User:Jim101/Battle of Ch'ongch'on River
|Battle of Ch'ongch'on River|
|Part of the Korean War|
Chinese forces swarm a UN position.
|Commanders and leaders|
| Douglas MacArthur
Walton H. Walker
Laurence B. Keiser
Yu Jai Hung
Paik Sun Yup
Basil Aubrey Coad
| Mao Zedong
13th Army[nb 1]
|Casualties and losses|
Total UN casualties:
~20,000 battle casualties
~20,000 nonbattle casualties[nb 3]
The Battle of Ch'ongch'on River, also known as the Battle of Ch'ongch'on or the Second Phase Campaign Western Sector (Chinese: 第二次战役西线; pinyin: Dì Èr Cì Zhàn Yì Xī Xiàn), was a decisive battle in the Korean War. In the aftermath of the successful Chinese First Phase Campaign against the United Nations forces, General Douglas MacArthur launched the Home-by-Christmas Offensive in an effort to evict the Chinese forces from Korea and to end the Korean conflict. Anticipating this reaction, the People's Volunteer Army Commander Peng Dehuai planned a series of counterattacks, dubbed the "Second Phase Campaign", against the advancing UN forces. In what has been called "one of the great surprises in military history", the Chinese 13th Army[nb 1] defeated the US Eighth Army in a series of battles along the Ch'ongch'on River Valley from November 25 to December 2, 1950, forcing the United Nations forces to evacuate North Korea and to withdraw to the 38th parallel.
|“||Well, if they go fast enough, maybe some of them can be home by Christmas.||”|
|— General Douglas MacArthur|
In the wake of the successful landing at Inchon and the subsequent destruction of the Korean People's Army (KPA) by mid-1950, the US Eighth Army crossed the 38th parallel and advanced rapidly towards the Sino-Korean border. Alarmed by this development, Mao Zedong ordered the Chinese People's Volunteer Army (PVA) to secretly enter Korea and to launch the First Phase Campaign against the United Nations (UN) forces. Between October 25 and November 4, 1950, the PVA 13th Army surprised and defeated the Republic of Korea (ROK) II Corps and the US 1st Cavalry Division in a series of battles around Onjong and Unsan, destroying the right flank of the US Eighth Army while forcing the UN forces to retreat back to the Ch'ongch'on River. Although Chinese forces were able to breakthrough the UN line, logistics difficulties forced the Chinese to withdraw and to disappear on November 5, 1950.
Despite the success of the Chinese First Phase Campaign, the UN planners still believed that China did not intervene in Korea on a large scale. The suddenness of the Chinese withdrawal in the face of a victory further confirmed this belief. Working with the assumption that only 30,000 Chinese troops could remain hidden in the hills, General Douglas MacArthur ordered the bombing of the bridges over the Yalu River in an effort to cutoff the Chinese reinforcements. Confident that the UN air force can detect and disrupt any troop movements across the Yalu River, General MacArthur launched the Home-by-Christmas Offensive on November 24 to rout the remaining Communist forces and to end the Korean conflict.
Unknown to the UN planners, however, there were already 180,000 Chinese troops stationed in Korea, with more reinforcements infiltrating across the border. Although the PVA commander Peng Dehuai managed to convince Mao to stop the First Phase Campaign, Mao still ordered Peng to renew the offensive as soon as possible. Encouraged by the earlier successes and knowing that the UN did not discover their true numbers, Peng outlined the Second Phase Campaign, an offensive aiming at pushing the UN forces back to a line half way between Ch'ongch'on River and Pyongyang. As a part of the deception plan to further reinforce the appearance of the weak Chinese forces, Peng ordered all units to rapidly retreat north while releasing prisoners along the way. With 230,000 troops at his disposal and another 150,000 heading to the Chosin Reservoir on November 22, Peng authorized the start of the Second Phase Campaign.
Location and terrain
The battle was fought along the UN frontline around the Ch'ongch'on River and its tributaries, which is located 50 miles south of the Sino-Korean border. The UN frontline stretched horizontally from the Korean west coast into the Taebaek Mountains in central Korea, with the Ch'ongch'on River crosses into the north of the UN line at the town of Kujang-dong. From west to east, a series of towns, such as Chongju, Yongsan-dong, Ipsok, Kujang-dong, Tokchon, and Yongwon dotted the frontline, and connecting those towns are a series of road junctions located at Sinanju, Anju, Kunu-ri and Pukchang-ni. A road runs south from Kunu-ri into Sunchon and eventually into Pyongyang, and it would later become the main retreat route for the UN forces stationed at the center of the frontline. The hilly terrains on the northern bank of the Ch'ongch'on River formed a defensive barrier that allows the Chinese to hide their presence while dividing the UN advances.
