Irving Larson at The Memory Project event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1 October 2012.Historica Canada
"By the time they did get stopped, we had plugged the north tunnel and we’d just blast the heck out of them. And we had some of the finest gunners in the Canadian navy. We kept the ship running so that they could do the shooting. So we got three of them in one day. "
There were a few other things that the Crusader used to do, it used to capture junks. That’s North Korean fishing boats. A lot of the South Koreans had junks, too, but we captured one particular one. They used to haul – when they came down from the north, they used to carry – this is on the east coast – they used to carry mines with them. They would drop them off indiscriminately along the coastline because they knew that they were coming in every once in a while to do shelling and stuff like that. Some of them would be floating, but they’re Second World War stuff. Anyway, we had one guy aboard ship, that’s all he did was set charges on these mines and blow them all to hell. Our captain, his second trip, the captain used to break out the Bren [light machine] gun and we’d back off and he’d shoot it out of the water. Of course there were lead prongs on them and as soon as you broke that, then they would – the acid would eat through and set the thing off.
Anyway, we did capture seven North Korean commandos on one of these junks. We had them aboard ship. We had a guy, he was from London, Ontario, can’t remember his name. His dad fought in the Japanese war in Asia there. He learned how to talk Korean but they wouldn’t let the Koreans talk their own language so they would just go ahead and do – they had to learn Japanese. This guy was fluent in the Korean language so he was one of the head honchos for interviewing.
These guys were lip-sealed so to speak. So this kid, he says, “I know how to get them talking.” So they had them shackled, ankles and arms, took them to the aft of the ship, put a piece of tape across the guy’s mouth and he screamed bloody blue murder and fired a shot in the air and then threw him into the sick bay. Come back, and by the time he got to the third one, they all sung like canaries. They got all the information they wanted. Of course there was an American there, too, getting all this information.
We were called in to shell a gun emplacement. The North Koreans had tunneled through this mountain and they had coastal guns on rails and if they got hit, they just pushed the thing over the side down into the rocks below. Man, I'm telling you – we relieved a light cruiser and we’d just come around the corner and there was an LST* that was rigged with three racks of 1,500 rockets. We just got around the corner and bang – it went up. Nobody got off, they were all hit and I don’t know how they dropped one on, but they did.
I was just walking back from my duty watch place up to the bow into where we were living and, “Man, oh man,” I said to myself, “what the heck is going on here?” But we were lucky enough, we had one of the best bunch of gunners in the Canadian navy and they loaded up and they blew the first one out and they just kept pushing the next one out. So the next morning the South Korean commandoes – there was 18 I think – and one of my buddies from northern Saskatchewan was the guy that was running the boat and took these guys in.
Soaking wet I don’t think those South Koreans weighed more than 90 pounds and they were carrying about 90 pounds of destruction to blow these tunnels up. How they ever got in there is beyond me. This is early in the morning, so they got them ashore and then he was coming back in the next, early in the morning. They got up to the side of that cliff and entered the tunnel. Not one of them got caught.
They loaded the place up – you can imagine how many pounds of explosives they were carrying – they loaded the place up and the next morning we backed off when they got them guys in. We backed off. All of a sudden one big damn bang and that whole mountain lifted up, I swear to God it must have lifted about a foot off of where it was supposed to be. It destroyed the whole tunnel system. So they never were able to get back on there.
The first time we went in there was – we were with the aircraft carriers – we’d done the fly off and they’d come back in and then the captain on the aircraft carrier says, “Well, it's your time now. You do whatever you want.” So that’s when we went in. We got one complete train but we had shot at more than one but we didn’t destroy every one of them. That was the first train and all the navies that had destroyers that were going in there and doing the same thing, they started what they call the Train Busters Club.
The next day we steamed out to pick up the aircraft carrier and they said it had been canceled, the fly off that we were going to do – “So it’s your turn, you do whatever you want.” So the old man decided okay, away we go – back in there. And like I said, the main supply route that come from China and Russia came along the coast because Korea is quite mountainous and they took the least direct route, which was along the coast, and they had to plow holes through the mountains so that they could run their track.
So they got all this route all set up, they got hit a few times by other navies. So our old man said, “Well boys, this is it. We're going to set a record.” Anyway, along the coast there you could always tell when these trains were ready to move – all the steam and the smoke come pouring out of the north side and they were heading south. So they would let them make a run for it and they let them about a third or maybe a little bit better out of the way of the tunnels because then we’d have the south tunnel shot shut and they couldn’t stop.
By the time they did get stopped, we had plugged the north tunnel and we’d just blast the heck out of them. And we had some of the finest gunners in the Canadian navy. We kept the ship running so that they could do the shooting. So we got three of them in one day. We started at the bottom and we worked to the top. That’s on the east coast of Korea.
*Landing Ship, Tank