Defence Today

Snakes on a chopper: Vietnam vets tell harrowing serpentine tales
Defence Today, Front Lines

Snakes on a chopper: Vietnam vets tell harrowing serpentine tales

“Any veterans out there run into snakes while serving?” Thus began a thread on Facebook’s “Vietnam: Helicopter War” page that took readers on a raucous thrill ride through the jungles of Southeast Asia. The post included a picture of troops holding a fat snake at least six metres long, evidently dead. A well-travelled veteran identified it as a Burmese python. “We came across a large python—had a head the size of German shepherd,” wrote Larry Kirby, an infantryman in Vietnam in 1968-69. “It had been badly hurt by an airstrike. The CO, knowing we had a guy who was deathly afraid of snakes, told this person he needed his best man to check out a noise just ahead. “The poor guy saw this massive wriggling snake—dropped his gear and ran off. We…had to find the guy—so half the company...
Take your shot—we did, says Gulf War vet
Defence Today, Front Lines

Take your shot—we did, says Gulf War vet

Gulf War veteran Paul Schutt has a message for Canadians in these pandemic times: Get your COVID-19 vaccine shots—if not for yourself, for your country. As a private with Charles Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, Schutt processed and guarded thousands of Iraqi prisoners during the 1991 Gulf War, all while facing the prospect of a biological or chemical attack. “We took the plague and anthrax vaccines without them ever being trialled on human beings,” said Schutt, now a nickel miner in Sudbury, Ont. “I asked the base surgeon: ‘What are the long-term effects of this?’ And she said: ‘I’m not going to lie to you, we don’t know. They’ve never been trialled on anybody; we don’t have any idea if these vaccines will have a long-term effect.’ “She said: ‘They could take 1...
New study discounts depleted uranium’s role in Gulf War illness
Defence Today, Front Lines

New study discounts depleted uranium’s role in Gulf War illness

A new scientific study claims sarin gas is a likely cause of Gulf War illness, not debris from depleted uranium munitions. The University of Portsmouth School of Earth and Environmental Sciences says it has proven that depleted uranium did not cause the acute and chronic symptoms plaguing more than 250,000 Allied service personnel. “The plausibility of the link between depleted uranium and the illness has bubbled along now for nearly 30 years, but we would argue it’s time to look elsewhere,” said Randall Parrish, a professor of isotope geology at the school in the south of England. He pointed to the widespread destruction of Iraqi weapons caches by Allied troops and the likely presence of sarin gas, a nerve agent, as the prime suspect. The Gulf War was the first conflict in...
Boarding parties in the Persian Gulf
Defence Today, Front Lines

Boarding parties in the Persian Gulf

Canadian sailors had limited to no experience in boarding potentially hostile ships at sea when they embarked on their mission to the Persian Gulf in August 1990. Yet this was to be one of their primary roles. Their British and American allies had marines and others specially armed for and trained in hailing foreign vessels and boarding them. Canadian sailors did the bulk of their training as they crossed the Atlantic from Halifax. They were understandably concerned as the three ships pulled into port at Manama, Bahrain’s capital city, before assuming their seaborne duties. During the stopover, headquarters staff assured them they had nothing to worry about. “The Brits and the Americans are saying ‘don’t worry about it, we rarely do boardings; we never do a boarding in rough seas;...
New details emerge in the case for the first Canadian Victoria Cross
Defence Today, Front Lines

New details emerge in the case for the first Canadian Victoria Cross

Private Jess Randall Larochelle of the Royal Canadian Regiment was in an observation post when it was destroyed by a rocket-propelled grenade during an enemy attack on the position in Pashmul, Afghanistan. It was Oct. 14, 2006. Manning a C6 machine gun—known as “the bullet magnet” because the enemy always looks to disable it first—Larochelle was knocked unconscious by the blast. Two members of his section were killed and three others wounded. Some time later, Larochelle came to and quickly realized his unit’s position was about to be overrun. He didn’t know it yet, but his back was broken. Bloodied and battered, his ears ringing from the concussive blast, his years of training took over. Larochelle crawled back to the machine gun to defend his position, only to find the weapon...
Kyle Scott: The medals man
Defence Today, Front Lines

Kyle Scott: The medals man

Don Fraser was one of the many Saskatchewan boys who served in the wartime navy, spending more than two years sailing the treacherous North Atlantic and Arctic waters between 1943 and 1945. He is believed to have been among the crew aboard the cruiser HMS Belfast when it took part in the spring 1944 attack on the German battleship Tirpitz. He was a rare example of a sailor who actually set foot on the D-Day beaches, helping to retrieve wounded soldiers. And he was in the convoys that sailed the notorious Murmansk run delivering war materiel from Halifax and New York to Soviet Russia. Fraser was 90 before he secured the first of his wartime medals. Fraser survived the gauntlet of cold weather, high seas and German U-boats, yet he was 90 before he secured the first of his wartime medals...

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