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Korean War Veterans Return to Korea

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This story credited to the Vancouver Sun is on the Ottawa Citizen site. It is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provision of the Copyright act. I served with Frank Bayne at the School of Artillery in Shilo 1968-1970 and consider him an inspiring leader and a regimental character.

Canada's Korean War vets walk among the graves of fallen comrades

Former soldiers recall sights that would stay with them for the rest of their days

By Matthew Fisher, Vancouver Sun April 27, 2013 6:06 AM

Three dozen aging Canadian warriors silently walked Friday among the graves of hundreds of fallen comrades during what may be the last big hurrah in Asia for those who fought on the side of the United Nations in the Korean conflict 60 years ago.

For Frank Bayne of Guelph, Ont., and Aime Michaud of Quebec City, the weeklong visit to the battlefields of their youth included a tour of the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, which in recent weeks has once again been a global flashpoint because of the bellicose words and budding nuclear missile program of North Korea's mercurial young leader, Kim Jong Un. The pilgrimage ended with the veterans pausing before tombstones in a beautiful park-like setting to remember friends who died fighting against the North Koreans and Chinese.

Stooping over a granite slate, Bayne, a gunner with the 81st Field Regiment, remarked "that's Doug Banton who I think was from Ottawa. He and I were buddies. I was on the guns and Doug was at the wire on Hill 187 guiding some of our troops back in through a minefield when he got it in the head."

Moving to another two rows of Canadian graves, Bayne read out the names Murray Andrew Truthwaite and Clifford Donald Weir, who also died on the same hill in the spring of 1953 in what was Canada's most ferocious battle of the war. Truthwaite and Weir were only 20 and 21 years of age, respectively.

Before deploying they had been rescued from jail by Bayne after a brawl in a bar on the condition that they ship out for Korea.

"It's always haunted me that I got those guys killed instead of going to jail. That's fate I guess," said Bayne, who at 86 years of age was the oldest of the Korean veterans. After revisiting Hill 187 earlier in the week, Bayne added in a tone of amazement, "My troops alone fired 1,200 rounds that night."

Some 25,000 Canadians served in Korea between 1950 and 1953. Of that number, 506 died including 386 Canadian war dead buried at Busan alongside more than 1,900 other allied soldiers.

Michaud's memories are of what Quebec's storied Royal 22e Regiment endured in the spring of 1952 on Hill 355. The most searing memory he had was of acting as stretcher bearer for Sgt. Charles Edouard Senechal. Senechal had been of great help to less experienced infantrymen such as himself. Senechal was only one day away from returning to Canada when a shell exploded near him, killing him.

After suffering blast wounds to his own arms and legs, Michaud ended in a military hospital in the rear where nobody could speak French and he could not speak English. This made him even more determined to get to the Van Doos.

When he returned to the regiment a week later they wanted to hold him back, but Michaud insisted on returning to his platoon which ended up spending six weeks up on the front lines before it was relieved.

"I saw so much over here in Korea that has shocked me for the rest of my days," the 83-year-old Michaud said as he fussed over the grave of his friend, Joseph Arthur Marc Paul Prieur.

"They say a man shouldn't cry. But he was a good guy, Prieur," he said as he fought back tears. "There has not been a week since 1953 that I have not thought of Korea."

The Korean conflict has often been described as Canada's forgotten war. Far more attention has always been paid to those who served in the Second World War or in the Great War.

But the South Koreans demonstrated this week that they have not forgotten the Canadians. The Canadians have been given a rapturous welcome everywhere, and especially from young people. They have also been amazed by South Korea's economic boom.

"I just can't believe what I see. The place is going crazy with high rises. When we were here it was totally torn down and now I honestly believe it has surpassed us," said Donald Holloway of Red Deer, Alta., who spent his first night in Korea in 1953 on Hill 355 - also known as Little Gibraltar.

Whether Canada's involvement in what former U.S. president Harry Truman called a "police action" had been a success was something many of the veterans had been pondering.

"We achieved something. We gave them democracy," Michaud said bluntly.

"This trip has meant getting out and seeing this country," said Bayne, who was a second lieutenant in Korea and a colonel by the time he left the army many years later.

"They've treated us so well and they've done so well as a country. So that bloody war has been worth it."