Thailand in the Korean War

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The Royal Thai Expeditionary Forces to Korea
21st Combined Regiment
Emblem of the the Royal Thai Expeditionary Forces to Korea.svg
Emblem of the Royal Thai Expeditionary Forces to Korea
ActiveAugust 1950 – March 1955
Disbanded1955, upon the end of the war
Country Kingdom of Thailand
Allegiance United Nations
TypeInfantry Battalion
Size11,786 over duration of the conflict[1] [2]
Part ofUS 1st Cavalry Division
Nickname(s)"Little Tigers"
Decorations3 ROK Presidential Unit Citations
Major General Prince Pisit Dispongsa-Diskul
Lt. Colonel Kriengkrai Attanand
Major Kriangsak Chamanan
King Bhumibol Adulyadej (crowned on 5 May 1950) announced "The royal war in Korea" (Thai: พระราชสงครามในเกาหลี).

Thailand was one of the 21 countries who responded to the United Nations request to send troops to aid South Korea during the Korean War 1950-53. 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 larger 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.


Thailand was the first country in Asia to send aid to South Korea.[3] Realising that a communist take-over in Korea could be catastrophic to Thailand's own political order, the Thai government decided to support South Korea's cause fully.[4] Four tonnes of rice was sent to Korea as food aid and later this was followed by an infantry battalion from the 21st Combined Regiment (later renamed the 21st Infantry Regiment, Queen's Guard) 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[edit]

Operations in Korea[edit]

Battle of Pork Chop Hill[edit]

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 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,[citation needed] still attached to the 9th US Infantry Regiment.

Thai Soldiers arrived at Pusan in 1950.

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.

Post Armistice[edit]

Thai infantry forces stayed in Korea until June 1972.[5]

Naval involvement[edit]

The USS Glendale and Gallup in Thailand, 1951 prior to being handed over to the Royal Thai Navy. The Gallup, which had already served in Korea with the US Navy, would also serve there with the Thai navy under the name HMTS Prasae II.

On November 7, 1950 two Thai warships, HTMS Prasae and HTMS Bangpakong), arrived in South Korea. They served under United Nations command, performing escort duty and shelling enemy targets on land. Unfortunately, the Prasae ran aground on the coast near Yangyang during a snowstorm. Attempts to refloat her failed, and she was scuttled on January 7, 1951, her wreck being shelled to complete the destruction. The Bangpakong left Korea in February 16, 1952. In December 29, 1951 two more Thai warships, HTMS Prasae II and the HTMS Tachin, arrived in Korea. They sailed for home a year and a half after the armistice on January 21, 1955.[6]

The transport ship HTMS Sichang arrived in Korea on November 7, 1950, remaining there until July 15, 1951.


Royal Thai Air Force supply Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft took part in Korean war. On September 22, 1950, the Thai Government ordered units of its forces to assist the United Nations military operations in the Korea War. Three task force contingents of the Royal Thai Air Force would serve South Korea:

  1. The first of a total of twenty-two Air Liaison Officers Teams was dispatched to the United Nations Command in 1951.
  2. The first of twenty-nine Air Nursing Teams began its mission on December 26, 1950, remaining there until 1974.
  3. A total of twenty nine RTAF airlift mission teams served in South Korea from 1951 to 1971.


Ribbon of the Thai Victory Medal for the Korean War

During the course of the Korean War, Thailand dispatched a total of 11,786 soldiers to Korea.[7] It is recorded that 136 Thai soldiers had lost their lives in the war. In 1974, the Government of the Republic of Korea built a monument, and a Thai pavilion in Pocheon City, to honour the Thai soldiers who took part in the Korean War. On 4 November 2008, the 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 (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.

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.


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  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2012-07-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2012-07-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2012-07-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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External links[edit]