5th Infantry Division
Reports from korean war prisoners indicate that the 5th North Korean Division was activated at Nanam, North Korea during the early part of August 1949. It was made up from Korean veterans of the Chinese Communist 8th Route Army's 164th Division, which had been stationed in the old Manchurian capitol city of Changchun until July 1949. According to the majority of reports, all non- Korean troops of the 164th CCF Division were transferred to other Chinese Communist organizations in July 1949 and in their place, the division began to receive Korean sol- diers from various other units of the Chinese Communist Forces. Concurrently with this metamorphosis in the per- sonnel composition, a change is reported to have taken place In the command echelon of the division; Major Gen- eral Kim Chan Duk, the former assistant division com- mander , allegedly replaced an unnamed Chinese general as the new division commander. Some of the Koreans assigned to the 164th Division had allegedly seen action against the Japanese Army during World War II; but the majority were veterans of the Chinese civil war who had been inducted into the communist armies of China at a later date, while a comparatively small percentage of these troops stemmed from an even more recent conscription drive con- ducted in the various provinces in Manchuria. Since the personnel of this reconstituted 164th Division originated from widely separated units of the Chinese Communist Forces, a wide scale of military experience appears to have been represented among the troops, ranging from sea- sonal agricultural labor and security duties to active commitment In combat. Almost all troops are said to have received training with Japanese weapons, which the Soviet occupation forces in Manchuria had turned over to the Chinese Communists, and American weapons captured from the retreating Chinese Nationalist Army.
During the latter part of July 1949 the 164th Division, with a strength of approximately 7,500 men was allegedly transferred by railroad from Changchun to Nanam, where it was integrated into the expanding North Korean Army and redesignated the 5th Division. Most of the American and Japanese weapons, which had been brought with the division from Manchuria, were purportedly turned in and replaced by limited amounts of Soviet-manufactured equipment. At the same time the division underwent a reorganization to make it conform to the organizational structure of the standard North Korean rifle division, with the lOth, 11th and 12th Rifle Regiments (also known as the lst, 2d and 3d Regiments) forming the combat nucleus of the new division. Most reports show that from the time of its activation until December 1949 the division was engaged, principally, in road repairs and construction work of a military nature. Beginning in January 1950 the entire division was alleg- edly subjected to a new basic training cycle in Order to accustom these Chinese Communist-trained troops to the military terminolbgy and 'tactics' peculiar to the North Korean Army. This training was said to have been conducted under the supervision'of six Soviet military advisors, two colonels and four lieutenant colonels, who remained with the division until it was committed in the drive across the 38th' Parallel. Early in February 1950, the division purportedly began a new phase of advanced field training on a platoon and company level with em- phasis on mountain warfare and camouflage. Around the middle of the same month, the first group of fillers arrived, numbering approximately 1,000 men between the ages of 18 and 26 years. Prior to their assignment to the various units in the division, these troops were al- legedly given one month of basic training. The training included instruction in marksmanship and familiarization firing with live ammunition. From then on the division reportedly continued to receive recruits until about the beginning of April, when reports indicate that it had been brought up to full' strength. Most of the new men had allegedly completed basic training by the end of April. Prisoners relate that during this same period, infantry and artillery units conducted combined maneuvers.
In. May the division was reportedly brought up to its full allowance of weapons and equipment with huge quantlties of Soviet material and all units were required to turn in any remaining American or Japanese weapons which had been brought from Manchuria. One captured supply officer states that when he was sent to Chongjin to pick up supplies for the division engineers, he noticed that Chongjin Harbor was full of Soviet merchant ships unloading trucks, weapons and ammunition. According to Korean-speaking crew members of Soviet vessels; they had Come from Vladivostok. During May and in the first two weeks of June, the troops were ,allegedly, busy firing individual weapons; but each man was only allowed to fire three rounds. Simultaneously, political indoctrination which had been'stressed throughout the training period, was intensified. About the middle of June all equipment was allegedly given a final Check to insure its combat readiness and prepared for shipment south. In explanation the troops were told that they were going on maneuvers; nevertheless, many of the men were skeptical when they were issued live ammunition and grenades. On 19 June leading elements of the division are said to have departed Nanam by rail for Yangyang, where they arrived by 23 June; by 25 June the movement of the division's combat elements had been completed. The 10th Regiment, which was the first to assemble at Yangyang, allegedly departed south immediately after its arrival and backpacked into the vicinity of the 38th Parallel. It was followed in short order by the other two infantry regiments and on the night of 24 June the 5th Division, with the exception of a few rear echelon units still en route, was reportedly deployed along the 38th Parallel south of Yangyang.
