John Moller graduated high school in 1947 and wanted to join the Australian Navy. His parents told him to wait a month before they would sign the paperwork since he was only seventeen years old. Once he was trained, he was sent to Korea stationed on the HMS Sydney with one thousand two hundred other sailors. As a member of the supply branch, he was given a hot shower daily and he was sent out for two weeks to the east coast of Korea. Three squadrons of planes were sent off his aircraft carrier to the Korean mainland to bomb and strafe the land. Since he joined the reserves after returning home from the Korean War in 1952, he was then sent to the Vietnam War in a troopship. Luckily, he was able to returned to Korea two times and to see the vast improvements made to the country throughout the years.
Answering the Call For the Australian Navy
John Moller recalls enlisting in the Australian Navy in 1950. He shares that he was stationed on the HMS Sydney from 1951-1952. He comments on returning to Korean twice after the war and shares how he was able to see, first-hand, the evolution of the buildings, roads, and culture in South Korea.
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Can I Please Join the Australian Navy?
John Moller recalls joining the Australian Navy when he was seventeen with his parents' permission. He describes working in the supply branch aboard the HMS Sydney, which was an aircraft carrier with three flight squadrons. He shares that he on the aircraft carrier along with multiple Spitfire planes.
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Life on an Aircraft Carrier
John Moller describes being shipped out for two weeks while stationed aboard the HMS Sydney during the Korean War. He recalls how he would provide supplies for the sailors on the ship while Spitfires bombed the Korean mainland. He adds that he was able to enjoy a hot shower daily and clean hammocks every two weeks.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
J: John Moller J O H N M O L L E R.
I: And what is your birthday?
J: The 14th of July, 1932.
I: Thirty-two. So, you are now 80
I: Eighty-six. Where were you born?
J: In Melbourne.
J: In Melbourne.
I: Melbourne here.
J: Uh, Brighton, yes.
I: Ah. Okay.
And tell me about your family background when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings. How many siblings and what
J: I, I have one sister, and I have my father and, of course, my mother. And that’s about it.
I: That’s about it. So, tell me about the schools you went through.
J: I went to primary school and
J: In [Brighton Caulfield],
and then I went to college in [INAUDIBLE] the Christian Brothers College in [INAUDIBLE]
I: Um hm. When did you graduate high school?
J: Uh, in 1947.
I: Nineteen forty-seven.
I: And when you graduated
J: I was intermediate. I got the intermediate certificate.
I: I see. Did you learn anything about Korea from the school?
I: Hm. You didn’t know where Korea located in the map?
J: No, not that I can remember.
I: Wow. Now you are the Korean War veteran. Have you been back to Korea?
J: Yes, I have.
I: What time, when, when?
J: We, um, I joined, I joined the Navy in 1950, and I was aboard the HMS Sydney when it was, uh, sent to Korea. And
that was in 19, Christmas 1951, we, uh, were up there from September to March, 1952.
I: Um hm.
J: And, uh, we were up there when the typhoon Ruth was there. We were up there when the, uh, winter was there, uh. The flight deck was covered in icicles and, uh, before the aircraft couldn’t take off
when all the ice was on the ice deck. And, uh, it had to be washed, scrubbed off by the crew, not that I did any of that. But, uh,
I: No, no. What I meant is that have you been back to Korea since you left Korea?
J: Yes. I went back, uh, on the 40th anniversary of Kapyong. And I went back, uh, two years ago, uh, per favor of Mr. Lee of Buyong Proprity Ltd.
So, I’ve had two trips.
I: Wow. So, you saw Korea at least three times. right? But mostly in 1950, the Korea that you saw, and the Korea you saw two years ago. What is the difference? Tell me the details please.
J: Well, I never saw the Korea in 1950 because
I: You were in the Navy.
J: We were in the Navy.
