountainous road--was a battle
unparalleled in U.S. military history," Time, the Weekly Newsmagazine,
lvi,no. 25 (18Dec50). "It had some aspects of Bataan, some of Anzio,
some of Dunkirk, some of Valley Forge, some of the 'Retreat of the
10,000' (401-400 B.C.) as described in Xenophon's Anabasis."
The Bean Patch:
Rest, Resupply, Replacements
The Chosin Marines of Dog Seven arrived at what was to be its new
home on the 13th or 14th of December. The new assembly area was a bean
patch on the northern outskirts of Masan. Masan is a small seaport about
40 miles west of Pusan. The Bean Patch had been the assembly area of the
1st Marine Brigade in August, prior to the Inchon landing.
The Bean Patch was large enough for all three infantry regiments. The
remainder of the Divisions' units were stationed in the northeast and
southern outskirts of Masan. The area seemed peaceful to the troops.
However, the mountains to the northwest of Masan had been for many years
the hideout of Korean bandits. In order to secure the safety of the
area, Division immediately assigned subsectors to the various units of
the Division to patrol. Fortunately no hostile actions were engaged in
during the time that the Division occupied the Bean Patch.
Upon reaching the Bean Patch, Dog Company consisted of eight enlisted
men and no officers. The men obtained a squad tent, a stove and set up
house keeping. Their solitude was short lived when replacement officers
and men started arriving. Men from aid stations and hospital ships began
returning to duty after treatment of their wounds. Within a short time
the engineers had laid out the camp and tents were rigged in military
Maj. Gen. Oliver Smith reported that the Marines had received fresh
rations on only three days since landing in Korea. Naval Forces, Far
East immediately ordered 50,000 rations of turkey to the Marines at
Masan. Softball and football games became popular as the men started
recuperating from the fatigue and tensions of the Chosin campaign.
Christmas was observed with great spirit by the troops that truly had
much to be thankful for. I might mention that many of the Christmas
packages from home had been lost to the Chinese when the convoys were
attacked and destroyed in North Korea.
During the Christmas season many photographers and press people
visited Masan for pictures and interviews. Gen. Smith was informed that
a motion picture company was going to produce a film entitled "Retreat,
Hell", and was asked if he had said, "Retreat, Hell! We are just
attacking in a different direction." He said that he pointed out to
correspondents at Hagaru that the drive to Hamhung was not a typical
withdrawal or retreat, and thus "the statement attributed to me
described my thinking, that of my staff and unit commanders, and my
situation." (US Marine Operations in Korea, Vol. IV, page 6)
During the stay at the Bean Patch, liberty was enjoyed in the several
small cafes-bars in Masan. A limited amount of food was available and
sake served with peanuts was plentiful. One such café had a sign
proclaiming it to be the "Brack Cat".
The battlefront straddled the 38th Parallel during the
last week of December. The Marines were at this time 200 miles south of
the 38th. This would not last long and all effort was being
made to restore the Division to combat readiness. Division equipment was
in serious shortage of all essential items with the exception of the M-1
The first Christmas in Korea lifted the spirits of the men. Carols
were sung and improvised Christmas decorations were hung. Of course
there was the wonderful turkey dinners with all the trimmings. The last
of the 105,000 X Corps troops had embarked from Hungnam on Christmas Eve
without the loss of a single life due to enemy action.
President Truman in a letter to Gen. MacArthur said: "Wish to express
my personal thanks to you, Admiral Joy, General Almond, and all your
brave men for the effective operations at Hungnam. This saving of our
men in this isolated beachhead is the best Christmas present I have ever
had." U. S. Marine Operations in Korea, Vol. IV, page 5
On 23 December it was learned that Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, Eighth
Army commander, had been killed in a vehicle accident. Lt. Gen. Matthew
B. Ridgeway was named as his successor. After taking command, Ridgeway
commented that the spirit of the Eighth Army gave him concern. He said
there was a spirit of apprehension as evidenced by an air of nervousness
and uncertainty. These criticisms were not applicable to the
1st Marine Division. Brigadier Gen. Edward Craig, the
assistant division commander, commented, "Our men were in high spirits
and busily engaged in getting ready to fight again." Further stating
that in his travels about the various units of the Division "I never
even once noticed any air of nervousness of apprehension. When Gen.
