Kapyong battle remembered, 70 years on

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An Australian army unit holds its ground against a formidable enemy assault, earning widespread praise.

It's not Villers-Brettoneux, Tobruk or Long Tan - all acclaimed actions in Australian military history.

Typical of the conflict known as the "forgotten war", the exploits of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) at the Battle of Kapyong are much less known.

On April 24 - Anzac eve - it will be 70 years since the battalion joined several other United Nations forces in making a crucial stand against overwhelming odds during the Korean War.

It earned 3RAR the US Presidential Unit Citation, an honour bestowed on only two other Australian army units.

Federal Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester visited current 3RAR soldiers based at Townsville earlier this week to remember the battle.

"On difficult terrain these courageous troops fought off the attacking Chinese infantry. Not only is the Battle of Kapyong remembered as an important success for UNC forces, it was one of Australia's most hard-fought battles of the Korean War," Mr Chester said.

Reg Saunders, the first Aboriginal to be commissioned as an Australian army officer, commanded a 3RAR company at Kapyong.

3RAR was a unit in the 27th Commonwealth Brigade, which blocked Chinese units on a key route to Seoul through the Kapyong Valley.

Along with a Canadian battalion, supported by New Zealand artillery and US armour, the Australians withstood repeated attacks on the night of April 23 and into the next day.

"With serene and indefatigable persistence, the gallant soldiers held their defensive positions and took heavy tolls of the enemy," the president citation read.

"In some instances when the enemy penetrated the defences, the commanders directed friendly artillery fire on their own positions in repelling the thrusts."

3RAR suffered 32 dead and 59 wounded, plus three taken prisoner before it was forced to withdraw.

The attacking Chinese division, which enjoyed numerical superiority of five to one against 27th Brigade, was unable to break through.

Seoul was only 60km away and the battle proved crucial in blunting the Chinese offensive.

The battle is one of the most famous actions fought by the Australians and Canadians in the Korean War.