When the Korean conflict erupted in June of 1950, the 7th was under the command of Major General David Goodwin Barr. Barr assembled his Division at Camp Fuji, the tent city on the lower slopes of Fujiyama, and put tlrem through a rigorous training schedule. The Division, which had sent several levies of replacements to the fighting front, was woefully understrength; consequently, 8,000 Republic of Korea soldiers were integrated into its ranks. This was a far from an ideal solution, but it was the best that could be reached undcr the circumstances. The ROK soldiers were willing and resourceful--and later they .showed themselves to be courageous as well. But the language barrier was too much to overcome completely. They had to be taught not only to obey commands, but also to understand what the commands meant. Each 7th soldier was given a Korean "running mate" with whom he was supposed to "buddy" both in training and in combat.
While the 7th trained to a fine edge in Japan, the "police action" in Korea started to assume all the earmarks of an infantryman's shooting war. The U. S. Japan garrison was stripped bit by bit as divisions were rushed across the Sea of Japan in an effort to halt the North Koreans who were riding the crest of aggression behind a vanguard of Russian-made T-34 tanks. The Eighth Army was fighting with its back at the sea when General MacArthur decided on an amphibious invasion of Korea's west coast, designating the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division to do the job.
Soon the 7th Division--code-named "Bayonet" for its movement to Korea--was to board troop transports. A day later the shoreline of Korea was ahead. The old-timers among the men grimaced knowingly long before the embattled peninsula became visible. As many of the GIs expressed it in the letters they wrote home. "You could sure smell Korea a long time before you saw it!"
The amphibious venture was a classic. It put U. S. forces on Korea's west coast while the active front was still on the Naktong perimeter far to the southeast. The landing at Inchon sent the North Koreans reeling, and soon the Gl's and Leathernecks were moving in on the South Korean capital city, Seoul. The Division's 32nd Infantry boldly seized Angyang-ni and South Mountain, terrain features dominating Seoul. Then, with the capital in the bag, the Division turned its attention to the south. The 17th Infantry, yanked out of Eighth Army reserve, rejoined the Division in time to fight a fierce 12-hour battle for two vital hills southeast ot Seoul. Soon Barr's soldiers were in command of all terrain southsouthwest of the Han River; they continued to drive toward the southeast to seize key terrain, and also to cut off possible enemy escape routes. The Division then marched 25 miles east to Suwon to capture the important rail juncture of Ichon.
Suwon was taken by the 31st Infantry Regiment fighting under its battle flag for the first time since its surrender to the Japanese on Bataan. The 31st pushed below Suwon and after a stiff fight cleared a tank-supported enemy pocket near Osan, site of the Commmrist tank breakthrough against the 24th Division some sixty days earlier. Here the Division linked up with the flying column from the 1st Cavalry Division, which had raced 102 miles from the Naktong, through enemy-held country, to clear the way for the joining of the two U. S. forces. With the arrival of troops from the Naktong perimeter the mission of the Inchon landing force was complete, and the 7th started a long overland truck march to the east coast of Pusan. Here training was renewed, and harried troop commanders attempted to get replacements for their combat-thinned ranks.
Soon the Bayonet soldiers were again loading into troop transports. This time the target was the east coast village of Iwon. Their orders were: "Advance to the Yalu!"
The Yalu was the river boundary between North Korea and Manchuria. To its north was the "privileged sanctuary" which supplied the North Korean Army, and which was to play so significant a role in the ultimate fate of the Bayonet soldiers who came ashore at Iwon on the last day of October in 1950.
After an unopposed beachhead landing on the last day of October, 1950, the Division started driving north. Along the way they met a sharp skirmish at Pungsan and a harsh firefight at Kapsan. The push continued in arctic-like cold weather, and on November 20, Colonel Herbert B. Powell's 17th Infantry slogged into Hyesanjin-on-the-Yalu--the first U. S. unit to reach the Manchurian border. Hyesaujin, which means "ghost city of broken bridges" was the northernmost point of advance by the United Nations' command in three years of bitter warfare.
