Scenario Preview, Part Five
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Korean War: Pusan Perimeter is our second new game to feature the Fourth Edition rules for Panzer Grenadier, featuring full-color charts. It also has a very nice set of maps and playing pieces – this is a great-looking game. But none of that would matter without game play to match.
Wrapping up our scenario preview of Pusan Perimeter, the Americans have arrived in force on the battlefield but these are still the soft, poorly-trained garrison divisions rushed over from the occupation of Japan. The ROKs – South Korea’s rabble of an army – are often tougher, even though they lack the powerful weaponry of the Americans. Here’s a look at the final set of scenarios:
Yongdok Battle Continued
27 July 1950
The stand of the ROK 3rd Division south of Yongdok for the moment represented the only United Nations success in Korea. A renewed attack would be backed by all the air, naval and artillery support the United Nations could muster. Before the attack began American advisors insisted on the removal of Col. “Tiger” Kim of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, who shot officers who disappointed him and beat enlisted men with a rifle butt. The brutality extended to the enemy as well; during the night following Kim’s firing his former troops seized 17 enemy machine guns, but took only eight prisoners.
Backed by the steady gunfire from the cruisers and destroyers close offshore, the ROK attack went forward but made only slow progress. The North Koreans fought for every inch of ground, losing about 40 percent of their strength in the process. The South Koreans finally took Yongdok on August 2nd and pushed the North Koreans north of the town.
The ROKs are on the attack, with strong advantages in morale, numbers and awesome naval gunnery support plus strong air power. But the bar of victory is set very high, so this is going to be a tough struggle for both sides.
The Small Engagement
28 July 1950
After a couple days of rest, during which it absorbed several thousand untrained replacements, the North Korean 4th Division resumed its advance. The North Koreans drove an American blocking force out of the town of Anui and took over the crossroads there to help keep their advance supplied. With Anui secure, they moved on to tackle a mixed American-South Korean force led jointly by Lt. Col. Wesley C. Wilson and Col. Min Ki Sik. Wilson’s battalion was one of the two green units rushed from Okinawa straight into the front line, but Min had a special reserve on hand.
Things looked pretty dire for the United Nations side, with only very effective American mortar fire doing much to repel the North Korean attackers. But the company of ROK Marines held behind the South Korean main line launched a spirited counter-attack into the North Korean flank, forcing them to withdraw. Prisoners revealed that the Americans had been kicked out of the key crossroads town of Anui the day before, and Wilson and Min agreed they should pull back to avoid encirclement.
The ROK Marines are pretty awesome, at least in terms of morale (their firepower’s only a little better than that of the ROK Army). The United Nations side is going to need every scrap of that awesomeness, because the rest of their forces – one of the rare even mixes of American and ROK troops in this game – would rather be anywhere than here.
In Front of Chinju
31 July 1950
After a 45-minute artillery barrage, the North Koreans commenced an infantry assault against Company F of the 19th Infantry Regiment’s 2nd Battalion. The Americans held for about two hours, then broke and ran with the North Koreans hard on their heels and in some places interspersed with them. The enemies were still running alongside one another when the North Koreans commenced their assault on the second line of American positions.
The North Koreans made good use of the unintentional cover provided by the fleeing Americans. Some American machine-gunners opened fire on the mixed groups anyway. Adding to the confusion, the regimental commander, Col. Ned Moore, had sent hundreds of replacements into the line the previous afternoon, some of whom died without ever reaching their assigned platoons. After a brief stand the Americans pulled back in some disorder.
This is one of the stranger scenarios among the 1,000 or so total for the Panzer Grenadier series; I can’t remember any others quite like this. As it opens there are North Koreans entering the board to attack, which is how many scenarios begin. But scattered among them, entering from the same places, are panicked Americans. The Norks can’t use them for human shields at the game’s scale, but it does make for a highly unusual opening to the assault.
Scenario Forty Two
Fall of Chinju
31 July 1950
With North Korean infiltrators and even tanks slipping into the town of Chinju, Col. Ned Moore decided it was time to leave. He sent all the heavy vehicles away and placed the remains of his regiment east of town to block any subsequent North Korean advance. On the south side of Chinju Lt. Samuel R. Fowler and 14 enlisted men accompanied three M26 Pershing tanks, the first tanks capable of stopping the North Korean T-34/85’s to be sent into the war zone. Their fan belts kept slipping, causing their engines to overheat, and Fowler had orders to destroy the tanks rather than let them fall into enemy hands. He was determined to bring them out intact instead.
The 19th Infantry Regiment withdrew successfully, but the regimental staff apparently never informed the mess trucks coming to deliver hot meals to the troops. They drove straight into the advancing North Koreans and were never seen again. Fowler’s three tanks clanked out of Chinju on their own power, shooting up some North Korean infantry along the way, until they reached a blown bridge. Apparently the full crews of all three tanks dismounted to discuss the situation, where they were mown down by North Korean machine-gun fire. The tanks were captured, and remain on display in a North Korean military museum.
The Americans finally get some tanks that can take on the T034/85, and look what happens. While the Pershing tanks don’t suffer any performance penalties, their role in winning the game is to safely run away from the Norks. With that goal in mind for their most powerful unit, the Americans are going to have a tough time holding off the North Koreans with few other weapons capable of stopping the enemy’s tanks.
