Men new from the States were often soft

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

At Bloody Ridge, a new pattern of Korean warfare emerged, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War) — one that resembled the Western Front in World War I:

They needed flamethrowers to reduce the deep enemy bunkers, and they didn’t have them. Worse, few if any men knew how to use them. Boatner set up a school in the use of the flamethrower, and ran men through, quickly. Now, deep in hitherto safe bunkers, soldiers of the Inmun Gun died shrieking in searing flame, as American infantrymen crawled close under fire and sprayed them with newly issued weapons.

Replacements were wandering up to engaged units, and getting killed the first hour, before they could report in. Boatner ordered replacements to be kept in the replacement company at least one day, and to have five or six days’ special training before being sent into combat. Men new from the States were often soft. They were to get conditioning exercises, and it was mandatory that they zero their weapons.


“Let there be no question: it will be tough. You had better do what your N.C.O.’s tell you, if you want to stay alive. And remember three things: when you’re on the hill, if you stand up you’ll get your ass shot off; if you get off the paths, or roam, you’ll get your ass blown off by mines; and when you take a hill, you’ll be tired as hell, you’ll want to poop out, slap your buddies on the back, and take it easy — but remember, as soon as you take a hill, just as water comes out of a spigot, the mortars come in on you, and blooey! — it’s too goddam late then!”

Wood can easily be turned transparent to make energy-saving windows

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

Apparently wood can easily be turned transparent to make energy-saving windows:

The standard process for making wood transparent typically involves soaking the wood in a vat of sodium chlorite — a chemical compound used in some bleaches and toothpastes — to remove a structural component of the wood called lignin. However, this takes a lot of chemicals, produces liquid waste that is tough to recycle and can weaken the wood.

Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland and his colleagues came up with a method that modifies the lignin instead of removing it completely. It is quicker and uses fewer materials than the standard lignin-removal process, and also leaves the wood stronger.

The researchers’ method stems from the recent discovery that lignin can be made transparent by removing only the parts of its molecules that give them their colour. They brushed hydrogen peroxide, which is often used as a disinfectant, over the surface of the wood and then left it under a UV lamp designed to simulate natural sunlight. After soaking the wood in ethanol to remove any remaining gunk, they filled the pores in the wood with clear epoxy, a step that is also part of making lignin-free transparent wood.

The final product is a piece of wood that allows more than 90 per cent of light to pass through it and is more than 50 times stronger than transparent wood with the lignin completely removed. “The transparent wood is lighter and stronger than glass. It could be used for load-bearing windows and roofs,” says Hu. “It can be potentially used to make a see-through house.”

What neither Korea nor America could furnish was leadership

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Washington had authorized MacArthur to arm and train hundreds of thousands more ROKs, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

Men — tough, patient, hill-padding Korean peasants — there were in plenty. Surplus weapons from the big war, food, and money to pay them, America could easily furnish.

What neither Korea nor America could furnish was leadership.


The politicians in primitive societies want no generals they cannot trust. They prefer a politically reliable man at the head of a division to a competent one who may happen to belong to the wrong family or team.


Frequently when the transport of a ROK division was vitally needed to haul ammunition at the front, the trucks were back in the interior carrying firewood for soldiers’ dependents, or on private hire to build the divisional welfare fund. Gasoline disappeared regularly into the civilian economy.

KMAG fought a losing battle against five thousand years of Oriental custom. Most of them, it must be admitted, developed a frustrated respect for the Chinese Reds who overnight destroyed the “silver bullets” tradition of the Chinese Army — the old situation when Chinese generals fought not with bullets of lead, but silver, meaning they could be bought — and who delivered supplies from Canton to Mukden, and from Mukden to Korea without pilfering, tampering, or diversion to private use according to sacred custom. But the Chinese Communists, puritan like all human revolutionists, had means not available to KMAG.

In the CCF it was very easy to have a man shot.

