Serious trouble for General Walker developed in the east during the threatened enemy breakthrough in the Naktong Bulge. North Korean attacks in the Kigye and Pohang-dong area became critical as the ROK divisions there suddenly gave way and threatened to collapse. The blow came with a suddenness that contained the element of surprise. Eighth Army, low in reserves, was ill-prepared to meet an enemy breakthrough in the east, with its main forces already fully and even desperately engaged elsewhere.
Through July and into the first week of August, there were repeated rumors and reports of strong guerrilla groups in the mountains ten or fifteen miles northwest of Pohang-dong. These reports in time were treated as casually as the repeated cry of “Wolf!” by the boy in Aesop’s fable.
The Kyongju Corridor to Pusan
Throughout the Pusan Perimeter fighting, the terrain in the Pohangdong area exercised a dominant influence on the action there and on General Walker’s tactical plans for the defense of that part of the Perimeter. A natural corridor here led straight to Pusan.
From Taegu a lateral highway and railroad ran east to Pohang-dong, 50 air miles away. This lateral corridor is the first valley route to the east coast of Korea south of the Seoul-Chorwon-Pyonggang-Wonsan corridor, 225 miles to the north. Situated on this route about midway between Taegu and Pohang-dong is Yongchon . There, the only important north-south road between Taegu and the east coast comes down from Andong and Uisong through the mountains to meet the lateral valley road. East of this road for a distance of 40 air miles to the coast, lies a rugged mountain area entirely devoid of improved roads.
Twelve miles west of Pohang-dong in the lateral Taegu corridor is the town of Angang-ni, and 6 miles north of it is the smaller town of Kigye. The latter is situated at a point where several trails and a poor road debouch southward from the mountains into a north-south valley that enters the Taegu-Pohang lateral corridor at Angang-ni. This north-south valley continues on south past Angang-ni to Pusan, 60 air miles away. Kyongju, an important rail and highway center in the Taegu-Pohang-Pusan triangle, lies 12 miles south of An’gang-ni in this corridor. These terrain facts explain why the towns of Kigye, Angang-ni, and Kyongju assumed importance in the eastern battles.
At Pohang-dong the coastal road from the north swings inland along the Hyongsan-gang to a point less than 2 miles from Angang-ni where it bends south and enters the Kyongju corridor to continue on to Pusan. Militarily, Pohang-dorig itself was of slight importance, although its port permitted a partial supply by water of the ROK and the small U.S. forces on the east coast. Rather, it was the eastern half of the Pusan Perimeter communications net, the Taegu-Yongchon -Angang-ni-Kyongju-Pusan route—almost a sea-level valley route the entire distance—that was of critical importance. If it should be cut by the enemy for any appreciable period of time the Taegu position would become untenable.
The eastern part of the Perimeter was not as strongly held as other parts of the line. General Walker did not have the troops and supporting heavy weapons to hold the front strongly everywhere. At some points he had to take risks. Seeing that the mountains to the north in the Pohang area were almost a trackless waste, he thought it unlikely that the North Koreans could move forward heavy equipment and supplies in sufficient quantity to exploit a penetration there, should one be made, for a continuing drive on Pusan. [NOTE: Interv, author with Lieutenant Colonel Paul F. Smith (G-3 Opns, 8th Army), 2 Oct 52; Interv, author with Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Fergusson (G-2 Sec, 8th Army), 2 Oct 52; Ltr with comments, Landrum to author, reed 28 Jun 54.]
Contrasting with the rugged terrain and the lack of a good communications system in the enemy’s field of operations in the east, General Walker had the interior valley rail and highway net over which he could rush reinforcements to the area. He considered as another source of U.N. strength the proximity of the Yonil Airfield six miles south of Pohangdong, and within two to five minutes’ flying time of the critical areas, should the North Koreans reach the lateral corridor.
