As a Battalion Intelligence Officer in the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), 2nd Battalion, Edward Mastronardi was responsible for the scouts and snipers. Upon his arrival in Pusan with the 2nd Battalion, their first mission on the front line was to cut the Chinese main supply line to Manchuria and protect a local village just up the road. Edward Mastronardi describes the RCR troops attacking the Chinese defenses around Hill 467, as known as Kakul-bong, around the valley of Chail-li, but they were forced to withdraw after the Chinese outnumber the RCR. By October 1951, his company regiment was put to the test by taking position over looking the Samich’on River and attacked the Chinese position atop Hill 187 that could result in heavy casualties of his own men since they were leading the attack, but with the help of New Zealand and Australian armament, they headed full steam into battle without losing a single man in his group while breaking the Chinese. Edward Mastronardi believed that Canadians efforts exceeded the expectations of other countries efforts in holding the main line of resistance by describing that the Canadian soldier had a feeling of mutual dependence towards each other, and a responsibility to defend that at all cost. Upon Edward Mastronardi’s return from the Korean War, he wrote, Mock The Haggard Face, that tells the Canadian War story by portraying the motivations and experiences of the soldier against the unknown enemy in the Far East. A historical documentary was made called 28 Heroes, directed by Paul Kilback in 2013 for the infamous story, and received a nomination at the Canadian Screen Awards for Best History Document Program or Series.
Edward Mastronardi's Arrival at Pusan
Edward Mastronardi recalled the heavy pollution, dark clouds, and high noise level upon his arrival at Pusan. Young boys were at the dock being mistreated by their boss as their ship was unloading close to nightfall. They would later move to northeast of Pusan and would anchor next to a burial ground believed to be full of prisoners.
We Were Alone and the Chinese Were Everywhere
Edward Mastronardi described the scene at hill 464 and 467 as two humps on a camel. They lacked communication due to the terrain (mountains), no air support, and overcast caused artillery to shoot without knowing directly what it was going to hit since the visibility was so bad. Edward Mastronardi brought Colonel up to witness several hundred Chinese only yards away, so the Colonel wanted to take out his 9 mm to attack the several hundred Chinese himself! They decided that attempting to attack the Chinese was too much, but they did it anyway and didn't succeed in taking Hill 464.
The Enemy Was Wearing Panchos
Edward Mastronardi described how the Chinese stole ponchos worn by the Americans and they found an American machine gun that they were planning to use in order to fire on the Royal Canadian Regiment. Edward Mastronardi also described a machine gunner named Jack Sergeant who single handedly held off the Chinese. Snipers within in his company took down 5 Chinese in a row trying to take over the enemy who were taking the machine guns and they were awarded for their efforts.
It Was About the Civilians...
Witnessing the conditions of the civilians firsthand, Edward Mastronardi was sympathetically moved by the Korean people. As the Americans advanced with tanks, guns, etc. through the Porchon Valley, they shot up everything. Knowing the Chinese did too, Edward Mastronardi witnessed so much destruction left behind. He told of a story about the Korean people dressed in white due to a funeral, and he noticed a woman lay, dying, and trying to still breast feed a dead baby. Edward Mastronardi was angry about the reckless killing of all people. It showed truly first hand what effect the war had on the Korean people.
"Let's Go You Bastards, You Can't Live Forever!"
Within 100+ yards of their objective to attack the Chinese at Hilltop 187 near Samich'on River, Edward Mastronardi described how close the shells were from the tops of their heads, but it didn't stop their advancements since the shrapnel flew forward not putting them in any immediate danger. Edward Mastronardi held his 9 mm gun in his hand and waived it in the air shouting to his men, "Let's go you bastards, you can't live forever!" Bravely charging ahead, breaking the Chinese hold without losing a single man, Edward Mastronardi fought the Chinese at Hill 187.
"Canada boy, tonight you die!"
Before the Battle of Song-gok Spur, a Chinese Company Commander walked straight up to the front line and leaned over and said, "Canada boy, tonight you die!" To which Edward Mastronardi replied, "Come and get us you SOB!" which was documented in the Canadian documentary 28 Heroes. They located the company Commander in Beijing after the war to interview about this event. The battle resulted in only 6 Canadian deaths.
It's Fantastic to See What Has Happened to Korea Now!
The Interviewer asked Edward Mastronardi how he feels about Korea today in the 21st century, knowing he has a clear picture of Korea during the Korean War. He said, "Fantastic! It shows the true strength, diversity, flexibility of what can be done. There is always a way to do it if you are willing to work for it." Edward Mastronardi is very proud to have been apart of saving South Korea.