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U.S. Marine Corps

Accounts of the Korean War

The United States Marine Corps prepared to send troops to Korea immediately after the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th Parallel and a plea from the South Korean government was sent to the United Nations in July of 1950.  The KWE encourages visitors to return often to this page to learn more about the USMC's role during the Korean War.  New material is always welcome.  Send it to Lynnita Brown, 111 E. Houghton St., Tuscola, IL 61953; e-mail lynnita@thekwe.org.

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Additional Marine Corps Info:

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Commanding Generals & Officers
1st Marine Division, Korean War Era

1st Marine Division Commanding Generals – Korean War era

MajGen Graves B. Erskine – 7 July 1947-25 July 1950
MajGen Oliver P. Smith – 26 July 1950-23 February 1951
BGen Lewis B. Puller (Acting) – 24 February 1951-4 March 1951
MajGen Oliver P. Smith – 5 March 1951-26 April 1951
MajGen Gerald C. Thomas – 27 April 1951-10 January 1952
MajGen John T. Seldon – 11 January 1952-28 August 1952
MajGen Edwin A. Pollock – 29 August 1952-15 June 1953
MajGen Randolph Mcc. Pate – 16 June 1953-11 May 1954

Commanding Officers – 1st Marines – Korean War era

The 1st Marines was reactivated 4 August 1950 at Camp Pendleton, California and assigned to the 1st Marine Division. Deployed during September 1950 to Kobe, Japan. Participated in the Korean War, September 1950-July 1953, operating from Inchon-Seoul, Chosin Reservoir, East Central Front, Western Front. Participated in the defense of the Korean Militarized Zone, July 1953-April 1955. Relocated during April 1955 to Camp Pendleton, California.

Col. Lewis B. Puller – 5 August 1950-24 January 1951
Col. Francis M. McAlister – 25 January 1951-18 May 1951
Col. Wilburt S. Brown – 19 May 1951-17 July 1951
Col. Thomas A. Wornham – 18 July 1951-11 October 1951
Col. Sidney S. Wade – 12 October 1951-7 April 1952
Col. Walter N. Flournoy – 8 April 1952-24 July 1952
Col. Walter P. Layer – 25 July 1952-20 November 1952
Col. Hewitt D. Adams – 21 November 1952-30 April 1953
Col. Wallace N. Nelson – 1 May 1953-10 October 1953
Col. Ormond R. Simpson – 11 October 1953-15 February 1954
Col. William K. Jones – 16 February 1954-9 July 1954
Col. Wilmer E. Barnes – 10 July 1954-24 January 1955
Col. Nelson K. Brown – 25 January 1955-30 September 1955

Commanding Officers – 5th Marines – Korean War era

The 5th Marines were deployed during August 1950 to Pusan, Korea. Participated in the Korean War, operating from Pusan Perimeter, Inchon-Seoul, Chosin Reservoir, East Central Front, Western Front. Participated in the defense of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, July 1953-February 1955. Relocated during March 1955 to Camp Pendleton, California.

Col. Raymond L. Murray – 10 June 1950-14 March 1951
Col. Richard W. Hayward – 15 March 1951-5 August 1951
Col. Richard G. Weede – 6 August 1951-18 November 1951
Col. Frank P. Hager, Jr. – 19 November 1951-23 February 1952
Col. Thomas A. Culhane, Jr. – 24 February 1952-15 August 1952
Col. Eustace R. Smoak – 16 August 1952-9 December 1952
Col. Lewis W. Walt – 10 December 1952-13 April 1953
Col. Harvey C. Tschirgi – 14 April 1953-1 August 1953
Col. Rathvon McC. Thompkins – 2 August 1953-1 February 1954
Col. Elby D. Martin – 2 February 1954-18 July 1954
Col. Hamilton M. Hoyler – 19 July 1954-29 November 1954
Col. Robert H. Rudd – 30 November 1954-25 June 1955

Commanding Officers – 7th Marines – Korean War era

The 7th Marines were reactivated 17 August 1950 at Camp Pendleton, California and assigned to the 1st Marine Division. Deployed during September 1950 to the Republic of Korea. Participated in the Korean War, September 1950-July 1953, operating from: Inchon-Seoul, Chosin Reservoir, East Central Front, Western Front. Participated in the defense of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, July 1953-March 1955. Relocated during March 1955 to Camp Pendleton, California.

