Korean War: Forgotten 24th and 34th Infantry Regiments

6/12/2006 • Military History

American military history records the feats of many famous commands, such as the ‘Big Red One’ (1st Infantry Division), the 7th Cavalry and the 27th (‘Wolfhound’) Infantry regiments. But accounts of the Korean War scarcely mention the 24th and 34th Infantry regiments. Both gave distinguished service, yet both were disbanded in Korea and their men used to form battalions in other regiments. Some veterans of the two commands remain bitter over what they consider unnecessary and vindictive action on the U.S. Army’s part.

The 24th Infantry Regiment was formed a few years after the end of the Civil War, when the Army organized the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry regiments and 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry regiments, each comprised of black soldiers led by white officers. Those four regiments served for some 20 years on the Western frontier. Later, during the Spanish-American War, the 24th Infantry participated in the July 1, 1898, assault on San Juan Hill and suffered 40 percent casualties.

The 24th Regiment saw little combat during World War II, but in December 1944 it was sent to garrison the supposedly secure islands of Saipan and Tinian. As late as April 1945, troops of the 24th found and destroyed residual pockets of resistance on both islands. In July, it was sent to mop up the remaining Japanese in Kerama Retto, west of Okinawa. On August 22, the regimental commander accepted the surrender of Japanese forces on Aka Island, in the Kerama Island group.

The 24th was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division on February 1, 1946. It was the only one of the 12 U.S. Army infantry regiments of the four divisions occupying Japan that had all three of its authorized battalions. The other 11 had only two battalions each.

The 34th U.S. Infantry Regiment was formed on June 3, 1916. During World War I, it fought in France with the 7th Infantry Division from August to November 11, 1918, and was awarded the French Battle Honors of Lorraine.

In 1941, the 34th was named outstanding regiment during the Army’s Carolina maneuvers. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it was sent to Hawaii and, on June 12, 1943, became part of the recently formed 24th Infantry Division, participating in operations at Tanahmerah and Hollandia, New Guinea, in 1944. Subsequently attached to the 41st Infantry Division, the 34th seized the Sorido and Boroke airbases on Biak Island, and spearheaded the division’s drive across Leyte in the Philippine Islands, remaining in constant contact with Japanese forces for 75 consecutive days. The 1st Battalion of the 34th (1/34th) earned a Distinguished Unit Citation.

Attached to the 38th Infantry Division in January 1945, the 34th Infantry fought at Subic Bay and Bataan (where its Company F suffered 90-percent casualties in one day), at Zig Zag Pass and at Corregidor, rejoining the 24th Division for the Mindanao campaign.

The 34th earned four battle streamers during World War II. It then joined with the 24th Division to occupy the island of Kyushu, Japan.

After North Korea invaded the South on June 25, 1950, the U.S. Army committed its first divisions to battle by battalion. Their mission was to delay the enemy advance. The battalions usually fought alone, often without much artillery, heavy mortar or air support. Troops of the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) easily flanked each American unit out of position within hours of contact.

The 34th Infantry, as part of the 24th Division, arrived in Korea on July 3 with 1,898 officers and enlisted men. The 1st Battalion numbered just over 600 men, and the 3rd (there was no 2nd) had about 640. A full U.S. Army battalion normally numbered 900 troops. On July 5, Lt. Col. Harold ‘Red’ Ayres, a World War II infantry battalion commander, took command of the 1/34th.

Major General William F. Dean, the 24th Division’s commander, ordered Ayres’ battalion to a blocking position near Pyongtaek and Asan Bay on South Korea’s west coast, and Lt. Col. David H. Smith’s 3rd Battalion to a similar position at Ansong, about 10 miles east of Pyongtaek. Brigadier General George B. Barth informed Ayres that Task Force Smith–a half-battalion force from the 21st Infantry–had been defeated earlier in the day and admonished Ayres to delay the enemy but not allow his battalion to’suffer the same fate as…Smith’s.’

The North Korean 4th Infantry Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Lee Kwon Mu, attacked the 1/34th around 5 a.m. on the 6th. The American battalion had no artillery support, and the few rounds available for its 4.2-inch mortars were soon expended. Although the Americans had a few recoilless rifles, there was no ammunition for them. Meantime, the regimental commander, Colonel Jay Lovless, sent Major John J. Dunn, his regimental S3 (operations officer), to Ayres with orders to hold as long as possible, ‘and then fall back to a position in the vicinity of Chonan….’ The battalion held for about five hours, with a loss of 18 troops wounded and 33 missing. Then, as North Korean infantry flowed around the 1/34th’s flank, Ayres decided to withdraw.

