Situated in the hills that ran along the boundary which divided North and South Korea was the county of Chorwon in Kangwon Province now within North Korea. The land ebbed and flowed along more than just the horizon but to the sky itself. Peaks, ridges, plateaus, and valleys were the main topographic feature here. One of these was that of Heartbreak Ridge, and it was in this terrain that elements of the X Corps, 2nd Infantry Division saw as operations began on 13 September 1951.
The plan for Heartbreak Ridge was to cut off a bulge in the Eighth Army’s line. Attacking at Heartbreak Ridge was considered a modest ground offensive juxtaposed to the alternative options submitted to fix this bulge. One of them included an amphibious landing at Wonsan. However, it was decided after the Battle at Bloody Ridge that the loss of men and materiel would not offset the gains. GEN James Van Fleet passed orders down to X Corps to attack north of Bloody Ridge, with 2ID being tasked with taking the peaks. The orders were in place by 3 September, and operations were to commence on the morning of 13 September following on the heels of a narrow victory at Bloody Ridge.
The attack wasn’t a solely American endeavor, battalions from France and the Netherlands were present for operations. The South Korean 7th Infantry Division also took part in operations. An artillery barrage broke out at 0530 on 13 September, and the advance on Heartbreak Ridge began at 0600. Despite heavy artillery fire prior to the advance, North Korean artillery that was in the region was especially dense and fierce. Fortified positions and porous hills resulted in a similar hellish advance to that which was seen in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
After incurring heavy losses, forward movement had stalled by 27 September. This resulted in a short-lived stagnation of movement and regrouping by UN forces. The assault renewed on 5 October with the addition of air assaults by F4U Corsairs dropping napalm bombs on enemy positions. Allied forces began their advance once again in the evening after the air raids concluded. It was realized that the only way to end the resistance of the North Korean occupation was to strike them on Hill 951. By the end of 13 October, after fierce fighting, and heavy losses incurred by both sides, all hills in the region had been taken by the Allies.
Heartbreak Ridge resulted in approximately 30,000 casualties, with the majority being sustained by the North. The evening out of the Eighth Army lines however, gave them better posture to launch more ambitious attacks into North Korea in the future.
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