Pork Chop Hill

Pork Chop Hill

Pork Chop Hill

Officially this area was designated Hill 255, but its contour lines and a 1959 film made it famous as Pork Chop Hill and as a two-day battle in April 1953.  In reality, that hill claimed the lives of soldiers from the United States, Thailand, Columbia, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China in a series of battles that went on for more than a year and did not end until the armistice.

Much of the focus on Pork Chop was a result of Communist political structure; whenever negotiations reached critical stages, the Chinese military was used to test the UN’s will and stamina on the battlefield.  On the night of 23 March, elements of the CCF 67th Division and the 47th Army’s 141st Division launched simultaneous ground assaults on Old Baldy, Pork Chop and Hill 191.

Pork Chop/Hill 255

Pork Chop/Hill 255

In April 1953, two platoons of E Company/31st Regiment/7th Division, under 1st Lt. Thomas Harrold, garrisoned Pork Chop.  The total strength within the perimeter came to 96 men, including attached artillery, engineer and medical personnel.  The 1st and 3rd platoons mustered only 76 riflemen, and 20 of them were stationed at listening points outside the perimeter.

At 2000 hours on 16 April, a patrol from the 31st Infantry, consisting of 10 GIs from Fox Company and 5 from Easy, advanced to withing 100 yards of the shallow stream at the valley bottom and set up an ambush.  About 2300 hours, about 50 CCF approached and Sgt. Henry Pidgeon threw grenades at them – and the battle was on.  He ordered the patrol back, but they were cut off.  The advance patrol’s encounter failed to raise alarm among Pork Chop’s defenders and 2 full companies of CCF infantry reached the ramparts before anyone knew they were there.  Sgt. Carl Pratt and his 1st Platoon troops could hear the enemy, but remained in their bunkers because of the heavy Chinese shelling.  The 3rd Platoon, separated from it by terrain, was unaware of the 1st Platoon’s situation and increasing peril.

a sight of war as artillery falls

a sight of war as artillery falls

The 3rd Platoon was pinned in the bunkers, while only 6 wounded soldiers remained of the 1st Platoon.  By systematically killing the occupants and capturing the bunkers, the CCF , aided by reinforcements, secured most of the hill by 0200 hours.   Returning to Love’s command post with only 12 men, 2nd Lt. Denton reported to the company commander, 1st Lt. Forrest Crittendon, that the 3rd Platoon’s attack had failed.  The battalion commander, Lt. Col. John Davis, ordered King and Love companies to counterattack at dawn.  Love would launch its second assault with only 2 platoons and incredibly, never knew it was in a joint operation with King Co.

With the 2nd Platoon deployed on the right, the 1st on the left and the 3rd in reserve, King Co. reached the assault line.  At 0430 hours, the artillery barrage lifted and King stepped off.  Although they were not fired on, it too King’s men 29 minutes to travel 170 yards to the nearest bunker.

engagement

engagement

As the battle entered its second round, Love Company had launched its second attack about the same time as King, but met a Chinese barrage more intense that the earlier one.  Both of its platoons were crushed and sent tumbling back to Hill 200, leaving King Company on its own.  Sgt. Maxwell stated, “Pork Chop was a maze, a rat’s nest of bunkers, line and commo trenches, shell holes and rock clumps.  The Chinese kept feeding fresh troops into their counterattacks.  We fought with the men we had and every hour, we numbered less.”

At 1640, Clemons reported to the regiment, “We have about 20 men left, if we can’t be relieved, we should be withdrawn.”  Gen. Trudeau decided to hold the hill.  Col. Kern ordered Capt. King of Fox Company to move onto Pork Chop and relieve Clemons’ force as soon as possible.  Fox’s troops arrived at 2130 just as the CCF attack.  Fox Co. lost 19 men.  This battling went on throughout the night.

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Pvt. Angelo Palermo, 21, Able Co./17th Infantry, said, “The Chinese were on their loud speakers telling us to surrender.  If we did not, they said, we were all going to die.  On the night of 6 July, as it started to get dark, the Chinese attacked in force.  I was on a .50-caliber machine-gun when they started to swarm up the hill.  I could have sworn that all of China was on that slope.  We fired till we ran out of ammo and by that time the Chinese were in our trenchline, so we fought them with rifle butts, bayonets and even fists and helmets.”

11 July, General Taylor ordered the hill abandoned, Col. Harry Summers was critical of this decision, calling it a political move and Marshall Peng praised the outcome as an example of Chinese effectiveness.

With the signing of the armistice, Pork Chop Hill became part of the demilitarized zone.

Much of this article was written by James Marino and published in the April 2003 issue of “Military History” magazine. [The remainder was gpcox from research notes.]

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Farewell Salutes – 

Alan Brunt, Sr. – Lithia, FL; US Army, Vietnam, Purple Heart & Bronze Star

Bronze Star

Bronze Star

Charles Buckenberger – Port Richie, FL; US Army, WWII

Stephen Farris, Jr. – Alexandria, VA; US Army Air Corps, Colonel (Ret. 30 yrs.) WWII, fighter pilot

Victor Frankenberger – Rochester, NY & Homosassa,FL; USMC, Korea

Stanley Gould – Waihi, NZ; Serv. No. NZ 15438

Winifred Knott – Falls Church, VA; 60 years Dept. of Defense service, Exec. Secretary, Fort Belvoir, VA

Frank Noel – Albany, NZ; WWII, RAF # 572283 & RNZAF # 76731

Edward Repicky – Cleveland, OH & Tampa, FL; US Navy, WWII

Bennie Stave – Fremont, NE; US Army Air Corps, 511th A/B, WWII, PTO

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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 February 2, 2014, in Korean War, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 54 Comments.

