Korean War: Counter Attack
Scenario Preview, Part Two
A while back, I saw some internet comment wishing that one of our Panzer Grenadier games - I don’t recall which – had more scenarios using only one map. I like for all of our games in the series to have a mix of scenarios of different size and length so players can find many different experiences inside the game box. If we’re going to put dozens of scenarios into the box, variety among them is probably a good thing.
Korean War: Counter Attack takes things very definitely in the “small scenario” direction: 42 of the 65 scenarios use just one map and none use more than three. As a publisher, you just pound your head on your desk asking why the game had to have six maps; as a player, you get to enjoy the variety. Here’s a look at the second chapter’s scenarios:
The First Battle of the Naktong Bulge
The Eighth Army could no longer withdraw under enemy pressure but would have to stand up and fight or it would be driven out of Korea completely. It’s important to realize that the United States seriously considered abandonment of Korea. The Naktong River, the second-longest in Korea, formed a kind of moat around almost three-fourths of the Pusan Perimeter and the North Koreans thought they could attack Pusan through four areas all at once. Those four areas were: through Mason south via the Nam and Naktong Rivers, through the Naktong Bulge, through Taegu and through Kyongju on the east coast. The Naktong River area would see some to the heaviest fighting. The Eighth Army would later refer to this period as the “the days along the Naktong.” Scenarios Seven through Sixteen cover this period.
First Battle of the Naktong Bulge
6 August 1950
Maj. Gen. Lee Kwon Mu’s North Korean 4th “Seoul” Division crossed the Naktong River on the 5th of August in the southern sector of the American 24th Infantry Division’s front, exactly where the American command had believed an attack unlikely. The North Koreans avoided American troops along the river, moving past them to penetrate deeper into the American positions. Finally at dawn Colonel Charles E. Beauchamp reported to division headquarters that the North Koreans had crossed the river, but “it’s pretty dark and situation is obscure.” As parts of Beauchamp’s 34th Infantry Regiment crumbled, the division staff ordered him to counterattack.
North Korean fire from automatic weapons and tanks devastated the American attack, which wasn’t helped by poor leadership – the battalion commander in nominal charge appears to have spent most of the battle personally laying 60mm mortars and running about the rice paddies dodging enemy machine-gun fire. Meanwhile, other units of Beauchamp’s regiment began to withdraw without orders, leading the division commander to order the colonel to personally stop the withdrawal and fire all the company commanders involved.
This is an unusual scenario, a meeting engagement along a long narrow river board. The North Koreans are the ones who have to get across the river, which is going to be tough as the Americans bring on a strong counter-attacking force.
Battle within the Bulge
10 August 1950
With the 24th Infantry Division fading quickly in terms of both numbers and morale, Walton Walker of Eighth Army attached the 2nd Infantry Division’s 9th Infantry Regiment to the 24th. In two days of fighting the 9th Infantry had already lost a startling number of junior officers, but they went forward with an attack on the hill known as Cloverleaf, just in time to meet a North Korean attack.
The 9th Infantry’s attack faltered as soon as it ran into the attacking North Koreans, who inflicted heavy losses on the fresh regiment and captured Cloverleaf Hill. The 24th Infantry Division was faltering badly, and the division commander, Maj. Gen. John H. Church, placed all of his forces in the so-called Naktong Bulge – all but two of his infantry battalions, plus artillery and other units - under Col. John G. Hill of the 9th Infantry, in effect passing his command to a lower-ranking officer from a different division.
It’s another meeting engagement on the Naktong River, but this time on a smaller battlefield with more forces engaged. That’s going to make for an intensive fight, since everyone has to come down to the river at some point if they want to win.
The Underwater Bridges
11 August 1950
Under the cover of darkness, North Korean sappers used whatever local materials could be found to build so-called “underwater bridges” across the Naktong with their roadbeds just under the surface of the water. A common practice from the Chinese War of Resistance and the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War, the bridges remained invisible to enemy air reconnaissance or to anyone on the ground viewing from a distance. The NKPA could move its heavy equipment across the river as it wished, without fear of American air attack.
