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.
[Beginning of recorded material]
E: Edward John Mastronardi, E-D-W-A-R-D
I: Um hm.
E: J-O-H-N M-A-S-T-R-O-N-A-R-D-I.
I: What is the ethic origin of this last name, Mastronardi?
E: And, uh, my father’s side, and on my mother’s side French.
I: Your mom is from French.
I: Ah. Got it. So Italian and French.
I: Very good combination.
What is your birthday?
E: Second of November
I: Um hm.
E: Nineteen twenty-five.
I: Twenty-five. So you are now 90.
E: Ninety, yes.
I: Where were you born?
E: In Toronto, Ontario.
I: Toronto, um. That’s the biggest city in, in Canada, right?
E: Yes it is.
I: Yeah. Tell me about your family. You just mentioned that your father is from Italy, your mom from France.
E: Well, French Canada, yes.
And, uh, my father was a pharmacist.
I: Yeah. And?
E: And my mother, uh, was a teacher.
I: What did she teach?
E: Uh, she, uh, I’m not quite sure to be quite honest with you. Um, I believe, uh, it was, uh, in Ottawa here and, uh, it was on the French side
I: Um hm.
E: Uh. So, uh, if I made a good guess, probably to do with, uh, French-Canadian History.
I: I see.
E: Because my family originally came here[Vio de lesteraunt] in, uh, 1648.
I: Sixteen forty-eight.
E: Uh, it was our, [Vio de lesteraunt] was, uh, member of the Army and, uh, instead of going back to France, he was given the option of a tract of land on the St. Lawrence River
between, uh, three rivers and Montreal.
E: And, uh, so that’s the, where the family started. The first medal is the British
I: Which one? Okay.
E: British Military Cross.
I: Uh huh. Wow. Military Cross?
I: That’s a very high honor, isn’t it?
E: It’s their, it’s second to the Victoria Cross.
I: Wow. And?
E: And, uh, and then, uh, it was a Canadian War medal that I served overseas
Then the North Atlantic Star for service in the North Atlantic
I: Um hm.
E: And then, and Canadian Service Medal, War Medal. And then we go into three Korean medals.
I: So far right.
E: The far right on your, as you look at it, yeah.
E: And, uh, and then that’s followed by, uh, that’s followed by a Canadian Force Decoration, the CD where I was in the Air Force when I got that.
So you have, uh, Airborne, were you Airborne?
E: Yes, I was a paratrooper.
E: I was a, I was a battalion, uh, [INAUDIBLE] was Jump Master, but Battalion Para training Officer.
E: The Royal Canadian Regiment, 2nd Battalion, yeah.
I: And what’s in the middle? You have two of them, right? Yeah. What is that?
E: This is the Order of St. George
I: Um hm.
E: which, uh,
I was invested, uh, a little over a year ago, and this
I: What’s been recognized for that?
E: Service to Country.
I: To the country.
I: Okay. It’s from Canadian government.
E: And this wonderful award from the Republic of Korea honoring my men. My 28 heroes, The Deuce.
I: That’s very nice of you to say that. I watched, actually watched the film. Bob Neer introduced it to me, and I watched it in his home, home theater, right. And you say 28 heroes. But that was awarded to you, right, from the Korean government.
E: Well I, I was a Commander. But I think you should note I was doing my job as a Commander. They were making the huge sacrifice.
I: Um hm.
E: So as far as I can see, a war, in a war like this, has to be for all of them, not just for one man.
I: That’s right. That’s the [Taegu Mugunghwa]. That’s the highest that the Korean government can award to anybody.
E: And a real honor.
I: Yes. And I was there. Uh, I know the whole process. It’s been recommended by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs and, uh,
directing manage of [Parking] with the Korean Ambassador who have a wonderful ceremony there in the, uh, RCR Legion Post, right in Canada. And so it was great to see that, and I’m so pleased to be back with you again. So let’s start, you know, the details. Yeah. So you talked about your education, right? Could you go on? What, uh, high school and university you
E: Oh high school, oh yes. Well, uh, high school, Jarvis Collegiate, Toronto, University of Toronto, uh,
Arts and Science
E: uh, and, uh, um, perhaps a bit amusing. My last, uh, summer, uh, I was, uh, had been an officer in a Intelligence Corps Reserve in the Army
I: During, during your college?
E: Yes. We’d take four years of Canadian Officers Training.
I: Um hm.
E: And I finished off as a Lieutenant, and I joined the Intelligence Corps Reserve, and, uh, I was back in Borden, Camp Borden instructing cadets that I had been in Intelligence. And, u h, a few of us were sitting around having a drink, about four other officers and myself, all Lieutenants, and our Prime Minister came out, [Louis St. Laurent] came on the air saying that the Canadians were going
to form a special brigade to go and help the Korean people in the War in Korea. And they were looking for volunteers. Well after the first drink, it sounded like a pretty good idea. After the second drink hey, I think it’s a great idea. After the third drink, we sent in a nice letter and all volunteered.
E: Two weeks later, two to the Patricias, two to the Royal Canadian Second Regiment, and me to the RCR, 2ndBattalion.
I: So five of you. Five of you, right?
I: Yeah. Did you know anything about Korea before you left for Korea or before you joined or volunteered to, to go?
