By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Reporter Paul Kim
Ambassador Kathos Jibao Mattai of Sierra Leone and other senior members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps (SDC) had a rare opportunity to cross the ‘Battle Site’ Nakdong River in Mayor a ceremony hosted by Baek Seon-ki of the Chilgok County of Gyeongsangbuk-do Province on Oct. 11, 2019.
They visited the Chilgok County, some 134 miles southwest of Seoul that day at the special invitation of Mayor Baek to see the re-enactment of the successful defense of the last bastion of the Republic of Korea (ROK) during the fateful month of September 69 years ago in 1950.
The visiting members of the SDC had a rare opportunity to learn how the ROK successfully defended the country from the North Korean invasion of the country with the help of the United States and 15 other Korean War allies who sent combat troops to fight on the side of the ROK in the Chilgok County.
Provided the ROK, the US and other Korean War allies had failed to defend the Chilgok County in the Battle of Dabudong in September 1950, there would be no free Republic of Korea today but the entire Korean peninsula might have come under the tyrannical rule of the Soviet Army-trained Marshal Kim Il-sung of North Korea, the grandfather of today’s ruler, Chairman Kim Jong-Un of the (North) Korean Workers Party.
On that day, Mayor Baek re-enacted how the heroic soldiers of the ROK, US and 15 other Korean War allies successfully defended the last bastion of the allied forces in his region against the by-far outnumbering North Korean forces.
“We must remember, and never, ever forget the vital battles fought in our region in that fateful month of September 1950 by the heroic soldiers of the ROK Army and the UN Forces who came to our rescue from the North Korean Communist invasion,” said Mayor Baek of the Chilgok County at the opening address of the memorial meeting held at the river-side battle ground in the Chilgok County.
Present at the opening ceremony were Gen. Paik Sun-yop (ret.) who actually led the ROK division in the defense of Chilgok, Mr. Sam Walker (grandson of the late US Army Lt. Gen. Walton Harris Walker who defended Chilgok and the Republic of Korea. They were all honored with decorations in recognition of their vital role played in the defense of the Republic of Korea from the outnumbering North Korean invasion forces in the fall of 1950.
At a welcome luncheon reception at the County Hall in Chilgok for the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps that day, Mayor Baek said, “First of all, I present my warmest welcome to all the members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps visiting the Chilgok County to grace the opening of the Nakdong River World Peace Culture Grand Festival.”
Then he said, “The 7th Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival will be held for three days from today on the theme of ‘Chilgok Flows Towards Peace!’ Then he said:
“The purpose of the festival is to convey and spread the message of peace and harmony throughout the world. With the participation of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps, the Festival is expected to be a very meaningful and also global festival. Rayma Gbowie, who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, said, “Peace does not come free!” It is only possible with the effort and sacrifice made by numerous people. Please don’t hesitate to look around the festival and may today be a meaningful time to us all, showing respect and appreciation to the War Veterans who sacrificed their lives for us."
“I would like to take this opportunity to ask our honorable Seoul Diplomatic Corps to join us and gather our hearts to promote peace within the Korean Peninsula and to resolve all international conflict peacefully in a diplomatic manner through dialogue."
"The Chilgok County was the last stand for the Republic of Korea during the Korean War, where scars and traces of war can be found. It was only for a short stay here, but I hope that your visit to our county stay forever within your heart as a meaningful and memorable time"
“I hope that the Nakdong River World Peace Festival becomes the seed to what will grow as peace on the Korean peninsula and the world. Again, let me express my utmost gratitude to all of those who have participated and I hope for happiness and well-being to you all.”
The visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps were invited to view the Battle of Dabu-dong at a small theater at the County Office. Each of the guests was provided with a pair of 3D glasses so that they could vividly view the Battle of Dabudong in 1950.
The 3D movie featured how the soldiers, especially the student volunteers wearing school uniforms fought off the enemy soldiers in a hand-to-hand combat.
It was one the most significant battles throughout the Korean War (1950-3) because at the time South Korea had lost more than 90% of its entire territory to the invading NKA forces with the sole exception of the Daegu City and the Busan Port City on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula.
