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Korean War

Page 3 – The 'first' and 'second' Korean Wars

New Zealand's role in the 'first' Korean War

New Zealand was one of the first states to answer the Security Council's call for combat assistance (16 would eventually do so). The government offered two frigates on 29 June 1950, and HMNZS Tutira and Pukaki left Auckland on 3 July. They joined other Commonwealth forces at Sasebo, Japan, on 2 August and immediately began escorting supply ships between Japan and the South Korean port of Pusan, by then at the centre of a narrow pocket.

While forming part of the UN Command, they operated within a Commonwealth framework under the command of a British flag officer. They took part in Operation Chromite, the successful amphibious counterstroke launched by General Douglas MacArthur at the port of Inch'on, near Seoul, on 15 September 1950. Their role was to escort the troopships carrying the attack force, and then to form part of a protective screen around Inch'on.

Royal New Zealand Navy involvement in the Korean War

  • Tutira - 3 July 1950-3 December 1950
  • Pukaki - 3 July 1950-30 May 1951
  • Rotoiti - 7 October 1950-21 November 1951
  • Hawea - 2 March 1951-8 March 1952
  • Taupo - 29 August 1951-21 October 1952
  • Rotoiti - 7 January 1952-19 March 1953
  • Hawea - 4 August 1952-29 August 1953
  • Kaniere - 2 March 1953-2 March 1954

The 'second' Korean War

Caught between the UN forces at Seoul, which had been quickly liberated, and those advancing from Pusan, the Korean People's Army disintegrated. Those who were not captured fled through the hills to the north. The first Korean War had ended in a decisive victory for the UN, whose initial purpose had been fulfilled: the Republic of Korea had been preserved. With the DPRK in disarray, the United States was tempted to press forward to achieve the UN's political aim of unifying Korea, despite warnings from Beijing that China would respond with force to a crossing of the 38th parallel.

When UN forces invaded North Korea on 9 October, they precipitated a new Korean conflict. Elements of the UN Command reached the border with China on the Yalu River, but meanwhile Chinese forces, ill-equipped but in large numbers, had secretly entered North Korea. From late October they mounted a series of offensives, the second of which led to a ‘big bug out’ of UN forces, which rapidly fell back south of the 38th parallel.

The Chinese People's Volunteers, as they were termed, then endeavoured to drive the UN forces into the sea. Seoul was abandoned to them on 3 January 1951, but stiffening resistance by the UN Command, under a new field commander, General Matthew Ridgway, led to their being held south of the capital.