The support base in Japan

Armed forces in wartime need bases to operate from...

The base should not be in the war zone but not too far from it either. The United Nations Command (UNC) was very fortunate in having Japan within two hours flying and twelve hours by sea from the nearest point of the Korean mainland.

Though extensively damaged by a strategic bombing campaign at the end of WWII Japan was an industrialised nation. It was able to provide much of the skilled manpower, facilities and supplies without which the UNC could not have functioned. Nevertheless, a great expansion of Japanese industrial production was required as the UNC grew in size many times over from 1950 to 1953. As a by-product of UNC requirements for labour and materials the Japanese economy made a spectacular recovery from its condition at the end of WWII.

The military and naval bases used by the UNC were those established in 1945 when the Allied occupation force arrived in Japan. They were often sited at WWII era Japanese bases. The ex-Imperial Japanese Navy base at Sasebo in Kyushu, for instance, became the United States Navy's premier port. The British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) was responsible for the western end of Honshu, that part of Japan nearest to Korea. The Commonwealth used Kure, another WWII naval base, to repair and rearm its ships. The battle damage of HMS Comus was repaired there and in November 1951 HMAS Tobruk was resupplied with ammunition there having expended 321 rounds bombarding Hungnam. Kure was also the site of the BCOF Hospital which remained the main Commonwealth hospital throughout the war.

The Royal Australian Air Force base was Iwakuni. In the first months of the war No. 77 Squadron operated from there, flying sorties crossing the Sea of Japan* to attack the North Korean Army. When the Squadron advanced to Korea the RAAF maintained its administrative headquarters, a transport and a maintenance squadron there to perform work that could not be done in Korea. From 1951 the RAAF flew patients home to Australia from Iwakuni.

The Third Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, also a part of BCOF, was based at Hiro not far from Kure which held the Commonwealth headquarters. Kure was also the conduit through which Commonwealth forces replenished from their home countries. Reinforcements arrived there to be forwarded to Korea and troops returning home by sea left from there.

* The Australian Government and the Department of Veterans Affairs do not take a position on whether the body of water between Japan and the Republic of Korea should be referred to as the “Sea of Japan” or the "East Sea".

Photo of RAAR aircraft and personel on trmac prior to an evacuation

Seoul, Korea, 1953. Preparation for evacuation of wounded from Seoul to Japan. Nurses are from the RAAF Nursing Service. The aircraft is a RAAF Douglas C47 Dakota. [AWM P00573.005]


Last updated: 10 March 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), The support base in Japan, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 16 August 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/korean-war-1950-1953/events/support-base-japan
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