"We swept through the city," related Colonel Powell, "and took a good look around. Then we dropped back to a good hill position to wait for something to happen." They didn't have long to wait.
The Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) intervened in the war on November 27, striking twin blows against Eighth Army in western Korea and X Corps in the east. The enemy attack caught the 7th strung out, with some elements as far as 250 miles apart. The 17th was northwest of the Chosin at Hyesanjin. Neither of the other regiments was intact at the time the action started, nor were they able to get together during the furions action that followed.
Captain Charles Peckham's Company B, 31st Infantry, had been on special detail, and was nearing Koto-ri en route north to rejoin its outfit, the 1st Battalion, which was supposed to reinforce the 3d Battalion on the northeast shore of the Cliosin reservoir. The 2nd Battalion was at Majong-dong awaiting orders. Peckham didn't get through. At Koto-ri his Company was impressed into a hurriedly organized special column called Task Force Drysdale. Composed of Peckham's Company, a company of Marines, and the 41st Commando (Royal Marines), Task Force Drysdale fought its way up the main supply route to crash the Chincse road blocks and bring much-needed supplies and ammunition to the sorely-pressed defenders of Hagam-ri. They sustained heavy casualties en route.
Furthest north at this time was the 1st Battalion of the 32d Infantry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Don Carlos Faith, Jr. Faith's command, beyond the northeast shore of the reservoir, engaged in five days of hellish combat. Fighting in the cruelest weather, surrounded, vastly outnumbered and outgunned, knowing full well that no help could come, they fought to the end.
Behind them was the task group headed by Colonel Allan D. MacLean, commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment. MacLean had with him his 3d Battalion, his heavy mortar company, the 57th Field Artillery battalion, and a fcw self-propelled automatic weapons. In the five days that followed, MacLean's battalion of the 31st suffered nearly as many casualties as the entire 31st had suffered on Bataan.
In one particularly vicious attack the Chinese drove a wedge between Faith's and MacLean's forces. MacLean was conferring with Faith at the time, and was thus cut off from his command. Furthermore, both outfits were completely surrounded. Knowing it was essential for them to link up again, MacLean and Faith decided to mount an attack to demolish the Chinese block between their outfits. In the firefight that followed, MacLean disappeared, never to be seen by his men again; much later they learned he had been taken prisoner.
Faith's soldiers reached MacLean's command just as the Chinese were getting set to launch an attack on the artillery batteries, hit the Communist soldiers from the rear, and drove them off, killing more than 6o of them. Then Faith combined the two U. S. forces, and decided to attack to the south in an effort to reach the base at Hagaru-ri.
His tattered frost-bitten soldiers were in miserable condition. Most of them were walking wounded; some were forced to use their weapons for crutches. Faith rallied the dispirited men and led them down the road toward the enemy strong point which threatened to wipe them out. He called the shots all the way as his men, near the point of collapse after five days of savage close quarters' fighting, followed him to the roadblock. Faith was in the lead, and was finally knocked down; but his men overran the enemy position and found themselves momentarily out of contact with the enemy.
Practically none of the officers or key noncoms were left. The remains of the task force dissolved into small groups for the last ten miles down to Hagaru-ri. It was only ten miles, but it might as well have been ten thousand for some of them. That night, December 1, the dazed and bloodied survivors started straggling in. When the last survivors of Task Force Faith reached the lines at Hagaru-ri on December 4, the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, which had started its march north on November 25 one thousand strong, was able to muster only 181 officers and men.
Nor was the ordeal over. In column with the Marines, the elements of the 7th Division which were in or around Koto ri had to fight their way south to the Hamhung perimeter in a blinding snowstorm with the enemy dogging at them all the way, sniping at them from the ridgelines, and getting closer with each passing hour.
Not all of the 7th Division had suffered the terrible toll inflicted on Faith's Battalion and MacLean's Task Force. A number of units redeployed to the Hungnam port area intact, still fit to fight. But the last days of 1950 were mostly sad ones for a Division which had once been known as the "Lucky Seventh." It had barreled up to the Yalu River, the only U. S. Division to achieve that high water mark, and then had been set upon by the massed divisions of a new enemy and forced to retrace its steps, fighting every inch of the way. Phase II of the Division's combat career in Korea ended with the bitter campaign of the Chosin Reservoir.
Ncw Year's day, 1951, found the Division, spearheaded by the 17th Infantry Regiment, again heading north, attacking at Tangyang in South Korea, and blocking enemy threats from the northwest. Soon all of the refurbished Bayonet was back in action around Cheehon, Chungju, and Pyongchang. The 7th was under a new commander, Major General Claude Birkett Ferenbaugh. The Bayonet engaged in a series of successful "limited objective" attacks in the early weeks of February. Late February found the 17th Infantry Buffalos, now under the command of Colonel William Quinn, driving against a ridge near the village of Maltari. A platoon from Company E inched close to the crest only to be enveloped in automatic weapons fire from both flanks and the front. The leaders of both front-running squads went down, and the leaderless men were dazed and bewildered. Corporal, Einar H. Ingman, a 21-year-old soldier from Tomahawk, Wisconsin, quickly assumed command. He reorganized the squads under fire, then waded into the enemy all by himself, taking out a machine gun crew with grenades and rifle fire. Another enemy gun 50 yards to his rigbt opened up, and Ingman went after it. Halfway there he was hit by a grenade, but managed to keep going. He was almost to his target when the enemy gunner spotted him and fired a long burst that caught Ingman in the head and neck and sent him reeling to the ground. But the Wisconsin soldier rose to his feet and resolutely resumed his one-man war. He wiped out the machine gun crew, then slumped unconscious over the gun he had taken. The two squads followed him and got to the emplacement he had taken just in time to see a large number of the enemy fleeing down the far side of the hill, throwing away their rifles. Ingman, who had also been woundcd in the fighting near Seoul, recovered from the wounds he got in this furious action, was promoted to Sergeant First Class, and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Bayonet was put in the van of the IX Corps assault, and fought a fierce three-day battle culminating with the recapture of the terrain that had been lost near the Hwachon Reservoir just over the 38th Parallel in North Korea. Here the Division enjoycd a victory that was doubly sweet. In capturing the town bordering on the reservoir it cut off thousauds of enemy troops who were trapped in the important electrical power center, and at the same time gained some measure of revenge for the bitter memories of the Chosin campaign. The IX Corps' attack, Operation Piledriver, continued in the face of fanatical Chinese resistance. The enemy waited for the Gl's in the hills beyond the Hwachon, entrenched in log bunkers and reinforced pillboxes behind heavily-mined roads, coming out to fight at night.
Private First Class Roman Prauty, a gunner with 31st Regimental Combat Team (crouching foreground), with the assistance of his gun crew, fires a 75mm recoilless rifle, near Oetlook-tong, Korea, in support of infantry units directly across the valley. National Archives Photo
The end of June brought the 7th a welcome assignment to the rear, the first relief from frontline duty since the Division had reached Korea. There was the inevitable reshuffling of assignments. Colonel Quinn was ordered to a new assignment; His successor was Lieutenant Colonel Hal Dale McCown. Lieutenant Colonel Glen A. Nelson, who had been a battalion commander under Mickey Finn back in the Hourglass days of World War II, took over the 31st Infantry Regiment; and Colonel Charles McNamara Mount, Jr., took over the 32nd Infantry.
After a brief rest the Division was ordered into defensive positions north of Hwachon. Toward the end of August, a number of limited objective attacks were ordered to take key terrain features and improve the front lines. In ten days the Division captured five important hills, in what one division historian has described as "the best fighting in tire Division's history."
When the Division returned to the lines after another assignment in reserve, it was to the Heartbreak Ridge sector recently vacated by the 2d Division. The 7th also took in the northern the of the "Punchbowl." About this time General Ferenbaugh left, to be replaced by Major General Lyman L. Lemnitzcr, under whom the Bayonet continued to defend "Line Missouri" through September 1952. By that time General Lemnitzer had been replaced by Major General Wayne C. Smith, who took over while the Division was still on the so-called "Static Line."
