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By the last of March Ridgway's forces had fought their way generally to the 38th parallel in position along line IDAHO. Again the U.N. Command was faced with the problem of crossing the parallel into North Korea.
Ridgway, with the approval of President Truman and MacArthur, elected to continue the advance, with the hope of achieving maximum destruction of enemy forces. U.N. commanders made their plans to advance with the knowledge that the enemy was engaged in a full-scale buildup of troops and materiel for his expected spring offensive.
On 5 April Ridgway opened Operation RUGGED, a general advance toward a new objective line called KANSAS. This line, running along the commanding ground north of the 38th parallel, was 115 miles long, including 14 miles of tidal water on the left flank and the 10-mile water barrier of the Hwach'on Dam in the center. By 9 April the U.S. I and IX Corps and the ROK I Corps on the east coast had reached Line KANSAS, and the U.S. X and ROK III Corps in the central and central-east sectors were drawing up to it. The I and IX Corps continued to advance, attacking Ch'orwon, with the intention of seizing a line designated UTAH, an outward bulge of KANSAS, so as to be in a position to strike at the "Iron Triangle."16
On 11 April President Truman relieved General MacArthur of all his commands because of differences over national policy and military strategy, and replaced him with General Ridgway. Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet assumed command of the Eighth Army on 14 April, replacing Ridgway.
Meanwhile U.N. forces continued to edge forward. The Hwach'on Dam was taken on 16 April. On the east coast South Korean forces captured Taep'o-ri. Other ROK troops north of Seoul sent patrols across the Imjin River and far to the northeast. By 17 April U.N. units could not make contact with the enemy, and thereafter the general advance toward Line UTAH was virtually unopposed. Even as it continued, however, evidences of enemy preparations for a
counterattack were apparent to the Eighth Army Command. By 19 April all U.S. I and IX Corps units were in positions along Line UTAH, preparing for an advance to a new Line WYOMING. On 22 April enemy activity across the whole front suddenly increased and the U.N. advance halted abruptly. The expected spring offensive was at hand.
Enemy Spring Offensive. Following a four-hour artillery bombardment, three Chinese Communist armies attacked the U.N. line in the evening hours of 22 April (CCF Spring Offensive_22 April to 8 July 1951). The main attack was against the U.N. I and IX Corps in the Seoul sector, coupled with a secondary thrust in the central Yonch'on-Hwach'on area and a push in the east near Inje. U.N. lines held firm except in the IX Corps central sector, where ROK units were forced back in confusion. With the line broken, Van Fleet ordered the I and IX Corps to withdraw through a series of delaying positions to Line KANSAS, thus giving up the ground gained in recent U.N. offensives. When the enemy cut the Seoul-Kansong highway on 26 April, Van Fleet withdrew the IX Corps back to the Hongch'on River.
Meanwhile, in the I Corps area, the enemy crossed the Imjin River on 22 April and drove the ROK units south of the KANSAS Line on the 23d. On 27 April the enemy outflanked Vijongbu, forcing U.N. units to pull back to within four miles of Seoul, and also made an unsuccessful attempt to outflank the city to the east. On the east-central front North Koreans captured Inje. By 29 April, however, their drive had been halted. On this date Van Fleet established new line, designated NONAME-LINE, extending from north of Seoul to Sabangue and thence northeast across the 38th parallel to Taepo-ri on the east coast. Because the major enemy attack had been in the west, Van Fleet reshuffled his units to put more American divisions there. By the end of April, U.N. forces had stopped the enemy short of Seoul and the Han and held a strong, continuous defense line.
16 A triangular area of which Ch'orwon was one corner. The other comers were Kumhwa (southeast) and Pyongyang (northern apex).
As the enemy withdrew to recoup losses, Van Fleet improved his defenses on NO-NAME-LINE and planned an offensive to carry the Eighth Army back to Line KANSAS; but signs of another impending enemy attack led him to postpone it.
On the night of 15-16 May an estimated 21 Chinese divisions, flanked by 3 North Korean divisions in the west and 6 in the east, struck in the central sector against the U.S. X and the ROK III Corps in the Naep'yong-ni-No-dong area. ROK units were again forced back by the swarming columns of Chinese and North Koreans. Once more Van Fleet reshumed his units, moved in reserves, and laid down a tremendous curtain of artillery fire which exacted heavy casualties and stopped the enemy offensive.
