He was an ordinary guy. He fished for my father. Pleasant, always laughing.
He surprised us by saying that he’d signed with the army so he could go to fight in Korea.
He wasn’t a brawler. He didn’t go to the pub and get bloody. In my memory, he was very quiet and always smiling.
He was typical of the young men “most scarcely out of high school, from farms and small towns, from lumber camps and construction crew, whose fathers, older brothers, and uncles had just finished crushing the Nazi - how did they ever end up on the edge of oblivion in the dead of night surrounded by thousands of Chinese peasants armed to the teeth in an unknown country?
”You know that this too often neglected story is important, not just because Dan Bjarnason with his journalistic credentials, wrote it but, also, because Adrienne Clarkson and Peter Mansbridge wrote forwards to it. It has been called the Forgotten War. Maybe because WWII had only recently ended and people wanted to forget about war. Or maybe it is because WWII had been so massive, a truly world war, with casualties in the millions, that a war, no matter how bravely fought in which 700 Canadians died, seemed inconsequential.
If that is the reason, it’s a shame, for the Canadians on a hilltop at Kapyong, Korea, fought with fierce bravery through the night against overwhelming odds and beat back endless streams of Chinese soldiers who were better equipped, better armed. Hills held by soldiers from other countries were overwhelmed, driven off their high ground.
The Canadians, using hand grenades on the slopes, calling artillery barrages down on their own positions, held on. Only ten Canadian soldiers were killed, although it is believed that thousands of Chinese soldiers died. Maybe that’s why no one pays attention. The Canadian body count wasn’t high enough.
The Princess Patricias “were lucky they were not annihilated at Kapyong with their out-gunned, slow-firing, bolt-action Lee-Enfields. That they survived is due, in part, not to the weapons Ottawa made them use, but to their own steely cool-headedness.“Don Hibbs, one of the soldiers says “If a new replacement arrives, we say ‘So”! You’re the new recruit!’ He’d be about to tell me his name and I’d say ‘Don’t tell me your name” If you’re still with us next week and you’re still alive, tell me then.”The book is full of mysteries, one of the most startling is the revealing of an incident when a group of Canadian soldiers spots a group of enemy soldiers sitting but not moving.
They creep toward the enemy only to find 56 soldiers, all sitting, all dead. There was no sign of injury. No bullet holes. They were wearing extra-ordinary clothing. The incident was reported but the report disappeared. Other reports mentioning the incident also disappeared. “Was it chemicals or germs?
It certainly wasn’t gunfire. Who were these men anyway, with their unusual uniforms?”But the ultimate test would be on Kapyong. In the darkness, fighting hand to hand, shells from their own artillery falling around them, the 2 PPCLI held their positions. There were many heroes that night but the greatest hero of all was Mike Levy. It’s Levy who holds everything together, who distributes ammunition, who calls in the artillery strikes.
There may be a reason his heroism was completely ignored while others got medals. The reason is so shocking that you’ll have to read the book to find the answer. In Canada, we don’t treat our heroes well. Our motto seems to be “Who do you think you are?” It’s surprising that we have any heroes given our attitude and the way we neglect and dismiss bravery. Read this book and think about how these soldiers, many of them boys just out of high school, faced death and held their ground.