We were with Colonel Dextraze. A mean man. He was a rough neck; a guy from the last war. Dextraze wasn’t afraid of anything. He was on the hill with us and his ideas worked. He wasn’t scared of anyone.
Mr. Guy Marion is a Korean War veteran who served overseas with the 2nd Battalion of Le Royal 22e Régiment. He was trained as a sniper and served most of his tour overseas with the Battalion's scout & sniper section. One memorable episode of his military service was the Battle of Hill 355 in November 1951.
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I enlisted in August 1950. It was pretty difficult, of course, when you weren’t familiar with that. I arrived at Valcartier (Quebec) at the end of August. They started to train us. We had to run all the time since we weren’t in shape. We had classes and you had to change classroom every hour. We had to do everything while running. The 1st Battalion (of the Royal 22nd Regiment), the parachutists trained us. We spent about six months in training…more like five months. After that, we went to Fort Lewis, in the United States (Washington State). It was difficult there; we were doing real war maneuvers. Sometimes, it was more difficult that the war itself. We had a taste of it. We were with Colonel Dextraze (Lieutenant-Colonel Dextraze, Commander of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment in Korea)… A mean man. He was a rough neck; a guy from the last war (1939-1945). Anyway, when I left Fort Lewis for Korea, I was transferred to the scouts and snipers section, they were like the Colonel’s bodyguards. Dextraze wasn’t afraid of anything. He was on the hill with us and his ideas worked. He wasn’t scared of anyone.
When we first arrived in Korea, one of my friends, Jean Roch Mercier, was killed (soldier Jean Roch Mercier from Thetford Mines, killed on the battlefield on November 25, 1951). We had been inseparable. Let me tell you, it was difficult. Especially since we’d just arrived. Later on, regarding death, if you were caught, we’d say “We’re going to lose our gum. Well then, lose your gum, that’s all.” But it was really hard in the beginning, since you’re not familiar with it.
We participated in the 355 (battle of hill 355, from November 21-25, 1951). Company D (from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment) was getting destroyed by the Chinese. They sent our platoon out there in the evening. We were surrounded by the Chinese. Our sergeant Major Léo (a World War II veteran from the Régiment de la Chaudière) called the commander and asked him to shoot mortars at us. It was the only way to get rid of the Chinese. Company D had lost almost all of its men. So when we got there, it helped. Christ! There were a lot of dead. I think there were about 30 or so dead or injured. The platoons were… not spread out, but the men were almost all injured. There were a lot of dead. We got a taste of it. We weren’t expecting that, but we knew we had to help them. There was a lot of gunfire. We could see that from our company. We just had to cross over. We could see that the guys were being shelled (bombed). So we crawled over there on our stomachs. We were being extremely careful like everyone else. It was our job and we did it well since the Chinese withdrew.
The battle of (hill) 355 lasted about three days, the biggest part of the battle. It took place mostly at night, in the dark. It was hard! We were all scared. We crawled over on our stomachs to go and help them since they were being crushed for three days. Our Sargeant Major, Major Léo, called the commander. We weren’t always hanging off him to hear what was being said. There were mortars behind us that were being fired at us.
We were scared. At any rate, I was scared and I wasn’t alone. All of us men were scared, but we had to go. Our friends were there, and we couldn’t just leave them there. They told us, they explained to us that our best friend was our rifle, but the guy next to you, you need to take care of him, too since he’s going to do the same. Get it? So the friendship you feel towards your friend solidifies. Maybe you didn’t know him very well because he just arrived, but he’s there and he’s going to protect you. And you’re there to protect him. We all felt the same way. Let me tell you, with the adrenaline, you feel like superman. But so many men died, it was unbelievable. The Chinese withdrew and then in the morning we were with the guys from Company D. Christ! They were completely destroyed. It wasn’t fun. However, I never regretted it.
I had signed on to become a career soldier. That’s what I wanted to do. I spent 13 years (1950-1963) doing that, and I had just signed on for another six-year term when I had a heart attack. What can you do? I was in Valcartier (Quebec) when I had my heart attack. Sergeant-major Deschènes “Ti-Rouge” Deschènes was there, he was the sergeant of Company C. He could see that something was wrong. I was pale and I had fallen down. He said, “You’re going to go on the sick parade” (to the infirmary). I didn’t want to go on the sick parade because we were supposed to go to Goose Bay, Labrador. You had to go and get all your equipment out and take it to the quartermaster. I went to see a doctor and they ran some tests and then I was able to leave. They sent me to Goose Bay. Once there, they received a phone call saying that I was to go to the hospital right away because of my heart. So I spent a month at the veterans’ hospital on Laurier Boulevard in Québec City. I spent a month there and I wasn’t allowed to move. Afterwards, I spent a year on “excuse duty” (task exemption) and then they released me, discharged me it’s called.
That was difficult for me. That was my life. That was the most difficult thing that ever happened to me. I was a civilian for six months. People walk all over you. I was unhappy. I was replaced, and it was difficult for me. That was the hardest thing for me. What do you want, that was my career and I loved the army, and I still do. That was the hardest thing for me, being discharged like that, because I was sick. I had just signed a six-year term and I would have stayed for another 30, 40 years, until they had let me go. They let me go and when I think about it, it’s hard! 33 years, I was 33 years old. Christ! It was hard.