The Blue House Raid Part I: North Korean Commandos Are Hardcore PT Studs

The Blue House Raid Part I: North Korean Commandos Are Hardcore PT Studs

By MSG (Ret.) Mad Max Mullen

nkarmy2Fitness for thought… Let’s imagine that you were going to war against the North Korean Army Special Operations Commandos. You would be going up against one of the best-conditioned commando units in the world. The North Korean Army has the largest standing special operations force in the world—it makes our SOCOM look like a rifle platoon in comparison. They have a standing special operations force estimated to be 70,000–100,000 strong. Their training takes places in the northernmost part of Korea where the extreme elevation of the mountain ranges would boggle the mind.

In 1968, a specially selected, thirty-one man North Korean commando team from the infamous North Korean 124th Army Unit infiltrated across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) to conduct a raid on the Blue House, the South Korean equivalent to our White House, to assassinate President Park Chung-hee by cutting off his head. This special operation commando unit trained for two years and spent their final 15 days rehearsing action on the objective in a full-scale mock up of the Blue House. These specially selected men were the best that the North Korean Army had to offer. They were trained in infiltration and ex-filtration techniques, weaponry, navigation, airborne operations, amphibious infiltration, hand-to-hand combat with infuses on knife fighting, and concealment. One of their concealment techniques was to dig into graves and sleep with the bones and dead bodies. As the only surviving commando stated, “It made us fearless—no one would think to look for us in a graveyard.” They ran up mountains at eight miles an hour with sixty-six pound rucks in broken, unforgiving country. Their training was conducted in adverse weather conditions—even in the winter where some lost toes and feet from frost bite! I served three tours in Korea and have seen the weather easily drop to thirty degrees below zero.

Upon infiltration of the DMZ, they stuck to the high ground and moved at night in the dead of winter. If you have served or been to Korea, you would know that the mountain ranges are no joke. The mission was supposed to take four days, however, it was compromised when they ran into a group of wood cutters. One of the officers wanted to kill them, but the group team leader let them go after a lecture on the good life in North Korea. The wood cutters immediately notified the local police and an all-out dragnet was set up by ROK and US Forces. The commandos were able to evade all patrols and road blocks; they made it all the way into the city. After changing into ROK Army Uniforms, they were stopped 200 meters short of the objective (after an alert police officer challenged them). A fierce fire fight broke out as they tried to fight their way to the Blue House. Unknown to the commandos, the Blue House had been reinforced with a platoon of soldiers. The fire fight was intense, but once the South Korean tanks showed up, they went to their escape and evasion (E&E) plan. Over the next few days, twenty-nine North Korean commandos were killed, one unaccounted for, and one was captured alive.

nkarmyAutopsies were conducted on the bodies of the dead, North Korean commandos. The doctors who performed the autopsies were astounded at the commandos’ physical condition. “These men are the best conditioned men I have ever seen,” a doctor remarked. “Their muscularity is incredible; they all look like professional bodybuilders. They have incredibly low body fat. Remarkable specimens with the endurance of Olympic athletes.”

When I was stationed in Korea, I saw a training film on the North Korean soldier training regimen and was very impressed. The North Korean commandos are one fighting force I would go up against with caution and respect. They won’t throw their tails between their legs and run like the Iraqi Army—they will slug it out toe-to-toe. Don’t get me wrong, we will kick their tail, but it won’t be a cakewalk like Desert Storm.

Half of the North Korean Army is forward-deployed along the DMZ and itching for a fight. The capital city of Seoul is well within SCUD missile and artillery range. All of the military bases north of Seoul are pre-plotted and well within artillery range.

So now I ask you, who do you think is the best-conditioned special forces unit in the world?

I wrote this story to illustrate the importance of physical conditioning and the importance of being in shape. Whether you are a professional mil-sim hobbyist, military special operations soldier, or law enforcement officer, you have no excuse for not being in shape. In future articles, I will highlight the physical fitness programs of the elite military and law enforcement teams throughout the world. I will also be holding a MSG “Mad Max” Mullen Fitness Challenge just to see how you stack up.

