The Capture of P'yongyang

To the devil with history and principles! After all, what is the problem?

Verdy du Vernois at battle of Nachod, anecdote told by Foch

The Logistical Situation

The Eighth Army advance into North Korea had begun under great logistical difficulties and was supported only on the narrowest margin. On 10 October, the day after the attack began, General Milburn expressed himself as being disturbed by the logistical situation of I Corps. He felt that at least 3,000 tons of balanced stocks should be in the Kaesong ammunition supply points. But Col. Albert K. Stebbins, Jr., Eighth Army G-4, informed him that this could not be accomplished unless all the truck companies were diverted to that task. The unfavorable supply situation largely grew out of the fact that during the first half of October (1-17 October) unloading activities at Inch'on for Eighth Army were negligible. Practically all the port capabilities at that time were engaged in mounting out the 1st Marine Division for the Wonsan operation. Levels of some supplies for I Corps were at times reduced to one day, and only selective unloading enabled the supply sections to meet troop requirements. Most combat vehicles, such as tanks, operated in the forward zone without knowing whether they would have enough fuel at hand to continue the attack the next day.

Because it could not support any more troops north of the Han River at this time, Eighth Army had been compelled to undertake the movement north of the 38th Parallel with only one corps (I Corps), leaving IX Corps below the river. As rapidly as the logistical situation permitted, General Walker intended to move IX Corps into North Korea to help in the drive to the border. On 23 October, General Walker informed General Coulter that the ROK III Corps (5th and 11th Divisions) would relieve IX Corps' in its zone as soon as practicable for this purpose, and not later than 10 November. [1]

On 19 October the army forward distributing point was at Kaesong. Hence, for most units supplies had to be trucked more than a hundred miles-a most difficult logistical situation even with good roads, and those in Korea were far from that. During this time Eighth Army used about 200 trucks daily to transport food,

[1]IX Corps WD, bk. I, sec. II, Oct 50. EUSAK WD, 23 Oct 50: Ltr of 
Instr, CofS to CG IX Corps. 23 Oct 50. 


gasoline, and lubricants to dumps 50 miles north of Seoul.

A pipeline, completed in October, carried aviation gasoline from Inch'on to Kimpo Airfield and helped immensely in supplying the planes with fuel. [2]

The 3d Logistical Command at Inch'on was assigned to Eighth Army on 7 October with the primary mission of providing it with logistical support in North Korea. Eighth Army in turn attached the 3d Logistical Command to the 2d Logistical Command. From Pusan the 2d Logistical Command continued of necessity to forward by rail and truck supplies for Eighth Army.

The solution to Eighth Army's logistical problems rested in the last analysis on the railroads. Airlift and long-distance trucking were emergency measures only; they could not supply the army for an offensive operation several hundreds of miles from its railhead.

At the end of September, rail communications for Eighth Army did not extend beyond the old Pusan Perimeter. Yet the army itself was then at the Han River, 200 miles northward. Because of the resulting logistical strain, the repair of the rail line north of Waegwan was of the greatest importance.

The reconstruction of the railroad bridges over the major rivers north of Taegu constituted the greatest single problem. To rebuild these bridges Eighth Army marshaled all available bridging equipment and materiel. Engineer construction troops, aided by great numbers of Korean laborers, worked to the limit of their endurance to restore the rail lines northward. The Koreans assumed responsibility for repairing minor bridges, I Corps most of the highway bridges, and Eighth Army the rail bridges and the largest highway bridges.

The first great task was to repair the 165-foot break in the Waegwan rail bridge over the Naktong. Working fifty feet above the water, the engineers, after some preliminary work, in 7 days completed the major repairs. Rail traffic crossed the bridge on 5 October. At first all effort was concentrated on opening single track communications over the 200 miles of rail from the Naktong to the Han River. This was accomplished on 10 October, 17 days after reconstruction work started at the Naktong River bridge. It was not until 11 days later that a shoofly bridge carried rail traffic across the Han into Seoul. [3]

But even after trains crossed into Seoul they could proceed only as far as Munsan-ni on the south bank of the Imjin River. This was still 200 miles below the Eighth Army front at the Ch'ongch'on River in late October. Thus, at that time the railhead was still as many miles south of the Eighth Army front

[2] 3d Log Comd Hist Rpt, Oct 50; 2d Log Comd Rpt, G-4 Sec, Oct 50, pp. 
3-6; EUSAK WD, G-4 Sec Rpt, 10 Oct 50; Ibid., G-3 Jnl. 15 Oct 50; 
Interv, author with Eberle (FEC UNC G-4, 1950), 12 Jan 54; Interv, 
author with Maj Gen Leven C. Allen, 15 Dec 53; ORO, An Evaluation of 
Service Support in the Korean Campaign, ORO-T-6 (FEC), 1 Mar 51, p. 8. 

