the "Original" DMZ Police Company History:
The DMZ in '53,
I served with the 1st Provisional Demilitarized Zone Police Company, 1st Marine
Division, October 1953 - August 1954
I don't know if you have any background on the Marine
Corps' contribution to the defense of the Korean DMZ. If not, this is a summing up of the
establishment of the outfit and the duties of the members. I am unclear as to whether the
service of the 1st Provisional DMZ Police Co., extended to the eventual departure of the Marine
Division in 1955.
A stipulation set by the Korean armistice agreement
in 1953, was that both the Communist and United Nations Command police their respective
sections of the DMZ with "civil police," not to exceed 1,000 in the zone at any
one time across the entire 155-mile front. Since no civilian police were available to
either side, requirements were modified so that a specially designated military unit, in
lieu of civil police, could be employed and the original quota enlarged if this became
feasible. (Note: The 1,000 member limit was still in effect in 1959 - jm -)
Due to the delicate aspect of the DMZ, as well as the
non-repatriated POWs in the custody of Indian forces, security measures were of the utmost
importance. The 1st Marine Division activated a new unit, the 1st Provisional
Demilitarized Zone Police Company at 0800 on 4 September. The new unit, charged with
maintaining security throughout the 1st Marine Division sector, became operational three
days later. Commanding officer was Captain Samuel G. Goich, formerly of Company F, 2nd
Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. Each regiment from the division furnished 25 enlisted men
and 1 officer to form the company, including standby personnel. On 21 September, the DMZ
Police Company was attached to the 5th Marine Regiment which was the regiment deployed on
the new MDL. The 1st and 7th Marine Regiments were in reserve. During the period of its
existence, the 1st Provisional DMZ Police Company became attached to whichever regiment
rotated into the front line position. These three regiments interchangeably bore the
generic designation of, "Northern Regiment."
DMZ Police personnel were required to have at least
three months' Korea service, a General Classification Test score of at least 95, a
minimum height of 5 feet 10 inches, and were selected for physical stature and mental
capacity required in coping with the delicate situation existing within the Demilitarized
Zone. The average DMZ Police Company member was said to know map-reading on an officer
level, first aid, radio and, understand the fine print of the cease-fire like a
The mission of the Marine provisional police company
as set up by the truce agreement was to furnish military police escort for special
personnel visiting the DMZ and to apprehend truce violators or enemy line-crossers.
Visitors who rated a military escort were members of the Military Armistice Commission,
Joint Observer teams, Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC), inspection teams [NNSC
teams consisted of personnel from Sweden, Switzerland, Poland and Czechoslovakia], or
other VIPs authorized to enter the UN southern sector of the DMZ by the Military Armistice
Six Marine DMZ military policemen, each armed with a
.45 caliber pistol; and M-1 rifle, would accompany UN joint observer teams up to the
demarcation line, midpoint between enemy and friendly boundaries, but they would not cross
the MDL. I Corps orders directed that military police were to be "responsible for the
safety of the United Nations members of the team and, when meetings were held south of the
demarcation line, responsible for the safety of the CCF members of the team as well."
Major tasks performed by the 104-man company
operating within the 2,000-yard wide, 28-mile long zone were:
To maintain surveillance within the UN half of the
To apprehend and deliver to the Division Provost
Marshal any line crossers encountered who did not possess an authorized pass, regardless
of the direction from which such persons entered the DMZ; and:
To provide check points and observation posts on
known routes through the zone , especially during the hours of darkness and reduced
visibility, and report all suspicious incidents to the Regimental S-2.
DMZ Police Company personnel operated in motorized
patrol teams and traveled the entire division sector in radio or cargo jeeps. One platoon
was kept in a standby basis at camp to serve as a mobile reserve in the event of an
emergency. The roving patrols submitted reports of all incidents, which were then compiled
in a company report. A copy was submitted to the S-2, the Northern regiment, and 1st
Marine Division G-2.
UNC security measures at all times were strict and
uncompromising in the Korean DMZ buffer zone. This included the salvage period, the BIG
SWITCH prisoner exchange that took place within the division sector at Freedom Village
from 5 August - 6 September, and the lengthy nonrepatriated POW settlement that extended
through January 1954. In places where the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), was not marked on the
ground or clearly recognizable, the conservative ruling was to stay at least 500 yards
south of its estimated location. This applied both to body recovery and salvage
operations. The No-Fly line was scrupulously verified.
Commitments for the DMZ Police Company increased
substantially with the arrival of the nonrepatriated POWs (22,000 CCF and NKPA), at their
camp in the DMZ corridor west of the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines area. A railroad track ran
through the middle of the camp area and a steam locomotive which had been riddled by
strafing sat on the track as a grim reminder of American air power. The Communist
"explainers," as well as Polish and Czech members of the Neutral Nations
Commission, had to be escorted while in the UN half of the DMZ. This required a 24-hour
checkpoint and escort cadre be established within the zone. This check point, consisting
of a guard post and a squad tent, was situated on a road in the narrow strip of land
sandwiched between the Military Demarcation (No-Pass), Line and the barbed wire fence of
the POW camp. The post was manned by an NCO and 8 men.
