At the start of the Korean War, North Korea had only twenty 76mm AA Guns which were used for air defence of the rear areas while the field formations relied upon 12.7mm Heavy Machine Guns to take on the enemy air. The Reds had no doctrinarian or training for countering a hostile air act and the USAF pilots were surprised to see the North Korean soldiers stand up on being strafed and fire back with their rifles. It may appear a fool hardy thing to do but they caused enough damage to the attacking US aircraft to be taken seriously. Even as the US air took a toll of communist ground troops, the North Korean Army only had infantry weapons for air defence.
As USAF continued its operations, both close support and interdiction, it compelled North Korean units to resort to attack under cover of darkness7. The absence of an effective AAA was taking a heavy toll. The adverse effect on morale and disruption of supply system were serious enough for North Korean Army to start taking Air Defence in right earnest. The field orders now instructed troops to take necessary precautions against hostile air – by way of camouflage and cover and more importantly, on greater emphasis on using ground weapons in antiaircraft role. One such instance was during the 25th Rifle Regiment operation for crossing of the Naktong River. The Field Commander’s orders8 directed that
‘The Antiaircraft defence will be provided by the Regimental antiaircraft unit supplemented by one heavy machinegun section from each battalion. When enemy aircraft appear, 50 percent of the infantry weapons will be diverted for antiaircraft defence’
With increasing US air operations against the North Korean Army during the Korean War, there was a desperate need to improvise and take defensive measures to protect the ground troops.
One of the measure taken was when Kim IL Sung, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, ordered the raising of ‘Hunter Groups’ using volunteers. These groups were armed with Infantry Heavy Machine Guns and were accorded special privileges, including decoration of ‘Hero’ and grant of furlough if they shot down three US aircraft over a 90 day period. North Korea also used an elaborate system of ‘flak traps’ as they made dummies using parachutes, straw figures and strips of lights to lure US aircraft to take on ‘convoy of trucks’. In addition, they had aircraft warning sentries at an interval of 300-400 metres to warn of raiding aircraft. These measures may seem pedantic but they did cause serious damage to US aircraft3.
- Futrell Robert US Air Force in Korea 1950-1953 Office of Air Force History 1983, pp 169
- Futrell pp 171
- Stanley Sandler The Korean War: An Encyclopedia