Kam06.jpg (27813 bytes)
Chinese surrendering outside the perimeter at Koto-ri.
Photo courtesy of Michael Kaminski

The Changjin Journal is designed to disseminate and solicit information on the Chosin campaign. Comments and brief essays are invited. Subject matter will be limited to history of the Chosin campaign, as well as past or present interpretation of that history. See End Notes for distribution and other notices. Colonel George A. Rasula, USA-Ret., Chosin Historian

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One of the overpowering images of the Chosin campaign was the
rugged terrain and the impact of the early winter of November-December
1950. Troops who walked up the Funchilin Pass climbing 2,500 feet in
eight miles probably thought any mountain after that would be a cake
walk. But it wasn't, for they had just arrived on what was called the
Kaema upland on which there were more valleys and mountains. There was
no time during the campaign to conduct geography lessons, nor to click
on the weather channel to find what it'd be like for tomorrow's attack.
The troops learned by walking over the land and feeling the windchill
coming all the way from Siberia by way of Manchuria. Now that fifty
years has passed, let us rekindle memories with a brief lesson in
geography and climatology.


In the Army's history covering Chosin, Ebb and Flow by Billy
Mossman, discussing the "Change in X Corps Plans" we find a footnote
attributed to General Matthew B. Ridgeway:"I find it amazing that
highly trained professionals with extensive combat experience could
have approved and tried to execute the tactical plan of operation for
the X Corps in northeast Korea in November 1950. It appears like a pure
Map Exercise put on by amateurs, appealing in theory, but utterly
ignoring the reality of a huge mountainous terrain, largely devoid of
terrestrial communications, and ordered for execution in the face of a
fast approaching sub-arctic winter."

Those who were on the frozen ground at Chosin can identify those words
as coming from the pen of a true professional, one who understood that
the battlefield was made up of far more than the paper and ink on a
large-scale map or sweeping gestures of war-room briefers. An
interesting point in Mossman's text is that MacArthur directed Almond
to "open an attack to the west after his inland flank forces reached
the town of Changjin, twenty-five miles north of the reservoir." Even
though the one-lane road and narrow-gauge railroad would have taken a
column of rifle companies through the switchbacks of that mountainous
terrain, we continue to wonder what one infantry battalion on the Yalu
at Manpojin or Huichon could have accomplished, especially when it
would take the remainder of the division to safeguard the MSR and
manage a 150-mile supply line.

When considering an operation west of Yudam-ni and north of Hagaru-ri,
one must not lose sight of the two major terrain obstacles already
encountered on the main supply route (MSR): the Funchilin Pass between
Chinhung-ni and Koto-ri, and the Toktong Pass between Hagaru-ri and
Yudam-ni. Both of these sectors could be interdicted by the enemy or
even closed for extended periods by the destruction of bridges. West of
Yudam-ni, already 74 miles from the port of Hungnam, lay some of the
most treacherous mountains in all of North Korea-the
northeast/southwesterly Nangnimsanmaek mountain range, terrain ideally
suited for delaying an enemy with roadblocks (barriers) and

What is it about the terrain that made it different? For background on
terrain let us look to the writings of Hermann Lautensach based on his
travels in Korea during the 1930s. For those who experienced Northeast
Korea in 1950, the Kaema upland begins when they arrived at the top of
the Funchilin Pass in the 1MarDiv sector, or when in the 7th Div sector
they reached the the high country around Pungsan, the road to Kapsan
and the Yalu River at Hyesanjin.

Only two wild, winding canyons connect the Kaema river system with the
outside world, the Yalu River between Singalpajin and Muchangdong, and
further to the northeast the Tumen River between Musan and
Songhak-dong. In the gorge of the Yalu one can look up almost
one-thousand meters to the steep peaks towering south of the valley.
The two main rivers in our area of interest which drain this sector of
the upland to the north at the Yalu are the Changjin-gang and the
Pujon-gang. The Kaema upland is the highest region in Korea where only
the northern valleys near the Yalu are lower than one-thousand meters.

The contrast between the Kaema side and that of the Japan sea side is
that on the latter the slopes are very steep with an average of 50
degrees or more, very sharp crests with many valleys close together
(such as the gorges south of the Funchilin Pass). To the north in our
sector of interest between the rivers Pujon-gang and the Changjin-gang,
the ridge running north (the original boundary between the 7th Div and
the 1MarDiv) culminates in the Yonhwasan (mountain) at a height of
2,335 meters. Keep this in mind when we discuss combat operations in
future Journals.

