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War is Not a Picnic

Heroes Remember

These are the things you’re not supposed to tell people but if you don’t tell them, that’s war, it’s not a picnic. War is a ruthless, nasty thing and the sooner people know that and particularly young people, there’s nothing pleasant about war. Most people who kill people in action never see them. There is distance, it’s like a plane, you drop bombs and you don’t know who you hit but you know you kill people. It’s the same in the army, when you’re shooting, there are guys in front of you but you don’t really see them unless you come hand to hand with them. But this was an occasion where I was looking straight at a guy as I look at you. And you almost, in a fraction, this happened fractions of seconds in your mind that you almost put your gun down and said hi, you know. And then you realize that‘s the enemy, I better shoot him or I ain’t going to be here. Well, I fell and I put my hands up to hold my helmet on because I knew I was going to get the blast from it. He messed with it, it fell over but I got shrapnel on my hand which I picked out later on but he didn’t get up so that’s… yah, I can tell you truthfully that I shot a German, I knew it but today it even bothers me now because I often wondered did he have a wife and kids, you know, that’s the thing that goes through your head after. He’s got a family, especially when you see it today in the movies, you know, a guy gets killed and leaves three or four kids and a wife at home. And I figure, jeez, maybe I killed him, maybe I killed a whole family, I don’t know because it’s not your instinct to directly kill people and it does bother soldiers whether you believe it or not, it does. So they avoid talking about those things, the ones that did and as I said most people they killed they don’t actually confront face to face so it’s not the same.

Killing people is not easy, especially when you are up close and personal with the enemy.

Joseph Anthony Ryan

Joseph Anthony Ryan was born in Montreal in 1920. The circumstances during the depression era saw him and his family moving to Thunder Bay, Ontario in search of a better life. Like many during this time, applying to Canada’s military was a way to find work, adventure and purpose, so in the late 30’s he joined the Lake Superior Regiment and began his training alongside the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). From participating in operations from Iceland to Dieppe to his time as a prisoner of war in Germany, Joseph Ryan’s stories bring us a unique perspective on the price paid for our freedom.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
May 5, 2009
Person Interviewed:
Joseph Anthony Ryan
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Regiment of Canada

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