Maurice B. Pears
Maurice Pears was born on November 14, 1929 in a suburb of Sydney, Australia. After graduating high school, he attended a military college and then joined the Australian Army in 1950. After training, he was sent to the Korean War in 1951 as a platoon leader and was dug in at the front lines fighting in many famous battles such as Operation Minden, Battle of Kapyong, and the Battle of Hills 227, 355, and 317. During his time in Korea, he was able to see the destruction in Seoul, Korean civilians trying to survive in small villages, and difficult terrain surrounding his men. He felt lucky to have the assistance of the Korean civilians to help transport supplies, ammunition, and work along side the Australian soldiers during battle. Maurice Pears was so proud of his country’s effort during the Korean War that he organized the creation of a Korean War memorial in Australia.
Korea Revisit: A Time to Remember the War
Maurice Pears traveled back to Korea in the early 1990's as a guest of the Korean government. While traveling around the nation, he remembered how Seoul was in rubble and there was poverty everywhere. Now, Maurice Pears was impressed by the evolution of the shops, modern businesses, and transportation.
The Forgotten War Being Remembered in Australia
Maurice Pears stated that the Korean War is known as the "forgotten war" because it came right after WWII and that was a time when the world was tired of war. To help people remember the Korean War Maurice Pears worked with many organizations to gather donations for a monument in Australia. After 13 months, he was able to reveal the beautiful Korean War memorial.
Protecting the Hills After the Battle of Kapyong
Maurice Pears was trained as an infantryman in 1950. After arriving at Kimpo Airbase he went to the front lines at Kapyong to dig in. He also did some patrols across the river in enemy territory. As a commander of 26 men, they had to prepare for the assault on the Chinese.
Life as a Korean War Soldier and Operation Minden
Maurice Pears lived in foxholes during his year in Korea from 1951-1952. During patrols, he went through small Korean villages that were filled with only women and children. During Operation Minden, his troops fought the Chinese for Hill 355, 317, and 227 while enduring many casualties.
Life of a Korean War Soldier
Maurice Pears would be on the front line for one month without a chance to shower, eat a hot meal, and deal with a water shortage. Each soldier had their own foxhole where they endured snow and heat. With the help of Korean civilians, the soldiers were able to travel up and down the Korean hills.
[Beginning of recorded material]
M: My name is Maurice Pears, P E A R S and, uh, I’m a returned soldier from the Korean War in 1951.
I: Do you have a middle initial, right, middle name?
M: Uh, Bertram, yes.
I: B E
M: R T R A M.
I: And your first name is Maurice.
I: M A U R I C E.
M: That is correct.
I: But you want to be called Murray?
M: All the way.
I: All the way.
What is your birthday?
M: Uh, the 14th of November, 1929.
I: So you born in the year of Great Depression.
M: Right in the middle of the Depression, right at the start of the Great Depression which, uh, 1930 -’33 was the, uh, peak of it throughout the world.
I: Um. How was living like those day?
M: Uh, well I think it was very tough for the parents. But, uh , for children, uh, they adapt pretty quickly
to poverty or luxury, uh. We had interesting times, but I was, uh, like all the others, children of the streets. There was, uh, families in Paddington had nothing, and they were living from, uh, hand to mouth most of the year. So Depression was an ugly time for Australia as it was for the rest of the world.
I: So you describe yourself as a pedo boy. What does that mean, pedo boy?
M: Uh, pedo is, uh,
a distinctive suburb in, in Sydney. It’s a, an eastern suburb of Sydney and it’s, ,uh, an underprivileged suburb where, uh, working class people used to live, uh, during a war and, uh, it was a time of difficulty for all those people, So it’s just sort of a, an honor to be called a pedo boy because, uh, I’ve come somewhere from there.
I: Um. So you were once pedo boy.
I: But now you are retired Lieutenant Colonel, very famous Korean War veteran here in Gold Coast.
I: What a transformation.
M: Well, yes. It was a, a terrible, a significant thing for me and, of course, the Korean War was the most significant in my life at the time.
I: Uh huh. Have you ever thought that you’d become Korean War veteran and come like this today
M: No, I did not.
I: when you were growing up?
M: No, I did not. I was looking at digging the streets or going on the trains or something.
But I had no idea.
I: Just like a usual pedo boy.
M: Yes, that’s true.
I: Well. So tell me about your family background when you were growing up. How about your parents and you siblings.
M: Well, I had a difficult, uh, time for them because, uh, my father had, uh, another family to look after and, uh, he was in a poorly paid job,
and it was difficult to obtain money or food in those days. Uh, it went on right until the beginning of the second war, ’39.
M: Australia was in depression for a considerable amount of time.
I: So must be very difficult time for you and your family.
M: It was a difficult time for the family. But as a young child, you don’t understand what’s going on in the rest of the world. We used to run in the street and play games and, you know, eat bread and dripping and, uh,
it didn’t worry us. But, uh, it wasn’t until much later that I realized.
I: Did you have a brother or a sister?
M: No, I was a single child.
I: Only child.
M: Um hm.
I: I see. And tell me about the school you went through.
M: Uh, well I went through a primary school in Paddington and, uh, it was, I did quite well there and, uh, I managed to be selected to go to the principal high school in Sydney
which was the Sydney Boys High School which is, uh, a meritorious school. You had to qualify for entering it, and I, I think that really was the beginning of a, a better life for me.
I: When was it?
M: Uh, 1942 I went there, yeah.
I: ’42 for high school?
M: Yeah. I left primary at ’41 and, uh, was in high school at ‘42
I: Um hm. And how were you qualified? I mean you were pedo boy and, you know, it was a kind of difficult environment,
and did you study well or what happened?
