Belgian United Nations Command

The Volunteer Corps for Korea (French: Corps de Volontaires pour la Corée), later known as Belgian United Nations Command (BUNC), was a BelgianLuxembourg military force sent to assist South Korea during the Korean War. A battalion-sized unit, it arrived in Korea in 1951 and remained after the cease-fire until 1955. Over the course of its existence, 3,171 Belgians and 78 Luxembourgers served in the unit.[8]

Belgian United Nations Command (BUNC)
Luxembourgish soldier, part of B.U.N.C. in Korea, 1953
Active1950–1955
Disbanded1955
Country Belgium
 Luxembourg
 South Korea
Allegiance United Nations
BranchArmy
TypeInfantry Battalion
SizeTotal:
  • 3,171 Belgians[1]
  • 78 Luxembourgers[2]
Part of29th Commonwealth Brigade
1st US Cavalry Division
3rd US Infantry Division
Engagements
Decorations2 ROK Presidential Unit Citations
US Presidential Unit Citation
Belgian Order of Leopold[3]
Battle honoursImjin, Haktang-ni and Chatkol
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Albert Crahay[4][5]
Lt. Col. G. Vivario[6]
Lt. Col. R. Gathy[7]

Background

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, Belgium was experiencing a period of turmoil. Belgium had been occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War and reconstruction was still very much in progress. Politically, the country was torn over the issue of the so-called Royal Question. With the centrist parties thus occupied, both Communist and right-wing Flemish nationalist parties enjoyed considerable support. The Prime Minister in office, when the UN declaration calling for soldiers to be sent to the aid of Korea was sent, was Joseph Pholien of the Christian Social Party who was politically opposed to the rise of communism abroad and wished to gain support from the United States. Both the Belgian and Luxembourgish governments decided to comply with the UN request to send troops to assist South Korea.

Training

Over 2,000 Belgians volunteered for service in B.U.N.C. Of these, initially only 700 were selected for training at Leopoldsburg. After training, volunteers received their characteristic brown berets. Soldiers from Luxembourg who were trained alongside the Belgians were organised into 1st Platoon, A Company of B.U.N.C.[9]

The Belgian-Luxembourg Corps sailed from Antwerp to Pusan and arrived on 31 January 1951.[10] On arrival in Korea, some South Korean troops were made part of the Belgian contingent in order to bring the regiment up to correct battalion strength along the lines of the US "KATUSA" or Commonwealth "KATCOM" programme.

At the front

In April 1951, the Belgians fought in one of the key battles of the Korean War – the Battle of the Imjin River. The First Battalion was relieved by a new battalion fresh from Belgium in August 1951[11] which stayed until 1955.

At the Battle of the Imjin River in 1951, the Belgian battalion held a key pass alongside the British Gloucestershire Regiment. For actions at the Imjin, the Belgians received a US Presidential Citation. During the battle, Albert Crahay, commander of the unit, was wounded by a Chinese phosphorus shell and was evacuated to a hospital in Japan.

B.U.N.C. continued to see action and went on to earn further battle honours at Haktang-Ni – one of the series of battles at Broken Arrow – in October 1951 when the Belgians took up position on an isolated hillside and suffered relentless Chinese attacks which they successfully repelled, killing over a hundred Chinese and losing only a handful of men themselves.

The last main action fought by the Belgian contingent was at the Battle of Chatkol in April 1953. Belgian forces held a defensive arc position in the Iron Triangle for over 55 nights of Chinese assaults.

After the cease-fire, it was seen as unnecessary to keep BUNC up to the strength it had during the war and it was reduced to some 200 men on 30 December 1954, but, like other UN contingents, it was viewed as necessary to maintain a presence in Korea during the uncertain peace following the negotiations at Panmunjom and the last members of the unit finally left Korea on 15 June 1955.

Commanders

Belgian Commanders[12][13]

Dates in CommandName of Commander (all held rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in Korea)Notable event during commandFuture career
September 28, 1950 – November 21, 1951Albert CrahayFirst Commander of the Contingent; Battle of the Imjin River. Wounded by Phosphorus GrenadeRetired with rank of Lieutenant General. He also commanded the Belgian army of occupation in Germany.
November 21, 1951 – February 23, 1952Norbert CoolsReplaced for health reasons.
February 23, 1952 – February 13, 1953Georges VivarioBattle of Haktang-niBecame Commander of the Joint General Staff and retired with the rank of Lieutenant General.
February 12, 1953 – July 12, 1953Robert GathyBattle of Chatkol
July 12, 1953 – December 19, 1953BodartArmistice in the Korean War
December 19, 1953 – May 27, 1954Brichant (Major) (temp.)
February 27, 1954 – August 14, 1955PierlotBelgian United Nations Command disbanded

Luxembourgish Commanders

Dates in CommandName of Commander (all held rank of Lieutenant in Korea)Notable event during commandFuture career
October 1, 1951 – September 30, 1951Joseph "Jos" Wagener1st Luxembourgish Detachment, Operations around the Han River, Battle of the Imjin RiverLater Lt. Col.
February 4, 1952 – February 3, 1953Rodolphe "Rudy" Lutty2nd Luxembourgish Detachment, Battle of King Post

"Belgians Can Do Too!"

