The Battle of the Changjin Reservoir

General Walker's 27 and 28 November reports of the Chinese attacks on the Eighth Army and General Almond's messages that the X Corps, too, had been attacked swept away General MacArthur's previous certainty that the Chinese would not intervene in strength. "We face an entirely new war," MacArthur notified the joint Chiefs of Staff on the morning of the 28th. His "strategic plan for the immediate future" was to pass to the defensive.1

To develop defensive moves, he summoned both Walker and Almond to a meeting in Tokyo on the night of the 28th. Listening first to Walker's appraisal of the threat to the Eighth Army, he turned to Almond for a report of developments during and following the X Corps' advance toward Mup'yong-ni the day before.2

X Corps Dispositions, 26 November

On the eve of Almond's Mup'yong-ni attack, the 3d Infantry Division with the 1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment attached was protecting port facilities,
airfields, and supply routes in the Wonsan-Hungnam area. A primary task of the division commander, Maj. Gen. Robert H. Soule, was to block three roads reaching the coastal region from the Taebaek Mountains to the west, where North Korean guerrillas estimated as high as 25,000 were concentrated. One battalion of the 15th Infantry deployed thirty miles inland from Wonsan blocked the lateral P'yongyang-Wonsan road. (Map 5) Some thirty miles north, troops of the 65th Infantry blocked a road from Tokch'on that reached the coastal area midway between Wonsan and Hungnam; another thirty miles north, a battalion of the 7th Infantry at Sach'ang-ni cut a lateral road permitting access to the Hamhung-Hungnam complex.3

In the ROK I Corps zone far to the northeast of Hungnam, Brig. Gen. Song Hyo Chan had taken his Capital


Map 5. The X Corps Zone, 26 November 1950


Division five miles beyond Ch'ongjin, the industrial center and port sixty-five miles below the USSR border. Having met only desultory resistance from the North Korean IV Corps, General Song intended next to veer inland to Hoeryong, reported to be a mobilization center for new North Korean units, on the Manchurian border forty-five miles due north.

Brig. Gen. Choi Suk had sent the two forward regiments of his 3d Division out of Hapsu at right angles to each other. Against light, sporadic North Korean resistance, the 23d Regiment had moved six miles north of Hapsu toward the border town of Musan, and the 22d Regiment had traveled fifteen miles west toward
Hyesanjin. General Choi's 26th Regiment was in Tanch'on, near the coast due south of Hapsu, en route to the 7th Division zone as a substitute for forces of the 7th being shifted to the Changjin Reservoir area to accommodate the 1st Marine Division's advance on Mup'yong-ni.

In the 7th Division's zone, the 17th Infantry occupied Hyesanjin on the Yalu and the area ten miles southwest. The bulk of the 32d Infantry held the Kapsan-Samsu region below the 17th. Division commander Maj. Gen. David G. Barr was in the process of moving a combat team (the bulk of the 31st Infantry; the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry; all but one battery of the 57th Field Artillery Battalion; and Battery D, 15th


Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion) into his newly added zone at the Changjin Reservoir. The 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. Don C. Faith, Jr., already had reached the east side of the reservoir. With Colonel Faith's battalion was a Marine Corps tactical air control party commanded by Capt. Edward P. Stamford. Col. Allan D. MacLean, commander of the 31st Infantry and now commanding the combat team, was still moving the bulk of his regiment and the artillery units south from various locations along the Pukch'ong-Hyesanjin road en route via Hamhung to the new zone.4

The lower half of the long supply road between Hungnam and the Changjin Reservoir and a stretch of narrow-gage railway lay in the area assigned to the 3d Division. The northern half of the road and the region beyond rested in the zone of the 1st Marine Division. The 1st Marine Regiment, commanded by Col. Lewis B. Puller, held three key points along the supply road. Farthest south, the 1st Battalion occupied Chinhung-ni, Marine railhead and starting point


of the road's twisting ten-mile climb through Funchilin Pass to Kot'o-ri, where Colonel Puller had established regimental headquarters. The 2d Battalion manned a perimeter around Kot'o-ri and a small airstrip above the village. The 3d Battalion, less Company G still to the south awaiting transportation, was in Hagaru-ri, eleven miles north of Kot'o-ri at the lower end of the reservoir. The battalion and a variety of service and headquarters troops were developing a defense of the division command post, supply dumps, hospital facilities, and airstrip in the Hagaru-ri area.

North of Hagaru-ri, the 5th and 7th Marines had extended the division's holdings up both sides of the reservoir. The bulk of the 7th Marines, commanded by Col. Homer L. Litzenberg, Jr., held Yudam-ni, fourteen miles to the northwest, and the 5th Marines, under Lt. Col. Raymond L. Murray, had gone ten miles north over a road following the east bank of the reservoir. Orders for the Mup'yong-ni attack had halted the 5th at this point. Considering Colonel Murray's regiment fresher than the 7th, division commander Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith had designated the 5th to open the advance to the west. Murray's forces consequently had begun to shift west to Yudam-ni, the starting point of the attack. The 2d Battalion was in Yudamni, having left the area east of the reservoir upon the arrival of the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry. The remainder of Murray's regiment remained in place awaiting relief by the balance of Colonel MacLean's combat team.

