The Korean War: Australia in the Giant’s Playground
Macmillan, $49.99 hb, 534 pp, 9781405040013
To go on thinking of the Korean War as a ‘forgotten’ war in a ‘hermit’ country, as we too often do, ignores the many authoritative accounts of it. Cameron Forbes’s new book is the latest.
Forbes provides an emotional narrative of the war. A large part concerns the economic and social background, antecedents, character, and personalities of Australian soldiers and airmen who participated, and their behaviour on the battlefield. Initially these were the pilots of Australia’s 77th squadron of piston-engined P51 Mustang fighters based at Iwakuni in southern Honshu – part of Australia’s occupation force in Japan. They were quickly thrown into the conflict in a ground attack role, driving themselves to fatigue and reckless action, sometimes even attacking their own side. They were reinforced in September 1950 by the men of the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, also part of the Japan occupation force. After five years of comparative indolence, the soldiers needed quick and rigorous training before joining the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and Middlesex Regiment on the peninsula, as part of the 27th Commonwealth Brigade.