E: Frankly, had no idea of the country. I only was aware that something pretty awful was happening. And, uh, it just seemed
the right thing to do. Remember, I just finished four years of intensive military training as a member of the Canadian Officers Training Corps. Uh, I was ready for something like that. It just seemed the right time, the right place and frankly the right thing to do.
I: Highly educated man like you didn’t know anything about Korea. That’s the reality of
E: Yes, but the Far East. It’s sad. Matter of fact, uh, of course, remember the concentration then was on Europe and the Russian threat. We lived through that for 20 years.
I: Um hm.
E: Uh, threat of a nuclear war, there was special training needed with that, uh, something that was part of our life, particularly people like me. It was part of our life. So, uh, we’re quite aware of the, of any major thing happening.
Well, something had to be done about it.
I: Yep. What was your specialty?
E: In terms of the military or
I: Yes, yeah.
E: Well, I was trained as a, uh, an Infantry Officer
I: Um hm.
E: But I entered the Intelligence Corps because I was, uh, well they thought it was the best place for me.
I: Uh huh.
E: And, uh, and as I said, uh, my first job with the 2nd Lieutenant with the RCR was Battalion Intelligence Officer
and responsible for the Scouts Snipers. I had a separate platoon.
E: I had two functions. And I reported directly to the Colonel.
I: What was the reaction from your father and mother about your decision to volunteer to go to Korean War?
E: Well, my poor mother, having seen me go off to two wars, it was hard.
I: What do you mean two wars? Tell me about those two wars before the Korean War.
E: Well I, I had just, I had just, uh, I just turned 18 when I joined the Navy.
I: Um hm.
E: And I was trained as [INAUDIBLE] at the Communication School in St. Hyacinthe in Quebec. And, uh, and then sent to Halifax, then to Newfoundland and got involved with the North Atlantic. And, uh, because I was only 18, I had what they called a yellow card. I wasn’t entitled to have a drink.
E: There was always a rum served every day at 5:00. The Brits called it High Spirits or Top Spirits.
E: And I wasn’t allowed. I was too young. But, so when Christmas came, uh, cause I was the youngest person on the ship, I was made Captain of the ship for the Navy.
I: So every rule has an exception, right? So please tell me about North Atlantic, was it, what do you mean by that? Is that battle or what? You talking at World War
E: In fact the, uh, the e most
I: When was it ?
E: This is ’40, uh, ’44.’45.
MALE VOICE: What was the name of your ship, Ed, and what kind of ship was it?
E: The last ship I was on was a, uh, an auxiliary ship called the Preserver, uh. It was filled with high test octane gasoline
E: And we had a fleet of anti-submarine, uh, ship for this that operated on what you call fair miles,
and they operated on high test gasoline.
E: So, uh, we, uh, tragically, uh, a German submarine had sunk a minesweeper, The [Esquible]. Uh, a fellow I went to Signal School with, uh, went down with it, and they lost nearly all of their people.
I: So you are World War II veteran.
E: Oh yeah.
I: Um hm.
E: Oh yes.
I: Um hm.
E: And, uh, then we
at the end, toward, just before the end of the War, this flotilla and we were on our way to get that submarine. And we did get it eventually or part of, when it surrounded at the end of the War.
I: Um hm.
E: And all the, any German submarines in the area were ordered to surface and fly a black flag, not a white flag, a black flag.
I: What does that mean?
E: That’s when we saw the submarine sank, the [Esquible].
E: The last Canadian ship lost in the War.
E: It was quite a moment.
I: Um hm.
E: And we were hoping it could sink the darn thing. But
I: What was the other war that you were involved, before the Korean War?
I: What was the other War? That was it? Yeah, right?
I: Yeah. So you didn’t have to go to the basic military training because you are highly trained officer already, right?
E: Yes, oh yes. That’s why, that, and, and also being with the Intelligence Corps, that’s why the Colonel selected me. And also I had a reputation of being very good tactician and, uh, field man. And that’s why I had the, was given the Scouts and Snipers because, uh, in our Regiment, Scouts and Sniper platoon, they, they are, they do the advance to contact the enemy. That means you contact
the enemy, estimate its strength, if necessary draw fire. So we did that, uh. Once we launched the, uh, the, the major attack to recapture the 38th Parallel in, uh, in May of, uh, of 1951, uh.
I: Before, I wanna talk about this. Where did you go from, you were in Toronto, right ?
I: And then, where did you go to go to Korea?
E: Oh. Well I went to
Petawawa which was, uh, the 1st Battalion was stationed
I: Um hm.
E: and, uh, 2nd Battalion were being formed, and the 1st Battalion was given a job of training us, officers and men. And it was quite rugged. And they did a good job. They did a good job. In fact, some of the 1st Battalion people felt a bit resentful that a bunch of people being hired to go to war when they felt they should be doing the job.
E: But most of our people that were joining up were veterans of the 2nd War, battle experience. And that was important. So it doesn’t matter training them for war, half of our people had been at war including myself. So we do what they, what that kind of threat or risk was which was important in terms of, uh, not being able to maintain a very aggressive posture when we advanced up, up the [Pochun Valley] to where the
38th Parallel, Chorwon and then over the Imjin, Samichon River.
I: Yeah. Where did you go from, did you leave from Fort Lewis?
E: From Fort Lewis, we sailed, uh, we sailed to Korea, directly to
I: When, when?
E: Okay. April
I: Nineteen fifty-one?
E: April ’51, yes.
I: You left from Fort Lewis
E: Well, Seattle actually.
