Battle of Chatkol

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Battle of Chatkol
Part of the Korean War
Date 26 February–21 April 1953
Location "Iron Triangle"
North-South Korean border
Result United Nations military victory
Strategically indecisive
Belligerents
 United Nations China China
Commanders and leaders
United States Maj. Gen. G. Smythe
Belgium Lt. Col. R. Gathy [2]
China Unknown
Units involved
Belgium Belgian United Nations Command,
United States 3rd US Infantry Division
China Unknown
Strength
One (understrength) infantry battalion Various (from small groups, to battalion or regimental level)
Casualties and losses
24 killed
2 missing in action [3]
Several hundred killed,
54+ wounded

The Battle of Chatkol (also known as the 55 Nights of Chatkol) was the name given to the series of skirmishes between UN forces and Chinese forces near the village of Chatkol at the centre of the "Iron Triangle" during the Korean War. The position was held by the Belgian UN contingent for 55 consecutive nights, during which time they came under heavy attack.

Chatkol[edit]

The small village of Chatkol (Korean: 찻골, sometimes "Chat-kol") lay in the centre of the zone labelled "Iron Triangle" between Chorwon and Kumhwa in the South, and Pyonggang in the north.[4] Chatkol was viewed as a decisive communications hub by both Chinese and UN commanders owing to its proximity to the railway running north-east through the triangle.[5]

Defences around Chatkol[edit]

The villages of Chatkol and Sandong-ni were surrounded to the north to east by an arc of defensive fortifications known the "The Boomerang" on the "White Horse Mountain Range" hill line [6] On the northern portion of the defensive line, there were three "outposts" codenamed (from left to right) "Alice", "Barbara" and "Carol".[7] The first letter of each outpost denoted which company of the Belgian contingent was responsible for their defence, while the Heavy Weapons Company defended the eastern arc of the "boomerang." The Belgians' command post was established at Sandong-ni to the north-west of the trench line.

Each outpost was manned by as few as three men during the day, but at night - the preferred time for Chinese assaults, this could be increased to over ten men. Both the main positions, and the outposts themselves, were heavily built and easily defensible, incorporating bunkers and trench lines.[8]

In the east, the Belgian positions bordered the South Korean 9th Division.

8–9 March: Retaking Outpost Carol[edit]

Outpost Carol was located at a vulnerable point on the far right of the northern sector of the defences, 200 meters in front of the Belgian front line.[9] Carol had been manned by seven soldiers and two machine guns when it was overrun by over 100 Chinese soldiers. The Belgians could not react to the loss of the outpost immediately as they came under heavy and accurate artillery fire from nearby Chinese positions.[10]

The next morning, at 06:45 and with US artillery support and smoke screen, Belgian soldiers successfully assaulted and re-took the position. In this action 5 Belgians were killed and 17 wounded while Chinese losses were estimated at 25 killed, 40 wounded.[11]

13 March: Retaking Outpost Alice[edit]

Outpost Alice was attacked at 00:15, first by an artillery bombardment, then by a massed Chinese attack. Retreating to their lines under fire, one soldier from the original garrison was found to be missing. When Alice was retaken, patrols were sent out to find the missing soldier. By 06:00, a wounded soldier - survivor of Outpost Alice - was seen crawling towards the front line and was evacuated to a MASH hospital by helicopter.

25 March[edit]

30 March[edit]

7–8 April[edit]

Realising that a Chinese breakthrough was a distinct possibility, Corporal Raymond Beringer of the Luxembourg Platoon, A Company moved his Water-cooled .30 Machine Gun to the roof of his bunker to enable a broader field of fire.[12] After the battle, the bodies of over 20 Chinese soldiers were found within 200 meters of his bunker alone.[13] For this action, Cpl. Beringer was awarded the American Bronze Star and recommended for the Silver Star. Despite this, the paperwork containing the recommendations for both medals were lost and the award was only made in 1992.

18–19 April[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ As at the Battle of Haktang-ni in October 1951, the Battle of Chatkol co-incided with a period of troop rotation in the Luxembourg detachment. The majority of the soldiers in the Second Luxembourg Detachment returned home by ship in January 1953, arriving in March. However, several Luxembourg soldiers (including Cpl. Beringer would distinguish himself during the action at Chatkol) remained in Korea after the end of their official tour, included in Belgian units. Their flag is thus included for completeness, even though there was (strictly speaking) no Luxembourg unit present.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in Korea 1950-1955, (Brussels) 2011 ISBN 2870510500 p.173
  2. ^ http://www.koreanwar-educator.org/topics/national_archives_103.htm
  3. ^ Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in Korea 1950-1955, (Brussels) 2011 ISBN 2870510500 p.39
  4. ^ http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmclean2009/3659976694/
  5. ^ Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in Korea 1950-1955, (Brussels) ISBN 2870510500 p.39
  6. ^ http://hendrik.atspace.com/eng/korchatkol.html
  7. ^ A. Crahay, Bérets Bruns en Corée 1950-1953 (Vécu Par Des Belges) p.179
  8. ^ A. Crahay, Bérets Bruns en Corée 1950-1953 (Vécu Par Des Belges) p.180
  9. ^ A. Crahay, Bérets Bruns en Corée 1950-1953 (Vécu Par Des Belges) p.181-2
  10. ^ http://hendrik.atspace.com/eng/korchatkol.html
  11. ^ http://hendrik.atspace.com/eng/korchatkol.html
  12. ^ http://www.warfoto.com/3rdsociety3.htm
  13. ^ http://www.warfoto.com/3rdsociety3.htm