J: So, uh, we would be out on patrol for two weeks, with half a dozen ships guarding the aircraft carrier,
and then when I went back in, uh, the 40th anniversary of Kapyong, uh, we went, you know, up to the DMZ. We went down to, uh, Pusan, uh. We came back from Pusan to Seoul by bus. There was no train, uh. That all happened later. And, uh, we then, uh, when I went back more recently, uh, I was just
[INAUDIBLE] to see developments that had taken place in Seoul. We didn’t go down to Pusan. We only went to Kapyong and to the DMZ. But the difference was, you know, quite amazing, you know, with the building and the, the roads and the people and, it just, and that, and that was just in, you know, 20 odd years, you know. Uh, of course, that was quite interesting.
I: Hm. So tell me about, when did you join the Navy? And why did you join the Navy?
J: I joined
I: You said that it’s 1950, right?
J: Yeah. I joined on the 17th of January, 1950.
I: I’m sorry? When?
J: Seventeenth of January, 1950. And, uh, I just had a yearning, uh, and a yen to, wanting to join the Navy. And, uh, my mother said keep the form in your pocket for a month and then we’ll sign it cause I was only 17 ½ at the time. So, um
we then went, uh, I think I went down to Service and joined up, and I was going to be a writer, and, of course I was in doing clerical stuff and counting and so forth. And, uh, but then there was air show [INAUDIBLE] starting up at Service and, uh, so I joined that. And then I went from there to, uh, HMS Albatross in [NARA] which is the air station.
I: Um hm.
J: And then I was posted to the Sydney, and that’s when I went to the Korea,
uh, aboard Sydney was an aircraft carrier, and I continued in the Navy, uh, Reserve, and I rose to the rank of Commander.
I: Um. So, what was the most difficult thing? What, tell me about this naval vessel that you were in. What is the name of it, and what was it, destroyer or
J: No, it as an aircraft carrier.
I: Aircraft carrier.
J: Uh, HMS Sydney aircraft carrier. We had three squadrons, uh, a flange on board.
I: What’s the name of it?
J: HMS Sydney.
I: Can you spell it?
J: S Y D N E Y.
J: That’s Her Majesty’s Australian ship Sydney.
I: Okay. That was aircraft carrier.
J: Aircraft carrier.
I: And how many airplanes were there, and what kind airplanes were there?
J: We had, uh, two squadrons of fir, no,
two squadrons of Fireflies, and one of, uh, we had three squadrons on board, um. There was, um, the Hawk, the Seahawk, [INAUDIBLE] Memory’s gone. But there were three squadrons with aircraft on board, um. Two of them were like Spitfires, uh, and they had a single pilot. And the other had a pilot and a navigator.
I: Um, what was your specialty, and what was your unit?”
J: I was, I was the, I was in the Supply branch, and I was the young steward assistant in those days.
I: Um hm.
J: Sleeping in a hammock.
I: And tell me about the life inside the, that. So how big was it?
J: We had a crew of, uh,
around about 1,200 people and, uh, it was quite large actually, aircraft carrier and
I: And did you take a shower every day?
J: Yes, yes, yeah.
J: Yeah, hot shower, showers and
I: You’re lucky.
J: And we had to scrub our hammocks and clean those every two weeks and, uh, get them all cleaned up and ready
to change the, the outsides, how we get the men in.
I: The Army person that I just finished seeing to interview, he said that he took first shower after six months.
J: Oh, yeah.
I: [INAUDIBLE] he was deployed to Korea.
J: Uh, we had, we had all our meals were provided. Everything was there for us and
I: So, you were smart to choose Navy, huh?
J: Yeah. And we had, we’d have, uh, go to our action stations when we were planning to be taking off. We lost a couple
of planes and, uh, and pilots and, uh, but that, that, uh, we were all sort of down below. So we didn’t see any of that.
I: And any, what were you thinking when you were there? What, were you in the East Sea or West Sea, Yellow Sea or where were you?
