Battle of the Imjin River

Battle of the Imjin River
Part of the Chinese Spring Offensive in the Korean War
Disabled Centurion tank at Imjin (AWM HOBJ2237).jpg
Centurion tanks of the 8th Hussars disabled during the retreat of 29th Brigade on 25 April
Date22–25 April 1951
Location
37°56′33″N 126°56′21″E / 37°56′33″N 126°56′21″E / 37.94250; 126.93917
ResultDisputed[a]
Successful United Nations delaying action.
Belligerents

 United Nations

 China
Commanders and leaders
United States Matthew Ridgway
United Kingdom Thomas Brodie
Belgium Albert Crahay[6]
Luxembourg Joseph Wagener[7]
Philippines Dionisio S. Ojeda[8]
South Korea Kang Mun Bong[9]
China Peng Dehuai
China Yang Dezhi[10]
China Fu Chongbi[10]
China Zeng Siyu[10]
China Xiao Yingtang[10]
Units involved

United Kingdom 29th Infantry Brigade

Philippines 10th Battalion Combat Team
South Korea 1st Infantry Division[11][12]

China 19th Army Group[11][13]

Casualties and losses

United Nations Unknown

  • United Kingdom 141 killed
    1,169 wounded, missing or captured[14]
  • Belgium 12 killed
  • Philippines 5 killed
15,000+ (estimated)[15]
Battle of the Imjin River is located in South Korea
Battle of the Imjin River

The Battle of the Imjin River (Filipino: Labanan sa Ilog Imjin), also known as the Battle of Solma-ri (Korean: 설마리 전투) or Battle of Gloster Hill (글로스터 고지 전투) in South Korea, or as Battle of Xuemali (Chinese: 雪马里战斗; pinyin: Xuě Mǎ Lǐ Zhàn Dòu) in China, took place 22–25 April 1951 during the Korean War. Troops from the Chinese People's Volunteer Army (PVA) attacked United Nations Command (UN) positions on the lower Imjin River in an attempt to achieve a breakthrough and recapture the South Korean capital Seoul. The attack was part of the Chinese Spring Offensive, the aim of which was to regain the initiative on the battlefield after a series of successful UN counter-offensives in January-March 1951 had allowed UN forces to establish themselves beyond the 38th Parallel at the Kansas Line.

The section of the UN line where the battle took place was defended primarily by British forces of the 29th Infantry Brigade, consisting of three British and one Belgian infantry battalions (Belgian United Nations Command) supported by tanks and artillery. Despite facing a greatly numerically superior enemy, the brigade held its general positions for three days. When the units of the 29th Infantry Brigade were ultimately forced to fall back, their actions in the Battle of the Imjin River together with those of other UN forces, for example in the Battle of Kapyong, had blunted the impetus of the PVA offensive and allowed UN forces to retreat to prepared defensive positions north of Seoul, where the PVA were halted.

"Though minor in scale, the battle's ferocity caught the imagination of the world",[16] especially the fate of the 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment, which was outnumbered and eventually surrounded by Chinese forces on Hill 235, a feature that became known as Gloster Hill. The stand of the Gloucestershire battalion, together with other actions of the 29th Brigade in the Battle of the Imjin River, has become an important part of British military history and tradition.[17][18]

Background

Following the North Korean invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, a UN counter-offensive had reached the North Korean border with China. Fearing for its own security, China intervened with three offensives between October 1950 and January 1951 which pushed the UN forces south of the original border between North and South Korea along the 38th Parallel and captured Seoul. A fourth offensive in mid-February was blunted by UN forces in the Battle of Chipyong-ni and Third Battle of Wonju. At the end of February the UN launched a series of offensive operations, recapturing Seoul on 15 March and pushing the front line back northwards. In early April Operation Rugged established the front in a line that followed the lower Imjin river, then eastwards to the Hwacheon Reservoir and on to the Yangyang area on the east coast, known as the Kansas Line. The subsequent Operation Dauntless pushed out a salient between the Imjin river as it dog-legged north and the Hwacheon Reservoir, known as the Utah Line.[19]

UN Forces

The deployment of UN forces during the initial stages of the Spring Offensive. Note the importance of 29th Brigade's position for stopping a direct advance on Seoul.

On 22 April the front line in the west along Lines Kansas and Utah was held by the United States Army (US) I Corps comprising, from west to east, the South Korean Republic of Korea Army (ROK) 1st Division, the US 3rd Division with the attached British 29th Brigade, the US 25th Division with the attached Turkish Brigade and the US 24th Division.[20][21] The 29th Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Tom Brodie, consisted of the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment (Glosters), under Lieutenant-Colonel James P. Carne; the 1st Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (Fusiliers), under Lieutenant-Colonel Kingsley Foster; the 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles (Rifles), under the temporary command of Major Gerald Rickord; and the Belgian Battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Crahay (700 men), to which Luxembourg's contribution to the UN forces was attached.[22] The brigade was supported by the 25 pounders of 45 Field Regiment Royal Artillery (RA) commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel MT Young, the 4.2 inch mortars of 170 Independent Mortar Battery RA, the Centurion tanks of C Squadron 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars under the command of Major Henry Huth, and by 55 Squadron Royal Engineers.[23][24]

The four battalions of 29th Brigade covered a front of 12 miles (19 km).[25] Gaps between units had to be accepted because there was no possibility of forming a continuous line with the forces available. "Brigadier Brodie determined to deploy his men in separate unit positions, centred upon key hill features"[24] On the left flank, the Glosters were guarding a ford over the Imjin 1 mile (1.6 km) east of the ROK 1st Division; the Fusiliers were deployed near the centre, around 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of the Glosters; the Belgians, occupying a feature called Hill 194 on the right, were the only element of the 29th Brigade north of the river. Their connection with the rest of the brigade depended on two pontoon bridges about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) apart. These bridges connected the Belgians with Route 11, the 29th Brigade's main line of supply and communication. The Rifles served as the brigade's reserve and were deployed along Route 11.[24][25][26] Extensive defensive preparations were not completed because the British expected to hold the position for only a short time. Neither minefields, deeply dug shelters nor extensive wire obstacles had been constructed. The British position on the Imjin river "was deemed safe" but vulnerable in case of an attack.[27]

Chinese forces

Chinese Spring Offensive, April 1951

The commander-in-chief of the PVA and North Korean Korean People's Army (KPA) forces in the Field, General Peng Dehuai, planned to "wipe out...the American 3rd Division...the British 29th Brigade and the 1st Division of the Puppet Army...after this we can wipe out the American 24th Division and 25th Division", and promised the capture of Seoul as a May Day gift to Mao Zedong.[28] To achieve the objective Peng planned to converge on Seoul with three PVA army groups and a KPA corps; a total strength of some 305,000 men.[29][30] The III and IX Army Groups were to attack the right flank of the US 3rd Division and the 24th and 25th Divisions on the Utah Line, east of the Imjin where it turned north. The XIX Army Group on the PVA right flank, west of the Imjin river where it turned north, were to attack the remainder of the 3rd Division and the ROK 1st Division. On the XIX Army Group front, the KPA I Corps and PVA 64th Army would attack the ROK 1st Division, while the 63rd Army would attack on their left, pitting it against 29th Brigade. The 63rd Army comprised three divisions, the 187th, 188th and 189th, with each division comprising three regiments, each of which comprised three battalions. Some 27,000 men in 27 battalions would be attacking 29th Brigade's four battalions, albeit in echelon, one division after the other.[29][31]

Other Languages
français: Colline Gloster
한국어: 설마리 전투