Within the terrain just described we have numbered hills (indicating
elevation) on which many of the Chosin battles were fought, those north
and west of Yudam-ni, Hill 1221 east of the Changjin (Chosin)
Reservoir, and "East Hill" adjacent to Hagaru-ri. Receiving lesser
attention have been: the high ground east of the road between Hagaru-ri
and Koto-ri named "Hellfire Valley", and the numbered hills leading to
and within the Funchilin Pass. Although the word "hill" had been used
in defining the terrain on which many battles were fought, most were
mini-mountains; a mountain defined as a land rise of a thousand feet
(more than 300 meters).


Kaema has special climate characteristics that are not noted in
other parts of the country, the upland being cut off from the influence
of the sea. Being cut off from the sea and being open to the north has
a strong effect. Winter temperatures are extremely low, especially in
the basins of the Yalu valley in which stagnating cold air pockets
form. In general the winters in the upland become milder with
increasing altitude. This is called temperature inversion, similar to
that experienced by troops who trained in the maneuver areas
surrounding Fairbanks, Alaska, where Fairbanks sits in the basin formed
by the Tanana and Chena Rivers, while the maneuver area is the high
ground above the nearby Air Force base. This is noted in Pungsan where
the January mean temperature was 4.6 degrees Celsius higher than in the
837 meter lower Chunggangjin. Changjin does not show this intense
temperature inversion as clearly because, in contrast to Pungsan, it
lies in a high mountain basin.

The winter precipitation in the Kaema upland is abnormally low. the
average cloudiness has its minimum in January and the number or hours
with sunshine is maximum in February (63%). In Chunggangjin all of the
winter precipitation falls as snow. The station there registers an
annual average of 72 days with snowfall. Despite the southerly latitude
of less than 42 degrees , snow lies with brief interruptions for half a
year. In Pungsan, on the average only 3.5 months are without frost, in
the worst case only 2.5. Other nearby areas are only slightly better

The pronounced continentality of the climate shows that the Kaema
upland is closely related to the adjoining southeastern part of
Manchuria which, in turn, is related to the winter blasts of Siberia.
Soldiers of Changjin remember the "Siberian Express."


Veterans of the Chosin campaign will find meaning in the words
of William Blake, the mystic eighteenth-century poet who once wrote
that "Great things are done when men and mountains meet." In reference
to "the examples of Hannibal's and Napoleon's crossings of the Alps and
Simon Bolivar's crossing of the Andes" he writes, "Presumably mountain
campaigns are more the exception that the rule: areas on which steep
slopes predominate do not, ceteris paribus, generally favor offensive
operations. This tendency holds double true for the modern, mechanized
army, whose overland capabilities-however impressive-are not without
certain limitations. Indeed, one distinguished historian warns that 'an
army that depends for superiority on it mobility, firepower, and
technology, should never voluntarily give battle where these assets are
at a discount.' Physiography, and other natural phenomena, it appears,
can play a vital and pivotal role in determining the outcome of
military ventures".

After an interesting discussion of land and battles in Europe, Gordon*
writes "In Korea, a somewhat analogous event occurred in 1950, when a
similar misreading of the landscape and strategic options occurred. ...
The Eighth Army advanced toward the Chinese border along the west
coast, and the X Corps was assigned to the northeast. Between the two
lay a sizeable, undefended upland segment of Taebaek Mountains (the
'Taebaek Split'). The UN attackers thus were left with their flanks 'up
in the air.' "


"An eminent geomorphologist once posed the question, 'Do the
mountains defend the army, or does the army defend the mountains?' The
answer must be couched in holistic terms; it would be erroneous to
assume that only landforms are important, when a whole host of other
factors also come into play, to a greater or lesser degree.

"What lessons, then, can be learned about terrain analysis and military
perception? First, that to conclude that slope only favors the defense
is too simplistic, since surprise, morale, critical mass, and other
considerations are involved. Second, that a strong defense posture in
favorable terrain, such as the Maginot Line, can prove to be
formidable. (The Germans also made enough good use of defensively
favorable urban terrain in the battle of Berlin to inflict 100,000
casualties on the Soviet attackers.) Third, that an advance through
mountain or hill country has its obvious operational and logistical
limitations, even if surprise is achieved-as as the case at Caporetto
and the Taebaek piedmont. Fourth, that major strategic goals must take
geomorphology into consideration. The French Plan XVII and the German
goal to cross the Caucasus and attack Suez clearly are cases in which
such considerations were ignored. Last, that higher echelon leadership
often seems to lack training in physiographic analysis at a strategic
level, while aggregate corps intelligence reports, by contrast, usually
do not provide information and insights at a scale needed by army and
army group commanders."

In closing, "The leaders who succeeded Moltke 'the Elder' apparently
should have learned a little more about the relationship of
physiography and military perception. Then again, perhaps the Swiss
psychologist Carl Jung-unlike William Blake-got it right then he said
the mountains tend to restrict the horizons of the mind."

At the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir the horizons of the mind did not
appear to be reaching out to the other side of the mountain, for the
Chinese attack in force came as a surprise and rang bells all the way
back to Tokyo.-GAR

* "Physiography and Military Perception: The Cases of Plan XVII, the
Ardennes, Caporetto, and the Taebaek Split" by Marvin F. Gordon,
professor emeritus at George Washington University (1969-85), an
article published in ARMY HISTORY, The Professional Bulletin of Army
History, CMH, Fall 1996.
END 08.31.00


IN THIS ISSUE we open the door to one of the many neglected
subjects of the Chosin campaign, that of combat communications. We
begin with a personal memoire by a member of Signal Company, 1st Marine
Division at Hagaru-ri. We then provide an extract from the X Corps
Signal Report for the period 27 November through 10 December which
provides the big picture of communications in northeast Korea.


By former S/Sgt Eric J. Matzke, Signal Company, 1st
Marine Division

"I believe that I am recalling the correct date after 50
years. As a member of the 1st Mar Div Sig Co. I went out several times
on the night of 30 November running trouble on wire lines which spread
out from the division CP to elements around the perimeter. I recall
very clearly the ebb and rise of Chinese attacks on our perimeter
during the night hours. In the darkness one could quickly tell as an
assault began as a few shots would ring out then 30 cal. machine guns
would begin bursts of fire to be followed by the the 50 cal. deeper
reports. The crescendo of firing amid bugle signals confirmed that
another attack was in progress. Climbing a telephone pole became quite
risky when firing increased and tracers flew about like the 4th of
July. Our tanks were pulled up as far as possible on the perimeter
ridge slopes and the torrents were elevated as far vertically the
barrels would go. The result was a field of fire limited to perhaps a
point halfway up the ridge slope. One could see clearly the waves of
Chinese pouring down the upper ridge slopes when illumination flares
cast their reddish glow on those bleak slopes. Since all of us stood
switchboard watches in the wire section I had the opportunity to
overhear how critical our supply of white phosphorus rounds was. Rounds
were only released by the tactical commander although many urgent
requests came in the white phosphorus rounds were only released for
firing when a segment of the perimeter was in imminent danger of being
overrun. It was apparent that Chinese infantrymen had little fear of
death with the exception of death by white phosphorous. When a white
phosphorous round burst like a giant white umbrella one could clearly
see a disorganization of their waves by the light of illumination
flares. I believe that my 30th Nov date is correct based on the fact
that I was wounded late in the afternoon of Dec. 1 and as I recall the
previous night was a really a major assault on Hagaru-ri although we
had several nights of attack on the perimeter there."


Extracted from: Hq X Corps "Special Study on Chosin
Reservoir, 27 November - 10 December 1950"

On 25 November plans were initiated for the establishment of a
X Corps advance CP in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri. Orders were issued to
the 4th Signal Battalion to rehabilitate the open wire lead paralleling
the MSR from Hamhung to Hagaru-ri. The rehabilitation of these circuits
required a major effort since much of the pole line had been damaged
during heavy fighting along the MSR. The circuits were primarily number
four iron wire with span lengths varying from 140 to 1000 feet across
ravines and valleys. This system was eventually rehabilitated as far
north as Chaewon-ni. It served various units along the MSR throughout
the fighting at Hagaru-ri.

In addition to the above, orders were issued to the 4th Signal
Battalion, 581st Radio Relay Company, and the 226th Signal Operations
Company to prepared jump teams for the installation, operation and
maintenance of Corps Advance CP in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri. On 26
November, a party consisting of Lt. Colonel McCaffrey, Deputy Chief of
Staff; Major Medusky, Hq Commandant; and Captain Albright, Signal
Section, drove to Hagaru-ri to select the site of the X Corps Advance
CP. Upon their return in the morning of 27 November, orders were issued
to the Signal units previously alerted to dispatch the jump teams and
commence the installation of the Corps CP.

