The Chilgok County of the Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, 175 miles southeast of Seoul, hosts the 2nd Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival in a 4-day run on Sept. 25-28, 2014 in memory of the Battle of Dabudong in the Chilgok County north of the Daegu Metropolitan City.
The Festival is in memory and celebration of the fateful Battle of Dabudong in the County, which turned the tide of the Korean War in favor of the United Nations Forces that included the Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States (US).
The ROK was literally on the verge of possible collapse and extinction as the invading North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) had occupied all the territorial space of the ROK with the sole exception of the perimeters of the Daegu-Busan Region that was completely encircled by the NKPA troops.
In connection with the successful Battle of Dabudong, there are various interesting programs for the international guests to the Festival as well as for the Korean visitors, especially for the visitors from the dozens of the foreign countries who fought side by side with, or helped, the ROK Armed Forces.
Among them the interesting events are various experience programs at the Media Interactive Fa?ade Experience Hall, Virtual Experience Documentary Hall, Experience-Exhibition Halls, Video-Image Exhibition Hall, Barbed Wire Fence of the Korean DMZ and the East-West German Barbed Wire Fence and Korean War Photo Exhibition.
There also are other experience events such as Visit and Experience at the Old Battle Sites of the Defense of the Nakdong River and the Experience Zone of the Korean War.
Then there is a futuristic experience event at the Future Peace Guard Sentry where the guests will have a personal experience of the state of weightlessness.
For the children, there are special programs such as children’s exhibitions and juggling events on the Peace Street.
There also are a walk along the ‘Walker Defense Line,’ Nakdong River Peace Fireworks Display, World Peace Flash Mob, Nakdong River Peace Mock United Nations Conference, Dark Tourism, a Stamp Rally, a Peace Coin Farm, a Peace Writing Contest, Korean National Classic Musical, Children’s Peace Singing Contest, Global One-family Festival, Lee Eun-kyul Magic Show and a Peaceful Unification Concert.
The Walker Defense Line is named after Gen. Walton H. Walker, then commanding general of the Eighth United States Army, who is substantially responsible for the victory of the Battle of Dabudong, which eventually saved South Korea from falling into the hands of the NKPA invasion forces.
The Battle of Dabudong was between the 24,000 troops of the NKPA and the 10,000 combined troops of the ROK and US Army.
The enemy had three reinforced divisions with 34 T-34 tanks and 670 artillery pieces of varying calibers.
In contrast, the ROKA 1st Division had only 7,600 troops who even included over 500 just-recruited and quickly trained student volunteers. The ROK 1st Division then had only 172 artillery pieces vis-?-vis 670 artillery guns of the enemy.
At the pre-dawn hour of 4 a.m. on Sunday June 25, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) started an unwarned all-out invasion of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South along the entire stretch of the border line of the 38th parallel dealing a massive artillery fire on the ROK defense positions.
At the same time the YAK fighter aircraft of the North Korean Air Force invaded the Seoul airspace and bombed the Gimpo Airport on the outskirts of Seoul and dealt strafing attacks on the streets in the heart of Seoul.
The ROK was completely taken by surprise. There had been an extensive and intensive peace offensive by the North Korean regime toward the ROK in the South with the result that the military security precautions in the ROK were lifted on the mid-night of June 23, two days before the date of the North Korean invasion, and more than one third of the total personnel strength of the ROK Armed Forces were given a weekend leave. In other words, North Korea started its military invasion against the ROK when one third of the entire ROK Armed Forces personnel were off duty on that fateful Sunday.
North Korea started the invasion with a total of seven well-armed infantry divisions, one motorized division and several independent brigades totaling in strength over 111,000 persons, 1,610 artillery guns and over 280 tanks plus many self-propelled guns.
The ROK Armed Forces were miserably outnumbered by the invading North Korean forces. The ROK had no tanks nor any fighter aircraft (except 22 trainers). The ROK Armed Forces had only 27 small armored vehicles and small-caliber artillery guns.
Little wonder, Seoul, its capital city, fell within three days after North Korea started invasion.
The North Korean Armed Forces thenceforth moved deep into South Korea almost unchallenged, and occupied most of the land space with the sole exception of the perimeters of the Daegu and Busan in the southeastern corner of the Korean peninsula.
Then came the fateful Battle of Dabudong near Daegu (now one of the principal metropolitan cities), which was so important and critical that it could decide on the fate of the Republic of Korea.
Marshal Kim Il-sung of the North Korean regime, who also was the supreme commander of the NKPA, personally visited the frontline troops of the NKPA who were deployed to attack Dabudong to encourage his troops to “crush the ROK and UN Armed Forces and bury them under the sea off the Busan Port.”
The ROK Army 1st Division fought against three infantry divisions of the NKPA in the Dabudong region to protect the Daegu City from an all-out offensive carried out by the outnumbering three NKPA divisions trying to capture Daegu.
The ROK Army and the enemy had extremely fierce fighting against each other in the Yuhak-san Combat, Hill 328 Combat, Hill 837 Combat, Hill 674 Combat, the ‘Bowling Alley’ Combat and the Gasan Mountain Fortress Combat. It was the fiercest battle of the Korean War in which the Yuhak-san Mountain positions changed their owners nine times and Hill 328 as many as 15 times.
Brig. Gen. Paik, commanding general of the ROKA 1st Infantry Division, badly needed reinforcements to defend the Dabudong Line and asked 8th US Army Commander Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker for reinforcements. Lt. Gen. Walker promptly heeded his request and sent the 23rd Regiment commanded by Col. John H. Michaelis. Paik also got one regiment from the ROK Army Headquarters. With these reinforcements, the ROKA 1st Division successfully staved off the August and September offensives of the NKPA by crushing the enemy invaders.
