Jean Paul St. Aubin
Jean Paul St. Aubin joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1951, leaving behind his government job and looking for adventure. He volunteered to serve in Korea, not knowing where it was and despite the risks which worried his family as his brother had died serving during World War II. He describes his first impressions of Korea and details his duties as a Pioneer. He offers an account of the difficulties of war, providing an example of an attack on fellow soldiers as they attempted to carry out a mission, and offers a glimpse of what it was like on the front lines enduring cold weather and corresponding with loved ones back home. He considers it an honor to have served in Korea and to have helped the Korean people.
First Impressions of Korea
Jean Paul St. Aubin describes his first impressions after landing in Korea. He recounts the destruction, seeing few trees and buildings. He shares that it was hard to believe how poor the living conditions were for the Koreans as he witnessed malnourishment, naked children begging in the streets, and women working in the rice fields with their babies.
Minefields and Cold Temperatures
Jean Paul St. Aubin describes his duty laying minefields. He recounts carrying out sweeps after opposing forces dropped shells on the fields and on their trenches. He also mentions that Canadian forces used dugouts to keep warm, utilizing gasoline and ammunition cases to create their own sources of heat.
Knowledge of Korea and Other Countries
Jean Paul St. Aubin shares he does not recollect studying Korea in school and that he knew nothing about Korea at the time the war broke out. He remembers having some knowledge of Japan and China as well as a few other countries due to their World War II connections though. He also recalls a few specifics learned in school centering on American and Canadian history.
Difficulties of War
Jean Paul St. Aubin details a difficult experience while out on patrol. He recounts orders to capture a small hill and the plan being to send 20 soldiers up the hill, leaving 20 in reserve at the base of the hill. He shares that those sent up the hill were attacked with grenades and suffered wounds, were killed, were taken prisoner, or went missing.
Letters During War
Jean Paul St. Aubin recalls writing letters home and receiving letters often. He remembers that he, collectively, received 3-4 letters from his family members and girlfriend each week despite being on the front lines and mentions that the mail service was good. He describes the topics of conversation on which most of the letters centered.
[Beginning of recorded material]
J: My name is Jean Paul St. Aubin. St. Aubin. S-T. A-U-B-I-N.
I: Um hm. What is your birthday?
J: My birthday is on the 6th of October,
I: Uh huh.
J: Nineteen thirty.
I: Nineteen thirty.
J: That’s right.
I: Where were you born?
J: Right here in Ottawa.
I: Ah. So you are Ottawa boy.
J: Ottawa boy.
I: Okay. Um, tell me about your family when you were growing up here.
J: Oh. I grew up in Ottawa. That was during the, uh, the Depression
before the War. And, uh, we lived like other families lived, you know, with, with anything that we could get. My father, for a while, was a taxi driver, and then he worked at the, uh, Printing Bureau in Ottawa as a stoker.
I: Um hm.
J: And he, uh, furnished downstairs. And then when the War came, uh, that changed quite a life of a lot of people in Ottawa, uh.
And we had a brother that joined in 1939 with the Ottawa [INAUDIBLE]. And he left in that September and, uh. So he was, he never came back.
J: He was killed, uh, on the, uh, 9th of June, 1944 in France.
J: Yeah. Then after that, well, I grew up in Ottawa. I worked for the government.
I: Well, tell me about the school before you talk about your job.
J: Oh, well I went to school, I went up to [Brimper] School which was a French Catholic School. Then I went up to the Academy Lasalle which was, again, a high school till, uh, grade 10. I left there. And then I, I started to work at the government. I worked for Veterans Affairs up on [Clauding] Avenue
J: Yes. And I just, that’s where I got a bit, a bite of the, uh, Armed Forces probably. And we were sending out the medals for the, uh,
World War II veterans. So that was part of our job to line them up on a big table
I: Um hm.
J: where the people, we had ladies stuffing them into, uh, bags and then shipping them out to these veterans.
J: So that was part of my job there. Then I went to work for the RCMP in Ottawa. I was a clerk. And I was back in 1950.
