• Dutch Holland,
    Ottawa, CanadaMORE...

    My name is Harold Edward Holland. I was born on August 31, 1922, in West Kildonan, in northwest Winnipeg. I was from a family of fourteen children: six boys and eight girls. As far back as I can remember, we spent our summer holidays on a farm in Saltcoats. It's in Saskatchewan, near Yorkton, which you've probably heard of. I went to standard public schools in Winnipeg, and college much later in British Columbia, where I earned a degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering.

    When I heard that the war had broken out, I was working as an apprentice at the CNR in Winnipeg. I knew I was the exact age for joining up, and I knew I was going to be conscripted, so I went and joined right away voluntarily. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I did what I needed to do. It was just around my 18th birthday in 1940.

    I knew I wanted to be a pilot, but during my medical examination I could not cross my eyes, so they told me I could never be in the aircrew. You can't have depth perception if you can't cross your eyes, and as a fighter pilot you have to have pretty good eyes. So they sent me to do guard duty. And guess what? During my guard duty that summer I attached a bayonet to my rifle and spent hours putting it up to my eyes. By the time I finished guard duty two months later, I could cross my eyes as well as anyone. That allowed me to become aircrew, so I continued my training and became a pilot.

    I stayed in Canada, on the west coast, for about a year, continued my training while defending the country in case of a Japanese attack. But the Japanese never came, so I was sent to England. My time was easy there. I did nothing but chase girls. They were expecting a German invasion at that time, and I sat on guard duty, waiting. The Germans never attacked, so I was then posted to Burma. My commanding officer called me and told me, "You're going to Asia. Burma." I didn't know where it was, but I thought it was a great idea. We travelled southward from England, all around Africa by boat and landed in India. I reported in and was sent onward to Burma, where I stayed for six months doing fighter pilot courses.

    It was an interesting experience arriving there, because I had to cross a body of water to get into Burma and then I was supposed to take a train. When I arrived at the railway station, it was just getting dark, and someone was supposed to meet me. I sat at that railway station by myself all night, listening to the tigers and lions howling nearby. It was frightening, but at 8 o'clock the next morning someone came to pick me up and took me to the base. I ended up at a training camp with four other people also just coming into Burma. We did exercises flying the Hurricane fighters that would be used in operations. I was there for about six months or so before, with the luck of the draw, I was posted to the RAF Number 11 squadron. When I arrived, I reported to the squadron commander's tent and introduced myself as Harold Holland. The commanding officer said, "I have never known a Holland that wasn't called Dutch. Your name is Dutch." That was a long time ago, but I've been Dutch ever since.

    The first night I arrived at the squadron I had one of the best dinners I ever had during the war. Someone, a New Zealander, had gone out with his rifle and brought back a couple of dozen ducks. I think they were farmer's ducks, but we had a great dinner - the best during the war. From there on in, the food was lousy. But we ate better than the Japanese. They ate us, I was told. We were given poison to keep in case we were ever caught. I almost got captured by them once and I remember thinking, "Oh God, I don't want to be a prisoner of war." But fortunately, I got out of that situation.

    I spent the next three years initially training with Hurricanes, then fighting the Japanese on the Burma front. I was flying once when my engine failed. I was about a hundred miles into the enemy territory when I saw my instruments indicate that the engine was starting to fail. So I flew a hundred miles back toward our lines. I didn't have many options on where to land. I was going to land in a lake that I saw, even though I had never learned to swim. I would have drowned landing if it hadn't been for a voice on the radio. Someone directed me to fly up a bit higher, over some trees, until I saw a swamp. With wheels retracted, I landed right at its edge. It was a frightening experience, but I got out of it without a scratch. I never found out who it was on the radio that told me where to land.

    For two days and one night, I ran like hell from the Japanese. I was near the British lines and several British soldiers from Nepal, the Gurkhas, helped me back to their camp. I had gone two days without any food before arriving there. It was just after supper, around 9 o'clock. I went straight for the kitchen and found the cook. I think I slept for about two days after that. But I survived it and then returned to my squadron, hitchhiking back. It was a hell of a long way, but I eventually got back.

    I remember one mission, when we were flying very low, about 500 feet, when one of my boys suddenly said, "Oh, I see a target!" And immediately he turned his craft over, stalling the airplane, and crashed, killing himself. That was a real shocker. I was leading this flight, leading him, and I didn't have a chance to say anything to him. That shook me quite a bit. It wasn't a valid target, but a derelict truck I had destroyed a few days before. I knew that as soon as I looked at it, but I didn't have a chance to tell him before he killed himself. He had been a good friend.

    I was near the British army another time, when we had to help them get supplies across a valley. They were stuck because at the both valley ends there were Japanese soldiers. They had guns and were shooting into the middle. In order to get the army through, I flew out from my squadron, into the middle of the valley and set myself up as a target. It was a foolish thing to do, but while I was out and they were firing at me, the remainder of the army were able to sneak through. I had to do this several times because even though I told my team what I was going to do, they began shouting, "They're shooting at you! Get out of there!" They were so intent on watching me instead of looking for the Japanese gunners on the ground, I had to repeat my action two or three times before everyone passed through safely. So, the British got through, and that's why I think I later got my Distinguished Flying Cross Medal.

    In March 1945, we stopped the Japanese who, up to that point, had been advancing. We avoided the need for a huge battle and started driving them back with our support in the air.

    Before the war was over, I was sent back to an army base in Vancouver to be demobilized. Once they discharged me, I went straight over to the University of British Columbia and signed up to become an engineer. I spent five years there and, one night, while on the bus heading home, I met my future wife. When I met her, I was still in uniform and I asked her for a date. We hit it off very well, and a year later we were married.

    Once the war ended in 1945, I re-joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) because they offered to pay for my university education. I was employed as both a pilot and engineer, managing the maintenance of the aircraft. In 1955, I was sent to England on a course for guided missiles. I was one of the first of people to get involved with this in Britain.

    After retiring from the RCAF, I got a government job and went back to Burma. Burma had tractors and other equipment for their timber operations, but they were rusting away. No one in Burma knew how to fix them, plus they didn't have the necessary parts for them. I was brought over with a bunch of maintenance people to get all of this equipment back on the road. I developed a complete scale of tooling for maintaining the vehicles. I spent about three years there, managing and training young engineers and mechanics before then going to Tanzania on another project. I taught and trained mechanics there too before I came back to Canada.

    I am now involved with adult day programs with other veterans. Until the end of last year I used to recite "A pilot's prayer" at military ceremonies. I had the whole prayer memorized and would recite it at annual gatherings such as the Battle of Britain parade. For a while, I was involved with the Air Force Museum. I also like to play golf ...when there is no snow.

  • Francois Savard,
    Montreal, CanadaMORE...

    My name is Francois Savard, and I was born near Quebec City in July of 1925. I grew up in a big family, with six siblings and my father was a member of the Royal 22nd Regiment, so I was brought up in a military environment.. Like most military families, we moved very often. By the time I went to high school in Montreal, I had been to 10 different schools.

    When the talk of war first broke out in 1939, my father was mobilized and sent to England. At the time my mom had six children, and was pregnant with the seventh!

    Of course, my mother was worried about his well-being, but us kids didn't worry too much. We knew our dad was an officer, and military life was his business. He wasn't involved in direct combat either, so we looked at it like it was his routine. We were accustomed to my father participating in various military exploits.

    In 1942, my father came home from England with 70% disability. He was in his 40s, and at that point the strain of the military experience was just too much for him. My older brother, who was a year older than me, joined the air force and he was sent to be a navigator.

