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Korean veterans named Ambassadors for Peace
« on: March 31, 2012, 10:49:57 PM »
Korean veterans named Ambassadors for Peace

(l-r) Comrade President Tony Elliott, Edward Zuber, James Keirstead, Col Soo Wan Lee, Dave Kennedy, Leo McHale, Frank Long, Jack Colman, Fred King and (front) Sgt At Arms Dave Jones gathered at the Korean War Veterans, Unit 12 General Meeting in December to present seven members with the Ambassador for Peace Medal. The medal is given to all soldiers who fought for South Korea from 1950-53 and is presented as a thank you from the Korean Government.

By Martha Tanner Kingston This Week
Posted -39 second ago

Nearly 60 years after the last Canadian soldier packed up his kit and left South Korea for good, the people of South Korean are still profoundly grateful for the sacrifices made. And veterans of the Korean War are justifiably proud of the service they gave in the ‘forgotten war’.

In December, Defence Attaché Colonel Soo Wan Lee, from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Canada, visited the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 560 to personally present the Ambassador for Peace Medal to members of the Korean Veterans Association of Canada, Unit 12 in Kingston.

The medals were presented to Fred King, Ted Zuber, Jack Coleman, David Jones, Kim Kierstead, David Kennedy, Leo McHale, and Frank Long.

Tony Elliott, Unit 12 president, said the medals are normally presented to veterans who return to South Korea for a “re-visit”, but the Korean government has decided to present the medals to those who have been unable — or unwilling — to make the long journey back.

Along with the medal, each veteran received an official proclamation, on which was written: “It is a great honour and pleasure to express the everlasting gratitude of the Republic of Korea and her people have performed in restoring and preserving our democracy. We cherish in our hearts the memories of your boundless sacrifices in helping us re-establish our free nation.”

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea launched a full-scale attack on South Korea. The United Nations responded by marshalling troops from member countries under a United Nations Command led by the United States. Over 26,000 Canadians volunteered to go to Korea with the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and the newly formed infantry and artillery brigade, the Canadian Army Special Brigade. Over 500 Canadians died in the fighting, which ended with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953.

Jack Coleman was one of the last of the Canadians to leave Korea, where he served as a peacekeeper, stoking the engines aboard HMCS Haida for six months from 1954 to 1955, patrolling the waters off the Korean coast. He was 22 years old and had joined the Royal Canadian Navy because he was young and had no commitments and because he wanted to serve his country, like his father in World War I as a member of the Black Watch, and his brother, Bill, with the Navy.

“I knew what I was getting into,” he said, “but I didn’t know I would be sent to Korea. A lot of guys never came back; we lost over 500. Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent said it was a police action, but it was war.”

In total, Coleman spent five years in the Navy, working on the destroyers HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Iroquois and on HMS Amphion, a British submarine.

He was grateful to receive the Ambassador for Peace medal, but humbled too.

“There’s guys that have given a lot more than I have,” he said. “Is it for everybody? No. It’s not an easy life.

“There’s a lot of memories, a lot of good times, a lot of laughs. That’s the Navy life.”

Fred King also served with the Royal Canadian Navy, from October 1952 until the armistice in 1953. Born and raised in Halifax, he lived a 15-minute walk from the Navy base and the shipyards and was just 17 when he joined with his parents’ permission. Following basic training, he came home for a day before he was summoned back to Toronto, where he was informed that his leave was cancelled and he was shipping out to Korea with the 2nd Royal Canadian Artillery.

King was on escort duty on HMCS Athabaskan 219, making sure there were no mines in the sea and if there were, to blow them up.

“After all the years of being underwater, the cables give way and they float to the top,” explained King. “If a ship hits one, bye, bye, birdie!”

The destroyer was also part of the “trainbusters club” that shelled the North Korean trains along the coastal railway.

“The army guys said the Navy didn’t do anything in Korea, but they were dead wrong. My ship blew up three enemy trains just north of Puchan, blew the heck out of them! The main job was to blow up the train, not the tracks. We blew up a train carrying thousands and thousands of Manchurian troops and ammunition.”

King served 23 years in the Royal Canadian Navy and is proud of his service, particularly when he dons his old uniform and marches on parade.

Like Fred King, Ted Zuber was 17 when he signed up for duty in Korea, although he lied about his age and said he was 18. “I suppose it was for the adventure,” he said. “I was 13 years old when World War II ended, and although I was glad it was over, privately I wished I had had a chance to ‘become a man’ – you can imagine the propaganda at that time. The fellows and I were sorry we missed our chance.”

When the Korean War broke out, Zuber had just been laid off as a photography apprentice in Kingston and, on a visit home to Montreal, ran into an old buddy who was on his way to the recruitment office.

“I had heard about the war on the radio,” recalls Zuber. “It was about six weeks old then. I said, ‘Gee, that sounds great!’”

Zuber had always wanted to be a parachutist, so he joined the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment as a paratrooper. In Korea, however, where the mountainous terrain made parachuting impossible, he served as a Bren Gunner and a sniper from 1952 – 1953.

He spent over nine months in the trenches and it was there that he “celebrated” his 20th birthday. He and 11 others, wearing black camouflage, were spread about 10 feet apart in a watery ditch outside a bombed out village from which they suspected the enemy had been bombarding them with small mortar.

“If we heard anything, we would radio in and our artillery would bombard the village and then we would go in and finish them off,” he explained.

“I was last in the lineup and I heard something down the line. It should have been quiet, but I heard whispering. Then I heard, “Happy birthday, Zuber, pass it on.” I thanked them and I did it too loudly, so they gave me hell.”

Zuber said he was quite honoured and surprised by the visit of Colonel Soo Wan Lee and felt a sense of joy and pride in realizing that the government of South Korea “so much to this day appreciates what we did.”

He likens it to the feeling of the Dutch people for the Canadian troops in the Second World War. “The South Korean people seem to feel the same way.”

Zuber has never revisited South Korea and doesn’t want to.

“I killed people there. I want to leave those memories where they belong.”

That’s easier said than done.

Haunted by the memories of Korea, Zuber, who has a photographic memory of the images, began to paint a series of memoirs from Korea. He had taken his sketchbook with him to Korea as a young man and had filled a dozen canvases before the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa heard about his work and acquired them, as well as commissioning three more.

Later, when the Gulf War began, Zuber was one of 30 official war artists to travel with the Canadian Forces. His work can be seen and purchased at

And, from time to time, although he paints landscapes and still lifes and figures in his studio north of Seeley’s Bay, he still finds himself painting out his memories of Korea.

“It never left me,” he says. “I didn’t feel guilty, although I regret some of the things that happened, and the painting I am working on now reflects that.

“I was doing a job, I got praised, they were trying to kill me . . . But sometimes I wonder, “Who was that guy? Was he married? Was he nice? Did he have hobbies?

“I can’t get past that. I wasn’t brought up to kill. And at my age, I think about it more and wish it had never happened.”

The Korean Veterans Association meets on the second Monday of the month at 1 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 560, in Kingston. For information, contact secretary-treasurer Sandra Delorme-Elliott at 613-546-1970.
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