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Korea - 1950

The North Invades and the Pushback

On 25 June 1950, the North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea.

The unprepared and poorly equpped South Korean army was forced to retreat, losing about half of its force within a week. The North Koreans captured Soeul and advanced on the port of Pusan.

The United Nations Security Council asked its members to help repel the North Koreans.

Within two days of the war beginning the United States had committed navy and air force units to assist. Australia was the second nation to commit forces sending the 3rd Batallion RAR, No. 77 Squadron RAAF and two ships, the frigate HMAS Shoalhaven and the destroyer HMAS Bataan, all of which had been stationed in Japan as part of the occupation force.

Eventually, 21 nations contributed to the UN force.

On 17 September 1950, South Korean, American and British troops launched a counter-offensive from Pusan, recapturing Soeul and advancing towards the North Korean border.

Despite a warning from China that any incursion into the North would not be tolerated, the UN forces contnued to advance, capturing Pyongyang.

As part of the advance, Australia's 3rd Batallion RAR was involved in its first major action. On the morning of 22 October 1950, 3RAR was the lead battalion leaving the town of Yongju when it came under fire from enemy troops within a nearby apple orchard.

In the following week, 3RAR was involved in two more battles - the "battle of the broken bridge" at Kujin and at Chongju.

The Battle of Yongju

At 9 am on 22 October 1950, C Company 3RAR came under attack from North Koreans who were forming up in an apple orchard to attack American forces which had cut off the Koreans retreat to the north.

The Australians were unable to use artillary or mortars for fear of hitting the Americans and, so, two Australian platoons, with some fire support form 18 American Sherman tanks, charged the North Koreans.

The Australians quickly overcame the North Koreans who were surprised by the speed and forocity of the attack.

150 North Koreans were killed, 239 wounded and 200 captured; 7 Australians were wounded.

Captain Arthur Denness was awarded the Military Cross for his leadership and Private Charles McMurray received the Military Medal for bravery.

The Battle of the Broken Bridge

On 25 October 1950, 3RAR was tasked with capturing a key bridge across the Taeryong River near Kujin, North Korea.

Australian troops on the broken bridge
Australian troops on the broken bridge

When they arrived at the bridge, the Australians found that the centre span had been destroyed by the North Koreans to prevent the UN forces advancing.

The Australians sent a reconnaissance patrol across the river using debris from the destroyed span. When the Australians came under heavy fire from North Koreans in the hills overlooking the bridge they were ordered to withdraw to allow an airstrike on the North Korean position and American engineers to construct a ford across the river.

That night two companies of Australains crossed the river, again using debris from the destroyed span, to secure the bridgehead. The Australians came under mortar fire which was largely ineffective, followed by heavy small arms fire which caused a number of casualties.

At 4am, the North Koreans supported by two tanks, attacked. A North Korean convoy bringing troops to try to reoccupy the ridge was ambushed by the Australians forcing the North Koreans to flee, abandoning their vehicles.

At dawn, the Australians called in an air strike on the North Korean position. The battle continued until noon whan the North Koreans withdrew.

In the battle 100 North Koreans were killed and 350 captured; 8 Australians were killed and 22 wounded.

The Battle of Chongju

On 29 October 1950, 3RAR detected a strong North Korean armoured force equipped with tanks and self-propelled guns on a thickly wooded ridgeline across the UN line of advance.

The Australians, with American M4 Sherman tanks and aircraft in support, launched a series of attacks. The North Koreans were forced to withdraw and the Australians captured the ridgeline after three hours of fighting.

The North Koreans brought in heavy reinforcements and that evening, attacking the Australian southern flank, partially penetrating their perimeter. After two hours of fighting the assault was repulsed.

The North Koreans then launched a furious assault against the northern flank, which also failed with heavy North Korean losses.

The following day, the Australians advanced to the high ground overlooking Chongju, killing and capturing a number of North Koreans in skirmishes.

162 North Koreans were killed and 10 captured; 9 Australians were killed and 30 wounded.

Troop levels:  
North Korean 200,000
South Korean 100,000/td>