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Korea - 50 years ago this week, Sept. 6-12
Korea - 50 years ago this week, Sept. 6-12
U.N. forces prepare to take Heartbreak Ridge
by Jim Caldwell
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 31, 2001) --
Having just taken the infamous Bloody Ridge, U.N.
forces readied to push on to Heartbreak Ridge, 50
years ago this week in Korea.
With about a week to prepare, the Reds heavily
fortified the position.
Sept. 6, 1951 -- The Marine Corps says it will need
from 5,000 to 8,600 men in the October draft and 4,700
in November. The Army will draft 36,000 in October and
29,000 in November. So far the draft has taken 712,480
men. The Marine Corps' share is 26,480.
Sept. 6-12 -- The truce talks in Kaesong have been
recessed since the communists broke off all
negotiations because of alleged neutrality violations
of the Kaesong meeting site. U.N. and U.S. leadership
believe the communists will resume negotiations
because they are blustering about U.N. violations
instead of calling off the talks.
On Sept. 10 the U.N. Command commits an actual
violation of the Kaesong neutral zone. A pilot from
the 3rd Bomb Group, in the wrong place because of a
navigational error, strafes Kaesong.
As soon as Admiral Turner Joy, chief U.N. negotiator,
receives confirmation that it was a U.S. plane, he
writes a note to the communists and apologizes for the
Gen. Matthew Ridgway, U.N. commander, said in August
that he wants the talks moved to another site that is
easier to protect. At the time, Joy didn't agree with
him, but after the chain of invented violation charges
he is firmly behind Ridgway. U.S. leaders do not want
Ridgway to offer a new location as a prerequisite for
resumption of talks. But Ridgway begins an exchange of
messages with his communist counterparts seeking a
change of venue.
Wherever the new site will be, Ridgway and Joy want it
to be on the line of contact. That is, each side would
be responsible for ensuring neutrality of the site
from their side of the battle line. Kaesong is in
enemy-held territory. For several days, with
directions from the United States, they work out the
approach they will take to move the meeting site when
the talks resume.
Ridgway makes a public statement that the talks should
be moved to another, more secure location.
On Sept. 7 U.N. Secretary Gen. Trygve Lie in New York
endorses Ridgway's idea and says its time the Reds
show "definite proof" their hopes for peace are
On Sept. 12 the communists broadcast a rejection of an
alternate site for peace talks.
On the front, the soldiers and marines are settling
into the ridge fortifications around the Punchbowl.
They had just taken them from the North Koreans in
some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.
The North Koreans, as usual, did not give up ground
easily. They had created strong fortifications in the
rugged hills around the Punchbowl. Whenever they were
dislodged from a position, they quickly
counterattacked to take it back.
Gen. James Van Fleet, Eighth Army commander, believes
that by following up the victories at Bloody Ridge and
other objectives, X Corps will catch the North Koreans
before they can get set. He orders the corps to take a
ridge three miles north of Bloody Ridge and one north
of the Punchbowl.
X Corps assigns 2nd Infantry Division the job of
taking the ridge above Bloody Ridge, which some say in
aerial photos looks like the spine "of a fish, with
hundreds of vertebrae." The ridge is dominated by
three hills. Hill 894 is at the southern end; 1,300
yards below is Hill 931 in the middle. Hill 851 is
2,100 yards north of 931. There is a network of
valleys between the entire hill mass.
Just like Bloody Ridge, this formation seems to be
made of stone and the approaches are over nearly
vertical terrain. News reporters will name it
The attack will not begin until Sept. 13, eight days
after 2nd ID took Bloody Ridge. The North Koreans have
plenty of time to fortify the new objective.
Van Fleet talks to the news media on a tour of the
front lines on Sept. 12. He says if the Reds start a
new offensive "it would give us a chance to slaughter
them. They're in bad shape and we are hunting them ...
They will want peace before the winter before we're
through with them."
Two days earlier he had told reporters that the enemy
had lost 25,000 soldiers in the past two weeks.
Sept. 7 -- The Senate passes a bill that will raise
the cost of mailing a letter in the United States from
three cents to four cents, and sends it to the House.
Sept. 7-8 -- The Soviets lose in their attempt to
persuade Asian nations to boycott the Japanese peace
treaty conference in San Francisco. Soviet Deputy
Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko tries to win Japanese
favor with an attack on the United States for keeping
the Ryukyu and Bonin Islands, to be administered under
U.N. oversight. However, Japanese Prime Minister
Shigeru Yoshida, in a strongly anti-Soviet speech on
Sept. 7, points out that Soviet seizure of their South
Sakhalin and Kuriles Islands drove Japan to a defense
pact with America.
Before Yoshida's speech, Gromyko loses in his bid to
have provisions of the Soviets' "peace" plan included
in the treaty. The gallery boos Gromyko and the
Russian walks out of the conference, but returns
several minutes later.
Yoshida reassures the conference attendees that Japan
"is no longer the Japan of yesterday" but "a new
nation dedicated to peace, democracy and freedom." The
United States must protect Japan militarily because
"it is as clear as day that this tide of [Red]
aggression will beat down upon our shores."
The Japanese prime minister had earlier privately told
the delegates from the Philippines and Indonesia that
his country would enter into a treaty with them, which
is permitted by the peace treaty. Under the
agreements, Japan will help rebuild their countries
that Japan decimated during the war.
On Sept. 8, 100 delegates from 49 countries sign the
treaty in a 72-minute ceremony. The USSR,
Czechoslovakia and Poland walk out on the ceremony.
Sept. 12 -- General of the Army George C. Marshall
retires as Defense Secretary. In his nearly 50-year
career, Marshall served as Army chief of staff during
World War II, as a special ambassador to China and as
secretary of state for two years. While he was
secretary of state, the European aid plan that was
named for him began.
Truman nominates Deputy Defense Secretary Robert A.
Lovett to replace him. Lovett, a Navy pilot in World
War I, served in the War Department throughout World
War II. After the war he was in the State Department
before he assumed his current job.
The Army announces that it is activating two more
National Guard divisions in early 1952. They are the
Ohio Guard's 30th Division and the 44th Division from
the Illinois Guard. This brings the Guard divisions
activated for Korea to eight. The Army also says a
ninth will be called up later in '52, along with two
regimental combat teams.
(Editor's note: Jim Caldwell is a member of the U.S.
Army Training and Doctrine Command public affairs
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