Capt. Meade D. Wildrick, 8010th Army Unit, Transportation Military Railway Service
I arrived in Korea on 7 July 19S0 in a detachment from the 8010th Army Unit, Transportation Military Railway Service. Our force consisted of 19 officers and 90 enlisted men. These were not enough to have taken over the Korean railroads—even had we wanted to, or had had the authority. Instead, our group was split into ten traffic-regulating teams. Three of these remained in Pusan, two went to Taegu, and one each went to Taejon, Yongchon, Kumchon, and Kyongju.
How well we kept things moving can be seen from our record of those early days. We were told by the U.S. military advisory group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG) and the officials of the Korean National Railroads that we would set a record if we moved more than 12 trains a day north from Pusan. Actually, we soon dispatched 24 trains daily, most of them double-headers pulling 30 cars. The trains going over the east coast single-track line could not take 30 cars, however, since the sidings were not long enough. The Koreans ran the trains; we gave the directions.
As soon as our army came to Korea we realized the importance of the railroads. Because of the long distances and the very poor roads, everyone moving in Korea wanted to go by rail. Pusan Base Section ruled that rail movement was possible only for vehicles over two and one half tons that were going farther than Taegu. Everything lighter, or going shorter distances, had to be driven.
Not long after I arrived in Korea I was assigned to establish a railhead at Masan—with only Sergeant Dennison as my assistant. Dennison was a real help, for he knew railroading and from a previous tour in Korea he could speak the language. Fortunately, the assistant stationmaster spoke English, and so did one of the switchmen.
Masan is about thirty-five miles west of Pusan, and its marshaling yard contained only eight tracks. We had a problem keeping the yard open to receive supplies for the 24th Infantry Division while its withdrawals kept forcing equipment back into our yard. Communications were so limited that we had little opportunity to plan our operations. We received advance notice whenever a train was coming from Pusan, but those from Taegu just blew their whistles as the engines entered the yards. We had to post an officer at the Samnangjin junction to halt trains and call ahead to determine whether they should be allowed to enter Masan.
The 24th Division wished to leave much of its equipment on freight cars, particularly its heavy engineer equipment. I had to explain to the division's officers that the utter lack of yard space prevented holding cars for storage purposes. The division assigned a liaison officer to work with me, and that helped. He told me where the division wanted cars spotted, and I took over from there.
In July 1950 the railroads became congested because too many persons were giving directions in Pusan. Pusan Base Section was put together hurriedly, and it did a remarkable job. However, there were a few extra—and I believe unassigned—colonels in the headquarters. They acted as expediters, and would come to dockside or to the marshaling yards and take over operations from the regularly assigned lieutenants and captains. Each had a pet mission, it seemed. They were always saying, "The men need ammunition forward," or some similar statement. Other supplies would be shunted aside and priority in unloading ships and in rail movement would be assigned. Taegu was being swamped with supplies being evacuated, and with others sent forward by the eager colonels of Pusan. The situation eventually reached the point where the port transportation officer complained to the base section commander.
A control system was established to determine daily how much tonnage could be moved to a given destination. A canvass was then made of the technical services. A train was made up to fit the requirements, and clearance was necessary before the train moved. It was not a perfect system, but it took a lot of the "hurry up and wait" out of the situation.