The First American Counterattack -
Task Force Kean

What is necessary to be performed in the heat of action should constantly be practiced in the leisure of peace.

VEGETIUS, Military Institutions of the Romans

The enemy drive on Pusan from the west along the Chinju-Masan corridor compelled General Walker to concentrate there all the reinforcements then arriving in Korea. These included the 5th Regimental Combat Team and the list Provisional Marine Brigade-six battalions of infantry with supporting tanks and artillery. Eighth Army being stronger there than at any other part of the Pusan Perimeter, General Walker decided on a counterattack in this southernmost corridor of the Korean battlefront. It was to be the first American counterattack of the war.

The plan for a counterattack grew out of a number of factors-studies by the Planning Section, G-3, Eighth Army; the arrival of reinforcements; and intelligence that the North Koreans were massing north of Taegu. Although army intelligence in the first days of August seemed to veer toward the opinion that the enemy was shifting troops from the central to the southern front, perhaps as much as two divisions, it soon changed to the belief that the enemy was massing in the area above Taegu. [1]

The Army G-3 Planning Section at this time proposed two offensive actions in the near future. First, Eighth Army would mount an attack in the Masan-Chinju area between 5-10 August. Secondly, about the middle of the month, the army would strike in a general offensive through the same corridor, drive on west as far as Yosu, and there wheel north along the Sunch'on-Chonju-Nonsan axis toward the Kum River-the route of the N.K. 6th Division in reverse. This general offensive plan was based on the expected arrival of the ad Infantry Division and three tank battalions by 15 August. The planning study for the first attack stated that the counterattack force "should experience no difficulty in securing Chinju." [2]

[1] EUSAK WD, PIR 21, 2 Aug 50 and 23, 4 Aug 50. 

[2] 2 EUSAK WD, 4 Aug 50, Stf Study, G-3 Sec to the G-3.


General Walker and the Eighth Army General Staff studied the proposals and, in a conference on the subject, decided the Army could not support logistically a general offensive and that there would be insufficient troops to carry it out. The conference, however, approved the proposal for a counterattack by Eighth Army reserve toward Chinju. One of the principal purposes of the counterattack was to relieve enemy pressure against the perimeter in the Taegu area by forcing the diversion of some North Korean units southwards. [3]

The attack decided upon, General Walker at once requested the Fifth Air Force to use its main strength from the evening of 5 August through 6 August in an effort to isolate the battlefield and to destroy the enemy behind the front lines between Masan and the Nam River. He particularly enjoined the commanding general of the Fifth Air Force to prevent the movement of hostile forces from the north and northwest across the Nam into the chosen battle sector. [4]

On 6 August Eighth Army issued the operational directive for the attack, naming Task Force Kean as the attack force and giving the hour of attack as 0630 the next day. [5] The task force was named for its commander, Maj. Gen. William B. Kean, Commanding General of the 25th Division.

Altogether, General Kean had about 20,000 men under his command at the beginning of the attack. [6] Task Force Kean was composed of the 25th Infantry Division (less the 27th Infantry Regiment and the 8th Field Artillery Battalion, which were in Eighth Army reserve after their relief at the front on 7 August), with the 5th Regimental Combat Team and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade attached. It included two medium tank battalions, the 89th (M4A3) and the fist Marine (M26 Pershings). The 25th Division now had three infantry battalions in each of its regiments, although all were understrength. [7]

The terrain and communications of this chosen field for counterattack were to some extent known to the American commanders. American units had advanced or retreated over its major roads as far as Hadong in the preceding two weeks. Certain topographic features clearly defined and limited the corridor, making it a segment of Korea where a planned operation could be executed without involving any other part of the Perimeter.

The Chinju-Masan corridor is limited on the south by the Korean Strait, on the north by the Nam River from Chinju to its confluence with the Naktong, fifteen miles northwest of Masan. Masan, at the head of Masan Bay, is at the eastern end of the corridor; Chinju, at the western end of the corridor, is 27 air miles from Masan. The shortest road

[3] Ibid., Check Slip, 4 Aug 50, and Informal Check Slip, 5 Aug 50; 
Interv, author with Lt Col Paul F. Smith, 1 Oct 52. 

[4] EUSAK WD, 5 Aug 50, Ltr, G-3 Air EUSAK to CG Fifth AF. 

[5] Ibid., 6 Aug 50, G-3 Opn Directive and ans. 

[6] 25th Div WD, Summ, Aug 50, p. 7; Ibid., 6-7 and 9 Aug 50. Total 
supported strength of the 25th Division is given as 23,080 troops, 
including 11,026 attached. This included the 27th Infantry Regiment, 
which became army reserve on 7 August. On 9 August this number had 
increased to 24,179, of which 12,197 were attached. 

[7] 1st Prov Mar Brig, SAR, 2 Aug-6 Sep 50, pp. 1-19; 1st Bn, 5th Mar, 
SAR, Aug 50, p. 1.


(MAP 8) TASK FORCE KEAN 7-12 August 1950

distance between the two places is more than 40 miles. The corridor averages about 20 miles in width. (Map 8)

The topography of the corridor consists mostly of low hills interspersed with paddy ground along the streams. South of the Nam, the streams run generally in a north-south direction; all are small and fordable in dry weather. In two places mountain barriers cross the corridor. One is just east of Chinju; the main passage through it is the Chinju pass. The second and more dominant barrier is Sobuk-san, about eight miles west of Masan.

The main east-west highway through the corridor was the two-lane all-weather road from Masan through Komam-ni, Chungam-ni, and Much'on-ni to Chinju. The Keizan South Railroad parallels this main road most of the way through the corridor. It is single track, standard gauge, and has numerous tunnels, cuts, and trestles.


An important spur road slanting southeast from Much'on-ni connects it with the coastal road three miles west of Chindong-ni and ten miles from Masan. The coastal, and third, road hugs the irregular southern shore line from Masan to Chinju by way of Chindong-ni, Kosong, and Sach'on.

The early summer of 1950 in Korea was one of drought, and as such was unusual. Normally there are heavy monsoon rains in July and August with an average of twenty inches of rain; but in 1950 there was only about one-fourth this amount. The cloudless skies over the southern tip of the peninsula brought scorching heat which often reached 105° and sometimes 120°. This and the 60-degree slopes of the hills caused more casualties from heat exhaustion among newly arrived marine and army units in the first week of the counterattack than enemy bullets.

The army plan for the attack required Task Force Kean to attack west along three roads, seize the Chinju pass (Line Z in the plan), and secure the line of the Nam River. Three regiments would make the attack: the 35th Infantry along the northernmost and main inland road, the 5th Regimental Combat Team along the secondary inland road to the Much'on-ni road juncture, and the 5th Marines along the southern coastal road. This placed the marines on the left flank, the 5th Regimental Combat Team in the middle, and the 35th Infantry on the right flank. The 5th Regimental Combat Team was to lead the attack in the south, seize the road junction five miles west of Chindong-ni, and continue along the right-hand fork. The marines would then follow the 5th Regimental Combat Team to the road junction, take the left-hand fork, and attack along the coastal road. This plan called for the 5th Regimental Combat Team to make a juncture with the 35th Infantry at Much'on-ni, whence they would drive on together to the Chinju pass, while the marines swung southward along the coast through Kosong and Sach'on to Chinju. The 5th Regimental Combat Team and the 5th Marines, on the night of 6-7 August, were to relieve the 27th Infantry in its front-line defensive positions west of Chindong-ni. The 27th Infantry would then revert to army reserve in an assembly area at Masan. [8]

While Task Force Kean attacked west, the 24th Infantry Regiment was to clean out the enemy from the rear area, giving particular attention to the rough, mountainous ground of Sobuk-san between the 35th and 5th Regiments. It also was to secure the lateral north-south road running from Komam-ni through Haman to Chindong-ni. Task Force Min, a regiment-sized ROK force, was attached to the 24th Infantry to assist in this mission. [9]

On the eve of the attack, Eighth Army intelligence estimated that the N.K. 6th Division, standing in front of Task Force Kean, numbered approximately 7,500 effectives. Actually, the 6th Division numbered about 6,000 men at this time. But the 83d Motorized Regiment of the 105th Armored Division had joined the 6th Division west of Masan, unknown to Eighth Army, and its strength brought the enemy force to about 7,500 men, the Eighth Army estimate. Army intelligence estimated that the 6th Division

[8] 25th Div WD, 6 Aug 50; 25th Div Opn Ord 8, 6 Aug 50. 

