The Korean War using Crossfire

Some musing on using Crossfire for the Korean War. I took these notes from a thread on the Crossfire Discussion forum.

Dick Bryant

I use CF for the Korean War almost exclusively. Did a bit of research and was toying with putting together a scenario book for the period. The North Koreans used Russian organization. I have never been able to find info on the platoon and c0ompany level organization of the Chinese! From various readings it would seem that they used a lot of Ad Hoc organization at that level. Accounts talk of platoons or even companies armed only with hand grenades or with Sub machine guns or with no weapons at all- they move through previous killed friendes and pick up theirs!

I usually give them 4 platoons to the company, one armed only with Submachine guns. They used a lot of Russian and Nationalist Chinese (read WWII foreign aid US) weaponry.

The Chinese and NK charge like Japanese (ignore pins, etc) they have the leadership probs that the Russians do. I also add a “Commissar”, a party operative that went along with the troops to insure political loyalty. He adds 1 to help removal of Pins and Suppresses when within 2″ of the stand being rallied.

The Chinese get 120mm off board mortars though there is some evidence that they didn’t use their FOs properly and most of their artillery was pre-planned bombardment (see Hit the Dirt), the US get recoilless rifles they act as HE against Infantry and AP against armor.

Flamethrowers were used by the US. They come into play only in close combat where if present they add 2 to the US side. More than one per company is too much, however.

The Chinese can use the human wave rule given in Hit The Dirt as well!

Bob Johnson

More on the NKPA (7 Oct 2006)

I’ve been reading the Korean War by Michael Hickey. Basically a history of the British Commonwealth forces. However, he gives this as the components of the NKPA Infantry Divisions with full complements:

NKPA Infantry Division

  • 12,000 men
  • HQ which includes a divisional commissar with deputies down to the battalion level.
  • Recce Coy
  • MG Battalion
  • 3 Inf regiments with 3 battalions each
  • Mortar Battery
  • Field Artillery Company, Artillery Regt of 2 field, 1 medium and 1 SPA battalions
  • A Mortar Battalion
  • An Armored Infantry Battalion in APCs
  • Signal Battalion
  • Transport Battalion

The Invasion Force was organized as a Soviet Front with two armies:

  • 1st Army = 1st Rifle Dv, 3rd Gds Dv, 4th Rifle DV, 6th Rifle Dv and 105th Armor Bde
  • 2nd Army = 2nd Rifle, 7th Rifle and 7th Rifle

Not sure where the 206 Mech Infantry Regiment was, possibly with the 105th.

The 105th had three bns of T34/85 Tanks

Newer units (13th, 15, 19th Divs) held in Reserve

Other formations included:

  • 122mm Heavy Arty Regiment
  • Various AA units
  • Motorcycle Recce Unit
  • Various Signal Units
  • Guerrillas
  • Seaborne Commandos
  • Internal Security Units
  • Border Constabulary Units

NOTE: the 5th Dv was previously the PLA 164th Div; and the 6th was the 166th.

The 1st, 4th and 7th were partially formed from PLA Korean units as well.

Unfortunately he does not give the number of guns or tanks or men in the lower level units, nor gives any information on how many coys and of what weapons were in a battalion or whether they used platoons and squad formations.

4th NKPA Division OOB/TOE (19 Oct 2006)

From Joseph Bermudez on a defunct KW list serv

North Korean 4th Infantry Division (Estimated TOE strength: 11,000)