Col. Homer L. Litzenberg, Jr. – 17 August 1950-15 April 1951
Col. Herman Nickerson, Jr. – 16 April 1951-20 September 1951
LtCol. John J. Wermuth, Jr. – 21 September 1951-10 March 1952
Col. Russell E. Honsowetz – 11 March 1952-10 June 1952
Col. Thomas C. Moore, Jr. – 11 June 1952-4 November 1952
Col. Loren E. Haffner – 5 November 1952-26 March 1953
Col. Glenn C. Funk – 27 March 1953-3 August 1953
Col. Jack P. Juhan – 4 August 1953-4 December 1953
Col. Wendell H. Duplantis – 5 December 1953-24 February 1954
Col. Earl A. Sneeringer – 25 February 1954-3 July 1954
Col. Henry H. Crockett – 4 July 1954-3 October 1954
Col. Odell M. Conoley – 4 October 1954-1 June 1955

Commanding Officers – 11th Marines – Korean War era

The 11th Marines were deployed during August-September 1950 to Korea. Participated in the Korean War, operating from: Pusan Perimeter, Inchon-Seoul, Chosin Reservoir, East Central Front, Western Front. Participated in the defense of the Korean demilitarized zone, July 1953-March 1955. Relocated during March 1955 to Camp Pendleton, California.

Col. James H. Brower – 29 July 1950-10 December 1950
LtCol. Carl A. Youngdale – 11 December 1950-10 March 1951
Col. Joseph L. Winecoff – 11 March 1951-4 August 1951
Col. Curtis Burton, Jr. – 5 August 1951-18 November 1951
Col. Bruce T. Hemphill – 19 November 1951-26 March 1952
Col. Frederick P. Henderson – 27 March 1952-19 September 1952
Col. Harry N. Shea – 20 September 1952-21 February 1953
Col. James E. Mills – 22 February 1953-4 July 1953
Col. Manly L. Curry – 5 July 1953-16 December 1953
Col. Lewis J. Fields – 17 December 1953-20 April 1954
Col. John S. Oldfield – 21 April 1954-29 October 1954
Col. Ernest P. Foley – 30 October 1954-10 June 1955

Source: “The 1st Marine Division and Its Regiments,” History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., November 1981.

Our First Year in Korea:
Accounts by the Historical Branch, G-3, HQ, Marine Corps

- Marine Corps Gazette articles

There was little to indicate that the Sunday morning of 25 June 1950 was a landmark for thousands of young men all over the United States. As they read their newspapers after breakfast, the pennant chances of the Dodgers probably concerned them more than the outbreak of an intramural war in Korea. It would hardly have occurred to these civilians that it was actually D-Day minus 82 for them. But these young men were Marine reservists, and in less than 12 weeks many of them would be halfway around the earth, making an amphibious landing in a flaming town on an Asiatic peninsula.  

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Marine Corps Gazette Articles:

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G-3-1 History - Korean War

The History of George Company, 3rd Battalion, First Marines.  These are large PDF files, so the history has been broken up into 4 individual volumes.  - Semper Fi, Carleton "Bing" Bingham, Secretary, G-3-1 KOREA Assn

Reference:  "G-3-1 KOREA History", Vols. 1-4, editors G.G. Pendas and James Byrne, published by the G-3-1 KOREA Association.  The list of G-3-1 Marines who did not make it back home from the Chosin Reservoir was compiled by SSgt. Philip H. Heath (G-3-1).

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H-3-1 Marines in Korea

[KWE Note: Paul H. Gulick, a former H-3-1 Marine in Korea, sent the following copyrighted book with this message: "I am near the end of my years and my concern is not to make a profit from the work I have done. My concern is to insure the the work I, and many others before me, is not lost. I want the data preserved for future generations."  The book has no fiction. The book is a true chronology of the experiences of the Marine who were in H/3/1 (Howe Company, 3rd Battalion, first Marines, 1st Marine Division). It tells the true experiences of the Marines from September 15, 1950, when they invaded Inchon, until the company returned to the USA in 1955. There are about 700 pages in parts 1 and 3 of the book.  Part II contains personal information about H-3-1 Marines that is not distributed to the public.  Per his request, Paul's research on H-3-1 Marines in Korea is posted on this page of the Korean War Educator so that future generations will have a better understanding of the role these brave men served in Korea.  Mr. Gulick retains the copyright on this book.]