The North Koreans Reach Pohang-dong
On this eastern flank of the Pusan Perimeter, three North Korean divisions and an independent regiment pressed against the ROK defenders in August 1950. The 8th Division drove down the Uisong road toward Yongchon , the 12th Division plunged into the mountains southeast of Andong and headed for Pohang-dong, the 766th Independent Regiment left the coastal road at Yongdok and swung southwest into the mountains toward Kigye and An’gang-ni, and the 5th Division drove down the coastal road from Yongdok, with some of its infantry units infiltrating through the mountains around the ROK 3rd Division.[n18-2]
The first of these divisions, the N.K. 8th Division, failed to penetrate to the Taegu-Pohang lateral corridor. Near Uisong on 9 August, the ROK 8th Division caught part of its forces by surprise and almost annihilated one battalion of the 3rd Regiment, causing 700 casualties. The division’s 2nd Regiment then entered the battle and itself suffered heavy losses, though it won back the ground previously lost to the ROK’s. In this fighting along the Uisong-Yongchon road, ROK troops achieved some success against enemy armor. ROK infantry defended an antitank mine field covering both sides of the road in a narrow valley near a bridge. Two enemy tanks approaching the bridge struck mines. Three more enemy tanks and a self-propelled 76-mm. gun approached. Before they could turn around on the blocked road a flight of F-51 fighter planes came over firing rockets and dropping napalm on the six armored vehicles. All were destroyed. This affair provides a good example of multiple reporting. The Far East Air Forces claimed six kills; not to be outdone, the ROK engineers claimed the same number.
[n18-2 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 4 (N.K.8th Div), pp. 23-24; Ibid., Issue 99 (N. K. 12th Div), p. 46; Ibid., Issue 96 (N.K. 5th Div), p. 43]
The enemy 8th Division was so badly hurt in this fighting that it was unable for a week to continue the drive on Yongchon , and then it advanced only a few miles south of Uisong before in the face of continuing strong ROK opposition it halted to await reinforcements. [n18-4]
Next in line eastward, the N.K. 12th Division, now bearing the honorary name, “The Andong Division,” crossed the upper Naktong at Andong and plunged into the mountains in an effort to carry out its orders to capture Pohang-dong. Its fighting strength was only a fraction of what it had once been. At this time the 2nd Battalion of the Artillery Regiment sent all its artillery pieces back to Tanyang on the upper Han River because of failure to obtain ammunition for them. [n18-5]
[n18-4 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 4 (N.K. 8th Div), p. 24; EUSAK WD, 12 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 507, Senior Colonel Han Chong, CofS 8th Div, and interrog of Sr Sergeant Yung Pyong Yong. ]
The ROK Capital Division was supposed to establish contact with the ROK 3rd Division across this mountainous region. Reports were rife that enemy groups, the largest estimated at 2,000 men, were in the mountains inland from the coast. On 9 August, Eighth Army headquarters received a report that regular North Korean Army troops were in the “guerrilla area” northwest of Pohang-dong, threatening the coastal road and the Yonil Airfield. On that day the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the ROK 25th Regiment, a new unit just arrived from Taegu, attacked north from Kigye with orders to affect a juncture with the 3rd Division south of Yongdok. Two and a half miles north of Kigye, an enemy counterattack hurled the regiment back to a point two miles southeast of the town. It was now clear that, although the ROK 3rd Division held the coastal road from a point twenty miles above Pohang-dong, there were no defenses inland in the mountains and enemy units were operating in this area.[n18-6]
[n18-5 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 106 (N.K. Arty), p. 70. ]
[n18-6 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 8-9 Aug 50; Ibid., POR 47, 10 Aug 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 46, 9 Aug 50.]
Eighth Army on 10 August organized Task Force Pohang, consisting of the ROK 17th and 25th Regiments, the ROK 1st Anti-Guerrilla Battalion, the ROK Pohang Marine Battalion, and C Battery of the U.S. 18th Field Artillery Battalion (75-mm.). The next day the ROK Army activated the 26th Regiment at Taegu and hurried it east to join Task Force Pohang at An’gang-ni. Of these units, only the ROK 17th Regiment was battle tested. The mission of Task Force Pohang was to attack north from the An’gang-ni-Pohang area and clear enemy forces from the mountains near the coast.[n18-7]
The events around Kigye and in the mountains to the west of Pohang-dong from this point on can be understood in their true light only if one knows what was taking place simultaneously on the east coast, only a few miles away. To bring those events into their proper perspective it is necessary now to review them.
A previous chapter recounted the series of bloody battles on the coastal road between the N.K. 5th Division and the ROK 3rd Division through the first days of August. The fighting seesawed around Yongdok for two weeks, with first one side and then the other holding the town. This action, had ended with the ROK’s temporarily regaining Yongdok. But they held it only briefly.
On 5 August the North Koreans attacked again and drove the ROK’s south of the town to Hill 181. General Walker sent a personal message to Colonel Emmerich, the KMAG adviser with the ROK 3rd Division, saying that the lost ground must be regained. Plans were made for a counterattack the next night. During the 6th, while these plans were being readied, it was possible from the ROK division command post to see, through field glasses, the North Korean and ROK troops locked in battle at grenade range on Hill 181.
