TV spe­cial un­cov­ers Canada’s ‘for­got­ten war’

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Cas­san­dra Szklarski

TORONTO — Be­fore bul­lets flew, the taunts ex­ploded. “I heard a voice shout­ing: ‘Canada boy, tonight you die!”’ Korean War vet­eran Ed Mas­tronardi says, re­call­ing the night of Nov. 2, 1951, in the new His­tory spe­cial 28 He­roes. “And I shouted back: ‘Come and get it! As it turned out it was a full at­tack. And I had 28 men.” Di­rec­tor Paul Kil­back says the bat­tle of Song-gok Spur — which saw a small Cana­dian pla­toon fight a bat­tal­ion of 800 Chi­nese sol­diers — is a lit­tle­known con­flict from Canada’s for­got­ten war that should be rec­og­nized. “It al­ways struck me that it’s not in any of the his­tory books,” Kil­back says of the ex­traor­di­nary bat­tle, in which Mas­tronardi’s unit fought against all odds to main­tain a key out­post in the face of re­peated Com­mu­nist at­tacks. “Even for the peo­ple who do know about (the Korean War), Kapy­ong is the big thing or it’s Hill 355 and never have I seen any­thing but a para­graph about this ac­tion.” Kil­back came across the story while work­ing on another doc­u­men­tary about the Korean War that in­tro­duced him to Mas­tronardi. He re­turned to Mas­tronardi years later to do 28 He­roes, which cre­ates a mo­ment-by-mo­ment por­trait of a re­lent­less as­sault that haunts the for­mer lieu­tenant to this day. In the spe­cial, the white-haired Ot­tawa res­i­dent pauses as he looks over a tat­tered sepia-tinged photo he re­cov­ered from one of the Chi­nese sol­diers he shot. De­picted are two men in uni­form, star­ing straight into the cam­era. “I keep it just to re­mind me,” he says. “There’s two sides to the war.” Al­though ea­ger to tell his story, Mas­tronardi seemed to have dif­fi­culty re­lay­ing that heart-rend­ing anec­dote, says Kil­back, who spent about four hours with him and three hours with another vet­eran, Red But­ler. “You know, he’s proud of what he did, he’s proud he served his coun­try and he’s a very proud man about be­ing a good sol­dier and keep­ing his men alive, but I think he also strug­gles with the fact that he killed peo­ple as part of it,” says Kil­back. “It was his job, and he knew it was his job and he did it well, he did it ef­fi­ciently, but you can tell that he has some re­grets in that sense. That these are not just some face­less en­e­mies, ‘This is ac­tu­ally another hu­man be­ing who is there for the same rea­son I’m there, they’re just pro­tect­ing their home and their fam­ily. And I killed them.’” The doc­u­men­tary in­cludes an in­ter­view with Chi­nese com­pany com­man­der Li Yin­jun, who Kil­back says was just as ea­ger to share his story. “He was very proud of what he did, he be­lieved in what they were fight­ing for, he con­tin­ues to to this day,” says Kil­back.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing how dif­fer­ent but how the same they can all be. And that’s why we felt it was im­por­tant that

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