THE BATTLE OF MARYANG SAN 1951
By Dayton McCarthy
Australian Army Campaign Series, no.23
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $19.99 in Paperback | Pages: 188 | ISBN: 9781925675696
At no.23 in the Australian Army Campaign Series, this is the first book to focus on a battle of the Korean War.
Earlier volumes in this series are dominated by World War I and World War II campaigns. This lack of coverage probably reflects the general view of the Korean War as being the ‘forgotten war’, although it marked Australia’s first foray ‘as a minor power in the Cold War’, according to McCarthy.
It would also be the first conflict to be fought by the newly formed Australian Regular Army (ARA) and in this regard, the Army’s premier infantry organisation, the Royal Australian Regiment (RAR), received its baptism of fire and in the process, earned a number of battle honours for its regimental colours.
This book describes the actions behind one such battle honour — the Battle of Maryang San. Over one week in October 1951 and as part of a wider divisional assault, the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), manoeuvred across difficult terrain to dislodge and destroy Chinese forces three times its number. As such, Maryang San is widely regarded as one of the RAR’s and the Australian Army’s greatest battlefield accomplishments.
Author Doctor Dayton McCarthy, whose previous books include ‘The Once and Future Army: A History of the Citizen Military Forces, 1947-1974’, successfully combines academic rigour with his experience as a professional infantry officer to analyse the battle and produce an account for the general reader and military professional alike.
Using official histories, brigade and battalion war diaries as well as personal accounts, McCarthy seeks to provide not only the strategic, operational and tactical context, but also the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of the battle.
Although the battle itself had no lasting impact on the course and outcome of the Korean War, it demonstrated a number of key attributes that make it worthy of professional study such as the use of ground, small unit leadership, integration of combined arms and the role of aggression in close combat.
This book is well illustrated with maps, photographs from the field and descriptions of the weapons and artillery assets employed in the battle. I’m sure this book will be of equal interest to the general reader and military professional.
As a footnote, I was struck by the sad irony of Duntroon graduate Jack ‘Basil’ Hardiman, who survived his time as OC D Company, 3 RAR, which had been selected to conduct the assault on Maryang San, ending his days by falling from a ladder at his Central Coast home in 1996, twenty-six years after his retirement from the army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He survived a war but not DIY at home.
There are a number of these short biographical pieces throughout this book but I mention this piece in particular as I hope this acts as a timely reminder to my older readers to be careful, especially climbing up ladders.