Capital Mechanized Infantry Division (Republic of Korea)

Capital Mechanized Infantry Division (Republic of Korea)
Capital Division
Capital Division (South Korea).gif
Active 20 June 1948 - present
Country  Republic of Korea
Branch Republic of Korea Army
Type Mechanized infantry division
Role Offensive force
Part of VII Corps
Nickname Maengho (Tiger)
Engagements Korean War
Vietnam War

The Capital Mechanized Infantry Division (수도기계화보병사단), also known as Tiger Division (맹호사단), is currently one of the five mechanized infantry divisions in the Republic of Korea Army. It is part of the VII Corps, 3rd ROK Army (TROKA), tasked with covering approaches to Seoul from North Korea and counterattack operations.

This division saw extensive combat both during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, where it was despatched in September, 1965, as a part of the Republic of Korea's contribution to the South Vietnamese war effort. The 1965 deployment became possible when in August of that year the Republic of Korea's National Assembly passed a bill authorizing the action. Recently, elements of this division were sent as Republic of Korea's contribution to the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq.



Korean War

The Capital Division was a military formation of the Republic of Korea Army during the 20th Century. It was formed June 20, 1948 from the Capital Security Command. Included in the new division was the 1st Cavalry Regiment which was equipped with twenty-four M8 and M20 armored cars plus twelve M3 halftracks.[1]

Became part of I Corps after the first fall of Seoul.

Was part of the defensive line to slow the North Korean advance from Seoul to Taejon.

Fought in the Battle of Pusan Perimeter.[2]

On September 16, 1950, in the I Corps sector, elements of the Capital Division fought their way through the streets of Angang-ni. The next day, advancing from the west in the II Corps sector, a battalion of the 7th Division linked up with elements of the Capital Division, closing a two-week-old gap between the ROK I and II Corps. The NKPA’s 12th Division waged a series of stubborn delaying actions against the Capital Division in the vicinity of Kigye as the North Koreans retreated northward into the mountains. Kigye fell back under South Korean control on September 22, 1950.[3]

On September 29, a message, dropped from a light plane by an officer with the Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea, was delivered to the U.S. adviser to the ROK 3rd Division, Lt. Col. Rollins S. Emmerich. According to the message, the ROK 3rd Division was to cross the 38th Parallel and proceed to Wonsan as soon as possible. The next day the division crossed the parallel and advanced up the east coast. The Capital Division followed. After establishing command posts at Yangyang, eight miles (13 km) north of the parallel, on October 2, both divisions proceeded to Wonsan and captured the town on the tenth, well before the X Corps had landed.

On October 17, 1950, the Capital Division captures Hamhung and its port, Hungnam.[4]

On October 28, 1950, in far northeast Korea, a"flying column" from the Capital Division captures Songjin, 105 miles (169 km) northeast of Hungnam. Meanwhile the Capital Division's 1st Regiment approached Pungsan, a town inland approximately half way between the coast and Korea-China border on Iwon-Cinch'ong-ni-Hyesanjin road.

Vietnam War

The Capital Division arrived in South Vietnam on September 22, 1965. The Division was deployed just outside of Qui Nhon in Binh Dinh province, from where it could protect vital arteries such as Route 1 and Route 19, as well as rice-growing areas and foothills to the north and west[5].

The 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division was stationed in the Qui Nhon area prior to the arrival of the Capital Division and gradually turned over responsibility for the area during October 1965[6].

By June 1966 the Capital Division controlled all the area north of Qui Nhon to the east of Route 1 and up to the base of Phu Cat Mountain. It extended its control also to the north and south of Route 19 up to the pass leading into An Khe. Working south along Highway 1 down toward Tuy Hoa and within the Binh Dinh Province, the Division sent out reconnaissance parties and carried out small operations as far south as the border between Binh Dinh Province and Phu Yen Province[7].

Korean soldiers that volunteered for service in Vietnam were given bonuses: they would “receive credit for three years of military duty for each year served in Vietnam as well as additional monetary entitlements; further, combat duty would enhance their future Army careers.”

All the ROKA units sent to Vietnam (the Tiger Division, White Horse Division and (Blue Dragon) Brigade) were chosen because they were considered to have the longest and best records from the Korean War.

The Tigers were considered uncanny for their ability to search territory and smoke out enemy soldiers and weapons. They would plan operations meticulously and sometimes even rehearse it beforehand. The soldiers would seal off a relatively small area, no more than 9 or 10 square kilometers. Troops would be brought in by air and land, but would arrive at the same time to maximize the chokehold. Slowly but surely the cordon would be tightened, and everyone and everything would be searched. Civilians were separated and interrogated, routinely offered rewards if they cooperated. It was not unusual for an area to be searched three or four times by different platoons. To prevent enemy breakouts, the Koreans had special reaction forces that could plug holes in the perimeter. General William R. Peers considered the Koreans the best at these so-called "cordon and search operations."

The Division returned home March 11, 1973.

