The Blue House Raid Part I: North Korean Commandos Are Hardcore PT Studs
By MSG (Ret.) Mad Max Mullen
Fitness 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.
Autopsies 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,”