At approximately 0500 hours on 25 June, 1950 according to enemy prisoners, the 5th Division lunged across the 38th Parallel in an offensive down the main road that paral- lels Korea's rugged east coast. The division's drive was allegedly supported by the 766th Independent Unit, an organization with a strength of 1,500 men which appears to have been part of a larger amphibious force under the direct control of the North Korean Army's General headquarters in Pyongyang. This unit is revorted to have left Yangyang on 24 June with the mission of restablishing beachheads along the east coast in the rear of the R.OK Army. This was in order to disrupt rear area communications and defenses. When its mission had been accomplished and after contact had been established with the main body of the 5th Division, this ampibious guerrilla unit was scheduled to infiltrate through the mountains in the direction of Pusan 8th ordinary partisan force. Members of this unit are reported to have received extensive amphibious and guerrilla training.
Following closely behind the 766th Unit, the 5th Division, with the 10th Regiment in the lead, entered Chumunjin without incident shortly before noon, Late that evening, after continuing the drive south, the 766th Unit was allegedly held up on the outskirts of Kanghung, The 10th Regiment is reported to have come to its assistance and both units, after an all-night battle, finally entered the town the next morning. At Kangnung the 5th Division separated, Prisinors of War contend, with the 11th Regiment heading southwest toward Hajinbu-Ri, while the rest of the division continued south along the coastal highway. Along its route of attack, in the vicinity of Hajinbu-Ri, the 11th Regiment purportedly met slight resistance and sustained minor casualties. Continuing in its drive along the Kangnung - P'yongch'ang corridor, the regiment was generally engaged in mopping up small pockets of resistance and finally reached P'yongch'ang on about 2 July, 1950.
During this action it is reported that the 11th Regiment repeatedly ran into elements'of the 7th North Korean Division, which was fighting on the right flank of the 5th Division, Guer- rilla units, comprised largely of communists from the Re- public of KOREA who had gone into the mountains at the outbreak of hostilities, were also encountered and proved very helpful to the North Korean regulars, since due to their'familiarity with the topography in that area they were able to give advice on road conditions and possible hiding places of ROK troops. Soon, however, the gruelling marches over mountainous terrain were begin- ning to show their effect on the tired troqps, and an increasing number of men fell jut with sore feet. When tiqe troops were.fin_ally gi+eh a rest at PrYONGCHIANG they had been marching almost continuously for seven days. In its flanking movement over some of the most rugged terrain south of the 38th Parallel, the 11th Regiment was allegedly separated several times when company-size units were required to climb steep mountain slopes to ferret out small grnups of ROK soldiers hiding in the hills. This was time consuming and exhausting' work and the tired and weary soldiers welcomed the long- needed rest.
After spending two days at P'yongch'ang the llth regiment moved out again' and headed for Chunyang by way of. Yongwol, which was already in communist hands. On the afternoon of 4 July, 1950 the unit was allegedly subjected to an attack by UN aircraft. While only a few casualties resulted in this, and similar air attacks, most reports show that the troops greatly feared aircraft and were prone to panic whenever UN planes appeared in the skies. As the regiment drove on in a southeasterly direction over tortuous mountain trails the progress continued to be slow. After marching five days through the hills and meeting only scattered resistance, the outskirts of Chungyang were finally reached on 9 July 1950. Here the 11th Regiment is said to have engaged a large ROK force which was apparently withdrawing from the coast. After an all day fight the communists managed to occupy the northwestern section of town by nightfall. Early the following morning the unit purportedly entered the town that had been abandoned by the withdrawing UN defenders. Interrogation reports indicate that casualties up to that time approximated 400 men; most of these were apparently sustained in the battle for Chunyang.
