WESTVILLE – Retired Major Donald Creighton of Westville remembers back to his school days at Mount Allison in early 1950 when he was out of money and out of credits to complete his engineering course.
“I joined the Canadian Officers Training Corps to help supplement my income,” He said.
Within a few years, he’d be leading troops into battle during the Korean War.
It’s this part of Canada’s military history that Vincent Joyce, founder of the Pictou County Military Museum, is hoping to bring to the forefront.
“The Korean War is called the forgotten war and was, only until recently, known only as a conflict,” said Joyce. “For anybody that was shot at and went through that, it was war.”
On Jan. 8, 2013, Steven Blaney, then Minister of Veterans Affairs, announced that 2013 would mark the Year of the Korean War Veteran. July 27 marks the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.
Unbeknownst to many, the war on the Korean peninsula has never ended. An armistice was signed that facilitated the creation of the demilitarized zone, put a cease-fire in place and enabled the return of war prisoners.
Korea wasn’t Creighton’s first into the military. Back in 1943, when the Second World War was raging, he signed up to join the army.
“I was age 17, in Grade 8, about 5 foot 4 inches and 112 pounds,” he said.
Though the war ended before he could get overseas, he was fortunate to get back to school and meeting the girl who would later become his wife of 66 years. The war in Korea presented him the opportunity to finally see overseas action.
After graduation from Mount Allison in 1951, he went into military training and was posted to the 1st regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.
“We went on an American troopship with conscripts from the U.S. army,” said Creighton. “It was quite a sight to see us Canadians running up the gangway to get aboard while those conscripts were being pushed to get on the ship.”
Given the rank of lieutenant, Creighton was in charge of four 25-pounder guns and about 60 men. It was their task to eliminate the targets passed on from the frontlines to protect the infantry. Four months later he was the forward observation officer charged with selecting the targets for the massive artillery.
“We’d get pretty close sometimes and they’d shoot back,” said Creighton. “I remember walking from the front and kicking dead bodies as I walked back.”
He was in Canada on leave when the armistice was declared. But it wasn’t like the end of WWII when people flooded the streets or threw their hats in the air.
“I was back in Westville with my wife and we just heard the news, that’s about it,” said Creighton.
More than 26,000 Canadian men and women in uniform came to the aid of South Koreans during the Korean War, including 516 Canadians who gave their lives defending peace and freedom on the Korean peninsula.
He remained in the military and had a storied career after the Korean War. He even went back to school, obtaining a B.Ed. from St. FX.
“Communication was slow back then and this was right after WWII so Korea hasn’t really been remembered as much in Canada,” said Creighton.
He pointed out the fact that while the UN, U.K. and American armed forces created medals for their veterans right away, it was only in 1991 that Canada created a medal honouring veterans of the Korean War.
The federal government is hoping to change their perceived neglect. On June 19, a bill entitled An Act Respecting a National Day of Remembrance in Honour of Veterans of the Korean War received Royal Assent. This act creates Korean War Veterans Day to be held each year on July 27.
Joyce has worked hard to have the remaining 17 Korean War veterans in Pictou County honoured by the Government of Canada certificate of recognition.
“Two certificates will also be given posthumously,” said Joyce. “They paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Former defence minister Peter MacKay and retired general Walt Natynczyk, former chief of the defence staff, will be in attendance Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Westville Municipal Building for the presentation of certificates.