Heading to Gaza

Heroes Remember

In Gaza, you've heard of Gaza, the city old, old, very old city. They said "John", the sergeant, transfer sergeant says "John, you gotta go to Gaza because there's a UN headquarters there and the Egyptians cut off all the power and the city is cut off all the power and all that. They need fuel for the generators". So I said "OK". So we had a Dodge power wagon the equivalent half ton, you know four wheel drive though. We even installed a ouga horn in it. Ken and I did. Anyways I got a 3/4 ton trailer behind the Dodge, filled it up with forty-five gallon drums. I had, all together I had about eight forty-five gallon drums in the truck and the trailer and they said, "OK, John you gotta go to Gaza." which is hundreds of miles away, all by myself. They give me an SMG, no ammo. So anyways, and I'm supposed to look vicious, you know I'm supposed to be driving and carry this SMG, ya sure. But anyway, no escort, no nothing. So I'm driving down the...., this is about a week , a week and a half before we got kicked, kicked out of there. So I'm driving down towards Gaza, as I'm going through all these villages, you know, where as you used to go before, people you wave at ya and all this. Now they're throwing camel dung at me. They're throwing stones and sticks at me and we're talking five, six year old kids and seventy, eighty year old ladies, you know, doing this stuff eh. It wasn't the men so much, it was the kids and the women eh, and anyways I get to Gaza. Gaza's a fairly big city and they have what we call the red caps; they're, they're Egyptian police, they wear British battle dress uniforms with their red berets and so we called them red caps and he's directing traffic, you know and I thought to myself, I'm not gonna stop. I don't give a damn what he's doing, I just laid on the horn, I knew where I was going, so I just laid on the horn and I'm going down this three, four lane downtown Gaza just honking the horn eh, he must have thought I was crazy but anyways. I get to the UN headquarters and some sergeant or officer says, "Where's your escort?", I said "I don't have one". He says "Well you're not going back by yourself to El Arish". So I stayed in Gaza for a day or so and then the next day we had a whole convoy going from Gaza back to El Arish, where the airport was and then eventually we, we left Egypt, but it was quite the experience. It was a touchy situation, boy. I mean we used to go through border checks eh and ever since Mitchell Sharp made that comment, like all of a sudden all these border checks appear out of nowhere and I remember at one border check a week or so before we got kicked out. There was about four or five of us in this UN van and this Egyptian soldier, he looks in the van and he's sticking his rifle in there and he's got it cocked. Because we heard the bolt and he wanted cigarettes and this warrant officer this from the air force is telling him F off you know. You Gypo and all this ya know and we told him "Jesus don't aggravate him anymore". Ya know, cause all of a sudden this guy thank God this Egyptian officer came along and he could speak English, you know, and he had a hell of a time pulling that Egyptian soldier away. He had to physically pull him, you know, yelling and screamingwas no good. There was very little discipline, we noticed amongst the officers and the Egyptian soldiers you know, they had very, very little discipline. Interviewer: Which is what makes it dangerous.. Yes. Interviewer: So you must have been quite bitter about being sent out without an escort. Not, excuse me, not at the time, but afterwards I thought to myself "At least you guys could have give me thirty rounds, ya know, or something". You know, just, you know, not to shoot at the people but even to fire up in the air, you know. Make them disperse because I'll tell ya they were starting to surround my truck and then you know being in Egypt, 110, 120 degrees; I had the windows rolled up, no air conditioning in the truck of course. I didn't dare roll down the window because God all I needed was a... I thought about it afterwards, I thought all I need is somebody hit me with a stone or something in the head and there would be, I'd be in the headlines the next day in Canada you know "UN Soldier Killed".

Mr. Nystad tells about his trip to Gaza where he had to drive unescorted and could only carry an unloaded SMG.

John Nystad

John Nystad, was born in 1941 in Holland. He never knew his mother as he was separated from her at a very young age during the Second World War and his father, a member of the Dutch Army, ended up being taken as a prisoner of war. As a result Mr. Nystad lived in an orphanage with several other children where they were served one meal a day and shared a bed with five or six others. After the end of the Second World War he was reunited with his father and in 1953 they immigrated to Canada. Mr. Nystad lived in southwestern Ontario until he joined the army and became a member of the Royal Canadian Signals. During his 12 year career in the army he served overseas in Egypt, Gaza and Cyprus and had many jobs ranging from a truck driver to being an electrician.

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Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John Nystad
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces

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