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.”

Agrigento

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

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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.]

 Retreat

 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)

 

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.

Conclusions

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

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

Yongdok and the East Coastal Corridor: While the battles of the Kum River and Taejon were being fought on the main axis south from Seoul, many miles eastward, the enemy 5th Division pressed forward against Yongdok, a key point where a lateral road came in from the mountains to meet the coastal road. The ROK 3rd Division had orders to hold Yongdok. It was certain that heavy battles would be fought there.  

On 13 July Colonel Emmerich and the KMAG detachment with the ROK 3rd Division forwarded to Eighth Army a demolition plan for use on the coastal road and bridges. Major Clyde Britton, one of the KMAG officers, was to be responsible for giving authority to blow any of the bridges. The long bridge at Yongdok was recognized as the most important feature on the coastal road, and it was to be held intact unless enemy armor was actually crossing it.  

At this time interrogation of an enemy prisoner disclosed that the North Koreans had a plan to blow a bridge near An’gang-ni, on the lateral corridor from Taegu to Pohang-dong and to blow both ends of the Ch’ongdo railroad tunnel between Pusan and Taegu. Destruction of the tunnel would constitute a serious blow to the logistical support for the front-line troops. Two American officers with two platoons of ROK troops went to the tunnel to protect it.  

On 14 July, Brigadier General Lee Chu Sik, Commanding General, ROK 3rd Division, indicated that he wanted to move the division command post to Pohangdong and to withdraw his troops south of Yongdok. Colonel Emmerich told him this could not be done—that the east coast road had to be held at all costs. General Walker had given a great deal of attention to the east coast situation because he knew it was isolated from the rest of the ROK command and needed close watching, and Colonel Allan D. MacLean of the Eighth Army G-3 staff was in constant communication with Colonel Emmerich.

Support of the ROK 3rd Division had stabilized to the extent that large fishing vessels moved from Pusan up and down the coast, supplying the ROK’s with ammunition and food, without being targets of the United States Navy. News that a railhead would be established at Pohang-dong and a daily supply train would arrive there from Pusan promised soon to relieve the situation still further. On land, each ROK commander had his own system of recruiting help and had large numbers of untrained combat troops and labor groups carrying supplies into the hills on A-frames. At this stage of the war, typical food of the ROK soldier was three rice balls a day—one for each meal—supplemented along the coast by fish. The rice was usually cooked behind the lines by Korean women, then scooped out with a large cup which served as a measuring device, pressed into a ball about the size of an American softball, and wrapped in a boiled cabbage leaf. Whether his rice was warm or cold or whether flies and other insects had been on it, seemed to have little effect on the ROK soldier. Apparently the Korean people had become immune to whatever disease germs, flies, and other insects carry. 

[N12-1 Col Rollins S. Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57; Interv, author with Darrigo (KMAG adviser to ROK 17th Regt, Jul-Aug 50), 5 Aug 53.] 

As the east coast battle shaped up, it became apparent that it would be of the utmost importance to have a fire direction center to co-ordinate the 81mm. mortars, the artillery, the fighter aircraft, and the naval gunfire. Such a center was set up in a schoolhouse south of Yongdok with Captain Harold Slater, the KMAG G-3 adviser to the 3rd Division, in charge of it and Captain John Airsman as artillery adviser. The ROK 3rd Division artillery at this time consisted of three batteries of four 75-mm. pack howitzers and one battery of 105mm. howitzers.  

On 14 July ROK troops withdrew in front of the advancing North Koreans and set off demolitions at two bridges, two tunnels, and two passes between Yonghae and Yongdok on the coastal road. United States naval vessels bombarded roadside cliffs next to the sea to produce landslides that would block the road and delay the North Koreans.  

Two days later the ROK 23rd Regiment gave way and streamed south. The KMAG advisers considered the situation grave. In response to an inquiry from Colonel Collier of Eighth Army, Colonel Emmerich sent the following message: Situation deplorable, things are popping,

trying to get something established across the front, 75% of the 23rd ROK Regiment is on the road moving south. Advisers threatening and shooting in the air trying to get them assembled, Commanding General forming a straggler line. If straggler line is successful we may be able to reorganize and re-establish the line. If this fails I am afraid that the whole thing will develop in complete disintegration. The Advisory Group needs food other than Korean or C rations and needs rest.

 On 17 July the North Koreans drove the disorganized regiment south of Yongdok. The loss of this town so quickly was a demoralizing blow, and Eighth Army became at once concerned about it. During the day the first United States artillery to support the ROK’s on the east coast, C Battery of the 159th Field Artillery Battalion, entered the fight. 

[N12-3 159th FA Bn WD (25th Div), 17 Jul 50. 4 Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57.]

 The enemy entry into Yongdok began three weeks of fighting for this key coastal town, with first one side and then the other holding it. Two or three miles of ground immediately south of it became a barren, churned up, fought-over no man’s land. The first ROK counterattack came immediately. On 18 July at 0545 an air strike came in on the enemy front lines. Heavy naval gunfire pounded the Yongdok area after the strike. At 0600 the United States light cruiser Juneau fired two star shells over the ROK line of departure. Newly arrived reinforcements took part in the attack as ROK troops advanced behind the screen of naval gunfire to close rifle range with the North Koreans. At the same time, other naval guns placed interdiction fire on the North Korean rear areas. These heavy support fires were largely responsible for a North Korean withdrawal to a point about three miles north of Yongdok for reorganization. 

But this success was short lived. Elements of the N.K. 5th Division regained the town the next day, driving the ROK’s back to their former positions south of it.

 On 20 July Colonel Emmerich went to Yonil Airfield to discuss with Colonel Robert Witty, commanding the 35th Fighter-Interceptor Group, the co-ordination of air strikes at Yongdok. These promised to become more numerous, because on that day the 40th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron became operational at Yonil. General Walker and General Partridge flew to Yonil Airfield from Taegu to join in the discussions, and General Kean of the 25th Division also joined the group there. Emmerich briefed the commanders thoroughly on the situation. General Walker ordered that the 3rd ROK Division must retake Yongdok. When Colonel Emmerich relayed Walker’s orders to General Lee of the ROK division the latter was upset, but he received instructions from higher ROK authority to obey the Eighth Army commander. 

The second battle for Yongdok began on the morning of 21 July. This was a savage and bloody fight at close quarters. Naval reinforcements had arrived off the coast during the night of 19 July, and Rear Admiral J. M. Higgins informed Emmerich that the destroyers Higbee, Mansfield, DeHaven, and Swenson, and the British cruiser Belfast would add their gunfire to the battle. This naval gunfire,

 U.S. artillery and mortar fire, and air strikes enabled the ROK’s to retake the town, only to be driven out again by nightfall. In this action unusually accurate enemy mortar and artillery fire caused very heavy ROK casualties. The second battle of Yongdok left the area from Kanggu-dong to a point about two miles north of Yongdok a smoldering no man’s land. The pounding of the artillery, naval gunfire, and air strikes had stripped the hills of all vegetation and reduced to rubble all small villages in the area.

 In the attack on the 21st, observers estimated that naval gunfire from the Juneau alone killed 400 North Korean soldiers. Even though enemy troops again held Yongdok they were unable to exploit their success immediately because they were held under pulverizing artillery and mortar fire, naval gunfire, and almost continuous daylight air strikes. In their efforts to execute wide enveloping moves around the flank of the ROK troops over mountainous terrain, barren of trees and other cover, they came under decimating fire. On 24 July alone the North Koreans lost 800 casualties to this gunfire, according to prisoners. One enemy battalion was virtually destroyed when naval gunfire from the east and air strikes from the west pocketed it and held it under exploding shells, bombs, and strafing fires.

 [N12-6 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 20-24 Jul 50; EUSAK POR 26, 21 Jul 50; GHQ FEC Sitrep, 21 Jul 50; 35th Inf Regt WD, Unit Rpt, 1st Bn, 22 Jul 50; 159th FA Bn WD, 23-24 Jul 50; Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57; Karig, et al., Battle Report: The War in Korea, p. 101.]

 The reconstituted ROK 22nd Regiment arrived from Taegu, and about 500 men of the ROK naval combat team and its engineer battalion were sent to buttress the east coast force. [N12-7] All the troops on the east coast were now reorganized into a new ROK 3rd Division.

 [N12-7 EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, 24 Jul 50; GHQ FEC G-3 Opn Rpt 30, 24 Jul 50 and 31, 25 Jul 50.]

 Beginning on 9 July a succession of American units had performed security missions at Yonil Airfield below Pohang-dong; first the 3rd battalion of the 19th Infantry, then the 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry, next the 1st Battalion of the 35th Infantry, and that in turn gave way to the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Thus, in the course of two weeks, battalion-size units of all three United States divisions then in Korea had constituted a security force in the Pohang-dong area behind the ROK 23rd Regiment.

 Lieutenant Colonel Peter D. Clainos’ 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, had orders to support the ROK troops with fire only. But on 23 July, North Koreans surrounded the 81-mm. mortar platoon of D Company, forcing it to fight at close range. That same day, C Company on Round Top (Hill 181), at the southern outskirts of Yongdok, watched in silence as North Korean and ROK troops fought a seesaw battle in its vicinity. That night North Koreans surrounded the hill and C Company troops spent a sleepless night. The next day when the ROK’s regained temporary possession of Yongdok the 21st Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division replaced Colonel Clainos’ battalion in the blocking mission behind the ROK’s at Yongdok.

 [N12-8 EUSAK WD, G-3 Sec, 16-22 Jul 50; Ibid., Summ, 13-31 Jul 50; Clainos, Notes for author, May 1954; 24th Div WD, G-2 Jnl, entry 1533, 230935 Jul 50.]

 Despite the savage pounding it received from naval, artillery, and mortar fire and aerial bombardments, the N.K. 5th Division held on to the hills two miles south of Yongdok. The ROK’s adopted a plan of making counter and probing attacks during the day and withdrawing to prepared positions in an all-around perimeter for the night. The saturation support fires delivered by the United States Navy, Air Force, and Army day and night outside this perimeter caused many enemy casualties. Certain key pieces of terrain, such as Hill 181, often changed hands several times in one day. Unfortunately, many civilians were killed in this area as they tried to move through the lines and were caught by the supporting fires. Just south of Hill 181 and its surrounding rough ground, a small river, the Osipchon, descends the coastal range to the Sea of Japan. South of it, sheer mountain walls press the coastal road against the shoreline for ten miles in the direction of Pohang-dong, twenty-five miles away. If the ROK’s lost control of the Yongdok area, this bottleneck on the coastal road would be the scene of the next effort to stop the North Koreans.

 At this time the KMAG advisers had serious trouble with “Tiger” Kim, the commander of the ROK 23rd Regiment. He was extremely brutal in his disciplinary methods. In the presence of several advisers he had his personal bodyguard shoot a young 1st lieutenant of his regiment whose unit had been surrounded for several days. This incident took place on 26 July. The next day Kim used the butt of an M1 rifle on some of the enlisted men of this unit. The KMAG advisers remonstrated at this action, and in order to avoid possible personal trouble with Kim they asked for his removal. “Tiger” Kim was removed from command of the regiment and the commander of the 1st Separate Battalion, Colonel Kim, replaced him.

 [N12-9 Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57.]

 ROK troops regrouped for another desperate counterattack, to be supported by all available U.N. sea, air, and ground weapons, in an effort to hurl the North Koreans back to the north of Yongdok. At this time General Walker required hourly reports sent to his headquarters at Taegu. In action preliminary to the main attack, planned for the morning of 27 July, ROK troops during the night of the 26th captured seventeen machine guns, but took only eight prisoners. The preparatory barrages began at 0830. Then came the air strikes. The battle that then opened lasted until 2 August without letup. On that date at 1800 the ROK 3rd Division recaptured Yongdok and pursued the enemy north of the town. North Korean prisoners said that U.S. naval, artillery, and mortar fire and the air strikes gave them no rest, day or night. They said that in the two weeks’ battle for Yongdok the N.K. 5th Division had lost about 40 percent of its strength in casualties.

[N12-10 EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, 27 Jul 50 and 3 Aug 50; 159th FA Bn (25th Div) WD, 27 Jul 50; GHQ UNC G-3 Opn Rpts 36 and 37, 30-31 Jul, and 40, 3 Aug 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 96 (N.K. 5th Div), p. 42; Emmerich, MS review comments, 30 Nov 57.]

During the last half of July 1950, this holding battle on the east coast by the ROK 3rd Division was the only one that succeeded in all Korea. It was made possible by American air, sea, and ground fire power and the physical features of the east coast, which hampered North Korean freedom of movement and aided effective employment of American fire power.

 Of particular note among the battles during the last part of July in the central mountains was the duel between the N.K. 12th Division and the ROK 8th Division for control of Andong and the upper Naktong River crossing there. This series of battles was closely related to the fighting on the east coast and the North Korean efforts to gain control of Pohang-dong and the east coast corridor to Pusan.

 After crossing the upper Han River at Tanyang, the N.K. 12th Division advanced on the road through Yongju to Andong. The ROK 8th Division attacked the 12th on 21 July between the two towns. From then on to the end of the month these two divisions on the road to Andong engaged in one of the bloodiest fights of the first month of the war.

 Just when it was encountering this stubborn resistance from the ROK 8th Division, the 12th received orders from the N.K. II Corps to capture Pohangdong by 26 July. This order doubtless was occasioned by the failure of the 5th Division to advance as rapidly along the east coast as had been expected. Ever since the invasion began, the N.K. Army Command had criticized its N.K. II Corps for failure to meet its schedule of advance. The Army reportedly demoted the II Corps commander, Major General Kim Kwang Hyop, to corps chief of staff, about 10 July, replacing him with Lieutenant General Kim Mu Chong. The order given to the 12th Division was almost impossible to carry out. The distance from Yongju to Pohang-dong was about seventy-five air miles, and the greater part of the route, that beyond Andong, lay across high mountain ranges traversed only by foot and oxcart trails. Just to march across these mountains by 26 July would have been no mean feat.

[N12-11 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 12th Div), p. 45; G-2 PW Interrog file, interrog of Col Lee Hak Ku; FEC, telecon TT3559, 21 Jul 50.]

 In an effort to meet the deadline given it for the capture of Pohang-dong, the N.K. 12th Division resumed daylight marches. U.N. aerial attacks struck it daily. The ROK 8th Division at the same time fought it almost to a halt But, despite these difficulties the enemy division pressed slowly on toward Andong. At the end of the month it was engaged in a hard battle with the ROK 8th Division for the control of that key town and the upper Naktong River crossing site.

 The battle for Andong lasted five days. The river town finally fell on 1 August. The N.K. Army communiqué for 3 August, broadcast by the Pyongyang radio and monitored in Tokyo, claimed the capture of Andong on 1 August with 1,500 enemy killed and 1,200 captured. It alleged that captured equipment included 6 105-mm. howitzers, 13 automatic guns, 900 rifles, and a large number of vehicles.

 The ROK 8th Division, and some elements of the Capital Division which had joined it, lost very heavily in these battles. Enemy losses also were heavy. Prisoners reported that air attacks had killed an estimated 600 North Korean soldiers; that the 31st Regiment alone lost 600 men in the Andong battles; that the 2nd Battalion of the division artillery had expended all its ammunition and, rather than be burdened with useless weapons and run the risk of their capture or destruction, it had sent them back to Tanyang; that of the original 30 T34 tanks only 19 remained; and, also, that a shell fragment had killed their division commander. This enemy crack division, made up of veterans of the Chinese wars, was so exhausted by the Andong battle that it had no recourse but to rest where it was for several days in early August.

[N12-1313 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 99 (N.K. 12th Div), pp. 45-46; GHQ UNC G-3 Opn Rpt 37. 31 Jul 50; FEC telecon to DA TT3597, 30 Jul 50; TT3600, 31 Jul 50; TT3605, 1 Aug 50.]

Reorganization of the ROK Army  

To a considerable extent the reorganization of the ROK Army influenced the disposition of ROK troops and the U.S. 25th Division along the front. Throughout the first part of July there had been a continuing effort by American commanders to assemble the surviving men and units of the ROK Army that had escaped south of the Han River and to reorganize them for combat operations. Generals Church, Dean, and Walker each took an active interest in this necessary objective. As a part of this reorganization, the ROK Army activated its I Corps and with it directed ROK operations on the right flank of the U.S. 24th Division in the first part of July. The 1st, 2nd, and Capital Divisions had carried the fight for the ROK I Corps in the central mountains east of the Seoul-Taejon highway. By the time Taejon fell, these ROK divisions were each reduced to a strength of between 3,000 and 3,500 men. The ROK I Corps at that time had only one 3-gun and two 4-gun batteries of artillery. The three divisions reportedly each had ten 81mm. mortars without sights.  

[N12-14 24th Div WD, G-3 Jnl, 16-20 Jul 50, entry 148, Rpt of Opns with I Corps, ROK Army.]

 On 14 July the ROK Army activated its II Corps with headquarters at Hamchang. It was composed of the 6th and 8th Divisions and the 23rd Regiment. This corps controlled ROK operations in the eastern mountains and, to the extent that it could, it tried to control the 23rd Regiment on the east coast. But this latter effort never amounted to very much.

 Finally, on 24 July, the ROK Army reorganized itself with two corps and five divisions. ROK I Corps controlled the 8th and Capital Divisions; ROK II Corps controlled the 1st and 6th Divisions. The 2nd Division was inactivated Meeting at the battalion command post, the commanders of the various units planned a renewed assault for 0500 the next morning. Artillery and mortars zeroed in as scheduled, and soon the town was in flames. By this time, however, Yechon may already have been abandoned by the enemy. At Hamchang, Colonel Henry G. Fisher, commanding the 35th Infantry, received early that morning an erroneous message that the North Koreans had driven the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry from Yechon. He started for the place at once.

 He found the battalion commander about five miles west of the town, but was dissatisfied with the information that he received from him. Fisher and a small party then drove on into Yechon, which was ablaze with fires started by American artillery shells. He encountered no enemy or civilians. The 3rd Platoon, 77th Engineer Combat Company, attached to Company K, entered the town with the infantrymen and attempted to halt the spread of flames —unsuccessfully, because of high, shifting winds. By 1300 Yechon was secured, and 3rd Battalion turned over control to the ROK 18th Regiment of the Capital Division the task of holding the town. The Capital Division now concentrated there the bulk of its forces and opposed the N.K. 8th Division in that vicinity the remainder of the month.

 [N12-19 Fisher, MS review comments, 27 Oct 57; 35th Inf WD and 24th Inf WD, 20-21 Jul 50.]

 General Kean and his 25th Division had to guard two main approaches to Sangju if he was to secure the town. First was the main road that crossed the Mungyong plateau and passed through Hamchang at the base of the plateau about fifteen miles due north of Sangju. Next, there was the secondary mountain road that crossed the plateau farther west and, once through the mountains, turned east toward Sangju.

 On the first and main road, the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, held a blocking position northwest of Hamchang, supported by a platoon of tanks from A Company, 79th Tank Battalion, and A Battery, 90th Field Artillery Battalion. Colonel Fisher was unable to concentrate his two-battalion regiment here for the defense of Sangju because the 1st Battalion had no sooner arrived on 25 July from Pohang-dong than it was sent posthaste the next day to reinforce the 27th Infantry Regiment on the next north-south line of communications westward.

 Thus, in effect, one battalion of U.S. troops stood behind ROK units on the Hamchang approach. On the second road, that leading into Sangju from the west, the 24th Infantry Regiment assembled two, and later all three, of its battalions. The 2nd Battalion of the 35th Infantry took up a hill position northwest of Hamchang and south of Mungyong on the south side of a stream that flowed past Sangju to the Naktong. On the north side of the stream a ROK battalion held the front line. Brigadier General Vennard Wilson, Assistant Division Commander, insisted that F Company of the battalion should be inserted in the center of the ROK line north of the stream, and this was done over the strong protests of Colonel Fisher and the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel John L. Wilkins. Wilson thought the American troops would strengthen the ROK defense; Fisher and Wilkins did not want the untried company to be dependent upon ROK stability in its first engagement. Behind the ROK and F Company positions the ground rose in another hill within small arms range. Heavy rains had swollen the stream behind the ROK’s and F Company to a torrent that was rolling large boulders along its channel.

 On 22 July the North Koreans attacked. The ROK’s withdrew from their positions on either side of F Company without informing that company of their intentions. Soon enemy troops were firing into the back of F Company from the hill behind it. This precipitated an unorganized withdrawal. The swollen stream prevented F Company from crossing to the south side and the sanctuary of the 2nd Battalion positions. Walking wounded crowded along the stream where an effort to get them across failed.

 Two officers and a noncommissioned officer tied a pair of twisted telephone wires about their bodies and tried to swim to the opposite bank and fasten a line, but each in turn was swept downstream where they floundered ashore a hundred yards away on the same bank from which they had started. Some men drowned in trying to cross the swollen river. The covering fire of a platoon of tanks on the south side held off the enemy and allowed most of the survivors eventually to escape. In this fiasco, F Company lost 6 men killed, 10 wounded, and 21 missing.

 [N12-20 35th Inf Regt WD, 22 Jul 50; Fisher, MS review comments, 27 Oct 57.]

 The next morning five enemy tanks crossed the river and moved toward Hamchang. Artillery fire from a battery of the 90th Field Artillery Battalion knocked out four of the tanks. The fifth turned back across the river, and there an air strike later destroyed it.

 The 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, was still in its position when it received orders on 23 July to withdraw to a point 5 miles north of Sangju. On the 29th the battalion fell back 2 miles more, and the next day it moved to a position south of Sangju. On the last day of July the 35th Infantry was ordered to a blocking position on a line of hills 8 miles south of Sangju on the Kumchon road. In eleven days it had fallen back about thirty miles on the Sangju front. In these movements it did little fighting, but executed a series of withdrawals on division orders as the front around it collapsed.

[N12-21 35th Inf Regt WD, 23-31 Jul 50; 25th Div POR 28, 23 Jul 50; 25th Div WD, Narr Rpt, 8-31 Jul 50; 35th Inf Opn Instr, 25 Jul 50; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 104 (N.K. 13th Div), p. 60]

 The ROK 6th Division continued its hard-fought action on the road through the mountains from Mungyong, but gradually it fell back from in front of the N.K. 1st Division. In the mountains above Hamchang the ROK 6th Division on 24 July destroyed 7 enemy T34 tanks. Three days later the ROK 1st Division, now relieved northwest of Sangju by the U.S. 24th Infantry and redeployed on the Hamchang front, reportedly destroyed 4 more tanks there with 2.36inch bazookas and captured 1 tank intact. The decimated remnants of the ROK 2nd Division, relieved by the 27th Infantry Regiment on the Hwanggan-Poun road, were incorporated into the ROK 1st Division. Thus, by 24 July the U.S. 25th Division had taken over from the ROK 1st and 2nd Divisions the sector from Sangju westward to the Seoul-Taegu highway, and these ROK troops were moving into the line eastward and northward from Sangju on the Hamchang front.

 [N12-22 FEC telecons with DA, TT3566, 23 Jul 50; TT3567, 24 Jul 50; TT3577, 25 Jul 50; TT3579, 26 Jul 50; ATIS Supp, Enemy Docs, Issue 1, pp. 4248, Battle Rpts 23 Jun-3 Aug 50, by NA unit, Ok Chae Min and Kim Myung Kap; 34th Div WD, G-2 Sec, entry 1616, 271900 Jul 50.]

 By 27 July all the Mungyong divide was in North Korean possession and enemy units were moving into the valley of the upper Naktong in the vicinity of Hamchang. Prisoners taken at the time and others captured later said that the N.K. 1st Division lost 5,000 casualties in the struggle for control of the divide, including the division commander who was wounded and replaced. The 13th Division, following the 1st, suffered about 500 casualties below Mungyong, but otherwise it was not engaged during this period.

[N12-23 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K. 1st Div), pp. 32-33; Ibid., Issue 104 (N.K. 13th Div), p. 60.]

Simultaneously with his appearance on the Hamchang road at the southern base of the Mungyong plateau north of Sangju, the enemy approached on the secondary mountain road to the west. On 22 July, the same day that F Company of the 35th Infantry came to grief north of Hamchang, elements of the 24th Infantry Regiment had a similar unhappy experience west of Sangju. On that day the 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry, and elements of the ROK 17th Regiment were advancing into the mountains twenty miles northwest of the town. With E Company leading, the battalion moved along the dirt road into a gorge with precipitous mountain walls. Suddenly, an enemy light mortar and one or two automatic weapons fired on E Company.

 It stopped and the men dispersed along the sides of the road. ROK officers advised that the men deploy in an enveloping movement to the right and to the left, but the company commander apparently did not understand. Soon enemy rifle fire came in on the dispersed men and E and F Companies began withdrawing in a disorderly manner.

 Colonel Horton V. White, the regimental commander, heard of the difficulty and drove hurriedly to the scene. He found the battalion coming back down the road in disorder and most of the men in a state of panic. He finally got the men under control. The next day the ROK 17th Regiment enveloped the enemy position that had caused the trouble and captured two light machine guns, one mortar, and about thirty enemy who appeared to be guerrillas. [N12-24] The ROK 17th Regiment fought in the hills for the next two days, making some limited gains, and then it moved back to Sangju in the ROK Army reorganization in progress. This left only the U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment guarding the west approach to Sangju from the Mungyong plateau.

 [N12-24 24th Inf Regt WD, 22 Jul 50; 25th Div WD, Incl 3, 22 Jul 50; EUSAK. IG Rept on 24th Inf Regt, 1950, testimony of bn and regtl off, 2nd Bn and 24th Inf Regt. ]

 The tendency to panic continued in nearly all the 24th Infantry operations west of Sangju. Men left their positions and straggled to the rear. They abandoned weapons on positions. On one occasion the 3rd Battalion withdrew from a hill and left behind 12 .30-caliber and 3 .50-caliber machine guns, 8 60-mm. mortars, 3 81-mm. mortars, 4 3.5-inch rocket launchers, and 102 rifles. On another occasion, L Company took into position 4 officers and 105 enlisted men; a few days later, when the company was relieved in its position, there were only 17 men in the foxholes. The number of casualties and men evacuated for other reasons in the interval had been 1 officer and 17 enlisted men, leaving 3 officers and 88 enlisted men unaccounted for. As the relieved unit of 17 men moved down off the mountain it swelled in numbers to 1 officer and 35 enlisted men by the time it reached the bottom.

 By 26 July the 24th Infantry had all three of its battalions concentrated in battle positions astride the road ten miles west of Sangju. Elements of the N.K. 15th Division advancing on this road had cleared the mountain passes and were closing with the regiment. From 26 July on to the end of the month the enemy had almost constant contact with the 24th Infantry, which was supported by the 159th and 64th Field Artillery Battalions and one battery of the 90th Field Artillery Battalion.

 The general pattern of 24th Infantry action during the last days of July was to try to hold positions during the day and then withdraw at night. On the evening of 29 July the 1st Battalion got out of hand. During the day the battalion had suffered about sixty casualties from enemy mortar fire. As the men were preparing their perimeter defense for the night, an inexplicable panic seized them and the battalion left its positions. Colonel White found himself, the 77th Combat Engineer Company, and a battery of the 159th Field Artillery Battalion all that was left in the front line. He had to reorganize the battalion himself. That night the supporting artillery fired 3,000 rounds, part of it direct fire, in holding back the North Koreans.

 In these last days west of Sangju, Major John R. Woolridge, the regimental S-1, set up a check point half a mile west of the town and stopped every vehicle coming from the west, taking off stragglers. He averaged about seventy-five stragglers a day and, on the last day, he collected 150.27

[N12-27 EUSAK IG Rpt, 24th Inf Regt, 1950; 24th Inf WD, 29 Jul 50; 159th FA Bn WD, 29-30 Jul 50.]

 By 30 July, the 24th Infantry had withdrawn to the last defensible high ground west of Sangju, three miles from the town. The regiment had deteriorated so badly by this time that General Kean recalled the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, and placed it in blocking positions behind the 24th Infantry. The next day North Koreans again pressed against the regiment and forced in the outpost line of resistance. In this action, 1st Lieutenant Leon A. Gilbert, commanding A Company, quit the outpost line with about fifteen men. Colonel White and other ranking officers ordered Lieutenant Gilbert back into position, but he refused to go, saying that he was scared. The senior noncommissioned officer returned with the men to their positions.

[N12-28 24th Inf WD, 30-31 Jul 50; EUSAK WD, G-3 Jnl, Msg 301355 Jul 50; JAG CM-343472, U.S. vs. 1st Lieutenant Leon A. Gilbert, O-1304518, (includes all legal action taken in the case up to commutation of sentence on 27 Nov 50); Washington Post, September 20, 1952.]

 Finally, during the night of 31 July the 24th Infantry Regiment withdrew through Sangju. The 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, covered the withdrawal. In eleven days of action in the Sangju area the regiment had suffered 323 battle casualties—27 killed, 293 wounded, 3 missing.

 In reaching the upper Naktong valley at the end of July, the enemy divisions engaged in this part of the North Korean drive southward had not gone unharmed. The N.K. 1st Division in battling across the Mungyong plateau against the ROK 6th Division not only suffered great losses in the ground battle but also took serious losses from U.N. aerial attack. Prisoners reported that by the time it reached Hamchang at the end of July it was down to 3,000 men. The N.K.15thDivision, according to prisoners, also lost heavily to artillery and mortar fire in its drive on Sangju against ROK troops and the U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment, and was down to about half strength, or approximately 5,000 men, at the end of July. In contrast, the N.K. 13thDivision had bypassed Hamchang on the west and, save for minor skirmishes with ROK troops and the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, it had not been engaged and consequently had suffered relatively few casualties.

[N12-30 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 3 (N.K. 1st Div), pp. 32-33; Ibid., Issue 104 (N.K. 13th Div), p. 61; and p. 42 (N.K.15th Div); Ibid., Issue 4 (105th Armored Div), p. 38; EUSAK WD, G-2 Sec, 2 Aug 50, ATIS Interrog Rpt 339.]

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

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

Korean War: Withdrawal From Taejon (11B)

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

The Decisions Sixth Army and OB SUED: At Sixth Army headquarters in Enna, it was clear by the morning of 12 July that the period of counterattacks against the various Allied beachheads had ended. Until further decisions were made at higher levels in Rome and Berlin on whether or not to reinforce the island’s defenders, Sixth Army had no choice but to go over to the defensive.

 Lacking the manpower to erect a solid line around the Allied beachheads, General Guzzoni planned to shorten his front to a line across the northeastern corner of Sicily-from the east coast south of the Catania plain to Santo Stefano di Camastra on the north coast. He planned to withdraw slowly the forces in contact with the British and Americans to the eastern end of this line-from Catania to Nicosia-while the forces in the west moved to the sector of the line running between Nicosia and the north coast. Seeing this as a final defense line, Guzzoni planned to pull the units back first to intermediate defensive positions, along a line from Priolo on the east coast, through Melilli, Vizzini, Caltagirone, Canicatti, to Agrigento on the southwestern coast.

After temporarily delaying the Allied advance from the southeastern corner of the island, Guzzoni would fight a delaying action while falling back to the Catania-Santo Stefano line. But if this line was breached, Guzzoni intended to establish a third defensive line-a final battIe line that was to be held at all costs. Guzzoni did not immediately determine the location of this third line, except that he wanted it anchored on the east coast south of the Catania plain.

 Guzzoni realized that the success of this withdrawal maneuver depended on preventing an Allied breakthrough at the eastern hinge: Catania. This was the critical spot. This was the reasoning behind the order of 11 July that had directed the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division to disengage and move northeast, first to the new intermediate defensive line, then to the southern edge of the Catania plain. The Livorno Division was also to fall back to this new line, screening the area between the Hermann Gӧring Division on the east and the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division on the west. For the Italian division, this meant a withdrawal of fifteen miles, from Mazzarino (where contact with the German Group Ens was to be made) east to San Michele di Ganzeria ( on Highway 124 northwest of Caltagirone), where contact with the Hermann Gӧring Division was to be made. With part of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division even then nearing Mazzarino, Guzzoni hoped the Livorno Division would be strong enough to block any American penetration into the important network of roads near Enna. But his entire plan relied on transferring the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division quickly to the northeast.

 While Guzzoni was making his tactical arrangements, higher headquarters in Italy and Germany were following the campaign closely. In Germany OKW, after Pantelleria, had modified its views that the Allies were preparing a twin invasion of Sardinia and Greece. But as late as 9 July, OKW still considered that the Allies were preparing an invasion of Greece, with the first step being the occupation of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica.

OKW had considered that an Allied landing in Calabria might take place in conjunction with the landing in Sicily, but that a subsequent Allied landing on the Italian mainland was far less probable than the use of Sicily (or Sicily and Calabria) as a springboard for a jump to the Peloponnesus.

 On the basis of this appreciation, OKW on 9 July had directed Kesselring to move the German 29th Panzer Grenadier Division to the area north of Cosenza (ninety miles north-northeast of Reggio di Calabria); to shift the German 26th Panzer Division to an area east of Salerno; and to retain the German 16th Panzer Division near Bari, on the Adriatic Sea.

 Under the XIV Panzer Corps, the German units were to co-operate with the Italian Seventh Army in opposing an Allied landing in southern Italy. With one jaundiced eye directed at Mussolini’s unstable control of Italy, OKW retained the German 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division and LXXVI Corps headquarters north of Rome. On Hitler’s order, OKW alerted the German 1st Parachute Division, stationed near Avignon in southern France, for possible air movement to Sicily.

 The first reports of the fighting in Sicily did not give Hitler or the OKW a clear picture of the situation. Kesselring reported during the evening of 10 July that he had issued orders to General von Senger directing the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division to destroy the American forces advancing toward Caltagirone and Group Schmalz to counterattack immediately and recapture Syracuse.

 With a better grasp of the situation on II July, Hitler decided to reinforce the German units in Sicily. Specifically, Kesselring was to transport the 1st Parachute Division by air to Sicily; transfer the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division to that island; and, upon commitment of the latter division, shift the headquarters of the XIV Panzer Corps to Sicily in order to give unified direction to all the German units there.

 Kesselring, too, by 11 July, had a much better appreciation of the strength which the Americans and British had landed on the loth, and he also realized that his plan to throw the invading Allied forces back into the sea had failed. He believed that he had an accurate view of the developments on the island from reports furnished him by the German Second Air Force. He attributed the failure of the Axis counterattacks chiefly to what he considered was Guzzoni’s delay in ordering the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division back to the central part of the island and to General Conrath’s slowness in counterattacking at Gela early on the morning of 10 July. Kesselring flew to Sicily on 12 July to see the situation at firsthand. At Sixth Army headquarters, Guzzoni and Senger were pessimistic about repelling the Allied invasion, and Kesselring had to agree. Resuming the offensive would have to await the arrival of reinforcements.

 Guzzoni doubted that he could hold all of Sicily. His main concern was no longer defending the entire island, but holding eastern Sicily until help arrived. Then a new counteroffensive could be started. He felt that his immediate tasks were to prevent any Allied breakthroughs into the interior of the island, and to consolidate all Axis forces then on Sicily in one strong battle position forward of Mount Etna.

 Kesselring shared Guzzoni’s doubts on the ultimate outcome of the battle of Sicily. But he also felt that the Allies had not yet gained a free hand on the island. Strong and immediate countermeasures might delay the Allies Indefinitely.

 The prospective arrival of the 1st Parachute and 29th Panzer Grenadier Divisions brought mixed feelings to Guzzoni and Senger. Both feared that the additional troops would accentuate an already serious strain on transportation and supply lines. Moreover, Senger privately opposed the introduction of more German forces into Sicily because he was convinced that the best course of action was an immediate evacuation from the island. Accompanied by Senger, Kesselring flew to the Catania airfield, where he met with Colonel Schmalz. Pleased with the steady and sure leadership demonstrated by Schmalz, Kesselring assured Schmalz that reinforcements were on the way. The 3rd Regiment, 1st Parachute Division, was en route and would be placed immediately at Schmalz’s disposal.

[N11-7 MS # T -2 K I (Kesselring) , pp. 19-2 I. Kesselring was wrong in his assumption that Guzzoni was slow in ordering the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division to retrace its steps. Guzzoni had issued this order on 10 July, a quick decision considering the limited amount of information available as to Allied intentions.]

 Like Guzzoni, Kesselring believed that the Axis might, at best, establish a tenable position across the northeastern neck of the island. But even this, Kesselring believed, required a strong directing headquarters such as the XIV Panzer Corps, reinforcement by at least one additional German division, and great improvement in the system of tactical communications. About 1800, while Kesselring waited to take off for Frascati, the three infantry battalions of the 3rd Regiment, 1st Parachute Division, flew in under fighter plane escort and dropped near the Catania airfield. The successful execution of this operation convinced Kesselring that more paratroopers could be brought safely to Sicily by air.

 As Kesselring departed the Catania airfield, the three paratrooper rifle battalions loaded on trucks and moved into line to reinforce Group Schmalz, two battalions south of Lentini, between the coastal highway and the coast line, the third battalion to Francofonte, a crucial point for the link-up with the main body of the Hermann Gӧring Division.

