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Getting to Korea

Heroes Remember

We went to Korea, I mean the unit went by ship. I, personally, went with the three NCO’s separately by air because I was sent to the school of infantry to become a little instructor, a cell if you want, to shift the army in Korea from the .303 rifle, the basic weapon, to the new FNC1 which we were converting to which was (inaudible). So myself and three sergeants were sent to Borden to take that training and the unit left by ship to Korea. The four of us caught up with them by train to Vancouver and then air via Anchorage, Alaska and Tokyo, and then by train to Hiro, which was the reinforcement camp. So we went that route, I went that route as opposed to with the unit. Overwhelming almost, it’s rather interesting because I have a daughter that lives in Japan now and when she first went there she told me, she used exactly the same words, she said, “Dad, it’s overwhelming.” But then, we arrived in Japan when the old customs and the rituals and the dress of people and that sort of thing, were very much more than it is today. Where cities like Tokyo were still very Japanese. I suspect they are to this day too but they’ve also westernized to a large extent. They wear the same clothes that we do. We were just absolutely fascinated just watching the work, watching the girls walk by on these shoes with little wooden soles and like “cluck, cluck, cluck,” wearing these kimonos that obviously prevented them from walking with long steps like we would and all these little . . . . They looked like porcelain dolls actually, they were very attractive! And, of course, to a bunch of young men arriving in the Orient, you know, we we’re very impressed with all this. But then we got quite impressed by other things too like you go on a train in Tokyo to go to Hiro and if it says you’re gonna be at a certain place at 12:17, this is exactly when it arrives and it stops. They were very highly organized people. And, so we were there for only, oh, a couple of weeks and then we were flown in an Australian aircraft to Korea where we joined our unit in the field. So I arrived in Kimpo Airport at Seoul and met a British artillery sergeant who was piloting a small spotting aircraft and he came to me and saluted me which I found very impressive. He had a big mustache and at the most, I would have had a fuzz on my face in those days, and he says, “Are you going to your unit sir?” I says, “Yes, indeed I am!” He says, “I’d be happy to give you a lift.” So he gave me a lift in something like an L19 or a Lysander, I forget what they were now, but in the back seat with my kitbag. And we were flown in very close to the ground into a divisional airstrip and then I got on a field phone which you crank, and got on the field phone, call my unit and they sent a truck to get me. So that was about 36 hours after leaving Vancouver. We’d been travelling all that time.

Mr. Belzile discusses his deployment to Korea, via Japan.

Charles Belzile

Lt.-Gen. Charles Belzile was born in Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, on March 12, 1933. As a youth, he was exposed to the armed forces as troop trains passed by his home during the Second World War. He joined the reserves, then the regular force with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in 1951. In 35 years of service, Lt.-Gen. Belzile has served in Korea, Germany, Cyprus and Canada. His appointments have included regimental duties with the Queen’s Own Rifles, Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion Royal 22e Régiment, Commander 4th Canadian Mechanized Group and Canadian Forces Europe in Germany. Since retiring from the Canadian Armed Forces, he has held numerous posts as a consultant and honorary chair. Mr. Belzile Chaired the VAC 60th Anniversary Committee on VE-Day commemorations and was Grand President of the Royal Canadian Legion. International honours include Commander of the Legion of Honour of France and recipient of the Vimy Award.

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Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Charles Belzile
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
Lieutenant General

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