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Operation Killer

[KWE Note: The following article was written by Lynn Montross and published in the Marine Corps Gazette in February 1952.  It is reprinted on the KWE with permission from the Marine Corps Gazette.]

A testimonial from the enemy is always gratifying, even though it be given grudgingly.  And after ending a month's anti-guerrilla operation on 15  February 1951, the 1st Marine Division captured a North Korean courier two days later with a communication paying a reluctant tribute to the Leathernecks.

The intercepted message had been sent by the Chief of Staff of the II Corps of the North Korean People's Army.  It was intended for Major General Lee Ban Nam, CG of the North Korean 10th Division--the guerrilla force which the Marines had been hunting in the Pohang/Andong area--and the G2 translation read in part as follows:

"Get all of your troops out of the enemy encirclement, and withdraw to the north of Pyongchang without delay.  In case it is impossible to get your troops out of the trap, you may stay in the rear of the enemy and attack their rear positions."

But this possibility could not have gleamed very brightly, for the message ended on a dubious note, "Do your best to get out of the enemy line."

Unhappily for North Korean purposes, there was not much left of the North Korean 10th Division to be salvaged.  About 60 percent of the original 6,000 to 8,000 troops had been destroyed, according to a Marine estimate.  During the process the 1st Marine Division had chopped the remnants into small groups driven into hiding by day and flight by night.  So hard pressed was the enemy that a dozen minor roadblocks were the main achievements of a month's guerrilla operations behind the United Nations lines.

The wreck of the North Korean 10th Division retained some nuisance value, of course, as long as the half-starved survivors were skulking in remote mountain areas.  But the enemy had few other capabilities left to him, and it was believed that an under-strength Republic of Korea (ROK) division could handle the situation after relieving the Marines.

On 16 February, in accordance with Eighth Army orders, the 1st Marine Division began its move to the Chunju sector in the center of the UN line.  At this time the division was made a part of IX Corps, commanded by Major General Bryant E. Moore.

The Chungju move was a turning point for the Marines in more ways than one.  In such past operations as Inchon/Seoul and the Reservoir, the division had been the best trained and most experienced major unit of X Corps.  Naturally it had taken part of the landing force of amphibious assaults and spearhead of offensives.  Even in the Pohang guerrilla chase, the division had been in effect a self-sufficient little army, carrying out its own special mission.

All this was changed now.  Henceforth the 1st Marine Division would be a unit of one of the largest and most cosmopolitan armies in which Leathernecks have ever served.  The United Nations establishment of February included units from 12 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Most of these contingents ranging from company to battalion strength, consisted of picked men who gave a good account of themselves in action.  It might also have been noted that the Eighth U.S. Army itself had undergone a transformation since the late summer of 1950, when the Marines had the fireman's role in the Pusan perimeter.

At the outset the Communist aggression in Korea found the democratic world unprepared.  The first U.S. Army troops were sent straight from occupation duty in Japan to the firing line.  Many of these men were soft physically and lacking in combat training.  No soldiers of American history, in fact, ever drew a much more rugged assignment than the Army outfits thrown into action piecemeal during the early weeks.

Even during the two great Eighth Army withdrawals, there was little room for censure at the platoon level.  A well-known military critic, making a first-hand survey of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division retreat of November 1950, found "countless examples of extraordinary initiative and high individual courage...but none of utter dereliction or miscrepancy."

Of 16 infantry company actions examined in detail during this survey, only a single platoon appeared to have yielded ground for any cause less serious than exhaustion of ammunition.  And in the exceptional case, only 11 men were left unhurt in a routed platoon which brought off its own wounded.

Barely five weeks after the November retreat, the Eighth Army was hit by another CCF counteroffensive launched on the last night of 1950.  Again the attackers smashed through a sector held by weary and thinned ROK divisions, so that the other major units had to withdraw to avoid envelopment.

Inchon and Seoul were abandoned to the enemy by UN forces which had fallen back about 200 miles from 1 December to 10 January.  Such a record would not seem to offer stimulating food for morale, yet the Eighth was by no means a beaten or disheartened army.  It was, on the contrary, a confident and aggressive army made up of combat-wise troops who had met the test of adversity.

The proof came when the new commander, Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway, began a rapid-fire series of Eighth Army offensives only a few days after the retreat ended.  At this time the UN Forces held a line extending from the vicinity of Ansong on the west coast through Chechin and Marungni to the east coast.  The Eighth Army was disposed with I Corps on the left, IX Corps in the left Center, X Corps in the right center and on the right the battle-worn ROK Army.

