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Korean War Battle Remembered
Ken Plourde, on the 61st Anniversary of this battle, briefly outlines the sequence of events as described in public accounts, and as discussed with a Veteran, Mike Diakun, who was present in only one part of the battle.
About 40 km northeast of Seoul, and about 5 km north of the town of Kap’yong, the Kap’yong River Valley contains a series of ridges known during the Korean War as Hill 677. This defensive position was occupied by Canadian Troops who were a part of the United Nations Force which included U.S., New Zealand, Republic of Korea, as well as the Calgary- based 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).
On April 22, 1952, the Chinese Force launched its spring offensive with one of the main thrusts toward the Kap’yong Valley. Under heavy pressure the US forces withdrew, as did the 6th Republic of Korea Division. On the morning of April 23 the Patricias were shocked to learn that the front was collapsing, and took up defensive positions on Hill 677, supported by a New Zealand artillery regiment. The 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment and the U.S. 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion, occupied the high ground across the valley.
On April 23 the front began collapsing and the valley filled with fleeing elements of the republic of Korea troops, and the Canadian position became the front line. That night the Chinese engaged the Australian troops. On April 24 the Chinese attacked again, and after 16 hours, and running low on ammunition, the Australians were ordered to withdraw. This left the Patricias alone on Hill 677. That night, amid mortar bombing, grenades, bugles and whistles, the enemy stormed Baker Company’s position. The latter desperately held on and fought with fixed bayonets through the night. As Dog Company was on the verge of being overrun, the company commander called in artillery fire on his own positions
In the morning of April 25 the Chinese withdrew, leaving the battalion cut off and with depleted ammunition and rations. An airdrop was requested and U.S. “flying boxcars” dropped supplies. As the Canadians prepared for a renewed assault, the two regiments of badly mauled Chinese did not return to Hill 677. The Battle of Kap’yong was over.
The PPCLI casualties were light considering the huge numerical advantage of the Chinese. This was attributed to the excellent and well trained troops who had trained hard, and the battle-experienced officers and NCO’s who were WWII veterans.
The actions of 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, A Company 72nd U.S. Heavy Tank Battalion and, ultimately standing alone, 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian light Infantry, prevented the Chinese Communist Forces from exploiting their breach of the United Nations lines. These three units under UN Command were each awarded a United States Presidential Unit Citation.
The PPCLI is the only Canadian unit to ever receive this award.
On the valley bottom of the battleground is the Kap’yong Memorial, which, along with the battle itself, symbolizes the courage and valour of all Canadian troops who fought in that far-off land 61 years ago.
When Mike Diakun was a 16 year old, living in Rycroft, Alta., he went to work as a civilian with the U.S. Army on the construction of the Alaska Highway. He became interested in the army, and lied about his age in order to join. He served in Europe in 1944 in the Royal Canadian Service Corps in the occupation of Germany. When the call came for volunteers for Korea, mike volunteered, and returned to Canada for infantry training.
Do you know about any other battles fought by Canadians that few know about? Send in your stories to ourcanada.ca.