This tokamak produces magnetic bubbles called plasmoids that move at around 20 kilometers per second

Sunday, February 14th, 2021

A new type of rocket thruster proposed by a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) would apply magnetic fields to propel plasma:

The new concept would accelerate the particles using magnetic reconnection, a process found throughout the universe, including the surface of the sun, in which magnetic field lines converge, suddenly separate, and then join together again, producing lots of energy. Reconnection also occurs inside doughnut-shaped fusion devices known as tokamaks.

“I’ve been cooking this concept for a while,” said PPPL Principal Research Physicist Fatima Ebrahimi, the concept’s inventor and author of a paper detailing the idea in the Journal of Plasma Physics. “I had the idea in 2017 while sitting on a deck and thinking about the similarities between a car’s exhaust and the high-velocity exhaust particles created by PPPL’s National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX),” the forerunner of the laboratory’s present flagship fusion facility. “During its operation, this tokamak produces magnetic bubbles called plasmoids that move at around 20 kilometers per second, which seemed to me a lot like thrust.”


Current plasma thrusters that use electric fields to propel the particles can only produce low specific impulse, or speed. But computer simulations performed on PPPL computers and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, showed that the new plasma thruster concept can generate exhaust with velocities of hundreds of kilometers per second, 10 times faster than those of other thrusters.

(Hat tip to Jon Jeckell.)

In the Communist armies there was no rotation

Saturday, February 13th, 2021

By the summer of 1951, the American Army had changed, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), as battle-hardened troops rotated out, and green troops replaced them:

The CCF and the Inmun Gun had changed, too.

The cream of the Communist armies had been destroyed, from the Naktong to the Imjin, and from the Imjin to the Soyang.

Replacements coming down the mountains were recent inductees, impressed from rice field and village, untrained, in some cases unarmed and badly clothed.

But though they might not be expert at war, these men were used to hard work and hardship all their young lives. Their leaders set them to work, digging. From the Sea of Japan, on the east, to the Yellow Sea on the west, they burrowed into the earth. They entered mountains from the rear slope, tunneling through to make gun positions opening on the front. They dug bunkers in which a company could safely and warmly bivouac. They dug so deeply into the earth that no conventional gun or cannon could reach them.

They dug bunkers and trenches and firing steps.

And when they had dug these, they went backward and dug a new defensive line, and one beyond that, stretching into the north. They dug a line such as the world had never seen — ten times the depth of any in World War I.

They dug positions that could — and might have to, their leaders reasoned — stand against nuclear explosion.

With their mountains, hollowed out, the training of the new CCF and Inmun Gun could begin. They were taught all the tricks the older men had learned: to move and attack by night, when the terrible American air was impotent; not to rush down valleys, as the CCF had learned to its sorrow on the Imjin and across the Soyang, but again to become phantoms, lurking in the hills, never letting the enemy see them until they chose.

They learned to use their bright new weapons, carried laboriously down from the Yalu, and to load, aim, and fire the huge numbers of cannon with Cyrillic inscriptions on their tubes, now coming into Korea for the first time.

They were sent on patrol, to learn to move quietly and effectively, and to learn the taste of blood.

Over the months, beginning in the summer of 1951, the tough, squat peasant boys from China and Korea learned well.

In the Communist armies there was no rotation.

People may have extra cash to burn on big trips, fancy cocktails and Broadway shows

Friday, February 12th, 2021

Executives in industries devastated by COVID-19 clearly want investors to believe that they’re on the verge of a roaring comeback:

And some evidence suggests they may be right. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the national savings rate has jumped during the pandemic, so people may have extra cash to burn on big trips, fancy cocktails and Broadway shows. And, man, do people miss going out.

According to a recent survey by the Harris Poll, 71% of Americans say they miss socializing in restaurants and bars, 61% say they miss shopping in stores and 52% say they miss movie theaters. Growing percentages of people say they’re planning on splurging on vacations, clothes, cars and sporting events when things return to normal. Fifty-nine percent say they would take a COVID-19 vaccine in order to fly again. After news broke that COVID-19 vaccines work, stocks for airlines, cruise lines and other industries that rely on being face-to-face surged.

Places that have gotten the virus under control have already seen some impressive rebounds in travel and leisure. For example, in China, domestic airline travel came roaring back after the country ended its shutdowns. When Shanghai Disneyland reopened, tickets sold out in minutes.

The kind of lessons troops needed to fight this kind of war could be learned only in Korea

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

R&R was only a stopgap measure, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), and soon there rose talk of Big R, rotation out of Korea and back to the United States:

A point system was set up. It took thirty-six points to rotate.


The point system had great merits — and great disadvantages. No man liked to risk his neck — and thirty points. The handling of high-point men was a continuing problem of commanders from this time on.

Some men, with enough points, did not rotate. James Mount, who had come to Korea a corporal, was made second lieutenant in the medical service. The promotion delayed him till November.

One colonel, who had had long and arduous service since the beginning, was ready to leave. On the eve of his departure he received his brigadier’s single star. He felt it a crowning accomplishment to his service in Korea — until he was informed that as a general officer he was on a new rotation list; he was now the general officer with the least overseas service in the Far East. Dedicated man that he was, the new brigadier’s remarks were pungent and heartfelt.

After the beginning of truce talks, the primary interest of every man in Korea was going home. It could hardly have been otherwise.

And with rotation, the complexion of the Army changed. Now the men and officers coming in were largely reservists, National Guardsmen, draftees. The percentage of regulars in most line units sank to forty or less, as more and more men were recalled from business and farm to man the line.


Worse than lack of enthusiasm, the new troops were green. The kind of lessons troops needed to fight this kind of war could be learned only in Korea.

Always make it clear that you are acting out of the goodness of your own heart, not under pressure from the opposition

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Commenter Dwarkesh proposes this hypothetical to Bryan Caplin:

If I’ve inherited control of a traumatized dictatorship, and I want to turn it into a capitalist liberal democracy, how should I go about reforming things without causing things to fall apart like they did in the Soviet Union or Iraq?

Caplin offers his best guess:

Consider it a recipe, not an endorsement.

Step 1: Purge known hard-liners en masse, without warning, Godfather style.

Step 2: Swiftly liberalize the economy and civil society from this position of strength, while unequivocally affirming your monopoly on political power.

Step 3: During the same period, open up your society to foreign business, tourism, media, NGOs, etc.

Step 4: Once you’ve had 4–6 years of strong economic growth and rising international prestige, slowly relax your monopoly on power. Always make it clear that you are acting out of the goodness of your own heart, not under pressure from the opposition.

Step 5: After 15–20 years, you’re ready for your first competitive national election. Put strong post-reform protection for your supporters into the constitution so they aren’t tempted to derail your plan.

R&R came to be known as I&I

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

In any democratic society, equality of sacrifice is a cherished ideal, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), yet in war nothing is more difficult to attain:

Soldiers know that it is never possible to share the load completely. One man went to Korea; another — who equally served — never went west of San Francisco. While American units were decimated in the Far East, others went through training in the European Command, without hearing a shot fired in anger.


R&R at first worked wonders. Men came off line, away from incessant danger and hardship, for a flight to Tokyo, Yokohama, or Kyoto. They boarded planes at Seoul and elsewhere, gaunt, unshaven, some with the thousand-yard stare. Five days later they returned, new men, rested, bathed, refreshed. R&R gave the troops something to look forward to; it was a morale factor without equal.

It was only later, when the pressure in Korea was not so great, that men going to Japan turned R&R into the great debauch that came to be known as I&I — intercourse and intoxication. Men coming out of weeks and months of hard combat are too tired and beaten down to seek trouble.

Men leaving months of filthy living and screaming monotony tend to seek something else again.

