Place Names

Hill 303


Hill 303 was occupied by Crombez's 2/5. It was commanded by West Pointer (1937) Paul T. Clifford, thirty-six, who had commanded a battalion in the ETO. He was an ambitious and able field commander in the Palmer-Crombez mold: tough and demanding and, many believed, "rash and insensitive to his losses. The NKPA attack caught the 2/5 napping.


August 14, 1950


August 14, 1940

These two victories were impressive achievements for the 1st Cav Division, but they were soon overshadowed by a serious setback in Crombez's 5th Cav sector. On August 14, a battalion of the NKPA 3rd Division, supported by a few tanks and men of the NKPA 105th Armored Division, crossed the Naktong several miles north of Waegwan, then unexpectedly turned south and assaulted Hill 303, which dominated Waegwan.

Hill 303 was occupied by Crombez's 2/5. It was commanded by West Pointer (1937) Paul T. Clifford, thirty-six, who had commanded a battalion in the ETO. He was an ambitious and able field commander in the Palmer-Crombez mold: tough and demanding and, many believed, "rash and insensitive to his losses. The NKPA attack caught the 2/5 napping.

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Unit Info  

Hill 303 at Waegwan

Almost simultaneously with the major enemy crossing effort in the southern part of the 1st Cavalry Division sector at Tŭksŏng-dong and Yongp'o, another was taking place northward above Waegwan near the boundary between the division and the ROK 1st Division. The northernmost unit of the 1st Cavalry Division was G Company of the 5th Cavalry Regiment. It held Hill 303, the right-flank anchor of the U.S. Eighth Army.

Hill 303 is an elongated oval more than two miles long on a northeast-southwest axis with an extreme elevation of about 1,000 feet. It is the first hill mass north of Waegwan. Its southern slope comes down to the edge of the town; its crest, a little more than a mile to the northeast, towers nearly 950 feet above the river. It gives observation of Waegwan, the road net running out of the town, the railroad and highway bridges across the river at that point, and of long stretches of the river valley to the north and to the south. Its western slope terminates at the east bank of the Naktong. From Waegwan a road ran north and south along the east bank of the Naktong, another northeast through the mountains toward Tabu-dong, and still another southeast toward Taegu. Hill 303 was a critical terrain feature in control of the main Pusan-Sŏul railroad and highway crossing of the Naktong, as well as of Waegwan itself.


[19-Caption] WAEGWAN BRIDGE over the Naktong River. Hill 303 is below the river at lower right.

For several days intelligence sources had reported heavy enemy concentrations across the Naktong opposite the ROK 1st Division. In the first hours of 14 August, an enemy regiment crossed the Naktong six miles north of Waegwan into the ROK 1st Division sector, over the second underwater bridge there. Shortly after midnight, ROK forces on the high ground just north of the U.S.-ROK Army boundary were under attack.


The North Korean attack spread south and by noon enemy small arms fire fell on G Company, 5th Cavalry Regiment, on Hill 303. This crossing differed from earlier ones near the same place in that the enemy force instead of moving east into the mountains turned south and headed for Waegwan. [19-36]


August 15, 1950


By first light Clifford's G Company (and a platoon of mortar-men from H Company) had been cut off atop the hill. His F Company escaped encirclement by a hurried withdrawal.[8-19]

Marcel Crombez was humiliated and furious. The NKPA "capture of Hill 303 gave the enemy not only the dominating terrain at Waegwan but also an opportunity to crow (on Radio P'yŏngyang) that the city had been "liberated from the imperialist warmongers.

Determined to regain the hill and city and rescue G Company and the mortar-men, Crombez counterattacked with all the force he could spare. Unfortunately the counterattack failed, but the survivors of G and H companies abandoned the hilltop in darkness and slipped through the NKPA lines to safety.



Before dawn, 15 August, G Company men on Hill 303 could make out about fifty enemy troops accompanied by two tanks moving boldly south along the river road at the base of the hill. They also saw another column moving to their rear and soon heard it engage F Company with small arms fire. In order to escape the enemy encirclement, F Company withdrew southward.




Before dawn on Tuesday morning, 15 August, the mortar platoon became aware of enemy activity near Hill 303. The platoon leader telephoned the Commanding Officer, G Company, 5th Cavalry, who informed him that a platoon of some sixty ROK's would come to reinforce the mortar platoon.


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About breakfast time the men (5th CR) heard tank motors and saw two enemy tanks followed by 200 or more enemy soldiers on the road below them. A little later a group of Koreans appeared on the slope. A patrol going to meet the climbing Koreans called out and received in reply a blast of automatic weapons fire. The mortar platoon leader, in spite of this, believed they were friendly. The watching Americans were not convinced that they were enemy soldiers until the red stars became visible on their caps. They were then close upon the Americans. The North Koreans came right up to the foxholes without either side firing a shot. Some pushed burp guns into the sides of the mortarmen with one hand and held out the other as though to shake hands. One of the enemy soldiers remarked later that "the American soldiers looked dazed." [19-43]


The 4th Company, 2nd Battalion, 206th Mechanized Infantry Regiment of the 105th Armored Division, apparently were the captors, although some members of Headquarters Company of the 45-mm. Artillery Battalion, 105th Armored Division, were present.

The North Koreans marched the prisoners down the hill after taking, their weapons and valuables. In an orchard they tied the prisoners' hands behind their backs, took some of their clothing, and removed their shoes. They told the Americans they would send them to the Sŏul prisoner of war camp if they behaved well.

Apparently the original captors did not retain possession of the prisoners throughout the next two days. There is some evidence that a company of the N.K. 3rd Division guarded them after capture. It appears that the enemy force that crossed the Naktong above Waegwan on the 14th and turned south to Hill 303 and Waegwan was part of the 3rd Division and supporting elements of the 105th Armored Division. In any event, the first night the North Koreans gave their prisoners water, fruit, and cigarettes. They intended to move them across the Naktong that night, but American fire prevented it. During the night two of the Americans loosened the shoe laces binding their wrists. This caused a commotion. At least one of the survivors thought that a North Korean officer shot one of his men who threatened to shoot the men who had tried to free their hands.


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By 0830, North Koreans had completely surrounded G Company and a supporting platoon of H Company mortarmen on Hill 303. A relief column, composed of B Company, 5th Cavalry, and a platoon of tanks tried to reach G Company, but enemy fire drove it back. [19-37]


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The bodies of twenty mortar men of the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division were recovered near Hill 303 in the vicinity of Waegwan. North Korean soldiers murdered the soldiers after they had surrendered.

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