THE KOREAN WAR
It was on 25 June 1950, on a sultry summer's day in another century, that a horde of North Korean troops swept across the 3 8th parallel-without warning or declaration- against a peaceful South Korean community. Within three days the capital, Seoul, had fallen. This was an immediate threat to the sovereignty of the South Korean nation and to the stability of the world.
The next day, 26 June, the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, ordered American forces to repel any invasion attempt by the Chinese Communist forces. On the afternoon of 27 June, the United Nations Security Council in New York resolved that its members should assist South Korea to restore peace.
The first Australian participation in the Korean War was airborne: RAAF operations commenced on 2 July 1950. The Naval contribution quickly followed when HMAS Shoalhaven set sail on 7 July 1950. The Army component deployed on 27 September 1950 when the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), left the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF), Japan, and embarked on the Aiken Victory heading for the southern Korean port of Pusan. Ultimately twenty-one other countries came to the aid of the South Koreans. It was the first real test of the United Nations' resolve.
These were perilous times for the world in the midst of a bitter international Cold War. The United States, USSR, United Kingdom and the Chinese Republic were poised for battle-apparently on the brink of a third world war. Fortunately, due to the timely action of the United Nations and the courageous efforts of the allied and Australian troops within Korea, this was not to be. However a bitter localised battle raged throughout the Korean peninsula for some three years.
The effects of the war in Korea were both global and local. Globally, the war spelt an end to the political stalemate between Russia and China and marked a return to conciliation with the United Nations in the quest for world peace.
For the citizens of Korea it meant a bitter civil war-family against family, friend against friend-resulting in the deaths of some three million men, women and children. On the other hand, South Korea was saved from occupation and developed into a vital and prosperous new democratic nation. While direct combat operations ceased on 27 July 1953, a state of war between the North and the South continues to this day.
For Australia it meant the deployment of over 17,000 troops-sailors, soldiers, airmen, and nurses-a significant and meaningful commitment for so small a population. With that deployment also came international recognition of Australia as an active member of the United Nations and a participant in world affairs. It was not the first time that Australia had come to protect its national interests outside its own borders. The cost to Australia was immense. The Australian forces suffered 1,585 casualties: 340 killed in action; 1,216 wounded; and 29 taken prisoner. For others the cost was equally great: