“We’ve been looking for the enemy for several days now, we’ve finally found them. We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them.” – Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller USMC describing the situation facing his Marines at Chosin Reservoir November1950.
25 November 1950
With victory seemingly within their grasp, the North Korean People’s Army on the run, and within striking distance of the Yalu River, the United Nations Command (UNC) with General MacArthur at the helm thought the war was almost over. Since the UN forces crossed the 38th parallel back in the beginning of October, the Communist Chinese forces had been sending thousands of men into North Korea, hiding out during the day in the rough mountainous terrain and only moving at night. All during this drive north, intelligence from captured Communist Chinese prisoners indicated that Communist Chinese Forces (CCF) were in North Korea. Unfortunately, UNC high command seemingly brushed off these reports. However, on 25 November 1950, six CCF Divisions launched a holding attack against the center of the 8th Army, while eight CCF Divisions struck the right flank of the Republic of Korea (ROK) II Corps. Even with this full on attack, and with Chinese speaking prisoners and dead uniformed Chinese bodies as evidence, the UNC still considered it “Just another Marine Corps lie.” Soon however, under intense pressure from the Chinese, the reality was about to hit the commanders head on.
27 November 1950
On the evening of 27 November the People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) 20th and 27th Corps of the 9th Army launched multiple attacks along the road between the Chosin Reservoir and the village of Koto-ri. Additionally, the PVA 89th, 59th and 79th Divisions surrounded the 5th, 7th, and 11th Marines at Yudam-ni. Also, RCT-31 was ambushed by the PVA 80th and 81st Division at Sinhung-ni. Finally the PVA 60th Division surrounded elements of the 1st Marines at Koto-ri in the north.
The 30,000 UN troops were cut off and surrounded by 67,000 PVA troops in one of the most historic battles fought during the Korean conflict. At Yudam-ni the 5th and 7th Marines fought to a standstill the PVA 79th division whose mission was to wipe out the Marine garrison there. Instead, during some close quarters fighting the Marines held the high ground while inflicting severe casualties on the attackers.
The 59th Division attempted to drive off Charlie and Fox companies of the 7th Marines holding the high ground in the area of Hagaru-ri. Charlie company was routed, while Fox Company held open the vital Toktong Pass during five days of brutal combat. In what would be later called Fox Hill, veterans reported that in the -35 degree temperature, bazooka rockets failed to fire, and men shooting M-1 Carbines watched their targets get up after being shot and continue on. This was due to the amount of padding the Chinese were wearing for warmth. Wave after wave of Chinese charged forward under bugle calls, and the command came for men with carbines to aim for the head. Men who had serious wounds that in normal temperatures would have bled to death, survived due to the almost instant freezing of the blood. On the east side of the Reservoir Task Force 31 was attacked and almost completely overrun. Believing the Americans were destroyed the Chinese began to loot the left behind American supplies and food, allowing 3rd Battalion 31st infantry to counterattack and drive them off.
Veterans (I dare not call them survivors, because they fought tooth and nail to escape the encirclement and inflicted massive casualties on the PVA) from this battle are often referred to as the “Chosin Few”. This battle has become another battle streamer in the history of the United States Marine Corps, and is legendary to this day. The goal of the Chinese high command was to destroy the entire 1st Marine Division. Instead what happened was a fighting withdraw of the X Corps to the port city of Hungnam. Under relentless Chinese attacks, the X Corps fought their way south. The Chinese would attack en masse during the night, trying to avoid the Allies’ air superiority that reigned during the day.
The men who made up the People’s Volunteer Army were mostly former Nationalist Chinese from the Chinese Civil War. After the Communists won the Civil War, thousands of captured Nationalists were sent to “re-education” camps and pressed into service. Sending them to Korea to fight the imperialist Americans served two purposes; it provided manpower to make good on the threat by Mao in October that if the Allies crossed the 38th Parallel China would get involved, and it also provided the outlet to “rid” the People’s Republic of China of non-communist Nationalists.
By the end of October 1950, it appeared that the war was soon to be over. The North Koreans were broken, the Allies were driving ever northward, and no one took serious the threat from the “Chinese Laundry Men”. Barely a month later, with a bitter cold Manchurian wind, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army stopped the Allies dead in their tracks, and threatened to surround and destroy them. MacArthur’s promise to his troops to have them home by Christmas gave way to the harsh reality of a massive fighting withdraw in the mountains of North Korea.
“You tell the boys that when they get to the Yalu they are going home. I want to make good on my statement that they are going to eat Christmas dinner at home.” – General Douglas MacArthur 29 November 1950.
19-20 October 1950
The US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division and the Republic of Korea (ROK) 1st Division capture the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) is collapsed and is falling back to the Yalu River. The war seems almost over to the UN high command, as no one takes the Chinese promise of intervention if the UN forces cross the 38th parallel seriously. Around 14 October Communist Chinese Forces (CCF) had began crossing the Yalu River and hiding themselves in the mountains of North Korea. Allied air recon flights failed to discover these troops, and the two allied columns, the Eighth Army and X Corps moved along two routes through the mountains that prevented one from supporting the other.
1-2 November 1950
After the fall of Pyongyang the Republic of Korea (ROK) 1st Division advanced north, intent on making it to the Yalu River. To the UN forces, the war seemed to be coming to a close, the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) was in disarray and losing ground at a rapid pace. After the UN forces crossed the 38th Parallel at the beginning of October, and keeping to their threat, Communist Chinese Forces (CCF) began to cross the Yalu and secreting themselves in mass numbers in the mountains of North Korea. On the 25th of October, as the 1st ROK Division entered Unsan they came under fire from the CCF forces there. They began to suffer severe casualties and also began running low on ammunition. As the battle raged around Unsan between the ROK forces and the CCF, captured Chinese soldiers told both ROK and American interrogators that there were thousands of Chinese now in Korea. Even with the battle and the reports from the incoming Chinese prisoners, General MacArthur didn’t take it seriously. The 8th Cavalry Regiment moved north from Pyongyang to relieve the 11th and 12th ROK regiments at Unsan. Once the whole unit was in the area, the relief in place of the ROK’s began. On November 1st as the relief began to take place, small firefights began to break out between the Allied defenders and the Chinese forces. As the day progressed, the small firefights began to escalate to a large fight all along the Allied lines. After dark and as the threat from the Chinese began to be overhwhelming, it was decided for the 8th Cavalry to withdraw closer to the village of Unsan to better defend it. As they withdrew, the forces that attempted to enter the village were fired upon by Chinese troops that had already entered behind the lines. As the ROK and American units withdraw, thus giving up their defensive positions, the Chinese utilized these positions to put more pressure on the withdrawing force. The next morning, 2 November, the Main Supply Route (MSR) that was the focus of the withdraw was held by and under fire from the Chinese. The 8th Cavalry vehicles were ordered destroyed and men made the decision to escape to the surrounding hills. By noon the survivors of the battle consolidated at Ipsok. The battle was the first contact between American forces and the Communist Chinese Forces and resulted in the 8th Cavalry being rendered ineffective. The overwhelming numbers of Chinese crushed the defense at Unsan, and was a prelude to a much larger attack yet to come.
3-7 November 1950
Moving ever northward, lead companies of the 7th Marine Regiment encounter not North Korean soldiers but Communist Chinese Forces (CCF) for the first time. These Chinese forces were part of the Chinese First Phase offensive. Approaching a hill on 2 November the Marines of Dog Company encountered Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers fleeing south, and pointing back from where they came yelling Chinese! Chinese! Dog Company assaulted the highest and nearest hill in an attempt to secure high ground, under fire from heavy machine guns. After some fierce fighting with this new enemy, the 7th Marine held their objectives north of Sudong, and dug in in anticipation of a counterattack on the evening of 3 November. That attack came in the early morning hours of 4 November, and forced the Marines to withdraw partially, but the combined air and artillery support drove off the attackers. By 7 November the battle was over, and the estimated casualties for the CCF was 3,000. The POWs that the Marines captured during the battle and after revealed that the Marines with their effective use of combined arms had decimated the 124th Chinese division, to the point that they would not recover until spring of 1951. This was to be the only defeat the CCF would suffer in their First Phase assault.
8 November 1950
Given the contact the Allies began having with Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) in their drive to the Yalu, General MacArthur ordered an all out bombing campaign against the bridges across the Yalu River that led to Manchuria. This was to isolate the battlefield and supposedly stop the flow of Chinese forces into North Korea. However, 150,000 of these forces were already in North Korea by this time, hiding among the rugged mountainous terrain. The slow moving B-29’s were hampered by not being allowed to enter Manchurian airspace, and also by attacks from the new MiG-15 fighter jets slowed the progress of destroying the bridges. By the end of the month they cut four of the bridges but the Yalu was frozen over by then, and the Chinese were building pontoon bridges too. The effort was halted by 5 December.
“The tension from these little forays whittled us pretty keen . . . . I think if one’s own mother had suddenly leapt out in front of us she would have been cut down immediately, and we all would probably have cheered with the break in tension.” – PFC. Morgan Brainard, 1st Marines describing the tension he and his fellow Marines felt fighting house to house in Seoul.
After the success of the Incheon landing and the capture of the Kimpo Airfield, the stage was set for the UN to drive on to it’s final objective in Operation Chromite; the liberation of the South Korean Capital of Seoul.
Crossing the Han.
On 20 September 1950, the 1st Marine Division began crossing the Han River, intent on securing the high ground beyond the river, dubbed Hill 125. The North Koreans held the hill, and were determined to make the crossing of the Han difficult. The 1st Marine Division undertook the crossing of the Han as if it was an amphibious operation. The Marine Corps had spent the Second World War conducting such operations against numerous Japanese held islands in the Pacific. With supporting arms from both field artillery units on their side of the river and Marine Corps aircraft overhead, the Marines pounded the far side of the river, to include Hill 125. While this went on, the first Landing Vehicle Tanks (LVT’s) began crossing the Han.
The North Koreans on Hill 125 opened up on the first assault wave. When company I of the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines landed on the far shore, the North Koreans shifted their fire to them. This let up pressure so the follow on waves of the battalion could cross easier. Company I pushed up the hill, securing it with the support of Marine Corsairs overhead dropping bombs on the North Korean Battalion ordered to hold the hill. Once Company I took possession of the hill, the rest of the Battalion crossed with extreme ease.
With the crossing of the Han secured, the American and South Korean forces thought the drive to the outskirts of Seoul would be easy. While the Marines crossed the Han on the 20th, the North Korean high command sent the 78th Independent Infantry Regiment and the 25th North Korean People’s Army Brigade to Seoul to defend it and the surrounding area. The total force numbered around 5,000 NKPA troops.
With the Han crossing complete, what followed was three days of tough fighting in the ridges that led to Seoul. The NKPA put up a stubborn resistance, however the combination of American air superiority and the Marines’ use of infantry/tank tactics ground on to the outskirts of Seoul itself.
Fighting in Seoul.
The estimated 20,000 NKPA troops in Seoul, along with their civilian sympathisers, had built barricades and other defenses throughout Seoul to make it a difficult nut for the X Corps to crack. Colonel Chesty Puller had told a correspondent that he imagined the North Koreans would defend Seoul in a way that would require the X Corps to end up destroying the city. His ominous prediction would prove too true.
Fighting in a city is a scary undertaking for those tasked with it. Most assaults are designed to put the enemy in front of you, and your combined arms fix the enemy in that position while you flank and destroy them. In an urban setting, the enemy can be all around you. The buildings provide concealed, elevated positions from which snipers can fire on you. The tight streets, sewer systems, and narrow alleyways can provide the enemy plenty of escape routes, only to pop up somewhere else and try to kill you. Tanks, the tool of modern warfare, are limited in their effectiveness. Their mobility is restricted to streets, which are surrounded by buildings, a number of which can house an enemy soldier with an antitank weapon. Unless you do not care about civilian casualties, blasting these buildings down with tank or aircraft is not an option. So each building has to be cleared by infantry, and anyone who has had to clear a building that potentially is housing enemy soldiers, can tell you it is a frightening experience. Today, the military has what is called Military Operations on Urban Terrain or M.O.U.T training to prepare them for the challenges of urban warfare. They did not have this in 1950.
During World War Two the Marine Corps had a few examples of fighting in urban areas on Saipan and Okinawa, but those urban areas on those islands were nowhere near on the same scale as the South Korean Capital of Seoul.
The X Corps, the combined unit of the 1st Marine Division and the Army’s 7th Infantry Division that landed at Incheon, launched it’s assault into Seoul on the morning of 25 September 1950. The success of the assaults was measured by yards, with the two lead battalions of the 1st Marine Division only advancing 2,000 yards that first day. The Marines, who are designed for rapid amphibious assaults, found a new challenge in their current war; assaulting a large urban area.
In the coming days, the soldiers and Marines of the X Corps, along with their South Korean allies, fought block by block, house to house, and even hand to hand against the North Koreans in Seoul. Every block of the city was heavily contested, every barricade had to be destroyed or maneuvered around. When ground was gained, the North Koreans would counter attack to try and retake it. By the 27th of September, Allied forces had captured the French Embassy and raised the American flag over it. Additionally, they captured the Soviet embassy, took down the Soviet flag and raised the American flag over it. MacArthur declared the city secured on the 27th, however sporadic fighting continued within the city until the 29th.
Following the success of Operation Chromite and the 8th Army’s breakout of Pusan, the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) was retreating to their side of the 38th Parallel. President Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave General MacArthur authorization the cross the 38th Parallel in pursuit of the NKPA. Beyond this authorization, there was no demarcation as to where MacArthur was to stop. MacArthur had every intention of moving right up to the Yalu River, the border between the Communist Chinese territory of Manchuria and North Korea.
The Chinese, intending to keep a communist buffer with the democratic south by the way of North Korea, began to secretly amass troops in Manchuria with the intention of intervening if the UN forces got too close to Manchuria. Ever the warrior, MacArthur intended to annihilate the NKPA, and even call China’s bluff, by driving right up to the Yalu. On 1 October the Republic of Korea (ROK) I Corps crossed the 38th Parallel, three months after the North Koreans had smashed their way south and five days later the ROK II Corp crossed as well.
On 9 October the US Eighth Army crossed, marking the first American forces to enter North Korea. The scope of the war had changed, and as the weather cooled and as the Korean Peninsula headed into fall, a shifting tide in the war was felt by those who were there. Time would tell how far American forces would go into North Korea, and what the consequences would be for such an action.
Alexander, Joseph H. (Colonel USMC, Ret.) Battle of the Barricades. U.S. Marines in the Recapture of Seoul. Marine Corp Historical Center. Korean War Commemorative Series.
“As American forces were on the brink of being driven from South Korea by the invasion of the North Korean army, General MacArthur ordered an amphibious landing deep behind enemy lines. This reversed the Korean War virtually overnight.” James Mattis, from his book Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead.
The month of August was a tough one for the Allies encircled with their back to the sea around the port city of Pusan. Twice the North Korean People’s Army had penetrated the Pusan Perimeter at the Naktong River, and luckily for the Allies they weren’t able to meet their goal of destroying the defenders. While the defense of Pusan raged and the Allies lived on the brink of being shoved into the sea, Far East Commander Douglas MacArthur came up with a bold strategy to turn the tide of the war. His strategy, which was deemed reckless and impossible by other senior ranking officers, would land an amphibious invasion force behind North Korean lines at the port city of Incheon. His plan would put the invasion force close to the occupied South Korean capitol of Seoul, and would also sever the extremely stretched North Korean supply lines.
What made the invasion seem reckless was the natural defenses of the Incheon beaches, which were basically rock-faced sea walls. Additionally, the tides at Incheon were extreme; rising and falling an average of 20 feet. This would mean that any initial force would be stranded and have to hold their position for hours until the evening tide came back in, allowing more ships to disembark reinforcements. MacArthur argued that this is why it was the best option for the assault; the North Koreans would not expect an attack there, when there were better options for the Allies elsewhere.
There were three main objectives for Operation Chromite, as the invasion was called. First, securing the fortified island of Wolmi-do before securing the beach at Incheon. Then seizing the Kimpo airfield south of Seoul, then the capture of Seoul itself. In addition to his landings, the Eighth Army, which was holding its defense at Pusan, would simultaneously launch an offensive, giving the North Koreans no other option but to retreat.
Starting on 13 September, two days of heavy bombardment on Wolmi-do island and Incheon proper prepped the area for the invasion force on the 15th. The 5th Marine Regiment assaulted Wolmi-do island at 0630 on the morning of the 15th. They met little resistance as they secured the island up to the causeway, partly due to the intensity of the naval and air bombardment, and also due to the element of surprise and misinformation from the Americans. The Marines secured the island by noon, and were forced to wait until late afternoon for the other elements to assault their objectives due to the receding tides. However, Allied air superiority for the surrounding 25 miles kept any chance of North Korean reinforcement from happening.
The 1st Marines assaulted Red Beach at 5:33 p.m and secured the hill overlooking the beach 22 minutes later after a brutal but brief firefight. The landing force that assaulted the third beach, code named Blue Beach, hit at 5:22 pm, and this force took its objectives by 1:30 am on the 16th. By 7:30 am on the 16th, the entire landing force had made contact with each other, and secured a solid line around the city of Incheon itself, sealing the fate of what was left for defenders in the city. The US Army 7th Infantry Division would follow on and relieve the elements of the 1st Marine Division.
By the evening of the 16th, the invasion force controlled the high ground east of Incheon and set a strong launching point for their next objective; taking the airfield at Kimpo. All told, the X Corp, which the unit was designated once the 1st Marine Division and the US Army 7th Infantry Division were all ashore, suffered 224 men killed and 809 wounded in both the landings at the beachhead as well as the fight in the city of Incheon itself. The North Korean People’s Army lost an estimated 1,350 men killed in action.
The Assault on Kimpo Airfield.
On 17 September 1950, the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment set out to secure the Kimpo Airfield. They secured the airfield, which was fortunately left intact by the fleeing North Koreans who did not have time to do damage to the runways and other infrastructure there. The North Koreans attempted a counter attack to retake the airfield that evening but they were repelled by the Marines.
The Incheon landing was a big gamble that paid off for General MacArthur and the Allies. With the Eighth Army breaking out of Pusan the North Korean high command had no choice but to begin to withdraw. Their supply lines had been cut by the invasion at Incheon, and they risked having their entire force crushed by both the X Corps and also the Eighth Army. The North Koreans fell back across the Han river and began to make preparations to hold the South Korean Capitol of Seoul. The X Corp began to advance to positions outside of Seoul starting on 18 September. While Incheon would be a quick victory for MacArthur, Seoul would prove to be a much tougher nut to crack. But that will have to wait until next time.
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.” – Mark Twain
The title of this blog is a bit misleading, especially to my friends and family who know my political views and how passionate I am when it comes to certain topics. Those who have been subjected to my rants, (whether they themselves caused them or a headline fired me up and they happened to be around me) will find the title of this blog and it’s content vastly different from what they would expect. Sorry in advance.
Revolutions have taken place in different countries throughout history for a variety of reasons. They can be social revolutions, vastly changing an aspect of society, to armed revolutions, changing a form of government through force. While they can differ in execution, the one constant behind every type of revolution is people being unhappy with the way things are, and seeking a way to change it.
The founding fathers of our nation took on the burden of a revolution against a world super power. Their grievances against the overreach and tyranny of the British Empire went unheard and ignored by those in power in England. The Colonials tried to find a way to remain British citizens but to ensure they got treatment as such, but when the King and Parliament ignored their requests, revolution was the only way forward. They were reluctant revolutionaries; they didn’t want to break away, but it came to a point that they had to act. A people can only go unheard and overlooked for so long before they decide they need to make a change.
In my opinion, that is where we are now in American society. 244 years after we decided we were not going to be ruled by a group of elites, we now have allowed a different group of elites to rule us once again. We the people have decided through our inaction that our futures and the future of our Republic are in the hands of career politicians who work only for two things; their own wealth, which with that wealth comes power; and the interest of the party that got them in their position of power.
American politicians during elections cycles will talk of how they know what’s best for their constituents and the country. They will play up what their role is, the voice of the people, stating their way is the way forward. They will state how hard they will fight the “other side” if given the opportunity to. This is the basis of where our political system in general and the country as a whole is right now; us versus them.
Two Parties to Rule Them All.
We have two parties that control what happens in the nation, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Let’s not pretend that the other political parties have any real influence. They are always at odds with each other; both sides will always state they are willing to “work across the aisle” with the other side when in reality the opposite is true. These two parties value nothing beyond what is best for their party, the donors to their party, and how best to maintain control in different political offices. If one party controls a majority of the House or Senate, and the opposite party holds the presidency, they continually block anything the president does, and that president will veto most anything the other party puts forth.
Further, if a member of a party is seen working with the “others” that member is ostracized, shunned and the power from the party pushes them out come the next election cycle. Even if that issue is what is best for the nation, party loyalty is valued above all else. One party can do something that the other says is wrong or ridiculous, only to see a similar issue arise and then the roles reversed and both sides now holding opposite views because of the actions of the other.