Thanks to their secret river crossings, the North Koreans had managed to bring artillery within close support range of their positions around Cloverleaf Hill. A North Korean attack stopped two American regiments at the starting lines of their own offensives, and drove other American troops out of their assembly areas. Soon the entire 4th Division had crossed the river and the American intention to attack became instead a question of holding their own lines.
The North Koreans are already over the river; it’s up to the Americans to push them back to the other side. Thanks to their underwater bridges, they can place artillery and heavy mortars on either side of the river, which is going to make things tough for the Americans.
North to Yongsan
12 August 1950
Despite the setbacks suffered by 24th Infantry Division, Walton Walker of Eighth Army remained determined to attack. He gave Church the “Wolfhounds” of the 27th Infantry Regiment, the 25th Infantry Division’s “fire brigade,” and orders to use them to capture the town of Yongsan on the opposite bank of the Naktong. The Wolfhounds had already established a bridgehead across the river, and now would exploit their advantage.
The Wolfhounds had performed the same “soft” occupation duty in Japan as the other regiments of Eighth Army, even earning the nickname “Gentle Wolfhounds” for their work with Japanese orphans. But unlike many other units, they had retained their combat edge and now drove the North Koreans out of a line of entrenched positions with the help of air strikes.
The Americans are on the attack, and this time with a unit that’s actually good. They don’t have much artillery but they do get air support, and they’re going to need it against the very strong North Korean position.
Slopes of Death
14 August 1950
While Task Force Hill commanded the bulk of the 24th Infantry Division’s maneuver battalions, its total rifle strength barely exceeded that of a single regiment. Even so, Walton Walker required it to maintain its offensive in the Naktong Bulge. Hill planned a set-piece attack to follow a strike by over 100 aircraft and a massive artillery barrage. Rain grounded the planes, and the artillery delivered 10 minutes of fire. Even so, Hill’s infantry went forward.
Hill’s troops made up the slope and three dozen of them crossed the Obong-ni ridgeline, where a savage close-quarters firefight broke out with dozens of grenades tossed and rifle fire exchanged at 10 paces. Church agreed with Hill’s desire to fall back to his starting lines, prompting a sharp rebuke from Walton Walker at Eighth Army headquarters who insisted that 24th Infantry Division had the strength to push back the NKPA’s 4th Division.
Two very battered forces meet in a set-piece American attack on a North Korean hilltop positions. Morale’s not very good for anyone, but the Americans have firepower on their side with is always a helpful thing.
16 August 1950
Maj. Gen. Lee Kwon Mu had his North Korean 4th “Seoul” Division fully deployed in the Naktong Bulge and so far it was steadily gaining the upper hand over the American 24th Infantry Division. But his orders did not conceive of a grinding battle of attrition; the 4th Division had to capture the small but important supply port of Masan and so Mu’s men went forward again in a series of intense infantry assaults on the American positions.
The North Korean attack inflicted heavy casualties on the already-depleted American battalions, but despite intense fighting they failed to push them completely off Cloverleaf Hill and thereby break into the flat ground beyond. The North Koreans still had fight left in them, but the 24thInfantry Division battalions were near their breaking point. Walton Walker resolved to end this battle.
This scenario depicts a brutal, close-quarters infantry fight: no artillery, no air power, just close assaults with rifles, grenades and bayonets. The North Koreans need to push the Americans back, and they have the numbers to do it.
The Marines at Obong-ni
17 August 1950
With Church and his division having failed repeatedly to drive the North Korean 4th Division out of the Naktong Bulge and back across the river, Walton Walker of Eighth Army became increasingly angry with the 24th Infantry Division’s commander. “I am going to give you the Marine Brigade,” he snapped at Church during a visit to the division command post. “I want this situation cleaned up, and quick.”
