Australia Canberra (1)

>> My name is Brigadier Colin Kahn, retired, of course, and I served in Korea in 1952 as a lieutenant platoon commander of an infantry rifle platoon, but before I say a few more words about the army, let me explain a little bit about this memorial, which I was on the planning committee, which we helped build when it was completed in the year 2000. This memorial is located in in our avenue of memorial called Anzac Parade. Anzac Parade runs from in between two major buildings in Canberra. The Australian War Memorial at the far end of the parade where veterans of all wars are honored, particularly on Anzac Day on the 25th of April. The other building it joins with is our Parliament House down on the right-hand end, and Parliament House looks up Anzac Parade and right to the War Memorial. We hope that the politicians will see a little bit looking at these memorials of what decisions they made and what some of the consequences of sending out troops and people to war.

Anzac Parade is our parade, I say, of memorials, and all people, veterans and relatives of past wars like the Boer War, World War I. Most of the veterans are all dead, of course, but their relatives walk and march here, and they go up Anzac Parade to the Boer War Memorial where a service is held on the 25th of April every year. Now the memorial itself, I say, was finished in the year 2000, and the money to build it was given by the Australian government, by the South Korean government, by all our Korean and returned servicemen organizations around Australia. It took some time to build, and we had our committee navy, army and air force, and I represented the army, and women and widows of people, of soldiers who had died. It consists of out on the front an obelisk, an obelisk which is dedicated to all those who are buried without a known grave, and we have some of those. There’s an inscription on that obelisk which comes from the war cemetery in Busan, and put that inscription on the obelisk. Now the obelisk itself then leads onto a walkway, which runs up to the main memorial itself inside the memorial, which we call a contemplative space, it is where people can come and lay wreaths and where, on special days, units will come and lay wreaths and bring visitors to wreath and see what Australia’s part was in that war. On the outside of the memorial, we have listed all the 21 countries that assisted South Korea during the war, and three badges of the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force and the badge of the British Commonwealth Division. We in the army served under the auspices of the British Commonwealth Division. Also, you can see on the scroll there all the nations that served in the war. Outside in the space out here, you will see there are three statues: one of a soldier over here, one of a sailor and one of an airman. That represents our three combat services who served in Korea. Beyond that, probably note there are no symbols to nurses here, but the Nurses Memorial is directly opposite us on the other side of the road, but they’re not here. Now these statues here are interspersed, or covering them are a series of stainless-steel poles. Some people think they represent all the dead, and, yeah, we had 250-odd killed in South Korea, but they are just indicative of it. The other thing the poles do is give us an indication of the starkness of the cold which we soldiers in particular remember of some aspects of the terrain in Korea, and they cast long, gray, cold shadows in wintertime, and that really reminds us of Korea. Also, there are some boulders, and I’m sitting on one here. They were donated by the Korean government, and they were flown back from Korea from the area around Kapyong, where we had a major battle, and placed here. Now this particular memorial, I say, is used on Anzac Day, but also units come here and have their own specific parades, army, navy and air force, and then march up Anzac Parade towards the main memorial, which is dedicated to all Australians who fought in all wars in which Australia has participated. All right? Now let me give you a little bit about the army. Know we had 17,000 Australians who fought in South Korea during the war from ’50 to ’53. There were over 200 and almost 250 killed, 1,300 almost wounded, many seriously with limbs blown off and things like that. We had four taken prisoner, and a number are still buried in graves that are unknown. As I said earlier, the majority of our dead are buried in the Korean cemetery in Busan. Now the army had three battalions that served in Korea. I served in the 1st Battalion, and, you know, you can pick up all the detail of what those battalions did. There were two phases to our war. There was what we call the mobile phase when one battalion, which came over from the occupation force in Japan, participated from October 1950, at almost the beginning of the war, and it fought all its way up the peninsula, the Chinese border, and then withdraw back again when China came into the war and helped established our peace line just north of Seoul. Two other battalions we said came in the later 2 years of the war, and I belonged to one of those, and I fought in what was called the static phase. The static phase of the war is with the war patrolling where every night and during the day sometimes, we would send our fighting patrols to attack the enemy. We’d send out ambush patrols to ambush the energy, reconnaissance patrols to recognize or hear his positions because we were located on opposite sides of the valley, the Samichon Valley. The Chinese and North Korean positions were on one side, and our positions were on this side, and we had to find out what was going on, on the other side, so we’d send patrols in to find out. This patrolling activity got particularly intense in October, November 1952, and with my battalion, which was called the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, we had a big hill in the middle of our area called Hill 355 or Maryang-san. It was vital ground. Vital ground means if the enemy captured it, they could almost control what’s going on all around it. One of the United Nations battalions, not an Australian battalion, was attacked very heavily up on this particular hill and almost overrun, so my battalion was sent up the next day to reoccupy the position and try to regain the initiative in the patrol battle. My platoon of 30 men, we were given the forward platoon, close to the enemy positions, and we had an intensive patrolling program where every night, we would send out half of my platoon. My platoon sergeant might take it out from last light until midnight, and then I would take the rest of the platoon from midnight until dawn, and we’d either have fighting patrols or ambush patrols to try and get the enemy as he was coming across to our positions because the name of the game was to control no-man’s-land, and this is why this position was overrun before we got there. The battalion that was there before we arrived did not patrol actively, and the enemy, the Chinese, came across no-man’s-land and dug tunnels at the base of this big hill, 355, and infiltrated soldiers across over several nights, and they occupied this position at the base of one of our positions, and they weren’t interrupted, which means that whoever was on our side wasn’t patrolling actively enough. They all should have been picked up and destroyed long before this, so when they decided to attack the hill, they were already on the hill, and our artillery and mortars had no effect on them, so they did overrun several of the positions. Anyway, a lot of the positions on this hill were destroyed, and we were sent up to reoccupy and take it over, and this is when we did all this active patrolling. Now let me tell you a story about one particular patrol, which I always remember, was a patrol which occurred that I was leading on November the 11th, 1952. I remember November the 11tth because it was Armistice Day, not for Korea, but it was Armistice Day for World War I. My platoon was under heavy artillery and shell bombardment all through the night, and we were supposed to leave at midnight, but we couldn’t get out of the position because there were too many shells falling, and we couldn’t expose ourselves out of the trenches. I managed to get the platoon out sometime after midnight, and we started to go down the hill as a fighting patrol to start to see if there are any enemies still on our hill. Halfway down the hill, we ran into an enemy ambush.