The advance Signal party arrived at the new Corps CP site on 27
November and proceeded to install communications for the Corps CP. CW
radio contact was established with the Corps Main CP at Hamhung. Wire
circuits were installed to the 1st Marine Division Advance and radio
relay equipment was transported to the relay site already occupied by
the 1st Marine Division. This system was to establish voice and
teletype communications between X Corps Main CP and X Corps Advance

[On the night of 27-28 November the CCF launched attacks west
and east of Chosin, and cut the road between Koto-ri and Hagaru-ri;
also attacking the Hagaru-ri perimeter on the nights of 28 and 30

On 28 November, the enemy attack had developed to such a degree by
281700 that it was necessary for the Corps advance team to abandon its
area and move into the 1st Marine Division perimeter where Signal
personnel were utilized to bolster the perimeter defense. <italic>[A
platoon of the 4th Signal Bn and "D" Company, 3d Engineer (Combat) Bn,
3d Infantry Division, were employed in the defense of East

The Corps CW radio maintained contact with Corps Main and the VHF
personnel at the relay site (vicinity Koto-ri) pooled their equipment
with that of the Marines and assisted them in the operations of the VHF
circuit between 1st Marine Division Advance and 1st Marine Division
(vicinity Hungnam). This relay site was under attack on three different
occasions, but each attack was successfully repulsed through the
combined efforts of the X Corps and the 1st Marine Division signal
personnel. The VHF circuit (three voice and four teletype) continued in
operation, providing communications between Corps and Corps Advance,
and between 1st Marine Division and 1st Marine Division Advance,
throughout the period.

During this period, the 272d Signal Construction Company plus one
platoon of "C" Company, 4th Signal Battalion were assigned the mission
of rehabilitating the open wire circuits between Hamhung and the 7th
Infantry Division, located at Pukchong, their advance located at
Pungsan and the I ROK Corps located at Songjin. The remainder of "C"
Company was employed in the installation and maintenance of wire
circuits in the Hamhung - Yonpo - Hungnam area and the open wire
circuits from Hamhung to Yonghung and Wonsan. The 581st Radio Relay
Company augmented by 4th Signal Battalion Radio Relay personnel and
equipment, was charged with the operational responsibility of all VHF

The 226th Signal Operations Company, augmented by the 4th Signal
Battalion, was charged with the operation of Corps switchboard and
Communication Center facilities. The 4th Signal battalion furnished
operational personnel for the Corps radio circuits, all Corps switching
controls and land line carrier systems. All radio teletype circuits
were operated by Signal personnel of the Signal Battalion on TDY with X
Corps. There were eight RTT circuits to GHQ, one RTT to 7th US Infantry
Division, one RTT to I ROK Corps and one RTT to Eighth Army during this

As the situation at Hagaru-ri worsened, communications along the
Hamhung - Koto-ri MSR became increasingly more important. Traffic
control points were set up and various combat elements attempting to
relieve the embattled troops at Hagaru-ri required communications along
this axis. The 4th Signal Battalion not only provided the construction
personnel necessary to establish and maintain these communications, but
also furnished construction officers to man the telephone checkpoints
along the MSR.

As the 7th Infantry Division and I ROK Corps began their withdrawal
toward Hungnam, their supporting Corps Signal personnel were moved back
to Hamhung to install the extensive communications network required for
the Hamhung - Hungnam - Yonpo perimeter. The communications system at
Wonsan was closed and moved by boat to Hungnam where it was utilized to
augment the Signal personnel in the Hamhung - Hungnam area.

When the Signal personnel at Hagaru-ri arrived at Hamhung, they were
out loaded with the Marines while other Corps Signal personnel were
engaged in installing communications for the new Corps CP at Hungnam.

As the Corps moved to Hungnam, construction personnel were dispatched
to destroy the large antenna field constructed for RTT and CW radio
communications one mile east of Hamhung. Other construction personnel
were instructed to recover all spiral-four cable possible in the
Hamhung area. These teams recovered approximately 900 miles of cable
before being forced to move back to Hungnam. The spiral-four cable that
was not recoverable was either destroyed or had the connecting hocks
cut from the sections. This recovery program continued until the
construction teams were actually phased out of the beachhead. ...

