There is still one absolute weapon . . . the only weapon capable of operating with complete effectiveness—of dominating every inch of terrain where human beings live and fight, and of doing it under all conditions of light and darkness, heat and cold, desert and forest, mountain and plain. That weapon is man himself. (GENERAL MATTHEW B. RIDGWAY)
The impending loss of Chinju had caused Eighth Army to send its reserve regiment posthaste to the southwest. This was Colonel Michaelis’ 27th Infantry, 25th Division, which had been in army reserve only one day at Waegwan after falling back through the 1st Cavalry Division above Kumchon. During the night of 30-31 July, Eighth Army ordered Michaelis to report to General Church at Changnyong, where the 24th Division command post had moved from Hyopch’on. Colonel Michaelis left immediately with Captain Earl W. Buchanan, his S-3, and instructed his executive officer, Major Arthur Farthing, to follow with the regiment. [N14-1 EUSAK WD, G-3 Stf Sec Rpt, 31 Jul 50; Ltr, Michaelis to author, 24 Jan 53; 24th Div WD, 31 Brigadier General John H. Michaelis to author, 24 Jan 53. Jul 50.]
Michaelis arrived at the 24th Division command post at Changnyong during the morning of 31 July and reported to Brigadier General Pearson Menoher, assistant division commander. General Church was absent.
General Menoher decided that Michaelis should continue on, and arranged for him to meet General Church that night at Chung-ni, a little railroad and crossroads village four miles northeast of Masan. The regiment itself passed through Changnyong in the early afternoon and continued on toward Chinju. [N15-2 Interv, author with Church, 25 Sep 52; Ltr,]
The Two Roads to Masan
That afternoon and evening as the 27th Infantry Regiment traveled south, the 19th Infantry sought a defense position between Chinju and Masan where it could reassemble its forces and block the enemy’s advance eastward from Chinju. Colonel Rhea’s 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, with supporting artillery, was in the naturally strong position at the Chinju pass.
Four miles east of the Chinju pass was the little village of Muchon. There the road to Masan forked. The northern route arched in a semicircle through Chungam-ni and Komam-ni to enter Masan from the north. The southern route curved in a similar semicircle through Kogan-ni and Chindong-ni to enter Masan from the south. A high mountain mass, Sobuksan, lay enclosed in this oval area circumscribed by the two roads. The evening of 31 July Colonel Moore established the 19th Infantry’s command post one mile east of Muchon-ni on the northern road. About 2000, a military police courier arrived at his command post with a message from General Church summoning Moore to a meeting with him and Michaelis at Chung-ni. [N15-3] Colonel Moore and his driver, guided by the courier, set out immediately and arrived at the appointed place before midnight. Church and Michaelis were already in the little railroad station.
Colonel Moore gave a detailed account of the events of the day and the location of the 19th Infantry and attached troops. There is considerable confusion as to just what orders General Church issued to Colonel Moore and Colonel Michaelis at this meeting. Since they were verbal there has been no way to check them in the records. It would appear that Moore was to hold the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, in its blocking position west of the Muchon-ni road fork and Colonel Michaelis was to put the 27th Infantry in a reinforcing defensive position at the pass three miles west of Chungam-ni on the northern road to Masan. [N15-4]
[N15-3 Intervs, author with Moore, 20 Aug 52, and Church, 25 Sep 52; Ltr, Michaelis to author, 24 Jan 53.]
After the meeting, Moore returned to his command post while Michaelis waited for his regiment, which arrived about 0300 (1 August), tired and wet. Michaelis instructed it to continue on and dig in on the high ground beyond Chungam-ni, fifteen miles westward.
Colonel Michaelis with a few staff officers left Chung-ni while it was still dark and drove to the Notch, a pass southwest of Chungam-ni, arriving there shortly after daybreak. Colonel Michaelis, Captain Buchanan, Colonel Check, and Lieutenant Colonel Gordon E. Murch were studying the ground there and planning to occupy the position, when Captain Elliott C. Cutler, Acting S-3, 19th Infantry, arrived. He was reconnoitering the ground for defensive positions and had selected four possible sites between the Muchon-ni crossroads and the Notch. He told Michaelis the Notch was the best site and, when he left to return to his command post, he understood that Michaelis still expected to put the 27th Infantry into the Notch position. [N14-5]
[N15-4 Ltr, Michaelis to author, 24 Jan 53. In discussing this matter with the author, General Church and Colonel Moore had somewhat different recollections from those of Michaelis regarding the orders General Church gave. They recalled the orders as being that the 19th Infantry was to defend the northern road at the pass west of Chungam-ni, and that Michaelis’ 27th Infantry was to move through Masan to a defensive position on the southern road near Chindong-ni. The author has concluded that the sequence of events and troop movements that followed the meeting support Michaelis’ version. ]
[N14-5 Ltr, Cutler to author, 9 Mar 53. Michaelis says that at the Notch about 0730 he received a message from an officer courier indicating the 19th Infantry would not hold its blocking position in front of him. Comments with ltr, Michaelis to author, 29 Sep 53.]
