"With my own eyes, I saw Dextraze pat someone on the back. He was patting the backs of his men to encourage them. [...] When he passed away (in 1993) and his funeral was held in Ottawa, I was there."
When we arrived in Pusan (South Korea), they got all of us men together and after that, we climbed up the mountain a bit (towards the frontline). We put up our tents and we were there for almost a week. Afterwards, Colonel Dextraze told us that we were going to the front. We went up in single file with the vehicles and the Bren Carriers (Universal Carrier, an infantry tracked vehicle). We were going to the front. My first days there were… well, they bombed us. They were bombing us with shells, canons… we didn’t know what was at the end, but we were looking for a hole. I was on the left side of the (hill) 355, along the side of a cape. I had dug myself a dug out. Beside it on the ground was a Bren Carrier with a Browning machine gun, a Vickers machine gun and a flame thrower. That’s what we had.
First of all, the Chinese would attack in the middle of the night or during a rainstorm. You had to be on guard at all times. You couldn’t hear them coming. The hill that affected me a lot was the 355. We took a beating there. It’s a part of your memory, and it’s difficult to forget. The Chinese had a tactic; they would attack in a group with a clarion call. Some days, they would attack on one side, the next day, they would engage us in face to face battle and other times, they would attack from the right side. When we took the 355, the Americans had given up the position and that’s where Rockingham (Brigadier-General John M. Rockingham, commander of the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade in Korea) said: “The Vandoos in the front” (the Royal 22nd in the front). So we left and we kept that position for 50 days or so.
The guys took it one day at a time. You couldn’t blame them. Aside from that, we were well equipped and we had a good commander. We had Rockingham. He was a military man, too. When he gave his order, “The Vandoos in the front”, we left and went up front.
I was involved in six or seven patrols. They got all of the captains, lieutenants and sergeants together. So we knew that we would be going out on a patrol. When we went out, the others kept an eye on all of our equipment. We met up with a fighting patrol one night and we arrived at a small gully and saw 30 or so Chinese in front of us. We didn’t shoot since we received an order not to. We were simply on reconnaissance. We could see them clearly. It was a full moon; I can remember it as if it were yesterday. We could have been shot, but we were lucky, and we came back safe and sound. We had a good commander and a good sergeant in the front; first it was Sergeant Rivest and then it was Sergeant Belair.
I saw Mr. Dextraze on the (hill) 355 with the mortars. He was visiting the (mortar) platoon. The mortars were red. With my own eyes, I saw Dextraze pat someone on the back. He was patting the backs of his men to encourage them. Because there are some things you don’t want to see; when you’re in the trenches and there are bombs, mortar shells coming from the enemy, on the other side. When you pick up your friend, a 240-pound man or close to it, Jean-Marie Poirier, and he seems to weigh only 10 pounds. He had received a direct shot. Those are the things that stay with you. When you pick up flesh and the flesh is white; he had bled out completely. Jesus, we saw what it was really like! So that’s why I tip my hat to Colonel Dextraze. When he passed away (in 1993) and his funeral was held in Ottawa, I was there.