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2nd Marine Division
Active 20 September 1965 - 16 April 1981 (brigade)
16 April 1981 - present (division)
Country Flag of South Korea.svg South Korea
Branch Flag of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps.svg Republic of Korea Marine Corps
Type Infantry division
Nickname(s) Cheongryong (English: Blue Dragon)

Vietnam War

Decorations U.S. Presidential Unit Citation
ROK Presidential Unit Citation

The 2nd Marine Division (Korean language: 제2해병사단

第2海兵師團), also known as Blue Dragon (Korean language: 청룡
青龍), is an infantry division of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps.


On June 1, 1965, Prime Minister of South Vietnam Nguyễn Cao Kỳ requested military aid from South Korea. To support South Vietnam from communist North Vietnam, Korea State Council agreed to send a Division and its supporting units on July 2, and National Assembly of South Korea made final decision to send troops on August 13.

On August 17, the Republic of Korea Marine Corps attached various battalions, companies, and platoons to the 2nd Marine Regiment to increase its size to a brigade. The Marine Corps originally planned battalion to regiment size unit, but reports from Vietnam said that separating army and Marines was more appropriate to operate.

With President Park Chung-hee in attendance, the 2nd Marine Brigade was formally activated at the ROK Marine Corps training camp at Pohang on September 20, 1965.

Vietnam WarEdit

The Blue Dragons were initially deployed to Cam Ranh Bay in September 1965, but in December moved to Tuy Hòa to provide security against the NVA 95th Regiment.[1]

In August 1966, the Blue Dragons moved to Chu Lai and was placed under the operational control of the III MAF.[2] Under an arrangement with the USMC, air assets would be provided to the brigade and assigned the same priority for available aircraft as American units. A team from Subunit One, 1st ANGLICO was dispatched and charged with the mission of keeping an air umbrella over the Blue Dragon Brigade in and out of the field. A two-man fire control team was assigned to each ROKMC infantry company at all times.

Initially, the AK-47-equipped Vietcong and NVA outgunned South Korean soldiers, since they were armed with World War II-era weaponry (M1 Garand and M1 carbine). However, they soon received more modern weapons from the United States military such as the M16 rifle.

Significant operations and actions involving the Brigade include:

  • Operation Lightning in Khánh Hòa Province from 8 to 14 November 1965[3]
  • Operation Jefferson, with the ARVN 47th Regiment in Phú Yên Province from 1 to 18 January 1966 results in 391 VC killed[2]
  • Operation Flying Tiger in early January 1966 results in 192 VC killed for the loss of 11 ROK.[4]
  • Operation Van Buren, a rice harvest security operation with the 101st Airborne Division and ARVN in Phú Yên Province from 19 January to 21 February 1966 results in 679 VC killed for the loss of 45 ROK[2]
  • Operation Filmore, with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division and ARVN 47th Regiment in the vicinity of Tuy Hòa, Phú Yên Province from 24 March to 21 July 1966 results in 373 VC killed for the loss of 20 ROK[2]
  • Operation Longstreet, an engineering security operation in Bình Định and Phú Yên Provinces[3]
  • Operation Lee, with the ARVN 4th Regiment in Quảng Ngãi Province from 3 to 10 October 1966[3] during which the Marines were accused of perpetrating the Binh Tai Massacre on 9 October 1966.
  • Operation Dragon Eye, a search and destroy operation in Quảng Ngãi Province from 9 to 27 November 1966 results in 154 VC killed for the loss of 38 ROK[2]
  • Battle of Tra Binh Dong - on 15 February 1967, 11th Company of the Blue Dragons was dug in near the village of Tra Binh Dong in Quảng Nam Province when they were attacked by an estimated 3 VC Battalions supported by heavy mortar and recoilless rifle fire. The VC launched secondary attacks on each flank of the company before attacking with one Battalion against the Company center, breaching the perimeter and using flamethrowers and bangalore torpedoes against the Company's bunkers. The Company counterattacked and with the aid of a South Korean Marine quick reaction company helidropped into the position succeeded in driving back the VC killing 243.[5]
  • Operation Giant Dragon in Quảng Ngãi Province from 17 to 22 February results in 16 VC killed and 61 weapons captured[5]
  • Operation Dragon Fire in Quảng Ngãi Province from 5 September to 30 October 1967 kills 541 VC[6]
  • Phong Nhị and Phong Nhất massacre in Quảng Nam Province on 12 February 1968.
  • The Marines were accused of committing the Hà My massacre in Quảng Nam Province on 25 February 1968.
  • Operation Daring Rebel, a search and destroy operation with the ARVN 2nd Division and American forces on Barrier Island 24 km south of Danang, Bình Định Province from 5 to 20 May 1969 results in 4 VC killed[7]
  • Operation Defiant Stand, an amphibious assault with the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines on 7 September 1969. This was the first amphibious assault ever conducted by the Republic of Korea Marine Corps[3]
  • Operation Hoang Dieu 101 with III MAF and the ARVN 51st Regiment in Quảng Nam Province from 17 December 1970 to 19 January 1971 results in 538 NVA killed[3]
  • Operation Golden Dragon II, a clear and search operation in Quảng Nam Province from 4 to 21 January 1971[8]
  • Operation Hoang Dieu 103 with III MAF and the ARVN 51st Regiment in Quảng Nam Province from 3 February to 10 March 1971[3]

