8240th Army Unit (AU) Association

United Nations Partisan Forces Korea (UNPFK)

The 8240th AU Association is a group of Korean veterans who fought as partisans under the control of the United Nations Command during the Korean War.  We will not rewrite their history here, but I've posted this info to help understand why this Chapter is bonded to them and why we support them.

At the onset of the Korean War, which began with the North Korean invasion of the South in June 1950, the US Army had no "Special Forces" as we do today that were trained to conduct unconventional or guerilla warfare behind enemy lines, but the need quickly arose.  The US Army learned it had "large anti-communist partisan forces" that had escaped North Korea and had set up ad-hoc bases on islands off the coast and were conducting limited operations into their homelands in North Korea, so the Army quickly assigned US advisors to support, equip, and train these partisans.  These US advisors included Army Rangers, personnel who had guerrilla warfare experience from WWII, and personnel who could think "outside the box" and operate in austere conditions with limited support.

The Partisan forces grew in strength to approximately 38,000 by the end of the war and had a significant impact on the outcome [It is estimated that it took approximately two divisions of Chinese Communist and North Korean forces to provide rear-area security against partisan operations].  The number of advisors grew as well to support and advise the growing number of partisans.  Special Forces as we know it today began in mid-1952, and in early 1953, approximately 90 officers and men from the second graduating class of the new SF school arrived to support these partisans operations.  Herein lies our link to the 8240th AU, and that kinship continues to this day.

Some interesting points:

  • Most of these partisans were not soldiers - they were local government officials, school teachers, policemen, skilled laborers, etc.

  • Most were from North Korea but did not support communism, so they escaped North Korea either before or after the invasion.  When communist rule sweeps through an area that was considered dissident, it is not very kind to the populace.  A saddening story told to me by a veteran:  At a young age he hid beneath his Grandmother's dress as the North Korean Communists lined up his Father (a policeman), his Mother, and all his siblings, and executed them with gunshots to the back.  He lay under the body of his grandmother and later escaped to an island, and at a young age was doing whatever he could to help the partisan effort... carrying water, cooking, etc.  Several of the partisan supporters were female as well.

  • Many partisans did not make it back from their high-risk missions behind enemy lines - they had one of the highest casualty rates of any unit during the war.  Some patrols were simply never heard of again after insertion.

  • There are only about 2,500 known survivors remaining today, with another estimated 500 survivors that have chosen to remain anonymous.  And because they fought as "partisans" under UN/US control, and not as South Korean soldiers, they were not recognized by their own government as fully-fledged veterans.  They only received about 1/3 of the benefits as other Korean veterans did.  The US Congress recognized them this decade thanks to the hard work of some caring US veterans, and the South Korean government finally recognized them in 2008 with full veteran benefits, of which a percentage can be passed onto their children.

Mr. Park, the President of the 8240th AU Association and former Commander of a partisan unit during the war, gives his speech each year at the 8240th Memorial on Gyodong Island in South Korea.  He points to a house on the North Korean shore just across the straits... "That is my house.  I have not been there since the  war.  I hope my family still lives there and is safe, but I suspect not."

Related Articles:
8240th Army Unit article, Stars & Stripes  21 Sep 07 Issue

8240th Army Unit interview, ROK Steady Magazine Spring 2007 Issue

8240th Army Unit article, Stars & Stripes 25 May 07 Issue


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