New Germany veteran James Emino, 95, recollects his war-time experiences
By KEVIN MCBAIN
The Second World War was the largest in history, claiming the lives of 45,000 soldiers. James Emino, born in New Germany, was one of those that lived to tell about his experiences.
The 95-year-old lived in his own home in Simpson’s Corner up until moving to the Veteran’s Unit of the Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg, October 10.
Emino was born February 13, 1924 and enlisted in the army in 1941 just after his 17th birthday.
“I didn’t have a job a that time and had no way to make a living,” he said. “No one would hire me because I was too young for compensation if anything happened.”
The veteran vividly recalled many of his war-time experiences during a recent interview with LighthouseNOW.
He trained as a tank driver/mechanic at Camp Borden, Ontario. From there he was sent overseas as part of the Ninth Armoured Regiment of the British Columbia Dragoons, where he continued training for about a month.
Then it was off to North Africa with the Dragoons. He recalls an incident that happened on the way down.
“We were zig-zagging all the way through and we had a torpedo shot at us. I was on the big gun turret at one end of the ship at the time and you could see this silver thing on top of the water coming towards us,” he said. “It looked like it was going to hit the back of the boat or the propeller but it didn’t. I think everyone dirtied themselves and I save a guy who fainted near me and almost fell overboard, but I grabbed on to him before he could.”
He said their first mission was to help clear up any Germans that were left in North Africa by the British 7th Armoured Division. They were then absorbed into the group that was also known as the Desert Rats.
They traveled to the south end of Italy where they stayed for about 18 months.
During that time he was on a crew that was driving a Mark IV tank that does not have a turret on top of it.
“We were sitting on the side of the hill and there was a German hiding in a corn field. We had gone past him and had to stop because we had caught up to the larger tanks ahead of us,” said Emino. “We were sitting on the side of a hill and the guy started shooting with his machine gun and I got shot through my right arm and a whole bunch of shrapnel in my left arm, legs and back.”
He remembers having some time off to recover, but said he was sent back far too early.
“I had to try and drive the tank with my feet on the levers, but I also needed them for the clutch, brake and gas pedal. I had quite a time,” said Emino. “I did that for about three weeks and it didn’t work. The main driver of the tank while I was away was Curly Allen from Cape Breton and he was mad that he had to continue to drive.
“Anyway, they put me on the gun and the first day I was there, I did a good deed,” he continued. “We made a run towards the German line along a canal bank. The Germans were all along there. We had to drop back because they were firing bazookas at us.”
He said they had to call for back up and at one point the crew came upon a house with some Germans talking outside of it. He had to use the guns to get rid of the threat.
Emino recalled heading to the Alps and Italy for awhile, before heading over to France and finally to an airport in Holland where he finished up his tour of duty. But he wasn’t quite done yet. In Holland, he got out of the tank and was nosing around the outskirts of the airport when he found some trenches.
Inside the trench he received a shock when a German stood up. Emino quickly captured him. “He would have been in his 40s and I figure he was an officer of some sort.”
He marched his prisoner to headquarters at the airport, where there were prisoners and their captors as far as the eye could see.
Emino returned home to Canada on New Year’s Eve 1945 and was discharged February 15, 1946 after he was deemed medically unfit for the service. He was given $5 a month pension for his service, but $3 of that went to Blue Cross for medical care. That amount was all he would receive for many years.
He said that the transition to civilian life wasn’t easy. He had to have two back surgeries upon his return to Canada, after injuring himself during commando training before he went overseas. There was also the issue of shrapnel in his leg, arm and back.
The use of his hands was limited and he felt pain throughout his back and arms. He says that he still feels the effects of his injuries despite several visits to doctors.
Financially, times were also tough on his return and he wasn’t able to work for some time. However after some recovery time, he was able to find employment as a mechanic in several different garages and at the Lunenburg Foundry.
Through exercise he would regain a lot of the use of his hands over the years and was able to work more and chopped wood to heat his house until he was 93.
Remembering is important for everyone, so that something like this will never happen again.
“It should be something to remember for sure. War is absolutely inhuman. Not only do you get wounded and smashed up that way, lots of people starve to death as well,” said Emino who added that conflicts should just be fought by the heads of the countries, instead of through wars.