Chuncheon-Hongcheon Battle

A successful battle of resisting from the enemy at the start of the Korean War at Hongcheon-gun and Chuncheon-si Gangwon-do, stopping the early collapse of the Korean Army.

  • Date:
    1950.6.25~ 6.30

    Location:
    Hongcheon-gun and Chuncheon-si Gangwon-do area

    Engaged Forces:
    Korean 6th Division vs. North Korean 2nd Corps

    Summary:
    A successful battle of resisting from the enemy at the start of the Korean War at Hongcheon-gun and Chuncheon-si Gangwon-do, stopping the early collapse of the Korean Army.

  • In 1950 May, the Soviet military advisory group was busy planning operation plans for the North Korean Army. The group leader was the soviet hero of World War 2, lieutenant general Vassilijev, and a big group of staff members were by his side. They were ordered by the Soviet General Staff Department to plan the invasion of the South. The operation plans were all wrote in Russian, and trustworthy North Korean soldiers from Russia had to translate after signing a secrecy declaration.
    The operation plan was named ‘Counterattack Plan’ that means that the North will counterattack after the attack of South Korea, but it was actually a surprise invasion of the North. The plan was basically 5 infantry divisions and 1 tank brigade to occupy Gaeseong and Seoul, while 3 infantry divisions and 1 motorcycle regiment occupied Chuncheon and Hongcheon in the central front, and advance to Icheon and Suwon to besiege Seoul and cut off the rear support. The soviet military advisory group concentrated on capturing Seoul, but was based on the doctrine of ‘blockading the enemy’s main force and getting rid of their entire resistance’.
    The 2nd operation body(the 2nd corps) which were to attack Chuncheon and Hongcheon were only half of the 1st operation body(the 1st corps) that was attacking Seoul, but the importance of their mission was not less. The 2nd operation body(the 2nd division, 12th division, 603rd motorcycle regiment, 15th division) had to occupy Chuncheon, Hongcheon, Icheon, Suwon, and Wonju in the right time to successfully surround the main force of the Korean army.
    In June 11th, the North Korean Chief of Staff Kang Gun ordered each division to move to the 38th parallel pretending to be on field maneuvers.
    From the operation, it can be seen that the 2nd corps put more importance in occupying Chuncheon. They attacked along the Hwacheon-Chuncheon road, and the 2nd division and 2 regiments attack from the eastern mountain ranges. From the Gapyeong area divided by the Bukhangang River was attacked by 1 battalion of the 17th regiment, and the 31st regiment advanced to the southeast side of Chuncheon along the Soyanggang River to occupy Chuncheon together with the 2nd division.
    The Korean army didn’t realize the plan of North Korea, but they started realizing their intentions of invading south since the start of 1950. The Army Headquarters obtained intelligence that the North Korean forces strengthened up significantly since 1949, and are showing intentions of attacking Korea. The Army focused on the defense of Seoul, and put Ungjin, Gaesung, Gangwon-do area as the places to be attacked. The main foundation of the plan was the defense of the 38th parallel and the support of rear divisions. Each division was to defend their stations along the 38th parallel, and in impossible situations, they should rally in the main defense positions, and when the main resistance line collapses, they move to the ultimate resistance positions to block their invasion, and wait for the rear divisions to rally and counterattack. This plan was issued to each division from the Army headquarters from April.
    The Korean 6th division designed their defense plan for Chuncheon and Hongcheon, and issued it as the the 42nd division operation order on May 18th. It was based on the plans of the Army Headquarters.
    In 1950 June, there was an unexpected defect from North Korea which put them in great tension. A soldier from the North Korean 2nd division defected saying he hated war. This fact was reported to the new division commander colonel Kim Jong-oh, and scouts were dispatched to make this information sure. The scouts checked several artillery, vehicles and enemy officers along the line, but the Army Headquarters considered it as a kind of drill.
    The Korean 6th division was having a tough month in June due to regiment exchanges with the Capitol Garrison Command, and at June 23rd the Army Headquarters ordered to clear the emergency alert level, and send the soldiers for vacation. It depends on the situation of each division, but the officers were to stay in Chuncheon.
    The North Korean 2nd division was prepared to attack along the 38th parallel to attack. They scouted the front in June 21st, rallied at June 24th and prepared for attack the next day.
    The North Korean 12th division arrived at Wonsan to mount on trains at June 19th got off on Gosung, heading to Inje and arrived at the 23rd.
    A massive amount of bombing was done on the defense posts of the Korean 6th division on June 25th 5 o’clock. After 30 minutes of open fire, the infantry started to attack. The platoon leaders on the 38th parallel felt that this was very different from the small clashes before from the sound of the bombing. Our platoons resisted for around 30 minutes, but had to retreat do to the large scale of invasion from the north.
    Later, the North Korean self-propelled artillery(SPA) appeared, and the Korean 7th regiment couldn’t be more surprised. That was because the 6th division soldiers never saw tanks and SPAs and thought all the SPAs were tanks.
