Operation Courageous - First Attack

First Attack

On March 23, Task Force Growdon, which was completely motorized, passed through the ROK 1st Division shortly after 07:00. No Chinese forces opposed the armored column as it moved ahead of the South Koreans, but within minutes the third tank in column hit a mine while bypassing a destroyed bridge at the small Changnung River. The task force was held up while engineers removed a dozen other mines from the bypass. Proceeding slowly from that point with a mine detector team leading the way afoot, Colonel Growdon's column moved only a mile to the village of Sinwon-ni before encountering more mines. When the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team began landing at Munsan-ni at 09:00, Growdon's task force was at a halt some fifteen miles (24 km) to the south.

C-46 Commandos and C-119 Flying Boxcars of the 315th Air Division had begun lifting the airborne troops from the Taegu airfield shortly after 07:00, all heading initially for a rendezvous point over the Yellow Sea west of the objective area. The second serial of aircraft, with the 1st Battalion of the 187th aboard, was in flight only briefly before engine trouble in the lead plane forced the pilot to return to Taegu for a replacement aircraft. The combat team landed before the new lead plane, whose passengers included the 1st Battalion commander, could reach Munsan-ni. The drop, as a result, did not come off entirely as planned.

General Bowen, commander of the 187th, had designated two drop zones, one about a mile (1.5 km) northeast of Munsan-ni at 37°51′36″N 126°48′16″E / 37.86000°N 126.80444°E / 37.86000; 126.80444, another about three miles (5 km) southeast of town at 37°49′32″N 126°49′14″E / 37.82556°N 126.82056°E / 37.82556; 126.82056. The 1st Battalion was to land in the lower zone, the remainder of the combat team in the one to the north. As planned, the 3d Battalion with the 4th Ranger Company attached jumped first, Bowen having given it the mission of securing the northern drop zone. Bowen's plan went awry when the leaderless second serial of planes mistakenly followed the first and dropped the 1st Battalion also in the northern zone. The 2d Battalion with the 2d Ranger Company followed not long after, then the 674th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion, and at 10:00 the artillery heavy drop.

In the brief interval between the drops of the 1st and 2d Battalions, General Ridgway arrived by L-19, landing on a road between Munsan-ni and the northern drop zone. En route, he had flown over Task Force Growdon then held up at Sinwon-ni, a fact he passed to General Bowen. Shortly after 10:00, Ridgway saw a single stick of paratroops jump from a plane over the lower drop zone. The replacement plane carrying the 1st Battalion commander and party had finally reached Munsan-ni, and its passengers had jumped in the correct zone not knowing that they would be the only troops in the area.

To the north, resistance in and immediately around the drop zone was minor and sporadic, amounting to a few small groups of North Koreans and a meager amount of fire from mortars located somewhere to the north. Overcrowding caused by the 1st Battalion's misdirected drop complicated the 3d Battalion's assembly, but units managed to sort themselves out and secure the borders of the drop zone. An unexpected annoyance was created by civilians who appeared in the drop zone and began carrying away parachutes. Shots fired over their heads ended the attempted theft. Against moderate but scattered opposition the 2d Battalion proceeded to occupy heights northeast of the drop zone, and under the command of its executive officer the 1st Battalion, less Company B, moved into the ground to the north and northwest, clearing Munsan-ni itself in the process.

Company B went on a rescue mission to the southern drop zone after learning that the command group of the 1st Battalion had come under fire on Hill 216 (37°50′18″N 126°48′27″E / 37.83833°N 126.80750°E / 37.83833; 126.80750 (Hill 216)) overlooking the drop zone from the northwest. Company B forced the Chinese troops off the hill, allowing its survivors to withdraw to the southwest, and reached the drop zone by 15:00. The rescue force and the battalion command group arrived at the regimental position to the north about two hours later. By that time Bowen's forces had secured all assigned objectives.

Battle casualties among the airborne troops were light, totalling 19. Jump casualties were higher at 84, but almost half of these returned to duty immediately after treatment.

Chinese casualties included 136 dead counted on the field and 149 taken captive. Estimated losses raised the total considerably higher. Prisoner interrogation indicated that the Chinese forces who had been in the objective area were from the 36th Regiment of the North Korean 19th Division and had numbered between three hundred and five hundred. Most of the remainder of the North Korean I Corps apparently had withdrawn above the Imjin well before the airborne landing.

Read more about this topic:  Operation Courageous

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