Barth later wrote that he had instructed Ayres to delay in successive positions, not move south directly to Chonan. Ayres, however, believed the new orders from the commander of the 34th, Lovless, superseded Barth’s, since an artillery commander is not ordinarily in an infantry chain of command. Unknown to Lovless and Ayres, however, Dean had appointed Barth to head a task force consisting of the 34th Infantry and two artillery battalions. That arrangement resulted in confusion as to whose order to obey. Barth, at some point, also ordered the 3/34th to withdraw from Ansong.

Dean was furious when he learned that the 34th had not delayed in successive positions but pulled back some 13 miles to Chonan. He blamed Lovless for the rapid fallback and called Colonel Robert R. Martin, who had served alongside Dean in the 44th Division during World War II, to his headquarters.

Martin arrived in the 34th Regiment’s command post (CP) at Chonan around 7 a.m. on the 7th and stayed with Lovless the rest of the day. Lovless had sent a reinforced rifle company from the 3/34th forward on reconnaissance early that morning, following it with the remainder of the battalion, as Dean had ordered. At about 4 p.m., an air-dropped message from Dean advised him to ‘proceed with greatest caution,’ and that large numbers of enemy troops were on his flanks. Lovless immediately ordered the 3rd Battalion to withdraw, then went to inform Ayres of the situation. At Ayres’ CP, Lovless was given written orders by the assistant division commander relieving him of his command, which was given to Martin.

As the 3/34th dug in at new positions, Company L was sent forward to rescue some troops of the regimental Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) platoon who had been left behind when that unit had fought its way out of an ambush. Then the 3/34th began withdrawing, as Lovless had ordered. Major Dunn, who had been with Company L, was surprised at the withdrawal. He came into the regimental CP and said that the battalion was leaving one of the best defensive positions he had seen. Martin directed Dunn to ‘put them back on that position,’ but he failed to tell him that the 3/34th had been withdrawn on regimental orders, because NKPA troops had been spotted on both of its flanks.

A confused 3/34th was turned around again and began moving north out of Chonan. Suddenly, the lead elements were fired upon, to which they reacted by deploying and returning fire. Then the battalion suddenly began to withdraw through the town. Martin ordered it back in to defend Chonan, but by then Dunn had been wounded and taken prisoner, while the battalion S3, Major Boone Seegers, who was also hit, had bled to death.

On the following day, July 8, the 34th fought advancing troops of the NKPA 4th Division’s 16th and 18th Infantry regiments, backed by T-34/85 tanks of the 105th Armored Brigade. During the fight for Chonan, the Americans set one T-34 tank afire with five grenades and used rocket launchers to destroy two others. Colonel Martin joined a tank-hunter team, but he was killed by the tank they were hunting. The executive officer, Lt. Col. Robert L. ‘Pappy’ Wadlington, assumed command of the 34th.

The regiment had lost two commanders in two days, along with the operations officers of the regiment and of the 3rd Battalion. A number of other senior officers were also gone. Moreover, the two battalions of the 34th had been placed in no-win situations, as at Pyongtaek and Chonan.

At about 5 p.m. on July 12, the NKPA attacked the 1/34th near Kongju. The battalion held until about 2:30 a.m. on the 13th, then silently withdrew, concealed in the shadow of a hill.

On July 13, the 34th and 19th Infantry regiments, plus the divisional recon company and the I&R platoon, defended a 34-mile-long line on the Kum River, the first major obstacle to the NKPA’s advance since they had crossed the Han River farther north. The 34th’s 3rd Battalion was on the river, and the 1st was at Yongsong, about two miles to the south.

An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 troops of the NKPA 4th Division, backed by 20 tanks of the 105th Brigade’s 793rd Tank Battalion, were poised to attack the 34th Regiment at Kongju, while roughly the same number of men from the NKPA 3rd Infantry Division prepared to take on the 19th. American front-line strength along the Kum was not more than 2,000 men.

Communications within the 3/34th were poor. Telephone wire was almost unobtainable, and most radios lacked replacement batteries. All three rifle companies of the battalion were distributed along a two-mile river front. That night the 40 exhausted men of Company K were evacuated to Taejon, leaving about 104 men in the remaining two units to carry on the defense.

On the 14th, while North Korean mortar and artillery fire fell on the battalion, an estimated 500 soldiers of the NKPA 16th Regiment crossed the Kum River about two miles to the south. Believing his position untenable, the Company L commander, 1st Lt. Archie L. Stith, withdrew his unit around 11 a.m. Stith then left to find the battalion CP, which he finally located 20 miles south of Konju, and reported his decision to the new battalion commander, Major Newton W. Lantron–who summarily relieved him of command and threatened to court-martial him.

The NKPA 16th Infantry also attacked the 63rd Field Artillery Battalion (FAB). At least two of the battalion’s howitzers were destroyed by North Korean mortar fire. The men were unable to get the other eight guns out, so they disabled them.

Ayres’ 1/34th was ordered to the 63rd FAB positions to’save any men or equipment in the area,’ but was told to return at dark. His men met intense small-arms and machine-gun fire from high ground overlooking the artillery position. After locating a few wounded men and some jeeps in operating condition, he withdrew the battalion to Nonsan at nightfall.

Company I had stayed in its Kum River position. Except for shelling, the NKPA left the unit alone. It was withdrawn at 9:30 p.m.

On July 19, the 1/34th Infantry was positioned along the Kapchon River west of Taejon, astride the Kongju Road. The 2/19th Infantry, south of the 1/34th, was also on the Kapchon, defending the Nonsan Road.

At daylight on July 20, the NKPA 4th Division’s 5th Infantry Regiment struck the 1/34th with infantry and six to eight tanks, forcing Company B northward. Company A held until about 11 a.m., when it withdrew toward Taejon. The battalion CP was attacked at 4 a.m. and forced to displace an hour later.

The 2/19th Infantry was also attacked. Since the 1/34th had apparently withdrawn, the 2/19th commander began withdrawing his battalion. By 10 a.m., both battalions had pulled out, opening the way to Taejon.

In the battle for Taejon, rocket-launcher teams from several units including the 3/34th (which had been deployed to the rear of the 1st Battalion and on the northern road into Taejon) knocked out eight T-34 tanks. However, a counterattack into the gap between the 1st Battalion and 2/19th Infantry by elements of the 3/34th Infantry shortly after daylight was thwarted by six North Korean tanks and a battalion of the 5th Infantry.

Elements of the 34th Infantry, remnants of the division’s artillery battalions, the division recon company, engineer battalion and part of the 19th Infantry tried to defend Taejon, but they were overwhelmed and forced to withdraw through enemy fire. It was a rout. Company L, 34th Infantry, which remained in the city as a rear guard, lost 107 out of 153 men.

The 34th lost at least 530 men out of its total strength of 1,549 present at Taejon. Leadership losses in the regiment since entering combat included four regimental commanders and two operations officers in just over two weeks. The 1st Battalion lost its executive officer on July 20, and the 3/34th lost two battalion commanders (Lantron was taken prisoner on July 20) and its operations officer. The division commander, General Dean, was also missing in action. It was later learned that he, too, had been taken prisoner.

On July 29, the 34th was dug in near Kochang. The regiment had no switchboard and was short of mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns. Its commander, Colonel Charles E. Beauchamp (appointed just before the struggle for Taejon), wanted to pull his regiment back three miles, but the new division commander, Brig. Gen. John H. Church, ordered him to stand fast. Two NKPA attacks at 5 a.m. cut off Company I of the 3/34th and pushed the 1/34th out of position. Beauchamp halted the battalion on the road. The 1st Battalion later rescued all but one platoon of the cut-off unit. That same afternoon the 34th withdrew some 15 miles to the east.

At the beginning of August, the 24th Division deployed behind the Naktong River on a 40-mile front, with the 34th, 21st and ROK (Republic of Korea) 17th Infantry regiments on line from south to north. The 34th’s sector was some 34,000 yards, along which were deployed the 493 remaining troops of the 3rd Battalion. The 515 troops of the 1/34th waited in reserve at Kang-ni, about two miles from the river. The 34th numbered 1,402 men, less than half the authorized regimental strength. All three rifle companies of the 3/34th were scattered in small enclaves and outposts along the river. The regiment was critically short of vehicles, 4.2-inch mortars and Browning automatic rifles, the mainstays of Korean War­era rifle squads.

