Philip MandraSGT. PHILIP V. MANDRA
By Irene Mandra
 
 
Dedicated to Sgt. Philip V. Mandra, my beloved brother, my friend, my playmate, my protector, till we meet again.
 
Born May 2,1931, Philip was my older brother. We attended Catholic grammar school and had the good fortune to belong to a closely knit Italian family. Phil was an alter boy.  He was deeply religious throughout his life.  There was a three year difference in our ages; yet we double dated together and had mutual friends.  When the Korean War broke out, Philip join the Marines in September 1950.  Our first cousin and  uncle was a Marine; and when you earned the title “Marine” upon graduation from basic training, you deserved it.  It wasn’t willed to you.  It isn’t a gift.  The title “Marine” is a title few can claim.  No one may take it away.   It is yours forever. Phil loved  the Marine Corp.
 
Phil landed in Korea January 1952 as part of D Company –2 Battalion-5 Regiment, First Marine Division. In July 1952, Phil was involved in fierce fighting. He was hit in both his arms with shrapnel; yet he wrote home telling us not to worry.  He was awarded the purple heart with a cluster. It wasn’t until years later,  that my family was notified that on that July 5th and 6th,  Phil  bravely maintained his position in the face of intense enemy artillery, mortar and small arms fire.  Phil seized an automatic weapon and delivered effective counter-fire on the hostile troops, inflicting heavy casualties on the attackers. Encountering one of the enemy, armed with an automatic gun, Phil maneuvered his fire team in a tight defensive perimeter around the outpost; and immediately charged and killed the intruder with his bayonet.  Phil rendered invaluable assistance to the outpost commander, constantly encouraging the men and administering first aid to the wounded. For his leadership, conspicuous gallantry,  and courage in helping other wounded Marines, Phil was awarded the Silver Star.  I accepted that medal on Phil’s behalf, telling myself that Phil will be surprised when he comes home.
           
On August 7, 1952 a day that is emblazed in my heart till I die, my brother disappeared.  I did not find out until much later, that four other Marines also disappeared during the battle, on Bronco Hill  with my brother.  Bronco Hill is the outpost for a larger hill called Hook.  The four other Marines who disappeared with my brother   are Sgt. Junior J. Nixon, Sgt. Robert H Malloy, Cpl. Thomas L. Edwards and Pvt. Thomas Montoya.  Some of these men were wounded due to concussion grenades thrown by Chinese forces.  My brother was one of the men that was hit and knocked unconscious. 
           
I was fortunate to find a Marine who witnessed what happened on that day. I was told that within fifteen minutes, my brother’s unit  got reinforcements and charged the hill again and learned all the wounded men “disappeared”.  I don’t think I have to tell MIA family members about the anguish and  tears, when you don’t know where a loved one is and how a loved one is surviving.
           
In September of 1993, a Russian Colonel contacted the American Embassy in Russia.  He heard a radio broadcast that the  U.S. government was looking for Americans who were brought into Russia as prisoners of war.  Anyone with information was asked to contact the USA Task Force.  In the meanwhile, Task Force Russia was absorbed into Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) and this reorganization essentially dismantled the task force as we knew it.  The US task force visited a Colonel Malinin in the Soviet Union, who spoke of seeing an American POW in a prison in Magadon, Siberia in 1962.   When the task force showed Colonel Malinin an album of approximately 100 pictures of missing men; the Colonel picked my brother’s picture out twice.  Two different pictures, one when he was young and a computerized age enhanced picture of Phil at age sixty. Colonel Malinin told the story of visiting a prison which was part of his job and going into the Commodore’s office and looking out the window.  The Colonel observed  a man who was brought out of his cell and walked in the court yard.  The Colonel asked the Commandant,” who was this man”.  The explanation given was that “he is an American”, sent to him “from the Gulag”.  This took place in 1962, and Colonel Malinin saw the same American in 1965 when visiting the prison, again.
 
 When I learned this news,   I packed and left for Russia.  I met with Colonel Malinin and he told me that as he was leaving the prison, he heard three prisoners yelling out the window, “I’m American”.  He couldn’t see their faces; but he heard what they were yelling.  The Colonel again identified my brother’s face as the prisoner that he saw in that courtyard.   I showed him other pictures of my brother and his reply was he could never forget that lone prisoner who was kept in solitary confinement and not allowed to be with other prisoners walking in that courtyard.  I also visited the Commandant, who claimed he didn’t remember my brother and denied that there were any Americans in that prison. I spent two weeks in Russia searching for answers; but hitting many a brick wall.  My oldest  brother Sal, accompanied me to this frozen land.  Sal and I  gave interviews, visited prominent people,  made a video.  Our story appeared in the local newspapers in Moscow but the major newspaper, Izvestiya  promised to write our story; but  never published it.  The media claims that Russia is no longer Communist, I disagree. The Russians were polite but gave no information except the names of people involved in my brother’s case,  (which I might add my government refused to give me).
           
While I was in Russia, Vice President Gore was there.  I visited his hotel and left a note for him asking for his help and explaining who I was and what my mission was  about.  I never heard from our Vice President.  I wrote Vice President Gore a letter, when I got back to the states,  asking for his help in finding my brother again and getting cooperation with Russia.  I received a letter back from him that was so cold and heartless, it enraged me so, that I sent it to my Congressman.  I wish I could find a copy of that letter, now that Gore wants to be President.  I would turn it over to the media.
           
There is much to be done for the MIAs from Korea and Cold War.  The most important of which for many family members is the cooperation of Russia and China. These countries still refuse to admit to us that they did indeed transfer Americans from North Korea into China and the Soviet Union.  These files are with the GRU.  We need a White House who genuinely has an interest in the POW/MIA issue and will pressure these nations to give us an honest accounting.
 
I still hope and pray that some day soon, I will received the answers I so truly desire. heard a saying the other day that applies to each and every unaccountedfor MIA,  “TO LIVE IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE LEFT BEHIND, IS NEVER TO HAVE DIED”. 
 
Although I can no longer hug you, the tears have never ceased. Till we meet again, my beloved brother. 









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