35th INFANTRY  REGIMENT

KOREA

Back to Korea Index

By 19 September 1945, with the close of WWII, the first echelon of the Regiment was on the way to Japan for occupation duty. The original home base was in Nagoya, Japan. In January 1946, the regiment moved to Otsu, Japan, on Honshu Island, where the Regiment’s mission was occupation duty and keeping combat ready. The regiment remained here until 5 July 1950.

June 1950

On 25 June 1950, the North Korean "People’s Army" swarmed across the 38th Parallel in an unprovoked, surprise attack on the Republic of South Korea. Across the Sea of Japan, the atmosphere was laden with mounting tension, and all eyes were turned, with a look of grave concern, toward the enigmatic little peninsula lying to the west. At this time, the 35th Infantry "Cacti" Regiment was stationed in South-Central Honshu on occupation duty.

The implications of this invasion were brought home to the members of the 25th Division as they assisted in the processing of civilian evacuees brought to Japan from Korea. One thousand forty-four (1,044) of these civilians were provided billets, transportation, clothing, and medical or financial aid, if needed.

The United States 24th Infantry Division, then occupying the southernmost Japanese Island of Kyushu, was ordered to Korea to intervene in the fighting. On 1 July 1950, the order to move was received and the 2nd Battalion of the "Cacti" set out for the city of Kokura, on Kyushu, to form the 25th advance group. As the units of the 24th Infantry Division departed for Korea, the 35th moved into positions they vacated. The transfer was completed by 5 July.

July 1950

Pursuant to a radio message from the Eighth Army Commander, received early in the afternoon of 5 July, the 25th Infantry Division made preparations for moving to Pusan, Korea, to engage in an effort to halt the aggression. Several types of ships belonging to the various members of the United Nations Council were utilized to transport the Divisional units to Pusan.

Major General William B. Kean, 25th Infantry Division Commander, accompanied by the advance party of his staff, traveled by plane from Osaka to Pusan on 8 July 1950. Upon arrival at Pusan, Brigadier General Crump Garvin was contacted, and arrangements for the reception of the Division were completed. General Kean and a small party then flew to Taejon for a conference with Major General William F. Dean, Commander of all US Forces in Korea, and plans for the employment of the Division were discussed. Between 10 and 18 July 1950, the U.S. 25th Division, with its three regiments—24th, 27th, and 35th—arrived during 10–15 July 1950 at Pusan.

General Walker ordered the 25th to bolster ROK (Republic of Korea) defenses of the central mountain corridors. The Division’s initial objective was the relief of the 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. The zone of responsibility included as its left boundary the city of Taegu, and extended generally north and east to include Yechon. All approaches into this area were to be blocked. The mission included the defense of the airfield at Yonil and the port of Pohang Dong.

The first Division Command Post to be established in Korea was opened in the primary school building at Yongchon on 13 July 1950. Division CP personnel traveled via rail and motor from Pusan to Yongchon during the early morning hours, and in the small villages along the way, the native school children jubilantly waived American and South Korean flags and sang patriotic songs to welcome their allies. Banners of welcome to the UN Forces were stretched across the roads along the way.

On 13 July, the Cacti Regiment, with the direct support and the 64th Field Artillery, landed at Pusan, on the southern tip of Korea, to go into action against the Communists. Units of the Regiment were in action within a few hours after landing.

The 35th Infantry Regiment "Cacti", commanded by Colonel Henry G. Fisher, bivouaced in the vicinity of Yongchon. The next night, the Cacti moved into positions in the Pohang Dong area, with one battalion positioned near Kyong-ju. During the next critical weeks, the Regiment participated in the desperate fight to maintain the Pusan Defense Perimeter.

During the night of 15 July, the 35th RCT, now the 35th Infantry Regiment, moved from a bivouac area near Yongchon to positions in the vicinity of Pohang Dong and Kyong-ju.

On 20 July, the Division was ordered to assemble east of and astride the Hamchang-Sangju-Kumchon road, and to relieve the ROK 1st and 2nd Divisions in that zone. The zone was approximately twenty-seven (27) miles wide, and had to be defended by seven (7) battalions. Much of it could be covered only by reinforced patrols along the main avenues of approach. Movement was hampered by numerous obstacles, which included narrow roads, small bridges, rough, mountainous terrain, overtaxed rail traffic, and washouts of roads and bridges.

Several days of fighting—bitter, grueling fighting—ensued. The Division withstood repeated attacks by the numerically superior forces of a fanatical enemy. The battle in Korea, at this stage, was a fight against time and terrain until reinforcements could be brought in. The Tropic Lightning" Division was the first unit to withstand the pressure of the enemy armored columns and to slow them down.

Elements of five enemy divisions and one brigade were opposing the 25th Division. Total strength of these units was estimated at 30,800. Supporting this formidable force were an estimated forty-four (44) 76-mm gun, fifty-six (56) 120-mm guns, fifty-four (54) 82-mm mortars, and approximately sixty (60) T-34-type tanks.

General Kean and his 25th Division had to guard two main approaches to Sangju if he was to secure the town. First was the main road that crossed the Mun'gyong plateau and passed through Hamch'ang at the base of the plateau about fifteen miles due north of Sangju. Next, there was the secondary mountain road that crossed the plateau farther west and, once through the mountains, turned east toward Sangju.

