K. Cashman, MM of 3 RAR
That little ridge-line across the
river is Ham Sandwich, nearest and smallest being where the mine field
and graveyard were located and where Chinese mortars dug in. Next
portion further along being the middle size hill was our possie, and
later known as Little Nori. Final and northern hill was where the main
Chinese were dug in. It was known to 3 Id as Big Nori and the site of
much drama. The plane came down between those two features. All was
finally lost to Chinese lads.
I am a member of an American outfit called Imjin Buddies, they are
mainly vets from 3 Id and as happened had a lot of service on the 'ham'
hills. They knew them as Big and Little Nori and after the Philippine
outfit had the cleaners put through them, various other units from 3
occupied and fought over our little set of hills. They were eventually
lost to the Chinese for good by a Puerto Rican unit, 65th. Infantry
Regiment I think. Anyway the Americans had those hills until about July
52 I believe and the Imjin Buddies sent me this photo of our position,
taken many years afterwards.
Can't remember the date as usual, except it was November 1951 which
for me is an excellent beginning. The drama of winning then losing hill
317 or Kowang San was over, and everyone was quite browned off about the
whole affair. Thus it did not come as any great surprise, to learn that
we in B coy. 3RAR were to move positions. This period held few shocks
for the Digs from Oz, nothing new could happen. That is what we thought
However we were somewhat startled, to find ourselves carted to the foot
of a very big mountain and along with our gear, dumped. Probably more
surprising to us Commonwealth Division chaps, was to discover we were to
share this bleak and rocky monolith, with none other than the famous
To this day nobody seems to have any idea what the hell we were doing
there, I mean B coy. wasn't adjoining the 7th. Cavalry, Lord no we were
practically riding their horses. So there we are under the command of
our fearless leader, the ever green 'Wings' Nicholls, and what a fine
body of shell-shocked lads were the men of B, many hadn't gotten over
the thumping received from The Hinge battle. This feature now is
occupied by a South Korean observation post, titled Typhun, and looks
quite a pleasant spot. Not so when we intrepid GIs. and Diggers tried to
carve a hole in its flanks. The weather was miserable, the Chinese
angry, the ground rocky and so on.
||LMG Training, July '53
Myself under hat, and
Don Harris. Very effective at discouraging unwanted visitors. The
body measures time at a different speed, in combat. Would you pick
that I was only 20 when that was taken?
The place was one of the rare spots that was covered with trees, this
didn't help for digging either, because of the tree roots. Nor were they
a great comfort when a Chinese shell hit a tree, and gave us an airburst
for our troubles. We did have one moment of excitement though when
'Thanks giving day' arrived. Lucky us got to share the Turkey and
trimmings, with our generous comrades, I seem to recall ice-cream also.
Thus we misplaced mob of B coy. shared the hill and duties with by now, the
3rd.Inf.Div. as I recall; the 7th. having packed their saddle
bags and moved on. The task of patrolling seemed to have become our
regular job, that was no great drama except that it was necessary to
cross the Imjim river first. Being Autumn and getting cold, it was no
fun prowling about the rather large valley to our front, in cold, wet,
gear. Meanwhile knowing 'Charlie' was dry on his side, and could likely
hear us sloshing around like a school of fish.
Fancy fortified position, inherited from the
Poms. n.b. Not at the Ham In
the Sandwich position.
Now we have moved
up in style, this was the first time we came across prefabricated
bunkers in the line. No way would these be referred to as
foxholes, they were too good. This is a rear position plainly, and
on The Hook in 53.
My guess would be that engineers and Korean labourers built them,
not your ordinary line soldier. Those on the forward areas were
under ground, and constructed using solid timber beams for frames
and roof. They were as good as you could hope to get in every
defensive way, and would need a direct hit from a fairly large calibre
shell to destroy them.
I do not know if the Americans or Brits built these, the former I
suspect as the cost could have been out of the Brit range at that
time! Geez I look skinny here, things must have been getting to me
More adventures lay in our path though, like the night we bid the
outpost crew good evening as we passed through, I took my boots off this
night, to keep them dry of course. Lo and behold we no sooner do our
water ballet, and 'Charles' arrives to greet us on the other side. Well
it wasn't what you could call a strategic retreat, rather a mad scramble
to get back across the river, boots wet and all. During this departure
from the North bank to the South, we all did our best to alert our allies
manning the outpost, that it was indeed the blokes they had moments
before wished a safe night; returning home under duress. Most were
wearing Slouch hats, and we were calling out in decidedly un Chinese
fashion, but no, this wasn't enough to stop some itchy finger from
letting loose with the .30 cal. Luckily the lad hosing us and the river,
was as frightened as were we, thus none were hit but we did emerge from
the river quite angry. Pretty damn wet as well, seeing as most of us
swam at least 100 yards down-stream to avoid the .30 cal. projectiles
coming our way.
This still wasn't enough for we lucky few in 6 platoon, there was a
sweeping bend in the river right in front of our hill. Still on the
southern side but north and further along, were a few features some
American General wanted, and as a result the lads from 3rd were having
a hell of a job trying to oblige him.
Now without a sketch map this is hard to picture, so you will just have
to do you best and not blame me. Where the river turned, and opposite
where all 3 Divs. drama was going on, was a long but low three hilled
feature. This must have looked somehow untidy to a man of greater rank,
than we could muster in 6 platoon. Resultantly we unhappy few found
ourselves loaded to the hilt, and making our way to occupy portion of the
ridge. Hard to say if it was a good guess, or someone knew what was
going on. The thing was that we crept on to the middle bump, found it
empty of soldiers of an unfriendly persuasion, and promptly set up a
defence perimeter. I believe it was the very next night when we found
all was not well, Charlie came calling on us with a smallish probe, and
at the same time set up a couple of largish mortars.
