You were always wondering whether you were going to make it back. How would it happen? There was always a certain level of uncertainty. You never knew how things were going to happen…My job was to protect my troops and my men. That made it easier to forget yourself.
Mr. Raymond Olivier enlisted in spring of 1945 and briefly served in England during the Second World War with Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. Upon returning to Canada, he left the Army and re-enlisted at the beginning of the Korean War where he served overseas as a sniper with the 2nd Battalion of Le Royal 22e Régiment in 1951-1952.
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I did my basic training like everyone else. After that, we went to the ranges, the rifle ranges, to complete our advanced training and to familiarize ourselves with the weapons. I was pretty good. Eventually I was sent to become part of a team of elite snipers. I only used my gun during my military duty, except for the last few months when I was with the intelligence (information) service. We were there, we went back to Germany after Korea, and I was with the intelligence service. I was there for two years. We prepared training cards for the unit’s scenarios.
The special brigade (for Korea) was formed with many (World War II) veterans. What pushed me to enlist again (after enlisting initially in 1945)? Simply the desire to return to military duty. After that, I left for Fort Lewis (Washington state) to be trained before going to Korea. At Fort Lewis, we were with the Americans. You could say that the training was a bit different than what we had done in Canada, since we were preparing the unit (2nd Battalion of the Royal 22e Régiment) to go over, to go to Korea. The training was more intense and more thorough. I spent almost all of that time on the rifle ranges or doing scenarios; all kinds of training. However, training and arriving on the battlefield are like night and day. Military training… it’s pretty interesting since you want to perform but there is no…You know that you aren’t really in danger. And you can’t imagine that you’ll be in danger, you aren’t thinking of that at all. To begin with, being a bit young, that’s secondary. You learned that once you were inside. I was ready, but it was completely different once you arrived for action.
I don’t think you can ever be ready. You’re never really ready. My job was to protect the troops. At night, it was very complicated. All of the small nighttime noises were nerve-wracking and annoying. You couldn’t tell where they were coming from. At night, if you heard a burst of fire, you couldn’t tell where it was coming from because… the air force was there, the navy was there, there was a lot of noise and people coming from all directions. So that nothing happened to us, they needed to know our exact positions. Sometimes we were very close… they were very close to us. It was truly very nerve-wracking.
My responsibility was to position the men at strategic positions according to my orders. I had to execute those orders to a T. They gave me positions. So my job was to position the men at those locations, and then execute the orders given to me. My job wasn’t to fire left or right. We weren’t to make any noise, as little as possible. We had to see what was going on and to never let anyone get close to our troops. Now, what’s nerve-wracking is at night you couldn’t see the land very well. We worked based on the noises we heard.
What affected me is that we left a country where nothing was happening. We went to a country we didn’t know. We didn’t know the people there. Why were we there? Those people didn’t do anything to me. I didn’t know them, and they didn’t know me. It was difficult to take your weapon and get rid of people who had nothing to do with us, who had done nothing to us, in order to protect others. At that time, I had a job (elite sniper). I was trained to do it. And, seeing that I was the kind of guy that executed the orders given to me, I executed them… But my men, seeing as I was a smaller man and that I had men that were a lot bigger than me, for things to go well, I thought to myself, I have to make friends with them. If I hadn’t become friends with them, I would have had a hard time controlling them, but we became friends.
When we were in the camps before that, I spent my evenings with my men in the huts. I spent the evening with them, instead of at the corporals’ mess or sergeants’ mess. Because I needed them, and they needed me. So we had to become friends. As friends, we were stronger than if it had been otherwise. You’re more protected as friends. It’s not just any guy there, I’m his sergeant. To begin with, he’s a friend, we’ve lived together, we’ve spent evenings together. It’s a lot easier to command people that you know well than giving orders without having gotten to know the people first. I think that would have been difficult.
Action is full of unforeseen events, only unforeseen events. You were always wondering whether you were going to make it back. How would it happen? There was always a certain level of uncertainty. You never knew how things were going to happen…My job was to protect my troops and my men. That made it easier to forget yourself. There were two things that were upsetting over there: losing men and executing orders that would cause the same thing (death) to your adversary.