Military history


The Last Spring

… All of the heroism and all of the sacrifice, went unreported. So the very fine victory of Pork Chop Hill deserves the description of the Won-Lost Battle. It was won by the troops and lost to sight by the people who had sent them forth

— S. L. A. Marshall, PORK CHOP HILL.

COMPARED TO Gettysburg, Bastogne, or Verdun, the outpost battles that erupted across Korea from time to time were skirmishes, pinpricks next to the wounds of the world's great battles. But on the bodies of troops actually engaged the casualties were exceedingly high. When companies are reduced to forty men, and platoons to six or seven, to the men in them it is hardly limited war.

The hill battles along an unmoving line were costing the United States casualties at the rate of thirty thousand a year.

This number was still less than the annual traffic toll. But while Americans are well conditioned to death on the highways, they are not ready to accept death on the battlefield for apparently futile reasons.

The last spring of the Korean War, when it was apparent that peace was near, was one of the most horrible of all.

By 1953 almost every troop leader in the Far East held the opinion that continuance of the war under the present conditions was not only wasteful but verging on the criminal. It was all very well to say that sometimes the line must be held while nations muddle through—but there comes time when soldiers no longer see logic, when they are no longer willing to suffer while someone else improvises.

Now generals said freely that it had been a mistake to remove the terrible pressure from the Communist armies in 1951. They did not say the U.N. should have marched to the Yalu—though many believed it—but they agreed that a firm foot should have been kept on the Communist neck until a signature was on the dotted line at Kaesong.

In retrospect, it seems beyond question that because the West brought naïveté concerning Communist motives and methods to the conference table thousands more men than necessary were maimed and killed. If the U.N. had approached the table with a hard eye instead of a sigh of relief, in fighting stance instead of immediate relaxation, the chances are high that peace could have been attained in 1951.

Perhaps, as General Matt Ridgway wrote, it is futile to speculate. Perhaps it was necessary that the United States prove its own desire for peace. But to the men who for two more bitter years held the outpost line, and to the friends and families of those thousands killed and injured between July 1951 and July 1953, the question will forever remain.

One final bitterness, of all these people, was that much of the bitter struggle of the last spring went unreported. There were months when as many as 104 enemy attacks—from company to division strength—smashed against the U.N. outpost line, and days when as many as 131,800 rounds of Communist artillery fell on it within a twenty-four-hour period. Few of these events, buried deep in newspapers, caused a stir.

These were limited attacks, for the purpose of destroying outposts and killing men, similar to the bloody raids and counterraids on the Western Front during 1915-1918. None of them, by itself, could affect the war. In each of them men died.

Because the lines never move, trench warfare is not spectacular. The public and the home fronts soon lose interest in it; it seems to them that nothing happens. The lines do not move. But each day and night, men die, by the bayonet, grenade, or submachine gun, in violent night assaults down trenches and across bunkers and revetments, or by the deadly pounding of artillery, which falls again and again, without warning.

Between the times of dying, men wait. The waiting, seemingly endless, is perhaps the worst of all.

And one final bitterness was that this type of warfare was self-imposed. In 1915, developments in weaponry had stalemated the battle lines; no one knew any other course. In 1953, the men along the outpost line knew that the powers that had sent them forth apparently had chosen to play the enemy's game. Fighting this anachronistic war, over the long months each of the armies changed.

The Republic of Korea Army grew better. While its high leadership was still shot through with weaknesses, its divisions had lost their horror of Chinese. Hit by waves of CCF, they no longer dissolved; they took high losses, but they held. The ROK Army was still far from "second best in the world," though it was now among the largest of the non-Communist world. Neither so good as the American or the Chinese, it still had little of which to be ashamed.

The American Army changed the least, from 1951 onward. The men came and went; the faces changed, for the United States divisions had one great disadvantage compared to the other combatants—they continually bled away their best men through rotation. Because of rotation, quality tended to remain static. The divisions retained the basic excellences developed in 1951: good weapon handling, superior communications, and superb artillery and superb artillery direction. But the troops were shot through with green men and remained somewhat clumsy and heavy-footed to the last, and their patrolling left something to be desired.

