Veteran Stories:
Ronald Whyte

Navy

  • The HMCS Iroquois forward 4-inch guns firing on the Korean coast against enemy supply train movement.

    Ronald Whyte
  • The HMCS Iroquois crew inspecting coastal vessels, to prevent the enemy's covert naval resupply of their forces.

    Ronald Whyte
  • Shells from a communist shore battery splash off HMCS Iroquois' port side in the October 1952 action in which one officer and two men were killed by a direct enemy hit on "B" gun deck. The enemy guns opened fire just after the destroyer had finished bombarding a railway line and almost bracketed the ship with the first salvo. Explosions on the shoreline are from shells fired by the Iroquois in response.

    National Defence Photograph (IR-164)
  • Crowds awaiting the arrival of HMCS Iroquois at Halifax upon its return from Korea in 1953.

    Ronald Whyte
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"We didn’t even know for a while that we had been hit because it was so far forward. And the first thing we’d seen, of course, we were back and just off of where the sickbay was and we started to see the wounded coming through the door."

Transcript

Well, the basic concept of what the Canadians destroyers did there was support a lot of the ongoing identities that were on land itself.  Train destroying was one of the things.  Steaming up and down the coast trying to spot supply trains going to the communist forces and shelling them from sea was one of the major objectives.  Covering any landings of troops that were landing by sea which there was a numerous amount of those, they were covered by bombardments from the ships at sea.  And the ships were broken down into squadrons, being United Nations, you had Canadian ships, American ships, Australian and New Zealand ships.

Everybody has an action station.  And the one that I particularly had was back aft feeding ammunition to a 3.5 inch twin mounted gun that was placed back aft.

Well, basically it was a newer type gun.  The guns that were placed forward were four-inch guns and they were normal types that had been the ships from the time they fought in the Second World War.  This twin 3.5 inch was an American gun equipped with radar sights and the basic concept of it as well as on shore bombarding was to be able to track jets if they were to attack the ship.

We used the gun on numerous occasions but basically only to bombard.  We didn’t, we were never attacked by aircraft.

We had moved in a little tight as far as offshore is concerned.  Usually you stayed back about four miles.  But we had moved in a little bit to help support some American troops and what they [enemy shore guns] did was a ladder shoot.  They dropped one shell on one side of the ship, one shell on the other side of the ship and then dropped on right in the center.

Well, to be perfectly honest with you, we were so busy passing ammunition to the 3.5 inch gun mount where I was, that we didn’t even know for a while that we had been hit because it was so far forward.  And the first thing we’d seen, of course, we were back and just off of where the sickbay was and we started to see the wounded coming through the door.

So from that, we kind of realized things were getting a lot more serious than we anticipated.  Before that it was strictly, you know, you sail down the coast, you fired your guns and that was it.  But when you seen some of the action after that, it brought back an awful lot of strange memories.  We had a doctor on board.  We had a sickbay and, of course, it was limited to the size and the amount of equipment it could carry.  So what you did was you patch people up the best you could.  And then you also made contact with other American ships that were larger and had a better sickbay situation and you would transfer your wounded over to them.

They would then in turn take it in and add to the hospitals onshore.  It was tough but the thing was you tried to keep the spirits of everybody up.  Do your thing and not rely too much on thinking about the bad side of it.  A lot of the fellows were, where some of the fellows that were had a lot of shrapnel in them, they thought it wasn’t all that bad because they were allowed to take hot baths in the officer section to be able to pick the shrapnel out.

So from that point of view, you kind of changed a lot of the seriousness into jokes and different ideas to kind of get rid of the bad part.  But it was a long night, the night that we waited for one of our wounded to finally pass away.

Once we got out of the range of the onshore that were firing at us, we went on our way back to Sasebo, which was our home port in Japan, we met up with an American supply ship and we transferred our dead and wounded to it.  And then continued on into harbour where we made sure that we were fully loaded with fuel and ammunition and turned around and went back to the same position in which we were hit and fired all the shells we had on board at that particular area.  Needless to say, there was no more guns ever heard of from that area.

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