Veteran Stories:
Edison Joseph MacDonald

Army

  • Edison MacDonald's section in Korea, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, circa 1953-1954.

    Edison MacDonald
  • U.S. Naval Ship Gen. C.C. Ballou that carried Edison MacDonald and men of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, towards Korea.

    Edison MacDonald
  • Hill 187 in Korea. On 2-3 May, 1953, the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, was attacked by Chinese troops in this sector. This picture was taken by Edison MacDonald on a trip back to Korea in 2006.

    Edison MacDonald
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"But on the 3rd of May, we were run over by battalions of Chinese and on that night we lost 26 killed. I think there was 40 people wounded and there was 7 or 8 taken prisoner. Now that all happened on one night and that was the scariest night of my life. That was the famous Battle of 187."

Transcript

I joined the military in the 15th of January, 1952, along with my buddy by the name of Jimmy Christoff*. We went to Halifax together from Sydney and we signed on the dotted line on the 15th of January and then we proceeded to go to Petawawa [Ontario] to join the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. I knew very, very little of the military, although I had an uncle, one of my favourite uncles as a matter of fact, who was in the Second World War and was killed in Italy on the 4th of January, 1944. Other than that, I had very little experience with military life but when I’ve seen that they were asking for people to join the military in 1951 and 1952, I thought I might like it, being an adventurous type. I thought that was my intention. I didn’t know what I wanted to get into or anything until at Halifax my friend Jimmy and I were walking in the 1 P.D. [No. 1 Military Personnel Depot] in Halifax and we’ve seen this fellow walking towards us, and he looked pretty sharp. So we crossed the street and said, “What branch of the service are you in?” And he said, “I’m with The Royal Canadian Regiment.” Well I looked at Jimmy and Jimmy looked at me and I said, “Boy that’s for us. This guy really looks sharp.” So when we went and signed up, that’s what we said we wanted to get into, The Royal Canadian Regiment.

When we got there [Korea] it was just – it was chaos, devastation. It had been hit pretty hard in the war. That’s the first time I seen kids begging and in bad shape, just destruction all over. So anyway we boarded these antiquated trains that took us to the northern part of Korea where our battalion was stationed in a reserve area until such time as we were hired to go the front lines. And that required more training because our battalion commander, who was [Lieutenant] Colonel Campbell, Kenny Campbell, he didn’t want us to go into the front lines until he thought we were ready. So we went through some vigorous training again and when he thought we were ready, we did go.

We went – our first position was on a hill called 187. And we were D Company as I said. We were in the front lines now. When we got there, the North Koreans or the Chinese had these loud, loud, loudspeakers that they used to send across the valley. You could hear them. They welcomed us and they welcomed us by name, “Welcome members of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.” And they spoke English just like that. And this was the Chinese or the North Koreans talking to us through microphones coming across the valley. Anyway we were on that hill for about  two or three weeks I guess, and then on the 3rd of May [1953] – but before that we had these kind of – they were raids but they didn’t get inside the wire. It seemed like they were sort of sizing us up because I can remember one night they came up to the wire and they were screaming and shouting and yelling and a lot of confusion. So we were firing at them. We had flares up and we could see them, so everybody was firing at them but I didn’t know if I hit anybody because you can’t tell if you hit anybody, you’re just firing. You don’t know whether your bullets are hitting somebody or somebody else’s bullets are hitting, but people were falling, but it was a small, small group. They were like a company size of maybe 30 or 40 men.

But on the 3rd of May, we were run over by battalions of Chinese and on that night we lost 26 killed. I think there was 40 people wounded and there was 7 or 8 taken prisoner. Now that all happened on one night and that was the scariest night of my life. That was the famous Battle of 187. Yeah, that’s the one I was involved in. And that was pretty scary. It was an officer by the name of Hollyer [Lieutenant Edgar Herbet Hollyer] and he called artillery down on his own position. He was in C Company and he was in the 8th Platoon and he called the artillery down on his own position and he won the Military Cross [British military decoration] for that effort. I have seen him on many, many reunions and other ceremonies that I’ve gone to throughout the years and he’s quite a guy.

*Private James Joseph Christoff, killed in action during the Battle of Hill 187, May 3, 1953

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