Battle of Haktang-ni

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Battle of Haktang-Ni
Part of the Korean War
Date 9–13 October 1951
Location "Broken Arrow" Hill, north of Chorwon
Result United Nations victory[1]
Belligerents
 United Nations  China
Commanders and leaders
United States Robert Soule
Belgium Norbert Cools
Belgium Georges Vivario
China Ye Jianmin[2]
Units involved
Belgium Belgian United Nations Command China 141st Division[3]
Strength
560[4] Several battalions[5]
Casualties and losses
10 killed
14 wounded [6]
98+ killed[7]
4 captured[8]

The Battle of Haktang-Ni was a skirmish in the Korean War fought between Belgian UN and Communist Chinese People's Volunteers between 9–13 October 1951, just north of the city of Chorwon just over the North Korean border.

Background[edit]

Haktang-ni[edit]

The hill of "Broken Arrow" is an isolated ridge about 1,500 meters long, extending from south to north and dominating the surrounding plain for hundreds of metres in each direction. It is rocky and entirely clear of cover. At the northern extremity of the hill is the steepest and highest point of the hill, the centre section plateaus before a very steep rocky outcrop to the extreme south. It was labeled Hill 391 by the US Army.[9]

Battle[edit]

10 October 1951: Belgian contingent arrives at "Broken Arrow"[edit]

Belgian command tent at Haktang-ni. It would be briefly overrun by Chinese troops during the main assault on the 13th

The Belgian battalion arrived at Haktang-ni at 14:00 [10] in the no-man's land (4 miles in front of other UN positions[11] held by the Puerto-Rican 65th Infantry Regiment) between UN and Chinese lines on 10 October 1951 and dug in. C Company dug in at the northern peak, while next B Company entrenched in the northern section of the central plateau. In order that the southern point would not be taken by Chinese forces and used as a base for mortar attacks, the 40-men of the Heavy Weapons Company (equipped with American supplied .30 Machine Guns and 75mm guns)[12] took up position on the southern peak 300–400 metres away from the rest of the battalion.[12]

The Belgian Contingent was badly under strength at the time of the battle (comprising only 560 men instead of the more usual 900) since the battle occurred in the middle of a troop rotation in which many soldiers who had been in Korea since February 1951 – including the 1st Luxembourg detachment, which formed part of A Company, Belgian United Nations Command, had returned home in September 1951 – and replacements had not arrived.[13]

10–11 October: Chinese artillery attack[edit]

Almost immediately from their arrival at "Broken Arrow", Belgian forces came under fire from artillery fire from Chinese 76mm guns and mortar fire.[14] One Belgian soldier was killed, several were wounded.[14] In the evening of 10 October, the first Chinese patrols attacked the positions of B Company. Recognising the importance of holding the position, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, Major General Robert H. Soule visited the positions at Haktang-ni by helicopter.[15]

As evening fell on the night of 11 October, the Belgians again came under fire – this time from Chinese 60mm mortars from neighbouring Hill 317.[15]

12 October 1951: Start of the battle[edit]

In the early morning of 12 October 1951 several small-scale Chinese assaults were repelled. First, at 03:45 an enemy patrol, supported by machine gun fire, attacked the Heavy Weapons Company. It was eventually driven back by US artillery fire from 105mm and 155mm artillery.[16] One Belgian soldier was killed during this assault with six soldiers wounded of whom two were Korean soldiers attached to the Belgian battalion.

Later that day, from 08:00 to 15:00, patrols from B Company, climbed nearby Palli-Bong Hill (Hill 488) which was being used as an observation post by Chinese forces. A second patrol from the Reconnaissance Platoon reached nearby Hill 317 found an enemy ammunition dump, which they destroyed, and then returned to Haktang-ni.[17] During the day, numerous "squads" of 5–10 Chinese soldiers had infiltrated behind the Belgian lines.[17] The thick fog that had covered the battlefield during the day dispersed at 23:30 at the same moment as the main Chinese assault began on the Heavy Weapons Company.

Morning of 13 October 1951: Main Chinese assault[edit]

Soldiers from Chinese 141st Division during Operations Commando and Polecharge.

