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Outpost Harry was a remote Korean War station located on a tiny hilltop in what was commonly referred to as the "Iron Triangle" on the Korean Peninsula. This was an area approximately 60 miles (100 km) north of Seoul and was the most direct route to the South Korean capital.
More than 88,000 rounds of Chinese artillery fell on Outpost Harry. Since the outpost was defended each night by only a single company of American or Greek soldiers, the Chinese had anticipated an easy capture. Over a period of eight days, waves of Chinese forces moved into the outposts trench lines and totalling over 13,000 soldiers. Five UNC companies, four US and one Greek, took turns in defending the outpost.
Most of the fighting occurred at night, under heavy mortar fire, while the daylight hours were usually spent by the UNC forces evacuating the dead and wounded, replacing the defending company, sending up resupplies and repairing the fortified positions. The daylight hours were punctuated with artillery, mortar and sniper fire, making repairs and reinforcement a more dangerous task. During the 4 to 5 days prior to the initial attack on the outpost, Chinese artillery and mortar fire increased from an average of 275 to 670 per day during daylight hours.
Outpost Harry's elevation was around 1,280 feet and positioned some 320 yards south of a larger landmass occupied by the Chinese People's Volunteer Army (PVA) called "Star Hill" and some 425 yards northeast of United Nations Command positions. A service road that wound from the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) along an intermittent stream led to the rear of the outpost where a medical aid station and a supply point were located. Harry was an outpost east of the Chorwon Valley with sister outposts to the west called Tom and Dick. Outpost Dick was about 100 yards in front of the Main Line of Resistance, and Tom was about 250-300 yards in front and below the MLR. The latter was the floor of the valley. Harry, which was over 400 yards from the MLR, was also higher than the MLR, making supply much more difficult. The route to the outpost was under constant enemy observation and fire, and its height made it harder to pack supplies up the hill. Unlike Tom and Dick, which could get supporting fire from the MLR, Harry got less close supporting fire from the MLR because company 60mm mortars and the heavy machine guns did not have enough range. Harry relied more on artillery and heavy mortar companies.
The outpost was a strategic "military Hot Spot" and dearly desired by the Chinese. Its defense and preservation was viewed as critical because it blocked Chinese observation down the Kumwha Valley and shielded that portion of the MLR from enemy direct fire. If the UN forces lost the outpost, the U.S. Eighth Army would have had to withdraw approximately 6 miles (10 km) to the next defensible line. Furthermore, a Chinese victory at Outpost Harry may have whet the appetite for more war and disheartened the American public to a point where it might have accepted an armistice term less favorable to the Americans than was eventually the case.
The position contained a communication trench line which ran from the supply point forward some 400 yards to the top. At that point, the trench line joined another trench that made a complete loop (circle) around the outpost with an additional finger that ran along the east ridge about 100 yards. The trench line was deep enough to walk around the perimeter unseen by the enemy. It was fortified with reinforced fighting bunkers, a command post and a forward observation bunker. It could accommodate approximately 150 infantrymen.
During the period of June 1-June 8, 1953, aerial reconnaissance indicated that the Chinese forces were building for a major offensive. The units identified were the 22nd & 221st Regiments of the Chinese Communist 74th Division.
Early on June 10, K Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment, commanded by CPT Martin A. Markley, had been briefed on an imminent attack, and he in turn briefed his men. Ammo and communications were checked, as were final protective fires.
During the night of the first attack, the Chinese outnumbered Harry’s defenders by 30 to 1. “All total, there was a reinforced PVA regiment of approximately 3,600 enemy trying to kill us,” said Captain Martin Markley. Despite an intense barrage of defensive firepower and the detonation of napalm, the invading forces stormed the slopes of the outpost and soon penetrated the trenches. When K company got under cover in bunkers, friendly Variable Time (VT) artillery was called in to stop the attack. The artillery rounds exploded in the air rather than on impact, and this, plus hand-to-hand combat, finally drove the Chinese from Harry that night. By morning, all but a dozen Americans had been killed or severely wounded. K Company was so depleted that they were immediately reinforced by a reserve platoon and then replaced by another company of the 3rd Battalion. In addition to a composite reserve committed by the 3rd battalion commander (COL Russell F. Akers Jr.), Companies "E" and "C" 15th Infantry were committed to reinforce. One platoon of tanks from Heavy Tank Company, 15th Infantry, and one platoon of infantry were committed to the valley east of Outpost Harry as a diversionary force. This tank-infantry team proved to be of great value in channeling the enemy attack.
