Talking Proud Archives --- Military

Kapyong: Aussies and Canadians beat massive Chinese attack back

December 15, 2013

Memoirs from the men who were there

As a way to begin our section with memoirs, I found Dan Bjarnason’s views about Kapyong as he expressed them in his book, Triumph at Kapyong: Canada’s pivotal battle most revealing about the overall view in Canada about the Korean War, many say, “The Forgotten war.” He wrote:

“It’s a matter of some resentment to Canadian soldiers who came later (after Kapyong) that it is Kapyong that resonates. No one now gives a second thought to the other awful battles that followed, where Canadians fought and died in human wave attacks just like those at Kapyong; places with drab names like Hill 419, Hill 532, Hill 355, Hill 97, or Hill 187. But however unfairly, no one remembers any of this now. It is Kapyong that has captured the popular memory of what little is recalled of our war in Korea.”

On the other hand, Dan Bjarnason also wrote:

“Go to Google and type in ‘Kapyong’ and ‘Australia.’ You’ll come up with 36,000 hits. Then Google ‘Kapyong’ and ‘Canada.’ You’ll get 6,540 hits. What’s wrong with these numbers?

“At Kapyong, Korea in April 1951 these two countries fought side-by-side (on adjoining hills), hugely outnumbered, on a remote and desolate bit of real estate. Australia’s story is widely known. Canada’s is not. The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, after unbelievably heroic resistance was finally forced to abandon its position, or be annihilated. A few hours later, the Canadians next door, the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, were also attacked, but somehow hung on and repelled repeated mass Chinese assaults ... In Australia this is a well known tale. Here in Canada it is an invisible story inside the Forgotten War.

“ Canada, outside of the Army and Korean veterans groups, the mention of Kapyong will draw puzzled stares, as if Kapyong was perhaps some new word game, or a choice on an exotic restaurant menu, as in ‘I’ll have a plate of sautéed Kapyong please.’ ”

Memoirs about the 27th Brigade HQ at Kapyong.

I should start with the 27th Brigade HQ, commanded by Brigadier Burke, British Army. The 27th BC had been placed in the IX Corps reserve at Kapyong. The ROK 6 was placed to its north and was to be the main line of defense.

Capt. Murray Edwards, 2 PPCLI, wrote that the British brigade commander, Brigadier Brian A. Burke, was up at about 7 am and outside shaving when he turned on the news from Tokyo that the Chinese had started their spring offensive. Edwards wrote, “The American command hadn’t said a word to him.” Edwards went on to write:

“Anyway, he looked at the map and decided that the central offensive would come down the Kapyong Valley, picked up the brigade [the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade], put us down in the defensive position and that is exactly where the Chinese came. We had turned over our front line section to a Korean division and when the Chinese attacked, they had just broken and ran for the south without even spiking their guns. So when the Chinese came through, there were also swarms of South Korean soldiers mixed in with them.

“Anyway, the position that he picked for us, the position for the Patricias was a good high defensible position. The Australians on our right [3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment] didn’t have as good a position but the decision by the brigade commander was to put the Australians there because they had had a lot more experience than we had.”

The 3 RAR had been fighting for six months, and thought at the time they were at Kapyong as a reserve unit mostly for rest and relaxation, and some beer.

In a paper entitled,
“Love and Duty, a Canadian remembers the Korean War,” by Vince Courtney, Courtney said that Brigadier Burke had a caravan and was resting, though he was awakened frequently. Courtney said that at about 3 a.m. his brigade major woke him up:

“I got the CO (commanding officer) of the Kiwi (New Zealand) artillery on the wireless. You better come and have a listen, sir.”

Apparently he was told this:

“Sir, the ROK (6th Division) commanders have told me they don’t know where their units are any longer. They’re folding up all over the place. The right flank is buckling. We can’t fire a shot to help them out. Our ROK defense force is bugging out on us.

“Burke then ordered the Kiwis to move to a fallback position, make sure they take everything, and advise when they are set up again.”

The Kiwis had an enormous task before them. They had to move two eight-gun batteries out of there along with all the support equipment and ordnance. To make matters worse, they had to withdraw on the road that was clogged by the retreating ROK 6th Division along with many civilians.

If you read the history closely, you would see that the failure of the ROK 6 to hold came as a bit of a surprise to the 27 BC, across the board. As mentioned earlier, communications between the Aussies and Canucks were not good, so runners had to go back and forth to coordinate and relay orders. You would also see that both the 3 RAR and Patricias had to draw up plans quickly and deploy and redeploy their men and equipment rapidly. In the midst of all that were great uncertainties not only about the Chinese but also about what kind of support they might expect, especially from the American tanks which were independent of them but sitting in their area. I would only comment that the commanders and their advisors had to make many tough decisions on the move, moving through very tough terrain, with forces that vastly outnumbered them on their way at them.

One Canadian named “Leo” remarked: “I’m so raggedy ass tired I don’t care if I gets myself shot.” In the paper written by Vince Courtney, you’ll find Leo, whose last name I could not find, was quite a character.

At the brigade level, Brigadier Burke had a lot of problems. First he had to scramble to get his brigade positioned as well as it could given bad communications and thousands of Chinese coming down the road along with thousands of ROK Army and civilians as well. He was not able to position his forces properly because he lacked the resources to handle this kind of attack. And then the IX Corps Headquarters was concentrating on trying to control the 6th Division retreat in some fashion so it did not turn out to be a panic driven free for all.

As a result, Burke ordered the 3 RAR to move its headquarters down the road to the rear of the battle positions of its forces. The Australian command was separated from its troops by a couple kilometers. The terrain obstructed radio communications and Burke had to control his own headquarters which was comparatively out in the open along the road on which the Chinese were coming. Burke did have some American forces there, including two companies of the 2nd US Chemical Heavy Mortar Battalion, a field battery of 105 howitzers and A Company of the 72nd Tank Battalion. Burke allocated one mortar company each to the 3 RAR and 2 PPCLI and assigned the tank company to the 3 RAR.

I would also like to interject here that this Chinese force, while strong in numbers, was described by Cameron Forbes in his book,
The Korean War, as “exhausted.” This was its third offensive in three months. Cameron said the Chinese commander was Peng Dehuai, and that Peng wrote this in his memoirs:

“It was in the middle of the cold winter. We did not have any air support and lacked the protection of antiaircraft artillery. Enemy airplanes raided us every day, and their long range guns shelled us day and night. We could not move at all during the daytime.”

Memoirs from Australian 3 RAR war fighters at Kapyong

Okay, so lets move to some Aussies who were there.

Cameron Forbes, in his book,
The Korean War, commented, “The Diggers called the pleasant, wooded area (around Kapyong) Sherwood Forest.” This was of course just prior to the attack and the battle.

Please allow me to commend
“Korea remembered, Chapter 37,” compiled by “Maurie” Pears. Pears went to a paper entitled “Kapyong,” prepared by Bob Breen, and presented extracts of what some of the Diggers at Kapyong had to say. I will randomly extract a few of them for you here to give you the gist of the interesting read, as well as other memoirs I found elsewhere.

But I first want to start this way. The Aussies lost 32 KIA. Three were captured by the Chinese: Private Horace Madden, Corporal Bob Parker and Private Keith Gwyther.

First, Private Horace “Slim” Madden. Greg Ray wrote about him in, “Prisoner of war a fighter to the end,” published by the Newcastle Herald on April 22, 2011. Ray wrote:

“Private Madden's laconic lack of respect or fear infuriated the Koreans but inspired other prisoners of all nationalities, as did his legendary acts of kindness for sick and injured fellow prisoners. His kindness, good humour and courage were considered so remarkable by those who survived their captivity and by the military authorities that in 1955 Madden was awarded one of the highest honours attainable.

“He was captured by the Chinese in April 1951 during the Battle of Kapyong. In November 1951, after months of appalling abuse including torture and beatings, the critically weakened Madden was with Squadron Leader Ron Guthrie among about 40 prisoners on a brutal forced march. According to Mr Guthrie, ‘Digger Madden . . . resembled a skeleton with skin stretched over the surface.’ ... Mr Guthrie remembered an episode on the march when Horrie Madden, shivering uncontrollably, gasped out: ‘I’m going to make it Ron. They won't be making fertiliser out of me.’ By then Private Madden was among the sickest prisoners on an ox-cart at the rear of the column. Mr Guthrie reassured him - they were close to their destination - but eventually the cart left the column and Horrie Madden wasn't seen again.”

Slim survived the journey but died of malnutrition between November and December 1951. His remains were buried in the UN memorial cemetery, Pusan, ROK. He received the George Cross (posthumous). The George Cross was the highest decoration received by an Australian during the Korean War, second to the Victoria Cross but equal in precedence.

One of his fellow 3 RAR POWs, Private Keith Gwyther, has said this of Slim:

“Slim was a real hero—and didn't know it. He became a sort of legend. He didn't try to be like that—it was just the way he was made. Nothing could make him co-operate with the enemy.”

Private Robert Parker was also captured by the Chinese during Kapyong. He was riding a Harley motorcycle when his front wheel came off. He landed in a ditch. He received fire and was hit in the hip. He would remark:

“Suddenly a bugle sounded down the road I had been on and looking up, my hair stood on end as I saw about 30 Chinese [soldiers] racing in my direction approximately 100 yards [80 metres] from me. I felt horribly lonely and bloody scared. They came at me firing from the hip, led by a young squad leader ... I don't think there was a more frightened person in all the world. I said 'Arrr, shit!’ and gave them a big grin and suddenly I was not frightened any more. Then you wouldn't want to know, up they came and patted me on the back and all crowded around me. All I could do was give a sickly grin.”

