Remembering Korea: Aimé Michaud

The Van Doos infantryman recounts the trauma of an injury on the front lines


HOMETOWN: Quebec City

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27, Maclean’s teams up with the Historica-Dominion Institute to tell the tales of seven veterans of that brutal war.

Michaud remembers being injured on the front lines:

The Jamestown Line, near the North Korean border

Over there, when we were in position [at the front], we were surrounded by hills and barbed wire and mines. In between hills there were always “gaps,” areas where mortars had been placed. If we saw something move, we fired. But the Chinese and the North Koreans weren’t stupid, they did the same thing. We lacked rations and they asked for two volunteers. At the time, I was a lance corporal and I was first [crew member] on mortar number one. So it was me who [ranged the mortar]; we had a responsibility and we worked hard. All day and night and we didn’t sleep. So they asked for two volunteers. Corporal [Yvon] Richard said—he yelled out, “We need two volunteers!” So I volunteered to go get rations. When we passed Yvon Richard, he said, “We’ll take this path.” When we went through the “gap” between the two hills, the Chinese or North Koreans saw us and they fired a shell. We both jumped. He was to my left and the shell fell about… He was more injured than I was, bleeding from his ears and his eyes were red. My shirt was all torn, my pants, anyway, due to the explosion.

So we ran to where we were supposed to go, a small hill. They gave us a shot [medical needle] – there were always stretchers there – a shot of morphine for the pain. Then we saw a small red jeep. We said, “See, they’re coming to get us.” We got in the jeep. I said, “Surely we’re going to have to jump again,” because we had to take the same road where we had been injured. But the Chinese let us pass. They saw the Red Cross and they didn’t fire. I am thankful for that, but for nothing else – nothing else. The padre [regimental chaplain] came to see us, I said, “My friend is more injured than I am, take care of him.” I had just been affected by the blast and was bleeding here and there. They bandaged us up and we went down the hill. They were Indian, Indian doctors in a small medical tent. They changed our bandages. We went to a tent hospital. It was an Australian hospital with big tents. When we got there, they gave us more injections. We didn’t ask any questions. They gave us shots – it was like, “Hi, hello!” And we underwent x-rays.

After the x-rays, they put us onto stretchers made of wood. They loaded us quickly. They took out the shrapnel I had under my mouth, in my legs, and in my arms, etc. They stitched me up and took me back. They put me onto a stretcher, a wood “rack.” A nurse said to me, “You hungry?” She motioned with her hands. I said that I was. It had been a couple of days since I had last eaten. So she gave me something to eat. When I was done, another nurse arrived and asked, “Do you want to sleep?” “No, no” – we were so nervous due to the stress. She gave me an injection and I fell asleep.

The full version of this post first appeared as part of the Historica-Dominion Institute’s Memory Project.

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