Veteran Stories:
Donatien Vaillancourt

Army

  • Medal of the Royal Canadian Legion for the landing at Dieppe.

  • Letter wrote by Mr. Vaillancourt when he was held as a POW in a German camp at the beginning of 1944.

  • Medal given for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Dieppe to Mr. Vaillancourt by the mayor of Dieppe in 2004.

  • Medal for the 60th anniversary of the landing at Juno Beach marked with the skydiver, presented to Donatien Vaillancourt in 2004.

  • Letter to his fiancée written by Donatien Vaillancourt and signed "Isaac", his name adopted during his stay as a prisoner of war.

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"We had the choice between taking the easy and passive route and waiting for the war to end, or causing a bit of trouble for the enemy... I had the opportunity to escape three times..."

Transcript

Hello. My name is Donatien Vaillancourt. I enlisted in 1939 at 22 years of age. I was completely free to enlist since I had my teacher’s diploma, and I could teach, however I always had a love of history and of war. It was my favourite subject in school. Thus, I enlisted believing that I was enlisting in a war that would last about six months. I believed that the allies were too strong for Germany. I couldn’t have imagined that we would have let them equip themselves as much as they did, since weapons were prohibited in Germany. But we were wrong. Instead of lasting for six months, it lasted for six years, truly longer than we had thought. We could say that we lost six years of our lives, especially as I had the misfortune of being taken as a prisoner of war for three years. So those men… those years, we didn’t achieve anything positive. We were strictly waiting for the end to come. It was long. That is what takes the longest.

We often complain of prisoners of war. However, I would say regarding those who are prisoners of war, if it wasn’t for being interned and alone, it’s a lot better than those who are at war and risking their lives every minute. It’s long and it’s unpleasant, and we don’t have enough… naturally, we don’t have enough food. Often the Germans who held us prisoner were criticized. I found that to be a bit negative. From what I saw of the Germans who were holding us as prisoners, they were mostly veterans from the First World War who were generally kind to us, who were carrying out their duty and who strove not to persecute us for nothing. Those who were more difficult were the ones from other countries who sought to join the German army in an effort to fight communism, such as Czechoslovakians, Poles and Ukrainians. To prove how serious they were to the Germans, they sometimes acted, as we say, like pigs. With respect to the Germans, they were reasonable. They were enemies. They were carrying out their duty. We wouldn’t have done any better. Those were painful years, years during which we could measure ourselves as men. We had hard times. We had the choice between taking the easy and passive route and waiting for the war to end, or causing a bit of trouble for the enemy by going to work and causing trouble on the work commandos. In those cases, it would maybe get more interesting with escaping, things like that.

I had the opportunity to escape three times but not to my advantage because when I succeeded the last time, it was because I wanted to go home more quickly. But instead of heading home more quickly, I landed on the Russian side and I ended up coming home last, on June 17, 1945. But, all the same, I was firmly determined not to end the war as a prisoner, and I had succeeded.

What do I think of the war now? It’s hard. I see the wars today and I am against them because it’s mostly chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction that are making war and that will kill as many civilians as they will soldiers. So… war is becoming too dangerous. I hope that there won’t be any more.

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