The Move into North Korea

 

 

 

The Move into North Korea

The 24th itself soldiered on despite those difficulties. Over the preceding months, casualties had taken a heavy toll of the unit's problem soldiers. Still, a core of brave, capable enlisted men remained. To that group was added a whole new shift of soldiers, untrained and inexperienced but unencumbered by feelings of mistrust, racial alienation, and drug dependency that had afflicted a number of their predecessors. 

These men learned their jobs and drew together under the strain of combat. A new group of white officer replacements also arrived. Some were also green, but many were capable, combat-seasoned veterans of World War II. If they had their prejudices, they kept them to themselves to gain the confidence of their subordinates. 

The 24th, to all intents, was a new unit peopled by new men. The regiment took long strides toward recovery during the attack north that followed the U.S. landing at Inchon and the breakout from Pusan. The troops had time to train, and, in the process of fighting their way back to Seoul, they gained in confidence. The test for them came during the offensive into North Korea following the recapture of Seoul, when United Nations forces crossed the Ch'ongch'on River and neared North Korea's border with China. Advancing in late November through rugged terrain north of the town of Kunu-ri while flanking units moved to either side along valley floors, the body of the regiment played only a minor defensive role when the Chinese counterattacked, but the unit still incurred heavy damage in the fighting that ensued.

Each portion of the regiment faced its own unique challenge. Located on a ridge overlooking a valley where part of the enemy's main assault occurred, Companies E and G held off strong attacks for most of a day before escaping overnight into the lines of the 9th Infantry. Assisting the 9th until they could make their way back to the 24th, they fought on with distinction. Meanwhile, to the west, most of the 1st Battalion was able to pull back with only minor difficulty, but Company C, fighting as part of Task Force Wilson in another valley, was less fortunate. Because of communications failures and confused command arrangements, the unit found itself abandoned and eventually surrendered. 

The 3d Battalion, for its part, occupied the center of the 24th's line. Withdrawing without major difficulty and in relatively good order, it nonetheless suffered from breakdowns in control at its own command post as well as at corps and division levels. Holding in an exposed position and unaware that the rest of the regiment had received orders to retreat, the unit suffered a massive enemy attack and collapsed in what became a major debacle. In that case, as with Company C, what happened received heavy play in the press. For white commanders already resolved to disband the 24th, it became just one more example of black ineptitude and the inability of all-black units to carry their load in combat. 

 

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