Jumping into Sukchon and Sunchon

Conflict: Korean War

Men and equipment being parachuted to earth during the Korean War

On 20 October 1950, nearly 4,000 paratroopers jumped—and 600 tons of equipment was dropped—into the North Korean towns of Sukchon and Sunchon as part of what would become known as the Battle of Yongju, or the Battle of the Apple Orchard.

General MacArthur ordered the drop on the two towns, both 30 miles north of the North Korean capital, in an attempt to stop a train moving north carrying enemy leaders and troops and rescue American prisoners of war traveling with them. The paratroopers (from the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team) rose at 2:30 a.m. to begin preparing for the jump, but due to rain, they didn’t begin loading into the 113 planes (C-119s and C-47s) until around noon. In addition to their parachutes, the men also had a pistol, a rifle, ammunition, grenades, rations, and a canteen. The soldiers were so weighed down by all these supplies that they had to be helped onto the planes.

The 187th RCT jumping during an operation in Korea

The first group of around 2,800 paratroopers was dropped near Sukchon. Twenty-five men were injured in the jump, and one died in an enemy attack while he was still in his parachute. Another 1,200 paratroopers jumped into nearby Sunchon shortly thereafter; 20 men from this group were injured jumping. In addition to the 4,000 paratroopers, combat historian Colonel Roy Appleman reports that “twelve 105-mm howitzers, thirty-nine jeeps, thirty-eight 1/4-ton trailers, four 90-mm antiaircraft guns, four 3/4-ton trucks, and 584 tons of ammunition, gasoline, water, rations, and other supplies” were also dropped.

The 187th RCT jumping from C-119s

Both groups of paratroopers soon accomplished their objectives of setting up roadblocks along the highway and railway while defending their position against North Korean fire. Although the paratroopers did everything they were supposed to, the train they were tasked with stopping halted on it’s own before it reached their position, and the North Koreans killed 66 of the American POWs.

Korean children watching paratroopers during a practice drop

The day after the jump, the 187th RCT became involved in the Battle of Yonju. For more information about the battle and the paratroopers’ involvement, read about it on Wikipedia and from Colonel Appleman’s book. Or read firsthand accounts of the jump.