[9] Ibid.; Barth MS, p. 13. 


would be supported by approximately 36 pieces of artillery and 25 tanks. [10]

Who Attacks Whom?

On the right flank of Task Force Kean, the 2d Battalion of the 35th Infantry led the attack west on 7 August. Only the day before, an enemy attack had driven one company of this battalion from its position, but a counterattack had regained the lost ground. Now, as it crossed the line of departure at the Notch three miles west of Chungam-ni, the battalion encountered about 500 enemy troops supported by several self-propelled guns. The two forces joined battle at once, a contest that lasted five hours before the 2d Battalion, with the help of an air strike, secured the pass and the high ground northward.

After this fight, the 35th Infantry advanced rapidly westward and by evening stood near the Much'on-ni road fork, the regiment's initial objective. In this advance, the 35th Infantry inflicted about 350 casualties on the enemy, destroyed 2 tanks, 1 76-mm. self-propelled gun, 5 antitank guns, and captured 4 truckloads of weapons and ammunition, several brief cases of documents, and 3 prisoners. Near Pansong, Colonel Fisher's men overran what they thought had been the N.K. 6th Division command post, because they found there several big Russian-built radios and other headquarters equipment. For the 35th Regiment, the attack had gone according to plan. [11]

The next day, 8 August, the regiment advanced to the high ground just short of the Much'on-ni road fork. There Fisher received orders from General Kean to dig in and wait until the 5th Regimental Combat Team could come up on his left and join him at Much'on-ni. While waiting, Fisher's men beat off a few enemy attacks and sent out strong combat patrols that probed enemy positions as far as the Nam River. [12]

Behind and on the left of the 35th Infantry, in the mountain mass that separated it from the other attack columns, the fight was not going well. From this rough ground surrounding Sobuk-san, the 24th Infantry was supposed to clear out enemy forces of unknown size, but believed to be small. Affairs there had taken an ominous turn on 6 August, the day preceding Task Force Kean's attack, when North Koreans ambushed L Company of the 24th Infantry west of Haman and scattered I Company, killing twelve men. One officer stated that he was knocked to the ground three times by his own stampeding soldiers. The next morning he and the 3d Battalion commander located the battalion four miles to the rear in Haman. Not all the men panicked. Pfc. William Thompson of the Heavy Weapons Company set up his machine gun and fired at the enemy until he was killed by grenades. [13]

Sobuk-san remained in enemy hands.

[10] EUSAK WD, 6 Aug 50, an. to Opn PIR. 

[11] 25th Div WD, 6-7 Aug 50; 35th Inf WD, 7 Aug 50; Interv, author with 
Fisher, 5 Jan 52. 

[12] 24th Div WD, 8-11 Aug 50; 35th Inf WD, 8-11 Aug 50; Barth MS, p. 
14; Fisher, MS review comments, 7 Nov 57. 

[13] 24th Inf WD, 6 Aug 50; EUSAK IG Rpt on 24th Inf, testimony of 1st 
Lt Christopher M. Gooch, S-3, 3d Bn, 24th Inf, 26 Aug 50. Department of 
the Army General Order 63, 2 August 1951, awarded the Medal of Honor 
posthumously to Pfc. William Thompson, M Company, 24th Infantry.


American units assigned to sweep the area were unable to advance far enough even to learn the strength of the enemy in this mountain fastness behind Task Force Kean. Col. Arthur S. Champney succeeded Col. Horton V. White in command of the 24th Regiment in the Sobuk-san area on 6 August.

Before beginning the account of Task Force Kean's attack in the southern sector near Chindong-ni it is necessary to describe the position taken there a few days earlier by the 2d Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team. Lt. Col. John L. Throckmorton, a West Point graduate of the Class of 1935, commanded this battalion. It was his first battalion command in combat. Eighth Army had moved the battalion from the docks of Pusan to Chindong-ni on 2 August to bolster the 27th Infantry. Throckmorton placed his troops on the spur of high ground that came down from Sobuk-san a mile and a half west of Chindong-ni, and behind the 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry, which was at Kogan-ni. The highest point Throckmorton's troops occupied was Yaban-san (Hill 342), about a mile north of the coastal road. A platoon of G Company occupied this point, Fox Hill, as the battalion called it. Fox Hill was merely a high point on a long finger ridge that curved down toward Chindong-ni from the Sobuk-san peak. Beyond Fox Hill this finger ridge climbed ever higher to the northwest, culminating three miles away in Sobuk-san (Hill 738), 2,400 feet high.

The next morning, 3 August, North Koreans attacked and drove the platoon off Fox Hill. That night F Company of the 5th Infantry counterattacked and recaptured the hill, which it held until relieved there by marine troops on 8 August. Nevertheless, Throckmorton's battalion was in trouble right up to the moment of the Eighth Army counterattack. There was every indication that enemy forces held the higher Sobuk-san area. [14]

On the evening of 6 August the 27th Infantry Regiment and the 2d Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, held the front lines west of Chindong-ni. The 27th Regiment was near the road; the 2d Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, on higher ground to the north. During the evening the rest of the 5th Regimental Combat Team relieved 27th Infantry front-line troops, and the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, relieved the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, in its reserve position. The next morning the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, was to relieve the 2d Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, on the high ground north of the road. When thus relieved, the 5th Regimental Combat Team was to begin its attack west.

During the night of 6-7 August, North Koreans dislodged a platoon of Throckmorton's troops from a saddle below Fox Hill and moved to a point east and south of the spur. From this vantage point the following morning they could look down on the command posts of the 5th Marines and the 5th Regimental Combat Team, on the artillery emplacements, and on the main supply road at Chindong-ni.

