Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter IV : Organized Withdrawal from Chohyong-ri

Not even a quarter of an hour later, a group crooses over with a wounded, crawling and looking for cover. Then a sergeant is coming, carrying a wounded man on his shoulder. When he crosses the river bullets splash in it all around him, it is hard to comprehend why he is not hit. Utterly exhausted he reaches the rest of the group, the wounded groans heavily, has a shot which penetrated his foot. Preparations to remove the wounded have to be made immediately, for the platoon has to withdraw speedily. A number of wounded run over, mostly with wounds in the arm. The exhausted sergeant meanwhile has recovered, says there lies a K.I.A. with an abdominal gunshot, and before anyone can stop him, he returns to bring over more wounded, in his wet outfit that starts freezing, and across a hail of bullets. This time he is wounded, a shot in his arm. Under covering fire, more wounded come in. Among the attempts to save the wounded, more saviours get shot, most of them are wounded only slightly. Again the pilot delivers the order to withdraw. This time the soldiers go along and ask the pilot to request transportation for the wounded. Evening comes and it turns bitter cold, it is imperative for the wounded to keep moving in their wet clothes, to forecome freezing. The platoon is almost out of ammunition, quite normal after an engagement lasting four and a half hours. They come under heavy fire, and it seems sure than the North Koreans will counterattack. Now it is time to speedily take off, because darkness begins to set in. Suddenly they also come under mortar fire, in the village below heavy gunfire sounds. The North Koreans launch their attack, the commander orders the wounded to be removed immediately, we, as a group, form a protecting rear. The village of Chohyong-ri begins to burn, our boys set it on fire before tha last man left. However, the enemy uses the smoke as cover to descend from the hills.
The last Dutchmen run over, with another wounded, to the group which was left behind for protection, because the North Koreans, yelling terryfyingly, make a run toward the hill just left by the group, and sends a rain of bullets toward the withdrawing group.
The difficult withdrawal begins, the wounded march in the middle of the group, luckily only one wonded has to be carried, but he seems to be so heavy that the carriers have to change every couple of minutes. The boys begin to notice that they have had no food all day, hunger sets in. In the meantime it is totally dark, the reconnaissance aircraft returned to base, contact with division broke off. The route back has to follow the same valley through which they came, there is no other path, on both sides of the path there are mountains, should North Koreans have prepared an ambush some distance further on, there would be no escape. The group is completely exhausted, they drag themselves along, again it begins to freeze, the clothes of those who had run through the river are frozen all over, cause scratches on the legs. The group moves slowly, because of the wounded who have to keep up with the troops. Finally the river is reached where they jumped off the truck that morning, but not a single car is in sight. There is a lot of grumbling about the Americans, no air support, no food, no transport, not even for the wounded. Slowly the troop moves in a long line toward the mountain pass, everyone with his own thoughts, this was their first action, which failed. An American officer had addressed the battalion, had said "always and wherever you go, never despair, for our airforce and artillery shall always protect you." This was definitely not the case in this action, they felt left in the lurch by the Americans. After having walked more than 10 km, small lights appear, it were 4 jeeps with brancards, it appears they did not learned of what had happened until an hour before. The 8 wounded now could be transported; the two K.I.A. had to be left behind earlier. The group had to continue their march; soon afterward it entered a hamlet, where it could rest a while. South Korean police was still present, a good sign.
In the houses soldiers can rest and warm up. After an hour they continue; many boys have blisters, so that they can walk only under pain. After a while the 4 jeeps return with hangers, so that every jeep can transport 10 men. A few men, among them the commander, have marched all the way and enter the camp as the last, at 11.30.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on February 15th 2002

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