Veteran Stories:
Jan Van Der Rassel

Army

  • Jan Van Der Rassel and a fellow soldier by a sign post in Korea. The sign post points to New York, New Delhi, Ottawa and Canberra.

    Jan Van Der Rassel
  • Mr. Van Der Rassel's certificate recognizing him as a member of the Domain of the Golden Dragon because he crossed the 180th meridian on February 18, 1951.

    Mr. Van Der Rassel
  • Jan Van Der Rassel in Korea.

    Jan Van Der Rassel
  • Currency issued by Korean and Japanese goverments and military powers.

    Jan Van Der Rassel
  • A view of daily life at camp in Korea. A soldier gets a haircut over looking the mountains.

    Jan Van Der Rassel
  • Jan and a fellow soldier visit the grave of a fallen comrade.

    Jan Van Der Rassel
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I am very proud to be part of the Korea Veterans Association of Canada, and a prouder moment was when Canada finally recognized the Korea policing action as a war, and awarded us the Canadian Korea Voluntary Service Medal in June of 1992."

Transcript

My name is Jan Van der Rassel. When the Korean War broke out in June of 1950, myself and three other friends joined the Army in Toronto at 6 Personnel Depot. Two of them went into the infantry – the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. The other went into the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. I wound up in the Corps of Engineering, the RCE.

The first thing I learned at 6 Personnel Depot was never to volunteer. As we were lined up one day, the Sergeant in charge asked, "How many of you have driver's licenses?" My friend Joseph Lassard and I raised our hands. The Sergeant then pointed to me and said, "You grab the wheelbarrow," and then he told Lassard to pick up the shovel, and off we went on a work detail.

After training in Chilliwack, British Columbia, I went to Fort Lewis in Washington State, and then shipped out from Seattle for Korea in February 1951. I arrived in Yokohama Harbour, Japan, approximately twelve days later. Then we took a train to (?), and another boat to Pusan, Korea.

The main tasking of 57th Independent Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers, was the building of timber-trussle and Bailey bridges, including the Labatt's fiftieth anniversary, Class 80 Bailey bridge. They donated us quite a few cases of beer for this privilege. This was done by 3 Troupe.

Also, we had to do the bulldozing of roads through the bush areas in Korea. Other duties included setting up concertina barbed wire, and demonstrating minefield and gap marking procedures, should we have to recover one of our own minefields. The North Koreans and Chinese troops very rarely used minefield tactics. They generally just laid their mines in groups of three or four along trails, roads, or verges. These mines were a wooden box-type, anti-tank style, which were hard to detect with the metal mine detectors that we were using from the Second World War. Due to their lack of metal, we usually had to use a bayonet to prod for these mines.

When in Korea in April 1951, I found out by word of mouth that one of my friends I had joined up with, Joseph, nickname ("Bingle ?"), Lassard, had been killed in action on the 25th of April at the Battle of Kapyong. Not only did the United Nations and the Americans suffer casualties in the Korean War, the Korean civilians, especially the children, suffered greater than us, due to the starvation and the bombardment by artillery and aircraft by both enemy and friendly fire.

On my return to Canada, I re-enlisted and re-mustered into the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and returned to Korea in 1954. On returning to Canada, I re-mustered back to the Royal Canadian Engineers and served with NATO from 1957 to 1959, and was stationed at Werl, Germany, at Fort Victoria with the 4 Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers.

I took my release from the Army in September of 1963, after twelve years of service. I am very proud to be part of the Korea Veterans Association of Canada, and a prouder moment was when Canada finally recognized the Korea policing action as a war, and awarded us the Canadian Korea Voluntary Service Medal in June of 1992.

Follow us