Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter XVIII : The Chinese Spring Offensive 1952 and the UN Counterattack

The UN forces ask themselves, why in the east, but they are prepared for everything. In the east the UN forces have penetrated deepest into North Korea. Perhaps the Chinese intend only to push back the U.N. forces beyond the 38th parallel.
It can also be a mock attack to cause the UN to withdraw troops from the west and center, and then to start an attack on large scale. When the great offensive sets in, General van Fleet says : the entire world is watching your actions with keen interest. They strengthen you with their prayers. The boys think : a bulletproof vest helps more. The men of the 2nd Division, and with that division also the Dutch and the French, are in the sector where the clashes take place. During the second phase of the offensive it is the 2nd Division which sets up a very dense defensive line to withstand the red floodwave. The second phase is faught along the entire front, the greatest floodwave of men ever deployed in Korea.
The bloodiest engagement is fought near Inje. Here North Korean forces hammer at two South Korean divisions which retreat 20 kilometers in disorder. In November and in February the flanks of the 2nd Division are threatened by enemy troops.
Hundreds of Thousands of Chinese, from the North, storm down the mountains, attacking the 16.000 Americans, French and Dutch who defend the sector stubbornly. One of the regiment command posts is overrun, it is a massacre. Never before have been that many enemy soldiers killed. Artillery has too many targets to handle. They give notice : "we do not shoot at any target less than 100 men. You'll have to kill those yourselves."
Some batteries even have to deal with fires, the barrels overheat. Still, the Chinese see the chance to move so far around the flanks of the division that it is necessary to withdraw them to avoid encirclement, on May 18th retreat is ordered.
The 38th Regiment, to which the Dutchmen are attached, runs, with 3.200 men, into two ambushes prepared by the Chinese. Chinese taken prisoner swear the order was to encircle and massacre 2nd Division in revenge for the fact that 2nd Division twice, at Chipyong and at Wonju, has stopped their offensive. But Colonel Coughlin wanted revenge for the massacre in death valley near Hoengsong in February, where two of his battalions suffered heavy losses. This is the way to take revenge, says the Colonel : "we kill so many of the enemy so fast as we can make our gun work."
The dead pile up in front of the positions of 2nd Division. Dozens of wounded in the barbed wire scream, and it takes sometimes hours until they die. During the worst massacre Dutchmen are present, they act as real fighters, their dead and the dead of Hoengsong are taken revenge for a hundredfold.
On May 20th the red floodwave lost steam running against the barricades of the 2nd Division and begins to ebb. It seemed to be so bad, when U.N. troops moved forward to take enemy positions, the piles of corpses were an obstacle, just to reach them. The 2nd Division, of which the Netherlands Battalion was a part, lost 900 men in this battle, death, wounded and missed in action. The Chinese lost 37.700 men, these numbers included only those our side could count.

A few days before the first detachement of the Netherlands Battalion leaves Korea for the Netherlands, General Ridgway declares the following :
Tokio, August 14th 1952
With deep feelings of pride and respect I take the opportunity to wish a pleasant and fast journey to the heroic officers and men of the Netherlands Detachment United Nations, which in a few days shall return to their homeland. The way you acted in the struggle, during this bitter conflict, despite the climatic conditions, the difficult terrain and the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, is honorable for yourself, for your country and the United Nations.
The courageous fights of the Dutch at Wonju and Hoengsong with always be remembered together with other great battles of world history. For ages it will be remembered as a contribution in the struggle for liberty, righteousness and humanity.
Matthew B. Ridgway

But we are not yet in August. The last days of May the UN troops started a great offensive. The march northward is going on, this time along the entire front. The enemy troops receive a beating from which they will not recover for months.
These periods of pushing forward and fighting great battles are heavy for our boys. After they first, with the 2nd Division, had stopped the Chinese floodwave, now they participate, with the same division, in the push northward.
For days they pursue the retreating Chinese, they have crossed the 38th parallel again. But then somewhere on a narrow path the 38th Regiment runs into a Chinese barricade. The Dutch are called upon to clear the way, they succeed very fast. A Company leads a charge and chases out the Chinese in just a few moments.

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

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