I: Seattle, okay.
E: Yeah, sailed for Seattle, yes.
I: And then, did you stop by in Japan or
E: No. No. We passed by the Hawaiian Islands, just south of us.
I: Um hm.
E: And went straight to, uh, Pusan.
I: But were only Canadian soldiers or there were Americans, too in the ship?
E: No just all, all Canadians.
I: All Canadians.
E: Yeah. But there was an American ship, American Liberty Ship.
The General D. Patrick.
I: I see. And you directly go to Pusan and arrived, right?
I: Yeah. Please tell me about the Pusan you remember when you first arrived, people, buildings, and scenes.
E: Well, first of all, the first thing we noticed was the, uh, how beautiful the islands were and, of course, Pusan was in the distance.
As we got closer, we saw this huge dark cloud over Pusan.
E: Pollution. Pollution big time.
E: And, uh, when we got in there, it was night, just becoming night. And of course they, they started unloading stuff. The docks were just filled with a lot of little, well, young boys, uh, being, uh, pretty roughly treated by their, by their, their, their, bosses.
Get working. And, uh, the noise was all over the place. And, uh, then, uh, when we finally, when we finally disembarked the soldiers, and we were driven just outside of, uh, Pusan, I said a little bit, uh try to remember correctly, probably a bit north east of Pusan
I: Um hm
E: to what had been a burial ground. It was now, had been used for prisoners, and that’s where we had our, we spent our first night.
I: Um hm.
E: When we got to Korea. Uh, then we had to get rid of our sea legs, do a lot of hill climbing
I: Um hm
E: get back in shape and then at the, in May, about the second week in May, we were ordered to depart.
I: So where were you stationed there in the front line?
just because it’d be difficult because first of all I only remember going over who was there when we got there.
I: Um hm.
E: In our case, uh, the troops that we approached or passed through were the Turks. The Turks were a game for good. They were great on the attack and, uh, had a few problems with the defects.
I: I know.
E: They’re very aggressive.
E: But, uh,
I: For example,
E: So we, we, we, we
passed through the Turks, and that was our advance into [Pochon Valley]
E: Yeah. And, uh, we first ran into, well we ran into enemy going along, but not in any big, uh, numbers until we hit [Shaylee]. And we had planned an attack to capture [Shaylee]. The Brigade Commander and [INAUDIBLE]
And, uh, we were using maps that were based on Japanese maps.
E: The scale was different from ours.
E: And the positions in reality was much further apart than they looked on the map. But we actually did the reconnaissance on the ground cause I [worked at colonel] as an intelligence officer in this case. I said my God. Look at the distance between our objectives.
E: They weren’t going to be too strong [loosely] supported.
And of course, uh, the, this was the major [INAUDIBLE] for the Chinese from getting supplies from Manchuria down to the Chorwon Valley and, and that effort. So they were determined they were gonna hold, uh, this key position, uh. Our hill was 4, I wanna get the numbers right, I believe it was 464, 467, one of them.
I: Um hm.
E: It was a double, it looked like a camel, a double camel hump.
E: drew a picture. And, uh, and that was the primary objective. The others were to take the village itself two miles up the road and then, uh, positions on either side of the, of the road, each company. So, uh, driving rain that day, uh. We were supposed to have air support
and a lot of artillery. There was no air support. They couldn’t fly in. The artillery, they were so overcast they couldn’t see the targets, so they were doing back shoots which aren’t very accurate. Not their fault. They just had to guess where they might hit somebody. And climbing up those hills in the attack, sliding on the mud, slipping
I: Um hm.
E: until finally you hit the machine guns. They were determined to hold it .
I: Um hm.
E: They could fight.
I: Chinese, right?
E: Oh yeah.
E: Oh yeah. And we had the, uh, Koreans on our right. They were moving up. And the Americans. The Americans got stopped. They were supposed to be up with us. But the Americans got held up. So we were there, our brigade, 9,000 men [INAUDIBLE] We were alone. And, uh, suddenly it became apparent
the Chinese were there big time.
I: Um hm.
E: So, uh, the, the guys did a heck of a fine job. But, uh, without that air support and proper [INAUDIBLE] support, there’s no way we were gonna take that key position. Then the Chinese started moving[INAUDIBLE] mass. And the Colonel sent me a [INAUDIBLE] going on. He couldn’t see anything. Communication was terrible, couldn’t get through to people because we’re all in the hills.
So I, that was my job. And so I located where the contact is and I said oh my gosh, I said, 467 hill is being, had really attacked in the [main]. So we had, they said Ed, where are they? I said I’ll go out. I’ll check, sir. So I went up. I had two Scouts with me. I said, I said to one go back and get the Colonel. So he brought Colonel Cane up,
a wonderful officer.
E: Fine officer, [INAUDIBLE] Directly from the 2nd War. And we could see, even through the murk in the distance, this crowd of several hundred Chinese going up the hill, not more than 100 yards away cause you could see them. I said sir, there are your Chinese.
I: Um hm.
E: Oops. He said, hey, he wanted to go and attack them himself. He was gonna take out his 9mm.
I said sir, I think
E: I think you better go back and tell the Brigadier.
I: Experienced Colonel
E: Oh yeah. He was, he, he. He was already to go into there.
I: Wants to go deal with several hundred of Chinese?
E: Bob Keene, oh yeah.
I: Oh my goodness.
