Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, October 15, 2017

North Korean Landings

Sometimes Google fails you. A couple of weeks ago I found a reference to an amphibious invasion during the Korean war in a document. Any combination of Googling brings up one of two results. The Inchon landings or modern stories about North Korea. Luckily, I managed to get back down to the archives and get some more documents and details. What follows is the Communist amphibious invasion of Changin Do. 

Changin Do is one of the many islands in the estuary of the Yalu River. At sea the Communist forces didn't have much to challenge the UN naval power, although these ships couldn't be everywhere. On land the allies used advisor's to lead local Korean guerilla forces. These US Special forces reconnaissance teams were run under an operation codenamed HEMONG. Irritatingly the reports all use period terminology and codenames, and one of the leaders of an operation in the area is only referred to as "LEOPARD", without giving a clue who LEOPARD is. Equally there are areas of operation and they're all referred to by their code names, same with locations, which makes the modern-day historian really confused. Which, I guess is the entire point, you don't want the uninitiated from guessing what you're talking about.

The communist forces were conducting an island hopping campaign using three motor and eleven sailing Junks, with about a battalion of troops to fight for control of the islands. These had by July 1952 pushed the HEMONG teams back.  
Changin Do lay near the mainland, and was considered a prime place by LEOPARD as a jumping off point for his teams and agents. Equally if it was captured the neighbouring islands of Kirin Do, Ohwa Do and Sunwi Do (I'm sure you've spotted it, but Do = Island) would be unsupportable and fall. Changin Do had already changed hand several times. If this cluster of islands fell then the strategically important Paingyong Do would be under threat.  
About 0200, 15th of July about 300 North Korean Army troops had landed on Changin Do. Although after the battle it was estimated that the number was half the reported 300. The landing force was carried in two sailing Junks and four foldable boats. The latter were about 15 feet long, 5 feet wide and just three feet deep. They were made out of rubber and light woods, with an outboard motor on them. An LMG could be mounted forwards. To carry them eight men would be needed per craft, or three could be loaded into an Ox cart. The outboard motor was too powerful for the construction however, and caused the boat to shake and leak as it was used. These had been used elsewhere and were of interest to the Allied intelligence as they'd never ever recovered a sample.
HMS Belfast

The first reports of the islands capture reached Allied naval forces about 0915, the two nearest ships were quite famous ones. HMS Belfast, whom had been heading back to base to refuel, and HMS Amethyst, of the River Yangtze fame. These two ships immediately steamed at best speed for the captured island, with HMS Belfast arriving first at 1000 and HMS Amethyst arriving shortly afterwards. Both ships launched a boat apiece, armed with machine guns and a few Royal Marines. They were dispatched towards the beach where the enemy were estimated to have landed, with the intention of obtaining a sample of the folding boats. As the two boats approached they saw a large number of civilians taking cover in caves, and turned towards them, however the communist forces were also there. The communists were on the top of the cliffs above the caves, and they began to fire at the boats with everything they had including mortars. The Royal Marine boats broke away and returned to their parent ships, with only one marine wounded through the leg. 
On its way back, the boat for HMS Belfast picked up a naked Korean from a small rocky islet. He was a local who had ferried DONKEY agents about. He had been carrying two agents overnight and had run into the Communist forces just after landing the agents, they had chased him, and to escape he had swum out to the rock where he had lain exhausted.
HMS Amethyst

At this point LEOPARD decided to mount an operation to re-capture the island with local forces, but it wouldn't be ready until the morning of the 16th. The Royal Navy ships were asked to hold station and keep the sea lanes secure. About 1645 while sailing around the island, a battery of 76mm guns on the mainland began to fire at HMS Amethyst. Sensibly she retreated, while returning fire. One of her shells caused a secondary explosion and one hostile gun ceased to fire on her. During the run to be outside the batteries range, which was some 12000 yards, about 45 rounds were fired at her, some landing as close as 20 yards. In return HMS Amethyst sent back some 78 rounds. HMS Belfast in the meantime couldn't see the battery, due to Changin Do being in the way. But she could reach the site with her main guns. HMS Amethyst walked the fire onto the target and with just 26 silenced the battery. 
A similar incident occurred about 1945, when a battery began to fire directly onto HMS Belfast, getting some twenty rounds off, but the nearest was seen to land about 200 yards away. HMS Belfast didn't miss, and one salvo silenced the enemy battery.