The best example I have of this is when Supreme Court Justice Scalia passed away in 2016. Then President Barack Obama planned to nominate a justice to fill the vacancy, which was met with resistance from the Republican Party. Their grievance was that it was an election year and Obama was on his way out having served his two terms. In their eyes the appointing of a justice by an outgoing president was wrong and they would not vote on such an appointment.
Fast forward to 2019 and Senator Mitch McConnel was asked if there was a vacancy in the Supreme Court in 2020 (an election year) would he have the Senate hold a vote on a nominee and he stated yes they would. Partisan politics at it’s finest.
Another example is what we currently have going on in America with the divisiveness. In 2014 a group of cattle ranchers that had grazing rights on Bureau of Land Management(BLM) land were threatened to have their cattle removed due to a change in grazing rules. I’m not going to go into the politics of this particular case, but what followed was an armed stand off with the ranchers and their supporters who took over federal buildings on this land and federal agents. Democratic politicians, to include Senator Harry Reid, called the ranchers and their supporters domestic terrorists, while Republican politicians like Nevada Senator Dean Heller called them Patriots and freedom fighters.
Now, following the tragic death of George Floyd on 25 May 2020, protests in various major cities have led to riots and violence, including the occupation of the now infamous Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle. Federal buildings, police precincts and other buildings have been destroyed or occupied by rioters. True to form, the support or admonishment of these acts fall along the partisan fault lines. Democratic leaders, including those who run the cities that these actions have taken place at, call them peaceful demonstrators who should just be left alone, while Republicans called them, you guessed it, domestic terrorists.
Death of Discourse by Social Media.
Our society’s dependence on social media is another reason why we seem so divided anymore. Click-bait articles and memes have replaced independent thought and critical analysis. Social media is where many on our society get their news from, which is an unfortunate circumstance. I say that because anyone can create and post anything on a social media platform and by and large a majority of people will not fact check it, or will rely on Facebook “fact checkers” to do it (give me a break).
We are an instant gratification society. If we can’t get the answer we want in the first few lines of an article posted online we move on. Hell I’m surprised you’ve made it this far in my blog. So now supporters of the parties can post a meme or headline to fire up their base, and it doesn’t even have to be true and people will share it. My favorite people (sarcasm) on social media do not put their own belief out there but will repost a meme without any context or not having fact checked it’s validity. This leads me to believe that social media is a propaganda tool for the two parties (and also as we discovered following the 2016 election, a useful tool for our enemies to fuel divisiveness).
We as a society place way too much validity on social media. We use it as a news source, we can block or unfriend anyone we don’t agree with and corner ourselves into echo chambers with like minded individuals and never have to hear a dissenting opinion. It is easy to then look at those we view as “the others” in a way that dehumanises them and validates that our way is the right and just way. The two political parties know the power of social media, and they use it to it’s full potential to ensure we are divided. Social media is a mental disease that our society has, and our political leaders are our enablers in ensuring we stay focused on using it.
The Poison of Career Politicians.
Probably the biggest issue in our political system is that we have a large number of what is termed “career politicians”. These are individuals who have served in office for decades, sometimes in the same position they started in all those years before.
When the Founding Fathers established our form of government, the central idea was that the leaders were elected by the people, to represent our interest. It was seen as public service; the idea being you go to Washington and serve a term, then return to your former life having done your service. This kept the representatives close to their electorate.
Today, we have officials who have been in politics for decades, who have long since forgotten what it is like to live as a private citizen. Many of those who currently serve graduated college and went straight into politics, not having a real job. It shows in their actions and how they speak.
The above individuals are just two examples of what is completely wrong with our system. Individuals serving for decades in a role that is supposed to be public service. They may enter the political arena with the best of intentions; but through the decades they have become the system they set out to join. These senior leaders in our system make the rules; they know how all the political games are played and thus have the control. This isn’t just an issue from the Democratic Party or the Republican Party; BOTH sides are infected with multiple examples of this.
Everyone looks to the president as to why the nation is in whatever condition it is at any given time. In reality, a person serving, in the best case scenario, two four year terms has little impact, whereas these career members of Congress hold the true power. They can choose to override a presidential veto on bills, they can fire up their base, and the only time the two sides work together is to vote on their own raises. Remember, WE the people elect them, yet they can decide how much of a raise they deserve. What other job can you hold where those that put you in your position have no say in your pay raise? They are supposed to answer to the electorate, yet once they have secured another term they go back to their partisan games at our expense. The only time they even acknowledge their constituents is during an election cycle.
Their positions were never intended to be decades long career posts. They have created an environment where they run the show, at our expense. The average member of Congress has a salary of $174,000 a year, and the House Majority and Minority leaders make $193,000.
While their salary is on paper that amount, their own personal net worth is exponentially more. Using the two examples above, Mitch McConnell’s net worth is $22.5 million, and Joe Biden’s is $11 million. Being in public office for such an extended time, combined with their net worth, makes them so far removed from what the life experience of the average American they claim they represent.
I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it; these careerists are at a point where they need to be reminded who they work for. They need to be made an example of by the people, reminded that their percieved power is limited by those who they are supposed to represent. Until that happens, our system will still be a cycle of corruption and severe partisanship.
Responsibility of the Electorate.
As much as I clearly loath career politicians, in the order of fairness they can not take all of the blame. Trust me it hurts to admit this, however it is true. The way this whole political system is supposed to work requires the electorate to be active participants in the process.
That doesn’t mean to just show up and vote and then we are off the hook until the next election. It means that we need to research candidates, understand their policies and then holding them accountable if they are fortunate enough to be our representative. If they act in a way that we don’t agree with, we the people should be contacting them and making our voices heard. If there is a piece of legislation that we support, we need to let them know that as our representative they should be representing our interest by voting for it.
In our current society, that is severely lacking, yet people always complain about the government and how it isn’t working for them. Well it’s not working for you because you don’t make your voice heard. Bottom line, we the people need to stop being lazy when it comes to deciding who is sent to represent us. Voting isn’t enough, holding them to their word, to what they said they would do if elected, is critically important.
Lastly, a big issue in how these careerists maintain power is people voting straight ticket. People go into voting booths and look for an R or a D next to a name and choose the person accordingly. This is a terrible way to exercise your right to vote. Knowing nothing about a candidate, yet you select them based on their party affiliation is why we are where we are in our system. It’s plain lazy and not how you make a functioning government. Bottom line, the electorate holds the power, and more importantly the responsibility in determining the path the nation goes down. For too long we the people have failed and taken the path of least resistance. Enough is enough.
A Call to Arms.
Every revolution has a call to arms, so here is mine. We need to remind the politicians running our country who they work for. It’s time to enact term limits on all politicians from the local to the federal level.
People want term limits, and honestly they are necessary. But you will NEVER get legislation requiring term limits passed by the current office holders. Guess what? We don’t need them to enact it. We the people vote, and yet somehow the same long time office holders continue to hold those positions. The electorate has the ability to enact term limits, whether those in power want them or not.
