2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in combat area. Korea, 23 April 1951. Michael Czuboka served with the battalion during the Korean War.Government of Canada
"The first thing we found was about 70 American soldiers that had been shot and bayonetted by the Chinese."
We were still in Fort Lewis, Washington, [General Douglas] McArthur had just driven the North Koreans north to the Yalu River and he said everybody was going to be home by Christmas because the war was over - they had won the war.
Then all of a sudden, we were halfway across the Pacific and we learned that the Chinese army had invaded North Korea and the Americans were retreating southward. So suddenly we were in a war, whereas we had been sent just simply as a peacekeeping kind of outfit. So that's, that sort of surprised us, we were halfway across the Pacific that we were suddenly going to war.
No, there was no regrets. Remember all Canadians were volunteers and we volunteered to go to the Korean War. A lot of the Americans found that incredible. They were mostly reservists and conscripts. When we told them we were volunteers they were - it was disbelief. They said, “You guys must be crazy.”
Well, we went on a boat called the [USNS Private] J.P. Martinez which was an American Liberty ship sort of welded together. And it was the Pacific in the wintertime and it was very rough, even the crew was seasick. And I lay in my bunk from Seattle to Hawaii, I was sick all the way there, and I just lay on the bunk with my rifle. And it wasn't very pleasant. It was a very basic kind of ship. We were several bunks deep and it wasn't very comfortable. In a place like that there was a lot of body odour because there's no air circulation of air and you've got several hundred people sleeping essentially one room with a bunch of bunks and you don't exactly have showers every day or anything. It's just not a very pleasant atmosphere.
Well, we spent, I forgot now, maybe a month, six weeks hunting guerillas in local hills, which we found some. But then we went into the line in mid-February of 1951. The first thing we found was about 70 American soldiers that had been shot and bayonetted by the Chinese. Apparently they had not posted a sentry, they just fell asleep in their sleeping bags and the Chinese arrived during the night and killed them all. And they were black soldiers, negroes they were called in those days, and they were all frozen solid. It was 30-40, maybe 30 below zero and they were just frozen like black marble statues. So I had never seen a dead person before so it came as quite a shock, and I didn't eat anything for about three days. And we all, we were all shocked. That's the first time we arrived on the line and we found these guys were scattered all over the field and they were all naked mostly. Even their ring fingers were cut off in some cases, the Chinese took everything.