Dutch Volunteers fighting in the Korean War

written by Elie van Schilt, veteran NDVN soldier

Chapter XIX : A Last, Desperate Fight North of Inje

For weeks our boys are now in action, march on dusty roads, through valleys and across mountains, and by inexplainable means they always end up were the hardest beatings are dealt out or are given.
Again they have to move into the mountains that evening, they are already dead tired because of the long, exhausting march here.
Everywhere in the mountains dead Chinese or North Koreans lie around, groups of Chinese search for a place to surrender. Many have a 'safe conduct pass'. These are dropped over enemy positions by UN airplanes.
This night is not quiet. American artillery fires at Chinese positions; the Chinese take Inje under barrage fire. That fire from both sides goes over the heads of the Dutchmen, the detonations echo through the valley. Machine gun rattling is heard, the French sitting to the left of the Dutchmen are under attack, but the rattling interrupts soon afterward.
Now rain sets in, tentsails are placed over the dugouts, but it begins to pour and tentsails don't hold that off. The boys are wet through and through, they are pretty hungry, too, but that day no food is delivered, the Chinese have erected a barricade on the way along which the boys have come yesterday. The Chinese have taken a couple of American supply trucks, taken the food and set the trucks on fire, they also destroyed a bridge so that no more transport can come that way. Only the road to Inje is open, but it is cut by the Chinese shortly afterward. This means they are encircled from both sides.
The boys lie cold and stiff in their dugouts, with tired eyes they try to look through the curtain of rain in order not to be surprised by the enemy. B Company comes up to the positions on the mountaintop, they drag themselves up with all the energy they have left, some fall down and lie in the mud, their eyes blurry, it is as if they look but do not see anything.
Later wind is coming up and the mass of clouds suddenly disappears and just afterward the evening sun sends it's rays over the mountain. Then, at six o'clock, the Dutchmen are called down from the mountain to move into other positions a couple of kilometers further on, closer to Inje. Dead tired the troop moves on, hungry as well, cold and wet. They zigzag between the corpses of the Chinese, some are overcome by the odour, and they vomit along the path. Below them the Soyang river rushes. Water falls down from the mountains into the Soyang, now an ugly smelling stream washing a bunch of dead Chinese downward. It is weird, but their drinking water is taken from that river, although it is desinfected beforehand. Corpses also lie on the road, the trucks just run over them. One corpse is on fire. With a bunch of handgranades in his girdle, which shall detonate when reached by the fire. Nobody cares to take them off. Everone is too tired to do anything, only if their life is in danger, they take measures to forestall that.
Luckily the Americans succeeded to remove the Chinese barricades; later that evening food is delivered. The boys are utterly exhausted, but they have to get up the mountain, into position. These, luckily, have been left behind by the Chinese. Artillery thunders all night. The horizon in the north and east seems to be on fire. Then, early in the evening an artillery granade falls short, detonates in their bivouac. There are seven casualties, all wounded. The worst is still waiting for them. At five o'clock in the morning the Chinese launch a massive attack. An entire battalion of Chinese attempts to break through the Dutch positions, accompanied by the sound of horns and flutes. It turns into a horrible struggle, one of the worst the battalion has lived through, a fight man to man. Our exhausted boys have to fight against an enemy with superior numbers. At one place they have to give ground, but here A Company is deployed, they succeed, led by the platoon commander, using their bayonets, to repel the enemy. In the morning the struggle still goes on. The first dead and wounded are carried down the mountain. In total 14 men fell and many were wounded. But around our positions lie the corpses of 300 Chinese, the rest of their battalion fled in panic.
From interviews of P.O.W.s it seems that an entire Chinese regiment was bottled up. They tried to break out that morning. One battalion was sent to break through the Dutch position, to move on to the road and set up a barricade, to give the other two battalions opportunity to retreat.
Then, on August 6th, the Battalion is brought to the rear, their task is over, their work is done. It was hard, rough, inhuman, but the suffering is over. The new fellows of the next detachment take their task over, hope for the Netherlands that they earn as good a name as the battalion that now returns.
On August 9th Generat van Fleet, during a fine parade, hands out the U.S. president's Distinguished Unit Citation to the Dutch battalion. The U.S. president has honoured the Dutchmen for their courage proven during the winter campaign at Hoengsong and Wonju. A couple of weeks later it is made public that the NDVN, as part of the 2nd Division, is awarded a second presidential Distinguished Unit Citation, this time for the fights in May. That was in the area of Hongchon, where they put a Chinese offensive to a bloody end. So the Dutchmen were one of the most decorated units that have fought in Korea.

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

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