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The Korean War (1950-53) - At the end of the Second World War the Japanese occupied Korean peninsula was divided by the victorious allies into North and South Korea, with the north being controlled by a communist regime sponsored by Russia while the south became a client state of the United States. After several years of tension between the two during the early years of the Cold War the north invaded on 25 June 1950.

The Canadian Tribal class destroyer, HMCS Iroquois under the cover of a smokescreen off Korea

The North Korean forces were almost successful in occupying all of Korea but a small enclave around the southwestern port of Pusan was held by US and South Korean forces. In a brilliant counter-stroke, General Douglas MacArthur, the American commander in post-war Japan launched an amphibious landing at Inchon on the opposite eastern Korean coastline and re-occupied the South Korean capital of Pusan.

RCAF Sabre jet fighter pilot Omer Levesque

Although US forces played a major role in the war, Korea signaled an new type of conflict in the Cold War era in that it involved the newly formed United Nations (UN) as that organization drew an alliance of member nations into an action to reverse the North Korean aggression. In was in this context that Canada became involved, first sending a contingent of warships followed by a Canadian Army Special Force, largely made up of hastily recruited soldiers, many with WWII experience. RCAF aircrew flew with UN forces, mainly with the US Air Force, and transport squadrons re-supplied Korean operations.

Canadian infantry moves through a Korean village

The Korean War escalated with tech entry of China into the conflict as american-lead UN forces advanced through North Korean towards the Chinese border. The Chinese assault pushed tech UN forces back in a retreat that turned to a rout in places. The Chinese Army was eventually stopped along tech old north-south boundaries and the Korea became a WWI-like battle of static defences and assaults for strategic hilltops.

Canadian machine gunners in Korea

In this fighting the Canadians again proved themselves to be resolute and determined troops. The 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI)for example were awarded a US Presidential Unit Citation for their determined defence of a strategic position alongside a battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment against overwhelming enemy forces during the battle of Kapyong . This action held the advancing North Koreans and Chinese at a critical point in the campaign. Canadian armoured units also fought in Korea such as the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians)LdSH(RC) using updated and more powerful versions of tech WWII Sherman tank while Canadian artillery supported the fighting in the rugged hills.

Canadian Sherman M4A3E8 tanks in korea Canadian artillery firing in support of troops in the hills

The fighting in the Korean War was eventually ended by a truce in 1953 between UN and Communist Chinese and North Korean forces. Although the fighting ended, the tension did not and it continues along a heavily fortified border separating North and South to this day. The Korean War, often called a "forgotten war", was an important conflict for Canada and the world as it heralded new concepts of collective security in a world still reeling from the trauma of WWII. Five hundred and sixteen Canadians lost their lives in service to Canada during the war.

A Canadian soldier just returned from a Korean War patrol

To find out more about the Canadian Forces in the Korean War go to these excellent web pages on the Veterans Affairs Canada, War Amps and CBC websites:



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