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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why embedding won't work: KATUSA

US and KATUSA troops, 1960's

The good thing about the ISG is that tone of the conversation has changed. The bad thing, is that their ideas mostly suck.

Embedding US troops with Iraqis will not work, for many reasons, but it isn't because the US hasn't made such a program work.

[The Dawn of Modern Korea] (276) How KATUSA Almost Didn't Happen

By Andrei Lankov

In September and October 1950, the U.S. Army advanced into central and northern Korea and many Koreans were extremely surprised to see that a large number of U.S. soldiers were actually Koreans. Dressed in American uniforms and among the American soldiers, they were known as KATUSAs, or Korean Augmentations to the U.S. Army. They were attached to U.S. units where they were supposed to become ``normal'' soldiers, doing the same jobs and receiving the same treatment as their America counterparts.

The KATUSA program began in July 1950, and was soon seen by the U.S. commanders as a disaster. Most of the first KATUSA recruits were the unfortunates who had been hunted down by Syngman Rhee's police in the streets of Korean cities. They had never fired a rifle and did not speak a single word of English. Thus, it comes as no surprise to learn that in early 1951, the battlefield efficiency of a KATUSA was believed to be merely 10 percent of that of an American soldier. Actually, in early 1951, only political considerations saved the program from complete collapse.


It is important to remember that by early 1951, the general mood of the South Koreans changed. After experiencing the terror of a North Korean occupation, many of the people who had been initially neutral or even pro-Northern, changed their minds. Americans came to be seen as saviors (this approach did not change until the 1980s, when a generation of people who had not experienced the war reintroduced anti-Americanism to Korea). This change influenced the KATUSAs as well, and American commanders often remarked that they were more ready to take risks and sacrifice themselves in combat. It was their war, after all, and they preferred to fight the war in the American units, where everything was better than in the ROK Army, including rations and ammunition supply.

The KATUSAs soon became the leading experts in the local terrain. Unlike the Americans who rotated on a regular basis and left Korea after duty, the KATUSAs stayed with the same units for years and they were never rotated. In 1951-1953 when the frontlines were frozen and both sides were engaged in trench warfare, this made them very valuable since they possessed good knowledge of the local territory and conditions.

This program still exist within the US Eighth Army and is seen as prefered service for members of the ROK Army to this day.

What this required is the US Army to open their ranks to Korean soldiers on the individual level and to have an incredible level of integration and trust. This is not going to happen in Iraq.

We will look next at US advisors in Vietnam

posted by Steve @ 3:14:00 PM

3:14:00 PM

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