When John Moran of Fort Frances joined the armed forces in 1941 at the age of 19, he was “gung-ho” to fight on the front line.
But a hunting accident just prior to his enlistment changed all that.
“I went to New Glasgow, N.S. to take basic artillery training. I wanted to go over to fight because all my friends were there and if we didn’t lick the Germans, we were going to capitulate,” Moran recalled last week.
“I wanted to be in the service so bad,” he stressed.
“What they didn’t know is that I had got shot and I still had the bullet in [my leg],” he remarked. “But during a route march, I collapsed and my leg swelled right up.”
“They were going to discharge me but I convinced them not to and they sent me to the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps in Red Deer, Alta., where I became a driver trainer,” he continued.
Moran finally made it overseas but when his troop ship arrived in Liverpool, an attack on the ship by German aircraft nearly killed him before he was able to stand and fight.
“I had to jump into the water from three or four stories high,” he related, gesturing. “I said to myself, ‘John, they’re going to kill you before you even start fighting.’”
As it turned out, Moran never made it to the front line. When he had enlisted, the army had asked him what he could do.
“I put down sports and that I was a good skier,” he said. “I had learned to ski on Moran Hill and Flinders Hill [here in Fort Frances].
So the RCASC signed him up as a skiing instructor to teach British soldiers how to ski before invading Nazi-occupied Norway. “They put me into the British Army,” he said. “I went to Edinburgh, Scotland and into the Royal Army Service Corps.”
But Moran and a few of his Canadian buddies weren’t too keen on the switch.
“I didn’t want to be in the British Army. I wanted to be in the Canadian army so my friends and I decided to go on strike, not realizing that we could be shot--that was mutiny,” he said.
“So [our superiors] put us in the Edinburgh dungeons for five days,” he recalled. “It was ancient!
“Eventually we said okay, we’ll stay in your army and we’ll never do that again,” he chuckled.
After an extensive stint of ski training, Moran went by submarine to northern Norway as part of an advanced party to organize freedom fighters there.
One month into his “underground” job, the war ended.
“After the war, I spent a year in Norway rounding up Germans and helping the Norwegians get back on their feet,” Moran said, adding he and other members of his RASC unit eventually received a certificate of commendation for helping restore “The Liberation of Norway” on May 8, 1945.
Moran also said he had always felt his fortune in surviving the war wasn’t luck at all--something that was reaffirmed during the war when he was in Eastbourne, England.
“My chum and I were to go to the café there. [But] at the last minute, the guy on guard duty got sick and I had to relieve him,” Moran explained. “My chum went on to the café . . . it got bombed and he got killed.
“I would have been there but my time wasn’t up. There is no question in my mind that you have a time to be born and a time to die,” he reasoned.