Military history


Death on the Naktong

If the enemy gets into Taegu you will find me resisting him in the streets and I'll have some of my trusted people with me and you had better be prepared to do likewise. Now get back to your division and fight it!

I don't want to see you back from the front again unless it's in your coffin.

— Remarks made by Lieutenant General Walton Walker, commanding Eighth United States Army, during the September crisis, 1950.

AT THE SAME TIME the Naktong Bulge was threatening the existence of the Pusan Perimeter, serious trouble for the Eighth Army continued to develop elsewhere. The 1st Cavalry Division holding the Taegu front was in heavy combat; the line sprang leaks in the far south. And on the east, where the ROK divisions were fighting, in the Kigye and P'ohang-dong areas, the entire front seemed ready to collapse.

Because the east was mountainous, and because he did not have troops and artillery enough to defend everywhere, Walker gambled in the east. It was assumed that the North Korean 12th Division marching down the coast would not be able to cross the mountains in sufficient strength to budge the ROK's.

But the NKPA came across the rugged terrain, surrounded the ROK 3rd Division, and threatened Yonil Air Base. By 11 August, fighter planes flying out of Yonil in support of ground action were beginning their strafing runs almost before their wheels had retracted.

On 13 August, Far East Air Force decided to abandon the field, even though it was surrounded by United States infantry and tank units. The Fifth Air Force withdrew, although there was no fire on the airstrip, and actually it was never brought under effective enemy fire. The planes were vitally needed during the seesaw battle the ROK's and the NKPA waged about the area, and when MacArthur heard the news via United Press, both he and his chief of staff, Ned Almond, were much upset. MacArthur immediately notified FEAF that he intended to hold Yonil and did not want the planes returned to Japan. Nevertheless, the two squadrons of F-51's flew back to base at Tsuiki on Kyushu.

The embattled ROK 3rd Division fought its way to the seacoast, where on 16-17 August it was evacuated under cover of American air and the U.S. Navy. It was landed farther south to continue the battle.

P'ohang-dong fell to the enemy.

But the ROK's were able to fight the NKPA advance to a standstill. General Walker's estimate that the enemy 12th Division could not cross the mountain barrier had not been wholly wrong. South of the mountains, the 12th Division men were exhausted by the arduous passage; they had left their artillery behind, and their supply difficulties became crucial. For five days after 12 August the division received no food supply and was forced to forage off the countryside. Stretched too far, the North Koreans at last had to retreat north under heavy ROK pressure.

During each of the critical days, Walton Walker spent his time with frontline units, leaving the staff work to his chief of staff, Colonel Landrum. Walker felt, rightly, that he could influence the action more by keeping his finger on the pulse of the engaged units than by monitoring reports at his Taegu HQ.

Defending a front of tremendous width, with its artillery batteries often firing in different directions, 1st Cavalry Division repulsed crossings over the Naktong again and again. Counterattacking on Hill 303 near Waegwan, the 5th Cavalry Regiment came across a group of American soldiers, twenty-six mortarmen of the Heavy Weapons Company, who had been captured earlier by the NKPA. These men lay packed shoulder to shoulder, their feet, bare and covered by dried blood, thrust out stiffly. They had been shot in the back by Russian-made submachine guns.

Each man's hands were bound tightly behind his back with cord or telephone wire.

And along the Perimeter front, as the battle increased in intensity and bitterness, worse atrocities were discovered. American soldiers were found who had been burned and castrated before they were shot; others had their tongues torn out. Some were bound with barbed wire, even around the head and mouth.

As the evidence of battlefield atrocities continued to mount, General MacArthur sent warning messages to the North Korean High Command, threatening them with criminal accountability for these acts. There is no evidence that such acts of barbarism against U.N. soldiers were ever countenanced by NKPA commanders in fact, orders were issued by the Advanced General HQ of the North Korean Army to prevent the unnecessary slaughter of prisoners of war. But the fruits of the long, brutal Japanese occupation could not be undone in a day; the Korean population, used to cruelty, lacking Western standards of conduct, could hardly be expected to behave other than according to its own lights in desperate situations.

When the tide of combat turned against them or when small units were isolated and in danger of losing their POW's, the vindictiveness of the North Korean soldier could not be restrained. Men accustomed to torture and summary execution all their lives, both from Japanese and Communist rulers, could not be expected to behave with nicety toward foreign captives. Nor did they.

