The Korean Who Fought For Japan, Germany AND Russia In WWII

On December 23, 2014 by Tim Newman

Yang Kyoungjong - Korean WWII

You could easily argue that the Korean soldier Yang Kyoungjong was the luckiest and the unluckiest soldier that ever lived.

He managed to find himself fighting for three different countries: Japan, Germany and Russia, despite being a citizen of none of them. Here are the brief bones of how such a mad tale came into being. A story, at its core, of loss of control.

In 1938, Korea was under the rule of Japan. At the tender age of 18, Kyoungjong was in Manchuria (now part of China) where there were regular clashes over land rights between the Soviets, Japanese and Mongolians. He found himself conscripted into the Kwantung Army, part of the Imperial Japanese Army to fight against the Soviet Union.

The Battles of Khalkhin Gol saw Japan suffer heavy losses – 45,000 Japanese were killed or injured; Kyoungjong was lucky to survive but ended up being captured along with 3,000 others by the Soviet Red Army, and was sent to a Soviet labour camp.

In 1942 the Red Army was having some major beefs with a lack of troops to fight off Hitler’s Nazi scourge on Europe’s eastern front. So Kyoungjong, along with thousands of other POWs were entered into a forced change of allegiance. All of a sudden this Korean gent was fighting the Fascists to save Europe from a marauding dictator.

Kyoungjong played his part in the Third Battle of Kharkov, in Ukraine. This battle raged for a month and was decisively won by the Germans, one historian referred to it as “the last great victory of German arms in the eastern front.”

Russia saw heavy losses, an estimated 45,000 were killed. Kyoungjong survived but was captured by Wehrmacht soldiers and marched off to another POW camp.

This wasn’t the end of Kyoungjong’s military turncoating though. The Germans, now hard-pressed for fighters, enlisted POWs into their ranks. Yang found himself in occupied France serving in a battalion of Soviet POWs known as an “Eastern Battalion” and was relocated to the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy, close to Utah Beach.

The Eastern Battalions were made up almost entirely of people captured from Eastern bloc countries by German troops. They were employed to fill gaps and give German troops at the front a well needed break. Some Eastern Battalions fought bravely but, as you can imagine, some simply surrendered as soon as they were challenged.

After the D-Day landings in northern France, Kyoungjong was captured by paratroopers of the United States Army in June 1944. The Americans initially thought Kyoungjong was Japanese and once again he found himself in a POW camp, this time in the UK. He was later transferred to a camp in the US.

At the end of the war Kyoungjong was released, he settled in Illinois where he lived out the rest of his days, dying in 1992 aged 72.

Now that, folks, is a proper life story.





@media all and (max-width: 228px) { div#darkbackground, div.visiblebox { display: none; } }