The Imjin and Kapyong Battles, Korea, 1951
Publication Year: 2013
The actions of the British 29th Brigade in defending the Imjin River line—in particular the sacrifice of the "Glorious Glosters"—and the hilltop fights of Australian and Canadian battalions in the Kapyong Valley have achieved greater renown in those nations than any other military action since World War II. This book is the first to compare in any depth what happened and why. Using official and unofficial source material ranging from personal interviews to war diaries, this study seeks to disentangle the mythology surrounding both battles and explain why events unfolded as they did. Based on thorough familiarity with all available sources, many not previously utilized, it sheds new light on fighting "the forgotten war."
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Twentieth-Century Battles
For several days and nights in the fourth week of April 1951, two infantry brigades, one exclusively British and another dominated by contingents from the Commonwealth, each withstood repeated assaults by Chinese forces many times their size. Occurring simultaneously but in different locations along the Korean front, the engagements at the Imjin and Kapyong are remembered battles of a forgotten war. There were plenty of other major actions in which British...
This book would not have been possible without help from the staff of the following libraries, archives, and other depositories: Archives New Zealand, Wellington; the Australian War Memorial, Canberra; the British Library, St. Pancras; the Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence, Ottawa; the George C. Marshall Library, Lexington, Va.; the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth; the Museum of the Gloucestershire Regiment, Gloucester; the National...
Note on Transliteration
Since the 1980s Chinese names and places have been transliterated into English using pinyin in place of the older Wade-Giles system; thus, for instance, the founder of the People’s Republic of China became Mao Zedong in place of Mao Tse-tung and the capital Beijing rather than Peking. The phonetic transliteration of Korean locations and names into English has if anything changed even more over the past sixty years as the McCune-Reischauer system was first modified...
On the face of things neither Great Britain nor any other British Commonwealth country had any obvious interests to protect in Korea in the middle of the twentieth century. The peninsula had been a part of the Japanese rather than the British empire prior to 1945, and subsequently had been divided into Soviet and American occupation zones that by the end of the decade had evolved into competing independent regimes north and south of the 38th Parallel, each claiming...
1 IMJIN: THE FIRST DAY
As Eighth Army intelligence had rightly predicted, the Chinese People’s Volunteers were preparing to launch a major offensive in the spring of 1951 under the overall command of Peng Te-huai. What was less clear was when, where, and in what strength the enemy would strike, and what he would seek to accomplish. As it happened the ultimate objective remained to drive U.N. forces from the peninsula and...
2 IMJIN: THE SECOND DAY
The coming of spring daylight to the Land of the Morning Calm on Monday, 23 April revealed just how serious the situation was becoming for 29th Brigade after a night of hard fighting. The Chinese, instead of slackening their assaults, seem to have redoubled their efforts to break resistance, and not without effect. The decisions made by those in command in the next few hours would help save one battalion but contribute to the destruction of another.3 ...
3 IMJIN: THE THIRD DAY
As dawn crept in from the east on Tuesday morning, the most pressing problem along the brigade front was unquestionably the precarious position of the Glosters. Forced to abandon successive company hill positions, cut off for more than fifteen hours, losing comrades one after another, and running low on supplies, the surviving Glosters could not hold out forever against Chinese attacks. The commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel J. P. Carne, had already...
4 IMJIN: THE FINAL DAY [Images and Maps Included]
At first light on Wednesday there was no appreciable letup in Chinese pressure on either side of Kamak-san, with fighting going on around as well as to the rear of all three British infantry battalions as the night gave way to dawn. On what would turn out to be the concluding day of battle for the brigade, there would be alternating scenes of heroism, cowardice, tragedy, and farce. Just after six in the morning, Brigadier Brodie contacted Colonel...
5 KAPYONG: THE FIRST DAY
On Sunday, 22 April 1951, most of the men of 27th Brigade were if anything even less concerned about the prospect of battle than their counterparts in 29th Brigade. After all, when they had departed the front line a few days earlier for a couple of weeks of welldeserved rest and reorganization in IX Corps reserve, the Chinese were still withdrawing. Arrayed by unit north of the village of Kapyong in relatively idyllic surroundings variously dubbed “Sherwood Forest” and...
6 KAPYONG: THE SECOND DAY
Having been alerted by IX Corps to the possibility that his brigade might have to assume a blocking position, Brigadier Brian Burke had to decide how best to deploy his units. Topographically the most secure defensive position appeared to be just over three and a half miles north of Kapyong, where three major features dominated the valley floor through which the Kapyong River sinuously curved its way southward and down which any enemy was likely to come. On the...
7 KAPYONG: THE THIRD DAY
As daylight crept across the Kapyong Valley on Tuesday, the 24th of April, the Chinese found themselves exposed. Without the protection offered by darkness, infantry on the move could be seen at more than a few yards’ distance, which in turn opened up decent fields of fire for those Australians in range. There was no compunction about taking immediate and full advantage of this turn of events; as...
8 KAPYONG: THE FINAL DAY
If the 118th CPV Division renewed its vigorous attacks on Hill 677 in the hours after dawn, then the chances of survival for the Patricias would be lower than they had been after midnight. “By that time our Mortar Platoon was almost completely out of mortar bombs,” Private Mike Czuboka remembered. “The rifle companies were also down to a few rounds of ammunition. Our food and water was almost gone.”3 Some of the badly wounded, to be sure, could now be evacuated...
Tom Brodie, the commander of 29th Brigade, was visibly distraught as he watched his torn and bloodied men stumble back to safety.3 In a letter to his parents written on 26 April, a bandaged Lieutenant Malcolm Cubiss of X Company reported that four-fifths of the Glosters, half the Fusiliers, and half the Rifles had been lost during the Imjin battle, an estimate that reflected the widespread sense that casualties...
The first comment, the opinion of someone who led a platoon during the Imjin fight, is an overstatement, though it serves as a useful corrective to those who have ignored the more uncomfortable aspects of the engagement fought by 29th Brigade along the Imjin. The second opinion, from the man who led the Patricias at Kapyong as part of 27th Brigade, while also something of an exaggeration in terms of...