If you are disenfranchised by what has happened to our nation, if you feel change is strongly needed to fix the political situation in our country, then it is time to be part of the solution instead of continually contributing to the problem. Here is what I am doing and I urge all Americans to do the same; find out how long each candidate for office has been in politics, it’s as easy as a google search. Then, if they have been in office for ten years or more, vote them out. I don’t care if you like the individual or not. It is time to shake up the political system and show these career elitists that we the people have had enough of their bullshit. It is time to have the electorate take back the power that the founders intended. We can start now. We the people get the government we deserve. Think about that. Unhappy with the way things are? Well you put them there. Whether you voted straight ticket, for a name you recognized, or didn’t vote at all, your actions contributed to the current situation. How about we rectify it all and do the right thing. It’s time for a revolution.
“We are fighting a battle against time. There will be no more retreating, withdrawal or readjustment of the lines or any other term you choose. There is no line behind us to which we can retreat.…There will be no Dunkirk, there will be no Bataan. A retreat to Pusan would be one of the greatest butcheries in history. We must fight until the end.…We will fight as a team. If some of us must die, we will die fighting together.…I want everybody to understand we are going to hold this line. We are going to win.” – Lieutenant General Walton Walker’s order to the Eighth Army in defending Pusan 1 August 1950
Following Task Force Smith’s delaying action at the beginning of July, the American forces continually arrived in Korea piecemeal. This made any effort to fully stop the North Korean juggernaut futile. The 24th Infantry Division fought a tough battle in mid July near a town called Taejon which resulted in heavy losses and also forced them to fall back.
Continually losing ground to the North Korean forces, Lieutenant General Walton Walker, commanding general of the Eighth Army, ordered the Eighth Army to withdraw behind the Naktong River, and form a defensive perimeter around the vital port city of Pusan. Following attempts to drive into the perimeter around Pusan, the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA), having suffered losses up to this point, withdrew to rest, refit and prepare.
At the outset of hostilities the NKPA numbered around 90,000, a highly mobile mechanized force supported by armor. Fighting hard from 25 June until the beginning of August, NKPA losses were estimated at around 58,000 men plus a large number of their tanks. They began raising units from conscripted South Korean civilians to bolster their numbers. An estimate of what they had available to finish the job at Pusan was around 70,000 combat troops. General Douglas MacArthur, commander of all UN forces in Korea, boasted the UN numbers in Pusan to be 141,808, 47,000 of which were American. Additionally, US and Allied air power controlled the skies, providing support to the ground units.
General Walker’s order on 1 August 1950 was for the entire UN force to fall back behind the Naktong River and set up a defensive position to protect the port at Pusan. They were to hold at all costs, allowing the remainder of the UN forces to get to Korea. Victory in the eyes of the North Koreans was within their grasp; one more hard strike and they would drive the UN forces into the sea and the whole peninsula would be under communist control.
On the night of 5-6 August 1950 the North Koreans launched an offensive that penetrated the perimeter at the Naktong River on the western edge of the Perimeter. What would be called the first Battle of Naktong Bulge took place at a bend in the river that was difficult to defend for UN forces to defend. This penetration of the perimeter threatened to expand and ultimately drive the UN out of Korea, so every available man was sent to counterattack and drive the North Koreans out. By 7 August the Americans had secured the line and driven the North Korean 4th Division back across the river.
The Americans suffered 1500 casualties but they held the line. Multiple attacks by the North Koreans took place along the perimeter throughout the month of August and first part of September. Each time the North Koreans suffered heavy casualties and failed to destroy the UN force. In fact the North Korean 4th Division would be so battered that they would fail to be a fighting force for a year after Pusan. North Korea failed in their mission because instead of focusing all of their forces in one portion of the perimeter, they attempted to attack at multiple locations. The Americans were struggling to hold on, using World War Two era weapons, including ineffective bazookas to defend against modern Soviet armor used by the North Koreans.
The North Koreans knew that the longer the allies held out, the stronger they would become. Meanwhile, the NKPA was daily exhausting resources and men. For both sides it was a fight against time. For the UN it was the fact of holding on long enough for reinforcements to change the course of the war; for the North Koreans it was a matter to drive the UN off the peninsula before they could be strong enough to counter attack. As time went on, the tide of the war seemed to be favoring the UN As August turned into September, it wasn’t a matter of if the UN would counterattack, but when and where. Only the UN high command knew the answer to both of those questions.
As of this writing, the US House of Representatives is set to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act. This piece of legislation is very important to the future of America’s public lands and wild places.
This Act has two parts that would be a big win for conservation efforts in America. The first part is full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This fund generates $900 million ANNUALLY from revenue generated by oil and gas extraction in the Outer Continental Shelf. With it’s inception in 1964, the goal of the fund was to generate this money for protecting wild places, taking oil and gas from one environment and using those funds to protect other environments. However, every year Congress has to vote on where the money from the fund goes, and much of that money is diverted away from our natural resources.
With the Great American Outdoors Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be permanently and fully funded, providing a consistent revenue stream to protect our wild spaces. No longer will the money be diverted to other “pet projects” at the behest of those in power, the money will only go towards what it was intended for in the first place. 98% of the counties in the United States have benefited from this fund. Everything from major conservation areas to city parks and pools have received funding from the LWCF.
Another part of the Great American Outdoors Act is $9.5 billion in funding to address the maintenance backlog in the American National Park system. Our National Parks are the envy of the rest of the world. Yet they are all plagued by maintenance backlogs that as the years go by keep upping the cost as more and more maintenance goes by the wayside. The National Park System was designed to protect these areas, but this backlog on maintenance is doing the exact opposite. This money would provide the National Park System with the ability to get back on track protecting our treasured wild places.
All Americans benefit from the Great American Outdoors Act. We should all support what it is set to do, to ensure our wild animals and wild places do not disappear.
The vote from the House of Representatives is soon. I urge everyone to contact their Representative and tell them as their constituent they need to vote in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act. Not to vote present, but actually vote yes. Call the US House switchboard at (202) 224-3121. They will then direct you to your representative where you can tell them to vote yes on the Great American Outdoors Act. Make them earn their place as your elected official. We have our natural resources to lose if we don’t get the Great American Outdoors Act across the finish line.
“Advance at once upon landing with delaying force, in accordance with the situation, to the north by all possible means, contact enemy now advancing south from Seoul towards Suwo ˘n and delay his advance.” – Operations Order from Major General William F. Dean to Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith, commander of Task Force Smith.
The breakout of war on the Korean peninsula caught America and her allies by surprise. With all eyes of the world focused on Europe and the fear of Soviet tanks moving into Western Europe, Communist tanks and infantry invading their neighbor in a country no one had really heard of was unsettling.
American policy in regards to Communism became one of containment. When war broke out in Korea, with Communist North Korea threatening to take over the whole of the peninsula under their rule, the American policy faced it’s first major challenge. China had fallen to Mao’s Communist force the year prior, so another Asian nation falling in line with the Red Wave was not palatable. So once again, American forces would be sent overseas, this time however without a formal declaration of war.
The American military at this time was a shell of what it had been during the Second World War. President Truman and his advisors had been focused on the economy and ways to cut costs, which inevitably led to defense cuts. Based on his policy, spending was done domestically first, then whatever was left would go to defense. Cutting the military was done at a time that America was spreading it’s influence throughout the world as it took on its role of superpower following World War Two. In a brief to Truman in December of 1949, Defense Secretary Louis Johnson stated America had expanded it’s role in the world while failing to maintain it’s military might to enforce it’s new role.
