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By Petar Djokovic
JUNE 25 this year marked
the 59th anniversary of the
beginning of the Korean War.
Six days after North
Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel
into South Korea, the frigate HMAS
Shoalhaven had the distinction of
being the first Australian unit to carry
out an operation in the conflict. By
the time the war ended three years
later, more than 4500 men aboard nine
Australian warships had served in the
At 4am on June 25, 1950, the com-
munist forces of North Korea crossed
the 38th Parallel and invaded the south,
forcing the United Nations (UN) to
defend the sovereignty of South Korea.
Within days HMA Ships
Shoalhaven (CMDR Ian McDonald)
and Bataan (CMDR William Marks)
were placed at the disposal of the
UN's commander, General Douglas
Control of the sea was critical to
prevent the immediate fall of South
Korea and also to enable the UN to
enforce a blockade, land ground forc-
es, re-supply units, bombard coastal
targets and maintain a carrier-based air
The RAN ships were employed
mainly in patrol and escort duties off
the Korean west coast and all under-
took extensive shore bombardments
throughout the course of the war.
On September 15 that year, HMA
The Korean see-saw
Ships Bataan and Warramunga
(CMDR Otto Becher) formed part of
the covering force supporting amphibi-
ous landings at Inchon, engaging
enemy coastal installations and gun
batteries. Two weeks later, UN forces
China's intervention in the war,
however, brought significant reversals
and by January 4, 1951, Seoul was
back in communist hands.
Warramunga and Bataan also
participated in the evacuations of
Chinnampo and Inchon.
Communist forces were slowly
pushed back over the 38th Parallel
early in 1951 and stalemate ensued.
Peace talks began on July 10, 1951 but
dragged on for two years.
A show of naval strength in the
Han River Estuary was ordered to
pressure the North Korean delega-
tion into a cease-fire and, on July 25
1951, HMAS Murchison (LCDR Allan
Dollard) began eight successive days
of bombardment operations in the estu-
ary and came under heavy return fire,
though only three of her complement
HMAS Sydney's (CAPT David
DAILY ROUTINE: HMAS Warramunga conducts naval gunfire support
in support of amphibious landings at Inchon (right), while a Sea Fury is
pre-flighted on the deck of HMAS Sydney during a blizzard (above).
Photos: Sea Power Center -- Australia
September 3, 2009
Harries) deployment in October 1951
was a high priority for the RAN, com-
ing soon after the establishment of the
Fleet Air Arm.
Flying operations began on October
5 and, six days later, Sydney's Carrier
Air Group set a light fleet carrier
record by flying 89 sorties in one day.
Sydney's main responsibilities
included armed reconnaissance, army
cooperation, naval gunfire spotting and
combat air patrols. The deployment
was an unqualified success.
The Korean War came to end with
the signing of an armistice agreement
on July 27, 1953, and RAN warships
continued post-armistice patrols until
Three RAN members lost their
lives in the conflict (all pilots from 805
Squadron) and four were wounded; 62
members received commendations and
The Korean War never expanded
into the global conflict that many
feared at the time but it did provide the
RAN with extensive tactical and logis-
tic experience as part of a maritime
coalition, experience that continues to
serve the RAN well to this day.
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