Blog 02/16/21 – MHT Salutes the Gallant Defense of Chipyong-ni
02/16/21 – MHT Salutes the Gallant Defense of Chipyong-ni: The 23rd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) under the command of Col Paul L. Freeman, Jr. US Army, reached the important crossroads town of Chipyong-ni on 3 February 1951 and immediately set up a perimeter defense. Supported by Company B, 2nd Engineer Battalion (Bn) (Combat) the 23rd RCT’s three battalions, the French Infantry Battalion and First Ranger Company dug in and were reinforced the 37th Field Artillery Bn; Battery B, 82nd Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Bn; Battery B, 503rd Field Artillery Bn; elements of the 2nd Signal Co. (attached); and a platoon from the 2nd Medical Bn. In all, Freeman had 4,500 men under his command, including 2,500 front-line infantrymen. Each year there is a ceremony for the Battle of Chipyong-ni that honors Korean, French & American Veterans ususally with an re-enactment of the Communist Chinese attack on the NATO troops.
RCT-23 faced the Chinese Communist 39th Army (115th, 116th, and 117th Divisions) and divisions from the 40th and 42nd Armies tasked to encircle and destroy the Allied forces at Chipyong-ni. Freeman had intelligence they were coming and requested resupply by air and airstrikes for 14 February. He defended his perimeter with his 1st Bn on the northern part of the perimeter, the 2nd Bn to the south, and the 3rd Bn on the east, with the French Bn on the western side. The 1st Bn's Company B and the Rangers were kept in reserve behind the 1st Bn line.
After vigorously attacking the perimeter on the night of the 13-14 the Chinese hid from the US Airpower during the 14th’s daylight hours. The major effort was the night of 14-15 when the Communist Chinese attacked and penetrated the perimeter on the East and more seriously in the South. Artillery and mortars punished the Chinese who pushed more troops into the meatgrinder. To understand the verocity of the battle we have a personal account:
Pvt Seymour "Hoppy" Harris, was a replacement soldier on the final truck to reach Chipyong-ni before it was surrounded and was assigned to the Machine Gun Section of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2 Infantry Division. He was placed in a bunker on the south portion of the perimeter. Below is excerpts of his letter home on the 15th.
Night comes. I have not been in the unit but for a few hours, but somehow[,] I feel a sense of urgency. I feel it. Something is going to happen.
[Cpl] O'Shell [Squad Leader] has told us that if they come, that we are to let them come until their lead man hits the barbed wire…
Then I slowly turn my head and look back up the draw. What I see makes my stomach do a backflip. Chinese! My God, the draw is full of them. They are about 100 yards from the wire.They come silently. Like little clowns. There is no chatter. The night is still as death. On and on they come. I wonder if anyone else sees them. My God, am I the only one who sees them?” [“Hoppy” has a straightforward writing style that puts you in the bunker with him as he faces his first combat with a worthless soldier that as the unit’s new guy he is stuck with because no one else wants to rely on him.]
“The gooks are nearly to the wire. I have been told to keep my [M1] carbine on semi-automatic, but I have my sights on three gooks who are rather close together, and without hardly thinking, I slip the selector lever forward, putting the weapon on full-automatic.
The first gook hits the wire. Thump! Comes the sound of O'Shells' M-1 [M1 Garand.] I squeeze my trigger. It is like every weapon is wired together. They all go off at once. Tracers like laser beams streak out and I see them go clean through the gooks. I hear them scream, and go down like stalks of corn before a corn cutter.
It is only seconds and the mortars start to rain in. And right behind them come the [M101 Howitzer 105mm] 105's, time fuse and point detonated [air and ground burst.] They turn the draw into an orange-gray hell. The noise is deafening beyond description. I am frozen, spellbound by the sight and sound of it. For a time[,] I just kneel and stare at the horrible sight before me.
Finally, I come to my senses and start to fire, although I cannot see a thing to fire at because of the smoke and flying debris. But the feel of the weapon jumping in my hands makes me feel better. By God, I'm doing something at least. It is 2210 hours [10:10PM.]
Slowly the battle subsides. The gooks pull back. From time to time .30 caliber [M1919A4] machine guns chatter, picking up small groups going [retreating] up the draw. Then all is quiet except for the cries and screams of wounded gooks.
"Look sharp! Here comes them stupid [expletive deleted] again!" I hear someone yell.
I look out the bunker and sure enough, here they come again. the draw is crawling with them. My God, I can't believe it. No one could be that stupid. Again, they are to the wire before O'Shell opens the ball [starts firing.] And it is a repeat performance.
But this time there is an explosion at the wire the like you wouldn't believe. The gooks have managed to push a Bangalore torpedo [an explosive charge placed within one or several connected tubes. It is used by combat engineers to clear obstacles] beneath the wire. The explosion blows a hole in the wire four or five feet across. Our machine guns pour their fire into this opening and soon it is clogged with dead gooks.
Just as things begin to quiet down, I see a blue flash that seems to come out of the ground. It is a burp gun [ChiCom Type 50 7.62mm Submachine gun.] The slugs rip up the dirt right in front of my face. I feel as if someone has stuck a lighted cigarette against my upper lip. I drop my carbine and in panic fall to the back of the bunker, pawing at my mouth. I cannot imagine what has happened. I can feel my lip swelling, but as far as I can see, there is only a little blood. My fingers keep catching onto something. Each time this happens it feels like a bee sting. A gook has squeezed off a burst from his burp gun, and has almost done me in. The brass from one of his slugs has embedded itself in my lip.” [“Hoppy” has a small piece of brass lodged in his lip removed and bandaged, the greater long term potential damage if not from ordnance is from frostbitten feet.]
“I stand looking out at the dead gooks that litter the mouth of the draw. [Sgt] Moore [Section Leader] sees me watching men from our section and riflemen going over the bodies, and says, "Come on Harris, let's go out."
"No thanks. Ain't nothing out there I want to see."
"You might as well get used to it, Harris." [said Moore]
And taking me by the arm, leads me toward the carnage. My God, what a sight. Some had arms missing. Some had been decapitated, some had guts hanging out. Chinese soldiers lay in every way, shape, and form. On top of one another like corded wood.
A tall captain with a clipboard is using his pen as a pointer, taking a head count of the dead gooks. Slowly he walks up the draw. Counting away. I do a little counting myself, and get up to 50 before I stop. It was the tip of an iceberg. I really have no idea how many we killed that night. I heard it was 500 and something, but I just can't say. All I know is that the draw was littered with dead nearly up to the base of the high hill.
We are at the fire when we see men moving down the draw toward us. As they get close, we see they are wearing the shoulder patches of the 1st Cavalry Division. They are men of the 5th Cavalry Regiment. We shake hands with them and do a lot of back slapping. The next thing we know, their tanks are there and we know we are home free. I have seen my first combat and I notice the men of the section seem to treat me as more of a member of the family. And that means a whole lot.
The 2nd Infantry Division has dedicated a memorial to the soldiers at Chipyong-ni at Camp Red Cloud.
SFC Seymour Harris’s followed the 8th Army’s counterattack back up the peninsula all the way to the Heartbreak Ridge battlefields. The Letters were Copyrighted in 1995, by Hal Barker for the complete letters see the Korean War Project (www.koreanwar.org/)