It has long been criticized as viewing adventure through an imperialist lens

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise is about to be updated to feel more inclusive and less racially insensitive:

The Jungle Cruise, with its ties to the park’s patriarch, is likely to be viewed with a more protective lens by the company’s vast fanbase. Yet the ride has also been one under near-constant evolution since its inception. Its early influences were Disney’s own nature documentaries and the 1951 film “The African Queen,” a favorite of early Disneyland designer Harper Goff.

Its initial conception as “The Jungle Rivers of the World” leaned slightly more educational than today’s more humor-driven take. The ride’s unsavory tribal depictions, largely inspired by images from Papua New Guinea, were added in the years after its opening. These vignettes essentially depict Indigenous people as tourist attraction, attackers or cannibals.

“Horrifyingly racist” is how one of Disney’s peers in the theme park design community, the Thinkwell Group, characterized various Jungle Cruise scenes in an essay published shortly after Disney announced the changes to Splash Mountain.

A spear-waving war party was added to the Jungle Cruise in 1957, as was the “Trader Sam” character, a dark-skinned man today outfitted in straw tribal wear. Disney tiki bars — one on each coast — are named for the character that traffics in stereotypes. He’ll trade you “two of his heads for one of yours.”


As silly and overly pun-filled as the Jungle Cruise may be, it has long been criticized as viewing adventure through an imperialist lens. Non-Americans are depicted as either subservient or savages. Although the ride is meant to be a collage of Asia, Africa and South America, human figures of the regions are presented as exotic, violent and dimwitted, humor that in the 1950s and 1960s was troublesome and today reeks of racism.

It is “horrifyingly racist” to depict the natives living in the jungle as savages. Or as hostile to the imperialist colonizers.

The only thing that would not be limited were the casualties

Sunday, February 7th, 2021

For all practical purposes, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the Korean War ended when Ridgway offered to discuss truce terms:

Having eschewed the goal of victory, the United States had nothing further to gain from continued fighting. It had accomplished its original purpose in going into Korea, the salvation of the Taehan Minkuk.

The Communist World had gained no territory, wealth, or peoples — but by opposing American arms, by defying the United Nations, with some success, Red China had undoubtedly neared great-power status. Her prestige among Asian peoples, still smarting from Western humiliations, was enhanced, whatever moral questions were involved.

A nation that had been continually harassed and humiliated by all powers since 1840 had actually defied the world, and fought it to a standstill. It was this Asian feeling of solidarity with China that Americans found so hard to understand, as typified by the statement of one Captain Weh, of the Nationalist Chinese Army on Taiwan:

“We listened to the radio, and the Communists were defeating the Americans. All of us in this room were officers who had fought with the Generalissimo for many years. Most of us had fought the Communists all our adult lives. One officer had been captured and tortured by them. In a world the Communists won, there could be no place for any of us, or our families.

“It was very bad for us to have the Communists win. But we had very queer feelings, listening to the news of disaster in Korea. It was almost like a certain exaltation. I do not know how to explain it to you Americans.

“For our Colonel, who hated Communists with all his soul, kept saying: ‘The Americans are being beaten by Chinese. The Americans are being beaten by Chinese.’”


As long as China could hold a U.N. Army at bay, she stood to gain enormous prestige in Asia.

And because the United States Government took a certain naïveté and almost total lack of understanding of Asian Communism to the conference table, the Korean War, stalemated June 1951, would go on for two more years, and half as many men again as were maimed and killed in its first twelve months had yet to suffer and die.


An army in the field, in contact with the enemy, can remain idle only at its peril. Deterioration — of training, physical fitness, and morale — is immediate and progressive, despite the strongest command measures. The Frenchman who said that the one thing that cannot be done with bayonets is to sit on them spoke an eternal truth.


Their new orders seemed to read: Fight on, but don’t fight too hard. Don’t lose — but don’t win, either. Hold the line, while the diplomats muddle through.