These items were positioned at the base of our little hill, and
proceeded to hammer the daylights out of our GI buddies across the
river. This unhappy group had spent much of the day, dashing up this
large bald hill, and with great bravery taken it off Charlie. Now they
were on the wrong end of the stick, and when the artillery and mortars
hammered them, then large numbers of determined enemy attacked en-mass,
they could not hold.
That began our less than happy few weeks on the middle knoll, we were
soon to learn that our Asian cousins owned the other two, we were the
meat in the middle without doubt. The largest feature was occupied by a
well dug in infantry force, the smaller one which had both a cemetery
and minefield on it, well that was home to the mortar battery. Charlie
had not finished with his little shocks yet, very soon after we took up
residence, he came up with the trick of the SP gun.
Now this was a doozy, the lad who thought this up should have been at
least a corporal, he was too clever by half to waste a commission on in
the PLA, the Commissar would have had him shot. This clever fellow
brings his SP gun to the base of our hill, gives us a few rounds at
point blank, I don't think they had time to explode when we got them!
They did however keep our heads down, whilst said gun battered our Yankee
cobbers across the river.
You can of course see that this is brains in warfare, at the very best
level. What can the Americans on the receiving end do, not a damn thing
because we are in the way. The same applied with the mortar crews, after
the nightly frolic with the probing party, we were in no mood nor
situation to go tank busting. You may not believe it possible, but we
were over there without a bazooka, nor anything better than our couple
of Brens. I think we got our rations on a bit of a shuttle service, The
Hussars wandered over with a centurion loaded up with goodies now and
This began to wear a bit thin after a while, and tempers were short, more
so when we could see the foot marks in the frost each morning. Everyone
was blaming the others for letting Charlie almost creep into our
trenches, we nailed a few now and then but not enough to stop him.
Meanwhile the SP is still using us for cover when need be, then
withdrawing during the day to Lord knows what safe spot.
One night the mortar lads got a bit cheeky, and let Bluey, one of our
Bren gunners, get a decent burst into them. I said nothing next AM but
followed the marks through the frost, pretty stupid thing to do. They
led me through a re-entrant and to the side of the minefield, there was
a stretcher made from two wiring piquets, a poncho, and some c ration
cartons. One quilted jacket lay there as well, and it had three neat
holes right about where the owner's navel would be.
These tracks led into the cemetery and were easy to follow, but I was
dissuaded from doing so by the sight of the jumping jack mines. Those
days I knew nothing about mines, and for some unknown reason kept my
mouth shut. Thought of taking the jacket back to Bluey for a trophy, or
at least prove his kill, but the platoon boss (Mr.B.Falvey
SIR) was touchy about things like that. If you read this Skipper, I'm
sorry I didn't tell you, we could have got that mortar mob.
So the poor bloody infantry are taking then losing this damn hill over
the river, it was like being at the movies for us. We could sit and
watch them charge up, get beaten back, then up again until they had it.
Within a night or two, Charlie has the thing back again, compliments of
our mortars and SP gun no doubt! Watched a truck drive along the dirt
track one morning, on the occasion when it was in US hands. Next thing
the front of the truck leaps in the air like a piece of paper, Charlie
has mined the road behind US lines.
One thing I can be sure about was the guts of the units fighting, I am
not so sure about the brains that were ordering. You can only send men to
their doom so often, before you call it quits.
What brought on the next bit of high drama, I have no idea! perhaps it
was thought that the SP was hiding inside the large hill adjoining ours,
and it certainly was occupied by a strong force of infantry. Shooting
from us to them would have been maximum 200 yards, with a saddle joining
our two high points.
Anyway this bright and sunny morning, we are treated to the sight of
four American jet planes circling overhead, perhaps the boss knew they
were coming, I didn't! So off peels the leader and dives at the enemy
hill beside us, the poor bugger let fly with his rockets at the same
time a .50 cal. cuts his tail clean off. He was carrying napalm as well, and
I doubt he had the chance to let it go on purpose, but go it
did and narrowly missed our forward trench the occupants of which had
the air sucked away from them, as well as almost wearing the plane in
The pilot would never have had a clue I'm sure, he was flat out in
attack mode one moment, the next he is part of a large crater that
appeared just to our front. I inspected the crater that day and the only
thing of any size in side was the breach blocks, of his cannons barely
showing in the bottom of the hole. That ended that attack, and the other
planes flew home, and if a plane can look sad, they did!
This never ending affair just went on and on, we had a 50% stand-to
every night, which more often than not became 100%, I actually went to
sleep standing in my pit one night. Should anyone tell you this is B/S.
well I am here to swear otherwise.
What the rest of the battalion was doing, we had no idea, in fact we
baggy ass Diggers didn't know where the rest of the company was. We
certainly knew where Charlie was most of the time, and we had the US
army radio checks on us every hour on the hour, to be sure we still
owned the hill no doubt!
All sorts of minor dramas took place in the weeks we were there, and to
this day that position is only a map reference in the battalion war
diary; plus some mention of an outpost. Some bloody outpost. Like all
good things it had to end, and our Irish tank pals came over the river
early one morning, and escorted us back to the bosom of 3 div. I wish
that it was possible to end the story on that happy note, but it isn't.
We were replaced by a company of Phillipinos, and Charlie wiped them out
before they had time to settle in. That hill is now part of the NK
country, and sports a very large propaganda sign, also plays terrible
music at visiting tourists.