In the event that the balloon goes up on the Korean peninsula, U.S. Special Forces has a secret weapon in South Korea that has been poised and ready to roll since shortly after the Korean War. Special Forces Detachment Korea (SFDK) has made a long-term quiet contribution to strategic military-to-military relations between America and South Korea for decades. In the event that North Korea attacks or invades the South, SFDK will spring into action as a part of OPLAN 5027, steering the U.S. Special Operations Forces response to DPRK aggression.
While most Americans today cannot even identify where North Korea is on a map, as far back as the 1960s there were Green Berets locking out of submarines off the coast of Korea, training Korean Special Forces, and even taking part in hunting down and killing North Korean infiltrators who crossed through the de-militarized zone.
One day in 1966, a team of North Koreans infiltrated down the east coast and came ashore in the south. Two school children saw a couple soldiers walking along a rice paddy and told their parents about it. If the South Korean military was doing an exercise in the area, their school would have announced it to the students beforehand. Their parents called the police who called the military and it was soon realized that they were dealing with a North Korean infiltration. Sergeant Lavoie and another Green Beret from the Detachment went out with a Korean Special Forces quick reaction force.
While searching for the infiltrators it was discovered that they had already wiped out a small village, killing women and children. It was suspected that the North Koreans were visually identified by the villagers, so they were murdered to prevent further compromise. The South Koreans slowly closed the net on the six infiltrators, squeezing them up on top of a hill that had been surrounded.
Lavoie and his team-mate stood at the base of the hill as the South Koreans closed in. The sound of gunfire reverberated down the side of the mountain towards the Green Berets announcing that the infiltrators were finished.
Over the years U.S. Special Forces continued to hone their relationship with their South Korean counter-parts. One training exercise came to reach legendary proportions within Special Operations circles. In the dead of night, a U.S. Air Force Combat Talon C-130 cut its engines and glided right into the Kunsan Air Base, touching down on the runway with its lights blacked out. “No one in the control tower, including the exercise evaluator who knew the plane was scheduled to land, so much as heard the silenced black-bird touch down” (Cucullu, 168). The Combat Talon taxied over to the parking apron where F-16 fighter jets were stationed. The ramp dropped and a combined team of American and South Korean Special Forces soldiers ran off and planted simulated explosives on the fighter jets. Boarding the Combat Talon, the Green Berets and ROK Special Forces men made their escape. “It was a harsh lesson in vulnerability-a mission such as that one was well within the capacity of the North Korean commandos to execute,” (Cucullu, 168).
Today Special Forces Detachment Korea provides a skeleton crew in South Korea that provides liaison duties to the South Korean Special Forces and is also prepared to accept follow on U.S. Special Operations Forces in the event of open war. Once the balloon goes up, 1st Special Forces Group ODA’s, SEAL Teams, and the 75th Ranger Regiment will be scrambled to the Korean peninsula to action various targets. Det K will accept these teams and guide them exactly where they need to go once they arrive in country.
While world leaders engage in bravado and bluster, the Green Berets of Det K epitomize the quiet professional.
(Lead picture courtesy of DVIDS)