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

The enemy worked with Oriental doggedness to fortify himself in the hills,
sometimes tunneling, with hand labor, from the reverse slope of a hill, so that he
could pull out of his forward positions under air and artillery attack and find
shelter on the reverse slope of a hill, where it was difficult to zero in on him with
airstrikes or heavy howitzers. He might build tunnels as much as a thousand
yards long to enable him to take quick shelter from bombardment, yet move
forward to meet an attack on the ground. The forward ends of these tunnels were
usually camouflaged with great skill and care, and it took sharp observation to
spot them. Once spotted, however, they could be knocked out with direct hits
from our howitzers sighting directly at their targets. [This was using the piece like
a rifle in flat trajectory fire and, in harsh terrain, was only possible in certain
instances.] Our artillerymen demonstrated some pinpoint accuracy in blasting out
these strong points with 8-inch howitzers that had been hauled into position by
bulldozers-a novel and effective use for the invaluable weapons.4
The assessment that this was wasted effort, touted at the time by many in the
press in the U. S. and in Washington, needs reexamination. To date, the standard
assessment of the Fall Offensive of 1951 is that the large number of casualties incurred
by U. S. troops convinced General Matthew B. Ridgway, CINCUNC (Commander in
Chief United Nations Command), and LtGen James Van Fleet, commander of EUSAK,
to stop all offensives greater than battalion in size and concentrate on defending the
territory already taken -- waiting for an armistice. This assessment is true, but Ridgway
also believed that one reason the Communists returned to negotiating after walking out
of the peace talks in late August, 1951, was these battles. They convinced the
Communists to "get back to the negotiating table." This result of the offensive is one that
is often overlooked and should be reemphasized in the historiography of this
campaign.5
In addition, many histories treat the end of the "war of movement" as coinciding
with the initiation of the truce-talks at Kaesong. This is a mistake. Though there was a
4 Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War, 187.
5 Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War, 188-91; Clay Blair, The Forgotten War, 948; Lynn Montross, et
al., The East-Central Front, 199-201; Arned Hinshaw, Heartbreak Ridge, 127.

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 September 19, 2014.