Description On 1 November Chinese elements were identified south of the Changjin Reservoir, and within ten days twelve divisions of the Chinese Communist Forces were identified. In the northwest, strong enemy attacks against the Eighth Army smashed the ROK divisions. Very hard fighting took place near Ch'osan, Unsan, and Tokch'on. While the 24th Division pulled back to Chongju on the west coast, the 1st Cavalry and 2d Divisions fought along the Ch'ongch'on River. In the air over Korea, U.N. pilots were opposed for the first time by speedy Russian MIG-15 Jet fighters.
By 10 November, as the Chinese attacks were abating, the Eighth Army and the X Corps conducted only small-scale operations, and a comparative lull hung over much of the front. By 21 November elements of the U.S. 7th Division occupied Hyesanjin on the Yalu River in northeastern Korea, the most northerly point to be reached by U.S. forces during the war. The ROK Capital Division meanwhile progressed rapidly up the east coast to the Naman-So-dong area. By 24 November the U.N. positions extended from So-dong in the northeast to Hyesanjin on the Yalu, and thence in a southwesterly direction through the areas around Sang-ni, Handae, Yudam-ni, Yongwen, Ipsok, Patch'on and south of Chongju to the Yellow Sea.
Previous to the entry of Chinese forces in North Korea, MacArthur had ordered the Eighth Army and the X Corps on 24 October to attack toward the Manchurian border and restore peace in Korea before the onset of winter. The difficulty of securing adequate logistical support delayed the attack. In the latter part of the month, brief clashes with Chinese troops posed a new threat. The purpose and extent of the Chinese intervention was not yet clear; but in the face of this new opposition, Walker had withdrawn his extended forces back to the lower bank of the Ch'onch'on River, leaving only a small bridgehead above Sinanju.
The fact of Chinese participation in the conflict caused MacArthur to reconsider his plans for an all-out attack to the Yalu River, but not to abandon them. Walker's forces were to move northward through western and central Korea, while Almond's troops were to attack to the northwest to cut the enemy line of communications and give maximum assistance to the Eighth Army. On 24 November the Eighth Army, with the ROK II Corps, launched its planned offensive. For the first twenty-four hours little enemy opposition was encountered, but on the next day enemy troops initiated a violent counterattack against the Eighth Army in the mountainous territory surrounding the central North Korean town of Tokch'on. The X Corps began its attack early on 27 November, and had made slight advances before evening, when a second enemy force, moving down both sides of the Changjin Reservoir, struck at the 1st Marine Division and elements of the U.S. 7th Division.
It was quickly apparent that the bulk of the enemy forces were organized Chinese Communist units. It was now evident to the UN Commend that the Chinese had amassed two large armies in northern Korea, by marching them from Manchuria under cover of darkness and expertly camouflaging them during the day. They were comparatively safe from detection by UN air observers in the rugged mountain terrain, and UN aircraft were prohibited from making reconnaissance flights across the frontier. Thus the strength of the attacking Chinese forces came as a surprise to most of the U.N. Command.
The main enemy effort was directed against the ROK II Corps, which collapsed under the weight of the Chinese assault. As the Communists strove to extend their breakthrough of the U.N. line, Walker rushed his reserve units (the 1st Cavalry Division, the Turkish Brigade, and the British 27th Commonwealth and 29th Independent Infantry Brigades) to the area, but failed to stem the Communist advance. Assaulted by wave after wave of enemy troops, the Eighth Army front withdrew south across the Ch'ongch'on River. These forces, fighting hand to hand with the enemy along the river banks and retreating over reads choked with troops, refugees, trucks, and tanks, suffered heavy losses. The U.S. 2d Division wee assigned to fight a delaying action until other units could retire and regroup in defensive positions near P'yongyang. On 5 December the Eighth Army fell back from P'yongyang to positions about 25 miles south of the city. By the middle of December it had withdrawn below the 38th parallel and formed a defensive perimeter north and east of Seoul.
On 27 November 1950 the Chinese began their offensive against the X Corps, attacking the Marine and 7th Division elements in the Changjin Reservoir area with six divisions. Since the most northerly UN units-the ROK I Corps, the U.S. 17th Infantry Regiment, and other elements at the Yalu-might be cut off by the weight of the Chinese offensive, the X Corps was forced to withdraw these elements. Troops at the reservoir were also ordered to fall back. MacArthur then ordered Almond to concentrate the X Corps in the Hamhung-Hungnam area; and early in December directed the Corps to withdraw to South Korea by a waterborne evacuation.
Most of the Corps reached the port of Hungnam without serious incident. However, some 14,000 men of the 1st Marine and 7th Infantry Divisions were trapped in the Hagaru-Kot'o area and were forced to fight their way to the coast along a narrow escape route. As the main column progressed along the road, a provisional battalion of marines and soldiers, aided by close and efficient air support, cleared the Chinese Communist forces from the high ground which dominated the road. Almond sent Task Force Dog, a reinforced battalion of the 3d Division, forward to Chinhung to relieve the Marine battalion there and to assist the withdrawal by providing support and rear guard action. Air Force, Navy, and Marine cargo planes parachuted daily airdrops of ammunition, food, and medicines to the column, and evacuated battle casualties. Fighter elements bombed and strafed the enemy-held mountainsides and Communist troop concentrations. On 9 December 1950 the two forces met in the mountains a few miles south of Kot'o and both moved toward Hamhung to be evacuated.
