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Battle of Kapyong

On 22-25 April 1951, Canadian troops fought a difficult battle in the hills above the Kapyong Valley.

22 – 25 April 1951


Korean War

Canadians called up

In late April 1951, the retreating Chinese and North Korean forces regrouped and counter-attacked in the western and west-central sectors of the front. The South Korean forces in one area were overwhelmed and hurriedly fell back, putting them in danger of being overrun and wiped out. The 27th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade—along with its Canadian contingent— was called up from reserve to the Kapyong Valley to cover this desperate retreat.

Troops of the 2nd PPCLI during patrol, March 1951. Photo: Library and Archives Canada PA-115034

The Kapyong Valley

Less than three kilometres across at its widest point, the Kapyong Valley was dominated by the surrounding hills. A defensive position was quickly established with the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment on Hill 504, the 2 PPCLI on Hill 677, and the 1st Middlesex Regiment (a British unit) situated south of the Canadians.

During the night of April 23, the Australians came under heavy attack, holding out until the next day before being forced to withdraw. Their retreat left the Canadians exposed and, at 10:00 p.m. on April 24, the communist assaults began.

Risky move

It was a wild battle and some of our positions were overrun; at one point the Canadians even called in an artillery strike on their own location to hit the enemy soldiers amongst them. The Canadians took cover while the attackers bore the brunt of the fire. The risky move worked and the enemy was driven off. The danger was not yet over and the morning of the 25th saw an intermittent exchange of fire. Canadian Veteran Gerald Gowing was there:

"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."

Sacrifice

Holding at Kapyong by Ted Zuber
CWM 19900084-001
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art
Canadian War Museum

Holding the line at Kapyong was an impressive achievement, but came at a cost. Ten Canadians were killed and 23 were wounded, a total that could be considered relatively light in view of the fierce fighting there and a testament to the skill and organization of the defenders. Our fallen soldiers at Kapyong were among the 516 Canadians who died in service during the Korean War.

Legacy

A company of the Princes Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry moves in single file across rice paddies as it advances on enemy positions across the valley, March 1951. Photo: Library and Archives PA-171228

The Battle of Kapyong was an important episode in the Korean War. The soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry persevered in the face of great adversity to help prevent a potentially costly defeat for the South Korean and UN forces. Their heroic efforts did not go unnoticed with the Americans awarding them the United States Presidential Unit Citation—a very rare honour for a Canadian unit.

historical sheet

Battle of Kapyong

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