CAMP HENRY, South Korea -- August 17, 1950 will forever serve as a somber reminder of the importance of valuable leadership. It marks the day when 41 U.S. Soldiers were captured and killed by members of the Korean People’s Army in one of the many engagements of the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter.
Elements of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion,
5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division were surrounded by North Korean troops who had crossed the Nakdong River near present day Waegwan and “Hill 303.” Most were able to escape, but one platoon of mortar operators mistook North Korean troops as South Korean reinforcements, leading to their capture.
The North Korean captors tried to move the U.S. Soldiers across the river, but were unable to do so because of a heavy U.S. counterattack. During their retreat, a North Korean officer, violating the Law of War, ordered the execution of all prisoners to avoid slowing them down.
To remember the sacrifices of these men, Soldiers from the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command conducted a staff ride on Nov. 12 to learn more about how the Law of War plays into making tough decisions as a leader.
A staff ride is a tool that military leaders use to conduct an in-depth analysis of a battle and to look for lessons learned that can be later used in other situations.
Attendance included several military leaders from the 19th ESC, including the senior U.S. Army commander in the southern portion of the Republic of Korea, Brig. Gen. Steven Allen and his Command Sgt. Maj. LaDerek Green.
“Training events like this are so important because they develop people of character,” said Allen. “Conducting this battle analysis really shows the vital role the Geneva Convention plays in our forces today.”
Col. (ret.) William “Mike” Alexander, the 2nd Infantry Division Historian and 8th Army Korean Theater of Operations Museum Director, was the guest speaker at the staff ride.
“As you walk up Hill 303, remember that leadership hasn’t changed over the years,” said Alexander, a previous member of 19th ESC. “It is up close and personal.”
An important aspect of a staff ride that distinguishes it from a regular battlefield tour is the act of coming together as a group afterward to discuss and examine the battle.
Leading the post-staff ride analysis was Lt. Col. Bradley May, the commander of 6th Ordnance Battalion which is stationed at nearby Camp Carroll.
“Not only do staff rides offer a venue for leaders to study significant historical events,” said May. “They also provide an opportunity to examine an actual battle space and extract valuable lessons that will serve them throughout their entire career.”
Hill 303 underlines the value of this training because Soldiers assigned to Camp Carroll are able to see the hilltop from anywhere in Waegwan.
The hilltop marks the northernmost point of the Pusan Perimeter, where U.S. and South Korean forces stopped and ultimately repelled the KPA’s advancement.
The Hill 303 massacre has long been recognized as a war crime and a memorial monument was constructed on site in 2005 by U.S. Camp Carroll and Chilgok County to honor the victims.