The conversation with Cutler apparently convinced Michaelis that the 19th Infantry was on the verge of another withdrawal which would uncover the Muchon-ni road fork. After Cutler departed, Michaelis remarked to his battalion commanders, Check and Murch, “The 19th Infantry has been overrun and won’t be able to do much. They are beaten. I think I will go back and cover the other road. I can’t do much here.” [N15-6] Michaelis went back a mile or so to the 13th Field Artillery Battalion command post which had just been established west of Chungam-ni. There he telephoned Colonel Moore at the 19th Infantry command post.
In the conversation that followed, according to Michaelis, Moore told him the 19th Infantry could not hold the crossroads and would fall back to the Notch. Michaelis said it seemed to him imperative in that event that some force block the southern road into Masan, otherwise the North Koreans could move through Masan on Pusan and flank the entire Eighth Army. Michaelis proposed that the 19th Infantry endeavor to hold the northern road at the Chungam-ni Notch and that he take the 27th Infantry back through Masan to the vicinity of Chindong-ni to block the southern road to Masan. [N15-7] Michaelis states that Moore concurred. Michaelis then tried, but failed, to establish communication with both the 24th Division and Eighth Army to obtain approval of this plan.
[N15-6 Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53.]
[N15-7 Ltr, Michaelis to author, 24 Jan 53, and Comments with ltr, 29 Sep 53; Interv, author with Major Jack J. Kron, 1 Aug 51. Kron was formerly Executive Officer, 13th Field Artillery Battalion, and heard Michaelis’ end of the conversation at his command post. He confirms the Michaelis version. Colonel Moore has no recollection of this conversation.]
His mind made up, however, Michaelis at once gave orders to turn the 27th Regiment around and head for Chindong-ni. It was about noon. [N15-8] In Masan, Michaelis found the newly arrived advance command post of the 25th Division, and from it he tried to telephone General Church at the 24th Division. Unable to get the division, he then tried to reach Eighth Army. Succeeding, he talked with Colonel Landrum, Chief of Staff, Eighth Army, and explained the situation. Landrum approved Michaelis’ move to the southern road in the vicinity of Chindong-ni, and instructed him to continue efforts to communicate with General Church. Later in the day, when General Walker returned to the army command post, Landrum informed him of his conversation with Michaelis. Meanwhile during the day, the Eighth Army G-3 Section succeeded in getting a message to General Church informing him of Colonel Michaelis’ move and the new troop dispositions west of Masan. [N15-9]
During the afternoon, the 27th Regiment arrived at Chindong-ni. Michaelis halted the troops there while he went forward a few miles with his battalion commanders, Check and Murch, to an observation post where they conferred with General Church, who had just arrived.
[N15-8 Michaelis says he talked with Moore about 0800, but that hour seems too early. It must have been shortly before noon. Colonel Check, Colonel Murch, and Major Frank V. Roquemore (regimental headquarters staff) agree that Michaelis gave the order to turn around about noon. Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53; Interv, author with Roquemore, 6 Feb 53; Ltr and review comments, Murch to author, 2 Jan 58.]
In the discussion there, General Church ordered Colonel Michaelis to put one battalion on the hills at the low pass where they were standing. Church decided that a reconnaissance in force should proceed westward the next morning to locate the enemy. Both the 27th Infantry and the 19th Infantry were to make this reconnaissance and the two forces were to meet at the Muchon-ni road fork. Michaelis telephoned Colonel Moore and relayed General Church’s order for a reconnaissance in force with all available tanks toward Chinju at 0600 the next morning, 2 August. Moore did not favor making this attack; Michaelis did. [N15-10]
[N15-9 Ltr, Landrum to author, 21 Mar 53; Ltrs, Michaelis to author, 24 Jan and 29 Sep 53; Interv, author with Roquemore, 6 Feb 53. Roquemore was responsible for preparing the 27th Infantry War Diary.]