  • HQ Company
  • 5th Rifle Regiment (Estimated TOE strength: 2,500)
    • Headquarters Company
      • Guard Platoon
      • Reconnaissance Platoon
    • Infantry Battalion (x3)
      • Infantry Company (x3)
        • Machinegun Section (2 x heavy machineguns)
        • Infantry Platoons (x3)
      • Machinegun Company (9 x heavy machineguns)
      • Mortar Company (9 x 82 mm mortars)
      • Antitank Rifle Platoon (9 x 14.5 mm antitank rifles)
      • Antitank Gun Platoon (2 x 45 mm antitank guns)
      • Signal Platoon
      • Battalion Rear Services
    • Heavy Machinegun Company (9 x heavy machine guns)
    • Sub-machinegun Company
    • Signal Company
    • AAA Platoon (6 x 12.7 mm AAMG)
    • Engineer Platoon
    • Regimental Artillery
      • 76 mm Gun Battery (4 x 76 mm guns)
      • 120 mm Howitzer Company (6 x 120 mm mortars)
      • 45 mm Antitank Company (6 x 45mm antitank guns)
    • Regimental Rear Services
      • Supply Platoon
      • Maintenance Platoon
      • Medical Company
      • Veterinary Unit
      • Band
  • 16th Rifle Regiment
  • 18th Rifle Regiment
  • 4th Artillery Regiment
    • Observation, Signal, Reconnaissance Platoon
    • Ammunition Platoon
    • 76 mm Gun Battalion (x2)
      • 76 mm Gun Battery (x3, each with 4 x 76 mm guns)
  • 122 mm Howitzer Battalion
    • 122 mm Howitzer Battery (x3, each with 4 x 122 mm howitzers)
  • 451st Signal Battalion
  • Antitank Battalion
  • Self-propelled gun Battalion (SU-76)
  • Engineer Battalion
  • Training Battalion
  • Reconnaissance Company
  • Division Rear Services
    • Medical Battalion
    • Transportation Company
    • Supply Services

I am curious about that veterinary unit. I presume for horses (oxen?), but to pull or carry what? Or maybe raions on the foot?

Korean War Terrain (17 October 2006)

There are some relatively flat areas, but by far it is a land of narrow river valleys pretty much covered with rice paddies, rough hills and mountains that tend to steepness and sheer cliffs. Roads are dirt, curving around the hills and so narrow that two jeeps could barely pass each other – forget trucks or tanks. Some hills/mountains are partially tree covered, but many i not most are bare. Villages tend to small sized of mud or stone homes and near the rice paddies. The rice paddies were crossed by even narrower causeways and were fertilized with human excrement (kimchee excrement to boot). Most RRs, but not all, were narrow gauge with many tunnels (some quite long) and bridges. Much of the coastlines had the hills and mountains come down to the waterline or a few hundred yards from the seas. There were many coves and harbours with small fishing villages and a few sandy beaches on the west coast.

An interesting book to get is Dark Moon which is about US trained partisans or guerrillas that fought in North Korea after the war stabilized along the 38th parallel in 1951. Not many ideas for wargames so much, but pretty descriptive of terrain; of course, any book about the war will discuss the terrain. Most Korean War histories have some pictures and there is one book (I forget the name, possibly from LIFE magazine) that has a lot of pictures — I have to find it myself.

KW Terrain plus more (18 October 2006)

I believe this might be the one must site for KW gamers. A plethora of pictures, some maps, info on tanks, infantry weapons, etc. etc.

Also look at these on a long wet, cold day —->

Change the year for 1951,52, etc.
At the bottom of this site is a link to the KW web ring which you could use to search however many KW sites are on this ring – this one is #53
This is a gamers site

Click on the different names – personal pictures
From his book

And here are pages of KW links:

Ian Shaw

Based on Ian Shaw’s email, which was based on:

?? (??). Asian Small Unit Organisations of the Korean War. The Journal of the Society of 20th Century Wargamers, 43.

These are 1950 Organisations.

NKPA Infantry Battalion

  • Heavy Weapons: 9 81mm mortars, and 2 x 45mm A/T guns.
  • 3 (Probably) x Infantry Company:
    • CHQ – Rifles, Carbines and/or SMG – 10 men
    • 2 x Platoons :
      • 1st Section – Officer with pistol, signaler with SMG, 1 A/T team with PTRD41, 1 SMG, 1 Runner with SMG, 5 men with SMG or rifle.
      • 2nd and 3rd Sections, 9-10 men – 1 LMG, 2 SMG + 6/7 Rifle or SMG.
    • 1 x Weapons Platoon – 1 MG Section – 4 MMG
    • 1 Mortar section – 4 60mm mortars

Weapons are Russian/Chinese.

Don Wolff

I did some gathering of materials for doing Korea as well.