The Corps CP officially closed at Hungnam at 1300, 20 December 1950 and
opened aboard the AGC-7 simultaneously. The Command Group maintained
contact with the 3d US Infantry Division and other units still on the
beachhead over a parallel VHF system from the AGC-7 to the 3d Division
switchboard. All units remaining on the beach after the Corps CP closed
were tied into the 3d Division switchboard. When this was accomplished
the remainder of the Corps Signal units were phased off the beach. The
last of these personnel out loaded on 23 December 1950.

[The last combat units withdrew from the Hungnam perimeter on 24
December 1950.]


The contrast between the personal memoir and the official report
on communications could leave one to think it was smooth going
elsewhere in the corps area. Signal units of the divisions were spread
from the Yalu River in the north to Wonsan in the south, all facing
extremes of weather conditions with each mile of cable retrieved. Those
in the immediate reservoir area faced different signal problems as they
fought the enemy, time and weather.

The Changjin Journal is happy to announce a new member to its staff:
Byron Sims of Salt Lake City, Utah, who assumes a role of Contributing
Editor. The Journal continues with its dual responsibilities: the
subject being presented and how it's presented. Our goal is the
professional presentation of knowledge.
END 09.10.00

- - - - -

IN THIS ISSUE We continue to present more detail surrounding the defense of Hagaru-ri. The units which were sent forward to establish the X Corps forward CP were Company D, 10th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, and a platoon of the 4th Signal Battalion. When the CCF attacked west and east of Chosin the night of 27 November 1950, and also closed the road between Koto-ri and Hagaru-ri, it was obvious that all troops were needed for the defense of the Hagaru-ri perimeter, especially East Hill.

We have often wondered about the "one officer and 32 enlisted men" from the 4th Signal Battalion referred to in the official USMC history. They were on East Hill, not only on the night of the first CCF attacks,  28-29 November, but also with the 5th Marines during the breakout from Hagaru-ri on 6-7 December. Our search for new information continues to unearth documents written long ago. This sworn statement was written on 4 March 1951 by Cpl. Jack R. Wells who was a medic with the unit.


"I was sent ... on the advance team from Hamhung to Hagaru on 27 Nov. 1950. 1st Lt. John A. Colborn ... was the officer in charge of the X Corps Advance Message Center. On the morning of 28 Nov., Lt. Colborn asked for volunteers to go on a patrol. Since I was the only medic in the entire team, I felt I should go as there might be wounded.

"One of the men had a carbine which would not work, so the lieutenant gave him his, leaving him with only a .38 pistol and very little ammunition. After assembling the two squads ... Lt. Colborn led the patrol up the ridge that was our objective. Although our ascent was over open terrain, we were under the very noses of the enemy before we were spotted. As soon as the enemy sighted the squad on the left flank, they opened fire with small arms and machine guns and threw grenades. The lieutenant ordered that squad to lay down a line of fire so that the squad on the right, still unobserved, might proceed further to observe the enemy. From this time until our withdrawal the lieutenant was constantly in the open giving orders, firing at the enemy with his pistol. ... After the lieutenant had obtained the information he desired, he ordered our withdrawal ... .

"During the withdrawal one of the men fell into a ditch. The lieutenant ran to his aid. On falling he had lost his helmet so the lieutenant gave him his. One of the enemy machine guns was firing at the man who had fallen and continued to fire while Lt. Colborn exposed himself to the direct fire to make the rescue. I was astounded by the fact that there were no casualties which I attributed to Lt. Colborn's cool determination to return all men safely. He was the last to descend the ridge as he wished to keep the enemy gunners in check until we were at a safe, covered area. On return to our area a Marine major remarked that he thought we were Infantry. He commented on the way fire, maneuver and cover were used by the patrol leader. He had followed our complete withdrawal through field glasses.

"When the enemy attacked a few hours later [night 28-29 Nov.] they were driven back due to the information gained by that patrol. All men ... were confident of the final success in the operation. They expressed their confidence in Lt. Colborn by often making remarks as, 'I'd follow him anywhere, look at the results'. Morale was very high due to his excellent leadership. ... He was never found asleep. If he was not busy with communications, he was finding places for the wounded marines of the 5th and 7th Regiments to sleep. He gave his sleeping bag to one of those men and procured blankets for many others. He never complained. There were instead humorous words of encouragement on his part.