After separating from the 11th Regiment at Kangnung, the 10th and 12th Regiment are reported to have continued south along the coastal highway; one battalion of the 12th Regiment, however, remained behind for five days guarding the town and assisting local communists in organizing the civilian population. The 766th Independent Unit was still leading the attack, prisoners of war reveal, until the division reached the approaches to Samchok Here the former reportedly, joined other elements of its parent organization which a few days earlier had made an amphibious landing near that town. This com- bined unit, ostensibly proceeded into the hills, from where the troops, after changing into civilian clothes, infiltrated into Sachok in order to gather intelligence to be transmitted by radio to the advancing 5th Division. The 10th Regiment, after some small skirmishes with ROK troops, allegedly entered Samchok on or about 5 July; most of these ROK troops appear to have been stragglers who, according to enemy prisoners, were quite active in making smalllscale raids during the night and inflicting minor casualties. During this time the 12th Regiment was reportedly scattered along the coast mopping up isolated UN troops who were hiding in the hills. The division de- parted SamchOK on 7 July, according to available evidence, and reached Utchin on the morning of the 9th, The 10th Regiment was in the lead followed by elements of the 12th Regiment. The 766th Unit was still spearheading the attack and fragmentary reports indicate that this unit fought a large-scale enpagement at Utchin in which the 5th Division was not commtted. The 11th Regiment, which was fighting in CHUNYANG at that time apparently became engaged with UN forces retreating from Utchin, for numerous reports indicate that the ROK units encountered in that battle were withdrawing from the coast, After taking Chunyang the 11th Regiment purportedly proceeded toward the coast and rejoined the division at Utchin on or about 11 July 1950. The 766th Unit, after undergoing a reorganization of undetermined scope at Utchin, is reported to have proceeded westward into the mountains with the mission of infiltrating in small units to Fusan, Leaving this unit behind, the 5th Division continued its drive south with the 10th Regiment leading the attack; the 11th followed closely behind, interroga- tion reports reveal, and the 12th regiment minus on battalion brought up the rear. Opposed only by small-scale delaying actions, the division arrived at P'yonghae-ri on or about 13 July 1950. Here the division purportedly split its forces again; this time the 10th Regiment separated from the main body and marched west- ward through the mountains in the direction of Chinbo.
From the beginning of hostilities up to this time the division was mainly engaged in mopping-up operations and guarding areas along the coast. Although actual battle casualties were slight, considerable losses in manpower are said to have been sustained due mainly to sore feet and exhaustion caused by the long-forced marches over extremely rough terrain. Numerous cases of malaria have also been reported, for which the troops received a camphor injection of Japanese manufacture, as well as the usual atabrine and quinine tablets. The total divi- sion casualties up to that time have been estimated by prisoners of war at approximately 1,800 men most of which were sustained by the 11th Regiment. During the southward drive, two meals per day were eaten whenever possible, 5th Di- vision prisoners contend. Rice was cooked in large ket- tles by each company mess section and mixed with wheat millet and pickles; this monotonous diet was supplemenJed by a hot bowl of soup whenever possible. In addition, each soldier was reportedly issued a one-day emergency ration consisting of rice, dried fish and seaweed. Al- though supplies were still coming through every day prisoners of war assert that constant air attacks and naval bombardment were beginning to cause shortages and restrict their movement to the hours of darkness.
