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1st Battalion

5th Cavalry Regiment

Unit History


The Pusan Perimeter

The Korean War began shortly before dawn on 25 June 1950. Less than five years after the terrible devastations of World War II, a new war broke out from a distant land whose name means "Morning Calm". The decision of the United States to send immediate aid to South Korea came two days after the North Koreans broke through the ROK defenses and sent tanks into the capital city of Seoul. In addition to the Air Force, Navy and Marines, a 1,000 man battalion from the 24th Infantry, including many specialists and noncommissioned officers transferred from the 1st Cavalry Division, arrived 30 June.

On 18 July, the 1st Cavalry Division was ordered to Korea. Initially scheduled to make an amphibious landing at Inchon, it was redirected to the southeastern coast of Korea at Pohang-dong a port 80 miles north of Pusan. The North Koreans were 25 miles away when elements of the 1st Cavalry Division swept ashore to successfully execute the first amphibious landing of the Korean War. The 5th Cavalry Regiment Combat Team marched quickly toward Taejon. By 22 July, all regiments were deployed in battle positions; a remarkable logistical achievement in the face of Typhoon Helene that pounded the Korean coastline.

The baptism-by- fire came on 23 July. The 8th Cavalry was attacked by a heavy artillery and mortar barrage and the North Koreans assaulted toward their positions. As the space between the battalions became increasingly threatened, the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, moved into the gap to absorb some of the pressure. The next day, the troopers suffered their first severe combat losses. Company "F", 5th Cavalry moved to assist the 1st Battalion of the 5th on its right flank. Company "F", and Company "B", 5th Cavalry were hit by overwhelming numbers of North Korean Infantry. Only 26 men from the relief units managed to escape and return to friendly territory.

During the next few days a defensive line was formed at Hwanggan with the 7th Cavalry moving east and the 5th Cavalry replacing the 25th Infantry Regiment. On 1 August, the First Team was ordered to set up a defensive position near Kumchon on the rail route from Taegu to Pusan. For more than 50 days between late July and mid September, First Team Troopers and U.N. Soldiers performed the bloody task of holding on the vital Pusan Perimeter.

On 9 August, the enemy hurled five full divisions and parts of a sixth at the Naktong defenders near Taegu. The 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry bore the brunt of this attack. The North Koreans gained some high ground. The 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry moved against them, hitting their flanks with coordinated artillery and air strikes. In seizing Hill 268, known as "Triangulation Hill", the troopers accounted for 400 enemy dead. The First Team pulled back from some of its positions and tightened its defenses. The 5th Cavalry withstood two more punishing attacks. The North Korean drive ground to a halt on 8 September, seven miles short of Taegu. The momentum began to turn.

With added reinforcements, Pusan became a staging ground and depot for United Nations supplies and soldiers from all around the world. Soldiers of the United Nations forces became First Team troopers, with the Greek Battalion (GEF) attached to the 7th Cavalry Regiment and they fought along side of them. The defenders now outnumbered the attackers and they had the equipment and firepower to transition to the offensive.

The turning point in this bloody battle came on 15 September 1950, when MacArthur unleashed his plan, OPERATION CHROMITE, an amphibious landing at Inchon, far behind the North Korean lines. In spite of the many negative operational reasons given by critics of the plan, the Inchon landing was an immediate success allowing the 1st Cavalry Division to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and start fighting north.

70th Tank Battalion

On 26 September, the 5th Cavalry crossed the Naktong, advancing to Sanju and north to Hamchung and south to Osan-dong. Then the 5th had to seize Chongo. Chochiwon and Chouni astride the main highway were the next objectives. On 2 October, the 5th Cavalry pushed north and establish a bridgehead across the Imjin River. The 5th Cavalry probed ahead crossing the 38th parallel on 09 October 1950. During the night of 11 October, Lieutenant Samuel S. Coursen of "C" Company, 5th Cavalry led his men into enemy territory to reduce a roadblock that was delaying the advance. Led by the 5th Regiment, the 1st Cavalry Division entered Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea on 19 October. This event marked the third "First" for the division; "First in Pyongyang".

On 28 October 1950, orders came from I Corps to saddle up the rest of the division and move north. The Korean War seemed to be nearing a conclusion. The North Korean forces were being enveloped into a shrinking perimeter along the Yalu and the borders of Red China and Manchuria. By now, more than 135,000 Red troops had been captured and the North Korean Army nearly destroyed.