On August 4, elements of the North Korean 16th Infantry Regiment staged an assault across the Naktong between Companies I and L, 3/34 Infantry, and overwhelmed most of their positions. NKPA troops drove about five miles into the 24th Division sector, precipitating the First Battle of the Naktong Bulge, which eventually involved the entire 24th Division, the U.S. 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, the newly arrived 9th Infantry Regiment and 1/23rd Infantry (both from the 2nd Infantry Division) and the 2/27th Infantry. The struggle lasted until August 19.

The 34th Infantry gave its all. Company K stayed on its 7,500-yard front along the Naktong alone until ordered out on about August 14. At the outset, the 1/34th launched a counterattack, but part of Company C was trapped in a grist mill, where the men valiantly held out until rescued. Captain Albert F. Alfonso, with remnants of Companies A, C and L, held a small perimeter at the nose of the bulge until ordered out on the night of August 8-9. Elements of the regiment took part in a number of counterattacks between August 6 and 18.

The 34th made its last attack on the 18th, during which Company C was reduced to 37 men and Company A to 61. Company L lost more than 20 men in a few minutes to a counterattack. When it was relieved by the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division on August 25, the 24th Division numbered 10,600 men–8,000 short of full strength. Only 184 of the original regimental strength of 1,898 men remained in the 34th Infantry.

On August 27, Lt. Gen. Walton Walker, U.S. Eighth Army commander in Korea, dissolved the 34th, converting the 1/34th into the 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, and the 3/34th into the 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry. The 5th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) became the 2nd Division’s third regiment. General Church preferred having the 5th fully manned to rebuilding the 34th. He then reassigned the men of the 34th to give his other two regiments their authorized third battalions. The 34th was reconstituted in Japan and later served again in Korea.

While confusion in its command structure bedeviled the 34th Infantry, the 24th, commanded by Colonel Horton V. White, suffered because of an additional factor–segregation. Many of the black regiment’s white officers held prejudices that affected both their leadership and their later evaluations of the 24th’s troops.

The regiment experienced its first significant action in Korea when its 3rd Battalion, under Lt. Col. Samuel Pierce, Jr., tried to retake the town of Yechon on July 19, 1950. Darkness intervened in the attack, but the 3rd seized the town on the following day with little trouble. Taking Yechon was unimportant in itself, but it greatly boosted regimental morale, since that was the first town retaken by U.S. troops since the war began. Yechon was turned over to troops of the ROK Capital Division’s 28th Regiment, who later lost it during an enemy counterattack.

On August 6, Company L was ambushed near the town of Sobuk with a fury and suddenness that left the unit in disarray. Company M was struck that night. During that fight, machine-gunner Pfc William Thompson gave his life to stop the enemy and save many of his comrades, for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Meanwhile, a task force built around Company I and a platoon of another segregated unit, the black 77th Engineer Combat Company (ECC), was ambushed on its way to contact U.S. forces near Chindong-ni. At least 12 men were killed and an unknown number wounded, and seven or eight members of the 77th ECC were missing. The unit’s commander, Captain Charles M. Bussey, later rescued those men in a daring foray.

That day, too, a sick Colonel White was relieved of command by 57-year-old Colonel Arthur S. Champeny, and Colonel Pierce of the 3/24th was wounded in action. Lt. Col. John T. Corley, a highly respected officer, took command of the 3/24th on August 9. On the 12th, his battalion attacked through the rugged mountains just south of Sobuk-san (Hill 738), an area of high, very steep, narrow-topped ridges and deep valleys. By the 13th, it was stalled by terrain and a stubborn enemy. A long, bloody struggle for control of some of those ridges went on from mid-August until the breakout from the perimeter in late September.

On August 15, the 24th Infantry held the center of the 25th Division’s Pusan perimeter line. In the north, its positions were on relatively low ground, but as they went south, the line extended along ever steeper and more rugged ridges. The line included Battle Mountain (also known as Hill 665, Old Baldy, Napalm Hill or Bloody Knob), the Rocky Crags and Pil-bong (Hill 743) and extended to a point about 4,000 yards short of Sobuk-san (a k a Bloody Sobuk). A force of ROK troops was placed on Sobuk. From Sobuk, the ridges gradually became smaller as they neared Korea’s southern coast, where the 5th RCT was located.

There were no trails or roads up either Battle Mountain or Pil-bong. It took climbers in good condition two to three hours to ascend Pil-bong, and three or four hours to climb Battle Mountain. Supply bearers needed six hours for a Battle Mountain round trip.