As the pressure on Taegu increased, and its population rose by more than 400,000 refugees, the ROK Government fled south to Pusan.

General MacArthur requested General Stratemeyer of FEAF to divert his heavy bombers to "carpet bombing" of enemy ground troops. Ninety-eight huge B-29's lumbered over the battlefront, unloading almost a thousand tons of general-purpose bombs on 16 August. It was a desperate measure, opposed by the Air Force, for bombing tactical troop dispositions from 10,000 feet had to be a hit-or-miss affair. There was never any evidence that the bombing was effective, and it was not repeated.

In the Sangju-Taegu Corridor—the "Bowling Alley"—the 25th Division's 27th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 24th Division, fought desperately night after night to stem enemy advances. Colonel Michaelis' Wolfhounds were able to stop the NKPA because the ROK 1st Division held the hills surrounding the Bowling Alley, channeling the enemy attack into American guns.

And the destruction wrought against both troop units and supply lines of the NKPA by tactical air was continuous and ruinous. During this period FEAF unquestionably influenced the decision on the ground to a greater extent than at any other time during the Korean War. During July 1950, air strikes had been uncoordinated and haphazard, often damaging friend as much as foe; later, the enemy plan of maneuver was such that air could not be decisive.

But during August, 1950, when enemy supply lines were completely extended, and the NKPA was forced to mass to penetrate the Perimeter, planes flying out of Itazuke and Ashiya air bases in Japan supported each ground division with an average of forty sorties, while at the same time bombardment groups destroyed rail facilities and military matériel all over the peninsula.

While the aerial destruction was tremendous, it will not support claims made at the time. In some cases the discrepancy was thirty to one between pilot claims and actual damage. But there is no question that without this air support, the Army would have been driven from Korea.

During all the desperate days, the United Nations buildup was increasing. More ships, more planes, and, more important, fresh men poured into the Far East. During August, 11, 115 United States replacements arrived at Pusan. In late August the first help from outside the United States and South Korea entered the war—the British 27th Brigade arrived from Hong Kong. The ROK Army itself was improved increasingly by reorganization; and spare ROK manpower was diverted into American divisions, a system that was born of desperation and that was later abandoned as unworkable.

And the buildup succeeded. By the end of August, the United Nations Forces had a large superiority of manpower, nearly 180,000 against less than 100,000 enemy. They held the air uncontested, and the sea as well. Eighth Army had absolute and overwhelming superiority in artillery and mortar fire, and could face the one hundred remaining tanks of the Inmun Gun with some 600 American main battle tanks.

By 31. August the enemy had only one thing in his favor. He still held the initiative.

During the early days of the war, the North Korean People's Army never varied its tactics. It never had any need to do so. Its general maneuver was to press the ROK or American forces closely, engage with them by means of a frontal holding attack, while at the same time turning the enemy flank and infiltrating troops to the enemy rear. Against both ROK's and United States troops, who were never able to establish a firm battle line, this tactic was ruinous.

But during August 1950, the NKPA tried the same tactics against the Pusan Perimeter, and failed. The U.N. flanks now rested firmly against the Sea of Japan, and the U.N. line, while thin, had no significant gaps.

As August waned, the North Koreans began to realize that the only way they could now hope to gain a decision was by frontal attack against the Perimeter—to break through the wall, then to exploit in the enemy's rear before his reserve could eject them.

In short, they now had to play the game the way most American soldiers had learned it. And frontal assault against American troops, from Breed's Hill to New Orleans to the Pacific Islands of World War II, has always proved both bitter and bloody.

In pushing the Americans into a corner, the NKPA probably made its greatest tactical error, for, more lightly armed than the Americans, it had poor odds of smashing the American forces with direct hammer blows.

For by late August the Inmun Gun was bleeding to death. Its combat efficiency was lower than at any previous time. It had lost irreplaceable tanks, guns, and trained veterans of the China wars. At least one-third of its strength now was composed of inductees from South Korea, many of whom had no weapons, training, or inclination to fight for unification, Communist style. But the morale of its fanatic squad, platoon, and company leaders, as well as its generals, was still firm. And these battle-hardened men still held iron control over the wavering men of the ranks.

One of the Inmun Gun's astonishing feats was the fact that it got any supply at all. Rail transport, while hurt, continued to reach the front in the teeth of American air. Ammunition and motor fuel, while curtailed in quantity, still arrived on the Naktong. While artillery was scarce, there was still steady resupply of tanks, mortars, and small-arms ammunition, in spite of the fact the NKPA's trucks were almost gone.