    In 1944, just before I finished 12th grade, a recruiting officer came to our school to tell us about military engineer training that the Army was offering boys like us. The training took 15 months, at the end of which we'd come out as lieutenants. I was excited for the prospect. Being from a military family, this was right up my alley.

    I went to the recruiting office with a classmate, and we were ushered into the Colonel's office. We told the Colonel we were both interested in the training. He looked at my classmate, who was already six feet tall, then looked at me and said "Actually boy, it's men we're looking for." I turned around and slammed the door.

    I immediately went to the air force recruiting office, and they were more receptive. When they asked me what I wanted to be, I said I wanted to be aircrew. So they sent me to pre-flight school in London, Ontario, where we were tested to see what position was best for us. Most of us were destined to be navigators and bombers, but if you were physically fit you got a chance to do pilot testing. We tested on a link trainer, which was a simulator. I had three runs on the simulator, but they didn't go well. The instructors said "This is not for you". They told me not only would I break my neck I'd break her Majesty's airplane.

    I did much better as a navigator, so they assigned me to be one. On May 5th, 1944, at the end of the 20-week training, I graduated and got my wings as a navigator.

    From there, I boarded the Empress of Scotland, which was headed to England. That ship had been called the Empress of Japan, but once the war broke out they changed the name. It was an eight-day journey that I didn't particularly care for. It was so crowded that the bunks were stacked four high, and you could only have two meals a day.

    I was excited, but I had a little reservation. When my brother was being trained as a navigator near Montreal, he used to come home on the weekend, and he'd bring home a sextant, an instrument used to determine positioning and altitude. The sextant was in English, which was my second language. Mastering the art of celestial navigation in English was a tough prospect, but I figured I'd deal with that when the time comes. And the time has finally come.

    Once I got to England, I checked in at the reception center in Bournemouth, which was on the South coast. From there, I went into what was referred to as Bomber pipeline. There were different stages of training during this period. My squadron was comprised of six French-Canadian soldiers, and I was selected to be on that squadron. We were a part of the 425 Alouette Squadron. Our crest was a bird, and we would be flying Halifax Bombers. I was excited because my brother also flew in a Halifax Bomber!

    From there, I went to advanced flying school in Anglesey, North Wales. That was a one-month course.
    In August 1944, I went back to Bournemouth to wait for the next stage, which was the operational training unit, or OTU.

    We formed our crew there. The crew was primarily full of sergeants. I was the only officer in the crew. Because of that, I made $2 a day to my comrades' 75 cents. We went through our training and we graduated at the end of November. After training, we were given 30 days leave. The guys decided to go to London and spend the holidays there. We were a group of five French-Canadian Catholics, and most of us were very religious. Every Sunday we'd go to Mass, but one of the guys, our tail gunner, would never go. He always had a tough-guy hat that he put on.

    On Christmas night, we decided to go to midnight mass, and he decided to come with us. As we walked into this church, silent night was playing. The scene was so beautiful that even Mr. Tough Guy started sobbing!

    Upon returning to base, we had a one-month commander training. There were so many soldiers at this training that they didn't know what do to with us. We spent two months at that place, before we finally reached the last stage of our training.

    During my time in commander training, I found out my older brother died. His plane was shot down right on his 30th mission. He had written my parents that very day, telling them to get all the liquor rations they could because he planned to celebrate upon his arrival back to Canada. My parents received the telegram announcing his death before that letter.

    Just a few weeks later, In March '45, we started operations. My parents at home were sick with worry. Our base in England was this small village called Tholthorpe, which wasn't far from York.

    Our first target was Leipzig, which was very far into Germany. That was on April 10th, 1945. Over 700-800 heavy bombers flew on this mission. I remember that as we were approaching our target, there was a Lancaster bomber going down in flames 200 yards behind us. Seconds later, another one went down 100 meters behind us.

    All of a sudden, we heard a loud kaboom in our air craft. The Germans hit one of our engines! I looked back and saw a huge hole behind me. Our aircraft operator narrowly missed the missile, as he was standing in that spot just a couple seconds before! You know, people wonder how they would react in the imminent danger of death. In my case, I started shaking, but I quickly told myself "Hey, you gotta get a hold of yourself - you've got work to do!" They weren't going to take us like this! I was determined.

    There was a lot of noise in the front of the airplane, and the air was rushing in at over 180 miles an hour. Because we lost our oxygen, we couldn't stay at the altitude we were at, so we had to go down to 10,000 feet. Our pilot expertly led us to safety, but in the back of my mind I was thinking "this is going to be a long tour!" It was an eight hour right back to base, and we were thanking our lucky stars for every minute.

    A few nights later, we were on a mission to bomb a submarine base in Kiel, Germany. On the way, we were hit in the tail of the airplane, exactly where the turret was. Our tail gunner had his gun turned at 45 degrees, so he was trapped in the turret portion of the plane. I heard him screaming "I can't move! I can't move!" on the radio. Our flight engineer said "who is that?" He couldn't understand the French.

    The next thing I heard from the radio was gunner was praying. This was the act of contrition that Catholic children were taught. He was getting ready to die. Luckily, our pilot once again got us out of peril and flew us back to base. Our tail gunner was so thankful that he survived that he went to church every Sunday for the rest of his life.

    On the next part of our operation, we were targeting an island in the North Sea. We were loaded with five tons of bombs and two tons of petroleum. As we were taking off, we immediately lost the right engine. Some luck we had!

    Normally, that would be a death sentence, but our pilot was so skilled that he managed to keep us in the air. We got down to 10,000 feet and assessed the situation. He told us the plane was too heavy to land, but we could do two things: we could orbit the base, which would burn out our fuel and allow us to land or we could go out to sea and dump the bombs, which would also allow us to land.

    We decided to just dump the bombs and chalk the mission up as a failure. A hundred miles later though, as the plane destabilized and we got closer to the target, we reconsidered. Our aircraft was within striking distance, and we wanted to get credit for the mission. So over the island we went, dropping our bombs. But by the time we had gotten there, all the other bombers had left.

    As we were on our way back, six German planes came toward us. That was bad news with one engine stopped. Our pilot said: "don't shoot first." Strangely, they never ended up shooting at us!

    On our way back, a second engine started to cough. We were prepared to bail, but the flight engineer managed to get the engine started. By the time we got back to base, we were listed as "Missing in action" on the board.

    Three days later, the target was Bremen, Germany. The Canadian Army was trying to advance through Northern Germany and was stopped by sturdy opposition. Our job was to bomb the area so our Army could travel more freely. The regiment sent 800 heavy bombers, but our target was just 500 yards ahead of our troops. It was so close that command told us to abort the operation if there were any clouds over our target.

    We went into formation in our normal manner: 150 heavy bombers every five minutes, dropping 1,000 tons of bombs. That day the first two waves dropped on the target, but there was a cloud when we were about to drop. We had to abort the mission.

    We were disappointed, but there were no chaotic circumstances so we were fine. In our brief time during the operation, we had been through perilous situations, but on the last day of April 1945, we faced perhaps our most dangerous test.

    Our next target was the German naval gun batteries that were keeping the Allied forces from going into Wilhelmshaven and Bremerhaven, They sent about 1000 of us, each with 5-6 tons to hit those guns in broad daylight. As we were approaching the target, our engineer said "look up!" There was another bomber directly over us! Our pilot managed to lean over to the left with his wing tip below the right wing of the plane next to us while the plane above us was dropping bombs. Our engineer saw six tons of bombs go between our plane's tail and wing. He said that it took 10 years off his life, and I don't blame him for feeling that way.

