South Korean soldiers in the Vietnam War,
The Vietnam War is traditionally viewed as an American War, and while US forces made up the bulk of foreign personnel in Vietnam, the Vietnam War was actually a coalition effort, with troops from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and The Philippines. Interestingly, few people know that South Korea not only participated in the war, but provided the most troops of any other nation next to the US. From 1964 to 1973, South Korean continually maintained a force of 50,000 soldiers, marines, and sailors in South Vietnam. During the war, South Korean soldiers gained a reputation as being the best of the war, feared by both the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army alike. Only volunteers were used for service in Vietnam, and only the best troops the South Vietnamese military had to offer were accepted for service. Throughout the war the South Vietnamese military claimed 41,000 kills.
An example of the South Korean’s balls of steel is best exemplified by the action of Feb 14th – 15th, 1967
near the village of Trah Bin Dong in Quang Ngai province. Their a company of the 2nd South Korean Marine Division prepared a trap for the Vietcong using themselves as bait. After setting up an oval shaped camp, the South Koreans came under attack by two Vietcong regiments. The South Korean’s fought fiercely, then fell back, tricking the Vietcong into believing they were in retreat. In reality the retreat was a faint as the Korean marines reformed their lines and platoons hidden in reserve attacked from the rear, completely encircling the Vietcong. The marines then fixed bayonets and finished the Vietcong in close quarter combat, killing 100 and forcing the rest to surrender.
The South Koreans were also noted as generally being better insurgency fighters than the Americans or other western forces, mostly because Korean culture had more in common with Vietnamese culture than say western culture. Thus South Korean soldiers tended to work better with South Vietnamese and native forces. However, South Korean conduct during the war was far from perfect, and the South Koreans gained a reputation for committing some of the cruelest atrocities during the war. Some of that reputation is hype created by the South Koreans themselves, but some of it is true, and South Korean records show that the military was responsible for at least 8,000 civilian deaths.
During the Vietnam War around 320,000 South Koreans would serve, with 5,099 being killed and around 11,000 wounded.