The Action at Kapyong

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.

Evidence accumulated of a formidable Chinese build-up for a counter-offensive. The earlier withdrawal had straightened the enemy's lines, placed his forces on high ground north of the Imjin River, and had allowed him to replace tired troops and reorganize his equipment.

On the night of April 22-23, 1951 Chinese and North Korean forces struck in the western and west-central sectors. Both the 1st and the 9th US Corps were ordered to withdraw. In the 9th Corps sector the blow fell on the 6th ROK Division. Overwhelmed and forced to retreat, it was in grave danger of being cut off and completely destroyed.

Fortunately, the location of the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade, then in Corps reserve, was ideal for an escape route along which the South Koreans could withdraw. The area lay in the valley of the Kapyong River near its junction with the Pukhan River. Here the valley was some 2,800 metres wide. To the north it narrowed and curved and was dominated by surrounding hills. From these hills the exits and entrances to the valley could be controlled. A defensive position was established with the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment at Hill 504, the 2nd PPCLI dug in on Hill 677 and the 1st Middlesex Regiment south of the Patricias.

The Australians were the first to come under attack and withstood a heavy engagement during the night of April 23-24. The next day the Chinese infiltration intensified forcing the Australians to withdraw under great pressure. The Australian withdrawal exposed the Patricias' position to enemy attack. The battalion defences covered the north face of Hill 677: "A" Company was on the right, "C" Company in the centre, and "D" on the left flank.

"B" Company, which at first occupied a salient in front of "D", was moved farther south to a hill immediately east of tactical headquarters. From this location it could observe the enemy build-up across the valley of the Kapyong to the north and east, near the village of Naechon. About 10 p.m. enemy mortar bombs began to fall on the Patricias' position, and shortly thereafter the forward platoon came under attack. The platoon was partially overrun but was able to disengage itself and move back to the main company position where a counter-attack was organized.

While the attack on "B" company was in progress the enemy also attempted to infiltrate at other points including a probe against tactical headquarters. These attacks were driven off by battalion mortar and machine-gun fire.

"D" Company, in its exposed position to the northwest, bore the brunt of the next attack as the enemy assaulted in large numbers from two sides. As one platoon and a machine-gun section were overrun and another platoon cut off, the company commander called for supporting fire on top of his own position. After two gruelling hours the enemy advance was stemmed.

Through the night the enemy persisted in his attacks, but each was driven off by artillery fire. With the approach of daylight the pressure subsided and "D" Company was able to re-establish its former position.

PPCLI Memorial in Kapyong

Although the Patricias had maintained their positions, the battalion was surrounded and the supply route was controlled by the enemy. With ammunition reserves and emergency rations depleted, Lieutenant-Colonel Stone requested air supply. The parachute drop was made within hours of the request. By 2 p.m. the Middlesex Regiment had cleared enemy groups from the rear and the road to the PPCLI position was re-opened.

The Canadians in this action had maintained their position – vital to the brigade defence – while at the same time inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. The relatively light casualties (10 killed and 23 wounded) which they, themselves, had sustained testified to the skill and organization with which the defence was carried out. For their gallant stand at Kapyong the 2nd Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment received the United States Presidential Citation.

By May 1 the enemy offensive had ended. The 1st and 9th U.S. Corps then held an irregular line some 30 kilometres south of the 38th Parallel forming an arc north of Seoul. Plans were begun at once for a return to the Kansas line, the code name for a range of hills just above the 38th Parallel. At the same time the defensive position was strengthened against a possible new Chinese offensive. To the north the Chinese shifted their forces eastward in preparation for an assault against the Eighth Army sector.

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