Then when the War came in Korea, I joined the Armed Forces in 1951, January 1951. I did my training in [Valcartier[ Quebec as I was with the Royal Rangers [INAUDIBLE] which is the first [INAUDIBLE] Regiment which
I: Royal Van du?
J: Well, the Van du, yeah. Van du is [INAUDIBLE] The Van Du name comes because the English people could not
say Van Du. So they tried [INAUDIBLE] Van Du. And it’s quite normal now that everybody when they talk about the Royal Van Du [INAUDIBLE], it’s the Van Dus. We have a well-known name for that.
I: So it’s a French connection.
J: It’s a French, oh yes, yeah, yeah.
I: Um hm.
J: It’s a French connection with the English people.
I: Okay. That’s a good combination, huh?
J: Oh yeah, yeah.
Let me ask this question. When you were growing up, and you, when you study in high school, did you know anything about Korea?
J: No, never heard of the country.
I: Uh huh.
J: Never heard of the country of Korea.
J: No, not, not in school anyway. I never heard about Korea until 1951 when I joined the Armed Forces.
J: Yeah. I didn’t know where it was.
I: What about Japan or China? Have you heard about them when you were growing up?
J: Well, yeah. I heard about Japan and China on account of the War.
I: Did you learn from the school about
I: Japan or China?
J: No, no. We never did, no. We went, we heard, we learned about, uh, the Canada History, English History. But, uh, other countries . Then the, the American, a bit of American.
J: First of all, we wanted to learn about our own country which I
I: So you knew nothing about Asian country including Korea.
J: No, we didn’t.
J: The only thing we knew was Japan during the War and China, and that was about the only one. Then, uh, Russia and places like that.
I: What did they, what did they teach about the America when you were growing up in y our high school?
J: Oh, the President of the United States and how many, uh, States they had, stuff like that. But it wasn’t that, that much is all
I: Um hm.
J: compared to what they were trying to teach us in, into the Ancient History
of the provinces and the, the Prime Minister and the Ministers of the, uh, provinces and so on.
J: I’d say we had a better education of the Canadian History in our time than what they do today because, uh, we learned about the Cartier coming up to discover America and Champlain discovered Quebec [INAUDIBLE] and so on. Then during the War,
we learned a bit about the War, the Second World War
I: Um hm.
J: into the classes.
I: How did you come to know of the break out of the Korean War? How did you come to, did you know about the Korean War when it was in 1950?
J: Well, we heard about the, uh, about the attack with the Communists attacking in July.
I: Were you thinking that you might go into that War?
J: No, never thought of it.
I: You didn’t want to. Nobody wants to go to war.
J: No, no, no.
It, it’s not the idea I didn’t want to. It’s just that I didn’t really know if we were involved in it because Canadians only got involved [INAUDIB LE] September. So I mean, uh, and that was, that’s when they formed the, uh, the Special Brigade, the 25th Brigade.
I: Um hm.
J: So that was when that, uh, really Canada got involved. But that was the Special Brigade. There was only three battalions formed with the rest of the supports.
I: Yeah. You said that you enlisted Army, right?
J: That’s right, yeah.
I: In January of 1951
I: So why did you enlist?
J: Uh, I just wanted to change jobs. I was working in the government, and I just wanted to have more adventure.
J: Well yeah, adventure, you know? Something else, my brother had been into the Armed Forces. And I had a brother that served a little bit into the Second World War. But
I: But he was killed in France.
J: Yes, he was killed in France, yeah.
I: You might be killed again in Korea.
J: Oh well. I might be killed here in Ottawa.
I: That’s right.
J: You know, you never know when your, when your time is up, your time is up. I learned that in Korea, too.
I: Um. So where did you go to receive basic military training?
J: Valcartier, Quebec.
I: Uh huh. For how long?
J: Uh, I was there from, uh, January. Then until, uh, May when we went to Wainwright, Alberta
I: Um hm.
J: And then, uh, we came back from
Wainwright in, at the late of August, and I went to, I was shipped to Korea in October.
I: October of 1951.
J: October 1951. But we stop in, in Japan.