Most of the operations never exceeded battalion-size, but they also conducted divisional size operations. Before conducting missions, the Marines laid out their plans much more carefully than their allies, with greater fire discipline, effective use of fire support, and better coordination of sub-units. They also had to their favor the distinguished combat leadership of the company and platoon commanders. During village searches, ROK soldiers would subject the settlement to a series of detailed sweeps while interrogating subjects on the spot. By comparison, American units tended to favor a single sweep followed by a removal of all civilians for screening. Such a painstaking approach paid dividends in terms of weapons seizures and reduced VC activity in ROK areas. South Koreans quickly learned pidgin Vietnamese language; for fear that most Vietnamese translators were spies for Vietcong and NVA. South Koreans also had better field intelligence than their American counterparts. South Koreans conducted counterinsurgency operations so well that American commanders felt that the South Korean TAOR (Tactical Area of Responsibility) was the safest. This was further supported when Vietcong documents captured after the Tet Offensive warned their compatriots to never engage the South Koreans until full victory was certain. In fact, it was often that the NVA and Vietcong were ambushed by South Koreans and not vice versa.[9]

The ROK Marines were experts at locating enemy weapons caches. The official U.S. report on South Korean participation in Vietnam states that "The enemy feared the Koreans both for their tactical innovations and for the soldiers' tenacity... The Koreans might not suffer many casualties, might not get too many of the enemy on an operation, but when they brought in seventy-five or a hundred weapons, the Americans wondered where in the world they got them. They appeared to have a natural nose for picking up enemy weapons that were, as far as the enemy thought, securely cached away. Considered opinion was that it was good the Koreans were 'friendlies.'" [10]

The U.S. Army manual on South Korean participation in Vietnam also states that "the Koreans were thorough in their planning and deliberate in their execution of a plan. They usually surrounded an area by stealth and quick movement. While the count of enemy killed was probably no greater proportionately than that of similar American combat units, the thoroughness with which the Koreans searched any area they fought in was attested to by the fact that the Koreans usually came out with a much higher weaponry count than American forces engaged in similar actions." [11]

A total of 320,000 South Koreans served in the Vietnam War, with a peak strength (of any given time) at around 48,000.[12] About 4,000 were killed.

Commanders during Vietnam WarEdit

  • Sep 1965- 1967 Br. Gen. Kim Yun-sang
  • Oct?1967 Br. Gen. Yi Byong-chool
  • 1970 Br. Gen. Lee, Dong-yong

Order of battle during Vietnam WarEdit

2nd Marine Brigade

Direct Control Company
1st Marine Battalion
2nd Marine Battalion
3rd Marine Battalion
5th Marine Battalion
2nd Field Artillery Battalion
628th Field Artillery A Unit (Army)

Unit statistics for the Vietnam WarEdit

Start Date End Date Deployed Combat KIA WIA
Officer Non-officer Total Large Small Total Officer Non-officer Total Officer Non-officer Total
October 9, 1965 February 24, 1972 2,166 35,174 37,340 175 151,347 151,522 42 1,160 1,202 99 2,805 2,904

After the Vietnam WarEdit

After returning from the Vietnam War, the 2nd Marine Brigade was expanded and restructured as 2nd Marine Division.

See alsoEdit


  1. Larsen, Stanley (1985). Allied Participation in Vietnam. Department of the Army. p. 130. ISBN 978-1-4102-2501-6. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 MACV Command History Chronology - 1966
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5
  4. "Vietnam Studies: Allied Participation in Vietnam, Chapter VI: The Republic of Korea." Archived 2010-06-08 at the Wayback Machine. page 145
  5. 5.0 5.1
  6. Vietnam War operation DRAGON FIRE
  7. History of the USS White River (LSMR-536)
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  9. "ROK Army and Marines prove to be rock-solid fighters and allies in Vietnam War". Archived from the original on November 28, 2010. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  10. "Vietnam Studies: Allied Participation in Vietnam, Chapter VI: The Republic of Korea." Archived 2010-06-08 at the Wayback Machine. pages 149–150
  11. "Vietnam Studies: Allied Participation in Vietnam, Chapter VI: The Republic of Korea." Archived 2010-06-08 at the Wayback Machine. page 143
  12. "Vietnam Studies: Allied Participation in Vietnam, Chapter VI: The Republic of Korea." Archived 2010-06-08 at the Wayback Machine. page 131

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