The Chinese took him up a hill to a gathering of hundreds of Chinese troops. He was now a POW. The photo shows him at the POW Repatriation Camp. While a POW, he and 19 others escaped from their POW Camp 5 beside the Yalu River. He actually had escaped several times but was always recaptured. I believe he served in three POW camps. The food was infrequent, the weather very cold, and the treatment inhumane. He also had to attend indoctrination classes designed to convert him to communism. He didn’t buy it.

Lt. Colonel Bruce Ferguson took command of the 3 RAR while the regiment was in combat. He has written that he had doubts about his ability. He knew his regiment had been in tough combat prior to Kapyong, and that his men were still sizing him up. He said, “It became apparent to me that I had inherited the loneliest command any man could have. Being the senior Australian, I was solely responsible for anything that might befall the Australian battalion in Korea ... With no one to turn to for advice in whatever situation I might find myself, it was, as I have said, the loneliest command ever allotted to an Australian battalion commander on foreign soil.”

Capt. Reginald Saunders is an interesting fellow. He was the first Aboriginal Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army. He was also with the 3 RAR at Kapyong, at first a platoon commander, and then when his skipper was wounded, Alpha Company commander. He then took command of Charlie Company at Kapyong. He admired Colonel Ferguson, but had some issues:

“I respected ‘Fergie’ [Ferguson]. He was a very brave man - even if I thought he was an exhibitionist because he never carried a weapon and strolled around all the time with a bloody walking stick. He was a brave infantryman but I was critical of his positioning of the Battalion on the ground at Kapyong. He always positioned his Battalion Headquarters in isolation from the companies and did this again at Kapyong. He liked a neatly sign posted and well-laid out BHQ ... There was no Tactical or Battle Headquarters inside the main Battalion defensive position up with the forward companies. His first mistake was to locate B Company in an isolated forward position. It was obvious that when the enemy came they would attack right where B Company was located - B Company were going to cop the lot ... I do not think it was a good position at all. I think he put B Company there because he underestimated the Chinese reaction. As an infantry commander I would have put B Company back in reserve behind A and D Companies. Then we would have had a tight battalion perimeter with lots of depth, mutual support and a safe route [along the high ridge line running south from Hill 504] for re-supply and withdrawal.”

Capt., promoted to Major, Ben O’Dowd commanded 3 RAR Alpha Company and has written "The Battle Of Kapyong : From the Inside,” and the book, In valiant company. O’Dowd said he was sprawled out on the grass taking a nap when he was abruptly interrupted and told to get his company together, assemble at the village of Chuktun-ni, and stand by. Once he got to Chuktun-ni, the boss told his company commanders that the ROK 6 was holding the line about 20 miles north, but was under attack. At that moment, O’Dowd said they were told to do some reconnaissance and return to their locations, “no great urgency to the situation.”

He commented that the brigade was spread out. The New Zealand artillery force was told to head up north a bit to support the ROK 6. Knowing that the ROKs were shaky, the 1 MX, positioned just to the west of 3 RAR, was told to tag along “to provide the Kiwis cover.” Both units returned badly scarred.

The Chinese initially infiltrated his company’s position but his men counter-attacked and pushed them away.
The Australian War Memorial web site quoted Private Patrick Knowles reporting this about O’Dowd:

"Major O'Dowd then directed the radio operator to contact anyone. The American 1st Marine Division answered but their operator refused to believe who our operator was speaking for. Major O'Dowd took the phone and demanded to speak to the commanding officer. The general in charge of the [Marine] division came on the phone and told O'Dowd we didn't exist as we had been wiped out the night before. Major O'Dowd said, 'I've got news for you, we are still here and we are staying here.'" The Marine said he could not stay as he was in the midst of a strategic withdrawal. Apparently O’Dowd blew his cork and said he would be outflanked if the Marines left. The Marine general then agreed to stay as long as the Aussies stayed. O’Dowd was heard to say after he hung up:

“Cop on to this. The mighty 1st American Marine Division has agreed to stay as long as we do.”

O’Dowd knew, however, that withdrawal was something worth contemplating. He said later, “I had to decide the route, the timing and the method. From my point of view there were two ways out: one was to fight straight back down the road the way we had come the night before; the other way was to get behind D Company and beat our way down the long ridge line to where the Middlesex were, some two miles away.” He chose the latter as there were too many Chinese in the area of the former.

O’Dowd has written,
”Patrol to Inchon and Kapyong Revisited.” It is detailed and I commend it to you. I’ll draw out an excerpt for flavor.

He wrote:

“All hell broke loose as Diggers cut down the surge of attackers, directing into them as much rapid fire as their weapons could produce, the Owen submachine Gun being the most effective weapon for this and the dear old single shot Lee Enfield the worst.” He said his men had to kill enemy as fast as they could or risk being overrun. There would be pauses, at which time his troops would gather up the dead and wounded and reorganize.

D’Arcy Laughlin said:

“...the platoon (Montgomerie's 4 Platoon B Company) moved into attack from the right flank. When approximately 25 yards from the enemy position, a bayonet charge was ordered and the leading section led by Corporal Davie took the first enemy-held trench at bayonet point. Lieutenant Montgomerie (shown here) quickly reorganized his platoon and, in fierce hand-to-hand combat, gradually proceeded to clear to defensive position - trench by trench.

“The enemy resisted strongly and fought fanatically to hold their position. Using grenades and machine carbines [Owen Machine Carbines] this platoon cleared their way through the enemy position. It now became evident that more enemy were entrenched on a knoll further on and were now firing on leading elements of 4 Platoon.

“Leaving the rear sections to continue the cleaning up of the position, the platoon commander [Montgomerie] with the leading section now attacked the second position. The might and the aggressiveness of the attack upset the enemy and some openly fled: the majority remained and fought to the death.”


This is a nice photo of Montgomerie’s 4 Platoon B Company, most probably taken after the battle was over.

Sergeant Jack Galloway of the 3 RAR commented that after the two Chinese divisions had defeated the 6th ROK Division, “The only units that stood in their path were three infantry battalions of the British Commonwealth Brigade, the Australians, the 3rd Battalion, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Middlesex Regiment."

He said the 3 RAR had endured some heated battles and moved in the Kapyong Valley for a rest. He said they had plenty of beer on hand and “were about to enjoy themselves immensely with sports and special parades and this kind of thing.”

Galloway went on to say, rest and relaxation aside, all of a sudden came the Chinese 118th Division. He said the 3 RAR was “rushed into battle” and “quickly manned areas where they had no chance to improvise defenses. They had no wire to put in front of them, to protect them from Chinese attack, they had no mines to lay minefields, they were dependent entirely on their two hands, their personal weapons, to defeat - or to try and halt - an advance which could have made a significant difference, a vast difference to the whole of the Korean War."

Galloway is quite proud of their achievement: “They withheld that vast Chinese army, those two battalions, for just those 48 hours, until such time as substantial reinforcements could be brought in behind them and back them up. They so weakened the Chinese field army that attacked them that it was forced to withdraw and so the battle was won."

Galloway concludes about the significance of the battle:

"Now the point about the significance of the battle is this - that if A Company and Don Company had failed, and the Chinese had poured through Kapyong undisputed, then they would have been behind the capital of Seoul, they'd have been behind all of the major headquarters of the United Nations army. And the result probably would have been, almost certainly would have been, a withdrawal of the United Nations army from Korea. That is plain to anybody who studies it from a military point of view.”

Corporal Joe Vezgoff, 3 RAR, was taken aback when he was told an entire ROK division had been defeated and they “would have to plug the hole.” He said, “So we thought, well this is some ask, this is. This is going to be - we had the Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry on our left flank, a bit further away, but we were widely dispersed, you know, widely, widely dispersed. And how we held on for so long, which enabled the Americans on our right flank to pull back, otherwise they would have been cut off completely. We were there sufficiently long enough to save the American division on our right flank. And that was the main effect of Kapyong for which I think the unit got the Presidential Citation awarded to it for that battle."

Stanley Connolly of the 3 RAR said:

“We charged and we began to get shot down. I remember my good friend Gene Tunny on my right falling in the advance and then my big mate Rod Grey on my left, went down shot through the chest and the bullets were cracking, cracking, you can, as they go past you can hear them cracking, you know, because they sort of break the sound barrier. It’s louder than the crack of the weapon firing them. And it seemed to me that there were so many bullets coming that it was like walking or running into a very stiff breeze.”

He recalled being hit but he did not know where. It turned out he would later find out it was his right thigh. But now he was on the ground and the Chinese were so close he could hear them talking. He also found out there were about 80 of them in a trench when he and the others had thought there were only about eight. So he figured out a way to ditch his equipment and run as fast as he could to a better location, all the while the Chinese shooting at him. He said they were not very accurate. In any event, the Four Platoon got reorganized and mounted an attack and killed all 80 Chinese. Then the medevacs came in to care for the wounded, he being one of them.

George Harris became acting Alpha Company Sergeant Major. His company had been unable to move for hours, under constant fire, at once firing at the waves of Chinese and also trying to carry their dead to a safe location. But then, all of a sudden, the Chinese began running down the hill. He said:

“Harold Mulry was calling out for troops to come with him to take all the ground back again. Myself and a few others around Company Headquarters jumped up with the 3 Platoon blokes and we charged down at the Chinese. The Chinese just all of a sudden turned and ran away. They didn't feel like fighting us anymore. We were getting them in the back as they were running away. They ran down the feature and tried to hide in thickets or any low ground they could find down towards the creek bed itself. The Chinese were very stupid to stay there. We could see them and we began having a real good time. We began to pick them off while they lay on the ground or when they broke cover like darting rabbits. We were enjoying ourselves until our dear old Major [O'Dowd] decided to stop us firing because ammunition was very scarce.“

Frederick “Fred” Williams was at Kapyong. He gave quite an extensive interview about his life and experiences in the Korean War, presented by the Film Archive, “The Australians at War.” He had some commentary I found most interesting, about “Bed Check Charlie.” He said:

“But then this idiot, the ‘Bed Check Charlie’ come in, as a, he was a propagandas plane. Used to be only a single seater, this little Piper Cub like a spy plane. He'd fly at night time, he'd throw grenades, drop grenades out of his cockpit onto the troops below. And he'd sing out ‘Nearly got you that time, Aussie’ and things like this. He was a Chinese propaganda, Bed Check Charlie he was called, he'd always come around about eight o'clock. Drop a few bombs on a moon lit night and give us a bit of a surprise and fright. And we always liked him, we liked him to go to bed ...”

Williams did not just talk about this aircraft. He also talked about American aircraft carrying napalm ordnance. His group was in a pitched battle and called for some air. He commented:

“And what do they do? They come in with two planes, called, I forget them, the plane they had now but they're coming with these napalm bombs on and napalm tanks under the wings and they dropped napalm bombs against the arrows. We had the arrows out, like we had arrows out (to show friendly positions), fluorescent arrows and they come in and drop them on the wrong side of the arrows and of course got the whole platoon. And some of those guys, you ought to have seen them, there's, not Joe Booskoth, I'm getting dull in the memory with names, Joe, he got, anyway he was he was like as if he'd been boiled, like been dipped in hot water and boiled him. His face, he had no skin on his face, his eyes were burnt out, oh, he was a mess and this, and I felt so sorry for him. If, hoping nobody ever take a photo of it, and his family see it because it was one of the most hideous things you ever saw. I vowed that if I ever got that joker, that plane, I'd done him in quick smart. He's, he goes back, the funny part about it, they sent in a success signal as target struck. That came back through the American headquarters back to Benny O'Dowd, he was acting CO. It come back to him that target was taken, target struck.”

Garrie Hutchison, in a report entitled, “The day they felt like Anzacs,” talks a bit about Private “Nugget” Dunque, (on the right with another soldier while cooking) whose full name was Ronald Edward Dunque. In September 1950, he was with the 3 RAR band, playing the tuba. But he was at Kapyong during this battle. While there, he served as a stretcher bearer. Hutchison wrote:

“Stretcher bearer Private ‘Nugget’ Dunque, who had been wounded earlier in the day, was wounded again by the exploding ammunition. He was sitting stunned, sick and sorry. Woods (Private Don Woods, Delta Company’s machine gunner) recalls what Dunque, who died in 2004, told him about that day.

“ ‘I then saw the most appalling apparition. A man with no flesh - his hands were dripping flesh - completely naked.’ Dunque said. ‘As he walked, I saw these huge bloated feet. The sticks and stones came up through his feet. He sat down next to me. I didn't know who he was. He looked at me and said, 'Jesus, Nugget, you're having a bad day’. The apparition was Lance-Corporal Harold Giddens - and he survived the six-hour withdrawal with more good humour and courage, an act regarded by his platoon commander as the most courageous he witnessed that day. Dunque was awarded the Military Medal for his selfless work at Kapyong. He made six separate trips under heavy fire to bring wounded comrades out before the napalm incident. After his final wound he refused to be carried out and marched out himself in the six-hour withdrawal that night.”

Major O’Dowd said, “(Giddens’) hands had been reduced to stamps and he had some shocking facial scars.”

The exploding ammunition that hit Dunque was caused by American aircraft dropping napalm bombs near D Company’s position, so close that several Aussies were wounded, Dunque included. This happened after a US spotter plane circled over their position, the Aussies dropped a smoke marker to indicate their friendly position, there were other warning signals laying on the ground, but three other US aircraft swopped in and unloaded their napalm hitting just meters away from Delta Company’s location. Hutchison said it was a mistake, that the Americans did not see the markers.

Dunque commented on this event:

“Napalm is a pretty ferocious sort of weapon. Fortunately the bomb itself missed the main D Company position and landed on the perimeter near 10 and 11 Platoon. This set off a good deal of the ammunition stored there and caused some problems for the lads. After the napalm hit I began to go around in my capacity as the medical orderly and pull people out and tend to their injuries. I was reaching into a trench to grab a chap who had all his grenades lined up on the edge which was customary at the time. The grenades went off and blew me a considerable distance down the hill. Luck being what it is, I got very few injuries out of it - just a few shrapnel wounds to the leg.”

Unkwn3RARVeteranKapyong Unkwn3RARVeteranKapyongA Unkwn3RARVeteranKapyongB

I do not know the name of this 3 RAR veteran on the left, but his words said it all:

“Wave after wave, yeah, that’s how they came in ... We were up against a real tough enemy, and so many of them”

Another veteran in the center, whose name I also do not know, said:

“One of the thoughts that came through my mind was, I was 20 years old, Geez, am I gonna see 21?”

Yet another on the far right, said:

“(This was) the key battle that the Commonwealth Division fought in the whole Korean War.”

One 3 RAR soldier in the battle was quoted by Cameron Forbes in his book. This soldier said:

“My turn is not far off, Sure enough, I was knocked completely off my feet by a .30 calibre round that drilled a hole right through the front of my thing and came out the back, taking off much of my buttock ... I fell within five yards of the Chinese trench ... I could hear the Chinese talking to each other six to eight feet away. Surely they could see me and decide to simply pump a few more rounds into me to make sure I was dead. Words cannot describe the fear I felt. I took stock of my position and decided that if I could release my web belt and shuck my gear I could make a dash for a low mound about 20 yards to my rear. I did not know whether I could even stand up ... As fast as I could, I threw off my gear and jumped to my feet and hopped, limped, hobbled and staggered over the longest 20 yards I have ever travelled ... I heard a few shots over my should but made it safely.”

Alpha Company’s acting Sergeant Major George Harris. Major O’Dowd would write a bit about Harris. He said:

“Sergeant George Harris was acting Company Sergeant Major responsible for headquarters personnel and ammunition supply. I had used George in various capacities, including Platoon Commander and he always served me well. Kapyong was no exception.”

When the A-3 RAR was still up in the hills, and had withdrawn from their position because of the enemy advance, O’Dowd commented that Lieutenant Harold Mulry's 3 Platoon was looking back at where it once was located. O’Dowd said Harold was a “fearless warrior” and a “great leader, an aggressive platoon commander.” Both O’Dowd and Harold wanted that area back, so Harold selected some from among them to go get it. O’Dowd said Harris joined in uninvited, all on the team “in a pretty savage mood.” They attacked and the Chinese had lost their zest for a fight and withdrew.

Frederick Wiliams, whom I introduced you to earlier, was interviewed in 2004, and commented about Harris as well:

“But the, we had a press correspondent, a correspondent always travelled with us and Arthur Richards was our, used to work for the
Courier Mail. He's dead now Arthur, but he came up and we had a count, Len Opey and myself and George Harris, we were the three of them, we were the three villains in the battalion apparently. There's an article there somewhere in, about George Harris got around a hundred and eighty to a hundred kills, Len Opey got around a hundred and I got a hundred and ten or something. And they, it comes up in the Courier Mail day by day, the day by day column that they used to run? And it's in there but we have a feeling of how many we have knocked off but as individuals you don't, in the heat of battle you could knock off two thousand and you wouldn't know how many you've knocked off. And some of the battles you're in, when they're pretty thick on the ground, you probably just keep on spraying and people start dropping, if they keep on dropping until they're finished, or you get one yourself.”

Eric Hayes visited the Australian Memorial in Korea in 2010 and said, “They (the Chinese) open up the mortars. At the time I was running up to my position, the next thing I knew I was down the bottom of the hill, I was hit by mortar fire.” He was treated in a Japanese military hospital for six months and returned home.

Sean Murphy was there, and returned to Kapyong in 2001. Speaking of those who went with him, he said, “They're pilgrims to an altar of courage and sacrifice, veterans of one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War.” He described the battlefield during the fight:

“Picture perfect today, but 50 years ago this valley was a picture of chaos. Thousands of civilians and American and South Korean troops were fleeing an advancing Chinese Army. The last allied defensive line was held by fewer than 500 men from Australia's 3rd Battalion and New Zealand's 16th Field Artillery Regiment ... Within three hours, A Company's forward platoon was reduced from 30 to just 13 men standing. John Murphy suffered a grenade concussion, which would lead to permanent hearing problems.”

John Murphy commented on that, “When I got up, I was completely stunned. I couldn't see because the blood and the dirt was getting in my eyes and the bleeding out my nose and ears and the nostril. My mate he poured a bottle of water from his water bottle onto my face and cleaned it up and I wasn't too bad then but I couldn't hear a thing. I couldn't hear a thing. It was complete silence, it was blessed silence. He was shouting for more ammunition and there was no more ammunition.”