Men of the 35th Infantry Regiment man a heavy .30 cal machine gun in Korea.

On the first and main road, the 2d Battalion, 35th Infantry, held a blocking position northwest of Hamch'ang, supported by a platoon of tanks from A Company, 78th Tank Battalion, and A Battery, 90th Field Artillery Battalion. Colonel Fisher was unable to concentrate his two-battalion regiment here for the defense of Sangju because the 1st Battalion had no sooner arrived on 25 July from P'ohang-dong than it was sent posthaste the next day to reinforce the 27th Infantry Regiment on the next north-south line of communications westward.

Thus, in effect, one battalion of U.S. troops stood behind ROK units on the Hamch'ang approach. On the second road, that leading into Sangju from the west, the 24th Infantry Regiment assembled two, and later all three, of its battalions.

The 2d Battalion of the 35th Infantry took up a hill position northwest of Hamch'ang and south of Mun'gyong on the south side of a stream that flowed past Sangju to the Naktong. On the north side of the stream a ROK battalion held the front line. Brig. Gen. Vennard Wilson, Assistant Division Commander, insisted that F Company of the battalion should be inserted in the center of the ROK line north of the stream, and this was done over the strong protests of Colonel Fisher and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. John L. Wilkins. Wilson thought the American troops would strengthen the ROK defense; Fisher and Wilkins did not want the untried company to be dependent upon ROK stability in its first engagement. Behind the ROK and F Company positions the ground rose in another hill within small arms range. Heavy rains had swollen the stream behind the ROK's and F Company to a torrent that was rolling large boulders along its channel.

On 22 July the North Koreans attacked. The ROK's withdrew from their positions on either side of F Company without informing that company of their intentions. Soon enemy troops were firing into the back of F Company from the hill behind it. This precipitated an unorganized withdrawal. The swollen stream prevented F Company from crossing to the south side and the sanctuary of the 2d Battalion positions. Walking wounded crowded along the stream where an effort to get them across failed. Two officers and a noncommissioned officer tied a pair of twisted telephone wires about their bodies and tried to swim to the opposite bank and fasten a line, but each in turn was swept downstream where they floundered ashore a hundred yards away on the same bank from which they had started. Some men drowned in trying to cross the swollen river. The covering fire of a platoon of tanks on the south side held off the enemy and allowed most of the survivors eventually to escape. In this fiasco, F Company lost 6 men killed, 10 wounded, and 21 missing.

The next morning five enemy tanks crossed the river and moved toward Hamch'ang. Artillery fire from a battery of the 90th Field Artillery Battalion knocked out four of the tanks. The fifth turned back across the river, and there an air strike later destroyed it.

The 2d Battalion, 35th Infantry, was still in its position when it received orders on 23 July to withdraw to a point 5 miles north of Sangju. Enemy aircraft appeared for the first time on 25 July, when two Yak planes attacked elements of the 35th RCT as it moved into the Division Zone, after having been relieved by units of another division in their previous area. On the 28th the battalion fell back 2 miles more, and the next day it moved to a position south of Sangju. On the last day of July the 35th Infantry

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Long Toms"

was ordered to a blocking position on a line of hills 8 miles south of Sangju on the Kumch'on road. In eleven days it had fallen back about thirty miles on the Sangju front. In these movements it did little fighting, but executed a series of withdrawals on division orders as the front around it collapsed.

One of the major problems of the retreat was the volume of refugees moving through Eighth Army lines. Their numbers were greater during July and August 1950 than at any other time in the war. During the middle two weeks of July about 380,000 refugees crossed into ROK-held territory. The North Koreans often exploited the situation by launching attacks that began with herding groups of refugees across minefields and then following up with tanks and infantry. The enemy also infiltrated U.S. Army lines by wearing the traditional white civilian clothing and joining groups of refugees, thus enabling him to commit a variety of surprise attacks on American soldiers. The commanders of the 25th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions attempted unsuccessfully to control the volume of refugees and enemy infiltration by searching displaced civilians and limiting the times and routes available for their movements. In late July General Walker, with the cooperation of ROK authorities, set explicit rules for the organized removal of refugees to the rear by the ROK National Police. By the end of July the ROK government had established fifty-eight refugee camps, most of them in the Taegu-Pusan area, to care for the homeless. But even with these efforts, refugees continued to hamper the movement of U.S. and ROK troops throughout the battlefield.

Until ordered to a new front, the 25th Division contained the enemy in its zone, thus gaining time for the United Nations Forces to strengthen their defenses. United States air, ground, and sea forces were united in an effort to stem the tide of the Red invasion of South Korea. Mass movement of evacuees from the front was an ever-present problem and proved to be a tremendous factor in favor of the accomplishment of enemy intelligence and espionage. North Korean soldiers, disguised as peasants, possessed the same general appearance, spoke the same language, and bore the same family names as the civilian evacuees themselves, and could not be differentiated from the other "People in White," called PIW’s, as they continued to infiltrate into and through our lines. These incognito tactics were carried a step further: on occasion, North Korean soldiers were found to be dressed in US Army uniforms and bore US Army weapons and field equipment.

Back to Korea Index

Cacti Home Page Main Index E-Mail Us