World War Two: Sicily (2-12); Seventh Army Changes Directions

The Eighth Army Attempt To Break Through: General Montgomery’s Major effort to break through into Catania got under way on the evening of 13 July when Commando units landed and seized the Lentini bridge soon after dark. Though the commandos removed the demolition charges from the bridge, the Germans soon drove off the British raiders. The airborne operation (code named FUSTIAN) on the same evening to seize the Primosole bridge (seven miles south of Catania) over the Simeto River and establish a bridgehead on the river’s north bank suffered double bad luck. In the first place, the American and British troop carrier pilots ran into heavy antiaircraft fire from Allied ships massed along the southeastern shores of Sicily. A route supposedly cleared proved to be replete with ships, and the aircraft began to receive fire from the time they rounded Malta.

Off Cape Passero, the real trouble started-more than one-half of the aircraft reported receiving fire from friendly naval vessels. Though only two troop carriers were hit and downed, nine turned back after injuries to pilots or damage to planes. Those aircraft that flew on soon ran into what seemed to be a solid wall of antiaircraft fire thrown up by the enemy along the coast line. A large number of the pilots lost formation and circled up and down the coast trying to find a way through the fire into the four drop zones. Ten more aircraft turned back, each with a full load of British paratroopers. Eighty-seven pilots managed to thread their way through the fire, but only 39 of these dropped their paratroopers within a mile of the drop zones. All but four of the remainder managed to get their sticks within ten miles of the Primosole bridge; the other four sticks landed on the slopes of Mount Etna, about twenty miles away. Of the 1,900 men of the British 1st Parachute Brigade who jumped into Sicily on the evening of 13 July, only about two hundred men with three anti-tank guns reached the bridge. Though they seized it and removed the demolition charges, they comprised a dangerously small contingent for holding the bridge until the ground forces arrived.

The second piece of bad luck was that the main drop came in almost on top of the machine gun battalion of the German 1st Parachute Division (Fallschirmjaeger). The German paratroopers themselves had jumped just north of the river only a few hours earlier, and they reacted in a savage manner. Yet the little band of British paratroopers managed to hold on to the bridge all day long. At nightfall, the paratroopers withdrew to a ridge on the south bank of the river, where they could cover the bridge with fire and prevent the Germans from damaging it.

[N2-12-1 Warren, USAF Hist Study 74, pp. 47-54; By Air to Battle, pp. 60-64; Montgomery, Eighth Army, p. 100. See also 99-66.2, sub: AFHQ Report of Allied Forces Airborne Board in Connection With the Invasion of Sicily: 0100/4/78, sub: Airborne Operations in HUSKY; 0100/21/1072, sub: Airborne Employment, Operation, and Movement of Troops, vol. 2; NAAFTCC Rpt of Opns; Alexander Despatch, p. 23. Cf. B. H. Liddell Hart, The Other Side of the Hill, rev. ed. (London: Cassell, 1951), p. 355; DB SUED, Meldungen, 14-16 Jul 43 (implicit testimony of the toughness of the British para troopers) ; Schmalz in MS #T-2 (Fries et al.), pages 11-12 criticizes the operation as incorrect use of para troopers.FUSTIAN started with 145 aircraft, 126 carrying paratroopers, 19 towing gliders. There were 1,856 paratroopers and 77 glider-borne artillerymen starting out on the mission.] 

General Montgomery’s main assault was executed by the 50th Division and a brigade of tanks against the Group Schmalz Lentini positions. On the afternoon of 14 July, some of the British tanks worked their way between the German positions along Highway 114 and the two German parachute battalions east of the highway, thereby threatening to isolate the paratroopers from the rest of the German battle group. Colonel Schmalz, who had been apprehensive all along of being outflanked and cut off from withdrawal, decided to leave the Lentini positions and fall back faster than he had anticipated. Leaving small delaying forces behind, he pulled back in two steps, first, eight miles to the north behind the Gornalunga River, then, early on 15 July, three miles farther north behind the Simeto River.

In the wake of the German withdrawal, the British 50th Division moved forward readily and joined the British paratroopers at the southern end of the Primosole bridge. A thrust north of the river on 15 July netted nothing. Additional German reinforcements rushed forward to strengthen the Simeto line, and Colonel Schmalz finally made contact with the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division. On 16 July, a heavier British attack regained the bridge that the Germans had been unable to destroy and pushed a shallow bridgehead across the river, extending it by the 17th to a depth of 3,000 yards. Another attack by the 50th Division during the night of 17 July made little headway. The British had failed to break Schmalz’s Catania defenses. The Germans were in strong positions, and after the 17th they felt certain they could block the east coast road.

[N2-12-2 DB SUED, Meldungen, 15 Jul 43, Second-Report; Schmalz in MS #T-2 (Fries et al.), p.sub: Airborne Operations in HUSKY; 0100/21/George Aris, The Fifth British Division, 1939-1945 (London: The Fifth Division BenevolentFund, 1959), pp. 123-25.]

 The II Corps Front

The bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division, retiring to the northeast to gain contact with Colonel Schmalz’s battle group, had not had an easy time making it back to the Simeto River line. Successful on 13 July in holding General Guzzoni’s intermediate defensive line along Highway 124, the division began to run into trouble on the 14th. The Germans had to contend not only with American attacks against the entire front from Caltagirone on the west to Vizzini on the east, they also had to face the British 30 Corps attacking along the axis of the highway toward Vizzini.

Opposite the eastern flank of the German division, Colonel Ankcorn, the 157th RCT commander, found himself on the evening of 13 July in a rather uncomfortable position: his forces were between the British on the south and east and the Germans to the north. By this time, through British liaison officers, Colonel Ankcorn knew that the British 30 Corps was intent on taking Vizzini. Ankcorn had no objection. He pulled one battalion away from Vizzini and sent it to occupy the high ground northeast of Licodia Eubea. He assembled the rest of his combat team in the same general area.

On the morning of the 14th, Colonel Ankcorn again made contact with the British south of Vizzini. Despite a two pronged advance, the 30 Corps was having some trouble securing Vizzini. An attack during the night by the British 51st Division had been thrown back, as had another by the armored brigade in the early morning. Together with British officers, Colonel Ankcorn surveyed the situation at Vizzini and agreed to furnish what support he could to the British 51st Highlanders in a renewed attempt to wrest that town from the Germans’ grasp. Returning to his command post at Monterosso Almo, Colonel Ankcorn reached up to an abandoned Italian railway car, tore off an old shipping ticket, and across the back of the ticket scrawled a note to Colonel Murphy, the 1st Battalion commander: “Murphy, go help the British.”

[N2-12-3 The Fighting Forty-Fifth, compiled and edited by the Historical Board (Baton Rouge, La.: Army and Navy Publishing Co., 1946), p. 23; History of the [57th Infantry Regiment, p. 25; 45th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, entries 34, 42, 43, 51, 14 Jul 43]

From positions northeast of Licodia, Murphy’s 1st Battalion struck at Vizzini at noon in conjunction with the renewed British attempt from the south and east. The added weight of the American battalion, ably supported by the 158th Field Artillery Battalion, was not enough. As on the day before, the Germans, fighting to hold their withdrawal route open, threw back every Allied thrust.

Staunch opposition also developed from the Hermann Gӧring elements west of Vizzini. Early in the morning, a strong German tank-infantry force struck the leading battalion of the 179th RCT. Close-in fighting raged throughout the morning, additional infantry and artillery units finally turning the tide. Resuming its advance, the 179th reached a point just two miles south of Grammichele by nightfall.

On the favorable side, the sag that had existed on the left of the II Corps zone straightened out nicely on 14 July after Darby’s Ranger force took Butera. A typical Sicilian town with feudal antecedents, Butera lies on high, almost inaccessible ground, an objective to intrigue the military imagination. Flouting an old tradition that previous conquerors of Sicily had always bypassed the town, the Rangers occupied Butera after a swift night approach and a dash into the center of town past startled Italian defenders. On the right side of the sag, the 180th RCT finally secured Biscari airfield, despite several strong German counterattacks which came after two infantry battalions gained the field by surprise. The German counterattacks persisted throughout most of the day, but were all turned back. Toward evening, the Germans began pulling back to the north and the 180th set out in pursuit. Its leading battalion finally caught up with the Germans early the next morning at the very outskirts of Caltagirone. In the center, that is, in the vicinity of Niscemi in the 1st Division’s sector, the line also pushed forward, not because of any action by the 16th RCT but because of the general withdrawal of the German forces to the northeast. Though the town of Niscemi remained a hot spot during the morning, by early afternoon the rate of enemy firing decreased and 16th Infantry patrols moved almost into Caltagirone before meeting German resistance. The 16th Infantry did not follow up this advantage; the advance of friendly units to the east and west made the move unnecessary.

While inclined to keep the 16th RCT in position, General Allen was in no way disposed to let the retiring enemy get away without some action. Early on 14 July a few hours after the Rangers jumped Butera-the 26th RCT moved toward Mazzarino, its Yellow Line objective. The 26th met little opposition-the Livarna Division’s few remaining battalions had withdrawn the previous evening-and before noon consolidated on high ground north and west of Mazzarino. With the 26th RCT pushed out this far, General Allen ordered the 18th RCT straight north toward Bivio Gigliotto-the juncture point of Highways 117 and 124-to secure the 26th’s right flank. By late afternoon, the 18th RCT came to rest on two high hills, some two miles south of the road junction.

By early morning of 15 July, then, both the 1st and 45th Divisions stood at or near the Seventh Army’s Yellow Line across the entire II Corps front. But in the higher echelons of American command, the impact of General Alexander’s directive of 13 July to Seventh Army began to be felt. At II Corps headquarters just before 0900, 14 July, General Bradley received from Seventh Army a general outline of the army group’s order. Accordingly, before going to the army headquarters to receive the specifics, General Bradley notified the 45th Division to halt its forward unit, at least two miles south of Highway 124: that road was now in the British zone and had been turned over to General Montgomery. General Bradley later visited the 1st Division and left the same instructions. Still later, American artillery units were instructed not to fire within an area extending from one mile south of the highway north to and past the highway, this to prevent the artillery from firing on British troops. The initial effect of these orders was slight. Only the 157th RCT had by then come within two miles of Highway 124.

General Bradley’s instructions stopped the 179th and 180th RCT’s from entering Grammichcle and Caltagirone, although the 2nd Battalion, 180th Infantry, had quite a tussle with the Germans in the southern outskirts of Caltagirone early on the morning of 15 July. Since the 26th RCT stood on it’s Yellow Line objective at Mazzarino, it was in no way bothered by the change of plans. On the other hand, the new instructions would have affected at least one American unit on 15 July had not the 1st Division commander, General Allen, chosen to persist in his advance. The 18th RCT, striking for Bivio Gigliotto, had just a little way to go before reaching the highway. General Allen declined, apparently with General Bradley’s tacit approval, to halt the 18th R CT two miles south of the highway. On the morning of 15 July, the 18th RCT continued its advance and after mauling a battalion from the Livorno Division in a cork tree grove just south of the road junction (taking 200 prisoners and 11 artillery pieces in the process) sent patrols into Bivio Gigliotto. Only there did General Allen halt the combat team.

The American thrusts caused General Conrath to become increasingly worried about his situation. News in the late afternoon of 14 July of Group Schmalz’s withdrawal from the Lentini positions along the east coast highway deepened his concern, for this move left the Hermann Gӧring Division’s left flank open. Conrath therefore decided to take the bulk of his division back in one movement, not pausing to defend until after he reached the Simeto River line. When Conrath notified the XVI Corps of his decision, the corps chief of staff, with Sixth Army’s approval, went to General Conrath’s headquarters near Caltagirone and begged the German commander to hold the Vizzini-Caltagirone line through 15 July so that the Axis troops holding the remainder of the front would have time to withdraw. Conrath agreed. But later in the day, General von Senger, urged by Kesselring to strengthen the endangered eastern wing by weakening the center, ordered the Hermann Gӧring Division to move immediately to the Catania area.

With General Conrath’s verbal agreement, Sixth Army formally ordered the German division to stay in the Vizzini-Caltagirone line until nightfall on 15 July. During that night, the division was to move back to the Gornalunga-Raddusa line, starting its movement with it’s eastern wing. The Livorno Division was also to withdraw at the same time, adjusting its movements to those of the German division. Not long afterwards, General Conrath reported to XVI Corps that Allied pressure made it impossible for him to hold his positions along Highway 124. Sixth Army then authorized General Conrath to start his withdrawal.

In the confusion of the previous contradictory orders, beset by the British and the Americans, apprehensive of his eastern flank, unable to contact the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division to the west, Conrath ordered his units to withdraw immediately. In executing this withdrawal, elements of the division in Vizzini and Caltagirone lost several tanks and suffered light casualties during the morning of 15 July. The bulk of the division moved to the rear in good order and took up positions (along with Group Schmalz) on a line from the mouth of the Simeto River along the Dittaino River to Castel Judica and Radnusa, with outposts further south. On its right, a wide gap separated these troops from the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, which stuck far out to the south.

The tenacious defense put up by the Germans in Vizzini caused another change in plans for the  British 30 Corps. Although the armored brigade and the 51st Division entered Vizzini early on 15 July, the two British units had been severely strained in the process. Aware of this even before the town fell, General Leese, the corps commander, ordered the 1st Canadian Division to pass through the 51st Division and press on to Enna.

At 0600, 15 July, one Canadian brigade moved west along Highway 124 toward Grammichele. Unfortunately, the 45th Division’s artillery was silenced by the previous day’s order and could provide no assistance. The 157th and 179th RCT’s could only watch helplessly as the Germans, then pulling out to the northeast, massed a small rear guard to block the Canadian approach. At 0900 as the Canadian advance guard neared Grammichele, which was situated on a high ridge well above the surrounding countryside, it was halted by German tank and anti-tank guns firing at almost pointblank range. Not until noon were the Canadians able to clear the road center. Pushing on to the west, but delayed by mines along the road, the Canadian’s entered an undefended Caltagirone by midnight. General Montgomery, his Major effort on the east coast stalled at the Simeto River, then ordered the 30 Corps to push on “with all speed to Valguarnera-Enna-Leonforte.”


General Patton paid his first visit to the 3rd Division shortly after noon on 14 July and told General Truscott something of his future plans. With his eyes set on Palermo, Patton said he would need Porto Empedocle to support such a drive. But because of the limitations imposed by General Alexander, Patton declared, the Seventh Army could not attack the port in strength for fear of becoming involved in a costly battle which might expose the Eighth Army’s left flank to an Axis counterattack.