E: He was a courageous man. I said no, I don’t think that’s a good idea, sir. I said you better go back and tell the Brigadier. So at that point, it was decided we just couldn’t just too much. Couldn’t get any support from the other companies. And then Able Company in [Shaylee], they were really in trouble.
E: Chinese were hitting them big time. They’d surround, first they surrounded them. So, uh, Brigadier Rockingham ordered a withdrawal, back to the start line. We didn’t retreat. We just went back to the start line.
I: You never wanna say retreat.
E: We were, we stayed away all day. [We worked that day] We thought they were gonna counterattack us cause we were in front of them. But by that time, the Americans had finally moved up. And the, uh, the following day, a beautiful clear day, the Americans launched where we were using companies, they launched a regimental attack.
Thousands. And air support. Everything. Beautiful. I tell you, we, we were, we felt let down. We had all the worst there, and they had the best. Anyway, for the furthest, they got the position.
I: So hill 464 and 7 was occupied?
I: by our, our Forces?
E: Oh yeah. We, we were, we attacked that, that hill with a Company.
I: Um hm.
E: Roughly 100 men. It took, it took over a thousand men to take that hill.
E: Over a thousand men took that hill.
I: Um hm.
E: Mind you, in all fairness, there were two objectives, I mentioned about the camel hump. The first one, one of our officers, John Woods, a fine officer, he took that, that effort. The second hump, the platoon commander responsible to take that wasn’t able to. It was just too much for him.
I: Um hm.
E: So, uh, uh, I left John kind of vulnerable. So anyways, uh, I went up and I said to John, I was set up. John, you better, better pull back. By that time, his Company Commander had been wounded with mortar fire. So one of the Lieutenants had taken over as Commander, uh. They had about a number of casualties had to be evacuated. So, uh, that
was part of the withdraw back to the start line. And, uh, but John, he, he hated to have to give up his hill. I said that’s okay, John. There will be another time. In that battle, there were several very courageous [INAUDIBLE]. In one instance at Shaylee, the village itself, Able Company, A Company’s objective, uh.
They, uh, they saw a group of Chinese, well, a group of soldiers in ponchos, American ponchos, setting up on the American medium sheet gun. They thought oh, great. Americans have arrived. It wasn’t American. It was Chinese with American equipment. And we open fired on them. Well, one of our, one of them, uh, brain gunner, a machine gunner, but he was Jack Sergeant. When they were ordered to withdraw, he almost single handedly
held the Chinese off. But before that, I had attached two of my snipers to each of the companies. And one of my snipers, a Second War sniper by the name of Frighed, when they were setting that medium machine gun I was talking about with their ponchos,
I: Um hm
E: he, and I observed this, he took off, took down five Chinese in a row trying to band that machine gun they finally abandoned it.
And there was a fantastic, uh, accomplishment of shooting.
E: I, I must admit, my snipers were very good, all experienced, all Second War. And, uh, and Jack, of course, helped with the withdrawal and was awarded a very fine decoration, a military medal for that. And, uh, and then when I took over that platoon later on, he was my most dependable NCO,
brave beyond imagination.
I: What was your rank at the time?
E: Or Lieutenant in American Parlor.
I: Um hm.
I: You said that you didn’t know really much about Korea before you left for Korea. You were there in the middle of real trench war, warfare and, what were you thinking? Did you think
E: Oh, I, I, I
I: Did you say to yourself why am I here or what am I doing? Any regret?
E: Well, okay. Okay, I’ll be honest with you.
E: Sitting on the hills almost, with the Siberian winds, 20 below zero, and when I told you about the how I enlisted in the first place, I was supposed to be doing post-graduate work.
E: I sat there one night and I said you stupid, uh, SOB. I said
whatever prompted you, freezing up here, surrounded by Chinese, you must, you must be nuts.
I: Yeah. You must be nuts.
E: Oh, I didn’t feel that. No. When I saw the condition of the civilians, I saw them wounded. But there was something even more touching than that about how I was touched by the Koreans. When we were [INAUDIBLE] up the Pochon Valley and I was responsible for the Scouts and Snipers make contact with the enemy,
when the Americans passed up with a battle group tanks, all their infantry on, on trucks, half tracks, roared up the, up the valley, they were about to take it, and then we were supposed to move up behind and take it over from them. They shot up everything. The Chi, whether there were Chinese there or not, they had some terrible ambushes, and you can understand they were trying to protect themselves. But they created a lot of havoc.
The Chinese did, too.
I: Um hm.
E: in their own way. We came across one village shattered, and the Koreans were dressed in white, their funeral clothes, burying their dead of which there were a number. I came across in a shattered hut a woman lying there dying, uh, wounds, a dead baby, trying to breast feed a dead baby and blue, blue flies flying in and out of her, her wounds.
I ordered one of my Scouts, I said go get the Medical Officer. I don’t care what he’s doing, but make him come up here. I said we’ve got to do something for these people. But I got angry about reckless killing. I’m not being critical because I guess all armies do this. But you’ve got to protect your own. But I, to me, it, that showed truly first hand the wages of that War and what it was doing to your people.
I: Um hm.
E: That was upsetting, very upsetting. It made me angry that, uh. But then again, I began to realize, oddly enough, we were there to help United Nations, and in a similar way, strangely enough, the Chinese were there to help the North Koreans that they were to support. So in a way, it was a, kind of a, I, I didn’t feel any hate against the Chinese.
