The Battle of Kapyong

The Battle of Kapyong was fought between 23–25 April 1951. It is considered one of the decisive battles of the Korean War.

31 January 2020

In April 1951, the 3rd Battalion RAR were positioned in the Kapyong Valley as part of United Nations operation to establish a defensive buffer against a communist advance towards the South Korean capital Seoul.

On 23 April 1951, after breaking through forward positions held by the South Korean Army, Chinese forces assaulted United Nations defensive positions in the hills overlooking the Kapyong River, including those held by Australians. During the night, wave after wave of Chinese troops attacked the Australian positions.

By the morning of 24 April elements of the Australian force had been forced to withdraw while others found themselves cut off up to four kilometres behind the most forward Chinese troops.

The Australians continued to resist throughout the day but were forced to make a fighting withdrawal under very difficult conditions and rejoin the remainder of the Commonwealth Brigade late in the day.

On 25 April the focus of the Chinese attack shifted to the positions held by the Canadian forces, who were able to deflect them with the assistance of the New Zealand artillery batteries whose fire had recently protected the Australians.

By the afternoon of 25 April the Chinese at Kapyong were exhausted and made no further attacks. The Commonwealth forces’ efforts had halted the Chinese advance.

Thirty-two Australians died in the Battle of Kapyong, 59 were wounded and three were taken prisoner. The Australian and Canadian battalions were each awarded a United States Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation for their part in the Battle.

The Korean War

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when communist North Korea launched an invasion of South Korea.

The Australian Government quickly became involved in the war, committing personnel from the Navy, Army and Air Force to fight as part of a United Nations force.

Fighting in the Korean War ended with the signing of an armistice on 27 July 1953. Post-armistice, Australian forces remained in Korea in a peace-keeping role until 1957.

More than 18,000 Australians sailors, soldiers and airmen served during  the Korean War, including some 50 nurses. Of those more than 1500 were injured, 340 killed, 30 taken prisoner and 43 who are still listed as missing in action.

The USA lost more than 36,000 people. Millions of Korean and Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed.

North and South Korea still remain in a state of conflict today.

Fast facts

Battle of Kapyong

  • 23–25 April 1951

Major units

  • 3rd Battalion, Royal Australia Regiment (3 RAR)


  • 32 Australians died
  • 59 Australians were wounded
  • Three were taken prisoner

Specific medals

  • The Korea Medal
  • The United Nations Service Medal (Korea)
  • The Australian Active Service medal 1945-75 clasp Korea
  • The Australian General Service Medal Korea
  • The Australian Service medal 1945-1975 clasp Korea

Commemorations – Korean War dead

  • United Nations Memorial Cemetery, Busan, Korea – 281 Australians are buried there. 43 Commemorated at the Memorial to the Missing
  • 10 Australian war dead from Korea are buried at the Yokohama War Cemetery in Japan, in the Post-War Plot 
  • 11 Commemorated in Australia

More information