Significant operations and actions involving the Division include:

  • Operation Flying Tiger VI, a search and destroy operation with the ARVN in Binh Dinh Province from 9 to 11 January 1966 kills 192 VC for the loss of 11 ROK[8]
  • Operation Masher-White Wing/Thang Phong II, a 1st Regiment search and destroy operation with the 1st Cavalry Division and ARVN 22nd Division and Airborne Brigade in Binh Dinh Province from 24 January to 6 March 1966 results in 2232 VC killed, 10 ROK are killed[9]
  • Operation Mang Ho V, a search and destroy operation in Binh Dinh Province from 23 to 27 March 1966 results in 349 VC killed for the loss of 17 ROK[8]
  • Operation Su Bok in Binh Dinh Province from 26 March to 23 September 1966 results in 299 VC killed and 88 weapons captured for the loss of 23 ROK[8]
  • Operation Bun Kae 66-5 in Binh Dinh Province from 2 to 13 April 1966 results in 292 VC killed for the loss of 23 ROK[8]
  • Operation Bun Kae 66-7 between the Vinh Thanh and Soui Ca Valleys of Binh Dinh Province from 16 May to 5 June 1966, in conjunction with the 1st Cavalry Division (Operation Crazy Horse) and ARVN results in 501 VC killed[8]
  • Operation Bun Kae 66-9 in Pleiku Province from 9 July until mid August 1966 results in 106 VC killed for the loss of 7 ROK[8]
  • Operation Mang Ho VI, a search and destroy operation with the 1st Cavalry Division and ARVN 22nd Division in Binh Dinh Province from 2 to 24 October 1966 results in 240 VC killed[8]
  • Operation Mang Ho VIII, a search and clear operation along Route 1 in Phu Yen Province from 3 to 31 January 1967 results in 150 VC killed[10]
  • Operation Pershing, a search and destroy operation with the 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and ARVN 22nd Division in Binh Dinh Province from 12 February 1967 to 19 January 1968 results in 5401 NVA/VC killed[11]
  • Operation Oh Kak Kyo, to link up the Division's tactical area of responsibility with the 9th Infantry Division in Phu Yen Province from 8 March to 18 April 1967 results in 831 VC killed and 659 weapons captured for the loss of 23 ROK[12]
  • Operation Hong Kil Dong, with the 9th Infantry Division in Tuy Hoa Province from 9 July to 21 August 1967, kills 638 NVA for the loss of 26 ROK. 98 crew-served and 359 individual weapons were captured[13]
  • Operation Mang Ho IX, a search and destroy operation in Binh Dinh Province from 17 December 1967 to 31 January 1968 results in 749 VC killed[9]
  • Battle near Phu Cat from 23-29 January results in 278 NVA killed for the loss of 11 ROKA. The U.S Army manual on Korean participation in Vietnam states that "[a]n analysis of the action clearly illustrates the Korean technique. After contact with an enemy force... the Koreans reacting swiftly...deployed six companies in an encircling maneuver and trapped the enemy force in their cordon. The Korean troops gradually tightened the circle, fighting the enemy during the day and maintaining their tight cordon at night, thus preventing the enemy's escape. At the conclusion of the sixth day of fighting, 278 NVA had been KIA with the loss of just 11 Koreans, a kill ratio of 25.3 to 1[14].
  • Operation Mang Ho X, a search and destroy operation in Binh Dinh Province from 16 February to 1 March 1968 results in 664 VC killed[9]
  • Operation Baek Ma 9 (Korean for white horse) from 11 October to 4 November 1968 results in 382 NVA killed and the NVA 7th Battalion, 18th Regiment, rendered ineffective. During this operation, on 25 October, the eighteenth anniversary of the Division, 204 of the enemy were killed without the loss of a single Korean soldier [15].

Order of battle during Vietnam War

  • Divisional Headquarters and Headquarters Company
  • Cavalry Regiment, composed of three infantry battalions
  • 1st Infantry Regiment, composed of three infantry battalions
  • 26th Infantry Regiment, composed of three infantry battalions
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, Division Artillery
  • 10th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
  • 60th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
  • 61st Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
  • 628th Field Artillery Battalion (155 mm)
  • Divisional Engineer Battalion
  • Armor company
  • Reconnaissance Company
  • Signal Company
  • Military Police Company
  • Medical Company
  • Ordnance Company
  • Quartermaster Company
  • Replacement Company
  • Aviation Section

Unit statistics for the Vietnam War

Start Date End Date Deployed Combat KIA WIA
Officer Non-officer Total Large Small Total Officer Non-officer Total Officer Non-officer Total
October 22, 1965 March 7, 1973 7,652 107,340 114,992 521 174,586 175,107 186 1,925 2,111 246 4,228 4,474
  • US Units that served alongside the Tiger Division were numerous and included:
9th Division Black Panthers.
504th Military Police Battalion, C Company

Current Status

The Tiger Division was reorganized in 1980s to parallel the reorganization taking place in United States Army at the same time. The "regiments" of the older organization were replaced by "brigades," consisting of both armor and mechanized infantry components. The 1st and Cavalry regiments were reorganized to include two mechanized infantry battalions and an armored battalion each, while the 26th regiment became an armored brigade with two armored battalions and a mechanized infantry battalion.

Current Order of Battle

  • 1 Brigade (Mechanized Infantry)
  • Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized Infantry)
  • 26 Brigade (Armored)
  • Division Artillery Brigade
  • Signal Battalion
  • Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
  • Combat Engineer Battalion
  • Air Defense Artillery Battalion
  • Support Battalion
  • Medical Battalion
  • Chemical Battalion


  • Prince Yi Seok of the defunct Korean Imperial Household volunteered and served as an enlisted man in a regiment in the Division[citation needed].
  • 8th Battalion, 26th Armored Brigade, Tiger Division, was the first unit to receive the K-1 MBT in 1988.
  • The Tiger Division is mentioned in the book Chickenhawk, by Robert Mason.

See also


External links

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