Battle of Bloody Ridge
The Battle of Bloody Ridge was a ground combat battle that took place during the Korean War from August 18 to September 5, 1951.
Located in hills north of the 38th parallel north in the central Korean mountain range, the battle was fought between the communist North Korean forces of the Korean People's Army (KPA) and capitalist United Nations forces consisting of Republic of Korea Army (ROK) units and the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division.
By the summer of 1951, the Korean War had reached a stalemate as peace negotiations began at Kaesong. The opposing armies faced each other across a line which ran (with many twists and turns along the way) from east to west, through the middle of the Korean peninsula, a few miles north of the 38th parallel. UN and NK/PRC forces jockeyed for position along this line, clashing in several relatively small but intense and bloody battles.
Bloody Ridge began as an attempt by UN forces to seize a ridge of hills which they believed were being used as observation posts to call in artillery fire on a UN supply road.
The 36th ROK Regiment made the initial attack. It succeeded in capturing most, but not all, of the ridge after a week of fierce fighting that at times was hand to hand. It was a short-lived triumph, for the following day the North Koreans recaptured the mountain in a fierce counterattack.
The next UN assault was made by the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Division. The battle raged for ten days, as the North Koreans repulsed one assault after another by the increasingly exhausted and depleted U.S. forces. After repeatedly being driven back, the 9th succeeded in capturing one of the hill objectives after two days of heavy fighting. The weather then turned to almost constant rain, greatly slowing the attacks and making operations almost impossible because of the difficulty in bringing supplies through "rivers of mud" and up steep, slippery slopes.
Fighting continued, however, and casualties mounted. The 2nd Division's 23rd Infantry Regiment joined the attack on the main ridge while the division's other infantry regiment, the 38th Infantry Regiment, occupied positions immediately behind the main ridge which threatened to cut off any North Korean retreat. The combination of frontal attacks, flanking movements and incessant bombardment by artillery, tanks and airstrikes ultimately decided the battle. Over 14,000 artillery rounds were fired in a 24-hour period. Finally, on September 5, the North Koreans abandoned the ridge after UN forces succeeded in outflanking it.
After withdrawing from Bloody Ridge, the North Koreans set up new positions just 1,500 yards (1,400 m) away on a seven-mile (11 km) long (11 km) hill mass that was soon to earn the name Heartbreak Ridge.
The American soldiers called the piece of terrain they had taken "Bloody Ridge", which indeed it was: 2,700 UN and perhaps as many as 15,000 NK and PRC military members were casualties, almost all of them killed or wounded with few prisoners being taken by either side. The much higher NK and PRC casualties were probably caused by:
- Discipline in the KPA was poor, and constraining orders so strict to the point where subordinate leaders were often not allowed to withdraw under any conditions, in which case the entire unit would be blooded. Even when permission was granted for a withdrawal, it often came only after the large majority of troops in the unit had been killed.
- In most battles, UN forces had an overwhelming advantage in artillery and air support; indeed, the North Korean and Chinese forces had no air support. An enormously destructive "rain of fire" could be brought by UN units against North Korean and Chinese forces which they could not answer in kind.
- Blair, Clay (1987). The Forgotten War. New York: Times Books. ISBN 5-550-68614-7.
- T. R. Fehrenbach (1964). This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-881113-5.
- (2002). Spencer C. Tucker (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Korean War: A Political, Social, and Military History. New York: Checkmark Books. ISBN 0-8160-4682-4.
- Korean War Map of N. end of Bloody Ridge: Heartbreak Ridge, Mungdung-ni Valley and Hill 1179