Stuart Douglas “Jim” Gunn enlisted in the Army at 17 years old. Being too young to enlist, he used his brother’s name and went by Jim during his time in the service. Stuart Gunn, being a Toronto native, served in the Royal Canadian Regiment during the Korean War. During his time in the Canadian Army, he was captured by Chinese forces and became a prisoner of war. He reflects on the memories of being a prisoner of war and the conditions of the camp.
Korea Then and Now
Stuart Gunn revisited South Korea in 1995. He noticed all of the changes to the land and advancements in technology during his revisit. A strong work ethic was needed by the Korean people to be able to reap such benefits and success in Korea today.
The Dreaded Capture
Stuart Gunn had a confrontation with the Chinese military at the Battle of Hill 187. The Chinese were very organized. He remembers the moment him and his partners were capture and the pain they all endured. These moments lead to his capture as a Prisoner of War.
Red China: Brainwashing
Stuart Gunn had a very difficult time living in a Chinese POW camp. While at the camp, the Chinese Communist government had educational materials promoting their government for the prisoners that were printed in English. Other POWs at the camp responded to these materials and the mandatory classes in a variety of ways.
[Beginning of recorded material]
S: Uh, Stuart Douglas Gunn. Stuart, S-T-U-A-R-T, uh, Gunn, G_U_N_N.
I: So in your name tag, it says Jim Gunn.
S: That’s right.
I: Tell me the story why you have Jim there.
S: Uh, when I was, uh, as I said, I was always called Jim all my life. My brother’s name was Donald James, uh. So when I joined the Army, I took his birth certificate cause I was too young, and joined under his name.
I: Oh, you cheated.
S: So, it wasn’t a real problem for me to be Donald James. So that, but that was changed at the end of the war.
I: How old were you when you joined the Army?
I: Seventeen. And it’s still too young here?
S: Uh, it was too young. But I, he was a year older than me. So I was actually there as 18 years old.
I: So you took your brother’s birth certificate.
S: Birth certificate, yeah, and joined under his name. Six months later, he joined the Canadian Navy under his own name. Didn’t make any difference.
I: So double?
I: Two, two same names in Navy
I: and Army.
S: Yeah. It was never picked up, uh.
I: Okay. We can pick it up now.
S: No, no. But, oh, it’s been changed. At the end of the war, I had to take an affidavit, uh. One of my uncles blew the whistle.
I: See? This is what we’re digging out, okay? The secret, little secrets coming out. What is your birthday?
S: Uh, the ninth of September, 1934.
I: Nine September,
S: Nineteen thirty-four.
I: Thirty-four. You are young.
S: Eighty-one, yeah.
I: Where were you born?
S: Toronto, Ontario.
I: Toronto. How was Toronto at the time that you were growing up? How was it? It’s now one of the biggest city in Canada.
I: How was it?
S: Uh, it was good. Uh, you know, we, uh, I don’t, uh, I, actually I was, I was born in Toronto. At the end of the war,
I moved, uh, uh, to Acton, Ontario just north of Toronto. Northwest of Toronto to my grandfather’s.
I: And tell me about your family, your parents and your siblings when you were growing up.
S: I have, uh, had two brothers, uh, and one sister. Uh, the, uh, one brother has died, uh, a cup, uh, three years ago, uh. The, uh,
my parents, uh, separated at the end of the second World War. So they kind of kicked me out.
I: Hm. Must been hard for you.
S: Uh, no. I actually enjoyed it.
I: You did?
S: I always liked moving around. Of all my family, I’m the only one that ever really left Toronto. Everybody else is still there.
I: Oh. So when, what were you doing when the Korean War broke out?
S: I was, uhm I don’t think I was, I, I don’t think I was working at that time. Uh, I first tried to join the Army when I was 15. That didn’t work of course, uh. Then I went back when I turned 17 but with my brother’s birth certificate. So it was no problem. Then I, I went in. That was in 1951.
I: Nineteen fifty-one.
I: Month, you remember you joined?
S: Uh, September of ’51. Uh, hill, I can’t, uh, tell you there was any great thing, you know. There was a war going on there. I go in the Army, I wanted to go. That’s all. It’s not, you know, I wasn’t so much, uh, I didn’t any, I didn’t have any grandiose ideas about, uh, about Korea, and I knew nothing about Korea, yeah. I knew there was a war there as I said and, uh, that, uh, was interesting to me, uh, you know. It was kind of an adventure, you know.
S: My father had been in the service. My grandfather had been in the service, uh. So that’s what I wanted to do.
I: So what is Korea to you now?
S: Oh, that’s a much different thing today, uh. That’s for sure, uh. I think they’re fantastic people, uh. Um, e, economically, they’re, they’re very, very bright, uh. They build some of the best stuff in the world today I think. I, I, I went back to Korea and, uh,
S: Yeah. I went in 1955. The government, uh, our government, uh, looked after all that at that time. We flew in a, flew over there in a, in a, uh, military plane and, uh,
I: Canadian government?
S: Yeah, Canadian government, yeah. And, uh,
S: Three. uh, three people were selected from each of the Infantry units, uh, and I lucked out. I, two guys I went with I have known for a long time. They were good friends so made it very easy, you know.
I: So when you saw Korea in 1995 and the Korea you saw in 1952 or so, what is it?
S: Well, one was completely demolished, uh. The other was a, a beautiful growing city, uh, you know, really a, really, really something, uh, very impressive.
I: That’s it?
S: Yeah. I, I, the first day we were there, uh, the hotel we were at I, uh, I don’t remember the name of it, uh.
I got up early in the morning and I went for a walk, uh. I walked down this side street and around the corner. Maybe I walked, uh, I don’t know, maybe a couple kilometers. And on the way back, I came, uh, this building. It was a, a Bank of Korea. And, uh, it was just down the street from this hotel. I can’t remember the name of the hotel.
I: Chosun Hotel or Lotte Hotel.
