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Spare Not the Brave

The Special Activities Group in Korea

Richard Kiper

Publication Year: 2014

The Special Activities Group (SAG) and its subordinate companies have received little attention from historians, despite being an elite combat unit and participating in highly classified and dangerous missions in Korea. Rarely receiving more attention than a footnote, their story usually begins and ends on the night of September 12, 1950, with an amphibious raid near Kunsan. Until their inactivation on March 31, 1951, SAG simply disappears from most Korean War histories. Spare Not the Brave corrects this omission.

Spare Not the Brave tells the story of the extraordinary missions carried out by this group of extraordinary soldiers. Recruited primarily from the Far East Command headquarters, these men received six weeks of training and then were thrust into combat in Korea. Boarding rubber boats in the Yellow Sea and paddling to shore far behind enemy lines, they conducted a diversionary landing near Kunsan, then landed at Inchon, and sailed to the Wonsan area of North Korea. There, SAG was augmented with a battalion of South Korean soldiers. Together they conducted counter-guerrilla operations until overwhelming Chinese intervention forced all Allied units to withdraw from the North. Those critical missions continued into the difficult fighting of early 1951.

Much of this volume is based upon the words of the participants themselves. Using previously obscure primary sources, oral histories, and official records, author Richard L. Kiper tells this unit’s riveting tale. Wherever possible, first-person accounts have been verified and supplemented with official reports, maps, and documents. Drawing on his twenty-six years of infantry and special forces experience, Kiper brings critical analysis and insight to this previously untold story. Spare Not the Brave fills a gap in the historiography of the Korean War and adds a valuable chapter to the history of U.S. Army special operations.

Published by: The Kent State University Press

Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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List of maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xviii

When I was a boy growing up in the 1950s, my world evolved around baseball cards, sandlot pickup games, and comic books. My collection of those four-color stories included everything from Mickey Mouse to Superman to World War II adventures. One of the latter, in particular, has stuck with me over the...


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pp. xix-xxii

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1. Land of the Morning Calm

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pp. 1-12

Myth declares that the first Korean kingdom was founded by Tan-gun, the son of the union between a divine creator and a bear who became a woman. Korea’s creation myth includes dragons, bears, and tigers becoming humans, as well as humans being born from eggs that may have been fertilized by the...

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2. War

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pp. 13-32

Pvt. Jearl “Buck” Ballow was experiencing another monotonous Sunday morning as assistant charge of quarters in his company orderly room where, during the week, he performed his regular duty assignment as assistant company clerk. He filled the time by catching up on the endless reports and schedules and rosters...

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3. Deception at Kunsan: OPLAN 100-A

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pp. 33-51

Although Sun Tzu’s The Art of War had been translated into English in 1905, a translation intended for anyone other than Chinese scholars did not become available until 1963. Nevertheless, American military officers were familiar with the concept and practice of deception in war, whether it was the Trojan...

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4. Kunsan

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pp. 52-72

Although the Raiders were conducting amphibious training, none knew what their mission might be. Perhaps Wear knew, but during interviews in 2000, 2001, and 2002, he was not able to recall any details of the creation of the Raiders or of planning for the initial operation. According to the 5 September...

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5. Kimpo Peninsula

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pp. 73-92

Obtaining detailed intelligence on enemy forces at Inchon was critical. CIA Office of Special Operations chief George Aurell and FEC G-2 Bill Quinn had an idea. (In February 1946 Quinn had been named director of the Strategic Services Unit—an interim organization in the transition from Office of Strategic...

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6. North Korea

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pp. 93-119

President Harry S. Truman was a confident, outgoing individual, but by the end of June 1950 he was described as walking “with the weary man’s heavy tread.” Every morning Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Omar Bradley briefed him on the continuing withdrawals of American and South Korean units. Truman...

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7. From the North

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pp. 120-149

Kipling’s line is a fitting description of Raider activities during the last two weeks of November. To accomplish their antiguerrilla mission, the Raiders conducted patrols southwest of Hamhung in the 3rd Infantry Division sector. Until 1 December the Raiders patrolled an area bounded by a north-south...

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8. Back to the South

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pp. 150-167

Although a few Raiders managed to grab a beer at the Pusan airbase where they landed, there would be no visits to the city, and there would be no rest. Chinese and North Korean forces were on the offensive, and Hanes had a mission. After only four hours and fifteen minutes on the ground, a convoy of wheeled...

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9. Chang-to

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pp. 168-188

As Maj. Gen. Ho San Pang’s North Korean V Corps was attempting to batter its way toward Wonju along Highway 29, Gen. Choe Hyon was infiltrating his II Corps through the mountains east of Highway 29. Pang sent two of his divisions in a wide easterly sweep in the gap between the X Corps and the scattered...

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10. Another Mission

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pp. 189-208

Hanes’s first task after SAG reached Andong was to gather his officers and conduct an after-action review of the previous days’ events. Such a review is a critical analytical tool that professional commanders will utilize, not to assign blame, but to determine what occurred, why the situation unfolded as it did...

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11. Decisions

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pp. 209-227

Shortly after taking command of Eighth Army, Ridgway issued what became known as the “Why We Are Here” message. Distributed throughout the command, the message explained the Eighth Army commander’s views regarding why they were fighting. The battle was for far more than Korea only. “It has...

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12. The Rest of the Story

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pp. 228-250

Discussions continued in Washington among the president, Secretary of State Acheson, Secretary of Defense Marshall, and the Joint Chiefs concerning the military and political significance of the 38th parallel. Opinions began to coalesce around the possibilities of a negotiated settlement based on the...

Appendix A. Three Were Dead

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pp. 251-253

Appendix B. Organization Charts

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pp. 254-257


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pp. 258-305


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pp. 306-319


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pp. 320-337


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Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781612778563
E-ISBN-10: 1612778569
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606352038

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army. Special Activities Group.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Participation, American.
  • Raids (Military science) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Counterinsurgency -- Korea -- History -- 20th century.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Campaigns.
  • Soldiers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Biography.
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