Saturday 27th July 2024 – Time: TBC
BDRSL Memorial Garden
73-75 Havilah Road, Bendigo
Korean War 1950-1953 – Australian War Memorial
Only five years after the end of the Second World War, Australia became involved in the Korean War. Personnel from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and the Australian Regular Army (ARA) were committed soon after the war began and would serve for the next three years in the defence of South Korea.
The origins of the Korean War can be traced back to the end of the Second World War, when the Allies were entrusted with control of the Korean peninsula following 35 years of Japanese occupation. The United States and the Soviet Union accepted mutual responsibility for the country, with the Soviets taking control of the country to the north of the 38th Parallel and the Americans taking the south. Over the next few years, the Soviet Union fostered a communist government under Kim Il-Sung and the US supported the provisional government in the south, headed by Syngman Rhee. By 1950 tensions between the two zones had risen to the point that two increasingly hostile armies had built up along the 38th Parallel.
In the pre-dawn hours of 25 June 1950 the Korean People’s Army (KPA) launched a massive offensive across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. They drove the Republic of South Korea’s (ROK) forces down the peninsula, capturing the capital, Seoul, within a week. South Korean and hastily deployed United States Army units fought delaying actions as they were forced further down the Korean peninsula, which allowed defensive positions to be set up around the port city of Pusan.
Within two days of the war’s beginning, US President Harry S. Truman committed US navy and air force units to aid South Korea. By the end of the month, he had authorised US ground forces to be deployed to the peninsula. The United Nations Security Council asked its members to assist in repelling the North Korean invasion. The Security Council was aided by Russia boycotting the UN over its lack of recognition of the communist Chinese government. With the Russian delegate absent and unable to veto any resolution, the UN was able to act decisively and commit forces from willing nations to the aid of South Korea. In all, 21 nations committed troops, ships, aircraft, and medical units to the defence of South Korea. Australia became the second nation, behind the United States, to commit personnel from all three armed services to the war.
Australia, with its commitment to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, had two readily deployable RAN vessels, HMAS Shoalhaven and HMAS Bataan (which was on its way to Japan to relieve Shoalhaven), as well as No. 77 Squadron, RAAF. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) was also available, but it was understrength and ill prepared for a combat deployment.
On 28 June Prime Minister Robert Menzies committed Australia’s RAN assets to the Korean War, followed several days later by No. 77 Squadron. It wasn’t until 26 July that 3RAR was committed to ground operations in Korea.
On 10 July peace negotiations began between the warring powers in the town of Kaesong. Negotiations were suspended in August after the building used was reportedly bombed. Talks did not resume until October, and from then on were held in the village of Panmunjom.
On 19 July an agreement for an armistice between the UN and the Communists was reached. The date for the signing was set for the 27th of July.
The last three days of the Korean War saw the Chinese mount one last offensive on Australian and US Marine positions in the Samichon Valley. The Chinese attacked in waves with heavy artillery support. However, the combined arms of the US and Commonwealth forces halted the Chinese attacks with heavy losses. This final battle cost 2RAR six killed and 24 wounded. The Marines suffered 43 killed and 316 wounded.
The armistice was signed at 10 am on 27 July 1953. Sporadic fighting continued throughout the day, but as evening fell the guns fell silent. The armistice came into effect at 10 pm, ending three years, one month, and two days of war in Korea. The end came so suddenly that some soldiers took some convincing that the fighting was really over. The former belligerent nations each withdrew two kilometres in accordance with the armistice agreement, forming the Demilitarized Zone which still exists today. Australian Forces remained in Korea as part of the multi-national peacekeeping force until 1957.
Over 17,000 Australians served during the Korean War, of which 340 were killed and over 1,216 wounded. A further 30 had become prisoners of war