But it was harder still for the riflemen and tankers and weapons squads dug in along the scarred, dirty hills. Now they knew less than ever why they dug their holes or why they died. Hoping for the war to end at any moment, they kept one eye on Kaesong or on Panmunjom. When they were ordered to defend a hill or to take one, they knew the action was a limited one, and they knew in their hearts, whatever brave words were said, that such action probably would not affect the outcome of the war at all.

No man likes to give up his life for an inconsequential reason, and there is no honor — only irony — to being the last man killed in a war.


As the talks droned on at Kaesong, the U.N. Command became more convinced the enemy was stalling. And U.N. commanders agreed that a little pressure, judiciously applied, might have wholesome effect. The decision was made in FECOM, but approved by Washington.


It was not an ambitious program, or an unreasonable one, in the situation. Policy was guided by restraint, and limited.

The only thing that would not be limited were the casualties.

A toy, suited only to make pretty scars for girls to admire

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

Our Slovenian guest recently suggested that I take a look at the traditional German sword-fighting art called Mensur, which reminded me that I’ve discussed Germany’s odd fencing fraternities before, but I didn’t mention where I’d first heard of their unusual style of fencing, in Robert Heinlein’s Glory Road, his not-quite-fantasy novel, where the protagonist, fresh from fighting in Southeast Asia, comes home with a scar across his nose — “little brown brother hadn’t sterilized his bolo” — and the surgeon says, “You’re going to get well, son. But you’ll be scarred like a Heidelberg student.” Our hero decides to try going to Heidelberg:

Hell, I would fight a couple of student duels and add real Heidelberg scars to back up the dandy I had. Fencing was a sport I really enjoyed (though the one that counted least toward “sweeping the gym”). Some people cannot stand knives, swords, bayonets, anything sharp; psychiatrists have a word for it: aichmophobia. Idiots who drive cars a hundred miles an hour on fifty-mile-an-hour roads will nevertheless panic at the sight of a bare blade.


I rather looked forward to trying a Heidelberg duel. They pad your body and arm and neck and put a steel guard on your eyes and nose and across your ears — this is not like encountering a pragmatic Marxist in the jungle. I once handled one of those swords they use in Heidelberg; it was a light, straight saber, sharp on the edge, sharp a few inches on the back — but a blunt point! A toy, suited only to make pretty scars for girls to admire.

That verbal description doesn’t quite paint the picture:

German Academic Fencer

The whole thing seems a bit contrived, but it has a certain logic to it:

A form of noble duel — mensur fencing — was widespread in Germany during the 16th century among young people, particularly in the student community. (The word originated from German Mensurfechten — fencing in confined space). Duelists wore protective eyepieces with metallic netting. The chest and neck were protected by a leather chest guard and a thick scarf. They wielded prototypes of the saber — “schlagers” with sharply pointed ends. Opponents faced each other and took turns at hits, aiming for the only unprotected body part — the opponent’s face. When fatigue set in or one of the opponents let down his guard, his opponent broke through his parries, leaving a cut on his face, which eventually scarred over. As we know, scars are said to give a man’s face character. As a result, both duelists left satisfied: the winner with a sense of triumph, and the loser with a sign of courage on his face.


During the first half of the 19th century and some of the 18th century, students believed the character of a person could easily be judged by watching him fight with sharp blades under strict regulations. Academic fencing was more and more seen as a kind of personality training by showing countenance and fairness even in dangerous situations. Student corporations demanded their members fight at least one duel with sharp blades during their university time. The problem was that some peaceful students had nobody to offend them. The solution was a kind of formal insult that did not actually infringe honour, but was just seen as a challenge for fencing. The standard wording wasdummer Junge (German for “young fool.”)

The Nazis suppressed the fencing clubs, which is mildly ironic, since dueling scars now evoke the image of an SS officer, like Otto Skorzeny:

Otto Skorzeny

When Communists cannot win by force, they are prepared to negotiate

Friday, February 5th, 2021

At the end of May 1951, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the CCF had proved they could not prevail in open warfare in the more maneuverable ground of southern and middle Korea:

But the U.N. Command had no burning desire to push and pursue them back into the horrendous terrain girdling the Yalu. Unless Manchuria could be interdicted, the CCF would fight here from a base of strength, while the U.N. would again be restricted and far from its sources of supply.