As darkness began to approach the South Korean patrol boat 702 (Named the Kum Kang San) appeared. Belfast had ordered her to attend to help with the blockade as shallows between the island and the mainland were no go areas for HMS Belfast or HMS Amethyst. The PC 702 along with HMS Belfast's armed boats blockaded this area all night.
Patrol Boat 702

The next morning was planned for the 200 guerillas to land from Ohwa Do. Transport problems occurred straight away. The guerillas only had one motor junk, and it was only using 1.5 of its normal cylinders, the others being broken, and was being used to tow sailing junks. The previous night the two US advisors had arrived and asked for a tow from the British ships, but they'd all been needed to blockade the island. As dawn broke the channel element couldn't remain under the enemy guns and so was withdrawn, with PC702 being sent to tow the junks. The tow rope however, was rubbish. Rotted through it kept on breaking as soon as PC702 started to move, as she couldn't actually go slow enough to pull the other junks. So LEOPARD's motor junk had to resume meaning that the landing was some 3.5 hours past its time. This actually proved a boon as due to the delay planes from the USS Bataan were able to arrive to provide close air support. The guerrillas split up into two companies and began to move opposite ways around the island, supported all the way by air strikes and point-blank gun fire from the warships. This liberal amount of support actually worked against the counter attack, when about 1000 the main defensive position was reached. The North Koreans were dug in on ah hill that dominated the entire island. Both HMS Belfast and the air strikes tried to blast the communists out of their position but failed. However, the guerillas wouldn't assault as they thought it wasn't their job. To that end after two hours of bombardment, at 1200, the planes from the USS Bataan were called off, and HMS Belfast left the area to complete her refuelling. The withdrawal of most of the support had the desired effect, one of the companies of guerillas encircled the enemy position and then both attacked. After five hours of fighting the position was silenced and the island was back in Allied hands.
USS Bataan
 HMS Belfast was back on the scene about 1800, and overnight she and HMS Amethyst provided medical support to the wounded from the fighting. HMS Amethyst even had a US doctor flown on board to assist the ships medical personnel, and some fifteen personnel (including one of the US advisor's and a female) were treated. There was one more incident, PC702 was back patrolling the channel overnight when she found six North Korean soldiers swimming for the mainland. In an incredible quirk of fate, the captain of PC702 knew the officer in charge of the group, they had gone to school together, however as he was an ardent communist he had joined the North Koreans. Of the 156 North Koreans landed, 80 were killed, 42 captured, thirty drowned while trying to regain the main land by swimming, and five unaccounted for.

Now I'm going to try something different. Sometimes I have extra information related to a story. But it would make the article too long. For that reason, I have set up a Patreon where I can put the bonus material. This is in part to deal with some of the costs of this work (which up until now I've been paying out of my own pocket).

Don't worry I'm not going to put the ending of the article behind a pay wall or anything like that. You will still get a complete story every week free. However occasionally I will stick some extra details up on the Patreon.
 Today is a perfect example of what I mean. The main article above is already nearly 1500 words long, which is close to the point when I'd cut it into two articles. However, I still have the story of an earlier invasion of Korean islands by communist forces, the fate of LEOPARD's motor junk and HMS Belfast getting ambushed a week later. While related, they are not part of this story, and too short to make a full article out of. Therefore I've placed the stories of LEOPARD's junk and the earlier North Korean Amphibious raid on Patreon. Later this week, Wednesday most likely, I'll post up the HMS Belfast incident on my Facebook page (which I recommend you follow as there are changes afoot).