California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
California Military History
The 40th Infantry Division's March to the Korean War
Nathaniel T. Robertson
Regimental Historian, 185th Armor Regiment

The 40th Infantry Division's march to battle in the Korean Conflict actually started five years earlier at the end of World War II. After fighting long and hard in the Pacific Theater, the Division was designated as one of the organizations to spearhead the invasion of Japan (Operation OLYMPIC), scheduled for November 1945. As General MacArthur’s spearhead, it was expected to receive a high-level of casualties, so it trained even harder to be ready for this task. However, after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, they soon surrendered on 15 August 1945. Other than returning home, the 40th Infantry Division volunteered to free Korea from 40 years of occupation by Imperial Japan, and to help establish a democratic government. The XXIV Corps (6th, 7th, and 40th Infantry Divisions) started landing in Korea on 8 September 1945, with its commander who was also the United States Military Commander of South Korea Major General John R. Hodge. Within days, he reported… "Southern Korea can best be described as a powder keg ready to explode at the application of a spark [15 September 1945].” Mainly composed of volunteers, the Division was well liked by the Korean citizens; credited for many humanitarian deeds; guarded the 38th Parallel from communist transgression; and started to help organize its constabulary defense force, whose core cadre had served in the Japanese Imperial Army. President Truman personally ordered that South Korea's military was only to be a small constabulary force; and forbid arming it with any heavy artillery, tanks, or fighter aircraft. At the same time in the North, the occupying Soviet Army that arrived on 22 August 1945, focused on building a large, highly indoctrinated, professional, and well-equipped military, armed with tanks, artillery, and aircraft. The core of the North’s army was composed of long time communist officers of the Korean Volunteer Army in China. By January 1946, the South had one battalion (1st Battalion, 1st Regiment of Korean Constabulary), when the North had a combat ready infantry division.

Over a month after World War II officially ended (3 March 1946), the 40th Infantry Division, California National Guard, returned to California and finally demobilized on 7 April 1946 at Camp Stoneman, Pittsburg, California [near San Francisco]. Former Guardsmen of the 40th Infantry Division soon reformed their units in the California National Guard. Most units received Federal Recognition between September 1946 and March 1947. Most of these Guardsmen were battle hardened combat veterans, many having served in the National Guard before the war, many others serving both in the Pacific and European Theaters, and a few had been members since World War I. They knew what was required to prepare their units for combat.

On 29 June 1948, the last of the US Army’s occupation forces departed Korea. Then on 15 August, the US Military Government officially turned over all power to the newly formed Republic of Korea government, in Seoul. On 9 September, the communist North Korean government officially declared its independence from the democratic South Korean government. The Communist North further decreed that it was “Korea’s” only true government and called for the reunification of Korea. In early October, two of the South’s constabulary regiments openly rebelled and supported the North. After direction from Washington, American advisors started to hurriedly reorganizing the South’s small defensive Constabulary into an Army; and on 1 December 1948, the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) Headquarters was officially established. Starting in July 1949, the North's highly trained and equipped army openly attacked, probed weaknesses and harassed the South’s small and forming Constabulary-Army along the 38th parallel. One year after it’s formation the South Korean Army (ROKA) grew to around 69,000 soldiers; but was still poorly trained and armed, using Imperial Japanese Army tactics and equipment. South Korea's President repeatedly requested immediate supply of weapons, tanks, and aircraft to defend itself from attack [without avail].

In January 1950, to the world's surprise, Taiwan and South Korea was not included in President Truman's Administration announced "The American Pacific Defense Perimeter". In March, in addition to the North’s increasing boarder attacks, they sent guerrilla units into the South’s territory.

Before daybreak, on a rainy Sunday morning, at 04:00 hours, 25 June 1950, the Korean Civil War officially started. When the communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea with over nine reinforced infantry divisions, an armored brigade (est. 125 tanks), over 9,000 pieces of heavy artillery, gunboats, aircraft, 30,000 partisans-guerrillas, spies, Soviet and Communist Chinese advisors. The North's army was soon decimating the South's seven newly formed infantry divisions. The Communists summarily exterminated civilian officials, politicians, teachers, civil servants, landowners, and captured officers in the Democratic South. By midday of the 26th, the South's total decimation was expected within days; but they continued to heroically fight, with the assistance of the American advisors.

