Cecil Nist designated his two battletested battalions to spearhead the attack: the 1/7 under Pete Clainos and the 2/7, which, because of the temporary absence of Gil Huff, recovering from a wound, was commanded by Omar T. Hitchner. But Murphy's Law prevailed; everything that could go wrong did. The FEAF strike was a flop; the massive artillery salvos did little damage; the plan of attack was poor. The well entrenched NKPA troops, supported by 82mm and 120mm mortars, decisively repulsed Clainos and Hitchner. A second ill-advised attack by James Lynch's new and untested 3/7, replacing the 1/7, did no better.[9-62]
This futile spoiling attack had the effect of poorly disposing the entire division to meet the NKPA offensive. When it struck, the 1st Cav reeled in disarray. Major elements in all three regiments were soon outflanked. In some units soldiers bugged out, abandoning weapons, vehicles, and ammo. The 7th Cav was the worst offender. Finding hundreds of NKPA soldiers on the hills in its rear, it had to fight its way back toward its point of departure. In so doing, it all but disintegrated. In this chaotic withdrawal through the hills, some 7th Cav companies became separated and had to fight alone. On September 6th the temporary 2/7 commander, Omar T. Hitchner, was killed; pending Gil Huff's return, the battalion was completely reorganized by a new exec, thirty-four-year-old West Pointer (1942) John W. Callaway.[9-63]
When the 7th Cav fell apart in the division center Marcel Crombez 5th Cav, on the left at Waegwan, was exposed. At that time Paul Clifford's 2/5 had just retaken Hill 303 again. When the NKPA 3d Division swarmed at Hill 303, Clifford prudently and wisely requested permission to withdraw, but Crombez refused, giving as his reason that Clifford had to hold Hill 303 until all elements of the 7th Cav had safely withdrawn. Clifford stayed put on Hill 303 as ordered, but in doing so he incurred very heavy casualties.[9-64]
On On the division right the NKPA 13th Division hit hard at Raymond D. Palmer's poorly deployed 8th Cav, astride the Bowling Alley. The enemy overran Gerald Robbins's thin 2/8, forcing it to withdraw hurriedly. Palmer brought up Harold K. ("Johnny") Johnson's 3/8, which managed to block long enough for the 2/8 to straggle through to the rear. This NKPA victory gave it not only the long sought town of Tabu, but also the commanding high ground on Hill 902, where the ruins of an ancient walled city, Ka-san, provided good long-range mortar positions overlooking Taegu merely ten air miles to the south.[9-65]
Believing the main NKPA attack was aimed down the Bowling Alley, and that the NKPA hold on Hill 902 imperiled the 1st Cav and Taegu Johnnie Walker insisted that Hap Gay retake Hill 902 immediately. Gay delegated that tough task to Ray Palmer's 8th Cav, reinforcing it with D Company of William C. Holley's 8th Engineer Combat Battalion. Palmer chose E Company of Robbins's 2/8 for this vital mission, but its commander balked and had to be relieved of command. The new commander was almost immediately wounded; yet another new one finally led E Company up the hill behind the engineers.