9th Field Artillery Battalion in Korea
Stories from the Batteries
This page features stories submitted by 9th FA vets. Postings may range from personal experiences in battles to humorous happenings. If you have a story, and may be a photo to go with it, that you would like to have posted, send it by email to email@example.com or by U.S. Mail to Milt Schmidt, 109 Defiant Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945. You don't need to be an accomplished writer, just sit down, type it on the computer or write it by hand, and send it in. Postings are listed by battery so be sure to include yours.
Buzzed by a MIG 15
Our 9th Field Artillery Battalion, 3d Infantry Division, in the summer of 1953, was located in the Chorwon area near the DMZ. On a beautiful morning September 21, 1953 some time after 9 AM there was an alert that a MiG-15 was flying low near our Battalion. I ran to the top of a hill and jumped into the .50 Caliber Machine Gun position and manned the machine gun. I noted a fast moving MiG15 flying low, I pointed the machine gun toward the jet, however, some one yelled, "hold your fire". As the jet flew by I recall almost eye to eye contact with the pilot, he was just a short distance directly across from my hilltop location, my view of the jet and pilot are now a delightful memory. Later we learned of his safe landing at Kimpo Air Base. By: Sgt Ronald G. Hill assigned to Headquarters, 9th FA Battalion. Click here for more of this story.
Firefight at Hill 620
At Kumsong, early one morning around July 20, 1953, Pfc. Gabriel Broussard, a Jeep driver, and Pfc. Robert Heslep, a radio operator, headed up Goat Trail, in Hq 7, toward Hill 620 to set up a radio relay station between a tank patrol from the 64th Tank Bn and the 9th FA FDC. As they approached the hill, beyond friendly infantry lines, they spotted a CCF patrol, in a rice paddy, to their right front. Because the FDC had closed its radio channel for security reasons, it could not be contacted. In front of Hill 620, Broussard and Heslep, in Hq 7, took a road to the left, hoping to find friendly forces. After a half mile or more, they failed to find any and turned around. As they approached the Hill 620 intersection, they saw the CCF setting up an ambush. They stopped the Jeep, got behind it, and began firing. Broussard had a grease gun and two clips of ammo; Heslep had an M-1 and a bandoleer. Broussard killed an enemy at the right front; and either he, or Heslep, or both killed another there. When they decided to withdraw, Broussard had one round left; Heslep had four. They crawled up the hill leading toward 3rd Div lines and then decided to crawl down its slope toward the spot where they originally had spotted the CCF patrol. But soon they became separated. Broussard went into the rice paddy and began walking in a stream. Heslep crawled in the roadside ditch until he got near friendly forces and began walking. Soon Broussard and Heslep were found by officers from the 9th who had initiated a search for them. Later, the chief of 9th FA Intelligence informed Heslep that Hill 620 had been captured the previous day and the 64th Tank Bn had not sent out a patrol. The following day, an officer from the 9th FA, an FO with the 64th, confirmed two dead CCF and a burned out Hq 7 at the location of the firefight. Bob Heslep, Rado Operator, HQ Btry. Broussard and Heslep were awarded the Bronze Star. Click here for a more detailed account.
Airburst Over the Motor Pool
When I saw your picture of Baker Battery firing over the disbanded motor pool area it look exactly like one that I had taken and the story relating to it brought back a rush of memories.
I was sitting outside of the HQ Survey team's bunker, where I was assigned, when the shell exploded mid-air (air burst) directly over the motor pool and the shrapnel went 360 degrees. I still see the men who were struck down and the ground rippling with the shrapnel.
It was so fast and at that moment it was not known where it came from. I did a back flip into the bunker and as I rolled over I thought the move I made was a mistake as if another round came I would get hit in the butt.
When it became known that it was our round which had almost instantaneously exploded after leaving the barrel it was surmised that because of the light rain an air burst shell should not have been fired or perhaps it was "a passing bird".
I didn't see any birds flying around. Don't recall ever seeing any birds flying around.
The Battalion Commander later made an inspection tour and since our bunker was in the line of fire he wanted us to move. We had just finished constructing it and after much cajoling we were permitted to stay as long as we stayed inside the bunker during fire missions.
I took the liberty of sending some pictures of the same area plus a couple of others. Since I was assigned to the Battalion's Survey Team I have traveled to the MLR, a portion of no mans land, and many points east, west and south setting up check points and bug out coordinates, always with a camera in my fatigue's pocket.