  1. Your attention to detail is amazing. Knowledge of such detail certainly is the flesh on the skeleton of the story that brings it to life. Truly great read – and unlike my satire, yours is real!

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  2. Thanks for the history lesson, GP. Like many of your other readers Pork Chop Hill was merely a name to me. By writing about it, you honor those who fought there. –Curt

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  3. Thank you for looking in on my little blog. And thank you for having the blog that you do as a reminder to all of us the great sacrifices given. I look forward to more of your posts!

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  4. Interesting the nicknames hills get !

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    • Usually numbered by height, the fellas stuck defending them often give the nicknames. Pork Chop on the other hand and the Hook also looked like that on a map. Thanks for reading, Robert.

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  5. What a slaughter for everyone except the commanders calling the shots…the inhumanity of war written so clearly in your blog. Those Chinese soldiers too, sons and fathers all, but just reduced to cannon fodder for their leaders.

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  6. That film certainly must have had an impact – although I don’t even remember seeing it, the name of the hill struck an immediate bell.
    The place really became a bloodbath, didn’t it? From the outline, there seem to have been some rather bad mistakes in the face of a really determined assault.

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  7. More Farewell Salutes: Edward George Sawyer (Ted) 1320219 RAF, 203, 345, 230 Sqns, Coastal Command 1943-1945. on January 29th, Christchurch, NZ
    Walter Wallace McGilligan (Wal) Reg No. 432038 RNZAF on January 31st, Geraldine, South Canterbury, NZ

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  8. I can see how this kind of scenario made the US fear further Chinese communist expansion. They were fierce opponents. However, battles aren’t the only place where territorial gains are decided. http://www.ibtimes.com/chinas-fishing-subsidies-are-offsetting-rising-tuna-fishing-costs-also-driving-other-fishermen-out

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  9. From your report, it does not sound as if there were many survivors (on our side). I wonder why there was no air support…

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    • That is an interesting observation and after rereading my data, I ca not find the reason for you. What I did locate: S.L.A. Marshall, wrote, “Pork Chop Hill was an artillery duel, 9 artillery battalions of the 2nd and 7th Divisions had fired 37,655 rounds on the first day and 77,349 rounds on the second. Never at Verdun were guns worked at any such rate. The battle of Kwajalein, our most intense shoot during WWII was still a lesser thing when measured in terms of artillery expenditure per hour, weight of material against yards of earth and the grand output of the guns. For this at least the operation deserves a place in history. It sets the all-time mark for artillery effort.”

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  10. Sounded like a swarm of Chinese attacking. What a dreadful experience!

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  11. The story of Pork Chop hill reminds me of my freshman year in college. I had just turned 18, youngest on the football team. There must have been 20 veterans of the Korean War on the team, taking advantage of their GI Bill. Us kids would sit around and talk about our upcoming dance or something, while the vets sat around and compared war stories. My favorite vet would stop all the stories by raising his finger and say, ‘Yeah! Big deal! I fought on Pork Chop Hill.’
    We were probably about the 5th best team in the conference; but those vets didn’t believe it. We finished undefeated, untied, and our captain was the bet who fought on Pork Chop Hill.

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  12. I had heard of Pork Chop Hill and I always associated the death of soldiers with the name but I probably only recognized the name because of the movie.

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    • The movie had such stars in it as Gregory Peck and George Peppard – a little hard to forget those guys. I didn’t realize why it got the name either, just assumed it was a code name or nickname for the soldiers. Thanks for dropping by, Linda.

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  13. A Brit veteran I correspond with told me that they used to set very sensitive flares on the wire in front of their strongpoints to alert them if any intruders were probing in the dark. They tolerated occasional false alarms, but one morning they awoke after an unusually quiet night to a neat pile of flares stacked just outside their wire …

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  14. “Pork Chop was a maze, a rat’s nest of bunkers…”, a description written with such clarity. And you are so right; not a single thing was ever taught in my schools about the Korean War except the years fought. An educational poverty, to neglect this history. Thank you for another excellent post.

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  15. I found this interesting, too: some claim that the name “Pork Chop Hill” is the result of a mistranslation of the Korean phrase used to describe the hill. In the Korean language, the hill was often referred to as “bok job hae,” which means, “It is complicated.” When Korean offers were asked to comment about the situation on Hill 255, they would always begin their response in Korean, “It is complicated,” and the UN forces began calling it “Pork Chop Hil.” I have spoken to men who fought there. They had another name for it, which I cannot repeat here.

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  16. ((shudder)) such a loss of lives! Well written, my human friend.

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  17. Interesting. I’d always heard of Pork Chop Hill but knew little about it.

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  18. What an amazing story. And heart-breaking.

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  19. Brian Murray, MS

    When I was in the Army I had a 2nd Lt. tell me about his grandfather who served in that war. He was saying the story he heard was the Chinese came in such mass force at their machine gun bunker that every once in a while someone had to crawl out and push the bodies down that had piled up to keep the firing lane open. He said eventually it became hand to hand combat. More Chinese than bullets. As a former infantryman myself I just can’t fathom being in that situation. Tough fighting!

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  20. Pork Chop Hill is the first battle I remember hearing about of the Korean War.

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