Korea: in from the cold

International conference, Thursday 6 – Friday 7 October 2011

Logo Korea: in from the cold

In October 2011, the Australian War Memorial convened a major international conference on the Korean War. When communist North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, an American-led United Nations coalition drove the North Koreans back, which, in turn, brought China into the war. When an armistice was signed three years later, the border between the two Koreas was practically unchanged. Though the fighting was on a vast scale, particularly in 1950-51, the war was often called a ‘police action’. In fact, it was one of the most significant conflicts, politically and militarily, of the twentieth century.

The misreading of Chinese intentions, the controversial sacking of General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander, and the devising of a strategy that would prevent the conflict escalating at a time of acute Cold War tensions on the one hand while bringing it to a successful conclusion on the other, remain intriguing subjects. Korea also provided a new context for such diverse issues as the application of air and sea power, the problems of working with allies and the tactical difficulties caused by terrain and climate.

Co-inciding with the 60th anniversary of the year of landmark Australian battles in Korea, at Kapyong in April, and Maryang San in October 1951, this conference assembled leading military historians from around the world to bring a multi-national perspective to these themes. Keynote speaker, Professor Robert O’Neill, Australian Official Historian of the Korean War and former Chichele Professor of History at Oxford University, joined experts from Australia, the United States, Britain, China and South Korea to present their latest research findings. Distinguished Australian veterans of the Korean War also presented their perceptions of the conflict.

Delegates attending the conference welcomed at a reception on the evening of Wednesday 5 October 2011 at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Canberra.

Watch Dr Peter Pedersen's introduction to the conference on YouTube.


Wednesday 5 October 2011

6.00 pm for 6.30 pm

Welcome reception at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea
113 Empire Circuit, Yarralumla

Day 1 – Thursday 6 October 2011

8.15 am


9.00 am

Opening address by The Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

9.15 am

Keynote: Setting a new paradigm in World Order: the United Nations action in Korea 

Professor Robert O’Neill AO (Australian Official Historian of the Korean War and former Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford)

10.15 am

Morning tea

Session 1

Politics by other means: strategic aims and responses

10.45 am

Understanding the forgotten war: the United States and Korea, 1945–1954

Professor Allan R. Millett (Ambrose Professor of History at the University of New Orleans and the Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Military History at Ohio State University, USA)

11.30 am

China’s War for Korea: geo-strategic decision, war-fighting experience and high-priced benefits of the intervention, 1950–1953

Professor Xiaobing Li (University of Central Oklahoma, USA)

12.15 pm


1.15 pm

Fighting in the giant’s playground: Australians in the Korean War

Cameron Forbes (University of Tasmania)

2.00 pm

The transformation of the Republic of Korea Army: the wartime expansion and doctrine changes, 1950–1953

Dr Jongnam Na (Korea Military Academy, Seoul, Republic of Korea)

Session 2

Panel discussion: Containment as opposed to escalation; attrition as opposed to swift decision

2.45 pm

International panel: Professor Robert O’Neill (chair), Professor Allan Millett, Professor Xiaobing Li, Mr Cameron Forbes and Dr Jongnam Na

3.30 pm

Afternoon Tea

Session 3

Korean skies and Korean waters: war in the air and at sea

4.00 pm

The air war in Korea: coalition air power in the context of limited war

Dr Richard P Hallion (National Air and Space Museum and formerly Chief Historian USAF)

4.45 pm

Korea: the first challenge for Australian naval aviation

Commodore Jack McCaffrie (Retd) (RAN Sea Power Centre)

5.30 pm

Close of day 1

7.00 pm for 7.30 pm

Conference dinner
Olims Hotel

Corner Ainslie and Limestone Avenues, Braddon
After dinner address: China and the Koreas: an Australian perspective
Rowan Callick (Asia-Pacific editor, The Australian)

Day 2 – Friday 7 October 2011

Session 4

Generals and lieutenants: command in the war

9.00 am

Australian higher command in the Korean War: the experience of Brigadier Wilton

Professor David Horner AM (Australian National University)

9.45 am

The reliving of minor tactics: a platoon commander’s war in Korea

Brigadier Colin Kahn DSO AM (Retd) (platoon commander, 1RAR, 1952)

10.30 am

Morning Tea

Session 5

Battles: Kapyong, Maryang San, Kowang San

11.00 am

The battle of Maryang San: Australia's finest feat of arms in the Korean War?

