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Edward “Ted” Zuber

Ted Zuber was thirteen when the Second World War ended in 1945. He had grown up listening to programs reporting on the conflict through his family’s radio.

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Edward “Ted” Zuber

When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, with North Korea invading South Korea, Zuber was determined to follow in the footsteps of those who had served before him during the Second World War. Trying to enlist as a paratrooper in Montreal, Zuber was initially denied because he wasn’t heavy enough.

“I was 136 pounds and they apologized,” Zuber said “I guess the parachute wouldn’t function properly.”

However, Zuber was able to convince the recruiter to allow him to enlist, telling him he would be able to put on weight while in training. He went on to complete his training before sailing across the Pacific. After a brief stop in Japan, as a parachutist with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, he arrived in Korea in 1952.

“I will never forget that first shell that came in, scared the hell out of us.”

He remembered the first time he came under fire, which happened in the Samichon Valley. On what Zuber called a beautiful morning in a magnificent landscape, the silence was broken by an enemy shell, that exploded only a few hundred meters from him in the front lines.

“I will never forget that first shell that came in, scared the hell out of us,” Zuber said, noting that they resolved to see through their mission, “You learn within a matter of weeks to put emotion aside, you just put that aside.”

The Royal Canadian Regiment was later ordered to Hill 355, so named after its elevation in [metres/yards] above sea level. Located roughly 40 kilometers north of Seoul, every Canadian battalion that served in Korea would spend time at Hill 355, a strategically important position. While Zuber’s battalion was stationed at Hill 355, fierce fighting wiped out the unit’s sniper section. When they finally left Hill 355 for a few weeks in a semi-rest area behind the front lines, they began to train to fill the positons of the men who had been killed.

“I was what they called officially [a] counter sniper,” Zuber said “We trained intensely.”

Upon returning to the front line, Zuber and his fellow RCRs moved to reinforce a defensive position at the south end of Samichon Valley called “The Hook”, an area known for intense Chinese sniper activity.

“The British and Black Watch had been up there and the Americans, American marines. They had all suffered from the Chinese sniper activity,” he said.

At “The Hook” his unit lived in trenches that were roughly 400 meters from enemy forces.

“The chances of taking extremely long rifle shots did not exist because it was somewhat like the First World War, [with] established lines.” Zuber said.

When a grenade was accidently set off in a tunnel, Zuber was injured, suffering shrapnel wounds. After a brief stay in Japan to recuperate, he returned to the frontlines. He carried these shrapnel wounds with him for the rest of his life.

“If there was one thing the Canadian soldier did in Korea, it was patrol.”

After the war ended, Zuber dealt with his experiences during the Korean War through creating art. His painting, titled Freeze, was the basis for a commemorative poster, marking the 65th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. The poster features a group of Canadians on a night patrol, walking in single file under the moonlight around a pool of water.

“If there was one thing the Canadian soldier did in Korea, it was patrol,” he recalled “Every night we had patrols out, killing patrols, snatching patrols to keep the prisoners, intelligence patrols, all kinds of them.”

“It represents what those 26,000 Canadians went through.”

Many of his paintings can be found in the Canadian War Museum. In 1990 he was appointed official Canadian war artist for the Gulf War.

As we remember the Canadians who served in the Korean War and recognize those who lost loved ones in the defence of peace and freedom, Ted Zuber is this week’s Face of Freedom. Sadly, Mr. Zuber passed away in 2018. You can hear more about his experiences in his Heroes Remember interviews.

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