The new men arrived with legs unequal to the steep Korean slopes, and by the time they had learned to patrol the windy hills and deep valleys of no man's land, they had become casualties, or had enough points to go home.

It was the CCF, by all accounts, that changed the most. By 1953 the clumsy peasant armies, which had pushed masses of men through the valleys to the sound of horns and bugles, were no more.

There had been no rotation in the CCF, and the painful lessons of modern ground warfare had been pushed home.

In 1950, in the frightful mountains of North Korea, the CCF had won initial victories against a modern army beset by intelligence failures and deployed in an impossible scheme of maneuver, an army that had walked almost blithely into a trap. In 1951, from the Imjin to the Soyang, the CCF learned at great cost that they could not push home pell-mell attacks against a modern force that had both room to maneuver and the will to fight.

Unlike the old Imperial Japanese Army, the CCF understood the lessons of firepower, and did not repeat their failures.

After 1951, the Chinese soldier again became the phantom he had been in the North Korean hills. His fortifications and fieldworks, built with unstinted labor, almost always surpassed the American. Harassed by ever-present air power, he went completely underground, and he learned to move stealthily, and by night. He became furtive, fast, and skilled at deception.

He could pad noiselessly through the dark and assemble a battalion within U.N. lines before it was seen or heard, and fade away again before daybreak. He became adept at the ambush of American patrols, which could often be heard coming hundreds of yards away, and in the dark, deep valleys, more and more the honors went to him.

He rarely lost prisoners now, a matter of concern to American Intelligence. He proved he could slip small parties into U.N. lines and drag U.S. soldiers screaming from their bunks. While Americans continued to hate the dark, he loved the night as a friend, and made use of it.

He came onto the heavily defended U.N. hills and outposts like a phantom, and often took them within minutes. He could rarely hold them, however, under the quickly massed and superior fires of American artillery, and the grinding attacks launched against him by day, under artillery, air, and armor cover.

New American soldiers arriving in Korea were surprised to hear their officers tell them not to sell the Chinaman short, and that, man for man, the Chinese was as good a man as they. They were told of the vast improvement of the CCF; the Chinese had artillery and communications, now, supplied by Russia, and even more important, they had improved morale.

Corruption and desertion had disappeared. Rape and plunder, the old hallmarks of all Asiatic armies, were no longer reserved to field commanders or common soldiers, but to the state. Under continuous indoctrination, CCF soldiers fought more from pride and belief in their cause, and less from fear of their leaders. All ranks, down to squad privates, were briefed before operations to an extent no Western army attempted, because of security hazards.

There was no democracy in the CCF, or freedom of choice; the soldiers were still peasant conscripts, under harsh discipline. But the essential puritanism of the Communist leadership had seeped downward. As one Chinese POW proudly told Haydon Boatner on Koje-do, it was now possible to blow the whistle on a corrupt commander, and to make the charge stick.

The day of "silver bullets"—when a Chinese general could be bought—was done. Now, using machine guns, grenades, and other hand weapons with a skill they had not possessed on entering Korea, the CCF fired real bullets, with disturbing accuracy.

The erasure of the corruption that had marked Chinese life from top to bottom—and which still held sway in Korea—undoubtedly caused many individual Chinese, though they remained non-Communist, to support the new regime.

As both General Mark W. Clark and S. L. A. Marshall remarked, the two and a half years in Korea were priceless to the Chinese Army, "for on that training ground [the Chinese] armies became as skilled as any in the world in the techniques of hitting, evading, and surviving."

After the violent activity prior to the U.S. elections—about which Communists hold the same shibboleths as Westerners do about May Day—the action eased off during December 1952.

Then, by January 1953, the CCF was making life miserable again, now on Old Baldy, held by the 7th Division, now at Nori, against the Ist ROK, or at the Hook and Gibraltar, where the British stood firm.

During one small action as savage as that at Cold Harbor, the British lost a pipe major, which to the bewilderment of Americans and ROK's the British regarded as a blow against the Empire British soldiers stated, angrily, that it was easier to make a good colonel than a good pipe major, and the commander in question should have acted accordingly.

