72nd Heavy Tank Battalion's Korean War efforts memorialized
CHUN-AN-RI, South Korea — South Korean veterans and active-duty U.S. soldiers gathered on a remote, icy hillside Monday to laud a 2nd Infantry Division unit that helped shape the course of the Korean War.
More than 100 soldiers and dignitaries unveiled a memorial to the 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment, then known as the 72nd Heavy Tank Battalion, at the site of the larger Battle of Kapyong memorial.
Despite heavy losses, the tankers halted a massive North Korean offensive carried out largely by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.
They blocked a key route to Seoul and caused North Korea to begin thinking about the possibility of a stalemate, Korean War veterans said Monday.
“This battle is what eventually pulled together the armistice negotiations. Because of that, it’s very significant,” said Cho Wan-heung, chairman of the Kapyong Battle Memorial Foundation.
On April 24 and 25, 1951, North Korean forces broke through the allied main line near Kapyong, not far from Mount Seorak and the 38th Parallel.
Fighting alongside South Korean, Canadian and Australian servicemembers, 1-72, in particular, showed valor, according to a plaque at the memorial site. The unit’s forward elements became completely surrounded by enemy troops and received their supplies by airlift.
The battalion’s Alpha Company received a presidential unit citation for their action.
“In what many call the fiercest fighting of the war, these fine warriors held,” said 1-72 commander Lt. Col. Thomas Isom. “They saved Kapyong, protected the approach to Seoul and likely saved all of South Korea.”