The first offensive operation began on 15 January.  An I Corps task force, spearheaded by a U.S. infantry regiment, drove nearly to Suwon without meeting serious opposition.

This reconnaissance in force ended on the 17th.  Five days later a IX Corps task force, probing northward in that sector, also encountered few enemy troops.  The Eighth Army command lost no time at exploiting the CCF reluctance to engage.  A new operation began on 25 January as another reconnaissance in force, but this time I and IX Corps employed a division each.  The advance was in multiple columns "for the purpose of seeking out the enemy and inflicting the greatest possible damage."

Suwon and its airport were captured the next day.  The pace was slow and methodical, with all units keeping close lateral contact and mopping up pockets of resistance before proceeding.  More and more troops were committed until the operation could not longer be called a reconnaissance in force.  It had turned into a full-scale offensive for the purpose of gaining and holding group as well as destroying enemy forces.

Each day until the end of the month saw limited gains made and an estimated several thousand enemy killed.  Thus on 1 February the UN front lines ran from the vicinity of Ansan on the west coast through Kumpojang and Wonju before dipping in a southeasterly direction to the east coast.

Not only was the advance continued in the I and IX Corps sectors, but a new limited offensive was planned for 5 February in the zones of the U.S. X Corps and III ROK Corps.  This meant that the entire Eighth Army would be committed along a 70 mile front, with the I, IX and X Corps in line from west to east.  Still farther to the east were the three under-strength corps of the ROK Army.  The 1st Marine Division was in Eighth Army reserve along with the Philippine 10th RCT and the Belgian and Canadian battalions.

By this time the Leathernecks had pinned down the largest body of Communist troops to infiltrate into UN rear areas after the January retreat.  During the operation of the 1st Marine Division managed to train 3,387 replacements who arrived in January and the first week of February to relieve the hundreds of veterans selected for departure in accordance with rotation policies.  These new men were given combat instruction by being sent on self-sufficient patrols which ranged far into remote mountain areas to track down groups of North Korean guerrillas.

So much progress was shown during the first two weeks of the Pohang/Andong guerrilla hunt that CC Eighth Army inquired when the Marines could conclude the operation.  Major General Oliver P. Smith, Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, replied on 5 February that he could be ready whenever a relieving force was assigned the responsibility for the area.

The question of a new sector for the division had already been discussed late in January, when General Ridgway asked General Smith to confer with him at Suwon.  The Eighth Army commander had considered using the 1st Marine Division north of Wonju on the central front or along the east coast in place of I ROK Corps.  Gen Smith was asked to submit recommendations, and after consulting with his staff he replied on 2 February that various factors favored the employment of the Marines on the east coast.

Most of these factors derived from the capabilities of the division as the single major unit of Eighth Army which was fully trained and equipped for amphibious warfare.  If such an operation were to be desired at some future date, the Marines could mount out from the east coast with a minimum of logistical friction.  With their organic ANGLICO (Shore Fire Control Parties and Tactical Air Control Parties), they had the organization and knowhow for making the most of naval gunfire and carrier air support.  Finally, they could be supplied from the sea, and their Shore Party specialists would be able to develop port facilities for the support of the division.

After receiving General Smith's message, Commanding General Eighth Army directed his staff to plan for employing the 1st Marine Division on the east coast.  Nearly two weeks later, however, he summoned the Marine general to Taegu on 12 February to discuss the possibility of using the division on the central front.

The date is significant.  For it was within the last 24 hours that the enemy had reacted to Eighth Army pressure with a large-scale counterattack which threatened to wipe out UN gains on the central front.

This was the first serious block thrown at the UN forces rolling steadily northward as one limited offensive followed another.  In the X Corps sector, it is true, the new drive of 5 February had found hard going after the early spurts.  But I and IX Corps continued to advance, and on the 10th resistance seemed to collapse west and south of Seoul.  The U.S. 25th Infantry Division, pushing ahead 11,000 yards that day, secured the port of Inchon and Kimpo Airfield.  Months of rebuilding would be required, however, before the air base could be made operational or the destroyed harbor facilities even partially restored.