The Advance Toward Mup'yong-ni

Near the southwest corner of the Changjin Reservoir, roads from the west, north, and southeast met just outside Yudam-ni. Because enemy forces had not defended this rare road junction, the Marine division G2, Col. Bankson T. Holcomb, Jr., believed the 5th Marines would encounter only weak opposition when they started toward Mup'yong-ni. The absence of enemy patrolling and the failure of ground and aerial reconnaissance to reveal any large enemy concentrations nearby supported his judgment. Contradicting it were reports from civilians of sizable enemy concentrations around Yudam-ni, but these reports were considered misinterpretations of North Korean Army remnants moving away from and around the Yudam-ni area.

The X Corps G2, Col. James H. Polk, expected the enemy to resist the attack, especially when the Eighth Army and the marines closed on Huich'on and Mup'yong-ni. But Polk's estimate of initial opposition was optimistic. Besides remnants of the North Korean 2d and 5th Divisions withdrawing northward off to the west of Yudam-ni, Polk believed just two Chinese divisions, the 89th and 124th, were anywhere near the town. The 126th Division as well as the 124th, both of the 42d Army, previously had been identified in the reservoir area. But the 126th had sideslipped southwestward at least as far as Sach'ang-ni, as evidenced by a 23 November skirmish between troops of the 126th and the ROK 26th Regiment, then holding the town.


Polk was not sure where the 124th was located but believed that the division likely had moved into defenses north of the reservoir. The 89th Division, whose army affiliation Polk had not yet determined, had briefly opposed the marines at Hagaru-ri on 23 November. He no longer knew the location of the 89th but considered the division a probable opponent in the Mup'yongni venture. While allowing that the 124th and 89th Divisions could be reinforced, Polk proposed withdrawal, delaying action, and limited attacks as the extent of enemy capabilities. He offered no order of probability, but he, as well as Colonel Holcomb of the Marine division, seemed to consider an enemy withdrawal to be the most likely event.

General Smith, on the other hand, believed his marines would meet Chinese in strength west of Yudam-ni, a belief that had prompted his decision to pass the fresher 5th Regiment through the 7th in the opening attack. Smith's more cautious attitude had been apparent for some time. He had not shared the mid-November optimism for an early UNC victory, and from the start of his division's advance toward the Changjin Reservoir he had doubted the wisdom of stringing forces over a long, poor, and unprotected mountain road.

Supporting Smith's judgment of probable resistance, three Chinese captured by the 7th Marines on the 26th asserted that the 58th, 59th, and 60th Divisions of the 20th Army were in the Yudam-ni area and would move south and southeast from Yudam-ni to cut the marines' supply road. This information, however, had no effect on plans for the Mup'yong-ni attack. Neither did incoming reports of strong attacks against the Eighth Army.

Smith ordered the 5th Marines to strike first for the village of Yongnim-dong, twenty-seven miles west of Yudam-ni, where the Marines' route of advance joined a road leading southwest along the upper reaches of the Ch'ongch'on River to Huich'on. The 7th Marines, when passed through, were to protect the division supply road between Yudam-ni and Sinhung-ni, a village located in the Toktong Pass midway between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. Smith appointed the 1st Marines, in and below Hagaru-ri, as division reserve. His reconnaissance company, then pulling west flank security duty off the left rear of the division, was to reconnoiter north of Yudam-ni; the 41st Independent Commando, Royal Marines, only recently attached to the division, was to come forward from Hungnam to protect the marines' left flank by reconnoitering southwest of Yudam-ni.6

In planning the advance, Smith had assumed the full relief of the 5th Marines east of the reservoir by noon of the 26th. He apparently expected the entire 7th Division combat team to arrive by that hour; but General Barr had called for the relief of the marines by a minimum of one infantry battalion, an


order satisfied by the arrival of the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry. In any event, the remainder of Colonel MacLean's forces did not reach the new zone by noon on the 26th, nor by 0800 on the 27th, the scheduled hour of the Marine advance. The full 5th Marines consequently did not reach Yudam-ni on the 26th, and the plan of attack had to be changed. Since Colonel Murray was with his forces east of the reservoir, Colonel Litzenberg, commanding the 7th Marines, took charge of the opening effort.

Forces available to Litzenberg included the bulk of the 7th Marines and the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines. The 7th held a perimeter rimming the valley in which Yudam-ni was located. The 1st Battalion and two companies of the 2d occupied high ground north of town and the terminal heights of two ridges to the south and southeast overlooking the road to Hagaru-ri. The 3d Battalion held the terminal hills of a ridge to the southwest. Between the latter and an unoccupied ridge to the northwest ran the road to Mup'yongni. The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, was to attack over this road from an assembly at the edge of Yudam-ni.

Litzenberg instructed the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, to seize a pass ten miles to the west in its opening attack. The 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, was to make parallel advances along the ridges on either side of the road, and Litzenberg's 1st Battalion was to assume the flank security roles originally assigned to the reconnaissance company and the 41st Commando, neither of which had reached Yudam-ni.

