Topics - Operation Nomad

Nomad was the name given to the 24th Infantry Division's push toward Kumsong, North Korea, which is some 30 miles north of Parallel 38.

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Operation Nomad-Polar: The Last Major Allied Offensive of the Korean War

By Merry Helm
Writers Guild of America
February 12, 2007

Operation Nomad-Polar was one of a specific series of Allied offensives against Communist forces in North Korea during August, September and October 1951.

Truce talks between Communist China, North Korea, South Korea and the United States had begun on July 10th of that year but had broken down August 23rd. Allied Commander General Matthew Ridgway wanted to apply military pressure to persuade the Communists back to the negotiation table.

Additionally, General James Van Fleet, Commander of the 8th Army, felt the potential for peace was softening his troops. A series of limited-offensive actions could keep the men sharp and also provide combat-hardening for thousands of new replacement troops arriving in Korea. Although many consider(ed) these battles disastrous, they nonetheless continued, one after another, throughout the fall.

The last of these was Operation Nomad, which took place in the central sector of the Korean peninsula south of Kumsong, North Korea. The operation began 13 October 1951, overlapping the final days of the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge to the east.

Newspaper accounts of Operation Nomad drastically underplayed the reality of what happened, especially during the opening days of the offensive. History books, too, give only abbreviated nods – if any – to this battle. Yet, it was one of the most brutal, and most costly, the US 24th Infantry Division endured during its historic tenure in Korea.

During the first week of October 1951, the 24th Division moved into IX Corps' Line WYOMING sector to relieve the 7th Infantry Division. Sandwiched between the 2nd ROK Division to the west and the 6th ROK Division to the east, the 24th ID's 5th Infantry Regiment (5th RCT) took positions on the left; the 21st Regiment was positioned in the center; and the 19th Regiment moved into positions on the right, next to the 6th ROK. Also attached to the American regiments was the Columbian Infantry Battalion.

On 13 October, these Allied troops launched an aggressive push against Chinese Communists deeply embedded in the mountains before them. The objective was to push the Chinese off their fortified winter line and also to take the city of Kumsong, a key supply center for enemy troops.

Between the Allied positions and Kumsong stood a series of forbidding objectives, including the “pearl”, Hill 770, inside of which the Chinese Command Post was built to withstand attacks and also house and supply Chinese soldiers during the coming winter.

This cluster of jagged peaks comprised a formidable fortress. In the previous months, the Chinese had taken advantage of the lull in fighting to construct elaborate tunnel, trench and bunker systems within these mountains. During air, mortar and artillery attacks, the enemy had merely to go underground to protect themselves. Emerging predominantly unharmed, they preferred to attack or counterattack after the sun went down.

Command Reports euphemistically reported the Communists exhibited “stubborn resistance” and “gave ground grudgingly” in this battle. Survivors know the reality was far more vicious. The Chinese were not about to give up their comparatively luxurious fortress “grudgingly.”

The terrain was extremely steep, barren and slippery with rubble; cover for attacking troops was nearly non-existent. Allied troops became easy targets as they climbed upward under hails of gunfire, mortar, and so many grenades it “looked like flocks of blackbirds coming over.” [See Footnote 1.]

Unlike the North Koreans, who fought for the very dirt beneath their feet, the Chinese were prone to focusing on strategic advantage. In the push and pull of battle, they would give up yardage if it would lure the Allies into untenable positions.

By each day’s end, many 24th ID platoons were left with only a handful of men. By morning, they’d be back up to strength; the "pipeline" of replacements was running with the tap wide open – for the first days. After that, anybody who could carry a gun or a stretcher, including cooks, were brought in to replace the fallen.

The 24th Division reached Line NOMAD by 17 October, and after five straight days of fighting, the troops hoped for a chance to rest. But they were immediately assigned a new objective, Line POLAR; they secured it five days later, on 22 October.

Operation Nomad-Polar was the last major Allied offensive of the Korean War. The cost was high: at least 1,784 American casualties in 10 days. Of these, 288 were killed in action, died of wounds, or were later declared dead. (These figures do not include the many casualties in the following days and weeks, as the Chinese tried to regain their positions.)

Perhaps it’s coincidence – perhaps not – but it must be noted that Communist Liaison officers agreed to resume truce talks with the Americans and South Koreans on October 22nd, the day the 24th Division reached Line POLAR.

One must wonder, why would such a key battle be underplayed in the press – and nearly vanquished from histories of the Korean War?

One possible reason may be that “Operation Nomad” was not a term the Army shared with the press, the public, or even with the soldiers themselves. In fact, many or most veterans who survived the battle remember it only as the Big Fall Push.

In contrast, battles that were given labels by journalists grabbed the public’s imagination, such as Bloody Ridge, the Punchbowl, Old Baldy, Iron Triangle and Heartbreak Ridge. In contrast battles known for their hill numbers did not grab similar attention.

According to published statistics, the 24th Division averaged 175 American casualties per day during Operation Nomad-Polar. In comparison, the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge had daily average of 113 casualties; and the Battle of Bloody Ridge averaged 146 casualties per day. The only autumn battle more deadly than Operation Nomad was Operation Commando, which averaged 377 casualties per day. [See Footnote 2.]

Regarding the seemingly deliberate attempt to downplay the realities of Operation Nomad-Polar in newspaper reports, one could point to the inexperience of the reporter, who was in fact not a journalist, but an Associated Press photographer. The following is taken from the AP story published on Monday, 15 October 1951:

. . .AP photographer Bob Schulz reported from the front that American and South Korean foot soldiers made gains of 3,000 yards in the first four hours of their attack Monday.

Schulz said that the gains of almost a mile and a half were made “against an astonishing lack of Chinese resistance.”

In the assaulting forces were troops of the U. S. 24th Division, and the South Korean Second and Sixth Divisions.

The lack of intense infantry fighting in this sector contrasted sharply with the recent raging battles on the Western and Eastern fronts. There, Chinese and Korean Reds contested every yard.

AP photographer Robert H. Schulz reported from the Central front that Sunday’s gains on the approaches to Kumsong brought to nearly three miles the ground taken in the three-day push. Kumsong is a Red supply and staging depot area well protected by mountains some 30 miles north of Parallel 38.

The Allied Force – the U. S. 24th Division and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Second and Sixth Divisions – has seized nineteen hills in the advance, two of the most important Sunday. One is 2,000 feet high.

Schulz reported the most noteworthy aspect of the advance was the “only moderate” resistance from what are apparently unusually poor quality Chinese troops.

Whether these teen-age and middle-age scrapings from the Chinese military barrel are the main defense of the Kumsong sector or whether they are only a forward screening forte remains to be seen. . .

Schulz failed to report the 24th suffered some 750 casualties in those first three days; nor was the public informed that 115 of those casualties resulted in death; and he certainly did not accurately portray the viciousness of the battle.

There is another, possibly related, factor to consider. During this time period, American journalists were frustrated and angry, because they were being denied access to facts surrounding ground fighting and truce negotiations. In his excellent account of the Korean War, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Toland writes:

The fighting along the front continued to be bitter and inconclusive. On October 15, [1951] Heartbreak Ridge, just north of the Punchbowl, was finally secured – after 3,700 American casualties. On the Eighth Army left flank, Operation Commando reached its objective in four days but also with heavy losses. In the United States, the public responded in a poll, with two thirds describing the Korean conflict as “an utterly useless war.”

While the liaison officers at Panmunjom were thrashing out an agreement, General Ridgway was attempting to pacify the correspondents. Hanson Baldwin of The New York Times protested that “embellished adjectives had replaced facts.” The military communiqué of World War II had been simple, often terse. In this war it had become “a grab bag of service claims, so-called ‘action’ verbs and descriptive phrases.” And the result was “all the more serious since censorship in Korea had been serious and often captious.”

At a press conference on October 16, Ridgway acknowledged that “full and timely information” had not been supplied and promised “steps would be taken to correct the situation.” At the same time, it would be “bad faith” to release certain kinds of information. As for the fighting, Ridgway acknowledged that the situation from some standpoints “could readily be construed as a military stalemate. It all depends on how you look at it.” [See Footnote 3.]

Whether “full and timely information” was being withheld for military – or for political – reasons remains unclear, at least to this writer. We do know American sentiments against the war were having a notable affect on the Truman administration.

Unquestionably, the truth of Operation Nomad-Polar was skewed and buried. Participants were cheated of honor by the media, overlooked by historians and, perhaps worst, were treated with total indifference upon returning home.

