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Korea - 50 years ago this week, Sept. 20-26
Korea - 50 years ago this week, Sept. 20-26
by Jim Caldwell
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 18, 2001) -- The
fight to take Heartbreak Ridge continues as U.S.
casualties rise again in the latest battle 50 years
ago this week in Korea.
Sept. 20, 1951 -- President Truman urges the Senate to
approve the tax bill to "as nearly as possible the $10
billion I recommended." He says without it the 1952
deficit "will be in the neighborhood of $10 billion."
Truman recommends higher taxes on corporate profits
and "overly generous" capital gains exclusions.
"The will of the people" will determine whether Japan
rearms, says the policy statement of the country's
ruling Liberal Party.
The Indian government calls off a meeting of all Asian
countries that didn't sign the Japanese peace treaty
at the San Francisco conference. The purpose was to
develop a separate treaty with Japan, but when
Indonesia signed the treaty in San Francisco, that
upset India's plans. Sept. 20-26 -- Communist leaders
say on Sept. 20 that Gen. Matthew Ridgway, U.N.
commander, took "a responsible attitude regarding
violations" of the Kaesong neutral zone. Ridgway had
sent them a message Sept. 17 that he would only admit
the accidental strafing of Kaesong by an American
pilot Sept. 10. The reds say the talks should resume
and "appropriate machinery" should be arranged to
prevent future neutral zone violations.
Ridgway refuses another communist offer to get back to
the talks with no strings attached on Sept. 23.
But the liaison officers again meet on Sept. 24.
Afterward, Air Force Col. Andrew Kinney reports to
Ridgway that the communists seem anxious to resume
talks. However, they don't want to leave questions of
a new meeting site up to the liaison officers to hash
The liaison officers have another fruitless meeting
Nothing in the tactical situation has changed,
intelligence officials in the United States say, so
Moscow must have ordered the Chinese and North Koreans
to resume the talks for some purpose that benefits the
The new commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, Maj.
Gen. Robert N. Young, takes over on Sept. 20. He
immediately decides that the plan developed by Col.
John Lynch, 9th Regiment commander, is better than
sending just two battalions of the 23rd Infantry
Regiment against Heartbreak Ridge.
Lynch's plan is to use his 1st Battalion to attack
Hills 867 and 1024 southwest of Hill 894 on Heartbreak
Ridge. The communists might see this as a widening of
the offensive and move forces from Heartbreak Ridge,
making the ridge easier to take. The attack is
scheduled for Sept. 23.
In the meantime, Gen. James A. Van Fleet, Eighth U.S.
Army commander, tells Maj. Gen. Clovis Byers, X Corps
commander, to bring his western flank in line with the
X Corps.' So he picks the Republic of Korea's 7th
Division to take Hill 1142, about 2,000 yards
northwest of Hill 1024, which is the objective of the
1st Battalion, 9th IR.
The 1st Battalion wins 1024 on Sept. 25, and the South
Koreans capture their hill the next day.
The North Koreans see the attacks as a serious threat
to their positions and divert the 3rd Regiment of
their 6th Division from Heartbreak Ridge to defend
Hill 867, which guards their valley to the north.
Even thought the reds on Heartbreak Ridge are down a
regiment, the U.S. 23rd's battalions continue their
attacks without success through Sept. 21-22. The 1st
Battalion of the 23rd Inf. Regt. gets into the action
and makes it to the crest of the ridge on Sept. 23.
They are driven off by a North Korean counterattack.
The attack chewed up the 1st Battalion, but they held
until they ran out of ammo. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions
continue to try to take the ridge, but in vain.
Col. James Adams, commander of the 23rd Inf. Regt.
tells Maj. Gen. Young on Sept. 26 that it's "suicide"
to keep following the original plan. The 23rd has
taken more than 950 casualties. The total losses for
the 2nd ID for the week are more than 1,670.
Adams agrees with Lynch that the offensives should be
widened, and units should not be thrown against an
objective where they're outmanned and the terrain
favors the enemy. If the entire Korean force was under
attack, they couldn't provide reinforcements for their
troops holding Heartbreak Ridge. Eventually the 23rd
Inf. Regt. could grind down the defenders and take the
ridge without suffering the numbers of casualties
they've sustained so far.
Young will later call the attempts so far to capture
Heartbreak Ridge a "fiasco."
Sept. 21 -- A hydrogen bomb "is going to turn out to
be a practical proposition," Joseph Alsop writes in
the New York Herald Tribune. He said a test at
Eniwetok in the Pacific demonstrated that it works.
The bomb employs tritium, a form of hydrogen that
explodes with the heat of the sun's surface.
Sept. 23 -- In the air over Korea, 34 U.S. Air Force
Sabrejets clash with 35 MiG-15s over North Korea. UN
headquarters reports that three enemy planes were shot
State and Defense Departments spokesmen say that
"considerable improvement" will be made in supplying
arms and money to countries in Indochina. The decision
was made following a visit to Washington by Gen. Jean
de Lattre de Tassigny, French High Commissioner in
Indochina. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are expected to
get most of the $1 billion designated for Far Eastern
countries. During de Lattre's week-long visit, he
reported that the 200,000 French and Vietnam combat
troops, along with 160,000 support troops are facing
350,000 Viet Minh regulars and guerrillas, and 80,00
to 150,000 Chinese "volunteers."
England's King George VI has part of a cancerous lung
removed in a two-hour operation at Buckingham Palace.
A Council of State will be organized to act for the
king until he recovers. Sept. 25 -- In aerial fights
between 37 Sabrejets and 80 MiG-15s results, five MiGs
are shot down and five are destroyed, the United
Truman signs regulations ending draft deferments for
235,000 childless men and around 150,000 4-Fs. Sept.
26 -- The number of dogfights in "MiG Alley" over
northwestern Korea reaches a peak for the week. In
three separate battles, 101 U.S. and Australian pilots
go up against 155 enemy pilots. The Americans fly
Sabrejets and Thunderjets while the Australians use
the British Meteors. The U.N. pilots claim they
damaged 14 MiGs.
They also report that a new high-wing MiG, maybe
MiG-19s, were part of the Red formations.
The enemy fighters remain near the Manchurian border
and are not providing air support to communist troops
at the front.
U.S. casualties in the week of Sept. 15-21 climbed
back to June 27 levels with 2,212 Americans wounded or
The Selective Service Administration announces that
college student draft deferment tests will be given at
1,000 centers around the country Dec. 13 and April 14.
(Editor's note: Jim Caldwell is a member of the U.S.
Amy Training and Doctrine Command public affairs
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