Dr Bob Breen (Australian National University)

11.45 pm

A Borderer recalls

Sir William Purves CBE DSO (platoon commander, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 1951)

12.30 pm


1.30 pm

Conquering Kowang San, assaulting united: myth and misunderstanding in the shade of Maryang San, October 1951

Nigel Steel (Imperial War Museum)

Session 6

Panel discussion: the sharp end of the war

2.15 pm

Sir William Purves CBE DSO, Brigadier Colin Kahn DSO AM (Retd), Brigadier Jim Shelton DSO MC (Retd) (company commander 3RAR, 1951–52), Lieutenant Colonel Maurie Pears MC (Retd) (platoon commander 3RAR, 1951-52), and Lieutenant Colonel Alf Argent (Retd) (intelligence officer 3RAR, 1950–51)

3.15 pm

Afternoon Tea

Session 7

Care of the wounded

3.45 pm

Continuing the legacy: Australian military nursing in the Korean War

Dr Rebecca Fleming (formerly University of New England)


Closing address

4.30 pm

From Korea to Vietnam: Australian strategic policy after the Korean War

Dr Peter Edwards AM (Australian Official Historian, Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-75)

5.15 pm

Close of day 2

Abstracts and speakers

Day 1 - Thursday 6 October 2011

The Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs

The Hon Warren Snowden MP

Warren Snowdon is the federal member for Lingiari, which covers most of the Northern Territory and is the second largest electorate in Australia. He first moved to the Northern Territory in 1976 to work as a teacher after he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Australian National University and a Diploma of Education from Murdoch University. Active in parliament for more than twenty years, Mr Snowdon served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Communications (1990-92), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Education and Training (1992-96), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment, Sport and Territories (1993-96) and Parliamentary Secretary (Territories) (1993-94). In November 2007, Mr Snowdon was appointed as the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, a portfolio he held until being made Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery in June 2009. Following the 2010 election, he was appointed Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health. In his capacity as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Mr Snowdon has visited Gallipoli, the Western Front and Greece and Crete. Since 2011 he has also been Minister assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac.

Professor Robert O’Neill AO (Australian Official Historian of the Korean War and former Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford

Keynote address: Setting a new paradigm in world order: The United Nations action in Korea

Professor Robert O'Neill

The first half of the 20th century saw two world wars, culminating in the use of nuclear weapons in 1945. Thereafter new ways had to be found for resisting international aggression and preserving the freedoms achieved.

The Korean War was a severe test: the initial enemy was fast off the mark in attacking the Republic of Korea. China’s huge military resources and the weapons and munitions of the Soviet Union backed the North Koreans. A countervailing alliance had to be formed under United Nations aegis and then go into battle – sufficiently strongly to repel North Korea but not so strongly as to risk a major war with the USSR.

Professor O’Neill will discuss the effectiveness of American leadership, the political problems of keeping the UN alliance together, and the strengths and weaknesses of the military means applied. He will also examine the working of the British Commonwealth group within this alliance and the contribution of Australia, both politically and militarily.

He will consider the performance of the country in which the war took place, the Republic of Korea. And as the Korean War still has not been concluded by a peace, he will discuss the problems of the long stalemate that has existed since the armistice of 1953.

Robert O’Neill has had a long and distinguished career and is presently Chairman of the International Academic Advisory Committee for the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Professor O'Neill was the founding Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, 1971–1982, and subsequently Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. From 1987 he was Chichele Professor of the History of War and a Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, until he retired in September 2001. He was also Chairman of the Council of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, 1996–2001; Chairman of Trustees of the Imperial War Museum 1997–2001; a director of the International Peace Academy, New York, 1990–2001; Chairman of the Council of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra, 2001–2005; and Deputy Chair of the Council of the Graduate School of Government at the University of Sydney, 2002–2005. His long list of publications includes the official history of Australia’s involvement in the Korean War, which was published in two volumes, Strategy and diplomacy (1981) and Combat operations (1985). He was also general editor of the re-issued twelve-volume series, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918 (University of Queensland Press in association with the Australian War Memorial, 1981–1989).

Professor Allan R Millett (University of New Orleans and Ohio State University)

Understanding the Forgotten War: The United States and Korea, 1945–1954

Professor Allan R Millett

The Korean War began when two irreconcilable Korean political movements found international allies that allowed them to establish rival governments in a divided Korea.  These regimes filled the political void created by the collapse of the Japanese colonial government in 1945.  American occupation south of the 38th Parallel had a single purpose, to repatriate 400,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians, many refugees from the Soviet occupation of Manchuria and northern Korea, and manage 600,000 returning Koreans.  In this turmoil, complicated by a December, 1945 US-USSR agreement on unifying Korea under a short joint trusteeship, the Koreans organised two “independence now” movements.  One was Communist, while the other was ultra-nationalist.  Soviet-dominated Communists controlled the northern zone by January, 1946.

The State Department effort to negotiate unification failed, as did a United Nations’ effort (1947-1948) because of the intransigence of the Soviet Koreans and the South Korean Labor (Communist) Party.  The latter tried to block the creation of the Republic of Korea in 1948 with terrorism, partisan warfare, and army mutinies.  South Korean security forces, aided by U.S. Army units until July 1949, and then a military advisory team, defeated this insurgency at a cost of at least 40,000 lives by June 1950.

The next Korean war, 1950-1953, was a North Korean escalation-by-invasion of a continuing conflict.  In its first year, the Communist coalition twice failed to unify Korea by force.  The ROK-US coalition, with UN sanction and 24,000 foreign troops, tried to unify Korea once, but abandoned this goal after the Chinese intervention (October-November, 1950).  The last two years of the war reflected the American and PRC-USSR concern that their Korean wards could not yet defend themselves.  Not until the two opposing Korean forces had been enlarged and improved was an armistice acceptable.

In the meantime, the U.S. used the Korean crisis to diversify its nuclear forces, expand its armed forces by a factor of three, and increase its defence spending by a factor of four.  It created both the NATO forces that defended western Europe for the next forty years and an Asian-Pacific alliance system whose essential framework is still intact.

Allan R. Millett is Ambrose Professor of History at the University of New Orleans and the Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Military History at The Ohio State University. After writing four books on the institutional history of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as being the co-author of a military history of the United States, he turned to the study of the Korean War in 1993 after serving as a Fulbright Distinguished Professor at the Korean National Defense College in 1991.  He has now written two books, A House Burning, 1945–1950 (2005) and They Came from the North, 1950–1951 (2010) in a planned trilogy, The War for Korea, 1945-1954 (University Press of Kansas).  He has written two other Korean War books, one a group of forty-two personal stories, Their War for Korea (2004); the other, a volume of historiography and bibliography, The Korean War: The Essential Bibliography (2007).  Professor Millett has also written essays about Korea and the Cold War in five different conference anthologies, as well as four journal articles on the subject.  In addition, he is the co-author (with Williamson Murray) of A War to Be Won:  Fighting the Second World War (2000), an internationally acclaimed textbook.  He is the 2008 winner of the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing Military History. Professor Millett is a colonel, USMCR (Retd).

Dr Xiaobing Li (University of Central Oklahoma)

China’s war for Korea: geo-strategic decision, war-fighting experience and high-priced benefits of the intervention, 1950-1953

Dr Xiaobing Li

Between 1950-53, the Chinese government sent more than 3 million troops to Korea.  The conflict became a war between China and the UN coalition after October 1950 when the Chinese launched five offensive campaigns to drive the UN out of Korea.  Based upon recently available communist sources, this paper examines the Chinese leaders’ strategic view in 1950, and how the onset of war impacted upon it.  The paper will also offer a new insight into the PLA’s operations and experience in Korea against the UN’s vastly superior air, naval, and ground firepower.  While the UN intent was to secure Korea, North Korea’s refusal to give up, China’s intervention on North Korea’s behalf, and the bitter stalemate on the Korean peninsula prevented any Western country from getting anywhere close to China proper.  China did reap great benefits for the high price it paid – 1.2 million casualties.  By intervening in Korea, it greatly improved its dominant power status in Asia as a new communist state.  Not only did its performance show that China was a military force capable of fighting the world’s powerful forces to a draw, but it also proved that Chinese society was secure enough to withstand a terrible conflict.

Dr Xiaobing Li is Professor and Chairman of the Department of History and Geography and Director of the Western Pacific Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S.A.  He is also the Executive Editor of the Journal of American Review of China Studies and Journal of the Western Pacific.  His research interests include Cold War history, Sino-U.S. relations, and Chinese military history.  Among his recent and forthcoming books are China’s War for Korea (Indiana University Press, forthcoming 2012), Legal Reforms in China (University of Kentucky Press, forthcoming 2012), China at War (ABC-CLIO, forthcoming 2011), Encyclopedia of the Korean War (Assistant Editor for Spencer Tucker, editor; ABC-CLIO, 2010), Voices from the Vietnam War (University of Kentucky Press, 2010), Civil Liberties in China (ABC-CLIO, 2010), A History of the Modern Chinese Army (University of Kentucky Press, 2009), New Historiography in the Contemporary West (in Chinese; Co-Editor with Tian; Shanghai, China: Lexicographical Press, 2008), Voices from the Korean War; Personal Stories of American, Korean and Chinese Soldiers (co-author with Peters; University of Kentucky Press, 2005), and Mao’s Generals Remember Korea (first co-editor with Allen R. Millett and Bin Yu; University of Kansas Press, 2001).

Cameron Forbes (University of Tasmania)

Fighting in the giant’s playground: Australians in the Korean War

Cameron Forbes

Sixty-one years ago, almost to the day, in one of the stranger episodes of the Korean War, an American correspondent came across two Australian soldiers in a foxhole within the perimeter of the American Seventh Cavalry. They were part of a group which had hitchhiked on a Sherman tank from 3 RAR’s rear base, worried that Douglas Macarthur’s Inchon masterstroke would cut short the war before they could fire a shot.

The Diggers in Korea were the latest in the line of Australian volunteer soldiers abroad, stretching back to the Sudan War. Some wanted to prove themselves as heirs to the Anzacs; all were setting the pattern for Australian involvement in future wars as a member of America’s coalitions of the willing.

This paper will examine the motivation of the foot soldiers and the problems their commanders had as part of the giant American military machine. It will discuss in particular the iconic Battle of Kapyong after which the first Aboriginal commissioned officer, Reg Saunders, declared: ‘At last I felt like an Anzac, and I imagine there were 600 others like me'.

