‘(Photos) bring back a lot of memories'
A large crowd attended the opening of an exhibit honouring Colchester County's Korean War veterans Saturday at the Colchester Historeum in Truro.
A Korean War exhibit at the Colchester Historeum attracted several local Korean War veterans on Saturday. Front row, from left, are Karl MacKenzie, Curtis Faulkner, Foster Smith, Joe MacGregor, Jim Matheson and Ron MacBurnie. Back row, from left, are Bill Cameron, Bill MacDonald, Jack Sterling, John Covan and James W. Chipman.
Among those on hand were 11 veterans of the three-year conflict - Bill Cameron, John Covan, Curtis Faulkner, Ron MacBurnie, Bill MacDonald, Joe MacGregor, Karl MacKenzie, Foster Smith, James W. Chipman, Jack Sterling and Jim Matheson.
They were among the 26,000 who served in Korea, of whom 516 were killed.
Overall, an estimated 530,000 United Nations and South Korean troops and about 1,600,000 communist troops were killed, wounded or reported missing. In addition, about one million civilians lost their lives and several million were made homeless.
Organizers have been preparing for the exhibit since April.
"I was very surprised with the large crowd of people who came out," said Matheson, an 83-year-old Truro resident. "The veterans were all thrilled with the fine job Elinor Maher, Donna Meech and the Historeum have done. These people deserve medals. It's the first time we've been recognized like this in the Truro area."
Walls of the museum were covered with historic photos from the war.
"They bring back a lot of memories," said Matheson. "I was born in Tatamagouche and living and working in Truro as a clerk at Hopgoods Store in 1948. That's when I made the decision to join the Canadian Army."
Matheson, a private with the Princess Pats Light Infantry, arrived in South Korea in 1951, a few months after the regiment had won a major battle at Kapyong.
"We were shorthanded with 800 in the unit," said a proud Matheson, of his comrades who fought at Kapyong. "We were ordered to take a hill and hold it against 70,000 Chinese and North Korean soldiers. We lost five men but we held the hill for 48 hours."
Covan, meanwhile, was an officer (third mate) serving aboard the cargo ship Argovan during December of 1950.
"We had delivered cargo from the west coast of the United States to Okinawa for the United States military," said Covan, 88, of Bible Hill. "We were homeward bound when we received orders to proceed to Tokyo Bay. The captain advised us ‘we're heading for North Korea.' The whole crew accepted the order as being part of our duty."
Arriving in Hungnam, North Korea, the Argovan anchored alongside 10 American war ships and a hospital ship.
"We were well aware that there was a war going on," said Covan, a Windsor, Ont., native. "We could hear heavy guns firing in the distance. We could see tracers (bullets) bouncing off the rocks. We evacuated a group of American soldiers who were trapped by the Chinese Army. Within four days we were on our way to Pusan (pronounced Busan today), South Korea. Besides the soldiers, we carried Sherman tanks, army trucks and jeeps belonging to the Americans."
Covan's experience in North and South Korea was short but with all the activity of servicemen and large war ships he said he could feel the importance of the moment.
"Now, after all these years, I think it's fantastic the job that the people here at the museum have done," he said. "I know it's touching for all the veterans here today. Each individual Korean War veteran has a story. It's so nice for the veterans to get together like this and to be featured by the Colchester Historeum. It has been a wonderful day."
Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.