It was very clear to Soviet observers that the CCF could not win a decision in South Korea; they could not now even halt the slow, steady U.N. advance northward.

It was also clear that the continuing hot war in the Far East was jangling Western nerves and hastening the slow rearmament of Europe under NATO. The West obviously desired peace — but continued Communist intransigence could tend only to unite the Western allies in the long run.

When Communists cannot win by force, they are prepared to negotiate.

On 30 June 1951, General Ridgway, as U.N. Commander in Chief, radioed the commander of Communist Forces in Korea an offer to discuss an armistice:

It was a remarkable statement for an American commander, triumphant in the field, to make to an as yet unhumbled enemy. It occurred less than a decade after an American pronouncement of a goal of unconditional surrender of its enemies, but it revealed an aeon of diplomatic and political change in American thinking on the matter of war.

And here, on 30 June, a certain amount of love between the United States and the Taehan Minkuk ended. For the Republic of Korea saw no honor in the proposed cease-fire, which left its people ravaged and still divided.


Rhee, threatening again and again to block an armistice desired by most, became less and less a heroic old resistor of Communism and more and more a stubborn, opinionated old tyrant, determined to keep the West from getting what it wanted.


The United Nations Command, not caring to be technical, accepted Kaesong. It was to learn that Communists propose nothing, not even truce sites, without an eye to their own advantage.


From the American and U.N. point of view, the sole purpose of the meetings at Kaesong was to end the bloodshed, and to create some sort of machinery to supervise such an armistice. This done, an entirely separate body would sift the political and territorial questions posed by the Korean situation, in an atmosphere of peace.

Americans, even the knowledgeable Dean Acheson, had once again tried to separate peace and war into neat compartments, to their sorrow.


They [the American delegates] were soldiers, come to forge a military agreement to end the killing.


Several of these men [the Communist delegates] were graduates of Soviet universities, and not one was a fighting man.

All had held political posts, and with typical Communist deviousness, seemingly the junior man at the table in rank, Hsieh Fang, was the man who actually held the Communist cards.

Immediately, it became apparent that the Communist delegation intended not only to discuss the proposed cease-fire but everything up to and including the kitchen drain.

Immediately, they would not agree to an agenda. Immediately, they made sharp protest at Turner Joy’s use of the word “Communists” — there were no “Communists” in Kaesong, but only Inmun Gun and Chinese Volunteers; on the other hand, they used such terms as “that murderer Rhee” and “the puppet of Taiwan” quite freely.

They insisted that the 38th parallel must be the new line of demarcation, although the U.N. armies in most places stood well above it — and the parallel, as had been proved, was hardly a defensible line — and that unless the United Nations Command ceased actual hostilities in Korea at once they could not discuss the armistice. They at once refused demands to permit the International Red Cross to inspect North Korean POW camps.

And from the selection of the site at Kaesong — in Communist hands, yet still below the parallel, one of the few spots in Korea where this condition obtained — the forcing of U.N. negotiators to enter Communist territory displaying white flags, as if they were coming to surrender, to the seating of Admiral Joy in a chair substantially lower than Nam Il’s, the enemy showed that nothing was too small to be overlooked, if it accrued to his advantage.


The tragedy of the talks was that the Communists intended merely to transfer the war from the battlefield, where they were losing, to the conference table, where they might yet win something.

The United Nations’ desire for peace was genuine — almost frantic. Nothing else could have kept their negotiators, subjected to harassment, stinging insult, and interminable delay, at the green table after the first few sessions.


Washington was still not seeing clearly. No one dared guess that it would take 159 plenary sessions and more than two years of haggling to end the killing.


But time, above all, was what the Communist world needed in Korea in the summer of 1951.

