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3rd Infantry Division

The Korea Institute of Military History argues that the 3rd Infantry Division was established sometime after May 1947 when the 3rd Security Officers Training Center was redesignated and reformed into the 3rd Independent Mixed Brigade. This took place when North Korea reorganized the Security Officers Training Command into the People's Army Training Group.

Sources dispute the exact date when the 3rd Infantry Division was established. Interrogation reports from the Korean War indicate that the 3d Infantry Division was activated at P'YONGYANG sometime in 1948; though prisoner of war information differs concerning the exact date of activation. The Korea Institute of Military History indicates that the Brigade was reformed into a Division on September 9, 1948 along with the establishment of the 4th Infantry Division. Although the majority of enemy prisoners claim the date to be October 1948, one source insisted that the division was formed in February 1948 from the deactivated 3d Independent Infantry Brigade, and several other Prisoners of War, in giving the chronology of their military service, report that they were already assigned to component elements of the 3d Division during the summer of 1948. It appears likely, therefore, that the activation process extended over a period of months-and that the division was not finally constituted until sometime in October of 1948, In it's organization the 3d Division seemingly paralleled the structural pattern of the typical North Korean Infantry Division with the 7th, 8th and 9th Rifle Regiments forming the combat nucleus in keeping with the standard triangular organization of enemy military formations.

Initially organized with a total strength of roughly 3,400 soldiers, the brigades command post was initially locaed at P'yongyang and was commanded by Major General Choi Min Chol.

The bulk of the division's personnel strength was drawn from three main sources: the 3d Independent Infantry Brigade, the 2d North Korean Division (from which an entire regiment was transferred) and from personnel in North Korean Army training centers. This initial personnel complement ostensibly consisted of well trained and highly disciplined troops who for the most part were volunteers with at least six months of active military service. All of the personnel from the 3d Independent Infantry Brigade were reportedly transferred to the new 3d Infantry Division, with the majority of the troops going to the 9th Rifle Regiment which waa at that time being organized in Hamhung. During the same period the 7th Regiment, stationed in Ch'orwon, is purported to have received an influx of volunteers from military training camps in the Songjin Area. In November 1948, the entire 6th Regiment of the 2d North Korean Division was reportedly transferred from Nanam to Wonsan, where it was incorporated into the 3d Division as the 8th Rifle Regiment. Fragmentary information indicates furthermore that the divisional artillery was also organized at Wonsan and received its initial training there.

It is estimated that at the time of its activation the division received a total of about 6,000 experienced men, who were followed by a stream of fillers that continued to arrive until just prior to the invasion of the Republic of KOREA. These new troops were allegedly subjected to a basic training course consisting of close order drill, manual of arms, calesthenics, military discipline and political lectures, with major emphasis placed on political indoctrination. While the recruits went through their basic training cycle, some of the more experienced men allegedly engaged in squad and platoon problems and advanced weapons training. Upon completion of basic training some of the men assigned to technical and specialized units of the division were purportedly sent to technical schools of the North Korean Army for advanced technical courses. Several prisoners report that they attended classes on the self-propelled gun at the armored training school in Sadong. Another prisoner related that he was among a group of 30 men who were sent to the Defense Ministry Signal School at P'yongyang where they attended a course which included instruction'in basic electricity, signal maintenance and code transmission.

Sometime during the early part of 1949 divisional headquarters is reported to have moved to Hamhung, where the 9th Regiment was undergoing training. The division by that time was close to full strength and except for the incoming recruits most of the men had completed basic training. Tactical exercises on squad, platoon and company level, along with strenuous physical exercises, were reportedly conducted in the mountainous terrain around Hamhung. Meanwhile the division experienced a periodic depletion in manpower by virtue of the fact that it was repeatedly called on to furnish cadres for new units of the rapidly expanding North Korean Army and because of the need of sending men to various service schools and offfcers' training courses. This was offset by the flow of conscripts arriving in the division almost daily; the largest group of these numbering about 1,600 men, is reported to have been received in the early part of March 1949.

