Jack Lang's veteran story

John 'Jack' Lang was born in Harvey, Western Australia, in 1931. A coal miner before he enlisted, Jack signed up with three mates. He was assigned to the 67th Battalion, which would later become the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR).

Jack had served with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan after the Second World War, and was about to return home when the war started in Korea.

Jack served in Korea with 3RAR, arriving in September 1950. He recalled the pitiful situation of `the refugees and the heartbreaking sight of children piggybacking their siblings from harm's way'. He was struck by their stoicism, that despite some being injured, they did not cry or complain.

Jack recalled the difficulty of fighting in villages where operations were impeded by the presence of women and children. The fighting he remembered as chaotic and said that 'all of a sudden it would be on'. Once, when his battalion was being pushed back under enemy fire, Jack was told to run. He got a stich and halted. His mate Jonesy stopped to see what had happened, and with bullets flying around them, Jack took Jonesy's advice to run for shelter.

Jack also recollected the unbelievably cold winter, in which the ground and water wells froze. Only the issue of American clothing and United States Army K-rations (individual daily combat food rations) made it bearable.

Korean War veteran

Transcripts

Enlistment in BCOF

I worked in the mines and at that time in the 50s, you know, early 50s, or before that, just before it they, it looked like closing down for a while so, and we were in the pub.

A bloke said, 'There's an army van out there looking for volunteers.' So, I said 'Yeah, that's fair enough. We'll give it a go.'

So, there's four of us went and signed up and we went and done our training over in Greta in New South Wales there and when we got drafted out, we were sent up to the 67th Battalion in Japan, the occupation forces. We stopped there for a few years and then we were ready to come home, and the Korean War started.

Two mates killed

This is good to be going back now, too, because I had two mates from home who were killed.

Good to go back, you know, just for their sake and remember a bit.

It's good to go back and remember a lot of the other boys that never come back, you know.

Gets stitch running for cover

I had a moment when the Chinese come into it they come in, we had to bolt, they come in and they surrounded us at the back and they said, 'Make it down to a cutting where the boys were forming up again'.

We took off and we were running across the open and there were bullets flying and ricocheting and I got the stitch. I went over and my mate Jonesy he stopped and he thought I was hit and I was gasping and he said 'God' he said 'Are you hit?' and I said 'No. I've got the stitch.'

And he said, 'Well let's get the Hell out of here.' So, he picked me up and we took off. Yeah it was, we were lucky to get out of it actually.

Voyage and selling blankets

Oh that was an old, it was the Ching Te (?), I think it was called, we left here in Sydney and went up. Yeah that was just like all ships during the war, it was pretty rough, yeah. But, yeah, it was good.

We went from here to Hong Kong, first, and then we went and stopped at Hong Kong. That was funny because a lot of us never had much money and we started flogging the blankets off the ship, we had all the Chinese, there was a big heap of them on the wharf, we were selling the blankets, and one of the lieutenants yelled out 'What the Hell is going on down there?'

The Chinese took off and we're left standing there with blankets around. We got a bit of a roasting over that. Just as well he did otherwise, we might have dismantled the ship.

Heartbreak over children's injuries

We felt sorry for the civilians mostly because they brought, refugees would come down to get away from them. There was little kids, we used to give them some chocolate if we got close enough to them but a lot of them, it would make you cry every time because, shocked, even little kids,

They'd come down and you'd see them, their brothers, a brother carrying or piggy backing, probably, sisters and brothers and that. Some of the poor little buggers they weren't even crying, they had pieces shot out of their arms. They never cried. Yeah, they were the ones I felt sorry for, you know. Poor little buggers they didn't want the war, but the kids suffer.

Death of mate, 'Greenie'

Yeah, yeah, actually, Greenie, when the shells come over, we were only a hundred yards off him that's all. There was, two of us had dug a foxhole and there was only enough for two of us and one of other boys come over, a corporal, and we heard the shell coming over.

They jumped in and I was left laying on top of them and Jeez it went off and Greenie got killed with a bit of shrapnel come in and killed him, yeah, the shelling was alright you could hear them coming but mortars, that was just a bit of a whoosh and a bang and that was it.