On 25 October 1950, the Korean War took a grim new turn. The sudden intervention of Communist Chinese forces dashed hopes of a quick end to the war. The Chinese attacked in force with waves of soldiers and Soviet built tanks. On 24 November, General MacArthur launched a counteroffensive of 100,000 U.N. troops. The 1st Cavalry and the ROK 6th Divisions moved up from their reserve positions and attacked. The Chinese penetrated the front companies of 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry and tried to exploit the penetration. At 0200 they were hit by elements of the 3rd Battalion reinforced by tanks. Red troops were stopped and retreated back into an area previously registered for artillery fire. Enemy losses were high and the hill was held.

The New Year began unexpectedly quiet. The First Team defenders readied their weapons, shored up their defenses, and waited in the bitter cold. This time there was no surprise when the Chinese artillery began pounding the UN lines in the first few minutes of 1951. The units forward of the 38th Parallel were attacked by the Chinese crossing the frozen Imjin River. Ignoring heavy losses, the Chinese crawled through minefields and barbed wire. The United Nations Forces abandoned Seoul and retrograded to the Han River. The Chinese drive lost its momentum when it crossed the Han and a lull fell over the front.

The UN Counter Attack, 1951

On 25 January 1951, the First Team, joined by the revitalized 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry rebounding from its tragedy at Unsan, moved back into action. The movement began as a reconnaissance in force to locate and assess the size of the Red Army, believed to be at least 174,000 strong. The Eighth Army moved slowly and methodically, ridge by ridge, phase line by phase line, wiping out each pocket of resistance before moving farther North. The advance covered 2 miles a day, despite heavy blinding snowstorms and subzero temperatures.

During this bitter fighting, another 1st Cavalry soldier made the highest sacrifice and earned the Medal of Honor. On 29 - 30 January, the 5th Cavalry had a hard fight on its hands on Hill 312. On 30 January, 1LT Robert M. McGovern led "A" Company up the reverse slope and got near the enemy on the crest before he was wounded. Realizing that his men were in danger, 1LT McGovern threw back several enemy grenades and charged a machine gun that was raking his platoon. Although wounded, 1LT McGovern killed seven soldiers before he was fatally wounded.

On 14 February, heavy fighting erupted around an objective known as Hill 578, and the 7th Cavalry took the hill after overcoming stiff Chinese resistance. During this action General MacArthur paid a welcomed visit to the 1st Team. Not far away, at Chipyong-ni, five Chinese divisions did surround the 23rd Regimental Combat Team and a French Army Battalion. In desperate fighting, the two units killed thousands of Chinese, but were unable to break out.

The 5th Cavalry Regiment formed a rescue force, called Task Force Crombez, to counterattack along a road running from Yoju to Chipyong-ni via Koksu-ri, a distance of 15 miles. The troopers painted tiger stripes on their armored tanks to give them a psychological advantage. The sight of the tiger-stripped M4A3 and M46 tanks sent many of the Chinese running from their entrenched positions. As the fleeing Chinese raced through open ground, they were engaged by heavy fire from the tanks and escorting troopers of Company "L", who had taken heavy casualties in their mission of tank protection enroute to Chipyong-ni. On 15 February, Task Force Crombez broke through the perimeter of Chipyong-ni ending the standoff. The victory at Chipyong-ni marked the first time in the Korean War that the Red Chinese had been dealt a major defeat.

The First Cavalry slowly advanced though snow and later, when it became warm, through torrential rains. The Red Army was slowly, but firmly, being pushed back. On 14 March, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry had crossed the Hangchon River and on the 15th, Seoul was recaptured by elements of the 8th Army. New objectives were established to keep the Chinese from rebuilding and resupplying their forces and to advance to the "Kansas Line", which roughly followed the 38th Parallel and the winding Imjin River.

On 22 April, 21 Chinese and 9 North Korean divisions slammed into Line Kansas. Their main objective was to recapture Seoul. The First Cavalry joined in the defensive line and the bitter battle to keep the Chinese out of the South Korean Capital. Stopped at Seoul, on 15 May, the Chinese attempted a go around maneuver in the dark. The 8th Army pushed them back to the Kansas Line and later the First Team moved deeper into North Korea, reaching the base of the "Iron Triangle", an enemy supply area encompassing three small towns.

From 9 June to 27 November, the 1st Cavalry took on various roles in the summer-fall campaign of the United Nations. On 18 July, a year after it had entered the war, the 1st Cavalry Division was assigned to a reserve status. This type of duty did not last for long. On the nights of 21 and 23 September, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 7th Cavalry repulsed waves of Red Chinese with hand-to-hand fighting. But harder work followed when OPERATION COMMANDO, a mission to push the Chinese out of their winter defense positions south of the Yokkok River, was launched.