The men who participated in this operation – both friend and foe – fought a gut-wrenching battle. The 24th Division, the Korean War’s most veteran American Division, not only achieved its objectives, but did so with magnificence. The Allies ended up driving the Chinese some 10 miles from their winter line, captured the enemy’s fortifications, and destroyed Kumsong, along with its rail/supply capabilities. It was a resounding victory.

Yes, the Korean War may still be unfinished. But, even after their WWII patriotism and idealism was mashed into the ground forever, American soldiers successfully fended off Communist aggression on that blood-soaked peninsula.

They won.

Merry M Helm



[1] Private Al Moore in interview with author, 2006.

[2] Operation Nomad-Polar: 1,752 casualties 13 to 22 Oct 1951.  Heartbreak Ridge: 3,745 casualties sustained between 13 Sep to 15 Oct 1951.  Bloody Ridge: 2, 772 casualties from 18 Aug to 5 Sep 1951.  Operation Commando: 2,643 casualties, 3 to 9 Oct 1951.  Taken from A Chronology of the Forgotten War's remembered battles.  As published in APG News.  Aberdeen Proving Ground.  30 October 2003; p 5.

Three American Divisions, for which casualty records are available, carried out Operation Commando.  In contrast, casualties sustained by the Columbian Battalion and the two ROK Divisions during Operation Nomad are not readily available and are not factored into the daily casualty statistics noted above.

[3] Toland, John.  In Mortal Combat: Korea 1950-1953.  New York: William Morrow.  1991: pp 487-488.

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Preface to AP Articles

Operation Nomad was the name given to the 24th Infantry Division's push toward Kumsong, North Korea, on Korea's Central Sector some 30 miles north of Parallel 38.  The 24th was accompanied by the ROK Second and Sixth Divisions on this push toward Kumsong.

According to 24th Forward, Nomad's goals were to

"...root the Chinese from its proposed winter line of defense, gain high ground overlooking the Kumsong valley to render it ineffective to the Chinese army operating in the area, and demonstrate the considerable fighting power that was at the command of the Allied Powers." [24th Forward, Troop Information and Education, 24th Infantry Division Headquarters, APO 24, c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, CA, circa 1952.]'

The following excerpt from Hermes sets the stage for our drive toward Kumsong in October 1951.

"On October 9, General Van Fleet visited IX Corps headquarters and found Lt. Gen. William H. Hoge and his division commanders eager to carry out local advances along the corps front.  The objectives would be to improve the defensive positions of the divisions in the line and to maintain pressure upon the enemy.  Since both of these coincided with Eighth Army directives, Van Fleet gave his approval.

The U.S. 24th Division, and the ROK 2nd and 6th Divisions were selected to make the advance to a line about four miles south of Kumsong.  The American division was flanked on either side by the South Korean divisions and was expected to provide tank support for the ROK 2nd.

On October 13, units of the third divisions moved out and registered gains of almost two miles the first day.  During the night the Chinese mounted several counter attacks, which were successfully beaten off.  Despite stubborn resistance and intense concentrations of artillery fire, the IX Corps troops pushed ahead slowly during the next few days and reached the objective line by October 17.  The favorable outcome led Hoge to direct another advance two miles closer to Kumsong.  Here the attackers would establish a strong outpost line and patrol aggressively to maintain contact with the enemy.

The pattern set up during the initial phase of the IX Corps advance repeated itself during the second phase.  Hoge reported that the enemy reaction seemed to be one of delay rather than a serious effort to hold the line.  Chinese attacks varied from platoon to battalion size and most frequently were launched during the night or just before dawn.  Heavy artillery and mortar fire accompanied the enemy drives and hand grenades were used plentifully."

Continuing from Hermes, the following quote appears to have been one of the significant motivating factors in General Van Fleet's launching attacks such as Nomad.  Hermes states:

"The Eighth Army shift from the passive defense was fostered by both external and internal developments.  Since the enemy had used the respite on the battlefield to build up his stocks and to bring his combat units up to strength, Van Fleet wanted to probe the Communist defenses, determining the disposition of the enemy troops, and prevent them from employing their mounting offensive capabilities by keeping them off balance.

In addition, Van Fleet was aware that the combat efficiency of the Eighth Army had slipped during the latter part of July.  Patrols were conducted indifferently and failed to bring in prisoners.  Gathering intelligence became an increasingly difficult task.  Even a stepped-up training program was not enough to restore the ability and will of the Eighth Army to fight.  Inactivity and the hope that the armistice talks would prove successful were a tough combination to defeat.

As Van Fleet pointed out later:

"A sitdown army is subject to collapse at the first sign of an enemy effort.... As Commander of the Eighth Army, I couldn't allow my forces to become soft and dormant.' (emphasis added)

In the course of disturbing the enemy's dispositions and of sharpening the fighting edge of the Eighth Army troops, Van Fleet also hoped to improve his own defense positions along the front.  There were several areas where the seizure of dominant terrain would remove sags in the line or threats to the UNC lines of communication." [Hermes, Walter G., United States Army in the Korean War, Truce Tent and Fighting Front]

From the above writings and the Associated Press articles contained in the file Nomad Associated Press October 13-14.pdf [COMING SOON ON THE KWE], it would appear that Operation Nomad was a fairly easy time--a piece of cake!  However, for me and my company, E Company, and our regiment, the 19th Infantry Regiment, it was anything but that!

From my analysis of casualty records, the 19th Infantry Regiment suffered its greatest monthly casualties anytime during the Korean War--912 total casualties and 152 who paid the supreme price--to Operation Nomad.  Only July 1950 when the 19th suffered 888 total casualties came anywhere near October 1951.  And the accompanying article, Nomad 24th Forward [COMING SOON ON THE KWE] has words that support this view of Nomad.

So as you read the Associated Press articles, please keep in mind that while some components of the 24th apparently were able to move relatively freely toward Kumsong, some others were not.

I transcribed the AP News articles, which were provided to me by Merry Helm as graphics files copied from copies of microfilm images.  The transcription process was not perfect because of the low quality of the images; some Korean city and town names were especially difficult and I have not taken the time to clarify these.

We are especially interested in contacting anyone with the 24th Division or its supporting units who would like to cooperate in our effort to better document and describe Operation Nomad.

Thomas J. Thiel
Co. E, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division
Korea, 1951-52

Merry Helm

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Associated Press Articles

[KWE Note: The following articles were submitted to the Korean War Educator by researcher Merry Helm, who has a keen interest in Operation Nomad.  Tom Thiel, E Company, 19th Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, transcribed the news stories.]

Violent Fight Rages in Central Area as Three U.N. Divisions Open At-tack
Reds Recapture Critical Point At Heartbreak

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C.,
Saturday October 13, 1951

U. S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Saturday Oct. 13, 1951, - (AP) - Three Allied Divisions jumped off today in an attack on the Central Front and violent fighting erupted across most of the Korean battle line.
As the Allies surged forward in the center, the Communists struck back in the East.

An Eighth Army communiqué announced that a Communist platoon had recaptured a dominant peak on Heartbreak Ridge; scene of more than a month of bloody conflict.

An Eighth Army briefing officer said only that the entire strategic hill mass could not be considered “secure,” and that savage fighting raged all night on a lower slope of the ridge.

On the Western front, possibly 1,000 Chinese Reds, in a three-pronged attack, overran -- with many U.S. casualties -- a weakened Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment northwest of Yonchon. Yonchon is about 35 miles north of Seoul.

The attack in the Center was along a front at least 14-miles wide the officer said.

This attack was described as a “limited objective attack” in an area generally south of the enemy city of Kumsong.

In this same general area, South Korean troops northwest of Hwachon struck Chinese positions and in a series of raging attacks drove the Reds off five hills almost as fast as they could run.

The situation on Heartbreak Ridge in the East was not clear. Before the briefing a communiqué had reported an Allied setback.

“In the area north of Yangau (?) United Nations forces occupied but did not secure a dominant hill on Heartbreak Ridge,” headquarters reported, “and were forced to withdraw after a counter-attack by a reinforced Communist platoon.”

The month-long fight for the ridge controlling a nearby Red assembly area last night had appeared to be in the mop-up stage.

But the Reds still clawed for a finger hold on the vital saddle-type terrain, fighting battle-weary American and French troops.

Dirty, unshaven soldiers, trudging down from the slopes, voiced bitter admiration for the tenacity of the North Koreans who fell in hand-to-hand combat.

The Red counterattack apparently rolled up the northern slope of the peak, for some of the troops had been reported holding out there Friday.

At nightfall about 20 of the diehard Communists still tenaciously defended the northern slope of the last peak which lies about 25 miles north of Parallel 38 and 30 miles inland from the Sea of Japan. Allied tanks nosed up the winding valleys on each side of the ridge, shot up Communist positions, and returned to the main line at dusk. South Korean troops seized two hills to the west, but lost one in a Chinese counterattack.

