Lt. Col. Charles Hercules Green, DSO, Silver Star (US)
26/12/1919 – 1/11/1950
Commanding Officer of 3 RAR, Korea, till death 1/11/1950
"From farmer to legend", soldier, 3 RAR
Lt Col Charles Green has the distinction of being the first to command a unit of the newly-formed Regular Army in its first war, The Korean War.
Charles Green died of wounds on 1st November, 1950, sustained in the Battle of Chongju 29 October, 1950. Though Green was only 30 when he died, he had been a commanding officer of three infantry battalions in three branches of the Australian Army.
His first was in 1945, in the AIF, as CO of the 2/11 Battalion of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, AIF. [The second AIF was modelled on the first AIF, the volunteer citizen expeditionary force raised for the first World War and the creator of the Anzac legend] A CO at 25, he was the youngest in command of a battalion in action in WW2 . For his leadership of 2/11 Bn in the Aitape-Wewak Campaign, New Guinea, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Green had enlisted in the AIF, as a lieutenant, on the first day of recruitment for World War 2, which explains his prestigiously low AIF number of 121. Though Green had served for the whole 6 years of the war, he returned to civilian life for only a brief period. From 1945 to the end of 1948 he worked as a clerk in a farm produce firm in Grafton, NSW, close to the farm at Swan Creek where he had grown up, where he had enjoyed farming and his horses.
Charles Green's next command was in the Citizen Military Forces, called the militia until the army was re-organised in 1948 in order that the CMF could be used to augment the new, Regular Army. Green, by being given command of the 41st Battalion, CMF ( head-quartered in Lismore not far from Grafton), was back in what was virtually the very battalion he had enlisted for in 1936. A quick calculation reveals he was only 16. In hindsight, we note that he had unknowingly shaped his destiny, for he quickly progressed through the rank of sergeant to 2nd lieutenant.
Upon taking command of his old, first, battalion , Green demonstrated his admiration for the great British units he had trained with in the Middle East, by immediately setting about having the 41st affiliated with the British Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Little did he know he would be serving alongside 1 Bn of the Argylls in Korea within 3 years. Charlie Green would have recollected on his first experience in the 41st and the importance of great instructors like the World War 1 Warrant Officer, Harry Preston, who observed and fostered Green's apparent talent.
Having command of 41st Battalion, Green remained in contact with the Army and explains, as it is alleged, how he was approached with an offer of the substantive rank of Lt Col if he were to join the Regular Army. Green who had risen rapidly in rank in the 2/2 Battalion had gained wide experience and exemplary training from renowned Commanding Officers: (Sir) George Wootten, (Sir) Frederick Chilton, and the revered "Boss" Edgar, during the campaigns in Africa, Greece and in garrison duties in Syria and Ceylon. When Charlie Green himself became a battalion commander, he did credit to his models by immediately demonstrating his talent as a leader. His service record rendered him a valuable resource for the new Regular Army.
It was in January 1949 that Green reluctantly forewent his precious AIF number and took a new number 2/37504, designating him a member of the Royal Australian Regiment. His first appointment was instructor at the School of Tactics and Administration, Seymour, Victoria. The change in number could not indicate how much change he faced in what would prove to be a culture very different from that of the AIF.
Charlie Green had, too, after only three years of civilian life, embarked on another journey that took him away from his professed love, the country and his dream of owning a farm.
Seconded to the Australian Staff College in 1950, Green's future looked very promising. However, with the outbreak of the Korean War, and his unexpected appointment as CO of 3 RAR, the battalion Australia committed to the Korean War, he was withdrawn from the Staff College in August, half way through the course. Though it was apparently without precedent, the coveted p.s.c (passed Staff College) was granted to Charles Green.
3 RAR, arrived in Korea on September 28 1950, and was post haste moved forward to join and become part of the 27th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade led by Brigadier Aubrey Coad. The 27th British Commonwealth Brigade comprised the 1 Bn Argylls, 1 Bn Middlesex Regiment and 3 Bn Royal Australian Regiment.
