Feature Image: Holding at Kapyong by Edward Zuber. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. © Canadian War Museum
In recent months, the Kim, Jung Un regime in North Korea has been escalating tensions in Asia and around the world with their nuclear and missile testing and the rhetoric on raining death on the United States and her allies in the region. Tragically, the regimes dynastic heritage is replete with provocation towards South Korea, the United States and her allies both in the region and abroad; all the while suppressing on her own people who continue to be deprived of their basic needs, including their fundamental rights and freedoms for more than six decades.
On March 2nd, the United Nations Security Council enacted new sanctions against the Kim regime imposing some of the strongest measures ever used to pressure the totalitarian state to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Once again, Canada stands with the world in condemnation of North Korean activities.
Just as Canadians stood shoulder to shoulder with the world 65 years ago during the Korean War.
When North Korea invaded the South on June 25, 1950, supported by Russia and China, Canada heard the call from a far away country most Canadians knew little about and heeded that call.
26,791 Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and from every branch of service, played significant roles in many battles during the war, including the historic Battle of Kapyong (April 22-25. 1951).
The United Nations counter offensive between February and April 1951 had been largely successful, with the US Eighth Army pushing the communist forces north of the Han River but the North Korean and Chinese leadership had their own plans for the spring of 1951.
The First Chinese Spring Offensive envisioned the total destruction of the US I and IX Corps above the Han River, involving three Chinese Army Groups and three North Korean corps. With the immediate objective of capturing Seoul, the offensive commenced on 22 April on two broad fronts with the Chinese 40th Army given the mission of destroying the South Korean 6th Division while blocking any UN reinforcements towards the Imjin River at Kapyong.
The communist all-out attack at Kapyong Valley pushed the South Korean and New Zealand troops into retreat. Under intense pressure, the Korean 6th Division broke, and the line collapsed. Soldiers retreated through a gap under protective covering fire from Australians despite heavy pressure.
Elements of the 27th Commonwealth Brigade, specifically the Australian troops from 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), and Canadian troops from 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI) were ordered to halt this communist advance. In only a few short hours, they managed to dig in on Hills 504 and 677 respectively.
The initial communist attacks at Kapyong engaged the Australians on Hill 504 on the evening of the 23rd and throughout the day on the 24th. Wave after wave of massed Chinese troops kept up the attack. Having been nearly surrounded, the commander of the 3 RAR ordered a fighting withdrawal from Hill 504.
Now it was the Canadians turn as the entirety of the Chinese 118th Division turned its attention to Hill 677. At 10pm on the 24th the 118th Division launched an assault on the Canadians right flank. Throughout the evening the battle was unrelenting often escalating into hand-to-hand combat with bayonet charges.
At some point during the early morning hours of April 25th, 2 PPCLI was completely surrounded and Captain Mills, in command of D Company, was forced to call down artillery fire on his own position at several times throughout the battle to avoid being overrun. Being surrounded and now running short of ammunition and supplies, the Canadians resorted to resupply by air drops in order to continue the defence of Hill 677 rather than surrendering its position.
By dawn the communist forces' attack on the Canadian position had ended, and in the afternoon of 25 April the road through to Hill 677 had been cleared of enemy soldiers, at which time the 2PPCLI was relieved.
In stopping the Chinese and North Korean advance through the Kapyong Valley, Canada (and her Allied counterparts who fought) proudly earned the honour of the U.S. Presidential Citation for their valour.
Sadly, Korea remains divided to this day as we mark the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong on April 22 at the Canadian War Musuem in Ottawa.
Perhaps it is symbolic that as the Ottawa ceremony takes place and a delegation of Canadian veterans invited by the South Korean government present scholarships to students of Kapyong during a commemorative program, the North Korean regime continues to make aggressive declarations to destabilize the peace on the Korean peninsula.
As was the case in 1951 and is the case today, Canada will stand against North Korean tyranny and aggression and will uphold the sanctions against the regime that would do so much harm in its naked pursuit of nuclear weapons technology.
Lest we forget.