United Nations Special Operations in Korea

PartisanHonorMedal.jpg (6660 bytes)

Awarded to Korean and American personnel who served with the 8086th and 8240th Army Units


February 1951 to February 1954


Ed Evanhoe

The night of 20-21 February 1954 was overcast with occasional snow flurries and the temperature was near zero as two 50-foot patrol boats slipped quietly across the Han River Estuary mud flats. Shortly before midnight they glided to a stop two hundred yards off the beach at Haenam-ni, North Korea. Minutes later two black assault boats rode a still rising tide to a mud beach, quickly loaded thirty-two survivors from the ill-fated BEEHIVE stay-behind mission, and returned to the waiting boats. The last man boarded and at zero zero four-three hours the 50-footers executed the well known maneuver, 'Haul Ass, thus ending the last operational mission by United Nations Partisan Infantry Korea, the 8240th Army Unit

UN partisan operations in Korea came about more by chance than from planning. During the retreat out of North Korea in Nov-Dec 1950, thousands of anti-communist North Koreans citizens were left behind to fend for themselves. Facing almost certain death at the hands of the communists, these people fought their way to North Koreas west coast and sailed to offshore islands where they prepared to fight a last ditch battle.

The fact that armed friendly North Koreans still held the off-shore islands came to the attention of 8th Army on 8 January 1951. A mad scramble ensued to utilize these unexpected assets and on January 15th, the Guerrilla Section, Eighth Army G3 Miscellaneous, came into being.

A six man cadre originally code named TASKFORCE WILLIAM ABLE but soon changed to LEOPARD, arrived on Paengnyong-do, a large island off the North Korean held west coast, on February 15, 1951 starting the massive task of bringing partisan groups under Eighth Army command.

This in itself was a major undertaking since these groups held islands from the Han River Estuary to the mouth of the Yalu River. All initial contact by LEOPARD team members was made only after a slow, several-day ride in a hot-head diesel fishing junk but by mid-March all individual groups, now bearing a designation of DONKEY plus a unit number, were under LEOPARDs control.

LEOPARDs west coast seaborne and interior North Korea operations started producing immediate results. With the influx of arms, ammunition, explosives, medical supplies, food and communications equipment and improving weather, LEOPARD sent infiltration teams to contact and supply partisan groups already operating within North Korea. Bridges were blown, roads and railroads interdicted, small North Korean and Chinese detachments wiped out, and, just as importantly, reliable agent nets established. This activity forced the CCF and NK commands to divert badly needed front line units to local security/anti-partisan operations.

LEOPARDs strength expanded daily and, by June 1951, west coast partisans counted over eight thousand men on the active roster. This, plus distance and poor communications, made Miscellaneous Group Headquarters rethink its organization. WOLFPACK Headquarters was established to command partisan operations on the south coast of Hwanghae Province while LEOPARD moved its forward headquarters north to Ch'o-do and commanded west coast operations from the 38th Parallel north to the Yalu River. WOLFPACK initially established its headquarters on Yonp'yong-do, an island group at the mouth of Haeju Estuary centrally located between Paengnyong-do to the west and the mouth of the Han River to the east.

WOLFPACK Headquarters later moved to Kanghwa-do, an island at the mouth of the Han adjacent to the mainland.

Results by these two units were excellent By the Cease-fire, they were credited with forcing the enemy to have 75,000 troops on security duty in Hwanghae Province alone. Additionally, they compiled a phenomenal record of successful actions combined with a relatively small loss record.

Shortly, [within the] LEOPARD organization, an airborne special missions unit, BAKER, became operational at Kijang near Pusan. This unit had the multiple mission of [providing] airborne training [to] agents and partisan raider groups, planning and carrying out agent or partisan drops, and controlling and resupplying these people once they were in North Korea. This was a tall order for the two officers and two Noncoms initially assigned to BAKER, particularly when you consider these men lacked formal UW training or UW experience and everything was OJT.

BAKER mounted its first airborne operation, VIRGINIA ONE, 15 March 1951. This was a mission to destroy a key railroad tunnel. It ended in failure with a helicopter exfiltration of three Americans from a hot LZ, one helicopter lost, two Americans captured and the nineteen South Koreans killed or captured and later executed. This was followed on 18 June 1951 by SPITFIRE, a joint US, British SAS, and South Korean mission intended to establish a semi-permanent base near the main MSR between Wonsan and Kumhwa.

