Jesse Chenevert had an office job in Ottawa following graduation but found herself drawn to volunteer work with the Red Cross that subsequently led to her entering nursing school. After earning her nursing degree, she joined the Canadian Army and served as a nurse in a Canadian Field Dressing Station north of Seoul for a year. She spent her time tending to mostly Canadian and Australian soldiers. One of her most memorable experiences is being prepared to receive Canadian prisoners of war from the Chinese and discovering that they had been treated very well for propaganda purposes.
Canadian Field Dressing Station
Jesse Chenevert describes the wards in the small hospital north of Seoul where she worked during the war. She describes how she took care of patients with minimal wounds or diseases. She describes the personnel and departments that could be found at the hospital.
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Chinese Treatment of Canadian POWs
Jesse Chenevert describes being prepared at one point for receiving Canadian soldiers who had been a prisoner by the Chinese. She shares how the personnel at the hospital were surprised by the good condition of the soldiers. She explains how she learned that their excellent care was most likely due to them being used as propaganda by their captors. She explains that the POWs who were very sick were not treated by the Canadian hospital
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From the Office to the Hospital
Jesse Chenevert discusses how she got office training to get a job after high school. She explains how she decided to help with the Red Cross at nights to help the soldiers. She explains how she would tell a coworker she wanted to do more and was told to do something about it. After realizing she couldn't attend training school due to lack of prerequisites, she explains how she had her brother who was in charge of Officer Training in Brockville helped her get nursing training through the military.
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00:00:00 [Beginning of Recorded Material]
Jesse Chenevert: My–uh–I go by Jesse Chenevert. That’s my married name and my–my maiden name was Urquhart, U-R-Q-U-H-A-R-T.
J: And Chenevert is C-H-E-N-E-V-E-R-T.
I: What is the ethnic origin of Chenevert?
J: What’s the original?
J: That’s French.
I: Are you French?
J: But that was my married name. But my husband–
I: Married name, but you are not ethnically French.
J: My husband wasn’t either. [laughs]
J: He couldn’t speak French at all.
I: [laughs] how did he got this last name then?
J: Well I–I–I think somebody back in his family, grand–not–not his grandfather but somebody like that.
J: Ma–uh–uh–apparently some ma–man came over from France to the states and stayed quite a while and he married one of the girls in the family.
J: And I don’t know how long they were married. And he went back–he went back uh–to France but uh–the–the name carried on.
I: Got it. Unusual question to lady, but what is your birthdate?
J: First of February.
I: So, you are–
J: 96. 90–what am I? 97? [laughs]
Male voice: Yeah [unintelligible]
I: 97? I cannot believe.
I: I don’t see any wrinkle in your forehead.
J: Well, I’ve–I’ve had a few I think [laughs]
J: Well, I was born in 1922, so.
I: Where were you born?
J: Born in Ottawa.
I: Tell me about your family. The parents and your siblings when you were growing up.
J: Well, uh–my–my par–I was the youngest of three children. My father was married twice and–and–he–he–my–my mother was his second wife. And uh–and I have a half-brother and a half sister
who are well, they’re both dead now, but–but one was uh–Gord was 20–30 years older than me and Jean was 20.
J: And uh–and then my–my–m–uh–my father’s first wife was uh–diabetic at the time when they–they didn’t have uh–insulin and they didn’t–and she died very young and then he married my mother and
had three more children, and I was the youngest of the three.
I: I see. Wow. What school did you through here in Ottawa?
I: What school did you go through in Ottawa?
J: Oh I went–I went–first of all, Mutchmor. Uh I went to school in Mutchmor for the first five years. Then, I went to um–uh–First Avenue for two years I guess it was. And Glashan for two years.
And then that was just, at that time, my father–oh I shouldn’t be moving around with that–[points to camera]. My father died and–and I thought I better do something where I could earn a living, so I went to commerce. And uh–uh–I went through the four years at the high school of commerce and graduated. Uh–
I: When was that? When did you graduate?
J: High School of Commerce.
I: Yeah, when did you graduate?
I: [laughs] am I torturing you?
J: Yeah–the–[laughs]. How old was I? Gosh.
M: You might have been around 17 or 18 then I think.
J: Oh yeah–yeah about that yeah–
J: –about 18 yeah–yeah.
I: Around 1940?
J: I guess about 18, yeah.
J: Yeah, yeah, because I went in training, no I–it was 1940, ‘cause I worked–I went to–I went to work then, that’s why I went to commerce.
Uh–am I mucking things up here?
I: It’s okay.
J: Um–I went to commerce and got a business–took a business course, so then they sent us out to jobs after–after we graduated there.
J: and I went to um–it–it was uh–
I: What kind of job did you have?
J: Office job, yeah. And I worked there for three years and–and then I decided I wanted
to go out–and I–I was working in the–I was volunteering at night with the Red Cross and we went to the general hospital and rubbed backs and passed drinks and everything and I–that wasn’t enough, I wanted to do more. [laughs] So–
J: And I had a friend in the office there and–I’d come–I’d come back to work every day and say–complain because I–I–I wanted to do more and she said, ‘for heavens sakes why don’t you do something about it?’ so I did.
I: What is that?
J: So, I–I–and I found–I decided to apply for nursing. And I couldn’t get into civic because I didn’t have Latin and–and–uh–three of the subjects, chemistry and another one that they needed. So, my brother wa–at that time was on the staff of the officer’s training camp in Brockville. So, I thought, well, I’ll go to–I’ll apply to Brockville and I was accepted there ‘cause–
I: As what?
J: Nurse in training.
M: Military nurse you’re talking about.
M: A military nurse.
J: No, no the–no, no this was just the hospital there.
M: Oh, in Brockville, oh okay.
J: Yeah. No, they didn’t have a hospital. They didn’t have–they–they didn’t have that many military people in Brockville. But uh–um–so, I uh–I did my training there. And–and oh, and I had a cousin who was in the Navy and I had lived with my aunt and uncle for three years and he was just like a brother.
And he–when he came home about that time, uh–got–uh–the war was ending. And he–he was going up to Kapuskasing to work in the Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company as an–
I: But, you–you became nurse? What did you go to nursing school? Nurse school?
J: Yeah, I became–yeah, I graduated.
I: Graduated, yes.
J: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and this was when I first graduated.
J: You know?
So, I went up to–I–so I went up to Kapuskasing and uh–I worked there for two years. Was it two years? And then I thought I should do something else, so I came down and I worked in the civic hospital in the delivery room for–for uh– about a year or so. And um–the nurse from Kapuskasing called me several times to see if I’d come back, because it was hard to get nurses to go up there. So, I decided to go back up there
because I liked it so, I went back for another two years and then I joined the Army from there.
I: When? When?
J: The–1940–when did I join? ’51. ’51 I joined the Army.
J: And uh–uh–
I: As a nurse?
J: As a nurse.
I: Uh-huh. How–explain it. Joined the Army as a nurse. What kind of uh process do you have to go through to become a military Army nurse?
J: To join–to join, yeah.
I: And then do you have to go through the training?
J: Well no, ye–yes–but it just in–uh–we just went to Borden for a orientation.
J: It wasn’t–it was–wasn’t uh–uh–that long, you know? No, it was–no–it–it–it wasn’t anything uh–.
I: You are already trained nurse so–
J: Oh yeah, I was already–
I: Yeah right, yeah.
J: –a registered nurse, Mm-hmm. Yeah, so I went to I went there and took my–uh no they posted me to Shiloh that was at first.
and uh–and [laughs] there were–there were a lot of new nurses at that time.
J: And uh–and we had seven nurses at Shiloh and three patients. [laughs]
J: So, they got good care [laughs].
I: I bet!
J: They got well looked after. And–
I: Maybe too much care.
J: Yeah so, I was at Shiloh well it–it improved it–it–it increased there, but I was in Shiloh for
three years and uh–oh I’m losing–I’m forgetting all my–my timeframes I used to know these well where I went from Shiloh.
J: Anyway, I had various postings across–
J: –across the country.
I: How are you related to Korean War?
J: Well I went to–I went to uh I–I–I went to–I went from Shiloh I went to Korea.
I: Oh you–
J: I was in Shiloh two years and–and they–I was posted over to Japan.
I: And then you went to Korea?
J: And they they sent–yeah–yes.
I: When–when did you arrive in Korea?
J: In Korea? I–we went–we went over on the 24th of May. We flew over t–t–to uh– Japan and I went to Korea the 29th of May.
J: [nods yes] Mm-hmm.
J: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
J: I think that’s right.
I: But you joined–you joined the military Army 1951, right? Yeah, yes you said that you joined the Army 1951 then you spend several years.
