The battle at Kapyong fought on April 24 and 25, 1951 during the Korean War should be remembered along with other great Canadian battles, such as Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge and Operation Overlord, according to Brian Storseth, MP for Westlock-St. Paul.
Storseth, who also sits on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, gave a tribute to all the Korean War veterans, in particular St. Paul resident Mike Lotoski, in the House of Commons on Wed, Oct. 6. Storseth later presented Lotoski with a scroll of the speech.
“I am honoured to receive this,” said Lotoski, noting that all Korean War veterans should also be recognized. More than 26,000 Canadians served during the war, but many have passed away in the last 60 years.
Lotoski was a member of the second battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), which was at the centre of the battle at Kapyong. Although outnumbered, the members of PPCLI, along with their Australian comrades, succeeded in preventing a Chinese breakthrough that would have resulted in the recapture of Seoul. According to the book, Valor Remembered, when Chinese forces advanced on April 22 and 23, the first and the ninth US Corps were ordered to withdraw, but the third Royal Australian Regiment established a defensive position at hill 504 and the second PPCLI dug in on hill 677.
“We were surrounded and that is when thirteen of our troops were killed,” said Lotoski. “We called down artillery fire on our own position to keep them off because we knew that if we were captured, we were dead anyway.”
They remained on the hill overnight completely surrounded and cut off from supplies.
The Chinese were never able to advance further south. This stand earned the battalion a US Presidential Distinguished Service Citation, the first and only such honour awarded to a Canadian Unit. All Korean War veterans also received a letter or gratitude from South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak.
This year is the 60th anniversary of the start of the conflict and many feel that the Canadian contribution to the war effort was never properly commemorated. This is also the first year that Korean war veterans were honoured with their own day of remembrance, National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, which was held on July 27, the day the armistice was signed back in 1953.
According to the United Nations Security Council, the Korean conflict was not a war but a “police action.” The Canadian Encyclopedia says, “civilians back home showed little interest in the Korean (War), paying scant attention to the returning soldiers and the 529 who died on and off the battlefield. Moreover, until 1991, the federal government denied the PPCLI veterans the right to wear the medals they had been awarded, and it was never officially recognized on the Wall of Remembrance that veterans erected in 1997 in Brampton, Ont.”
Now the names of the dead are inscribed in the Korean War Book of Remembrance located in the Peace Tower in Ottawa.
Lotoski is a charter member of the Korean War Veterans Association Unit 21 from Edmonton and a life member of the St. Paul Legion Branch 100 and will be participating in the Remembrance Day services in St. Paul on Thursday.