Guide to the Korean War Collection


Title: Guide to the Korean War Collection.

Date range of collection: 1950-1953.

Scope and content note: The Korean War collection consists of recruitment leaflets which were used to encourage men and women to join up for the Korea Force. Also included are souvenirs such as menus, invitations, silk evasion sheets and safe conduct passes.

Extent - Space occupied: 66 Folders

Extent - Number of items: 284 orginals and 18 translations

Location: Published and Digitised Collections, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.

Related collections:

  • Greeting cards.
  • Maps.
  • Books.

Administrative information

Access: Open.

Copyright: Contact Senior Curator, Published & Digitised Collections.

Preferred citation: Korean War Collection, Published and Digitised Collections, Australian War Memorial.

Historical background

The crisis in Korea originated in the closing phases of the Second World War, when control of the Korean peninsula, formerly occupied by Japan, was entrusted to the Allies, and the United States and the Soviet Union divided responsibility for the country between them at the 38th parallel. Over the course of the next few years, the Soviet Union fostered a strong communist regime in the north, while the US supported the government in the south; by mid-1950, tensions between the two zones, each under a different regime, had escalated to the point where two hostile armies were building up along the border. On 25 June a North Korean army finally crossed into the southern zone and advanced towards the capital, Seoul. The city fell in less than a week, and North Korean forces continued their southward drive towards the strategically important port of Pusan.

Within two days, the US had offered air and sea support to South Korea, and the United Nations Security Council asked all its members to assist in repelling the North Korean attack. Twenty-one nations responded by providing troops, ships, aircraft and medical teams. Australia's contribution included 77 Squadron of the RAAF and the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), both of which were stationed in Japan at the time as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.

When 3 RAR arrived in Pusan on 28 September, the North Korean advance had been halted and their army was in full retreat. The Supreme Commander of the UN forces, General Douglas MacArthur, was given permission to pursue them into North Korea, despite warnings from the Chinese government that it would not countenance any UN troops crossing the border. 3 RAR moved north as part of the invasion force and fought their first major action near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. As the UN forces continued their advance towards the Yalu river on the border between North Korea and Manchuria, a series of successes led many to believe that the UN forces would soon bring the war to an end.

At the same time, unbeknown to the UN commanders, the Chinese government had made good its threat and moved 18 divisions into North Korea. They struck with overwhelming force against US troops on 1 November and sent them into retreat. By mid-November, despite the continuing Chinese attacks in the harsh winter weather, MacArthur prepared a massive advance to the Yalu River to defeat the North Korean and Chinese forces once and for all. But only one day after the attack commenced the Chinese struck back, inflicting successive defeats on the UN forces and forcing them into retreat towards the 38th parallel.

The Chinese halted their offensive in January 1951, Seoul once again having fallen to the invading forces. At the UN headquarters in New York, efforts were made to conclude a cease-fire with the communist coalition, but negotiations broke down before any progress had been made. By the end of February, Chinese resistance collapsed south of the Han River near Seoul, and the city was recaptured by UN forces in mid-March. UN commanders were then faced with the question of whether to cross the 38th parallel once again. Opinions were divided between those who favoured a cease-fire along the border and those, including MacArthur, who wished to renew the northward advance. On 11 April 1951 MacArthur was dismissed from his command, as it was feared in Washington that his intemperance was likely to escalate the war.

Australian troops participated in two major battles in 1951. On the evening of 22 April, Chinese forces attacked the Kapyong valley and forced South Korean and New Zealand troops into retreat; other UN troops, including Australians, were ordered to halt the attack. After a night of fierce fighting, during which their positions were overrun, the Australians recaptured their positions and stalled the Chinese advance, at a cost of only 32 men killed and 53 wounded. For their contribution to this action, 3 RAR was awarded a US Presidential Citation.

The second major battle for the Australians was Operation Commando, an attack against a Chinese-held salient in a bend of the Imjin, a river running north-south that crosses the 38th parallel just above Seoul. Here the Commonwealth Division, including the Australians, had two key objectives: Hills 355 and 317. The attack began on 3 October, and after five days of heavy fighting the Chinese withdrew. Twenty Australians were killed in the battle and 89 were wounded.

From 1951 on, both sides found themselves engaged in a war of attrition reminiscent of the Western Front, where men lived in tunnels, redoubts and sandbagged forts behind barbed wire defences. The war was generally fought with artillery and mines and in set-piece battles; at night patrols ventured into no man's land to raid enemy positions. Between 1951 and the war's end, 3 RAR occupied trenches at the eastern extremity of the Commonwealth Division's position in hills north-east of the Imjin River. There they faced heavily fortified Chinese positions across a stretch of no man's land which ranged from 300 metres to 2 kilometres in width.

As the war settled into stalemate it became apparent that a negotiated truce was the only solution, but military pressure was maintained on the communist forces, the better to extract concessions at the peace talks. As fighting continued, however, many of the UN combatants grew less willing to contribute more ground forces to the conflict. While some countries were keen to extricate their troops from Korea, Australia increased its commitment, and the government sent a second battalion, 1 RAR, which joined the Commonwealth Division on 1 June 1952. The battalion remained in Korea for twelve months, leaving in March 1953 and replaced by 2 RAR in April.

After two years and 17 days of negotiations, even as heavy fighting continued at the front, the UN and North Korean leaderships signed an agreement on 27 July 1953. This agreement technically brought the war to an end, but a state of suspended hostilities continued to exist between North and South Korea for many years, and even today the situation remains unresolved. In the three years of fighting 1,263 men of the Commonwealth forces were killed and a further 4,817 were wounded, while the US lost 33,000 men. Australian casualties numbered more than 1,500, of whom 339 were killed. Almost half a million South Koreans died as a result of the war, and an unknown number of North Koreans and Chinese.


Bartlett, N , With the Australians in Korea (Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954).

Peter Dennis et al , The Oxford companion to Australian military history (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1995).

Hooker, J, Korea: the forgotten war (Time Life Books, Sydney, 1988. )

McCormack, G , Cold war hot war: an Australian perspective on the Korean War (Hale and Ironmonger, Sydney, 1983).

Series number Title of Series
1 Recruitment leaflets
2 Souvenirs and leaflets

SERIES 1: Recruitment leaflets

Contains a collection of recruitment leaflets which urges men and women to join the Korean Force.

Number Item title and description
1/1 Open letter from a G.I.
1/2 "Of the 26 nations supporting the cause of freedom in Korea none had been more gallantly represented than Australia. Join the Korea Force."
1/3 Let's be realistic! Australia needs men who are ready to defend her women who will face up to facts
1/4 Australia's fighting forces are doing a job of world-wide importance...
1/5 Their countries are our affairs
1/6 Australia's servicemen are playing a splendid part in world-wide defence against aggression...
1/7 "Time to build our Defences!" says veteran Korea airman
1/8 "War practically on our doorstep!"
1/9 "Training is vital" says R.A.N. Korea veteran
1/10 "Time is running out" says Korea veteran
1/11 Korea veteran proves training vital!
1/12 "Reserves are the back-bone of defence" says veteran of 3 campaigns
1/13 Korea veteran says, "Survival in war depends on training"
1/14 "Training produces best result" says Korea veteran
1/15 Korea veteran warns Australia
1/16 Glad to be back in uniform
1/17 Engine room artificer John Hughes. Never better off financially
1/18 Korea a job for men of action who can fight and win!
1/19 Your call to action!
1/20 Join the Korea force
1/21 Let us finish the job in Korea
1/22 Australian soldiers have done a magnificent job in Korea
1/23 Line up with the world's best fighting men!
1/24 The proudest service a man can render to Australia and the free world...
1/25 If you fit this description
1/26 Volunteers wanted to join the elite of Australia's fighting men in the service of the United Nations
1/27 The time to act is now... the place is here
1/28 Korea! Reinforcements needed now- men with or without experience
1/29 The writing is on the wall!
1/30 We live less than one day from the sound of bombs
1/31 Korea veteran says "Trained man worth a dozen untrained"
1/32 "You are magnificent Soldiers"
1/33 Volunteer for the Korea Force
1/34 Men who prefer deeds to words join the Korea Force
1/35 "The best fighting troops in the British Commonwealth Division"
1/36 Now again - Australia's fighting men are making history!
1/37 "Wanted! More men like these"

SERIES 2: Souvenirs and leaflets

Collection of various souvenirs such as Christmas menus, invitations, safe conduct passes, silk evasion sheets depicting various flags, sports programmes and propaganda leaflets are held in this collection. Some of the Korean leaflets have translations attached.

Number Item title and description
2/1 Korean report. The Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations is proud to present a series of actuality broadcasts from Korea.
2/2 Third Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment Inter Company Athletic sports meeting
2/3 British Commonwealth Occupation Force - Interzone Athletic meeting at Anzac Park, Kure on 29 May 1951
2/4 Athletic Carnival Korea Sat 14 June '52
2/5 3 BN The Royal Australian Regiment Athletic Carnival Korea Sat May 31st 1952
2/6 British Commonwealth Force Korea Parade in Honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second held at Anzac Park - Kure Japan on the occasion of Her Majesty's birthday 5th June 1952 (2 copies)
2/7 Press release (satirical) - The following is an excerpt from a recent press conference held at Headquarters FEAF, Tokyo, Japan.
2/8 Christmas menu from HMAS Sydney, 1951, signed by pilots of 805, 808 & 817 Squadrons. 2nd Copy (RC06141)
2/9 Operation Yuletide 1952
2/10 British commonwealth Leave Unit Tokyo Menus - Lunch 17 Sept. 53 & Dinner 22 Sept. 53 (2 menus)
2/11 Xmas 1952 British Commonwealth Leave Unit Tokyo Japan
2/12 With best wish for Christmas and the New Year from the Officer Commanding and staff of the British Commonwealth General Hospital. Kure, Japan (2 copies)
2/13 Dinner A'Dieu Menu
2/14 Mijajima Rest & Conv. Centre Menu Christmas dinner 1953
2/15 Invitation to farewell luncheon to mark the withdrawal of the Contingent from Korea
2/16 Calendar April - September 1953. Reverse side - Protect yourself against Malaria and Jap.B ( Mosquitoes) Hemorrhagic fever (Chigger Mites)
2/17 Commonwealth of Australia Repatriation Commission - Professional and vocational training for Ex-service personnel and war widows Korea and Malaya Operations
2/18 Propaganda leaflets issued by United Nations Forces - for civilians in Korea, North Korean Forces and Chinese Forces in Korea (30 leaflets)
2/19 Propaganda leaflets issued by United Nations Forces - for civilians in Korea, North Korean Forces and Chinese Forces in Korea (32 leaflets and twelve translations)
2/20 Propaganda leaflets issued by Chinese people's volunteer forces (15 leaflets)
2/21 Propaganda leaflets issued by the Korean People's Army, The Chinese People's Volunteers for United Nations forces (27 leaflets and one translation)
2/22 Propaganda leaflets (18 leaflets)
2/23 Leaflets inducing the enemy to surrender to the United Nations Forces (6 leaflets and one translation)
2/24 Safe conduct passes produced by UN , The Chinese People's Volunteer Headquarters and Korean People's Army (26 passes with four translations)
2/25 Korean Pointie Talkie - phrases in English and Korean for downed airmen to help get assistance from the local population (5 leaflets)
2/26 Silk evasion sheet with Australian Flag (3 copies)
2/27 Silk evasion sheet with American Flag (2 copies)
2/28 Silk evasion sheet with Taiwanese Flag
2/29 Silk evasion sheet with flags representing America, United Nations, United Kingdom and South Korea (3 copies)
2/30 Breakfast and Lunch Menu, S.S. New Australia, 19th April 1954
2/31 Souvenir booklet, National Reunion of Veterans of the Korean War, 24-25 April 2003
2/32 Ginza bar ad for Chiyoda Hotel with drawing of hotel and illustrated location map
2/33 Ginza bar ad for the New Ginza, depicting naked women's form in a champagne glass
2/34 Ginza bar ad for Club Ace - "Pop in for a beer / Take ten, Buddy! / Have a quicky or stay awhile"
2/35 Ginza bar ad - V.F.W. Post 9450 Tokyo Steak House & Bar
2/36 Sun newspaper headline relating to Corporal R K Cashman, MM, who served with 6 Platoon, B Company, 3 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. (PUB00377)
2/37 Republic of Korea, double-sided leaflet featuring a map of Korea. Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Canberra. (3 copies) (PUB00784)
2/38 Propaganda leaflet, 'A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Chinese People's Volunteers' featuring a red candle and holly. With a message to the soldiers on the opposite side. Laminated leaflet. (PUB00914)
