5th RCT in DEATH VALLEY 22-25 APRIL 1951
by Al McAdoo, 5th RCT, Reprinted from Battle Stars with permission of Hugh W. Ruckdeschel, Ed
Below is an official description of the Death Valley fight of the 5th Regimental Combat Team just as the Chinese (CCF) entrapped the 555th Field Artillery in April 1951. Hopefully more guys who were there will write in and give us their impressions. Al McAdoo
DEATH VALLEY 22-25 APRIL 1951
The enemy allowed “A” Battery to get on the road and then closed in with a fierce attack which stopped the column dead in its tracks. (Apparently the area was not made secure before an attempt was made to close station marching order [CSMO] could be executed.)
The enemy attack was driven in from the east and inflicted heavy casualties upon friendly units along the road. Major Walls, Regimental S-3 (Operations Officer) immediately rushed to this area and reported the situation to Col. Wilson the 5th RCT CO, who was then with the 2nd BN., 5th Tank Co., Co “B” 6th Tank BN was near UKHALGYE still in the valley.
A platoon from the 5th Tank Co, commanded by Lt. Crockett was immediately dispatched to aid the Artillery while the 2nd BN hastily deployed its men on the remaining tanks and prepared to follow. (It was past 17:30 hours and daylight was fading on April 23, 1951).
When Lt. Crockett reached the ambush area the situation was critical. Many were wounded, including: Lt. Fay the TACP, Capt. West CO Co. “A”, Capt. Lamb, CO Co. “F” and Major Wells the RCT S-3 who later died of his wounds. The escape road to the south was blocked by damaged vehicles.
Lt. Fay had called in an air strike which broke up the initial enemy assault, but the cloud of smoke that was forming over the area combined with the growing dusk served to prevent further observation or aid from the air.
This situation was reported to 24ID Operations by radio relay from the 5th RCT Air Section.
Tank fire from Lt. Crockett’s platoon held the enemy back from the south end of the column. Unfortunately, the road was effectively blocked with no passage through the defile. Some vehicles were burning while others were so badly damaged they could not be moved.
The Main Body of the 2nd BN, together with the remaining Tank column, was still north of the ambush site and was stopped cold.
The enemy concentrated its effort toward the 2nd BN, which fought from the road until the enemy force broke off.
Colonel Stewart, CO, 555th Field Artillery, voluntarily made a road recon west from the column to scout out a path headed west to determine if another passable road existed out of the trap.
The 2nd BN. moved south on both sides of the stalled column toward the pass, and while the enemy was engaged by the 2nd BN. the tanks and remaining elements were able to travel west and then south over the trail Col. Stewart selected.
Four guns of Battery “A” and three guns of Battery “C” together with HQ Battery and trains of the Artillery escaped by this route.
Most of the vehicles located south of the intersecting trail to the west had to be abandoned due to the fading light. Little repair or salvage could be done and all friendly forces were ordered to vacate the area.
As the last vehicle cleared the intersection, the 2nd BN. was ordered to break contact with the enemy and withdraw immediately to the west This action took place under harassing long range machine-gun and small arms fire.
Contact was effectively broken, and the enemy did not pursue or was the column again attacked until it reached friendly lines in the vicinity of SAMSOKYONG.
One Platoon of the 6th Tank Battalion at the rear of the column headed south was stopped and surrounded by the enemy. Contact was broken as the 2nd BN withdrew to the west.
(A distance must have developed in the column headed south resulting in the loss of this tank platoon of Co. “B” 6th Tank Battalion.)
This action occurred north of the intersection and was not reported before friendly troops were too distant to intervene.
Except for this accident all useable vehicles were saved and all wounded were evacuated. (Several of the dead had to be left behind and would be listed missing until their remains would be recovered and identified when the friendly lines extended north at a later date. This area is now in South Korea and can be visited through “Revisit Korea” Program.)
Casualties in this action were heavy from the initial attack which was delivered at close range particularly against Battery “B” 555th F.A. BN. Thereafter, losses were not abnormal as the 2nd BN forced the enemy back to the east.
(It is ironic that 8th Army’s offensive began on April 22, 1951, and the CCF launched its offensive on April 25, 1951. The CCF overwhelmed the friendly advance, which ended up losing some miles south before the CCF advance ran out of steam. The CCF demonstrated an inability to advance and hold ground.)
On April 26, 1951 the 5th RCT hastily reorganized and prepared to move further south to a new blocking position.
On April 27, the 5th RCT prepared to cover the withdrawal of the 21st Infantry and the 28th British Brigade in the vicinity of the CHANGDON-NI Dam on the Pukhan (Bukhan) River. This mission was executed without contact with the enemy.
On April 28, the 5th RCT provided security to an Engineer outfit that dismantled a pontoon bridge across the Pukhan River and the dismantled bridge was convoyed with the pontoons being utilized as barges to transport the Engineer equipment down stream
The 1st and 3rd BN moved south along the west bank of the Pukhan River and the next day closed with the 5th RCT assembly area as 24ID Reserve northeast of where the Pukhan joins the HAN River.
At this time the period of inactivity in Division Reserve was anticipated in order to complete the reorganization and to pick up replacements. Equipment was inspected and shortages received. Emergency requisitions were made out and filled with minimum delay.
This closes the War Diary for April 1951. Casualties for the period were very heavy.
THESE LISTS ARE CUMULATIVE
¨ 7 WIA were listed for March 1951 and not listed on the March 1951 report.
¨ 317 WIA were listed for April 1951.
¨ 50 WIA were listed in the May 1951 report mostly in Co. “E” and mostly on April 22, 1951.
¨ 24 were confirmed KIA and 188 were listed as MIA (missing); some would end up recovered by other units, often wounded. Some would be reported POW but most of those would be later reported deceased. These remains continue to be recovered as of this writing in August 2009.
August 10, 2009
Mr. Albert McMoo
7506 S Mascotte St
Tampa FL 33616
The Taro Leaf, Vol 64(2) Spring 2010, pg. 8-9.