Veteran Stories:
Jon Jennekens

Army

  • Jon Jennekens (left) appeared in this photograph from the Cobourg Daily Star in June 1955.

    Jon Jennekens
  • In 1987, Jon Jennekens was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada for his work in the field of nuclear energy and safety.

    Jon Jennekens
  • Jon Jennekens is the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

    Jon Jennekens
  • Jon Jennekens Service Medals (from left to right): Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea, Canadian Peacekeeping Medal, United Nations Korea Medal, 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal, Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal.

    Jon Jennekens
  • Jon Jennekens Record of Service in the Canadian Armed Forces.

    Jon Jennekens
  • Jon Jennekens at a Memory Project event in Ottawa, Ontario. August, 2012.

    Jon Jennekens
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"Every night there was patrol action and people were dying, 44 Canadians died after the armistice between July of ’53 and December of ’57."

Transcript

The Royal Military College [RMC] offered a very excellent program. Some of cadets who had joined the Royal Military College went there direct from either the Army, Navy or Air Force. They were fellows who had Grade 13 or maybe a year of two of University and they wanted to complete the university education. So I applied, wrote the entrance exams, passed the medical, passed the board of officers, examining officers, and I graduated from RMC on the 1st of June, 1954. And I was married on the 5th of June and three weeks later I was on my way with 18 of my classmates to Korea.

Now the armistice as you well know had been signed in July of 1953, but hostilities had not ceased. In fact they continued right up into 1957. But I was in the Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers [RCEME]. I’d studied Mechanical Engineering at RMC and I enjoyed that very much. Although I was the youngest lieutenant, I was put in charge of the larger section, the wheeled and tracked vehicle section, repair section, and I was made Assistant Brigade Recovery Officer because we were still recovering disabled vehicles from paddy fields where they had ended up during the active period of the war years. And we were repairing them and turning them back over to Canadian units.

But in October of 1954, the countries responded affirmatively to the United Nations request to go to the aid of the Republic of Korea. There was 16 of them and they decided that although there was still hostilities, every night there was patrol action and people were dying, 44 Canadians died after the armistice between July of ’53 and December of ’57. Most of them died in the years ’54 and ’55. But Canada joined with other countries and decided to reduce its troop levels in Korea. We had at that time a brigade group of 6,600 all ranks, including a field artillery regiment, a squadron of armoured corps - a squadron of tanks - 3 battalions of field ambulance, service corps company, 42 Infantry Field Workshop, ordinance orps personnel and ordinance field park. And we were reduced in size from 6,600 down to about 1,600. The only fighting troops that were left were a battalion of the Queen’s Own Rifles from Toronto [Ontario].

And I and a captain, Captain Grinham, Sam Grinham and I and about 60 other RCEME personnel were transferred to a British unit. And I served with that British unit for eight months. And our task was to support the Queen’s Own Rifle Battalion to ensure that their vehicles and their small arms and their mortars were all in class one order and all of the other equipment that was necessary to maintain a battalion. But most of the equipment that we then repaired and brought to class one condition, wheel and track vehicles mostly, some telecommunications equipment, none of the 25 pounder field artillery, but quite a bit of equipment actually, jeeps, 3/4 ton trucks, 5 ton trucks. And we turned those all over to the South Korean Army. We turned back the tanks that the Americans had loaned to the Canadian Brigade. This was similar to the Lend-Lease program of WW2, which Mr. Roosevelt, President Roosevelt and [Prime Minister] Mr. [Winston] Churchill had drawn up between them. But the tanks that were loaned to the Lord Strathcona’s Horse and then later a squadron of the Royal Canadian Dragoon, they were all turned back to the Americans and the lease was $1 per tank for the duration of the hostilities. That’s all that we paid the Americans. And they were one of the latest, the newest Sherman tanks. They were the M4A3E8. They had a Ford 500 horsepower engine, a huge V8 engine. And it had 76 mm high velocity main armament on it, which was quite successful. But in fact the armoured corps units, the squadrons that served in Korea, they really didn’t get into any serious tank on tank battles, but they served primarily as backup support for the infantry.

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