While the fighting raged on, prospects of resuming truce talks were dashed by sudden Red accusations that U. S. planes Friday afternoon strafed the Kaesong and Panmunjom neutrality areas. The talks have been suspended since Aug. 23.

American and Communist swept-wing jet fighters tangled over northwest Korea Friday in two battles involving a total of 175 planes. One Red jet was shot down and six damaged at a cost of one damaged Allied jet, Far East Air Force reported.

In one fight over MIG alley, 31 U. S. Sabres fought 80 Red MIG 15’s. All the damage to both sides occurred in this action, ranging from 34,000 down to 6,000 feet. Lt Joseph R. Ellis, Seafort, Del., was credited with shooting down one MIG in flames. Six MIGs and a Sabre were damaged.

In the other battle over Kund, 33 U.S. Thunderjets fought 20 MIGs for 10 minutes without damage to either side, FEAF said.

The Air Force said it brought the War’s total score to 83 Red Jets destroyed, 20 probably destroyed, and 201 damaged.

Allied Forces Push Deep Into Red Korea

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Sunday, October 14, 1951.

U.S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, Korea, Sunday, Oct. 14 --- (AP) --- Allied Forces rammed nearly two miles deeper into Red Korea Saturday in the fiercest fighting since last spring. Most of the action was reported on a 22-mile stretch of the central front – a section of rolling hills checkered with rice Paddies – which once was the Communist “”Iron Triangle” buildup area.

The U. S. 24th Division and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Second and Sixth Divisions punched out the longest gains on the approaches to Kumsong, 30 air miles north of Parallel 38.

Seventeen hills in the area were selected, the biggest some 2,000 feet high.

On the eastern front, American and attached French troops of the U. S. 2nd Division still were rubbing out Red bunkers on the northern slope of Heartbreak Ridge – an operation described as among the bitterest mopping-up of the war.

On the western front, U. S. 1st Cavalry troops moved unopposed onto a ridgeline northwest of Yon-chon, a ruined village 8 miles north of Parallel 38. The easy advance followed a costly setback. The first battalion of the division’s 7th Regiment was badly cut up by a counter-attacking Chinese Friday. Survivors were rescued by the 8th Cavalry Regiment.

The Allied stabs on the central front dominated the war scene Saturday, however. Front-line officers expressed belief that the assaults so far had hit only outlying defenses manned by second-rate Chinese troops.

Most of the resistance came from Red artillery behind the bunkered hills. One officer called it was [sic] the worst shelling since the war broke out June 25, 1950, with the Korean Red invasion of the republic.

The 24th Division – the first American outfit to resist the invasion – moved ahead despite the barrage.

AP Photographer Bob Schulz reported the Reds seemed to be poorly trained and of low morale. He reported that all wore the traditional quilted Chinese winter jackets.

That appeared to indicate that the Reds were fitting their troops for a continuing struggle in the event that nothing comes of the armistice negotiations. Liaison officers had another meeting scheduled at Panmunjom to try to arrange a resumption of the truce talks.

Reds’ Central Korea Stand May Collapse:
UN Troops Smash Ahead on 22-Mile Battlefront

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Monday October 15, 1951.

U S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Monday, Oct. 15, 1951 – (AP) – Allied infantry smashed ahead another mile and a half early today against what appeared to be possible Chinese Red collapse in Central Korea.

It was the third straight day that three Allied divisions attacked along a 22-mile front below Kumsong, a Communist supply and staging depot some 35 miles north of Parallel 38.

Kumsong is well protected by mountains.

AP photographer Bob Schulz reported from the front that American and South Korean foot soldiers made gains of 3,000 yards in the first four hours of their attack Monday.

Schulz said that the gains of almost a mile and a half were made “against an astonishing lack of Chinese resistance.”

In the assaulting forces were troops of the U. S. 24th Division, and the South Korean Second and Sixth Divisions.

The lack of intense infantry fighting in this sector contrasted sharply with the recent raging battles on the Western and Eastern fronts. There, Chinese and Korean Reds contested every yard.

AP photographer Robert H. Schulz reported from the Central front that Sunday’s gains on the approaches to Kumsong brought to nearly three miles the ground taken in the three-day push. Kumsong is a Red supply and staging depot area well protected by mountains some 30 miles north of Parallel 38.

The Allied Force – the U. S. 24th Division and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Second and Sixth Divisions – has seized nineteen hills in the advance, two of the most important Sunday. One is 2,000 feet high.

Schulz reported the most noteworthy aspect of the advance was the “only moderate” resistance from what are apparently unusually poor quality Chinese troops.

Whether these teen-age and middle-age scrapings from the Chinese military barrel are the main defense of the Kumsong sector or whether they are only a forward screening forte remains to be seen.

It was possible, however, that they are only advance troops.

Action on both the Eastern and Western Front was at a slower tempo Sunday.

In the “Heartbreak Ridge” area, South Korean troops made only a partial advance against one hill-top position in the face of intense Red fire. They seized another height northwest of Yancgu (?) after hand-to-hand combat.

AP correspondent Stan Carter said Dutch troops also secured a hill against light to moderate opposition. South Koreans backed by American tanks, captured another height just east of Heartbreak Ridge.

In the West, AP correspondent George McArthur reported artillery and patrol action. Eighteen Communist tanks were seen in the area north of Yonchon. They did not approach Allied positions.

Other Headlines on October 15, 1951...

Allied Plane Strafed Neutral Zone, Gen. Ridgway Says UN, Communist Officers Hold 3-Hour Meeting
Reds Offer Little Opposition in Hills/Three Allied Divisions Take Two New Positions

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Tuesday October 16, 1951.

U. S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Tuesday Oct. 16, 1951. – (AP) – Three Allied divisions today captured two more hills in their central front offensive and were within artillery range of Kumsong, the Reds’ central front assembly area some 30 miles north of Parallel 38.

The fourth day of the attack on a 20-mile front brought the United Nations line forward five and one-half miles from its jumping off point on the morning of Oct. 13.

AP photographer Bob Schulz reported from the front that Chinese resistance stiffened yesterday but two Red probing attacks were repulsed during the night.

Chinese artillery and mortars, however, poured out about 8,000 rounds of fire daily, he said.

American and South Korean infantrymen were driving ahead in hilly country but there still was no sign of the “traditional Communist die-hard stands,” Schulz said.

Thirty-one hill positions have fallen to the advancing United Nations forces in four days.

In the first three days of the offensive the Allied fighters won nearly 100 square miles of Communist Korean territory.

AP Correspondent George McArthur reported from the western front that American infantrymen at dawn today renewed their assault against strong Red positions along a three-mile ridgeline three miles northwest of Yonchon.

Fighting was fierce and at some points opposing forces were within hand grenade range, he said.

On Monday the U. S. Second Division’s 38th Regiment stormed a towering 4,000 feet high peak on the eastern front. It is the highest mountain between Heartbreak Ridge and the Pukan river. The American success came just as the North Koran Army communiqué boasted that the 38th Regiment had been annihilated.

Reds are Caught in Giant Trap; Get Air Licking
Communists Suffer Worst Air Defeat

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Wednesday October 17, 1951.

U. S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Wednesday Oct. 17, 1951, - (AP) – American troops today caught Chinese forces in a giant trap on the blazing Central Korean front where three Allied divisions have smashed within four miles of Kumsong.

“We put the cork in the bottle,” an Allied officer said.

The Americans snapped shut their trap less than 24 hours after U. S. Airmen handed the Communist Air Force its worst jet licking of the war.

The Fifth Air Force said U. S. fliers shot down nine Russian-type MIGs and damaged five others in two swirling dogfights over Northwest Korea. It reported only one Sabre Jet damaged in the flashing battles between 70 US and more than 150 Red jets.

Allied officers estimated that nearly 800 Reds were caught in the trap south of Kumsong.

The bulk of them were dug in on fortress mountain, the highest point in the area. But their escape was cut off by Allied machine-gunners and artillery, AP Correspondent Sam Summerlin said in a dispatch from the front quoting the U. S. 24th Division operations officers.

U. N. troops, who yesterday seized two peaks east and two more peaks west of fortress, snapped shut their cordon of steel Wednesday morning. They fought completely around to the north and joined forces.

“It’s easier to go around them than to make a frontal assault,” explained Lt. Col. Albert L. Thorn-ton, the operations officer.

American and Columbian troops of the 24th Division were attacking the fortress peak.

“We’re going in and dig them out,” Thornton said.