 General Conrath had executed only minor withdrawals during the night of 11 July when General Guzzoni ordered him early on 12 July to hurry his withdrawal to the Caltagirone-Vizzini-Palazzolo Acreide area. Still, Conrath did not appear in any rush to conform. While the Hermann Gӧring Division fought near Niscemi and Biscari, Guzzoni repeated his order-Conrath was to disengage from the Gela sector and move back as quickly as possible to Highway 124. General von Senger confirmed and amplified this order in two radio messages dispatched before noon, directing Conrath to make contact at Palazzolo Acreide with the Napoli Division and Group Schmalz, while the Livorno Division covered his western flank. Planning to wait until nightfall to pull his major units out of line, Conrath started his reconnaissance battalion back during the afternoon. After encountering the 179th Infantry north of Comiso, the battalion reached Vizzini during the late afternoon of 12 July. There it was reinforced by an infantry replacement battalion.

At 2140, 12 July, General von Senger dispatched another radiogram to Conrath instructing him to speed up his withdrawal to the Caltagirone line (Highway 124). The division’s slow movement was causing apprehension at Sixth Army headquarters, for the division was needed not only to strengthen the eastern wing but also to stop the American and British thrusts northward from Comiso and Ragusa. Just before midnight, Sixth Army ordered General Conrath to attack from Vizzini toward Palazzolo Acreide the following day. But by the morning of 13 July, the division was still south of Caltagirone, along a line running from Vizzini on the east almost to Highway 117 on the west.

[NOTE: Conrath’s reconnaissance battalion was reinforced by elements of an infantry regiment, probably the 382nd; this regiment had been on Sicily for some time, had been attached to the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division until 1 July, and subsequently, while stationed at Regalbuto, to the Hermann Gӧring Division.] 

To top off an extremely trying day for Sixth Army, the headquarters at Enna received a heavy Allied bombing attack late in the evening, making a transfer to Passo Pisciaro, east of Randazzo, imperative. The transfer was completed late the next day.

The Allied Problem: How to Continue

Even as the Axis commanders sought ways and means of slowing up the Allied advances, General Patton, late on the afternoon of 12 July, moved his headquarters ashore. He opened the first Seventh Army command post on Sicily at the eastern edge of Gela “in a very handsome mansion, abandoned in a hurry by the prominent owner, a doctor and fascist apparently, who lived there . . . in a spot which was apparently a Roman villa or something.” Optimism pervaded the army headquarters. Despite the Hermann Gӧring Division’s resistance to the 16th Infantry’s advance on Niscemi, and German opposition along part of the 45th Division’s front, General Patton and General Bradley were aware of the indications of Axis withdrawal from the 1st Division’s front. Reports from both the 16th and 26th RCT’s during the night were cheering. The 45th Division seemed to be encountering no more than delaying forces in its push to the Yellow Line. And General Keyes returned from the 3rd Division’s area with a very satisfactory report. All in all, General Patton was happy with the performance of the Seventh Army units. A number of distinguished visitors that day had been most complimentary. Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the chief of the Combined Operations Headquarters, was greatly impressed by the operation in the II Corps zone. General Eisenhower, though pleased with the extent of the beachhead, was unhappy with what he considered General Patton’s failure to get news of the Seventh Army’s operations back to AFHQ promptly. “Ike … stepped on him hard.”  

Determined to keep the Seventh Army moving aggressively, General Patton directed the II Corps to continue its movement inland to seize its portion of the Yellow Line-from Mazzarino on the west to Grammichele on the east. He approved Keyes’ instructions to the 3rd Division for a reconnaissance toward Agrigento, the seizure of Canicattl., and the reduction of the roadblock southeast of Riesi. Without General Alexander’s approval, General Patton felt that he could not tell Truscott to exploit toward Callucas states, “I didn’t hear what he [Eisenhower said but he must have given Patton hell because Georgie was much upset.” Tanissetta and Enna, or toward Agrigento and the western part of the island.

 General Bradley’s two divisions moved quickly on 13 July. The 1st Division, with the 18th RCT returning to its control, entered Niscemi at 1000, advanced six miles north of Ponte Olivo airfield to seize two important hill masses astride Highway 117, and sent a third column seven miles northwest of Ponte Olivo to seize two other hill masses astride the Ponte Olivo-Mazzarino road. These advances were opposed only by long-range sniper and artillery fire. The 45th Division, in contrast, met with an unexpected complication. Late in the evening of 12 July, General Middleton sent word to his combat team commanders to continue driving toward Highway 124, the Yellow Line, by leapfrogging battalions forward and maintaining constant watchfulness to the flanks. On the left the 180th RCT was to cross the Acate River, secure the Biscari airfield, then push north toward Caltagirone.

 In the center, the 179th RCT was to push to Highway 124 in the vicinity of Grammichele. On the right, the 157th RCT was to drive northeast to Monterosso Almo, then swing northwest to take Licodia Eubea, almost on the highway. Because the 157th would be operating in part across the army boundary and in the British zone, Middleton warned Colonel Ankcorn to maintain careful liaison with the 1st Canadian Division on his right.

 Unknown to General Middleton, as well as to Generals Patton and Bradley, General Montgomery, the Eighth Army commander, had decided that Highway 124 west of Vizzini (the Seventh Army’s Yellow Line) belonged to him. Though the original invasion plan reserved the highway to the Americans, Montgomery halted the 1st Canadian Division at the small town of Giarratana and directed General Leese to use the rest of his 30 Corps in a drive on Caltagirone, Enna, and Leonforte. While the 30 Corps thus moved directly across the Seventh Army front, the 13 Corps was to continue to try to break through into the Catania plain. The Eighth Army would then advance on Messina on two widely separated axes: one up the coastal road on the east, the other into the interior through Enna, Leonforte, on to Nicosia, Troina, and Randazzo, in a swing around the western side of Mount Etna. The 13 Corps was to make the Eighth Army’s main effort. A second airborne drop was to seize the Primosole bridge over the Simeto River and a Commando landing was to capture the Lentini bridge. The operation was to start on the evening of 13 July. Without General Alexander’s approval, Montgomery ordered his units to start the operation.

 [N11-15 General Montgomery knew of Seventh Army’s plan to take Highway 124, since this was part of the original plan for the invasion of the island. But apparently General Montgomery felt that American operations should be restricted to the Caltanissetta-Canicatti-Agrigento area, while the Eighth Army made the main effort against Messina (Montgomery, Eighth Army, page 99). The fact that Montgomery had not yet secured Alexander’s approval to his new plan is indicated in a message which the 30 Corps commander sent to the 1st Canadian Division on 13 July: “45 U.S. Div now on general line Chiaramonte-Biscari. Information received they intend to send one brigade Vizzini, two brigades Caltagirone tomorrow 14 July. Army Comd rapidly attempting to direct them more to west to avoid clash with you, but in case NOT retire from accordingly. Warn all concerned.” Quoted in Nicholson, The Canadians in Italy, p. 87n.]

 General Montgomery’s new plan gave to the British Eighth Army the use of all the roads leading to Messina. There were only four roads on the entire island leading toward the important port city, and of the four, only two went all the way. The first was the east coast highway, on which Montgomery had his 13 Corps. The other through road was the north coast highway. Two roads to Messina were inland routes that ran toward Messina from Enna. The southernmost of these ran along the rim of Mount Etna; the other, some fifteen miles south of the north coast road, passed through Nicosia and Troina. Both the inner roads converged at Randazzo, on the Messina side of Mount Etna, where one road headed for the east coast road, and the other ran toward Messina. Montgomery’s specified axis of advance for the 30 Corps, if carried through to the north coast, would give that corps the possession of the fourth one. The assignment of these roads would effectively restrict the Seventh Army’s activities to the southwestern part of the island.

 In keeping with the Eighth Army directive, General Leese, commander of the 30 Corps, directed the British 23rd Armored Brigade to seize Vizzini during daylight of 13 July, Caltagirone during the evening of the same day. The British 51st Highland Infantry Division was to follow the armored brigade to secure Vizzini, and drive on the town of Scordia to protect the corps’ north flank. The 1st Canadian Division was to remain near Giarratana.

 Thus, when daylight came on 13 July, American and British units were heading toward the same objectives. Pushing out of Biscari m difficult terrain, along a single, narrow, secondary road effectively blocked by the Germans, facing strong delaying forces of the Hermann Gӧring Division, the 180th RCT did not get across the Acate River until late in the afternoon and then pushed only a little way farther on before being stopped again at the narrow Ficuzza River. Though the Ficuzza was no more than a small stream, both banks were precipitous, and the Germans had destroyed the bridge and blocked the narrow road which wound down to the crossing site.

 On the 179th RCT front, the regiment quickly abandoned the leapfrogging procedure and advanced on a wide front, battalions abreast. Detachments from the Hermann Gӧring Division fought stubborn rear guard actions while withdrawing toward Highway 124. Often the leading battalions were delayed by a few German troops supported by one or two armored vehicles left on critical terrain features. To dislodge even these small units, the battalions either had to deploy or wait for the flank security elements to catch up and flush out the Germans. In one or two cases, the Germans, from positions on especially good terrain features, counterattacked sharply before withdrawing to the next hill. The supporting American tanks proved of little use in the rugged terrain, but the 160th Field Artillery Battalion, a platoon of 4.2-inch mortars, and a platoon of self-propelled howitzers from the regimental Cannon Company performed yeoman service in aiding the infantry’s advance. 

By late afternoon, the 3rd Battalion, 179th Infantry, entered the small village of Granieri, about five miles south of Highway 124. By this time, too, the advance on a wide front had been discarded in favor of a column formation. Because civilians indicated that the Germans had a large armored force (an estimated 500 men and 35 tanks) deployed in an olive grove about three miles north of Granieri, the 3rd Battalion commander pushed his men to gain the high ground just north of the village. It took a night attack to accomplish this, but by 2300 the 3rd Battalion was in position on the hill mass astride the narrow dirt road it had been following all day. The remainder of the combat team closed in near the village. On the right Monterosso Alma fell to the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry, at noon. A further advance by the battalion of almost three miles toward Vizzini was registered before increasing German resistance called a halt to the day’s activities.

 Licodia Eubea fell late in the afternoon to the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry, but not before the battalion lost twenty men killed and forty wounded. Across its front, the 157th RCT stood less than three miles from the Yellow Line. Just before the news of the seizure of Licodia Eubea reached the combat team’s command post at Monterosso Almo, Colonel Ankcorn received an inkling of the Eighth Army’s new plan of action. 

Shortly after 1700, the leading elements of the 5 I st Highland Division began to arrive at Monterosso Alma. Surprised, Ankcorn learned that the Highlanders were on their way to take Vizzini. The 23rd Armored Brigade, advancing northeastward from Palazzolo Acreide, had run head on into the Hermann Gӧring Division (going the opposite way) and had been stopped by fierce resistance from Germans and Italians (the remnants of the Napoli Division) east of Vizzini. The Highlanders had been committed to the south of Vizzini to clear the town for the armored brigade. Colonel Ankcorn had been told of the armored brigade’s move on Vizzini, but since he had neither seen nor heard anything from that column, he had continued his attack on Vizzini. Now it appeared to Colonel Ankcorn that the British were to take Vizzini after which the Eighth Army would swing northward along the army boundary. But as far as the 157th Combat Team commander was concerned, the rest of the highway was in the Seventh Army’s area and that part of the highway west of Vizzini was still his objective. Nevertheless, he radioed General Middleton news of the latest British movements. 

The news from the 157th Combat Team’s front neat Vizzini must have created some r:onfusion at Seventh Army’s command post late in the afternoon of 13 July. General Alexander had visited General Patton that very morning. Patton asked for approval to take Agrigento and Porto Empedocle, the ports which he felt would be needed to continue the logistical support of Seventh Army. The army group commander did not disapprove the request, but he did not want the Seventh Army to get entangled in a fight which might interfere with its primary mission: the protection of the Eighth Army’s left flank. Accordingly, he told General Patton that the Seventh Army could take Agrigento and Porto Empedocle provided this could be done by reconnaissance troops and provided the operation did not cost too much in manpower or material. Nothing was said about any change in the boundary between the Seventh and Eighth Armies. Nothing was said about the assignment of Highway 124 to the British. 

Just before midnight, any confusion that may have existed was cleared up when General Alexander radioed the following directive to the Seventh Army: Operations for the immediate future will be Eighth Army to advance on two axes, one to capture the port of Catania and the group of airfields there and the other to secure the network of road communications within the area Leonforte-Enna. Seventh Army will conform by pivoting on Palma di Montechiaro-Canicaui –Caltanissetta -gaining touch with Eighth Army at road junction HOW 1979 [the junction of Highways 117 and 122 southwest of Enna]. Boundary between Seventh and Eighth Armies, road Vizzini-Caltagirone-Piazza Armerina-Road Junction HOW 1979-Enna, all inclusive to Eighth Army. Liaison will be carefully arranged between Seventh andEighth Armies for this operation. The directive came as a surprise and adistinct disappointment to the Seventh Army staff, for the order gave the Americans a passive role in the campaign.

[NOTE:. Lucas Diary, pt. I, p. 64; Truscott, Command Missions, p. 218. Seventh Army’s directive of 13 July, which was issued shortly before noon on 15 July, and which must have been seen by General Alexander, indicates that nothing was said about any change in the boundary between the two Allied armies. It also indicates that General Montgomery must have approached General Alexander with his new proposal after the latter returned from visiting the Seventh Army, and that the approval to Montgomery’s new plan was given at the same time.]

Patton’s staff had expected to advance to the general line Agrigento-Canicatti-Caltanissetta and the II Corps to advance inland along Highway 124. The Americans had expected to make the swing around the western side of Mount Etna toward Messina, while the British Eighth Army massed its power for a drive around the eastern side. 

But General Patton did not dispute the order. On the morning of 14 July he called General Bradley to Seventh Army headquarters and explained the new directive. It entailed side-slipping the 45th Division to the west; giving up Highway 124; and shifting the II Corps advance from north to west. 

General Bradley was keenly disappointed. “This will raise hell with us,” he exclaimed. “I had counted heavily on that road. Now if we’ve got to shift over, it’ll slow up our entire advance.” The II Corps commander asked whether he could use Highway 124 at least to move the 45th Division to the left of the 1st Division in order to maintain the momentum of his advance. The answer was, “Sorry, Brad, but the changeover takes place immediately. Monty wants the road right away.” 

After reading General Alexander’s directive, Bradley returned it gloomily to Patton. He knew that the Germans were falling back toward the northeast. He felt certain that the Axis commanders were pulling back hoping to reassemble their forces across the narrow neck of the Messina peninsula. The delay encountered in pulling the 45th Division out of line and moving it around the rear of the 1st Division to a new position on the left of General Allen’s unit would take considerable pressure off the Hermann Gӧring Division and perhaps enable the Germans to recover their balance. To General Bradley, it appeared that General Montgomery planned to take Messina alone, while the Seventh Army confined its efforts to the western half of the island. 

Although there had been no prepared plan by 15th Army Group for the maneuver of the two armies after the seizure of the initial assault objectives, the assault plan itself contained by implication the general scheme which General Alexander hoped to follow. While the Eighth Army thrust forward into Catania and then into Messina, the Seventh Army was to protect the flank and rear of the main striking force because General Alexander was convinced that the Eighth Army was better qualified for the main task than the Seventh Army.

[N11-2222 Intervs, Mathews with Alexander, 10-15 Jan 49, p. 12. The views which Alexander entertained of the capabilities of American troops were by no means unique but were widespread among British officers and officials. See Bradley, A Soldier’s Story, pp. 58-59, 67-68. Alexander’s skeptical attitude regarding the quality of American troops persisted long after the Sicilian Campaign; in fact, it persisted to the period when the situation had changed radically, when American troops in Italy had to bear the brunt of the fighting because of the exhaustion of British divisions. See Interv, Smyth and Mathews with Marshall, 25 Jul 49, at the Pentagon, p. 20.] 

On 13 July, when General Alexander issued his directive to General Patton, he felt it necessary to restrain the impetuous American commander, to keep the Seventh Army doing its primary job, and not to endanger the operation by movements which might expose the Eighth Army to strong Axis counterattacks. Events were going according to plan: the Eighth Army had secured a firm beachhead and was moving on Catania with seeming good speed. The inexperienced American divisions could best be nursed along with limited assignments which would gradually build up their fighting morale and experience.

 In addition to his confidence in the Eighth Army and his distrust of American troops, General Alexander was most concerned about the network of roads which converged in the center of Sicily like the spokes of a huge wheel-in the rough quadrangle bounded by Caltanissetta-San Caterina-Enna-Valguarnera-Caropepe. As long as this network of roads remained in enemy hands, General Alexander feared that the Axis might use the area to launch a mighty counterattack against General Montgomery’s left flank. It was this concern that led Alexander to make sure that his armies held a solid front-meaning that the Eighth Army would be firmly established on a line from Catania to Enna-before pushing the campaign any further.

 Seventh Army, General Alexander felt, should cover the Eighth Army’s left flank until the latter had secured the firm line. Once that line had been secured, the exploitation phase of the operation could begin. It would then be safe to thrust out. General Alexander feared that if the Seventh Army pushed out prematurely all over the western half of the island, the enemy might drive in on Eighth Army’s left flank. This could cause the Allied armies on Sicily a serious reverse, if not a disaster. Alexander wanted no defeat. He wanted to be certain that the Eighth Army was in a secure position before he let “Georgie” go and exploit.

After telephoning a report of the situation in Sicily to General JodI, Field Marshal Kesselring saw Mussolini on 13 July. Kesselring’s account of developments on the island shocked Mussolini. News of the apparently successful counterattacks on 10 July had raised Italian hopes and prompted joyful celebrations in Rome. Disappointment was therefore greater when, less than two days later, the scanty war bulletins spoke of “containment” instead of “elimination” of the Allied beachheads. Even in those military circles where no one had seriously expected the coastal defense units to put up much more than token opposition, the resistance appeared disappointingly brief. The two mobile divisions, the Livorno and Napoli, had shown some good fighting qualities, but as soon as they had come into range of the Allied naval guns, they had halted their attacks and retired. The collapse of the naval base at Augusta and Syracuse was beyond comprehension. [N11-24] For Mussolini, news of the fall of the naval base was the more depressing because it reached him through German channels and on the heels of the first favorable reports from Gela.[N11-25]

[N11-24 MS #R-I39, High Command Decisions, 12 July-15 August 1943, ch. X of Axis Tactical Operations in Sicily (Bauer), p. 4.]

[N11-25 OKW/WFSt, KTB, I.-3I. VII.43, 13 Jul 43. General von Rintelen, the German Military Attache, brought Mussolini a copy of the message received in OKW on 12 July 1943. See Benito Mussolini, The Fall of Mussolini, His Own Story, translated by Frances Frenaye (New York: Farrar Straus, 1948), pp. 37-38.]

The unfavorable developments on Sicily increased the already serious friction between the Italian and German high commands. Discussions soon went beyond the defense of the island and entered the far-reaching problems connected with the Italo-German partnership III the war effort. 

Examining the situation at the end of 12 July, Comando Supremo determined that the coastal defenses had indeed collapsed and that Axis inferiority in naval and aerial strength had made it relatively easy for the Allies to land additional troops faster and in greater numbers than the Axis countries could hope to match. Since the counterattacks had failed, the only effective defense now appeared to be to wage unrelenting warfare on the Allied sea lanes. But in order to do this, it was imperative to increase the Axis air forces committed to the defense of Sicily. Since Italy had no reserve of planes, Mussolini asked Hitler for help. In an appeal to the Führer, the Duce pointed out that German planes were needed immediately, but only for a short time. Once the crisis in Sicily had been overcome, the aircraft would again be available for other commitments. If Germany really came to Italy’s aid and German planes arrived promptly, Mussolini saw some hope for the defense of Sicily. Otherwise, “if we do not throw out the invaders right now, it will be too late.”

 On 14 July, Mussolini continued to find the situation on Sicily to be disquieting but not irretrievable. Before he would make any further decisions, the Duce wanted to know from Comando Supremo exactly what had happened, what the remaining potential was, and how that potential could be increased. But if Mussolini saw a possibility of saving the situation in Sicily-provided the Germans sent planes and reinforcements-Comando Supremo was ready to toss in the sponge. Ambrosio, on 14 July, notified Mussolini that the fate of Sicily had been sealed, and he urged the Duce to consider ending the war to spare Italy further waste and destruction. 

In Germany, Hitler’s spontaneous reaction upon learning of the Allied invasion had been to send help in the form of the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division. But the news immediately after of the failure of the coastal defense troops and the collapse of the Naval Base Augusta-Syracuse called for a review of the situation. 

Kesselring’s telephone report to General Jodi on 13 July described the situation on the island as critical. Because of Allied strength, the failure of the Italian coastal units, and the lack of mobility of the German units, Kesselring said there was no chance to mount another concerted counterattack against the Allied beachheads. The best that could be hoped for was to fight for time. This in itself, Kesselring believed, would be an accomplishment of great importance in view of the detrimental effect the loss of Sicily would have on Italian determination to continue the war. In Kesselring’s opinion, all was not yet lost. He proposed to move the remainder of the German parachute division and all of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division to Sicily; to reinforce the Luftwaffe; and to increase the number of submarines and small motor boats operating against Allied convoys.

 Aware of the danger inherent in fighting a two-front war, Hitler had known for months-at least since the defeats at Stalingrad and in North Africa-that he would have to weaken the Eastern Front if he wanted to strengthen the German position in the Mediterranean. The German offensive to retake Kursk on the Eastern Front-Operation ZIT ADELLE-had started on 5 July, only five days before the Allied invasion of Sicily. But in view of the changed military situation in the Mediterranean, and because of Hitler’s wish to have politically reliable troops in Italy, he decided to call off ZIT ADELLE on 13 July. This measure gave Hitler the troops for Italy, including in particular an SS Panzer corps on whose political attitude he could rely.

 Although predominantly preoccupied with the events in Russia, Hitler saw the possible loss of Sicily principally in the light of a threat to the Balkans. Moreover, the probable loss of air bases on Sicily would decrease the radius of Axis air activity and increase that of the Allies, thus bringing Allied air power closer to the northern Italian industrial cities as well as to the German homeland. If the Germans intended to hold on to the Italian mainland as a bulwark against an assault on the Balkan peninsula, or on Germany itself, they could do so only with Italian co-operation. The German high command knew full well that the Italians were tired of the war. Long before, Hitler had planned ALA RICH to keep the Italians from going over to the Allies. But the invasion of Sicily by strong British and American armies renewed German fears of a possible overthrow of Mussolini and the withdrawal of Italy from the war. 

General Jodl felt that Sicily could not be held for any great length of time. He decided that the moment had come to prepare for the defense of the Italian mainland and of the German homeland. He also felt that no German forces should be sent south of the line of the northern Apennines for fear that they would be cut off in the event of a military or political upheaval in Italy. But Kesselring’s recommendation to continue the defense of Sicily coincided with Hitler’s doctrine of holding whatever territory German soldiers occupied, and Kesselring’s recommendation helped override JodI’s objections. Hitler decided to aid his Italian ally. He was prepared to take radical action in case of a political change in Italy, but as long as Mussolini remained in power, Hitler was willing to give him all possible support. 

Hitler acknowledged that the German forces on Sicily were, alone, not strong enough to throw the Allies back into the sea, the more so since another Allied landing on the western coast had to be anticipated. He therefore redefined the task of the German troops on the island as “to delay the enemy advance as much as possible and to bring it to a halt in front of the Aetna along a defense line running approximately from San Stefano via Adrano to Catania.” In other words, only eastern Sicily was to be held, western Sicily was to be abandoned. Hitler also confirmed the insertion of the XIV Panzer Corps under General Hube into the chain of command on the island-without, however, rescinding his previous orders that the Italians were to hold all tactical commands-and he ordered the rest of the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division moved to Sicily. At the same time, the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division was to move to Reggio di Calabria to await possible transfer to Sicily. The final decision on its transfer across the Strait of Messina would depend on the amount of supplies within the German position on Sicily and on the maintenance of safe traffic across the Strait of Messina. The German Second Air Force was to receive three bomber groups (including one night bomber group) as reinforcements. One additional bomber group and a torpedo plane squadron were to be added at a later date. Hitler also ordered eight 210-mm. guns sent to the Strait of Messina, and demanded the addition of German personnel to the crews of the Italian coastal batteries, a measure to which Ambrosio agreed.

 Hitler then issued special instructions to the XIV Panzer Corps, with the understanding that the instructions were to be kept secret from the Italians and that knowledge of the instructions was to be confined to a restricted group of German officers. Working closely with General von Senger and the German liaison staff then at Sixth Army, General Hube was quietly to exclude the Italian command echelons from any further German planning; assume complete direction of operations in the Sicilian bridgehead; and extend his command to the remaining Italian units on the island. General JodI, most anxious to save German manpower for the future defense of the Italian and German homelands, enlarged on Hitler’s secret instructions. JodI directed Hube to conduct operations on Sicily with the basic idea of saving as much of the German forces as possible. This, too, was to be kept secret from the Italians.

[N11-3030 MS #T-2 K I (Kesselring); MS #T-2 (Fries et al.), p. 22; OKWjWFSt, KTB. 1.-31.VII.43, 13-15 Jul 43; quotation and text of Hitler’s directive for further warfare in Sicily, 13 Jul 43, in ONI, Führer Directives, 1942-1945; German text in Msg, Keitel to OB SUED, 13 Jul 43, in folder OKH, Op Abt, Westliches Mittelmeer, Chefs., 19. V.43-1 1. VII.44; SKLj 1 .Abt. KTB, Teil A., 1.-31.vII.43, 14 Jul 43; Erich von Manstein, Verlorene Siege (Bonn: Athenaeum-Verlag, 1955), pp. 501-04.] 

Kesselring may not have known of Hitler’s and JodI’s secret orders to Hube when he informed Ambrosio and Roatta on 14 July that the existing line on Sicily could not be held with the then available Axis forces. After a general withdrawal all along the line, however, the northeastern part of Sicily could be defended on a line between Santo Stefano and Catania. This was in agreement with Guzzoni’s views. Kesselring also announced General Hube’s transfer to Sicily to assume command of the German forces, and he received assurances from Ambrosio that Comando Supremo had issued sharp orders for the restoration of discipline in the Italian Army. 

On the next day, 15 July, Mussolini, Ambrosio, Kesselring, and Rintelen met in a conference in Rome. The discussions satisfied no one. Mussolini wanted the proposed defensive line extended farther west to include all of the Madonie Mountains. Ambrosio pressed for the immediate transfer of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division to Sicily and for the movement of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division into Calabria to protect the toe of Italy. Kesselring had the unpleasant task of explaining that the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division could not be shifted into Sicily until its requisite supplies were assured. 

Meanwhile, everything should be done to protect the traffic over the Strait of Messina. Ambrosio, holding to his views, urged that since Calabria represented a most delicate zone, the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division should be moved immediately to that area. Here Kesselring was at a loss. The Führer insisted on holding that particular division near Lake Bolsena to protect the area of Livorno (Leghorn), Kesselring declared, but why Hitler had fears for Leghorn, Kesselring did not know. This concluded the conference. [N11-32] Although no specific decisions had been made, it was evident that at least some of the Axis leaders intended to defend Sicily as long as possible.

[N11-32 Min of Mtg between Mussolini, Kesselring, and others, in Rome, 15 Jul 43, IT 3037. SeeFaldella, Lo Sbarco, p. 191.]

 On the same day, Kesselring talked with Roatta, the chief of Superesercito, about the best place to defend Italy: in Sicily or on the northern Apennines line. Kesselring convinced Roatta that holding a bridgehead on Sicily was imperative for both military and political reasons. The two men then decided to establish a defensive front “around the Etna” from which the Axis forces on Sicily would first offer stubborn resistance and then resume the offensive. Since General Hube was scheduled to arrive in Sicily on this day to take over command of the German troops, Kesselring assured Roatta that in all circumstances the tactical command over the German forces on the island would remain in General Guzzoni’s hands. General von Senger was to retain only his function as liaison officer with Sixth Army. Kesselring also suggested that Italian units be intermingled with the German divisions, but Roatta deferred a decision on this point. The two generals estimated that the addition of the two German divisions and Hube’s corps headquarters would make it possible to hold a front on Sicily, at least until mid-August.

Thus, by 15 July, Kesselring and Guzzoni seemed united in believing that at least a part of Sicily could be held. Kesselring wanted always to fight, as long as there was a chance. Guzzoni wanted to do his duty, but he fully realized that his only effective troops on Sicily were German, and that he would have to depend on full German support to hold even the northeastern corner of the island. At the higher echelons of Axis military command, this unity of feeling was not so apparent. Ambrosio felt that the war was lost, and he wanted to save the Italian armed forces and to separate Italy from Germany. JodI did not want to risk having the German forces in Sicily cut off, or to send good money after bad. Mussolini appeared undecided. He wanted to end the war but he needed a tactical success to achieve the proper time for making a peace move. Hitler did not want to withdraw, and he was willing to support Mussolini if the Italians would fight. 

On Sicily itself after Kesselring’s departure Guzzoni found little good in the situation. Group Schmalz was barely holding on to its Lentini positions; the delay in the withdrawal of the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division prevented the blocking of the Allied advances toward Francofonte and Vizzini, and made it doubtful that the formation could be moved east fast enough to defend at the southern edge of the Catania plain. There was, consequently, no assurance against an Allied advance into the Catania plain. Guzzoni did not know when he could expect the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division. The Italian units had suffered heavy casualties and were exhausted. Italian morale was at a low ebb. The Allies seemed to be exerting their strongest pressure on both wings of the invasion front while, at the same time, maintaining dangerous pressure in the center. 

General Guzzoni still expected to form and hold a main defensive line with its eastern hinge south of the Catania plain. Again, on 13 July, he urged the Hermann Gӧring Division to move to the Catania area with the greatest possible speed. Guzzoni also picked this time to define his main battle position farther to the rear, the position which would be held at all costs and from which the Axis forces could return to the initiative. He proposed the line running from Acireale (north of Catania) -Adrano-Cesaro-San Fratello, and he notified Superesercito to this effect, adding that, he planned to start the withdrawal of the units immediately, delaying as much as possible. 

Superesercito reluctantly consented to Guzzoni’s proposal but qualified its approval by stating that such a movement to the rear was authorized only if it should prove impossible to prevent an Allied breakthrough into the Catania plain and only if the new eastern wing would be strong enough to permit Axis units in central and western Sicily to move to eastern Sicily in time. [NOTE: IT 99a. an. 20 and entry, 13 Jul 43 (no time given, but apparently late at night, 13 Jul 43 ).

 Just a short time later, though, Comando Supremo overrode the army command’s approval. The Italian high command insisted that the positions then occupied by Sixth Army be held at all costs. Specifically, the Catania plain and the airfields at Catania and Gerbini were to remain in Axis hands. The telephone message transmitting these instructions closed with the remark that “very numerous” German planes were on their way to Sicily. 

Because the British 13 Corps was regrouping preparatory to making its major effort that same evening, Group Schmalz had little difficulty in holding its positions just south of Lentini on 13 July. Colonel Schmalz received further reinforcements in the form of other units from the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division: a parachute machine gun battalion; an airborne engineer battalion; and four batteries of airborne artillery. In addition, two separate German infantry battalions which had crossed into Sicily on the 11th were also attached to his command. 

In the late afternoon of 13 July, Colonel Schmalz was able to get through a telephone call to General Conrath. After some discussion, the German commanders agreed that both groups would fall back to a position along the northern rim of the Catania plain, there to make contact on the morning of 15 July. The whole of the Hermann Gӧring Division would then be united and would form its main line of resistance along the line LeonforteCatenanuova-Gerbini-Catania. For the remainder of 13 and 14 July, Colonel Schmalz would have to hold where he was.

By late evening of 13 July, the Hermann Gӧring Division completed its withdrawal to the Caltagirone-Vizzini line, although it kept strong elements south of that line to blunt the various American thrusts inland from Niscemi, Biscari, and Comiso. The Italian Livorno Division also withdrew further into the interior to establish a new line between the two German divisions and to prevent a possible American breakthrough at Piazza Armerina.

 In the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division area, the German units had little trouble holding their new line on 13 July. Only minor actions took place between American patrols and the German and Italian units. Group Fullriede, still under General Schreiber’s control, extended its front eastward toward Caltanissetta. Group Ens remained along a line running from Piazza Armerina to Pietraperzia. Sometime during the late evening of 12 July, General Rodt, the division commander, received word from Sixth Army to prepare to withdraw to the new line of resistance south of Mount Etna. The division was to fight delaying actions back to a new line which extended from AgiraLeonforte-Nicosia-Gangi, and at the same time establish contact with the Hermann Gӧring Division across the remnants of the Li·vorno Division. Accordingly, General Rodt moved his division headquarters to Grottacalda (two and a half miles southwest of Valguarnera) and started to transfer the division’s service elements to the new line.

 The Axis defenses were giving way, but they were not crumbling. The Allies had yet to conquer Sicily.

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 (2-12); Seventh Army Changes Directions

World War Two: Sicily (2-10): Beachhead Secure

Korean War: Withdrawal From Taejon (11B)

 The sequence of events and the time of their occurrence in Taejon on the afternoon of 20 July have been impossible to establish with certainty in all instances. Participants and survivors have different recollections of the same event and of the time it occurred. Some recall incidents that others do not remember at all. Battalion and regimental records were all lost during the day and night and, except for an occasional message entry in the 24th Division journals made at Yongdong many miles to the rear, there is no contemporary record extant to fix time. Yet despite these difficulties in reconstructing the story of that eerie and bizarre afternoon, it is believed the jigsaw puzzle has yielded to the long and laborious efforts to solve it.  

When he returned to the 34th Infantry command post after stalking and destroying the tank in the center of Taejon, General Dean joined Colonel Beauchamp for a lunch of cooked C ration. They discussed the situation, which did not seem particularly alarming to them at the time. It would be difficult to find a parallel to the bizarre situation—the two commanders quietly eating their late lunch in the belief that their combat forces were still in battle position a mile or two west of the city, while actually the two battalions were scattered in the hills, completely ineffective for any defense of Taejon. Except for a few scattered enemy infiltrator-snipers in Taejon, the city was quiet. During the conversation, Dean told Beauchamp that instead of waiting for dark as they had planned earlier, he wanted him to initiate a daylight withdrawal because the chances would be better of getting the transportation out safely. The time of this instruction was about 1400.  

Colonel Beauchamp immediately set about implementing the order. He instructed Major William T. McDaniel, the regimental operations officer, to send messages by radio or telephone to all units to prepare to withdraw. He then wrote out on paper duplicate orders and sent them by runners to the three infantry battalions. There was then no telephone or radio communication with the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, or the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry. The runners, of course, never reached these two battalions. But it appears that neither Dean nor Beauchamp received any report on this. The 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry, did receive the withdrawal order. It and the other miscellaneous units in and about the city received the withdrawal instructions about 1500. The planned march order for the movement out of Taejon gave the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry, the lead, followed by the artillery; the Medical Company; the 34th regimental command group; 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry; and last, the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry.

 After watching Beauchamp get off the orders to his units to withdraw, General Dean stepped out of the command post. He could see and hear friendly fighter planes overhead. He walked down to the end of the schoolhouse command post building where Lieutenant Hillery had set up the tactical air control party’s equipment. In conversation with Hillery, Dean found that the former was having difficulty in getting target assignments from the 34th Infantry even though the planes reported many below them. In the confusion of getting out the withdrawal orders and making ready for it themselves the command group apparently did not give much attention to the TACP reports. Then there was also a reluctance to give targets close to Taejon because of the many mistaken attacks in recent days and weeks on American and ROK troops. General Dean remained with the TACP for some time and called several strikes on North Korean artillery and tank concentrations reported by the planes.

 About this time a young lieutenant of the 1st Cavalry Division Tank Company arrived in Taejon with a platoon of tanks. Dean expressed to him his surprise at seeing him there and asked what had brought him. He replied that he had come in response to a request received at Yongdong from the 34th Infantry for tank escort out of Taejon for administrative vehicles. The young officer in turn told what a start he had received on seeing the smoldering T34 tanks in the center of Taejon. Various units had begun to form in the streets around the command post for the withdrawal, and the tank officer started with the first of them for Yongdong. This was about 1530 or 1600.

 Several incidents took place shortly after noon that, properly interpreted, should have caused deep alarm in Taejon. There was the urgent telephone call from an artillery observer who insisted on talking to the senior commander present. Beauchamp took the call. The observer reported a large column of troops approaching Taejon from the east. He said he was positive they were enemy soldiers. The “road from the east” Beauchamp interpreted to be the Okchon road. Beauchamp had misunderstood a conversation held with General Dean that morning to mean that Dean had ordered the 21st Infantry to leave its Okchon position and come up to Taejon to cover the planned withdrawal.

