Canada sent nearly 30 000 troops to fight in Korea, which has been described as the “Forgotten War” because for most Canadians it is overshadowed by Canada’s role in the two world wars. From You Tube.
In 1950, perhaps the worst period for COLD WAR fears, Canadians accepted and even encouraged American leadership in resistance to communist expansion. There was, however, some fear that the Americans were too impetuous in defending the "free world." Pearson therefore emphasized that Canada's participation was part of a UN, not an American, operation. Initially, Canada contributed 3 destroyers and an air-transport squadron. The Americans, thinking this inadequate, used UN Secretary General Trygve Lie to pressure Canada and other nations to expand their efforts. The Canadian government needed little external pressure; domestic interests exerted the necessary influence. Even the socialist CCF urged the government to commit ground forces. Canada's major difficulty was the weak state of the armed forces, but on August 7 Prime Minister ST. LAURENT announced rearmament measures and plans for a Canadian Army Special Force (CASF) to carry out Canada's UN obligations.
At first it appeared that Canadian soldiers would never fire a shot. Under MacArthur UN forces drove the North Koreans back to the border at the 38th parallel. Canadians and most others expected MacArthur, having vanquished the aggressor, to halt. To Pearson's shock and disappointment, he did not. Canada nevertheless publicly supported the US decision to carry the war into the north. Now the Canadians sought to restrain the American-dominated military action lest the Chinese communists be drawn into battle. By the end of October Chinese "volunteers" crossed the Yalu River, driving back the UN forces. Pearson's concern was expressed publicly in mid-November when he emphasized that Canada had always sought a "confined and localized" war that did not imperil the security of "Korea's neighbours." MacArthur did not exaggerate when on 28 November 1950 he called it "an entirely new war." Canadians would not escape the battles.
In December 1950 the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry landed in Korea, and in May the CASF followed. The Canadians fought on rough terrain and in an unfamiliar environment. The UN forces established a stable front near the 38th parallel, and until the war ended 27 July 1953, the fighting took place along this line. Canadians distinguished themselves in a major engagement at KAP'YONG Apr 1951. There were 21 940 Canadians who served in the army and approximately 3600 naval personnel. Eleven army officers, 298 other ranks and 3 sailors fell in action. Fifty-nine officers and 1143 other ranks were wounded or injured. By all accounts, the Canadians performed admirably.
Pearson and his colleagues had thought American leadership essential, but its character became increasingly troubling. First, there were careless remarks by President Truman about General MacArthur's right to decide alone on the use of atomic weapons. Then, MacArthur clearly indicated that he wanted to expand the war into China, an action that might have caused World War III. Even Truman's firing of MacArthur on 10 April 1951 failed to remove many concerns.
During the war, Canadian diplomats sought to "constrain" the American decision makers from the risky actions they sometimes considered. Certainly the Canadians worked with exceptional zeal and skill in UN corridors and in Washington offices to advance arguments for a negotiated peace. Their influence, however, remains open to question. Although some Canadians believe Canada's actions did restrain American aggressiveness, it must be admitted that American evidence offers little support. The Korean War has thus become part of a larger historical controversy concerning the nature of CANADIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS.
See also KOJE-DO.
Author JOHN ENGLISH
L.B. Pearson, Mike, II (1973); J.W. Pickersgill and D.F. Forster, The Mackenzie King Record, IV (1970); D. Stairs, The Diplomacy of Constraint (1974); H.F. Wood, Strange Battleground (1966).
Links to Other Sites
Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is dedicated to the men and women who served with valour and distinction in Canada’s armed services. Their website features a virtual tour of the museum and multimedia online exhibits that depict how Canada met and overcame wartime challenges throughout its history.
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Korea Veterans Association Of Canada
The website for the Korea Veterans Association Of Canada, an organization comprised primarily of members who served in the Canadian Armed Forces (Navy, Army, Air Force) in Korea during the 1950-1953 war and on peacekeeping duties in Korea from 1953 to 1955.
Canadian Forces: Glossary
A glossary of military terminology used in the Canadian Forces. From the forces.ca website.
Canada's Fighting 'Van Doos'
This CBC Archives site features radio and TV clips that chronicle the history of the Royal 22e Régiment.
A veteran recalls the Battle of Kap'yong
Watch a CBC News story that focuses on the pivotal role of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in the Battle of Kap'yong during the Korean War. From CBC Digital Archives.
Canada Remembers the Korean War 1950–1953
About the "Year of the Korean War Veteran," which pays tribute to more 26,000 Canadian men and women in uniform who came to the aid of South Koreans during the Korean War. From Veteran Affairs Canada.
The Memory Project: Korean War
Listen to interviews with Canadian veterans who provide remarkable first-hand accounts of their military service during the Korean War. See also related digitized artefacts and memorabilia. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
The Memory Project: The United Nations and the Korean War
Listen to an interview with Canadian veteran Frank Dyke about his military service in the Korean War. Also check out related digitized artefacts and memorabilia. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Imjin River Cup hockey matches
A notice about events in Ottawa that commemorate the hockey games played by Canadian soldiers on the Imjin River during Korean War.