A forgotten Hero of a forgotten war

Murray Edwards attends a ceremony for his 90th year certificate presented by Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead in November 2019. Credit: Peter Mallett

Murray Edwards attends a ceremony for his 90th year certificate presented by Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead in November 2019. Credit: Peter Mallett

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A 99-year-old veteran of the Korean War isn’t giving up his life-long quest to see a platoon mate receive proper recognition for his unparalleled heroism at the Battle of Kapyong.

Murray Edwards served Canada from 1942 – the height of the Second World War – to the Korean War, Cyprus, and the Six Day War in the Middle East before his retirement from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1969.

Edwards, a resident at the Veterans Lodge at Broadmead, turns 100 in January. While his mobility has been hampered by a stroke and he uses a walker to get around, his memory remains crystal clear of his time in Korea and the selflessness of Lt Mike Levy. 

He says Lt Levy was intentionally excluded from a Military Cross medal for heroism because of the commanding officer’s bigotry towards Jews.

Edwards says Levy is truly a forgotten hero of Canada’s ‘Forgotten War’. Levy died in 2007.

“I was lucky to know him and we were lucky to have him as the most experienced officer in the entire [PPCLI] battalion,” said Edwards. “We were also lucky to have him in the right place at the right time at Kapyong.”

Recalling Kapyong

In 1950, when war again broke out in Korea, the Second Battalion Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry were deployed to the Korean Peninsula as part of the United Nations Command Forces response to the invasion of South Korea by communist forces from the north.

On April 21, 600,000 soldiers from North Korea and of the 60th Chinese Infantry Division began their march south in an ill-fated attempt to break Allied lines and capture Seoul.

A year later, the advancing army flooded the Kapyong Gorge. The UN contingent from New Zealand, Australia and the United States were grossly outnumbered, but occupied strategic positions.

The Battle of Kapyong began in the nighttime hours of April 25, 1951, as the Chinese launched a massive assault on 700 Patricians exposed in a vulnerable position on Hill 677. Those included Lt Levy’s Platoon 10, which he commanded.

In multiple radio transmissions, and hunkered down in a foxhole, Lt Levy ordered mortars and artillery be fired near his position to attack the enemy.

More than 2,300 shells fell in close proximity to him, some of them landing within 10 yards. The heavy fire worked, resulting in the decisive victory for UN Forces and mass casualties for the Chinese.

“If it had been someone like myself or another officer in his place, we wouldn’t have been as effective in calling in the artillery or mortar fire the way he did,” said Edwards. “The big thing was he put his own personal safety and survival aside and called in mortar fire, drawing it perilously close to his position.”

Robbed of honours

According to Edwards, and multiple accounts from other PPCLI veterans, after catching wind of Lt Levy’s remarkable efforts, PPCLI commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Stone declared “I will never award a medal to a Jew.”

Instead of Levy receiving a Military Cross for his role in the victory, a medal was awarded to the Commander of D Company headquarters, Captain J.G. ‘Wally’ Mills, who was the man that helped monitor and relay Lt Levy’s coordinates.   

Since Lt Levy was such a well-known figure in the PPCLI and his reputation from the Second World War preceeded him, word of LCol Stone’s remarks spread like wildfire. Edwards says many of his fellow Patricians were “truly devastated” to hear their commanding officer’s decree.

“Hearing Stone’s comments on Levy lowered our unit’s morale and esteem and made us all wonder how our own colonel could make such a remark. It was very obvious the colonel did not single out Levy as an individual, but that is how he felt about Jewish people. I think his [Levy’s] chance of getting a medal ended there.”

Levy’s son, Ottawa-based accountant Don Levy says he and his family are still perplexed by reports of Col Stone’s comments, since neither he nor his siblings or their parents ever identified as being Jewish.

“Over the years many people have mistakenly assumed our family is Jewish, but we are not, and in all the writings about my father and the Korean War, the error has never been corrected,” said Levy.

Righting the wrong

In the years following the war, Edwards obtained accounts from dozens of PPCLI members who had heard LCol Stone’s comments in an attempt to get Lt Levy due credit. Lt Levy and his entire battalion did receive the rare United States Presidential Unit Citation in the years following the war, but nothing similar came from Canada.

But time would eventually expire on Edward’s hopes, as military proviso prohibits the retroactive awards for military personnel after a period of five years.

He tried to get that reversed with the help of Hub Gray, historian author of Beyond The Danger Close.

“In a situation that can only be described as frantic life or death battle, Levy demonstrated his capabilities under the most trying of conditions,” wrote Gray in one passage.

With the help of Canadian military historians Dan Bjarnason and David Bercuson, Gray managed to open up a clearer understanding about how Kapyong was won.

Their efforts caught the attention of former Governor-General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson which resulted in Lt Levy being granted a Coat of Arms in 2004.

In 2017, Lt Levy was posthumously awarded an Apostle of Peace Medal by the Democratic Republic of Korea during a ceremony in Calgary.

During the acceptance speech by his son Guy Levy said that if his father was here today he would immediately want to share the recognition with the 17 men of his platoon who “so valiantly defended Hill 677 and the road to Seoul.”

Edwards isn’t giving up his dream to see more recognition bestowed upon his friend. He is hoping community leaders in Victoria and across Canada see the light and name a public building in Lt Levy’s name.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

Leave a Reply




If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.