Thornton said the new Allied gain “will deny to the enemy use of Kumsong and their supply base.” Allied guns were in position to rain fire down on the big Central Korean city.

The Allied thrust yesterday slugged into the main Chinese defense line south of Kumsong. The city is 30 miles north of Parallel 38. Heavy fighting also raged Tuesday on the Eastern and Western fronts.

AP Photographer Bob Schulz on the Central front reported nine more hills were seized by the U. S. 24th Division and the South Korean Second and Sixth Divisions in heavy fighting along the 22-mile front.

A North Korean Army communiqué, broadcast by Pyongyang radio, conceded that “the enemy, despite heavy casualties; is pushing northward,” on the Eastern front. This apparently referred to the drive by attacking South Korean and American units on hill masses between the Punkan River and captured Heartbreak Ridge.

The South Korean Eighth Division stormed one hill and advanced 1,000 yards, the Eighth Army reported.

In the West, the U.S. First Cavalry Division threw itself once more against three miles of Chinese-held ridge positions northwest of Yonchon, some 35 miles north of Seoul.

The Eighth Cavalry Regiment ground out some yardage along the Red flank after rooting out Chinese with grenades and bayonets.

But the Reds still held their main positions at nightfall.

The big air battle over “MIG Alley” in Northwestern Korea was fought under a perfect sky in the chilly sub-stratosphere, 30,000 feet up.

In a warm-up encounter, a roving force of 17 U. S. Sabres spotted 30 MIGs that declined battle. Another 17 more Sabres, guarding three jet photo planes, clashed with 20 more MIGs – shooting down one in a brief dogfight.

The fireworks came in the afternoon.

It was short even as jet fights go – only 15 minutes. But it was enough to send eight more Communist fighters crashing to the ground or exploding and burning in the air. Five more MIGs were hit and damaged.

Allies Near Kumsong as Reds Fall Back

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Thursday, October 18, 1951.

U. S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Thursday, Oct. 18, 1951, - (AP) – Retreating Reds were pushed to within rifle-range of the big Communist supply center of Kumsong on the Central Front by American and South Korean troops Wednesday.

In Western Korea, however, the U. S. First Cavalry Division was fought almost to a standstill when it attacked behind a smoke screen.

The U. S. Eighth Army Command Wednesday night reported Chinese troops were “slowly withdrawing” south and southeast of Kumsong and offering only light resistance. That Red rail and supply center is 30 miles north of the 38th Parallel.

In the West, the communiqué said cavalry troops used flame throwers and grenades in storming en-trenched Communist positions on high ground northeast of Yonchun (?). They met fierce and bitter resistance. Only “minor gains” scored in this Sector, some 35 miles north of Seoul.

In the East, two South Korean Divisions fought toward high ground in the Punchbowl Mountain area southwest of Yanggu(?). The opposition was termed light to moderate.

If Kumsong falls it would be the first town captured by the Allies since last June. Chorwon and Kumhwa fell then, admitting the Allies into the area known as the Iron Triangle. Kumsong, ringed by hills, is 12 miles northeast of Kumhwa.

Kumsong is the last major link in the Central Korean railroad that runs from Seoul northward and northeast to Changdo (?) a few miles northeast of Kumsong.

It is now admitted at Eighth Army Headquarters that the lack of resistance to the sweep of three Al-lied Divisions on the 22-mile Central Sector came as a great surprise. The U. S. 24th Division and the South Korean Second and Sixth Divisions have gained seven miles in the last five days.

Every preparation had been made for the severest kind of action.

The three Allied divisions Wednesday smashed forward from 1,500 to 2,000 yards against retreating Red formations.

AP Correspondent Sam Summerlin reported than the 24th Division’s sweep had trapped up to 700 or 800 Chinese soldiers around a “hill fortress.” Some of these may have escaped in the darkness, but Allied officers expected a band of 400 to 500 Reds when the net is finally pulled tight.

It was another story in the West where the First Cavalry has been battling since Oct. 3.

AP Correspondent George McArthur said that the cavalry troopers were brought to a standstill in a battle of artillery, flamethrowers and smokescreens.

The troopers jumped off in two separate attacks. One three-hour attack northwest of Yonchon was thrown completely back on its heels. The other succeeded in taking only one of several hills attacked.

The Reds poured in 1,800 rounds of artillery and mortar fire on the attacking troops.

UN Troops Push Nearer Kumsong

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Friday, October 19, 1951.

U. S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Friday, Oct. 18 [sic – should be 19 I think], 1951, - (AP) – Allied troops and tanks, attacking in a morning mist, today pushed to two and one-half miles of battered Communist Central Korean base of Kumsong.

The Reds were making a fight for the city.

Fresh Chinese forces dug in on hills just south of the city fought desperately to stem the grinding Allied drive.

The United Nations infantrymen jumped off on their attack at dawn. Supported by tanks, they fought forward all along a battle line extending from a point four miles southwest of Kumsong to a point four miles southeast of the Big Red base.

Infantrymen tossing grenades made their closest approach to Kumsong from the south. There they assaulted a ridgeline two and one-half miles from the city.

Southwest of Kumsong, Allied troops wrested a hill from the Reds. To the East, other Allied troops attacked the highest hill in the area.

A briefing officer said the Allied troops were fighting fresh Chinese replacements. The officer said that the Reds, many of them untested in battle until now, apparently were brought into fight to replace troops pulled back to rest.

This is the sixth day of the attack on the Central Front.

On the Western Front, the last Chinese positions under attack fell almost without a shot to U. S. First Cavalry Division troops after 15 days of grinding battle.

These twin successes rounded out General James A. Van Fleet’s Eighth Army offensive in the West and cast a rosy glow over the seven-day-old attack in the Center.

Allied officers considered Kumsong neutralized as a Communist base.

AP Correspondent Sam Summerlin flew over Kumsong 30 miles north of the Parallel 38th in a light liaison plane. He described it as a “ghost city” with no movement in its streets or around the thatch-roofed houses.

He said the “once bustling road junction … appeared almost deserted.”

Below the town a curtain of smoke from bursting artillery “rose like a sweeping forest fire.” Allied troops inched forward against the Reds on a smoking ridgeline.

Earlier Allied air observers sighted several small groups of civilians inside Kumsong. Summerlin quoted the air spotters as saying that most of the Chinese apparently had pulled out, and that civilians had moved into the hills and caves north of the city.

The Eighth Army communiqué Wednesday night said Allied troops were less than three miles south of Kumsong. Two key points were occupied in a 1,200 yard advance.

Southeast of Kumsong, the Reds in a delaying action battled South Koreans who were reported “heavily engaged.”

In the West, Allied infantry drove against Chinese hill bunkers Thursday, expecting the usual torrent of fire and steel in return. Instead there was hardly a shot. Red resistance had suddenly melted.

In a few moments the foot soldiers were scrambling up the slopes in the early morning sun. They raced to grab heights while they could.

Before noon the whole Chinese defense position had collapsed west of Yonchon, 35 miles north of Seoul. Everywhere the Allies stood on heights they had first attacked Oct. 3 on the opening day of the drive.

The Communists still hold firmly only the road and rail center at Pyonggang, 35 miles north of 38 in this central Korean sector. Pyonggang is the apex of the old Iron Triangle assembly area.

The autumn drives were won at the cost of some painful casualties to the Allies.

Red Defenders of Kumsong Driven Off Hill by Allies

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Saturday, October 20, 1951.

SEOUL, KOREA, Saturday, Oct. 20, 1951, - (AP) – Allied forces today threw defenders of Kumsong off a hill on the Central Korean Front. The Communists had taken it during the night in a counterattack supported by a mortar barrage.

Infantrymen were within two miles of the former Red bastion some 3o miles north of Parallel 38. The Red hub is under heavy Allied artillery fire.

Chinese attacked desperately twice last night, a pooled dispatch from the Central Front said. One gained ground but the Chinese were unable to hold it. Further east the battalion size Communist counterattack was repulsed.

United Nations infantrymen moved ahead another 300 yards in the early morning hours.

In the West, where Red resistance had collapsed temporarily northwest of Yonchon Thursday, Chinese infantrymen fought off an Allied attack with rifle fire and hand grenades.

A late dispatch from the Western front said the Allied attack for two hills was stalled northwest of Yonchon. A front line briefing officer said there was no overnight action and the two hills were still in Communist hands.

Fifth Air Force fighters and bombers raked over 1,000 Communist supply vehicles during the night in clear weather.

Elsewhere along the front, small arms and mortar fire engagements split the night, but generally both sides clung to the same positions they have held the last few days.