J: Oh yeah–oh yeah.
M: You must’ve joined before ’51. ‘Cause if you went to Shiloh–did you go to Korea before you went to Shiloh or after?
J: No uh–no I went to Korea
M: After Shiloh.
J: After Shiloh.
M: So, you went–so, you finished nursing probably around
’49 and then went to Shiloh ’49, ’50, ’51 and then you went to Korea, I think.
J: Uh–yeah–uh–yeah I think I went over to Korea in ’51, yeah.
M: Yeah, just–just–
J: ’51, yeah.
I: So, is–it was in the middle of the war, right?
J: Yes, yes, yeah.
I: Okay. Alright so–
J: We–we had–we hadn’t had any nurses in Korea–Canadian nurses in Korea.
J: Well, there were a couple who were down in Seoul,
but we didn’t have a Canadian hospital in Korea. And they–they wanted–uh–uh–they wanted uh–uh– field hospital set up and so they had–sent this–this [unintelligible name] who was a doctor, he was a major, and then left tenant colonel. He–they sent him over to set up this hospital and they gave him nothing. He had to go to all the different units and–and beg
and borrow and steal [laughs]. Everything to set the hospital up. But he did and he had it–we had a 72-bed hospital and–and we had an operating room and uh–
M: What was the name of the hospital?
J: The um–20–25
M: 25 Canadian Field Hospital?
J: Yep. 25 FDS mm-hmm.
M: Oh. FDS field?
J: Field dressings. They uh–uh–
M: Field dressing station 25 field dressing station.
J: 25 Field Dressing Station, yeah. T–25
M: Which is yeah, one under a hospital [John Lo] just so you know eh.
M: It’s not a–it’s not a full hospital it’s a field dressing station
M: Which is one stage below a–a military hospital.
I: Yeah. Where was it?
J: It was uh–20–about 25 kilometers North of Seoul.
M: And how far from the front line of the battle?
J: 20–another 20, about another 25.
M: Another 25 to the front.
I: So, how many Canadian nurse like you were there?
J: Well, they rotated all the time, you know.
I: Yeah, but when you–
J: But we had uh–we had uh–when–when I first went over,
J: I’m sorry I’m moving.
I: It’s okay.
J: I’m slipping in this chair. Um when we uh–when we first went over uh–there were only two nurses there before us so, there–we–it wasn’t really set up.
J: Yeah. Mm-hmm. And they–they were only there a very short time and they came home when we went over.
I: How many of you went?
J: Well, at that–
J: –that time there were only two of us–three of us–
three of us uh–but, later on, we had uh–we had um–a–a matron and a dietician and a physiotherapist and um how many in there–there were about–there were about seven of us.
J: Seven or eight of us all together.
I: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
I: So, what was it like
for–let me this–let me ask this question–what was it like for a woman, okay? Even though as a nurse, but woman to be in the middle of war in a country that you never know before?
J: Well, I don’t uh–yeah [laughs] I don’t know that–that well, it was different, you know, it was different and–and that’s what we–wha–what we joined for, you know, so, it was–it was interesting.
Uh–we weren’t–we weren’t uh–we weren’t really that close to the–we could hear the guns sometimes–but we weren’t very close. We didn’t see any of the fighting or anything like that. Withe were back 25 kilometers. We were halfway between Seoul and the front–and the–the fighting–where the fighting was.
I: Do–do you remember the name of the city or area that you stationed?
J: Yeah, the one we were uh near was
M: And uh–who were your patients? All Canadians of the brigade or allies?
J: Uh–Canadian–Canadians and Australians.
I: So, did you know anything about Korea before?
J: Not–no, not really.
I: Uh-huh. You didn’t know where it is?
J: Well I–I probably knew where it was because, you know, n–not before I joined the Army–
J: –I didn’t, but–but once the Korea–and when my brother was there, I found–you know, I read a lot and found out about it.
I: Your brother was in Korean War?
J: Well he was–he was ahead of me. He was a couple years ahead of me. We weren’t there at the same time.
J: He was service corps.
I: Yeah, and what did you think when you were–when you–when you knew that you were headed to country, Korea, for the war? Were you scared?
J: No. I wasn’t scared. That’s what I joined for, to go over there. I was looking forward to it. [laughs]
I: That’s not normal [laughs].
