"We ended up doing a lot of patrol work. Shelling, we shelled a lot of places. We ended up going up a river to Chinnampo is right near the boarder of North Korea."
Well, I happened to be aboard [HMCS] Athabaskan when it started. And we were originally on a cruise going to Europe to show a flag and going through the [Panama] Canal, of course, and up cross the Atlantic. I don’t know where precisely over there we were going but that’s where we were working towards. And we were finished a visit down to Tacoma, Washington [United States]. And they came on the way back and we heard that there was a war on and they were likely to send some ships. Well, they picked Athabakcan and they picked [HMCS] Sioux and [HMCS] Cayuga. Cayuga had the senior officer on board, Commander Captain Brock and we had Commander Welland in command of the Athabaskan. So we were told within a few hours to get ourselves ready. We were on our way to Korea.
I was a petty officer and I was in charge of the operations room and the radars. And I had a staff of about nine operators and myself, besides myself. And we were in three watches then most of the time because we were going into a war zone. We got over to Sasebo [Japan] which was our base over there and we were only there less than a day. And there was an emergency on the west coast of Korea. And we were the junior ship, Athabaskan was a junior ship so you always get detailed off first. And we were sent out there to do that. I don’t remember the details of that operation, what it was. Wasn’t any shooting or anything that I can recall. It was quite quiet. And we turned after a time a few days to back to Sasebo and we worked out of Sasebo during the whole period.
We ended up doing a lot of patrol work. Shelling, we shelled a lot of places. We ended up going up a river to Chinnampo is right near the boarder of North Korea. And we were the second ship up I think. Cayuga led the way. It’s only 600 yards wide that channel and there was two ships went aground. One, the American ship and one of ours. I think the Sioux went aground on the way up because it was pretty tough navigating up there. I was in the ops room and most of the work was being done by the navigator, Lieutenant, at the time Leer, who later become an admiral. And we went up there using the echo sounder and the radar and doing a lot of plotting. Well, I was in on all that.
Went up there to the, I couldn’t tell you the spot exactly but dropped anchor and we watched while there were a lot of civilians on their way south out of Korea. And they had all, every, all their personal affects on their backs trekking over, down the road I should say. I’m not sure it was a bridge or a road. And we were all dolled up nice Canadian made very suitable warm clothing. Whereas these poor people were just, I guess, the clothes they had on their backs. So was quite something to stand there and in the warmth and the security of being aboard the ship seeing these people evacuating the northern part of South Korea.
On one occasion after a bombardment we went ashore and it made everybody sick. We brought back on board a little girl who’d been hit by one of our shells. And she died later. Medical officer tried to do everything he could but he couldn’t save her. They brought back this little girl and her mother to the ship. And then we turned this over to the ROK, and that’s a Republic of Korea. And they talk about ROK all the time, R-O-K navy. And that was, that upset everything.