WITHDRAWAL FROM NORTH KOREA
November 23 to December 31, 1950
Compiled by Ed Evanhoe, November 2002
Following their breaking contact with U.N. forces on November 7th, the CCF withdrew into mountains to the north but left screening forces in place to slow the advance by U.N. forces. As of November 23, the CCF XII Army Group's six armies were positioned 10 to 15 miles north of U.N. front lines - waiting to strike.
The Netherlands Battalion arrived in Korea.
In the belief the initial CCF attack had been a 'spoiling" attack to give time for remaining North Korean troops to withdraw into China, and that only limited CCF forces remained in North Korea, Eighth Army and X-Corps started a general attack north expecting only minor resistance.
In the west I Corps assault forces consisted of 24th Division, ROK 1st Division and British 27th Commonwealth Brigade. In IX Corps in the center assault forces consisted of 25th Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry Division and the brigade-sized 1st Turkish Armed Forces Command. ROK II Corps in the east would attack with ROK 6th, 7th & 8th Divisions. The 1st Cavalry Division and the newly arrived British 29th Independent Infantry Brigade were 8th Army reserves. Units with no combat assignments in the attack were the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team and the Philippine 10th Battalion Combat Team, who were providing security in the P'yonggang-Chinamp'o area. Far to the south the newly formed ROK III Corps, consisting of the ROK 2nd, 5th, 9th & 11th Divisions, were operating against guerrillas in central and southern Korea. And the Thai Battalion was moving north toward P'yongyang.
The two I Corps divisions, the U.S. 24th and ROK 1st Division jumped off at dawn, attacking toward Chongju and T'aech'on respectively. Both advance against light resistance, ending the day with the 24th near Chongju and the ROK 1st Division four miles away from T'aech'on.
IX Corps kept the Turkish Brigade in reserve at Kunu-ri while the 25th Division attacked toward Unsan and the 2nd Division toward Huich'on. The 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division, advanced up west side of the Kuryong River, made a four mile gain for the day while the 24th Infantry on the east side of the Kuryong River gained 7 miles. During this advance the 24th came across 30 American POW's, all wounded and frostbitten, left behind by the Chinese.
In the east ROK II Corps started two divisions north along mountainous secondary roads to pace Eighth Army's advance. These divisions made slow advances against stiff Chinese resistance.
Chongju, against expectations this would be a main point or resistance, was empty when 21st Infantry troops entered the city. Meanwhile the 19th Infantry moved to Napch'oongjong eight miles behind the 21st Infantry. In the T'aech'on area the ROK 1st Division ran into heavy resistance as they tried to capture the town. A fierce CCF counterattack drove them back two miles so they ended the day still 3 miles short of the town.
In IX Corps area, the 2nd Division gained about two miles during the day ending the day stretched along a 15-mile front centered in the Ch'ongch'on Valley about 20 miles north of Kunu-ri: The 9th Infantry on the division left, the 38th Infantry on the division right along the Paengnyong River stretching from the Ch'ongch'on to ROK II Corps positions to the east. The 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry occupied the half-mile gap in the center between the 9th and 38th. The remainder of the 23rd remained at Kunu-ri along with the divisions artillery battalions, who were firing support for the front line units. Meanwhile the 25th Division ends the day within easy striking distance of Unsan, spread in an arc from Kujang-dong on the Ch'ongch'on River to mountains on the west side of the Kuryong River just south of Unsan.
Between dark and midnight all hell broke loose in the 2 ID area. Two CCF regiments attacked the 9th Infantry, 2 ID, in the Ch'ongch'on Valley from the north while a third attacked the center of 38th Infantry, 2 ID, positions on the Paengnyong River. At the same time another CCF regiment attacked 9th Infantry positions from the northeast.
By shortly after midnight a confused battle was taking place all three 2 ID regiments were engaged but had been fragmented into company and part battalion sized units by infiltrating Chinese and were attacking units from all directions. Another CCF regiment infiltrated across the Ch'ongch'on River north of Kunu-ri and attacked the two reserve battalion 23rd and the three artillery battalions. This attack was turned but the Chinese withdrew to a mountain known as "Chinaman's Hat", located northeast of the 23rd but south of the rearmost positions of the 9th. Fighting tapered off at dawn but by noon word arrived that ROK II Corps 7th & 8th Divisions had been overrun and ROK II Corps was retreating in mass, thus making the 2 ID not only the flank unit for IX corps but also for Eighth Army. The route of ROK II Corps allowed the Chinese to infiltrate several regiments and turn them toward the mountains overlooking the road between Kunu-ri and Sunch'on, the 2 ID & Turkish Brigades withdrawal route. It also allowed the Chinese to attack down the road toward Kunu-ri. To counter these incursions, the 1st Cavalry Division moved to take up positions at Sunch'on and the road leading east from there. The Turkish Brigade received orders to move from Kunu-ri eastward to Tokch'on and clear the town.
