The battles took place between June 26th, 1952 and March 26th, 1953 on and around Hill 266 in Western Korea near the North-South border. The engagements’ location would alternatively come to be known as “Old Baldy Hill” and “Suicide Hill” by others. It was a part of the Korean War, and it had been triggered largely by ‘Operation Counter’, which was an attempt by the American forces to attack and occupy 12 Chinese outposts, including Hill 266. The hill was very important, as it gave a strategic advantage to its possessor for miles in all directions.
The battle pitted the United Nations forces against the Chinese forces. The forces fighting for the United Nations (UN) included military units from the U.S., Colombia, and South Korea. They are estimated to have numbered around 38,000. American forces were comprised by elements from the 45th Division, 7th Infantry Division, and the 2nd Infantry Division. The Colombian military units on the other hand included elements of the 4th Battalion such as Battalion B Company. Some of the most notable leaders of the allies during the battle of Old Baldy included Major General David Ruffner from the 45th Division, Colonel Sandlin, Major General Wayne C. Smith of the 7th Division, Colonel William Kern of the 31st Regiment, and Lieutenant Colonel Alberto Ruiz Novoa. The Chinese forces, on the other hand, were estimated to have numbered around 20,000 men. They included elements of the Chinese 39th Army and the 38th Army.
There was a wide assortment of weapons used in the battle of Old Baldy. The allies, led by the American forces, made use of fighter bombers, heavy artillery, mortars, rockets, tanks, machine guns, Browning Automatic Rifles, and hand grenades among others. As for the Chinese forces, they mainly made do with machine guns, artillery, mortars and other small arms. The main tactic employed by the American-led allies was the use of air strikes to stifle the enemy positions. In addition to that, hand-to-hand combat was also used by both the Chinese and the Allies.
The battle of Old Baldy proved to be a costly affair for both the UN allies and the Chinese, not only in terms of the financial cost of all the ammunition used, but also because of the lives lost and the number of soldiers wounded. By the end of the battle, the United Nations had suffered 357 deaths, while the Chinese forces are estimated to have suffered up to 1,100 casualties (including the dead and wounded). During the 5 battles in the engagements at Old Baldy, both the UN Allies and the Chinese each recorded various minor victories at one point or another. However, by the end of it all, it would seem logical to declare the Chinese as the victors, as they ultimately regained control of Old Baldy. The battle had started with the Chinese as the occupants of Hill 266 and though the allies were able to capture the hill several times, it was the Chinese who ultimately held it, yet at the expense of heavy losses.
The battle of Old Baldy did not have much significance on the Korean War. This is simply because, after 5 major engagements in battle, nothing had really changed. After all the battles had started with the Chinese occupying Old Baldy, and had ended with them as the occupants once more. What’s more, the battles of Old Baldy exposed just how overwhelmed the United Nations’ (UN) forces were at times in the Korean War.
The engagements in the Old Baldy region are also notable for the presence of the Colombia Battalion. These men were among those from the only Latin American nation to assist the United Nations forces during the war. For their bravery and performance in combat, they were awarded multiple high honors by the South Korean and United States’ military.