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Koje-do (part two)

a compound at Koje-do

a compound at Koje-do

10 May 1952,  General Colson signed a statement admitting to past UN POW guard infractions and promises for improved future treatment, and at 2130 hours, Gen. Dodd walked out of Compound 76.  Clark wanted Ridgeway to make a public statement on the situation, but he refused until 12 May.  An investigation began.  Dodd and Colson were returned to their originals ranks of colonel and General Yount received a formal reprimand.

General Francis Dodd

General Francis Dodd

Gen. Clark appointed BGeneral Hayden “Bull” Boatner as new camp commander; a man with 10 years experience in Asia.  Col. Harold Taylor was made his deputy.  The 187th  RCT were notified in Japan that they had 4 hours to be ready to go back to Korea on 15 May.  They were amazed, disgusted and shocked upon seeing the camp.  The sections put under their control were, 76, 77, 78, 80 and a female compound.  76 was the “headquarters” and had tunnels linking it to the others.  The British Commonwealth Division was also brought in and assigned to Compound 66.

Libert statue built by POWs

Liberty statue built by POWs

10 June, Boatner had the 187th ready to move POWs and Colonel Lee was told to prepare his fellow prisoners.  Lee refused and the Rakkasans went into attack mode.  The CO of C Company went to the gate an hour later and asked to see an officer – the prisoner spat in his face.  With the POWs armed as well – literally all hell broke loose.  As the troops entered the compound, the POWs began throwing sheet-metal spears and others made from tent poles.  They used Molotov cocktails and carried flails made from barbed wire.

General Hayden "Bull" Boatner

General Hayden “Bull” Boatner

The “HQ” tent, filled with prisoners, was set on fire and the troopers ran in to save POWs from the blaze.  Tanks from B Co/64th Tank Battalion/3rd Division moved in and still the battling went on for another 2 hours.  Unfortunately, the 187th could see POWs, who were trying to surrender, being murdered by their own camp leaders.  The “battle” of Koje-do cost the POWs 43 men killed and 139 wounded (about half by their own officers).  The 187th lost Cpl. John Sadler KIA and 13 wounded.

Koje-do camp

Koje-do camp

After the prisoners were moved, Compound 76 was cleared and the troopers found stashes of 1,000 Molotov cocktails, 3,000 metal-tipped spears, 4,500 knives and a working telegraph set.  In the tunnels they discovered a woman and child.  In another area, 50 anti-communist prisoners who had been executed  and thrown down the wells were discovered, along with approximately 100 bodies in shallow graves.  They also found plans for a break out and take-over of the island set for 20 June.  Col. Lee was found cowering in a trench and attempting to pass himself off as a female.

Communist POW, Col. Lee

Communist POW, Col. Lee

The next day, as screening continued, the troopers found that since the compounds, who had witnessed # 76’s display, more amiable to obeying orders.  After these prisoners were moved out, the intelligence dept. moved in and discovered human excrement in every drawer, file cabinet, pots and pans and cargo packs.

From the men who were there –

Ralph Hodge, 38th Regiment/2nd Infantry Division, who had witnessed Dodd’s capture, “As young grunts, fresh from 5 months on the line, we thought being assigned to guard POWs would be a ‘walk in the park’.  Little did we realize that we would become embroiled in an epic situation that would have a serious impact on the outcome of that god-awful Forgotten War.”

Fred Ervin of Company K/9th Infantry Regiment/2nd Infantry Division, said,” I was on radio duty that night Dodd was released from the compound.  I woke up my CO, Captain Worrick of New York and told him.”

Marshall Rogers said, “I was a platoon sergeant in Charlie Company/38th Infantry Regiment.  If an order would have been given to destroy us, it would have been successful.  Hundreds would have been killed by us, but eventually the numbers alone would have overwhelmed and destroyed us.  In reality, we were the prisoners.

Ron Simmons  from Support Co/187th ARCT spoke of when they first arrived, “…we drove through a series of dirt streets that were surrounded by POW compounds…some had dead bodies laid out near the fences covered with blankets.  It was a tense situation…we were located above the base of the hill, we could look down on the compounds.  They were an ugly sight.  Mean and hostile.”

guarding a work detail

guarding a work detail

Lt.Col. Russell Whetstone, commander of the 1st Battalion/187th , related, “…the “honey-bucket” details, guarding 50 POWs each, was a daily, dawn-to-dusk operation.  And, by Geneva Convention rules, the POWs were allowed a 10-minute break each hour…the prisoners would drop their poles and honey buckets, squat, smoke and yell their demands.”

Click on images to enlarge – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Richard Basden – Miami, FL & Surprise, AZ; US Air Force  MSgt., 30 yrs., Vietnam

James Belhassen – Boone, Iowa & Scottsdale, AZ: US Army, Korea

Silver Star w/ Oak Leaf Cluster

Silver Star w/ Oak Leaf Cluster

Joseph Croci – Elmhurst, IL; US Air Force, Korea

Thomas Flanagan – Chicago, IL; US Navy, Vietnam

Robert Friedrich – Irving Park, IL; US Army Signal Air Corps, Sgt. , WWII

James Hansen – Chicago, IL & Jupiter, FL;  US Navy Lieutenant, WWII

Richard Howell – Lake Worth, FL; US Air Force, Vietnam

Thomas Murch – Gilbert, AZ; US Air Force, Lt. Colonel (Ret.)

