35th INFANTRY REGIMENT
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.