Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter V : Reassigned to Hoengsong Valley

Now that the entire group is back in camp, everybody is chased into his sleeping bag immediately, you never know what might happen during the night.
The Americans later brought forward the excuse that planes had been sent, but were unable to find the group, and that ambulance cars had momentarily been unavailable. The group commander requested to inform the division commander that the gap does not exist any more, meanwhile is filled by North Koreans, an estimated battalion minus the plus/minus 67 shot down by us, and with your help two companies might have been destroyed.
A couple of minutes are spent thinking of the comrades who were killed in action. The medic was married and had children, the other was the son of a widow.
At night, Colonel den Ouden arrived in camp, coming from Hoengsong's south and is told the entire story. In the distance they hear heavy fighting. The American Fox Company was attacked from three sides, it is a massive attack, the numbers of casualties, both dead and wounded, are high.
Slowly the Americans retreat toward the Dutch who are on stand-by. Enemy pressure increased to an extent, and the flanks were threatened too, to hold on to the position longer bears the risk to become isolated and surrounded.
The Chinese seem to have chosen Wonju as their target, an important junction of railway lines and supply routes, and both parties place high interest on controling this city. At noon the order is transmitted that Hoengsong shall be evacuated that night. The Chinese are busy to make a surrounding move to enclose the entire city; thus it is decided to withdraw to Wonju as fast as possible, before this city, too, falls in the enemy's hands. The Dutch shall take position along the road from Hoengsong to Wonju to cover the American's retreat. At the time evening sets in the company moves out to the determined point, to the North of Hoengsong heavy fighting is going on. The company has to take position in a line of hills located ca. 1 km distant from the road. First a bridge has to be found across the river. When it is found, the river is crossed.
It is the company's task to prevent the Chinese from crossing the river and advance as far as the main road. The Americans now are retreating, it is not a flight but organized withdrawal, nothing is left behind. From where the company is positioned the road cannot be overlooked. But the sound of tanks and vehicles passing by is clearly audible during the entire night. Again it is freezing hard. Every hour the company commander reports by radio to battalion staff that all is calm. Battalion staff is positioned a couple of km further on, along the main road, with transportation, ready to move out immediately if necessary.
Above Hoengsong the sky is glooming red, the Americans have set all large buildings on fire, also ammunition depots which can not be evacuated are blown up. Then our artillery begins to fire, the granades howl above our group near the bridge and explode further on, at a junction of roads, to prevent the Chinese from moving in on that road. It is turning bitter cold and our boys shudder because of the cold, they can not walk up and down because they have to stay on post, but the Chinese can neither be heard nor seen.
At daybreak it is reported that the company may return to battalion. The boys are cold through and through, and move slowly over slippery slopes back to battalion which is located on a flat piece of terrain near a curve of the road. Within an hour the Americans have passed and we, as the rearguard, "close the door". This provoked one of our boys to remark : "I have always said, we came here to liberate the Americans."
When the sun comes up, the temperature falls even lower, a rough biting easterly wind blows right through the valley, all that without protection of any kind. In the vicinity of Hoengsong you now can hear machine gun fire and a number of detonations, the last American battalion is moving by. The Americans look worn out, this is comprehensible given what they have lived through the last couple of months. They have been sitting in the bridgehead along the Naktong river, afterwards pushed up to the Yalu river and now have to withdraw again. A withdrawal is one of those things which makes a soldier depressed, but they have to face an enemy 5 times as strong as themselves.
Korea until now is a war of pushing forward and them withdraw and again forward and again back, so that everybody begins to lose hope.
Clouds appear over the mountains, the air turns grey, this shall bring snow.
The colonel holds consultation with his company commanders on the order of withdrawal. A Companie directly follows the Americans, afterward the assisting O Companie, then the staff, and B Companie as the last covers the retreat. We retreat to Wonju airport where we will receive new orders. Over Hoengsong hans a thick cloud of smoke which raises slowly. The city is on fire, an hour later snow sets in.

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

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