Korea has often been called The Forgotten War. I had an uncle, who recently died, Ralph McClarey, who served over there as a combat infantryman in the Illinois National Guard. He had a great sense of humor and would tell me stories about the war. He served during the latter part of the war when fierce battles were fought for outposts. These battles were obscure to most Americans at the time, and completely unknown to most Americans now. This is the story of one of these forgotten battles.
Outpost Harry was a tiny outpost on a small hill in the Iron Triangle, an area 60 miles north of Seoul. The Chinese high command decided to capture this position, assuming that a victory would strengthen their hand in the ongoing truce negotiation. They assumed that it would fall to them easily, after all, Outpost Harry was a small position that could be only held by one company at a time, the four American companies and the Greek company taking turns holding the position. The position was tiny but important. Lose it, and the Chinese could direct fire on the Un Main Line of Resistance and force a six-mile withdrawal to the next defensible line by the Eighth Army. Outpost Harry had to be held.
Aerial reconnaissance from June 1-June 8 indicated to the American high command that a major Chinese offensive was in the offing, spearheaded by the 22nd and 221rst regiments of the Chinese 74th division.
On the evening of June 10-11th, Outpost Harry was held by K company of the American 15th regiment. The Chinese attacked with 3600 men, outnumbering the Defenders 30-1. American artillery rained down on the Chinese human wave assault, but the Chinese penetrated through to the American trenches. With incredible tenacity the Americans drove out the Chinese in hand to hand combat and held Harry. By dawn only a dozen men of K Company, the rest either killed or critically wounded. Sergeant Ola L. Mize was awarded a Medal of Honor for his heroism and leadership during the battle.
The evening of June 12-13th saw Harry held by Baker Company of the 15th regiment and Baker Company of the 5th RCT. The Chinese after the beating their human wave tactics had taken the night before, deluged Harry with artillery and mortar fire. Creeping forward under protection of the fire, the Chinese again reached the trenches and again were driven off.
One the evening of June 13-14th Able Company of the 5th RCT held Harry. The Chinese contented themselves this evening with artillery and mortar fire and a screening attack, broken up by UN artillery fire, in a futile attempt to clear away their dead in order to have a clearer path for future assaults.
The evening of June 14-15th saw Harry held by G Company of the 15th. The Chinese made a strong assault gaining the trenches. G Company, reinforced by Company E of the 15th, drove the Chinese off in hand to hand fighting.
On the evening of June 15-16th, Company A of the 15th had a quiet night, which I am sure pleased and shocked them.
From June 16-18, Harry was held by Company P of the Sparta Battalion of the Greek Expeditionary Force. With gallows humor, the Greeks designated Harry “Haros” the modern Greek nickname for the mythological ferryman to Hell. June 16-17th was quiet, but June 17-18th more than made up for it. The Chinese making their final effort to take “Haros”, got in among the trenches again, and the Greeks of Company P drove them out, with assistance from N Company of the Spartan Battalion.
The Chinese finally gave up and no further attacks were launched against Harry. The Americans and the Greeks sustained 114 killed and 419 wounded. Chinese losses were estimated at 4500 killed and an unknown number of wounded. The four American rifle companies who held Harry, along with their Greek compatriots of Company P, received a Distinguished Unit Citation, now known as the Presidential Unit Citation, the first time in American military history that a mixed group was given this prestigious award. Go here to read the citations for the individual units. The Americans and Greeks, less than a thousand men, had defeated a Chinese division of approximately fifteen thousand men. A forgotten battle in a forgotten war? No doubt. But in a world always short of heroism, one need look no farther than the men who held Outpost Harry for an example of what courage against the odds can accomplish.