On the morning of the 11th Seoul was within sight of UN forces occupying the south bank of the Han.  But that subzero night dated the violent counter-attack launched by elements of the CCF 40th and 66th Corps and North Korean V Corps in the Hoengsong area of the U.S. IX Corps front.  The enemy effort followed a familiar pattern.  Two ROK divisions were overwhelmed by the first CCF blows, and their retreat made it necessary for other UN units to withdraw.  As a consequence Hoengsong had to be abandoned on the 12th to the Communists hammering out a salient in the direction of Wonju.

Reports of UN reverses were coming in that day as General Ridgway conferred with General Smith about the next mission of the 1st Marine Division.  The Eighth Army commander recognized the advantages of committing the division to the east coast, where it would be in readiness for amphibious operations.  But he considered the Seoul/Yoju corridor the logical avenue of a major CCF offensive, and he wished to have the Marines, as "the most powerful division in Korea," relieve the 24th Infantry Division in the Yoju area of the X Corps sector.

General Smith, upon his return from the conference, put the logistical problems up to his staff.  but there was to be no Yoju mission.  Further UN losses of ground occurred south of Hoengsong the next day, and Eighth Army plans were changed again.  On 13 February the 1st Marine Division received a warning order to be prepared to move on 48 hours' notice either up the east coast or to Chungju.  The latter seemed the more likely destination, since it was a road junction of the corridor on the central front which CCF forces might use for a great offensive.

Chungju it was.  An Eighth Army operation order of the 15th directed the 1st Marine Division to occupy positions in that area, prepared either to defend or to conduct further operations under operational control of IX Corps.  The 2d ROK Division relieved the Marines, and the move by road and rail to Chungju commenced.

A shortage of organic transport added to the complications.  Although the 1st Marine Division had taken pride in bringing its equipment out from the Reservoir, the reward of virtue was a collection of old and worn vehicles.  As a further irony, other outfits which had lost their trucks were able to requisition new ones.

While the Marines were making their move, the CCF counteroffensive continued full blast along the central front.  Units of the U.S. 2dd Infantry Division surrounded in the Chipyong area, put up a stout three-day fight until an armored column cut through to the rescue.

The UN forces were not guided by any unrealistic concept of holding ground to the last ditch.  They sold it dearly, however, by defending favorable terrain or even counter-attacking with the support of napalm air strikes.  Nevertheless, the enemy had penetrated east of Wonju by the 17th, and another CCF column drove within seven miles of Chechon.  These advances seemed to be for the purpose of relieving UN pressure on the Seoul area, but Eighth Army staff officers did not discount the possibility of an all-out CCF offensive on the central front to divide UN forces and sever vital supply lines.

As it proved, personnel losses and depleted supplies gradually brought the CCF attack to a standstill after it had driven a bulge into the central front.  General Moore reported to General Ridgway on the 18th that one of his regiments had probed forward without meeting opposition.  This intelligence was passed on to X Corps, farther east, and patrols in that sector also found evidences of a CCF withdrawal.

General Ridgway made a practice of giving the enemy no time for rest and recuperation.  That very evening, therefore, he planned Operation Killer, the fourth successive attack to be launched by Eighth Army units since their January retreat.

This new limited objective offensive, like its forerunners, was designed to inflict maximum damage rather than to gain ground.  Nevertheless, General Ridgway had determined to recover full possession of the hill mass north of Chungju.  It was for this purpose, he informed General Moore on 15 February, that the 1st Marine Division had been employed.

"The force which holds Chungju," said General Ridgway, "has the situation in hand."

The overall scheme of maneuver called for the 1st Marine Division, as spearhead of the IX Corps advance, to relieve the 2nd Infantry Division and attack in a northeasterly direction through the Wonju basin from a line of departure north of Wonju.  The object was to cut off enemy forces which had penetrated south and east of Hoengsong, and to recover control of the roads running eastward by seizing the high ground just south of the town.

Wednesday, 21 February, was set as D-day.  The northwest flank of the 1st Marine Division was to be protected by the 1st Cavalry Division and 27th British Brigade, including the Australian and Canadian battalions.  And in the X Corps zone, on the east flank of the Marines, the 7th Infantry Division was to make a simultaneous northerly advance up the Yongwol/Pyongchang road.

All these movements, in Leatherneck parlance, were to be coordinated in a tightly "buttoned up" offensive, with the forces keeping close lateral contact and maintaining the integrity of units.  Patrol observation and reconnaissance were to be stressed, and even lack of opposition would not justify a unit in advancing ahead of schedule or bypassing hidden pockets of resistance.