"On 7 December, Lt. Colborn was instructed by the CO of the 5th Marine Regiment to take a platoon to Communicator's Hill [East Hill] and join Fox Company of the 2d Battalion [F2/5]. When he asked for volunteers we all stepped forward.

"Our position was a saddle which connected two ridges where Fox Company ... and another company [D/5] were dug in. Our arrival was late in the afternoon and we feared we would not be able to dig in before it grew dark and an enemy attack started. The ground was frozen very hard and we were subjected to enemy sniper fire. The lieutenant dug in with Sgt. Sheets on a small knoll just above my position. He and the sergeant were taking turns digging and during the lieutenant's breaks he walked along our positions across the saddle under sniper fire, observing our progress and encouraging us. His words of encouragement drove me on as it did the other men.

"Later when the enemy attack began, I again realized the lieutenant had knowledge of tactics. He had dug his position where he was at a vantage point overlooking the terrain the enemy had to cross on our positions.... When the enemy massed for a breakthrough near his position, he would throw grenades and Chinese who were still alive would disperse. At one time I was pinned down and about to be overrun when the lieutenant threw a grenade into the group attacking us. The enemy who were not killed withdrew. This action saved my life.

"The lieutenant  brought a Marine gunner with his machine gun from one of the ridges and set up in our position in the saddle. The gunner could not see the enemy due to ... visibility, but Lt. Colborn knew their exact position. The lieutenant took over the gun and after knocking our the enemy machine gun ... went to work on attacking troops. This action diverted the attack.

"He further exposed himself by repeatedly going across the saddle under heavy enemy fire to request mortar fire. On one occasion he carried a wounded marine across that saddle to safety after which he dressed his wounds ... . He often exposed himself to direct fire going to each foxhole, make inquiries as to wounds, and joking high spirits back into existence. Once when I remarked that I was low on battle dressings, he came to my rescue by bringing a large resupply out of his pockets. He had foreseen such a shortage ... . He was the last to withdraw under the final enemy assault.

"On the long march to Koto-ri which started the following day, a marine passing in a truck asked the lieutenant if he wanted to ride. He replied, 'Not as long as my men walk.'  He led us into Koto-ri after not having eaten all that day and being awake for nearly 48 hours. ... It was at Koto-ri where I learned he had been hit in two places in the leg by fragments of a mortar shell which had severed the leg of the CO of Fox Company. He had dressed his own wounds himself."


From the official Marine history by Montross, p.290-91:
"The saddle between the two Marine companies was occupied by reinforcements consisting of an officer and 11 men from the regimental At Company and an officer and 32 men from the 4th Signal Battalion, USA. Shortly after dark the enemy launched a vigorous counterattack. Tanks and 81mm mortars firing in support of Marines who made good use of 2.36" while phosphorus rockets at close range.

"Although the Chinese endured frightful casualties, they returned again and again to attack until midnight. It was evident that they considered this a fight to a finish for East Hill, and at 0205 they renewed the assault against all three companies of the 2d Battalion as well as Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion. The struggle during the next three hours was considered the most spectacular if not the most fiercely contested battle of the entire Reservoir campaign, even by veterans of the Yudam-ni action ... ."

After uncovering the Cpl. Wells statement, we also learned from John A. "Jack" Colborn that he was awarded a Bronze Star with "V" for his action at Hagaru. He said that the commander of F/5, Captain Peters, was badly wounded by a Chinese mortar round seconds after discussing the emplacement of his platoon; and that Peters' radio operator was killed instantly by the same round. Although Lt. Colborn was leading a signal platoon at Chosin, he was thankful for having gone through Infantry OCS.

Extract from X Corps General Order 55, 23 March 51:
"... Lieutenant Colborn was officer in  charge of an advance communications center team for the advance command post, Hq X Corps, Hagaru-ri, Korea, that distinguished itself throughout the evacuation of Hagaru-ri, Korea. During this entire period Lieutenant Colborn demonstrated courage, outstanding leadership and heroism in defense of strategic positions, and safeguarding the health and welfare of all personnel under his command;. He continually distinguished himself far above and beyond the call of duty by his inspiring leadership, his attentiveness to his personnel, his resourcefulness at a time when lives were at stake and his unswerving devotion to duty ... ."


The above citation and award hardly describes the accomplishments of Lt. Colborn during the Chosin campaign. It does demonstrate, however, that the awards system was already showing signs that the excitement of Chosin was wearing off.

