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                                                     Music - Mix "High Noon, Surf City, I Get Around"

 

It happened before dawn on 25 June 1950.  Less than 5 years after the terrible devastations of WW II, a new War broke out in a distant land whose name means “Morning Calm”. On July 18, 1950, the 1st Cavalry Division plunged ashore at Pohangdong, North Korea to successfully carry out the first amphibious landing of the Korean Conflict.  The Division flying column, led by the 545th MP Company, commanded by CPT Louis Mehl punched through the Pusan perimeter in mid September and started north at a break neck speed.  Crossing the 38th Parallel on October 9, 1950, the troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division crashed into Pyongyang, capturing the Capital city of North Korea on October 19, 1950.  This marked the third first for the division and the 545th MP Co. – “First in Pyongyang.” The sudden intervention of the Communist Chinese Forces dashed hopes of a quick end to the war. First Teams 545th MP Troopers fought courageously in the see-saw campaigns that followed and successfully defended the city of Seoul.  By January, 1952, the division, after 18 months of continuous fighting, rotated back to Hokkaido, Japan.

Information obtained from the 1st Cavalry Division Historical Archives and from LTC. (Retired) Louis Mehl.

 

1st CAVALRY DIVISION (THE FIRST TEAM)
IN THE KOREAN WAR

Campaigns: UN Defensive; UN Offensive; CCF Intervention; First UN Counteroffensive; CCF Spring Offensive; UN Summer-Fall Offensive; Second Korean Winter

Decorations: Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Streamer embroidered WAEGWAN-TAEGU; Chryssoun Aristion Andrias (Bravery Gold Medal of Greece), Streamer embroidered KOREA

Commanders: MG Hobart Gay (Sep 1949-Feb 1951); MG Charles Palmer (Feb-Jul 1951); MG Thomas Harrold (Jul 1951-Mar 1952)

Service:  The 1st Cavalry Division, initially organized in September 1921 at Fort Bliss, Texas, was serving on occupation duty in Japan when the Korean War began in the summer of 1950. On 18 July 1950 elements of the division went ashore at P'ohang-dong, South Korea, moving quickly westward to block the enemy along the main Taejon-Taegu corridor, which led back to the ports on the Sea of Japan. On 22 July the division's 8th Cavalry relieved an element of the 24th Infantry Division at Yongdong, about 20 miles west of Taejon, and the 5th Cavalry moved to the high ground east of the town. Under strength, the 1st Cavalry Division had little time to organize these positions. The enemy quickly captured Taejon and continued to drive eastward toward Yongdong, which fell on 25 July. With unrelenting pressure from the enemy, the division withdrew to Kumch'on and later east of the Naktong River, where it held part of the front near Taegu on the Pusan perimeter. During the month of August "The First Team" successfully countered five major North Korean attacks in that section.

In early September the division launched an attack against the "Walled City," a series of high mountain ridges along the perimeter, which the enemy repelled. On 15 September, however, the United Nations began a new offensive with an amphibious landing at Inch'on, near Seoul; with the opening of the second front, the 1st Cavalry Division began a drive northwest of Taegu. Six days later the division broke out of the perimeter, and North Korean pressure in the south ended. Pursuit of the enemy followed, and on 27 September the division met the 7th Infantry Division at Osan. From there the 1st Cavalry Division shifted north to the Kaesong area near the 38th Parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea. On 9 October the 1st Cavalry Division was ordered to take Kumch'on in North Korea, which fell on 14 October. Shortly thereafter the division reached P'yongyang, the North Korean capital. Elements of the division linked up with the 187th Airborne Infantry at Sunch'on, and other elements turned southwest to Chinnamp'o, the main port of North Korea.

The Chinese Communists threatened to intervene in the war, and on 1 November a new, more savage conflict began. Waves of enemy forces swept over the 1st Cavalry Division area near Unsan, and the division fell back to a line between the coast and the Taedong River valley. On 22 November the division was placed in reserve for rest and reorganization, but four days later it was back in action. By 12 December the division had withdrawn to only six miles north of Seoul, and in January 1951 it occupied positions south of Seoul in the Ch'ungju area. Seoul had been captured, but the enemy did not cross the Han River.

