Veteran Stories:
Art Robillard

Army

  • Art Robilliard at The Last Hurrah, Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 2011.

    Historica Canada
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I found a lot of the other guys were the same way too, that you just don’t talk about Korea to, amongst yourselves you will but to anybody else, you don’t talk about it."

Transcript

And how I ended up, I just decided one day that, to try and further my career, seemed to be in kind of a rut, I was only in the, starting out as a vehicle mechanic and so I volunteered to go to Korea and the next thing they knew, they said “Okay, you’re going.” So I ended up with the third battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment and we met first in Wainwright [Alberta] and then from Wainwright, they moved us back to Petawawa [Ontario] and then we left Petawawa to go to Korea. I was quite fortunate we got to Calgary [Alberta] and the regiment [Royal Canadian Regiment] got out for a march through the city and anybody that lived there, they could stop off and see their relatives and stuff like that. But they kept us well under guard and we couldn’t leave, get off the station at all. And then from there, we went down through to Seattle [Washington, US] and boarded the CC Blue and made our trip over three weeks, same routine, day in and day out. Some of the guys got stuck with the dateline change, extra duties and stuff like that but luckily I never got affected by that. Reading material was the biggest source, you’d find people reading a book and they’d tear a page off and pass it on. And that was the way the books were read. And so you’d spend half your time chasing the next page. Then we landed in Yokahama Harbor [Japan], that was quite a trip, we boarded a train there and went on down to Kobe [Japan]. Spent a couple nights there. The colonel took off to Korea and left the 2IC [second in command] in charge and of course, everybody got a time out to go through the town. From there, we went by two ships to Korea and landed in Pusan or Busan as they call it now. From there, we boarded semi-trailer open deck trucks, taken up to the railway station and then that was our first sight of Korean kids. And they were dressed in gunnysacks and a jam can around their neck with a string, begging. And of course, open sores and everything else on them. The American MPs [military police] were putting the boots to them to get rid of them and pretty near had a riot on their hand when we saw how they were treated. But then we found out that a lot of these kids were taken under control by one man, who’d inflict the sores on them and stuff like that, so that they would look pretty rough and gain our favour to get rations. And then from there, we went by train all the way up to Uijeongbu. That was a long-old grind overnight and stuff like that. No berths or anything, just sitting on the old hard seats. The toilets were a hole in the floor and that was it. Apparently there had been some sniper shots taken at the train during the night but that’s just what I heard and so. And then from there, we trucked up to our location and relieved the other troops. And then from there, we went up over the line, over the 38th and that’s where we stayed. Once we got up there, we could go up on the hill and watch the aircraft going through, drooping napalm and stuff like that and see the gunfire at night but being back in headquarters, we didn’t see that much really. A couple times, when they took over the one hill, they had what they called a camouflage road and we could only tour the road at nighttime and then telephone at the top and telephone at the bottom. And you and to phone down, phoned, you got clearance to go down and when you got to the bottom, you’re supposed to phone back up and tell them you’re there. And from that, the road took off to the fighting element. We got up there with a wrecker and we had to keep the road clean and fix up any trucks and stuff like that. I was up there a couple times. Then one night I was there, we’d gone out towards mortar platoon and fixed a truck, came back and it was pitch dark and I had a luminous bard on my back and I walked on ahead of the wrecker, up to the bottom of the hill. We phoned up and they told us there was a vehicle already coming. So we waited another quite a few times and nobody showed up, so we called back up again and well, we just got word that they were already at one of the other places. So that was my excursion in the front line. Everything was done with a section of eight men with a troop leader. So we were advancing across a field and the instruction cadre was behind us and they would tell you when you were going to come under fire and stuff like that. And as we were walking across the field, we looked down and it was fertilized with human. And so lots of flies and everything else and we were just hoping, don’t put us to ground, don’t put us to ground. But we were quite fortunate and got across the field okay. Once the peace was declared, well, we didn’t have that much panic or everything like that, and still did guard duty and whatnot. We lost the QM [quartermaster] to fire. All the SRD went up too, all the rum. And from there, we went to Inchon [Korea] and got aboard the boat and sailed over the northern route back to Seattle. And that was it. Seattle to Calgary and once we got off at Calgary, there was no big, just your parents or your loved ones, and that was it. I found a lot of the other guys were the same way too, that you just don’t talk about Korea to, amongst yourselves you will but to anybody else, you don’t talk about it. There wasn’t that much complicity or anything like that, so a lot of the people just don’t understand what was going on over there and how you lived and stuff like that, so.
Follow us