E: Or North Koreans for that matter,
even though they’re some of the more not very hostile. We never did anything against, when we moved into North Korea, my orders were very explicit. We don’t catch any civilian unless they show [Rear] aggression or need to defend yourself. They said no reckless shooting. I would not tolerate that.
I: Um hm.
E: And there never was, not, not under my command anyways. So, uh, we had a great feeling.
And then I had, I had a wonderful Korean, Le Yunng Man, who was helping me.
I: Oh. Tell me about it.
E: Oh yeah. Uh, well I’m not, I think, I think he was from Taejon originally, and I believe he had been planning or entered the University in Seoul as the War started. He was bright. He leaned some English, high school English. So he sort of acted
as the interpreter with the Korean Service Corps who helped us
E: with the wire
E: supply us with ammunition and help with the wiring and bring food up to us under Chinese fire. They were brave. I was very impressed. They ducked to protect themselves. As soon as the Chinese stopped, they carried on. And, uh, but, uh, we had a little dog called Sport.
E: Sport. Well, that’s what we called him.
E: But he was, he only understood Korean. If you said, if you said come here, he would walk. Well, there’s a picture of me with Sport on that, on that magazine.
I: He wasn’t international at all, right? Ah, that’s funny.
E: Oh yeah.
I: He was loyal to Korean, huh? What was the Korean boy’s name?
E: Li Yunng Man. That’s how I knew him. I have no idea how to spell it. I guess Leyungman. But that’s probably not quite right.
I: Oh, I think one of the interviews that I did, a Korean War veteran, I think, mentioned about him. Hm. Anyway,
so that was your major first battle, another one or any, any other episode?
E: Well, the, uh,
I: Major, major battle. You were in Kapyong, right?
E: Oh yeah. Well, it was, uh, we had various contact in fights, uh, along the way up to Pork Chop. When we finally crossed the, uh, took up our positions on the, uh, on the Imjin River, then the, uh, we were going to, I believe
it was then called the [Winter Line], we were going to move up against the Chinese borderline which was on the north side of the Samichon Valley.
I: Um hm.
E: And, uh, the key position from where we were concerned, their position then, uh, before, before the, uh, on the south side or that they, where the Winter Line was established, was a Hill called 187.
I: One Eight Seven, yeah.
E: One Eight Seven, yeah. It’s a
major defense positioner today. I’ve been there.
I: Um hm.
E: I was fortunate a few years, number of years ago, to visit it. And, uh, they, uh, uh, that was to be our objective, uh. It was if we had a divisional attack, British Commonwealth Division, General Castles, Rockingham, our Brigade Commander and, uh, the Brigade [INAUDIBLE] the King’s Own Scottish Borrowers, the Cosby’s were to take Hill 355 which was the
major position out here.
E: And they, uh, they, uh, they attacked at midnight. I’ll give you a date. Probably about either the very end of September or the very beginning of October.
E: Uh, ’51. And, uh, we were to, to go. We were to hit, we were, the Ulsters, t he British Ulsters, were our [INAUDIBLE], and we were just behind them, and we
were to take, go at, uh, roughly 6:00 in the morning cause they say, they figured they’d have the posit ion by then. Well, the Chinese fought hard. They didn’t want to give it up. So they didn’t get it till 10:00. The, uh, previous night, uh, our Company Commander, a fine, fine, Dick Medley, but he did something I couldn’t quite agree with. He said well, I said, I want to get a group of my men together,
me and the other officers. He said you know, you’d better prepare. It could be pretty tough tomorrow. You might, you could lose 50% casualties. You know what the men started doing? You or me, you know. And the attacks in Korea in the hills, we didn’t do this extended line that you see in all the movies.
E: On [Frakam] You attack in Arrowhead.
E: And you have a
and therefore that point of the arrowhead is quite vulnerable. Well, lucky me. I then had Two Platoon, Able Company, I was the arrowhead.
E: So I spent the night like, uh, the film Harry the 5th before the battle of [Ajicor] talking to his men, calming them down.
Well, I virtually did the same thing with my crowd
I: reassure them. Finally the next morning, and I say we waited, and then we could hear the Cosby’s going in with bagpipes of all things. In this day and age. It wasn’t supposed to be. But they got the position. Ten o-clock bright sunlit day, a thousand yards to go, arrowhead we were. we got stopped. And of course, the New Zealand Artillery was supporting us and, uh,
and the Australian [INAUDIBLE] mortars were supporting us. Well as we got closer, for there’s a couple hundred yards of the objective or even the Chinese to open up. They, uh, uh, the mortars stopped firing because that gets to be dangerous. But the New Zealand Artillery [INAUDIBLE] coming in, and this, course it sound like a phony story, but as we got close, cause withing about 120, within 120 yards, you could actually see the blur
of the shells coming in.
E: And I felt that I could reach up with a match and light it, you know. Exaggeration, of course. But, uh, and finally, but shrapnel from a shell hitting at an angle goes forward. You don’t have too much danger come at your back.
I: Uh huh.
E: So, uh, anyways, uh, it, uh, finally everyone said we should all start to go down because the shells were coming just in front of us. So I,
I said, well, I said I showed up and I did my John Wayne. I waved my 9 mm in the air. I said let’s go, you bastards. You can’t live forever. And away we went. I ran, and they all ran with me.
E: I was so proud of those boys. Just, the Chinese opened fire, but then they broke.
