Korean War: Counter Attack
Scenario Preview, Part Three
One of the best innovations to come to Panzer Grenadier in a very long time has been the “battle game,” developed by Matt Ward and Daniel Rouleau. I had already intended to arrange Panzer Grenadier game scenarios in chapters, to facilitate including lots and lots of pretentious historical commentary. Matt and Daniel took the obvious next step, of using that structure to tie the scenarios together with victory conditions for the whole chapter. It’s simple, it’s fun, it’s brilliant. For Counter Attack, the boys went one step further and added operational games, which are sort of meta-battle-games that tie two or more of those together.
Today we’ll take a look at the scenarios from Korean War: Counter Attack’s third and fourth chapters. Each of these chapters has its own battle game.
The Northern Boundary
As Gen. Walton Walker faced a determined thrust by the NKPA against the western face of the Pusan Perimeter, he also had to keep the northern sector held by ROK troops in mind. Those ROK forces were nearing collapse under relentless North Korean attacks in the Kigye and P’ohang-dong areas. With Eighth Army’s resources already spread thin, this would be a difficult challenge to meet.
The Eastern Corridor
9 August 1950
The road leading southward through Uisong represented one of the few good north-south routes on the northern side of the Pusan Perimeter. The North Korean 8th Division, a newly-formed unit made up of border guards and fresh recruits (including a number of ROK prisoners of war and impressed South Korean civilians) made its way down the road. Barring their path, the South Korean 8th “Roly Poly” Infantry Division had fought since the opening days of the war and had one of the ROK’s most determined leaders in Park Shi-chang, a tough veteran of the Chinese Nationalist Army and graduate of the Kuomingtang’s military academy.
The raw North Korean 8th Division marched down the road careless of the basic tenets of advancing into enemy-held territory, and the battle-hardened Roly-Polys made them pay heavily for their errors. The ROKs struck the North Koreans by surprise, inflicting immense casualties on two of the NKPA division’s three regiments before falling back.
This is a straight-up infantry fight, with both sides bringing lots of foot soldiers. I think the Norks are pretty substantially overrated in this scenario, which makes it tough on the ROKs. The Roly-Polys are very well-led, as they should be, and this does reflect the division’s prowess accurately. And you really can’t go wrong with a divisional nickname like “Roly-Poly.”
Pedal to the Metal
9 August 1950
In previous fighting, ROK troops had been demoralized by the appearance of North Korean armor, which in turn had heartened the NKPA soldiers. A small detachment of tanks and assault guns joined the advance of the shaky North Korean 8th Division, but this time the ROKs were ready for them, with an anti-tank minefield covered by infantry.
Six North Korean armored vehicles were quickly destroyed: both the South Korean combat engineers and the American pilots of the Far East Air Force claimed them. Whoever destroyed the five tanks and one assault gun, their loss crippled the North Korean drive and the 8th Division fell back in some disorder.
The Norks are back, and this time they’ve got tanks. Unfortunately for them, the ROKs have air support now. The NKPA ratings are more in line with performance, but this time I think the Roly-Polys are under-rated.
Down the Mountain
11 August 1950
With their worst division having failed to dislodge the ROKs, the North Koreans next sent in one of their best: the 12th Division, formerly numbered 7th, had been the 165th Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and had seen a great deal of action in Manchuria during the Chinese Civil War. The division had lost many of its original 14,000 Korean volunteers, but retained a hard core of dedicated party members and combat veterans.
Task Force P’ohang, an ad hoc unit made up of newly-formed regiments, had been ordered to advance northward. Instead it went onto the defensive and was quickly pushed back along with parts of the veteran Capital “Tiger” Division. The NKPA division surged forward virtually without artillery support, relying on small arms, automatic weapons and the inspiration of the dialectic. American F51’s from Yonil Airfield, almost on the front lines, provided near-constant air support; unimpressed, the North Korean troops brought down four of them with rifle and machine-gun fire.
These Norks are tough, but they’re advancing essentially unsupported (they have one mortar unit) and the ROKs are in their way with a little air support but no artillery. The ROK defenders are not very enthusiastic despite their “Tiger” nickname, and they’re going to have a hard time stopping this North Korean drive.
Evacuation by Sea
16-17 August 1950
On the coast of the Sea of Japan just north of the Pusan Perimeter, the ROK 3rd “White Skull” Infantry Division, known as The Invincible for having never lost a battle, had been pressed into a narrow strip along the coast. The North Korean 5th Division, the former 163rd Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, pressed the ROKs back against the sea while a U.S. Navy cruiser and three destroyers lent gunfire support.
The ROK wounded had already left the beachhead, and during the night U.S. Navy LSTs took off over 9,000 troops plus 1,200 National Police and 1,000 laborers from the beaches, as well as all of the division’s weapons, equipment and ammunition. By the 19th The Invincible was back in the line alongside the Tiger Division and on the offensive.