Had the Nakdong River Defense Line been broken through by the invading North Korean Army troops after the fall of Dabudong, many military experts agree that there would exist no Republic of Korea today.
In the fateful month of September 1950, communication trenches had been dug along the river on the southern bank of the River which was defended by the ROK and US Army soldiers and they waited for the far-outnumbering NKA invasion troops to come.
Presently, the NKA soldiers started their major offensive with large number of troops with the support of tanks and breached the beachhead and a hand-to-hand combat took place between the NKA invaders and the ROK and US soldiers.
The ROK and US forces were by far outnumbered by the NKA forces who were carrying out a final general offensive to ‘wipe out’ the ROK and US forces from the Daegu-Busan defense perimeters. It was the toughest battle for the ROK and US forces. The ROK and US forces had been having a really difficult time when reinforcements finally arrived.
However, they were not regular soldiers but Hakdobyeong (student volunteers) formed with university and high school boys. Some 700 student volunteer soldiers fought at the risk of their lives, and finally succeeded in repelling the NKA soldiers after a bloody hand-to-hand fighting where the enemy and friendly soldiers used fists and bayonets as well as rifles and revolvers.
After hours of bloody battle, the NKA troops finally started retreating. The soldiers of the ROK, US and other allied forces, as well as the student volunteer soldiers, gave a victory cry. Korean soldiers cried out ‘Manse!’ (Hurray!) wildly--excitedly waving the flags of the ROK, US and other friendly countries.
How as the war situation at the initial stage of the conflict in June 1950?
Seoul came under the occupation of the NKA within three days of the general offensive carried out by the NKA all along the 38th parallel (then border line between the ROK and NK) on the fateful day of June 25, 1950.
Mayor Baek has a special regard for Ethiopia with which his county has a sisterhood relationship.
Baek told The Korea Post: “This is my last term as we cannot have a fourth consecutive term.”
Baek has been re-elected three times as the mayor of the county for his successful fulfillment of his tour of duty with the acclaim of the county people. This year is his last term and the Nakdong River Peace Festival, one of his very important ‘brain children’ as mentioned by his county people, is held with a special interest on his part.
Frankly, however, under the present government of President Moon Jae-in who obviously is more interested in ‘promoting peace with North Korea, the visitors got the impression that the central government was not as strong as the day of the preceding governments of the conservative camp.
With such a situation notwithstanding, there was ample evidence that the County, as well as the mayor, make an unreserved effort to keep the festival going.
Korea is heavily indebted to the countries who sent troops to fight on the side of the South to keep her free from Communist invasion and domination. Otherwise, there would not be such a ‘prosperous’ Republic of Korea that exists today.
In the minds of most Koreans, especially the established generation, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Ethiopia and other countries who sent combat troops to find on the side of the people in South Korea, are forever unforgettable.
Scores of other countries of the world, including India, Switzerland and Sweden, provided South Korea with various support to carry the war to victory for the ROK and the Free World.
Again, Ethiopia, who was one of the prominent countries sending combat troops to fight on the side of South Korea, merits due gratitude from the Korean people and this is done substantially by Mayor Baek of the Chilgok County.
Baek told The Korea Post:
“During the Korean War, Ethiopia dispatched 6,037 soldiers as a member of the United Nations Forces. During the War, the Ethiopian soldiers along other troops fought very decisively and boldly at all war front and registered big success for peace in the region and the world."
“During the three years of the Korean War, the Ethiopian battalion never lost an inch of ground and no single soldier captured and taken as war prisoner by the enemy for which the Ethiopian soldiers were highly respected and received many awards.”
Excerpts from Wikipedia on the Battle of Dabu-dong, Chilgok County:
The Battle of Tabu-dong was an engagement between United Nations Command (UN) and North Korean forces early in the Korean War from September 1 to September 18, 1950, in the vicinity of Tabu-dong, north of Taegu in South Korea. It was a part of the Battle of Pusan Perimeter, and was one of several large engagements fought simultaneously. The battle ended in a victory for the UN after large numbers of United States Army (US) and Republic of Korea Army (ROK) troops repelled a strong North Korean People's Army (KPA) attack.
