June to September 1950. Communist efforts to divide the South Koreans against themselves having failed, the North Koreans decided to attempt their subjugation by military force. At 0400, Sunday, 25 June 1950 (Korean Time), North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel into the Republic and launched their main effort toward the South Korean capital city of Seoul, down the P'och'on-Uijongbu and Yonch'on-Uijongbu corridors. Strong attacks were also directed through Kaesong toward Munsan on the right, and toward Ch'unch'on on the left. On the west coast the Ongjin Peninsula was quickly captured. On the east coast a land column and a small seaborne detachment met near Kangnung.
By 28 June Seoul had fallen, the North Koreans had closed up along the Han River to a point about 20 miles east of Seoul, and had advanced as far as Samchok on the meat coast. By 4 July enemy forces were along the line Suwon-Wonju-Samchok. In withdrawing, the Republic of Korea ("ROK") forces had suffered such serious losses that their attempts to regroup and retain order were almost futile.
On 25 June 1950 the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling "for immediate cessation of hostilities" and "upon the authorities of North Korea to withdraw forthwith their armed forces to the thirty-eighth parallel." When the North Koreans failed to accede to these demands, the Security Council passed a second resolution recommending "that the Members of the United Nations furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and restore the international peace and security in the area."
President Truman announced on 27 June 1950 the t he had ordered American air and naval forces to give cover and support to the South Korean troops (UN Defensive-27 June to 15 September 1950). On the 28th he authorized the Commander in Chief Far East to use certain supporting ground units in Korea, and authorized the U.S. Air Force to conduct missions on specific targets in North Korea. On the 30th the President further authorized the C. in C. Far East to use all forces available to him to repel the invasion, and ordered a naval blockade of the entire coast of Korea.
A Security Council resolution of 7 July 1950 recommended the establishment of a unified command in Korea and requested the United States to designate a commander of these forces. On 8 July President Truman announced the appointment of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as Commander in Chief, United Nations Command (CINCUNC). On 14 July President Rhee placed all ROK security forces under the United Nations commander, an act which consolidated the anti-Communist forces under the United Nations Commend for the purpose of repelling the Communist aggression.
The U.S. forces at MacArthur's disposal included the four divisions in Japan-the 1st Cavalry Division and the 7th, 24th, and 25th Infantry Divisions-and the 29th Regimental Combat Team in Okinawa. The divisions were lacking a third of their infantry and artillery units and almost all their armor units. Existing units were far under strength. Weapons and equipment were war-worn relics of World War II, and ammunition reserves amounted to only a 45-day supply. None of the divisions had reached full combat efficiency, since intensive training had been largely neglected because of occupation duties.
Initial U.S. strategy, dictated by the speed of the North Korean drive and the state of American unpreparedness, was one of trading space for time. On 2 July 1950 Task Force Smith, composed of two rifle companies and a few supporting units of the 24th Division, was flown from Japan to Pusan and moved by train and truck to defensive positions near Osan, 30 miles south of Seoul. Its mission was to fight a delaying action to gain time for the movement of more troops from Japan. On 5 July this small force was attacked by a North Korean division supported by 30 tanks and compelled to withdraw, after a stubborn defense, with heavy losses of men and equipment.
By this time the remaining elements of the 24th Division had reached Korea and were in defensive positions along the Kum River, north of Taejon and 60 miles south of Osan. ROK elements held positions to the east, some 50 miles above Taegu. By 15 July the 25th Division had arrived in Korea and was positioned east of the 24th Division. The 1st Cavalry Division arrived and closed in the P'chang-dong area on 18-19 July. Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, Commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, had been placed in command of all U.S. ground troops in Korea on 13 July, and, at the request of President Rhee, of the South Korean Army as well. As the ground troops of other U.N. members reached Korea, they also were placed under Walker's command.
North Korean forces crossed the Kum River and captured Taejon, an important communications center, on 20 July. U.S. and ROK troops continued to withdraw steadily to the southeast under constant North Korean pressure. During the withdrawal our Army's 3.5-inch rocket launcher was used (for the first time on a battlefield) with highly successful results against North Korean tanks. It was in this period that the 24th Division commander, Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, was reported missing when North Korean tanks broke through the forward unite of his division. It was learned later that he had been captured about 35 miles south of Taejon on 25 August.
The final days of July 1950 witnessed a series of hard-fought battles all along the 200-mile front of the United Nations perimeter. The northern front, a line running inland from Yongdok through Andong, Yech'on, Hamch'ong, and Hwanggan to Kumch'on, was defended at critical points by ROK troops and the U.S. 25th Division. The 1st Cavalry Division was battling on the west flank to keep the Yongdong-Kumch'on-Taegu rail line open. To block the southwestern approaches to Pusan, which the enemy was threatening, the 29th RCT advanced to Chinju, but was ambushed by a North Korean division and suffered heavy losses. Enemy pressure continued from Yosu and Chinju in the southwest to Kwan-ni on the Taejon-Taegu railroad, thence northeast through Yech'on to Yongdok on the Sea of Japan.
