No other battle during 1952 in the Korean War could match the Battle for White Horse Mountain, otherwise known as Hill 395, either in voracity or intensity. This action goes largely unaccounted for in the annals of American military history from the Korean War. Why? Mainly because it was a battle between the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army and the CCF (Chinese Communist Forces). The extent of involvement by United Nations units was regulated to armor units, artillery battalions, and other support units. The defense of White Horse Mountain was in the hands of the commander of IX Corps, Lt. Gen. Reuben E. Jenkins. IX Corps was tipped off about an impending attack in the White Horse area when a Chinese Officer had surrendered to the ROKs in the area of Observation Post 'Roger', which was located on Hill 284, a small hill mass on the right of White Horse, and which overlooked a portion of the Chorwon Valley. The American artillery Forward Observer, 2nd Lt. Paul Braner of the 213th Field Artillery Battalion brought the prisoner to the attention of IX Corps after he discovered that the ROKs were torturing the prisoner not far from his bunker;
UN Forces : By this time during the fighting in Korea, the war had started to become known as the 'Artillery War' because of the heavy use of artillery by UN forces to defend the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). General Jenkins brought in what support he could to be prepared for the supposed upcoming assault. The 213th Field Artillery Battalion, which was in position behind White Horse at the time supporting the ROK infantry, became by default a central player in the defense of the mountain. Realizing that the UN must hold White Horse at all costs, IX Corps and ROK I Corps artillery units began to immediately reposition to fire on and support White Horse. The 213th along with the 955th Field Artillery Battalion fired the 155mm split-trail 'towed' howitzer, which was the most prominent artillery weapon of the war. The 937th Field Artillery Battalion was brought in, they fired the 155mm 'Gun', commonly known as the 'Long-Tom'. These weapons fired the same shell as the 155mm towed howitzer, but had additional range. The 424th Field Artillery Battalion was then added, and they provided the 'heavies', the 8-inch howitzer, perfect for bunker busting, they had range and 'punch'. Additional units from IX Corps were the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, the 2nd Rocket Field Artillery Battery, and the 140th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. The 140th fired a 'quad-.50' weapon, which in essence was four .50 caliber machine-guns linked together on the back of a truck. These weapons were used to 'sweep' hillsides with machine-gun fire, a very effective weapon. Three ROK artillery battalions, the 30th, 51st and 52nd Field Artillery's, were also moved into position. The ROK battalions fired the 105mm towed howitzer, which was the close-support weapon of choice in Korea. All of this firepower was there for one reason; to help the ROK infantry stop the Chinese assault.
Even though this was an artillery war, the brunt of defense was still up to the infantry to slug it out, trench by trench. By 1952, the ROK Army had started to show it's transformation from a rag-tag group of inexperienced men who would 'bug-out' when faced with a fight, to a professional force of seasoned soldiers. The defense of the mountain was a test they could not fail. The 9th ROK Division's 30th, 29th, and 28th Regiments, roughly 12,000 men, which were in possession of the strategic hill, where in place and were ready. The 30th ROK Regiment was positioned directly across the crest of the hill. The 29th and the attached 51st ROK Regiments were in direct support on the MLR, located on the backside of the hill, and the 28th ROK Regiment was held in reserve. Finally, three tank battalions were assigned to cover the underlying valleys on each side of the mountain. The U.S. 73rd and 140th Tank Battalions, and the ROK 53rd. The American tank battalions were armed with the M46 tank and 90mm gun, and the 53rd ROK, had the M24 tank and 75mm gun. These tank battalions were used not only to support the infantry, but also to regularly run up each valley, raise havoc, and pull back to keep the Chinese on their toes.
The reason why the 213th Field Artillery became the 'lynch pin' for the whole support unit participation in the battle was due to its position behind White Horse and the position of its Observation Posts, or 'OPs'. Each artillery battalion utilized OPs and Forward Observers, they were the eyes and ears of the battalion, and were the defenders of the infantry. Each Forward Observer, or 'FO' team, consisted of an officer who was the FO, a reconnaissance sergeant, and a radio operator. These three man teams served on the front lines, operated independently, and had direct contact with their respective battalions behind the MLR. The 213th had two established Observation Posts at the time of the battle, one nicknamed 'Love' for 'OP Left', which was situated literally on the forward most point of White Horse Mountain, and had a commanding view of the entire valley. The second OP was on Hill 284, OP Roger (for right) to the right of White Horse, and additionally had a third OP with the French Battalion on Hill 278, which was on the left of the mountain. The other artillery units also had OPs within the battle area, but none had as commanding a view of the battle than did the 213th's. Throughout the raging battle, the 213th's two FO teams on OP's Love and Roger manned the only two effective OP's in the entire forward zone of action.