There were no more late reports Friday night from the Eastern Costal sector, where a Red battalion was hurled back during the day from its position 15 miles north of 38th Parallel.

While the fighting raged, Allied and Communist “liaison” officers continued efforts to resume cease-fire negotiations at Panmunjom. Agreement Friday on the size of security zones around Communist truce headquarters at Kaesong and the Allied camp at Munsan left only two minor points to be settled in the preliminaries to the actual cease-fire negotiations.

On the Kumsong front, Associated Press Correspondent Sam Summerlin quoted an Allied artillery officer as saying 1,000 rounds of ammunition fell in the Red-held road hub.

Communist mortar and machine gun fire failed to slow the Allied attack, which has been inching forward in this sector for seven days.

There was “surprisingly light resistance” southwest of Kumsong where Allies seized two hills, a briefing officer said.

On the southeast sector of the Allied front below Kumsong, tanks, planes and infantry failed to dislodge Chinese troops holding a high ridge in the valley leading toward the Communist city.

Allied-Red Fight Rages at Kumsong

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Sunday, October 21, 1951.

SEOUL, KOREA, Sunday, Oct. 21, 1951, - (AP) – Touch-and-go fighting raged today on the Southern approaches of flaming Kumsong former Communist stronghold on the Central Korean Front, which was shot-up by Allied tanks Saturday.

United Nations forces punched to within one mile and a half of the battered city. Infantrymen slogged out in the chill mountain mist this morning to battle Chinese dug in on two hills below Kumsong.

Fires burned in the city. They were set by artillery pounding and the bold armored strike in Kumsong.

An Eighth Army briefing officer described the situation south of Kumsong as “fluid” with the hill fighting raging at so many points it was hard to determine whether the Reds were in front of the lines or behind them.

AP Correspondent Sam Summerlin reported that United Nations foot soldiers met fierce resistance from the deeply-entrenched Communist defenders southeast of the smoking city. One of the peaks is the highest in the sector.

Earlier reports said the back of the Red’s Kumsong defense was not broken as the Communists fought from three peaks. Presumably it was two of those three that were under attack.

Southwest of Kumsong, Allied Units mopped up in hilly terrain a scant two miles from Kumsong, situated 30 miles from Parallel 38.

A front line officer said that thick fog prevented Allied tanks from observing full results of their Saturday raid into the rubbled town. The tankers reported several fires were started.

The raiding tanks moved unopposed to the outskirts of the road junction town. About 20 minutes later a front line officer reported “everything broke loose.”

Although the Chinese threw heavy-mortars, artillery, and anti-tank fire at the raiding armor, the tanks returned to their own lines unscathed Saturday.

Other Headlines on Oct. 21, 1951

Nearing Agreement (Armistice Talks)
Reds Near Kumsong Offer No Opposition

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Monday, October 22, 1951.

U. S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Monday, Oct. 22, 1951, - (AP) – Chinese Red resistance faded suddenly today on the fog-shrouded hills southeast of Kumsong. Allied forces to the northeast were only a mile from the key road hub.

United Nations infantry pushed unopposed through a mass of rolling [?] hills five miles southeast of Kumsong. There were indications the Chinese had abruptly withdrawn from those central front positions.

No contact with the Communists was reported during the night south of Kumsong itself. Allied forces seized a commanding hillcrest a mile from the former Red stronghold and took most of another Sunday.

Elsewhere along the front, action was limited to patrol clashes.

AP Correspondent Sam Summerlin said ground forces reported fighting with three Communist tanks northeast of Kumsong – indicating an Allied encircling movement – but this was not officially verified.

The U. S. Eighth Army communiqué Sunday night reported the battle for Kumsong, 30 miles north of Parallel 38, was the only major action along the entire Korean front. Elsewhere fighting dropped off to minor patrol clashes.

In the air war, nine B-29 Superforts assigned a “very special” target in North Korea had to turn back when fighter cover failed to arrive. Instead, the bombers dropped their 65-tons of 100-pound bombs on rail facilities at the frequently-raided East coast port of Hamhung.

Other Headline on this Date, October 22, 1951.

Little Change Seen at Polls on November 6
Local Issues Dominate City, State Elections

Allies Win Ground, Air Fights; Rumble Through Kumsong

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Tuesday October 23, 1951.

U. S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Tuesday Oct. 23, 1951. – (AP) – More than 100 American and Communist jet fighters today clashed over MIG Alley in Northwest Korea.

The Fifth Air Force, in a sketchy first report, said two MIG15 jets were shot down and several were damaged. It gave no report on American casualties, if any.

On the ground, twenty-six U. S. Patton tanks rumbled through the smoking ruins of the big central Korean city of Kumsong for four hours Monday. Infantrymen moved to within 600 yards of the former Red base without drawing Communist forces into action.

AP Correspondent Sam Summerlin reported the city’s thatched huts and other buildings were burning fiercely as the tankers pounded them with fire. Kumsong appeared to be deserted.

A second task force clanked westward past Kumsong and open fire on Chinese dug into the wooded hills.

“That’s a good sight for these eyes,” said one GI watching the tankers blast Kumsong. “Maybe this push will make the Communists more anxious for peace,” another remarked.

Chinese resistance melted on the foggy mountain ridges southeast of Kumsong during the day.

The U. S. Eighth Army communiqué Monday night reported United Nations units were “advancing toward their objectives against very little opposition.”

It said a patrol was less than one-third of a mile from the now neutralized Red road and rail junction, 30 miles north of Parallel 38.

There was no significant fighting along the eastern or western fronts, and fighting was light along the central front, the communiqué said.

The war, which has blazed with savage intensity on all three fronts the last few weeks, seemed destined to simmer down to a low boil once the cease-fire negotiations begin again. Conditions appeared to be all set for a resumption of the talks at Panmunjom today or tomorrow.

Some observers felt that the 500,000 Chinese and North Korean troops would stay in their foxholes with one ear cocked for word from Panmunjom. They felt that Allied military might – about even in manpower – won’t be much more active as long as the talks progress.

In the Air War Monday, six separate jet engagements blazed across Northwest Korea. American jet jockeys claimed two Russian MIG fighters probably shot down and one damaged. Some 180 Red fighters were sighed during the day.

In Washington the Air Force estimated the Communists have well over 1,200 planes in Manchuria, half of them jets.

The Fifth Air Force reported all Allied jets returned undamaged from the air battles. In other actions, however, one Shooting Star jet and a Mustang fighter were shot down by ground fire, headquarters announced.

Nine Okinawa-based B-29‘s succeeded in hitting for the first time top-priority Communist air fields at Taechon(?) , 60 miles north of Pyongyang. More than 96 tons of bombs were dropped on the newly completed concrete runway and revetments. Pilots claimed it was knocked out.

The Taechon air strip was made the “very special” target from which nine other Supreforts turned back Sunday when fighter cover did now arrive.

Sunday’s precaution appeared well justified.

In Monday’s raid the Superforts were jumped by Red MIGs and made their bombing run through moderate to intense anti-aircraft fire, even though they had jet fighter cover.

The Far East Air Force made no mention of damage to any of the planes involved in the Taechon raid, either Allied or Red.

The new Communist airfield had been watched closely until it was ready for use.

Reds Planes Offer Stiffest Opposition of Korean Fight
Allied Losses May be Heavier Than Indicated

The Florence Morning News, Florence, S.C., Wednesday October 24, 1951.

U. S. EIGHTH ARMY HEADQUARTERS, KOREA, Wednesday Oct. 24, 1951, - (AP) – Allied planes clashed with 150 Communist jets in a blazing battle Tuesday as B-29 Superforts pressed home the second attack in two days against new Communist air lanes in Northwest Korea.

Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway’s headquarters in Tokyo announced today that Allied pilots had shot down eight Red jets, probably destroyed two, and damaged 19.

The Fifth Air Force said that one Superfort and one Thunderjet fighter were shot down and “several” were damaged severely.

(In Washington, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, Air Chief of Staff, said Russian-speaking pilots were flying some of the MIGs. He did not elaborate.)

In the ground war, one Allied tank column pounded into deserted Kumsong for the third time and shot up that central front base. Two other tank columns speared two miles northeast of the burning city on killer missions.

Three small Red counterattacks were repulsed on the Eastern front. Allied infantrymen in the West raided strong Chinese entrenchments west of Yonchon.

The air fighting, heaviest in the Korean War, overshadowed the ground action. The Red Air Force put up its most determined challenge yet to Allied air supremacy. The Communist MIGs were defending a new 6,500-foot runway at Narnsi(?) near the Yalu River frontier.

Damage was comparatively heavy to both sides in the 30-minute clash. More than 260 planes were involved in the swirling clash.

