Kapyong: Aussies - Canadians - New Zealanders beat back massive Chinese attack targeted at Seoul
February 25, 2014
Had they not held, the UN might well have surrendered the peninsula to the Chinese
If you were to study the Korean War in any depth, you would find yourself tracking one battle after another from the initial invasion to the regrouping at the Pusan Perimeter to the breakout from Pusan, the march to the Yalu on the Chinese border, the withdrawal below the 38th parallel, and then a push back above the 38th to the armistice that established a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) roughly following the 38th parallel as the border between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the former best known as South Korea, the latter as North Korea.
Selecting a battle from all of them that ensued and labeling it as crucially important is a challenge indeed. We are about to look at one of those battles that was crucially important --- the Battle of Kapyong, also known as the Battle of Gapyong, April 22-25, 1951.
Had the allies failed to hold at Kapyong, it is no too far fetched to say that there would have been a good chance the United Nations Command (UNC) would have folded its tent and left the peninsula. The same can be said for several other battles such as the Battle of the Imjin just west of Kapyong and the defense of the “No Name” line above Seoul, each if which occurred at about the same time. All these occurred in April 1951 when the Chinese Fifth Offensive attacked the Allies across a 40 mile front below the 38th parallel employing as many as 700,000 troops directed by 33 infantry divisions and four artillery divisions. The dominant purpose of this offensive was to recapture Seoul and destroy the UN force defending it.
The focus of this report is on the Battle of Kapyong. The Allied combat force that bore the burden of defending Kapyong and its Main Supply Route (MSR) into Seoul fell on the British Commonwealth 27th Brigade, the 27 BC. The ROK 6th Division was to defend the line, but failed to do so and left a 10 mile gap in the US 8th Army’s front. Chinese forces en masse poured through this gap and the 27 BC was charged to plug the gap and hold.
The two elements of the 27 BC that carried the burden of beating back a massive Chinese offensive were the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) and the 2nd Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI), supported by the 16th Royal New Zealand Artillery (16 RNZA) and the medical teams of the Indian Army. The US 5th Cavalry, long range (105 mm) US artillery from the 213th Field Artillery Battalion (Utah Battalion), American tanks from Alpha Troop 72nd Tank Battalion, and Allied air all gave a helping hand. This was a great Allied victory, but for the Aussies, Canucks and Kiwis involved, it was a magnificent feat of valor, courage and leadership mixed in with a steadfast stubbornness so characteristic of those men from those countries who fought here.
Much has been written about the Battle of Kapyong, but most of us don’t know much about it. My top three priorities are to introduce you to the 27 BC and its contributions up to the Batle of Kapyong, describe the battle at a top level, and convey some of the memories or memoirs of those who fought there.
I found while doing the research that I knew almost nothing about the 27 BC or its subordinate units. I wondered how they got to Korea, and how they got to Kapyong. What I found was that the 27 BC arrived at Pusan, and helped the UN forces break out. I then learned that the brigade fought its way up the western side of the ROK and DPRK all the way to the Yalu River and China. The Chinese intervened and they fell back to positions below Kapyong and then were directed to proceed north again and then fall back to Kapyong to protect the MSR to Seoul. They and many other allied units did all that in 10 months!
This is a long read. I hope you have the time and interest to give it a whirl. The men who were there deserve that.