Veteran Stories:
Karl Ryckman

Navy

  • HMCS Huron travelling to Sasebo, Japan for repairs after running aground on the Korean island of Yang-do on 13 July 1953.

    Daniel Kendrick
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"The junks were put ashore at night and they’d ransack a village and kill people or do whatever they wanted to do with them and then ransack the village and get back on the junks and they’d disappear. Well you could never find half of them. "

Transcript

We were all up into the Yellow Sea and all that and just looking for – well North Korean junks [small coastal vessels] really but they were Chinese junks. They were everybody. Decrepit- looking ships that they sailed all over the ocean over them with them. But they were looking for smuggling, anything like that or trying to get – they would go ashore. The junks were put ashore at night and they’d ransack a village and kill people or do whatever they wanted to do with them and then ransack the village and get back on the junks and they’d disappear. Well you could never find half of them. So that’s basically what we were doing, just mostly patrol work up and down the coast. Yeah, we never went onto the West side that trip. Mostly on the Eastern, all the way up from the Southern point of Korea right up into past the demilitarized zone, up into the Yellow Sea, close to where the Yalu River is.

Sometimes we had to escort a couple of the South Korean smaller coastal vessels and all that, take them where they wanted to go. Every once in a while they’d pick out of place – I don’t know how they found out about it, the American Navy would usually tell us that there’s a spot, a certain little town or something like that, and they need this  or they need that. We had three motor cutters on board and we’d tap those three and they’d go ashore and take stuff that they might need like food stuffs or clothes or anything like that and a lot of hand-me-down stuff from the guys on board. They’d give their dungarees and jeans and shirts and stuff like that. So the people would have – some of the times they’d have clothes to wear.

Well I saw the way a lot of those people in South Korea lived. And this was after the armistice was signed. I mean I wouldn’t anybody to – and I’m sure that there might be still lots of places that they are like that. I have never seen such poverty and the people, I don’t know how they lived like that but they did and they’ve come out of it very well. But at that particular point, up until then I had never seen anything like that. Like when I was in the navy, we were all over the world and I saw different people and all that, but nothing like what I saw in Korea.

It was good to be back. I mean we were away for a while but it didn’t matter. That length of time away didn’t bother me at all. It was good to get back and I had – again I had this officer that I was working for and when we come back I was – that was in March [1954] and my five years was up in the following December. So he was trying to give me a little fatherly advice and talk me into staying on board and staying in the navy. He showed me the reports that had been submitted by different people, different officers and all that who I’d worked for. And he thought I was a good candidate to stay in the navy and I came very close to signing on for 20 more years. But I don’t know, I was 24 and I knew it all, so I decided no I wasn’t. He promised me everything, he says, “I’ll send you ashore. We’ll send you out on a [...] course and then bring you back to the [HMCS] Huron when you’re done if you want. As long as I’m on here you got a job down here with me.” But I wasn’t smart enough to let all that get into my head and register so that it would stay there and I decided that – oh I guess it was in – I don’t know. I got off the Huron before – because she left – she took a couple fast trips down the coast to the States and then she went over to Norway and all up through there and through the Baltic Sea and all that. But I had to get off before she left or else I would have stayed on after my time was up. I decided to get off and I got out of the navy after five years in December 1955.

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