That morning, 7 August, a heavy fog in the coastal area around Chindong-ni prevented an air strike scheduled to pre-

[14] Interv, author with Col John L. Throckmorton, 20 Aug 52; 
Throckmorton, MS review comments, 30 Mar 55.


cede the Task Force Kean infantry attack. The artillery fired a twenty-minute preparation. At 0720 the infantry then moved out in the much-heralded army counterattack. The 1st Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, led off down the road from its line of departure just west of Chindong-ni and arrived at the road junction without difficulty. There, instead of continuing on west as it was supposed to do, it turned left, and by noon was on a hill mass three miles south of the road fork and on the road allotted to the marine line of advance. How it made this blunder at the road fork is hard to understand. As a result of this mistake the hill dominating the road junction on the northwest remained unoccupied. The 1st Battalion was supposed to have occupied it and from there to cover the advance of the remainder of the 5th Regimental Combat Team and the 5th Marines. [15]

After the 1st Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, had started westward, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, commanded by Lt. Col. Harold S. Roise, moved out at 1100 to relieve Throckmorton's battalion on the spur running up to Fox Hill. It ran head-on into the North Koreans who had come around to the front of the spur during the night. It was hard to tell who was attacking whom. The day was furnace hot with the temperature standing at 112°. In the struggle up the slope the Marine battalion had approximately thirty heat prostration cases, six times its number of casualties caused by enemy fire. In the end its attack failed. [16]

The fight west of Chindong-ni on the morning of 7 August was in fact a general melee. Even troops of the 27th Infantry, supposed to be in reserve status, were involved. The general confusion was deepened when the treads of friendly tanks cut up telephone line strung along the roadside, causing communication difficulties. Finally at 1120, when marine troops completed relief of the 27th Infantry in its positions, Brig. Gen. Edward A. Craig, commanding the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, assumed command, on General Kean's orders, of all troops on the Chindong-ni front. He held that command until the afternoon of 9 August. [17]

While these untoward events were taking place below it, F Company of the 5th Regimental Combat Team on the crest of Fox Hill was cut off. At 1600 an airdrop finally succeeded on the third try in getting water and small arms and 60-mm. mortar ammunition to it. The enemy got the first drop. The second was a mile short of the drop zone.

Failing the first day to accomplish its mission, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, resumed its attack on Fox Hill the next morning at daybreak after an air strike on the enemy positions. This time, after hard fighting, it succeeded. In capturing and holding the crest, D Company of the Marine battalion lost 8 men killed, including 3 officers, and 28 wounded. The enemy losses on Hill 342 are un-

[15] Ibid.; 5th Mar SAR, 6-7 Aug 50; Barth MS; New York Times, August 8, 
1950, W. H. Lawrence dispatch from southern front; New York Herald 
Tribune, August 9, 1950, Homer Bigart dispatch from Korea, 7 August. 

[16] 2d Bn, 5th Mar, SAR, 7 Jul-31 Aug 50, p. 6.

[17] 25th Div WD, 7 Aug 50; New York Herald Tribune, August 8, 1950, 
and August 9, 1950, Bigart dispatches; 1st Prov Mar Brig SAR, 2 Jul-6 
Sep 50, p. 9; 27th Inf WD, Aug 50.


[Caption] FOX HILL POSITION near Masan, 7 August.

known, but estimates range from 150 to 400. [18]

The events of 7 August all across the Masan front showed that Task Force Kean's attack had collided head-on with one being delivered simultaneously by the N.K. 6th Division.

All of Task Force Kean's trouble was not confined to the area west of Chindong-ni; there was plenty of it eastward. For a time it seemed as if the latter might be the more dangerous. There the North Koreans threatened to cut the supply road from Masan. There is no doubt that Task Force Kean had an unpleasant surprise on the morning of 7 August when it discovered that the enemy had moved around Chindong-ni during the night and occupied Hill 255 just east of the town, dominating the road in its rear to Masan.

Troops of the 2d Battalion, 24th Infantry, and of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, tried unsuccessfully during the day to break this roadblock. In the

[18] 2d Bn, 5th Mar, SAR, 7 Jul-31 Aug 50, p. 6; Montross and Canzona, 
The Pusan Perimeter, pp. 16-17. 

In a Marine infantry regiment, the 1st Battalion consisted of 
Headquarters and Service, A, B, C, and Weapons Companies; the 2d 
Battalion consisted of Headquarters and Service, D, E, F, and Weapons 
Companies; and the 3d Battalion consisted of Headquarters and Service, 
G, H, I, and Weapons Companies.


severe fighting there, artillery and air strikes, tanks and mortars pounded the heights trying to dislodge the enemy. Batteries B and C of the 159th Field Artillery Battalion fired 1,600 rounds during 7-8 August against this roadblock. Colonel Ordway, at the marines' request, also directed the fire of part of the 555th Artillery Battalion against this height. But the enemy soldiers stubbornly held their vantage point. Finally, after three days of fighting, the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, and elements of two battalions of the 24th Infantry joined on Hill 255 east of Chindong-ni, shortly after noon on 9 August, and reduced the roadblock. There were 120 counted enemy dead, with total enemy casualties estimated at 600. On the final day of this action, the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, which carried the brunt of the attack, had 70 casualties, half of them caused by heat exhaustion. During its two-day part in the fight for this hill, H Company of the marines suffered 16 killed and 36 wounded. [19]

When Throckmorton's 2d Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, came off Fox Hill on 8 August after the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, had relieved it there, it received the mission of attacking west immediately, to seize the hill northwest of the road junction that the 1st Battalion was supposed to have taken the day before. At this time, Throckmorton had only two companies effective after his week of combat on Fox Hill. Nevertheless, he moved against the hill but was unable to take it. His attack was weakened when supporting artillery failed to adjust on the target.

In the late afternoon, General Kean came up to the 2d Battalion position and, with Colonel Ordway present, said to Colonel Throckmorton, "I want that hill tonight." Throckmorton decided on a night attack with his two effective companies, G and E. He put three tanks and his 4.2-inch and 81-mm. mortars in position for supporting fire. That night his men gained the hill, although near the point of exhaustion. [20]

For three days the N.K. 6th Division had pinned down Task Force Kean, after the latter had jumped off at Chindong-ni. Finally, on 9 August, the way was clear for it to start the maneuver along the middle and southern prongs of the planned attack toward Chinju.

The 5th Marines on the Coastal Road

On the afternoon of 9 August, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, took over from the 1st Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, the hill position on the coastal road which the latter had held for three days. The army battalion then moved back to the road fork and turned down the right-hand road. At last it was on the right path, prepared to attack west with the remainder of its regiment. [21]

The 5th Marines that afternoon moved rapidly down the coastal road, leapfrogging its battalions in the advance. Corsairs of the 1st Marine Air Wing, flying from the USS Sicily and USS Badoeng Strait in the waters off

[19] 159th FA Bn WD, 7-9 Aug 50; 3d Bn, 5th Mar, SAR, Aug 50 (Rpt of 1st 
Pl, G Co); 5th Mar SAR, 8-9 Aug 50; 1st Prov Mar Brig SAR, 8-9 Aug 50, 
pp. 10-11; Montross and Canzona, The Pusan Perimeter, pp. 121-22; New 
York Herald Tribune, August 9, 1950, Bigart dispatch; Col Godwin Ordway, 
MS review comments, 21 Nov 57. 

[20] Interv, author with Throckmorton, 20 Aug 52.

[21] 25th Div WD, 9 Aug 50.


the coast, patrolled the road and adjoining hills ahead of the troops. This close air support delivered strikes within a matter of minutes after a target appeared. [22]

General Kean pushed his unit commanders hard to make up for lost time, now that the attack had at last started. The pace was fast, the sun bright and hot. Casualties from heat exhaustion on 10 August again far exceeded those from enemy action. The rapid advance that day after the frustrations of the three preceding ones caused some Tokyo spokesman to speak of the "enemy's retreat" as being "in the nature of a rout," and correspondents wrote of the action as a "pursuit." And so it seemed for a time. [23]

Just before noon on the 11th, after a fight on the hills bordering the road, the leading Marine battalion (3d) neared the town of Kosong. Its supporting artillery from the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, adjusting fire on a crossroads west of the town, chanced to drop shells near camouflaged enemy vehicles. Thinking its position had been discovered, the enemy force quickly entrucked and started down the road toward Sach'on and Chinju. This force proved to be a major part of the 83d Motorized Regiment of the 105th Armored Division, which had arrived in the Chinju area to support the N.K. 6th Division.