I: Yeah. But where did you leave from, uh. Did you go to
J: Uh, Quebec City. Quebec City. We left from Quebec City.
I: City to where?
J: To Vancouver
I: Vancouver, right? Yes.
J: Yeah, Seattle. From Vancouver to Seattle. That’s where we start the ship.
I: So from the Fort Lewis,
J: No, not Fort Lewis.
I: Oh, was from Seattle.
J: Seattle, yeah, yeah.
J: I didn’t go to Fort Lewis.
J: Fort Lewis was for the, um, Special Brigade. That’s where they trained.
J: But we trained in Quebec and in Wainwright.
I: What was your specialty?
J: I was a Pioneer.
I: What, what does that mean?
I: Uh, Pioneer, it’s a hard job. It’s something they change in years. We do, uh, work to repair maybe roads during the War
on a, in the front line. But mostly, it’s for mines, booby traps, and stuff like that.
I: Oh. To get rid of those mines and
J: Well, get rid of them and lay them. We, we laid mine fields and so on in Korea.
I: That’s a very dangerous job.
J: Well, it had to be done.
MALE VOICE: I want to ask a question. JP, what battalion were you in?
J: I was with the, uh, I was
MALE VOICE: Third battalion?
J: Well, Third Battalion in Wainwright. Then I was, uh, with the Second Battalion in Korea.
MALE VOICE: Uh, Second
J: for six months.
MALE VOICE: Oh yeah.
J: Then I did six months with the First Battalion.
MALE VOICE: Oh, okay. That’s important because that’s special. But that’s Special Brigade
J: Yeah. Oh yes, yes.
MALE VOICE: [INAUDIBLE] soldiers, so. So JP was one of the first Canadians over there then.
I: So did you get any special training to do so, to, to demining and so on?
J: Oh yes, yes, yes.
I: Tell me about those, special training you received from Canada
I: Before you left for Korea.
J: Yes. Uh, that was done up in Wainwright at, at a place where they called the part-time
with the engineers. They’re the ones that train us, the engineers, how to lay the minefields and take care of booby traps that were in there and, uh, they, they dig holes, you know, repair roads, do culverts and stuff like that.
J: That was very good. That was uh, about a month training.
I: How many were of you in the, in your battalion, those, the Pioneers?
J: Well, we’re, we were a platoon.
J: A platoon, a, a, a, well, we were never 30 or 32 men.
I: Um hm.
J: But we were 25, 26. We were lucky to be that most.
I: Did you know that you going to go to Korea when you received that basic special training?
J: Yes cause I, they asked me if I volunteered, and I volunteered to go.
I: You did volunteer?
J: Yes. I did volunteer to go to Korea.
I: Oh my goodness. Never be afraid of being killed?
J: Like I said, could happen anyway.
I: What did your family react to that?
J: Well, my father wasn’t too, too happy because, seeing that he had lost a son in the Second World War.
J: And I was, I was the only one left. Had another brother, but he was older. I was the baby of the family. And, uh, we were nine in the family.
I: What about your mom?
J: My, my mom had passed away in 1942. So uh,
I was raised by my, my sisters and so on.
I: Ah. Did you have a girlfriend at the time?
J: Oh yes I did, yeah. She waited for me until I came back.
I: She waited?
J: Oh yeah. She waited.
I: Very nice.
J: And three months after I was dumped.
J: No, it’s a [INAUDIBLE] it was.
I: Well, so, how did she react to your, your decision to go to, volunteer to, to go to Korea?
J: Well, she didn’t mind because she had two brothers in the Armed Forces. One of them was an RCR, and the other one with the Signal Corps..
I: So you never imagined that you’d be in Korea, the country you never knew before.
J: No, I never did until that, uh, we volunteered and we were about to re-up and the training that we did. We, we prepared training to go to Korea.
I: Were there anything, episode that happened on the way to Vancouver from Ottawa, Quebec?
J: No, it just
I: You went to, through train, right?
J: Yeah, yeah, went to the bottom
I: Anything happen in that train?
J: No, no, no, no, no, nothing.