S: Yes, that’s what it was.
I: Um hm.
S: And, uh, I went in. They, it was open. I went in and, uh, they had a, they had a tour there.
So I walked around, and I, I though, I found it very interesting and I seen that Korea at the end of the war had borrowed quite a bit of money from the, uh, Bank of, uh, from, uh, from the, uh, what is it, the IMP, the, uh, International Banking and, uh, and it was a, there wasn’t a thing that they paid this back, I think 14 or 15 years before it was due which was
quite impressive, you know, because a lot of the countries there didn’t, you know, had a pretty tough time. But, uh, I, I was, I was very surprised.
I: Were you in Seoul during the war?
S: I’m sorry.
I: Were you in the Seoul area?
S: Uh, I was, uh, stationed north of Seoul. I went through
I: Then you, you saw Seoul in 1950.
S: Oh yeah, yeah, oh yes. I seen Seoul.
I: So you have a clear sort of picture of contrast.
S: Uh, just
buildings laying all over the place. It was, uh, demolished, and a very few standing buildings there, you know. It was, uh, it was a, it was a war zone like, like you see today, uh, you know, in some of these other countries that are going through that with ISIS and all that.
I: That’s why we are doing this. We want to preserve your memory.
I: And you have, you are the one who has a very clear picture
I: of Korea 1950 and 1995, right?
S: Yeah, that’s right, yeah, both.
I: And you, you following up with what’s happening in Korea.
S: Oh, I, I think, I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing today.
I: Yeah. So you are the one who has that clear picture
I: We want t o preserve that memory
I: for our future generations. So when did you leave for Korea?
S: I went to Korea in, uh, well, our unit, I was with the Royal Canadian Regiment
I: What is the unit of your
S: The Royal Canadian Regiment.
S: Yeah, RCR.
I: What battalion, second?
S: I was with the, well, I was with the, I was with all of them at one time.
But I went to, I was with the 1st Battalion in Korea when I went in, uh, in 1952. And I faced my, I faced my tour with the North Koreans. But
S: But, uh, I spent, uh, time with the 3rd Battalion.
S: Not, not very long. But
I: So you remember when you leave for Korea, from where?
S: I left from Toronto.
S: Yeah. Well I went on leave, and we were on our way back
to the camp, uh, to Petawawa, and we left from there by train to, uh, Vancouver,
S: And we flew from Vancouver.
I: Oh. So it’s a different route.
S: But, uh, and, and there was a, the morale was good amongst the guys. Uh,
S: You know. They were, uh, it was very good. I, I felt, I thought that was one of the most important parts of it really, was our own morale.
I: Did you have a faith?
I: Are you,
Are you believer?
S: I believe that I would get out of there eventually. But, uh,
I: I mean, you
S: And if you’re talking about something else, no.
I: Are you a Christian?
S: No, I’m not.
I: So you are Atheist.
S: I, oh, I’m not an Atheist, uh. I’m not an Atheist. I’m not a, uh, I guess I could say I’m not a churchgoing, uh,
I: Okay. But did you believe in God?
S: I think I do, yes.
I: Oh. Did you pray?
S: Uh, I don’t remember praying too much.
I: Tell me about the
day that you were released. When did you, when did you get to know that you going to be released, and how and tell me how you
S: Well, it happened, uh, uh, Chinese were always saying, you know, that as soon as we would be going to, uh, Panmunjom.
S: Kaesong. And, uh, uh, soon, soon you go home. Soon you go home. And, uh, you know, so, uh, that, that felt pretty good. And, uh, but two or three times that we were supposed to be going home and nothing happened.
I: Um hm.
S: And then the jets come over and [INAUDIBLE] the camp. So we knew it wasn’t over. And, uh, that was, uh, the best way that we knew that the war was still going on.
I: Um hm.
S: And, uh, there was a period there of 10 or I don’t know how many days that again it was nothing. And one morning we got up and, uh, the trucks were all lined up in the road. So they went down and loaded us on the trucks and, uh, took us down to, uh, to, uh, uh,
S: Pan, yeah, Panmunjom.
I: How long did it take to get to the Panmunjom?
S: I don’t, I don’t recall.
I: Day, two?
S: I don’t remember . It was, uh, seemed like quite a while. It was, uh, uh, like I, I, you know, I, like in the time going down, I remember Ernie always saying to me while we’re taking us to another camp, you know, or going somewhere, you know, worse than this one. You know, I always worried about that. But, uh
I: What were you thinking on the way to Panmunjom?
S: Uh, we’re, well, you gotta
kind of half believe him, you know. Because you never knew really what they were doing, uh, you know. They made a decision and they went, uh.
I: Did your family that you were captured?
S: Yes, my father did.
S: Uh, he, well, uh, I was, uh, I was, uh, listed as missing in action for, I guess a couple of months. There was a release of a, uh, a group of, uh, prisoners that were , uh, pretty badly, uh, mangled up,
and, uh, they had given out names of, uh, that they had seen on the way and, uh, and I think my name was given to somebody and, uh, so they sent my father a telegram saying that I had been, uh, uh, it was discovered that I was a, a prisoner of war.
I: But your name was your brother’s.
S: Yeah. He, but he knew that. It, uh, wasn’t a problem.
I: Okay. Uh,
MALE VOICE: Can I ask a question?
MALE VOICE: Uh, the Chinese. Did they distinguish between the Canadians and the Americans in the camp?
Did they know you guys were specifically Canadians or they
S: Oh yeah.
MALE VOICE: you’re, you’re the same as Americans. Or did they
S: Oh yeah.
MALE VOICE: Or did they make it clear there was a difference?
S: Soon as you moved into the lines they told us who we were.
MALE VOICE: Yeah.
S: Yeah. I mean all you had to do was open the paper in Vancouver
I: But were there any different treatment?
S: and, uh, it says oh, the Royal Canadian Regiment arrived today, and they’re leaving tomorrow for, you know, whatever.
