Mike Levy–Canadian Hero

    Today, I bring attention to one of Canada’s heroes from the Korean War, Mike Levy. Every man who serves in a combat zone and bares his breast to the enemy is a hero, but Mike Levy was recognized by his peers, the ultimate recognition. Mike Levy’s story is one of heroism long before Korea. Here it is.

PPCLI salutes war hero following burial in Vancouver
EDMONTON – Flags outside the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry headquarters at Edmonton Garrison flew at half-mast Tuesday to commemorate the burial of one of the regiment’s unsung heroes.
By The Edmonton Journal June 17, 2007
MICHAEL LEVY (1925-2007)

EDMONTON – Flags outside the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry headquarters at Edmonton Garrison flew at half-mast Tuesday to commemorate the burial of one of the regiment’s unsung heroes.

"Major Michael Levy was an exceptional man who had a long and distinguished career that began with his escape from a Japanese internment camp in 1943," said Maj. Eric Liebert, regimental major of the PPCLI.

Mr. Levy’s most renowned feat would come eight years later during the Korean War when he would turn back a massed assault by Communist Chinese troops at the Battle of Kapyong by calling in an artillery barrage, virtually on top of his own position.

Hub Gray is author of Beyond the Danger Close: the Korean Experience Revealed and was a young officer in the PPCLI’s 2nd Battalion and a friend of Mr. Levy’s.

His barrage of 4,500 artillery rounds stopped the Chinese advance a mere 16 to 18 kilometres from the Korean capital of Seoul, Gray said.

Dug into their trenches, all 24 members of his platoon survived but it wasn’t until 2004 that his exploit was recognized when then Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson bestowed on Levy his own coat of arms.

Mr. Levy was born in India in 1925, the son of a British geologist. His family moved to Shanghai the following year.

When the Japanese captured Shanghai in December 1941, the 16-year-old became one of thousands of European prisoners who found themselves behind barbed wire in Lungwha, the internment camp made famous by the Steven Spielberg movie Empire of the Sun.

On the night of May 22, 1944, Mr. Levy and four friends escaped, then made their way by foot and by junk 3,200 kilometres across occupied China to an allied airbase.

Mr. Levy was flown to India where he joined the British Army and learned the fine art of guerrilla warfare.

"The British taught him how to blow up things and slit throats, then parachuted him behind the Japanese lines into Malaya along with seven Chinese, most of them Chinese Canadians," Gray said.

After the Japanese surrender, Mr. Levy served with the war crimes tribunal in Hong Kong, then helped his family leave China. They chose Canada as their new home, in part because of the Chinese Canadians Mr. Levy served with in Malaya.

In Vancouver Mr. Levy opened a restaurant and joined the reserves. When the Canadian government put out a call in 1950 for a volunteer Canadian Army Special Force to assist in the United Nation’s effort to push back a Communist invasion of South Korea he sold his restaurant and joined the newly created 2nd Battalion, PPCLI.

Mr. Levy exhibited a magnificent calm under fire, Gray said. He attributes it to Levy’s Shanghai upbringing.

"He was inscrutable," Gray said. "If someone would talk to him he would evaluate them but say nothing, keeping his own counsel."

On the night of April 24, 1951, Mr. Levy’s platoon of 24 men found themselves vastly outnumbered by a surging Chinese offensive. They were on a ridge line in the Kapyong gorge, 500 metres from the next PPCLI platoon, part of an allied force of 1,400 Canadians and Australians.

The Canadian officer commanding the troops along that front asked his battalion commander to order a retreat. Lt. Col. Jim Stone refused.

"No one withdraws," Stone said. "If we lose that position we lose it all."

Determined to hold on, Mr. Levy called on the only asset in which the allies outclassed the Chinese — artillery.

Artillery shells and mortar rounds began to rain down. Using a hand-held radio Mr. Levy called out distances and brought the rounds ever-closer until they exploded only 15 to 20 metres from his platoon’s slit trenches. Throughout the barrage Mr. Levy scuttled between those trenches, keeping up his men’s spirits and urging them to fight.

The Canadian line held. Seoul was saved, but for his own reasons regimental commander Lt. Col. Jim Stone never cited Mr. Levy for a medal.

Returning to Canada, Mr. Levy married and he and his wife, Marjorie, raised four children. He continued to serve in the Canadian Army as part of a NATO contingent in Germany, as a peacekeeper in Cyprus and with the International commission for Supervision and Control in Viet Nam. From 1966 to 1968 he was posted to Griesbach Barracks in Edmonton.

Mr. Levy retired from the military in 1974. He died June 4 after a lengthy illness and was buried Tuesday in a small private service in Vancouver.

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