On 12 August 1950, the 92d AFA Battalion left San Francisco for Korea on the U.S.N.S. Marine Adder. The Battalion was under strength upon arrival in Japan, so 200 ROK soldiers joined the Red Devils. January 1954 found ten of the original 200 soldiers still with the Battalion; they could be considered the true veterans of the Korean War.
The men of the Battalion soon learned that they would take part in the Inchon Invasion. The Marines would go ashore first and they would be followed by the 7th U.S. Infantry Division (to which the 92d was then attached) and miscellaneous units. The Red Devils landed at Inchon on 20 September 1950. Five days later, at Suwon airfield, B Battery fired the Battalion's first round in Korea. That first round was only one of more than 300,000 rounds of blistering steel that the Red Devils artillerymen poured at the enemy while in Korea. The 92d, which was never in reserve while in Korea, was to see over 1,000 days of combat in the months ahead.
The combination of the Inchon "end-run" and the push north by Eighth Army proved to be a success and the two forces linked. On 10 October, after the Battalion's mission of aiding in the success of the Inchon landing was over, the Red Devils marched 310 miles to Pusan for necessary repairs. Then, on 5 November 1950, the Battalion took part in a second invasion, this time at Iwon on the east coast of Korea north of Hungham beachhead. The purpose of this landing was to close the vise on the enemy.
On 10 November 1950, the 92d Armored Field Artillery Battalion was detached from the 2d Armored Division. Three weeks later, Communist Chinese Forces made their entrance into the fighting and made a major breakthrough on the right flank of Eighth Army. They drove the allies back on all fronts of Eighth Army and X Corps and drove a serious wedge between the two. This unexpected Chinese Offensive was a psychological setback to men of the Battalion. They had to change their attitude of "Home by Christmas" to that of facing a numerically superior enemy in the cold, mountainous regions of North Korea.
Soon the Red Devils were given an important mission to perform. U.S. Marines and Army units were trapped by the enemy at Chosin Reservoir. The 92d AFA Bn was to help hold the area open until the surrounded forces were completely pulled out. The Red Devils offered continuous artillery support and had its fires supported by two other artillery battalions. The artillerymen got no sleep for 72 hours, from the time they first started their support until they had reached Hungnam beachhead. Their mission completed they headed for Pusan for maintenance and repairs.
In January 1951, the 92d and other U.N. units had ceased to be a withdrawing force and had started a push northward. By March, the Red Devils were well-seasoned in combat and confident and better prepared for further action. That the Battalion was well prepared was proven on the morning of 24 April 1951. Baker and Service Batteries were attacked by a company of Chinese. The enemy charged the battery positions,loaded down with grenades to thrust into ammo trucks, gas tanks and key installations. They also poured in mortar and automatic weapons fire.
A plan, based upon faith in one another's capabilities and in their weapons, had become habit to the Red Devils as reported in Combat Actions in Korea, Sound of The Guns, This Kind of War and newspaper accounts:
It was April 1951 in Korea and the UN forces were in trouble. The Chinese Communist forces had numerical superiority and had pushed the UN Forces hundreds of miles from the Yalu River to the 38th Parallel.
The CCF had burst through the weaker firepower of the ROK's, scattering a ROK regiment and then turned to strike the US Marines in the flank. Two ROK artillery units were in their way and were overrun, losing all equipment.
On 24 April the CCF found one last artillery unit in their way, the 92d Field Artillery.
Before the drive Lieutenant Colonel Leon F. Lavoie's 92d Battalion, self-propelled 155mm howitzers, fell back battery by battery to new positions. They prepared for action, registering the pieces. Although no one had slept much for thirty-six hours, in that tense situation the Colonel permitted no rest until the Battalion's perimeter was fortified. Gunners dug in, established telephone and radio networks, put out patrols, rigged trip flares in front of the outposts just beyond grenade range. Quads and machine gunners took their posts. By dark they were as ready as they could be, as time allowed.
Colonel Lavoie tall, and gentle almost to the point of shyness insisted upon always having a well-fortified perimeter. Even when smiling, as he usually was, he had a way of being obdurately firm about the condition of the Battalion perimeter. He was adamantly firm about standards of performance as well. Convinced that his responsibility as an artillery commander was to insure continuous artillery support to the infantry, he also reasoned that the very time when the infantry men would most urgently need supporting artillery might well coincide with an enemy attack on his own perimeter. Colonel Lavoie had, therefore, developed a standard defensive perimeter that, from the outside toward the gun batteries in the center, consisted of patrols covering neighboring terrain outposts, usually centered around a halftrack, for warning and delaying a dug-in and fully manned main battle line just beyond grenade range of the Battalion's critical installations, and a highly mobile reserve in the center. This reserve force usually was made up of two or three halftracks with 8 or 10 men for each vehicle.
Members of the outpost detachments ate chow early and went to, their halftracks or ground-mounted machine-gun positions before dusk to be familiar with their sectors of responsibility, fields of fire, and to check their communications.
That night as the Battalion reinforced the fires of the 1st Marine Division, Colonel Lavoie received orders. He was to keep his howitzers in firing position until the last moment, but be prepared to move at dawn.
At 0230 Colonel Lavoie returned to his command post. He reviewed the displacement plan. Battery commanders were called and he gave them the complete plan. He instructed his commanders to serve a hot breakfast.
Guards went through the Battalion area waking all personnel. Within a few minutes there was the sound of trucks moving about and the usual commotion that goes with the job of getting up, packing equipment striking tents, and loading trucks all in the dark.
