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Alanrevere Group

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Jackson Cook
Jackson Cook

Sniper On The Road To Victory Rar

Using the retreating ROK troops to cover their movements, the PVA had infiltrated the brigade position in the initial stages of the battle, penetrating between A and B Companies, 3 RAR astride the road, and largely surrounding the latter before moving into the rear positions.[26] The 3 RAR soldiers struggled to distinguish the PVA from the ROK in the dark, although the Korean Service Corps porters attached to the battalion were able to provide valuable assistance to the defenders distinguishing the PVA by the sounds of their voices.[49] At 21:30 the PVA launched their first attack on the forward platoon of U.S. tanks, which had been posted on the road without infantry support. The initial moves were easily repelled; however, a stronger attack an hour later forced the tanks to withdraw after two of the tank commanders were killed, including the platoon commander.[26] The PVA then proceeded to assault the 3 RAR on two different axes: one against the two forward companies in front of Hill 504, and the other through the valley astride the road around battalion headquarters.[45] Finally, by 23:00 the 16th NZ Field Regiment artillery had returned to the brigade, although they provided only limited support throughout the rest of the night.[7][50]

sniper on the road to victory rar

Cpt. Gerke, in charge of 3 RAR battalion HQ defence, was unaware that Ferguson had removed himself and his staff from the battlefield, and was searching for Ferguson around the battlefield area, concerned about his disappearance. At 6:00 a.m. Gerke was approached by a jeep from Ferguson's new HQ location, who announced, "Bug-out! Battalion HQ is back down the road."[67] Gerke ordered his men to withdraw gradually, moving one vehicle at a time back along the road, as those that remained provided covering fire. The departure was successfully completed, and with 3 RAR Headquarters Company finally assembled inside the Middlesex perimeter, Gerke was then ordered to secure a key ford across the Kapyong River, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) east, as a possible withdrawal route for the battalion should it later have to retire from Hill 504.[68]

With B Company successfully occupying its new positions, Ferguson returned forward to the hillside below his forward companies as a passenger inside a Sherman tank, which afforded protection from small arms fire.[77] During the drive back from his new battalion HQ position, Ferguson found himself assisting in the loading of the tank machine guns when necessary to return fire at the enemy. Just after 09:00, a group of PVA launched an attack at the top of the spur held by C Company. The attack was repulsed, and no further assaults were made against C Company during the day, although they endured sniper fire and mortar bombardment for several hours. Realising the importance of B Company's previous position to a planned counter-offensive, two hours after their withdrawal, Ferguson ordered Laughlin to re-occupy the position which they had just vacated. Ferguson summoned O'Dowd to meet him at the former battalion HQ area and advised him that Burke had ordered B Company to return to the hill they had vacated.[78] 27th Brigade was now expecting to be reinforced by 5th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, and their move forward would possibly be facilitated if the PVA were cleared from the small hill that commanded the road through the valley. Likewise, the defence of this position the previous evening had prevented a PVA assault on the western flank of Hill 504. As such, at 09:30 the order to withdraw was rescinded and B Company was tasked to re-occupy the position. In preparation for the company assault on the summit, Laughlin tasked 5 Platoon to assault a small knoll halfway between C Company and the old B Company position. A frontal assault was launched at 10:30, with two sections attacking and one in fire support. Strongly held by a PVA platoon well dug-in in bunkers, the defenders allowed the 5 Platoon to approach to within 15 metres (16 yd) before opening fire with machine guns, rifles, and grenades. 5 Platoon suffered seven casualties, including the platoon commander, and they were forced to withdraw under the cover of machine-gun and mortar fire.[75]

Although originally intending on holding until the 3 RAR could be relieved by the US 5th Cavalry Regiment, Burke had decided during the morning to withdraw 3 RAR from Hill 504 and retreat to 27th Brigade HQ. This decision had prompted Burke to cancel B Company's assault.[77][87] With the 3 RAR facing encirclement, and mindful of the fate that had befallen the Glosters, Burke had ordered a fighting withdrawal back to the Middlesex area to new defensive positions in rear of the brigade.[88] Indeed, despite holding the PVA at bay throughout the morning and afternoon, the increasing difficulty of resupply and casualty evacuation made it clear that the 3 RAR would be unable to hold Hill 504 for another night in its exposed and isolated positions.[88] O'Dowd began planning for the withdrawal as the PVA renewed their assault on D Company around 11:30, and after Ferguson ordered O'Dowd to plan and lead the withdrawal by radio at 12:30.[89][90] With the PVA dominating the road south, O'Dowd ordered his companies to withdraw along a ridge running 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south-west from Hill 504, just east of the Kapyong River. The Middlesex position lay a further one kilometre (0.62 mi) south-west of the foot of the ridge and could be reached by the ford secured earlier by Gerke, which would act as the battalion check point for the withdrawal. O'Dowd was appointed by Ferguson to plan and command the field operations.[77] Ferguson saw his role as representing 3 RAR at Brigade HQ, and had as such decided to not move forward to lead the withdrawal himself.[91]