General Truscott, who with army approval had already conducted one small scale reconnaissance effort against Agrigento and Porto Empedocle on the 13th, felt that the 3rd Division could take both towns without too much trouble. All he needed was General Patton’s approval. The Seventh Army commander agreed to another reconnaissance in force, this time in greater strength than the one battalion used previously. But Patton specified that the move was to be made on Truscott’s own responsibility. For General Truscott, there was much to gain and little to lose. If he could take Agrigento and Porto Empedocle, everybody would be happy. If he failed, he nevertheless would have gained valuable information on the status of the enemy’s defenses. Porto Empedocle serves Agrigento in somewhat the same fashion as Piraeus serves Athens. A town of 14,000 people, Porto Empedocle had a town mole, almost completely surrounded by two breakwaters jutting from a narrow shelf of land slightly above sea level. On the eastern and western sides of town, abrupt cliffs rose in some places two hundred feet or so above the level of the shelf, and parts of the residential area faced the sea on these heights. In the center of town, a deep ravine cut through the cliffs to the lower shelf, sharply dividing the upper part of town into eastern and western halves. The daily capacity of the port was 800 tons, approximately the same as that of Licata.

Agrigento, a city of some 34,000 inhabitants, was perched on a hilltop about three miles from the coast. Seventeen miles west of Palma di Montechiaro and twenty-two miles southwest of Canicatti, Agrigento was the most important road center along the southwestern coast of Sicily. Highway 115 connected Agrigento with Licata and Gela. Highway 122 linked it to Caltanissetta, Canicatti, and Favara.

For the Seventh Army, Agrigento represented the gateway to western Sicily. From there, Highway 115 continued northwestward along the coast to Marsala and Trapani; Highway 118 zigzagged northward over the mountains through Raffadali, Prizzi, and Corleone to the north coast and Palermo. Veering at first northeastward, a second-class road also led to the north coast by way of the inland towns of Conistini and Lercara Friddi. The seizure of Agrigento thus was essential for a drive on Palermo, while Porto Empedocle would give Seventh Army a port twenty-five miles closer to its front.

General Patton’s preoccupation with Palermo amounted to an obsession. Porto Empedocle was a logical objective in terms of augmenting the minor capacities of Gela and Licata. But with Porto Empedocle in hand, why Palermo, too? Perhaps he thought of a rapid, dramatic thrust to draw public attention to the capabilities of U.S. armor. Perhaps it was the only objective that could compensate partially for having been relegated the mission of acting as Alexander’s shield. “Palermo,” General Truscott would write after the war, “drew Patton like a lode star.”

[N12-18 Truscott, Command Missions, p. 222. Truscott remarks elsewhere: “It was perfectly clear to me why General Patton was obsessed with Palermo, it had been made so by all planning connected with the Sicilian operation from the first. . . . The reasons had also been made clear in many discussions with both General Patton and General Keyes …. General Patton made no secret of the fact that he was not only desirous of emulating Rommel’s reputation as a leader of armor, he wanted to exceed it. General Patton was also anxious for the U.S. armor to achieve some notice…. The capture of Palermo by an armored sweep through western Sicily appeared to suit this purpose. . .. ” Comments of Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr. (Ret.) on MS.]

The 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, which had conducted the reconnaissance toward Agrigento on 13 July, had reported considerable enemy artillery defending Agrigento along the eastern perimeter. There appeared to be at least twelve direct fire, high-velocity weapons and one or more battalions of field artillery positioned against an approach along Highway 115. Too, the enemy appeared dug in east of Agrigento along the Naro River. Although General Truscott estimated the enemy’s infantry strength at no more than one coastal regiment-a fairly accurate appraisal-he ruled out a frontal assault because of the strength of the enemy artillery. He determined instead on a flanking movement to strike at Agrigento from the northeast by way of Favara on Highway 122. To do the job, General Truscott selected the 7th Infantry Regiment, the loth Field Artillery Battalion, and one battalion from the 77th Field Artillery Regiment.

The route to Favara had already been checked by a company of the 7th Infantry that had worked its way cross-country during the night of 13 July, entered Favara early the next morning, and stayed there. Basing his decision on the information sent back by this company, General Truscott directed Colonel Sherman, the 7th Infantry commander, to move two battalions in the company’s path, one to go all the way into Favara, the other to advance on the north side of Highway 115 to high ground before the Naro River. The 3rd Ranger Battalion, which was in division reserve, was to move to Favara, then reconnoiter to the west of Agrigento.

Until the ground troops could get within striking distance of both towns, the enemy was to be allowed no rest. The Navy agreed to furnish the maximum possible gunfire support. Since 12 July, the cruisers Birmingham and Brooklyn had been firing missions against Agrigento and Porto Empedocle. On 14 July, the Birmingham concentrated on Italian shore batteries, and as the foot troops moved out to the new areas that night, the British monitor, H.M.S. Abercrombie, joined the Birmingham. The next day, the guns of the Philadelphia added their fires.

Before daylight on 15 July, the two infantry battalions occupied their objectives without difficulty. Now General Truscott attached the Ranger battalion to the 7th Infantry and ordered a continuation of the reconnaissance effort against Agrigento. That night the 3rd Ranger Battalion was to move from Favara to the little town of Montaperto, situated on commanding ground northwest of Agrigento. The 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry, at Favara was to move on Agrigento to take Hill 333, which commanded the northern approaches into Agrigento. These two moves would block the northern and western exits from Agrigento. Then the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, along Highway 115 was to push straight to the west, cross the Naro River, and drive on Agrigento. Only one change was made in this plan: after taking Montaperto, the 3rd Ranger Battalion was to swing south over Hill 316 to take Porto Empedocle.

As night fell on 15 July, the Rangers moved out from Favara. Though they came under scattered artillery fire, they suffered no casualties. A half hour after midnight, 16 July, the Rangers ran into an Italian roadblock just east of the junction of Highways 122 and 118. While scouts uncovered the Italian position, Major Herman W. Dammer, the Ranger battalion commander, deployed his men and sent them in. Within an hour the action was over; one hundred and sixty-five Italians surrendered.

At daylight, 16 July, Major Dammer started his men westward cross-country toward Montaperto. The Rangers had crossed Highway 118 and were on high ground some two hundred yards west of it when an enemy column composed of ten motorcycles and two truckloads of troops came unsuspectingly down the highway toward Agrigento. Deploying along the high ground, the Rangers permitted the enemy force-all Italians-to come fully abreast before opening fire. The first shots threw the enemy column into complete confusion. Many Italians were killed; forty were added to the bag of prisoners.

Without further incident, the Rangers moved into Montaperto. From the hilltop, they had a commanding view of the valley below where four batteries of Italian artillery were emplaced. Major Dammer quickly set up his 60-mm. mortars and opened fire. Individual Rangers joined in with their small arms. Though a few Italians escaped toward the south, most came up the hill with hands held high.

Meanwhile, the two battalions of riflemen from the 7th Infantry were executing their roles in what was euphemistically called a reconnaissance in force. The 2nd Battalion, advancing westward along Highway 122 from Favara, gained two hills about a thousand yards east of its objective by 0900. Little resistance was encountered, but loss of contact with the Rangers and spotty communications with combat team headquarters prompted Major Duvall, the battalion commander, to hold his attack until he could further develop the situation to his front and flanks. The 1st Battalion, along Highway 115, was having a hard fight trying to get into Agrigento. After dark on 15 July, Colonel Moore, the battalion commander, sent his men across the Naro River and onto three barren hills which fronted the city. His companies soon found themselves hotly engaged with Italian infantrymen representing parts of two infantry battalions. By early afternoon of 16 July the 1st Battalion was still unable to move forward.

In the early afternoon, General Truscott ordered the 3rd Battalion, which had been in reserve, to move south of Highway 115 to assist the 1st Battalion. Just after 1400, Colonel Heintges led his 3rd Battalion down to the highway. Quickly, the battalion finished off one of the Italian forces opposing the 1st Battalion. Together the two battalions started for Agrigento, as Italian resistance slowly crumbled. In Agrigento, Colonel de Laurentiis, commander of the defense forces, was undergoing some trying moments. His command post had been the object of heavy Allied naval and ground bombardments during the day. By early afternoon of 16 July all of the Italian artillery batteries had been silenced. Fires had broken out in many places. The town was completely enveloped. The Americans were nearing the town. Finally, after the 1st Battalion had broken into the city proper, Colonel de Laurentiis, his staff, and his troops surrendered to Colonel Moore. By this time, too, Porto Empedocle had fallen to the Rangers.

 [N2-12-2121 7th lnf Regt S-3 Rpts, 14-17 Jul 43; 7th Inf Regt S-3 Jnl, 14-17 Jul 43; 3rd Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 14-17 Jul 43; 10th FA Bn, 77th FA Regt, 3rd Inf Div Arty, and 3rd Ranger Bn AAR’s; Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 217-218; Morison, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, pp. 174-76; Lieutenant Colonel Roy E. Moore, A Reconnaissance in Force at Agrigento, Sicily, 12-16 July 1943 (Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1947); Major Edward B. Kitchens, Operations of the 3rd Ranger Infantry Battalion in the Landings at Licata and Subsequent Attack on Porto Empedode, 10-17 July 1943 (Fort Benning, Ga.: 1950); MS #R-141, Withdrawal, Second Phase (12-21 July 1943), ch. XI of Axis Tactical Operations in Sicily (Bauer), pp. 1-10. In an action west of Agrigento, 1st Lieutenant David C. Waybur, 3rd Reconnaissance Troop, 3rd Infantry Division, earned the Medal of Honor when, though seriously wounded, he stood in the middle of a road and opened fire with a submachine gun on a column of Italian tanks. Waybur knocked out the leading tank and brought the -others to a halt. See 3rd Recon Troop AAR, 16 Jul 43.]

Army Directive of 15 July 1943

The 7th Infantry’s thrust against Agrigento and Porto Empedocle was only one of a number of events growing out of General Alexander’s directive of 13 July, which turned the Seventh Army’s axis of advance from the north to the west. On 15 July, even as the 7th Infantry’s reconnaissance in force gathered momentum, General Patton outlined his plan and issued his instructions for executing the army group’s order. Apparently still anticipating a drive on Palermo, he rearranged his forces in the belief that he could win sanction for a thrust to the north coast.

While recognizing the initial line of advance as spelled out by General Alexander to be a line from Caltanissetta to Palma (a line already out “tripped by the 3rd Division”) , General Patton extended the army boundary past Enna (where General Alexander’s army boundary stopped) to the north coast just west of Santo Stefano di Camastra. Within this new zone, he disposed his forces under two corps headquarters, the existing II Corps and a newly created Provisional Corps. To each of the corps, General Patton assigned roughly one-half of the new zone of operations.

The right sector, running from just east of Serradifalco to Mussomeli, Lercara Friddi, Manneo, and Palermo, went to General Bradley’s II Corps. The newly organized Provisional Corps, under the command of General Keyes, the Seventh Army deputy commander, took over the left sector. To the new corps went the 3rd Infantry Division, minus CC-A and other supporting units; the 82nd Airborne Division; units from the 9th Infantry Division; and artillery units which had been supporting the 3rd Division. The 3rd Division was to continue on its mission of taking Agrigento and Porto Empedocle and of securing Highway 122 in its sector before passing to Provisional Corps control. The 2nd Armored Division was to form the army reserve.

Once the II Corps had shifted the 45th Division from the east to the west of the 1st Division, the divisions were to drive to the northwest to secure Caltanissetta and a stretch of Highway 122 by nightfall on 19 July. Expecting the 3rd Division to secure the line Serradifalco-Agrigento by dark on 17 July (which was an extension forward of the anny group’s contemplated line), General Patton directed the 82nd Airborne Division, plus the 9th Division’s units then on the island, to relieve the 3rd Division along Highway 115 by dark on 19 July as a first step in continuing the drive to the west. The 2nd Armored Division was to be prepared to exploit any offensive operation toward the north coast, operating principally in the Provisional Corps zone.

Thus, General Patton apparently hoped that by the end of 19 July the situation on the island would have developed sufficiently to enable the Seventh Anny to start on a thrust to the north coast. As indicated by the extension of the army boundary past Enna, General Patton was not thinking at this time of Messina as a Seventh Anny objective. Seventh Anny, of course, could not launch out to the west until General Alexander gave approval. But General Patton fully intended to be ready to go as soon as General Montgomery had firmly established the Eighth Army on a line from Catania to Enna.

General Bradley, with the problem of pulling his front apart and putting it together again, started the 45th Division to a new assembly area near Riesi on 16 July. Thus the 1st Division became the right guide for the Seventh Anny, responsible for maintaining contact with the British on the right. Since the east boundary of the “Enna loop” belonged to the British, the 1st Division’s axis of advance was along an axis to the west of that boundary, cutting the middle of the loop roughly parallel to the Salso River.

The 26th RCT, on 15 July, held the old Yellow Line positions on the hills in and around Mazzarino and was astride a secondary north-south road that paralleled Highway 117 and joined Highway 122 about midway between Enna and Caltanissetta. The latter road was the division objective and the 26th RCT had a direct line of advance to it. Because of the rough terrain ahead, General Allen ordered the combat team to advance on 16 July by leapfrogging battalions. Barrafranca was the first intennediate objective.

The 16th RCT shuttled over from Niscemi, while the 18th RCT, after making contact with the 1st Canadian Division along Highway 117, began moving south to follow the division’s main Axis of advance. On the first day of the advance, the 26th RCT quickly developed a pitched battle with Group Ens at a point just forward of Barrafranca. Because the retiring Germans had not destroyed the bridge north of Mazzarino, the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, had no trouble crossing. The mile and a half stretch before the road entered the plain in front of the first intermediate objective was also traversed without incident. But from this point on, German reaction to the advance became heavy. From the approach taken by the 1st Battalion, the town of Barrafranca gave the impression of being “over behind” rather than “up on top” the high ground.

Pocketed in a hill plateau, the town was shielded by lower hill masses west of the Mazzarino road. At the town’s left front, a stream made a corridor from the Mazzarino road to a traverse road at the rear, and below this narrow valley a line of lesser hills screened the town from a larger plain. Barrafranca was well suited for defense. The Germans, expert in such matters, had dug in well, and controlled all approaches and most of the plain where tanks could be employed. The Germans sat in positions of their own choosing, looking down the throat of the American advance.

On reaching the plain in front of Barrafranca, the 1st Battalion swung to the left of the road and took position on Hill 432, close to the road. The 2nd Battalion bypassed to the left of the 1st Battalion and moved on Hill 504. Here, the 2nd Battalion came under heavy fire from positions west of the town and was driven back. Meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion entered the low line of hills to the right of the road, fronting the plain. From these low hills, covered by Hills 432 and 504 on the left, the 3rd Battalion was to debouch onto the plain and advance on Barrafranca in a frontal attack. But even as the 2nd Battalion fought to get Hill 504, the Germans sent a column of tanks down into the plain toward the 3rd Battalion. American light tanks (the 70th Light Tank Battalion) from positions on the rim of Hill 432 opened fire on the German tanks, but their guns were not heavy enough to be effective and a number of the light tanks lost out in the ensuing encounter.

Though three supporting artillery battalions opened a steady fire on the approaching German armor, the advance was not halted. Unable to counter the tanks from its exposed positions on the low hills, the 3rd Battalion pulled back across the road to Hill 432 where it tied in with the 1st Battalion and where the remaining light tanks continued their efforts to slow down the enemy armor. The 3rd Battalion’s withdrawal also permitted the supporting artillery battalions to tum the plain into a killing zone. Concentration after concentration patterned the plain. Slowly the enemy drew back to Barrafranca; eight German tanks lay smoldering in the fields.