I: You going to war, even though as a nurse and you’re going to be in the–
J: Well, well, I know well oh, well there was apprehension I think, you know, but we–we–we probably knew when we were going over. I don’t remember–we proba–we knew we weren’t going to be right up with the fighting lines.
I: What was your rank?
J: I was le–I was left tenant then.
I: So, officer.
J: Well we joined as left–yeah.
J: Well, nurses were always officers.
I: Mm-hmm. And tell me about this the–the equality between man and woman in Canadian society at the time. How was it?
I: Was it equal society?
J: Pretty, yeah pretty good yeah, I think so, mm-hmm.
I: Is it?
I: Was woman’s voice strong?
J: Oh, I think so, yeah.
I: You think so?
I: There was no discrimination? Gender discrimination?
J: Well, there’s always some dis–somebody there with discrimination,
but on the whole, it was–it was very good.
I: How much were you paid as a lieutenant?
J: Oh gosh, the same–the same as–as everybody else was. Our–our salaries were the same as the men’s.
I: Are you sure?
I: How much?
J: We didn’t–
I: Over 100, right?
J: I can’t remember what our salaries were at that time.
I: Over 200?
J: I can’t remember. I can’t remember.
I: So, with that money you were able to live very–pretty good?
J: Oh–oh yeah.
I: Right. Um–so, you said there are 72 beds in that hospital.
J: There were 72 beds.
I: That’s pretty good.
J: Yes, yes. We had a 30–the busiest ward we had a–a 30 bed medical ward. And that was the busiest ward, you know, with pneumonias and colds and things like that and other diseases like that and uh–
–but–but the surgical wards there were minor things. They–any–anything big surgical went to the Am–American hospital.
I: Um, you said seven of you, right? Seven nurses.
I: How many doctors?
J: I think uh–what did we have? We had a surgeon and then an anesthetist
and we didn’t– I think about five. We didn’t have a lot of doctors.
I: Yeah five is big–I mean, not–not to small, you know.
J: Well for the um–we had uh–medical–one for the medical wards and–and um–a couple of surgeons and we had a psychiatrist. We had about–I guess about five doctors.
I: Yeah, okay. So, you didn’t have a surgery station there?
You didn’t have operation there, right?
J: Yeah, we had an operating room, mm-hmm.
M: How did your patients come to you? By ambulance or by helicopter?
J: Not very many came by helicopter, most were ambulance.
J: Yeah. Uh-huh.
M: And they were coming from the unit dressing stations from the battalion?
J: I don’t–well, they came from different areas, but they came from the fighting area, yeah.
M: They’d come from the fighting areas right to you–
J: Mm-hmm back to us.
M: –and if you couldn’t handle them, they went to the major field hospital?
J: No, they sort of–they–they–they went–the really serious ones
didn’t even come to us, they went directly to the American MASH. Yeah, because we couldn’t–we weren’t uh–set up to cope with.
M: You took the lightly wounded and the sick.
J: We weren’t–we weren’t set up to cope with–with big injuries, you know.
I: So, tell me about the life there. Was it in the building? Inside a building or was it tent?
J: We had–the hospital was all different buildings. I wish I had–I–I–well, I have pictures, but I don’t know where they are right now because I–since I moved here, I don’t know where–
where all my stuff is. But–um–the hospital the–the–there was a big–a big medical ward and there was a long corridor and uh–and it was–
I: Was it like a school building?
J: No, it was all one fl–one floor and–
I: Was it Quonset?
J: No, it wasn’t Quonsets no, it was–whatever he was able to–to uh–
get units to give him and then we went to American, we went to Canadian, we went to different–it was a great big medical ward and then there was um–uh like–the–some of them were–okay um–big tents.
I: Alright um–
J: The me–the medical ward and the surgical ward were–no they were build–they were wooden buildings, they weren’t tents. But, they were one story and they were long and–and–
they had all these cots, you know.
M: And they had been specially made they’ve got–it wasn’t an old factory or an old school that was the building that you–
J: No, no, it was–
M: you guys had some p– engineers put together for ya to build a wooden building.
J: He–what–whatever he could s–scrounge and put together.
M: Yeah, the scrounge building they put it together.
J: Yeah, and there joined by one long quarter.
M: Like a big H.
J: And we–and there were earth floors. We had one ward of 10 to twe–10 or 12 beds, which was a burn ward. And at that time,
they exposed burns, so we had–it had to have a floor in it. It was the only one with a floor. The hospital was all earth floors.