The Far East Air Force belatedly announced another B-29 was shot down by ground fire Monday during and attack on a second new Communist base at Taechon. It said the B-29 crew of 12 had been rescued.

Other headlines on this day, October 24, 1951

UN, Communists Plan to Resume Korean Armistice Talks Tonight
Reds Accept Allied Terms After Delay

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Nomad 24th Forward

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Detailed Casualty Information

Introduction & Explanation Key

Detailed casualty information for operation Nomad was compiled in six different sorting arrangements or reports to facilitate user access.

The reports are all in the same data format in that the columns (vertical) all contain the same data in the same order. But for each of the six different arrangements the rows (horizontal) are ordered differently depending upon how the information was arranged.  For the most part the information contained in each column is fairly obvious, but more detail for the company, documentation, and GO# columns is provided in the Interpretation Key near the end of this document.

The six arrangements, along with a brief description of how that information is arranged and how best to use that specific report or arrangement, are as follows:

010 Last Name Order

This is the primary casualty list and is arranged by last and then first name (column 1) order. So the first column of this report has names in alphabetic order, beginning with Abbott and ending with Zuniga. It is primarily useful for looking for a specific member of the 24th Infantry Division who was a casualty of Operation Nomad if you know that person’s name.  Once you have located that individual then you can scan across the table to determine the type of casualty, when it occurred and other related information.

020 Unit - Last Name Order

Suppose, however, you want to look at all the casualties by the unit they were in during Nomad. Notice that the unit is at the rightmost column of the report and begins with the 13th Field Artillery, which suffered three casualties in Nomad according to this data. The next unit in this arrangement is the 19th Infantry Regiment (my unit, by the way), and that the first casualty listed is Mr. Able, who was in my section at the time of his injury. The 19th didn’t fare so well as 23 pages later we find Mr. Zuniga again as the last member of the 19th on this list. All the names within a unit are then arranged in alphabetic order on name.  Immediately after Mr. Zuniga, the unit designation switches to the 21st Infantry Regiment and the first name occurring there is Mr. Aguilera. The last casualty with the 21st is Mr. Zonca, etc.

030 Company - Unit - Last Name Order

For a relatively limited number of casualty records Ms. Helm added the specific company to which the person was assigned during Operation Nomad. This data arrangement then orders the casualty records first in company order (Able, Baker, Charlie, etc.), and next in u7nit order and finally within these two they are arranged alphabetically by last and first name.  This report is only nine pages long in contrast to the 52 pages in the above re-ports. The reason for this is that only a limited amount of such information was available.  How may this be used? To see if per chance any of your comrades in your Company may appear in this list.

040 Casualties - Last Name Order

This report is first arranged by the information in the casualty column (the 10th column) and within that on last, first name. A numerical sequence number was added at the left of the name column to facilitate counting casualties.

This arrangement would be of most use to just evaluate total casualties. For a detailed definition of the entry in this column please see the Interpretation Key near the end of this document.

050 Date - Last Name Order

This report is primarily ordered by the information in the date column (column 11) and then by last, first name order (column 1).  This arrangement is useful to evaluate the casualties on any given Operation No-mad date. A numerical sequence number has been added in the leftmost column to facilitate counting casualties by date.

060 Date - Casualty - Last Name Order

The last report is arranged similar to the above report in that it first arranged by the date of the casualty (date column, column 11). Then it was ordered by the type of casualty (column 10), and finally arranged by name. This report may be useful to determine casualties by date and type, but if you do wish to compile such information please see the next section first.

Nomad Casualty Summary Table

If you are interested in analyzing casualties by Date and Type, we have already performed some analyses of the data. It is presented in both tabular and graphical form in a one-page summary obtainable by clicking on the above link.

Acrobat Reader’s Search Power

Ms. Helm first compiled this information with a Microsoft Works Spread Sheet. She then sent it me and I converted it first to an Excel spread sheet where the formatting and arranging was done. Next it was converted to the Adobe Portable Document Format with Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0.8 so that it would be universally available to anyone with Adobe Reader on their computers. Adobe Reader 7 or higher is recommended and may be obtained at: One of the strengths of Acrobat Reader is its Search and Find capability. Suppose for example you want to find all the casualties of Operation Nomad from Los Angeles. We did not provide you with a report that will enable you to do that.

Here is how one might go about doing this. Open Report 010 above (010 Last Name Order) with Adobe Reader. Then click on the Search or Field Glasses icon. The Search PDF window will open on the right hand side of the screen. Enter “Los Angeles” in the “What word or phrase would you like to search for?” Hit enter. Almost immediately you will find there were 81 casualties of Operation Nomad from Los Angeles. You may view each one of the records the Search command located.

You may also use the Find option to sequentially find each occurrence of the words “Los Angeles.” You could do similarly for “Purple Heart” and find there are 58 such listings. Search and Find are powerful tools to locate a given record in this system and may be used on all of the reports.

T.J. Thiel
E Company, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division
Korea 1951-52

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Interpretation Key - Operation Nomad-Polar casualty list:

The table below reveals preliminary findings and will be updated as more research materials can be obtained from military archives.

Abbreviations: KIA – killed in action; MIA – missing in action; WIA – wounded in action; SIA – seriously injured in action; Capt – captured; RTD – returned to duty; RTMC – returned to military control. Other notations include those who died of their wounds after leaving the battlefield and for those whose injuries or disabilities made it necessary for them to be separated from the Army.

Purple Hearts: Current research indicates a significant undercount of WIA casualties during the Korean War. Documentation of these uncounted casualties can be found at division, regimental and unit levels, company morning reports, award citations, etc, and will be continually added to this list as it becomes available.

Please Note: Not every soldier received a Purple Heart for his wounds, so this list should not be construed as validation that the device was actually given out. Offered below is information about where to locate valid documentation of a soldier’s wounds – whether or not he was appropriately awarded the Purple Heart.

The column labeled “documentation” indicates information has been located for currently unlisted soldiers who were wounded in action. The GO# column indicates the number of the General Order containing the documentation, followed by the year in which that GO was written.

General Orders were issued at 8th Army level, 24th Division level (for which only the GO# is listed) and at Regimental/unit levels. Examples:

1. GO# 21, 1951, is General Order 21, issued 1951, by the 24th Infantry Division. (WIA documentation at this level is often found in the citation text for Silver Stars or Bronze Medal [with “V” device for Valor] recipients.)

2. GO# 8th – 42, 1952, is General Order 42, issued 1952, by the 8th Army. (WIA documentation at this level is occasionally found in the citation text for Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross recipients.)

3. GO# 19th – 9, 1952, is General Order 9, issued 1952, by the 19th Infantry Regiment. (As more research becomes possible, information for other 24th Division units will be added.)

4. MR 10-24, 1951, is the soldier’s company’s Morning Report for October 24, 1951.

5. Prsnl Rpt 39: Included below are three names missing from the National Archives’ casualty database, which were discovered in several pages of “Personnel Reports” for a specific Army hospital. The reports included rosters of wounded patients.

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Those who have memories of Operation Nomad are welcome to send them to Lynnita for posting on this page.  Photographs in connection with those memories are also welcome.


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The Ralph Frederick Story
written by Al Oppedal

As it says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It is a bitter irony that the finest expression of this verse is often revealed in the crucible of war, when a soldier sometimes has to choose between saving his own life or risking it to save a comrade in jeopardy.  That was true of a pair of young men, one from a farm in Iowa and the other from a small town in Ohio. They met and became friends as members of Fox Company, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, while serving during the Korean War. Their friendship was put to its harshest test during one of the worst battles of the Korean War, a battle that was launched with good intentions, but one that nearly became a tragedy. It was resolved by the individual courage of American soldiers.

James W. Gullett grew up in the town of Pedro, Ohio, and was working at a newspaper in Ironton, Ohio, when he was drafted into the Army in early 1951. For his basic training, he was sent to Ft. Riley, Kansas, the home of the 24th Infantry Division. At about the same time, Ralph Frederick, a farm boy from Ruthven, Iowa, received his draft notice. Frederick was older than most draftees at the time. Approaching his twenty-sixth birthday, Frederick had been deferred from service in World War II because an older brother was serving in the Navy and Ralph was needed on the farm. Ralph had lost his mother when he was only seven, but his father, Clarence, had done an excellent job of raising his family. Ralph was a star athlete in high school, particularly excelling in baseball, and had been a member of teams that had competed successfully against semipro clubs and all star teams from surrounding states.

Gullett and Frederick did not cross paths at Ft. Riley, but both arrived in Korea in April, 1951, as replacements for the depleted numbers of the 24th. United Nations forces were preparing to launch an offensive to push Chinese forces out of South Korea and bring the war to an end. The pair wound up as members of the same squad, and quickly became friends. Both had been ardent outdoorsmen, and shared tales about fishing and hunting. Their friendship was such that Gullett, who enjoyed chewing tobacco, could prevail on Frederick to stash additional supplies of the material in the bloused legs of his trousers. Frederick would later admit, “Before long, I was chewing the stuff, too.”

As is always true when green replacements join battle-hardened veteran units, the newcomers were not greeted warmly. They would have to prove themselves. They soon had their chance, and quickly became accepted by the veterans.  The 24th had seen some of the worst fighting of the war. The Division had been serving with occupation forces in Japan when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. The 24th was soft from occupation duty and it was deficient in personnel, training and necessary equipment. It was soon pinned in the Southeastern corner of the Korean peninsula. It seemed possible that the Division might be pushed into the sea. During the rapid advance of the North Korean forces, the commanding officer of the 24th, Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, was captured. Despite the dire situation, U.S. forces rallied. A solid defensive line, called “the Pusan Perimeter,” was established, and the line held.

The situation was dramatically remedied with, an amphibious invasion at Inchon, a town on the far northwestern coast of South Korea. The invasion was launched at dawn on September 15, 1950, by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Due to the erratic tides at Inchon, such an invasion was thought to be at best foolhardy, and at worst impossible, but it worked. U.S. forces to the southeast broke out of the Pusan Perimeter, and linked up with the troops moving inland from Inchon. North Korean forces were soon in headlong and confused retreat. The North Korean Army seemingly was through as an effective fighting force.

With the North Koreans pushed back behind “the 38th Parallel,” or the line that separated North and South Korea, the mission of the “police action” had apparently been accomplished.  “In war there is no substitute for victory,” was the view of Old Warrior MacArthur. He wanted to chase enemy forces into their North Korean enclave and continue to pound them until they surrendered unconditionally. MacArthur received authorization from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to invade North Korea “provided there was no danger of Chinese or Russian intervention.” Just what could be done if such intervention occurred after Allied forces were engaged in North Korea was not explained. MacArthur received the necessary Presidential approval on September 29, 1950.

There were some storm signals. The Chinese Communists warned that they “would not tolerate foreign aggression.” India opposed “any invasion of North Korea.” Syngman Rhee, president of South Korea, announced his intention to complete the liberation of all of Korea. He expected to serve as President of a united Korea, and this infuriated the Russians and Chinese.  MacArthur demanded the surrender of North Korean forces, but receiving no reply, U.N. forces moved into North Korea. By October 26, forward elements of U.N. forces had advanced to within a few miles of the border between North Korea and Manchuria. The 24th Division had won several engagements, driving within a few miles of Sinuiju, a town just near the western edge of the Korean peninsula and right on the Manchurian border. Within a few days, however, it was evident the situation had been radically changed. Enemy prisoners, who spoke freely to interrogators, stated that large forces of Communist Chinese had entered Korea. Although the identity of the prisoners was obvious, intelligence was reluctant to conclude that their presence indicated a full-scale Chinese invasion.

It was soon evident that there had, in fact, been a Chinese invasion, and in large numbers. U.N. forces were soon in a fighting retreat, made more difficult by the onset of extreme winter weather. The allied forces were pushed back into South Korea.  That was the approximate situation when Gullett and Frederick arrived as replacements in mid-April, 1951. MacArthur thought his military reputation had been sullied, and he was determined to push the Chinese forces out of Korea.

Korea is a rugged country, and the push north mostly involved moving up one ridge at a time. The U.N. forces, mostly U.S., would advance up a ridge, then dig in for the night. As they moved up each ridge, the soldiers would continuously fire their M-1 rifles from the hip, jamming the 8-round clips into their weapons as fast as they could. Most of the time, there was little contact with the enemy, although no one had any doubt that they were out
there somewhere. Gullett would recall a time when they were dug in and had no water to drink. He knew that venturing outside his foxhole was an invitation to be shot. He thought it was providential when it started raining, and he could catch the rain in his empty ration tins.

Through the summer and continuing in the fall, the U.N. line moved steadily northward. Frederick would remember only “three or four times” that he felt in real danger during this period. The reports of mass Chinese suicide attacks that were reported in the U.S. press seldom, if ever, happened, at least not in the experience of Gullett and Frederick. The preferred Chinese tactic was to infiltrate forces through the U.S. lines, then launch harassing attacks from the rear. One time, Gullett and Frederick were part of a force assigned to relieve a company that had been surrounded by the Chinese.

By the time October arrived, the U.N. forces had advanced to a point far north of the 38th Parallel. The generals apparently concluded that the time was ripe for a showdown battle with the Chinese. “We were never told anything,” Frederick would remember years later. “We had no idea where we were, and we sure weren’t clued in on the big picture. But you didn’t have to be a genius to figure something was going on. We were pushed harder each day, and were meeting more resistance and taking more casualties. A lot of times you really wonder how smart the people are that are giving the orders, but they don’t exactly ask your opinion, you know.”

What was evolving was something known as “Operation Nomad.” It was a big push, and Gullett and Frederick were right in the middle of it. It turned into a near disaster, and you will most likely search in vain for any reference to “Operation Nomad” in any published literature of the war.  On October 19, 1951, Fox Company was given the assignment of being in the center of a frontal attack up a ridge. The attack was to be launched in mid-afternoon. The Chinese had laid a trap for them, having dug a trench around the entire ridge. The trench was manned and armed.

Frederick had an omen that it wasn’t going to go well. Early in the morning, another member of Frederick’s and Gullett’s squad, a youngster from Sacramento County, California, named Alfonso Garcia, told Frederick, “We’re going to have to go up that ridge this afternoon. I want to see what is on the other side.”  Garcia, Gullett and Frederick had arrived in Korea at the same time, and Garcia and Frederick were often assigned to the same patrols, and traded duties as advance scout for the platoon.  “He was a nice kid and a good soldier,” Frederick would recall. “Always had a smile on his face, always was upbeat, and he loved to talk about horses. Evidently, his family had some horses, and he was really proud of that. You couldn’t talk him out of anything, though. He wanted to go up that hill.”  Garcia was crawling up the hill, but soon he was rolling back down. He was dead. The memory of his friend rolling down the hill would remain with Frederick for the rest of his life and bring tears to his eyes, but the attack up the ridge was going to proceed.

Gullett was a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) man. Handling a BAR in combat was not a task for which any logically-minded individual was likely to volunteer. In the grim humor of the battle-hardened GI, the life expectancy of a BAR man in combat was estimated at thirty seconds. Gullett would not only be manning a BAR during the attack, he would be in the lead squad.  A BAR fired the same ammunition as an M-1 rifle, a .30-06 cartridge, but the BAR man was quite conspicuous during an advance. The 8-shot clips for an M-1 were inserted at the top of the weapon, but the BAR carried magazines with 20-25 rounds. These magazines were attached under the rifle. The BAR man would carry several of these magazines into combat, and the weapon was heavier than an M-1, so the BAR man carried a heavy load. The BAR often had a tripod mount at its end, and it was a larger weapon, so the BAR man could be identified from quite a long distance and, when seen, attracted enemy fire like a magnet.  The attack got underway at about 4 in the afternoon, and Fox Company was immediately in trouble. They were quickly pinned down, and many men were hit.

Frederick found cover under a tree that reminded him of a Christmas tree. “Never again in the rest of my life will I ever cut down a Christmas tree,” he would say later. Gullett was to Frederick’s left, perhaps twenty or so yards away. Gullett had been hit, and had fallen into a large shell crater. He called for help.  Frederick called for the medic, but was told that the medic had been hit. At that time, Frederick perhaps was the only man in the squad who was as yet unscathed. He hesitated, but only for a moment. He was hidden from view behind the tree, and was safe, but he abandoned the security of the tree to help Gullett. He may have been hit as he worked his way to Gullett, but he didn’t feel any pain. Later, he was found to have several wounds in his face, shoulder and back from small fragments, apparently from rifle launched grenades. “It was about like No. 4 bird shot,” he would recall later.  He worked his way crab-wise to Gullett’s position. Gullett was very glad to see him, but Ralph was appalled at what he saw. Gullett had received a very severe leg wound and was bleeding profusely. It appeared that much of his calf muscle had been shot away. The shell crater was filled with gore.
Each man carried some field dressings with him. Frederick used all he had, and found Gullett’s. Somehow, he managed to stop the bleeding by applying a crude tourniquet.  “I’m not going to be able to carry you out of this hole,” Frederick told Gullett. “So, you’re going to have to crawl out of here as best you can, and I will come back for you and get you down the hill.”

