THE TURKISH BRIGADE
The advance party of the Turkish Brigade or Turkish Armed Forces command, arrived in Pusan on 12 October 1950. The main body numbering 5190 troops arrived five days later, on 17 October. Brigadier General Tahzin Yazici commanded the brigade. Colonel Celal Dora was assistant Brigade Commander. When the main body arrived the brigade went into bivouac near Taegu where it underwent training and received U.S. equipment. The brigade was attached to the U.S. 25th infantry division so after limited training the brigade moved north to the Kaesong area to join the division.
The Turks in the Korean War
(The Turkish perspective from “The Korean War — a short history by the Turkish War Veterans Association.)
The Turkish Brigade has been the subject of the world’s praise, by showing a very superior combat capability which provided our state with honor through the successes it won one after another during the three year period of blood and fire starting from the hardest and most critical moment it entered the battlefield until the signing of the “Ceasefire” agreement. Because addressing all the battles of the Turkish Brigades, however briefly, will extend the subject, we will just suffice to list the battles fought and briefly address the most important ones.
The Turkish brigades, between the dates of November 1950 and July 1953, have fought the following battles the Kunuri diversion; the Kumyangjangni-Illi-431-639 -Imjin attacks; 22/23 April 1951; the Chorwon-Seoul diversion; the Taegyewonni defense; the Barhar-Kumhwa-701 attacks; and the Wegas defense battles. We will not just talk here about the battles accomplished by our Brigades–for the Turkish brigades have accomplished all their war tasks without default but about four important battles which affected the course of the war. And these are the battles of Kunuri, Kumjangjangni, Taegyewonni and Wegas.
The Kunuri Battle
The United Nations Forces started to attack on the morning of 24 November 1950, under the command of Five Star General Douglas MacArthur with the objective being the Yalu River (Border Line). At this time the Turkish Brigade was constituting the reserve force of the IXth Army Corps, 3.5 km. west southwest of the town of Kunuri. The attacks of the United Nations Forces had easily developed until the evening of 25 November. However the attacks of the Chinese which started as raids on the night of 25/26 November 1950, created great surprise and confusion at the fronts.
When morning came on 26 November it was understood that the Chinese Forces had penetrated the front of the II’nd South Korean Army Corps situated in the Central Segment of the front and that they had stalked behind the U.S. Divisions situated on the western segment of the front. Especially the Chinese Forces, advancing towards Tokchon from the area of the II (Second) South Korean Army Corps had started to threaten the Eighth Army and specifically the IXth (U.S.) Army Corps.
Therefore upon the IX Army Corps advance the Turkish Brigade on reserve against the forces threatening its eastern side and back. After dusk on 26 November the Turkish Brigade began to march by way of the Kunuri-Kaechon-Sinnimni-Wawon-Tokchon. The Brigade was given the task of capturing the town of Tokchon. The Turkish Brigade had started to advance towards the battlefield having undertaken a very rare and heavy war task which reserves could ever meet against disproportional enemy forces and under negative conditions.
Having spent the night in Wawon the Brigade restarted to march at 0530 in the morning (27 November). As the units were crossing the steep Karill Yon Mountain and as the Advance Guard were descending on the Tokchon Valley (1430 hrs) the Army Corps gave the order “Do not advance any further and get on the defensive on the line which you have reached.” General Tahsin RAZICI having read in the order the seemingly innocent and unimportant news “If you do not have troops in Changsangni, our aircraft have identified a force about the size of a regiment whose nationality is unknown” perceived a danger and ordered the Turkish Brigade to get on the defensive not where the Army Corps ordered, but on the Wawon line 15 km, back west. General Yazici’s decision would take the Turkish Brigade back from the point of destruction and bring it to a point which would prevent the destruction of the allied forces.
