THE ANZAC TRADITION AND KOREA
EX HMAS ANZAC
Again we have accepted an anonymous contribution , the author known only to the Editors. He was a "good sailor" and his story echoes the thoughts of many of his mates from the lower deck.
HMAS ANZAC was commissioned on 14 March 1951, at Williamstown Dockyard where she was built. She carried 4x4.5 inch guns in two turrets, with the latest gun direction equipment including the "Flyplane Predictor". She also carried two 40mm stabilised-tacheometric ant-aircraft guns (STAAG). She was twin screw driven by 50,000 S.H.P. steam turbines with a top speed of 31 knots.
During trial of the gunnery equipment, the RAAF, had provided a Beaufort Bomber to tow the target drogue. Regrettably, the predictor was not calibrated correctly, thus the accuracy of the 4.5s was such that they nearly shot down the towing aircraft. The pilot was obviously unimpressed with our gunnery and fled the scene. The RAAF were rather loath to expose their aircrew to such cavalier activity and refused to supply other planes. However, they did relent and provided a Beaufighter as the towing medium. They possibly reasoned that a fighter was a smaller target than a bomber. The radar controlled anti-aircraft guns were used for this trial. Once again fate took a hand in the proceedings. The radar locked onto the towing steel cable, the shells parted the wire and as the wire coiled back towards the aircraft, the guns followed the radar and again nearly shot down the towing aircraft. The RAAF was not amused and needless to say, refused to have any more to do with us. We eventually completed our trials and proceeded to Sydney.
Soon after arrival in Sydney, the ship's company was advised that we were to take HMAS Tobruk's place, and do a short tour of duty in Korean waters. Apparently, Tobruk had some serious problems and was unable to meet her commitments. ANZAC TO THE FORE. We left Sydney on 6 August 1951 and arrived Sasebo, Japan, as per schedule. After provisioning we were assigned to an American Task Force. We were required to do a gunnery shoot with an American target ship which used model drone aircraft as targets. After shooting down 4 of the drones we were pulled out of the line. We proceeded to the Korean coast where our first assignment was plane-guard to the USS Sicily, an escort carrier. This task went without incident.
We were then sent to west coast of Korea to neutralise a position at a place called Haeju, which was causing problems for the Allied troops. We had at this time a US Marine Combat Film team to record our action. The 4.5s performed very well. We eliminated the whole area including guns, ammunition, buildings and personnel. A satisfactory conclusion to our first bit of action.
We were then, together with two British destroyers, HMS Comus and HMS Cockade, the USS Thompson and a Colombian ship, called Almirante Esparante, sent to operate on the east coast of North Korea. The operational area was between Sonjin and Chongjin, the latter being the main marshalling yards in North Korea and situated just below Vladivostoc, the lights of which could be seen on the horizon at night.
During the day, together with the other destroyers, we would bombard the railway bridges connecting the tunnels between the hills. These, together with the trains, were our primary targets. We would knock out the bridges during the day and the North Koreans would rebuild them overnight.
We fired Starshells one night and the scene was unbelievable. The area was like a giant ant nest, with thousands of people swarming over the construction of bridges. One should never underestimate the will and the ability of the Asian people. Whilst in this area a Corsair aircraft from the USS Boxer crashed into the sea. We moved in to rescue the pilot only to find we were in a minefield. We retrieved the pilot and got out of the mined area without incident. The pilot was from California, USA.
It was soon after this that the USS Thompson was hit several times by heavy artillery the North Koreans kept hidden in tunnels in the hills. Our first visit to Chongjin was to take a group of South Korean commandoes from the island of Yang Do, led by a US Marine lieutenant. We landed this team in sampans they had brought with them. They were ashore for quite some time, raiding the area headquarters and killing all the occupants. A number of these commandoes were also killed and wounded. The sampans that returned were coated in blood and they brought back with them prisoners of war (POW) including two children.
One incident is worthy of mention. We did not have a doctor on board, our medical officer had been previously landed in Hong Kong. One of the Koreans had been gut shot and was in a pretty bad way. Leading Sickbay Attendant, Arthur Rowe, operated on this soldier, removed the bullet and stitched him up. I understand that the soldier made a full recovery. Unfortunately, Arthur Rowe received no recognition for this outstanding performance of his duty. Sometimes it happens this way.
As our visit to Korea was only a fill-in until HMAS Tobruk was combat ready, our Captain used every moment in the North Korean area to harass the enemy at every opportunity. We were regularly replenished with ammunition, food and fuel oil. and of course, the inevitable American ice cream and Hershey bars.
I suppose it matters not whether you have been in action for minutes, hours or days, the feelings you experience never leave you. That feeling will never be known by those who have never had to face action. We were relieved by HMAS Tobruk in Sasebo and sailed for Sydney, having forged the first part of the Battle Honours for HMAS Anzac. This was the second ship to bear the name but the first to have Battle Honours awarded to her. HMAS Anzac had a second tour of duty in Korea in 1952 and distinguished herself as she had during the first tour.
There can be no doubt that HMAS Anzac, in her two tours of duty in Korea, carried on the immortal tradition originated by those heroic soldiers at the landing of Gallipoli in 1915.
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