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Amphibious Attack on Yang-do, November 1951
Title: Amphibious Attack on Yang-do, November 1951
A while back (6-8 months ago?) I believe that someone had asked about the
1951 KPA attack on the Yang-do island group off the northeast of Korea. At
that time my files were still in New York and I couldn’t respond with
confidence. Well the files arrived and I’ve finally got around to unboxing a
number of cartons and came across the Yang-do information. I’ve attached it
below. For those who are interested, I’ve scanned in the map and photos
which accompanied the report and have prepared a Adobe .pdf file with them.
If you’d like a copy please send me an email offline. Enjoy.
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
“Amphibious Attack on Yang-do,” Far East Command Intelligence Digest, Issue
No. 19, 1-15 March 1952, pp. 37-40.
During the last quarter of 1951 and thus far in 1952 the enemy has launched
numerous shore to shore operations against UN held islands. In all but one
instance prior to 20 February, these operations were directed against
islands off the West Coast of Korea. The exception occurred on the night of
28-29 November when 15 enemy raided Hwangto-do a friendly held island which
lies close aboard the mainland shore in Wonsan Bay. The North Korean force
conducting the raid succeeded in achieving surprise and inflicted eleven
casualties on friendly forces. The enemy suffered only one minor casualty
and immediately withdrew to the mainland. The Hwangto-do incident was
successful only as a raiding operation.
During the early morning hours of 21 February, the enemy launched a second
operation against an East Coast Island group. The objective of the attack,
the Yang-do group, consists of three islands, Yang-do, East Yang-do, and
Kanghui-do. They lie about two and one half miles off the mainland to the
northeast of Songjin. The beaches on the islands are generally rocky and
rise in steep cliffs to the island centers. The deep water surrounding the
islands permits UN vessels to steam completely around them. This affords a
great measure of defensive strength.
Prior to 20 February the enemy was not known to have any significant number
of ground combat troops in the Yang-do area. Numerous coastal defense guns
were known to be emplaced along the shore; these were the subject of
continual harassment and attack-by carrier aircraft and surface bombardment.
No concentration of sampans or other type surface craft was noticed and
those craft which were sighted were under constant attack prior to 20
February. Interrogation of prisoners taken during the attack against Yang-do
indicates that on 17 February a unit of 245 men displaced southward from
Chongjin to the Yang-do area. The unit has been identified as part of the
63rd NK Regiment, formerly the 63rd NK Brigade.
The friendly forces on the islands number approximately 450 including the
83d Company (-) of the 8th Independent KMC Battalion, 270 natives and
guerrillas, 30 ROK intelligence personnel, and the island commander, 1st Lt.
J. Bartos, USMC, who, as CTU 95.23.1, is subordinate to the East Coast
Island Defense Commander, CTE 95.23. The ground defense of the islands is
predicated upon holding a beach line of resistance for the maximum period of
time and then, if necessary, falling back to a main line of resistance.
TE 95.22, consisting of 3 destroyer-type ships, is charged with the surface
defense of the area in addition to conducting normal patrol and blockade
duties in the Songjin area. On 20-21 February the 3 ships on station were
the New Zealand Patrol Frigate TAUPO, the US destroyer Minesweeper ENDICOTT
and the US Destroyer SHELTON.
The enemy force of 245 men launched their shore to shore operations late on
the night of 20 February and timed it with the departure of the UN ships
from the immediate area of Yang-do which left on patrol functions. The NKs
utilized from 28 to 42 small sampans to transport the force from the
mainland to the islands. Intelligence reports indicate that all craft
involved were sculled across the intervening waters. Each sampan carried
only 5 to 10 men. The smallness of the craft explains the ease of massing
and deployment without detection by friendly forces.
At 0115 hours on the morning of 21 February the enemy shore batteries opened
up with a concentration of 200 rounds of artillery fire on the islands. At
about 0125 a force of 80 men under the command of the Battalion Commander
landed on the northern tip of Yang-do. Simultaneously a force of 100 men
landed on a rocky beach on the east central shore of East Yang-do. The
balance of 65 men was kept afloat, probably to exploit either of the
landings. At 0130 the enemy stumbled on and set off a number of trip flares
in the beach defenses and the land battle commenced
TE 95.22 immediately began closing on the island a ships arrived and took
station with the TAUPO to the ENDICOTT to the west and the SHELTON to the
north While the land battle progressed, the TAUPO and ENDICOTT engaged an
estimated 6 sampans between 0255-0345 hours, claiming 1 destroyed and 1
damaged. Visibility during this period was low an -0500 hours heavy snows
fell in the area.
At 0710 the enemy force on East Yang-do began retreating from the beach
after they had succeeded in capturing the machine gun which had stopped
their advance for several hours. No such retreat was reported from Yang-do
and the land battle continued until 1030 when mopping-up was begun. From
0630 to 0730 the TAUPO and ENDIOCOTT engaged 15 enemy sampans, destroying 10
and inflicting heavy personnel casualties in the remainder.
As a result of the operation the enemy lost an estimated 150 to 170 killed
in action; 80 bodies were counted on the beach. The commander of the enemy
battalion and 5 men were wounded and taken prisoner. In addition, 8 civilian
scullers who had propelled a number of the sampans were captured. Six
machine guns of Czech manufacture, 3 40 mm mortars, 18 Russian-made burp
guns, 41 Russian-made rifles, and 1 radio of the SCR 600 type were captured
by friendly forces. The island garrison suffered only 7 killed, 20 wounded
and 2 missing.
It is evident that the operation was well planned in its initial stages. The
enemy was able to mass the necessary small craft without detection. His
operation was skillfully timed with the departure of the UN surface elements
on their patrol missions. His artillery concentration was very well timed
and the forces involved were able to effect landings simultaneously on two
islands without detection. However, his reserve force afloat was extremely
vulnerable to attack by UN destroyer-type ships. His estimate of the
defensive capability of the garrison and the surface elements was faulty.
His withdrawal during light hours constituted a tactical blunder since it
was during the withdrawal that he suffered his heaviest casualties.