It will be recalled that the North Koreans who crossed near the middle of the Naktong Bulge in front of B Company, 9th Infantry, surprised the advanced support elements of Task Force Manchu at the base of Hill 209 where the Yŏngsan road came down to the Naktong. Some elements of the two Heavy Weapons Companies, D and H, had already started to climb the hill to emplace their weapons there when the North Korean surprise river crossing caught most of the support elements and the Heavy Mortar Company at the base of the hill. This crossing was about five miles north of the enemy crossing that had all but destroyed A Company near the division's southern boundary.
The perimeter position taken by the men of D and H Companies, 9th Infantry, who had started up the hill before the North Koreans struck, was on a southern knob (about 150 meters high) of Hill 209, half a mile south across a saddle from B Company's higher position.
As the night wore on, a few more men reached the perimeter. In addition to the D and H Company men, there were a few from the Heavy Mortar Platoon and one or two from B Company. Altogether, there were approximately 60 to 70 men, including 5 officers, in the group-an actual count was never made. An inventory of the weapons and equipment disclosed that the group had 1 SCR-300 radio; 1 heavy machine guns, 1 operable; 2 light machine guns; 1 BAR; about 20 M1 rifles; and about 40 carbines or pistols. Lieutenant Schmitt assumed command of the group. [24-2]
During the night Lieutenant Schmitt established radio communication with the 1st Battalion, 9th infantry, and received promises of help on the morrow. When daylight came Schmitt and his group saw that they were surrounded by enemy. One force occupied the higher knob half a mile above them, formerly held by B Company. Below them, North Koreans continued crossing the river and moving supplies forward to their combat units, some of them already several miles eastward. Enemy troops were not long in discovering the Task Force Manchu group. They first attacked it at 1400 that afternoon, and were repulsed. That night an estimated company attacked three times, pressing the fight to close quarters, but failed each time to penetrate the tight perimeter.
Daylight of the second day disclosed many enemy dead on the steep slopes outside the perimeter.
By that morning (2 September) the
24-1] Ltr, Fern to author, 1 Apr 56; Ltr, Cody to author, 18 Nov 55. Department of the Army General Order 70. 2 August 1951, awarded the Medal of Honor to Private Story. General Order 187, 5 December 1950, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Freeman. EUSAK. [24-2] Ltr, Caldwell to author, 29 May 53: Interv, author with Hill, 30 Jun 53; Hill, MS review comments, 2 Jan 58; 9th Inf WD, Sep 50, Incl B, Col Charles C. Sloane, Jr., Hill 209 (1138-1386), with sketch map; Ibid., app., 1st Lt Raymond J. McDoniel, Notes (this document misspells "McDoniel" as "McDaniel,"); Sheen, From Encirclement to Safety. The officers on the hill were
Lt Schmitt, CO H Co;
Lt McDoniel, Plat Ldr D Co;
Lt Paul E. Kremser. Plat Ldr H Co;
Lt Caldwell. Plat Ldr D Co; and
Lt Edmund J. Lilly III, Plat Ldr B Co.
THE NORTH KOREAN GREAT NAKTONG OFFENSIVE Page 457
need for hand grenades was desperate. About 0900 MSgt. Travis E. Watkins of H Company shot and killed two enemy soldiers 50 yards outside the northeast edge of the perimeter. He jumped from his hole to get the weapons and grenades of the dead men; 20 yards from them three hidden enemy soldiers jumped to their feet and opened fire on him. Watkins killed them and gathered weapons, ammunition, and insignia from all five before returning to the perimeter.
An hour later a group of six enemy soldiers gained a protected spot 25 yards from a machine gun position of the perimeter and began throwing hand grenades into it. Although already wounded in the head, Watkins rose from his hole to engage them with rifle fire. An enemy machine gun immediately took him under fire and hit him in the left side, breaking his back. Watkins in some manner managed to kill all six of the nearby enemy soldiers before he sank into his hole paralyzed from the waist down. Even in this condition, Watkins never lost his nerve, but shouted encouragement to his companions. He refused any of the scarce rations, saying that he did not deserve them because he could no longer fight. [24-3]
In the afternoon of 2 September Schmitt succeeded in radioing a request to the 1st Battalion for an airdrop of supplies. A division liaison plane attempted the drop, but the perimeter was so small and the slopes so steep that virtually all the supplies went into enemy hands. The men in the perimeter did, however, recover from a drop made later at 1900 a case of carbine ammunition, 2 boxes of machine gun ammunition, 11 hand grenades, 2 1/2 cases of rations, part of a package of medical supplies, and 21 cans of beer. Pfc. Joseph R. Ouellette, H Company, left the perimeter to retrieve an airdrop of water cans but found on reaching them that they were broken and empty. Like Watkins, he distinguished himself by leaving the perimeter to gather weapons, ammunition, and grenades from the enemy dead. On one such occasion an enemy soldier suddenly attacked Ouellette, who killed the North Korean in hand-to-hand combat. [24-4] In helping to recover the airdropped supplies on the evening of 2 September, Lieutenant Schmitt was wounded but continued to exercise his command, encouraging the diminishing group by his example. That same afternoon, the North Koreans sent an American prisoner up the hill to Schmitt with the message, "You have one hour to surrender or be blown to pieces." Failing in frontal infantry attack to reduce the little defending force, the enemy now obviously meant to take it under observed and registered mortar fire. [24-5] Forty-five minutes later enemy antitank fire came in on the knob and two machine guns from positions northward and higher on the slope of Hill 209 swept the perimeter. Soon, enemy mor-
[24-3] Sworn affidavit, SSgt Grover L. Bozarth and Sgt Ralph G. Lillard, H Co, 9th Inf, 13 Sep 50, Yŏngsan, recommending MSgt. Travis E. Watkins for Medal of Honor DA AG files.