Edward Pettengill – Phoenix, AZ; US Army Sgt. Major (Ret.), Korea, Vietnam; Purple Heart, Bronze Star & Silver Star w/ Cluster

Korean War (21)

USS Everett

USS Everett

With the success of the 8th Army during May 1951, the war began to look like a stalemate as the Chinese headed north. Operation Piledriver, another offensive action, pushing from the Kansas Line (above the 38th in X Corps area) on the retreating CCF was not the success the Allied generals had counted on. The 8th Army was unable to be as aggressive as usual for 5 reasons: 1- soldiers with the longest service were being shipped home; 2 – rumors of a cease-fire; 3 – onset of the monsoon-like rainy season; 4 – strong enemy resistance; 5 – troop fatigue. But through all this, they did reach the area that was known as the Iron Triangle and control of the east-to-west roads used by the CCF for supply lines. The Canadian troops were assigned in June to patrol these routes from Seoul to Chorwon.

USAF 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing,  James Jabara of Wichita, Kansas

USAF 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, James Jabara of Wichita, Kansas

The Korean War saw the first aerial combat using jet fighters. US Air Force Captain James Jabara became the world’s first jet ace in May 1951 and had a total of 15 MiGs. He was later promoted to Major. By the end of the war, US pilots had a total of 950 MiGs in all.

Kaesong

Kaesong

13 June, with the Allied forces at Line Wyoming (I Corps sector forward the Kansas Line), which included the base of the Iron Triangle. Van Fleet ordered the line fortified and held; it was dubbed the MLR (Main Line of Resistance). This satisfied the UN Security Council and the Soviet ambassador made a broadcast to suggest negotiations should begin. These would be military talks to end the fighting, not the political future of Korea. The town selected for this was Kaesong right between the opposing armies. Syngman Rhee felt betrayed by the Americans and the ROKA (Republic of Korea Army) would not attend. There was another snag for the Allies as Kaesong was 3 miles south of the 38th parallel and in enemy hands. The American delegation was portrayed by the communists as surrendering when they arrived for the talks.

significant battles

significant battles

28 June, the destroyer, the USS Henry W. Tucker, was firing on Wonsan Harbor and received counterbattery fire in return. 3 July, the frigate, USS Everett, was also attacked; killing one man. The Fast Carrier Task Force retaliated by holding 247 sorties on Wonsan and the South Korean Marines attacked the area by land. 6 July, the destroyer USS Evans, put men on the island of Hwangto-do and 2 other destroyers went after the buildings and a torpedo station. Still, the ships were being fired on and naval commanders put Operation Kickoff in action. 17 July, members of the fleet sailed within the harbor to fire on the North Korean positions. 31 July, the USS Helena was hit once, but destroyed 7 gun sites and an ammunition dump.

All through July, the talks were breaking up and coming to a stalemate. Ground action was hindered by Typhoon Kate. 8 July, a battle was fought about 7 miles south of Kosang on the west coast, but details are scarce. UN ships and the islands at Wonsan Harbor continued battling with the enemy on shore.

Punchbowl, map from 23 May 1951

Punchbowl, map from 23 May 1951

18 July, Operation Kickoff began in Wonsan Harbor with the navies. 28 July, the USS Los Angeles caught the enemy by surprise when they entered Haeju Man channel and bombed the shore troops. Other US ships bombarded the north bank of the Han River.

4 August, the British Royal Marines reinforced their defenses on Hwangto-do Island (Wonsan) by installing mortars. Two days later, LSMRs (landing ship medium rocket) reported firing over 100,000 rockets at the enemy in Korea. Typhoon Marge hit the entire Korean Theater in mid-August.

22 August, the talks in Kaesong broke down. The first new action was to push the CCF back from Hill 1211 which dominated the Hwachon Reservoir. The circular valley created by the hills was called the Punchbowl. The CCF was on the high ground and the UN forces on the Kansas Line. Bunker by bunker, the 36th ROK Ist Division Marines and 2nd US Infantry Division battled fiercely. The 2 heights named “Bloody Ridge” and “Heartbreak Ridge” would see extensive combat.

The sector dubbed Bloody Ridge by the Stars and Stripes, to describe the action, but did not for security reasons identify where it was. The Hills numbered 983, 940 and 773 and their connecting ridges were covered with enemy trenches and bunkers strong enough to withstand artillery and air strikes. The fighting had actually started while the peace talks were still dragging out. The area held little value for the Allies, but it was important the enemy not possess it. It was finally conquered on 5 September and would cost 2,700 lives.

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This just in…

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Courtesy of the Smithsonian magazine.

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Farewell Salutes –

Allen Manning – Chelsea & Boston, MA; US Army, WWII

Punchbowl Marine sniper

Punchbowl Marine sniper

Alfred “Buddy” White, Jr. – Sommerville, MA; USMC WWII

Donald Scholefield – Burlington, Canada; Royal Canadian Navy, aircraft gunner HMCS Gifford

Patricia Macaluso – Scotland & Scarborough, Canada; Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force 1942-46

Mary Ann Ryan – Newfoundland & Toronto, Canada; RCAF, WWII

Click images to enlarge.

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