Cameron Forbes is a graduate of Monash University. Having been Foreign Editor, Europe correspondent and Asia correspondent for The Age and Washington correspondent for The Australian, he has reported on rebellions, civil wars and wars in Northern Ireland, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Bougainville, the Philippines, Burma, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Rwanda. He has won the Canadian Award for International Reporting, the United Nations Association Media Peace Award, the Perkin Award for Journalist of the Year and the 2010 Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism. An Honorary Associate at the University of Tasmania, Cameron is the author of Hellfire: The Story of Australia, Japan and the Prisoners of War; Under the Volcano: The Story of Bali; and The Korean War: Australia in the Giants’ Playground.

Dr Jongnam Na (Korea Military Academy)

The transformation of the Republic of Korea Army: wartime expansion and doctrine changes, 1950-1953

Dr Jongnam Na

This paper deals with the reorganisation and the expansion of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army during the Korean War. During the first year of the war, the ‘old’ ROK Army experienced several heavy defeats, particularly between June and August 1950 and February and May 1951, while fighting communist forces from North Korea and China. Its reorganisation began in the summer of 1951 in what proved to be the start of a sustained campaign of modernisation. This project transformed a seriously broken South Korean military both physically and psychologically over the next two years. An expansion program to increase the ROK Army’s size to 700,000-men and 20 divisions was also significant in developing the ‘new’ ROK Army into a first-class military. With this strong and reliable force, South Koreans have been able to preserve their national security and pride through their own efforts to this day.

Jongnam Na is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Military History, Korea Military Academy, at Seoul. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, USA, in 2006 and his M.A. in history from Segang University at Seoul, Korea in 1997. He also graduated from the Korea Military Academy in 1993, and is an active duty infantry lieutenant-colonel of the ROK Army. His main research interests are military history in general, history of the Cold War, wars in Asia, the Korean War, US-South Korea military relationship and the military cultures of Asian countries. Dr Na’s recent publications include The Military Operations of the Korean War (2008), Sixty Key Battles of the Korean War  2010), Making Cold War Soldiers: Americanization of the South Korean Army (forthcoming, with the UNC Press) and The Stories of Student Soldiers during the Korean War (forthcoming, with the ROK Military History Compilation Committee).

Containment as opposed to escalation, attrition as opposed to swift decision.

Panel discussion on the strategic and political dimensions of the war: Professor Robert O'Neill, Professor Allan Millett, Professor Xiaobing Li, Mr Cameron Forbes and Dr Jongnam Na.

Dr Richard P. Hallion (former Chief Historian, United States Air Force)

The air war in Korea: coalition air power in the context of limited war

Dr Richard P Hallion

Though Korea has been called ‘The Forgotten War,” it offers enduring lessons for the prosecution of combined and joint coalition warfare. The Korean air war taxed the ability of UN airmen confronting a robust rolling and unfolding advance by an army that had not even existed five years previously. Lessons involving air-ground coordination, tactical air control, interdiction, use of strategic bombers in battlefield support, maritime air operations, and joint operations all had to be relearned, complicating the ability of the UN coalition to bring timely combat power to bear.  Nevertheless, despite these difficulties and challenges, in retrospect, air power was the single most crucial element of the UN success in Korea (success being defined as preservation of the independence of the South against the depredations of the North and its coalition partners, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China).  Complicating air operations were the challenges of integrating the new technology of jet-age fighters into force-structures still dominated by propeller-driven piston-powered aircraft, prosecuting long-range operations in the last years of non-air-refueled air warfare, and operating aircraft carriers as long-term mobile airfields dedicated to attacking littoral targets.  The uneasy peace that still characterises the Korean peninsula in the age of weapons of mass destruction makes understanding the Korean War of 1950-1953 even more crucial now than at previous times.

Dr Richard P. Hallion is a Research Associate of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and former Chief Historian of the United States Air Force.  He is the author or editor of numerous works in aerospace and military history, including The Naval Air War in Korea; Strike from the Sky: Battlefield Air Attack, 1911-1945; Storm Over Iraq: Air Power and the Gulf War; and Taking Flight: Inventing the Aerial Age.  He is currently examining the transfer of aeronautical knowledge and practice among nations in the interwar years.

Commodore Jack McCaffrie (Retd) (Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Centre)

Korea: the first challenge for Australian naval aviation

Commodore Jack McCaffrie

The 28th of August 1948 marks the formal establishment of the RAN Fleet Air Arm, with the commissioning of the 20th Carrier Air Group at RNAS Eglinton in Northern Ireland. A little over three years later the Fleet Air Arm was at war, with HMAS Sydney and her Carrier Air Group deployed off the coast of the Korean peninsula.

By any measure, the establishment of the Fleet Air Arm and its rapid progress towards becoming a highly efficient and effective operational entity, is a remarkable story. There were political, bureaucratic, financial, manpower and timing challenges, any one of which might have brought the process to a halt, especially in the early stages. That Sydney and her Air Group deployed to Korea and performed so well was the result of determination on the part of the RAN leadership, enlightened political decision-making and a mix of experience and youthful enthusiasm among all concerned.