But much of the vital military stores arrived at the expense of other supplies. The Inmun Gun received no new supply of clothing. Men whose uniforms rotted off in the slimy paddies had to wear captured GI fatigues. And rations grew scarcer. At the best, there was only enough food for one or two meals per day, and every NKPA division was forced to live to some extent off the land about it. By early September, many Communist troops were suffering acutely from hunger.

Fed information by Soviet Intelligence, the high commanders of the Inmun Gun knew of the American buildup across the Naktong during the stalemated August fighting. They understood clearly that time was running out. Either they must penetrate the Perimeter quickly, or they would never penetrate it at all.

Marshal Choe Yong Gun, from Front HQ in Kumch'on, directed North Korean operations. Under him, commanding NKPA I Corps, from Waegwan south to the Korea Strait, was Lieutenant General Kim Ung, the hardest and ablest of Communist field generals, and commanding II Corps, from Taegu eastward, was Lieutenant General Kim Mu Chong, a graduate of the Chinese Whampoa Military Academy. All these top commanders were veterans of the Chinese Communist 8th Route Army of the 1930's and 1940's.

With these men Choe Yong Gun and General Kim Chaek of Front HQ planned a massive blow against the Perimeter on 1 September. They gathered all their effective forces, 13 infantry divisions, 1 armored division, and 2 armored brigades, with security troops, together for a coordinated last offensive. The strength of these divisions ranged from 5,000 to 9,000 men; that of the armored division, 1,000, and the two armored brigades only 500 each. Approximately 100 new T-34's had arrived from P'yongyang. Altogether, Marshal Choe could muster about 98,000 men.

By 20 August, both I and II Corps, NKPA, had issued their attack orders as follows:

1. 6th and 7th divisions to penetrate the U.S. 25th Division in the south.

2. 9th, 2nd, 10th, and 4th divisions to destroy the U.S. 2nd Division before Miryang, and to break through to the Pusan-Taegu Road by way of Yongsan.

3. 3rd, 1st, and 13th divisions to break through the U.S. 1st Cavalry and 1st ROK divisions at Taegu.

4. 8th and 5th divisions to smash ROK 8th and 6th divisions east of Taegu.

5. 5th and 12th divisions to penetrate through the ROK 3rd and Capital divisions to P'ohang-dong, Yonil, and Kyongju Corridor on the east coast.

While the greatest effort was to fall on the Naktong Front, in the already corpse-strewn Bulge area, Choe's plan was to put pressure on the straining U.N. wall everywhere. His hope was that somewhere, surely, it must break.

When First Lieutenant Frank Muñoz's G Company, 9th Infantry, 2nd Division, went back on line on the commanding terrain west of the town of Yongsan, the company had only seventy effectives. Muñoz relieved 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, on a front that extended 7,000 meters, which spread him as thin as hot butter. Where the 19th had placed a company, Muñoz was forced to dig in a squad.

But within a few days, while the front remained fairly quiet, George gradually built up to three hundred men. Most of the replacements were men who had been wounded slightly and returned to duty, or who had collapsed from illness or heat in the first days; all had had at least a brush with combat.

George Company was able to police up a lot of abandoned American equipment, too. Now they had two light machine guns in their light-machine-gun squads, plus some Quad .50's and two twin 40mms to sweep the ground, and Regiment attached a platoon of tanks to them.

They were eating one hot meal a day, and for a little while things weren't too bad. George was beginning to pull together. Good leadership could do a great deal, given time.

But on 31 August, Frank Muñoz was smelling something stronger than the usual fecal odor of the rice paddies. George Company, like all American units, had picked up a number of native Korean laborers and servants, and these men demanded their pay on the last day of August. Muñoz explained to them that tomorrow, 1 September, was pay day for the U.S. Army and attached personnel—but the Koreans said they couldn't wait that long. At nightfall the indigenous personnel bugged out, to the last man.

Muñoz smelled a rat. He talked to Lieutenant Pete Sudduth, Battalion Intelligence Officer. Sudduth, who had his own pipelines, acknowledged that something big was in the wind. He said, "Expect something hot tonight, Frank."

"Should I continue those patrols you requested forward of my own lines?"

"Yes," Sudduth said.

