The 45th Infantry Division was ordered into active Federal Service on 1 September 1950 for service during the Korean Conflict. As in the 1940 mobilization, the 158th Field Artillery utilized the remaining time at home stations to enlist toward was strength and prepare for the overland movement to Camp Polk, Louisiana. Again, as in 1940, the slogan “Go With The Men You Know” was employed to increase our ranks, which proved successful a second time. The first task in this station was to make troops as comfortable as possible in a neglected Army Cantonment.
Fortunately, contractors were busily engaged in repairing the buildings and area. The Okies, from a semi-arid part of the country, never became fully acclimated to the humidity of the swampy, pine woods of the South, but were given little time to ponder over their discomforts. acquired men to function in the howitzer, communications, instrument, and motor sections of each battery. Thus, the battalion felt ready when word was received that the 45th Infantry Division was moving to FECOM, specifically, the island of Hokkaido, Japan.
The final days in Louisiana were devoted to loading and lashing material to flatcars and preparing motor vehicles for shipment to the port of New Orleans, and then into ships for overseas movement. The ship assigned to the 158th Field Artillery Battalion, the U.S.N.S. Gen. C. G. Morton, operated by the Military Sea Transport Service, moved down the Mississippi River during the last days of March, 1951.
Passage through the Panama Canal was an interesting experience to the Oklahoma land-lubbers. From there the convoy sailed up the coast to San Francisco to fill about 300 empty berths with replacements bound for Korea.
The battalion landed on May Day 1951, at Muroran, a seaport on the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido, and immediately moved by passenger train to our destination, Chitose. Chitose was a World War II Japanese airfield now operated by the U.S. Air Force as a base for surveillance of the sea and Sakhalin Island. The roar of these jets brought home to all one of the current missions of the division: the protection of the Japanese homeland from the Russians.
The Chitose camp was largely a tent city. Pyramidal and small wall tents lined the streets that had been bulldozed out of a wooded area. There were permanent buildings for headquarters, mess hall, supply rooms, latrines, and officers’ quarters, all having been formerly used by U.S. forces now doing battle in Korea. The first few days were spent in receiving equipment, establishing gun and motor parks, and policing the area. The warm weather encouraged the planting of flowers and performing simple landscaping to give the camp an appealing appearance.
Maps of the island were issued. They were Japanese made with Transliteration into English. Study of these maps began at once to gain knowledge of the area for which the division had responsibility. “Terrain rides” were conducted, following the maps to reconnoiter routes and possible howitzer positions and observation posts. Later a Japanese reservation near the little town of Eniwa became the camp and training ground for the 179th RCT, of which the 158th Field Artillery Battalion was a part. An artillery range and maneuver area was established where artillery battalions of the division underwent Battalion Tests devised and conducted by the Regular Army, assisted by personnel of 45th Division Artillery Headquarters. Service practice was conducted in this area.
Subsequent to the tests, the battalion entered into a period of combined arms training., This was followed by exercises in combat loading onto LST’s and performing a mock ship-to-shore landing on the coast of Hokkaido. Later, the battalion engaged in practice loading of personnel and equipment into C-130’s, Air Force troop and cargo carriers.
Following this training, the 158th Field Artillery Battalion traded places with elements of the division that occupied Camp Crawford, the U.S. Military installation near Hokkaid’s capital city, Sapporo. Here, the battalion tasted the luxury of living and working in weathertight masonry buildings. Garrison life was a rich reward after enduring the boondocks! Emphasis was on combined training.
During August 1951, commanders of organizations of the division were flown to Korea and assigned to a liked organization of the 1st Cavalry Division to become acquainted with the terrain, the tactical situation, and characteristics of the enemy. The 158th Battalion Commander, LTC Charles W. Cleverdon, returned to the battalion convinced of the need to school the howitzer and fire direction crews in the application of high angle fire because of the steepness and height of the mask behind which the guns would be placed. This training was to serve in good stead sooner than was thought.