    During that mission, we lost seven aircrafts. I personally saw four of them try to parachute, but none of them were rescued.

    During our operations, every six weeks we'd get a week off. The break was referred to as "Operation relief." During one such relief, we traveled to London. That day turned out to be V-Day! The town was going wild, as there were many American soldiers in London at the time.

    In a crew of six people, you tend to hit it off with one or two guys better than others. In my case, I got really close with the gunners. Whenever we had our relief period, we would travel and party together. We were together during this D-Day hoopla, but I told them I didn't want to party just yet. Inside, I was sort of in a contemplative mood. I had very close to death multiple times, and my older brother died during his last mission. I was happy it was over; I just didn't feel like party.

    We later got back to our squadron and one morning, a Captain of our regiment gathered us in the briefing room. He told us that we have been selected as part of the Tiger Force, which was Canada's contribution to the war against Japan.

    The Tiger Force would be made of volunteers, who would learn how to fly them. He told us whoever volunteered would be led in a formation of 15 Lancasters over to Montreal. I decided to go along because I didn't have any other prospects at the time.

    By mid-June, 1945, we were in Montreal. From there, I took the train back home, and my family was waiting for me. They were gracious to see me, but a little upset that I was volunteering. Two of us brothers had went overseas and only one came back. My mother was particularly brokenhearted. She asked me, "how could you do this to me?" Later on, I figured out only 20% volunteered to go.

    After a month's leave, I went to the base in Nova Scotia to begin training. I was surprised to see that there were much more female volunteers than men. Not even a month into training, the US had dropped the Atomic bomb in Japan and the whole war was over. So much for that mission. I was sort of happy I wouldn't have to go to Japan.

    Then I though about my future. I faced the prospect of not being an officer anymore. The pay was $7 a day, tax free. Where could I make that kind of money? What would I do? Not only that, I was proud of my uniform. Plus the girls used to love it, and I used to love that fact. Because of those reasons, I decided to stay in the air force. I hung in there until January 1946, when they told me they didn't need me.

    Soon after, I ran into my old friend from High School who had been invited to that engineer's course. He told me he was only a private in the Army! Secretly, I thanked that Colonel for rejecting me way back when.

    Anyways, I figured the smart thing to do with my life was go back to school. I registered in McGill, and chose Geology. Well, after some deliberation. I met a couple ex-Air Force guys who knew something about geology, and they influenced my choice.

    To be honest, I was quite bored with geology and thought about alternative careers. One day I saw an old squadron friend of mine. He told me he had just got back from Tokyo, where he was stationed with the 426 squadron that was on a Korean airlift.

    It sounded pretty exciting. I visited the recruiting office, but the officer told I should finish my degree and get a permanent commission. After graduating from McGill, I went back into the Air Force. I bounced around for years in various positions throughout the world, recruiting and teaching.

    While recruiting in Neuville, Quebec, an old Air Force buddy told me to meet a lady friend of his. I was 28 at the time. We went on a double date, and we ended up marrying both of our dates. I was married to my wife for 60 years! Soon after, I had two children. Our family loved camping, which we did for over 45 years, all over the world.

    Though I never got to the 426 squadron, I enjoyed my second tour in the Air Force. My last job was management engineering in France. At 45, I finally retired from the Air Force.

    I got a job in civil service, where I worked for 15 years before retiring in 1984. Since then, I've spent my time vacationing, camping, and spending time with friends at the veterans home. Every morning, I get about seven miles of walking exercise. My wife isn't in her best health, so I spend a lot of time taking care of her. I don't mind it at all though, it's still a wonderful life.

  • John R Newell,
    Ottawa, CanadaMORE...

    My name is John R Newell, I was born in Ottawa in 1922, on the 26th of September. It was a great early childhood, and then I moved onto growing up into the Great Depression that Canada and the United States went through. It was a horrible time and most of the people were out of work.

    After the Depression, the Germans started infiltrating parts of Europe, which started the Second World War. Great Britain was sort of unprepared to face the German airforce that continually bombed London and the rest of the United Kingdom. They needed to recruit and train new pilots, build planes and do all sorts of things to be able to fight back the Germans. So the Canadian Government undertook the mission to become the aerodrome for the United Kingdom. That was in early 1940, we started the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This plan encompassed airports across Canada to be used as centers, to provide air crew and ground crew members place to train. Canada employed thousands of people to build this system, multiple aircrafts had to be purchased, aerodromes had to be built, the whole works in order to make this plan work. It took off and as a result we trained a 139,000 airmen to go overseas and fight the Germans.

    As the war progressed, and I became of age, I joined the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force), hoping to become a fighter pilot. When I came home that day, I said to Mom and Dad: "Dad, Mom, I enlisted in the Air Force." Well, you should've seen my Dad's face drop, because for centuries my family were army men. My Dad was in the Royal Horse Artillery in the First War, my brother was in the Royal Horse in the Second War, and here I come home and say "I'm going in the Air Force." That was in 1941.

    I started out at the Manning Depot in Lachine, Quebec. This is where you learn the basics of military life, and there was initial training, and you received your uniforms and clothing materials, and you started learning how to parade, how to drill, and do all that muscular stuff. After about four weeks at the Manning training I was sent to the elementary flying school, which was in Victoriaville, Quebec. This is where you learned the basics of flying, and the aircraft used was a Fleet Finch. It was a two-wing aircraft, similar looking to those aircraft used in the First World War. It was a beautiful plane to fly. We did all kinds of courses at this school, learning how to navigate, learning the drills of starting the engines, how to control the aircraft.

    For service training I ended up at Uplands, in Ottawa here, to my good luck, because that's where my family was. And on top of that, most of the crew that I was at elementary with went with me, so I had few friends here.

    The service aircraft was a Harvard, and if you could fly the Harvard, you could fly any fighter plane within a very short time of familiarization. Learning where the controls were, learning where the handle was, all the little different items that you have to know in the fighter type of aircraft. This course lasted for about three or four months, and we spent hundreds of hours studying. Besides learning to fly, you also learned navigation, wireless, all the things necessary to be able to find out where you are, where you're going and how you're going to do it.

    We practiced false landings, we would fly out to the aerodrome, to a farmer's field, and practice coming in as a landing, but would never touch down. You just came in, brought it down and took off again. And you did this, and you had to be careful of the fences that guard the approach to the field, the bushes that normally surround the farm, you had to make sure that you left the ground soon enough in order to get above those trees. During the training period in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, Canada lost quite a few students and instructors, mainly because of pilot error, being lost, running out of gas, and things like that. I remember, even twenty-five years after the war, a Harvard aircraft was found in a farmer's bush, and in all those years the farmer never went in there.

    Besides the training, we were learning all the things that you have to know to become a fighter pilot - machine guns, bombing exercises, mechanics, how to operate cameras and few other things.

    After we learned the bombing exercises, what they did, they took the guns out of the aircraft for air-to-air firing, and they put cameras in. And then two of you would go up, and one would be the good guy, and the other one would be the Canadian, and you would take half an hour each trying to shoot down the other aircraft. And as you did this, the cameras moved, and when you came down, they developed the movie and told you whether you lived or died. So, anyways, that was fun. And I should also mention that we used to have to put our parachutes in for repacking every now and again, and the favorite saying by those chaps who did the packing was, as we were leaving: "If it doesn't work, bring it back, and we'll give you a new one." After all the air training at Carp for learning how to be a real fighter pilot, then we graduated. I graduated, I received my pilot wings from our Governor General, the Earl of Athlone. His back was as straight as a ramrod. And a very handsome man. And he presented me my wings and he also presented me with my commission, which made me an officer in the Air Force.