E: And took off. Well it’s understandable, the Chinese command wasn’t stupid. They’d lost a key posit ion, 355.
I: Um hm.
E: There’s no way they’re gonna hold 187 for any length of time. So they took off. Instead of getting 50% casualties, I’m proud to say, in that attack I didn’t lose one man, not a single man, including myself.
I: You still in one piece.
E: Minor miracle. No more John Wayne, though.
I: Yeah, yeah. Don’t do that, okay? If you do that, you’re nuts.
E: You’re nuts, yeah.
I: Um, any other battle that you wanna share the episode?
E: Well, well, well. That, that, back to that, the Chinese wanted that line back. So they started aggressive patrolling, and I mean really aggressive. Uh, when the Brigadier came to inspect the position the following day, cause they were digging in. Remember, the Chines positions are all aimed at the south. We had establish our position reaching the north. So our lapward position, they dug beautiful positions the Chinese, were not use to us except for we,
were on the reverse for [missing]. So we had to dig fresh positions on the other side of the slope. That kept the people pretty busy. And, uh, so, um, Brigadier Rockingham, a wonderful commander too, by the way, he, uh, he came up to, uh, our position, he looked good and he said, uh, it had this long, long, long ridge leading towards the, uh, Chinese site. He said you know, we should put an outpost there
to act as a warning. And I remember [Dick Medlin] said well, sir. It’d make us pretty vulnerable with the Colonel. He said well, he said, if it gets too dangerous, you can always pull them back cause it’s gonna leave us open here, you see. Well, so we established an outpost. The platoon that had been in reserve, Three Platoon, that had been laid by a great Sergeant by the name of Jim Woods. They were already to start. They were already to start and then, uh, take it over.
And he released like a bent finger and said, point to you, and it was, uh, almost in the center of the Samichon Valley. It was downhill 800 yards, or 600 yards from our main line and 800 yards from the Chinese line.
E: So it was obvious. We were very vulnerable. Uh, they took, they set an aggressive patrol against it and killed four men.
Then I was sent out beefing up much stronger, October the 14th, yes, 14th, that’s the date, 1951, midnight I was hit by a Company, Chinese. Against one of my, my section positions, George James, he’s a Corporal, wonderful Corporal, and, uh, we fought from 12 to 4 in the morning,
and they always said we were getting close to first light , they pulled out because I always worried about the air coming in. So, uh, but one terrifying thing, sad. We could hear one poor Chinese moaning and crying desperately in the night.
E: I said is there some way we can put him out of his misery? I felt for that poor man, dying like that. And, uh, and the, uh, they left with a number of casualties.
They left, uh, two wounded behind, uh. One died quickly and, uh, they, uh, but we took care of their, we took care of their wounded the same way we took care of ours, no difference at all, none whatsoever. We took good care of them. And the Chinese knew this. So they didn’t treat our people badly, either.
E: Yeah. But, uh, no. It was, uh,
that, uh, and then on the, just before the second of November, Jim Woods was out there again. And we had the Korean fellas working like Trojans to help us with the additional wiring.
I: Um hm.
E: And, uh, after that attack on the 14th, I got together with the Artillery Forward Observation officer, John Nielson, another fine officer who never got the credit he deserved unfortunately.
But John and I planned increased the defensive fire attacks around our position. And I, based on that Chinese hitting the Company, I figured where they would come the next time, right at the front. And, uh,
MALE VOICE: You’re gonna tell him this is the [Song Ox Burg] we’re talking about.
E: The [Song Ox Burg]. This is what, what, that’s his name. [Song Ox Burg].
I: Um hm.
E: And he would, uh, I estimated where I thought they would come in,
enmasse. There was a [pimple] that just beyond the, the spur, and uh, we tried to man it, but it was too vulnerable. We lost two men doing that. So we, we boobytrapped it and mined it, that they would launch it from there, which is exactly what they did. So we had the defensive fire attack, artillery test and what we considered to Jack and John and I, the most vulnerable
attack points. I wouldn’t be talking to you today, Professor, if I hadn’t been right.
E: fortunately, right, yes. Oh yeah. That’s where they came. So, uh, our fire was very effective.
E: But, um, they launched the attack, they tried to cut us, well, they did cut us off. They got behind us separating us from 600 yards uphill to our ready position.
And, uh, firing from the flanks. Their artillery, our artillery, pandemonium. The, uh, the shelling was, uh, incredible. They just, the cordite burning your eyes and your lungs and it’s night. But, uh, the men, magnificent. And, uh, but before, before it all started,
well, after it started, around 8:00 at night, they’d done a bit, one Chinese came up to our wire, in perfect English, perfect, Canada boy, tonight you die. I yelled back ‘Come and get us you son of a bitch”. Boy, did they ever come.
I: Oh yeah.
E: They can fight, oh yeah.
They can fight. If you ever see that, uh, documentary , um, The 28 Heroes,
E: pay more attention to what the Chinese say.
I: I want to ask about that. The Chinese guy who was, uh, villain in that 28 Heroes,
I: How, how did they find that guy?
E: Uh, Entertainment One, the, the makers of the film, contacted the Chinese veterans in Beijing.
I: In Beijing.
E: and they located him.
E: And, uh, he had been the Company Commander.
E: And he commanded a company, and he survived it. And what I found interesting after sounding quite aggressive, he looked like we were both there and there. He’s in Beijing and I’m here.