After an uncomfortable night when the temperature dropped to zero degrees, Fahrenheit, and a wind off the frozen reservoir intensified the cold, the marines had their attack under way by 0815 on the 27th. (Map 6) On the ridge northwest of the axis road, Company H, 7th Marines, met no opposition and seized the terminal height, Hill 1403, by midmorning. Below the road, Company G, 7th Marines, moved unopposed down the southwest ridge and within thirty minutes occupied the next commanding height, Hill 1426. In the middle, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, moved over the road in a column of companies, meeting nothing in the first three-quarters of a mile except several undefended obstacles across the road.

The easy march ended there. The forces both on the road and on the southwest ridge came under fire about the time the pilot of an observer plane overhead reported Chinese across the entire Marine front. Help from the ground and air supporting arms allowed the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, to move only another quarter mile before intense enemy fire forced the battalion to discontinue. A similar additional gain was all Company G, 7th Marines, could manage on the southwest ridge. All told, the day's advance netted a mile.

The IX Army Group Attacks

The 124th Division, contrary to X Corps and Marine estimates, was not in the reservoir area. It had moved southwest into the Eighth Army sector with its parent army, the 42d. But the 89th Division was present, and the Chinese captured on the 26th had truthfully identified the 58th, 59th, and 60th Divi-


Map 6. 5th and 7th Marines at Yudam-ni, 27 November 1950


sions. These four divisions constituted the 20th Army.7

Sung Shih-lun, the IX Army Group commander, launched the 20th and 27th Armies in attacks on the night of the 27th. From the north, the 27th Army moved south on the west side of the reservoir against Yudam-ni and down the eastern side to seize Hagaru-ri. The 20th struck Yudam-ni from the west and made ever-deepening southeastward swings at the Marine positions and supply road below Yudam-ni.

Nieh Feng-chin, commander of the 27th Army, sent his 79th Division toward Yudamni and his 80th Division to seize Hagaru-ri. The 80th first had to eliminate Colonel MacLean's combat team, most of which had gone into position north of Hagaru-ri by dark on the 27th. (Map 7) The 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, sat astride the road ten miles north of Hagaru-ri. Four miles south, the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, and the 57th Field Artillery Battalion held positions where the road made a hairpin turn around a narrow finger of the reservoir at the mouth of the P'ungnyuri River. MacLean's command post and tank company were in Hudong-ni, a village another four miles south. The 2d Battalion, 31st Infantry, was still en route. By orders from X Corps headquarters, which controlled all movement of convoys over the reservoir road, the battalion for the time being was halted at Hamhung.

Liu Fei, the 20th Army commander, committed all four of his divisions to the southeastward attack. At Yudam-ni, all but one regiment of the 89th Division moved after dark on the 27th toward the marines on the ridge northwest of the road to Mup'yong-ni. The 59th Division started a shallow swing below Yudam-ni to cut the fourteen-mile stretch of road between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. Below the 59th, the 58th Division swung wider to attack Hagaru-ri and cut the road immediately below the town. The 60th Division took a still deeper route through the mountains toward Kot'o-ri; and, in the deepest move, the remaining regiment of the 89th Division started over a mountain track leading south from Yudam-ni to Sach'ang-ni in the sector of the 3d Division.


Colonel Murray had moved the remainder of the 5th Marines to Yudam-ni on the 27th as more of Colonel MacLean's combat team reached the eastern side of the reservoir. Murray's 1st and 3d Battalions assembled in the valley, creating a substantial reserve for the ten companies holding the heights north, northwest, southwest, and south of town. This reserve, a fairly tight infantry line, and the support of fortyeight artillery pieces and two regimental 4.2-inch mortar companies gave the marines a reasonably good defense. More precariously situated were Companies C and F of the 7th Marines, which had outposted the supply road


Map 7. The 31st RCT East of the Reservoir, 27 November 1950


from Hagaru-ri. Each company held an isolated perimeter, Company C on a spur five miles southeast of Yudam-ni, Company F at Toktong Pass two miles farther southeast.

At 2100, assault troops of the 89th Division reached the three Marine companies defending the northwest ridge at Yudam-ni. (Map 8) Small enemy groups jabbed lightly at the Marine line for a half hour; grenades and mortar and machine gun fire came next; then bugle calls and whistle blasts; and finally a sharp attack on a narrow front at the boundary between Companies F and E, 5th Marines, the left and center companies. The Chinese quickly penetrated but then found themselves hemmed in by Marine fire from the shoulders of the salient they had created. Losing heavily, they called off their attack around midnight. Another force meanwhile assaulted Company H, 7th Marines, the rightmost company, on Hill 1403. The Chinese knocked the right flank platoon out of position within minutes but delayed further attempts to advance when Marine artillery and mortar fire came down on them.

Refilling their forward ranks, the Chinese renewed their attack at 0300, striking all three Marine companies. They went nowhere against the left and center companies but by dawn forced Company H, 7th Marines, off Hill 1403. This gain offered the Chinese an opportunity to sweep behind and isolate the other two companies. Hence, though the Chinese attacks dwindled after daylight, the marines were obliged to give up the northwest ridge.

In company with the 89th's attack, the 79th Division moved south through the mountains confining the reservoir on the west. The division commander committed all three regiments, directing them first to occupy the high ground immediately above Yudam-ni.

