Infantry Regiment, and became the next to last unit in the withdrawal order.
By 29 November, the CCF had established a roadblock in a mountain pass south of Kunu-ri and established firing positions on the mountain ridges along a six mile stretch north of the roadblock. When it came time for the 2nd Division to carry out its retrograde movement it had run a gauntlet of heavy enemy fire along the withdrawal route.
Late in the afternoon of 30 November, the 23rd Infantry Regiment suddenly left its position at the rear of the division and moved west to Anju then south along a costal route. When the 23rd Infantry pulled out, posthaste, on the Anju road about four miles northwest of them, the 2nd Engineers were the northernmost 2nd Division troops still in position. They were also now wide open to attack from all CCF now pouring into the Kunu-ri area.
The Division directed the 2nd Engineers Battalion to fight as the division rearguard to delay the enemy while the Division continued its withdrawal to the south.
From 25 to 30 November, the 2nd Engineers had fought, tenaciously, alongside infantry troops. Now, on 30 November, they were alone. Lt Col Zacherle, the 2nd Engineer commander, organized the defense and the battalion fought valiantly against overwhelming numbers of Chinese troops. Despite many casualties, they successfully defended the division’s rear in the retrograde movement.
By the evening of 30 November, the engineers were severely depleted and separated from the rest of the division and captured was eminent. Zacherle ordered all usable equipment destroyed so it would not fall into enemy hands. As night fell, he personally ordered the burning of the battalion colors to prevent their capture and possible display as a war trophy by the Chinese communists. Lt Col Zacherle later stated, “The colors were drenched with gasoline. A last look at the colors with the unbelievable number of battle streamers was imprinted on our minds. Setting the fire produced a bright blaze that denied the enemy a trophy they surely would have greatly prized.” Later that night, the battalion was overrun. Lt Col Zacherle, Maj Fry (Bn, Excc.), most of the battalion staff and over 400 officers and men, of all the companies of the battalion were either killed or captured. Over a six day period, the 2nd Engineer Battalion had shrunk from 788 officers and men to 347. 95% of the battalion’s equipment was lost. Despite the great losses, the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion
was rebuilt and continued to be a force, to be reckoned with, throughout the balance of the Korean War.
Lt Col Zacherle, and the 330 officers and men captured with him, were held by the Chinese communists as POWs for 33 months. There were only 114 who survived the brutal captivity to return home, at the end of hostilities, in August and September of 1953.
For several years past, (until the deactivation of the battalion in 2005) at dusk, on a cold evening of 30 November, the 2nd Engineer Battalion has stood at attention on the parade field at Camp Casey in South Korea. In the presence of the officers and men of the battalion and distinguished guests, the Battalion Commander has ordered the Battalion Executive Officer to burn the colors held in reverence by the Battalion Command Sergeant Major. The purpose of this annual ceremony has been to commemorate the actions taken by the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion on that night in late autumn of 1950 and to honor those gallant men who served with the battalion at that memorable time.