The morning of 27 June 1950 [Washington], President Truman ordered the Air Force and Navy to help repulse the invaders. He then ordered General MacArthur (the Commander in Chief, Far East Command and Military Commander of Japan) to send ground forces into Korea. On 29 June, Detachment "X", 507th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, arrived at Suwon and started shooting down communist planes. On 1 July, the ill-fated "TASK FORCE SMITH" arrived at Pusan to help buy time until a formidable force could be moved from the occupation forces in Japan. On 7 July the United Nations Security Council approved supplying troops under the United Nations Flag, and under a unified command headed by the United States to repulse the invading North Koreans. On 8 July, General MacArthur was also designated the Commanding General of United Nation Forces operating in Korea. By 10 July, the 24th Infantry Division had been deployed from Japan into the main line of defense along the Kum River. By 17 July, the main line of defense had been totally broken by the North Koreans; and by mid-August the 1st Cavalry Division, 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions, and remaining South Korean Army were defending the tenuous Pusan Perimeter. The Republic of Korea President Syngman Rhee turned over complete command and control (responsibility) of the Korean Army (ROKA) to General MacArthur.

While President Truman was ordering the military to help, he asked Congress to authorize the mobilization of several States’ National Guard units. Congress set the period of Active Duty Service for both the Guardsmen and National Guard Units not to exceed 12 months, unless a "Declaration of War" was approved. [The period of mobilization was later increased to 21 months.] At the start of the National Guard mobilizations, the Army was using Guardsmen as individual replacements and replacing their leadership with regulars. The Guardsmen successfully urged their elected representatives to discontinue this practice. The "combat veteran" Guardsmen wanted to serve as they did many times before; but they wanted to go as a unit, with their own leadership and not as individuals. An example is when the 746th Antiaircraft Artillery (120mm Gun) Battalion, San Diego, California. They were called to duty on 15 July, and most of its Guardsmen were sent as individual replacements directly into Korea. Soon Congress and President Truman (a Guardsmen himself) ordered the practice stopped, and required Guardsmen to serve in their own units, and with their own leadership.

A few days before Annual Training in July 1950, the 40th Infantry Division received a secret alert for mobilization. On 10 August 1950, the Division was inducted into federal service, and at noon on 1 September 1950, every Guardsman in the Division mobilized at their armories. There were no AWOLs, and most units spent the previous night at their armories. Again, in defense of the nation, California Guardsmen were leaving their families, friends, homes, schools, businesses, careers, factories, and farms. Soon the 40th Infantry Division ["Fighting 40th"] moved to its new home at the abandoned Camp Cooke, Santa Maria, California [now Vandenberg Air Force Base] to conduct Advance Combat Training, reception and training of inductees and reservists.

In Korea, on 5 September 1950, the North Koreans had the outnumbered American and South Korean forces surrounded at Pusan and trying a breakthrough at Kyongju. The 25th Infantry Division effectively stopped the attempt, causing the communist forces to stall. On 15 September, General MacArthur launched the "Inchon Landing" (Operation CHROMITE) and the drive to the Manchurian Border along the Yalu River. At the same time he had the Pusan forces conducted a breakout then pursuit. On 30 September, Communist China hinted that it would enter the war. By 19 October, American forces had captured the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, and captured or killed over 115,000 communist soldiers. The North Korean Army in the south had effectively ceased to exist. The United States Marines captured the Changjin Reservoir and power stations, the South Korean forces captured Chongjin near the Soviet border, and the 7th Infantry Division occupied Hyesan near the Manchurian border. Many along the battle line, and at home, believed that the boys would be home for Christmas.

On 24 November 1950, General MacArthur ordered a general assault to bring a decisive end to the North Korean forces [Home by Christmas or Win The War Offensive]. There was no serious opposition, until American forces blundered into the Communist Chinese defenses of four large Armies. When on 26 November, the Communist Chinese openly entered the Korean conflict when it launched a counter-offensive with an overwhelming 390,000 troops, supported by an additional 98,000 North Korean soldiers. The combined Communist forces effectively flanked and pushed the outnumbered American and South Korean forces behind the Han River. The 1st Marine Division (Changjin Reservoir) and 7th Infantry Division (Hangaru) were surrounded by superior enemy forces and fought their way back to friendly lines. The overwhelming odds were in the Communist favor, but by 26 December, General MacArthur's forces had established a main line of defense near the 38th parallel. On 31 December, the Communists Chinese launched a general offensive to capture Seoul and Wonju. General MacArthur had to abandon Seoul to the Han River; and by 20 January 1951, the defenses held exhausting the attackers.

Between 25 January - 1 April 1951, General MacArthur launched a series of counter offensives to push the Communists back of the 38th Parallel and to free Seoul (Operations THUNDERBOLT, KILLER, ROUNDUP, RIPPER, RUGGED, AND DAUNTLESS). By 25 March, the American and South Korean forces had recaptured Seoul (second time); established a main line of defense in the vicinity of the 38th parallel; and still had the tactical initiative. The badly beaten Communists were on defensive and regrouping. However, Washington had ordered American forces to stop at the 38th Parallel. General MacArthur increasingly made public his beliefs that the conflict could not be won without the total destruction of all communist forces to China’s border and the need to strategically prohibit Communist China from assisting North Korea. He specifically wanted to blockade the Mainland China coast, and to bomb weapon plants, the bridges along the Yalu River, airfields, supply dumps, and troop staging areas. He further wanted General Kai-shek's National (free) Chinese army in Taiwan to be allowed into the Korean fray to be able to continue the attack into China. This increased the enormous political pressure back home on President Truman who openly rebuffed MacArthur’s desires to expand the conflict, fearing it would start World War III.

On 28 February 1951, Major General Hudelson, Commanding General, told the Division to prepare for overseas deployment: "…I am depending on you--men of the 40th--to do and do well whatever duty we are called to perform. You will be ready to leave for Japan in the latter part of March…" The Division was assigned as Occupation Forces and Corps Reserves in Japan, replacing the 24th Infantry Division fighting in Korea. The Division was also listed on a troop list, on one of General MacArthur's summer campaign plans to destroy the Communist Chinese and North Korean forces. [During World War II, the 40th also replaced the 24th in Hawaii, then in the Solomon Islands; and then fought side-by-side with them until the end of World War II.]

Many historians agree that by Spring 1951, President Truman had enough of General MacArthur’s public disagreements and statements, such as threatening China with “Massive Retaliation”. On 10-11 April 1951, at the same time General MacArthur was being relieved of command by President Truman, a military band played "California Here I Come", while the 40th Infantry Division was disembarking at Tokyo Bay, Honshu, Japan. The Division boarded trains to military posts throughout Japan. The Division then assumed its Occupation Forces duties and conducted aggressive Advance Combat Training. [Around the same period the 45th Infantry Division, Oklahoma Army National Guard, was stationed in Hokkaido, Japan.]

In Korea, on 11 April 1951, after learning of General MacArthur's relief, the Communist Chinese stopped defensive actions, then launched an all-out counter offensive that lasted until 1 May; then after a brief rest and resupply they continued the attack on 17-28 May. The Eighth Army effectively stopped the attack, then conducted Operation DETONATE, forcing the Communist Chinese to give up most of its gains, retaking Seoul (third time), and reestablishing Phase Line Kansas north of the 38 Parallel on 8 June. The conflict then bogged down into the "Battle of the Hills". The stalemated battles, primarily in the Iron Triangle and Punch Bowl regions, were generally balanced in the Americans’ favor. Russian and American jet fighters fought overhead in "MIG Alley".

The 40th Infantry Division continued with its aggressive and extensive Advance Combat, Air movement, and Amphibious Landing Training in Japan. The leaders, soldiers, and their families often received conflicting information from the government. One minute they were to prepare for possible deployment into Korea and the next minute they were going to be returned home early, and they would not go to Korea because they were no longer needed in any role. This conflicting information created much consternation among families, employers, and politicians at home.

While serving in Japan, the 40th Infantry Division's Guardsmen started earning their reputation of unflinching tenacity, refusing to be treated as second-class soldiers. Many of the Guardsmen were combat veterans, and some served in both World Wars such as the Division's Commanding General. They became self-reliant and tenacious in "out-soldiering" the professionals. They were soon recognized as one of the best-trained and competent Divisions on active duty. It was clear to the Guardsmen that in addition to their occupation duties, they must be ready for deployment into Korea at any time. However, just like at Camp Cooke, the Division was again a low priority for supplies, equipment, and personnel. One example of this was that many in the Division only had one pair of boots, of the two pair required. Because of the Division's aggressive training, more boots became unserviceable every day creating barefoot Infantrymen. These "combat veteran" Guardsmen were frustrated by being rebuffed and told they did not rate these resources because they would soon be returned to civilian life. They and their families contacted their elected representatives. Soon California's Congressmen and Senators started confronting the Administration and Pentagon Generals. The Governor visited Japan, then after seeing with his own eyes, he then complained to President Truman about the treatment of California’s Guardsmen, and their lack of needed supplies. The political pressures soon opened the supply lines for much needed resources into the Division.

Soon after the political heat was applied, many of the regulars started openly disparaging the Division’s Guardsmen. To the regular’s surprise, the Guardsmen took great pride when they were given the nickname and called "Flaming Assholes". This was in reference to their Division’s patch, their unflinching tenacity, lack of tolerance of incompetence, and demand to be treated with soldierly respect. This is when the Division’s most tenacious Guardsmen started stitching a red thread into the center of the sunburst to represent a “flame”. [Several other versions of unauthorized patches stitched with a red ball, burst, or circle, on the inside of the sunburst where purchased by some in Japan and/or while fighting in Korea. However, most wore the official patch that remained “officially” unchanged as it was approved back in World War I; a golden yellow sunburst on a royal blue diamond field.] Also while in Japan the Division’s Guardsmen donated (built) a Church in Matsushima (a remote village), and accomplished numerous other humanitarian deeds.