In June 1949 those elements of the 3d Division that were stationed at Hamhung were allegedly transferred to new locations in a move that was designed to make room for newly-organized units of the North Korean Army. Division Headquarters is said to have moved to Wonsan where the artillery units and the 8th Infantry Regiment were already stationed, while the 9th Regiment moved farther south to the Kumhwa Area, placing it close to the 7th Regiment located at Ch'orwon. Shortly after this move was accomplished the division is said to have begun advanced training with units spending most of their time in the field. During this period prisoners report frequent maneuvers of battalion-size units and state that stress was chiefly laid on camouflage, patrolling and how to maintain contact between units in the field by means of elaborate bugle calls, whistles, flares and hand signals. Soviet officers who had been seen occasionally during earlier training phases were now present at every important field problem, enemy prisoners relate, and seemingly held final authority in all decisions.

By the latter part of 1949, the 3d Division, hardly a year old, was reportedly considered one of the best trained units in the North Korean Army. The division, while not fully equipped, was apparently better armed than most units, notably with crew-served weapons which at that early stage in the development of the North Korean Army were almost non-existent in some organizations. Consequently, 3d Division troops had the advantage of training with their table of equipment weapons and 9th Regiments, The 7th stationed close to the 38th Parallel, were apparently required to perform border patrol duty, for reports show that at various times during the early part of i950 separate battalions from these regiments were patrolling in the vicinity of Hwachon, Chich'on-ni and Sach'ang-ni. During this period extensive field maneuvers were carried out and the influx of new personnel was gradually bringing the division to full strength. One group of approximately 1,500 conscripts, who reported in March 1950, is believed to have been the last contingent of fillers to be assigned to the division prior to the invasion. These men were issued new rifles and were only allowed to fire four rounds of ammunition in the course of their basic training. Supplies and equipment were pouring in and most reports indicate that very few shortages existed at this time.

At the beginning of June 1950, division headquarters, the 8th Infantry Regiment and the divisional artillery are said to have made preparations to depart Wonsan in order to join the other two infantry regiments in the south. Division Headquarters, moved first, which is believed to have reportedly set up a temporary command post at Kumwha. On or about 19 June 1950 the 9th Regiment reportedly moved out of the Kumhwa Area and marched to Sach'ang-ni, where it took up field positions. At roughly the same time the 7th Regiment is said to have departed Ch'orwon and bivouacked in the vicinity of Yongp'yong, on about 22 June 1950 the 8th Regiment with the remaining elements of the 3d Division departed Wonsan by rail and reached Ch'orwon the next day. From there it proceeded toward the border to join the rest of the division, Although the rank and file soldier of the North Korean Army was unaware of the plans to attack the Republic of KOREA, a captured field order from the Intelligence Department of the North Korean Army, General Staff dated 18 June 1950 and addressed to Chief of Staff of the 3d Division, definitely proves the familiarity of certain higher-ranking officers with the invasion plans. This order furnished detailed information on ROK defensive positions and prescribed a reconnaissance plan which included the exact names of towns that the 3d Division later actually occupied on its way to Seoul. After the entire division had assembled along the 38th Parallel in the Kumhwa - Ch'orwon - Yongp'yong triangle, ammunition and hand grenades were allegedly issued to the troops and lastminute preparations for the impending invasion were made. On 24 June 1950 the 3d Division moved into jump-off positions along its assigned route of attack the Kumhwa - Seoul Highway.

At 0100 hours on 25 June 1950, the 3d Division, under the command of Major General LEE Yong Ho, was allegedly deployed along a line running generally from Yonch'on to Sach'ang-ni with the 2d Division to its left and the 4th on its right flank. The 7th Regiment occupied positions on the right of the Kumhwa - Seoul Highway with the 9th Regiment abreast of it on the left. The 8th Regiment was reportedly held in reserve positions along the same highway, about one-half mile to the rear. A l5-minute artillery barrage at 0500 hours reportedly signaled the beginning of the invasion. Spearheaded by attached tanks from the 105th Armored Division, leading elements of the 7th and 9th Infantry Regiments are reported to have crossed the line of departure at approximately 0515. In the face of only slight resistance from the surprised and hopelessly outnumbered ROK defenders, the division was able to take rapid progress at first, but began to meet more determined resistance after reaching the outskirts of Pochon at about 2300 hours.

After a brief withdrawal, the leading units consequently entrenched a short distance outside town. Early next morning the division entered the town without incident it is reported, since the ROK defenders effected a withdrawal during the night. Continuing the advance the North Korean invaders approached Uijongbu, where they were met by heavy artillery and small arms fire. The 9th Regiment in a flanking movement through the mountains allegedly attempted to by-pass the town, but was held up by well-placed machine gun fire. In the meantime the 7th Regiment attacking Uijongbu from the northeast along the main highway was engaged in a smallarms battle that lasted about an hour. After flushing out some small pockets of resistance, the 7th Regiment entered the town simultaneously with leading elements of the 4th Division, which was driving south along the Yonch'on - Seoul road. Third Division prisoners report that many of the men, tired by long marches over rough terrain and through intermittent showers, were beginning to fall out with swollen feet. During the advance through generally deserted villages the armored units attached to the division are reported to have been held up periodically by demolished and impassable bridges. Continuing the drive on SEOUL the 9th Regiment, which was heading the advance: was purportedly greeted with heavy machine gun fire at about 1900 hours on 27 June.

After holding their position all night, ROK forces were forced to withdraw the next morning. Fighting isolated rear guard actions, the ROK troops managed to delay the invader's entry into their capitol until about 1300 hours on 28 June. Upon entering SEOUL the soldiers of the 3d Division were greeted by an active fifth column that assisted them in rounding up remaining ROK troops, policemen and civil servants, The 3d Division reportedly occupied the eastern half of the city and established its command post at Camp Sobinggo, a former American dependent housing area. Late in the afternoon the division received its first air attack when two planes strafed and damaged a selfpropelled gun and wounded several of the crew. An evaluation of pertinent reports reveals that the 3d Division in its drive on the ROK capitol suffered approximately 400 casualties, most of them in the 7th and 9th Regiments.

The division allegedly spent the next day in Seoul resting and preparing for its next objective. Early in the morning of the 30th, the 8th Regiment crossed the Han River in the vicinity of the Sobinggo Ferry by means of wooden boats capable of carrying a 2.5-ton truck or from 20 to 30 troops; the crossing was opposed by only scattered artillery and small arms fire. All attached tanks were left on the north bank of the river, it is reported, because all Han River bridges had been destroyed, In the morning of 2 July the last elements of the division reached the other side of the river without serious mishap, thus bringing to a successful conclusion the first phase of the invasion.

On its way to Suwon the division, with the 8th Regiment in the lead, was engaged several times by isolated ROK units which succeeded in slowing its progress and inflicting minor casualties. Upon entering Suwon on or about 5 July it was discovered that the battered town had already been occupied by elements of the 4th Division which were preparing to continue the advance toward Taejon. After a short rest the 3d Division passed through the town and marched southward, still in the wake of the 4th Division. On the way the troops reportedly encountered several destroyed tanks and trucks as well as many dead ROK and US soldiers; this was the first indication for most of the men that the US had extended active military assistance to the ROK Army. Reports reveal that the division reached Osan late in the evening and remained there until early the next morning, when it resumed its advance. Approximately 4 miles south of Osan the 9th Regiment allegedly swung southeast toward Ansong, while the rest of the division followed the 4th Division toward P'yongtaek.

