IT may have been nearly 70 years ago, but Gerald Minett can still see clearly through the fog of war, to realise just how easily lives can be lost.
"I'm starting to think how I survived," said Mr Minett. "I was in the wrong place at the right time."
Private Gerald "Bluey" Minett had just turned 23 and was serving in Second Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, when he found himself in the Battle of the Samichon during the Korean War.
Between July 24 and July 26, 1953, Private Minett and other soldiers of 2RAR were engaged in what would be the last major engagement of the war before the armistice came into play. Or, as Gerald Minett described this time, "It was 'bang, bang, bang'. [Then] the silence."
But those 'bangs' in the battle were intense, as Communist Chinese forces tried to take back territory from the United Nations troops before the armistice. The Australians were fighting in an area known as The Hook.
At one point, while manning a machine gun on a strategic point called Hill 121, Private Minett had been given strict orders - "fire on anything below".
Gerald Minett saw movement down the slope, but he didn't squeeze the trigger. Instead, he sought confirmation about who was down there. Afterall, nearby were soldiers from the United States Marine Corps. Word came back along the line that who Private Minett could see were American troops on patrol.
"I didn't fire a shot, and there were Yanks who got to leave Korea," Mr Minett said.
Gerald Minett spent almost two years in Korea. He was one of 17,000 Australians who served in the Korean War. The conflict began on June 25, 1950, when North Korean forces invaded South Korea, crossing the border known as the 38th Parallel.
"We were among the first of the nations to commit to the United Nations to come to the aid of the Republic of South Korea," said Michael Kelly a historian at the Australian War Memorial.
"Australia's contribution of some 17,000 personnel, army navy, and air force, was relatively small, looking at other nations, but we contributed to some significant actions throughout the Korean War."
During the war, 340 Australians were killed and about 1200 were wounded. Forty-three Australian servicemen are listed as "missing in action".
While the guns may have been silent after the armistice took effect, the forces didn't leave the Korean peninsula.
John Hurdman was about 20 when he was in the Australian army in Korea.
Private Hurdman was part of 1RAR and in Korea for about six months until early 1956. He recalled patrolling along the "DMZ" (the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea) in the depths of winter.
"It was bloody cold, 20, 30 below," said Mr Hurdman, now 84 and living at Fingal Bay. "We never had the gear like they've got these days."
The Korean conflict is often referred to as "the forgotten war". Michael Kelly said even at the time, soldiers noticed public and media interest in the war was waning, and they wondered, "Are they forgetting about us?"
"It came so soon after the Second World War and was followed straight after by Vietnam, which was such a huge war and divisive, that it just seemed to fall between the cracks," Michael Kelly said of the Korean conflict.
The AWM historian is helping restore a nation's memory. He has co-edited a book, In from the Cold: Reflections on Australia's Korean War, which is published today on the 70th anniversary of the conflict starting.
Michael Kelly said it was important for Australians to remember, because what happened then was still having an enormous influence on the world now.
"It's entirely important, because looking at our regional politics and our regional strategic outlook now, the Korean War has played a massive role in how we view our interactions in Asia," he said.
"We're looking at the rise of China at the moment, also the ongoing issues with North Korea; it all stems from the rise of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and their involvement in Korea afterwards. And the Kim regime is still very strong in Korea."
John Hurdman offered another reason why the Korean War should be remembered: "Why should we forget any soldiers who went away and fought for this country?"
Gerald Minett, who turns 90 next month, won't forget. He has his medals, including the Infantry Combat Badge.
But Gerald Minett believes that Australians will remember him, and all who served in the Korean War.
As he says, "The 'forgotten' has made a sharp return."
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN THE NEWS:
- Police body cam footage released after horrifying arrest as bystanders berate and shout abuse at police at Hamilton South
- Alleged Newcastle ship stowaway: man found in bulk carrier's air conditioning charged with breach of bail
- $1 million base for Newcastle, Hunter councils 'fairer', says NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro
- Federal police charge Birmingham Gardens man with facilitating entry of five or more unlawful non-citizens