Hon. Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence):
Mr. Speaker, last night the member for Winnipeg South Centre (Mr. Churchill) made a number of statements, and he expressly asked me to give certain assurances. Because of the nature of those statements and their possible effect on the forces abroad and their families at home, I felt that in the national interest I should make an immediate statement. Accordingly, I have delayed my departure abroad, and if I have the unanimous consent of the house, I shall proceed to make a statement now. It will not be long.
I refer to that part of the hon. member's speech in which the impression is created that the rate of casualties suffered is, in any way whatever, comparable to those at Dieppe. Whilst this may not have been the intention of the hon. member, you can see the impression created by the reference in the dispatch as it appears in this morning's Montreal Gazette. It reads:
The Winnipeg soldier M.P. warned that to date Canadian casualties in Korea had been about 60 per cent-"the same heavy casualties rate as at Dieppe".
At Dieppe, of forces numbering 4,963, 3,371 were casualties in eight hours. In Korea the 25th Canadian infantry brigade have been there a total of 7,900 man years. The total number of casualties suffered numbers 1,248 or 16 per cent as opposed to the 68 per cent in eight hours at Dieppe. It must be remembered and emphasized that the 25th Canadian infantry brigade is practically all in the active theatre of operations in front of brigade headquarters. I am informed by the chief of the general staff that the casualty rate of the 25th brigade, as related to the actions in which they have been engaged, has been lower than any comparable formation in the war in Korea or in the second world war, and that has been due to the finest possible equipment, good training, maintenance of strength and good leadership. The fact that so far the brigade has only lost one prisoner of war is a remarkable tribute to its fighting quality and fighting spirit.
The care that casualties receive is shown by the fact that of the non-fatal battle casualties less than 3 per cent died of wounds while the figure was 6 per cent in the second world war and 8 [DOT] 1 per cent in the first world war.
So far as ammunition is concerned, the position in Korea is precisely as I outlined it the other day. Canadian troops have never been subjected to unnecessary casualties by any shortage of ammunition, nor are they in the least likely to be exposed in such a manner. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that the amount of ammunition used in Korea far exceeds that ever used before in any campaign in the history of mankind for any force of a comparable size. During quiet periods ammunition is conserved, on precisely the same basis for the Canadians as for the other forces, against the possibility of attack and to maintain an essential theatre reserve against contingencies. If an armistice is agreed on it might well include a condition, that there should be no supplementing of military formations or stores in the theatre while it is in force. If an armistice is agreed on such terms and fighting should subsequently break out again, the forces would have placed themselves in a position of unjustifiable risk had they not provided for theatre stocks.
As for the political and superior military control of the Canadian forces, we have a position in the commonwealth division and in the army appropriate to our position as having: the third largest fighting force among the United Nations in Korea.
The brigade commander may, either through the usual channels or direct, bring to attention any situation in which he feels that Canadian lives would be needlessly risked, or any other circumstances requiring attention, in Korea, in Japan and, if necessary, at Washington. The brigade commander is specifically given the right of direct communication to the chief of the general staff in Ottawa on any matter and can call for representation to be made to the United Nations command either through military or governmental channels in the event that he should feel that he was required to take any action which involved the acceptance of unjustifiable military risks to his troops. Happily, no situation has arisen necessitating such an appeal, and with the confidence which we may feel in the calibre of the command in the theatre such an appeal is not to be expected.
I am sure that the hon. member did not intend his remarks to be harmful to the magnificent spirit of our fighting forces and I am sure he did not want to cause additional distress and concern to their wives and mothers at home here in Canada.