On 17 May the enemy struck down the Pukhan River toward the Han in the western sector, against the I and IX Corps, with a force of about 25,000 men. This attack was also contained after three days of violent action. By 20 May U.N. troops brought the enemy to a standstill, having thus stopped two major offensives in two months.
U.N. Forces Resume the Advance. Van Fleet decided to renew the offensive, so as to give the enemy no chance to gather himself for another counterstrike. On 18 May he opened a series of local attacks. Once enemy forces pulled back and U.N. forces moved forward against light resistance. Within a few days the I Corps reached the Imjin River north of Munsan-ni and entered Uijongbu and Sinp’al-li. The IX Corps pushed toward Kap'yong, drove the enemy across the Hanch'on River, and moved toward the Hwach'on Reservoir. In the X Corps area the 1st Marine Division attacked Yanggu on 24 May. The 187th RCT headed for Inje, which it captured on the 27th. The Marines were pushing toward the Hwach'on Reservoir and Yanggu. The 7th Division of the IX Corps took Hwach'on. By 31 May the U.N. forces scored a significant advance which brought them just about back to the KANSAS Line, and South Korea was virtually cleared of the enemy.
At this point the Joint Chiefs of Staff prescribed that the Eighth Army was
not to go beyond the general vicinity of Line KANSAS. The only tactical operations permitted were those necessary to protect itself, to maintain contact, and to harass the enemy. This was the basic pattern of U.N. military operations which was to be followed throughout the remainder of the war.
On 1 June, therefore, Van Fleet ordered his reserve forces to strengthen KANSAS so as to make it virtually impregnable. Meanwhile the I and IX Corps were to continue Operation PILEDRIVER toward Line WYOMING (the bulge north of KANSAS that ran from the Imjin River to points just south of Ch'orwon and Kumhwa and thence southeast). Ch'orwon and Kumhwa were captured on 11 June. Two tankinfantry task forces reached Pyongyang, the northern tip of the Iron Triangle, on 13 June and found it deserted. The dominating high ground north of the city was held by the enemy, however, and U.N. forces withdrew. The Chinese reoccupied P'yongyang on 17 June. Meanwhile the X Corps on the eastcentral front pushed through mountains toward its sector of the KANSAS Line, which extended over a series of ridges from the Hwach'on Reservoir northeastward to the lower lip of the "Punchbowl," an aptly named circular depression north of Inje. Thus by midJune the Eighth Army had attained the principal terrain objectives of Operation PILEDRIVER. Action for the rest of the month was confined to developing the KANSAS and WYOMING Lines, and to patrolling and local clashes.
THE PERIOD 23 JUNE 1951—31 DECEMBER 1952. Truce Negotiations. On 23 June 1951 Jacob Malik, Deputy Foreign Minister of the U.S.S.R., made
statement in recorded broadcast in New York implying Chinese and North Korean willingness to discuss armistice terms to end the Korean War. When Communist China indicated that it also desired peace, President Truman authorized General Ridgway to arrange for an armistice conference with the North Korean commander. Both sides agreed to begin negotiations at Kaesong on 10 July 1951. The chief delegate for the U.N. at the conference was Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy. The enemy delegation was led by Lt. Gen. Nam Il.
It was agreed at the first meeting that military operations would continue until an armistice agreement was signed. However, neither side was willing to start any large-scale offensive while peace talks were in progress. U.N. military action in this period was limited to combat patrolling, artillery and air bombardment, and the repulsing of enemy attacks (U.N. Summer-Fall Offensive_9 July to 27 November 1951).
In August of 1951 the strength of all U.N. ground forces under Eighth Army command totaled 549,224. This included 248,320 U.S. ground troops, Army and Marines, 268,320 in the ROK Army, and 32,874 in the ground units of the seventeen other United Nations.
