"I set up an office and every day they would send me and some of the soldiers, as many as I could handle, and I’d make a report as to what they wanted to do when they went back to civilian life."
And Captain Thériault called me to his office one day and just before I was supposed to go to Aldershot [the principal Canadian Army base in England] for advanced training and he said: "I’d like to give you this test." And there was, they called it the M Test [a Canadian Army test produced at the end of the 1930s by a group of civilian psychologists to test a candidate’s aptitude for specific types of military training]. He said: "We’re going to give this test to every soldier. And this test will bring out the different talents and abilities that these soldiers have. And through this, we’ll interview them so that we’ll have something that we can work with when these boys leave the army, after the war is over and if they want to go to university or they want to go to training school or if they just want to go back to what their former job was, at least, he says, we have something that we can use. Because we’ve interviewed them, we know what they’re educations are, what their skills are and what maybe we can [do]; how we can help them."
But, then again, when the chance came to go to Italy [for the military campaign that began in July 1943], I didn’t really know, I thought I was going to Africa. And I said: "Yes." I never hesitated. Maybe I’m the type of person who loves something different, I like to explore things. And I ended up in Italy. Right away, I set up an office and every day they would send me and some of the soldiers, as many as I could handle, and I’d make a report as to what they wanted to do when they went back to civilian life. The idea was to rehabilitate the soldiers after the war was over.
And every day I’d have so many come in. One of the times, I sit down and I talk to them. And I wanted to know what their plans were for when they were repatriated and when they were discharged.
First of all, I wanted to know about what he did before he entered the army, what schooling he had, what trades he had. I wanted to know as much as I could about that individual. Then I’d want to find out from him what his plans were when he got back. Now, if he had some schooling and he had pretty good scores and the test showed me that this man was quite capable, I’d ask him, I said: "Do you want to go back to university?" I said: "We’d like to train you to go back to civilian life, we’d like to get something better than what you had before." And I said: "You need some training, you have the ability to absorb more training, what would you like to do?"
There was a lot of programs in there for those soldiers going back. And I tried as much as possible to help them make up their mind as to what they wanted to do. It broadened my horizons a lot. I got to know, I got to go to a lot of countries, which normally I would never have visited. I saw a good part of Europe. I saw people live. I saw the different customs. Some of them I questioned, some of them I thought were beautiful. I especially liked the Italian language and I still speak a little bit. If I’m confronted with somebody who speaks only Italian, I’m not afraid to talk to them.
You know, the war, it’s been a long time since then, a lot of things has happened, it still doesn’t go away really. That war was; we never, the wars are not the same now. They don’t fight war like they used to. There still is the war on land where you, you know, but not the way they used to have it, with armies pushing up with all the regiments, they don’t do it that way anymore. It’s a different world.