The Battle of Chatkol
 

Also known as the "Fifty-five Nights", the Battle of Chatkol was one of the three most important battles in which the Belgian contingent fought, as well as their last major action of the war. It took place between February 26 and April 21 1953 at positions known as the “Boomerang” around the village of Chatkol in the “Iron Triangle”. As at Haktang-ni, the Luxembourg platoon had returned home, but several Luxembourgers remained and would play a significant role in the battle.
 

Belgian positions at Chatkol
 

Map of Belgian positions at Chatkol

The village of Chatkol was situated in the so-called Iron Triangle, which stretched from the villages of Pyonggang in the north, to Chorwon and Kumhwa in the south. Due to its proximity to a key railway line running north east through the triangle, it was regarded as a key communications hub by both the UN and the Chinese, and therefore of great strategic importance. The Belgian trenches covered the north and east arc of a much larger position around the village of Chatkol. Three advance posts were positioned in front of the main Belgian line, each named using the initial of their company. A Company held the left flank, with their outpost (named “Alice”) overlooking a road running through their positions. B Company to their right held the line directly north of Chatkol with their outpost named Barbara. C Company covered the north-eastern part of the line with their outpost named Carol. Carol, situated right at the tip of the Belgian line was viewed as the "key" to the Belgian position by the Chinese. Finally, below C Company, the Heavy Weapons Company bordered the 9th ROK Division (nicknamed “White Horse”) in the east on the "White Horse Mountain Line". To the west of the Belgians, the line was held by American troops of the 3rd Infantry Division. The Battalion HQ was situated between the villages of Chatkol and Sandong-ni. Two-to-three men were stationed in each outpost around the clock, enabling the Belgians to be warned in advance of Chinese attacks. The outposts were not designed to be strongholds themselves; on being attacked their garrisons were expected to retreat to the safety of the main line. In order to enable this delicate withdrawal, three Fire Teams were created: the heavy artillery of Fire Team "Flash" would suppress the area around the outpost for about three minutes, firing up to 270 shells, then Fire Team "Trap" would fire on the abandoned post using battalion mortars, finally, Fire Team "Cut Off" would attack the area between the post and the front line. When it was necessary to re-occupy the post, this process would be repeated in reverse. Lieutenant-Colonel Gathy remarked that "though this system appeared complicated, it worked well".
 

March 8-9: Battle for Outpost Carol
 

Carol outpost was the most exposed part of the entire Belgian front line. The seven man garrison of Outpost Carol were overwhelmed by around 100 Chinese soldiers, while a much larger diversion attack against B Company’s main positions. Under mortar fire, the Belgians succeeded in using their own artillery to overwhelm the Chinese force holding Outpost Carol at 06h45. The Belgians lost five in this action, Chinese losses were estimated at 25 killed, 40 wounded.
 

March 13: Battle for Outpost Alice
 

Outpost Alice in front of A Company’s positions was attacked by massed Chinese forces at 00h15. The garrison managed to retreat from their position, except for one man who was initially posted missing. Despite sending out various patrols, the wounded soldier was only found when he managed to reach the Belgian lines at 06h00 and was evacuated by American MASH units.
 

March 25
 

On March 25, a small listening post in front of a C Company’s line near Outpost Carol was attacked at 04h30 by 20 Chinese soldiers.
 

April
 

On March 30, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division informed Lt-Col Gathy that a large Chinese attack against the Belgian position was predicted. He asked whether the Belgians would like to be relieved, but was politely rebuffed. Between April 7-8, the Belgians were attacked by heavy artillery fire as a large Chinese assault was unleashed on Carol and B Company. 10 soldiers were killed and 14 wounded. It was during this action that Cpl Raymond Beringer of the Luxembourg platoon (attached to the Heavy Weapons Company) decided to move his .30 Machine Gun to the roof of his dug out and, at great risk, kept firing at attacking Chinese soldiers for several hours. Though he was mentioned in despatches and recommended for the US Silver Star, he didn’t receive the medal until 2003. Carol was once again recaptured however the position was no longer serviceable – all trenches had been filled in, and the barbed wire defences were gone. Since C Company had borne the brunt of the assaults, Gathy decided to switch A and C Companies on the line. Between April 18-19, all companies were attacked though the Chinese assaults were repulsed without a single Chinese soldier reaching the front line. At 01h15, the Chinese withdrew, losing over 32 men, the Belgians lost one.
 

Aftermath
 

On April 21, the Belgians were relieved. 34 Belgians had been killed in action, along with 3 attached Koreans. The Belgians were then posted to Hadong-ni for 40 nights, where they would spend the armistice.