 What Dean had meant was that he expected the 21st Infantry to cover the withdrawal from its Okchon positions in such a way as to keep open the pass and the tunnels east of the city. (With respect to the pass and tunnels, Dean miscalculated.) Now, receiving the report of the artillery observer, Beauchamp, with the erroneous concept in mind, thought the column was the 21st Infantry approaching Taejon to protect the exit from the city. He told the observer the troops were friendly and not to direct fire on them. Events proved that this column of troops almost certainly was not on the Okchon road but on the Kumsan road southeast of Taejon and was an enemy force.

[N11-48 Interv, author with Beauchamp, 1 Aug 52; Interv, author with Ayres, 13 Jul 54; Ltr, Ayres to author, 3 Oct 52; Dean, MS review comments, 20 Jan 58. Ayres watched a large column march along the Kumsan road toward Taejon about this time.]

 Later in the afternoon, just after the 1st Cavalry Division platoon of tanks led the first vehicles out toward Yongdong, General Dean received an aerial report through the TACP of a truck column of about twenty vehicles moving north toward Taejon on the Kumsan road. Dean inquired of the 34th Infantry operations officer if they could be friendly and received the reply that they were the 24th Reconnaissance Company and not to direct an air strike on them. Dean later became convinced that these were North Koreans who had come up from the rear through Kumsan. But this is not certain because a Reconnaissance Company group did drive in to Taejon from its patrol post about this time.

 The movements of large bodies of men on the Kumsan road toward Taejon in the early afternoon of 20 July actually were seen at close hand by Colonel Ayres, the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, but he could not get the information to the men in the city. Just before noon, on the mountain southwest of Taejon, he had turned over command of the approximately 150 men of the battalion with him to the executive officer, Major Dunham, with instructions to take them down to the Kumsan road three miles south of Taejon and there establish a blocking position to protect the rear of Taejon. Then he set off with a small party including Major Curtis Cooper, his S-3; Captain Malcolm C. Spaulding of the Heavy Weapons Company; a runner; his radio operator; an interpreter; and Wilson Fielder, Jr., a Time Magazine correspondent.

 About 400 yards short of the Kumsan road Ayres’ party encountered North Korean soldiers on the hillside. In the scramble that followed, four men escaped—Ayres, Cooper, Spaulding, and the interpreter; the others were either killed or captured. Fielder’s body was found some months later. Ayres and those with him who escaped hid in some bushes and during the afternoon watched North Koreans set up machine guns near them. They also saw an estimated battalion of enemy troops march north toward Taejon along the Kumsan road below them. That night the group escaped.

[N11-50 Ltr, Ayres to author, 3 Oct 52; Interv, author with Ayres, 13 Jul 54.]

Nor was this the only encounter with North Koreans close to the Kumsan road that afternoon. Major Dunham led his men down toward the Kumsan road, as directed by Ayres. On the way they had a fire fight with what they took to be a band of guerrillas. They disengaged and moved into the draw at Kuwan-ni about three miles south of Taejon. Enemy troops there fired on Dunham’s party from nearby finger ridges. This fire hit Dunham in the neck, mortally wounding him, and there were other casualties. All in this party who could do so now fled west to the Yudung valley at Masuri. But none of these incidents were known to Dean, Beauchamp, and the men in Taejon.

 [N11-51 Ltr, Barszcz to author, 6 Sep 52 (he met the group in the Yudung valley); Interv, Blumenson with 2nd Lieutenant George W. Wilcox, Platoon Leader, 75-mm. Rec Rifle, D Co, 34th Inf, 25 Aug 51 (Wilcox was a member of Dunham’s group)]

 Although the purpose was not apparent to the men in Taejon, enemy troops to the west and northwest of the city shortly after noon began to close on the city and exert increased frontal pressure to coincide with the movement of the enemy forces that by now had had time to get to the rear of the city. In the early afternoon, Lieutenant Herbert’s platoon sergeant called his attention to a large column of troops on high ground westward from their roadblock position just west of Taejon. Herbert watched them for a while and decided that they were enemy troops. He then moved his men to a knoll south of the road and into defensive positions already dug there.  

The enemy force, which Herbert estimated to be in battalion strength, stopped and in turn watched Herbert’s force from a distance of about 600 yards.52 This probably was the same column that Montesclaros had seen on the Nonsan road about noon. Back of Herbert’s knoll position at the southwestern edge of the city was a battery of 155-mm. howitzers. A runner from the battery arrived to ask Herbert about the situation, and Herbert went back with him to talk with the battery commander. At the artillery position he found howitzers pointing in three different directions but none toward the southwest, where the enemy force had just appeared. Herbert asked that the pieces be changed to fire on the enemy in front of him. The battery commander said he could not change the howitzers without authority from the battalion operations officer. Herbert talked to this officer on the field telephone but failed to secure his approval to change the howitzers.  

By this time the North Koreans in front of Herbert’s men had set up mortars and begun to shell his position and also the howitzers. This fire killed several artillerymen and caused casualties in the infantry group. Herbert sent a runner into Taejon to report and ask for instructions. At the 34th Infantry command post a group of fifty men was assembled from Headquarters Company and sent back under Lieutenant William Wygal, S-2 of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, with instructions to Herbert to hold where he was until the artillery could be evacuated. So Herbert’s augmented force exchanged fire with the North Koreans and held them to their ridge position.  

General Dean observed this fire fight from the command post and thought it was going well for the American troops. He mistakenly thought, however, that it was McGrail’s 2nd Battalion troops that were engaged. About this time, Dean walked back from the TACP to the 34th Infantry command post and asked for Colonel Beauchamp. It was about 1700. To his surprise he was told that no one had seen Beauchamp since about 1500. Like Major Lantron in the morning, he had just disappeared. Dean remembered that he had expressed a great deal of concern to Beauchamp about the loss of communications with the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, and that he had directed someone to get through and find Ayres. When he learned that Beauchamp had left the command post shortly after 1500 he concluded that Beauchamp had personally gone forward to contact Ayres. It was not until some three years later after he was repatriated from North Korea that General Dean discovered that this was not the fact. 

What had happened to Beauchamp? About the time the first of the vehicles started to form into convoy at the command post and the tanks from Yongdong led the first of them out of Taejon, Colonel Beauchamp got into his jeep and drove to the southeast edge of the city along the withdrawal route. There he came upon four light tanks of the 24th Reconnaissance Company and ordered the tankers to defend the southeast side of the city and the Okchon road exit. Starting back into Taejon, Beauchamp discovered on glancing back that the tanks were leaving their positions. He turned around and caught up with them on the Okchon road. But in running after the tanks he came under enemy small arms fire. After stopping the tanks, Beauchamp decided to climb a nearby knoll and reconnoiter the situation.

 From this eminence he saw numerous groups of enemy troops moving across country south of Taejon toward the Okchon road. Because he had been under fire on the road he knew that some of them had already arrived there. Knowing that the convoys for the withdrawal were forming and that the first vehicles already had gone through, Beauchamp decided to go on with the two tanks he had with him to the pass four miles east of the city and to organize there a defensive force to hold that critical point on the withdrawal road.  

At the pass, Beauchamp put the tanks in position and stopped some antiaircraft half-track vehicles mounting quad .50caliber machine guns as they arrived in the early phase of the withdrawal. Some artillery passed through, and then a company of infantry. Beauchamp tried to flag down the infantry commander’s vehicle, intending to stop the company and keep it at the pass. But the officer misunderstood his intent, waved back, and kept on going.

 Enemy sniper fire built up sporadically on the road below the pass. From his vantage point Beauchamp saw a locomotive pulling a few cars halted by enemy small arms fire at the tunnel. This locomotive had departed Iwon-ni at 1620, so the time of this incident must have been approximately 1630. Still expecting the 21st Infantry to cover the withdrawal route, Beauchamp decided that the best thing he could do would be to hurry up its arrival. He drove eastward to the command post of the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, and from there telephoned the 21st Infantry regimental command post in Okchon. It chanced that General Menoher was there. He instructed Beauchamp to come on in to Okchon and give a detailed report. [N11-54] But again, none of these happenings were known in Taejon.

 [N11-54 Interv, author with Beauchamp, 1 Aug 52; Beauchamp, Comments for author, 7 Jan 53; 24th 53 Dean, MS review comments, 20 Jan 58. Div WD, G-4 Daily Summ, 20 Jul 50]

The locomotive had been sent to Taejon as the result of General Dean’s telephone request to the 24th Division a little earlier. In midafternoon, Captain Hatfield tried to send a rolling supply point of ten boxcars of ammunition out of the Taejon railroad yard to Yongdong. Returning to the rail yard at the northeast side of Taejon, Hatfield discovered that the Korean crew had uncoupled the locomotive from the supply train and fled south in it. It was then that Dean had telephoned the division to dispatch a locomotive immediately to Taejon to pull out this train. The nearest rail yard was at Iwon-ni, fifteen miles southeast of Taejon. Only armed guards had kept the Korean train crews there on the job. Enemy fire on the locomotive from Iwon-ni punctured the water tender.

 Though under sniper fire at the railroad yards, Hatfield awaited the arrival of the locomotive. When it pulled into the yards more enemy fire hit it. The engineer said the locomotive was so damaged that it could not pull the train out. To Hatfield’s dismay, the Korean engineer threw the locomotive in reverse and backed speedily southward out of the yard. At the tunnel southeast of Taejon enemy fire again swept over the locomotive and grenades struck it, killing the engineer. The fireman, although wounded, took the train on into Okchon. Some American soldiers rode the train out of Taejon. According to 24th Division records, the time was 1645. Informed of this untoward incident, Dean again telephoned the division, and at 1700 he received a telephone call that it was sending another locomotive, this time under guard. Dean informed Hatfield of this and the latter waited at the rail yard. Hatfield was killed by enemy soldiers there while waiting for the locomotive that never arrived. The next morning at 0830 a U.S. Air Force strike destroyed the train-load of ammunition and supplies still standing in the Taejon rail yard.

 About 1700 in the afternoon when he discovered that Colonel Beauchamp was not at the command post and that no one there knew where he was, General Dean turned to Colonel Wadlington, the regimental executive officer, and told him to get the withdrawal under way in earnest.

 Wadlington called in the 3rd Platoon of the 24th Reconnaissance Company which had held a position a few miles down the Kumsan road on the north side of the enemy roadblock that had been discovered during the night. For their own reasons the enemy forces in that vicinity had seen fit not to attack this platoon and thereby alert the 34th Infantry to the enemy strength in its rear. In coming in to Taejon to join the withdrawal convoy, the platoon drew machine gun fire near the rail station. Private James H. Nelson engaged this enemy weapon with a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a 2½-ton truck and knocked it out.

 In response to the earlier withdrawal order, Captain Jack Smith had brought the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry, in trucks to the designated initial point at the street corner in front of the regimental command post. When he arrived there, Major McDaniel told him that General Dean wanted a perimeter defense established to protect the initial point and to support an attempt to recover a battery of 155-mm. howitzers. Smith unloaded L Company for the perimeter defense and sent the rest of the battalion on to join the convoy that was forming.

 [N11-55 Dean, MS review comments, 20 Jan 58; 24th Div WD, G-4 Daily Summ, 20 Jul 50; Ibid., G-2 Jnl, entry 1372, 202140 (interv with personnel on locomotive); entry 1350, 201907; and entry 1401, 210950 Jul 50; Dean and Worden, General Dean’s Story, p. 37.]

 Instead of withdrawing their howitzers while Herbert’s force held off the enemy force at the west edge of Taejon, the artillerymen had shown no desire to limber up the pieces under fire. When Herbert left his position to fall back to join the withdrawal he noticed the howitzers. The North Koreans quickly moved up and occupied Herbert’s old position when he withdrew from it, and some advanced to the battery position. From these places they began firing into the city. Learning of the impending loss of the 155-mm. howitzers, General Dean ordered Colonel Wadlington to organize a counterattack force from personnel at the command post to rescue the pieces. Major McDaniel, the regimental S-3, volunteered to organize and lead the counterattack. He drove the enemy soldiers from the battery position and kept down hostile fire until he could bring up tractor prime movers, hitch them to the howitzers, and pull out the pieces. Lack of tractor drivers prevented taking them all out; those left were rendered inoperative.

 [N11-57 Dean, MS review comments, 20 Jan 58; Comments, Wadlington to author, 1 Apr 53; Ltr and Comments, Wadlington to author, 1 Jun 53; Interv, Blumenson with Herbert, 25 Aug 51; 24th Div Arty WD, 20 Jul 50; 3rd Engr (C) Bn WD, 20 Jul 50. General Order 121, 5 September 1950, 24th Division, awarded the Silver Star to McDaniel.]

 By this time word came back to the command post that enemy small arms fire had knocked out and set afire two or three trucks at the tail end of the first group of vehicles to leave the city, and that they blocked the street at the southeast edge of Taejon. Flames could be seen in that corner of the city, and the sound of small arms fire came from there. Dean then rewrote a radio message to be sent to the 24th Division. It said in effect, “Send armor. Enemy roadblock eastern edge City of Taejon: Signed Dean.” Dean directed that the message be sent in the clear.

 The general then went over to the Capitol Building with his interpreter to see if he could find a northward route out of the city that would pass over the tableland east of the railroad station and swing around to hit the Okchon road some miles from the city. The Koreans in the building were panic-stricken and he could get no information from them. Dean hastened back to the command post and, being informed that Beauchamp had still not returned, he directed Colonel Wadlington to close station and move out.

 Enemy fire into and within the city had increased considerably. One result was that an enemy mortar shell scored a direct hit on the collecting station of the 34th Infantry, wounding ten men. Captain Smith from his perimeter defense post reported that he could see North Koreans advancing from the airfield. Wadlington told him to hold them off until the convoy could escape. Wadlington showed General Dean his place in the convoy. He told Dean that he was going to lead the convoy with two jeeps, each carrying five men, and that Major McDaniel was going to be at the tail of the column. With L Company already engaging approaching North Koreans, Captain Smith asked Dean how long he was to hold the company in position as a covering force. Dean told him to give them forty-five minutes and then to withdraw.

 [N11-58 Ltr, Smith to author, 18 Jun 55; Ltr, Wadlington to author, 1 Apr 53. McDaniel was among those captured at Taejon. In prisoner of war camps McDaniel strove to protect the rights of American prisoners. According to accounts brought back by repatriated prisoners in 1953, the North Koreans, unable to break his will, finally took McDaniel away and he disappeared from view. Dean and Worden, General Dean’s Story, pp. 36-37; 32nd Inf WD (7th Div), 26 Sep 50. McDaniel’s name was on a roster of prisoners’ names captured at Seoul, 26 September 1950. Dean, MS review comments, 20 Jan]

 Dean looked at his watch as he drove out the gate of the command post. It was 1755. Outside in the street he talked briefly with Wadlington and the senior officers riding the lead vehicles. He told them that very likely they would get sniper fire in the city, but that once outside he thought they would be all right. He instructed that if sniper fire was encountered and the column stopped for any reason, everyone was to dismount and clean out the snipers. It was a few minutes after 1800 when the large, main convoy started to move.

 With Wadlington at its head the convoy rolled down the street. Some parts of the city were now blazing furnaces, and in places swirling smoke clouds obscured the streets. Soon the convoy stopped while those in the lead removed a burning ammunition trailer and telephone poles from the way. Then it continued on and swung into a broad boulevard. There the convoy encountered heavy enemy fire, both machine gun and small arms, sweeping up and down the avenue. Colonel Wadlington and the men in the two lead jeeps dismounted and opened fire. In about five minutes enemy fire slackened. Wadlington ordered the men in the second jeep to lead out, saying he would join them as soon as he saw that the convoy was moving. After the head of the convoy passed him, Wadlington and his men got into their jeep and started forward to overtake the head of the column. Not able to pass the trucks, however, they swung off at a corner to go around a block. This route led them to a series of misadventures—they found themselves in dead-end streets, cut off by enemy fire, and eventually in a dead-end schoolyard on the east side of the city. There Wadlington and his companions destroyed their vehicle and started up the nearby mountain.

 Meanwhile, the convoy hurried through the city, drawing enemy sniper fire all the way. One 2½-ton truck in the convoy smashed into a building at an intersection and almost blocked the street for the rest of the vehicles. Then the first part of the convoy took a wrong turn through an underpass of the railroad and wound up in the same dead-end schoolyard as had Colonel Wadlington. There were approximately fifty vehicles in this part of the convoy. These men abandoned their vehicles. Led by an artillery major and other officers the group of about 125 started into the hills, first going north away from the sound of firing and later turning south. During the night the group became separated into several parts. Some of the men reached friendly lines the next morning, others on 22 July; some just disappeared and were never heard of again.

 [N11-60 Ltrs, Wadlington to author, 1 Apr, 1 Jun 53. General Order 116, 3 September 1950, 24th Division, awarded the Silver Star to Wadlington for action on 20 July 1950. Interv, Blumenson with Herbert, 25 Aug 51. Herbert was in the part of the convoy that took the wrong turn into the schoolyard.]

 After the first part of the convoy took the wrong turn, the remainder kept on the street leading to the Okchon road. A little farther on they drove through walls of fire as buildings burned fiercely on both sides. Just beyond this point, General Dean’s vehicle and an escort jeep sped past an intersection. They were scarcely past it when Lieutenant Clarke said to Dean that they had missed the Okchon turn. Enemy fire prevented them from stopping to turn around, so they kept on going south down the Kumsan road.

 Just outside the city on the Okchon highway the convoy encountered enemy mortar fire. A shell hit the lead vehicle and it began to burn. A half-track pushed it out of the way. The convoy started again. Enemy fire now struck the half-track, killed the driver, and started the vehicle burning. Machine gun fire swept the road. Everyone left the vehicles and sought cover in the roadside ditches. Some in the convoy saw North Korean soldiers rise from rice paddies along the road and spray the column with burp gun fire.  

When the enemy mortar fire stopped the column, Sergeant First Class Joseph S. Szito of the Heavy Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, set up a 60-mm. mortar in the roadside ditch and fired at a group of North Koreans on a hill just south of the road. A little later he set up an 81-mm. mortar and fired about thirty rounds of smoke shells in an effort to cloak a proposed attempt to push the destroyed half-track off the road so the undamaged vehicles could proceed. But enough men would not go out into the stream of enemy fire to clear the road. Enemy mortars soon hit and destroyed three more vehicles. The men then poured gasoline on most of their still undamaged vehicles, set them afire, and started for high ground to the north. 

[N11-62 Interv, author with Major Clarence H. Ellis, Jr. (S-3 Sec, 11th FA Bn Jul 50), 22 Jul 54; Interv, Blumenson with Szito, 31 Jul 51.]

 Enemy mortars searched up and down the highway, making a shambles of everything on it. The latter part of the convoy now came up to the stalled and burning vehicles. These men scrambled out of their vehicles, sought cover in the ditches, and prayed for darkness. One survivor of this group estimates that there must have been 250 men bunched together in an area fifty yards square.  

When darkness came, 2nd Lieutenant Ralph C. Boyd, commanding a truck platoon of the 24th Quartermaster Company, with the help of some others, located six vehicles that appeared to be undamaged and still able to run. They were a full-track artillery prime mover, two half-track vehicles, two 2½-ton trucks, and a jeep. Boyd had the driver of the prime mover push vehicles to the side of the road and clear a path while he and others loaded the seriously wounded onto the half-tracks.  

When the prime mover had cleared a path, the other vehicles started forward with most of the men walking in the roadside ditches. Boyd told them to maintain silence and not to return any enemy fire. Boyd’s group turned into a narrow dirt road running north from the main highway and traveled on it for some time without trouble. Then, suddenly, enemy machine gun fire ripped into the little group. It knocked Boyd off the prime mover. In falling, he struck a rock and lost consciousness. When he regained it sometime later everything was quiet and the vehicles were gone. Upon discovering that a bullet had only creased his knee, he got to his feet and ran two and a half miles into the lines of the 21st Infantry. 

[N11-63 General Order 126, 12 September 1950, 24th Division, awarded the Silver Star to Lieutenant Boyd. Interv, Capt John G. Westover with 1st Lieutenant Ralph C. Boyd, 13 Mar 52, copy in OCMH. This interview was published in U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal (September, 1952), pp. 26-27.] 

Engineer troops of C Company, 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion performed well in the withdrawal from the city, but they suffered heavy losses. Two examples of their heroism should be mentioned. Enemy mortar fire destroyed Private Charles T. Zimmerman’s jeep and wounded Zimmerman. Enemy soldiers then directed small arms fire at his group. Although wounded by a mortar fragment and eleven bullets, Zimmerman killed five enemy soldiers and destroyed two machine guns. 

Another member of the engineers, Sergeant George D. Libby, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic behavior that evening. Enemy fire at the roadblock area disabled the truck in which he was riding and killed or wounded everyone in it except him. Libby got into the roadside ditch and engaged the enemy. Twice he crossed the road to give medical aid to the wounded. He stopped an M-5 artillery tractor going through the roadblock, put the wounded on it, and then placed himself on the enemy side of the driver.  

He wished to protect the driver as he realized that no one else present could drive the tractor out. In this position Libby “rode shotgun” for the tractor and its load of wounded, returning enemy fire. The tractor stopped several times so that he could help other wounded on to it. In passing through the main enemy roadblock, Libby received several wounds in the body and arms. Later, the tractor came to a second roadblock and there he received additional wounds in shielding the driver. Libby lost consciousness and subsequently died from loss of blood, but the tractor driver lived to take his load of wounded through to safety. 

[N11-65 Department of the Army General Order 62, 2 August 1951, awarded the Medal of Honor to Libby.]

 Just after dark an effort was made to break the roadblock from the Okchon side. When Colonel Beauchamp reached the 21st Infantry command post that afternoon he told General Menoher of the threatened roadblock. Menoher directed him to take the rifle company that had come through the pass and a platoon of light tanks at the 21st Infantry command post and go back and hold the pass open. Beauchamp took the five tanks and on the way picked up approximately sixty men of I Company, 34th Infantry. It was getting dark when the group passed through the lines of the 21st Infantry.

 Short of the pass, one of the tanks hit an enemy mine. Then a hidden enemy soldier detonated electrically a string of mines. The riflemen moved cautiously forward. From a position near the pass they could see enemy mortars firing from both sides of the road, but mostly from the western side. Some of the riflemen worked their way as far forward as the highway tunnel, but they never got control of the pass or any part of the highway west of it. In about two hours the tankers and the men of I Company had expended their ammunition and withdrawn.

 While at the pass area, Beauchamp saw that most of the men in the engineer platoon he had left there in the afternoon had been killed defending the pass—their bodies lay strewn about on the ground. Among them was the lieutenant he had instructed only a few hours before not to blow the tunnel but to hold it open for the Taejon troops. The two tanks and the antiaircraft vehicles had driven to the rear.

 Although there were enemy troops scattered all along the escape route out of Taejon, their principal roadblock began about two miles east of the city on the Okchon road near the little village of Chojon. The roadblock extended a mile from there to the first railroad and highway tunnels east of Taejon. In this stretch, the Seoul-Pusan highway and the double-track Mukden-Pusan railroad parallel each other along a little stream with high ground closing in from both sides. Most of the enemy fire came from the west side of the defile, but in the later stages of the roadblock action there were also enemy mortars, automatic weapons, and riflemen firing from the east side. [N11-67]

 All night long the several hundred men caught in the roadblock walked south and east through the mountains. During the night the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, aid station near Okchon exhausted its medical supplies in treating wounded men arriving from the Taejon area. Many finally reached safety at the 24th Division lines twenty miles farther east near Yongdong on 22 and 23 July. They came through singly and in small groups, but, in one or two instances, in groups of approximately a hundred men. Colonel Wadlington was among those who reached friendly lines on the morning of 22 July near Yongdong.  

[N11-68 21st Inf WD, 20 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, 20 and 23 Jul 50; Ibid., G-2 Jnl, entry 4, 230115 Jul 50; Ltr, Stephens to author, 24 Mar 52; Ltr, Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith to author, 6 Nov 51; 34th Inf WD, 25 Jul 50; Interv, Blumenson with Szito, 31 Jul 51; Interv, author with Private First Class Alvin Moore, 34th Inf, 23 Jul 51; Ltrs, Wadlington to author, 1 Apr and 1 Jun 53.] 

While this disaster was taking place during the evening and night of 20 July just east of Taejon, the 21st Infantry Regiment held its defense positions undisturbed only three or four miles away. Only when Beauchamp telephoned the regimental command post at Okchon and talked with General Menoher there, and later, in person, reported in detail, did Colonel Stephens and his staff know of the serious trouble developing in Taejon and on the escape road eastward. It would have taken several hours to get the 21st Infantry troops down from their hill positions for any effort to clear the Taejon exit road. And it was well after dark before it was known definitely at Okchon that the enemy had in fact successfully established a roadblock and that the Taejon troops were being decimated. It was too late then for the 21st Infantry to act in relief of the situation. To have accomplished this regiment would have needed an order during the morning to move up to the eastern exit of Taejon and secure it.

 [N11-67 Various interviews with survivors from the roadblock and the records of the 21st Infantry and the 24th Division place the eastern limit of the enemy roadblock at the first railroad tunnel southeast of Taejon. ] 

That night at the 21st Infantry command post in Okchon, General Menoher and Colonel Stephens discussed the situation. Stephens said he thought the North Koreans would try to cut off his regiment the next day and that if the regiment was to survive he wanted authority to withdraw it in a delaying action rather than to “hold at all costs.” Menoher agreed with Stephens and left it to his discretion when and how he would withdraw. General Menoher returned to Yongdong about midnight.  

At daybreak, 21 July, engineer troops set off demolition charges at the railroad and highway tunnels just north of Okchon that only partially blocked them. When full light came, observers and patrols from the 21st Infantry reported enemy troops in estimated regimental strength moving south around their west flank at a distance of two miles. Before long, an automatic weapons and small arms fight was in progress on that flank.

[N11-71 Ltr, Stephens to author, 24 Mar 52; Ltr, Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith to author, 10 May 52; 21st Inf WD, 21 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, 21 Jul 50.] 

Colonel Stephens gave the order for the regiment to withdraw. The 21st Infantry and 52nd Field Artillery Battalion began leaving their Okchon positions shortly after 1100. Engineer troops destroyed the last bridge across the Kum River east of Okchon to give some temporary security to ROK forces on the east side of the river. The regiment successfully withdrew twenty miles to prepared positions on the east side of the Kum River, about four miles northwest of Yongdong. There it also established a strong roadblock on the road running southwest from Yongdong to Kumsan. 

[N11-72 Ltr, Stephens to author, 24 Mar 52; Ltr, Smith to author, 10 May 52; 24th Div WD, 21 Jul 50.]

 Not all the troops withdrawing from Taejon followed the main Okchon highway, although they were supposed to. Many missed the tricky turn at the southeast edge of the city and found themselves on the Kumsan road. Once on this road and under fire they kept going. After holding off the enemy at the Taejon command post perimeter while the convoy got away, Captain Smith quickly loaded his L Company, 34th Infantry, into waiting trucks and started it on its way through the city. By this time enemy machine guns were firing across nearly every street intersection.  

Passing the Okchon turn inadvertently, Smith kept on down the Kumsan road. Outside the city he found the road littered with trucks, jeeps, and various kinds of abandoned equipment. At an enemy roadblock he organized approximately 150 men, including about fifty wounded, and salvaged a prime mover, two 2½-ton trucks, and four jeeps. The group fought its way south through several miles of small roadblocks, clearing the last one just before dark. In this group Smith had men from practically every unit that had been in Taejon. Some of them had been with General Dean earlier in the evening.

 Smith led his group south through Kumsan, Anui, and on to Chinju near the southern tip of Korea. From there he telephoned Pusan and a hospital train was dispatched to him at Chinju. Smith left the wounded in Pusan, but continued on with the others to Taegu, where they joined other elements of the 3rd Battalion that had escaped. At Taegu on 23 July Colonel Wadlington had assembled approximately 300 men who had escaped through the hills from Taejon. 

[N11-73 Ltrs, Smith to author, 18 Jun and 21 Jul 55. General Order 123, 9 September 1950, 24th Division, awarded the first Oak Leaf Cluster to the Silver Star to Captain Jack E. Smith for gallantry and leadership on 20 July 1950.]

 Of all the incidents in the withdrawal, none was more dramatic or attended by such gripping subsequent drama as the adventures of General Dean. They began on the Kumsan road. When he missed the Okchon turn, it was probable that General Dean would not get far. There had been enemy roadblocks on the Kumsan road since the night before. A mile from the city Dean stopped his jeep where a wrecked truck lay on its side in the ditch with several wounded soldiers in it. He loaded these into his two jeeps and waved them on. He and two or three other soldiers soon clambered on to an artillery half-track that came south on the road. Riding in one of the jeeps ahead, Lieutenant Clarke was hit in the shoulder by enemy fire a mile farther down the road. Another mile ahead his group came to a knocked out truck blocking the road. There an enemy force had established a roadblock with machine gun and rifle fire. Clarke and the other men tumbled from the jeeps into the right hand ditch. Dean and those on the half-track did the same when they arrived a few minutes later.

 General Dean and the others crawled through bean patches and a garden to the bank of the Taejon River where they lay concealed until darkness came. It must have been at this time that Captain Smith and his L Company party fought their way through that roadblock. After dark Dean’s party crossed to the west side of the river and started climbing a high mountain. This was just north of the little village of Nangwol.

 General Dean and others in the party took turns in helping a badly wounded man up the steep slope. Once, Clarke dissuaded Dean from going back down the mountain for water. A little after midnight, at a time when he was leading the group, Lieutenant Clarke suddenly discovered that no one was following him. He turned back and found several men asleep. He called for General Dean. Someone replied that General Dean had gone for water. Clarke estimated that an unencumbered man could go to the bottom and back up to where they were in an hour. He decided to wait two hours. Dean did not return. At 0315 Clarke awakened the sleeping men and the party climbed to the top of the mountain, arriving there just before dawn. There they waited all day, four or five miles south of Taejon, hoping to see General Dean. That night, Clarke led his party back down the mountain, recrossed the Taejon River in a rainstorm near the village of Samhoe, climbed eastward into the mountains, and then turned south. He eventually led his party to safety through the lines of the 1st Cavalry Division at Yongdong on 23 July.

 [N11-74 Interv, author with Capt Ben Tufts, 2 Aug 51; Ltrs, Clarke to author, 11 and 22 Dec 52, together with sketch map of escape route he followed; New York Herald Tribune, July 24, 1950, dispatch by Homer Bigart. at Panmunjom.]

 It was some years before the mystery of what had happened to Dean that night after Taejon was finally cleared up. In going after water for the wounded men, General Dean fell down a steep slope and was knocked unconscious. When he regained consciousness he found he had a gashed head, a broken shoulder, and many bruises. For thirty-six days General Dean wandered in the mountains trying to reach safety, but this was the period when the North Koreans were advancing southward as rapidly as he was. On 25 August, two South Koreans who pretended to be guiding him toward safety led him into a prearranged ambush of North Korean soldiers, and they captured the emaciated, nearly starved, and injured general, who now weighed only 130 pounds instead of his normal 190. His capture took place near Chinan, thirty-five miles due south of Taejon and sixty-five air miles west of Taegu. Then began his more than three years of life as a prisoner of the North Koreans that finally ended on 4 September 1953 when he was repatriated to American officials.

General Dean’s heroic and fascinating chronicle as told in his book, General Dean’s Story, is one of the great documents to come out of the Korean War. That war was destined to add many illustrious names to the roll of honor in United States military annals. But posterity probably will accord to none as high a place as to General Dean in the example he set as a soldier and leader in great adversity and as an unbreakable American in Communist captivity.

 The Department of the Army awarded General Dean the Medal of Honor for his courage and exploits at Taejon on 20 July. DA GO No. 7, 16 Feb 51. The first information that Dean might be alive as a prisoner of war came from a North Korean soldier, Lee Kyu Hyun, who escaped to American lines (his claim) or was captured near Pyongyang in North Korea in late October 1950. He had been assigned to live with General Dean and to serve as interpreter. Colonel William A. Collier of the Eighth Army Staff who had established the Advanced Headquarters in Pyongyang was the first American officer to interview Lee. He was convinced that Lee had lived with Dean and made a detailed report to Major General Leven C. Allen, then Chief of Staff, Eighth Army. Captain Ben Tufts also interviewed Lee extensively, first at Pyongyang and subsequently early in 1951 at Pusan. In the summer of 1951 Tufts furnished the author with a copy of his interview notes with Lee. Lee’s story proved to be substantially in agreement with the account given later by Dean himself. But in 1951 the author could find scarcely anyone in Eighth Army or in the Far East Command who believed that General Dean might still be alive.

 A word needs to be said about the men of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, who were driven from or left their positions west of Taejon during the morning of 20 July and climbed into the hills south of the Nonsan road. Most of them escaped. These men traveled all night. One large party of 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, troops, which included Captain Barszcz’ G Company, 19th Infantry, was led by Captain Marks. It passed through Kumsan, where a few small parties turned east toward Yongdong.

 But the main party continued south, believing the enemy might have cut the road eastward. On the 23rd this group encountered some ROK trucks and shuttled south in them until they broke down. The next day the entire party loaded into a boxcar train it met and rode the last 50 miles into the south coast port of Yosu, 110 air miles south of Taejon and 80 air miles west of Pusan. From Yosu they traveled by boat the next day, 25 July, to Pusan. From there they returned north to rejoin their parent organizations.

 Most of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, reached Kumsan and there turned eastward to come through friendly lines at Yongdong. Included in these parties were Colonels McGrail and Ayres and Captains Montesclaros and Slack. They arrived at Yongdong on 21 and 22 July.

 Taejon must be considered a major victory for the North Koreans, even though two divisions with T34 tanks were operating against only about 4,000 men of the U.S. 24th Division in and around the city. It appears that credit should go to the N.K. 4th Division for carrying out the envelopment of Taejon from the west and south by strong elements of its 16th and 18th Regiments and imposing the disastrous roadblock on the Okchon highway east of Taejon. These elements had no tanks or artillery with them; theirs was a light infantry maneuver and tactic. Whether they came around by road through Kumsan from Nonsan or marched across country over the mountains south and southwest of Taejon from the Nonsan-Taejon road is not definitely known. There is some evidence that at least part of the enveloping force came through Kumsan.

 The N.K. 3rd Division joined the 5th Regiment of the N.K. 4th Division in maintaining frontal pressure against Taejon in the afternoon of the 20th and enveloped it on the north and northeast. The 3rd infiltrated the city heavily in the latter part of the afternoon. The enemy tanks that penetrated Taejon in the morning apparently belonged to the 107thTank Regiment of the 105th Armored Division, attached to the N.K. 4th Division ever since the crossing of the 38th Parallel. Some of the tanks that entered the city later in the day were probably from the 203rd Tank Regiment attached to the N.K. 3rd Division.

 [N11-77 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 106 (N.K. Arty), p. 66; Ibid., Issue 94 (N.K. 4th Div), pp. 4647; Ibid., Issue 96 (N.K. 3rd Div), pp. 31-32; OROR-1, FEC, Employment of Armor in Korea (8 Apr 51), vol. 1, p. 127, citing Senior Captain Kwon Jae Yon, and pp. 112-13, citing 2nd Lieutenant Kim Ji Soon.]

 The N.K. 2nd Division, which was supposed to have joined the 3rd and 4th in the attack on Taejon, failed to come up in time. This all but exhausted division did not leave Chongju until on or about the 18th. It then moved through Pugang-ni southwest toward Taejon, apparently intending to cross the Kum River in the vicinity of the railroad bridge. It had yet to cross the Kum when it received word on 21 July that Taejon had fallen. The 2nd Division thereupon altered its course and turned southeast through Poun, headed for Kumchon.

[N11-7878 ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 94 (N.K. 2nd Div), p. 36.]

 It is difficult to estimate enemy losses at Taejon. The North Korean infantry losses apparently were light. Their losses in armor and artillery were considerable. The N. K. 4th Division, according to prisoner reports later, lost 15 76-mm. guns and 6 122-mm. mortars, together with 200 artillerymen. The tank losses were relatively heavy; at least 15 of them were destroyed, and possibly the number may have been 20 or more.

Within five days the enemy, employing numerically superior forces, had executed two highly successful envelopments of American positions at the Kum River and at Taejon. In each case the North Koreans moved around the left flank to impose roadblocks covering the rear routes of escape. In each instance the result was catastrophic for the units cut off. These enemy operations must stand as excellent examples of this type of military tactic.

 On the American side, the lack of information of the true state of affairs caused by the almost complete breakdown in all forms of communication was the major factor leading to the disaster. In battle, communication is all important.

The 24th Division After Taejon  

When all the men who escaped from Taejon had rejoined their units, a count showed 1,150 casualties out of 3,933 of the U.S. 24th Division forces engaged there on 19-20 July—nearly 30 percent. Of these casualties, 48 were known dead, 228 wounded, and 874 missing in action. Most of the last were presumed killed and this was borne out by subsequent information. Among the rifle companies, L Company, 34th Infantry, the rear guard unit, lost the most with 107 casualties out of 153 men (70 percent).

