Remembering Korea on Nov. 11, 2020

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Wally Cavan

Cavan’s mom called his return ‘an answer to prayers’

The Koren War has long been called Canada’s forgotten war. But Wally Cavan remembers.

The Petrolia man was one of 26,000 people who served in Canada’s military in the war which few talk about.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when the military forces of North Korea crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea. Sixteen members of the United Nations, including Canada, would contribute combat forces under United States command to defend South Korea. 

Cavan was in school when he was called to duty.

“I was finishing my electrical course at the time and they asked for volunteers. Twenty eight in our class all volunteered.”

He joined the Navy and was soon training in Halifax. Cavan sailed to Korea, which was an adventure in itself since the ship went through Hawaii.

When he arrived, Cavan, who was an electrician with the Navy, was positioned along the Korean coastline.

“Our job was keeping those railroad lines shutdown,” he says to prevent the enemy from transporting goods down the line.

“We would go over there at night and shoot a star-shot when they were still working,” he says. “My captain always made sure our star-shot would scare them off.”
The Canadian Navy did have casualties during the Korean War. On October 2, 1952, HMCS Iroquois was exchanging fire with an enemy gun battery on shore when the ship took a direct hit. Three Canadian sailors died and ten were wounded in the explosion. 

Cavan’s crew never saw a major incident in a battle, but he did have a frightening experience on leave.

“We were young people so we enjoyed it (the service.) They took us on a tour down to China down to Hong Kong for a seven day rest period,” he says.

“We were on the way back and we had a big storm and that really wrecked our ship.”
The bulkhead and the walls of the ship had been crushed in the storm. “So, we had to go back into leave for another 14 days.”

Cavan served for 10 months before returning to Canada.

He called his parents from Vancouver in the wee hours of the morning to say he was home. His mother said the sound of his voice “was an answer to prayers.”
Cavan is aware people don’t understand what Korean veterans went through, but that’s okay.

After all, he doesn’t know what veterans of the World Wars went through.
Cavan just hopes people will stop on Nov. 11 for a moment and “think about the freedoms we have because people went to war to fight for those freedoms.”