Veteran Stories:
Michael Ukas

Army

  • Michael Ukas (far right) and the 3rd Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artilery stand in front of their dugout with the front battle lines a few yards away.near the village of La Torre, Italy in December of 1943

  • Michael Ukas on leave got his photograph professionally taken to send to his mother while in Rome in November 1944.

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"Incidentally, in history books you read that that battle lasted one week, and so on. That's nonsense"

Transcript

Michael Ukas. I joined the Army in 1941 because Canada was at war. Because of my mathematical ability, I was recommended to go into [the Royal Canadian] artillery, which I did. The part that I played in the artillery was that of survey and reconnaissance, which called for a good knowledge of mathematics... or ability in mathematics. Very quick calculations. What we did in the front lines... when a move was going to be made, we were sent ahead, really into no-man's-land, to carry on this survey where we took measurements. Measurements of distances and angles for triangulation. We used... ordinary chain, we called it, for measurement. Metal chain for measurement, and the observation instrument for angles was the transit. We used the tangent method of calculation, which we later changed to the cosine method, which was much more efficient. And, in fact, I feel quite happy about it because I played around with mathematics in the front lines, and I suggested - well, sort of struck on it - realized that the cosine method, you could do several calculations in the length of time that it took to do one by the tangent method. So we used the cosine. That was passed on from our 3rd Field Regiment on to the other Regiments of the 1st Canadian [Infantry] Division. First of all, there was some action in Sicily. Landed at Pachino in Sicily. It wasn't a cakewalk, but it wasn't terribly difficult. The resistance wasn't very significant, until we moved well in around Caltanissetta, and that's where we met the first German troops, because Italy was out of the war at that time. I took part in the battle for Ortona. At that time, as we were in there, we didn't realize that we were making history. It was a very tough battle. Incidentally, in history books you read that that battle lasted one week, and so on. That's nonsense. Right in the small town, yes, it went on a week. But many, many casualties moving up to Ortona, the last couple of miles, because that's really the battle for Ortona, which went on from December the 7th of '43, to January the 4th of '44. Twenty-nine days.
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