B A T T L E F I E L D K O R E A
THE WAR ON LAND
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, and rain and snow for long periods. The war was an exacting test of fitness of both men and equipment.
Finally, the Korean War showed that the Australian soldier has lost none of the versatility, toughness and initiative which were the hallmark of his predecessors in the First AIF and the Second AIF. The Australian Army contingent in Korea was an all-volunteer force. When special enlistments were called for, men with combat experience in the 1939-45 War ensured that there was no shortage of applicants. They were motivated by a variety of factors: the challenge of combat: boredom or frustration with civilian life in Australia after demobilisation and a wider feeling of concern that the North Korean invasion, if it was not rebuffed, might be a harbinger of a direct threat to Australia's security. They fought hard, in appalling climatic conditions, against a determined enemy who showed that he could sometimes get the upper hand. Yet the Australians proved that, man-for-man and unit-for-unit they could acquit themselves on the battlefield better than most and they earned unstinted praise from their allies. Their record of bravery, of consideration for their wounded mates when in danger, of dash in the offensive and dogged persistence in defence such as that displayed at Kapyong, on Maryang San, (Buffalo, Blaze, The Hook) and in countless small patrol actions on the Jamestown line (the static war) - and their quick-witted, aggressive and subtle tactics, set the new, post-1939-45 War Army off to an excellent start. They enhanced Australia's reputation as an ally and helped to make the Commonwealth Division one of the most highly regarded formations of the entire army. But perhaps their greatest achievement was to develop the skill of patrolling to a fine art, of which they were undisputed masters.
Earlier in the morning I had been wounded in the fore part of my head (following a misguided Napalm strike). I must have looked a sight. I was sitting there, stunned and no doubt feeling a bit sick and sorry for myself. I then saw the most appalling apparition. A man with no flesh - his hands were dripping flesh - completely naked. As he walked, I saw these huge bloated feet. The sticks and the stones came up through his feet. He sat down next to me. I didn't know who he was. He looked at me and said, 'Jesus, Nugget, you're having a bad day'.
TO THE YALU
But Kapyong was not the only battle. Most of the soldiers who held the ridges at Kapyong were also there at the Apple Orchard and the Broken Bridge, at Chongju and Pakchon. They mounted rearguard in the Big Bug Out from Kunu-ri: stood