I: Hm. What was the typical kind of injury that you had to deal with at the time?
J: Well, a–like accidents and–and uh–oh one fella–one fella shot himself right here [points up chin].
I: Shot himself?
J: Yeah. He didn’t kill himself, but he shot himself in the air and made a
mess of that and he–he must have gone to a MASH I guess first, cause he came to us they were sending him home and he–
I: Was it suicide? Or mistake?
J: It was. It was, yeah.
J: Attempted suicide.
I: How many patients per day do you have to deal with?
I: For example, I’m in [unintelligible]
J: About–well there in the hospital was about 72 beds and it was almost always full.
I: Always full.
I: Uh-huh. Did you have any shortage
of uh medical equipment or medicine?
J: [laughs] Uh–no, we didn’t have a shortage of medicines or things like that. What–we had a shortage of equipment. Uh–we had e–each–each–each–um patient had a–a little round basin that the Red Cross gave them, and the Red Cross would issue them to them as they–as they were admitted. And they wouldn’t even–the Red Cross wouldn’t even leave a couple of–of them with us
when we were on nights in case somebody came in the middle of the night and needed–you know, we all had to give them a bath first thing. And–and they wouldn’t–they wouldn’t–the Red Cross–the British Red Cross wouldn’t give us a couple of those to keep, so we’d have to borrow somebody else’s basin to bath a patient and–
I: Did you–go ahead.
J: I was just going to say, it was very–we were very primitive, really.
M: What was the average stay a patient would be in the dressing station?
Would they stay a week? Two weeks? Like how–how large was the turnover of patients?
J: Oh. Well, the turnover was–was pretty quick. You know, they–they um–
M: You look at him when you’re talking [laughs]
J: Oh okay [laughs]
I: Yeah, so the policy is to–to take this turnover very short.
J: We had a–we–we had um–a–ma–minor surgical ward and it–how many beds were in that? Oh, there were 30 beds or so and it was almost
and–and–it was almost always full because they–they–the–the fellas got–got um what–what do you call it? Diseases, you know, from the girls.
I: Yeah, yeah.
J: And uh–and the only cure over there for it was–was–was– uh–um– circumcision. We did more circumcisions.
M: Geez [laughs]
M: She’s talking about STD’s the soldiers had VD eh?
M: They had to treat them eh? That was the casualties.
J: And the only that–over there for it was circumcisions. We had a 40-bed ward that was almost always full of [laughs] guys getting circumcision.
I: Why–why do they have to have a circumcision unless they have a venereal disease?
M: That’s the point, they had it.
J: They had it.
I: So then, you have to do a circumcision.
M: The soldiers coming back from leave in Seoul picked up VD.
I: That’s the last thing that you want to do in the middle of war.
J: Yeah, that’s right.
And that was uh–the busiest ward. [laughs]
I: What is the portion of this venereal disease occasions?
I: How many of them? Out of 10 how many?
J: Oh out of 10–well, we had a–we had a 40 bed ward and there were other minor surgeries–minor surgeries–and minor medical–minor surgical uh–cases too, but it was–there was I don’t know how many to say now.
I: What was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea? What was the most difficult thing you remember? Or things that you really, really hated.
J: Oh, I don’t think there was anything I really, really hated. Um–I don’t know what would be the most difficult thing. We did–we liked it.
I: You liked it.
J: Yeah, we it was a–
it was a different experience, you know and we–we–it was–it was difficult at times, but it was something different.
I: What was the average hours of your daily working?
J: Oh well we–we worked seven in the morning til seven at night and then–and we had hours off or else seven to five and some worked seven to five and then they were off. Others worked seven to seven and had a couple of hours off in the day–in the daytime
and uh then–then uh–then the person who came on–there was only one night nurse on and she worked from 7 at night til 7 in the morning.
I: Only one?
J: We–we had med aid staff with us, you know.
I: Right. How many Koreans were working with you there in the hospital?
J: Very f–very f–we didn’t–we didn’t have many working in the hospital.
I: No Korean nurse?
J: No we didn’t have a–
I: No Korean doctor?
J: No, it was all with Canadian.
I: What did you eat?
J: What’d we eat? Oh, we had a–a–our–our hospital was right–not far from the–the mess. We had very nice mess set up for officer’s mess set up and we went to the mess for our meals. And the–the food was good.
J: When we were in Japan with the British, meals were awful [laughs].
I: Why is that?