George McGinn, 9th FA HQ Battery,Artillery Survey Specialist MOS,April 13th 1952 to May 28th 1953.
A Horse Shoe and Friendly Fire
Our artillery battery was positioned in a horse shoe valley with mountain sides gradually rising up about 300 feet.
About 4 0'clock in the morning, we were told to dig in because the Chinese had gotten to the other side of the horse shoe. Our mortars were shelling along the tops of the shoe to keeep them from coming down.
Tracer bullets were lighting the sky and twisting as they lost their power.
I started digging my foxhole hoping it was deep enough. I got the box of extra bullets for my carbine from my pack. I also got the pack of letters sent by my Plainville High School sweetheart, Joyce Daniels. I' d been saving these precious letters with her lipstick imprint on the inside flap of the envelopes. (I still treasure the memory of them to this day.) Because everthing was so uncertain, I dug a hole and buried them. Somehow I felt it would not be wise to have a loved one's address for the chinese to have.
Finally early dawn came and I saw a fascinating, relieving sight. British tanks and infantry were rolling and sqeaking to the sides of the horse shoe. They started firng and the Chinese woud fire back. The shells and bullets sparkled and ricocheted all over the rocks.
With daylign the British Infantry had cleared off the enemy on the left side and center of the horse shoe. This was indicated by an orange marker laid on the side of the hill.
After a lull in the fing, a lone shot rang out; a G.I. got hit facing toward the right side of the shoe. A sergeant yelled, "I see where it came from." He jumped to a machine gun and started firing. First we saw one man move on the hill coming doward, then about 20 of them. The firing really started up. My eyes focused on one of the men running down the hill. Then he leaped in the air as if diving inot a pool Rigth there I saw a sight i'Il never forget. The machine gun's tracer bullets white lights burnt into the gorund and follwed him, kicking up the dirt and dust.
Some of men got down the bank of the hill rolling, limping and falling. They were British, our own men. They probably didn't have a chance to place the orange marker on the side of the hill indicating it was cleared.
Shortly, we rode out of that valley with our equipment - sick, guilty and miserable.
Herb Dirrigl, HQ Battery, 1950-51.
August 24, 1950 - Pusan
August 29, 1950 - Taegu
September 5, 1950 - Taegu
September 7, 1950 - Minyang
September 15, 1950 - Taegu
October 23, 1950 - 35 miles north of Pyongyang
November 3, 1950 - 15 miles south of Unsan
December 1, 1950 - Sinanju, 13 miles from Seoul, moved about 3 times.
Decemember 24, 1950 - Seoul
February 19, 1951 - Between the Han River and Seoul
April 17, 1951 - Around the 38th
Boy, did we get pushed back!
Herb Dirrigl, HQ Battery, 1950-51.
The Cease Fire and Friends.
I was a corporal in the 9th. FA, Battery A from April 1953 to Oct. 1954. I was trained in heavy infantry at Camp Roberts, Ca. and ended up as a cook when I got to Korea. Go figure. I guess the fact that I had worked in a bakery for a couple of years prior to getting drafted meant I could cook. In your letter there was an article by a Paul Bonham who was exec. officer in Battery B. He said his twin brother was in Battery A. They were both in the 9th. from Dec 1952 until Sept. 1953. I probably knew the brother, Richard Bonham, even though I don't recall the name at this time. You can bet your boots I served him meals though.
Paul mentioned the night of the cease fire. I also recall that quite vividly. It was a little surreal. The word came down that we were supposed to empty our weapons at 2200 hrs., but the official cease fire would be at midnight. The ridge to our north was lit up like the 4th. of July, the Chinese and us were both trying to gain anything we could, I guess. then it started to gradually peter down until the last half hour prior to 2400 hrs. there would be a an isolated rifle round here and there and finally nothing. We weren't suppose to cellabrate, no shouting, or anything. Our C.O. made the rounds, admonishing each soldier to keep quite and try to get some asleep. I think everyone was doubtful that the war was really over, but by morning we were feeling fairly confident.