[n18-7 EUSAK WD, Summ, 10-11 Aug 50, pp. 27-30; Ibid., G-2 Daily Sitrep, 9 Aug 50, and Br for CG, 10 Aug 50; Ibid., POR 89, 11 Aug 50. ]
The night attack got under way at 1930 with a 15-minute air attack using rockets, napalm, and bombs. Naval gunfire and an artillery preparation for another fifteen minutes followed the air attack. Then at 2000 the ROK 22nd and 23rd Regiments moved out in the infantry attack. They drove the North Koreans from Hill 181 and held it during the night. On the morning of 7 August the attack resumed after another naval and artillery preparation. This drove the enemy to a point just south of Yongdok.
During the night attack an untoward incident occurred at the ROK 3rd Division command post. An enemy mortar barrage hit close to the command post and killed several soldiers. When the KMAG adviser sent to the ROK command post for a report on the situation his messenger brought back word that he could not find anyone there. An interpreter tried to find the division commander, General Lee. He returned and said the general and his staff could not be found. Upon receiving this information Colonel Emmerich and Major Slater searched the area with flashlights and finally, with the help of some ROK soldiers, found the general and his aide in a hillside dugout. Emmerich instructed the ROK commander to assemble his staff and return to the command post. The next morning he requested that the division commander be relieved. At this time the 1st Separate Battalion and the Yongdungpo Battalion were inactivated and their troops absorbed into the ROK 22nd and 23rd Regiments.
On 7 August, also, General Walker sent a message to Colonel Emmerich telling him that the bridge below Yongdok at Kanggu-dong must be held. Up to this time an Engineer squad from the 24th Division had manned the demolitions on the 520-foot bridge there over the Osip-chon. The squad was now called back to Taegu, and control of the demolitions passed to Korean troops with directions that they were to blow the bridge only upon instructions from Major Britton of KMAG.
Just after daylight, at 0500 on 9 August, a great explosion rocked the area of the bridge. The commanding officer of the ROK 22nd Regiment had ordered the bridge blown without securing approval from Major Britton. About 350 ROK soldiers of the regiment were still north of the Osip-chon when the bridge dropped. Many of these soldiers drowned in trying to cross the deep estuary flowing into the Japan Sea. The ROK division chief of staff demanded that the regimental commander be relieved or he would court martial him and place him before a firing squad. The Korean Army relieved the regimental commander at once.
The blowing of the Kanggu-dong bridge compelled the withdrawal southward of the ROK command post to Changsa-dong on the afternoon of 9 August to escape enemy artillery fire. On 10 August N.K. 5th Division soldiers infiltrated around the ROK 3rd Division and cut the coastal road below it at Hunghae, five miles north of Pohangdong. The ROK 3rd Division was virtually surrounded on that date.[n18-10]
As soon as Eighth Army learned that enemy forces had cut off the ROK 3rd Division above Pohang-dong, General Walker instructed Colonel Emmerich to meet him at Yonil Airfield. Emmerich radioed to the American cruiser Helena, offshore, for a helicopter to fly him to the airstrip, where he met General Walker, General Partridge, and Brigadier General Francis W. Farrell, Chief of KMAG.
[n18-10 Ibid.; Major Perry Austin and Captain Mario Paglieri (KMAG advisers with ROK 3rd Div), It Can Be Done: A Lesson in Tactics, MS, copy in OCMH. ]
General Walker instructed Emmerich to have the ROK 3rd Division hold in place around Changsa-dong, twenty miles north of Pohang-dong, and to prevent the enemy 5th Division from moving its tanks and artillery down the road to the Pohang area. If enemy tanks and artillery got through on the coastal road they would render Yonil Airfield untenable. Emmerich returned at once to Changsa-dong and relayed the orders to Brigadier General Kim Suk Won, the ROK 3rd Division’s new commander. The division then went into a perimeter defense extending along the coast from a point four miles north of Changsa-dong to a point seven miles south of the town.
[N18-11 Paglieri, Notes on ROK 3rd Division, August 1950, MS, copy in OCMH; Interv, author with Emmerich, 4 Dec 51; Karig, et al., Battle Report:The War in Korea, p. 147.]