Maintaining wire communications was a nightmare. North Korean patrols constantly cut the wire, then ambushed wiremen trying to find the break. Evacuation of the wounded was even more difficult. It took six men to carry a stretcher off the mountain, often accompanied by an aid man and escorted by riflemen for protection. When it rained, the terrain was almost impossible to negotiate. That demoralizing situation would improve later in the war, when helicopters were introduced to evacuate the wounded.

On August 18, elements of the NKPA 6th Division attacked the 2/24th on Battle Mountain, overrunning Company E, and on the 19th they attacked the 1/24th, driving Company C from its position. Company A held on. According to Lt. Col. Roy Appleman, author of the Army’s official history, the attack on the 18th tore a hole ‘nearly a mile wide in the line north of Pilbong,’ which the enemy could exploit.

The NKPA did not exploit the gap, but they attacked the 1/24th on the 20th, again driving Company C from its position. The 3rd Battalion counterattacked, regaining most of the lost ground. In that assault, 2nd Lt. Ted Swett served as the ninth platoon leader that the 3rd Platoon of Company L had had so far in the war. He was wounded on the 21st, and it took six hours to carry him down the mountain. That same morning, Companies I and L retook lost ground but were again driven off by an estimated two-battalion NKPA assault.

The struggle for Battle Mountain went on through the rest of August. At times, according to an Army historian, individuals in the front-line units of the 24th pulled out of position without orders, or ‘bugged out’ in Korean War terminology. No doubt some men did bug out, but most of the troops stayed, fought and died, inflicting heavy casualties on the North Koreans. The 24th’s own battle losses were severe, and division reserves were scarce. At one point, the 77th ECC and ROK troops were committed to the bloody defensive battle. The summit of Battle Mountain changed hands 19 times between August 15 and August 31, according to calculations of the Intelligence sergeant of 1st Battalion. The 24th regiment suffered 500 battle casualties in August. In that month, too, the 3/34th had three different battalion commanders.

The 2nd Battalion held 6,000 yards of the regiment’s right on hills west and southwest of Haman. Company F held 1,300 yards on the right. Next was Company G, also on a 1,300-yard frontage. Company E, to the left of G, held twice the frontage of either of the other two units, but one platoon was positioned by itself 1,300 to 1,400 yards south of the bulk of Company E.

On August 31, the NKPA launched a general offensive against the 24th and the neighboring 35th Infantry regiments of the 25th Division. Clay Blair, in The Forgotten War, writes that the enemy attacked the 24th and 35th with two regiments each. The main thrust at the 24th, by elements of the North Korean 6th and 7th Infantry divisions, came against the 2nd Battalion. The battalion line was soon penetrated. Remnants of Company F pulled back, while Company G was fragmented early on, and the bulk of Company E was also displaced. According to the Army’s official history, there were several instances of 24th soldiers’ bugging out during that action. Some were later substantiated, but others proved to be false.

The 2nd Battalion rear area was chaotic, teeming with North Korean soldiers as well as men from the overrun units, mortarmen, medics, engineers, headquarters personnel, military policemen, vehicles from those units, the artillery, etc. Because of the chaos in the battalion’s rear, including at the battalion CP, it seemed that no one was in charge.

The entire 24th Regiment has been condemned ever since for its perfomance at that time, but two factors contributed to the situation. First, less than three rifle companies of the battalion were struck by overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops. Second, as was the case with the 34th Infantry, some unit leadership in the 2/24th failed. The battalion CP was destroyed, and the battalion commander lost control almost from the beginning. The regimental CP also was forced to displace, contributing significantly to the loss of command and control. With the breakdown in leadership came a breakdown among the troops.

The NKPA attack on the 35th Infantry, on a broader front, penetrated the center of its line, held by 300 ROK policemen. Soon hundreds of North Koreans were also in the 35th’s rear areas. The 27th Infantry counterattacked and with elements of the 24th and 35th battled NKPA troops in the rear areas for more than a week, finally wiping them out. More than 2,000 North Korean dead were buried behind the lines.

On September 6, Colonel Champeny was wounded and replaced by Colonel Corley. On September 14, an estimated 400 to 500 North Koreans stormed Companies I and L of the 24th Infantry on Pil-bong. The companies repulsed several attacks, but finally control broke down. Company L was reduced to about 40 men. The other members of the company had either been wounded or killed or had left without orders. Major Melvin R. Blair, the new battalion commander, took charge, but he was wounded in the leg by a North Korean sniper while trying to hold the summit. An American attempt to retake Pil-bong on the 16th failed. A task force of two infantry companies and more than a company of engineers, supported by the recon company and the 3/24’s heavy weapons company, launched another counterassault, but that also failed.