Muñoz instructed Sergeant Flowers, the young, slim kid who was to take a standing patrol of four men out to the Naktong bank, to keep his eyes and ears open. Just after dusk, with the night warm and clear and moonless, Flowers and his men moved out.

The patrol had no more than reached its position beside the river when they discovered the night was full of softly moving North Koreans—they were crossing the Naktong in small boats, and the scrub and paddies along the Naktong were alive with padding enemy.

Flowers and his men, unseen, hit the deck. There were already enemy riflemen behind them. Flowers had a walkie-talkie radio. He tried to call Muñoz; the damned thing wouldn't work. All he could do now was to hide out and hope the enemy wouldn't stumble over him.

Then, at 2100 hours, 76mm shells began to sweep George's area. It was haphazard artillery preparation, not aimed. Under the shelling, Muñoz ordered his platoon of tanks to move on line with the riflemen, and to fire on targets of opportunity. Lieutenant Hank Merritt had gone to E Company, and Muñoz talked with his new exec, Lieutenant Joe Manto. He told the New Yorker George was going to hold on its present line no matter what happened.

Manto agreed. They held a good high position, except for the 3rd Platoon, which was on a spur of the ridge, and more accessible to enemy attacking from the front. On their left flank F Company was dug in, and they had contact with units of Colonel Freeman's 23rd Infantry across the road on their right.

Then a violent fire fight blazed in the 3rd Platoon area. The orange-violet winkings of rifle and machine-gun fire flashed all over the finger where the 3rd Platoon had dug in, and the 3rd Platoon leader Sergeant Tworak was on the hot loop, reporting to Muñoz, "They hit us!" "Stay awake!" Muñoz ordered him.

Then, as usual, the wire to 3rd Platoon failed at a moment of crisis. Immediately the blazing fire fight on the spur increased in viciousness. Muñoz tried to raise the Artillery forward observer with the company; he wanted to put artillery down in front of the 3rd.

He couldn't reach the FO, who seemed to be at the other end of the company line. And then the NKPA hit George all along the line. They came through the night in long lines of skirmishers, firing and screaming:

Manzai! Manzai! Manzai!

They overran the 3rd Platoon, but recoiled from the wall of fire and steel that George threw up from the higher portions of the ridge.

Sergeant Long, 2nd Platoon, reported by telephone that 3rd Platoon had ceased firing at the enemy. "How are you making out?" Muñoz asked Long. "I can hold." "Do it," Muñoz said. Now he had Battalion HQ on the wire, talking to the Artillery liaison officer. "Fire the preplanned concentrations," Muñoz requested. "I'll direct—"

By ten o'clock the artillery was crashing down around George's hill, and the NKPA were giving it a wide berth.

But by now, the entire Naktong front was ablaze with gun and shellfire. Muñoz realized that a general enemy assault was in progress and that there was trouble everywhere. By midnight the NKPA had breached a gap between his right flank and the 23rd Regiment, and they were pouring down the road in strength beyond George's power to stop. Then the enemy turned, and Muñoz could hear them hit the 23rd in the rear.

Contact with Fox Company on the left had been lost.

For the balance of the night, all that Muñoz and George Company could do was to stay on their hill and be thankful that they had not been in the path of the Inmun Gun's main efforts.

With the launching of the great North Korean Naktong offensive, every American division immediately came under heavy pressure. Immediately, the dike sprang leaks everywhere, and everywhere there was bitter, prolonged, and bloody fighting. A chapter could be written of each engagement alone, for in the first two weeks of September occurred both the heaviest fighting and heaviest casualties of the Korean War.

A major breakthrough anywhere on the five points of pressure might have resulted in disaster, but again, as in August, the deadliest threat to the Perimeter and Pusan developed in the Naktong Bulge on the southwest.While there was a great similarity to the fighting in each locale, it was in the Bulge again that the most crucial battle raged.

As for the other areas not treated here, let it be said that American and ROK troops fought, bled, died—and held, in the main. Had they not, what occurred in the Bulge would be of little importance.

Just before the great crossing on the night of 31 August, General Pak Kyo Sam, 9th Division, NKPA, opposite the United States 9th Infantry's 20,000-yard front along the Naktong, instructed his division officers as to their mission:

… To flank and destroy the enemy through capture of the Miryang and Samnangjin areas, thereby cutting off Eighth Army's withdrawal route between Taegu and Pusan …

The 9th Division very nearly succeeded, for with a 20,000-yard front, the companies of the 2nd Infantry Division's 9th Regiment were scattered like dust over a few of the higher hills east of the river. On the far south, or left flank, of the 9th Infantry's area, A Company, with two tanks from A Company, 72nd Tank Battalion, and supporting antiaircraft vehicles, held the Agok area.

