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Jan-Dec 1952

In January 1952, the bulk of the forces of the "Cacti" Regiment maintained a reserve assembly area in the vicinity of Hwachon, Korea, in readiness to occupy any of several specified positions on the IX Corps sector for offensive or defensive action. At the same time, the 3rd Battalion provided security for a coal power-tungsten area around Sanglong as an Eighth Army mission, while Company "A" was assigned the mission of providing security for IX Corps Headquarters near Chunchon.

Colonel John D. Cone assumed command of the "Cacti" on 12 January 1952, from Lt. Colonel S. B. Baker Jr. At this time, the training program was accelerated under close supervision, with the most practical types of instruction and problems in order to prepare and maintain the high combat efficiency of the command, and at the same time to maintain high morale. Nor was this training confined to company or battalion. On 24 January, the 35th Infantry Regiment officially opened its "Battle School." The "Battle School" and the training program continued throughout February.

In the latter part of February the 25th Division relieved the US 7th Infantry Division on Line Minnesota in the zone of responsibility of X Corps, and assumed its mission of defense in its assigned sector. Operations against the enemy consisted primarily of raids, reconnaissance patrols, and ambushes, with the mission of maintaining contact, detecting any forward movement of the enemyís positions and capturing prisoners.

March 1952

The Regiment moved in position on the Minnesota Line in the famous "Punch Bowl" at the beginning of March. Patrols were organized with the mission of delaying attempted enemy probes and giving the warning to the Main Line of Resistance in the event of enemy activity.

On 12 March, after days of heavy enemy artillery fire, an estimated enemy company attacked positions held by Company "I." Fierce artillery, mortar, small arms, and automatic weapons fire forced the attacking enemy to withdraw after a thirty-minute struggle and fifteen enemy dead. Four days later, all units of the Regiment were placed on line. Because of the size of the sector, Company "E" of the 27th Infantry Regiment was operationally attached. During March, the deep mud became a trying problem to fighting units. As early Spring temperatures rose, and the ground thawed, roads became axle deep, making movement within the Regimental sector and throughout adjoining passes almost impossible. April brought another serious problem with the increase in temperatures.

April 1952

Yet a day did not go by in which some American soldier did not risk his life for his comrades on some nameless Korean hillside. This was particularly true for those soldiers assigned to the outpost line, a string of strong-points several thousand yards to the front of the UN's main battle positions.

The typical outpost consisted of a number of bunkers and interconnecting trenches ringed with barbed wire and mines perched precariously on the top of a barren, rocky hill. As the UN's most forward positions, the outposts acted as patrol bases and early warning stations. They also served as fortified outworks that controlled key terrain features overlooking UN lines. As such, they represented the UN's first line of defense and were accorded great importance by UN and Communist commanders alike. Not surprisingly, the outposts were the scenes of some of the most vicious fighting of the war. While most of these actions were on a small scale, some of the biggest battles of 1952 revolved around efforts either to establish, defend, or retake these outposts.

It was the night of 3 April 1952, the area was Hill 1243, Kach Il-Bong, the highest peak in the region north of the Punch Bowl. Joined to this high mass by a low saddle is No-Name Hill. The night was clear and cool. The sun set that evening at 1852. The moon, which had reached its first quarter on 2 April, rose at 2153 hours. Sunrise, on 4 April, was at 0611, over three hours after the moon had set. There was fairly deep snow on the slopes and in the draw. A patrol led by 2nd Lt. John A. Chandler, platoon leader, 3rd Platoon, Company "A" of the "Cacti," crossed the MLR at 2100 hours at the point of contact between Company "C" and Company "I." The objective was one of the sites of enemy construction on No-Name Hill. If his decision was correct, he would find his objective point close to the top, if not, the added elevation would allow him a view of the terrain to check his position.

When the patrol reached the crest of the finger, Lt. Chandler led them up the slope, through old communication trenches, and close to abandoned bunkers, but found no sign of the enemy. It seemed strange to be so close to the enemy positions and yet find nothing to indicate that anyone else was in the immediate vicinity. By this time, the only communication with the MLR was by radio; the wire for the sound power had been used up. The patrol used one of the SCR 300 radios to report that it was on the objective at 0025 hours, and that there was no evidence of the enemy. The patrol had now been out three and one half hours.

