Keith Carson at The Memory Project event in Ottawa, Ontario, August 2012.Historica Canada
"And there were more shells come in then you would have heard during the Second World War."
1950 the war broke out. I tried to join down there [London, Ontario], and I have flat feet. But they wouldn’t let me in. And then I decided – they told me to go back to Ottawa and join, they said, “They’ll take you.” So I come back to Ottawa and it was the same thing so I went home. Then I went back working again. And then I got a call, letter, telling me something had been changed and I was accepted and that was it. I was in the army. And then they asked me what I want to do. And I said I wanted to be in the airborne. That’s where I went. That’s probably why I would have ended up to go with the battalion [1 RCR] when they left, because I volunteered for the airborne. And that’s it. I went to Korea.
When I hit Pusan [Korea], like I told you downstairs, it was in the daytime, and I saw these national police [South Korean] pulling a young guy out of a house, pounding him on the head with these wooden billies. I said to myself, “What the hell did you get yourself into now, Carson?” We went north that night. We got to the lines and the front was pretty well flamed up. They were shelling like crazy, and I went in a tent and the sergeant, they told us which company we were going to. All my friends, most of my friends went to Charlie Company, and some were sent to Dog [Company], but me and three or four others, we went to Baker Company. And I was sort of lucky because one of the guys went to - well, we were in the same platoon in Baker Company.
And the sergeant major, when we got there at the bottom of The Hook, that’s where the first shelling went on, was The Hook. And, he told us is that this war, right now, is static, and it’s more like the First World War trench warfare, than anything. But I was in it. We never got hit by the Chinese on the road. But we got bombed the shit right out of us there. We lost a couple of guys, shrapnel and wounded, and there was a signalman, he got killed by snipers. You ship your head about, around, you’d lose it. And, that’s about the experience on The Hook.
Then we were sent back up to [Hill] 187.* We must have walked 15 miles to get in there. It was one hell of a place. Well, we never stopped shelling. We shelled steady. You never – the night that the Battle of 187, do you want to hear about that? I wasn’t directly in the battle. I was in Baker Company. They hit Charlie Company dead on. I was out on an outpost, and about quarter to twelve they started pounding. And there were more shells come in then you would have heard during the Second World War. The old sergeant major told me, said he never heard that thunder – that went on for an hour steady. Most of our guys, I imagine, were killed, were probably killed by shells. I don’t know. I never saw, you never do see them.
We were being pushed by the Chinese, but not – they’d bomb night and day, but there was no invasions coming. No attack coming, eh? And, this night, one of our - I was on London outpost and I came in, and I said, I got in, I said, “Well, what’s going on?” – [there was a] fighting patrol ready. And I said, “Well, I might as well go with them and do that, so.” So I said, “Where are you going?” “West ridge,” they said. I said, “Well, okay.” I think it was west ridge, I could be wrong. We got down there and the sergeant’s leading the patrol, and he said, “We’re going to sweep the place.” So I said, “Okay.” So we got up and I go on the right of the sergeant. So Joe goes on the left with a couple of ROK** soldiers, and I’m with the sergeant. And, we started and all of a sudden I heard boom. And when it exploded, I knew it wasn’t a shell coming in. There’s a difference in the sound. And I said, “Oh, Jesus Christ almighty, you got us standing in the middle of the f-ing minefield,” I said, “that’s what’s wrong.” And he says, “Get down and use your bayonet and we’ll find our way back.” “Bullshit on you,” I said, “I’m taking the same tracks I walked in coming in.” And I walked out and I got back to the wire and I could hear people crying, in the brush.
And so I said, “Where’s Joe?” I yelled, “Joe!” and got no answer. So I said, “He’s in there somewhere, I don’t know.” So I started in, but I run into a little ROK soldier. He got hit with a ball bearing right in the knee. He’d lose his leg for sure. I cut his pants open and put a dressing on it. I gave him shit because he didn’t have his own dressing and I had to use my own. And then I went to… I walked over to see Joe and then I looked, took one look at him and a fellow told me, one of my friends back behind me told me, when he come in, he said, “You turned white when you saw.” Well, you would have too.
They [mines] come out of the ground about that high, a Bouncing Betty,*** and they blow a hole so, when they exit, right here. And, anyway, he died.
*The Battle of Hill 187 (2-3 May 1953) involved fighting between the Chinese and A and C Companies, 3 RCR
**Republic of Korea Army
***S-mine, a type of anti-personnel mine