M: There’s a, a, system in, in Australia at the time was to take the Intelligence Quotient of all the boys and select the top 100 and, uh, allow them to enter on a bursary into Sydney Boys High School, and I was one of the lucky ones that was selected.
I: Did you take the exam?
M: Yes, you do a sort of an examination or, it was called an Intelligence test,
Intelligence Quotient test which we did, uh. So that was really a, a significant move upwards for me, and without it, of course, uh, without education you can do nothing in this world.
I: Uh. Did your mom do something magic for you or
M: Well, my mother was everything because, uh, she had an unsatisfactory marriage, and then she was widowed in 1942.
M: And, uh, it was very difficult for her,
and me because from then on, we had no means of support
M: and mother, of course, used to do jobs in restaurants and cafes and that to keep, to keep me alive and through the five years necessary in, uh, in high school.
I: Great mom.
M: Yeah, it was, yes.
I: So when did you graduate high school?
M: I graduated high school in 1946
I: Um hm.
M: 1946, yes.
I: And what did you do after that?
M: Well, I was lucky because I, I got another bursary there for, uh, entrance to the Royal Military College at Duntroon.
M : which, uh,
I: Royal Military College
M: Which was a very, very significant, uh, benefit which was sought after by everyone in those years. And, uh, I was very, very lucky to be selected for Sydney Boys High School for Duntroon.
I: So Duntroon is the location name or the name of the
M: Duntroon, Duntroon is a, a college in Cambra, and it’s the military college for Australia and for New Zealand.
M: where you do a [INAUDIBLE] four-year term
M: of study.
I: So it’s a military academy these days,, right?
M: It is, yes. It’s developed quite significantly, and we have a Defense Force Academy right next to Duntroon now.
I: So you must be really performing well in the high school.
M: I, yes, I was lucky.
I was prefit and, uh, I, uh, did a bit of sport and I was, I did, I,I only just, uh, got into the qualifications for Duntroon. I wasn’t a, a mental academic, no. But I got there. That wasn’t my thing. And that was my first big step in life.
I: Very good. Let me ask this question. So you went through very good education considering all t his, uh, difficult environment, especially the
Great Depression. Had you learned anything about Korea in your high school?
M: I never heard of Korea.
I: You never heard of it?
M: No. It was not even part of our Geography and, uh, I didn’t study, uh, I just studied, studied the two mathematics, the two sciences and one language and, uh, that was, that was my curriculum for entry into, uh, Australian University in those days.
I: And you didn’t
choose Korean language as your language, right?
M: Uh, no. There was no such thing as Korean language in Australia. You, unfortunately, were under colonization from Japan, I think, at this stage.
I: Right. So you didn’t know anything about Korea.
M: No, I did not.
I: Uh. And now you’ve become Korean War veteran.
M: Indeed I am. And, uh,
I: How are you going to explain about this?
M: Uh, it’s very easy because it’s, a, it was a wonderful opportunity to grow up, and it was a wonderful
opportunity to be a soldier, and it was a wonderful opportunity to assist another nation in its’ development.
I: Have you been back to Korea since then?
M: I went back in the, uh, 90’s, early
M: Oh, it was either the late ‘80’s or the early ‘90’s.. I can’t remember now. But, uh, uh, I had a, the Korean government took me over there to, uh, present the, uh,
Ambassador for Peace medals and to have a, a very gracious tour around, and I thank them for that. It was very nice.
I: So you didn’t know anything about Korea, but you were in Korea from 1951 to ‘52
M: ’53, yeah. ’52. Then I went to Japan in ’53.
I: Yeah, right.
M: That is right, yeah.
I: And then you went back to Korea again in 1990 or, let’s say that. What are
the differences that you noticed there?
M: Well, it’s, all I remember of Korea was the center of Korea, Seoul, uh, near the opera house I believe, where the hospital was.
M: I was evacuated to that hospital and, uh,
I: My high school was close to that.
M: Was it?
M: Yeah, well.
I: Seoul National University Hospital, yes.
M: Well, it ‘s uh, all it was was, uh, rubble. It had been bombed.
I: Um hm.
M: And all I could see were rubbled
buildings and, uh, and very little else because, uh, I was at the hospital for a short while, and t hen I was returned back to the line very quickly. But, uh, what I saw in Seoul then was, uh, of course, amazing. Modern city, uh, the same as Sydney. In fact, bigger than Sydney at that stage. Remarkable progress for a, uh, Korea that I knew anyway.
I: Had you ever thought that when you left Korea
in 1952 that Korea would become like this today?
M: No, I didn’t. I, I, what is amazing is, you know yourself, that sort of progress, uh, from dust, you know, is, is quite remarkable, uh, for a particular nation. No, I didn’t even think about it. I, I thought probably that Korea was just the same as when I left it, uh, until someone told me it wasn’t.
I: Describe the moment that you saw Korea in 1990, the first image and first thinking when you saw Korea again. What did you, what did you tell yourself, or what did you think?
M: Well, I thought just what a remarkable difference it had been from, from a impoverished city to, uh, a major modern metropolis, uh. And I was quite amazed.
Apart from walking around all the shopping centers to buy presents to take home, uh, the shops were superior to my shops at home at that stage. I was looking at a, a, uh, a city which has developed at a greater rate than my own. I was quite amazed.
I: I mean, the South Korea is the size of Tasmania, that island.
I: So you are 78th larger than us,
M: Yes, yeah.
I: Do you know where the rank is, Korean economy is?
M: About 5 or 4 or 3?
I: It’s 11th largest economy in the world by GDP
I: And, un,
M: Well, all I know is it’s far superior to what Australia is, and we’re trying hard. We’re trying very hard and, uh, we’re very good friends with Korea at present for which
I: Absolutely is. We are
M: Very grateful indeed.