The landing at Inchon by U.S. and ROK forces on September 15 finally compelled the North Koreans to withdraw from the Pusan perimeter. The 24th Infantry was divided into Task Forces Blair and Corley (named for their commanders), and they, along with several from other commands, began pursuing the enemy on September 27. By October 1, 1950, the NKPA troops were fleeing back across the 38th parallel.

The 25th Division remained in South Korea until ordered north in late November to participate in the Chongchon operation. Later in November, overwhelming assaults by Chinese troops forced the U.S. Eighth Army to withdraw. On November 29, the Chinese 40th Army flanked the 24th Infantry’s line north of the Chongchon River in North Korea, forcing the neighboring 9th Regiment of the 2nd Division to withdraw.

On November 30, the 3/24th was at Kunu-ri, on the division’s open right flank, with Chinese troops behind it. With the help of air support, the battalion extricated itself, losing one soldier killed, 30 wounded and 109 missing. Overall, the 24th Infantry lost one-fifth of its officers and one-third of its enlisted men in the withdrawal across the Chongchon. Colonel Corley blamed the disarray of the 3rd Battalion on its commander, Lt. Col. Melvin E. Blair, whom he summarily relieved.

The Eighth Army’s withdrawal did not cease until the force was well below the 39th parallel. But by early March 1951, the American and ROK troops were again ready for a full-scale offensive.

On March 6, the 25th Division advanced across the Han River. The 1/24th did well, moving over difficult terrain against an entrenched enemy. The 3rd Battalion initially also performed well, executing a hastily devised river crossing and advancing through rough country against well dug-in Chinese troops, far from the 1st Battalion. While climbing up steep terrain, however, the 1/24th reportedly collapsed under Chinese fire and withdrew in disorder. When the division commander learned of that action, his confidence in the 24th plummeted.

Although the 24th performed well in the attack north of the Han and the subsequent general withdrawal of the Eighth Army after the Chinese spring offensive of 1951, its reputation was somewhat tarnished. But it again performed well in the Army’s drive back north in May and June 1951.

In August, the regiment’s new commander, Colonel William D. Gillis, prodded by the division commander, closely examined the 24th’s record in Korea. Determining that leadership had been the problem, he relieved a number of officers.

After the change in command, Company F conducted a valiant bayonet and grenade charge on September 15. However, the positive performance of Company F was ignored by higher commands and the news media. By October 1, 1951, the 24th had passed into history.

The 24th and its black members were tagged with every stereotypical racial slur possible–blacks were afraid of the dark, wouldn’t fight, were undependable, hated whites, resented white leadership, were disloyal, etc. Racial prejudice and stereotypical notions also affected how some white officers in the regiment handled their charges. The 24th had an inordinately high turnover of senior NCO and officer leadership at the company level, and had seven regimental commanders in 14 months, when other regiments in Korea had two to four. Three changes were made in the first two months. The 1st Battalion saw three different commanders in the first three months, while the 2nd and 3rd battalions had five each in the same period. Continuity of leadership, purpose and command cannot be attained when commanders change so rapidly.

The 34th had also suffered from a rapid turnover of senior leadership–four different regimental commanders within two weeks. Its 1st Battalion also had three commanders in the same period. The long withdrawals from Pyongtaek and Ansong, the confusion at Chonan, the disaster on the Kum River and the debacle at Taejon–all were blamed in varying degrees on the 34th Infantry and its leadership. Colonel Beauchamp of the 34th was in overall command at Taejon, yet he and his executive officer, Colonel Wadlington–along with General Dean, who was also there and not in command–were all out of Beauchamp’s CP at the same time, but none of them told anyone there where they were going, how long they expected to be absent or how to handle an emergency.

The 24th and 34th Infantry regiments acquired bad reputations in Korea, but to a large extent both units were victims of the perceptions, prejudices and expedients of the time. They were also fighting against a tough, well-trained enemy that the U.S. military had seriously underestimated at the time they were committed to the fighting. Besides hard lessons in leadership learned by both regiments, the 24th’s experience demonstrated that integration within the U.S. Army was long overdue.

Retired Brigadier General Uzal W. Ent served in Korea with the 27th Infantry Regiment and later in the 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!

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