Just as the long column of approximately 200 vehicles, trucks, jeeps, and motorcycles loaded with troops, ammunition, and supplies got on the road, a flight of four Corsairs from the Badoeng Strait came over on a routine reconnaissance mission ahead of the marines. They swung low over the enemy column, strafing the length of it. Vehicles crashed into each other, others ran into the ditches, some tried to get to the hills off the road. Troops spilled out seeking cover and concealment. The planes turned for another run. The North Koreans fought back with small arms and automatic weapons and hit two of the planes, forcing one down and causing the other to crash. This air attack left about forty enemy vehicles wrecked and burning. Another flight of Marine Corsairs and Air Force F-51's arrived and continued the work of destruction. When the ground troops reached the scene later in the afternoon, they found 31 trucks, 24 jeeps, 45 motorcycles, and much ammunition and equipment destroyed or abandoned. The marine advance stopped that night four miles west of Kosong. [24]

The next morning, 12 August, the 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. George R. Newton, passed through the 3d Battalion and led the Marine brigade in what it expected to be the final lap to Sach'on, about 8 miles below Chinju. Advancing 11 miles unopposed, it came within 4 miles of the town by noon. An hour later, three and a half miles east

[22] 1st Prov Mar Brig SAR, 10 Aug 50; 5th Mar SAR, 10 Aug 50; Ernest H. 
Giusti, "Marine Air Over the Pusan Perimeter," Marine Corps Gazette 
(May, 1952), pp. 20-21; New York Herald Tribune, August 10, 1950. 

[23] 25th Div WD, 10 Aug 50; New York Times, August 10, 1950. 

[24] 1st Prov Mar Brig SAR, Aug 50, p. 11; 5th Mar SAR, 11 Aug 50; 3d 
Bn, 5th Mar SAR, 11 Aug, p. 4; Giusti, op. cit.; Lt Col Ransom M. Wood, 
"Artillery Support for the Brigade in Korea," Marine Corps Gazette 
(June, 1951), p. 18; GHQ UNC G-3 Opn Rpt 49, 12 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, 11 
Aug 50. Enemy troop casualties in this action were estimated at about 


of Sach'on, the Marine column entered an enemy ambush at the village of Changchon or, as the troops called it, Changallon. Fortunately for the marines, a part of the 2d Battalion, 15th Regiment, and elements of the 83d Motorized Regiment that lay in wait in the hills cupping the valley disclosed the ambush prematurely. A heavy fight got under way and continued through the afternoon and into the evening. Marine Corsairs struck repeatedly. In the late afternoon, the 1st Battalion gained control of Hills 301 and 250 on the right, and Hill 202 on the left, of the road.

On Hill 202, before daylight the next morning, a North Korean force overran the 3d Platoon of B Company. One group apparently had fallen asleep and all except one were killed. Heavy casualties were inflicted also on another nearby platoon of B Company. Shortly after daylight the marines on Hill 202 received orders to withdraw and turn back toward Masan. During the night, B Company lost 12 men killed, 16 wounded, and 9 missing, the last presumed dead. [25]

Just before noon of the 12th, General Kean had ordered General Craig to send one battalion of marines back to help clear out enemy troops that had cut the middle road behind the 5th Regimental Combat Team and had its artillery under attack. An hour after noon the 3d Battalion was on its way back. That evening Craig was called to Masan for a conference with Kean. There he received the order to withdraw all elements of the brigade immediately to the vicinity of Chingdong-ni. Events taking place at other points of the Pusan Perimeter caused the sudden withdrawal of the Marine brigade from Task Force Kean's attack. [26]

Bloody Gulch-Artillery Graveyard

Simultaneously with the swing of the Marine brigade around the southern coastal loop toward Chinju, the 5th Regimental Combat Team plunged ahead in the center toward Much'on-ni, its planned junction point with the 35th Infantry. On 10 August, as the combat team moved toward Pongam-ni, aerial observation failed to sight enemy troop concentrations or installations ahead of it. Naval aircraft, however, did attack the enemy north of Pongam-ni and bombed and strafed Tundok still farther north in the Sobuk-san mining region.

The 1st Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. John P. Jones, attacked down the right (north) side of the road and the 2d Battalion, under Colonel Throckmorton, down the left (south) side. The 1st Battalion on its side encountered the enemy on the hills near Pongam-ni, but was able to enter the

[25] 1st Bn, 5th Mar SAR, 12 Aug 50; 1st Prov Mar Brig SAR, 12 Aug 50, 
p. 12; 5th Mar SAR, 12 Aug 50; Maj. Francis I. Fenton, Jr., "Changallon 
Valley," Marine Corps Gazette (November, 1951), pp. 4953; ATIS Supp, 
Enemy Docs, Issue 2, pp. 97-98, gives the North Korean order for the 
attack on Hill 202. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, gives its casualties 
for 12-13 August as 15 killed, 33 wounded, and 8 missing. Montross and 
Canzona, The Pusan Perimeter, page 155 give the Marine loss on Hill 202 
in the night battle as 12 killed, 18 wounded, and 8 missing. 

[26] Montross and Canzona, The Pusan Perimeter, page 148, quoting from 
General Craig's field notebook for 12 August 1950. 


town and establish its command post there.

The village of Pongam was a nondescript collection of perhaps twenty mud-walled and thatch-roofed huts clustered around a road junction. It and Taejong-ni were small villages only a few hundred yards apart on the east side of the pass. The main east-west road was hardly more than a country lane by American standards. About 400 yards northeast of Pongam-ni rose a steep, barren hill, the west end of a long ridge that paralleled the main east-west road on the north side at a distance of about 800 yards. The enemy occupied this ridge. Northward from Pongam-ni extended a 500-yard-wide valley. A narrow dirt trail came down it to Pongam-ni from the Sobuk-san mining area of Tundok to the north. The stream flowing southward through this valley joined another flowing east at the western edge of Pongam-ni. There a modern concrete bridge, in sharp contrast to the other structures, spanned the south-flowing stream. West of the villages, two parallel ridges came together about 1,000 yards away, like the two sides of an inverted V. The southern ridge rose sharply from the western edge of the village. The main road ran westward along its base and climbed out of the valley at a pass where this ridge joined the other slanting in from the north. Immediately west of Pongam-ni the two ridges were separated by a 300-yard-wide valley. The northern ridge was the higher.

On 10 August the 2d Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, held the southern of these two ridges at Pongam-ni and B and C Companies of the 1st Battalion held the eastern part of the northern one. The enemy held the remainder of this ridge and contested control of the pass.

During the day the regimental support artillery came up and went into positions in the stream bed and low ground at Pongam-ni and Taejong-ni. A Battery of the 555th Field Artillery Battalion emplaced under the concrete bridge at Pongam-ni, and B Battery went into position along the stream bank at the edge of the village. Headquarters Battery established itself in the village. The 90th Field Artillery Battalion, less one battery, had emplaced on the west side of the south-flowing stream. All the artillery pieces were on the north side of the east-west road. The 5th Regimental Combat Team headquarters and C Battery of the 555th Field Artillery Battalion were eastward in a rear position. [27]

That night, 10-11 August, North Koreans attacked the 1st Battalion and the artillery positions at Pongam-ni. The action continued after daylight. During this fight, Lt. Col. John H. Daly, the 555th Field Artillery Battalion commander, lost communication with his A Battery. With the help of some infantry, he and Colonel Jones, the 1st Battalion commander, tried to reach the battery. Both Daly and Jones were wounded, the latter seriously. Daly then assumed temporary command of the infantry battalion. As the day pro-

[27] Ltr with comments, Col Ordway to author, 18 Feb 55; Ltrs, Col John 
H. Daly to author, 3 Dec 54 and 11 Feb 55; Comments on Bloody Gulch, by 
Lt Col T. B. Roelofs, 15 Feb 55, copy furnished author by Col Ordway, 18 
Feb 55. Despite an extensive search in the Departmental Records Section 
of the AC and elsewhere the author could not find the war diaries, 
journals, periodic reports, and other records of the 5th Regimental 
Combat Team and the 555th Field Artillery Battalion for August 1950.


gressed the enemy attacks at Pongam-ni dwindled and finally ceased.