Ridgeway visited the Marines at Masan and observed the training and
general arrangements, he stated that he was satisfied with the
1st Marine Division and its quick comeback after Chosin.
On New Years Eve of 1950 the Division was detached from X Corps and
assigned to operational control of Eighth Army. The Division was
directed to continue training so that it could be employed in either
blocking positions, or taking over a sector along the main line of
resistance (MLR). Within an hour this order was rescinded and the
Division was directed to move to the Pohang-Andong area to be in a
position to block any CCF penetrations.
On 9 January 1951 the
Division was moved to Pohang with the following
(a) Prevent enemy
penetrations in force south of the Andong-Yongdok
(b) Protect the MSR
connecting Pohang, Kyongju, Yongchon, Uihung, and Uisong..
It took nearly a week to move all units of the Division from Masan to
Pohang. All units were in place by 17 January. On the 18th
the Division was assigned the following
(1) the protection
of the Pohang-Kyongju-Andong
(2) the securing of
Andong and the two airstrips in the vicinity;
(3) the prevention of
hostile penetrations in force to the south of the Andong-yongdok
(U. S. Operations in Korea, Vol. IV, page 42.)
The 7th Marines were assigned Zone C, an area 20 to 25
miles wide from east to west and extending north from the latitude of
Pohang to the Andong-Yongdok road.
Captured documents had indicated that enemy forces had infiltrated
through gaps in the Eighth Army's Line. Guerrilla activity was reported
throughout the area. The Division's new area of operation was about 1600
square miles most of which was mountainous. The Marines had learned in
WWII the effectiveness of guerilla warfare. On 18 January a patrol of
the 1st Marines came into contact with a number of North Korean troops
east of Andong. Information learned from prisoners indicated
approximately 6,000 NK troops in the area of operation. The NK troops,
after the Inchon - Seoul operation, had crossed north of the
38th Parallel, where they were reorganized by the Chinese for
guerrilla operations. In late December they returned to South Korea with
a mission to infiltrate UN lines and to disrupt communication and harass
During the first few days of the guerrilla hunt it became obvious
that the greatest problem was in locating the North Korean forces. As a
result a systematic patrolling of the Division's area would be
necessary. Hence the formation of "rice paddy" patrols numbering from
fire team size to company patrols that ranged over wide areas. Without a
doubt no better training for the replacements could have be devised.
Many times these patrols would reach into remote areas necessitating
supply by air. Little contact was made with enemy forces, but limited
sniper fire and potential ambushes kept the replacements on their toes.
After the 1st Marines made contact with enemy forces on 18
January, they drifted southeast from the zones of the 1st and
5th Regiments into 7th Marine territory. On the
24th, the 1st Battalion 7th engaged in
a firefight with about 100 guerrillas when the command post was
attacked. The enemy was dispatched after a 90-minute battle. Meanwhile
the 2nd Battalion 7th occupied Hapton-ni and
easily repulsed an enemy counterattack.
Marine pressure throughout the first part of February wore the
guerrillas down until only small groups could be located. Korean
civilians reported daily activity from large groups of enemy. However,
Marine patrols found only groups of ten or less half starved North
On 5 February, Gen. Smith reported, "The original 10th
NKPA Div forces in the 1st Marine Division area have been
dispersed into many groups, reduced to an effective strength of 40 per
cent, and are no longer capable of a major effort while dispersed. It is
considered that the situation in the Division area is sufficiently in
hand to permit the withdrawal of the Division and the assignment of
another mission at any time a new force to be assigned the
responsibility for the area assumes such responsibility and the
1st Marine Division can be reassembled."
Patrolling continued during the 2nd week in February
without incident and the Marine area of operation remained peaceful. As
a result of the "rice paddy" patrols the replacements were ready for
combat and the Division was organizing a rotation draft for return to
the states. 600 men had been selected on a basis of combat time, wounds
and length of service. Gen. Craig, the ADC (assistant division
commander), who had commanded the 1st Marine Brigade was
amongst those chosen and he was also promoted to Maj. General. Chesty
Puller was promoted to Brig. Gen. and replaced Gen. Craig as ADC.
