With the end of World War II, Canada saw a rapid demobilization of its armed forces. At its height during the war, Canada had over 1.1 million citizens in uniform. The drawdown left the Canadian armed forces unable to respond initially to the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950. As one of the founding members of the United Nations, Canada declared its commitment to send troops to support UN operations against the North Koreans. On 15 August 1950, the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI); nicknamed the “Patricia’s, was organized to support the Canadian Army Special Force, tasked with aiding UN operations in Korea. The battalion began initial training in Calgary, before departing for Korea aboard the USS Private Joe P. Martinez on 25 November 1950. The battalion arrived in Korea in December, and began mountain training for eight weeks before taking part in combat.
On 22 April 1951, the Chinese undertook a major offensive against UN forces near the Kapyong River. The 2nd PPCLI was attached to the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade, and tasked with the defense of the Kapyong valley. For three days the battalion helped delay the Chinese offensive while the UN established a new defensive line around Seoul. For their participation in the Battle of Kapyong, the 2nd PPCLI was awarded the US Presidential Unit Citation (the highest decoration for unit gallantry in combat). On 25 May 1951, the 2nd PPCLI was transferred to the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 1st Commonwealth Division.
In the fall of 1951 the 2nd PPCLI was replaced by the 1st PPCLI and returned to Canada. In 1953, the 2nd PPCLI was deployed to Germany to support the NATO brigade-group. The 2nd PPCLI remained in Germany until the fall of 1955, when it returned to Canada. From 1955 to 2001, the 2nd PPCLI supported UN peacekeeping operations around the world, including operations in Cyprus, Israel/Golan Heights, Angola, Rwanda, and Bosnia. When the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom against Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, members of the Patricia’s were deployed to support operations. During Operation Apollo, Cpl. Rob Furlong of the 3rd PPCLI broke the long distance sniper kill record (previously held by US Marine GySgt. Carlos Hathcock, and broke again in 2009 by the British corporal Craig Harrison). Furlong’s shots were at 2,430 meters (1.51 miles), killing three al Qaeda fighters. In 2013 the Canadian army began a reorganization of its forces. All three PPCLI battalions were organized under the 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division based in Edmonton, Alberta.
Look for more information regarding Canadian involvement in the Korean War in the future Modern War issue #23 with the article “The First Commonwealth Division 1950-1953” and join the conversation on Facebook!