Veteran Stories:
John McCall

Army

  • John McCall (centre) and fellow soldiers with beer and rations. Their Bren light machinegun is in the foreground.

    John McCall
  • John McCall (front) with fellow soldiers from 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

    John McCall
  • A photograph of 6 Platoon. B Company, 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. John McCall is in the middle row, second from the right.

    John McCall
  • Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry cross a log bridge in Korea in February 1951. John McCall is the soldier sixth from the front of the column.

    John McCall
  • A letter dated 25 March, 1988 from the Department of National Defence confirming John McCall's eligibility for the United States Distinguished (Presidential) Unit Citation, awarded to the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry for its combat role in the Battle of Kapyong.

    John McCall
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"A friend of mine, one of my closest friends, when we were told to withdraw, he said, I’m staying and I’ll hold him back. And he stayed and of course, he was killed and also Corporal Evans were killed."

Transcript

We were quite often, like we’d go and take a hill. And one time we were, I can’t recall the hill but were pinned down for about six hours, that we had to lay in rain, it rained I think about the first two months we were on the front line, it rained every day. We were always wet, soaked, and then in April [1951] of course, we were out in a rest area and we were called in that night, we went into the frontlines that night when the Chinese made a push and we ended up in Kapyong on a hill near Kapyong River. And it was quite exciting when we got attacked. I think it was somewhere around 8:00 in the evening, it was a full moon and of course, they played the bugles and a bit of band for us. So it was, I was a little excited at the time, I think everybody was. They hadn’t had that experience and it just got, and we were being attacked, it just got, I said to myself, well, if I’m not here tomorrow, I’m not here. So, that’s how it was.

And during the battle, the platoon I was in, which was Sixth Platoon in Baker Company, and my platoon officer was Lieutenant Ross. And it got that we were actually outnumbered, about I don’t know, five or six to one anyway. But some of them had grenades and didn’t have rifles. Our platoon actually got overrun. The Chinese were amongst us and we had to withdraw off that little bit of a hill, went back, it wasn’t very far, three or four hundred yards back to another hill. But while we were on the hill, our officer appointed me and my trench buddy, a guy by the name of Glen Leader, the corporal had got wounded, so we had to go partway down the hill and pick him up and bring him back up top to where we were. And of course, I wasn’t strong enough to lift the corporal but Glen and I helped, put this corporal, I helped put him on Glen’s shoulder and we got him back up on top of the hill. But we were being overrun at the time.

And he happened, he stayed, he was wounded in I believe the leg to start with but he stayed like on the hill. A friend of mine, one of my closest friends, when we were told to withdraw, he said, I’m staying and I’ll hold him back. And he stayed and of course, he was killed and also Corporal Evans were killed. But quite a few different ones that were wounded but that was probably the worst and most exciting night I guess. And I was put on a Bren gun [light machinegun] because one of the guys that was on a Bren gun got wounded. So they delivered me the machine gun and I was on that the rest of my stay in Korea. Anyway, that was probably the most exciting and scary night that I ever had, probably in my life.

The casualties, in the morning, a helicopter came in and took out, that’s the first time I guess a helicopter is used and was in the Korean War to take wounded out, off the hill, so that’s what happened to us and it was the next morning, of course, we were out of ammunition and we had the C119, 119s I think it was, dropped in the food and supplies for us that morning.

We must have been surrounded by somewhere around 5,000 Chinese and there was something like our platoon, our officers, figured there was around 200 to 300 Chinese that had attacked 32 of us. But there was D Company which they had quite a bad night too, so. Anyway, we stopped their push from the Chinese, put a halt to their advance. And they claim that we saved Seoul, so I’m quite proud of it.

Of course, when I got out, it took me a while to settle down and get serious because I did drink a lot when I got out. And I guess I was kind of lucky enough, I was on my last leave and I was in a car accident and I ended up in the hospital. And I met a nurse there that kind of liked me and loved me, so we got married. So that’s how I met my wife after I came back from Korea, by being out on a toot and getting in a car accident and then I met her. So, and she was an RN, like a registered nurse. So we had, our marriage worked out pretty good. I was out of work for a bit, she would go work part time, so we managed pretty good. And we raised two boys and a girl.

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