Colonel John "Jack" Colborn, USA (Ret),  died on 14 October 1997.

END CJ 09.25.00

* * *


The Changjin Journal is designed to disseminate and solicit information on the Chosin campaign. Comments and brief essays are invited. Subject matter will be limited to history of the Chosin campaign, as well as past or present interpretation of that history. See End Notes for distribution and other notices.
Colonel George A. Rasula, USA-Ret
Chosin Historian

IN THIS ISSUE we look at two books on the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF). The first is a review I had written twelve years ago before Roy Appleman and Clay Blair entered the scene with books that included the Chosin campaign.  When I founded the Historical Committee for the Chosin Few and subsequently wrote my first draft of The Chosin Chronology presented at the 1992 reunion, I made a serious effort to find the right person to assume the chair at the 1994 reunion. I found that person in Pat Roe because of his background in military intelligence at Chosin. He complements my background in military operations through his scholarly interest in uncovering the history of the enemy for presentation today. Because of my involvement in details of his research through these years, I preferred that the reviewer of The Dragon Strikes as a book be someone who was not directly involved, selecting one who served on the periphery of the Chosin campaign.-GAR

ENTER THE DRAGON: China's Undeclared War Against the U.S. in Korea, 1950-51, Russell Spurr, Newmarket Press, NY, 1988
BOOK REVIEW by George Rasula

This book is about the enemy with limited information on friendly forces. Since it was published in 1988 the author's sources were limited to the early books on Chosin,  Appleman and Blair being published shortly thereafter.
Units east of Chosin are identified as "Task Force Faith, those three battalions from the U.S. 7th Division were meeting unexpected resistance on the eastern end of the Changjin Reservoir." Then, after mentioning Almond's statement about "Chinese laundrymen," he writes, "That night the Chinese overwhelmed Task Force  Faith. Its commanding officer, Colonel Don Faith, was killed by a grenade. Less than half his troops escaped." After some brief words on the 5th and 7th Marines, we find that "the 7th Division units, briefly ensconced beside the Yalu were brushed smartly back toward the sea." As one can see, this is hardly a source of what happened to friendly units, however, it is most interesting in the way the author handles the enemy. Sources of his information are not specifically cited, and as one reads the text Spurr begins to take on a novelistic approach and not that of an historian.

When veterans of the Chosin campaign wonder why the friendly forces were not completely destroyed by the hordes of Chinese, they can find some of the reasons in a document circulated among the CCF Ninth Army Group Staff.

The summary listed the weather, insuperable supply problems, enemy air attacks, and a serious lack of firepower as the four main factors hampering the Chinese campaign. The soldier's clothing, especially the canvas boots issued originally for the Taiwan invasion, was totally inadequate for the weather encountered at the Changjin Reservoir. More men died of the cold, according to the summary, than from enemy bombs and bullets. A large proportion of the survivors suffered such severe frostbite that wholesale amputation was required of gangrenous hands and feet. The cold also killed off the coolies, sharply reducing supplies, until already-freezing soldiers starved and ran out of ammunition. Combat was constantly broken off at the last stages of the battle when attacking Chinese battalions ran out of rounds for their rifles and machine guns.

Enemy air attacks further reduced supplies and made it difficult to concentrate for an all-out assault. The high, wide valleys favored the marines with their open fields of fire. Artillery could have proved crucial at several points in the campaign, notable at Hagaru, if the horse-drawn limbers had been able to negotiate the mountainous terrain. A terse self-criticism by General Song Shilun, appended to the report, admitted that over-dispersal of his forces had robbed them of the opportunity to strike in force at key points along the marine retreat route. An attack was ordered on the marine base camp at Koto-ri, but for reasons given the Chinese troops were unable to mount it."

As American and British survivors of Chosin may remember, the Chinese began their campaign with masterful use of the principle of war of SURPRISE, but they did not make proper use of MASS, using the right amount of force at the right place at the right time. An in-depth analysis will reveal that the Funchilin Pass was the most important terrain feature in the area of the Chosin campaign. Logistics has played an important role in campaigns throughout the history of warfare. The fact that the Chinese wasted their limited ammunition on attacks that did not produce decisive results, did not have enough food for stomachs and did not have the ability to get artillery through the mountains, were all problems of logistics. The individual Chinese soldier was ready and, with the prod of the political officer, willing to go forward, but here as in other campaigns, the logistical tail, no matter how thin it was, was again wagging the dog.

