Veteran Stories:
William “Bill” Lappan

Army

  • William Lappan at The Last Hurrah, Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 2011.

    Historica Canada
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"We were running out of men and running out of everything actually, ammunition and all that. It got pretty close and then finally they gave up and we had to rebuild again. Well, it was pretty well shot up and that and so we saw a lot of bodies down in the bottom of the hill."

Transcript

The next day I just went down and I boarded a train to London [Ontario] and I went and joined the army. And everything turned out alright. They put me in the RCR, is the Royal Canadian Regiment, and I was very happy with it, it was a good regiment. That’s how it got started anyway.

So then we started walking towards our positions up in the mountain and it took us I don’t know how many, we didn’t get to the top until about maybe 10:00, 10:30 at night. And then we threw all our stuff in a bunker as the guys had built bunkers in there, the guys before us. So we threw our kit bags and all that in the bunker and they said they’d been calling us, and in the meantime, they wanted to talk to us. So we laid in these bunkers and all we could see was rats running around the top of the bunker inside there. I thought, “Oh my God,” and I used to hate rats. And we stayed there for a while, I guess it was about midnight they came in and said, “Come on up and you’re on guard duty.” So, and it was raining, so the first time in the mountains and rain and cold. Scared the heck out of me the first time.

Me and this other fellow were standing there and [North] Koreans started throwing mortars at us and shooting mortars at us. And we watched them for a while to see where they were landing and so then all of a sudden, they started coming our way. So I said to this kid that was with me, he was younger than I was and I said to him, I says, “You’d better hit the ground,” we were in a trench so I said, “Hit the ground, in case one hits the top of the bunker,” and this and that. So I hit the ground, I laid there, covered myself. I don’t know what he was doing, all I know is I heard a scream and I looked and there, half his body was blown away. He was standing up looking to see where they were landing and the poor kid was killed. And I’m laying there myself, I said, “If they hit one there, they can keep coming and hit one where I’m at,” so I wanted to move away from there. So I had to crawl over him to get away and I went further down the trench and sure as heck, they dropped some more right where I was laying.

The night patrol, there would be about, well, most of the time it was about 12 guys and we’d go into the other mountains and try to bring out the Chinese and the Koreans, they were ahead of it. And sometimes we’d go right by them and they weren’t even seeing us and they wouldn’t shoot at us right away. And so then the sergeant, most of the time it was the sergeant and a lieutenant used to go with us once in a while. And we’d just go around in their territory, look around and see if we could … What we were really out there for was to pick up prisoners and see if they’d do any talking and turn them over to the officers and they’d try and get some information out of them, which they never did very much. One fellow we picked up, he kept saying he was a captain in the army and he wasn’t, he was just a Chinese fellow. He was lying. They figured I guess if he’d tell you he was a captain, they’d be easier on them. And the interpreter says, “Oh, he’s just lying,” he says, “he’s no captain, he’s nobody.” And we kind of got a laugh out of it.

And they’d come to attack us in our hills, in our part we were at, they [Chinese soldiers] blew his bugle or something, whatever it was. And all of a sudden, you could see them coming at us, about 100 of them. And they’re crazy, they’re telling us that they’re coming, so we got all ready and got our machine guns and everything all ready, waiting for them. And just mowed them down. The next thing you know, they’d pull back and somebody says, “Well, hang on a for a little bit and a little bit, they’d be blowing their horn again.”

But one time, they really send stuff back, for pretty near two days, they just bombed us and bombed us and never stopped for two days. And we just had to take it, lay in the trench. And we figured they were coming, bombs are coming our way and it was quite an experience. We pretty near lost it, [Hill] 355 [22 to 24 October 1952; Chinese and North Korean soldiers tried to overrun 5 companies of 1 Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment dug in on the hill], it was close. Because we were running out of men and running out of everything actually, ammunition and all that. It got pretty close and then finally they gave up and we had to rebuild again. Well, it was pretty well shot up and that and so we saw a lot of bodies down in the bottom of the hill. They [Chinese soldiers] tried to take most of the bodies away but a lot of them just laid there. Our little friends used to have a little snack, the rats, on the bodies. And then the officer would get mad and say, “Let’s go down and bury some of those people, get the smell out of there.” So then we’d have to go down and bury half a dozen or so, more, whatever was there, try to bury them.

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