Although the 9th Regiment met only minor resistance from isolated ROK units, 9th was reportedly slowed down considerably by the movement through difficult, mountainous terrain. Late in the afternoon the regiment reached a wide cangon situated approximately 1.5 miles north of Yangsong and bivouacked there for the night. Next morning the unit continued its difficult route through the mountains and finally entered Ansong late in the evening of 7 July. Since units of the 2d Division were already occupying the town, the regiment marched on to the outskirts and dug in for the night. Meanwhile the rest of the division continued south following behind the 4th Division. Prisoners relate that the marching column was subjected to several strafing and bombing attacks which forced the troops off the main road and destroyed much of the heavy equipment. After passing through P'yongtaek and Songwhan without engaging UN Forces the main body reached, the northern out skirts of Chonan on or about 9 July and found the 4th Division heavily engaged. At this point the 9th Regiment, which had continued its diversionary route through Ipchang, allegedly linked up again with the rest of the 3d Division. Later in the day the 8th and 9th Regiments were reportedly committed on the left of the 4th Division. Casualttes sustained in this engagement were light but the division was held up all day by intense artillery fire. Early in the evening a concerted attack coupled with infiltration tactics succeeded in piercing UN defenses and by 2400 hours the town was occupied.

The division was purportedly held up all the next day. Heavy artillery and small-arms fire allegedly broke up repeated attacks so that by nightfall only slight progress had been made. After dark the division is said to have renewed the attack employing the same tactics that were so successful the night before. Again the defenders were forced to withdraw and the division occupied the abandoned UN positions for the night. On the morning of 11 July, the 3d Division pushed its advance to within a few miles of Chonui, where it was again met by heavy artillery and mortar fire. When it finally entered the town after a four-hour battle, it was subjected to strafing and bombing attacks by UN aircraft. Fires were raging almost everywhere in the badly damaged town. The 7th Regiment which constituted the divisional reserve was ordered to by-pass Chonui because of all the debris that made movement through it difficult. After spending the night in the outskirts of town, the division, fighting only against small-scale delaying actions, reached Chochiwon the next day, where it was again held up. After a fierce artillery bombardment of UN positions by attached tanks and self-propelled guns, the troops forced their way into town and pursued the retreating. UN forces to the Kum River. Finding the river strongly defended, the 3d Division remained on the northern bank and sent out reconnaissance patrols while making preparations for the crossing. On the morning of the 14th, the division reportedly attempted to cross the river at two places but was forced to withdraw.

After fighting an intense artillery duel during most of the day, a second attempt to cross was repelled in the afternoon. Interrogation reports indicate that preparations were made on the 15th for an all-out attack along the entire river line; but repeated air strikes were hampering the movement of heavy equipment and reportedly had instilled a deadly fear in the minds of most of the troops. Political officers, aware of the declining morale, appear to have intensified their propaganda effort by assuring the troops that the war would soon be over and promised the men a long-needed rest after they captured Taejon. They also stressed that although Taejon would be strongly defended, the "defeated" Americans would all surrender once the city had been taken. Early in the morning of 16 July, the division reportedly crossed the Kum River in the face of only scattered small-arms and mortar fire. Since the UN defenders had withdrawn to new positions before Taejon during the night, the 3d Division made rapid progress and most of the units were across the river before noon. Fighting all the way, the division reached the northern outskirts of Taejon by the afternoon of the 18th. In a coordinated action with the 4th Division (attacking from the west), the 3d Division finally entered the city on or about 21 July 1950 after almost three days of heavy fightjng. Reports reveal that the 3d Division, which had not received any replacements since the outbreak of hostilities, had suffered approximately 3,000 casualties up to this time.

After entering the city the division purportedly spent the rest nf the day reorganizing and restjng. On the afternoon of 22 July, the 7th Regiment was reportedly committed for the first time in an attadk along the highway leading from Taejon to Kumch'on with Yongdong as its objective. It met very little resistance and after spending the night in the mountains en route, reached Okchon the following day. After a short rest the unit allegedly continued its advance to within a few miles of Simchon-ni where it took up positions for the night. On the 24th, the 7th Regiment, still spearheading the 3d Division drive, reached the outskirts of Yongdong, where it was held up for the rest of the day by heavy machine gun and artillery fire.

