70 years on from the Korean War

Minister Matt Keogh with Korean War veteran Ernie Holden at the 70th anniversary commemorations.

On 27 July, Korean Veterans' Day, we paid tribute to the service of Australi­ans who fought in the Korean War, and marked 70 years since the armistice was signed to effectively end the conflict.

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea (People’s Democratic Republic of Korea) launched an invasion of South Korea (Republic of Korea) in an attempt to unify the country under its communist government. To aid the South, the Australian Government sent personnel along with the 21 member states of the United Nations. It was the first conflict for the newly formed Australian Regular Army.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Matt Keogh attended commemorative events in the Republic of Korea, meeting with several Australian veter­ans and their families.

'I was honoured to represent Australia in South Korea to pay tribute to those who lost their lives, to those whose scars remain some 70 years later and to acknowledge all those still missing in action,' Minister Keogh said. 'They will not be forgotten.'

'For many Australians who served in the rug­ged hills and shell-shattered cities, who saw the impact on the people of South Korea, the mem­ory of this war remained imprinted on their mind. And for those who never came home, their absence left a void in the lives of their loved one’s – a constant reminder of the heavy cost of war.'

In the days before the armistice, Australian troops were heavily involved in the Battle of Sam­ichon River, the last battle fought in the Korean War. Also known as the Battle of the Hook, the intense action saw 2nd Battalion, Royal Aus­tralian Regiment (2RAR) and 3rd Battalion, 7th United States Marine Regiment bear the brunt of successive Chinese attacks.

The Chinese did not succeed in penetrating the Australian trenches. On the morning of 26 July, they abandoned the attack with between two to three thousand dead in front of the Australian and American line. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 were wounded.

At 10 am on 27 July the formal armistice was signed at Panmunjom, which took effect at 10 pm that night. The date is formally commemorated in Australia as Korean Veterans’ Day. Australian soldiers, sailors and aviators fought alongside their South Korean allies, so it is also a day when we reaffirm the bonds of friendship that exist between our two nations.

About 18,000 Australian military personnel served during the Korean War, including the Air Force, Navy and Army. More than 350 Aus­tralians lost their lives during the war and in the post-armistice period, more than 1,200 were wounded and 30 taken prisoner.

After three years of fighting, Australians remained for another four years to help maintain a fragile truce. Seventy years on, we affirm that Korea has never been “the forgotten war” and we remember the sacrifices of the Australian men and women who served.ears on from the Korean War


Above: Minister Matt Keogh with Korean War veteran Ernie Holden at the 70th anniversary commemorations.