35th INFANTRY REGIMENT
As January neared its end, Chinese resistance began gradually to increase, indicating that the main enemy line had almost been reached. On the twenty-ninth Ridgway converted THUNDERBOLT into a full-scale offensive. The I and IX Corps continued a steady, if slow, advance to the Han River against increasingly more vigorous enemy defenses. As part of the I Corps attack, the U.S. 25th Infantry Division advanced against stiff enemy resistance in high ground south of Seoul.
On 9 February the enemy defense opposite I and IX Corps gave way. Soon UN units in the west were racing northward. The U.S. 25th Infantry Division retook Inch'on and Kimpo Airfield as elements of I Corps closed on the south bank of the Han opposite Seoul. Inchon Harbor and Kimpo Air Base, their capture culminating the attack, were secured on 10 February 1951. A total of 18,223 prisoners of war had been taken by elements of the 25th Division up to this date.
On 10 February the 35th Infantry reached the south shores of the Han. The Chinese shifted their pressure to the center of the peninsula as the "Tropic Lightning" force was driving them back across the half-frozen Han River into Seoul.
On the night of 11-12 February the enemy struck with five Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) armies and two North Korean corps, totaling approximately 135,000 soldiers. The main effort was against X Corps' ROK divisions north of Hoengsong. UN forces in the center of the peninsula were soon in a general withdrawal to the south, giving up most of the terrain recently regained. Despite an attempt to form a solid defensive line, Hoengsong itself was abandoned on 13 February.
On 15 February, the Division was ordered to the vicinity of Kumyangjang where they relieved the 1st Cavalry Division, and also drove the Reds back across the Han in this sector.
By the eighteenth the Communist offensive was spent, and enemy forces began withdrawing to the north rather than attempting to hold what they had taken. Such tactics would become the familiar way that the Communists would indicate the end of their offensives. Heavy casualties and the need for resupply and reorganization frequently forced the Chinese to break direct contact and pull back. UN firepower was simply too strong.
By 28 February all units had finally eliminated all enemy forces south of the Han River. Nevertheless, many enemy units escaped by withdrawing north under cover of inclement weather.
The month of February 1951 had seen the tide of battle turn again, and bring into ascendancy the fortunes of the United Nations. Constant pressure had been maintained against the enemy all during the month, and by the end of February, the 35th Regiment was firmly entrenched on the south bank of the Han River.
The "Cacti" now waited for the order to cross the river and begin the assault north. The temperature at this time averaged 15 degrees below zero. Following mop-up operations south of the Han, the 25th Division was to take part in Eighth Army’s Operation RIPPER, crossing the Han and engaging the enemy in his delaying action.
The new operation, code-named RIPPER, was to continue the advance twenty to thirty miles northward to a new line, Idaho. Line Idaho was in an arc with its apex just south of the 38th Parallel. The major objectives of RIPPER included the recapture of Seoul and of the towns of Hongch'on, fifty miles west of Seoul, and Ch'unch'on, fifteen miles farther to the north.
On 7 March, following one of the largest UN artillery bombardments of the war the 35th Infantry started to cross the Han River. On the left, the U.S. 25th Infantry Division quickly crossed the Han and established a bridgehead. Operation RIPPER was on. The "Cacti" pushed across the river inflicting many casualties, retaking the key city of Yong Dong Po.
General Bradley's three regiments reached line Albany between the 11th and 13th. The 35th Infantry, first to reach the phase line, cleared a narrow zone on the east side of the Pukhan River, the first objective of Operation Ripper. On the west side the 24th Infantry and 27th Infantry occupied heights in the Yebong Mountain mass within two to three miles of the Seoul-Ch'unch'on road and on line with the northern outskirts of Seoul to the west.
By the middle of March, after participating in driving the Reds from Seoul, Inchon, and Kimpo airfield, the Regiment was driving northward again up the Han River toward the 38th Parallel.
Following the recapture of Seoul, Communist forces retreated northward, conducting skillful delaying actions that utilized the rugged, muddy terrain to maximum advantage. During the evening of the 13th General Ridgway ordered the next phase of the RIPPER advance to begin the following morning. On the west, the 25th Division was to advance toward a segment of line Buffalo bulging four miles above the Seoul-Ch'unch'on road in a zone confined to the west side of the Pukhan River.
Against the continued advance, according to estimates prepared by the army G2 as the initial RIPPER phase concluded, the Chinese delaying forces backing away from the 25th Division were expected to join their parent units in defenses in the next good system of high ground to the north located generally on an east-west line through Hongch'on.
On 15 March the 25th Division at the right of the I Corps zone moved easily through the ground west of the Pukhan. By dark on the 15th, the 24th Infantry and 27th Infantry reached the Seoul-Ch'unch'on road at the left and center of the division zone while the attached Turkish brigade, having taken over a zone bordering the Pukhan at the far right, moved about two miles above the road adjacent to the newly won positions of the 24th Division.
As a first step in the attempt to block and attack the North Korean I Corps, Ridgway on 21 March ordered his own I Corps to move forward to line Cairo, which he extended southwestward across General Milburn's (I Corp Commander) zone through Uijongbu to the vicinity of Haengju on the Han. At points generally along this line six to ten miles north of line Lincoln, Milburn's patrols had made some contact with the North Korean I Corps west of Uijongbu and the Chinese 26th Army to the east. Milburn was to occupy line Cairo on 22 March, a day ahead of the airborne landing at Munsan-ni, and wait for Ridgway's further order to continue north.
The three divisions of the I Corps started toward line Cairo at 0800 on 22 March. The ROK 1st Division, advancing astride Route 1 in the west, overcame very light resistance and had troops on the phase line by noon. The 3d Division astride Route 3 in the center and the 25th Division on the right also met sporadic opposition but moved slowly and ended the day considerably short of the line. The objective was to reach to the Imjin River, designated Line Benton, where a link-up was planned with elements of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (RCT), which are to be parachuted near the town of Munsan-ni.
On the I Corps right, the 25th Division on 23 and 24 March had run into a large number of minefields and small but well entrenched enemy groups employing small arms, machine gun, and mortar fire. At nightfall on the 24th General Bradley's forces held positions almost due west of Uijongbu in the 3d Division's zone at corps center.
Withdrawal seemed to be the Chinese intention. The withdrawal of the Chinese delaying forces was confirmed on the 26th when the 3d Division and the 25th Division as well moved forward against little or no opposition. Moving through spotty resistance, the 25th Division on the right had kept pace with the 3d Division, and by nightfall on 28 March both were on or above line Aspen.
Late on 26 March, as it became obvious that the Chinese were backing away from the 3d and 25th Divisions, General Ridgway then ordered the I and IX Corps to continue to line Benton.
Even with RIPPER in its final stages, Ridgway's staff was planning a new operation. Code-named COURAGEOUS, it was designed to trap large Chinese and North Korean forces in the area between the Han and Imjin Rivers north of Seoul, opposite I Corps.