When the enemy failed to follow up its recapture of Seoul, the 1st Cavalry Division undertook a reconnaissance in force, resulting in a limited offensive, north and west of the capital. By the end of February "The First Team" had reached the Hongch'on area in the central front, midway between Seoul and the Sea of Japan. In February the 1st Cavalry Division pushed to the Hwach'on Reservoir north of the 38th Parallel and then went into reserve. On 22 April the Chinese Communists began a new offensive to dislodge the UN forces, and the division was given the mission of defending Seoul and the area north of the city. The division pushed northward, and by the end of May it was again in North Korea. The 1st Cavalry Division's next assignment was to attack the "Iron Triangle," an area from P'yonggang southeast to Ch'orwon and southwest to Kumhwa, which served as a marshalling zone for the enemy.

UN forces began the summer-fall campaign on 8 July 1951, and two days later the enemy entered into cease-fire negotiations at Kaesong. Shortly after the campaign was launched, the 1st Cavalry Division went into reserve. At the end of the month the division was ordered back to positions near the Iron Triangle, where it engaged in sporadic, bitter firefights. An overall lull in the fighting, however, allowed the enemy to improve its positions. In October the 1st Cavalry Division began a drive to dislodge the enemy from advantageous positions northeast of the area from the Imjin River to Ch'orwon. On 19 November elements of the 3d Infantry Division relieved the 1st Cavalry Division, and "The First Team" went into reserve.

In December 1951 the 45th Infantry Division replaced the 1st Cavalry Division, which then began redeploying to Hokkaido, Japan. The last element of the 1st arrived in Japan in mid-January 1952, where the division remained ready to return to Korea if necessary. In October 1952 a regimental combat team organized around the 8th Cavalry deployed to Korea as a security force.

 

 

On August 10, 1950, SFC Frank Pierce of the 545th US MP Company witnessed a mass execution near Taegu, Korea and filed a Secret report (US National Archives)

Shooting of Prisoners of War by South Korean Military Police

Between the hours of 1500 and 1630, 10 August 1950, while on routine patrol on the highway between Taegu and Waegwan, Korea, a large volume of gunfire was investigated by the undersigned and Pfc. Raut.  This gunfire came from a canyon near the top of the mountain that is situated approximately eight miles north of Taegu.

Investigation disclosed that the South Korean Military Police, under the command of a captain of the South Korean Army, were in the process of the killing of a group of Korean Nationals, estimated to be between 200 and 300 persons, including some women and at least one girl.  It is the opinion of the undersigned that this child was approximately 12 or 13 years of age.

The methods used by the Koreans in the executions were the placing of about 20 of the condemned persons in a line on the edge of a cliff, and behind each of the victims was placed one military policeman with a carbine of American Army current issue.  At the command of fire, given by the commanding officer of the group, the military police fired at the head of the prisoner that was in front of him.  It was noted that in several of the shootings, that due to poor aim of the weapon, the prisoner was not killed immediately, but it was necessary for several other shots to be fired into the body of a victim, and in some cases, the mercy shot was not administered, and about three hours after the executions were completed, some of the condemned persons were still alive and moaning.  The cries could be heard coming from somewhere in the mass of bodies piled in the canyon.  One man was lying (sic) a short way apart from the main mass of bodies, and even though unconscious, was noted to be still breathing.

A survey was made by the undersigned of the prisoners that remained on the side of the mountain awaiting their turn to be shot, and it was noted that their hands were tied behind by trussing two of the condemned persons together, and the hands were tied so tightly that there were cries of severe pain coming from the prisoners.  One of the women prisoners, a girl of about 19 years of age, had fallen and in the fall, the flesh had been torn from her hands.  Extreme cruelty was noted from the Military policemen to the condemned persons such as striking them on the head with gun butts, and kicking them on the body for no reason.