The sudden appearance of strong enemy army units near Pohang-dong on 10 August surprised many American officers, including General Walker. He had just asked General Farrell if the ROK troops in the east would need American help to assure the defense of Pohang-dong and Yonil Airfield. Farrell had advised Walker that the ROK troops would be able to protect these places. This opinion reflected that prevailing at the time—that the North Koreans would not be able to move through the mountains in sufficient strength to make an effective attack on Pohangdong from the rear.[n18-12]
After his conference with Colonel Emmerich at Yonil Airfield, General Walker returned to Taegu. From there he sent an order by courier at 1735 to Major General Lawrence B. Reiser, commanding the U.S. 2nd Division at Kyongsan, to move the remaining elements of the 9th Regiment from that point to Yonil Airfield at once. This task force was to be commanded by Brigadier General Joseph S. Bradley, Assistant Division Commander, 2nd Division. Task Force Bradley was to report directly to General Walker.[n18-13]
This task force moved toward Pohang-dong and Yonil after dark, 10 August, over the main road through Kyongju. The command group and the 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry, except K Company, reached Yonil Airfield shortly before midnight and General Bradley assumed responsibility for the ground defense of the airstrip.
[n18-12 Interv, author with Farrell, 31 Dec 52; New York Times, August 14, 1950, dispatch by W. H. Lawrence. ]
[n18-13 As finally constituted, Task Force Bradley comprised the 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry; Tank Company, 9th Infantry; A Company, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion; A Battery, 82nd Antiaircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion; C Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion; 3rd Platoon, Heavy Mortar Company, 9th Infantry; and medical and signal detachments. EUSAK WD, 10 Aug 50, Msg at 101735, CG EUSAK to CG 2nd Div; Ibid., FOR 87, 10 Aug 50; Ibid., Briefing for CG, 10 Aug 50; 1st Lieuntant Robert J. Teitelbaum, Debriefing Rpt 47, Arty School, Ft. Sill, Okla., 14 Dec 51; 82nd AAA Bn WD, Summ, Aug 50; Ltr, Lieutenant Colonel D. M. McMains to author, 27 May 53 (McMains commanded the 3rd Bn, 9th Inf of TF Bradley); Rpt, The Korean Campaign, Arty School Rep, Army Field Forces Observer Team 2. ]
Ten miles north of Kyongju and at a point about a mile east of Angang-ni, the road bent sharply right in the Hyongsan-gang valley toward Pohangdong, seven miles eastward. Just after making this turn the road swung around the base of a steep mountain which crowded it close against the river near the village of Tongnam-ni. Company K and four vehicles of C Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, were ambushed at this point at 0120, 11 August. Enemy fire suddenly hit the driver of the leading truck and his vehicle swerved, blacking the road. Automatic weapons fire swept over the column, bringing death and destruction. The K Company convoy fell into confusion. As many men as could fled back toward Kyongju; approximately 120 members of the company, including two officers, reached the town.[n18-14]
Learning of the ambush, General Bradley at Yonil Airfield ordered I Company to return to An’gang-ni, to K Company’s rescue. West of Pohangdong it, too, was ambushed. Informed by radio of this second ambush, Bradley sent two M16 vehicles, with their heavy armament of four .50-caliber machine guns each, to the scene. All but about twenty-five men of I Company got back to the airfield during the day.[n18-15]
At the K Company ambush casualties were greater. By afternoon, 7 dead and at least 40 wounded were reported. About 25 members of C Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, were also lost in this ambush.
[n18-14 EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, Msgs 110120 and 110355 Aug 50; Ibid., G-3 Jnl, 12 Aug 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 48, 11 Aug 50; Interv, author with Farrell, 31 Dec 52; Ltr, McMains to author, 27 May 53; Rpt, The Korean Campaign, Arty School Rep, AFF Observer Team 2. ]
[n18-15 EUSAK WD G-3 Jnl, Msg 1335, 11 Aug 50; Davis, The 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, July-September 1950.]
The enemy soldiers who had cut the road west of Pohang-dong the night of 10-11 August and staged these ambushes apparently were from the 766th Independent Regiment. This regiment, leaving the 5th Division in the vicinity of Yongdok, had come in behind Pohangdong by way of mountain trails. In the early afternoon, 11 August, General Walker ordered the Tank Company, 9th Infantry, which had stopped at Kyongju to wait upon repair of a damaged bridge, to proceed to the Yonil Airfield. He also ordered the ROK 17th Regiment released from Task Force Pohang and to proceed from Angangni to the airstrip.[n18-16]
[n18-16 Davis, The 2nd Infantry Division in Korea July-September 1950; Rpt, The Korean Campaign, Arty School Rep, AFF Observer Team 2; EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, Msgs 1331 and 1700, 11 Aug 50.]
