‘In these terrible times world-wide with the coronavirus, the values we learned serving our country should once again become prominent, and Aussie mateship is still the best mateship in the world; so let us stay united as a nation, and we will beat this’ – George Mills
SPEAK to Korean war veteran George Mills for a while and you sense in him a pride that the Australian forces – army, navy, and air force were as good as any of the coalition members that fought in the “Forgotten War”, as it has become to be known.
He explained that the principal task force – the Americans – said they knew that they could always depend on the Australians in battle. They were good friends with the Americans, and lived off their rations which apparently were superior to Australian rations.
Mr Mills, now in his early nineties, is a softly-spoken man who lives quietly with his son, Mark, in Eden Hill.
He was a guest at the recent 67th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, held at Kings Park.
Mr Mills and other veterans and family members were honoured with a medal from the Korean government, along with a commemorative walking stick. Guests at the service included WA governor Kim Beazley, and other leading state political figures.
“It was a privilege to be at Kings Park; to see representatives of the South Korean government there. To listen to their speeches in which they acknowledged the contribution Australian forces made to ensure South Korean sovereignty,” Mr Mills said.
“I’m especially proud to receive the medal, which now can be handed down into our family as a reminder of Australian sacrifices in the war, so that it will no longer be called the forgotten war.”
Mr Mills volunteered for service in the army when hearing that the Australian government was looking for recruits. He was just 21-years-old upon enlistment into 3RAR, Don Company, 12th platoon, as a rifleman.
“At the blunt end, I was,” he recalled with an infectious smile. He said he could think of no reason for enlisting, other than to explain that he realised the veterans of WWII had done their part for the defence of the free world; now it was time for the next generation to sign up.
“You’ve got to remember, the 38th parallel was just an arbitrary line drawn across the map of Korea. It cuts across many rivers, minor and major roads and railway lines. Not to mention cutting Korean families off from one another, in most cases, never to see each other again. History tells us that such division drawn on maps never succeeds, and this one won’t either,” Mr Mills said emphatically.
When asked about the experience of battle, this veteran was succinct: “It was savage. At times we didn’t know whether we were fighting North Koreans, or communist Chinese; and we didn’t care, either. They were simply the enemy.
“We would be in contact sometimes only 50 metres apart, shooting at each other, with our bayonets fixed, ready to charge if needed.
“In these moments there was no time for fear; our training took over. I tried to look at it as simply another training exercise and that helped keep me calm,” he explained.
Speaking of the Korean people on both sides of the 38th parallel, George said he felt for the Koreans during the war, saying that the civilian population suffered terribly, with atrocities, starvation and deprivation being the common element of suffering among all Koreans.
“This is why I say, there is no good war; all wars lead to bad outcomes and many good people, soldiers, sailors, airmen, not to forget innocent civilians, get killed, wounded, or suffer dislocation and heartbreak to last a thousand lifetimes.”
On mateship, Mr Mills said this was one of the benefits of service in the Australian forces, saying that they made mates for life, and stuck together through thick and thin, enjoying a welcome beer when out of the front line.
“My mother used to hollow out a loaf of bread and smuggle a bottle of scotch in it before posting; it was always a welcome gift to share with my mates,” he chuckled.
On the unification of Korea, Mr Mills said it would be amazing for him to live long enough to see it.
“All Koreans deserve nothing less. Let us hope leaders of Korea, America, China, and countries such as Australia can bring this to pass. That would be fantastic,” he said.
Over a cup of tea, Mr Mills said he was proud to serve as a serviceman, where he learned of the true value of Australian mates.
“In these terrible times world-wide with the coronavirus, the values we learned serving our country should once again become prominent, and Aussie mateship is still the best mateship in the world; so let us stay united as a nation, and we will beat this.”