JIPYEONG-RI, South Korea – With the battlefield silent for 60 years, and the fighting positions nearly overgrown by the country’s economic growth, Korean, American and French military leaders paid homage to the service members who fought in a key victory during the Korean War – the Battle of Jipyeong-ri (Chipyong-ni).
The Republic of Korea government, 2nd Infantry Division, the ROK Army 20th Mechanized Division and the French Military Attaché, commemorated the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Jipyeong-ri during a ceremony in Jipyeong-ri, South Korea, Feb. 15.
“I would like to thank every one of you for being here,” said Korean Maj. Gen. Na Sang-woong, 20th Mech. Div. commander during the ceremony. “I would like to offer sincere respect for those who sacrificed and dedicated their lives here in Jipyeong-ri. We are able to stand here because of your sacrifice. I would like to show my deepest gratitude for those who fought for people they never saw and never knew.”
The battle, sometimes known as the Gettysburg of the Korean War, saw vastly outnumbered Korean, American and French forces defeat a numerically superior Chinese force in hard fighting.
Surrounded on all sides, the Warrior Division’s 23rd Regimental Combat Team with an attached French Battalion was hemmed in by roughly 25,000 Chinese Communist Forces around Jipyeong-ri. United Nations Forces had previously retreated in the face of the CCF instead of getting cut off, but this time they stood and fought.
“A relatively small force of 5,600 allied soldiers of the 23rd Regimental Combat Team and a partnering French Army Battalion under the command of Col. Paul L. Freeman formed a defensive perimeter on this ground in February of 1951,” said Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, the 2nd ID commander. “Jipyeong-ri was an important transportation and communication hub, and therefore very prominent on the list of enemy targets.”
U.N. Forces were outnumbered but fought hard, Tucker added.
“All told, the allies fought at odds of roughly 15 to one,” he said. “For two horrific, bloody, frigid nights, the American and French soldiers held against impossible odds.”
On the third day, units of the 5th Cavalry Regiment punched a hole in the Chinese lines relieving the 23rd RCT.
“French, U.S., and ROK soldiers achieved glorious victory here in Jipyeong-ri,” said Col. Eric Jouin, the French Embassy’s Defense Attaché. “Jipyeong-ri has a lot of meaning to the French Force. At this place, the French Battalion joined 2nd Infantry Division, which was born in France in 1917 and fought there during World War I and II.”
Jouin added that the battle also held special significance because the French Battalion’s commander, Lt. Gen. Monclar, “composed a company with Korean soldiers here in Jipyeong-ri to support French and U.S. Army and took two ROKA officers who fought in the Jipyeong-ri Battle to the French Military Academy, which first started the military cooperation between Korea and France.”
The victory is considered so decisive that the Chinese began peace overtures soon after.
Tucker, Na and Jouin also laid wreathes at the memorial, which is split into three portions—Korean, American and French.