E: But he was kind of cocky I guess is the word to say.
I: Yeah, right.
E: But then at the end, he kind of more, remorsely said I lost my Company, you know. But, uh,
he said, they couldn’t contend with the artillery. And this is where an idea of, of, what high command, good high command can be like. The, uh, it didn’t take Rockingham and the Divisional Commander, General Castles, to realize what was happening. They also knew there was over a division Chinese in behind 166, their position, ready to exploit once they broke through me and of course the weak point is a line, get in behind
and head for Seoul. So, uh, uh, Rockingham came on the air, it’s about 3:00 in the morning, now this is a Brigadier talking to a Lieutenant. He said, uh, Ed, you’re the cork in the bottle. You’ve got to hold. I said hold. I had about 10 casualties then, no dead yet but 10 wounded. But the wounded, most of them kept going, kept firing. I said I was doing the best I can, sir. And, uh, uh,
then, uh, around, about 2:30 ish, that part, General Castles had their Brigade, at the Brigadier’s request, turned over the whole Divisional Artillery to just Lieutenant and the outpost and the [Song Ox Burg].
I: You mean to you?
E: I had command of three regiments of artillery.
I: What an honor.
E: regiments of artillery.
E: The reason being he’s there.
He’s there. This is something the Chinese couldn’t contend with. And they never launched another attack like that the rest of the War. They, they came back to the bargaining table. Course, they had broken away for Panmunjom, uh. The other, they attacked, uh, there were territorial attacks like the Americans Pork Chop Hill, Hamburger Hill they made into films, 355, 187. They never launched attack, they landed in
They sent over to [INAUDIBLE] a small group of men with heavy artillery couldn’t get to us. What’s gonna happen when we hit major forces?
E: The other thing we learned, too which is kind of interesting, the, the Chinese had Russian tanks, a Corteeser 485. That’s 34 ton 85 [INAUDIBLE] gun. And you had to, firing was interesting. Tank fire sounds like this [NOISE]
E: The, the velocity of the shell is greater than sound.
If you hear the bang, you’re safe. If it’s only the [Noise], you’re gone.
I: Right. Geeze.
E: But, uh, you couldn’t stop yourself from ducking at the bang.
I: Yeah. I think it’s very relevant question that I wanna ask you. You are in a position to be in charge of two artillery regiments, uh,
with the rank of Lieutenant, right? And you, uh, involved in the major battles including Kapyong and all those, you know, the reoccupying the hills, major hills which will lead into the Seoul directly. What would you, how would you characterize the contribution made by the Canadian soldiers in that trench warfare in the middle of 1951? What is the major contribution made by the Canadian soldiers?
E: To demonstrate
I: Just be objective, okay?
E: The importance of holding your position. Also, in war, soldiers don’t particularly fight just for a flag or even for their, their regiment. They fight for each other. They don’t’ wanna let the other guy down, their buddy.
And therefore, they all, that’s why they will give their lives rather than let them down. And, but at the same time, they expect their commanders to do a job. So that’s the way it was. You do your job, and I’ll do mine.
I: But overall, in terms of the trench warfare started in, uh, early 1951, right? And lasted until 1953, and many of the major battles
were defended by mostly the Americans. And then second largest participation was British, 60,000 soldiers. And the third largest is Canadian, 27,000. And then Australia, Turkey, New Zealands. Overall, the 38th Parallel where all that main line of resistance was divided by small forces, and my, my question is what is the contribution
made by the Canadian soldiers to maintain and defending the mainline of resistance overall?
E: I’m gonna sound prejudice, but I think frankly, we were the best.
E: Because the type of discipline, the type of belief in each other, feeling of responsibility. You were there. You had a job to do.
I used to say this is, don’t think about family. Don’t think about home. This is your home. This is your family. That’s what’s important. And, uh, and they believed that. And I think generally, our soldiers believed that.
I: Why Canadians? What makes Canadian soldiers so unique in that perspective? Any characteristics from Canada culture,
tradition or history?
E: That’s a difficult question to answer, Professor. Uh, I think so. I think, in part, um, after all, we came, the country was formed in war. Warfare was not new to us or families. My family, in fact both sides were military for generations. Not to say permanently
military. But whenever there was, was a fight or a war, they were there. That was not unusual. So, uh, it wasn’t, uh, a huge adjustment. There’s enough history in your own family and most families that could look back, First Great War, Boar War, The War of 1812 for the Americans, the War between the French and English in the 1700’s.
I: Um hm.
E: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It was, uh,
something we could do.
I: And that area, the Iron Triangle, [Turan Valley] [Kyuong Gong] [Kin Hwa] [Samichon Valley], all this, it’s a very strategic locations, right? In terms of the whole operation of the mainline of resistance, and that was done by the Canadian soldiers.
E: Well, we always held. We never retreated.
MALE VOICE: I think what Jong Woo is asking, what motivated, Ed, the Canadians to fight in this? What distinguished the Canadian soldiers that made them so good? You said he was the best. What made him the best? What distinguished him and made him the best soldier in Korea, in your opinion? Was it his leadership? Was it the soldiers personal upbringing as a kid in Canada or what, what the heck was it that made the guy such a good soldier?
E: I, the feeling of
mutual dependency, Bob. The feeling of mutual dependency as I said earlier in here. That is what kept them in.
I: Sense of community.
E: That’s right .
E: That’s right. A, a strong sense of responsibility.
