"Lots of times I was scared. And I was. Because to face death is not normal. And I faced it. And I got slapped down lots of times. But my job was to prove that facing death was part of the job."
I was known as a tough Cape Bretoner. And I figured I was tough. I had the sergeant rank, and I held that with pride. I was the youngest one in the outfit, and some of them were old enough to be my father. So I held that with pride too.
I had some really good friends. I made friends there and I met one guy, a fellow by the name of Jack Heatherington from Dundurn, Saskatchewan. He and I were buddies. We went to all the boxing and all the rest of the stuff together. We didn’t smoke or drink, or run around with women or anything. So we were matched. We went into everything together, each backing the other guy up. It was buddy stuff, you know. You tell him you’ll go after him and then you turn around and go after that guy, take the pressure off. So that’s the kind of deal it was all the time, cover the other guy’s ass, you’d say. [laughs]
In 1940, I went into combat ̶ into Normandy, across the Normandy River. I fought all the way through, from there up to different parts of Germany. I fought in the Battle of the Bulge; and that was a cold, cold winter. Cold as I’ve ever felt. They had rifles, I had rifles; they had guns and I had guns, machine guns. And when they ran out of ammo, I took their ammunition; and I used their ammunition to get them. So this is why I’m here.
You force yourself ahead. You’re a leader, so you stay ahead all the time. I used to say to the guys: my job is to lead you guys. If you see me doing something wrong, tell me so because I’m like a piece of string, I’ll hold you on the end of a string. Now I can lead the string, but I can’t push it. I said, there’s a difference between a man that’s going to be going in there knowing that he can be killed, but willing to take the risk. Don’t be scared, you’re going to be scared, regardless who you think you are, how tough you think you are, you’re going to be scared shitless.
The thing is, the difference between a good man and a brave man is that one goes into battle and the other one stays out. You’re asking if we were scared. Goddamn right, I was scared. Lots of times I was scared. And I was. Because to face death is not normal. And I faced it. And I got slapped down lots of times. But my job was to prove that facing death was part of the job.