The Royal Australian Navy in Korea.
Australia's involvement and the cost
RAN IN THE KOREAN WAR
In the first decade of the Twentieth Century, the Korean Peninsula was something of a pawn in power struggles between greater expansionist powers; primarily Japan and Russia. In 1910, after five years of provisional Japanese rule, Korea was annexed by Japan and a harsh colonial rule ensued. The Korean plight was largely ignored internationally until an agreement was reached at the Cairo Conference in December 1943 making Korean independence an Allied war aim. Later discussions at Yalta and Potsdam led the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) to an agreement that Korea, upon the defeat of Japan, should be divided at the 38th parallel in order that the occupying Japanese could be disarmed. The type of government to be installed was not discussed.
The decision to divide Korea had an unforeseen, and ultimately disastrous, consequence. A Soviet backed communist regime was established in North Korea under Kim Il-sung, whilst in the south elections were held sponsored by the United Nations (UN). Relations between the two Korean Governments remained tense and finally on 25 June 1950 North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the South. The UN reaction to the invasion was swift and on 27 June the UN requested assistance for South Korea.
On the 29 June the Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, placed HMA Ships Shoalhaven (I) andBataan at the disposal of UN authorities in support of the Republic of Korea. From this time onwards until the cessation of maritime operations on 27 July 1953, RAN units played a major role in support of UN operations.
RAN destroyers and frigates were predominantly involved in conducting blockade, escort and bombardment duties on both sides of the Korean Peninsular. Escort and blockade duties were generally tedious but essential. Ships carrying out coastal blockade duties close to shore occasionally came under fire from enemy shore batteries. The first such exchange involving a RAN ship occurred on 1 August 1950 when Bataan was attacked by shore batteries whilst patrolling near the Haeju Gulf, northwest of Inchon.Battan returned fire and silenced four of the enemy guns. The Royal Navy (RN) cruiser HMS Belfast soon joined Bataan and both ships engaged the enemy. Bataan was straddled by enemy fire on a number of occasions during the duel.
HMAS Warramunga (I) arrived in Korean waters on 14 August 1950 and on 29 August provided escort support for the first non-American troops to arrive in Korea when British troops were landed at Pusan.Warramunga also acted as part of the screen for the aircraft carrier HMS Triumph when she operated off the east coast near Pusan.
Both Warramunga and Bataan were assigned to screening duties for the Allied landings at Inchon on 15 September. At about this time it was also decided to extend the deployment of RAN ships in the Area of Operations to a year due to the difficulty that the small post-war RAN experienced in maintaining a shorter deployment schedule. Both ships on station were to spend most of their service conducting patrols and bombardments of enemy positions and facilities. Warramunga and Bataan were both operating near the Yalu River when China intervened on the side of North Korea at the end of September.
Bataan was relieved by HMAS Murchison in June 1951. During her deployment Murchison was to gain fame during engagements with enemy shore batteries off the Han River. In September/October 1951 whilst patrolling in the Han River Estuary, Murchison was engaged by enemy guns of up to 75 mm.Murchison returned fire with her main armament and 40 mm Bofors guns. Her intense and accurate fire quickly silenced the enemy guns. The next day, whilst patrolling the same area, Murchison was again engaged by enemy shore batteries. On this occasion Murchison received a number of hits, fortunately there were no fatalities. With other UN ships arriving on the scene, the Communist batteries were quickly silenced.
By this stage Warramunga had been relieved byHMAS Anzac (II). During her tour of duty,Anzac conducted patrols as well as landing intelligence teams and also conducted some train hunting. Her short deployment came to an end on 30 September 1951 when she escorted HMS Glory to Australia for a refit. Anzac was replaced by HMAS Tobruk (I).
In addition to the operations of the destroyers and frigates, the aircraft carrier HMASSydney (III) and embarked squadrons were also deployed to the Korean theatre. Her first operations were on 4 October 1951 on the west coast. After transferring to the east coast she commenced operations against enemy troop concentrations and suspected supply dumps. On 21 October Sydney's aircraft attacked a large concentration of North Korean junks preparing to launch an assault on Taehwa Do Island. Other operations included support for the Commonwealth Division and search and rescue patrols. Sydney's aircraft were generally engaged in operations against lines of communication, troop concentrations and industrial infrastructure, though the sub-zero temperatures of the northern winter had a negative influence on flying operations.
Sydney's deployment to Korea resulted in the general introduction of fluorescent panels to aid rescue aircraft. The system, devised by CAPT Harries, was so successful in aiding the location of downed crews that it was recommended for general introduction.
Sydney departed for Australia, accompanied byTobruk, on 25 January 1952, arriving back in Australia on 22 February. Murchison also left the war zone just five days later having spent a total of 60 days in the Han River region.Warramunga and Bataan took their place in Korean waters. On 14 February Bataan was hit by enemy coastal batteries but no major was sustained, and in March Warramunga was also the target of enemy shore based fire but was not hit. Both ships continued to be engaged in patrol and bombardment work throughout this second deployment.
In the second half of 1952, HMA Ships Anzacand Condamine (I) were deployed to the war-zone. In September and October Condamine defeated an attempt by Communist forces to capture the Island of Tok Som, whilst Anzac received the unwelcome attention of North Korean shore batteries. By this stage the war had reached a stalemate and serious attempts were being made to resolve a cease-fire. However, it was not until July 1953 that naval operations were halted, and by that stage two more RAN ships, HMA Ships Culgoa and Tobruk, had deployed to Korea During her deployment Culgoa aided in the evacuation of Allied troops from Yong Mae do Island.
As well as conducting naval operations, members of the RAN provided humanitarian assistance to the general populace. Throughout 1950/51, RAN ships regularly visited off shore islands carrying rice and other food stuffs for the inhabitants. In 1952, Condamine discovered about 100 orphaned Korean children living with the locals on an island off the west coast. The ship's company provided these children with warm clothing, fruit, chocolate and meat. On a subsequent trip the ship delivered a large number of toys purchased with money collected by the crew.
The Korean War came to end with the signing of an armistice agreement on 27 July 1953 and RAN warships continued post-armistice patrols until June 1954.
Statistical data relating to RAN Korean Operations:
|SYDNEY||A/C||31 August 1951 - 22 February 1952|
|ANZAC||D|| 06 August 1951 - 17 October 1951 |
06 September 1952 - 26 June 1953
|BATAAN||D|| 10 June 1950 - 06 June 1951 |
17 January - 25 September 1952
|TOBRUK||D|| 31 August 1951 - 23 February 1952 |
03 June 1953 - 12 February 1954
|WARRAMUNGA||D|| 14 August 1950 - 29 August 1951 |
17 January 1952 - 08 August 1952
|CULGOA||F||14 March 1953 - 26 June 1953|
|CONDAMINE||F||04 July 1952 - 10 April 1953|
|MURCHISON||F||09 May 1951 - 17 February 1952|
|SHOALHAVEN||F||27 June 1950 - 22 September 1950|
A/C = Aircraft Carrier | D = Destroyer | F = Frigate
RAN SQUADRONS DEPLOYED (HMAS SYDNEY):
| 805 Squadron |
| Operational Sorties Flown: |
Number of Flying Days:
Daily Sortie Rate:
Hansa Altenburg - IMO 9516739
| DEPARTS PORT OF LYTTELTON 31st MARCH 2012 |