Let us briefly dwell here. We have to show the degree of validity of the claim that “the U.S. general spent the Brigade by using it as a pawn” which had been tried to be imposed on our public. When our accounts are looked at it is obvious how General Tahsin Yazici took responsibility whenever required to protect the existence of the Brigade and to successfully implement the tasks of war. General Yazici never gave in to the short and dark orders of the U.S. generals such as Stop-Go.The reinforced Reconnaisance Unit which was the rear guard of the Brigade prevented the enemy from striking the Brigade at night, by distracting the enemy raid which started on the night of 27/28
November at 2400 until dawn on 28 November. At 0800 hours on 28 November the Wawon Battle of the Brigade began. That day all of the attacks of the numerically superior enemy forces first against the Pass Axis and then against the Pass’ Points of Shoulder were broken. In the fore-noon the close enveloping operations were defeated with our counter offensives. In the afternoon upon the efforts of the enemy to cut the Kunuri-Wawon road by transferring forces to the back beyond the effective area of the Brigade, General Yazici ordered preparations to be made for the withdrawal of the Brigade to the Sinnimni segment. It was understood that both sides of the Brigade were open and that friendly forces had withdrawn. We would want to strongly emphasize this point.
During the Korean War the enemy always found the opportunity to surround the Brigade by penetrating neighboring friendly unit fronts. But no enemy attack ever succeeded in penetrating the front of the Turkish Brigade. The Brigade started to withdraw to the Sinnimni segment from Wawon after dusk at 1830 hours. The units which withdrew to Sinnimni hastily started to occupy defensive positions. At 2400 hours the attack of the enemy started in the form of a raid. While the units which were situated in favorable terrain continued to defend, the other units of the Brigade failing to hold started to withdraw towards Kunuri. Part of the units which had withdrawn were stopped west of Sinnimni through the tough and resolved stance of the Brigade Command and put in a new defensive position.
Fore-noon on 29 November an attack was undertaken with an Infantry Company to save the II’nd Battalion and the 2nd Company which were under enemy encirclement in Sinnimni. The enemy circle was broken and the safe withdrawal of the units to Kaechon was provided for. The attacks undertaken by the enemy in the afternoon against the Kaechon position were destroyed to their last soldiers. However the forces which the enemy sent beyond the effective area of the Brigade to the back could not be stopped.
Faced with this situation, at 1530 hours General Tahsin Yazici ordered the II’nd and III’rd Battalions to withdraw to the west of Kaechon. Before the battalions could get 2 km. away from Kaechon, they were divided into small groups by the effective fires they received from three directions. As the Brigade was entering the night of 29/30 November, the Hacham-Kunuri road was cut and the enemy circle was complete. At 1715 hours the I’st Battalion which had withdrawn from Kaechon engaged in combat in the Hacham circle. Although the units were dispersed and liaison and management was non existent, the small groups managed by the young officers started to break the enemy circle. The Brigade succeeded in getting out of the Hacham circle through attack and infiltration actions which continued all night long.
On 30 November 1950 the various groups advancing to Sunchon from the south of Tunuri met with a new enemy circle here. The Sunchon Pass had been under enemy control for the past two days. The attacks which the 2nd US Division undertook from the north and the British Brigade from the south had not produced results. After a short rest, our infantry started to attack the enemy which had dug in on the Sunchon Pass. With this attack in which US Infantry and tanks also participated the pass was opened.
The bayonet of the Turkish Infantry had once again asserted its rule, and had opened the Sunchon Pass where the 2nd Division had come up against a stone wall. Thus the battles of the Brigade which were given the name Kunuri came to an end in a successful conclusion. The Turkish Brigade had succeeded to provide the necessary time and space for the withdrawal by preventing the encirclement of the Eighth Army and the IXth Army Corps and the destruction of the 2nd US Division, through the battles it fought on the dates of 27-30 November. The Turkish Brigade, which had no war experience, was affecting a great battle from its roots, was saving the friendly Army, which was starting to roll down a dangerous cliff, by stopping the superior numbers of enemy forces. Thus the Brigade was achieving fame in the world by playing an important role in the course of the war in its first battle.
