Korean War (36)

some members of the 3rd Battalion, 31st Regiment

some members of the 3rd Battalion, 31st Regiment

1953

8 January 1953, the Marine 7th Regiment took Hill 67, a mile and a half from Panmunjom.

24 January, two platoons from the Ethiopian Battalion attached to the 7th Div. seized a hill south of Old Baldy.

During the period 12-20 January 1953, the 57th Field Artillery Battalion, alone in direct support of the 31st Regiment, poured close to 110,000 rounds of 105mm fire into the T-Bone complex.  They were seeking to destroy enemy bunkers and weapons in preparation for Operation Smack as the D-day, 25 January approached.

Pershing & Sherman tanks of the 73rd Heavy Tank Battalion, Korea

Pershing & Sherman tanks of the 73rd Heavy Tank Battalion, Korea

On 24 January, the Air Force dropped 136,000 lbs of bombs  and 14 napalm tanks on the target complex.  The next morning, as the infantry and tankers gathered in the assembly areas, the Air Force began the first of 18 strikes.  Carrying two 1,000 lb bombs each, 8 F-84 Thunderjets swept over the cross of T-Bone and unloaded their cargo.  By mid-morning, 24 more Thunderjets, in flights of 8, had bombed the enemy positions.  Then came a mass strike by 24 Thunderjets, with 48,000 lbs. of bombs; this completed experiments A and B.  Twenty additional  planes in 2 flights hit the objective before the tanks and infantry began to move out.

Diversionary tank movements and fire to confuse the enemy began as the assault troops made their final preparations.  Then the 15 supporting tanks from the 73rd Tank Battalion crossed the line of departure.  Experiment C was attempted by two flights of 4 F-84 each.  The first flight missed Spud Hill and the second flight only put one napalm tank on the target.  Shortly after the last strike by the Air Force, 8 F4U Marine Corsairs attempted to lay a smoke screen in front of the tanks and infantry to conceal their approach, but some released their bombs too.

Once the air phase was complete, the supporting artillery, mortars, AAA and automatic weapons along the MLR opened fire.  As the supporting tanks reached their firing positions close to Spud Hill, they joined in the bombardment of the enemy strongpoints and trenches.   Major Phillips, commander of the 2nd Battalion, directed the operation from his command post.

F-84

F-84

For the assault of the hill, Major Phillips had ordered E Company to furnish the platoon and the company commander had chosen his 2nd Platoon, under 2nd Lt. John Arbogast, Jr., for the task.  Two flamethrower teams had been added to the platoon for the operation.  As they moved forward to the base of Spud Hill in personnel carriers, the supporting tanks and artillery continued to pound the objective.

Arbogast’s platoon dismounted quickly when it reached the foot of the hill and divided into 2 groups.  It was not until the squads neared the point where the two fingers met, reuniting the attacking troops, that the Chinese started to react strongly.  The machine-gun fire became intense, driving the men of the 2nd Platoon into a  hollow between two fingers.  This left them easy prey to the grenades lobbed from the crest of the hill.  The litter bearers found it difficult to keep up with the growing number of wounded.

T-Bone Hill sector

T-Bone Hill sector

In an attempt to break up the grenade attack, the two flame thrower teams were called forward; one man was killed and the other machine malfunctioned.  Seeing that the assault platoon was pinned down, Major Phillips ordered the 1st Platoon to reinforce Arbogast’s remaining troops.  Every half hour, 4 Thunderjets dropped bombs on the T-Bone complex, but they too, had little influence on Spud Hill.

Lt. Arbogast was already wounded and his platoon sergeant and several of the squad leaders had been put out of action.  Phillips decided to commit the 3rd Platoon to the attack, but the end result proved to be the same.  When regimental commander, Col. William Kern, learned of the fate of the 3rd Platoon, he called off the attack and ordered the men remaining on Spud Hill to withdraw.  By this time, all three platoon leaders had been wounded.

All this ended up costing the Chinese fewer than 65 men and while using but a fraction of the ordnance, had inflicted great losses upon the 7th Division.  All in all, Operation Smack was a fiasco.

