top of page

Captain Thomas Clendenin

Heavy Weapons Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment

Heavy Weapons Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment

Rifle shots ring out from every direction imaginable: from in front, the flanks, farther along the line where 2nd Battalion was holding out, and even behind the lines. Captain (then Lieutenant) Clendenin keeps his platoon's 60mm mortars singing, launching projectiles as quickly as they could load their weapons when a North Korean machine gun opens up on them. Disregarding his own safety, he rushes out of his foxhole, gathering a bazooka team and leading them to an optimal firing position before yelling "fire!" at the North Korean machine gun nest.

Thomas Fauntleroy Clendenin was born on March 6th, 1927 in St. Louis, Missouri but was raised in in Plainfield, New Jersey. In 1945, while World War II was nearing its end, Clendenin joined the US Merchant Marines, sailing aboard the SS Meuse-Argonne, a T2 oil tanker. He served aboard the Meuse-Argonne for less than a year when he was drafted into the army on December 10th, 1945. Sometime after he graduated boot camp, he attended Officer Candidate School, commissioning as a second lieutenant. He did a tour of duty at a handful of stateside military bases before deploying to Japan, joining occupation forces. However, with a chronic lack of skilled or experienced junior officers and with war looming in the far east, Clendenin was called back up for federal service and deployed to Japan in March 1950. Now a first lieutenant, Clendenin was assigned command of Weapons Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

Prior to the summer of 1950, the entire 1st Cavalry Division was tasked with garrison duties in the greater Tokyo area, policing the civilian population, disarming old Imperial Japanese munitions still being turned up, guarding key and enjoying the vast red-light district of Tokyo. Though when the Korean War broke out in June 1950, the troopers were forced to trade in their custom-tailored Eisenhower jackets for combat fatigues and their parade rifles for real ones. The 1st Cavalry Division was the third American division to be sent to Korea, with the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions going before them. To fully man the 24th and 25th Divisions, roughly a third of the entire 1st Cavalry Division was transferred to them, weakening the cavalry when they were ultimately sent to Korea. Assembling on transports in Tokyo Bay, the 1st Cavalry Division set sail from Japan and on July 18th, 1950 arrived at the fishing village of Pohang-dong. The 1st Cavalry Division landed on mudflats in the large transport ships and smaller landing craft, assembling on the dirt roads of the village to move out. Lt. Clendenin’s battalion was the first one to leave the landing zone, mounting trucks, jeeps, and trains to take up positions near Yongdong.

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.

On July 22nd, the 8th Cavalry Regiment relieved elements of the 24th Infantry Division near Yongdong, settling in to defensive positions around the town. 1st Battalion (Companies A-D) took up positions on the west side of Yongdong, defending Highway One and a rail line running through the town while 2nd Battalion (Companies E-H) took up positions to the south of Yongdong, defending Highway 55. At 9 PM that night, the 1st Cavalry Division made their first contact with the enemy. A North Korean patrol from the 3rd North Korean Division conducted a probe of the 1st Battalion line, causing a brief firefight before they slinked back to their own line. The next day, the 3rd NK Division began their main attack. 1st Battalion came under intense infantry attack while the 2nd Battalion endured a brutal artillery barrage followed up by an infantry assault. 1st Battalion claimed three enemy tanks destroyed that morning. 2nd Battalion on the other hand was pinned down and North Korean troops cut it off completely from Yongdong, erecting a roadblock behind their line.


On July 24th, American tanks and elements of the 2nd Battalion failed to dislodge the North Korean roadblock after four separate attempts to do so. Artillery support was also hampered for the 2nd Battalion as North Korean troops had infiltrated even deeper behind the line, now harassing two 1st Cavalry Division artillery battalions. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion was steadfast in their defense. A Company was being assaulted from two flanks, North Koreans attacking the Americans like dogs would a rabbit. The 60mm mortars of Lt. Clendenin’s weapons platoon did well in preventing the North Koreans from breaking through the line but they were not enough to combat a freshly erected North Korean machine gun nest. Springing into action, Clendenin exposed himself to enemy small arms fire and directed a bazooka team to destroy the machine gun nest. When he learned that the company commander, Captain Stephen Dubinsky, was killed, he assumed temporary command of the company and successfully halted the North Korean push and prevented another break in the line. For his actions, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor.

Despite the valorous stand of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, they were forced to retreat towards Taegu, the provisional capital of South Korea. 1st Battalion succeeded in executing an orderly withdraw but 2nd Battalion was still pinned down. While the bulk of the 2nd Battalion was able to escape in a motorized column following a successful if temporary destruction in the roadblock in the early morning hours of July 25th, over 200 troopers were forced to abandon their weapons and vehicles and march in the Korean brush to friendly lines.

bottom of page