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Amphibious Raid from USS Perch

Unit/ Formation: 41 Cdo RM

Location: Korea

Period/ Conflict: Korean War

Year: 1950

Date/s: 1 October 1950

As the American submarine USS Perch surfaced just off the east coast of North Korea, not far from the border with China, her crew and a detachment of Royal Marine commandos hurried on deck to open a large hangar.

Under the night sky on October 1, 1950, they began to inflate seven boats, six for commandos and Perch crewmen and one for high explosives and mines. At the same time, they also launched a 24-foot skimmer, a plywood boat with an outboard motor.

41 (Independent) Commando Royal Marines and Perch crewmen gather on the deck of the submarine while in Japan, en route to Korea. (80-G-421629)

At just before 9 p.m., the skimmer set off toward the target area, which was a span of railroad tracks, bracketed by two tunnels that ran along the northeastern coast of North Korea, near the town of Shoko-Do (40° 22ʹ N and 128° 49ʹ). The plan was to set mines in the tunnels and to blow up the culvert on the open part of the track.

In a little more than an hour, the skimmer was within 500 yards of shore; two of the small boats took off in one direction to serve as lookouts for any North Korean troops, and four of them headed to the beach to put the explosives and mines in place. The men laying the explosives encountered a small group of North Koreans but drove them off.

The skipper of the USS Perch praised the British commandos and admired their "can-do" spirit. (80-G-421626)

The combat engineers first prepared pressure-triggered mines in the east and west tunnels. Then they retrieved the remaining high explosives that were left with the skimmer and began to work on placing them down a culvert in the mountainside. The resulting explosion in the culvert would cause a landslide, covering the rail tracks with rock and debris. When the North Koreans sent a repair train to clear the tracks, the pressure mines would detonate, blocking the tunnels and cutting off an important North Korean supply line. As the combat engineers were placing the explosives, small parties of North Koreans encroached upon them. The security patrols drove them off, but time was running out.

At around 12:30 a.m., as the work on the culvert was being completed, another party of North Koreans, possibly a group that had attacked before, tried to outflank the commandos. With all the charges set, the raiding party withdrew to the beaches with one of the groups under fire. Shortly after 1 a.m., they blew up the culvert, blocking the railroad tracks, then left the beach. The six boats rendezvoused at the skimmer.

Back on board the Perch, the Royal Marines reported a single casualty, Marine Peter Raymond Jones. He had been shot through the neck while the commandos were departing the beach. Later that day, Jones was buried at sea with a full honor guard firing three volleys. On the Perch, the United Nations flag was struck and lowered to half-mast.

Colonel Drysdale and Marine Peter Jones, who died on the raid were both awarded a Silver Star. Others on the mission received the Bronze Star with Combat "V," and several more received letters of commendation. (RG 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel)

This mission was the work of the crew of the USS Perch and the British 41st Independent Royal Marine Commandos and part of a strategy to repel the North Korean invasion of late June 1950 by cutting off their supply lines. This was one of a number of daring raids against North Korean railways conducted by the U.S. Navy with elite American and British special forces.

One, and only one, of these raids was launched from an American submarine, the USS Perch (ASSP 313), with her British commando guests, on the night of October 1, 1950.

The raid was a success, Marine Peter Raymond Jones was killed in a fire fight whilst departing the beach. Read More/ Web Link: US National Archives

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