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Mission 21 -Tactical Considerations
Korea: The Enemy Within

By Sgt. Dan Snyder (US Army)

Escape Mission

"It’s like a missing person search you’d see on TV, and the North Korean are missing people. You’re just going to treat them a little differently once you find them."

One choice the North Koreans had was to take the go-over-land-and-avoid-contact route. They could have hidden out and avoided the population and not drawn attention to themselves, but they blend in with the indigenous people, so they actually had a good chance of going undetected. That is, until they got the border. I’m stumped as to how they thought they could get across the impermeable DMZ.

For the short term anyway, they’d try and blend in. Perhaps they figured they could hold out until their comrades made another trip south. If they were in it for the long term, they’d just go into the wilderness, which is risky. That’s a choice I personally wouldn’t go for because anyone could encounter you at any time. If a farmer walks into his field, you’re spotted right away. So it’s not really a good option.

Some patrol purposes are reconnaissance patrol, raids, and assaults. This mission was about spying. It wasn’t intended to be an assault. It was a reconnaissance mission which avoids contact.

Hunt mission

When you’ve got people hiding in the wilderness, you’re assigned sectors of patrol. You set up a line of skirmishers to sweep through whatever sector you’re charged to search. It’s like a cordon and knock operation but you’re moving. You need an audible and visual line, and the distance between people could be 15 ft or up to 70 yards if you’re in an open field. The important thing is that you need to be able to yell to the other guy. It’s like a missing person search you’d see on TV, and the North Korean are missing people. You’re just going to treat them a little differently once you find them.

You’ll be going tactical, getting yourself prepped for the mission. The first thing you’ll do is tape all your metal stuff down with riggers tape. That’s just military duct tape (called so because it’s green). Tape down your dog tags, knives and ammo, anything that has the potential to jingle. Either drink all the water in your canteen or leave it full. Otherwise it will make a sloshing noise when you move. You’ll put on your cammo paint and get your rules of engagement, which are the directions on what to do when you encounter the enemy. In the actual mission, the rules of engagement were probably to apprehend the North Koreans as prisoners. In the playable mission, the rules of engagement are to search and destroy.

"Morale is higher with a buddy, and if stuff really starts to go down, you’re more likely to do something to save him that you might not do for yourself."

Here’s where you get into land navigation. Encountering a reconnaissance troop, you begin a ‘movement to contact.’ It's one of the first things taught at military school, how to get around. In the movement to contact, you deal with what’s called the ‘azimuth,’ which is a line shot from a terrain point to another object using your compass. You’ll look at a map and determine how many paces or kilometers the target is away. Although you’ve never seen the place before, you have a map and know how far away it is. So you start walking in that direction. Everyone has different stride-count to get to a point. You start with 10 pebbles in one hand, and with every stride, you move a pebble into the other hand. When all your pebbles have switched into the other hand, you’re at your target point. Sometimes you have rally points on map where you’ll meet with other troops.

You’ll use hand and arm signals when you’re moving around. This is how you silently communicate with your troops about what’s going on and what you can see that maybe they can’t. You can give directions, tell them you see someone, tell them how many guys are there, or just tell them to get down.

In an area with limited terrain or visibility, like the desert or at night, you have to take the compass and hold it by your belly tightly. You look down, walk 50 paces, then hold it on your belly and look again in the desired direction. It works really well in the dead of night or during a sandstorm because your compass has a glow-in-the-dark needle which uses the same material that allows you to fire your M16 in the dark.

Communist Cells

The North Koreans hit the beach and split up in small groups. In general, they wouldn’t go off on individual missions but would prefer to cell off as a ‘socialist’ exercise. They train, work, and live in group culture. Individualism is not encouraged by the US either but for different reasons. It’s mostly the fear factor. Morale is higher with a buddy, and if stuff really starts to go down, you’re more likely to do something to save him that you might not do for yourself.

The South Koreans respond to the report of the invaders with overwhelming manpower. The Korean War never ended, and for all South Korea knows, this could be the probing wave of an actual invasion. The North Korean battle plan would call for an overrun: attacks backed by heavy artillery and giant guns reminiscent of Stalinist times. Without strong air and naval capabilities, the North Koreans only real, viable shot is to go over land, and the South knows it. There’s nothing technical about strapping on your boots and walking, and with a steady stream of men you might just do some damage. Anticipating the worst that night, 60,000 South Korean troops were deployed under high alert, and all bases, buildings, and entire cities went on a lasting patrol.

To the North Koreans, who lost 25 lives and sustained one capture, this mission outcome is as good as a win. By sticking to their rigid training, the North Koreans never gave up, making them by their own standards, victorious. Managing 13 kills when outnumbered 60,000 to 26, North Korea proved their troops have the right motivation and the discipline to stick to their battlefield belief that victory is always possible. Even suicide is more honorable than capture.

The North Korean Communist state isn’t exactly a happy place (around the time of this mission, millions were dying of starvation). With North Korea’s firm commitment to control the peninsula, and their desperate situation at home, an invasion of the South is a real possibility. The South’s military is chronically challenged.