Echoes of the Kunuri Battle
“4500 soldiers in the middle of the firing line have known how to create miracle. The sacrifices of the Turks will eternally remain in our minds.” – Washington Tribune
“The courageous battles of the Turkish Brigade have created a favorable effect on the whole United Nations Forces.” – Time
“The surprise of the Korean battles were not the Chinese but the Turks. It is impossible at this moment to find a word to describe the heroism which the Turks have shown in the battles.” – Abent Post
“The Turks have shown in Kunuri a heroism worthy of their glorious history. The Turks have gained the admiration of the whole world through their glorious fighting in the battles.” – Figaro
“The Turks who have been known throughout history by their courage and decency, have proved that they have kept these characteristics, in the war which the United Nations undertook in Korea.” – Burner – U.S. Congressman
“There is no one left who does not know that the Turks, our valuable allies, are hard warriors and that they have accomplished very great feats at the front.” – Claude Pepper, U.S. Senator
“I now understand that the vote I gave in favor of assistance to Turkey was the most fitting vote I gave in my life. Courage, bravery and heroism are the greatest virtues which will sooner or later conquer. In this matter, I know no nation superior to the Turks.” – Rose – U.S. Senator
“While the Turks were for a long time fighting against the enemy and dying, the British and Americans were withdrawing. The Turks, who were out of ammunition, affixed their bayonets and attacked the enemy and there ensued a terrible hand to hand combat. The Turks succeeded in withdrawing by continuous combat and by carrying their injured comrades on their backs. They paraded at Pyongyang with their heads held high.” – G.G. Martin – British Lieutenant General
“The Turkish forces have shown success above that expected in the battles they gave in Korea.” – General Collings – Commander US Army
“We owe the escape of thousands of United Nations troops out of a certain encirclement to the heroism of the Turkish soldiers. The Turkish soldiers in Korea have added a new and unforgettable page of honor to the customs and legends of heroism of the Turkish nation.” – Emanuel Shinwell – U.K. Minister of Defense
“The heroic soldiers of a heroic nation, you have saved the Eighth Army and the IX’th Army Crops from encirclement and the 2nd Division from destruction. I came here today to thank you on behalf of the United Nations Army.” – General Walton H. Walker, Commander, Eighth Army
“The Turks are the hero of heroes. There is no impossibility for the Turkish Brigade.” – General Douglas MacArthur – United Nations Forces Commander in Chief
“The military situation in Korea is being followed with concern by the whole American public. But in these concerned days, the heroism shown by the Turks has given hope to the American nation. It has inculeated them with courage. The American public fully appreciates the value of the services rendered by the Turkish Brigade and knows that because of them the Eighth American Army could withdraw without disarray. The American public understands that the United Nations Forces in Korea were saved from encirclement and from falling in to the hands of the communists by the heroism shown by the Turks.” – 2
December 1950, from the commentary of a US radio commentator The Turkish Brigade, as can be understood from the summary of the Kunuri battles and the echoes it produced in the world, had successfully accomplished its mission. The Brigade was proud to have informed the country of the news of success which the state and nation expected, at the highest level. A handful of soldiers had provided the state with power, great opportunities and esteem.
The United Nations Forces had been morally and materially very shaken at the end of the enemy attacks which had started on the night of 25/26 November 1951. The efforts to stop the enemy were not producing any results. The Chinese who had gained the initiative were advancing and were striking the United Nations Forces blows one after the other.
Winter, snow, battles lost one after the other and the losses suffered had left nothing resembling morale in the United Nations soldiers. The atmosphere was one of total defeat. The Chinese had become something which could not be stood up against or dealt with. From private to general the Army was engulfed in an air of subversive, dissolving, and collapsing panic. The various reconnaissance units were returning in panic and giving exaggerated hope breaking reports. Thus under these conditions plans had been started to be prepared for the evacuation of Korea and the units were ordered to reconnoiter secretly the avenues of withdrawal and places to board transport.
In these hopeless and dark days in which the soldiers had completely lost their will to fight and the Chinese had advanced just waving their arms, according to rumors General MacArthur said “Try for once the Turkish Brigade, wait for the news which will come from them. Do not make a decision before letting the Turkish Brigade reconnoiter.”
Whatever the case was, the Brigade this time was being sent to the fire at a critical stage, just as it was at Kunuri. The Brigade was being given a new and important war task, which would play an important role on the testing of the battles.
On 25 January 1951 the Turkish Brigade started to advance towards enemy lines by starting from two columns. After advancing 1.5 km. the enemy was engaged. The companies started to attack enemy positions like arrows out of bows. At 100 hours the fortified positions of the enemy were entered and enemy resistance was crushed. The companies did not wait long to open and spread again and started to look for the enemy.
