From Our MagazinesAmerica's Civil War American History Armchair General Aviation History British Heritage Civil War Times MHQ Military History Vietnam Wild West World War II
More On The WebsiteClassifieds Partner Links Civil War Sesquicentennial
Our History MagazinesOrder America's Civil War Order American History Order Aviation History Order British Heritage Order Civil War Times Order Military History Order MHQ Order Vietnam Order Wild West Order World War II Order Armchair General
Subscriber ServicesOrder a Subscription Give a Gift Renew Get Subscription Help
HistoryNetShop.comStore Home Books Book Series 2012 Calendars DVDs PC Wargames Action Figures Audio Collections Videos Gift Ideas Magazine Subscriptions Magazine Back Issues Magazine Special Issues Magazine Slip Cases
Five days after the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950, I landed in South Korea singularly ill-equipped for what lay ahead. After covering the occupation of Japan some years earlier, I was still accredited as a press representative by General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo, so when I arrived there from my Singapore base there were few formalities to delay my departure for the front. I didn't even pause to pick up Army fatigues.
Wearing green suede shoes, light linen trousers and a sport coat, and carrying a new small typewriter and the minimum of necessities–including paper, carbon and toiletries in a briefcase–I took a car to Tachikawa military air base, about 25 miles from Tokyo, and hitchhiked a ride on a Douglas Dakota to Pusan, at the southern end of the Korean peninsula.
'No flights north of Pusan,' said the sergeant at the Tachikawa terminal. 'There are too many goddamned Yaks [Soviet-built Yakovlev fighters]. If you want to go to Pusan, we can put you aboard, but you won't find any planes flying north from there.'
Pusan, I found, was in chaos. The small airstrip, rarely used after the Japanese had abandoned it at the end of World War II, consisted of a narrow strip of metal in a sea of rice. The metal was already cracking under the weight of the supply planes. Hundreds of Koreans stood by with long baskets filled with rocks and sand on their backs to fill in the holes knocked in the runway by each incoming aircraft, tamping down the repairs with their bare feet.
Backing them up were hundreds more, the A-frames on their backs loaded with stones and sand to refill the baskets of the strip repairers. Tons of supplies lined the side of the airstrip, where aged charcoal-burning cars, trucks, oxcarts and more peasants with A-frames loaded up to carry the supplies over the 12 miles of clay road to the railhead. For some, the journey took hours.
At Pusan station, there were no trains to move the supplies piling up and no scheduled departures or arrivals. No one had any idea when the next train might arrive or leave. 'Maybe we lost all the trains in Seoul,' said the station master. But at least the ticket office was open. I bought a single ticket for unreachable Seoul, valid for an unscheduled train, and sat down to wait.
I attached myself to a young American major with urgently needed radio and radar equipment for Taejon, about 150 miles to the northwest, where, he told me, the U.S. Army's 24th Division had established its headquarters. For five hours he had been trying to arrange for at least an engine and a freight car to take the equipment. We waited for another three hours, when at last a special train came in–an engine and one carriage–all for the major, his equipment, half a dozen American soldiers and me.
Or so we thought when we began the journey north in mid-afternoon. But we were not alone in our haste to get to the war. Before the evening shadows settled over the green rice fields and even greener mountains, hiding the villages, we were riding a full-fledged troop train. As the miles passed by, carriages and freight trucks joined us. At all the stops new recruits pushed and shoved through the carriage.
Most of them brought old, long-stocked Japanese rifles, with five or 10 rounds of ammunition in clips on their belts. They came running to the little village stations as the train approached, waving their rifles to stop us, buckling on equipment, saying goodbye to their families and tripping over the swarms of little brothers and sisters to whom the occasion was all great fun.
Korean girls in long white trousers and wearing the armbands of local women's auxiliaries brought us tea and fruit and rice cakes at each station. Since I had eaten nothing since a quick 4 o'clock breakfast in Tokyo many hours before, I joined in happily.
Just before dark, an American missionary, a tall, angular man who popped up here and there for months during the war, joined us with a band of Korean first-aid girls headed for Suwon, about 20 miles south of Seoul, where, it was believed the Americans and South Koreans had formed a line. In the night, with the lights doused for fear of an air attack, they began to sing hymns. One by one the troops joined in until almost everybody was singing in English or Korean. In fiction, this scene would have seemed ridiculous; in fact, we rattled our way to war to the tune of 'Onward Christian Soldiers.'