Reflecting on the performance of the Fleet Air Arm in Korea – and of the destroyers and frigates that also distinguished themselves – the RAN would have had every reason to look to the future with confidence. Yet a mere seven and a half years after Sydney returned from Korea and only 11 years after the establishment of the Fleet Air Arm, its demise (planned to occur in 1963) was announced by the Government in November 1959. Clearly, operational excellence was not sufficient on its own to ensure organisational survival.

Jack McCaffrie retired from the Navy as a commodore in 2003 and is currently a visiting fellow at the RAN’s Sea Power Centre and at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, University of Wollongong.  His research interests include naval history and maritime strategy, as well as current maritime security developments. Among his recent publications are “Australia’s Maritime Strategy and Air Power” in 100 Years of Aviation: The Australian Military Experience (Canberra: RAAF Aerospace Centre, 2004); "The Role of the Navy in the New Security Environment”, Journal of the Australian Naval Institute, No. 112, Autumn 2004; “The Fleet in Being: A Concept Best Forgotten”? Headmark - Journal of the Australian Naval Institute, No. 119, Summer 2006; A.T. Ross and J.M. Sandison, A Historical Appreciation of the Contribution of Naval Air Power” (edited by and with extended foreword by Jack McCaffrie, Sea Power Centre-Australia, 2008); with C. Rahman, “Australia’s 2009 Defense White Paper: A Maritime Focus for Uncertain Times”, Naval War College Review, Vol. 63, No. 1, Winter 2009.

Rowan Callick (Asia-Pacific editor, The Australian)

Conference dinner: after dinner address

China and the Koreas: an Australian perspective

Rowan Callick

Rowan Callick is the Asia-Pacific editor of The Australian and was the newspaper’s Beijing-based China correspondent between 2006 and 2009. An honours graduate from Exeter University, he worked in the newspaper and publishing industries in the United Kingdom and Papua New Guinea before arriving in Australia in 1987. He spent most of the next twenty years with The Australian Financial Review, including as its Hong Kong-based China correspondent, and was also a senior writer with Time magazine from 1990-92. Rowan was a member of the National Advisory Council on Aid Policy from 1994-96, a board member of the Australian Indonesia Institute from 2001-2006, and a member of the Foreign Minister’s Foreign affairs Council from 2003-2006. He is the author of Comrades and capitalists: Hong Kong since the handover (1998) and was the recipient of  the Graham Perkin Award for Journalist of the Year for 1995, and of two Walkley awards, for Asia-Pacific coverage, for 1997 and 2007.

Day 2 - Friday 7 October 2011

Professor David Horner AM (Australian National University)

Australian higher command in the Korean War: the experience of Brigadier Wilton

Professor David Horner

Australia made a relatively modest, although important, contribution to the British Commonwealth’s commitment to the Korean War.  Inevitably, then, the Australians fought under British tactical commanders.  However, because an Australian had been commander of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan at the outbreak of the war, that officer assumed administrative responsibility for the British Commonwealth Forces in Korea.  But he had no responsibility for actual operations.

The only Australian officers to command in operations at higher than unit level were Brigadier Tom Daly, who led the 28th Commonwealth Brigade from June 1952 to March 1953, and Brigadier John Wilton, who succeeded Daly and commanded the brigade from March 1953 to March 1954.

By concentrating on the experiences of Wilton, this paper will explore the challenges of commanding a brigade with two Australian and two British battalions.  After Korea, Wilton’s career continued to flourish.  As Chief of the General Staff from 1963 to 1966 and as Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee from 1966 to 1970, Wilton had over-all responsibility for Australian operations for most of the Vietnam War. The paper will also look at the lessons that he might have learned in Korea to prepare him for his later responsibilities.

David Horner is the Professor of Australian Defence History in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University.  He graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1969 and served as an infantry platoon commander in Vietnam in 1971.  Following various regimental and staff appointments, he graduated from the Australian Army’s Command and Staff College in 1983.  From 1988, until he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel towards the end of 1990, he was a member of the Directing Staff of the Joint Services Staff College.

Professor Horner is the author or editor of 30 books on Australian military history, strategy and defence, including High Command (1982), Blamey: The Commander-in-Chief (1998), and Strategic Command, General Sir John Wilton and Australia’s Asian Wars (2005).  He has been a consultant to various television programs and has lectured widely on military history and strategic affairs.  He is the editor of the Australian Army’s military history series.  As an Army Reserve colonel, from 1998 to 2002 he was the first Head of the Australian Army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre.  In 2004 Professor Horner was appointed the Official Historian of Australian Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post-Cold War Operations.  He is the General Editor of this six-volume series and is writing two of the volumes, the first of which, Australia and the ‘New World Order’, was published in January 2011.

