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RE 'POW/REPATRIATED' by Pat MacAdam (Dec 21)
Letter of the Day Published in the Ottawa Sun Dec 28, 2003


This article is a most interesting and poignant reminder of the duration and brutality of Canada's so-called "Forgotten War." However, I want to point out that Andy MacKenzie was not "the only Canadian pilot shot down and taken prisoner!" On August 13 1952 (four months before MacKenzie was hit, Capt Joe Liston, Royal Canadian Artillery, serving with 1903 Air Observation Post Flight, RAF (British Army) Fort George, South Korea was the first Canadian to be shot down and taken prisoner. The following is an extract from the book Canada's Flying Gunners (a history of the air observation post pilots of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery) by Lt Col D.L. Fromow, CD and published by the Air Observation Post Pilots Association of Canada and soon to be published book by Carl Mills, Canadian Airmen and Air Women in the Korean War.

After just 12 combat missions, Capt Liston was shot down behind enemy lines near Hill 355. After a near miss at 7000 feet, he dove for friendly territory, but a radar-guided AAA shell exploded through his Auster aircraft at 6000 feet rendering him unconscious. The aircraft, severely damaged, with the tail hanging by the control cables, fell into a slow spin. A few thousand later, he revived and attempted to exit the aircraft backwards. As he pushed himself out, he was hit by the aircraft and once again knocked unconscious. After free-falling about a thousand feet, he once again revived, deployed his parachute, and landed, bleeding and unsteady from the ordeal, only to be captured by the enemy. Pilots of his unit had just started wearing parachutes the week before his arrival. Capt Liston had never taken any parachute training, not had he nor any of his unit jumped from an Auster. For about 10 weeks he was held at various encampments for intensive, daily interrogations, being fed only rice and potato skin soup. Capt Liston had joined a small group of other POTT's who were ill transit and were always locked in some sort of confinement, often muddy and cold but always in the company of ever-present rats. During these interrogations, there were several difficult and demeaning encounters that always ended with the threat "No one is going to know that you are here but us, and no one is going to know."

Although he was never physically harmed, being subjected to these constant threats was the most difficult part of being POW. The final camp, in North Korea but far North near the Yalu River, consisted of a single building similar to a one room school house. The only furniture was a pot-bellied stove and the 37 POWs slept on the floor in straw. There was an aisle down the middle and they slept alternatively head-to-toe for some privacy. He was held as a POW for over a year and released under Operation Big Switch at Panmunjom on Sep 3, 1953. At no time did his unit, the Canadian Army, or his family know that he was alive until he walked across a bridge into freedom as one of the last POWs to be released. Brig. Gen. R.G. Heitshu (Ret'd) President Air OP Pilots Association of Canada (Thanks for the clarification - another part of Canada's history unveiled)" Editor's Note: S/L A.R."ANDY" MACKENZIE, DFC, CD, one of our Canadian Aces, accounted for the destruction of 8 1/2 enemy aircraft and damaged one other in WWII. S/L MacKenzie was accidentally shot down by his own wing man on his fifth mission in Korea where he was serving as an ex-change pilot with the USAF. He was held prisoner of the Chinese Communists from 5 Dec 1952 until released at Hong Kong two years later on 5 Dec 1954.


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    Compiled by BGen (Ret'd) R.G. Heitshu.