M: Um hm.
I: We are grateful that you fought for us so that we could have a opportunity to rebuild our nation.
M: We’re probably the only nation that’s ever said so to the Australian veterans. And I think you’re probably the only nation that’s ever supported us, uh, for the last 30 years or so.
M: Uh, we’re very grateful for that, too.
I: Um hm. But as you know, Korean War been known as Forgotten War.
I: We don’t teach despite that the facts that
the beautiful outcome came out of your service, honorable service and fighting. We don’t teach about it, not just in the Australia but also in the United States, all of the world.
I: They don’t give a damn about Korea. Why is that?
M: Well, I think that the War in Korea arose out of the, uh, the Cold War between the major nations, Russia and Britain.
I: Um hm.
M: Uh, and most of the world
was pretty tired of, uh, wars. I mean, they’d only just finished, uh,
I: World War II,
M: World War II, and people were very much tired of all the active conflict and, uh, it was really difficult for, uh, Australia to go there because, uh, you know, it was pretty unknown what was going to happen, and the political situation was very difficult between Russia and the United States and the,
the borderline. It, uh, it was a very tense situation throughout the world, and, of course, the atomic, atomic threat was, uh, all around at that stage, and everyone was frightened
I: Um hm.
M: of, uh, what’s gonna happen, who’s gonna drop an atomic bomb first and, uh, that sort of put Korea in the background, uh, for many, many years. And, uh, in fact, no one started to think about Korea until about, uh, the 60’s or 70’s when we started to actively
publicize the War, I, by, uh, writing some books and having some exercises. Our, uh, our General at the time or the Commander of Third Battalion which was involved in Kapyong and Maryang san and [Kamiksan], uh, decided that it was about time that the Australian military recognized what we’d done, and from then on, uh, he was, of course, a Senior General of the
I: What’s his name?
M: Frank Hasset.
I: Um hm.
M: Frank Hasset. Uh, he became the leader of the Army. And, uh, and then the people started to be interested in it, and from there, I think, the close association we had with the Korean Embassy started that stage, uh, for which we’re very grateful.
I: You’ve been the leader in Gold Coast about the Korean War Veterans Association here. There is a memorial in Cascade Garden, right?
I: Could you talk about that, and what was your role in,
in erecting that?
M: Well, that was very significant because, uh, after I retired, I went into private work and, uh, I was quite successful in that. And, uh, I was looking around really for something to do, and I was involved with their Returned Services League. Uh, and I thought oh gee, it’d be nice if I could build a, uh, a memorial because we haven’t got anything. Everyone’s forgotten about Korea, and I’d very much like to build a memorial.
And as it so happened, in 2009, the Korean Society, uh, which we’d been involved in for a number of years, uh, on, on, uh, a special day, on the 22nd of July. The Korean Society had a desire to build a monument and, uh, they arranged a meeting with me and, uh,
I: In Gold Coast.
M: on the Gold Coast and two other, uh, Korean
leaders there, Mr. Lee and Mr. Pyong, and uh, we sat down and we worked out how we can build a memorial. Uh, and it, it was a, a major task because I had to get the support of the State Government, uh, the Gold Coast Council and the Federal Government and, of course, yourselves, the Embassy, uh, to fund it. Uh, we started off with a, a simple sum of, uh,
25,000 which was collected from the people of, uh, Korean people of the Gold Coast, from the little pennies, their little shops, 25,000 and, uh, 25,000 that I donated on behalf of the Veterans ride. That was 50,000 we had.
I: You matched the 25.
M: Yeah. And then 50,000. We had enough. Well, that’s enough to get it. Uh, we started to plan it, and we had to get Council approval and build it and, uh,
it worked out that 50,000 wasn’t nearly enough. So, uh, I said well, we gotta build it, and I told the Premier of Queensland we gotta build it, and we’ll need some money. And, uh, they came forward. They matched me with 25,000. Then I got in touch with the Federal government, and they matched me with 25,000. So all of a sudden, uh, I had enough money to put up a basic stage one.
I: Hundred thousand.
M: Yeah. And a basic stage one,
with the foundation for a stage two, alright. So off we go, and then, uh, that stage, of course, uh, the Korean people and the Association with the Council General and the Embassy, uh, decided this is a good idea.
I: Um hm.
M: and, uh, they decided to back us, right, and they, uh, provided one, uh, so many million, I think, to the equivalent of 100,000, uh, Australian dollars. Basically
I: So it’s just matching, matching and matching.
Finally we got to, uh, an excess of $200,000, and with that I could get, uh, the memorial built because I was getting favors from, uh, people in the Gold Coast, uh, who would help out with all of the labor and do the plans for us at low cost, and I found a builder, uh, who would build it at, uh,, almost cost for us, and away we went. And, uh, we didn’t
complete it until 2011. But, uh, it was built in a little over 13 months, and I think that’s the only time a major work has been completed on the Gold Coast, uh, from nothing to finalization. And it was a wonderful, thrilling experience for all of us to, uh, to see a memorial here in Queensland, uh, whereas you had to go to Cambra to see it if you wanted to.
I: I was there, Cascade Garden,
and I did interview the first day here in Gold Coast in Taipei Center
M: Monday, yeah.
I: and it was beautiful. There was also the rocks from Kapyong
M: That’s right.
I: Yeah. So you did a marvelous job.
M: Well, halfway through the building, uh, the Korean team, the Korean Society, said would you like something from Kapyong, and I said it would be wonderful if we could get the rocks of Kapyong. I mean, it would finish the, uh, monument beyond all four [INAUDIBLE]
M: They got these lovely boulders from, uh, uh, Kapyong, and we had a discussion with the Mayor up there and, uh, they’re sitting there, and they arrived about, uh, a week before we were ready to open. So we had these great big, uh, boulders, uh, lying on the ground there, and I had to get the builder to come back and get some lifts or something to, cranes to put them in position, which he did. And we were just ready about three days before the opening.
So we’re very lucky.
I: See what a pedo boy did.
M: That’s right. Well, what everyone else did here, all the Korean veterans and, uh, soldier veterans and civilian people who are now Australian citizens incidentally. They, they were of Korean descent.
I: So, so one good thing that we have a memorial here. But that’s not all. We have to educate our young generation about the legacy of the Korean War, the war that you fought for
I: for the country you didn’t know anything about. How can we do that? How can we overcome this reality that nobody’s talking about Korean War, not much, here in Australia. How can we do that?
M: Well, I think you’ve done it as much as possible, uh, by supporting us, uh, from your, uh, from the home country actually, from Korea itself has been supporting us. And we’ve managed to gain recognition and, uh, I don’t
think we do much more than that now, uh, because the Vet, the Viet Nam wars, then you were also involved with that and, of course, the Viet Nam veterans are closely associated with the Korean Society.
M: And you’ve been giving magnificent support to us every year. So I don’t know that we can do anything more, uh. We’re very happy and, but you see, Australia is now involved in wars in, uh, Iraq and Afghanistan and, uh, associated wars
with the United States. And, uh, just as the veterans from the, in the first and second world war are now being forgotten, the Korean War are starting to forget, and we’re trying to give some value to the Viet Nam War and to the Aussies served in, uh, Iraq and Afghanistan. So we’re in a place in history now which is very nice, and I think if we can support that in the future, we’ll be very, very delighted.
I: What my Foundation is focusing
is to working with the teachers, History teachers, and providing them the curricular resources, the lesson plan and primary and secondary resources on the Korean War and Korea so that they can teach about it, and we are making use of this interview. So your interview will be also used near future if we can make a lesson plan for the teachers here in Australia.
M: Yes. It would be wonderful if you could influence them.
I: Do you know of any History teacher around here in Gold Coast?
M: No. I don’t unfortunately. So
I: You gotta let me know so that we can reach out to them and talking with them.
M: Well, we can find out. Just call the, uh, teachers on the Coast or the Education Department would, uh,
M: I sort of have no, no links with them at this stage.
I: If you know of any History teachers association in Australia, that’ll be a great resources that we want to approach, okay? So you please
help me to
I: to promote more legacy of you.
M: I’ll work, I’ll work on that for you, yes.
M: Now I know, yeah.
I: Let’s go back to your military career. So tell me about this Duntroon Military College, Royal Military College. How was it? Was it hard to go through or
M: Yes. It is difficult because it’s highly competitive and, uh, it’s just time to [send to store ]the American and any other military university in the world.
You’re supposed to get an academic achievement as well as a leadership achievement, and it’s difficult to find people who fit into that, that. So I, I was very proud of being able to, uh, graduate because, uh, my life now is, I thought, complete. I was educated, and I was ready to take on the rest of the world, uh. And, of course, my first step after Duntroon was on an airplane to Korea.
I: But up to that moment, you didn’t even thing that you
would become involved in Korea, right?
M: No because I didn’t think anyone in Australia thought that at this stage.
I: So what was your specialty when you graduate from Duntroon?
M: I was an Infantryman.
M: Front lines.
I: Uh huh. And that was 1950, right?
M: Yes, 1950.
I: And then what happened to you? Did you go to Japan right away?
M: No, I took some leave, and then I went to a holding, um, battalion in Sydney. And from there, I got on an airplane,
I think, in May and, uh, we headed off to Korea. About the middle of the year I think.
I: But you were in Japan.
M: Uh, before that,
M: I just got off the airplane. I didn’t stay in Japan. After, after Korea, I was posted to the Battle School in Haramura in Japan.
I: Oh. So you were in Japan just to go to Korea, right?
M: Yes, and I
I: Uh huh.
M: I got on a DC airplane and flew off to Korea.
I: So when did you arrive in Korea and where?
M: I arrived in Korea, I’m told, uh, at
M: end of June or the beginning of July, yes.
M: And, uh,
I: And that’s 1950?
M: 1951. The Australians,
I: Oh yeah, ’51. I’m sorry.
M: The Australians didn’t go to Korea till the 29th of September in [INAUDIBLE]
I: Right, and where did you arrive?
I: Was it Pusan?
M: I think it was, no, no.
M: Kimpo, Kimpo.
M: Yes. We arrived up there and
then moved quickly to the battlefield from there.
I: Battlefield where?
M: We were at, uh, just, uh, East of Kapyong, uh, early in the Samichon Valley.
I: And what was your, uh, unit at the time?
M: Three Battalion
I: Three Battalion.
M: And I was posted to C Company
I: C Company
M: of the Third Aus, Royal Australian Regiment .
And I was given
M: Three RIR. Three Royal Australian Regiment 3RIR.
I: Then you were Lieutenant, Second Lieutenant?
M: Second Lieutenant because I [INAUDIBLE]
I: Yeah, right.
M: So I [led] the Second Lieutenant and I was, uh, given my first command So it’s the most significant day of my life apart from getting married.
I: So you were the platoon leader.
I: How many soldiers under your leadership?
M: Uh, we, we were supposed to have 30, but it normally between 24 – 26.
I: And tell me about the situation in Kapyong around the time that you arrived there. How was it? Who were the enemy? What was the situation? Please describe in detail.
M: It’s difficult because [INAUDIBLE] there was a sort of a, a lull after Kapyong, uh, because the
British battalion had been captured and the whole battalion, the Gloucester, had been lost at [Kamiksan]. And we were up the East of [Kamiksan] and a long feature called the [Loggins}
I: Uh huh.