In addition, Professor Horner is a member of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal.  In the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to higher education in the area of Australian military history and heritage as a researcher, author and academic.  In 2009 he was appointed official historian for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Brigadier Colin Kahn DSO AM (Retd) (platoon commander, 1RAR, 1952)

The reliving of minor tactics. A platoon commander’s war in Korea

Brigadier Colin Kahn

While adopted to suit terrain, equipment and enemy, minor tactics (at platoon and company level) in Korea did not vary from that in the training Australian troops carried out in Australia before deploying to Korea. This was the case for the advance, quick attack, and withdrawal, and for defensive operations, especially patrolling. Australian troops were successful because of this training, outstanding junior leadership and the experience of company and battalion commanders.

The war itself was fought with essentially the same weapons, equipment and mobility as World War II had been. Moreover the tactical employment of tanks, artillery and air was also similar. The North Koreans and Chinese, though, lacked air, armour and other weapons, at least up to mid-1951, but had an abundance of manpower.

This paper will cover both the mobile and static phases of the war, utilising the experience of the author and other Australian veterans, and the experience of British, Canadian and French veterans, with whom the author served at the Canadian Staff College. It will also include the view from the Chinese side of the hill.

Colin Kahn entered RMC Duntroon in 1948 and was posted as a platoon commander to B Company, 1RAR in Korea in 1952. During the static phase of the war, he led numerous fighting and reconnaissance patrols until seriously wounded on Hill 355 during a night patrol. Evacuated to Australia on Christmas Eve 1952, he was Mentioned in Despatches for his Korean service. After serving in Canada and Papua New Guinea, he commanded  5RAR in Vietnam in 1969-70, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Having been Commandant, Jungle Warfare Training Centre in Canungra, Queensland, and Deputy Chief of the Army Reserve, he retired from the army as a brigadier and spent ten years with the Australian Federal Police and four years with the NSW Police Service.

Dr Bob Breen (Australian National University)

The Battle of Maryang San: Australia's finest feat of arms in the Korean War?

Dr Bob Breen

Australia’s military participation in the Korean War was the first major test of the fighting qualities of the newly-raised Royal Australian Regiment, as well as the proficiency of assigned RAN ships and RAAF aircraft.  Two battles stand out as fine feats of arms: the battle of Kapyong in April 1951 and the battle of Maryang San in October 1951.  Both are described in chapters of Professor Robert O’Neill’s official history volume on combat operations, but they have not been compared.  The US Presidential recognition of the battle of Kapyong and its significance in causing 72 hours delay to a major Chinese thrust towards South Korea’s capital, Seoul, has given Kapyong a more prominent place in the commemoration of Australia’s participation in the Korean War.  Without international recognition or strategic significance, Maryang San is Australia’s forgotten battle, but it merits consideration as Australia’s finest feat of arms in the Korean War.

Bob Breen graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1973. He is currently writing a volume of the official history of Australian peacekeeping in the South Pacific 1980-2006. His experience in first-hand research on international and regional peace support operations began in Somalia in 1993 and continued in Rwanda, the Middle East, Mozambique, Bougainville and East Timor periodically until 2002 when he began a PhD program at ANU, graduating in 2006. In 2007 he visited Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a review of Australian military force projection. His research interests include the historical analysis of contemporary Australian military operations (with particular emphasis on governmental response to regional and international crises), peacekeeping, operational concepts, command and control, logistics and intelligence. Bob’s publications include First to Fight - Australian Diggers, New Zealand Kiwis and American Paratroopers in Vietnam in 1965-66 (Sydney, 1988); A Little Bit of Hope: Australian Force - Somalia (Sydney, 1998); Mission Accomplished - East Timor: Australian Defence Force participation in International Force East Timor (Sydney, 2001); Giving Peace a Chance - Operation Lagoon, Bougainville 1994: A Case Study of Military Action and Diplomacy (Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence no. 412, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU, Canberra); Struggling for Self Reliance: Four case studies of Australian Regional Force Projection in the late 1980s and the 1990s (Canberra: ANU e-Press, 2008)

Sir William Purves CBE DSO (platoon commander, 1st Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers, 1951)

A Borderer recalls

Sir William Purves

Sir William will briefly discuss the composition of British Army units in Korea in 1951-52 before giving a personal account from a British veteran’s perspective of the assault and capture in October 1951 of Kowang San, the subsequent occupation of the positions captured by 3RAR on Maryang San, and the fateful battle of the Hinge in November 1951.

Sir William Purves was born in 1931 near Kelso, Scotland and joined the National Bank of Scotland Limited as an apprentice before being called up, at the age of 18, for national service. Commissioned into the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, he spent most of his time in the army in Korea and saw considerable action, which led to the award of the Distinguished Service Order in November 1951.