Far to the west in I Corps area the 24th ID was ordered to halt its advance and be prepared to withdraw back to the Ch'ongch'on. The same order went out to the ROK 1st Division.
During the night the 25 ID had been hit by sharp but limited CCF attacks so managed to hold their positions.
The U.S. 1st Cavalry Division and ROK 6th Division stop the Chinese at Sinchang, about 30 miles northeast of Pyongyang.
On the west coast, the U.S. 24th ID, ROK 1st Division, and British 27th Commonwealth Brigade withdraw to below the Ch'ongch'on River near Anju. The 25th ID withdraws across the Ch'ongch'on River, crossing at Anju. To the east the Turkish Brigade and 2 ID hold north and east of Kunu-ri.
Meanwhile in the far northeast part of Korea the 7th ID's Task Force MacLean and 1st Marine Division are ordered to attack north of their positions east and west of the Chosin Reservoir in what later was called "the most ill-advised and unfortunate operation of the Korean War."
It was hoped the attack would relieve pressure on allied units to the west. Task Force MacLean's 3,200 soldiers, including 700 ROK troops and the Marines run into the 120,000-man Chinese Ninth Army Group. The Army unit becomes Task Force Faith when Col. Allan D. MacLean is wounded and captured and Lt. Col. Don C. Faith takes command.
All 2 ID units north of the Ch'ongch'on are ordered to retreat south of the river. Meanwhile I Corps is organizing a defense line on the south bank of the river while IX Corps it trying to hold the CCF east of Kunu-ri. Later in the day the 2nd ID, now with the Turkish Brigade attached, is ordered withdraw to Wawon, about 4 miles northeast of Kunu-ri. The 38th is ordered to withdraw and reassemble about a mile south of Kunu-ri, which it does. During this time the Turkish Brigade began withdrawing, without orders, from Wawon to Sinmin-ni.
The 1st Marine Division is surrounded at the reservoir and begins to fight its way south. Fighting is done across frozen rivers and in temperatures down to 35 degrees below zero.
MacArthur says the U.N. forces are in "an entirely new war" with China after destroying the North Korean army. He says "over 200,000" Chinese regular troops shatter the myth fostered by communist propaganda that only "volunteers" were fighting with their Korean brethren. Far larger Chinese forces are gathered in "the privileged sanctuary north of the international boundary" in Manchuria.
The same day, a British spokesman admits they had voted against a MacArthur request to the United Nations to bomb targets in Manchuria. They were still hoping to convince China not to enter the Korean War, and feel MacArthur's offensive is to blame for drawing China into the war.
MacArthur defends the Nov. 24 initiative, saying it had disrupted Chinese plans to build up their forces in Korea to more than 400,000 troops before they attacked U.N. forces. He calls his senior commanders to Tokyo to discuss the situation.
The general also tells an NBC radio reporter that his "home by Christmas" pledge four days earlier was made "in a jocular vein" and news people had "greatly exaggerated" the remark. "At no time have I ever attempted to predict the course or termination of this or any other military campaign." Great Britain and other European countries have derided those same remarks.
A Chinese spokesman echoes the "volunteers" propaganda, but tells the U.N. Security Council that China will make certain U.N. troops are driven out of Korea.
At dawn the CCF 40th Army attacked in force against the Turks. It soon became clear the Ch'ongch'on defense line could not be held so a general withdrawal of all units back to the Sunch'on line was ordered. For the Turks and the 2nd ID the order came late because several CCF regiments had already infiltrated south of Kunu-ri and taken up positions on the high ground overlooking the only road the division could use to withdraw. To their west I Corps began withdrawing down the Anju-Sunch'on-P'yongyang highway without opposition.