[3] EUSAK WD, Engr Off Rpt, 30 Sep and 15 Oct 50; Ibid., Trans Sec, 26 
Oct, G-4 Staff Sec, 12 Nov, and G-1 Daily Hist Rpt, 20 Nov 50; Dept of 
State Pub 4051, United Nations Command Eighth Report to the Security 
Council, United Nations, 16-31 October 1950, p. 6; Col. Paschal N. 
Strong, "Army Engineers in Korea," Military Engineer, vol. 44, No. 302
(November-December, 1952), 404-10, and "Engineers in Korea-Operation 
Shoestring," vol. 4,, No. 291 (January-February, 1951); Interv, author 
with Strong (Eighth Army Engr Off), 17 Sep 51. 


as it had been a month earlier when the front was in the Seoul area and the railhead was at Waegwan. At Munsan-ni the supplies were unloaded, trucked across the Imjin, and reloaded on trains on the north side. Meanwhile, Engineer troops were at work repairing the Imjin River rail bridge. The water span was 1,600 feet long, with a length of several thousand feet of earth fill required in its approaches. As a generalization, it may be said that the railhead lagged 200 miles behind the Eighth Army front in October 1950.

The daily "must" trains from Pusan at this time were (1) a train of 9 cars to Taejon for the 25th Division, (2) a ration train of 20 cars (200,000 rations) to Yongdungp'o, (3) 2 ammunition trains of 20 cars each, (4) 1 hospital train, (5) 1 POL train of 30 cars, and (6) 1 train of 20 cars every other day in support of ROK troops based in the Seoul area. [4]

Repair of the major highway bridges presented a problem just as pressing as repair of the rail bridges. In some respects it was an even more immediate problem because, in general, the highway bridges could be repaired more quickly, and they were the first used to keep supplies moving forward to the troops. The 207-foot span break in the Naktong River highway bridge at Waegwan was closed with pile bents and a 100-foot triple single-panel Bailey bridge. The first traffic crossed the repaired bridge on 30 September. To provide a vehicular bridge across the Han River at Seoul quickly, the FEAF Combat Cargo Command, using seventy C-119 flights, flew in a pontoon bridge from Japan. This 50-ton floating bridge was 740 feet long. On 30 September, 3,034 vehicles crossed it, and thereafter traffic passed over it day and night. A second bridge was completed across the Han on 7 October. The next afternoon two-way traffic resumed across the river.

At every turn in the operations in North Korea during October, Eighth Army's effort was limited by an adverse logistical situation. And it must be borne in mind that Eighth Army's troops had almost reached the North Korean capital of P'yongyang before it could get any supplies through the port of Inch'on, where facilities were still devoted exclusively to outloading the X Corps.

Sariwon Scramble

With action in the Kumch'on Pocket ended, in the first phase of Eighth Army's drive into North Korea, the 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry, marched from Hanp'o-ri on Namch'onjom. (Map 19) Air strikes on that town at 0700, 15 October, preceded the attack. The 2d Battalion then launched its assault, supported by artillery, against fiercely defending North Koreans. After hard fighting the 2d Battalion overcame the enemy force and entered Namch'onjom at noon, losing ten men killed and thirty wounded in the battle. North Korean prisoners said that strafing attacks on Namch'onjom during the morning had destroyed the 19th Division command post and killed the division chief of staff. [5]

[4] EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, 15 Oct 50 and Surgeon's Rpt, 12-13 Oct 50. 

[5] 7th Cav Regt Opn Ord 28, 141015 Oct 50; 5th Cav Regt WD, 15 Oct 50; 
1st Cav Div WD, 14-16 Oct 50; 7th Cav Regt WD, 15-16 Oct 50; EUSAK WD, 
G-3 Jnl, 1130 15 Oct 50; Webel, MS review comments, 13 Apr 54; Ltr, 
Harris to author, 7 Apr 54; Crombez, MS review comments, 12 Jan 56; 
Interv, author with Crombez, 12 Jan 56. 


(Map 19: THE CAPTURE OF P'YONGYANG, 15-19 October 1950)


Torrential rains now turned the dusty roads into seas of mud, and maneuvers planned to put the 5th Cavalry in front of the retreating enemy came to naught.

On 16 October, Colonel Lynch's 3d Battalion, 7th Cavalry, led the attack out of Namch'onjom, and by noon it had secured Sohung, seventeen miles northwest. The 1st Battalion passed through the town, turned north on a secondary road, and prepared to advance on Hwangju the next day. Colonel Harris and the regimental headquarters arrived at Sohung late in the afternoon.

On the right of the 1st Cavalry Division the ROK 1st Division had made spectacular progress. On the 13th it entered Sibyon-ni, a vital crossroads northeast of Kaesong. Two days later it engaged a regiment-sized force of North Koreans, which was supported by six tanks and artillery, in heavy battle in the vicinity of Miu-dong, twelve miles northeast of Namch'onjom. Air strikes helped the ROK's. With his men following the high ground and his tanks on the road, Paik moved ahead. His division fought another battle the next day, 16 October, after which its leading elements entered Suan, forty air miles southeast of P'yongyang. General Paik said at this time that his tactics were "no stop." It began to look as if his division, the infantry afoot and traveling over secondary roads, was going to beat the American motorized columns to P'yongyang. [6]

On 15 October General Milburn reflected General Walker's impatience with what Walker thought was a slow advance. Milburn ordered the 24th Division to move into attack position on the left (west) of the 1st Cavalry Division and to seize Sariwon from the south, and then attack north toward the North Korean capital. On the same day General Gay ordered the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade to assemble behind the 7th Cavalry Regiment and be prepared to pass through it and seize Sariwon. Thus the stage was set for a continuation of the I Corps drive for P'yongyang. General Gay has said of that period, "The situation was tense, everybody was tired and nervous." [7]

Colonel Stephen's 21st Infantry of the 24th Division met just enough opposition as it moved from Paekch'on toward Haeju to prevent the infantry from mounting the trucks and rolling along rapidly as a motorized column. Its tank-infantry teams on 17 October overcame 300 North Koreans defending Haeju and secured the town that afternoon. [8]

The 19th Regiment of the 24th Division, meanwhile, trailed the 5th Cavalry Regiment. Both of them turned westward off the main highway at Namch'onjom. The 19th Infantry was to continue westward beyond Nuch'on-ni and then turn north toward Sariwon. On the 16th a bad traffic jam developed on the road up to Namch'onjom where the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade, the 5th Cavalry, and the 19th Regiment were all on the road. For long periods the vehicles moved slowly, bumper to bumper. From Namch'onjom westward, the 19th Infantry, behind the 5th Cavalry Regiment, was powerless to accelerate its pace although General Church had ordered it

[6] EUSAK WD, POR 279, 13 Oct and POR 289, 6 Oct 50; Ibid., G-3 Jnl, 
1130 15 Oct 50. 

[7] Ltr, Gay to author, 23 Jan 54; I Corps Opn Dir 12, 151000 Oct 50; 
24th Div WD, 15 Oct 50; Linklater, Our Men in Korea, p. 22. 

[8] 24th Div WD, 16-79 Oct 50; EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 17 Oct 50. 


to do so. Word came at this time that General Milburn had told Generals Gay and Church that whichever division-the 1st Cavalry or the 24th Infantry-reached Sariwon first would thereby win the right to lead the corps attack on into P'yongyang. The 24th Division was handicapped in this race for Sariwon, as it had a roundabout, longer route over inferior roads and poorer supply routes. [9]

A dominant characteristic of all units in the advance at this time was the strong rivalry prevailing between divisions, and even between units within a division, to gain the most ground and be the first to reach the North Korean capital. Flare-ups between units were frequent and nerves were taut.

One such flare-up occurred before dawn of 17 October. On the preceding afternoon two battalions and the regimental headquarters of the 7th Cavalry reached Sohung. The 3d Battalion held the town and together with F Company established roadblocks there. The 27th British Commonwealth Brigade was to pass through it the next morning in attack along the main highway to Sariwon. Holding a roadblock south of Sohung was Capt. Arthur H. Truxes, Jr., with F Company. Colonel Harris in posting his roadblock forces gave them orders to shoot at anything moving in front of the perimeter during the hours of darkness. He says he had no information that the 5th Cavalry was making a night approach toward his position. Captain Webel, S-3 of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, says that he told the 5th Cavalry liaison officer with the regiment of the roadblock forces and their orders to shoot, and asked him to return to the 5th Cavalry and inform it of the situation. This officer did not do that, however, but stayed in the 7th Cavalry command post overnight. The leading elements of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, approached the 7th Cavalry outpost one mile south of Sohung at 0300 the morning of 17 October, and a fire fight broke out between them, each thinking the other an enemy force. Before the mistake could be corrected, 7th Cavalry fire wounded seven men of the 5th Cavalry. [10]

On 17 October, with the 1st Battalion in the lead, the 7th Cavalry Regiment followed the secondary "cow path" road north from Sohung in a circuitous route toward Hwangju where it would strike the main P'yongyang highway north of Sariwon. The 27th British Commonwealth Brigade passed through the lines of the 7th Cavalry that morning at Sohung and took up the advance along the main highway toward Sariwon.

Sariwon lay some thirty miles up the highway almost due west from Sohung. At Sariwon the highway and railroad debouched from the mountains, turned north and ran through the coastal plain

[9] 24th Div WD, 16 Oct 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 16 Oct 50; 7th Cav Regt WD, 
16 Oct 50; Crombez, MS review comments, 12 Jan 56; Ltr, Crombez to 
author, 12 Oct 54; Interv, author with Crombez, 12 Jan 56. 

[10] 5th Cav Regt Unit Jnl, msg 181, 0630 17 Oct 50; 5th Cav Regt WD, 
16-17 Oct 50; Ltrs, Harris to author, 23 Dec 53 and 7 Apr 54; Gay, MS 
review comments for author, 13 Mar 54; Ltr, Crombez to author, 12 Oct 
54; Interv, author with Crombez, 12 Jan 56; Crombez, MS review comments, 
12 Jan 56; Interv, author with Maj Geo Frank A. Allen, Jr., 28 Jan 54; 
Webel, MS review comments, 15 Nov 57. This episode is confused and the 
principals do not agree on all details. Captain Truxes' account of this 
incident was unobtainable as he was killed in action when the Chinese 
entered the war.


to P'yongyang, thirty-five miles away. Only occasional low hills lay across the road between Sariwon and P'yongyang. It was generally expected that the North Koreans would make their stand for the defense of P'yongyang, short of the city itself, on the heights before Sariwon.

