Military history


The Turn of the Tide

I never intended to withdraw. There was no place to go.

— Colonel Henry G. Fisher, commanding 35th Infantry, 1 September 1950.

TO FACE THE CRISIS in front of Yongsan, Friday, 1 September, General Keiser had only a few elements of E Company, 9th Infantry, the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, the Division Reconnaissance Company, and elements of the 72nd Tank Battalion. These other divisional units he attached to the 9th Infantry, and during the day they engaged the NKPA in the low hills and broad, rolling rice paddies surrounding the town.

The engineers, fighting as infantry, inflicted heavy casualties upon the enemy north and south of the town, but by night North Korean soldiers had entered Yongsan. By the morning of 2 September the edges of Yongsan and the hill south of town were littered with enemy corpses and burning equipment. The engineers also suffered. In D Company, 2nd Engineer Battalion, only one officer remained on his feet at dawn.

Meanwhile, the 9th's C.O., Colonel Hill, had gathered together the scattered remnants of the front-line companies that had been overrun 31 August. Among them were Muñoz's G Company, and F Company, which had also escaped the brunt of the enemy attack. By mid-afternoon these troops had been reconstituted into the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry, and, supported by the 72nd's tanks, they received orders to attack through the hard-pressed lines of the 2nd Engineer's Able Company south of Yongsan.

Before the attack, Frank Muñoz had been sent a great number of South Koreans, and ordered to integrate them in his squads. Muñoz didn't like the idea. The ROK's spoke no English; he couldn't communicate with them; and they seemed to have no clear understanding of which end of a gun the bullets came out.

But, desperate for manpower, the Eighth Army had decided to try to utilize the thousands of able-bodied young South Koreans that could not be readily absorbed in the ROK Army within its own ranks. The concept was never successful. The language barrier remained, and the cultural gulf between Korean and American was impassable. Lacking understanding of their allies, American troops refused to trust them; lacking training, the behavior and performance of the Koreans was spotty at best.

Muñoz protested, but was told to make the best of it. He put the KATUSA—Korean Augmentation United States Army—to work the way all other commanders put them to work, on labor details.

The attack jumped off through the engineer lines about one mile south of Yongsan. The NKPA had occupied the town, but had made no serious attempt to move farther east. Spreading out widely across the broad rice fields, Muñoz led his men toward the wattle-walled, grass-roofed city, which was already afire.

At the edge of Yongsan, they were hit by small-arms fire.

Muñoz brought a tank forward, and moved two squads in behind its armor protection and firepower. With the tank grinding ahead, the small spearhead broke through the edge of Yongsan, and now the fighting devolved into house-to-house combat.

Yongsan was a small town, hardly more than a village. Two principal streets crossed it, one running east, the other north-south. The other streets were mere alleyways or paths. The thatched houses were mostly one-storied, and made of wattle, which burned smokily. The single solidly built structure in Yongsan was the schoolhouse, which faced the park and trees of the town square.

In the reeking smoke and confusion of house-to-house combat, Muñoz's boys quickly ran into a new kind of trouble. Firing into burning houses, they

moved along the sides of the streets, now and then tossing hand grenades into likely nooks. Occasionally, they stepped across Korean corpses.

In three instances, the "corpses" rose and shot one of Muñoz's men in the back. Another man, picking up a hand grenade lying beside a dead enemy soldier, blew himself up. The real corpses were booby-trapped.

"Make sure the stiffs are dead!" Frank Muñoz ordered.

George Company may have wasted a little ammunition, but now each corpse" was thoroughly riddled as George passed by.

Ahead of the squads rumbled the 90mm-gun tanks of the 72nd Tank Battalion. Halting now and again to fire, the tanks blew apart whole houses. Bit by bit, Yongsan was being removed from the face of the earth, a fate which, tragically, was to befall almost every town and city within Korea during the coming months.

