The Armed Forces in the Korean War
Australian Army in the Korean War
At the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 the Australian army was a shadow of the army which had served during 1939-1945...
Demobilisation and financial restrictions imposed since 1945 had resulted in an army that was barely capable of fielding one combat ready battalion. In 1950 the undermanned Australian element of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan was all that was available to meet the crisis in Korea. Due to constraints imposed by their terms of enlistment and the poor state of readiness of many of the occupation force soldiers, very few were available for immediate deployment. Unwilling to send what would have been a small and unprepared force into battle, the Army withheld committing any troops to Korea for several months. In the meantime the first-ever regular infantry units of the Australian Army had been formed with the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) being brought up to war strength and readied for service in Korea.
The soldiers of 3RAR were mostly Second World War veterans and all had volunteered for service in Korea. In October 1950 3RAR, operating as an integral battalion within the British Commonwealth 27th Brigade took part in the pursuit of the broken North Korean army after the Pusan breakout. Hard fighting followed as 3RAR along with all other UN forces contended with the Chinese intervention. In July 1951 the 1st Commonwealth Division was formed to which the Australian Army contributed two infantry battalions as part of the 27th Brigade which was later redesignated the 28th Brigade. The Korean War was above all an infantryman’s war which the Australian battalions, composed as they were of veteran soldiers, engaged in with consistent competence. Even though Australians were offered few opportunities for higher operational command the Australian Army did provide the most senior leadership positions of the British Commonwealth forces in Korea with Lt. General Sir Horace Robertson being the first of four Australian Lt. Generals to fill that role. During the three years of the Korean War the Australian Army deployed 10,657 soldiers. Of these 276 were killed in action, 16 died from other causes, 1210 were wounded in action and 23 became prisoners of war. One died while a prisoner.