Biogaphy

Darrigo, Capt. Joseph R.
[Capt. KMAG 12thROKIR]

biography

June 25, 1950 0500

Capt. Joseph R. Darrigo, assistant adviser to the ROK 12th Regiment, 1st Division, was the only American officer on the 38th Parallel the morning of 25 June.

He occupied quarters in a house at the northeast edge of Kaesŏng, just below Son'gak-san [Son'gak Mountain). At daybreak, approximately 0500, Captain Darrigo awoke to the sound of artillery fire. Soon shell fragments and small arms fire were hitting his house. He jumped from bed, pulled on a pair of trousers, and, with shoes and shirt in hand, ran to the stairs where he was met by his Korean houseboy running up to awaken him. The two ran out of the house, jumped into Darrigo's jeep, and drove south into Kaesŏng. They encountered no troops, but the volume of fire indicated an enemy attack.

At about three-thirty on Sunday morning Darrigo was jarred awake by the crash of close artillery fire. He sat bolt upright and listened intently. At first he believed it to be the South Koreans firing their 105mm snub-nosed "infantry cannons" at NKPA positions. But as the noise increased in fury, he realized it was not South but North Korean artillery. Moreover, it was not the usual sporadic harassing border fire. It was heavy, continuous, and alarming.

Was this it? Darrigo asked himself. Invasion?

He pulled on his trousers and ran outside to get a better look. He could see the muzzle flashes reflected on low-lying dark clouds, which presaged the onset of the rainy season. The guns were close and seemingly firing without letup. Then he heard a tattoo of small arms fire, the unmistakable advance of infantry. Bullets whined all around him and thudded into the stone house.

Darrigo grabbed his shirt and shoes and jumped into his jeep, his Korean houseboy on his heels. Still shirtless and shoeless, he drove the jeep down twisting, dusty roads, south toward downtown Kaesŏng. In the middle of town at a traffic circle he stopped suddenly, mouth agape. Pulling into the railroad station was a fifteen car North Korean train, jammed with infantry - some hanging on the sides. Sometime during the evening the NKPA had re-laid the railroad tracks!

The train - and the large numbers of NKPA soldiers - was proof to Darrigo that this was no "rice raid" or minor border incident. It was obviously a meticulously planned, highly professional military attack, the real thing. And like Pearl Harbor, he thought, it had come on a Sunday morning without warning. The NKPA movement by train into Kaesŏng had cannily outflanked Darrigo's thinly deployed 12th Regiment. The outfit did not stand a chance, and there was no way Darrigo could get back to its CP to offer his advice.

 

Darrigo decided to continue south on the Munsan-ni Road to the Imjin River.

At the circle in the center of Kaesŏng small arms fire fell near Darrigo's jeep. Looking off to the west, Darrigo saw a startling sight-half a mile away, at the railroad station which was in plain view, North Korean soldiers were unloading from a train of perhaps fifteen cars. Some of these soldiers were already advancing toward the center of town. Darrigo estimated there were from two to three battalions, perhaps a regiment, of enemy troops on the train.

The North Koreans obviously had re-laid during the night previously pulled up track on their side of the Parallel and had now brought this force in behind the ROK's north of Kaesŏng while their artillery barrage and other infantry attacked frontally from Songak-san.

June 25, 1950 0511

The young (thirty-year-old) commander of the ROK 1st Division, Colonel Paik Sun Yup, was able and dedicated. Unfortunately he and his KMAG adviser, Darrigo's immediate boss, Lieutenant Colonel Lloyd H. Rockwell, were in Sŏul for the weekend. However, Paik's headquarters quickly found and alerted Paik, and he in turn found and roused Rockwell. Shortly after dawn both men joined Darrigo at the 1st ROK Division headquarters.[2-78]  

June 25, 1950 0530

biography

The North Korean soldiers - a full infantry regiment - detrained and almost immediately spotted Darrigo. They opened fire with Russian made rifles, carbines, and pistols. With bullets whistling all around the open jeep, Darrigo sped out of Kaesŏng, southbound. Like a Paul Revere, he drove through the night to spread the alarm.

biography

 Thirty minutes later he reached headquarters of the ROK 1st Division, located in a heavily fenced compound just south of the Imjin River near Munsan. Unable to raise the sleeping headquarters guards, Darrigo doggedly and noisily rammed the jeep against the heavy wooden gate until he got a response.

June 25, 1950 0930

biography

Most of the ROK 12th Regiment troops at Kaesŏng and Yŏnan were killed or captured. Only two companies of the regiment escaped and reported to the division headquarters the next day. Kaesŏng was entirely in enemy hands by 0930. Darrigo, meanwhile, sped south out of Kaesŏng, reached the Imjin River safely, and crossed over to Munsan-ni.

June 26, 1950 0930

biography

Most of the ROK 12th Regiment troops at Kaesŏng and Yŏnan were killed or captured. Only two companies of the regiment escaped and reported to the division headquarters the next day. Kaesŏng was entirely in enemy hands by 0930. Darrigo, meanwhile, sped south out of Kaesŏng, reached the Imjin River safely, and crossed over to Munsan-ni. [03-20]  

August 11, 1950

This tank column arrived at Yŏnil Airfield about 2030, 11 August, and were the first tanks to reach the airstrip. They were immediately placed in the perimeter defense. Darrigo was the same officer who had escaped from Kaesŏng at dawn, 25 June, when the North Koreans began their attack across the 38th Parallel. One who saw this courageous 30-year-old soldier when he arrived at Yŏnil said he looked to be fifty. [18-17]