The Western Pacific D+10 (19 July, 1987) Part I


Hostilities officially erupted on the Korean Peninsula at 0423 hours, 19 July, 1987. The first overt clash between North Korean (NK) and South Korean (ROK) military forces occurred in the Yellow Sea. A North Korean diesel submarine was detected and sunk by a pair of ROK S-2 Trackers as it made a shallow approach towards the coast to drop off a team of commandos. The sub was within South Korean territorial waters and under the rules of engagement it was fair game for the Trackers.

Unknown to many of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen on both sides of the DMZ at the time, fighting had actually been underway since late on D+9. The North Koreans had hundreds of agents, sympathizers, and commandos positioned inside of South Korea waiting for this moment. The majority had been in place for years, living as law-abiding, loyal ROK citizens. Beneath the surface, however, their loyalties to North Korea had never diminished. As tensions rose, and security tightened in the days leading up to the start of fighting in Europe, some were discovered, and arrested by ROK security forces. But the majority remained undiscovered and hidden.

Early on the previous evening, the activation signal from Pyongyang was given. Less than three hours later, these men embarked upon their assigned missions, ranging from assassination of political and military leaders, to the destruction of ammunition and fuel depots, and bombings of rail lines. Surprise was achieved in some instances, while in others, ROK and US troops had been prepared and waiting. As was the case in the early hours of D+0 in Europe, a series of small unit actions broke out across the southern half of the peninsula marking the unofficial beginning of the Second Korean War.

The next wave of attacks started around 0430 and were conducted by North Korean special forces teams that had recently come into the country via the DMZ, or submarine. At the proper moment they attacked command posts, airbases, and ROK mobilization points. The most significant efforts were made against ROK and USAF airbases.

The results of the attacks were mixed. Just south of the DMZ, the commanding general and senior command staff of the ROK 1st Infantry Division were killed in an NK commando raid on their wartime headquarters. A similar attack aimed at the Eighth Army headquarters at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul was defeated. Had it succeeded, the NK commandos would’ve found no senior officers there anyhow. Eighth Army’s field headquarters had been established two days earlier and its location was never learned by the North Koreans. Osan Air Base had been attacked by two waves of NK special troops. After heavy fighting, the surviving commandos were halted by ROK and USAF security troops. At Kwang-Ju, the commando attack there had succeeded in destroying a number of ROK F-4 Phantoms, and one of the base fuel depots before the NK troops were eventually all killed.

As these attacks were in progress, over two hundred North Korean fighters and attack aircraft were streaking south towards the DMZ and targets beyond. On the ground, hundreds of North Korean tanks and infantry fighting vehicles were moving towards the DMZ behind a curtain of artillery, and rocket fire against known and suspected Combined Forces positions on the other side of the border.

As 0500 approached, all hell was breaking out along the width and breadth of the Republic of Korea.


Author’s Note: Short entry today due to time constraints. As a result, this will be a two-parter. Apologies.

2 Replies to “The Western Pacific D+10 (19 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. That was one of the things we didn’t understand during the first Gulf War…why the North Koreans didn’t decide to become South Koreans. There wouldn’t have been anything we could’ve done to stop it. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with you on that. The ROKs weren’t in great shape back then militarily and our forces in theater were limited. Everything was in the desert. If Kim Il Sung had gambled back then, it would’ve been interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

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