I: But were there any
S: So you can imagine how fast it took them to get that message over there.
I: Were there any different treatments between Canadian and American prisoners of war?
I: Treatment by Chinese.
S: Oh, I don’t think so.
I: No. Okay.
S: Surely not, not in the camp we were in, uh. You know, the Americans were treated the same as we were.
I: What did you want to do right after the cross to Panmunjom and in the side of the free country? What did you want to do?
S: I wanted a cold glass of milk.
I: Many people talking to me, ice cream, vanilla ice cream.
S: No. Milk was, uh, would have been great. Really cold, though, yeah.
I: Did you get DDT through clearing on your body?
S: Oh yeah. Yeah.
I: White powder.
S: Yeah. We, we had, uh, the, yeah, oh yeah. They did all that, uh. Uh, when we got back to Vancouver, we were, I was in the, uh, in the, uh, military hospital in Vancouver for, uh, four or five days I guess. And they cleared me and sent us on our way.
I: So what did you eat? What is the first thing that you eat actually at Panmunjom?
S: After being released?
Right after the, crossing the
S: Well, we couldn’t eat much because, uh, you know, it was all, like I weighed I think about 129 pounds or something like that, you know. You were, uh, pretty hard to, uh, your stomach shrank, you know. Uh, couldn’t, you couldn’t eat very much really. A little bit and you were filled.
S: And I don’t remember what the first, uh, food was.
I: You know, this very difficult time that you went through,
and how do you explain these things? Why did it happen to you? And
S: Well, because I joined. I mean I, you know, I can’t blame anybody else, you know. I wanted to go, and that was it.
S: Like many guys. Many, many, there were a lot of young fellows, you know.
I: No regret?
I: No regret?
S: Uh, no, I don’t have regrets today.
I, it doesn’t do nothing for me, uh. Regarding it, I, I don’t know. I don’t know the people, uh, I was up against, uh, you know. My, my duty was the same as his duty, you know. Either I shoot him or he shoots me, you know. That’s just, uh, that, that’s what war is, you know. So
I: Would you be willing to shake hands with the Chinese if I can arrange a meeting with the Chinese soldier that controlled the camp?
S: That wouldn’t bother me.
I: Wouldn’t bother.
S: No. I, I don’t have any hate against the Chinese.
I: You don’t?
S: You know, ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to go to China. I don’t know why. But I always did. And I got pretty close to it, well, not that close I guess. But, that wasn’t the way I wanted to go. But, uh,
I: So you have your dream come true.
S: Well, no. It didn’t come true. I didn’t get there.
I: No, meet with the Chinese in North Korea.
S: Uh, well, what, I went to, I was, uh, when I went, the time I went on the deal I,
they kind of a strange thing I never, just thought about it. We went to Panmunjom. That was part of the tour. And, uh, it’s, uh, run by the Americans now. And, uh, uh, they, uh, knew that I had been a prisoner of war. So they had made arrangements for me to go on the bridge which they called the Bridge of No Return.
I: Point of No Return, yes.
S: Yeah. So, uh, what they wanted me to do was to walk halfway across the bridge,
and I was with a, uh, uh, uh, an American, uh, I don’t know what rank. He was a, he was a, a full Colonel I believe, and uh, and there was a Canadian, Vanduhu was a, a Colonel who was also there. And, um, and they had two, uh, ROC soldiers and, uh, we started walking across the bridge, and these two soldiers sort of, sort of slowed down and slowed down, and the Colonel said
what the hell we going, uh, you know, and a guy, the other, uh, the Korean soldier said to him well, sir, he said, I think they’re, they’re kind of scared because it had happened before where they had been on the bridge, and if they’re a little too far that side, they grabbed them, you know. Eve, even happened in Panmunjom there.
S: Yeah. So they, they, they were just really, really scared, you know.
I: Oh yeah.
I: That must been a very special arrangement because
S: It was, yeah.
I: two American officers were axed out
I: to death.
S: That, I was told about that.
I: Was a poplar tree accidents.
I: It’s a dangerous area.
I: What did you feel when you crossed that bridge again?
S: Well, I was talking with the, uh, hello Les. I was talking with the, uh, the, uh, uh, the one officer and, uh, I didn’t really pay that much attention to be honest with you.
I: You are too simple man. No, no remorse or any, any thinking when you crossed that bridge again that you crossed
S: It didn’t do a lot for me if that’s what you mean. It didn’t, uh, yeah. It brought back some memories. But, uh,
I: What memory?
S: Well, I remember when we landed there, uh. I, I remembered, uh, what I remember most was the, uh, uh, they, they had a quota. They were releasing, uh, something like, uh, 350 or 400, uh, uh, British soldiers, uh, maybe 600 Americans, you know.
Uh, oh. Uh, the British, no, it was the Commonwealth. They called it the Commonwealth, that they were releasing,
S: and it was made up of Australians, Canadians
S: and that, you know, and I remember that
I: New Zealand.
S: and, and I remembered going across the, the bridge. I remember Ernie saying to me, uh, uh, if they, if they come here, he says, I’m taking off. So that was, uh, I, I, I, I remembered that.
S: But I, I didn’t remember anything else really.
I: Is there any impact of your experience as a prisoner of war upon your life after you returned from Korea? What kind of impact? What kind of man did you become after that? Is there any impact?
S: Well, yeah. I, I think, uh, you know, I’m a little bit more, uh, uh, I think I’m a little brighter than I was then. I, I, I left the, I only stayed in the Army for nine years when I left, uh, in 1960.
But you know. It, it’s always there, you know, and that never leaves me. Uh, I have many times when I think about it. I have many times I think about when I was a prisoner. But I mean, I don’t, you know. It, it’s, it’s, it’s in my memory, you know. I’ve talked a few times about it, uh, to a, a group. I,, a couple of Legion branches you know. But, uh, that, that’s, that’s about it.