Forces and strategies
Acting on MacArthur's instructions, General Walton Walker of the Eighth Army started the offensive at 10 a.m. on November 24, 1950. The advance was led by the US I Corps to the west, US IX Corps in the center, and the ROK II Corps at the east. The three UN Corps advanced cautiously in a continuous frontline in order to prevent more ambushes similar to the Chinese First Phase Campaign, but the lack of manpower stretched the UN forces to the limit. At the same time, most of the soldiers had discarded their equipment and supply under the belief that the war was almost over. Except for the strong Chinese resistances against the ROK II Corps, the Eighth Army met little opposition, and the line between Chongju to Yongwon was occupied on the night of the November 25.
While the Eighth Army was advancing, the PVA 13th Army was hiding in the mountains with the 50th and 66th Corps to the west, the 39th and the 40th Corps on the center and the 38th and 42nd Corps at the east. Anticipating the UN advances, the Chinese planned a series of counteroffensives to catch the Eighth Army off guard. Hoping to repeat the success of the earlier First Phase Campaign, the 38th and 42nd Corps would first attack the ROK II Corps and to destroy the UN right flank, then cut behind the UN lines. At the same time, the 39th and 40th Corps would hold the US IX Corps in place while preventing any reinforcements to the ROK II Corps. The 50th and 66th Corps would stay behind and check the advances of the US I Corps.
|“||...The entire corps front...erupted with a violence that had not been witnessed previously in the Korean conflict.||”|
|— An US advisor to the ROK II Corps|
As the US Eighth Army stopped its advance on the afternoon of November 25, 1950, the PVA 13th Army commenced their Second Phase Offensive. A massive frontal attack soon developed against the entire UN line from Yongsan-dong to Yongwon. In the west, the ROK 1st Infantry Division of the US I Corps was attacked by the PVA 66th Corps at Yongbyon. On the center, strong probing actions by the PVA 39th and 40th Corps were carried out against the US IX Corps at Ipsok and Kujang-dong. At the east, the PVA 38th and 42nd Corps broke through ROK II Corps' line at Tokchon and Yongwon. The Home-by-Christmas Offensive was completely stalled on the morning of November 26.
Actions at Tokchon and Yongwon
In the aftermath of the Battle of Onjong, the ROK II Corps was recognized by the Chinese as the most vulnerable unit of the Eighth Army. Besides lacking the firepower of their US counterpart, the ROK II Corps also held the most difficult terrains on the UN right flank. At 10 a.m. on November 24, the ROK 7th Infantry Division on the II Corps' left flank attacked north from Tokchon. At the same time, the ROK 8th Infantry Division at the II Corps' right flank advanced north from Yongwon. The stubborn defenses by the PVA 38th and 42nd Corps soon ground the Korean advances to a halt, and the continuous fighting for the next two days failed to create any gains for the Koreans. During the advances, the Chinese defenses managed to create a wedge in the center of the ROK 7th Division, forcing the division to commit most its reserves on the frontline. Meanwhile, the ROK 6th Infantry Division at the II Corps rear could only offer its 2nd Regiment as the corps' reserve due to the earlier losses at Onjong.
As the Koreans were preparing their defensive positions on the dusk of November 25, the two Chinese corps were mobilizing for a decisive counterattack against the Eighth Army's right flank. The PVA 38th Corps planned to attack in full force against the ROK 7th Division's the center and the right flank, while two divisions from the 42nd Corps started to march through the hills and to bypass the ROK 8th Division's right flank. Given the importance of this assault, Han Xianchu, one of Peng's deputies, personally commanded the 38th and 42nd Corps for the rest of the battle.
