booby trap. I mean, I could see it laying right there. And it was brand new. Man, it
still had fresh oil on it and whatnot and boy is that tempting ....40
Besides mines and booby-trapped corpses, the woods (this area was heavily
timbered) were full of other lethal devices. Ralph B. Steele remembered:
There's a wire stretched across this path wired to a mortar round . . . actually it
was wired to a grenade. . . the pin would come out of the grenade, detonate the
grenade and the mortar round, and it was at about head high. Well, the guy two
guys in front of me tripped this wire, of course yelled "Trip Wire!" Well, you're so
keyed up, I imagine I was on the ground before the word wire ever got out of his
Luckily for Steele, the device did not go off. Unluckily for a friend of his who came
along later, the soldier that had rigged the device had planned for it to not go off on the
first trip. The device was taped with electrical tape and the first time it was triggered, the
grenade just twisted in the tape, the second time it could not twist anymore and so went
off and killed his friend.42
Another tactical problem for the Marines was caused by terrain, and the NKPA
exploited it to the hilt. Many of the ridges in the area of the Punchbowl were
perpendicular to one another, forming mutually supporting ridgelines that forced an
attacker assaulting one ridge to receive enfilade or flanking fire from the other ridge.
(See Photo # 1) "It was a mountain warfare variation of crossing the T that the Korean
Reds were using against the Marines. Whenever possible, the enemy made a stand on
a hill flanked by transverse ridgelines. He emplaced hidden machine guns and mortars
40 Transcript of Interview with Ralph B. Steele by Larry Ordner for the Library of Congress Veterans
History Project, dated August 28, 2002. Transcript available online at:
http://Icweb2. loc.qov/cocoon/vhp/story/loc. natlib.afc2001001.02616/transcript?l D=sr001. Website last
consulted April 2007.
41 Transcript of Interview with Ralph B. Steele, Library of Congress.
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 24, 2014.