J: Cause we were on Japa–
I: [unintelligible] on your own.
M: British cooks, yuck.
J: [laughs] and um and–and we–they had–when we were with the British and uh–and they had–we had what were they there? We had American–no uh–British rations, Japanese cooks
J: and uh what else? Anyway, they could sure
mess up food. We–we got one of the other nurses and I we–we got so we didn’t even bother going mess. There was an–an American um–PX not too far away, we’d go to the American PX and buy peanut butter and other things [laughs]
J: and–and–and we had a little kitchen in our quarters and uh–and we–we–we just lived on peanut butter and–and stuff that we could buy like that.
I: So, you were paid, right?
I: And you were able to buy with the script? It’s a script, right?
J: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I: What did you–did you send the money back to your home?
I: What did you do?
J: Well, um I don’t know I can’t remember what we did with our–
I: Did you save it?
J: Oh–oh yeah, I saved money, but I’m trying think of what we did with it. Well, the pay master came around and–and paid us and we–we–we just took what–
how much we wanted. And they–I guess we–I guess we got that after we came home–the balance after we came home. I–I can’t remember.
J: I can’t remember that.
I: Any special episode that you still remember that happened in the hospital? Any–any particular story that you want to share you still remember?
J: Well I–I when–when um they were bringing the–the um prisoners s–sending the uh– prisoners back from that–that weren’t that– our–our people
J: You know, back, uh–
I: You mean the Canadian soldier who was in the prison?
J: Mm-hmm. We had a–we had a tent set up for the return of all of these people and I was working in that tent with a couple of the doctors well, a couple of the nurses and a couple of doctors
and–and we were all prepared, you know, with the–for–to give them or–um–immunization and–
J: well, we did have to give them some, but immunization and any treatments they needed and a bath and everything. They came back and they were all the–the–the Chinese [laughs] the Chinese had really treated them well in–purposely.
J: Well, uh–I guess to–
so that we–when they came back they–they’d um–they’d think that–that prisoners had been treated well. And they had–they had–they had field days for them and they had races and the–I don’t know how long before, but this is just before they came back, and they came back with albums of pictures of–they’d taken pictures of them and they’d immunize them all and we had to immunize them all over again [laughs] when they came back.
They weren’t very happy about that.
J: Getting those–having to have those needles twice.
I: How did they look when you first saw them?
J: Oh, they looked good, they looked good, yeah.
I: The POW?
J: Yeah, they did.
J: They looked very good.
I: They–they lost a lot of weight because they didn’t have enough–
J: Some–some of them lost a lot of weight, yeah.
M: She’s talking really about the Canadian guys, but this is a propaganda exercise
M: of the communist Chinese–
J: Yeah, that’s right it was just was–
M: –to show how good they treated prisoners.
J: Just propaganda.
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you also mentioned that you took care of the Canadian soldiers who were
freed from the prison of–
J: Well they–that’s what I’m talking about now. They–
J: When they sent them back they um–
I: Oh yeah, they might fed them very well–
J: The–the–the ones–the ones that were really sick
J: were um uh–uh–they were sent um–by uh–they–they didn’t come to us at all. They were flown somewhere else where they had to go into a–a–a–American hospital or back to Japan.
I: How was it like to see all your
brothers mostly, right? The soldiers from Canada wounded, severely wounded, lo–losing their lives in a country they–they didn’t know.
J: Well, we didn’t see–we didn’t see that.
I: But–but you saw many, many injuries, right?
J: Well, we didn’t–we didn’t see a lot of the big in–the big injuries–anyone that had big injuries went to the American
I: To the MASH.
J: MASH. Mm-hmm.
I: But still, there are many, many patients every day.
J: Oh yeah but–but–but–
I: Ho–ho–how is it to–
J: but they didn’t come through us,
they went directly to the American MASH. So, we didn’t even see those people. We just saw the ones that–that weren’t as–as serious, you know, and came to us. And they–they’d either have–the ones that were–went to our medical ward, some of those fellas were pretty sick.
M: Jesse, how–how long were you in Korea as a nurse?
J: I was–I was
M: Six months or one year? Or how long after that?
J: I was um–I went over in May and uh–
24th of May we left–we left Canada. And–and I was in Korea just a–a matter of a few days or–Japan and then we flew over to Korea. And uh– I came to–in July to–to Japan and then–
I: Same year?
I: Same year? Or next year?
