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Re: Questions on NKPA
> One of the books I've assigned in a course on the Korean War and the 1950s
> is Addison Terry's memoir _The Battle for Pusan_. A student has a rather
> long list of questions prompted by the book. I'm forwarding the questions
> that I can't answer for him, with the faith that listmembers will have the
> answers and will be willing to help. Thanks in advance for the assist.
Sorry for the delayed response, however, things are a bit hectic these days.
I would like to add to what Ed and others have already posted.
> 1. How did the NKPA obtain battlefield intelligence in the face of
> American air superiority? More specifically, was there a significant number
> of communist sympathizers among the ROK army that leaked information to the
I've sent you via private email a section from my book NORTH KOREAN SPECIAL
FORCES - SECOND EDITION which details the DPRK intelligence organization at
the beginning of the war.
> 2. Were there political officers attached to NKPA combat units to
> enforce moral and aid in the conscription of South Koreans?
Yes on both accounts. The power of the political officers at division level
and below quickly ebbed with the Inch'on landing. It would once again become
a significant factor as the KPA was rebuilt. With that said it should be
noted that there were significant political factions within the KWP and the
KPA until the late 1960s. This was reflected in actions and effectiveness of
the political officers.
> 4. In the book, Terry refers to the 24th regiment as "Eleanor's
> Rifles," Is this by chance referring to Eleanor Roosevelt? If so, why?
No comment, my specialty is the KPA and KWP.
> 5. Did the NKPA concentrate most of its offensive "punch" in the
> sectors that were predominantly defended by ROK troops?
I'd agree with Ed's comments and would add the following. The KPA and CPV
would attempt to attack at the "seams" between UN units. They especially
targeted the seams between ROKA and US units because of the poor
communications between the two units. This was primarily due to the dearth
of communications equipment in ROKA units and the poor language skills of
the US units. Compounding this was the inadequate training, equipment, and
leadership in the ROKA. This would dramatically change for the better as the
war progressed and a number of ROKA units displayed great heroism and
excellent combat capabilities.
> 6. Did the NKPA have a significant number of self-propelled artillery
> such as Soviet SU-76s and Katyushas or did they have to rely on towed
The SU-76 was the only SP artillery piece in the KPA, although there are
reports that they received small numbers of SU-85/100 in 1953. These
reports, however, may be referring to CPV units and not the KPA. Initially
the SU-76s were concentrated in the 105th Tank Brigade/Division, however, as
the war continued there were a number of independent anti-tank battalions
and Mechanized Artillery Brigades that were equipped with some SU-76s. I
believe I posted a history of these later units a while back. You might want
to check the archives. The KPA didn't receive Katyushas until after the
war. The CPV did deploy small numbers of tank brigades and Katyushas
equipped units towards the end of the fighting.
> 7. After the Inchon landing, did the NKPA lose a large number of
> equipment or were they able to pull out a majority of there motorized
They lost most of their tanks, artillery and vehicles during their retreat.
> 8. Was there a significant number of communist partisan activity
> behind American lines in South Korea? <<
The section that I emailed you covers this in part. The first three chapters
of the book covers this question in detail.
> 9. How was the NKPA able to supply its front line troops in the face
> of American air superiority?
As Ed said "With great difficulty." The fact is, however, that despite
overwhelming air superiority the KPA and CPV did succeed in supplying their
troops. This was in part due to the lower supply requirements for their
units when compared with UNC units of similar organizational size. It is
worthwhile to remember the words of Rear Admiral Arleigh Burke who, on 5
October 1950, wrote,
łŠAnother lesson of equal importance has come from the North Koreans
themselves. On a battleground of smaller scale, but significantly similar to
Europe's western peninsula, the Red troops were able to march 200 miles
against overwhelming odds to within an unpleasant range of our last outpost,
Pusan, before being stopped. Against them was an angry populace conducting
vicious guerrilla warfare. Against them was geography, rugged mountains,
many rivers, [and] narrow, rough roads funneling through points vulnerable
to both air and sea attack. Against them were countless strategic bombers
hitting at their supplies and industrial potential, [and] tactical
planes-although proportionately fewer in number-effectively spreading
napalm, shooting rockets and bullets, all with deadly accuracy. Besides all
this, they were confronted with the omnipresent and omnipotent military
problem of maintaining, with each day of advance, a longer and more tortuous
line of communications. They had to support a large body of troops in a
large area far from their source of supply. They had to bring up tanks and
artillery to oppose our heavy supporting forces. They had virtually no sea
force, no air force, little antiaircraft protection-and still they came.
Although it is regrettable that some of our own strategists had to learn the
hard way that an army can advance against an overwhelmingly superior air
> 10. What role did armor play in NKPA offensives? Were tanks used
> primarily to reinforce the infantry or were they organized into independent
> formations and used to punch gaps in enemy lines in order for the infantry
> to advance?
Initially much of the 105th Tank Brigade/Division was attached to the
forward infantry divisions spearheading the KPA assault. KPA armor proved
very effective in the invasion and first months of the war since the ROKA
and US Army didn't have enough effective anti-armor weapons. By the time of
the Inch'on most KPA armor units were rendered ineffective due to the loss
of almost all tanks and SU-76s. AS the UNC pushed north into the DPRK, the
KPA was receiving massive Soviet assistance including additional tanks and
Su-76s. If I remember correctly, from the time following the UNC retreat
back south to Seoul, there were no KPA or CPV armor operations larger then
company size. When armor was encountered it was generally in defensive
positions, although there were a few notable exceptions.
> 11. Were there large numbers of Russian "volunteers" fighting
> with the NKPA?
No, there were only Soviet advisors in the KPA (at brigade level and above)
for most of the war. There was, however, large numbers of Soviet Air Force
and Air Defense Force personnel involved in the war. The Soviet Air Force
personnel operated primarily from within the PRC. It appears, however, that
large numbers of Air Defense Force personnel were eventually deployed south
of the Yalu down to P'yongyang in the west and Wonsan in the East. There
were also Soviet advisors with the KPN.
I would check the archives for the various posting by 'Cookie" Sewell and
Mark O'Neill concerning the subject of Soviet involvement. I also posted a
declassified US Army intelligence document on the subject.
I hope that this helps.
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
PGP public key available on request