    Unfortunately for me, because of my high marks and my different abilities, that instead of becoming a fighter pilot like I had trained to become, they made me an instructor in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. And this plan, as I mentioned earlier, was started in 1939 and took place from 1940 until 1945 when the war ended.

    At the peak of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 94 schools operation 211 sites across Canada. 10,800 aircraft were involved, and the ground organization numbered 104,113 men and women. Three thousand trainees graduated each month at a cost of more than 1.6 billion dollars. A 131,553 pilots and other air crew members were trained to go across the oceans to fight the Germans. This Commonwealth Air Training Plan had a lot to do with the early cessation of the aircraft battles during the war.

    I was an instructor up until the end of the war. I continued instructing after the end of the war, and we put quite a few airmen through. Very few of them failed. In fact, none of the courses that I participated in, actually failed a chap going through as a fighter pilot. The Canadian boys had a keen interest to become fighter pilots and go overseas to help fight the war. It was a great honor to be able to train young men with that ambition to help end the war. Their studies, like mine, were quite intensified. You had, besides all your training to become a pilot, your navigation, your wireless, your everything, your gunning practice. Everything involved, you had to study, when you got done flying for the day, at the evening. So, your day was pretty well spent, and generally you were pretty tired when you went to bed at night.

    It wasn't all training and everything else, there were few times when you had a good laugh. For example, there was an English chap with us at my station, and apparently, from what I understand, he would just take his detachable collar off his uniform and his boots, and he would climb to bed. Well, after a couple of days like this, he began to reek, so the boys around his bunk said: "You're gonna have a bath tonight, eh?" And he told them "I will have a bath when I want." So they picked him up and put him in a cold shower, with his uniform and everything on. They let him soak there for about twenty minutes. When he came out, they said: "You're going to get a regular bath, aren't?" and he said "Oh yes, oh yes." Another time, at that same station, we had the oldest chap in our group, and we called him Pop. Because we were just 20, and he was 25, I guess, when he went through, and he was a wonderful guy. One day was having a shower, and so one of the chaps went outside - this was in February - and he got a bucket of water from the fire water barrel outside the building, and he brought it in, and he poured it over the curtain, in the shower, onto Pop. Well, when Pop caught his breath, the door opened, and out he came, bare naked, and the guy's standing there, laughing, and when he saw Pop charging at him, he took off and Pop chased him outside into the snow, and if he'd ever caught him, he would've killed him.

    Naturally, every weekend or two weekends or so, we would go up to the chief flying officer's tower and we would request overseas posting. And, of course, we knew that they threw our requests in the garbage before we even left the door. We had one job, and it was instructing, for quite a few years, and so every now and again we would fly to out west, to the Toronto area, and maybe deliver Air Force top officers for meetings or something like that. One of our instructors, Cap Borden was gonna pick up an officer to bring him back home. When he went in, he streaked that airport, he flew between the ground and the top of the flag, right past the observation tower, and rolls, acrobatics, everything that you don't do over an aerodrome. So when he landed, it happened that the chief of our area, happened to be at the meeting at that time, he was the one he was gonna pick up, and he said to the commanding officer of the station: "Are you gonna charge him or am I?" Well, the station officer had no choice but to charge him. He was court martialed, and they asked him why he would do such a stupid thing? And he said: "I've been training pilots for years. I'm so bloody fed up with it. And like everybody else, I trained to be a fighter pilot, and I just couldn't help it, I had to let myself go." He was court-martialed and he was reduced to the rank of sergeant, and they said to him: "You are going overseas. You are going to become an elementary flying instructor in England." And that's how he spent the rest of the war, doing elementary flying instead of service flying. He paid his price, but he made his point.

    The war was coming to an end in Europe, so there were a lot of publications - what was never known before, started to appear in the papers, so you were up to beat on that. And when the war ended, Ottawa had quite a celebration for that - it went on all night.

    I was disappointed that I never got to go overseas and fight. That was my purpose when I was starting out. After the war was over the Air Force offered me a job, but I turned it down - I was fed up with them.

    So I left Air Force in 1945 and started my civilian life. It wasn't hard for me to find work because I was a great student and won all kinds of medals and stuff like that. So I started working in the British-American Banknote Company, which is a printing company that printed Canada's money and all kinds of bonds, certificates, Canada's postage stamps and many other things. We even have the contract to print all the Visa checks all around the world, all types of jobs like that... We were very-very successful, we even printed the Chinese money, and we had to ship those packages of money in a wooden case with a tin liner inside, in case the boat got sunk, they could retrieve it.

    A funny story happened to me shortly after I came back home and started my job. During the war we got a word that one of the chaps I trained with was shot down and apparently killed. And that day I had to take the bus to work, because I had my car in for repairs, and I'm walking towards the end of the bus, and here's this fellow, sitting there, and I nearly dropped dead. And then I looked at him and I said: "Aren't you so and so?" and he says: "Yeah, and you're Johnny Newell, aren't you?" And I said: "Yes." And I said: "We got word that you were killed." "Oh, no, - he says, - I was shot down, but I was taken prisoner." But the word we got, he was killed. And so it was quite a shock to see him sitting in the back of that bus.

    I worked in the British-American Banknote Company for forty-seven years, and I became the person in charge of production and inventory control. I trained a lot of people in the business, and they ended up as supervisors of different departments and things like that. Eventually I trained one person to do my job and I retired in 1986, and the insurance companies hate my guts, because I've been retired for 30 years now, and they've been paying my pension ever since.

  • Okill Stewart,
    Saint-Lambert, CanadaMORE...

    My name is Okill Stewart, and I was born on March 10th, 1941 in St. Lambert, Quebec. My father was an executive with Ogilvie Flower Company. I had a nice childhood. At an early age, I was sent away to Bishops College boarding school in Quebec's eastern township. I attended school there for seven and a half years before transferring to Gordonstoun in Scotland.

    In 1939, while I was still schooled in Scotland, I received a latter from my father where he was sharing his thoughts on what was going on in Europe; in that letter he said that the was imminent in Europe and I should get back to Canada.

    When I got back here, my dad called his cousin, who ran a paper operation in Northern Quebec. He arranged to get me a job as a surveyor in Chicoutimi, Quebec. I thought I'd do some work and learn French. Well, I didn't learn much French, but it helped prepare me for the impending war. In Chicoutimi, we had no radio, television or other means of communication. In the Spring of 1940, we bumped into a lumberjack and he told us the war had been going on for three weeks already!

    I remember it like it was yesterday: I went home, told my father I wanted to fight for my country, and he grabbed me on the shoulder. My father stared into my eyes and said "Good boy!" as my mother wept. My father was deaf in one ear, and that ailment kept him out of World War I. He was pretty resentful of not being able to fight for Canada, but was proud of me and my brother Campbell for volunteering back then.

    He called his friend in Longdale, Hamilton Lane, who was raising a battery to go to Europe. The next morning, my father took me to the Place Viger recruiting station in Montreal, where I signed on the dotted line! I had become a member of the 81st Battery.