Aerial reconnaissance showed the K Company ambush site was still held by enemy troops. Well aware of this, Captain Darrigo, KMAG adviser with the ROK 17th Regiment at Angang-ni, volunteered to lead an armored patrol through to Pohang-dong and Yonil. Darrigo rode the first of five tanks. Four F-51 fighter planes took off from Yonil Airfield and delivered a strike on the enemy positions at the ambush site just as the tanks arrived there. This air strike flushed enemy troops from concealment at just the right moment. Tank machine gun fire killed many of them; in one group about seventy North Koreans were caught in the open. This tank column arrived at Yonil Airfield about 2030, 11 August, and were the first tanks to reach the airstrip. They were immediately placed in the perimeter defense. Darrigo was the same officer who had escaped from Kaesong at dawn, 25 June, when the North Koreans began their attack across the 38th Parallel. One who saw this courageous 30year-old soldier when he arrived at Yonil said he looked to be fifty.[n18-17]
While these events were taking place behind and to the east of it, Task Force Pohang attacked north from the Angang-ni area the morning of 11 August. (Map 12) It came to grief almost at once. At one place the enemy annihilated two companies of the ROK 25th Regiment. The task force, and also the ROK Capital Division, lost ground. The day was blazing hot. Great dust clouds hung over the roads. Fighter planes shuttled constantly from Yonil Airfield to the numerous nearby points where enemy troops were active, trying to stabilize the situation. One pilot, speaking of that day, said, “I barely had my wheels up before I started my strafing runs.” But it was not all one-sided for the fighter planes. The day before, enemy small arms and machine gun fire had shot down four of them. By evening of 11 August, North Korean patrols reportedly were operating three miles south of Pohang-dong. Eighth Army during the day ordered the ROK forces in the east to fall back to new positions during the nights of 12 and 13 August.18
[n18-17 Interv, author with Captain Darrigo, 5 Aug 53; Darrigo, Korean Experiences, 1950, MS, copy in OCMH; New York Times, August 13, 1950, dispatch by W. H. Lawrence 12 August from Yonil Airfield; Newsweek, August 21, 1950, pp. 16-18, article by Harold Lavine in Korea. ]
[n18-18 EUSAK WD, Summ, 11 Aug 50; GHQ FEC Opn Rpt 49, 12 Aug 50; New York Times, August 11, 1950, Lawrence dispatch.]
The main enemy force encountered by Task Force Pohang on 11 August seems to have been advance elements of the 12th Division. This division had now crossed the mountains from Andong and was debouching at Kigye into the valley west of Pohang-dong. There, in a series of battles, fought by the North Koreans almost entirely with automatic weapons and small arms, the 12th Division drove back the ROK Capital Division and Task Force Pohang. In this series of action the 12th lost about 800 casualties, according to prisoner reports.[n18-19]
That night, 11 August, the fighter planes at Yonil flew to another airfield for security, but returned the next day. From hills to the south and southwest of the airstrip enemy troops delivered long-range, ineffective fire against it. Even though this fire did no damage, it created a state of alarm. The next day, 12 August, 28-year-old Colonel Kim Hi Chun, acting on General Walker’s orders, in a successful attack eastward from Angang-ni, led his ROK 17th Regiment into Yonil, greatly to the relief of everyone there.
Enemy forces first entered Pohangdong on 10 or 11 August. ROK sources reported on the 11th that an estimated 300 enemy soldiers from the 766th Independent Regiment and the 5th Division had entered the town and seized the railroad station. But they did not remain there more than a few hours. Naval gunfire and aerial strikes drove them out to seek comparative safety in the nearby hills. The town of Pohang-dong now became a no man’s land. Patrols from ROK and North Korean units entered the town at night but neither side held it. The battle swirled around it on the adjacent hills.[n18-20]
[n18-19 ATIS Interrog Rpt 722, Issue 2, p. 51, Junior Lieutenant Tu Chul Ki; ATIS Interrog Rpt 734, Issue 2, p. 80, Capt Kim Tong Il, Trans Co, 2nd Regt, 12th Div.]
[n18-20 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 106 (N.K. Arty), p. 46; EUSAK WD, 30 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 867;Ibid., POR 90, 11 Aug 50.]
The Air Force Abandons Yonil Airfield
Some United States ground and air service troops had been at Yonil Airfield before the 40th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (35th Group) moved there on 16 July from Ashiya, Japan. On 7 August, the 39th Squadron moved to the field, and the next day the 6131st Fighter Wing was formed at the Pohang base. But, even as these expanding air activities at Yonil were taking place, another and opposite current of events began. On 8 August, aviation engineers there received orders to evacuate their heavy equipment. In the next few days, as the North Koreans occupied the hills around Pohang-dong and west and southwest of Yonil Airfield, FEAF officials became alarmed for the safety of their aircraft. They feared that enemy troops would be able to bring up mortars and artillery to bombard the strip, and that enemy infantry might overrun it.