Ray Parry of B Company was also on the pilgrimage. He said, “There's no thought of retreat. We were not going to retreat. We were going to stay there and engage the Chinese and, if they overran us, well then we were finished ... We held them by the skin of our teeth. Just one more attack and we were finished. And the company would have been just about finished too.” Sean Murphy said, “After several hours of continuous fighting, Ray Parry’s platoon prepared to be overrun. Their ammunition had run out and two of their guns malfunctioned.” Parry added, “All we had left were our bayonets and the sun came up. What a sight.”

I’ll note that Lance Corporal Ray Parry, B Co., had four men under his command early during the attack and together they fought off four attacks, killing more than 25 in the span of 20 minutes. He would receive the Military Medal.

Dr. Don Beard, a 3 RAR medical officer, was also on the trip. He was the medical officer to the 3 RAR and moved with the battalion and was usually the first to treat the wounded. He said, “I didn't want to go to Korea, but, you know, it was a reluctant shuffle forward and I found myself volunteering for something that I didn't want to. But of course I never regretted it because I had the opportunity to look after young and old soldiers in Korea, for whom I had the greatest admiration and respect. And they made me very humble and they turned me into a doctor.” Beard was treating 50 frost bite casualties a week during their first winter there. He said, “We didn't have the uniforms, we didn't have the boots, and everything froze. It wasn't just snow, it was ice and sleeping in it, digging a pit at night time and sleeping in it and all my medical equipment, all the drugs, anything injectable I had to put inside my chest pocket to keep it against my body to stop it from freezing.”

Beard said when they were put in reserve, before the battle they had not expected, the Turks “had sent up a consignment of beer and food, and we were going to have a few contests with the Turks and meet them on Anzac Day. Now, that was very exciting. Eventually, of course, we were told the vehicles arrived to take us up to the Kapyong valley. We drove past the piles of beer and food and up we went and had to dig in at last light into very cold ground.”

Beard talked about withdrawing from the east side. He said, “Then we got into the tanks and went up Kapyong valley to be fired upon all the way up and it makes a lot of noise when you're inside the tank. The only worry was stick grenades knocking the tracks off and then of course we were vulnerable. We got up, took the ammunition off, and got a casualties on but we could only get one or two inside a tank. And the CO said, ‘Well, how are we going to get the rest out?’ and I said, ‘We'll have to take a chance, tie them on to the side of the tank and go fast as we can down the valley, and hope that they miss us.’ This was all we could do. But of course we turned round, down we went, and the Chinese stopped firing. They let us (editor’s note: I presume because he was carrying wounded) through, for which, you know, I'll be ever grateful. The Chinese were in fact good soldiers and fair solders.”

I want to depart just a bit from the time period of the Kapyong Battle, April 1951. Finding an interview with Dr. Don Beard caused me to explore just a bit the medical situation for the Australians, and the others, a topic we have not broached yet.


Here you see 3 RAR stretcher-bearers carrying a wounded soldier through the snow to the nearest aid post, February 1951. Dr. Beard commented on getting the wounded out of the fight and to help, saying, “The evacuation of the injured from the point of wounding was by stretcher-bearers. Now, at times, this meant dragging the stretcher up the side of a snow-covered hill with eight bearers and up over the top of the hill and down the other side.”


This photo shows Dr. Beard and something a bit different from our story so far, a woman, Sister Betty Lawrence (nee Crocker) who served as a nurse in both Japan, receiving wounded from the front, and starting in 1952, I believe, in Korea. Sister Lawrence said, “The stretchers were so heavy to lift. The ambulances were too heavy to go out in the snow. And you had people coming in, strapped to jeeps.”


This is a photo of Sister Lawrence when she was on active duty with the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC). In 1951, she was the first South Australian nurse to enlist for the Korean War. She was interviewed by Rob Linn in May 2002 for an Oral History project. As far as I can tell from the interview, she got there sometime in 1952. As an aside, she referred to Dr. Beard as junior, not out of disrespect, but as a fact that they all faced in the war zone. She said that there would be four tables in an operating room, a senior surgeon moving from table to table as the others were junior, and many had done no wartime surgery before. That’s probably why Dr. Beard said that even though he was a certified doctor, he learned what it was to be a “real” doctor while in Korea.

She described the ways a patient could be treated before she got to them:

“Patients who came from Australian units where they had been treated by Australian medicos at the front line and the (Regimental Aid Post) RAP, and also the Australian Field Ambulance, which was there, plus the Indian Field Ambulance, which were also involved with the Australians — I have met several gentlemen who were involved in that since I came back here, they also made the comment that how wonderful the Indians were ... All they did at the RAPs and Field Ambulance stations was stop the bleeding, immobilize fractures and resuscitate them to the point where they could be transported to Japan ... (In Korea) everything was mobile.”

The RAP was manned by a Regimental Medical Officer, like Dr. Beard, a sergeant, an orderly and four more stretcher bearers. The RAP was close to the front line, usually a bit to the rear, preferably on a road. Field Ambulance jeeps would be parked up the road to respond when patients came to the RAP. Then the field ambulance would transport them to a clearing station perhaps 10 kms behind the front.


Then a helicopter might be able to strap them on to a stretcher latched on to a pod located, one each on both sides of the helicopter to get them to an airfield for transport usually to Iwakuni, Japan. The Royal Australian Air Force used C-47 Dakotas and Austers (small single engine aircraft) belonging to the 30 Transport Unit to get them to Japan. As an aside, not only were patients wounded and in pain, but they often encountered sever turbulence approaching Japan, many becoming air sick, complicating their endurance and condition.

This was the system set up by the Aussies in January 1951, It was what one might describe as the ideal system.


But the ideal system could not always be used. This photo shows a group of soldiers from Charlie Company, 3 RAR, hauling a wounded comrade, injured in both legs, on a stretcher. It matches well with what the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs wrote on the subject, which was when the ideal situation did not apply:

“In (the Korean) war the weather, the terrain and the enemy conspired against the ideal. In the Korean winter the roads were blocked with snow, and mountain tracks, even in good weather, could be impassible for an ambulance. The alternative, carrying a wounded man on a stretcher over mountains for long distances was so tiring it sometimes required eight bearers. Evacuation might have to be done under enemy fire — at Kapyong the Australian RAP was fired on by infiltrating Chinese troops while the wounded were being moved to the rear.”

Sister Lawrence had been in Japan, but was sent to Korea to work at the British Commonwealth Zone Medical Unit (BCZMU), set up in Seoul in 1952, about 35 miles from the front-line when she was there, the latter of which equates roughly to the 38th parallel. She said it was freezing at the BCZMU because they depended on the “whim” of the generator whether they had heat. They were short of equipment. The idea was to get the patient out of the BCZMU to Japan within 48 hours, where, if required, radical surgery could be performed. She said, “When they arrived at us or we had collected them at the BCZMU, their wounds were covered with a plaster. We had no idea what was under that plaster, because they never had proper surgery before they were transported to Japan. It wasn’t until they got to Japan in the theatre that they had proper surgery.”

She talked a bit about what they would find under the plaster when she received them while in Japan:

“A British soldier (was brought in) who had been wounded but they were unable to rescue him because the Chinese were snipering the Field Ambulance people trying to get them, and he had been laying out in the field for quite some time. And this was summertime, this was not wintertime, this was when I was in Japan. Anyway [when] he came in to us and he had very, very badly wounded legs, both of which had plasters on them, and we were cutting the plaster off. And at that stage we didn’t have gloves on, because it was unsterile, we were just cutting off plasters and it’s hard to cut off plasters with gloves on. We opened the plaster and there was putrid pus pouring everywhere, just as though you’d turned on a tap, and it was absolutely unbelievable, the stench of it. But worst was to come. We opened up the plaster and it was full of maggots, and that was just a bit too much for me. (laughs) I’d seen some pretty horrible things but that was just a bit much for me. I had been working twenty-four hours so I was not at the best. It was just a bit much for me, so I had to go out and have a big chunder. And anyway, I came back and went on.”

Memoirs from the 2 PPCLI war fighters at Kapyong

I wanted to mention that before the Battle of Kapyong, you will recall the 27 BC was assigned to the US 24 ID and was told to move north above Kapyong. I have read an account which probably describes what the men experienced at Kapyong as well. While they were heading north, in early April, before they backed off and went to Kapyong to hold in reserve, they encountered “freezing conditions added to wet clothing ... a day of sliding about in the mud and slouch, (and that) made for bad sleeping conditions.” This gives you a sense for the environment in which they fought at Kapyong.


Before going ahead, I wish to note that the Patricias were largely new recruits, with little training back home, and they were all volunteers --- they wanted to fight. I listened to one interview where an American NCO was asking a Patricia how in the world they all would have volunteered. The American GI was mystified. The Patricia, well he was proud, proud of himself, and proud of his mates. Here you see a few Patricias doing some rifle training with their Lee-Enfield. At the time, some called them amateurs.

Most of them were ordinary men, “guys from the street,” with the exception of some NCOs and officers who had fought in Korea and WWII. Many viewed them as citizen soldiers. The brass back in Ottawa was nervous over them, seeing them as mercenaries and adventurers. Sort of speaking as if to the “Brass,” Private Raymond Trevors commented that they didn’t even have a base for them in Canada at the time to train a brigade, so the newly acquired Patricias were sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington. So best to keep quiet. These men turned out to be among the most effective soldiers sent.

