Kap’yong by Andrew Scott
Prologue – The Departure
The thoughts were racing in and out of my head
on the bus out of Gagetown to training
for combat were scattered and scared.
My family was there to see myself off.
My mother would not stop crying,
she kept on calling me her “Baby Boy”,
and fixing an already wrinkled collar.
It was so embarrassing in front of everyone.
Our grandmother just smiled, looked up,
and gave me a kiss,
then she ran her hand down my face affectionately.
It was a very weird feeling.
Grammy was short but had an imposing
way about her towards all of us.
Her years of living and working hard,
raising five boys can do that.
It may have been because I was the only grandson.
Little sister stood there watching,
not leaving my Mom’s side,
only when she gave me a tight hug.
She was seven years younger than me
so we did not share a lot of time.
I was usually out
and Joan was with Mom.
So there was not that brother, sister bonding time.
My Father was silent
and the last to shake my hand.
The eyes said it all,
pride with a tear.
I knew this meant so much to him
being a veteran of the second great war.
Dad did not have to say a word.
I did not look back
when we all started to drive away.
The bus was so quiet.
Nineteen of us going
to a place in the world
that none of us had seen before.
Part I – Bonded Brothers
Combat training brought my senses
to peel back the layers of hell.
Nothing could have prepared me
for the daylight exhaustion
and the night time nightmares.
Heavy rains, scorching sun,
shaking thunder mixed with near lightening
never stopped the 5 a.m. wake up times.
The screaming torture in our ears,
being told how all were ashamed of us,
pathetic members of the human race.
Private Bishop snapped and started crying,
emotions just gave way to believing,
throwing everything to fight back
before collapsing on the floor, quivering.
When we came back from the field that night
Private Bishop, we were told, was in the infirmary.
His bunk was made and locker cleaned.
We never saw him again,
we were now eighteen recruits.
That was not the worse sight
of those weeks of reform.
Private Michael falling during a muddy
downpour of an evening was.
Our Commander thought we did not
run like good, honorable soldiers
and ordered us through an obstacle course.
No man’s humerus portion of their arm
should bent that way.
We all saw him laying there
and another Private carried him back,
another gone, never to be right again.
It scared us seventeen silent
for the remainder of our time here.
Graduation Day was a relief.
To us it meant leaving this place in Quebec
that not one of us knew how to pronounce.
We all had our orders for departure.
Moving from our homeland, Canada
to the unknown in Korea.
Part II – Korean Conflict
We landed at our camp in late March of 1951.
Shuttled to the middle of nowhere.
Paired with Australian servicemen
under the United Nation’s flag,
part of the British Commonwealth Forces Korea.
None of it made sense to us.
New soldiers that knew nothing about the conflict.
We were just thrown in the middle of everything,
the confusion, the turmoil,
not really knowing who the enemy was.
What I did know or what I found out
is that we were welcome arrivals.
There were Canadians that did not even
make it before us,
dying on route on the west coast of our home
just months before us arriving.
Some fellow officers looked at us as jinxed
and I never understood that.
Our navy destroyers had been here
safe and sound since July the year before.
They labelled all of us the 1st Commonwealth Division
and sent us head first into a planned battle.
Training, practicing, uniforming
between people of nations
who I did not know.
What was ahead for us that was hidden away.
Marching brothers towards Kap’yong.
Part III – First Phase
Looking back I still did not know what the plan was
but we moved out towards Kap’yong.
South Koreans, Australians, Americans,
New Zealanders, British and us Canadians.
All close to a half a million of us
trying to take the battle along the river
from the Chinese and North Koreans.
Somehow this engagement was to protect Seoul.
No matter what plan was overheard
I never could understand it.
To be honest I just wanted to go home,
it was safer than here.
Swaying back and forth,
gun in hand, pack on back,
I do not think I held the emotions well.
Questions were running up and down me.
If there were russles around me
would I look before I shot?
Would I take one of ours or theirs
or would I buckle and get taken myself?
I did not know then what I know now.
Part IV – First Night
When night fall came
the bodies were so weary or dead,
setting up camp under a paranoid occupation.
At night all the whites of people’s eyes are the same
friend or foe, just all the same.
We dug trenches to hide in
from our enemies
knowing they could ambush at anytime.
Rumours were spreading faster than
the fires guarding the night.
Our South Korean partners were falling down,
being overtaken by the enemy.
We were hearing mixed reports from other allies
and the confusion amongst them.
Flashes of the day were stepping though my mind
that made every conflicting syllable believable.
Firing all night from our Vickers machine guns,
off in the mid air as defense,
kept blood shot eyes from closing,
in preparation of our bunk collapsing.
Feeling the ground’s creatures
kept me awake for the remainder.
When fall out was ordered
my headache and the dirt on me
was making my skin twitch.
My pack weighed twice the
amount as the day before.
Half alert, beaten, tired,
we continued up to conquered Hill 677.
Whatever that truly was.
Part V – Hill 677
The next two days were such a blur,
chaos reigned over us and the enemy.
Terrain made it difficult to ambush
so we laid trip wires with grenades
and mortar bombs at every angle.
This proved as costly as not only
were the Chinese victims of our ingenuity,
we were also losing needed men.
Seemed odd having us and them
laying together in above ground graves.
By night all attacks were so intense,
the red light bombs were in all direction.
I could not tell the distance of where they were from
our targeted hill or another from afar.
It was the same with the savage echoes
that filled the night sky.
Were the voices friends or foe, near or far?
The only confirmation that a person
got in knowing who was who in our nights
was the explosion of bullets and grenades
being aimed at our shallow trenches.
The cries of dying men filled our ears,
the ambushing enemy did not care
of the sacrificing of the ones we held prisoner
in those ditches of burial ground.
I am not ashamed to say during these
hours of days of survival prayer
that I lost bodily fluids and functions.
Watching charging countrymen get cut down
did not make stopping seem important.
Looking back now, was any of it?
Part VI – Surrender
Sometime before dawn the firing
in defence of the hill stopped.
My body ached from a night
of fear, anger and hell.
Until the silence, they kept coming
and it felt like the Chinese would never stop.
We did not lower our guards
when our ears heard of the retreat.
This was a battle of unpredictability
and we were not to be tricked.
I do not think my knotted muscles relaxed
until I saw supplies being airlifted
into us for replenishment.
We had nothing left to defend ourselves,
low on everything, food, ammunition.
If the Chinese only knew how close they were
before they surrendered that day.
After April 25, 1951, they never tried to take Seoul again
and to be honest, I did not know the calendar date
until I was told later on
or even how important our standing tall
did for this conflict and the victory of our nations.
How could you?
Epilogue – The Aftermath
I am standing here again on Hill 677
as they lay a plaque in our honor,
celebrating our courage under fire.
Only if the powers that be truly knew.
I had not seen a lot of the mean for years,
we went our separate ways after the conflict.
We spent time sharing photos of families.
It is really terrible that our families
would never see the true us,
what we were before this battle.
My mind drifts off, questioning?
They are celebrating us
but what did we truly accomplish?
The two countries of Korea are still divided.
All I can see that it did
was combine everyone’s blood in unity,
flowing still in the Kap’yong River.
Where it will always be.
May 2, 2012
© Andrew Scott – Just a Maritime Boy
Bio: Andrew Scott is a native of Fredericton, NB. During his time as an active poet, Andrew Scott has taken the time to speak in front of a classrooms, judge poetry competitions as well as published worldwide in such publications as The Art of Being Human, Battered Shadows and The Broken Ones. His books, Snake With A Flower, The Phoenix Has Risen and The Storm Is Coming are available now