In the afternoon, the reorganized 1st and 3rd Battalions again made for Barrafranca. Their advance was unopposed; the Germans had gone. Immediately, the 16th RCT moved up to keep the pressure on the withdrawing enemy. That night the 16th passed through Barrafranca, leapfrogged the 26th RCT, and pushed on to Pietraperzia. Though they met some resistance, the advance detachments occupied the high ground northeast of the town. Late on 17 July, the 16th forced a crossing over the Salso River and reached Highway 122.

The 1st Division’s advance from Mazzarino was closely paralleled by that of the 45th Division. Faced with the extremely difficult task of moving his combat teams from the far east of the Seventh Army sector facing north to the center of the Seventh Army sector facing west, General Middleton, the 45th Division commander, at daylight on 16 July began to move his units, pulling them from right to left away from Highway 124.

 [N12-24 As General Middleton points out, the move had to be made through the rear areas of the 1st Division and over a limited road net. See comments by Lieutenant General Troy H. Middleton (Ret.) on MS.]

The 157th RCT was the first to move; its front had been the first uncovered by the 1st Canadian Division thrust along Highway 124. On trucks borrowed from other units throughout the II Corps zone, the combat team was forced to retrace its steps south to Highway 115, through Gela, and then northwest toward its new sector. At midnight, 16 July, after a ride of almost ninety miles, the 157th RCT reached Mazzarino. Close behind came the 753rd Medium Tank Battalion and two battalions of division artillery. Four hours later, at 0400, 17 July, the 157th jumped off in the attack. It passed through Pietraperzia, already cleared by the 1st Division, and went up to the Salso River where a demolished bridge stopped its advance. By nightfall crossing sites had been reconnoitered, and at 0100 on 18 July the 157th RCT crossed with Caltanissetta as the first objective and, if opposition proved weak, Santa Caterina (another ten miles away) the final objective.

The attack met no serious opposition. By 1600, Caltanissetta was secured and three hours later Santa Caterina fell. Practically the only opposition came when patrols pushing out from Santa Caterina along Highway 121 ran into a strong, Italian-defended roadblock which had been established the day before at Portella di Recattivo, one of several bottlenecks on the highway. There was no town here, but the road at this point had narrow curves and a steep incline. Moreover, it was close to one of the rare side roads which ran through the barren, hilly area to Highway 120, and thus was an important point for the enemy to hold.

 [N12-25: 157th Inf Regt AAR, 18 Jul 43; MS #R-141 (Bauer), pp. 30-33. The designation “Portella” which appears frequently on Sicilian maps -literally translated “narrow passage”-indicates a particularly difficult spot in the road net.]

The rest of the 45th Division, following the same difficult route traversed by the 157th RCT, closed in the Caltanissetta area on 18 July. From all appearances, and though it was now held up at Portella di Recattivo, the 157th had scored a clean breakthrough of the enemy’s defensive line and little or no resistance appeared to confront the division farther to the west. In contrast to the 1st Division which confronted the Enna loop and an apparently strong enemy force, the 45th Division appeared ready for a dash on Palermo.

The Germans had indeed fallen back. General Rodt, commander of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, had received orders from General Guzzoni to withdraw northeastward and to take up a defensive line running from Agira to Leonforte and on to Nicosia and Gangi to block an American advance from the west into the Catania area. As an additional measure, Guzzoni ordered Group Schreiber (minus Group Fullriede, which returned to Rodt’s control) to pull back from Serradifalco to Alimena and Portella di Recctivo to hold the roads open for the passage of the German division. By evening of 17 July, Group Schreiber was in position and fighting off the 157th RCT thrust from Santa Caterina.

General Rodt had started his rearward movement during the evening of 16 July. Group Ens drew back from Barrafranca, passed Valguarnera, and by daylight, 17 July, was in positions in the hills northeast and northwest of that town, opposing the advance of the 1st Canadian Division. Group Fullriede by that same morning had fallen back to a westward-facing salient running from the southwest to the northwest of Enna in line with the Imera River. From these positions, the German unit could maintain fire on the 1st Division advancing across the base of the Enna.

Discord and Harmony

Even as General Patton prepared to thrust to Palermo, General Alexander became increasingly worried about the problems of clearing the Messina peninsula the “long, mountainous, isosceles triangle with the great mass of Etna filling its base.” The German withdrawal from the west to a strong defensive line across the base of the peninsula was becoming apparent, and General Alexander was anxious for the British Eighth Army to strike hard around both sides of Mount Etna before the Germans could get set.

With this hope in mind, the army group commander on 16 July issued a new directive. In reality, this was nothing more than a modification of his 13 July order, slight at best, made to conform with what appeared to be a quick Eighth Army sweep around the western slopes of Mount Etna and the failure of the British 13 Corps to break through to Catania on the east coast. General Alexander for the first time spelled out his plan to exploit from the “firm line” -a term he used to refer to positioning Eighth Army along a line from Catania in the east to Enna in the west.

General Montgomery was to drive into the Messina peninsula along three main axes: along the east coast road through Catania; to Adrano on Highway 121 in order to cut the enemy’s lateral communications; and from Nicosia around the western slopes of Mount Etna. If the 30 Corps could reach the north coast and cut the island in two, General Montgomery would no longer have to fear an attack against his left flank and could concentrate on getting to Messina.

The Major task of the Seventh Army, its only task, was m protect the Eighth Army’s rear. General Patton was to do this by securing the Enna loop area, which would cut important roads, and by advancing to the north coast on the British left. Apparently ignorant of General Truscott’s reconnaissance in force, by then substantially completed, General Alexander authorized the seizure of Agrigento and Porto Empedocle. As for Palermo, or even the lesser course of moving beyond Agrigento, Alexander said nothing. For Patton and Bradley, the outlook seemed dim. Montgomery was to get the first prize, Messina; the Americans were to be denied even the consolation prize, Palermo.

Having accepted General Alexander’s earlier directive without audible comment, Patton was “mad as a wet hen” when he got the new directive. What rankled was not the assignment of Messina to the British (and with it assignment of three of the four main roads leading to Messina) but what he considered a slight to the U.S. Army: the passive mission of guarding Montgomery’s rear. The directive also knocked out Patton’s hope of gobbling up Palermo.

After conferring with General Keyes, Major General John P. Lucas, Brigadier General Albert C. Wedemeyer, and Brigadier General Hobart R. Gay, Patton decided to protest his asSigned mission, and he did so by presenting an alternate plan whereby the Seventh Army would make an enveloping attack on Palermo through Castelvetrano (sixty-eight miles west of Agrigento) and Corleone (fifty-eight miles northwest of Agrigento). Impinging in no way on Montgomery’s operations, the plan led the Americans westward toward the only objective of consequence after Messina, Palermo.

Meeting with Alexander in La Marsa, Tunisia, on 17 July, Patton argued his case. Since the enemy had been knocked back, he declared, aggressive action was not only imperative but the only way to give Montgomery complete protection of his left flank and rear. An American drive to Palermo would split the enemy forces irreparably. Alexander reluctantly agreed and gave his consent to Patton’s proposal.

At the same time, General Lucas was meeting with Major General Lowell Rooks, the AFHQ G-3, General Eisenhower being absent from Algiers on that day. Not until General Eisenhower returned on the 20th could Lucas unburden his soul. By then his resentment over seeming British determination to keep the Americans in a secondary role had been erased by news that Alexander had accepted Patton’s plan. In any case, Lucas thought the situation was rapidly becoming dangerous and that something should be done about it. General Eisenhower stated that he had never encountered a case where the British had deliberately tried to put something over on the Americans. In the circumstances, Eisenhower continued, Alexander should not be blamed for being cautious. But, said Eisenhower, Patton should be made to realize that “he must stand up to Alexander” or else Eisenhower would relieve Patton from his command.

Whereas there was widespread indignation among American officers regarding the original scheme of maneuver, British officers apparently were hardly aware of this feeling. Patton was the only American officer to raise the point about pushing out to the west, and until he went to Alexander the army group commander did not know how strongly the Americans felt about carrying out only a passive role. When confronted with this sentiment, Alexander realized that he probably could not restrain Patton indefinitely from pushing out; if he waited too long Patton would probably say, “To hell with this,” and push out anyway. With the situation then developing and with the enemy withdrawing into the Messina peninsula, Alexander was now willing to go along with Patton’s plan, albeit reluctantly.

Somewhat paradoxically, even as the element of disunity emerged between the British and Americans, the politically enforced co-operation between Germans and Italians on Sicily was going through a period of relative calm. Two command changes in the German structure might have led to friction, but both took place smoothly.

The first was the arrival on 15 July of General Hube, XIV Panzer Corps commander, who was to take charge of all the German forces on the island. On the same day, Kesselring gave Colonel Baade increased responsibility for protecting the Messina Strait.

After establishing his command post in the eastern portion of the island, Hube reported to General Guzzoni on 16 July and was briefed on Guzzoni’s plans for the Italian XVI Corps to organize the Etna line as a final defensive line behind temporary positions toward which the Axis forces were then moving. When the two German divisions reached the forward defenses, Hube was to supplant General von Senger but remain under Guzzoni’s tactical control.

Kesselring, too, visited Guzzoni’s Sixth Army headquarters that day. He found no fault with Guzzoni’s plans, both for deploying the troops in Sicily and for holding the Etna line. The two divisions in Hube’s corps, the Hermann Gӧring and the 15th Panzer Grenadier, were to be held in reserve for counteroffensive operations provided they were not needed to man the line itself, though Kesselring agreed to let the latter relieve the Livorno Division in the line so that the Italian unit could have needed rest and rehabilitation. Kesselring promised to try to reinforce the troops on Sicily by dispatching units from the Italian mainland, and Guzzoni promised to capture the initiative as soon as possible. As a result of conversations during two days, Kesselring and Guzzoni, though aware that the Allies might resort to additional amphibious operations, agreed that they would not evacuate the island of Sicily.

To forestall command difficulties, Guzzoni entrusted Hube’s XIV Panzer Corps with the eastern sector of the front. He gave the Italian XII Corps responsibility for the western half. He placed the Italian XVI Corps in reserve and in command of the northeastern portion of Sicily, where it was to receive and process units expected from the mainland, in particular the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division.

Another problem Guzzoni tried to deal with was the Italian ferry service across the Strait of Messina. Though the Germans operated an independent ferry service with utmost regularity and started to move the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division to Sicily (as authorized by Hitler on 19 July), the Italian movements were on the verge of breakdown. From all over Italy came Sicilians, including military personnel on leave, who converged on Reggio di Calabria, demanding transportation to the island on the pretext of defending their homeland. Many who reached the island disappeared at once, presumably having rushed off to join their families. Other Italian troops in Sicily used all their ingenuity to move in the other direction. In an attempt to tighten the water service, Guzzoni urged the Naval Base Messina commander to enforce rigid discipline and regulate traffic across the strait in the strictest conformance with military necessity.

[N12-37 IT an. 51, signed Guzzoni. Effective 2400, 18 July Ig43, Rube assumed tactical command over the Hermann Gӧring, the 15th Panzer Grenadier, and the Livorno Divisions.] 

Meanwhile, during the evening of 16 July, Guzzoni learned of the fall of Agrigento. The way was now open to the Americans to advance and cut off all the remainder of the XII Corps. The last moment had obviously come to move these forces to the east. Early on the following morning, Guzzoni ordered the XII Corps to begin withdrawing immediately to a defensive line running from Nicosia west along Highway 120 to Cerda. Two coastal divisions were to be left in place to ward off any Allied amphibious attack.

The XII Corps thus had to execute a difficult tactical maneuver. The Major units-the Assietta and Aosta Divisions mobile in name only, had to make flanking movements from the west to east across the spearheads of the American columns advancing toward Palermo and the north coast. To defend Palermo, Guzzoni ordered Generale di Divisione Giovanni Marciani, commander of the 208th Coastal Division, to take charge of all coastal units in and around Palermo and to keep the Palermo-Cerda portion of Highway 113 open. All told, the Italians had almost 60,000 men in the western portion of Sicily, including the units at the Palermo and Marsala naval bases.

The aura of accord between Italians and Germans in the face of adversity as demonstrated on Sicily failed to extend back to the Continent. Here, rifts in Italo-German unity widened to great proportions.

SOURCE: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Albert Nutter Garland & Howard McGaw Smyth (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Sicily (2-11) Allies Push Inland


Korean War: (12B) 1st Cavalry Division Arrives 1950

The 1st Cavalry Division, Sails for Korea: At first General MacArthur and the staff of the Far East Command had expected that the 24th and 25th Divisions in support of the ROK Army would be able to check the North Korean advance. Based on this expectation, initial preliminary planning called for a third United States division, the 1st Cavalry, to land in the rear of the enemy forces and, together with a counterattack from in front by the combined American and ROK forces, to crush and destroy the North Korean Army.

 In furtherance of this plan, the Far East Command called Major General Hobart R. Gay, Commanding General, 1st Cavalry Division, to General MacArthur’s headquarters on 6 July and informed him of plans for the 1st Cavalry Division to make an amphibious landing at Inchon. From this briefing General Gay went to the G-2, Far East Command office, where he was told, “You must expedite preparations to the utmost limit because if the landing is delayed all that the 1st Cavalry Division will hit when it lands will be the tail end of the 24th Division as it passes north through Seoul.”

 The transfer to the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions, in strengthening them for their combat missions in Korea, of approximately 750 noncommissioned officers from the 1st Cavalry Division had weakened the latter. It had been stripped of practically every first grader except the first sergeants of companies and batteries.

 Between 12 and 14 July the division loaded on ships in the Yokohama area. But, by this time, the steady enemy successes south of the Han River had changed the objective from a landing in the enemy’s rear at Inchon to a landing on the east coast of Korea at Pohangdong, a fishing town sixty air miles northeast of Pusan. Its mission was to reinforce at once the faltering 24th Division. A landing at Pohang-dong would not congest still further the Pusan port facilities, which were needed to land supplies for the troops already in action; also, from Pohang-dong the division could move promptly to the Taejon area in support of the 24th Division. The date of the landing was set for 18 July.

 [N12-32 Commander, Amphibious Group One, Task Force 90, Attack Force Opn Order 10-50, 131200 Jul 50, Tokyo; Notes, Harris for author, 18 May 54.]

 The command ship Mt. McKinley and final elements of the first lift sailed for Korea on 15 July in Task Force 90, commanded by Rear Admiral James H. Doyle. The landing at Pohang-dong was unopposed. Lead elements of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were ashore by 0610 18 July, and the first troops of the 5th Cavalry Regiment came in twenty minutes later. Typhoon Helene swept over the Korean coast and prevented landing of the 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 82nd Field Artillery Battalion until 22 July. For three days ships could not be unloaded at Pusan and Eighth Army rations dropped to one day’s supply.

[N12-33 1st Cav Div WD, 12-22 Jul 50, and Summ, 25 Jun-Jul 50.]