Chinese Forces (CCF): The task of taking White Horse was assigned to the 38th CCF Army. A Chinese Army was roughly equivalent to a US Corps in Korea. The 38th CCF was a battle hardened army comprised of divisions who had been fighting for some time in Korea. The Chorwon Valley was always considered to be a direct route to Seoul, the South Korean capital. The Chinese plan was simple; to hit hard and drive a wedge into the UN lines, then punch those lines with even more troops to push on to Seoul and eventually take the capital. White Horse was the key to the whole plan. Capturing White Horse meant capturing Seoul in the eyes of the Chinese. This was to be considered an extremely important move, if the Chinese could capture Seoul, it would send a message to the UN and South Korea that they (the Chinese) and North Korea were a force to be reckoned with at the Truce table. The slightest bit of ground given by either side was used as form of maneuver during the Truce talks, and the taking of Seoul would be considered a 'feather in the hat' for the communists. It is important to note that no North Korean forces participated in this battle , yet it is considered one of the largest single battles of the entire war. This was a solely Chinese creation and undertaking, which in hind sight shows the dominance of the Chinese government in supporting it's bordering North Korean 'neighbors'.
The 38th CCF Army was comprised of the 114th and 113th Divisions with the 112th Division in reserve. The 114th supplied the brunt of the attacking force with the 340th and 342nd Regiments, and had the 341st Regiment in reserve. The 113th Division, comprised of the 337th and 338th Regiments, and the 339th in reserve, were also part of the attacking force. The entire 112th Division, which was comprised of the 334th, 335th, and 336th Regiments was held in Army reserve for the battle, but soon they too were committed in the desperate attempt made by the CCF. Miscellaneous units rounded out the formation, everything from infantry to armor to artillery. The Chinese were years behind the US and UN when it came to using artillery, most of which was outdated Russian weapons like the 76mm gun. The support weapon of choice by the Chinese was the mortar, of which they used the 122mm, 81mm, and 61mm versions. Roughly 23,000 infantry troops, plus 8,000 armor/artillery troops, plus another 10,000 men who served as ammo and liter bearers, were all gathered for one purpose; to take White Horse.
The Stage is Set…
On the evening of October 6th, while the infantry were in place and ready, most of the support artillery units had finished pre-registering their weapons (firing and adjusting on coordinates to ensure they were sighted in properly) and were settling in for evening chow. The first rounds of the Chinese began to come in, not just on the infantry defending White Horse, but also on the support units behind the MLR. This continued shelling went on for the entire length of the fight. The Chinese knew that they needed to knock out the UN artillery if they wanted any chance of winning the fight. An artillery battalion officer told a war correspondent the morning after a particularly heavy shelling the previous night, 'It seemed as if the Chinese had a radio right in the middle of our firing batteries !' A report of the night before showed that one of the perimeter guards had spotted what he thought was a flicker of light on the secondary defensive line a quarter mile behind the Battalion's area. This area was supposed to be unoccupied, so they sent a patrol to investigate and found pieces of rice cakes and other Chinese rations.
The crest of White Horse exchanged hands no less than ten times in ten days of fighting between the ROKs and the Chinese. The valiant efforts of the ROK infantry and the tremendous fire delivered by the artillery battalions were the deciding factor in stopping the determined attack on the mountain. At one point during the first day of the battle, the Chinese overran the 213th Field Artillery Battalion's OP 'Love', but the FO team held their post, and called in artillery fire upon their own position.