By the beginning of August the U.S. and ROK forces had withdrawn behind the Naktong River, a position which the U.N. Command was determined to hold. The area held in southeastern Korea resembled a rectangle, the southwestern side of which was guarded by the 24th and 25th Divisions to prevent a breakthrough to Masan. The 1st Cavalry Division was deployed on the western front to guard the Taegu railroad approaches. The northern front was defended by ROK divisions from a point south of Hamch'ang to a point just south of Yongdok on the east coast.
Early in August General Walker declared the strategy of trading space for time to be at an end, and ordered a final stand along this 140-mile perimeter around the port of Pusan, which had become a well-stocked Eighth Army supply base and the hub of a rail and road net leading to the battle front. By now the enemy's lengthened supply lines were under constant air attack, enemy naval opposition had been wiped out, and the blockade of the Korean coast had been clamped tight.
During the next month and a half, fourteen North Korean divisions dissipated their strength in piecemeal attacks against the Pusan perimeter. Walker, by rapidly shuttling his forces to meet the greatest threats, inflicted heavy casualties on the North Koreans and prevented serious penetrations. The enemy, determined to annihilate the Eighth Army and take Taegu and Pusan, massed for a two-pronged attack across the Naktong, one prong from the west and the other from the southwest. The principal actions were fought along the river from Waegwan south through Song-dong and Ch'irhyon-ni to the junction of the Naktong and Nam Rivers, and southwest toward Haman and Chinju.
While U.S. troops were fighting along the banks of the Naktong, other battles took place in the southwest. A veteran North Korean division, which had been concentrated for an assault upon Susan and Pusan, was hit by Task Force Kean. Named for the 25th Division Commander, the Task Force was composed of the 5th RCT, the 35th RCT of the 25th Division, the 1st Marine Brigade, and a ROK battalion. It opened a strong counteroffensive on 7 August 1950 to secure the left funk of the perimeter and prevent the enemy from driving on Pusan. Overcoming initial heavy resistance, it defeated the North Koreans and by 11 August commanded the high ground to the east of Chinju.
On the eastern flank of the perimeter the town of Yongdok was lost by ROK units, some of which then had to be evacuated by sea. On 12 August the port of P'chang-dong was attacked by enemy forces led by tanks which mounted screaming sirens. This force poured through a break in the R0K lines and linked up with North Korean advance agents in the port. These agents, disguised as innocent-looking refugees, carried mortars, machineguns, and other weapons in oxcarts, on A-frames and on their persons. While a force of North Koreans took P'chang-dong, the adjoining airstrip, of great importance to the U.N. forces as a base for tactical aircraft. On 13 August the danger was so pressing that all aircraft were evacuated. Within the next five days, however, ROK troops and a small U.S. task force recaptured P'chang-dong and returned it to U.N. control.
During this time a much larger force of North Koreans breached the U.N. positions at some paints in the Naktong River sector, but failed in their attempt to capture the rail junctions at Taegu. To hold a line near the river, Walker rearranged the defensive positions of the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the 1st Marine Brigade, deploying them in a manner which assigned combat zones of 15-30 miles to each division.
The enemy, continuing his efforts to crack the perimeter, massed several divisions above Waegwan to assault Taegu from the north. Despite a bombing raid in which U.N. air forces dropped 850 tons of bombs on the suspected enemy concentration area, the North Koreans launched a powerful attack which carried through the ROK positions and threatened Taegu. Stalwart defense and swift countermeasures in this area on 19 August saved Taegu from almost certain capture, parried the enemy 's three-pronged thrust at the city, and stopped the momentum of the North Korean offensive.
Shortly before midnight on 31 August enemy forces again attacked the Naktong River Line, this time in tremendous force. Disregarding very heavy casualties from U.N. air force bombing and strafing, they mounted a strong offensive against the entire Pusan beachhead from Haman in the south to P'chang-dong in the northern sector. The port of P'chang-dong was captured on 6 September, but again the Communists failed to capture the airfield. Waegwan and the "walled city" of Kasan were lost as the U.N. defenders fell back for a last ditch stand at Taegu. Between 4 and 11 September the enemy made important gains along the Naktong in some of the heaviest fighting of the war; but U.N. forces blunted the drive on Taegu and began to show slow progress of their own against very strong enemy resistance.
On the southern front the North Korean offensive, which opened with a massive artillery barrage near Haman, struck the 25th Division with tanks and waves of infantry, imperiling its forward positions. However, although the enemy had made impressive gains along the U.N. perimeter and General Walker still had to shuttle his units from one critical area to another, a strong beachhead remained in the hands of the U.N. Command.
By mid-August the offensive capability of the Eighth Army had been augmented by the arrival of the U.S. 2d Division, the 1st Marine Brigade, four battalions of medium tanks from the United States, and the 5th RCT from Hawaii. Before the month was out, five ROK divisions were restored to some semblance of order, and Great Britain committed the 27th Brigade from Hong Kong. With the arrival of these reinforcements an attempt could now be made to end the U.N. withdrawal and to begin a U.N. offensive in southeastern Korea.