In January, shortly after Eisenhower's inauguration, the U.S. 7th Division launched one of the infrequent U.N. raids against the enemy, with the primary purpose of taking prisoners. Moving a company over frozen ground toward the bristling CCF fortifications, in open daylight, the 7th Division took a severe black eye from what it had code-named Operation Smack.

Because the move had been planned in advance, and a great amount of brass had come forward from Eighth Army and other places to observe, the press then charged that the whole operation had been staged as a show for the generals, and American boys had died for reasons somewhat similar to the early Christians in the Roman arena. While this was nonsense, it did point up three things: that the CCF had built their line to the point where any operation against it would be exceedingly costly; that any kind of losses were rapidly becoming unacceptable to the American public; and that the brass, admittedly, did not have enough to do.

On 11 February 1952, Lieutenant General Maxwell D. Taylor, who had dropped as CG of the 101st Airborne Division in Normandy, replaced Van Fleet as Eighth Army Commander. Van Fleet, disappointed at not moving up to FECOM command, retired.

Max Taylor, handsome, a paratrooper, and superb soldier, arrived understanding the situation perfectly. Among his first directives to the line was an order that every man wear his flak jacket—the new nylon or steel-plated body armor devised and issued as protection against shell fragments—at all times. Any officer, high or low, who suffered men killed was apt to find himself in painfully hot soup.

February passed, with continuing outpost activity. Over MIG Alley, between the Yalu and the Ch'ongch'on, the jet air war increased in intensity, with hundreds of Communist aircraft now sighted, though the U.N. retained complete dominance of the air. The U.N. air interdiction against North Korea went on, destroying what little was left of its economy, making life utterly miserable for its people, but affecting the dug-in Chinese and North Korean armies, supplied from privileged sanctuary across the Yalu, hardly at all.

March came, and the men of the front-line divisions heard increasing rumors of a political settlement of the war. They heard that after a long recess since October, men at last were going to talk again at Panmunjom.

But during March, the enemy became more vicious along the line.

He flailed at the Marine outposts of Carson, Vegas, Reno. Reno, a particularly exposed section outpost that had been fought over many times, had to be abandoned, though elsewhere the 1st Marine Division held firm. The Chinese also assailed Old Baldy again, now held by a Colombian battalion of the 7th Division, and in a flaming debacle, took it.

After a violent effort, after some retail spending of men in wholesale totals, Generals Trudeau—called Shaped Charge by the riflemen—and Taylor decided the price of Old Baldy was too high. The Chinese were left in possession.

Afterward, there would be fist fights and bitter words between men of the 2nd Division, which had shed the blood of thousands of its troops holding Baldy, and those who wore the hourglass patch of the 7th, who had lost it.

With Baldy gone, the Pork Chop was flanked and by military logic should have been abandoned, too. But gradually now, the U.N. Command was beginning to realize the political nature of these hill battles. The CCF was fighting, not for territory that had little value, and would be abandoned anyway according to the agreement already signed at Panmunjom in November 1951, but in a test of wills. While it seemed foolish to expose men to danger and death on worthless real estate, the U.N. Command was being forced to play King on the Mountain with the Chinese.

For it was becoming apparent that each relinquished hill only whetted the Chinese appetite, and made the Communists more intransigent than ever. In their own way, they were trying to force the U.N. to give up on the POW question, and to end the war on Chinese terms.

Stubbornly, the U.N. Command refused to give up Pork Chop, and here, in April, American troops engaged in their heaviest fighting of 1953.

Spring 1953 was a cruel time in Korea. Once again, behind the blasted stumps and explosive-churned earth of the outposts, the grass struggled upward through the shell shards and bones; the geese flew north, honking, for the Manchurian border, and the magnificent Mongolian green-necked pheasants pecked with renewed vigor among the long-abandoned rice fields behind the lines.

Springs, loosened by the thaw, trickled down the hillsides, and the smell of sap was in the air.

Behind the corps boundaries, beyond the sound of guns, behind the Farm Line, the odor of fecal earth that had vanished from the untilled and unfertilized fields to the north began again with raw freshness. And from here southward to the Japanese Strait, life was again much the same as it had always been: hard, painful, and never free of debt.

