Korean War (16)

US 2nd Div. M-4 Sherman tanks cover the 187th RCT; assault of Pambol-ni, 7 Feb. 1951

US 2nd Div. M-4 Sherman tanks cover the 187th RCT; assault of Pambol-ni, 7 Feb. 1951

Operation Wolfhound, (In honor of Mike Michaelis’ 27th Infantry Wolfhounds.), was the opening reconnaissance that sent troop from Osan toward Suwon. The chiefs that were observing, Collins and Vandenberg, reported to Truman that Ridgeway would hold more than a beachhead. In support, Washington sent nearly 2,000 Marines to add to the rosters.

Operation Thunderbolt

Operation Thunderbolt

In the west, 25 January 1951 started Operation Thunderbolt. The 25th Division and 2 ROK regiments (all from I Corps) met little resistance, but the Turkish Brigade, east of Osan, dealt with heavy combat. As a group, they took an important hill near Suwon, killed 4,000 of the enemy and pushed them out of Inchon and Kimpo. They all advanced slowly, but kept going. X Corps and the ROK III Corps were ordered to do the same, calling it Operation Roundup. By 3-4 February, thousands of the enemy would have hit the 1st Battalion/187th RCT, but they held their positions. The 2 ROK divisions were met heavily by the North Koreans and by 8 February, large groups were hitting the right flank of X Corps.

CCF XIII Army attack on Hoengsong - ROK 8th Div. destroyed

CCF XIII Army attack on Hoengsong – ROK 8th Div. destroyed

In central Korea, the situation was different, with the Chinese ambushing after dark. The South Korean 8th Division broke up and this exposed the American artillery battery, losing Hoengsong, causing hundreds of casualties and jeopardizing Wonju. On 28 January, Mao told General Peng that he would hold off the United Nations’ requests for negotiations until the general completed a 4th Offensive. With the Soviets now supplying arms, their success would give them more of an advantage at the talks.

Lt. Col. Ralph Monclar, Korea

Lt. Col. Ralph Monclar, Korea

5 February, Operation Roundup was almost halted as quickly as it had begun when the CCF penetrated ROK lines. Ridgeway was forced to redeploy reserve units. American troops with a Greek and French Battalion, plus air support from the Corsairs held Chipyong-ni and Wonju. Colonel Freeman had to order the French colonel, Ralph Monclar to extinguish the bonfires his men had started at night; they were giving away the Allied positions. After a heated argument-by-radio, the fires went out.

Hoengsong Map

Hoengsong Map

The Fourth Phase from the Chinese had started in the midst of the Allied attacks. The Canadian correspondent, Bill Ross, reported seeing 68 American bodies when the enemy left Kudun. Many were naked, killed while exiting their sleeping bags. A finding, after this story, run by Graves Registration was 212 killed or missing, mainly from L Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry (3rd Division). The “Globe and Mail” dispatch was so embarrassing to MacArthur that he ordered Ridgeway to launch a full investigation.

Aerial recon photos showed no viable Communist forces, giving MacArthur a false sense of victory. Ridgeway knew it would take ground action to expose the enemy. Shocking Washington, as well as Tokyo, Ridgeway began to relieve commanders. McClure was already dropped from the 2nd Division and now, those of the 7th, 24th, 25th, and 1st Cavalry Divisions were gone. Press accounts from Korea were stating that MacArthur was no longer the high authority and that Ridgeway had profited from MacArthur’s mistakes to turn a defeat into a victory.

resting after Nightmare Alley

resting after Nightmare Alley

11-12 February, elements of the U.S. 2nd Division were surrounded. A small task force moved about 15 miles north of Wonju and found a French company and a Dutch Battalion; wounded and dead of the 2nd Div. lined the road. The 187th Rakkasans of G Company were firing at close targets until they met up with the 38th Infantry. They all continued to push on and freed the trapped regiment and ROK forces. Then, acting as rear guards, they held the escape route open to Wonju until all the UN forces cleared the valley. As G Company and the Dutch protected the rear, without tanks, they took on an added barrage. G Co. still covered for a 12 mile stretch. The men called this the “Nightmare Alley Operation” and the newspapers referred to it as “Hell’s Canyon” and “Massacre Valley.”

According to Bevin Alexander, author of Korea, The First War We Lost, “The key to the defense of the central front was the decision by Ridgeway to hold Wonju…because it was the junction of 15 main roads as well as a railway from Seoul to Pusan.

13-15 February, the US Army’s 23rd Regiment and a French battalion fought a bloody battle against the CCF for control of an area near Chipyong-ni, known as the “twin tunnels”; 2 railroad tunnels through a nearby mountain; 18,000 of the enemy besieged the U.N. troops with many of the men in hand-to-hand combat. Going into the night, flares lit the battle scene. The 5th Cavalry broke through the lines to assist and 5,000 Chinese were killed.