M: And there we sat, uh, for about, uh, two months, trained, uh. We did some patrols over the river into enemy territory and, uh, what was happening, we were getting ready, in fact,
for the assault on Maryang san in October.
M: But we didn’t know better at the time, or I didn’t.
I: Who was the enemy?
M: The enemy were the Chinese.
M: Because the North Korean, at that stage, had been, uh, uh, well, joined by the Chinese Forces just before Kapyong.
I: And tell me about your daily routine there. What did you do? Describe everything
in detail for young students.
M: Well, uh, we were, I suppose for young students, we were in a stable defensive position where we dug holes and lived in the ground and, uh, in the daytime we, uh, uh, tried to clean up our defensive positions and restore the wire and, uh, get rid of all the, uh, uh, mines that were around the place.
And in the meantime trained, ready to go out and do patrols. And from there, we did, in fact, uh, do a number of patrols into enemy territory, uh, most of which were, did not meet the enemy but, uh, we had the opportunity of leaving through this small, little villages and homes of Korean people who’d stayed there at the time. Of course, they were very nervous about soldiers, uh, living around them. But, uh, we managed to
tell them that we, we were friends and not enemies. And, uh, they were mainly females and families. The men had jumped up the hill, I think, as soon as they saw us coming and, yeah.
I: Were they friendly to you?
M: Oh yes, yes, yes. They were quite friendly.
I: How was the living condition for those Korean people?
M: Well, I don’t know how they survived. Uh, I suppose it was just, they survived on their own gardens and, uh,
lived as they normally did in, in, you know, little villages and homes and, uh, I think the rest of Korea suffered the same way. It’s, uh, the men had gone to war, and they were left behind. So it was, it was sad really to, to see from that. But, uh, we ended up, uh, doing an operation against the enemy at that stage, Operation Minden, which we had a
M: Minden, M I N D N. M I N D E N.
I: Minden. Why is it Minden?
M: Oh, they gave a name to it. I don’t know why. But, uh, we crossed, the whole battalion crossed the Samichon and, uh, took up a defensive position, and there were some reaction.
I: When was it?
M: Uh, about, uh, June.
I: Of 195
M: One, yeah. About a month before, uh, Maryang San.
M: And I found out later, of course, this was a, a practice for the battalion
to engage in a full Commonwealth Division action against Maryang San a month later. But, uh, we were right. We sort of came back again
I: So it was just operation, not real battle.
M: It was a battle, but no one turned up really. We were, uh,
I: What a battle that is, huh?
M: Well, we just said when they bomb the Artillery. So we had a few casualties with Artillery and, and no one turned up. So we went back home again, uh, and we were ready then for Maryang San which
came up in the beginning of October.
I: So tell me about that, the major battle in Maryang San.
M: Uh, Maryang San was a major Commonwealth Division with three brigades in it and, uh, the brigade that we were in, uh, had, uh, two British battalions, uh, that caused [INAUDIBLE], and they had, uh, the Third Battalion was 3RIR. And, uh, it’s a very complicated battle and a
magnificent battle, uh. We lost, uh, you know, quite heavily in our casualties for it and, uh, it’s recorded as one of the most amazing infantry battles in, uh, Commonwealth history. It, uh, it was a very significant one that occurred over five days and, uh, we managed to occupy both 355 and 317 which were the two commanding
features of the Samichon at the time.
I: Right. So you mentioned 355, 317 and there’s another one, 227.
I: Talk about post.
M: 227 was a battle I was involved in, uh, in January of 1962.
I: Um hm.
M: where we had come back from reserves and we’re occupying a position on Hill 210 which was, uh, part of the 355.
I: Um hm.
M: Uh, 317 complex and, uh, we were placed right in the front next to the Chinese, and we were in a little position called an outpost
I: Um hm.
M: and uh, we were told to attack the Chinese who we could see through the outpost position. They had a post up there which we used to look at to sort of wave at them every day, uh. But they were peaceful and, uh, we decided, uh,
that, uh, we had to have that piece of land. And, uh, we attacked it at night, But unfortunately, uh, the Chinese were too heavily, uh, occupying it, and we were forced to withdraw and very significant casualties.
M: But that was a personal C Company.
M: Nine, seven returned job. It was a very, it was my first night battle, and it was the most, uh, difficult
indeed to, even if the, the, uh, battle was successful, it would have been extremely difficult to know what was going on because it was dark, uh. They put a search light on top of the hill for us, uh. But all the search light did was blind us when we were trying to look where we were. So the search light was a failure. But, uh, we were just pushed off the hill and pushed back into our, our old position.
I: So that’s the battle at night
for 227, Dog outpost.
M: That’s right, yes.
I: So you, you talking like, you know, nothing happened now. But when you. when you were asked about it, what do you think? How, how did you survive, and what do you think about those? It’s like a flash of bomb, right?
M: Well, I just, I just think how amazing the Australian soldier is. From October to January, we were in three major
battles, and my platoon was the lead platoon on each one of them, right. So they suffered tremendously, uh. The strain on them and the difficulty of being involved in three major battles over, uh, a period of five months is almost unbelievable. But they stood firm. There’s not a, not one of them, however, said oh, let’s go home or let’s go , you know, this is too difficult. They just, uh, slogged their way right through it. It’s a magnificent story for them.
I: And you luckily survived.
M: I did survive
I: in one piece. And you were not wounded at all?
M: I was, I was wounded earlier, yes.
I: How many times? Where?
M: Well, I was, I was wounded on, uh, 317.
M: And, uh, I had, uh, I remained on duty as most of us did, and we were evacuated then to Seoul, uh, for a short while. A week later, I was back in the lines I think.
