Baekma Highland Battle

A successful operation of the Korean 9th division of taking over the unnamed 395 highland defended by the Communist Chinese 38th Army, and defending it.

  • Date:
    1952.10.6~ 10.15

    Location:
    Unnamed 395 highland of Cheorwon-eup Cheorwon-gun Gangwon-do

    Engaged Forces:
    Korean 9th Division vs. Communist Chinese 38th Army

    Summary:
    A successful operation of the Korean 9th division of taking over the unnamed 395 highland defended by the Communist Chinese 38th Army, and defending it.

  • The Baekma Highland Battle is one of the fiercest battles out of the Korean War to be known. The battle started to occupy a small ridge of the west end of the Cheorwon plain ended as the Korean 9th division securing it well. However why did the unnamed 395 highland, that didn’t even have a name before the battle had to be a ground of such a big battle?
    The Baeckma Highland interested both the communists and the UN forces due to its importance in dominating the Iron Triangle Battlefield. However, before 1952 October 10th, it is unknown how the place got the name of ‘Baekma Highland’. There is a saying that the after artillery fire and the trees were all struck down, the place looked like a white horse laying down(Baekma means a white horse in Korean). There is another saying that it is due to the white light of star shells, but none of them are sure. However one thing sure is that big armies clashed to takeover this battlefield once and for all.
    The ceasefire talks started at 1951 July 10th at Gaeseong broke down and started again continuously due to the tight war of nerves of the UN side and communist side to pursue an ‘honorable ceasefire’.
    The Communist Chinese used the ceasefire talk to reorganize their forces, but the UN forces tried to keep on restricted attacks to pull the enemies to the ceasefire talks back. Actually, when the Communist Chinese came back to talk, small limited warfare that didn’t give big influence on the war kept on and occurred.
    However these kinds of limited warfare usually went on with a certain trend of retaliation.
    Even when fights kept on and occurred on the highland scrambles, the ceasefire talk didn’t make any progress regarding exchange of prisoners until the start of 1952. The UN side tried all their effort, but the Communist side tried all their best for schemes to collapse the union of western countries. Due to this reason, the UN forces tried their best on big sized bombarding and firing from warships to shut out supply routes and bases, and also harbors. This kind of pressure reached its peak when the generation sites were bombarded in 1952 June.
    On the other hand, as 1952 June started, the deadlock of lines started to intensify in the form of highland scrambles. In this process, both sides began to realize the importance of the Iron Triangle Battlefield on the northwest side of Cheorwon. At the end of 1952 September, after a lull during the summertime, intense highland scrambles started.
    1952 October, the fight went on usually at Cheorwon the enemy attacked first, and at Gimhwa, our forces attacked first.
    The Korean 9th division was located on the left side of the US 9th army to defend about 11km on the front of Cheorwon plain from the 395 highland to Junggang-ri. The main defensive line was mostly the open terrain across the Cheorwon plain. At that time, the enemy tried to take over the 395 highland to the Cheorwon plain as a stepping-stone for a major offensive against a wide area based on Cheorwon, and finally have a strategical advantage in the central forward.
    At that time, the enemy showed signs to start their offensive. Also, around October 3rd, a Communist Chinese officer defected and testified that the Communist Chinese will start their attack around October 4th to 6th against the 395 highland. The division started to strengthen their defenses.
    The Communist Chinese concentrated their artillery towards the Korean 9th division on October 6th morning, and started their forward attack at around 19 o’clock. However, the Korean army defeated their 3 attacks after intense battle. They lost the peak temporally, but quickly took it back through swift counterattack, and concentrated on strengthening their defenses in case of enemy attack.
    On the early morning of October 8th, a thick fog surrounded the 395 highland, and the enemy started their 5th attack. The Communist Chinese rallied all their forces after their failures. On the other hand, our army couldn’t get air and artillery support due to the fog, and the enemy occupied the highland at 8:10. However, the division commander Kim Jong-oh started a counterattack at 17 o’clock, and after 8 hours of battle, took back the peak at 23 o’clock.
    However during the 5 times of battle, the main defense regiments had too many casualties, and according to the testimonies of Communist Chinese prisoners, the attack was to be continued. Due to this reason, the division tried to switch those regiments with the reserve. However, even before the switch was done, the Communist Chinese started to attack at October 9th at night, and after 3 hours of repeated attacks, they seized the 395 highland and a part of the right side of the ridge at 3 o’clock in the morning. After sunset, under the support of airstrike and artillery, the Korean army started to counterattack, and at about 12 o’clock, succeeded to take back the highland.
    After then there were fist-to-fist fights and grenade attacks and endless attacks, and during 10 days, the owner of the highland changed 7 times. However eventually, the Korean army defended the 395 highland successfully. The Communist Chinese committed 7 of their 9 regiments and had 10,000 casualties, and the Korean army had 3,500 casualties.

  • It was asked after the Baekma Highland battle that “Why were so many men and supplies into this battle for a small highland? Was it worth it?” There are pros and cons on this question, but it is sure that this battle was important due to the 3 reasons below.
    First, the area had such great strategical and tactical importance in dominating the Iron Triangle Battlefield.
    Second, the victory of the Baekma Highland Battle helped the UN to have a lead in the ceasefire talks.
    Last, the triumph in the Baekma Highland Battle not only honored the Korean army, but also helped strengthening and development of the Korean army started from the middle of 1952.

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