A photograph of Don Allen in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in September, 2011.Don Allen
"They found out that the bodies had been booby-trapped, which meant that if they touched them, they simply would blow up."
When you first arrived, they hadn’t started the talks as such but they did very shortly after that and when they started the peace talks on both sides, things were more quiet. We were told not to be too aggressive. If land was taken, it was to be, you could only keep it I think it was 24 hours. So we were mostly patrols was our role. And almost every night, we had patrols between our land and the enemy position. And they were somewhere like a recce [reconnaissance] patrol was when, the purpose of it was to find out what’s going on in enemy area, so you work as close as you could to get there and to observe as much as you could and come back and report that. There were fighting patrols, which you went out particularly to engage with the enemy but that sometimes happened and sometimes it didn’t. But overall, patrols was our main function.
They would usually be led by a lieutenant, commissioned officer, your second lieutenant or lieutenant and generally you had a sergeant and probably about 10 or 12 would be the number. Sometimes it would be less than that but it would be approximately 10 people would go on that particular patrol. And then we also had barbed wire that was quite thick around our position. And it was mined as well, we mined it and the enemy sure slipped over and added a few mines whenever they could as well. So you had to be very observant which way you were going because if you happened to step on a mine, it would mean you’d have, generally, if you survived it, it would be without a leg or an arm. So from that point, there was risk involved without question, yeah.
A young lieutenant from New Brunswick, actually he had been with the 2nd Battalion [Royal Canadian Regiment] but him and a corporal went out in daylight, which was kind of I guess a brave thing to do for sure and they made their way as close as they could to the enemy land and they went and cut some wire, telephone wire it looked like, and so when, it was a Chinese we were facing at that time, when somebody noticed, that they didn’t have communication, they sent out somebody to check the wire and find out where the break was and repair it. And it happened to be where the lieutenant and the corporal lying in waiting, so they just bumped them over the head and drug them back towards our line and he got an MM [Military Medal] for doing that.
There was one function, we were on a position that was referred to as The Hook and while on there, the Americans had held that position previous to our taking it over and it was known to be kind of a danger area in particular because there was always a sniper out during the day. But when the Americans had it, there was a spur of land that we kind of made our way out on and there was a little foot bridge at the bottom. And our job was to get as closely as we could to determine whether there was any enemy because the Americans wanted to come through our position around 3:00 in the morning to recover their bodies, there was four Americans killed at this little foot bridge.
But after we got as close as we could, then they started mortar fire and some small arms fire and so we had to kind of go back a bit and kind of get away from the fire area. And so later on that night when the Americans come through hoping that they could get their bodies, they found out that the bodies had been booby-trapped, which meant that if they touched them, they simply would blow up. So they never got them that particular time. I don’t know if they recovered them later. They probably did because the chances are, they got their engineering unit to go and unfasten them and such. Yeah.