Veteran Stories:
Harold True

Army

  • Harold True at Camp Borden, Ontario. March 1950.

    Harold True
  • No. 37 Field Ambulance camp site where Harold True was stationed in Korea. 28 June 1952.

    Harold True
  • No. 37 Field Ambulance camp in Korea. 28 June 1952.

    Harold True
  • Harold True at the 38th Parallel, Korea. May 1952.

    Harold True
  • Off the coast of Korea, an American Landing Craft, Infantry (LCI) (foreground) and either the USS Consolation or the USS Haven (background), two American hospital ships that served in Korean waters during the war. 1952.

    Harold True
  • Harold True's medals (left to right): Syngman Rhee Medal, the Korean War 40th Anniversary Medal, the Ambassador for Peace Medal, the Korean Veterans Association Service Medal, and the Korean Veterans Association Award of Merit.

    Harold True
  • Harold True. Ottawa, Ontario, August 2012.

    Historica Canada
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"One of the officers heard something in the tent, so he pulled his pistol out and he started firing, bang, bang! So, I started running and I could see him running up the side of the hill. But I heard, click, click, and I looked up, here was a South Korean next to us. He had aimed the rifle at me"

Transcript

I joined in 1951 and done my basic training in Camp Borden [Ontario] at the medical school. When I was done my basic training they put me in the Quartermaster’s Stores. I didn’t work as a medic, I worked as an ordnance-supply, but I still wore the colours, the flashes, and cap badges because I was with the medical corps unit, even though I was ordnance-supply. Then, I went to Montreal and a couple of grades training and then on the third one, I went back for – I left and my buddy I joined up with, Alfie Jones – when I got back to  Camp Borden from my training in Montreal  at the ordnance depot, he was on draft for Korea at that time. He was going with the [No.] 25 Field Ambulance and I was too late to go with them, so they said, “You’re going to go the following year with the Field Ambulance, [No.]37.” So that’s how I got going to Korea. I landed there, like I said, in the 1st of May, moved up into the northern part of Korea, above the 38th Parallel. And who do I meet, the first guy, is my buddy – we joined up together – he was getting ready to leave to come home, after being there for 13 months.

So I was working, again, under Canada’s only supply [line], looking after rations, giving out stuff like gum, cigarettes, razor blades, stuff like this that come in a pack. Then, the chap that I took over from, the corporal, he got involved in the black market. So he ended up in the “digger” [military jail] down in Seoul [Korea] for 90 days, and the commanding officer said, “You got a new job.” I said, “What is it?” “You’re going to pick up the food rations.” So that’s what I did for the last period of time I was there. So I used to go down to the ration point – I had my own truck and driver from 38 MAC,* which was attached to the [No. 37] Field Ambulance. They were the ones looking after all the ambulance drivers and so forth, handling the ambulances.

Anyway, we were going down in that area and pick up the rations. On the way back, I go to the messes, like the officers mess, sergeants mess, and I take it up to the forward area, the food rations, for the Field Dressing Station and I’d come back. But in the meantime, we would be short of certain things like sugar, butter, and we’d have extra of this or that and we’d go up to the Australians and I’d barter with them and get some nice tinned butter, because we only had Oleo margarine, which was like axle grease. So we done good, there. And we’d go to the Brits and we’d get tea and they’d want sugar, or they’d want coffee, because they didn’t have the coffee, and stuff like this. That’s what we used to do, I used to travel back and forth.

In the meantime in doing this, I’d get – the areas we travelled in, we raised such a dust from the main MSR [main supply route]. We’d be, just like a cloud of dust. You’d get out of the vehicle like this and be – like that guy in the cartoon, Pig-pen** and all you see is a big dust flying all over you. Anyway, you had to be extra careful because they’d shell you when you’re travelling to see that and they’d start firing at you. And you didn’t know if there’d be snipers on the sides of the road or, they landmines set in. They come in at night and put them in. We were following a jeep one time and they run over the mine and the driver was killed and the other had his two legs blown off. He ended up in the mud and that’s the only thing that saved them. An ambulance come and picked him up and brought him back.

I was on guard duty at night. One of the officers heard something in the tent, so he pulled his pistol out and he started firing, bang, bang! So, I started running and I could see him running up the side of the hill, so I start coming up behind him – he was too far ahead of me. But I heard, click, click, and I looked up, here was a South Korean next to us. He had aimed the rifle at me. The moon was bright enough, he could see then it was a soldier so he put it down. I said, “Thank you.” I don’t know if he understood me or not.

When I used to go to the forward station, they were shelling – the MPs*** had stopped us. We couldn’t go in that area until it was cleared, and they wouldn’t allow us to go in there. We may have to wait an hour, half hour, so we’d have to wait, so we had to bring rations in. Once that was clear then we’d go ahead. And I think they used to wait for us, the [Ordnance QF] 25-pounders, the artillery, our own people. I’d go out with the ration truck and you’d hear the bang! and they’d fire over our head two or three rounds, scare the heck out of us. Is it Chinamen or is it our own shells coming?

What I found when I first arrived in Korea after going up – we went up by train, wooden-framed thing and you go along, they’d stop certain distance, and the children alongside the road and the mother with baby begging for food and stuff like that. Some of us had stuff that we’d give, canned milk, stuff like that we’d throw it at them. Also when we were picking up the rations, there was an area they used to call the PX [post exchange], it’s a British NAAFI.**** They had it all surrounded with a fence and we’d stop there, maybe get a coffee or doughnut, or whatever, and the children would be outside. They’d try to come and get stuff from us and that. We couldn’t do it all the time, because you never knew who you were giving it to. You could be giving it to the North Koreans. They all look alike. They’d take the uniform off and you don’t know who they are.

That’s the military. It’s a family. You don’t realize it. You’re like brothers and sisters together. It’s a strange – it’s hard to explain.

*No. 38 Canadian Mobile Ambulance Company, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps

**A character in Charles Schultz’s Peanuts cartoon

***Military Police

****Navy, Army & Air Force Institutes (United Kingdom)

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