Pursuant to General Church’s instructions, Colonel Michaelis placed Murch’s 2nd Battalion on the high ground at Kogan-ni, where the conversation with General Church had taken place, about seven miles west of Chindong-ni, with E Company in an advanced position astride the road three miles farther west just beyond Pongam-ni. To Colonel Check was given the task of making the reconnaissance attack the next morning with the 1st Battalion. Check placed the battalion in an assembly area back of the 2nd Battalion for the night. Colonel Michaelis established his command post in a schoolhouse under a high bluff in Chindong-ni. [N15-11]
On the northern road, as Captain Cutler discovered when he returned to the 19th Infantry command post from his reconnaissance, Colonel Moore had ordered the 1st Battalion to move to the Notch in one jump instead of taking several successive delaying positions as Cutler had expected. Moore thought the one move would give the battalion more time to dig in against an expected enemy attack. [N15-12]
[N15-10 Intervs, author with Church, 25 Sep 52, Check, 6 Feb 53, and Moore, 20 Aug 52; Ltrs, Michaelis to author, 24 Jan and 29 Sep 53; Ltr, Murch to author, 7 Apr 54. ]
[N15-11 2nd Bn, 27th Inf. Opn Rpt, 1 Aug 50; 27th Inf WD, Activities Rpt, Aug 50; 24th Div WD, 1 Aug 50; Brigadier General John H. Michaelis with Bill Davidson, “This We Learned in Korea,” Collier’s, August 18, 1950, p. 39. ]
[N15-12 Ltr, Cutler to author, 9 Mar 53.]
The 1st Battalion left its positions at the Chinju pass and arrived at a designated assembly area two miles southwest of the Notch about 1400. Colonel Rhea remained behind at the pass with an M20 armored car to protect the rear of the
battalion. An hour after the battalion had moved off eastward, an American jeep carrying two North Korean scouts came up the hill from the west and stopped just short of the crest. Using small arms fire, Colonel Rhea’s party killed the two enemy soldiers and recovered the jeep. Rhea’s rear guard party then followed the battalion toward the Notch. Below the Notch Rhea received orders to make a reconnaissance of the high ground there. It took him about two hours to do this. Not until about 1700, after he had returned from this reconnaissance, did he receive orders to place his battalion in the position. It was evening before the 1st Battalion started to occupy the Notch position. [N15-13]
The regimental plan called for the 1st Battalion to hold the Notch and the high ground to the right (northwest), and the ROK troops, commanded by Colonel Min, the high ground to the left (southeast) of the Notch. [N15-14] Colonel McGrail’s battalion, which had withdrawn from Chinju by a route north of the Nam River, crossed to the south side near Uiryong and arrived at the Notch ahead of the 1st Battalion. When the 1st Battalion arrived, the 2nd withdrew to the northern base of the pass in regimental reserve. Late in the afternoon, the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry, also arrived at Chungam-ni.
[N15-13 Ltr, Rhea to author, 9 Apr 53.] * [N15-14 Ltr, Cutler to author, 9 Mar 53.]
As the 19th and 27th Infantry Regiments made their preparations during the evening of 1 August for their reconnaissance the next morning, most welcome reinforcements arrived. They were the first medium tanks in Korea, if one excepts the three ill-fated Pershings at Chinju. About mid-July, Eighth Army activated the 8072nd Medium Tank Battalion, which was to receive fifty-four old World War II medium tanks rebuilt in Japan. Detachment A (A Company) of the tank battalion, under the command of Captain James H. Harvey, arrived at Pusan on 31 July. Railroad flatcars brought them to Masan the morning of 1 August. From there, Lieutenant Donald E. Barnard took the first platoon to the 19th Infantry position near Chungam-ni, and 1st Lieutenant Herman D. Norrell took the second platoon to the 27th Infantry at Chindong-ni. Both platoons entered action the next day. [N15-15]
The Battle at the Notch
Colonel Moore selected Colonel Wilson’s 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry, to make the reconnaissance westward from the Notch and issued his orders for it at 2000, 1 August. A platoon of five M4 medium tanks and four M8 armored cars and a platoon of engineers were to accompany the battalion. [N15-16] Moore had available at this time a total of about 2,335 men in the 19th Infantry and attached 29th Infantry units, excluding the ROK soldiers under Colonel Min. [N15-17] The tanks were to lead the column. They assembled in front of the 19th Infantry regimental command post in Chungam-ni at 0530 the next morning, 2 August, and the rest of the column organized behind them. Groups of five infantrymen from C Company mounted each of the tanks and armored cars. Next came the motorized battalion in twenty-two trucks and a number of jeeps. The tanks led off from Chungamni at 0615 with the first good light. Half an hour later the head of the column passed through the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, defensive position at the Notch, its line of departure.