During the 55-day Battle of Dabudong, the NKPA suffered casualties of 24,000 dead, wounded or missing, while the ROK and US defenders lost over 10,000 killed, wounded or missing.
The three invading NKPA divisions were badly mauled sustaining a fatal defeat. The Battle of Dabudong is recorded as one of the greatest battles of the Korean War.
Here is a similar but more detailed account from the US Army side:
At the beginning of August 1950, the North Korean Army deployed five divisions including the 3rd, 13th and 15th Divisions, and launched an all-out attack on the Dabudong line in Waegwan, with an aim to capture the Daegu City by August 15 the same year (which was significantly the Liberation Day of Korea from Japan).
The US and ROK troops took advantage of shortened supply routes and a relatively good road network to exploit the advantages of "interior lines". The Eighth US Army (commanded by Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker) was able to quickly shift his units from point to point, stopping North Korean attacks before they could be reinforced. The US troops were greatly aided by decoded radio intercepts of enemy communications, giving them advance knowledge of where North Korean attacks would occur. Lt. Gen. Walker was also able to employ artillery and airpower to great effect.
The US and ROK Forces gradually solidified this defensive position on the southeast side of the Korean peninsula, dubbed the "Busan Perimeter." Walker received reinforcements, including the Provisional Marine Brigade, which he used along with the Army's 27th Infantry Regiment as "fire brigades," reliable troops who specialized in counterattacking and wiping out enemy penetrations.
As more reinforcements arrived, the combat advantage shifted toward the US and ROK Forces. North Korean forces had suffered terribly and their supply lines were under constant aerial bombardment.
Almost all of their T-34 tanks, which spearheaded the invasion, had been destroyed. Lt. Gen. Walker ordered local counterattacks while planning for a large scale breakout in conjunction with MacArthur's Incheon landing in September.
The ROK Army 1st and 8th Divisions fought alongside the US Army 1st Calvary Division in defense of the Dabudong line.
The allied troops were pushed back and forth dozens of times in a bloody battle, and finally slowed down the advancing North Koreans. The North Korean Army attempted their final attack to break through the defense line at the Nakdong River in early September.
By mid-September, the allied US and ROK Forces annihilated the main force of the enemy with overwhelming firepower and daring counterattacks. As a result of this bloody battle, the enemy lost 13 tanks and 17,500 men, and the ROK-US allied forces suffered 10,000 casualties.
The victory of the Battle of Dabudong enabled the allied forces to hold the Daegu-Dabudong line, giving them a base for a future counterattack against the enemy.
On the Battle of Dabudong, The Korea Herald arranged and published a conversation between Gen. Paik Sun-yup (ret.) and Prof. Park Myung-lim of Yonsei University on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. At the time of the Battle of Dabudong, Paek a brigadier general and commanded the First ROK Infantry Division. Excerpts follow:
Prof. Park: Kim Il-sung was seeking to occupy Busan in a short period of time, but with the participation of the U.S. forces, the war got protracted. Kim Il-sung went down to the frontline in the South to encourage his troops as many as three times. It was the desperate resistance along the Nakdong River perimeter, particularly the Battle in Dabudong (north of Daegu), which led to Kim Il-sung’s failure to communize the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea defended the perimeter with only one division consisting of 7,500 troops against three North Korean divisions comprised of 21,800 soldiers in the battle that lasted for 55 days.
Gen. Paik: We were in a very desperate situation. Had the battle in Dabudong been unsuccessful, the last defense line would have fallen. So, in an unusual move, the U.S. 25th Division sent the 27th and 23rd regiments to us along with the 10th regiment of the 8th Division. The U.S. forces offered tanks and cannons in the rear and we engaged in a serious fight each day along the frontline, shedding blood and sweat on the ground.
The first battalion of the 11th regiment, which protected the U.S. 27th regiment on the left side of the ridge, all of a sudden withdrew after they had not eaten anything for two days. After that, I was notified by the U.S. military that it would also retreat.
At the time, though I was suffering from Malaria, I went to my soldiers in a jeep and shouted out, “If we retreat from here, the only place we can go is the waters off Busan. I will stand at the vanguard and charge, and shoot me if I retreat.” After the then Col. John Hersey Michaelis (later promoted to a 4-star general) watched me saying that, he was impressed and apologized. It was the first time for the commanding general of an infantry division to move at the vanguard of his troops.
The Battle of Dabudong near Daegu is considered the fiercest one throughout the three-year Korean War and compared to the Battle of Verdun. In the Battle of Dabudong, the ROK Armed Forces and the United Nations Forces successfully stopped any further advances of the enemy forces and thus turned the tide of the Korean War in favor of the ROK and the United Nations Forces.
Earlier on Aug. 3, 1950, the United Nations Forces had formed a Nakdong River Defense Line linking Masan, Waegwan and Yeongdeok to protect Daegu and Busan which the ROK Government had designated as the temporary capital city of Korea.
In order to break through this defense line of the UN Forces, the enemy put in five infantry divisions.
In a nine-day battle, the ROK and UN Forces killed 6,867 enemy soldiers and destroyed many artillery guns and 10 tanks of the enemy.
If the ROK and the UN Forces had failed in defending the Nakdong River Defense Line at the Battle of Battle, the enemy could have infiltrated the Daegu-Busan area and eventually captured Busan, the provisional capital of the ROK at the time, and the free and democratic Republic of Korea would have disappeared from the World Atlas like South Vietnam, Nationalist Chin and East Germany.
이경식 기자 firstname.lastname@example.org
<저작권자 © 코리아포스트, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>