We reached Taejon just after daylight, still 70 miles by rough road from the war. It was serving as the temporary headquarters for the South Korean government. After the retreat from Seoul, the U.S. Embassy had moved into a cluster of houses built for U.S. aid groups. Major General William F. Dean, commanding the U.S. 24th Division, also had his headquarters there.
Everyone was cheerfully optimistic. The first U.S. Army forces in the field were digging in at Osan, south of Suwon. There had not yet been any contact, but the troops were ready for anything. An infantry battalion was positioned forward, supported by a battery of artillery. Another battalion was in reserve four miles to the south.
Crowded Taejon was much less cheerful. First stop for the thousands of refugees from Seoul, it was jammed with half a million people, clustered without food around the railway station and stretching in all their misery through the streets. There had been neither time nor means to organize the distribution of food or any other aid.
A couple of cottages in the American compound had been made available to some 20 correspondents. There, without beds or bedclothes, we made our temporary home and prepared, with nothing more than a single, undependable telephone line to Tokyo, to cover the war.
There was one privately commandeered jeep among the correspondents. In the early morning of July 5 (Korean time) I was offered a ride to the front in it.
We left in pouring rain, which blew in through the open sides of the jeep. The going was slow. The unsurfaced road was rough, slippery and jammed with retreating South Koreans who paid no heed to time or weather. Trucks, traveling without headlights, roared along as fast as they dared. Before dawn, we passed at least half a dozen that had toppled down the steep levees into the flooded rice fields below.
We made better time in daylight, pausing briefly for a C ration breakfast. We pushed on through the rain past the gutted railway yards at Pyongtaek, where three days before the Royal Australian Air Force, acting on false intelligence, had attacked what were believed to be enemy formations. Ammunition trucks in the rail yard were still burning and exploding. Along the road there were a score or more of wrecked and burned-out trucks and the first bodies we had seen.
Just north of Pyongtaek we found the Americans. A sign pointing to a four-room mud-and-thatch farm cottage showed us the way. The inhabitants had fled a day or two earlier, leaving their poultry behind. Quacking ducks wandered in and out of the headquarters of the 1st Battalion, 34th Regiment, 24th Division, under Lt. Col. Harold Ayres.
We were greeted with immediate hospitality. Someone was instructed to get water ready for coffee, although, as we discovered later, the battalion did not know where its next cup was coming from. I was given a blanket to replace my saturated sport coat, while 'Red' Ayres filled us in on the war news. Suwon had been abandoned on July 2, as soon as the North Korean troops appeared across the Han River, just south of Seoul. The 3rd Battalion, 34th Regiment, under Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith–Task Force Smith–was some miles ahead, dug in on both sides of the main road, with a battery of artillery. So far, there had been no contact, but the South Koreans guessed there were up to 35,000 Northern troops now south of the Han River.
While Colonel Ayres was still briefing us, a second jeep drove up, bringing with it Brig. Gen. George B. Barth, commander of the forward areas. Barth, a burly figure, threw off his dripping poncho and helmet with its single star and announced, 'Well, boys, it's on. I've got the first shell out there for General MacArthur.'
Barth said that when the range was 1,500 yards he had given the order to open fire. He had come with the glad tidings that the North Koreans were now up against real opposition. 'Those Commie bastards will turn and run when they find they're up against our boys,' said Barth. 'We'll be back in Seoul by the weekend.'
Just a few minutes after 8 a.m., the forward artillery observation post had seen eight tanks advancing down the road toward the 3rd Battalion. After presiding over the first exchange of fire between North Korean and American troops, Barth had come straight back and was heading for divisional headquarters with the all-important news that U.S. ground forces were now in action.
It was just 8:30. What to do? Would the news make the newspapers I worked for in London or Australia that day? I decided that, because of the time differences, it would not. I would stay around for the action.
Others made different decisions, and our jeep went back to Taejon with Barth, leaving a couple of us without transport. We decided to walk toward Task Force Smith in the hope that someone else going in the same direction might give us a lift. Everyone was sure that the North Koreans were getting a trouncing. The optimism was not even muted by the discovery that the telephone link with Task Force Smith had broken down, a mishap attributed to rain. No one suspected enemy action.
The long line of trucks, jeeps, tradesman's vans and even an odd fire cart or two had thinned out since daylight, but the foot migration had multiplied. Following the narrow paths of clay that divided one level from another, people trudged in thousands for miles across the paddy fields. The road itself was covered with a mass of people–babies tied to their mothers' backs, old men and women bowed under crippling loads, and thousands of soldiers. More than anything else there were soldiers, outnumbering the civilians by about 10-to-1.