An Army spokesman in Washington admits that intelligence underestimated the strength of Chinese forces in Korea. Congressmen and newspaper columnists call for Truman to use the A-bomb against China. Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, Eighth Army commander, agrees with MacArthur, saying the Nov. 24 campaign "probably saved our forces from a trap which might well have destroyed them." Had they not attacked "the 200,000 Chinese troops thrown against my lines would have increased within a short time to double that strength."
Turkish forces, in bayonet fighting, stop the Chinese advance near Kunu-ri. American, South Korean, United Kingdom and Turkish troops on the west coast fight desperately to keep from being surrounded and cut off by the Chinese central thrust.
The 2nd Infantry Division, which has been rear guard for the withdrawal of other Eighth U.S. Army units in northwestern Korean, withdraws from Kunu-ri and begins a two day nightmare as the division has to fight through roadblock after roadblock on the narrow road leading south, which became known as "The Gauntlet."
The 1st Marine Division begins its famous fighting withdrawal from Chosin Reservoir. The Fifth and Seventh Marine Regiments begin fighting their way to the First Marine Division command post at Hagari. They finally make it Dec. 4 after fighting their way in subfreezing temperatures.
They airlift more than 4,300 casualties out of Hagari, and receive 537 replacements by air. Most of their casualties are frostbite victims.
The British Commonwealth Brigade, which attacked north from Sunch'on to link up with 2nd ID to help it withdraw, is stopped on the same mountain roads by Chinese forces.
The 2nd ID's 23rd Regimental Combat Team, which is the 23rd Infantry Regiment and the 15th Field Artillery, acts as the rear guard for the division's withdrawal.
The Chinese virtually wipe out the 9th and 38th Infantry Regiments on the retreat route. The 23rd RCT then withdraws to the east to escape the slaughter.
By the time the remnants of the 2nd ID reach the British lines, nearly a third of its strength is gone, about 4,940 soldiers.
Keiser is relieved of command and replaced by Maj. Gen. Robert B. McClure.
To the east, X Corps orders the Army Third and Seventh Divisions to withdraw south to Hungnam.
Task Force Faith, part of the Seventh Division and named for its commander, Lt. Col. Don Faith, begins to fight its way from the east bank of the Chosin Reservoir to Hegari at the south end of the reservoir to join up with the 1st Marine Division.
Fighting in temperatures at 35 degrees below zero and carrying 500 wounded, Faith is told by the hard-pressed Marines to look out for itself. By then the task force has 100 more casualties. Faith has the wounded loaded on trucks and begins to move south again. It is hit by Chinese mortars and small arms, and has to fight through enemy roadblocks.
U.S. Air Force fighters, mistaking them for an enemy column, also drop napalm on the front of the column. Faith is wounded by a Chinese grenade.
The task force reaches Hadong, only to find that the expected regimental tank company had already retreated to Hagari. It is then hit by an all-out Chinese attack. Faith is killed along with most of the other wounded. Only 385 of the original 3,200-man task force make it to U.N. lines. Faith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Elements of the Eighth U.S. Army on the Korean west coast establish a defensive perimeter at Pyongyang but they are ordered to abandon it the next day. As the troops fall back to Chinamp'o, they burn all the supply facilities in the city.
The Air Force says its crews flew 827 sorties supporting allied troops, a one-day record for the war. More communist jet fighters are also reported over North Korea.
Task Force 90 Amphibious Force begins evacuating U.N. soldiers from Chinamp'o and Wonsan on the west coast. On the east coast, the task force evacuates 1,800 American soldiers and sailors and 5,900 ROK soldiers from Wonsan. More than 3,800 U.N. fighters, 7,009 Korean civilian refugees, 1,146 vehicles and 10,013 tons of cargo are safely removed.
Chinese troops enter Pyongyang without a fight as U.N. units withdraw. Civilians began leaving the North Korean capital before the last of the allies depart. Thousands wade icy streams as they swarm south toward Seoul. The refugees interfere with the retreat of U.N. troops, as American planes slow the Chinese advance.
In one of the saddest incidents of the war, the F4U Corsair of Navy LT Jesse L. Brown is shot down by Chinese small arms fire near the Chosin Reservoir. His wingman, LT Tom Hulder, crashes his own aircraft to try and rescue Brown, but even when a rescue helicopter shows up, neither he nor the helicopter pilot can free Brown from the wreckage. After Hulder and the helicopter are forced to leave, Brown dies during the night from his wounds and the cold. Jesse Brown was the first African-American Naval aviator. (Hulder later receives the Medal of Honor for his attempt to save his friend.)
