Donald Hibbs, 1950.Donald Hibbs
Donald Hibbs (far right) aims a gun at his friends in jest. From left to right, also pictured: Dennis Moore, Romuald (Ron) Bourgon, and Scott Moore.Donald Hibbs
Cap badge, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment.Donald Hibbs
Donald Hibbs' service medals (left to right): Canada Korea Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea, Special Service Medal (NATO), United Nations Korea Medal, 125th Anniversary of Confederation Medal.Donald Hibbs
Donald Hibbs' medals awarded by the government of South Korea and the Korea Veterans Association (left to right): Korean War Service Medal, British Korea Medal, Ambassador for Peace Medal, Five Year Medal with Bar, Merit Medal with bars, Distinguished Service Star.Donald Hibbs
Donald Hibbs in 2000.Donald Hibbs
"It brought tears to my eyes to see all these brave, young men who died for the cause of freedom for a nation, that 99% of us didn't even know the name of - never even knew where it was - in 1950."
My name is Don Hibbs. I was with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in Korea and we arrived in Pusan just before Christmas in 1950. It was quite different than I expected. Most ship ports, you know, I'd been in my lifetime, were bright, lit up and inviting. But the port of Korea was everything but inviting. Very dark, the smell was overwhelming until you got used to it and the dinginess of the place made us wish we hadn't come.
A bright note was, our Christmas in Korea, 1950, for some of us was our first time away from our homes, families and friends, the army put on an excellent Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Just made our first few days in Korea more pleasant. We had a tour of Pusan after Christmas and what we saw was a country that was devastated. People were living in huts and some were even living in cardboard shacks. Poverty was everywhere and the refugees filled the streets begging for food. We were caught unawares of the hardship these people were going through. At that time, most of the members of the 2 PPCLI made the decision that were not adventurers any more, we are now defenders of these poor people who are being devastated by the war.
While in Miryang we had run-ins with the enemy who came out at night to terrorize troops in that area. On one occasion we went into the hills at night and fought these guerillas. And we killed a few of them. And that kind of slowed it down a bit. It was during our training in Miryang that a member of our battalion, Regimental Sergeant Major Jimmy Woods, was killed by a Korean mine. Mr. Woods was the first Canadian soldier killed in the Korean War. I was on escort duty for the burial of RSM Woods. He would have been the second soldier buried in the United Nations [Memorial] Cemetery.
On my visit to Korea in April 2001, the cemetery is amassed with the graves of men who gave their lives during the Korean War. From that grave marker I first saw, for RSM Woods, to the spectacular, well-kept cemetery of today, and the number of grave sites there, it brought tears to my eyes to see all these brave, young men who died for the cause of freedom for a nation, that 99% of us didn't even know the name of - never even knew where it was - in 1950.
A couple of other things that were bothering us. While in Korea, we were issued single-shot rifles that were 303s* that were made during the First World War. Some of them had 1914, 1917 stamps on them. We had a Sten gun** that was not very good because the sand and the grit would cause it not to fire. The Bren [light machine] gun was an excellent weapon. It was an automatic weapon, but we only had the one in the section. And of course, the Vickers machine gun was with the support companies. The unfortunate part about it is the enemy were equipped with automatic weapons and we, as soldiers, were in the hills trying to survive with a single-shot rifle, and when the enemy would attack, we had to take good aim and shoot straight, because if we missed, he's going to blast about 50 rounds off at us fast as you can blink. And this was really a puzzling thing to me, why Canada sent us over to Korea with inadequate equipment.
This was really a problem when we were overrun in 1951 in a hill in Korea called Kap’yong.The Canadian Army will have to equip our people better in the future, than they equipped us. Like, we had the Kap’yong battle where we were the only ones that held. The Americans pulled out. The British were overrun. The Australians were overrun. Two battalions of British were run out. There was no one there, only us. And we held for three days or the enemy could have went right into Pusan or Seoul and the war could have changed. We got the [U.S.} Presidential [Unit] Citation for that, from the President of the United States, Harry Truman. But we were over-run and about 10-to-1 odds, maybe 20-to-1 odds, that we fought off with inadequate equipment.
*British .303 Lee-Enfield rifle
**9mm submachine gun