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The Line

The Line: Combat in Korea, January-February 1951

Edited by William T. Bowers
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 376
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    The Line
    Book Description:

    Many combat veterans refuse to discuss their experiences on the line. With the passage of time and the unreliability of memory, it becomes difficult to understand the true nature of war. InThe Line: Combat in Korea, January--February 1951, retired Army colonel William T. Bowers uses firsthand, eyewitness accounts of the Korean War to offer readers an intimate look at the heroism and horror of the battlefront. These interviews of soldiers on the ground are particularly telling because they were conducted by Army historians immediately following combat. Known as the "forgotten war," the action in Korea lasted from June 1950 until July 1953 and was particularly savage for its combatants. During the first few months of the war, American and U.N. soldiers conducted rapid advances and hasty withdrawals, risky amphibious landings and dangerous evacuations, all while facing extreme weather conditions. In early 1951, the first winter of the war, frigid cold and severe winds complicated combat operations. As U.N. forces in Korea retreated from an oncoming Chinese and North Korean attack, U.S. commanders feared they would be forced to withdraw from occupation and admit to a Communist victory. Using interviews and extensive historical research,The Lineanalyzes how American troops fought the enemy to a standstill over this pivotal two-month period, reversing the course of the war. In early 1951, the war had nearly been lost, but by February's end, there existed the possibility of preserving an independent South Korea. Bowers compellingly illustrates how a series of small successes at the regiment, battalion, company, platoon, squad, and soldier levels ensured that the line was held against the North Korean enemy.The Lineis the first of three volumes detailing combat during the Korean War. Each book focuses on the combat experiences of individual soldiers and junior leaders. Bowers enhances our understanding of combat by providing explanatory analysis and supplemental information from official records, giving readers a complete picture of combat operations in this understudied theatre. Through searing firsthand accounts and an intense focus on this brief but critical time frame,The Lineoffers new insights into U.S. military operations during the twentieth century and guarantees that the sacrifices of these courageous soldiers will not be lost to history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5986-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  6. Chapter 1 WAR COMES TO KOREA: The First Six Months
    (pp. 1-39)

    In the predawn darkness of Sunday, 25 June 1950, North Korean artillery and mortar shells began to fall on scattered South Korean army positions along the 38th parallel. Violence was no stranger to the area dividing North and South Korea. Artillery bombardments, minor infantry engagements, and guerrilla incursions were frequent. As the shelling continued and grew in intensity, South Korean soldiers and their American advisors realized that this was something new. As dawn broke, the North Korean army attacked in force all along the border. In many areas strong attacks quickly overran surprised and scattered frontline Republic of Korea (ROK)...

  7. Chapter 2 RETREAT TO WONJU: 2d Infantry Division, 1–6 January 1951
    (pp. 40-57)

    The Chinese New Year’s Offensive pushed the U.S. I and IX Corps south of the Han River, forcing the abandonment once again of Seoul. In the mountainous center, rejuvenated North Korean divisions attacked the ROK II and III Corps. General Ridgway believed that if the hard-pressed South Koreans gave way in the center, not only would the flank of the American forces to the west be in peril, but also their lifeline to the critical logistical base at Pusan would be endangered. The only force that was available to move into the central mountains to support the ROK army was...

  8. Chapter 3 ACTION AT WONJU: 23d and 38th Infantry Regiments, 6–7 January 1951
    (pp. 58-77)

    Col. Paul Freeman, commander of the 23d Infantry Regiment, describes the situation at Wonju.

    Arriving at Wonju on 6 January, the three battalions of the 23d Infantry Regiment and the French Battalion (attached) sent out patrols to contact an ROK division, which was supposed to tie in with the left flank of the 2d Infantry Division; these patrols, some operating as far as eleven miles to the west, failed to reach any ROK forces.

    On the afternoon of 6 January, after the 9th Infantry Regiment had left the division, General McClure, the 2d Division commanding general, decided that the ground...

  9. Chapter 4 RETURN TO WONJU: 2d Infantry Division, 8–20 January 1951
    (pp. 78-117)

    General Almond, X Corps commander, directed the 2d Division immediately to reoccupy Wonju. General McClure, the 2d Division commander, argued that the terrain around Wonju made defense of that area difficult and that a much better defense line could be established on the high ground several miles south of town. Almond recognized that a defense of Wonju would be difficult, as the North Korean attack on 7 January demonstrated, but believed that the high ground immediately south of and overlooking the town had to be retained. From this terrain, UN forces could build a strong defense, and their artillery could...

