Posted by: Bob Ringma | April 24, 2011

Canadian Brigade at Fort Lewis

After the decision was made to field a brigade group in support of the UN operation in Korea, planners at Army Headquarters in Ottawa had to make it happen.  Despite being the second largest country in the world in area, and in spite of having trained hundreds of thousands of troops for service in WWII, there was no training base in Canada large enough to accommodate a brigade of five thousand men.  We looked to our southern neighbour for help.  The Americans, anxious to get other countries into the Korean fray, were happy to make the facilities at Fort Lewis, Washington available to us..

But a training base was not the only thing we needed.  Having disposed of surplus vehicles, weapons and equipment after WWII, we now had to manufacture or buy replacements.  The US had also disposed of wartime hardware, but fortunately kept some in reserve.  They were willing to sell and we to buy.  We also tapped into the American supply chain for rations and other necessities.  It cost Canada $ 2.46 per day per man while we were in the States and $ 10.96 per day in Korea.  It was money well spent.

October of 1950 saw 25 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group, alias the Special Service Force, assembling at Fort Lewis and training for its role overseas. Volunteers were in the majority, although its core came from the Permanent Force.  Some, like me, had been at loose ends or unemployed.  Very few had joined for idealistic reasons, fighting for freedom.  It was soon found that recruiting had been done too hastily.  Some volunteers were found to be unfit for military service for disciplinary reasons (e.g. undisclosed civil convictions), while others had medical problems.  They had to be weeded out, and many were, but the Adjutant General at Army Headquarters, alarmed by the wastage, advocated a greater emphasis on salvage and training.

RCOC at Fort Lewis

25 Brigade plaque at Fort Lewis

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