Veteran Stories:
Russell Piché

Army

  • Russ Piché (centre) being presented with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal on September 18th, 2012. On his left is Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to his right, MP Diane Ablonczy.

    Russ Piché
  • Four soldiers posing with Korean People's Army (KPA) placards. Front row, R.P. Kirby (left) and Glen Palmer (right); back row, Glen 'Cowboy' Mathews (left) and Russ Piché (right).

    Russ Piché
  • Russ Piché at the Rehab Hospital in Kure, Japan. Photo taken in 1951.

    Russ Piché
  • Four soldiers holding beers, standing outside a small building. From left to right, Glen Palmer, unknown, Bill Windsor, and Russ Piché.

    Russ Piché
  • Soldiers with the Pioneer Platoon, 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, destroying enemy bunker-tunnel and enemy ammunition in no-man's land. From left to right, R.P. Kirby, Glen 'Cowboy' Mathews, Glen Palmer, Russ Piché, and Turgeon.

    Russ Piché
  • Group of soldiers. Third from left is Bob Cassalman, fourth from left is H. Henwood, and on the far right is N. La Point.

    Russ Piché
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"I was working on a ‘bouncing betty’, that was the name that we had given this one particular mine, was a bouncing betty. And I was working on it when it exploded... They took 23 pieces of shrapnel out of my chest cavity. I’d been hit in both shoulders, and in the back of the neck. "

Transcript

Well, to begin with, I’m French and part Indian.  And my father had a thing about he would not let us tell anybody that we were, you know, part Indian, that we were you know, French Indian sort of thing.  And he wouldn’t let us tell anybody that even though people knew we were part Indian, he didn’t want anybody to know.  And he had his reasons, I guess.

But, anyway, I was getting ready to go out and stand my watch in the trench that night, and you’re there for two hours during the night and then you’re relived and, you know, just ‘stand to’ sort of thing.  And on my way waiting to go out on the trench I stopped by another buddy’s trench and there was two guys or three guys in there talking.  And the topic of the conversation was how the North American Indian can find his way in the bush in the middle of the night without a compass or a map, better than a white man could with a compass and a map.  And for some stupid reason I said, “Well, you know, I’m half white, half Indian.”  And nobody seemed impressed or disgusted by it, they just … the conversation just carried on.

Anyway, I went and I done my two hours and then I had my little nap afterwards.  Then it was time for me and Bob Castleman to go out and check the mine field, because I guess there had been a little activity the night before, you know, and what have you, so we had to go out and check … sneak out and try and find out how many mines had exploded, what have you, and replace them.  And while we were in there some silly ass took a couple shots at us.  And I still think it was the guys from own lines, just scaring us.

We went down this little gulley.  We’d gone about a half a mile and I said to Bob, “That looks like the tail end of a little airplane over there.”  So we went over and, sure enough, it was and there was four or five dead enemy soldiers out in front of the plane and the skeletal remains of the pilot, still inside the plane.  And there was … whenever it hit the hill, it cracked open and there was a little … you know, being a small guy, I was able to get in there.  Checked it out for booby traps and what have you, and then went in and got the guy’s identification tags, dog tags and handed them out to Bob.  Well, by the time I got out he was already cleaning the tags off, so he could find out what the guy’s name was.  And he handed me this map and said, “Russ, while you’re at it, just mark on here where we’re at on the map, will you.  So then we can tell the Americans where they can come and pick their guy up.” Well, I’m trying to find on the map where I was at.  You ever get the feeling somebody’s watching you?  And I looked at Bob and he was staring at me and I said, “What?”  “Oh,” he says, “I was just wondering.”  I said, “What were you wondering?”  He said, “I was wondering which part of you is lost.”  And, you know, that crazy little thing has stayed with my all my whole life, like, what part of you is lost, he was asking whether the Indian part is lost or the white part.

I was working on a ‘bouncing betty’, that was the name that we had given this one particular mine, was a bouncing betty.  And I was working on it when it exploded.  And I and a guy by the name of Brown were injured.  He come back to Canada, I didn’t.  I had multiple fragments.  Matter of fact, when I come back to Canada they finished the surgical work that needed to be done.  They took 23 pieces of shrapnel out of my chest cavity.  I’d been hit in both shoulders, in the back of the neck.  And then it went down and spread throughout the body, throughout the upper part of my body.  So I got it in both shoulders and the neck and chest cavity.

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