I: So when you go back to 1995, you, I asked about the question in the beginning of our interview. Now it’s time to wrap up. But I want to, want you to say about all these things in, in a kind of perspective. You knew nothing about Korea. You had to go there. You actually volunteered, even cheating your age. You become the prisoner of war. You went through those
several months of very difficult time. Now you, uh, looking back all those years. What would you say about your experience as a closing argument statement?
S: Well, I don’t think it says, I don’t, I wouldn’t say it was something I would hurry into again that’s for sure. Uh, at that time I was pretty young, you know, and, uh, everything was a bit of an adventure, uh. I was a real, I really liked
moving around. I, I said I’m the only one ever left, uh, my family in Toronto, you know, and, and I’ve lived all over, all over the place. But, uh, uh, as they say, it, it’s hell that’s for sure. War is hell, you know. It’s, uh, uh, it, it always stays in your mind. It’ll always be there, uh, you know. Something comes up and, you know, it reminds you of that or, you know,
I: What would you say to Korean people?
S: Oh, I think Korean people are fantastic. I’m not saying that because you’re a Korean. But, uh, but that’s the truth. I think they are. I, I can’t, uh, I think what these people do for those, those, uh, soldiers that have served there is, uh, is, is, is unbelievable. You know, we, uh, you know, you go back to the 2nd World War, uh, Holland sends us tulips every year, you know.
And, uh, that’s a big thing. I, I don’t think there’s any comparison to what the Korean people do. I mean our, you know, our, my grandson has even gone to Korea on a, one of the peace, uh,
I: Peace Corps.
S: Yeah, in the Peace Talks and, uh,
I: Peace Camp, I’m sorry.
S: Yeah, Peace Camp I mean, yeah.
S: Thought it was fantastic you know. But, uh, you know, and, and it’s just everything. Everything that, uh, things they, they, you know, they treat us very, very well here, uh. Their, their Embassy staff is
excellent, uh. Good, good people really.
I: Jim, thank you very much for your fight.
S: My pleasure.
I: And on behalf of Korean nation, I want you to know that we never forgot about what happened to many Korean War veterans, especially for the Prisoner of War. That, it’s horrible stories. I have many, more than 40 interviews of American POWs
S: Oh yeah.
I: At the end, everybody’s just crying. Everybody just crying.
I couldn’t stop my. And because it’s just beyond our imagination. And you went through. But because of your sacrifice, Korea is now stronger ever. In our whole history
I: So Korean War actually transformed our country.
S: That’s right.
I: So these all good things came out of this.
S: I would agree. Yeah. I, I think it’s a great country today.
They’ve done a hell of a job.
I: Thank you, Jim.
S: Thank you, my friend.
S: from Ottawa here who, uh, were pretty gung ho guy. Like he seemed to be gung ho.
I: Um hm.
S: And he had told this guy that he was going home with a medal. And that’s kind of dangerous, you know.
S: Uh, dangerous to be with a guy like that.
S: But anyways what happened, they got down to the bottom of the hill. He never even gone into the valley. And he started yelling, uh, come in through me
to the guys from the other patrol. And he was standing up, uh. Chinaman threw a grenade and hit him right in the head with it.
S: He died right away. Uh, I guess he missed, uh, never stand when you can sit or sit when you can lay down.
S: Smallest target. But, uh, he was, uh, he was killed and, uh, again, uh, the Corporal there was
the one who, uh, got them back together and, uh. But they didn’t get back up in the hill at that time. Then the attack had started and, uh, the 24 Platoons, uh, uh, uh, Charlie Company, like Seven Platoon and Eight Platoon, uh, were, I would say, they were at least 30, 35% un restrained. But the Chinese was a Battalion that attacked. And most of that attack came
against, uh, Seven Platoon and Eight Platoon. Now where I went down to the trench on the right, I mean, it was like the 401 beside it. This is where the, the Chinese came in. And they were just firing up and down the trenches, uh, throwing in concoction grenades. Uh, they, they were extremely well organized, very, very well organized. They had a, they had a group, uh, they had groups all set up, one for, for the wire, uh, for the, uh, uh, for, for POWs, for, uh, for everything, you know.
They, they just, uh, were that organized. And, uh, they would go by the trench and they would, uh, be, they were yelling. And, uh, we had, I had, uh, I had two grenades. My partner, I think, had two or three. I think we had maybe five grenades amongst us. Well, when we heard them coming up the hill, we got, we got rid of the grenades. You, you couldn’t miss. All you had to do was lob them over the, the parapet, uh.
The three, uh, the, uh, uh, Chinese coming up and, and, uh, we couldn’t use the, well I, I took the carbine which the super scope is mounted on and, uh, my partner, uh, had the, uh, the Enfield rifle, the sniper rifle. But, uh, in the trench we were in was pretty tight and, uh, it was hard to turn, and when they started running through the trenches,
I also had a, uh, .45, uh, uh, American .45 pistol that I got from a American for a bottle of gin. And, uh, and it had, I think, six or seven shots in it. And I fired those as they were going by the trench. I don’t know if I hit anybody. But, uh, they seemed to back up and then, uh, then they started, they came, they started throwing conduction grenades in again, uh. My partner was really
badly wounded. He was hit up all, all up the one side. He was bleeding really bad. And I took my hand away, and I, well, it was all covered in blood. I thought I’d been hit. But I couldn’t feel anything. Then I realized that, that it had been him. So I sort of got up on my knees, uh, to see if I could get ahold of field dressing or something and, uh, I was sort of, uh, half, uh, standing kneeling, and this con, concussion grenade come in over my head
S: and landed right behind me on the parapet
and, uh, knocked me out for about, oh I don’t know. Yeah, I, I went down, I know, and, uh, I could see stars and everything and, uh, I thought well gee, uh, you know. Then I couldn’t remember anything, and I sort of got myself back up, and at that time there was five Chinese in the, in the trench. They were all armed with Burp guns. A Burp gun fires 700 to 800 rounds per minute. And we had a LeEnfield rifle that fired one round.