Baker Company of the 15th and Baker Company of the 5th RCT defended Harry. The Chinese began with another massive artillery and mortar barrage, continuing through most of the night. PVA infantry crept in close through the artillery fire and had gained the trenches on the rear of the outpost where bitter hand to hand fighting ensued. Company B, 5th Regimental Combat Team, was used to reinforce the defenders, while the PVA attempted to reinforce the initial successful assault through the night. By daybreak, at approximately 05:45, the Chinese again called off their assault and withdrew.
On 25 September 2010, PFC Charles 'Charlie' Johnson was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, 57 years after his death, by Brigadier-General Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd Infantry Division Rear-Detachment Commander, from Fort Stewart, Ga. It is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. The 20 year old soldier is attributed for single-handedly trying to hold off enemy forces and protect nine or more wounded soldiers during battle at Outpost Harry on June 12, 1953.
Able Company of the 5th RCT and Love Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment defended Harry. They were supported by a detachment from the 10th Combat Engineer Battalion that got trapped on the outpost while on a mine laying detail. On the night of June 12 at 22:00, PVA artillery and mortar fire preceded an attack on the outpost which was broken up by UNC defensive fires. The Chinese were in the trench for a short time but were forced to withdraw. Fighting ceased at 22:47. However at 02:08 the Chinese attacked from the north, northeast, and northwest of the outpost. Bitter hand to hand fighting ensued as the CPV gained the trench on the northern slope of the outpost. Company "L", 15th Infantry, reinforced, and by 04:50 hours the Chinese were driven from the trenches and forced to withdraw. A platoon of tanks from the 64th Tank Battalion plus one platoon of infantry were dispatched to the valley east of outpost Harry and operated successfully as a diversionary force. All action ceased with the exception of UNC counter battery and counter mortar fire.
Charlie Company of the 5th RCT took responsibility for Harry on June 13. That night at approximately 02:55, PVA artillery and mortar fire preceded a screening action against the outpost from the east and west for the purpose of protecting recovery of their dead. This screening force was broken up by UNC defensive fires. Action became sporadic, with light PVA artillery and mortar fire falling on the outpost and MLR. By 04:40 the Chinese withdrew and all action ceased.
Company "G", 15th infantry had their turn at defending Outpost Harry. At about 01:25 the Chinese moving through friendly artillery and defensive fires gained the trenches on the rear of the outpost, and intense hand to hand fighting followed. At 02:22, UNC forces held the outpost with the PVA reinforcing in the bitter hand to hand action. Company "E", 15th Infantry was committed to reinforce. One platoon from Heavy Tank Company and one platoon of Infantry were again dispatched as diversionary force. At 03:45 the PVA withdrew and action ceased.
Company "A", 15th Infantry was committed to the defense of the outpost, and it turned out to be a quiet night on the outpost. The following morning the regimental commander placed the Greek Expeditionary Forces Battalion in the area of the outpost Harry sector in order that his U.S. battalions, all of which had suffered heavy casualties, could refit and reorganize.
During the night of June 16 there was no significant action, permitting much-needed engineer work on the outpost to be accomplished by Company "P", Sparta Battalion, of the Greek Expeditionary Force, during the day with assistance from Company "B", 10th Combat Engineer Battalion. The engineers did not remain on the outpost overnight.
