Remembering the 'forgotten' war

NZDF personnel aboard the Tutira - photo courtesy of NZ Army museum
NZDF personnel aboard the Tutira - photo courtesy of NZ Army museum

23 June 2010

Korean War veterans will gather at the National War Memorial in Wellington at 11.00am on Friday 25 June to remember those New Zealand military personnel who lost their lives during the Korean War.

The ceremony, held on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, will be conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) Principal Defence Chaplain Don Parker.

Commodore Bruce Pepperell, representing the Chief of Defence Force, will lay a wreath on behalf of the men and women of the Defence Force.

Korean Veterans Association National Secretary Doug Callander and North Island Vice President Des Vinten will lay a wreath on behalf of the Korean Veterans Association.

Mr Vinten said, “The Korean War has often been referred to as 'the forgotten war' but for those who served there it is far from forgotten. On Friday I will be thinking of the guys I served with and those who lost their lives as well as the Korean civilians who suffered during the war.

“When I went back to South Korea in 2009 I was pleased to see the incredible progress the country has made in 60 years. South Korea is a celebration of success against insurmountable odds.”

When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, New Zealand was one of the first of 16 nations to respond to the United Nations Security Council’s call for combat assistance.

In all, about 4,700 men served as part of Kayforce, offering artillery, transport and support elements under United Nations command. A further 1,300 Royal New Zealand Navy personnel took part in tours of duty during the Korean War. A total of 33 New Zealanders died on active service; 79 were wounded, and one was taken prisoner before the armistice came into effect. In addition another 12 New Zealand personnel lost their lives before the withdrawal of our forces.

After lengthy negotiations an armistice agreement signed on 27 July 1953 finally brought the fighting to an end. However, Kayforce was not fully withdrawn from Korea until July 1957.

The 60th anniversary will be marked with a number of events over the next few months including a visit to Korea by a group of New Zealand university students who are descendants of Korean veterans.


Background information:

New Zealand’s participation in the Korean War

On June 25 1950, 90,000 North Korean troops crossed the 38th Parallel, invading their southern neighbour, the Republic of Korea. Just days later the Royal New Zealand Navy frigates - HMNZS TUTIRA and PUKAKI left for Korean waters, a two-ship commitment that the RNZN would sustain for the whole war.

In December 1950 Kayforce, a 1056-man force which was based around 16 Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery; and included a signals troop, a transport platoon, a light aid detachment, and a small reinforcement training unit, embarked from Wellington for Pusan.

Kayforce joined the 27th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade on 21 January 1951, and was in action for the first time four days later in bitterly cold conditions. Thereafter it took part in the operations which led the UN Forces back to and over the 38th Parallel, recapturing Seoul in the process.

On 24 April 1951 16 Field Regiment, RNZA fought at the Battle of Kap’yong in support of the Australians, a furious four day battle that stopped the Chinese advance. Both units were awarded a South Korean Presidential Citation for their efforts.

After lengthy negotiations an armistice agreement, signed on 27 July 1953, finally brought the fighting to an end. However, Kayforce was not fully withdrawn from Korea until July 1957.

A total of 4,700 New Zealand soldiers served in Kayforce and 1,300 in the RNZN deployment. Of these 33 were killed in action, 79 wounded and one soldier was taken prisoner.

The armistice agreement created a fixed military line with a four kilometre buffer around it known as the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Both sides pledged not to engage in hostile behaviour within the zone or enter areas under control of the other.

Three New Zealand Defence Force officers are involved in monitoring compliance of the Armistice Agreement between North and South Korea, while a fourth works as the contingent’s senior national officer and the New Zealand Defence Attaché in Seoul. 

New Zealand is one of 16 countries committed to the upholding of the Korean War Armistice agreement directly contributing to the mission within the DMZ. While the DMZ remains benign for the vast majority of the time, it has seen a number of violations such as weapons discharges and hostile incidents.

For further information please contact Ally Clelland, Defence Communications Group, 04 496 0273 or 021 569 130.

This page was last reviewed on 19 January 2011.