The regiment is reported to have infiltrated through the defenders' positions under the cover of darkness, but became so widely dispersed that the next morning, after a fierce fight, it found itself in a very precarious position. The 9th Regiment, which had jofned in the attack that morning, made good progress but suffered heavy casualties from artillery fire in the early stages of the battle. Toward noon the UN forces began to withdraw and the division occupied the city shortly thereafter. After clearing the city the division took up positions along the eastern edge of the town and prepared for a counter-attack. In the course of this battle the division is estimated to have suffered approximately 2,000 casualties. Next morning the 7th Regiment again separated from the division and swung southwest toward Muju apparently in a pincer movement aimed at Kumch'on for fragmentary information indicates that the regiment passed thru Muju, Solch'on and Chirye. By about 28 July it had allegedly penetrated to Kumch'on along the main Taejon - Kumch'on Highway, fighting every inch of the way, and approached the eastern end of that city on or about 29 July. On 3 August, after a four-day battle, Kumch'on was finally occupied when the defenders were forces to withdraw under the threat of encirclement from the three sides. Division strength at this time has been estimated at about 4,500 men, with the infantry regiments reduced to about 900 men each.

The 3d Division is said to have remained in the Kumch'on Area for two days resting and preparing for the next move. Here they received their first replacements, a group of 300 North Koreans with from two weeks to one month of training. These men reportedly had little fighting spirit since they had been subjected to almost daily air attacks on the way from Seoul. After leaving Taejon the division found it increasingly difficult to obtain supplies. Ammunition is reported to have been at a dangerously low level during several crucial engagements and frequently no rations were issued for as long as two days at a time. Most reports indicate that searching parties were selected to requisition rations locally in order to replenish almost non-existent food stocks. After moving into position in the vicinity of Yongmok on 5 August the division made last-minute preparations for the attack on Taegu, However, during the night of 6 August, the 3d Division was ordered into new positions farther to the south in the Songju Area, approximately 4 miles southwest of Waegwan, in preparation for the assault across the Naktong River. At 0300 hours on 9 August the 7th Regiment began to cross the river at a point boasting a firm, sandy bottom with a depth of approximately 5ft and a slow current. The troops allegedly waded across holding their weapons above their shoulders. Shortly after the leading elements of the regiment reached the east bank the whole area was illuminated by parachute flares. A murderous machine gun and artillery barrage opened up inflicting heavy casualties on the troops still in the water.

Those who managed to reach the other side purportedly fought their way up a hill located approximately l.25 miles from the river. After the crest of the hill was secured, they dug in and began to reorganize, for units had lost contact and become disorganized in the darkness amid heavy fighting, and some men did not rejoin their organization until several hours after daylight. About half an hour after the 7th Regiment had established a bridgehead, the 8th and 9th Regiments, located a slight distance south are reported to have attempted a simultaneous crossing. When they were in mid-stream the area was again illuminated and a stream of machine gun and artillery fire opened up and decimated their ranks. In order to escape the murderous bombardment, they allegedly were forced to withdraw to their original positions; the few men who managed to reach the eastern bank state that they were promptly taken prisoner. In this action the two regiments are said to have hem reduced to about 500 men each and were so disorganized that it took them two full days to reassemble and reorganize.

At daybreak the 7th Regiment, situated on a hill overlooking the river, was reportedly busy preparing defensive positions when a terrific artillery barrage opened up. A light plane kept circling the area, apparently to direct the fire. Shortly afterwards,the troops also began to receive mortar fire. The fire purportedly continued intermittently for two days. During this time the regiment, was effectively pinned down, for troops of this unit report that they did not dare to stir from their positions during the hours of daylight. At approximately 0200 hours on 11 August, the 7th Regiment, with its ammunition exhausted and its meager food supplies almost used up, was finally forced to withdraw across the NAKTONG. When the unit reassembled on the west bank of the river, it developed that only about 300 men were left out of the entire regiment and some companies are reported to have been completely wiped out. On or about 12 August the 7th Regiment allegedly rejoined the rest of the division, which had withdrawn to the Yongmok Area after the 8th and 9th Regiments' disastrous attempt to cross the Naktong River.

