Korean War (9)

187th RCT jump from FEAF transports

187th RCT jump from FEAF transports

18 October 1950, General Peng and his Communist “volunteers” crossed the Manchurian border and reached the town of Pakchon under the cover of night. Disguised as refugees, by the following day, 260,000 men and their artillery began crossing the Yalu River. They traveled over the concrete road atop the Suiho dam that MacArthur had been ordered NOT to destroy. With B-29s flying overhead, the CCF troops built wooden bridges, painted to look like the river, and submerged them to be unseen from above.

314th Troop Carrier Wing

314th Troop Carrier Wing

The 187th Rakkasans, after a final debriefing were informed that due to worsening weather condition their jump was delayed. 20 October, at 1030 hours, the troopers were told to ‘chute up’ and they began boarding 73 C-119s of the 314th Troop Carrier Wing and 40 C-47s from the 21st Troop Carrier Wing. At noon, the first plane took off headed for DZ William, southeast of Sukchon. Sfc William Ignatz recalled their rendezvous in a 9-plane V of Vs over the Han River and then going north along the west coast of Korea. Fighters strafed DZ William and at 1400 hours, he heard, “GO!” The veterans of WWII in his plane yelled, “Geronimo” as they jumped and only encountered sparse sniper fire. In all, 1,470 men and 74 tons of equipment were unloaded.

The 3/187th went south of Sukchon setting up roadblocks across the highways and railroad. The 1/187th was assigned to clear the Sukchon area and secure the high ground to the north. The 1st platoon of Engineers reached Songnani-ni at 1530 hours and was met by enemy fire. The porters continued to move their equipment and reached Namil-ni. General Bowen set up his headquarters post at Chanyi-ni on Hill 97.

DZ Easy was another jump, this one southwest of Sukchon and the Rakkasans marched into Sunchon in a column of twos. Pfc Kirksey remarked on the noise that echoed in the streets as the 2,500 North Koreans tossed their weapons. The two drops at the two DZs would total 4,000 men and 600 tons of materiel. Although many of the NKPA were already heading north, the jumps were considered a success. Unfortunately, the Allied POWs they were scheduled to rescue had previously been moved. (unknown to Allied intelligence) Unaware of the Chinese presence, MacArthur flew in for his fourth visit in time to witness the jumps.

October 1950 Korea map

October 1950 Korea map

21-22 October, I Company of the 3/187th, 8 miles south of Sukchon, headed down the railroad while K Company took the highway to meet up with the 27th Commonwealth Brigade coming north. I Company was caught in an ambush by a North Korean battalion and their 120mm mortars and 40mm guns. A heavy firefight ensued for two hours. With 90 men missing, they retreated back to Hill 281. Fortunately, the NKPA withdrew to their former positions. Medic Private First Class Richard G. Wilson, with I Company, returned to the battlefield of Opari to remain and tend the wounded. Two days later, his body was found riddled with bullets. He was given the Medal of Honor posthumously for self-sacrifice.

Harvey Kurtzman comic books  - Frontline Combat & Two-Fisted Tales were so well researched that the soldiers enjoyed them as much as the home front

Harvey Kurtzman comic books – Frontline Combat & Two-Fisted Tales were so well researched that the soldiers enjoyed them as much as the home front

The 1st Cavalry discovered the POW train, that the 187th was to intercept, heading toward Suchon. Many of the prisoners had previously been executed; out of 370 Americans, 23 were still alive although two died that night. On 22 October, the North Korean capital was moved to Sinuijiu.

937th Field Artillery self-propelled 155-mm "Long Tom" guns

937th Field Artillery self-propelled 155-mm “Long Tom” guns

K Company/187th had their battle one mile north of Yongyu. After the combat with heavy fire, they entered the town and dug in on Hill 163 just north. A line of hills ran diagonally across the railroad and highway between Pyongyang and Opari; 2,500 of the North Korean 239th Regiment were dug in there. A column of these troops strolled down the road pretending to be ROKs and they got away with the ruse until dawn broke. L Company and Headquarters Company could see who they truly were and opened fire. Heavy combat again followed and 3 G.I. machine-gunners were killed. MSgt. Willard Ryals, with bullets streaming passed him. reached one of the guns and fired back. He received the Silver Star. When Pyongyang was secure, I Corps headed to the Yalu River.