 Even though it had received 1,450 replacements before it left Japan, 100 of them from the Eighth Army stockade, the division was understrength when it landed in Korea and, like the preceding divisions, it had only 2 battalions in the regiments, 2 firing batteries in the artillery battalions, and 1 tank company (light M24 tanks).

 On 19 July, the 5th Cavalry Regiment started toward Taejon. The next day the 8th Cavalry Regiment followed by rail and motor, and closed in an assembly area east of Yongdong that evening. Brigadier General Charles D. Palmer, division artillery commander, commanded these two forward regiments. On 22 July the 8th Cavalry Regiment relieved the 21st Infantry, 24th Division, in its positions at Yongdong and the 1st Cavalry Division thereby assumed responsibility for blocking the enemy along the main Taejon-Taegu corridor.

 [N12-34 21-22 Jul 50; Ibid., G-3 Sec, 20 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, G-4 Daily Summ, 22 Jul 50; EUSAK WD, Summ, 13-31 Jul 50; 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl, 21 Jul 50]

 In a conference at Taegu General Walker gave General Gay brief instructions. In substance, Walker told Gay: “Protect Yongdong. Remember there are no friendly troops behind you. You must keep your own back door open. You can live without food but you cannot last long without ammunition, and unless the Yongdong-Taegu road is kept open you will soon be without ammunition.” In the week that followed, these words of Walker’s rang constantly in General Gay’s ears.

 Leaving Taegu, General Gay joined his troops and General Palmer at Yongdong. Colonel MacLean, from the Eighth Army G-3 Section, was present and had given instructions that one battalion should be posted four miles northwest of Yongdong on the south side of the Kum River, and that another battalion should be placed two miles southwest of Yongdong. The first would cover the approach along the main Taejon-Taegu highway, the second the approach on the Chosan-ni-Muju-Kumsan road. General Palmer had protested this disposition of troops to Colonel MacLean on the ground that the enemy could encircle and cut off one battalion at a time and that neither battalion could support the other. Palmer wanted to place the 1st Cavalry Division on a line of hills just east of Yongdong and then have the 24th Division withdraw through it. General Gay agreed with General Palmer and stated that he could not comply with Colonel MacLean’s instructions unless Eighth Army confirmed them over the telephone. The army headquarters did confirm the orders, and the two battalions of the 8th Cavalry Regiment went into the two blocking positions, the 1st Battalion on the Taejon road northwest of Yongdong and the 2nd Battalion southwest of Yongdong. General Gay placed the 5th Cavalry Regiment on the high ground east of the town in a blocking position.

 The strength of the Eighth Army at this time, with the 1st Cavalry Division in the line, was about 39,000 men. Less than three weeks earlier, when there were no American troops in Korea, such a number would have seemed a large force indeed.

The 1st Cavalry Division Loses Yongdong

 The enemy paused but briefly after the capture of Taejon. After a day’s rest in that town, which it had helped to capture, the N.K. 3rd Division departed the city on 22 July, advancing down the main highway toward Taegu. The next morning, 23 July, the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, in front of Yongdong, reported it had destroyed three enemy T34 tanks with 3.5-inch rocket launchers in its first use of that weapon. [N12-38] The enemy division was closing with the 1st Cavalry Division for the battle for Yongdong.

[N12-38 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), p. 32; EUSAK WD, 23 Jul 50; 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl. The 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, had enemy contact at 22-2100.]

 During 23 July the 7th and 9th Regiments of the N.K. 3rd Division began their attack on the Yongdong positions. The enemy made his first penetration southwest of Yongdong, establishing a roadblock a mile and a half behind the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, at the same time other units heavily engaged the 1st Battalion northwest of Yongdong in frontal attack.

 The next day four different attempts by three American light tanks failed to dislodge the enemy behind the 2nd Battalion, and Lieutenant Colonel Eugene J. Field, the 2nd Battalion commander, was wounded at the roadblock. General Palmer sent the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, and the 16th Reconnaissance Company toward the cutoff battalion. By noon, enemy troops were attacking the 99th and 61st Field Artillery Battalions which were supporting the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, indicating that the infiltration had been extensive.

[N12-39 1st Cav Div WD, 23-24 Jul 50; 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl, 24 Jul 50. Overlay 36 to 8th Cav Opn Jnl shows location of enemy roadblock.]

 On the other approach road, northwest of Yongdong, heavy automatic fire from quad-50’s, 37-mm. fire from A Battery of the 92nd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, and artillery fire from the 77th Field Artillery Battalion helped the 1st Battalion there to repel enemy attacks.

 The large numbers of Korean refugees crowding the Yongdong area undoubtedly helped the enemy infiltrate the 1st Cavalry Division positions. On 24 July, for example, a man dressed in white carrying a heavy pack, and accompanied by a woman appearing to be pregnant, came under suspicion. The couple was searched and the woman’s assumed pregnancy proved to be a small radio hidden under her clothes. She used this radio for reporting American positions. Eighth Army tried to control the refugee movement through the Korean police, permitting it only during daylight hours and along predetermined routes.

[N12-40 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl, 24 Jul 50; 1st Cav Div WD, G-3 Sec, serial 80, 26 Jul 50.]

 By the morning of 25 July enemy forces had infiltrated the positions of the 1st Cavalry Division so thoroughly that they forced a withdrawal. Northwest of Yongdong, Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Kane’s 1st Battalion executed an orderly and efficient withdrawal, covered by the fire of the Heavy Mortar Company and the two batteries of Lieutenant Colonel William A. Harris’ 77th Field Artillery Battalion. The mortar men finally lost their mortars and fought as infantry in the withdrawal.

 [N12-41 1st Cav Div WD, 25 Jul 50; Interv, author with Maj Rene J. Giuraud, 21 Apr 54 (Giuraud commanded the mortar company at Yongdong); Interv, author with Harris, 30 Apr 54; Notes, Harris for author, 18 May 54.]

Meanwhile, the situation worsened on the road southwest of Yongdong. Concentrated artillery support—with the shells falling so close to the 2nd Battalion positions that they wounded four men—together with an attack by the battalion, briefly opened the enemy roadblock at 0430, 25 July, and the bulk of the battalion escaped to Yongdong. But F Company, 8th Cavalry, the 16th Reconnaissance Company, and the 1st Platoon, A Company, 71st Tank Battalion, at the rear of the column were cut off. Only four of eleven light tanks broke through the enemy positions. Crews abandoned the other seven tanks and walked over the hills in a two days’ journey as part of a group of 219 men, most of them from F Company. All equipment except individual arms was abandoned by this group. Others escaped in the same manner.

[N12-42 1st Cav Div WD, 25-27 Jul 50; Ltr, Gay to author, 24 Aug 53; 8th Cav Regt Opn Jnl, 25 Jul 50; Captain Charles A. Rogers, History of the 16th Reconnaissance Company in Korea, 18 July 1950-April 1951, typescript MS, May 51, copy in OCMH; New York Times, July 29, 1950, dispatch by William H. Lawrence from 1st Cavalry Division.]

 On this same road, but closer to Yongdong, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry, in trying to help the cutoff units of the 8th Cavalry, ran into trouble. Through some error, its F Company went to the wrong hill and walked into a concentration of enemy soldiers. Only twenty-six men returned. Altogether, the 5th Cavalry Regiment had 275 casualties on 25 July.

 The N.K. 3rd Division used against the 1st Cavalry Division at Yongdong essentially the same tactics it had employed against the 24th Division at Taejon—a holding attack frontally, with the bulk of its force enveloping the American left flank and establishing strongly held roadblocks behind the front positions. The enemy division entered Yongdong the night of 25 July; at least one unit was in the town by 2000. The North Koreans expected a counterattack and immediately took up defensive positions at the eastern edge of the town. Prisoners reported later that the division suffered about 2,000 casualties, mostly from artillery fire, in the attack on Yongdong on 24-25 July. [N12-44] This brought it down to about 5,000 men, approximately half-strength.

The 27th Infantry’s Baptism of Fire

 Closely related to the Yongdong action was the enemy advance southward on the next road eastward, the Poun-Hwanggan road. The N.K. 2nd Division, arriving too late on the east of Taejon to help in the attack on that city, turned toward Poun. Unless checked it would pass through that town and come out on the main Seoul-Pusan highway at Hwanggan, about ten miles east of Yongdong. This would place it in the rear of the 1st Cavalry Division on the latter’s main supply road.

 [N12-44 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), pp. 32-33; Ibid., Enemy Docs, Issue 2, pp. 66-67 (Choe Song Hwan diary, 21 Jul-10 Aug 50).]

 The task of defending this road fell to the 27th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 25th Division. Upon first arriving in Korea that regiment went to the Uisong area, thirty-five air miles north of Taegu. On 13 July it moved from there to Andong to support ROK troops, but before it entered action in the heavy battles then taking place in that area it suddenly received orders to move to Sangju. En route to that place it received still other orders to change its destination to Hwanggan, and it closed there in an assembly area the night of 22-23 July. General Walker had begun the quick and improvised shifting of troops to meet emergencies that was to characterize his defense of the Pusan Perimeter. The 27th Infantry’s mission at Hwanggan was to relieve the decimated ROK troops retreating down the Poun road.

 In carrying out Eighth Army’s orders to block the Poun road, Colonel Michael is assigned the 1st Battalion of the 27th Infantry the task of making contact with the enemy. On the morning of 23 July, Lieutenant Colonel Gilbert J. Check moved the 1st Battalion northward toward Poun from the Hwanggan assembly area. He took up defensive positions in the evening near the village of Sangyong-ni, south of Poun. The battalion assumed responsibility for that sector at 1700 after ROK troops fell back through its position. Colonel Check was unable to obtain from the retreating ROK troops any information on the size of the North Korean force following them or how close it was.

 That night he sent 1st Lieutenant John A. Buckley of A Company with a 30-man patrol northward to locate the enemy. Near Poun Buckley saw an enemy column approaching. He quickly disposed his patrol on hills bordering both sides of the road, and, when the column was nearly abreast, opened fire on it with all weapons. This fire apparently caused the enemy advanced unit to believe it had encountered a major position, for it held back until daylight. When the enemy turned back, Buckley and his patrol returned to the 1st Battalion lines, arriving there at 0400, 24 July. Six men were missing.

 [N12-47 27th Inf WD, Opn Rpt, 1st Bn, 23 Jul-3 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, G-3 Sec, 24 Jul 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94 (N.K. 2nd Div) p. 36.]

 Check’s 1st Battalion prepared to receive an attack. It came at 0630, 24 July, shortly after daybreak in a heavy fog that enabled the North Koreans to approach very close to the battalion positions before they were observed. Two rifle companies, one on either side of the road on low ridges, held the forward positions. Enemy mortar and small arms fire fell on the men there, and then tanks appeared at the bend in the road and opened fire with cannon and machine guns as they approached. Enemy infantry followed the tanks. Although the two rifle companies stopped the North Korean infantry, the tanks penetrated their positions and fired into the battalion command post which was behind B Company. This tank fire destroyed several vehicles and killed the medical officer. Captain Logan E. Weston, A Company commander, armed himself with a bazooka and knocked out one of the tanks within the position. In this close action, tank fire killed a man near Weston and the concussion of the shell explosion damaged Weston’s ears so that he could not hear. Weston refused to leave the fight, and Colonel Check later had to order him to the rear for medical treatment.

 On the right (north) of the road the enemy overran the battalion observation post and B Company’s outpost line. This high ground changed hands three times during the day. While the infantry fight was in progress, and shortly after the first tank penetration, five more T34’s came around the road bend toward the 1st Battalion. When the first tanks appeared Colonel Check had called for an air strike. Now, at this propitious moment, three F-80 jet planes arrived and immediately dived on the approaching second group of tanks, destroying 3 of them with 5-inch rockets. Altogether, bazooka, artillery, and air strikes knocked out 6 enemy tanks during the morning, either within or on the edge of the 1st Battalion position. In this, its first engagement with American troops, the N.K. 2nd Division lost all but 2 of the 8 tanks that had been attached to it a few days earlier at Chongju.

 [N12-48 EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, 24 Jul 50; 27th Inf WD, Opn Rpt, 1st Bn 24 Jul 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94 (N.K. 2nd Div.), p. 36; Colonel Gilbert J. Check, MS review comments, 25 Nov 57.]

 Late in the evening after dark the 1st Battalion disengaged and withdrew through the 2nd Battalion immediately behind it. Both Check and the regimental commander, Colonel Michaelis, expected the enemy to encircle the 1st Battalion position during the night if it stayed where it was.

 The North Koreans apparently were unaware of the 1st Battalion withdrawal, for the next morning, 25 July, two enemy battalions in a double envelopment came in behind its positions of the evening before but in front of Major Gordon E. Murch’s 2nd Battalion. There they were surprised and caught in the open by the combined fire of American tanks, artillery, and mortar, and the 2nd Battalion’s automatic and small arms fire. The North Koreans suffered severely in this action. Surviving remnants of the two enemy battalions withdrew in confusion. The 2nd Battalion took about thirty prisoners.

[N12-49 27th Inf WD, 25 Jul 50; Lt Col Gordon E. Murch, Notes for author, 7 Apr 54.]

Despite this costly setback, the enemy division pushed relentlessly forward, and that afternoon elements of it were flanking the regimental position. Colonel Michaelis issued an order about 2200 for another withdrawal to high ground near Hwanggan. The withdrawal started near midnight with heavy fighting still in progress on the right flank. Major Murch took control of all tanks and put them on line facing north. There the nine tanks of A Company, 79th Tank Battalion, fired into visible enemy troops approaching on the road. Enemy mortar fire, estimated to be eight or ten rounds a minute, fell along the battalion line and the road behind it. F Company and the nine tanks covered the 2nd Battalion withdrawal.

[N12-50 Murch, Notes for author, 7 Apr 54; 27th Inf WD, Summ of Activities, 2nd Bn, 25 Jul 50.]

 The next day, 26 July, the arrival of the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, on the 27th Infantry’s right flank eased the precarious situation. But the following day the regimental left flank came under attack where a large gap existed between C Company, the lefthand (west) unit of the 27th Infantry, and the 7th Cavalry Regiment, the nearest unit of the 1st Cavalry Division. C Company lost and regained a peak three times during the day. More than 40 casualties reduced its strength to approximately 60 men. B Company also lost heavily in action, falling to a strength of about 85 men. By the morning of 28 July the enemy had penetrated the 1st Battalion’s line, forcing C Company to withdraw.

 [N12-51 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 26 Jul 50; 27th Inf WD, Opn Rpt, 1st Bn, 27 Jul 50; 27th Inf WD, Hist Rpt, 27-28 Jul 50.]

 At this point Colonel Michaelis went to the 1st Cavalry Division command post in Hwanggan and asked General Gay for permission to withdraw his hard-pressed regiment through that division. General Gay telephoned Colonel Landrum, Eighth Army Chief of Staff, and described the situation. He asked if he should attack in an effort to relieve the enemy pressure on the 27th Infantry, or if that regiment should withdraw into the 1st Cavalry Division’s area, move south to Kumchon, and then turn toward Sangju to rejoin the 25th Division. Colonel Landrum called back later and said, “Let Mike with-draw through you.” Colonel Collier drove from Taegu to Hwanggan to discuss the situation with General Gay who said, “We are in what they call a military mousetrap.”

