CEDAR CITY — More than 250 people, including civic leaders and military veterans, observed the 70th anniversary of a Korean War battle known as “The Miracle at Gapyeong” on Wednesday.
The hourlong ceremony at Cedar City’s Veterans Park included tributes to Korean War veterans and the unveiling of a memorial stone from Gapyeong inscribed with the words: “We honor, respect and remember our heroes.”
Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards gave a short account of the remarkable battle that had taken place exactly seven decades earlier at Gapyeong, located in northern part of South Korea, involving soldiers from Southern Utah’s 213th Field Artillery Battalion.
Exactly 70 years ago today, May 26, 1951, 240 soldiers from Cedar City and Richfield found themselves fighting against approximately 4,000 Chinese soldiers in a battle that began in the early morning hours. It was the middle of the night. Our unit was outnumbered. The terrain was beyond difficult for fighting. Yet, these soldiers never gave up. That day, hundreds of Chinese soldiers lost their lives, along with hundreds more being captured and surrendering. The small group of soldiers from the 213th that was involved in this seemingly impossible battle, all returned home without any loss of life.
Retired Col. Daniel S. Roberts, who also spoke at Wednesday’s event, noted that all of the 600 soldiers from Southern Utah who were under the command of Lt. Col. J. Frank Dalley returned home safely to their families at the end of the war.
“Everyone that we interviewed said that there was divine intervention and protection throughout the whole 18 months that they were there,” Roberts said.
During his remarks, Utah Army National Guard assistant adjutant general Tyler Smith spoke of what a soldier thinks about during wartime.
“When soldiers are in war, there’s a lot of things that go through their mind,” Smith said. “I would argue that probably the foremost thing in their mind was that they had the love and support of their community and of their families. And so, they had everything to come home to, and they had each other.”
Also installed next to the new monument stone is a metal plaque honoring the contributions of the late Sunny Lee, who was recognized as being instrumental in making the project happen.
“She spent countless years strengthening the bonds between Cedar City and Gapyeong, and our brave Korean War soldiers,” Wilson-Edwards said, adding that Lee had first approached her about the idea for the monument stone in 2019.
“We were both excited for this unique one-of-a-kind gift to come to our city and the special connection it signifies, especially in light of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War,” Wilson-Edwards said.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the plans to hold a ceremony last fall, and related travel restrictions also kept the Gapyeong contingent from attending Wednesday’s event.
The mayor said that since the initial planning for the monument stone, Lee had passed away.
“However, I know that if she were here, she would want us to focus on the veterans and continue to honor and remember them.”
Johnny Oh, a professor at Southern Utah University who wore traditional Korean clothing at the ceremony, also spoke of Lee’s legacy.
“We need to look to the sacred path,” he said. “The path was made sacred by the sacrifices and devotion to serving by those who have gone before us. I feel like Sunny Lee is smiling down on us today, alongside with the Korean War veterans who’ve gone before.”
Maj. Emilio Suazo, executive officer of the 2nd Battalion 222nd Field Artillery, commonly known as the Triple Deuce, said the 213th was the forerunner of today’s 2-222.
“We’re proud of our storied history and lineage of the 213th,” he said. “On behalf of the battalion, I want to thank all of you for your support, which has spanned the better part of the last century. … I want to thank the people of Korea and the city of Gapyeong for remembering and honoring the sacrifices of the 213th with this stone memorial.”
In commemoration of the special occasion, dozens of South Korean flags were flown alongside U.S. flags in and around the park and along the adjacent streets of Main Street and 200 North/Freedom Boulevard.
Wilson-Edwards spoke fondly of the sister city relationship that Cedar City has shared with Gapyeong since 2009, which has united the two communities culturally.
“Over the years, since the formation of this sister city relationship, delegations from South Korea have visited our beautiful city, and our city has had the opportunity to travel to Gapyeong,” the mayor said, noting that both communities have their own respective Korean War memorials.
Wilson-Edwards also talked of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday during her concluding remarks.
“As we look towards this coming Monday, Memorial Day, I can’t help but take this moment and publicly recognize that for countless families across the nation, Memorial Day is often a painful reminder of those who were never afforded the opportunity to return home and attend events such as this and be honored as veterans for their service to our community,” she said.
“Today, as we look to the past and the bright sister city bonds that were forged on the battlefield, we need to also say thank you to all of those who have and continue to serve our country and offer our deepest gratitude and appreciation.”
The program’s musical numbers were performed by the Cedar City Middle School band. Music teacher Allan Lee played “Taps” on the trumpet at the conclusion of the ceremony.
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