We had not walked more than a mile when a South Korean cavalryman, mounted on a horse about the size of a Shetland pony, came down the road, scattering the refugees, waving a sword and shouting excitedly, 'Tanku, tanku' ('Tanks'). His words panicked the refugees, who stumbled and fled. We shouted angrily at the man on ponyback, and went on our way. No sound came from the front, where Task Force Smith, we still believed, had sent the North Koreans in precipitate retreat.
We proceeded to the crest of one of the undulating hills, beyond the rice fields into well-cultivated vegetable land. For a moment there was peace. We only noticed that there were no longer any refugees. Then we saw the tank, there on the next crest, perhaps half a mile from us, moving steadily and majestically forward. It fired one round from its main armament, and, as we discovered later, about 100 machine-gun rounds. I have no idea where the shots went, or whether they were directed at us, my attention being fully directed to the problem of tactical withdrawal.
I hastened back breathlessly to Ayres' headquarters. Despite Barth's statement that eight tanks had been seen earlier, Ayres remained skeptical.
'There's a tank coming down the road,' I said.
'We don't have any tanks,' he replied.
'Not ours, theirs.'
He asked me to describe it, and I gave what was no doubt an exaggerated account.
'The bridges around here wouldn't take a tank of that size,' he said. Perhaps to humor me, he suggested that I might care to go with a bazooka team and show them where I had seen the tank.
So, this time in a jeep, my journalist companions and I sallied forth again, now accompanied by a bazooka team. We made our way cautiously, surveying the ground ahead and proceeding in a series of leaps and bounds. The rain pelted down. Though I drew my blanket around me, it soon became soaked. I was soon shivering with the cold, convinced that if I did not die from enemy action I would surely succumb to pneumonia.
We reached the spot where the tank had fired, collected the discarded shell case and measured the distance across the track marks–7 feet–all of which we felt might be of some intelligence significance to Ayres. It was not so much the caliber of the shell–about 76 millimeters–but the length of the casing that was impressive.
We went back to headquarters and left the shell case with Ayres before returning to the hunt. We had acquired a welcome platoon of infantry in support and were advancing with a good deal more confidence when we were halted by a sharp exchange of rifle and machine-gun fire to our left.
Three of us climbed the muddy bank of a small rise off the road to gain a better view. Once again, we found the tank–if it was the same tank–about a quarter of a mile away, crawling along the railway line in a southerly direction.
We called to the bazooka team, and the men came up to the rise, mapping out their line of approach through the field of maize that separated us from the tank.
The rifle fire we had heard came from behind a stranded train, where a group of South Korean soldiers were courageously taking potshots at the tank. The tank's crew treated the whole proceedings with a good deal of disdain, keeping the hatch open and occasionally answering with a burst of machine-gun fire.
While this was going on, a second tank appeared close behind its companion, the long barrel of its gun pointing in our direction. We sank into the wet grass and weeds on the rise, while the bazooka team, in stage whispers, planned the attack. Once they reached the maize, the cover was good; the problem was to get there undetected
It was a haphazard operation, but finally two groups with bazookas moved forward without attracting attention from the railway line, where the lead tank and the train were still exchanging fire. We were above the tanks, well placed for a rare, grandstand view of the action.
Every now and then we lost track of the bazooka teams in the maize, but as soon as they moved we could pick them up. When they were about 200 yards from the lead tank, one team stopped. We could see the gunner taking aim. There was a whoosh, and the tank disappeared in a cloud of black smoke. The men on the hill leaped to their feet and cheered. As the smoke cleared, the turret of the tank swung into line with its companion and from both came shell and machine gun fire that sent us scuttling back over the brow of the hill.
After 10 minutes of uncertainty behind the rise and no further display of hostility from the tanks, we eased farther to the left and back into our grandstand seats. The first bazooka team had disappeared, but the second was now much closer to the railway embankment and still moving forward. They got to within 30 yards of the tank before firing. Again the cloud of black smoke. Again no damage. The shell had simply bounced off the tank.
The tanks turned to depress their guns, firing burst after burst into the maize. The heavy guns were aimed astray, but a machine gun put a bullet through the heart of a young ammunition carrier, a private named Kenneth Shadrick. His friends carried him out, evidence of a respect for the dead that was soon to be forgotten in the awful days ahead.
When I left Ayres' headquarters that afternoon to hitchhike my way back to Taejon, we had no news of Task Force Smith. The phones were still not working, and the survivors of the action had not yet begun to straggle in. The first men, bearing the appalling news that most of the battalion had been lost, arrived after midnight.