All the Division's missions in the guerrilla hunt had been
successfully accomplished. They would be relieved by the 2nd
ROK Division. Casualties for the 10th NKPA Division were
great and this Division was destroyed as a fighting force. Marine
casualties from 18 January to 15 February were 19 KIA, 7 DOW, 10 MIA,
146 WIA, and 1,751 nonbattle casualties, largely from frostbite
At midnight on 11 February the CCF (Communist Chinese Forces)
attacked the central front. On 12 February Gen. Ridgway directed the
1st Marine Division to be prepared to move to Chungju, in the
rear area of the IX Corps front where the heaviest Chinese attacks were
taking place. The next day orders were issued from the Eighth Army to
initiate these movements on 15 February. And so, the guerrilla hunt came
to and end and the 1st Division was on its way to the battle
line of the Eighth Army.
The Division began its move to Chungju on 15 February by rail and
motor transport. While this move was in progress the CCF counterattack
was in full force along the central front. By the 15th
Hoengsong had fallen to the CCF and the front extended southward to the
outskirts of Wonju.
On 18 February 1951, IX & X Corps units had probed forward
without opposition and it was determined that the enemy was withdrawing.
As a result Gen. Ridgway decided to launch a limited offensive by the
entire Eighth Army. The 1st Marine Division was detached from
X Corps and placed under the operational control of Gen. Moore of IX
Corps. The Marines had been a part of X Corps in 1950, but always under
tactical circumstances which permitted more or less independent
operations. The Division was now to be closely integrated with other IX
units, the 24th Infantry Division, the 1st Cavalry
division, the 6th ROK division and the 27th
British Commonwealth Brigade.
The Marines were to relieve elements of the X Corps and attack
northeasterly through the Wonju basin in order to cut off enemy forces
that had penetrated south and east of Hoengsong. Operation Killer
commenced on 21 February with only a few rounds of rifle fire being
encountered until late afternoon when two long distance fire fights
erupted. The enemy withdrew and Marine casualties amount to three
Marines being slightly wounded. The 22nd brought more long
distance small arms, but no close contact with the enemy.
On the 23rd enemy resistance increased with brisk fighting
by the 1st Regiment. However, Marine objectives were easily
won with minor casualties as the first phase of Operation Killer came to
a close at dusk on 24 February.
Gen. Moore, Commanding Officer of IX Corps died as the result of a
helicopter accident on 24 February 1951. Gen. Ridgway named Gen. Oliver
P. Smith as his successor, pending a permanent appointment. Only twice
before in Marine Corps history had a Marine commanded major U.S. Army
units. Maj. Gen. John. A. Lejeune had headed the 2nd Infantry
Division in WWI, and Maj. Gen. Roy S. Geiger led the U.S.
10th Army during the Okinawa operation in WWII. Brig. Gen.
Puller took command of the 1st Marine Division.
The Division would continue its deployment along the
Hoengsong-Hongchon corridor. Ridgeway called a halt to the fighting on
25 February so that enough ammunition, fuel and other supplies could be
bought to the front. Supply was made difficult because of the muddy
conditions of the roads and the entire operation may have come to a halt
without air drops.
The second phase of Operation Killer was to commence on 1 March.
Ridgway was not totally satisfied with the result of the first phase and
therefore informed his staff that the new operation was "having the
primary intent of destroying as many enemy and as much equipment as
possible and, by continued pressure, allowing the enemy no time to mount
(Eusak Cmd. Prt., Mar 51, Sec. 1.53).
Phase II - Operation
The Marines held the high ground south of Hoengsong. It's Phase II
objective would be the hills to the north of the town. Hoengsong
occupied a valley at the confluence of two rain swollen streams. This
area of flat ground had to be taken in the final phase of Operation
Killer. This task fell to the 1st and 7th Marines with the 5th Marines
in reserve. Before the attack could begin the 7th Marines had to fight
its way to the point of juncture after relieving elements of the 6th ROK
On March 1, 1951, the 2nd Battalion, 7th, on the left flank,
encountered stiff opposition from Chinese Forces. Before noon both
battalions of the 7th Marines were brought to a near halt in the
difficult terrain which the CCF had booby- trapped. Neither artillery
nor air strikes had an effect against an enemy sheltered by log-covered
bunkers. The delays resulted in postponing the advance until the next
The assault continued in the morning of 2 March with the only
determined opposition in the zone of the 2nd Battalion, 7th. In spite of
air strikes and heavy artillery fire the Marines could only inch forward
over the rocky terrain which the CCF defended ridge by ridge.
