The Hon Andrew Gee MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
On Sunday 3 October, we pause to remember the courage, valour and sacrifice of Australian forces on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Maryang San in the Korean War.
In early October 1951, the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), as part of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade, attacked a group of strategically important hills near the Imjin River as part of Operation Commando.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee reflected on 3RAR’s significant and decisive defeat of the larger and more advantageously positioned Chinese forces to secure Hill 317 - known as Maryang San.
“The triumph of Operation Commando was an extraordinary Australian achievement. Over five days of continuous fighting, the mastery and mettle of Australian forces were on full display, with 3RAR, despite the odds, capturing the hill north of the 38th Parallel, Maryang San,” Minister Gee said.
“The success of the strategic action to seize Hill 317 was vital in order to position United Nations forces at the summit, causing the Chinese to fallback and lose the key vantage point before armistice negotiations commenced.
“The Battle began on 3 October, with a British assault over two days on Hill 355 (known as Kowang San). Then, in the quiet hours before dawn on 5 October, shrouded by mist, Australian forces began their approach on Maryang San.
“At 10am, the mist began to ease, unveiling the Australian advance.
“Despite fierce fighting, 3RAR captured the first line of defences, and by the following morning, had secured the summit. Heedless of heavy fire, the Australians held the crest, engaging in close combat to repel Chinese counter attacks under the cover of darkness.
“Next, Australian and British soldiers together staved off desperate attempts by the Chinese, securing ‘the Hinge’ - a high point on the west ridge. This action forced the Chinese to evacuate Hill 217, and concede defeat on 8 October 1951.”
“Twenty Australians were killed, and more than 100 were wounded in the battle.
Following the battle, both sides found themselves in a war of attrition facing conditions not unlike those experienced by soldiers in the First World War. Men lived in tunnels, dugouts and sandbagged forts behind barbed wire for the remaining two years of the war.
The Battle of Maryang San was described by the Official Historian of the Korean War, Robert O’Neill, as ‘the greatest single feat of the Australian Army during the Korean War’;
“In this action 3RAR had won one of the most impressive victories achieved by any Australian battalion. In five days of heavy fighting 3RAR dislodged a numerically superior enemy from a position of great strength … The victory of Maryang San is probably the greatest single feat of the Australian Army during the Korean War.”
“Seventy years ago, Australians fought and died in the Battle of Maryang San. I encourage all Australians to pause and remember their service, sacrifice and courage, and that of all Australians who served our nation in the Korean War,” Minister Gee said.
The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 and fighting ended with the signing of an armistice on 27 July 1953. Following the armistice, Australian forces remained in Korea in a peacekeeping role until 1957.
For more information on the Battle of Maryang San and the Korean War, visit the Anzac Portal
Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling provides 24/7 free confidential crisis support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families on 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au