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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Dabudong War Memorial, Chilgok, Northern Gyeongsang: Defensive Line against Northern Commies during Korean War


At the beginning of August 1950, the North Korean Army deployed five divisions including their 3rd, 13th, and 15th, and launched an all-out attack on the Dabudong line near to Waegwan-eup, with an aim to take over the city of Daegu by August 15. The ROK Army 1st and 8th Divisions fought alongside the US Army 1st Calvary Division in defense of the Dabu-dong line. 

The allied troops were pushed back and forth dozens of times in a bloody battle, and finally slowed down the advancing North Koreans. The North Korean Army attempted their final attack to break through the defense line at the Nakdong River in early September. By mid-September, the allied ROK-US Forces annihilated the main force of the enemy with overwhelming firepower and daring counterattacks. 

As a result of this bloody battle, the enemy lost 13 tanks and 17,500 men, and the ROK-US allied forces suffered 10,000 casualties. The victory enabled the allied forces to hold the Daegu-Dabudong line, giving them a base for a future northern counterattack. 

The Dabu-dong War Memorial (Hanja: 多富洞戰跡記念館) which is located at 1486 Hoguk Avenue/Hoguk-ro, Dabu-ri 292-beonji, Gasan-myeon, Chilgok County, Northern Gyeongsang Province opened on November 30, 1981 by the Ministry of National Defense to serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made the young soldiers there and to educate the next generation about the tragedy of the Korean War. The war memorial and exhibition hall within the museum visualizes the harsh reality of the Korean War.


Dabu-dong Stories by Korean Republic Army Veteran, General (Retired) Paik Sun-yup
The Battle of Dabu-dong tells quite a story. North Korean troops had crossed the Nakdong River on August 5th, 1950, and committed around 21,000 troops to the vicinity of Dabu-dong, from where they hoped to occupy Daegu. 

Dabu-dong lies around 22 kilometers north of Daegu, and was the most important strategic intersection on the line defending Daegu. It was a decisive spot too, for if Dabu-dong had been taken by the enemy, Daegu would have fallen within North Korean gunshot range.

At that moment, General Paik stood in the North’s way with just 500 student soldiers, 7,600 regular soldiers and 172 pieces of artillery. This was situation at the start of the “Dabu-dong Battle,” which became a key moment in halting the North Korean advance and turning the tide of the War. 

Paik spoke frankly about the Dabu-dong Battle, “At the beginning, I was not full of confidence.” He explained that his men had no decent weapons with which to destroy North Korean tanks, in addition to which North Korea had brought in five divisions for a major offensive in August. Three infantry divisions, with more than 20 tanks, were approaching Dabu-dong through Sangju in North Gyeongsang Province with the intention of occupying Daegu. 

“Our army didn’t have any weapons to cope with those tanks,” Paik explained, ”However, before too long, bazookas started arriving, so we started sacrifice attacks, while the two American regiments fighting with us were reinforced. Although it was the unwritten law of the U.S. Armed Forces that they were not to accept orders from a foreign country’s troops, they fought for the first time in a battle commanded by Korean armed forces at Dabu-dong.” 

It was the battle between David and Goliath. South Korean military forces were useless against a North Korean military equipped with T-34 tanks. But prevail they did. There is a famous anecdote that came out of the battle. The U.S. 27th Regimental Commander Colonel Michaelis, who was protecting the Dabu-dong line alongside General Paik, reported urgently, “South Korean units on the left of the line are leaving their positions!” At that moment, soldiers had been without food for two days and had lost the will to fight. Nevertheless, General Paik went to the soldiers and pointed out, “Our country is about to collapse. While they (the U.S. soldiers) are fighting for us, we should not do this. I will take the lead. If I retreat, you can shoot me.” After that, the troops rallied and, eventually, won. 

The 55 days of the Dabu-dong Battle, featuring the battle to recapture the 328 high ground (Ponam-ri in Seokjeok-eup, Chilgok County), where the occupying nation changed 15 times between August 13th and 25th, and that for the 837 high ground (Haksan-ri in Gasan-myeon, Chilgok County), which resulted in the most casualties, were the worst battles of the Korean War. In total, approximately 17,500 enemy troops and 10,000 South Korean and U.S. soldiers died. 

The recapture of Mt. Cheonsaeng, 11 kilometers northeast of Dabu-dong, on September 24th, ten days after the Incheon landing, was the last fighting of a historic defensive display. With the successful, desperate defense of Daegu, the Republic of Korea was able to survive, grow and become what it is today.