The PVA 38th Corps landed the first blow against the ROK II Corps at 5 p.m. on November 25. Aided by total surprise, the PVA 113th Division of the 38th Corps first shattered the ROK 7th Division's Reconnaissance Company on the division's right flank, creating a 0.5 mi (800 m) gap between the ROK 7th and 8th Division. Simultaneously, the PVA 114th Division of the 38th Corps attacked the center-right of the ROK 7th Division, pushing the ROK 5th and 8th Regiment back in the process. When the ROK 7th Division's center and right was in complete chaos, the PVA 112th and the 113th Division of the 38th Corps slipped past the UN lines and advanced towards Tokchon. With only one battalion in the reserve to check the Chinese divisions, the Tokchon garrison and the ROK 7th Division headquarters were soon surrounded and attacked by the two Chinese divisions by 4 a.m. on November 26. Under heavy pressures from the PVA 114th Division, the ROK 5th and 8th Regiment tried to fall back to Tokchon, but the Chinese ambushes in the rear scattered the unsuspecting Koreans. On the afternoon of November 26, Tokchon was captured by Chinese, and the ROK 3rd Regiment on the 7th Division's left drifted westward and joined the US 2nd Infantry Division of the IX Corps at Kujang-dong.
While the ROK 7th Division was being decimated at Tokchon by the PVA 38th Corps, ROK 8th Division was also routed at Yongwon by the PVA 42nd Corps. With the PVA 125th Division tying down the ROK 10th and 21st Regiment at Yongwon, the 124th and the 126th Division tried to infiltrate the 8th Division's rear by marching through the hills east of Yongwon. At 1 p.m. on November 25, the ROK 16th Regiment at the 8th Division's rear spotted the two Chinese divisions at Maengsan, 20 km (12 mi) south of the Yongwon. Surprised by this development, the ROK 8th Division ordered the 16th Regiment to block the Chinese advance while the ROK 10th and 21st Regiment retreating from Yongwon. But before the order could be carried out, the Chinese struck first after learning their trap had been discovered. As the ROK 10th and 21st Regiment were retreating from Yongwon on the morning of November 26, the PVA 125th Division ambushed both ROK regiments, forcing the Koreans to abandon heavy equipment and to scatter into the hills. Meanwhile, the PVA 124th Division overran a battalion from the ROK 16th Regiment and attacked the ROK 8th Division's command post at Maengsan. With the entire division dispersed, the ROK 8th Division headquarters and the ROK 16th Regiment broke out of Maengsan on November 27 and retreated from the battlefield.
During the chaos of the battle, Major General Yu Jai Hung of the ROK II Corps did not receive news from the frontline until the midnight of November 25 — five hours after the Chinese had entered the Korean rear. Responding to the crisis, General Hung committed the ROK 2nd Regiment of the 6th Division to block the Chinese divisions. As the 2nd Regiment marched towards the front on the morning of November 26, the PVA 113th Division intercepted the regiment and destroyed its command post, scattering the ROK II Corps' entire reserve. With most the ROK II Corps' units destroyed by November 27, the UN right flank had fallen to the Chinese.
Although the UN aerial reconnaissance observed on November 27 that the Chinese forces on the UN right flank were moving rapidly into the Eighth Army's rear, General Walker still ordered the rest of the Eighth Army to continue the offensive north. Convinced that the collapse of the ROK II Corps was merely a small counterattack by the Chinese, General Walker ordered the US I and IX Corps to shift eastward in order to cover the ROK II Corps' sector. At this moment, however, the US I and IX Corps had already suffered heavy losses from the Chinese counteroffensive at Kujang-dong, Ipsok and Yongsan-dong.
Actions at Kujang-dong
On the left of the ROK 7th Division, ROK II Corps, the US 2nd Infantry Division of the IX Corps was placed in the path of a major Chinese supply line. During the Home-by-Chirstmas Offensive, US 9th Infantry Regiment led the division's advance northward along the Ch'ongch'on River, while the US 38th Infantry Regiment was placed on the division's right flank.
The Home-by-Christmas Offensive started with little resistance against the US 2nd Division, although the 9th Regiment was stalled by Chinese defenses at Hill 219, north of Kujang-dong on November 25. In order to renew the offensive on the next day, the 23rd Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Division was moved into the rear of the 9th Regiment. At the same time, the 38th Regiment had arrived at Somin-dong, a town on the road between Kujang-dong and Tokchon. When the aerial reconnaissance detected an increase in Chinese activities north of the 38th Regiment, 38th Regiment's A Company was sent on a patrol into Chinese territory.