The Marines went forward without artillery preparation, preferring to rely on the Corsairs of the Flying Leathernecks operating from carriers offshore. The air strike came in perfectly on target, turning the crest of the ridge into a sea of smoke and flame. But it did not eliminate the defenders: Colonel Chang Ky Dok of the 18th Regiment had moved the bulk of his forces to the reverse slope just below the very crest of the ridge rather than rely on a defense in depth, and heavy fire met the advancing Marines. Their first attack was turned back, and so they returned again and again supported by the Corsairs. Despite a 60 percent casualty rate, the Marines found themselves stuck only halfway up the ridge.
This is just a straight-up brawl, with the Marines on the attack and bringing artillery, airpower and tanks. The North Koreans are better-supplied with artillery and support weapons than is the usual case; they’re dug-in and well-led, though the Marines have better morale because Marines (if I’d designed this one, I would have given the Marines even better morale).
A Little Help
17 August 1950
Determined to move up the slopes again, the Marine command asked the neighboring Army regiment to coordinate their own attack on the Marines’ right. The 24th Infantry Division pounded Cloverleaf Hill with VT-fuzed artillery shells, killing many North Korean troops in their deep but open-topped foxholes. When the 9th Infantry Regiment went forward, the defenders’ fire had notably slackened compared to previous engagements.
After days of bloody failures, the 9th Infantry Regiment occupied Cloverleaf Hill fairly easily; most of its North Korean defenders had been killed or driven off by the murderous artillery barrage. The fall of Cloverleaf Hill unhinged the North Korean position on Obong-ni Ridge, allowing the Marines to work their way around the North Korean left flank while the Army troops on the hill lent supporting fire to the Marine advance.
This time the Army is making an assault. They have numbers but no air support, but they come with massive artillery firepower and the dreaded VT Fuze. The North Koreans are pretty battered and they have no artillery of their own; this could be a long day for the In Mun Gun.
17 August 1950
Late in the day, Maj. Gen. Lee Kwon Mu committed his armored support to the battle for Hill 102, the right end of Obong-ni Ridge. Four T-34/85 tanks trundled forward and the Marine Brigade’s Pershing tanks rushed to meet them in what would become the first engagement between Pershings and the T-34/85’s they had been sent to Korea to combat.
The crews of every anti-tank weapon the Marines possessed rushed forward to meet the advancing armor: 75mm recoilless rifles, 3.5-inch bazooka teams, and M26 Pershing tanks. Two of the tanks were claimed by Pershings, one by bazooka rockets, and the last by Air Force F51 fighter-bombers. Without their armor support, the North Korean attackers melted away.
It’s a tank battle! It’s not a very large tank battle, but it is a tank battle all the same. The Norks have the unhappy task of attacking Marines and doing so with lower morale, equal numbers and less firepower. May the dialectic be with them.
The Last Straw
18 August 1950
While the situation in the Naktong Bulge remained unclear at higher headquarters, the Marines holding the front lines were absolutely sure of one thing: the North Koreans would counter attack in the night. They set trip flares in front of their positions before bedding down for the night, leaving one man in four on watch. Sure enough, a North Korean set off a green flare at 0230, and the fight was on once again.
The North Koreans attacked with a great deal of spirit, but the Marines met them with equal determination. Both sides suffered an enormous number of casualties and when daylight approached the North Koreans pulled back to their own hilltop positions to face a Marine attack that cleared the rest of Obong-ni Ridge. That night Lee Kwon Mu requested and received permission to withdraw his division back across the Naktong River. The first battle of the Naktong Bulge was over.
The North Koreans are asked to advance with infantry against massive Marine firepower. There are a lot of North Koreans, at least at the start of the game. There won’t be as many at the end of the scenario, but they do have a means to win regardless of their casualties. That’s good game development, because they’re going to need it.
And that’s the second chapter.
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.