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3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team remembers Battle of Chipyong-ni

Forgotten War memorial held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Charles Main, the honorary regimental command sergeant major of the 23rd Infantry Regiment "Tomahawks," speaks to soldiers during a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Feb. 19. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Justin A. Naylor

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It's been a little more than 64 years since the Battle of Chipyong-ni. If you don't know the details of this conflict off the top of your head, you're not alone. While it doesn't have the same name power as, say, the Invasion of Normandy or the Battle of the Bulge, it was without a doubt one of the most decisive actions of the Korean War.

In honor of the hard fought victory during this battle, soldiers with 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, "Tomahawks," and 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, "Red Lions," both with 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, took part in a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 19.

"The ceremony was exceptionally good today," said Jim Steinthal, the honorary sergeant major for 37th FA Regt., who served in Korea during the war.

The ceremony also included a delegation of South Korean veterans.

"That's the first time that's happened to my knowledge," said Steinthal.

Two wreathes were laid during the ceremony at the memorial which stands outside of the Tomahawk headquarters. This memorial serves as an ever-present reminder of the sacrifice that the soldiers made during this important battle.

Both 23rd Inf. Regt. and 37th FA Regt. had major roles in this conflict, which was a turning point in the war. Prior to this battle, the United Nations' forces, of which the United States Army was part of, were being badly battered by the Chinese military who were known for sending wave after wave of soldiers against the front lines.

That was until Col. Paul Freeman, commander of the 23rd Infantry Regiment "Tomahawks" ordered his soldiers to hold the crossroads town of Chipyong-ni.

The Chinese People's Volunteer Army were determined to take the town. They sent the entirety of three divisions to encircle and destroy Chipyong-ni, but at the end of three days of fighting, the Tomahawks had successfully turned back the Chinese, but victory didn't come cheaply.

U.S. forces suffered 52 killed, 310 wounded, and 42 missing. It was estimated that more than 1,000 Chinese were killed and another 2,000 wounded.

The legacy of this battle still lives on with the Tomahawks and Red Lions, and for the soldiers who took part in this ceremony this was an important connection to their past.

"Guys like this, they really make you feel like you haven't done a lot," said Spc. Winston Taylor, a Prattville, Ala., native and cannon crew member with the Red Lions. "These guys were there. These guys really did something for their country. I can't imagine what they went through, but it's all for the love of the country."

Taylor has a special connection to this battle. His M777 Howitzer is actually named after it.

A lot has changed since the battle of Chipyong-ni. Steinthal, who visited Korea again in the early 1960's, saw a major difference then, although it had only been a little less than 10 years since the end of the war.

"The difference in the country over those years, it was almost unbelievable," he said. "And now, it's an outstanding metropolis."

Steinthal said that he received a 60-year Korean War commemorative book a few years ago, and it took his breath away.

"In the first two pages you look at what Seoul was like when we got there in 1950 and on the opposite page is what it is now," he said. "It's unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. It looks like New York City."

It's been many years since Steinthal served with the Red Dragons, but he still has a deep connection with the unit.

"When they made me honorary command sergeant major of the regiment here two years ago, that was probably one of the highlights of my military career," he said. "What they done for me it's's hard to be explained the way I feel about that."

Although it's been more than 60 years since the Battle of Chipyong-ni, this annual ceremony will continue to serve as a reminder to Tomahawk and Red Lion Soldiers of the hard fought victory and the legacy that they continue to build on.

Staff Sgt. Justin. A. Naylor is with the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

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