On 13 July the 10th Regiment swung west at P'yonghae-ri, the rest of the division is reported to have continued south fighting every inch of the way against ROK rear guard action; as a consequence, the division made slow progress at the outskirts of Yonghae which was reached on the afternoon of 14 July, the division was allegedly held up by heavy artillery and mortar fire. During the night the 11th Regiment tried to infiltrate through the ROK positions but after a savage fight was repulsed and forced to withdraw. The following day, however, the 11th and 12th Regiments in a combined assault forced their way through the UN positions, reports indicate, and by 1400 hours the town was in their hands; but their success was short- lived, for after a fierce counterattack lasting all afternoon ROk troops reoccupied the sothern section of town. On the morning of 16 July the 5th Division, after another all-out attack, finally secured the town and pursued the withdrawing UN defenders. Veterans of the operations on the east, coast relate that the 5th Division in two weeks of heavy battles forged its way ahead toward Yongdok and finally captured the town on or about 3 August after sustaining prohibitive casualties. During the seige the 10th Regiment allegedly -. pressed the attack from the west and fought its way into the outskirts two or three times, but was forced to with- draw each time under withering artillery and small-arms fire. In its drive on Yongdok the division is said to have been subjected to almost constant bombardment from UN aircraft and naval vessels; even at night the troops were apparently not given any respite, for prisoners complain that our artillery opened up with heavy fire after the naval and air attacks ceased. To illustrate the terrific casualties that the division sustained in these battles, one POW relates that in a single naval barrage 700 men were killed and huge stores of supplies and equipment were destroyed. Altogether the 5th Division is esti- mated to have suffered a 40% reduction in strength in the battle for Yongdok.
For the next few days the division remained in Yongdok to reorganize and receive replacements. Approximately 1,200 new men were reportedly assigned to the three infantry regiments, bringing them up to about 50% of strength. These replacements were all North Koreans with about three weeks training who had been marching for fully 15 days before joining the division, Early on 6 August 1950, the troops departed Yongdok and, fighting against stubborn resistance, assaulted and captured Changsa-dong on about 8 August 1950, according to available informa tion. Continuing south, the division reportedly battled its way through Chomgxa and Hunghae under constant harassment by naval fire and air attacks and arrived on the outskirts 0f Pohang-Dong on 18 August. During this period; the almost continuous air attacks on supply routes and lines of communication and the highly success- ful harassing and interdictory fire of UN naval contingents apparently began to show their effect on the supply system of the 5th Division, for many reports show that units were sometimes forced to live off the land for several days at a time when rations failed to arrive. To boost their morale in the face of adverse supply conditions and heavy battle losses, the troops were allegedly told that the war would soon be over and that the UN foes, after the capture of Taegu, would be driven into the sea. After a two-day artillery barrage, the division purportedly attacked Pohang-dong with all three regiments committed and occupied the town on 20 August 1950, after a fierce engagement that resulted in heavy casualties, most of which were caused by intense artillery fire.
While in the city the troops are reported to have been subjected to constant air and artillery bombardment. On or about 23 August 1950, American and ROK troops launched a counterattack, prisoners claim, which forced the division to withdraw about 5 miles to the north. In the confusion of the retreat the troops became so disor- ganized, it is alleged, that it took several hours to re- organize them. In the course of this engagement the division allegedly received such heavy casualties that its strength was reduced to about 4,000 men. From 23 Aug- ust to 3 September the division reportedly remained in defensive positions just north of Pohang-dong. During this period approximately 3,000 replacements were re- ceived, most of whom were conscripted south of the 38th Parallel and assigned to the division without any pre- vious military training. Because of the general shortage of weapons, many of these men were only issued grenades and instructed to pick up the rifles of their comrades as they fell on the battlefield. On 3 Seotember the division purportedly resumed its attack with the objec- tive of taking Pohang-dong and the airfield south of the town. By the following day the North Koreans succeeded in breaking through the outer defenses of UN forces and fighting fanatically through a hail of artillery and small-arms fire they finally entered the town on 6 Sep- tember; but before they could consolidate their gains the UN forces counterattacked and once again forced the division to withdraw. After taking up defensive posi- tions just north of the city the 5th Division reportedly began probing for a weak spot in UN defenses. The enemy remained in this position for several days, fight- ing an artillery duel and sending out combat patrols, Interrogation reports reveal that late in the evening of the 11th the division advanced toward the southwest, skirting the outer fringes of the UN defenses, and de- ployed along the high ground overlooking Pohang-dong for another assault on the town. The 11th and 12th Regiments were poised for an attack from the west, while the 10th Regiment occupied assault positions approximately 2.5 miles southwest of Pohang-dong. During the night large amounts of ammunition were allegedly carried to gun positions and last-minute preparations were made. On 12 September 1950, UN forces began laying a heavy artillery concentration on positions held by the 10th Regiment and later in the day the 11th and 12th Regiments were likewise engaged by artillery, Soon after that all three regiments were attacked heavily by UN aircraft which wrought considerable damage and disrupted all plans for the attack. The devastating artillery barrage is reported to have continued day and night for several days forcing the North Koreans to remain in their foxholes.
