A story that generally goes untold and is largely forgotten is the immense bravery and fortitude seen by the Kagnew Battalion. The Ethiopians troops that fought in The Korean War. What were they doing there? Well, they were fighting side by side with the Americans as part of a UN agreement.
In 1951, the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie made a decision to send thousands of troops to fight in the UN force led by the Americans against communist North Korea and their ally China. This was to support South Korea, you see when Ethiopia had been invaded in 1935 by Italy, Haile Selassie had heavily blamed the League of Nations for their failure to react. So when South Korea was invaded he was determined to show the world that he would react.
The Kagnew battalion were soldiers drawn straight from his imperial bodyguard, they were Ethiopia’s elite troops. The emperor himself would send them off to Korea, giving them a speech and flag. A flag that they were ordered to bring back from Korea. And they boasted about their bravery and courage in the fight, which made even more Ethiopian troops eager to join the mission.
The Kagnew battalion joined the US 7th Division, an American army where segregation had only just been removed. Yet discrimination was not a problem for the elite Ethiopian soldiers, they were proud and showed it. And when you break it down they were right, this battalion was one of the best groups of fighters the world ever saw.
After fighting in 253 battles, they had never let a single Ethiopian soldier be captured. There was never a Kagnew prisoner during the Korean War. In fact, it became their motto “Never be captured on the war field.”
They held true to their motto no matter how hard the fighting and always prevailed, becoming one the most feared battalions to come out of The Korean War.