Though most of the American money, the new lifeblood of the Taehan Minkuk, stopped in Seoul where therè were again motorcars and imported luxuries, the blasted and burned cities were being rebuilt. To them flocked the thousands of homeless and jobless, living in squalor, as at Tongduch'on-ni above Seoul, on the boundary of United States I Corps. Here squatted thousands of Korean prostitutes—women whose husbands and fathers had disappeared into the Communist maw—old men, orphans. Here, they lived in wattle huts and hoped to survive.

Frequently, they strayed from Tongduch'on-ni over into the forbidden corps zone. The American MP's always caught them and turned them back to Korean police, who let them straggle back to the place the Americans called "Little Chicago." The Korean National Police were devoid of sentiment, but even they understood that all human beings had the right to earn their bread, as best they could.

The women plied their trade; the old men made Ridgway hats for the big loud foreigners; the orphans begged and stole, with equal fervor.

Thousands of men who had come to Korea saying, "This war is for a bunch of lousy gooks," passed through Little Chi, and thousands of them contributed millions of American dollars to the missions and orphanages.

Some, like Colonel Ted Walker, who came to hate Communism to the point of incoherency, adopted Korean waifs, and sent them to school in the United States. In 1953 not all the shining deeds of the American Army were done on line.

Bitter, feeling forsaken, haunted by the fears of all men going into battle danger, the Americans who passed through Korea and Japan whored and drank with abandon, and the whoring and the drinking had its chroniclers.

Few men wrote of the orphanages supported by battalions, or the schools donated by divisions. Few people, perhaps not even the Koreans, will remember them. For there was never enough.

In the stinking paddies, free once more from the destructive passage of armed men across the land, the peasants sloshed in muddy water, praying to their gods that the rice might grow. In the Orient, there are no bad crop years—there are simply good harvests or disaster.

The crops of 1953 were already mortgaged, for even the Inmun Gun had not been able to find all the moneylenders. The farmers, hungry now in spring, had no hope of ever being free from debt.

The physical scars of the war in the Orient, where man had not greatly changed the face of the earth, were not long in healing.

The other scars, in the minds of men, were more difficult to see, for the Koreans, over the centuries, have learned to keep their miseries to themselves.

There were other men, this spring, who said little: small, dark-eyed, hard-bodied men who wore the uniform of the Taehan Minkuk. Of peasant stock, they had been to battle, and in subtle ways changed; they had learned to command men, and with them, respect. They had fought alongside the brash and bewildering Americans, and these men had learned many things.

Many of these small, hard men in the American-style tunics of officers of the ROK Army had been to Mikuk, the Beautiful Land, which the hated Japanese had called Big Rice. They had not found Mikuk beautiful, but scandalously empty, while they had learned to employ infantry in Georgia, and to aim cannon in Oklahoma—but they had learned that all men did not live as did those in the Hermit Kingdom.

In Mikuk, the Beautiful Land, it was possible for a peasant to own his own land, and to live free of crushing debt. In Mikuk, men of high office lived little above the commonalty, nor was it ordained that some lived as the favored of the gods, while others starved.

There were troubles in the Beautiful Land, as their American friends never tired of admitting, but men had not as yet accepted them as everlasting.

These small, hard men in new colonels' and generals' uniforms, who had come to high command when the city folk, the merchants' and officials' sons who once commanded the armies died under the blazing guns of June, had never learned to drink the whiskey-soda; they had never jokingly adopted the patronizing Western nicknames of Fat or Joe or Tiger Kim.

In Mikuk they had not learned golf—but unfortunately, neither had they learned the principles by which free men live. They had learned only that life could and ought to be, different from the way it was lived in the Taehan Minkuk. Someday, these men, who had learned also to command men and guns and armies, and to expect obedience, might strike to make it so, in the only way they knew.

South of the Farm Line, the granaries were low, the new crops not planted, and the waiting hard.

To the north, the waiting was also hard. Here, there were only the twill-clad hosts of the Eighth Army, making the roads rutted and dusty with their thousands of trucks. Eighth Army was firmly implanted now, its tents walled and floored with wood against the harsh seasons, its larger HQ's solidly timbered with an air of permanence. Its bright flags flew from tall poles, and the stones of its company areas were painted white.

Eighth Army had little to do, except put out more flags, and paint more pathstones, as months went by.