Four heights dominated the 79th's initial objective, Hill 1167 next to the reservoir and Hills 1240, 1282, and 1384 stair-stepped to the west. Companies D and E, 7th Marines, occupied the central hills, 1240 and 1282. A platoon from Company 1, 5th Marines, and an attached platoon of South Korean police held a spur below 1384. The 237th Regiment moved against Hill 1384 on the west, the 235th toward Hill 1240 in the center, and the 236th toward Hill 1167 nearest the reservoir. But the 235th and 236th veered too far west and climbed toward Hills 1282 and 1240, respectively, losing an opportunity to flank or envelop the Marine defenses via unoccupied Hill 1167.

Finding 1384 unoccupied, the commander of the 237th sent a company down the spur to the south. The company pushed the two platoons off the spur, and its fire forced the headquarters and service company of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, away from a position around the battalion command post in a draw below the spur. Apparently unaware that they had exposed the command post, the Chinese attempted no further gains. This hiatus gave Company G, 5th Marines, of the reserve time to organize and launch a counterattack which by daylight regained the spur.

To the east, repeated frontal assaults between midnight of the 27th and late morning on the 28th failed to win Hill 1282 but carried the Chinese to the top of Hill 1240. High losses so crippled


Map 8. Battle of the Changjin Reservoir, 27-29 November 1950


the Marine units that reinforcement or replacement was essential if the 79th Division was to be held out of Yudam-ni.

The 59th Division meanwhile completed its short sweep to the southeast, slicing across the supply road between Yudam-ni and the two Marine companies outposting the road and through the two-mile gap between companies as well. Once across the road, the Chinese surrounded and assaulted both Marine positions but failed to penetrate and backed off at dawn. The marines, still hemmed in and too burdened with casualties to attempt to fight their way out of encirclement, could only tighten their perimeters and await rescue.

Colonels Litzenberg and Murray dispatched a rescue force after daylight on the 28th and meanwhile realigned their units at Yudamni. The realignment, interrupted only by harassing enemy fire, was complete by late evening. The 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, anchored the new line at Hill 1426 on the southwest ridge. The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, took position on the same ridge, facing northwest. The 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, carried the line northward across the Yudam-ni valley and eastward into the northern heights to and including Hill 1282. Company B, 5th Marines, took over the defense of Hill 1240 while the remainder of the 1st Battalion went into reserve.

Efforts to rescue the two isolated companies came from both ends of the fourteen-mile stretch of road. From Hagaru-ri, a company reinforced by three tanks moved toward Company F at Toktong Pass while the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, struck south out of Yudam-ni toward Company C. The Hagaru-ri troops made only half the distance to Toktong Pass before small arms and mortar fire from Chinese on both sides of the road forced their withdrawal. At the other end of the road segment, stiff opposition on both sides of the road so slowed the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, that dark had fallen by the time it reached Company C. Lest the battalion be trapped in the darkness, Colonel Litzenberg ordered it back to Yudam-ni. Hence, only Company C was retrieved. Company F's rescue now rested on an order issued by General Smith late on the 28th that the entire 7th Regiment attack south from Yudam-ni to clear the road to Hagaru-ri.

East of the Reservoir

On the IX Army Group's east flank the leading forces of the 80th Division moved south toward Hagaru-ri shortly after dark on the 27th. Liu Yung, the division commander, sent some troops over the road along the east bank of the reservoir, the bulk through high ground farther east. The Chinese following the road were to attack the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, frontally while the others came westward off the high ground against that battalion and against the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, four miles farther south. Those moving deeper also were to separate and isolate Colonel MacLean's forces by establishing roadblocks above and below the 3d Battalion.

Having heard from the marines that three new Chinese divisions were in the reservoir area, Colonel Faith had placed his 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, in a tight defense. At Faith's left, Company A faced north. On the right, Companies C and B held a line curving south to face the high ground to the east. As


Liu's forces approached, however, Faith was occupied with plans for starting the battalion north toward the border at dawn next day. Colonel MacLean's order for the advance had reached Faith around 2100, and at 2200 he had assembled his company commanders at the battalion command post for instructions.

Chinese patrols brushed the battalion line while Faith was briefing his officers. As company commanders scrambled back to their units, an attack hit Company A from the north while another from the high ground to the east struck at the boundary between Companies B and C. In assaults that lasted the night, the Chinese dented each company position, seized a knob of ground at the boundary between B and C, and managed to move around Company A and force the company mortars out of position. Yet when the Chinese lifted their attacks at dawn, Faith's position was reasonably sound. Through the day Faith reclaimed all ground lost except the knob on the east, which the Chinese, though struck by several combinations of air and ground attacks, refused to yield. Faith's casualties through the night and day approached sixty.

At the lower perimeter, the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, and 57th Field Artillery Battalion came under attack near the same hour as Faith's forces. Companies I and K nearest the high groud to the east received the first assaults and were pressed southwest toward the artillery. Those wounded in the close fighting included the commanders of both the 3d Battalion and the artillery battalion. The Chinese next forced the men of Battery A away from their howitzers; but after combinging forces around the guns of Battery B, the infantrymen and artillerymen finally halted the Chinese and turned back further assaults until the Chinese withdrew at dawn. Afterward, the 3d Battalion and the artillery, harassed only by mortar fire, moved into a tight perimeter near the lower bank of the ice-covered finger of the reservoir.