Alex Sim, who really wanted to fly in the Canadian Air Force, but was caught by the recruiters as being too young, joined the Patricias even though he was a WWII vet. At Kapyong, he was in an anti-tank platoon. He said:

“We had an obligation to go. The Koreans were taking a terrible beating. The Brits were going, the Aussies were going. Wat’s matter with Canada? We should be going. I wrote a letter to someone on the government saying I was very disappointed Canada was not going to assist. I never got an answer.”

This very much reflects the attitudes of many of the Patricias I was able to research, attitudes that reflected very highly on their integrity and sense of honor.


Alex Sim had a brother and a cousin in the 2 PPCLI. The cousin got an ear infection and missed the fight. That’s Alex in the center, his brother Private Jim on the left, and cousin Lance Corporal Jim on the right. The photo, where they are reading letters, was taken before the Battle of Kapyong. Alex’s anti-tank platoon was used primarily to conduct reconnaissance for the battalion, always out ahead of the rest looking for enemy locations and rest areas. As an aside, the Canadians considered the British anti-tank weapons to be useless, but instead preferred American bazookas , recoilless rifles and mortars. They also liked the .50 caliber machine gun.

Sim also had some comments about the skipper, Col Big John Stone. He said:

“Colonel Stone came up on the radio stating: ‘We’re surrounded. We’ll hold this position until we’re relieved.’ Well, I thought about this for a second. The essence of it was: We’re surrounded and we’re staying here. I called up a buddy on the radio: ‘Did you hear that?’ I asked him. ‘What did you think?’ Stone overheard all this and jumped back on his radio set and snapped: ‘Get off the air!’ So I thought, well I guess we’ll hold the position then.”

Sim, like many of his colleagues, remain a bit bitter about how their fellow citizens at home viewed the Korean War and their participation in it. In an interview later in life, he said this:

“The Battle of Kap'yong itself is so well known in Australia. The Australians have monuments to Kapyong everywhere. They have Kapyong memorial services everywhere. When we were in Kapyong this last April [2011] the Australians had all kinds of senior officials there, military officials, government officials, you name it. We were, fortunately we were very well represented by the Korean-Canadian senator was Senator Yonah Martin. None of our political masters saw fit to go there. The Minister of National Defense didn't go, the Prime Minister didn't go. They laid a wreath at the National War Monument in Ottawa.

“But I think Canadians didn't really have any great interest in Korea before the battle [at Kap'yong] or the Korean War. It wasn't really an important war except it was to the Koreans and it was to us who were there, but certainly it was to the survivors or the surviving wives and mothers and fathers of those who didn't make it home - so it was an important war. And our Canadian politicians just didn't look at it in that light. I think they wanted to forget it.”

I mentioned in the previous section that the Canadians knew of the disastrous experience of the Glosters to the west in the Battle of the Imjin, which was going on at the time of the Battle of the Kapyong. From their positions on Hill 677, they could also see the 3 RAR taking a beating and then, they could see the streaming ROK 6’s frantic withdrawal below mixed with civilians and Chinese forces. For most people, this all would be very demoralizing. But the Patricias knew they were in a bind and they would have to fight it out, so they had no time to let their morale slip. They had a job to do to if for no other reasons than to survive and block the road to Seoul.

Bill Chrysler commented about the duty aspect:

“We knew our position was on the main route into Seoul. It just had to be held. (Lt. Colonel) Stone told us we simply had to hold. Stone was sitting there in a chair, rocking back and forth with a rifle in his lap, saying, ‘Let the bastards come! Nobody leaves.’”

Lt. Charles Petrie of Baker Company addressed the survival aspect:

“As we were moving into position some guys wondered, what the hell am I doing here? But once the shooting started you knew damned well what you’re doing there; looking after your own tail. It became pretty clear.”

At least one Patricia was angry about the ROK 6. He said:

“I was stunned to see an unending line of ROK soldiers walking in single file. We had not even begun to dig in. It reminds me of the photographs I have seen of the Yukon, during the Gold Rush, of the miners hiking over the Chilkoot train mountain pass. These men were armed and intent on gong only in one direction. South! I shudder in disbelief at seeing our allies running away from the advancing enemy; they are a disorganized rabble! Leaving us to face their enemy to fight for their bloody country.”

Mike Czuboka was an 18 year old enlisted man when he left with the PPCLI for Korea. He fired mortars from Hill 677 at Kapyong, a member of an 81-millimeter mortar platoon. He lost most of his hearing as a result. He commented:

"What happens is when you drop the shell in you normally bend your head down to put it next to the barrel to avoid the blast and this particular occasion I lifted my head prematurely and this is what caused the injury.”


In a Powerpoint presentation he assembled, Czuboka said, “This is a typical 81 mm mortar pit as used by 2 PPCLII, RCR and Royal 22nd. It had no roof, obviously, because the mortar had to launch shells straight up! It provided protection except in the case of a direct hit or overhead shrapnel bursts.”  

Czuboka has talked about how badly the Chinese wanted Hill 677 as the means to get to Seoul. He said:

"They had to climb this very high hill to get at us and so we directed our artillery mortar fire on top of them. They had a hard time; of course they were out in the open while we were in trenches.”

Terrine Fiday interviewed Czuboka and wrote an article published by Canada’s
National Post on June 25, 2010. Czuboka


“Our battalion was surrounded by the Chinese army and we had supplies dropped to us by parachute. The British Gloucester battalion was wiped out a few miles west of us, but we weren’t. Kapyong was the most well known even in the Korean War for Canadians anyways.”

Colonel Stone remarked, “(Four C-119 transports) dropped, by parachute, everything requested, including 81 mm mortar ammunition. When it comes to supply, you cannot beat the US force.”

The above art, done by Ted Zuber (shown here), “Holding at Kapyong,” depicts the airdrop. Ted Zuber was a Canadian parachutist. He went to Korea in 1952 as a sniper. Dan Bjarnason wrote this about him:

“He carried with him a sketch book to record what he saw. Zuber eventually became a casualty, wounded in a grenade explosion.

“From his battlefront sketches evolved his ‘Korean War Memoirs,’ thirteen of which are now in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Among the most popular works in the entire place is his ‘Holding at Kapyong’ depicting the U.S. air drop to the surrounded men of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry about 10 in the morning, April 25th, 1951. This is the pivotal moment most crisply remembered by the men who fought there. The moment of their salvation.

“If the airdrop had not been successful, the Patricia’s probably could not have hung on. After fighting all night, now almost out of ammunition, food and medical supplies, they would have been swept away in the next Chinese assault and Seoul may have fallen. It is a defining moment in Canada’s most famous Korean battle.

“The Patricia’s stared up in silence as the planes swooped overhead, paradropping their life-saving cargos. One soldier told me those planes looked like silver fish. Another swears those aircraft were flown by angels. They now knew they would not die at Kapyong after all, but would live. This is the moment captured by Zuber’s wonderful painting.”

In another interview, Czuboka said, “We were really very lucky to get out of there because we were really surrounded for two or three days.”


You might recall from a previous section that the Canadians arrived with the wrong weapons, mostly the Lee Enfield bolt action. Lt. Mike Levy (shown in this photo just prior to Kapyong, highlighted by the red arrow) remarked:

“We ran out of grenades. Their (Chinese) numbers were such that our small arms (Lee-Enfields) and light machine guns was insufficient to stop them. We were being hit with small arms. Burp guns, light machine guns, medium machine guns and mortar fire. It was a very close call. It was imperative the artillery and mortar support rain down with the greatest intensity and as close as possible. I moved constantly from point to point in an endeavor to concentrate the artillery where it was crucial to do so.”

Levy would receive accolades from his men and comrades for his fearless calls for artillery. He rose to the rank of major. To this day, many refer to him as a hero.

Czuboka wrote an extensive memoir, “
My military career, before and during the Battle of Kapyong.” He spoke of three lieutenants:

“Lt. Mike Levy, the commander of Dog Company’s 12 Platoon (shown above by the red arrow), initiated a mortar and artillery bombardment of his own position in order to stem the Chinese assaults ... Lt. Hub Gray (shown here) took command of the eight .5- caliber machine guns that were mounted on our half-tracks. Whether by a stroke of genius, or as a result of sheer luck, these vehicles were located in a very favourable position for the purpose of confronting the advancing enemy. The machine guns were mounted on circular swivels and could be turned rapidly to any direction. Gray handled this critical situation efficiently and calmly. He waited until the leading formation of Chinese was only about 40 meters short of our position before giving the command to fire. The eight .50 caliber machine guns opened up and began cutting a bloody swath in the Communist ranks. I have often wondered why Hub Gray was never given any kind of recognition for his very significant and important action. At the very least, in my opinion, Gray should have been ‘mentioned in dispatches.’ Unfortunately, military awards are not always given in a fair and objective manner.”

