Biography

White, Horton Vail
[Col. CO 24thIR]

biography    biography

24thIR

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

biography

Army Distinguished Service Medal

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Awarded for actions during the World War II

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Colonel Horton Vail White (ASN: 0-15301), United States Army, was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility as G-2, SIXTH Army Group from 1943 to 1945.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 17 (1946)

Action Date: 1943 - 1945

Service: Army

Rank: Colonel

Company: G-2

Division: VI Army biography

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the World War II

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Colonel Horton Vail White (ASN: 0-15301), United States Army, was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as G-2, SIXTH Army Group from 1943 to 1945.

General Orders: Unites States Military Academy Register of Graduates

Action Date: 1943 - 1945

Service: Army

Rank: Colonel

Company: G-2

Division: VI Army biography

Legion of Merit

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Awarded for actions during the World War II

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Colonel Horton Vail White (ASN: 0-15301), United States Army, was awarded a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as G-2, SIXTH Army Group from 1944 - 1946.

General Orders: Unites States Military Academy Register of Graduates

Action Date: 1944 - 1946

Service: Army

Rank: Colonel

Company: G-2

Division: VI Army biography

Legion of Merit

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(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Horton Vail White (ASN: 0-15301), United States Army, was awarded a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States from 1949 to 1952.

General Orders: Unites States Military Academy Register of Graduates

Action Date: 1949 - 1952

Service: Army

 

 

 

July 13, 1950


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The last of Bill Kean's 25th Division major combat elements, the 35th Infantry, arrived in Pusan on July 13. It was commanded by Horton White's West Point (1923) classmate, Henry G. ("Hank") Fisher, fifty. The 35th was mated with the 64th FAB, commanded by West Pointer (1932) Arthur H. Hogan, forty-two, to form an RCT.[6-29]

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Both black units were commanded by white officers: the 24th Infantry by West Pointer (1923) Horton V. White, forty-nine; the 159th FAB by Walter J. Preston. The principal subordinate elements (battalions; firing batteries) were commanded by a mixture of white and black officers, but white officers predominated in the senior positions. Attached to the RCT was the black 77th Engineer Combat Company (ECC). Commanded by Charles M. Bussey, a black fighter pilot in World War II, the 77th was also at full strength.[6-13]


One of the two young black West Pointers (both 1950) in the 77th ECC, David K. Carlisle, later wrote a history in collaboration with the 77th's commander, Charles Bussey, about his outfit's service in Korea. In it Bussey remembered two shocking episodes on the day the 24th arrived at Kŭmch'ŏn.


First, Horton White confided to Bussey that he was unable to command the regiment. "I'm too old for this," White told Bussey. "I didn't realize it until this morning, but soldiering is for young'uns. Mine is all behind me. I'll do the job as required while I'm here, but I'll have to pack it in soon."*


Secondly, a key senior officer on 24th's staff, "a big, fat, lazy bastard," had a heart attack, which Bussey surmised was faked. The officer was immediately evacuated.[6-21]


*A fellow West Pointer who commanded a regiment in Korea concurred in White's self-evaluation: "White was an intelligence specialist who was not competent to lead troops."[6-20]

July 12, 1950

In fact, if some seemed to be out for themselves, morale among the majority of the regiment’s members was high. Taking Colonel White at his word and packing their “pinks and greens” for a victory parade, few of the officers expected the war to last long. As for the enlisted men, some, according to rifleman Jerry Johnson, seemed eager to get to the front because the war would be an adventure, and it provided an opportunity to earn the coveted Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Others, according to rifleman Nathaniel Pipkins, were just

“tired of running up and down
[the training area at] Fuji. This would be different.”69

July 17, 1950

July 22, 1950

On July 22 the 2/24, commanded by Horace E. Donaho, was ordered to patrol to the northwest of Sangju. It would maneuver with elements of the ROK 17th Infantry Regiment, now being advised by KMAG officer Joe Darrigo. The Army historian wrote that the 2/24's leading companies, E and F, were ambushed by NKPA and thereafter "began withdrawing in a disorderly manner." When Horton White hurried forward, the historian wrote, "he found the battalion coming back down the road in disorder and most of the men in a state of panic: He finally got the men under control."