When the 3d Battalion had continued on westward the previous afternoon the 5th Regimental Combat Team headquarters and C Battery, 555th Field Artillery Battalion, east of Pongam-ni, had been left without protecting infantry close at hand. North Koreans attacked them during the night at the same time Pongam-ni came under attack. The Regimental Headquarters and C Battery personnel defended themselves successfully. On the morning of the 11th, close-in air strikes helped turn the enemy back into the hills. Colonel Throckmorton's 2d Battalion headquarters had also come under attack. He called E Company from its Pongam-ni position to help beat off the enemy. [28]

Colonel Ordway's plan for passing the regiment westward through Pongam-ni was for the 2d Battalion to withdraw from the south ridge and start the movement, after the 1st Battalion had secured the north ridge and the pass. The regimental trains were to follow and next the artillery. The 1st Battalion was then to disengage and bring up the rear.

After Colonel Jones was evacuated, Colonel Ordway sent Lt. Col. T. B. Roelofs, regimental S-2 and formerly the battalion commander, to take command of the 1st Battalion. Roelofs arrived at Pongam-ni about 1400, 11 August, and assumed command of the 1st Battalion. Ordway had given him orders to clear the ridge north of the road west of Pongam-ni, secure the pass, protect the combat team as it moved west through the pass, and then follow it. Roelofs met Daly at Pongam-ni, consulted with him and the staff of the 1st Battalion, made a personal reconnaissance of the area, and then issued his attack order to clear the ridge and secure the pass.

Colonel Roelofs selected B Company to make the main effort. He brought it down from the north ridge to the valley floor, where it rested briefly and was resupplied with ammunition. Just before dusk, it moved to the head of the gulch and attacked the hill on the right commanding the north side of the pass. At the same time, C Company attacked west along the north ridge to effect a junction with B Company. The artillery and all available weapons of the 2d Battalion supported the attack; the artillery fire was accurate and effective. Before dusk B Company had gained and occupied the commanding ground north of the pass. [29]

One platoon of A Company, reinforced with a section of tanks, remained in its position north of Pongam-ni on the Tundok road, to protect from that direction the road junction village and the artillery positions. The remainder of A Company relieved the 2d Battalion on the south ridge, when it withdrew from there at 2100 to lead the movement westward.

His battalion's attack apparently a success, Colonel Roelofs established his command post about 300 yards west of Pongam-ni in a dry stream bed south of

[28] Ltr, Ordway to author, 18 Feb 55; Throckmorton, Notes for Ordway, 
30 Mar 55 (forwarded by Ordway to author): Roelofs, Comments on Bloody 
Gulch, 15 Feb 55. 

[29] Roelofs, Comments on Bloody Gulch, 15 Feb 55; Ltr and comments, 
Ordway to author, 18 Feb 55, and MS review comments, 21 Nov 57.


the road, crawled under the trailer attached to his jeep, and went to sleep.

As a result of the considerable enemy action during the night of 10-11 August and during the day of the 11th, Colonel Ordway decided that he could not safely move the regimental trains and the artillery through the pass during daylight, and accordingly he had made plans to do it that night under cover of darkness. That afternoon, however, Ordway was called to the radio to speak to General Kean. The 25th Division commander wanted him to move forward rapidly and said that a battalion of the 24th Infantry would come up and protect his right (north) flank. Ordway had a lengthy conversation with the division and task force commander before the latter approved the delay until after dark for the regimental movement. General Kean apparently did not believe any considerable force of enemy troops was in the vicinity of Pongam-ni, despite Ordway's representations to the contrary.

General Kean, on his part, was under pressure at this time because during the day Eighth Army had sent a radio message to him, later confirmed by an operational directive, to occupy and defend the Chinju pass line; to move Task Force Min, a regimental sized ROK unit, to Taegu for release to the ROK Army; and to be ready to release the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and the 5th Regimental Combat Team on army order. This clearly foreshadowed that Task Force Kean probably would not be able to hold its gains, as one or more of its major units apparently were urgently needed elsewhere.

About 2100 hours, as Throckmorton's 2d Battalion, C Battery of the 555th, and the trains were forming on the road, the regimental S-3 handed Colonel Ordway a typed radio order from the commanding general of the 25th Division. It ordered him to move the 2d Battalion and one battery of artillery through the pass at once, but to hold the rest of the troops in place until daylight. Ordway felt that to execute the order would have catastrophic effects. He tried to reach the division headquarters to protest it, but could not establish communication. On reflection, Ordway decided that some aspect of the "big picture" known only to the army and division commanders must have prompted the order. With this thought governing his actions he issued instructions implementing the division order. [30]

In the meantime the 2d Battalion had moved through the pass, and once over its rim was out of communication with the regiment. Ordway tried and failed several times to reach it by radio during the night. In effect, though Throckmorton thought he was the advance guard of a regimental advance, he was on his own. Ordway and the rest of the regiment could not help him if he ran into trouble nor could he be called back to help them. In the movement of the 2d Battalion and C and Headquarters Batteries, Colonel Daly was wounded a second time and was evacuated. Colonel Throckmorton's 2d Battalion cleared

[30 Intervs, author with Ordway, 3 and 21 Jan 55; Ltr and comments, 
Ordway to author, 18 Feb 55; Ordway, MS review comments, 21 Nov 57, 
Roelofs, Comments on Bloody Gulch, 15 Feb 55; Ltr, Daly to author, 8 Dec 
54. Roelofs and Daly confirm Ordway's account of his plan to move the 
regiment through the pass at night, and the division's order that all 
units except the 2d Battalion and C Battery, 555th Field Artillery 
Battalion, were to remain in position until daylight. 


the pass before midnight. On the west side it came under light attack but was able to continue on for five miles to Taejong-ni, where it went into an assembly area for the rest of the night.

While these events were taking place at Pongam-ni during daylight and the evening of the 11th, the main supply road back toward Chindong-ni was under sniper fire and various other forms of attack. Three tanks and an assault gun escorted supply convoys to the forward positions. [31]

By midnight of 11 August, the 555th (Triple Nickel) Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. howitzers), less C Battery, and Headquarters and A Batteries, 90th Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. howitzers)-emplaced at Pongam-ni and Taejong-ni-had near them only the 1st Battalion north of the road. The regimental headquarters and the guns of the 159th Field Artillery Battalion were emplaced a little more than a mile behind them (east) along the road. [32]

Sometime after 0100, 12 August, Colonel Roelofs was awakened by his executive officer, Capt. Claude Baker. Baker informed him that the battalion had lost contact with C Company on the ridge northward and sounds of combat could be heard coming from that area. When further efforts to reach the company by telephone and radio failed, Roelofs sent runners and a wire crew out to try to re-establish contact. He then informed Colonel Ordway of this new development, and urged speedy movement of the trains and artillery westward through the pass. But Ordway reluctantly held firm to division orders not to move until after daylight.