[N15-15 EUSAK WD, G-1 Sec, Unit Hist Rpt, 13 Jul 50, p. 5; 8072nd Med Tk Bn WD, 1-7 Aug 50 (in 25th Div WD); GHQ UNC, G-3 Opn Rpts 37, 31 Jul 50, and 38, 1 Aug 50.]
[N15-16 Ltr, Wilson to author, 25 Mar 53; Interv, author with Moore, 20 Aug 52.]
[N15-17 On 1 August the 19th Infantry strength was 1,273; the 1st Bn, 29th Inf, was 745; and the 3rd Bn, 29th Inf, was 317. See 24th Div WD, 31 Jul 50; 19th Inf WD, 31 Jul 50; 19th Inf Unit Rpt 23, 1 Aug 50.]
Excitement spread among the men at the Notch when enemy fire suddenly struck and stopped the armored column just below their position. Colonel Wilson at the time was well back in that part of the column still on the northeast incline leading up to the Notch. Hearing heavy firing forward, he jumped from his jeep and hurried up the hill. Colonel Rhea ran up as Wilson reached the crest, shouting, “You better be careful—that ground down by the pond is enemy territory. My men were fighting with them when your tanks came by.” [N15-18] Colonel Wilson’s motorized column in passing through the Notch had met head-on an enemy attack just starting against the 19th Infantry.
The tanks met enemy soldiers crawling up the ditch at the side of the road, 100 yards below the crest of the pass. The tanks moved slowly ahead, firing their machine guns. Some of the enemy soldiers ran into the woods along both sides of the road. The lead tank, with its hatch open, had reached a point about 400-500 yards down the incline when an enemy mortar shell struck it, killing the crew. Fire from an enemy antitank gun hit a truck farther back in the column and set it on fire. Three enemy heavy machine guns along the road 200 yards below the crest started firing on the column as it ground to a halt This machine gun fire almost annihilated the 1st Platoon, C Company, as the men scrambled from the trucks. Twelve or fourteen vehicles had crossed over the pass and were on the southern slope when the enemy opened fire. [N15-19]
[N15-18 Ltr, Wilson to author, 25 Mar 53; Ltr, Rhea to author, 9 Apr 53; Ltr, Cutler to author, 3 Jul 53. Colonel Rhea states he did not know of the projected reconnaissance attack through his position by the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry, until tanks passed through the Notch. A written order had been distributed for this attack, but by some inadvertance. Colonel Rhea did not know of it.]
[N15-19 Ltrs to author, Wilson, 25 Mar 53, Rhea, 9 Apr 53, and Cutler, 3 Jul 53; Ltr, Rhea to author, 29 Apr 53; Holliday, Notes for author, 31 Mar 53; 24th Div GO 114, 31 Aug 50.]
When the American soldiers jumped off their vehicles and ran to the roadside ditches for protection, they found the enemy already there. Several desperate struggles took place. Some North Koreans in the ditches continued to advance slowly uphill, pushing captured Americans, their hands tied, in front of them. This melee along the road resulted in about thirty American casualties.
Colonel Wilson witnessed this disastrous spectacle from a point just southwest of the Notch. Seeing that the column was effectively stopped, he placed B Company, 29th Infantry (62 men), in position with the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry. Colonel Wilson displayed great energy and exposed himself constantly in reorganizing scattered and intermingled units west of the Notch.
As soon as the enemy machine gun positions were located, recoilless rifles took them under fire and either destroyed them or caused the enemy gunners to abandon them. But enemy fire in turn killed three of four crew members of the recoilless rifle on the west side of the Notch. The fourth member, Sergeant Evert E. “Moose” Hoffman, stayed with the gun and fired at every available target throughout the day. He won a battlefield commission. Another courageous noncommissioned officer, Master Sergeant William Marchbanks, D Company, 29th Infantry, placed his two mortars in position at the edge of the Notch and took under fire every burst of enemy fire he could locate. [N15-20]
When the fight started, Colonel Moore came to the command post of the 1st Battalion on the west side of the Notch and stayed there most of the day, directing the defense.
The battle soon spread from the road and flared up along the high ground on either side of the Notch. The night before, B Company, 19th Infantry, had started to climb the peak on the west side of the Notch but, tired from the efforts of the past few days and the hard climb, it stopped short of the crest. On the morning of 2 August, enemy troops came upon the men in their sleep. In a swift attack the North Koreans bayoneted the company commander and several others and drove the rest off the hill. The confusion west of the Notch was heightened about noon when three American fighter planes mistakenly strafed and rocketed this company. [N15-21]
[N15-20 Ltr, Rhea to author, 29 Apr 53; Interv, author with Moore, 20 Aug 52; Notes, Moore for author, Jul 53; 24th Div GO 114, 31 Aug 50.]
[N15-21 Ltrs, Rhea to author, 9 and 29 Apr 53; Ltr, Wilson to author, 25 Mar 53; Ltrs, Cutler to author, 9 Mar and 3 Jul 53.]
On that (west) side of the Notch, men of the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, and of the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry, became badly intermingled. The enemy force that had driven B Company, 19th Infantry, from the high ground placed cross fire from flank and rear on other units. In an effort to halt this destructive fire, C Company, 29th Infantry, gradually worked its way to a saddle short of the high ground. From there it attacked and drove the enemy force from the heights. In the attack, twelve men of C Company were killed; half of the casualties, in Colonel Wilson’s opinion, were caused by American fire from neighboring positions.
During the preceding night, plans for covering the left (east) flank of the Notch position had also miscarried. Colonel Min’s troops were supposed to occupy that ground and tie in with the 19th Infantry near the Notch. Morning found them too far eastward, separated by a mile and a half from the 19th Infantry. Snipers infiltrated behind some American soldiers on that side and killed five of them by shots through the back of the head. In the afternoon, enemy mortar fire on the east side also killed and wounded several men.
From his position west of the Notch, Colonel Moore saw men moving up the valley eastward, following the railroad toward Chungam-ni. Thinking they were enemy troops he directed Captain Cutler, his S-3, to send part of the 2nd Battalion to block them. This force, however, turned out to be Colonel Min’s ROK troops withdrawing because friend and foe alike had them under fire.
East of the Notch, gaps in the line produced much confusion. The 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry, had been committed next to Colonel Min’s force, and B Company, 29th Infantry, also went there during the day to help hold the high ground. Enemy troops tried to advance from the railroad tunnel in front of B Company, but a platoon of F Company, 19th Infantry, counterattacked and drove them back. [N15-22]
The fighting along the road west of the Notch died down during the afternoon. The enemy apparently had moved off to the flanks in his favorite maneuver. At midafternoon a squad from A Company, 19th Infantry, went down the road past the knocked-out vehicles and killed a few enemy soldiers still near them. The men then set up a roadblock 100 yards beyond the tanks. Other groups took out American wounded and recovered most of the vehicles. The rest of A Company swept the adjoining ridge forward of the pass for several hundred yards. By evening, the enemy had withdrawn from close contact with the 19th Infantry.
[N15-22 Interv, author with Moore, 17 Feb 53; Ltr, Cutler to author, 9 Mar 53; Ltr, Wilson to author, 25 Mar 53; Holliday, Notes for author, 31 Mar 53]
American casualties in the Notch battle numbered about ninety. North Korean losses are unknown. Nor is it known how large an enemy force was engaged there. Estimates ranged among officers present from two companies to a regiment. From information gained later concerning the location of the 6th Division, it appears that the enemy was at least in battalion strength at the Notch on 2 August, and he may have had the greater part of a regiment.
The day’s events disclosed that from Chinju elements of the enemy 6th Division had followed closely behind the withdrawing 19th Infantry, sending the bulk of its advance units up the northern road toward Masan.
Colonel Check’s Reconnaissance in Force Toward Chinju
That same morning, 2 August, Colonel Check at 0400 led the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, with A Battery of the 8th Field Artillery Battalion attached, westward from Chindong-ni on the southern leg of the two-pronged reconnaissance. At the head of the column a platoon of infantry rode four medium tanks (Shermans). Colonel Check’s immediate objective was the road juncture at Muchonni.
Check’s column was unopposed at first. After traveling several miles, the tanks and the lead platoon forming the point caught an enemy platoon still in their blankets along the road. When the startled North Koreans jumped up and started to run, tank machine guns and riflemen killed all but two, and these they captured. [N15-23] Soon, enemy opposition began to develop, but it was mostly from snipers and scattered patrols.
[N15-23 Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53; 27th Inf WD, 2 Aug 50; 1st Bn, 27th Inf, Opn Rpt, Aug 50.]
At the Muchon-ni road fork about midafternoon, Check’s column met and surprised a number of enemy soldiers. The surprise was evident, as a column of enemy supply trucks had just descended from the Chinju pass. Drivers were able to turn some of the vehicles around and escape, but the North Koreans abandoned about ten vehicles, ranging from jeeps to 2½-ton trucks. These were loaded with uniforms, food, ammunition, medicine, and other supplies. Pilots of F-51 planes overhead reported later that the appearance of Check’s column caused many other vehicles to turn around at the top of the pass and head toward Chinju. They made good targets for the planes. [N15-24]
Enemy resistance now increased. Just beyond the road fork Check dismounted his motorized battalion and sent the trucks back. He did not want to run the risk of having them captured, and he believed his men could fight their way out on foot if necessary. Only the mortar platoon and the artillery battery retained their vehicles. Having no communication with the regiment, Colonel Check sent runners back to Colonel Michaelis, but none reached their destination. Enemy forces had closed in behind Check and cut the road.
