by Elburn Duffy
On 9 August 1950, a group of nine of us left Cornwall to go to Kingston to join the Special Forces and finally, on 11 August, we were accepted after completing all the required tests. We were then taken to Petawawa where we were issued coveralls as there were not enough uniforms or other equipment available.
We trained in Petawawa until early November 1950 and were then sent by train to Fort Lewis, Washington, for advanced training. The weather was beautiful—it rained almost every day. It was lots of fun sleeping in the rain on overnight training exercises especially when your clothes, socks and boots were well-soaked. We must have been very hardy as few of us really got sick. The PXs served very affordable beer that was enjoyed by many when the opportunity arose. It was my misfortune to have overindulged on one occasion just before Governor General Lord Alexander came to inspect the troops before our departure to Korea. My punishment was quite severe as it was required for me to be a marker under the canopy during the parade. It rained cats and dogs that day and there was much sorrow in me for my buddies, however it was necessary for me to carry out my punishment.
In late April 1951, we set sail for Korea in a luxury liner—one of the US troop transports. It was my first experience trying to sleep in a hammock. My choice was to take the top one, but it turned out to be a very bad decision as all the smells rose to the ceiling. It was not the most pleasant or enjoyable experience of my life. When we were still about five miles out of Pusan, we started to smell the fertilizer—an odour we eventually became used to—and, by the time we landed, most of us were trying to keep our nose and mouth covered.
We stayed in Pusan for about a week before being sent by train through such towns as Taejeu, Suwan and Uijonjbu where we camped until final arrangements to send us to our designated areas were completed.
We dug our bunkers in which we slept, and made them reasonably comfortable. There were many patrols and always the night watches of two hours on and two hours off, very enjoyable and instructive. It was my good (or bad) fortune to have had two R&R's while in Korea. The first was in Tokyo over the New Year of 1951-52 when I spent four days visiting churches and other important places. This was done while trying to keep my buddies out of trouble, although it became necessary for me to, reluctantly, join in some of their activities. My second R&R trip included four days in Inchon in February 1952. It was my misfortune to get myself into minor difficulties from time to time and lose my stripes. However, when called to the Company CO's bunker in late February there were no stripes left to take away and no reason to do so. To my great surprise, Captain Red Hamilton asked if my birthday was on 29 February and the answer being yes. He then told me that $426 had been collected to send me to Inchon—with certain conditions attached. These became orders which I very reluctantly carried out. The orders (click for larger photo & caption)
were to get totally inebriated, visit houses of ill-repute and thoroughly
enjoy myself; needless to say, all were carried out.
After my discharge on 6 August 1952, my service time was over. Unfortunately, two of my buddies rejoined and were sent back to Korea where they, along with 26 others, were killed on 3 May 1953. Their names were Paul Gallinger, from Cornwall, and my bunker mate John Mehan; they will always be remembered.
The question has often been brought to mind: Would we do it over again, knowing what we experienced? The regimental BS; the unpleasant living conditions; food that was not always the best, and all the other shortcomings. My answer would very likely be "yes," because, looking back, it made men out of us and taught us to respect not only ourselves but others also, and, most importantly, how fortunate we really are to live in such a great country.
Today it is still my privilege to continue to serve the Korea Veterans Association of Canada and The Royal Canadian Legion, having held many executive positions in both organizations over the years and still a Zone Commander. It has been my good fortune to have made many friends across this great country of ours, and it would not have been possible without my brief period of some discomfort which many of us still talk about when we meet.
Published courtesy of Esprit de Corps Magazine
Elburn Duffy served with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment in Korea from April 1951 until April 1952. He is a member of Unit 12, Korea Veterans Association of Canada. He lives in Cornwall, Ontario.