I think our country kind of let us down there.
I: Ah. When you recognized that you are surrounded by Chinese, what were you thinking to yourself?
I: When you sere surrounded by Chinese
I: what were you thinking to yourself?
S: Oh, I’d, well first of all, I was thinking about my, my partner. And, uh, the one Chinaman, uh, went over and he was sort of digging at him with a, a, the end of the, of the Burp gun, you know, and I kept saying he’s dead, he’s dead, you know, he’s dead. And the guy maybe got disinterested
and he came back and they grabbed me and they tied my, my hand, my hands and took me out to the end of the, the, the trench, uh, system, and started to take me down. But at the same time, the Chinese were there picking up their own people. And they were picking up lots of them.
I: You were wounded, right, by the grenade?
I: No. Oh.
S: Not at that stage.
MALE VOICE: What happened to your partner, Jim? Did he survive?
S: I don’t know. I looked and looked like from many, many times. I’ve never been able to find him. Uh, uh, I thought, I read the, I, he’s not on the list. So I don’t know really what happened. I don’t know what happened to him.
MALE VOICE: Do you know if he was killed or captured or what?
S: Well, he wasn’t captured. I, I know that. I know all the ones that were captured. But he was, uh, uh
MALE VOICE: Missing.
S: I talked to a guy after I come back, uh, and I asked what happened to him, like [INAUDIBLE] and some of those guys, and they didn’t know.
I: So when was it? When you were captured, the day that you captured?
S: May, uh, May the second.
S: Yeah, May second.
S: Well, the attack started on May the second, uh.
S: Probably went for, aye?
I: Nineteen fifty-two.
S: Nineteen fifty-three.
I: And this is the prisoner of war camps map.
I: Can you point where you were? When, where were you actually,
this is the, another map that, about the routing of, this prisoner of war brought back, brought to the North Korea. Can you identify any of those?
S: What we, uh, when we were first captured, we walked for almost, uh, two weeks I guess moving back to, and then we were picked up by trucks and taken to this, uh, this goldmine that was, had been converted into a camp.
S: Uh, it’s, I, I only know it was north of Pyongyang. I, I don’t know. I don’t, the camp was, they, they tell us the camp was not marked. So I don’t think these
I: Can you identify from there?
S: Uh, I look here. I’m afraid my eyes aren’t that good.
I: Can you show that map to the camera?
S: These were the march routes, though.
I: That’s the routes that the prisoner of war had to walk
I: for north.
S: This was the first, this was the first part of the war.
I: Yeah, yeah. But look at
S: Most of the camps then were up on the Yalu.
I: But you were not around the Yalu.
I: I know you are around north of Pyongyang in the goldmine.
S: Yeah, that’s right.
I: So you cannot identify.
S: Let me look here. Uh,
I: Okay. Let’s go back. So how did they, how did they treat you, Chinese, right? You were captured by Chinese.
S: It depended a lot on the Peace Talks. The Peace Talks were going good, you know. They, they weren’t so bad. The Peace Talks were going bad, uh. It wasn’t too nice.
Our biggest problem was our planes, uh, you know. They would go up to the Yalu, uh, with, uh, bombing runs, uh, strafing, uh, and whatever ammunition they had on the way back, they would to look for targets of opportunity.
I: How long did it take to get to that camp from the place where you were captured?
S: Well, we walked for two weeks, so I don’t really
I: Two weeks?
S: I couldn’t really tell you how long it, uh,
I: And then you took truck
S: Then we went by transport
I: Yeah. That was, I mean, many
of prisoner of war that I had interviewed, they have awful time.
I: Were you able to keep your shoes?
S: Yeah. You have to remember, you know, I was only there for, uh, uh, four and a half
I: No, when you marching to the north.
S: close to five months, you know. Some of these, these guys who they had for three years really suffered.
I: No. What, what I’m saying is when you marched toward the north,
I: were you able to keep your boots?
I: Okay. Because many,
they took off those boots.
S: I know.
I: They had to walk naked.
S: Yeah. Uh, people, we were, we, we had, we had two or three guys who were wounded pretty bad, you know, and we had to look after them, uh, you know. Uh, it was just, uh, there was not nothing else you could do, uh, you know, uh. They would get pretty slow. You’d have to almost carry them lots of times. So
MALE VOICE: Jim, were your prisoners all Canadian, or were they a mixed bag of prisoners?
S: Well, total
MALE VOICE: Yeah.
S: All mixed bag in the camps.
MALE VOICE: Yeah.
S: But, uh,, when I, when they, I was taken, they were all Canadians. All from Charlie Company. There was, uh, seven total.
I: How many meals per day during the march to the camp?
S: Oh gee. I don’t remember. I think they maybe fed us a couple times. I don’t really recall. It wasn’t much of a, a meal. It was like, uh, grass that they heated up, you know.
Wasn’t, uh, you never ever got, I don’t, I don’t ever recall ever having meat or anything like that. In the camps, they, they fed us rice, uh, you know, mundle they called it.
I: So you must not been that cold because it was March
S: Well, I was taken
S: in May and released in August, the end of August I guess.
I: Yeah. So let us talk about the life at the camp. How, how did they treat you? Where did you sleep? What did you do?
S: Well, we’re all, well, as I said it was a goldmine. So there were all hooches, uh, uh, along the, uh, there was a river running through there. And, uh, that was the front part of it, uh, beyond the wire. And then the back was a mountain, straight up,
I: Um hm.
