Ted Zuber

Ted Zuber survived the Korean War and went on to become Canada's official war artist for the conflict.

Montreal, Quebec


Korean War

Early Life

Ted Zuber, born in Montreal on May 7, 1932, showed his skill for art at an early age. He said drawing pictures helped make himself clear to adults. His first painting, at age 12, showed a Swiss village based on a postcard from his grandfather.


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Anxious to Serve his Country - HTML5 Transcript/Captions

I grew up mostly during the Second World War

and radio was the big thing. And I can remember

the family, it's like an old movie I suppose.

And I can remember the family were all sitting

around the radio in the front room with dim lights.

And the program would be perfect because

we could only listen to it and conjure

up in our mind and, of course,

each one of us conjured the image

that suited us. So the programs

were perfect. And the one program

that was so outstanding, I remember

I can still feel a degree of emotion.

I think it was on Friday nights

but that's not important.

It was a Second World War story of

a Canadian Lancaster Bomber crew and

the heading of the program was,

“L for Lanky, Come in L for Lanky!�

And, of course, the sounds effects

of the engines, the engines of the

Lancaster Bomber and the fellows

speaking on the intercoms with each other,

it was magnificent.

I didn't like school very much.

I don't think I was a very good student.

Mathematics was my weakest. And, of course,

as an artist if I get creative with the numbers,

the answer is wrong, so what did I have,

you know? I learned to read very quickly.

The war was over.

We grew up during the war.

By that I was thirteen years old the very

day the war ended, the 7th of May and

what a birthday gift.

Privately inside ourselves, by that I mean

boys my age, we were sorry that it

ended so soon. Not because we wanted

people to die anymore. But we didn't get a

chance to show that we were men also.

And, of course, you can imagine the propaganda

during the Second World War. If you weren't in

uniform you didn't exist almost, you know.

When the Korean War came out suddenly we

had a chance to show that we too could be a man,

propaganda. And I had to join the paratroopers.

I was 136 pounds and they apologized.

It took 3 or 4 days to enlist right downtown,

Sherbrooke Street in Montreal and they called me,

the public selection officer or somebody

called me in and he said,

“I'm sorry Mr. Zuber but we cannot

allow you to goi into the paratroopers because

you don't weigh enough.� I guess the

parachute wouldn't function properly sort of thing.

And I looked at him and said,

“Surely to God they are not going to put

me out of an airplane in the first week,

they're gonna have me there for a while,

could they not put a few pounds on me?�

And he looked at me and he thought that

was brilliant and he said,

“That's good!� And they let me in.

I must say I was reflecting the psychology

of growing up in that war atmosphere.

A little footnote if I may interrupt myself.

On the troop ship crossing the Pacific to

go to Korea, we went first to Japan.

And we were coming into Japan and

I was one of the few people that was up on

deck about 5 o'clock that morning on this

old liberty boat troop ship, it was crowded

but early in the morning you would get a

bit of space up on the deck and there was

only two or three of us I think up there.

And as we approached the Japanese Islands

it was misty. Not foggy but misty and a

little island appeared, nobody on it,

a couple of maybe trees.

And as we were getting closer we are

heading for the Yokohama Harbour.

I will never forget this.

I suddenly was overwhelmed with a terror and

intellectually I knew what was happening to me

so I was like two people at the same time.

I was marvelling at how I was reacting

but the reaction was terrifying.

All those bloody posters depicting the Japanese

as buck tooth, big glass villains because

that's how they were depicted during the

propaganda of the Second World War

I was going into their home base.

I was honestly terrified.

It must have lasted for, I don't know,

for five or ten minutes.

My intellect finally woke me up and got me

out of it. But it was a terrifying,

terrible experience as we are coming into

that spooky early morning fog of the

mist of the Japanese Islands.


Signing up for the Korean War

When Zuber was 17, the Korean War started. He attempted to enlist, trying to become a paratrooper, but was initially turned down on the grounds he did not weigh enough. He replied, "Surely they can add a few pounds to me." The recruiter was won over by this way of thinking, and signed Zuber up. He was going to war.

Arrival in Korea

When he got to Korea, his unit traveled to Samichon Valley and Hill 186. While travelling, he was struck by the peaceful quiet of his new surroundings.

It was at that moment enemy shelling began.

Whatever heroic romanticism he had about war very quickly gave way to the reality of the situation. But, with striking speed, he and his unit adapted to the harsh conditions, and within a matter of weeks, they could weather the storm.

Holding at Kapyong by Edward Zuber

Holding at Kapyong by Edward Zuber

Becoming a Sniper

Zuber wanted the autonomy of a sniper, but when he originally applied for the position, he was told there were none available. This changed after the battles of Hill 355.

During that battle, the entire sniper unit had been wiped out by heavy shelling. These new vacancies meant Zuber got his wish and they moved to a new location called "The Hook" at the south end of the Samichon Valley. His primary duty was taking out enemy snipers.

Wounded

One evening, Zuber was resting in the tunnels under the hook when there was an accident. A young man who had been priming grenades accidentally set one off next to him. One man was killed and several wounded, including Zuber, who suffered shrapnel wounds that would cause him pain for the rest of his life.

He was rushed to a Norwegian MASH unit and then to a Canadian Field Dressing Station, but the need for snipers meant he had very little time to recuperate. After just a handful of days resting in Japan, he was back on the frontlines, sniper rifle in hand, and cast on his leg.

After the Korean War

Upon his return, the scars from the war quickly became apparent and, unfortunately, by the early 60's his marriage had fallen apart. He had become a photographer but soon set up a studio and dedicated himself to painting.

He made a decent living as a painter but, still, the Korean War was with him. To deal with the memories he started painting them but never showed the paintings to anyone, as he felt they were too personal.

... by Edward Zuber

Freeze by Edward Zuber

Official war artist

The Canadian War Museum was searching for more visual documentation of the War and discovered Zuber had been painting scenes from his experiences and approached him. First, a private buyer bought and donated the paintings to the Museum. Later, the Museum directly purchased several more of Zuber's Korean War paintings.

Like that, Zuber became the Canadian war artist for Korea.

In 1990, Zuber was asked to be the official Canadian war artist for the Gulf War. While he was hesitant to be in a war zone again, he did eventually accept and travelled to the Persian Gulf. He later went to Kosovo and Bosnia. In the early 2000s, Zuber was asked to do the same in Afghanistan, but by this time he had had been diagnosed with cancer.

Death

Zuber chose the time and place of his death and, on October 30, 2018, he passed in his workshop. His last painting, titled "Forever", had been finished for his second wife. It showed younger versions the two of them in Kayaks on the lake near their home.

Zuber's paintings still hang in the Canadian War Museum, and he has been recognized as a Canadian Heritage artist.


Where they served


Classroom materials

Classroom materials main page

Lesson plan: Ages 12-18

A Brush with the Korean War - Hill 355

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