Right in the centre - July 12, 1950– More than a memory


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

On a Canadian military website, it is noted: The Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea. On this day, July 12, a group of Royal Canadian ships stopped in Hawaii on their way to Korea.

“Three destroyers, HMCS Cayuga, Athabaskan and Sioux, set sail for the Far East. They arrived in the theatre of operations later that summer, ready to take part in the battle for the Pusan bridgehead in Korea. Five other Tribal class destroyers, HMCS Crusader, Huron, Iroquois, Nootka, and Haida, served with the ‘Canadian Destroyer Division, Far East’ as part of the United Nations (UN) fleet halfway around the world in the waters off Korea during the war.

Korea is a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water, so the navy had an opportunity to support the UN forces in several different ways. The Canadian destroyers did things like blockading the enemy coast, preventing amphibious landings by the enemy, protecting aircraft carriers from the threat of submarine and aerial attack, bombarding enemy-held coastal areas and bringing assistance to those in need in isolated South Korean fishing villages.

Our ocean-going destroyers even made a run up a Korean river in December 1950, when the port city of Chinnampo was facing a massive enemy advance and the order was given to evacuate. UN ships, including three Canadian destroyers, were sent to help. It would not be easy– Chinnampo was more than 30 kilometres up the Taedong River, a waterway heavily mined by the North Koreans.

Two UN ships ran aground and were forced to turn back, but the remaining ships, led by HMCS Cayuga, reached the city after a nerve-wracking passage through shallow, twisting channels on a pitch-dark night. The destroyers guarded against possible enemy attack and helped destroy the railway lines, docks and supplies left behind, so they could not be used by the enemy. Their job done, the ships returned safely to the ocean.”

The HMCS Cayuga, was my brother John’s ship. In 1950, when this action took place, he was only 17 .

I am not sure if this is the incident, but he said on one occasion, the ship was approached by a large raft full of people claiming to be refugees. There were men, women, children and tarps and boxes on a raft. When the raft got close to the Cayuga, the “refugees” threw off the tarp and revealed a machine gun and proceeded to open fire on the ship. John said there were bullets bouncing off the ship all over the place. In his words, and he named the sailor (but I can’t remember the name), as a big farm boy from Saskatchewan, was able to swing a big gun around and blast the raft. John said when they were done, there was no raft, no gun and no men, women, or children either.

This and other incidents scarred him for life.

When the veterans came home from our many wars, be it the Boer War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War or the Afghanistan War, the men and women were often traumatized. Now they call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s always been there and there’s no denying it.

I was only two years old when the Korean War broke out, nearly 70 years ago. Except for the Afghanistan War, there are few veterans left. In light of all our veterans did for us, in spite of what someone’s personal views on war may be, we should be looking after our veterans.

I know I am well known for my conservative views and generally am opposed to liberal views; there is one defining moment in our current prime minister’s term of office that should cause him to be voted out of office. That moment came when Justin Trudeau was asked by a wounded veteran for more help. Trudeau answered that “Veterans were asking more than we can afford to give”. That simplistic and rather stupid answer was cause enough in my mind for Trudeau to resign. He should have resigned, but he didn’t. Perhaps the electorate will see that justice is served in the 2019 election.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.