Frederick heard Gullett’s yell that he had made it. He then picked up Gullett’s BAR and emptied a couple of magazines, sweeping fire over where he thought the Chinese positions were. As he fired the BAR, he backed up until he was at Gullett’s position. He abandoned the BAR and hoisted Gullett so he could use his good leg. “It was sort of like a three-legged race at a picnic,” Frederick said.  The trip down the hill was not uneventful. The pair was hit with grenade fragments, and was knocked flat at least once. Gullett received additional wounds in his shoulder and back, and Frederick also received additional wounds.  They arrived at the bottom of the hill, and Frederick was the one who received attention. He couldn’t figure out why, because it was obvious, at least to him, that Gullett was the one with the severe wounds. Later on, he discovered why. The grenade fragments had caused him to bleed profusely on his face, and he had about a two-week growth of whiskers, “so I must have been a sorry sight,” Frederick said. “They probably figured I had a severe head wound.”

Frederick was told that he had earned the Purple Heart and also a Silver Star, as he had rescued a wounded man while wounded himself, and doing it under fire. That was the last he would hear about a Silver Star, and he wouldn’t receive a Purple Heart until many years later. In the confusion of battle, there were more important things to think about. He was asked whether or not he would be able to walk to a position by a river that was about a quarter mile away. He said that he could. He and two other men made their way to the river.  Frederick recognized the two men as replacements. They had joined unit days earlier. Frederick heard gunfire, which he recognized as mortars, and also saw small arms fire making splashes in the river. He concluded that the position would soon be untenable, as the mortars were zeroing in. He figured he could outrun a mortar, but the rounds could be deadly if they remained where they were. He told the other men that they would have to abandon the position and seek shelter elsewhere. The two men refused to leave.

By this time, Frederick had crossed the river a couple of times, looking for the best escape route. As a result, most of the blood was washed from his trousers. He was now starting to feel some pain from his wounds. Frederick had no authority to tell the men what to do, and he again advised them to leave, but said the choice was up to them.
He then took a guess as to which direction would lead him to friendly forces, and took off.  “I ran as hard as I could for as far as I could,” he said. “I have no idea how far I ran, but eventually I came across an abandoned jeep. I hadn’t eaten anything since morning, and there were a couple cans of C rations on the front seat, so I helped myself.  “Eventually, I ran into some people who told me to keep moving in the same direction and I would eventually run into some tents. I finally found those tents. It was some sort of aid station, and I could see that many men from my unit were there being treated. I looked around to see if I could find Gullett. He was there, on a stretcher. Evidently he had been brought in by helicopter. He looked terrible, seemed to be bleeding from every pore, but he was glad to see me. “I asked him how he was doing, and he said he would probably be going stateside. He asked how I was, and I told him I was fine. Then, some guy hollered at me to get on a truck, and that was the last time I ever saw Gullett. I sure thought of him many times over the years, wondering whether or not he got out of Korea alive.”

Only 12 of the 50 or more men in the platoon were able to return to active duty, and Frederick was the only member of his 12-man squad to rejoin Fox Company. He spent about three weeks in the field hospital before being returned to his unit. While Frederick and Gullett were moved to hospitals in the rear, the battle known as Operation Nomad was drawing to a close. The day after the pair was wounded, the remnants of Fox Company joined George Company. The men went up the same path as Gullett and Frederick had gone the day before. Master Sergeant Woodrow “Woody” Keeble, a native American from Sisseton, S.D., led the first platoon of the merged companies.

The men were pinned down. They would later describe the large number of grenades passing overhead as “looking like a flock of blackbirds.” Keeble crawled forward and told the men, “You guys wait here. I’m going up by myself.”
Keeble had fought in WWII, and had been an outstanding baseball pitcher before that war, good enough to be offered a contract by the Chicago White Sox. He was about to put his arm strength to better use, and commenced an act of heroism worthy of Sgt. York.

There were three machine gun nests at the top of the ridge that were backed up by two trenches of riflemen. Keeble flanked one of the bunkers and destroyed it with a grenade. Somehow he worked his way around to wipe out the second bunker. Before he could attack the third bunker, he was hit with a concussion grenade. He took time to regain his bearings, then took out the third bunker with his rifle. He took out seven more riflemen in the trenches, and then the Chinese broke, running down the trench.

Members of Howe Company proceeded to mop up the rest, leaving the trench “brimful of dead Chinese.” Keeble had been wounded on October 15 and again on October 17. The medics didn’t want him going up the hill on the 20th, but he went anyway. His knee had been blown out. He accomplished what he did with wounds to his arms, legs, chest and face. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but a mix-up and lost paper work delayed it. Finally, a decision was made that the Medal of Honor “quota” had been filled, so the nation’s highest military honor would not be granted to the noble soldier. All the men who served with him will cherish his memory for as long as they live. Keeble died in 1982, but his widow is still alive, and those who witnessed his heroism have been fighting to get him the recognition he deserves.

As for Gullett, he spent most of his remaining service time in army hospitals. His war wound would plague him for the rest of his life. Both he and Frederick returned home and resumed their lives, trying their best to put their war experience behind them. Neither talked of their experiences, not even to their wives. Gullett had a particularly hard time, but he had a religious conversion and became an ordained minister at age 36. He served as pastor of the United Pentecostal Church in Grayson, Kentucky, for 29 years. He died in 2001. Frederick never received his Silver Star, and it was decades before either he or Gullett received their campaign ribbons and Purple Heart medals. It was almost as though it had been forgotten that they had ever served. “It is really hard to talk to anyone about it,” Frederick would say. “If you weren’t there, you couldn’t really understand what it was like, and when you talk to people about it, their eyes sort of glaze over, so you just learn to keep it to yourself.”

Frederick would experience more tragedy. His wife died at age 37, and he was left to raise their young daughter. His health started to decline during the summer of 2006, and he gave more thought to his experiences in Korea. He continued to wonder about his friend Gullett and what had happened to him. Frederick at last unloaded some of his experiences and his concern about his friend. His nephew, John Frederick, had started corresponding with Congressmen and Senators in an effort to get Frederick his award while he was still alive. A notice was posted on the computer website of the Korean War Project asking for any members of Fox Company, 119th Infantry Regiment who might have recollections of the unit’s action on October 19, 1951.

The notice attracted the attention of Merry Helm, a lady from Fargo, ND, who has made it a mission to gain more information about Operation Nomad and the men who participated in it. Through her efforts, Mrs. Ernestine Gullett, the widow of James W. Gullett, was located. Frederick had a chance to hear from her. On November 6, 2006, Ms. Helm did a telephone interview with Ralph. “I was so amazed and so glad to hear that Gullett had lived,” Frederick said in the interview. “It is wonderful that he had a chance to raise a family and live such a full life. I wish I could have seen him, though. He was a great guy.” Nine days later, on November 15, 2006, Ralph Frederick died, but those who talked him during the last days of his life knew a huge burden had been lifted from him. He was at peace.

A copy of the interview was sent to Ernestine Gullett. “I had to cry when I read the interview,” she said. “To think what those men went through. I hope Ralph knew that he saved the life of a wonderful man. I don’t understand why this all happened, but God works in mysterious ways.”

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About the Author - by Al Oppedal

I grew up on a farm in rural Ruthven, Iowa. We were neighbors to the Frederick family. In those times, a good neighbor was something to be cherished, and the Fredericks were good neighbors. I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Journalism. Out of college, I had a job with the Omaha World Herald, but was 1-A in the draft, and chose to take the exam for Navy OCS. I was commissioned, and served on a DER out of Pearl Harbor and when the DER was decommissioned, I served as assistant officer in charge of a remote facility in the western Pacific. After release from active duty, I served six years in the active reserve and six years in the inactive reserve. My career was in publishing, and upon retirement, my wife and I returned to our home community, where I completed work on a book about the history of the community, and specifically, the contribution of young men from rural communities made in winning the Inevitable Triumph, or victory in World War II. We also became reacquainted with former friends, including Ralph Frederick. Ralph had been one of the heroes of my childhood. I was fascinated with what Ralph and others had gone through in their service in Korea and was chagrined that their noble contribution has not been recognized. I hope to make at least a small contribution in alleviating that oversight.

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Nomad Photo Album

[Visitors to this page of the Korean War Educator are invited to send their Operation Nomad-related pictures (1951 through now) for posting in this photo album.  Send them to Lynnita Brown, 111 E. Houghton St., Tuscola, IL 61953 or e-mail them as an attachment.]

My squad after Nomad
(Photo courtesy
Thomas J. Thiel)








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