In June 1951, Radio Peiping announced "…5 Chinese and 1 North Korean Divisions, were waiting for the 40th at Wonson”. On 10 July, the first Armistice talks began, and many at home were led to believe the conflict would soon be over. On 22 August, the Eighth Army launched a series of limited operations to secure key-terrain. But on 1 September 1951, one year after the 40th Infantry Division was mobilized, the reconstituted North Korean and much-expanded Communist Chinese armies (over 1 million men) launched a massive offensive, to destroy the Eighth Army, but it was soon forced to cease the offensive and assume the defense. After two months of the most savage fighting yet, the Communists were badly mauled, made no gains, were forced to retire and assume defensive posture. The stalemated battle lines returned, with the Eighth Army gaining four miles, most of it objectives, key-terrain, and remaining along the 38th parallel. However, this came at a very high price to those brave divisions that have been fighting non-stop since the conflict beginning. The Communist Chinese offensive and the sustained high intensity operations left some of the forces in Korea in a tenuous state of readiness. The 1st Cavalry Division assigned to I Corps, and 24th Infantry Division assigned to IX Corps, had been put through the “Meat Grinder” once too many times and identified to be replaced. On 31 October, the 1st Cavalry Division was moved to the rear and rotated to Japan.

During the Fall and Winter 1951/2, the political activities (rhetoric) for the next President of the United States were beginning. President Truman was receiving a lot of political heat over the conflict's prosecution. The increasing public feeling was to "Win It or End It"! Candidate Truman was giving the electorate the impression that the war would soon be over, and the Guardsmen would be returning home, to their neglected farms, businesses, and families. The 40th Division was soon coming to the end of their 21-months call-up period. The President had made no calls for a "Declaration of War" which would extend their service to the nation. During the same period, newspapers in California were quoting government officials that the Division would not be deployed into Korea, and it was to be brought home early. No one believed that the Division would be placed in harm’s way this close to the end of their tour of duty, especially since the Administration was stressing “our side was wining” and the “conflict would soon be over”.

On 16 November 1951, the 40th Infantry Division received a secret notification to be ready to deploy into Korea. On 26 November, the “Little Armistice-Cease Fire” begins. On 23 December 1951, the Division received orders directing a "QUICK MOVEMENT" into Korea, to relieve the 24th Infantry Division. Over objections of Commanders, the Division was ordered to leave its weapons, supplies, vehicles, tanks, cannons, and equipment in Japan, and to immediately move, with only individual equipment and weapons, into Korea. The "unorthodox and non-doctrinal" plan was that the 40th Division would fall-in on the 24th Division's material on the front lines in Korea, and the 24th would in turn fall-in on the 40th's material in Japan. The idea was to expeditiously move the 40th into the front battle lines to relieve the 24th without signaling a major tactical weakness to the Communist Forces prompting an attack. In addition, this met both Washington’s and the United Nation’s troop ceiling requirements. On 26 December 1951, the Division’s advance party deployed into Korea and reported to IX Corps Headquarters. To the surprise of the advance party, the Division was ordered to assume immediate control of IX Corps’ “Center-Right” (Kumhwa-Chwapae-Ri) Sector from the 24th Infantry Division. Without hesitation and before night had fallen, the Division established a Tactical Headquarters, and started assuming control of the Battle Area from the 24th Infantry Division Headquarters.

This was part of a much larger, very secret Army plan, to keep tactical weaknesses from the Communist Forces and spy networks. In Korea, the 24th Infantry Division’s regiments were left fighting on the front lines. In Japan, the 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard, and the 45th Infantry Division, Oklahoma Army National Guard was both ordered to move into Korea. The 45th Infantry Division openly moved from Japan with all its equipment to rear assembly areas near Pusan, Korea, prior to moving to the front as part of I Corps; to replace the 1st Cavalry Division that was already in Japan. An obvious logical action by the American Army, since it had a widely known in-country strength ceiling placed upon it by Washington and the United Nations. At the same time, the 40th Infantry Division, moving stealthily from Japan [mostly at night] with maximum operational security, arriving at Inchon, Korea; then moved into the front battle lines relieving the 24th Infantry Division’s troops. This was so skillfully done, that the 40th Division was solidly in position in the front lines fighting before the Communist Forces and many “GIs” in Korea and Japan even realized either division was gone (switched).

