Monastery Ridge:A Novel of The Korean War

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If the KPA assumed that this attack marked the beginning of an envelopment of Heartbreak Ridge from the west, they might well divert men and guns to block the challenge, Lynch reasoned. But de Shazo rejected the proposal since General Clovis E. Byers , the X Corps commander, had earlier directed that Hill be given first priority.

When Maj. Robert N.

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Young , the new 2nd Division commander, arrived on 20 September, he decided that Lynch's plan was sound. He ordered Lynch to take Hills and and the 9th Infantry commander scheduled the attack on Hill for 23 September; Hill would be seized after Hill fell. In the meantime. Van Fleet told Byers that it would be desirable for X Corps to advance its western flank to bring the front line into phase with U.

IX Corps'. The double-barreled attack upon Hills and might well cause the North Koreans to take the threat seriously and lessen their capacity to resist on Heartbreak Ridge. The attacks by the 23rd Infantry against Heartbreak Ridge had continued on 21 and 22 September with little success. The 1st Battalion, under Maj. George H. Williams, Jr. Elements of the 1st Battalion briefly won their way to the crest on 23 September, but could not withstand the KPA's counterattack. An early morning assault from the east by a company from the KPA 3rd Regiment, 12th Division, produced a fierce fight that decimated the 1st Battalion.

When his ammunition ran out, Williams had to pull back his men from Hill Recognizing the threat to neighboring Hill , a key terrain feature dominating the valley to the north, the North Koreans quickly shifted the 3rd Regiment, 6th Division, from Heartbreak Ridge to defend the hill.

The North Korean deployment, however, did not help the embattled 23rd Regiment to capture Hill Although the French Battalion replaced the 2nd Battalion and tried to advance south along the ridge line while the 1st Battalion sought to press north toward the crest of , the KPA 15th Regiment fought them off on 26 September.

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The 23rd's regimental tanks were able to move far enough north in the Sat'ae-ri Valley to send direct fire against some of the KPA bunkers covering the eastern approaches to Heartbreak, but could not destroy the heavy mortars and machine guns that halted the 2nd Division attack. After almost two weeks of futile pounding at the KPA defenses on Heartbreak, Colonel Adams told General Young on 26 September that it was "suicide" to continue adhering to the original plan.

His own 23rd Regiment had already taken over casualties and the division total for the period was over 1, He felt that if the KPA forces in the vicinity of Heartbreak were engaged and unable to spare reinforcements or replacements for the KPA 15th Regiment, the 23rd could wear the regiment down and win the ridge.

By 27 September Young and the Corps commander, General Byers, had come to agree with Adams and further assaults by the 23rd on Heartbreak were called off. Analyzing the initial attempts of 2nd Division to take Heartbreak, Young later characterized them as a "fiasco" because of the piecemeal commitment of units and the failure to organize fire support teams.

The KPA mortars were especially effective, he pointed out, causing about 85 percent of the division's casualties up to this point. In the new plan that the division operations officer, Maj. Thomas W. Mellon, prepared in late September, the earlier mistakes were to be avoided. All three regiments of the division would launch concentrated and co-ordinated attacks, supported by all the division's artillery, by a full-scale armored drive by the 72nd Tank Battalion up the Mundung-ni Valley, and by tank-infantry task force action in the Sat'ae-ri Valley.

When the division issued the operation order on 2 October under the code name Touchdown, General Young assigned the following objectives to his regiments. The 9th Infantry Regiment would advance on the western side of the Mundung-ni Valley and seize Hills , , and To the 23rd went the task of securing Hill and the ridge line running west of that peak. In addition, the 23rd Infantry Regiment would be ready to attack Hill or to help the 38th Infantry Regiment capture it, as the case might be, and to take Hill , west of Hill The 38th would secure Hill and then provide infantry support to the 72nd Tank Battalion.

Target date for Touchdown was 5 October. The preparations for Touchdown required a period of tremendous activity on the part of the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion and its commander, Lt. Robert W. The road along the Mundung-ni Valley was a rough track unsuitable for the medium M4A3E8 Sherman tanks of the 72nd Tank Battalion and to get it quickly into condition to carry the Sherman's was a herculean task, but Love and his men were willing to try if they had adequate fire cover while they worked.