The terrain of the Wonju Basin did not favor the attack.  Rock heights, abounding in precipices, glowered down upon a region of narrow valleys and swift streams.  The river Som, largest of all, ran from northeast to southwest through a defile cutting across the western part of the division area.  Bordering this twisting stream was the main road, the Wonju/Hoengsong "highway," a poor dirt trail even by Korean mountain standards.  The only other road, crossing the astern part of the area, was a narrow track scarcely fit for vehicular traffic.  It was believed that the enemy would make a strong stand at Hoengsong because of its value as the hub of roads in all four directions.  The town served the enemy as a supply center: and a CCF division, the 196th of the 66th Corps, was reported to be dug in along the ridge to the south.

General Ridgway was on hand for the jump-off of the 1st Marine Division at 0800 on 21 February.  On several previous occasions he had reiterated his basic directive to the Eighth Army.  "We are fighting a numerically superior enemy," he was quoted as saying at a high-level conference of 16 February.  "We must make up for it by good footwork, by maximum use of movement, combined with firepower."

These words might have been used to describe previous Marine operations in Korea.  Although the Leathernecks were better known for their amphibious capabilities, they had demonstrated at Naktong Ridge, Seoul, and the Reservoir an unusual mastery of small unit operations, both offensive and defensive.  The terrain in Korea and the techniques employed by the enemy made it primarily a small unit war.  At any time a battalion, a company, a platoon, or even a fire team might be compelled to become temporarily self-sufficient; and in these fights for survival, Marine maneuver and firepower paid big tactical dividends.

Operation Killer dated the first occasion in Korea when the 1st Marine Division took part as a unit of a large army making an advance in line on a wide front.  But Marine doctrine did not stress self-sufficiency at the expense of coordination; and the "buttoned up" attack had been no novelty in 1st Marine Division actions.  Thus the division scheme of maneuver of 21 February envisioned an advance by two regiments in line, keeping close contact with each other and with the Army units on either side.

RCT1, on the left of RCT5, passed through elements of the 2nd Infantry Division and 187th Airborne RCT and attacked from a Wonju line of departure toward the high ground east of Hoengsong.  Little opposition was encountered by RCT1, with the 1st Battalion leading, in advance of four miles along the Wonju/Hoengsong road.  The forward battalion dug in at dusk on high ground about three miles from the objective, and the 2nd Battalion moved up on the right.  The night was uneventful except for the dispersing of two small enemy groups in the 1/1 area with mortar and artillery fire.  RCT5 had meanwhile pushed its 1st Battalion abreast of this position without contacting any enemy.

The same formation was used the next morning when that regiment again moved forward without meeting any resistance.  It was a different story in the zone of RCT1, where the 1st Battalion was stopped by heavy automatic an small arms fire from Hill 166, the western knob of a ridge overlooking the Wonju/Hoengsong road.  The men tied in for the night with the 2nd Battalion in readiness for a joint assault.  And in the morning, after a brisk artillery preparation, the two battalions launched a frontal attack.  By 0900 the 2d Battalion had gained a foothold on the center and right of the ridge which permitted observation on Hill 166, the objective of the 1st Battalion.  Two effective air strikes were called on the position, which the 1st Battalion secured at 1015.

That afternoon both battalions jumped off to attack the next ridge line.  They met a stubborn resistance from CCF troops defending log bunkers with mortar, automatic, and small arms fire.  The fight was hot and heavy for a few minutes, but elements of the 2nd Battalion decided it by seizing a portion of the ridge just to the left of the enemy bunkers.  From this point they swept down the ridgeline, overran the CCF mortar positions, and put the enemy remnants to flight.  That night RCT1 dug in on the high ground overlooking Hoengsong from the south.  RCT5 pulled up abreast on the right to occupy three hills south of the town on the road leading east.  The next morning that regiment met its first resistance when the 1st Battalion stormed Hill 212 as the 2nd Battalion secured the high ground on the right flank.  Meanwhile, in the zone of RCT1, Marine tanks led a 1/1 combat patrol into Hoengsong itself.

Although the enemy had abandoned the demolished town, the two battalions of RCT1 came under CCF mortar and artillery fire from the ridge to the north.  Both Command Posts were shelled until counter-battery work by the 2nd Battalion of the 11th Marines silenced the enemy.

