Canada played a valuable role in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 as part of its position in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This included taking direct military action in support of capitalist South Korea against communist North Korea. Although rarely publicized, Canada proved to be one of the US’s major allies.
In terms of manpower, the official numbers as accepted by most historians stand at 26,000 members of the armed forces supported by eight naval destroyers. The destroyers were the first to meet up with UN-backed naval forces in the Korean Peninsula. One of the reasons why the extent of Canada’s military confrontation was hidden was due to the fact Canada didn’t stand under its own flag. It fought as part of the British Commonwealth Forces.
Naval forces spent most of their time performing shore bombardments. These cut North Korean train lines and silenced coastal batteries. It silenced the coastal guns at the Battle of Inchon in January 1951, and they would repeat this in June 1951 with the allied recapturing of Seoul.
The Royal Canadian Air Force was present but never featured in combat roles. This is because they failed to possess the jet technology needed to compete in dogfights over Korea. They spent the war delivering supplies to troops at bases across the Peninsula. They played a vital role in keeping up with the frontlines during the first mobile months of the war when ground supplies couldn’t.
Canadian troops rarely fought with the Koreans. Instead, they joined up alongside the Australians in halting the Chinese advance at Kapong. Single units fought off entire Chinese battalions with minimal casualties. Arguably, this is Canada’s greatest contribution as it prevented an essential part of the line from collapsing.
After the cessation of hostilities in 1953, Canada remained as a military overseer. All eight destroyers remained until 1955 when they finally returned home. Canada lost 516 men, of which 312 were deaths during combat.
Canada’s contribution was more than most as it sent the most troops of the minor powers. It participated on all fronts at great economic cost to itself. Even though America and Britain gain much of the credit for many victories, Canada won many without the help of the major powers. It showed that it could compete in both a leading and support role.
It’s a prime example of why Canada continues to have a major role in international military actions to this day. It’s a misconception to believe Canada didn’t have a significant part to play in the first major battle of the Cold War, but this is due to mistakes on their part because Canada acted on behalf of the British Commonwealth not itself.
When looking at the facts and figures, there’s no denying the large contribution this North American country made to the Korean War effort.