Even though U.S. infantry units and tanks were at Yonil on 13 August, FEAF on that day decided to abandon the field. The order came about noon. Not a single crater dented the runway as the F-51’s took to the air to fly away. It appears that Colonel Witty, commanding the Air Force units at Yonil, recommended the evacuation of the field and was supported by General Partridge, commander of the Fifth Air Force. Army officials had no part in the decision to abandon the Yonil field. Army units remained at the field and it never was brought under effective enemy fire.[n18-22]
The first news of the Fifth Air Force evacuation of Yonil Airfield came to General MacArthur’s headquarters about 1600 that afternoon, 13 August, in the form of a United Press report, filed at 1320. This news report stated that an “Air Force spokesman announced that the Air Force was evacuating Pohang air strip” because North Koreans were placing machine gun and mortar fire on the strip. A telephone call to Eighth Army headquarters at once disclosed that there was no mortar fire on the airstrip and that the report of enemy fire on the field was greatly exaggerated. It did, however, confirm that the Fifth Air Force Advance Headquarters had ordered the planes to leave the field.
General MacArthur and General Almond, his Chief of Staff, were “much upset” by the evacuation of Yonil Airfield. MacArthur instructed one of his staff officers to inform FEAF that he intended to hold the airfield and did not want the planes to return to Japan. Nevertheless, the two squadrons of F-51’s (forty-five aircraft) moved from Yonil to Tsuiki Air Base on Kyushu.23
[n18-22 Ibid.; Ltr, McMains to author, 27 May 53; New York Times, August 14, 1950, dispatch by W. H. Lawrence.]
[n18-23 Transcript of telephone conversation between General Roderick R. Allen, Deputy CofS ROK Army, and Collier, at 1600, 13 Aug 50, CofS files, FEC; Fonecon, Allen and Lieutenant General Lawrence C. Craigie, Vice Comdr, FEAF, at 1930, 13 Aug 50, CofS files, FEC; Memo, Capt Webster W. Plourd. ROK Air Liaison Secy to Allen, 131645 Aug 50, CofS files, FEC. ]
The heavy equipment at Yonil was taken to the beach and loaded on LST’s. The bomb supply followed, and finally Fifth Air Force personnel at the base embarked on LST’s and left the next day, 14 August. A considerable supply of aviation gasoline and petroleum products remained at Yonil. Occasionally after 13 August a crippled fighter plane came down at Yonil in an emergency landing, and many fighters refueled there as long as the fuel lasted.
[n18-24 USAF Hist Study 71, p. 20; Ltr, McMains to author, 27 May 53. Colonel McMains stayed at Yonil with the 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry, until 14 September 1950, when the ROK 3rd Division assumed responsibility for defense of the airstrip.]
The ROK 3rd Division Evacuated by Sea
While the battles for Pohang-dong and the entrance to the Kyongju corridor were being fought behind it, the ROK 3rd Division-cut off by the N.K. 5th Division above Pohang-dong since 10 August—was fighting to save itself from destruction. Well aware that it had isolated the ROK division, the N.K. 5th Division now strove to destroy it. Constant enemy attacks compelled the ROK division to reduce the extent of its perimeter. The division command post moved four miles farther south from Changsa-dong to the water’s edge at Toksong-ni, where KMAG advisers thought LST’s could land. The principal fire support for the shrinking ROK perimeter came from the cruiser USS Helena and three destroyers offshore, and from the Fifth Air Force. A tactical air control party and artillery observers directed air strikes and naval gunfire at critical points on the perimeter. Two helicopters from the Helena brought medical supplies for the Korean wounded.2
On 13 August the ROK’s carried 313 of their wounded on board a supply LST at Changsa-dong. Later in the day at Toksong-ni, this LST struck rocks and opened a hole in its hull. All the wounded had to be transferred to another LST over a walkway in a heavy running sea. Dukw’s (amphibious trucks) took 86 of the more critically wounded ROK’s to a Korean hospital ship which arrived and anchored 500 yards offshore. The LST then sailed for Pusan.
The steadily deteriorating situation in the vicinity of Pohang-dong caused Eighth Army on 15 August to order the ROK 3rd Division evacuated by sea. The division was to land at Kuryongp’o-ri, twenty air miles southward on the cape at the south side of Yongil Bay. It was then to relieve elements of the Capital Division in the line below Pohangdong and join in a planned co-ordinated attack northward.