    After enlisting, I did a bit of training and marching. Soon thereafter, we were sent to Petawawa, Ontario where we became a part of the 14th Canadian Field Regiment. In Petawawa we learned about artillery, specifically 25-Pounder guns. I had trained so well that my superiors offered me commission. When I spoke to my father about the offer, he advised against it. He felt I was too young.

    In Spring 1941, we boarded The Empress of Canada, a ship that had just been to the Mediterranean. There were 10,000 of us aboard the ship. We were separated in bunks of three below deck. In those days, there were no ship stabilizers, so the trip was a rocky journey. So many of the soldiers became seasick that a stench developed on the ship. It was unbearable, so I slept out on the deck at night. That deck was the only place I could get some rest.

    The Empress started out in a convoy when we left Halifax, but in no time we had left the other ships behind. Our ship was three times faster than the rest of the convoy. The ship traveled in a wide arc to Europe. Along the way, we got one air alert, and one submarine alert. Aside from that, the boat ride was rather uneventful.

    The ship arrived in Greenoch, Scotland and we were immediately sent down to defend the coast. We were a huge regiment, but we only had 25 guns. We were extremely under armed. If Hitler had only known how unequipped we were he would've walked onto that island with his hands down!

    From Scotland, we were sent down to the South of England with the Third Canadian Field Regiment. I was granted a leave around that time. And I can remember on December 16, 1942, I happened to be in London on leave. I was in a hotel room with a group of buddies. My memory is a bit hazy, so I forget what exactly we were doing, but I didn't forget the message that came over the radio that night: Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I remember everyone bowing their heads for those poor American soldiers. We were in dismay, but then this one soldier clapped his hands and said, "Hooray, hooray! Now we're going to win the war!" Prior to that we felt that we had no hope in hell.

    Anyway, we all knew the D-day is coming, but no-one knew when. It was decided then that we would be one of the six Canadian Batteries in the D-Day invasion. And we spent the next two years preparing for that day.

    Our regiment ran several schemes. There were times we set sail, but didn't know if the landing is gonna happen or not. Whatever the case, I knew we had to be on point. During these trainings, we'd reach the French coast and our hierarchy would bait the Germans into attacking us. We were trying to find out where the Germans were. The Germans were smarter than that though, thank god.

    On June 5th, 1944 we set sail for France. When we passed the Isle of Wight on the mainland, they let us know D-Day had arrived. This was it. Our ship's interior was protected by heavy barbed wiring with balloons on top. This setup warded off any German planes that wanted to come down on us as we sailed.

    For this mission we were issued M7 Priests by America. They were like Sherman tanks with sides that came up straight. Thanks to the weapons the Americans had given us, we had to learn about self-propelled equipment on the fly.

    I was assigned to a Sherman tank. The Sherman was an LCT, or landing craft tank. We didn't know how to fire the thing so we threw most of the bullets out of the tank. We needed more room for our cigarettes and equipment anyway. In all, we had six vehicles: four M7 Priests, one Sherman tank, and another carrier full of rifles.

    The sea was rough that day, and the crossing was rather uneventful, until we got close to the shore of Juno Beach in Normandy. As our infantry was assaulting the beaches, we began trying to engage the Germans without hitting our own infantry. As they fired away at the shores, we were firing over them. It was extremely difficult to fire as the ship was bouncing on the waves.

    We approached shore at 6AM on June 6th, 1944. When I looked out, I saw more ships than I ever thought existed. It was as if you could head back to England hopping from ship to ship! There were five beaches to hit in all. The Americans had two, the English had two, and us Canadians had one.

    All of our ships had extended sides and extended exhausts for the possibility of landing in deep water. Just like we had prepared for, one of our landing craft hit a mine, and the craft sank. The first vehicle off was our Primary Reserve regiment The Queen's Own Rifles. Their vehicle had high-extended sides. It went through 30 feet of water before it hit a mine. No one got out of that accident.

    The next vehicle out of the landing craft was our tank. Fortunately, we made it to land safely. Behind us were our guns, which also landed successfully. On the way in, I looked out of my tank's turrets and saw German prisoners and Canadian infantry men under the sea wall. It was quite a site. There were so many boats with tiers of rockets firing away.

    When we got on the beach, we were about an hour waiting for our weapons to land. We then made our way to Beriniere Sermere to settle.

    While we were ashore, we were strafed only once by German aircraft. There were also a few German shells firing. Once we got to Beriniere Semere, we realized another battery had taken our position!

    We quickly resolved to go back and find another unoccupied field. At that time, a young Frenchman came up to us and said "don't go into that field!" My French is limited, but I understood every word he said. I asked him "why we shouldn't go to the field?" The young chap told me the Germans made him lay down mines there. He told me he knew where the mines were, but when I asked him to show me the way, he said "hell no!" I raised my gun and made him show us. We got into that field with our equipment and didn't hit a mine. Sometimes you get lucky.

    After that, we did a lot of foot slogging. Our infantry badly needed to find an airport for reconnaissance. Carpicet Airport was a few miles inland from the coast, so we sought to take it over. It was a very arduous fight. I remember our infantry boys would seize a part of the airport and find out the Germans were behind them. They would get into tunnels they dug and come right back!

    My friend Bobby Mueller and I, we had a motorcycle, and there was a big pig running loose. Bobby was driving the motorcycle, and I was hanging on the back. We were sick and tired of the rations we had been eating. I wanted anything but those gross dehydrated foods. So we picked the pig up, and obviously the motorcycle was running slower with all the weight on it. As soon as we picked the pigs up, we saw Germans! They were in our sights the whole time we were there with the pig. At this point the smart thing would've been to let go of the pig and zoom out of the area...but we were determined. Damn fools we were, but we held onto the pig and got out of there! We had some good food that night.

    From Bernieres-sur-mere, our infantry continued traveling. Once we got to Caen, we saw it was pretty well obliterated by our Air Force. There was so much rubble that you couldn't even get into town. I had to pass word back to send a huge bulldozer to clear our way. We had to be careful because the rubble made natural hiding spots for German snipers. We got through it safely though.

    In France, we quickly learned that the money the Brits had given us to spend was worthless. In that country, there was only one currency with value: cigarettes, specifically American and Canadian cigarettes. We had the tastiest cigarettes because our boxes were preserved with cellophane. British cigarettes were always stale because they had no seal. They could keep those for themselves.

    Anyways, our infantry finally got through the ruins of Caen, and eventually found ourselves in the midst of the Battle of Falaise. In this battle, we teamed with British and Polish infantries to come into town on one side, and the Americans and General Patton took the other. We startled the Germans with our smothering attack.

    I remember one night at my command post I received a message from the forward observation post. They told me Germans have advanced in our direction. They were nearly on top of us! We had seven tanks, and luckily that was enough to stave them off. We attacked them relentlessly, and the Germans eventually retreated. Our Forward observation post was also left intact.

    A day or so later, the Germans tried to get out of this part of Falaise. I guess they've had enough. The problem for them was that there was only one escape route and before they could escape, we unleashed our Typhoon aircraft at them and destroyed their infantry. For my money, once we gained control of the air from the Germans, we had won the war. Our barrage of airborne fire left more destruction than I had ever seen to that point. There were burned pieces of equipment of all shapes and sizes. Not only that, there were hundreds of dead Germans, as well as cows, horses and pigs. The stench was unbearable.

    After wiping the Germans out in Falaise, we cleared out various other French towns while traveling up the coast. From then on we Canadians had to clear the channel point in various French towns. We left it up to the 2nd Canadian Division to clean up the messes they made. We got to Leopold Canal, where a lot of action was during the First World War. But for is it was thankfully quiet.