The battle begins…
Day 1, October 6th 1952
The outright ferociousness of the fighting started on the first day, and continued thought out the battle. During one nine hour period on the first day, Baker Battery of the 213th alone fired over 1500 rounds, averaging 1 round every 2 minutes per howitzer. The battery consisted of 6 howitzers. The US 36th Searchlight Company was assigned the task of battlefield illumination. This would be augmented by planes dropping flares and the artillery battalions firing 'illumination' missions, which were artillery shells that were larges flares that were fired and ignited high over the battle area and drifted down to earth via a parachute. And last but not least, pilots from the 5th Air Force were assigned to fly suppression missions in the rear marshalling areas of the Chinese. The US/UN was as serious about keeping White Horse as the Chinese were at taking it. On the evening of the 6th, as darkness started to settle in, the two lead attacking battalions of the 342nd CCF, covered by the prepatory artillery and mortar barrage on the forward slope and crest of White Horse, moved into position. When they were in position, they began their attack. Charging up the slopes of White Horse, these battalions were cut to pieces by small arms fire, napalm, which was rolled down the slopes by the ROK infantrymen, and the concentrated fire coming from eight artillery battalions. The Chinese troops fell back under the pressure, regrouping what was left of the assaulting battalions, which now made up company size units, and again attempted to take the crest. They were able to make a small dent in the ROK lines, and even pushed some of the ROK infantry off of the crest. Both sides suffered greatly on the first day. As quoted in William Russell's book 'Ten Days at White Horse'; "At the close of the first day's action, some 500 dead Chinese soldiers littered the forward slopes of White Horse. The ROKs listed 300 killed and wounded. It was a bloody beginning."
Diversionary attacks took place across the IX Corps lines in an attempt to hide the real prize, White Horse. With heavy prepatory artillery fires, company and battalion size attacks hit on both sides of the mountain. In the annals of US Army military history, this is where the Battle of White Horse falls in, as a footnote to US Army actions surrounding Hill 281 (Arrowhead Ridge) and the Alligator Jaws, which were to the left of White Horse, and to Hill 391 (Jackson Heights), which was to the right. It is interesting to note that the 9th ROK Division sector recorded over 12,000 rounds of artillery hitting their lines on just this first day of battle, more than for the entire previous month.
Day 2, October 7th 1952
By noon of the second day, the CCF was ready to try again. The remaining troops of the initial assault force, reinforced with fresh troops, again moved up the forward slope of the hill. This time they were able to take the forward most ROK outpost on the hill, held by one company of the 30th ROK Regiment. The outpost was surrounded and cut off, and the ROKs battled throughout the day to rescue them. By evening, they were lost. Late in the evening, two ROK battalions that were in reserve stormed up the hill and drove the Chinese out of their trenches and back down the slopes of White Horse. Enemy and ROK casualties were mounting, with some CCF units being reported at only 20% of their initial strength.
Day 3, October 8th 1952
The diversionary actions on the flanks of White Horse had lost steam by now, with both sides openly acknowledging that White Horse Mountain was the main target of the Chinese attack. Early in the morning, the CCF lined up three battalions, one to replenish those in positions on or near the hill, and two to assault the hill, this for the 4th time in three days. At one point late in the day on day three, a ROK lieutenant radioed angrily to the rear after hearing radio rumors that the ROK infantry had been thrown off the mountain "Who reports that the enemy has the top of White Horse? We are still here! Send us grenades and machine gun ammunition. We will remain! " Artillery on both sides continued to pound each other's positions, with thousands of rounds being exchanged, not just on the crest and slopes, but also on the supporting artillery and armor units. The ever popular term 'counter-battery fire' was given and received by these artillery battalions many times over. Bravery of another sort was also evident in these units. While the ROK infantry was battling it out, sometimes in hand-to hand fighting on the hill, the gun crews would be at their posts, firing their howitzers as enemy artillery shells rained down on their positions. No one, to a man, left his post for the safety of a bunker.
