Honouring our city’s veterans

William Goddard served in the Second World War. Joining at the age of 18, he originally wanted the paratroops but was considered too young, so he went to a regular ground unit, fighting from Juno Beach on D-Day all the way into Holland. He received the 1939-1945 Medal

Herb Forfar served in the Korean War with a tank squadron. He joined the army in 1947, got out in 1950, went back in 1951, and went to Korea in 1952 to 1953. He got out of the army finally in 1954. He received the UN medal.

The Observer sat down with these veterans to ask about their experiences.

Observer: How do you feel about the current respect level for veterans?

William Goddard, a Second World War veteran spoke about his experiences during the war.
William Goddard, a Second World War veteran spoke about his experiences during the war.

W.G.: Well lately, I would say the last five or 10 years, it has got a lot better. Prior to that, you never heard anything until the 11 of November. But now it’s a lot better. Now even downtown, they have that wall where they put [soldiers’] names up. Now they have a living history program, and it’s a group that goes through to talk to the children and give them an idea of what the war was all about. But myself, being a veteran it’s just the respect level of the people I knew and was overseas with, and those I left there.

H.F.: I think a lot of people really do have a lot of respect. I was really shocked and surprised – I have a Veterans license plate. I was sitting and waiting for my wife to come out of Canadian Tire and this chap must have seen my license plate, and he walked right over, and said ‘Thank you very much.’ For a second I thought, ‘What the heck is he thanking me for?’ and then he saluted me and walked away. And I just thought that was so nice, nobody asked him to do that.

Observer: Why do you think the respect level has changed?

W.G.: Well now there’s more advertising, with two wars going on now, people are starting to realize. We’ve got so many troops over there in Afghanistan now, and they’re going through quite a thing just to bring somebody else peace.

H.F.: I think it has changed, and I think it’s because we hear so much about these chaps over in Afghanistan, which I hate to say this by the way but I disagree with why they are there. I would like to see every one of them come home safely. But I don’t think we should be there. I think that we did it just because of George Bush.

Observer: What is your stance on war?

W.G.: Well, it’s not like you’re going to a swim meet or something. You’re putting your life on the line. You have to remember at that time, all the young people were following the crowd.

H.F.: Well I think if it has to be fought – like in my mind, there was the Second World War, when that idiot Hitler had to be stopped — no matter what anyone says, I think everything we did in that war was the right thing to do. In the First World War, we had so many casualties; I think that was a manmade egotistical thing. I’m not saying it didn’t have to be fought, and eventually it did, but it should never have been started.

Observer: What were the conditions like?

W.G.: Well, we’d go over to the mines, and they’d have huge showers, and we’d rotate, because that’s what we had to do. Because we were moving too much, to ever try and set up camp somewhere. But the Second World War was a lot better than the first, because they were in trenches and had to stay there.

H.F.: We would sleep in a hole in the ground, in the tanks, in tents. Our food was pretty good, we used to get, I think it was American rations I believe, it came in what looked like an orange crate. We would get one of these every five days, there were five men’s rations for five days, with little boxes with cans in them, one with breakfast, one with lunch and one with dinner. We were healthy enough anyway.

Observer: If you could give a young soldier a piece of advice, what would it be?

W.G.: We always hope there is never going to be a war, and it all depends what type of war it is. You should pick a good outfit, and you have to go along with the service, you can’t try and buck them, because you’ll never buck them. Pick a service where you’re not going to stick your head up, and get it blown off. You haven’t got much say in it anyway.

H.F.: Keep your head down (he laughed). That is very, very important. I don’t really know, I don’t think I felt any different over there, you just seem to do the things that have to be done. You never stopped and thought, “Gee should I do this”, or maybe this should not be done. Anything you wanted to do, you did. You knew when there was going to be trouble, so you were very careful about that.

Observer: Can you remember a time when you were scared?

W.G.: I know when we were in France, moving up into parts of Holland, you just never knew if you were going to get home.

H.F.: Oh yes, many times, you have to do “stand to at first light”, and everybody in the infantry would be up on the front line before it got light in the morning. And you’d be there for maybe an hour, and if nothing happened you would break off, some would stay if they were on duty at the time, others would go back to their bunkers.

Observer: Do you ever regret going?

W.G.: No, well I’m back. It slows you down. But on the last day of my leave, the war ended. You get a 30-day leave when you come home, and on the last day of my leave, the war ended.

H.F.: Yeah, the loss of life, everybody’s life. The regret I have is to see anybody killed.

Observer: What do you think of the current state of affairs in our world?

W.G.: I guess we’ll be glad if this Afghanistan thing ever gets over with. To go to 2011, and whether or not it will be straightened out then, I doubt it. It seems to be a political thing. The funny thing is you go in there to help, and the next thing you know they want to get rid of you.

H.F.: I really don’t feel we should be over in Afghanistan. I know when we were in Korea, I really do think we helped that country, but that country was being invaded and it was a United Nations effort. But we are so smart today that we would let the United Nations go down the drain the way the League of Nations went down after the First World War. Wherever we have to go in to stop somebody from invading a country or genocide, we have to do it, or somebody has to do it, other than that then we should never have a war again.

Observer: What memories do you have of war?

W.G.: Some things I’ve seen naturally, you’ll never see again. Friends that were killed in front of me – those are the bad memories, the good ones you can’t explain.

Observer: What did you miss most about being away from home?

H.F.: You’ll never believe it but the one thing I wanted when I got home was an ice cold glass of milk. I will always remember that. When we were in Japan, we could get milk but for some reason, they heated the milk. I really did enjoy it when I finally did get it.

Observer: What does Remembrance Day mean to you?

H.F.: I think it is something that should never be forgotten. What those guys did was so tremendous. Unless you’ve been there and done it, I don’t think you will really realize. Now we can talk about it, I can talk about it. I would never do it again but I’m glad I did it at the time. I just think it should never be forgotten. There are some guys now that come back home, but there are hundreds of people, that where you died, is where you were buried.

Observer: What types of Remembrance Day ceremonies do you appreciate?

H.F.: We have been going up to the zoo lately, there’s a nice ceremony up there. It’s nice because they have places to sit, and most of the other places you have to stand. I appreciate any type of ceremony. I’m very glad they take the time to do this.

Observer: Why did you choose to go to war?

W.G.: Well when your buddies join, you join. And the recession over there and everything, and what Hitler was going to do, some would have to go. So more or less, you would have a friend that was going, and then over 100,000 people were signed up to go.