At daybreak on 3 March, the 1st & 7th Marines could see their
final objectives to the north. Five hills lay along Phase Line Arizona
from west to east. Hills 536 and 222 in the zone of the 7th Marines, and
Hills 321, 335, and 201 in the zone of the 1st Marines.
It was in the zone of the 7th Marines that Chinese resistance was
hottest. The 1st battalion was called to cover the regimental left flank
and aid the attack of 2/7 on Hill 536 while 3/7 struggled for Hill 333.
On 4 March the 7th Marines prepared to attack against an expected
last-ditch stand by the Chinese on Hills 536 and 333. A light mist of
snow was falling as the attack commenced at 0800 following intensive
artillery fire. The Marines met an eerie silence in the objective area.
The Chinese had pulled out under cover of darkness, leaving only a rear
guard for delaying action. Operation Killer came to an end in the
evening of 4 March, except for mopping up actions the following day. The
Marines casualties during the 8 days of fighting were 48 KIA, 2 MIA and
345 WIA. Enemy losses were 274 counted dead and 48 prisoners. The actual
figures of Communist losses were much higher, since the CCF buried their
dead and took their wounded with them.
On 4 March 1951 Maj. Gen. William Hoge, U.S. Army, arrived at Yoju
and took command of IX Corps, relieving Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith. Gen.
Smith returned to the 1st Marine Division command post and resumed
command of the Division, and Gen. Puller resumed his duties as ADC.
The new operation was scheduled for 0800 on 7 March. The plan called
for the drive of IX & X Corps toward the 38th Parallel on the
central front. The primary purpose of the operation was to inflict as
many casualties as possible on the CCF, and to keep the enemy off
balance in his buildup for a new offensive.
UN forces held a line extending across the Korean peninsula from
Inchon in the west, by way of Hoengsong, to the east coast in the
vicinity of Chumunjin. The 1st Marine Division was to maintain lateral
contact with the 1st Cavalry Division on the left and the 2nd Infantry
Division on the right. Hongchon and Chunchon lay directly in the path of
the IX Corps zone of advance.
On 7 March it was cold and clear. The Hoengosong-Hongchon road,
winding through Kunsamma Pass, paralleled the boundary between the two
Marine assault regiments, the 7th Marines on the left and the 1st
Marines on the right. They attacked in line abreast, employing all three
battalions when the terrain permitted. The 5th Marines patrolled in the
Hoengsong areas as Division reserve.
Both regiments, except for scattered machine gun fire, met little
resistance and both took their assigned objectives with little trouble.
Total casualties for the day were seven wounded. As the second day of
the operation commenced it became obvious that the enemy was putting up
a limited defense while pulling back before the Marines could engage
them. Again the log bunkers became an essential part of the enemy plan
where a squad could stand off a company while larger units withdrew.
The Marine advance came to a halt on 9 March to wait for Army units
to catch up on the right. Patrols were sent out on both flanks in an
effort to regain lateral contact. The operation resumed on 11 March with
light enemy resistance. The two Marine regiments occupied ground on the
12th and 13th and by the 14th all units were dug in along Phase Line
During the first phase of operation Ripper, the enemy sustained 6,543
KIA and 216 POW. IX Corps losses for the same period were 158 KIA, 965
WIA, and 35 MIA.
Shortly after March 15, 1951 Dog Company was pulled off the front
lines to a rest area awaiting much needed replacements to bring the
company to acceptable combat strength. Several men of the 6th
Replacement Draft, which were first allocated to the 1st and
5th Marine Regiments, were quickly reassigned to elements of
the 7th Regiment.
During the period of April 1 -17, 1951 the 7th Marine
Regiment was placed under the control of the CG 1st Cavalry
Division, US Army for the purpose of completing the seizure and
reinforcing of the Kansas Line southwest of Hwachon Reservoir. Marching
orders were received by Dog Company and other elements of the
7th Marine Regiment to move in a north easterly direction to
seize and secure the hills presently occupied by elements of a Chinese
division. Scattered small arms fire was received by some units of the
7th Marine Regiment the first couple of days of April as
limited contact with the enemy was made.
