FORCE TO  KOREA (1950-1955)
The war in Korea, according to my late father, Johnny Villasanta, was easy to describe. It involved charging up one hill, up another, up the next and the next one after that. Of course, he was oversimplifying but any Korean War veteran will probably tell you the same thing.

War in
Korea was essentially mountain warfare. This fact was dictated by Korea’s geography: three quarters mountainous with only a fifth of the land arable or flat. Eastern Korea is dominated by towering mountain ranges that run in an almost north to south direction. Most major cities, including Seoul (capital of South Korea) and Pyongyang (capital of North Korea), are in the western, less mountainous part of the country and within easy reach of the coast. The few major highways during the war were mostly in western Korea and ran through valleys dominated by hills and mountains.

The battles in this war show a consistent effort by both sides to seize and hold high ground. High ground enabled one side to outflank his enemy; to rain shells on him at leisure or to deny him mobility. In this war as in World Wars 1 and 2, possession of higher ground could destroy or save the lives of thousands of men.

And there was the Korean weather: as hot as the Philippines during the dry season, just as rainy but terribly cold during winter, a season the Philippines doesn’t have. The winter of 1950, the year the 10th BCT served in Korea, was the coldest in two centuries with temperatures falling to minus 30 degrees Centigrade and lower. Despite this sub-arctic climate, the “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army" (CPV) entered in the war, triggering a series of bloody battles in the snow that led to the UNC defeat at the Yalu River.

The men of PEFTOK acclimatized as best as they could to the painful winter cold but not as quickly as the Americans or other contingents whose countries had a winter season. Since the Philippines is without snow, Filipino soldiers had to contend with winter related afflictions (such as frostbite and chilblains) that were totally alien to their experience. My father related an incident in which he and some men of the 10th BCT were on a truck making its way behind the front. Winter had just set in and the Filipinos in the truck were bundled in thick parkas, jackets and blankets. They passed a group of American artillerymen playing football. Some of these boys had taken off their jackets. Some were naked from the waist up; others were wearing shirts or undershirts. On seeing the shivering Filipinos, one GI yelled something like: “What’s the matter? Can’t stand a little cold?” The other GIs burst out laughing.

The defeat of the NKPA
When the 10th BCT shipped to Korea on 15 September 1950, the situation at the war front was taking a decisive and dramatic turn in favor of the UNC.

Outwardly, the UNC remained penned inside the “Pusan Perimeter,” a 140-mile long last ditch defense line it had doggedly defended against the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) since early August. While keeping the NKPA at bay, the UNC continued to receive reinforcements (mainly American) by sea through the port city of Pusan. The UNC would probably have lost Pusan in the first few days of the war if an alert warship of the ROK Navy hadn’t sunk the troopship carrying the NKPA battalion assigned to capture Pusan.

The first non-American UNC combat contingent arrived in August: the British 27th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade from Hong Kong consisting of units from Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. By September, the UNC had gained a numerical superiority over the NKPA in men and a huge superiority in artillery and tanks. The UNC had complete air supremacy.

Uncoordinated attacks by the NKPA against the Pusan Perimeter continued to fail against a strengthening defense. On the other hand, massive UNC shelling inflicted growing casualties on the attacking NKPA while unremitting air strikes pummeled reinforcements and supplies along supply routes extending back to North Korea, which was also repeatedly bombed.

September 15, the day the 10th left Manila Bay, saw heavy fighting along the length of the Pusan Perimeter. The fighting diverted the attention of the NKPA away from a greater danger to their rear. That morning, the US X Corps (two divisions) made a surprise amphibious landing at the port city of Inch’on on the Yellow Sea. Inch’on, 25 miles west of Seoul and behind the NKPA lines, was considered an unlikely location for an amphibious assault as its 30 foot tides were the second highest in the world. It was precisely for this reason that MacArthur chose it as the site for his boldest military gamble.

Pushing rapidly eastward, the Americans cut the communications of all 14 NKPA divisions attacking the Pusan Perimeter and re-took Seoul on 29 September. The tide of battle was quickly turned and the NKPA divisions besieging Pusan trapped. On 16 September, the US Eighth Army burst out of the Pusan Perimeter and scattered the NKPA divisions facing them after hard fighting. The NKPA fled. By the end of September, the NKPA ceased to exist as an organized fighting force in South Korea.

Only some 30,000 of the 135,000 men in the NKPA that invaded South Korea on 25 June scrambled back home, mainly by way of the rugged eastern mountains. More than 30,000 NKPA regulars, however, were left behind in the south by the rapid NKPA retreat. Some of these filtered back northwards; others deserted while still others opted to continue fighting as guerillas. On 27 September, US President
Harry Truman gave MacArthur permission to cross into North Korea to destroy remnants of the NKPA.

Chinese intervention
The possibility of an end to the Korean War in 1950, however, was counterbalanced by the grim prospect of Communist Chinese intervention. A continuation of the UNC advance into North Korea brought both major UNC commands, the US Eighth Army in western Korea and the US X Corps in eastern Korea, closer to the North Korean border with the communist People’s Republic of China (PROC). One Chinese source said it was the threat that this advance posed to the integrity of the PROC (established only in 1949 after a brutal civil war) that decided the PROC in favor of intervention in Korea. On 2 October,
Mao Zedong told Josef Stalin that the PROC would fight in Korea. (continued next page)
This web site was created, written and is maintained by Art Villasanta.
Copyright 2000 by Art Villasanta. This web site is being continuously updated.
Home "Poor as we are . . . " One of the first to fight |   War in Korea   |   10th BCT |    20th BCT |   19th BCT |   14th BCT 2nd BCT |   Johnny Villasanta    |   Art VillasantaInformationals | Trainsagain