Check’s battalion, now afoot, advanced westward with the tanks in the lead. In the low hills at the foot of the Chinju pass, a long hard fight with the enemy began. The North Koreans held the pass in force. Sniper fire from the right (north) caused the infantry on the tanks to dismount and take cover behind them. Suddenly, Lieutenant Norrell, tank platoon leader in the third tank, saw enemy fire hit the tank ahead of him. He could see that it was coming from three antitank guns about seventy-five yards off the road to the right. His own tank then received three hits almost immediately and started to burn. In leaving his tank, Lieutenant Norrell received machine gun and shrapnel wounds. [N15-25] This quick burst of enemy antitank fire killed the gunner in the second tank and wounded seven other enlisted tank crew members. Very quickly, however, the artillery battery took the antitank guns under fire and silenced them. The infantry then captured the pieces. There were many enemy dead in this vicinity, and others feigning death. Check walked over to the guns and noted that they were 76-mm. [N15-26]
[N15-24 Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53; Ltr, Colonel Gilbert J. Check to Lieutenant Colonel Carl D. McFerren, 26 Jun 53, in OCMH files.]
Colonel Check called for volunteers to form crews for the two partly disabled but still operable tanks. Men who had operated bulldozers volunteered to drive the tanks. They received quick instruction from the drivers of the two undamaged tanks. Check used riflemen as improvised tank machine gunners. The advance continued, but in the next hour gained only a few hundred yards. About 1700 or 1730, a liaison plane reappeared and dropped a message. It was from Colonel Michaelis and read, “Return. Road cut behind you all the way. Lead with tanks if possible. Will give you artillery support when within range.” [N15-27]
[N15-25 8072nd Med Tk Bn WD, 2 Aug 50.]
[N15-26 Ibid.; Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53. The statement by Norrell in the report that this enemy fire came from three captured U.S. 105-mm. howitzers is incorrect. ]
[N15-27 Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53; 8072nd Med Tk Bn WD, 1-7 Aug 50; 27th Inf WD, 2 Aug 50; 1st Bn, 27th Inf, Opn Rpt, Aug 50; 24th Div WD, 2 Aug 50. The records erroneously have this final action taking place at Muchon-ni.]
That morning about 1700, Colonel Michaelis at Chindong-ni received word from Colonel Moore that enemy troops had stopped his part of the reconnaissance just beyond its line of departure. Moore reported that he would have all he could do to hold his defensive positions. Late in the morning and in the early afternoon, Michael is received reports that the enemy had cut the road between Check and the rest of the regiment, and that E Company in its advance blocking position was heavily engaged. It was apparent, therefore, that strong enemy forces had moved toward Masan. He thereupon, sometime after 1600, dispatched to Colonel Check the message by liaison plane to return with the 1st Battalion.
Upon receiving Colonel Michaelis’ message, Colonel Check immediately set about disengaging the battalion and started back. The two damaged tanks gave trouble and had to be towed by the other tanks to start them. Check put them in the lead. The two undamaged tanks brought up the rear, behind the mortar and artillery vehicles. The infantry, moving along the sides of the ridges parallel to the road, engaged in a fire fight as the withdrawal started. Just before dark, and still west of the Muchon-ni road fork, Check decided he would have to mount his infantry on the tanks and vehicles and make a run for it. Thirty to thirty-five men crowded onto the decks of each of the four tanks. The mortar and artillery trucks likewise were loaded to capacity, but every man found a place to ride.
