Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War

Administration. Eighth Army was carrying out "Limited Objective Attacks," not to break
the enemy's lines and force his overall surrender in Korea or to secure the whole of the
Peninsula to the Yalu River, but to establish its final defensive line on the most
defensible terrain available in the vicinity of where its lines lay when negotiations began
in July 1951. The UNC had been given the mission to take the strategic defensive. Now
it was facilitating that decision from Washington by making an operational and tactical
offensive, what Van Fleet called an "active defense."2
The fighting of late summer and fall, 1951, was bitter. Morale in EUSAK (Eighth U.
S. Army Korea) was hurt by the seemingly pointless peace talks, and the fighting for the
ridges around the Punchbowl was particularly tough on morale due to high casualties.
The most infamous engagements in that area were Bloody Ridge and Heartbreak Ridge
in the sector of the 2nd Infantry Division. Such battles seemed to many at home in the
United States to be a pointless waste of lives.3
The fighting . . . [in the area of the Punchbowl] was perhaps the bloodiest
to date and the most strenuous, demanding the utmost in physical strength,
endurance and raw courage. Infantrymen fought like Indians, crawling up
hillsides, lugging mortar rounds as well as their own rifles and ammunition and
sometimes having to blast the enemy out of dug-in positions at point-blank range.
2 Burton I. Kaufman, The Korean War: Challenges in Crisis, Credibility, and Command (New York:
McGraw Hill, 1997): Chapter Five, "Negotiations;" Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War, (New York: Da
Capo Press, 1967): 187. There are three basic levels of war, strategic, operational, and tactical. The first
deals with the ends of the war, its objectives as dictated by policy; the second, with how the ends of
strategy are to be achieved in a given theatre; and the third, with how the separate battles can fulfill the
concerted direction of operations. For more information see: Adrian R. Lewis, Omaha Beach: A Flawed
Victory, (North Carolina: Chapel Hill, 2001): 5-7. The first phase of the Korean War was from the NK
(North Korean) attack, June, 25, 1950 through September 15, 1950. The second phase was from
September 15, 1950, the date of the Inchon landing, through the intervention by the CCF (Communist
Chinese Forces) in November 1950. The third phase extended from then until the retreat of UN forces
ended an they once more resumed the offensive. The fourth phase lasted from then until the end of major
offensive movements. The fifth phase was the longest, consisting of the time of stalemate form Fall, 1951
through the end of the war, July 27, 1953.
3 Clay Blair, The Forgotten War, 950; Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War, 190; Arned L. Hinshaw,
Heartbreak Ridge: Korea, 1951 (New York: Praeger, 1989): 23; Lynn Montross, Major Hubard D. Kuokka,
USMC, and Major Norman W. Hicks, USMC, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953: Volume IV,
The East-Central Front, (Washington, D.C.: Historical Branch, G-3, HQMC, 1962): 199.

2

Montandon, Joshua W. Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War. Denton, Texas. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc3938/. Accessed December 20, 2014.