The tanks and following infantrymen reached the center of town. Already one American tank had been hit by an 85mm round from a T-34. The crew evacuated before the tank burned; another American tank passed around the crippled one and blasted the T-34, standing three hundred yards beyond. The T-34 went up in a burst of smoke and flame.

There were more North Korean tanks in Yongsan, but the 72nd, and men with 3.5 bazookas, took care of them. The enemy tanks and their infantry were well trained and well coordinated, moving closely together. But when the United States tanks engaged the T-34's, in every case the 90mm rounds penetrated the enemy armor. With their tanks blasted and burning, the North Korean infantry dispersed.

By late afternoon 2 September, Yongsan—or what was left of it—was free of enemy. By dusk, the NKPA had been pushed back into the chain of low rolling hills to the west.

For the moment, the enemy drive into the Perimeter had been stopped.

While the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry was clearing Yongsan, General Keiser, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Eighth Army, and General Craig of the Marine Brigade were holding conference at the 2nd Division CP. It was decided that the Marines would attack down the Yongsan-Naktong Road toward their old battleground, the Cloverleaf-Obong-ni hill mass, while the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry attacked just to their north, trying to make contact with the 23rd Infantry, in trouble up that way.

G and F of the 9th Infantry, with A Company, 2nd Engineers, held the line of hills west of Yongsan during the night. At 0855 on 3 September, the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 5th Marines opened their attack to the west.

During heavy fighting all 3 September, the Marines slowly backed the enemy into the Bulge. At nightfall they were on a line two miles west of Yongsan. They had taken casualties: 34 dead, and 157 wounded.

That night, 3/5 Marines were ordered to pass through 2/5 and continue the attack. During the hours of darkness torrential rains began to fall, making both Marines and soldiers miserable throughout the night.

In the next two days, they were going to make the North Koreans much more miserable.

The sun on Sunday, 3 September, came up like fire, and soon the pitiful band of survivors on the knob of Hill 209 beside the Naktong, the remnants of Dog and How companies, 9th Infantry, were broiling in the breathless heat. They had a few C rations, but they had long since run out of water, and the cries of the wounded men tightened the drawn and bearded faces of the men still holding out. The enemy fire blasting the hill never ceased.

The North Koreans on the ridge above the knob directed accurate mortar fire into the ragged foxholes. Enemy infantrymen crawled close up the slopes and tossed grenades. One man was forced to leap from his hole a half-dozen times to avoid bursting grenades; on the sixth attempt, he was killed.

The wounded Edward Schmitt never gave up. He had been promised help from his battalion, and he intended to hold the hill until it arrived. Under his leadership and quiet example, the men on the knob, suffering terribly, held together. He was still directing the defense when killed by a mortar round.

Lieutenant McDoniel, the next senior officer, took command. With darkness, it seemed as if the prayers and entreaties of the wounded and dying men had been answered; great gouts of water rained from the skies.

Men turned their blistered mouths upward, gasping to drink the falling drops; they wrung water from their filthy shirttails, and drank, half-sobbing. Lieutenant McDoniel spread out two woolen blankets, and from these he wrung enough water to fill a five-gallon can. As the rain continued, most men were able to fill their canteens.

In the rain and dark, the enemy left them alone.

But the night passed too quickly, and in the dawn, again warm and clear, only half of the men who had climbed the hill were still living. The enemy still lurked about them. Their ordeal was not done.

At 0800 on 4 September, the day dawning clear and warm after a night of chilling rain, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry, on line with the 5th Marines, jumped off again in the counterattack against the Bulge. During the rainy night the enemy had been oddly passive, and now, during the day, the advancing Americans began to come upon scenes of indescribable confusion and horror. Bodies of North Koreans, victims of American air and artillery, lay scattered all about along the roads, unburied. The advancing Americans passed abandoned equipment, including two undamaged T-34's. They came upon tents still standing, apparently the former command post of the enemy 9th Division. Now it seemed that the men of the Inmun Gun, asked to go to the well once too often, were beginning to break apart.

Keeping up continuous pressure, the Marines and infantry advanced three miles before digging in for the night. But the 9th Division was not finished—not yet. Moving onto his night defensive position by late afternoon, Frank Muñoz of George Company could see enemy troops assembling just out of effective rifle range to his west. They were moving into a number of small villages, and his request for artillery fire upon them was refused. From somewhere, Battalion had received instructions not to fire upon Korean villages, even if they held enemy.

The American way of street and town fighting did not resemble that of other armies. To Americans, flesh and blood and lives have always been more precious than sticks and stones, however assembled. An American commander, faced with taking the Louvre from a defending enemy, unquestionably would blow it apart or burn it down without hesitation if such would save the life of one of his men. And he would be acting in complete accord with American ideals and ethics in doing so. Already, in the Korean War, American units were proceeding to destroy utterly enemy-held towns and villages rather than engage in the costly business of reducing them block by block with men and bayonets, as did European armies. If bombing and artillery would save lives, even though they destroyed sites of beauty and history, saving lives obviously had preference. And already foreign observers with the United States Army—not ROK's—were beginning to criticize such tactics.

Observers from France and Britain, realizing that war was also highly possible in their own part of the world, were disturbed at the thought of a ground defense of their homelands. For the United States Army, according to its history and doctrine, would choose the lives of its men over the continued existence of storied cathedrals. These observers wrote news releases—and soon Frank Muñoz could get no artillery on the enemy assembling in plain sight in the villages below him. When he asked Battalion to fire on the village, and burn it down, Battalion replied it could not. Fortunately, such orders in Korea were soon changed.

Muñoz passed along his thinly strung: line at dark, telling his boys to prepare for a night attack. "Those people are getting ready," he said.

At 2200 his outposts came back into his perimeter. "We hear something coming out there—" they reported.

At the moment, all hell broke loose. Coming up the hill quietly, without their usual screaming and yelling, two companies of North Koreans leaped into George's lines. The perimeter erupted in fire, and within a few minutes the enemy withdrew.

Then, without flares or other signals, they drove into George once more. And this time George Company sprang a leak. With the NKPA all over them, Muñoz's people were pushed from the forward slope of the hill, retreating over the crest. Muñoz had given no order to fall back—but the enemy pressure was too strong.

On the reverse slope George Company had dug no holes—but it had positioned its supporting tanks there. And the tankers who had served with Frank Muñoz had learned one thing: unlike some infantry commanders, he did not desert his tanks in the dark, leaving them to fend for themselves until morning. The tanks opened fire, blasting the crest of the hill with machine guns and high explosive from their cannon. They blasted the enemy off the hill.

Under their fire, Muñoz was able to get his company back up into their holes. But again the Koreans swarmed up the hill at him. He had no flares, and no artillery support at this time. Again the enemy drove George back over the crest. And again the tanks tore the North Korean charge to mincemeat. If the tanks could have climbed to the crest, they could have ended the battle there. But the hill was too steep, and the armor could only support by fire when the enemy came over the crest.

With his men on the reverse slope once more, Frank Muñoz decided to use his own judgment, throw the book away. He shouted for his men to banzai back over the hill. He went first.

George followed him.

They went in and shook hands with the North Koreans. Screaming, shouting, shooting, they crashed into the surprised NKPA. Bayonet duels flashed along the crest. Some of Muñoz's boys went down; some of the sturdy small brown men shrieked and died. It was like a melee in a crowded street for a few moments. Men crashed into each other in the dark, fell down. Others bumped into unseen attackers, and rolled down the slopes fighting.

The countercharge threw the NKPA off balance. Scared and yelling as Muñoz's men were, they scared the enemy more. The NKPA broke off and disappeared into the night.

Panting, Muñoz got on his SCR 300 and talked to his platoon leaders. "Join me." He knew the enemy would hit again, and he wanted to pull all of his men together so that no repetition of the earlier loss of his 3rd platoon would occur. It had begun to rain heavily once again.

One of his officers, Lieutenant Murphy, was new, and in his first fight. Murphy worried Muñoz; he had told him to be guided by his experienced platoon sergeant. Now, closing in on Muñoz's CP from his position farther down the ridge, the platoon sergeant, Loren Kaufman, led the way up ahead of Murphy. Coming through the dark, Kaufman lurched heavily into a sweating NKPA scout.

Before the man could react, Kaufman bayoneted him, Then, yelling, "Fire! Fire!" Kaufman threw grenades at the dark shadows of the enemy soldiers behind the Korean groaning on the ground, and opened up with his rifle. The enemy group dispersed, and the platoon came on into George's main position.

This was the way it went till morning. Fighting, clawing viciously at the enemy when he got too close, George held the hill. In hand-to-hand fighting, Kaufman himself put his bayonet into four more North Koreans, wiped out a machine gun that had been moved forward, and killed the crew of an enemy mortar.

And finally, heavy artillery-fire support crashed down about the company, as Muñoz found the time to call for and adjust it. The shellfire kept the enemy off George's back until daylight, when other units of the 9th Infantry attacked to the west, using George's hill as a line of departure.

As the sun of 4 September sank low over the muddy Naktong west of Hill 209, Lieutenant McDoniel realized that he had come to the end of his rope. He and his remaining officer, Lieutenant Caldwell of Dog Company, discussed an attempt to break through to friendly lines. It was obvious that the weary men atop the knob could hold no longer.

Some of the men were in a state of shock. Even the more alert ones had the thousand-yard stare, looking blankly into the dusk. Several men, half crazed by their long ordeal, had leaped out of their holes and dashed at the enemy. The enemy quickly shot them down.

As night fell, each man had only about one clip of ammunition; McDoniel knew he could repel no attack pressed in any determined fashion. But no attack materialized, as the darkness deepened. McDoniel could hear an enemy officer screaming "Manzai!" at his men, but there was no charge against the feeble perimeter.

For four days and nights the enemy troops surrounding the knob had left the bodies of their men stinking in the broiling sun, as attack after attack failed, and the heart had gone out of the besiegers, too.

McDoniel and Caldwell agreed to split the remaining em, less than thirty, into parties of four men and try to scatter through the hills.

They had one problem—Sergeant Watkins, still alive, still paralyzed from the waist down from a machine-gun slug.

The Arkansan told them to leave him; he did not want to be a burden to those who still had a chance of getting away. The man who had done more than anyone to defend the hill before he fell was still brave, still cheerful.

They left him. Before they went, someone gave Watkins, at his request, his loaded carbine. They laid the stubby weapon on the paralyzed sergeant's chest, the muzzle pointing to his chin. Watkins put a hand around it and grinned at the men standing about.

"Good luck," he said.

A long time later, when the men who had been on the knob told their story, Watkins was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

All but seven of the men who left the hill reached their own lines—mostly in the 25th Division Sector to the south. Caldwell was captured. A couple of NKPA took his boots and identification from him, then struck him in the head with a rock. Callously, supposing him dead, they threw his body into the Naktong. But Caldwell reached shore, and miraculously, four days later, stumbled into friendly lines.

Three weeks later, some men of the 9th Infantry climbed Hill 209. White- faced, they tried to separate and identify the decomposing corpses lying in the muddly holes; most had been blown apart or mutilated.

With this, they had little luck. Many of the men who had died on the lonely knob, like countless others who fought on the far frontier, went into nameless graves.

5 September 1950 was a day of heavy battle everywhere along the Perimeter. In the Naktong Bulge, the Marines and 9th Infantry fought their way back to the slopes of their old nemesis, Obong-ni Ridge, in the driving rain. Here they halted their counteroffensive. While. they could see the enemy digging in on the ridge, it was apparent that the combat power of the enemy 9th Division had been destroyed, and the supporting 4th had lost its ability to fight long before.