The morning calm of April 5 was soon broken by the chatter of
machineguns and mortars as Dog Company and other elements of the
7th crossed their lines of departure to attack the enemy and
seize their designated objectives. A fierce fire fight, with Dog Company
in the lead of the assault ended several hours later with the enemy
retreat. Casualties for D/2/7 were listed as 2 KIA and 6 wounded. One of
the KIAs was a Navy Corpsman who was later written up for his heroic
endeavors in coming to the aid of 4 wounded Marines. The Corpsman, HN
Richard DeWert, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Dog Company continued it's advanceing, moving each day north of
Chungchon and through the hills east of Hwachon Reservoir.
On April 10, 1951, as the Company was advancing, heavy and prolonged
fighting broke out along the 7th Marine sector with Dog
Company receiving 26 casualties in an all day pitched battle to secure
their objective and drive the Chinese from their bunkers. Once the dead
and wounded were evacuated to aid stations the men dug in for the night
to await a counter attack.
Regimental orders were issued directing all units to consolidate and
strengthen their positions and to continue putting pressure on the enemy
by sending out combat patrols on a daily basis in front of their lines.
Small enemy probing attacks during the night were repulsed by alert
Marines who shot and killed 2 Chinese as they tried to infiltrate the
On the night of April 22, 1951 a much different situation prevailed
as reports were filtering into the Battalion and Regimental CPs that the
whole UN sector west of the Marines was being over run and the Chinese
were pouring through the gap in the lines. This break through endangered
the left flank of the Marines, placing them once again out on a limb and
exposed to being cut off - similar to the Chosin situation.
The men of Dog Company could see and hear the tracers, mortar shell
explosions and the staccato of automatic weapons. One could also hear
the bugles and trumpets the Chinese used to signal their troops as the
Dog Company was ordered to maintain and hold their positions until
other units on their left and right flanks were able to withdraw to the
Pendleton line. It is noted in the records that a major enemy effort to
turn the Marine Division's left flank was stopped with the enemy
suffering heavy casualties.
Dog Company held their position as the Chinese attack progressed. The
holding of their position was accomplished by systematically calling in
accurate artillery and mortar fire a mere 50 - 100 yards in front of
D/2/7 positions as they leap frogged backwards their machine guns to
give themselves covering fire.
Following the onslaught and breakthrough by the Chinese in the
collapsing sector of the 2nd ROK Regiment, just west of the Marine
lines, the U. N. armies fell back about 20 miles and quickly reorganized
and solidified their front line defensive positions. Despite these
shortcomings morale among all the front line Marine units was extremely
Once a solid stable defensive line was established Marine patrols
were sent out daily some 4-5 miles to their front positions. However,
nightly enemy probing attacks, designed to locate weaknesses in these
new sectors, were constantly beaten off. This daily patrolling and night
"fire fights" occurred during some of the most miserable cold wet rainy
days during most of the month of May.
Logistical problems were a "nightmare" as the wet rainly weather
created a quagmire of mud, flooding rivers and washed out bridges
limiting the normal supply of food, ammo and water to the troops on the
front lines. Central to this problem was the lack of fresh drinkable
water for the units located high on the ridges as well as in the
Many of the men were suffering from severe cases of diarrhea.
Regimental and Battalion command posts had also been receiving reports
that "Typhus" was spreading throughout the Korean civilians all along
About May 24, Dog Company and other 7th Marine units
relieved the 32nd Army Regiment just north of Hongchon. Dog
Company was ordered to advance well to the front of other units. This
maneuver prompted the Chinese to attempt another massive strike to break
through the lines. Actually this was designed to trap the Chinese
between two Marine units. The result was that about 450-500 enemy were
killed as Dog Company suffered about 18 casualties.
As we moved through the killing zone Marine bulldozers were already
in the process of digging a mass grave to bury the enemy dead. The
7th Regiment S-2 (intellegence unit) was able to obtain much
information which would prove invaluable in future engagements with the