William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

OTTAWA WAR MUSEUM
(A Visual Criticism Of Modern Veterans)

We must not hide our heads in the sand
Let’s join together and take a stand
We must stand tall for what is right
and not suffer quietly this blatant slight!

Omissions of the Korean War
Atrocious pictures near the door
1 Can Para and the KVA vet
Lest we forget, lest we forget!

Author’s Note: Peacekeepers and Peace Officers – we will always need them both!

Let us honour “all of our soldiers” of Peace and War at the new War Museum! They seem to forget that each PK Mission is a separate war! – It is not a public place to caste nasty messages, with paintings, against Canada’s elite soldiers of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Although many AIRBORNE SOLDIERS are retired, there are many serving paratroopers in the ranks who need not be slighted by such blatant paintings of Brown and Mattchee in the Public Hall of Honour! Let us back them up! Immediate change is needed. It is after all a WAR MUSEUM and not just a “Warm Museum” with big salaries for those who never served!

Subject:
Open Letter to Les Peate, Nat’l President KVA Canada about Canadian War Museum

May 7, 2005

To Les Peate
National President
Korea Veterans Association of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario

Hello Les,

This is an open letter to you that will be shared with many other Veterans.

First, I commend both you and past president Dave Davidson for investigating and raising serious questions about whether or not Canada’s Korean War Veterans are properly represented in the new Canadian War Museum, which officially opens tomorrow, May 8, 2005.

During the televised opening ceremony, where Prime Minister Paul Martin is featured speaker and other politicians and museum appointees will bask in free national publicity, I trust – as many Veterans have expressed – that you and Dave will not hesitate to make your displeasure known to the nation, should you find things not suitable within the museum.

In referring to representation of Canada’s Korean War Veterans above, the designation is applied to all Canadians who served in Korea, regardless of the veterans’ association affiliations of those living, and, of course it includes those of our comrades who fell in Korea and the thousands who have passed on since the Korean War ended.

By “not suitable within the museum” I make reference to things that we have discussed, some of which you personally have brought to light through your contacts within the museum and your personal research.

One of these unsuitable things – in fact a most heinous and derogatory thing – is a published public allegation said to be on exhibit that states more than 400 Canadians who served in Korea contracted some form of venereal disease. That, of course, is a terrible, terrible slur and an outrageous assertion that casts aspersion on all who served. I personally hate it that such insensitivity and obvious malice toward war Veterans is permitted within the museum organization.

I served with some of the roughest, toughest soldiers in Canada. I say truthfully that while there was much talk and joking and jibing about venereal disease in Korea that in my own infantry company I did not know of one man who contracted such a disease. Treatment and diagnosis would have been quite public, made in the medical officer’s examining tent at Tactical Headquarters, where patients lined up inside and outside and nothing was secret. News of anyone contracting the disease would have become common knowledge within the company and probably throughout the battalion. I attest that I did not know of a single soldier serving in my company who contracted a venereal disease.

When one thinks of how the allegation also casts aspersions on the good, honourable, industrious people of the Republic of Korea, that too is enraging and runs counter in essence to all that we fought for in their country – individual liberty and respect and opportunity for the individual.

I do know of several soldiers who were blown to pieces by mortar bombs, or who lost limbs or were otherwise disfigured by shrapnel, or who were shot to death or severely wounded by bullets. I have visited the graves of those who were killed in action with my battalion many, many times through the years. They are, as you know, buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan that contains the graves of 378 Canadians who fell in Korea.

The Canadian graves are adjacent to the Monument that commemorates an additional 16 comrades whose graves are in Korea, but in unknown places. That Monument omits the names of six member of the Royal Canadian Navy who were lost at sea. Additionally, of course, some of our comrades are buried in the Commonwealth Cemetery in Yokahama, including those who died of wounds while undergoing medical treatment in Japan.

Another thing that you have investigated and cast light upon is the display of the 10-foot high painting in the “War on Canvas” gallery. As all of Canada knows by now it depicts a Somali youth who had been captured by Canadian soldiers for trespass and theft at a base camp and is being brutally tortured. The soldier depicted was concurrently a member of a distinguished Canadian Regiment that fought in Korea and also a member of an elite Canadian airborne unit formed in the “peacekeeping” era.