Still, the waiting was hard.

Still farther north, where the vehicles did not go, and the hills grew bare and dark, the waiting was hardest of all.

Here the untilled ground was dug in long furrows, and there were wire and sandbagged earth, and thousands of men lay in deep trenches and revetted bunkers.

And still farther north, among the outposts thrusting into the sullen Chinese hills, far in front of the main line of resistance, with spring at hand, men lay in cold, sleeting rain, and talked of peace.

Now and then artillery rumbled, and fire splashed the hills. Men's eyes, even while they talked of peace, kept to the north. Over there, in the black hills and misty valleys, nothing moved. The observation posts saw nothing; friendly aircraft hurtling overhead reported nothing.

Now and again, gunners fired, and in their hearts felt they fired at nothing.

Yet everyone knew that he was there—Old Joe Chink, Luke the Gook, the enemy. Unseen, he was real, massing in his deep tunnels and hollowed-out mountains. He had come before, slipping out of the night behind shrieking shell bursts, pouring into trenches and bunkers, shooting, killing.

He would come again, even while they talked of peace at Panmunjom.

On 16 April, while the eyes of the world and most of the correspondents were at Panmunjom, where the Communist side had just agreed to exchange sick and wounded POW's, the CCF struck to destroy the 7th Division's outpost line. The Chinese hit Eerie, the Arsenal, and swamped Dale.

The men on Pork Chop, an understrength company, E of the 31st Infantry, heard from the heights of enemy-held Hasakkol the wailing minors of Mongol music, the chanting with which Chinese liked to begin concerted action.

The sound was muted, as from out of deep tunnels. Listening as they ate supper, Lieutenant Thomas V. Harrold's riflemen cracked unhappy jokes. Numbering only seventy-six, they were in an extremely vulnerable place to play king of the Mountain.

The Division G-2 had word from secret line crossers of an imminent attack, and had informed Harrold. But somehow, in the inevitable mishaps of war, the word had not passed down to the outposts beyond Pork Chop.

With dark, these men strolled down to their listening posts on the outcroppings, and crouched down amid the flowering wild plums and other greenery. The night was clear, and starlit.

After 2200, two companies of heavily armed Chinese slipped out of Hasakkol and crossed the wide valley. They came on catfeet, and were onto Pork Chop, before the alarm could be given.

They broke over Easy's 1st Platoon in a wave of gunfire. Of 1st Platoon's twenty-odd men, seven survived.

Harrold fired one red flare, signifying he was under serious attack; then a second, requesting the artillery to flash Pork Chop. At 2305, 7th Divarty joined Chinese guns in firing on the hill, putting a horseshoe-like band of steel around its base, and firing proximity-fuse projectiles on top of it.

But the CCF were in the trenches and bunkers now, and close-in, hand-to-hand fighting erupted across Pork Chop.

Regiment sent two platoons to reinforce Harrold, one from Fox Company and one from Love. The Fox platoon became lost in the dark, and did not arrive; the men from Love, misunderstanding the situation, walked up the hill and came under Chinese fire. They had not understood the Chinese were already on the crest, and under surprise and shock of being taken under fire, they ran back down into the valley.

Pork Chop was overrun, but it was a maze of trenches, bunkers, and fortified positions. Harrold, and a number of his men, piling sandbags, ammunition boxes, and sleeping bags against bunker entrances and embrasures, fought the scattered parties of searching CCF off. With dawn, they were still holding, but for all practical purposes the hill had been lost.

Deep in his own bunker, Lieutenant Harrold hardly understood what had happened; the very nature of the fight had allowed him to view very little of it. From him his battalion commander had no clear picture of the situation on Pork Chop. Battalion thought the sending of one company forward to reinforce would be more than ample.

At 0330 Lieutenant Joseph Clemons, Jr., commanding K Company, was ordered to move his outfit forward just behind Pork Chop. From there he was to assault the hill, while two platoons from Love Company went up Pork Chop from the right.

From Joe Clemons' assault point, it was only 170 yards up to the fortified positions on Pork Chop—but the slope was steep, cratered, and rocky, and strung with wire.

It took King almost thirty minutes to reach the top of the ridge.