Part of Task Force 90 evacuates over 2,000 U.S. Army and Navy personnel and 6,000 plus ROK soldiers from Chinamp'o.
Marines begin the 11-mile trip from Hagari to the First Marine Regiment's position at Koto-ri. It takes 38 hours and more than 600 casualties for about 10,000 Marines to move 1,000 vehicles that distance. The Marines get strong air support from Air Force, Navy and Marine fliers.
Elements of Task Force 90 begin evacuating Inchon. By Jan. 5 they will have taken out more than 68,000 military personnel, 1,400 vehicles and almost 55,000 tons of supplies. The next day MacArthur gives his "profound gratitude" to the veterans groups.
The First Marine Division continues to battle its way south from the Chosin Reservoir past Koto-ri to Chinhung. They are stopped halfway to Chinhung by a blown bridge at Funchilin Pass.
Eighth Army units continue to withdraw to positions below the 38th Parallel.
A treadway bridge is airdropped to the Marines and they are able to cross the gap at Funchilin Pass..
The 1st Marine Division continues to fight its way south.
In the early afternoon on Dec. 11, the last part of the 1st Marine Division crosses the Army perimeter at Hungnam.
The Marines had fought 50 miles from the Chosin Reservoir, an action called the longest withdrawal in Marine Corps history, but was not considered a retreat. During the fighting, the word retreat was mentioned to Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, division commander. His reply was, "Retreat, hell. We're just attacking in a different direction."
Marine, Air Force and Navy aircraft helped cover the retreat. The Marines also bring several hundred Chinese prisoners with them, many who had surrendered without a fight.
Since October the Marines lost 604 killed in action, 114 who later died from wounds, 192 missing, 3,508 wounded in action and frostbite accounted for most of the 7,313 casualties. It is believed the First Marines killed 1,500 Chinese and wounded 7,500. Marine air is credited with killing 10,000 and wounding 5,000. It is also claimed that Marine actions hurt the Red Chinese Ninth Army Group so seriously that it could not participate in the continuing communist offensive.
Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, Eighth U.S. Army commander, promises Republic of Korea President Syngman Rhee that Seoul will be defended. An Eighth Army defensive line has been established north of Seoul, just below the 38th Parallel. The city has been under martial law since Dec. 7.
Most 8th Army and ROK troops are now south of the 38th Parallel.
F-84 Thunderjets, the fastest tactical fighter in the U.S. Air Force, attacks an enemy convoy near Sariwon, inflicting heavy casualties. The new planes arrived in Korea Dec. 6 and went into action four days later. The F-84 is meant to replace the World War II vintage P-51 Mustang and slower F-80 Shooting Star jet, which are no match for enemy MiG-15s. However, Air Force pilots will still fly those planes in combat until 1953.
Remnants of U.N. forces that escaped the Chinese offensive in northeast Korea have gathered in the port city of Hungnam. Among them are the First Marine Division; the Army's 3rd and 7th Infantry Divisions; British Commandos, which includes the Puerto Rican 65th Regimental Combat Team; and the Republic of Korea 3rd and Capital Divisions. Ships began to load men and supplies. Chinese patrols test the perimeter defenses with light, probing attacks.
The First Marine Division completes loading men and equipment onto ships at Hungnam and sets sail for Pusan.
The Army orders the National Guard's 31st Infantry Division from Alabama and Mississippi and the 47th Infantry Division from Minnesota and North Dakota to active duty by Jan. 16. The 31st ID is the best manned of the nation's 27 Guard divisions with 12,000 soldiers. The 47th has 9,000 soldiers. It is a move to bring the number of active divisions from the current 15, four of which are Guard units, to 18 in early 1951.
The remaining forces of X Corps in the inland town of Hamhung withdraw to Hungnam. About 12 Chinese and North Korean divisions attack Hungnam, but are held off with the help of heavy naval shelling and carrier-based aircraft..
South Korean I Corps ships out of Hungnam bound for Pusan.
In the first of what would become clashes between champions, Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton, commander of the 336th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, shoots down Soviet Captain Ya. N. Yefromenko of the 50th Fighter Aviation Division, who bails out and lands safely. This is the first victory by an American F-86 Saber over the Soviet MiG-15.
