It was a hell of a birthday party. November 2nd, 1951, on a rocky desolate outcropping, surrounded by Chinese soldiers, one 27-year old Canadian would hold off an attack during the Korean War that defied all odds. “Tonight you die, Canada Boy!” He heard a solitary voice pierce the darkness. “Come and get us, you sonafabitches!” Over the next eight hours, Ed Mastronardi and his “Flying Deuce” troop of 28 soldiers held off 1,000 Chinese attackers.
In a powerful, first person story, Mastronardi takes viewers back to the night he “put the cork in the bottle”, saving the day for the United Nations troops in a solitary act of heroism that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Interviewing this robust 89-year old veteran at his home in Ottawa, I am struck by the comment he makes, that he never told his family his own story.
And yet the details are riveting; throwing grenades, fighting with bayonets, running out of ammunition. Watching friends die and being determined to save his own wounded soldiers from the waves of Chinese determined to take the “Sanggok Spur”.
His eyes well up, as old men tend to do when they remember their fallen comrades at this time of year. Remembrance Day. It was always a special and revered day in our home in Saskatchewan. As a child of two war vets, (my mother was a Soviet Red Army soldier and a Nazi POW, while my Dad served in the foreign country called Newfoundland!), I cannot hear the bugles signaling the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month without my own eyes welling up.
It was a great honour to be able to produce and write this one hour Remembrance Day special for 16×9. Each story reveals a different unknown aspect of war that affected millions of Canadians. For a few months this summer, in preparing this one hour special, I was surrounded by remarkable ‘senior citizens’ who kept me on the edge of my chair as they recalled their own stories of quiet heroism. I have no doubt they will do the same thing for a TV audience on November 9th on 16×9. Lt. Ed Mastronardi will be turning 90. Lift a glass of brandy with him when he toasts the memory of his “28 Heros” while we, in turn, toast him, The 29th Hero.
Don’t miss 16×9’s Remembrance Day Special, this Saturday at 7pm on Global.