To ensure the success of the Chinese counterattack against ROK II Corps, the PVA 40th Corps was assigned the mission of protecting the PVA 38th Corps' flank against the US 2nd Division. To accomplish this mission, the PVA 119th Division of the 40th Corps would first attack Somin-dong and to prevent the American from reinforcing the Koreans. The 120th Division would then fight its way across the Ch'ongch'on River and tie down the bulk of the US 2nd Division. Finally, the 118th Division would flank the American from the west and capture Kujang-dong from the rear.
On the night of the Chinese counteroffensive, the PVA 120th Division first accidentally stumbled upon the US 9th Regiment on the northern bank of the Ch'ongch'on River. The surprise encounter between the two sides soon left the 9th Regiment with only three rifle companies combat effective. Unaware that the 1st Battalion of the US 23rd Regiment had pulled up behind the US 61st Field Artillery Battalion, four Sharp Sword Companies from the PVA 359th Regiment of the 120th Division proceeded to cross the river and attacked the US artillery positions. Although the 61st Battalion was routed by surprise, the US 23rd Regiment quickly knocked out two of the unsuspecting Chinese companies. The surviving Chinese troops drifted eastward and occupied a hill named Chinaman's Hat, enabling the Chinese to overlook the entire 23rd Regiment's positions.
While the 120th Division commenced its attack on the 2nd Division's center, 119th Division was also trying to drive a wedge between Kujang-dong and Tokchon. In a series of confusing fighting between the Chinese and the Americans, the patrolling A Company was first splintered under Chinese attacks. Adding to the confusion, Chinese reconnaissance teams resorted to sweet musics and dancing to lure the Americans into the open, resulting in the loss of the 38th Regiment's G Company on the regiment's center. The Chinese had also penetrated the 38th Regiment's left flank, blocking the regiment's retreat route in the process. By the morning of November 26, the Chinese were spotted all around the 38th Regiment.
As the morning came on November 26, the Chinese promptly withdrew, and a counterattack by the 38th Regiment then opened the road to the rear. When the ROK 3rd Regiment of the 7th Division suddenly appeared in the 38th Regiment's sector, Colonel George B. Peploe of the 38th Regiment realized the right flank of the 2nd Division and the entire Eighth Army had collapsed. Under orders from Major General Laurence B. Keiser, commander of the 2nd Division, Colonel Peploe immediately took command of the ROK 3rd Regiment while trying to refuse his right flank. At the same time, Colonel Paul L. Freeman of the 23rd Regiment had also tried to lead his regiment to capture Chinaman's Hat, but without much success.
The Chinese immediately renewed their attacks on the night of November 26. A counterattack from Chinaman's Hat soon captured the 23rd Regiment's command post. On the 23rd Regiment's left, the 9th Regiment's G Company was also overran by the attacking Chinese forces, forcing Colonel Charles C. Sloane Jr. to withdraw the remnants of his regiment across the river. Chinese ambushes in the rear then decimated the rest of the 9th Regiment. At the 2nd Division's right, Commander Wen Yuchen of the PVA 40th Corps ordered the 119th Division to destroy the 38th Regiment in order to protect the Chinese breakthrough on the UN right flank. The ferocious fighting soon forced the 38th Regiment to fight its way back to Kujang-dong in order to rejoin the division.
Although General Walker did not cancel the Home-by-Christmas Offensive on November 27, General Keiser ordered his division to withdraw to Kujang-dong. Before Keiser's orders was complete on November 28, General Walker instructed Major General John B. Coulter of the IX Corps to set up a new defensive line at Kunu-ri — 20 mi (32 km) south of the 2nd Division. Full scale retreat of the 2nd Division started at the night of November 27, with the Chinese attacking everywhere against the Americans. As the division's convoy tried to move south, they were met with machine gun and mortar fire from numerous Chinese roadblocks in the rear. Chinese bazooka teams had also knocked out several vehicles while others were trying to climb the tanks and to lob grenades into the hatch. With some losses, the US 2nd Division broke through the PVA 118th Division's blockade and arrived at Kunu-ri on the night of November 28.