The battleship USS Missouri and its 16-inch guns join the bombardment
MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo announces that 30,000-40,000 casualties have been inflicted on the enemy during the withdrawal to Hungnam.
The U.N. Command imposes censorship on all news media covering the war in Korea. The decision was made after the New York Times revealed Dec. 18 that F-86 Saber jets, the fastest planes in the Air Force at 670 miles per hour in straight flight, had gone into action Dec. 17, downing a MIG-15 over North Korea. The Air Force said it had asked all news outlets not to reveal the F-86's entry into the war.
Chinese attacks against the port of Hungnam have stopped and the 7th Infantry Division sails for Pusan. Evacuation of the city continues.
A quiet day all along the front.
Gen. Walton H. Walker, commander of Eighth Army, is killed in a vehicle accident. The jeep the general was riding in smashed into a ROKA truck that pulled out of a side road while the General's jeep was trying pass a northbound convoy. . Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, Army deputy chief of staff, is named to take over Eighth Army. He has been the point man on Korea for Army Chief of Staff Gen. J. Lawton Collins, and has been involved in mobilizing the Army for Korea.. During World War II, Ridgway commanded the 82nd Infantry Division, jumping with his soldiers into North Africa and Normandy on D-Day.
3d Infantry Division sails for Pusan from Hungnam, completing the evacuation of the port city. In all, ships evacuated 105,000 Americans and South Korean soldiers, 91,000 civilian refugees, 17,500 vehicles and about 350,000 tons of cargo. Aircraft have flown out about 3,600 men, along with 196 vehicles and 1,300 tons of supplies.
X Corps, which has been an independent command in Korea, is assigned to Eighth Army.
A relatively quiet day as GIs in Korea and along the 38th Parallel have Christmas turkey dinners and decorate trees with hastily-made ornaments. The day is marred by armed CCF patrols scouting U.N. defensive positions
MacArthur reports "redeployment" of U.N. forces following the withdrawal from North Korea. He also defends the Nov. 24 offensive as "fortunate" rather than disastrous because it stopped the Chinese buildup that would have given the enemy "the power capable of destroying our forces with one mighty extended stroke."
Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway takes command of Eighth Army. He has served under MacArthur before, as an instructor at West Point when MacArthur was the superintendent. At the change of command ceremony, he asks MacArthur, "If I find the situation to my liking, would you have any objection to my attacking?" MacArthur replied, "The Eighth Army is yours, Matt. Do what you think best."
Eighth Army is far from having the ability to attack with the 2nd Infantry Division nearly wiped out and the 1st Cavalry Division badly hurt in the Communist Chinese offensive. Eighth Army has established full censorship over correspondents covering its units in Korea. The reason is that Maj. Gen. Walton H. Walker's death was in the news before the Army had a chance to notify his wife.
Peking Radio says that if the United States does not pull out of Korea and Formosa , Chinese forces "will drive them back by our might." The broadcast praises "Chinese volunteer units" for having "gained big war results." Sources in the Yugoslavia communist party speculate that China wants to replace Russia as the major communist power in the Far East.
MacArthur's Tokyo headquarters releases a revised estimate of communist forces in North Korea -- more than 276,000 Chinese and 167,000 North Koreans and guerillas. The spokesman says there are also 650,000 Chinese soldiers in Manchuria and another 256,000 en route to North Korea. That's a total of more than 1.3 million soldiers against U.N. forces that range between 200,000 and 250,000. Of that number approximately 150,000 are non-Koreans, including seven American divisions.
Australia's government announced it would not send additional troops to Korea, only replacements for those already there.
About 100,000 of the refugees flooding Pusan were taken to islands, according to U.N. Civil Assistance spokesmen. Seoul citizens were leaving at a daily rate of 80,000 and by Dec. 28 half of the city's one million residents had headed south.
The U.N. Command tightened news censorship, forbidding reporters to identify units smaller than Eighth Army.
Another quiet day.
In a swirling dogfight, USAF F-86 Sabers clash with MiG-15s over northwest Korea, soon to become known to the Americans as "MiG Alley" and "The Sausage" to the Soviets. While US pilots claim at least one MiG shot down and two damaged, the actual results are nil to nil. At this point the USAF has 7 actual kills versus 17 claims; the US Navy has a total of 2, and the VVS(Soviets) has 5 actual kills versus 64 claims.
1950 ends quietly as both sides prepare for upcoming combat.
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