Veteran Stories:
James “Gunner” Gunn


  • James Gunn at an August 2012 Memory Project event in Ottawa, Ontario.

    James Gunn
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"And as they started running by, I took the .45 [calibre pistol] – I think I had 7 rounds. That’s all I had in it. I fired them at the opening as they were going by."


Where the Chinese entered the hill for the A Platoon area was right between the trench we took over and the South Koreans. So the Chinese were attacking, coming up the hill. We threw the grenades that we had, lobbed them over the hill. I mean you could hear them, they were fairly close. So we got rid of the grenades and there was nothing else. Then they come in with – when they attacked, they come in with their own artillery. They came in with their own artillery, coming out of the hill. So it was pretty heavy. So we got down in the bottom of the trench. They got on top of the hill and started running up and down the trenches and firing into the fire trenches as they went by. And we were down in a corner. McConnell was on the inside, I was on the outside. And as they started running by, I took the .45 [calibre pistol] – I think I had 7 rounds. That’s all I had in it. I fired them at the opening as they were going by. I think I probably hit a couple of them. I’m not sure because they just pulled them out of the way or moved them up or put them up on the bank because they took all their own people out of there when they were finished. So they kept on going.

I put my hand down and lifted it up and it was just covered in blood. So I knew McConnell – I thought I’d been hit. It was really warm. And I put my hand down on his leg and he was bleeding pretty badly and I knew then that it was him that was hit not me. So I started to get up on my knees to get a field dressing and they threw a concussion grenade into the trench. And I remember everything went black and I heard all this ringing in my ears and I was standing up and when I could see, there was about five Chinese in the trench with me. Well I didn’t – at that stage we didn’t have any ammo left and I didn’t have any of the weapons. So here’s five Chinamen standing there with a burp gun [PPSh-41 submachinegun], all with burp guns which fired 750 to 800 rounds per minute and there we were standing there so I didn’t have a lot of choice. They went over, they started poking McConnell, I kept saying, “He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead.” I don’t know if one of them understood. So they left him alone and they started to move me out of the trench with the burp guns, pushing and moved me over to the right to where they had entered the hill. And in that position – I think the way it was set up they had people there who were stretcher bearers. They had a team there that was there to get prisoners and a team there to take out the barbed wire and they had a team there to blow up the bunkers and installations on the hill. And that’s the way they worked. They were very well organized. The Chinese don’t go on leave. They are not replaced every year. These guys were seasoned Chinese soldiers who knew what they were doing and did do their job and were gone.

At that position where they took me off the hill, they were just moving out their own people that were wounded or dead or didn’t matter, they were taking them back. We had to cross a valley which was pretty wide. By then our own artillery, Ed Hollyer, Lieutenant Hollyer had called the artillery down on our own position. He got the MC [Military Cross] for that and when he called that artillery down it was coming down on top of us too. We started to move across the valley and they were still firing, the artillery was still firing. The Chinese, when a shell went off here the Chinese would head for it. Then when the one went here they would head over that way and that’s the way they went across the valley. It was pretty wide. I picked up a piece of shrapnel in the bottom of my boot going across the valley. It went through the bottom of my boot. We kept on going. I didn’t realize this until I got to the hill because one thing you got all this artillery around you, you’re kind of scared shitless and you’re moving, you’re not stopping, you’re just moving. And I had these five Chinamen prodding me from behind.

We got to the hill and we started moving up their hill and about three-quarters of the way up, half-way up, three-quarters of the way up I guess – we’d had a complaint too that there was a machine gun on fixed lines that was flying on Charlie company. That was the hole they took us in through into their hill. We went into that. It was quite a setup. They had a .30 calibre machine guns set up there and we went into the hill and then started going down and down. And we went into these caves that were as wide as this room. You could drive a jeep through them and in some cases they had rooms off of those caves where they had people maybe resting up or waiting to go out on patrol or whatever. They moved us into an area where they kept us. By that time the others had joined us, the other fellows that were captured. There were seven captured that night of Canadians and there was four of the Koreans, the South Koreans that were also captured. They sent down a Korean soldier, which I guess he was maybe liaison with the Chinese forces. And he tried to question us. His English was terrible and he was a mean looking one I’ll tell you. But everybody just shook their head. Didn’t answer any questions. The next – we were there I guess for maybe two nights I think they kept us there. And then they started moving us back towards the rear. And they would move us – they would start at last light and go for two or three hours and then they would move into a hut or whatever was available and we’d sleep for a while and then they’d carry on from last light for a couple hours.

You slept on a floor on a blanket. Everybody had dysentery. We ate the same thing they ate. You very seldom ever had meat. You had rice which they called “mun-do.” That was it. Towards the end I guess they knew – you know the war ended in July the 27th [1953]. We were repatriated I think August 27th or 28th, a month later. So they knew the war was over. They never told us. But we noticed we started getting meat and a few things. Things seemed to get a little better and they even started a sick parade. If you weren’t well you went to the guy, he would either give you a black pill or a white pill. I don’t know if it was the same thing. What it was I don’t really know. But you just knew it was getting close you know. Then one morning we got up and there was trucks all over the roads and they loaded us on them and moved us up to Panmunjom.

Well we were released over what they call the Bridge of No Return. I was on that bridge again in 2008 because I went to Korea to represent my regiment. And we went over this bridge and we were received. What they were doing when we arrived in this camp, in this forming up area, was they were repatriating I think it was 400 Americans every day and 150 Commonwealth. They broke it down according to the country and that. So we were repatriated with 150 Commonwealth, Canadians, British, Australians, all them. The thing I found most disturbing was they had – the intelligence corps there, they had these young officers who were questioning us and actually what they were doing was questioning our loyalty. Did we try to escape? Did we do this? Some pretty stupid questions. You’re a white Anglo living in a country that’s nothing but mountains for Christ’s sakes, I don’t know how far north we were, quite a few miles. Your chances of escaping weren’t that – in fact I don’t know of anybody that did escape from camp. I don’t think there was any. But these were silly questions. Asked why did you tell them? What did you do? A lot of guys were pretty teed off with that.

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