Canadian Troops in Action

Note

There have been recent changes to the Korean alphabet. For example, Pusan now reads Busan and Kapyong reads Gapyong. In order to maintain historical relevance, the older versions of the names are used in this article.

In mid-February 1951, the 2nd Battalion PPCLI entered the line of battle under the command of the 27th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade. This formation, which had participated in operations in Korea since the early stages of the conflict, consisted of two British and one Australian battalions. Artillery support was provided by a New Zealand Field Regiment and medical care by the 60th Indian Field Ambulance. The Patricias rounded out its Commonwealth character.

The arrival of the Canadians coincided with the second general United Nations advance toward the 38th Parallel. In this new offensive the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade was to advance northeast to its final objective the high ground northwest of Hoengsong.

Sharing the brigade lead with British Argylls, the Patricias, on February 21, began to advance up the valley north from the village of Sangsok. Rain, mixed with snow, made progress treacherous, but fortunately enemy opposition was light. "D" Company made the first contact with the enemy when its leading elements came under fire from the high ground to the northeast.

Canadians preparing machine-gun

In the days that followed progress became more difficult. Hills, ranging from 250 to 425 metres, rose on either side; hill positions had to be dug through deep snow; the weather was bitterly cold and enemy resistance increased. On February 22, "C" Company sustained the battalion's first battle casualties when four soldiers were killed and one wounded in an attack on Hill 444. The other Commonwealth troops encountered similar difficulties. Yet, by the first of March, the brigade had advanced 25 kilometres over difficult country against a stubborn rearguard action.

On March 7 the advance was resumed. The objectives were Hills 410, assigned to the Australians, and 532, assigned to the 2nd PPCLI . The valleys now ran east and west cutting across the axis of advance and provided the enemy with a natural line of defence. At first resistance was heavy from the enemy who was well dug in and camouflaged. The attack slowed down to a series of stubbornly fought section battles. Then, suddenly, the enemy withdrew.

In the next several days it became apparent that the Chinese were withdrawing all across the front. On March 15 Seoul was liberated by the 1st Republic of Korea (ROK) Division. Following a retreating enemy, the 24th US Infantry Division advanced toward the 38th Parallel west of the Kapyong River, while the Commonwealth Brigade proceeded up the Chojong valley to its first objective, a massive hill called 1036, on the Benton line. By March 31, this objective was reached and the brigade was moved east to the valley of the Kapyong River. On April 8, the Patricias successfully attacked objectives across the 38th Parallel.

Meanwhile, the question of crossing the 38th Parallel was being heatedly debated on both the military and political levels. Two courses of action were open to the United Nations forces. The first was to press for complete military victory. This would require additional forces and the extension of the conflict beyond the Korean borders into Manchuria. The alternative was military stabilization combined with UN negotiations to end the conflict. General MacArthur pressed for an all-out effort to achieve victory even at the risk of open war with Communist China, and publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with the UN and the Truman administration which favoured negotiation. On April 11, 1951, he was relieved of his command and replaced by Lieutenant-General Matthew B. Ridgway.

General MacArthur's dismissal did not mean an immediate reversal of tactics. The advance which had begun in February continued. By mid-April almost the entire UN front lay north of the 38th Parallel.

Date modified: