U.S. Army in Action Series

Cover, Combat Support in Korea

Facsimile Reprint, 1987, 1990

CMH Publication 22-1

Center of Military History
United States Army
Washington, D.C.


The contributions of combat service support soldiers to the success of American armies have often been overlooked by both historians and the public. Thus, it is altogether fitting that this first volume in the Army in Action Series should be John G. Westover's compilation of short, but instructive, pieces on service and support activities during the Korean War. The Center of Military History has received many requests for a reprint of this work, which was first published by the Combat Forces Press in 1955; it is a useful companion volume to Russell A. Gugeler's Combat Actions in Korea, which was reprinted in 1984 as part of the Army Historical Series.

Both Westover's subject and technique are worthy of study and comment. While the details of combat actions in America's wars have been studied extensively, comparatively little has been done to enlighten the soldier of today regarding how logistical operations were conducted at the small unit level. This book will serve to repair that omission. Westover compiled this book primarily from a series of interviews conducted with men actually involved in the events "at ground level." The oral history technique, which Army historians did much to develop in World War II and later, is now an accepted historical method. The value of oral history as a means of getting to the details is amply demonstrated here.

The Center of Military History is pleased to be able to initiate the Army in Action Series with the first CMH edition of John G. Westover's Combat Support in Korea. This is the first volume in what we hope will be a series interesting to, and useful for, today's soldiers and leaders at every level.

WASHINGTON, D.C. William A. Stofft Brigadier General, U.S. Army Chief of Military History


This book is a collection of interviews with members of all the arms and services of the United States Army, except Infantry, Artillery, and Armor. The interviews were collected from several hundred officers and enlisted men who were serving, or had served, in the Korean conflict.

As I talked with these officers and men I could not help feeling their aggressive spirit. Each realized that his service was essential to combat and that he was moving the operation ahead. But it was more than just doing a necessary job. It was "do it better," "do it more quickly," and, above all, "get the service as close to the combat soldier as possible." These officers and men told of hot meals, daily laundering of the infantryman's socks, helicopter evacuation, ordnance mechanics working among the infantry, and airdrop of flame throwers at the point of use. I have made their surging spirit the theme of this study.

COMBAT SUPPORT IN KOREA grew from the conviction of Maj.Gen. Orlando Ward, Chief of Military History (1949-1952), that the United States Army needs a record of its service operations on the small-unit level. Interviews are sometimes better than high-level histories. They can widen the novice leader's experience before he goes into the field. They supply illustrations for instructors, and they refresh officers who have not recently been in the field. They present vividly the problems of the other services with which we are not acquainted.

The interview also lets us see how often the service troops experience the hazards of combat. No man in combat gets enough recognition, but some men have been denied honors justly earned because the word "Quartermaster" or "Chemical" was included in their unit designation. It won't dim the glory of the rifleman to give credit to other members of the team.

A year of interviewing has gone into this book. Some of the interviews were conducted in Korea by Eighth Army historians, but much more of the interviewing was done in the United States with returnees. In addition, some of the stories have been condensed from speeches, letters, and magazine articles. Much time and patience have been put into these interviews by the men who have served, and who believe that their knowledge will help the Army.

Interviews are not history. They are personal accounts. An interview can be no more accurate than the observation of the teller, no more truth ful than he is candid. Different units had different operating procedures. I cannot say that the operations related here are typical of all operations in Korea, or that they are better or poorer. These are simply stories related by earnest men.

Most interviews were oral. Notes were filled in by historians and returned to the interviewee for comment. Every effort has been made to recount the incidents as they were originally related, with editorial work limited to keeping the story moving. Most of the stories returned from Korea resulted from group interviews and are, therefore, in the third person. The amount of space devoted to each service is influenced more by the stories obtained than by any evaluation of the relative importance of sister services.

While a majority of the interviews testify to the correctness of Army doctrine, some are critical of doctrine and individuals. I have usually removed the names of the individuals criticized because the criticisms are not substantiated and may be unjust, but there has been no change of unit designation and no whitewashing. The reputation of the United States Army is too great to be diminished by honest criticism of some of its doctrines or a few of its members. In this study the historian does not point out violation of doctrines or decide between the contradictory accounts. This is a factual, not a generalizing, study.

I cannot credit all of the persons who have contributed to this volume. The names of more than a hundred are recorded in the table of contents. Special credit, though, is due these historians of Eighth Army: Captains Pierce W. Briscoe, William J. Fox, B. C. Mossman, and Edward C. Williamson, and Lieutenants Bevan R. Alexander, Martin Blumenson, and John Mewha. Their contributions are labeled as they appear. Mr. John E. Lee has had the trying job of typing interviews and drafts. Miss Mary Ann Bacon has made many editorial suggestions, while my wife has been the chief custodian of the blue pencil and dictionary. Lt.Col. Joseph Rockis has given endless encouragement throughout the months when progress seemed slow. To these, and many more, I give my thanks.

