THE GREEN BERETS IN KOREA

The 41 Independent Commando

In prelude to the introduction of the British 41 Independent Commando unit, it is imperative that we introduce to the viewer as to some of the circumstances that resulted in the entry of the 41 Independent Commando into the Korean War and subsequently their participation in Chosin Reservoir campaign..

During the interim after WWII and prior to the onset of the Korean War, the Military was subjected to downsizing on a large scale. The recruitment efforts during this period was to offer college and instructional enlistment's that resulted in very few recruits entering into the combat trained segment of our Military. As a result of these practices, when President Truman entered the United States into the Korean War, the Services were poorly manned and equipped to confront the Communist invasion below the 38th Parallel. The fleet for the most part was in mothballs and Naval ships were almost nonexistent in the Far East. The threat of being thrust completely off of Peninsula of Korea was a reality that confronted the the United States and their allies. The Marine Corps had been downsized after WWII from 485,833 to 74,279. Other Services were just as hard pressed as the Marine Corps.

As the North Korean forces rapidly moved south down the Korean Peninsula the resistance was highly non-effective. The occupation troops at the time were not trained to any great degree to be combat ready, but as the term describes, they were in most part, occupation forces.

It was determined that in order to hold the Pusan Perimeter, the North Korean forces would have to be slowed in their ability to continue with their advancement south. The supply route for the North Korean forces was mainly down railroad transportation coming south from Manchuria.

Naval and air bombardment of these railroad facilities proved unsatisfactory because of several factors. There were numerous tunnels the trains could be sheltered in when aircraft was near, and the terrain was so mountainous that the radar from ships was not developed to the degree that allowed them to be effective in their efforts to be utilized to be effective.

Task Force 90 was formed to furnish behind the enemy lines Special Operation Groups to go into these areas and blow rail bridges, culverts, tunnels and any structure that would further delay the supplies needed for the North Korean Army to continue their movement south.

There was a drawback to this plan to some extent because most of the trained UDT (Underwater Demolition Teams) and Frogmen from WWII had returned to civilian life and the personnel that remained were trained for underwater and beach surveys and demolition missions.

The UDT's and Frogmen had not been trained in specific onshore inland missions required to accomplish these missions.
The Marine Corps had one company, B-1-5 (Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division that had been trained in Special Operations to be inserted behind enemy lines to go inland from a submarine.

By this time though, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade had embarked from San Diego, California on July 15th 1950 and B-1-5 was a part of that group.
The Brigade disembarked on August 2nd and due to the high commitment priority, for the defense of the Pusan Perimeter, B-1-5 could not be spared to utilize their training as a Special Operation Group.

Several Groups were subsequently formed from Volunteers and other means, but as with the Marines, their training was cut short and they were sent instead to Korea for additional manpower in the defense of the Korean Peninsula.

There were other attempts to train and utilize Special Ops forces but the situation on the Pusan perimeter required that even those personnel be sent to the front lines as combat personnel.

This brings us to our introduction to the Story of the "41 Independent Commando Royal Marines.

The Green Berets In Korea is a story of a small amphibious raiding force especially raised for service during the Korean War. They were deployed from a US Submarine and US Ships for raids onto the enemy coast. At the onset of an atrocious winter, the Commando joined the US Marines operating in mountainous terrain in North Korea. "it was there that hell indeed froze over". They took part in the Chosin Reservoir Campaign, which was described as "a battle unparalleled in US military history, an epic of great suffering and great valor". Following this action, the Commando returned to its amphibious role. It was based and operated many miles behind the enemy lines, harassing them in a series of clandestine raids.

The Commando was probably unique in that throughout its 18 months history it operated exclusively under the command of the United States Navy and Marines. Events of the Korean War considerably enhanced the comradeship, admiration and mutual respect between the US Marines and Royal Marines. This was illustrated by the dogged persistence of the USMC to have American regulations amended to allow the Commando to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Fred Hayhurst the author draws on his experience as one of the 41 Independent Commando's to bring to the reader an account of the history of the Unit in such a manner that makes the reader feel he/she is also there alongside these valiant Royal British Marines.

 

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