A platoon of Maj. David Wilson's A Company of the Argyll 1st Battalion, mounted on American Sherman tanks, formed the point as the Argylls led the attack. Brig. Gen. Frank A. Allen, Jr., Assistant Division Commander, 1st Cavalry Division, accompanied the Argylls. Groups of haggard and hungry North Korean soldiers stood along the roadside waiting for a chance to surrender, and Russian-made trucks, their gas tanks empty, stood abandoned. Four miles short of Sariwon, on the hills guarding the approach to the town, it looked for a while as if the anticipated big battle had started. Enemy rifle fire suddenly burst on the column from a hillside apple orchard, 200 yards away. The column stopped and the men sought cover.

Behind the lead tanks, General Allen jumped from his jeep, stamped along the road, waved a map and shouted, "They're in that orchard, rake 'em, blast them out of there!" The general's aide, 1st Lt. John T. Hodes, climbed on one of the tanks and trained his glasses on the orchard to give fire direction. The pilot of a spotter plane above the ridge dipped his wings to indicate the presence of the enemy in force. A few North Koreans started running from the orchard when the tanks began firing into it. Suddenly, a mass of North Koreans broke from the orchard, rushed for the ridge line, and vanished over the top. Wilson's A Company of the Argylls moved on the orchard and swept it clean of remaining enemy troops. They killed about 40 and captured others in this brief action. The fleeing North Koreans left behind ten machine guns and, in the pass, they abandoned a battery of antitank guns. The British now entered Sariwon, a large town, which they found to be badly damaged by bombing. Their loss thus far for the day was 1 man killed and 3 wounded. [11]

About 1700 in the afternoon the Australian 3d Battalion passed through the Argylls in the town and advanced five miles north of it toward Hwangju. There the Australians went into a perimeter blocking position in front of a range of hills strongly held by the enemy, and prepared to attack in the morning.

Now began a succession of weird events in what proved to be a chaotic night in Sariwon. A British reconnaissance group south of the town encountered a truckload of North Korean soldiers driving north. The North Koreans shot their way through and continued into the town, but, finding the northern exit closed, they turned back and met the reconnaissance group again. In this second encounter, the reconnaissance party killed about twenty of the enemy troops.

A little later, Lt. Col. Leslie Nielson, commanding officer of the Argyll 1st Battalion, driving in the gloom near the southern end of Sariwon, was suddenly amazed to see coming toward him on either side of the road a double file of

[11] Maj Gen B. A. Coad, "The Land Campaign in Korea," op. cit.; 
Linklater, Our Men in Korea, pp. 22-23; Bartlett, With the Australians 
in Korea, pp. 27-28; Ltr, Gay to author, 23 Jan 54; 1st Cav Div WD, 17 
Oct 50; Charles and Eugene Jones, The Face of War, pp. 150-51; New York 
Herald Tribune, October 17, 1950. 


North Korean soldiers. The leading soldiers fired at him but missed. Nielson shouted to his driver, "Put your foot on it!" The driver did, and raced four miles through the marching North Koreans. Clearing the last of them, Nielson and his driver took to the hills and stayed there until morning. This enemy force, fleeing in front of the 18th Infantry, 24th Division, and approaching Sariwon from the south, did not know the town had already fallen to U.N. units.

There were many times during that wild night in Sariwon when U.N. soldiers thought the North Koreans were South Koreans coming up from the south with the 24th Division, and the North Koreans thought the British were Russians. There were several instances of mutual congratulations and passing around of cigarettes. One group of North Koreans greeted a platoon of Argylls with shouts of "Comrade!" and, rushing forward in the dim light, slapped the Scots on the back, offered cigarettes, and gave them the red stars from their caps as souvenirs. The ensuing fight was at very close quarters.

Lt. Robin D. Fairrey, the Argylls' mortar officer, walked around a corner into a group of North Koreans. Maintaining his composure, he said to them, "Rusky, Rusky," and after receiving several pats on the back, turned another corner and got away.

During this scrambled night at Sariwon about 150 North Koreans were killed; strangely enough, the British lost only one soldier. Most of the North Koreans passed through the town. North of it the Australian 3d Battalion reaped a harvest, capturing 1,982 North Korean soldiers at its roadblock. Maj. I. B. Ferguson played a leading role in capturing this large number of enemy troops. When the first of them came up to the Australian outpost a night battle seemed imminent. Ferguson mounted a tank and called out in the gloom for the North Koreans to surrender, telling them they were surrounded. After some hesitation, the leading enemy unit dropped its arms and surrendered, and most of the others followed its example. [12]

During the day, while the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade advanced on Sariwon along the main highway, the 7th Cavalry Regiment, with Colonel Clainos' 1st Battalion in the lead, hurried along the poor secondary roads through the hills north of it. This column was about three miles from Hwangju and the main highway above Sariwon when at 1600 in the afternoon it received a message General Gay dropped from a light plane. The message said that the roads out of Sariwon were crowded with hundreds of North Korean soldiers, and it directed Colonel Clainos to have one battalion of the 7th Cavalry turn south at Hwangju on the main highway to meet the British and help trap the large numbers of enemy soldiers in the Sariwon area, while another battalion turned right and held the town of Hwangju. Clinos and the two battalion commanders agreed that the 1st Battalion would turn to meet the British and the 2d Battalion would hold Hwangju. [13]

Soon after turning south on the Sariwon-P'yongyang highway the leading

[12] Coad, "The Land Campaign in Korea," op. cit.; Linklater, Our Men in 
Korea, 1st Cav Div WD, 17-18 Oct 50; Bartlett, With the Australians in 
Korea, p. 9; New York Herald Tribune, October 20, 1950.