SPITFIRE enjoyed initial success but their location was revealed when an US Air Force pilot, unable to find the DZ at night, loitered until daylight and made a supply drop directly over SPITFIREs hideout The team quickly relocated but was attacked at dawn the following day by a Chinese battalion. SFC William T. Miles and a South Korean partisan were lost in this action. lie and the four South Koreans fought a rear-guard battle that allowed the main group to escape. Neither rejoined the main group. Sergeant Miles is still carried missing-in-action.

Meanwhile, a new section was organized to handle partisan operations on Koreas east coast, TASKFORCE KIRKLAND. After training at Samchok, this group took control of two islands; Nam-do on the 39th Parallel and 15 miles off the North Korean east coast and Sam-do a few miles south of the 39th Parallel and 1000 yards from the mainland. Some successful operations were launched by this group but most failed since the KIRKLAND partisans were not from the local area and thus did not enjoy local support nor did they have an intimate knowledge of the terrain.

On May 5, 1951, the Guerrilla Section, 8th Army G3 Miscellaneous Division, became an independent Army unit - the 8086th Army Unit. This was changed to Far East Command Liaison Detachment, Korea, FECLD-K 8240th AU on 10 Dec 1951 and all partisan operations came under its Guerrilla Division, United Nations Partisan Forces, Korea (UNPIK). At this time, all division TAC-Intel (TLO units) and 8th Army positive intelligence operations were consolidated under Combined Command Reconnaissance Activities, Korea (CCRAK), 8240th AU. BAKER split. The training section remained at Kijang as the 1st Partisan Airborne Infantry Regiment (PAIR). The operational section moved to K-16 (Seoul City Airport between Seoul and Yongdong-po), was redesignated the Airborne Special Missions Platoon, and given the code name AVIARY.

This structure remained in place until December 1952 when LEOPARD, WOLFPACK, AND TASK FORCE SCANNON (formerly KIRKLAND) were redesignated Partisan Infantry Regiments (PIR) and UNPFK headquarters the United Nations Partisan Infantry, Korea (UNPIK). The 1st PIR moved to Yongdong-po at this time. All units retained these designations until disbandment in April, 1954.

The first airborne mission by AVIARY was MUSTANG III - a mission to set up E&E operations near POW camps. This flight went down near Wonsan, North Korea, the night of 22/ 23 January, when the last man of the Chinese team threw a hand grenade back as he exited the C-47. MSG Davis T. Harrison managed to jump as did a badly wounded CPL George Tatarakis. Harrison was returned during the POW exchanges in 1953 but nothing was ever learned of Tatarakis fate although there are reports he was seen alive at Paks Palace in Pyongyang later

Over the next ten months AVIARY dispatched more MUSTANG operations (establishment of E&E routes from POW camps). These were MUSTANG IV, V, VI, VII and VIII. Some MUSTANG teams never made contact after their drop. Others checked in but dropped out of the net in a few days time. It is fairly obvious that these missions were compromised before they left the ground.

The MUSTANG operations were followed by JESSE JAMES I, II and III on the nights of 28-30 Dec 1952. These were radio team augmentations to Donkey units already operating in Hwanghae Province. All drops were successful and the teams came out of North Korea with their Donkey units a few weeks prior to the cease-fire.

The next operation, named GREEN DRAGON, was the largest drop attempted. On the night of 25/26 Jan 1953,97 Partisans dropped from five C-47s into the mountains northeast of Kumhwa. This was the same DZ and area used by SPITFIRE in June 1951. The mission was also the same - to establish a semi-permanent base of operations. Radio contact was established and regular resupply drops were made for the next seven months. GREEN DRAGON was augmented twice, adding another 56 partisans for a total of 153 men dropped. Comrnuication with GREEN DRAGON became suspect after the last augmentation and ceased a few days later. No GREEN DRAGON partisans returned to UN lines.

AVIARY made four more drops on east coast targets in February 1953. These were BOXER I, II, III and IV. Little is known of the actual targets or the results since these teams belonged to JACK (CIA). The reported targets were railroad tunnels on the Wonsan-Vladivostok railroad. US Navy ships exfiltrated each team after mission completion.

The last three team infiltrations of the war made by AVIARY were:

HURRICANE (31 March), to contact a reported 200 partisans operating in the ANJU area: RABBIT 1(1 April), to establish stay-behind bases southwest of WONSAN and another northeast of Pyongyang; and RABBIT 11(6 April), a six man (three men to each RABBIT I location) augmentation. All infiltrations succeeded but, as often happened in the past, radio contact failed shortly after insertion.

UNPIK disbanded in 1954. In its three years there were successes and failures but lessons were learned from both. Fortunately these carried over to future special operations as men rotated from Korea and brought their experience to Special Forces.

Back to Top

Back to Korean War Homepage