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2nd Infantry Division

Sources dispute the exact date when the 2nd Infantry Division was established. The US Army in a Korean War era intelligence document indicates that the division was formed in 1946. However, Korea Institute of Military History argues that the 2nd Infantry Division was established sometime after May 1947 when the 2nd Security Officers Training Center was redesignated and reformed into the 2nd Infantry Division. This took place when North Korea reorganized the Security Officers Training Command into the People's Army Training Group.

Both sources indicate that the early history of the 2d Division is similar to that of the 1st Division. Originally composed of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Regiments, the 5th Regiment was left at Naman when the division moved to Wonsan. At Wonsan the division was brought to strength by the incorporation of the newly formed 17th Regiment. The 5th Regiment was later moved to Pyongyang and absorbed by the 4th Division.

Initially organized with a total strength of roughly 14,000 soldiers, the units command post was initially locaed at Nanam and was commanded by Major General Kang Kon.

Well trained and combat-wise, this unit had given a good account of itself during the early part of the Korean War. During much of August 1950 it had been out of the line presumably for regrouping and rest.

Artillery elements as well as other subordinate units of the 2d Division had already completed several years of intensive training under a cloak of secrecy when the division was officially activated at Nanam in February 1948. The artillery arm of the newly-constituted division was comparable in structure to that of the typical North Korean infantry division; but although Soviet artillery weapons had arrived intermittently since September 1947 at the activation site, artillery units had not yet received their full complement of weapons and equipment. After over two years of continuous training at Nanam and Hamhung, the division artillery together with other elements of the division departed on 12 June 1950 for its assembly area along the 38th Parallel via Yanggu, where it was fully equipped with new Soviet artillery pieces.

In its first supporting action during the battle of Ch'unch'on on 26 and 27 June 1950 accurate ROK counterbatterv fire caused the destruction of around seven of the division's 16 SU-76 self-propelled guns, two 45mm antitank guns and a number of mortars of all types. After crossing the Han River at Ichon, which resulted in further losses of mortars and heavier artillery weapons the division found it increasingly difficult to secure resupplies of ammunition and equipment. When on 31 August the artillery laid a preparatory barrage on the eastern bank of the Naktong River opposite Pugong-ni in support of the division's assault across the river, its strength had been further sapped by UN air attacks and counterbattery fire. In the 3d Battalion, for instance, only four 76mm guns and three 122mm howitzers remained. In the precipitate withdrawal of the division from its Naktong Bridgeheed on 17 September and subsequent headlong retreat northward all remaining artillery pieces were either buried or abandoned to UN Forces. An analysis of prisoner of war interrogation reports reveals that between 25 June and 25 September the 2d Division suffered the loss of some 70 conventional artillery pieces of all types in addition to thirty 45mm antitank guns. The high rate of attrition prevalent among artillery units of the division is well illustrated by the self-propelled gun battalion which suffered 75% casualties among its personnel and lost 90% of its guns.

After reorganization of the 2nd Division at Kanggye during November, divisional artillery units were under-strength both in weapons and equipment. Consequently, the training program to which the divisional troops were subjected at Kanggye stressed the employment of man-power to compensate for the lack of heavier supporting weapons. When on about 28 December the 2nd Infantry Division joined the North Korean II Corps in the Hwach'on Sector in order to participate in the flanking effort that had been assigned II Corps in the forthcoming offensive, the divisional artillery regiment, though having a strength of around 450 officers and men, was devoid of all artillery weapons. Even organic artillery within the rifle regiments was highly limited and was confined to two or three 82mm mortars and regimental 76mm howitzers, probably finds its explanation in the fact that the 2nd Division together with the 10th Division and other lements of the corps had been assigned a guerrilla mission. In the accomplishment of this mission the division had to infiltrate through UN lines and confine its movements to mountain trails which precluded the transport of normal artillery weapons.

In the subsequent bitter battles of attrition with UN Forces, artillery units of the 2d Division sustained heavy casualties and suffered the loss of some of the few supporting weapons available at battalion level. Those artillery units that had retained some semblance of cohesion and succeeded in reaching the II Corps assembly area in the vicinity of Hoeyang were subjected to a thorough reorganization. While training in this area from mid-March to mid-May 1951, the divisional artillery units as well as other elements of the 2d Division were brought up to strength through, the integration of replacements. During this time, too, limited quantities of artillery pieces were received including 120mm Soviet type mortars that were manufactured in P'yongyang. The North Korean version of this mortar allegedly differentiates itself from its Soviet counterpart in that the former bears no factory marking and is fitted with a base-plate and with a traversing and elevating mechanism which resembles that of the 82mm Soviet mortar. It is said to have a maximum range of approximately 6,270 yd (5,700 meters) which is practically identical to that of the Soviet mortar.

