When I was writing my book Section Eight (Shadow Warriors) which I pitched as a modern day Dirty Dozen, my research revealed that there had been a real unit in the South Korean army modeled after it: Unit 684.
After an attack by North Korean commandos attempting to assassinate their president, the South Koreans put together a unit that ended up being called Unit 684. The NK raid was called the Blue House raid, after what their presidential mansion is named. This occurred in late January 1968. This attempt was stopped just short of the target and a firefight broke out. The NK commandos dispersed. While hunting them down, four American soldiers were killed, a little known part of history.
Unit 684 was formed to retaliate and assassinate Kim Il-Sung. It was made up of criminals and unemployed youths who appeared to have no future. A somewhat different idea than the Dirty Dozen. They were promised financial rewards and jobs if they succeeded in what was clearly a suicide mission. 31 men were recruited for this.
They were moved to an uninhabited island off the coast of Inchon (echoes of Doug MacArthur ringing in my ears) called Slimido.
There they underwent three years of intensive and brutal training. Seven of the thirty-one died during this training, which probably didn’t do much for moral.
They were kept there for years, training and training, but the South Korean government never pulled the trigger. Tensions eased between north and south and in August 1971, the mission was canceled.
On 23 August 1971, the 24 surviving members mutinied. They killed all but six of their guards, made their way to the mainland and hijacked a bus to Seoul. No one is quite certain what their new objective was.
The bus was stopped at a checkpoint and a firefight broke out. All were killed or committed suicide except four. They were captured, tried, and executed.
South Korea kept the entire event a secret until the 1990s.
The entire affair gained more notoriety when a film, Slimido, loosely based on the unit, was released in 2003.
As a fiction writer you “what if” things a lot. For example, what if the mutiny occurred because right after the government decided to shut down the mission, the decision was also made to get rid of these troublesome soldiers in a secret program? And they got wind of it and that’s what started the mutiny? The true story may never be told. But as a novelist, I get to tell my own version of the Dirty Dozen and that’s Section Eight (Shadow Warriors).
Originally published at https://bobmayer.com.