Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter VII : To the South of Wonju

That day they take a prisoner, he simply walks into our position, is soon lead off to be interrogated. In the moment it is quiet, no fire exchange, despite of that another difficult day, they lie in position again and have to be on guard to not be suddebly surprised, the enemy is not far, as it seems from what the prisoner told.
When the last American will have passed, the Dutch again have to cover the withdrawal, B Company is ordered to form the rearguard. Wonju also is now set on fire by the Americans, so that the enemy can not make use of the buildings, the sky turns as red as fire; out of that firy horizon, again and again retreating American companies emerge. Now, in the burning city you can heart shots of the guerillas which over day have stayed quiet, also it snow sets in again. The boys lie in their positions, shuddering of the cold, nobody knows how far the Americans will retreat, they don't know how far they have to march tonight. Than an American intelligence officer drives along in a jeep, says the last American troops will pass in 15 minutes, we have to follow immediately, for in three quarters of an hour an ammunition train with 400 tons of load will be blown up on the station, and after that we will blow up the bridges just behind you. Finally the last company emerges marching out of the firy glow. Immediately Colonel den Ouden orders the entire battalion to descend from the mountain, to take up positions along the way and to cover the retreat of the Americans. Slowly, the battalion retreats southward.
Now they pass a bridge where the American intelligence officer is prepared to detonate it, shortly afterwards it explodes with a loud bang. The battalion marches further and further south, no time for a rest, first through a valley and then up a mountain where the snow lies higher and the cold is worse. This is the infamous mountain pass of Wonju, the wind is blowing snow right in their faces which almost closes their eyes, all along the way houses stand on fire. At three o'clock they are ordered to stop; now, no more houses are available for bivouac. The sleeping bags are unrolled in the snow and the boys, fully dressed, slip in them, as deep as possible, most fall asleep immediately. When they wake up the following morning, everybody is covered by a considerable layer of snow. Fires are made, coffee is prepared for everybody.
The day is quiet, they remain on the mountain pass all day. Further in the north there is heavy fire; there are rumours that the enemy attempts to break through, two battalions of South Koreans are on their way to attack them. According to another rumour the battalion is to move out tomorrow morning, northward, back to Wonju. The ROK troops actually have moved northward; they now enter the mountains to attack the enemy there. They ascend the slippery slopes just as mountain goats, the heavy weapons carried along, resting on their necks. Half way up there is a shootout, so close that one of our boys of B Company is killed by a stray bullet. B Company now has to relieve an American company which had taken up position on top of a hill, but before they can do this, they are given a new order : take up position on top of a high mountain, near the entrance to a pass. Here they have to protect 38th Regiment headquarters against a possible attack from the mountains.
There is no path leading up, in a heavy snowstorm, climbing over blocks of rocks, you hold on to anything which offers a hold, so they slowly climb up. Once up, the boys immediately begin to establish positions by moving rocks and placing branches hacked off from trees. Food is delivered to the foot of the mountain, and some boys descend for half an hour, carrying the food up the mountain, on their backs. A couple of 100 liters of coffee have also been delivered. The boys have just settled, when the order was given out : move out.
Now they are regiments' reserve. Thus all that carrying was in vain, and it is extremely difficult, in darkness, to descend the slippery slope. Just beneath us, three waggons slipped off the road. Once down another couple of kilometers have been passed marching until a new collection point is reached. Again we sleep in the snow, but there is not much of sleep, as artillery begins to fire nearby.
This was Korea, marching for days in wet clothes without a chance to put on dry clothes, if the wind blows, the pants freeze attached to your body, now they lie open and bare in the snow, at 15 degrees below and again a lot of time had past since they had their last meal. And there came no meal, as several waggons had slipped into the ravine, the man who reported that had had to walk for 10 km. Toward the morning it began to freeze, the upper layer of the snow turned into a hard crust. The battalion commando is quartered in a small village where artoillery has been set up which continues shooting all night. Every day the artillery barrels show straighter up, from that angle we can determine how far the Chinese are from us, every day a little closer. Now B Company has become regiments reserve we can count on being assigned soon here or there, for defense or attack. The 38th regiment now is located close to the front just south of Wonju. The city is now occupied by the enemy, who now attempts to encircle the 2nd Division from the east and west.

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

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