Korean War: Counter Attack
Scenario Preview, Part One
Korean War: Counter Attack is the second boxed game in our Korean War mini-series, which looks like it will eventually encompass four boxed games and at least that many book supplements.
There are 65 total scenarios in Counter Attack, most of them concerned with the story of American troops in the peninsula – but we’ll cover the ROK in detail, too, before the mini-series is complete. They begin with the North Korean offensive having run out of steam at the Pusan Perimeter and the Americans having gone over to the attack. But the Norks don’t know they’re done, and in the first third or so of the scenarios both sides are often attacking.
The scenarios are collected into nine chapters, tied together with eight “battle games” (one chapter’s too short for the battle game treatment). Here’s a look at the scenarios from the first chapter:
America’s First Counter-Attack
The North Korean drive on the Pusan Perimeter from the west along the Chinju-Masan corridor gave American commander Walton Walker the idea to concentrate all the American reinforcements then arriving in Korea to attack in the southernmost sector of the front. Walker hoped to give the American, ROK, and U.N. forces a chance to finally go on the offensive, in their first counter-attack. Maj. Gen. William B. Kean, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, directed the units collected into “Task Force Kean.”
Head to Head
7 August 1950
Throughout the retreat to the Pusan Perimeter, additional U.S. and allied forces flowed into the shrinking perimeter to bolster the defense. The U.N. maintained an active resistance, attacking the enemy where they became extended or overconfident, or when commanders sought advantageous terrain. With this counterattack toward Chinju Pass, Eighth Army headquarters sought to relieve enemy pressure against the perimeter in the Taegu area by forcing the diversion of some North Korean units southward.
Task Force Kean directed the attack, and for five hours its rightmost unit, the 2nd Battalion of the 35th Infantry Regiment, fought a force of about 500 men from the NKPA’s 6th Division. The Americans made little progress until a very effective air strike helped open way to Chinju Pass. Once the pass fell the regiment made rapid progress, securing its objectives by nightfall. Perhaps things were changing in Korea.
We open the game with a meeting engagement, as two infantry-heavy forces collide over a small piece of ground, each trying to push the other off the vital road the crosses the one map board in play. The North Koreans are good – this is one of the “Chinese” divisions made up of Korean veterans of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army – but the Americans have massive artillery and air support available.
Who Attacks Whom?
7 August 1950
The Eighth Army’s attack plan placed the Marines on the far left flank of the Pusan Perimeter. They would take over the positions of the 27th Infantry Regiment and follow up the attack of the Army regiment to their right. As the Marines moved out, they found that the North Koreans had already infiltrated behind the Army battalion during the night and a confused meeting engagement erupted.
The tangled fighting eventually drew in troops from the Army’s 27th Infantry Regiment, which was supposed to be leaving the front. Meanwhile the sun beat down mercilessly, with 30 Marines falling with heat prostration but only five to enemy fire. Finally the Marines secured their new positions and drove off the North Koreans, but the NKPA had successfully kept the Marines from even launching their attack.
Another one-map meeting engagement, this time featuring the Marine Brigade There are no tanks in this scenario, but both sides have plenty of manpower and firepower otherwise.
8 August 1950
With the Marines now in position, Eighth Army assigned the Provisional Brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. Edward A. Craig, to command all troops on the Chingdong-ni front. Eager to show what Marines could do under Marine command, the attack against Fox Hill (Hill 342) went in after sharp air strikes by Marine aircraft from the brigade’s organic air component.
The North Koreans put up spirited resistance, seemingly heedless of their own losses, but the Marines overran the crest of Fox Hill. Soon afterwards they linked up with an Army infantry company that had been trapped behind North Korean lines. According to 2nd Battalion’s after-action report the North Koreans suffered massive casualties; the Marines lost eight dead, including three officers, an indication of the Marine command’s eagerness to achieve their first objective.
The Marines are back in action in another small scenario, this time a set-piece assault against North Koreans dug in behind a river line. The Marines have numbers and firepower, including air support. The North Koreans have a river.
7 August 1950
The veteran North Korean 6th Division had begun its existence as the 164th Division of the Chinese Communist People’s Liberation Army, a unit of Korean volunteers. As such it had a great deal of combat experience behind it, and used that in the early morning hours of August 7th to infiltrate into the American positions and seize key high ground including Hill 255 overlooking the road leading to the vital supply center of Masan. Task Force Kean flung whatever Army and Marines units it could gather at Hill 255 to eliminate this threat.
Army and Marine artillery poured thousands of rounds onto the NKPA positions, with tank and mortar fire adding to the bombardment along with repeated airstrikes. For three days the veteran 6th Division held its ground, leaving behind 120 dead when they finally pulled back in good order on the afternoon of the 9th.
As any veteran of the modern US military knows, you can’t have an operation without jointness! Army and Marine troops attack on the ground, supported by Air Force aircraft. No Coast Guard presence, however. The North Koreans are dug in and pretty determined to hold on, so the American player is going to need all those services.
12 August 1950
The Marine Brigade, supported by Marine Corsairs flying from a pair of Navy escort carriers, made rapid progress up the coastal road from Masan. The Flying Leathernecks (and Air Force F51’s) shot up a large truck convoy on the 11th, disrupting the NKPA’s 83rd Motorized Regiment’s plans to defend the road. On the next morning the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marines leapfrogged through one of its sister battalions and raced forward for 11 unopposed miles. Then they met the NKPA.
The Marines were marching into the ambush when two NKPA soldiers prematurely showed themselves. Dozens of Marines opened fire on them, and North Korean machine guns returned the favor. “All hell broke loose,” Marine Corporal Manuel Brito wrote later. “We began taking fire from both sides of the road.” Marine radio operators dove into rice paddies for cover, ruining their sets and making it impossible to summon artillery support. But the ever-present Corsairs laid down strong support and the Marines pressed forward, to be met by repeated NKPA counter-attacks. By late afternoon the Marines had taken the high ground on either side of the road, but that evening events elsewhere caused the Marine Brigade to be pulled out of the front.
The scenario opens after the ambush has been spoiled, so there are no special rules forcing the Marines to march into danger (I think I would have designed the scenario that way). The Norks are getting a little worn down and are not as proficient as in previous scenarios, while the Marines remain Marines.
Death of an Artillery Battalion
12 August 1950
Attacking troops of the North Korean 6th Division shot up an American artillery battery on the 11th of August and forced back the U.S. Army’s 5th Regimental Combat Team. The regiment’s commander, Col. Godwin L. Ordway, wished to retreat during the night but 24th Infantry Division headquarters ordered him to wait until daylight. During those nighttime hours the NKPA infiltrated deeply into his positions, and shortly after daybreak they pounced on two unprotected artillery battalions. The infantry and tanks tasked with protecting them had withdrawn without orders, while panicked rear-echelon elements jammed the road leading eastward to safety.
North Korean tankers approached to within point-blank range before the Americans detected them. The 105mm gunners attempted to engage the enemy tanks without making an impact; the 155mm crews found they could not depress their gun barrels low enough to fire over open sights. Most of the 555th “Triple Nickle” artillerymen died at their guns; the 90th also suffered heavy casualties. Both battalions lost all of their guns. Five weeks later, UN forces discovered the bodies of 75 men from the battalions who had been taken prisoner and subsequently massacred by the North Koreans.
One of the darker days for the U.S. Army in Korea, as the Norks attack an isolated artillery position and wreak havoc among the gunners.
And that’s the first chapter. They vary in length; the next one has more scenarios.
You can order Korean War: Counter Attack right here.
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.