There is plenty happening at the HMCS Alberni Museum & Memorial (HAMM) in Courtenay (625 Cliffe Ave.) this summer.
Opened last month and running until Nov. 11, HAMM is featuring “The Long Reach: The RCN’s role in the Korean War.” Seventy years - on July 27, 1953 - ago hostilities ended in Korea. Canada played a large role in this conflict for three years along with the USA and 20 other countries. This full exhibit is set up in the museum’s Education Centre and focuses on the participation of the Royal Canadian Navy and the losses of Canadians on HMCS Iroquois. The large installation is on loan from the Naval Museum of Manitoba.
Additional materials and artifacts have been provided by local families of Korean war veterans.
The Korean War is often called the forgotten war as it began soon after the end of a global shattering Second World War, when Europe and Japan were rebuilding. The hostilities on the Korean peninsula are significant in that they ended without an actual peace treaty. This lack of a stable conclusion affected world events afterwards and continues to affect us today. Nuclear tensions between North Korea under the Kim family and the USA, Japan, and Russia are still making nervous headlines.
No major conflict occurred in Southeast Asia until the Vietnam War in the 1960s. HAMM is also fortunate to show a second special travelling exhibit, “The Canadian Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall,” for two days only – Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18-19. HAMM has been working for more than eight years to bring this to the Comox Valley. The mobile exhibit, based in Winnipeg, is a memorial project by the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association. It is touring western Canada this summer and Courtenay will be its only stop on Vancouver Island and only one of two stops in British Columbia.
Up to 40,000 Canadians were thought to have crossed the line and volunteered to fight or participate with the American forces. One hundred and thirty-four gave their lives or were considered missing in action. Unlike Australia and New Zealand, Canadian forces did not participate directly in the Vietnam conflict. Instead, Canadian corporations supplied war material to the U.S. government. After the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973, Canadian military under the UN were assigned to Vietnam.
One hundred and thirty-four names are inscribed on the memorial wall that will be set up in the corridor outside HAMM. These Canadians are also on the famous Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC and a granite memorial along the Detroit River in Windsor, Ont.
If Korea was the forgotten war, the Canadian Vietnam soldiers are the forgotten veterans in this country. For years they have faced discrimination from various organizations in their efforts to be recognized and remembered. Two Canadian Vietnam veterans from Winnipeg will be at HAMM to host their exhibit and answer visitor questions. Families are encouraged people to visit HAMM and discover more about these two eras of Canadian history.
Admission to the exhibit and for entry into the museum for the two days it will be shown is free. Donations however to CVVA and HAMM are welcome.
For more information contact HAMM (250-897-4611) or visit the Canadian Vietnam Veteran’s Association website (www.cvva.ca).
HMCS ALBERNI Museum & Memorial 625 Fifth Street, Courtenay