Cyberpunk came true

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Cyberpunk no longer feels like “the future”, Noahpinion suggests, because the cyberpunk writers of the 80s were just too good at predicting the future:

Much of the stuff they imagined is now just the stuff you see in the news.

In 2021, the Russian government hacked much of the U.S. government and many U.S. companies. Remotely piloted drones are defeating human forces on the battlefield. A whistleblower who exposed government electronic surveillance programs communicates from his foreign exile by telepresence robot. Artificial intelligences beat the best humans at the most complex board games and trade in financial markets. Information warfare and espionage are just standard tools of politics now. Animated singers are sex symbols. Militaries train in virtual reality. Online currencies are worth hundreds of billions of dollars and are used in shadowy underground economies and cybercrime. Computer interfaces are being implanted into pigs’ brains. A blind man can now see thanks to synthetic corneas.

All of these elements are recognizable as staples of 1980s and 1990s cyberpunk science fiction, or close relatives thereof. The cyberpunks anticipated the future of technology to an almost eerie degree.

He wanted positions that would stand under enemy artillery

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

Lieutenant Colonel Wallace Hanes, the C.O. of the 3/38, gave explicit orders, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), to cut fields of fire, to dig bunkers, and to build covered positions for every man of the rifle companies:

Colonel Hanes discovered what many had discovered before and since — that while the American soldier is among the best in the world at getting his tents up and his socks dry, he has no love for digging in the earth. Inspecting, Hanes found that most men had merely dug a foxhole, put a poncho over it to keep out the cold spring rain, and a few leaves over the poncho as concealment. American troops always despise physical labor.


He wanted positions that would stand under enemy artillery — or friendly, if the 3/38 were overrun.

With the deep positions ready after a week of Hanes’ prodding, wire was strung across the front, and mines emplaced along the forward hill slopes. All of the matériel was carried up the steep slopes on the backs of Korean laborers and laboriously emplaced by the grudging U.S. troops.

When Hanes had first explained to them what he wanted, many had thought him joking.

When Colonel Hanes was satisfied, they had used up 237,000 sandbags, 385 rolls of barbed wire, more than 6,000 steel wire pickets, and 39 fougasse drums. A fougasse was an improvised land mine, consisting of a 55-gallon POL drum filled with napalm, a small explosive charge, usually white phosphorous shells, and a detonator. When exploded, the crude mine threw a mass of 3,000-degree Fahrenheit flame over an area ten by thirty yards long, with extremely salutary effects on any CCF who might be nearby.

In addition to fortifications, the 3/38 had to carry its water, food, and ammunition up the hill. It took three to four hours for a round trip.

The only way Colonel Hanes found to get his heavy 4.2-inch mortars up was by the use of Korean oxen.

With his front completely wired in, Hanes now insisted on trip flares and AP mines being strewn over the forward slopes, and his wire communications being placed underground.

The 3/38, which already figured it knew how to fight, now learned how to work.


Waiting in their deep positions, Hanes’ men were now proud of their handiwork, and confident. It had dawned on them, that while they had never had positions half so good, they had seen some the Chinese had made that were as good, or better. Once the work was over, they were at last glad they had done it.

Hanes, talking to Major General Ruffner, the division commander, said, “I’m worried about only one thing now, General — I’m afraid the bastards won’t hit us!”

Wallace Hanes need not have worried, Fehrenbach says, and ends up rallying some of his his panicked troops when the attack does come:

“Get back upon the hill — we don’t give up a position until we’re beaten, and we’re not beaten if every man does his share!”

After they reclaim their position, the Chinese keep coming:

The Chinese, climbing over their dead, came again.

When they were firmly on his hill, Brownell called for every inch of 800 to be seared with fire. The 38th Field Artillery, that night, fired ten thousand rounds alone, and other artillery units supported, too.

Nothing above ground could live. Brownell and his men, who had built well, were untouched. At dawn, the CCF broke and streamed north, leaving only their dead behind.