Two companies of the Argyll 1st Battalion moved into Yongyu and the Australian 3rd Battalion arrived. Four companies seized the road attacking the NKPA as they went on. The CO of the Argylls, Lt. Colonel Charles Greene, had his command post attacked by a large enemy force, but even as it came down to hand-to-hand combat, the NKPA lost about 270 KIA and 200 captured against the Australians having only 7 wounded. The enemy fled and the Middlesex 1st Battalion linked up with the American 187th RCT. The Presidential Citation was awarded to the 3rd Battalion/187th, the 3rd Platoon A Company 127th Engineers and the 2nd Section of the Antitank Platoon for the battle at Yongyu and then went into reserve until their next jump. The 1st Battalion received battle honours for the Battle of Pakchon.

Click on images to enlarge.

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30 August 1950

Farewell Salutes –

Victor Keve – Brooklyn, NY & W. Palm Beach, FL; U.S. Army, WWII

Elden Arthur King – Highland, MI & Boynton Beach, FL; U.S. Army, Korea

Carroll Madison – Richmond, VA & Lake Worth, FL; U.S. Navy, WWII signal-man aboard ship, Atlantic Coast and D-Day

Joseph Jackson Paul – N. Palm Beach, FL; U.S. Army, SSgt. WWII

Philip Vultaggio – Amityville & Massapequa, NY & Delray Beach, FL; U.S. Army Pfc 115th Infantry/29th Division, WWII

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Resources: “Rakkasans” by Gen. EM Flanagan; “Korean War” by Stephen Badsey; “MacArthur’s War” by Stanley Weintraub; Palm Beach Post; National Archives;Tiny Tot Comics; U.S. Army Military History Institute

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on August 31, 2013, in Korean War, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 69 Comments.

  1. Thank you. Excellent post.

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  2. Honor, a person who knows what they are suppose to do then they do it, even when they know that in doing what is right could easily kill them. To me, that is an honorable person.

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  3. generationsgoneby

    Thanks for the like. Beautiful site. Sent the link to my son, he will love this page.

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  4. Today’s C-17 Globemaster reminds me so much of the Curtis C-46 Commando. An example that old concepts still apply.

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  5. Great post. I especially liked the map – gave me a clear visual of troop movements, Thanks again, gpcox, for your research.

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  6. “Frontline Combat” and 10¢… Wow, that brought back a lot of memories… I think I was allowed to buy one comic book a month when I was like seven years old. I always – ALWAYS – bought Sgt. Rock. That was my view of an American soldier, like your pop. I enlarged the cover of your magazine image and talk about accuracy – still the P-51s for close ground support. I loved the line (not having been in combat, of course), “Fix bayonets!”

    It surprised me many of the Rakkasans were WWII jump vets. I would think they would have had enough by then – but then again, they were the best of the best.

    Great stuff again, gpcox!

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  7. How you keep all your facts straight amazes me. The first part about them crossing the bridge painted to look like the water was intriguing. It seems a shame that the government in Washington could tell the troops what to do when they would have no clear idea of what was necessary.

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  8. Frontline Combat comic books. Imagine!

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  9. Another great post. And have no fear – all the details are crisply and clearly recounted. Especially liked the opening jump. Also the first photo is amazing.

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  10. I too am impressed—both by your writing and that camouflaged bridge. (Credit where it’s due, that was clever~!)

    I found myself wondering why such a two-edged asset as that concrete dam wasn’t blown in so fluid a situation; doubtlessly the guy on the spot was overridden by his bosses back home?

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  11. Your writing is to the point and direct . I know you sift through a pile of info as you research and write ; I’m amazed at the informative , clear , result . It comes out as a military history without any fluff , a de-briefing-like report on certain events . Congratulations , and keep it up . Its all new insight and info for me . I get to be lazy and just read .

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    • You’ve made my day, Dan – that is exactly what I have been going for. Straight to the point, no fluff and no personal commentary (unless it is specified as such). Hey – keep being lazy – it gives me another loyal reader and I look forward to your visits!

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  12. As always, interesting and informative. And thanks for your response to the reader who asked about the breakdown of troops!

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    • You guys are going to give me a big head with these compliments – but Thanks – keep them coming, lol I hope that list of troops is helpful, it is based on the U.S. Army division of troops and can vary according to different situations and countries. (Smitty’s 11th Airborne Division only started out with 8,000)

      Like

  13. So straightforward and interesting as always. Your line about how the WW2 vets yelled ‘Geranimo’ as they jumped hit me hard – these were men who had already been through war and here they are in a battle again drifting down through sniper fire!

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    • They also had to be trainers. Being in peacetime, the new G.I.s had no combat training – you would have thought they had learned that very lesson back in 1941 and kept the men ready. Thanks for the compliment.

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  14. Glad you are covering yet another war I learned nothing about in school!!!! Great post as always!