The withdrawal was scheduled to begin shortly following the misdirected airstrike, and was to be preceded by an artillery bombardment with high explosive and smoke at 16:00.[note 6] The U.S. tanks were subsequently moved forward to provide cover, and when the 16th NZ Field Regiment artillery failed to fire at the appointed hour, they provided the direct fire support. Still in contact, the 3 RAR began to pull back, fighting a number of well-disciplined rearguard actions as the companies leapfrogged each other. Meanwhile, the 16th NZ Field Regiment kept the PVA at bay, after it finally commenced firing.[92] B Company had taken 39 PVA prisoners during the earlier fighting, and unable to leave these behind, they were used to carry many of the 3 RAR wounded and much of their equipment as well. O'Dowd's fear that the PVA might have blocked the withdrawal route was not realised, and B Company moved back along the ridge and down to the ford without incident, reaching the Middlesex area after dark. C Company was the next to withdraw, departing at 16:30, just after suffering another casualty from sniper fire. Saunders led his company up the spur and then south down the main ridge without incident, followed by A Company during the next hour with the PVA in close pursuit.[96]

Now assembled on the summit of Hill 677, the 700 soldiers of 2 PPCLI spent the night of 23/24 April in their shallow pits listening to the sounds of the fighting on the 3 RAR front. However, by early morning PVA activity to encircle Hill 677 increased and, with the situation deteriorating on Hill 504 on the Patricia's right flank, Stone withdrew B Company from their position on the north edge of the Hill 677 summit to strengthen this eastern flank if the 3 RAR were forced to withdraw. Under the command of Major Vince Lilley, B company subsequently moved to occupy positions east of battalion headquarters on the high ground overlooking the valley road.[101] Stone's intuitions were proven to be sound when this position, which protected not only his 2 PPCLI battalion headquarters but the battalion's major concentrations of heavy machine guns and mortars, would prove crucial during the fierce climax of the upcoming night battle.

As darkness descended on 24 April, Burke, commanding officer of the 27th Commonwealth Brigade, decided not to utilize radio contacts with 2 PPCLI headquarters on the summit of Hill 677. Burke ordered a Douglas Dakota aircraft equipped with loudspeakers and personally flew over the 2 PPCLI positions on Hill 677.[109] He announced to the soldiers below that they were now on their own, cut off from any support and would have to fight the coming battle alone. He wished them good luck and encouraged them to fight bravely. He then flew back to Brigade HQ, amidst derisive response from the unsettled 2 PPCLI soldiers. Burke's brief appearance over the battlefield served to cause further apprehension among the Canadian ranks.[110] Many of the less experienced 2 PPCLI soldiers voiced a desire to run and abandon the position. Veteran war hero Tommy Prince played a central role in steadying and motivating the frightened men.[111] Stone and 2 PPCLI could no longer expect that 27th Brigade HQ forces would continue to engage the enemy or would assemble a relief column to break through the PVA stranglehold on the supply road at Tungmudae. Stone was never in any doubt as to the essential strategic significance of Hill 677 for the UN forces and he issued a straightforward order to his battalion, "No retreat, no surrender."[112][113]

With vastly superior numbers the PVA had attacked on a broad front, and had overrun a number of the UN positions, and after a fierce fire-fight had pushed the ROK, 3 RAR and U.S. tank and artillery forces at Kapyong off the battlefield. These UN units then withdrew from combat into a reserve position, and did not engage the PVA further in the battle. The 2 PPCLI, supported by long distance artillery fire from the 16th NZ Field Regiment, managed to survive a two-day encirclement and resist full assaults of the PVA 118th Division, causing the enemy to withdraw before the arrival of UN relief forces. The UN allies ultimately prevailed, albeit through a last stand by the 2 PPCLI, despite being outnumbered on the field of battle by a factor of five to one,[155] or by a factor of greater than ten to one.[156] Indeed, despite their numerical advantage and possession of light machine guns, which gave the PVA the advantage in small arms fire, the PVA had been outgunned in heavy artillery capacity. This edge in artillery fire allowed the 2 PPCLI to survive and succeed at Kapyong.[71] And yet, despite their eventual defeat, the battle once again demonstrated that the PVA were tough and skillful soldiers capable of inflicting heavy casualties on the 3 RAR and U.S. tanks and forcing their retreat off the field of battle.[49] As a result of the fighting, 3 RAR losses were 32 killed (two by friendly fire from US air strike), 59 wounded and three captured, while 2 PPCLI casualties on 24/25 April included 10 killed and 23 wounded,[99] later amended to 12 killed and 35 wounded (one by friendly fire from US tanks).[157] U.S. casualties included three men killed, 12 wounded and two tanks destroyed, all from A Company, 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion. The 16th NZ Field Regiment lost two killed and five wounded.[41] In contrast, the PVA losses were far heavier, and may have included 1,000-5,000 killed and many more wounded.[99][139]


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