This is an odd scenario. The Invincible is fighting with its back to the sea, and one of the crack “Chinese” divisions of the NKPA is trying to push them into the surf. The U.S. Navy arrives with LST’s on a rescue mission and a heavy cruiser laying down massive bombardment support. It’s up to the Norks to keep the ROKs from getting away.
The Taegu Front
At this point Gen. Walton Walker’s Eighth Army was still holding the enemy off and hoping to build up more of its forces, to finally go on a general offensive. Until those forces were at hand, Walker wanted to use every possible opportunity to strike at the NKPA force. The North Koreans on the other hand had crossed the Naktong and were assembling their own forces for an attack around Taegu. The security of the perimeter, and the strategic construct MacArthur was developing, hinged on Walker’s ability to hold.
The Taegu Front
12 August 1950
The capture of Taegu, at the “hinge” where the Pusan Perimeter’s front made a turn to the east, would unravel the whole United Nations position in Korea. The NKPA’s 10th Division had been formed from Democratic Youth League volunteers (North Korea’s equivalent of the Young Communists) with officers and NCO’s with experience in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and given training by Soviet instructors. The NKPA had great hopes for this showpiece unit, entering combat for the first time, but had already weakened it by detaching much of its artillery to bolster the flailing 8th Division.
The North Koreans waded the Naktong and crossed over a damaged highway bridge during the last hours of darkness, just in time to strike the 1st Cavalry Division’s positions as daylight broke on another scorching hot day. Well-equipped with submachine guns and grenades if not with artillery, the Communist youth swept over many of the cavalry’s front-line entrenchments. But they could not stand up to concentrated artillery fire and air strikes, and by late morning they had been driven back towards the river.
The flower of North Korean youth has a difficult task, trying to force its way across a contested river crossing without a whole lot of room for maneuver. The brave young men will have to come straight at the cavalry, who have strong artillery and air support and are finally willing to stand their ground and fight.
Surrounded on Hill 303
15 August 1950
Just before dawn, North Korean troops and tanks crossed the Naktong using an underwater bridge and began infiltrating between American positions on and around Hill 303, a height that overlooked a pair of damaged bridges across the river. Some of the 1st Cavalry troops pulled out when they spotted the North Koreans, leaving neighboring units to be surrounded.
Repeated attempts to relieve the trapped cavalrymen failed, as the troopers proved unable to make their way through heavy North Korean fire. Finally the American regimental commander fired the battalion commander on the scene, and his replacement led a successful effort to break through the North Korean siege lines and the isolated troops could withdraw.
The North Koreans surround an American force, with another American force coming to the rescue. Overall numbers are about equal, but only half the Americans are on the board at first and the Norks can pound them for a while before the cavalry comes into play. The rescuers lack numbers, but they do have a full-strength Pershing tank platoon.
The Bowling Alley
18-19 August 1950
While North Korean units prepared to attack southward toward Taegu, the 25th Infantry Division sent one of its regiments northward in trucks to mount an attack between a pair of regiments from the ROK’s 1st Infantry Division. When neither South Korean regiment could make any headway, the division staff cancelled the American attack and ordered the two battalions of the 27th Infantry Regiment to form a perimeter defense. Soon enough, Maj. Gen. Choi Young Chin’s North Korean 13th Division appeared and attacked down the narrow valley that the Americans named “the Bowling Alley.”
The North Koreans came rolling down the Bowling Alley shortly after dark, with infantry on foot and in trucks supported by tanks and self-propelled guns. Bazooka and artillery fire destroyed several tanks, and the infantry proved unwilling to press the attack without them. They would return again later, hitting the 27th Infantry Regiment with six more successive night attacks.
The Americans have set up a roadblock, the Norks are coming to bop their way past. It’s just a small scenario; the North Koreans don’t have to do a whole lot to win which is good, because they don’t have a whole lot with which to do it.
21-22 August 1950
A few days later, the North Koreans made a major effort, shelling the Americans and the neighboring ROK units for hours, lifting the barrage just before midnight to send in infantry supported by at least 19 tanks in the American sector with more attacking the ROK positions. The Americans had placed minefields in front of their positions, but had not yet encountered an attack of this scale.
The North Koreans pressed their attack with determination, and fighting lasted for five hours – from midnight until shortly before dawn. Bazooka teams and Pershing tanks claimed about half of the North Korean armor, and copious American artillery and mortar fire fell on the North Koreans, inflicting heavy casualties.
This time the Norks have numbers, but with greater power comes tougher victory conditions. The Americans do have an edge in artillery and those Pershing tanks are very tough opponents.
And that’s the third and fourth chapters.
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.