Actions at Ipsok
For the Home-by-Christmas Offensive, US 25th Infantry Division of the IX Corps advanced on the left of the US 2nd Division along the Kuryong River, one of the northern tributaries of the Ch'ongch'on River. On November 24, the 25th Division started its offensive at the city of Yongbyon, south of Ipsok. To lead the offensive, five companies of infantry, armor and artillery were drawn from the 25th Infantry Division to form a special task force named "Task Force Dolvin". With Task Force Dolvin leading the offensive on the eastern bank of the Kuryong River, the US 24th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Division was placed on division's right to maintain contact with the 2nd Division, while the US 35th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Division was on the western bank of the river advancing from Yongsan-dong to Unsan. The 27th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Division was located in the division's rear as reserves.
Because of the earlier UN defeat at the Battle of Unsan, the 25th Division expected to encounter heavy Chinese resistance during its advance. But the Chinese screening forces withdrew with the American advance. Aside from the harassing fire, the 25th Division did not encounter strong resistance along the way. Ipsok was captured by Task Force Dolvin on November 24, and several American POWs from the Unsan battle were also recovered at the town. When Task Force Dolvin proceeded to capture a series of hills north of Ipsok on the next day, Chinese resistance started to stiffen. During the hill battles on the afternoon of November 25, the Eighth Army Ranger Company of Task Force Dolvin had suffered heavy losses against the Chinese defenses, and the task force stopped its advance at dusk.
While the US 25th Division was advancing, the opposing PVA 39th Corps was waiting for the instructions from the PVA High Command. But the Chinese still conducted a series of probing actions against the American positions on the night of November 25. The Chinese patrols soon destroyed the rest of the Ranger Company. Numerous Chinese reconnaissance teams disguised as Americans had also infiltrated Task Force Dolvin's positions during the night. On the right of Task Force Dolvin, the mountainous terrains scattered US 24th Regiment while blocking most of its radio transmissions. Upon learning the destruction of the Ranger Company, Major General William B. Kean of the 25th Division sent the 2nd Battalion of the 27th Regiment to reinforce Task Force Dolvin. He also sent the assistant division commander Brigadier General Vennard Wilson to assume command of the task force, renaming the task force "Task Force Wilson".
After the successful attack against the Eighth Army's right flank, the PVA High Command gave the go ahead for the 39th Corps to attack the US 25th Division on November 26. The PVA 115th of the 39th Corps was immediately mobilized for an assault against Task Force Wilson and the US 24th Regiment, while the 116th and 117th Division was moving to attack Ipsok and to cut the American retreat route. The crushing attack soon left the task force decimated and reeling. The PVA 347th Regiment of the 115th Division first met the C Company on the task force's center, and the sharp encounter turned most of the C Company missing in action.[nb 4] On the right flank, the 115th Division attacked the task force's B Company. Met with waves of Chinese suicide bombers, the B Company was reduced to 26 soldiers out of the original 200. As the entire task force's line collapsing, the recuperating E Company was recommitted to the frontline. Although tank fire from the E Company stopped the Chinese advance, the company was reduced to just one platoon after the battle. Some Chinese snipers and infiltrators managed to put the Task Force Wilson's command post under fire, and the task force's executive officer was killed in the battle. Chinese forces in the rear had also attacked the task force's artillery at Iposk, preventing fire support during the night. In the aftermath of the night battle, the task force found itself surrounded by the Chinese. When General Wilson tried to evacuate the wounded, Chinese roadblocks ambushed the medical convoy just south the 2nd Battalion's perimeter.
With only the 2nd Battalion of Task Force Wilson remain combat effective on the morning of November 27, General Wilson ordered the the task force to withdraw to Ipsok. Under heavy air cover, the 2nd Battalion broke through PVA 348th Regiment of the 116th Division's roadblock and reached Iposk on the afternoon. Meanwhile, the US 24th Regiment had lost contact with most of its units, and the regiment commander Colonel John T. Corley could only collect one battalion from his regiment on the morning of November 27. On November 28, General Walker shifted the US I Corps westward by attaching the 25th Division while ordering the division to withdraw to the Ch'ongch'on River. With the US 35th Regiment rejoining the 25th Division after the battle at Yongsan-dong, the 25th Division withdrew south and Task Force Wilson was dissolved by General Kean on November 28.
Actions at Yongsan-dong
After an extensive refit in the aftermath of the Unsan battle, ROK 1st Infantry Division was placed on the US I Corps right flank at Yongsan-dong on November 20. At the start of the Home-by-Christmas Offensive on November 24, the 1st Division advanced north from Yongsan-dong in order to capture the town of Taechon. The US 35th Regiment of the US 25th Division also advanced north from Yongsan-dong on the Korean right flank, while the US 24th Infantry Division of the US I Corps advanced towards Chongju on the ROK 1st Division's left flank.