On 27 December 1951, the “Little Armistice-Cease Fire” ended. Elements of the Division had been arriving in Korea since 26 December, however a large number arrived in two echelons on 11 and 22 January 1952. Under the cover of cold darkness, units moved from debarkation site and airfields at Inchon, to forward assembly areas, directly into battle positions, while under pressure of the enemy. The 40th Division was surprised and saddened as to the shape of the 24th Division; worn-out soldiers, lack of acceptable supplies, non-operational weapons, and equipment. Vehicles were left and cannibalized where they broke-down. The equipment, radios, and weapons were abandoned in piles, much like a retreating Army. Field sanitation and security was deplorable. Upon beginning assuming control of the battle area on 26 December, and before the arrival of the second echelon, the Division’s Guardsmen were fighting. The first casualty occurred on 20 January, when SFC Kenneth Kaiser Jr., of 160th Infantry, Los Angeles, was killed by communist mortar fire. Although fighting on the front lines since 26 December 1951, the Division was not officially reassigned from Japan to the Eighth Army, Korea, until 22 January and not officially “announced” until 8 February in keeping with the deception. To confuse the Communists even more and to discourage any tribulations in the sector, the 45th Infantry Division was briefly attached to the IX Corps during January. Also as part of the deception, the 24th Infantry Division, was not officially announced as reassigned [moved] into Japan until the very end of February; thus giving China caution as they tried to find it.

During January and February 1952, the Communists increased the number of patrols and reconnaissance in force actions trying to figure out what was going on. The Eighth Army capitalized on their curiosity, when 10-16 February, “Operation CLAM-UP” started; all actives ceased along battle area to lure the Communist patrols close to the front lines so that they could be cut off and captured.

On 1 March 1952, the 40th Division had been successfully defending the IX Corps’ “Center-Right” (Kumwha) Sector effectively since 26 December. It was known that the units must be afforded time and resources to get the equipment and weapons operational that they received from the 24th Division, or receive a new issue. To the surprise of many, even in combat, the “bean-counters” still wanted accountability of this stuff, and commanders to sign for it. Hence, the Division implemented an “Operation Get Well” where the units would be rotated to forward assembly areas behind the front to conduct extensive maintenance, reissue, cross leveling, and accountability activities. The 40th Infantry Division received incremental attachment of three regiments from the 6th (ROKA) Division between 22-29 March; they were moved into the front lines relieving the Division’s Regiments. On 30 March, the 6th (ROKA) Division relieved the 40th Infantry Division of the Kumwha Sector. Then on 31 March, the 2nd (US) Infantry Division relieved the 6th (ROKA) Division of the Kumwha Sector. On 1 April 1952, the 40th Division relieved the 2nd (ROKA) Division on the IX Corps’ “Far-Right” (Kumwha-Kumsong) Sector. Then 3 to 6 April, the Division effected a boundary change then relieved (assumed responsibility) the 2nd (US) Infantry Division's sector, which was previously held by the 40th Division during March. The 40th Infantry Division was now defending an area on the front lines, which was previously defended by two divisions. While the Division defended, it also conducted nuclear weapons defense training (Operation MUSHROOM) during the month of April.

On 1 May 1952, Eighth Army’s front “center” (Iron Triangle area) battle line was defended by the IX Corps, whose front lines were the 9th (ROKA) Division on the “left”, 7th Infantry Division on “center”, and the 40th Infantry Division on the “right”. By the end of May since there was no “Declaration of War”, the Division was soon coming to the end of it is twenty-four-month tour of duty. Therefore, as Congress ordered, the army [begrudgingly by some] started incrementally rotating Guardsmen and other long assigned members out of the front lines. This process continued through late August. During this period, many Guardsmen in key-positions remained training their replacements. Several Guardsmen volunteered to remain with the Division fighting in Korea. The last of these original Guardsmen cadre returned home in January 1953. On 14 June 1952, Sergeant David B. Bleak, medical aidman assigned to Medical Company, 223rd Infantry, earned his Congressional Medal of Honor for actions while on a combat patrol to capture prisoners. Also on 14 June, Corporal Clifton T. Speicher, Company F, 223rd Infantry, earned his Congressional Medal of Honor (Posthumously) while participating in a company assault to secure a series of bunkers and trenches on key-terrain.

On 30 June 1952, the 40th Infantry Division was relieved by the 2nd (ROKA) and 24th (ROKA) Divisions, designated as IX Corps reserves, and moved to Field Training Command #5, where it was also tasked with support and security missions. [Whenever the tactical situation allowed, divisions on the front combat lines for a six-month period were rotated to the rear to rest, train replacements, and resupply.] The Division Artillery, 140th Antiaircraft Artillery (AW)(SP) Battalion and 140th Tank Battalion remained in forward combat positions, attached to IX Corps, and in direct support of the 2nd (ROKA) and 24th (ROKA) Divisions. On 13 July, the Division moved near Kapyong, still designated as IX Corps reserves, training, providing logistical support and security missions. This is when the Division’s Guardsmen started the “SFC Kenneth Kaiser Jr. High School” at Kapyong, which was later dedicated on 18 October.