The commanding officer of the execution group stated that the prisoners were being killed, as they were “spies”.  No other information was given.

The bodies were not properly buried, but were partly covered with dirt and brush.  And the cartridge cases were left on the ground.  In the event of the fall into the hands of the red army of this area, all of the evidence left by the South Korean Military Police would indicate that the killings were perpetrated by the American Army and not the South Korean Army.  The bodies had been stripped of clothing and it would be hard to determined whether the victim was civilian or North Korean Military Personnel.

Frank Pearce
SFC MPC
Division Investigator
545th MP Co
1st Cavalry Division
Taegu, Korea

Possible Alamo at Pohangdong Korea

The following is a statement provided by LTC Louis Mehl (one time commander of the 545th MP Company and member of the 545th MP Co. Assn.) who was present at a high level division staff meeting in Korea in the summer of 1950.

“In July of 1950 as the 1st Cavalry Division was being pushed out of Pohangdong, NW of Kumchon by hordes of North Koreans, the CG, 8th Army visited the division CP and held this briefing for General Gay, the division commander of the 1st Cavalry Division.  He, Walker, was concerned about the division’s future and made the remark ‘This may not be another Dieppe, or another Dunkirk, but it is going to be one hell of an Alamo – stay here until the last man.’  After he left, our Chaplain said to General Gay, ‘General, if we are to stay here, we would like to have you tell us.’  With that, General Gay replied ‘As long as I command this division, I will decide what we will do and then ordered – Withdraw to Kumchon, then cross the river to Taegu..’  This was to establish that famous Taegu Perimeter and saved, in my opinion, the over run of the 1st Cavalry Division as did happen to the 24th Infantry Division.  General Gay was a soldier’s general, loved by all and missed by all.  Certainly Walker, in my opinion, was wrong, but I understand what he was trying to do.  Walker’s comment was as notable as many others issued previously in war ‘Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes, the famous NUTS and Don’t give up the ship’  Those were our most desperate days, the contact with the enemy in their T34 tanks rolling into Pohangdong and we with only our 6x6 trucks and jeeps and our bazookas that bounced off the front slopes of the tank hulls like flat rocks skipped over a pond.  A short synopsis of our first engagement in Korea.”

 

Written November 8, 2005

 

Louis S. Mehl
LTC MPC (retired)
USAR

 

 


 

Photo courtesy of the MP Museum

 

 

Chief of Staff of the North Korean 13th Division
Surrendered

There is a little history that goes with the photo of the North Korean Colonel being transported to Cav Hqs by the 545th MP?s - Shortly before noon on the 21st of September 1950, General Walker telephoned from Taegu to General Hickey in Tokyo. He had important news? Chief of Staff of the North Korean 13th Division had surrendered that morning. Walker told Hickey that based on the prisoners testimony, the N.K. Ii Corps had ordered its divisions on 17 September to go on the defensive and that the 13th Division knew nothing of the Inchon landing. The 13th Divisions chief of staff had indeed surrendered that morning. Shortly after daylight, Sr. Colonel Lee Hak Ku gently shook two sleeping American soldiers of the 8th Cavalry Regiment on the roadside near the village of Samsan-dong, four miles south of Tabu-dong. Once they were awake, the 30 year old North Korean surrendered to them. They immediately turned their prisoner over the members of the 545th MP Company who were manning a traffic Control point near by and the 545th MP’s subsequently transported this important prisoner to Division Headquarters. Information and picture provided by SGM Francis Kane, former member of the 545th MP Company, Korea 1950.

 

Korea Photo Album       545th Korea Photo Album 2       Korea Newspaper Clippings

                                                          Korea Photo Album                                   Album 2                              Korea Newspaper Clippings        


Sam Reinert
CPT MP USAR (Ret)
Founder
545th Military Police Company Association
626 1/2 South 9th Street
Richmond, Indiana 47374 USA
(765) 962 4627 phone & FAX
http://545thmpassn.com/