After advancing north about 2.5 km. the defensive positions of the enemy were encountered at the 185 altitude Hill line. The 10th Company succeeded in entering the enemy defense position at 1500 hours in this segment where intensive fire battles took place. A relentless and close combat had started all along the front. The enemy was defending its position literally to “its last breath”. Darkness had fallen but decisive results could not be obtained. The enemy was resisting and our soldiers were attacking. A very complex and dangerous situation had occurred with the enemy and friendly forces mixed within each other.
The Army Corps gave the order for “Turks to fix their bayonets where they reach and not withdraw even one step”.
The companies thought attacking and finishing the job of the enemy more logical than waiting nose to nose with the enemy under the maddening cold and as if on cue started attack all together. At 0500 hours on the morning of 25 January the defensive positions of the enemy were wholly captured. The Infantry who did not want to let the enemy take a breather continued to advance at 0700 hours on 26 January. After 5 km. a new defensive line of the enemy was encountered. The Brigade was attacking with all its capabilities in this segment which the enemy was defending with all its power and insistence.
In this battle in which the Brigade emerged with honor, the attack which the enemy undertook against Seoul produced no results. The command which did not want to miss the opportunity formed by the Brigade breaking the attack power and morale of the enemy did not delay the decision to replace defense with attack. The enemy which could not find the opportunity to change its battle formation from attack to defense started to withdraw towards the 38th parallel suffering a heavy defeat.
As the Brigade was taken back after this famous new battle it was met with the enthusiastic show of sympathy and appreciation by the friendly soldiers along the way. The friendly soldiers were running along the road and shouting, “The First Returns”. The location where the Brigade gave the night battle on 17/18 May was given the name “The Turkish Fortress”.
The commander in chief of the United Nations Forces, General Matthew B. Ridgway, said, “I had heard of the fame of the Turkish soldiers before I came to Korea. The truth is I had not really believed what I had heard. But I now understand that in fact you are the best, and most trustworthy soldiers of the world” and thus explained the emotions he felt and the assessments he reached from the Teagyewonni Battle.
Now let us briefly and last address the Wegas [Vegas] Battle of the Brigade.
The Turkish Brigade Provides “Cease Fire”
In June 1951 the United Nations Forces had advanced up to the Imjin River-Chorwon-Kumhwa line. The trials at 1950 and 1951 could not obtain decisive results and the parties mutually went on the defensive and stopped the attack operations. This meant that the Korean War had remained where it started and that the war had not reached the established objective. Now no other operations could be made except ambush, reconnaissance and battle front line conflicts. The great military operation had stopped. The parties who understood that they could not solve the Korean problem with arms had started “cease fire” discussions.
The discussions held at Panmunjon were protracting and were not reaching a result. The fact that the discussions were often being out and reconciliation could not be provided was increasing the chances of the big military operation restarting. For this reason the parties were strengthening their defense lines, and were waiting ready to meet possible attacks. The enemy had started to prepare in order to once more try its luck with arms. The attack which had been undertaken not much later with large forces against the front of the Turkish Brigade had two aims. Either they would have their demands accepted at the Panmunjomn “cease fire” discussions or they would reach the conclusion by penetrating allied lines.
Thus this attack which the enemy had much previously planned in a detailed manner and put into implementation by using all its experience had started on 28 May 1953 at 1948 hours. The techniques employed and the will to fight shown by the enemy in this attack had been of a commendable level. In this attack, which continued for thirty hours, all the echelons of the enemy from private to general fought with all their strength in the recognition of the importance of the aim pursued.
For this battle would be the last one to establish the result in Korea. In case of defeat they would have to accept the consequence, but if success would be achieved the military operation would develop and at least political advantages would be gained. Thus the Turkish Brigade had to again meet an enemy attack which had a decisive aim and which was well prepared and resolute. In the front the positions were very close to each other. Such a situation had serious tactical disadvantages. Besides, having to wait in tight, humid and dark positions was tiring and irritating the soldiers. As the days passed in such a manner on 28 May at 1948 hours the war again became bloody with the attack of the enemy supported by intense fire. The enemy attacks which intensified on the front of the II’nd Battalion of the Brigade led to very bloody and sometimes crisis-like battles on the hills of Garson [Carson], Big Wegas [Vegas], Elko and Little Wegas [Vegas] which continued for thirty hours.