And there King's work began. The Chinese had burrowed into Pork Chop like rats, and their own artillery kept dousing the hill in regular timed patterns. In two hours the attack was carried forward only some two hundred yards, and the Americans' legs were exhausted. The length of the hill had crumbled into tumbled rubble under artillery fire, and each piece of rubble provided shelter for riflemen and grenadiers.

Meanwhile, the Love platoons, coming up on a narrow front on the right, had been chopped to pieces by the entrenched defenders on the crest. Ten men out of sixty-two who had attacked under Lieutenant Forrest Crittenden, came exhausted, under a sole surviving officer, into Joe Clemons' lines atop Pork Chop.

And by 0800 17 April, Joe Clemons was out of water and running short of both ammunition and men, a few feet away from the Chinese. The enemy was in poor shape, too, and if King Company could have mounted any kind of determined attack the Pork Chop battle would have been over—but the men remaining in King had almost no strength left. The steep Korean slopes wore men down faster than Chinese gunfire.

Shortly after eight, a few replacements came up the back slope of Pork Chop, joining Clemons' men. First Platoon, G Company, 17th Infantry, came in; the rest of George, 17th, was coming up the hill behind, under heavy artillery fire.

Clemons, seeing George's C.O., asked, "Now, what in hell are you doing here?"

The George Company commander, Lieutenant Walter Russell, was Clemons' brother-in-law, and the last Clemons had heard from him he was in the States. Russell said he had been sent to help King Company with the mop up, and then to withdraw from the hill.

The people at Battalion and Regiment simply did not know what was going on. King, now composed of only thirty-five tired survivors, ten men from Love, and twelve men of Harrold's Easy Company rescued from the rubble, wasn't mopping up—it was trying to hold its own.

At the same time that Russell's men were struggling up the cratered slopes, a fresh Chinese company pushed onto the other end of the ridge. With fresh men on the hill, the battle suddenly blazed up again. But again, stumbling, shooting, and grenading about in the fantastic jumble of tumbled trenches, shattered bunkers, and shellholes on Pork Chop, neither side was able to make progress.

The fresh men were rapidly chewed up. The barrage fire on the hill was horrendous in weight of metal, and almost unceasing. Soon, Russell's George Company, 17th, was down to fifty-odd men.

At noon, Joe Clemons received a fantastic message from his battalion C.O., delivered by the battalion S-2, who stumbled into the bunker on Pork Chop from which Clemons was directing the battle. Clemons was ordered to send any and all survivors of Easy Company to the rear at once, and Russell was to take his company off the hill at 1500.

Exhausted, Joe Clemons told the S-2; "Take this message back. Tell them the crisis here is not appreciated by Battalion or Regiment. I have very few men; all are exhausted. Russell has only fifty-five men left. When they go out, it is not reasonable that we can hold the hill."

The S-2 went back. An hour later, while the crisis atop Pork Chop got no better, Battalion acknowledged receipt of Clemons' message—receipt, nothing more.

While men were being killed and wounded all about, elements of the battle for Pork Chop were almost ludicrous. Fifteen minutes before three, daring artillery fire, a Public Information Officer dashed into Clemons' bunker. The PIO, Lieutenant Barrows, had come up from Division with two staff photographers to write the story and get pictures of what was supposed to have been a glorious American action.

Clemons said, simply: "Forget the pictures. I want you to carry a message to Battalion." He wrote, only, We must have help or we can't hold the hill.

Barrows, seeing the death and destruction on Pork Chop, dashed back at once.

Again Battalion acknowledged, and nothing more.

But the battalion C.O., Colonel Davis, and Colonel Kern at 31st Regiment, this time got the message. The trouble had been simple—Clemons had sent a number of desperate messages to the rear, but he had never stated his losses.

Higher HQ had continued to believe he was fighting with a tired but still strong rifle company. With no loss figures, Division had been serenely confident of Clemons' ability to hold.

Now the balloon went up.

Still, Joe Clemons received no answer.

The answer was simple, and yet complex. A great many men had been thrown down the drain already on Pork Chop, relatively worthless, scabrous piece of earth, whose very presence in Chinese territory was a continuing affront to them. Intrinsically, Pork Chop was not worth the life of a single human being, American or ROK. And the fight was rapidly becoming another Bloody Ridge or Triangle Hill, where Americans had gone into the meat grinder at the rate of a battalion a day.

