New Zealand marks 65th anniversary of Korean War

Korean war veterans Wally Wolstenholme, left, and Bob Hammond
David White

Korean war veterans Wally Wolstenholme, left, and Bob Hammond

Bob Hammond remembered his mate who died from a mis-firing shell. Wally Wolstenholme was thinking of his mate killed by smallpox.

Both Korean War veterans were remembering the bitter cold.

The men were at the Pukeahu National War Memorial in Wellington on Thursday for an event marking 65 years since North Korea invaded the south, triggering the start of the Korean War.

It would not be until December, 1950 - five years after the end of World War II - that Hammond and Wolstenholme arrived in South Korea.

"We left here in mid-summer on a Sunday morning," Wolstenholme remembered.

"All Wellington came to see us off."

In Korea they were faced with temperatures below six degrees Celsius and ill-prepared supplies.

Each night during that first winter, they shivered beneath seven blankets and summer sleeping bags.

Hammond worked the guns.

"We were firing constantly ... we fired something like a million shells within the first 12 months."

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At Thursday's service in Wellington one of those he was thinking about was his mate Bob Crompton, from Wairarapa, who died when a shell he was firing exploded prematurely.

Wolstenholme thought of his mate Cedric Vugler, of Auckland, who he "chummed up with on the ship". Vulger  died of smallpox while at base in Japan.

"He often used to say, 'imagine if I went all the way over there and didn't see a shot fired'."

That was just how it turned out.

Republic of Korea Ambassador Kim Hae-yong was at Thursday's service and was full of praise for the New Zealanders who fought for the south.

"All the Koreans appreciate what they have done. We still believe we owe a lot to all the veterans for what they have done."

His own father - now 94 - fled North Korea during the war, and he still has family back in the totalitarian state.

"He still misses his family left behind in the north."

Of the 4700 New Zealanders that served in the United Nations Kayforce - plus the 1300 on frigates - 45 would lose their lives.

 - Stuff

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