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Identity statement

Reference code(s)
ARMED FORCES ORAL HISTORIES: Korean War Studies and After- Action Reports
1945-1953, 1989
Level of description
collection level
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
339 microfiche


Name of creator(s)

Historical Detachments, US Army

Administrative / Biographical history

The Korean War suggested to US Army senior personnel the need to gather systematically information on the activities of major American military units. The value of historical accounts had been demonstrated during World War Two, when US Army historians followed the progress of American soldiers by conducting extensive interviews and compiling records of combat actions. While conducting interviews and collecting related materials for historical purposes, US Army investigators during World War Two also compiled combat information in After-Action Reports designed for immediate war-time use. When the Korean War began, the Assistant Chiefs of Staff, US Department of the Army, were responsible for recording and transmitting 'lessons learned' within respective spheres, while the US Army Historical Detachments were allowed to create a detailed record that could be used after the conflict to write official histories. Eventually eight US Army Historical Detachments were organised and committed to Korean between 15 Feb and 22 Jul 1951. Early operations of the Historical Detachments lacked centralised planning, however. Originally, a central organisation was improvised by activating US 8 Army Historical Service Detachment (Provisional). Personnel for this unit were drawn from other detachments in Korea, while the historical officers who conducted the interviews were drawn from the Reserves. The Provisional Detachment was eventually superceded by the first US Army Historical Detachment Headquarters. Despite the suddenness of the Korean conflict and the and the logistical problems caused by the rapidly changing military situation, the Historical Detachments were able to reconstruct many major battlefield operations through interviews, supplemented with recourse to conventional documentary sources.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

University Publications of America, Bethesda, MD, USA

Content & structure

Scope and content

A themed microfiche collection relating to material produced by the Historical Detachments of the US Army during the Korean War, 1950-1953. The scope and content of the interviews and studies therein was influenced by the nature of the conflict and by the types of units employed in combat. Despite the involvement of United Nations forces and the US Marine Corps, all units interviewed by the Historical Detachments were from the US Army. The two primary components of this collection are 'After-Action Reports' and 'Studies'. 'After-Action Reports' include accounts of combat-related activities of specific units during a campaign, engagement, or operation. They focus on the role or scope of action of particular units for a given period of time at a specific location, and consist of a narrative account of the action, combat interviews, and supplementary materials, including manuscript and printed maps, charts, and photographs. 'Studies' were prepared by the Historical Detachments to provide insight into unit strengths or deficiencies or problems in fundamental strategic and tactical matters, including the use of new weapons, techniques for supply and support, and fighting behaviour. 'After- Action Reports' in this collection include material relating to the assault on the North Korean defence line north of the Hongchon River by US 5 Cavalry Regt, 13-20 Mar 1951; Operation TOMAHAWK, the airdrop of US 187 Airborne Regimental Combat Team behind enemy lines at Munsan-ni, Korea, and the subsequent fighting around Parun-ni, Korea, 22 Mar-29 Mar 1951; preparation of defensive positions consisting of booby traps, barbed wire, and mines in the General Defense Line, Korea, 17-18 May 1951; action of US 3 Infantry Div to control the high ground of the 'Iron Triangle', which encompassed Chorwon, Kumwa, and Pyongyang, Korea, Jun 1951; engagements by US 23 Infantry Regt to control and secure strategic 'Heartbreak Ridge', the area connecting Hill 931 and Hill 894 near Satae-ri and Mundung-ni, Korea, Sep-Oct 1951; Operation CLAM UP, the operation to deceive the North Korean People's Army into dispatching patrols against United Nations lines, exposing them to ambush and capture, Feb 1952; Operation SMACK, US 31 Infantry Regt assault on Pokkae and Hasakkol, Korea, with co-ordinated support from air, artillery, and tank units, 12 Jan-25 Jan 1953. 'Studies' in this collection include reports relating to US personnel management from the beginning of hostilities until the initiation of cease-fire negotiations, Jun 1950-Jul 1951; inter-Allied co-operation during combat operations, Jun 1950-Jul 1951; offshore procurement of supplies by US 8 Army, 26 Jun 1951-31 Jul 1953; efforts to evacuate American and Allied dead from cemeteries in Korea and the Glory Plan to recover bodies from North Korea, 26 Jun 1950-23 Dec 1953; the organisation, activities, and equipment of mobile army surgical hospitals, auxiliary surgical and neurosurgical teams, and other US 8 Army medical support facilities, Jul 1950-Feb 1953; the Korean War armistice negotiations, Jul 1951-Jul 1953; ordnance salvage operations, Jul 1951-Sep 1953; logistical support to prisoners of war detained by United Nations forces, Jul 1951-Jul 1953; the organisation and pattern of North Korean People's Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army tactics, 26 Dec 1951; Chinese People's Liberation Army and North Korean People's Army materiel, weapons and equipment, 19 Jun 1952; US Army tank employment in positional warfare, 10-30 Jan 1953.

System of arrangement

The collection is arranged into 'After-Action Reports' and 'Studies' sections

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies may be printed off the microfilm for research purposes and are charged at the cost to the Centre. Enquiries concerning the copyright of the original material should be addressed to University Publications of America Inc., 4520 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD, 20814, USA

Language/scripts of material


Finding aids

This Summary Guide, and published detailed catalogue available in hard copy in the Centre's reading room, Margaret A Lynch (ed.), Armed Forces Oral Histories: Korean War Studies and After-Action Reports (University Publications of America, Bethesda, MD, 1989)

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals

Center for Military History of the United States Army, Washington, DC, USA.



Compiled Aug 1999

Description control

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

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  • Airborne warfare
  • Armed forces
  • East West relations
  • Field work
  • Historical methods
  • History
  • International conflicts
  • International organizations
  • International politics
  • International relations
  • Interviews
  • Korean War (1950-1953)
  • Maps
  • Medical sciences
  • Military engineering
  • Military history
  • Military medicine
  • Military organizations
  • Oral history
  • Organizations
  • Photographs
  • Recordings
  • Research work
  • Sound recordings
  • State security
  • Surgery
  • Visual materials
  • War
  • War prisoners
  • War victims
  • Warfare
  • Wars (events)

Corporate names

  • North Korean People's Army
  • People's Liberation Army (China)
  • UN, United Nations
  • US Army


  • China, East Asia
  • Chorwon, Korea R, East Asia
  • Hasakkol, Korea R, East Asia
  • Hongchon, river, Korea R, East Asia
  • Kumwa, Korea R, East Asia
  • Mundung, Korea R, East Asia
  • Musan-ni, Korea R, East Asia
  • North Korea
  • Parun-ni, Korea R, East Asia
  • Pokkae, Korea R, East Asia
  • Pyongyang, Korea DPR, East Asia
  • Satae-ri, Korea DPR, East Asia
  • Seoul, Korea R, East Asia
  • South Korea

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