Korean War veteran Gordon McIntyre with a photobook from Japan he got on the way to the fighting in Korea. PHOTO/SAM TATTERSFIELD

Freedoms we take for granted were at risk

SAM TATTERSFIELD
Sam.tattersfield@age.co.nz

Korean War veteran Gordon McIntyre says it’s offensive to veterans to label the Korean War the forgotten war.

He said Kiwis fought and died in war-changing battles, one of the most important of which was taking place at this commemorative time of year.

The battle of Kapyong, “a pivotal battle that stopped the onslaught of the North Korean and Chinese armies retaking South Korea”, should be embedded in our Anzac memory, he says – it was fought between April 22 and April 25, 1951.

In the battle, Australians from the third battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, and New Zealand troops, many of them artillerymen, saved Seoul from a North Korean takeover.

He said the Korean War was a poignant one from an Anzac perspective even outside the timing of the crucial battle of Kapyong – “They [the third battalion of the Australian infantry regiment] wouldn’t go in to a tricky battle area without New Zealand artillery support”.

He said the freedoms we take for granted were as much at risk at this time 68 years ago as they have been at any other time – had the North Koreans won this, they could have continued on.

“That particular battle stopped the invasion of the communists right down the Korean peninsula – they could’ve taken Taiwan, Iwo Jima, possibly Japan, and infiltrated the whole Pacific.”

He was humble about his involvement in the war – maintaining and working with field communications lines, most significantly in the October 1951 Battle of Marvang San, where a small UN force took the strategically important Hill 355 from a much bigger, largely Chinese one.

Instead, he thinks the lead-up to Anzac Day would be a good time to remember the battle of Kapyong, in which Kiwis may have helped influence the outcome of the Korean War on and immediately before Anzac Day.