Subsequently joining The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in Hong Kong in 1954, Sir William served in a number of Asian countries before becoming Chief Executive and Chairman. While in Hong Kong he was a member of the Executive Council, Hong Kong’s highest Government body, Chairman of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, Chairman of the Hong Kong Sports Development Council and Treasurer of the University of Hong Kong. Following the establishment of HSBC Holdings plc in London in 1992, Sir William became Group Chairman and concurrently Chairman of Midland Bank before retiring from the Group in 1998. He was also a non-executive director of Shell Transport and Trading Company Limited and Alstom SA, and he still serves on the boards of a number of smaller companies.

Sir William has been a trustee of the National Museums of Scotland and of the Imperial War Museum.  He is Vice President and a Patron of The National Trust for Scotland and holds honorary doctorates from universities in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1989 and created Knight Bachelor by Her Majesty The Queen in 1993.  In 2001 he was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong’s highest decoration.

Nigel Steel (Imperial War Museum)

Conquering Kowang San, assaulting united: myth and misunderstanding in the shade of Maryang San, October 1951

Nigel Steel

In October 1951, the 1st Commonwealth Division successfully attacked and captured a series of hills west of the Imjin river. The right flank saw the assault of two particularly difficult objectives: Hill 355 (known as Kowang San or Little Gibraltar) was to be taken by the 1st Battalion, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, and Hill 317 (or Maryang San) by the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. Between them, the lesser peak of Hill 217 remained the objective of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

Remarkably, over five days all three hills were taken. But there remains considerable difference of opinion about who was instrumental in achieving this, and who failed to take their objectives and obliged adjacent units to step up and complete the tasks instead. Echoing the Anzac legend of the First World War, some Australians hold that 3RAR captured all three hills because the British units on either side failed. Yet close examination of the battle’s records does not support this superficial interpretation. This paper will re-examine the course of the battle, plotting contemporary records against subsequent accounts of what happened to show that history is never this simple.

Nigel Steel has worked at the Imperial War Museum in London since 1988. He was Head of the Research and Information Department from 1999 to 2006 when he began a two year secondment to the Australian War Memorial. As Visiting Senior Historian, he completed the AWM’s Korean War gallery in ‘Conflicts 1945 to Today’. Since his return to the IWM in 2008, Nigel has worked as Principal Historian first for the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, which displays the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses and George Crosses, and, since January 2011, for the IWM’s First World War Centenary Programme. Nigel’s research interests are First World War military operations, bravery and the awards of the Victoria Cross and the George Cross, Second World War POWs, particularly escape and evasion, and the 1st Commonwealth Division in the Korean War. His principal publications include The Battlefields of Gallipoli - Then and Now, (London, 1990), Battleground Europe – Gallipoli, (Barnsley, 1999), and, with Peter Hart, Defeat at Gallipoli, (London, 1994),Tumult in the Clouds, (London, 1997), Passchendaele: The Sacrificial Ground, (London, 2000), Jutland 1916: Death in the Grey Wastes, (London, 2003).

The sharp end of the war.

Veterans' panel discussion: Sir William Purves CBE DSO, Brigadier Colin Kahn DSO AM (Retd), Brigadier Jim Shelton DSO MC (Retd), Lieutenant Colonel Maurie Pears MC (Retd), and Lieutenant Colonel Alf Argent (Retd).

Brigadier J J Shelton DSO MC (Retd) (company commander 3RAR, 1951-1952)

Brigadier James Shelton

Jim Shelton graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon as an infantry officer in 1946. After serving in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, he joined 3 RAR in Korea as a reinforcement officer in May 1951, two weeks after the Battle of Kapyong. Two months later, the then Captain Shelton assumed command of A Company, 3 RAR. In the Battle of Maryang San in October, A Company carried out a direct diversionary attack while the remainder of the Battalion performed a brilliant flank attack and captured the feature. Captain Shelton was awarded the Military Cross for his part in the action and for leading A Company for ten months. Following service in India and England, as well as postings in Australia, Lieutenant-Colonel Shelton commanded 3RAR during its first tour of Vietnam in 1967-68, during which it fought in the battle of Coral/Balmoral. His leadership resulted in the award of the Distinguished Service Order. He retired from the army as a brigadier in 1980 and, for the next fourteen years, was Honorary Colonel of the Australian Army Band Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel Maurie Pears MC (Retd) (platoon commander 3RAR, 1951-1952)

Lieutenant Colonel Maurie Pears

Maurie Pears graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1950 and joined 3RAR as a reinforcement officer shortly after the Battle of Kapyong. During the Battle of Maryang San, Lieutenant Pears led 7 Platoon, C Company in the attack on Hills 317 and 355, and continued to fight despite being wounded. For this action and for his leadership on subsequent raids and patrols during his ten months in Korea, he was awarded the Military Cross. After commanding the Corps of Staff Cadets at the Royal Military College from 1966-1968 and the 1st Battalion, the Pacific Islands Regiment from 1968-1970, Lieutenant Colonel Pears left the army to join Con Zinc Rio Tinto Australia on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Various overseas consultant positions followed. Since 1980, he has lived on the Queensland Gold Coast. Maurie Pears is the author of Recollections of War: Maryang San, October 1951 (privately published, 1995), Korea Remembered (Sydney, 1998) and Battlefield Korea (Loftus, 2007).

