The story of the Imjin Scout is the story of the American infantry soldier and his service north of the Imjin River along the Korean Demilitarized Zone from 1965, when the title "Imjin Scout" was adopted, until the early 1990s', when the final elements of the 2nd Infantry Division were withdrawn to positions south of the river.
The war which was never declared never ended. The Zone heated up in late 1966, and a "low intensity conflict" ensued which lasted several years. Soldiers stationed along the "Z" drew Hostile Fire Pay under Rule 1 until 1973. Many were awarded the highly regarded Combat Infantryman's Badge (CIB). And many died. Because the late '60's to the early 70's, particularly, encompassed America's most intense involvment in Southeast Asia, there was little public knowledge of the combat going on in Korea. To some extent, this minimal coverage was deliberate: American military assets were stretched so thinly across the world that our government had little desire to call attention to our vulnerability in places like Frozen Chosun.
"Freedom's Frontier" was to be held by the Imjin Scouts.
Through reader response to this website, I have accumulated a number of artifacts of the Imjin Scout Award. The title "Imjin Scout" was the direct creation of Brigadier General Roland M. Gleszer, who was the Assistant Division Commander for Operations of the 2nd Infantry Division in 1965. BG Gleszer personally conceived the title and directed the development of the Imjin Scouts patch and a program to govern its award.
All of this was unknown to me in 2002, however, when, as a 1969 recipient of the title, I began searching for the Scouts' roots. I was originally unable to find conclusive evidence of the requirements to become an Imjin Scout. I started with my own recollections and confused these further with the opinions of many other people. From former Sergeant Ron Rice I received a Stars and Stripes newspaper article on the Imjin Scout Award revealing some facts about criteria for its award. I also tried to track down rumors that there had once been an "Imjin Scout School" (compared by some people to Ranger training}which was referred to as the Advanced Combat Training Academy (ACTA). I was surprised to learn that the Scout program originated there. My thanks go to Thomas Ridenour who not only verified that ACTA had indeed existed, but who also contributed a wealth of photographs and comments that you can find at http://www.imjinscout.com/koreana.html. You don't want to miss his collection. We were also fortunate to receive input from former Lieutenant Stuart Jamison, who has become an editor at this site, and who was assigned to ACTA in its formative days.
From 1965 to 1967, the Imjin Scout patch was awarded only to ACTA graduates. The golden "DMZ" legend was added in early '67 (see Ridenhour collection and Oberdorf certificate) when there was, briefly, a period of two overlapping programs. The Zone heated up during this period, and 2ID Regulation 672-3 authorized award of the patch for a specified number of operations; so there were two patches, one reflecting ACTA training, the other DMZ service. After 1967, ACTA graduation was no longer a requirement for the Imjin Scout award, and the majority appear to have been presented at the Battalion level. All patches bore the DMZ legend.
In my personal experience, soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry (2/9) MANCHU II, were awarded the Imjin Scout Badge and Award Certificate "for commendable participation in operational missions along the demilitarized zone". This is a quote from the Imjin Scout Certificate. I distinctly remember a certain number of operational missions were required to receive the award and apparently the magic number was 20. Since first publishing this page, I have discovered that the patch was authorized for wear for more than a quarter century (1965-1991), so the criteria for earning the title "Imjin Scout" naturally evolved over this period. Contributions of Department of the Army (DA Form 87) Certificates of Completion and 2nd Infantry Division Certificates of Award have poured into the site, and helped answer numerous questions.
I recently received email from John Putt III of the Korean Defense Veterans of America, Inc. offering to FAX me 2nd Infantry Division Regulation 672-3 on the Imjin Scout Award. today. To my great surprise, the Regulation was dated as recently as February, 1991. You'll want to take a look at this. Although the title still exists and is awarded under the same criteria, there is no longer any insignia authorized for wear on the Army uniform. Putt's is one of the last Imjin Scouts patches awarded.
It is no surprise that the story of the Imjin Scout has been forgotten or overshadowed by the conflict in Southeast Asia. While these "in between" years in Korea are a period of no great historical significance, for the infantrymen who were called to duty there, it was a trying time, a year of service that seemed to have no end.
For more pictures of the DMZ, see the Myles Sampson Collection.