On the morning of June 18, the Chinese returned at around midnight, moving through their own and UNC artillery and mortar fire to attack Outpost Harry from the northeast and northwest. The PVA were repelled and forced to withdraw, but they stayed in the area. At 02:40 the CPV attacked from the north under intense artillery and mortar fire. The PVA got in to the trenches of the outpost on the northern slope at 03:13. Bitter hand to hand fighting ensued with the PVA making numerous attempts to reinforce through the protective artillery ring. Company "N", Sparta Battalion was committed to reinforce. One platoon of tanks from Heavy Tank Company, 15th Infantry Regiment, and one platoon of Greek Infantry were dispatched to the valley east of Outpost Harry as a diversionary force. By 04:02 the PVA were forced out of the trenches on the outpost, and all action ceased with the PVA withdrawing, having fired 22,000 rounds in support of this attack.
The Chinese forces employed against Outpost Harry were tabulated by U.S. Intelligence Sections:
June 10 and June 11: one reinforced regiment (approximately 3,600 troops)
June 11 and June 12: one regiment (approximately 2,850 troops)
June 12 and June 13: one reinforced regiment
June 13 and June 14: an estimated 100 troops
June 14 and June 15: an estimated 120 troops
June 17 and June 18: one regiment.
During this period the entire 74th Division was utilized against this position and at the end of the engagement was considered combat ineffective. Rounds fired in support of their attack amounted to 88,810 rounds over 81mm in size: UNC mortar and artillery units in conjunction with friendly tank fires expended 368,185 rounds over 81mm in size.
Casualty figures were
15th Infantry Regiment - 68 KIA, 343 WIA, 35 MIA; KATUSA - 8 KIA, 51 WIA, 7 MIA;
Greek Expeditionary Force, Sparta Battalion - 15 KIA, 36 WIA, 1 MIA.
Attached and supporting units 5th RCT - 13 KIA, 67 WIA, 1 MIA;
10th Engineer Battalion - 5 KIA, 23 WIA; 39th FA - 5 KIA, 13 WIA.
Distinguished Unit Citations
For the first time in the annals of U.S. military history, five rifle companies together, four American and one Greek, would receive the prestigious Distinguished Unit Citation (now called the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC)) for the outstanding performance of their shared mission.
- Company K, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division (Third Award)
- Company F, 65th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
- Company B, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
- Company A, 5th Infantry Regiment, 5th Regimental Combat Team and attached units
- Company P, Greek Expeditionary Forces Battalion (Second Award)
- Unit History in Korean War URL retrieved December 17, 2006
- Command Reports of the 461st Inf Bn (Heavy Mortar) URL retrieved December 17, 2006
- 2nd Lt. James F. Moroney URL retrieved December 17, 2006
- Ernie Kramer URL retrieved December 17, 2006
- Lt. Delbert F. (Del) Tolen URL retrieved December 17, 2006
- George Pagomenos URL retrieved December 17, 2006
- OP Harry Survivors Association (2013). "Distinguished Unit Citations". OP Harry Survivors Association. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- Dannenmaier, William D. We Were Innocents: An Infantryman in Korea (2000), ISBN 0-252-02449-4
- Evans, James. W. A Morning in June, Defending Outpost Harry (2010), Alabama University Press.
- Pagomenos, George The Journal of a Greek Soldier in the Korean War (2004), ISBN 960-406-928-4
- Peters, Richard and Li, Xiaobing Voices from the Korean War: Personal Stories of American, Korean, and Chinese Soldiers (2004), ISBN 0-8131-2293-7 - (Chapter 18: Outpost Harry)
- Hermes, Walter G. "Chapter 21: The Last Offensive". Truce Tent and Fighting Front. United States Army in Korea. United States Army Center of Military History.
- Accounts from survivors of Outpost Harry
- The Outpost Harry Survivors Association
- Outpost Harry Project
- Outpost Harry Fitness Centre at Fort Benning, Columbus, GA
- Sergeant Jerry Cunningham First Person Account
- Documentary: Hold At All Costs
- Book:A Morning in June: Defending Outpost Harry
- Outpost Harry. Archangel Films.