 Before dawn, 29 July, the 27th Infantry Regiment withdrew through the 1st Cavalry Division lines at Hwanggan to a position about a mile east of Kumchon. That afternoon Colonel Michaelis received orders from Eighth Army to move to Waegwan on the Naktong River near Taegu, as army reserve, instead of joining the 25th Division in the Sangju area. In its five days of delaying action on the Poun-Hwanggan road, the 27th Infantry Regiment lost 53 men killed, 221 wounded, and 49 missing, a total of 323 battle casualties. The N.K. 2nd Division suffered heavily during this time, some estimates placing its loss above 3,000 men.

[N12-53 27th Inf WD: Hist Rpt 28-29 Jul 50; Opn Rpt, 1st Bn, 27-29 Jul 50; an. 2, 29-31 Jul 50; Opn Sec, 6-31 Jul 50; S-1 Sec, Cumulative Casualties; S-2 Sec, Act Rpt, Jul 50; 1st Cav Div WD, 28-29 Jul 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94, p. 36.]


 During the battle for Yongdong the 7th Cavalry Regiment headquarters and the 2nd Battalion arrived from Pohangdong and took up a position west of Kumchon. Reports reached them the night of 25-26 July of enemy gains in the 27th Infantry sector northward, which increased the uneasiness of the untested staff and troops. After midnight there came a report that the enemy had achieved a breakthrough. Somehow, the constant pressure under which the 27th Infantry fought its delaying action on the Poun road had become magnified and exaggerated. The 7th Cavalry Regiment headquarters immediately decided to arouse all personnel and withdraw. During the withdrawal the 2nd Battalion, an untried unit, scattered in panic. That evening 119 of its men were still missing.

 In this frantic departure from its position on 26 July, the 2nd Battalion left behind a switchboard, an emergency lighting unit, and weapons of all types. After daylight truck drivers and platoon sergeants returned to the scene and recovered 14 machine guns, 9 radios, 120 M1 rifles, 26 carbines, 7 BAR’s, and 6 60-mm. mortars.

 While this untoward incident was taking place in their rear, other elements of the 1st Cavalry Division held their defensive positions east of Yongdong. The 7th Regiment of the N.K. 3rd Division, meanwhile, started southwest from Yongdong on the Muju road in a sweeping flank movement through Chirye against Kumchon, twenty air miles eastward. That night, elements of the enemy division in Yongdong attacked the 1st Cavalry troops east of the town. Four enemy tanks and an infantry force started this action by driving several hundred refugees ahead of them through American mine fields. Before daybreak the 1st Cavalry Division had repulsed the attack.

 Patrols reported to General Gay’s headquarters that enemy troops were moving around the division’s left flank in the direction of Chirye. On his right flank at the same time there was a question whether the 27th Infantry could hold. These developments caused General Gay to decide that although he was under no immediate enemy pressure he would have to withdraw or his division would be cut off from Taegu. Accordingly, he ordered a withdrawal to the vicinity of Kumchon where he considered the terrain excellent for defense. This withdrawal began on 29 July after the 27th Infantry had passed east through the division’s lines.

[N12-57 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), p. 33; 1st Cav Div WD, 26-27 Jul 50; Ltr, Gay to author, 24 Aug 53.]

 The 1st Cavalry Division took up new defensive positions around Kumchon, an important road center thirty air miles northwest of Taegu. The 8th Cavalry Regiment went into position astride the Sangju road north of the town; the 5th Cavalry blocked the Chirye road southwest of it; the 7th Cavalry Regiment remained in its Hwanggan position until the other units had withdrawn, and then it fell back to a position on the Yongdong road about six miles northwest of Kumchon.

 The enemy flanking movement under way to the southwest through the Chirye area threatened the division’s rear and communications with Taegu. Eighth Army strengthened the 1st Cavalry Division against this threat by attaching to it the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry. This battalion had the mission of establishing a roadblock ten miles southwest of Kumchon near Hawan-ni on the Chirye road. This proved to be a timely and wise move, for, on this very day, the enemy 7th Regiment began arriving at Chirye, only a few miles farther down the road.

 That morning, 29 July, a platoon-sized patrol of the 16th Reconnaissance Company under Lieutenant Lester Lauer drove southwest through Chirye. Later in the morning, Korean police informed Lauer that an enemy battalion was in Chirye. He radioed this information to the Reconnaissance Company and asked for instructions. The company commander, Captain Charles V. H. Harvey, decided to take another platoon to the assistance of the one beyond Chirye. He set out immediately from Kumchon with the platoon and fourteen South Korean police. At the outskirts of Chirye this force surprised and killed three enemy soldiers. Beyond Chirye the little column drew scattered rifle fire. The two platoons joined forces at noon and started back.

 In the northern part of Chirye, which Harvey’s column entered cautiously, the lead vehicles came upon a partially built roadblock from which an estimated enemy platoon opened fire on the column. Harvey ordered his little column to smash through the roadblock. The M39 vehicle pushed aside the wagon and truck that constituted the partially built block, but only one jeep was able to follow it through. Enemy machine gun fire disabled the next vehicle in line; thus the northern exit from Chirye was closed. Several hundred enemy were now in view, moving to surround the patrol.

 The patrol pulled back to the south edge of town, set up three 81-mm. mortars, and began firing on the enemy machine gun positions. Corporal Harry D. Mitchell, although wounded four times and bleeding profusely, stayed with his mortar and fired it until his ammunition was expended. Captain Harvey early in the fight had received a bullet through one hand, and now machine gun fire struck him again, this time cutting his jugular vein. He did not respond to first aid treatment and died in a few minutes. His last order was for the company to withdraw.

 Three officers and forty-one enlisted men, abandoning their vehicles and heavier equipment, gained the nearest hill. They walked all night—an estimated thirty-five miles—and reached 1st Cavalry Division lines the next morning. The 16th Reconnaissance Company in this incident lost 2 killed, 3 wounded, and 11 missing.

The Chirye action made clear that a strong enemy force was approaching the rear of, or passing behind, the 1st Cavalry Division positions at Kumchon. The next day, 30 July, General Gay ordered the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry; the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry; and the 99th Field Artillery Battalion to Chirye. This strong force was able to enter the town, but the enemy held the hills around it. The next day North Koreans shelled Chirye, forcing the Americans to withdraw to a position northeast of the town. [N12-60] The enemy 8th Regiment together with its artillery now joined the other North Koreans already at Chirye. This meant that the bulk of the division was engaged in the enveloping move.

 [N12-60 1st Cav Div WD, 30-31 Jul 50; ATIS Supp, Enemy Docs, Issue 4, p. 69 (Battle Rpt of Arty Opns, N.K. 8th Regt, 3rd Div, 3 Aug 50); Ibid., Issue 2, pp. 66-67 (Choe Song Hwan diary, 21 Jul-10 Aug 50).]

 On 31 July the N.K. 3rd Division was closing on Kumchon. About daylight a squad of North Koreans infiltrated into the command post of the 8th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1,000 yards from the 1st Cavalry Division command post, and killed four men and wounded six others. Among the latter was the battalion executive officer who died subsequently of his wounds. The 7th Cavalry also came under attack. But in pressing forward the North Koreans exposed their tanks. Air and ground fire power reportedly destroyed thirteen of them and set six more on fire. During its first ten days of action in Korea the 1st Cavalry Division had 916 battle casualties—78 killed, 419 wounded, and 419 missing.

 The N.K. 3rd Division in forcing the 1st Cavalry Division from Yongdong and back on Kumchon apparently suffered nearly 2,000 casualties, which reduced it to a strength of about 5,000 men. Nevertheless, it had effectively and quickly driven the 1st Cavalry Division toward the Naktong. For its operations in the Yongdong-Kumchon area the N.K. 3rd Division received the honorary title of Guards.

 [N12-63 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), p. 33; GHQ FEC, History of the N.K. Army, p. 57.]

“Stand or Die”

 On Wednesday, 26 July, Eighth Army had issued an operational directive indicating that the army would move to prepared positions, stabilize the front line, and maintain a position from which it could initiate offensive action. The time of the movement was to be announced later. During the withdrawal, units were to maintain contact with the enemy. Three days later, on 29 July, General Walker issued his much discussed “stand or die” order and seemingly ruled out the previously announced withdrawal. The actual withdrawal of Eighth Army behind the Naktong River in the first days of August further confused the issue. What prompted General Walker to issue his 29 July “stand or die” order?

 For several days both the 25th Infantry and the 1st Cavalry Divisions had been withdrawing steadily in the face of North Korean attacks, often in circumstances that seemed not to justify it, and with troops in panic and out of control. General Walker was disappointed and upset over the performance of the 25th Division in the Sangju area and he made this feeling known to General Kean, the division commander.

 [N12-65 Interv, author with Lieutenant Colonel Paul F. Smith 1 Oct 52; Ltr, Landrum to author, recd 23 Nov 53; Collier, MS review comments, Mar 58.]

 General Walker was also disappointed over the inability of the 1st Cavalry Division to check the advance of the enemy on the Taejon-Taegu axis. This was apparent on the afternoon on 29 July when he visited the division command post in a little schoolhouse at Kumchon. He questioned the withdrawals and ordered that there be no more. General Gay replied that he himself did not know whether the withdrawals had been sound, but that he had feared his communications to the rear would be cut. General Gay had served as Chief of Staff for General Patton’s Third Army in Europe in World War II. This, his initial experience in Korea, was a defensive operation and, as he has since said, “he didn’t know what to do about it.” And always General Walker’s earlier admonition to him in Taegu rang in his ears.

 General Walker himself was a most determined commander. His bulldog tenacity became a byword in Korea and it was one of the decisive factors in the summer battles of 1950. These characteristics caused him to smart all the more under the poor showing of many of the American units. He understood well the great problem of maintaining morale in his command at a time when Eighth Army was retreating rapidly toward its base of supply and, unless checked, would soon have its back to the sea.

 On 26 July, the day Eighth Army issued its warning order for a planned withdrawal to a defensive position, General Walker telephoned General MacArthur’s headquarters in Tokyo. General Almond, MacArthur’s Chief of Staff, took the call. General Walker asked for authority to move Eighth Army headquarters from Taegu to Pusan immediately for security of the army communications equipment which was virtually irreplaceable if destroyed or lost. He said the enemy was approaching too close to Taegu for its safety there. There was no indication in this conversation that General Walker contemplated having the army’s tactical units themselves fall back on Pusan. The withdrawals to a planned position Walker then had in mind would bring the enemy to the Naktong River. General Almond told Walker over the telephone that he would transmit the request to General MacArthur, but that he personally thought such a move at that time would have a very bad effect on Eighth Army units and also on the ROK troops. It might lead to the belief that Eighth Army could not stay in Korea and might be the forerunner of a general debacle.

[N12-67 Interv, author with Almond, 13 Dec 51. Even the principal members of General Walker’s Eighth Army staff knew nothing of this matter. General Landrum and Colonel Collier, on intimate personal terms with General Walker, indicate that there was no plan in the Eighth Army staff or in the Signal Section for such a move to Pusan at that time; that, in the long-range planning initiated some days later, the proposed site of a rear command post was Ulsan on the east coast and not Pusan; that General Walker would not discuss a removal of the command post from Taegu with his staff until late August, when considerable danger existed that the signal equipment might be destroyed; and that no responsible member of the Army staff had at that time proposed a move of the command post to Pusan. See Ltr, Landrum to author, recd 23 Nov 53; Colllier, MS review comments, Mar 58; Interv, author with Colonel Albert K. Stebbins (EUSAK G-4 at the time), 4 Dec 53.]

 At the conclusion of the telephone conversation with Walker, General Almond related the substance of it to General MacArthur, strongly recommending that the latter fly to Korea at once —the next day—to talk with Walker. Almond said he felt the situation in Korea was critical and demanded the personal attention of the Far East commander. MacArthur said he would think about it. Half an hour later he directed Almond to arrange for the flight to Korea the next morning. Almond notified Walker that evening of the projected trip. 

Thursday morning early, 27 July, the Bataan departed Haneda Airfield and landed at Taegu about 1000. A small group of officers, including General Almond, accompanied MacArthur. Met by Generals Walker and Partridge and Colonel Landrum, the party went directly to Eighth Army headquarters.

During a ninety-minute conference between General MacArthur and General Walker only one other person was present—General Almond. In this lengthy conversation General MacArthur never mentioned Walker’s request of the day before, nor did he in any way criticize Walker. But he did emphasize the necessity of Eighth Army standing its ground. He said withdrawals must cease. Later, after lunch and in the presence of several members of the army staff, MacArthur said there would be no evacuation from Korea—that there would be no Korean Dunkerque. He praised the 24th Division and the ROK Capital Division. 

Two days later, on Saturday, 29 July, General Walker visited the 25th Division command post at Sangju. There he conferred with General Kean and afterward spoke to the division staff and issued his order to hold the line. The press widely reported this as a “stand or die” order to Eighth Army. A paraphrase of Walker’s talk, recorded in notes taken at the time, gives a clear version of what he said: General MacArthur was over here two days ago; he is thoroughly conversant with the situation. He knows where we are and what we have to fight with. He knows our needs and where the enemy is hitting the hardest. General MacArthur is doing everything possible to send reinforcements. A Marine unit and two regiments are expected in the next few days to reinforce us. Additional units are being sent over as quickly as possible. We are fighting a battle against time. There will be no more retreating, withdrawal, or readjustment of the lines or any other term you choose. There is no line behind us to which we can retreat. Every unit must counterattack to keep the enemy in a state of confusion and off balance. There will be no Dunkirk, there will be no Bataan, a retreat to Pusan would be one of the greatest butcheries in history. We must fight until the end. Capture by these people is worse than death itself. We will fight as a team. If some of us must die, we will die fighting together. Any man who gives ground may be personally responsible for the death of thousands of his comrades. 

[N12-68 Interv, author with Almond, 13 Dec 51; Ltr, Landrum to author, recd 23 Nov 53; EUSAK WD, G-3 Stf Sec Rpt, 27 Jul 50; New York Times, July 27, 1950. General MacArthur read this passage in MS form and offered no comment on it.] 

I want you to put this out to all the men in the Division. I want everybody to understand that we are going to hold this line. We are going to win. General Walker said much the same thing to his other division commanders at this time, but he did not repeat it to the other division staffs. 

General Walker’s words reached down quickly to every soldier, with varying results. Many criticized the order because they thought it impossible to execute. One responsible officer with troops at the time seems to have expressed this viewpoint, saying that the troops interpreted it as meaning, “Stay and die where you are.” They neither understood nor accepted this dictum in a battle situation where the enemy seldom directed his main effort at their front but moved around the flanks to the rear when, generally, there were no friendly units on their immediate flanks. 

[N12-70 Interv, author with Maj Leon B. Cheek, 7 Aug 51. The author has listened to many similar comments among officers and men of the Eighth Army with respect to this order.]