Truce negotiations were broken off by the Communists on 22 August. Van Fleet then launched a series of limitedobjective attacks to improve the Eighth Army's defensive positions. The U.S. X and ROK I Corps in east-central Korea fought for terrain objectives five to seven miles above Line KANSAS, among them Bloody and Heartbreak Ridges, to drive enemy forces from positions that favored an attack on Line KANSAS. By the last week in October these objectives had been secured.
Along the western portion of the front, action in September was characterized by local attacks, counterattacks, and combat patrols. By 12 October five divisions of the I Corps had advanced the front three to four miles to a new Line JAMESTOWN to protect the Ch'orwon-Seoul railroad. The IX Corps followed with aggressive patrolling toward Kumsong. On 21 October it seized the commanding heights just south of the city.
On 25 October armistice negotiations were resumed at the new site of Panmunjom.
Stalemate. As 1951 drew to a close, a lull had settled over the battlefield. Fighting tapered off to a routine of patrol clashes, raids, and bitter smallunit struggles for key outpost positions. The lull resulted from Ridgway's decision to halt offensive operations in Korea, because the cost of major assaults on the enemy's defenses would be more than the results could justify. Furthermore, the possibility of an armistice agreement emerging from the recently
reopened talks ruled out the mounting of any large-scale offensive by either side. On 21 November Ridgway ordered the Eighth Army to cease offensive operations and begin an active defense of its front. Attacks were limited to those necessary to strengthen the main line of resistance and to establish an adequate outpost line (Second Korean Winter-28 November 1951 to 30 April 1952).
In the third week of December the U.S. 45th Division, the first National Guard division to fight in Korea, replaced the 1st Cavalry Division in the I Corps sector north of Seoul. The 1st Cavalry Division returned to Japan.
In the air, U.N. bombers and fighterbombers continued the interdiction campaign (Operation STRANGLE, which the Far East Air Forces had begun on 15 August 1951) against railroad tracks, bridges, and highway traffic. At sea, naval units of nine nations tightened their blockade around the coastline of North Korea. Carrier-based planes blasted railroads, bridges, and boxcars, and destroyers bombarded enemy gun emplacements and supply depots. On the ground, the 155-mile front remained generally quiet in the opening days of 1952. Later in January the Eighth Army opened a month-long artillery-air campaign against enemy positions, which forced the enemy to dig in deeply. During March and April Van Fleet shifted his units along the front to give the ROK Army a greater share in defending the battle line and to concentrate American fire power in the vulnerable western sector.
In May the enemy became bolder, increasing his probing attacks and patrols, intensifying his artillery fire, and aggressively interrupting U.N. patrols (Korea, Summer-Fall 1952–1 May to 30 November 1952). In May 1952 an estimated total of 102,000 artillery and mortar rounds fell in Eighth Army positions.
a result of increased Chinese ground action in the 45th Division sector, the division planned an operation to establish eleven patrol bases across its front. Operation COUNTER began on 6 June. By the 7th, ten of the eleven objectives had been taken. The last one (Hill 191, eight miles west of Ch'orwon)
was captured after a 48-hour battle on 14 June. The Chinese immediately launched counterattacks along the entire division front, climaxing their efforts on the night of 28-29 June with an unsuccessful 4-hour attack. The division sustained over 1,000 casualties during the month of June; Chinese losses were estimated at more than 5,000.
Throughout the first half of 1952, the U.N. forces waged a war of containment. The frontline soldier, meanwhile, hoped that the armistice negotiators would soon reach an agreement.
As the Korean War went into its third year, in June 1952, the deadlock continued. July began with a series of small-scale attacks by both sides. Torrential rains restricted activity in the last week of July and through most of August. For some time the enemy had gradually increased the volume of mortar and artillery fire in support of his attacks, and in September fired a total of 45,000 rounds against the Eighth Army's front.
During the summer of 1952 the air
war over Korea intensified. In addition to striking at supply centers, troop concentrations, power plants, factories, and rail and road networks, U.N. aircraft rendered valuable assistance to frontline troops by bombing, or searing with napalm, enemy bunkers, trenches, gun positions, and communications lines. On 29 August the largest U.N. air raid of the Korean War was carried out on P'yongyang, the North Korean capital. During the month of September alone the U.S. Fifth Air Force shot down 64 MIG-15's at a cost of seven Sabrejets.