On 2 September 1952, twenty-four-months after their mobilization, Guardsmen and their assigned units of the 40th Infantry Division, National Guards United States [NGUS] was federally recognized in California; while the 40th Infantry Division, “California Army National Guard”, continued fighting in Korea. It became obvious that the National Guard organizations were still needed on active duty and these units would soon exceed the 21 months Congress authorized for their call-up into Federal service. The State Governors and Congress were not willing to extend the Guardsmen’s mobilization past 24 months without a "Declaration of War". Many noted that it would not be smart to pull units out of the battle lines in Korea. Therefore, Congress passed legislation, requiring mobilized National Guardsmen called into federal service to be released before 24 months expired, and returned to their State's control. They then fixed the maximum federal service for National Guard Units (organizations) at five years. Congress prohibited the President by statute from appropriating the National Guard units into the regular army. They were to remain State National Guard Units serving on active duty. For those National Guard units that could not be immediately returned to their State, Congress authorized temporary analogous parallel National Guard units. These units were to meet the long held legal requirements of returning Guardsmen and their units to the communities where inducted. These units would bear the same designations, organizations, and authorizations as those retained on active service, with only the addition of "[NGUS]" or "National Guards United States" after their designations, while organizations remaining on active duty would still list their State; such as California Army National Guard. The State’s [NGUS] organizations were formed upon Guardsmen returning from active duty, but they were not fully Federally Recognized until 24-months after their mobilization, and only if the actual unit had not been returned to the State's control. The [NGUS] authorizations were to be withdrawn on the date the corresponding unit was demobilized or by a "Declaration of War", when in either case the two units were to be combined into one organization.

Early in October 1952, the Communist Chinese and North Koreans launched a series of major operations northwest of Ch’orwon, with smaller attacks along the entire front, to push Americans off key-terrain. Their efforts failed, but the sixty-days was period of heavy fighting. On 22 October 1952, the 40th Infantry Division was assigned to the X Corps, and moved back into the front lines completing relief of the 25th Infantry Division in the Corps’ “Center” (Paem-Ihyon-Ni) Sector. The Division defended from Heartbreak Ridge to the Punch Bowl. Trying to exploit the relief, at midnight the Communists’ bugles signaled attack along the Division's front that lasted every night from 22-25 October. Then again, on 3-4 November, they launched another offensive along the entire front. This time its main effort was focused at Heartbreak Ridge (Hill 851) to the adjacent Mundung-ni Valley, on the Division’s “Left” Sector in the 160th Infantry Regiment’s area. The Division held fast and repelled the foe time-and-again. The Communists’ operations then reduced into smaller units attacking outposts and key-bunkers along the front.

On 29 November 1952, President-elect Eisenhower visited Korea to personally assess the continuing conflict, as he had promised the American electorate. During his campaign and after his visit, he made it clear to the communist that America would not be satisfied with a tenuous stalemate. After January 1953, President Eisenhower made several veiled threats to bomb China and North Korea with nuclear weapons "…to move decisively without inhibition in our use of weapons, and would no longer be responsible for confining the hostilities to the Korean Peninsula." Many credited his election as a prime reason for the eventual end to the hostilities.

On 30 January 1953, the 45th Infantry Division (Oklahoma Army National Guard) relieved the 40th Infantry Division (California Army National Guard) in sector. The 40th Infantry Division was designated as X Corps reserves, and conducted rear area security. The 140th Tank Battalion and Division Artillery remained in positions tasked to provide direct Support to the 45th Division and the 12th (ROKA) Division under X Corps’ control. On 6 March, the Division was designated Eighth Army reserves, tasked with rear area security, conducted training and rearming activities. The Communist Forces increasingly conducted large size operations along the entire front, to gain key-terrain and inflict casualties, to influence the Armistice terms.

On 27 April, the 40th Division moved back into the front lines with all its units, when it relieved the 20th (ROKA) Division, on X Corps’ “Center-Right” (Ihyon-Ni-Kalbakkumi or The Punch Bowl) Sector. The 140th Tank Battalion was tasked to remain in direct support of the adjacent 12th (ROKA) Division located on the Corps’ “Far-Right” Sector; its command and control was retained by the 40th Division. Since February, the 140th Tank Battalion had been rotating elements forward into the front lines to provide support to the 12th (ROKA) Division’s sector.

During end of May and early June 1953, the Armistice seemed imminent although the Communist Forces increasingly launched attacks along the entire front, to gain key-terrain, inflict casualties, and to pressure both the Americans and South Koreans. The South Korean National Assembly and President were openly rejecting many of the Armistice terms, because it left Korea divided and would not end the “Civil War”. On 1 June, the Communist Chinese launched an offensive with its main effort in the area of X Corps “Right” Sector, where the 12th (ROKA) Division was defending adjacent to the right of the 40th Infantry Division. The 140th Tank Battalion, while in direct support of the 12th (ROKA) Division, tenaciously defended strategic hills near Nojonp-Yong (1-8 June and 16-18 July), which were key to the Corps’ defense. Because of the heroism of the Battalion, it was awarded the “Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation” for single-handedly breaking an attacking infantry division that became completely demoralized and ceased to be an effective striking force. On 9 June, the Communists launched a major attack focused on the II (ROKA) Corps near Kumsong. By 18 June, the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) had stopped the Communists advance, but was forced to withdraw two-miles during the battle (each side lost over 5,000 soldiers). The Communist Forces started aggressive patrolling and regimental sized operations along the entire front.