Mentioned was one of the official Army history series South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu [now there’s a name for a set of rules or a scenario book]. It’s author Roy Appleman went on to write several more books outside the official Army series covering the theater –

  • Disaster in Korea: The Chinese Confront MacArthur
  • East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea 1950
  • Escaping the Trap: The US Army X Corps in Northeast Korea 1950
  • Ridgway Duels for Korea

At the time they were published by Texas A&M University Press. All highly recommended as he covers the action from tactical to strategic.

If you want a view from the other side, track down Enter the Dragon: China’s undeclared war against the U.S. in Korea 1050-1, by Russell Spurr. He tracked down and interviewed foot sloggers who survived the war to get their glimpse into the action. Interesting to see what the other guy thought. And its much like Grant described about his experience before Belmont when he came to discover that the other guys feared him just as much as he fear them.

Also mentioned is S.L.M Marshall’s The River and the Gauntlet. Get a hardback or reprint copy with the tactical maps rather then the paperback which I’ve found often lacked said maps. Makes understanding the tactical flow a lot easier. Even rarer and very useful is his work Infantry Operations & Weapons Usage in Korea. The old photocopy pages I have show the printer to be Greenhill Books. It contrasts well with his work Men Under Fire and notes differences between ETO and Korea at the lower levels.

And there are differences. If you can rummage around, you might locate a copy of Battle Casualties and Medical Statistics – U.S. Army Experience in the Korean War, by Frank A. Reister, published by The Surgeon General Department of the Army. A little gem for statistical wonks.

Also on line there is this piece of work, Counterattack on the Naktong, 1950 –

In fact just a level up at

you’ll find all sorts of interesting pubs not at the official U.S. Army Military History Office, but on line. I particularly enjoy, if only for the title –

You might pick this up –

Author Name: GIANGRECO, D.M.
Title: WAR IN KOREA 1950-1953
Publisher: PRESIDIO 1990
ISBN Number: 0-89141-379-0

Its an oversized picture book crammed with black and whites of the war. Lots of good images to give you a feel for the various terrain situations that was Korea. A mix of everything except dense forests. What trees clusters where around on slopes and mountain tops usually ended up as clumps of twisted telephone poles after the usual American air or artillery prep. During the early mobile phase of the war, there was a good deal of city fighting in urban terrain that wouldn’t be that much different in structural appearance than the eastern front or the Balkans in WWII. Just sub Chinese or Japanese [ST: or Korean] characters for the usual Cyrillic.

Vincent Tsao

The North Koreans used Russian organization.

They certainly used by-the-book Soviet tactics, going for the flanks while the tanks went through the center. Mao’s folks did not have any armored doctrine. They did get some tanks later and used them as mobile artillery. My father-in-law got a bronze star by detecting one hidden in front of his company and getting it taken out. One source (Hastings?) I’ve read says the 2.5″ bazooka had a lot of trouble with the T34/85. Later 3.5″ models could take them out easily but by that time most of the NK armor – and their aggressive use – was gone.

Accounts talk of platoons or even companies armed only with hand grenades

I recently read a book about the Chinese Red Army (a 70’s book) and they mentioned the units armed soley with grenades. They also said the Chinese used mortars effectively but had only 12 artillery pieces per division. After Lin Piao was wounded the second commander (I forget his name) started massing the guns for offensives.

According to SLA Marshall’s “The River and the Gauntlet” (loaned out years ago and never returned) the Chinese used infiltration tactics at night, tending to move through low ground thus avoiding UN troops dug-in on high ground. In the early clashes poor fire discipline by UN troops had them fire at bugle calls, revealing their positions. After the initial rout this was cleared up and Chinese attacks on later UN lines lacked room to manoeuvre, thus becoming straight WWI frontal attacks by mobs of light infantry.

The British writer of the Chinese Red Army book thinks the whole Korean adventure had made-in-Moscow stamped on it, claiming that Mao and Co. only found out about it a short time before the invasion was launched.

Barrie Lovell

try and watch the recent film “Brotherhood”, about a two south Korean brothers during the war. The film is a pretty recent one and is available quite cheaply on DVD.

It covers the whole war, and includes fighting in the countryside and towns in both winter and summer. It’s not a bad film (if you overlook the propensity for hand to hand combat!) and I’m sure it will give you all the inspiration you’ll need for your terrain.

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