Holding positions north of the crucial city of Taegu, the US 1st Cavalry Division stood at the center of the Pusan Perimeter defensive line, tasked with keeping the UN headquarters secured from attacks from the KPA. On September 1, the KPA 3rd Division attacked as part of the Great Nakdong Offensive.
What followed was a two-week battle around Tabu-dong and Waegwan in which the KPA were able to gradually push the 1st Cavalry Division back from its lines. However, the KPA were not able to force the US troops to withdraw completely or push the UN out of Taegu. The KPA was outflanked by the Inchon landings on 15 September and on 16 September the UN forces began their breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, forcing the KPA to abandon their attacks on Tabu-dong.
From the outbreak of the Korean War and the invasion of South Korea by the North, the KPA had enjoyed superiority in both manpower and equipment over both the ROK and the UN forces dispatched to South Korea to prevent it from collapsing. The KPA strategy was to aggressively pursue UN forces on all avenues of approach south and to engage them aggressively, attacking from the front and initiating a double envelopment of both flanks of the unit, which allowed the KPA to surround and cut off the opposing force, which would then be forced to retreat in disarray, often leaving behind much of its equipment. From their initial June 25 offensive to fights in July and early August, the KPA used this strategy to effectively defeat any UN force and push it south. However, when the UN forces, under the Eighth United States Army, established the Pusan Perimeter in August, the UN troops held a continuous line along the peninsula which KPA troops could not flank, and their advantages in numbers decreased daily as the superior UN logistical system brought in more troops and supplies to the UN forces.
When the KPA approached the Pusan Perimeter on August 5, they attempted the same frontal assault technique on the four main avenues of approach into the perimeter. Throughout August, the KPA 6th Division, and later the KPA 7th Division engaged the US 25th Infantry Division at the Battle of Masan, initially repelling a UN counteroffensive before countering with battles at Komam-ni and Battle Mountain. These attacks stalled as UN forces, well equipped and with plenty of reserves, repeatedly repelled KPA attacks. North of Masan, the KPA 4th Division and the US 24th Infantry Division sparred in the Nakdong Bulge area. In the First Battle of Nakdong Bulge, the KPA division was unable to hold its bridgehead across the river as large numbers of US reserve forces were brought in to repel it, and on August 19, the KPA 4th Division was forced back across the river with 50 percent casualties.
In the Taegu region, five KPA divisions were repulsed by three UN divisions in several attempts to attack the city during the Battle of Taegu. Particularly heavy fighting took place at the Battle of the Bowling Alley where the KPA 13th Division was almost completely destroyed in the attack. On the east coast, three more KPA divisions were repulsed by the ROK at P'ohang-dong during the Battle of P'ohang-dong. All along the front, the KPA troops were reeling from these defeats, the first time in the war their strategies were not working.
In planning its new offensive, the KPA command decided any attempt to flank the UN force was impossible due to the support of the UN naval forces. Instead, they opted to use frontal attack to breach the perimeter and collapse it as the only hope of achieving success in the battle. Fed by intelligence from the Soviet Union the KPA were aware the UN forces were building up along the Pusan Perimeter and that it must conduct an offensive soon or it could not win the battle. A secondary objective was to surround Taegu and destroy the UN forces in that city. As part of this mission, the KPA would first cut the supply lines to Taegu.
On August 20, the KPA commands distributed operations orders to their subordinate units. The plan called for a simultaneous five-prong attack against the UN lines. These attacks would overwhelm the UN defenders and allow the KPA to break through the lines in at least one place to force the UN forces back. Five battle groupings were ordered. The center attack called for the KPA 3rd, 13th and 1st Divisions to break through the US 1st Cavalry Division and ROK 1st Division to Taegu.
North Korean attacks on Taegu, September 1950.
