A new friendship has been forged on the historic Korean War battlefields between a young Air Force airman and a Korean War veteran pilot, both from Fadden in the Tuggeranong Valley.
25-year-old Leading Aircraftman, Ricky Charman and 84-year-old former Air Force pilot, Bill Monaghan, have joined those paying tribute to Australians who fought and died in the Korean War.
Ricky and Bill are in South Korea to mark the 60th Anniversary of Armistice that saw an end to hostilities on the Korean Peninsula. Ricky is a Leading Aircraftman in the RAAF and a member of Australia’s Federation Guard. He is one of 13 guardsmen currently in Korea supporting the Australian and New Zealand commemorative events. They have been joined by Korean War veterans from all over Australia, including Bill from Fadden.
Bill joined the RAAF in February 1949. He initially trained as an Engine Fitter and worked on a range of aircraft then in service. With the outbreak of the Korean War, Bill’s sixth application for pilot training was successful and he graduated as a sergeant pilot at Point Cook in November 1952. On completion of that training, Bill was posted to No. 77 Squadron, then operating in the strike role out of Kimpo Airbase near Seoul where he served from 20 May to 20 November 1953.
“I was there at the tail end of the war. The blokes that went before me had pretty well won it,” Bill said.
“I flew 26 missions over the North and some of those were pretty interesting,” he said.
On his twelfth mission Bill’s aircraft was hit by enemy ground fire and he was forced to ditch on an island held by United Nations forces.
“The fellas on the ground got their own back and knocked me down. The rescue team flew in a new engine for my plane and I a managed to fly it out,” Bill added.
With over 6000 flying hours accumulated, Bill retired to Canberra with the rank of Air Commodore. His military service was recognised with the award of the Air Force Cross in 1964, and he was created a Member of the Order of Australia (military division) in 1975
Before departing for Korea, Bill said he was “chuffed” about going back.
“Nothing will be the same as before. South Korea has changed so much. It’s now a modern democracy and that is, in most part, thanks to the sacrifices that were made in the past,” he said.
Ricky said he was excited to be part of the commemorative services in Korea.
“I am looking forward to being able to tell people the story of the Korean War and to listen to veterans recounting their experiences in Korea. This experience will live with me for the rest of my life,” Ricky said.
The former St Mary McKillop College student and his fellow guardsmen spent many long hours preparing for their visit to Korea. They rehearsed their drill many times over on the parade ground at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra and at the official opening and closing ceremonies of the Hall of Remembrance at the Australian War Memorial.
“We were also given briefings on Korea and the War so we were fully aware of where we were going and the significance of the events we are commemorating,” Rickey said.
Ricky and other guardsmen were given a guided tour of the Korean War exhibition at the War Memorial and were joined by some Korean War veterans who explained aspects of the many exhibits.
This is not the first time Ricky has travelled overseas with Defence. He has been on exercises and operations that have taken him to Nevada, Alaska, Indonesia, Guam and he has served in Afghanistan.
Ricky has been awarded the Australian Defence Medal, the Afghanistan Medal, International Security and Assistance Force Medal and the International Coalition Against Terrorism Medal.