I: Um hm. So you got the
what is it, the, the highest medal, I think. It’s, uh, Military Cross.
M: Yes, it’s very
I: Is it the highest medal that Australian government award?
M: Pretty well for a platoon commander. But the highest one, of course, is the Victoria Cross.
I: I see.
M: And we
I: But tell me about it. How you, how you were recognized to get it? What was the occasion?
M: I, I don’t really know. It was the Battle of 355 and 317 and 227 I suppose.
I was, uh, five of us received the military cross.
I: From your platoon or
M: No, from the company and the battalion, the battalion, the whole battalion. So it, was, uh, it was a, a great reward, you know, very significant for me. It, uh, really was the, the experience of my life, uh, to command Australian troops in battle.
I: Were you afraid in, on those three major battles?
M: I don’t really know.
I’ve been, uh, it’s simple for a platoon commander really because his company commander says this is what you’re gonna do, and if you just put your head down and do it, uh, it works most of the time. But, uh, cau, I was very cautious and I didn’t want to get hit. But, uh, they all went through the first day, that first engagement that the platoon went through on, uh, 355, heavily mortared, uh,
all the way to the top, you know. And it was, uh, I had three sections, and one of the sections, everyone was wounded and taken out. So I was left with two sections, uh, with no reinforcements. So it was a wonderful group of men.
M: Wonderful group of men.
I: Any other episode or dangerous moment that you might have lost your life you wanna share with us?
M: In war, uh, war is dangerous. I really can’t remember. I mean, there was so much, uh, occasion in battle, uh, 317, 355. I mean, I, I had shrapnel in my platoon with section that I was with. We were shredded with live mortars and, uh, our clothing was knicks and, uh, shredded and,
uh, I had my field service pocketbook which was on my left upper thing. There was a great hunk of shrapnel in the pocketbook, uh, and, uh, similar with the soldiers, too. So we had, uh, had some soldiers lost their equipment, and it was, it was a very difficult time. But, if we hadn’t have, uh, kept going, it would have been disastrous.
I: Did you know why you were there to fight?
M: Oh yes. We had our,
we had, uh, objectives to do
I: What was it?
M: Well, the features we had to take was 220 and, uh, the one behind it, yes, on the, on the way to the top of 355. But, uh, our Company Commander was an amazing soldier and, uh, so was our CO, Frank Hasset. So we were successful, fortunately in the whole, whole four months.
I: Oh, the Frank was there, in the Korean War?
M: Frank Hasset was, led us in Maryang San
M: He was the CO, a CO of the Battalion. And, uh,
I: Later he become the General here, and he’s the one who initiated more promotion.
M: That’s right, yes. He was the one.
M: And, uh,
I: Tell me more about him please, if you know of anything.
M: Ah, well he served in the, uh, Second World War. He was the youngest, one of the youngest officers ever to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, uh.
He was a distinguished graduate, uh,
I: What’s his name? Could you spell it?
M: Francis Hassett, H A S S E T T.
I: Hold on a minute. H A
M: Double S
M: E double T.
I: E W
M: E double T.
I: E double T, okay.
M: Yeah, double T.
I: Hassett. So Francis
M: Francis Hassett, and he became Chief of our Defense Forces.
I: So he was the head of the
M: He was, at that time, yes, the CO, Commanding Officer of, uh, Three Battalion.
I: Um hm.
M: And, uh, it’s been written up, uh, in the War Memorial. There was a most distinguished and unusual soldier.
I: Let’s talk about the soft side if you do not have any other things that you wanna share about the battles.
M: No, I think it’s, everyone did the right thing and of course, Frank was always
at the front of the Battalion, always at the front of the Battalion. And as soon as it, the Infantry platoons hit the enemy, he was up behind us with his Battalion Headquarters. So he was just an amazing person.
I: Great to have a commander office boss, boss like him.
M: Absolutely, yes.
I: Tell me about the soft side of the, uh , your service in Korea. Where did you sleep? What did you eat? Tell me about the living conditions there.
M: Uh, well, living field conditions are difficult for Infantry soldiers because what happens is they go into the line and, for about a month, and they come out in Reserve where you polish them all up and give them a shower and clean them all and get them ready for the next time they go forward. But when you’re in the line, it, it is difficult. You can’t clean yourself properly. You’ve gotta a water shortage, uh, uh,. It’s hot and it’s difficult to sleep because you’re living in a hole and, uh, summer’s pretty hot, and winter’s impossible
because you’re, you’re stuck in a hole
I: And you’re from New Zealand.
M: Yeah, I was from Australia worse
I: Uh, no, I mean, I’m sorry. Australia.
M: Yeah. And if you, uh, if you put a cup of coffee on the top of the pit and it freeze, uh, so you spend most of your time huddled in these holes in the ground hoping that no one, uh, would come and frighten you. It’s a, it’s a very difficult position.
M: Of course, uh, later on it was worse on the Samichon.
I: Were you able to eat hot meal?
M: No, no.
M: Hot meal was available when you go into Reserve. But the, uh, we used American C rations.
I: What was your favorite menu among C ration?
M: Well, there was only ham and beans which is, had all ham and no beans in it. [INAUDIBLE] beans in our ham. And, uh, I suppose, uh, we lived on corned beef and biscuits.
Were you able to, uh, sleep inside of the bunker or tent or foxhole?
M: No. We were all in foxholes, and we had one bunker to the platoon, and then we had foxholes, uh, little ditches.
I: You had to sleep there.
M: Oh yes.
I: Under the rain, under the snow, under the hot
M: Yes, yeah. Under that. But it’s, uh, people get used to it. It’s, uh, it’s difficult. But, uh, you extend the hole a little bit and put
something on the top for the rain, you know. It’s, uh.,
I: How often were you able to take a shower?
