Thailand in the Korean War
|Thai Infantry Battalion
21st Infantry Regiment
|Active||August 1950 - March 1955|
|Size||11,786 over duration of the conflict |
|Part of||US 1st Cavalry Division|
|Engagements||Third Battle of Seoul.|
Thailand was one of the 16 countries who responded to the United Nations request to send troops to aid South Korea during the Korean War 1950-3. As well as being one of the first countries to openly express its support for South Korea's cause, whilst also being one of the UN's biggest contributors to the war. Thai support was important to battles determining the outcome of the war, including Pork Chop Hill and the Third Battle of Seoul.
Decision to send forces to Korea
Thailand was the first country in Asia to send aid to Korea. Realising that a communist take-over in Korea could be catastrophic to Thailand's own autocratic military political order, the Thai government decided to support South Korea's cause fully. First, four tonnes of rice was sent to Korea as food aid, rapidly followed by an infantry battalion from the 21st Royal Infantry Regiment and several warships. Later in the conflict, several transport aircraft were sent by the Thai government. The regiment returned to Thailand in March 1955.
21st Royal Thailand Regiment
Operations in Korea
Battle of Pork Chop Hill
The Battle of Porkchop Hill (31 October to 11 November 1952) involved numerous battles struggling for the control of key and dominant outpost hills along the front line while having a truce talk at Panmunjeom. A typical hill battle was waged at "Porkchop Hill", then held by soldiers of the 21st Thai Infantry Battalion, who repulsed an attack by the so-called Chinese People's Volunteers. After this victory, the United States military awarded one Thai soldier the prestigious Legion of Merit, while 12 received Silver Stars and 26 were awarded a Bronze Star Medal. They were given the nickname "Little Tigers" by General James Van Fleet, commander of the 8th US Army.
The Chinese made an all out effort to capture Porkchop Hill, attacking it five times, the first two to probe the defences and last three to take the hill. All were defeated by the Thais between 11 November 1952 to 28 February 1953, still attached to the 9th US Infantry Regiment.
In last spring of the war (March to June 1953), the Thais spent most of their time in training and as 9th US Corps reserve They then relocated to Kyo-dong, west of Uncheon, on 4 May. Battle followed in the vicinity of the "Boomerang" from 14 to 27 July 1953 northwest of Kumhwa, after a Belgian victory over an earlier Chinese assault.
Thai infantry forces stayed in Korea until June 1972.
On November 7, 1950 two Thai warships (HTMS Prasae and HTMS Bangpakong) arrived in Korea. The Prasae was beached on the Korean coast near Yangyang during a snowstorm and, since it could not be retrieved, was scuttled on January 7, 1951 while the Bangpakong left finally in February 16, 1952. In December 29, 1951 two further Thai warships arrived in Korea (HTMS Prasae II and HTMS Tachin) and left, finally, after the armistice on January 21, 1955.
The transport ship HTMS Sichang arrived in Korea on November 7, 1950 and left in July 15, 1951.
Royal Thai Air Force supply Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft were operated in Korean war On September 22, 1950, the Thai Government dispatched forces to assist UN military operations in the Korea. The RTAF dispatched three task force contingents to South Korea as follows:
- The first of the twenty-two Air Liaison Officers Team was sent to the United Nations Command in 1971.
- The first of the twenty-nine Air Nursing Team conducted its mission from December 26, 1950 to 1974.
- Twenty nine RTAF airlift mission teams conducted their missions from 1951-1971.
During the Korean War, Thailand dispatched 11,786 soldiers to join other 15 countries to fight alongside the Republic of Korea against the North. It is recorded that 136 Thai soldiers had lost their lives in the War. In 1974, the Government of the Republic of Korea has built a monument and a Thai pavilion in Pocheon City, to honour the Thai soldiers who took part in the Korean War. Recently, on 4 November 2008, the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul, with the cooperation from the Office of Defense Attache, hosted the opening ceremony of the Thai memorial at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea or UNMCK to commemorate the sacrifices made by Thai soldiers during the Korean War. Nowadays, the Thai Government has maintained the assignment of one military officer to be liaison officer at the Armistice Committee and six soldiers to be members of the United Nations Command Honor Guard Company in Seoul, in order to contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.
HTMS Prasae II was decommissioned from the Royal Thai Navy in 2000, and was designated as a museum ship. She is visible at the mouth of the Prasae River, Rayong Province (Thailand) by the Prasae River Communities Committee where she serves as a memorial. There is also a monument to the 21st Infantry Regiment's role.
- History of Thailand
- 60 Years of the "Little Tiger" - Thai Soldiers in the Korean War
- Thai Forces
- The Kingdom of Thailand 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee