Withdrawal From Seoul

Out of concern for the Eighth Army's lack of spirit and out of conviction that recovery depended largely on improved leadership, General Ridgway in his noontime withdrawal orders to Milburn and Coulter on 1 January emphasized their responsibility to conduct strong delaying actions. In particular, he wanted them to withdraw in daylight so that they could add air support to their attacks against enemy troops who followed the I and IX Corps to the Seoul bridgehead.1

He repeated these instructions during the afternoon and ordered the three South Korean corps to withdraw. The ROK III and I Corps were to occupy line C from the junction of the Pukhan and Han rivers eastward through Hongch'on to Wonp'o-ri on the coast. As a preliminary to consolidating South Korean forces in a narrower sector in the east and to committing the X Corps in the central region, ROK II Corps headquarters was to release its single division temporarily to ROK Army control and leave the front to help with rear area security. The X Corps, whose command group was moving northward from Kyongju more slowly than anticipated, was now expected to establish a command post at Ch'ungju and take control of the 2d Division by evening of the 2d.2

Since falling back to the bridgehead and line C would endanger the forwardmost army supply points, Ridgway ordered the evacuation of all installations located between lines C and D, including the Inch'on port complex. Though Inch'on was a major installation, the gradual reduction of its stocks, under way since the Eighth Army withdrew below P'yongyang, would simplify its closing.3

To the Seoul Bridgehead

General Milburn started his moves in midafternoon on the 1st holding the ROK 1st Division forward as cover while setting the 25th Division and British 29th Brigade in the western and eastern halves of his bridgehead sector. He also withdrew the Rangers and Turks from Kanghwa Island and the blunt end of the Kimpo peninsula into positions just northwest of Kimpo airfield. This move extended the I Corps arc below the Han off the left flank of the 25th Division but did not uncover Inch'on.4


The British brigade, having moved north under Milburn's previous order to counterattack, needed only to march east to reach its bridgehead position, which it occupied by 1800. Taking longer to make a covered withdrawal from line B, although without enemy contact, the 25th Division was fully deployed at the bridgehead by midnight after establishing outposts astride Route 1 some three miles above its main position.6

Milburn inadvertently collided with Ridgway by ordering General Kean and the British brigade commander, Brigadier Thomas Brodie, to defend the bridgehead "at all costs." Ridgway claimed such an order as his prerogative. Milburn's directive also ran somewhat counter to what Ridgway considered an important step in restoring confidence among the rank and file, that of assuring them that their safety was an immediate concern of their commanders. He expected his command to fight hard, but he also was doing "everything I could think of to impress upon the Corps and Division Commanders that no unit was to be left to be overwhelmed and destroyed; that any units that are cut off will not be abandoned, but will be fought for unless it is clear that their relief will result by [sic] the loss of equal or greater numbers." Ridgway, in any case, had not designed the Seoul bridgehead as a last-stop position, and he countermanded Milburn's instructions.7

Milburn had ordered the ROK 1st Division to wait until daylight on the 2d to withdraw. On the way back General Paik was to drop off a regiment to reinforce the British brigade at the bridgehead, then take his remaining forces into defenses along the lower bank of the Han directly beneath Seoul. Through the afternoon of the 1st, Paik's forces received several heavy attacks and backed off about three miles to the southwest as the Chinese began to widen their wedge. After a lull lasting almost to midnight, the Chinese again tested Paik's position, pushing light forces south against a battalion of the 15th Regiment at the point of the salient. This push proved preliminary to a hard attack at 0300 that sliced through the battalion and carried the Chinese two miles south before its impetus faded.8

Though still engaged at daylight, the South Koreans had not given any more ground. Paik broke contact by regiment, sending each southwest to Pongilch'on-ni on Route 1 where Milburn had assembled trucks to carry Paik's forces the remaining distance south. By midnight the 11th Regiment joined the British, and the remainder


of the division was spreading out to occupy its river position below Seoul.9

In the IX Corps sector, General Coulter planned to withdraw to the bridgehead in two steps: to line Wolf, a delaying position fifteen miles below line B, then to the bridgehead itself another eight miles south. He opened the first step at 1400 on the 1st, leaving the move below the Wolf line to be taken when mutually agreed by the 24th and ROK 6th Division commanders. He directed the 24th Division, reinforced by the 7th Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division, to man the bridgehead line and the ROK 6th Division and remainder of the 1st Cavalry Division to occupy line C along the lower bank of the Han eastward from a point opposite the right flank of the bridgehead.10

Left to their own devices, General Church and General Chang planned no stay at the Wolf line except that Church would leave two battalions there to help cover both divisions. They also would have cover on the vulnerable west flank from the British 27th Brigade now in position just below Tokchong near the west end of line Wolf.11

Each division protected its own initial withdrawal. The 24th, in a column of regiments with the covering forces falling in at the tail end, moved without contact down Route 3 to Uijongbu at the left anchor of the corps bridgehead position. Behind the two battalions left at the Wolf line, Church's three regiments manned bridgehead sectors before midnight, tying in with the attached 7th Cavalry, which earlier had occupied the southeastern end of the bridgehead.12

In taking the ROK 6th Division off line B, General Chang originally planned to move cross-country to Tokchong, then use Route 33 to pass behind the British 27th Brigade and complete his move. But before the division got under way, Chinese forces pushed out of the salient in the adjacent ROK 1st Division area and occupied Tokchong. To avoid having to fight through the town, Chang elected to withdraw crosscountry all the way.13