[24-4] McDoniel, Notes cited n. 2, Sep 50; Ltr, Caldwell to author, 29 May 53. Department of the Army General Order 25, 25 April 1951, awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Private Ouellette.
[24-5] EUSAK WD, 9 Sep 50, an. 1 to PIR 59; 9th Inf WD, 1 Sep 50, account of Lt McDoniel; Sloane, Hill 209, Sep 50. General Order 54, 6 February 1951, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously to Lieutenant Schmitt. EUSAK. Page 458 SOUTH TO THE NAKTONG, NORTH TO THE YALU
tars emplaced on a neighboring high finger ridge eastward registered on Schmitt's perimeter and continued firing until dark. The machine gun fire forced every man to stay in his hole. The lifting of the mortar fire after dark was the signal for renewed enemy infantry attacks, all of which were repulsed. But the number of killed and wounded within the perimeter was growing, and food, water, and ammunition were needed. There were no medical supplies except those carried by one aid man.
The third day, Sunday, 3 September, was the worst of all. The weather was terrifically hot. There was no water, and only one can of C rations per man. Ammunition was almost gone. Since the previous afternoon, enemy mortar barrages had alternated with infantry assaults against the perimeter. Survivors later estimated there were about twenty separate infantry attacks-all repulsed. Two enemy machine guns still swept the perimeter whenever anyone showed himself. Dead and dying were in almost every foxhole or lay just outside. Mortar fragments destroyed the radio and this ended all communication with friendly units. Artillery fire and air strikes requested by Schmitt never came. Some enemy soldiers worked their way close to the perimeter and threw grenades into it. Six times Ouellette leaped from his foxhole to escape grenades thrown into it. Each time the enemy fired on him from close range. In this close action Ouellette was killed. Most of the foxholes of the perimeter received one or more direct mortar hits in the course of the continuing mortar fire. One of these killed Lieutenant Schmitt on 3 September. He had given his men heroic leadership and had inspired them by his example throughout three days and nights of the ordeal. The command passed now to 1st Lt. Raymond J. McDoniel of D Company, senior surviving officer. [24-6] In the evening, relief came in the form of rain. McDoniel spread out two blankets recovered with airdropped supplies the day before, and wrung from them enough water to fill a 5-gallon can. The men
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removed their clothing and wrung water from them to fill their canteens. The fourth night passed.
Sept 4 0602
At daylight on the morning of 4 September only two officers, McDoniel and Caldwell, and approximately half the men who had assembled on the hill, were alive. Some men had broken under the strain and in a state of shock had run from their holes and were killed.
As the day passed, with ammunition down to about one clip per man and only a few grenades left and no help in sight, McDoniel decided to abandon the position that night. He told Caldwell that when it got dark the survivors would split into small groups and try to get back to friendly lines.
Sept 4 1856
That evening after dark the North Koreans tried to get their men to assault the perimeter again, but, despite shouted orders of "Manzai!" only a few grenades fell inside the perimeter-apparently the enemy soldiers had had enough and refused to charge forward.
Sept 4 2200
At 2200, McDoniel and Caldwell and twenty-seven enlisted men slipped off the hill in groups of four. One poignant scene etched itself on the minds of Sergeant Watkins' comrades. Watkins, still alive in his paralyzed condition, refused efforts of evacuation, saying that he did
[24-6] Ltr, Caldwell to author, 29 May 53; McDoniel, Notes, Sep 50.
THE NORTH KOREAN GREAT NAKTONG OFFENSIVE Page 459
not want to be a burden to those who had a chance to get away. He asked only that his carbine be loaded and placed on his chest with the muzzle under his chin. He smiled a last farewell to his buddies and wished them well when they started off the hill. [24-7]
Lt McDoniel and Lt Caldwell started off the hill together, their plan being to make their way to the river and follow it downstream. At the road they encountered so much enemy activity that they had to wait about an hour for the supply-carrying parties, tanks, and artillery to clear so that they could cross. Once across the road the two men found themselves in the middle of a North Korean artillery battery. They escaped unobserved and hid in a field near the river at daybreak. That night the two men became separated when they ran into an enemy outpost.
The next morning two enemy soldiers captured Caldwell, removed his boots and identification, smashed him on the head with a rock, and threw him over a cliff into the Naktong River. Caldwell, not critically injured, feigned death and escaped that night.
Four days later, on 10 September, he entered the lines of the 72d Tank Battalion.
19500904 2400 24sn
Of the twenty-nine men who came off the hill [Hill 209] the night of 4 September, twenty-two escaped to friendly lines-many of them following the Naktong downstream, hiding by day and traveling by night, until they reached the lines of the 25th Division. [24-8]
Members of Task Force Manchu who escaped from Hill 209 brought back considerable intelligence information of enemy activity in the vicinity of the Paekchin ferry crossing site. At the ferry site the enemy had put in an underwater ford. A short distance downstream, each night half an hour after dark they placed a metal floating bridge across the river and took it up before dawn the next morning. Carrying parties of 50 civilians guarded by four soldiers crossed the river continuously at night at, a dogtrot, an estimated total of 800-1,000 carriers being used at this crossing site..