JOHN G. WESTOVER Captain, lnfantry


Part I: Corps of Engineers

  1. Three River Crossings
  2. Improvised Bridge
  3. Causeway at Osan
  4. Last of the Han Bridges
  5. End of the Line
  6. Destruction of Wonju
  7. Mines Are Double-Edged Weapons
  8. Learning by Doing
  9. Disregarding a Minefield
  10. The Mine that Saved Sinnyong
  11. Recon Dailey
  12. Inexpedient Expedients
  13. The Delay at K-2
  14. Equipment Without Operators

Part II: Transportation Corps

  1. Critical Transportation
  2. Truck Platoon in Korea
  3. Amphibian Truck Company
  4. Railhead at Masan
  5. Problems in Railroad Operation
  6. Railroading in Korea
  7. Transportation Corps Operations at K-27
  8. Breakage En Route

Part III: Chemical Corps

  1. The 2d Chemical Mortar Battalion
  2. Letters from a Commander
  3. Smoke Generating
  4. Napalm Bombs in Korea
  5. Flame Throwers

Part IV: Signal Corps

  1. Developing a Signal Organization
  2. Answers Not in Textbook
  3. Flexibility of VHF
  4. The Provost Marshal's Transmitter
  5. Relay Station on Hill
  6. Everyone Wants a Telephone
  7. The Mukden Cable
  8. Signal Operations in Korea
  9. Division Artillery Message Center
  10. Code 99
  11. The World's Biggest Little Airline
  12. Division Aerial Photography
  13. Combat Cameraman

Part V: Medical Corps

  1. Battalion Forward Aid Station
  2. Evacuation at Soksa-ri
  3. Helicopter Evacuation
  4. Optical Treatment in the Field
  5. Dental Treatment in the Field
  6. Changing the Mission
  7. Operation of the 8076th MASH

Part VI: Ordnance Corps

  1. Mobile ASP
  2. Artillery and Hand Grenades
  3. The Van Fleet Rate of Fire
  4. Division Ordnance Work
  5. Close Ordnance Support
  6. Attempted Tank Evacuation
  7. Operation Failure

Part VII: Quartermaster Corps

  1. Division Supply Operations
  2. Quartermaster Problems and Services
  3. Delivery by Air
  4. Service Company Runs Depot
  5. Testing Equipment in Korea
  6. Rations in Korea
  7. UN Approval of U. S. Products
  8. Wet-Cold Clothing Indoctrination
  9. Command Action in Korea
  10. Clothing Exchange
  11. QM Service Center No. 3
  12. Pukchon Cemetery
  13. Repatriation of American Dead
  14. Supply Lessons
  15. The Failure of Support

Part VIII: Security, Combat, Morale

  1. Refugee Removal
  2. Ordnance Company Under Attack
  3. Attacks Unwelcome
  4. Fighting Medics
  5. Task Force Baker
  6. Secondary Mission
  7. Combat Comes Suddenly
  8. Efficiency Through Morale

Part IX: Short Bits

  1. Unification
  2. How to Get Lit Up
  3. Speedy Refueling
  4. What's the Score?
  5. Loading in Flight
  6. VHF Ship to Shore
  7. Rescuing Wounded by Tank
  8. Time for Reflection
  9. 5-in-1 Mule Ration
  10. You've Got to Follow Through
  11. Recaptured American Wire
  12. Intrenching Tools
  13. Bridge Assembly on Land
  14. A Dilemma
  15. Integration
  16. Broken Springs
  17. Language Problems
  18. Fire in the Hole!
  19. Combat Boots
  20. Need for Trained Personnel
  21. Division Airdrop
  22. Who Wants to Serve in the Rear?
  23. The Sagging Bridge
  24. Carelessness Is Expensive
  25. Patrol Evacuation
  26. Problems of Sizing
  27. Wire Recovery
  28. Supply Guesstimates
  29. For Want of a Nail
  30. Infantry Division Port
  31. Roadbound
  32. Helmets for the 38th Infantry
  33. Camera Patrol
  34. Security Through a Swap
  35. Flame-Thrower Tanks
  36. Pick Your Method
  37. Preparation for Action
  38. Borrowing a Bridge
  39. Why Pay the Combat Soldier?
  40. Wire Cutters Caught
  41. What Do You Feed a Korean?
  42. Redesigning a Bridge
  43. Infantry Replacements
  44. Eager Beaver
  45. Icebreaker, Ml
  46. Curtailing the Money Black Market
  47. Temperature Adjustment
  48. Shortage of Spare Parts
  49. Lead-in Wire
  50. Feeding Koreans
  51. Convoy Troubles
  52. Hot Food
  53. Never Put Off Till To-Morrow . . .
  54. Supply by Cable
  55. Protecting Perishables
  56. Finance on the Alert
  57. Napalm 240
  58. A Real Convenience
  59. Radio Displacement
  60. We Didn't Overlook Anything
  61. Seeing Is Believing
  62. Who's Afraid of a Tank?
  63. Laying Telephone Wire by Air
  64. Payroll by Helicopter

Page updated 30 May 2001