    Along the way, there were a lot of dirty tactics by the Germans. They were knocking out our tanks and playing the fields. I remember one night I went to bed in the field, in my tent. Early that next morning, I woke up to wetness all around me. I initially thought I had wet the bed, but I opened the tent and there was water all around us. The Germans had blew open a dyke!

    Anyway, around that time for the Germans it was all about conquering the Port of Antwerp. The Germans wanted to take it over so they could block us from getting supplies, but we weren't going to let that happen. We wanted to take the Port immediately, but our ships had to get through the Shelde to get back into the Port of Antwerp.

    Eventually, our infantry was set to settle in Cadzand, Holland. My job was to come in ahead of everyone else, survey the field and figure out where the best places to line up our weapons were. Me, a signaler, and the driver of our Jeep pulled up one night, and the town was deathly still. As I was unrolling my survey weapons, I looked in the distance, I saw a German. I also heard more German Helmets chiming. They were well within a rifle shot, I frankly was wondering why they hadn't killed us.

    My signaler said, "they're waiting for bigger and better things." I guess they figured waiting to kill our entire infantry made more sense then just killing us. I told him to get in touch with the infantry and tell them it's best for us to set up shop a bit further back. He had a walk-talkie, and in those days they were extremely unreliable. If it wasn't the battery being faulty, it was the tremendous amount of noise they made. Unfortunately, we couldn't get in touch with the rest of the infantry.

    I said the best thing to do would be to go back ourselves and wait for them. We went back, and I set up my survey equipment beside an embankment. On the near side was a ditch, and immediately before the ditch was a barbed wire fence. I figured that was a good place to set up shop. This way, when I was giving information to the guns, I'd have somewhere to duck.

    My signaler was right in his estimation, because as soon as our tanks arrived, the Germans started attacking us. We would dive in the ditch, jump up to communicate with the next tank, then dive back inside. This messy situation continued until we knocked out all the Germans shooting at us. My uniform was ripped to hell, but I was in one piece.

    From there, we went into Belgium for a two-week rest. After we had recuperated a bit, we went into the town of Nijmegen. We were taking over for a British battery. I remember coming in and trying to get the records from their Captain, which was custom of taking over a territory. He told me he wouldn't give it to me, he wanted an office. I guess he figured I was only a bombardier with a couple stripes. But once I told him we'd leave town if he didn't give the records, he finally passed them over.

    Nijmegen marked the first time we got the chance to rest in private homes. I slept in the home of a chap named Mr. Tolin. I remember one morning he woke me up and told me all our guns had been taken! I put my clothes on and dashed out of there. It was then that I found out the Battle of the Bulge was underway. It was a scary moment because I wasn't sure where exactly the Germans were. Bridges had been knocked down all over the coast, so their path was unpredictable. I only knew they may be in range, if not already at Antwerp.

    I later heard that the Germans got around Boulogne-sur-Mer and were coming in not far from us toward the Port of Antwerp. Little did they know, General Patton was a couple hundred miles away from them. His army traveled day and night up the Rine to get to Boulougne-sur-mer.

    On top of that, The Allied Forces had the local airport secured. Once the weather cleared enough for a flight, the US Air Force knocked the hell out of the Germans, and they retreated back to their Fatherland they loved so much. That battle was the Germans' last major offensive in Europe. After that they were done. And I still think that only reason we won the war is because we got control of the air.

    After Antwerp, we weren't involved in any heavy fighting for a month or two. When the spring offensive started in March 1945, I can remember being in Cleve, where I was in a command post. The Germans had fled Cleve for Germany by that time, and they left behind perfectly useful dugouts. Along with the dugout there was a potbelly stove and a lot of coal. And all of a sudden this German shell landed shaking up the entire area! The bag of cordite we left near the stove fell inside the stove, and it mushroomed into a ball of fire. Luckily, the encasing helped the cordite from exploding, but there were still tremendous flames.

    We finally got the flames down, and everything went back to normal...for them anyway. But within a few days, I developed a heavy sunburn that resulted in blisters all over. I ended up having to go to the hospital for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, I wasn't there for my mates for a couple of their battles.

    I got back near the end of March, and we headed towards Holland. Our regiment moved through Leerort, and Leers. On May 4th, 1945, we received cease-fire orders. The Germans didn't officially capitulate until May 8th, 1945, but the war was over for us. Now we just had to worry about getting home.

    The Brits were able to jump in across channel ferry and head home to England, but it was a bit different for us. We had a lot more water to cross then them. Our command sent us to barracks in Utretcht to wait on a ship that can take us back to Canada. The Americans, by and large went into Germany. We didn't have anything to do until the ship came, so a few of my chaps went to the meat-packing district and took over a yacht club. The club had 24 lovely sailboats, sleeping quarters, and beautiful cooking facilities. I never ate or drank better than the time I spent there. The chaps in our regiment would bus over to the club around noon, and not even leave until the middle of the night. We were probably having the best time in town.

    Not only did we have food and drinks, women seemingly came from nowhere to patronize the club. I guess they heard about the good time we were having. The last bus would leave town at 2 AM, but every night there were still women left at the club! Out into the river we'd go every night out, and I always enjoyed their company.

    Some of our comrades would go out to the historic sites. Soon after, it was announced that a convoy of five corvettes would be shipped to Canada, and they held five people each. I was one of the first volunteers to head back to Canada. Our crew got fresh fruit, rum, and headed out for Halifax. Back then, there were no stabilizers, so it was a rough ride.

    Once we got to Halifax, I took a train home. I remember getting off at St. Lambert, and it seemed like the whole town was there! I saw my parents, and they were beaming with pride. My father told me since I had been away for such a long time it was a good idea to take a trip. From there, we took a weeklong holiday trip.

    After I came back home, I relaxed a bit, but after awhile my parents wanted me to think about my next steps. My mother asked me "have you ever thought of working for a living?" Even worse, my father wanted me to go to Oxford! I didn't want to leave the country again.

    All my friends were making nice livings as salesman, so I told my Dad that's what I wanted to do. My father called Sam Milligan at Dominion textiles, and I got a job within a week. I started off making $150 a month, which was good money back then. After a year, I was looking for a raise. The senior commissioners were doing much better than me, but I saw no growth potential there.

    Around this time, the real estate industry was booming. Soldiers were coming back home, and companies were paying realtors to travel state to state. It was an opportunity I had to take. I learned the ropes at various firms in Montreal, and went out on my own after two and half years.

    Working hard was nothing new to me, but now I was making a lot of money from it. Within a few years my business was so successful that I built an office building. I got involved in appraising of hundreds of properties near the seaways in St. Lambert, and did quite well for myself.

    In 1990, I sold my business and retired.

    These days, I'm very active in Military affairs. I'm the honorary Colonel of the 78th Highlanders, a re-raised regiment that saw service in Quebec in the 1700s. We even went over to Scotland and performed in front of Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth II! I got to speak with her, and it was a wonderful experience.

    Many of the joys of my life have been gained from my military experience, and I truly appreciate it.

  • Willie Glaser,
    Montreal, CanadaMORE...

    My name is Willie Glazer, and I was born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1921. I'd like to make a note, that even though I was born in Germany, I am not a German Jew, my family were Polish Jews. I was one of five children, and lived a happy childhood with my three sisters and a brother. My father worked in the toy export industry, and his job took him all around Europe.