Craters dotted the track and the KPA had planted mines along the way. At one point they had heaped large rocks 6 feet 1. The 2nd Engineers put pounds of explosives around this roadblock and detonated the grenades when the explosives went off. Rock from neighboring cliff walls was blasted to provide fill for the craters.

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Working with shovels because their bulldozers were undergoing repair and would, in any case, have drawn artillery fire from the KPA on the heights further up the valley, the engineers fashioned a usable road. The explosions detonated the mines nearby. When the craters and mines were too dense, the engineers shifted the road to the stream bed, which had not been mined, and cleared the boulders blocking the way.

Bit by bit they advanced northward up the valley. While the engineers prepared the path for the tank attack, the 2nd Division regiments received replacements to bring their battalions up to full strength and built up their supplies of food, equipment, and ammunition for the upcoming operation. The 23rd Regiment pulled each of its battalions out of the line for forty-eight hours so that the replacements could be integrated while the unit was in reserve rather than on the line. The division established supply points forward of Line Kansas to ensure that the operation did not fail because of ammunition shortages.


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General Young also wanted to be certain that his battalion commanders would make full use of all the firepower at their disposal. Each battalion had to submit fire plans showing how it intended to employ its tanks, automatic weapons, small arms, and mortars in Touchdown.

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Sand-table models of the Heartbreak Ridge sector were used extensively in positioning the division's weapons in the best possible locations. Early in October, the three regiments moved into their attack positions.


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The 9th was on the left flank, ready to advance upon Hill while the 38th, under Col. Frank T. Mildren , was going up the Mundung-ni Valley. The 38th would stop near Saegonbae, southwest of Hill The 3rd Battalion of the 38th was to be the division reserve and could be used only with the permission of General Young.

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The attached Netherlands Battalion , however, provided the 38th with three full battalions. On Heartbreak Ridge the 23rd Infantry maintained two of its four battalions on the lines between Hills , , and Kenneth R. Sturman of the 23rd Infantry Regiment was organized on 3 October.


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  6. Composed of the 23rd Tank Company, the 2nd Reconnaissance Company, a French pioneer platoon, and an infantry company from the special divisional security forces, Task Force Sturman had the secondary mission of destroying KPA bunkers on the east side of Heartbreak Ridge and of acting as a decoy to draw KPA fire away from the 23rd Infantry foot soldiers on the ridge. On 4 October forty-nine fighter-bombers worked over the divisional sector and Task Force Sturman raided the Sat'ae-ri Valley.

    The other units of the 2d underwent final rehearsals for the attack scheduled for the next night. Fire support teams usually consisting of a combination of mortars, machine guns, rifles, and automatic weapons that could be called upon by the attacking infantry whenever the need arose were set up and given dry runs. The additional firepower would be extremely valuable against KPA bunkers and strongpoints. In the late afternoon of 5 October, the artillery preparation opened up as the division's artillery battalions began to pummel the defending KPA units facing the 9th and 38th Regiments in the Mundung-ni Valley area.

    As a result of the constant pressure exerted by the 2nd Division on these units during September and early October, none of them had a strength that reached a thousand men.

    On the west the 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry, pressed on toward Hill and by 7 October had won the crest, meeting only light resistance. The battalion then swung northwest toward Hill while the 1st Battalion mounted an attack north against Hill Both hills fell on 8 October. Then the 9th pushed on to Hill northwest of Hill and after a bayonet assault took possession on 10 October. The 38th Regiment, in the meantime, had also made excellent progress, on 4 October they discovered that the KPA had abandoned Hill , 1 mile 1.

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    By noon on 6 October the 1st Battalion had advanced from Hill and seized Hill against only light opposition. Possession of these two hills furnished cover for Colonel Love's engineers, who could now complete the tank trail for the 72nd Tank Battalion's advance. The 72nd, commanded by Lt. John O. Be the first to review.