Roelofs, taking two of his staff officers with him, set out in his jeep eastward toward Pongam-ni. He noted that the regimental trains had assembled on the road and apparently were only awaiting orders before moving. At the bridge in Pongam-ni he saw several officers of the 555th Field Artillery Battalion, who also seemed to be waiting orders to start the movement. Roelofs turned north at Pongam-ni on the dirt trail running toward the Sobuk-san mining area. He drove up that road until he came to the A Company infantry platoon and the section of tanks. They were in position. They told Roelofs they had heard sounds of small arms fire and exploding grenades in the C Company area on the ridge to their left (west), but nothing else. [33]

Upon returning to his command post Roelofs learned that contact still had not been re-established with C Company. The runners sent out had returned and said they could not find the company. The wire crew was missing. Members of the battalion staff during Roelofs' absence had again heard sounds of combat in the company area. They also had seen flares there. This was interpreted to mean that enemy troops held it and were signaling to other enemy units. From his position in the valley at regimental headquarters, Colonel Ordway could see that elements of the 1st Battalion, probably C Company, were

[31] 25th Div WD, 11 Aug 50; 88th Med Tk Bn WD, 7-31 Aug 50; EUSAK WD, 
G-3 Sec, 11 Aug 50; Ibid., POR 90, 11 Aug 50; Ltr, Lt Gen William B. 
Kean to author, 17 Jul 53. 

[32] 25th Div WD, 12 Aug 50; 90th FA Bn WD, 11-12 Aug 50; 159th FA Bn 
WD, 11-12 Aug 50, and sketch 4. 

[33] Roelofs, Comments on Bloody Gulch, 15 Feb 55.


being driven from the ridge. Roelofs again urged Colonel Ordway to start the trains out of the gulch.

Still unable to contact the division, Ordway now decided to move the trains and artillery out westward while it was still dark, despite division orders to wait for daylight. He felt that with the enemy obviously gaining control of the high ground above Pongam-ni, movement after daylight would be impossible or attended by heavy loss. The battalion of the 24th Infantry promised by the division had not arrived. About 0400 Ordway gave the order for the trains to move out. They were to be followed by the artillery, and then the 1st Battalion would bring up the rear. In the meantime, the battalion was to hold open the pass and protect the regimental column. [34]

Despite Ordway's use of messengers and staff officers, and his own efforts the trains seemed unable to move and a bad traffic jam developed. Movement of the trains through the pass should have been accomplished in twenty minutes, but it required hours. During the hour or more before daylight, no vehicle in Ordway's range of vision moved more than ten or twenty feet at a time. One of the factors creating this situation was caused when the Medical Company tried to move into the column from its position near the 1st Battalion command post. An ambulance hung up in a ditch and stopped everything on the road behind it until it could be pulled out.

With the first blush of dawn, enemy fire from the ridge overlooking the road began to fall on the column. At first it was light and high. Colonel Ordway got into his jeep and drove westward trying to hurry the column along. But he accomplished little. After the ambulance got free, however, the movement was somewhat faster and more orderly. Colonel Ordway himself cleared the pass shortly after daybreak. He noticed that the 1st Battalion was holding the pass and the hill just to the north of it. West of the pass, Ordway searched for a place to get the trains off the road temporarily so that the artillery could move out, but he found none suitable. He continued on until he reached Throckmorton's 2d Battalion bivouac area. The head of the regimental trains had already arrived there. He ordered them to continue on west in order to clear the road behind for the remainder of the column. Soon one of his staff officers found a schoolyard where the vehicles could assemble off the road, and they pulled in there.

About this time an artillery officer arrived from Pongam-ni and told Ordway that the artillery back at the gulch had been cut to pieces. Ordway returned to the 2d Battalion bivouac and then traveled on eastward toward Pongam-ni. On the way he met the 1st Battalion marching west on the road. The troops appeared close to exhaustion. Colonel Roelofs told Ordway that so far as he could tell the artillerymen had escaped into the hills. Ordway ordered the 1st Battalion into an assembly area and then directed the 2d Battalion to return to Pongam-ni, to cover the rear of the regiment and any troops remaining there.

That morning at dawn, after Colonel Ordway had cleared the pass, Colonel Roelofs watched the column as it tried

[34] Intervs, author with Ordway, 3 and 21 Jan 55; Ltr, Ordway to 
author, 18 Feb 55; Ordway, MS review comments, 20 Nov 57.


to clear the gulch area. To his great surprise he discovered moving with it the section of tanks and the A Company infantry platoon that he had left guarding the road entering Pongam-ni from the north. He asked the platoon leader why he had withdrawn. The latter answered that he had been ordered to do so. By the next day this officer had been evacuated, and Colonel Roelofs was never able to learn if such an order had been issued to him and, if so, by whom. Roelofs ordered the tanks and the infantry platoon to pull out of the column on to a flat spot near his command post. He intended to send them back to their original position just as soon as the road cleared sufficiently to enable them to travel. When he reported this to Colonel Ordway, he was instructed not to try it, as their movement to the rear might cause such a traffic jam that the artillery could not move.

About this time, soon after daybreak, enemy infantry had closed in so as virtually to surround the artillery. The North Korean 13th Regiment of the 6th Division, the enemy force at Pongam-ni, now struck furiously from three sides at the 555th and 90th Field Artillery Battalions' positions. [35] The attack came suddenly and with devastating power. Roelofs was standing in the road facing east toward Pongam-ni, trying to keep the traffic moving, when in the valley below him he saw streaks of fire that left a trail behind. Then came tremendous crashes. A truck blew up on the bridge in a mushroom of flame. The truck column behind it stopped. Men in the vehicles jumped out and ran to the ditches. Roelofs could now see enemy tanks and self-propelled guns on the dirt trail in the valley north of Pongam-ni, firing into the village and the artillery positions. To the artillerymen, this armed force looked like two tanks and several antitank guns.

The withdrawal of the section of tanks and the A Company infantry platoon from its roadblock position had permitted this enemy armor force to approach undetected and unopposed, almost to point-blank range, and with completely disastrous effects. The Triple Nickel emplacements were in the open and exposed to this fire; those of the 90th were partially protected by terrain features. The 105-mm. howitzers of the 555th Field Artillery Battalion ineffectually engaged the enemy armor. The 90th could not depress its 155-mm. howitzers low enough to engage the tanks and the self-propelled guns. Some of the Triple Nickel guns received direct hits. Many of the artillerymen of this battalion sought cover in buildings and under the bridge at Taejong-ni. Some of the buildings caught fire.

Simultaneously with the appearance of the enemy armor, North Korean small arms and automatic fire from the ridge north of the road increased greatly in volume. This fire caused several casualties among the 4.2-inch mortar crew members and forced the mortar platoon to cease firing and seek cover. The heavy machine gun platoon, fortunately, was well dug in and continued to pour heavy fire into the enemy-held ridge. An enemy machine gun opened up from the rear south of the road, but before the gunner got the range a truck driver killed him. Other sporadic efforts of a

[35] ATIS Supp, Enemy Docs, Issue 2, pp. 97-98, gives the enemy order 
for the attack at Bloody Gulch. 


few infiltrating enemy troops in that quarter were suppressed before causing damage.

A lieutenant colonel of artillery came up the road with three or four men. He told Roelofs that things were in a terrible condition at the bridge and in the village. He said the guns were out of action and the trucks had been shot up and that the men were getting out as best they could. As the road traffic thinned out, enemy fire on the road subsided. Roelofs ordered the 4.2-inch mortar platoon to move on through the pass. The heavy machine gun platoon followed it. The wounded were taken along; the dead were left behind. There was no room for them on the few remaining trucks that would run.

As the last men of the 1st Battalion were moving westward toward the top of the pass, three medium tanks rolled up the road from Pongam-ni. Roelofs had not known they were there. He stopped one and ordered it to stand by. The tankers told him that everyone they saw at the bridge and along the stream was dead. To make a last check, Roelofs with several men started down anyway. On the way they met Chaplain Francis A. Kapica in his jeep with several wounded men. Kapica told Roelofs he had brought with him all the wounded he could find. Roelofs turned back, boarded the waiting tank, and started west. At the pass which his 1st Battalion men still held, he found 23 men from C Company, all that remained of 180. These survivors said they had been overrun. Roelofs organized the battalion withdrawal westward from the pass. In the advance he put A Company, then the C Company survivors. Still in contact with enemy, B Company came off the hills north of the pass in platoons. The company made the withdrawal successfully with the three tanks covering it from the pass. The tanks brought up the rear guard. The time was about 1000.

The situation in the village and at the bridge was not quite what it appeared to be to Roelofs and some of the officers and men who escaped from there and reported to him. Soon after the enemy armor came down the trail from the north and shot up the artillery positions, enemy infantry closed on the Triple Nickel emplacements and fired on the men with small arms and automatic weapons. Three of the 105-mm. howitzers managed to continue firing for several hours after daybreak, perhaps until 0900. Then the enemy overran the 555th positions. [36]

The 90th Field Artillery Battalion suffered almost as great a calamity. Early in the pre-dawn attack the North Koreans scored direct hits on two 155-mm. howitzers and several ammunition trucks of A Battery. Only by fighting resolutely as infantrymen, manning the machine guns on the perimeter and occupying foxholes as riflemen, were the battalion troops able to repel the North Korean attack. Pfc. William L. Baumgartner of Headquarters Battery contributed greatly in repelling one persistent enemy force. He fired a truck-mounted machine gun while companions dropped all around him. Finally, a direct hit on

[36] 25th Div WD, 12 Aug 50; 90th FA Bn WD, 12 Aug 50; 159th FA Bn WD, 
12 Aug 50; Barth MS, p. 17; Interv, Gugeler with Capt Perry H. Graves, 
CO, B Btry, 555th FA Bn, 9 Aug 51; Interv, author with 1st Lt Lyle D. 
Robb, CO, Hq Co, 5th Inf, 9 Aug 51; 1st Lt Wyatt Y. Logan, 555th FA Bn, 
Debriefing Rpt 64, 22 Jan 5:, FA School, Ft. Sill.


his gun knocked him unconscious and off the truck. After he revived, Baumgartner resumed the fight with a rifle. [37]

At daybreak, Corsairs flew in to strafe and rocket the enemy. They had no radio communication with the ground troops but, by watching tracer bullets from the ground action, the pilots located the enemy. Despite this close air support, the artillery position was untenable by 0900. Survivors of the 90th loaded the wounded on the few serviceable trucks. Then, with the uninjured giving covering fire and Air Force F-51 fighter planes strafing the enemy, the battalion withdrew on foot. [38] Survivors credited the vicious close-in attacks of the fighter planes with making the withdrawal possible. But most of all, the men owed their safety to their own willingness to fight heroically as infantrymen when the enemy closed with them.

Meanwhile, enemy fire destroyed or burned nearly every vehicle east of the Pongam-ni bridge.

A mile eastward, another enemy force struck at B Battery, 159th Field Artillery Battalion. In this action enemy fire ignited several trucks loaded with ammunition and gasoline. At great personal risk, several drivers drove other ammunition and gasoline trucks away from the burning vehicles. The attack here, however, was not as intense as that at Pongam-ni and it subsided about 0800. [39]

After the artillery positions had been overrun, two tanks of the 25th Division Reconnaissance Company arrived from the east and tried to drive out the North Koreans and clear the road. MSgt. Robert A. Tedford stood exposed in the turret of one tank, giving instructions to the driver and gunner, while he himself operated the .50-caliber machine gun. This tank attack failed. Enemy fire killed Tedford, but he snuffed out the lives of some North Koreans before he lost his own. [40]

Meanwhile, at his assembly area five miles westward, Colonel Throckmorton had received Colonel Ordway's order to return with the 2d Battalion to the pass area west of Pongam-ni. When he arrived there the fight in the gulch and valley eastward had died down. A few stragglers came into his lines, but none after noon. Believing that enemy forces were moving through the hills toward the regimental command post at Taejong-ni, Throckmorton requested authority to return there. The regimental executive officer granted this authority at 1500. [41]

During the morning, General Barth, commander of the 25th Division artillery, tried to reach the scene of the enemy attack. But the enemy had cut the road and forced him to turn back. North Koreans also ambushed a platoon of the 72d Engineer Combat Battalion trying to help open the road. Barth telephoned General Kean at Masan and reported to him the extent of the disaster. Kean at once ordered the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, to proceed to the scene,

[37] 90th FA Bn WD, 11-21 Aug 50; Barth MS, p. 18. Department of the 
Army General Order 36, 4 June 1951, awarded the Distinguished Unit 
Citation to the 90th Field Artillery Battalion. 

[38] 90th FA Bn WD, 12 Aug 50; Barth MS; New York Herald Tribune, August 
12, 1950, Bigart dispatch. 

[39] 159th FA Bn WD, 11-12 Aug 50.
[40] General Order 232, 23 April 1951, awarded the Distinguished Service 
Cross posthumously to Sergeant Tedford. EUSAK WD. 

[41] Interv, author with Throckmorton, 20 Aug 52.


and he also ordered the 3d Battalion, 24th Infantry, to attack through the hills to Pongam-ni. [42]

The Marine battalion arrived at Kogan-ni, three miles short of Pongam-ni, at 1600 and, with the assistance of air strikes and an artillery barrage, by dark had secured the high ground north of the road and east of Pongam-ni. The next morning the battalion attacked west with the mission of rescuing survivors of the 555th Field Artillery Battalion reported to be under the bridge at the village. Colonel Murray in a helicopter tried to deliver a message to these survivors, if any (there is no certainty there were any there), but was driven back by enemy machine gun fire. The marines reached the hill overlooking Pongam-ni and saw numerous groups of enemy troops below. Before they could attempt to attack into Pongam-ni itself the battalion received orders to rejoin the brigade at Masan. [43]

The 3d Battalion, 24th Infantry, likewise did not reach the overrun artillery positions. Lt. Col. John T. Corley, the much-decorated United States Army battalion commander of World War II, had assumed command of the battalion just three days before, on 9 August. Although Eighth Army sent some of the very best unit commanders in the United States Army to the 24th Regiment to give it superior leadership, the regiment remained unreliable and performed poorly. On 12 August, Corley's two assault companies in the first three hours of action against an estimated two enemy companies, and while receiving only a few rounds of mortar fire, dwindled from a strength of more than 100 men per company to about half that number. There were only 10 casualties during the day, 3 of them officers. By noon of the next day, 13 August, the strength of one company was down to 20 men and of the other to 35. This loss of strength was not due to casualties. Corley's battalion attack stopped two and a half miles from the captured artillery positions. [44]

At Bloody Gulch, the name given by the troops to the scene of the successful enemy attack, the 555th Field Artillery on 12 August lost all eight of its 105-mm. howitzers in the two firing batteries there. The 90th Field Artillery Battalion lost all six 155-mm. howitzers of its A Battery. The loss of Triple Nickel artillerymen has never been accurately computed. The day after the enemy attack only 20 percent of the battalion troops were present for duty. The battalion estimated at the time that from 75 to 100 artillerymen were killed at the gun positions and 80 wounded, with many of the latter unable to get away. Five weeks later, when the 25th Division regained Taejong-ni, it found in a house the bodies of 55 men of the 555th Field Artillery. [45]

The 90th Field Artillery Battalion lost 10 men killed, 60 wounded, and

[42] Barth MS, p. 19: 3d Bn, 24th Inf WD, 12 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, 12 Aug 

[43] 3d Bn, 5th Mar SAR, 12-13 Aug 50; 1st Prov Mar Brig SAR, 12-13 Aug 
50; Montross and Canzona, The Pusan Perimeter, pp. 150-52. 

