Dutch United Nations Detachment in Korea (NDVN) – medals and insignia

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

A total of 3,972 Dutch soldiers served in Korea, the last unit returning to the Netherlands at the end of 1954. In addition, 1,360 members of the Royal Netherlands Navy served in Korean waters aboard the destroyers Evertsen, van Galen and Piet Heim 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. The 3 and 4 also exist but are very rare.

thumb_IMG_5516_1024

Award certificate for the medal:

thumb_IMG_5536_1024

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:

thumb_IMG_5538_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_5519_1024

Medal groups

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):

thumb_IMG_5527_1024
thumb_IMG_5528_1024

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 500 men):

thumb_IMG_5531_1024

Incorrectly mounted group, but as worn by the NCO in the 1960s. Consists of 3 partially mounted groups put together in the incorrect order.

thumb_IMG_5529_1024
thumb_IMG_5530_1024

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 the left the army afterward they often used/had the one.

thumb_IMG_5549_1024

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):

Ribbon groups

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.

thumb_IMG_5545_1024

Ribbon group with Unit Citations and CIB (part of the first medal group shown above):

thumb_IMG_5533_1024

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 500 men that returned end of 1951.

thumb_IMG_5523_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_5525_1024

Letter of thanks from Prince Bernhard

And all men would receive a letter from Prince Bernhard as an additional recognition:

thumb_IMG_5539_1024

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:

thumb_IMG_5521_1024

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:

thumb_IMG_5520_1024

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 board were worn both by the Americans and the Dutch.

thumb_IMG_5546_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_5534_1024

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 as seen below (in the Ridgeway style who wore his US parawing also on the cold weather cap)

thumb_IMG_5550_1024

See for more info my other blog regarding these wings.

Below a period photo with some of the badges and ribbons discussed above (this photo taken from internet, not my collection).

thumb_IMG_5542_1024.jpg

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!)

thumb_IMG_5553_1024
thumb_IMG_5551_1024

In memory of all veterans of the Korea war 1950-1954