Veteran Stories:
Jean Paquet

Army

  • Mr. Jean Paquet, July 2011.

  • Mr. Jean Paquet's medals, from left to right: The Korea Medal (with Mention in Dispatch); The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea; The United Nations Service Medal for Korea; The Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal.

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"I had the chance to return to Korea in 2000. The brought it full circle for me. I understood why I had gone there in 1953. Because they have freedom and they tell us about it, that’s for damn sure."

Transcript

The sergeant asked for me at the administrative office. He looked at me and said: “Paquet! Do you know that you're going to Korea?” I replied: “No sir, I don't think so. Maybe there's been a mistake. I don't think that I'm going to Korea.” He said: “No?” I said: “No, I am part of the first battalion and the first battalion isn't going to Korea (1st Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment).” They said: “No, but what we did is that we transferred you to the brigade (25th Canadian Infantry Brigade, Canada’s main combat formation during the Korean War).” “You have a week to get ready. I am giving you a week leave to spend with your family. Next Monday, you’re taking the train and you’re gone.” That’s how I was given the news.

Korea, the battle, it was all mountains more or less, and heights. There was a no-man’s land (area separating the positions between combatants) which was a valley. The other side was mountains and the Chinese were there. The enemy was there. I was on one of the mountains. I will always remember that it was designated by number. I was on mountain 210. There was also the 227 and the 355. Mountain 355 was the highest in the area where the Canadians had been sent to defend the territory. Whoever had control of the 355 controlled the entire area since it was the highest. From time to time, it was the Americans and from time to time it was the Chinese. The Chinese did a bombing and they took the mountain. We were involved in that. Finally, it was us who had it most of the time.

In my work, we did a lot of reconnaissance patrols in the evening and at night. Always at night. In Korea, we did some 500 (patrols). I didn’t do all that. But when I was there, each time one of our groups from our gang went out, I would go out because I was the one who was in communication with either the lieutenant or the captain. The captain didn’t go out often because he was in charge. He would either send a lieutenant, from the ranks, who was in charge or a sergeant or a corporal who was in charge of eight or ten men depending on the kind of patrol we were doing, either for reconnaissance, or for contact. Because we had a lot of information from intelligence (information sections connected to the regimental level or the brigade or division. When they thought an attack or whatever might be coming, we would go out often and that was nerve-racking. Because we had to smear everything, even the rifles, everything. But I didn’t have a rifle, I just had a gun like an officer due to my work. So I just had a gun. All camouflaged, even at night, we had a hard time recognizing one another.

We had to march, we had to go down in front. And in front, there were minefields, but we knew about some passage ways. We knew where to go and where not to go. We descended into the valley. From there, we could observe for two or three hours in a specific location. If there was a noise, we had to identify what it was. It depended on the patrol that we had, the commander, the orders we were given, either to forget it or to answer. So it was touchy. I was coming back from there, we had to come back before it was light out. That was hard, I found that hard. And I had done it a lot. And for communication, we couldn’t speak. We had to use signals. It was one tap, two taps, three taps, just that. If you had to speak, you had to do it very quietly. But if there was something, one tap meant that and two taps meant that. We had made it to our position. Let’s say that one tap meant that we had made it down to the valley, we had passed the mines, two taps meant we had made it to our position and three taps, we were coming back.

When we came back, we had to be sure to have the password. Every 24 or 48 hours, there was a new password that was passed around the regiment. Because if we came out of the landmines, we became and we could be enemies, because the guys didn’t know the RCR (soldiers from the Royal Canadian Regiment working in the same area as the Royal 22nd Regiment in Korea), the neighbours. So we used a password. For example, one day the password could be ‘tea’ and you would have to answer ‘coffee.’ That would mean that it was one of our own who was coming. Sometimes there were funny situations. I’ll tell you a story. The guys would laugh about our passwords. From time to time, when we weren’t sure: “Hey! Damn it! It’s us!” “Oh, it’s the guys from the 22 (Royal 22nd Regiment), it’s ok!”

I am closer to them than my own brothers. I love my brothers but this is really important for me. The Legion (Royal Canadian Legion, a Canadian association of veterans), the ceremonies, I drop off crowns. I am really involved in that because I remember… I had the chance to return to Korea in 2000. The brought it full circle for me. I understood why I had gone there in 1953. Because they have freedom and they tell us about it, that’s for damn sure. They know that we went there for their freedom. So that’s why every time that… even when the people left for Kandahar (in the context of the Canadian Armed Forces’ involvement in Afghanistan since 2001), I was there with my medals. I said to the young people: “Look at me. Fifty years ago, I was exactly in your position.”

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