[13] Ltrs, Gay to author, 23 Jan and 13 Mar 54; Clainos, MS review 
comments, 24 May 54. 


elements of the 1st Battalion captured an enemy cavalry detachment and thirty-seven horses.

A little later the battalion came under fire from the enemy on the hill barrier ahead and separating it from the Australians. The battalion's motorized point had a short skirmish with an enemy group during which its South Korean interpreter, although wounded, tried and indeed succeeded in reaching the North Korean forward position. He told the North Koreans that the column they were fighting was Russian. The enemy platoon thereupon came up to the 7th Cavalry's point, which Colonel Clainos had just joined. Clainos turned the enemy group over to a squad leader who proceeded to disarm it. Finding that they had been tricked, some of the enemy tried to resist. This ended when the squad leader knocked one of the North Koreans into a ditch.

The enemy platoon's surrender took place in clear daylight and was observed by hundreds of North Korean soldiers in the nearby hills. Almost immediately, enemy soldiers from the eastern side of the position began pouring in to surrender. On the western side, however, small arms fire continued until dark when many there also came out to surrender. Altogether, more than 1,700 North Korean soldiers and thirteen female nurses surrendered to the 1st Battalion that evening.

Colonel Clainos had established radio communication with the Australians about 1800. At 2230, he radioed Colonel Green of the Australian battalion that, with vehicle lights on, he was coming through the pass with his battalion and prisoners. An hour before midnight the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, reached the Australian perimeter. There, Colonel Clainos overheard one Australian soldier saying to another, "Now what do you make of this? Here we are all set for a coordinated attack in the morning, and the bloody Yanks come in at midnight from the north, with their lights burning, and bringing the whole damned North Korean Army as prisoners." [14]

Into P'yongyang

It had become clear by the time the U.N. troops reached Sariwon that the remaining North Korean forces could not attempt a strong defense of P'yongyang without incurring total destruction or capture. The North Koreans by this time not only had to contend with the U.S. I Corps, approaching the capital city along the main Seoul axis from the south, but also the enveloping movements of the ROK Army forces from the southeast and east. Some of these forces, if they continued their rapid advance for a few days more, would almost certainly cut on the north the highways and exits from the doomed city. P'yongyang would then be surrounded and any forces retained in and around the city for its defense would face either destruction or surrender.

The flanking operation originally conceived by General MacArthur for the X Corps after it had landed on the east coast at Wonsan had, in fact, been carried out by ROK Army units under Eighth Army control before a single soldier of X Corps landed in the east. By

[14] Clainos, MS review comments for author, 24 May 54; Coad, "The Land 
Campaign in Korea," op. cit.; Linklater, Our Men in Korea, 7th Cav Regt 
WD, 17 Oct 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 17 Oct 50; Ltrs, Gay to author, 23 Jan 
and 13 Mar 54. 


evening of 17 October four ROK divisions were racing each other, as well as the American and British units of the U.S. I Corps, to be first in reaching P'yongyang. The ROK 1st Division, only fifteen miles away to the southeast, was closest of all U.N. units to the city. On its right flank, the ROK 7th Division was swinging toward P'yongyang from the east. Still farther east the ROK 8th Division had almost reached Yangdok in the central mountains where it would turn west on the P'yongyang-Wonsan lateral road. And, finally, the ROK 6th Division was just short of Yangdok on this road, fifty air miles east of P'yongyang, after having turned west on 15 October from Wonsan on the coast, which it had reached by the road from Hwach'on. Thus, the U.S. I Corps was nearing P'yongyang from the south and southeast, the ROK 7th Division from the southeast, and the ROK 8th and 6th Divisions from the northeast. With approximately seven U.N. divisions converging on P'yongyang, obviously the North Korean Army in its state of depletion, disorganization, and demoralization could not hold the city. [15]

The Eighth Army G-2 estimated on 17 October that less than 8,000 effectives of the N.K. 32d and 17th Divisions were available for defense of P'yongyang. The estimate concluded that the enemy would undertake a token defense of the city while the main force withdrew northward across the Ch'ongch'on River for further operations. [16]

The 1st Cavalry Division had won the honor of leading the attack into P'yongyang when the British 27th Brigade, attached to it, beat the 24th Division into Sariwon. Leading elements of the 18th Infantry Regiment, 24th Division, were still several miles south of Sariwon when orders came at 1700 on 17 October to stop and hold up the attack because U.N. troops were already in the town. Morale in the 1st Cavalry Division was high. Most of the soldiers heard and passed on a rumor that the city was their final objective in the war, and once it was taken the American troops would leave Korea. Most of them expected to eat Thanksgiving Day dinner in Japan. [17]

Since the 7th Cavalry Regiment was the unit farthest north, General Gay ordered it to resume the advance on P'yongyang at daylight 18 October. The 3d Battalion at Hwangju became the assault battalion even though its men were tired from their long night movement to the town. At daylight on the 18th the battalion crossed the ford in Hwangju and began the advance. Resistance was light until the leading elements of the battalion arrived in front of the high ground south of Hukkyo-ri, halfway to P'yongyang. There enemy high velocity gun and heavy 120-mm. mortar fire struck the column. Captain Webel, the regimental S-3, estimated that a reinforced battalion of about 800 men held the prepared enemy defensive positions.