J: We were, we,
we, we’d be on the Eastern side of Korea, South Korea, and we’d, we sat outside there. Then we would go, how we’d be there for two weeks on patrol, and the aircraft would be taking, uh, blokes out of Korea. And then we would go back to, uh, uh, to Japan and Kurae or in [INAUDIBLE], and we would replenish and refuel and so forth. And then we would head out again.
I: Was there any enemy attack against, uh, aircraft carrier at the time?
J: Not to any, not to the aircraft carrier. We had six warships destroyed and battleships around us to protect the aircraft carrier
J: Uh, because they were the ones that, uh, that had to protect the aircraft carrier without the aircraft, craft that, that was it. And that was part of it. The Missouri, USS Missouri was one of the ships, uh. There were ships from different countries, uh.
And they would be guarding us if you like.
I: Um. What was your main mission? Remember what, what did this aircraft carrier did? Did it bomb North Koreans?
J: Well it, it bombed them [INAUDIBLE] and they did strapping, strapping on the , on the mainland and, uh, they bombed, uh, they bombed air, the Fireflies would drop bombs on that, on, I think, I don’t know the date, uh, because it wasn’t part of my area.
I: Uh huh.
So, what do you think about this whole thing? You never knew Korea before, and you didn’t actually landed in the Theater in the Seoul, but you are part of Korean War legacy, and now Korea is 11th largest economy in the world.
J: Yeah, well, and, and I’m just amazed at the, uh, the attitude of the Korean people as to what to do. Like they, they can’t, can’t, they just can’t stop helping, you know.
They can’t do anything to, they, they just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you. And, and I, I just amazed at, uh, what they did. I, um, I was involved with the Ware Memorial in Cambra, on the fundraising on that one with Kim Hughes and Rick [INAUDIBLE] But they’re no longer with [INAUDIBLE] um. I was at the [INAUDIBLE] of the Korean Memorial in Queensland and, uh, I understand that the one here in Melbourne, I’m ashamed of what happened on the 11thof April this year.
I: Hm. And any other episode that you want to share with me about your service?
J: No. I think, the only thing that, uh, you know, that I said would be the, the ice on the flight deck and the, and the soldiers had to get up and scrub it all up in order for the planes to take off, uh. Then there’s the issue of a typhoon, uh, where we were in a harbor in Japan.
But we had to get out, uh, because the ship was too large, um, to avoid the, I think we lost a number of planes on the flight deck which were washed up during the typhoon, um. It, uh, we had Christmas Day in Japan, un. I caught up with a, um, a friend of my father’s that, uh, at the, uh, Army barracks in, in Korea, in, uh, Japan and, uh,
uh, I met Captain [INAUDIBLE] on that bridge, and old Captain, um. And, uh, he drove me back to the ship. I was a young sailor then go to the [INAUDIBLE] the day and I, I’ll always remember that as part of the operation.
J: Course then we, uh, I think, stayed on the Sydney, and we went to the Coronation around the world in six months and, and I stayed there again, uh, when we went to Viet Nam.
So, but that was a troop ship when we went to Viet Nam.
I: Um hm. Any other story that you wanna share with me? What about, why don’t you say something to the, word, about 70th anniversary of the Korean War. We don’t still have a peace treaty at all.
J: Yeah, well that, uh, I noticed that. You sort of, I mean, [INAUDIBLE] back at Kapyong for the 40th anniversary of Kapyong. Then the, the anniversary’s coming up.
I’ve got a tie for the, um, 65th anniversary, uh, given to me by the, uh, Dept. of Veterans Affairs and, um, then, uh, and now the 70th is coming up this year and, uh, uh, and there, no doubt there’ll be a, I’m going down to the, you know, memorial. I, uh, helped bring the National Secretary of the Korean Veterans Association, uh, and different roles and I just get along, still on
I: Great, John. Thank you very much for fighting for the, the country that you never knew before and sharing your story with me. Thank you again, John.
J: Right. Do you want any of this?
I: Sure. Yeah.
[End of Recorded Material]