William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD


They have forgotten again, down at MPVA,
That the Kapyong heroes once won the day,
When it comes to selecting veterans of the KVA
To Commemorate and honour those so far away.

They lie in deep graves in the South Korean ground.
It would have been nice if their buddy’s were found
And given a chance to visit the one-acre site lot
Where Kapyong is remembered by those who fought.

Our own Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun
Reports on the battle that the PPCLI bravely won:
Old vets in their 80’s and 90’s and more
Were heroes of Kapyong, in the forgotten Korean War.

Our Korea Vets Deserve Better

Peter Worthington
April 2, 2011

It has all the earmarks of a screw-up.

Well, if not a screw-up, certainly something of an embarrassment.

In its planning for the 60th anniversary of the battle of Kapyong that saved Seoul from being recaptured by the Chinese in April 1951, the Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA) hoped Canadian veterans of the battle would return for commemoration ceremonies.

They contacted the Canadian Korean Veterans Association (KVA) and urged that vets of that key battle get priority treatment to visit Korea. The military attaché at the Canadian embassy in Seoul relayed a similar message to Canada.

Nothing happened. Deaf ears were listening. It’s not that no one cared – it’s more that no one took responsibility.

The complacency of the KVA, which chooses the vets for the revisits, is mind-boggling.

Every year, Korea hosts a cost-free return of veterans who fought in the Korean War.

The MPVA works through various KVAs in allied countries.

Canada’s KVA usually gets spaces for 32 vets, but this year it was upped to 56 – with the added 24 expected to be veterans of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s who fought at Kapyong, and broke the Chinese attack in a perfect defensive battle.

The 2nd Battalion was awarded the U.S. Presidential Citation, and has been revered ever since by Koreans who credit the unit with saving Seoul. Korea ceded an acre of land to Canada for a memorial of the victory.

Instead of searching out veterans of Kapyong, Canada treated this year as a routine annual visit, with seven Kapyong vets coincidentally included in the visit.

One who is upset at this is Vince Courtenay, a veteran of the war and publisher of Koreavetnews. He is one of two non-Korean members on the advisory council of Korea’s 60th Anniversary of the Korean War.

Another Princess Pats vet of the Kapyong battle is Winnipeg’s Mike Czuboka, editor of the newsletter The Rice Paddy who calls it “very sad and disgraceful” that priority requests were ignored.

As it is, a platoon of serving 2nd Battalion Princess Pats — 35 members — is being flown over to Korea at regimental expense to be an honour guard at ceremonies.

As well as Korean-born Sen. Yonah Kim-Martin representing Canada at ceremonies in Korea, a serving Canadian general is scheduled to attend.

In efforts to get more Kapyong vets to Korea for 60th anniversary ceremonies, Courtenay has urged Canadian firms that do business with Korea to step up to the plate and help finance a private visit by a Kapyong vet.

He figures $3,000 would provide airfare and accommodation for a vet at these once-in-a-lifetime ceremonies.

Veterans of Kapyong are now mostly in their 80s and 90s, many with limited mobility.

Courtenay poses the rhetorical question: “Is there a corporation in Canada that benefits from doing business in Korea that could not, without missing it, pay $3,000 to send a vet to Kapyong ceremonies?”

His appeal has already netted a response from a friend of the late Ken Barwise, (winner of the Military Medal at Kapyong) who pledged $10,000 to finance the return of vets of that battle.

Kapyong is a bigger deal in Korea than in Canada. Australia commemorates the battle with an annual “Kapyong Day.”

Unique in that battle on the night of April 24-25, 1951, is that there would be no retreat, no pulling back, no surrender for the 700 members of the battalion. It was a do-or-die battle. Win or else.

There aren’t too many battles like that, at least not by choice.

There are battles like the Alamo, Khartoum, Little Bighorn, Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, and Stalingrad, where there was no choice but to fight to the end.

At Kapyong, Canadians had a choice, and Lt.-Col “Big Jim” Stone, made it for his battalion — they were going to break the massive Chinese attack, or they were going to die there.

The 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) defending the other side of the Kapyong river valley was attacked first and forced to withdraw, leaving Canadians the only impediment to the Chinese recapturing Seoul.

At the same time, a battalion of the U.K.’s Gloucestershire Regiment on the coast was surrounded and surrendered after horrendous fighting.

One reason Kapyong isn’t better known in Canada is that the soldiers involved — taking their lead from their CO — didn’t think they were doing anything special by fighting to the end.

It’s what soldiers did.

To them, calling their own artillery down on their own positions was no big deal. (Of the nine Canadian infantry battalions that served in Korea, 2PPCLI was awarded the fewest valour medals.)

Courtenay notes wistfully: “In Canada, but for the efforts of aging Korean War veterans who voluntarily man the Korean war room at the Canadian War Museum, there is no commemoration of that epic battle.”

Also, Courtenay has written a fictional novel about the Battle of Kapyong, using the names and anecdotes of soldiers who were there. It is a clever technique, which Courtenay posted on Koreavetnews and http://www.KVACanada.com.

Titled Love and Duty, the book is being published by the Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs in large print to be given free to veterans in long-term-care hospitals — “with our most respectful, heartfelt appreciation of their chivalry in defending our nation.”

Courtenay is embarrassed that many Kapyong vets who would like to attend ceremonies in Korea won’t be going: “Six more vets would make a great difference — a dozen more, a colossal difference. “Yes, it would be a bit of trouble to fit them in. But there was a bit of trouble in the Kapyong river valley 60 years ago, when the volunteer Canadians were outnumbered 20-to-1.”