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Outpost Kelly

A Tanker's Story

Written by Jack R. Siewert and foreword by Paul M Edwards

Publication Year: 2006

In the second year of the Korean War, Jack Siewert commanded a platoon of five M-46 tanks. Temporarily assigned to provide fire support for an infantry battalion on the front, he eventually found himself in the midst of intense fighting for a relatively unknown and unimportant hill, code named Outpost Kelly.
 
Those four days of battle against Chinese forces form the heart of this memoir, which is unique in its focus on the hill fighting that dominated two thirds of the Korean War. Trained to take advantage of his tanks’ mobility, his orders—to provide direct fire support for advancing infantry—along with the mountainous terrain and the torrential monsoon rains that created shin-deep fields of impenetrable mud, forced him to abandon doctrine and improvise.
 
At the height of the fighting, Siewert was able to bring to bear the guns from only one of his five tanks against the enemy. Nevertheless, his platoon played a key role in allowing members of the 15th Infantry to retake Outpost Kelly, and he offers an excellent analysis of how theory and experience come together in a point-of-the-spear military situation.
 
Siewert's platoon played a key role in allowing members of the 15th Infantry to retake Outpost Kelly, and he offers an excellent analysis of how theory and experience come together in a point-of-the-spear military situation. Outpost Kelly also paints a fascinating picture of the type of fighting, often overlooked, that characterized the second and third years of the Korean War. With truce talks proceeding in Panmunjom, both sides fought to claim incremental pieces of real estate along the demarcation line between North and South.
 
In the grand scheme of the war, the battle for Outpost Kelly might not ahce meant much. But for 3rd Infantry Division, and the men, like Jack Siewert, who fought there, it was the entire focal point of the war during the last four days of July, 1952.
 

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword by Paul M. Edwards

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pp. xi-xiii

In the study of war there is a tendency to look at the “big picture,” reflecting on the role of generals and statesmen or depicting the strategy of nations and the movement of vast armies or armadas. Historians of the Korean War have produced some excellent studies along these lines. Among these reliable narrative studies would be T. R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War and Clay Blair’s The Korean War. It is important to note, ...

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Preface

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pp. xv-xviii

By definition an outpost is a military detachment thrown out by a halted command to protect against enemy enterprises. Outpost Kelly had been established by the 3rd Infantry Division late in 1951 when Line Jamestown, our most forward position in I Corps during the second Korean winter campaign, had been secured. Line Jamestown was about ten miles north of the thirty-eighth parallel, the disputed dividing line ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xix-

This book covers events that took place in the 3rd Infantry Division in Korea, 1951–1952. The core of the story is the loss and retaking of Outpost Kelly in July 1952. I have depended heavily on my personal recollection of events that led up to and occurred on Kelly. In this regard, the dialogue found in the story has been reconstructed as served by my memory; the intent and sense of the dialogue is accurate. ...

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1. Reconnaissance Up Front

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pp. 1-11

Korean terrain presents unique problems for the passage of tracked vehicles, particularly in the mountains. Narrow defiles, steep slopes, bottomless rice paddies, ice-covered trails and roads, streams and rivers that cannot be forded, traffic congestion, and a host of other hostile conditions catalog the problems of moving a tank in Korea. A tank platoon ...

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2. Close and Join

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pp. 12-27

Our motor march from the Charlie Company bivouac area to the 2nd Battalion was just over six miles. White Front Bridge, over the Imjin River, was a new trestle-bent structure that replaced the old pontoon bridge. Although the bridge was rated at a capacity to handle the forty-eight- ton weight of an M-46 tank, we still crossed the structure gingerly. Only one tank was permitted to cross at one time; all crew members ...

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3. Hill 199

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pp. 28-62

When I joined the 64th Tank Battalion in November 1951, the front-line area was unsettled. It was difficult to know where our front line ended and no-man’s-land began. More than once, on route reconnaissance, I found myself in the contested area between two forces by merely following a road or trail that I thought was within our lines. There were ...

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4. Stuck in the Mud

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pp. 63-75

I reflected on yesterday’s news. Here we were in our twelfth day up front, and we still had four more to go before we could move out. The 2nd Battalion CO had given the units two days to prepare to move, which they would probably need. I thought that if pressed hard, I could move the 2nd Platoon out in twenty minutes. This must be some form of ...

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5. Outpost Kelly Is Lost

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pp. 76-91

Rain ran off my poncho and into my boots. In my haste to observe the action on Outpost Kelly, I had not bothered to lace the boots up. My binoculars were not much help in the rain and darkness, either. Standing in the revetment I could see, dimly, quick flashes of explosions concentrated on Kelly. The roar of reports piling on each other in rapid succession was continuous, but muffled by the rain. I had been standing in ...

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6. The Fight for Outpost Kelly

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pp. 92-135

An after-action conference was called at 1400 hours for all company commanders and combat-support elements. We assembled in the Operations bunker. It was a somber gathering. ...

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7. Return to Home Station

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pp. 136-142

Sleeping in the hex tent made for tight quarters, but it was manageable, and after several weeks of bunker living, the light and airy tent was a nice change of pace. Overnight, the Chinese artillery and mortar

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Epilogue

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pp. 143-145

The events of those three weeks in July 1952 occurred more than fifty-four years ago. I have forgotten many of the details, yet I was surprised at how much remained to be brought back to the surface of my memory. Although the memories remained dormant for many years, the stimulus of concentration on the chronology brought back events and even fragments of conversations. With the long view of time for my perspective, I ...

Notes

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pp. 147-149

Glossary

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pp. 151-154

Bibliography

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pp. 155-156


E-ISBN-13: 9780817382278
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817353414

Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army. Infantry Regiment, 15th -- History.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Campaigns.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
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