Recovery and Final Operations

The 24th recovered once more. When it reentered combat in late February 1951, it demonstrated its ability both in the attack and on the defense, but it remained no less immune than any other unit to the misfortunes of war. Its performance at the Han River crossing in March, for example, was all that anyone could have hoped for. The assault across the Hant'an in April, however, only added to its poor image in the eyes of white commanders. 

In that operation the 1st Battalion performed well, securing a crossing and then advancing through difficult terrain against a strongly emplaced enemy. Setbacks in another area nonetheless diminished that accomplishment. The 3d Battalion also crossed the river, but only after a last-minute change of plans that put it well downstream from the 1st Battalion in difficult terrain, heavily defended by a strong enemy force. The unit made the crossing and pressed forward up a steep mountainside, but then it collapsed under enemy fire and fell back in disorder. Either inadvertently or on purpose, officers passed information to the rear depicting a far more favorable situation than the one that prevailed. 

When the division commander found out, he lost all confidence in the regiment forever. From that day on, the division followed the unit's operations closely. Although the regiment delivered a generally solid performance in the attack north of the Hant'an and then conducted an orderly withdrawal to Line Golden after the Chinese Spring Offensive, the suspicion never departed. When it participated in the Eighth Army's drive back to the north in May and June, despite a few exceptions, it again performed well.

When the last commander of the regiment, Colonel Thomas D. Gillis, took charge in August, he received a warning from the division commander that the 24th held the weakest line in all of the Eighth Army. Arriving at the unit, he rapidly decided his superiors were mistaken. Surveying the regiment, he concluded that leadership was the problem and proceeded to relieve a number of officers. His efforts were rewarded on 15 September, when Company F of the 2d Battalion conducted a heroic bayonet and grenade assault. That accomplishment, however, like so much that had happened to the 24th, received little notice. 

Buried in unit records, the achievement went largely unrecognized and unremembered except by Gillis and a few veterans. The incident on 15 September marked the last significant attack conducted by the 24th. On 22 September the regiment received formal notice that on 1 October the 14th Infantry regiment would replace it on the line and that it would cease to exist as a unit. For a time, some thought had been given to the possibility that the 24th might remain in Korea as an integrated unit. In that case, it would merely have exchanged groups of personnel with the all-white 34th Infantry regi ment, then training in Japan. 

In the end, however, the Far East Command rejected the plan because it would have violated the 1866 act of Congress that had designated the 24th as an all-black unit. When integration came, as a result, other all-black units-the 3d Battalion of the 9th Infantry, for example, and the 64th Tank Battalion-remained in existence; the asterisk that designated them as segregated units was dropped from their names and their personnel were exchanged with other regiments in the Eighth Army. Only the 24th Infantry, because of its peculiar legal status, ceased to exist. 


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