 The equipment loss also was very great. Virtually all the organic equipment of the troops in Taejon was lost there. Only B Battery, 13th Field Artillery Battalion, B Battery, 63rd Field Artillery Battalion, and I Company, 34th Infantry, brought out their equipment substantially intact. They escaped just before the enemy enforced the roadblock which caught everything behind them. Approximately only 35 regimental vehicles escaped from Taejon. The 24th Quartermaster Company lost 30 of 34 trucks; A Battery, 11th Field Artillery Battalion, lost all 5 of its 155-mm. howitzers.

 At noon on 22 July the 24th Infantry Division turned over the front-line positions at Yongdong to the 1st Cavalry Division. The division’s consolidated strength on that day was 8,660 men. Seventeen days had elapsed since division troops had first met North Koreans in combat at Osan on 5 July. In that time, two enemy divisions had driven it back 100 miles in a southeasterly direction. In these two and a half weeks, the division had suffered more than 30 percent casualties. More than 2,400 men were missing in action. It had lost enough matériel to equip a division. Losses in senior officers of field grade had been unusually severe. And then finally, at Taejon, the commanding general of the division was missing in action. Charged with carrying out a delaying action, the division had held the enemy on its front to an average gain of about six miles a day. On 22 July, with General Dean still missing in action, Eighth Army ordered Major General John H. Church to assume command of the 24th Division.

 Soldiers of the 24th Division faced many handicaps in their early battles with the North Koreans. Often the unit commanders were new to the units and did not know their officers and men; there were few qualified officer replacements for those lost; communication was a most serious and continuing problem—there was a lack of telephone wire, and the batteries for radios were outdated and lasted only an hour or so in operation or they did not function at all; there was a shortage of ammunition, particularly for the 60-mm., 81-mm., and 4.2-inch mortars; dysentery at times affected a fourth of the men; and always there were the rumors, generally absurd and groundless, which kept the men agitated and uneasy. The maps, based on the Japanese survey of 1918-32, were often unreliable, resulting in inaccurate artillery fire unless directed and adjusted by an observer. Road and convoy discipline was poor. Driver maintenance was poor.

 [N11-80 24th Div WD, Summ, 583 Jul-25 Aug 50; Ltr, Smith to author, 6 Nov 51; 21st Inf WD, 25 Jun22 Jul 50, Incl III, Act Rpt, 3rd Bn, 24 Jul 50; 34th Inf WD, 22 Jul-26 Aug 50, Logistical Rpt; EUSAK WD, 13-31 Jul 50, Summ, Sec II, 22 Jul 50. Church was promoted from brigadier general to major general on 18 July 1950.]

  There were many heroic actions by American soldiers of the 24th Division in these first weeks in Korea. But there were also many uncomplimentary and unsoldierly ones. Leadership among the officers had to be exceptional to get the men to fight, and several gave their lives in this effort. Others failed to meet the standard expected of American officers. There is no reason to suppose that any of the other three occupation divisions in Japan would have done better in Korea than did the U.S. 24th Division in July 1950. When committed to action they showed the same weaknesses.

 A basic fact is that the occupation divisions were not trained, equipped, or ready for battle. The great majority of the enlisted men were young and not really interested in being soldiers. The recruiting posters that had induced most of these men to enter the Army mentioned all conceivable advantages and promised many good things, but never suggested that the principal business of an army is to fight.

 When the first American units climbed the hills in the Korean monsoon heat and humidity, either to fight or to escape encirclement by the enemy, they “dropped like flies,” as more than one official report of the period states. Salt tablets became a supply item of highest priority and were even dropped to troops by plane.

 One participant and competent observer of the war in those first days has expressed the conditions well. He said, “The men and officers had no interest in a fight which was not even dignified by being called a war. It was a bitter fight in which many lives were lost, and we could see no profit in it except our pride in our profession and our units as well as the comradeship which dictates that you do not let your fellow soldiers down.”

 [N11-81 Ltr, Stephens to author, 17 Sep 52. The author has heard essentially the same thing from many others who fought in Korea during the summer of 1950.]

 As part of the historical record, it may be worthwhile to record General Dean’s own judgment after turning over in his mind for several years the events of Taejon, and after having read this chapter in manuscript. Many of the things related in this chapter he did not, of course, know at the time. Here are the words of this brave and honest soldier, written seven and a half years after the event.

 Hostile and friendly dispositions, which are now quite clear, were much more obscure at the time. I stayed in Taejon for a number of reasons: (1) In an effort to stimulate the fighting spirit of the 34th Infantry and attached troops there in the city.

 The second reason was as an example to the ROK leaders and also to give confidence to the ROK forces. The third was to see at close hand just what kind of a fighter the North Korean was. It is now clear to me that I was too close to the trees to see the forest, and therefore was at the time blind to the envelopment that the North Koreans were engineering. Not until we turned off on the road to Kumsan and we ran into the North Korean detachment dug in at intervals along that highway did I realize what had happened. I was disturbed about the infiltrators into the City of Taejon itself, but I was not alarmed and I was sanguine of extricating the 34th Infantry until I had left the city on the Kumsan road and realized that there had been an envelopment of major proportions. But even then, I did not realize the extent of the envelopment and my earnest prayer at the time was that the majority of the 34th Infantry would not take the Kumsan road but would leave by way of the Okchon road. Subsequent events have proved that it would have been better if we had all headed down the Kumsan road because I am certain we could have cleared that and gotten a greater number through. . . .

 In retrospect, it would appear that the 21st Infantry Regiment should have been employed to secure the exit from Taejon. But I never issued such an order and my reason for not doing so was that I was convinced that the 21st Infantry Regiment should hold the commanding terrain just west of Okchon to prevent an envelopment from the north, which would cut off both the 21st Infantry Regiment and the 34th Infantry Regiment and permit the enemy to drive through Yongdong and south through Yongdong to Kumchon and hence south. My big two errors were: (1) Not withdrawing the 34th Infantry Regiment the night of the 19th of July, as originally planned; (2) releasing the 24th Reconnaissance Company to the 34th Infantry Regiment.

 After the fall of Taejon the war was to enter a new phase. Help in the form of the 1st Cavalry Division had arrived. No longer would the 24th Division and the ROK Army have to stand alone.

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)

Korean War: Battle for Taejon July 1950 (11A)

 

Korean War: Battle for Taejon July 1950 (11A)

Both North Korean divisions were now across the Kum River, both were ready to advance to the attack of Taejon itself. The 3rd Division was closer to the city and approaching it from the northwest. The 4th Division, in the Kongju-Nonsan area, was northwest and west of the city and in a position to join with the 3rd Division in a frontal attack or to move south and then east in a flanking movement that would bring it to the rear of Taejon. The road net from Kongju and Nonsan permitted both these possibilities, or a combination of them. After its successful crossing of the Kum on the 14th, the 4th Division apparently had been gathering its forces and waiting on the 3rd to complete its crossing effort so that the two could then join in a co-ordinated attack.  

In the North Korean plan, a third division, the 2nd, was supposed to join the 4th and the 3rd in the attack on Taejon. This division was advancing on the east of the other two and had been heavily engaged for some days with ROK troops in the ChInchon-Chongju area, where it suffered crippling casualties. As events turned out, this division did not arrive in time to join in the attack, nor did the other two need it.  

Had it come up as planned it would have appeared on the east and southeast of Taejon, a thing that General Dean very much feared and which he had to take into account in his dispositions for the defense of the city.  

If past practice signified anything for the future, the North Koreans would advance against Taejon frontally with a force strong enough to pin down the defenders and attack first with tanks in an effort to demoralize the defenders. Thus far, their tanks had led every advance and nothing had been able to stop them. While this frontal action developed, strong flanking forces would be moving to the rear to cut off the main escape routes. This North Korean maneuver had been standard in every major action. The N.K. 4th Division was in a favored position to execute just such a flanking maneuver against Taejon from the west and southwest. Had the 2nd Division arrived on the scene as planned it would have been in a position to do the same thing from the east and southeast. The 3rd Division was in position between these two divisions and undoubtedly was expected to exert the main frontal pressure in the forthcoming attack.  

In any deployment of his forces against the North Koreans in front of Taejon, General Dean faced the fact that he had only remnants of three defeated regiments. Each of them could muster little more than a battalion of troops. Osan, Chonui, and Chochiwon had reduced the 21st Infantry to that state; Pyongtaek , Chonan, and the Kum River had left only a decimated 34th Infantry; and 16 July at the Kum River had sadly crippled the 19th Infantry. In addition to numerical weakness, all the troops were tired and their morale was not the best. General Dean braced himself for the job ahead. He himself was as worn as his troops; for the past two weeks he had faced daily crises and had pushed himself to the limit.

Dean’s Plan at Taejon  

After dark on 16 July, the 34th Infantry on orders from General Dean fell back approximately twenty miles from the vicinity of Nonsan to new defensive positions three miles west of Taejon. Colonel Charles E. Beauchamp, who had flown to Korea from Japan to take command of the regiment, established his command post at the Taejon airstrip just to the northwest of the city. General Dean consolidated all remaining elements of the divisional artillery, except the 155-mm. howitzers of the 11th Field Artillery Battalion, into one composite battalion and emplaced it at the airstrip for the defense of the city. The airstrip itself closed to ordinary traffic. Early in the afternoon of the 17th the 34th Infantry took over the entire defensive line north and west of Taejon. Except for General Dean and three or four other officers, the 24th Division headquarters left for Yongdong, 28 miles southeast on the main highway and rail line. Remaining with Dean at Taejon were Lieutenant Clarke, an aide; Captain Richard A. Rowlands, Assistant G-3; Captain Raymond D. Hatfield, Transportation Officer and Assistant G-4; and two drivers. Dean instructed Major David A. Bissett to establish an office for him at the 21st Infantry command post at Okchon so that he could from there more easily keep informed of affairs east of Taejon. Dean said that he would spend nights at Okchon. “But,” commented Bissett, “he never did, and indeed none of us there expected him to.”  

Before the battle of the Kum, Dean had selected two regimental positions three miles west of Taejon for the close-in defense of the city. These positions were on a 500-foot high, 3-mile long ridge behind (east of) the Kap-chon River. Each extremity covered a bridge and a road immediately to its front. The position was a strong one and well suited to a two-regimental front. It was known as the Yusong position. A village of that name lay across the Kap-chon River about a mile from the northern end of the ridge. Dean’s plan had been to place the 19th Infantry on the northern part of the line covering the main Seoul-Pusan highway where it curved around the northern end of the ridge and to place the 34th Infantry on the southern part to cover the Nonsan-Taejon road where it passed along a narrow strip of low ground at the southern end of the ridge. But with the 19th Infantry combat-ineffective after the ordeal of the 16th and at Yongdong for re-equipping, the defense of the entire line fell upon the 34th Infantry.  

General Dean had no intention of fighting a last-ditch battle for Taejon. He looked upon it as another in the series of delaying actions to which the 24th Division had been committed by General MacArthur to slow the North Korean advance, pending the arrival of sufficient reinforcements to halt and then turn back the enemy. Expecting that the North Koreans would arrive before the city just as soon as they could get their tanks across the Kum River and carry out an envelopment with ground forces, General Dean on 18 July made plans to evacuate Taejon the next day. Anticipating an early withdrawal, engineer demolition teams with Colonel Stephens’ 21st Infantry at the Okchon position prepared the tunnels east of Taejon for destruction.  

But Dean’s plan was changed by the arrival of General Walker at the Taejon airstrip before noon of the 18th. After the North Korean crossing of the Kum River, General Walker had asked his Chief of Staff, Colonel Landrum, to assemble troop and logistical data bearing on Eighth Army’s capability in the face of the growing crisis in Korea. At his office in Yokohama, Colonel Landrum and his staff spent a hectic day on the telephone gathering the information Walker wanted. Then Landrum called Walker at Taegu and relayed to him the status of all troops in Korea or en route there; an estimate of United States military build-up in Korea during the next ten days, with particular emphasis on the 1st Cavalry Division; the status of supplies and especially of ammunition; and a report on General Garvin’s progress in organizing the supply base at Pusan.  

During the conversation Walker had at hand a set of terrain maps and terrain estimates of the roads, railroads, and corridors running from north to south and from south to north and their relationship to enemy operations and Eighth Army’s build-up in Korea. He repeatedly interjected the question, “When and where can I stop the enemy and attack him?” General Walker’s final decision in this conference was that the 24th Division and the ROK Army should execute maximum delay on the North Koreans in order to assure stopping them west and north of the general line Naktong River to Yongdok on the east coast. He hoped to get the 1st Cavalry Division deployed in the Okchon area and south of Taejon along the Kumsan road, thinking this might provide the opportunity to stop the enemy between Taejon and Taegu. Walker felt that if he was forced to fall back behind the Naktong River he could stand there until Eighth Army’s troop and equipment build-up would permit him to take the offensive. Upon concluding this conference with Landrum, General Walker particularly instructed him to keep this estimate to himself, although authorizing him to consider it in reviewing staff plans.

 General Walker had this concept of future operations in Korea in his mind when he talked with General Dean at the 34th Infantry command post. He spoke of the 1st Cavalry Division landing which had started that morning at Pohang-dong on the southeast coast. Walker said he would like to hold Taejon until the 1st Cavalry Division could move up to help in its defense or get into battle position alongside the 24th Division in the mountain passes southeast of Taejon. He said he needed two days’ time to accomplish this. After his conference with Dean, Walker flew back to Taegu. He informed Colonel Landrum that he had told General Dean he needed two days’ delay at Taejon to get the 1st Cavalry Division up and into position. Landrum asked Walker how much latitude he had given Dean.

 Walker replied, in substance, “Dean is a fighter; he won’t give an inch if he can help it. I told him that I had every confidence in his judgment, and that if it became necessary for him to abandon Taejon earlier, to make his own decision and that I would sustain him.”

 This conference changed Dean’s plan to withdraw from Taejon the next day, 19 July. Shortly after noon Dean informed the headquarters of the 21st Infantry that the withdrawal from Taejon planned for the 19th would be delayed 24 hours. The regiment passed this information on to the engineer demolition teams standing by at the tunnels.

At this point it is desirable to take a closer look at the geography and communications which necessarily would affect military operations at Taejon. In 1950 Taejon, with a population of about 130,000 was in size the sixth city of South Korea, a rapidly growing inland commercial center, 100 miles south of Seoul and 130 miles northwest of Pusan. A long and narrow city, Taejon lay in the north-south valley of the Taejon River at the western base of the middle Sobaek range of mountains. Extensive rice paddy ground adjoined the city on the north and west. The railroad ran along its eastern side with the station and extensive yards in the city’s northeast quarter. Two arms of the Taejon River, the main one flowing northwest through the center of the city and the other curving around its eastern side, joined at its northern edge. Two miles farther north the Yudung River emptied into it and the Taejon then flowed into the Kap-chon, a large tributary of the Kum.

 The highway net can be visualized readily if one imagines Taejon as being the center of a clock dial. Five main routes of approach came into the city. The main rail line and a secondary road ran almost due south from the Kum River to it. On this approach, 3 miles north of the city, a platoon of I Company, 34th Infantry, established a road and rail block. From the east at 4 o’clock the main Pusan highway entered the city, and astride it some 6 miles eastward the 21st Infantry held a defensive blocking position in front of Okchon with the regimental command post in that town. There were two railroad and two highway tunnels between Taejon and Okchon. One of each of them was between Taejon and the 21st Infantry position. From the south, the Kumsan road entered Taejon at 5 o’clock. General Dean had the Reconnaissance Company at Kumsan to protect and warn the division of any enemy movement from that direction in its rear.

At 8 o’clock the Nonsan road from the southwest slanted into the Seoul-Pusan highway a mile west of the city. Astride this road 3 miles southwest of Taejon a platoon of L Company, 34th Infantry, held a roadblock at the bridge over the Kap-chon River at the southern end of the 34th Infantry defense position. The Seoul highway slanted toward the city from the northwest at 10 o’clock, and of all approaches it had to be considered the most important. At the western edge of Taejon (700 yards from the densely built-up section) where the Nonsan road joined it, the highway turned east to enter the city. The Taejon airstrip lay on a little plateau north of the road two miles from the city. A mile in front of the airstrip the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, was in. battle position astride the highway at Hill 138 just east of the Kapchon River. A mile farther west B Company occupied an advanced position.

 Behind the 1st Battalion, a mile and a half away, the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry, held a ridge east of the airfield and between it and the city. The composite battalion of artillery supporting the infantry was emplaced at the airfield where it could fire on the expected avenues of enemy approach.

[N11-66 Interv, author with Beauchamp, 1 Aug 52; Overlay of 34th Inf positions 18 Jul 50, prepared by Beauchamp for author, Aug 52; Ltr, Ayres to author, 3 Oct 52; Ltr, Maj Jack E. Smith (Actg CO 3rd Bn, 34th Inf, 20 Jul 50) to author, 21 Jul 55.]

Taejon—The First Day  

In the afternoon of 18 July General Dean went to the 24th Division command post at Yongdong and there in the evening he took steps to bolster the defense of Taejon for an extra day, as desired by General Walker. He ordered the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, to move back to Taejon from Yongdong and B Battery of the 13th Field Artillery Battalion to return to the Taejon airstrip from the vicinity of Okchon. At the same time he ordered the Reconnaissance Company to be released from division control and attached to the 34th Infantry Regiment. Up to this time the Reconnaissance Company had been based at Kumsan. The division order to the Reconnaissance Company releasing it to regimental control moved it to Taejon the next day. As a result, the division became blind to what the enemy was doing on its southern flank. General Dean subsequently considered his releasing the Reconnaissance Company to the regiment as one of his most serious errors at Taejon. His purpose in releasing it to Colonel Beauchamp’s command was to ensure the 34th Infantry getting direct and immediate information as to conditions on its southern flank; he had not anticipated that the division order would send it to Taejon.

[N11-7 Dean, MS review comments, 20 Jan 58; 21st Inf WD, 18 Jul 50; 19th Inf WD, 18 Jul 50; Interv, author with Major Leon B Cheek (Ex Off, 13th FA Bn, Jul 50), 7 Aug 51; 24th Recon Co WD, 18-20 Jul 50.]

 General Dean also discussed again with Colonel Stephens the role of the 21st Infantry in the next few days. It was to keep open the withdrawal road out of Taejon. Stephens pointed out that his troops were astride that road and on the hills between Taejon and Okchon and asked if he should change their disposition. General Dean answered no, that he did not want that done, as he also feared an enemy penetration behind his Taejon position from the east through the ROK Army area there and he had to guard against it. Dean decided that the 21st Infantry should stay where it was but patrol the terrain north of the Taejon-Okchon road and send patrols periodically up the road into Taejon.8

 The North Korean attack against Taejon got under way the morning of 19 July. The first blow was an air strike against communication lines in the rear of the city. At 0720, six YAK’s flew over the lines of the 21st Infantry and dropped four bombs on the railroad bridge two miles northwest of Okchon. One bomb damaged the bridge, but by noon B Company of the 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion had repaired it and restored rail traffic in both directions. The YAK’s strafed near the regimental command post and dropped propaganda leaflets signed by three American officers and three noncommissioned officers captured at Osan two weeks earlier. Four planes then strafed the Taejon airstrip. Later in the day, the crews of A Battery, 26th Antiaircraft Battalion, supporting the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, shot down two YAK’s near Yusong, just west of Taejon.

 [N11-9 24th Div WD, 19 Jul 50, Narr Summ of Enemy Info; 21st Inf WD, 19 Jul 50, includes copies of this enemy leaflet; Btry A, 26th AAA (AW) Bn WD, 19 Jul 50; Antiaircraft Journal (January-February, 1951), article by Corporal John S. Aaron on 24th Div AAA claims three YAK’s shot down; 3rd Engr (C) Bn WD, 19 Jul 50, Narr Summ, Opn Highlights.]

 The U.S. Air Force also went into action early on the 19th. It bombed and burned known and suspected points of enemy concentration west and southwest of Taejon. Aerial observers at noon reported that the enemy had partially repaired the bridge across the Kum River at Taepyong-ni, ten miles north of Taejon, and that tanks and artillery were moving south of the river. The Air Force operated at considerable disadvantage at this time, however, for there were only two strips in Korea suitable for use by F-51 and C-47 types of aircraft—the K-2 dirt strip at Taegu and the similar K-3 strip at Yonil near Pohang-dong. South of Chinju, the K-4 strip at Sachon was available as an emergency field. Most of the tactical planes flew from Japan.

[N11-10 24th Div WD, G-3 Jnl, entry 106, 190825 Jul 50; Ibid., G-2 Jnl, entry 1222, 191315 Jul 50; Hq X Corps, Staff Study, Development of Tactical Air Support in Korea, 25 Dec 50, p. 8; EUSAK WD, G-2 Daily Stf Rpt, 19 Jul 50, p. 2; FEAF Opn Hist, I, 25 Jun-1 Nov 50, 58-59.]

 After completing its crossing at Kongju, the N.K. 4th Division split its forces for a two-pronged attack on Taejon. The bulk of the division, comprising the 16th and 18th Infantry Regiments, the Artillery Regiment, and most of the tanks, went south to Nonsan and there turned east toward Taejon. Some of the infantry of these regiments may have moved south out of Nonsan in a wheeling movement through Kumsan to the rear of Taejon. Others apparently moved across back country trails to strike the Kumsan road south of and below Taejon. The 5th Infantry Regiment, supported by one tank company, left Kongju on the secondary road running southeast through a mountainous area to Yusong, and apparently was the first enemy unit to arrive at the outskirts of Taejon.

 [N11-12 24th Recon Co WD, 19 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, 19 Jul 50; Interv, author with Beauchamp, 1 Aug 52; Situation Overlay 34th Inf, 19 Jul 50, prepared by Beauchamp for author, Aug 52.]

 At 1000, after the 24th Reconnaissance Company had arrived at Taejon, Colonel Beauchamp sent its 2nd Platoon, consisting of thirty-nine men, southwest along the Nonsan road. Half an hour later, three miles west of the Kap-chon River, enemy fire struck the patrol from both sides of the road. It withdrew to the river and there joined the platoon of L Company on the east bank of the stream. The remainder of L Company arrived and deployed.

General Dean had left Taejon that morning intending to go briefly to Yongdong. On the way he stopped at the 21st Infantry command post at Okchon. There he said suddenly about 1000 that he was worried about the disposition of the 34th Infantry and was going back to Taejon. [N11-13] When he arrived there, action already had started at the L Company roadblock on the Nonsan road. The battle of Taejon had begun. Dean stayed in Taejon.

 [N11-13 Interv, author with Colonel Ned D. Moore, 20 Aug 52. (Moore was with Dean.)

 The 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, arrived at Taejon from Yongdong about this time, just after noon. By 1300, Colonel McGrail, the battalion commander, had the unit ready to move out at the railroad station. There he received an order saying the North Koreans were breaking through L Company’s blocking position at the Kap-chon River and he was to attack there immediately and restore the position. When he arrived at the scene of fighting McGrail found General Dean there with two tanks, directing fire.

[N11-14 19th Inf WD, 19 Jul 50; Interv, author with McGrail, 20 Aug 52; Interv, author with Montesclaros (S-3 Sec, 2nd Bn, 19th Inf, Jul 50), 20 Aug 52.]

 McGrail’s battalion attacked immediately with two companies abreast astride the Nonsan road, E on the left (south) and F on the right (north). On the right an enemy force was in the act of enveloping the north flank of L Company, 34th Infantry. F Company raced this enemy force for possession of critical high ground, taking and holding it in the ensuing fight. On the left, E Company moved up south of the road, and G Company occupied a hill position a mile behind it. Even with the newly arrived battalion now deployed covering the Nonsan road, there was still a mile-wide gap of high ground between it and the left of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, to the north.

 [N11-15 Intervs, author with McGrail and Montesclaros, Aug 52; Situation Overlay, 1st Bn, 34th Inf, 19 Jul 50, prepared by Colonel Ayres for author. ]

 Co-ordinated with the North Korean advance along the Nonsan road was an enemy approach on the main Seoul highway. There in the Yusong area, B Company of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, came under heavy attack. Enemy flanking parties cut off two platoons half a mile north of Yusong. In the fighting there both platoon leaders were wounded and several men killed. Colonel Ayres from his observation post east of the Kap-chon River could see large groups of North Koreans assembling and artillery going into position in the little valley northwest of Yusong. He directed artillery fire and called in air strikes on these concentrations. In the afternoon he requested and received authority from Colonel Beauchamp to withdraw B Company from its exposed position at Yusong to the main battalion position back of the Kap-chon River. The company successfully withdrew in the evening.

 Meanwhile, just before noon, the North Koreans began shelling the Taejon airstrip with counterbattery fire. This fire, coming from the north and northwest, built up to great intensity during the afternoon. That evening, General Dean told Major Bissett that he had seen as much incoming artillery fire at the Taejon Airfield that day as he had ever seen in one day in Europe in World War II. Frequent artillery concentrations also pounded the main battle positions of the 34th Infantry.

 [N11-17 Interv, author with Beauchamp, 1 Aug 52; Ltr, Ayres to author, 3 Oct 52; Ltr, Bissett to author, 14 May 52. General Order 112, 30 August 1950, 24th Division, awarded the Bronze Star Medal to Corporal Robert D. Jones, Headquarters Battery, 63rd Field Artillery Battalion.]

 By early afternoon, Colonel Ayres was convinced that a major enemy attack was impending. At 1400 he recommended to Colonel Beauchamp that the regiment withdraw that night. Beauchamp rejected this, thinking they could hold the enemy out of Taejon another day, and he so told General Dean. After dark, however, Beauchamp moved his 34th Infantry command post from the airfield into Taejon. At the same time all the supporting artillery displaced from the airfield to positions on the south edge of the city.

 As darkness fell, Colonel Ayres ordered his motor officer to move the 1st Battalion vehicles into Taejon. He did not want to run the risk of losing them during a night attack. Only one jeep for each rifle company, two jeeps for the Heavy Weapons Company, the battalion command jeep, and the radio vehicle were left at the battle positions.

 On the left of the defense position F Company of the 19th Infantry had been under attack all afternoon. After dark men there heard noises on their right flank, and it became apparent that enemy soldiers were moving into, and possibly through, the mile-wide gap between them and the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry.

 Taejon was ominously quiet during the evening. Occasional showers from the edge of a typhoon that had narrowly missed the area settled the stifling dust raised by the vehicular traffic in the city. As the night wore on the quiet gave way to ominous noises. At his command post Colonel Ayres about 2200 heard the rumble of tanks on his right. He sent a patrol out to investigate. It never reported back. Ayres telephoned Beauchamp and told him he thought enemy troops were moving around the city and again recommended withdrawal.

 Before midnight a report came in to the 34th Infantry command post that an enemy unit was six miles south of Taejon on the Kumsan road. With nine members of the 24th Reconnaissance Company 1st Lieutenant George W. Kristanoff started down the road on a jeep patrol to investigate. Six miles below Taejon an enemy roadblock stopped them. Kristanoff reported the beginning of the action by radio. At 0300, 20 July, a platoon of the Reconnaissance Company drove cautiously out of Taejon down the same road to check on security. Enemy fire stopped the platoon at the same roadblock. There platoon members saw the bodies of several men of the earlier patrol and their four destroyed jeeps. A little earlier, at 0200, word had come in to Taejon that a jeep had been ambushed on the Okchon road.

[N11-21 24th Recon Co WD, 19-20 July 50; 24th Div WD, G-2 Jnl, entry 1313, 201040 Jul 50; General Order in, 30 August 1950, 24th Division, awarded the Silver Star to Lieutenant Kristanoff.]

 It would seem clear from these incidents that enemy units were moving around to the rear of Taejon during the night—in just what strength might only be guessed. But for reasons that cannot now be determined these events were not so evaluated at the time of their occurrence. General Dean has stated that he did not know of the enemy roadblock on the Kumsan road—apparently it was not reported to him. He did learn of the jeep incident on the Okchon road but dismissed it as the work of a few infiltrators and of no special importance because the road subsequently seemed to be clear. Taejon—The Second Day  

Shortly after 0300, 20 July, the S-2 of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, who since dark had remained in the battalion forward observation post, ran into Colonel Ayres’ command post and said that the North Koreans had overrun the observation post and penetrated the battalion main line of resistance. Ayres has said that this was his first knowledge of the enemy’s general attack. He could now hear small arms fire to the front and right and see flares bursting at many points over the battalion position. There seemed to be no action on the battalion left in C Company’s position.  

The enemy attack, infantry and armor, came down both sides of the highway and rolled up the battalion right flank. Other enemy infantry attacked from the north against this flank. The North Koreans penetrated to the 81-mm. and 4.2inch mortar positions behind the rifle companies and then struck Headquarters Company. About 0400 small arms fire hit the Korean house in which the 1st Battalion command post was located and riflemen from the overrun front line began coming into the Headquarters Company area. Ayres tried, and failed, to communicate with his front line companies.

 He sent a message to the regimental headquarters that tanks had penetrated his position and were headed toward the city. There is some evidence that the infantry bazooka teams abandoned their positions along the road when the attack began. And rifle companies certainly did not fight long in place. In the growing confusion that spread rapidly, Ayres decided to evacuate the command post. Major Leland R. Dunham, the battalion executive officer, led about 200 men from the Heavy Mortar Company, the Heavy Weapons Company, and the 1st Battalion Headquarters southward from the Yudung valley away from the sound of enemy fire. Colonel Ayres and his S-3 followed behind the others. Day was dawning.  

[N11-24; Interv, Blumenson with 2nd Lieutenant George H. Wilcox (Plat Ldr, D Co, 34th Inf), 25 Aug 51; Gugeler, Combat Actions in Korea, “Withdrawal Action,” pp. 16-17, recording interview with Master Sergeant Zack C. Williams of A Co, 34th Inf.] 

In Taejon, Colonel Beauchamp received Ayres’ report that enemy tanks were in the 1st Battalion position. Later, telephone communication to the 1st Battalion ended and Beauchamp sent linemen out to check the wires. They came back and said they could not get through —that enemy infantry were on the road near the airfield. The regimental S-3 did not believe this report. Beauchamp went to his jeep and started down the road toward the 1st Battalion command post to find out for himself just what the situation was. At the road junction half a mile west of Taejon, where the main Seoul highway comes in from the northwest to join the Nonsan road, an enemy tank suddenly loomed up out of the darkness. The tank fired its machine gun just as Beauchamp jumped from his jeep; one bullet grazed him, others set the vehicle afire. Beauchamp crawled back some hundreds of yards until he found a 3.5-inch bazooka team. He guided it back to the road junction. This bazooka team from C Company, 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion, set the enemy tank on fire with rockets and captured the crew members. It then took a position to guard the road intersection. Later in the morning this rocket launcher team and one from the 24th Reconnaissance Company destroyed two more T34 tanks approaching from the direction of the airfield.  

This action at the crossroads just west of Taejon in the predawn of 20 July is the first verifiable use of the 3.5-inch rocket launcher against the T34 tanks. This rocket launcher had been under development since the end of World War II, but none had been issued to troops because of the difficulty in perfecting its ammunition. The ammunition had been standardized and in production only fifteen days when the Korean War started. General MacArthur on 3 July requested that the new rocket launcher be airlifted to Korea. The first of the launchers, together with an instruction team, left Travis Air Force Base in California on 8 July and arrived at Taejon on the 10th. The first delivery of the new weapon arrived at Taejon on 12 July. That same day selected members of the 24th Infantry Division began to receive instructions in its use. The 3.5inch rocket launcher was made of aluminum and weighed about fifteen pounds. It looked like a 5-foot length of stovepipe. It was electrically operated and fired a 23-inch-long, eight-and-a-half-pound rocket from its smooth bore, open tube. The rocket’s most destructive feature was the shaped charge designed to burn through the armor of any tank then known.

 When Beauchamp returned to his command post after his encounter with the enemy tanks he found that there was still no communication with the 1st Battalion. A little later, however, a regimental staff officer told him radio communication with the battalion had been re-established and that it reported its condition as good. It was learned afterward that the 1st Battalion had no communication with the regiment after Ayres reported the enemy penetration of his position. The only plausible explanation of this incident is that North Koreans used Colonel Ayres’ captured radio jeep to send a false report to the regiment.

 Disturbed by reports of enemy penetrations of the regimental defense position, Colonel Beauchamp after daylight ordered the 3rd Battalion to attack into the gap between the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry. K Company with part of M Company started to execute this order but it never reached the designated area. On the road leading to the airfield it had a sharp encounter with an enemy force. Six T34 tanks and an estimated battalion of enemy infantry scattered part of the troops. In this action, Sergeant First Class Robert E. Dare of K Company courageously covered and directed the withdrawal of the advanced platoon at the cost of his own life. The entire force withdrew to its former 3rd Battalion position.

[N11-27 Ltr, Major Jack E. Smith to author, 18 Jun 55; Comments, Wadlington for author, 1 Apr 53; Ltr, Wadlington to author, 23 Jun 53; Comments, Beauchamp for author, 3 Jan 53. Department of the Army General Order 16, 20 March 1951, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously to Sergeant First Class Robert E. Dare, K Company, 34th Infantry, for heroism at Taejon, 20 July 1950.]

 In its defensive positions on the ridge east of the airfield, the 3rd Battalion remained undisturbed by enemy action throughout the morning except for a small amount of mortar and artillery fire. A peculiar incident had occurred, however, which no one in the battalion could explain. The battalion commander, Major Lantron, disappeared. Lantron got into his jeep about 0930, drove off from his command post, and simply did not return. Colonel Wadlington learned of Lantron’s disappearance about 1100 when he visited the 3rd Battalion. In Lantron’s absence, Wadlington ordered Captain Jack E. Smith to assume command of the battalion. Some weeks later it was learned that Lantron was a prisoner in North Korea.

[N11-28 ATIS Interrog Rpts, Issue 12, Rpt 1708, p. 26, 1st Lieutenant Bill M. McCarver, and Rpt 1775, p. 214, 1st Lieutenant Henry J. McNichols, Jr.]

 The predawn attack against the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, the first tank approaches to the edge of Taejon, and the subsequent North Korean repulse of the K and M Companies’ attack force near the airfield apparently were carried out by the 5th Regiment, N.K. 4th Division, together with its attached armored support. This regiment claims to have captured the Taejon airfield by 0400, 20 July. But after these spectacular successes which started the wholesale withdrawal of the 1st Battalion from its positions west of the city, the enemy force apparently halted and waited for certain developments elsewhere. This probably included completion of the enveloping maneuver to the rear of the city. Only tanks and small groups of infiltrators, most of the latter riding the tanks, entered Taejon during the morning. All these actions appeared to be related parts of the enemy plan.  

Neither Colonel Beauchamp nor his executive officer at the time knew of the North Korean repulse of the K and M Company attack force that was supposed to close the gap between the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry. About the time this event was taking place near the airfield, Colonel Beauchamp told General Dean of his early morning experience with tanks at the edge of the city, and Dean also was informed erroneously that the 1st Battalion was holding in its original battle positions. From the vantage point of Taejon everything seemed all right. At this time, however, General Dean instructed Beauchamp to plan a withdrawal after dark on the Okchon road. Dean then telephoned this information to the 24th Division command post at Yongdong. 

[N11-30 Interv, author with Beauchamp, 1 Aug 52; Dean, MS review comments, 20 Jan 58. 31 Intervs, author with McGrail and Montesclaros, 20 Aug 52; Intervs, Blumenson with 2nd Lieutenant Joseph S. Szito (81-mm. Mortar Plat, H Co, 19th Inf), 25 Aug 51, and 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Herbert (G Co, 19th Inf), 31 Jul 51.]

 In the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, positions covering the Nonsan road there had been alarms during the night, and some false reports had reached Taejon that the enemy had overrun the battalion position. Actually, E Company held its position near the bridge, but north of the road F Company under enemy pressure withdrew approximately 200 yards about daylight.31

 When Major Dunham led the 1st Battalion and the 34th Infantry Headquarters group south, followed at a short interval by Colonel Ayres and his small party, it was just after daylight. These men passed along a protected route behind the high ground held by F Company, 19th Infantry. They had expected to reach the Nonsan road about three miles away and there turn east on it to enter Taejon. As Ayres neared the road he could see F Company on the hill mass to his right (west) engaged in what he termed a “heavy fire fight.” As he watched he saw the company begin to leave the hill. He continued on and saw ahead of him the main body of his headquarters group climbing the mountain on the other side of the Nonsan road.

 Major Dunham, on reaching the road with this group, met and talked briefly there with Colonel McGrail who told him he had had reports that enemy tanks had cut that road into Taejon. Upon hearing this, Dunham led his party across the road into the mountains. When Ayres reached the road enemy machine gun fire was raking it and the bridge over the Yudung. Ayres led his party under the bridge, waded the shallow stream, and followed the main group into the mountains southward. These two parties of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, united on high ground south of Taejon about an hour before noon. Even earlier, the rifle companies of the battalion, for the most part, had scattered into these mountains.