J: Nothing special cause we were about 50 or 60 of us. That’s all there was. So we were just a small troop train that, that was going to, we stopped in Winnipeg and they took us out for a walk in Winnipeg. And then jump back, back on the train up to Vancouver and then from there to Seattle.
I: It’s about four days, right?
J: About that, about four days?
I: Yeah, what did you do
in four days of in, inside a train?
J: We read. We spoke, And we, we ate. That’s about all we could do. We slept in the bunks.
I: So let’s talk about Korea. Tell me where you arrived.
J: Uh, I arrived in Korea right after the Van Dus had, had their big battle on 355. That was in November. I got there two days after. I was in [INAUDIBLE] training for Korea in Japan
when, uh, they asked for volunteers as replacement to go to Korea. So I figured it wouldn’t be worse in Korea than what it was on, on the training in Japan.
I: Um hm. Where did you arrive in Korea?
J: Uh, we arrived in Kurae.
J: No, uh, we left, sorry. We left Kurae, and we arrive in, uh, Pusan.
I: That was in October.
J: Uh, no. November.
J: Yeah. Yeah. Late November.
I: And tell me the first scene of Korea that you saw in Pusan. Describe it in detail. tell me about the street, buildings, scenery, trees, anything. People.
J: There wasn’t too much trees or too many buildings left at that time. Uh, Seeing the people, the way that they lived, you know. We couldn’t imagine that, that people had lived like that. We had seen
things from the Second World War. But seeing it by yourself the way the people were coming and trying to beg for food and the, and the children running around, you know, half naked. It was hard to believe. It was hard to take. But then we got off, as soon as we got off the bus, the, the, um, the, the ship, we were transferred up into trucks,
and we were, drove up to, uh, [INAUDIBLE].
I: So tell me more about the people you saw. Were they really hungry and
J: Well yes, yes
I: Just, just give me the full descriptions.
J: Well, the full description, I mean when you see people that are, that are thin, you know, compared to what you are, know that, that you know that they’re, they’re malnutrition is very poor and they don’t have any food, and when they come begging for food when you’re eating half a sandwich and you
give it to them and they, they devour it, then you know that there’s something wrong somewhere.
I: What were you thinking about that?
J: Well, what, there’s not too much that you can think about, you know. That, except that it’s very awful, you know, to see people doing that because we’re not used to that. We were not used to that here, here in Canada or anywhere. It was just the idea of seeing people almost starving, children, you know,
with, with, the mamasan with the baby on, on their back. And then when we, when we went to
the, the, uh, up to our battalion, uh, we saw the, the mamasan working in the rice field carrying in the babies, you know, and doing that kind of labor.
I: So it’s a very contrasting picture between Canada, life in Canada and life
J: Well, you wouldn’t see a woman like that in Canada working in, in the field on the,
they were working on the farm even then.
I: Um hm. So where did you go from Pusan?
J: From Pusan, I went, well, we went to the [BSLONG]. From [BSLONG]we left some of our equipment.
I: What’s, what do you mean by [BSLONG]?
J: [BSLONG], well, the battalion is divided into three. There’s a [BSLONG]ridge, further back, it’s about 26 miles. Then there’s the [ASLONG] which is closer, and then there’s the battalion Headquarters, and then there’s the front line.
I: Frontline. So you were, you were in front line.
J: Oh yeah, yeah.
I: Yeah. Do you remember the name of the camp? Was it closer to
J: I cannot because we only went by numbers. Our number was 52.
J: Yeah, yeah. That was the [Vandus] number.
I: Uh huh.
J: But, uh, the names of the place, I don’t recall it.
I: Okay. And tell me about what you did at number 52. Who were with you, and were there American soldiers or
J: Oh no, no. No, no, no. There was Turks and Canadians.
I: Um hm.
J: No, no. We were only Canadian soldiers, and I was introduced to my, to my platoon Sergeant as a Pioneer
I: Um hm.
J: And then that’s when we started to live in that, in the, uh, dugout and trenches. We spent, uh, let’s see. It was two, two months and a half in there before we went
back to [where we started]. Uh, we, we laid some minefields the next day. We laid the smallest minefield. Then after that, once in a while we were called to take a patrol out to the minefield.