I lost all my pictures from Korea. I only have a couple and they were given to me not long ago by my buddy over there at the time, Cornelio Filmore Blancaflor just last year. That's him on the left and myself on the right. I can't recall the name of the driver. Perhaps Richard will recognize this one of Frank Mathews on the left and myself on the right. I turned down a jump to mess sergeant and gave it to Frank probably in the winter of 1953. Some of the other cooks were Boyce Couch and James Gaffney. Before the cease fire, we were expected to man a 30 cal. air cooled machine gun as perimeter defense at times. The Korean is Kim Yong Kyu, who came to the battery after the cease fire, along with three other civilians. They all lived in our tent until they got one of their own and worked pretty much for the cooks. I had learned a lot of Japanese as a kid and spoke pretty fair Japanese and since the Koreans all spoke Japanese, we had pretty good communication. So did Cornelio, who everone called Pedro. He was from the Phillapines. He and his family were kept in a Japanese prison camp in his village of Ilo Ilo and learned Japanese from the guards. His Dad was in the Bataan Death March and lived through it. Our C.O. was a captain by the name of Cox, a fine officer that had come up from the ranks, having received a field commission on Guadalcanal during WWII.
By Duane Pasco, Btry A, 1953-54.
"Shelling Out in Korea"- an article appearing in the Star Beacon newspaper,Conneaut, Ohio, newspaper following an interview with SGT Walter Bartlett, Section Chief, A Battery, 1950-51. The following are excepts from the article.
To the Yalu -
The artillery worked its way toward the Yalu River through the late summer and fall of 1950. "We went up through the Taegu Valley", and "I remember that because they had the best apples there."
Bartlett said he generally felt safe - the artillery traveled 10 miles behind the lines , so they had a good buffer zone between them and the action.
"I consider myself lucky because we were in the artillery, not the infantry," he said
But they were not immune from being fired upon. Bartlett said the North Korean Army hid artillery in the mountain caves and would use their position to fire upon the advancing forcer.
A more pressing danger came from equipment failure and inexperience Bartlett said the howitzers were left over from World War II and prone to failure. This malfunction was the source of at least two casualties in his battalion. While loading one of the howitzers, the spring failed on the safety lock, causing the chard to blow out the back. The soldier immediately behind the gun was killed, and a Korean soldier's legs were torn off and other soldiers were injured from shrapnel.
The other casualties came from self-inflicted wounds by men desperate to get back home. One man shot himself in the arm; another used his pistol to shoot himself in the hand. A young man who was on the troop train with Barlett was accidentally shot and killed by another soldier who was cleaning his rifle.
Disease also took its toll. Bartlett came down wia a fever sand was sent to a makeshift hospital set up in a Korean school. He was bathed in alscolhol until the fever broke. Although he never found out what the illness was, he was told he had contacted it from bathing in the river. Bartlett was send back to his unit after 21 days in the hospital. He stayed another eight days, he would have been eligible for seven days of R&R in Japan.
On the Run
By Thanksgiving 1950, Bartlett's unit had advanced north to within a few miles of the Yalu River. MacArthur was telling the U.S. forces in Korea that they'd be home for Christmas.
Thanksgiving was in order - the pospects of returning home seemed good and the unit's cook had managed to put together a special meal for the holiday. Bartlett and his men had just filled their mess kits with the hot feast and sat down around their howitzer to enjoy it when the word came.
"They hollered marching orders", he said. "We folded up our mess kits, and there went our lunch. Tha's when we started moving back."
The Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) had struck the 8th Army along the Chongchon River in the west. The UN forces were being commanded to begin a retreat.
Once again, Bartlett considered himself fortunate to be part of the artillery, which had motorized vehicles in which to make the retreat. Infantry men were not as fortunate. Often separated from their units, they had to retreat on foot through unfamiliar country. "Those poor infantry boys," Bartlett said. "I can still rmemer them coming through those rice paddies, soaking wet. We'd give them a ride whenever we could. The infantry was a dejected bunch of young fellows. I felt sorry for them."
By this time, winter was gripping Korea with 30 below temparatures and heavy snows. The soldiers were ill-equipped for the weather. Bartlett said he had only his combat boots and summer sleeping bag. The men's jackets and hats were no match for the cold, and they confiscated the Korean jackets whenever possible and wore the tight fitting clothing under their Army issued outerwear.
Bartlett said they were given orders to destroy anything they couldn't transport back to South Korea. C Batter y got trapped by the advancing troops and had to destroy its equipment. Bartlett watched as a quartermaster burned the Army's rations because there was no time to get them on the truck.
Click here for a continuation of this story.
"Cross, 3d Div CO, Fires 250,000th 9th FA Bn Shell" -- a copy of an undated newspaper article submitted by Carlton Gay, Cpl, A Battery, 1951-52.
With U.S. 3d Div -- With a tug of the lanyard, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Cross of Amsterdam, N.Y., commander of the 3d Infantry Division in Korea, fired the 9th Field Artillery Battalion's 250,000th shell at the enemy here recently.