The 27th British Commonwealth Brigade spearheaded the US 8th Army advance into North Korea - up what is called the main invasion route - with the ultimate object of reaching the Yalu River. The Australians happened to be in the van when they became involved in three significant and successful actions. In the first battle, the "blooding of the battalion" called Apple Orchard", 22nd October, 1950, the Australians had the task of going to the relief of the US 187th Airborne Regiment. Their second major action on October 25th was called the "Battle of the Broken Bridge." Using the principle of surprise to deal with North Korean opposition, Charlie Green used the daring tactic of thrusting his infantry men across a half-destroyed bridge in the dark, where they engaged the enemy and sent them fleeing.
On October 29th, 1950, the 27 BCB Brigade , with the Australians in the lead, the nature of battle changed for upon approaching Chongju, 3 RAR faced stiff opposition from the North Koreans blocking the road with the support of dug-in T34 tanks. Intelligence later established that the North Koreans had been ordered to hold at Chongju, which accounts for the very fierce battle the Australians fought to clear the advance route.
Charles Green became the victim of fate or chance. Chongju gained, another battalion had taken point, to allow 3 RAR to move to a rest place on the afternoon of 30th October. Charlie Green lay down to a much-needed rest in a pup tent, sited by one of his officers " in a safe place" just as dark approached. Shortly after, a shell hit a tree close by and a piece of shrapnel mortally wounded him. Incredibly, not one of the other 1000 men in the location was harmed. He battled for his life, but died on 1st November in a MASH hospital at Anju.
A dramatic turn of events occurred simultaneously: The 8th Army was halted, by the entry of the Chinese into the war. The UN Army was forced to withdraw across the peninsular; "A new war had begun." It was the day Charlie Green died it is alleged, that the Chinese entered the war – and changed the war.
After 32 days of outstanding leadership through 3 battles, Green , himself often in the thick of battle, had led his battalion for 7 unremitting weeks fighting battles "off the line". It was observed that he demonstrated grief as he witnessed field burials of some fine soldiers. He had had little gratification. He surely did have a brief time to feel relief that he had gained his objective, Chongju, after which he had been promised his battalion would be given much needed rest. He surely felt pride that his men had acquitted themselves so magnificently. He was not to know that his men, the men he described as "good men," would not be relieved. Instead, within a few days, they were in the thick of battle again, and a lot more fine soldiers were to die.
Green would not have realised, either, how instrumental his leadership was in 3 RAR's earning for itself a major place in the history of Australia's famous fighting battalions. In those first few weeks, a foundation was laid not only for 3 RAR but also for the Regiment. How different the history of the new Regular Army might have been had not the reputation and the spirit of the Regiment been so quickly established.
Men who were present beside Charlie Green as he actually commanded, often in the thick of battle, were his snipers or bodyguards, and his jeep driver. They have readily given their observations. His jeep driver will tell how he and "the boss" came under fire and leapt out of the jeep to take cover. The driver began digging with a shovel which Green seized from him, declaring ,"Let someone dig who knows how to dig."
They will tell you how well he could read the terrain; how he could detect from "the sound of the battle" what was happening, where things were going wrong. He could think tactics in a flash, decisively and brilliantly. The tall, lean, brown man they called "boss" was a man with presence, the soldiers say, and they will describe him with words like "He looked the part." Above all, they were amazed by his calm. His sniper Robbie explained how at the Apple Orchard when they were surrounded by enemy, the boss ignored the danger and went on with his job, relying on them. Robbie said he often reflects on that situation for had he misfired he would have hit the boss. He remembers, pensively, "He had such strong hands, the hands of a bushman, hands that did things. He was a horse handler, wasn't he!"
Another sniper, John, has noted that in recent years Charlie Green has become known as "Charlie", probably through the title of the book his widow wrote called "The Name's Still Charlie. " John, a great admirer of Green whom he calls "our hero" will, nevertheless, remind you, bemusedly, that Charlie Green was very strict and that "nobody in the line would have dared call him Charlie."
Major General David Butler who was a lieutenant and a Silver Star winner at Apple Orchard in an about-to-be published manuscript, "The Fight Leaders" observes Green's brilliance, which has "seldom been equalled" and how "his early death [denies] him his rightful place in history."
Jack Gallaway, a signal platoon sergeant in 3 RAR, published his account of 3 RAR in action in Korea, called "The Last Call of the Bugle." Gallaway asserts "seldom have infantry soldiers been blessed with a commander of such quality…Charlie Green [in his seven weeks as CO] earned a place in the memory of his diggers…a place that remained uniquely his."
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