Korean War (9)

Part 9

Pacific Paratrooper

18 October 1950, General Peng and his Communist “volunteers” crossed the Manchurian border and reached the town of Pakchon under the cover of night. Disguised as refugees, by the following day, 260,000 men and their artillery began crossing the Yalu River. They traveled over the concrete road atop the Suiho dam that MacArthur had been ordered NOT to destroy. With B-29s flying overhead, the CCF troops built wooden bridges, painted to look like the river, and submerged them to be unseen from above.

The 187th Rakkasans, after a final debriefing were informed that due to worsening weather condition their jump was delayed. 20 October, at 1030 hours, the troopers were told to ‘chute up’ and they began boarding 73 C-119s of the 314th Troop Carrier Wing and 40 C-47s from the 21st Troop Carrier Wing. At noon, the first plane took off headed for DZ William, southeast of Sukchon. Sfc…

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He fell asleep…

Louis Ledoux was a French-Canadian living in Montreal. As John Fairchild did, Louis lied on his age when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy. That’s what his nephew Réjean Ledoux told me when I visited him this summer.

He had received his uncle’s service record from Archives Canada and the birthdate on the document was not the real one. Louis was born in 1923 not 1922.

I helped Réjean to understand all the information contained in the documents he had received. 

One interesting fact is that Louis Ledoux was aboard HMCS Athabaskan when it first went into service on February 4, 1943. He thus participated in all the actions of the Athabaskan.

Reading the book Unlucky Lady will give Réjean a good understanding of what his uncle went through.

cover page 1

Another fact is that Louis Ledoux fell asleep while on watch duty.

fiche de Louis Ledoux

This happened on August 11, 1942 in Halifax.

Sleep on watch

28 days of detention!

The Royal Canadian Navy was severe. Falling asleep was a grave matter in times of war.

This other document shows the career of Louis Ledoux in the RCN.

Certificate of Service page 1

Certificate of Service page 2

Certificate of Service page 3

Certificate of Service page 4

His service record was quite excellent.

Louis Ledoux conduct

Looking at the service record, Louis must have been on guard duty at the Sambro Island lighthouse from 27 November 1941 to 11 August 1942, the night he fell asleep.

Sambro Island

This is were he fell asleep.

On February 4, 1943, Louis Ledoux became an exemplary member of the crew of HMCS Athabakan.

équipage Louis LedouxLouis Ledoux (from the book Unlucky Lady)

équipage

Louis Ledoux would die with 127 other sailors on April 29, 1944.

Athabaskan sinking 1944Sailors being rescued by HCMS Haida

pierre tombale Louis Ledoux

 

Louis Ledoux’s headstone

On April 29, 1944, Louis Ledoux fell asleep for eternity.

Korean War (8)

Part 8

Pacific Paratrooper

9 October 1950, the Marines began to debark, but each wave of troops was forced to wait for a rising tide. The Eighth Army now crossed the 38th parallel and by the following day, the Marines were headed for Hungnam. The ROKs, some with bleeding feet, continued north. Admiral Doyle criticized General Almond since the United Nations had stated that no non-Koreans troops were to be used in provinces bordering the Soviet Union or Manchuria. ROK troops were already reaching Wonsan by 11 October, making an amphibious landing unnecessary.

map1

To top things off, the waters off Wonsan were heavily filled with chemical, pressure and electronic mines. Admiral Struble assembled 21 minesweepers, 9 of which were Japanese. (This was against every diplomatic rule.) The clearing flotilla amassed at Sasebo and moved across the Japan Sea. The cruiser Rochester, with 5 destroyers, at first spotted 61 mines and then later discovered…

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Korean War (7)

Part 7

Pacific Paratrooper

The 5th Marines were under MacArthur’s orders to capture Kimpo (ASAP) as it would be beneficial in retaking Seoul. A Marine Corsair landed on Kimpo as bulldozers prepared to fill the craters in the runways. He was hustled off the field and the official first aircraft to land was a Sikorsky helicopter from Marine Observation Squadron 6. The squadron’s 8 helicopters were the only such aircraft used in Korea.