Climaxing 13,913 fire missions, estimated to have inflicted 21,000 enemy casualties and destroyed or damaged 300 big guns, tanks, and vehicles, the cannoneers were proud to have their division commmander send their 250,000th round "on the way."
Arriving in Korea in August 1950, the 9th FA Battalion, with its 155mm howitzers has been in support of the 3d Division for more than 550 days in combat.
Addressing the battalion before the firing, General Cross, speaking in behalf of the divsion commended the men of the 9th for the magnificent job they have done in Korea, saying, "No one knows the value of artillery more than I. Many, many times, as a platoon leader and as a company commander, I have counted on the field artillery to reduce losses."
With General Cross at the ceremonies weer Brig. Gen. Verdi B. Barnes of Alexandria, VA, the 3d Division artillery commander, and Lt. Col. Will B. Lee, of Dothan AL, 9th Field artillery Battalion commander.
Kumsong and After
I was with the 9th FA BN from Dec. 52 until Sept. 53. I was the battery exec. officer during the firing on OP Harry. We fired many night missions and the flares lit up our area so you could read a paper. The move to the Kumsong area was handled smoothly in the rain and mud. As we moved into the area, we met trusk after truck bringing dead ROK soldiers back to the rear. An eerie sight. After getting into position, we fired around the the clock. We even dug trail arcs 360 degrees, as we were told that Sigmun Rhea had released the prisoners on Koje. Never knew for sure. Many Corps TOT's were fired on the Chinese in the open. The FO's would report that "They're gone!" I remember the night of the Cease Fire very well, as I had all the firing mechanisms for all the guns under my bunk. The 9th pulled off the line a few miles for a while and then went into reserve and the guns were covered for the first time since being in Korea. My battery CO was Capt. Smith. I was proud to have served with B Btry of the 9th FA BN , 3rd Inf Div. My twin brother, Richard, was with A Btry and we were known as 'Able' and 'Baker' by HQ. We arrived in Korea on the same day and left on the same day. We were discharged in Oct 53 and both received the Bronze Star later that year. By: Paul Bonham.
Deployment of the Battalion, June 1950.
It was Sunday morning-25 June1950 and I was in Atlanta, Ga. on a weekend pass. Turned on the radio (no TV's ) in hotels then and all I heard was unit after unit being alerted and told to report back to Ft Benning by mid-night tonite. Then they announced that So. Korea had been invaded. We were regular Army -I figured we were going to be on our way so I was in no hurry to get back to Benning. Got there just before mid-night,and then starting the next morning, we started getting ready to go. I was the junior 2nd Lt., a bachelor, and the the youngest Officer in the Battalion. You know what that meant- all the tasks that no one else really wanted. I wasTransportation Officer as well as Mess Officer,so the next 10 days were busy getting the equipment ready for shipment. Since I was not married, I got the assignment to load the equipment on a freight train and along with 6 enlisted men - headed west. We slept in the train's caboose at night and sat in the 6 by 6 trucks cabs during the day. Food was C Rations all the way across the country-except in Elko, Nevada. The local people had heard we were coming through and brought us humongous steaks to feast on.
What do I remember about the trip-going through the tallest cornfields in Iowa-the Elko steaks- and going through the Sierra Nevada's sitting in the truck cabs. We arrived in San Francisco and turned over the equipment to the port authorities for loading. That was the first idea where the train was headed. We were wearing fatigues on the train and I had summer khaki's that I wore for three days until the rest of the Battalion caught up with us. Although it was early July San Fransisco can get really cold at night. I didn't realize it at the time-but it was just a hint of what we would experience in Korea.
We embarked from Camp Stoneman after loading our equipment (155mm towed artillery, 6 by trucks, jeeps etc. ) and we were off to who knew where. Our more experienced Officers (Capt. and above) were all certain we were headed to some Island or Japan to undergo further training (a la WWII practice). How wrong they were when we landed directly at Pusan, Korea, some time later. Life aboard ship was boring with enlisted men staying below deck-playing poker. By the time we landed one of my 1st Sgts.( Gleaton) had won most of the available money. After landing at Pusan, we bivouacked at a school yard for two days, and we were off to Taegu (Bowling Alley) with the 1st Cav-in support of the 1st ROK Division. I was a Forward Observer with the ROKS carrying out fire missions on anything that moved North of our position.---To be contiued
By: Ben Kessner; Btry XO, 1950-51.