 A contrary viewpoint about the order was expressed by a regimental commander who said he and the men in his command had a great sense of relief when the order reached them. They felt the day of withdrawals was over, and “a greater amount of earth came out with each shovelful” when the troops dug in.

Whatever the individual viewpoint about the order might have been, General Walker was faced with the fact that soon there would be no place to go in the next withdrawal except into the sea. And it must be said, too, that the troops very often were not fighting in position until they were threatened with encirclement—they left their positions long before that time had arrived. It was actually this condition to which General Walker had addressed his strong words. But they did not immediately change the course of events.

 Two days after Walker had spoken at Sangju, the 25th Division ordered its troops to withdraw to positions three miles east of the town—another with-drawal. On the Kumchon front an observer saw elements of the 1st Cavalry Division come off their positions—leaving behind heavy equipment—load into trucks, and once again move to the rear. A New York Times article on General Walker’s talk to the 25th Division staff commented that it apparently ruled out the possibility of a strategic withdrawal to the Pusan Perimeter. William H. Lawrence of the New York Times asked General Walker if he thought the battle had reached a critical point. General Walker replied, “very certainly, very definitely.” 

The next day the Times ran an editorial headed, “Crisis in Korea.” It said the “critical point in the defense of Korea has already been reached or will shortly be upon us. For five weeks we have been trading space for time. The space is running out for us. The time is running out for our enemies.” 

On 30 July General Walker softened somewhat the impact of his recent order and statements by expressing confidence that the United States would hold “until reinforcements arrive” and that “ultimate victory will be ours.” But, he added, the simple truth was that the “war had reached its critical stage.”

 A few days later, Hanson W. Baldwin, the military critic of the New York Times, referred to Walker’s “stand or die” order as a “well merited rebuke to the Pentagon, which has too often disseminated a soothing syrup of cheer and sweetness and light since the fighting began.” It is clear that by the end of July the reading public in the United States should have realized that the country was in a real war, that the outcome was in doubt, and that many uncertainties lay ahead. 

The optimistic forecasts of the first days of the war as to the American military strength needed to drive the invaders northward had now given way to more realistic planning. By 22 July, some Eighth Army staff officers had even suggested that it might be necessary to deploy ground troops in Korea until the spring of 1951, to accomplish the objectives stated in the U.N. Security Council resolutions. 

[N12-76 EUSAK WD, G-4 Sec, 22 Jul 50, Basis for Planning Supply Requisitions and Service Support for Military Operations in Korea to 1 July 1951.]

SOURCE: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu; BY: Colonel Roy E. Appleman (United States Army Center of Military History)

Korean War: U. N. Front Line Moves South (12A)


Elimination of Fossil fuels a Non-reality

Sounds great, but in reality what does it foretell? Last weekend I filled my combustion engine (4 cylinder) car with fuel (gasoline) for less that $20, mileage indicator informed me that my next fill up would be at 342 miles. So I set the cruise at 70 mph and drove 120 miles on the interstate, ate supper, drove around town took in the sites, got a milkshake and set the cruise drove back home (in the evening) at 70 mph spending about 7-8 hours all told, and still have a tank of almost a 1/2 tank of gasoline. Can you do that in a solar car, I doubt it.

Solar cars, clean and efficient? First lets understand that the solar (sun) power is not a direct power, meaning it has to be stored in a battery, just like every thing else (mobile phones, laptops etc..). What are the life expectances of electric car batteries? When would they need to be replaced, what is the cost of recharging, what is the duration between recharging? Questions that I never hear the politicians address. Why? Because it would destroy their pro-green stance.

While on my weekend journey I encountered a vast number of large semi-trailer trucks (18 wheelers), each of these were not on a pleasure trip as I was, but working to deliver consumer goods over vast distances, so that you and I can enjoy the marvels of the 21st century, the same principles of a solar car apply to them as well. Consider the cost involved and the effects of added time from shipping to delivery point, I doubt that they could transverse the country in a few days, adding in the fact of recharging downtime, and speed reduction (they weigh over 80,000 lbs. in freight). Their retention of a maximum speed of my 70 mph, could not be sustained, as batteries lose charge they reduce their power out put.

Batteries, not really a green idea, as they are an acid filled storage, prone to leakage which could cause a health hazard in it’s self. Just how large a battery would be needed to power those semi-trucks? To pull that the huge loads (80,000 lbs.) would I suppose have to be huge in its self. Instead of pulling in and pumping a tank of gasoline in about 2-3 minutes, how long would it take to charge one of those batteries, 30 minutes an hour? Downtime causing a price hike to compensate the price of transporting. Now, what about the replacement price of the battery? We all know they don’t last forever, and before they are totally useless they lose their ability to hold a prolonged charge (check your laptop see how much time of use it has lost). Replacement cost, I really don’t want to envision this price, the car price includes the battery price, but when it has grown old (6 months-one year), what is the replacement value, $10,000.00 / $20,000.00, who knows, no one wants to point this out. As for buying a used electric car, forget it, I now what I’d do, when it needed a battery replacement, I’d trade it in (pushing to dealership), let some other sucker buy it.

Many more questions on solar/electric power to be answered, but in 12 years the world ends AGAIN.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Eddy Toorall

Does the equinox sun really rise due east and set due west?

Does the equinox sun really rise due east and set due west?

The March 2019 equinox happens on March 20 at 21:58 Universal Time, which is 4:58 p.m. Central Daylight Time for us in the central U.S. Translate to your time zone. What’s more, the March 2019 full moon comes less than four hours later, to stage the closest coincidence of the March equinox with the full moon since March 20, 2000.

The March equinox heralds the arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. On this day, the sun rises due east and sets due west.

It may seem counterintuitive. But it’s true no matter where you live on Earth (except the North and South Poles, where there is no east or west).

To understand the due-east and due-west rising and setting of an equinox sun, you have to think of the reality of Earth in space. First think of why the sun’s path across our sky shifts from season to season. It’s because our world is tilted on its axis with respect to its orbit around the sun.

The seasons result from the Earth’s rotational axis tilting 23.5 degrees out of perpendicular to the ecliptic – or Earth’s orbital plane.

Now think about what an equinox is. It’s an event that happens on the imaginary dome of Earth’s sky. It marks that special moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from south to north. And it also, of course, represents a point on Earth’s orbit.

The celestial equator is a great circle dividing the imaginary celestial sphere into its northern and southern hemispheres. The celestial equator wraps the sky directly above Earth’s equator. At the March equinox, the sun crosses the celestial equator to enter the sky’s Northern Hemisphere.

The celestial equator is a circle drawn around the sky, above Earth’s equator. The ecliptic is the sun’s apparent yearly path in front of the constellations of the zodiac. The ecliptic and celestial equator intersect at the spring and autumn equinox points.

All these components are imaginary, yet what happens at every equinox is very real – as real as the sun’s passage across the sky each day and as real as the change of the seasons.

No matter where you are on Earth (except for the North and South Poles), you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator, the imaginary great circle above the true equator of the Earth.

And that’s why the sun rises due east and sets due west, for all of us, at the equinox. The equinox sun is on the celestial equator. No matter where you are on Earth, the celestial equator intersects your horizon at due east and due west.

Where does the celestial equator intersect your horizon? No matter what your latitude is, it intersects your horizon at points due east and due west.

This fact makes the day of an equinox a good day for finding due east and due west from your yard or other favorite site for watching the sky. Just go outside around sunset or sunrise and notice the location of the sun on the horizon with respect to familiar landmarks.

If you do this, you’ll be able to use those landmarks to find those cardinal directions in the weeks and months ahead, long after Earth has moved on in its orbit around the sun, carrying the sunrise and sunset points northward.

Our ancestors may not have understood the equinoxes and solstices as events that occur in the course of Earth’s yearly orbit around the sun. But if they were observant – and some were very observant indeed – they surely marked the day of the equinox as being midway between the sun’s lowest path across the sky in winter and highest path across the sky in summer.

If they thought in terms of four directions, they might also have learned a fact of nature that occurs whenever there’s an equinox: each midway point between the sun’s lowest and highest path.

That is, the sun rises due east and sets due west on the day of the equinox, as seen from everywhere on the globe.

The day arc of the sun, every hour, during the equinox as seen on the celestial dome, from the pole. Image via Tau’olunga at Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom line: The 2019 March equinox comes on March 20 at 21:58 UTC (4:58 p.m. CDT; translate to your time zone). At the equinox, the sun rises due east and sets due west.

A Chinese perspective on the spring equinox

Everything you need to know: Vernal or spring equinox 2019

Hamal: Ancient equinox star

Read more: Understanding celestial coordinates

Full supermoon at March 2019 equinox

Full supermoon at March 2019 equinox

The March 20-21, 2019, full moon ushers in the first full moon of spring for the Northern Hemisphere, and the first full moon of autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. This full moon is also a supermoon, particularly close to Earth. It comes less than four hours after the arrival of the March 20 equinox.

This is the closest coincidence of a full moon with the March equinox since March 2000 – 19 years ago. The full moon and March equinox won’t happen less than one day apart again for another 11 years, until March 2030.

March 2000 full Moon: March 20 at 4:44 UTC
March 2000 equinox: March 20 at 7:35 UTC

March 2030 full moon: March 19 at 17:56 UTC
March 2030 equinox: March 20 at 13:51 UTC

This month’s full moon also presents the third and final supermoon of 2019. Will it appear bigger in your sky? No, not unless you happen to catch the moon just after it has risen in the east, around sunset. Then its larger-than-usual size has less to do with the supermoon, but more from a psychological effect known as the moon illusion.

Supermoons don’t look bigger to the eye to most people, but they do look significantly brighter. If you’re in the suburbs or a rural area, notice the bright moonlight cast on the landscape at this full moon.

Also, supermoons have a stronger-than-usual effect on Earth’s oceans. Watch for higher-than-usual tides to follow the supermoon by a day or so, especially if a coastal storm is happening in your part of the world.

This March supermoon isn’t 2019’s closest supermoon, by the way. That happened last month.

The Virtual Telescope Project will show the March 20 supermoon live, as it rises above the skyline of Rome.

At U.S. time zones, the equinox arrives on March 20, at 5:58 p.m. EDT, 4:58 p.m. CDT, 3:58 p.m. MDT, 2:58 p.m. PDT, 1:58 p.m. AKDT and 11:58 a.m. HST.

At U.S. time zones, the full moon falls on March 20, at 9:43 p.m. EDT, 8:43 p.m. CDT, 7:43 p.m. MDT, 6:43 p.m. PDT, 5:43 p.m. AKDT and 3:43 p.m. HST.

In Universal Time, the equinox arrives on March 20, at 21:58 UTC, and the full moon comes on March 21, at 1:43 UTC. Here’s how to convert Universal Time to your local time.

At the equinox, the sun is at zenith (straight overhead) at the Earth’s equator. Because the Earth’s atmosphere refracts (bends) sunlight, a tiny bit more than half of the globe is covered over in daylight.

Generally, the first full moon of a Northern Hemisphere spring heralds the imminent coming of the Christian celebration of Easter. Since Easter Sunday – by proclamation – occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring, some of us might expect the upcoming Sunday on March 24 to be Easter Sunday. However, by ecclesiastical rules, the equinox is fixed on March 21, so that places this year’s Easter Sunday (for Western Christendom) on April 21, 2019.

By the Gregorian calendar, the last time that an ecclesiastical Easter and an astronomical Easter didn’t occur on the same date was 38 years ago, in 1981. The next time won’t be until 19 years from now, in 2038.

(Easter Sunday for Eastern or Orthodox Christendom actually falls on April 28, 2019. That’s because the Eastern Church bases Easter on the old style Julian calendar, instead of the revised Gregorian calendar used by Western Christianity and most of the world.)

For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, this March full moon counts as your Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon occurring closest to the autumnal equinox. On the average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later with each passing day. But for several days around the time of the Harvest Moon, the lag time between successive moonrises is reduced to a yearly minimum. For instance, at 40 degrees south latitude, the moon now rises some 30 to 35 minutes later (instead of the average 50 minutes later) each day for the next several days.

Like Earth, Saturn has equinoxes too! The ringed planet last had an equinox in 2009, and will have its next equinox in 2025. From Earth, Saturn’s rings disappear from view at a Saturn equinox, because these rings are then edge-on from our vantage point. But this near-equinox view of Saturn’s rings is readily visible from the Cassini spacecraft, because it’s 20 degrees above the ring plane. Image via NASA.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, where it’s the closest full moon to the spring equinox, the lag time between successive moonrises is at a yearly maximum. At 40 degrees north latitude, the moon now rises around 70 to 75 minutes later daily. In the Northern Hemisphere, we ‘ll have to wait for the September full moon to bring forth our procession of early evening moonrises.

Last but hardly least, this March 2019 full moon gives us the first of four full moons in one season (between the March equinox and June solstice). Most of the time, a season – the time period between an equinox and a solstice, or vice versa – only harbors three full moons. But since this March full moon comes very early in the season, that allows for a fourth full moon to take place before the season’s end.

March 2019 equinox: March 20 at 21:58 UTC

March 2019 full moon: March 21 at 1:43 UTC
April 2019 full moon: April 19 at 11:12 UTC
May 2019 full moon: May 18 at 21:11 UTC
June 2019 full moon: June 17 at 8:31 UTC

June 2019 solstice: June 21 at 15:54 UTC

Some people call the third of four full moons in one season a Blue Moon. So our next Blue Moon (by the seasonal definition of the term) will fall on May 18, 2019.

The next Blue Moon by the monthly definition – second of two full moons in one calendar month – will come on October 31, 2020.


Astronomical and Gregorian Easter Sunday
Phases of the moon: 1901 to 2000
Phases of the moon: 2001 to 2100
Solstices and equinoxes: 2001 to 2100
Equinox and solstice calculator

Bottom line: Enjoy the equinox full moon on March 20-21, 2019. It’s the third and final full supermoon of 2019, and the first of four full moons in the upcoming season (spring for the Northern Hemisphere, autumn for the Southern Hemisphere).

Holidays Around The World for March 19: San José Day Festival

San José Day Festival

March 19 and September 19

The San JosÉ Day Festival at Laguna Pueblo, about 45 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, used to take place only on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19. But today it is also celebrated on September 19, when freshly harvested crops can be sold and festivities enjoyed in the summer weather.

The fiesta’s events reflect both traditional Laguna events and the Roman Catholic influence common to the pueblos. There are Catholic masses and processions honoring St. Joseph as well as traditional Laguna dancing. Attendees, including other native peoples, can also enjoy a carnival with rides, numerous food stands, and sporting events. One of the largest draws is the annual All-Indian Baseball Tournament in September; Laguna boasts five semi-pro baseball teams.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
2401 12th St. N.W.
Albuquerque, NM 87104
866-855-7902 or 505-843-7270
FolkAmerHol-1999, p. 383

This Day in History, March 19: René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, Murdered by His Own Men (1687)

René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, Murdered by His Own Men (1687)

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (November 22, 1643 – March 19, 1687) was a 17th century French explorer and fur trader in North America. He explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. He is best known for an early 1682 expedition in which he canoed the lower Mississippi River from the mouth of the Illinois River to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.