During July 1953, the Communist Forces launched their final offensive along the entire front to seize key-terrain to improve their final front lines before the Armistice. These battles were some of the bloodiest yet. On 2 July, they launched attacks against outposts guarding approaches to the Eighth Army's main line of defense. On 6 July, the Communists launched attacks on Pork Chop Hill, and several other key-defenses. On 10 July, 20th (ROKA) Division relieved the 40th Infantry Division, in the Ihyon-Ni-Kalbakkumi (or The Punch Bowl) Sector. The 140th Tank Battalion remained in position in direct support of the 12th (ROKA) Division. Then on 11 July, the 40th Infantry Division (California National Guard) quickly moved, under heavy enemy pressure, and relieved the 45th Infantry Division (Oklahoma National Guard) on Heartbreak Ridge and Sandbag Castle, on the X Corps “Center-Left” from Paem to west of Ihyon-Ni. On 14 July, five Communist Chinese armies launched their “Kumsong River Offensive” with its main effort again attacking the II (ROKA) Corps on the Eighth (US) Army “Center-Left”. Simultaneous, they again attacked 12th (ROKA) Division on the X Corps “Right” Sector. The Communists pushed the II (ROKA) Corps back in their sector that created a salient of 8 miles. The Eighth (US) Army mounted a counterattack offensive along the entire front, which was regaining the lost territory, and had retaken the high ground along the Kumsong River. On 20 July, since the Armistice would be soon signed, the Eighth Army was ordered to stop the offensive [due to the projected high level of casualties], and to establish a new main line of resistance. The Communist Chinese and North Korean Forces lost over 75,000 soldiers or eight divisions during the offensive. On 20 July 1953, Sergeant Gilbert G. Collier, Company F, 223rd Infantry, earned his Congressional Medal of Honor (Posthumously) while on a combat patrol to determine Communist Chinese strengths and dispositions along the Regiment's front. On July 24-26, the Communists unsuccessfully attacked the Berlin Complex ("Boulder City"), Hills 111 and 119 with reinforced Brigade-size organizations.

At 10:00 hours, 27 July 1953, Lieutenant General Harrison and Lieutenant General Nam Il Jr. signed the Armistice Agreement at Panmunjom ending hostilities at 20:00 hours. This started massive mortar and artillery shelling along the entire front by the communists. The Communists Forces barraged the Division's sector with over 4,700 mortar and artillery rounds. The Division received a few casualties and only slight damage. The Division countered-fired with over 11,000 artillery and mortar rounds. At "exactly" 20:00 hours, the fighting stopped along the entire front. Captain Chuck Monges, Commander, Company F, 224th Infantry, order of the day: "Cover your butts, and nobody is to move out of his hole". Similar to the World War I armistice, at the designated time, fighting ceased, and the silence was so peculiar many whispered to one another and refused to speak aloud.

The 40th Infantry Division soon started nation-building duties and humanitarian deeds as it had eight-years earlier. However this time, they also assisted in building defenses, helped train and arm a formidable army and National Guard for South Korea. Several times during this period, they were called to the Demilitarized Zone to enforce the tenuous Armistice.

On 8 May 1954, the 40th Infantry Division conducted its final Korea Pass-in-Review while the band played "California Here I Come", carrying the Colors and California Flag With which it was mobilized, and then moved to Camp Stoneman, California. By 1 June 1954, the Division had been reduced to an "on-paper" organization, with a Commanding General and a caretaker cadre. [On 14 June 1954 "...One Nation under God..." was added to the Pledge of Allegiance by President Eisenhower.] On 19 June 1954, on behalf of a grateful nation, representatives of the President of The United States of America returned the Division's and Regiment's Colors with the Korean Campaign and Citation Streamers during a ceremony in San Francisco. This was the last Pass-in-Review of the Division conducted while on active duty. Most of the Division’s soldiers had already been out-processed, and at the end of the ceremony the remaining were dismissed to awaiting arms of family members [some later re-joined the Division as Guardsmen]. On 30 June 1954, the 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard was demobilized, and the federal recognition of the 40th Infantry Division [National Guards United States] was withdrawn. Then officially the two organizations combined and again became the 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard. The next day on 1 July 1954, the 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard, combined with the 111th Armored Cavalry Regiment, California Army National Guard, and formed the 40th Armored Division (*Grizzly*), California Army National Guard.