    Soon, the Hitler years arrived and it became very tough. The economy, and even our peace of mind was gone. My father worked frantically to get us out of the country. He wanted to take the whole family to England, but was unable to make it work. He managed to send one of my sisters there and then finally in 1939 he arranged for me to leave Germany. I was 17 then.

    My sister and I would frequently travel from England to Belfast in Northern Ireland, which bordered the Irish free state of Eire. My father was in France, and my mother and other siblings were still in Fürth, Germany. It was hard to communicate with them, but I did what I could. The people I stayed with had family in Dublin, that could correspond with Germany. So I would send them my post cards, and they would forward them over to my mom. Every two to three weeks, she would mail me and my sister.

    I'll never forget the card she sent me on my 20th birthday. She wrote, "May the Almighty protect you from all evil and bad things." I sincerely believe that this blessing put a guardian angel on my shoulder. By the end of 1941, the correspondence ceased with my mother.

    In the beginning stages of the war, I was working in England at a garage. We had significant work to do after the London Blitz had destroyed so much of the city. In the shop, we repaired ambulances and other vehicles. The destruction even affected the garage, but we managed to fix the damage.

    Slowly but surely, all of my friends were called up to the Army. Eventually, I was practically by myself. In that solitude, I resolved that it was my duty to join as well.

    I went to the British recruiting office in Northern Ireland, where they had a bit of confusion on where to place me. The sergeant on duty told me that because I was Polish I had to see the officer on duty. He was just as unsure as to where to place me. After making some calls, he determined that because I had a Polish passport, I had to join the Polish army, which was just forming in Scotland after the Dunkirk evacuation. There was a small Polish brigade that had evacuated back to England, and that was the nucleus of the Polish Armored division.

    I went to the recruiting office, and they gave me a food voucher and ticket to Scotland. Once I arrived, I reported to the Polish reception camp, where I was placed in the "White Eagle Soldier's Club". The camp had opened up because a lot of the volunteers from the United States and from South America had come there. In the midst of all these volunteers, here I was: a German-born Jewish boy. I barely knew what was going on there, as I couldn't speak a word of Polish.

    Because of my inability to speak Polish, I was exempted from guard duty. That would've been a good thing if not for the cook, who told the camp commander that I wasn't pulling my weight. I was assigned as the cook's helper, and woke up every morning at 5AM while he slept in. I had to prepare the porridge and coffee for breakfast. After a while, the soldiers actually told me I made the best porridge and coffee!

    After two months, I was assigned to the 6th Company (heavy machine guns) 2nd battalion, 3rd independent infantry brigade up the coast of Scotland. At that time, the British government asked the Polish government for an armored division, which replicated British military structure. I was assigned to guard the area.

    When I first arrived there, the regimental chaplain introduced himself. We had a long conversation, and after excusing me from Sunday morning service, he told me he would tell the Jewish chaplain to visit me.

    Soon, I met the chaplain, and he would tell us what was going on with the Jews in Poland. He received much of his information from the findings of Jan Karski, a legendary Polish resistance movement fighter. Karski was an emissary between the "Jewish underground" in Warsaw and members of the Polish government who were exiled in London. He would frequently relay information between Warsaw and London.

    Karski was a brave man. In order to learn the specifics about concentration camps, he infiltrated the circles of Nazi collaborators. He told the Polish government everything he learned, and then there were a couple more steps before the information got to us.

    I had a pretty slow two years at this camp. Most of my time was spent participating in military exercises and holding guard duty. I did go to Edinburgh every other weekend and attended Shabbat services at their local synagogue. I developed a friendship with one of the members of the congregation, and he began inviting me for Friday night supper and Shabbat dinner. One of the highlights of my experience in Scotland was participating in Passover and Jewish New Year events in Edinburgh.

    I had developed a wonderful relationship with the people of Scotland, as did other soldiers. They loved us. The bond we shared can be seen on the emblem at the Polish HQ, which features a Polish Eagle and Scottish Lion.

    We were so close that rumours spread of 2nd battalion members becoming honorary members of the Stewart clan, which entitled us to wear the Royal Stewart Kilt. I thought the rumour was true, so I wore a kilt to a dance. What did I wear under the kilt? Just gym shorts.

    When I returned to camp, it turned out that the rumour was false. I was fined two weeks' pay for being "out of uniform," which was a hefty fine. I understood it though, as HQ didn't want to see soldiers walking around in kilts.

    Eventually, I got a bunk in the "Balfour Club," which was a facility for Jewish soldiers. I finally found two men who, like me, were born and raised in Germany. We quickly found out how much we had in common.

    One day, me and my friend Pinchas Bokser saw Winston Churchill at the Cupar Fife train station! He had two security guards in tow. We saluted him, he smiled, and began to quietly read from his newspaper. It was amazing to be in his presence, but our train soon arrived. My guess is that he was in the area inspecting a military facility.

    In 1943, I was transferred to the First Polish Armored Division. The 10th Polish Mounted Rifles regiment was born, and they sought the cream of the crop. The interview process was pretty intense, but I didn't sweat it. I was just 20, and in great shape, so I was exactly what they were looking for. The sergeant major who interviewed me assigned me to the tank regiment as a radio operator, which I had reticence about. My Polish was still pretty shoddy, but the sergeant wasn't worried. He said, "Willush, if I'm not worried, why should you be?"

    After that, the name Willush stuck with me. Our regiment had several reconnaissance tanks, and from that time on, we learned how to operate them. The training process was fairly arduous, but I didn't mind. We trained at various places in Scotland, including Dalkeith Castle near Edinburgh. The cold, drafty rooms of the castle are unforgettable.

    In summer of 1944, bad news came about the Jewish people in Poland and other occupied territories. Here I was on my big tank, but completely powerless to directly help my family.

    During that time, the war was reaching a fever pitch. Many of my friends were dying, including over 50 comrades killed in action. One of my biggest comrades, Gustav Goldstaub, was killed when his tank was struck. The driver was also killed, and the three crew members wounded.

    The regiment was well aware that D-Day was coming, we were just waiting on the order. Finally, we were commanded to get our tanks ready and head to Southampton. From there, we put our tanks on the ship and set sail for Normandy.

    There were so many regiments landing in Normandy, that the Allied Forces had to find a way to accommodate everyone. The Brits ended up creating concrete structures that served both as a landing space and a dock for the ships. Our ship arrived eight days after the invasion commenced.

    Upon landing, we immediately proceeded inland. Our regiment was composed of what we called tank troupes. Each troupe had three tanks, with five men to a tank: commander, loader, radio operator, driver and co-driver. I served as a radio operator.

    The close quarters of the tank were almost like a tight subway car. I soon learned harmony was the key! We all had each other's lives in our hands, so if the soldiers didn't click, the commanding officer would split the crew up.

    Communication was key during one incident in the country side of Normandy. After entering what was previously German-occupied territory, we came across an angry German soldier. He was yelling and screaming, so we asked him what was wrong. He told us he was sick of the war, and knew of 35 seriously wounded Canadian and Polish prisoners of war nearby. It turns out this angry soldier was a sergeant medic. After we had encroached the German lines, they withdrew and left him behind with those POWs. They had been captured just a couple days earlier.

    The way he spoke of the wounded soldiers, it was as if they were his family. Tellingly, he referred to me as "Du," which was generally only used for friends or family. This kind of friendliness was unheard of, but I gave him a pass because I realized he was shellshocked.

    Within weeks, we were thrust into one of the biggest battles of the war, The Battle of Falaise or the famous Falaise Pocket. Over fifty thousand German soldiers were surrounded and pounced on by the British, American and Polish armies. We conquered the Germans there with a collective onslaught of fire.

