The US CIA Young-do Partisans - Part VII
D. Ohbong Region Combats and Achievements.
The Ohbong partisan region encompassed the northern districts of Hamgyong and it was a critical area. There were two main reasons for the importance. First, after the UN retreat of January 4th, about 2,000 anti-Communist youths mounted a guerrilla war based at Mt. Ohbong (Hoe-ryong-gun). The Young-do HQ was eager to link up with these local youths and organize them into effective partisans. Second, the rail bridge at the mountain top of Mt. Koh-mu, whose destruction would stop the all vital rail transport of war materiel from the Soviet Union.
The mountain-top bridge was built in a narrow rugged mountain terrain of 40-50 m altitude. Repairing this kind of bridge was beyond the technical capability of the enemy and the war supply from the Soviet Union would be interrupted for a long time.
A 16-men partisan unit led by Commander Goh Tae Bong arrived at Mt. Ohbong on September 16, 1951. They were joined by Deputy Commander Cho Kwang-jin's 10 men on September 23rd, Commander Kang Suk-hun's 17 men on October 16, and Comrade Huh Young-jin and another partisan. Thus the Ohbong unit had a force of 45 men and set up a base at Kwang-mo-bong (2541 m).
The Ohbong Region was set up later than other regions. It was set up in late September, when snow began to fall at high altitudes and freezing cold winds began to blow from north. The partisans were snowed in and suffered from hunger and cold even before they had any opportunity to set up a spy network.
The partisans braved the -40 degree (Celsius) cold and knee-deep snow and went out scavenging for food and intelligence. Somehow they survived the winter. Due to vitamin deficiency, three partisans died during the winter.
b. Sul-ryong Base.
On September 23, 1951, a 10-men advance unit led by Deputy Commander Cho Kwang-jin parachuted down Sul-ryong, a peak of Kwan-mo-bong, North Hamgyong. Sul-ryong is 2,000 m above sea level and had snowfalls already even though it was late September and streams were frozen thick. The partisans had to build a wintering base post haste.
The old-growth ancient trees rose high into the clouds and even the beasts stayed away from the rugged area where the partisans camped. The camp area was thick with fallen leaves. The partisans felled trees with their swords and built wooden shacks for sheltering. Their immediate problem was food. Food supplies were dropped with the partisans but the chutes failed to open and the food supplies were lost.
The partisans were issued at the Young-do base an individual emergency ration of baked flour ran out, and to make the situation more critical, radio communication with the Young-do base could not be made. They build bonfires every night hoping to attract the attention of the UN planes flying over the base area. Occasionally some of the planes would see the bonfires and circle around a few time only to fly away. The partisans were on their own: they had to acquire food locally and conduct partisan warfare by themselves without any supply from the Young-do base.
On September 26, 1951, Comrade Huh Jung-un lead a scouting party of six men went out scrounging for food and for intelligence. After three days of march on deep snow, the scouting party reached a small village. About 30 police were cooking a wild pig on a bonfire in a festive merriment oblivious of the six partisans in the vicinity. The partisans opened fire and rushed the police and captured the entire group without any casualty.
Three partisans guarded the captured police and threw their weapon into the bonfire, while the other three searched the farm. They found an ox, some food, axes, a saw and shovels. They loaded the ox with the supplies and headed towards the base with the 30 captured police in two. When they reached a forest, the police began to slip away and the partisans fired on them killing 6-7 of the policemen. The ox bolted away scared by the gun shots. The partisans decided to go after the ox loaded with food and other supplies instead of chasing after the policemen. They managed to recover the ox.
Sensing that the enemy would be after them, the partisans rushed back to the base. The path to the base was covered with deep snow and the partisans did not want leave foot tracks for the enemy to follow, and so they waded in the ice-cold stream that led to the base. They had to endure the cutting cold water of the stream. Upon returning to the base, the partisans enhanced their shelter with the axes and other instruments captured. They built three large wooden shacks, each large enough to accommodate 30 men. The additional shelters were for the promised reinforcements from the Young-do base.
