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Jousting with Their Main Guns:

A Bizarre Tank Battle of the Korean War


by Major Arthur W. Connor, Jr.
When asked to describe a typical
tank battle, most people talk of long
range gunnery duels and massed formations of tanks rumbling through
Europe or the desert.
During the war in Korea, however,
there was no such thing as a typical
tank battle. The terrain was restrictive,
roads almost nonexistent, and the
weather atrocious. Tanks were an integral part of the American effort in
the war, but their battles did not follow the textbook examples taught at
Fort Knox before the war began. The
following vignette describes the experience of one American tanker as he
and his crew fought for their lives in
October of 1950.
The K o m War was barely two
months old on 11 September 1950,
when President Hany Truman approved ground operations north of the
Thirty-eighth Parallel and into North
Korean temtory. After the spectacular
success of the Inchon landings of 16
September, Republic of Korea @OK)
soldiers crossed the parallel on 30
September, with U.S.soldiers crossing
on 7 October. Seoul had been recaptured by troops of X Corps only two
days before.'
I Corps, with the 1st Cavalry Division and 24th Infantry Division assigned, along with the 1st ROK Divi-

sion and the 27th British Brigade, led


the way into North Korea. Arriving in
the vicinity of Kaesong on 8 October,
the 1st Cavalry Division led the way
across the parallel as it attacked
Kumchon the next day? The tankers
of the 70th Tank Battalion, assigned
to the 1st Cav, played a crucial role in
spearheading the drive into North
Korea.
Resistance was fierce. A Company,
70th Tank Battalion could make little
headway in its attacks with the 5th
Cavalry on 9 October. On 13 October,
B Company was supporting the 8th
Cavalry when it ran into a company
of North Korean tanks supported by
infantry. Moving north out of Kaesong along the main road toward
Kumchon, the M-26 Pershings of the
tank company led the regimental attack to seize the village. On the outskirts of Kumchon, a group of four T34s attacked the American Pershings.
The lead platoon of B Company fired
at the approaching enemy tanks, killing all four with their opening rounds.
Two of the T-34s were destroyed
when 90-mm hypervelocity m o r
piercing (HVAP) rounds penetrated
the tanks, detonating the ammunition
and blowing the turrets off. The third
tank burned when hit, and the fourth
tank was abandoned by its crew after
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ARMOR

- January-February 1993

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being struck in the front slope. The


North Korean crews were no match
for the American tankers? Two more
T-34s were destroyed in separate fire
fights that day, but as darkness fell,
the enemy counterattacked.
A heavy ground fog settled over the
tankers and 8th Cavalry positions as
the B Company commander placed
three tanks astride the road leading
into Kumchon, tying in his perimeter
defense for the night. In one of the
most bizarre tank-versus-tank engagements of the war, four more T-34s
rumbled out of the mist to contest
once again the American supremacy
of the battlefield.
The tank commander of the center
tank, Sergeant Marshall D. Drewery,
saw the first T-34 when it was less
than 50 meters away from his position. He screamed at his gunner to
ftre, and the American tank bucked
under the recoil of the main gun. The
tank had a high explosive round
loaded in the chamber, and it struck
the T-34 directly in its gun tube,
splintering it. The North Korean tank
was now helpless, but instead of panicking and abandoning the vehicle, the
crew charged and rammed the American tank, preventing it from firing a
Continued on Page 49
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range. If you use ERLs, you can resolve engagements as fast as firers announce them by using the next outcome on the appropriate list and
crossing it off as you use it. If you do
lots of terrain board exercises, its
worth your time to make ERLs of a
few hundred shots each and laminate
them so theyre reusable. Then you
start each exercise at a different place
on your ERLs to avoid repeating a sequence of outcomes.
Running the Exercise

Run your terrain board exercise like


an on the ground A R W . Youll
need an umpire and an OPFOR commander. In a pinch, both positions can
be filled by one experienced person.
When youre getting started, it helps
to have an assistant umpire to shuffle
through all the ERLs.
Base the number of participants in
your exercises on the type of training.
In a company mission, we use a platoon leader for each Blue Force platoon, plus the commander, XO, FIST,

and first sergeant as a minimum. We


include the NBC NCO, supply and
maintenance people, and platoon sergeants when we can. In a platoon mission, each vehicle is run by a sepmte
soldier.
Try to limit the complexity of rules
you must explain to participants. This
maximizes training time and lets soldiers concentrate on the battle. Soldiers need to know when, how fast,
and how far their units can move.
They need to know when they can
shoot, rules of visibility, and how various events on the battlefield will be
simulated. Let the umpire worry about
hit probabilities and engagement resolution.
Playing the Game

In this axticle, Ive used the terms


game and play, which is somewhat misleading. A good temin board
simulation isnt a game to play for
fun, its a way to present combat situations with minimum resources to
t n i n your troops. Make the exercise

as much like combat as you can. Require the same reports that you use in
battle and require them in the correct
format. Make troopers communicate
using proper radio procedures and
grid coordinates. Program realistic
consolidation and reorganization into
your exercises. In short, as were always being told, TRAIN THE WAY
YOULL FIGHT!

Sergeant First Class John


M. Duezabou holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the
University of
California,
Berkeley, and a Master of
Science Degree from the
University of Nevada, Reno.
He is currently AGR Readiness NCO (19K40) for Company A, 1-163 Cav (Montana
National Guard). He is a
PLDC instructor and a former scout section leader.

Jousting with Their Main Guns...


Continued from Page 17

killing shot. The gun tubes of the two


tanks were locked in a deadly struggle, reminiscent more of a medieval
joust than a tank battle. The other two
American tanks on Drewerys flanks
could not fire for fear of hitting their
mate.

view. A fourth enemy tank fled the


battlefield.
Other than a bent fender, Sergeant
Drewerys tank was none the worse
for wear. Just another typical tank battle in the Korean War.

Notes
The T-34sengine strained to push
the American tank over, when Drewerys quick-thinking driver started the
engine and backed up. A distance of
only three feet separated the two adversaries when Drewerys gunner
pumped a hypervelocity round into
the T-34, setting it on fire.
Another T-34 tried to maneuver
around its stricken commie, but it
was dispatched quickly by the Pershing next to Drewery. Traversing immediately, the same M-26destroyed a
third T-34 that had just come into

ARMOR

Rosemary Foote, The Wrong Wor: Arnericon


Policy and the Dirnenrionr of the Koreon Con-

flict, 1950-1953, Ithaca, New York. Cornell


University Press, 1985, p. 74.
b a y Blair, The Forgotten Wor: Arnerico in
Korea 1950-1953. New Yo&. Times Books.
1987. pp. 33940.
3701h Tank Battalion War Diary, October
1950. Annex Number Two, Summary of Damaged Enemy Tanks. Washington National Records Center. Suitland, Maryland, Record
Group 407. Box 4433.
41bid.

January-February 7993

Major Arthur W. Connor


Jr. is currently a history instructor at the U.S. Military
Academy. His previous assignments include platoon
leader and executive officer
in 3d Battalion (ABN), 73d
Armor, 82d Airborne Division; tank company and
headquarters
company
commander in 3d Battalion,
37th Armor, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; a
tour as a United Nations
Military Observer in Lebanon and Syria; and graduate school at Temple University in Philadelphia.

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