The aforementioned hills changed hands frequently during the bloody battles which continued in big savagery from 1948 hours on 28 May 1953 to 2400 hours on 29 May night and day without stopping. The enemy started the attack at 1948 by smokebombing the Little Wegas Hill. It entered positions at 2000 hours. As the enemy was reinforcing Little Wegas, our Infantry counter attacked at 2115 with fire support. At 2119 the enemy started to run having failed to hold. The enemy which managed to capture a bunker was destroyed at 2151 with bombs and bayonet charges. At 2152 hours, Garson and Elko were completely smoked. The enemy is turning Big Wegas into hell with artillery and mortar fire. The enemy which entered Big Wegas was thrown back at 2158 with bayonet charges.
Ammunition began to run low at the battle front lines. At 2208 the enemy re-entered Big Wegas. At 2220 hours enemy reinforcements reached Big Wegas. At 2220 hours enemy reinforcements reached Big Wegas. The enemy was subjected to intense artillery fire. At 2240 a counter attack was undertaken against Big Wegas. The enemy attacked Garson at 2245 hours. At 1315 hours our Infantry re-capture Big Wegas. The enemy who had entered Elko was thrown back at 2315 hours. No opportunity was given to the enemy, which had entered Little Wegas, to hold and as a result of a counter attack the Hill was re-captured at 2334 hours. At 2330 the enemy entered Big Wegas. At 2353 the enemy attack against Elko and Garson began. Wired and wireless communications were cut.
The situation started to present a full scale crisis. Hand to hand combat is continuing at battle front lines. At 0040 hours the enemy started to attack Little Wegas. The enemy is trying to capture the battle front lines before daylight. At 0120 the enemy enters Garson.
At 0150 fighting continues with the enemy who has entered some of the bunkers on Little Wegas and Big Wegas. Communications cannot be established with Garson. At 0323 those enemy soldiers entering Little Wegas and those approaching in order to reinforce surrender to our soldiers.
At 0347 the Brigade gives the order to attack Big Wegas. Garson is in the hands of the enemy. At 0427 the enemy reinforces Big Wegas. At 0505 Garson is being shelled. Little Wegas in holding but the wounded can not be evacuated. With the attack at 1050 we take Big Wegas. The enemy is running. Everywhere there are dead and wounded. At 1115 the American company attacked Garson from Elko, however, upon being surrounded by the Chinese, started to withdraw at 1600 hours. At 1543 the Chinese entered Elko. Hand grenade combat started in Elko. The enemy occupied a bunker. After this it entered Big Wegas at 1615. Our infantry immediately counter attacked and threw the enemy back. The battle is continuing high tension.
At 1933 hours the enemy started to attack Little Wegas from Big Wegas.
At 2005 our 2′nd Artillery Battery started to burn. At 2021 it had completely burned. At 2050 the Division decided to evacuate Wegas.
The enemy can not enter Wegas. But at 2109 our infantry withdraw upon orders. At 2020 Wegas is completely evacuated. The command who fought the enemy had been given the required lesson decided to stop the bloody battle. At the end of the bloody battles which continued for thirty hours the enemy, with the withdrawal of our battalion, had captured Big Wegas, Elko and Garson. But because it had used up all its attack strength it could not undertake another attack against the main battle line.
The attacks of the enemy which it undertook with the large forces it had concentrated and with strong artillery and mortar groups, for thirty hours was caught up in the battle front lines. During these battles, according to the report of our artillery advance surveillance officer, we suffered 300 and the enemy around 2000 casualties. On the other hand General Ridgway explains the casualties suffered in the battles with the following figures “The Turkish Brigade suffered 104 dead and 376 wounded. The enemy losses were established to be 2200 dead and 1075 wounded” (*).
(*) Refer to “The Korean War” written by the General Matthew Ridgway – p. 220.
The enemy understood after this battle that there was no option but to “cease fire” and to restart the laying-down-of-arms negotiations in a lively and willing manner. In fact before long the “cease fire” was signed. The Turkish Brigade affected the “cease fire” which was signed in Korea, through the battles it fought on 28 and 29 May 1953. As can be seen, the Turkish Brigade had often demonstrated successes during the Korean battles, which affected the course of the war. Finally, the Turkish Brigade also fought the last battle leading to the “cease fire”. Of course all these battles were not easy and without loss.
Casualties 721 KIA 168 MIA 2111 WIA