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The Forgotten Few, 77 RAAF Squadron in Korea by Doug Hurst

I, like most Australians know that we were actively involved in the Korean War. However, apart from the involvement of 3RAR and the battle of Kapyong, I have to admit that I knew nothing of the RAAF’s (or the RAN’s) involvement in this conflict. Obviously many others are in the same boat, hence the title of this book. The author, Doug Hurst who was also a RAAF’ie (Navigator for 33 years) brings a unique perspective to this conflict by including many personal remembrances from those involved as well as information that was not available before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hurst combined all this to produce a volume that is well researched, reliable and as a bonus is very readable.

The story begins in June 1950, with 77 SQN preparing to head home to Australia after being part of the British Occupation Force in Japan and stationed at Iwakuni. Due to their availability and geographical position, they were one of the first United Nations Forces to enter this war and participated in their first sorties on 02 July 1950. Hurst tells the story of how this unit grew and developed over the next three years, moved from Mustangs to Meteors, prop driven to jets, and diversified to cope with a whole range of roles.

But it is so much more than just a story of platforms, for it tells the story of the people, the characters, the pilots and the techo’s who patched them up and kept them flying in the most difficult conditions. It is the story of how they coped with the highs and lows of war, and the luck which saw some survive the most horrific damage while others perished with what appeared to be very minor issues. 77 SQN lost 35 pilots dead, plus six more RAF pilots who were on loan, and seven who became prisoners of war.

What do I do with all that? Just outside my office (and in front of the Officers mess) sits a Gloster Meteor, tail number A77-874. It is in need of some refurbishment, but it is now much more meaningful. It is a concrete reminder of the RAAF’s entry into the world of jets and rockets, as well as symbol of the contribution of 77 SQN to the outcome of the Korean War. Hurst concludes his book with reference to the 50th Anniversary of the Commonwealth Forces participation in the Korean War where Dick Creswell and other veterans were present. The Korean government introduced them to students as “Men who had come from faraway countries 50 years ago to fight for our freedom, and to whom we owe the fact that we live in freedom and prosperity instead of in oppression and poverty like the north.” (p234) They have not forgotten, so why have we? This book helped me to do just that.

Chaplain Ian S Whitley