Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter XII :

The Story how Battalion Command Fell

At Wonju airport it is bitter cold, too, everybody gets close to the others and as close to the fire as possible. The fires have to stay small, because there is hardly any wood to be found, thus they have to save what they have collected. They are all exhausted and want to get some sleep to get back in shape.
But the Chinese approach, thus these fellows probably have, early next morning, to move up a hill and dig, or I should say hack trenches to take up position, because the ground is frozen hard.
There is a cold easterly wind blowing across the airfield, again and again Dutch boys come in, some of whom tell the story what happened at battalion command.

Battalion command, as already written, was in Hoengsong. Everything had be calm until about 9 o'clock at night. Colonel den Ouden had just been outside and wwas on his way back in, the transport officer was busy checking the motor vehicle fleet to check if all vehicles were ready for the retreat.
In the little church a number of people were resting until the sign for retreat would sound. The men on guard were freezing and stamped with their feet. Everybody waited for A Company's report that the last Americans had passed, so that the battalion could move out. Suddenly they were shot at in the area of battalion command, at the same time the transport officer comes reporting that he had been shot at at the motor vehicle fleet, he says a whole bunch of soldiers come marching here and "according to me" it is Chinese. Indeed, along the way a large group of soldiers march in, they don't react on the call by the Dutch guards, keep on marching. Thus the Dutch guards open fire. They reply in broken English : "Don't shoot, we are ROK soldiers." The shooting stopped, it was possible that it were ROK soldiers, all day ROK soldiers had passed by. It was dark and thus difficult to verify if it were indeed ROK soldiers.
But things were different. Colonel den Ouden immediately sent a S2 seargeant with a Korean translator. That was what the soldiers were waiting for. The translator heard them talking and shouted "watch out, they are Chinese". The sergeant yelled immediately "alarm, something smells rotten here". And then it began. The Chinese attacked immediately. Colonel den Ouden ordered to take up position around battalion command, but it was already too late. In the moment he gave that order, a hand granade exploded nearby, and mortally wounded he fell down.
Everybody now attempted to reach Staff Company, but that was perilous, to achieve this a steep hill had to be climbed which completely was exposed to Chinese fire. Attempting to climb it, many boys fell, some even attempted to pull Colonel den Ouden's corpse up, but they had to give up that attempt under the murderous fire of the Chinese. There was no way to hold the place, the Chinese were in an overwhelming majority.
They stormed all tents of battalion command and emptied their weapons shooting into them. It was here where Captain Tak was wounded, as already described in the previous chapter. Many wounded owe their lives to having played dead when the Chinese came close. They lost their wristwatches and other valuables, though.
Of those who have been in the little church at that time of the treacherous attack, most were killed or wounded. After a while the Chinese succeeded in taking the hill on which that church stood. When they held it, they dominated Hoengsong and it's surrounding. Later they got involved in a bitter engagement with B Company and 0 Company. The fact that the Chinese were able to find battalion command that precisely is probably due to treason committed by a Korean. Seen the precision by which the attack was executed, it is unlikely that they stumbled over battalion command by occasion.
February 12th 1951 was a hard and dreary day for the Netherlands' battalion, this attack on the battalion resulted in 19 dead and 28 wounded, many of whom severely. The struggle was entangled, man against man in darkness.
South Koreans, Dutchmen, Americans and Chinese, everthing moved in disorder and who first noticed to face an enemy shot first. The Dutch used the situation to load a number of wounded quickly on a jeep and drive them southward, without being exposed to a rain of bullets.
Almoner van de Vrande also narrowly escaped, he jumped from wall to wall. Somewhere he met three soldiers in a hole, who directed their weapons against him, while they shouted something at him. He thought, "now, that was it", he was armed with nothing but a walking stick. He pretended to see nothing and quickly passed the Chinese. The Chinese obviously were also not sure whom they were facing and let him pass. Afterwards he admitted openly never before to have experienced such a fear.

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

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