JAMES H. DILL
Lieutenant Colonel | Field Artillery
With the colors of the United States flying over the southern part of Seoul on September 25, General Almond declared the city liberated despite the street fighting ensuing in the northern sectors where scattered pops and sputtering automatic bursts echoed softly. Shortly after midnight on the twenty-sixth, the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines was ordered to attack within two hours following a heavy precipitation of artillery. Enemy tanks rolled in at 0145, fifteen minutes before the attack was scheduled to jump off, and a heavy engagement followed.
Marine artillery fired so viciously that their gun barrels overheated and they began reach the end of their ammunition. Just one of the battalions fired off over 3700 rounds. It was likely the greatest concentration of firepower in the entire Korean campaign yet. They were forced to cease-fire before ruining their guns.
Lieutenant Dill observed the fight from the 1st Marine CP and concentrated on the radio chatter while he quietly watched the city burn, casting a glow that reflected in his warm, dark eyes faded into the surrounding hills. His attachment to the Marine regiment had officially ended the previous day, but he had chosen to stay with Colonel Puller’s command group overlooking the city. When the Marine guns went silent, Dill did not hesitate to pick up his handset and connect with his own 31st Field Artillery to request their support.
Since the 31st Field was supposed to be supporting the 32d Infantry fighting in the city, the new direction required that their guns be moved to new emplacements. Dill’s request for the major reassignment was passed up to the battalion commander.
“Who’s asking?” demanded the voice on the other end.
“General Almond, Sir,” he replied confidently. It was a bold lie, but Almond, who was present in the CP, had mentioned earlier that day how important the artillery support was.
The 31st commander took his word and redirected his 155mm guns, but against the blazing city, Dill could not see where the rounds were impacting.
“Send in some white phosphorous, I need some spotting rounds,” Dill ordered.
A few shells dropped in, billowed thick opaque clouds from where they struck, and Dill corrected accordingly to center on the NKPA attack. Once on target, the 31st Field threw in 360 rounds and broke the attack.
“I don’t know who in the hell you are, but thank God! Out!” Colonel Puller dropped the headset, extremely pleased with the support from the Army and young Lieutenant Dill’s assertive and innovative performance.
The next morning, General Almond spoke to Dill.
“That was some of the finest artillery shooting I have ever seen in my service.” He paused and then added, “And I’ve seen a lot of artillery.”
It was Colonel Puller’s compliments that struck Dill over the General’s, and his words stayed with him through his career as his proudest moment. Puller personally recommended Dill and his team for Bronze Stars, but to a young Lieutenant, hearing such words of admiration from a legend of the Corps who humbly confided in him during the Seoul campaign, his baptism by fire, was the greatest honor of all.