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December 1950 - The Fallback

At the beginning of December 1950, with other units of the 25th Division, the 35th was forced to fall back, first to Ch’ongch’on River then to the high ground south of Pyongyang. It was Heartbreak Highway all over again, this time with a new and more desperate foe.

At this time, Colonel Henry G. Fisher, commanding the Cacti, was evacuated to the hospital for pneumonia. Colonel Fisher had commanded the Regiment while it was in Japan and during the Korean Campaign until this time. It was said he wore himself out completely through indefatigable efforts to keep his command at the peak of efficiency it had displayed all during the war. Lt. Colonel Gerald C. Kelleher, who was to carry the "Cacti" Regiment to many more victories later in the war, succeeded him in command.

The masses of Chinese reinforcements continued to flow from the Manchurian side of the border, which was only fifty to sixty miles from the main battlefront. The United Nations Forces were ordered to withdraw to the south. Successive blocking positions were occupied by the elements of the 25th Division to cover the withdrawal of other UN units, and to prevent the Reds from cutting the route to the rear. Minimum losses were sustained as these retrograde movements were effected.

Delaying positions were occupied along the south side of the 38th Parallel in the vicinity of Kaesong by the units of the Division on 9 December.

A strong defense line was established south of the Imjin River on 14 December. Extensive work was done on an intricate defense system. Multiple defensive measures and material were utilized. Many miles of wire were stretched; mines and flares were placed; fields of fire were laid in. All possible entrances into the zone were covered.

General Walker was an indirect casualty of the Chinese attacks. On the morning of 23 December the Eighth Army commander left Seoul by jeep on an inspection trip. Ten miles north of the capital, his vehicle zoomed north past several U.S. trucks halted on the opposite side of the road. Suddenly, a Korean truck driver pulled out of his lane, heading south, and tried to bypass the trucks. In doing so, he pulled into the northbound lane and collided with Walker’s jeep. The commander was knocked unconscious and later pronounced dead from multiple head injuries.

The man selected to replace General Walker as Eighth Army commander was Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway.

Beginning on 26 December, the CCF struck hard at UN units on the western approaches to Seoul. Supporting attacks occurred as well in the central and eastern parts of the line. The Chinese hit the ROK units hard, and again several units broke. Two out of three regiments of the ROK 2d Division fled the battlefield, leaving their valiant 17th Regiment to fight alone and hold its position for hours despite heavy losses. Ridgway reluctantly ordered a general, but orderly, withdrawal, with units instructed to maintain contact with the enemy during their retreat, rather than simply giving up real estate without inflicting losses on the enemy.

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