In the middle of the 25th Division line, south of the 35th Infantry, the enemy breakthrough at Haman became a terrifying fact to the division headquarters after daylight, 1 September.
General Kean, commanding the division, telephoned Eighth Army headquarters and requested permission to commit, at once, the entire 27th Infantry Regiment, just arrived at Masan the previous evening and still held in Eighth Army reserve. General Walker denied this request, but did release one battalion of the regiment to General Kean's control. [24-58]
General Kean immediately dispatched Colonel Check's 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry-which had been alerted as early as 0200-from its assembly area near Masan toward Haman, to be attached to the 24th Infantry upon arrival at Colonel Champney's command post.
The 1st Platoon of the 27th Regiment's Heavy Mortar Company; a platoon of B Company, 89th Tank Battalion; and A Battery, 8th Field Artillery Battalion, reinforced Check's battalion. Check with his battalion arrived at Champney's 24th Infantry command post two miles east of Haman at 1000. [24-59]
The scene there was chaotic. Vehicles of all descriptions, loaded with soldiers, were moving down the road to the rear. Many soldiers on foot were on the road. Colonel Champney tried repeatedly but in vain to get these men to halt. The few enemy mortar shells falling occasionally in the vicinity did no damage except to cause the troops of the 24th Infantry and intermingled South Koreans to scatter and increase their speed to the rear. The road was so clogged with this frightened, demoralized human traffic that Colonel Check had to delay his counterattack. In the six hours he waited at this point, Check observed that none of the retreating troops of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 24th Infantry, could be assembled as units. Sgt. Jack W. Riley of the 25th Military Police Company tried to help clear the road. Men ran off the mountain past him, some with shoes off, half of them without weapons, and only a few wearing helmets. He shouted for all officers and noncommissioned officers to stop. None stopped.
One man who appeared to have some rank told him, "Get out of the way." Riley pulled back the bolt of his carbine and stopped the man at gun point, and then discovered that he was a first sergeant. Asked why they would not stay in and fight; several in the group that Riley succeeded in halting simply laughed at him and answered, "We didn't see any MP's on the hill."
At 1600, the 2d Battalion, 24th Infantry, assembling in the rear of the 27th Infantry, could muster only 150 to 200 men. [24-60]
At 1445, General Kean's orders for an immediate counterattack to restore the 24th Infantry positions arrived at Champney's command post. Check quickly completed his attack plan. For half an hour the Air Force bombed, napalmed, rocketed, and strafed Haman and adjacent enemy-held ridges.
Fifteen minutes of concentrated artillery barrages followed. Haman was a sea of flames. Check's infantry moved out in attack westward at 1630, now further reinforced by a platoon of tanks from A Company, 79th Tank Battalion. Eight tanks, mounting infantry, spearheaded the attack into Haman. North Koreans in force held the ridge on the west side of the town, and their machine gun fire swept every approach-their "green tracers seemed as thick as the rice in the paddies." Enemy fire destroyed one tank and the attacking infantry suffered heavy casualties.
But Check's battalion pressed the attack and by 1825 had seized the first long ridge 500 yards west of Haman;
by 2000 it had secured half of the old battle position on the higher ridge beyond, its objective, one mile west of Haman. Two hundred yards short of the crest on the remainder of the ridge, the infantry dug in for the night. [24-61]
All day air strikes had harassed the enemy and prevented him from consolidating his gains and reorganizing for further co-ordinated attack. Some of the planes came from the carriers USS Valley Forge (CV-45)and USS Philippine Sea (CV-47), 200 miles away and steaming toward the battlefield at twenty-seven knots.
The crisis for the 25th Division was not lessened by Eighth Army's telephone message at 1045 that the 27th Infantry was to be alerted for a possible move north into the 2d Division sector.
West of Haman the North Koreans and Check's men faced each other during the night without further battle, but the North Koreans, strangely for them, kept flares over their position. In the rear areas, enemy mortar fire on the 24th Regiment command post caused Colonel Champeny to move it still farther to the rear.
In the morning, under cover of a heavy ground fog, the North Koreans struck Check's battalion in a counterattack. This action began a hard fight which lasted all morning. Air strikes using napalm burned to death many North Koreans and helped the infantry in gaining the ridge. At noon, the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, at last secured the former positions of the 2d Battalion, 24th Infantry, and took over the same foxholes that unit had abandoned two nights before. Its crew-served weapons were still in place. During 2 September, the Air Force flew 135 sorties in the 25th Division sector, reportedly destroying many enemy soldiers, several tanks and artillery pieces, and three villages containing ammunition dumps. [24-62]
Early the next morning, 3 September, the North Koreans heavily attacked Check's men in an effort to regain the ridge. Artillery, mortar, and tank fire barrages, and a perfectly timed air strike directed from the battalion command post, met this attack. Part of the battalion had to face about and fight toward its rear. After the attack had been repulsed hundreds of enemy dead lay about the battalion position. A prisoner estimated that during 2-3 September the four North Korean battalions fighting Check's battalion had lost 1,000 men. [24-63]