The tank-led column went back the way it had come, almost constantly engaged with the enemy along the road. Several times the lead tanks stopped and infantry riding the decks jumped off to rush enemy machine gun positions. Until dark, the withdrawing battalion had air cover and, when it came within range, the 8th Field Artillery Battalion and a battery of 155-mm. howitzers fired shells on either side of the road, shortening the ranges as Check’s battalion neared Chindong-ni. Exhausted, the 1st Battalion reached Chindong-ni at midnight. It had suffered about thirty casualties during the day. Colonel Check’s leadership on this occasion won for him the Distinguished Service Cross.29
During the day, an estimated enemy battalion had come in behind Check’s column and attacked E Company, which held the line of departure at Pongam-ni. A relief force sent from the 2nd Battalion helped E Company fight its way back to the battalion’s main defensive lines at Kogan-ni, three miles eastward. Still another enemy force ambushed a platoon from A Company, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion, south of Chindong-ni on the Kosong-Sachon road, with resulting heavy personnel losses and destruction of much equipment. Obviously, North Koreans were moving east from Chinju toward Masan on all roads. [N15-30]
The Affair at Chindong-ni
The town of Chindong-ni, where Colonel Michaelis had his command post, lies astride the south coastal road at a point where mountain spurs from the north come down to meet the sea. High finger ridges end at the northern edge of the town, one on either side of the dirt road from Chindong-ni via Haman and Komam-ni to the Nam River. The ridge on the east side of this north-south road terminates in a high, steep bluff at the northeast edge of Chindong-ni. The 27th Infantry regimental command post was in a schoolhouse under the brow of this bluff. In the school courtyard a battery of 155mm. howitzers (A Battery, 11th Field Artillery Battalion) had emplaced. Close by was the 8th Field Artillery Battalion. Colonel Check’s tired 1st Battalion and the attached four medium tanks had bivouacked there at midnight.
[N15-29 Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53; Ltrs, Michaelis to author, 24 Jan and 29 Sep 53; 27th Inf WD, 2 Aug 50; 1st Bn, 27th Inf. Opn Rpt, Aug 50; EUSAK WD, GO 68, 15 Sep 50. ]
[N15-30 27th Inf WD, Hist Rpt, Aug 50; 2nd Bn, 27th Inf, Summ of Activities, Aug 50; Ltr with comments, Murch to author, 7 Apr 54.]
It was a stroke of the greatest good fortune for Colonel Michaelis and the 27th Infantry regimental headquarters that Colonel Check and his 1st Battalion had returned to Chindong-ni during the night. The next morning, 3 August, just after the regimental staff had finished breakfast in the schoolhouse command post, a sudden fusillade of small arms fire hit the building and came through the open windows. [N15-31] This first enemy fire came from the top of the bluff above the schoolhouse. It heralded an enemy attack which came as a complete surprise.
[N15-31 27th Inf Activities Rpt, S-3 Sec, Aug 50; Higgins, War in Korea, pp. 123-30; Harold Martin, “The Colonel Saved the Day,” The Saturday Evening Post, September 9, 1950, pp. 32-33; Michaelis with Davidson, “This We Learned in Korea,” op. cit. Both Higgins and Martin were present. Their accounts of the Chindong-ni action are somewhat colored. ]
When the attack hit Chindong-ni, some of the security guards apparently were asleep. A few outpost troops mistook some of the enemy for South Koreans from other nearby outpost positions.[N15-32] Several Americans came running shoeless down the hill to the courtyard. Colonel Michaelis and his staff officers pulled men from under jeeps and trucks and forced them into position. One soldier went berserk and started raking his own companions with machine gun fire. [N15-33] An officer, by a well-placed shot, wounded him and stopped his murderous fire. Michaelis and Check with other officers and noncommissioned officers gradually brought order out of the chaos.
Captain Logan E. Weston, A Company commander, led an attack against the enemy positions on the hill overlooking the command post. He assaulted two enemy machine guns on the crest and eliminated their crews by accurate M1 rifle fire. Enemy fire wounded Weston in the thigh during this action, but after receiving first aid treatment he returned to the fight and subsequently was wounded twice more. Despite three wounds he refused to be evacuated. Ten days earlier he had likewise distinguished himself in leadership and in combat near Poun. [N15-34]
Soon the 1st Battalion had possession of the high ground near the command post. Its mortars and recoilless rifles now joined in the fight. Before long the 105mm. howitzers were firing white phosphorus shells on concentrations of enemy troops reported from the newly won infantry positions. [N15-35]
[N15-32 Higgins, War In Korea, p. 124; Martin “The Colonel Saved the Day,” op. cit., p. 190.]
[N15-33 Interv, author with Check, 6 Feb 53.]
[N15-34 General Order 68, 15 September 1950, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to Weston. EUSAK WD. See also Higgins, War in Korea.]
At the time they launched their attack, the North Koreans undoubtedly knew that artillery was at Chindong-ni, because small groups had brought it under small arms fire during the afternoon of 2 August. But infantry were not there then, and apparently the enemy did not expect to find any there the next morning. If the North Koreans surprised the 27th’s command post with their attack, they in turn were surprised by the presence of Colonel Check’s battalion. Once engaged in the fight, and the initial attack failing, the local North Korean commander sent at least a second battalion to Chindong-ni to reinforce the one already there and tried to salvage the situation.