2/39 An order of service for 2/3 RAR to commemorate Samichon Day, the Battle of the Hook, 24-25 July 1953. Held at Regimental Square, Wynyard Street, Sydney, 25th July 2009. (PUB00278)
2/40 Korea Veterans' Day memorial and wreath-laying service, 56th Anniversary, 2009. (PUB00279)
2/41 Postcard from the Korean War Veterans National Reunion, Brisbane 2003. (PUB01159 item 1)
2/42 2RAR Samichon 50th anniversary celebration. Pocket map for reunion which includes bus routes, program of events and maps.(PUB01161)
2/43 Korea Today Yesterday and Tomorrow (RC04409)
2/44 B.C.F.K. Tennis Championships 1955
2/45 A Grateful Nation Expresses its thanks to Leo Denis Grills for contributing to Australia's effort in the Korean War (RC08412)
2/46 Bloody Defeat (RC07807)
2/47 Bloody Defeat (SC02143)
2/48 Good Luck! The Norwegian Field Hospital (SC02147)
2/49 If Ike Spreads the War... (RC07806)
2/50 A Mother Weeps (RC07805)
2/51 Safe Conduct Pass (English and Korean) (SC02140)
2/52 Christmas card 'Peace' from the Korean people's army (SC02138)
2/53 Christmas card 'Peace' from the Korean people's army (SC02139)
2/54 Safe Conduct Pass: Demand Peace Stop the War (From HQ Korean Peoples Army and HQ Chinese Peoples Volunteers (SC02141)
2/55 Cartoon of two men pushing korean man with Bayonet fixed (SC02142)
2/56 Postcard Christmas card 1 Commonwealth Div with best wishes, cartoon of 5 men (SC02148)
2/57 Propoganda photo of Korean and American (SC02144)
2/58 Postcard Sun News Pictorial Cartoon of two men on a roo 'Here's your health' (SC02146)
2/59 Postcard Korean Christmas box fund 'This parcel comes to you...' (SC02145)
2/60 Calendar-1953 Reverse with photo taken in POW camp [Foreign Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/61 Illustration ofd frozen skeleton in Chinese uniform [UN Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/62 Safe Conduct Pass: Demand Peace Stop the War [Foreign Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/63 [Chinese Text] [Foreign Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/64 [Chinese Text] [UN Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/65 A Soldiers Last Letter [Foreign Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/66 No more fear of death in bloody actions [Foreign Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/67 Look! This is your buddies in a POW camp [Foreign Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/68 Korean War: Three Years 25 June 1953 [Foreign Propoganda] (RC01725)
2/69 The Crown News, 2 June 1953 (RC04412)
2/70 1st British Commonwealth Division Ceremonial Parade On the Occasion of coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2nd June 1953 (RC04413)
2/71 The Australian National Korean War Memorial Dedication
2/72 Memorial Monument to The United Nations Forces: card with photograph on fabric, and flags surrounding photograph. (3 copies in envelopes)
2/73 United Nations Memorial Cemetary in Korea
2/74 Memorial Monument to the United Nations Forces: Booklet. Colour cover
2/75 In Grateful Rememberance...
2/76 Dedication Ceremony: Plaque in grateful remembrance of the men of the Armed Forces of Member States who died in Koreain the service of the United Nations 1950-1953
2/77 Memorial Service The Royal Australian Regiment 4 April 1954 (2 copies)
2/78 Memorial Service 1st Battalion The Kings Regiment Korea 1952-1953
2/79 Memorial Service The Royal Australian Regiment 23 March 1953 (2 copies)
2/80 Memorial Service 2 Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment -Held at Peace Are, Korea on 23 August 1953
2/81 Memorial Service: 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment -Held at - Area 6 Korea On 8 Nov 53
2/82 Ceremonial Battalion Parade on Fridya 24 April 1998 at Kapyong Lines, Holsworthy to Commemorate the Fourty Seventh Anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong (RC04658)
2/83 Front Map of Korea (RC02330)
2/84 Christmas menu from HMAS Albatross, 1951 (PUB04954)
2/85 Christmas menu from HMAS Sydney, 1953, signed by pilots of the 805, 816 and 850 Squadrons (PUB04955)