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Private Dale Sasenbery

C Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment

The cold dirt flies upwards as the thundering sound of boots trot against it. A torrent of grenades, mortars, and small arms fire fall everywhere within the fluid company line as men charge forward, the sound of Gary Owen echoing on the slope. The young rifleman fires a round out of his rifle, smoke puffing out as he continues to charge before a grenade explodes nearby. The calls of medic fill the air as Dale Sasenbery laid on the ground, groaning with hot steal lodged in his body.

Dale Damon Sasenbery was born on March 15, 1928, in Martin, South Dakota but soon moved to sunny Stockton, California early in his youth. The tang of fresh citrus fruit and the kiss of a warm west coast sun did little to prepare him for the conflict in Korea. The Second World War had ended when he was a sophomore in high school so when the trumpets of war beckoned men of the United States to arms, he answered the call. Private Sasenbery would arrive in Korea just before the Chinese Spring Offensive while the First Cavalry was in reserve around Seoul in a defensive block. The rest did the troopers well, filling them with a renewed spirit of optimism against the encroaching communist armies. Throughout April, almost 800 officers and enlisted men rotated back to the states for discharge, leaving a twinge of sadness in the hearts of the soldiers and the notable lack of experienced field grade officers and non-commissioned officers. This resulted in many of the fresh recruits taking crash-courses to attain skills to help their new comrades.

Almost as soon as MacArthur's favorite division was ready for combat, the first wave of Chinese forces hit the UN lines. 250,000 communist troops smashed against the bulwark of democracy, focusing tremendous amounts of men towards Seoul. Reaction from the Cavalry was swift as the 5th Cavalry RCT (5th Cav, 61st FA, and A Company, 70th Tank Battalion) would prove to be "the decisive element needed to halt the red penetration." Quickly, more and more incursions on and through the line by the PVA forces occurred, spurring the entire division to ready quicker. During the mobilization of the division, American casualties were at a minimum while enemy losses grew rapidly. By April 26th, Sasenbery and the 7th Cavalry Regiment supported by the 77th and 82nd FA were deployed to augment the 3rd Infantry Division, which had suffered heavy attacks from PVA forces. Two days later, I Corps ordered the First Team in its entirety to the front to defend the spiritually, strategically, and psychologically important city of Seoul. The division relieved the 3rd US Infantry and 1st ROK Infantry Divisions on Line Golden, a mere 15 miles north of Seoul. Sasenbery sat on the line, the echoes of communist howitzers clashing with their American counterparts hung like death in the air. The troopers double and triple-checked their rifles while in waiting. 

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.

The division history portrays the ROK troops in a much more positive light during these opening-days of the new offensive. They had excelled in preparing the division logistics with new roads built in record speed and topographic maps produced with great accuracy. In the closing days of April, Sasenbery would learn what the men just a few years older than himself had seen in World War Two: American artillery. Nearly 4,000 rounds were fired and 39 airstrikes called in just in two days; an impressive array of firepower to the beholder. Sasenbery and the other men of the division were equipped with three days' worth of ammo and in general, the division was issued double the amount of heavy machine guns.

April showers did not bring May flowers for the division; instead, it brought a sudden decrease in Chinese engagements. The communist forces took a substantial blow. Heavy losses, overstretched supply lines, and poor organization forced the Reds into a state of uneventfulness. This worked in the favor of the troopers as they began to build their defenses even stronger, preparing for the Chinese to hit the line once again The Cavalry was met with mild weather as they began a new phase in their defense of Seoul. Each regiment was deployed off of Line Golden to patrol bases a little over five miles south of the village of Uijongbu. The new goal was to engage the Reds north towards Tok Chong on Line Topeka and then to Line Kansas. The 7th Cavalry would set up closest to Uijongbu and probe the Chinese forward positions; a proverbial poking the giant. May 18th brought a renewed Chinese offensive further down the line. The 7th was ordered 1,000 yards back to properly prepare for the Chinese, which would occur the next day.

The Chinese onslaught was whittled away by expertly placed machine gun emplacements and a constant stream of reinforcements and ammunition. This bulwark of yellow shields and black horse heads completely crippled the enemy units in the sector, creating a hole in the line. Now, the race began as they moved north to Line Topeka, eight miles away. With bravery and determination, the line was captured and secured in five days. This was no time to get comfortable however as orders to continue the advance came through division command and so they moved on again, bloodied as they race towards the next line: Line Kansas. Now securing the line by May 25th, the men threatened the enemy supply lines with the ability to launch patrols north of the 38th. The rest of May and into June, the division would be engaged in the infamous Iron Triangle, named for its geographic location with the cornerstones-at Chorwon, Kumwha, and Pyongyang. The next engagement would begin on June 4th, with an eleven-mile push to the Wyoming Line which would provide breathing space while the previous line was fortified. The troopers met little resistance and began fortifying Wyoming, constantly reminded that the enemy was creeping at every nook and cranny.