With that latter thought in mind, an article, “The civil war, Korea and Jews,” an unknown author wrote this about Lt. Levy:

“There were many heroes. One of them was a young lieutenant, Mike Levy, who called in artillery fire on his own positions when they were about to be swamped. Five men were (quite rightly) decorated for bravery. Levy was not among them. His omission baffled all who were there that night. Levy was an admired and effective combat leader. And by any standards, heroic. A half century later, Hub Gray, a Kapyong hero himself and author of a book on the battle, solved the mystery. He tracked down a soldier from the Intelligence Section that night, who’d overheard the commander, Colonel Jim Stone say that Levy would get no medal because ‘I will not award a medal to a Jew.’ ”

Czuboka also wrote of Lieutenant Charles Petrie of Baker Company, whom I mentioned earlier, saying, “(Petrie) later recalled that on one occasion, as dusk approached, 6 Platoon reported that the enemy was forming up in a re-entrant and preparing for an attack. Our battalion 81 mm. mortars opened fire on this force and ‘decimated it.’ “

Czuboka, after attending a Kapyong 55th Anniversary parade and mess dinner on April 21, 2006, remarked to a friend who organized the affair:

“Probably the most exciting 48 hours of my life took place at the Battle of Kapyong on April 24th and 25th, 1951. We were surrounded by the Chinese Army and I honestly did not believe that we were going to survive. Fortunately, we did survive, but the British Gloucester Battalion, a few miles to the west of us, was almost totally wiped out. The Gloucesters only had about 56 men left out of an original 900: the rest were killed or captured and many did not live through their captivity. The Australians on our immediate right at Kapyong also had many casualties. I had a grandstand seat and watched the Australians being attacked. Then it was our turn to be attacked and things got serious.”

Hub Gray, who would write the book, Beyond the danger close, quoted Private Jim Wall of the Pioneer Platoon (shown here) saying this:

"Approaching our position in the dull light on night they looked like a bunch of ants groping their way up the hill. It is frightening watching them slowly ascend, and to realize that they are coming to kill us. When Gray orders the machine guns to fire there are masses of the fallen, dead and wounded. Those left standing grab what they can of their casualties and are running and tumbling down the hill heading for the river."

Corporal John Bishop was with Alpha Company of the 2 PPCLI. Here is how he said they won:

“We just told ourselves, ‘We are going to stay here. We are going to fight. And we are going to make it.”

Bishop would later rise to the rank of lieutenant colonel and become Canada’s military attaché to the ROK. Interestingly, Bishop returned to Kapyong while serving as an attaché and found his foxhole. He was quite proud of himself that he could still fit into it!

Bob Menard, a bazooka expert, fought on the hill for the 2 PPCLI, and once the fighting was over, had the duty to recover the dead bodies. He noted that the men did not die alone, but rather died in groups of two. He said:

“They died in their foxholes. They’d gone down fighting. We always found them, two together. They were defending each other to the very end.”

He also recalled:

“We were told to clean up the place. We brought down the ten bodies, put them in body bags and stacked them in the Jeeps, one on top of the other like cordwood. The Chinese were still lurking in the ravines and they were shooting at us while we were bringing down our dead. Imagine, they shot at us anyway, even while we were getting our friends.”

Menard said:

“Them Chinese used to come at you by the hundreds, with their bugles and their horns and they just come like massive. Behind us was a machine gun. He was just slaughtering them guys down like flies. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Yeah, that was the most memorable night.”

He would also remark in a different forum, “They were coming at us like ants. There was so much noise you couldn’t make anything out. If anyone was yelling for help, you’d never hear them unless it was your buddy beside you. I was throwing hand grenades by the box.”

Menard was aggravated with the Americans. He said:

“When we were surrounded, the Yankees [Americans] was 1st Div[ision], they chickened out, went back and they had the Yankees on this side and ROK [Republic of Korea] Army on the other side. They both chickened out and left us stranded. Nice guys, eh?”

He said they “bugged out,” commenting, “Now a bug out is, well, apparently an acceptable American tactic whereby when the enemy arrives and you don't think you can beat him, with or without your weapons, you turn around and flee at the highest possible speed. In a vehicle if possible, but on foot if not. There's some strange tales told about an American bug out ... We didn't do it. The Australian battalion was part of a British brigade who used the old fashioned withdrawal tactic of simply leaving one battalion in place to fight a rearguard, while another battalion moved back to take up a second rearguard position, and the third battalion moved even further back again. So that you went back step by step."

Editor's note: I was not able to find evidence of Americans "bugging out" during this battle. However, a Canadian, Mike Czuboka, contacted me and told me this:

The book “War of Patrols” (UBC Press, 2003) by William Johnson, a Canadian historian at the Department of National Defence , in Ottawa has written, on page 104, as follows:

“The Commonwealth’s units steadiness under fire was further underscored by the manner in which Company B of the 2nd U.S. Chemical Mortar Battalion, in position behind Hill 504 on the night of 23-24 of April, abandoned their weapons and equipment and took to their heels without ever being fired upon. The fear of being overrun by hordes of advancing Chinese that still gripped some American and South Korean units was noticeable absent from the ranks of the Canadians and Australians.

"Colonel (Ret.) T.R. Fehrenbach’ s
This Kind of War (Brassey’s, Washington, D.C., 1963, 1994 & 2000) refers to the 'wholesale failures' (bug outs) of the American Army in Korea in the early months the Korean War. See the chapter on “Proud Legions” on pages 289 to 303. As you probably know, Fehrenbach was a U.S. Korean War veteran and an accomplished historian."

Morley Balinson also commented on the Americans. Recalling the day, he said later in life:

“The first sign of trouble was seeing trucks southbound at breakneck speed towing 155 mm cannon….the drivers…had installed chrome air horns blasting away and hanging from every available hand-hold were American and (South) Korean troops.”

I would be interested in hearing from veterans who were there who might be able to shed light on Menard’s and Balinson’s comments. I am assuming for the moment they were talking about the 1st Marine Division to their east, which as I had reported in an earlier section, had taken the brunt of the first waves up by the reservoir. I am an American, biased for sure, but the 1st MARDIV did the Inchon landings and recaptured Seoul. It is hard to believe they would be in what these men describe as a “bug out.”

The “bug out” of Americans remains a mystery to me. I asked Dan Bjarnason, the author and expert on Kapyong mentioned previously, about this. He said he knew of no Canadians who have talked to him about Americans bugging out. He thought that Canadians and Americans got along quite well.


Returning to Morley Balinson, he is seen sitting here with his Bren light machine gun, at Kapyong with the Patricias. He was a signaler. He said that while in Canada on their way to the west country, they had to wait at Petawawa, Ontario for the rail strike to end. Then they went by train to Calgary and to Wainright, Alberta. He said, “I think we did a little bit of shooting.” When he got to Korea, he became a truck driver and wireless operator, and had his own 3/4 ton truck, a trailer and his Bren gun and a radio set. Commenting on Kapyong, he said:

“At Kap'yong, they (his Patricias) were under heavy attack and they needed ammunition. So anybody that wasn’t engaged in their trade, was carrying ammunition to them, which I did. I was carrying magazines of Bren gun magazines up.

“I took it to the [Kap'yong] River, to a pontoon bridge and crossed on foot and passed it on to the people that were waiting for them. They took them away from me. I didn’t go up to the front with them. I passed them on to those that needed them and they took them away from me as fast as I could bring them. The messages were keep the ammunition coming and fuel and water. And of course we had to send food up to them. They couldn’t come back for the food. We had field packs of food but it was nice for them to have a hot meal. In fact the cooks had the American stoves which were much an improvement to World War II and we had fresh meat. They had steak. They had bacon. They had shell eggs. And the cooks turned the lids over on the stove and that was one huge fryer. They put margarine in, flipped the eggs in and they’d have a couple of dozen on the go.”

Mark Newman, reporting for the
Hamilton Community News published on July 11, 2013, said: “Balinson said he had to carry 50-60 pound boxes of Bren machine gun ammunition across a pontoon bridge, about as wide as the Grand River at Caledonia, through the night.”

Balinson also remarked on the odds against them:

“You couldn’t let it (the waves of Chinese) immobilize you. My job was to hustle ammunition to the front line ... The forward companies, totaling about 600 troops were well placed but starting to run out of ammunition and this was being replenished by air drops.”

Smiley Douglas, another Canadian who was there, a lance corporal at the time, is one who seems to be upbeat about everything. He lost a hand trying to save his men when a live grenade landed among them. He tried to throw the live grenade out of their area but he wasn’t quick enough --- it exploded just as it left his hand, and he lost the hand. He said his medals are “in a cupboard somewhere.” Speaking about the Chinese against whom he fought, he has said, “(He was) some poor old Chinese guy doing exactly the same job I was doing; doing what they were told.” About his lost hand, he said, “What the hell. It could have been my head. Then I’d have nothing to worry about ... (The war) was probably the best time I had in my life.”

Smiley would also say, however, as the battle was about to begin, “Some guys could hear the Chinese coming. But I never heard a thing. I was too goddamned busy digging holes and getting ready, waiting for them to come. They were just over the hip.”

Don Hibbs tries to be practical: “Aw, it’s just a hill, after all. Just like thousands of other hills over there. It’s just a hill.” Well, that might be, but he also offered other recollections to the Canadian Broadcasting Company in an interview:

“I’d say more than 7,000 (Chinese) troops were against us. I’d say there were lots of them. We were outnumbered seven or ten to one ... I remember the planes (conducting an airdrop), and I remember, you know I wasn’t really thinking at that time, ‘Gee are we out of ammunition? Are we out of food? I know we’re out of food ... There’s dirt, there’s dust, there’s people hollering, there’s people dying on both sides, you can hear them ... It was terrifying to me, but, also you resolved the fact that you were there, there’s no place to go, do the best job you can, do all the firing and all the fighting you can until you can’t do it any more ... We’re not going down without a fight, and we’re not going down alone ... We were the first Canadian troops ever to be honored by an American organization as a battalion.”