La Salle is often credited with being the first European to traverse the Ohio River, and sometimes the Mississippi as well. It has now been established that Joliet and Marquette preceded him on the Mississippi in their journey of 1673-74, and the existing historical evidence does not indicate that La Salle ever reached the Ohio/Allegheny Valley.

Sieur de La Salle

Sieur de La Salle is a French title roughly translating to “Lord of the manor”, from the old French sal(e) (modern salle), “hall”, a manor house. Sieur is a French title of nobility, similar to the English “Sir”, but under the French Signeurial system, the title is purchased rather than earned, and does not imply military duty. It refers to Robert Cavelier’s Signeurial purchase of Lachine from the Sulpician order at Ville Marie around 1667. The phrase La Salle has become iconic, and associated with the person as if it were his name, in expressions such as Robert La Salle, or simply “La Salle”.

Early life

Robert Cavelier was born on November 22, 1643, into a comfortably well-off family in Rouen, France, in the parish Saint-Herbland.[1] When he was younger, he enjoyed science and nature. As a man, he studied with the Jesuit religious order and became a member after taking initial vows in 1660.[a] At his request on March 27, 1667, after he was in Canada, he was released from the Society of Jesus after citing “moral weaknesses.”[3] Although he left the order, never took final vows in it, and later became hostile to it, historians sometimes described him incorrectly as a priest or a leader.[citation needed]


La Salle never married,[4] but has been linked to Madeleine de Roybon d’Allonne, an early settler of New France.[5] His older brother, Jean Cavelier, was a Sulpician priest. His parents were Jean Cavelier and Catherine Geest.[3]


Required to reject his father’s legacy when he joined the Jesuits, La Salle was nearly destitute when he traveled as a prospective colonist to North America. He sailed for New France in the spring of 1666.[6] His brother Jean, a Sulpician priest, had moved there the year before. He was granted a seigneurie on land at the western end of the Island of Montreal, which became known as Lachine.[7] [b] La Salle immediately began to issue land grants, set up a village and learn the languages of the native people, several tribes of Iroquois in this area.[8]


“Ohio” expedition


The Seneca told him of a great river, called the Ohio, which flowed into the sea, the “Vermilion Sea”.[d]. He began to plan for expeditions to find a western passage to China. He sought and received permission from Governor Daniel Courcelle and Intendant Jean Talon to embark on the enterprise. He sold his interests in Lachine to finance the venture.[10]


La Salle left Lachine by the St. Lawrence on July 6, 1669 with a flotilla of nine canoes and 24 men, plus their Seneca Indian guides: himself and 14 hired men in 4 canoes, the two Sulpicians Dollier de Casson and Abbé René de Bréhan de Galinée with 7 new recruits in three canoes, and two canoes of Indians. There they went up the St. Lawrence and across Lake Ontario. After 35 days, they arrived at what we call today, Irondequoit Bay on the southern shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of Irondequoit Creek, a place now commemorated as “La Salle’s Landing”.

Indian villages

There they were greeted by a party of Indians, who escorted them starting the next day to a village some leagues distant, a journey of a few days. At the village, the Seneca vehemently attempted to dissuade the party from proceeding into the lands of their enemies, the Algonquins, telling of the dire fate awaiting them. The necessity of securing guides for the further part of the journey, and the obstinacy of the Seneca to provide them, delayed the expedition a month. A fortuitous capture by the Indians in the lands to the south of a Dutchman who spoke Iroquois well but French ill, and was to be burned at the stake for transgressions unknown, provided an opportunity to obtain a guide. The Dutchman’s freedom was purchased by the party in exchange for wampum.

While at the Indian village in Sept. 1669, La Salle was seized with a violent fever[e] and expressed the intention of returning to Ville Marie.

Niagara and Lake Erie

At this juncture, he parted from his company and the narrative of the Jesuits, who continued on to upper Lake Erie.The missionaries continued on to the upper lakes, to the land of the Potawatomies. Other accounts have it that some of La Salle’s men soon returned to New Holland or Ville Marie.

Further evidence

Beyond that, the factual record of La Salle’s first expedition ends, and what prevails is obscurity and fabrication. It is likely that he spent the winter in Ville Marie.[12] The next confirmed sighting of La Salle was by Nicolas Perrot on the Ottawa River near the Rapide des chats in early summer, 1670, hunting with a party of Iroquois. That would be 700 miles as the crow flies from the Falls of the Ohio, the point supposed by some that he reached on the Ohio River.[13]

La Salle’s own journal of the expedition was lost in 1756.[14] Two indirect historical accounts exist. The one, Récit d’un ami de l’abbé de Galliné, purported to be a recitation by La Salle himself to an unknown writer during his visit to Paris in 1678[15], and the other Mémoire sur le projet du sieur de la Salle pour la descouverte de la partie occidentale de l’Amérique septentrionale entre la Nouvelle-France, la Floride et le Mexique. A letter from Madeleine Cavelier, his now elderly niece, written in 1746, commenting on the journal of La Salle in her possession may also shed some light on the issue.

La Salle himself never claimed to have discovered the Ohio River.[16] In a letter to the intendent Talon in 1677, he claimed discovery of a river, the Baudrane, flowing southwesterly with its mouth on Lake Erie and emptying into the Saint Louis (i.e. the Mississippi), a hydrography which was non-existent. In those days, maps as well as descriptions were based part on observation and part on hearsay, of necessity. This confounded courses, mouths and confluences among the rivers. At various times, La Salle invented such rivers as the Chucagoa, Baudrane, Louisiane (Anglicized “Saint Louis”), and Ouabanchi-Aramoni. These included segments of those he’d actually traversed, which were earlier the Illinois and Kankakee, St. Joseph’s of Lake Michigan, probably the Ouabache (Wabash) and possibly the upper Allegheny and later, the Chicago and lower Mississippi. He also correctly described the Missouri, though it was hearsay – he’d never been on it.

Confounding fact with fiction started with publication in 1876 of Margry’s Découvertes et Etablissements des Français. Margry was a French archivist and partisan who had private access to the French archives. He came to be the agent of the American historian Francis Parkman. Margry’s work, a massive 9 volumes, encompassed an assemblage of documents some previously published, but many not. In it, he sometimes published a reproduction of the whole document, and sometimes only an extract, or summary, not distinguishing the one from the other. He also used in some cases one or another copies of original documents previously edited, extracted or altered by others, without specifying which transcriptions were original, and which were copies, or whether the copy was dated earlier or later. Reproductions were scattered in fragments across chapters, so that it was impossible to ascertain the integrity of the document from its fragments. Chapter headings were oblique and sensational, so as to obfuscate the content therein. English and American scholars were immediately skeptical of the work, since full and faithful publication of some of the original documents had previously existed. The situation was so fraught with doubt, that the United States Congress appropriated $10,000 in 1873, which Margry wanted as an advance, to have the original documents photostated, witnessed by uninvolved parties as to veracity.

Discovery of the Ohio and Mississippi

If La Salle is excused from discovering the two great rivers of the midwest, history does not leave a void. On May 8, 1541, south of present-day Memphis, Tennessee, Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto reached the Mississippi River, which the Spanish called the Rio Grande for its immense size.[17] He was the first European to document and cross the river, though not traverse it.[citation needed] It is uncontested that Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette were the first Europeans to traverse the upper Mississippi in 1673,[18] and that Father Louis Hennepin and Antonine Augalle visited the Falls of St. Anthony on the upper Mississippi in spring, 1680,[19] in advance of La Salle’s own excursion in early 1682.

Credit for discovery of the Ohio River is provisionally given to two obscure early English explorers, Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam from Virginia who visited Wood’s River (today called the New River), a tributary of the Ohio via the Kanawha, in what is today West Virginia in Sept. 1671.[20] Other scholars declaim that this short (one month) expedition did not penetrate to the Ohio to the west, but elect instead Virginia Englishmen James Needham and Gabriel Arthur who in 1673-74 circumnavigated the southeast finally traversing Shawnee villages along the Ohio.[21] The lower Ohio River first began appearing on French maps about 1674[22] in approximately its correct hydrography, and in its relation to the Mississippi, though diagrammed more northerly, approaching Lake Erie from the west and may have been confounded with the Maumee portage route.[23]A memoir by M. de Denonville in 1688, recites that the lower Ohio, at least from its confluence with the Wabash to the Mississippi, was a familiar trade route.[24] In 1692, Arnout Viele, a Dutchman from New York, traversed the length of the Ohio from the headwaters of the Allegheny in Pennsylvania to it’s mouth on the Mississippi, though the hydrography of the Allegheny remained opaque for at least several decades thereafter.[25]  Read More…

World War Two: Saipan (2-10); Smith Versus Smith

Relief of Major General Ralph C. Smith: By 24 June General Holland Smith had made up his mind that the “all-round poor performance” of the 27th Division could only be remedied by a drastic shake-up in its command structure. Accordingly, he decided to ask for the relief of General Ralph Smith.

He first visited Admiral Turner, who agreed with him, and together the two officers boarded the flagship Indianapolis to consult with Admiral Spruance. As a result of this discussion, Admiral Spruance authorized and directed that General Ralph Smith be relieved by General Jarman, the island commander. It was understood that Jarman would take over only until such time as another general officer could be dispatched from Hawaii to command the division. In Spruance’s words, “No other action appeared adequate to accomplish the purpose.”

The bill of particulars presented by General Holland Smith against General Ralph Smith broke down into two general charges: (1) that on two separate occasions the Army commander had issued orders to units not under his command and had contravened orders of the corps commander; and (2) that on the morning of 23 June the 27th Division had been late in launching its attack and had thereafter retarded the progress of the Marine divisions on the flanks.

On the first point, the corps commander charged that the “27th Infantry Division Field Order No. 454 contravened the NTLF Operation Order Number 9-44 by ordering the 105th Infantry to hold its present positions, although the 105th Infantry had been removed from the tactical control of the Division Commander,” and that the 27th Division “Field Order No. 46 again contravened the NTLF order by issuing tactical orders to the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry to continue operations to mop up enemy resistance in NAFUTAN POINT Area,” although that battalion “by NTLF Operation Order No. 10-44 had been removed from the tactical control of the 27th Infantry Division.”

On the second point, it was alleged that on the morning of 23 June, the “27th Infantry Division was from 77 minutes to two hours late in launching its attack, although the major elements of this division did not have to move more than about three miles to execute the order.” In a report to Admiral Turner written three days later, General Holland Smith revised this figure downward to “55 minutes to two hours” and added that the “lack of coordination in the attack” resulting from the 27th Division’s late arrival and “the slow advance of the Division against small arms and mortar fire uncovered the flanks of the 4th and 2nd Marine Divisions to such extent that it was necessary to slow down and eventually halt these units and thereby retard otherwise favorable offensive operations which were in progress.”

Inter-service Controversy

It is doubtful whether the relief of General Ralph Smith brought about any marked change one way or the other in the “aggressiveness” of the 27th Division about which General Holland Smith was so concerned. There is no doubt, however, that it precipitated an inter-service controversy of alarming proportions—a controversy that seriously jeopardized harmonious relations at all levels among the Army and the Navy and the Marine Corps in the Pacific.

The first signs of strain appeared naturally enough on Saipan itself, where soldiers and marines still had to fight shoulder to shoulder for more than two weeks to secure the island. Army officers were quick to resent the slur on their service implied by the relief of General Ralph Smith, and by the end of the battle relationships between top Army officers and Holland Smith’s staff had reached the breaking point. Various Army officers who had contact of one sort or another with that staff reported that the Marine officers at headquarters made little effort to disguise their feeling that the 27th Division was an inferior organization. In the opinion of one of the Army officers, “the Commanding General and Staff of the NTLF held the units of the 27th Division in little esteem, actually a position bordering on scorn.”

The reaction on the part of the ranking Army officers present on Saipan was a determination never to serve under General Holland Smith again if they could help it. General Ralph Smith urged Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson that “no Army combat troops should ever again be permitted to serve under the command of Marine Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith.”

General Kernan, who commanded the 27th Division Artillery, agreed. Major General George W. Griner, who took over command of the Army division on 26 June, quarreled so bitterly with the corps commander that he came away from Saipan with the “firm conviction that he [Holland Smith] is so prejudiced against the with Admiral Spruance, June 1944. Army that no Army Division serving under his command alongside of Marine Divisions can expect that their deeds will receive fair and honest evaluation.”

When, less than a week after the conclusion of organized hostilities on Saipan, the island was visited by General Richardson, the commanding general of all Army forces in the Pacific Ocean Areas, the dispute waxed even hotter. While on the island, Richardson reviewed the Army troops and presented decorations—all without the previous knowledge or consent of Holland Smith. The corps commander was quick to resent these actions, which he considered to be a breach of military etiquette and an unwarranted infringement on his own authority. On his part, General Richardson is reported to have said angrily to the Marine general, “I want you to know you can not push the Army around the way you have been doing.” At this juncture Admirals Spruance and Turner jumped into the fight and complained strongly to Admiral Nimitz of the irregularity of Richardson’s actions on Saipan, and especially his berating of Holland Smith.

General Richardson’s visit to Saipan was in fact incident to a more general inquiry into the relief of Ralph Smith, which Richardson had called at his headquarters back on Oahu. On 4 July, five days before the conclusion of the battle for Saipan, Richardson had appointed a board of inquiry to examine the facts involved.

The board was headed by Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, Jr., and consisted, in addition to the chairman, of four Army officers, Major General John R. Hodge, Brigadier General Henry B. Holmes, Jr., Brigadier General Roy E. Blount, and Lieutenant Colonel Charles A. Selby. It convened first on 7 July and continued until the 26th, hearing the testimony of Army officers and examining those official reports from Army files that were available to it.

After examining all the available evidence—which was admitted to be limited because only personnel and records of the U.S. Army Forces, Central Pacific Area, could be examined—the “Buckner Board” arrived at four conclusions:

  1. that General Holland Smith had full authority to relieve General Ralph Smith;
  2. that the orders effecting the change of command were properly issued;
  3. that General Holland Smith “was not fully informed regarding conditions in the zone of the 27th Infantry Division,” when he asked for the relief of General Ralph Smith; and
  4. that the relief of General Ralph Smith “was not justified by the facts.”

In reaching these conclusions, the Buckner Board reasoned that the situation facing the 27th Division at the entrance to Death Valley was far more serious than General Holland Smith had imagined. “The bulk of the 27th Division,” the board reported, “was opposed by the enemy’s main defensive position on a difficult piece of terrain, naturally adapted to defense, artificially strengthened, well manned and heavily covered by fire,” General Holland Smith, it concluded, “was not aware of the strength of this position and expected the 27th Division to overrun it rapidly . . . .The delay incident to this situation was mistaken by Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith as an indication that the 27th Division was lacking in aggressiveness and that its commander was inefficient . . . .” Furthermore, the board argued, there was no evidence that General Ralph Smith attempted to “contravene” orders during the clean-up on Nafutan Point, These findings, coming as they did from an all-Army board of inquiry by no means ended the controversy. Holland Smith wrote to Admiral Nimitz to the effect that the Buckner Board’s conclusions were unwarranted, and added, “I was and am convinced that the 27th Division was not accomplishing even the combat results to be expected from an organization which had had adequate opportunity for training,” Admiral Turner, resenting the board’s implied criticism that he had been overzealous in “pressing Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith … to expedite the conquest of Saipan so as to free the fleet for another operation,” also demurred from the findings of the board. He at no time had brought pressure to bear on Holland Smith, he asserted, and he was confident that no part of the Marine general’s action against Ralph Smith “was based on either personal or service prejudice or jealousy.”