Neither Battalion nor Regiment could make the decision to throw more troops onto Pork Chop. They bucked it up to Division.

Division, which had been stopped by Max Taylor from pouring more men onto Old Baldy, was not about to accept the buck. Division recognized that if Pork Chop were let go, the CCF, encouraged, would strike for the next hill, and the next. But it could not make the decision to accept the losses that might be forthcoming. The 7th Division HQ ordered that Clemons should hold, but until it got instruction from higher up, he was to be given no help. Division HQ did not want to throw good money after bad, though they could hardly put it in such terms.

Major General Trudeau talked to I Corps by phone, then took a helicopter up close to the front, to wait in Colonel Davis' CP.

I Corps got in touch with Eighth Army. Eighth Army decided it had to talk with FECOM in Tokyo.

Pork Chop Hill was a battle of wills, and the U.N. was not winning.

At 1500, receiving no new orders, and having lost half his command in a few hours, Lieutenant Russell wished his brother-in-law luck and pulled his company back down the hill. Joe Clemons now had a total of twenty-five men left to him, of all who had climbed to Pork Chop since morning. He made a small island of defense on one of Pork Chop's knobs, and there he and his men waited, for whatever might come.

He and his men had been without water for many hours; their weapons were dirty and jammed; all were in almost trancelike exhaustion. Yet, under Clemons' command, they were still a disciplined body, and still had the will to remain. Small-arms fire plucked at them all afternoon, and the Chinese artillery sought them out. Only fourteen of these men would survive.

At about 1700, Joe Clemons, after fighting off a couple of snipers with a rifle, got on the radio to Battalion. He said, "… about twenty men here who are still unhit. They are completely spent. There is no fight left in this company. If we can't be relieved, we should be withdrawn."

Trudeau was in Battalion CP. Immediately he got into his copter, and flew to his phones at Division HQ. He talked to I Corps Commander Major General! Bruce C. Clark. He wanted one promise: that if he threw more troops into the Pork Chop affray, the hill would not be given up at a later time.

It was at this time that the United States Army began to win its battle of wills. It might seem a nightmarish children's game, with ghastly stakes—but the United States Army was going to have to show the CCF who was King on the Hill, if it wanted success at Panmunjom.

Lieutenant Denton, of Love Company, was ordered to attack onto Pork Chop. He brought his men into Clemons' area when Clemons had just sixteen men left. And Denton, and the remnants of Love, would have as bad a time as Clemons, before the night was out.

Just before 1800, the 2/17 was attached to Colonel Kern's 31st Infantry, giving him two fresh rifle companies. Withholding E, 17th, he ordered King's Fox to assault Pork Chop and relieve Clemons. Sometime after 2100, Fox Company mounted the back slopes, and Clemons' survivors started to the rear.

Under the artillery pounding, and the desperate Chinese attempts to batter down all resistance on the hill, Fox Company was not enough. Easy, 17th Infantry, had to be committed, too.

Everywhere else along the line the front was cool. At Panmunjom prisoners were being exchanged. But around Pork Chop the life of a rifle company was measured in hours.

At dawn, Able Company, 17th Infantry, was committed.

In retrospect, both Easy and Able should have been committed earlier; the haunting fear of committing too many men, of taking too many casualties, which had begun with the terrible civilian pressure after Heartbreak, had resulted in piecemeal commitment and, ironically, more losses than were probably necessary.

For Able of the 17th, fighting beside the remnants of Fox and Easy all day of 8 April, against company after company of reinforcing Chinese, finally turned the tide.

Love, Fox, and Easy, relieving Clemons' King on the hill, each took almost as many casualties. But when the CCF finally understood that they could not have the hill—would not get it, even if they killed a thousand Americans, or fought it out all summer along this line—their assault ceased as quickly as it had begun.

After sunset 18 April, the sound of guns ceased, and the stars came out once more through the fading smoke.

The United States Army had expended more than 130,000 rounds of artillery ammunition within twenty-four hours, and had expended several hundred men. It was King on the Hill.

Sometimes the cost of games is high.

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