Unlike the 24th Division's easy departure from line B, the 2d Regiment covering the remainder of the ROK 6th from positions facing both north and west close by the division and corps left boundary suffered heavy casualties from hard attacks by Chinese coming out of the ROK 1st Division area and down Route 33. A prisoner taken from a group advancing along Route 33 identified his unit as the 118th Division, 40th Army, apparently the force sighted earlier in the day moving south from Ch'orwon.14

After breaking contact, the 2d Regiment, like the remainder of the division that had started south through the hills before it, ran into small groups of Chinese who previously had infiltrated the division's lines. For reasons that never became entirely clear, but probably because of these encounters and the difficulties of moving cross-country, the


division broke up into disorganized groups before it reached the Wolf line. By dark General Chang had lost all control of his forces.15

To assist the withdrawal, Coulter had established an entrucking point on Route 33 about three miles north of Seoul where Chang's forces were to be directed for motor lift to their line C position. By daylight on the 3d only the equivalent of four battalions had assembled at that point. General Chang used a IX Corps plane to search for his troops during the morning, and additional entrucking points were set up to accelerate the movement of troops as they filtered south. About ninety truckloads were carried south of the Han through the day, but the head count, even at 0900 on 3 January, stood at only six thousand, or about half the division's original strength; of these, only twenty-five hundred were infantry.16

As the disorganization of the ROK 6th Division became apparent, Coulter ordered the 1st Cavalry Division to spread out into the line C sector previously assigned to Chang. Since Coulter had given the 7th Cavalry to the 24th Division and also had taken the bulk of the 5th Cavalry to reconstitute a corps reserve after moving the British 27th Brigade to Tokchong, General Gay had to stretch his remaining forces thin to cover the two division sectors.17

Meanwhile, between 1700 and 2130 on the 1st, the British 27th Brigade had driven off three small Chinese groups at its Tokchong position. But without further encounter the brigade and General Church's two covering battalions withdrew from the Wolf line before midnight, the battalions rejoining their regiments while the British assembled near the northeastern limits of Seoul as a reserve for the fully committed 24th Division.18

The Outlook, 2 January

On the 2d, as the ROK 1st and 6th Divisions made their way back to Seoul and as the remainder of the I and IX Corps settled more solidly into their bridgehead and line C positions, the deepest known point of Chinese advance had been marked by the previous night's engagements with the British at Tokchong. Chinese forces were at least within nine miles of the bridgehead and probably nearer. In view of the rate of advance the Chinese had sustained so far, attacks could be expected at the bridgehead on the 3d.

The next attacks probably would be stronger than those at line B. Four divisions now had been identified in the I and IX Corps sectors, and a fifth had hit the ROK 5th Division in the ROK III Corps sector. These five, while not a great number, represented four armies, the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 66th. These armies could, and very likely would, commit additional divisions. Moreover, the 50th Army, known to be in the Kaesong area, could easily join the offensive by moving on Seoul via Route 1, and the 42d Army, concentrated near Kumhwa, could advance toward Seoul over Route 3 or south


toward Kap'yong and Ch'unch'on. The Seoul bridgehead was, at best, precarious.19

Further testimony on just how precarious the position was came from engineers on duty at the Han bridges who reported on the 2d that the river was frozen solid enough to support foot traffic, as evidenced by Korean civilians leaving the Seoul area. The forces above the city faced not only the likelihood of strong frontal attacks and the chance of being enveloped by enemy forces to the east but also the possibility of being trapped by enemy forces crossing the ice just outside the flanks of the bridgehead.20

Civilians moving in large numbers toward the bridgehead from the area just vacated as well as south out of the Seoul area posed additional dangers. Enemy forces could use the civilian movement toward the bridgehead as cover for their own advance, and, to the rear, any mass milling on the main lines of communication could seriously interfere with troop and supply movements. Ridgway consequently issued instructions on 2 January that refugees were not to be permitted to pass through a forward position and that those moving out of the SeoulInch'on area were to be levered away from Route 1 to lesser roads on either side.21

By nightfall on the 2d Ridgway completed or started several other moves to strengthen his position in the west. The Thailand battalion, previously with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team at Suwon, joined the British 29th Brigade in the bridgehead. En route from Kyongju in the far southeast were the X Corps' 92d and 96th Field Artillery Battalions. Reasoning that General Almond's artillery could best be used against the main enemy effort, Ridgway had ordered the two battalions forward in the west; they were to be divided between the I and IX Corps. He also ordered the 3d Division to move two regiments and a command group to the Ansong-P'yongt'aek region on 4 January and to bring its remaining units forward as soon as it became possible to transport them. All but one company of the 72d Tank Battalion, previously taken from the 2d Division, now had joined the IX Corps and been attached to the 24th Division. The remaining company was en route to Suwon to join the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, which Ridgway had alerted for counterattacks, particularly in the Yangp'yong and Yoju areas, two Han River crossing sites on the IX Corps right flank twenty-five and forty miles southeast of Seoul.22

Ridgway's instructions to Brig. Gen. Frank S. Bowen, Jr.'s combat team were a hedge against a surprise appearance of enemy forces pushing in from the northeast or east. Indeed, what had happened or was likely to happen in the South Korean corps sectors remained difficult for Ridgway to ascertain. From reports reaching him on the


