Echoes of War 1952: Korean War

The original caption to this Oregon newspaper photo taken on March 14, 1952, reads, ‘Piled in a Jeep in Korea are Oregonians in headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 180th Infantry, 45th Division. From left, around the rim of the Jeep are Pfc Donald L. Hess, Cpl Werner Richen, Cpl Grover L. Hildenbrand, Cpl Joe Pashak, Pvt William Hughes, Cpl Paul B. Kelsay. In back seat; Pfc Ted Reeves (left) Pfc Nealie Jamison. In front from left; Cpl Robert Henningsen, Cpl Wayne Holder, Cpl Bernard Fischer.’

The Korean War is often referred to as the ‘Forgotten War’ because it followed so soon after World War Two and was eclipsed by the subsequent Vietnam War. By March 1952, the war, at first described by US President Harry S Truman as a ‘police action’, had been ongoing for almost two years and had become a stalemate.

Neither the UN forces nor the communist North Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army were able to get the upper hand or gain much ground despite major battles taking place in this period, including the battles of Bloody Ridge, the Punchbowl and Heartbreak Ridge.

The US 45th Infantry Division deployed to Korea in December 1951. They moved into the front line around the Yonchon-Chorwon area and in sectors fronting Old Baldy Hill, nicknamed after artillery and mortar fire destroyed the trees on its crest, to relieve the 1st Cavalry. The battle of Old Baldy, a series of five engagements for Hill 266 in west-central Korea over a period of 10 months, would start in June 1952 soon after President Truman announced he would not run for re-election and relieved Eisenhower of command so the general could run for president.

In the spring, the 45th launched Major General Ruffner’s Operation Counter. This was a two-phase operation to capture and hold outposts a few thousand yards in front of the main line around Old Baldy Hill, the highest point on a prominent east-west ridge. It held str ategic impor tance because it dominated the surrounding terrain in three directions.

The division subsequently defended the hill against repeated assaults by the Chinese 38th Army throughout 1952, as Chinese forces continued to attack Old Baldy during the year.

Additional Information

During the Korean War the 45th Infantry Division suffered 4,004 casualties comprising 834 killed in action and 3,170 wounded. The 45th Infantry Division Museum is at 2145 N.E. 36th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73111, USA.