When Lt. Chandlerís report that he had reached the objective and had made no contact was relayed to the battalion CP, Colonel Walker told Lt. Chandler to continue his original mission, "get a prisoner if you can, if nor, shoot Ďem up. Decide upon the route you are going to take to make contact, move forward about 100 yards, then report again."

Again Lt. Chandler and his men moved out to make contact with the enemy. As they approached the top of the ridge, they stopped and listened to the sounds coming down from the position above them. Apparently the North Koreans had just moved into bunkers and trenches on the forward slope of the hill, close under the crest, and were taking a late meal. The patrol could hear their laughing and talking and what sounded like the click of chopsticks.

From the patrolís location below the crest, it was not possible to see that the enemy had constructed a communication trench around the forward edge of the finger, which the patrol was climbing. There was a large bunker on the rear wall of the trench, slightly to the left of the patrolís route of approach. Lt. Chandler formed the patrol in two lines across the front of the position before moving up on it.

When they had covered about twenty-five yards toward the enemy position, PFC Van D. Randon, carrying a BAR on the right flank of the assault squad, muttered to PFC Charles Baugher walking behind him. "Thereís a wire right in front of you, be careful." Baugher placed his left foot on a booby-trapped concussion grenade. He was thrown to the ground, and landed on his right side. The rest of the patrol was not much later in hitting the ground. In the immediate silence, Baugher felt for his foot, and found it to be unhurt except for a lack of sensation. The rest of the patrol lay quietly, waiting for the enemy to come out of the bunkers to see what had tripped the grenade. Nothing happened. The sounds of laughing, talking and eating continued. After a few minutes wait to make sure that no notice was to be taken of the noise, the assault squad moved up to the edge of the communication trench.

As Lt. Chandler and Corporal Kim Bae were getting into the trench, a North Korean came out of the big bunker on their left. They climbed out of the trench again before they were noticed, but when the enemy saw them on the edge, he spoke a few words in gutteral Korean. Kim Bae answered in Korean, but apparently the enemy was not convinced of the identity of the new arrivals. He had unslung his "burp" gun from his shoulder as he first spoke. Now he managed to get off about three rounds before he was killed by either carbine fire from the assault squad or a grenade thrown by Kim. No one there knew who or what had killed him.

Six men came streaming out to find what had happened. The first five were killed by fire from the carbines and BARís of the assault squad. The sixth man ducked back into the bunker to escape the fire. After a couple of grenades had been thrown in after him, there was yelling and screaming from inside, but no more enemy came out of that bunker. However, from the other bunkers on either side of the patrol, the defenders came into the trench in an attempt to drive out the assault squad. But the BAR men on the flanks, Randon and Harris, killed them or drove them back into the bunkers where they remained until after the patrol had started its withdrawal. The squad managed to hold off all who attempted to close with them from the immediate vicinity of the position.

Corporal Dabonne and Private First Class Lang Walters, the radio operators, were wounded very early in the action and their radios put out of commission by concussion grenades. Both men were wounded in the head and Walters also received some fragments in the legs. Neither were seriously injured and both were able to walk back to the MLR when the patrol withdrew. There were two other casualties, both in the support squad. Corporal Korschbaum had part of his right foot blown off and was further wounded in both legs, apparently by a grenade. PFC Emment Hancock, the AR man on the left flank, was wounded in the body by grenade fragments. Since Kirschbaum was unable to walk, it was necessary to make a litter out of jackets and sticks in order to carry him back to the rally point in the draw. Hancock, like the two radiomen, was able to keep up with the rest of the patrol. It was not until 0930 hours that all members of the patrol had returned to the MLR. The patrol had been out for more than twelve hours. The objective of raiding the enemyís positions had been, for the most part, successfully accomplished. The nightís action caused ten friendly casualties, but the patrol inflicted at least the same number of probable killed in action on the enemy.

The patrol was saved from further casualties by the effective placement of many rounds of artillery on known enemy positions.

May 1952

On 6 May, the "Cacti" moved from the Minnesota Line to the Kansas Line to prepare positions and conduct training. In addition, the Regiment had the mission of counterattacking to stop penetrations of the MLR. The third battalion remained in the "Punch Bowl" in the event of a breakthrough in that area.