Gun sections still manned the howitzers, firing harassing and interdiction missions. The range had decreased during the night and the cannoneers were aware of increased machine-gun activity on the hill mass in front of the Battalion.
Breakfast was ready at 0445. Chow lines formed in all batteries. First sign of daylight appeared ten or fifteen minutes after 0500. Most. of the men had finished breakfast. Most of the pyramidal tents, used because of cool weather, were down. In Headquarters Battery only the command post and kitchen tents were standing. In Battery A the kitchen tent was still up. The communications system was still intact but commanders had pulled in most of their outlying security installations. Equipment and personnel were just about ready for march order.
Colonel Lavoie, having eaten an early breakfast, had just returned to the mess tent where an attendant was pouring him a cup of coffee.
An unidentified cannoneer from Battery C, with a roll of toilet paper in this hand, walked toward the cemetery in front of the howitzers. As he approached the mounds in the graveyard, he spotted three Chinese crawling on their bellies toward his battery. Startled, he yelled, threw the toilet paper at an enemy soldier, turned, and ran. The Chinese soldier ducked involuntarily. At that moment, someone tripped a flare outside the perimeter. Machine guns rattled. The chow line scattered. Colonel Lavoie saw a bullet hole suddenly appear in the side of the mess tent. He ran outside. "Man battle stations!" he yelled, "Man battle stations!" and headed for his command post tent to get into communication with his battery commanders.
SFC George T. Powell (Battery C Chief of Detail), anxious about some new men who had never seen combat, took off toward their section of the main battle line. When he arrived at the nearest halftracks, he found his men already manning the machine guns. Several others were setting up a machine gun on a round mount.
The initial freezing panic of being attacked lasted only minutes. The artillerymen, superbly trained, disciplined, and led, suddenly realized that they could persevere. They fought almost cockily, as Lavoie walked about the perimeter, dodging bullets. Lavoie opened the rear doors on the halftracks and crawled up to talk with the machine gunners. He asked them to cooperate in firing only at specific targets, and told them how successfully the Battalion was holding off the Chinese.
One man told him he'd better get down. "It's dangerous up here," he explained. Others, reassured, only grinned.
Twice Lavoie found groups of two or three men huddled in the bed of a halftrack. He told them to get out and help: "I'm scared too. There's nothing wrong with being scared as long as you do your part." Ashamed, they promptly returned to their proper positions.
All around the perimeter machine guns sputtered. Enemy tracer bullets from Hill 200 flung a red arch over them. Telephone wires were shot out, and the radios took over. The fusillade rose in intensity as Chinese riflemen and grenadiers bored in on the howitzers. They flooded into two emplacements, driving out crews who ran, qrenades bursting a few feet behind them. Machine guns succored them, wiping out pursuers and riddling half a dozen Reds attempting to blow up a howitzer. Sergeant Theral J. Harley (Chief of Section) manned a Quad and backed it out of immediate reach of the grenadiers, crushing one who lay hidden beneath it.
Colonel Lavoie covered the battle line, checking the defense. Captain Bernard G. Raftery reported to him:
"Sir, Battery C has Chinks all through its area."
"Are they dead or alive?" Lavoie asked.
"To hell with the dead ones take care of the live ones and make every bullet count."
Within a few hours, the Battalion, intact, pulled back to safer positions beyond sniper range, as Marine tanks came up to relieve them. They hadn't asked for help; they hadn't needed any.
The 92d, all told, had lost four killed and 11 wounded, and no equipment The only damage to the Red Devils' equipment was a burned-out tire and a blasted spark plug.
"They didn't expect to run into anything like what we put up," Major Raymond F. Hotopp, Battalion S-3 from Killeen, Texas said. "The whole Battalion acted fast when the attack came, and the Chinese caught hell."
"Artillery," Colonel Lavoie reflected, "if it makes up its mind, will set itself up so that it can defend itself from enemy infantry actions." Plainly he and the 92d had so determined. When the Battalion marched in accordance with original orders, it left 179 dead Chinese in and around the Red Devil perimeter which they had defended with such stanch valor.
Because Colonel Lavoie had insisted in training that the 92d habitually fire from a defensive perimeter, its occupation and organization of position on 23 April went smoothly. It was not a new maneuver it was SOP.
The Chinese offensive was failing. By the dark of 30 April, the CCF, exhausted, turned and crept north again. This time, the CCF had met the tiger.
There was little action once the truce talks started in mid- 1951. Occasionally rounds were received in various batteries sometimes with a few casualties. Most of the casualties occurred during June and July 1953, shortly before the truce was signed. In mid-June, while the 92d was giving artillery support for troops fighting for Outpost Harry, an especially heavy counter battery barrage was received in the batteries, especially in Able. The action resulted in two men killed in action and 17 wounded.
In mid-July, the Communist Chinese Forces launched their last big offensive before the truce. The attack, which consisted of ten enemy divisions, was the largest offensive in two years. The firing batteries of the Battalion, after withstanding terrific artillery, rocket and mortar fire on the evening of 13 July, were taken under fire by swarms of advancing Chinese. When ordered to withdraw, Baker and Charlie Batteries had to fight their way out to save their equipment and personnel. The batteries were soon in a new position pouring shells back on Chinese forces. The advance was stopped 36 hours after it began. During this action, an officer and two enlisted men were killed, 27 were wounded, and eight men were missing in action. Most of the men missing in action were later returned in Operation Big Switch after the truce. Also, four howitzers were lost, two half-tracks and two jeeps. That losses of men and equipment were not heavier is a tribute to the fighting spirit of the Red Devils.
27 July 1953 the truce was signed and the guns were silenced.