Early in the afternoon of the 28th, General Almond flew by helicopter to Colonel Faith's position. He awarded Faith and two other men the Silver Star and just before leaving appraised the Chinese encountered as only remnants fleeing north and announced that the X Corps attack would continue. But his words apparently were an attempt to raise morale, not a true appraisal of the enemy. On the previous day he had visited Yudam-ni, where Marine commanders informed him that they had encountered strong Chinese forces at three points of the compass. On the 28th, before flying to Faith's position, he had stopped at Hagaru-ri where General Smith brought him up to date on the Marine division's situation, and he had visited Colonel MacLean's command post where the combat team leader briefed him on conditions east of the reservoir. Almond must have been aware that the strong attacks on the marines and MacLean's men represented a southerly surge of fresh Chinese forces.

When he stopped at Hagaru-ri on his return flight to transfer from his helicopter to an L17 aircraft, Almond may have learned from the marines that a Chinese division was marshaling in the high ground southwest and south of Hagaru-ri. As the L-17 carried him south to his Hamhung headquarters, he may have seen, as had other aerial observers, that Chinese had blocked the road between Hagaru-ri and Kot'o-ri. The 1st Marine Division indeed had become a group of isolated garrisons.


MacLean's combat team was in the same condition. At 1000 on the 28th Brig. Gen. Henry I. Hodes, the assistant commander of the 7th Division who had posted himself in Hagaru-ri, led the 31st Infantry's tank company, an antitank platoon, a platoon of engineers, and members of regimental headquarters north from Hudong-ni. The small armored force encountered a strong roadblock about a mile above the village and lost two tanks in an unsuccessful effort to reduce it.

Later in the day Colonel MacLean, who earlier had gone by jeep to Colonel Faith's position, discovered when he attempted to return south that the Chinese had set another roadblock between Faith's battalion and the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry. Unable to proceed, MacLean returned to Faith's command post and radioed a message to the 1st Marine Division for relay to X Corps headquarters requesting that the 2d Battalion, 31st Infantry, be sent immediately to clear the road above Hagaru-ri. Corps apparently missed the urgency of MacLean's request, perhaps because that headquarters already had dispatched Company B of the regiment up the reservoir road to join the combat team. Corps orders to the 2d Battalion, in any event, called for the long move from Hamhung not to begin until the following day. Meanwhile, MacLean's forward battalions remained cut off from Hagaru-ri and from each other.

The Attacks Widen

Fox Hill

A two-inch snowfall hampered operations during the night of the 28th. The 89th and 79th Divisions did not contest the marines at Yudam-ni during the night or during the day of the 29th. But forces of the 59th Division renewed their night assaults on Company F in Toktong Pass. The Marine company held its ground, now called Fox Hill, but casualties grew to more than a hundred.

In considering General Smith's call for an attack by the 7th Marines to reopen the road to Hagaru-ri, Colonels Litzenberg and Murray felt that both the 5th and 7th Marines were needed at Yudam-ni and therefore substituted a composite battalion built from reserve units for the rescue mission. The makeshift battalion started south at 0800 on the 29th but moved no more than three miles before Chinese in the bordering heights opened fire and began an encircling move. When this maneuver was spotted from the air, Litzenberg ordered the composite unit back to Yudam-ni. The road remained closed as a result, and the thinnedout company on Fox Hill faced another night of isolation.

Task Force Faith

East of the reservoir, the 80th Division resumed its assaults on Colonel MacLean's forces, first against the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, then against Colonel Faith's battalion. For twelve hours beginning around 1800 on the 28th, Chinese jabbed the lower perimeter but made no lasting penetra-


tions. High casualties in Companies K and L, however, forced the two units to combine.

To the north, the Chinese first struck the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, from the knob of high ground on the east, then opened frontal assaults against each of the rifle companies. Company B on the right lost some ground but regained it. Elsewhere, the battalion's heavy defensive fire beat back repeated Chinese rushes. By 0300 on the 29th, however, Faith's forces had used most of their ammunition. MacLean hence ordered Faith to move south and join the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry. Faith was to take cargo off battalion trucks to make room for the hundred wounded he now had.

As Faith's forces gained respite from assault, but not fire, they fell back to assemble on the road. The Chinese did not pursue but increased their fire as the battalion broke contact. Starting south at 0430 with a company stumbling in the darkness over snow-covered high ground on either side as flank security for the troops and trucks on the road, the battalion covered threequarters of the way without opposition. At daylight, as the leading forces entered the upper half of the road segment bending around the frozen finger of the reservoir, they took fire from Chinese located at the tight turn of the road near the P'ungnyuri River crossing. This was the roadblock MacLean had encountered the previous afternoon. Faith halted the column directly across the narrow expanse of ice from the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, ordered machine guns and a recoilless rifle into position to return the fire, and dispatched the bulk of two companies through the high ground to the north to flank the Chinese.

While waiting for the maneuvering force to destroy the roadblock, Faith's troops on the road received fire from across the reservoir finger. MacLean, convinced that the fire was coming from his own forces, immediately started over the ice to stop the shooting. He was mistaken. Hit at least four times as he crossed, he walked into the hands of the Chinese who had crept in along the bank of the far shore, apparently in preparation for an attack on the lower perimeter. Once Colonel Faith realized what had happened, he formed a skirmish line and led it across the ice. Faith's men killed at least sixty Chinese and drove off others, but a thorough search of the area uncovered no trace of Colonel MacLean.

