In June 1950, when the Korean War began, the U.N. built a coalition to fight against communist North Korean and Chinese forces. Haile Selassie, then emperor of Ethiopia, formed the Kagnew Battalions from his personal bodyguards and a decision to deploy Ethiopian forces to South Korea was finalized. After consultations with the US Army it was decided that the force should be one infantry battalion. An appeal for volunteers in the Ethiopian army received tremendous response and the Kagnew battalion was hand selected by Brig.Gen. Mulugetta Bulli. A good percentage of the officers and senior NCOs were WWII veterans.
“Kagnew.” was the name of the warhorse of Ras Makonnen, Menelik II’s General and the father of Haile Selassie during the First Italo-Ethiopian War. The only African ground troops, the members of the Kagnew Battalion were seasoned professional soldiers, everyone of whom was over six feet in height. The Imperial Guard commander selected Lieutenant Colonel Teshome Irgetu to command the battalion.
Prior to its departure the unit underwent eight months of intensive training in Ethiopia’s mountains. A mountain range in Ethiopia was found to be similar to the Korean peninsula’s topography, and the training was done there. At the conclusion of the training, the battalion’s first deployment numbered 1,122 men (85 officers and 1,037 enlisted) and was split into four companies plus a small GHQ unit. The overall commander was always a Lt.Colonel or higher; and there were four company commanders usually of Captain rank
Tilahun Gessesse’s music about Korean War, It is a love song.
Ethiopia rotated its forces during the war as follows: –
|1st Kagnew Battalion||May 07, 1951 – Mar 29,1952|
|2nd Kagnew Battalion||Mar 29,1952 – April 16,1953|
|3rd Kagnew Battalion||April 16,1953 – April 1954|
|4th Kagnew Battalion||Arrived after the cease fire.|
The Ethiopian Red Cross also sent a cadre of nurses to treat Ethiopian wounded recovering in the hospitals in Japan. The last Ethiopian soldier left Korea on 3rd January 1965.
Ethiopian troops sailed from Djibouti, training shipboard during the three-week journey. At Pusan, they were attached to the U.S. 7th Infantry, working with the 32nd Infantry Regiment.
- Ethiopia sends three 1,200-strong battalions (Total 3600)
- Soldiers drawn from emperor’s imperial bodyguard
- 1st Kagnew Battalion Jun 1951 Apr 1952 and assigned to US 7th Infantry Division
- 2nd Kagnew Battalion Apr 1952 Apr 1953
- 3rd Kagnew Battalion Apr 1953 Apr 1954
- Ethiopians fight in a number of engagements including Battle of Pork Chop Hill
- Ethiopian casualties: 121 killed, 536 wounded
They all went to hospital. I was the only one who went back to the bunker. It’s like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house – that is how I felt. I was so sorry. I was very depressed.