BELGIANS CAN DO TOO! was a slogan written across the windshield of Padre of the Unit's (Padre Vander Goten) Jeep during the battles around the "Iron Triangle." Seeing the exhaustion of the troops, the Padre copied the motto of the US 15th Infantry Regiment ("Can Do") alongside whom the Belgians were serving at the time to try to raise morale. The phrase was made famous in Belgium and is thought to summarise the spirit and courage of the Belgian contingent.[14][15]

Casualties

101 Belgian soldiers, 2 Luxembourgish soldiers and 9 South Korean soldiers attached to the Belgian contingent were killed during the war. 478 Belgians and 17 Luxembourgers were wounded in action and 5 Belgians are still posted as missing. 2 died in North Korean POW Camps.[16]

Battle honours

B.U.N.C. was awarded two South Korean Presidential Unit Citations and one American Unit Citation.

The text of the US Presidential Unit Citation for actions at the Imjin River:

The Belgian battalion with the Luxembourg detachment of the UN Forces in Korea is mentioned for exceptional execution of its missions and for its remarkable heroism in its actions against the enemy on the Imjin, near Hantangang, Korea during the period from 20 till 26 April 1951. The Belgian battalion with the Luxembourg detachment, one of the smallest units of the UNO in Korea, has inflicted thirty-fold losses on the enemy compared to its own, due to its aggressive and courageous actions against the Communist Chinese. During this period considerable enemy forces, supported by fire by machine guns, mortars and artillery, repeatedly and heavily attacked the positions held by the battalion but, Belgians and Luxembourgers have continuously and bravely repulsed these fanatic attacks by inflicting heavy losses to the enemy forces...The extraordinary courage shown by the members of this units during this period has bestowed extraordinary honor on their country and on themselves

By order of General Van Fleet.[17]

The Belgian-Luxembourg Corps served at three key battles of the Korean War – the Battle of the Imjin River and Battle of Haktang-ni 1951, and the Battle of Chatkol 1953.

Commemoration

The 3rd Parachute Battalion maintains the traditions (including the flag and badge) of BUNC and is based in Tielen.

Museums

Monuments

  • Twin Belgian battalion monuments exist in Brussels – on Avenue Jules César- and in South Korea -Dongducheon-si in Gyeonggi-do province.
  • There is a small monument outside the Freedom Protection Museum, also in Dongducheon-si, South Korea.
  • There is also a small monument outside SHAPE Headquarters in Mons, Belgium.

Notable personnel

  • Etienne Gailly, Bronze medal winner at the 1948 London Olympic Games served as Captain in BUNC alongside his brother Pierre.[18]
  • Pierre Francisse, 1948 London Olympic Games, track and 1960 Rome Olympic Games, Fencing (épée), was a Lieutenant in Korea. He was too severely wounded to continue his track event, and took up fencing for the Belgian Olympic team. Retired as a Colonel of the First Regiment Guides.
  • Albert Guérisse was a notable member of the Belgian resistance during the Second World War. He created the Pat Line to help Allied Airmen escape capture in Nazi-Occupied Europe under the pseudonym Pat O'Leary. After serving in Korea he became the commander of the Belgian Medical Component with the rank of Major-General.[19]
  • Henri Moreau de Melen, Minister of Defence for the Christian Social Party (PSC-CVP) government who resigned his ministerial post and volunteered for service in Korea in 1950 with the rank of Major.
  • Guy de Greef, a captain in B.U.N.C. and who served at the Battle of Chatkol in 1953 was the son of the Belgian Minister of Defense Eugène De Greef who held the post 1950–1954 after Moreau de Melen's resignation.[20]

See also

References

  1. "Belgian Volunteer Corps Korea". belgian-volunteercorps-korea.be. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  2. "Belgian Volunteer Corps Korea". belgian-volunteercorps-korea.be. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  3. "BUNC". hendrik.atspace.com. Archived from the original on 12 August 2013. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  4. "Citations, awards and Medal". militarytimes.com. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  5. "National Archives". www.koreanwar-educator.org. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  6. "National Archives". www.koreanwar-educator.org. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  7. "National Archives". www.koreanwar-educator.org. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  8. "HOME Webmaster Jan Dillen Korea veteraan".
  9. "Belgian Volunteer Corps Korea". belgian-volunteercorps-korea.be. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  10. "The Belgian Forces in the Korean War". Archived from the original on 2013-08-12.
  11. "The Belgian Forces in the Korean War". Archived from the original on 2013-08-12.
  12. http://users.telenet.be/belgischbataljonkorea/english/history.htm%5B%5D
  13. "Korean War Educator: Topics - National Archives Records - RIP 103".
  14. De Wit, Frans (2003). Belgians Can Do Too!. De Krijger. ISBN 9058680665. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  15. Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in Korea, Royal Museum of the Army and of Military History, Brussels ISBN 2-87051-050-0, p.53
  16. "HOME Webmaster Jan Dillen Korea veteraan".
  17. "The Belgian Forces in the Korean War". Archived from the original on 2013-08-12.
  18. "Etienne Gailly". belgraveharriers.com. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  19. "Albert Guerisse: Belgian war hero". nytimes.com. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  20. Belgians Can Do Too! The Belgian-Luxembourg Battalion in Korea, Royal Museum of the Army and of Military History, Brussels ISBN 2-87051-050-0, p.169-173
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