June and July 1952

The absence of grand offensives and sweeping movements notwithstanding, service at the front was just as dangerous in 1952 as it had been during the more fluid stages of the war. By June Communist guns were hurling over 6,800 shells a day at UN positions. During particularly hotly contested actions, Communist gunners occasionally fired as many as 24,000 rounds a day. UN artillerists repaid the compliment five, ten, and sometimes even twenty-fold, and still not a day went by when Communist and UN soldiers did not clash somewhere along the front line.

An intensified training program was conducted by the "Cacti" during the first few weeks of June; prior to its relief of the 27th Infantry Regiment on Line Minnesota. One company a day from each battalion engaged in formal training, while the remainder of the battalion continued practical training in field fortifications on line Kansas.

Then on 15 June 1952, the 35th Infantry Regiment relieved the 27th "Wolf-hounds" from their responsibility of the line. All through the remainder of the month, the Cacti" conducted raids on enemy positions in the hope of capturing prisoners of war in order to identify units in contact.

The most successful of these occurred on the night of 28-29 June when a patrol from Company "I" departed the MLR at 2100 hours for known enemy positions. As the patrol reached its objective, they could hear the enemy soldiers moving about in the nearby trenches. When the patrol got close enough, they overran the enemy, killing three and capturing one enemy prisoner. Actions of this nature were common throughout the 35th Infantry Regiment for the remainder of June and through the entire month of July, with very little other action taking place.

August 1952

As the month of August 1952 began, the "Cacti" was still in position on Line Minnesota on the western sector of the 25th Infantry Division. Patrol action and raids continued in the regimental sector until 27 August, when the 14th Infantry Regiment, under the command of Colonel John R. Wright, began relieving elements of the 35th Infantry Regiment. The Regiment returned to the reserve area.

September-December 1952

The order to move came and, on 10 September, the 35th Infantry Regiment began moving to the Korean Communications Zone area. On 17 September, the command of the "Cacti" changed hands. Colonel Autrey J. Maroun replaced Colonel John D. Cone as the commander of the 35th Infantry Regiment. The Regiment was now under K COM Z control, on Koje-Do Island near the southern tip of Korea, where it was to remain until called back into action in November 1952. The assignment on Koje-Do and Cheju-Do in October 1952, was guarding prisoners of war.

At Cheju-Do, 1 October 1952, the commander of the POW Camp 3A had given the order for all prisoners of war to take down flags that had been raised in celebration of a Korean National Holiday. When the prisoners refused to obey the order, elements of the 1st Battalion were called in to enforce the order. About three weeks later, the POWís refused to obey an order to cease close order drill. A company of the 3rd Battalion was called in to enforce the order.

On 22 October 1952. the 25th Division moved to the vicinity of Kapyong. Operational Control passed from the X US Corps to the Eighth US Army, and the Division assumed the mission of Army Reserve.

During October and November 1952, the Division conducted an intensive training program. In November 1952, the Division occupied the Han Tan-Chon Valley sector of Line Missouri. This sector was flanked by Kumhwa on the east and Chorwon on the west. Operational control of the division passed to the IX US Corps. Operations conducted during the defense of its assigned sector consisted of aggressive patrolling, construction of new bunkers, and the improvement of existing defenses.

During November, the "Cacti" received orders to move to Chipo-Ri and reverted to control of its parent unit, the 25th Infantry Division.

As temperatures dropped so too did the pace of combat. Still, shelling, sniping, and raiding remained habitual features of life at the front, as did patrol and guard duty, so that even the quietest of days usually posed some peril. For most frontline soldiers, home was a "hootchie," the name soldiers gave to the log and earth bunkers that were the mainstay of UN defenses in Korea.

Built for the most part into the sides of hills, the typical hootchie housed from two to seven men. Each bunker was usually equipped with a single automatic weapon, which could be fired at the enemy through aboveground firing ports. Inside, candles and lamps shed their pale light on the straw-matted floors and pinup-bedecked walls of the cramped, five-by-eight-foot areas that comprised a hootchie's living quarters. Oil, charcoal, or wood stoves provided heat, bunk beds made of logs and telephone wire offered respite, and boxes of extra ammunition and hand grenades gave comfort to the men for whom these humble abodes were home. However Spartan, the hootchie provided welcome shelter from the daily storms of bomb, bullet, rain, and snow that raged outside.

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