Mem­o­ries from the Korean War

Vet­eran Frank Slade re­calls hor­rors of com­bat

The Compass - - News - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS stephen.roberts@north­ern­

ST. AN­THONY, NL – Frank Slade vividly re­mem­bers the lit­tle Korean boy he found, screech­ing in ter­ror.

It was 1952, in the mid­dle of the Korean War where Slade was serv­ing.

The four-year-old or­phan child had been stay­ing in a United Na­tions “com­pound,” sur­rounded by barbed wire. Slade was on guard duty.

The sec­ond day he was there, a shell ex­ploded.

“I heard this ex­plo­sion and I heard this lit­tle boy scream­ing,” he re­called.

When Slade rushed in, this boy was buried up to his waist in sand.

He had lost an eye.

The Cana­dian sol­dier sped into ac­tion and started dig­ging the boy out with a shovel.

What he found when the boy was dug out ac­cen­tu­ated the nightmare: his legs had been blown off be­neath the knees.

Slade had to act quickly. He cut up his shirt, ty­ing it tightly around the wounded area to pre­vent fur­ther bleed­ing.

He called up an Amer­i­can med­i­cal team, which picked up the child to take him away to the hospi­tal.

The boy waved good­bye as he got on the am­bu­lance.

Slade never saw him again.


St. An­thony’s Frank Slade en­listed in the Korean War in 1952 as a 22-year-old.

His path to that point was some­what un­usual.

Af­ter be­com­ing an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen while he was work­ing with his aunt in the United States, he was drafted to serve in the US mil­i­tary in Korea.

Hold­ing dual cit­i­zen­ship, he had a choice to ei­ther serve or to head back home to Canada.

Slade opted to re­turn to the

Great White North, but it was there that fate in­ter­vened.

At the Horse­shoe Tav­ern in Toronto, an old child­hood friend from St. An­thony hap­pily greeted Slade.

There sat Don­ald Penney, dressed in uni­form.

As the two old friends con­versed over some beers, Slade learned Penney had en­listed in the Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment and had al­ready served three months in the Korean War.

Now, Penney was try­ing to con­vince him to sign up too.

Nev­er­the­less, Slade left the tav­ern that night still un­con­vinced.

But he slept on it and the next morn­ing, thought it over some more.

Chang­ing his mind, he de­cided he would stand with his old friend on the bat­tle­fields of Korea.

When Slade ar­rived in that for­eign land, fate in­ter­vened once more, He and Penney were placed in the same com­pany – but their time serv­ing to­gether would end trag­i­cally.

On July 20, 1953, Penney lost his life and Slade barely es­caped with his.

July 20

There were three of them to­gether, in­clud­ing the two young St. An­thony friends, in a trench about five feet deep.

Slade was shav­ing out of a lunch can held in his hand when sud­denly, there was an ex­plo­sion.

An 81-mm rocket from the en­emy struck them.

A piece of metal shell flew to­wards Slade, strik­ing the can in his hand. He was pushed up against the trench by sheer force, in­jur­ing his cer­vi­cal spine in the process.

But he made it out of there alive.

The doc­tor told him it was the sturdy lunch can that saved his life. He still has that can to this very day.

The other man, Reid, was wounded at the hip.

Sadly, Penney wasn’t as for­tu­nate. The ex­plo­sion killed him in­stantly. He was the last Cana­dian to be killed in ac­tion in Korea.

The war ended just seven days later.


Slade served in the Korean War for 14 months, from 1952 to 1953. He has re­ceived many medals and cer­tifi­cates for his ser­vice.

A wall in his home is cov­ered with these hon­ours, as well as old pho­to­graphs of him­self and other sol­diers.

Di­rectly be­side a photo of him­self, at the age of 22, is a photo of Don­ald Penney.

Ev­ery year on Re­mem­brance Day, Slade, now 87, lays a wreath at the old me­mo­rial out­side the United Church in St. An­thony to hon­our all those who have fallen.

But he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to get out for Re­mem­brance Day later this week be­cause of health is­sues.

In re­cent years, he has started to re­gret the de­ci­sion to en­list. The hor­rific things he saw and ex­pe­ri­enced have given him PTSD.

“If I had known, I’d have to go through that, I would have never went to Korea,” he told the North­ern Pen.

One in­ci­dent im­pressed upon him was the lit­tle Korean boy with his legs blown off.

But at least now Slade fi­nally knows what hap­pened to him.

Two years ago, he re­ceived a medal from the pres­i­dent of South Korea.

In the process, he also learned – through in­for­ma­tion ac­cu­mu­lated by the Cana­dian am­bas­sador to South Korea – that the boy sur­vived the in­ci­dent and grew up with two ar­ti­fi­cial legs.

He had a good job and had mar­ried but with no chil­dren.

Un­for­tu­nately, he re­cently passed away in 2012, at the age of 64.

Slade never got to con­tact him again, nor did the boy learn about the St. An­thony sol­dier who saved his life.

But all those years in be­tween, Slade never for­got that lit­tle Korean boy and re­mem­bered their brief mo­ment to­gether in his poem, “A tear in my eyes.”


Frank Slade, 87, served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1953. Over his shoul­der on the wall is a photo of him­self at the age of 22. The pic­ture was taken on a train on the way to Van­cou­ver af­ter Slade en­listed.


“We were hid away in the woods,” Frank Slade said. “They (the en­emy) were there talk­ing, so we fired bul­lets over­head and thought they would take the ri­fles down, but they didn’t. We shot two bul­lets and then we shot two more bul­lets each and they didn’t take them down. And I said ‘they must be run­ning out of bul­lets’ be­cause we heard the shots be­fore that, so we knew there was some­thing go­ing on. I said, ‘I’m go­ing out and you keep me cov­ered.’ When I went to cap­ture buddy, that’s when he made a smack at me with his ri­fle to hit me in the head. I put up my ri­fle and that’s when he cracked his open, when he hit my ri­fle. And that’s when I knocked him down on the ground and tied him up.” Af­ter cap­tur­ing the Korean, Slade took his ri­fle. He still has it on his wall at home. Pic­tured here, is the crack that was opened up when the Korean at­tacked Slade.


Frank Slade holds the sturdy shav­ing can that saved his life. On July 20, 1953, an 81-mm rocket struck Slade and two other mem­bers of his com­pany, killing his friend Don­ald Penney. Slade was shav­ing at the time, and it was this can that blocked a piece of metal shell fly­ing to­wards him. The shell surely would have killed Slade had it struck him. The dent where the shell struck the can is still vis­i­ble.

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