Prisoners of War
from the recently published book
M*L*B*U Fully Monty in
25 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group
was placed under the operational control of 1 US Corps, or “I” Corps,
on 19 May 1951, the day of our recce into no man’s land.
The Brigade was ordered to a concentration area near Haech’on
ready to participate in a Corps offensive scheduled for 21 May.
On 24 May the Brigade was put under command of 25 US Division. For
the formation and most of its members, the ensuing advance to contact was
to be our first taste of action.
The pressure for me to get
operational came from three sources: one, the country itself which was without
amenities for the troops; two, a senior staff officer at Brigade HQ and three,
the motivation of my NCOs, men and me to do well.
The Brigade “DAQ”, Major Hamilton, an infantryman,
was even more anxious than I was to give the troops a shower.
I kept getting messages from him, “When and where will you open?”
I could give him the where but not the when, since we had logistics
problems of our own. My soldiers
and I wanted to show our stuff too and had moved to a location on the bank of
Things went smoother after that,
including relations with Brigade Headquarters.
If I had had the time I should have done some liaison with the
Americans to see how their shower units made out in the forward areas. I did
see one operating in the vicinity of I Corps Headquarters a good distance from
the front lines. Their shower units were probably divisional or corps troops
and were kept in rear areas and assigned forward as circumstances permitted.
My w.0arrant officer, NCOs and I were very combat support oriented so we
kept our unit well forward in the Brigade lines near the troops it serviced.
Sometimes we were too close and we got complaints about that too. There were
always double takes as soldiers saw one of our semi-trailers winding around
narrow dirt roads near the FDLs (forward defended localities).
As soon as we started providing laundry and bath
services, we realized that it was one of the very few amenities available in
The MLBU was following close behind. Neither the Brigade Commander nor the advancing infantry either knew or cared about our little unit at that point. Their eyes were straight ahead on the enemy. The Brigade axis was the MSR (Main Service Route), which paralleled the P’och’on River.
28 May I sited the laundry and bath unit on the river, miles North of Uijongbu
but still south of the 38th Parallel and, anticipating further
movement with the Brigade, went looking for more water.
On my return I found my personnel standing guard over two Chinese
prisoners. They looked
disconsolate and not very dangerous. Dressed
in running shoes and some pieces of uniform, they had one rifle between them.
It was of Russian manufacture and had a multi-grooved bayonet, which
could be hinged back under the barrel. Picking
the weapon up, I drew back the bolt to find a bullet still up the spout.
He replied that some Korean civilians had come into our camp and
through sign language told him that there were enemy soldiers hiding in a
nearby hut. The Sergeant Major
took a Bren gun, a few men with rifles and hand grenades and followed the
civilians to the hut. He received
no response when he called for the soldiers to come out so they fired a few
shots into the building. That got
their attention. A flag appeared
at a window, followed by the two Chinese soldiers.
Although they only had the one rifle, they had a good supply of
homemade bombs ready for use. One
of our men was dispatched to fetch some MPs off the nearby MSR to take the
prisoners away. Three days later
on 31 May, the MLBU took three more prisoners under similar circumstances.
the prisoners of war taken by the MLBU on 28 May were the first POWs taken by
the Canadian Brigade Group in Korea and of course a red letter day for our
little service unit. This first
capture of the enemy is not surprising in one sense since the Brigade had just
gone into action a few days before and since the enemy had withdrawn.
What was surprising was that a service support unit, a laundry and bath
unit at that, was credited with this “first”.
“Strange Battleground”, the Official History of the Canadian
Korea, records the
was nothing heroic about the POW incidents but they were unusual.
They would not have happened if the MLBU had not been as far forward as
it was in the brigade area.