M: You don’t get a shower. You get a shower when you go into Reserve.
I: How often do you, were you able to go back to the Reserve?
M: Every five, every five, every five or six weeks.
I: Every five or six weeks.
I: And you didn’t shower until
M: You don’t wash until you have a rag which you keep wet, and you
I: You must be very smelly.
M: You try. Well, we’re all smelly. So no one noticed.
I: That’s your perfume.
M: And your socks wear out, so you throw them away and your underpants, you know, you throw them away because they get too soiled. So you survive. We, we do alright. We did well.
I: Um hm. You still [INAUDIBLE] Tell me about how much were you paid for this job?
M: I don’t know. But It wasn’t enough. We were paid Australian, uh, rates of pay which I’ve forgotten. But I know they were very poor
at the time.
I: But what did you do with that money? Did you gamble or did you spend or
M: Uh, you couldn’t spend it when you were in Korea. So, uh, you
I: Saved it.
M: It was there when we, we were entitled to go, uh, to two visits leave, uh, five days in
I: R and R?
M: out of Korea and five days in Japan R and R.
I: Where did you go in Korea when you have a first R and R in Korea?
M: We never had an R and R in Korea.
I: You never.
M: No. Unfortunately I found out about the, uh, beauty of Korea much later when I visited.
I: So you all know this Korean scenery around 1951 and ’52.
M: Um hm.
I: Describe overall how Korea was at the time, around Kapyong area. You been to Seoul. Tell me about those locations and how
M: Seoul was decimated by bombing.
Seoul was just a series of rooms. That’s all I remember. Uh, the field positions we had in winter, in summer were, uh, devastated by trees that had been knocked down and, uh, there was a lot of dirt there and not much foliage. And in winter time, the whole field was covered in snow, uh. So the conditions were a bit difficult. And the mountains were very high.
I: Um hm. Yeah. 70% of our t territory is mountain.
M: They’re all mountains.
I: Um, any Korean people that you work with at the time?
M: Oh yeah. Oh no, yes, yes. We had, we had Korean, a Korean officer with us in the Battalion and, uh, he arranged, uh, with others to, for the Asian with the, uh, South Korean, uh, battalions, uh, alongside us and, uh, we had an amazing group of young and old Koreans that used to
carry our supplies, uh, back and forth, u h, in peace and in war. Amazing people who right throughout Maryang San and Commex and were getting ammunition to us on the front, and they were most perilous positions moving forward. So I remember that. I remember it very well.
I: Um hm. It’s very high mountain there, and they had to carry all this food and bullets and logistical items, right, up to the mountain and down.
M: That’s right.
I: I was shocked when I visited DMZ when I was college student, we were, you know, supposed to do, have a training in DMZ line
M: Ah, yes.
I: We went up to the mountain by the car
I: and the soldiers still carrying the food from the bottom of the mountain up to the outpost.
M: Yeah. Yeah.
I: I couldn’t believe my eyes.
M: That’s what they do.
It’s, uh, it’s very hard work.
M: But we relied on that, uh, Korean, and we relied on the Korean K Force, uh, soldiers. It was really good.
I: Let me ask this question. What was the most difficult thing for you to be in the battle in Korea or overall in your whole career service in the Korean War? If I ask you to pinpoint one thing that really bothered or difficult for you, what is it?
M: It was my first encounter at, uh, 355 where I lost 1/3 of the platoon.
I: One third?
M: I only had three sections, and
I: So almost seven people.
M: No, there was, I, there were a total of 11 wounded, eight of them from my platoon and three of them from headquarters.
I: Must been very hard.
M: I remember it well. But, uh,
it’s the most significant thing that can happen to a young man is to, uh, successfully lead soldiers in battle because, uh, uh, they’re gonna rely on you in that stage.
I: What do you think about their life, their lives? Are they wasted or what do you think? What is the legacy of the Korean War, and what is the legacy for them.
M: Well, for the soldiers who was, who weren’t killed in action,
they, uh, came back, and many of them stayed in the Army. Many of them, uh, went into civilian life. But either way, it was very difficult for t hem. A lot of them have suffered medical problems, uh, of the war, uh. And, uh, they suffer from being able to adjust to civilian life after the, uh, life in the Army. So it’s, it’s not easy for them at all. I think it’s easier for the officer because he’s been educated for other jobs. Uh, but for the
soldier It’s a very difficult task for them to leave the Army.
I: What was the most rewarding moments during your service in Korea?
M: Oh, rewarding. I don’t remember any rewards. But, uh, uh, the end of operations where you were successful, and you come back down, and you get around the blistering, and I think
reward is what you feel then after a, a successful operation and, uh, to me, the, the most rewarding was growing up as a, as a man, uh. I was a boy when I went there.
M: You grow up very quickly in war.
I: Um. What did it affect you specifically?
M: Well on looking back, it’s, it’s a severe strain, and I think really when I came back from the War, I was under a fair bit of stress, uh,
trying to sort of calm down and get used to civilian life again and, uh, I suffered a few physical problems from, uh,
I: Like what?
M: Uh, digestive problems and, uh, probably, uh, stress problems.
M: Well, I suppose so. But they didn’t have PTSD in those days and, uh, I would think everyone suffers to a gree,, to a degree. Whether you can overcome it or not, it depends on the
um, extent of the PSD, and, and also whether, how you can handle it, you know. But that PTSD is a real, uh, nasty business.
I: Yes. I have interviewed so many Korean War veterans who had suffered from it, and even their wives and families.
M: Well, the wife, you know, her task is to stay at home and look after the kids, and it’s a very difficult task to have a husband away somewhere. You’re not sure whether he’s dead or, you know, what’s happening
and his kids are gonna go to school and you gotta budget to feed them on and yeah. So they
I: No. I’m talking about, you know, husband suffering from PTSD
M: Oh yes, yes.