The ROK 1st Division advanced north with its 11th and 12th Regiment on point. Along the way, Chinese booby traps and mortar fire tried to delay the Koreans, but the Koreans managed to envelope the town of by the dusk of November 24. Unknown to the Koreans, the 1st Division were marching into a Chinese assembly area, and the resistance around Taechon immediately increased. By the night of November 24, the defending PVA 66th Corps counterattacked the Korean with infantry and cavalry charges. The Chinese and Korean troops were soon locked in a seesaw battle from November 25 to 26.
As the battle around Taechon dragged into the night of November 26, the ROK 11th Regiment on the division's right became disorganized. Brigadier General Paik Sun Yup of the ROK 1st Division soon brought up the 15th Regiment from his reserve to relieve the 11th Regiment. After receiving news on the Chinese attack against the 25th Division across the Kuryong River, General Paik had also directed his division to defend against the upcoming Chinese counteroffensive. As the morning came on November 27, the Chinese troops around Taechon did not stop their assault even under punishing UN air strikes, and some of the attacks were spilled into US 24th Division's area. Upon noticing their flank is buckling, the US 24th Division and the US 35th Regiment started the retreat southward to the Ch'ongch'on River.
At 1 p.m. on November 27, Peng ordered the PVA 66th Corps to destroy the ROK 1st Division before the Koreans could retreat to the Ch'ongch'on River. On the evening of November 27, the PVA 66th Corps launched a massive attack against the ROK 1st Division, the US 5th Regimental Combat Team of the 24th Division and the US 35th Regiment. After midnight, the Chinese attacks broke through the Korean lines and captured Yongsan-dong, resulting in the loss of the ROK 11th, 15th and US 35th Regiment's command posts. The ROK 11th and 15th Regiment were soon scattered while the retreating US 35th Regiment was blocked at Yongsan-dong with Chinese forces attacking from behind. Under heavy pressure, the US 35th Regiment fought its way through the town and rejoined the US 25th Division on the afternoon of November 28. At the same time, General Paik rally the broken ROK regiments and recaptured Yongsan-dong. The ROK 1st Division held the town against the subsequent Chinese attacks until it withdrew from the battle on November 29.
Actions at Kunu-ri
Kunu-ri is a crossroad village on the northern bank of the Kaechon River, one of Ch'ongch'on River's southern tributaries. As the Chinese counteroffensive grow in strength against the Eighth Army center, Kunu-ri had become a major bottleneck for the US IX Corps' retreat. In an effort to stabilize the front on November 28, General Walker ordered the 2nd Division to retreat from Kujang-dong and to setup a new defensive line at Kunu-ri. The importance of Kunu-ri was also noted by the Chinese, and on November 27, Peng instructed the PVA 38th Corps to cut the US IX Corps retreat route. The PVA 114th Division of the 38th Corps would capture Kunu-ri by marching westward on the road from Tokchon, while the PVA 112th Division would follow on a parallel route through the hills north of the road.
With the 2nd Division still at engaged at Kujang-dong, General Coulter ordered the Turkish Brigade in the IX Corps reserve block the Chinese advance. On the night of November 27, the Turks took up defensive position at Wawon on the east of Kunu-ri. They were soon met with the PVA 342nd Regiments from the 114th Division. The ensuing battle between the Chinese regiment and the brigade's advance battalion continued for the much of the November 28, resulting 400 Turkish casualties. As dusk came on November 28, the Turkish Brigade tried to retreat 5 km (3.1 mi) east to Sinim-ri to setup stronger defensive positions, but the PVA 342nd Regiment caught up with the brigade and attacked its rear, completely surrounding the brigade. With communication cut between the brigade and the Turkish headquarters, the PVA 340th and the 342nd Regiment from the 114th Division then fragmented the brigade during the night battle. The trapped Turks broke out of the Chinese encirclement on the morning of November 29 and the brigade was attached to the US 2nd Division.