While on patrol below the Han River, 5th Cavalry, PVT James Cardinal, passed hundreds of enemy soldiers on 16 February. The Chinese troops were barely armed with grenades. Their supply routes had been greatly hindered by UN air strikes and the freezing weather.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Flight Lt. J. Omer Levesque

Flight Lt. J. Omer Levesque

A note of interest that was unintentionally missed for December 1950 concerned Flight Lt. J. Omer Levesque. As the first Canadian pilot in the war, he was also the first Canadian to take down a MiG-15 in Korea and became the first Canadian airman decorated by the United States. He was given the US Air Medal for flying 4 missions a day between 17-21 December. Levesque belonged to the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.

An interesting account of this career can be located at – http://www.constable.ca/caah/levesque.htm

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Masato Kobayashi – Amache, CO & Arizona; born in a Japanese Relocation Center, US Air Force, Vietnam

Fred Gordon – Chicago, IL; WWII war correspondent

Joseph Janusek – Chicagi, IL; USMC, Korea

Edward Kane – Chicago area; US Army, WWII PTO, Staff Sgt. 7th Cavalry

John Hayes – Alexandria, VA; US Navy, WWII

WWII and Korean War US flag

WWII and Korean War US flag

John Duncan Urquhart – Spokane, WA; US Navy SeaBee, WWII PTO

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Resources: “Rakkasans” and “The Angels” by Gen. EM Flanagan; Korean War on line.com; “Korean War” by Stephen Badsy; “The Korean War” by Maurice Isserman; “The Warfare of the 20th Century” by Christopher Chant

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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 September 25, 2013, in Korean War, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. I’m interested in the photograph of the CCF XIII Army attack on Hoengsong. Where did you find it? Can I find it in an achieve somewhere?

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  2. I had JUST been thinking I’d like to come for a revisit when I got your like on the MMA post. =) You’re doing a great job with the Korean War series – enlightening.

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  3. gpcox – A very interesting side note about Flight Lt. J. Omer Levesque. You always find the most fascinating stories. Thank you for making this interesting. It doesn’t feel like a History Lesson !!!!

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    • Glad to hear that. My history classes were mostly the memorizing of dates and names and that’s it. My father taught me about multiple sides to ANY story, that’s why I’m always asking the readers for their story.

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  4. Great post as always – I learn so much! You also have some of the best comments out there.

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  5. I received reserve training in Wonju AB earlier this year 🙂 Wow, so much I don’t know…

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  6. Great and informative! Thanks for this post. I think it’s ridiculous that Korea was called a “conflict”. (Totally off-topic, but I thought you’d like to know: Jamie has to do an essay on which American he would like to see on a postage stamp. He chose Genl. Patton!)

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  7. Indeed… bonfires… No wonder the French retreat so much. LOL Just kidding…I think. 🙂

    And there are the Rakkasans again! And an interesting yet trivial note in a way… We all love these, I think?

    Before the US military under MacArthur began to set foot on the Japanese homeland, an emaciated Catholic Bishop Patrick Byrne – who was help prisoner by the Japanese on their homeland – made a critical speech over radio on August 25, 1945. It was more of a plea. He had addressed the Allied military setting foot on Japanese soil in a week to act with the dignity of civilized conquerors. He reminded them to be in their place – that how would you feel if your home city had been atom bombed. Many feel his plea to the approaching fleet was instrumental in a peaceful occupation of Japan.

    Well, Bishop Patrick Byrne managed to recover from his treatment by the Japanese and was dispatched to Korea in the late 1940’s. When the battles broke out, he had been taken captive again, this time by the Communists. They were forced as prisoners to move from small house to small house in snow with little rest. Bishop Patrick Byrne died on November 25, 1950, on a snow bound roadside in a place called Ha Chang Ri, North Korea.

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    • That’s a very sad story, but one of courage and conviction; thank you Koji. I appreciate you sharing it with us. Remember, Smitty was a Rakkasan, so using them as a focal helps me keep things in perspective. Dad said he saw very little animosity at all after they went into Japan (and being the first ones in, I guess they’d know) on either side. I can’t speak for them all, but dad always spoke about the Japanese with respect and did not blame them for the war (as historians have tried to teach us to do) Can’t wait to get into the book I just got (written by a Japanese author) about the Pacific War. I’ve only read the 2 forwards and Prologue, but the man sounds rational and factual – which is just what I’m looking for; up till now, I’ve only had John Toland’s view, tho excellent, it is a little bias.