Soon thereafter Ayres and his men were on the run. Barth's headquarters also broke during the night, minutes before the tanks burst through. At dawn on July 6, the tanks were in Pyongtaek, five miles down the road. By breakfast they were in Songwan, and before the day was over they had advanced to Chonan, 36 miles in 36 hours.
The next day, July 7, I was with Barth. The road was blocked by vehicles, all heading south. Stragglers came bootless and beaten and without their guns across the hills and splashing through the rice fields.
'Colonel, you will hold a line here,' said Barth. 'We've got to stop them and sort out this show.' With his back to the flood of men and machines and his arm outstretched, he indicated a new defensive position.
'We'll stop them,' replied Colonel Jay B. Lovless, commander of the 34th Infantry. Three hours later, with Barth in his jeep, we struck a new tide of defeat–trucks, artillery, infantry, all heading south.
'What in the hell is going on here?'
'Told to pull out, Sir.'
'Who told you?'
'Goddamn it, I give the orders.'
And then came the colonel's jeep, laboring along in the swim. Barth leaped angrily out with his burp gun. 'Goddamn it! Where do you think you're going?' he demanded.
'I couldn't hold.'
'Were you attacked?'
'You're relieved of your command, Colonel. Now stop this column. Stop. Stop it, I say. No truck goes another inch.'
And momentarily the retreat halted and Barth, with the way clearing reluctantly before him, moved forward to find his man.
'Colonel Martin, you'll take over the regiment,' he said. 'We've got to stop them. Pick your ground and hold.'
Colonel Robert R. Martin would die at Chonan at 8:00 the next morning, just 15 hours after taking command and a little more than a day after stepping off the train at Taejon with his duffel bag.
I went back to Taejon that night in a jeep arranged for me by the weary Barth. 'We can't get through on the radio,' he said. 'God knows what's happened to the telephone lines. Nothing seems to work. You've been with me today. See General Dean and tell him how it is,' and he scribbled down a brief note and gave it to me.
I saw the general as soon as I reached Taejon and explained to him what had happened during the day. Dean did not shoot the messenger. Instead he dismissed Barth as the forward commander.
Before his dismissal, Barth had done his best to regain the initiative. He turned his guns around and raced to retake six miles of ground. But the outgoing artillery in the night only helped to mask the North Koreans' preparations for a renewed attack. Their tanks slipped quietly along the road, waiting in laager. Another crept along the railway line, taking with it three companies of infantry that moved under cover of the stone embankment.
The Northerners hit at daylight. The tanks opened fire at 200 yards and closed in. It was all over in an hour. The survivors fled from their burning trucks and jeeps. The walking wounded got out; the rest stayed.
The survivors' stories left little to the imagination. Describing what had happened to one of his men, a young lieutenant said:
'His legs were gone and he cried when he asked me, 'What are they going to do with me, Lieutenant?'
'I gave him a grenade and said, 'Son, this is the best I can do for you."
'I left my buddy in the street and propped him up so he could put up his hands and surrender,' said a GI. 'They cut him in half with a burp gun.'
'This isn't war. This is fornicating slaughter,' another GI bitterly observed. 'They sent us here with nothing.'
'Jesus Christ! How can we fight?' asked another. 'What have we got to fight with?'
I found Colonel Ayres with the 1st Battalion holding a mile south of Chonan on a high, bald hill. It was midmorning on the fourth day and first Saturday of the Americans' war. Six officers were left in the 3rd Battalion. All day they had tried to get their surviving troops together. There weren't enough and those who were left were in no shape to fight.
To the immediate rear, Colonel Richard W. Stephens, commanding the 21st Infantry Regiment, was fresh and eager. But in the late afternoon even his warm red cheeks momentarily lost their glow. The news came over the radio. Written down, it was worse than it sounded. Ayres surrounded. Troops exhausted, throwing away their equipment, rifles, everything, even taking off their boots ('Good God, why?' an officer asked. The soldier replied, 'It's easier to walk in the rice fields, Sir.').
Stephens decided to go forward in his jeep to establish some sort of liaison with the disaster ahead of us. I went with him. We drove fast enough to miss the long-range bullets along the winding road, but a long bridge defeated us. A wooded hill rose sharply at the end, and snipers waited there. We reached the quarter-way mark with bullets buzzing around us like bees on a spring morning and went back in disorder.