The US Army at this time had been reduced to 677,000, far below the 900,000 that was authorized. As tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States continued to rise, the best and more modern equipment was sent to Europe to counter percieved Soviet aggression there. Anti-armor munitions and updated tanks were in Europe to defend against Soviet tanks rolling into Europe.
Following the North Korean invasion of South Korea, the UN voted to assist South Korea. President Harry Truman on 30 June 1950, as the situation in Korea continued to go badly for the Republic of Korea (ROK), ordered General of the Army Douglas MacArthur to send American ground troops to Korea. General MacArthur in turn directed Lieutenant General Walton Walker, commander of the Eighth Army stationed in Japan on occupation duty, to send the 24th Infantry Division to Korea. In turn, Lieutenant General Walker issued orders to 24th Infantry Division commander Major General William F Dean to ready his division for immediate response to Korea.
The major issue facing the 24th Infantry Division was the fact they had no Regimental Combat Team (RCT) ready for rapid deployment. Without also having enough aircraft in Japan to move such a force, the powers that be determined that they did not want to create an ad hoc force for such a task, as that would take more time than what General MacArthur called for.
Since the logistics of moving the whole division were lacking, the decision was made to send a small force to delay the North Koreans while the rest of the 24th Infantry Division sailed from Japan to Korea. Instead of sending a full regiment, the decision was made to send an understrength infantry battalion, 406 soldiers in all. This force would go forward without the tactical support of an actual RCT, to include no tank support. The commander for this force, Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Smith, was a veteran of the Pacific Campaign in World War Two. This force that would be the first Americans to make contact with the battle hardened North Koreans would be dubbed Task Force Smith after their commander.
Task Force Smith was not a full strength infantry battalion. It was made up of two understaffed infantry companies, Baker and Charlie, and also half of a Headquarters Company. In addition to these three understaffed companies they had half of a communication’s platoon, a 75 millimeter recoilless rifle platoon. This platoon was part of the anti-armor capability however they only had two of the weapons, when the organizational chart of the military said they were supposed to have four. They also had two 4.2 inch mortars, six World War Two aged 2.36 inch bazooka rockets, and four 60mm World War Two aged mortars.
Each man carried 120 rounds of ammunition for their rifles, which were either M-1 Garands, or M-1 Carbines. They were given two days worth of rations to sustain their fighting capabilities. Most of the men were young, with a fraction of the leadership having any combat experience.
General Dean was waiting for Lieutenant Colonel Smith at the launching point to give him verbal orders in person. Dean told Smith to move north from Pusan and stop the North Koreans as far from there as possible. He was to meet up with Brigadier General John Church who was the deputy commander of US Army Forces in Korea to develop a more detailed plan. Task Force Smith loaded up and headed to Korea.
On 1 July 1950 Task Force Smith arrived in Korea. They moved north and arrived in Taejon on 2 July, meeting up with Brigadier General Church, American and Republic of Korea (ROK) officers. There Church directed Smith to take up a position to support ROK forces at a point he indicated on a map. The thinking of Church and other senior leadership was that the mere sight of American forces, no matter how small, would inspire the ROK troops to stand and fight and discourage the numerically superior North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) forces. Never mind that the NKPA forces they faced numbered 5,000 strong supported by thirty-six T-34 tanks. These were two regiments of the NKPA’s 4th Division. They had just routed several ROK Divisions and taken another city. But for some reason Church didn’t mention this to Smith.
Smith moved north and selected a location north of the town of Osan that commanded the approach he expected the North Koreans to come from. He set his Task Force up and received support on 4 July in the way of a battery of six 105mm howitzers from the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion. It’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Miller Perry conferred with Lt. Colonel Smith on the best place to position his artillery. After arriving in Pusan on 2 July, the six guns and it’s crew had moved north as quickly as possible to link up with Task Force Smith with 1,200 rounds, including six high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. Smith and Perry inspected their location, and awaited the arrival of NKPA forces.
Contact with the NKPA.
Task Force Smith finished digging in and getting their defensive positions set around 3:00 in the morning on 5 July 1950. It rained during the night, so as the sun rose the men were dirty, tired and soaking wet. Lt. Colonel Smith told his men that they needed to hold for 24 hours and that help would arrive. Unfortunately for Task Force Smith, there was no plan to relieve them as the bulk of American forces were still enroute to Korea via ship. They were on their own.
Around 7:30 am eight NKPA T-34’s were spotted heading right towards Task Force Smith. When the tanks were within 4,000 yards Lieutenant Colonel Perry’s battery opened fire, and everyone watched as the rounds bounced off the armor of the tanks. Remember they had only six HEAT rounds meant for tanks, and those had been deployed with the forward most howitzer.
When the unaffected tanks were within 700 yards of Smith’s positions he ordered the recoilless rifles to open fire, and once again they failed to destroy the tanks despite several direct hits. Even the 2.36 inch bazookas got in on the action, however they also were no match for the tank armor. The more modern bazookas, the 3.5 inch, were deployed in Europe to face off with Soviet armor. An unfortunate oversight for Task Force Smith. Even when fired at point blank range of 15 yards the smaller rockets just didn’t pack the punch to destroy the tanks. A second lieutenant named Ollie Connor fired a remarkable 22 bazooka rounds at close range, without destroying a single tank. A scary sight to see these iron monsters absorb everything you threw at them.
The tanks began to return fire on the American positions, sending some men scurrying for cover. The two lead T-34’s were knocked out, likely from the HEAT rounds of the 105’s. The surviving tanks rolled on, with Perry’s gunners knocking out two more. By this time they had expended all their HEAT rounds, and return fire from a tank disabled one of the howitzers. The eight lead tanks were followed by twenty five others, approaching in intervals. The NKPA commanders must have assumed that the Americans were an advance force and not the main force, so they stayed buttoned up and pushed on through. This thrust had killed or wounded 20 Americans, including wounding Lt. Colonel Perry.
An hour later a six mile long column of NKPA troops, led by three tanks, appeared, clearly not having been warned of the American’s presence by the lead element. The total amount of troops was 5,000, clearly a numerically superior force to the American defenders. They remained mounted in the vehicles, victims of a lack of communication from the lead element. When they were within 1,000 yards, the entire American force opened up on them.
The three tanks closed the distance and fired on the American lines with their main guns and mounted machine guns. The enemy dismounted and engaged and a three hour battle ensued. The communication wires between TF Smith and the howitzers had been cut by the lead element of tanks, so the fighting was between TF Smith and the NKPA troops. While TF Smith inflicted heavy casualties on the North Koreans, eventually they were flanked and close to being surrounded.
Lt. Colonel Smith realized the best way to save his unit at this point was to withdraw before they were surrounded and wiped out. At first they withdrew in good order but withdrawing while in contact with the enemy is always dangerous. They were exposed now to enemy machine gun and mortar fire while in the open. The bulk of the casualties suffered during the Osan battle happened during the retreat that quickly developed into a route. Members of the Task Force left their weapons behind and ran. They even left behind two dozen wounded comrades. When the North Koreans came upon the wounded, they bound their hands and executed them.