Thus the first phase of the Marine participation in Operation ended with the assault regiments organizing their positions on the Corps objective and sending out patrols.  RCT7, in division reserve since D-day, had been patrolling the Wonju area and receiving the daily airdrops of supplies which were necessary to relieve a critical gasoline shortage.

From the beginning the logistical situation had given more trouble than the enemy.  Heavy traffic had almost literally broken the back of the Main Supply Route (MSR), so that immediate and extensive repairs were required.  Violent rains compounded the problem by turning rear area roads into quagmires and streams into torrents.  Marine engineers being needed for bridging in the forward areas, Division requested that IX Corps engineers be assigned to the maintenance of the MSR.

It was also urged that indigenous labor be employed to assist in moving supplies.  Otherwise the first phase of Operation Killer had ended satisfactorily.  Eighth Army units on either side of the 1st Marine Division had made gains, and the Marine capture of Hoengsong on the 24th nearly wiped out the salient left by the recent CCF counteroffensive.  That same day brought bad news, however, with the announcement of General Moore's death from a heart attack after an accident in which his helicopter crashed into the Han River.

General Smith was appointed to temporary command of IX Corps, and Brigadier General Lewis B. Puller, his ADC, assumed command of the 1st Marine Division.  When announcing this decision, Commanding General Eighth Army said, "General Smith is to be taken into their hearts in IX Corps, and, by definite action, made to feel that he belongs there."

The next few days were devoted to planning and preparations to resume the attack on an enemy reported to be withdrawing northward.  This intelligence led to Eighth Army changes in corps and division boundaries with a view to shifting the direction of attack from northeast to north.  In the zone of the 1st Marine Division these amendments meant that RCT5 on the right would be pinched out by the 3rd ROK Division of X Corps.  On the left, the zone was extended by bringing RCT7 into line alongside RCT1 as RCT5 dropped back into reserve.  The 1st Marine Division was directed by IX Corps order to continue the advance on 1 March and secure the high east/west ridge about one and a half miles north of Hoengsong.  The town occupied a valley at the confluence of two rain swollen streams, so that a triangular area of low, flat ground lay between the abrupt hills on all sides.  From the high ground of their first objective line, the Leathernecks could look across this soggy plain which stretched past Hoengsong to the ridge which must be taken in the second phase of Operation Killer.

Marine air support was on a new basis.  In February the units of Marine Air Wing 1 had returned to Korea, after a reconditioning period in Japan dating back to the Hungnam evacuation.  Upon their return to combat, the various squadrons came under direct Air Force control.  This meant that Marine air would no longer be at the call of Marine ground troops according to Marine precepts.  Instead, it would be directed by the Fifth Air Force through a central agency for the support of other Eighth Army units as well as the 1st Marine Division.

On 1 March there were six squadrons of Marine Air Wing 1 in Korea.  MAG12 was represented by VMF312 and VMF(N)513, both based at Pusan.  MAG33 consisted of VMF214 and VMF323 (Pusan), VMF312 (carrier based), and VMF311 (Pohang).

The 1st Marine Division  scheme of maneuver for the new attack was conditioned by the terrain.  For the ridge north of Hoengsong was separated by a bisecting road and stream into three distinct masses.  The boundary between the two assault regiments passed through the central mass, so that RCT7 had Hills 536 and 333 as objectives, and RCT1 had Hills 321, 335, and 201.

It was apparent that RCT7 had the harder task, since its zone contained the more rugged terrain in greater depth.  It would be necessary for this regiment to take its first objectives, moreover, before RCT1 could advance on the right without being held up by flanking fires from those heights.

Thus on 1 March, with the resumption of Operation Killer, the 1st Marine Division had probably the most difficult assignment in the Eighth Army.  In the zone of I Corps the enemy grip south of the Han had been broken, and patrols found no signs that Seoul was being held in force.  Enemy withdrawals were also indicated in the sector of X Corps, so that the UN front now stretched in a relatively straight and unbroken line from Inchon through Punwonni and Hoengsong to the east coast in the vicinity of Samchok.

Again the 1st Marine Division was breaking ground for a new Eighth Army advance as the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of RCT7 attacked to seize the first hills west of Hoengsong.  Little opposition was met at first from an enemy resisting briefly on each ridge before falling back to the next one.  Both battalions pushed ahead about 1,000 yards before the 2nd encountered heavy automatic and mortar fire.  The CCF forces held an elaborate system of log bunkers along reverse slopes, but by nightfall the battalion had slugged its way to the forward slopes of the objective.  Gains of about 1,500 yards were made in the zone of 3/7, where the enemy also put up a fierce resistance in prepared positions.

