The Korean War took place in the Far East from 1950 to 1953 and more than 26,000 Canadians served in the cause of peace and freedom in this struggle. Some of the heaviest fighting our soldiers experienced in the war took place during the Battle of Kapyong.
The battle began 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.
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. By May 1st, the larger communist offensive had come to a halt.
The Korean War soon moved into a new phase as truce negotiations began in July 1951 and the front lines began to stabilize. For the Commonwealth contingent, the remainder of the conflict became largely a “war of patrols,” with few large-scale battles taking place. On July 27, 1953, an armistice finally ended the active fighting.
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.
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.