Gearing up for march to Pyongyang

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Gearing up for march to Pyongyang

Last week, General Paik secured permission for ROK soldiers to be included in the assault on the North’s capital city of Pyongyang.

I must have waited in the governor’s office for roughly three hours. I was waiting for Chief of Staff, Gen. Rinaldo Van Brunt to complete all the corrections on the thick booklet containing a plan to move on to Seoul and Pyongyang. Van Brunt finally handed over a new version of the updated booklet. The ROK 1st Division was now included in the plan to take a direct route up to Pyongyang along with the U.S. 24th Infantry Division and the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division.

Having accomplished what I had set out to do, I took a jeep back to the airport in Daejeon and hopped on an L5 airplane back to Cheongju, North Chungcheong.

“Listen up, we’re now included in the front lines in the allied forces’ march to Pyongyang,” I shouted to my regimental commanders who had been eagerly awaiting my return.

The entire division erupted in a loud cheer. While our men were raring to go, we had to delay our departure. The path from Cheongju to Suwon and then Seoul was already being used by the U.S. 1st Corps, composed of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division and the British 27th Brigade. We could not use the road until the allied forces had reached their destination and cleared it. We had to wait two days before we got the go-ahead to start our march. We departed from Cheongju on Oct. 6, 1950 with the plan of heading toward our meeting point of Korangpo-ri near the Imjin River. It was there where we were to rendezvous for our attack across the 38th parallel.

While we were determined to play a significant part in the seizure of Pyongyang, it only helped our cause to have President Syngman Rhee on our side. President Rhee had immense interest in the allied forces’ entry into the North’s capital.

The wartime command was transferred to the Americans, but he had a strong desire to have ROK soldiers play a direct role in the attack on Pyongyang.

The president was said to have called in Chief of Staff Jung Il-kwon on several occasions and said, “It’s imperative that my boys are the first to enter Pyongyang.”

President Rhee was proud of the ROK Army and often referred to the men affectionately as “my boys.” I think President Rhee’s orders were also given to the ROK 7th Division. It’s probably why the 7th Division’s 8th Regiment was able to enter Pyongyang regardless of the original operational plans.

We entered Seoul on Oct. 8 and the city was alive and teeming with optimism. I proceeded to set up our command post at a police station in the Seodaemun area in central Seoul. We had not been to Seoul in three months. We were all deeply moved to return to our capital city, but I had no time to get caught up with such emotions. I was solely focused on advancing to Pyongyang.

I was also concerned about my family in Seoul. Since stepping out the door of my house at the outbreak of the war on June 25, I did not have any contact with my family.

I decided to get in touch with my brother Paik In-yeop, the commander of the ROK 17th Independent Regiment, who had participated in the Incheon landing. He had arrived in Seoul well ahead of us and was based at his command post at the Ilshin Elementary School in the Chungmuro area of central Seoul.

I rode my jeep to pay my brother a visit.

“Everyone’s safe. Our mother and your wife are all safe,” stated my brother as soon as he saw me.

I got a brief rundown of how our family members were doing as well as an outline of the 17th Regiment’s plans and immediately returned to my command post.

Reassured of my family’s well-being, I felt better but was concerned about mobilizing our troops in time.

I was busy trying to secure vehicles to better mobilize our troops in their march to Pyongyang. We could not fall too far behind the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division. I went around with my brother to check on the situation at various command posts.

In the early hours of our second day in Seoul, we set out again towards the Imjin river. Once we reached the township office in Korangpo-ri, we reassessed the situation as to where the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division was situated.

They were better equipped for the road and had started out earlier than us.

Upon getting some of my officers to speak to our allies about the division’s whereabouts, we found out that the U.S. 1st Cavalry had already passed Kaesong and headed further north. After arriving in Korangpo, we marched a total of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) before coming to a halt at Guhari, just north of Korangpo, for a break.

I remember thinking to myself that, at this rate, we would never catch up to the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division.

I began to grow nervous.

Translation by Jason Kim []

With allied forces marching north to seize Pyongyang in October 1950, the battleship U.S.S. Missouri was used to disrupt the enemy’s supply and communication lines. In the photo, the U.S.S. Missouri fires its guns off the shores of Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province. Provided by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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