Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter IX : Position south of Wonju evacuated; Battalion moves to Podong-ri, to Noda-ri and then to Hoengsong

The boys in the positions have to keep moving continuously in order not to freeze. According to the noise the Americans on the left have come under attack, shortly afterward artillery fire sets in, we can observe light flashing and see where the granades hit, if it doesn't work there, they surely shall try the French position. If they find a weak point anywhere they point it out by trumpet or by light signals and within no time a great breakthrough takes place there. The firing ends now and indeed an hour later you can hear shots from the French side, now the French have to slaughter the whole bunch, otherwise you can bet your life that it is the Dutchmen's turn in the valley. A while later silhouettes are observed trying to enter the valley, immediately mortar granades are thrown at them. Now the firing at the French position increases and they are mad enough to storm downhill with bayonets, what may have contributed, the French, even on the front, receive their daily wine ration. The engagement in the French sector continues, the Dutch hope that they will be held up at least until daybreak, before they switch attacking another sector.
Still, the Chinese have a damned hard life, they are sent again and again to attack, daily they are exposed to air raids with napalm, fragmentation bombs and other items designed to annihilate them.
There are just a few volunteers among them, some of them don't even know exactly where they are. They are sent onto the field with a baglet full of rice and an ammunition belt.
A couple of moments later the Chinese cross the valley just in front of the Dutch troops. They are fired at immediately by machine guns and mortar granades. Suffering high casualties of both wounded and dead they retreat northward.

Despite the fact that the Americans, Dutch and French repelled every attack, the enemy still succeeded in moving around the flanks of the 38th Regiment. There is the danger of becoming encircled. The decision is taken to give up the positions around Wonju. The Netherlands' Detachment moved out to Podong-ri, it is a small place near Chechon, this will be the calmest time the Netherlands' battalion spent in Korea. The battalion command is lodged in a couple of houses, the staff company in a school building, A and B Company are lying in position on hills, with a view 1 km far over a wide valley, behind which there are mountains, behind which Wonju is located, now occupied by the enemy. B Company uses, as command post, a small farm lying behind a hill. There are a few villages located in the valley, all deserted; they are situated in no-mans-land. They did leave their cattle and mules behind. Every day a patrol enters the valley and returns with an animal. It is either slaughtered or used as a pack animal to transport water and ammunition up the hill.
Here the boys do not suffer any shortage, with meat, rice and curry the tastiest meals are prepared in the mess. But also to this good life comes an end. The UN forces now have retreated for over a month, from the Yalu river to south of Suwon and Wonju, are offering stiff resistance and succeed in stopping the flood wave. There is an offensive spirit again to withstand the enemy and repel him to beyond the 38th parallel. In the middle of January, Suwon is retaken by U.N. troops, and Wonju less than a day later. Troops move further on and the Dutch battalion is orders to move to Noda-ri, a small village located near the mountain pass between Chongju and Wonju, here they stay for a night, the next day they proceed along a road opened just before by bulldozers, to Mannang-po, a village located on a railroad line. Here a patrol base is established, from here patrols went out. One patrol of B Company runs into an ambush, they suffer two dead and a number of wounded. Then a patrol is sent out northward, on a hill near a lake frozen over they find a large number of dead North Koreans and even a pile of weapons and ammunition, these troops have faced an American air attack. Papers are found in the clothes of the corpse of a North Korean commander which contain important imformation, they also take a wounded North Korean prisoner. When the patrol is back they immediately have to climb on trucks to be transported to Hoengsong. Far past midnight they arrive there at a great open schoolyard frozen over, where they have to find a place to sleep, within a short time everybody disappeared in his sleeping bag. But there is little sleep to find here, because a South Korean artillery piece is placed just beyond the schoolyard and continues to fire all night.

At 5 o'clock in the morning machine guns begin to rattle. Under artillery cover, the South Koreans attack. You see them move out in endless lines, it is a strange army to us, there are women among them, they accompany them to the front, who cook and wash for and spend the night with the soldiers. Also they have cattle with them, that is their food reserves running on it's own feet.
The battaliuon's new task is to protect Hoengsong, it is positioned to the North and West, a Company is given a position on the mountains near a river. There are many corpses lying around the position, among them women, they are decomposed to a degree that they stink like hell. On the other side of the river are very high mountain chains. Battalion Command is lodged in a small church, the only building in Hoengsong which survived destruction. Tents were erected around the church, for Staff Company, the road to Honchon runs right through the position of A Company, a narrow valley, with high mountains on both sides. A Company holds these mountains, has thus control over the valley and over the road. On the right of A Company the area is held by B Company, and the O Company again is split up.
B Cpmpany has it's command lodged in a couple of houses which, for the larger part, are still intact, close to the river crossing and half way up the hill where the company lies in position. Just under command post lies the main road, where now not only Korean, but also American troops pass. The plan is that two ROK divisions open a pincer northward and try to cut off the Chinese; they are assisted by American tanks and artillery.
B Company has a nice view over the combat area, they see how the ROK soldiers climb the mountains one by one and repel the Chinese, heavy artillery fire is placed upon a distant mountain ridge, enormous pillars of dust and smoke rise skyward, out of the Chinese positions, at times the artillery fire interrupts, but immediately is replaced by aircraft which spray the mountains with machine gun fire, rockets, napalm and fragmentation bombs.
Despite watching the fight, the Dutch boys don't feel comfortable, it is just as if there is an undetermined danger. There is no explanation for it, but many boys feel uncomfortable. It was explained by what followed.

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

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