The film also includes an interview with Chinese veteran Xun Shun, now living in Taiwan, who recalled that he was among thousands of soldiers pressed into battle at Kapyong under brutal conditions in the Chinese army.
“Even if you don’t want to attack, you don’t have a choice,” he said, speaking through a translator.
“If the enemy doesn’t kill you, your officer will.”
Stevens told Postmedia News that the painful stories from both sides of the battle were aimed at ensuring the film doesn’t amount to glorification of war.
“I don’t think it’s quite the same thing as wanting to be a ‘warrior nation.’ If you listen to these accounts of war that are in our series, you might actually think maybe we should be very, very careful about getting into a war,” he said. “Do not go into that lightly.”
Another Canadian veteran of Kapyong, Kim Reynolds of Prince George, B.C., grows tearful remembering fallen comrades in what he called a “massive Chinese attack.”
Still, the Canadians prevailed – with only 12 of their own killed – thanks to the defensive strategy coordinated by PPCLI Col. Jim Stone, carefully chosen artillery positions on the prized height of land and a crucial barrage of fire from nearby New Zealand gunners when the Chinese, at one point, appeared likely to overrun the hill.
At least 300 Chinese soldiers were killed in the main assault on the Canadian position, and hundreds more died in the associated clashes.
“It was quite quickly clear, when we started doing just crash research, that this was an extraordinary battle, an extraordinary engagement – and really important in terms of the outcome of the war,” said Stevens, whose 10-part series of War Story documentaries is broadcasting Thursday through Sunday on History Television.
He suggested the name Kapyong wouldn’t register with most Canadians because “Canadians don’t think it’s of high value to teach their own history” in school and beyond.
“And I think there was a certain amount of exhaustion coming off the Second World War,” Stevens added, pointing to the “forgotten war” label often attached to the Korean conflict. “People wanted to build the new Canada. They didn’t want to know about this.”