S: you know. That was, uh, but at the end of the, uh, at the end of the, uh, of the camp, there was a, uh, a, uh, big, uh, cave. So, you know, whenever we heard the planes
coming, they would hustle us down into these caves. And then they came back and said, uh, after, after a couple of times, cause we got the planes there quite, quite a bit. And they came back, uh, one day, and they had these papers they wanted us to sign. They were addressed to the, uh, to the uh, to the, uh, uh, President of the United States, uh, uh, Britain, to the, uh, uh, United Nations
to any, every, every, all the key people that our planes were trying to kill us. This is what they, uh. Well at that time in the camp when that come out, there was seven guys from the Marine Corps. were in the first hooch, and we were in the next hooch. And there was six of us there. Seventh guy was the officer. He was kept, uh, separate, uh. The uh, so there wasn’t a lot of, uh,
of people at that camp at that time, you know. There was that seven, and we were six I think, something like that, uh. And they, uh, they wanted us to sign these, but we wouldn’t sign them. So the next time the planes came, we didn’t go to the cave. They closed the door of the fence, and we had one guy who had been wounded, and American who had been wounded pretty bad, and these planes were firing 50 cal shells.
And he got hit in the leg there, took his leg off and, uh, and he eventually died. But they, uh, but when we were finally, uh, uh, uh, released, there was over 450 people in that camp.
I: How many were there when you entered?
S: Seven guys before us from the Marine Corps. and then us six guys. That was it. Then they just started coming in.
I: How did they treat you? Meals, and where did you sleep? And these things? Tell me.
S: Well, we slept in these hooches that, uh
I: How many?
S: Uh, about five, six in each one.
I: How big was it?
S: Oh, you take that corner over there, I guess, and sort of square it off. That’s about the size.
I: Um hm. So it wasn’t too bad.
S: No, it wasn’t that bad.
I: Because the prison camp around the Yalu River, about 15 people slept like a sardine
because there is no space
I: to put their backs.
I: And there was no heating at all, and it’s so damn cold, people die of
S: Of course.
I: being frozen.
S: Yeah. But, uh, it, it, when we were first there, that’s the way it was. But as I said when we were finally [repatriated] there was 430 there. So
I: Were there any fleas?
I: Flea, flea.
S: Oh, flea. Well, everybody, everybody had, uh,
every, everybody had dysentery. Uh, there was all kinds of, I don’t know if they were fleas. I didn’t really, uh, ask if they were bugs. All kinds of bugs.
I: According to this, the fleas all over the, the daily work they have to kill this flea with their fingernails. So how many meals a day?
S: I think we got two.
I: What kind, rice or
S: Rice, yeah, definitely rice, uh. They called it Mondol. It was like a ball.
And, uh, this soupy stuff, uh, which I say was grass, and I think it was. But, uh, very, I think, I think maybe there was one time that they, uh, it was some kind of a holiday that they got a piece of pork and a
I: Yeah, pork, right?
I: Were there any, uh, activities, like sports or playing music or
S: No. Not, not
S: No, no. They, uh, twice I can remember they took us down to the river to swim. Now the water was pure white. I don’t know if that’s from the goldmines or what, I don’t know. But, uh, I, I remember because, uh, the one, the one, uh, you know, we had names for all the guards, uh, and uh, this one guy who used to take us down there, everybody called him Glorious.
S: Glorious cause he said everything was glorious. That’s what he always thought.
I: And uh, the day he took us down to the river, guys went in the river and, uh, they wanted, they wanted us out, out of the river to go back to the camp, and he couldn’t remember what to say so he said land, land. [INAUDIBLE] land, you know. And, uh, everybody laughed at him and, uh. But one tough time we had there was a, a, a, uh, uh, signal post or a
light post. I don’t really what it was, uh. China, uh, one of the Chinese soldiers said, uh, there was a problem with it. He grabbed up, he’d gone up there to see if he could fix it, and I think he grabbed the wrong wire. He got electrocuted.
S: And the guys were all in the camp, they all started clapping. Boy I tell you. That really caused a
I: They had electricity there?
I: They had electricity?
S: Yeah, yeah. He got, I don’t, I don’t know what he touched. But, uh, he got electrocuted. And, and uh, he, uh, like everybody started clapping and, uh, they started
looking, uh, you know, they were not too happy with that. They, we, we didn’t eat that night. They, they were funny that way, uh, funny.
I: Was there any, um, brainwash class? Class? Teaching?
S: Oh, oh, oh yeah.
S: Uh, well, oh yes. To start with, yeah. Every, every little bit was to start with. But as the camp got bigger, they didn’t have enough there. They forgot about us and were busy with
new people coming in, new, new guys coming in every day.
I: What do they teach you?
S: But they, well, it wasn’t so much, they had a, they had a red book there that was a Chinese book and, uh, they used to lend that out. The only thing is they stopped lending it out because guys, most guys had diarrhea, they would take it to the toilet with them and use the paper.
I: Was it written in English?
S: Uh, no, uh, yeah, yeah. It was in English that book.
I: What did it say?
S: Uh, um, well it just talked about, uh, Red China and about
the Communists, uh, and uh, how, uh, everything was, was beautiful, uh, how they shared and, uh, about their, uh, uh, their, uh, what they call them, the groups they have, you know, that collect, the collective groups and, uh, that was pretty well it. I never actually read the book myself. A couple of the guys did, uh. But that’s the only thing that they had really was to
I: Who did teach?
I: Who did teach that class?
S: Well, they had two, uh, they had two Chinese officers there that were, were bilingual. One guy was very good. I think he had been, uh, I think he had been trained in, uh, in the Unite d States. And the other was, uh, pretty, broken English. But, uh, but no. You, you could understand them, you know.
I: How did you feel about it?
S: Well, we always, uh, well, we would always tell him crazy stories and, uh,
S: Yeah, all of us. All after the same thing.
I: What, what crazy story?
S: Well, they, they would ask okay. Uh, where did you come from, you know, uh.
What did you do, uh? Well, I didn’t do anything. My father was a millionaire, you know, uh. Stories like that, you know? They were, and they, they would look. They’d never seen so many millionaires I guess. But, uh, all, all crazy stories, you know.
I: So you’d give, you give them some story
I: to choose.