The day's encounters were a foretaste of those to come in the zone of RCT7, where the terrain was too rugged in places for vehicles.  Supporting arms never played a more important part.  Marine tanks found lucrative targets among CCF strong points.  Marine artillery fired 54 missions on 24 target areas; and Marine air flew 30 sorties.

On 2 March the other Marine assault regiment had its turn.  Although the boundary lines had not been changed, the regimental commanders agreed upon a maneuver in which 3/1 was to cross over into the 3/7 zone for a combined assault on the high ground along the west bank of the river Som.  Gains in this quarter would permit RCT1 to move across the Hoengsong plain against the hills in its zone.

Both battalions jumped off at 0800 and met astonishingly little opposition from an enemy who appeared to be using tactics of withdrawing at night to defend new ridge lines.  Thus the two battalions secured their objective by 0945 and finished mopping up at 1220.  The 3rd Battalion of RCT1 returned to its own zone for an assault on Hill 303, which fell to George Company at 1315 after another light resistance, though it took until 1600 to destroy CCF remnants dug in on the reverse slope.

The securing of the high ground west of Hoengsong enabled the 2nd Battalion of RCT1 to cross the river behind tanks.  After an intense rocket and artillery preparation, the column drove through the town and advanced northeast to seize Hill 208.  The two assault battalions of RCT7 were meanwhile advancing from a half to three-fourths of a mile in their zone.

On 3 March the assault troops of RCT1 took their IX Corps objectives against light to moderate resistance.  The enemy made a determined stand on 2nd Battalion objectives, Hills 201 and 335, but an air strike was called to evict the defenders while the 3d Battalion advanced north to take Hill 321.  Late that afternoon both battalions had reached the mopping up stage when the 23rd ROK Regiment reported that one of its companies had been driven back, exposing the right flank of RCT1.  Able Company of the 1st Battalion was brought up to hold Hill 335 while the 2nd Battalion moved over to protect the regimental right flank.

It was in the zone of RCT7 that the enemy showed an almost suicidal resistance.  The 1st Battalion was summoned from reserve to attack Hill 536 and cover the regimental left flank while the 3rd Battalion continued its advance toward Hill 333.  The 2nd Battalion, in the center, had the mission of assisting the other two with supporting fires.

Not only were the two hills natural fortresses, but both bristled with log bunkers and camouflaged mortar emplacements.  It was a day of hard slugging for RCT7, which lost most of the 14 killed and 104 wounded reported by the 1st Marine Division.  By nightfall the 3rd Battalion had reached the ridge just south of Hill 333, but the 1st Battalion met stiffer resistance and dug in about one and one quarter miles short of Hill 536.

A tactical anticlimax is seldom disappointing to the assault troops, and the two battalions of RCT7 which jumped off the next morning were pleasantly surprised to meet little initial resistance.  Most of the Chinese had apparently withdrawn under cover of darkness, and the rest offered only delaying actions before abandoning Hills 333 and 536 in their retreat northward.

This was the final chapter of Operation Killer.  It did not mean, however, that the fighting had ended on the central front.  As usual, General Ridgway and his staff had been planning a new offensive before the old one ended.  Late in February in was decided to keep the enemy off balance by continuing the advance of IX and X Corps toward the 38th parallel.  Another objective was to outflank the Seoul area from the east, and the new plan would be known as Operation Ripper.

The Seoul corridor and the central corridor by way of Hoengsong, Wonju, and Chungju were still considered the most probably routes for an all-out CCF offensive.  By securing the hills north of Hoengsong, therefore, the Leathernecks of Operation Killer had placed the Eighth Army in much better position either for defense or the resumption of the offensive.

Marine losses had not been heavy in view of this outcome.  The total of 393 battle casualties included 48 killed, 345 wounded, and two men missing in action.  The enemy, it was estimated by division G2, had 1,868 casualties; 1,255 killed, 570 wounded, and 43 taken as prisoners.

On 5 March, the day after Operation Killer ended, Major General William H. Hoge, U.S. Army, arrived to take command of X Corps.  General Smith, released from his temporary duty, resumed the command of the 1st Mar Div just as orders were received for Operation Ripper to begin on 7 March.  Again the central front was to be the scene of the main line-bucking effort, and again the Marines were to carry the ball.



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