Twenty tanks of C Company, 70th Tank Battalion supported the battalion, but they had to contend with fire from three or four dug-in enemy tanks and a mined roadway. In the midst of the fighting, enemy small arms fire shot down an F-51 fighter plane. General Milburn, the corps commander, watched the ac-

[15] See EUSAK WD and POR's, 12-17 Oct 50, for movements and positions 
of ROK units. 

[16] EUSAK PIR's 95, 15 Oct, and 97, 17 Oct 50. 

[17] 1st Cav Div WD. 18 Oct 50; Interv. author with Crombez. 12 Jan 56; 
24th Division WD, 17 Oct 50. 


[Caption] TANK-SUPPORTED CONVOY winds through the safety channel of a mined area en route to P'yongyang.

tion from an apple orchard at the side of the road, and about midafternoon General Gay came up and joined him. Dissatisfied with the progress of the attack, Gay ordered the regimental commander, Col. James K. Woolnough, who had temporarily replaced Colonel Harris, to start the other two battalions on flank movements against the enemy-held ridge. Captain Webel protested to General Gay that the enemy position was all but taken and that commitment of the other two battalions was unnecessary. But Gay let the order stand when he learned from Woolnough that the latter had already started to implement it. The two battalions upon coming up moved off toward the enemy flanks in what proved to be a night-long movement. The next morning they found the enemy positions abandoned.

After giving the order on the 18th for a full regimental attack on the Hukkyo-ri position, General Gay informed Colonel Woolnough that the 5th Cavalry Regiment would pass through the 7th Cavalry the next morning and take up the attack on P'yongyang. He then went back and found Colonel Crombez and gave him the order. The 5th Cavalry Regiment was still strung out on the mountainous secondary road it had been traveling behind the 7th Cavalry from Sohung to Hwangju. Crombez did not have the last battalion in bivouac until 2300 that night. [18]

At 0500 on 19 October Lt. Col. Paul Clifford's 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, led north out of Hwangju. When it arrived at the 7th Cavalry lines at Hukkyo-ri those troops had just repulsed an enemy counterattack. At this point three enemy tanks rumbled up. A 5th Cavalry bazooka team led by a young Italo-American boy knocked out these tanks. Questioned about the exploit a little later, the boy explained, "Me and my two buddies were sitting over there behind that rock. These tanks came up toward us and stopped right out there on the road. They raised their turrets and started talking to each other. One of my buddies said, 'Christ, them ain't GI's, them are Gooks,' and I said, 'Let's shoot the S.O.B.'s' and that is what we did." [19]

[18] Webel, MS review comments, 13 Apr 54; Interv, author with Lynch, 9 
Jun 54 (Lynch commanded the 3d Bn at Hukkyo-ri); Interv, author with 
Crombez, 28 Jun 55; Ltr, Harris to author, 8 Dec 53; Ltrs, Gay to 
author, 23 Jan and 19 Apr 54; Interv, author with Clainos, 30 Apr 54; 
1st Cav Div WD, 17- 8 Oct 50. 

[19] Ltr, Gay to author, 23 Jan 54; Ltr, Capt James H. Bell (CO F Co, 
5th Cav Regt Oct 50) to author, 11 Apr 56; Interv, author with Crombez, 
28 Jun 55; 5th Cav Div Regt WD, 19 Oct 50. 

The author has been unable to identify this boy, who reportedly was killed


[Caption] BURNING ENEMY TANK knocked out by 5th Cavalry bazooka team at Hukkyo-ri 19 October.

F Company, led by 1st Lt. James H. Bell, reinforced with five tanks, a platoon of engineers, and a section of heavy machine guns, now passed through the 7th Cavalry and led the 5th Cavalry Regiment toward P'yongyang. Just as Bell was passing the first of the burning enemy tanks a friendly plane swooped down and rocketed it. The concussion almost made him a casualty.

Flights of jet planes coursed overhead in advance of F Company and, on at least two occasions, they helped supporting artillery reduce enemy forces that threatened to delay its advance. The regimental commander, Colonel Crombez, and a small command group followed immediately behind F Company most of the morning and pushed it hard.

At 1102, Lieutenant Bell's F Company reached the 20-yard-wide Mujin-ch'on River, a tributary of the Taedong at the southern edge of P'yongyang. North Korean troops from behind a 20-foot embankment on the north side defended the highway bridge over it with three antitank guns. Bell's troops were delayed there for about half an hour until their mortar fire caused the North Korean gun crews to abandon the antitank guns. Bell's F Company then crossed the Mujin-ch'on and entered the southwestern edge of P'yongyang just after 1100. [20]

P'yongyang is the oldest city in Korea, and for a long time was its capital.

