"I know the one time I was scared was when I knew they were in the trees in our area and they shouldn’t have been there and like I was scared, there’s no doubt in my mind, I was that absolutely petrified. But I don’t think anybody could say that they were"
[00:00:00] (onscreen: Peter Hills, Lance Corporal, 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry)
[00:00:04] (onscreen: On the Korean War and encounters with the enemy)
[00:00:08] We used to bring the dead down on the hood of the Jeeps from the hills, down to the burial area or to the, because most of them, I don’t think we shipped people back home, we buried them if I’m not mistaken, buried them there. In fact, I know we did. But anyway, there was two guys coming down on the hood of a truck and I said, this is so useless, they don’t even know why they died. And they didn’t. And my adjutant took that as a sign of cowardice and said, you’ll be tomorrow, you’ll be in the forward section, the forward company and the forward platoon tomorrow. But they needed a clerk so he didn’t get his wish. But I always considered, to me, Korea was a proving ground for weapons. Nobody knew why they were there. Not really. I don’t think they did.
[00:01:02] As hard as it may have been to believe, most of our fighting was at night. And in the morning, if we shot their members, you wouldn’t see the bodies, they’d take the bodies home. They’d take the bodies out of the field, we wouldn’t see them. You very seldom saw them. I was never in a forward company. I was in the second echelon, which is where the intelligence section was, where the battle orders by the commanding officer of our unit would draw up the battle orders for the day. I typed those up and they would be issued out and that was, basically my job was to do the intelligence reports and stuff like that.
[00:01:43] But as soon as a unit moved into Korea, they would raid them that night. They would invariably hit them and they hit the RCR [The Royal Canadian Regiment] and our unit on, I think it was Christmas Eve if I’m not mistaken in 1952. And they were right in our area, they were in our echelon actually.
[00:02:04] I know the one time I was scared was when I knew they were in the trees in our area and they shouldn’t have been there and like I was scared, there’s no doubt in my mind, I was that absolutely petrified. But I don’t think anybody could say that they were in the line of fire and they weren’t scared. And I was scared. And I got over that and then I had a couple experiences after that would maybe, you know, if you think back, you probably wouldn’t want it to happen to you but no, I think that was probably the scariest time of my life, very scary.
[00:02:44] (onscreen: Life after Korea)
[00:02:48] I went back to Korea in 2007 and I was treated like a god. They thought there was nobody like the Canadians, nobody in their country. And there was 12 of us, even to this day, the Korean government, they take 12 from each of the 21 countries, 12 to 14, every year, and they treat them to a whole week in their country, all expenses paid, everything. Even when we came home, we didn’t have to stand in line at the airport, they took us to the front of the line. That’s how well they treated us. It was awesome, to tell you the truth. It really was. And the civilians, you know, they knew we were there because you were running around in your beret and your uniform. And of course, they’d always speak to you. It was fabulous, it was a marvelous treat to go back. And before we left, the Korean government, the members, they gave us a big, oh hell, it’s this big, it’s like a plaque but it’s covered and they called us ambassadors of peace. And they presented us with a medal but we can’t wear the medal because the queen has not sanctioned that medal, so we can’t wear it.
[00:04:12] I think my biggest disappointment was we never got recognized by the Canadian government 50 years after it was over. That was the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had in as far as looking at it from a military point of view. That was wrong. And the thing that hurt I think more than anything, we got two medals issued, United Nations and a volunteer service medal [for clarification: Mr Hills is referring to the Korea Medal for Canadian service members]. And 50 years later, the government says, we’re going to issue you a medal for your service in Korea [the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea, established in 1991]. Where did they want to put it? In the middle of where we, we couldn’t have had it on the end, it had to go back in the middle. Things like that bug the hell out of me.
[00:04:46] (onscreen: Peter Hills, Lance Corporal, 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, The Memory Project)
[00:04:56] (end of tape)