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In January, a 31-man commando team belonging to Unit 124 crossed the DMZ into South Korea. When the team was soon compromised by a couple of farmers, an intense debate began as to whether or not they should be killed. Amazingly, the North Koreans decided to propagandize the farmers with communist dogma instead of murdering them and then made the farmers promise not to tell the police what they had seen. The farmers blew them off and contacted the authorities.
After initially being dismissive of the farmer’s report, the South Korean and US military began chasing down the infiltrators as they made a bee-line towards Seoul. “There was something about the intensity, focus, and speed of the North Koreans that counter-infiltration units found unsettling,” (Cucullu, 101) as most infiltration teams attacked their targets and headed back to the DMZ but this one seemed to be one a one-way trip to South Korea’s capital. The only target in Seoul that would justify such a suicide mission was President Park.
Outrunning South Korean forces, fighting through sporadic firefights throughout the night, and eventually changing into South Korean military fatigues, the assassination team was able to get within 100-meters of President Park at the Blue House. The North Koreans were compromised at a gate, allegedly because they did not know the challenge and password of the day, and this triggered another firefight. The assassins scattered. Most of them were hunted down and killed over the next few days. One was captured alive and another managed to cross the DMZ back into the North.
- SSG Rick Lavoie of Det K being awarded Korean jump wings in 1966
Det K coordinated for trackers to be brought into South Korea from SAF Asia in Okinawa who were graduates of Recondo school. The Det’s commander was present for briefings during the event at the US embassy with the CIA station chief, a former member of Merrill’s Marauders named Joe Lazarsky. The Green Beret trackers were able to backtrack the assassination team’s spore up to their initial entry point at the DMZ where they had cut a hole in the fence in the US sector.
The day after the Blue House raid, the United Nations was to meet and discuss the incident. North Korea managed to delay the meeting for twenty-four hours, and the next day they hijacked the USS Pueblo initiating an 11-month standoff that saw American sailors taken prisoner, tortured, and abused. Ten days after the Blue House raid the Tet Offensive kicked off in Vietnam, and the United States suddenly had bigger fish to fry than the Kim family criminal regime.
Korean UDT/SEALs and American Navy SEALs began planning a joint mission dubbed “Red Fox” to rescue the sailors from the hijacked USS Pueblo. While Det K had been mentoring the 1st Special Forces Brigade, Navy SEALs had a role in mentoring Korean UDT/SEALs. In 1954 seven South Korean Naval Officers were sent to the US Navy UDT course and Korea’s Naval Special Warfare unit was stood up the following year (Yang, 32). Ultimately Red Fox never received the go-ahead from the White House.
The situation in Korea looked so dire during this time, that 1st Special Forces Group deployed a special munitions team to South Korea to be deployed in the event that war broke out. These Special Forces teams were known as “Green Light” and were trained to parachute behind enemy lines with special atomic devices that could be detonated and destroy main avenues of approach that an invading enemy would use, such as bridges or mountain passes. Thankfully, the Green Light teams were never activated for combat operations. Det K and South Korean Special Forces were both on alert at this time as well.
In 1970 Det K continued their liaison duties which included receiving 1st Special Forces Group ODAs, giving them a in-brief, and then getting an out-brief from the team before they left. The Det would also set up and coordinate their training. During the Foal Eagle exercise of fall 1970, Captain Gordon Cucullu conducted a static-line parachute jump with his ODA into South Korea. Stepping out the door of the C-130 into the darkness, they landed in a rice patty near a village named Sangju. Along with the Green Berets was Captain Kim and Sergeant Kwon who were members of Korean Special Forces. Both were highly skilled Tae Kwon Do experts who also served on the national demonstration team. The ODA and their Korean partners marched through the countryside that night and caught a military transport out the next day.
(Featured image: Korea’s Blue House courtesy of Wikipedia)
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