In the early evening, heavy fog covered the Naktong, which lay silent except for a continuous barking of dogs from the west bank. Suddenly, at eight, shell- fire fell onto the American side, followed by heavy mortar fire.

A half-hour later the fog suddenly lifted, and in the clear night Sergeant Ernest Kouma, commanding one of the two tanks in Agok, was startled to see a bridge already completed across two-thirds of the Naktong. Kouma immediately opened fire on this bridge with his tank's 90mm; the second tank and the ack-ack vehicles joined in. The bridge collapsed.

But the enemy had already crossed the river elsewhere. Sudden firing in A Company's perimeter; the infantrymen were being forced back into the hills. As the company withdrew, a soldier shouted to Kouma, "We're pulling out, tankers!"

It was a bad night for Kouma's men and those in the other tank, commanded by SFC Berry. Koreans dressed in American uniforms approached them and spoke in English, then attacked them with hand grenades, wounding Kouma with fragments. Other Koreans slaughtered the more poorly protected crew of the Quad .50 antiaircraft vehicle parked nearby; the twin 40mm M19 crew was wounded but managed to escape.

Kouma and Berry slued their Pershing tanks out of Agok onto open ground, where they had clear fields of fire. Here they killed or drove off repeated waves of North Koreans, until Berry's tank engine began to over- heat. He told Kouma by radio he was withdrawing. After proceeding about one mile, Berry's tank caught fire, and Berry and his crew abandoned it.

Sergeant Kouma held his ground, firing at any enemy who threatened his Pershing. After daylight 1 September, he fought his way back to American lines, shooting up enemy troops and positions all the way.

After being initially overrun, A Company reassembled on a ridge in perimeter defense, and passed the night.

North of A, C Company, 9th Infantry, was assaulted near midnight to the accompaniment of green flares, screams, and shrilling whistles. The attack was unusually heavy, and Charlie soon broke under it. About half the company escaped southward into the lines of the 25th Division below the Nam River.

Five full miles north of Able Company, Baker had held a ferry crossing over the Naktong from Hill 209. And here, as the North Korean offensive broke, the 9th Infantry had been planning a show of its own, called "Operation Manchu." While Baker held the crossing site, the regimental reserve, E Company, had been ordered to cross west of the Naktong on an aggressive foray against the enemy 9th Division. Two heavy Weapons companies of the 9th Infantry, Dog and How, were to furnish supporting fires, while a platoon of the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion ferried Easy across the river.

Operation Manchu misfired before it could even begin.

At dark, Lieutenant Edward Schmitt of H Company, accompanied by Lieu- tenant Caldwell of Dog, moved his company and weapons up behind Hill 209 to furnish a base of fire for the crossing. E Company at this time was still forming up with the Engineers back near Yongsan.

Around 2100, Schmitt and Caldwell went up Hill 209, showing their NCO's where they wanted each of the weapons emplaced. It was here, on the slopes, that the North Korean's attack took them by surprise, and swamped them. Colonel Hill, the 9th's C.O., who had been with the men of the Heavy Mortar Platoon, barely escaped with his life. His operations officer was less lucky.

When Hill got back and contacted Division HQ, it took Division only a little while to decide to call Operation Manchu off.

The men of Dog and How companies, taken flat-footed, fought their way onto a knob of Hill 209—but they were still half a mile distant from Baker's perimeter higher on the ridge. The survivors had only a jumble of assorted weapons—a radio, three operable machine guns, one bar, a few rifles, and approximately forty carbines and pistols. On the knob Lieutenant Schmitt took command of some seventy-five men and officers.

They passed the night, and with daylight saw they were completely surrounded. Where B Company had been the night before, they saw only mustard-colored cotton caps. Below them, all along the river, they saw streams of enemy supply parties passing through to the east. And the enemy saw them.

During the night the NKPA had pushed B Company from Hill 209, inflicting heavy casualties upon it. Now they turned to the remnants of D and H on the knob, and a terrible ordeal for the Americans began.

