Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter VIII : Holding a Position south of Wonju

Indeed the company in regiments reserve has to move to the front, but where exactly is the front, the enemy is spread out till far behind 2nd Division. The commander of B Company heads for 38th Regiment headquarters for further orders, but they are not in a good mood there, they just have received report that an American company, under heavy enemy pressure, had to take their position back. An American colonel swears, they may not budge under any circumstances, if the defensive position there is overrun, the entire front collapses. We have to hold things under control there until reinforcements show up. If reinforcements show up.
Now we sit in the spindle around which the entire Korean front turns. Now the Colonel assigns B Company their position. On the hill on the right the French are positioned, you will be in the valley, on the hill to the left there are Americans. The valley is wide open, and on the opposite hill sits a bunch of enemy troops. At noon the French had to face an attack, the dead and wounded lie scattered all over the valley. When the positions were taken, speed and care were advised, for it seemed that snipers were still in the valley. The boys follw the lead of an American major, on top of a hill a house is on fire, from there the North Koreans had attacked the French at noon, several wounded North Koreans are still lying here, we can here them shout.
Without speaking the troops march on, headed by the American major, followed by B Company. The major says up there is a platoon of Americans and you have to link up with them. Try to close the entire valley until the position of the French. While a platoon ascends the hill to link up with the Americans, a Dutch officer accompanies the American major into the valley to overlook the assigned position. Soon afterward, troops catch up with them they believed to have been Dutch soldiers. But it was North Koreans, who, not realizing the situation, pass both officers.
After that troop passed the two officers quickly returned. If the Dutch B Company had arrived a little earlier, Dutch and North Koreans would have confronted each other in the valley.
It is a very bad place to take up position, there is nothing, all boys have to find a place in the snow, it is bitter cold, already about minus 18 degrees, which shall be a temperature of minus 20 to minus 22 degrees in the morning. There are no sleeping bags, thus it is lying open and bare in the snow, the troop is constantly thinning out an the last of them get closer to the burning house, then the silence is interrupted by a loud scream, probably one of the wounded North Koreans. After a while finally there is contact with the French. They report that at noon they have faced an attack from the North Koreans, just where you now take up position, the attack failed because the valley could be taken under fire, but there have to be a number of dead and wounded. The French assign a house to the Dutch, as commando post. Later a report comes in that on the other side of the valley there are a few houses where suspicious noises were noticed. These houses seem to lie in the back of B Company. Before strange things can happen there, it is decided to deal with the matter by mortar fire, while a platoon is ready to shoot at eventually fleeing North Koreans.
A order to attack is given by a light sign, and the mortars begin to shoot, actually it is not shooting because the mortar granades propel themselves when they are released by contact. Shortly afterward the first granades burst on and near those houses. Despite the fact that phosphor granades were among those fired, the houses do not burn and nothing further happens, after a quarter of an hour mortar fire ceases and the platoon is ordered to shoot at the houses. After about 10 minutes the platoon wants to move back into their old position, but suddenly they come under fire from the direction of the burning house. For over an hour the Dutch are held under fire, but they do not return the fire in order not to indicate their positions. Then the fire weakens. The cold is terrible, turn by turn the boys run up and down to warm up, some are frozen stiff and have to be tilled up, forced to walk a short distance.
Nobody talks of the enemy, the only topic is the cold. Ask ex-Korea fighters what they regard the worst, those who participated in everything, the bloody engagements near the 325 and near Inje, the dust and heat of the summer, their answer always is "the winter campaign of Wonju". The largest amount of their energy was lost to the cold. They tried everything possible to warm up. Men who did not live through a Korean winter can not imagine how our soldiers had to suffer from the cold.
But the hospital reports about amputations of frozen limbs are enough documentation (Myself, I still suffer that the fringes of my earlaps have been frozen). Then it is reported that the supply waggon rode over a mine, a few wounded, but as the waggon itself was not heavily damaged, the meal still is delivered later on.
The next morning two boys with frozen limbs are carried away. Over day we work hard to make our positions more comfortable and easier to defend. Colonel den Ouden arrives to inspect the troops. That moment aircraft appear which take the positions in front of them under fire. So it could be observed that they lay close by. The rumour goes that they also had almost surrounded B Company.
The enemy uses the next night to test the position, around three o"clock in the morning shots are fired, this night is even colder than the one before, but by now they were able to take preventions.
One of the boys had found a stray calf, the animal is slaughtered and there was warm soup all night, in one of the houses a big fire was lit where the boys, taking turns, could warm up.

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

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