E: And I think a lot of Canadians have that. And hopefully we’ll keep, they will keep maintaining that cause that’s what separates us from a lot, believe me.
I: What kind of, uh, movie do you think you can make out of your Korean War experience?
E: Well, I think that a fine movie because out of this could be made. I’m not trying to push it [INAUDIBLE], out of, uh, my book, uh.
I: Mock the Haggard Face.
E: Mock the Haggard Face. That comes from a little poem, Help me, oh God, when death is near to mock the haggard face with fear. And if I fall,
if fall I must, my soul will triumph. Well, as you are probably aware, I do a lot of writing, uh. It, um, just what I, I’ve seen where other people have happening to them, Paul Anderson’s death, for example, didn’t actually happen to a Canadian. It happened to an American, just the way I wrote it.
I: Ah hah.
E: Uh, it, uh,
taken that way, shot, fought, found just the way I, I wrote it, found by the Ulster’s
I: Uh huh.
E: patrol. And, uh, uh, also talking to people like Jim Gunn and others who had been prisoners
E: Chinee, was an idea of how the Chinese spoke, fought
E: So that was pretty accurate. I wrote a, uh, a collection of short stories
The fourth part of the short stories is called Tales of Korea.
I: Tales of Korea.
E: Mike Reardon, Mike Reardon, The 29th Hero.
E: The, uh, there’s a couple of short stores there that are, it talks about the attack of my seven, and it talks about our leave in Seoul and, uh, uh, and, and a night patrol to capture a prisoner that ended in a rather
weird way. So I did, uh, and also I, I carried Reardon beyond that to a, to [INAUDIBLE]
I: You did?
I: Um hm.
MALE VOICE: [INAUDIBLE]
I: Okay. When you were in Korea, had you been in Seoul City?
E: Seoul? Oh yes. I had a couple of leaves in Seoul.
I: What did you see there, in Seoul. How was it?
E: Oh, terrible.
That hotel, uh, and the short story that I’m talking about, Two Nights to Remember I call it. well, the first night to remember was a visit to Seoul, and it describes exactly how I saw it, who I met.
I: Describe in now, describe in now, yeah.
E: Not me, my character who, who, who will let me.
I: But now, the Seoul that you saw. Please let me.
E: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Oh it was terrible.
I: Tell me.
E: Terrible. Shattered, uh, people picking in, amongst the ruins, trying to find
fuel, anything to live with, um. It was just, uh, it was heartbreaking, heartbreaking. And, uh, the children. I always remember the children, still able to smile and be able to laugh, you know. And when I had the opportunity to go back to Korea, I had a, a Korean veterans visit back,
around ’88. But, uh, in 2006 I was part of a, a film, not the documentary, in Korea, [under Christy]. And, and this, that’s something worth watching because it, uh, it gives a pretty good account of, uh, Canadians in Korea
I: Um hm.
E: not just my piece of it.
E: It’s pretty good. Uh, it, uh, when I went up to Pochon Valley again, beautiful
resort area now. I saw the young families. I saw the children laughing, playing where we climbed the hills. I said you know, I had a bit of a, I guess you might call it a bit of a downer conclusion in my book when, uh, Reardon asked Maudy, he said, and that was a real guy [INAUDIBLE] asked a buddy was it really worthwhile and he wasn’t sure.
Well, Professor. When I saw that in 2006
I: Um hm.
E : I was very sure. The other great feeling I got out of that because I was kind of the senior member of that film group, they took us right to the line, something not many people do, can do. And this young Colonel, Korean Colonel, very impressive young man, uh, at the end of it, I was asked to make a presentation to him of a special medal that had been made for
occasions like that by the film company thanking him. he said, through his interpreter, no, no, no. I should be thanking you and all the other Canadians for helping to give us back our country. That, Professor, I knew that was worthwhile, really worthwhile.
I: So you have a clear picture of Seoul in 1952, and you been back to Korea twice, and now you have a very clear picture of 21st century of Korea.
How do you see that? How does that possible?
I: How is it possible?
E: It shows you their strength and flexibility and the versatility of the people, incredible. Very impressed what can be done. And people should know you don’t have to give up, no matter how tough things become.
There’s always a way if you’re willing to work for it. And Koreans, contrary to their northern counterparts, have done that. And I’ve, I’ve been saying this loud and clear to people about, uh, the evolution, yes, evolution is not too strong a word that has gone through. And I’m proud of that. And I’m proud to have been part of it. Okay. What more can I say? What more can I say?
I: Little promotion.
E: I think Korea and perhaps, uh, one of your Association or government could make a very fine film with a heavier, a much more involvement, Korean involvement in the story which would not be difficult to write in because it’s true and it happened.
E: as I experienced it. And that, uh, if you have any contacts
or talking to any of these folks, it might not be a bad idea use the book as a basis to start . But a good screenplay bringing in as, as you’ll see in one of my short stories if you get a chance to read it ,
I: I want to wrap this interview now. I want you to speak about what is Korea to you now? After all those years?
E: An inspiration of what can be done.
E: No matter how tough it gets. I never was, felt kindly towards quitters, people who give up too easily or try to look for somebody else to solve their problems. Korea solved its problems and in a very positive way. Not by taking anything away from anybody, but by giving something. That’s the difference. As I said a little earlier,
that, to me, what made it all worthwhile. I feel proud to have a little small [artefact] of all of that. Yeah.
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