28 He­roes

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

Mon­day on His­tory Check list­ings for time we had at least a Chi­nese per­spec­tive onto what it’s like to fight in Korea.” The bat­tle killed hun­dreds of Chi­nese sol­diers, and just one of the Cana­dian de­fend­ers. About half of the Cana­di­ans were wounded. The in­cred­i­ble story is not widely known, says Kil­back, in large part be­cause for many years the gen­eral pub­lic seemed to ex­press lit­tle in­ter­est in learn­ing the ugly de­tails of Canada’s third dead­li­est con­flict. “It wasn’t the kind of war like World War II where you came back to pa­rades and vic­tory. There wasn’t a lot in the news ever about it, no­body re­ally ever knew why any­body was fight­ing there. And it’s such a com­pli­cated, po­lit­i­cal war — there’s no kind of ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ it wasn’t easy to de­fine,” Kil­back says of the war, which be­gan June 25, 1950, when the mil­i­tary forces of North Korea crossed the 38th par­al­lel into South Korea.

“It re­ally kind of fell off everybody’s radar. So these guys don’t think any­body wants to hear about it. I al­ways find that in­cred­i­ble, that they’ve never spo­ken about these events be­fore.” More than 26,000 Cana­di­ans served in the three-year war, and of those, 516 Cana­di­ans died in ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to Vet­er­ans Af­fairs. Kil­back had trouble track­ing down sur­vivors from the bat­tle of Song-gok Spur. But he was sur­prised to sud­denly be con­tacted by But­ler, who was a pri­vate at the time of the con­flict. The Man­i­toulin Is­land res­i­dent caught wind of the pro­ject through the Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment and said he had pho­tos to share. “We’re like, ‘Are you crazy? You were there? We need to talk to you!’” says Kil­back, who shot the doc’s dra­matic recre­ations at CFB Meaford near Owen Sound, Ont., us­ing ac­tual Cana­dian sol­diers as his ac­tors. “We were about to fin­ish edit­ing the film and then we found him and then I re-edited the film once I found him.” Kil­back says it’s im­por­tant to get these war sto­ries on the record be­fore it’s too late. He notes that fewer and fewer vet­er­ans are around to share their ex­pe­ri­ences, re­call­ing feel­ings of dis­may when track­ing down real-life tales for Great­est Tank Bat­tles. “As I would go through pro­duc­tion, ev­ery cou­ple months I’d get, ‘So-andso’s passed away.’ They pass away con­stantly now so it’s like those sto­ries are be­ing lost for­ever.” This year marks the 60th an­niver­sary of the end of the Korean War, and the Cana­dian govern­ment has de­clared 2013 the Year of the Korean War Vet­eran. Also de­but­ing on His­tory this week­end is the doc­u­men­tary Sec­tor Sara­jevo on Sun­day, which re­counts a bru­tal Cana­dian peace­keep­ing mis­sion to Sara­jevo in July 1992. Out­num­bered and out­gunned, the Cana­di­ans were sent into a volatile war zone where they man­aged to se­cure the air­port and bring in aid. Un­der con­stant fire, they en­dured snipers’ bul­lets and stand­offs with war­lords, even­tu­ally break­ing the rules of peace­keep­ing by fight­ing back. Mean­while, there’s the sec­ond sea­son of War Story, which be­gan Fri­day and con­tin­ues Satur­day, Sun­day and Mon­day. This year, sto­ries in­clude: Cana­dian ser­vice­men who sur­vived Ja­panese slave labour camps dur­ing the Sec­ond World War; Cana­dian air­men im­pris­oned in the Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­tion camp; twin sto­ries of the Viet­nam War, told by Cana­dian vol­un­teer com­bat vet­er­ans and U.S. draft re­sisters; and first-hand ex­pe­ri­ences of the Bat­tle of Stal­in­grad. Other pro­grams on the sched­ule in­clude Dieppe: Un­cov­ered, D-Day to Vic­tory, Pass­chen­daele, The Great Es­cape: Se­crets Re­vealed and Storm­ing Juno.


Above, Cana­dian war vet­er­ans Lt. Ed Mas­tronardi and Pte. Red But­ler fought in the bat­tle of Song-gok Spur in 1951; left, even to­day, Mas­tronardi has dif­fi­cultly speaking about the bat­tle, in which his small pla­toon fought 800 Chi­nese sol­diers as part of the Korean War.

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