Unit Details

NKPA 3rd Division

I Corps

3rd KPA Guards Division This Division was organized in October 1948 from an independent mixed brigade with the 7th, 8th, and 9th Infantry Regiments. Considered as the best of the KPA divisions, it was granted the "Guards" title early in the war and was the only division to be awarded this distinction.

 

 

Regiments 7, 8, 9

 

3rd Division (North Korea)

 

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3rd Infantry Division
Active
Country  North Korea
Allegiance  Korean People's Army
Branch Korean People's Army Ground Force
Type Infantry division
Size division
Engagements Korean War

The 3rd Infantry Division was a military formation of the Korean People's Army during the 20th Century.

Formation and composition

The exact date of formation is in dispute, but it occurred sometime between May 1947 and October 1948, at Pyongyang. In its organization, the 35d Division seemed to parallel the structural pattern of a typical North Korean Infantry Division. In keeping with the standard triangular organization of North Korean military formations, the 7th, 8th and 9th Rifle Regiments formed the combat nucleus of the division. Organized with a total strength of roughly 3,400 soldiers, the Division's command post was initially located at Pyongyang and was commanded by Major General Choi Min Chol.

During the early part of 1949, its divisional headquarters moved to Hamhung, where the 9th Regiment was undergoing training. By that time, the division was close to full strength, and except for incoming recruits, most of the men had completed basic training. In June 1949, those elements of the 3rd Division that were stationed at Hamhung were allegedly transferred to new locations, in a move that was designed to make room for newly-organized units of the North Korean Army. Division headquarters is said to have moved to Wŏnsan where the artillery units and the 8th Regiment were already stationed, while the 9th Regiment moved farther south to the Kumhwa area, placing it close to the 7th Regiment located at Ch'orwon. Shortly after this move was accomplished, the division is said to have begun advanced training with units spending most of their time in the field.

Korean War

The 3rd Division was part of the North Korean advance from Sŏul to Taejon. It also fought in the Battle of Pusan Perimeter.

June 25, 1950

At 4 a.m. a tremendous artillery barrage hits the 1st Division of the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) on the western end and other ROKA outposts along the 38th Parallel that divides North and South Korea. The invasion of South Korea by the North Korean Peoples' Army (NKPA) has begun. The artillery bombardment is quickly followed by ground attacks by the NKPA's 1st and 6th Infantry Divisions against the ROKA 1st Division.

 

Korean_War   Korean_War

The main effort by the NKPA comes later on the Uijŏngbu Corridor, a pathway to Sŏul, against the ROK 7th Division. The NKPA's 3rd and 4th Divisions and 105th Armored Brigade, supported by about 100 fighter planes, makes the assault.

 

 A tabulation of estimated enemy strength by major units as of 5 August follows: [15-58]

Unit Strength
1st Division 5,000
2nd Division 7,500
3rd Division 6,000
4th Division 7,000
5th Division 6,000
6th Division 3,600
8th Division 8,000
12th Division 6,000
13th Division 9,500
15th Division 5,000
105th Armored Division (40 tanks) 3,000
83rd Motorized Regiment (detachedfrom 105th Armored Division) 1,000
766th Independent Infantry Regiment 1,500
  69,100

No reliable figures are available for the number of enemy tanks destroyed and for tank troop casualties of the 105th Armored Division by 5 August, but certainly they were high. There were only a few tank replacements during July.

 

During the U.N. outbreak from the Pusan Perimeter in mid-September, the Division controlled Hills 268 and 121, along the southern approach of the Waegwan-Taegu road, one of the key positions. In many cases, the North Koreans fought to the last man, but after suffering a two day assault by the American 1st Cavalry Division and the 5th Regimental Combat Team, including three flights of U.S. Air Force F–51 Mustang fighters dropping napalm, firing rockets, and strafing runs, they lost the hill.

With the loss of these key positions, the 3rd Division’s defenses around Waegwan broke apart and its troops began a panic-stricken retreat across Naktong. Aerial observers estimated that 1.500 North Koreans crossed to the west side of the Naktong just above Waegwan. Further reports indicated that the roads north of the town were jammed with North Korean soldiers in groups of 10 to 300. Furthermore, reports contend that when the remaining units of the division withdrew across the Naktong River just north of Waegwan, they sustained tremendous casualties and were practically annihilated.