I: Um hm.
J: Sometimes we had to wait for them until they came back. And, uh, two, two or three times after a bombardment through the minefield, we would go out and check the water to make sure that the water system was not cut to show that there was a minefield there.
I: So they shelled to the minefield
J: Oh yeah
I: to, to demining, and then you go there and, to check again.
J: Yes, it was that. But I mean some of them were coming on our [ends], too.
J: I mean the, they were shelling us, but some of them were so, they went into the minefields or the outpost.
I: So there was, must been around you arrive on the front around early December. Must be very cold, right?
J: It was cold, yeah.
I: Tell me about it.
J: Well, we live into a dugout which was made of clay, just clay with just two, two slabs, I, I went with a guy in the dugout. His name was [INAUDIBLE] and, uh,
I: Did you have a roof, kind of?
J: Oh yes, oh yeah.
J: Yeah, we had a roof. And for a stove, we had a ammunition box of the, uh, mortar boxes
I: Uh huh.
J: which we cut a piece off to make the handle. And then we had, the stove pipe made of, uh, the, uh, chasing, shelling casing.
And we had a, a gas tank on top with the conductor coming to, uh, a nesting tin full of sand. That’s how we, we kept warm with, with just a drop of, uh, gas in the, in the sand.
I: Do you remember you were in the center or West or East?
J: Well, we were in front of 255. So I thin that would be
I: Two five five?
J: Three five five.
I: Three five five.
J: Yeah. That was a,
I: What was the most difficult thing during your service there?
J: Well, it was a patrol that we made. That was in June 23 to the 24 which it’s around St. [INAUDIBLE] day.
I: That’s 1952, right?
J: Nineteen fifty-two, yes.
I: Uh huh.
J: Um, we were 40 of us that we left. We went on the patrol and then, uh, Lieutenant Herman was the Patrol Commander. We were, when we reached our position to take over a small hill that we were supposed to capture, we were divided in two. It was 20 that would be gong up, and 20 left in reserve. I was left in reserve.
I: Uh huh.
J: But, uh, they didn’t get too far. They, the, uh, the, the grenade that started coming in and so on and, uh, I remember that, uh, we lost, two men were killed. One was taken prisoner, and neither of them were, eight others were wounded, and they were all from grenades and a few rifle, uh.
I: But that means they were so close to the enemy.
J: Oh yes. Yeah, oh yeah.
Matter of fact, one of them was taken prisoner. So he had to be closer. But he had been wounded. Some of the guys tried to go back to get him, but they couldn’t get close enough.
J: And, uh, that was the first time when the, Canadian, they had borrowed the, uh, shell-proof vest from the U.S. Army, from the Marines, and we tried those.
J: They weighed about 35 pounds.
J: But, uh, we noticed that everybody that was wounded, it was either in the legs or in the head. We, we had, uh, Bill Fong which was a Chinaman from Montreal. That was one of the scouts with us, and he died in front of me. He was wounded.
I: In front of you.
J: Yeah. He was wounded in the head from a grenade and, uh, when they brought him in the stretcher, he was still alive, but he didn’t last long.
So going back we have to carry two dead men and plus some of them, some of the walking, uh, wounded could walk. But most of them were all stretchers. So we had to carry them. So out of the 40, there was eight , there were 10, uh, 11 missing. So that left only about 20 something for us to carry, and usually it ‘d take almost two men to carry one.
And we found out after that when we got back at the, uh, that there was a Company of Chinamen that were coming behind us. And the Auxiliary stopped them.
I: What were you thinking when you saw your, your soldier just die in front of you?
J: I’ll tell you, true. You don’t think, you don’t think that means you just, you just wonder what happened.
How come it went so bad cause that was the patrol that went really bad. And not because it wasn’t a little organized. It was well organized. But they were waiting for us. So that’s one day. And another job which we did to, uh, with, with the Pioneers, like I said, uh, we used to go, we always carried barbed wire around our, our waist, the four feet.