Ten miles down the road toward Taejon, the Americans began to lay a minefield in front of Chochiwon, held for the moment by Colonel Stephens. Women were running in and out of the houses. Children were crying. Men were carrying too much and throwing half away after the first 100 yards.
Late on Saturday night the town appeared to be deserted. It was, except for the American headquarters in a bank, the police and the jail with its political prisoners.
I spent the night in an abandoned shop house opposite the police station. At dawn, after a sleepless and hungry night, I came out and found myself next to a collection of 30 men and women who had been led out of the town jail. They were roped together with their hands tied behind their backs. I counted seven girls, mostly in their late teens to judge by their appearance, but battered and dirty. South Korean military police with white armbands and ordinary civil police were there. Both seemed equally dissatisfied with the way the prisoners were boarding the waiting truck. The boot and the gun butt were used many times before one policeman went off for a box for the prisoners to step up on while they struggled aboard.
Later, I learned from U.S. troops that they had found an open grave, semicircular in shape and about 3 feet deep, south of town that afternoon. In it were bodies that matched the description of the 30 prisoners I had seen being loaded into the truck that morning. The grave was also said to have contained another 70 bodies.
All was quiet as I got back to Chonui–on Sunday, that is. The city fell at dawn on Monday. The tanks broke through frontally. The infantry encircled the battalion defending the town from two ridges and descended to cut the road behind. By midmorning, all was in chaos. The North Koreans raced along the ridges. The road south was blocked by trucks and guns. Drivers cursed as their trucks bogged down. Five American light tanks were trying to come up, but they didn't have a chance. A Cessna L-5 spotter plane flew high above the hills while jets flew over the valley, rumbling like a giant box being dragged across the sky. A battery of 155mm guns fired at extreme range along the road toward Chonan. The 105s worked the hills on the right flank with white phosphorus, firing at right angles to the 155s. A neat piece of flanking went on up there. A couple of us went forward on foot to witness the first tank-to-tank battle of the war. Our tanks, three of them, were all knocked out. Small-arms fire convinced us to get the hell out of there. But the flanking North Koreans were closing in. We came under rifle fire and ran for a corner and cover. The shots followed us beyond the corner.
What was left of Colonel Stephens' 21st Regiment broke off the action on Wednesday, July 12, one week to the day after the first action south of Osan, and fell back over the Kum River. On the Chochiwon road the survivors, black with dust and weary from fighting a war they had not expected, understood, or been trained to fight, streamed past toward the bridge. All afternoon and long after dark, they straggled on. The last across were a group of engineers following the infantry down the Chochiwon road, blowing the bridges as they went.
At midnight, July 12-13, seven days and 16 hours after the Northerners hit Task Force Smith, a U.S. sergeant was following the rule book as if we were back in a stateside training camp. 'Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!'–three times he repeated the cry before ramming home the plunger of the dynamo exploder. The long bridge erupted in a cascade of flying concrete, and a 100-foot gap and the deep and fast-flowing river now separated us from the North Korean steamroller. There were cheers. The night passed without further sound. For the first time in a week the guns were silent. The sun came up on new and brighter spirits. Now there was a line that could be held, or so we thought. On the far bank, the refugees had been gathering in the night, and at first light they walked into the water in little groups, holding their belongings over their heads, trying to wade the mighty river. So much for the line that could be held!
For six days I abandoned the Taejon front to report the arrival of the 1st Cavalry Division, which had been rumored incorrectly to be landing behind enemy lines. While I was heading back to Taejon late at night on July 19, the train in which I was traveling came to a halt. No signals, nothing we could see. An hour went by. Two. Walt Simmons of the Chicago Tribune went forward to determine the trouble. The driver was asleep by the side of the track and wouldn't budge. 'Get up, you sonofabitch,' Walt said. 'Get up. This goddamned train is going to Taejon with supplies.' Walt kicked him up, literally. We went on slowly in our most reluctant train.
Early on the morning of the 20th we arrived in Taejon. Three locomotives with steam up were hitched to empty freight cars and standing by in case of emergency. The American railway transport officers held the drivers at gunpoint. The great enclosed station was otherwise deserted. There was no sound but the hissing of steam and one man's footsteps as he walked along the platform.
The streets were abandoned, the shops shuttered and deserted. Along the whole mile length of the main street, jammed the week before with thousands of people, there was no man or woman, and only one child, a naked girl, not more than three, coated with dirt and trickling with dysentery, left on the pavement in front of a shop. We knocked on the shutters of the shop and searched the rear but no one was there. When we passed that way in the evening to phone in our stories from the rear headquarters of the 24th Division outside Taejon, the child was gone.
