Friday, April 20, 2007

Australia's Anzac Day Shame

The Forgotten Soldiers Of Our Forgotten War

Most Australians know little about this country's involvement in the Korean War in the 1950s, even though more than 6000 soldiers served there and hundreds died on the battlefields.

Considering some of the most acclaimed Australian soldiers of World War 1 and World War 2 volunteered to fight in Korea, for six long years, and 338 soldiers were killed there, it is an utter mystery as to why the war barely gets a mention in the mainstream media. The United States has a similar memory hole when it comes to Korea, and they lost thousands in the fighting.

In Australia, politicians rarely, if ever, mention the Korean War; historians write dozens of books about Gallipoli and Australia diggers in Europe and the Middle East during World War 2, but they won't touch Korea; you don't see lengthy TV documentaries, or docudramas, on the extremely deadly battles fought against more than a million Chinese and North Korean soldiers, and as for Anzac Day - Australia's national day of digger remembrance - you'd be hard pressed to find the kind of double page spreads afforded WW2, Gallipoli and Vietnam veterans focusing on what Australia's did more than 50 years ago to hold back Communist forces at the height of the Cold War.

But perhaps most shamefully of all, there are sixteen Australian veterans who died in Korea who don't even get a mention on the war memorial in Canberra.


Bureaucratic bullshit, mostly. And a fear of giving too much attention to what lies hidden beneath the conspiracy of silence shrouding the truth about the Korean War.

Officially, the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, with the signing of a "truce" between the US-led coalition and North Korea. But the fighting raged on until April, 1956. The last three years of the war are not officially recognised as "war-fighting", even though there were many deadly conflicts fought in that time.

Eighteen Australian servicemen were killed during the "non-war". Two of them have their names listed on the war memorial. The other sixteen? Australian military history doesn't recognise them.

From 'The Australian' :

With Anzac Day less than a week away, a group of Korea veterans has renewed efforts to get official recognition for those forgotten 16 servicemen.

Bob Morris, who served two tours of duty in Korea with the navy, yesterday called on the federal Government to end the discrimination against those killed in the second stage of the war and to recognise all his comrades.

"We started this five years ago and we have been through five defence ministers and all but given up trying to get a hearing from the Prime Minister," Mr Morris, 75, said as he planned Anzac Day celebrations with some other Korea veterans in Nowra, on the NSW south coast.

"When you get a minister who is only 40 years old and who is surrounded by bureaucrats who have no idea about what happened more than 50 years ago, it is bloody hard."

Mr Morris said Defence bureaucrats had argued against his committee because in 1998 it was decided that deaths in Korea would be ruled "warlike or non-warlike".

"These men were all ... war-caused deaths - one was squashed between a tank and a truck, an army captain died of heat stroke and one army private froze to death in his tent.

"Others were killed by mines or by guerilla action - but everything was hushed up by the UN because there was supposed to be a truce."

Mr Morris said that after successive failures to get any response from John Howard's office, he had approached the Prime Minister when he was visiting Nowra last year.

"I got face to face with him and said I wanted to speak to him about this matter - but I got short-sheeted pretty quickly and palmed off to his principal private secretary."

Disgusting. Isn't the Korean War popular enough with middle-class Australia to warrant the prime minister's attention? These unrecognised Australian soldiers fought and died in a war committed to by Howard's hero, prime minister Robert Menzies. Bob Morris hopes that a Liberal government, then, "would fix things up."

They might get a better run from the Rudd Opposition.

"ALP MP Robert McClelland moved a motion in the house (of Representatives) last year to get us recognition but it failed," Mr Morris said. "But since then Kevin Rudd has come on board and promised to address the matter if he wins the next election."

Morris is worried that time is ticking away, and although he manages to get a bit of attention for his cause each year when ANZAC Day comes around, the years are getting on, as are his fellow Korea veterans. They're not asking for much. Just recognition for the mates they lost in the war.
"If something isn't done soon, we'll all be gone and our grandchildren won't know what we went through."