The enemy opened fire, and I was hit with a machine-gun through the chest, and I had three bullets which went through my chest. Then they threw hand grenades, and fortunately I was wearing a United States armored-proof vest, and that stopped all the grenade shrapnel, but you might ask, why didn’t it stop the bullets? Well, the bullets happened to go through the vest, the zipper, which was in the middle of the jacket, and these three bullets went through the middle of the zipper and caused all my casualties. I must say. The next morning, when I was in an American MASH hospital, American scientists visited the hospital and said, spoke to me about my action, and they decided then they had to change the design of the armored-proof vest, of the armored vest from having a zip down the middle. They put the zip under the arm, and I said, “That’s a good idea. I wish I had have had it.” Anyway, I had an interesting experience when I was shot, and it was, you know, severe wounding. I had an experience where I left my body and went up into the sky, and I was in no pain.

I could look down on the battle that was taking place with my soldiers and the Chinese soldiers on the ground, and I could see this battle taking place that I was divorced from because I was in the sky, and I suddenly realized that if I didn’t do something, I might die altogether because I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be in pain on the ground, so I forced myself to come back to the ground, and I did. I managed to come back onto the ground, and after that, my own stretcher-bearers got me and took me back to my lines, so that was my experience with an out-of-body, out-of-life experience, which I’ve had in South Korea. Now my evacuation also shows what happened in Korea.

When I was wounded in this no-man’s-land area, I was carried back to the Australian aid post in our battalion by Australian stretcher-bearers. One of those stretcher-bearers happened to be a man named Keith Payne, who eventually won a Victoria Cross, our highest award for valor. However, at my battalion aid post, I was then picked up by an Indian field-ambulance, which drove me to a clearing station. Then it was another Norwegian base picked me up there and took me to American MASH, and the MASH was 8055 MASH, which is the one you see on television every night. It was all taken at the MASH I was in. After I was treated in the MASH for several weeks, I was then taken by a bridge hospital train down to Seoul into a British hospital, then flown by an Australian medical aircraft across …


Canberra - Australia

Canberra Australian Capital Territory, Australia