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First Lieutenant John Hartong Sr.

Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 7th Cavalry Regiment

L Company, 3rd battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment

Tank treads crunch the crisp white snow as the behemoths of steel and olive drab trudge towards Sinch'ang-ni, preparing to counter the break in the line. The echos of machine guns and twinkles of flares still fill the sky as Lieutenant Hartong moved his platoon closer to the village in the dark. On the night of November 27th, the Chinese had crushed the 6th Republic of Korea (ROK) Division, sending them into a route towards the 7th Cavalry Lines.¹ The ROK and 7th Cavalry soldiers were engaged by the elite 125th Division 42nd Army of the Chinese Communist Forces, a crack division bloodied in the Chinese Civil War.² 10,000 Chinese troops were marching headfirst towards the American line and 7th Cavalry commander Colonel William Walker acted fast to repulse the attack. Col. Walker first ordered the 3rd Battalion to reorganize the ROK soldiers and help process the constant stream of refugees. These two tasks were difficult, with the ROKs demoralized and the refugees having North Korean and CCF infiltrators within their ranks.³

As this logistical chaos ensued, the Chinese forces established footholds in the neighboring high ground, firing down on the 7th Cavalry with mortars and small arms until dislodged by the 77th Field Artillery Battalion firing intensive fire on their positions.⁴ With this threat cleared, the regiment moved up just north of Sinch'ang-ni, 1st and 2nd Battalions establishing defenses along the road leading to the village while 3rd Battalion was held in reserve. The Chinese began their attack around 10:30 PM on November 29th, flares and whistles blaring as they threw everything they had at the American lines. Rifles firing, machine guns roaring, and mortars blasting against the American line. This almost collapsed the 7th Cavalry's line. The Chinese managed to temporarily break through the line, overrunning F Company and assaulting 1st Battalion's command post. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued with fierce fighting between combatants using whatever they could get their hands on. Rifle butts slammed into skulls, bayonets pierced flesh, and shovels whacked against bone.⁵

Click on a photo in this slideshow for a closer look or click on the arrows at the edges of the slideshow to look through the photos.

Nearing midnight, the Chinese had wedged between 1st and 2nd Battalions before the American soldiers closed the gap, although 150 Chinese remained between the two battalions with some infiltrating Sinch'ang-ni proper. Upon reports of this, Col. Walker ordered a counterattack to drive the Chinese back. Two tanks from C Company, 70th Tank Battalion assisted by L Company and a heavy machine gun section were given the task of driving the CCF forces out of Sinch'ang-ni and filling the gap between the battalions on the front lines.⁶ They marched at 2:30 AM on November 30th, forcing the Chinese to retreat and destroying the Chinese behind & in the front line by mid-morning. The battle cost the 7th Cavalry 38 killed and 107 wounded. Among the dead was 1st Lieutenant John Hartong. According to the testimony of his son, Lieutenant Hartong was killed saving two of his fellow officers from a Chinese surprise attack.⁷ This is most likely related to a Chinese counter-attack that was launched at 7:00 AM.


Hartong served in World War II before fighting in Korea, serving two years in Belgium. Prior to World War II, he was a member of G Company, 129th Infantry Regiment of the Illinois National Guard. During the beginning of the Korean War, he was attached to 7th Cavalry Regimental Headquarters; he was transferred to L Company on November 30th, 1950.



  • Blair, Clay. The Forgotten War: America in Korea. Times Books, 1987.

  • The Jim Griggs Library

  • Mossman, Billy C. Ebb and Flow: November 1950-July 1951. Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1990.

  • The First Team: The First Cavalry Division in Korea, 18 July 1950-18 January 1952. Turner Pub. Co., 1994.

  • National WWII Memorial. “Search the Registry.” WWII Memorial,


  1. Mossman Pg. 105

  2. First Team Pg. 107

  3. Mossman Pg. 105

  4. Mossman Pg. 107

  5. Mossman Pgs.113-114 & First Team Pg. 107

  6. First Team Pg.107

  7. National WWII Memorial

Author's Note:

  • Special thanks to Jim Griggs for assisting in research on Lt. Hartong's Pre-WWII service.

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