Canada in Korea
With much of the recent media attention being on North Korea, it’s important to look back at the history of the conflict and Canada’s influence on it.
Following Korea’s liberation from Japan by the Soviet Union at the closing of the Second World War, a dividing line backed by military units from opposing sides of the Cold War developed between the Communist North and the Capitalist South. This separation would not last long, as both sides desired the unification of the Korean peninsula.
North Korea would begin their invasion into the south in June 1950 armed with easily recognizable Soviet and Chinese weapons. Within a month the United Nations (UN) would officially decide to intervene, taking the side of the defending South Koreans, and bringing the United States and Canada into the war.
In total, 8 Royal Canadian Navy destroyers would see action during the three-year conflict. The RCN would be used to protect UN aircraft carriers, as well as to supply aid to onshore operations whenever possible. The Royal Canadian Air Force would be tasked primarily with shuttling supplies across the Pacific Ocean. On top of that, 22 RCAF pilots would fly in a select number of jet missions with the United States Air Force.
For the Canadian ground forces, their time would be mostly spent patrolling the rough mountainous terrain of Korea where they did experience brief flashes of heavy hostilities. That being said, the Canadians did fight in a number of significant battles, including Kowang-San (Hill 355), Hill 187, and most notably, the Battle of Kapyong (see our Kapyong article or our video).
After months of push and pull along the Korean front, the fighting mostly stagnated at the 38th parallel (North latitude) in mid-1951. The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed by both sides on July 17th, 1953, and the Demilitarized Zone, an approximately 4-kilometre-wide buffer, was established along the battle front. To this date, no peace treaty has been signed and both sides remain technically at war.
For a recount of the Canadian experience in Korea, see our Canada in Korea article.
Main photo: Private Heath Matthews of Charlie Company awaiting medical attention while stationed in Korea (Credit: Paul E. Tomelin, DND/PA-128850).