In 2011, a group of 2 PPCLI Kapyong veterans returned to the scene of the battle. Ronald Shepard was one. He found the grave of Corporal G.R. Evans, and, with tears in his eyes, said:

“I always promised I would come back and thank him from the bottom of my heart. My conscience is now clear, but somehow I don’t feel relief, just sadness that I lost a good friend…. He was my section commander…. He looked after me; he knew all the main things you had to know in the infantry—concealment, taking care of your weapon, and most of all, taking care of each other. The man who serves with you in the trench is your buddy…you watch his back, he watches yours. He was one of a kind.

“We were at Kapyong—on Hill 677—and Evans was in the trench when he died fighting. I was a Bren gunner, two slit trenches down from him, with 6th Platoon, B Company. When we found him he had a Chinaman embedded on his bayonet, and he was embedded on the Chinaman’s bayonet—both locked with rifles in hand.”

When talking about Kapyong, one must talk about Pvt. Ken Barwise. He was an orphan and his teachers kind of gave up on him at a young age. But he grew to be 6-foot-4, 250 lbs. and a guy considered by some as legendary. He joined the Patricias and is considered a hero of Kapyong. Barwise and his mate Jimmy Waniandi were told by their Capt. Mills to go out and reconnoiter Delta Company’s 12 Platoon which had been under attack and reportedly overrun. They did so sneaking their way toward an isolated machine-gun post under heavy fire. Some Chinese attacked them and they got into hand-to-hand combat, a fist fight. All the while Barwise fired his Lee-Enfield rifle from the hip, until it jammed. A Chinese tried to bayonet him but Barwise wrestled the rifle away from him and stabbed the attacker with his own bayonet. He then picked up a Tommy gun dropped by a Chinese soldier. Observers say he killed six Chinese, even though he didn’t like the Tommy gun one bit.

They made it to the machine-gun pit and its two gunners, Privates Maurice Carr and Bruce MacDonald were dead, with dead Chinese all around them. Barwise and Waniandi made their way back to their captain who, on hearing their report, ordered a counterattack to regain the position. Barwise and Waniandi led the way. Barwise ran at top speed to the machine gun fighting his way through. He tried to fire the Vickers machine gun, but it was too damaged, so he lifted the 80 lb. gun on his shoulder and took it to a secure position. One of the Patricias, P.J. Comeau, is reported to have said:

“When I saw what that big bastard did, charging ahead and taking over that gun under fire, I knew I had seen a man win the Victoria Cross ... If a lieutenant or captain had done what Barwise did you can bet your ass he would have got the VC... Ken Barwise is the bravest man I know and he got screwed.”

It turns out a grenade explosion knocked him unconscious when he was trying to retrieve the machine gun, and he can barely remember carrying the gun away. A doctor a few days later found some shrapnel in his ear and infecting it. He would receive the Military Cross.

Guillaume White was also with the Patricias. In an interview, he started by saying, “We were unsung bums right from the slums, some people said we were crazy, others said we were lazy. We were Big Jim Stone’s Patricia’s.” He thought the world of Stone, called him a “brilliant commander.”

He added:

“We weren't ready for battle when we arrived in Korea. What made us ready for battle was in training in the rice patties in the Mureung Valley and using wartime tactics, and then finally at the end using live firing exercises with live, live bullets. And then he [LCol Stone] had a battalion rehearsal and he was happy with it. But, I guess it was 48 hours before we were committed he put on a movement order and we got ready.

“As far as I'm concerned, Captain Mills called in the artillery. He was the company commander. He had the authority and he called in artillery on us late of the morning of the 25th because they feared that we were going to be overrun and he called in artillery all around up our position. And the New Zealand regiment, they never dropped any that close to us. They were close but we never got any in our position but they were in front of us. And we got some, where I was I could see HE [high explosive] bursts just off to my left and to the front on this ridge and on the other ridge on the right flank. The other, you could see it over there. When the HE went off it made quite an explosion. And they fired off all their HE and the last, I would say 10 or 12 rounds was white phosphorous smoke. You get white phosphorous on and it burns you to death. And the Chinese thought then, we understood that they thought we were going to have an attack. We were going to attack them and they pulled out. And sometime in the morning we were relieved by an American company. It came in and took over our position.

“The only ones we hated were the North Koreans. They were brutal. The reason I say I hated them was that when we first went into action, I was number one on a Bren gun [light machine gun] and the lance corporal in charge was on a Bren gun. Somehow or another they had crept in when he was on, on watch and we were sleeping, and they hauled him out and they took all his clothes off and mutilated him. I saw his body when we went out to look for him because we knew that something was wrong, found him -- a young kid by the name of Hanson -- and his body was mutilated. That's when I got the hatred.”

Kim Reynolds was also there. He commented, amongst other things, on their weapons:

“The [303 Lee-] Enfield [rifle]. That's all we used, and we had ah, each rifleman, each rifleman, each private had a 303 Enfield. We had in a section, we had, we were supposed to have 10 guys, but you had one Bren gunner [a light machine gun] and a lance corporal that supervised the Bren gun. And the Bren gun was our main fire power. It had as much, they told us it had as much fire power as the entire platoon with their Lee-Enfield rifles, so, it was a good weapon.”

Ted Ayde was at Kapyong. In an interview done in later life, he said:

“It was the night of the 25th [April 1951] that we were attacked, the battalion as a whole were attacked. In fact, the third RAR [The Royal Australian Regiment] were also attacked. They were attacked before we were but then they came and they attacked us. And Dog Company, which was up on higher ground, and a little bit further away from us, took the brunt, the main brunt of the attack. So they were the ones that called down our own artillery on top of themselves to drive the enemy out and it worked. And strangely enough, not one of our own people was hit by any shrapnel from our own artillery. Amazing.”

Ray Nickerson remembered Kapyong well He said:

“Kapyong was a... there was a valley ran up the centre. And there was a road, ran north, controlled the approach to the main MSR, the main supply route down into Seoul. It was a main point but it was a pin trough point because it narrowed down to, not too darn wide ... 'A' company was down here on the 'Pimple' they called it, it was a little knob sort of thing. That's where the first contact was made when they were coming down ... It was really eerie because they were firing parachute flares, our people were, to try and give you some light to see by ... Everywhere we looked it was moving and there was Chinese. They just kept coming and coming, and then they stopped and more would come and stopped. It just went on continuously ... The company commander called artillery down on their positions, to clear the area. Everybody got down in their trenches and they called down the artillery.”

And then William Chrysler:

“Turmoil, everybody's running. You had civilians, you had allied troops, and they're heading out as fast as they can. They can't, they lost control or something. The enemy had broken through and we were ordered out of our rest area, move up. Everybody, ‘Hey, where are we going? Jesus Murphy... they're going that way, we're still going forward!’ And that's where we moved up into the hills of Kapyong there overlooking the valley ... We called them Charlie. Charlie's down there alright, he's not looking up into the hills. He figures we're on the run too. We knew at nightfall, when dark, they were gonna come ... We knew we were trapped. This is why we were getting ready to fight. Like the captain said, ‘If we got to go, we got to fight our way out. Nobody is going to be taken prisoner ... The colonel, from what I understand, his orders went out. 'We got to hold. If we lose, the whole area's gone.' So they held... we fired right on them. The Chinese were all through their barbed wire and that ... This is our own people but it's the only way you could drive the Chinese off them, and it did the trick. From what I understand, our own fire didn't hurt anybody, they were deep enough in, but it killed a lot of the Chinese, or enemies and drove them out of their position. It's a good thing we stayed there and moved in because Seoul would have fallen again. How far back we would have been shoved, who knows?”

Carl “Herman” Thorsen made these comments:

“But they didn't attack us until the second night there ... They come around one side, they come around the other side ... Well, we figured that was it. There was no way we were going to stop that size of a force. So they opened up all the machine guns on the half tracks and trucks and stuff like that.”

Gerald Gowing said this:

"We were surrounded on the hills of Kapyong and there was a lot of fire. We were pretty well out of ammunition and out of food too. We did get some air supplies dropped in, but we were actually surrounded."

This is Hub Gray. He commanded a mortar-machinegun unit that stopped a Chinese attack on the rear of the 2 PPCLI HQ. He would later take a lead in getting recognition for Lt. Levy, mentioned previously. Mike Czuba, also discussed earlier, was in Gray’s unit and credited him with saving the unit. Gray has said:

“Had they broken through at Kapyong, it would have been a bloody disaster ... Sometimes it still gives me nightmares.”

Memoirs from the 16 RNZA war fighters at Kapyong

Group Captain Bill Barnes of the RNZAF delivered a poem he wrote at the Memorial Service at Kapyong in 1998, based on an account of the battle by Captain Ralph Porter, the 16th Regiment Adjutant. Porter noted that the 16th was a volunteer force organized at the outbreak of the Korean War. Most were new to war. They landed at Pusan and moved their way up to Phase Line Utah to support the 27 BC, at that time which included the 1 MX, 2 A&SH, 3 RAR and 2 PPCLI. They were also tasked to support the forward deployed ROK 6. He wrote that when the Chinese attacked, the men were “pressed and confused; the gunners witnessed a frantic withdrawal, and then got one hour’s notice to move.” They redeployed toward Kapyong, moved up with the 1 MX. They had trouble finding their targets as it was dark and the situation was confused. It was tough to survey for accuracy, and “could only fire targets observed.”

