General Pak Jeong Hwan, Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea, at the memorial
General Pak Jeong Hwan, Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea, at the memorial

Most foreign visitors make a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. But it was a war fought 70 years ago in Korea that brought General Pak Jeong Hwan, Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea, to the city of love this week. He wanted to pay homage to the Indian Army medico soldiers from the 60th Indian Field Ambulance Unit who had skydived into combat in the South Korea-North Korea war of 1950–53, many of them laying down their lives as they treated the wounded.

About 400 doctors from the 60 Para Field Hospital in Agra took part in the battle, accomplishing various missions assigned to them by the United Nations. They set up a 40-bed hospital for the 27th Commonwealth British Brigade and worked with the Korean Military Hospital to conduct life-saving operations.

A surgical team from the Indian Army was airdropped along with 4,000 others from the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in the rice fields near Munsan-Ni on March 23, 1951, for a mission codenamed Operation Tomahawk, which stated the citation of the unit’s achievements. They treated 400 soldiers and civilian casualties.

Longest-ever stay

The 60th Indian Field Ambulance, now rechristened as the 60 Para Field Ambulance, risked their lives not only against bullets and shells but also extreme cold during their three and a half-year stay — the longest-ever by any medical team — in South Korea. Nicknamed ‘angels in maroon berets’, they treated thousands of wounded men. For that, they were decorated with two Mahavir Chakras and seven Vir Chakras and received global recognition from the Republic of Korea and the British.

A delegation of the South Korean army, which was in Delhi to attend the two-day Indo-Pacific Chiefs of Armies Conference, specially made the trip to Agra to visit the unit. During their trip, Gen Park Jeong Hwan asked whether there were any survivors from that battle. Lt. Colonel Yaduvir, who is Commanding Officer of 60 Para Field Ambulance, told businessline. The unit performed about 1,000 operations and treated over 100,006 cases, including Chinese and North Korean prisoners of war.