The Andong Battles
1 August 1950
Gen. Walton Walker had selected the Naktong River as the basis for the Pusan Perimeter line. As the last, best defensible position before the Eighth Army was pushed into the Sea of Japan, it had to be held. Along the upper Naktong, inland from Yongdok, the North Korean 12th Division made repeated attempts to secure crossings. The ROK 8th and Capital Divisions had so far denied them, but with few reinforcements and scanty supplies, their ability to resist had worn thin.
North Korean troops finally fought their way over the river and captured Andong, at a terrible cost in casualties. The ROK had also suffered badly, losing 1,500 killed in action and another 1,200 prisoners plus a large array of weapons and equipment. With Andong in their hands, the North Koreans were on their way to rolling up the Naktong line and with it, the Pusan Perimeter.
It’s a tough river-crossing assignment for the Norks, and they’ll have to count on their smattering of T-34/85’s to clear the way – if they can get them over the river. They have a slight edge in numbers, but very little artillery. The poor bloody infantry is going to get very bloody.
Battle at the Notch
2 August 1950
More American tanks had finally arrived in Korea, reconditioned Shermans scrounged from depots in Japan. Maj. Gen. John H. Church, the 24th Infantry Division’s new commander, assigned the first 10 to arrive to spearhead a two-pronged flank attack on the North Koreans styled as a “reconnaissance in force.” Led by the five Shermans, the 19th Infantry’s 1st Battalion moved out with more spirit than it had shown since its haphazard arrival in Korea.
The newly-arrived tanks had some success until a North Korean mortar crew dropped a round down the open commander’s hatch of the lead vehicle. Things got worse when a flight of F51 Mustangs strafed an American infantry company. But the Americans held their own in the firefight and eventually drove back the North Koreans, one of the first successes for American arms in the peninsula.
The victory conditions are pretty tough on the Americans, who have a slight edge in numbers and for once have the only tank on the board. They have no artillery and if they want to win, they’re going to have to take on the Norks in close-range infantry combat.
2 August 1950
While the 19th Infantry set out, to the south of their position the 27th Infantry Regiment sent out its own probe, a truck-borne battalion spearheaded by the other five Sherman tanks. Church, a former staffer to Douglas MacArthur, was taking a risk by splitting his tiny tank force in half, but in so doing gave some of his shaky infantry to opportunity to fight with tanks for once instead of against them, and to score a badly-needed success against the North Koreans.
The Americans caught the North Koreans by surprise twice, the second time overrunning a supply convoy. A firefight ensued, with the North Koreans eventually surrounding the Americans and forcing a fighting retreat. The American commander, Lt. Col. Gilbert J. Check, kept his battalion in good order and prepared to fight his way back to his own lines.
This one’s similar to the previous scenario, but the Americans have the added targets of North Korean supply trucks. The American artillery support comes on the board with them in the form of a 155mm battery, and unusually forward position for the big guns.
The Return Trip
2 August 1950
Keeping all his men and vehicles together, Check directed them to keep within supporting distance of one another. The North Koreans had set up a string of roadblocks, and over the previous month American units had disintegrated when faced with such pressure. But those battalions did not have Gilbert Check.
Check’s inspired leadership resulted in a Distinguished Service Cross to go with the Silver Star he’d been awarded a week earlier. His troops returned to American lines exhausted, but with relatively few losses. Heroism ran in the family; Check’s older brother Leonard, an ace fighter pilot with 12 victories, had been awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross within a week in October 1944.
The Norks have gotten themselves into a roadblock position, and it’s up to the Americans to bop their way past. They have the firepower to do it, but they’re on foot for the most part, which is going to make things kind of dicey.
3 August 1950
Check’s probe had run into a looming North Korean offensive, and his worn-out troops flopped down around the regimental headquarters and nearby artillery batteries for a night’s rest before rejoining the American line. But as dawn broke the front line came to them, as the North Koreans launched an attack on the artillery positions.
North Korean infiltrators had plotted out the American artillery positions, but their commanders did not expect to find most of an infantry battalion camped out around the big guns. Even so the attack went well at first, as the American sentries were asleep and some of Check’s men panicked. Under firm leadership the rest stood their ground and poured fire onto the attackers, who left behind over 400 dead when they broke off their efforts.
The Norks get to launch a night-time assault from fairly close range, with no thought to their own casualties, just a wild attempt to wipe out the American artillery. This makes for a tough and bloody fight for both sides.
3 August 1950
The last American unit to pull back across the Naktong River, the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, blocked the twin highway and railroad bridges leading from Songju to Pusan. Thousands of refugees streamed over the bridges, and Maj. Gen. Hobart R. Gay, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, ordered that the bridges could only be blown up at his personal direction.
The cavalrymen tried desperately to hurry the refugees across, but finally Gay ordered his men to cross and then had the bridges blown up while still packed with fleeing Koreans, killing hundreds. On 24 July Gay had ordered his men to fire on any refugees trying to cross American lines, describing them as “fair game.” Two days afterwards, troops of the 1st Cavalry Division were responsible for the No Gun Ri massacre in which a still-disputed, but large, number of unarmed civilians were gunned down.
We wrap up with a very small scenario in which the Americans are trying to get across a pair of bridges and then blow them up before the North Koreans can stop them. The refugee issue doesn’t show up in the game, which is probably a good thing.
And that wraps our scenario preview for Pusan Perimeter!
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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.