Donald Scott was a forward observer for the 16 RNZA at Kapyong. He said the US 213 Field Artillery Battalion, known as the Utah Battalion, was also there, with 105-mm SP Howitzers, bigger than anything the Kiwis had. He apparently directed Utah’s fire. In effect, the 213th was under Kiwi control. He took his Lance Bombadier Don Forbes up Hill 504 where they had a good view on April 24. They called in their first target, then made two corrections, in part because the 213th had misidentified its own position. So Scott simply add 200 yards north of the actual target and the 213th hit the enemy “sop on.” He said the 213th had radar fuses which the Kiwis did not have. He said the 213th’s fire was “accurate and murderously effective.” He added, “I have no idea how many enemy fell to the guns of 213. Salient Fact: all enemy movement thwarted completely.” They had caught the enemy in the open field, in daylight.

Ben O’Dowd of the 3 RAR would write, "The fire put down on the Battalion's left flank, in all likelihood prevented the enemy from establishing a blocking position and preventing the withdrawal of the rifle companies."

At the risk of repeating his accomplishments and those of the 16 RNZA, the 3 RAR was just about completely surrounded, and Delta Company Commander Capt. J.G.W. Mills saw the situation was desperate and his men were at risk of being overrun. So he called for artillery on the position of his own 10 Platoon. A battery of Kiwi guns obliged, firing 2,300 rounds of shells in less than an hour. That artillery barrage destroyed the Chinese on that position.

Lt. George Butcher (shown here) was a sapper, an army engineer who worked in the field of fire when vital technical knowledge was needed. He and Captain Robert Chessum, the original gun position officer for Able Troop, a set of four 25 pound artillery guns, were interviewed by a blogger named Julian W., in a blog entitled “Kiwi in Korea.” Chessum said he never talked much about the war, “it was not considered a real campaign.” Butcher said it was something he wanted to share but friends and families were not interested; “The only time you talk is when you get together with your mates who were there. Butcher noted, while laughing a bit, “Some kids asked me recently, ‘How cold was it in winter?’ I couldn’t answer them, but I wanted to say, ‘You couldn’t pee unless you walked backwards.”

During the battle, Butcher recalled:

“A call had come through that a patrol had stumbled into a minefield. I was the only sapper there at the time. It was right in front of the Chinese position and nearly dawn, so there was no time to get the minefield map. A couple of them were injured and they were all scattered. The 16th Field Artillery put up some smoke cover, and I went in. You use binoculars to spot the first mines from a distance, and then you just use a prodder shaped a bit like a bayonet to feel your way in front of you, and some pins to put back into the mines.”

Terry Hitchings was there. He did not like talking about the war according to his granddaughter, Amelia. But apparently she and others talked him into going back to Korea on the 60th anniversary. Amelia commented, “All he'll say is that he had to stand out in the snow and that's why he can't move his ankles any more."

While supporting the 2 PPCLI, William Johnson reported in his book,
A war of patrols: Canadian army operations in Korea, “In engaging the prearranged target areas, the New Zealand gunners were ordered to fire at the ‘slow’ rate of two rounds per gun per minute so that twenty-four rounds landed every thirty seconds in a target area some 200 yards wide.” They had to do that in part to conserve ammunition.

Laurie Valentine was a gunner, Easy Troop, 163 Battery, 16 RNZA. He was interviewed by Pip Desmond about Kapyong. He said he thought they were going into reserve, which was great because he got a coat which he had not had during the winter, a “proper tent,” hotdog stoves, “all sorts of things.” They even received immunizations. They were told they could rest, they were going out of action. Then, at about 1 a.m., they woke up to yelling, shouting, banging and he got up and looked around, down to the road below, and said, ”the road was just packed with people.” He said:

“Not just packed solid with people, but there were people there shooting those people. What the heck’s happening and all the rest of it. It turned out the people running down the road were the troops that had replaced us in the front line. They were the capital division of the ROKS, the Republic of Korea, and here they were streaming down the road and the shooting was the officers trying to stop them. Shooting them point blank.”

They were immediately told to move out. They had no time to gather their belongings, and they could not get down to the road because it was so clogged. He said, “it was absolute bedlam.” They could not distinguish between Koreans and Chinese. So they had to go back into the woods, and men from the 1 MX infantry came to support them. Before they knew it, they were told to set up and fire. He said, “So we kept firing as long as we could.”

Maurice E. Gasson wrote a poem “Memories of Kapyong,” published in May 2003, which I understand has become a regimental poem. In this poem, he wrote:

“The Middlesex ahead of us, Australians to the right, and to the left the Canadians have held on through the night. With target after target from our OP (observation post) on the crest the gunners feed the guns, their bodies crying out for rest. For the guns, now like an orchestra, the targets they engage, with a symphony of anger, a cacophony of rage. And from the hill above me, just beyond he nearest crest, comes the stutter of bren guns from infantry hard pressed. From the road which lies behind us comes the Army Service Corps, dump their load of ammunition and then speed back for more. I see walking wounded moving through our lines, while overhead fly the choppers which are lifting out the dying and the dead.”

The son of a Kiwi artilleryman who fought at Kapyong commented on a story told him by his dad. He posted his comments with a pseudo-name, but he provided information I had not seen before, so I’ll publish it:

“As the Chinese advanced to below the maximum depression of the gun barrels, my father told of jacking up the gun trails, so the 25 pdrs could fire down into the valley. The Chinese even got up into the gun lines, whereupon there was no-quarter-given hand-to-hand combat, gunners swinging pieces of timber against bayonets...and winning!”

Murray Edwards noted the 2 PPCLI and the 3 RAR received the Presidential Unit Citation for their valor at Kapyong. But he commented:

“The only thing we regretted was that there was no recognition for the artillery because the key to our whole success at Kapyong really lay with the New Zealand gunners [from the 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery]. They were just fabulous and when one of our positions was being overrun by the Chinese, the platoon commander asked for artillery fire on his own position. And the artillery was so accurate, they were able to drive the Chinese off and save the breakthrough.”

Major O’Dowd of the 3 RAR, as they were trying to get organized to withdraw in a fighting retreat, also commented on the Kiwis. He recorded, “The Kiwis let fly with smoke and high explosive, with a great heart-warming, thunderous thump.”

Memoirs from the 1 MX war fighters at Kapyong

John Sturt, while visiting the 1 MX memorial in Korea in 2010, remarked:

“Gapyeong was our last battle. The main recollection I have is of the day before the main battle, the ROKs (South Korean forces) collapsed, we had to get the New Zealand gunners out; they were being surrounded by refugees and Chinese, so it was a dodgy situation.”

Bob Yerby is a Middlesex veteran and recalled when the Kiwis were told first to move to the north to help out the ROK 6, and then told to withdraw. The 1 MX infantry tagged along to protect the Kiwis. Yerby commented, in a melancholy way:

“We fired into refugees crossing the bridge. There was enemy among them.”

Many veterans of Kapyong and the Korean War in general fear it is the “Forgotten War,” and they comment often about why they feel that way. Yerby was one who did so in a letter to the Royal British Legion, published in December 2012-January 2013. Yerby wrote:

“Every ear around November the media focus their attention on past and present military activities: the World wars, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Falklands. Yet we who fought in Korea are forgotten. Are the 1,078 young men who died in the name of freedom not worthy of media recognition?”

The photo, I believe taken in 2013, shows Bob holding a medal sent to him by the South Korean president along with a letter of thanks for liberating their country to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the start of the war.

Note bene: I have searched high and low for several days looking for memoirs from the 1 MX at Kapyong, and came up with only these two. I would be very pleased to post such memoirs from these men if you can provide them to me, e-mail at

1 MX was awarded seven battle honors; suffered 42 KIA, 90 WIA

In Memorium


The British Commonwealth Memorial for those from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand who fought in the Korean War. It is located in the middle of the rural Gyeongi-do province, city of Kapyong. The actual Battle of the Gapyong took place about five miles further up the valley. However, it is located close to where the 3 RAR Headquarters was set up.


The Australian Memorial to Kapyong. It faces the New Zealand Memorial.


This is the Canadian Memorial due to the Battle of Kapyong. It is not co-located with those of Australia and New Zealand, but is about six kms north, below Hill 677. Jim Blatherwick wrote: “Located here are three monuments to commemorate Canadian participation in the Korean War: a stone cairn to commemorate Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLII); a stone tablet with three panels in Korean, English and French listing the units of the Canadian Forces which participated in the Korean War and the larger memorial, unveiled in 1985, and dedicated by the people of Korea to the memory of the approximately 26,000 Canadians who served in Korea. Of these, 516 died and 1,255 were wounded. Note that this is a recent memorial as the Maple Leaf did not become Canada's flag until 1965.”


The New Zealand Memorial is located at the center of the Australian position, and faces the Australian Memorial.


As of 2009, as you look at the Commonwealth Memorial you will see the Middlesex Memorial on the right hand side. Martin Uden, then the British Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, and British Brigadier Matthew O'Hanlon, Royal Ulster Rifles and the Military Attaché to the British Embassy Seoul unveiled the memorial. The memorial was dedicated by the Korean Veterans of the Middlesex Regiment and the citizens of Kapyong. The British Government and the British Korean Veterans did not contribute to this memorial. Ambassador Uden and Brigadier O'Hanlon played a leading role in getting the memorial funded and erected. O'Hanlon's regiment, before his time, fought in the famous Battle of the Imjin during the Korean War. Some 157 members of that regiment were massacred by the attacking Chinese.