Sasenbery, now a seasoned combat veteran remained on Line Wyoming while peace talks dragged on past the first anniversary of the war beginning. It would not be until early July when- the Chinese once again tumbled with the cavalry, launching a small incursion on July 7th with the third battalion, 7th Cavalry. Seven days later, the 2nd battalion, 7th Cavalry would be pulled from the line to act as guards for the peace talks but would return on the 18th. Starting on July 15th, the Cavalry would be moved into reserves to undergo training and regrouping. On August 1st, the entire division would return to the line, battle-hardened against an ever-changing enemy. Sasenbery would move with the 7th Cavalry Regiment to replace the 24th Infantry Regiment, 7th US Infantry Division on the line. August brought the rainy season to Korea, with heavy downpours affecting friends and foes alike. The runoff did affect logistics as it created dangerous flash flooding on the rural road network of the Hermit Kingdom.

Unfavorable weather stops no man, especially men of communist ideals as they began to up their aggressive nature, engaging the line frequently. L & K companies of the 7th Cavalry Regiment engaged the Chinese and took two of three objectives they intended on, only stopping due to extremely well-entrenched enemies. September would be noted with increased hostility on both sides, with increased probing done as well as increased volume of Chinese artillery. On September 17th, B Company, 7th Cavalry Regiment was engaged with enemy artillery as they advanced up the line to a new position, sustaining 90 shells in two hours. G Company reported no artillery around the same time.35 In the night of September 21st and dipping into the twilight of the 22nd, the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 7th were engaged by enemy artillery and ground attacks, the latter thwarted. Through the late days of the month, the Cavalry took a significant hit from the communists, taking the brunt of multiple engagements. Following this would be the next UN offensive: Operation Commando.

Operation Commando was a plan devised by 8th Army and I Corps to prevent stagnation on the Western front of Korea. It was a limited offensive to push further north to Line Jamestown, the Chinese main line of resistance. Of note would be fighting around Yonchon & Chorwon, both formidable Chinese strong points. Patrols maintained their usual routine of probing the lines to establish hard points and assess Chinese numbers. The Chinese were dug in extremely well and in-depth with a complex web of trenches and bunkers. On top of this, the Reds were well-supplied and equipped with ammunition, firearms, and most importantly morale.

"The savage resistance that was soon to face the advancing Cavalrymen came but no means wholly as a surprise, although in its intensity it did exceed expectations" was quoted from the unit history and it accurately sums up the assault.

At 6:00 AM on October 3rd, Operation Commando commenced. The 7th Cavalry was deployed on the right flank with Sasenbery moving towards the objective of Hill 287, a fortified behemoth of a hill. The enemy reacted savagely, throwing their whole weight on C Company. Wave after wave of cavalrymen was beaten back by the Chinese throughout the 3rd and into the 4th. It would be during one of the charges on Hill 287 that Sasenbery would be hit with shrapnel to the hand by an enemy grenade. He would be evacuated to a field hospital and eventually a hospital in Japan, out of the fight until the 14th of November. During his time out, he would miss bloody fighting all along the front, with the 7th Cavalry being severely depleted in manpower. By October 7th, the 7th Cavalry Regiment would take Hill 287; the beginning of successes during the operation. The left flank was still a jumbled mess of small arms and howitzers but by the time of Sasenbery's return to the front, the cracks were forming in the Red line and significant ground was made. He would rejoin C Company to secure and build up friendly-held territory.

The division remained in intense and hard fighting for sixteen straight days in some of the worst fighting of the entire war. No rest would be received by the weary as they would engage in building even more defenses on the line, now known as Operation Stonewall. Supply routes needed to be created, trenches dug, bunkers repaired, and so on. Besides building defenses, cavalrymen moved to further secure their positions by establishing forward bases, securing numerous hills. For the 7th Cavalry, they would secure Hills 199 & 200 after fierce combat. Sasenbery & 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry would mount up on another engagement: the capture of Hill 200 in conjunction with 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry. Small arms fire was heavy and explosions filled the air with smoke and dirt. From 2:30 AM until past noon the men fought until finally securing Hill 200. This battle would produce a Medal of Honor recipient, 1st Lt. Lloyd Burke. October would conclude with Line Jamestown firmly in friendly hands. In December, the 1st Cavalry would finally rotate to Japan after two years of combat in Korea.

Sasenbery would return to his beloved California and live happily, eventually being married to his loving wife Yolanda. He would enjoy his golden years golfing, camping, and fishing. Surprisingly, he would gain notoriety for building an 18-foot mahogany run-about by hand. He was quoted by the Press-Tribune as pushing 3,000 hours on the project. Sadly, Sasenbery would pass on October 18th, 2019 at the age of 91.



  • Admin. “Dale Sasenbery - Obituary.”, 24 Oct. 2019,

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

  • Draft Card

  • DuBois, Linda. “'Arc' of the Neighborhood.” Press Tribune, 29 June 1997.

  • Goulden, Joseph C. Korea, The Untold Story of the War. Times Books, 1982.

  • Halberstan, David. The Coldest Winter. Hyperion, 2007.

  • Mackowiak, Robert. “Cpl. James F. Hannah.” Rcmcollection, 30 May 2018,

  • Miller, John, et al. Korea: 1951-1953. Center of Military History, 1956.

  • National Archives. “Korean War Casualty File.” Korean War Casualty File, NARA.

  • United States Army. The First Cavalry Division in Korea. Albert Love Enterprises, 1952.

Author's Note:

  • ​This article was featured in the September-October 2021 Edition of The Saber, the 1st Cavalry Division Association's newsletter, and an edition of Military Trader

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