"About two years ago, my grandson asked me, “Grandfather, have you ever killed a man?” I said to him, “Cédric, I can’t tell you any stories.” Killing people, well, the fighting took place at night. Was it me or someone else who did it? I didn’t lie to him, but I didn’t tell him everything either."
It’s certain that performing military duty, for me, meant travelling and seeing the country. And I understood once in Korea that it wasn’t just seeing the country. War was war. Regardless of what you thought or said. Yes, I was scared on the front line, I won’t lie. When you can hear yourself shaking, you know you’re scared. I’ll tell you what happened.
I was on a reconnaissance patrol and I had a South Korean with me. He didn’t speak English or French, but he understood me a little bit. So, we were on our reconnaissance patrol and we arrived at a location. I was allowed to have a (radio) set and at a certain spot, we started to hear voices and they were getting closer. We hid behind a bush and they came quite close to us. I thought to myself, I have a Korean with me and all he has to do is say one word that I don’t understand and I would be cooked, I would be a goner. I was the most scared that I’ve ever been. I had to trust him that was for sure. But up until what point? If I can say that I was scared once in my life, it was then. Once they had moved on, I called in our position. I thought it was a terrible thing to do! But I didn’t have a choice. It was us or them. I don’t know what happened in the end, it was at night.
About two years ago, my grandson asked me, “Grandfather, have you ever killed a man?” I said to him, “Cédric, I can’t tell you any stories.” Killing people, well, the fighting took place at night. Was it me or someone else who did it? I didn’t lie to him, but I didn’t tell him everything either.
When it was your turn to go out on the reconnaissance patrol, you didn’t have a choice, you went. I never refused anything when I was on the front line. I was there, I gave my word. And that’s what I was there for. I wasn’t there to massacre anyone. That’s what I found difficult. It was very hard. They were humans, just like us. No matter what you said, you couldn’t forget it. When I went out on a reconnaissance patrol, they trusted me. They knew that I could do it. It’s true that there were major risks involved. You never knew what could happen to you.
During the time when we were there, two Canadians were killed. We couldn’t get to them because there were booby traps everywhere. Just trying to get close to them was like signing your death sentence. When the fighting ended, after that… well, the smell that wafted towards us, I can still smell it sometimes. That was difficult as well, since I knew it was our guys.
I saw prisoners that had come back, men I had known from before. I can’t remember their names, I knew them from before, but they were men about my size, large men, who came back thin, having been fed nothing but raw rice and water. That’s what they were given to eat. I never would have wanted to experience that. It was terrible.
You had to work, earn a living. I was married. My wife and I have been married for 50 years. 50 years last year, in September. It’s always been the same and I would never change a thing. You hang on to the good things in life.
I got out and I was travelling and window shopping here and there. I didn’t know the country. I knew where the hotel was, where I was staying of course. Then, one day, I was in a store and someone spoke to me. I looked around for someone who looked like me, and then I saw that it was a Japanese man that was speaking to me. He said that he was speaking to me and waved. I was surprised. I thought, my goodness, he speaks French like me.
I was from Montreal, and he told me that he had spent several years there as well. I was invited to meet his family. They were very nice people. It was a very pleasant experience. I had a booklet with our words so that I could understand when he was saying in Japanese. I learn languages very quickly, very quickly.
He invited me over. He gave me his address and told me that if ever I came back, I would be welcome at their house. Last year, I received a paper from South Korea, thanking me for having risked my life over there. It was from South Korea, thanking me. They were grateful. I was very touched. That’s one of the beautiful things that came out of all that. There were some beautiful things.
Seeing people, children, dying of hunger was very difficult. I saw a lot of that. I saw them dying of hunger since they had nothing. At our army camp, you couldn’t throw it (the food) away and you couldn’t give it away, it had to be eliminated. That was a difficult time. Why couldn’t we give away our food that was still good? Would it have been considered fraternizing with the enemy?