When the detailed report of the proceedings of the Buckner Board reached Washington, General Marshall’s chief advisers tended to take a “plague on both your houses” attitude. Major General Thomas T. Handy, Assistant Chief of Staff, advised Marshall that Holland Smith had some cause for complaining of the 27th Division’s lack of aggressiveness in the attack into Death Valley; that “Holland Smith’s fitness for this command is open to question” because of his deep-seated prejudice against the Army; and that “bad blood had developed between the Marines and the Army on Saipan” to such a degree that it endangered future operations in the theater. “In my opinion,” he concluded, “it would be desirable that both Smiths be ordered out of the Pacific Ocean Area. While I do not believe we should make definite recommendation to the Navy for the relief of Holland Smith, I think that positive action should be taken to get Ralph Smith out of the area. His presence undoubtedly tends to aggravate a bad situation between the Services.”

Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney, Deputy Chief of Staff, was of much the same mind as General Handy. After examining the Buckner Board Report, he concluded that the staff work of Holland Smith’s V Amphibious Corps was below acceptable standards; that there was reasonably good tactical direction on the part of Ralph Smith; and that Ralph Smith failed to exact the performance expected from a well-trained division, as evidenced by poor leadership on the part of some regimental and battalion commanders, undue hesitancy to bypass snipers “with a tendency to alibi because of lack of reserves to mop up,” poor march discipline, and lack of reconnaissance.

[NOTE CoS-23 Memo, Handy for CofS, 16 Aug 44, atchd to Buckner Board Rpt, This recommendation was acted upon favorably. Ralph Smith was relieved of his command of the 98th Infantry Division, which was on garrison duty in the Hawaiian Islands. He was later transferred to the European Theater of Operations. Holland Smith, while relieved of his command of V Amphibious Corps, was elevated to the command of the newly organized Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.]

On 22 November General Marshall expressed to Admiral King his deep concern over the fact that “relationships between the Marines and the Army forces on Saipan had deteriorated beyond mere healthy rivalry.” To avert future controversies of the same sort, General Marshall suggested that he and Admiral King send identical telegrams to Richardson and Nimitz adjuring them “to take suitable steps to promptly eradicate any tendency toward . . . disharmony among the components of our forces.” Marshall also suggested that both commanders should conduct an immediate investigation into the Saipan affair with an eye to preventing the recurrence of any such imbroglio in the future. To this Admiral King replied that in his mind the findings of the Buckner Board were unilateral and suspect, and that the record improperly included intemperate attacks on the personal character and professional competence of General Holland Smith. He could not concur in any further investigations in which General Richardson was to be a party because he felt that that officer had already done enough damage by his “investigational activities during his visit to Saipan” and by convening the Buckner Board. There the matter was dropped as far as official action was concerned. The American public, however, was not to be permitted any early respite from the heated journalistic dispute that followed Ralph Smith’s relief. First among the newspapers to air the matter was the Hearst press. Various affiliates of that syndicate pointed editorially to two lessons from the battle for Saipan. First, it was claimed that Marine Corps casualties were excessive, especially in contrast to those in MacArthur’s theater. Second, divided command was a mistake. The Hearst papers’ conclusion was that “the supreme command in the Pacific should, of course, be logically and efficiently entrusted to General Douglas MacArthur.”

Another powerful syndicate, the Henry Luce publications, took the other side. Time and Life magazines both carried articles favoring Holland Smith’s side of the controversy, the former concluding, “when field commanders hesitate to remove subordinates for fear of inter-service contention, battles and lives will be needlessly lost.” More than four years after the event, the issue was reopened publicly when General Holland Smith published part of his wartime memoirs in the Saturday Evening Post, He was answered by Captain Edmund G. Love, the official historian of the 27th Infantry Division, in a rebuttal that was printed in part in the Saturday Evening Post, and in full in the Infantry Journal. The capstone of this particular literary controversy was inserted when General Holland Smith published his memoirs in book form in 1949, and Captain Love in the same year came out with the official history of the 27th Division in World War II.


To resolve the controversy of Smith versus Smith conclusively and to the satisfaction of all is probably impossible. But a dispassionate re-examination of the salient facts of the case as presented in the foregoing chapters may serve at least to clarify the issue and to point to some satisfactory conclusions.

The first charge against Ralph Smith dealt with his alleged usurpation of authority and contravention of orders in handling the troops of the 27th Division that were left to finish the capture of Nafutan Point. In order to examine this charge it will be necessary first to recapitulate some of the events that took place on 21 and 22 June.

It will be remembered that on the morning of 21 June Holland Smith issued Operations Order Number 9-44, which directed that the bulk of the 27th Infantry Division be removed from the front lines on Nafutan peninsula and be assembled northwest of Aslito field in corps reserve. In Paragraph 3(d) of this operations order, one infantry battalion (undesignated) of the division was ordered to remain on Nafutan peninsula, where it would “mop up remaining enemy detachments, maintain anti-sniper patrols . . . and protect installations within its zone of action with particular attention to ASLITO Airfield.”

After an afternoon in which his troops made little progress on Nafutan, Ralph Smith called Holland Smith and persuaded him that at least two battalions would be needed to mop up the enemy in that area. Accordingly, the corps commander modified his initial order in a mail brief that arrived at 27th Division headquarters at 0830 on 22 June. This message read, “1 RCT will continue mission in Garrison Area [Nafutan] of cleaning up remaining resistance and patrolling area . . . ,” Like the initial order, this mail brief did not specifically designate the unit intended for the mission, although it was understood from previous conversations that the 105th infantry would be given the job.

At 2000, 21 June, after his conversation with General Holland Smith but before receiving the mail brief modifying Operations Order Number 9-44, General Ralph Smith issued his Field Order Number 45-A. This order, insofar as it applied to the 105th Infantry, read: RCT 105 will hold present front line facing NAFUTAN POINT, with two Battalions on the line and one Battalion in Regimental Reserve. It will relieve elements of RCT 165 now on the present front line by 0630 22 June. The Battalion in reserve will not be committed to action without authority from the Division Commander. Reorganization of the present front line to be effected not later than 1100 22 June and offensive operations against the enemy continued. Reserve Battalion will maintain anti-sniper patrols in vicinity of ASLITO AIRFIELD.

In asking for the relief of Ralph Smith, Holland Smith claimed that in issuing this field order, the 27th Division commander had committed two offenses simultaneously. He had usurped authority of his immediate superior by issuing formal orders to a unit no longer under his control, and he had contravened his superior’s orders by instructing that unit to “hold” rather than to fight offensively. Holland Smith argued that his corps Operation Order Number 9-44, as modified by the mail brief, placed the entire 27th Division in reserve status and removed the 105th Infantry from tactical control of the 27th Infantry Division. Hence, Ralph Smith had no right at all to issue orders to the 105th. Furthermore, Holland Smith claimed, his own order directed the 105th Infantry “to conduct offensive operations to mop up enemy units in the NAFUTAN POINT area.” Ralph Smith’s Field Order Number 45-A, on the other hand, instructed the 105th Infantry “to hold its present positions” rather than to conduct offensive operations. This, according to Holland Smith, was a clear contravention of orders.

Both Army and Marine Corps regulations concerning the composition of combat orders tend to support Holland Smith’s argument on the question of where control of the 105th Infantry lay on the night of 21 June. Furthermore, they account in part for his own conviction that tactical control over the 105th had been clearly removed from the 27th Division and had been placed under his own headquarters by his Field Order Number 9-44. These regulations state that Paragraph 3 of a field order “assigns definite missions to each of the several elements of the [issuing] command charged with execution of the tactical details for carrying out the decision of the commander or the assigned mission.” Since the “one Infantry Battalion, 27th Infantry Division (to be designated), was assigned a specific mission in Paragraph 3(d) of Holland Smith’s Field Order Number 9-44 and since the entire 105th Infantry was shortly thereafter substituted for this one battalion, it seemed clear to members of Holland Smith’s staff that the unit would execute its mop-up task as an immediate subordinate of Holland Smith’s headquarters. General Ralph Smith, on the other hand, was just as clear in his mind that the unit left on Nafutan was still under his own command. Speaking of his telephone conversation with General Holland Smith, he in his conversation about having the regiment [105th] operate under NTLF control,” He continued that, in his opinion, his Field Order Number 45-A was neither a usurpation nor a contravention of orders.

No written confirmation of the mission to be assigned to the 105th Infantry arrived until 0830, 22 June, much too late to have permitted issuing any instructions for that day’s operation. The 105th Infantry was to take over with two battalions a front line covered the previous day by four battalions. “It seemed elementary military common-sense to have these two battalions first take over the front from the units being relieved.” Hence, in the absence of any further orders from higher headquarters, at 2000 on the night of the 21st Ralph Smith had ordered the 105th to “hold present front line,” relieve elements of the 165th Infantry, and jump off not later than 1100 the following morning. “The 105th Infantry was thus directed to resume offensive operations as soon as the lines were adjusted, thus to carry out the plan recommended by me and approved by General Holland Smith.”

Two facts stand out in support of General Ralph Smith’s contention. In the first place, Corps Order Number 9-44 did not specifically and expressly detach the 105th Infantry from the 27th Division and attach it to corps. Secondly, neither Corps Order Number 9-44 nor the subsequent mail brief mentioned the regiment by name, nor is there any record that either was sent to the command post of that regiment. Presumably, had General Ralph Smith not issued his Field Order Number 45-A, the 105th Infantry would have been without orders for 22 June.

On the afternoon of 22 June, General Holland Smith decided that a single battalion would be sufficient to clean up Nafutan Point. His chief of staff, General Erskine, personally communicated this decision to General Ralph Smith. That evening, the 27th Division commander drew up his Field Order Number 46, which he issued at 2100. In part, the order read: “2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry (1 Platoon Light Tanks attached) [will] continue operations to mop-up remaining enemy detachments in NAFUTAN POINT area. On completion of this mission, [it will] revert to Corps control as Corps Reserve.”

Just one hour later, Holland Smith issued his Operations Order Number 10-44, which was not received at 27th Division headquarters until 2330. This order read in part: “2nd Battalion 105th Infantry (with one light tank platoon attached) [will] continue operations at daylight to mop up remaining enemy detachments in NAFUTAN POINT area. Upon completion this mission [it will] revert to Corps control as Corps reserve.”

In requesting the relief of Ralph Smith, Holland Smith alleged that the Army general’s Field Order Number 46 contravened Corps Order Number 10-44 “by issuing tactical orders to the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, to continue operations to mop up enemy resistance in NAFUTAN POINT area. The 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, by NT and LF Order No. 10-44, had been removed from the tactical control of the 27th Infantry Division.”

Actually, of course, the only difference between Ralph Smith’s Field Order Number 46 and Holland Smith’s Order Number 10-44 in respect to the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, is that the latter included the words “at daylight” and the former omitted them. Otherwise, they are identical in all essential points. Later, Ralph Smith testified that in his conversations with General Holland Smith up to date no mention had been made of any question of control of the 105th Infantry nor had he been given any indication that that unit was no longer under direct control of the 27th Division. His belief that the 2nd Battalion, 105th, was still under his tactical control was reinforced by the wording of Corps Order Number 10-44 itself. The fact that the order stipulated that “upon completion this mission” the battalion was to “revert to Corps control as Corps reserve” would seem to indicate strongly that until its mission was completed, the unit was not under corps control but still under the division.

The fact is that the orders from Holland Smith’s headquarters were never clear as to where command authority over the troops on Nafutan Point did lie. Ralph Smith had to issue some orders, or none would have reached the front-line troops in time. There was no important difference between the commands that he issued and those that later came down from corps headquarters. There is no indication that any “contravention” of orders was intended or effected. At best, this charge appears to have been a rather flimsy legal peg upon which to hang a justification for Ralph Smith’s relief.

The second charge was more serious. It concerned the tardiness of the 27th Division in jumping off into Death Valley on the morning of 23 June, the alleged poor coordination of the division in the attack, and its slow advance against “small arms and mortar fire,” which slowed down the whole corps attack. Connected with this charge was Holland Smith’s opinion, as later expressed, that the Army division was guilty of “all-round poor performance.” Here was undoubtedly the core of Holland Smith’s complaint against the 27th Infantry Division and its commander, and it is on these allegations that the case between him and Ralph Smith must be decided. The details of the fighting at the entrance to Death Valley on 23 and 24 June have already been presented. Out of this complex of events, several conclusions emerge. On the one hand, it appears clear that Holland Smith and his staff underestimated both the formidability of the terrain and extent of enemy opposition that faced the 27th Division in Death Valley on the days in question.

The terrain facing the 27th Division was most difficult Two parallel ridges on the division flanks dominated its zone of action, and flanking fire from well-concealed enemy positions on the slopes interdicted the valley between the ridges. Before the division could accomplish its mission the enemy occupying these dominant terrain features had to be eliminated.

The conditions obtaining in the left part of the division zone precluded the possibility of maneuver, and an attack along the east slopes of Mount Tapotchau would have to be a frontal assault Because of extremely rugged terrain, flanking enemy fire from Purple Heart Ridge, and the difficulty of co-ordination with the Marines on the left, any such frontal attack would necessarily be costly.

In the right part of the division zone the terrain was less rugged, and, more important, there was a possibility of a flanking maneuver east of Purple Heart Ridge. This was clearly the more promising area for the main attack by the Army division. Yet even as late as the evening of 24 June after two days of heavy and generally fruitless fighting on the part of the 27th Division, corps headquarters still ordered the main effort to continue on the left.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the 106th Infantry Regiment of the 27th Division was late in jumping off in the attack on the morning of 23 June—even though not so late as Holland Smith charged. On the 23rd and again on the 24th, the Army troops attacking Death Valley were slow and faltering in their advance.

According to the testimony of General Jarman, who took over the division from Ralph Smith, the unit leaders of the 106th Infantry were hesitant and apparently confused. Although the Army troops in Death Valley sustained fairly heavy casualties, the two Marine divisions on the flanks suffered greater ones. Yet the marines made considerable advances while the 165th Infantry registered only small gains —the 106th Infantry almost none at all. No matter what the extenuating circumstances were and there were several—the conclusion seems inescapable that Holland Smith had good reason to be disappointed with the performance of the 27th Infantry Division on the two days in question.

Whether the action he took to remedy the situation was a wise one, however, remains doubtful. Certainly the relief of Ralph Smith appears to have done nothing to speed the capture of Death Valley. Six more days of bitter fighting remained before that object was to be achieved.

SOURCE: Campaign in the Marianas; BY: Philip A. Crowl (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Saipan (2-9) Fight for Center