2d he knew that the ROK Capital Division on the east coast had reached line C without contact, but about the most that could be positively said of the remaining ROK divisions was that no one knew for sure where they were or what condition they were in.23

The ROK 2d Division on the ROK III Corps' left apparently was in bad shape. One regiment was reported to be almost completely disorganized. The other two were believed to be cut off about five miles north of Kap'yong by 66th Army forces who had moved in behind the 2d after penetrating the left flank of the ROK 5th Division. Ridgway knew nothing about the ROK 5th and 8th Divisions but had received an air observer's report that Ch'unch'on had fallen during the afternoon of the 2d. The one ROK III Corps unit he could definitely locate was the reserve 7th Division, which, except for a missing regiment, was assembling twenty miles northwest of Wonju.24

The most Ridgway knew about the ROK 3d Division was that it was slowly backing out of its ROK II Corps sector and moving southwestward over Route 24 toward Hongch'on. According to plans, the division would continue south until it could move laterally below the North Korean salient and assemble at Pyongch'ang, twenty-five miles east of Wonju.25

In an attempt to stabilize the line in the central region, Ridgway ordered the X Corps to assume responsibility on 3 January for a 35-mile sector of line C centered approximately on Route 29. The corps lineup was to include the U.S. 2d and 7th Divisions and the ROK 2d, 5th, and 8th Divisions. General Almond was to block enemy advances from the direction of Ch'unch'on as well as from the northeast and east out of the North Korean salient. This assignment gave Almond the immediate task of locating and gaining control of the three South Korean divisions, and he had yet to bring up the remainder of the 7th Division from the south. For the time being, his defense would depend mainly on the U.S. 2d Division.26

With the intention of establishing positions below the North Korean salient, Ridgway ordered the ROK III Corps to take control of the ROK 9th Division and use it along with the ROK 7th Division to organize a line through the steeper mountains between the X Corps and the ROK I Corps. But the ROK 9th Division was scattered, and two of its regiments were reported surrounded. This situation and the ROK 7th Division's current location far to the west in the new X Corps sector posed problems of movement and consolidation not easily solved.27

Similarly, Ridgway directed the ROK I Corps to take control of the ROK 3d Division and emplace it in the mountains west of the Capital Division. This, though, could be done only after the 3d Division completed its circuitous march from the west. In the meantime there would be no forces between the Capital Division on the east coast and the 2d Division in and above Wonju capable of withstanding a North Korean push south out of the Hongch'on salient.28


Faced with these near-chaotic conditions in the east and the imminent arrival of Chinese forces at the bridgehead, Ridgway reminded his forces that they would defend their positions only as long as they could do so without risk of being enveloped or trapped. The danger of entrapment applied especially to the I and IX Corps. Yet, while he attached this limit to the defense of the bridgehead, he did not intend that Milburn and Coulter adopt only an alert wait-and-see attitude. On the previous day, through either lack of effort or lack of opportunity, neither Milburn nor Coulter had executed the punishing attacks Ridgway had directed. Irritated by this failure, Ridgway personnally made it clear to both corps commanders on the 2d that these attacks would be made.29

The Evacuation of Seoul

The Chinese first hit the Seoul bridgehead from the northwest along Route 1. The 50th Army sent forces against the I Corps left, those in the van reaching the outpost line of the 25th Division just before 0300 on the 3d. Forced back by the encounter, the outpost troops passed behind the main division position two hours later. Either pursuing troops of the 50th or west flank forces of the 39th Army next opened small arms fire on the 35th Infantry on the division right.30

Other forces of the 39th marching south through the hills west of Route 33 meanwhile approached the British 29th Brigade, opening a strong attack on the Northumberland Fusiliers at the brigade right at 0730 and then striking still harder at the Royal Ulster Rifles on the left. The Fusiliers gave ground and two companies of the Rifles were overrun, but counterattacks by infantry and tanks recaptured the lost positions in midafternoon and forced the Chinese to disengage.31

In the IX Corps sector, leading units of the 40th and 38th Armies opened light jabs and small arms fire against the 24th Division about 0500. The small attacks-the largest by a company at the division left-hit but failed to penetrate the 21st Infantry and finally died out at midmorning. In the 19th Infantry sector to the east of the 21st, the 2d Battalion steadily lost ground to attacks that grew from company to regiment in size. Counterattacks well supported by air and artillery restored the battalion line early in the afternoon, but not without a continued contest for the ground regained.32

By noon on the 3d the attacks on the bridgehead convinced Ridgway that a withdrawal below Seoul had to start soon. While the assaults themselves were not overwhelming, they laid the proverbial final straw on a heavy burden of other problems and disadvantages. The administrative and logistical complexity of moving close to seventyfive thousand troops and their equipment across the Han was a prime concern. So was the problem of clearing the Seoul area of ROK national, provincial, and local government officials, foreigners who included an


American Embassy group, and possibly the city's entire populace.33

A limited number of bridges would complicate the river crossing. All permanent bridges had been destroyed in past days, and none had been repaired. Just two engineer structures, one 50-ton hybrid M4-M4A2 floating bridge and one 50-ton shoofly (decked railroad) bridge spanned the Han directly below Seoul behind the I Corps; just one 50-ton M2 floating bridge, four miles east of Seoul, crossed the river behind the IX Corps. Only five floating footbridges were available for the potentially large civilian exodus. The ice was solid enough to support pedestrians but not vehicles.34