22 September 1950, Walker’s 8th Army was barely moving as troops from the Inchon landing were nearing Seoul. The 187th Rakkasans began landing at Kimpo airfield. Lt.Colonel Delbert Munson assumed command of the field which had mainly been cleared by the previous troops. Once the entire regiment was in place, their mission was to clear the Kimpo peninsula; the 1st Platoon, L Company took the point to go after North Korean guerrillas that were heading north. On 27 September at 1230…

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John W. Fairchild and Louis Ledoux

Small world that John Fairchild and Louis Ledoux are on the same picture.

équipage Louis Ledoux

I never got around to translate in English the last post on my blog Souvenirs de guerre.

It was about Louis Ledoux.

Louis is seen here with his crewmates. I believe this is the X gun emplacement.

Not sure.

turret crew 2John W. Fairchild is also on this picture.

Louis was killed in the attack.

John was taken prisoner.

His son Peter related to me in an e-mail this story about his father.

When the Athabaskan was sunk, John went overboard on the opposite side of the ship from the Haida which was under orders NOT to stop and pick up survivors; the captain did anyway but only picked up men they could see…and then went to high revolutions to get away from the patrolling German P-T boats.  The RCN had just introduced a new flotation device which had a lamp attached that was activated when in contact with water; my dad was wearing one of these.  At around the time of the sinking, John’s sister in Quebec City woke with a start seeing my father floating in the water with a big light over his head.  She was the only one in the entire family that was convinced he was alive as his paperwork was lost for some time and the family had received a telegram indicating “missing and presumed drowned at sea”.

John was sent to prison camp with the other survivors; he and one of his mates escaped by hiding for three days in an asbestos filled attic when the Germans evacuated the prison (the Russians were approaching).  They wandered west for a few days before being picked up by American troops who promptly arrested my Dad as they were convinced that he was a German posing as an escapee (blonde hair and blue eyes and all)!  That took some time to sort out but, eventually, all the paperwork caught up to him and he came back to Canada.

John Fairchild

I Was One of the Three Divers…

Remembering the fallen

Remembering HMCS Regina K- 234

Comment of a reader…

I was one of the three divers who located and first (??)  dived this wreck, and second down the shot line.

All 3 of us were respectful of the resting place of the brave men who perished, and deeply moved by the experience and the dive.

My first recognisable site was of the forward gun, with shell casings close at hand, reminding me of the life and death struggle that was taking place back then, although I was also shocked by the small size of the ship and how little protection it afforded the crew.

From behind the superstructure the wreck just ceased! On the seabed was a trail of large white waxy columns, festooned with anemone and “dead men’s finger” corals! These were what was left of the depth charges that Thomas Malone disabled and so saved the lives of many others.

It was an…

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Able Seaman John Winter Fairchild, 17

I got this e-mail last night.

My dad, John Winter Fairchild was an able seaman on the Athabaskan at the age of 17.  He died last week but I have lots of stories I can share with you if you are interested, including his escape with Herm from the prison camp at the end of the war.

Peter Fairchild

This is what I wrote back.

Hi Peter,

Everything you are willing to share I will post on the blog like I did with all the relatives of sailors who shared their fathers’ or uncles’ memories.

This way we pay homage to all these brave men.

Pierre 

prisoners coming home

prisoners coming home…

Footnote

Comment from Sherry Pringle…

John Fairchild was a dear friend and great buddy of my uncle Maurice Waitson. Both were able seamen inboard Athabaskan when she was sunk off the coast of France.

The first of April, 1944, John and Moe switched gun detail. John went from B guns to X at the ship’s stern and Moe went from X to B. Moe’s station was near the torpedo strike when Atha B was attacked on April 29, 1944. He is MPD (Missing Presume Dead) and John was taken prisoner.

John and Pam visited our family in May of 2001, all the while regaling us with his many tales as a sailor. We remained in close contact. He did escape prison camp but Herm was not with him. L’Esperance and one other were the other escapees. Herm  remained in prison camp until its liberation. My condolences to Pam and family. John has now reunited with Moe and the others in a happier place.

So long John! Until we meet again!

Sherry

All-The-Ships-Men