The Korean War: Handbook of the Literature and Research

By Lester H. Brune; Robin Higham | Go to book overview

7
Australia, New Zealand, and
the Korean War

Jeffrey Grey

Australia and New Zealand participated in the Korean War as members of the United Nations, partners in the emerging Western alliance, and dominions of the British Commonwealth. Both countries committed forces to the United Nations Command (UNC) from their tiny peacetime military establishments and acted in concert with the United States diplomatically and in the UN. In both countries, involvement in the Korean War provoked some domestic dissent on the left, but in neither case did it become a major issue in domestic politics, and its impact at home was minimal. By contrast, participation in the Korean War and the changed strategic and international political circumstances it generated had a profound impact on the national security affairs of both countries.

The Korean War has not featured in the historical writing of either country to any great extent. The minor scale of the involvement and the lack of a domestic political dimension, together with a tendency in the universities to ignore or downplay military history, has meant that few monographic studies have appeared outside the official histories. Korea remains a largely unknown conflict, sandwiched between the great national drama of World War II, especially in the Pacific, and the long and traumatic involvement in Vietnam. Recent government-driven initiatives to orient Australians more directly toward the Asia and Pacific regions have in fact been selective in their emphases, focusing heavily on Southeast Asia, and although the Republic of Korea is Australia's fourth-largest trading partner, most Australians know little or nothing about it; the same applies to New Zealand, only more so.

This chapter deals with the official histories, considers other writings dealing with Australian and New Zealand participation, and touches on strategic and policy studies as well. There are divergent interpretations of some issues, but the small number of writers in the field belies any sense

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