"He said, “Come over here, I’ve got something to show you.” And this is a 50 foot trailer and it’s a refrigerator car. And he opened up the back door and there at the very, very front end was the ice cream for 10,000 people."
There were about 35 of us that went in two small batches and the class [from the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario] before us was already there. And by the time we got on the airplane out of Vancouver [British Columbia], the war was over. And so we arrived in Tokyo [Japan] the night the war was over [27 July 1953] and we were greeted by a bunch of photographers taking pictures and so we went out and had a nice little party. And there were about 15 or 20 of us from RMC.
Anyway, we spent the next year in Korea, basically preparing for a breakdown in the peace and the armistice. And the armistice as mentioned, has lasted for over 60 years, which is quite remarkable.
I was 22 years old and a brand new graduate and I was presented with a platoon of three 2.5 ton trucks and 65 people. And that was the supply for, we split down in between carry rations, carry ammunition and carry POL, petro, oil and lubricant. So our platoon, they rotate the platoons so you, the one that went to Seoul [South Korea] to pick up the rations was one that was quite attractive because it got you out of the whole area. But if you were doing POL, you were just delivering gas and oil and stuff to the forward units. And of course, you weren’t doing anything with ammunition because it was just sitting there because you weren’t shooting anybody.
I found it quite amazing because there were people living. We had barbed wire around our compound because we were protecting the oil and we were protecting the ammunition for sure. And we were protecting, we carried a lot of rations and we were protecting those. And so there were a lot of little villages all around the place. And families, they’d been there, you know, throughout the whole war I guess. And they seemed to adjust quite rapidly to the idea of dealing with military scrip [substitute currency] because when they changed the military scrip one day, and you had like six hours to hand in your old money to get the new stuff. And we had people coming out of the hills that we never seen, with truckloads of them on, not truckloads but a fairly substantial amount of military scrip and looking for soldiers or anybody to change it for them.
We had Korean workers in our kitchens. Like the officers’ mess at 56 Transport Company where I was was basically all the people who’d do the cleanup, were all Koreans. And like I had a batboy who was a Korean. And where he came from, I have no idea, he was just part of the furniture. And I was there, when I arrived, he was there. And he says, “I’m your person, I’m going to look after you,” and he did. He shined your shoes and did your laundry and all that kind of stuff.
I remember visiting a couple of little villages and, because, you know, they were on route and we were driving back and forth and we didn’t want the kids to get ran over. And we just talked to them and told them we were going to be here for a while. And you know, I remember going up and having tea with a couple of the people. We had to have translators and stuff. And they presented me with a couple of sterling silver chopsticks, which I still have to this day.
Having been a student, you know, when I first arrived there, there was nobody to teach me exactly what I was supposed to do. So I have all of these books that I started to read and one of them was the American supply chain, which we were a part of. And one of the things that the American supply chain, and I had to fill out all the requisitions for rations one year in advance. So I got to July the 1st, which happens to be Canada’s birthday, and also happened to be mine, and it said, on national birthdays or national events and stuff like this, you can request special rations. And one of the special rations was ice cream. So in my infinite wisdom, and I’m 23 years old and I’d only been there for two weeks or three weeks, whatever it was, I put down on this requisition form, and it’s all on paper, put it down and checked off, you know, ice cream for 10,000. And I never thought too much about it until one year later and a guy drove up in about two or three days before in the shiniest tractor trailer that you would ever want to see. And he’s a great big black guy. And how he found us and he said, “I’m looking for Mr. Joyce,” and “Yep, that’s me.” He said, “Come over here, I’ve got something to show you.” And this is a 50 foot trailer and it’s a refrigerator car. And he opened up the back door and there at the very, very front end was the ice cream for 10,000 people. And it was all Dixie cups.
So when this stuff arrives and the next question I have is, “Holy mackerel, it arrived,” and secondly is, “How do I get it to the troops before it all melts?” And that was quite a little trick because, “Okay, you guys have to come down to this guy’s van, and make sure all your troops are ready when you get back,” because they were all about like half an hour away. And we had freezer containers that you could put the stuff into and carry it up there. So on First of July, 1954, everybody had ice cream.
Just before Christmas, Labatt’s sent over a landing ship tank full of beer. And we had to deliver it. And we ran convoys for, I think it was like three days, 24 hours a day. And we just stopped all traffic and just drove 24 hours a day, empty cases and cases, tons and tons and tons of cases of beer. That was one of the good things.
It became, more of keeping people occupied. One of the first things that we had to do was to identify the education level of the people that were in our troops. And we were then charged with upgrading everybody up to a certain level. And I guess the most astonishing thing to me was the number of people who were functionally illiterate. And I literally ran classes like one hour a day, every day, for six months, just to upgrade reading, upgrade writing, upgrade the basic arithmetic. So that was kind of satisfying.
So we would get cataloguers from the Japanese vendors in Kure and we’d bring them back and then we would get the guys to ask for what they wanted and get them to order it. So once we had a humungous order, we would send over one of the officers and he would go over and buy all the stuff and bring it back in the airplane. So one of the choice jobs of being an officer for all the regiments and in 56 Transport Company as well, was you one trip to Kure as a buying officer.
And we would bring back 200 or 300 cameras or a couple hundred dollars in cameras. And pearls and kids’ clothes and we would make arrangements for them to send dishes directly from Kure to Canada and send cameras direct. And this was all done just to keep the soldiers happy and keep the families happy. And that was one of the big things was making sure the morale of the troops was up. Because the first, right after the war, I ended up making baseball diamonds in each of our platoon areas. So we had a little baseball league, softball league amongst the three platoons.