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Through the Camera Lens:
The Korean War (4)

3 July 2010

November 25 - December 24, 1950:
The Second Phase of Counter Offensive

[1] [2] [3] [4]


In late November 1950, PVA's 38th Army was ready for Offensive Campaign Phase II and got into the position for carrying out ambush attacks on the US force.


On November 24, the Home-by-Christmas Offensive was launched by the US and South Korean Force with the US 8th Army assaulting northwest front of North Korea, and the US X Corps attacking along North Korean east coast, with the goal to conquer the North Korea in the entirety.


On the night of November 25, PVA launched counter attack, hitting the 8th Army's center and right. The Worst defeat in U.S. military history was thus unfolding.


The U.S. 9th Infantry Regiment was one of the hardest hit units and could only account for one-half of its assigned members next day.


The heavy fighting continued for several days. Then the PVA advanced along the snowy mountain ranges in the weather condition of minus 30 towards the Chongchon River.


The PVA proved themselves masters of infiltration by moving mainly at night, skillfully covering their tracks and taking full advantage of the US and South Korean armies' thinly-manned front and inadequate patrolling.


Having over-ran South Korean Army divisions in the vicinity of the Chongchon River, the PVA advanced to struck the back flank of the US X Corps.


The U.S. 1st Marine Division had to shoot its way down from Yudam-Ni, in face of the strong attack of PVA 40th Army. And Chinese decided to block their retreat.


Chinese soldiers quickly positioned themselves on the hilltop overlooking the mountain road leading to the sea.

On November 27, 1950, they fell on U.S. 1st Marine Division and two battalions of the 7th Division retiring from the Chongchon River and stormed a nearby U.S. Army task force which was almost wiped out.


Just in a few days, the PVA onslaught had reversed the military situation on the battleground completely. They destroyed several South Korean divisions, badly tore up the U.S. 2rd Division and forced the rest to flee southwards to escape a total destruction.

On 29 November, General MacArthur ordered UN force to withdraw from all fronts. By November 30, the PVA 13th Army Group had expelled the US 8th Army from northwest Korea.


What Americans and South Koreans left behind in the North Korea were a large quantity of armoured and unarmoured vehicles ...


Crashed choppers ...


The bodies of dead US and South Korean soldiers, with those survived becoming the prisoners of war ...


And big smile on the faces of the US captives since they were well fed, warmed clothed and kindly treated by the PVA.

After a group of US soldiers from 25th Regiment surrendered to Chinese troops, they happily gather together for a photo opportunity.


"We face an entirely new war," MacArthur notified Washington on November 28, 1950. On the following day he instructed General Walker of the US 8th Army to make whatever withdrawals necessary to escape being enveloped by Chinese force.

On December 6, PVA captured the North Korean capital Pyongyang and pursued the US 8th Army fleeing the town.

Over the following two weeks, the remaining US Marines battled their way to the port of Hungnam, from which they were evacuated by sea.

By December 15, US and South Korean forces were back at the 38th parallel where they began their military invasion.

On December 16, US President Truman declared a national emergency with Presidential Proclamation, which remained in force until 14 September 1978.

On December 23, the commanding General Walton Walker was killed in a car accident, and the morale of US force hit rock bottom.


Chinese Volunteers and North Koreans concluded the second phase counter offensive by joining forces at the east coast after delivered a crushing blow to US dream of the Home-by-Christmas (and they never recovered from the blow, not even by now).

The diagram indicates the second phase of PVA counter offensive operations that became the turning point of the Korean War. The red arrows represent PVA force and the black lines signify the UN(US) force. Over 36,000 UN military personnels were killed with over 30,700 casualties on PVA side.

[1] [2] [3] [4]

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How Americans View People's Volunteer Army

Initially, frontline PVA infantry had neither heavy artillery nor air support, but this did not work to their disadvantage; in How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War from Ancient Greece to the War on Terror (2003), Bevin Alexander explains why it was so:

The usual method was to infiltrate small units, from a platoon of fifty men to a company of 200, split into separate detachments. While one team cut off the escape route of the Americans, the others struck both the front and the flanks in concerted assaults. The attacks continued on all sides until the defenders were destroyed or forced to withdraw. The Chinese then crept forward to the open flank of the next platoon position, and repeated the tactics.



In South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, R.E. Appleman delineates the PVA’s encirclement attack:

Their attacks had demonstrated that the Chinese were well-trained, disciplined fire fighters, and particularly adept at night fighting. They were masters of the art of camouflage. Their patrols were remarkably successful in locating the positions of the UN forces. They planned their attacks to get in the rear of these forces, cut them off from their escape and supply roads, and then send in frontal and flanking attacks to precipitate the battle. They also employed a tactic, which they termed Hachi Shiki, which was a V-formation into which they allowed enemy forces to move; the sides of the V then closed around their enemy, while another force moved below the mouth of the V to engage any forces attempting to relieve the trapped unit.



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