Out in the Cold: Australia's involvement in the Korean War
- Australians in Korea
- Australian Operations
- Weapons of War
- Faces of War
- Armistice and Aftermath
- Australians in Service
- War on land: The Australian Army in Korea
- War in the air: The Royal Australian Air Force in Korea
- Medical Personnel
War on land: the Australian Army in Korea
The Korean War was overwhelmingly a land war, in terms of numbers of participants, casualties and material costs. It was fought across rugged terrain through which ran only rough, narrow roads and tracks. Operations were further complicated by extreme conditions of heat and cold, rain and snow for long periods.
Robert O'Neill, Official Historian of Australia in the Korean War
Australian Army units in the Korean War
- 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, September 1950 - November 1954
- 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, March 1952 - March 1953, April 1954 - March 1956
- 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, March 1953 - April 1954
By August 1950, the North Korean invasion into South Korea had pushed the Allied forces into a small corner of the peninsula around Pusan (map). In September, the war changed direction: General Douglas MacArthur, the United Nations Supreme Commander, launched an amphibious assault, which landed UN troops at Inchon near Seoul, outflanking the North Korean forces and cutting off their supply routes. UN forces were authorised to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea and begin a long advance north. At this time, the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), under the command of Lt Col Charlie Green, DSO, joined the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade at Pusan, commanded by Brigadier Basil Aubrey Coad.
Advancing into North Korea, the Australian army fought its first battle on 22 October, near Yongju. As 3 RAR and the rest of the 27th Brigade continued north, large numbers of North Korean soldiers surrendered. 30 October saw 3 RAR fight a successful action at Chongju.
The UN forces rapidly advanced through North Korea and were soon closing on the border with China. Chinese forces launched a massive offensive across the border, forcing a UN retreat during November. Throughout 1950-51, Australian ground troops were involved in many actions, particularly at Kapyong and Maryang San.
Australian ground forces in the Korean War displayed the same courage and adaptability in their operations as they had during the Second World War. Despite difficulties of climate, geography and a determined enemy, Australian troops in Korea fought well, and were praised by the forces of many other nations.
The terrain and climate made conditions in Korea difficlut for Australian troops there. Almost eighty per cent of Korea is mountainous: the effort of moving even short distances over mountains and valleys was exhausting and time-consuming.
Soldiers also had to cope with extremes of temperature, with heat as well as cold. The pervading, numbing cold of the winters is well remembered by veterans. Soldiers slept with their guns to their chests, to keep the parts from freezing up. Living and fighting in this climate posed a constant struggle, creating difficulties with transport, the movement and maintenance of supplies and the soldiers' health. Australian soldiers were eventually issued with better protective clothing by the Americans and British.
Some items used in the battle against the cold:
Not many of us had long-johns or sweaters, but whatever we had, we wore the lot. The trick was to get amongst the rice stooks and bury yourself in straw that kept the frost off, but [it was] not a way to fight a war."
Private M. C. "Snow" Dicker
The heat of the Korean summers also presented problems. Troops were often plagued by flies, mites and mosquitoes. Lieutenant Maurie Pears, C Company, 3 RAR, remembered the heat while patrolling across the Imjin River, and the difficulties of finding clean drinking water:
I think I was more afraid of the empty bottle than I was of the Chinese.