 The rumor of enemy tanks on the Nonsan road that caused the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, group to go into the mountains instead of into Taejon had come to Colonel McGrail soon after daylight. A jeep raced up to his command post east of the Yudung bridge. The men in it said that three enemy tanks blocked the road junction just outside the city (they had seen the tanks from a distance, apparently, and had not known they had been knocked out) and that they had seen three more tanks approaching the junction from the airfield. Colonel McGrail could see smoke hanging over Taejon and hear explosions and gunfire. He turned to 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Herbert and ordered him to take his G Company’s 2nd Platoon and open the road into the city. On the way Herbert encountered a bazooka team which he persuaded to accompany him. He also passed a rifle company getting water in a streambed. This unit identified itself as Baker Company, 34th Infantry; it continued south toward the mountains. Upon arriving at the road junction, Herbert found two T34 tanks burning and a third one that had been destroyed earlier. Lieutenant Little and a reinforced squad armed with two bazookas held the road fork. The burning wreckage of the Heavy Mortar Company, 34th Infantry, littered the road back toward the airfield. A mile to the north three enemy tanks stood motionless. Some men of H Company, 19th Infantry, passed the road fork on their way into Taejon. Herbert’s platoon joined Little’s squad.

 After Herbert’s platoon had departed on its mission, Colonel McGrail lost communication with Colonel Beauchamp’s command post. He had now learned from Major Dunham that the enemy had overrun the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, on the Yusong road to the north of him. His own F Company had started to fall back. The general feeling of McGrail’s 2nd Battalion staff was that enemy troops had cut the road between the battalion and Taejon and were probably in the city itself. About 1100 Captain Montesclaros of the S-3 Section volunteered to try to get into Taejon and reach the regimental headquarters for instruction. Colonel McGrail gave him his jeep and driver for the trip.

 Montesclaros reached the road junction without incident, saw the burning enemy tanks, met Lieutenant Herbert’s platoon at the roadblock, and, much to his surprise, found the road into the city entirely open. At the edge of the city, Montesclaros encountered General Dean. Montesclaros reported to him, gave the position of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, and asked for instructions. General Dean patted Montesclaros on the back and replied, “My boy, I am not running this show, Beauchamp isn’t.” Dean took Montesclaros to the 34th Infantry command post. Beauchamp was not present, but from a member of his staff Montesclaros obtained a written order. Before placing it in his shirt pocket, Montesclaros glanced at the order. It directed McGrail to bring his battalion back to the west edge of Taejon. 

Montesclaros drove back down the road to the 2nd Battalion command post. He found it deserted. Not a living person was in sight; a dead Korean lay in the courtyard. Puzzled, Montesclaros turned back toward Taejon. After driving a short distance, he turned back to the command post to make sure no one was there; he found it the same as before. No one, neither friend nor foe, was in sight. A strange stillness hung over the spot. Again he turned back toward Taejon. He overtook E Company on the road and instructed it to go into position there. At the edge of Taejon, Montesclaros met 1st Lieutenant Tom Weigle, S-2 of the battalion, who told him that McGrail had established a new command post on a high hill south of the road, and pointed out the place. Montesclaros set out for it and after walking and climbing for forty-five minutes reached the place. Colonel McGrail and his command post were not there, but a few men were; they knew nothing of Colonel McGrail’s location.

 Montesclaros started down the mountain with the intention of returning to Taejon. On his way he met Lieutenant Lindsay and E Company climbing the slope. They said the enemy had overrun them on the road. Looking in that direction, Montesclaros saw an estimated battalion of North Korean soldiers marching toward the city in a column of platoons. A T34 tank was traveling west on the road out of Taejon. As it approached the enemy column, the soldiers scurried for the roadside and ducked under bushes, apparently uncertain whether it was one of their own. Montesclaros decided not to try to get into Taejon but to join E Company instead.

 What had happened at the command post of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry? Simply this, believing that the enemy had cut him off from Taejon, Colonel McGrail decided to move his command post to high ground south of the Nonsan road. He instructed E Company to fall back, and then his radio failed. McGrail and his battalion staff thereupon abandoned the command post shortly before noon and climbed the mountain south of Taejon.36 Already F Company had given way and was withdrawing into the hills.

 Soon not a single unit of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, was in its battle position west of Taejon. Nearest to the city, G Company was the last to leave, its place. From his hill position, Captain Barszcz, the company commander, had seen enemy tanks two and a half miles away enter Taejon just after daylight and had reported this by radio to Colonel McGrail’s headquarters. Later in the morning he lost radio communication with McGrail. Shortly after noon, Captain Kenneth Y. Woods, S-3, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, arrived at G Company’s position and gave Captain Barszcz instructions to join the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, group that had passed him in the morning headed south, and to withdraw with it. The G Company 60-mm. mortars were firing at this time. About 1300 Barszcz issued his orders for the withdrawal. The 3rd Platoon was to follow the Weapons Section and bring up the rear. In the withdrawal, however, unknown to Captain Barszcz, the Weapons Platoon leader asked the 3rd Platoon leader to precede him, as he had some mortar ammunition he wanted to expend. The Weapons Section never got out—the entire section of one officer and eighteen enlisted men was lost to enemy action.

 Except for the small group at the road junction half a mile west of the city, all the infantry and supporting weapons units of the two battalions in the battle positions west of Taejon had been driven from or had left those positions by 1300. All of them could have come into Taejon on the Nonsan road. Instead, nearly all of them crossed this road approximately two miles west of the city and went south into the mountains.

 Back at Taejon, the first North Korean tanks had reached the edge of the city before dawn. They came from the northwest along the Yusong road and from the airfield. There is no evidence that the 3.5-inch bazooka teams of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, posted along the Yusong road engaged these tanks.

 Soon after daylight two enemy tanks entered the city from somewhere to the northwest. They were soon followed by a third. Enemy soldiers crowded their decks. These tanks drove to the center of Taejon and there unloaded soldiers who spread quickly into buildings and began the sniping that continued throughout the day. The two tanks then turned back past the large compound where the Service Company of the 34th Infantry had established the regimental kitchen and motor pool. The 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry, also had its kitchen trucks in this compound. Approximately 150 men were there when the two enemy tanks opened fire on it with their tank cannon. This fire killed several men, destroyed vehicles, and set an ammunition truck on fire. After shooting up the compound, the tanks rumbled away and fired at various targets of opportunity.

 [N11-38 3rd Engr (C) Bn WD, 20 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, G-2 Jnl, entry 1367, 19-20 Jul 50 (I&R Plat Rpt with sketch map); Interv, author with Beauchamp, 1 Aug 52; Interv, Blumenson with 2nd Lieutenant Robert E. Nash (S-4, 2nd Bn, 19th Inf, July 50), 22 Aug 51. Nash was in the compound at the time of the tank attack.]

Not until after the tanks had left the compound area did any of the men there locate a 3.5-inch bazooka. Then, in trying to drive out snipers from nearby buildings, someone fired a 3.5-inch white phosphorus rocket into a building setting it afire. The fire spread rapidly to other wood and straw structures in the city until large parts of Taejon were burning, from this and other causes.

 Bazooka teams from the 24th Reconnaissance Company set out after the two tanks. These tanks, meanwhile, encountered two jeeploads of men at the Medical Company headquarters, killed all but two, and wounded them. One tank ran over one of the wounded as he lay helpless in the road. A bazooka man finally got in a shot against one of these tanks, hitting it in the side and bouncing it off the ground, but the tank kept on going. At the railroad station, this tank fired into supplies and equipment, starting large fires. There, with a track off, it came to the end of its journeys. Rifle fire killed the tank commander. A rocket hit the second tank and knocked a piece of armor three feet square from its front plate. A third tank for a period survived a rocket that penetrated the top turret. Private First Class Jack E. Lowe and Corporal Robert B. Watkins of the 24th Reconnaissance Company were the bazooka men who scored the destructive hits on these tanks.

 [N11-39 24th Recon Co WD, 20 Jul 50 and Summ, 25 Jun-22 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, G-2 Jnl, entry 1304, 200850.]

General Dean and his aide, Lieutenant Clarke, had awakened about 0530 to the sound of small arms fire. As Clarke made the bed rolls he remarked to General Dean, “I don’t think we’ll sleep here again tonight.” The general agreed. Sometime later an enemy tank passed close to the 34th Infantry command post headed west out of the city. General Dean immediately started in pursuit of this tank accompanied by two 2.36-inch rocket launcher teams. The tank went through Lieutenant Herbert’s roadblock without being fired on. It was mistaken for a friendly tank until too late for action. When General Dean’s party arrived at the road fork, Herbert explained what had happened. Subsequently this tank re-entered the city and was destroyed, apparently by a 155-mm. howitzer, at the southwest edge of Taejon. During the morning, Dean and his party lost an opportunity against 2 other tanks on the airfield road when the bazooka man with them missed with his only rocket. [N11-40] By 0900, 4 of the 5 tanks known to have entered Taejon had been destroyed.

 [N11-40 Ltr, Captain Arthur M. Clarke to author, 31 May 52 (consists mostly of a copy of notes Clarke made shortly after he returned to friendly lines, on 23 July, while events were fresh in his mind); Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Debriefing Rpt 42, Dept of Training Pubs and Aids, 11 Dec 51 (contains some of Clarke’s recollections of Taejon); Dean and Worden, General Dean’s Story, pp. 30-33: Interv, Blumenson with Herbert, 25 Aug 51; 24th Recon WD, 20 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, G-2 Jnl, entry 1304, 200850 Jul 50.]

 At noon another tank entered Taejon. A 3.5-inch bazooka team from the 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion hunted it down and destroyed it. Soon afterward still another penetrated into the city and rumbled past the regimental command post. General Dean led a group, joined later by a 3.5-inch bazooka team from the 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion, in pursuit of this tank. After an hour or more of climbing over walls and fences and dodging through houses stalking it, with enemy snipers firing at them frequently, General Dean and his party brought this tank to bay. About 1400 a group including General Dean, a corporal carrying the bazooka, an ammunition bearer, and two or three riflemen entered a 2-story business building through a back courtyard and climbed to the second story. Looking out from the edge of a window, they saw the tank immediately below them. General Dean has since written that the muzzle of the tank gun was no more than a dozen feet away and he could have spat down its tube. Under General Dean’s directions the bazooka team fired into the tank. Captain Clarke has described what followed: “I remained by the corner of the building in front of the tank to use my Molotov cocktail on it if it began to move. The first round [3.5-inch rocket] hit the tank, and the occupants began to scream and moan. The second round quieted most of the screaming and the third made it all quiet. We all then withdrew to a better observation post and observed the tank burning.” [N11-41] This was the incident that led to the much-quoted remark attributed to General Dean that day, “I got me a tank.”

 [N11-41 3rd Engr (C) Bn WD, 20 Jul 50; Ltr, Clarke to author, 31 May 52; Dean and Worden, General Dean’s Story, pp. 34-35; New York Herald Tribune, July 24, 1950, Bigart interview with Clarke. The author saw three T34 tanks still standing in Taejon in July 1951, each bearing a bold inscription painted in white on its sides reading, “Knocked out 20 Jul 50 under the supervision of Maj General W. F. Dean.” One tank was in the center of Taejon at a street corner; this apparently was the one destroyed under General Dean’s direction. The other two were at the Yusong and Nonsan roads’ juncture west of the city.]

 General Dean’s personal pursuit of enemy tanks in Taejon was calculated to inspire his men to become tank killers. He was trying to sell to his shaky troops the idea that “an unescorted tank in a city defended by infantry with 3.5-inch bazookas should be a dead duck.” The number of enemy tanks that entered Taejon during the day cannot be fixed accurately. Most of them apparently entered Taejon singly or in small groups. It appears that American troops had destroyed 8 enemy tanks in Taejon or its immediate vicinity by 1100, 6 of them by 3.5-inch rockets and 2 by artillery fire. Engineer bazooka teams destroyed 2 more T34 tanks in the afternoon. If this is a correct count, United States, soldiers destroyed 10 enemy tanks in Taejon on 20 July, 8 of them by the new 3.5-inch rocket launcher, first used in combat that day.

[N11-43 34th Inf WD, 20 Jul 50; 24th Div WD, G-2 Jnl, entries 1315, 201107, and 1367, 202225 Jul 50; 24th Div Ordnance Off Stf Hist Rpt, 20 Jul 50. A 24th Division report of 19 July erroneously states that by that date the 3.5-inch bazooka had destroyed several enemy tanks. 24th Div WD, G-4 Daily Summ, 181800-198000 Jul 50.]

 Not every round from a 3.5-inch bazooka stopped a T34 tank in the Taejon street fighting as has been so often stated. Three bazooka teams of the 24th Reconnaissance Company, for instance, made seven hits at close range (30 to 70 yards) on 3 tanks and stopped only 1 of them.

 Fifth Air Force planes also destroyed an undetermined number of enemy tanks at Taejon. In the morning, soon after the initial penetration of approximately 15 tanks along the Yusong road, the Air Force knocked out 5 before they reached the city. An enemy tank crew member captured during the day reported that planes destroyed others north of Taejon. It appears that the North Koreans lost at least 15 tanks at Taejon, and possibly more.

[N11-44 24th Div WD, 20 Jul 50; Ibid., G-2 PW Interrog File, interrog of Kim Chong Sun, 202300 Jul 50.]

The enemy tanks largely failed in their mission within Taejon itself. They did not cause panic in the city, nor did they cause any troops to leave it. They themselves lost heavily, mostly to the new 3.5-inch bazooka which they encountered for the first time. Taejon demonstrated that for the future there was at hand an infantry weapon that, if used expertly and courageously, could stop the dreaded T34.

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

Korean War: Withdrawal From Taejon (11B)

Korean War: Disaster at the Kum River Line (10)

World War Two: Sicily (2-10): Beachhead Secure

Straightening Out the Sag: Gradually, around midnight of 11 July, the antiaircraft fire died down. The tragic show was over. As groups of 504th paratroopers made their way toward Gela, their advance sometimes marked by fire fights with other Americans, a relative stillness stole over the front. It was the lull before the next phase of operations, aimed at moving the Seventh Army to the Yellow Line, which would signify that the beachhead was secure.

Though the 1st Division fought primarily a defensive battle on 11 July, it would go over to the offensive the following day. Late on the afternoon of 11 July, after his troops broke the Hermann Gӧring Division counterattack and drove the Italians from Gela, General Allen announced his intention in blunt words: “Sock the hell out of those damned Heinies,” he ordered, “before they can get set to hit us again.”

The first task was to straighten out the sag in the 1st Division front, and in the very early hours of 12 July, three American columns departed their defensive positions fronting Gela and set out to do just this. A composite force under Colonel Darby captured Monte Lapa and Monte Zai on the Gela-Butera road by daylight to cover the 26th Infantry advance up Highway 117. [N2-10-2] The 26th Infantry, reinforced by Lt. Colonel Ben Sternberg’s 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry, drove toward Monte della Guardia and the Ponte Olivo airfield. Quickly clearing a small Italian roadblock just north of Gela, the troops pushed on to Castle Hill (Castelluccio), an eminence topped by the ruins of a medieval tower. There they came under fire from an artillery battalion of the Livorno Division, and at dawn the three forward battalions were somewhat scrambled in the ditches and ravines below the hill.

Daylight facilitated reorganization and permitted observed artillery fire on the Italian lines and artillery positions. After the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion pounded the rocky eminence with telling effect, and the cruiser Boise lobbed in 255 rounds, the 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry, surged forward, gained the crest and the tower, and rounded up the remnants of a Livorno Division rifle battalion. While the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, swung left and took Monte della Guardia, the 2nd Battalion of the 18th Infantry dashed forward to take Ponte Olivo airfield. By 1000, the combat team’s objectives were secure. A large portion of the sagging center had been moved forward five miles. The third American column, the 16th Infantry, had harder fighting as it advanced astride the Piano Lupo-Niscemi road to secure the division’s eastern flank and to protect the 26th Infantry’s right during the advance to the Ponte Olivo airfield. The 16th Infantry struck the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division, reinforced by those Tiger tanks that had withdrawn across the Acate River after the fight at Biazzo Ridge. Though Conrath had decided to withdraw, the German forward units had had no opportunity to begin their retirement. Early morning patrols had reported the disquieting news of the Germans’ presence, but Colonel Taylor ordered the advance as planned.

[N2-10-2 Darby’s command consisted of the 1st and 4th Ranger Battalions; the 1st Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment (minus Company A); the 1st Battalion, 39th Engineer Combat Regiment; Company A, 83rd Chemical Weapon Battalion; and a platoon of medium tanks.]

Colonel Crawford’s 2nd Battalion, with Colonel Gorham’s paratroopers leading the way, moved out from positions west of Piano Lupo, crossed the road, and advanced up the east side of the road toward Casa del Priolo. Without opposition, the battalion reached the ridge line just south and east of the Casa and quickly occupied the trenches and emplacements earlier dug by the Germans. On reverse slopes to their left, the Americans could hear German troops digging in.

Soon after first light, about 0530, heavy German fire struck the 2nd Battalion from the north and northwest. West of the road, between the forward battalion elements and a single rifle company left near Piano Lupo, the Americans saw Germans threatening to cut off the route to the rear. When Colonel Crawford and Captain Bryce F. Denno, the executive officer, left their command post to visit the front-line units, Crawford took a couple of machine gun bullets in the neck and shoulder. Denno carried the battalion commander back to the command post and saw to his evacuation.

Three hours later, the remaining company came up from Piano Lupo bringing with it an M7 105-mm. howitzer and a half-track 75-mm. howitzer. About the same time, the German infantrymen across the road pulled back to the north. With the German threat removed, the 1st Battalion moved up in echelon to the right rear of the 2nd Battalion and faced east toward the Acate River valley.

Near 1000, southeast of Piano Lupo, Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. York’s 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, supported by a platoon of medium tanks, had to fight off a column of three German tanks moving northwest along Highway 115. This American force had gone into position shortly after midnight as part of the army reserve, with the mission of screening between the two forward combat teams of the 1st Division and protecting the division’s east flank. Artillery fire from the 7th Field Artillery Battalion, plus fires from the five medium tanks, destroyed two of the three German tanks. The third withdrew out of range. Half an hour later, American artillery fire broke up another German tank reconnaissance effort in the same area. One tank burned, the others withdrew. Thirty minutes later, six Mark VI tanks, supported by armored cars, half-tracks, and two platoons of infantry, moved down the Acate River valley and turned westward against the 16th Infantry positions near Casa del Priolo, while artillery fire from Niscemi gave support.

In the 2nd Battalion area, Denno moved his two howitzers into position to fire on the approaching enemy armor. Hardly had the 75-mm. piece got out of defilade when it was hit and destroyed by an enemy artillery round. The 105-mm. howitzer managed to get off five rounds before it was knocked out by tank fire. Colonel Gorham, trying to repeat his bazooka work of the previous day, was killed by a direct hit from an enemy tank.

Despite the threat, the 16th Infantry was in good shape. The regimental Cannon and Anti-tank Companies were up and in position, armored support was nearby, and the 7th Field Artillery Battalion was giving excellent fire support. The 5th and 3rd Field Artillery Battalions were taken off reinforcing missions elsewhere to lend their weight. [N2-10-3] Two platoons of medium tanks arrived near the 1st Battalion and added their fire power-though they lost four of their own tanks, they got three Tigers.

By noon the German threat had petered out, but by this time the forward infantry battalions were badly battered. Colonel Denholm, the 1st Battalion commander, had been shot and evacuated. The rifle companies were at less than half strength. The 2nd Battalion was left with perhaps zoo men, including the few surviving paratroopers.

Despite the ragged strength of his elements, Captain Denno moved his troops forward and occupied Casa del Priolo with ease. Colonel Taylor urged further movement, but Denno was reluctan this companies were tired and understrength, his flanks were open, the enemy appeared strong between the Casa and Niscemi. Denno prevailed on the regimental commander to hold what had been gained. Increased German artillery fire, growing in intensity just before dark and continuing until midnight, seemed to indicate a possible attack. In reality the Hermann Gӧring Division was covering its withdrawal. The Piano Lupo road junction remained under heavy interdictory fire throughout the night. But no more German soldiers or tanks molested Casa del Priolo.

[N2-10-3 The 7th Field Artillery Battalion fired 15 missions, 914 rounds during the day. The 32nd Field Artillery Battalion fired 7 missions, 304 rounds. The 5th Field Artillery Battalion fired 6 missions, 583 rounds.]

The 16th Infantry had not taken its objective, Niscemi, and a sag remained in the center of the Seventh Army front. But enemy resistance, despite the heavy artillery fire, was lessening, and on the following morning, 13 July, as the Hermann Gӧring Division continued to pull back toward Caltagirone, the Americans entered Niscemi unopposed. The 16th Infantry, particularly the 1st and 2nd Battalions, had had by far the severest fighting thus far in the invasion. These two battalions had been largely responsible for blunting the Hermann Gӧring Division’s counter-attacks. Each battalion had lost its commander. And each subsequently would receive a citation for its outstanding performance.

Casualty figures alone indicated the severity of the fighting between Piano Lupo and Casa del Priolo on the 11th and 12th of July. During these two days the 1st Battalion lost 36 dead, 73 wounded, and 9 missing, the 2nd Battalion lost 56 dead, 133 wounded, and 57 missing. But if the sag had not been eliminated by nightfall 12 July, the bulge represented no serious threat to the 1st Division. Rather, American units on the flanks were threatening to outflank the German salient.

On to the Yellow Line

On the Seventh Army right, the town of Comiso fell without opposition to the 157th Infantry early on II July. The regiment then looked to the west for the arrival of the 179th Infantry, which was to comprise the left arm of the division’s deep pincer movement against the Comiso airfield. Stopped at times by enemy artillery fire, slowed occasionally by long-range machine gun fire, the 179th Infantry in the early afternoon was ready to attack the airfield in conjunction with the 157th. Co-ordination between the two direct support artillery battalions was quickly established, and the artillery radio net was used from then on to regulate the moves of the infantry units.

Soon after 1600, as artillery fires lifted, two battalions of the 179th Infantry moved into the airfield proper from the west, driving the defenders into a battalion of the 157th Infantry coming in from the southeast. Within twenty minutes, the field was in American possession, along with 125 enemy planes (20 in operating condition), 200,000 gallons of aviation gasoline, and 500 bombs. One German plane escaped.

[N2-20-66 II Corps Rpt of Opns, pp. 5-6; 15 7th Infantry Regt S-I Jnl, 11 Jul 43 (which reports approximately 150 planes captured or destroyed on Comiso airfield in one entry; over 200, in serviceable condition, in another entry); 179th Infantry Regt S-I Jnl, 11 Jul 43; McLain MS, Sicily Campaign, pp. 8-9.]

Turning over the job of clearing the airfield to supporting engineers, the Infantry continued inland, the 179th Infantry going due north along the secondary road leading to the Acate River, the 157th Infantry turning due east, and then north toward Chiaramonte Gulfi.

Disregarding the boundary line between the Seventh U.S. and British Eighth Armies, a rifle company entered Ragusa, captured the mayor and chief of police, and seized the city’s switchboard intact. The rest of the day, in addition to policing the city, the Americans amused themselves by answering phone calls from anxious Italian garrisons that wanted to know what was going on near the beaches.

As night fell on II July, the company had still not made contact with the Canadians. The 180th Infantry, which had been having some trouble, finally untracked itself and on 12 July began advancing. Having been allowed a day’s breathing spell by the paratrooper action at Biazzo Ridge, the regimental commander was able to reorganize his units and now moved through Colonel Gavin’s lines. That evening, by 2000, Biscari was secured.

The movement to Biscari was heartening, for the performance of the regiment had hitherto been less than impressive. General Middleton considered relieving the commander, and went so far as to request General Bradley for a replacement. Bradley asked General Patton for Lieutenant Colonel William O. Darby, the 1st Ranger Battalion commander. Though Patton offered the young Ranger commander the I80th Infantry and an immediate promotion, Darby turned down the offer. He preferred to stay with his unit. With no other qualified replacement immediately available, Middleton made no change, except to send the assistant division commander to that headquarters to exercise close supervision.

The 179th Infantry, which had met only minor Italian resistance on 11 July, next day encountered stiffer opposition north of Comiso as it began to meet increasing numbers of Germans. This resulted from General Conrath’s response to urgent messages from General Guzzoni directing him to make an immediate withdrawal to the east coast. Pulling some of his units out of line in the Gela area, Conrath sent them to the northeast, his intention to occupy first a line along Highway 124 from Caltagirone east to Vizzini. The sudden thrust by the 1st Division prevented him from denuding his defenses until the American advance from Gela was stopped. The 180th Infantry push posed another problem, for if the regiment crossed the Acate River north of Biscari it would threaten to cut the German withdrawal route. Thus, small German units, primarily interested in securing the routes of withdrawal to Highway 124, moved northeast and across the routes of advance of the 179th Infantry. Just before noon, part of the Hermann Gӧring Division armored reconnaissance battalion jumped the forward units of the 179th Infantry. Not until late in the afternoon did the regiment stabilize the situation. Further advance toward Highway 124, the Seventh Army’s Yellow Line, it seemed, would be hotly contested.

In contrast, the 157th reached Chiaramonte Gulfi, fourteen road miles northeast of Comiso, without incident. Here for the first time since landing, Colonel Ankcorn was able to pull his scattered battalions together. At Ragusa, where the rifle company was waiting for Canadian troops to show up before rejoining the regiment, a misdirected shelling from a British artillery unit preceded the arrival of 1st Canadian Division elements.

The contact followed good gains on the part of the British 30 Corps on the Seventh Army right. The corps had reached the Pozzallo-Ispica-Rosolini line at the end of 11 July, and next day, while the British 51st Division advanced and took Palazzolo Acreide, the 1st Canadian Division cleared Modica, entered Ragusa, and moved ten miles beyond to Giarratana.

The 30 Corps advance, paralleling the 45th Division inland movement, threatened to interpose a strong Allied force between the Hermann Gӧring Division and those Axis forces opposing the British 13 Corps north of Syracuse. If the British 30 Corps moved into the gap between these two Axis forces-a gap of eighteen miles from Vizzini to Lentiniit would prevent the Hermann Gӧring Division from joining the defenders blocking the road to Catania and, ultimately, Messina.

Progress in the British 13 Corps zone was slower. The stubborn resistance of Group Schmalz prevented the 5th Division from advancing north from Syracuse on 11 July. Despite his defensive success, Schmalz was concerned, for his Kampfgruppe could not hold indefinitely against the stronger British forces. If the British broke into the Catania plain, they would block the bulk of the Axis forces from access to Messina and would, themselves, have an unobstructed passage to this key Sicilian city. Because no units backed Group Schmalz on the east coast, because he needed reinforcement from the main body of the Hermann Gӧring Division, Schmalz decided to fight a delaying action along the coastal highway (Highway 114) in the hope of preventing an Allied breakthrough. During the night of 11 July, Colonel Schmalz withdrew to a defensive line centered on Lentini. The withdrawal uncovered the port of Augusta, and on 12 July British troops entered the city. But advance north to the Catania plain was impossible, for Group Schmalz held firm.

Schmalz’s situation remained serious. He did not have enough troops to hold for long at Lentini. Nor did he have sufficient troops to close the gap to the west between him and the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division, which had just started to move northeast from Niscemi. The British 50th Division, paralleling the British 5th Division’s advance, headed directly toward the gap, having moved from its landing areas at Avola through Cassibile, Floridia, and Sortino.

On the west flank of the Seventh Army, the 3rd Division, heavily supplemented by armored and reconnaissance units, highly mobile and readily employable in the terrain ahead, had gained an ideal position from which to exploit inland to Highway 124. Such an advance would cut the Sixth Army in two at Enna, the important hilltop town almost in the geographical center of Sicily.

General Guzzoni was concerned by the deep penetration of the 3rd Division toward Campobello, fourteen miles north of Licata, for continued advance would cut off the Axis forces in the western part of the island and would threaten the Hermann Gӧring Division’s right flank. To counter this movement Guzzoni gathered together what forces he could.

During the night of 10 July, Colonel Venturi, who commanded the Italian 177th Bersaglieri Regiment, had arrived with one of his battalions at Favarotta, where a makeshift force of Italian artillerymen and motorcyclists had managed to halt 3rd Division progress along Highway 123. Taking over the Italian units then on the ground, Venturi created a provisional tactical group-Group Venturiand ordered a counterattack the next morning to recapture Licata.

West of Licata, along Highway 115, the Italian 207th Coastal Division organized a tactical group near the Naro River bridge with the mission of advancing east toward Licata. Other Italian units arriving during the night and going into defensive positions at Agrigento and Canicatti were alerted to the possibility that at least one might move through Naro to Palma di Montechiaro in order to assist the attack on Licata from the west.

Meanwhile, the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division was hurriedly retracing its steps to the central part of the island. Like other Italian and German units, the German division had received no specific orders on 10 July on its probable future operations. But from fleeing Italian coastal units, General Rodt was able to learn that the original Sixth Army plan to throw the Allies back into the sea was not having great success. He therefore decided to try to stop the several American columns moving inland on the roads emanating from Licata. The result of this decision was to embroil elements of the division during the transfer from west to east in numerous small actions, generally in battalion strength.

Arriving at his new command post south of Pietraperzia (some twenty miles northeast of Campobello) about 0400, 11 July, Rodt learned more about the invasion. From additional reports he concluded that the Americans who had landed in Gela were advancing north toward Piazza Armerina, while those American forces which had landed in Licata planned to drive on through Campobello to Canicatti.

Feeling that he could not block both major thrusts, he decided to strike the closer one, the advance of the 3rd Division from Licata. Sending the bulk of Group Ens (the reinforced 104th Panzer Grenadier Regiment Faldella, Losbarto, p. 152, and corrections made available to Mrs. Bauer) to screen against the thrust from Gela and to protect his east flank, he planned to move one battalion from Pietraperzia through Riesi in a flanking movement from the east against the American column moving toward Canicatti. This attack would relieve pressure on both the Livorno and 207th Coastal Divisions.

The reinforced reconnaissance battalion of the division, known as Group Neapel, was to block the main roads north and east from Canicatti and delay the Americans as long as possible. Group Fullriede (the reinforced 129th Panzer Grenadier Regiment) would deploy along a line from Canicattl through Delia to Sommatino to halt advances inland along the roads leading from Licata, Palma di Montechiaro, and Agrigento to Caltanissetta. His main hope was to disrupt the 3rd Division advance by dealing it a damaging blow on its deep eastern flank by means of the battalion attack from Riesi. [N2-10-11]

General Truscott, meanwhile, had called his senior commanders together on the evening of 10 July and issued his orders for the next day’s operation. The 7th Infantry was to thrust westward to take Palma di Montechiaro and the high ground just beyond; the 15th Infantry was to continue north along Highway 123 to seize Campobello; General Rose’s CC-A, operating between these two combat teams, was to seize Naro, then assemble on the high ground to the north and east and prepare for further action. The 30th Infantry, guarding the division’s exposed right flank, was to send one battalion cross-country to seize Riesi, there blocking an important avenue of approach into the division’s eastern flank.

[N2-10-11 MS #0-077 (Rodt) and sketch; MS # 0-095 (Senger); DB SUED, Meldungen, 12 Jul 43·The commitment of the reconnaissance battalion from the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division is controversial. It seems that part of the battalion was also deployed between Palermo and Canicattl at major road intersections. It is difficult to reconstruct the actions of this unit from the scanty Axis reports available.] 

The 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel John A. Heintges), led the advance on Palma di Montechiaro early on 11 July. Crossing the Palma River bridge without incident, the battalion encountered heavy fire from Italian troops who occupied strong positions along a line of low hills just south of the town. Deploying his troops, building up a base of fire, and using supporting weapons to excellent advantage, Heintges pushed slowly ahead and drove the Italians into the town itself. As the battalion prepared to push into Palma around 1100, numerous white flags appeared on buildings in the town.

Colonel Heintges dispatched a smaIl patrol to accept the surrender. Unfortunately, civilians, not soldiers, had displayed the white flags, and the small American patrol came under fire. Two men were killed, another two were wounded. Enraged, Heintges gathered together ten men and personally led them across an open field to a building which seemed to house the heaviest fire. They reached the building safely, planted demolitions on the lower floor, withdrew a short distance, and set off the explosives. The blast signaled start of the attack, and the battalion swept into town behind its commander.

The Palma defenders had been reinforced by a task force that had moved down from the Naro River, and heavy fighting erupted up and down the main street. For two hours the battle raged from house to house. Around 1300, having had enough, the surviving Italians began pulling out westward along Highway 115. Quickly reorganizing his battalion, Heintges followed in close pursuit, rapidly cleared the hills on the south side of the highway, and dug in there to await the rest of the combat team.

To Heintges’ right, General Rose’s CC-A had begun to move against Naro. With a reconnaissance company forming a screen and the 3rd Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry, reinforced by a company of medium tanks as the advance guard, the combat command proceeded slowly along the narrow, secondary roads and trails northwest of Licata. The terrain was difficult, the roads were poor, but the only opposition came from snipers, scattered long-range machine gun fire, and a strafing attack by two German aircraft. For the first time in a procedure that would become standard, the armored infantrymen mounted the tanks and rode the last few miles.

On 11 July, CC-A consisted of the 66th Armored Regiment; the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, minus the 1st Battalion; the 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion; the 62nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion (which, at this time, had only one battery ashore); reconnaissance, engineer, and service units. The remainder of the 62nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion closed at 1600, 11 July 1943.

Just outside Naro, a civilian volunteered the information that the town was unoccupied and the population friendly. Unwilling to take any chances on this rather nebulous bit of information, Colonel Sidney R. Hinds, the 41st Armored Infantry commander, placed the civilian and his small son on the hood of his halftrack and led the column into town while small tank-infantry teams cleared the flanks and secured the exits. The civilian was right. By mid-morning of 11 July, CC-A was in possession of Naro.

Continuing toward Canicattl, six miles north, a company of tanks was briefly delayed by an attack delivered by friendly P-38 aircraft, which, fortunately, caused no damage to men or equipment. Two miles northeast of Naro, on the approaches to a pass between two hills, the company ran into stiff resistance. An Italian infantry battalion had moved up from Agrigento that morning, and despite repeated Allied air attacks, had reached the pass minutes before the American tanks arrived. Halting and deploying, the tankers called for infantry support. The battalion of armored infantrymen under Lt. Colonel Marshall L. Crawley, Jr., came forward, and an attack at 1600 made slow progress against hard-fighting Italians. With the approach of darkness, the Italians withdrew. By nightfall, the Americans were in possession of the pass and were four miles short of Canicatti.

The mistaken strafing by friendly planes turned out to be a harbinger of things to come for CC-A. During the week of 11 July, CC-A was to lose fourteen vehicles and seventy-five men from such attacks. The friendly pilots, who were briefed to be alert for the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, mistook the CC-A armored vehicles for enemy vehicles despite the rather prominent display of yellow smoke-the agreed signal for the identification of friendly vehicles. One pilot, 1st Lieutenant R. F. Hood (86th Fighter-Bomber Group), shot down over Naro by CC-A’s antiaircraft fire, said that he had seen the yellow smoke but had not been informed of its meaning. Later, the 15th Army Group changed the method of recognition from smoke to peIinants, and this apparently solved the problem.

The 15th RCT, meanwhile, was advancing north along Highway 123 from Favarotta to Campobello. Under Colonel Johnson’s plan of attack, the 3rd Battalion moved directly up the highway to capture the high ground west of Campobello, while the 1st Battalion made a wide, ninety-degree envelopment of the enemy left flank, using for its approach a series of north-south draws, well defiladed from Campobello and the highway. With the 2nd Battalion in reserve and the 39th Field Artillery Battalion and a battery of the 9th Field Artillery Battalion in support, the attack started at 0445.

Because the 1st Battalion, east of the highway, was delayed almost an hour in assembling, the 3rd Battalion moved out cautiously. At Station Favarotta the leading elements ran into Group Venturi, which was moving down the highway to attack Licata. For four hours, Americans and Italians battled for the commanding terrain around Favarotta, American artillery units firing with devastating effect on Italian artillery pieces and armored vehicles emplaced near the small town.

 [N2-10-1616 The 39th Field Artillery Battalion fired 1,484 rounds in the day’s actions; the battery of the 9th Field Artillery Battalion, 86 rounds.]

The end came after a rifle company worked its way around the right of the Italian line on the west side of the highway. Under fire from four or five enemy machine guns on the western edge of Favarotta, the company called for support. Because these particular enemy positions were defiladed from the artillery, Colonel Johnson ordered his available elements of the 15th Infantry Cannon Company, a platoon of three half-tracks mounting 75-mm. howitzers, to come forward. To do so, the half-tracks had to move along a stretch of road that had several hairpin turns.

The hairpin area was no place for halftracks to leave the road, and besides, the enemy had several artillery pieces registered on the treacherous curves. The first half-track stuck its nose out from behind a hill and into the open and three enemy salvos checker boarded the road. The half-track quickly reversed and got back to shelter. Another try five minutes later brought the same result. The platoon commander decided to dash down the road on a dead run. First withdrawing farther into defilade in order to get a running start, he burst out from behind the hill at thirty miles an hour. The others followed at fifty-yard intervals.

The enemy laid down at least four salvos, and the bursts seemed to be within inches of the half-tracks, but the half-tracks kept going and managed to stay on the road. Through the hairpin area safely, they dashed into position to give support. With this added fire, the 2nd Battalion overwhelmed the roadblock. Having lost three artillery pieces and more than half its automatic weapons, and with the infantry battalion seriously reduced strength, Group Venturi withdrew to Campobello.

In the meantime, the 1st Battalion, advancing almost without resistance on its wide enveloping movement, reached high ground east of Campobello at 1500, just as the 2nd Battalion, following Group Venturi from Favarotta, gained high ground west of the town. Though Campobello seemed ripe for a squeeze play, it was harder than it appeared.

That morning, the XII Corps had ordered Generale di Brigata Ottorino Schreiber, commander of the 207th Coastal Division, to go from his headquarters at Agrigento to Canicatti and assume command of a counterattack aimed at retaking Licata. Schreiber was to take over all the Italian and German forces already at Canicattl and those who would arrive during the day. Colonel Augusto de Laurentiis, commander of the military zone of Port Defense Zone at Palermo, assumed command of the coastal division.

At Canicattl around 1150, Schreiber planned to attack south along Highway 125 with Group Venturi, already engaged, and Group Neapel, dispatched by Rodt. Schreiber immediately sent Group Neapel to Campobello to reinforce Group Venturi, both to be supported by Italian artillery at Casa San Silvestro, two miles south of Canicattl General Schreiber’s counterattack, scheduled to jump off at 1350, never started. Group Venturi had been mauled too severely to think of offensive action, Group Neapel became involved in defending Campobello, and American artillery fire and the threat to his right flank posed by the advance of CC-A into Naro prompted General Schreiber to withdraw to Casa San Silvestro. Group Neapel remained at Campobello temporarily to cover the withdrawal At 1500, behind a thunderous concentration laid down by the 39th Field Artillery Battalion, the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 15th Infantry advanced on Campobello. The attack progressed slowly but steadily until just short of town where concentrated German fire forced a halt.

Another artillery preparation and the squeeze of the two American battalions hurried the Germans out of town. At 1600 the 3rd Battalion entered Campobello. In the final push on Campobello, 1st Lieutenant Robert Craig, Company L, 15th Infantry, singlehandedly knocked out two enemy machine gun positions, killing eight Germans and wounding three others before he, himself, was killed. Lieutenant Craig was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

That day also, the 3rd Battalion, 30th Infantry, marched over fourteen miles of rugged mountains, overcoming scattered enemy resistance, and occupied Riesi. After making physical contact with the 1st Division on its right, the 3rd Division at nightfall on 11 July-a day ahead of time-was in possession of its invasion objectives. With the Yellow Line now extended to Palma di Montechiaro, Naro, and Campobello, the division front formed a broad semicircle from Palma on the west to Poggio Lungo on the east. Now that he had carried out the order to gain the YeHow Line so as to protect the army group left flank, General Truscott had no further mission. Nor had General Patton been instructed on how to develop the situation beyond the Yellow Line. General Alexander had been less than explicit in his instructions-the Seventh Army was “to prevent enemy reserves moving eastwards against the left flank of Eighth Army.”

Unwilling to sit still, Truscott ordered General Rose to reconnoiter toward Canicattl during the evening of 11 July as the prelude to a possible attack the next day. Since Caltanissetta and Enna appeared to be logical objectives, Truscott decided to seize Canicatti as a necessary preliminary first step.

At Casa San Silvestro, General Schreiber’s hasty development of new defensive positions was interrupted at 1800 when an Allied bombing attack on Canicattl severely damaged the town and railroad station and produced heavy casualties in the Italian infantry battalion that had retired from Favarotta earlier that day.

Not long afterwards, Schreiber received word from the XII Corps. He was to counterattack the next morning with several new units being sent to him-an infantry battalion from the Assietta Division, an infantry battalion and an anti-tank gun company from the Aosta Division, and two Italian artillery battalions. Apprehensive over the developments in the Licata sector, Guzzoni apparently hoped that Schreiber’s counterattack on 12 July would not only delay further American advances inland but would also block the major avenues of approach into central Sicily.

At 2000, 11 July, Colonel Fritz Fullriede reported in to General Schreiber as the commander of all German troops in the area and placed himself and his units under the Italian general’s tactical leadership. Fullriede reported American tanks [N2-10-22] had driven through to points west of Canicatti, thus threatening to cut off German and Italian units south of that town. Fullriede told General Schreiber that he had assembled the bulk of his German force north of Canicatti, leaving detachments at Sommatino and Delia, small towns to the east of Canicatti, to cover his flanks. He urged the Italian commander to do the same with the Italian units. Fullriede also stated that he had received instructions from Sixth Army headquarters to switch to the defensive in the Canicatti area and to await the arrival of additional German units.

[N2-10-22 ; IT gga, Sitrep, 2000, 11 Jul 43. There is no confirmation of this In German sources.]

What then of Schreiber’s counterattack? Several telephone calls to X II Corps and to Sixth Army cleared up the confusion. Guzzoni had changed his mind. On 12 July, Schreiber was to limit his actions to local thrusts only, those that would not seriously deplete manpower and material. In view of his amended orders, General Schreiber decided to withdraw his units during the night to positions north of Canicatti and behind Group Fullriede’s lines. American patrols hung on tenaciously to the withdrawing Italians; one Italian artillery battery, unable to fall back quickly enough, blew up its 105-mm. guns and surrendered.

The leading elements of Group Ens were by then arriving at Pietraperzia. Colonel Karl Ens was slightly wounded when Allied aircraft bombed General Rodt’s headquarters, but he continued in command of his battle group. He ordered one battalion to a position just south of Pietraperzia, its counterattack through Riesi called off because the 3rd Division occupied the town; a second battalion to Barrafranca; and the third to Piazza Armerina, to gain contact with the Hermann Gӧring Division which was known to be somewhere off to the east.

The Herman Gӧring Division was in the precarious position of operating with a gap in its center. Between its left flank and the 15th Panzer Grenadier right was another gap, this one covered by the Livorno Division. But the combat efficiency of the Livorno Division was near zero. If the Italians could not, as seemed likely, prevent the Allies from breaking through to Highway 124, the Germans would suffer disastrous consequences.

General Keyes, the Seventh Army deputy commander, visited General Truscott on the morning of 12 July. Though Keyes had no information on further missions for the division, he agreed with Truscott that Canicatti should be seized as a prelude to further advances into central Sicily. At Canicatti Highway 123 from Licata met Highway 122 fromCaltanissetta. Except for the mountain pass at Naro, the secondary road northeast to Canicattl. was a valley thoroughfare practicable for mechanized forces. The road went through the pass (occupied by CC-A late on 11 July) and emerged on a plain in front of Canicatti. East from Canicatti a good secondary road ran to Delia, Sommatino, and Riesi, the base of the secondary road net in the upper part of the Licata-Agrigento-Canicatti triangle. Quite certain that General Patton would approve, Keyes told Truscott to go ahead and take Canicatti.

Truscott immediately telephoned General Rose to get CC-A moving on Canicatti. At the same time, he ordered the 30th Infantry to move to Naro, leaving its 3rd Battalion in Riesi. He notified the 15th Infantry to move forward on the right of the armored command to seize Delia and Sommatino and then swing to the west to aid the armor in taking Canicattl. The 7th Infantry was to guard the division left flank. After taking Canicatti, General Truscott planned to place eCA in division reserve as a mobile force for exploitation north or west.

Preceded by a five-minute preparation from the two supporting armored field artillery battalions, CC-A jumped off at 1330, 12 July, through the pass and down the road toward the southern outskirts of Canicatti. A tank-infantry team (with infantry on the tanks) leading the advance was still some distance from the town when observers saw a white flag flying over one of the buildings. Colonel Hinds and another officer jumped into a jeep and drove toward town to accept the surrender. Hardly had Hinds started forward when enemy artillery fire from high ground north of Canicatti began to pattern the road. At that moment, Hinds noted that the white flag was actually a Red Cross flag on top of a hospital. By then white sheets, towels, and other signs of surrender began to appear. Taking no more chances, Hinds deployed his force on both sides of the road and called in the supporting artillery.

The 14th and 62nd Armored Field Artillery Battalions obliged. For thirty minutes the two artillery units methodically worked over the town from end to end, shifting their fires periodically to batter the German positions in the hills north of town. [N2-10-28] As the last artillery rounds were being fired, a company of tanks roared down the road and into town. There was no opposition. Canicatti was secured at 1500.

Scarcely pausing, the company of tanks drove out the northern exit from town and ran into Colonel Fullriede’s main battle position. After expending all its ammunition and losing one tank, the company pulled back to town to await reinforcements. A tank-infantry team swung to the right and secured the eastern edge of a ridge line a mile north of town. Though the Germans fought stubbornly, they were driven off the ridge line by 2000. By darkness, CC-A had Canicatti, but Group Fullriede held the bulk of the hill mass northwest of the town. The enemy was in poor shape, however.

American counterbattery fire had destroyed most of the supporting Italian artillery. The German battalion holding the ridge line had been severely mauled. Other small German detachments east of Canicattl-on the road to Delia and Sommatino-suffered heavy losses from American tank-infantry teams that overran their positions. Deeming his forces too small to hold longer, Colonel Fullriede, with General Schreiber’s approval, pulled back that evening to a new line along the railroad running from Serradifalco to San Cataldo.

[N2-10-28 The 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion fired a total of 1,862 rounds during the day, most of them at this time. The 62nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion fired a total of 627 rounds.]

The 15th Infantry had contributed to Fullriede’s decision. It moved smartly and by dark of 12 July had both Delia and Sommatino, although the former would not be entirely secure until the following morning. Here, the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, had quite a stiff fight with part of the Group Ens battalion which had gone into position earlier in the day. With the entire important secondary east-west road from Canicattl east to Riesi in 3rd Division hands, General Truscott again faced the problem of what to do. The 7th Infantry was patrolling vigorously westward toward Agrigento; the 30th Infantry closed in Naro and prepared to relieve CC-A at Canicattl; the 15th Infantry, with the 3rd Battalion, 30th Infantry, at Riesi, lay along the secondary road running east from Canicattl. Truscott could go either west against Agrigento or north toward Enna.

Canicattl had been taken with General Keyes’ approval, but to go any further would require, Truscott thought, a nod from General Patton himself. To go ahead and take Caltanissetta and Enna, Truscott would need at least one more regimental combat team to guard his lengthy western flank. His front was almost fifty miles long, and both flanks were open. Though patrols had traversed with relative ease the area between Riesi and Butera, the area was far from secure. Less than two miles east of Riesi lay a strong enemy roadblock, and no one knew for certain how many other such positions were in the general area. Until the 1st Division on the right moved up from Ponte Olivo, Truscott would have to classify the area as uncertain, though not particularly dangerous. Truscott would also need a stronger reserve, stronger than the 3rd Ranger Battalion, which for two days had been the only uncommitted unit.

General Keyes, who had spent the day with General Truscott observing the capture of Canicattl, phoned General Patton that evening. He reported the successful attack and stated that the situation was favorable for a prompt operation against either Agrigento or Caltanissetta. But, concluded General Keyes, “Neither will be instituted tomorrow without your instruction.”

General Patton could give no instruction because he had none from General Alexander. And the 15th Army Group commander was primarily concerned with protecting the British Eighth Army left flank. With continued reports from pilots on sizable enemy movements from west to east, Alexander remained apprehensive over the possibility of a massive enemy counterattack.[N2-10-31] And thus he was not anxious to move the 3rd Division, which provided a solid block on the army group left.

 [N2-10-31 General Alexander feared that the road complex in central Sicily would be used by the Germans to launch an attack against the Eighth Army. Until the day the Seventh Army captured Palermo, Alexander continued to be worried about this possibility. Alexander Despatch, pp. 12,24; 15th AGp Radios J,P, 13 Jul 47; 184, 16 Jul 43; and 0165, 18 Jul 43, all quoted in Seventh Army Rpt of Opns. These are indicative of Alexander’s concern for Eighth Army’s left flank. See also, Interv, Smyth with Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott (Ret.) and Major General William W. Eagles, 19 Apr 51.] 

Still, Keyes was loath to leave the 3rd Division completely sedentary. Before leaving Truscott’s headquarters, he verbally approved a reconnaissance in force in battalion strength toward Agrigento. At the same time, the division was to gain the heights northwest of Canicatti and eliminate the troublesome enemy roadblock southeast of Riesi. Beyond this, Keyes would not go, though on the following afternoon, apparently after consulting with General Patton, Keyes restated his approval in writing. These small movements were to develop in a surprising fashion. They would help General Alexander make up his mind on how to use the Seventh Army in Sicily.

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

World War Two: Sicily (2-9); Allied Airborne Reinforcement July 1943

 

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

Preparations for the Drive to the North: While elements of the 27th Division were slowly inching their way down Nafutan Point, the two Marine divisions prepared to launch the drive against the main line of Japanese defenses, which stretched across the waist of the island from just below Garapan to the northwest corner of Magicienne Bay. The 2nd Marine Division in the north had little more to do than consolidate the lines it already held, send out patrols, and mop up small isolated pockets of enemy troops still lurking within its sector. The 4th Marine Division, before it could be in a position to attack, would have to reorient the direction of its drive from east to north and then push forward (northward) about a thousand yards to tie its left flank in with the right flank of the 2nd Division. When this was accomplished the two Marine divisions would be drawn up abreast on what was designated the O-4 line, which ran roughly parallel and a little to the south of the Japanese main line of defense.

During the period in which the 4th Marine Division was pivoting to the left, the only serious fighting occurred around Hill 500, on 20 June. This 500-foot eminence just west of the village of Tsutsuuran had once been the site of the command post of Colonel Oka, commander of the 47th Independent Mixed Brigade, who had since left it for a safer location to the northward. Hill 500 fell within the zone of the 25th Marines, which attacked it in column of battalions.

Following an advance preparation of rockets, artillery, heavy weapons, and mortars, the lead battalion moved forward about 1030 under cover of smoke. By noon it had seized the hill, and it spent the rest of the day mopping up the network of caves that ran through the area. Altogether, the marines suffered forty-nine casualties and accounted for forty-four enemy dead. The hill had been well organized for defense but not strongly manned.

That same day the 8th Marines, which constituted the 2nd Marine Division’s right (south) flank, made a forward advance against no opposition to tie in with the left flank of the 4th Division. There was little other activity in the 2nd Division’s zone of action. By nightfall of the 20th the marines rested securely on the designated O-4 line ready to jump off on order for the big drive northward. They spent June 21st resting and sending out patrols. Men of the 4th Division moved as far as 1,500 yards to their front without meeting any organized enemy resistance.

Landing the 106th Infantry

Before leaving Hawaii, the 106th Infantry Regiment had been assigned as reserve for the 27th Division with the probable mission of landing on Saipan. On arrival at Kwajalein, Colonel Russell G. Ayers, the regimental commander, was informed that his unit would be attached to the Southern Landing Force, destined for Guam. The regiment was to land in the rear of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and to capture Orote Peninsula on that island. On 16 June, however, because of the imminent engagement with the approaching Japanese fleet, Admiral Spruance indefinitely postponed the landing on Guam, and on the 18th the transports carrying the 106th Infantry were detached from Admiral Conolly’s Southern Attack Force and ordered to Saipan.[N2-9-88 106th RCT Rpt FORAGER, p. 2. The other landing troops originally assigned to Guam were subsequently returned to Eniwetok. TF 53 Rpt of Amph Opns for Capture of Guam, 10 Aug 44, pp. 5-6.]

On the evening of the 18th General Holland Smith requested that the 106th be landed “in order to maintain the continuity of the offensive,” but Admiral Turner was reluctant to comply because to do so would inevitably delay the Guam attack until another reserve force for that landing could be brought up from the Hawaiian area. Nevertheless, Smith continued to press his case, and at last Turner concurred and ordered the 106th Infantry to commence landing early on the morning of 20 June.

The regiment landed on order and except for its attached artillery was assigned to Northern Troops and Landing Force reserve. Next day Colonel Ayers directed all of his units to initiate reconnaissance in the zones of action of both Marine divisions. In conducting this reconnaissance, one group from the Antitank Company was ambushed and suffered four casualties, the first to occur in the regiment. The rest of the day the 1st Battalion patrolled Susupe swamp with the mission of clearing Japanese stragglers from the vicinity of corps headquarters and a nearby Marine hospital. For this purpose the battalion was attached to the 2nd Marine Division under whose control it remained until the morning of 23 June. During this period the battalion killed eighteen Japanese in the swamp and took two prisoners of war.

Japanese Situation on the Eve of the Northern Attack

While the marines pivoted on the 2nd Marine Division’s left flank below Garapan, the Japanese too were pivoting on almost the same point. By the 19th they were in position along a new “line of security” that ran from below Garapan, east to White Cliff, south to Hill 230, and then southeast through Hill 286 to Magicienne Bay.

General Saito disposed his troops in new sectors divided by Mount Tapotchau. On the extreme right (west) of the Japanese flank the town of Garapan was occupied by naval units, chiefly the Yokosuka 1st Special Naval Landing Force. To their left, the 135th Infantry held the area between Garapan and the west slopes of Mount Tapotchau. The 118th Infantry, a straggler unit, was to hold the area southeast of Tapotchau and be prepared to check enemy landings from Magicienne Bay. Kagman Peninsula was to be held by those remnants of the 47th Independent Mixed Brigade that had not already been destroyed or isolated on Nafutan Point. The 9th Expeditionary Unit, another straggler force, was placed under command of the 47th Independent Mixed Brigade and assigned to defend the shore north of Kagman Peninsula. In general reserve was the 136th Infantry, which had been ordered to assemble at Chacha at sunset on the 19th. The 9th Tank Regiment had a dual mission—to co-operate with the 118th Regiment, and to check any advances along the coast or against the beaches of Magicienne Bay.

Even this late in the campaign, the Japanese expected either a landing on Magicienne Bay or a tank attack up the bay coast. Their fear of American tanks was especially acute, as a report from 31st Army headquarters attests: “The changes in the battle up until today have been the results of naval gunfire and bombing but from now on the main thing will be to gain unfailing victory in antitank warfare. Our army has new ideas concerning this point and we hope this is not a miscalculation.”

The stubborn determination of the Japanese to continue their resistance is all the more remarkable in view of their losses to date. As of 19 June approximately three and a half of the 43rd Division’s original eight battalions had been destroyed. Only one of five artillery battalions remained. The 47th Independent Mixed Brigade had been all but eliminated as an organized fighting unit. Two and a half battalions of infantry belonging to other units were destroyed, only one composite battalion remaining. Sixty percent of the 9th Tank Regiment was destroyed, as were most of the 7th and 11th Independent Engineers. On the eve of the American attack to the north the personnel losses of Japanese line units were reported to be not lower than 50 percent.

In terms of artillery and tanks, the Japanese were just as badly off and as hopelessly outnumbered. All that remained to them on 20 June after six days of fighting were eleven 75-mm. field pieces, twenty-seven tanks, three operational antiaircraft guns, and nine machine cannon. But though the Japanese on Saipan were weak in manpower and short of weapons and equipment, they lacked nothing of the traditional spirit that had driven and was to drive so many of their countrymen to glorious if futile death on the battlefield. On the eve of the battle one tanker doubtless spoke for most of his compatriots when he inscribed in his diary: The fierce attacks of the enemy only increase our hostility. Every man is waiting for the assault with all weapons for close quarters fighting in readiness. We are waiting with ‘Molotov cocktails’ and hand grenades ready for the word to rush forward recklessly into the enemy ranks with our swords in hands. The only thing that worries me is what will happen to Japan after we die.

22 June: The Jump-off

General Holland Smith’s orders for 16 June called for an attack to the north by the two Marine divisions in line abreast, the 2nd Division on the left, the 4th on the right. The jump-off hour was to be 0600, the objective line (O-5) to run through Laulau village on Kagman Peninsula on the right, Mount Tapotchau in the center, and a point on the west coast of the island about 1,000 yards south of Garapan on the left.

In view of the fact that this northward push would automatically extend the lines of the two Marine divisions, especially as the 4th Division was required to spread eastward on Kagman Peninsula, the corps commander alerted the 27th Division to the fact that it might soon be committed to the northern line. The Army division, which was then in corps reserve, was ordered to reconnoiter routes to both of the Marine divisions’ zones of action. 27th Division Artillery was passed to the control of General Harper’s XXIV Corps Artillery to deliver close and deep support missions in advance of the marines. Altogether, the troops on the northern line would have eighteen battalions of artillery to support their drive on the morning of 22 June. On the right of the 4th Marine Division zone in the area inland from Magicienne Bay, the 24th Marines jumped off on schedule, made rapid progress against light opposition, and by 1330 reached an intermediate objective line that had been established by the division commander about 2,000 yards in front of its line of departure.

To its left, the, 25th Marines found the going more difficult The regiment jumped off on schedule in column of battalions, and within half an hour the lead battalion was attacked by a force of Japanese troops accompanied by a tank. Ninety of the enemy were killed and the tank was destroyed. For the rest of the morning the regiment encountered light resistance, but just south of the intermediate objective line received severe machine gun fire, a situation that was aggravated by an exploding Japanese ammunition dump. This slowed progress so that by the day’s end the 25th Marines were still short of the day’s objective, although the regiment had made an advance of about 2,000 yards.

Meanwhile, the 23rd Marines, which had been in division reserve, was committed between the two assault regiments shortly after noon. Fighting against light enemy resistance but over stubborn terrain, the 23rd Regiment, too, fell just short of reaching the day’s objective by the time it dug in for the night.

The 2nd Marine Division had the more difficult task of gaining the approaches to Mount Tapotchau and of pushing to the top of Mount Tipo Pale, General Watson, the division commander, placed all three of his regiments in line abreast, the 8th, 6th, and 2nd Marines from right to left. As the official Marine Corps historian described the scene, “Looking to the north of the 6th and 8th Marines’ lines, a nightmare of sheer cliffs and precipitous hills could be observed, separated in crisscross fashion by deep gashes . . . . Dense foliage which cloaked the region often limited visibility to a few feet.”

Both assault battalions of the 8th Marines made fair progress against little opposition during the morning even though their axis of attack was cut by deep ravines, cliffs, and transverse ridges. As they neared the top of the first ridge line, they lost contact, and about noon the reserve battalion had to be committed in the center. An hour later forward movement stopped as mortar fire began to fall heavily all along the line. Enemy machine guns located on a hill to the right in the zone of the 25th Marines commenced to lay enfilade fire along the right flank of the 8th Marines. The summit of Mount Tapotchau still lay about 1,200 yards (as the crow flies) ahead, but no further progress could be made that day, and the regiment dug in for the night.

In the center the 6th Marines was initially held back by the slow progress of the division’s right flank. Shortly after noon the advance toward Tipo Pale got under way, only to come up against several pockets of Japanese machine guns, which stopped the lead elements on the slopes of the mountain. After a futile attempt to get at these positions by a flanking movement, the marines bypassed them altogether, and by 1400 the lead battalion had pushed to the top of Tipo Pale.

The advance to the top of Tipo Pale marked the farthest and most significant progress in the zone of the 2nd Marine Division. This eminence was about 1,000 feet in height and lay about 1,200 yards southwest of Tapotchau’s summit. Its capture was essential to cover any approach to the western slope of Tapotchau. No forward movement was made on the extreme left of the 2nd Division’s zone. The 2nd Marine Regimental Combat Team occupied the O-5 line south of Garapan for several days, and since the whole forward maneuver of the two divisions pivoted on this regiment it was forced to remain stationary until the other regiments pulled abreast.

Meanwhile, preparations were proceeding apace to move the 27th Infantry Division into the main line of attack. On the evening of 21 June General Holland Smith had ordered the division to conduct reconnaissance to the north over the road net that led to the 2nd and 4th Marine Division areas. By late afternoon of the 22nd all three battalions of the 165th Infantry had completed the reconnaissance as ordered by Colonel Kelley. That evening Colonel Ayers took the commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 106th Infantry, with him on a road reconnaissance and before dark had reached a point where his regiment would leave the road system and move cross country in the direction of the front held by the 4th Marine Division.

About 1600 that afternoon General Ralph Smith visited the headquarters of General Erskine, chief of staff to General Holland Smith, where he first received definite information that his division would be fed into the Marine front line the following day. The plan was for the Army division to relieve the left flank elements of the 4th Marine Division so as to permit that unit to move eastward to cover Kagman Peninsula. This would put the 27th Division in the center of a three division front and at the entrance to the valley that lay between Mount Tapotchau and its hill system on the left (west) and a series of hills and ridges on the right (east) that ran north from Magicienne Bay. Jump-off hour for the next morning was set at 1000.

As soon as this decision was reached, General Ralph Smith called Brigadier General Redmond F. Kernan, Jr., and ordered the division artillery to begin reconnaissance for positions from which to support the division attack next morning. Smith then left for his own command post where he met with Colonels Kelley and Ayers, commanders of the two regiments that would go into action next day. General Smith assigned Ayers’ 106th Infantry to the left of the division line and Kelley’s 165th to the right. Zones of approach to the line of departure were assigned to each of the regimental commanders, who in turn were to work out their routes of approach within their zones.

Ayers and Kelley returned to their own command posts shortly after 1800 and began briefing their battalion commanders. In the 106th Regiment the 3rd Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel Harold I. Mizony, was designated the assault battalion. It was to be followed in column by the 2nd, under Major Almerin C. O’Hara, and the 1st, under Lieutenant Colonel Winslow Cornett. Colonel Kelley designated his 2nd Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel John F. McDonough, as the lead battalion during the approach. The 2nd was to be followed by the 1st, under Major Mahoney, and the 3rd, under Major Claire. Upon relieving the marines, the 165th was to take up the line with its 2nd Battalion on the left and its 1st on the right.

Orders from division headquarters confirming these decisions were issued at 2100. The line of departure for the two Army regiments was to be the “line held by the 4th Marine Division within the [27th] Division zone of action,” Two and a half hours later General Holland Smith’s headquarters issued substantially the same order. In this case, the line of departure was designated as the “front lines at King Hour [1000],” which was essentially no different from that specified by Ralph Smith.

23 June: Into Death Valley

Promptly at 0530, just as day was breaking, both regiments began to move toward the front lines. In the 106th Infantry zone Colonel Mizony’s 3rd Battalion led off with Company L in the lead, followed by K, then battalion headquarters, and finally I Company. Colonel McDonough’s 2nd Battalion, 165th, took the lead in that regiment. About 0620 the head of McDonough’s column cut into Mizony’s column just behind L Company, thus splitting the 3rd Battalion, 106th Infantry, at that point. The two regimental commanders conferred but nothing could be done to unscramble the units until they reached a clearing that would permit the 165th to move eastward and the 106th to proceed north toward its assigned zone of action. At this point of divergence an officer control station was set up to sort out the vehicles and units of the two regiments and direct each to its proper destination. Altogether, this delayed Companies K and I, 106th Infantry, upwards of an hour, though Company K was due to move into the assault at the line of departure at 1000. Company L, 106th, on the other hand, was ahead of the traffic jam and was able to push on unhindered.

The two assault battalions of the 165th Infantry relieved the 24th Marines at 1000 on schedule. Company L, 106th Infantry, completed the relief in its zone at 0930. Only Company K of the 106th was late, but its tardiness was to hold up the entire division attack. Not until 1055, or almost an hour after the scheduled jump-off time, was Company K in line, and not until then could the 3rd Battalion jump off in the attack.

When the men of the 106th Infantry got into the line, they were surprised to discover that some of the marines whom they were to relieve had fallen back two or three hundred yards from positions held the day before. Company K of the 25th Marines had pulled back to its right rear on the previous evening to tie in the night defense.

This caused some consternation at 106th headquarters because the regimental commander was under the mistaken impression that the line of departure for the morning’s attack was the forward line of the previous day’s advance as indicated on his overlay, rather than the “front lines at King Hour” as stated in the operation order.

Actually, of course, this withdrawal on the part of the Marine company eased Colonel Ayers’ immediate problem by reducing the distance his already tardy troops would have to cover before reaching the line of departure. It did, however, create a gap between the 106th and the 165th on his right that would have to be covered before the two units could move forward abreast.

The positions the 27th Division was ordered to assault had, since 19 June, been held by the 118th Infantry Regiment, which as of that date was made responsible for the entire Japanese line of defense from the east slope of Mount Tapotchau to Magicienne Bay. The Japanese regiment had been torpedoed en route from Japan to Saipan less than three weeks earlier and had arrived on the island minus about 850 of its troops and almost completely stripped of its weapons and equipment.

Total troop strength of the regiment on its arrival on Saipan was estimated to be about 2,600. The Japanese command had had neither time nor opportunity to re-equip the survivors and reorganize them into a first-class fighting unit. The degree of attrition suffered by the regiment since the American invasion is unknown but it cannot have escaped damage from the terrible pounding from air, sea, and land to which the island had been subjected since 12 June.

Before the 27th Division was committed, the 136th Infantry Regiment, 43rd Division, which had previously been in reserve around Chacha village was ordered to move out to Hill 286 (meters), Hill 343 (meters), “and the hills E[ast] of there.” Hill 286 was in the zone of action of the 2nd Marine Division, but Hill 343, the “hills East,” and the valley in between were directly athwart the line of advance of the 27th Infantry Division.

Initially, the 136th had been one of the Saipan garrison’s best fighting forces, being at full strength and fully equipped at the time of the landing. However, the regiment had taken a frightful beating in the first days of the invasion. Manning the Central Sector facing Red and Green Beaches, it had borne the brunt of some of the hardest fighting on Saipan. Although not literally decimated, its combat strength had been severely weakened. Two men of the regiment who had been captured on 25 June testified that its 2nd Battalion had been depleted approximately 67 percent on the first day of the landing, that the remnants of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were combined as a single battalion, and that the total strength of the regiment was less than 1,000.

But whatever losses in manpower and equipment the Japanese in this sector may have suffered, they still had one enormous advantage. That was terrain. The soldiers of the 27th Division were soon to dub the area “Death Valley.” The “valley” is really a terrace like depression on the eastern slope of the sprawling mountain mass that fills most of central Saipan and culminates in the towering peak of Mount Tapotchau. The floor of the valley, less than 1,000 yards in width, is dominated along its entire length by the rugged slopes of Mount Tapotchau on the west and a series of hills, the highest about 150 feet above the valley floor, on the east.

This eastern hill system was to be called “Purple Heart Ridge” by the soldiers who fought there. Death Valley, then, was a sort of trough into which the men of the 27th Division were to advance. The valley itself was almost devoid of cover except for a line of trees near the southern end and for three or four small groups of farm buildings surrounded by trees. The cliff on the left was for the most part bare, but above the cliff was wooded ground. The hills on the right were tree-covered. A narrow road—little more than a cowpath—ran up the valley a short distance then branched off, the left branch skirting the cliffs of Mount Tapotchau, the right heading toward the north face of Hill Able and then cutting to the east.

Obviously, this terrain was ideally suited for defense against any attack through the valley, and the Japanese made the most of it. In the words of Colonel Albert K. Stebbins, Jr., 27th Division chief of staff: The cliffs and hillsides were pocketed with small caves and large caves. The wooded area was rough, filled with boulders, and excellent for defensive operations. Bands of fire were laid by the enemy thru the underbrush and in such manner as to make it most difficult to discover their locations: Well placed, hostile guns fired only when lines passed and striking our forces in the rear disrupted the attack.

The Japanese had at their disposal all kinds of automatic weapons, light and heavy mortars, and some 75-mm. mountain guns. These were well concealed, usually in caves whose mouths were covered with brush. Troops approaching through the valley could get at the positions only by direct shots from tanks or self-propelled guns. It was impossible to reach them with artillery, at least during the initial stages of the attack, because the axis of the caves was at right angles to the line of fire of the artillery. “Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them.” Not so much cannon perhaps, but enough other fire to make this seem to the men caught in the middle a true replica of Tennyson’s “Valley of Death.” The regimental boundary line coincided with the road that ran through Death Valley.

On the division right the first obstacle to be overcome by the 1st Battalion, 165th, was Hill Love, lying roughly on the border line between Companies A and C. This eminence rose about 700 feet above sea level, was tree-covered, and was infested with Japanese. A patrol from A Company met heavy machine gun and rifle fire that killed the patrol leader and wounded one other man. It was then decided that the two companies would circle the hill and meet at its northern base. Company C on the right jumped off at 1015 and by 1400 had succeeded in working its way around the hill to the northern face. Here, the men were pinned down by heavy fire to their front and made no further advance. During the course of the afternoon the company suffered three men killed and fourteen wounded. A platoon of tanks from the 72nd Provisional Tank Battalion was brought forward in an effort to reduce the on 23 June, 27th Division soldiers worked their way into a small wooded area enemy positions. One of these, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Louis W. Fleck, was set on fire with a “Molotov Cocktail.” All the tankers but one were killed as they emerged from the turret. The men of Company C who witnessed the incident were helpless to avert it because by now marines had pushed ahead directly into their line of fire and the battalion commander had ordered them not to fire.

Meanwhile, Company A had also reached the northern face of Hill Love. It too could make no further progress. At 1630 the tanks withdrew for the night and the two companies dug in. Company B was brought in and completed the encirclement of the promontory by digging in on the south face.

The 2nd Battalion, 165th Infantry, also had considerable trouble during the afternoon. After reaching the tree line that lay about 300 yards to their front, both of McDonough’s companies remained stationary for two hours, waiting for Company K, 106th Infantry, to work its way up on the left. General Ralph Smith finally ordered McDonough to advance without regard to what was going on in the 106th area and instructed Colonel Kelley to commit his reserve if necessary. Regiment therefore ordered an attack for 1315. Company K was brought up and ordered to deploy one platoon on the regimental left to maintain contact with K Company of the 106th and the other on the right to maintain contact with the 1st Battalion, 165th.

As soon as McDonough’s battalion moved out from the line of trees it was greeted by a hail of small arms, machine gun, and heavy weapons fire from the cliff line on its left. A similar concentration of fire from Purple Heart Ridge on the right soon followed and the advance platoons of Company F were badly hit in the cross fire. Under cover of a smoke screen laid down by the chemical battalion, the men eventually pulled back to the tree line from which they had started. Company G, witnessing the results of F Company’s advance also withdrew to the tree line and remained there for the rest of the day.

In the zone of the 106th Infantry on the division left the action can be characterized as two separate battles since K and L Companies had no physical contact during most of the day. Company K on the right pushed off at 1055. Shortly thereafter the leading scout of the advance platoon was struck by machine gun fire. The rest of the company hit the ground and was immediately subjected to mortar fire. The company commander, Captain Heminway, ordered his men to move forward by infiltration. This movement began about 1300, and by 1500 the company had worked its way into a small wooded area that provided some cover against the enemy weapons. There it waited for L Company on its left to come up, and since the latter unit did not pull abreast until 1615 both decided to dig in there for the night.

Company L had arrived on the line in sufficient time to push the attack at 1000 but had been held up by K Company’s tardiness in relieving the marines in its zone. On Captain Hallden’s left was the cliff of Mount Tapotchau and on his right a series of ravines. About 400 yards ahead, the cliff line receded to form a little cove in the mountain wall that the soldiers dubbed “Hell’s Pocket.” In the midst of this cove was a lone rock that rose a hundred feet and was covered with ivy. Caves in the rock and in the cliff walls that surrounded it provided ideal spots for Japanese machine guns.

Company L advanced about fifty yards from its line of departure, and Japanese mortar fire began to fall in the area. Hallden pushed his men on, moving along the base of the cliff, which formed the west wall of Hell’s Pocket. As the troops probed deeper into the pocket an enemy mortar shell set off a Japanese ammunition dump and the flying debris kept the men pinned down for over an hour. Self-propelled mounts were brought forward in an effort to knock out the cave positions of the Japanese but the vehicles were too exposed to fire from above to accomplish much. Finally, a platoon of medium tanks came in to support the infantry.

By this time the gap between K and L Companies had grown wider so Hallden shifted to the right rear out of Hell’s Pocket and by 1530 had re-established contact with Company K on the valley floor where both companies dug in for the night. Company I, which had been in reserve most of the afternoon, was brought up and dug in on the rear of this position. Progress for the day in the zone of the 106th was about 100 yards.

Throughout the day the 106th Regiment experienced considerable difficulty in maintaining contact with the 2nd Marine Division on its left. The corps order had stipulated that the burden of contact was from right to left. Responsibility for contact therefore rested with L Company, 106th, but the marines were moving along the top of the cliff at whose base the Army troops were located, and physical contact was impossible. As Company L moved to the right to tie in with Company K, even visual contact was lost. At 1703 division headquarters ordered Colonel Ayers to gain contact with the marines on his left “with sufficient force to maintain it,” and half an hour later Ayers ordered the 2nd Battalion, 106th, to cover the gap. On the theory that it would be easier to maintain contact between two companies of the Army division than between Marine and Army units, Company F was ordered to move to the top of the cliff and tie in with the marines while G Company moved forward to positions below the cliff and established contact on the left of L Company.

This move was not completed until 1910, and both companies had to build up a defensive line under cover of darkness. Later that night, Company F’s 1st Platoon, which was hugging the cliff overlooking the edge of Hell’s Pocket, was attacked by a party of about fifteen Japanese who made their way through the perimeter before being discovered. In the intense hand-to-hand fight that ensued, bayonets, grenades, knives, and fists came into play. The Japanese killed two men of the platoon and wounded two others before being destroyed or routed.

Progress in the zone of the 27th Division on 23 June had been disappointing, especially in the area assigned to the 106th Infantry. During the afternoon General Holland Smith expressed his alarm over the situation in a conversation with General Jarman, the island commander and the senior Army officer on Saipan. In General Jarman’s words: General Smith, CG of the V Phib Corps, called me to his quarters and indicated that he was very much concerned about the situation which he was presented with in regard to the 27th Division He outlined to me the many things that had happened with respect to the failure of the 27th Division to advance. He indicated that this division had suffered scarcely no [sic] casualties and in his opinion he didn’t think they would fight. . . . He stated that if it was not an Army division and there would be a great cry set up more or less of a political nature, he would immediately relieve the division commander and assign someone else.

Next morning, General Holland Smith registered his displeasure in a stern dispatch to General Ralph Smith himself:

COMMANDING GENERAL IS HIGHLY DISPLEASED WITH THE FAILURE OF THE 27TH DIVISION ON JUNE TWENTY THIRD TO LAUNCH ITS ATTACK AS ORDERED AT KING HOUR AND THE LACK OF OFFENSIVE ACTION DISPLAYED BY THE DIVISION IN ITS FAILURE TO ADVANCE AND SEIZE OBJECTIVE O-5 WHEN OPPOSED ONLY BY SMALL ARMS AND MORTAR FIRE X THE FAILURE OF THE 27th TO ADVANCE IN ITS ZONE OF ACTION RESULTED IN THE HALTING OF ATTACKS BY THE 4TH AND 2nd MARINE DIVISIONS ON THE FLANKS OF THE 27TH IN ORDER TO PREVENT DANGEROUS EXPOSURE OF THEIR INTERIOR FLANKS X IT IS DIRECTED THAT IMMEDIATE STEPS BE TAKEN TO CAUSE THE 27TH DIVISION TO ADVANCE AND SEIZE OBJECTIVES AS ORDERED X.

There can be no doubt of the truth of General Holland Smith’s charges that the 27th Division had been late in the jump-off, that its advance had been slow, and that it had held up progress of the two Marine divisions on its flanks. It is apparent, however, that he underestimated the stubbornness of the Japanese defenses in the area by dismissing the opposition in the zone of the 27th Division as being “only by small arms and mortar fire.”

When subsequently queried on this point, Colonel Ayers, commanding officer of the 106th Infantry, was of the firm belief that if he had tried to advance rapidly across the open ground in front of him his regiment “would have disappeared.” General Ralph Smith agreed. He later testified that, after visiting the front lines shortly after noon, he was “satisfied that Colonel Ayers was making every effort possible to advance in the valley, and considered that any further pushing of troops in that zone would only lead to increased casualties, without accomplishing adequate results.

On the other hand, General Jarman testified that in his conversations with General Ralph Smith on the afternoon of 23 June the division commander had been far from satisfied with the conduct of his troops. In General Jarman’s words: I talked to General Smith and explained the situation as I saw it and that I felt from reports from the Corps Commander that his division was not carrying its full share. He immediately replied that such was true; that he was in no way satisfied with what his regimental commanders had done during the day and that he had been with them and had pointed out to them the situation. He further indicated to me that he was going to be present tomorrow, 24 June with his division when it made its jump-off and he would personally see to it that the division went forward . . . . He appreciated the situation and thanked me for coming to see him and stated that if he didn’t take his division forward tomorrow he should be relieved.The First Night in Death Valley

At 1925, just as darkness fell, the Japanese launched a six-tank attack down the road that ran the length of Death Valley and marked the boundary between Mizony’s and McDonough’s positions. Not until the column had almost reached the American outposts was it discovered, and by then the lead tank was too close to be fired upon from either side of the road without endangering the men on the other. The other five tanks, however, were taken under fire by both battalions with every weapon available. Bazookas, antitank guns, grenade launchers, and artillery went into action, and all five tanks were knocked out. The lead tank proceeded on through the lines and circled back, firing constantly. One shell landed in a Japanese ammunition dump located in the midst of the 3rd Battalion, 106th’s, lines and set it afire.

The tank then turned east and was finally knocked out in the zone of the 23rd Marines.

Meanwhile, the ammunition dump in the middle of the 3rd Battalion, 106th, was going off in all directions. Simultaneously, the Japanese on Mount Tapotchau began to throw mortar shells and machine gun fire into the area. Company L suffered sixteen men wounded within the space of an hour. The position of the entire 3rd Battalion was now untenable, 1st Lieutenant George T. Johnson of I Company ordered his men to disperse as soon as the dump started to explode. He later assembled them across the road to the rear of the 165th line and dug in there for the rest of the night. The other two infantry companies withdrew about 100 yards behind the conflagration, thus canceling altogether the small gain made by the battalion during the day’s action.

23 June: Marines on the Flanks

On the right of the 27th Division, the 4th Marine Division attacked with two regiments abreast, 24th on the right and 23rd on the left. The 24th Marines pushed rapidly ahead along the shore of Magicienne Bay and by midafternoon had reached the O-5 line at one point just east of the village of Laulau. On the left the 23rd Marines made somewhat slower progress, partly because its advance was held back by the 165th Infantry. Within a short time after the jump-off, one battalion seized the top of Hill 600, which though lightly manned by the enemy was admirably suited for defense and took thirty minutes of close fighting to capture. There, the battalion was ordered to hold, pending the advance of the Army troops on the left, but since the 1st Battalion, 165th, was held up, the marines spent the rest of the afternoon in a stationary position, firing and pitching grenades at the Japanese who still occupied in force the northern face of the hill. That night a group of enemy tanks launched an attack against Hill 600 but was repulsed with the loss of three of its five vehicles.

On the other side of Death Valley, the 8th Marines jumped off on schedule except on the right flank, which was held up by the late arrival of the 106th Infantry. To fill the gap between these units, the reserve battalion was ordered into position to protect the right flank and the three battalions in the assault moved forward. By midafternoon the right battalion seized the cliff that dominated the only feasible route to the top of Mount Tapotchau. On the regimental left, the marines ran into a nest of about thirty Japanese riflemen and six heavy machine guns, which held up their progress for the rest of the day.

Soon after the 6th Marines in the center of the 2nd Division’s line launched its attack, the right flank battalion was pinched out by the reduced frontage. On the left, the regiment made no advance during the day because it was already so far forward that any further move would have caused too much of a contact strain. The same was true of the 2nd Marines on the division left flank. Not until the center of the corps line made more significant progress would it be safe for the elements on the left to move ahead.

24 June: Action of the 27th Division

General Holland Smith’s order for June 24th called for a continuation of the attack with three divisions abreast in the same order as before, commencing at 0800. Corps artillery was assigned to general support and ordered to reinforce the fires of divisional artillery. In the zone of the 27th Division, its own organic artillery would fire a ten-minute preparation before the jump-off and thereafter support the attack on call.

165th Infantry Attack Against Purple Heart Ridge

At 0705 corps reminded 27th Division that the slope on the right side of Purple Heart Ridge was in the zone of action of the 165th Infantry, which would capture it with the help of fire from the 4th Marine

Division on its right. This meant in effect that the 106th Infantry alone would be responsible for the frontal attack up Death Valley. Simultaneously, the 2nd Battalion, 165th, would attack along the crest of Purple Heart Ridge itself and the 1st Battalion, 165th, would move up on the right (east) of the ridge.

Purple Heart Ridge was in reality a series of hills connected by a ridge line running in a northerly direction. From south to north these hills were designated Queen, Love, George-How, X-ray-Yoke, Oboe, King, and Able. Hill Queen had already been overrun by the 4th Marine Division in its advance eastward toward Kagman Peninsula. Hill Love had been surrounded by the 1st Battalion, 165th Infantry, which had dug in the night before around its base.

There were obvious tactical advantages to an early capture of this ridge line or any considerable part of it. It overlooked Death Valley from the east just as the higher cliffs around Mount Tapotchau did from the west. The commanders were becoming aware that any movement north through the valley could be easily interdicted by fire from the elevations on either side. If the lower of the two walls of the corridor—Purple Heart Ridge—could be seized, then fire could be brought directly to bear against the caves that dotted the west cliffs from which such effective fire was being trained on the troops trying to advance through the valley below.

At 0800 the two assault battalions of the 165th Infantry jumped off on schedule in the same order they were in at the end of the previous day’s fighting: On the front line from right to left were Cloyd’s Company C, O’Brien’s Company A, Chasmar’s Company G, and Leonard’s Company F. In reserve for the 1st Battalion was Gil’s B Company; for the 2nd Battalion, Ryan’s E Company. The regimental plan called for Company C on the right flank to swing well to the right and then northeast into the zone of the 23rd Marines. There it would wait until the rest of the battalion came abreast. Company B was to come up from behind Hill Love on A Company’s left, execute a turning movement, and then attack eastward across A’s front in order to enfilade the enemy positions to the north of Hill Love.

Within a little more than an hour after the jump-off, Company C had moved to the right and gained physical contact with the marines. Lieutenant Cloyd stopped his advance on the northern nose of Hill 600 to await the approach of the rest of the battalion on his left. He made no further progress that day.

On the battalion left, Companies A and B ran into immediate trouble. As A pushed off from Hill Love toward the same positions that had caused so much trouble the day before, it came under heavy fire from small arms and machine guns. Company B then moved up to the left and, as planned, tried to execute a turning movement to the right across A Company’s front. Company B, too, met a fusillade of fire and finally withdrew after losing twelve wounded, two mortally. It was only 0930, but the 1st Battalion attempted no further movement until midafternoon.

[NOTE: According to standard usage in the Central Pacific, the maps used in the Marianas were overlaid with a grid. Each large square of the grid measured 1000 by 1000 yards and was given a numerical designation. These were in turn subdivided into twenty-five smaller squares of 200 square yards, each given a letter designation according to the phonetic alphabet then in use. Thus, Hill Love derived its name from the fact that it was located in small square “L” of large square “175.” The squares, both large and small, were called “target areas.”]

Colonel Kelley then decided to commit his 3rd Battalion to the right of the line. The 3rd was to move to the right, following the same route used by Company C and, upon reaching the latter’s positions on the left flank of the Marine lines, pass through and launch an attack that would carry it to the top of Hill King, almost at the northern edge of Purple Heart Ridge. While this was taking place, B Company was to circle the pocket of resistance north of Hill Love and build up a line facing the pocket from the north. Thereafter, the 1st Battalion was to mop up this area of resistance and retire into regimental reserve. The change of plans was agreed upon at 0904, and orders were accordingly issued at 1015. The 3rd Battalion completed its move by 1335, and by that time Company B had encircled the pocket and was facing south ready to attack.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion, 165th Infantry, moved off on schedule in an effort to take the ridge by a direct assault from the southwest. The night before, the battalion had occupied positions about three hundred yards to the north and west of Hill Love. G Company moved off with Company F following, echeloned to the left rear. By 1000 the lead platoon had reached the southern face of Hill X-ray-Yoke, about the midpoint of the ridge. Here the men found a steep gulch directly across the path of advance. In order to get up on the hill itself, they would have to climb down the near cliff, cross the bottom of the canyon, and scale the cliff on the other side. As the first platoon attempted this feat of acrobatics it came under rifle fire from the hill ahead and was stopped in its tracks. Company G made no further progress that day.

F Company to the left rear had also run into trouble. As it came abreast of G, Company F spread out to the left where the gully in front of Hill X-ray-Yoke was not quite so precipitous. Here the terrain was friendlier, but the enemy was not, and heavy mortar and machine gun fire kept the bulk of the company pinned down for two hours. Around 1130 Captain Leonard sent a patrol out to his left toward a small house located on the floor of Death Valley. His purpose was to protect his flank from a possible attack from that direction. Of the twenty men dispatched on this mission six were wounded and one was killed by machine gun fire before the patrol was withdrawn. F Company, too, now held its lines for the remainder of the day. At nightfall the whole battalion dug in just below the gulch. The clay’s action represented an advance of about 150 yards.

While the stalemate was developing on the left flank of the regimental line, stubborn resistance continued on the extreme right. The 3rd Battalion had swung right behind the ridge and passed through Company C at 1335. Shortly after 1600 Captain Howard Betts, who commanded Company K, made a frontal assault in column of platoons up Hill X-ray-Yoke from the east.

The lead platoon reached the tree line well up the hill without much trouble, but just as it started into the undergrowth, Japanese machine guns opened fire from the left front, traversing the length of Betts’ line and wounding two men. The platoon took to earth and was pinned there by a continuous grazing fire for almost two hours. Betts immediately swung his second platoon into line on the right, but after about fifty yards further advance up the hill, it too ran into machine gun fire and was stopped. By this time darkness was coming on, and Company K was pulled down the hill to tie in with I Company for the night. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion’s effort to mop up the pocket of resistance north of Hill Love had failed, and that unit, with the exception of Company C, dug in around the same positions it had occupied the night before.

106th Infantry: Into Death Valley Again

The units, from right to left, on the front line facing the mouth of Death Valley on the morning of 24 June were: Company K, 106th Infantry, Captain Heminway; Company L, 106th Infantry, Captain Hallden; and Company G, 106th Infantry, Captain David B. Tarrant. Company F of the 106th was still on top of the cliff, and, since its movement was geared to that of the 2nd Marine Division, its actions must be considered as separate from those of the rest of the 106th Regiment.

The 3rd Battalion jumped off on time, but immediately encountered such heavy mortar fire that many of the men fell back to the line of departure and in some cases behind it. By 0945 the front-line troops had advanced from 50 to 100 yards into the valley, but there was no sign of any abatement of enemy fire, especially from the cliffs of Tapotchau. Division headquarters was severely disappointed, and at 1012 General Ralph Smith radioed Colonel Ayers: “Advance of 50 yards in 1-1/2 hours is most unsatisfactory. Start moving at once.”

In response to this pressure, Company K, supported by a platoon of medium tanks of Company B, 762nd Tank Battalion, immediately pushed forward into the valley. Captain Heminway had two platoons abreast, the 1st on the right, the 3rd on the left. He left the 2nd Platoon at the entrance to the valley to deliver covering fire to his front. He also set up his machine guns on the high ground beside the valley road and had some support from M Company’s heavy weapons. Heminway’s men advanced in a long, thin skirmish line, moving rapidly toward the center of the valley. They had pushed forward fifty yards without event when the entire cliff on the left of the valley seemed to open up. The company broke into a run toward a fold in the ground that offered some cover. Here the company commander stopped to reorganize his line. Just as he got up to wave his men forward again he was shot in the head and killed. This paralyzed the entire line until 1st Lieutenant Jefferson Noakes, the company executive officer, could come forward and take command.

Meanwhile, the platoon of tanks attached to Company K had been roaming around the floor of the valley trying to silence the Japanese fire from the cliff. One of the tanks, commanded by the platoon leader, 2nd Lieutenant Richard Hitchner, received two hits from enemy shells, was knocked out, and had to be abandoned. Around 1100 another tank was hit, and the whole platoon withdrew.

At this juncture 3rd Battalion called the company headquarters and announced that a smoke screen would be laid down and that under its cover the men of Company K were to withdraw from their exposed positions. Some of the men did withdraw under the smoke, but one platoon failed to get the word and remained holed up until two tanks that had been supporting L Company went over and covered its withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Company I, under Lieutenant Johnson, had been ordered into the line between the other two companies of the 3rd Battalion. Reporting at 1015, Johnson was told to move two platoons out into the valley in column, swing left until he made contact with L Company’s right flank, and then deploy his men to the right to close the gap that existed between Companies L and K. Immediately upon entering the pass into the valley, both platoons were subjected to brutal fire from the cliffs on the left and stayed pinned down for better than two hours. The men lay on an open slope without any means of protection, unable even to lift their heads to fire back. Seven were killed and thirteen wounded. A little before 1200, as the men still lay out on the open ground, three Japanese tanks came down the valley road from the north firing in all directions. Just as they were about to overrun the area occupied by Company I, all three were knocked out by antitank guns from both sides of the valley.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Johnson was frantically trying to get at the source of the enemy fire that was proving so deadly to his unit. He had the antitank guns of battalion headquarters open up on the face of the western cliff with canister and set up all of M Company’s heavy machine guns to deliver covering fire in that direction. His 3rd Platoon, which was just at the entrance to the valley, took up positions and delivered supporting small arms fire all along the face of Mount Tapotchau. Johnson himself took his company headquarters and moved along the edge of the trees to the left in an effort to get at the Japanese position in front of Company L. As this group moved to the left through the undergrowth, it too was pinned down by mortar fire and discovered the woods to be full of enemy riflemen between the valley road and L Company’s right flank. Johnson was wounded.

It was at this point that the battalion commander ordered K and I Companies to withdraw under cover of smoke. In the latter unit’s zone, the screen was neither effective nor of long enough duration, and only a handful of Johnson’s men could get out. Finally, about 1225, Colonel Mizony brought every weapon he had to bear on the Japanese positions along the cliff and in Hell’s Pocket. Under cover of this fire the remainder of Company I was able to crawl and scramble back to the cover of the trees. Casualties in the 3rd Battalion, 106th, alone, for the day had amounted to 14 killed and 109 wounded.

Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry, had been ordered up to relieve the 3rd Battalion. The relief was accomplished at 1515. Upon assuming its position in the line the 1st Battalion was ordered to dig in for the night since it was considered too late in the day to launch further attacks into the valley.

While the 3rd Battalion had been enengaged in trying to push out into the valley, Company G, on the left flank, had advanced no more than two hundred yards during the day. The unit had not itself encountered much enemy fire, but when Company L ran into so much trouble during the morning, Captain Tarrant held his line firm rather than push out ahead of the unit on his right. The attempt of the 106th Infantry to push up Death Valley by frontal assault had failed again. In the words of Colonel Ayers, “We were thrown right back on to the original line of departure.”

Once again corps headquarters ordered the 27th Division to renew the attack into the valley next morning with the “main effort on the left.” General Ralph Smith, however, now decided that any further headlong rush up the valley would only result in increased casualties, and ordered his division to make the main effort on the right. Beginning on the morning of the 25th, the 2nd Battalion, 106th Infantry, would take up positions along the entrance to the valley and contain the Japanese there while the 165th Infantry and the other two battalions of the 106th would circle around the east (right) flank and come out into the valley at its northern end to the rear of the Japanese positions. This, it was hoped, would put the Army division abreast of the two Marine divisions, and the encircled Japanese in Death Valley could then be mopped up at leisure.

There is no evidence that this discrepancy between corps and division orders was ever noted at the time. In any case, before he could put this plan into execution, General Ralph Smith was relieved of his command, and it was left to his successor, General Jarman, to solve the problem of Death Valley.

24 June: Action on the Flanks

On the right of the corps line, the 4th Marine Division was ordered to press eastward across Kagman Peninsula and secure that area before reorienting its drive toward the north of the island. The division jumped off on schedule at 0800, the 24th Marines on the right, the 23rd on the left. The 24th Regiment moved out rapidly along the coast to Kagman Peninsula against “moderate” resistance. By the end of the day the 24th Marines had advanced about 1,200 yards.

On its left the 23rd Marines was initially held up by a pocket of resistance on the slopes of Hill 600 that marked the boundary line between the Marine division and the Army division. About noon the Marine regiment detoured the pocket and commenced to swing around the are toward Kagman Peninsula, pivoting on the 24th Marines on its right. As the 23rd Regiment accelerated its swing, the gap between it and the 165th Infantry increased and toward late afternoon amounted to from 800 to 1,000 yards. By 1630 Chacha village was overrun and the advance halted for the night since the gap on the left precluded any further progress. The 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, in division reserve, was ordered to occupy Hill 600 and assist its parent regiment in patrolling the gap. Opposition in the 4th Division’s zone on the 24th was characterized as “moderate” and “light,” although total casualties came to 380, including killed, wounded, and missing in action.

To the west (left) of Death Valley the 2nd Marine Division was drawn up abreast, from right to left, 8th Marines (with the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, attached), 6th Marines, and 2nd Marines. On the right flank the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, was struggling along the cliff overlooking Death Valley. The ground was “a tangle of tree ferns and aerial tree-roots overgrown with a matting of vines. This formation led up to a ridge, access to which required an almost vertical climb.” By nightfall the battalion had succeeded in climbing the ridge, which connected with and was within machine gun range of the summit of Mount Tapotchau. The battalion’s advance for the day was about 800 yards.

During this movement of the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, Company F of the 106th Infantry was virtually an integral part of the Marine battalion and had been ordered by its own battalion headquarters to gear its movements to those of the marines. About 1230, F Company came to a halt when the marines on its left engaged in a fire fight. The company’s right flank rested along the edge of the cliff overlooking Death Valley just opposite the north rim of Hell’s Pocket. The terrain to the right consisted of a down-sloping nose of ground that broke off abruptly in the cliffs that scaled down the valley. Captain Roderick V. Le Mieux, the company commander, ordered a patrol to probe down this nose and investigate the source of enemy rifle fire coming from that direction. The patrol soon flushed a covey of Japanese and a full-scale fire fight developed. The patrol leader, finding himself outnumbered, returned for more men. With the larger group he again went down the nose and succeeded in driving the enemy back down the hill.

Meanwhile, Captain Le Mieux had moved ahead a short distance and observed a Japanese artillery piece in a cave in the side of the cliff about 500 yards to his front. The Japanese were playing a hide and seek game with the piece, running it out of the cliff to fire at the line of trees along the south edge of the valley below, then quickly dragging it back under cover.

Le Mieux observed about a hundred of the enemy in the vicinity of this position as well as a large ammunition dump. He ordered up heavy weapons from Company H, which succeeded in catching the gun out of the cave and destroying it. In addition they blew up the ammunition dump, killing about thirty Japanese. Shortly thereafter an enemy patrol was discovered advancing toward the heavy weapons outpost. Rifle fire and grenades quickly dispersed the Japanese, but not before Captain Le Mieux received a serious fragmentation wound and had to be replaced by 1st Lieutenant Herbert N. Slate, the company executive officer. A few minutes later the company was ordered to pull back to the left and to tighten up the lines before digging in for the night.

In the center, the 8th Marines advanced with no particular difficulty, maintaining contact with units on both of its flanks. The battalion on the regimental left, on the other hand, after advancing a short distance, encountered heavy enemy resistance in an area honeycombed with caves and irregular coral limestone formations covered with trees and undergrowth. This was the same pocket that had retarded the battalion on the previous day. Contact with the 6th Marines on the left was temporarily broken. Shortly after noon the pocket was cleaned out and contact was restored with the regiment on the left. The advance continued until late afternoon and by the time the 8th Marines dug in for the night it had registered a day’s gain of about 700 yards.

The advance of the 6th Marines in the division center was not so rapid, especially on the right flank where it faced cliffs and thickly wooded ravines and encountered strong enemy positions in natural cave formations. By evening the regiment had progressed from about 900 yards on the left to 500 to 600 yards on the right. The regimental lines had become too extended for safety, and an additional company was committed to the line.

On the division left the 2nd Marines jumped off at 0800. On its right, progress was slow against heavy fire from a hill, just southeast of Garapan, that the marines did not occupy until 1500. Shortly thereafter the Japanese counterattacked the hill, which from their side (north) was virtually a cliff. Firing with muzzles depressed against the enemy below, the marines easily repulsed the attack and dug in for the night along the ridge overlooking “Radio Road,” which ran at right angles to the line of advance. Meanwhile, the battalion on the left had quickly advanced 500 yards along the beach into the southern outskirts of Garapan itself. Around 1625, as these men were preparing their defenses along the flatlands bordering the sea, seven enemy tanks unaccompanied by infantrymen suddenly moved out from Garapan against them. Marine tanks and 75-mm. halftracks were rushed in and quickly broke up the attack, destroying six of the Japanese vehicles and routing the seventh. The 2nd Marines had now reached the O-6 line and would again have to hold up until the units on its right came abreast. Casualties for the entire 2nd Division on the 24th amounted to 31 killed, 165 wounded, and one missing in action.

After two days of fighting on a three divisional front, the attack of Holland Smith’s corps against the center of the Japanese main line of resistance had stalled. On the right, the 4th Marine Division had overrun most of Kagman Peninsula, an area that presented no particular terrain problems but that still contained plenty of live Japanese, judging from the casualties suffered there by the marines. On the left, the 2nd Marine Division had fought its way into the outskirts of Garapan and up the craggy approaches to Mount Tapotchau, although it would take another day to reach the summit of the mountain. In the corps center, the 165th Infantry on the 27th Division’s right had captured Hill Love, but had made no further advance along the hill system called Purple Heart Ridge. Progress of the 106th Infantry into Death Valley had been negligible. Thus, in the center—the 27th Division zone—the corps line bent back as much as 1,500 yards. Total reported casualties in the 4th Marine Division for the two days were 812; for the 2nd Marine Division, 333; for the 27th Infantry Division, 277.

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

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

World War Two: Saipan (2-8) Capture of Nafutan Point

World War Two: Saipan (2-8) Capture of Nafutan Point

By the end of 18 June the 4th Marine Division had penetrated to Magicienne Bay and cut the island of Saipan in two. General Holland Smith’s plans for the next phase of the operation called for a change of direction of the main attack from east to north across the breadth of the island. Specifically, this meant that the 2nd Marine Division would hold and consolidate its positions on the extreme left flank south of Garapan and would constitute the pivot of a wheeling movement. The outer end of the wheel’s spoke would be the right flank of the 4th Marine Division resting on Magicienne Bay.

When the turn had been completed the two divisions would be abreast and ready to launch their northerly drive against the main enemy defense line, which now stretched across the island in a southeasterly direction from the outskirts of Garapan to Magicienne Bay. Meanwhile, Nafutan Point and the approaches to it along the south coast of Saipan remained occupied by Japanese troops that had to be cleared out before Aslito field could be considered entirely safe from counterattack and infiltration.

Nafutan Point is a short peninsula—a southward extension of the east coast of Saipan. Dominating most of the peninsula is a high cragged ridge running in a north -south direction not far inland from the east coast. This is Mount Nafutan, whose highest point is about 407 feet. Its northern and western faces are almost sheer cliffs. About 400 yards west of the northern part of Nafutan mountain lies a ridge about 300 feet in height. Although the lowlands in the western portion of the peninsula and in the valley between Mount Nafutan and Ridge 300 were mostly under cultivation, the hilly and mountainous areas in the east were generally covered with thick underbrush.

Compressed into this area by the advance of the American troops was a motley crowd of Japanese military personnel mixed with civilians. Altogether, the military contingent numbered about 1,050. Included were survivors of the 317th Independent Infantry Battalion, 47th Independent Mixed Brigade; naval personnel who had manned the coastal defense guns located near the southern tip of the peninsula; antiaircraft and service troops that had been swept out of Aslito field; and probably stragglers from many other units. The men were under no single command, at least in the strict sense of that word, but the highest ranking officer seems to have been a Captain Sasaki, who commanded the 317th Independent Infantry Battalion.

The job of disposing of these people and securing Nafutan Point was initially assigned to the two regiments of the 27th Infantry Division that were ashore by the 18th of June. Holland Smith’s headquarters assumed that the task could be completed in a short time, and that it would be little more than a mopping-up operation. The assumption proved to be optimistic in the extreme. Not until 27 June was the southeastern extremity of Saipan completely cleared of the recalcitrant, if disorganized, enemy troops holed up in that vicinity.

Action of 19 June

27th infantry division on 19th “complete missions assigned” in the previous day’s order, which meant in effect that the division was to push to the east coast of Saipan along its entire front including all of Nafutan Point. Jump-off hour was set by division orders at 0730.

In position along the front line from right to left (south to north) were the 3rd and 1st Battalions, 105th Infantry, and the 2nd and 1st Battalions, 165th. The latter regiment had on the preceding day almost reached Magicienne Bay, but the line of the 105th bent back sharply to the westward to a position on Saipan’s south coast only 700 yards east of Cape Obiam, On the extreme right, the 3rd Battalion, 105th Regiment, met no opposition to speak of. During the day not an enemy shot was fired except for a few random rounds of artillery that were lobbed into the battalion’s area from Nafutan Point. Nevertheless, the rugged terrain along the southern coast made progress difficult, and by nightfall the battalion had advanced only about 1,800 yards in its zone.

To its left and well ahead, the 1st Battalion, 105th, jumped off at 0730, as scheduled, with Company A on the right, B on the left. After three hours of unopposed progress, the battalion came up against the first of the series of ridges that flank Mount Nafutan to the northwest. In spite of considerable enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire, both companies reached the top of the ridge without trouble, but as they went over the crest to a stretch of level ground with clear fields of fire they were pinned down by heavy fire from five separate pillboxes to their immediate front. The pillboxes were located near the boundary line between the two advance companies, and the company commanders drew their units into a semicircle around the area and poured fire into it. After an hour and a half of futile effort to place shaped charges against the pillboxes, both companies pulled back to a line below the ridge out of range of enemy fire.

On being informed of the situation, regiment ordered the 1st Battalion to re-form, move to the left, and try to outflank the enemy by an attack from the north, rather than by a frontal assault As a prelude to the attack, naval planes were to deliver a fifteen-minute air strike, which was to be followed by a half hour’s concentrated division artillery fire.

Promptly at 1610 the battalion jumped off and almost immediately ran into trouble. B Company, on the left, had to climb the ridge some distance back from the enemy positions in order to execute the flanking movement. Once on top, it was to attack south. However, in getting onto the ridge, the men were held up by an exploding artillery dump and had to take a circuitous route. No sooner had they reached the top of the ridge than the Japanese opened fire with dual-purpose guns. By this time it was 1730, well on toward darkness.

Company A, meanwhile, had not been able even to get into position to attack. Before it could swing into line on the right flank of Company B, it too came under fire from the enemy positions and the men jumped for cover. One soldier (Private Thomas C. Baker) succeeded in knocking out one of the enemy’s pillboxes with a bazooka, but even so the company made no substantial progress. Shortly after 1800, Colonel O’Brien halted the attack, and the whole battalion retired to the line of departure for the night. There, Company C replaced Company B.

To the north, the 165th Infantry was faring somewhat better. The previous evening the regiment had stopped short of the shore line, and its first task was to complete its penetration to the sea. Ahead was a steep slope that ran down to a line of cliffs at the water’s edge, there to drop fifty to sixty yards straight down to the ocean. The slope was a coral formation studded with sharp rocks and pocketed with holes, deep canyons, crevasses, and caves. The whole area was heavily overgrown with a tangle of vines, small trees, and bushes. The only feasible means of approach to the shore line was by way of a series of parallel paths running eastward through the undergrowth.

The regiment jumped off on schedule at 0730 with the 2nd Battalion on the right (south), 1st on the left (north). Only A Company on the extreme left had any serious trouble. An advance platoon ran into a Japanese machine gun position and was fired upon from ambush and held up for over two hours. By 1300 lead elements of both battalions had picked their way cautiously to the ocean’s edge. The only apparent enemy opposition remaining in the area was in a small pocket along the boundary line between the Army regiment and the 4th Marine Division, During the afternoon anneals were sent out over a public address system in an attempt to persuade this isolated remnant of enemy troops to surrender, but the action met with no success. Before the troops dug in for the night, the 1st Battalion, on the left, was relieved by the 3rd, which had been in reserve during the day.

At the close of operations on the 19th, two battalions of the 165th Infantry were drawn up in defensive positions along the southern coast of Magicienne Bay. The 1st and 2nd Battalions had completed the process of cutting off the enemy on Nafutan Point from the rest of the island. However, the leftward swing of the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, and the slow advance of the 3rd Battalion, 105th, along the southern shore, had resulted in a large gap in the middle of that regiment’s line. In order to fill the gap and protect Aslito airfield, Colonel Kelley ordered the 1st Battalion, 165th, to move back to the airfield and dig in.

Along the 27th Division front the night was quiet except for two widely separated actions. On the south coast, a group of twenty to thirty civilians stumbled into the perimeter of Company L, 105th Infantry, and were all killed. In the Magicienne Bay area, about an hour after dark, some twenty Japanese launched a counterattack against the right flank of B Company, 165th Infantry, but the attack was broken up within half an hour.

Action of 20 June

The morning of 20 June brought about a change in the 27th Division’s plans and a reorientation of the attack against Nafutan Point. General Ralph Smith, after reviewing the difficulties encountered the preceding day by the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, in its attempt to assault Nafutan Ridge frontally from the west, decided that the direction of the attack should be changed from eastward to southward. He attached the 1st Battalion, 105th, to the 165th Infantry and then at 0800 called a conference of the unit commanders most concerned with the new plan of attack. In attendance, besides General Smith, were his operations officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frederic H. Sheldon; Colonel Kelley, commanding officer of the 165th Infantry; and the three battalion commanders of that regiment, as well as Colonel O’Brien who commanded the 1st Battalion, 105th.

As a result of the conference, General Smith issued his Field Message No. 1, which called for a coordinated attack by the 165th Infantry, with the 1st Battalion, 105th, attached, southward along the main axis of Nafutan Point, to commence at 1000. The day’s objective was a line drawn across the peninsula about halfway between the line of departure and the southern tip. The 3rd Battalion, 105th, in the meanwhile would continue to advance eastward along the southern coast until it could close lines with the rest of the division in a tightening noose around Nafutan.

For the main attack down the peninsula, the line-up of units from right to left (west to east) was: Companies C and A of the 105th Infantry and Companies I, K, F, and G of the 165th. The terrain to the front of the three battalions varied. Immediately ahead of the right flank of the 1st Battalion, 105th, the ground was fairly smooth with no serious obstacles. On its left the land sloped upward abruptly to a cane-covered plain in Company I’s zone.

Between the two levels, at the line of departure, a short ramp like piece of ground served as an approach to the higher plain from the west, but as one proceeded farther southward the ramp became progressively steeper and finally developed into sheer cliff. Originally, A Company was deployed across this ramp from top to bottom with Company C tied in on the flat land to its right. As the advance progressed it would be necessary for Company A to keep edging more and more to the right until eventually it would end up on the level ground at the foot of the ridge. This necessarily would make effective contact with Company I on the left impossible. Thus it was that the action of the 1st Battalion, 105th, was to all intents and purposes independent of that of the 165th on its left.

Immediately in front of K and F Companies, 165th Infantry, there was nothing but open cane field sloping gently down to the bay on the left. Ahead of Company G, however, was a rubble of coral topped with the thick undergrowth that lined Magicienne Bay. Approximately 800 yards ahead of the line of departure the ground in front of the 165th sloped upward to a hill. On the left of the 3rd Battalion zone the incline was gradual, but on the right of the 2nd Battalion the slope gave way to an abrupt cliff—the face of Mount Nafutan itself.

Although the original jump-off hour had been set at 1000, General Smith found it necessary to postpone it to 1115 and later to 1200 in order to permit the 1st Battalion, 165th, to relieve the other two battalions, which were still in position along Magicienne Bay north of the line of departure.

At 1145 division artillery laid down a concentrated fire along the whole front, particularly along the hill that crossed the 165th’s line of advance. Then Company C, 88th Chemical Battalion, which had been brought up to lend general support to the attack, fired its 4.2-inch chemical mortars and set up a smoke screen. Six tanks from the 766th Tank Battalion supported the 3rd Battalion, 165th, in the center of the regimental line. Promptly at 1200 the troops jumped off. On the right of the regimental line the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, almost immediately came under machine gun fire from its left front and flank, while the right flank received some fire from a heavy flat-trajectory weapon. The whole line stopped, and C Company on the right dug in.

Colonel O’Brien, the battalion commander, came up in an effort to locate the source of enemy fire and finally determined that it came from a small group of buildings almost on the battalion boundary line. Company A immediately put automatic weapons fire into this whole area. This seemed to stop the fire, and Colonel O’Brien went out to make a reconnaissance. He had moved over into the buildings when snipers began opening up on him from various houses, O’Brien immediately ordered all the buildings burned down. For the next hour the battalion was held up while the settlement was burned to the ground, tanks, self-propelled mounts, antitank guns, and flame throwers joining in the arson.

Upon completion of this task, the 1st Battalion, 105th, pushed forward again and for the rest of the afternoon ran into no trouble except occasional small arms fire. Contact with Company I on the left was lost during the burning of the settlement and was not regained for the rest of the afternoon, chiefly because of the gradually rising ridge that now separated the two battalions. When the 1st Battalion dug in at nightfall, it had advanced about 500 yards.

