Veteran Stories:
Joseph Léonce Gallant

Army

  • Léonce Gallant, then Chief Adjudant of the Mobile Command (Canadian Army) between 1982 and 1986. Picture taken in 1986 at the Mobile Command Headquaters in St. Hubert (Quebec).

    Léonce Gallant
  • In reserve behind the frontline, Corporal Gallant (left) and Private Bergeron (right). Korea, January 1952.

    Léonce Gallant
  • Picture taken the first day at the frontline in Korea with the 2nd Battalion of Le Royal 22e Régiment. Left, Private R. Roussin; right, Lance Corporal Gallant. May 21st 1951.

    Léonce Gallant
  • Picture of Mr. Gallant taken in December 1950 during his training at Fort Lewis (Washington) from November 1950 to April 1951.

    Léonce Gallant
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I changed as well. I was shy. However, I changed quickly. I quickly became strict as a deputy officer during my entire career. And I had a reason for doing it."

Transcript

My name is Joseph Léonce Gallant and I was born on November 10, 1930 in Bouctouche, New Brunswick. The commander and the deputy commander, the company commanders were all veterans with individuals who had seen combat. While the others, mainly the platoon commanders, were individuals who didn’t have any experience from (19)39-(19)45. Some of them did, but they were mostly individuals who had enlisted or who were called in 1944 (during the overseas service draft call which was applied in Canada as of November). However, the officers, the company commanders and the commanders of the supporting arms, such as Forbes (Charles Forbes, a veteran of the Second World War with the Régiment de Maisonneuve), those guys had seen action in (19)39-(19)45.

The majority of the platoon commanders were individuals. They were young men with no experience from (19)39-(19)45. As I said, some of them had experience, like my platoon commander, a guy named Labrecque, he had enlisted in (19)44, (19)43-(19)44. He had a couple of medals, notably the Volunteer Medal (the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal) and the War Medal 1939-1945. He really impressed me, because he was a natural leader. He was a commander, and he commanded. Of course, he was rigid, but he had to be because there were a lot of individuals… Because naturally still… You have to realize one thing, during those days, we in the infantry didn’t have anything else to do but to shoot door handles and do drills and we didn’t have any equipment per se. And in the (19)50s, if I compare today to those days, it’s completely different. In the section that I commanded in Korea, section of platoon 2 from the A Company, for a weapon I had a Bren (lightweight British machine rifle), a Sten (British sub-machine-gun), and the rest had .303s (Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk. 1 .303 calibre British rifle).

Today, they have LAV3s (light armoured vehicle III, the main infantry vehicle currently used by the Canadian Army), you know, and they have computers, and a whole bunch of things. But once the same… And at that time, in (19)53 in Germany (with the occupying force of the Canadian Army), I was platoon sergeant, but we didn’t have anything else for them do for military exercises but drills and route marches to keep them occupied in their quarters. Without that, we would have lost them. We had to be tough, or else we would have lost them.

Another aspect of that as well is that we were trained based on the war experience in Europe and then we went to the hills of Asia. It was completely different. Those who were commanding us, the experience that they had, was from the war of (19)39-(19)45. The war of (19)39-(19)45 was not the same thing as Korea. And the only experience that they had is what they had learned in England during three, four years before the landing in Europe or in Italy. And it wasn’t the same thing.

During the month of July (1951), I was in the A Company. We were attacked. We lost an officer, Carrier (lieutenant J. L. R. Carrier, who died on July 20, 1951). We lost Ben Poirier (corporal J. H. B. Poirier, who died on July 20, 1951) who was caught with an outpost. Naturally there’s that. And there was also the month of November; it was November 20 during the morning (the battle for hill 355). That was the biggest experience we had from the point of view of contact with the enemy. I was still deputy commander of a section and I was the last hole from the A Company, between the D Company and the A Company. The D Company was on the hill between the (hill) 277 and the (hill) 355. There was a trail that went down the hill. And once you arrived at the bottom of the trail, there was a little road that went towards the back. And I was in the first hole there, which means that all of the traffic circulated in front of us.

The first thing was the sound of the bugle. They did that, started an attack or whatever, with a bugle call. I remember in 1985 in a drill in Wainwright (Alberta). In Wainwright, (…) we went with the army commander. At the time, I was chief warrant officer of the Land Force Command. One morning, we went to see an attack conducted by the PPCLI (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, an infantry regiment of the Regular Canadian Army). They also used a bugle. They sounded the bugle and then holy! It made me freeze. The commander said to me: “What’s wrong?” I replied: “Christ! That brings back memories.” No, actually, there was a lot of shelling, a lot of deaths, it was disquieting.

Actually us, we didn’t have any. Well, I can’t remember. Maybe we had a couple. I think that the platoon 1 or 2, not 2, but 1 or 3. A couple of men died due to the shelling. But none of the Chinese attacked us. Because, naturally, everything took place on top of the hill between the 277 and the 355. On the left side, there was lieutenant (Raymond) MacDuff. MacDuff, yes, and Côté (lieutenant Mario Côté) was in the middle, and it’s them who received a beating. And I, us, we saw all of the traffic coming by, the deaths and all of that. The control of all of that… because it was me who was the last hole. But we didn’t have any deaths as such in my section or in my platoon.

I think that we were trained for that. The first thing is that we were young. The second thing, there is also the aspect that we can’t show our friends, you know. We were well trained for that, there were no issues. Once we had responsibilities, as section commander… I was a section commander, and at one point I acted as platoon sergeant. The platoon sergeant had been injured. I was even the platoon commander. Well, once we had responsibilities, we thought differently because you had to command. However, afterwards, when it’s over, it’s maybe then when we’re all alone or that we’re resting, but definitely the fact that we had responsibilities, I think it helped us to get through certain things. Personally, it changed me a lot, simply because I was… They don’t understand that in my family, how I could have changed. I changed as well. I was shy. However, I changed quickly. I quickly became strict as a deputy officer during my entire career. And I had a reason for doing it.

Follow us