During November snow came. To an outfit in which Okies predominated, waist deep snow was a novelty, but not an endearing one. At about this time the 158th Field Artillery Battalion was alerted to cross the Ishikiri plain to the mountains northwest of Sapporo and learn the art of cross-country skiing. Elation at this prospect was short-lived. The training was not to be because orders were received for the division to replace the 1st Cavalry Division on the line in Korea.
In this replacement another new experience was presented the division. All organizational equipment was to be left in place on Hokkaido and the 45th Infantry Division was to accept the 1st Cavalry Division’s equipment in place in Korea. Individual arms and clothing were excepted.
The battalion departed Camp Crawford 3 December 1951 by passenger train to the port, thence by water to Pusan, Korea. Another passenger train ride took the Battalion to Tagwan-Ni, Korea, the railhead and rear echelon of the 45th Infantry Division. Arrival was at night and the temperature was a minus 17 degrees F. Guides from a quartering party led soldiers to vehicles that took them to the positions of the light artillery battalion that the battalion was to replace. Inspection of material and equipment began that day. Housekeeping details, taking over the departing battalion’s equipment, moving into firing positions, establishing a CP, creating shelters for gun crews and other sections and rearranging kitchens took several days. Once the 179th Infantry Regiment was in place, 158th Field Artillery Battalion forward observers took up positions in the front lines and registered out batteries in preparation for direct fire support of the RCT. It was three days before Christmas that the 158th Field Artillery Battalion shot the first round of artillery fire of the 45th Infantry Division into North Korean lines.
Those of the battalion who had served in Europe discovered another kind of war against the Communist Forces in Korea. United Nations Forces were restricted to small unit probes, ambushes and contact patrols, all of which frequently resulted in hand-to-hand combat. The 179th used the 158th Field Artillery Battalion to mark the route of their patrols by firing single rounds at predetermined ranges and intervals during the progress of a patrol. In other instances, in direct support of the regiment’s combat, the 158th fired thousands of rounds at rates unheard of in Europe. In support of the 179th at Mundung-Ni Valley, near Heartbreak Ridge, the battalion fired between four and five thousand rounds in support of the action. The 20th ROK Division, on the left flank of the 45th, was the object of repeated attacks by Communist Forces during the month of June 1952. In support of the ROK Division, the 158th fired a total of 15,373 rounds.
At an early stage of service in Korea, during the Spring of 1952, a novel tactic of artillery fire was attempted. Enemy artillery and mortar fire would be murderous at times, particularly in preparation for an enemy attack. It was noted by forward observers and those manning infantry outposts that by the time our counterbattery fire was undertaken, the enemy would have displaced to a covered position. The battalion was ordered to find a location where one howitzer could be emplaced on a promontory from which instant direct fire could be pored on the offending position. Such a site was located. Two 6×6 prime movers were required to tow the howitzer to the top of a steep, wooded and rocky hill. The effectiveness of the piece when placed in action was marginal but the effect on the trucks was devastating.
The battalion was never placed in reserve, in accordance with long-standing principles on the employment of artillery. Instead, it was given a role of reinforcing the fires of another artillery unit or placed in direct support of another infantry organization when the 179th Infantry Regiment was placed in reserve. One such occasion took place 11 days before the cessation of hostilities. The battalion was assigned to direct support the 5th Infantry Regiment, which required a move of the battalion to Pleasant Valley, short of the main battle position. Here it fired its last round at 2141 hours or 19 minutes before the official end of hostilities.
During the Spring of 1952 rotation back to the States for demobilization was commenced for those Guardsmen of all ranks and grades who had not indicated a desire to remain in the Regular Army. The movement was administered on a point system similar to the one adopted during World War II so as to control the exodus to temper the depletion of trained personnel. But the numbers of replacements necessitated the establishment of training courses to retain the effectiveness of the division. Almost all of the Guardsmen had left for home by midsummer of 1952.
KOREAN CASUALTY LIST
2LT CHARLES LAWRENCE WARNER…………………………..15 June 1952
SGT RICHARD LESTER MANSFIELD……………………………2 July 1952
PFC JACK HAGOP TAKTAKIAN…………………………………….3 August 1952
PFC MARTIN SAMUEL ESKIN………………………………………25 August 1952
1LT EARLE S. DOWNES………………………………………………..26 March 1953