2LT Maurice H. Price, a Regular Army officer who later served in Special Forces, was assigned in September 1953 as a company advisor in the 2nd PIR on Kyo dong-do. Specifics about the demobilization process were lacking. “Initially, all we had were rumors [about demobilization],” Price said. “Every day one of the NCOs would go to Kangwha-do [2nd PIR headquarters] but there was nothing official at first.”47 The two principal tasks involved getting an accurate headcount for each guerrilla unit and collecting crew-served weapons, pyrotechnics and ammunition before leaving the islands. Neither was easy.
“The distribution of rice was the rationale for the weekly headcounts. It was clear that we were getting inflated numbers,” Price recalled. “Early one morning, one of my NCOs went out with an interpreter while we were holding formation in my company. From a hilltop they watched as one hundred guerillas double-timed across the island after our formation ended to join the other company before we went over to count them.”48 Accounting for weapons and ammunition proved just as difficult.
“The island [Kyo dong-do] once had gold mines and there were small caves all over the place to hide weapons and pyro,” Price remembered. “It took a while to find the stuff and collect it. We had ordnance [weapons maintenance] teams come out and the storyline was that they were there to inspect the machineguns and mortars. In reality, we were getting it under our control.”49 For Price, the advisor role was a mixed blessing. “The training was valuable, but the isolation could be tough,” he said. “Demobilizing the guerrillas was a brutal business. At times you had to be a bald-faced liar.”50 The preparation began in January 1954 and picked up speed until March.
1LT Norton along with Wolfpack 1, (some five hundred guerrillas and families), and the 2nd PIR (eight hundred plus dependents) were shipped by LST to Cheju-do, the primary reception and processing point for partisans transitioning into the ROK Army.51 2LT Maurice Price likewise accompanied his guerrillas south.
“The movement was done in one day from Kangwha-do. It was a contract deal; the [WWII-era] Navy LST had a Japanese crew. Charley Norton and I were the only Caucasians on the boat,” Price remembered. “When we arrived, the ROK Army and Navy were waiting for us. The Good Samaritan stuff ended at that point. Most of the guerrillas were strip-searched when they came ashore.”52 After this mission, 2LT Price finished up his tour as a rifle company executive officer with the 2nd Infantry (Indianhead) Division. He left Korea for Fort Bragg, where he was assigned to the 77th SFG. His experience as a guerrilla advisor contributed to his later assignments in Special Forces. What was missing was a formal program to collect and use the experiences gained by the advisors.
“At the [initial] selection process at Camp Drake, we were told not to expect publicity. It led to the ‘silent professional’ mentality,” Price recalled. “When we were debriefed on leaving the 8240th, we were told not to talk about the tour. They placed heavy emphasis on our not drawing any attention to our experiences.”53 Consequently, the knowledge and lessons learned by these first SF advisors were not disseminated to the 10th and 77th SFGs.
The Korean War was the first employment of Special Forces to a combat theater. All SF soldiers sent to Korea were individual replacements working with other Army personnel detailed to guerrilla elements. No SFOD-Alphas (ODA) deployed to Korea for the war. “There was never any plan to run twelve-man teams,” recalled 1LT Charley Norton. “We could have effectively employed one ODA per regiment, but the teams were all back at Fort Bragg [77th SFG] or enroute to Germany [10th SFG].”54 This was due in large part because, throughout its existence, guerrilla command was never configured along doctrinal lines established in the Army’s Field Manual 31-21, Organization and Conduct of Guerrilla Warfare where the ODAs could have been properly employed.55
The late arrival of Special Forces-trained personnel in the last months of the war makes it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the SF training programs. Their commitment to FEC demonstrated that the partisan advisory mission was a valid UW skill. It showed the Army that SF could train indigenous forces to support conventional forces. These same skills form the cornerstone of the Special Forces UW mission today.