[n18-26Ibid.; EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 15 Aug 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 53, 16 Aug 50; Interv, author with Emmerich, 5 Dec 51.]
Evacuation of the ROK 3rd Division by LST began the night of 16 August at Toksong-ni. The division completed loading the next morning, including 125 wounded in the perimeter, and the last LST pulled away from the beach at 0700. The division at this time consisted of the 22nd and 23rd Regiments and 1,200 attached National Police. More than 9,000 men of the division, the 1,200 National Police, and 1,000 laborers, together with all their weapons, ammunition and equipment, escaped to the waiting vessels under cover of darkness and naval gunfire. After daylight of the 17th the Fifth Air Force helped maintain a curtain of fire around the beach. The Helena and several destroyers escorted the evacuation LST’s to Kuryongp’o-ri where they arrived at 1030. The division unloaded at once, and received orders to move the next day into battle positions south of Pohang-dong.[n18-27]
The North Koreans Turned Back From the Kyongju Corridor While it seems clear that enemy patrols and miscellaneous groups of soldiers had entered Pohang-dong as early as 10-11 August, it was not until the 13th that the North Korean communiqué claimed its complete liberation. Large elements of the N.K.12thDivision, advancing from the direction of Kigye, entered the town on that day. But, like others before them, they did not remain long. An officer of the enemy division, when captured later, said the 1st Regiment withdrew from Pohang-dong after three hours because of an intense naval bombardment and severe air strikes. The 12th Division then took up positions on the hills west and southwest of the town. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 2nd Regiment occupied the hills six miles southwest of Pohang-dong and threatened the Yonil Airfield. Elements of the N.K. 5th Division meanwhile had reached the hills just north of Pohangdong.[n18-28]
[n18-27 Paglieri, Notes on ROK 3rd Div, Aug 50; Austin and Paglieri, It Can Be Done, pp. 9-10; EUSAK WD G-3 Sec, 16-17 Aug 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 54, 17 Aug 50; New York Herald Tribune, August 17, 1950.]
[n18-28 EUSAK WD, 21 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 721, Lieutenant Pak Kwang Hon; Ibid., 22 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 734, Captain Kim Tong Il (2nd Regt, 12th Div), and related interrog of Kim in ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, Rpt 734, p. 80, Rpt 723, p. 55, Sergeant Im Chang Nam; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 12th Div), p. 46; New York Times, August 14, 1950.]
By 14 August the Capital Division, on Eighth Army order, had moved about twenty-five miles, from near Andong to the An’gang-ni-Kigye area, where it went into the line east of the ROK 8th Division. The ROK I Corps now established its headquarters at Yongchon . The fighting in the vicinity of Pohang-dong between North and South Koreans became a dog-eat-dog affair. Both sides lost heavily. The ROK’s renewed their attack on 13 August when the 17th Regiment, reverting to control of the Capital Division, drove forward, supported by U.S. artillery and tanks from Task Force Bradley, to the hills north of Pohang-dong.
Task Force Pohang attacked northward from Angang-ni toward Kigye. In the fighting from 15 to 17 August, the Capital Division and Task Force Pohang pushed the North Koreans back north of the Taegu-Pohang lateral road and away from the Kyongju corridor in the neighborhood of An’gang-ni. About daylight, 17 August, the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Regiment, 2nd Division, arrived at Kyongju to buttress the defense there.
[n18-29 Interv, author with Farrell, 31 Dec 52; EUSAK WD, 13 Aug 50; Ibid., Summ, 1-31 Aug 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 50, 13 Aug 50.]
In the midst of this seesaw battle in the east—which also was the period of the successful enemy crossing of the Naktong River into the zone of the U.S. 24th Division at the bulge—Premier Kim Il Sung of North Korean broadcast from Pyongyang an order calling on his army to drive the United States and ROK forces from Korea by the end of the month. He correctly predicted that the longer they remained the stronger they would become. He exhorted his Communist troops to “destroy the South Korean and United States [troops] to the last man.”
The fortunes of war in the east at last seemed to be veering in favor of the South Koreans. By nightfall of 17 August, ROK attacks in the vicinity of An’gang-ni threatened to surround the 766th Independent Regiment, and it withdrew to the mountains north of Kigye. Battling constantly with ROK troops and suffering severely from naval gunfire and aerial strikes, the N.K. 12th Division that night began to withdraw from the hills around Pohang-dong. At 2000, 17 August, the 12th Division ordered all its units to withdraw through Kigye northward to the Topyong-dong area. The division suffered heavy casualties in this withdrawal. The next day it ordered all its units to assemble on Pihak-san on 19 August for reorganization.[n18-31]
[n18-31 Captain Kim Tong Il (see n. 28); ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 12th Div), pp. 46-27; 23rd Inf WD, 17 Aug 50.]
