n praise of the BritishRoyal Marines thathad been attached tohis command sincemid-November 1950,Major General Oliver P. Smith,Commanding General, 1st MarineDivision, wrote that their services inthe recently concluded ChosinReservoir campaign made “a sig-nificant contribution to the hold-ing of Hagaru, which was vital tothe [1st Marine] Division.” GeneralSmith’s comments reflected the view held by many Marines, bothofficers and enlisted, of the fightingabilities of both their Britishcousins and their Republic of Korea Marine Corps allies. Duringthe three years they fought togeth-er on the Korean peninsula, theBritish, Korean, and U.S. Marinesforged bonds that still exist today.
A Distant War and theRoyal Marines
In the early morning hours of 25 June 1950, mechanized andground units of the North KoreanPeoples’ Army (NKPA) rolledacross the 38th Parallel into theneighboring Republic of Korea(ROK). Within 48 hours, PresidentHarry S. Truman placed U.S. forcesin Japan on alert. Within a week’stime, elements of the U.S. Eighth Army, then on occupation duty in Japan, were rushed to South Koreato stem the North Korean invasion. As army soldiers, and later Marinesof Brigadier General Edward A.Craig’s 1st Provisional MarineBrigade, fought the NKPA to theoutskirts of the port of Pusan, theUnited Nations undertook a seriesof votes that not only condemnedthe North Korean invasion, butbrought thousands of allied troopsto the assistance of the belea-guered ROK. Among the troopsassigned to the Korean theater wasa hastily assembled unit of RoyalMarines stationed in Great Britainand Malaya, where they werealready engaged in a guerrilla waragainst Communist terrorists.The deployment of RoyalMarines to Korea came as the gov-ernment of Prime Minister ClementR. Attlee announced its intentionin the British Parliament to add tothe forces being sent to Korea. While there was some disagree-ment with this decision among theChief of the Imperial General Staff,Field Marshal Viscount WilliamSlim, and Chief of the Air Staff,Marshal Arthur W. Tedder, both of whom argued that “Britain wasalready engaged in active opera-tions in Malaya as important ... incountering communist expansionas in Korea,” Admiral Lord Fraser of North Cape, the First Sea Lord,strenuously advocated for the dis-patch of a brigade-sized force of Royal Marines to operate in unison with the U.S. Navy as a commandoraiding force. Within two weeks of Lord Fraser’s decision, on 16 August 1950, a 300-man RoyalMarine unit was formed and tookthe name 41 Independent Com-mando. “Independent” in the unitdesignation meant the commandingofficer had sole responsibility forthe unit and did not have to consulthigher British headquarters onoperational and logistical matters.The commandos were drawnmostly from active duty units andindividual Marine reservistspreparing to depart for service inMalaya as part of 3 CommandoBrigade. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Douglas B.Drysdale, a seasoned Marine vet-eran who had served with distinc-tion as a member of 3 Commandoin the Far East during World War II,41 Independent Commando beganpreparations for service in Korea.The Marines assembled at theRoyal Marine Barracks at Bick-leigh, Devon, site of the comman-do school, where they receivedthe customary inoculations andissue of uniforms prior to theirdeployment to the Far East.Initially, 41 Commando drew fromthree separate contingents. Thefirst, organized from volunteersand reservists in the UnitedKingdom, was flown fromBickleigh to Japan in civilianclothes to conceal the ultimatedestination and employment. Thesecond group comprised volun-teer sailors and Marines drawnfrom the British Pacific Fleet. Thisgroup already had begun an inten-sive period of training even beforethe main body of Royal Marines
TRAIN WRECKERS AND GHOST KILLERS Allied Marines in the Korean War
by Leo J. Daugherty III
Members of the 1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment man a.50-caliber machine gun in fighting near Hongchon, Korea.
National Archives Photo (USMC) 127-N- A156476
Royal Marines take up positions during a raid to destroy enemy supply routes near Songjin, North Korea.
National Archives Photo (USN) 80-G-428515