The 34th Regiment was now headquarted at the airfield. Another new commanding officer, Colonel Charles E. Beauchamp, welcomed us in his sandbagged office. He had been with the regiment for only a couple of days, and the war still seemed pretty much of an adventure for him. While the rest of us were going for the floor when a mortar shell landed outside, Beauchamp was on his feet, shouting with excitement: 'Boy! That's getting closer. Where did that one go?'
The next day, July 21, while approaching from rear divisional headquarters just south of the town, we met the always depressing, far-too-familiar knots of dejection walking across the rice fields from Taejon.
'It was awful,' one of them replied. 'All hell broke loose.'
Their story was that the North Korean tanks had gone into the town at daylight, attacked the headquarters and that all was over. But clearly some resistance, whether impromptu or organized, was continuing. We could see a great fire burning in the western and northern parts of the town.
A captain with a machine gun across his knees arrived in a jeep. 'I've got some trucks back there with ammunition,' he said. 'Let's go and beat our way in. There's a roadblock, and we ought to take it out.'
The motion lapsed for want of someone to second it. We sat through the long morning and watched, trying to muster enough courage to go into Taejon–and failing. The stragglers thinned out as the sun rose higher.
A Texan private who had stolen a jeep in Pusan and headed north to go to the war joined our little group of perhaps half a dozen correspondents and two or three soldiers in the early afternoon. He offered to take anyone who would go with him into Taejon. Again there were no takers.
About half past 3 a jeep appeared at the edge of town and drove quietly along the road toward us. Its occupants were in the uniform of South Korean police. We flagged them down. One spoke English and was reassuring about the situation. Certainly, the North Koreans had sent in tanks, he said, but they had all been knocked out. General Dean had command of the situation. He had seen him outside his headquarters only 10 minutes before. The firing? Why, just some mopping up, he said. He had just come out of the town to see what was happening to the south and now he was going right back. Roadblocks? No, no, nothing, he said. Everything was quite safe.
The jeep turned and went back to where it had come from. The problem now was to find the Texan, who had gone back along the road to the south. When we found him, he was delighted with the chance. I climbed aboard with Lachie McDonald, a London Daily Mail correspondent who had accompanied me on July 7 with Barth, and we set off. The fire had spread over about half the town, and a huge area on our left lay smoldering. On the right, the buildings had been saved by the width of the main road, but there was a good deal of evidence that even more lethal fire had passed this way. Broken and hanging telephone lines, shrapnel-pocked buildings, dead bodies and the sound of heavy action immediately beyond brought us to a sudden halt. For the first time we began to have serious doubts about the validity of the information given to us by our 'South Korean' friends.
A volley of rifle fire down the street aimed in our direction sent us racing for cover. I ran into a narrow lane, turning as I ran to see where the firing came from. The Texan, with his .45 pistol in his hand, came haring after me.
As he ran, he raised his pistol. His bullet went whistling past me as I hurled myself on the ground. Ten yards down the lane a rifle clattered and a North Korean ran with the Texan's bullets flying around his ears.
'The gook nearly had you,' said the Texan. 'He was gonna shoot you in the back when I let fly.' We waited for a few minutes and then made a dash for the jeep. The Texas native drove. I had his gun, but there was no call to use it. No one tried to stop us.
For one day more before he was relieved by units of the 1st Cavalry Division, just south of Taejon, Colonel Stephens held the line with the remains of the 21st Regiment. He had in all about 500 men, cooks, drivers, clerks, storemen and mechanics.
'You know what I'll do if they attack?' Stephens asked, as he sat at a desk at his new headquarters in a schoolroom. 'I'll throw the book at them,' he said, picking up an Army manual. 'It's the only goddamned thing I've got left.'
Colonel Stephens was not exaggerating the extent of the disaster. Within three short weeks the 24th Division had lost its commanding officer and suffered more than 30 percent casualties, including 2,400 officers and men listed as missing in action.
Denis Warner covered the Korean War for the London Daily Telegraph and several Australian newspapers. He is the author of numerous books on Asia and the Pacific. For further reading, he recommends: John Toland's In Mortal Combat: Korea 1950-1953; Captive in Korea, by Philip Deane; Embassy at War, by Harold J. Noble; and The Korean War, by Michael Hickey.
For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!
Leave a Reply
What is HistoryNet?
The HistoryNet.com is brought to you by Weider History, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.
If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.
From Our Magazines