    Since I was a German speaker, I was given the task of interviewing the German soldiers who had survived. I learned that some of these men were officers of the 12th SS Hitler Unit, Hitler's very own bodyguard regiment. These men killed over 5,000 POWs, mostly along the Eastern front. Hitler sent them to Normandy to reinforce the German stronghold in the area.

    They could terrorize no one else once we had taken them all as prisoners. One of those soldiers in particular provided a shocking experience. When I asked for his identification, his ID showed that he was from Fürth, in Bavaria! I nearly dropped the ID. I spoke to him in my Fürth dialect, asking him things only a resident of Fürth would know. He looked at me surprised, and then I told him he was being interrogated by a Jew. That admission really knocked his socks off.

    After we finished interviewing the prisoners, we sent them to POW camps and soldiered on through France. Eventually we got to Belgium.

    Antwerp in Belgium had been destroyed, and there was no way for our tanks to cross certain paths. In order to cross, we had to wait for bridges to be built. This would happen periodically, and leave us stranded in one part of the city or another. During one such stoppage, I walked into a nearby house and saw dozens of Jewish people who had been hiding. They were all either from Belgium, or people from Poland who migrated to Belgium. I felt terrible for them. Did they know where their families were? Did they know what happened to their mothers and fathers, their sons and daughters? True horror.

    There were about 10 Jewish soldiers in my regiment, and we had an army chaplain named Major Heshel Klepfish who kept us in the loop. Whenever possible, he would do a synagogue service for us. He had holy scrolls and prayer books.

    After the service, we would have a sip of coffee and discuss some of the news from Poland. He told us about the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the destruction of those areas by SS units in the spring of '43. The Warsaw uprising was the first atrocity of the Holocaust that was publicized in German papers, but we got the in-depth story.

    At the same time through various channels I was trying to find out the fate of my family. Was my father still in France? Had my mother gone there? Or were they able to cross to England? These were thoughts that plagued me as we trudged along through Europe.

    No matter my worries, I had to stay focused. That was the exact advice of my tank commander in August of 1944, right before the invasion of a German SS stronghold. We were tasked with taking out SS Panzer Grenadiers, and LSSAH's tanks. We reached a wooded area and began observation. The tanks fired on several farmhouses, which we thought concealed the Germans, but there was no trace of them.

    The Germans called their tanks by feline names, "tiger" and "panther." As radio operator, I often spoke of these tanks as "cats" when communicating with my regiment. In this instance, I told my COS that, "the pussycat ran away or doesn't want to come out and play."

    My COS had a knack for sarcasm, and replied "Willush, why don't you send the pussycat a mouse?" It was a much needed source of humor for the guys. A couple of days later, they gave me a cat who was sitting in a Waffen-SS steel helmet. For weeks afterward, I received good natured ribbing about the incident.

    Another funny moment came back in Belgium, where we thought Germans had infiltrated our stronghold. There was a distinctive clicking sound coming from inside a restaurant. We had our guns at the ready, approaching this restaurant. As we flashed through the shot-out window, it turned out the clicking came from a cat who was playing with cue balls on a pool table! We felt pretty foolish.

    The regiment traveled on through Holland, and then hit Germany. In Germany, we were sent to Wilhelmshaven naval port, which was surrendered to my commanding officer by the town's mayor.
    While in Germany, I got in touch with my uncle Benjamin. He had emigrated to Palestine in 1935. In my heart, I felt like I would never see my family again. He was the saving grace that gave me a glimmer of hope about them.

    In my quiet moments, I pondered what this entire war experience was even about. I had no idea how my old Christian playmates were capable of killing so many innocent people. At six and seven, we played at each other's houses, and were fed by each other's parents. Throughout my time as a child in Germany, everyone knew I was a Jew. It was never a problem. Not with my friends, or the firefighters who let me help clean their fire engines. All of a sudden though, war had turned them into monsters.

    It was heartbreaking to think about, but I couldn't let it break me. Our naval base soon became out of bounds once all the navy ships, submarines and U-boats had begun to dock there.

    At that point, we headed south to Oldenburg, Germany. My regiment was given the task of policing the occupied area. A lot of SS soldiers and high-ranking German officers were hiding among the prisoners in the extermination camps, hoping to escape apprehension by the Allied Forces. Myself and two other German-speaking soldiers were tasked with finding these officers. Into the camps we went, dressed as prisoners. We made friends, stayed observant, and sniffed out the Germans. They were placed under arrest, and from there I'm not sure what had happened to them.

    Other than that, there wasn't much going on in that period. There would be the occasional gunfight, but nothing resembling the carnage of the early days. After two years in Germany, we finally got the call: the war was over!

    At that time I came down with a really bad cold. I was just laying at this featherbed, you know, how they have in Germany and I remember the hausfrau at the farm giving me hot tea and nursing me back to shape when everyone else was celebrating.

    Once I got back on my feet, I stuck around in Germany until we were called back to England. There, my regiment formed the Polish resettlement core. We were unarmed, and we basically did patrolling and surveying of England in its transitional period.

    During this time, many of the Polish boys didn't want to go back to Poland because of the Communist regime. Some boys went back and got arrested, but I stayed in England. To their credit, the English did try hard to assimilate us Polish soldiers into the English society, but the results weren't always successful.

    After a couple of months, a notice came that the Canadian government was willing to take in a couple hundred Polish vets. They would pay the expenses for us to travel over on one condition: we had to work on a farm for one year.

    I was all by myself, my sister was in Belfast, and London was still stricken by destruction. Why not go to Canada? I went there, and landed at the Military College in Saint-Jean, Quebec. There we were officially demobilized.

    We stayed in Saint-Jean for a few days, and then there was an event where we met the farmers we were going to be working for. They had all kinds of drinks, pastries, and sandwiches, and we got to know all the farmers. Once you sort of got friendly with the right one, you could sign papers and work for them at a certain pay rate.

    I ended up working for one year on a farm in Quebec. After my contract was fulfilled, I came to Montreal, and I got very lucky and found a good job in an experimental testing laboratory. It was a summer job, but by September of that year it turned into a regular job. I worked there for a while, and even met my wife there. She worked as a bookkeeper.

    Later on, I worked selling insurance, but my wife didn't like me being gone for long periods of time, so I had to do something else. Eventually, I found a job at Simpson's Department store here in Montreal, where I worked for 30 years before retiring as a manager in 1980. I made a glorious life with my wife, but she passed away seven years ago. It was a tragedy for me; she was my friend and life partner. I couldn't imagine life without her. So as not to let my sorrow consume me, I got involved in all types of things and was trying to stay busy.

    After the war I tried to find my parents, but failed to do so. Years later, my interest in what happened to them led me on an expedition to find the truth. After extensive research, I was able to find out that my parents and three siblings were murdered in the Belzec concentration camp. I even found where their mass grave was. I've visited there twice.

    About 20 years ago, I was able to speak with the great Jan Karski. We got him to speak at the McGill University in Montreal, and we had a great time. I spoke with him about the war, and thanked him for the job he did as a resistance fighter. My first inkling about Belzec that helped me to find out the fate of my parents actually came from him. So just like he was helping us with the information during the war, he helped me personally to find out what happened to my parents.

    There are only about 10 men still alive from my regiment. I try to communicate as much as I can with them. I'm also busy with the Montreal Holocaust Center. I found a girlfriend, and we travel often. On another exciting note, I've written a novel, which will be published in May or June. Look out for it!