An ROK amphibious force of about company strength ostensibly effected a landing on about 14 September 1950, in the vicinity of Chongha, One battalion from the 12th Regiment, which was dispatched to dislodge this force, is reported to have reached the landing site late that same evening and promptly engaged the raiders who had taken up positions in the coastal hills, In the meantime . the rest of the division was ,purportedly, ordered to withdraw from their heavily-shelled positions and to regroup in the vicinity of Chongha. When the last elements had withdrawn to the assembly area on 16 September the divi- sion was deployed along the Tosong-Dong-Chongha road in. well dug-in positions designed primarily to afford protection against the dreaded air attacks which only the day before had blown up the entire ammunition dump of the division artillery. Since the division had been reduced to approximately 50% of its original strength by this time, it remained in this locality reorganizing and receiving replacements totalling about 1,200 men. On 21 September 1950, enemy prisonersreveal,the 5th Division was hit by the full weight of the all-out UN offensive launched in coordination with the successful amphibious operation at Inchon. The 10th Regiment, which apparently bore the brunt of the attack, is said to have been overrun and surrounded after about one hour of fierce fighting. As a result, on 22 September 1950 elements of the routed division withdrew in utter disorder to Yongdok, it is reported where they were once more taken under heavy fire by UN naval vessels. Under orders to withdraw farther north the division left Yongdok on about 24 September with a remaining strength of about 2,400 men. Marching in groups of platoon size and maintaining intervals of about 5 miles between regiments during daytime, the division retraced its route of advance along the coast and according to available reports, arrived at Anbyon on about 3 November 1950. While retreating, the division became embroiled several times in small guerrilla actions but successfully evaded larger UN forces. Several bands of stragglers are said to have joined the column en route, boosting its strength to approximately 3,000 men. Ra- tions were apparently confiscated from local farmers who were forced to provide the necessary transportation to haul the food to the troops.
Continuing its retreat, the division allegedly arrived
in Chongp'yong on 8 November 1950 and after
joining forces with remnants of the 2nd Division appears
to have proceeded, through Hamhung wgere it swung inland, finally proceeding north along a road that
parallels the Tabdong River. On 18 November elements of
the badly-decimated 5th Division, with a remaining
strength of only 500 troops were seen passing through
Sachang-ni moving in a northerly direction. Interrogation reports dating from this period
paint a vivid picture of the complete defeat suffered by
the North Korean army; the 5th Division, these reports
indicate , had lost or abandoned all heavy supporting weapons and less than half of the demoralized troops were
armed. Only by threats of on-the-spot execution and by
dealing severely with any attempts to desert were the
officers able to retain a semblance of organization among
The history of the reconstituted 5th Division after it
left the Kanggye Area becomes hazy because of a lack of
accurate and authentic reports; in fact: the division
has only been mentioned three times after that date by
prisoners from other units whose information is necessarily limited and inconclusive.
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