The painting is horrible and from what I have seen of it on television it also appears amateurish and something that might be used to promote a cheap B-grade-chiller movie. It must infuriate all Veterans who served in the same regiments as the soldier who is depicted in the painting.

To actually acquire the painting through purchase, using funds allocated to the museum – including those donated to the museum by Veterans from across Canada – shows a predisposition to displaying the horrible thing to discredit whatever else may be displayed there with respect to Canadians who served in those regiments and on various United Nations deployments.

Obviously, the torture and murder of that Somali was an individual act of atrocity by one individual, supported by the presence of another who was found guilty of complicity and punished.

It assuredly – even to an idiot or depraved hater of the military – is not reflective of Canadian soldiers and their units and their distinguished, honourable role in trying to maintain peace and freedom in the world and it should not be placed in the museum in an apparent, dedicated act of trying to dishonour and disparage them.

If the museum’s director of the “War on Canvas” gallery wanted to display a horrid, bloody painting depicting the inglorious suffering caused by war, she might better have commissioned a talented artist to paint one of our comrades in agony with wounds in Korea, although even that most of us would object to. The suffering of our comrades in arms does not need such visual amplification to be understood. Most of us prefer to see our comrades portrayed as whole, hardy men, standing upright and true – and in honour!

None of us wishes to ever see a Canadian soldier depicted as a torturer and a murderer. The inference of those not familiar with the crime might be that other soldiers serving with him were of like disposition, which all of us profoundly resent and object to!

Finally, a third concern that you have raised and that you have investigated as best you can without full access to the museum, is the diminished representation of Canada’s role in the Korean War. From what we know at this point, the Korean War is not included in the permanent exhibits and may even be lumped in with the “peacekeeping” exhibit.

Also, from what we know at this point, the Korean War artefacts that are displayed are less in number than those displayed in the very cramped confines of the old museum on Sussex Drive and those selected for display are also less meaningful.

If such a diminished depiction of Canada’s role in the Korean War proves to be correct upon your investigation on Sunday, May 8th, then I attribute it to two causes, perhaps both of which are shared by some of the individuals employed by the museum.

1. They have not bothered to adequately research the history of Canada’s role in the Korean War, which is no small task and requires many months of dedicated work (reading an opinionated book by a contemporary author who wrote primarily for income or for academic elevation does not cut it).

2. They are, by their elitist own nature and through ignorance and prejudice, at least mildly committed to diminishing what they likely perceive to be a male dominated group of Canadians who seem to be rough and perhaps even uneducated and perhaps alien to the current crop of university trained Canadians. (That, of course, is absurd, for many Korean War Veterans hold advanced degrees from some of the leading institutions of higher learning and regardless of level of formal education, most of our comrades are very bright and in their day were as avant-garde as any in the 21st Century, as indicated below).

With respect to the first point I submit that I have read theses from some Canadian scholars that state categorically that the United Nations involvement in the Korean War was a “police action” and that it was the first “peacekeeping” deployment made in the “Cold War era.” With absurd documents like that extant, which were produced by supposed scholars, it is little wonder that researchers get into trouble when delving into the history of the Korean War era.

With respect to the second point, Canadians who served in Korea were indeed rough and tough and brave and cocky and in some cases arrogant (although probably not for long because we did not tolerate arrogance).

But they were also gentlemen, respectful of women’s rights, nurturers of children, polite in mixed company – more so than many individuals in the current generation.

Most served in the Korean War on short enlistments as volunteers and returned to civilian status and pursued their individual callings and contributed enormously to the growth and development of their nation.

Some, who fought in Korea as private soldiers, became physicians, attorneys, engineers, college professors, and teachers. Others took up work as miners, loggers, fishers, farmers, construction hands, and riggers – the whole spectrum of civilian pursuits.

And some elected to remain in service and of those who did some rose to the most senior rank in the Canadian Forces – that of General – and they served Canada in their final military role as Chiefs of the Defence Staff.

Such very distinguished Korean War Veterans who served Canada as CDS include the late General Jacques Dextraze, General Ramsey Withers and General Charles Belzile.