Day 4, October 9th 1952
The Chinese made another push for the summit of White Horse early in the morning of day 4, and were successful in pushing the ROK infantry back down the rear slopes of the hill. Massive concentrated artillery fire was used to halt the advance. The ROK infantry regrouped, and bloody hand-to-hand combat ensued. By mid-day, the 29th ROK Regiment, led by its regimental executive officer, took the hill and killed all remaining Chinese on the crest. There was unexpectedly light resistance, but massive CCF artillery fire pushed them back. The see-saw battle was taking its toll on both sides, but the CCF troops were taking the worst of it. UN artillery was proving its devastating power in this fight, and was earning its namesake 'The King of Battle'. As the CCF prepared to assault the hill yet again, U.S. artillery Forward Observers saw troops marshalling in an assembly area north of the hill, and a decision was made to fire a massive 'Time on Target', or 'ToT'. The 2nd Infantry Division Artillery, or DIVARTY, was contacted and after coordination of eight artillery battalions, the order was given to "Time on Target, three rounds 155mm, eight rounds 105mm " with the coordinates of the unsuspecting Chinese. The devastation was massive and complete, two whole CCF infantry battalions literally ceased to exist. By the end of the 4th day of fighting, the ROK infantry still controlled the crest of White Horse.
Day 5, October 10th 1952
By now, the tactics of the CCF were quite evident. The incredulous use of the Chinese infantry by their commanders in 'human wave' attacks can not be explained, other than they obviously thought that the onrush of thousands of screaming infantry sometimes rushing through their own artillery barrages was a mental and physical sight that would scare the ROKs into retreating. It did not. It was also by this time suspected that the CCF were supplying their troops with drugs 'dope' to make them crazed and carefree enough to throw their lives away in bloody onrushes. Sometimes the overwhelming sea of men did push the ROKs off of the crest, but they always came back. The see-saw battle went on.
Continued attempts to flank White Horse were met with murderous tank and artillery fire, and were stopped. Early on the 10th, the CCF 334th and 342nd Regiments began yet another assault, which pushed the ROK infantry off the crest of the hill, only to be themselves pushed off the crest a few hours later by two battalions of the 29th ROK Regiment. Back and forth the deadly game continued, troops on both sides sometimes occupying and abandoning the same positions three and four times, all in the span of one day. UN and CCF artillery pounded the crest and positions all over White Horse, turning the mountain into a surreal barren landscape. By now, the battle was described as "a free for all…with artillery shaking the hill like a volcano ".
Day 6, October 11th 1952
IX Corps decided to attempt to ease the pressure off of the main attack area of the battle. In the early morning hours of the 11th, companies of the 140th Tank Battalion and 51st ROK Infantry Regiment moved through friendly lines onto the plain on the right side of the hill. When they reached about 500 yards into no-man's-land they opened fire on CCF positions on the forward slopes of White Horse and other positions northeast of the MLR. As they were doing this, another company of the 73rd Tank Battalion and a company of the 30th ROK Infantry Regiment moved forward on the left side of the mountain, past the French Battalion on Hill 278, and began additional harassing fire on CCF positions. The Chinese were relentless though, committing another battalion, made up of remnants of the 335th and 336th CCF Regiments, to the fight on the crest. Captain James Holton, a U.S. Army PIO reporter (Public Information Office) who was covering the battle, filed this report on late in the evening on October 11th "Only moans of wounded and screams of men being knifed and blasts of occasional grenade(s) can be heard. Friend often grasps nearby figure to determine if friend. Sometimes ROKs using trick: Yank off headgear of opponent to feel head and determine if hair shaved. " The casualties on both sides were steadily mounting.
Day 7, October 12th 1952
On the 7th day of battle, Baker Battery of the 213th Field Artillery Battalion recorded firing over 300 rounds, which was roughly 50 rounds per artillery 'tube', in one hour during one particular fire mission. Such was the ferociousness of White Horse. Even after seven days, the CCF leadership refused to give up the fight, and became more committed than ever to taking White Horse. Three battalions of the 336th CCF were sent into the fray. To counter this, the ROKs committed two battalions of the 30th ROK Regiment. By mid morning, a fierce small arms and machine gun battle was raging, and by the afternoon the ROKs eventually pushed the CCF approximately 50 yards down the forward slope of the hill. Both sides dug in, stubbornly holding onto what positions they had. Artillery from both sides continued to pound the hill and supporting units behind the MLR.
