Out in the Cold: Australia's involvement in the Korean War

In the aftermath of the Second World War (1939-1945), communities were still coming to terms with the devastation which that conflict had caused, and the millions it had killed. Yet only five years after the end of this war, another was to break out, and again Australia would commit its forces. It was the Korean War.

Korea was a place that few Australians knew much about, until 1950. From 1950-53, 17,000 Australians in the Army, Navy and Air Force fought as part of the United Nations (UN) multinational force, defending South Korea from the Communist force of North Korea. After the war ended, Australians remained in Korea for four years as military observers. Since then, Australia has maintained a presence, discharged by the Australian Military Attaché.

Australia's involvement in the Korean War won much praise from other nations. Awards and decorations given to Australians during the war totalled 615, while awards given to Australians by other countries numbered 173. Australia also gained many political and security benefits, the most important being the signing of the ANZUS Treaty with the United States and New Zealand.

The cost of the war in Korea was immense, particularly for its people. The attempt by the Communist North to unite Korea under its rule had been stopped, but it had killed more than two million people, and turned many Korean civilians into homeless refugees.

Today, Korea is still divided into North and South.


A listing of maps used throughout this site.

Written and researched by Rosalind Hearder. Additional content  provided by Chris Goddard.