One regiment’s sweetheart

Following a request published in CARPNews from Contributing Editor Ted Barris for stories about the Korean War, one reader wrote to provide her perspective from the home front. Here’s her story.

By November of 1952, Pte. Len Peterson had been away from his home in southern Alberta for eight weeks. The last time he had walked familiar streets in Olds, he had been on embarkation leave. After that, his 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry had pulled up stakes from their advanced training camp in Wainwright and shipped out for Korea aboard the USNS Marine Adder. During its first weeks in the line, Peterson’s battalion assisted the British Black Watch regiment on the area called the Hook and then began settling in for its first Korean winter. To warm himself during one daytime break, Peterson wrote a letter home to a girl he’d known in high school. He hoped he might get a response.

Before long a letter arrived at his No. 8 Platoon position in Korea. Peterson wrote back. This time he enclosed a few snapshots – pictures showing the countryside, the dog that had become the platoon mast and living quarters in tents and bunkers. Generally shy and quiet, Peterson asked his school chum in Olds, Rose Marie Stumpf, to write to some of his platoon mates and to send pictures from home. Soon letters were also arriving for Joe Tonkin, Bill Reid, Pat Fontaine, Carson Hutchens and Johnny Birjuit.

The letters contained news from home: what young people their age were doing, as well as word on what was hot in books, records and movies. Enclosed were snaps with comments on the back: “How do you like my new spring outfit?” And “This is a pale mauve formal I’m going to wear for graduation.”

^By the time 16-year-old Rose Marie graduated from high school, in the spring of 1953, she had been dubbed “The Sweetheart of the PPCLI” and her picture was on display in the tents and bunkers of many members of the Princess Patricias 3rd Battalion. Back home in Olds, Rose Marie had written over 500 letters and was being besieged by newspaper reporters from Calgary and Winnipeg for the inside story on becoming the Korea forces’ pin-up.

“It’s up to us to do something for the boys,” responded Rose Marie. “After all, they are over in Korea fighting for us.”