Each morning during the 90-day period of
"Explanations", a convoy of between 10 or 15 Soviet jeeps would be halted at the
MDL checkpoint and the number of Communist personnel would be compared to a check list
supplied by the NNRC by the Marine checkpoint NCO. If the count was correct, the column of
Czechs, Poles, Chinese and NKPA were allowed to pass. If the count did not match the list,
a member(s) of the NNRC were summoned to straighten out the discrepancy. Too many people
in the Communist party meant that the Communists were possibly trying to insert an
organizer into the camp, on the other hand if there were less people in the column then
were on the list, it was possible that the Communist "Explainers" might be
planning to smuggle out a high ranking Chinese or NKPA prisoner. When approaching the
Marine check point, the driver of the lead vehicle would maintain his speed as though he
did not plan to stop. When the Marines brought their rifles to the ready, the brakes were
usually applied. This scenario took place almost every time the column arrived or departed
the Zone. Often, while traveling from base camp to this isolated post, DMZ policemen
would find the bodies of POWs who had been murdered by their mates and thrown over the
barbed wire compound fence. Since the POWs had divided themselves into Communist and
non-Communist factions, those who did not toe the line on either side were eliminated.
From the top of Hill 67, DMZ Police Marines could sit and watch the various POW compounds
putting on stage shows, it was especially eerie at night when one could see the brightly
lighted stages and hear the Chinese music.
As the number of enemy sightings, a daily occurrence
in the DMZ, continued to increase, the size of the police patrols increased
correspondingly. A typical example was related by a member of the police company:
It was common practice of the Communists to have a
group of their men, supposedly their DMZ Police, walk up to the Military Demarcation
(No-Pass), Line and either stand close to it or step across. When one of our patrols
approached in superior numbers to attempt to apprehend them, the Communists would
immediately reinforce with more men. This made it necessary to have our patrols at
sufficient strength that they could protect themselves from being kidnapped.
As these requirements for security increased, the
original complement of approximately 5 officers and 99 men became inadequate to patrol the
DMZ. By late October 1953, the T/O strength of the 1st Provisional Demilitarized Zone
Police Company has been increased to 6 officers and 314 men. Authorization for the number
of police personnel on duty in the DMZ had similarly augmented from 50 to 175.
Some of the observation posts manned by the DMZ
Marines along the 28-mile sector were, from east to west: The Hook, Boulder City, Hedy,
and Hills 181 and 229. A squad of DMZ Marines were based at the base of each of these
hills and would, at random times, day and night, patrol up the hills and set up an OP or
LP (listening post). These positions were always set up in different locations.
Hazards at the time were the aggressive actions of
the CCF in the zone which led to many tense face-to-face confrontations.
Unexploded ordnance laying all over the ground and in
the old trench lines was another danger. At the Hook, overlooking the Samichon River, a
large brush fire, started on the CCF side of the MDL and which spread over to the Marine
side of the MDL, trapped a DMZ Police patrol (I was the patrol leader), on a hill top for
several hours while unexploded ordnance (much small arms stuff, mines and mortar rounds,
etc), cooked off. The patrol was forced to take cover in an old bunker.
On another occasion, one DMZ policeman tripped a mine
and was evacuated with serious injuries to his lower extremities. During my time with the
unit, several other Marines were injured by mines, vehicle accidents and structure
On one terribly cold, snowy night in January or
February 1954, several Marines assigned to the "Explainer Gate" were huddled
around a mountain stove at the front end of their squad tent. The only light was from a
sputtering Coleman Lantern. A couple of the Marines were dozing, the others were heating C
Rations and water for coffee on a mountain stove. Suddenly, someone nosily pushed through
the flap at the far end of the tent.
The snow covered apparition let out a yell and began
to beat its arms against its body, knocking off the snow and revealing a .45 caliber
pistol hanging around its neck by a rope lanyard. The Marines were caught flatfooted.
Their rifles and pistols were heaped on a folding cot just out of easy reach. One Marine,
grasping a mess fork, leaped up and shouted, "Don't move you no good SOB, we got you
The apparition, now recognized by the Marines as an
Oriental, threw his hands into the air. Even before his hands were fully up, the
Marines charged him, knocked him down, ripped the pistol from around his neck, snapping
the rope lanyard, and commenced to thrash the man who was now a terrified prisoner.
About one hour later a jeep, with driver and shotgun
arrived to transport the well worked-over, hog tied prisoner, who was unceremoniously
thrown into the back seat, then taken back to company headquarters. As the jeep drove away, the
Marines were discussing what they planned to do on the R&R they had just earned by
capturing an enemy line-crosser.
Several days later, the Marines were called to
headquarters and told that they would not be going on R&R and were lucky that they
were not going to the brig. The enemy line-crosser was actually a South Korean agent who
was coming back to report in from his mission into North Korea. The fact that the agent
could not speak English and explain who he was, eased the case against the Marines who
were each given five days restriction to the area with no entry in the record book.
Restriction to the area in the Demilitarized Zone was a way of life.
I once led a patrol out beyond the right flank of the
Hook Northward, along a road paralleling the Sami-chon River. After moving about 200 yards
toward the Chinese lines, I decided to turn to the west and climb the front slope of the
Hook. There had been a grass fire recently and as we climbed up toward the crest of the
Hook, we left white footprints in the ashes of the burned grass. Suddenly, one of my men
shouted, "God almighty, mines. Stop" I had been so intent on the crest of the
hill we were climbing, I had not paid any attention to the ground in front of me. I
stopped in mid-stride. Looking to the right and left I now saw several sets of prongs
protruding from the ground, an excellent indication that there were "Bouncing
Betty" mines sowed around the area we were in.. I had the men turn and step in the
white footprints we had made to get out of the area. And so it went.
I'll try and add to this as time goes by. I will also dig out some pictures and try
and get them to the web site. Cheers and Semper Fi!