Boom of Big Guns in Korea Still Unforgettable -
I entered the Army in August 1952, at age 22, as a second lieutenant of Artillery, called to active duty following graduation from Princeton University via the ROTC.
Since the Korean War was in progress, all of us, as reserve officers, were called up. I spent time in the U.S. at the Artillery School at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and then at Ft. Lewis, Washington prior to being sent to Japan and then to Pusan, Korea.
When I arrived at the front lines , the "main line of resistance" in Korea , I was assigned to the Third Infantry Division, the same division that recently distinguished itself in Iraq, and then to the 9th Field Artillery Battalion.
I arrived at the front in July 1953, about a week before the cease-fire. The battery was in the so-called "Iron Triangle" slightly north of the 38th Parallel. Fortunately, I was assigned as assistant executive officer of a firing battery of 155 mm Howitzers.
I say "fortunately" because most of the other new lieutenants were sent on as "forward observers" to the infantry units, some of which were South Korean army infantry outfits, which were in front of us. Some were killed, wounded and captured in the final days of the fighting.---Click here for continuation of this story.
Robert Janover, Executive Officer, B Btry, 1953-54.
100,000th Round Fired by 9th F.A. Bn.
At exactly 1405 hours on May 6,1951,the 9th F.A. fired it's 100,000 th round in the 11 month old Korean campaign.This sets a record for yhe medium artillery battalion---a record that is coupled with fact that the Bn has had 252 days consecutive of combat firing.
Honor of firing the 100,000 round went to Gun position Two of "C" battery with Sgt.Harold Brown as Chief of the Section. Members of the gun position were: Gunner,Cpl James Waldron-No.1 man PFC Frank Butts--who fired the round; No.2 man Niel Ludwig;No. 3 man PFC Vernon Dick; No.4 man PFC Frank Williams; No. 5 man PFC Donald Nelson;No 6 man PFC Earl Shuttuck; Ammo Assts, Corporal Delbert Johnson and PFC Robert Lowery, and truck driver PFC Louis Ridale.
Congratulating the men of "C"Battery and the battalion,was Brig. Gen.Roland P. Shugg,the deep chested Artillery Commander of the Rock of THe Marne Div. Shugg told cannoneers that artillery units such as the 9th stopped the Chinese. Communist forces in the recent offensive."They won't walk through our artillery"said the Gen."We
Originally a part of the 3rd Inf. Div while the 3rd Div was at Ft. Benning,Ga, the 9th rejoined the 3rd Div in Korea Jan.31 after supporting other ground units in Korea for 6 months.
The 9th Field Artillery Bn. came to Korea during the dark days last August (1950) when it was first assigned to the 1st.ROK Division.On it's arrival in Korea on the 24th of August,it first round and has been a heavy stick against the Comminists ever since. Originally it was commanded by Lt.Col. John R. Magnusson,now DivArty S-3,it is now commanded by Maj.Tom A . Arnold.
This item was in the "Front Line" published by the 3rd Div News Tuesday, May 8,1951.
Note: Before Lt.Col. Magnusson was transferred to DivArty S-3, we were known as " Magnusson's Mad Mauraders". I was with Hq Btry when we were " alerted " and left for home Sept.24,1951. There were quite a few of us from 9th that came home together. I still have a copy of my orders. We came home from Japan on the USS Marine Lynx. Landed in Seattle Wash. I also have a copy of Col. Magnusson's Diary that has been de-classified. I got it from a 9th vet.
Submitted by Charles "Ken" Mock, HQ Btry.
New Years, 1951
The battalion was in position in the vicinity of Pobwon-ni, Korea, at the beginning of the period in support of the 1st. ROK division which was under heavy enemy attack at the time in the sector of the 12th ROK Inf.Rgt. Due to heavy penetration, Btry C was ordered to displace at 0200 1 Jan 1951. During this move four tractors with howitzers,one tractor with trailer and one 2 1/2 ton truck with trailer were lost to the enemy. The equipment was lost as the steel tracks on the m-5 tractors were unable to move on the steep and icy,narrow road which was in use. While attempting to improve the road which was in use. While attempting to make improvements, the column was fired upon by enemy with small arms,automatic weapons and mortars. The personnel were forced to disperse into the adjacent hills and woods and move to the south. The majority of the personnel returned to the Btry by 1600 hrs.
Exerpt from Operations Report: Submitted by Charles "Ken" Mock, HQ Btry.