According to fragmentary reports, division headquarters and other elements of the 3rd Division, totaling approximately 1,800 men, succeeded in reaching Sangju, where they were ordered to retreat north.

June 25, 1950 0400

At 4 a.m. a tremendous artillery barrage hits the 1st Division of the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) on the western end and other ROKA outposts along the 38th Parallel that divides North and South Korea. The invasion of South Korea by the North Korean Peoples' Army (NKPA) has begun. The artillery bombardment is quickly followed by ground attacks by the NKPA's 1st and 6th Infantry Divisions against the ROKA 1st Division.

The main effort by the NKPA comes later on the Uijŏngbu Corridor, a pathway to Sŏul, against the ROK 7th Division. The NKPA's 3rd and 4th Divisions and 105th Armored Brigade, supported by about 100 fighter planes, makes the assault.

-- The ROK 17th Infantry Regiment is forced to withdraw from the Ongjin Peninsula, as the NKPA follows with furious attacks all along the 38th Parallel.

-- North Korean forces reach the outer defenses of Sŏul.

-- North Korean radio in P'yŏngyang called the attack a "defensive action" against invading South Korean troops. Russian news outlets follow with stories in the same vein.

-- When the news reaches the United States, most Americans had never heard of Korea, much less know where it is. Throughout the Japanese 35-year occupation Korea, which ended with Japan's defeat in 1945, was called Chosin, and most maps used Japanese names for cities.

But more than 36,000 Americans would die there between June 25, 1950, and July 27, 1953.

Division of the north and south was adopted after being recommended by the Russians, so they could accept surrender of Japanese forces north of the 38th Parallel and Americans would do the same below the line.

American troops are stationed in Korea after World War II, but the last unit was pulled out in 1948. Only a military assistance group headquarters remained. South Koreans were left to create their own armed forces, largely using equipment left behind by U.S. forces.

 

June 25, 0530

The main North Korean attack, meanwhile, had come down the Uijŏngbu Corridor (Hiway 3 & 23) timed to coincide with the general attacks elsewhere. It got under way about 0530 on 25 June and was delivered by the NKPA 4th and 3rd Infantry Divisions and tanks of the 105th Armored Brigade. [03-25]

[03-25] DA Intel Rev, Mar 51, Nr ·78, p. 34; ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 2 (Documentary Evidence of NKPA Aggression), pt. II, Opn Ord Nr 1, 4th Inf Div, 22 Jun 50; Ibid., Issue 3 (Enemy Documents), p. 65; G-2 Periodic Rpt, 30 Jun 50, Reserve CP (NKPA); The Conflict in Korea, p.
28.

This attack developed along two roads which converged at Uijŏngbu [about 10 miles due north of Sŏul] and from there led into Sŏul. The NKPA 4th Division drove straight south toward Tongduch'ŏn-ni from the 38th Parallel near Yonch'ŏn.

The NKPA 3rd Division came down the Kŭmhwa - Uijŏngbu - Sŏul road, often called the P'och'on Road, which angled into Uijŏngbu from the northeast. The NKPA 107th Tank Regiment of the NKPA 105th Armored Brigade with about forty T34 tanks supported the 4th Division; the 109th Tank Regiment with another forty tanks supported the 3rd Division on the P'och'on Road. [03-26]

[03-26] ATIS Res Supp Interrog Rpts, Issue 4 (Enemy Forces), p. 37; Ibid., Issue 2 (Documentary Evidence of NKPA Aggression), p. 45; Opn Plan, NKPA 4th Inf Div. Opn Ord Nr I. 221400 Jun 50; Ibid.,  Issue 94 (NKPA 4th Div), Ibid., Issue 96 (NKPA 3rd Div).

[03-Caption] ENEMY APPROACH ROUTES through Uijŏngbu Corridor.