Its population at the outbreak of the war was approximately 500,000. The city is situated astride the Taedong River, one of the larger streams of Korea, forty miles from where it empties into the Yellow Sea. The main part of the city with the important public buildings lay on the north side of the river. A large, relatively new industrial suburb sprawled opposite on the south side. Two railroad bridges of the Pusan-Seoul-Mukden railroad cross the Taedong River here. Upstream from them about two miles was the main highway bridge. The Taedong at P'yongyang averages about 400-500 yards in width. As the current is swift, it constitutes a major military obstacle to north-south movement.

Bell received orders to turn west and seize certain factory buildings, the railroad bridges, and a bridgehead on the north bank of the Taedong. In about

[20] Ltr, Bell to author, 8 Mar 54; Ltr, Crombez to author, 12 Oct 54; 
Interv, author with Crombez, 28 Jun 55; 5th Cav Regt WD, 19 Oct 50; 1st 
Cav Div WD, 19 Oct 50; EUSAK WD, Br for CG, 19-20 Oct 50. 

Bell estimates the time he entered the south edge of P'yongyang as 1330. 
The official records, based on an aerial observer's report, give it as 


[Caption] 5TH CAVALRY TROOPS at the southern edge of P'yongyang, 19 October.

half an hour he reached the river's southern bank and found that only one span of each of the two railroad bridges (each 3-span) was intact. After a hasty examination of the eastern bridge, Bell decided that infantry could cross on one of its spans to an island in the river. Leaving some riflemen and the Engineer platoon at its southern end to guard the tanks which gave supporting fire, he led the rest of F Company across to the island and secured it by midafternoon. While F Company was crossing to the island, enemy on the north bank destroyed a section of the bridge still intact there. During the afternoon the 3d Battalion, 5th Cavalry, crossed to the island and relieved F Company, which then moved back to the airfield on the south bank.

While F Company was trying to seize the railroad bridges over the Taedong, the rest of the 2d Battalion crossed the Mujin-ch'on and turned right toward the main highway bridge which crossed the Taedong River about midway on the city waterfront. This was the only bridge still intact on 19 October when U.N. troops entered P'yongyang. When the leading elements of E and G Companies neared the bridge the North Koreans blew up the center span.

Almost simultaneously with the 1st Cavalry Division's arrival at P'yongyang the ROK 1st Division entered the city on the Sibyon-ni-P'yongyang road at a point northeast of the 1st Cavalry Division. On the night of 18 October the chances had appeared excellent for the ROK 1st Division to be first into P'yongyang. After a day of very heavy fighting in which it gained two miles, it was only eight miles away. The leading elements of the 1st Cavalry Division were about 30 miles away. But the North Koreans made a stronger fight against the ROK 1st Division than against the 1st Cavalry Division, possibly because it was closer to the city and the more immediate threat. Also, the road on which the ROK's approached P'yongyang was heavily mined with both antipersonnel and antitank mines. Paik's division fought throughout the rainy night and finally overcame an enemy strongpoint an hour or two after daybreak. Enemy emplacements and automatic fire stopped the ROK infantry again about six miles from the city near Kojo-dong. Tanks of C Company, 6th Tank Battalion, in the ensuing ROK attack enveloped the enemy positions from both flanks, destroyed self-propelled guns, and overran the North Korean entrenchments, physically crushing machine guns and enemy soldiers. It was estimated that the tanks


[Caption] CAPITOL BUILDING IN P'YONGYANG. The men having coffee are members of Task Force Indianhead.

in this action killed nearly 300 North Koreans.

According to General Paik, extensive mine fields in the street behind the overrun enemy positions delayed the tanks, but the infantry of the ROK 2d Battalion, 12th Regiment, kept moving and General Paik affirms that they arrived at the edge of the Taedong River just before 1100 and deployed along the south bank northeast of the highway bridge. Leading elements of the 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, arrived at the traffic circle 100 yards east of the highway bridge almost at the same time. The leading tanks of C Company, 6th Tank Battalion, were in the southern edge of the city, according to their own records, at 1245. Tanks of D Company, 6th Medium Tank Battalion, entered the city along the same approach a little later, turned north, and together with troops of the ROK 11th Regiment secured the airfield at 1440. Other ROK units earlier had secured a smaller airfield a few miles to the east. [21]

After the North Koreans blew the highway bridge across the Taedong, elements of the 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry, continued northeast along the river searching for a ford reported to be located there. When they found it a few miles east of the city they discovered that elements of the 15th Regiment, ROK 1st Division, already had crossed the river there, and others were then in the act of crossing into the main part of the city. Later, Colonel Crombez asked General Paik how his troops found the ford so quickly. Paik answered, "I am a native of P'yongyang. I know the fords." [22]

By dark most of the ROK 1st Division was in the main part of P'yongyang north of the Taedong River. Nor was that all. The 8th Regiment of the ROK 7th Division swung into north P'yongyang from the east and was in possession of Kim Il Sung University in the northern part of the city by 1700. [23]

The next day, 20 October, the ROK

[21] 6th Med Tk Bn WD, 19 Oct 50; EUSAK PIR 99, 19 Oct 50; EUSAK WD, 19
Oct 50, and G-3 Jnl, 1300-1600 19 Oct 50; 5th Cav Regt WD, 19 Oct 50; 
10th AAA Group WD, 19-20 Oct 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 19 Oct 50; I Corps WD, 
Oct 50, p. 18; Gen Paik Sun Yup (CofS ROKA), MS review comments, 11 Jul 

[22] Ltr, Bell to author, 11 Apr 56; Interv, author with Crombez, 12 Jan 

[23] Interv. author with Schwarze (KMAG adviser with ROK 7th Div Oct 
50), 3 Feb 54; 5th Cav Regt WD, 19-20 Oct 50; EUSAK WD, Br for CG, 
190001-200800 Oct 50; EUSAK POR 299, to Oct 50.