Lieutenant Colonel Alf Argent (Retd) (intelligence officer 3RAR, 1950-1951)

Colonel Alf Argent

Alf Argent enlisted in the Second AIF aged 18 in 1945 and completed recruit and signals training before being discharged in February 1946. He entered RMC Duntroon the next day, graduated in December 1948 and was posted to 3 RAR, British Commonwealth Occupation Force, in Japan in March 1949. He served as a rifle platoon commander and as transport officer before deploying with 3RAR to Korea as intelligence officer in September 1950. He participated in the advance into, and withdrawal from, North Korea, and the battle of Kapyong prior to returning to Australia in October 1951. After training as an army pilot, he flew fixed and rotary wing aircraft in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States, and with US Army aviation units in South Vietnam. After leaving the army in 1975, he served in the Australian Antarctic Division and was also an inspector in the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation.

Rebecca Fleming (formerly University of New England)

Continuing the legacy, Australian military nursing in the Korean War

Dr Rebecca Fleming

Despite a growing body of literature assessing the significance of the Korean War in Australian military history, little is known about the contributions of Australia’s military nurses to the war. For Australian military nursing, the war was characterised both by continuity with military nursing traditions and a period of transition. Most notably, the Royal Australian Army Nursing Service became a Corps in 1951, signifying a move to a professional and permanent corps of army nurses. The Korean War was the first time this group of officers and other ranks served in an overseas conflict. From the RAAF perspective, the Korean War provided an opportunity for the further development of the medical air evacuations carried out by Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service sisters in the Second World War. This  paper will argue that the Korean War was a significant milestone in Australian military nursing history and, through the stories of a number of nurses, will introduce the women who carried the Australian military nursing traditions into a new era.

Rebecca Fleming gained a PhD in history from the University of New England in April 2011. Her thesis was the first major study to examine the roles and experiences of Australian army and air force nurses in the Korean War. Her research interests include social and cultural history with a particular focus on the contributions and experiences of Australian women in war. Rebecca is currently working in the Australian Public Service. Her publications to date include The First of Its Kind:  A History of the New South Wales Institute of Educational Research (Sydney, 2008) and ‘Making the invisible link visible: The symbiotic relationship between the paid and voluntary labour of women in the NSW Institute for Educational Research’, Australian Journal on Volunteering, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2007.

Dr Peter Edwards AM (Australian Official Historian, Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-75)

Closing address

From Korea to Vietnam: Australian strategic policy after the Korean War

Dr Peter Edwards

The Korean War took place at a time when Australian strategic policy was in a state of turmoil, as policy-makers struggled to come to terms with the post-1945 world order. As always, they sought to resolve the tension between the two traditional poles of Australian strategic policy: the desire to maintain close relations with Australia’s ‘great and powerful friends’, principally the United Kingdom and the United States; and the focus on the Asia-Pacific region, especially Australia’s immediate neighbourhood.  Soon after the Korean War, Australian policy settled into the form known as ‘forward defence’, under which Australian forces were structured, equipped and trained to fight in Southeast Asia (not Northeast Asia or the Mediterranean-Middle East) in close collaboration with the forces of the US and the UK. Australia’s political and military commitments were principally shaped by the interaction of the Cold War and the decolonisation of the European empires, first in Malaya/Malaysia and Indonesia, then in Indochina, culminating in Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, its third largest commitment in the twentieth century.  This paper puts post-Korean strategic policy in the context of the pattern of Australian policy throughout the century.

Peter Edwards is a writer, historian and biographer, whose research and publications have focused principally on Australia’s national security policies, with particular interests in Southeast Asian commitments, the Australian-American alliance, and the policy-making process. A graduate of the Universities of Western Australia and Oxford, he has held professorial appointments at Flinders University in Adelaide, Deakin University in Melbourne and the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra. As the Official Historian of Australia’s involvement in Southeast Asian conflicts 1948-75 (Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam), he was general editor of the nine-volume series and author of the volumes dealing with strategy and diplomacy, Crises and Commitments (1992) and A Nation at War (1997). He is also the author of Arthur Tange: Last of the Mandarins (2006), Permanent Friends? Historical Reflections on the Australian-American Alliance (2005), and Prime Ministers and Diplomats (1983); co-editor of Facing North (vol. 2, 2003); the editor of Defence Policy-Making (2008) and Australia Through American Eyes (1977); and one of the founding editors of the series of Documents on Australian Foreign Policy.  He is currently working on a new book on Australia’s Vietnam War and a study of Justice Robert Hope, a principal architect of the Australian intelligence community. A former Rhodes Scholar, Harkness Fellow and Harold White Fellow, Dr Edwards has held visiting appointments at several universities and research institutes in Australia and the United States. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, and his books have won several major literary awards.

This conference was convened by the Australian War Memorial. The support of the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is gratefully acknowledged.

Department of Veterans Affairs