S: Yeah. And they would, uh, but, uh, they would, uh, uh, were always accusing, uh, accusing us of germ warfare and, uh, you know, t hat our, our
planes were, uh, doing, that’s what they were doing, uh. We had one guy was, he’s dead now. Captured here. He was a, a, a officer pilot, uh. Fellow by the name of, uh, MacDonald, MacDonald? The Air Force guy?
MALE VOICE: Don’t know.
S: Yeah. Um, he was one of the founding members of the KVA here. Uh, Anderson. I’m sorry. It wasn’t MacDonald. It was Anderson. Uh, he head of a group Captain after the war.
But he was shot down by, by his own, by his own people. By an American plane. So, but they really gave him a hard time. He was, he never got released at the end of the Korean War. It was almost a year after, and he was released from China. So
S: Yeah. He had quite a time.
I: Were there any punishment, punishment?
S: Uh, yeah. Uh, but minor and not, uh, not nowhere near what it was like up in the Yalu, you know. There were, they had some real, real tough punishments up there. Uh, but, uh, there they didn’t really, I don’t, I don’t think they really had the facilities, you know. What they
would do, they would make you clean their latrines, you know, which were, which was a terrible, terrible job, uh, uh, uh,
deny, uh, uh, meals, you know. But I, I don’t remember any, uh, any, uh, abuse, you know. I don’t, uh,
S: Yeah. I don’t remember any of that.
I: No cruelty?
S: No, not at, not towards the end of the war.
I: Not bitten?
I: No? No bidding?
I: Huh. Did you have any hope that you’re going to be released?
S: We did every day. Uh, one of the prisoners with us
was a guy by the name of Ernie Taylor. He, he’s dead now. And the Americans all had a saying they would say, you know, trim the tree in ’53 meaning they’d be home for Christmas. Ernie would tell them see the Golden Gate in ’58. They weren’t very happy about that. They called him Scoop Taylor. But he was, he was a character.
I: What made you through that?
S: What, what
I: What made you
S: Go through it?
I: Yeah, go through all this
I: You know, in, in
other [INAUDIBLE] many people suicide. They wanted, they didn’t want to live because, and they’d been thinking about ice cream or donuts while they were given this very small meals, and they refused to eat this so that they’d die of hunger. I mean, what made you get through all this?
S: Well, as I, as I said earlier, you, you have to look at the time here. I mean uh, the war went for another, the war ended on the 27th of July, yeah.
So I mean, everything was, everything was based on the Peace Talks.
I: But you didn’t know that the war going to
S: We, we didn’t know
S: We didn’t know that, no.
I: Right. So what made you go through?
S : Well, well I mean, uh, we felt that we were, we were gonna be released. Nothing goes on forever, uh, you know. We figured eventually it’s gonna be over, uh. Hopefully we’ll make it, you know. I, I don’t know what other way you could look at it.
S: Yeah. [INAUDIBLE] different than what some of the others
S: Uh, well our draft was a verified draft. But, uh,
I: When was it? When did you leave?
S: In October, uh, no, I’m sorry. Before October. It was, uh, it’d be in September I guess when we flew there. October was when the RCR got hit on 355.
I: So you left for Korea around October of 1951.
S: That’s correct. Uh, no, October of, ,yeah, sorry, that’s correct, yeah.
S: October 1951.
I: Where did you arrive?
I: Where did you arrive in Korea?
S: At, uh, at uh, Pusan.
I: Not Kimpo?
S: No. No, no, no. We, we landed, uh, no. We landed in Japan.
S: We were in Japan at the battle school at Haramera for, uh, two or three weeks I guess, four weeks. But uh, while we were there, a bomb went off, uh, a rocket launcher bomb and, uh, two guys were killed and about nine guys were wounded. And uh, I was with them at that time, uh, when they were out there.
And uh, I, so I, I was held back for the Court of Inquiry for the, what actually happened there, you know. So, uh
I: But you arrived in Pusan by ship, right?
S: No, I flew.
S: No, no. I, oh. I’m, yeah. We arrived in Japan by, or in uh, in Korea by ship, yeah.
S: The Esang.
I: And tell me about the Pusan that you saw. How was it? People, buildings, scenes
S: What I remember most was the smell.
I: What is it?
S: The smell.
I: Smell of what?
S: Oh, I don’t wanna tell you.
I: Human, human waste, right?
S: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I: We call honey pot.
S: Yeah, yeah. It was, uh, it wasn’t, uh, it wasn’t a nice place, uh, that’s for sure. Mind you, I went back, too. I was there, uh. It’s something else today.
I: Yeah., That’s the Korea in 1952.
S: Yeah. But today it’s a, Pusan is a, it’s quite nice.
I: What else did you, do you remember of Pusan that you arrived?
S: Uh, well we, well of course we went to the, uh, to the cemetery, our nation’s cemetery, uh.
I: No, no, when you arrived for the first time in Pusan. What do you remember?
S: Oh. Uh, well there, from there we were put on, uh, trains. And they lent us six rounds of ammunition. And that was it. We went north to, uh,
to uh, Taejon
S: No. I can’t remember the name of the place.
I: Was it south of Seoul or north of Seoul?
S: I think it was south of Seoul.
I: Taejon, yes.
S: Yeah, okay.
I: And? And then?
S: Well, we were there for uh, a very, very short time. And then they moved us into a, a, the field area, you know.
We did a bit of training there. And then we were posted to companies. Like I went to Baker company, and uh
I: Baker Company where?
S: Uh, it was on the, they were on the, uh, uh, they had just come off 355 where the attack was and, uh, they’re, they’re on the e hook end. So
I: Um. So tell me about the typical day that you were there. What, what did you do? What was your mission? What was your duty?
S: Well, the daytime you,
you slept pretty well. At night, uh, you were a stand to, you know. We had, uh, listening posts and, uh, we did patrolling, uh, you know, pretty well the whole bag of what you, you know, what they were doing, uh. I think the Chinese were of, uh, uh, ruled the valley, you know.