Schmitt had radio contact with his battalion, but all he could get from Battalion HQ were promises. He learned that at 0300 the 9th Infantry had sent its reserve company, Easy, toward the Naktong to take up a blocking position between Obong-ni Ridge and Cloverleaf Hill, to deny this critical terrain to the enemy. Easy was too late; it never reached its assigned position. It came under heavy automatic-weapons fire from the high ground surrounding the road, and its C.O. was killed, along with many of its men. By dawn on 1 September, then, Cloverleaf and Obong-ni were in North Korean hands; the hills were swarming with enemy, and the United States lines west of Yongsan completely shattered.

But on the knob of 209 Schmitt was determined to hold out. The time when Americans tended to surrender or to try to bug out was fast ending in Korea. Too many U.S. soldiers had been found shot in the back—and all hands knew there was nowhere to go. And, finally, all hands were now aware that they were in a war to the finish, regardless of how they had got into it.

All afternoon and all that night, Schmitt's small party repulsed violent enemy attacks. One master sergeant, Travis Watkins, distinguished himself by conspicuous heroism, killing a dozen of the enemy. Desperately wounded, half-paralyzed, Watkins then refused any of the few rations, saying he deserved nothing since he was now too weak to fight.

Schmitt kept asking for an air drop of supplies, if there was no other way to relieve him. A light plane was able to drop some small-arms ammunition, rations, medical supply, and twenty-one cans of beer. The water cans broke on impact with the ground, and most of the attempted resupply fell into the enemy lines beyond Schmitt's perimeter.

Schmitt was hit, but refused to give up command. His example gave renewed nerve to the tired men on the knob the second day. The enemy sent a captured American up with a message to surrender. Schmitt refused.

From higher ground, enemy machine-gun and mortar fire continued to lash the American position. After dark, the enemy renewed its infantry assaults. Again they were repulsed, but now the list of American dead and dying was growing. Schmitt's men were almost out of ammunition, and food was exhausted. They had no more water. The radio was gone; they were cut off from the world. Dead or wounded men lay in every foxhole, or on the blasted earth around it.

As the sun came up on 3 September, about the only thing left to the pitifully few Americans on the knob was the determination to resist.

At daylight on 1 September the tank platoon leader reported to Frank Muñoz that there was no one alive to be seen within George's 3rd Platoon area except NKPA. But Muñoz, checking the rest of his line, found the remaining rifle platoons in good shape. The enemy had boiled around them during the night, not stopping to finish them off.

Muñoz conferred with his remaining platoon leaders, Lieutenant Mallory and Sergeant Long. Long had been hit, but refused evacuation during the night. Now he asked, "What are we going to do, sir?"

"Stay here until we're told otherwise, Sergeant. I'd hate to have to recapture this terrain."

But with the enemy in the 3rd Platoon area, this ridge was too exposed for last-ditch defense. Muñoz tried to raise Battalion, and failed. In the absence of instructions, he began to look for a better hill, on which George could erect a tight perimeter. Just behind his present ridge rose Hill 211, and on this high ground Muñoz now consolidated his remaining company. And during the morning, stragglers from the 3rd Platoon came in, with Flowers' patrol.

The enemy seemed willing to leave them alone. Muñoz ordered his cooks to prepare a hot meal for noon chow.

At midmorning, more stragglers from Easy Company, which had been shattered between Obong-ni and Cloverleaf, wandered into his lines. Few of these men had any weapons or equipment; Muñoz re-outfitted them from his store of recovered American arms. One of Easy's officers, Lieutenant Day, joined him.

Day told him, "I want to get out of here."

"Hell, no. Let's combine our forces here on 211 and hold till Regiment comes back." Frank Muñoz knew that Regiment would come back. The 9th Infantry had to return, or else.

Morning passed, without action. Then, at 1200, the radio in contact with Battalion HQ squawked. From it came a new order: Move back to Yongsan.

Muñoz argued over the radio. "I can hold here. I want to stay. Look, there are still isolated American troops in this vicinity, wandering over the hills. If I stay, it'll give 'em a place to come to—"

But Frank Muñoz didn't have a Battalion officer on the radio; he was talking to some PFC operator. This operator told him, "Look, Lieutenant—my orders are to tell you to move back to Yongsan. I've done that, and I'm leavin'. Out!"

Muñoz, whose dark eyes were deceptively pleasant in his hawk-nosed face, was furious. He thought, If I ever catch that SOBI'll beat his brains out. Fortu- nately for his career, he never found that radioman.

