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 wasnt willed to you.
It isnt 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 wasnt 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 Phils
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 brothers unit got
reinforcements and charged the hill again and learned all the wounded
men disappeared. I dont think I have to tell MIA
family members about the anguish and tears, when you dont
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 brothers 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 Commodores 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, Im American.
He couldnt see their faces; but he heard what they were yelling.
The Colonel again identified my brothers 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 didnt 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 brothers
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.