It was already October. Deputy Commander Cho and Comrade Lee Si-young went into a small village nearby and killed a policeman. They took the dead man's uniform and fired a bazooka shell into the police station destroying it. They returned to the base after four days bring a cow, which fed the hungry partisans for 15 days. The partisans had no radio contact with the Young-do base.
c. The Ju-ul Operation
The partisans were snow-bound for four long winter months that lasted till March of 1952. They suffered from malnutrition and frostbites. Comrade Goh Bong-do, Gum Hak-sung, and another partisan died of vitamin deficiency. Many of the 29 partisans had several cases of frostbites. Fortunately, the partisans were able to establish radio contacts with US planes and began to receive supplies from October 13, 1951.
On March 10, 1952, a raiding party of Deputy Commander Cho, Huh Gyong-un, Kim Gyo-wu, Lee Si-young, and Lim Chang-ryong left the main base on a mission to establish a branch base in Chung-chung region. They were armed with pistols, carbines, a BAR, and a radio set for ground to air communication. It was March but the temperature hovered around 15-16 degrees (Celsius) below zero. In addition, the snow was waist-deep and a trench had to be dug in the snow for the raiding party. A task force of seven men under Comrade Kim Yang-bong had performed the back-breaking job of digging the snow so that the raiding party could leave the base. It took the partisans eight days to reach Kwang-mo-bong (2544 m).
The sooner they had arrived at the peak, a heavy snow fall fell on them and a strong gale struck the partisans. The partisans could not move even a single step in the deep snow and the strong wind. The 12 partisans burrowed into the snowed and built themselves Eskimo igloos. They were huddled under the snow for three long days waiting for the weather to clear. he cold was so severe, the bonfires built inside the igloos did not melt the snow cover.
The snow fall stopped after three days but it was impossible to move around because of the deep snow. The seven-day food supply they brought with time had run out by this time. They had to get food soon or they would starve to death. On the map, there was a small village some 25 ri from their base at Ju-ul. A raiding party was formed to attack the village for food and supplies. To the middle of Kwang-mo-bong, the snow was frozen enough so that the partisans could slide down as if on a sleigh, but they ran into a sudden cliff at the end of the slide.
They made a ladder using parachute chords and woods cut into 3m pieces. Using this improvised ladder, the partisans descended more than twelve icy cliffs. It took the partisans three days to descend the cliffs. They ate nothing during their three ordeal. At last they reached the base of the cliff and found a farm village. But the village was empty and there was nothing for the partisans to eat. By this time, the enemy knew about the Yong-do partisans ('wild' pigs was the name the enemy endowed on the partisans) and had evacuated remote villages in order to deny the 'wild pigs' food and other supplies.
They raided another village but it, too, was empty. They approached a third village but they saw that there was bulletin posted, which stated that the North Korean government has issued clemency for the Young-do partisans. Any partisan surrendering would be forgiven and would be rejoined with his family and live happily ever after. The partisans raided an inhabited farm house but the poor residents of the house had nothing to offer the hungry partisans. The poor family lived on potatoes and corns. The partisans were sorry that they could not help this poor family.
On the following day, the partisans raided another house nearby and found a secrete policeman, Rah Hi-baik, and captured him without any struggle and his Russian rifle. The partisans obtained five du of millet, sacks of potatoes, bean paste, and an ox. At about 05:30, the partisans were warned of a detachment of police approaching the villages and they set up an ambush. But the ambush did not go well and fire-fight broke out with an enemy force of about 30 men.
The partisans clad in white coat for winter fighting killed 20 of the enemy in 40 min and the rest fled. The partisans suffered no casualties but the ox ran away with the food and other supplies. The partisans expected an enemy counter attack and left the village. Because of the heavy snow, they abandoned their mission of establishing a base near Chung-jin and headed back to the home base. On the way, they caught two mountain sheep and ate them, the first decent meal they had for a long time.
d. The Yun-sa-myun Operation
On May 15, 1952, a task force of eight men under Comrade Huh Young-jin left on a mission of attacking an enemy armored platoon stationed at a lumber mill at Jung-sa-myun. The partisans were armed with pistols, carbines, a BAR, grenades and TNT explosives. At about 14:00 next day, the partisans reached their destination and hid while a scouting party of two men was sent out to scout the area. They ran into a column of about 300 civilians forced into labor. The partisans stopped the column and interrogated the workers. It was learned that they were on their way to work on a new railway connecting Musan and Kwan-mo-bong.