The bridges, moreover, were vulnerable. The Chinese had not yet made any lasting penetration of the bridgehead, but if stronger attacks succeeded, they could deploy artillery far enough forward to destroy the crossings. Since the Han in the Seoul area was tidal and threw up chunks of ice as the water level shifted, the river itself was a threat. Although engineers were on round-the-clock duty to protect the spans from ice damage, the periodic upheavals nevertheless could tear loose the supporting pontons at any time. Another danger was the possibility that panic-stricken civilians might surge from Seoul and overwhelm the troops guarding the crossings. Either of two results would be calamitous: civilian traffic would preempt the bridges, or Ridgway would have to employ drastic measures against the civilians to regain the crossings for military use.

Enemy operations east of the bridgehead also had a strong influence on Ridgway's decision. In the deep North Korean salient extending south from Inje, the division and reinforced regiment earlier estimated to be in the Hongch'on area were now identified as the 2d Division of the North Korean II Corps and the 12th Division of the North Korean V Corps. According to current estimates, these two corps together controlled either ten or twelve divisions. Intelligence sources, moreover, continued to report the movement of the North Korean III Corps, which had three divisions, from the Wonsan-Hamhung region to the Inje area.35

Apparently shaping up were a North Korean attack to seize the Wonju rail and road center and a concurrent attempt, as evidenced by strong guerrilla operations along Route 29 as far south as Tanyang forty miles below Wonju, to cut off the forces defending the North Korean objective. Since the enemy's seizure of Wonju would prevent the Eighth Army from using the central rail line to support operations in the Seoul area, Ridgway now considered the North Korean effort in the east to be a well-planned maneuver timed and tied to the main Chinese attack in the west.36

That the X, ROK III, and ROK I Corps could establish an adequate defense in the east remained, at best, uncertain. General Almond, with characteristic alertness, viewed the presence


of North Korean forces between his three ROK divisions retiring from the north and his 2d Division in the Wonju area as an opportunity for a hammerand-anvil maneuver with the South Koreans pounding the enemy against General McClure's positions. But Almond had yet to get a grip on the hammer. There was still no definite word on the whereabouts of the ROK 5th and 8th Divisions, and the latest information on the ROK 2d Division indicated that two of its regiments were still surrounded and that the third had been reduced to a battalion.37

Nor had the ROK III Corps commander, Brig. Gen. Lee Hyung Kenn, yet occupied any part of his line C sector. The ROK 7th Division was fully assembled but was still northwest of Wonju, and the ROK 9th Division was still engaged and much disorganized north of line C. Brig. Gen. Kim Paik Il, the ROK I Corps commander, had had no more success in emplacing the ROK 3d Division in the mountains adjacent to the Capital Division's coastal position. The 3d Division had been located in perimeter around Hongch'on, a long way from the new sector assigned to it.38

In view of the obvious design of the North Korean move below Inje, the depth of gains already registered, the sizable North Korean forces that could be added to the operation, and the disarray of Eighth Army units in the east, Ridgway doubted that his eastern forces could organize and hold line C. His G-3, Colonel Dabney, believed they would have difficulty even in establishing line D defenses. The forces in the west therefore faced an increasing threat of deep envelopment, a threat that would become an immediate danger if Wonju fell since Route 20 led some fifty-five miles due west from Wonju to an intersection with Route 1 at Suwon.39

Closer to Seoul, the 66th Army, possibly with help from the 42d Army, now had occupied Kap'yong, and at 0800 on the 3d a long column of Chinese was sighted moving southwest of Kap'yong on the Ch'unch'on-Seoul road, its head within fifteen miles of the 1st Cavalry Division on the IX Corps' right flank. As General Ridgway reasoned the possibilities, the Chinese could veer to the east around the cavalrymen, then strike west to cut Route 1.40

All factors considered, Ridgway concluded that the risk to his command had reached the critical point. At midmorning on the 3d he alerted his forces that he probably would withdraw the bridgehead units later that day and that when the bulk of them were south of the Han he would pull the entire Eighth Army from line C to line D. For the move out of the bridgehead, he handed General Milburn responsibility for controlling traffic over the Han bridges and placed Brig. Gen. Charles D. Palmer, the artillery commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, under Milburn for that particular duty.41


Ridgway gave the withdrawal order to Milburn and Coulter about an hour past noon, instructing them to pull out of the bridgehead as soon as they worked out a coordinated withdrawal. Below the Han, Milburn was to deploy to protect the final evacuation of the Seoul airport, Kimpo airfield, and Inch'on. Coulter was to man the lower bank of the river from the eastern edge of Yongdungp'o, the industrial suburb or Seoul, to the junction of the Han and Pukhan eighteen miles east. Both were to stand ready for Ridgway's signal to withdraw to line D.42

Again because of the prevalent lack of spirit within his command, Ridgway wrote out instructions on two matters usually handled as routine. He specifically directed that no usable equipment was to be abandoned and that all sick, wounded, and dead were to be evacuated. Still irritated by a general lack of tenacity among his principal subordinates, he also explained once more that withdrawals would be executed "with all necessary coordination, with maximum losses inflicted on the enemy and with maximum delay, consistent with the maintenance intact of all your major units.43

