William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

(Through Proactive Poetry etc.)

The VD stat lies these were taken away
and that made the day for the KVA
Chinese Canadians in the Burma Campaign
are they being ignored due to lack of fame?

Poor Kyle Brown is still hanging around
and Matchee is replaced by Dallaire?
And the story they tell about Bomber Command
well, that’s certainly not true, and not fair!

At least Corporal Topham’s Airborne V.C.
is now on display – thanks to you and me
Gertrude Kearns is an artist with flair
and her painting of Romeo was completed with care!

Pro Active Poetry, sure it has a real face
if it can change things that are now in place
a 7th book of remembrance, lists our Peacekeeping Dead
remembered in the peace tower, their names are now read

Peter Worthington and Vincent Courtenay,
they continue to show us the warriors’ way
by bringing the veterans movement into the light
they push back the darkness and state what is right!

Korea Vet News – Independent Internet Publication – May 7, 2006
Dedicated to the sacrifice and indomitable spirit of Canada’s Korean War Veterans

Toronto Sun News Columnist

No Feeling in war’s portrayal

Peter Worthington
Peter Worthington
Sun, May 7, 2006
This time last year, the new $135-million Canadian War Museum (CWM) opened in Ottawa amid high hopes and great expectations.

Since then I’ve written a couple of dozen columns mentioning the CWM – – initially to help raise money to buy the Victoria Cross won by paratrooper Fred Topham in World War II so it could be donated to the CWM and remain in Canada rather than be auctioned to a private collector in Britain.

Subsequent columns tended to be critical, documenting complaints of veterans who, in varying degrees, sought changes – – like removing a painting of the torture death by soldiers of a Somali prisoner; the claim 41% of troops in the Korean War contracted VD; that Bomber Command was useless and merely killed innocent civilians and destroyed cities; that Canadian veterans in the WWII Burma campaign were ignored.

At the time, I had not visited the CWM and was reflecting concerns of vets who had.

This week I visited the war museum to see for myself, avoiding anything suggesting a guided tour.

For the record, I served the last couple of years of WWII in the navy as an ordinary seaman and later as a sub-lieutenant in the Fleet Air Arm. In the Korean War I was a platoon commander with the Princess Pats. I guess I saw the CWM through the eyes of both a veteran and a civilian.

My feelings are mixed.

As for the criticisms, the offensive painting of Clayton Matchee choking the Somali prisoner has been removed. At least I couldn’t find it.

An inoffensive portrait of Kyle Brown is there. He was sentenced to five years for manslaughter in the Somalia case but was a fall guy, not a perpetrator.

Chalk up a small victory

Instead of Matchee, there’s a large painting of Gen. Romeo Dallaire amid camouflage overlay, done by the same artist who sold the Matchee painting to “Friends of the War Museum” for $10,000, Gertrude Kearns. Chalk up a small victory for vets and decency.

The offensive and erroneous VD sign has been removed from the Korean War section and replaced by irrelevant statistics, such as 50% of 26,791 who served in Korea were Catholics, 45% had also served in WWII, the average age of soldiers was 24, the average education level Grade 8. So what?

As for the Bomber Command insult, it’s still there but not noticeable unless you read all the bumf displayed. It’s still an outrageous assessment – – echoing the theme of the CBC’s appalling The Valour and the Horror slander a dozen years ago which now apparently is cinema verite.

As for Burma – – I couldn’t find the chunk of an RCAF plane that crashed there in WWII and was discovered 50 years later. Zilch on Burma.

The museum is excellent in a superficial way. It doesn’t go into details, and individual regiments tend to be ignored. The soldiers are generic – very little feel of what the war, any war, was like.
There’s a flavour of political correctness throughout.

For example, the Military Medal and two bars won by WWI native hero Francis Pegahmagabow are displayed with no mention of how he won the MM three times. (He was a sniper with some 380 kills, which the CWM apparently thinks should not be mentioned; instead he’s presented as chief of the Parry Sound Island band.)

Again, the internment of Japanese Canadians in WWII gets more prominent play than the horrors the Japanese inflicted on our Hong Kong soldiers.

Although the CWM has 28 of the 94 Victoria Crosses won by Canadians, only two are from WWII – – Lt. Col. Cecil Merritt’s, won at Dieppe, and Fred Topham’s, won with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

Not all 28 VCs are on display. Medals are scattered about, including air ace Billy Bishop’s, along with 19 other medals he earned. (Odd, but I failed to see mention of the 72 German planes he shot down).
There seems political correctness in displaying the WWI medals of Filip Konowal, described as “the only Ukrainian” to win the VC.

There are surprisingly few artefacts of war, excluding things like tanks, armoured carriers, artillery, etc. But lots of TV videos of the war – the most moving of which shows Beaumont Hamel in France, where, on July 1, 1916, 801 men of the Newfoundland Regiment attacked. Twenty minutes later 324 were dead and 385 wounded. A regiment annihilated.

There are surprising errors too. The medals of former pro hockey player, Maj. Victor Jewkes of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse, are on display with the description that his was “one of only two” Distinguished Service Orders won by Canadians in the Korean War. Nonsense. Every commanding officer except one got a DSO in Korea. Kind of a silly error.

Three (at least) aspects of modern life started during WWI: Income taxes (supposedly temporary), daylight saving time and, in 1917, the vote for women whose men were at war. (The vote for other women came later.)

In short, every vet who expects to see his corner of any war gets short-changed in the war museum. Instead it’s a concise summary of every war – the Iroquois siege of Quebec, the Plains of Abraham, War of 1812, through to the present, all in half an hour if you hurry.

Still, the CWM is a valuable addition to our culture, even though it could have benefited if some of their advisers had a military background and had experienced war.

There’s little that’s warm or inviting about the CWM.

The “you are there” displays are disappointing. A WWI trench is kind of sterile, and blah with minimum imagination. Counterparts in the British, Korean, or Russian war museums are more realistic. In them, you stand in the trench in darkness. The rat-tat-tat of machineguns is deafening, shell explosions sound, as do the ping of bullets. The fake sky lights with flashes as shells burst. Even though it’s fake, you’re fearful to peek over the parapet. You feel a bit as soldiers feel when an attack is imminent.

The CWM tries to touch every facet of Canada’s wars, and as a consequence it doesn’t come alive or as convincing as it could. Maybe too much Museum of Civilization anti-military sentiment in the mix – remember, some wanted to call it the “peace” museum.

In a negative way, what I found impressive was the building itself. It’s huge and resembles a windowless mass of concrete – like a fortress or prison, without aesthetic impact. The green hill behind undulates like shell craters of the Somme battlefields today but that’s about it. On weekdays the cavernous interior is a mausoleum.

But the museum badly needs more creative direction.

Korea Veterans Association of Canadakoreavetnews@aol.com
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