Since 1945 Australian soldiers have been deployed in peace keeping and monitoring roles around the world, but they have also been in some of th toughest fighting since the Second World War.
Following the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in 1950 the United Nations deployed an international force that included ships, aircraft and troops from Australia.
Between 1950 and 1953 soldiers of 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), 1 RAR and 2 RAR saw service in Korea. Before the troops landed RAAF P-51 Mustang fighters were the first Australian forces to go into action in a ground attack role in July 1950.
Significant actions were the battle of Yongju on October 22, 1950 involving 3 RAR. The battle of Kapyong on April 23, 1951 saw the entry of China into the fighting and a tough fight by 3 RAR. The carrier HMAS Sydney arrived in Korean water in October 1951 and launched over 2,700 sorties losing 9 aircraft and three pilots killed. In the three years of fighting 1,263 men of the Commonwealth forces were killed and a further 4,817 were wounded, while the US lost 33,000 men. Australian casualties numbered more than 1,500, of whom 340 were killed. Almost half a million South Koreans died as a result of the war, and an unknown number of North Koreans and Chinese.
Malayan Emergency 1950-1960
The Communist insurgency in Malaya that began in 1948 was given the neutral name of "Emergency" to ensure that losses and damage would be covered by insurance which would not have been the case if the uprising had been given a name like "war" or "insurrection".
Australia's involvement in the Emergency began in 1950 with the arrival of RAAF aircraft and personnel in Singapore. Dakotas from 38 Squadron were deployed on cargo runs, troop movements, and paratroop and leaflet drops in Malaya, while six Lincoln bombers of 1 Squadron provided the backbone of air operations. As the capacity of army and police units operating against the communists improved, however, the need for air power decreased, and by 1952 Lincolns were increasingly used as part of combined air-ground assaults against the communists.
1, 2 and 3 RAR would serve in Malaya and lay the foundation for an expertise in jungle warfare that would serve them well in the Confrontation and Vietnam.
Thirty-nine Australian servicemen were killed in Malaya, although only 15 of these deaths occurred as a result of operations, and 27 were wounded, most of whom were in the army
Indonesia and Malaysia Confrontation 1963-1966
Between 1962 and 1966 Ifought a small, undeclared war which came to involve troops from Australia and Britain. The conflict resulted from Indonesia's President Sukarno's expansionist ambitions that saw the newly formed Malaysian Federation as a block to the creation of a wider South east Asian hegemony headed by Indonesia. He therefore vowed to "Smash Malaysia" a confronted the newly formed federation on its shared borders in Borneo.
Two battalions 3 RAR and 4 RAR served in the Confrontation and the newly formed Australian SAS Regiment was involved in highly secret cross border operations inside Indonesia.
Twenty-three Australians were killed during the Confrontation, seven of them on operations, and eight were wounded. Because of the sensitivity of the cross-border operations, which remained secret at the time.
Vietnam 1962 -1975
Australia's military involvement in the Vietnam War was the longest in duration of any war in Australia's history. It had begun with a low level commitment of a military training team with the South Vietnamese Army in 1962. By the end of Australian involvement almost 60,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, had served in Vietnam of whom 521 died as a result of the war and over 3,000 were wounded.
All nine battalions of the RAR would serve in Vietnam and would dominate their operational area of Phuoc Tuy province. Notable during the Australian operations in this area were the battles of Long Tan, and the fights for the fires bases of Coral and Balmoral. The Australian SAS would hone their ambush and patrolling skills that had been developed during the Confrontation.
Four soldiers would win the VC during the Australian deployment in Vietnam.
There was period post-Vietnam when the Australian Army honed its skills but appeared to have no clear role other than the defence of the continent. Then came Iraq and Afghanistan. Australian forces deployed for the First Gulf War of 1990-1991 and in the Second in 2003 at the outset men of the SAS Regiment were deployed while in subsequent operations elements of the Royal Australian Regiment and support and aviation assets played a valuable role.
In "Operation Slipper" the Australian deployment in Afghanistan two SAS Troopers have won the Victoria Cross for Australia the nation's highest award for bravery that was instituted in 1991. The first man to receive it was SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson in 2009.
Since 2001 40 Australian soldiers have been killed and 256 wounded in operations in Afghanistan.