The artillerymen disabled their guns before retreating, using their vehicles to make good on their escape. They picked up any infantrymen they encountered and made their way south. Many of the infantrymen had taken to the rice paddies and fields in their hasty retreat and if the North Koreans had chose to pursue them, they would have annihilated the entire force. Thankfully for them, the NKPA continued on their mission to capture Pyeongtaek.
Survivors of the Battle of Osan would straggle into the headquarters area for days after the battle. The losses suffered by Task Force Smith was 150 infantrymen and 31 artillerymen and officers killed or missing, a loss of 40 percent. Much speculation has been made as to the reasons why and who was to blame. What isn’t disputed is the fact that facing overwhelming odds, 10-1 to be exact, TF Smith inflicted casualties on a numerically superior force and delayed them for six hours. They accomplished this all by using less than adequate anti-tank weapons and no air support due to the weather. Despite their efforts, the NKPA drive south continued, driving ROK and now American forces ahead of them.
Seventy years ago, in the predawn hours of 25 June 1950, North Korea launched their invasion of South Korea. The attack started with a massive artillery barrage, followed by 100,000 North Korea People’s Army (NKPA) troops, backed by Soviet built T-34 tanks pushing across the 38th Parallel. North Korean leader Kim Il Sung sought and gained approval from Soviet leaders to invade the South back in January of 1950, in an effort to unite the peninsula under his communist regime.
During the establishment of South Korea in 1948, the North undertook a campaign aimed at inspiring communist uprisings south of the 38th Parallel in an effort to prevent a democratic South Korea from coming to fruition. Additionally they also conducted cross border guerrilla attacks aimed at keeping the South Koreans from effectively countering the uprisings. The North failed in this venture, because South Korea became a nation with Syngman Rhee as president in August 1948. While the North’s strategy failed in preventing a democratic South Korea, they succeeded in hampering the South’s ability to create a strong, well trained military. In the beginning of 1950, American advisors working with the South Koreans stated that less than half of the South Korean military units were ready for a war. It can be safely assumed that North Korea had this intelligence as well.
While the South Korean military was weakened and ill prepared for war, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung had been building and strengthening his military. The North Korean high command modeled their armed forces after the Soviet Union’s. Heavy emphasis was placed on mechanized and mobile forces, including the previously mentioned tanks. While the Soviets provided arms and armament to the North Koreans, the Chinese released Korean veterans from their People’s Liberation Army (PLA), following the recent victory of Mao’s Communists in the Chinese Civil War. These battle hardened Korean veterans made up the officer Corp of the North Korean military, whose experience gave them a decided edge over their southern counterparts.
Following the massive artillery barrage in the early morning hours of 25 June 1950, two North Korean Corps burst through the 38th Parallel. The NKPA I Corps pushed south on the west side of the peninsula, with the goal of capturing the South Korean capital of Seoul. The NKPA II Corps pushed south in the eastern sector of the peninsula following the east coast road. Backed by tanks, led by combat veterans from the Chinese Civil War, supplied and trained in the Soviet model, the 100,000 plus NKPA force smashed their South Korean adversaries. The Republic of Korea (ROK) forces of South Korea had little to no anti-armor support and few tanks. They put up as best of a defense as they could but they were no match for the force of the NKPA.
News reached the American government of the invasion in Korea, threatening the American policy of containment against the spread of Communism. President Truman went to the United Nations Security Council for help instead of a declaration of war, worried that time was of the essence in Korea. The United Nations sent a formal declaration insisting that the invasion halt. Truman also ordered General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the United States Far East Command based in Japan, to provide air cover and munitions for the ROK troops and also to evacuate American civilians from the peninsula. The American military at this time had seen drastic drawdown following World War Two. The Eighth Army was stationed in Japan, which made it the closest American force for potential involvement in Korea. That being said, they were underequipped and undermanned for what was coming. There will be more on that in an upcoming blog.
On 27 June 1950, US delegates at the United Nations pushed their counterparts to support a resolution to provide military assistance to the ROK. The resolution passed, which coincidentally took place while the Soviet Union, who has veto power, was boycotting the UN in protest of the UN not admitting Communist China as a member nation. President Truman announced that US air and Naval power would be sent to help stem the Communist tide in Korea. Congress approved and supported American military involvement in Korea along with most of the American public.
On 28 June the NKPA entered and captured Seoul, missing their goal of capturing Syngman Rhee’s government and destruction of the ROK army. The ROK troops, while out gunned and out manned, retired in good order and took up defensive positions south of the Han River. Also on the 28th, as the situation in Korea was rapidly deteriorating, the UN Security Council again met. This time they voted to approve UN use of force in Korea. The Soviet Union was still boycotting and thus didn’t use it’s veto power on such a measure. This last measure meant UN (and US) support for South Korea would go beyond just air support.
Given the amount of military draw down that took place following World War Two, the forces of the United States were woefully unprepared for such a conflict as was taking place in Korea. The active duty American military as a whole was far below it’s wartime manpower requirements. The same powerful American military that defeated two empires just five years prior were now low on manpower. On 30 June 1950 President Truman gained congressional approval for calling up the military reserves to supplement the depleted active duty units. Coinciding with this, president Truman agreed to give General Douglas MacArthur two divisions for use in Korea. The Nationalist Chinese offered to send troops to support the US effort in fighting the Communists in Korea, but presidential advisors spoke against that, citing that if Nationalists joined the fight in Korea, Mao would most certainly get involved. In just a few short days the Land of the Morning Calm erupted into full scale war which had the potential to bring the two main superpowers, the United States and Soviet Union on opposing sides. A war in a nation few had ever heard of seemed to be the spiraling towards a third world war.
Last year, my good buddy Ben and I applied and were drawn for spring turkey permits here in Illinois for a State Natural Area. We hunted it with no success for a few days, but the whole experience was an amazing time. Ben and I had lunch following the morning hunt of my last day available to hunt, and as I drove out of the parking lot of the restaurant we were at, I was already planning our trip this year. Ben hunted one day longer than me, without success, but the amount of walking we had done throughout our three days of hunting gave us the knowledge to try and hunt it again this year.
As luck would have it, we applied once again as a “party”, and once again drew the same SNA. So this spring we will be trekking through the woods looking for thunder chickens. As I impatiently wait for that weekend in April, I am reminded of how I even began this whole journey of public land turkey hunting.
In 2018 Ben and I applied for the first time for public land turkey permits. Ben had convinced me to apply to a few public hunting land areas he had deer hunted with other friends, since he knew the area. Well we applied but unfortunately Ben didn’t draw but I drew one for the Winston Tunnel State Natural Area. Now, we would have liked to have had hunted it together, but the parks are closed during the turkey seasons until 1pm to everyone except permitted hunters. So that meant he couldn’t go with me.