One shocking description of the Chinese problem is found in the section on Northeast Korea, Late December 1950.
"The snowmen puzzled Wong Lichan. The Chinese colonel first spotted them on the road from Kanggye to Chinhung-ni: humped-up mounds, human-shaped, first alone or in pairs, then in growing groups. ... The truck stopped among a cluster of the figures, after a Korean came out of the trees signaling an air alert, and Wong realized with sickening shock that he was ringed by frozen, snow-coated Chinese corpses.
" 'There's hundreds like this, maybe thousands,' his Korean driver said laconically. 'Some of them coolies, most of them soldiers.' ... Colonel Wong hunched deeper inside his padded clothing, feeling distinctly sick and trying to silence his ever-chattering teeth.
" 'What do you expect with this weather?' the driver grumbled. 'There'll be a dreadful stink around here next spring.'"


THE DRAGON STRIKES: China and the Korean War: June-December 1950,  Patrick C. Roe, Presidio Press, CA, 2000
BOOK REVIEW by George Pakkala, 8211AU/X Corps*

Today the nominees of the two major political parties are trading salvos over the readiness of our military. In the post WW II era, prior to the Korean war, similar debates took place. Defense budgets had been slashed and it took the developments in Europe to reverse the thinking of the Administration and the Congress.

Patrick Roe devotes the first chapter of his book to a discussion of the U.S. scene prior to 6/25/50, followed by a chapter of how the world looked to the Chinese. He provides the reader with a foundation for understanding decision making of the two sides that got them involved in the Korean war. In the Preface the author notes that, "Military histories are of limited value as learning tools if they do not include the intelligence available to the commanders when decisions are made". In the ensuing chapters Mr. Roe follows this dictum as he analyzes the actions taken during latter half of 1950.

In the last 4-5 years a number of books have appeared written by Korean vets who had served with Intelligence during the war. (Other than Willoughby) They have dealt primarily with "covert" operations. One of them by Ed Evanhoe does have a chapter on the pre-Korean War intelligence.

Mr. Evanhoe writes about MacArthur's paranoid fear of the CIA (OSS), the effect of interagency rivalry; however, he also points out that between 1945-1950, military "positive intelligence operations" - clandestine operations inside the borders of a country hostile to the U.S. - were the responsibility of the CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps) under the Army G-2. As the name implies, CIC's primary mission was counter-intelligence and was neither set up to run positive intelligence operations nor had much interest in doing so.

Mr. Evanhoe also argues that most senior commanders felt that the Army had no business gathering information other than tactical intelligence needed for the Army's primary mission; that the senior commanders were products of military schools where fair play, rigid standards of conduct, and high moral values were emphasized. Which meant these men were uncomfortable with the more distasteful means of collecting intelligence.

Both the author as well as Mr. Evanhoe emphasize the role "culture" played in shaping decisions on both sides. Interestingly, he quotes George F. Kennan in his discussion of American global strategy. He could well have quoted Kennan also when describing the attitude of many in the State Department towards intelligence gathering. In his book "Around the Cragged Hill," Kennan elaborates on an article that appeared in "Foreign Affairs" (Winter 1985-86). "Were I writing such an article today, I would go even further and add that the involvement of our government in the acquisition of secret intelligence by espionage or other unavowed processes, while perhaps occasionally unavoidable, has had ascribed to it a degree of importance far greater than it deserves ...".

Whatever the merits of those arguments, the fact remains that both sides struggled with imperfect intelligence, political pressures and their own fears.

The author is a smooth writer with an eye for detail. He has structured the book episodically with notes following each section which makes reference to source material immediate. This well researched book, with access to Chinese archives, provides many fresh insights into not only how the two sides got involved in the war but also how the Chinese campaign of deception and misdirection allowed them to enter Korea "en masse" unnoticed.

*The 8221st Army Unit was a Field Artillery Topographic & Meteorological Detachment of X Corps during the campaign in Northeast Korea. Because of the cold weather and mountainous terrain, artillerymen throughout the corps were extremely conscious of the accuracy of the old Japanese maps being used as well as the impact of cold temperatures on each round fired.
Our last issue (CJ 09.25.00) contained an error in the designation of the engineer unit on East Hill. The correct unit is Company D, 10th Engineer Bn, 3d Infantry Division.

END CJ 10.15.00

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