That’s when we went around to take the, u h, the field, mine field.
I: Uh hm, minefield, yeah.
J: Yeah. And they were cut, and we used that, too.
I: Um hm.
J: to straighten them up. And we went for, like I said, we went to small patrols, taking all the guys, other guys went upon a bigger patrol. But most of the time, we sat. I mean, I lost a few friends there, guys that I’ve known in basic training,
and one from my platoon was killed about two days before I left to come back to Canada.
I: Oh. Um, did you write letters back to your family?
J: Oh yes, yeah. I, I
I: Whom, whom did you write to?
J: Well, I wrote my girlfriend. But my father
I: Was your, what’s your girlfriend’s name?
I: Uh huh.
J: And then I wrote to my, to my dad, I wrote to my sisters. I have five sisters. So I had to write a lot, but I didn’t write every day.
I: Every day?
J: No, no. No, not every day. Sometime I, I was too busy doing other things. But I wrote to them periodically.
I: How often did you receive the letter back from family or your girlfriend?
J: Oh, quite often. I’d say about three or four a week.
I: Two or three?
J: Three or four a week.
I: Wow. That’s
J: Yeah, yeah. Well like I said, I had five sisters.
I: That’s not bad, isn’t it?
J: And I had, I had a girlfriend.
I: That’s a, I mean it was in the
middle of War, right, in the front line, and you still received letters from your family and your girlfriend
J: Oh yeah.
I: three or four in a week.
J: Yeah, well sometimes four a week. Sometimes three.
I: That’s pretty good.
J: No, it’s just that, uh, the mail was pretty good.
I: That must be the only joy that you had, right?
J: Well, it was about it, yes. Sit down and
I: Tell me about it, when you read, read the letter from your girlfriend?
J: Well, she tells you she loves you, and she’ll wait for you, and sometimes she mentions
the past that we had, you know, and the pleasures we had and so on. And my dad would mention the family, how the family was coping with, with me away. My sisters would talk about my, my nephews, your family and so on.
I: Had you thought that what the hell I’m doing here in the middle of nowhere in the country that I never knew before and risking my own life?
J: I don’t think I’m the only one that thought that.
No, no. We, I think that mostly everybody thought about that, what am I doing here, you know. Sometimes we’re so quiet that you wondered what you were doing there.
J: You had good days. You had bad days.
I: Tell me about your life there at the front line. I mean there’s no life. But much
J: Well, there’s no life, uh.
I: I mean, what did you eat? Where did you sleep? How did you sleep?
J: Well, sometimes we had C-rations, and uh, we had a Company next to us,
B Company which they had stoves and so on. So we went there, and we, with our mess tent, we got our food, and then we brought it back
I: What kind of food? The C-ration, what is your fav, what was your favorite menu in the C-ration?
J: Oh my God. Uh, not, not the beans. No more beans, that’s for sure. Uh, hamburger patties, sausages, things like that. There was always a pack of cigarettes, chocolate bar, in there.
But, uh, most of the time, we ate at the, uh, at the mess, at the, uh, at the kitchen.
I: Um hm.
J: You couldn’t eat there. We just went there. We went and got our food, and we brought it back to our dugout, and we ate there.
I: Did you sleep in a sleeping bag or what?
J: In what?
I: Where did you sleep?
J: Well, we slept in the, in the dugout.
I: So did you use sleeping bags?
J: No, no. We didn’t sleep in sleeping bags.
I: You had a blanket?
J: Yeah, we had a blanket. We had a sleeping bag. We slept on, on top because we had heard about what happened with the American desert. Four companies that were bayonetted while they were sleeping in their sleeping bag. So we were told not to sleep in our sleeping bags.
I: I see. Were there any Korean people?
J: Oh yes, oh yes. We had
I: Tell me about them.
J: Uh, well, we had some that came over to help us dig the trenches. It was t he first time I ever seen
I: You mean the [Tetcums]?
J: The who? Yeah, I think, uh, I think they were some from there.
J: Some of them, they came with a couple of soldiers to supervise them.
I: How were they?
