16 Fd Regt and the "Utah" Battalion at Kapyong
by Donald Scott
During the late evening, 23 April 1951, elements of two Chinese divisions, mingling with the routed remnants of the 6th ROK division, streamed between the forward companies of the Australian battalion (3 RAR) causing havoc at Battalion HQ (BHQ) and causing BHQ and the guns of 16 Fd Regt (NZ) to relocate. 'A' Coy (3 RAR) came under heavy sustained attack, but stood firm.
At daylight (24 April), many enemy were killed or taken prisoner, while an unknown number were 'holed up' in and south of the village of CHUKTUN-NI.
Better accounts of this battle exist, so I will confine my comments to that which is pertinent to 213 Field Artillery Battalion (known as the 'Utah' Battalion) which was equipped with 105-mm SP Howitzers.
My Battery Commander, Major Hunt, established radio contact; "Get up the hill, HIT anything that moves, you've got the LONGTOMS" - we now know they were 105s.
Lance-Bombardier Don Forbes, my W/OP, and I climbed toward HILL 504 and found a good view about 300 yards below the crest. Our first target was a small knoll immediately south of the road junction. Two corrections later, all movement ceased. It was apparent that the guns of 213 were 200 yards further south than where they thought they were. Not surprising considering the confusion of the previous night. I gave all subsequent targets false coordinates, ie 200 yards north of actual target, and thereafter each fire mission was 'spot on'.
So, NO RANGING, NO WARNING, NO SURVIVORS!
AIR BURST; 213 was using radar fuses which were not available to 16 Fd Regt at that time. Most targets were small moving bushes, warranting one round gunfire (5 - 6 guns) with 'peppered dust' enveloping the suspect area.
"Enemy troops, each with his own bushy branch, were everywhere" - Bob Parker, Australian Don-R, taken prisoner by the Chinese, describing his journey back up the West Road, early morning, 24 April - source Jack Gallaway, letter.
The enemy persisted in trying to reach the knoll, their apparent objective, until late afternoon when further attempts to reinforce the infiltrators of the previous night ceased. Yes, 213 was under command of 16 Field Regiment.
Later research reveals 213 FA Bn only fired about 800 rounds that day, but in my view, every shell counted. Their gunnery was accurate and murderously effective.
I have no idea how many enemy fell to the guns of 213. Salient Fact: all enemy movement thwarted completely.
This must be one of the few occasions in the Korean War when enemy troops were caught in the open, in daylight, by air-burst artillery.
Australians in the forward companies "were fascinated by the terrible deliberation of the shelling" - Australian Post, 1951.
"The fire put down on the Battalion's left flank, in all likelihood prevented the enemy from establishing a blocking position and preventing the withdrawal of the rifle companies." - Ben O'Dowd, OC 'A' Coy, OC of 3 RAR withdrawal, quoted from his book, 'In Valiant Company', U.Q.Press, March 2000.
I don't believe 213 FA Bn has ever received a fair acknowledgement of their role in the 'Battle of Kapyong'. I hope this goes some way toward redressing that.