John Zacharias on leave in Calgary, Alberta in 1943.Herb Carol
John Zacharias, in March 2010.Historica Canada
"When you thought about it, it was all very deadly stuff that we were dealing with."
I had to learn all about all the munitions. There are small arms, grenades, explosives of all kinds, artillery shells, mortars and so forth. I had to learn all about all of those. And we supplied all the training units in Pacific Command with munitions, whenever they wanted them. And there were some artillery camps on the coast for the defense of Canada; we supplied them with ammunition too.
The office of the ammunition dump would give us the orders from these various army units in training in B.C. and we would have to ship them whatever we had and what they wanted. Yeah. When they finished their training and went overseas, they would send all their remaining munitions back to us and I had to check them to make sure they were okay still. And if they weren’t, I had to blow them up. Yeah.
I wasn’t as careful as I should have been and I didn’t wear anything over my ears when I was doing that. So I ended up being deaf in one ear. I’d have to tape some explosives to the shell I was blowing up and then have a fuse, which I could light after I got out of the way and put a match to that and get out of the way and then eventually, the shell or whatever it was would blow up.
Well, there was one time when the Japanese had occupied the island of Kiska, which is the Aleutian island off Alaska and we had to supply the Canadian Army going up there with all sorts of explosives and munitions. And then most of it was never used because the Japanese fled and it came back in terrible condition. It had been sitting out in the weather and we had to go over it all and dispose of what we didn’t think was usable anymore and so forth.
Mortars were quite different from artillery shells in that they were used over a short distance, relatively short distance, where the troops would fire a mortar off against the enemy but they were close enough for these to have some effect. Whereas on the other hand, the artillery shells were for long distance and grenades were used again when soldiers were fighting the enemy at a relatively short range, where you could just throw a grenade over and it would explode and they could do the same with us. Yeah. When you thought about it, it was all very deadly stuff that we were dealing with, but I hope it did some good to the fellows in training to go overseas.