In the zone of the 3rd Battalion, 165th Infantry, Company I, led by three tanks, fell under enemy fire almost immediately and remained stationary for about an hour and a half. Its tanks proved to be more of a hindrance than a help since they drew enemy artillery fire into the area of advance but could not be controlled by the infantry because of radio failure. On the left, Companies K and F were faring considerably better, and at 1405 Company K reported that it was 400 yards ahead of I Company and out of contact. Meanwhile, on the extreme left of the regimental line G Company was stopped by a nest of Japanese hidden in the underbrush near the ocean shore and made no further advance. With both flanks of the line retarded, the two battalion commanders ordered their reserve Companies, E and L, to take positions on the extreme left and right, respectively. These moves were completed about 1630, and the regiment prepared to continue the advance.

Heavy mortar fire was laid down, and both battalions jumped off in a continuance of the attack. On the regimental right progress was slow since the entire 3rd Battalion had to contend with the heavy undergrowth and was moving up hill. On the left, E Company commenced to receive considerable fire from the hills north of Mount Nafutan and was pinned down. By 1730 no further progress seemed possible before nightfall, and all units were ordered to dig in for the night. Company E withdrew about a hundred yards before doing so. Casualties had been relatively light, the 105th suffering only one man killed and five wounded; the 165th, six killed, twenty-one wounded, and one missing in action.

Meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion, 105th Infantry, which was still under control of its parent regiment, had been pushing eastward along the southern shore. Little infantry opposition was encountered by either of the two assault companies, although they did receive scattered artillery fire at different times during the day. By nightfall the battalion had reached a point only a hundred yards short of tying in with the attack coming down Nafutan peninsula from the north. The division line, therefore, presented an almost solid front that hemmed the southern defenders of the island into an ever-tightening pocket. During 20 June the 106th Infantry Regiment landed on Saipan and was assigned as corps reserve. As soon as the regiment was ashore the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, was released to the control of the 27th Division, and General Ralph Smith immediately ordered it to assemble in division reserve at the southwest corner of Aslito airfield.

Along the division’s front line that night there was little activity except in the center in the zone of the 3rd Battalion, 165th Infantry. Shortly before 2200 enemy guns began opening up not more than 150 yards to the direct front. The fire was point blank and was aimed at both the 3rd Battalion zone and the area held by the 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry. In the zone of the former, the Japanese guns overshot their mark and no damage was done, but during the barrage some rounds fell on A Company, 105th, killing one man and wounding three.

Action of 21 June

Plans for 21 June called for a continuance of the attack to the south on Nafutan Ridge. At a conference held at the 27th Division command post at 2200 on 20 June, the plan was reaffirmed, but with some changes. At Colonel Kelley’s request, General Ralph Smith ordered the fresh 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, to relieve the 2nd Battalion, 165th, on the left of the line as early as possible the next morning. The attack was to jump off at 0930 after a thirty-minute artillery preparation. Upon reaching the first phase line, where the 3rd Battalion, 165th Infantry, was to be pinched out, control of the attack southward was to be assumed by Colonel Bishop of the 105th Infantry. Field Order Number 45, 27th Infantry Division, which contained these plans, was issued at 0615, 21 June. By 0900 the 2nd Battalion, 105th, had relieved the 2nd Battalion, 165th, on the left of the line. As the action opened, then, on the morning of 21 June, the 27th Division units on the line from right to left (west to east) were: Companies L, I, C, and A, 105th Infantry; Companies L, and K, 165th; and Companies G and F, 105th.

On the extreme right, the 3rd Battalion of the 105th, still pushing its way eastward along the southern coast of Saipan, met serious enemy opposition for the first time. Shortly before noon the right platoon of Company I, operating along the seashore, crossed the face of a cave in the ridge and a Japanese machine gun opened up, placing enfilade fire all along the platoon line. The advance stopped at once. On request of the company commander, division dispatched a platoon of tanks from those that had come ashore with the 106th infantry.

In the meantime, Lieutenant Colonel Edward T. Bradt, battalion commander, sent forward a self-propelled mount from the Cannon Company. The vehicle sprayed the area with fire but failed to get close enough to the cave to deliver direct fire into its mouth. Shortly after 1500 the tanks arrived and immediately knocked out the position with their machine guns and 37-mm’s. The battalion line then remained stationary while a loud speaker was sent forward from division headquarters in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the remaining Japanese troops and/or civilians to come out of the cave. Shortly before 1700 the battalion line pushed forward to a point about 600 yards from the morning line of departure and dug in for the night. Contact with the 1st Battalion, 105th, on the left had been lost during the day’s movement, and a small gap remained between the two battalions.

In the zone of the 1st Battalion, 105th, Company A on the battalion left lost ground even before the drive got under way. At daylight, when it became evident from the sound of firing on its left that the enemy had entrenched himself firmly to the front, Captain Louis F. Ackerman ordered his men to move back about a hundred yards to a less exposed position. A further backward movement to adjust its lines to those of the unit on its left brought Company A a full 200 yards behind the positions where it had dug in the night before.

After jumping off at 0930, the 1st Battalion, 105th, moved forward slowly without opposition. The advance was delayed to permit cane fields to be burned to the company’s front, and even two hours after the jump-off Company A had not yet reached the place where it had bivouacked the night before. Finally, at 1255, when Company A had advanced about a hundred yards ahead of the line where it had spent the previous night, it was hit by a heavy mortar concentration coupled with sweeping small arms and automatic weapons fire. This caught the advancing troops in open terrain without cover. Ackerman immediately radioed battalion headquarters for tanks and ordered his men back into the foxholes of the night before.

On the right of the battalion line, Company C had guided its advance on Ackerman’s company. Most of the men in this part of the line had better protection than did A Company, so when the mortar barrage hit, 1st Lieutenant Bernard A. Tougow, in command of C, kept his men on the line. Within a few minutes after A pulled back, Colonel O’Brien, battalion commander, arrived at the C Company command post with three tanks, which immediately went to work to break up a small Japanese counterattack. The tanks then moved over to the left to meet Captain Ackerman, who had put in the request for their assistance.

O’Brien organized a co-ordinated attack along the whole front of his battalion and supported it by the tanks, which he placed in front of Company A. Shortly before 1500 the assault moved off after a brief artillery preparation. The tanks, which were buttoned up, moved out ahead of the line of infantrymen for a few minutes, then veered to the left and finally reversed their course and headed back toward the American line firing as they came. Colonel O’Brien’s frantic efforts to contact the tankers by radio failed, and he finally ran out in the midst of this fire to meet them. Crawling up on the turret of the first tank he met, he banged on it with his pistol butt. The tank then contacted the other two by radio and the firing stopped momentarily. O’Brien turned the vehicles around and then took up a position atop the lead tank’s turret and ordered the advance to proceed.

The whole battalion jumped off in a rapid push that carried it across the open ground. Throughout the movement most of the men advanced at a dogtrot behind the tanks, keeping up a steady fire to the front. O’Brien continued to ride the tank turret of the lead tank, giving directions to the men inside with his pistol butt and waving the infantrymen forward. During the advance A Company lost two men killed and three wounded. Company C on the right suffered no casualties.

In the center of the division line, Companies L and K of the 165th Infantry jumped off on schedule at 0930. They had made some progress by 1255, when they were held up by a heavy concentration of mortar fire, most of which landed in the L Company area. Within the space of a few minutes one man was killed and eleven were seriously wounded; then the barrage ceased as abruptly as it had begun. By that time all of the 3rd Battalion was badly disorganized and made no further advance during the afternoon. This left L Company of the 165th some 500 yards to the left rear of Company A, which had advanced rapidly during the afternoon with the aid of the tanks under Colonel O’Brien’s personal direction.

To fill the gap, O’Brien ordered in the 1st Platoon of his reserve Company B. The platoon leader sent out a patrol that reported that a number of Japanese had taken up position with a machine gun at the crest of the ridge between the two battalions and that the only way firm contact could be established was by knocking out the position. O’Brien then ordered the platoon to face the ridge, deploy, and assault it frontally from the west. After a short mortar concentration the platoon attacked at 1615, but was immediately pinned down by enemy fire that killed two men and wounded three others. Shortly afterward, O’Brien received an urgent radio message indicating that Company L was being fired on from the direction of the 1st Platoon, Company B, The assault on the west face of the ridge was promptly called off and the gap along the battalion line remained unclosed for the night.

The most serious difficulties of the day’s fighting for Nafutan came on the extreme left of the division line. Here, the un-blooded 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, was inserted in the line with Company G on its right and Company F on its left close to the ocean shore, while the reserve company took position north of the front line along the eastern coast.

The terrain to the immediate front was extremely difficult The most prominent feature was the nose of Mount Nafutan, a sheer cliff splitting the battalion front like the bow of a ship. The cliff was not more than thirty feet high, but the approach to it was up a steep slope through the stubble of a cane field that offered no cover. The battalion jumped off on schedule at 0930. On the right, Company G was immediately hit by enemy small arms, machine gun, and mortar fire. One source of the fire was soon found to be a machine gun located on the top of the cliff. Captain Frank Olander, company commander, ordered one squad to assault the cliff itself, but the men had no sooner reached the top of the cliff than they were recalled because of their precarious and isolated situation. A second squad was sent to the top, but the underbrush was so thick that the men failed to spot the critical machine gun. Another platoon that had meanwhile attempted to infiltrate around to the right of the nose of Mount Nafutan was soon pinned down by the enemy fire from the top. The squad on top of the cliff was then called back, and the company commander made his way to the battalion command post to request more aid.

Lieutenant Colonel Leslie M. Jensen, the battalion commander, immediately ordered two self-propelled mounts from the 165th Infantry Cannon Company (the 105th Cannon Company was not yet ashore) to carry rations and water to the isolated men around the base of the cliff. He then called division concentration on the nose of the ridge or near any part of Jensen’s front line was inadvisable because of the advanced positions of the rest of the American line.

Eventually, however, it was agreed that one battery of 105-mm. howitzers could be sent forward to fire point-blank against the cliff. Olander was instructed to withdraw his men under cover of this fire. The decision was reached at 1535, and Battery B, 104th Field Artillery Battalion, was ordered to the front lines at once. For the next hour, under Olander’s instructions, Company G attempted no further movement. Then, under cover of the artillery barrage the entire company drew back to positions to the rear of that morning’s line of departure.

On the extreme left, close to the ocean shore, Captain Earl White, commanding Company F, 105th Infantry, sent his 2nd Platoon south through the scrub fringing the shore line with instructions to search for a route that would lead them onto Mount Nafutan from the rear. At 1700, after an afternoon of extremely difficult work through the coral and underbrush, the platoon finally gained the top of Mount Nafutan. During this period, White had kept mortar fire on the Japanese positions on top of the ridge that were holding back the rest of his company. Sometime during the afternoon the Japanese appear to have picked up their guns and moved out. When the 2nd Platoon arrived on top of the ridge at 1700 the men found it unoccupied, but within a few minutes of the arrival of the platoon the company commander ordered it to return to its starting point. Upon the return of the platoon, White ordered Company F to pull back behind the line of departure where there was better cover and where Company G had already dug in.

Thus, by the close of the fighting on 21 June, troops of the 27th Division had made insignificant progress on either flank of its attack down Nafutan Point, but had made a slight dent in the center. The intermediate objective line about halfway down the peninsula from the original line of departure of 20 June was still from five hundred to a thousand yards away. The nose of Mount Nafutan, which had been reached by elements of Companies F and G, 105th Infantry, had been relinquished and the mountain itself still had to be scaled before the southeastern tip of the island could be secured. Casualties for the day’s fighting on Nafutan came to seven killed and fifty-seven wounded in action.

Change of Plan: Relief of the 165th Infantry on Nafutan Point By 21 June the two Marine divisions had completed their pivoting movement to the north, and General Holland Smith prepared to launch a full-scale attack against the Japanese main line of resistance in that area. To do so, he would need the bulk of the 27th Division as corps reserve and, accordingly, he decided to reduce the number of troops committed to Nafutan Point and to remove most of the men to the reserve area behind the Marine front lines to the north. His opinion that these troops would no longer be needed on Nafutan was reinforced by a report from 27th Division headquarters stating that the only enemy left in that area consisted of 300 to 500 service personnel from the remnants of naval air units originally stationed on Aslito, plus a larger number of civilians. Hence, on 21 June Holland Smith issued his operations Order Number 9-44, which was received at 27th Division Headquarters at 1215 that day. The 27th Infantry Division (less one infantry battalion and one light tank platoon) was to assemble northwest of Aslito airfield in corps reserve.

Division artillery was to pass to control of the XXIV Corps Artillery. One infantry battalion (undesignated) of the division was ordered to remain in the garrison area, that is, Nafutan peninsula. “It will mop up remaining enemy detachments, maintain anti-sniper patrols . . . and protect installations within its zone of action with particular attention to ASLITO Airfield.” The slow progress that his division had made on the afternoon of the 21st, however, convinced General Ralph Smith that more than a single battalion would be necessary to clean up the point. Accordingly, at 1435, his headquarters notified Colonel Robert Hogaboom, USMC, G-3 of Northern Troops and Landing Force, that at least two battalions would be needed for the next day’s operations in that area. At 1700 General Ralph Smith called General Holland Smith and recommended that all of the 105th Regimental Combat Team be left in the Nafutan Point area. General Holland Smith agreed to this but stipulated that only two of the 105th’s battalions be used there. The other would be held in reserve ready for use elsewhere if necessary.

This modification of Operations Order Number 9-44 was contained in a mail brief issued by General Holland Smith that arrived at 27th Infantry Division headquarters at 0830 on 22 June. In the words of the message, “1 RCT will continue mission in Garrison Area [Nafutan] of cleaning up remaining resistance & patrolling area.” The order did not designate specifically which regimental combat team was intended, although the previous day’s conversation had clearly indicated that the 105th was to be used for the mission.

At 2000, 21 June, after his conversation with General Holland Smith but before receiving the mail brief modifying the latter’s original orders, General Ralph Smith issued his Field Order Number 45-A, which contained the following instruction to the 105th Infantry: RCT 105 will hold present front line facing NAFUTAN PT, 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 the vicinity of Aslito Airfield. The wording of this paragraph and the fact that it was issued at all to the 105th Infantry by 27th Division’s commanding general was soon to become a major bone of contention between Generals Holland Smith and Ralph Smith and was one of the alleged reasons for the latter’s being subsequently relieved of his command.

Action of 22 June

22 June was spent reorganizing the front lines facing Nafutan Point.44 On the right General Ralph Smith ordered the 3rd Battalion, 105th Infantry, to hold its line and spread out to the left to relieve the 1st Battalion of the same regiment, which was to revert to corps reserve. On the left, the 2nd Battalion, 105th, was to hold its line facing Mount Nafutan and move to the right to relieve the 3rd Battalion, 165th Infantry. On the right, the 3rd Battalion accomplished its assigned relief mission, but on the left the 2nd Battalion ran into trouble.

During the preceding night it had become evident that the Japanese were preparing positions on the nose of Mount Nafutan, and Captain Olander, G Company commander, requested permission to pull his men back to less exposed positions. Permission was granted, but before the move could be executed the enemy on Mount Nafutan opened fire with machine guns, small arms, and mortars, killing seven men and wounding twenty-one.

Companies G and F immediately pulled back a considerable distance to the rear for reorganization, leaving E Company to prevent any breakthrough. Company G, which had been badly hit on the 21st as well as on the morning of the 22nd, took more than two hours to reorganize. By 0946 Captain Olander was ready to move again, but by this time his company had four officers and only seventy-two enlisted men, less than half of its original strength. With these few soldiers he was expected to take over a zone then held by a full battalion. The reorganization had taken place some 400 yards behind the position of the night before and the men now marched another 600 yards to the original line of departure from which the attack had jumped off on 20 June. From this point the company commander moved his men up to relieve the 3rd Battalion, 165th, at 1025. Because his company was understrength, Olander had to place his men some twenty yards apart in the skirmish line.

The 2nd Battalion, 105th, spent the rest of the afternoon reorganizing its line, and made no further advance. By nightfall, in fact, there was a net loss of ground on the 2nd Battalion front.

Meanwhile, about 1515 General Ralph Smith visited headquarters of Northern Troops and Landing Force to consult with the corps commander about plans for the immediate future. General Holland Smith expressed his concern regarding the slowness of the advance on Nafutan Point. He said that “he did not wish to be unreasonable but that Colonel Bishop [Commanding Officer, 105th Infantry] must not be permitted to delay. If he couldn’t do it, to send somebody who could.” In response, General Ralph Smith “pointed out difficult terrain and Jap positions in caves and said rapid advance was impracticable if undue losses were to be avoided and if Japs were to be really cleaned out. [He] said that continuing pressure would be applied and that [he] thought the point could be cleaned in a couple of days more.” Shortly after this meeting, General Ralph Smith went to see General Erskine, Holland Smith’s chief of staff. General Erskine apprised him of the corps plan to pass the 27th Division between the two Marine divisions on the northern front. As to Nafutan Point, Erskine expressed his belief that one battalion could finish up the job there.

As a result of these afternoon conferences, General Ralph Smith returned to the division command post and drew up Field Order Number 46, which was 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.” An hour later Holland Smith issued Operations Order Number 10-44, which was received at 27th Division command post at 2330.50 In reference to Nafutan Point this order read: “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.” Although there was no serious discrepancy between these two sets of orders, General Holland Smith was becoming alarmed over the fact that the battalion on Nafutan Point was getting orders from two different sources. Next day he warned General Ralph Smith: “2nd Battalion, 105th by my operations order 10-44 not under your tactical control and should not be included in your tactical orders. Please take steps to rectify.”

Later in the operation, in requesting the relief of General Ralph Smith, General Holland Smith alleged that Field Order 46 “contravened the NT and LF order 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.”

Stalemate on Nafutan 23-24 June

As a result of these new orders the job of finishing off Nafutan peninsula was left to a single rifle battalion supported by one platoon of six light tanks. The battalion was to have no assistance from artillery except for whatever fire support might be provided by naval ships operating in the area. The front line currently held by the American troops ran along the northern base of the peninsula for a distance of roughly 2,500 yards. The terrain was mountainous, full of cliffs, crevices, and caves. Yet, it must be added that, because of the shape of the peninsula, any continuous forward advance of the attacking troops would automatically reduce the length of the front and thereby shorten the line. In effect, the troops were moving down an inverted isosceles triangle from base to apex. An advance of a thousand yards along the axis of the attack would reduce the front from approximately 2,500 yards to approximately 1,000 yards. Nevertheless, General Ralph Smith was sufficiently alarmed at the wide dispersion of the troops left along the front line on Nafutan to warn General Holland Smith of the possible consequences. “I want to draw your attention,” he wrote on 23 June, “that it is within the enemy’s capabilities at NAFUTAN Point to infiltrate small bodies of men through our lines at night and execute considerable damage to the planes and supplies at Conroy [that is, Aslito or Isely] field.” He added that the Seabees and Air Forces troops working on the field should be alerted and would have to provide their own local security against enemy groups that might infiltrate through the lines of the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry.

General Holland Smith had withdrawn the bulk of the troops previously committed to Nafutan because they were more urgently needed in the north and because his intelligence reports indicated that the number of Japanese remaining on the point was small and probably ill-equipped. Two days earlier the intelligence sections of both the 27th Division and the 105th Infantry had estimated that only from three to five hundred enemy service personnel remained bottled up in that area, and no revision of that estimate had been made since. Actually, as later events were to prove, the number was much larger, but as of the 23rd no responsible authority had issued any report to indicate that this was so.

The change in orders now necessitated another shuffling of the line. Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Jensen, commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 105th, ordered E Company to march to the right and relieve the 3rd Battalion, 105th. Company G was shifted to the right so that part of the company was below the 300-foot ridge line west of Mount Nafutan and part was on the north slope of the ridge. This reorganization was completed at 1230, and the company was ordered to attack at 1400. Company F, which on the morning of 23 June was still in position before the nose of Mount Nafutan, was ready to attack at 0800, but, before the attack could be launched, was withdrawn and reorganized. Colonel Jensen then waited until he saw how far his other two companies would stretch before ordering F back into the line. Thus, in spite of Holland Smith’s orders to “continue operations at daylight,” the 2nd Battalion spent the entire morning trying to readjust its lines to stretch clear across Nafutan Point. When this readjustment was completed, the three companies were in position in a broken line with Company E on the right, G in the center, and F on the left.

On the right (west) flank, one platoon of Company E managed to push through the coral fringing the beach for a distance of about 300 yards without any opposition. However, at the day’s end this advance platoon was pulled back to its starting position because Captain Clinton F. Smith, the company commander, had not been able to establish contact with G Company on his left and was fearful of infiltration. Meanwhile Company G moved up to the top of Ridge 300. There it came under fire from at least four machine gun positions to its left (east). Captain Olander ordered his men not to return fire for fear of endangering the men of F Company, who were presumably operating in the general area from which the enemy was firing. Efforts to bring up the three light tanks attached to the unit failed because of the precipitous coral terrain, and finally the company commander ordered his men to withdraw to the bivouac area of the night before.

In the zone of Company F, the 2nd Platoon reached the top of Mount Nafutan by skirting it to the left through the brush just inland of the east coast and coming up to it from the rear. The men met no opposition en route. The 1st Platoon was ordered to move up the valley between Ridge 300 and Mount Nafutan. For about an hour it proceeded without any opposition, but suddenly the whole column came under fire from a machine gun on the right in the direction of Ridge 300. Three tanks were called up and for better than half an hour these vehicles sprayed the hills on both sides of the valley. Nevertheless, at 1700 Captain White, the company commander, called the platoon back out of the valley and ordered it to dig in along the morning’s line of departure. Meanwhile, the 3rd Platoon had moved along the inside, east of Ridge 300, with no opposition until about 1500. There it halted and waited for the rest of the company to move abreast.

When this failed to happen, it too withdrew to dig in for the night with the rest of F Company. Thus at the close of the day the 2nd Battalion, except for one platoon atop Mount Nafutan, had withdrawn to approximately the same positions it had occupied at the beginning of the day’s advance. The battalion was dug in in four widely separated perimeters with no contact between them. The perimeter of E Company on the right was about 1,000 yards from that of G in the center; G, in turn, was about 800 yards from the Company F positions, while one platoon of F was in an inaccessible position another 800 yards to the left front.

As before, General Holland Smith’s orders for 24 June called for the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, to “continue operations at daylight to mop up remaining enemy detachments.” However, not until 0800 did the battalion actually commence moving. The interim was spent trying to readjust the overextended lines of the battalion and trying to establish at least a semblance of contact between the various units.

On the extreme right flank, two platoons of Company E, against almost no opposition, re-flushed the area they had traversed the day before and by nightfall reached a point about 100 yards beyond that previously gained. The 3rd Platoon of this company, on the left, ran into more difficulty. During the early part of the morning the unit had moved to the left and re-established contact with G Company. By 1000, without running into any Japanese, it had reached the point of its furthest advance of the day before. Shortly thereafter the leading squad was hit by heavy small arms and machine gun fire from its left rear and was forced to take cover in a group of small houses.

Meanwhile, the other two squads to the rear laid mortars on the suspected source of enemy fire, but failed to knock it out. Then, about 1500, a force of from fifty to seventy-five Japanese rose up out of the ground and launched a counterattack through the gap that had developed between E and G Companies. With this, all further progress ceased, and shortly after dark the entire platoon moved back to the company perimeter of the night before. G Company in the center was late in moving out. Captain Olander waited until Company E on his right had made contact and until F on his left had been reorganized. He then further delayed his jump-off until the arrival of the three light tanks he had requested. Moving off about 1130 Company G quickly recovered the ground it had taken the previous day, and then it again ran into machine gun fire. A tank was brought forward, succeeded in locating one of the enemy guns, and in a few minutes silenced it with 37-mm. fire. Shortly after this the Japanese counterattack on the right developed, and although G Company was not hit, it remained stationary for two hours.

At approximately 1630 Olander once again ordered his company to advance. Four enemy machine gun positions in the immediate front were taken out by tank guns. The reduction of these positions put the company ahead of the units on the right and left, and Captain Olander swung his men to the left in an attempt to take out a group of machine guns that were holding back the advance of Company F. This move was effected in spite of approaching darkness, and within a few minutes after making the turn G Company surprised a pocket of about fifty Japanese and wiped them out within ten minutes. In the ensuing darkness, however, all organization within the company broke down. Olander lost contact with his platoon leaders, and the latter pulled their men back to the bivouac area of the night before.

The action of Company F on the left was in general a repetition of that of the previous day. The 2nd Platoon, which had spent the night on Mount Nafutan, was ordered to build up a skirmish line and comb the nose of the ridge until the 1st Platoon could move up on its right. However the latter unit, while en route to the top of Mount Nafutan, ran into scattered rifle fire and stopped in its tracks. Meanwhile, on the company’s right, the 3rd Platoon was held up by a Japanese machine gun. A self-propelled mount from the 105th Cannon Company knocked this position out, but retired before disposing of a second machine gun, which had wounded one of its crew. The platoon leader then sent out a squad to get the weapon, but a third gun opened up and pinned the squad down. By this time night was approaching and, as no further progress seemed likely, Captain White ordered his entire company including the platoon on top of Mount Nafutan to withdraw to the G Company perimeter of the night before.

At nightfall then, the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, occupied positions m practically the same area in which it had dug in the previous night, except that the platoon atop Mount Nafutan had been recalled. At 1818 control of the battalion had passed to the Army Garrison Force.

Since Major General Sanderford Jarman, USA, the island commander, had taken command of the 27th Division during the day, command of the forces on Nafutan Point passed to the control of Colonel Geoffrey M. O’Connell, General Jarman’s chief of staff.

Nafutan Secured 25-28 June

Colonel O’Connell’s first step to expedite the capture of Nafutan was to assign two batteries of 90-mm. antiaircraft guns and four 40-mm. guns to support the advancing infantry. The 90-mm. guns were to fire from their fixed positions on Aslito field, and the 40-mm.’s were ordered to move into forward positions in direct support.

Because of the mountainous terrain and the impossibility of bringing direct fire against most of the Japanese positions, the 90-mm. guns were ordered to fire air bursts into the tree tops, approximately twelve feet above ground level. In the opinion of Colonel O’Connell, “The high muzzle velocity of these weapons, their rapid rate of fire and the flexibility obtainable by raising and lowering the height of burst made them particularly effective for support in this type of terrain.” The 40-mm.’s were used for direct fire and were to prove remarkably accurate in hitting cave entrances as small as four or five feet in diameter from an average range of 2,000 yards.

O’Connell’s plan for the infantry differed somewhat from that previously employed. Company E was ordered to leave its 3rd Platoon in the area adjacent to the peninsula’s west coast at the point where the company had bivouacked the two preceding days. The other two platoons were to move to the left, establish firm physical contact with G Company, build up a skirmish line, and move south along the west slope of Ridge 300. Company G was to form a line on E Company’s left flank and advance in co-ordination with that unit. F Company was to deploy two platoons across the mouth of the valley between Ridge 300 and Mount Nafutan, while the third platoon moved along the east slope of the ridge in co-ordination with the other two companies.

By 1030 of 25 June, the 1st and 2nd Platoons of E Company had swung left and established contact with Company G. About 1130, after an advance of nearly 150 yards, the leading squad of the 1st Platoon on the right ran into a fusillade of fire and was pinned down. Tanks were called up but became entangled in the undergrowth and rocks and could be of no assistance. At 1600 the company commander ordered both platoons to retire about forty yards behind their farthest point of advance and tie in with Company G and spend the night. Company G had little or no opposition during the day, but its advance was slow because it was held up by the halting forward movement of the units on both flanks and because the tanks had extreme difficulty in maneuvering over the terrain. About noon the company reached the gun position it had knocked out during the late afternoon of the preceding day, and after a heavy fire by antiaircraft guns, moved on through it. The position contained four heavy machine guns and two 50-mm. mortars. The company advanced another twenty-five yards but was then held up because of the dense growth of scrub brush. Captain Olander worked his tanks into position and for two hours sprayed this area with machine gun fire and canister. Just as he was about to continue the advance, the tanks notified him that it was 1600 and they were about to withdraw. This notice plus the fact that Company E was making no further progress induced Olander to pull his men back to the demolished enemy strongpoint and dig in there for the night.

Meanwhile, Company F was undergoing a repetition of the trouble it had encountered the day before. Shortly after jumping off, the 3rd Platoon on the right discovered that the Japanese had mined the only available tank route and engineers were called up to abate the nuisance. Two tanks were then called up and succeeded in destroying two machine guns that lay athwart the line of advance. Immediately, another gun opened up. A squad went forward to take out this position but was pinned down by machine gun fire and a shower of grenades. Further tank action was delayed when radio communications between the tanks and infantry gave out, and not until 1500 was the platoon leader able to direct his tanks into the area of resistance.

Finally, the two tanks succeeded in bringing their guns to bear against the position, and shortly after 1500 the whole platoon pushed forward and into the Japanese line. Here they found six heavy machine guns, several mortars, a wrecked dual-purpose gun, and all types of grenades and ammunition, together with the dead bodies of over a hundred Japanese. The platoon dug in for the night. The other two platoons of Company F had remained stationary during the day guarding the northern approach to the valley between Mount Nafutan and Ridge 300. June 25 marked the climax of the campaign for the capture of Nafutan Point. During the day the 2nd Battalion knocked out and overran the main defensive line of Japanese positions on top of Ridge 300. These positions controlled the approach to the point, and it was from Ridge 300 that the advance of the whole line had been held up since 22 June.

Plans for 26 June were the same as on the previous day except that the 1st and 2nd Platoons of Company F were to leave the northern mouth of the valley and take position on the left flank of the battalion line. At 0645 concentrated mortar fire was directed along the whole front, and at 0750 both batteries of 90-mm. antiaircraft guns fired a ten-minute concentration. Promptly at 0800 all three companies jumped off.

On the right, Company E moved slowly forward, fighting the terrain and the underbrush. By 1400, when it was some fifty yards ahead of its farthest point of advance of the previous day, a machine gun opened up directly in front of the 2nd Platoon. A self-propelled mount came forward but could not bring its gun to bear against the enemy position. Finally, the enemy gun was taken out by a BAR belonging to Company G, whose right flank was moving along an elevation to the left of E Company and was therefore in a better position to fire on the enemy in front of the latter unit. That company resumed its advance and for the next 200 yards met no opposition. At 1600 Captain Smith was notified that the other two companies were pulling back to approximately the same positions they had held the night before, so he did likewise.

Company G made more rapid progress. After cleaning out the position to the front of E Company, Captain Olander’s men pressed ahead. At 1600 their tanks left to return to their maintenance pool for the night, but the company commander elected to go on without them. Within half an hour his men had arrived at the southern edge of Ridge 300.

It was on the left flank in the zone of Company F that the greatest progress was registered on the 26th. With three platoons abreast, and without benefit of tank support, the company pushed steadily forward without meeting any enemy fire. By 1700 it had reached the southern end of Mount Nafutan, a thousand yards from the tip of the peninsula. There, the men began to receive small arms fire and came to a halt At 1830 F and E Companies withdrew all the way back to the area in which G had spent the previous night. This withdrawal was made because both company commanders felt that their positions on the top of the high rocky points of Mount Nafutan and Ridge 300 were too exposed to provide satisfactory spots to dig in and establish perimeters.

The battalion dug in in four perimeters on the night of 26 June. The three rifle companies, less E Company’s 3rd Platoon but reinforced by elements of H Company, dug in on Ridge 300. The 3rd Platoon of E Company still occupied the old bivouac area near the west coast of the peninsula. The whole area between the 2nd Battalion positions on Ridge 300 and the sea to the east was unoccupied by American troops and serious gaps appeared on the right of the line.

Shortly after midnight of 26 June, a body of Japanese estimated at 500 sneaked through the 2nd Battalion’s outposts. Their destination was Hill 500, formerly the site of headquarters of the 47th Independent Mixed Brigade, but now occupied by the 25th Marines in Northern Troops and Landing Force reserve. One small force hit the rear command post of the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, and in the darkness was driven off with a loss of twenty-seven dead in return for four Americans killed and twenty wounded. Otherwise the infiltration was undetected.

This desperate Japanese move was led by Captain Sasaki, commanding officer of the 317th Independent Infantry Battalion, 47th Independent Mixed Brigade. The troops composing the force consisted of those remnants of his own command that had escaped to Nafutan plus scattered Army and Navy men from other units, including the service and antiaircraft troops formerly stationed on Aslito.

Sasaki’s order read in part: 26 June 1944:

  1. The enemy situation is the same as you have been informed.
  2. The Battalion will carry out an attack at midnight tonight. After causing confusion at the airfield, we will advance to Brigade Headquarters in the Field.
  3. . . . Units will assemble at 1930 in areas to be designated separately. You must carry out the attack from the designated places.
  4. Casualties will remain in their present positions and defend Nafutan Mount. Those who cannot participate in combat must commit suicide.
  5. We will carry the maximum of weapons and supplies.
  6. The pass word for tonight will be “Shichi Sei Hokoku” [Seven lives for one’s country].

The word “battalion” as applied here is a courtesy title only. The force was a conglomerate mixture of all kinds of troops, of which the remnants of Sasaki’s battalion formed only the nucleus. About 0230 Sasaki’s force hit Aslito field and splattered the area with machine gun and small arms fire before moving on toward Hill 500, where it apparently expected to find the command post of the 47th Independent Mixed Brigade. Arriving at its destination around 0530, one part of the force found instead that the hill was occupied by the 25th Marines, who instantly gave battle with small arms and hand grenades.

Simultaneously, another group of Japanese fell upon the 14th Marine Artillery Regiment in positions between Hill 500 and Aslito. Here another hot fight ensued, the Marine artillerymen killing 143 Japanese at the cost to themselves of 33 killed and wounded. Still another segment hit the command post of the 104th Field Artillery Battalion, where 15 to 20 of them were killed. The 25th Marines mopped up the remaining stragglers the next morning, and with that Sasaki’s breakthrough was finished.

On the morning of 27 June all three companies of the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, formed a skirmish line and swept to the end of the peninsula with no trouble. Not a live Japanese was encountered, and at 1840 Nafutan Point was declared secure. On Mount Nafutan, and later another 350 dead enemy soldiers were counted in the area of the operation of the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry. These figures, plus the estimated 500 that had participated in the breakthrough, bring the total estimate of enemy combat personnel in the area to about 1,050, considerably above the original estimate of 300 to 500 that had been agreed upon by the 105th Infantry, the 27th Infantry Division, and Northern Troops and Landing Force.

[N3-7-65 Two hundred dead Japanese, mostly soldiers, were found in five of the caves ]

Also captured on Nafutan Point on 28 June were four 6-inch guns of British manufacture and three 14-cm. guns manufactured in 1925 at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal. All were in the vicinity of the radar station on the point but had not yet been emplaced. One of the 14-cm. guns was slightly damaged; one 6-inch gun was badly damaged, two were slightly damaged, and one was almost intact.

Nafutan Point had taken a long time to capture, probably longer than was necessary. General Holland Smith and his staff were bitterly disappointed, not to say outraged, by the slow progress made by the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry. They complained frequently about “1000 Americans being held up by a handful of Japs.”

The number of enemy troops isolated on Nafutan Point was actually considerably more than a handful, and probably totaled about 1,050. Also, the effective strength of the 2nd Battalion, 105th Infantry, as of 27 June, was down to 556 officers and men according to Colonel O’Connell, USA, who commanded the unit during the last stage of the capture of Nafutan.

In addition, the terrain that the American soldiers faced was far from suitable for rapid assault As described in the battalion report, “The terrain consisted of steep ridges, deep gulches with cliffs, ground broken with coral pinnacles, and thick jungle type underbrush which impeded progress and made observation impossible.” Also, for the first three days of the assault, the battalion had no artillery support, and after that only the 40-mm. and the 90-mm. antiaircraft guns that Colonel O’Connell brought down when he took over command, plus naval gunfire from three destroyers.

The low estimate of the number of Japanese troops in the area that was entertained by corps headquarters was derived from an intelligence report emanating from the 27th Division itself. As of 21 June, the division had estimated the number of remaining Japanese on Nafutan to be between two and three hundred. Since no change in this figure had been made, General Holland Smith’s staff had some reason to assume that only a “handful” remained. Also, the bare figure of 1,050 enemy troops cited above offers no real picture of the combat efficiency of the Japanese left on the peninsula. These were, it must be remembered, stragglers who had made a disorderly retreat before the onslaught of the American push across Aslito field. They were disorganized, short of supplies, and in some cases unarmed.

Against these people, the American drive was halting and slow. There was some justification for Holland Smith’s lack of confidence in the leadership of the regiment, and later of the battalion, committed to cleaning up Nafutan. The attack of the infantry companies was frequently un-coordinated; units repeatedly withdrew from advanced positions to their previous nights’ bivouacs; they repeatedly yielded ground they had gained. Whatever the extenuating circumstances, these facts could not fail to raise doubts about the aggressiveness and combat efficiency of the unit assigned to the mission.

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

World War Two: Saipan (2-7) Battle of the Philippine Sea (1)