Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Mystique of the Battle of Kapyong

[Image: Kapyong_South_Korea_1952_%28AWM_HOBJ3147%29.jpg]

The Mystique of the Battle of Kapyong

By Konomi Fujimiya
The Daily Magi
October 11, 2061


The Battle of Kapyong (Korean: 가평전투) (22–25 April 1951), also known as the Battle of Jiaping (Chinese: 加平战斗; pinyin: Jiā Píng Zhàn Dòu), was fought during the Korean War between United Nations (UN) forces—primarily Australian and Canadian—and the Chinese communist People's Volunteer Army. The fighting occurred during the Chinese Spring Offensive and saw the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade establish blocking positions in the Kapyong Valley, on a key route south to the capital, Seoul. The two forward battalions—3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) and 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI)—occupied positions astride the valley and hastily developed defences. As thousands of South Korean soldiers began to withdraw through the valley, the Chinese infiltrated the brigade position under the cover of darkness, and assaulted the Australians on Hill 504 during the evening and into the following day.

Although heavily outnumbered, the 27th Brigade held their positions into the afternoon before the Australians were finally withdrawn to positions in the rear of the brigade, with both sides having suffered heavy casualties. The Chinese then turned their attention to the Canadians on Hill 677, but during a fierce night battle they were unable to dislodge them. The fighting helped blunt the Chinese offensive and the actions of the Australians and Canadians at Kapyong were important in assisting to prevent a breakthrough on the United Nations Command central front, and ultimately the capture of Seoul. The two battalions bore the brunt of the assault and stopped an entire Chinese division during the hard fought defensive battle. The next day the Chinese withdrew back up the valley, in order to regroup. Today, the battle is regarded as one of the most famous actions fought by the Australian and Canadian armies in Korea.

In April 1951, Chinese forces of the 118th Division attacked the Kapyong Valley in force, and pushed South Korean and New Zealand troops into retreat. Under heavy pressure, the Korean 6th Division broke, and the line collapsed. American and South Korean men poured through a gap under protective covering fire from Australians who were holding their section of the line despite heavy pressure.

Australian troops from 3 RAR, and Canadian troops from the PPCLI were ordered to halt this Chinese advance. The mission of the men of the 27th Commonwealth Brigade was to block the two approaches to Kapyong. In only a few hours, they managed to prepare defensive positions.

The Chinese 118th Division engaged their two forward battalions on 23 April. In the early part of the battle the 1st Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and the 16th Field Regiment of the Royal New Zealand Artillery were all but cut off. The resistance of forward positions, held by the 2 PPCLI and 3 RAR, permitted the 1st Battalion, Middlesex Regiment to withdraw. It moved into place to provide a reserve.

The initial Chinese attack at Kapyong engaged 3 RAR on Hill 504. The Chinese then struck at the Canadian front. Wave after wave of massed Chinese troops kept up the attack throughout the night of 23 April. After a night of fierce fighting Major Bernard O'Dowd, Officer Commanding, A Company, 3 RAR, managed to get through on a radio phone to a general of the 1st U.S. Marine Division. The general was incredulous, thinking it was an enemy agent speaking. He told O'Dowd that the unit no longer existed, that it had been wiped out the night before.

The Chinese had managed to infiltrate the brigade position by the morning of 23 April. The Australians and Canadians were facing the whole of the Chinese 118th Division. Throughout 24 April the battle was unrelenting. It devolved, on both fronts, into hand-to-hand combat with bayonet charges. The Australians, facing encirclement, were ordered to make an orderly fall back to new defensive positions late in the day of 24 April.

2 PPCLI was completely surrounded. Captain Mills, in command of D Company, was forced to call down artillery fire on his own positions on Hill 677 several times during the early morning hours of 25 April to avoid being overrun. It had to be resupplied by air drops during this desperate time. By dawn the Chinese attack on the Canadian position had abated, and in the afternoon of 25 April the road through to the Canadians had been cleared of Chinese, at which time the 2nd Battalion was relieved.

The 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery, also managed to withdraw and link up with the U.S. Army's 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion. These units provided close heavy gun support.

Canada lost 10 soldiers (out of allied losses of 47) and 23 wounded at this battle.

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