One of the stranger missions to come about during World War II was the decision to infiltrate the Korean coastline, which was then held by the Japanese, and insert former Korean POWs into the country to set up agent networks, conduct sabotage and possibly begin a guerrilla war against the Japanese. Eventually, the plan was to infiltrate the coastline of Japan itself.

Code-named Operation NAPKO, it was headed by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner to both CIA and the U.S. Army Special Forces. Operation NAPKO was run by Colonel Carl Eifler, the larger-than-life OSS operator, who was the first commander of Detachment 101 in Burma that recruited and trained the Kachin Rangers.

The plan was to use a semi-submersible boat, code-named the GIMIK, to shuttle 10 teams (each comprised from one to five personnel) of Koreans onto the coastline where they would use their own contacts to set up agent networks. The former POWs would choose their own infiltration points due to their personal knowledge of the operational areas. The agents would then set up radio communications with U.S. listening posts in Manchuria and the Philippines.

The 55 Koreans selected for the mission were given extensive training by OSS and each of the teams were kept separate and unknown to each other. That way, in case of capture, they wouldn’t be able to relay anything of importance to the Japanese.

Eifler hoped to have at least seven of the teams operational and the ones who showed the greatest progress would be exploited to the maximum potential. According to CIA archival information, only two teams progressed enough to get to the operational planning stage. 

“Code-named ‘Kinec’ and ‘Charo.’ Both were very similar in concept, differing primarily in intended points of penetration and operating areas. Kinec envisioned landing five agents at Chemulpo Bay, about 20 miles outside Seoul on the country’s west coast; Charo was focused on Pyongyang following penetration via Wonsan and utilized three, rather than five, Korean agents. Typical of NAPKO missions, the teams were to carry minimal equipment and supplies: 100,000 yen, a radio, appropriate clothing for passing as locals, and a Japanese-manufactured shovel for burying the team’s equipment after landing.”

The method of infiltrating the teams into Korea was to transport them on a submarine and then launch the GIMIKs off the deck of the sub in order to ferry the teams ashore. The GIMIK was manufactured by John Trumpy and Sons of Camden, NJ, who were well-known yacht builders on the East Coast. The cost of the boats in 1944 dollars was $26,000 for each of the GIMIKs. That would translate to just under $270,000 today.