“It was silk everywhere and it was just marvelous to see,” Sergeant Paul Redgate said, describing 4th Ranger Company’s combat jump at Musan-Ni. In was March of 1951, the coldest winter that anyone could remember in Korea. Some American units were decimated by the freezing temperatures alone. Exiting the C-119 airplane, Redgate parachuted to the ground with his radio, rifle, and other combat equipment. He watched in horror as another plane put an entire stick of paratroopers out the door far too low. At only fifty feet above the ground, their parachutes didn’t have time to open and the soldiers splattered against the hill that Redgate’s squad was supposed to capture.
As they climbed Hill 205, Redgate’s men said a prayer for the deceased paratroopers and covered the remains with their parachutes. The 187th Regimental Combat Team, of which 4th Ranger Company was a part, had been assigned to jump in behind enemy lines and trap North Korean and Chinese forces, but they found the drop zone largely devoid of enemy. At the top of Hill 205, the Rangers watched as other aircraft began the heavy drop of equipment. They witnessed parachutes never open and jeeps nose right into the ground, pallets explode in the air and rain debris on those below. “The drop zone was not the place to be about then,” Redgate recalled.
The mission had been executed successfully, but strategically it was a waste as there was supposed to be a buildup of enemy forces at Musan-Ni, according to intelligence reports. This turned out to be false.
The next month, 4th Rangers was tasked with capturing Hwacheon Dam. The enemy had already opened the floodgates once (Watts, 191), dislodging floating bridges emplaced by the US military downstream. The dam was now considered a strategic target as the North Koreans and Chinese had the ability to flood everything down stream and wipe out entire units at will (Watts, 187).