The 105th Division was formed before the outbreak of the Korean War, armed with Soviet T-34 medium tanks.
The 105th Armored Brigade has its roots in the 15th Tank Training Regiment, a tank unit formed by the Red Army in 1948, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Yu Kyong Su, a former lieutenant in the Red Army and brother-in-law of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung.
Many soldiers of the 15th Regiment were veterans who had served in the Soviet and Chinese armies. This initial force quickly evolved into the 105th Armored Brigade, with 120 T-34 tanks. From the outset, the Brigade was tasked with spearheading the KPA’s counter-offensive operations, aiming to unify the peninsula by force.
The T-34/85 was armed with a powerful 85mm main gun and was the mainstay of the Red Army when it liberated Berlin five years earlier. The T-34/85 was less armored than the American M26 Pershing, but its firepower could penetrate the M26’s armor easily beyond 1,000 meters, except for its front hemisphere.
The 105th Brigade consisted of three tank battalions: 107, 109 and 203, each with 40 tanks, and the 308th Armored Battalion armed with 16 SU-76 self-propelled guns. Coordinating combat was the 206th Mechanized Infantry Regiment, which later became the 206th Mechanized Infantry Division.
The opponent of the KPA’s 105th Armored Brigade was the South Korean army, which was mainly infantry, without tanks and armored vehicles. At that time, South Korea and the US Army had only 37 M8 Greyhound armored vehicles and 140 obsolete 57mm towed anti-tank guns. The infantry was equipped with 1,900 57mm bazooka anti-tank guns, unable to penetrate T-34/85 tank armor.
In June 1950, the North Korean Army began to pour southward. Three KPA regiments and the 107th tank battalion attacked and crushed the South Korean 1st and 7th Infantry Divisions. North Korean tanks captured the capital Seoul on the fourth day of the war. On July 3, 1950, the brigade was upgraded to a Division and renamed the 105th Armored Division “Seoul”.
As it moved further south, the 105th Division began to encounter the first American combat force, Task Force Smith. Fighting with the special forces was the 21st Infantry Brigade, part of the US 24th Infantry Division. The US 24th Division did not expect to be involved in such a large-scale war. The division was poorly equipped: including anti-tank weapons with only two 75mm guns and six 57mm bazookas; artillery fire was only 106.7mm mortar and field artillery support.
Before the fierce attack of the North Korean Army, it scared the American soldiers. Due to poor firepower, the US Army could only destroy 4 North Korean tanks. American troops suffered 150 casualties. The defeat of Task Force Smith, later became a stark reminder of how an army can lose its combat advantage without good preparation.
Although the 105th Division suffered few losses, the long-distance operation damaged many of its tanks. Later, UN forces received heavier weapons, including M-26 Pershings tanks and 3.5-inch bazooka anti-tank guns. At Obong-Ni Ridge, four M-26s of the US Marines’ 1st Tank Battalion, destroyed three T-34/85s without damage. By September 1950, the UN estimated that North Korea had lost 239 tanks, and the UN had lost 60 tanks. North Korea’s armored forces, which had been used very effectively since the beginning of the war, were completely destroyed.
The 105th Division was reorganized in 1951 as the 105th Mechanized Division, but did not fight for the rest of the war. By the early 1960s, the division was refitted with tanks and was named as the 105th Guards Seoul Ryu Kyong-Su Armored Division.
Today, the 105th Division includes two tank brigades and one motorized infantry brigade, and is part of the 820th Amored Corps. In the event of war, the 105th Division will continue to be the breakthrough force of the North Korean Army. Currently, the 105th Division is still one of the most powerful tank divisions in Asia.