The Division's Operation Showdown was launched in the early morning hours of October 14, 1952, with the 31st Infantry Polar Bears passing swiftly through the lines of the 32 Infantry Buccaneers. The target of the assault was the Triangle Hill complex northeast of Kumhwa. The 31st moved against a strategic spot which for obvious reasons was named "Jane Russell Hill."
The next day the Bayonet attacked again. And again on the day after that. Three days later the attack finally succeeded. In one of the counterattacks mounted by the Communists, a strategic Bayonet position on the hill would have been overrun but for the courage of PFC Ralph E. Pomeroy, who calmly pulled his machine gun off its tripod and started walking downhill toward the enemy, firing into them as he walked, hand grenades blew the helmet off his head, but he continued into the enemy's midst. And when he came to the end of the ammunition belt, he swung the machine gun as a club, continuing to close with the enemy until they engulfed him by sheer numbers. He was still fighting them when his buddies of Company E, 31st Infantry, got their last glimpse of him.
The Bayonet remained in the Triangle Hill area until the end of October, when it was relieved by the 25th Infantry Division. It had won an important victory in what Lieutenant General Reubcn E. Jenkins, commander of IX Corps, termed "the most violcnt action of this corps in over a year." General Jenkins also said, "In my opinion there could be no finer assignment for a Corps Commander than to command a corps composed of divisions of the quality of the 7th Infantry Division."
'The New Year (1953) found the 31st Polar Bears and the 32nd Buccaneers holding positions on "Line Jamestown" awaiting the return of the 17th from Koje-do. The Buffalos rejoined the Division in mid-January, to join in the patrol activity around Old Baldy and Pork Chop. April brought a stepping-up of the enemy's ground activity and Operation Littie Switch, the exchange of sick and wounded prisouers. The Communists overran Pork Chop, but the 7th counterattacked and rewon the OP the next day. While the, negotiations continued their deliberations at Panmunjom, the frontline activity continued. July 6 the Reds launched a determined attack against Pork Chop--the strongest display of force the Bayouet had seen in that sector. Five days of savage, fighting followed with the same ground being taken and retaken as the tide of battle surged first one way and then the other.
At twenty minutes before eleven AM. on July 27, 1953, a message was received by the Division--and immediately flashed to all units--that an Armistice had been signed and was to go into effect at ten that night. Collectively and individually the Division breathed a sigh of relief, and each man prayed silently that, having got this close, his luck would hold out another twelve hours.
On OP Westview, where a ninety-minute battle had raged the night before, the Bayonet soldiers wondered anxiously if the enemy might decide to finish the war in a blaze of glory. Those were 12 extra-long hours.
The men checked and rechecked their gear, and cleaned their weapons. At one outpost six rounds of mortar fire fell inside the perimeter during the afternoon, but none of the boys were hit. Around nine PM the 7th soldiers noticed that the Reds had a huge searchlight beam playing on Old Baldy.
Forty-five minutes ticked slowly by. The latest order was passed from man to man: "No firing from now on--it's up to them!"
Then the hour struck; the campaign in Korea had come to an end.
Someone said, "Look. They shut off that damned searchlight." A 7th Division soldier wrote in his diary, "We could hear voices across the line, but for the first time the angry noises of warfare had disappeared."
Forty-eight months after the cease fire the 7th Division was still on duty within shouting distance of the battlefields of 1950-53. But the men who wore the Hourglass-shaped shoulder patch of the Bayonet Division refused to be annoyed when, as often happens, some humorist points to their insignia and says, "Why, there goes the Korean National Guard."
The 7th Infantry Division was deactivated shortly after the Korean War. In October of 1974, the Division was reactivated and later redesignated as the 7th Infantry Division (Light). In 1988 the Division was called upon for Operation Golden Pheasent in Honduras and in 1989 invaded Panama during Operation Just Cause. 1994 found the Division formally deactivated again
Posted by Anthony Young
Mar 28 2001 09:41:39:000AM