"As far as being brave, the way I look at it, all the guys that are really brave are still over there, six feet under the ground."
This is Fred Vedan. I joined the army in 1942 at the age of eighteen. I ended up in the Calgary Highlanders, and my brother was in the Westminster Regiment. He wrote me a letter and told me to ask for a transfer, and he claimed me.
We were in the rocky mountains above Cassino for a while there. We lost quite a few men there. Then we came down and went into Cassino. We crossed the river and established a bridgehead - "A" Company - and we were the only company that held ours. The other two companies had to pull back. All we had was rifles, a few PIATs and a couple of two-inch mortars, but they're not very good. We held on to our bridgehead pretty cautiously, because twenty guys were killed in the matter of an hour, without counting the wounded. My company commander, Major Mahoney, won the Victoria Cross for that. I think he really deserved it because he... he was really a cool guy, I'd say. We were going in up to the river, and I said, "How far is the river, sir?" And he says, "Oh, its not very far," like he was walking in the park.
The worst close call - I've had quite a few - was in Holland when I opened up on a patrol. I wasn't trying to kill them, but the war was pretty near ended. There was a big flash, and I thought, "Oh, I hit something." All of a sudden I looked and I could see this bazooka bomb coming straight at me. I couldn't remember anything after that. I ended up standing about thirty feet away at the corner of a house. When I came to, I walked across the street to the company headquarters and this guy says, "How did you ever get out of there?" I said, "I don't know. I can't remember."
Towards the end of the war, I was getting really concerned because a lot of the older original guys were getting killed, and I thought, "Well, it could be my turn next."
When the war ended, we got off the... I think it was the Elizabeth. One of the big boats, I'm not sure. We landed in New York. Major Mahoney came up to the car, and I think I was the only one he knew. He sat down and talked to me for a long time. Like I said, I think he deserved the Victoria Cross. As far as being brave, the way I look at it, all the guys that are really brave are still over there, six feet under the ground.