Veteran Stories:
Charles-Eugène Laplante

Army

  • Mr. Charles-Eugène Laplante in May 2011.

    Charles-Eugène Laplante
  • Mr. Laplante having a conversation in French with a colonel from the Swedish Army in Seoul, June 1953.

    Charles-Eugène Laplante
  • Shell fragment that fell near Mr. Laplante in Korea.

    Charles-Eugène Laplante
  • Certificate of passage through the Domain of the Golden Dragon (180th Meridian). These were ceremonies performed when sailors passed across the 180th Meridian, similar to ceremonies conducted when ships crossed the Equator. April 5th, 1953.

    Charles-Eugène Laplante
  • Safe conduct certificate from the United Nations and dropped over the enemy lines in order to encourage the Chinese soldiers to desert. Mr. Laplante picked it up on the ground while on a patrol.

    Charles-Eugène Laplante
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"It was cold in Korea. You can imagine how cold I was when I came back from the patrol. I remember that Desjardins had given me half a glass of scotch. I drank it down it one shot since I really don't like scotch."

Transcript

I was in the front. It was the period of the third battalion (3rd battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment). We arrived in April (1953) in Korea and stayed until the month of July, until the armistice (signed on July 27, 1953). I was on the front line. Even when the war ended, I was on the (hill) 355. That was where most of the fighting took place. It was a Gibraltar (the location was named as such by the soldiers, in reference to the narrow passage of the Straits of Gibraltar) if you like. It was very difficult fighting. When there was fighting, it was very difficult. Fortunately, the period when I was there was to replace some (South) Koreans, the ROK Army (Republic of Korea Army) we called it. I can't recall for how long that lasted. Fortunately, we had very few losses. We had just come out when we climbed the 355. We had just come out of two months on the front line. We had our share. Especially in my platoon. We experienced a huge loss. There were 540 of us (soldiers), if I recall correctly, (in) the battalion when we arrived in Korea, which is small. As well, where we put one man, the Chinese or the North Koreans would put six or seven men. That gives you an idea. The worst was when (sergeant Guy) Desjardins came to see me after ten or so days with him. Desjardins said to me, I was a machine gunner with a Bren (lightweight British machine gun)... I must mention that the 3rd (battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment) had very little experience. A lot of men had about six months experience in the army when they crossed over. Even corporals, maybe not sergeants, didn't have more than a year or 15 months in the army. As for me, I had two years when I left. So when Desjardins came to see me, he said: “I need you to do a fighting patrol with 11 men.” I replied: “No problem.” It was to be seven days later, but at that time I had been given the task of being the lookout during the day, to see what was going on in the Chinese lines and to report back on any unexpected things that I saw. I said to Desjardins: “I am supposed to be the lookout.” He replied: “Don't worry, I'll send you a replacement.” We prepared all week for that. We had ten bulletproof vests. That was new. Desjardins said to me: “I won't take one. There are only ten and there will be 11 of us.” On the fatal day, nobody came to replace me as lookout. So I left at 5:30 to do the patrol. We had to leave around 6:30-6:45. I left at 5:30 and my friend Hermel Gérard said to me: “ This makes no sense, you should... You can't go like that.” I replied to him: “Listen, I am supposed to go.” I went to bed. I prepared my bag with the Bren magazines and the bulletproof vest beside me. I fell asleep very quickly since I hadn't slept for several hours. Sometimes I didn't sleep well because it was hot, things like that. I feel asleep and when I woke up, maybe 45 minutes later, my Bren wasn't there anymore, it was gone. I arrived at the CP (Command Post) and I said to Desjardins: “What's going on?” He replied: “We found out that you hadn't slept all day. They told me that they were ready to replace you.” I said: “No problem.” All sorts of incidents took place during those... Something was in the air. Something not normal. One guy gave me his watch and said: “Send this home if I don't come back.” Desjardins said: “I'm going to have a beer with the Chinese woman.” There was a Chinese woman who spoke to us each evening. “I'm going to have a beer with the Chinese woman, and I am going to say to you 'Hey, the fucking 22 (soldiers from the 22nd Regiment), I'm living the high life!'” Corporal Fillion, who was replacing Desjardins, said: “If you don't come back, no problem, you have a nice dugout. I'll keep it for you.” There were things like that. As for me, I don't know... There was something. In any case, I went to bed to do my lookout the next day. Towards 12:30 a.m. someone came to see me and said: “Charlie is coming to help us because something is going on. The patrol was attacked. We don't have any information.” There was a group from Company C, if I recall correctly, who came out. We were waiting for information. I took a radio and I went to the end of the position. It was a huge mountain. Where we were located in Korea, it was just mountains. So I was listening and I was hearing a lot of messages in Chinese and all of a sudden I heard a patrol say: “We found one guy from Desjardins' patrol, they were attacked.” Meaning that they had found two men first. We continued to see if there were more. The next morning, I found out that there were possibly several dead and prisoners. It took a few months to learn that there had been four deaths: the sergeant (Guy) Desjardins, Moreau and Gérard, who had replaced me. Both of the Bren gunners were killed. I don't recall the name of the fourth man. There were two prisoners: Deveau and Darche. Only one man came out relatively unscathed. The others were slightly shell shocked. The four prisoners took a while, three or four I think, I can't recall, it took a while for them to be released to the armistice. That came as a big shock to me since I was a volunteer. Furthermore, from the first arrival on the front line, I was a volunteer for the first two patrols. Rather outposts, is what we called them, not patrols. An outpost was two or three men maximum who were set up with a radio. Unfortunately, the first day, no one knew that they were supposed to have a radio. When I arrived below, I didn't have a radio. As well, I was going on my way and you know how cold Korea can be. It was like the month of September, yet it was the first days of Spring. It was cold in Korea. You can imagine how cold I was when I came back from the patrol. I remember that Desjardins had given me half a glass of scotch. I drank it down it one shot since I really don't like scotch. But I needed it, I was shaking like a leaf. All night long in a shirt, it was like the jungle, it was very humid. It was a shock for me. I was never a volunteer for other patrols.
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