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  15. I must agree. Have you consider an ebook? Bookrix.com is a good site for self publishing.

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    • I would still run into “permission to print” problems; so many resources (and they are not the fastest kids on the block in responding) so many letters, months of waiting, cataloging quotes, citing page numbers and last but not paying them! I’d be very old and very broke by the time I finished, but thanks for the compliment.

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      • I enjoy your blog very much. My grandfather has a purple heart from ww2, he is very interesting in reading about the military and world history. You have put together an a fine anthology.

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  16. If I am not wrong, the Korean war was the most complicated war that lasted for almost 4 years in which people called it as a proxy war. Your posts have been giving me more information based on the true story that your father had experienced. A great heritage! Keep healthy for me, gpcox.

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  17. The Chinese sure were creative with their subterfuge. The bridge that looked like water was ingenious.

    Where do you get your names for the Farewell Salutes? I just noticed they all seem to retire in Florida. Are you doing a Florida list or did I just happen to notice on a day that they all came from here?

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    • I check into 7 different newspapers around the country for the Salutes. Many have Florida included because, yes, they retired there. If you have a name and info – please include it, it need not even be for a U.S. veteran. If you have a newspaper you wish for me to check – please name it.

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  18. I have a question — probably will appear as lazy, since I could google or wiki the info…honestly I do a lot of research, not lazy…tired..yeah…lol. Anyway, since I have no armed services experience…could you tell me the basic differences between the battalions and brigades and the other groups of troops and how they arrived at the numbering systems, i.e. 187th, 127th…platoons, company A, or B, divisions, infantry, etc.
    Are there a set # of troops in each group? If this is a super detailed explanation, please don’t put yourself through that toil, lol…JUST toss a few links in for me to follow and find for myself… I began to wonder about the sheer numbers of men that must have been coming from land, sea, air all at once. Thanks for your kind patience in helping this ignorant reader out in getting an idea of how the forces specialized, etc…
    Always an interesting and educational read here!
    And in case I hadn’t said so before…Thank you and your comrades for making incredible sacrifices to defend and protect our America. C J

    Like

    • I understand your difficulty; it is a valid question – and it is a bit hard to describe because it may differ between army/navy/air force and other countries, but here we go (hope it helps)
      1- Squad = 4 to 10 soldiers
      2- Platoon = 3 to 4 squads or 16 to 40 soldiers
      3- Company = 3-4 Platoons or about 100-200 soldiers
      4- Battalion = 3-5 Companies or about 500 – 600 soldiers
      5- Regiment = 3 – 4 battalions
      6- Brigade = 3 or more Battalions 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers
      7- Division = 3 Brigades or about 10,000 to 18,000 soldiers
      8- Corps = 2-5 Divisions
      9- Field Army = 2-5 Corps

      Liked by 1 person

      • WOW! Thanks so much for the excellent response!!! I knew I would be asking the right person for that info!!
        You are incredible, sir! Thanks!

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      • Good list, but you inadvertently skipped regiment. In between Battalion and Brigade, about 3 or 4 battalions. Regiments have a number, like your 187th, and they usually remain in existence over the years, with the same name, though of course with different people. Often have a designation, too: Airborne, Cavalry, Infantry etc.
        Then there is once in a while an RCT, Regimental Combat Team, which was a regiment plus extra forces such as tanks or artillery or some kind of special forces. But the RCT was usually made to order for a specific mission or battle, not part of the ongoing Army structure.

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      • To further help CJ, who asked the question, here are the normal ranks of the commanders of each unit:
        Squad — Sergeant
        Platoon — Lieutenant
        Company – Captain
        Battalion — Major
        Regiment — Colonel
        Brigade or RCT — Brigadier General (one star)
        Division — Major General (2 stars)
        Corps – Lieutenant General (3 stars)
        Army – General (4 stars)

        This all obvious stuff to those of us who have been there but I know it gets confusing to civilians who have not.

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  19. Pierre Lagacé

    This is a Website of Radio-Canada with a lot of information about the Korean War with a Canadian perspective…

    http://archives.radio-canada.ca/guerres_conflits/guerre_coree/

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  20. Pierre Lagacé

    A lot of information, but I get the picture. As always the message gets across.
    I will read this post more than once.

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    • I’m working with a lot of resources and this has definitely turned into a completely different war; so much politics – I often have to read and re-read sections to make heads or tails of the situation.

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  21. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    Part 9

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  22. As always, the feeling of authenticity and “being there” really adds power and depth to this writing. I believe all of your posts would make a great book. Have you thought about that?

    Like

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