Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter XVII : The Battalion recovers at Choepori

About February 2oth, it is raining, there is a mud pool around battalion command. Then the quartermaster of the ROK division arrives to relieve the Dutchmen. The Dutch quartermaster moves to Choepori, a small village to the east of Chechon. The rain continues, because of the soaked roads caused by the weather the transport trucks arrive 4 hours late.
Everybody is wet through and through, now on open trucks for hours. Tanks were supposed to accompany the treck, because of guerilla activities in the area they have to pass, but after waiting for the tanks in vain for another two hours, the battalion commander decides to move without tanks.
So the battalion moves in a cold, rainy night, along roads which are not exactly roads, sometimes right across a river running high, toward the next camp. Everyone is wet down to his skin, they hope for reasonable lodging where the clothes can dry and where they can get some sleep. But their hopes are disappointed. The railway station assigned to them has been robbed of it's floor panel and of any other wood, which has been used to feed a fire.
Everyone undresses, climbs in his sleeping bag in the nude, the only way to warm up. The next morning dry clothing is delivered.
Luckily a calm period begins for the detachment, the boys look like a bunch of starving vagabonds. They have not been able to wash or shave themselves for days, the clothes are dirty and torn, mostly they have only what they wear. Thus they are in need of a rest. But even here it is not always safe. The house they use as a kitchen unexpectedly collapses, a number of boys were severely wounded, one so severely that he has to be sent back to Holland.
The commander of A Company is appointed liaison officer, thus the man responsible for the communication between the Dutch battalion and UN command. Major Eekhout is promoted Colonel and new commander of the Dutch battalion. For the time being the battalion remains in reserve, their only occupation ordinary camp activities, drills, protect Chechon against guerilla activities, often they have to march deep into mountaineous terrain to persecute guerillas.
Uniforms and equipment are restored, weapons were brought back up to full strength.
The fallen were buried with full honours at the military cemetery in Pusan. A special airplane is supplied by the Americans so that a deputation can visit Pusan.
What cannot be replaced. The battalion, because of a number of wounded and fallen, has now less manpower, is weakened considerably. The quiet period lasts till early April. Then the battalion is reattached to the 38th regiment, which already some time earlier moved up to the front.
What else happens in April. General MacArthur is relieved of his post. The soldiers do not understand, this general who defeated the Japanese, chased them back to their own country, who is even revered by the Japanese, everybody is sad because of his departure.

General Ridgway is his successor. The Dutch battalion now is positioned a couple of kilometers to the North of the 38th parallel, they lie in a valley, the positions are in the mountains around the encampment. The dugouts were easier to dig now, the ground was not frozen any more. They could also make use of positions previously dug by the Chinese. It is not cold over day, but at night it is still getting rather cold. Especially the soldiers standing guard suffer from it.
In the distance you can hear artillery fire, which continues without interruption. Also every now and then a search light flashes, They scan the surrounding mountain tops in search of enemy activities.
T he next morning the battalion moves on, the roads are dry as dust, and a large dust cloud hangs over the column of cars along the mountain road and up a deep ravine. The air smells of corpses, not long ago this area has been fought over intensely, and far from all corpses have been taken care of. They pass a river, then the road passes a broad valley, and then suddenly ends. Equipment is unloaded and shouldered, the drivers are greeted farewell, they brought them as far as possible. Then another long march. More than 4 hours of climbing, along narrow mountain paths, higher and higher into the mountains of North Korea. Finally, after many hours of climbing they reach the area where they have to take up position.
Just as always. Dig dugouts again on high mountain tops, observe the valleys, cover the dugouts overnight and pray that daybreak comes fast.
In May the Chinese launch the long-expected spring offensive, after having brought their forces up to strength over months. Great numbers of trucks were sighted by American pilots, at times over 2000 in one night. It is assumed that this is to be an offensive on great scale, they will try to take Seoul or to break through in the central sector. But it seems to be different, they start their offensive in the eastern sector.

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

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