Furthermore, General MacArthur had other plans for the Marine Brigade, and FECOM was waiting impatiently for Walker to release it. The next day the Marines marched back to Pusan for embarkation.

The NKPA had made a dramatic breakthrough in the Bulge on 1 September—but now it had revealed what was to be a continuing weakness of the Communist armies in Asia. They could break through the U.N. lines, but they could not exploit their local successes. With poor communications and even poorer systems of supply, dependent solely upon manpower to move their resupply, the enemy could not move quickly enough to exploit, particularly in the teeth of superior airpower, armor, and artillery. To put it simply, faced with breakthrough, the U.N. forces could retreat, and counterattack faster than the Inmun Gun could press their advantage. Whenever the heavier- armed United States Army could form continuous battle lines and withhold a reserve, the Communist tactics were doomed to failure.

If the NKPA had had a mechanized force capable of moving on Miryang, and an air force able to keep the Fifth Air Force off their backs, their tough and aggressive infantry might easily have split the beachhead and precipitated a U.N. disaster.

North of the Bulge, the 23rd Infantry had been separated from its parent 2nd Division, and pushed back. But it engaged in heavy battle with the NKPA2nd Division, fighting it to a standstill, even though its 1st Battalion was pushed back against a lake, and isolated. Its sister regiment, the 38th, moved to support the 23rd from the north, and gradually the enemy threat was contained. By 9 September, the 23rd Infantry had been reduced to a strength and efficiency of only 38 percent, but the enemy 2nd Division shattered itself in fruitless attacks to break through.

One of the great mysteries of the Korean War occurred while the 23rd was making its stand. The North Korean 10th Division, over seven thousand strong, was in position to move either against the beleaguered 23rd or to drive east toward Taegu. If the 10th Division had added its weight to the assault, the pressure might well have been more than Eighth Army could stand. But the 10th Division, either through misunderstanding or ineptitude of its command, did not move at all against the Perimeter.

On the south, in the 25th Division zone, disaster had threatened from mid- night 31 August onward. But the 35th Infantry, surrounded by two NKPA divisions, the 6th and 7th, with at least three enemy battalions in its rear, held fast. The 35th's Colonel Fisher, an experienced West Pointer, explained:

"I never intended to withdraw. There was no place to go."

The 35th fought the enemy into the ground, and won a Presidential Unit Citation. Colonel Fisher, viewing the paddies strewn with North Korean dead, remarked that even the slaughter at the Falaise Gap in World War II, where ten German divisions had been trapped, could not match the horrible sights along the Nam River.

Flies buzzing over the unburied corpses of Korean dead were so thick in some areas as to obscure the sun.

South of the 35th Infantry, the enemy broke through toward Haman. The 24th Infantry broke and streamed for the rear. Colonel Check's 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, counterattacked, and with great slaughter halted the North Korean drive, and restored the 24th's positions. Again the 24th, reconstituted, did poorly; however, the splendid fighting ability of Fisher's 35th and Michaelis' 27th regiments with the attached 5th RTC, brought the enemy threat to nothing in the south.

On the east coast, the ROK divisions came under heavy pressure on 2 September. Some ROK units were driven back, others crumbled. But again, as in August, the mountains, and supporting American air and armor, tipped the balance. The NKPA could come over the ranges, but it could not fight its troops or keep supplied within the Perimeter. The eastern front held, in spite of local breakthroughs in several areas.

And while the ROK's in the east, the 25th Division in the south, and the 2nd Division in the Bulge were fighting and dying to stem the tide, in front of Taegu the 1st Cavalry Division held a front of thirty-five miles.

And along this front, for two solid weeks, raged some of the most vicious fighting of the war. The 1st Cavalry Division lived in a constant state of crisis. The terrain was hilly, split by many small and isolated valleys, and over these hills and through the rain-fogged valleys, swirled incessant combat similar to that in the Bulge.

