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Soon after World War Two ended in August 1945, United States troops landed in Korea to occupy the area south of the 38th Parallel while troops from the Soviet Union entered the northern part of the country via roads to occupy the area north of the 38th Parallel. The idea at that time was for a national government to be formed, elections held, and once the new government was in place, both American and Soviet troops would depart. This did not happen because the Soviet Union want Korea to become a communist state while the United States wanted Korea to be a Democracy. The result of this ideological conflict was that in 1948 separate governments were established — a communist regime in the part of Korea north of the 38th Parallel (called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea) and a democratic regime in the area south of the 38th Parallel (Republic of Korea or South Korea.)

Even before the Republic of Korea was formed the first steps to building national army for the new country were underway. One of the first tasks undertaken by American occupation forces when they arrived beginning 8 September 1945 was to train and replace existing Japanese police and security forces. This took the form of a police academy to train policemen and the establishment of police constabulary regiments patterned on the U.S. infantry regiment of that time. The 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment Korean Constabulary was activated 14 January 1946 and began training at a former Japanese Army barrack area northeast of Seoul on the Ch’unch’on Highway. Besides the regiment in Seoul, by April 1946, constabulary regiments had been established at Pusan, Kwangju, Taegu, Iri, Taejon, Ch’ongju, and Ch’unch’on — one regiment for each province in South Korea. However, at the time these were regiments in name only since the total strength of the entire Constabulary in April 1946 was 2000 men but over the next two years were built up to approximately 26,000 men and officers.

On 8 February 1948, the North Korean Provisional Government announced the official birth of the "Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Army, the Inmingun. In response, on 1 March 1948, Lieutenant General John R. Hodge, Commanding General, U.S. Forces in Korea, announced the formation of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) would go ahead and elections would be held in May 1948. Ten days later, on 10 March, 1948, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff approved plans to increase the Korean Constabulary to 50,000 men and arming the constabulary with U.S. weapons including artillery up to 105mm howitzers plus armored cars and M24 tanks.

The Republic of Korea became official on 15 August 1948. In late November, the newly-formed ROK National Assembly passed the "Republic of Korea Armed Forces Organization Act" and on 15 December 1948 the ROK Department of National Defense, the ROK Army and ROK Navy became official. At this time, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th Constabulary Regiments became the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th Republic of Korea Infantry Divisions. Two months later the Capital ROK Infantry Division was formed from the Capital Security Command. Included in the new division was the 1st Cavalry Regiment which was equipped with twenty-four M8 and M20 armored cars plus twelve M3 halftracks. At the same time the 8th and 11th Infantry Divisions were formed from the two remaining constabulary regiments.

At this time the total strength of the new army was 65,000 men but there U.S. small arms for only about half this number despite all being badly under authorized strength in men. The rest were armed with World War Two Japanese weapons. None of the units had the promised M-24 and M4E8 tanks while artillery units were lucky to have 25% of the promised artillery pieces. This situation continued up to the start of the Korean War, 25 June 1950, at which time only the 1st, 2nd 6th and 7th Infantry Divisions had three regiments while all the rest had only two regiments. Following the attack by North Korea, all divisions were badly mauled during the withdrawal down the Peninsula to the Pusan Perimeter where the 2nd, 5th and 7th Infantry Divisions were disbanded and absorbed into the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 8th, and Capital Infantry Divisions. From this point on, the Republic of Korea Army continued to expand so by the end of the war the following major South Korean Army units were active:


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Advised by United States Marine Corps personnel, the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, commonly known as the Korean Marine Corps or KMC, was organized April 1949 using volunteers from the small Republic of Korea Navy and Coast Guard. Although it never became a large unit — compared to the ROK Army — it grew to two battalions by the end of 1949. With the outbreak of the Korean War, and in August 1950 during the fighting at the Pusan Perimeter, a third battalion was formed. The three battalions were then organized as the 1st Korean Marine Corps Regiment. The regiment was attached to the U.S. 1st Marine Division.

Following the advance into, and the retreat out of, North Korea October - December 1950, friendly North Koreans who had helped U.N. forces had to flee North Korea or face certain death. Many fled to islands off North Korea’s west coast where they set up partisan units, more to defend themselves than to conduct offensive raids into and guerrilla operations in North Korea. However, in February 1951, these independent partisan groups were consolidated under the control of Eighth United States Army, Korea’s 8th Army G-3 Miscellaneous Group, 8086th Army Unit. On 10 December 1951, the partisans and American personnel in the Miscellaneous were absorbed by Far East Command’s 8240th Army Unit and renamed the United Nations Partisan Forces, Korea. Around March 1952, United Nations Command decided that partisan activities would be more effective if they didn’t have to provide local security for their islands. The logical people to provide island security was the KMC so the 2nd KMC Regiment was organized. Two battalions of the 2nd KMC deployed to islands in West Sea (Yellow Sea) — Paengnyong-do, Cho-do, and other smaller islands — while the third battalion took up security duties on East Sea (Sea of Japan) islands — mainly the islands at the mouth of the Wonsan Bay.


 At the onset of the Korean War, South Korea did not have a viable air force. What little it did have consisted of L-4 and L-5 single engine, two-place liaison aircraft plus two or three C-47s. Volunteers for flight training were quickly selected and sent to the United States for training. The first group, now qualified in flying F-51 fighters, returned in late 1951 and were formed into a squadron which was deployed to K-18, Kangnung on South Korea’s east coast. More F-51 squadrons were formed in 1952 and 1953.


At the outbreak of the Korean War, the ROKN was small, consisting a few U.S.-made 105' patrol craft and several LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank.) The ROKN N-703 fired the first shots of the war several hours before North Korea attacked when it sank a former Japanese Navy transport in the approaches to Pusan Harbor. The transport carried the 3rd Battalion, 766th Independent Regiment, North Korea People’s Army, whose mission was to land and secure the Port of Pusan.

Killed in Action/Death: 137,899
Wounded in Action:  450,742
Missing in Action: 24,495
Prisoners of War (those returned from North Korea) 8,343
Total: 621,479
NOTE: These figure did not include the losses suffered by South Korean para-militia and police units  

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