I: but they had to stay together
I: during the whole night.
M: It’s very difficult for them to look after their husband because
M: he’s a, he becomes unreasonable [INAUDIBLE]
I: Um hm.
M: And it’s terribly difficult for the wife, yes indeed.
I: How many books you’ve been written on Korean War?
M: Uh, well, only a couple really because the others were collections of, uh, what people have said about the Korean War. The first big one was Korea Remember, and that was soldiers and [INAUDIBLE] Navy who said what they thought about it.
I: How did you collect those?
M: Oh, sent out information and, uh, tell me this and people I knew up there and, uh,
we just collected it for about a year and put it together.
I: Ah, that’s
M: The other in mainly
I: That’s a brilliant idea.
M: Yeah. It’s been good. It’s still out there.
I: What is it, Korea Remember?
M: Kia, Korea Remembered, yeah.
I: Okay. What else?
M: Put out by the Army that, that’s it’s an Army publication, yeah. And then I did, uh, uh, a couple on, uh, the Battle of Maryang San
I: Um hm.
M: which, uh, I suppose is
the one that I, influenced me most and the one that I knew most about, uh. And they were collections of, uh, experiences of my own and other people and also, a sort of a technical, uh, attitude to war which is handy for someone who wants to learn something about it as well. Yeah. And my other books were about other subjects. One was about Poker which is
I: What is
M: a hobby
I: What is it? What is about it?
M: Playing Poker.
M: That’s my, my hobby here in, uh, in peace times.
I: I am very interested in knowing more about it.
M: Yeah, well, uh, I’ll
I: We can go to casino here.
M: Yes. I’ll get you a copy. No. That’s uh, that’s a battle.
I: Have you been back to Korea even after 1990’s?
M: No, I haven’t. no. I
I: You haven’t.
M: No. I
have, uh, difficulty in traveling there. So, uh, I was to go back there on a couple of occasions. But I had to pull out of it. But, uh, they told me all about it when they come back home again. But I was lucky there because, uh, not only that it, um, I was to come back, uh, to Duntroon as the Commanding Officer of the Corps. later on. And then, of course, I was fortunate enough to command the Pacific Island Regiment, uh, which was another great experience which I wrote some books about.
M: But in all
I: What would you say to the Korean people who still living in a peninsula divided by this ridiculous, kind of ideological confrontation?
I: It’s been almost 70 years since the breakout of the Korean War, and we are still, we don’t have any peace treaty.
What would you say to the world and to the Korean people on the occasion of 70th anniversary? That’s a lucky number. But it’s a ridiculous.
M: Uh, I’d have to think about it, uh, a great deal. But, of course, uh, I feel, you know, the futility of the situation is such that, uh, it’s, it decimates the people. I mean, they are t he sun people and, uh,
the break, you know, uh, the Syngman Rhee business and the break in the United States there and that sad period where, uh, that happened was, uh, was grateful and, of course, you went from colonization to occupation and, uh, uh, to create a nation as both the North and the South did. But, uh, really, they can’t live without each other in my view because the North part of Korea is
very important to the South part. And it would be great, and I think if they can somehow let the two leaders of those two countries think about it and talk about it for one and get out of their hair, maybe they’ll sort it out, uh. But, uh, it’s gotta be sorted out because it’s a, it’s a constant sore which needs to be healed.
I: What would you say to the young Australians about the war that you fought?
M: Well, it’s,
the main thing is the same as all wars. It’s, uh, you didn’t decide to go there uh. You went there because you were told to go there, and you thought you were looking after your nation and preserving the peace of your country and, uh, that’s the reason you go there and, uh, it’s for any war. It’s very, very sad. No one wins in any war. It’s, uh, a tragedy for both sides, yeah,.
M: I just try not to talk about it with, uh, young people. I just say well, you, you look after, you be good. Be a good citizen, right? Be a good citizen, and then you’ll be a, a good soldier if you ever decide.
I: So going back to your old days of being pedo boy, now you are the, one of the leaders here in Gold Coast, uh, in terms of the Korean War. What is Korea to you personally?
M: Well, Korea
is two stages to be. Korea is firstly the war which was most important to me. And the second is the post-war where I became interested in the Korean peoples here on the Gold Coast and where together, we decided to build a memorial to that war and look after the, the veterans and it exists to this day. It’s probably stronger now than it ever has been and, uh, they’re the memories of Korea for me.
I: Any other message or any other episode that you wanna share with this interview?
M: No, I just like to thank you so much for coming all this way and, uh, anything that, uh, records the sacrifices of the Korean people and the Australian soldiers is worthwhile pursuing.
I: Um hm. I want to thank you for your fight and for amazing loss of many Australian 0:58:30
soldiers, 399 soldiers.
And I don’t think their sacrifice being wasted because we keep their hearts in our hearts.
I: And we remember and, you know, now the Korea is 11th largest economy in the world.
M: And you also hold the bodies of a lot of our soldiers down in Pusan.
I: Pusan, yes.
M: We’re well aware of that. And, uh, it’s a wonderful
I: And it’s not just about economic power, but we are very substantive democracy. So I thank,
these are the things that young Australians need to know, to learn.
M: They do, they do.
I: And that’s why we are working with teachers and will be greatly appreciated if you can connect us with the teachers here, History teachers in Australia. That’s what I’m going to do in New Zealand, and I’m going to meet with a series of teachers. But I haven’t had luck yet here. So please work on that and help us.
M: Will certainly do.
I: It’s for your legacy.
M: Yes, of course. Of course.
I: Thank you, sir.
M: Thank you so much.
I: And thank you for your fight.
M: My pleasure.
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