Within days of the invasion of South Korea by North Korean forces on June 25, 1950, the United Nations Security Council had the support of 21 member nations, including Australia, to defend South Korea.
The Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force committed forces to the United Nations effort in Korea within a week of the war beginning. Australian ground troops arrived in September 1950. The armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, and the last troops did not leave Korean shores until August 1957.
About 18,000 Australian service personnel served in Korea between 1950 and 1957, including Army and Royal Australian Air Force nurses. Australia suffered some 1500 casualties, including more than 350 who lost their lives, and 30 who were taken prisoner. More than 40 Australians are still listed as missing in action.
The Korean War marked the first collective UN military action and Australian sailors, soldiers and airmen won international respect for their courage, endurance and combat skills.
Sadly, looking back on the Korean War, one Australian soldier remarked, “Most Australians of the Korean War regard themselves as the forgotten veterans of a forgotten war.”
In this, the final year of the Anzac Centenary, it is my sincere hope these words are no longer true and that the men and women who bravely served in the Korean War know Australia honours their service. Lest we forget.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs