Articles combined from the following Newspapers:
ST. LOIUS POST-DISPATCH, New York Herald, Fargo Forum
FRIDAY , JULY 7, 1950
REPORTER, Cut Off Behind Lines 2 ½ Days,
Tells How Tank-Led Reds Mauled G.I.s
(For 2 ½ days United Press Correspondent Peter Kalischer and a group of American troops in defense outposts below Suwan were cut off from the rest of the American forces on the Korean front by Communist tanks and infantry. The communist radio reported yesterday that the Red forces had captured Kalischer. The broadcast was in error. Kalischer got back to the American lines and this is his story.)
By PETER KALISCHER
Advance U.S. Headquarters, Korea, July 7 (U.P.) – I have just returned after 2 ½ days in No-Man’s Land, trapped with an American unit that narrowly escaped becoming the “Lost Battalion” of the Korean War.
Cut off from the rest of the American forces in this area, we were besieged by tanks and thousands of well-equipped Communist troops.
During hours of dodging Communist gunfire we ran out of ammunition. What we had bounced off the new, tough Soviet built tanks. Our forces suffered casualties from Nazi-type guns.
We escaped by fleeing through rice fields. A South Korean guide led some of us back to safety.
The battalion had barely maneuvered into position in the farthest American outpost some three miles north of Osan, 11 miles south of Suwon, at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday when the North Korean army launched its strongest tank attack of the war.
American artillery a half-mile back opened up on the tanks just as I reported in to the battalion commander Lt. Col. Charles B. Smith of Lambertville, NJ.
Ten minutes later from a foxhole I saw the first Russian- made tanks rumble over the road I had taken to the command post.
First one, then 10, then 20 Communist tanks rumbled past. They completely cut us off front our lines. I lost count after that.
The tanks began firing at the American artillery batteries which had range of the road. But so far as I could tell they scored no hits.
The Communist tanks were in single file, like ducks in a shooting gallery. But they knew what they were about. They would pause before the target spot, wait until American batteries fired, then spurt on ahead.
The American battalion, only two companies strong, opened up with everything it had from dominating heights north, south, east and southeast of the road.
Tanks Withstand Shells
The soldiers fired mortars, bazookas and new recoilless 75-millimeter rifles. But for the most part missiles bounced off like ping-pong balls.
In the next five terrible hours before the withdrawal order, only three tanks were crippled. And it took daring bazooka teams running up within 50 yards of the Iron monsters to do it. Four hits on the trends put them out of action.
The gravity of the battalion”s position became evident an hour after the attack started. By then, tanks backed by North Korean artillery were challenging the American big gun positions to the south.
Officers told me the Communist tanks fired 88-millimeter guns the all – purpose guns with which the Nazis punished U.S. troops during World War II. They said the tanks had new and tougher armor which made them virtually impervious to the American anti-tank equipment used that day.
At 8:30 a.m., it began to rain.
My foxhole companion, Pfc. Robert J. Kahley, 20, of Garretts Hill, Penn., said jocularly:
“Nice weather we’re having!”
But an hour later, he no longer felt like joking. We were completely cut off by the Communist tanks. Kahley prayed.
“Oh, God,” he said, “if you ever did anything, do it now. If I ever get out of this, I’ll never miss a Sunday or a holy day as long as I live,”
He turned to me and said:
“And you can print that in your paper.”
But the tanks ignored our battalion at first in their push forward to Osan.
As soon as the Red vanguard was around a bend in the road. Capt. A.H. Nugent of Merrill, Wis., ordered a headquarters company to bring up ammunition cached on the side of the road.
The men hesitated. Then, by twos and threes, they slithered down the hill, grabbed an armful of ammunition and climbed up again.
At 9:30 a.m. we were completely cut off by the communist tanks. But the tanks ignored our battalion at first in their push towards Osan. On the battalion telephone, Colonel Smith called for air support. But with ceiling zero, he must have known he couldn’t get it.
At 9:30 a.m., during a lull in the firing, Smith called on companies B and C to form a perimeter defense on the saddle of the hill.
I left my foxhole and helped the medics dig a trench of their own.
“You’ve got to dig,” Nugent told the men. “Your lives depend on it.”
Our holes filled with water up to the ankles within 25 minutes.
About the same time, we saw 3,000 to 4,000 North Korean troops debarking from trucks on the road north of the battalion hill.
Smith ordered Capt. Will Corder of Carthage, Mo., an adviser to the Korean military group, and his sergeant to make a break for help down the east side of the hill.