Korean War (25 June 1950 - 27 July 1953):

Korean War (25 June 1950 - 27 July 1953): During the opening battle of the Korean Civil War, the 94,808 man newly-formed South Korean Army defended against North Korea’s 260,000 man professional army. The fighting was principally by outnumbered American and South Korean democratic forces, against the Chinese, North Korean, and Soviet Union communist forces. Both President Truman and Eisenhower refused to ask Congress for a "Declaration of War", but instead referred to it as a Police Action or a Regional Conflict. The United States influenced the United Nations to come into the conflict, and several democracies sent units into the fray. Based upon what actually occurred on the ground, this was truly an American and Communist Chinese conflict, costing the American taxpayer over $20 billion dollars. This was effectively the start of "THE COLD WAR" build up. On the morning of 25 June 1950 an active duty Private's base pay was $83.20 per month, and a Guardsmen Private was paid on a quarterly bases an average of $12.00 based upon drill performance. A soldier's daily ration while in camp was considered very good. Although in Korea fresh vegetables and meats where in short supply until late in the war. Hot meals were normally served in the field, but most remember the war surplus C, D, and K rations. The daily E-ration later introduced contained enough food for 3-meals and snacks. The regular army had 10 divisions equipped with World War II equipment and supplies, with a little over 33% of its soldiers were considered career cadre, while the majority were reservists and draftees. The National Guard had 14 divisions equipped with war surplus equipment; and its cadre mainly consisted of combat veteran volunteers. During the first year of the conflict, the President called 8 National Guard Divisions and over 223 individual Companies, Battalions, and/or Squadrons into federal service. The 40th Infantry Division (CA) and 45th Infantry Division (OK) fought in Korea. The 28th Infantry Division (PA) and 43rd Infantry Division (CT, RI, VT) went to Germany. The 31st Infantry Division (AL, MI), 37th Infantry Division (OH), 44th Infantry Division (IL), and 47th Infantry Division (MN, ND) became training divisions for individual replacements. Within a few years, the US Military increased to over 5,764,143 sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines. By the Armistice, the US Army had grown from 593,000 to an average of 2,834,000 soldiers. Over 1.2 million American service members served in Korea during the Conflict (primarily Guardsmen, Draftees, and Reservist); 54,248 Died; 103,284 Wounded; 16,310 Prisoners Of War (POW); 1,200 identified POWs unaccounted; 1,600 POW died while in captivity (primarily of starvation); 8,177 missing/unaccounted that include an unknown number of American POWs held against their will in China and the Soviet Union after the Armistice.

Units in the 40th Infantry Division Mobilized for the Korean War: 40th Headquarters, Military Police, Signal, Quartermaster Companies and Reconnaissance Troop;160th, 223rd and 224th Infantry (Regimental Combat Teams); 143rd, 625th, 980th, and 981st Field Artillery Battalions, 140th Antiaircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) (Self-Propelled) Battalion; 140th Heavy Tank Battalion; 115th Medical Battalion; 740th Ordinance Company; and 578th Engineer Battalion.

As of this writing, a "State of War" officially exists between North Korea [its ally China] and South Korea [its ally United States of America]. Since the Armistice, the acrimonious communist North Koreans have made over 3,500 violations, and continues to inflict casualties on American forces guarding the tenuous Demilitarize Zone (DMZ) where 100 have been killed, 224 wounded, and 1 Missing In Action (MIA). The United States and international community designated North Korea a Terrorist State and demanded that it renounce its terrorist activities. North Korea test fired a strategic missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean. Many security analysts believe that by 2003, North Korea will have nuclear-tipped missiles capable of accurately hitting cities in the United States. Some also believe that North Korea has nuclear/chemical capable tactical missiles today.

Units in the 185th Armor Regiment's lineage Mobilized for Korea
The 746th Antiaircraft Artillery (120mm Gun) Battalion and the 93rd United States Army Band were the first mobilized and were initially used as replacement pools, remaining in the United States. The 981st Field Artillery Battalion, 140th Antiaircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) (Self-Propelled) Battalion, 140th Heavy Tank Battalion, 160th, 223rd and 224th Infantry (Regimental Combat Teams) were assigned to the 40th Infantry Division and fought in Korea. The 111th Armored Cavalry Regiment received an alert but was never called into active service.
Please help in recording the most accurate history [any help is always appreciated]. Please forward any additions, changes, and/or corrections: Nathaniel T. Robertson, Headquarters, 185th Armor Regiment, 7401 Mesa College Drive, San Diego, CA 92111-4997 or e-mail
Nathaniel T. Robertson (c)Rights Reserved, 17 February, 2001
For Further Information


The Fighting Fortieth in War and Peace
by Major General James Delk
History of California's 40th Infantry Division by a former Division Commander.
40th Infantry Division (Mechanized) Website
The Association of 40th Infantry Division Korean War Veterans

To view the 1953 Order of Battle CLICK HERE

To view photgraphs of the 40th Infantry Division in Japan and Korea, CLICK HERE



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