By 5 September the threat along three-quarters of the Perimeter had eased, but in front of Taegu the situation worsened. Eighth Army moved its HQ and signal equipment—irreplaceable, if captured—south to Pusan, along with that of the ROK's. General Walker, however, remained in Taegu, pre- pared to fight as Bill Dean had fought two months earlier.

By 8 September, the enemy 1st and 13th divisions were only eight air miles from Taegu. The Cavalry Division was so depleted that one battalion commander said that any company that could muster one hundred men immediately became his assault company for the day. And a critical shortage of ammunition was developing. The expenditures of 105mm artillery shells had to be sharply curtailed, and from Tokyo General MacArthur urgently trumpeted requests that ammunition ships en route to FECOM proceed at all speed consistent with safety.

By 12 September, the 13th Division, Inmun Gun, had occupied the critical Hill 314, known as the key to Taegu. From this ridge, the enemy could see the vital city, and commanded the terrain about the Taegu Valley. The hill mass surrounding 314 was a mile in length, characterized by steep slopes on all sides. Against the enemy troops on this hill, at least 700, 1st Cavalry Division threw Lieutenant Colonel James Lynch's 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry.

The effective combat strength of the 3/7 stood at 535. Because of the short- age of 105's, there could be no artillery preparation preceding the attack. In an earlier attack, against another hill, the 3/7 Cavalry had failed badly.

Colonel Lynch, however, massed his companies so that maximum rifle fire could be thrown against the enemy ridge. After an air strike against 314, at 1100 on 12 September, the battalion moved out in the attack.

L and I companies, leading, ran into immediate 120mm mortar fire. The huge mortar shells burst among their thin ranks with great gouts of greasy black smoke as they walked forward; then the air was alive with the green tracers of NKPA machine guns and the snap of rifle bullets.

Many of the two companies' officers went down. But Captain Walker of Love Company, and Lieutenant Fields of Item, without regard for their personal safety, reorganized the two companies and led them on. And under the brilliant example, many men kept on on their own initiative even after their platoon officers were gone.

The officers and men of the 7th Cavalry were not happy with their behavior under their first baptism of fire, when many men had shown shock and fear against Hill 518. Each of them knew that the situation in front of Taegu was desperate and that around Taegu South Korean policemen were moving to the outskirts of the city and digging foxholes. And, as in the south, "There was nowhere left to go."

On 314, the 3/7th Cavalry, which had failed its first test, wrote one of the more splendid pages of American military history.

They fought their way up the steep slopes under heavy fire. Officers and N.C.O.'s, wounded, refused to relinquish command and retire. Many men, with minor hurts, refused treatment. As Love and Item neared the crest of 314, still under heavy mortar fire, the enemy rushed out at them in violent counterattack. Hand-to-hand fighting raged along the high slopes of the ridge; twice men of Love and Item reached the crest and were thrown off.

A new air strike roared in, blasting and searing the enemy on the top. When the planes went high again, Captain Walker of Love led a small group to the crest for the third time. Here he stood and shouted down the hill:

"Come on up here! You can see them here. There are lots of them, and you can kill them!"

All the officers of Item were down, including Fields. But the men sprang up the steep slope with those of Love Company; they ran into the North Korean positions, shooting, bayoneting. They swarmed over the face of the hill, and the enemy disintegrated.

At 1520 Captain Walker reported Hill 314 secured. He had forty men left in Love Company, and about the same in Item, and no officers. In the first two hours of combat, 3/7 had taken 229 battle casualties.

On the hill Love and Item found more than 200 enemy dead, wearing American uniforms, boots, and helmets, holding American M-1s and carbines. They also found the bodies of four American GI's, hands bound, shot, and bayoneted. And they found one officer, tied hand and foot, lying charred and blackened beside an empty five-gallon gasoline tin. He had been burned alive by the retreating enemy.

