But I know that Tremblay and Fong died, because the guys dragged them away in order to take our positions. But it wasn’t us who found Paul Dugal, it was the Chinese [...]
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I remember a patrol, and I remember because I was involved in it. The brigadier Bogert, who was the commander of the 25th Canadian (Infantry) Brigade (in 1952), he had received bullet-proof vests from the Americans. He had come to see our commander. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe he had received about thirty bullet-proof vests. He said: “Get your troops to try them on.” Then all of a sudden, the next day, it was decided that we would go on a patrol with the new bullet-proof vests even if there were more people than vests; there were about forty men on the patrol. I wanted to go on the patrol because I drove a truck for the Carrier Platoon (the supplies platoon equipped with Bren Carrier vehicles). When the six machine-gunners were together, on a hill to cover the patrols, I supplied them with food, weapons, water, etc. There were about 30-35 men on the hill. When they took the Carrier Platoon and took it apart, they took two machine guns and they put them with a company, then two machine guns with another, etc.
So they sent us, the support personnel, to the infantry. But since we weren’t skilful infantrymen, because we weren’t on the frontline, they sent me to the “D” Company (from the 1st Battalion of the Royal 22e Regiment). That’s why I wanted to join the patrol. They said: “No. You don’t have enough training for that, you haven’t done enough patrols. We’re going to send you to the outpost.” So I went to the outpost with big P. E. Labelle. We went ahead of the others, and we descended on a wire with a phone into our hole below. Once there, we saw the patrol going out to meet the enemy. And then, after an hour or so, we heard gun shots. They were very loud. We thought; “Somebody’s been hit, we hope it wasn’t our men. We’re going to have to shoot.” But it was the opposite.
They had approached so close that the enemy could see them. Close enough that they could launch grenades at them. It’s clear that the protective effect of the bullet-proof vests was efficient, because they protected the vital parts. However, they didn’t protect the head. So some men were hit in the head, and they died, because they had received shrapnel in the head. They had received the order, I remember, from a small lieutenant, but I forget his name. He was a young man, 23 years old, a guy from Nova Scotia. He died actually in another patrol, during the month of August I think, August 19 (19)52, in about the same area as the patrol he commanded on June 23.
And when they got back, three quarters of the patrol came back. A small group remained. They said that Paul Dugal (lance-caporal Paul Dugal from Quebec City) had remained at the top of the hill but, in my opinion, he wasn’t dead because we could hear him moaning. And if we went up, we might be able to find him. So I decided to go up with the others. We hadn’t received any orders from the lieutenant to do what we were doing. Desrochers, he’s dead now, but he passed away recently not during the war. He originally came from Quebec City, but he lived in British Columbia when he enlisted. He said: “There’s none of this and that! I’m going!”
So myself, P.E. Labelle and the other three-four (soldiers) who were staying with him, we were maybe five or six in total, we decided to go back up the hill. We were pretty close and it started to get light out. So I said to the guys: “We might be digging our own graves.” Because it was starting to get light out and they could shoot us. So we started searching in the bushes but we couldn’t find anything. Desrochers said that he heard him moaning but he heard it because he was injured only, not dead. However, he was found by the Chinese once it was light out because he was so close to their lines. The others heard him moaning, Paul Dugal. But Tremblay was dead (private Georges Tremblay from Amos) and Willie Fong (from Montreal); I wonder if there was one more, but my memory… But I know that Tremblay and Fong died, because the guys dragged them away in order to take our positions.
But it wasn’t us who found Paul Dugal, it was the Chinese and they kept him as a prisoner for 13 months. Paul Dugal had told certain of the men: “The 22 (the solders from the Royal 22e Regiment), they gave up on me, they gave up.” We didn’t give up though because what we did (doing another patrol without having received orders) was illegal. But we did it anyway because we were confident that we could try to find him. He could have dragged himself towards our positions, and we could have found him when we met up with them. We could have dragged him towards our positions, but we didn’t find him, so… We did our work but still.
When we got to the top of the hill, we were reprimanded because we didn’t have the right to do what we did. We did it for a good cause, but it doesn’t work that way in the army. It’s not you who gets to decide. Even if it’s for the greater good, it’s not you who gets to decide. It’s someone else who decides. Anyway, the lieutenant empathized with us. He didn’t speak of the situation with the commander (lieutenant-colonel Louis Frémont Trudeau). He didn’t tell him what happened, but he found out anyway because they guys were talking about what happened. One person told another person told another person. Today, not a lot of people know about what happened because it takes the people who were directly involved in the patrol to speak about it. That patrol was memorable for me. It’s hard not to forget things like that.