J: Oh, they, they were good workers. But it’s the first time I ever seen anybody digging, three people wit h one shovel. They had their own shovel. One of them would put it in, and two others down the road would pull.
I: Oh, oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that, yeah. That’s pretty effective.
J: Yeah, it’s effective, yeah.
I: Yeah, yeah.
J: But they were, they weren’t too fast, though.
I: Uh huh.
J: I guess there weren’t too many [INAUDIBLE] We always gave them something like chocolate bars or cigarettes and
I: Any other dangerous moments during your service?
J: Oh well.
I: You, you talk to me about, uh, you know, you were split into two teams and, uh, about 20 people of your platoon were two, two killed and wounded and so on. Any other incidents that, where you almost lost your life?
J: Well, we used to, we used to do a lot of, uh, guard, guard station for the engineers. When the engineers would lay a minefield or something, they called us down to protect them. So we’re always in front of them ready to fight. Only once that we saw a patrol of, of Chinese coming along. But the American and the other side took care of them. They, but, uh, we
used to do that. We used to, like, uh, take the patrol or something like that.
I: When did you depart Korea?
J: Uh, late October ’51, ’52, sorry.
J: I think it was around the 28th or 29th.
I: Um hm. Where did you go?
J: Oh, well we went to Japan, Kurae, Japan.
I: Um hm.
J: And from there, well, we were,
we went back home by ship.
I: Um hm.
J: So we, we were there about a week or two in Japan to get new, new uniforms, try to look more human.
I: More like a human, right ?
I: Yeah. Uh, what did you do after you returned from Korea?
J: Well, uh, I had some leaves here in Ottawa. And then I went back to my restaurant, and I stayed with them for 25 years.
I: Ah. And
J: I did a career
with the Armed Forces.
I: And you retired?
J: I retired in 1976.
I: So tell me about the impact of your service in the Korean War upon your life. What kind of impact?
I: What makes this War of you?
J: I think it showed me a lot of, uh, what would you say, uh,
not danger but a lot of grief among people.
I: Do you have still nightmare?
J: No cause when I came home, I tried to put away Korea completely out of my mind. It’s worked up a bit.
I: Why? Why you don’t, why you didn’t want to remember?
J: Why have, why have sad moments in your life when you don’t have to, you know? Anybody that can ?forget, I think that is a good thing.
J: I forgot some, but not everything. There’s still a few things in my mind sometimes. I don’t wake up at night screaming, that’s for sure.
I: When you left Korea, had you thought about the future of Korea, what would be like?
J: Oh no. I never thought of it. Not a thought. I was glad when we, when we formed the Association here in Ottawa.
The Embassy was very, very nice to us. They are still very nice people. The Assoc, the, uh, community, the, the Korean community, they’re very, very good to us and everything. We’re invited to their New Year’s party and everything like that.
I: Tell me about the Korea you saw in 2003, and compare it to that of 1952, ’51.
J: Whoa. There’s no comparison. I mean, the,
first of all Seoul was just rubble when, when we went to it. And now when you get there and you see buildings taller than what we have here. Now, you can see that the people have really worked their way up to what they are today.
I: Um hm.
J: So we’re glad in the sense that we, we helped them to do that. We hope so anyway. I know it’s, it was a tremendous
affair. Mind you, we, we had, uh, we had to go a lot, you know, on buses, and everywhere we went, we were welcomed. We were well respected and everything. It was a big change in the, uh, the wrong men, you know, the, uh, we went to Kapyong and we went, we went up to, uh, to, to the lookout post.
I: Were you in Kapyong during the War?
J: No, it’s not, no.
I: Uh huh.
J: No. No. That happened before.
J: No. It happened while
I: After actually.
J: Yeah, yeah.
J: It happened in ’52, Kapyong.
I: Yeah. So you were not like a gleam in your eyes to see the Korea is?
J: Oh no, no, no. The changes, no. I’ll tell you, they were more modern over there than it was here in Canada. And all the train rides there? No. That was amazing to get on a train and fly. And the subways and all that,
there’s, and going under the street, you know. And all the, uh, the shop under the street and so on, in Seoul. That’s amazing.
