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March 14, 1975

Memorandum for Richard Smyser from Morton I. Abramowitz, “26-27 February Yellow Sea Incident (U)"

This document was made possible with support from Leon Levy Foundation



Assistant Secretary of Defense


Washington, D.C. 20301


14 Mar[ch] 1975



SUBJECT: 26-27 February Yellow Sea Incident (U)

Attached, as you request, are a chronology of events associated with the subject incident, a copy of JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] cable transmitting the Rules of Engagment to CINCPAC [U.S. Pacific Command], and a joint State/Defense cable dispatched after the incident.











Morton I. Abramowitz

Deputy Assistant Secretary

26-27 February Yellow Sea Incident – Republic of Korea (ROK)





































South Korean radar station made first radar contact with unidentified North Korean boats south of Py-do.


ROKN [Republic of Korea Navy] Escort Transport (ADP-82) challenged NK [North Korean] armed patrol boats at 37-39N/124-15E. The NK boats ignored the challenge, and the subsequent ROK warning shots, and proceeded south at 15K. ADP-82 pursued and was joined by ROKN destroyer DD-92. The two NK boats merged with an estimated eight NK fishing boats.


Two ROKAF [Republic of Korea Air Force] F-5s scrambled from Suwon against track of unidentified vessels.


COMROKFLT [Commander ROK Fleet] ordered ROKN ships to capture the two original NK boats, using minimum force and without main battery gunfire.


First NK aircraft penetrated Northern Limit Line (NLL) – i.e. extension of the Military Demarcation line into international waters – 10 NM [nautical miles] southeast of Py-do.


314th Air Division Commander, to support the ROKs, ordered an air defense scrable. Two USAF [United States Air Force] F-4E aircraft from Osan AB [airbase] assumed CAP [combat air patrol] at a position 70 NM west of Osan.


DD-92 collided accidentally with a small NK fishing boat at 37-36N/124-00E. The vessel was sunk, and no survivors were found. The other NK boats then proceeded north at 5 knots, shadowed by APD-82 and DD-92.


USAF F-4E’s were directed to return to base; landed 0835.


Second scramble of two USAF F-4E aircraft from Osan AB. Flew CAP at position 30 NM west of base.


South Korean radar station reported two high speed surface contacts (in excess of 30 knots), presumed to North Korean patrol boats, south of NLL, proceeding on apparent course to intercept ROKN units. NK boats came to within 7 NM of ROKN vessels, then turned back.


Second flight of F-4E aircraft returned to Osan AB. No further activity by US aircraft.

26 Feb

Throughout the day, radar trackings indicated 68 NKAF aircraft in defensive fighter patrol in the area around UN-controlled islands south of the NLL. The maximum number detected at one time was seven, with the deepest penetration about 40 NH southwest of Py-do. Some NK aircraft flew over UN-controlled is lands. Air Forces Korea responded throughout the incident with 77 sorties (4 USAF F-4E’s and 73 ROKAF: 71 F-4D’s and F-5’s’, 1 AT-33, and 1 C-46 flare ship). The actions of all aircraft on both sides was defensive. The opposing aircraft maintained a minimum 40 NM separation. Except for the ROKN warning shots mentioned above, no rounds were fired by either side.


All NK aircraft had returned to base.


All ROKAF aircraft had returned to base.





































Morton I. Abramowitz, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, provides Richard Smyser with a chronology of events surrounding the February 26-27, 1975, incident in Yellow Sea between North and South Korea.

Document Information


Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, National Security Adviser Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Box 9, Korea (5). Obtained for NKIDP by Charles Kraus.


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Leon Levy Foundation