Battle of Samichon River 24 to 26 July 1953
The Battle of Samichon River from 24 to 26 July 1953 was Australia's last battle in the Korean War. The Battle of Samichon River is also known as the Fourth Battle of the Hook.
The Hook was a vital sector on the Jamestown line, a series of defensive positions occupied by United Nations (UN) forces. It had been a scene of bitter fighting with the Chinese since late 1952. The 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, repulsed the last Chinese attack on Australian positions at the Hook on 25 July 1953, 2 days before the final armistice.
During the battle, 5 Australians were killed and 24 wounded. The United States (US) Marines of the 7th Regiment lost 43 men killed and 316 wounded. It's estimated the Chinese People's Volunteer Army (CPVA) lost between 2,000 and 3,000 killed and 10,000 wounded.
We commemorate Korean Veterans' Day on 27 July, the anniversary of the day when the armistice was signed to end the fighting in Korea.
The CPVA unsuccessfully attacked the Hook 3 times in 1952. Now with a ceasefire imminent, this was their last chance to seize it. Rumours of the ceasefire did not reach Australians in the front trenches until the battle was underway.
Members of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), had arrived in Korea on 17 March 1953. Since then, the men had been patrolling no-man's-land to the north of the UN lines. This included sections of the Jamestown line in the area of the Imjin and Samichon rivers.
The CPVA hoped to exploit the boundary between units, which is often a weak point. By patrolling at night, the Chinese identified the boundary between the United States Marines and 28th Commonwealth Brigade, commanded by Australian Brigadier John Wilton. The RAR held the Hook on the left of the Commonwealth line, and the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, held it on the right of the Marine line.
Attack on the Hook
Before the attack, UN forces noticed increased patrol clashes between the trench lines and a strong artillery bombardment of the Australian and US positions. These were signs of an impending attack.
The first move of the battle followed the first intense bombardment on the night of 19 to 20 July.
The CPVA attacked Hill 111, about 1 km south-west of the Hook and held by the Marines and an Australian machine gun section. The Marines lost the 'Berlin' and 'East Berlin' outposts on the Jamestown line, making the Hook even more salient, jutting into enemy lines. D Company 2RAR held the Hook itself, a knoll on a ridge curving towards the enemy. C and A companies were to D's rear on the left and right. B Company was in reserve.
On the night of 24 July 1953, the CPVA 137th Regiment attacked 2RAR and the Marines. The Chinese were aiming for the gully between the Hook and Hill 111. D and C companies of 2RAR, as well as the Australian machine gun section with the Marines on Hill 111, bore the brunt of the attack but lost no ground.
During the day of 25 July, the Chinese artillery bombarded the Australians and Marines. With extra firepower provided by the Soviet Union, they were much stronger than at any previous stage of the war.
That night the CPVA attacked again, using the same approach. They reached the Australian wire, where the immense weight of UN artillery fire stopped them. The CPVA did not penetrate the Australian trenches.
On the morning of 26 July, the Chinese abandoned the attack.
When the Australians emerged from their bunkers, the sight of the valley below their positions was horrific. Thousand of bodies lay in front of the Australian and US line. It's estimated the CPVA lost between 2,000 and 3,000 killed and as many as 10,000 wounded. The exact figures are unknown.
Of the Australians in 2RAR, 5 were killed and 24 wounded. The Marines of the 7th Regiment lost 43 killed and 316 wounded.
At 10 am on 27 July, the formal armistice was signed at Panmunjom. The armistice took effect at 10 pm that night, ending fighting in the Korean War.
An Australian battalion remained in Korea after the armistice until 1956.
The battle honour The Samichon was awarded to the Royal Australian Regiment for its service.
We commemorate Korean Veterans' Day on 27 July, on the anniversary of the day when the armistice was signed.
Australian War Memorial (no date), 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U52112, accessed 18 July 2023.
O'Neill, Robert (1981), Strategy and Diplomacy, The Australian War Memorial and The Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
O'Neill, Robert (1985), Combat Operations, The Australian War Memorial and The Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.