I: So were you, were you proud of your service?
J: Oh yeah, darn right. I said hey, I said, I helped them do that.
I: Yeah. We could not do that without your fight for us.
J: Well, I think it was an honor for us to be there, to help you people.
I: Were you able to go back to the DMZ area, demilitarized zone when you visited in 2003?
J: No we weren’t allowed there.
I: So you just around Seoul.
J: No, no. We were at the DMZ in Seoul.
J: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Yeah, yeah. That’s where we saw where the, the Peace Treaty will take, had taken place.
I: Panmunjom? Yes.
J: Panmunjom, yeah.
I: Um hm.
J: And that’s where we saw
the, the, uh, the Chinese on the other side of the Korean, on the other side looking out this way and us, us looking at them, yeah.
I: You know, Canada and Korea, we didn’t have any relationship much before the Korean War.
I: And because the Canadian Korean War veterans fought for us, now Korean government thanking back to you and you go back to Korea and we have a trade relationship.
J: Oh yeah.
I: It’s all of you did
I: to make what we are today.
J: Oh, well, we’re proud of, to have done it, you know. Mind you, it was a country we didn’t know. It was a place we’d never heard of. But it was nice of us to be able to help other people in distress.
I: Um hm. Um hm. So this is great to hear directly from you about the Korea in 1950 and the Korea in 2013.
J: Oh yeah it is.
I: We are 11th largest economy in the world. Can you believe that? Can you believe that?
J: Oh yes. You’re better than us, right? It’s awful. But we didn’t have a war here.
J: The only thing they ever had to rebuild was the Parliament that burned down. No, it was really, it’s, uh, I can’t tell you. It was an honor for me
to go back to revisit and, uh, we went to a lot. But I think it was worth it.
I: Um hm.
J: Was worth it to go back to see how much help t hat we had done to help the people that we did not know. But now we know them very, very well as friends and so on.
I: Um. That’s why my foundation, The Korean War Legacy Foundation, is doing this, documenting what you saw back in 1950
and the Korea now, and we were able to do it because you fought for us.
I: And this is the best way to educate our young children about your honorable ser vice and the people lost their lives and sacrificed. So my foundation is making digital history textbook
I: so that they, yeah. Many Americans and Canadian students will listen from you.
Your interview will be uploaded to the Internet, and everybody will be able to hear from you directly.
J: My God.
I: Any other message you wanna leave to this interview? Anything you missed?
J: No, not really, no. I didn’t miss anything. The only thing that I miss, I wish I could go back. But my health prevails it.
I: You look great.
J: I mean, I may look great but, uh, I got two bad knees and two bad hips.
That’s why I gotta carry that thing there.
I: Uh huh, uh huh.
J: No. I mean I, my wife wants me to go back, but I mean, I cannot leave her because she’s not well herself.
J: But, uh, I know a lot of friends do go back, and when they come back they say how much it still has changed. Its still changing. I know you’re gonna be having the Olympics soon. I’ll be watching.
I: The PyeongChang Winter Olympics, yes.
I: I just been to Korea last week.
J: Yeah? Oh.
I: Yeah. And still changing.
J: Oh I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised what you people do.
J: That’s one thing. You have done marvelous, and I hope you keep doing more, more to show that we didn’t go there for nothing.
I: You are the foundations of this bilateral relationship between Canada and Korea.
J: Oh, well I’m proud to hear that.
I: And I am so grateful for your fight for our nation so that we can pull this out simultaneous economic development and democratization.
I: So I wanna thank you for your fight, and thank you for your time sharing your story with us.
J: Well I don’t know if it’s much big story. But that’s the way I lived it.
I: That’s your story.
I: Unique, nobody else.
J: No, no. I hate to talk about it sometimes, you know.
But then there’s times that you must talk about it.
I: Yes. And this is the history
I: that all young children need to know.
J: That’s why I didn’t mind coming.
I: Yes. Thank, Jean Paul, for your service, patriotism and honorable loyalty and service.
J: Thank you. You’re quite welcome.
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