Digging in on Old Baldy

On 3 October, the 1st Team moved out from Line Wyoming and immediately into Chinese fire. For the next two days hills were seized, lost, and retaken. On the third day, the Chinese lines began to break in front of the 7th Cavalry. On 5 October, the 8th Cavalry recaptured Hill 418, a flanking hill on which the northern end of Line Jamestown was anchored. On 10 - 11 October, the Chinese counterattacked twice unsuccessfully against the 7th Cavalry. Two days later, the 8th Cavalry took the central pivot of the line, Hill 272. The southern end of Line Jamestown, along with a hill called "Old Baldy", eventually fell to the determined troopers. The troopers did not know it, but Line Jamestown would be their last major combat of the Korean War. By December 1951, the division, after 549 days of continuous fighting, rotated back to Hokkaido, Japan. On 7 December 1951, the 5th Cavalry sailed for Hokkaido, Japan to become part of the U.S. XVI Corps. The First Team performed tough duties with honor, pride, and valor with distinction.

On 27 November, the advance party from the division left Korea and by late January 1952, all units arrived on Hokkaido under the command of Major General Thomas L. Harrold. Arriving in the port of Muroran, each unit was loaded on trains and moved to the new garrison areas. Three camps were established outside Sappro, the Island's capital city. Division Headquarters and the 7th Cavalry Regiment were stationed at Camp Crawford. The 5th Cavalry was stationed at Camp Chitose, Area I. The 8th Cavalry, the last unit to leave Korea, was stationed at Camp Chitose, Area II. The division controlled a huge training area of 155,000 acres. The mission of the division was to defend the Island of Hokkaido and to maintain maximum combat readiness.

On 10 February 1953, the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 61st Field Artillery Battalion and Battery "A", 29th AAA AW Battalion, departed from Otaru, Japan for Pusan and Koje-do, Korea to relieve the 7th Cavalry who had previously rotated back to Korea. On 27 April, all elements of the 5th Cavalry, minus the 3rd Battalion and Heavy Mortar Company, returned to Hokkaidio. The units remaining in Korea continued security missions under control of KCOMZ.

DMZ - Freedom's Frontier

The Korean War wound down to a negotiated halt when the long awaited armistice was signed at 1000 on 27 July 1953. A Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a corridor - 4 kilometers wide and 249 kilometers long, was established dividing North and South Korea. The nominal line of the buffer zone is along the 38th parallel; however, the final negotiations of the adjacent geographical areas, gave the North Korean Government some 850 square miles south of the 38th parallel and the South Korean Government some 2,350 square miles north of it. On 09 September, the 3rd Battalion and Heavy Mortar Company of the 5th Cavalry returned to Hokkaido after seven months of duty in Korea.

In September 1954, the Japanese assumed responsibility for defending Hokkaido and the First Team returned to the main Island of Honshu. 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters and the 5th Cavalry Regiment were located at Camp Schimmelpfennig. The 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 29th AAA AW Battalion occupied Camp Haugen, near Hachinohe. The 8th Cavalry Regiment was stationed at Camp Hachinohe. For the next three years the division guarded the northern sections of Honshu until a treaty was signed by the governments of Japan and the United States in 1957. This accord signaled the removal of all U.S. ground forces from Japan's main islands.

On 20 August 1957, the First Cavalry Division, guarding the northern sections of Honshu, Japan was reduced to zero strength and transferred to Korea (minus equipment). On 23 September 1957, General Order 89 announced the redesignation of the 24th Infantry Division as the 1st Cavalry Division and ordered a reorganization of the Division under the "pentomic" concept. As part of the "pentomic" reorganization, the 1st Battle Group, 5th Cavalry was activated, organized and reassigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. In ceremonies held on 15 October, the colors of the 24th Division were retired and the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were passed to the Commanding General of the old 24th Division, Major General Ralph W. Zwicker. "The First Team" had returned to Korea, standing ready to defend the country against Communist aggression.

The redesignated and reorganized First Cavalry was assigned the mission of patrolling the "Freedom's Frontier" (DMZ). In addition to their assigned duties of patrol along the southern border of the DMZ, training remained a number one priority for the troopers and unit commanders. In January 1958, 5th Cavalry participated in the largest training exercise in Korea since the end of hostilities called OPERATION SNOWFLAKE. This exercise was followed by OPERATION SABER in May and OPERATION HORSEFLY in August. In June 1965, the 5th Cavalry Regiment began rotation back to the United States along with other units of the 1st Cavalry Division.

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