As a consequence of its heavy losses the 3d Division was placed in reserve and given approximately 1,500 replacements who had allegedly received only a few days training. The division remained in this location reorganizing its badly depleted units until 28 August, when it moved to the Poksong-Dong Area and deployed along the west bank of the Naktong. Prisoners contend that the division remained in this location until 12 September and received an additional 3,000 replacements, which brought its strength up to approximately 7,000 men. Due to the general shortage of weapons many of the new men were armed only with grenades and instructed to pick up any weapons they were able to find on the battlefield. On 12 September the division again forded the Naktong River, this time without opposition, and marched to Waegwan, where It arrived about noon on 13 September. While passing through the city the troops were reportedly subjected to a heavy strafing and bombing attack. After following the Waegwan - Taegu Highway in a southeastern direction for a distance of about 4 miles, the division purportedly marched through the mountains and took up defensive positions just north of the main road. Jumping off from these positions on about 14 September, the 3d Division reportedly joined in the general all-out assault on TAEGU and was constantly engaged with UN forces until 20 September.

During this period the continual air and artillary attacks caused heavy casualties. Since most of the soldiers in the division. were recent replacements with very little taste battle, for numerous reports indicate that after reading UN surrender leaflets many decided that their cause was hopeless and surrendered at the first opportunity. On or about 20 September, after being exposed to renewed pressure all along the front, the division was reportedly ordered to withdraw to Sangju. Fragmentary information indicates that the divisional strength was approximately 5,000 men at this time. During its withdrawal toward Waegwan the 3d Division ostensibly received a terrific pounding from strafing and bombing UN aircraft for reports mention that entire units were seized by blind panic and retreated in confusion. Reports furthermore contend that when the remaining units of the division withdrew across the Naktong River just north of Waegwan, they sustained tremendous casualties and were practically annihilated. According to fragmentary reports, division headquarters and other elements of the 3d Division, totaling approximately 1,800 men, succeeded in reaching Sangju where they were ordered to retreat north.

After separating into small groups, they began to arrive in P'yongyang on about 1 October. During its two-week stay in the North Korean capital, the division is reported to have swelled its ranks to a total strength of about 1,500 troops by the integration of recent conscripts inducted during September and October. In the face of the impending capture of P'yongyang by the victorious UN forces the 3d Division was reportedly ordered on about 15 October to resume its withdrawal to a reassembly and reorganization area in the north, leaving behind only a small covering force. From this point on the history of the 3d Division becomes obscured in contradictory reports and cannot be traced with any degree of certainty until the reconstituted division was again committed in the Seoul Area during the Chinese Communist offensive. The badly mauled division retreated to the northern redoubt of the North Korean Army in the Kanggye Area, where it was reorganized and engaged in some minor actions with advance UN spearheads.

One regiment of the 3d Division the 7th, underwent reorganization at Iwon during November and proceeded to the Hungnan Area on about 18 December to participate in the enemy's final assaults against the UN 10th Corps perimeter. In direct conflict with these reports, North Korean guerrilla and intelligence agent of doubtful reliability insists that the 3d Division to which his unit became attached crossed into MANCHURIA and reassembled at an unknown location approximately 25 miles north of the YALU River, where it was subjected to a brief training cycle together with 20,000 other North Korean troops. The 3d Division recrossed the Yalu River on 24 December at Sinuiju and after passing through P'yongyang reached Kaesong on 29 December. From this town the division presumably headed east and then swung south, for subsequent reports indicate that it engaged ROK troops near UIJONGBU on about 2 January 1951. The following day, when the division arrived in Seoul it was allegedly attached to an unidentified CCF Unit to spearhead the renewed Chinese offensive.

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