Much has been written about the Dutch United Nations Detachment in the Korean War both the Infantry (with the US 2nd, Indianhead, Division) and the Naval participation.
A good overview of this history can be read here: the-korean-war. This article is only aimed to give a short overview of the main medals and insignia the Dutch received and used during the conflict.
Cross for Justice and Freedom
This cross was delivered in an orange box already mounted for wear in the Dutch style with silver ‘KOREA 1950’ sword bar. The Cross was instituted on 23 July 1951 to be awarded to members of the N.D.V.N (Nederlands Detachement Verenigde Naties = Netherlands Detachment United Nations). The N.D.V.N. was established on 15 October 1950 and an advance party of Dutch soldiers arrived in Korea from Malaya on 24 October 1950, the first of 26 contingents from the Netherlands arriving in early December. This first contingent saw the hardest fighting of all and even lost its commander and several other officers and men when the staff was overrun by the Koreans. This first contigent amounted to a total of 650 men.
A total of 3,972 Dutch soldiers served in Korea, the last unit returning to the Netherlands at the end of 1954. of this 2980 fought in the front lines during that period. In addition, 1,360 members of the Royal Netherlands Navy served in Korean waters aboard the destroyers Evertsen, Van Galen and Piet Hein and the frigates Johan Maurits van Nassau, Dubois and Van Zijll.
Those that went more than once would have the number of awards on the sword bar, like the 2 in the example below (516 times awarded). The 3 (38 times) and 4 (1 time only) also exist but are very rare so do not expect to find one of those!
Award certificate for the medal:
Below a blank original version of the award document for the navy (starting text starts with the Minister of the Navy ipo the Minister of War). A total of 1360 were awarded to the navy.
And the version for a 2nd award (516 awarded)
United Nations Service Medal with clasp Korea (Dutch Version)
The same basic medal was given to all participants of all countries with their own language. The Dutch can be recognized by the D on the box for the correct language version but some incorrect versions seem to have been made as well and handed out (combination of two languages on one medal, bar and reverse in different language).
Award certificate for the medal:
Below a blank (original) version for a posthumous award of the same medal. Actually awarded ones are rare with 125 Dutch men who died during the conflict.
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
All army personnel would also receive the Korean war medal with certificate. The Navy would not receive these at that moment in time.
So all army personnel in the conflict would get at least these three medals. Most groups will have at least one more medal. The medal for Order and Peace given to participants in the conflict in the Dutch East Indies between 1945 and 1950. The army wanted only to send battle hardened veterans to the conflict so most would have this medal in the group (though not all, also WW2 veterans joined the group and later also non veterans would join). For many the Korean conflict was an opportunity to stay in the army so most later groups also have medals for long and faithful service. Here some examples.
1950s period mounted group in the correct order (first the Order and Peace medal and number 3 the long and faithful service medal for nco’s before the two foreign medals):
Unmounted group with the medals on ribbons as they were handed out (papers shown before belong to this group, this private was part of the first contingent of app 650 men):
Incorrectly mounted group, but as worn by the NCO in the 1960s. Consists of 3 partially mounted groups put together in the incorrect order.
Typical naval Korea group without the Repulic of Korea war service medal. The navy chose not to wear/accept this medal. The middle medal for Long Faithfull Service for ranks below officer is also the Naval version which is correct for this type of mounting. A total of 1360 navy men were active in the Korean conflict.
And below the two standard medal papers that are part of a larger group of paperwork to a soldier who went with the first replacement group to Korea. They went on March 31st 1951, arriving on the 25th of May. They saw some hard fighting and they arrived shortly after the first commander was killed and many officers and men as well so they were a much needed addition to the fighting forces. This group arrived back in the Netherlands on April 30th 1952 after a year of hard fighting and the loss of 50 more men.
Based on the dates on the United Nations medal papers these were only handed out to both the first and second group by the end of 1952 were they received the medals before. The same goes for the ROK war service medal for which the paperwork was much later and is often not seen in the paperwork that comes with a group of medals.
And a group with the number 2 for a second tour in Korea including the paper with the “2” mentioned behind the clasp and the custom made ribbon bar (Japan). Only 516 men went for a second tour so this type of group is rare!
This group was to E. Visser a marine that, like para and commando participants, were all included in the regular infantry for Korea. He went January 8th in 1952 and returend on January 3rd 1953 only back for 5 months before shipping out again on June 9th 1953 after which he finally returned on the 21st of july 1954. On the second trip to Korea he want AWOL in Japan which might account for his longer stay of one month in Korea during his second tour…
Presidential Unit Citations
From the US and the Korean Government they would also receive two Presidential Unit Citations. Many different versions of these exist. The US one was the first and later received an oak leaf cluster. The Korean came somewhat later. All veterans were entitled to both but many of the first contingent only received the US one without the oak leaf cluster during their period in Korea. If they left the army after the war they often used/had the one.
Combat Infantryman Badge
And most infantrymen would also receive the Combat Infantryman Badge. Here also many different versions exist but is seems an unnamed variant marked only STERLING is the one standardly given by the US Army at that moment. That is the bottom version of the three variants seen here (all from Dutch veterans):
Some ribbon groups with the 3 standard medals in some variation. It seems the ribbon bar on top was handed out to all personnel going to Japan for R&R for wear on their uniform. Many had ribbon bars made in Japan with their complete entitlement.
Ribbon group with Unit Citations and CIB (part of the first medal group shown above):
Ons Leger – Our Army, tokens of recognition for returning veterans
Upon their return in the Netherlands the Infantry veterans of the first contingent would receive a table medal from “Ons Leger”. That is a relatively rare as it was only given to the around 600 men that returned end of 1951.
All later contingents would receive the Indianhead on wood as seen below, so about 3000 of these will have been made (mint example in original box) between 1952 and 1954.
Letter of thanks from Prince Bernhard
And all men would receive a letter from Prince Bernhard as an additional recognition:
Badges and Insignia
On the uniform the Dutch would be recognized by the UN badge with Netherlands tab as still in use today. Below three period versions and the small version for the collar tab:
And serving as part of the 2nd Indianhead Infantry division that badge was also worn on the other arm. Two period examples and a small metal version for the collar tab:
Below a photo of the two badges being worn. Not standard in this combination as they should be on opposite sides not beneath each other!
When going to Japan for R&R US uniforms were worn with all standard insignia and a standard 3 ribbon bar for the Korea entitlement. Next to that Korea shoulder boards that were worn both by the Americans and the Dutch.
Upon return to the Netherlands the Dutch Van Heutsz tab and other related typical Dutch insignia would be worn on the English style Dutch uniforms including a baret with badge.
Another item should be mentioned here. Many of the men were veterans from the colonial war in Indonesia. Many of those had served with the Special Forces there including the first commander who brought many of his men to Korea. They often wore a red baret with the para wing on it as seen below. The wing was even worn on the cold weather cap.
See for more info my other blog regarding these wings.
And finally some pictures of daily life in the field (from a former Dutch Marine veteran of the first contingent who went twice to Korea with the NDVN!)
In memory of all veterans of the Korean war 1950-1954