Comrade Huh Young-jin gave a speech while the other partisans sought out Communist party members among the crowd. The enemy had Party members to guard and drive the reluctant residents into forced labor. There were people with had fled to South Korea. About 10 Party members were found after 40 min of interrogation. One of them suddenly took out a dagger and stabbed Comrade Lee Yang-sin and fled. Fortunately, Comrade Lee suffered only a minor cut on his hand.
At this point, a lookout signaled that an enemy column was approaching. The partisans took a defensive posture and threw grenades at the 30-men detachment of the enemy. Five of the enemy fell screaming and the rest hit the road. The partisans opened up with a BAR and other weapons. The enemy fled leaving behind 15 dead.
The partisans moved to a new defensive position and waited for the expected counter attack. In about 20 min, the enemy regrouped and came fighting. The partisans mowed them down to the last man, and placed TNT explosives at the new rail yard and left the area at about 16:00.
Next day one the way back, they encountered two youth with long hair and beards in tattered cloth, looking like primitive wild man. They said that they were from Musan and had been hiding in the mountains since the war broke out. They wanted to join the partisans and so, the two youth were taken to the base for further processing. Strangely, one of the two kept a diary. They claimed that they subsisted on leaves and grass, yet this man kept a diary, which was full of entries critical of the Communist Party. If they were indeed anti-Communist, why would they leave writings that would implicate then when captured by the enemy. It turned out that these two were police informers intending to infiltrate the partisans.
e. Withdrawal of the Chung-jin Unit and Sul-ryung Base
On May 20, 1952, Cho Kwan-jin, Lee Si-hyung, Kim Gyo-wu, and Lim Chang-yong left Sul-ryung and reached after one week's march Nuyoung-gun and set up a temporary base at Suk-mak. The main reason for this particular site was that Commander Cho's anti-Communist youth group formed early in the war might be still in operation and Commander Cho hoped to link up with them.
Chungjin was in ruins after massive bombings by US warplanes. Most of its residents fled to nearby villages and lived in temporary shelters. The once busy Po-han-dong marked was held at Chi-ha-dong on a much reduce scale. Commander Cho scouted the town in People's Army uniforms. He recruited a certain Shin, an old acquaintance from days before the liberation. Shin helped Cho convert Lee Ju-young, a Party cadre. Unfortunately as the armistice approached, they changed their mind.
Cho met his brother-in-law, a People's Army doctor and a Lt. Colonel. Cho urged him to flee to South Korea with him, but the Colonel refused. Many senior officials of North Korea sat on the fence and kept the door open in case of Kim Il-sung regime fell. But the armistice becoming the reality, Kim's regime was not about to collapse any time soon, and the cadres threw their lot with Kim's regime.
Several days after Cho's meeting with his brother-in-law, his Suk-mak base was surrounded by the enemy. Cho and Kim Gyo-u escaped but Lee Si-hyung and Lim Chang-yong went unaccounted. Early in July, Cho and Kim returned to the Young-do base. They were the only survivors.
Meanwhile the Sul-ryung base was surrounded by two infantry divisions who approached the base from Sung-jin, Ju-ul, Pungsan, and Musan starting on June 20th. On the night of June 24th, the enemy signal flairs went up all around the base. The Partisans found themselves surrounded completely. Commander Kang decided to evacuate the base and ordered the base and ammo depot set to destroyed with TNT. In the following morning, the partisans armed and carrying meager food rations headed towards Whanl-ki-bong. Comrade Lee Si-young, from the Chungjin Suk-mak base joined the march.
They were ambushed by the enemy at Kil-hae-sun (Kilju-Hyesan). The partisans broke through but Commander Kang and Lee Si-hyung were wounded form a fall off a cliff. Nine survivors resumed their march towards Kwan-mo-bong. Commander Kang, Lee Si-young, Jun Tae-im, Choe Yun-byong, Whang Chul-su, Huh Gynong-hun, Kim Un-tae, and other survivors numbering 12 men decided to return to the Young-do base instead of going to Kwan-mo-bong, which was mostly in the enemy hand already.
Next day the none men detachment fought on a desperate battle against a superior force. The 12 men group reached Mah-chun-ryung near the coast but they were discovered by the enemy and attacked. Commander Kang and Lee Si-young, both wounded in an earlier battle, were killed. Comrade Yu Duk-guy went missing. The surviving nine partisans hid near Sung-jin and escaped during a naval bombardment.
VII. Sea-borne Operations.
(to be continued)
VIII. Photo Album.