Veteran Stories:
John Percy McNiven

Army

  • John McNiven in front of his Jeep somewhere between Arnhem and Nijmegen, The Netherlands. In his hands are special handles for "R2" wires.

    John McNiven
  • John McNiven at a reunion in 2009.

    John McNiven
  • Certificate of Appreciation for volunteering to participate in experiments in Suffield, Alberta.

    John McNiven
  • John McNiven during an event for The Memory Project in Regina, Saskatchewan, March, 2010.

    Historica Canada
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"I really was scared. And another thing, the war part I didn’t like. Soldiering, I liked. The war part is horrible."

Transcript

I think it was the third day, at night. We loaded at night and I had come in early in the morning and it was dark, and the beaches were fairly clear, thanks to our 3rd [Canadian] Division. They had cleaned them up pretty good so we didn’t have a lot of trouble then. So then, I had to go and find Signal Corps. I found them and they give me a Jeep. Then another person will meet you, he’s gonna get in with you and away we’d go. And then a sniper by the name of Lee, he talked us in to take him in behind the enemy lines and drop him off where he wanted to go. And then he stayed with us quite a bit. So quite a few times we were very fortunate that we had him. About 13 months of that or whatever it was, I don’t know how long we were there because we did not keep track of time. People say, “What date was that?” We didn’t have a calendar and we didn’t care. We knew it was light and it was dark. We knew that in the day time we couldn’t show ourselves and at night we could go out and snoop around. Our job was to spot German tanks, tire tanks, and to know about them and to spot troop movements, convoys, anything in Germany that we could find out, either radio back or bring back as quickly as we could. But I had to get them in and get them out, that was my job. I had to be a mechanic and I had to be a driver. My job was to get them in there and get them out, but I could go on the radio, I was also trained in that and the phones, you know, plug it in, wind ’er up, give my code and then they would answer me. There was lots of not so polished guys in the army. But that’s what fights and wins a war. It isn’t the fit, nice guys, it’s the guys that get in there. But I was scared to death all the time. People say, “Well, you know, macho?” I was no macho guy, I was scared after. I thought I was until I got over there and then I found out that I really was scared. And another thing, the war part I didn’t like. Soldiering, I liked. The war part is horrible. We were in Nijmegen [Netherlands] Christmas 1944. Some of the guys with Jeeps went in and got radios and brought them to the people in Nijmegen. Factual, factual, factual, they know it. So we went in to Germany and any people in Holland that had radios, big radios and big houses, the army would go in and take their radios away from them and give them to one little guy, Josh was his name, he wanted to hear Bing Crosby at Christmas. So I went and got some radios. It felt good but it wasn’t easy. The one thing that I liked, really enjoyed so much and I never got a chance to enjoy but did see – we had to get out of there and go faster and all – was when we took over a town in a country that the Germans, our enemy, had left, and how happy the people was. That made me feel good. I have to say the good things. That is what’s kept me alive. I had nightmares. My wife will tell you through all the years I never sleep at night. I wake up all the time – had horrible nightmares. But that’s the best thing I can tell you. I can just tell you it’s nice to see those little kids and everybody so happy that they were free again. You have no idea what it’s like to be free like they felt. So that was the happiest moments of my life, to see them.
Follow us