The Army historian went on: "The tendency to panic continued in nearly all the 24th Infantry operations west of Sangju. Men left their positions and straggled to the rear. They abandoned weapons on positions. On one occasion the 3rd Battalion withdrew from a hill and left behind twelve .30-caliber and three .50-caliber machine guns, eight 60-mm mortars, three 81-mm mortars, four 3.5-inch rocket launchers and 102 rifles."[6-57]

August 6, 1950

On August 6, Company L was ambushed near the town of Sobuk with a fury and suddenness that left the unit in disarray. Company M was struck that night. During that fight, machine-gunner PFC William Thompson gave his life to stop the enemy and save many of his comrades, for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Meanwhile, a task force built around Company I and a platoon of another segregated unit, the black 77th Engineer Combat Company (ECC), was ambushed on its way to contact U.S. forces near Chindong-ni. At least 12 men were killed and an unknown number wounded, and seven or eight members of the 77th ECC were missing. The unit's commander, Captain Charles M. Bussey, later rescued those men in a daring foray.

That day, too, a sick Colonel White was relieved of command by 57-year-old Colonel Arthur S. Champeny, and Colonel Pierce of the 3/24th was wounded in action.

 

This debacle resulted in the relief of Horton White. Kean sought a young, dynamic, and battle experienced commander to replace White; but none (Ned Moore, for one) at hand wanted the job, and Walker was apparently reluctant to "punish" any promising officers with the command. As a result, the job went to Arthur S. ("Art") Champeny (Washburn College, 1912), who was to be fifty-seven years old on August 13  four years older than his division commander, Bill Kean.[7-30]

August 7,1950


The visitors closely scrutinized Eighth Army's senior field commanders. Ridgway had nothing to say about the division commanders, but he judged that "some" regimental commanders were "very poor." They were too old and lacked "combat experience and aggressiveness." He named no names, but undoubtedly he was referring to the three regimental commanders in the 1st Cav (Rohsenberger, Nist, and Palmer) and the 24th Infantry's Horton White. Although both Dick Stephens (21st Infantry) and Hank Fisher (35th Infantry) were considerably overage for regimental command, they were doing well, as were the "youngsters," Michaelis (27th Infantry), Beauchamp (34th Infantry), and Moore (19th Infantry). Replacements being sent by the Pentagon didn't help. "Three out of five were over fifty," Ridgway wrote.*

 

August 27, 1950

On August 27, Lt. Gen. Walton Walker, U.S. Eighth Army commander in Korea, dissolved the 34th, converting the 1/34th into the 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, and the 3/34th into the 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry. The 5th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) became the 2nd Division’s third regiment. General Church preferred having the 5th fully manned to rebuilding the 34th. He then reassigned the men of the 34th to give his other two regiments their authorized third battalions. The 34th was reconstituted in Japan and later served again in Korea.

While confusion in its command structure bedeviled the 34th Infantry, the 24th, commanded by ??? Colonel Horton V. White, suffered because of an additional factor–segregation. Many of the black regiment’s white officers held prejudices that affected both their leadership and their later evaluations of the 24th’s troops.

Under the circumstances, the personality of the regimental commander was vital, and for much of the time in Japan the unit was commanded by an officer who seemed ideally suited for the job. Strong, aggressive, experienced, Colonel Michael E. Halloran held the respect and support of most of his subordinates, whether commissioned or enlisted. The performance of the regiment while he was in charge was all that anyone could have expected at that time and in that place. The effectiveness of Halloran's successor is more in question. Colonel Horton V. White was intelligent and well intentioned, but his low-key, hands-off style of command did little to fill the void when Halloran departed.

It would be interesting to determine what the results would have been if the 24th had gone to war under Halloran rather than White, but the efficiency of a unit in combat is rarely determined by the presence of a single individual, however experienced and inspiring. What is clear, is that if the 24th went into battle much as the other regiments in the Eighth Army did—poorly trained, badly equipped, and short on experience—it carried baggage none of the others possessed, all the problems of trust and lack of self-confidence that the system of segregation had imposed.