Happy 68th anniversary, Regiment van Heutsz
On this day in 1950, the Netherlands formed a new infantry regiment specifically for overseas service. Taking its moniker from Aceh war hero Joannes Benedictus van Heutsz as the torch bearer for the old traditions of the KNIL– the 65,000-man Dutch Indies colonial army that was disbanded the same year after it left newly-independent Indonesia.
With the UN looking for forces to fight in Korea, the all-volunteer Regiment van Heutsz formed the bulk of the Nederlands Detachement Verenigde Naties (NDVN) and was soon shipped to the ROK. The initial battalion-sized force (636 officers and men) arrived at Pusan on November 23. Attached to the U.S. 38th Infantry Regiment (part of 2ID) they were armed and equipped in U.S. fashion and were engaging the Norks/Chinese by January 1951.
By the time the Dutch left Korea in 1954, a total of 5,322 volunteer soldiers from the Netherlands and Suriname rotated through the unit, suffering 768 casualties in total. They fought at Hill 325 and 340, in the Battles of Hoengseong and Wonju, and helped put down the Koje-do Island POW revolt. They were augmented by six Royal Netherlands Navy destroyers who worked the gun line offshore.
Commonly referred to just as the Dutch Battalion, they picked up both a ROK and U.S. Presidential Unit Citation. The Dutch government conferred 156 military merit medals for individual service while each of the battalion’s members received the UN Service Medal, Korean War Service Medal, and the Cross for Justice and Freedom of the Netherlands.
An air assault battalion today, Regiment van Heutsz’s lineage is carried by the 12th battalion of the 11 Luchtmobiele Brigade and has served in the former Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan.