Simultaneously the weaker NKPA 2nd Division, also reinforced by some 4th Division survivors, crossed the Naktong and struck Paul Freeman's 23d, in the sector directly north. Fortunately Freeman was not also engaged in a probing attack. But his river line was paper-thin, manned only by Claire Hutchin's 1/23. Overwhelmed by the force of this massive surprise attack, the 1/23 was scattered and disorganized, and many of the surviving elements were cut off and isolated. Freeman counterattacked with part of his reserve, Colonel James W. Edwards's 2/23, but despite the bravery of the 2/23 exec, Lloyd K. Jenson, who led the attack and won a DSC, the 2/23 could not link with the 1/23. In the chaos of this hand-to-hand battle Freeman's CP was overrun, and he was very nearly lost.[9-30]
To the north of Freeman's 23d Infantry sector stood Keiser's green three battalion 38th Regiment, which had been in Korea a total of eleven days.
The 38th was commanded by West Pointer (1925) George B. ("Pep") Peploe, fifty. Unlike Hill and Freeman, whom the Pentagon had foisted on Keiser at the last minute, Peploe was a "Keiser man" who had commanded the 38th since August 1949. However, like Hill and Freeman, Peploe was a "staff officer" who had never commanded troops in battle. In World War II he had been G3 of a Stateside infantry division of the Armored Command at Fort Knox, and of XIII Corps, which fought in the ETO.[9-31]
Those who knew Peploe well admired his professional competence and coolness under fire, but they had mixed and contradictory recollections of him as a person. His 2/38 commander, West Pointer (1937) James H. Skeldon, thirty-six, judged him this way:
"I considered Pep to be an extremely able C.O. who was courageous, peppery (hence his nickname, Pep), smart, aggressive, analytical, cynical, vindictive at times but amenable to reason."
Another West Pointer who served under Peploe remembered:
"He was a driver, not a leader. He would rip into you, but he wouldn't balance it out with praise. He'd try, but when it came to praise, he'd freeze up and people would wind up mad at him."
Peploe's S3, Warren D. Hodges, twenty-seven, thought Peploe was able and brave but could be "impetuous." Hodges told this story to illustrate the latter characteristic:
"When we were first facing the North Koreans on the Naktong, some of the GIs, showing good initiative, fashioned rafts and swam the river in darkness to make probes in enemy positions. In the process they
lost their helmets and shoes and other equipment. Since they had gulped some river water, they were advised to get typhoid boosters. Pep, unaware of all this, happened to come along when the men were in the aid station getting the shots. Seeing them without helmets and shoes, he laced into them something awful. Later, when he was briefed on the initiative they had shown, he gave all of them medals.[9-32]