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The Last Black Combat Unit Of The US Army Fights Alongside The Last Black 24th Infantry Regiment

The Last And Most Important Battle Of The Korean War
by David K Carlisle

  • "African-Americans were not given the credit some individuals & some units deserved for their service rendered in combat in Korea. The service of Charles Bussey would seem to be a prime example" -- General Matthew B Ridgway, UN Supreme Commander in Korea

    77th Engineer Combat Company, 25th Infantry, 8th US Army in Korea, UN Command committed to Korean War action 7-12-50, and inactivated 6-30-52, was the last black combat unit of the US Army ever to engage an enemy of the US (and perhaps the most decorated American unit in Korean War action).

    The 77ECC never failed to accomplish an assigned mission and frequently successfully accomplished important missions that it had not been assigned while attached as combat infantry or engaged as combat engineers in support of the last black 24th Infantry. Even now, in 1992, ex-77ECC officers and NCOs have for more than 12 years been fighting their most important battle ever, causing the Dept of the Army:

    • (1) to record correctly the true quality of the combat performance of the 24th Infantry Regiment from 7-12-50, until it was inactivated 10-1-51, ending the distinguished service to the US of 4 "Buffalo Soldier" regiments established in 1866 by a special act of the Congress honoring 186,000 African-Americans who served during the Civil War in 149 black Union Army regiments; and

    • (2) to determine, finally, if (pursuant to a 1950 recommendation duly prepared with 2 eyewitnesses' corroborating statements and submitted into military channels) the Medal of Honor is/is not to be awarded to their original command *ing officer, then-1st It. (retired LtCol) Charles M Bussey.
    Led by another 77ECC CO, former Capt David K. Carlisle (a West Point 1950 graduate), these ex-officers/NCOs have managed since 1980 to convince the SecArmy to convene a special board of review (chaired by the retired 1st African-American general ever to attain 4-star rank in the Army) to determine the truth about the 24th Infantry in Korean War action 1950-51. Convened in mid-1988, this board will publish within another several months (in conjunction with D/A's Office Chief of Military History) an unprecedented official regimental-level history affirming 42 years too late that:

  • The 24th Infantry fought as well as other (i.e, white) American regiments throughout 14 months' extended frontline service and achieved a number of outstanding combat successes that have never, heretofore, been officially acknowledged, including
  • Winning the UN's initial Korean War victory at Yechon 7-20/21-50, killing at least 258 North Koreans at a cost of 2 Americans killed and a handful wounded in action (including LtCol Bussey who killed most all of the enemy)
  • Holding the most vital portion of the Pusan Perimeter, Aug/Sep, taking and retaking Battle Mountain 19 times in 30 days
  • Leading portions of 25th Infantry's breakout and advance westnorthward to the outskirts of Seoul, mid-Sep
  • Advancing in northernmost North Korea to within a few miles of the Yalu River and then, as the Chinese Communists entered the war, fighting an exemplary delaying action astride the Chongchon River and in the vicinity of Kunuri, 11-25-29 (enabling the bulk of 8th US Army to escape more than 100 miles back into South Korea)
  • Succeeding, with 2 other 25th Division regiments, in crossing the Han River near Seoul, 3-7-51 (an important part of what UN Supreme Commander characterized as "the most successful single action fought by troops under my command during either WW2 in Europe, or in Korea")
  • Crossing the Hantan River northeast of Seoul, alone, 4-12, in the face of determined resistance from a superior enemy occupying the commanding terrain
  • Seizing the heights above Mando, 9-15, utilizing mostly bayonets and hand grenades to dislodge the enemy from fortified positions.

    Yet, the official history continues even in 1992 unjustly to diminish/distort/denigrate the 24th Infantry's overall Korean War performance as "poor" as well as, therefore, the proximate factor in 8th US Army's beginning to integrate as of 10-1-51. This history uses such terms as "ran away from the enemy", "broke and ran", "threw down their weapons", "withdrew without a fight", "broke ranks", etc, repeatedly in referring to this last black regiment while not utilizing such terms in referring to other (i.e, white) American * regiments. Even the Army's chief of staff 1950-53, the late General J. Lawton Collins, wrote in his Korean War memoir, War in Peacetime, "black 24th Infantrymen broke and ran repeatedly until the regiment was deactivated 10-1-1951---an outright misstatement.

    Despite obvious bias on the part of official historians and even a 1-time chief of staff, it is probable that the 24th Infantry will forever continue dishonored for its, and other Buffalo Soldier regiments', last tour of duty. For, at this critical juncture in the special board's proceedings where the final draft of the unprecedented regimental-level history has been completed, due to a set of unfortunate and unforeseeable circumstances the principal decision making in this vital process has devolved upon D/A's chief of military history. He resists, strongly, making changes to the official history itself that would expose his office's 1-time traditional prejudice -- the last vestige of institutional racism remaining associated with the US Army.

    So ex-77ECC officers/NCOs, ably assisted now by oldtime West Pointers including the last CO of the 24th Infantry and others (but noticeably lacking the wholehearted participation of the association of mostly black 24th Infantrymen who, continuing as always their loyal service to the US cannot comprehend that their own govt is being grossly disloyal to them as it has traditionally acted toward African-American fighting men once the danger has passed), continue doggedly fighting this last and most important battle of the Korean War. In 1984, 1st Sgt. LaVaughn E. Fields executed a sworn affidavit attesting, as a squad leader on 7-20-50, he observed his CO, LtCol Bussey, beginning to go into action near Yechon and the 1st 10 or 15 enemy fall. and a sketch he appended to his affidavit depicting the battlefield has been proven to be correct in every detail. In 1986, the late 1st Sgt. Roscoe C. Dudley executed a sworn affidavit attesting, as 1st Sgt he thoroughly investigated reports of his CO's exploitation before preparing a Medal of Honor recommendation, accompanied by 2 eyewitnesses' corroborating statements, that he submitted into military channels late 7-50. In 1990, Sgt. Alfonzo Spencer affirmed, indicating that he is prepared to execute a sworn affidavit attesting, as bulldozer operator he excavated a common grave for 258 enemies' bodies near Yechon under his CO's supervision on or about 7-22-1950, and photoed the open grave with the bodies carefully deposited therein. In 1-91, LtCol Bussey's extraordinary personal account of his Korean War experiences, "Firefight at Yechon: Courage and Racism in the Korean War, was published in the US.

    On 8-15-92, the Los Angeles Korean-American community's Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification in LA, observing the 47th anniversary of South Korea's independence day and especially honoring 10's of 1,000s of African-American soldiers, marines airmen, and sailors who had fought and died so that the Republic of Korea might remain free, selected Mr. Carlisle as their principal honoree for, primarily, leading the remarkable year effort to restore honor to the last black 24Inf.

    The action at Yechon is the historical linchpin in all of this corrective effort. D/A's official history originally questioned "if indeed it was an action at all" and "whether there were North Koreans in the town on 7-20 (1950)". The 12-year effort by these soldiers -- the last and most important battle of the Korean War -- deserves the active assistance and official recognition of the Republic of Korea, itself now a member of the United Nations.

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    See also:
    Black Combat Units in the Korean War Action
    Korean War Websites