Not just a few Veterans who were junior officers in Korea and some who served in the ranks rose to become senior officers in the Canadian Forces. The names of Major General Danny Loomis, Major General Herb Pitts and Brigadier General Chris Snider come immediately to mind. All three were awarded the Military Cross for bravery and leadership while serving under fire in the Korean War.

Others rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel. One Korean War Veteran who served in the ranks is LCol (Ret’d) John Bishop, who served as an infantry corporal in Korea. John had senior positions in several peacekeeping deployments and later served in Korea as Canadian Defence Attaché. He played the key role in establishing and sighting the Canadian Memorial near Naecheon and Gapyong.

Major General Andrew Leslie, who commanded Canada’s troops in Afghanistan as chief of the International Security Assistance Force, is a third generation Canadian officer. He is the son of the distinguished Korean War Veteran Lieutenant Colonel E. M. D. McNaughton, commanding officer of the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. (His surname was changed to Leslie in settlement of a family estate matter).

The father of LCol McNaughton/Leslie and grandfather of General Andrew Leslie was General A. G. L. “Andy” McNaughton, who commanded all Canadian troops in Europe during the early years of World War Two. General McNaughton also served later as Canada’s Minister of National Defence and as Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

Some other Canadian Korean War Veterans retired after more than 30 years of service as chief warrant officers, warrant officers, sergeants and yes – some as privates. One of those privates wore the Military Medal for Bravery in the Field, which was awarded to him while fighting in the same rank in Korea in 1951.

Regardless of rank attained or profession or work pursued, all were, by and large, outstanding and dedicated family men whose children, grandchildren and great grandchildren love and respect them all. At a meeting in Ottawa in 2003 to dedicate and consecrate the Monument to Canadian Fallen, hundreds of Korean War Veterans attended with their wives of more than 50 years.

Their families have made great contributions to the betterment of this country, our Canada!

These Veterans and their families and extended families deserve recognition and respect from those charged with properly defining and maintaining Canada’s military history. In my view they should dispense with reliance on the scholars and sit down with a cross section of Veterans who served in Korea on sea, land and air.

It is perhaps telling that for the Monument to Canadian Fallen event in Ottawa that is referenced above, our Committee wrote or provided substantial outlines for the speeches that were delivered by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Minister of Heritage and the Prime Minister of Canada. The knowledge to do so is specialized and not resident in most Governmental departments.

The Prime Minister’s speechwriter changed the words of a song cited in Jen Chretien’s remarks. It had been sung by the Suk-po Elementary Choir, which had flown from Busan to Ottawa to participate in the ceremony (air fare courtesy Chairman Chung Mong-koo of Hyundai Motor Company and accommodations in Canada courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada).

The children had sung the refrain, “We will never forget you, brave sons of Canada, we will never forget that you laid down your lives; we see your kind faces all shining so brightly, in every calm day that blesses our land.”

The Prime Minister’s office changed the words of that refrain to read “Brave Canadians” instead of brave sons of Canada. There is a bureaucratic edict in Ottawa that any mention of males on a monument or in an official address must also reference females. At least Jean Chretien read the short speech powerfully and with a sense of conviction and did a good job of it.

We have no quarrel with the edict, but it surely is not offensive to call the soldiers who lost their lives in Korea, “Brave sons of Canada!”

Les, we wish you luck on your mission at the official opening ceremony of the Canadian War Museum on Sunday, May 8, 2005. We wish the same to Dave Davidson who will accompany you, and to the members of the KVA Canada executive council who will also be present.

We know that you will take action to have the wrongs – if confirmed – erased and do all you can to see that the contributions Canadians made in the historic Korean War are permanently displayed in the Canadian War Museum and thus are preserved in our nation’s military history – which is the mission of that museum!

From our view, it is like a thick history book and to omit or inadequately present the contributions some 30,000 Canadians made as members of the Canadian armed forces and the United Nations Force in Korea, is leaving an important chapter out of it, although it is there for hundreds of thousands of our children and our countrymen to learn from.

Sincerely,

Vince

Vincent R. Courtenay
President
Canadian Korean War Commemoration Committee

Editor
Korea Vet News