ROBERT A. WHITE
Command Sergeant Major | Infantry
The first combat for the 29th Infantry in Korea came on July 28, just four days after they arrived in country. They had not had any of the training promised to them, having passed right through Japan on to Pusan and trucked 85 miles west to Hamyang. Packing for the trip was full of turmoil and confusion. Tropical pith helmets were among the questionable items tossed in for the journey. Other necessary supplies were either omitted or not available, and the lack of training continued to be a foreboding thought for many men. Most of the soldiers had never been in combat. Bob was one of two in his platoon, the other experienced soldier being Lieutenant Griffen, the platoon leader.
On the afternoon of July 27, the 29th Infantry began to settle into positions taken over from the 19th Infantry in the Sanggun-iang area. The 19th took their artillery battery with them, leaving the 29th with no artillery, no armor, and no Tactical Air Control Party. Still, higher headquarters referred to the understrength unit as a Regimental Combat Team despite their lack of support. The biggest weapons they had were in the 4.2” mortar platoon equipped with only 22 rounds of white phosphorous. Their misfortune seemed to compile after hearing about the mysterious disappearance of B Company at Anui and the decimation of the entire 3d Battalion on July 26. The latter would not be an effective fighting unit until mid-August and it took several days to determine the fate of B Company. That left the defense of Hamyang to the two remaining line companies in the 1st Battalion. In keeping with their motto, A Company was “Always Available and Able.”
Throughout the night of July 27, A Company held off several attacks from the North Koreans in the first non-loss defense since the start of the war. The attackers were of the 4th NK Division, the same unit that crossed the border a month before on June 25 and steamrolled across the country through ROK and American units. It was a defense of miraculous odds considering the experience and strength of their adversaries. If they continued to hold, however, they would not survive. Colonel Wilson ordered a withdrawal for the night of July 28 and the battalion marched seven miles to reach an area near Oso-ri and again the next day to Sanch’ong. With reinforcement from local police, A Company was then responsible to hold this line at Sanch’ong while the rest of the battalion moved toward Chinju.
During this period, the 29th Infantry received no supplies from Army headquarters or the 24th Division to which they were attached. They struggled to conserve ammo and procure food from local sources. The days were sweltering and the heat alone was exhausting. The air was dry and the earth dusty, choking everyone on the long marches. With only a few days on the line, Bob was already weary and soiled. It had been five years since he had been in combat, but he was quick to remember the feelings surrounding the experience. He could already tell that this was a very different kind of war and could not help but agree with the others when they questioned if they would ever make it out alive.
Staff Sergeant White receives the Silver Star medal in April 1945 with F Co., 399th Inf.
First Sergeant White years later in Vietnam with the 14th Field Artillery.