Under fire from a sniper

A mate and I after the blue were sitting on the side of the road. That was a funny one. A sniper had a go. We were pretty close together, only a couple of feet from each other, eating a tin of beans. A sniper had a go and we blamed the Yank. There was a Yank not far away, a Yankee paratrooper and he was, don't know what he was shooting at, but he was shooting at something and we blamed him.

And the next, only a few seconds later another, he had a go at us again and took the brim off the side of me mate's hat. He said, 'That's a bloody sniper.' Anyway, they spotted him and a bloke went and snuck up on him with a Bren and fixed him up and we were blaming this Yank.

Buzzed by own plane

We got shot at a few times and we were having a rest and they opened up on us and I hid behind a bush and it was just like a rose bush. One of the blokes took off down towards him and he never had his rifle. We yelled out to him he's going the wrong way. He turned around and shot up back over the hill. You laugh. Another time we had, we used to have turns going to fill our section water bottles and it was my turn this afternoon and I went down to the well and filled them up and got halfway up the hill and I had all these water bottles on and I heard a plane coming and I turned around and oh, this plane coming was straight at me. I threw the water bottles and dived in the ground and it was one of us and he took off, he come in buzzes the hill we were on. Yeah, it was funny.

Winter

If it wasn't for the Yanks giving us warm stuff, we would have froze to death. A lot of blokes did freeze to death but not so much Australians but a lot of other nations, some of them froze to death.

It was, winter was unbelievable it was that cold. You couldn't, the Yanks give us gloves with the trigger finger in them so you couldn't touch the bolt of your rifle, it stuck, it was that cold. We'd go up to the well and lean against the well and drop a big rock down to break the ice to fill our water bottles up.

It was, I think it was the coldest year they'd had there in about twenty years and we had to be in it. The winds off Siberia and that, freezing.

Fighting and ambushes

Most of it was just attacking hills, it was hills on hills. We finished up, you'd get up them alright if you one leg shorter than the other.

Yeah the fighting and that generally it just happened that quick, you know, unless they told you before, you know, they told before you're going to attack that place and you knew what to expect but it's all right after the first blue that you had, you'd know what to expect but a lot of the times they'd try and ambush, come in at night, blowing those blasted bugles, signal bugles and I remember one bloke.

A lot of the bugles they blew were signals for them to attack or withdraw or something like that, but they were blowing and blowing these. He stood up out of his foxhole and told him what he'd do with the bugle if he ever showed up, where he'd put it. We said, 'Sit down you stupid bugger you won't last long.'

'all of a sudden it would be on'

Yeah, the fighting was like that, you'd just go along and all of a sudden it would be on. As I said, unless they told you, you know, you're going to attack this place or this place has got to go, or the villages and that. That was bad, fighting in the villages.

You had to put your head down to get in the doors and that and you didn't know if you'd get it blown off. They were bad and then you couldn't do much because there was women and kids in there and you couldn't, sometimes, oh it was hard really, fighting in the villages because you couldn't throw grenades in there because of the kids but anyway we got around it.

It wasn't bad but I felt sorry for all the kids. Poor buggers. They don't know where their parents were or anything. Yeah, make you cry when you see them. But they never complained. They weren't going along crying and some of them had horrible wounds, you know.

K-Rations and an oxen

If it wasn't for the Yanks again, we'd have starved. It was bully beef or biscuits, we had them for a while, but you couldn't blame the cooks and that because we were up in the hills a lot of the time and they couldn't get tucker up to us.

The Yanks give us these K-Rations and they weren't very fill but there was three meals in them that would last you three days. We ate 'em all in one go and then we'd scrounge round, sometimes in the villages we even pinched, I suppose, the kids' pet rabbits and we had them and vegies, dug 'em up and made stews out of them.

One time we were up in the mountains and a bloke come up with is ox, you know, his cow, carting wood up for us and he got up there and, I think it was some of the boys from A Company, at any rate, they shot the cow and carved it up. The poor old bugger he went down the hill crying, probably his only possession. We ate the cow, yeah.


Last updated:

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Jack Lang's veteran story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 15 July 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/oral-histories/jack-langs-story
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