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Indigenous veterans of Korean War recognised

As part of its ongoing research program, the Australian War Memorial has identified more than 60 Indigenous men who served for Australia during the Korean War, 70 years after the Korean Armistice Agreement.

“This is part of the Memorial’s determination to ensure all who have served, suffered and died in the defence of our freedoms are recognised,” said Australian War Memorial Director, Matt Anderson.

“The research helps build our understanding and knowledge of Indigenous service in Korea and many other conflicts.”

Australian War Memorial Indigenous Liaison Officer, and Ngunnawal/Gomeroi man, Michael Bell, leads the research on contributions and service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Mr Bell said: “These men were fighting for more than their country, they were fighting to be recognised.

“It was a significant transition period for our people at home and their role in the defence forces overseas,” he added.

Mr Anderson said: “One of the most prominent Indigenous figures of the Korean War, Captain Reg Saunders, returned to uniform from civilian life and fought in the Battle of Kapyong, where he commanded a Company of the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment.”

It was only five years after the end of the Second World War that Australia became involved in the Korean War.

“The Korean War has long been described as the forgotten war,” Korean War expert and Australian War Memorial historian, Michael Kelly, said.

“Australian battalions fought several significant actions, including the battles of Kapyong and Maryang San, often against overwhelming odds.

“The Korean Armistice Agreement 70 years ago was a time in the world’s history when the United Nations was truly able to have an impact.”

More than 17,000 Australians served during the Korean War, 340 of whom were killed, and 1,216 wounded; 30 became prisoners of war. The armistice, which continues today, was signed at 10 am on July 27, 1953.

During the three years of the Korean War (1950–53), most of the over 60 Indigenous men who served did so with the army contingent. There were seven men who served with the RAN and one seaman (PD Syron), who served in Korean waters with HMAS Condamine in 1952–53.

At least three Indigenous men died as a result of their service (S.K.J. Lenoy, T. Hazel and H. Iona).

Two Indigenous men were officially recognised for conspicuous service. Torres Strait Islander Corporal Charles Mene received the Military Medal for his actions in 1952 and Albert Clothier was Mentioned in Despatches.

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