Although the Turkish Brigade was crippled by the Chinese, its delay action allowed the 2nd Division to secure Kunu-ri on the night of November 28. With the US 23rd Regiment setting up defensive positions at the north of Kunu-ri on the morning of November 29, the US 38th Regiment tried to occupy the hills at the northeast of Kunu-ri. But the American soon found the the PVA 112th Division had already occupied the hills. The 38th Regiment was then forced to occupy a positions 1 mi (1.6 km) away from the Chinese. At the same time, the remnants of the Turkish Brigade joined up with the US 38th Regiment, covering the regiment's right flank at the northern bank of the Kaechon River.
On the afternoon of November 28, General MacArthur started to recognize that a crisis is growing in Korea. With the start of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir on November 27, MacArthur gathered his field commanders, including General Walker, for a conference at Tokyo. During the conference, MacArthur learned about the situation on the Eighth Army's right flank and judged that the Eighth Army was in great danger. He instructed General Walker to withdraw from the battle before the Chinese could surround the Eighth Army. After the conference at November 29, Walker ordered all Eighth Army units to retreat to a new line around Sunchon, 30 mi (48 km) south of Kunu-ri.
Following General Walker's orders, most of the Eighth Army's major units promptly broke contact with the Chinese and withdrew. But for the 2nd Division, it was forced to stay behind at Kunu-ri and in order to hold the Eighth Army's right flank. By the time the US 2nd Division tried to withdraw on the night of November 29, the two Chinese divisions attacked the 38th Regiment. The PVA 112th Division first struck the 38th Regiment on the left flank, but the American defenses held firm, forcing the Chinese to go on the defensive. Meanwhile, the PVA 114th Division attacked the Turkish Brigade and the right flank of the 38th Regiment. The Chinese outflanked the Turks by attacking along the southern bank of the Kaechon River, then cross the river at the UN rear areas. Upon noticing this development, Brigadier General Tahsin Yazıcı of the Turkish Brigade ordered a withdraw, leaving the right flank of the 38th Regiment completely uncovered. By the dusk of November 29, Chinese had cut the road between the 38th Regiment and Kunu-ri, and the Americans had to retreat by infiltrating the Chinese lines. At 4 a.m. on November 30, the 38th Regiment crossed the Kaechon River under the cover of the 23rd Regiment and Kunu-ri was under Chinese control.
In the aftermath of the ROK II Corps' collapse on November 27, Peng immediately ordered the PVA 38th Corps to cut the road between Kunu-ri and Sunchon in the US IX Corps rear, while the PVA 42nd Corps would surround the entire Eighth Army by rushing south through Pukchang-ni and capture Sunchon. At the same day, General Walker shifted the Eighth Army's line eastward by attaching the US 1st Cavalry Division and the British 27th Infantry Brigade to the US IX Corps. The US 1st Cavalry Division was to contain the Chinese breakthrough at Pukchang-ni, while the British 27th Brigade would secure the road between Kunu-ri and Sunchon.
With the new orders on November 28, the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division left Kunu-ri to rejoin the division at the southeast of Sunchon. With the 5th Cavalry Regiment absent and the 8th Cavalry Regiment still recovering from the earlier losses from the battle at Unsan, Major General Hobart Gay of the 1st Cavalry Division placed the 7th Cavalry Regiment at the south of Pukchang-ni, behind the remnants of the ROK 6th Division. Lacking reinforcements, the ROK 6th Division was quickly routed by the PVA 42nd Corps on the night of November 28. Streams of fleeing Korean soldiers and refugees soon poured into the American front with Chinese forces attacking the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Under General Gay's order, the 7th Regiment withdrew southwest to the town of Sinchang-ni on the morning of November 29, and the Chinese resumed its drive southward. A fierce night battle between the PVA 125th Division and the 7th Cavalry Regiment soon broke out, but by the morning of November 30 the PVA 42nd Corps' advance was halted.
The PVA 38th Corps, on the other hand, was marching towards the Kunu-ri-Sunchon road virtually unopposed. By 7 a.m. on November 28, the PVA 113th Division of the 38th Corps occupied the town of Samo-ri, placing it right in the path of the 5th Cavalry Regiment and besides the Kunu-ri-Sunchon road. An hour and half later, the advance platoon from the 5th Cavalry Regiment was ambushed and destroyed. With its advance halted, the 5th Cavalry Regiment attacked the Chinese garrison, but it was forced to turn back by the afternoon. The 113th Division then occupied the valley containing the Kunu-ri-Sunchon road at night — blocking the retreat route of the US 2nd Division. Upon receiving the news on November 29, the Middlesex Battalion of the 27th Brigade tried to clear the valley from the south, but the attack was soon halted due to the lack of heavy weapons.
