Remembering The Korean War Veterans

Pipestone Flyer

The Colour Guard marches in the flags and deposits them in their holders. Photo by Margaret Chegwin.

The Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum held a special program to remember and honour the Wetaskiwin Veterans of the Korean War and to remember the navy ship, HMCS Wetaskiwin.  The program was complete with a Colour Guard from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 86 and suitable music by the Schwanik Family.

    A brief history of the Korean War was given.  Although there were tensions and skirmishes between North and South Korea and U.S.A. involvement earlier, it was when the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, supported by Communist China and Russia, invaded the Republic of Korea in the south in 1950 that the UN became involved and elicited the involvement of 16 member nations in this “police action.”  During the active war, 1950 to 1953, more than 26,000 Canadians fought in Korea, with more than 1,500 casualties including 516 who died in active service.  This year is the 60th Anniversary of the Armistice which ended the active fighting, and in commemoration, Canada has marked 2013 as the Year of the Korean War Veterans.  It was also noted that recently North Korea has made a number of threatening statements, including declaring the Armistice Agreement null and declaring a “state of war” with South Korea.

    Roy Foster, also a Veteran of World War II, told of his involvement in a crew flying new aircraft from factories to bases around the world.  He also told of the Korean airlift, Operation Hawk, a massive effort getting men and supplies from North America to South Korea.

    Rod French, also a World War II Veteran, gave brief comments honouring nine Wetaskiwin and area Veterans of the Korean War: Ruth French, Gerald Gray, John MacKay, James C. Sehlin, Ross D. Sehlin, Thomas H. Sehlin, Bertram Watch, Donald Wood, and Claude Petit.  Gerald Gray and Donald Wood were present at the museum.

    Also celebrated was the 70th Anniversary of the commissioning of the HMCS Wetaskiwin, a Flower-class corvette and the first of its type built by the Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd. In North Vancouver.  It served the Royal Canadian Navy from 1941 to 1945, mostly as an escort for convoys carrying men, supplies and ammunition from North America to Europe.  Its most noteworthy actions included working with the destroyer HMCS Skeena to sink the German Submarine U-588 on July 31st, 1942, and for rescuing survivors from two of the ships sunk on October 16th, 1942, when 13 of the 53 ships in a convoy went down.  In 1946, HMCS Wetaskiwin was sold to the Venezuelan Navy where it was renamed the ARV Victoria and served until 1992 when it was laid to rest in a scrap yard in Sorel, Quebec.

    The Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum put together a very impressive display of artifacts and information on the Korean War and HMCS Wetaskiwin, and has a model of the ship.  

    It is also worth noting that the great uncle of our MP Blaine Calkins was in the Princess Patricia Light Infantry and was one of the first Canadians killed in the Korean War.  When visiting the war memorials in Korea, Calkins was tremendously impressed by the tremendous modern development in South Korea.  South Korea today is very thankful to Canada and all the other countries that fought to keep it a free democracy, and this gratitude is also very evident in the young people.

    There is another portion of this story which is not as widely told or as politically correct, but equally important.  The major Christian development organization, World Vision, began as the effort to help South Korea rebuild after its war.  In a large part because of this effort and that of other Christian aid organizations, South Korea has become one of the most Christian of all nations in the world today,s and is now among those sending out missionaries.

    Personally, mention of the Korean War is always accompanied for me by the memory of being outside on a sunny summer day and listening to my parents' fear and concern as they talked about the possibility of this new war in Korea escalating to become the third world war in their lifetime, a fear that was real to many.  We, too, can be thankful to our Korean War Veterans and everyone who averted the greater conflict by being strong in Korea.