    After the anti-tank artillery company commander captain Song Gwang-bo was reported about the massive attack, he ordered second lieutenant Sim Il to move the anti-tank artillery to the front. However the 2 57mm antitank artillery were useless, and they got counterattacked even more fiercely.
    On the other hand, the 7th regiment commander lieutenant colonel Im Bu-taek relocated the reserve in the main defensive position of Woodoosan Mountain to rally the retreating troops.
    After the 6th division commander colonel Kim Jong-oh was reported about the situation, he quickly called the reserve regiment, the 19th regiment from Wonju to aid the 7th regiment, but due to the lack of vehicles, it took a long time to arrive at the scene.
    Except for the slight resistence at the south of the 38th paralell, the North Korean 2nd division swiftly advanced south. They reorganized their troops and made the SPAs lead the front. Second lieutenant Sim Il realized that the anti-tank artillery was useless, and with grenades and hand-to-hand battle, destroyed 2 SPAs. The 8 next SPAs following within a distance turned their direction to the north and ran away. This raised the spirits of the Korean 7th regiment.
    The North Korean 2nd commander major general Lee Cheong-song enforced their troops to advance into the sand banks between Soyanggang River and Bukhangang River to recover the time they lost. However the 6th division concentrated their firepower on the landing troops, and stopped them from advancing.
    The Korean 2nd regiment continued retreating from the surprise attack of North Korea from the Hongcheon region, but operated an antitank TF and succeeded in delaying the foe’s advance. After they destroyed 2 SPAs, the North Korean army stopped from advancing for a while.
    In the face of dawn June 26th, the North Korean forces started to attack fiercley. They leaded their troops with SPA battalions, but the Korean 6th division focused their artillery and antitank weapons, and the 1st battalion commander major Kim Yong-bae counterattacked and made the North Korean forces to flee.
    The North Korean army didn’t have a good result in the daytime, and started to advance their artillery. Lieutenant colonel Im Bu-taek moved the regiment command and made a new line of defense. The North Koreans advanced to the sand banks once again, but retreated due to the precise shooting of the 16th artillery battalion. After the continuous failures, the North Korean 2nd division didn’t report their status and advanced crazily to land.
    On June 26th, the North Korean 12th division attacked the Korean 6th division 2nd regiment in the north side of Hongcheon for a day, and advanced a long way south that day. The 2nd regiment commander lieutenant colonel Ham Byung-sun retreated from Ja-eun-ri to Cheoljeong, and the troops scattered with only the men enough for 1 battalion was left.
    Division commander Kim Jong-oh visited the 2nd regiment command himself on June 27th and checked the status and thought that Hongcheon will be captured if there was another big scale attack. That would be the cut off of the rear end of Chuncheon, so he sent the 19th regiment to defend this area.
    At Chuncheon, the North Korean 2nd division started to attack from the morning of 27th, to cross the Soyanggyo Bridge and advance to Chuncheon despite how big the sacrifice will be. The North Korean forces tried to cross the Soyanggyo Bridge with the cover fire from Bongeuisan Mountain, but crossing a 300m bridge with only infantry was close to suicide.
    However from 10 o’clock, the North Korean army made the SPAs to aim mainly for the antitank positions and heavy machine gun positions, and made 1 SPA to lead the attack across the bridge. The Korean forces fell into great danger by this attack, and the forces that were cover firing from the Bongeuisan Mountain closed in as well. Later at 11:30, the Bongeuisan Observatory on the peak was captured, and the 7th regiment troops all had to retreat back to Chuncheon.
    At then, the 6th division commander colonel Kim Jong-oh heard the news from the Army Headquarters that the western front in Uijeongbu and Munsan collapsed, and the 7th regiment defense were broken. He decided that rather than street battle in Chuncheon, defense of Hongchun will come more importantly.
    Starting from the early morning of June 28th, the North Korean 12th division started attacking the front of Hongcheon and took a detour route to flank the Korean 2nd regiment, while advancing to the front with SPAs. However the counterattack of the Korean 2nd regiment, and the surprise attack from the mazy routes of Keun-malgogae destroyed 8 SPAs. This Malgogae Battle was the greatest result made from the united forces of the Korean 2nd regiment and 19th regiment.

  • The North Korean forces couldn’t advance for a few hours after this defeat. Even they started to attack again later, they were defeated again by the 2nd regiment.
    Due to this kind of stalling strategy, the 12th division could lay hands on Wonju at July 2nd. Also the commanders of the 2nd and 12th division were dismissed due to the failure of the battles, and the SPA battalion commander was criticized strictly from the new division commanders.
    At first, the defense of Chuncheon was only assessed by its tactical results at the start of the Korean War. However, at 2000, when Russian documents revealed the North Korean strategic plan, the strategic importance of this battle shed new light on. It was that the North Korean leaders failed to fulfill their goals to exterminate the Korean main forces first, and take away the time of US forces to fight back. As the results show, the Chuncheon-Honcheon battle of the Korean 6th division made a big result of spoiling a main strategic objective of North Korea.

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