J: Oh no the same–same year, I was just there for a few months that time. And then in September,
and–and we went back to Japan and they sent–uh–they–they were trying to give everybody a chance–all the nurses a chance to get over to Korea, you know? And then in September I was–I was sent back to Korea and I was there til January.
J: And then I was sent back to Japan then I came home in May.
I: Got it.
M: So, a total of one year it sounds like it.
J: It’s one year it–it was all–
M: a one-year tour.
J: Everybody had a one-year tour. Mm-hmm.
I: The–were you able to see other cities in Korea while you were there?
J: No, I got to Seoul once.
I: Seoul, how was it?
J: Oh well–well, it looked better than I exp–thought. You know, there was a lot of bombs–a–a–a lot of things bombed out and everything and uh–but there weren’t any–and there’s a PX, but the–uh–by the time we got there wasn’t an aw–when we were there, there wasn’t an awful lot in the
in the PX.
J: Um, but uh–it–it was–it was bombed, you know, but it–it–it could’ve been–I expected it to see a lot worse.
I: Have you been back to Korea after that?
J: I was supposed to go back, but uh–but uh–what was it the reason I couldn’t go back? Boy I’m really losing my memory.
I: Hm. You’re pretty good, actually.
J: [laughs] oh, you think?
I: You forgot your na–your age.
J: I know [laughs].
I: Its 97.
J: 97, yeah.
I: It’s too good.
I: Oh yeah, I mean, I mean it.
J: Well, I can’t uh–the–I can remember–I can–I can remember things, but I–but I can’t remember them enough to tell ya, you know?
I: Good enough. So, don’t worry about it. Do you know what happened to Korea after the war?
J: Oh yeah–oh yeah because we sent a lot of people over.
J: And if I had been better, healthier, I would’ve–I would’ve gone back too, but–but I wasn’t able to.
I: What do you know about Korea now?
J: Oh well–well it’s a pretty modern world over there now, isn’t it? I was amazed at–one–the–the–the–I was–I was booked for one trip to go back and uh–and I couldn’t go.
J: Uh–I can’t remember. I–whether it was my back or what I had some problem–
J: –medical problem I couldn’t go and so the–the one who had been our matron over there, she went in my place.
J: And she brought me back a book and–and I unfortunately loaned it to somebody and never go it back.
J: But I–I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. Because it wasn’t that
much longer, you know, it was a matter of a few years, and they had seven lane roads in–in Seoul and everything and we–the biggest we saw was a–a two lane road–uh street in Seoul, you know. And uh–and so it was pretty well bombed. Well, it took a lot of bombing too.
I: You didn’t imagine that Korea would turn like that, right?
J: Oh, no. They bounced back really, really well, yeah.
I uh–I was–I was sorry I didn’t get my book back because uh–
J: –it really showed it–the–the changes, you know, it was a wonderful book.
I: Reborn Korea? Is it Reborn Korea? When was it? When did you get that book?
J: Well they–the–they–
I: When was that?
J: The matron who–I don’t know where she got it–probably at the PX I would think.
I: Yeah, yeah, but when was that?
J: Oh–oh that was just right after um–
right after–not–a year or so after I came back. Yeah.
I: Okay. Ah okay. I can get you a book called Reborn Korea.
I: It has a before and after picture.
J: Oh, that’d be lovely to have, yeah.
I: You will not believe your eyes.
J: I’m sure.
J: I’m sure.
I: Korea is now 11th largest economy in the world.
J: I know. Oh–
I: Do you know that?
J: Well, I didn’t know the number, but I know they’ve done really, really well.
I: 11th largest.
J: 11th really?
I: I want to wrap this interview. Anything you want to say to Korean people?
J: Well, uh–uh–uh–just say–if they have a chance to travel to other countries like Korea or Japan or any–you know, on the other side of the world, they should do it. [laughs] Because it is so interesting.
I: What is Korea to you?
J: Well it was–it was an important
part of my life. And uh–and uh–we–it was–it was interesting to see the way the other side of–other people in the world live, you know.
I: And beautiful thing came out of your service there, right? Korea now is very strong.
J: Oh yes, that’s right, yeah.
I: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
I: Jesse, thank you so much.
J: Oh, you’re very welcome.
I: Sharing your story with me on behalf of Korean nation, I want to thank you for your honorable service taking care of so many Canadian soldiers.
J: Thank you.
I: During the war.
J: Oh, you’re very welcome.
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