While four divisions of the KPA II Corps attacked south in the P'ohang-dong, Kyongju and Yongch'on area, the remaining three divisions of the corps-the 3rd, 13th and 1st conducted their converging attack on Taegu from the north and northwest. The KPA 3rd Division was to attack in the Waegwan area northwest of Taegu, the KPA 13th Division down the mountain ridges north of Taegu along and west of the Sangju-Taegu road, and the KPA 1st Division along the high mountain ridges just east of the road.
Defending Taegu, the US 1st Cavalry Division had a front of about 35 miles (56 km). Division Commander Major General Hobart R. Gay outposted the main avenues of entry into his zone and kept his three regiments concentrated behind the outposts. At the southwestern end of his line Gay initially controlled the US 3rd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, which had been attached to the 1st Cavalry Division. On September 5 the British 27th Commonwealth Brigade, in its first commitment in the Korean War, replaced that battalion. Next in line northward, the US 5th Cavalry Regiment defended the sector along the Nakdong around Waegwan and the main Seoul highway southeast from there to Taegu. Eastward, the US 7th Cavalry Regiment was responsible for the mountainous area between that highway and the hills bordering the Sangju road. The US 8th Cavalry Regiment, responsible for the latter road, was astride it and on the bordering hills.
Eighth United States Army commander Lieutenant General Walton Walker ordered the 1st Cavalry Division to attack north on September 1 in an effort to divert some of the KPA strength from the US 2nd and 25th Infantry Divisions in the south. Gay's initial decision upon receipt of this order was to attack north up the Sangju road, but his staff and regimental commanders all joined in urging that the attack instead be against Hill 518 in the 7th Cavalry zone. Only two days before, Hill 518 had been in the ROK 1st Division zone and had been considered a KPA assembly point. The 1st Cavalry Division, accordingly, prepared for an attack in the 7th Cavalry sector and for diversionary attacks by two companies of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, on the 7th Cavalry's right flank. This left the 8th Cavalry only one infantry company in reserve. The regiment's 1st Battalion was on the hill mass to the west of the Bowling Alley and north of Tabu-dong; its 2nd Battalion was astride the road.
This planned attack against Hill 518 coincided with the defection of KPA Major Kim Song Jun of the 19th Regiment, 13th Division. He reported that a full-scale KPA attack was to begin at dusk that day. The 13th Division, he said, had just taken in 4,000 replacements, 2,000 of them without weapons, and was now back to a strength of approximately 9,000 men. Upon receiving this intelligence, Gay alerted all front-line units to be prepared for the attack.
Complying with Eighth Army's order for a spoiling attack against the KPA northwest of Taegu, Gay ordered the 7th Cavalry to attack on September 2 and seize Hill 518. Hill 518, also called Suam-san, is a large mountain mass 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of Waegwan and 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the Nakdong River. It curves westward from its peak to its westernmost height, Hill 346, from which the ground drops abruptly to the Nakdong River. Situated north of the lateral Waegwan-Tabu–dong road, and about midway between the two towns, it was a critical terrain feature dominating the road between the two places. After securing Hill 518, the 7th Cavalry attack was to continue on to Hill 314. Air strikes and artillery preparations were to precede the infantry attack.
On the morning of September 2 the US Air Force (USAF) delivered a 37-minute strike against Hills 518 and 346. The artillery then laid down its concentrations on the hills, and after that the planes came over again with napalm, leaving the heights on fire. Just after 10:00, and immediately after the final napalm strike, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, attacked up Hill 518.
The KPA 3rd Division was almost completely destroyed in the battles. The division had numbered 7,000 men at the beginning of the offensive on September 1. Only 1,000 to 1,800 men from the division were able to retreat back into North Korea by October. The majority of the division's troops had been killed, captured or deserted. All of KPA II Corps was in a similar state, and the KPA, exhausted at Pusan Perimeter and cut off after Inchon, was on the brink of defeat.
By this time, the US 1st Cavalry Division suffered 770 killed, 2,613 wounded, 62 captured during its time at Pusan Perimeter. This included about 600 casualties, with around 200 killed in action it had already suffered during the Battle of Taegu the previous month. US forces were continually repulsed but able to prevent the KPA from breaking the Pusan Perimeter. The division had numbered 14,703 on September 1, but was in excellent position to attack despite its casualties.