Paul Mimeault's discharge certificate, dated 27th July 1945.Paul Mimeault
Photo of Paul Mimeault, taken in September 1945, upon his return from Europe.Paul Mimeault
Photo of Paul Mimeault, taken in Rome in July of 1944.Paul Mimeault
Paul Mimeault's medals, attest to a long military service record. From left to right, the first four ones are his Second World War medals:1939-1945 war medal, Italy star, France and Germany star, defence medal, Canadian volontary service medal, and then his post war medals, including service in Korea and the Canadian peacekeeping service medal, Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal, Canadian Forces decoration for 12 years service, with bar for additional 10 years service. The last two ones are non official commemorative medals for the liberation of Europe and the Korean War.Paul Mimeault
"We were so tired, and so afraid; we didn’t know where we were going anymore. We all had long beards and bulging eyes. It lasted 30 days, day and night."
It was unbelievable! I grew up next to the Saint-Lawrence River. I thought I had seen waves but I hadn’t seen anything. Those weren’t waves on the ocean, they were mountains. There were 40 000 soldiers on board the SS Ile de France. They told us to leave our bags and we left for the front lines. We came to a mountain and obviously, there was no woods. There was a big valley. In the evening, the commander came to see us and he said, "You see over there, that’s the Gothic Line. We leave tonight, we’ll walk all night and then tomorrow we’ll attack." I thought to myself, this is it - what I have I gotten myself into?! [The Gothic Line was the last line of German defensive fortifications against the Allied armies’ advance in Italy, 1944].
The Gothic Line was 16 kilometres deep. There was barbed wire, mines and pillboxes, as they called them. The pillboxes were underground structures mounted with tank turrets. They allowed us a period of time to cross it. It took us a month. We were so tired, and so afraid; we didn’t know where we were going anymore. We all had long beards and bulging eyes. It lasted 30 days, day and night. It was really hard. We lost a lot of men. We finally arrived around four o’clock in the morning. We were supposed to attack right away that morning but another battalion had launched an attack ahead of us. They attacked and we heard a hellish sound. The company that was ahead of us had found themselves in a minefield. They pushed us back. They wanted to send the Air Force in; it was too strong. Everyone was scared. If someone says he wasn’t scared during the war, it’s because that he wasn’t there. He was somewhere in England. Because on the battlefield, we endured fear, cold, hunger and rain. We grabbed 10-15 minutes of sleep from time to time.
What was the most funny wasn’t really funny at all. When the German guns fired, we slept and when they stopped, we would wake up. If the guns were firing, it meant that the German soldiers weren’t near us. Once the firing stopped, then the German soldiers would come back out and that’s when it got dangerous. That’s where the bullets came from.
A half-hour after arriving, everyone would dig their trenches. I had the time to dig a hole about a foot deep. We wanted to hide. I put the soil on the side closest to the Germans. We stayed there from four o’clock in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon. We had cramps. As soon as we would try to move a bit, the Germans would fire near our foxholes.
When I took a prisoner, naturally I made him put his hands in the air. Some prisoners cried and others spoke about their families. Some soldiers made the prisoners run. But not me. Once they were disarmed, they weren’t dangerous anymore. When I was in the hospital in Italy, there were two young soldiers, prisoners. There were three soldiers, a corporal and two soldiers. One of them asked me if I liked the war. I answered no. He said to me, "Why did you come here then?" I was dumbfounded; I didn’t know how to respond. A general, a high-ranking German officer said to me after the war, "We fought against you Canadians and we lost. We’re your prisoners but we like you."