  10. Chapter 5 HILL 312: 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 28–30 January 1951
    (pp. 118-140)

    While X Corps battled the North Koreans in the central sector in mid-January, the I and IX Corps on the west probed forward of their defensive positions on Line D in search of the Chinese, who had not closely followed the UN forces in their withdrawal south of Seoul. Reconnaissance forces failed to find large enemy concentrations near Line D, and on 25 January, I and IX Corps began a strong and carefully coordinated reconnaissance in force, Operation Thunderbolt, across the entire front of both corps. X Corps was ordered to maintain contact with the IX Corps advance on the...

  11. Chapter 6 TWIN TUNNELS: 3d Battalion, 23d Infantry Regiment, and French Battalion, 30 January–2 February 1951
    (pp. 141-160)

    The 23d Infantry Regiment, with its attached French Battalion, occupied the western end of the X Corps defensive line, tying in with the right flank unit of IX Corps at Yoju. In response to orders from Eighth Army to maintain contact with the reconnaissance in force of IX Corps to the west, the 23d Infantry moved its 2d Battalion forward about ten miles to Munmang-ni, a village about ten miles east of Yoju, to establish a patrol base. On 27 January a reconnaissance patrol advanced to the dominating terrain south of Chip’yong-ni, where two railroad tunnels cut through the mountains....

  12. Chapter 7 OPERATION ROUNDUP: Supporting the ROK Troops
    (pp. 161-183)

    The strong attack on units of the 23d Infantry Regiment south of Chip’yong-ni in the Twin Tunnels area confirmed intelligence reports of a large Chinese buildup between Chip’yong-ni and Ho ngch’on. From this area the enemy could launch an offensive either south into the Han River valley or down the Wonju road, with both axes of advance directed on the UN lines of communication linking the U.S. I and IX Corps with the supply base at Pusan. To disrupt the enemy preparations for such an advance, General Ridgway approved a plan prepared by General Almond’s X Corps, Operation Roundup. The...

  13. Photo gallery
    (pp. None)
  14. Chapter 8 OPERATION ROUNDUP: Escaping the Trap
    (pp. 184-220)

    The collapse of the ROK 8th Division and the ROK 3d Division to the east placed their American support units in extreme peril. The enemy rapidly moved south to block the escape of Support Teams A and B and Support Forces 7 and 21. Successful withdrawal depended on the defense of critical points on the escape route, such as Saemal and Hoengsong. The enemy first turned its attention to the elements of the 38th Infantry holding Saemal.

    When Support Force 21 arrived at Saemal, the 3d Battalion, 38th Infantry, guarding the road junction there, had been defending against an attack...

  15. Chapter 9 HOLDING THE CHINESE: Chip’yong-ni and Wonju
    (pp. 221-258)

    On 13 February, as the remnants of Support Forces 7 and 21, along with the 38th Infantry Regiment, reached the new defensive line above Wonju, the Chinese closed in on the 23d Infantry Regiment at the key crossroads of Chip’yong-ni. Because the 23d Infantry was separated from other UN forces by a twelve-mile gap and could easily be isolated and possibly overwhelmed, General Almond planned to withdraw them south to the Yoju area. However, General Ridgway feared that if the 23d Infantry gave up Chip’yong-ni, the enemy could continue its drive south into the Han River valley, thereby threatening the...

  16. Chapter 10 THE RELIEF OF CHIP’YONG-NI: Task Force Crombez
    (pp. 259-287)

    While the fighting continued into the daylight hours of 15 February on the southern section of the 23d Infantry’s perimeter, the 5th Cavalry’s fight to open the road to Chip’yong-ni began. Officers of the regiment describe the action.

    Maj. Robert A. Humphrey, S-2 of the 5th Cavalry: One platoon of Company A, 70th Tank Battalion, was with each infantry battalion, as well as one platoon from Company A, 8th Engineer Combat Battalion. The 61st Field Artillery Battalion (105mm howitzers) was kept under regimental control.

    At 0700 hours, 15 February, the 1st Battalion jumped off on foot with the mission of...

    (pp. 288-292)

    The contrast between the situation in Korea in late December 1950 and that which existed two months later is striking. When General Ridgway arrived to take command, it was unclear whether UN forces would be able to remain on the peninsula. Ridgway quickly discovered that the only military plans that existed at Eighth Army called for a withdrawal to Pusan and evacuation by sea. The confidence in victory at all levels in October 1950 had turned to deep pessimism. Disdain for the military capabilities of the Chinese Communists in October had changed at first to cautious respect followed by an...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 293-303)
    (pp. 304-306)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 307-326)