Lieutenant Colonel Augustus T. Terry, Jr., commanding officer of the 8th Field Artillery Battalion, discovered the reinforcing battalion approaching in trucks about one thousand yards away on the Haman road from the north. The trucks stopped and the enemy battalion began dismounting. [N15-36] Colonel Terry’s artillery adjusted time fire on it. After the artillery shells began falling on them, the enemy soldiers dispersed rapidly into the hills and the threatened enemy counterattack did not materialize.
By 1300 the North Koreans had withdrawn from the immediate vicinity of Chindong-ni. American patrols counted 400 enemy dead, a large number of them in the area where the 8th Field Artillery Battalion had taken the detrucking enemy soldiers under fire. The defenders of Chindong-ni estimated they had killed and wounded 600 enemy soldiers. American casualties at Chindong-ni on 3 August were 13 killed and nearly 40 wounded in the 1st Battalion, with a total of 60 casualties for all units. [N15-37]
[N15-35 1st Bn, 27th Inf, Opn Rpt, 23 Jul-3 Aug 50.]
[N15-36 8th FA Bn WD, Aug 50, entry for 3 Aug and Summ.]
Interrogation of prisoners later disclosed that two battalions of the 14th Regiment, N.K. 6th Division, made the attack on Chindong-ni. One battalion, with the mission of establishing a roadblock at the town, made the initial early morning attack. The other two battalions of the same regiment detoured farther to the east, with the mission of establishing roadblocks closer to Masan. One of them turned back to Chindongni and was dispersed by artillery fire as it was detrucking. The enemy base of operations was on Sobuk-san, north of Chindong-ni. During this engagement, the enemy used commercial telephone lines. Signal officers, tapping them through the 27th Infantry regimental switchboard, monitored the enemy conversations. That night (3 August), an operations officer and a translator heard the commanding general of the N.K. 6th Division reprimand the commander of the 14th Regiment for losing so many men.
While the prime objective of the14th Regiment had been to cut the Masan road, another regiment, the 15th, apparently had the mission of capturing Masan or the high ground around it. [N15-39]
[N15-37 Ibid., 1st Bn, 27th Inf, Opn Rpt, 23 Jul-3 Aug 50; 27th Inf S-3 Activities Rpt, Aug 50.]
[N15-38 27th Inf S-3 Activities Rpt, Aug 50; 1st Bn, 27th Inf, Opn Rpt, 4-30 Aug 50; 25th Div WD, 2-3 Aug 50; Michaelis with Davidson, “This We Learned in Korea,” op. cit. ]
[N15-39 8th FA Bn WD, Aug 50.]
When the attack on Chindong-ni failed, the 15th Regiment withheld the attack on Masan but did infiltrate the high ground southwest of the town.
The enemy 6th Division, which had driven so rapidly eastward from Hadong, where it first encountered American troops on 27 July, had by now, in the course of a week, suffered heavy casualties which reduced it to about half strength. [N15-40] After the battles of the Chungam-ni Notch and Chindong-ni, both sides regrouped and made ready for a new test of strength on the approaches to Masan.
[N15-40 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 100 (N.K. 6th Div), pp. 37-38.]
The movement around the left flank of Eighth Army in late July had been the most brilliantly conceived and executed of the North Korean tactical operations south of the Han River. It had held within it the possibilities of victory—of driving U.N. forces from the peninsula. It had compelled Eighth Army to reinforce its units in the southwest at the expense of the central front, and to redeploy the U.N. forces along a shorter line behind the Naktong River, in what came to be called the Pusan Perimeter.
In early August, General Walker received what he regarded as conclusive intelligence that the enemy plan had been to supply the North Korean enveloping force in southwestern Korea by water from the port of Kunsan and other ports southward to and including Yosu. Walker said that had the enemy force driven straight and hard for Pusan instead of occupying all the ports in southwestern Korea, he would not have had time to interpose the strength to stop it. [N15-41]
Never afterward were conditions as critical for the Eighth Army as in the closing days of July and the first days of August 1950. Never again did the North Koreans come as close to victory as when their victorious 6th and 4th Divisions passed eastward through Chinju and Kochang. Costly, bloody battles still remained, but from a U.N. strategic point of view, the most critical phase had passed. Heavy U.N. reinforcements were then arriving, or on the point of arriving, in Korea.
[N15-41 Memo, Maj Gen Doyle O. Hickey (Dep CofS, FEC) to CofS, FEC, 7 Aug 50, sub: Report of Visit to Korea.]
SOURCE: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu; BY: Colonel Roy E. Appleman (United States Army Center of Military History)