Campaigns: UN Defensive; UN Offensive; CCF Intervention; First UN Counteroffensive; CCF Spring Offensive; UN Summer-Fall Offensive; Second Korean Winter; Korea, Summer-Fall 1952; Third Korean Winter; Korea, Summer 1953
Decorations: Presidential Unit Citation (Army), Streamer embroidered HONGCHON; Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Streamer embroidered NAKTONG RIVER LINE; Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Streamer embroidered KOREA
Commanders: MG Laurence B. Keiser (Apr 50-Dec 50); MG Robert B. McClure (Dec 50-Jan 51); MG Clark L. Ruffner (Jan 51-Aug 51); MG Robert N. Young (Sep 51-May 1952); MG James C. Fry (May 52-May 53); MG William L. Barringer (May 53-Mar 54)
Service: The 2d Infantry Division, initially organized in France during World War I, was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, engaged in reservist and ROTC training, when, on 9 July 1950, it was alerted to prepare for movement overseas. The first elements sailed on 17 July, and on 29 July the division began landing at Pusan, South Korea. At the time Eighth Army was fighting desperately to maintain the small Pusan perimeter into which it had been forced by the North Korean offensive begun a month before. The division's regiments were thrown into the line as they arrived. With the landing of the last regiment on 20 August, the division, operating as a whole for the first time in Korea, was given responsibility for a 60-kilometer stretch of the Naktong River.
On the night of 31 August, the North Koreans launched an aggressive attack, crossing the Naktong at five points along the 2d Infantry Division's front. The 2d Division's counterattack finally pushed the enemy back across the Naktong by 17 September, and the next day elements of the division crossed the Naktong in pursuit. As the division broke out of the Pusan perimeter it drove forward, capturing Hyopch'on on 25 September and Koch'ang the next day. A rapid 73-mile advance resulted in the capture of Chonju on 28 September.
The 2d Division spent October 1950 conducting mopping-up operations and rear area security missions in southwestern Korea. In November, when it became clear that Chinese Communist forces had joined the fighting in North Korea, the 2d Infantry Division was ordered to move north. Crossing the 38th Parallel and reaching the Ch'ongch'on River, the 2d Division entered the line and prepared for a planned Eighth Army offensive. On the night of 25 November a large-scale Chinese assault overwhelmed the division. In the ensuing battles one of the regimental command posts was overrun and the division was nearly enveloped, escaping complete destruction only by doggedly fighting through a series of roadblocks in its retreat to the south. Suffering from very
heavy casualties and the loss of most of its equipment, the 2d Division was placed in reserve on 1 December.
In January 1951 the 2d Division went back into the line in the vicinity of Wonju. There, in mid-February, the division helped stop an attack by twelve Chinese divisions. As Eighth Army went back on the offensive, the 2d Infantry Division recrossed the 38th Parallel in early April. In May the Chinese launched another major assault, one explicit objective of which was to destroy the 2d Infantry Division. The part played by the 2d Division in repulsing this attack earned it the Presidential Unit Citation. On 8 June the division moved into reserve in the vicinity of Hongch'on and began a period of intensive training.
With the momentum gained in the last counterattack, the UN line again moved northward. The beginning of armistice negotiations in July 1951 stopped the advance, but not along any well-defined, militarily defensible line. For much of the next two years the 2d Infantry Division, as the rest of Eighth Army, fought to secure various advantageous terrain features along the front line. The first of this series of actions came following the division's relief of the 1st Marine Division north of the Soyang River on 16 July 1951. On 26 July divisional elements captured Hill 1179, a key piece of terrain in the center of the X Corps area.
On 18 August the division began a series of battles for control of Hill 983 and two adjoining hills, which together would become known as "Bloody Ridge." Not until 5 September was the division able to retain the heights. On 13 September the 2d Division attacked another series of hills just north of Bloody Ridge. These hills were soon designated "Heartbreak Ridge." Very well dug in, the North Koreans on Heartbreak Ridge poured withering machine gun and small arms fire into the infantry columns attempting to scale the slopes. After two weeks in which repeated piecemeal assaults made little progress, attempts to take Heartbreak were called off on 27 September to allow the division to prepare for a more coordinated operation. On 5 October the 2d launched a new attack on Heartbreak Ridge, with all three infantry regiments operating in concert and supported by extensive artillery, armor, and Air Force fighter-bombers. Although it was still a hard-fought battle, by 13 October the 2d Division was in possession of Heartbreak Ridge. Casualties for the period 13 September to 15 October were heavy--3,700 for the division and its attached units--but enemy casualties were estimated at 25,000.
Following the capture of Heartbreak Ridge, the 7th Infantry Division relieved the 2d, which went into corps reserve near Kap'yong until mid-December. By 18 December the division was back at the front, having relieved the 25th Infantry Division near the so-called "Iron Triangle" formed by the towns of Kumhwa, Ch'orwon, and P'yonggang. There the division conducted aggressive patrolling, bunker-destruction operations, and heavy artillery bombardments through March 1952.
In mid-April the 38th Infantry was detached from the 2d Division and sent to the island prisoner of war camp of
Koje-do for guard duty. On 26 April the division was again relieved by the 7th Division and placed in reserve near Kap'yong.
During this period many of the division's subordinate units were detached and used for a variety of missions throughout Korea.
In July 1952 the 2d Division was again ordered to the front, this time in the I Corps sector where it relieved the 45th Infantry Division, occupying positions along the Yokkok River north of Chongjamal. During July divisional elements fought see-saw battles for control of the crest of "Old Baldy," an important strong point on the division left, which was finally secured on 31 July. During the period from August through December 1952 the division was regularly engaged in sharp patrol clashes. The division also expended much effort in strengthening its defensive positions and defending its outposts on Old Baldy and Porkchop and T-Bone Hills. The division spent January 1953 in corps reserve conducting training and security missions.
Reentering the front line at the end of January, the division was again engaged in aggressive patrolling and improving defensive positions until 9 April when it went back into reserve. From April to mid-July the division returned to an exhaustive schedule of training and security duties, participating in several large training exercises. Various divisional elements were also detached for front-line assignments. In mid-July 1953 the entire division returned to the front, relieving the 3d Infantry Division in the Ch'orwon-Kumhwa sector. Again engaged primarily in patrolling actions and countering enemy patrols, the division fought off an enemy attack on 17-19 July in hand-to-hand combat.
When the armistice became effective on 27 July 1953, the 2d Division began withdrawing to positions agreed to at the truce table. The division remained in Korea until late September 1954 when it returned to Fort Lewis.