Recognising the service of Korean War veterans for Kapyong Day

On 24 April, we pause to commemorate Kapyong Day, an annual day of remembrance honouring the Australians who served in the Battle of Kapyong, a costly engagement during the Korean War.

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when communist North Korea invaded South Korea. The Australian Government was quick to answer the United Nation’s call for intervention, committing Navy, Army and Air Force personnel to fight as part of a United Nations force.

Seoul, the South Korean capital, was hotly contested, changing hands several times throughout the Korean War. In April 1951, a United Nations force, including the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), was positioned in the Kapyong Valley, with orders to halt the advance of communist forces, which now included Chinese troops, towards the capital.

On the morning of 24 April, elements of 3RAR found themselves behind enemy lines, cut off after being forced to withdraw. Overnight, they had endured wave after wave of attacks by Chinese troops that had broken through the South Korean Army positions.

Even though the Australians resisted valiantly, they were forced to regroup with the remainder of the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade after making a fighting withdrawal late afternoon. The following day, communist forces redirected their attacks to concentrate on positions held by Canadian troops, who were ably supported by New Zealand artillery. By the afternoon of 25 April, there were no further attacks. The communist advance had been halted.

Tragically, 3RAR paid a heavy price for stemming the assault, with 32 men killed, 59 wounded, and 3 taken prisoner. For their unwavering service in the Battle of Kapyong, 3RAR received a US Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation.

More than 17,000 Australians served throughout the Korean War; 340 lost their lives, more than 1,200 were wounded, 30 were taken prisoner, and 42 are still listed as missing in action. 

On Kapyong Day, our thoughts are with the courageous Australians who fought in the Battle of Kapyong and all who served in the Korean War. The efforts and sacrifices of Australian service men and women and their families shall always be honoured and remembered.

Lest we forget.