USAG HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea, –
USAG HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea, – United Nations Command (UNC) servicemembers were honored to participate in the 70th Anniversary memorial for the Battle of Gapyeong April 23, 2021, at the site of the famous battle in Gapyeong, South Korea.
There were three services held on the day at different sites, a joint Commonwealth service led this year by the Canadian Embassy, followed by a Canadian service and a joint Australian and New Zealand service. At the conclusion of these services, a battlefield tour was led by UNC Mine Action Staff Officer Maj. Michael Lawry of the New Zealand Army.
Although visiting veteran and in-country participation was limited this year due to ongoing Covid restrictions, both the Commonwealth Service and the Australian-New Zealand service were live-streamed to allow participation from all over the world.
The battle of Gapyeong, also known as the battle of Kapyong, was fought April 22-25, 1951, between the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) and UNC Forces; primarily Australian, Canadian and New Zealand troops.
On April 23 each year, we recognize the service and contributions of those who fought in this battle from the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade, made up of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI) and the 16th Field Regiment (16 Fd Regt) of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery.
“The service of the men here in Gapyeong, in the most demanding of conditions, in the fiercest of battles, in the most critical of moments, along with the service of their comrades in the 29th British Brigade just a little way to the west, formed the barrier which prevented the Chinese [PVA] breakthrough in the Spring which would have otherwise threatened the entire United Nations Command line,” said Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer, Deputy Commander of the United Nations Command. “This was a battle of historic proportions, and history rightly remembers its criticality in ensuring the inevitable success of the United Nations Command Forces in [the Korean] War.”
Although they were heavily outnumbered, the bravery of those who fought in this battle helped to prevent a breakthrough on the UNC central front and to protect Seoul against being recaptured by PVA troops in their last big push of the Korean War.
Vice Admiral Mayer took a moment at the ceremony to offer thanks to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA) for their efforts in commemorating the service of veterans of the Korean War on behalf of the veterans who were unable to be present at the event.
“It falls to me to offer gratitude for … the manner in which the MPVA remember the stories of the veterans, commemorate the events of that War, and express with sincerity the true feeling of the people of Korea for their gratitude for the service of the veterans of the Korean War, and their sincerity in wishing to welcome them to Korea and see what it is that their service has wrought in this modern and world class nation,” said Mayer.
After the conclusion of the formal memorial ceremonies, Maj. Lawry led many of the events’ distinguished guests on a battlefield tour of the defensive positions held in the hills surrounding Gapyeong valley.
“It has been a real honor and a privilege to talk with the veterans of this battle, and hear many of their first-hand accounts,” said Lawry, who had worked with Army historians and the veterans themselves to determine their locations on the battlefield. “Being able to guide people along these trails and share the stories of the veterans who were here is a pretty unique way to offer perspective on what this battle would have been like.”
It is the bravery of veterans, like those recognized at this memorial, who fought in battles across the Korean peninsula that helped to secure that hard-won peace that UNC continues to work to preserve. We will remember them.
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