Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Forgotten Battle Of Kap'yong

It's Easter Weekend around the world.
Here, we're just days away from commemorating Anzac Day on the 25th., the famous anniversary of the WWI assault on Gallipoli. And today is the 60th anniversary of New Zealand and Australia making another heroic stand together...
In 1951, these and other Commonwealth countries were fighting in Korea as part of the UN coalition to stymie the invasion plans of Nth.Korea and its Chinese allies. In such a short space as a blog post, I can't possibly do any justice to the efforts of those involved in the pivotal Battle Of Kap'yong, which was later described by a newspaper correspondent as "some of the bloodiest and fiercest fighting ever to take place in Anzac history".
At dusk on April 23rd., massive Chinese forces smashed a ten-mile gap in the front. They threatened to split the UN Army in two: had they not been stopped at Kap'yong, they may well have pushed all the way down to Seoul and captured the entire Korean Peninsula.
"Into the valley of death..."
All the fighting units involved have their own recollections, and they naturally vary according to their positions on the battlefield.
As far as 16th.Field Regt., Royal NZ Artillery went, they were firing their 25pdrs at almost point-blank range into wave after wave of seemingly impervious enemy. When the Chinese got under the artillery barrage and began to climb uphill towards them, gun trails were even lifted up so the barrels could be depressed enough to fire down into them. At one stage, the Chinese reached the gun lines and there was ferocious hand-to-hand fighting: my father recalled clubbing at enemy soldiers with a piece of 4x2 timber!
The Regiment was forced to withdraw to prepared back-up positions in the dark of night with no lights and, without loss, were rapidly back in action in support of the infantry.
NZ 25pdr in full recoil,
during Battle of Kap'yong
16 Fld Regt kept pouring heavy artillery near other UN units, being the deciding factor in multiple areas. The kiwi gunners pounded the enemy relentlessly but, despite heavy losses, the Chinese repeatedly threw wave after wave of troops into the artillery barrage in suicidal attempts to overrun the Oz positions.
For the next four days and nights the regiment fired without pause, the gunners - stripped to the waist - sweating over their smoking, paint-blistered guns. In the thirty hours preceding Anzac Day, they fired about 10,000 rounds! Oz casualties were heavy but the infantry, with the support of the NZ guns, accounted for an estimated 1,000 Chinese killed and 3,000 wounded.
At dawn on Anzac Day the Chinese massed for their greatest assault. Meeting the advance with murderous fire, the Australians piled up at least 500 enemy dead around their positions. Then the assault fizzled out. New Anzac traditions had been made.
For their deeds, 16th.Field Regiment received the Presidential Unit Citation from the President of the Republic of Korea.
Many call Korea "The Forgotten War", yet it contains one of the greatest stands in our military history. Australia commemorates it today, but there is NO service anywhere in New Zealand remembering the 60th anniversary of the Battle Of Kap'yong... shameful.
[...recollections courtesy of Southern Gunners]
The anniversary was however marked in Korea, by various ceremonies - including the presentation of this plaque to the Regiment in grateful thanks...


Mad Bush Farm said...

I see the History Channel are going to screen the documentary on this battle. I definitely plan to watch it. A long time friend of mine served in Korea - his memories of that war are still vivid and still full of the shock and horror he personally experienced. Great post thanks for the insights.

Writer Of The Purple Sage... said...

Yes, I'm looking forward to that: it's on Sky's History Channel tomorrow evening (Easter Sun.24th) at 7.30pm.
As this seems to be the ONLY acknowledgement of the Battle AT ALL, it'llbe compulsory viewing for me too.

Gerald said...

War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.