1st Division advanced into the heart of the city and took the strongly fortified administrative center with ease. The enemy troops posted there were too demoralized to fight and they abandoned both guns and entrenchments. At 1000 the ROK 1st Division reported the entire city had been secured, including the City Hall, the Provincial Government offices, and the N.K. People's Committee offices. The ROK 8th Regiment aided the 1st Division by sweeping through the northwest section of the city and clearing it of the enemy. As soon as Engineer assault boats could be brought up, the 3d Battalion, 5th Cavalry, began crossing to the north side of the Taedong, and by noon that regiment, with the 3d Battalion, 7th Cavalry, attached to it, was across the river. Bells in Christian churches pealed a welcome. The people appeared friendly and there were no disturbances. [24]

When the operations of Eighth Army had progressed to the point where it appeared probable that P'yongyang would fall in the near future, the army on 16 October had organized a special task force known as Task Force Indianhead. Its name derived from the shoulder patch of the 2d Infantry Division. This task force was to enter the North Korean capital with the advance units of the 1st Cavalry Division. Its mission was to secure and protect specially selected government buildings and foreign compounds until they could be searched for enemy intelligence materials. Lt. Col. Ralph L. Foster, Assistant Chief of Staff for G-2, 2d Division, commanded the task force, which was built around K Company, 38th Infantry Regiment, and six tanks of C Company, 72d Medium Tank Battalion, and included Engineer demolition troops, automatic weapons vehicles of the 82d AAA Battalion, and counterintelligence troops. The task force secured most of its assigned objectives in P'yongyang on 20 October. It obtained a considerable amount of intelligence material, both military and political, which was turned over to a special team from GHQ, Far East Command, and transported by air to Tokyo. [25]

Twenty American prisoners escaped or were rescued from the North Koreans in the capture of P'yongyang. Most of the large number of prisoners held there, however, had been taken northward several days before the U.N. forces entered the city.

General Gay established his 1st Cavalry Division headquarters in the granite buildings of the North Korean Military Academy ten miles southwest of P'yongyang on the Chinnamp'o road. He was responsible for the internal security and order of P'yongyang after its capture. On 23 October he appointed Colonel Crombez civil assistance officer in the city because of the latter's special knowledge of the country and its people. Colonel Johnson, a veteran of Bataan, replaced Crombez in command of the 5th Cavalry Regiment until 14 December.

[24] EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, 1200 20 Oct 50; Ibid., Br for CG, 20-21 Oct 50; 
I Corps WD, 20 Oct 50; Ltr, Crombez to author, 12 Oct 54. 

[25] Ltrs, Foster to author, 11 and 21 May 54; Ltr, Gay to author, 13 
Feb 54; EUSAK POR 292, 17 Oct 50; EUSAK WD, Br for CG, 190001-200800 Oct 
50; 2d Div WD, Summ, 1 Sep-31 Oct 50, vol. II, pp. 47-49 


[Caption] KIM IL SUNG'S DESK. Colonel Foster occupies the North Korean Premier's office in P'yongyang. Note portrait of Stalin.

The 5th Cavalry Regiment was disposed in the southern outskirts of P'yongyang, the 8th Cavalry Regiment in the northern outskirts, and the 7th Cavalry Regiment at Chinnamp'o, P'yongyang's port. After the fall of P'yongyang, Colonel Harris had led the 7th Cavalry Regiment in a forced night movement from the city thirty-five miles southwest to Chinnamp'o. The regiment entered the port city in the dead of night, 22 October.

On 24 October, General Walker took personal command of his advance Eighth Army headquarters, established two days earlier by Colonel Collier of his staff, in the attractive and undamaged gray brick building in P'yongyang which had been the headquarters of Premier Kim Il Sung. [26]

On 21 October a touching and revealing ceremony occurred on the P'yongyang airfield. General MacArthur had flown in from Tokyo to confer briefly with Generals Walker and Stratemeyer after the fall of the North Korean capital. In the course of his brief visit he reviewed F Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment, which had been the first American unit to enter P'yongyang. He asked all men in the company who had landed with it in Korea ninety-six days earlier, when it numbered nearly 200 men, to step forward. Only five men stepped forward; three of them had been wounded. [27]

[26] 5th Cav Regt WD, 22-23 Oct 50; GHQ UNC press release, 25 Oct 50. 
Ltr, Harris to author, 7 Apr 54; EUSAK WD, Br for CG, 22 Oct 50; 7th Cav 
Regt WD, 22-23 Oct 50. 

[27] Ltr, Gay to author, 23 Jan 54; Crombez, MS review comments, 28 Jun