The main Chinese attack on the Heavy Weapons Company began at 23:30 on 12 October. The Chinese troops were advancing on the front line of the Reconnaissance Platoon in perfect silence, moving through the barbed wire, when they can under fire from machine guns and flamethrowers.[18] At the same time, B Company and the Heavy Weapons Company came under attack. Chinese troops even took the position used by the HQ of the battalion.

During the night, the bodies of many wounded and dead Chinese soldiers were recovered by their comrades. Indeed only 4 wounded Chinese soldiers remained on the battlefield at daybreak. They were taken prisoner by the Belgians.[19]

At 02:00, renewed Chinese assaults began on the Heavy Weapons Company.[20] However, by 04:00, the main attacks had been repulsed and all positions re-occupied. At daybreak, Hill 317 was re-occupied by Belgian troops, and a reconnaissance patrol from C Company came under machine gun and mortar fire from Palli-Bong hill.

When the smoke cleared, 98 remaining Chinese corpses were found in front of Belgian lines, giving the only estimate of Chinese soldiers killed during the battle although, all together, the casualties suffered by the Chinese forces were probably much higher.

Aftermath[edit]

On orders from 3rd Infantry Division, the Belgians withdrew from positions back to the UN lines, taking up positions on Hill 362.[19] Withdrawing from Haktang-ni, the Belgians watched a heavy artillery barrage falling on their vacated positions.[21]

Citation[edit]

The Belgian contingent was awarded the citation of "HAKTANG-NI" on the flag of the unit[22] and a "Haktang-ni" bar was added to the campaign medals of those who served at the battle.[23]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ Though the 1st Luxembourg Detachment (previously part of A Company) under Lt. Joseph Wagener had returned home in September 1951 and the 2nd detachment only arrived on 16 March 1952. 6 Luxembourg soldiers re-enlisted for a second tour of duty in Korea and were part of the Belgian units during the battle.
Citations
  1. ^ Crahay 1985, p. 192
  2. ^ Hu & Ma 1987, p. 79
  3. ^ Chinese Military Science Academy 2000, pp. 117–118
  4. ^ http://hendrik.atspace.com/eng/korhaktang.html
  5. ^ http://hendrik.atspace.com/eng/korhaktang.html
  6. ^ Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in the Korean War, Royal Museum of the Army and of Military History (Brussels) 2011 p.38
  7. ^ http://hendrik.atspace.com/eng/korhaktang.html
  8. ^ Crahay 1985, p. 125
  9. ^ Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in the Korean War, Royal Museum of the Army and of Military History (Brussels) 2011, p.45
  10. ^ Crahay 1985, p. 111
  11. ^ Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in the Korean War, Royal Museum of the Army and of Military History (Brussels) 2011, p.44
  12. ^ a b Crahay 1985, p. 113
  13. ^ Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in the Korean War, Royal Museum of the Army and of Military History (Brussels) 2011, p.44
  14. ^ a b Crahay 1985, p. 114
  15. ^ a b Crahay 1985, p. 116
  16. ^ Crahay 1985, p. 117
  17. ^ a b Crahay 1985, pp. 118–119
  18. ^ Crahay 1985, p. 120
  19. ^ a b Crahay 1985, p. 126
  20. ^ Crahay 1985, p. 123
  21. ^ Crahay 1985, p. 127
  22. ^ Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in the Korean War, Royal Museum of the Army and of Military History (Brussels) 2011, p.38
  23. ^ http://www.korean-war-medals.com/belgium/medal_2.shtml
Bibliography
  • (Chinese) Chinese Military Science Academy (2000). History of War to Resist America and Aid Korea (抗美援朝战争史). Volume III. Beijing: Chinese Military Science Academy Publishing House. ISBN 7-80137-394-4. 
  • (French) Crahay, Albert (1985). Bérets Bruns en Corée 1950–1953. Vécu Par Des Belges. Brussels: Collet. OCLC 165584223. 
  • (Chinese) Hu, Guang Zheng (胡光正); Ma, Shan Ying (马善营) (1987). Chinese People's Volunteer Army Order of Battle (中国人民志愿军序列). Beijing: Chinese People's Liberation Army Publishing House. OCLC 298945765. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°13′N 127°09′E / 38.21°N 127.15°E / 38.21; 127.15