Veteran Stories:
John P. Maclean

Army

  • Soldiers of 9 Platoon, C Company, 1 Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment getting breakfast while in a reserve position. Korea, March 1953.

    Frank Jefferies
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"Three prisoners lived and I was evacuated and the upshot of it was there was a serious discussion whether I would get an MC Military Cross or whether I would get a court martial. In the event, the army being the army, I got neither."

Transcript

I was over at Van Doos [Royal 22e Régiment] headquarters one afternoon listening to French and trying to pick up some words. I don't know where Jean Pierre was at that time but there was this guy about 30 years old, Rene Levesque, who is now a part of Canadian history. Levesque wanted to go out into no-mans-land and get what he called "live sound". I said, "Okay, let's go". He was absolutely fearless and to a certain extent I guess I'm fearless too. So off we went down into the valley across the other side up the next hill down into the next valley. And around the base of the thing the odd sound of artillery but nothing really important as far as explosive sound was concerned.  On the way back there was a little tributary of the Imjin River and we had to go across it. I know that when you see rocks and water gurgling away that that's where you can walk it's not very deep. So I said to Levesque, "Walk right behind me and don't stray off the path that I take and we will be fine".  Half way across I turn around to snap a picture. I had my Roliflex camera around my neck along with the ammunition and guns and soon on. And just as I take the picture he starts to fall. I reach back and grabbed him by the hair. Levesque had hair in those days, a shock of black hair. And I grabbed him and I said, "You little bastard. I said follow behind me.  Otherwise you will fall off in the deep water and probably drown." So I put him back on his feet or steadied him and he walked across the fjord and the rest is history. I never did find out if Rene Levesque could swim or not. Did I save his life?  Did I set back Canadian history a hundred years or what? Who knows?

Well, there are all kinds of patrols. But one of the patrols we are going to talk about is a night patrol. The night patrol was designed to capture some prisoners. We hadn't captured prisoners for three or four months. It was a two platoon patrol, which in hind sight was kind of stupid. But I was in charge of one platoon. So towards dark off we went, two platoons. My platoon went up the hill first. We had a battle. Everybody did their thing. I arranged everybody. I didn't have to fire a shot myself. The men did all the work. The outcome was about 12 killed on their side. I was wounded in the arm and shoulder. My Bren gunner was wounded in his left shoulder and we started back with five prisoners. Three of them okay and two a little bit shot up. They apparently we shot up so badly they were dropped on the way side and I didn't bother with that.  We had three left. Anyway, at the end of the battle that night I said in effect to my radio operator, "Tell headquarters that we are finished and we are on the way back". Unbelievably to my way of thinking, I got an order through him, "Go and do the next hill." I said, "Tell that stupid son of a bitch we've got five prisoners, only two wounded.  We are the way back. This is crazy.  Fuck off."  That's exactly what he said, "Fuck off". This went over the radio, I guess through the air over most of the front and it outraged headquarters, which I found out much later. But we came back. Three prisoners lived and I was evacuated and the upshot of it was there was a serious discussion whether I would get an MC Military Cross or whether I would get a court martial. In the event, the army being the army, I got neither.

 

 

Interview with John P. Maclean - FCWM Oral History Project
Accession Number CWM 20020121-080
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum

Entrevue avec John P. Maclean - Projet d'histoire orale du AMCG
No d’accession MCG 20020121-080
Collection d’archives George Metcalf
© Musée canadien de la guerre

 

 

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