Side by Side in Korea
Story by Maj. Carl Fischer and JO3 Kerri Mattson
Photos by SFC Larry Lane
WHEN Gen. Douglas MacArthur planned the Inchon landing during the Korean War, he
knew he needed more soldiers to fill the understrength units that would make the major
amphibious assault. But where could he get them?
Soldiers sent to the Far East were almost immediately thrown into battle-hardened units
upon arrival on the Korean Peninsula. He decided, with South Korean President Syngman
Rhee's approval, to try a new experiment by integrating South Korean soldiers into the
The "Korean Augmentation to the United States Army" troops, known as KATUSAs,
began arriving in U.S. units on Aug. 20, 1950, to prepare for the assault. However, some
saw action before the Inchon invasion.
During early August, four South Korean officers and 133 enlisted soldiers joined the U.S.
1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, in the battle at Triangulation Hill. Two South Korean
soldiers died and the walking wounded refused evacuation.
Meanwhile, with the U.S. 7th Infantry Division at half strength with only 9,000 men, 8,600
South Koreans, along with additional American reinforcements, brought the division to a
strength of 25,000.
More KATUSAs joined other units at a rate of 950 per day. MacArthur ordered Lt. Gen.
Walton Walker, the Eighth Army commander, to increase the strength of each company
and battery by 100 with South Korean soldiers to better resist the entry of North Korean
soldiers into the Pusan perimeter in southern South Korea.
During the mid-September invasion, the KATUSAs were spared a baptism of fire when the
1st Marine Div. cleared the northeastern Republic of Korea beachhead and paved the way
for the 7th ID.
But, while they participated heroically side by side with their American counterparts, the
KATUSAs did encounter problems in the beginning. They did not speak English and
lacked military equipment and training.
Despite the shaky start and lack of training, the KATUSAs became the battle-hardened
soldiers the American divisions needed when U.S. troops rotated home. Their scouting and
patrolling skills, not to mention their knowledge of the area and ability to distinguish
between North and South Koreans, proved immensely valuable.
The KATUSAs remain part of the U.S. force in South Korea with more than 5,000
members accounting for 20 percent of combat troops. They remain part of the Republic of
Korea army and are paid by the ROK government.
While the Korean War KATUSAs received only five days of training in ROK army training
centers, now the soldiers must complete a six-week course at the KATUSA Training
Academy at Camp Humphreys, South Korea. This program was expanded in October 1994
from a three-week program.
"In my mind, the key to their success in U.S. units is communication," said Capt. James
Haynesworth, commander of the academy. "It's not enough for them to be able to
understand what the mission is. They've got to be able to articulate it back to the
The new program allots 44 additional hours of English training for a total of 100 hours.
KATUSAs also are introduced to American food, customs and courtesies, proper wear of
the uniform and military rank recognition.
Another change in the program is MOS training. KATUSAs learn about everything from
vehicle maintenance to administrative skills during the second three weeks of training,
which offers nine MOS career tracks.
"We are going to give them a broad base for their career management field," said 1st Sgt.
Norman Homan of KTA. "The units they go to still have to polish them up, but the
academy gives them the majority of the training they need to become MOS-qualified."
Not only have KATUSAs become better-skilled soldiers, they can now also develop
leadership skills. To fully integrate Korean soldiers into the American forces, KTA
graduates with 10 to 12 months in service and nearing promotion or recently promoted to
corporal attend the Primary Leadership Development Course at Camp Jackson, alongside
their American counterparts.
Before January 1994, KATUSAs received no formal leadership training. But last year, the
Eighth U.S. Army instituted a KATUSA Leadership Development Course, modeled after
PLDC. Since this program proved so successful, the Army leadership decided to take
MacArthur's philosophy of full integration further by sending the KATUSAs to PLDC.
"KATUSA soldiers are very competent," said Haynsworth. "They are diligent,
hardworking and very sincere about doing their job and doing it right. I think they will do
very well in PLDC."
This may be a far cry from MacArthur's vision, but the experiment has proven to be a
success as KATUSAs continue to soldier with Americans into the 21st century. Maj. Carl
Fischer and JO3 Kerri Mattson are assigned to HQs, U.S. Forces, Korea.
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