JIPYEONG-RI, South Korea - The air was heavy and thick with emotions. Officials and veterans gather around reminiscing about their role in history. Some of the veterans fought back their tears. A few sobbed lightly as if they were reliving a moment in time where American, French and Korean soldiers fought bravely against the communist Chinese in the Battle of Chipyong-ni.
More than 290 personnel attended the annual Chipyong-ni memorial ceremony to show their respect in remembrance of their fallen comrades May 30.
Gone but not forgotten, the Chipyong-ni ceremony highlights a time when brave men from different nations congregate and remember a time where bravery, hard work and dedication proved that the Chinese were no match for them.
“I’m a proud former member of the 23rd ,” said Yoshito Nishioka a Korean veteran from the 23rd Infantry Division. “I appreciate being able to attend the memorial and it’s my second time here.”
Many of the veterans returned to Korea for the first time in over 60 years. Others have visited the memorial before.
“I’m enjoying the ceremony dedicated to the soldiers who died here,” said Wayne E. Perry an Army veteran. “It’s great to honor those who lost their lives in the battle.”
Maj. Gen. Edward Cardon, 2nd Infantry Division commander, was a guest speaker at the memorial ceremony. The Republic of Korea hosted a ceremony for the Army’s 20th Mechanized Infantry Division in Jipyeong-ri previously known as Chipyong-ni during the Korean War.
“Together, with our French brothers-in-arms and our Korean Allies, we honor the legacy of the great soldiers who fought so bravely at this bloody battlefield 62 years ago,” said Cardon.
The Battle of Chipyong-ni was a substantial battle during the Korean War that took place Feb. 13 through 15, 1951.
United Nation Forces proved they could stand and fight the numerically superior Communist Chinese Forces. This achievement proved how soldiers from different nations came together successfully and fought as one force.
The U.S. Army’s 23rd Regimental Combat Team and a French army battalion were completely surrounded by a much larger Chinese force. Outnumbered five to one, the U.S. and French soldiers valiantly defended a tiny village at a vital road intersection on low ground. They held off wave after wave of Chinese “human sea” attacks during three nights of devastating fighting.
“At the time of the battle, they felt that all of the soldiers were one team, regardless of their nations,” said Lee Han-chan a veteran that was wounded while a member of Capital Division Command. “Today we all come here in memory of the ones who died and the ones who are here today.”
Cardon told the veterans and guests that today’s soldiers can learn from their sacrifices.
“The sacrifices made by these men in the name of liberty are a gift that free people everywhere can never forget,” said Cardon. “So we gather here today not only to honor the memory of the 51 UN soldiers killed, 250 wounded and 42 missing, but to celebrate their victory and learn from their example.”
During the memorial ceremony, the Korean Armistice Agreement was also mentioned. The KAA was an agreement to “ceasefire” to the Korean War to this day. The agreement meant that both parties agree to stop fighting without either of them officially surrendering. The KAA was signed on July 27, 1953, by Lt. Gen. William Harrison Jr., who at the time represented United Nation Command, north Korea Gen. Nam II who represented the north Korean People's Army and the Chinese People's Volunteer Army.
The armistice was designed to "insure a complete cessation of hostilities and all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved. No ‘final peaceful settlement’ has been achieved yet.”