Disturbed also after observing that in large part demolitions executed in the past appeared to be destruction for destruction's sake, he had announced on 2 January a policy that was to govern during this and any future withdrawals. "The execution of demolitions and necessary military destruction in South Korea," he insisted, "shall be such as to combine maximum hurt to the enemy with minimum harm to the civilian population." Nothing approaching "scorched earth" tactics would be condoned.44

Milburn and Coulter already had prepared and regulated plans for pulling out of the bridgehead, and much earlier, while the Eighth Army was retiring to line B, Milburn had devised a system for controlling traffic over the Han bridges that with one change remained workable. The earlier plan called for the I and IX Corps to cross the river at widely separated points, Milburn using the two bridges directly below Seoul, Coulter the single bridge east of the city. The two commanders now agreed that more than half of the IX Corps, including the covering force, should cross on one of the I Corps spans. This would facilitate Milburn's task of controlling all traffic and would assist the eventual decision on removing the bridges.45

To centralize the direction of I Corps forces out of the bridgehead, Milburn placed the British 29th Brigade under General Kean's control. Once below Seoul, the 25th Division was to occupy line C above Kimpo airfield between the ROK 1st Division and the Turkish brigade while the British continued south and assembled at Suwon. Kean was to set a regiment near Seoul's northwestern edge to cover I Corps movements through the city itself, coordinating the operations of this covering regiment with its IX Corps counterpart, the British 27th Brigade,


in position at Seoul's northeastern outskirts. Kean's covering force, the 27th Infantry, also was to protect the passage of the British 27th Brigade and the removal of the bridges and was to be the last unit out of Seoul.46

By the IX Corps' withdrawal plan, including the change for crossing the Han, the 24th Division was to peel off the bridgehead line by regiment, beginning at the left. The first two regiments off the line and division troops were to cross the Han bridge east of Seoul. The remaining two regiments and the British covering force were to use the I Corps shoofly bridge. After crossing the river, the 7th Cavalry was to return to its parent division while the 24th Division with the British brigade attached passed behind line C and assembled in corps reserve.47

The Civilian Exodus

After giving the word to withdraw, Ridgway set 1500 on the 3d as the last moment that civilian traffic could use the Han bridges. Other than specific exceptions he might authorize, the approach and exit roads would be closed after that time to all but Eighth Army movements. Unsure of the civilian reaction to being ordered off the main roads and bridges, he passed instructions through General Milburn to the traffic coordinator, General Palmer, that the latter's military police first were to fire over the heads of evacuees who refused to stay clear of Route 1 and as a very last resort fire at them. Similarly, Ridgway authorized corps commanders to stop all civilian traffic through their sectors, using their own judgment in the use of gunfire. When he asked ROK government officials to notify Seoul citizens of these instructions, he explained that the eventual stoppage of civilian movement would save Korean lives by preventing enemy forces from using refugees, as they had in the past, to cover their own advance.48

As a result of I Corps activity over the previous two weeks, the sticky problem of civilian evacuation was not as great as it might have been. Under the guidance and urging of Milburn's civil assistance officers, most nonessential government employees and the families of government officials already had left the city. Refugee camps holding Koreans who previously had come into the city from the north had been cleared. All inmates of Seoul's prisons and jails, the staffs and patients of all but one hospital, and the small residents of most orphanages also had been sent south. Likewise, all ROK currency and money plates and the holdings of archives, museums, and galleries had been shipped out.49

Still in Seoul were members of the ROK national, provincial, and city governments, United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea, and U.S. Embassy.50 With I Corps assistance, they had prepared evacuation plans. Arrangements for removing other Americans and foreign


nationals still in the city, mostly missionaries and members of missions and consulates, were included in the U.S. Embassy plan. All these people were excepted from the ban on civilian use of Route 1 below Seoul and were given special vehicle markers to identify their status.51

General Milburn also had deployed his traffic control force. On the morning of the 2d, Col. C. H. Unger, I Corps deputy chief of staff and officer in charge of traffic control, opened the main control point on a large sand flat just below the two I Corps bridges. Unger's staff included the corps G-1, provost marshal, engineer, and a signal officer. To regulate and guide traffic to the proper river crossings, military police, ROK National Police, and Seoul metropolitan police took station at traffic control points within Seoul. To channel civilians away from Route 1 south of the Han, other police posted themselves in Yongdungp'o and along Route 1 and lesser roads below the Seoul suburb. The corps civil affairs officer along with military and national police stationed themselves at two areas in Seoul where those civilians privileged to use Route 1 were to be assembled, checked, and dispatched. Finally, corps staff officers went to the 25th and 24th Divisions to act as liaison between the covering forces, which would be last to come through Seoul, and the main corps control point.52

By virtue of these I Corps arrangements, the civilian evacuation was well under way by the time the overall supervisor, General Palmer, arrived at the corps control point on the morning of the 3d and was largely accomplished before the leading bridgehead forces reached the Han. Eighth Army civil affairs officers joined the I Corps control crew specifically to assist the movement of ROK national government officials to Pusan, the new seat of government. To get these and all of the other officials out, Ridgway's deadline on civilian use of bridges had to be extended to 1800, but the extension created no particular problem at the crossings.53 The one major hitch in plans occurred at 2000 on the 3d when Korean utility employees, designated to stay on the job until relieved and then taken south


on a train standing by for them, shut down operations and left on their own. They left Seoul without water and electric power.54

Seoul citizens afoot struggled with heavy burdens of personal belongings over the footbridges and across the ice until about daylight on the 4th. By 0600 engineers demolished all the footbridges, and at 0800 leaflets prepared by the I Corps were dropped from the air above the river to advise civilians that "further crossing of the Han River are prohibited. Anyone attempting to cross will be fired upon. By Command of the UN Commander." The civilian exodus soon dwindled and stopped; no firing was necessary. By that time, Seoul had few inhabitants. Some six hundred thousand, about half the population, had gone south, and most of the remainder had moved to nearby villages north of the Han.55

The IX Corps Withdrawal

After receiving Ridgway's warning order on the 3d, General Coulter notified General Church to begin withdrawing at noon. Other than this anticipation of Ridgway's actual starting signal, which itself caused no complication, the IX Corps' withdrawal from the bridgehead resembled a well-executed training exercise.56

The last truck carrying division troops and the 21st and 19th Regiments passed over the M2 bridge east of Seoul at 0200 on the 4th. As the last serials began to cross, Brig. Gen. Garrison H. Davidson, assistant division commander of the 24th and officer in charge at the M2 crossing, had the I Corps liaison officer, who had posted himself at the bridge, radio the main control point for permission to dismantle the bridge. Hampered by pins and other bridge parts frozen in place and by parts jammed through long and heavy use, troops of the 19th Engineer Group worked five hours to disassemble the structure but with only partial success. Around 0730 General Davidson ordered the remainder of the bridge destroyed.57

Between midnight and 0900 on the 4th, General Church's remaining units- the 5th Regimental Combat Team, 7th Cavalry, and British 27th Brigade- passed south of the Han over the I Corps shoofly bridge. Throughout the withdrawal neither the line regiments nor the British covering force were engaged. General Coulter later surmised that the Chinese had deployed in front of the bridgehead to such an extent that they were unable to pursue.58

The I Corps Withdrawal

None of the I Corps bridgehead units was engaged when General Milburn ordered them to withdraw at 1600 on the 3d, but the leading forces of the 50th and 39th Armies lay just outside the bridgehead line. Air observers reported large movements of enemy troops and equipment, including artillery, toward


Seoul over both Routes 1 and 33. Though the 38th and 40th Armies seemed to have bogged down before the IX Corps, the Chinese in front of Milburn appeared to be in suitable position and formation to press and pursue his bridgehead forces.59

Before opening a left-to-right withdrawal, General Kean placed the 27th Infantry, reinforced by the division reconnaissance company and supported by a battery of the 8th Field Artillery Battalion, in a covering position three to five miles northwest of Seoul. One battalion sat astride the rail line and a secondary road near the Han three miles above the city to cover the withdrawal of the leftmost 24th Infantry. The other two battalions straddled Route 1 five miles above Seoul to protect the passage of the 35th Infantry and the British 29th Brigade. The reconnaissance company furnished contact between battalions and Colonel Michaelis' command post and with the IX Corps covering force.60

The 24th and 35th Regiments passed behind Michaelis' cover without enemy interference and by 0100 on the 4th were south of the Han en route to line C sectors. When the British 29th Brigade started back at 1845, the prospect


was that it, too, would escape engagement. But just before midnight a strong 39th Army force surrounded and attacked the brigade rear guard, composed of Company B and part of the heavy weapons company of the Royal Ulster Rifles plus a dozen tanks, and blocked its withdrawal.61

Neither Brigadier Brodie nor General Kean made any immediate attempt to rescue the trapped British troops. When General Ridgway learned that nothing had been done, he sent orders that every effort would be made to extricate them. But when all bridgehead unit commanders, including those of the IX Corps, met at Colonel Michaelis' command post around 0900 and considered sending a rescue force from the 27th Infantry, Brodie would not permit Michaelis to risk losing troops in an attempt to free the rear guard. Nor would Brodie himself attempt a rescue. The trapped troops, he said, would have to "knock it out for themselves." Some of the rear guard did "knock it out," but most, between two hundred fifty and three hundred men and at least ten tanks, were lost.62


Brodie's remaining forces meanwhile crossed the Han by 0330, and Colonel Michaelis started his own withdrawal. Michaelis first pulled his 1st Battalion to the northwestern edge of Seoul and set the rifle companies in blocking positions at the rail line and road near the Han, on Route 1, and on a secondary road just above Route 1. This closed the three principal entrances to the city in the I Corps sector. He next ordered his remaining battalions out of their Route 1 positions five miles above Seoul, instructing them and their supporting artillery to assemble below the Han. Two companies of Chinese attacked the 2d Battalion while Michaelis was arranging his withdrawal, but the 2d held off the assault while the 3d Battalion got onto Route 1, then successfully disengaged and followed the 3d into Seoul.63

About the time the two battalions entered the city, Kean instructed Michaelis to cover the withdrawal of the remaining IX Corps units and then to protect the engineers when it was time to take out the last Han bridge. On the heels of this assignment, the 1st Battalion's leftmost company at the rail line received a hard assault from three hundred to four hundred Chinese. They were from the 39th Army, which now alone was advancing on Seoul while the 50th Army turned south off Route 1 toward the Han northwest of the city. By 0700 lighter attacks hit the other two blocking companies. Good air support helped the left company retain its position while Michaelis halted the withdrawal of the 3d Battalion and put it on line between the rail line and Route 1. By 0900 the 3d Battalion, too, was under attack, but holding.64

