The Korean War is often referred to as "The Forgotten War." If it is, then certainly the exploits of the Greek Forces who fought there is a forgotten chapter in that war. One particular battle, the defense of Outpost Harry, earned Company "P" of the Greek Battalion the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC). Outpost Harry was located in what was commonly referred to as the "Iron Triangle" in Korea. This was an area approximately 60 miles north of Seoul and was the most direct route to the South Korean capital. Outpost Harry's elevation was around 1280 feet high and positioned some 320 yards south of a larger landmass occupied by the CCF (Chinese Communist Forces) called "Star Hill" and some 425 yards northeast of United Nations positions.
The outpost commanded an excellent view of the enemy positions as well as our own lines of defense. The elevation of the outpost was greater than any other friendly position within a mile. Since the Chinese did not have aerial observation, Outpost Harry was a strategic "military Hot Spot" and dearly desired by the Chinese. It's defense and preservation was viewed as critical because it blocked Chinese Communist Forces observation down the Kumwha Valley and shielded that portion of the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) from enemy direct fire. If the UN forces lost the outpost, the U.S. Eighth Army would have had to withdraw approximately10 kilometers to the next defensible line, as shown in the photo at right. Furthermore, a CCF victory at Outpost Harry would have whet the appetite for more war and dishearten the American public to a point where it might accept an armistice term less favorable than was eventually was the case.
For those not familiar with the significance of a unit award like the PUC here is some background. The Presidential Unit Citation is awarded to units of the Armed Forces of the United States and co-belligerent nations for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy occurring on or after 7 December 1941. The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions as to set it apart and above other units participating in the same campaign. The degree of heroism required is the same as that which would warrant award of a Distinguished Service Cross (second highest award for valor awarded to an individual American soldier). Extended periods of combat duty or participation in a large number of operational missions, either ground or air is not sufficient. This award will normally be earned by units that have participated in single or successive actions covering relatively brief time spans. It is not reasonable to presume that entire units can sustain Distinguished Service Cross performance for extended time periods except under the most unusual circumstances. Only on rare occasions will a unit larger than battalion qualify for award of this decoration.
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY Washington D. C., 10 March 1955
GENERAL ORDERS 18
Company P, Greek Expeditionary Forces Battalion is cited for extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Surang-NI, Korea during the period 17 June to 18 June 1953. Assigned the defense of a vital outpost position (Harry), the company encountered a major enemy assault on the evening of June 17. After an intense concentration of enemy mortar and artillery fire, the hostile forces, which had taken up an attack position on the northeast and northwest side of the outpost , moved rapidly through their own and friendly artillery fire to gain a foothold on the northern slope of the position. Refusing to withdraw, Company P closed in and met the attackers in a furious hand to hand struggle in which many of the enemy were driven off. The aggressors regrouped, quickly attacked a second time, and again gained the friendly trenches. Immediately, the Greek Forces launched a series of counterattacks, simultaneously dispatching a diversionary force to the east of the outpost which successfully channeled the enemy thrusts. After 2 hours of close in fighting, the aggressors were again routed and the friendly positions restored. The outstanding conduct and exemplary courage exhibited by members of Company P, Greek Expeditionary Forces Battalion, reflects great credit on themselves and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and the Kingdom of Greece.
The following is a video originally shown on Greek television describing the events at Outpost Harry by some of the Greek survivors that fought there. It is from a five part documentary available at YouTube which covers the entire history of the Greek contribution to the UN effort in Korea. For more information including first hand accounts visit the Outpost Harry Survivor's Association here.
A reunion was held in Crete in November of 2006 and is described in the Association's newsletter here. A documentary film is currently in production by Director-producer Christos Epperson and writer-producer Michael Epperson dedicated to telling this inspirational story, through interviews with its American and Greek veterans and dramatic re-enactments of key events of the battle. The project was inspired by executive producer Mike Pagomenos, whose father George, an Outpost Harry survivor, recently published his Korean War journal in the Greek language. It follows in the wake of critical acclaim for the Epperson brothers’ recent World War II documentary, The 11th Day. More information is available at the Outpost Harry Project website here.
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