There was nothing to do but to move out, however. Right or wrong, he had his orders. He took stock. He had taken some fifteen NKPA prisoners during the night, most of whom were wounded, and he also had a large number of wounded of his own. These men he put in the three deuce-and-a-half trucks parked behind his hill.

At about 1600, George Company moved out. Muñoz formed his men into a long column of twos. At the head of the column he placed two of his support- ing tanks, with the remaining two at the rear. He ordered small parties to go ahead to secure the hills on either side of the road to the east.

As he moved out, he could clearly see the North Koreans climbing the hills all around him. They made no move to halt the retreat, nor did they fire on him. They merely stood on the surrounding hills and watched calmly as G Company marched away.

During the night, the NKPA had passed between the 9th and 23rd regiments, and while the 9th was taking its lumps, C of the 23rd was overrun and destroyed. Only an effort by Headquarters and Service Company personnel halted the enemy advance—the same units that had brushed past the right of Muñoz's hill—close to the 23rd Command Post.

By midmorning, Major General Keiser, CG of the 2nd Division, realized his division was split in two—the 23rd and 38th, which was so far untouched, in the north, out of contact with Division HQ and the reeling 9th Infantry to the south. The enemy 9th Division was locked in heavy combat with the 9th Regiment, and now Keiser had intelligence that the NKPA 2nd Division had also crossed the Naktong and was on high ground in the 23rd Regiment's sector.

At 0810 he telephoned Eighth Army HQ in Taegu, and reported the crisis.

Within a few hours Eighth Army was aware that a hole more than eight miles deep and six miles across had been sliced into the middle of the 2nd Division front and that the front-line rifle battalions of two of the division's regiments had been hit hard and in some cases were disintegrating. Communication everywhere along the front was spotty or non-existent.

General Walker at 0900 requested Fifth Air Force to make its maximum effort in front of the 2nd Division, and to try at all costs to prevent reinforce- ment and resupply of the NKPA spearheads across the Naktong. The Far East Command immediately asked the Navy to support this air effort, and at FECOM's request, naval units steaming to strike against the Inch'on-Seoul area were turned back.

Once again, as so often during the long, hot days of summer, Walton Walker had a critical command decision to make. Since the night before his Perimeter had been broken in two places—in the 2nd Division zone and in the 25th Division area in the south. In the south, the 25th had deep trouble, but in the Naktong Bulge the enemy was almost at Yongsan, only twelve miles west of Miryang and the main highway and rail lines linking the Perimeter.

This day and the next few were to test Walton Walker to the utmost. Walker was short and snappish, but under tremendous pressure he was a bulldog of a man. He was not demonstrative and had absolutely no flair for the dramatic, no personal traits that could make him beloved or admired as with a Patton or a Ridgway.

He was facing a situation that no American high commander had faced for a long time. He was fighting a last-ditch defense, largely with troops who would have been glad to depart Korea, and with commanders under him who in many cases were profoundly defeatist. Very few American generals under- stood the true condition of the Inmun Gun in early September. Behind Walker the Korean civilians of wealth and prominence were preparing to depart for Japan, and the Chinese merchants—those barometers of the Orient—were disposing of their property hastily and booking passage for Taiwan.

Walker, under pressure, never relented in his determination to hold the Pusan Perimeter. He spoke to his field commanders pungently and often sharply, and was not popular with them. He gave the troops stand-or-die orders, and lessened his popularity in that quarter. He had no use for the press, who got in his way, and was not adverse to letting the press know it. But whatever Walton Walker's popular image, his military reputation for the defense of the Perimeter must remain secure. And his pugnacious temperament, whatever it did to those around and beneath him, added to the defense the one thing it needed most at this point—stubbornness.

On 1 September Walker had in Army reserve only three weakened regiments, but compared to earlier times this was a princely force. He had the 5th Marines near Masan, the 27th Infantry, and the reconstituted 19th Infantry near Taegu. All these units he alerted. Then understanding that the salient in front of the 2nd Division was the most critical threat, he ordered General Craig to prepare the Marine Brigade to move into the Bulge area.

Afterward, at noon, Walker proceeded to the 2nd Division front, and riding up and down in his jeep with its special guard railing-fitted so that Walker could stand while traveling—and carrying an automatic shotgun in case of ambush, Walker told the 2nd Division to stand or die.

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