The 2d Battalion meantime completed its move below the Han while the reconnaissance company deployed as a screen along the northern and northeastern edges of Seoul to protect the last steps of the IX Corps withdrawal. Michaelis now planned to keep his forces on the edge of the city until the British 27th Brigade got south of the Han. He would then send his own forces out except for one rifle company, which would deploy above the last bridge while the engineers removed it.65

Perhaps because the officer responsible for liaison between the I Corps main control point and the IX Corps covering forces was at the IX Corps bridge east of Seoul rather than with the British 27th Brigade, none of the officers at the control point nor Colonel Michaelis knew that the British unit had completed its passage over the shoofly bridge at 0900. When he finally became aware of that fact around 1100, Michaelis immediately broke contact and withdrew. By 1315 all of his forces, including the company that was to have deployed on the north bank of the Han, were below the river.66

General Palmer meanwhile permited engineer troops to demolish the shoofly bridge and authorized the I Corps engineer to begin removing the balk from the M4-M4A2 bridge. At Palmer's request, Michaelis sent Company K back to the north end of the brigade while the dismantling of the last bridge continued, but the company's stay was brief. After about a quarter of the deck-


ing had been removed, Palmer ordered the rest of the structure demolished; around 1400, after two charges, the bridge began to sink unspectacularly as the water that had been kept open around it began to freeze. The men of Company K, last to come out of Seoul, walked south over the ice immediately afterward.67

Within an hour of Company K's withdrawal, air observers sighted Chinese patrols inside Seoul. A reconnaissance patrol sent into the city a little later by the ROK 1st Division observed Chinese troops raising a North Korean flag over city hall in the heart of town. That flourish marked Seoul's third change of hands.68


1 Ltr, Ridgway to Collins, 8 Jan 51.

2 Rad, GX-1-48 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to C/S ROKA et al., 1 Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Briefing for CG, 1 Jan 51; Rad, AG IN 11626-B, CG X Corps to CG Eighth Army 2 Jan 51.

3 Eighth Army Admin O 32, 1 Jan 51; 3d Log Comd Comd Rpt, Jan 51.

4 Eighth Army G3 Jul, 1 Jan 51; I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; I Corps G3 Jul, Sum, 1 Jan 51; Courier Msg, CG I Corps to CG 25th Div et al., 011400 Jan 51; 25th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

5 Brigadier Thomas Brodie, the brigade commander, noted in his order of the day that this was the brigade's first appearance at the front since its arrival in Korea: "At last after weeks of frustration we have nothing between us and the Chinese. I have no intention that this Brigade Group will retire before the enemy unless ordered by higher authority in order to conform with general movement. If you meet him you are to knock hell out of him with everything you have got. You are only to give ground on my orders." Order of the Day, Brig Thomas Brodie, Commanding 29 Independent Infantry Brigade Group, 1 Jan 51, copy in I Corps G3 Jul, 1 Jan 51.

6 I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; I Corps G3 Jul, I Jan 51; 25th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

7 Courier Msg, CG I Corps to CG 25th Div et al., 011400 Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jul, Sum, 1 Jan 51; MS, Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Policies, p. 368.

8 Courier Msg, CG I Corps to CG 25th Div et al., 011400 Jan 51; Msg, CG I Corps to CG 29th Brit Brig and CG 1st ROK Inf Div, 011630 Jan 51; I Corps PORs 333 and 334, 1 Jan 51; 1 Corps G3 Jnl, 2 Jan 51.

9 I Corps PORs 335 and 336, 2 Jan 51; 1 Corps G3 Jnl 2 Jan 51.

10 IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; IX Corps Opn Plan 6, 29 Dec 50; Change 1 to IX Corps Opn Plan 6, 29 Dec 50; IX Corps Opn Dir 20, 1 Jan 51.

11 IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 1 Jan 51; IX Corps POR 294, 1 Jan 51; 24th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

12 IX Corps G3 Msg File, Jan 51; 24th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

13 IX Corps G3 Jnl, 1 Jan 51.

14 IX Corps G3 Msg File, Jan 51; Eighth Army PIR 174, 2 Jan 51.

15 IX Corps G3 Msg File, Jan 51.

16 Ibid.

17 Eighth Army G3 Jul, Sum, 2 Jan 51; 1st Cav Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

18 IX Corps G3 Msg File, Jan 51; IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; IX Corps POR 295, 1 Jan 51; 24th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

19 Eighth Army PIR 174, 2 Jan 51.

20 Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 2 Jan 51.

21 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

22 Ibid.; Rad, GX-1-3 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CGs I, IX, and X Corps, 31 Dec 50; Rad, GX-1-82 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG I Corps and CG 187th Abn RCT, 1 Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-101 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG IX Corps and CG 187th Abn RCT, 2 Jan 51; Eighth Army POR 520, 1 Jan 51; Rad, GX-1-138 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG 3d Inf Div, 2 Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 2 Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Briefing for CG, 3 Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 3 Jan 51; I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

23 Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 2 Jan 51; Eighth Army PORs 521, 522, and 523, 2 Jan 51.