The 1st Regiment of the ROK 7th Division, disposed along the Parallel, received the initial blows of the NKPA 3rd and 4th Divisions. In the early fighting it lost very heavily to enemy tanks and self-propelled guns. Behind it at P'och'on on the eastern road was the 9th Regiment; behind it at Tongduch'ŏn-ni on the western road was the 3rd Regiment.   [note]

 

June 26, 1950

Korean_War

The next morning only the 2nd Division headquarters and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 5th Regiment had arrived at Uijŏngbu.

Korean_War

During the first day, elements of the 7th Division near Tongduch'ŏn-ni on the left-hand road had fought well, considering the enemy superiority in men, armor, and artillery, and had inflicted rather heavy casualties on the 16th Regiment of the N.K. 4th Division. But despite losses the enemy pressed forward and had captured and passed through Tongduch'ŏn-ni by evening. 

Korean_War

On the morning of 26 June, therefore, the N.K. 4th Division with two regiments abreast and the N.K. 3rd Division also with two regiments abreast were above Uijŏngbu with strong armor elements, poised for the converging attack on it and the corridor to Sŏul.

On the morning of 26 June Brig. Gen. Yu Jai Hyung, commanding the ROK 7th Division, launched his part of the counterattack against the N.K. 4th Division north of Uijŏngbu. At first the counterattack made progress. This early success apparently led the Sŏul broadcast in the afternoon to state that the 7th Division had counterattacked, killed 1,580 enemy soldiers, destroyed 58 tanks, and destroyed or captured a miscellany of other weapons.

Not only did this report grossly exaggerate the success of the 7th Division, but it ignored the grave turn of events that already had taken place in front of the 2nd Division. The N.K. 3rd Division had withdrawn from the edge of P'och'on during the night, but on the morning of the 26th resumed its advance and reentered P'och'on unopposed. Its tank-led column continued southwest toward Uijŏngbu.

General Lee of the ROK 2nd Division apparently believed a counterattack by his two battalions would be futile for he never launched his part of the scheduled counterattack. Visitors during the morning found him in his command post, doing nothing, surrounded by staff officers. 

 

June 26, 1950 0800

     

His two battalions occupied defensive positions about two miles northeast of Uijŏngbu covering the P'och'on road. There, these elements of the ROK 2nd Division at 0800 opened fire with artillery and small arms on approaching North Koreans. A long column of tanks led the enemy attack. ROK artillery fired on the tanks, scoring some direct hits, but they were unharmed and, after halting momentarily, rumbled forward. This tank column passed through the ROK infantry positions and entered Uijŏngbu. Following behind the tanks, the enemy 7th Regiment engaged the ROK infantry. Threatened with encirclement, survivors of the ROK 2nd Division's two battalions withdrew into the hills. [03-45] 

This failure of the 2nd Division on the eastern, right-hand, road into Uijŏngbu caused the 7th Division to abandon its own attack on the western road and to fall back below the town. By evening both the N.K. 3rd and 4th Divisions and their supporting tanks of the 105th Armored Brigade had entered Uijŏngbu. The failure of the 2nd Division above Uijŏngbu portended the gravest consequences. The ROK Army had at hand no other organized force that could materially affect the battle above Sŏul. [03-46]

Korean_War

General Lee explained later to Col. William H. S. Wright that he did not attack on the morning of the 26th because his division had not yet closed and he was waiting for it to arrive. His orders had been to attack with the troops he had available. Quite obviously this attack could not have succeeded. The really fatal error had been General Chae's plan of operation giving the 2nd Division responsibility for the P'och'on road sector when it was quite apparent that it could not arrive in strength to meet that responsibility by the morning of 26 June.

The Fall of Sŏul

 

The tactical situation for the ROK Army above Sŏul was poor as evening fell on the second day, 26 June. Its 1st Division at Korangp'o-ri was flanked by the enemy 1st Division immediately to the east and the N.K. 3rd and 4th Divisions at Uijŏngbu. Its 7th Division and elements of the 2nd, 5th, and Capital Divisions were fighting un-co-ordinated delaying actions in the vicinity of Uijŏngbu.

During the evening the Korean Government decided to move from Sŏul to Taejŏn. Members of the South Korean National Assembly, however, after debate decided to remain in Sŏul. That night the ROK Army headquarters apparently decided to leave Sŏul.