To mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27, Maclean’s teams up with the Historica-Dominion Institute to tell the tales of seven veterans of that brutal war.
Raynbird reflects on entertaining the troops:
While I was in the hospital, you remember I had said there was a friend of mine from Camp Borden, Paul Tessier, he showed up at the hospital. And I’m in the hospital bed and he came in, he said, “Doug,” and I said, “Paul.” Oh. This was over a year later [after basic training]. So he was still in the [Royal Canadian Regiment] and I said, “How are you doing?” He said, “Well, I got wounded and I came back here and I’m now entertaining in a variety show [Johnny Canuck Fun Review] that the army’s putting on.” I said, “Oh, really?” He said, “Doug, can you get out of here and come down to see our officer?” He said, “There’s a chance that you can get on with this army show. And I said, “Well, I have to go to rehabilitation first.” So about two weeks later, I went down to see the officer in command who was Lieutenant Gordon Atkinson and quite a popular CBC entertainer at one point in time, theatre, etc., etc.
So anyway, I could play the guitar, not great but good enough. I sang a few Hank Williams songs and I could yodel. And that went over great. So as soon as he heard that, he [Gordon Atkinson] said, “You’re on, then I’ll get you transferred to the show. So for the next 10 months, that’s what I did, played the guitar and sang. We went to a two week tour up to Tokyo. We went two tours over to Korea with the show, two different shows. And after that, I came home.
But an interesting story: While we were up in Tokyo, we were playing the U.S. bases, air force bases, hospitals, everything. We played the Ernie Pyle Theatre in Tokyo, which is not there anymore — I don’t know what it is now — but the officer in charge of it had come up to our officer, Gordon Atkinson, and he said, “I don’t think your show has enough quality to play this theatre.” Oh, okay. We filled the theatre two nights in a row and after that, he came to each and every one of us, shook our hand and apologized. So that was kind of nice.
Lots of interesting stories about the show, but I think the most interesting story that I’m curious as to why there has never been any story about this show, and about the participants who were all soldiers, most of them wounded or injured in action, and came back to entertain. But there has never been anything said.
The full version of this post first appeared as part of the Historica-Dominion Institute’s Memory Project.