When the 2d Division had completed its reorganization and retraining in May and was committed in the renewed communist offensive effort, the so-called 2d 'Impulse of the Fifth Phase Offensive", it enjoyed a greater artillery support potential than at any time since its reconstitution, although still below T/O and E requirements. The divisional artillery regiment was equipped with five 122mm howitzers and between four and six 76mm field guns and had a strength of approximately 800 men. The antitank battalion had increased its armament to around eight 45mm antitank guns. Within the rifle regiments the supporting fire delivered by a limited number of 120mm mortars could be supplemented by a considerable amount of battalion artillery (which the typical rifle battalion averaged about five 82mm mortars, two 45mm antitank guns, four or five antitank rifles and occasionally some captured US rocket launchers). But communications equipment was still in short supply and limited the effectiveness of divisional artillery units. Mortar personnel of the division had by this time acquired a certain degree of proficiency and learned to reduce equipment losses by properly emplacing and camouflaging their weapons. For instance, that as a rule the 82mm mortars of a company were positioned in emplacements measuring approximately 8 ft in diameter and 8 inches in depth; the positions were carefully camouflaged with fresh branches. The mortars are normally located approximately 500 yd to the rear of the forward infantry positions, it is claimed, with a distance of around 25 ft separating individual emplacements. Usually the basic ammunition load for each weapon, which averages about 80 rounds, was stacked up in a pile approximately 35 ft behind the emplacement. To solve the ammunition problem captured ammunition for US 81mm mortars were allegedly used inter-changeably with Soviet ammunition for the 82mm mortar.

Considerable personnel casualties and losses of artillery equipment were sustained in the May offensive which carried the 2d Division to the gates of Hajinbu-ri. When in late May and early June the division was forced to withdraw to the Inje Area under strong UN pressure, further significant artillery losses vere inflicted by particularly effective and accurate UN artillery fire. With the tactical situation more or less stabilized the division, while fighting a defensive action in the Inje Sector for the next few months, found time to reorganize its artillery units and bring them up to T/O strength through the integration of replacements. At the same time the rifle regiments apparently received a limited amount of artillery, or field guns, including 76mm regimental howitzers and 120mm and 82mm mortars so that by mid-August regimental and battalion artillery units were approaching, but had not yet reached, full strength in personnel as well as equipment. Supplies of artillery ammunition too, seem to have been adequate by August, for one prisoner of war captured during that period reports that his mortar company had 300 rounds of mortar ammunition on hand, while another prisoner pegs the ammunition supply of his mortar company at 1,000 rounds, However, a good part of ,this ammunition apparently was defective; according to one source.

Meanwhile the divisional artillery regiment was detached from the division during the latter part of May and assigned to an artillery training center at Hoeyang for a three-month artillery course designed to train the new replacements and raise the combat efficiency of the regiment prior to the arrical of a full compliment of Soviet artillery weapons. When the 1st Battalion of that regiment reverted back to the 2nd Division in mid-August, it had a total strength of 250 officuers and men organized into a headquarters battery and two artillery batteries. For reasons that are as yet not entirely clear, the other battery of that battalion as well as the 2nd and 3rd battalion of the artillery regiment continued training at Hoeyang. The headquarters battery of the 1st battalion was comprised of a reconnaissance platoon and a signal platoon equipped with three field telephones and two transceivers.

The 1st Battery was equipped with four 122mm M-1938 howitzers and the 2d Battery with four 76mm M-1942 guns. Soviet ZIS-151 trucks organic to each battery were employed as prime movers for these weapons. A captured member of this battalion again exemplified the improved security measures that North Korean commanders had adopted to protect their weapons from damage by UN ground and air action; this source reported that the artillery pieces of the battalion were emplaced by battery in bunker-type emplacements separated by a distance of 60 ft in case of 122mm howitzer and 30 feet in that of the 76mm gun. Ammunition was stored in slit trenches constructed at a distance of about 12 feet from the emplacement, while the prime movers were secured far in the rear except when used as supply trucks. In spite of these improvements in the general artillery situation, maintenance facilities, according to the source just quoted were still nonexistent in forward areas; consequently, commanders stressed the need for first-echelon maintenance.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:33:06 ZULU