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The Naktong Bulge

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Owing to the recent carnage inflicted on the NKPA 4th Division in the Naktong Bulge and an unusual and unfortunate breakdown in intelligence, Walker did not expect the strong NKPA attack in Dutch Keiser's 2nd Division sector. Paul Freeman, who was not privy to the secrets of code breaking, later put it this way: "Eighth Army had superior intelligence. . . . They seemed to know where everything was coming. General Walker and his staff did a magnificent job of getting his few troops to the right place at the right time to stop some attack or other, and how he missed out on this one I can't understand. But we certainly did miss out on it."[9-25]


Lacking a battalion each, Hill's 9th and Freeman's 23d were thinly deployed, one battalion out posting the river, one behind in reserve. Moreover, the battalions were not solidly dug in. Dutch Keiser did not encourage the customary (and prudent) use of sandbags, barbed wire, and other measures to strengthen defensive positions on the dubious ground that it would rob the troops of their offensive spirit.

This need to act offensively  no doubt heartily approved by Walker  had led Keiser to dispatch the Manchus of John Hill's 9th Infantry on a strong but, as it turned out, ill-timed probing mission across the Naktong. To man this hush-hush mission (Operation Manchu), Hill called on his reserve company, some engineers, elements of his two heavy weapons companies, and other forces, consisting of nearly 700 men. This redeployment further, and drastically, thinned out the 9th Infantry river line, rendering it highly vulnerable to enemy attack.[9-26]

Opposite Hill and Freeman, the NKPA had concentrated two divisions, the 2nd and green 9th in the 4th Division sector. The 9th Division (9,350 men) in the southernmost zone, faced Hill's Manchus. The 2nd (6,000 men), to the north of it, faced Freeman's 23d. These divisions and surviving elements of the 4th (about 5,500 men) comprised in total about 21,000 men. They were to cross the Naktong, drive through the bulge to Yŏngsan, then angle southeasterly toward Miryang, linking with the 6th and 7th divisions for the all-out assault on Pusan. They were backed by considerable artillery.

The NKPA 9th Division, reinforced by some 4th Division survivors, crossed the Naktong into John Hill's 9th Infantry sector. The attack utterly surprised Hill and his regimental staff and Keiser's aide-de-camp, West Pointer (1945) Thomas A. Lombardo, all of whom were at the river, launching Operation Manchu. Hill survived, but his S3 and Lombardo were killed in the onslaught, as were many others. Caught flatfooted and ill deployed for defense, the 9th Infantry was almost immediately overrun and disorganized, leaving the door to Yŏngsan wide open.[9-27]

Many men of the 9th Infantry caved in and surrendered. But others fought back heroically, at or beyond the river or before Yŏngsan. Four enlisted men of the 9th Infantry, all killed, won the Medal of Honor in these actions: Luther H. Story of the 1/9 and Loren R. Kaufman, Joseph R. Ouellette, and Travis E. Watkins of the 2/9. Two other enlisted men of the 2nd Division units supporting the 9th Infantry also won the Medal of Honor: Ernest R. Kouma, who survived, and Charles W. Turner, who was killed. In the 2/9 West Pointer (1950) John M. Murphy, who was cadet first captain of the class, and later a congressman (19621980) from New York, won a DSC.[9-28]*


*Murphy was wounded during this action but returned to his unit. About one-half of the West Pointers from the classes of 1949 and 1950 in the infantry branch were rushed to Korea to serve as platoon leaders or company commanders. Casualties in this group were very high. In the class of 1949: 27 killed; 52 wounded. In the class of 1950: 34 killed; 84 wounded. Casualties among junior officers from the classes of 1945 - 1948 were less severe, but still heavy compared to casualties among non-West Point officers: a total of 61 killed, 124 wounded.[9-29]