But Ben, a true good friend, offered to take me out there and show me around, to get a lay of the land and help me scout for turkeys. So at the end of March, we set out and spent the day wandering the woods. The terrain there was very hilly and wooded, and it definitely was going to be a challenge to hunt with gear on my back. But we looked around and came up with a game plan I could follow when I came out solo. We marked spots I could use for calling locations on my onX Hunt app on my phone, and even though we didn’t see any turkeys, we saw some sign that looked promising. The time between our scouting trek and my season was passed by me getting my gear organized, and most importantly, working on my calling. In our turkey hunts of the past, Ben did the calling. Well when I learned I had drawn a permit and would have to hunt solo, I got some diaphragm calls and began (much to my neighbors’ dismay) practicing all the time.
My first day to hunt had to be cancelled because my wife, who never gets sick, got sick. So I had to stay home with the boys so she could recover. My next available day found me driving the two hours west from my house early in the morning. Between the podcast I had playing and running through my plan in my head, the two hours flew by. There had been snow overnight, something I hadn’t thought would happen, but that’s what happens when you draw the first season. My anxiety level was a bit high, because I wondered if I was going to run into the other permitted hunter for the area. Your see, the quota for each season was two permitted hunters for that area. As I descended the big hill that at the bottom held the parking lot for the hunting area, I was unsure how exactly I would handle running into another hunter.
This was my first full on experience hunting public land, and from what I’ve learned in articles and on podcasts was that the interaction can be 50/50 at best. Some people can be abrasive, treating the land as if it was there’s alone, even though it belongs to everyone. My plan was that if someone else was in the parking lot getting ready, I would ask them what their plan was and where they were headed, and I would alter my strategy accordingly. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and from the scouting me and Ben did, I had a few spots picked out that would make adjusting possible. I didn’t want my first public land experience to be marked by confrontation.
As I reached the bottom of the hill and saw the reflective marker that marked the entrance to the parking lot, I turned in. My headlights hit an empty parking lot, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s not that I didn’t want to share this area, I was just glad to avoid the potential of conflict. I parked my truck, and noticed I had arrived a bit earlier than I had planned, and since no one else was here I was able to take my time getting ready. I took my camo face paint out, and applied it. I chose that route over a facemask because I am not a fan of using facemasks because I feel they can become a hassle. They obstruct my view and generally I don’t like using them.
Once I got my makeup on, I opened the door of my truck and stepped out. Remembering the lessons I had learned from my dad, who in his younger years was an avid turkey hunter, and from what I read and heard from podcasts about shock gobbling, I slammed my truck door. Now, shock gobbling is a term used to describe tom turkeys gobbling at any loud noise during the breeding season. The list of noises that can cause a shock gobble is endless, but one I witnessed in those hunts with my dad when I was young was the slamming of a vehicle door.
When my door slammed, it seemed the whole area around me came alive with gobbles. I was pleasantly surprised to hear it at all, given that it had snowed overnight. I thought that they would be silent, spending the night in the cold weather. Inspired by the shock gobbles, I opened my back driver’s side door and hurriedly got the rest of my gear ready. I uncased my shotgun, and, taking the box of turkey loads out of my pack, loaded three shells into it. I threw my pack over my back, grabbed the two decoys and slung them, and for good measure I slammed this door too. Once again the surrounding area came alive with gobbles. One of the locations that I could make out where gobbling was coming from was north of me, and it sounded near a spot I had marked on my onX app as a potential location. The plan Ben and I had developed from our scouting mission called for me to climb a large hill that held the old now defunct train tracks and call from there trying to locate some turkeys. But the gobblers I was hearing were north of that and since I could make out where I thought they were, I hoofed it to that spot. The snow on the ground made everything a bit more slick, but I made good time and snuck into place, the toms gobbling here and there during my 15 minute walk. I placed my two decoys about 20 yards in front of me, and sat against a tree.
I figured sitting on a hill adjacent to the hill the turkeys were making all their ruckus from was a good plan as I could see the surrounding area well. Plus, the snow would help me spot the turkeys better. The turkeys were gobbling on private property, and I was within 200 yards of the boundary between the public land and that private land. I sat there, listening to them gobble from their roost. My anticipation was high, as I expected with how vocal they were, they were surely looking for some companionship.
Well that anticipation soon dwindled, because I heard the toms fly down, and then followed their dwindling gobbles as they made their way along the ridge they were on and didn’t come towards me. Despite my plaintive calls, I caught a glimpse of the pair of toms once, on the same adjacent hill they gobbled from, following it to the east. They stopped gobbling after I saw them, so I climbed the hill I was on, trying to maybe head them off.
When I reached the other side of the hill I was sitting on, I gave up trying to cut them off. If I was to I climb down this hill, an even steeper snow covered hill still awaited me. There was no way I could beat them, and that was if they were even still headed that way. I hadn’t heard from them for a while, so they literally could have went anywhere. The rest of my time there that day was spent looking for turkeys all over the State Natural Area. I saw some tracks in the snow, and tried to follow them, calling here and there. But other than the birds chirping and crows calling, the only bird I didn’t hear was a tom turkey. When 1 o’clock came around, which is closing time for turkey hunting in Illinois, I headed to my truck. On the drive home I decided to head straight where I had set up that morning in a few days when I could get out next.
Two days later I was back in the parking lot, which once again it had snowed overnight. I got ready in a similar fashion as before, and when I slammed my truck door, all that met my ears was silence. Well this isn’t a good sign, I thought as I walked from my truck to the path. I trudged along the path in the freshly fallen snow, and came upon a bobcat track that had to have happened in the last three hours, since that’s when the snow had fallen.
I got set up back where I had been a few days before, this time working closer to the property boundary. My hope was that those same toms would be roosting in the same spot. I got my decoys set out, and backed myself into the base of a tree. I heard a few toms gobble from the roost, but nothing like the other morning.
Once the sun was fully up, I saw a turkey fly from the ridge across from me, headed right for me! My heart jumped thinking, damn it’s gonna land right on top of me! When it got close I could see it was a hen, which are off limits during the spring season. She landed up the hill behind me and looked at me and then made her way up and over the hill. I hoped that the toms saw where she went and decided to follow her.
Well, they didn’t. I sat for a few hours in this spot, and then began to wander around, exploring, looking and listening for turkeys. I would hear a random gobble here and there, and would head in that direction, but they seemed to always be sitting on private property. I hiked back up to finish my day on the train tracks, since it was a high spot I could call from and look around. I set up and called once, listened, then began walking down the tracks. I was checking the woods that dropped off each side of the tracks in that rough country, when a flurry of movement on the tracks ahead of me caught my eye. It was a turkey! It was running away from me at about 50 yards! I could have taken a shot, but with it’s back to me I couldn’t tell if it was a hen or a tom. I hid in the brush along the tracks and tried to call. I peeked out and the turkey was gone. So I walked ahead and tried to pick up it’s tracks in the snow. I found them, and tried to follow them, constantly looking ahead to see if I could find the bird.
But it was long gone. And it was getting close to closing time again. So I began walking back to the parking lot, calling every so often in the off chance I stumbled upon another turkey.
I got back to my truck, snapped some pictures of me with the park sign and my gear and loaded everything in the truck. While I didn’t bag a turkey, I had a great time in my two days I spent there. I got to enjoy our state public land, and had it all to myself. This experience is why Ben and I have now made it a tradition to hunt these lands in Jo Daviess County. Hopefully this year is the year that we will be successful, but it will be fun regardless, getting the chance to hunt Illinois public land.