A One-Eyed Québécois ‘Rambo’ Captures Imaginations in Canada

The documentary recounts Mr. Major’s role in the liberation of Zwolle, a picturesque Dutch city with a population of about 50,000 at the time.

After sunset on April 13, 1945, Mr. Major and another soldier, Willie Arsenault, sneaked into the German-held town on a reconnaissance mission, according to military records. It was just weeks before the war was to end. The area was swarming with German soldiers, and Mr. Arsenault, Mr. Major’s close friend, was killed by the Nazis. Incensed, Mr. Major gunned down the two Germans who had killed his friend.

He then walked into the German officer quarters where he persuaded a senior officer who spoke French that the village was surrounded by Canadian soldiers. He told him to tell his fellow officers to evacuate immediately — or face being captured when the town fell. As a sign of good faith, he let the German keep his gun.

A One-Eyed Québécois ‘Rambo’ Captures Imaginations in Canada
A One-Eyed Québécois ‘Rambo’ Captures Imaginations in Canada

Mr. Major then proceeded to charge through the town to simulate a siege from an encroaching army. With the aide of Dutch resistance officers, he captured more than 50 German soldiers. Other Germans fled, and the town was liberated.

“Major was a loose cannon, a skinny kid from the wrong side of the tracks who wasn’t afraid of anything,” Mr. Lépine said, explaining his sometimes foolhardy bravery. “His father had been violent,” he added, noting the young Québécois wanted to prove that he could stand up to anything.

Mr. Major stayed in the Canadian army and was awarded a medal for bravery during the Korean War after capturing a strategic hill despite being vastly outnumbered by Chinese forces.

He returned to Montreal at age 33, hampered by so many painful war injuries that he couldn’t work. He lived off a veteran’s pension. He passed his time listening to James Brown, sewing clothes and seldom talking about the past — or what he had done, his son said.

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