Chipyong-ni was a little known mountain village until a battle there changed the momentum of the Korean War and made an indelible mark in military history.
A day after the 62nd anniversary of the start of the Korean War, American, South Korean and French officials and Korean War veterans gathered in Chipyong-ni June 26, to mark one of the pivotal battles of the brutal three-year conflict.
During a ceremony hosted by the Republic of Korea, or ROK, Army’s 20th Mechanized Infantry Division, officials and veterans laid wreaths and flowers at a memorial in the modern day city of Jipyeong-ni, formerly spelled Chipyong-ni during the Korean War.
In late 1950, the large-scale Communist Chinese intervention in the Korean War dramatically changed the complexity of the conflict and increased the number of enemy troops that United Nations forces faced.
Occupying a critical junction about 40 miles southwest of then-Communist occupied Seoul in February 1951, Chipyong-ni was a crossroads village less than mile long and a few blocks wide.
The 2nd Infantry Division’s 23rd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, augmented by a French infantry battalion, held the village and took on an entire Communist Chinese Army element during three days of heated battle Feb 13-15, 1950.
Enveloped by enemy forces and fighting around the clock in near freezing temperatures, around 5,000 American and French troops repelled and defeated 25,000 Communist Chinese forces and effectively shattered what historians called the myth of the “magical millions of Chinese in Korea.”
Commanded by Col. Paul L. Freeman Jr., the 23rd Infantry Regiment had previously clashed with Chinese forces at the nearby Twin Towers and at Kunu-ri during the previous winter retreat from North Korea.
Eighth Army Historian Ron Miller said the battle changed the momentum of the war because it was the first time Communist Chinese troops had been stopped in ground combat and forced to retreat.
“This success invigorated Eighth Army with a heightened sense of morale and a renewed fighting spirit,” said Miller. “The successful defense of an isolated regimental combat team without grievous losses against a numerically superior force symbolized a turning point.”
According to Miller, by early April 1951, United Nations forces had ejected the Communist Chinese from Seoul and pushed them north of the 38th parallel to the approximate area of the Military Demarcation Line that continues to divide Korean Peninsula today.
During the ceremony, ROK Army Maj. Gen. Na Sang-woong, commander of the 20th Mechanized Infantry Division, paid tribute to the “noble sacrifice of the UN Soldiers who fought bravely in the mountains, valleys and fields of the Republic of Korea defending freedom and democracy.”
The ROK Army 20th ID commander said the veterans of the Battle of Chipyongi-ni “sowed the seeds of democracy and prosperity” in South Korea.
Brig. Gen. Robin B. Akin, U.S. Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command assistant chief of staff for logistics, also thanked the veterans for their service and sacrifices.
“The Korean War reminds us that freedom is never free,” said Akins. “It also reminds the world that people of free nations will stand together to defend it.”