The water movement of the X Corps from North Korea required 173 vessels. About 350,000 measurement tons of cargo, including 17,500 vehicles, were salvaged; some 105,000 troops and more than 98,000 civilians were evacuated from Hungnam, Songjin, and Wonsan. Evacuation began on 11 December and was completed on 24 December, despite constant enemy fire and observation.
The Hungnam evacuation left North Korea once again controlled by Communist forces. Before the enemy renewed his attacks, General Walker was killed in an auto accident north of Seoul (23 December 1950). On 26 December Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway succeeded him in command of the Eighth Army in Korea.
On 30 December MacArthur warned the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Chinese Communist forces could drive the U.N. forces out of Korea if they so desired. The United States, although anxious to avoid a full-scale war in Korea, was also determined to resist the Chinese-North Korean aggressors. Therefore the Joint Chiefs ordered MacArthur to defend his positions; to retire, if forced to, through a series of defensive positions as far back as the former Pusan Perimeter Line; to inflict as much damage as possible on the enemy; and to maintain his units intact. If necessary to avoid severe losses, he was authorized to withdraw to Japan.
Within this framework of operations, MacArthur invested General Ridgway with complete authority to plan and execute operations in Korea, and ceased the close supervision which he had formerly exercised over the Eighth Army and the X Corps. The latter, which had heretofore been a separate command, was assigned to the Eighth Army, thus placing all U.N. ground forces under that army's control. By this time fifteen nations of the U.N. had troops in Korea-the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, France, Greece, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, Belgium, and Sweden. As 1951 began, U.N. ground forces numbered about 495,000, of which 270,000 were ROK troops. The U.N. Command estimated that the enemy had about 486,000 men, 21 Chinese and 12 North Korean divisions, committed to the Korean front, and more than a million enemy troops stationed in reserve near the Yalu.
In late December, Ridgway, in establishing the defensive line along the 38th parallel, concentrated the bulk of the Eighth Army in the central and western sectors because of the obvious enemy concentration above Seoul. The west flank was held by the I Corps; the central sector by the IX Corps; and the ROK I, II, and III Corps held the eastern mountainous sector. The X Corps was reorganizing near Pusan. The 1st Marine Division, until recently a part of the X Corps, was held in Eighth Army reserve.
At daybreak on 1 January 1951, after a night of mortar and artillery bombardment, the enemy launched an attack all along the U.N. line. The main effort was directed against the U.S. I and IX Corps in the west and central sectors. A force of seven Chinese armies and two North Korean corps pushed deeply into the U.N. line toward Seoul in the west and Wonju in the center.
As the offensive gained momentum, Ridgway ordered the U.N. forces to fall back to a line which ran along the south bank of the frozen Han River to Yangp'yang, through Hongch'on and Chunmunjin to the Sea of Japan. A delaying force remained around Seoul to deny the enemy use of the Han River bridges. When the attacking forces, following up their initial success, crossed the Han to the east and west of Seoul, it became clear that the Seoul bridgehead could not be held any longer. Ridgway, following a policy of rolling with the punch rather then risking destruction by defending in place, decided to withdraw south to a line in the vicinity of the 37th parallel on 3 January. This line ran from P'yongt'aek, east through Ansong, northeast to Wonju, and in an irregular trace to the east coast town of Samch'ok. When Seoul fell on 4 January, the port of Inch'on was also evacuated.
After the fall of Seoul, Chinese attacks tapered off in the west. Many enemy units were shifted eastward so as to be in position to attack southwestward behind the U.S. I and IX Corps, and capture Wonju and the railroad and highway between Hongch'on and Pusan, the main U.N. north-south supply route. Wonju was abandoned by U.N. forces on 7 January. By 10 January large numbers of the enemy had phased through the gap and into the defensive zone of the ROK III Corps. To meet this threat Ridgway ordered the 1st Marine Division to prevent the enemy penetration from north of the Andong-Yongdok road on the east, and to protect the supply routes of the ROK units.
In the western sector, which was comparatively quiet, Ridgway planned Operation WOLFHOUND, a reconnaissance in force in the I Corps sector, to reestablish contact and secure more exact information about the enemy. On 15 January the task force-the 27th Infantry Regiment, reinforced-advanced northward along the Seoul highway toward Osan. On the 16th it reached Suwon with practically no opposition. Satisfied by the reconnaissance, the U.N. Command ordered the task force to withdraw south.
By the third week in January the situation in the central and eastern sectors had eased, and pressure on our troops was gradually decreasing. However, although quiet prevailed on the front, air reconnaissance revealed that the enemy was accumulating reserves of supplies and bringing up thousands of replacements.