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  8. I certainly had no idea of the scale and scope of those operations. Eye-opening.

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  9. Believe me, I’ve slept in enough cold foxholes to know that you can get so desperate for heat, you’ll do anything to get warm, incoming fire be darned! (Of course, my incoming fire consisted of blanks, so the threat level was somewhat less…. 😉 )
    My father served very briefly with an artillery unit that was almost over-run. They were literally sighting down the open barrels, then shooting time-delayed shells which would skip off the frozen ground to explode about 5′ in the air. The explosions would open a hole in the wave of Chinese troops, which would fill in again as they continued to charge. The crews had one truck idling, and one thermite grenade per 155mm howitzer, to “spike” the guns so the enemy couldn’t use them. The crews got lucky – the Chinese finally retreated. My dad doesn’t remember the exact body count, but whole bodies were over 200, with bits and pieces suggesting over 1,000 enemy dead – from one battery of 4 (or 5?) 155mm guns.
    People need to know more about the Korean War. From Pusan to the Yalu, so many times the entire war hung on small numbers of people – including keeping the war from going nuclear. What a nightmare THAT would’ve been!
    Great job, as always. And apologies for going AWOL – depression can manifest itself in strange ways, like giving a person “Email phobia” for a couple months. I’ll try not to leave you hanging like that again.

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    • Well, at least you’re back and adding to the reality of this war with many thanks. I appreciate the stories from your dad and your feelings on the subject as well.

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  10. Played catch-up . . . amazing recounting, as usual. Still difficult to read of the waste of manpower on both sides.

    How different the world would be if leaders had to lead the front lines.

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  11. This is a great series. Been learning a lot. Thanks.

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  12. Lt Col Monclair resembles John Wayne.

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  13. Great post, enjoyed the read. I know so little of this war. Thank you.

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  14. Fascinating as always 🙂

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  15. Excerpt from the link on Omer Lévesque… an unsung hero

    His American awards were presented at Johnston AFB, Japan, January 1951. With 71 operational sorties under his belt with the 334th he was rotated home in June 1951. He was proud of the Canadian contingent in the U.S. Air Force and of the entire UN air force efforts in general. “We achieved absolute air superiority in Korea. It was just classic. The Chinese said afterwards that they would have gone over us like a steamroller if it hadn’t been for the Allied air force.”

    In July, he took up duties at CFB Chatham as the CFI (Commander Fighter Instructors) with No.1 (F)OTU. He was awarded the Queen’s Coronation Medal in 1953. Later he flew Canadair Sabres with 4 Wing in Europe and worked at Air Division HQ in Metz. While there he was instrumental in securing the French base at Rabat for the RCAF as a gunnery base. The deal was cooked up over a bottle of beer. The French officer promised that if Levesque got him a check-out on the Canadair Sabre, he would see that a deal for Rabat was taken care of.

    He later returned to Canada flying Vampires with 438 Squadron, worked at Air Defence Command in St. Hubert, did a tour with the International Control Commission in Vietnam, meeting both Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap during a visit to Hanoi. He then worked in the NORAD system. Following his Air Force retirement in 1965 he worked on the Air Transport committee in Ottawa until 1987. He still lives in Quebec.

    While not being a high scoring ace, Omer Levesque demonstrated an overwhelming ability to be first in military aviation of his times, and a decided mental toughness that kept him going even after he had been shocked by the bloody and sudden nature of aerial warfare. Few would have returned to flying after three years in a POW camp. Fewer still would have worked their way into the ranks of the best pilots in their airforce and back into a major international war. Omer Levesque did. He just couldn’t quit.

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  16. French Canadian!!!

    A note of interest that was unintentionally missed for December 1950 concerned Flight Lt. J. Omer Levesque. As the first Canadian pilot in the war, he was also the first Canadian to take down a MiG-15 in Korea and became the first Canadian airman decorated by the United States. He was given the US Air Medal for flying 4 missions a day between 17-21 December. Levesque belonged to the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.

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  17. I always click like before I read the post…

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  18. Korean War 16?

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  19. So much to learn, and this series continues to serve a purpose beyond entertainment…! Thank you for expanding my knowledge of this war. It is the first one I was aware of in real time, though I was too young to understand why people were killing each other. Of course, I still have difficulties understanding that.

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  20. ‘Like’ button not working again, could well be my end.

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  21. Dug in and freezing is one thing—setting a beacon to show where you are in the dark is entirely another—”C’est magnifique mais ce n’est pas la guerre” (actually, c’est quite bloody stupide …)

    Sitting here in a nice snug billet hardly qualifies me to judge. Thank heavens for hindsight, what a pity we can’t send it back …

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