There was no place left to go, and all across the thin Perimeter Line American soldiers were stiffening. Hatred for the enemy was beginning to sear them, burning through their earlier indifference to the war. And everywhere, the first disastrous shock of combat was wearing off. Beaten down and bloody from the hard lessons of war, troops were beginning to listen to their officers, heed what their older sergeants told them.

A man who has seen and smelled his first corpse on the battlefield soon loses his preconceived notions of what the soldier's trade is all about. He learns how it is in combat, and how it must always be. He becomes a soldier, or he dies.

The men of the 1st Cavalry, the 2nd, 24th, and 25th divisions in Korea were becoming soldiers. For underneath the misconceptions of their society, the softness and mawkishness, the human material was hard and good.

There had been many brave men in the ranks, but they were learning that bravery of itself has little to do with success in battle. On line, most normal men are afraid, have been afraid, or will be afraid. Only when disciplined to obey orders quickly and willingly, can such fear be controlled. Only when superbly trained and conditioned against the shattering experience of war, only knowing almost from rote what to do, can men carry out their tasks come what may. And knowing they are disciplined, trained, and conditioned brings pride to men—pride in their own toughness, their own ability; and this pride will hold them true when all else fails.

After 12 September 1950, though heavy fighting continued, the situation about Taegu and elsewhere never seemed so black again. Now it was the enemy who was beginning to crumble, as Americans learned their lessons, and learned them well. Erwin Rommel had written that he had never seen any troops so inept at first as Americans in battle—or any who learned the hard lessons more quickly once the chips were down.

And while the most desperate hours of the men within the Perimeter were passing, a second battle had been raging in their rear, back in the continental United States. When American soldiers went into action, it had become customary to provide them with a free issue of candy, cigarettes—and beer. In the places American troops fought, there were rarely any handy taverns or supermarkets.

Reported to the home front, the "beer issue" rapidly became a national controversy. Temperance, church, and various civic groups bombarded the Pentagon and Congress with howls of protest against the corruption of American youth. One legislator, himself a man who took a brew now and then, tried a flanking attack against the complainers, saying on the floor of the House, "Water in Korea is more deadly than bullets!"

But no one either polled the troops for their opinion or said openly that a man who was old enough to kill and be killed was also old enough to have a beer if he wanted it.

Unable to shake the habit of acquiescence, the Army leaders bowed to the storm of public wrath. On 12 September the day the 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, lost half its strength securing Hill 314, Far East Command cut off its beer ration. The troops could still buy beer, but only when and if the PX caught up with them.

One soldier, asked his opinion of the move, said, "Let them people come over here and do the fighting if they don't like it."

A high-ranking officer cautiously said that in his opinion "one can of beer never hurt anyone."

The other remarks that have survived are not printable.

Through the middle of September, U.N. and North Korean forces were still locked in close combat all around the Perimeter. But the tempo of fighting was gradually easing; both sides were showing signs of exhaustion. Neither combatant had sufficient men to pass troops in reserve for any length of time.

By 14 September the issue had still not been decided. The NKPA had over run all South Korea except one tiny toehold in the southeast corner—but this toehold had given it unexpected trouble. Its timetable calling for the Communization of all Korea by 15 August had been wrecked. Worse, the Inmun Gun, the People's Army, had left the bones of its best men scattered along the Naktong River, and the survivors were rapidly bleeding themselves to death against American guns on the broiling hills and in the fetid valleys.

The People's Army had almost shot its bolt. Less than 30 percent of the old China veterans remained, and these were dirty, tired, hungry, and in rags. Now only frequent summary executions and the threat of death could hold the newly drafted trainees in line. Now it was not American officers, but men like Senior Colonel Lee Hak Ku, who had come down from II Corps to serve as the 13th Division's chief of staff, who began to wonder how it all would end.

The Inmun Gun had made its supreme effort, and failed—and the Americans were just beginning to fight.

By the middle of September, a decision could not be long delayed.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!