Day 8, October 13th 1952
Now into the second week of fighting, the sense that the tide was turning was there. Over the course of the previous night into the early morning, the ROKs repelled three separate attacks, and then went on the offensive. The 28th ROK Regiment 'leapfrogged' over the 30th ROK Regiment, who were in control of the crest and partially of the forward slope, and began to hit the Chinese hard on the western end of the hill. Because of the repeated repulsing of CCF units on and around White Horse, they attempted to probe UN lines further to the right, bordering the 9th ROK and 7th U.S. Infantry Division sectors. In U.S. Army history, these probing attacks are recorded as separate incidents, but in reality were part of the bigger battle for White Horse. This also could be looked at as too little too late by the CCF leadership, having expended most of their fighting force on the actual Hill 395, having been thwarted repeatedly, now making a minor effort at an 'end run' flanking movement.
General Jenkins again played a successful deception on the Chinese forces on the 13th. Using the 64th Tank Battalion and elements of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, he had these units cross into enemy territory on the far right sector of the 9th ROK Division, bordering the Kumwha Valley area. In broad daylight, with the same intent as used previously, these units shot up the enemy positions around them and caused the CCF to hold reinforcements and artillery off of White Horse in case the UN pushed a further advance. The deception worked, the CCF was fooled completely.
By the end of the 8th day of battle, there were over 8,400 enemy dead counted on the slopes of White Horse Mountain and surrounding area.
Day 9, October 14th 1952
The ROKs continued their push, this time on the right side of the hill, and into the morning of the 14th elements of the 29th ROK Regiment overran two platoons of Chinese troops that were on the northern slopes. The Chinese, desperately not wanting to give up any ground, committed reinforcements of the 335th and 336th CCF Regiments. By the afternoon, the 3rd Battalion of the 29th ROK Regiment was added to the mix, and that combined with heavy direct fire from tanks on the east side of the hill stemmed the rush. The Chinese still held some ground on White Horse, and were in a decisive moment, to either continue to commit their men to a slaughter, or to give up the hopeless fight and prepare for another day. The CCF units were still full of fight, but with some companies with as little as 15-20 available men, these groups almost were ceasing to exist as fighting units. The ROKs, themselves also hard pressed with battle weary men, decided to dig in at 'Objective A' which was a line north of the crest of the mountain.
Day 10, October 15th 1952
This day held the last, final act of this horrible play. At dawn, units of the 112th CCF Division, which had replaced the 114th CCF Division, got into a bitter hand to hand struggle with the ROKs holding Objective A. By mid-morning, it was over and the ROKs had completely held onto their positions. Sensing victory, the 29th ROK Regiment was ordered to sweep the entire hill, and forced all remaining Chinese to withdraw down the forward slopes of White Horse and back across the MLR. The battle had ended…
Today, in Seoul Korea, in the National War Museum, there is a bronze statue called 'The Ten Human Bombs'. This bronze monument is of ten ROK infantrymen who are considered the heroes of White Horse. Their company at one point was being forced off of the top of White Horse, and these ten men rallied the men around them and literally dove into the face of the enemy to save the crest and their unit. The importance that South Korea places on and gives the Battle of White Horse Mountain cannot be overlooked. It is considered one of the greatest achievements by the ROK Army during the whole war, and in truth, it was, not only for them, but for the UN. The 9th ROK Division was renamed after the battle, and forever after was, and is, known as the White Horse Division.
The Chinese paid dearly for the attempt on White Horse. Total CCF dead and wounded was estimated at 9,500 men, roughly 1/3 of the entire attacking force. Many of these casualties were troops that did not even make it to the slopes of White Horse, they were killed by overwhelming artillery fire and tank fire before they could begin their assaults. ROK losses were considerably lighter, which can partially be attributed to battle hardening of troops, training, and experience. The ROKs reported over 3,300 casualties, of which 500 were listed as killed in action. U.S. and ROK artillery and tank fire played an extremely important part in the defense of the hill. Firepower was certainly on the side of the UN, while troop strength was the key to CCF success. When the UN firepower and experience went head to head with brunt Chinese force, the UN came out on top. There were eight artillery battalions firing for the UN. Each averaged 15,000 to 20,000 rounds fired in ten days. One battalion, the 213th fired over 26,000 rounds. All of this amounted to over 150,000 rounds of artillery being fired by the UN. The Chinese launched 28 separate attacks and counter-attacks to take Hill 395, all of which eventually met with failure. The Chinese would need to look for another route to Seoul.
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