Gen. J. Van Fleet (left) inspects 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment w/ MGen. John O'Daniel

Gen. J. Van Fleet (left) inspects 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment w/ MGen. John O’Daniel

Toward the end of the month, Gen. Clark warned Van Fleet that the enemy might try to take advantage of the ground thaw to launch an offensive toward Seoul.  Van Fleet was not worried; he was sure that the Eighth Army could handle anything that the enemy could throw at it.  Despite the frustrations of fighting a limited war, the energetic and aggressive old warrior had lost none of his drive or desire to deal the enemy a crippling military blow.  The general left for retirement and home in February 1953.

[information taken and condensed from the U.S. Army history archives.]

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WWII Update – 

Military photos help archaeologists of today in the search for the past…

001 (800x429)

Click images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Stephen Anastasion – No. Carolina; US Navy, Captain (Ret.), WWII, USS Champlin (DD601), ETO, Bronze Star

Frank Arado, Jr. –  Chicago, IL; US Army, Korea

Bronze Star

Bronze Star

Gearld Beamish-White – Rotorua, New Zealand; WWII, Force No. 204182

John Del-Zio – Astoria, NY; US Navy SeaBees, WWII, PTO

Gearld Goldstein – Milwaukee, WI & No. Miami Beach, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Harold Jones, Jr. – Georgetown, TX; US Army Air Corps, 2nd Lt. , WWII, flew P-38s and B-25s

Howard Krueger – Bolingbrook, IL;  US Navy Chief Petty Officer (Ret.)

Marshall Treado – Gaithersburg, MD; USMC, Lt.Colonel (Ret.)

Preston Wilburn, Jr. – Issaquah, WA; US Navy, Korea

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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 January 9, 2014, in Korean War, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Great piece of history,appreciate the role the Sherman tanks played in that conflict.
    Great 3RAR pic as well, wonder if those guys are still alive today.
    Aussie Ian

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  2. GP, your posts always take me into such interesting territory. This time I am tracking down the Ethiopian Battalion ….http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19639459…..this is a fascinating article about an Ethiopian soldier who was awarded an American Silver Star. Also interesting that South Korea is giving pensions to the Ethiopian veterans of the Korean War.

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  3. It seems to have been a lesson in, ‘if something isn’t working don’t do more of the same thing’. The enemy were amazingly resilient against all that softening up process.
    I wonder if a more successful air attack on Spud Hill would have made a difference?

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  4. An amazing piece of history brought to life through your telling…so many battles in so many wars have been failed experiments or fiascos.

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  5. Amazing and frightening, GP. Here’s a question that shows my naivete — does a “limited” war just mean it’s limited to a small area or limited as to manpower or firepower? I know it sounds a bit stupid, but the phrase above “the frustrations of fighting a limited war” caught my eye.

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    • The military were unable to do whatever they wanted. They were given boundaries as to where they could bomb, pilots were forbidden to chase the MiGs into Manchuria, etc. Basically, just as in Vietnam, they could not do what it took to win the war. Don’t ever hesitate to ask a question, the only stupid or naive question is the one you DON’T ask. I’m glad you’re curious.

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  6. What terrifying number of bombs and napalm tanks – the latter make me shiver just to read the name. It is difficult to square this overwhelming firepower with a failed attack.

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    • The enemy was discovered to be dug in too deep for much of that ordnance to do them any harm; so when our troops arrived where they wanted them – they were trapped and helpless.

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  7. I cannot imagine what a Marine may have felt like at the bottom of that hollow…

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  8. Some gripping, tricky maneuvers.

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  9. I never heard of Spud Hill or the sacrifice that took place there. I saw Pork Chop Hill as a movie and it reminded me of this conflict. So long ago and so forgotten and yet so many dead and wounded.

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  10. Once more a gripping slice of history brought to life, thanks.

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  11. Good post. Hard to imagine! Truly a horrific war!

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  12. You have some great photos with today’s post. I especially like the 3rd battalion and the Sweet Marjorie shots!

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