Until next time: “Train hard to fight another day,”

Next Part II: “Specially selected and handpicked”

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  • 14 May, 2009

    Great story MSG!

    It’s interesting to highlight the fact that there were only 31 of them. They fought on to the objective even after being compromised and made their way danger-close to The Blue House.

    During their E&E it took several days for a much bigger force to find them. Only one was captured alive, so that will tell you something of their dedication and unwillingness to surrender. Also note that during their entire mission there is no additional support or resupply from the North Koreans to speak of, they were completely on their own.

    Not only were these commandos physically incredible, they were so highly trained and mentally tough. They were cunning an able to adapt to a rapidly changing situation.

    They say that in times of extreme stress, your mind reverts to it’s most instinctive state, relying more on memory to complete tasks. It’s only the training you have that prepares you for these times.

    Train your mind and your body will follow. Love training like a drug. The suffering and pain you go through in training will only help you stay alert and alive in the real world.


  • Strike-Hold
    16 May, 2009

    Wow, fantastic story. I knew that the NK Commandos are some super tough mofos, but hadn’t known about this episode before. It is interesting though how the mission was basically blown because the leader allowed his political indoctrination to overcome his ruthless commitment to tactical expediency.

    Another fascinating tale about physical fitness, survival-mentality and moral courage is the story of the Norwegian commandos who attacked the Norsk Hydro power plant in Telemark during WWII – and thus prevented Hitler from developing an atomic bomb. Just imagine what would have happened if the V2s had been tipped with nukes…

  • liz
    17 May, 2009

    Amazing story MSG!

    This is definitely food for thought! What I took away from it is we should make fitness a priority in our lives. It doesnt matter if you are a regular “Joe” or “Jane” out in the corporate world, if you train hard to keep fit your mind will be just as conditioned! Again, great story that can teach all of us a lesson. Please keep posting more motivational ones like this one!

    Liz :)

  • TulsaDerek
    17 May, 2009

    That was very interesting story.

    If not compromised they might have succeeded. I’m amazed they let the loggers live.

    I believe there are stories like this one from all over, that have not been told because the mission was completed and no one was able to tell it.

    Can’t wait for the next one.


  • cole
    17 May, 2009

    After reading this it’s very apparent that fitness has to be a priority. The North Koreans showed strength and endurance before death and with the results of the autopsy of the 20 commandos, it shows they lived a life of health as a way of life for a long time.

    Your story is motivational to those who care about staying in great shape, and pushing the limit to stay top of their game to meet any challenge mentally and physically.

    Thanks for bringing us to the awareness level with this great story, site, magazine. It certainly makes you think, and want to push your limits. I look forward to seeing the results of your challenge.

  • stat
    19 May, 2009

    Great article …. to the op story board I go!


  • reconsniperga
    19 May, 2009

    That’s crazy! This really shows what kind of enemies we have. It really shows how personal fitness plays a part in special forces operations (here in the US and abroad). I’m looking forward to your fitness challenge.

    25 May, 2009

    This article and others are not exactly accurate regarding the number of NK’s captured. Two (not one) were captured. One was sacrificed in order to get the other to talk. I guess the South Koreans didn’t subscribe to “water boarding”. How do I know? These little bastards came through our DMZ sector, and we remained on Red Alert for several weeks. The sole remaining survivor was brought to the DMZ and showed where they got through the Z, by kicking the fence over where they had cut it out.

  • Oso
    28 May, 2009

    This just shows that not all of our enemies are untrained, unskilled, or unmotivated. Judging by the current situation with NK this is a great time for this story. This is just a small taste of the some of the challenges NK will present if the two nations begin full scale hostilities again. The consolation is that we can have the confidence of knowing that our men and women on the DMZ can meet and overcome anything sent their way.

    Great story.

  • SGT_G
    2 July, 2009

    Amazing story MSG MAD MAX!!!!!!!!! its amazing what the human body can endure!!.

    Your friend, and brother SGT_G

  • 20 May, 2013

    […] Korea’s special forces really do earn their special stripes. They train at altitude in the mountains of north-eastern North Korea and do so in all weathers and […]

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