One of the first victims of the new Chinese roadblock was a convoy from the Turkish Brigade, and it was ambushed on the night of November 28. A military police patrol was sent to investigate, but most of its members were killed by the morning. With the battle still raging at Kunu-ri, the news of the Chinese roadblock reached the US 2nd Division's on November 29. General Keiser sent the Reconnaissance Company and the remnants of the 9th Regiment dislodge the Chinese, but the roadblock held firm even with a platoon of tank support. With the battle at Kunu-ri ended by the night of November 29, the PVA 112th Division joined up the 113th Division and the roadblock grew to 6 mi (9.7 km) in depth.
The 2nd Division, however, did not understood the strength of the roadblock at the night of November 29. At the same time, the US 25th Division Military Police mistakenly reported that the alternative retreat route from Kunu-ri to Anju was also blocked by Chinese. Later, General Coulter ordered General Keiser to withdraw by breaking the roadblock with the British 27th Brigade. On the early morning of November 30, General Keiser made the decision to withdraw through the valley.
On the morning of November 30, the 9th Regiment led the withdraw by attacking the roadblock. Four tanks were first sent down the road with the Chinese holding their fire. Encouraged by this development, Colonel Sloane ordered the 9th Regiment to press forward, but Chinese machine gun and mortar fire immediately stopped the advance at 9 a.m. ROK 3rd Regiment attached to the division was sent to reinforce the 9th Regiment, but it was routed by American tank fire. With no contacts between the American commands and the British units, the Middlesex Battalion advanced to the south end of the valley without attacking the roadblock. Believing that the roadblock was short and the British were attacking up the road, General Keiser ordered the 2nd Division to run through the blockade at 10 a.m.
As the 2nd Division entered the valley, later known as the "Gauntlet", the Chinese machine gun delivered punishing fire while mortars shells saturated the road. The length of the roadblock caught the 2nd Division by surprise, and the road were soon turned into a mass of wrecked vehicles with wounded and dead soldiers. Soldiers who tried to take cover in the ditches were promptly left behind by the convoy rushing south, and unit cohesion quickly disintegrated. During the day, the air cover tried to suppress the Chinese positions with some success, but with no air cover at night, the Chinese attack intensified. Finally, the Chinese halted the road traffic completely, forcing the rest of the 2nd Division to retreat by hiking through the hills. At the rear of the division, Colonel Freeman tried to save his 23rd Regiment by retreat through the Kunu-ri-Anju road. In one of the last acts of the battle, the 23rd Regiment fired off its stock of 3,206 artillery shells within 20 minutes, and the massive barrage shocked the Chinese troops from following the regiment. The last stragglers from the 2nd Division arrived at Sunchon on December 1, and by December 2 the Eighth Army had completely lost contact with the Chinese.
|“||We face an entirely new war.||”|
|— General Douglas MacArthur|
By the end of the battle, the Eighth Army was reduced from its original three corps to four divisions and two brigades. Meanwhile, the over extended Chinese logistics system had also left the victorious 13th Army half-starved while waiting for an extensive refit. But during the chaotic UN retreats, no reconnaissance was conducted to determine the state of the Chinese forces. As the result, General Walker ordered the Eighth Army to abandon North Korea, much to the surprise of the Chinese High Command. The following 120 mi (190 km) withdrawal to the 38th Parallel is often referred to as "the longest retreat in American military history." General Walker died two days before the Christmas of 1950, and Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway assumed the command of the US Eighth Army. At the UN, all hopes for reuniting Korea was abandoned, and a ceasefire was proposed to China along the 38th Parallel.
The Battle of Ch'ongch'on River represented the peak of the Chinese military performance in Korea. But for Mao, the UN ceasefire was interpreted as a sign of weakness that the Chinese forces could further exploit. Against the advices from Peng and other senior military leaders, Mao ordered the PVA to invade South Korea — a mission that was beyond the Chinese military's abilities while breaking the fragile Chinese supply lines. Recognizing the Chinese difficulties, General Ridgway then led the Eighth Army to inflict severe losses onto the PVA during the Chinese offensives of 1951.
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