A series of enemy attacks in October 1952 produced some of the heaviest fighting in more than a year. Most of it centered around two key heights, Hills 281 and 395, northwest of Ch'orwon. The attacks were opened on 6 October with the largest volume of mortar and artillery fire received by the Eighth Army during the war. By 15 October the disputed ground was held firmly by U.N. forces, and the enemy withdrew. Over 2,000 Chinese dead were counted on these two hills after the 10-day battle.
Meanwhile the armistice talks had
stalled. Discord over several issues, but principally the exchange of prisoners of war, had prevented any agreement in the latter part of 1951. This disagreement was heightened in January 1952. The U.N. delegates proposed to give captives a choice of repatriation, so that those who did not wish to return to Communist control could be repatriated elsewhere. The enemy delegates protested vigorously, insisting that all captives held by the Eighth Army be returned to their side. When the enemy failed to respond to U.N. efforts to settle the question, the U.N. delegation on 7 October called an indefinite recess in the armistice negotiations. Both military operations and armistice talks remained stalemated and, as the year 1952 ended, peace prospects seemed as remote as at its beginning. (Third Korean Winter1 December 1952 to 30 April 1953.)
END OF THE WAR. There was little activity anywhere along the front as 1953 began. Then, as spring approached, the enemy renewed his attacks against the Eighth Army's outpost line. By July these attacks had increased in frequency and intensity until they were nearly as heavy as those of May 1951.
In January 1953 Van Fleet had twelve South Korean and eight U.N. divisions to defend the army front. Total strength of combat, service, and security troops was nearly 768,000. Opposing the U.N. forces were seven Chinese armies and two North Korean corps, totaling about 270,000 troops. Another 531,000 Chinese and North Korean troops remained in reserve. With service and security forces, total enemy strength in Korea was estimated at more than a million men.
Other than a few patrol clashes, little fighting occurred during January and February 1953. On 11 February Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor took command of the Eighth Army as Van Fleet returned to the United States for retirement. The enemy increased his attacks during March, striking at outposts of the 2d and 7th Divisions and the 1st Marine Regiment. During the period 9-10 March the Chinese were successful in ambushing several U.N. patrols, inflicting heavy casualties in each instance. After these flare-ups the front quieted down until late May, when the enemy struck at the
outposts of the U.S. 25th Division that were guarding the approaches to the Eighth Army's western positions. Al. though the enemy was successful in occupying three of the division outposts, he suffered nearly 3,200 casualties (Korea, Summer-Fall-1 May to 27 July 1953).
On the night of 10 June three Chinese divisions struck the ROK II Corps in the vicinity of Kumsong, attacking down both sides of the Pukhan River. Several attacks forced these units to withdraw about two miles. Both sides lost heavily; the Chinese suffered about 6,000 casualties and the ROK units about 7,400. By 18 June the attacks had subsided. By the end of the month, action along the entire front had returned to routine patrolling and light attacks.
Operation LITTLE SWITCH, an exchange of Allied and Communist sick and wounded prisoners, began on 20 April. When it was completed in the latter part of the month, 684 Allied prisoners had been exchanged for more than 6,000 Communists.
Armistice negotiations were resumed in April. The prisoner-of-war question was settled by providing each side an opportunity to persuade those captives who refused repatriation to their homeland to change their minds. By 18 June the terms of the armistice were all but complete; but on this date President Syngman Rhee ordered the release of 27,000 anti-Communist North Korean prisoners of war unilaterally, in protest against armistice terms which left Korea divided. U.N. officials disclaimed any responsibility for this action; but the enemy delegates denounced it as serious breach of faith and delayed the final armistice agreement for another month. Enemy forces took advantage of this delay. On 13 July the Chinese launched a three-division attack against the left flank of the ROK II Corps and a one-division attack against the right flank of the U.S. IX Corps, forcing U.N. forces to withdraw about eight miles to positions below the Kumsong River. By 20 July, however, U.N. forces had counterattacked, retaken the high ground along the Kumsong River, and established a new main line of resistance. No attempt was made to restore