I said to myself, “Aimé Michaud, you’re a soldier! Forget about the past.” Then it hit me; I had left my parents and my friends behind. I thought, “Now I have a job to do. I am a Van Doo.”
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The other thing that struck me was when the train left. I didn’t want to see anyone [from his family] because when I was young, I remembered seeing newspapers with pictures of women running alongside the train with children in their arms and servicemen hanging out of the train in order to give them one last hug. It had struck me. That was why I didn’t want anyone from my family to see me off. When it was time to board the train, I sat down, set my beret down beside me, and when I looked outside it was the same thing. Women with children in their arms, running after the train. That touched me. I sat back in my seat once it became dark out - we had left in the evening. I said to myself, “Aimé Michaud, you’re a soldier! Forget about the past.” Then it hit me; I had left my parents and my friends behind. I thought, “Now I have a job to do. I am a Van Doo” [Soldier from the Royal 22e Régiment].
At 9:30 p.m., a shell exploded. Sergeant [Charles Edward] Sénéchal - three men were injured. Sergeant Sénéchal heard a slightly different noise. I and Corporal Vignola, Marcel Vignola, picked him up and put him on a stretcher. We waited for our other companions. It was dark out. The next morning, they came to get him in a jeep, a small jeep from the Red Cross. He passed away that very same morning [in April 1952]. What happened is that Colonel [at the time Captain Charles] Forbes knew the family [of Sénéchal]. It was his sergeant. So he had to explain what happened to his wife. He [Forbes] had been thirty or so miles in the rear [from the frontline]. She asked to talk to people who had witnessed what happened, to know how her husband died. Colonel Forbes said that he didn’t know any witnesses. I was one of the […], that’s the new ones [that had arrived at the unit].
Years after, his wife passed away. She called Colonel Forbes every year. Sergeant Sénéchal’s wife died of cancer. However, she had a little girl who was four or five years old when she passed away. The girl grew up. She got married. One day, she saw that Colonel Forbes was going to be the guest of honour at an event. So she went to the event. She asked Colonel Forbes, “Did you meet anyone?” - but first she asked him, “Do you recognize me?” He replied, “No.” She was young. He said, “What’s your name?” “I am Sergeant Sénéchal’s daughter.” And then he said, “No, I have not seen anyone.”
The person was me. I had spent four years with Colonel Forbes and we had never discussed it. One day, I was giving a small talk somewhere and he was there. He said to me: “Timé Michaud, I need to speak to you!” He told me what had happened - [I said] “Give me her telephone number.” He said, “I didn’t give her your phone number.” So I called her and I arranged for us to meet. But, in the meantime, I wasn’t aware of all that - it had happened a long time before. In 1998, I was invited to go back into the field in Korea. I was at the cemetery [United Nations Memorial Park in Busan, South Korea] and I was so moved for Sergeant Sénéchal that I left a wreath, a bouquet of flowers, on his grave. Because it moved me [the memory of Sénéchal]. He had left the next day and died.
I had taken some photos, without being aware of the colonel’s story, nor that of his daughter or wife. I had the photos at home. When I contacted his daughter, I didn’t say that I would be bringing the photos. I got dressed in my uniform, with my beret, my medals. I picked a time for us to meet and I went to meet her at her home with her husband. We took some other photos together and I told her what had happened, “Your father didn’t suffer. He didn’t have time to suffer. That’s what happened.” Then I gave her the photos. There were a lot of tears – in our eyes, the family, too. That kind of thing really touched us. I will always remember when I met with her. For Prieur [Corporal Prieur, killed in Korea in 1952] it was the same; I had promised that, if anything happened, to collect my personal belongings, and vice-versa. So I collected his personal belongings. It took me 46 years to return to Korea. I was fortunate because it was the Canadian government who brought me there. And I left a bouquet of flowers there, too.
Sometimes they say, “Well, 516 were killed and X amount were physically injured.” However, morally and mentally, there were a lot. Those numbers weren’t included because in those days, post-traumatic stress [disorder casualties] were not counted.
Over there, when we were in position [at the front], we were surrounded by hills and barbed wire and mines. In between hills there were always “gaps,” areas where mortars had been placed. If we saw something move, we fired. But the Chinese and the North Koreans weren’t stupid, they did the same thing. We lacked rations and they asked for two volunteers. At the time, I was a lance corporal and I was first [crew member] on mortar number one. So it was me who [ranged the mortar]; we had a responsibility and we worked hard. All day and night and we didn’t sleep. So they asked for two volunteers. Corporal Richard said - he yelled out, “We need two volunteers!” So I volunteered to go get rations. When we passed Yvon Richard, he said, “We’ll take this path.” When we went through the “gap” between the two hills, the Chinese or North Koreans saw us and they fired a shell. We both jumped. He was to my left and the shell fell about… He was more injured than I was, bleeding from his ears and his eyes were red. My shirt was all torn, my pants - anyway - due to the explosion.
So we ran to where we were supposed to go, a small hill. They gave us a shot [medical needle] - there were always stretchers there - a shot of morphine for the pain. Then we saw a small red jeep. We said, “See, they’re coming to get us.” We got in the jeep. I said, “Surely we’re going to have to jump again,” because we had to take the same road where we had been injured. But the Chinese let us pass. They saw the Red Cross and they didn’t fire. I am thankful for that, but for nothing else - nothing else. The padre [regimental chaplain] came to see us, I said, “My friend is more injured than I am, take care of him.” I had just been affected by the blast and was bleeding here and there. They bandaged us up and we went down the hill. They were Indian, Indian doctors in a small medical tent. They changed our bandages. We went to a tent hospital. It was an Australian hospital with big tents. When we got there, they gave us more injections. We didn’t ask any questions. They gave us shots – it was like, “Hi, hello!” And we underwent x-rays.
After the x-rays, they put us onto stretchers made of wood. They loaded us quickly. They took out the shrapnel I had under my mouth, in my legs, and in my arms, etc. They stitched me up and took me back. They put me onto a stretcher, a wood “rack.” A nurse said to me, “You hungry?” She motioned with her hands. I said that I was. It had been a couple of days since I had last eaten. So she gave me something to eat. When I was done, another nurse arrived and asked, “Do you want to sleep?” “No, no” - we were so nervous due to the stress. She gave me an injection and I fell asleep.