Faith's flanking force meanwhile closed in on the Chinese blocking the road and scattered them into the hills to the east. Faith's motor column thus was able to proceed, and the last of Faith's men reached the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, by 1230.

While Faith fought through to the lower perimeter, the bulk of the 31st Tank Company and a composite company of riflemen again attempted to reach it from Hudong-ni. As on the previous day, the northward move was stopped, this time by two battalions of Chinese. A stronger effort clearly was required to break through to the isolated force. Now the senior able-bodied officer present, Colonel Faith assumed command of the two infantry battalions and the artillery, designating the consolidated units Task Force Faith. Air-dropped rations and ammunition (but only forty rounds of artillery am-


munition) reached the task force during the afternoon, and Marine aircraft orbited its position constantly, striking Chinese forces in the surrounding high ground with napalm, rockets, and machine gun fire. But while fresh supplies and good air support helped, Faith now pinned his hopes of avoiding defeat on the arrival of the 2d Battalion, 31st Infantry. He apparently was not aware that the 2d Battalion was held up for lack of transportation at Majon-dong, more than thirty miles to the south, he had not realized the extent of the Chinese roadblocks between him and the relief unit, nor had he learned that the Chinese attacks had spread during the previous night to Hagaru-ri.


By evening on the 28th the bulk of the 58th Division was concentrated about five miles southwest of Hagaru-ri. The remainder had crossed the supply road to the south where some troops blocked the route while others turned north and assembled in the heights east of Hagaru-ri.

Lt. Col. Thomas L. Ridge, commander of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, and officer in charge of the defense of Hagaru-ri, was well informed of the location, size, and intent of the 58th, though not of its numerical identity. His S-2, 2d Lt. Richard E. Carey, had had phenomenal success over the past two days with two Korean agents. By interrogating civilians coming into Hagaru-ri from the countryside, the agents learned of the approach of the Chinese. By making a circuit of the high ground around Hagaru-ri, they next determined the enemy's location and approximate size, and while mingling among Chinese troops they heard boasts that the division would occupy Hagaru-ri on the night of the 28th. The roadblock to the south was discovered during the afternoon of the 28th by a platoon of infantry and three tanks who were turned back by enemy fire when they attempted to patrol the road to Kot'o-ri.

Figuring the time it would take the Chinese to reach Hagaru-ri after dark, Carey predicted that the first assault would come around 2130. On this and Carey's other findings Colonel Ridge based his plan of defense. Using his own battalion, which was still short Company G, and a hodgepodge of other Marine and Army units, he fashioned a four-mile perimeter around the Changjin River flats in which Hagaru-ri was located.

To the south and southwest, the most likely area of enemy attack and the site of airstrip construction, Ridge put his 3d Battalion on the lower reverse slopes of the high ground in which the major Chinese strength was located. He faced the remaining troops of the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, and a mixture of Marine artillery, service, and headquarters troops northwest toward Yudam-ni and north toward the reservoir. Ridge considered East Hill, the marines' name for the first mass rising in that direction from Hagaru-ri, to be the second most likely point of enemy attack. He intended that Company G, once it arrived, would hold the hill. In the meantime, he manned it with Marine service units, Company D of the 10th Engineer Battalion (an Army unit), and detachments from X Corps headquarters and signal units.

Liao Chen-chou, commander of the 58th Division, took longer than predicted to reach the marines. Amid fall-


ing snow, his 172d Regiment attacked on a half-mile front against the center of the 3d Battalion's line just after 2230. Staggered by high losses to the marines' carefully prepared defensive fire, the Chinese managed only small penetrations, and those who broke through were too disorganized to do much damage. By 0400 the regiment was beaten, and the marines quickly eliminated the Chinese lingering in rear of their positions. Incongruous with the fighting taking place only a short distance to the southwest was the engineers' continuing work on the airstrip, part of the time under floodlights.

Liao had better luck with his secondary effort, driving off the defenders of East Hill in a sharp attack at 0130. Company D, 10th Engineers, took the brunt of the blow. Of the 77 Americans in the company, 10 were killed, 25 wounded, and 9 missing. Among 90 South Koreans attached to the company, about 50 were casualties, mostly missing. The Chinese, however, either had no plans or were too weak to exploit their success and halted their attack after capturing the height.

By 0630 on the 29th Colonel Ridge's forces on the southwestern arc of the perimeter had restored the line everywhere it had been punctured during the night. Maj. Reginald R. Myers, Ridge's executive officer, meanwhile assembled a composite company of Marine and Army service troops and tried to retake East Hill. But inexperience, a slippery and exhausting climb, and Chinese fire stopped the group short. At dusk Major Myers set up defenses on the near military crest of the hill.
Considering enemy control of East Hill to be a grave threat to Hagaru-ri, Ridge intended to replace Myers' makeshift unit with Company G as soon as possible. The company, Ridge knew, had started north from Kot'o-ri that morning in convoy with the British 41st Commando, an Army infantry company, and assorted other troops. But word also had reached Hagaru-ri that the convoy had come under fire and that its commander had requested a decision from General Smith on whether to continue.