24 Ibid.; X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

25 Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 2 Jan 51; Eighth Army PORs 521, 522, and 523, 2 Jan 51.

26 Ibid.; Eighth Army Opn O 109, 2 Jan 51.

27 Eighth Army G3 SS Rpt, Jan 51.

28 Ibid.

29 Eighth Army Opn O 109, 2 Jan 51; Ltr, Ridgway to Collins, 8 Jan 51.

30 I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 1 Corps POR 338, 3 Jan 51.

31 I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; I Corps POR 339, 3 Jan 51.

32 IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; IX Corps POR 300, 3 Jan 51; 24th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

33 MS, Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Policies, p. 373; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; I Corps G3 Jnl, 4 Jan 51. General Ridgway estimated Eighth Army troops north of the Han to have numbered a hundred thousand, but the records do not support this high figure.

34 MS, Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Policies, p. 373; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; I Corps G3 Jnl, 4 Jan 51.

35 Eighth Army G2 SS Rpt, Jan 51; X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

36 Ibid.; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

37 X Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 3 Jan 51.

38 Ibid.

39 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army G3 Jul, Sum, 3 Jan 51; MS, Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Policies, p. 373.

40 Eighth Army G3 Jnl, 3 Jan 51; MS, Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Policies, p. 373.

41 MS, Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Policies, p. 373; Rad, GX 10026 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG X Corps, 3 Jan 51; Rad, GX 10027 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CG I Corps, 3 Jan 51.

42 Rad, GX-1-236 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to C/S ROKA et al., 3 Jan 51.

43 Ibid.; Rad, GX-1-207 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to C/S ROKA et al., 3 Jan 51.

44 Ltr, CG Eighth Army to CG I Corps et al., 2 Jan 51, sub: Demolition Policy in South Korea. Ridgway also sent a copy of this letter to the Fifth Air Force.

45 I Corps Opn Dir 34, 1 Jan 51; IX Corps Opn Plan 7, 1 Jan 51; I Corps Memo, DCofS to CofS, 9 Jan 51, sub: Corps Control Activities, 2-4 January 1951, with Incls, in I Corps G3 Jnl, 4 Jan 51.

46 I Corps Opn Dir 34, 1 Jan 51; I Corps POR 339, 3 Jan 51; 25th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

47 IX Corps Opn Plan 7, 1 Jan 51; 24th Div 0184, 2 Jan 51; I Corps Memo, DCofS for CofS, 9 Jan 51, sub: Corps Control Activities, 2-4 Jan 51, Incl 5.

48 Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; MS, Ridgway, The Korean War, Issues and Policies, pp. 374-75; General Charles D. Palmer, MS review comments, 1985.

49 I Corps Memo, DCofS to CofS, 9 Jan 51, sub: Corps Control Activities, 2-4 Jan 51 Incl 3.

50 The U.N. Commission (UNCURK) had come to Korea the past fall when a UNC victory had seemed near.

51 I Corps Memo, DCofS to CofS, 9 Jan 51, sub: Corps Control Activities, 2-4 Jan 51; ibid., Incl 3.

52 Ibid.

53 Ambassador Muccio's assistant and a few other American officials were still at the U.S. Consulate building at 0800 on 4 January. They were evacuated within the next hour.

54 I Corps Memo, DCofS to CofS, 9 Jan 51, sub: Corps Control Activities, 2-4 Jan 51; ibid., Incl 3; Gen Palmer, MS review comments, 1985.

55 Ibid.; Eighth Army Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

56 IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; IX Corps POR 300, 3 Jan 51; 24th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

57 IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; IX Corps PORs 300 and 301, 3 Jan 51; 24th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; I Corps Memo, DCofS to CofS, 9 Jan 51, sub: Corps Control Activities, 2-4 Jan 51, Ind 5.

58 IX Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; IX Corps POR 301, 3 Jan 51, and PORs 302 and 303, 4 Jan 51; 1st Cav Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 24th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

59 Rad, CG I Corps to CG 25th Div et al., 031700 Jan 51 (confirms oral orders); I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

60 I Corps POR 340, 3 Jan 51; 25th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 27th Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 27th Inf Opn O 3, 2 Jan 51, and Opn O 4, 3 Jan 51.

61 I Corps POR 340, 3 Jan 51; 25th Div Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Brig. Gen. C. B. Barth, "Tropic Lightning and Taro Leaf in Korea," p. 52, copy in CMH, Eighth Army G3 Jul, 4 Jan 51.

62 Interv, Mossman, Carroll, and Miller with Ridgway, 30 Nov 56; 1 Corps Memo, DCofS to CofS, 9 Jan 51, sub: Corps Control Activities, 2-4. Jan 51, Ind 4; Barth, "Tropic Lightning and Taro Leaf," p. 52; Eighth Army G3 Jul, 4 Jan 51.

63 27th Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 27th Inf Opn O 4, 3 Jan 51; I Corps Memo, DCofS to CofS, 9 Jan 51, sub: Corps Control Activities, 2-4 Jan 51, Incl 4.

64 27th Inf Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; 27th Inf Opn O 5, 4 Jan 51; 1 Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

67 Ibid.; Mono, "Dismantling and Destruction of Han River Bridges at Seoul, 1-4 January 1951," copy in CMH.

68 I Corps Comd Rpt, Nar, Jan 51; Eighth Army PIR 176, 4 Jan 51.

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