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This article was published 25/4/2016 (1296 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRANDON — Sixty-five years later, Michael Czuboka still recalls many details from a pivotal battle during the Korean War.
"I remember it vividly," the Winnipeg resident said. "There were 700 of us and maybe 10,000 or 20,000 Chinese."
The Battle of Kapyong took place in South Korea at the end of April 1951 and is considered one of Canada’s most significant military engagements.
Czuboka, a private with the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was 19 years old during the weeklong battle.
"We were very lucky to get out of there because we were surrounded by the Chinese army for a couple days," he said. "We had our supplies dropped to us by parachute from the American air force."
One of Czuboka’s most prominent memories during the battle was an evening ambush that saw 500 Chinese soldiers descend upon his mortar platoon. The attacking troops didn’t realize the Canadian platoon was also armed with six 50-calibre machine-guns, and Czuboka said the Chinese offensive was "decimated."
"I think that was a major factor (in the battle) because after that they must have thought, ‘This was a well-armed enemy,’ and their attacks slowed down to some extent after that," he said.
Czuboka enlisted shortly after graduating from high school in Brandon. His older brother had served in the Second World War — Czuboka was only 14 when that war ended — and the young man was eager to embark on an adventure he felt he had missed previously.
"We wanted to go to Korea to help the Korean people... but it was also something exciting that we were going to do," he said.
The excitement of being overseas came down to earth after his first experience on the front lines in South Korea.
"There was something like 100 black American soldiers, and they had all been bayonetted and shot, and they were naked," Czuboka said, adding he didn’t eat for several days after witnessing the battleground. "I did get over it eventually, but it was rather devastating to see on the first occasion."
Czuboka has been back to South Korea on three occasions and said the gratitude of the country’s residents is apparent.
The veteran said it’s important for Canadians to remember the "forgotten war" and honour important moments such as the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong.
"It’s been called the forgotten war because it didn’t happen in Canada. It didn’t really affect that many people except those who were there," Czuboka said. "It’s very significant because... we saved South Korea from becoming a totalitarian communist dictatorship like North Korea is now."
Czuboka has penned a novel based on his experiences during the Korean War entitled Manifest Destiny.
— Brandon Sun
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.