By Becky Coffield, HUSC Historian 2021-2022
The Korean Augmentation to the United States Army Program was initiated on August 15, 1950 under an agreement between the Commander in Chief of United Nations Command, General MacArthur and the ROK President, the Honorable Syngman Rhee. The first KATUSA recruits, legally part of the ROK Army (ROKA) and administered by the ROK government, were assigned as reinforcements for the under-strength 7th Infantry Division in Japan, which was preparing for a deployment to Korea.
On August 20, 1950, the US divisions in combat on the peninsula received their initial KATUSA Soldiers on an assignment basis of 100 Koreans for each company and battery. At its late peak in 1952, KATUSA strength reached 27,000, of which 20,000 were in divisions and the remainder in support units. KATUSA strength declined after the armistice, and in July 1971 following the reduction of troops, stabilized to about 7,000. KATUSA Soldiers remained with the Army to receive training that was not readily available in the ROK Army.
Originally, KATUSA Soldiers were returned to the ROKA after serving with the US Army. Since 1968, however, KATUSA Soldiers remain with the US Army until their service commitments are completed. The ROKA Support Group was established on May 11, 1965 at the request of the Commander, Eighth Army, as a ROKA officer liaison group to administer the KATUSA Soldier program. Its name was changed from ROKA Liaison Group to ROKA Support Group in November 1986. On November 1, 1997, the ROKA Support Group was reorganized as a unit directly under Headquarter (HQ), ROKA G2/G3, and was later reorganized on December 1, 2009 directly under HQ, ROK Army’s Personnel Command.
Today, the mission of the KATUSA Soldier Program is to augment the US Army in Korea with ROK Army Soldiers in order to increase the ROK/US combined defense capability on the Korean peninsula. The KATUSA Soldier Program is significant because of the military manpower and monetary savings that it provides to the US Army, and because it represents ROK/US cooperation and the combined commitment to deter war. The KATUSA Soldier Program is symbolic of ROK/US friendship and mutual support. Eighth Army is authorized 3,444 KATUSA Soldiers.
Finley, James P. The US Military Experience in Korea 1871-1982: In the Vanguard of ROK-US Relations. APO San Francisco: Headquarters, United States Forces, Korea, 1983.
“KATUSA Soldier Program.” (8tharmy.korea.army.mil/site/about/katusa-soldier-program.asp). October 15, 2021.