Frank Wong

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Vancouver-born, Frank Wong was assigned to a mobile repair unit where his tour of duty took him from training camps in Britain, to Juno Beach, and triumphantly to Holland for the liberation. « View Transcript

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Ramona Mar (Interviewer)

Born in Vancouver in 1919, the second of seven children, Frank Wong's childhood, like so many of his contemporaries, was marked by poverty. The big city life in Vancouver translated into life in the ghetto, so his father moved the family to the small fishing village of Alert Bay, on Vancouver Island. The village was isolated, but not immune to the impact of war when Pearl Harbour was bombed.

Frank Wong (Interviewee)

And I remember the Japanese fishing vessels were all rounded up and brought to Alert Bay and sent down to Vancouver. And then it was only then, that I said, "Oh God, maybe I should go down and join the army."

I felt it was my responsibility and I figured if I join the army there there's a possibility that I'm. after the war I may be able to get the franchise. And also, to prove to the government my loyalty to. to my country, and that well. that's probably the main reason I came down to join the army ...Yeah ...

Ramona

After basic training in Vernon, British Columbia, Frank trained as a 'storeman' in Barrie Field and Ottawa, signing up for the overseas draft with the Royal Canadian Ordinance Corps. Within weeks, Frank boarded the troop ship, The Queen Elizabeth. The journey to Scotland took four days and Frank had no time for second thoughts.

Back on land, Frank was posted to Catherham on the Hill to join his unit, the First Canadian Army Troop Workshop.

Frank

Our unit is the second echelon workshop. Our main function is repairing these um heavy artillery. There was at a 5.5 inch, 7.2 inch guns, and 155 millimetre guns and we also repair all their, their vehicles and instruments. And we have a blacksmith and. and everything. It's a second echelon. We have a staff of about 220 officers and. and men in. in our unit. And it's a strictly mobile unit; even the office is... is on wheel you know. And all the stores are all on trucks and, and repairs. Also, repairs like. rifles, machine guns, anti-tank guns and so on.

But our main. main function is to follow the... the... artillery. When the artillery goes into action, our job is to follow them - right beside them.

Ramona

Over the next year and a half, Frank's unit would remain in England, continually training and waiting for orders to move to the continent.

A month after D-Day, Frank was huddled into the hold of a Liberty ship for the agonizing crossing to France. From there, Frank forced himself to jump into landing craft as he neared the congested Normandy coast.

Frank

We landed on Juno Beach. And then the first thing I. they said to us was to keep on moving inland, don't linger on the beach, just move inland, because at that particular time there, the beach was still under enemy fire. They were still close enough for. and then if there's. for enemy to fire. So we just keep on, just move inland. So we moved inland, and then when we. inland to a field about a couple of. I think about two, three miles inland.

I remember when we went in there we had to dig a little slip trench, a fox hole, and I was an individual and every so often at night there, the first night there I remember looking up every every couple of hours to see if everybody is still around. It was kind of scary that day and then we could hear the German plane coming over at night. Thats the only time you see the German plane, at night time, they came over at night to try to bomb the beachhead. You know, so when you see the planes going over and the guns going off. That first night was a little bit, a little bit scary. I often wonder, you know, how I would react and things like this.

When they were shelling, I used to get under, go down to the basement or get into a foxhole. And then... I remember, it was kind of scary and I remember saying the Lords Prayer about a million times, (laughs) to keep my nerve up. And Id look up and I see some of my friends, they were mumbling too. I think they were doing the same thing too.

When you come under enemy fire and not be able to do anything, I mean you get kind of scared.

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Ramona

That first day after the landing was both frightening and exciting. It would be no match for what Frank would see days later in the city of Caen.

Frank

I remember the... the city was completely destroying with all the artillery, and I remember there are so many people, dead people around, you know, not. not buried and everything. And I, I could still remember Caen because I got sick that day, because when we went in there, the smell was so bad that I, that I vomit. You know, and that's the, that's the only time I ever. I vomited. The smell was just out of this world, you know, there was so many people dead. It was in the summertime and they'd been fighting over that area for over a month there, a month and a half, and the smell was just out of this world. By that time the Germans theyre in full retreat. And I remember going through the country side. It was very exciting because every village we would go past the people would come out and with flowers in their hands and when we stopped they would bring wine and pastries and fruit for us to eat. We had to keep on moving. Every so often we would stop in one spot for a few days and then we had to move again.

Ramona

By the end of the war, Frank was stationed in Holland where he witnessed the gratitude of the Dutch for their Canadian liberators. He's been back since, and been bestowed with medals and flowers all humbly received by a man who joined the army as a second class citizen and one who emerged as a full Canadian.

And there's one more footnote to Frank's story. One of his three daughters married a young man of German heritage, and Frank has discovered his son-in-law's father was in France at the same time as he was - both fighting on opposite sides. It would be hard to believe that years later, these soldiers would be united as fathers-in-law.

Did you Know?

Did you know that Frank Wong's daughter married the son of a German soldier, who was stationed on the other side of the battle lines at the same time as Frank?

Copyright to Produce

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Interviewee: Frank Wong

Duration: 6:39

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