I: Um hm.
S: But uh, it uh, we, we did a lot of patrolling, lot, lot lot of, uh, and a lot of listening posts, uh, you know. Nights were busy, you know.
You were busy at night.
I: Was it, wasn’t it really dangerous because, when you’re patrolling around the lines of,
I: Mainline of resistance, right?
S: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I: Yeah. Is there any episode that you want to share?
S: Uh, well the patrolling, uh, we did a lot of, uh, what I got involved in was a lot of, uh, listening posts, you know, which is, uh, um, in front of your unit, you know,
maybe, maybe you’re out there maybe 200 yards, something like that, you know, two guys and, uh, it’s a listening post, you know. So every little noise you’re listening and, and trying to figure, you know, what, what it is, uh. But uh, I can’t remember too many episodes there that, uh
I: Were there any ambush there or sniper shot?
S: Well yeah. They all, you always had that on the hill or anywhere, you know. I’d say, you know, you’re always getting a, a, a,
small, small fire there, you know, um, um. But uh, if there were, like any movement, you had to be careful you know. But there wasn’t that much movement in the daytime other than those people who were on duty, you know. So
I: Recollecting your memory, how is it like patrolling on the night that you don’t have any visibility?
S: It’s uh, kind of scary, you know. You’re uh, you know, you don’t, you can’t really see anything, you know.
There’s so many very small bushes, you know, that uh, you’re going around all the time and, uh, and sometimes, you know, you, you, you stop and, uh, and you can hear, you can hear maybe a Chinese patrol talking, you know and uh,
I: Were you able to listen?
S: Well yeah. But uh, we didn’t have anybody that could
S: Uh, could understand them.
I: So tell me that, how you been captured by whom and when and how?
S: Well, when the 1st Battalion went home, I was transferred to the 3rd Battalion.
S: And they transferred me to the Sniper section. So uh, I had to take uh, additional training there and, uh, at first we were just, uh, we were body guard for the Brigadier or whatever, you know, or any people that came
S: Yeah. And uh, but then, uh, uh, Charlie Company moved into the lines, uh. Uh, 3rd Battalion arrived there on, uh, March
I: Um hm.
S: And uh, uh, they were, they arrived, yeah. They arrived in March, and in April they were on the hill.
I: Um hm.
S: Very little training uh. But uh, that, that was it. And my, the first I got, uh, uh, we, we had a, uh, an officer used to be, well, he used to be a part of our, our branch here in Ottawa, uh, Ed Hoyer, you know, Lieutenant Colonel, uh. Well he wasn’t, he was a 2nd Lieutenant then.
A little guy who come up through the ranks, uh. Very, a very excellent officer, uh. But he, uh, had seen one night where the Chinese, they were getting a lot of uh, of uh, artillery fire into our position and, uh, into Charlie Company position. And uh, and doing, examining, they noticed that there was a lot of different fragments. So they, uh, assumed that, uh, you know, it looks like, you know, they’re sort of bringing artillery together
maybe for an attack.
I: Um hm.
S: So they believed that all along and uh, that actually did happen, uh. But Hoyer, uh, seen a, a, a Chinese patrol where two guys had, uh, actually, uh, dug in at the cut in the wire by going out into the valley. And, uh, so he reported to his Commanding Officer, and he asked him to have a sniper team come up with a super co, uh, infrared super scope.
I: Oh, you had an infrared at, at the time too?
S: Yeah. We had the super scope then.
S: And so, uh, I, that was my, my turn come up. So myself and my partner were told to report to the, uh, Gpad and, uh, they would take us up to Charlie Company which they did. We got up to Charlie Company and, uh, uh, the, uh, uh, Company Sergeant Major, Harold Picassa, uh, took me over to, uh,
to meet the Commanding Officer who was Captain Mullins. And he told us to stand down and he would contact us when he wanted us to move. Well all of those, uh, Charlie Company was probably 30% under strength. Very very very few soldiers. And, uh, when, uh, when he told me to, uh, what happened, uh, uh, a, a a mortar bomb or an artillery shell come in
and killed one of the Chinese guys that was at the bottom. So they didn’t want, they didn’t need the sniper team. So I thought well, we’re probably going back to Headquarters Company. But Captain Mullins was a Second World War veteran. And I guess he figured a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. He wasn’t gonna let us go cause he was very short people and, uh, he knew that we were trained, uh. We’d been all 1st Battalion and that. So he said well, uh,
set the uh, uh, the [INAUDIBLE] made it across to get me and the, I went over to his bunker and he says well, he says, we’re gonna have you and your partner move down to Eight Platoon and report to Captain, uh, to Lieutenant Battan, uh. Lieutenant Battan was a young soldier from Ottawa here. So I said oh, okay fine. I figured whatever we were there to do was still going on. So it took us,
by that time, uh, lots of artillery was coming in. So it took us about, uh, oh I’d say close to ¾ of an hour to go 400 yards down to the, uh, Eight Platoon because shells were coming in. You’re on the ground more than you’re up. Finally we got down there, and I seen Battan and, uh, I said to him well, you know, what’s, what’s the score? What are we doing? He says right now, he says, you know, um, I’m very much under strength. He says there was a patrol out in the valley, one of our patrols from Abel Company,
and it had been hit, uh. The officer had been killed, and the Corporal brought the patrol, tried to bring the patrol back in. Uh, that didn’t , uh, go off very good. So they had, Battan was set up to be the, uh, the follow up patrol. But they had, uh, radioed down to stop them, but he had got a, he got out there before they did. So he took a bunch of people from his own section, from his own platoon
that left him very short. So he asked me if I would go to the right flank and take over a trench there, and I says okay fine. So what we had to do, we stripped down the super scope and the sniper rifle because, uh, you know, we sure as hell didn’t want to be caught with those, and, uh, moved down to that trench. Now Battan, Battan was a young officer.
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