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On Walkabout In: Korea’s Gapyong Valley

There was plenty of pivotal battles during the Korean War, which defeat for the United Nations Forces could have meant the loss of the entire war. The Battle of  Gapyong (also spelled Kapyong) was one of these pivotal battles.  This battle occurred between 22-25 April, 1951 when the British 27th Commonwealth brigade reinforced with New Zealand, Canadian, & Australian soldiers plus a US tank company fought this heroic pitched battle against the communist Chinese forces:

To the North of Kapyong the Kapyong river goes to the base of the 1200 foot Myeongji-san mountains. It is in these mountains that the Commonwealth Brigade held off the Chinese for two days allowing rear UN forces to retreat without being destroyed.  In honor of the 59th anniversary of this battle I figured I would post a profile of pictures of the monuments and battle sites in the valley that I took while visiting Korea:

gapyong valley

At the southern end of the valley is the actual village of Gapyong where the British Commonwealth Korean War Memorial is located:


What I find most interesting about this memorial is that it is located no where near where the battle took place.  The actual Battle of the Gapyong took place about five miles further up the valley.  Just north of the city of Gapyong the valley is actually quite wide with rice paddies covering the floor of the valley:


The hills surrounding the valley are not very high, but they are extremely steep:


Eventually Highway 75, the road that traverses the valley climbs a small hill in the central area of the valley near a bend in the Gapyong River.  This hill is where the British Middlesex Regiment was located at during the Battle of Gapyong:


Below is the view from the hill overlooking the Gapyong River looking north towards the Canadian and Australian positions:


By being on the terrain the British held it was easy to understand how tactically important this hill was in controlling the Gapyong Valley.  Here is how the British view from the valley would have looked like back in 1951:

Here is the view on the valley floor along the Gapyong River just north of the British positions:


Here is the view from the river looking back towards the hill the British occupied during the battle:


The bend in the Gapyong River creates a low lying circular flat land on the east side of the river that allows for some productive farm land for rice.  Here is the view from this farm land looking back once again towards the hills the British Middlesex Regiment occupied:


On the west side of the river just north of the river bend is where the Canadian Korean War Memorial is located:


Behind the Canadian Korean War Memorial you can see the modern day ridge line that these heroic Canadians defended:


Just north of the Canadian Memorial the valley widens up again which of course means more productive farming land:


At the end of the valley is the small farming community of Mokdong:


All around Mokdong is fields of rice that are watered by the abundant amount of water that flows from the Gapyong River and its various tributaries that meet here:



Just north of Mokdong is where the ANZAC Korean War Memorial is located.  For those that don’t know, an ANZAC is a soldier from the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps that was first formed to fight in World War I and became renowned for their combat actions on the beaches of Gallipoli.  Probably the only battle that even comes close to rivaling the courage shown by the ANZAC’s in Gallipoli where those that fought in Gapyong.

The Australian portion of memorial is located at the entrance to the site:


At the back end of the site is the New Zealand portion of the memorial:


This hillside pictured on the left side of the road is where the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) augmented with the US A Company 72nd Tank Regiment, was located at:


This picture here further shows some of the hills the 3RAR would have occupied during the battle:


I was surprised by how low in elevation the ridge line the Australians occupied really was.  By visiting the terrain it only made me appreciate even more how heroic their stand against the Chinese was.  Something else I was surprised to see was that across the street from the ANZAC War Memorial was a French flag flying with a UN and South Korean flag:


The French had no involvement in the Battle of the Gapyong Valley and I knew of no other battle in this area the French were involved in, so with keen interest I crossed the street to check the site out.


The memorial had engraved in French, Korean, and English:

For Freedom

December 1951, this bridge was dedicated by the engineers of the US 2nd Infantry Division to Captain Goupil, first commander of the Korean Company of the United Nations French Battalion, killed September 26, 1951 at Heartbreak Ridge.

Heartbreak Ridge was no where near this location, but the French Battalion was part of the 2nd Infantry Division so this is probably why the bridge was named after the French Captain by the 2nd Infantry Division engineers.   Anyway here is a picture of the bridge that was built that I have a hard time believing was a 1951 vintage bridge:


The stream that ran in front of the memorial that eventually flows into the Gapyong River, was the forward line for the 3RAR and the valley north of this point is where the advancing Chinese forces that surrounded the Australian soldiers and American tanks would have come down:


From this stream I then went back towards the west and followed the Gapyong River further up into the mountains.  Here is the entrance to the valley that the Chinese soldiers that surrounded the Canadian forces would have stormed down back in April 1951:


Today the valley is really scenic with a number of hotels and restaurants along the banks of the river:


There is also a number of old Korean homes with small farms that give the valley a bit of a rustic feeling:


On hot summer days Korean tourists like to sit out in the waters of the Gapyong River to cool off, which causes the valley to filled with cars parked along the side of the road:


From the upper reaches of the Gapyong River here is the view looking back towards the Canadian positions:


This picture shows once again the positions the Canadians would have held, but gives a perspective of how steep the hill sides that the Chinese soldiers would have had to climb to attack the Canadians:


Seeing the terrain the Australians held gave me an appreciation of the difficult fight they had trying to defend it, while seeing the terrain the Canadians held gave me an appreciation of how difficult it must have been for the Chinese soldiers ordered to charge up these hill sides must have been.  The Chinese may have been the enemy, but seeing the terrain made me admire their bravery as well as the bravery of the lone Canadian battalion that was surrounded one this ridge line by the thousands of Chinese soldiers.

For anyone that has an interest in the Korean War or those of you from countries that make up the British Commonwealth force that fought in the Korean War I highly recommend taking a trip out to see the Gapyong Valley.  The city of Gapyong is easily reached by train or bus from Seoul, but to get to the various memorials and battle sites located through out the valley, your best bet is to hire a taxi in Gapyong if you don’t have your own vehicle to get around with.  It will take up a whole day to see all the sites, but it is well worth it to experience the history enshrined in this scenic Korean valley.


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