Task Force Drysdale

Encounters with Chinese near Kot'o-ri and at Sach'ang-ni on the 28th heralded the arrival of the 60th Division and the regiment of the 89th Division in their objectives areas. At Sach'ang-ni, prisoners taken by the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, during a small skirmish first identified the 89th, and strong night assaults not broken up until after daybreak on the 29th indicated the size of the force. Reinforcements and new supplies were rushed to the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, lest this enemy regiment gain access to Hamhung over the road protected only by the Sach'ang-ni position.

The presence of the 60th Division was discovered by Company D, 1st Marines, and division headquarters personnel who patrolled north from Kot'o-ri during the afternoon of the 28th. The patrol engaged Chinese about a mile above town in the ground bordering the road. The marines fought all afternoon without breaking through but returned to Kot'o-ri with three prisoners from the 179th Regiment, 60th Division.

This encounter, the experience of the patrol from Hagaru-ri the same afternoon, and air observer reports indi-


cated that Chinese positions along the reservoir road extended, with gaps, south from the outskirts of Hagaru-ri to within a mile of Kot'o-ri. At least parts of two Chinese divisions, the 58th and 60th, held the heights on both sides of the road, with their strongest positions on the eastern edge. Any force moving north from Kot'o-ri would run a ten-mile gauntlet.

By evening of the 28th Kot'o-ri was fairly full of troops who had been ordered north, principally the 41st Commando, Royal Marines; Company G, 1st Marines; and Company B, 31st Infantry. In addition, the Marine division headquarters troops who had failed to get through earlier in the day with Company D were still wanted at General Smith's commmand post in Hagaruri. An Associated Press photographer, Frank Noel, also was trying to move north. Colonel Puller formed a motorized task force from these units, placed Lt. Col. Douglas B. Drysdale, the commander of the 41st Commando, in charge, and ordered the force to make its way to Hagaru-ri on the following day.

Task Force Drysdale started north at 0930 on the 29th, the British marines in the lead, followed by Company G, Company B, and the headquarters troops. Chinese dug in east of the road about a mile and a half above Kot'o-ri offered the first resistance. They were eliminated, but a mile farther north, fire from a stronger Chinese force in the high ground on the east brought the task force to a full halt by noontime.

Colonel Drysdale, near that hour, received word from Colonel Puller that two Marine tank platoons would be available at 1300. Drysdale waited for the armor, then with the tanks leading resumed his advance about 1400. Heavy small arms and mortar fire struck the column almost immediately, and progress was slow as tankers and foot troops attempted to shoot their way through the resistance. By 1615 the task force again was stopped after having moved only a mile and a half nearer Hagaru-ri.

Two more platoons of Marine tanks meanwhile moved out of Kot'o-ri under Puller's orders to join Drysdale. But even though he was to get additional armor, Drysdale was uncertain whether he should risk moving his men, now numbering about a thousand, the remaining seven miles to Hagaru-ri. By radio, he posed the question to General Smith. In view of the considered need for reinforcements at Hagaru-ri, Smith directed him to continue.

Air-strikes sufficiently dampened enemy fire to permit the task force to resume its march, but when it entered a mile-long valley midway between Kot'o-ri and Hagaru-ri, heavy fire from the ridges to the east again halted the column. As troops jumped from trucks to reduce the resistance, a mortar round set fire to a truck near the middle of the column. The Chinese concentrated small arms and mortar fire around the damaged vehicle to prevent its removal and thus obstruct the road and split Drysdale's column. Ahead of the truck, Drysdale with most of his commandos, two platoons of tanks, Company G, and a few members of Company B managed to move on. Drysdale expected the remainder of the column to close ranks. But behind the burning vehicle, in what Drysdale later dubbed Hell Fire Valley, about sixty commandos, most of Company B, and the division headquarters troops


remained pinned down in ditches and depressions along the road.

Only intermittent fire and one strong Chinese position about a mile and a half below Hagaru-ri obstructed Drysdale's movement north of Hell Fire Valley. Drysdale was wounded while fighting past the Chinese strongpoint, whereupon the Company G commander led the column the remaining short distance to its destination. About an hour after dark Drysdale's four hundred men entered Hagaru-ri. They were surprised, in view of their own day of fighting, to find the town quiet and the engineers working under floodlights at the airstrip to the southwest.

The Chinese meanwhile began the reduction of Drysdale's forces caught in Hell Fire Valley. Before dark a force sliced west across the road between the immobilized troops and the two platoons of tanks coming from Kot'o-ri. Some of the tail-end armored troops, receiving considerable fire themselves, returned to Kot'o-ri during the night; the remainder went back at dawn.

To the north, near the damaged truck, another pre-dark attack isolated about a hundred forty troops from the rest of the trapped men while the latter gradually gathered in three clusters as they sought cover from the fire coming in from east of the road. Thereafter until midnight the Chinese were content to fire on the four separated groups while they looted the trucks on the road.

In the early hours of 30 November they sent small forces armed with grenades against the northernmost group. The latter, led by Marine Maj. John N. McLaughlin, held off the Chinese but took high losses and by 0430 expended most of their ammunition. During this firefight most of the men in the three clusters farther south managed to escape into the high ground west of the road. Though pursued, they managed to reach Kot'o-ri, bringing the total of men who escaped south to about three hundred. At the northern position, only a few British commandos were able to slip away toward Kot'o-ri. When photographer Frank Noel and two other men jumped into a jeep to make a run for it, they were captured before they had moved a hundred yards.

At 0430 the Chinese sent these captives to McLaughlin with a surrender demand. Stalling to enable as many men as possible to escape, McLaughlin finally agreed to surrender himself and the forty able-bodied men remaining. The Chinese allowed him to place his more seriously wounded men in a nearby house as the Hell Fire Valley affair ended. Task Force Drysdale's total casualties exceeded three hundred. About seventy-five trucks were lost during the day and night.

The Tokyo Conference

Not long after Colonel Drysdale and the men with him reached Hagaru-ri, they knew they would soon be making a return trip through Hell Fire Valley. This decision was one result of General MacArthur's conference with General Walker and General Almond in Tokyo on the night of the 28th.8

Having heard Walker and Almond on what had happened in their respective sectors, MacArthur judged that the Eighth Army was in greater danger than the X Corps. But he wanted both


commands to step back. Walker was to make whatever withdrawals were necessary to escape being enveloped. Almond was to maintain contact with the Chinese but also was to pull the X Corps out of its spread-eagle positions and concentrate it in the Hamhung-Hungnam coastal area.

MacArthur next asked Almond what the X Corps could do to help the Eighth Army. Almond pointed out that the isolated Marine and Army troops at the reservoir had to be retrieved before anything else could be done. MacArthur agreed but then restated his question to ask what Almond could do to relieve the threat to Walker's east flank. The answer to this question held MacArthur's primary interest.

General Wright, MacArthur's G-3, suggested that Almond send the 3d Division west over the road leading through the Taebaeks toward Tokch'on to attack the Chinese pressing Walker's right flank. Almond argued that the road Wright had in mind did not exist (it did, but it was not made for military traffic) and that the severe winter weather combined with any strong Chinese force in the gap between commands might destroy the division. Almond agreed to the move, however, if the Eighth Army would supply the 3d Division after it reached the western slopes of the Taebaeks. General Walker offered no such support, and the conference closed an hour past midnight without a final decision on the proposed move. But owing to MacArthur's clear interest, such a maneuver would come up again after Walker and Almond returned to Korea on the 29th to get their disengagements started.


1 Telecon, Gen Hickey and Col Landrum, 1225, 27 Nov 50, in GHQ, UNC, files; Rad, GX 30065 KGOO, CG Eighth Army to CINCFE, 28 Nov 50; Rad, 069953, CINCFE to JCS, 28 Nov 50.

2 Eighth Army WD, Aide-de-Camp Diary, 28 Nov 50; Interv, Appleman with Gen Almond.

3 This section is based on the following sources: Sit Map, no. 155, Part I, G3 Sec, CINCFE Comd Rpt, 27 Nov 50; GHQ, FEC, G3 Opns Rpt no. 156, 27 Nov 50; X Corps Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50; 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50; 7th Div Comd Rpt, Chosin Reservoir, 27 Nov-12 Dec 50; 7th Div Action Rpt, From Hyesanjin to Hungnam Outloading, 21 Nov-20 Dec 50; Max Dolcater, ed., 3d Infantry Division in Korea, 1953; Appleman, South to the Naktong, pp. 730, 732; Lynn Montross and Nicholas A. Canzona, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953, vol. III, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign (Washington, 1957).

4 Prompted by a X Corps warning order on 24 November to relieve Marine forces on the east side of the reservoir, General Barr had dispatched his nearest unit, the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, then at Hamhung en route to join its parent unit in the Kapsan-Samsu area. The 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry, stayed on the Pukch'ong-Hyesanjin road to help protect the open west side of the division's supply road.

5 This section based on X Corps WD, Sum, Nov 50; X Corps Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50; 1st Marine Div Opn O 24-50, 26 Nov 50; 7th Div Opn O 26, 26 Nov 50; Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign.

6 Earlier, on the night of 12-13 September 1950, the British company had participated in a landing operation at Kunsan on the west coast of South Korea as part of an attempt to distract North Korean attention from the coming landing at Inch'on. The unit had then returned to Japan and been attached to Naval Forces, Far East, until 20 November when, at its own request to serve with American marines, it returned to Korea and was attached to the 1st Marine Division. See Heinl, Victory at High Tide, p. 79, and Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, p. 140.

7 This section and the one following are based on USAFFE Intel Dig No. 99, 16-31 Jan 53; Order of Battle Information, Chinese Communist Third Field Army, GHQ, FEC, 1 Mar 51; X Corps Comd Rpt, 27 Nov-10 Dec 50; X Corps WD, Sum, Nov 50; 7th Div Comd Rpt, 27 Nov- 12 Dec 50; Mono, "Chosin Reservoir," 1st Bn, 32d Inf, 24-30 Nov 50, 3d Hist Det, copy in CMH; 3d Div Comd Rpt, Nov 50; Dolcater, 3d Infantry Division in Korea; Captain Russell A. Gugeler, Combat Actions in Korea (Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1954), pp. 62-87; 7th Infantry Division in Korea (Atlanta: Ambert Love Enterprises, n.d.); Montross and Canzona, The Chosin Reservoir Campaign; MS, Lt. Col. C. P. Miller, "Chosin Reservoir, November-December 1950," copy in CMH.

8 This section is based on Schnabel, Policy and Direction, pp. 278-79.

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