By 11 a.m., five tanks had returned to support the North Korean infantry.
The hill began rocking with artillery hits, mortar shells and the wheep, wheep of small arms bullets.
Four times the call went out for “medics” and wounded brought in.
The battalion’s .50 caliber machine-gun ran out of ammunition. The sergeant manning it blew out the bolt with his .45 automatic.
A group of Americans began yelling, “Here they come!” and fired their carbines down the north slope of the hill.
I crawled out of my foxhole to take a look. I saw perhaps a hundred North Korean soldiers inching forward about 100 yards down the slope. They wore green and brown uniforms and conductor – like caps.
I went back to the medics section and wondered whether it was unpatriotic of me to want to get out as much as I did.
A blond sergeant, wounded in the arm, walked over. He said, he had just crippled a tank with a bazooka when one of the Koreans jumped out of the tank and shot him in the arm.
“He had his hands up, too, the _________ “ the sergeant said.
At one o’clock the enemy began flanking the hill to the east of our one escape route. Smith gave the withdrawal order half an hour later.
I grabbed a helmet and started to run down along a slope over looking a rice paddy. A Mortar shell burst about 75 yards away and in hitting the dirt I dislocated my trick shoulder.
I reset it on the run.
Men were stumbling and sobbing as they struggled to get over the crest of the slope as the North Koreans began laying down fire from the hill we had just evacuated.
Up ahead I ran into Captain Corder, and he told me he and his sergeant had only gone 800 yards on the rescue mission before being pinned down by small arms fire for 4 ½ hours. His hands were swollen from rice paddy leeches.
Soon the battalion was strung out in a single, irregular file marching south through pouring rain. Corder asked a company commander to slow the pace since some of the wounded couldn’t keep up. The acting battalion commander refused.
“Well, this is where we part company,” Corder said, “I’m waiting for my first sergeant.”
Pretty soon Sgt. Allen Palmer of Mendon, Ill., staggered up exhausted. He was supported by another man, Sgt. Gordon York of Tremonton, Utah.
I decided to stick with Corder and the other two because I knew admired Corder’s decision, because I knew him personally and because he had a compass.
It developed Palmer was not wounded. He was ill. He got sick from eating green cucumbers on the march.”
“It’s just my luck,” I said to Corder, “to get caught because a guy ate too many cucumbers and can’t walk fast.”
Later it developed Palmer was worse off than we thought.
We passed through several Korean ghost villages. All the inhabitants had fled south to join the long columns of refugees.
Palmer was close to collapse. We saw tanks and infantry in the rice fields. We pulled up at a small village where in pidgin Japanese I acquired a Korean guide named Kim.
Kim said he would lead us on a southeast course past the farthest North Korean advance.
We proceeded only a short way, after dark and then took a chance and holed up in a small Korean farmhouse, where six fleeing South Korean soldiers also were taking refuge.
We started out the next morning after a few spoonfuls of rice, but Palmer was sicker than ever. He groaned and vomited.
At a slow pace slogged steadly southeast through gumbo-thick rice field clay, over hills, and through flooded roads with York and Corder hauling Palmer, kidding him and cursing him to hurry.
We received information on the military situation from the villagers. Some of the information sent us miles out of the way. Among the rumors we heard were reports that the North Koreans were in Pyongtaek, that the Americans, had Pyongtaek, but were pulling out, ect. ect.
We made contact briefly with a south Korean army unit which was not going our direction and then continued on without it.
Around noon Palmer collapsed.
Corder ordered a couple of villagers to make a stretcher of poles and rice mats. We dragooned four Korean bearers and started off again.
By this time, my socks had rotted off and my oxford shoes were a pulp.
Corder kept us going in what turned out to be the right direction for two days and two nights and about fifty miles.
At 4 p.m. Thursday, we got definite word that there were many Americans and South Koreans in Itchang, a small village 18 miles southeast of Osan.
We got to Itchang at 7 p.m. for the worst disappointment of the march. Both the American and South Korean troops had pulled out the day before for Chonan.
Halfway to Chonan, we saw an ominous sign—refugees coming back. A terrific explosion from the direction of Chonan lighted the night. We decided not to try to get into Chonan that night.
Again we hid in a farmhouse. The next morning Corder reconnoitered in the town. It was a No-Man’s-Land, but mostly ours.
Staggering and lifting Palmer’s litter, we hiked 500 yards down the main street and at 10 a.m. contacted the first American – an artillery observer.