On Pihak-san, a 2,400-foot rugged peak six miles due north of Kigye, the 12thDivision reorganized. In this reorganization, the 766th Independent Regiment lost its identity, its troops being distributed among the three regiments of the 12th Division. After incorporating 2,000 replacements and the approximately 1,500 men of the 766th Independent Regiment, the division reportedly totaled about 5,000 men. This figure shows the severe casualties suffered thus far in the war by this division, originally composed mostly of CCF veterans. Though morale was low there was little desertion.[n18-32]
In these battles attending the withdrawal of the North Koreans from the vicinity of Pohang-dong, the ROK Capital Division by 19 August had advanced to a point two miles north of Kigye, the 3rd Division entered Pohangdong, and Task Force Min reached a point a mile and a half north of the town. The next day the 3rd Division relieved Task Force Min and attacked to selected positions five and a half miles north of Pohang-dong. The Capital Division also made additional gains north of Kigye. That day, 20 August, Eighth Army by radio order dissolved Task Force Bradley and re-designated the force at Yonil Airfield the 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry, Reinforced. This same day, with the emergency in the east temporarily ended, Task Force Pohang was dissolved, and Task Force Min moved west to a position between the ROK 1st and 6th Divisions.[n18-33]
[n18-32 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 12th Div), pp. 46-47; EUSAK WD, 30 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 869, Lee Son Chol; Ibid., 734, Kim Tong Il; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, p. 11, Rpt 704, Junior Lieutenant Kim Dok Yong, 2nd Regt, 12th Div, Rpt 722, p. 51, Junior Lieutenant Tu Chul Ko, 1st Regt, 12th Div, and Rpt 724, p. 58, Lieutenant Chang Chin Sop, 1st Regt, 12th Div.]
[n18-33 EUSAK WD, 20 Aug 50; Ibid., Aug 50 Summ, 19-20 Aug; Ibid., G-3 Sec, entry 9, 20 Aug 50; Ibid., G-3 Jnl, 20 Aug 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 58. 21 Aug 50.]
A ROK Army dispatch on 20 August claimed that its forces in the Pohang area from 17 August on had killed 3,800 and captured 181 North Koreans. It also claimed the capture of 20 artillery pieces, 11 light mortars, 21 82-mm. mortars, 160 machine guns, 557 U.S. M1 rifles and 381 Japanese rifles.
Since about the end of July, the greater part of the N.K.12thDivision had been armed with the U.S. M1 rifle and the U.S. carbine. There was an adequate supply of ammunition for these weapons, but not always available at the front. The Japanese 99 rifles and ammunition with which the division was originally armed were turned in to the division supply dump at the end of July, when the supply of American arms captured from ROK units enabled the division to substitute them.
Not the least important of the factors that brought about the defeat of the North Koreans at Pohang-dong and in the Kigye area in mid-August was the near exhaustion of the 12th Division after its passage through the mountains south of Andong, and its lack of artillery and food supply. One captured officer of the division said his unit received no food after 12 August, and for five days thereafter up to the time of his capture had only eaten what the men could forage at night in the villages. His men, he said, became physically so exhausted that they were no longer combat effective. A captured sergeant of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, said that of 630 men in his battalion only 20 survived on 18 August. In the 2nd Regiment, according to a captured captain, no battalion averaged more than 250 men on 17 August. He said there was no resupply of ammunition from the rear.[n18-35]
When the N.K. 12th Division reached Pohang-dong it was like a rubber band stretched to its uttermost limit. It must either break or rebound. The North Korean system of logistics simply could not supply these troops in the Kigye-Pohang-dong area.
[n18-35 EUSAK WD, 22 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 721, Lieutenant Pak Kwang Hon, Rpt 722, Junior Lieutenant Tu Chul Ki, Rpt 723, Im Chang Nam, Rpt 727, p. 64, Senior Sergeant Choe Chol Hak, and Rpt 734, Kim Tong Il; ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 2, p. 51, Junior Lieutenant Tu Chul Ki. A survey of 825 North Korean prisoners revealed that they listed shortage of food as most important of all factors causing low morale. See USAF Hist Study 71, p. 52.]
SOURCE: South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu; BY: Colonel Roy E. Appleman (United States Army Center of Military History)