[44] Interv, author with Corley, 6 Nov 51; Barth MS, p. 19; EUSAK IG 
Rpt, 24th Inf Regt, testimony of Corley, 26 Aug 50. 

[45] 25th Div WD, 13 Aug 50; 90th FA Bn WD, 12 Aug 50; 27th Inf Narr 
Hist Rpt, Sep 50; Barth MS, p. 17; New York Herald Tribune, August 14, 
1950, Bigart dispatch. 


about 30 missing at Bloody Gulch-more than half the men of Headquarters and A Batteries present. Five weeks later when this area again came under American control, the bodies of 20 men of the battalion were found; all of them had been shot through the head. [46]

Four days after the artillery disaster, General Barth had the 555th and 90th Field Artillery Battalions reconstituted and re-equipped with weapons. Eighth Army diverted 12 105-mm. howitzers intended for the ROK Army to the 25th Division artillery and 6 155-mm. howitzers intended for a third firing battery of the 90th Field Artillery Battalion were used to re-equip A Battery. Lt. Col. Clarence E. Stuart arrived in Korea from the United States on 13 August and assumed command of the 555th Field Artillery Battalion.

West of Bloody Gulch, the 2d Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team, repulsed a North Korean attack at Taejong-ni on the morning of 13 August. That afternoon, the battalion entrucked and moved on to the Much'on-ni road fork. There it turned east toward Masan.

The 3d Battalion of the 5th Regimental Combat Team, rolling westward from Pongam-ni on the morning of 1l August, had joined the 35th Infantry where the latter waited at the Much'on-ni crossroads. From there the two forces moved on to the Chinju pass. They now looked down on Chinju. But only their patrols went farther. On the afternoon of 13 August and that night, the 5th Regimental Combat Team traveled back eastward. It was depleted and worn. Military police from the 25th Division were supposed to guide its units to assigned assembly areas. But there was a change in plans, and in the end confusion prevailed as most of the units were led in the darkness of 13-14 August to a dry stream bed just east of Chindong-ni. The troops were badly mixed there and until daylight no one knew where anyone else was. [47]

The next morning the 2d Battalion of the 5th Regimental Combat Team moved around west to Kogan-ni, where it relieved the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines. Colonel Throckmorton succeeded Colonel Ordway in command of the regiment on 15 August.

Task Force Kean Ended

On 14 August, after a week of fighting, Task Force Kean was back approximately in the positions from which it had started its attack. The 35th Regiment held the northern part of the 25th Division line west of Masan, the 24th Regiment the center, and the 5th Regimental Combat Team the southern part. The Marine brigade was on its way to another part of the Eighth Army line. In the week of constant fighting in the Chinju corridor, from 7 to 13 August, the units of Task Force Kean learned

[46] 25th Div WD, 24 Sep 50; Barth MS, p. 17. In addition to its guns, 
the 90th lost 26 vehicles and 2 M5 tractors. The 555th lost practically 
all its vehicles. Many 1st Battalion and regimental headquarters 
vehicles were also destroyed or abandoned. The North Korean communiqué 
for 12 August, monitored in a rebroadcast from Moscow, claimed, in 
considerable exaggeration, 9 150-mm. guns, 12 105-mm. guns, 13 tanks, 
and 157 vehicles captured or destroyed. See New York Times, August 16, 
1950: Barth MS, p. 21; Interv, author with Stuart, 9 Aug 51. 

[47] Interv, author with Throckmorton, 20 Aug 52; Ordway, MS review 
comments, 20 Nov 57.


that the front was the four points of the compass, and that it was necessary to climb, climb, climb. The saffron-colored hills were beautiful to gaze upon at dusk, but they were brutal to the legs climbing them, and out of them at night came the enemy.

While Task Force Kean drove westward toward Chinju, enemy mines and small arms fire daily cut the supply roads behind it in the vicinity of Chindong-ni. For ten successive days, tanks and armored cars had to open a road so that food supplies might reach a battalion of the 24th Infantry in the Sobuk-san area. The old abandoned coal mines of the Tundok region on Sobuk-san were alive with enemy troops. The 24th Infantry and ROK troops had been unable to clear this mountainous region. [48]

At 1550, 16 August, in a radio message to General Kean, Eighth Army dissolved Task Force Kean. [49] The task force had not accomplished what Eighth Army had believed to be easily possible-the winning and holding of the Chinju pass line. Throughout Task Force Kean's attack, well organized enemy forces controlled the Sobuk-san area and from there struck at its rear and cut its lines of communications. The North Korean High Command did not move a single squad from the northern to the southern front during the action. The N.K. 6th Division took heavy losses in some of the fighting, but so did Task Force Kean. Eighth Army again had underestimated the N.K. 6th Division.

Even though Task Force Kean's attack did not accomplish what Eighth Army had hoped for and expected, it nevertheless did provide certain beneficial results. It chanced to meet head-on the N.K. 6th Division attack against the Masan position, and first stopped it, then hurled it back. Secondly, it gave the 25th Division a much needed psychological experience of going on the offensive and nearly reaching an assigned objective. From this time on, with the exception of the 24th Infantry, the division troops fought well and displayed a battle worthiness that paid off handsomely and sometimes spectacularly in the oncoming Perimeter battles. By disorganizing the offensive operations of the N.K. 6th Division at the middle of August, Task Force Kean also gained the time needed to organize and wire in the defenses that were to hold the enemy out of Masan during the critical period ahead.

The N.K. 6th Division now took up defensive positions opposite the 25th Division in the mountains west of Masan. It placed its 13th Regiment on the left near the Nam River, the 15th in the center, and the 14th on the right next to the coast. Remnants of the 83d Motorized Regiment continued to support the division. The first replacements for the 6th Division-2,000 of them-arrived at Chinju reportedly on 12 August. Many of these were South Koreans from Andong, forced into service. They were issued hand grenades and told to pick up arms on the battlefield. Prisoners reported that the 6th Division was down to a strength of between 3,000-4,000 men. Apparently it still had about twelve T34 tanks which needed fuel. The men had little food. All supplies were car-

[48] Interv, author with Arnold, 22 Jul 51: Interv, author with Fisher, 
2 Jan 52; Fisher, MS review comments, 7 Nov 57; Barth MS, p. 15. 

[49] 25th Div WD, 16 Aug 50; GHQ UNC G-3 Opn Rpt 53, 16 Aug 50.


ried to the front by A-frame porters, there placed in dumps, and camouflaged with leaves and grass. [50]

During the fighting between Task Force Kean and the N.K. 6th Division on the Masan front, violent and alarming battles had erupted elsewhere. Sister divisions of the N.K. 6th in the north along the Naktong were matching it in hard blows against Eighth Army's defense line. The battles of the Pusan Perimeter had started.

[50] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 100 (N.K. 6th Div), pp. 38-39; 
27th Inf WD, Aug 50, PW Rpt 10; EUSAK WD, 12 Aug 50, Interrog Rpt 519; 
25th Div WD, Aug 50, PW Interrog.