By Andrew Tobia
Gerardo Romano Mandia was born in Yonkers on Wednesday, September 19, 1928 to Maria and Carmine Mandia. He was the first of three children: he was followed in 1929 by a sister, Carmela, and in 1932 by another sister, Vicenzina.
Mandia’s mother was a native of Colombia, South America; his father, of Brooklyn. She was from Cali (officially Santiago de Cali), located in southwest Colombia, the third largest city in the country. Not long after his birth, Mandia was brought to Cali by his mother — one or both of his sisters may have been born by then and joined them. His father seems to have remained in the US, maintaining a residence at 1268 Prospect Pl. in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Maria and her children returned to the US aboard a ship named the Santa Maria in 1932. It sailed from Valparaiso, Chile, on Friday, October 28 and the Mandias boarded during a stopover in Buenaventura, Colombia, on Sunday, November 6. They arrived at New York Harbor eight days later.
Maria brought her children back to Cali less than three years later, in February, 1935 — Mandia was six years old. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Cali, not returning to the US again until he was 19. He travelled with three others — 54-year-old Hortencia Gonzalez and 53-year-old Judith Montenegro, both naturalized citizens, and 19-year-old Lucy Gonzalez, born in Yonkers — aboard a ship called the Colombia, departing from Buenaventura on Tuesday, May 18, 1948, and arriving at Jacksonville, Florida, a few days later.
All four travelers listed their destination address at 204 Main St. in Yonkers, the home of Macario Gonzalez. Gonzalez was the husband of Hortencia and father of Lucy—Mandia lived with them upon his 1948 return to the US and listed him as his notification of death contact with the Army when he enlisted on Tuesday, July 26, 1949.
I know neither where Corporal Gerardo Romano Mandia underwent basic training nor when he was promoted from Private First Class to Corporal. I do know that he was sent “overseas” in December of 1949 — his sisters, Carmela and Vicenzina, visited Yonkers in early 1950, but he was already gone. He was sent to Japan, where he joined the 25th Infantry Division, nicknamed Tropic Thunder, which was still doing occupation duty in Japan at the time. He was a rifleman assigned to the light infantry C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.
Shortly after North Korea attacked South Korean across the 38th parallel on Sunday, June 25, 1950, Tropic Thunder was ordered to Korea. They moved their entire headquarters there from Japan between July 5 and 18. They arrived in time to help stall the North’s initial advance — for which Tropic Thunder was awarded a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation — and, in the process, helped establish the Pusan Perimeter.
The division found itself protecting the southwest border of the Pusan Perimeter. Mandia and C Company in particular found themselves in Haman County, likely in the small town of Malsan-ri (notable for its ancient burial grounds), about 40 miles west of Pusan and roughly 15 north of the Korea Straight. They were there in early September of 1950 during renewed attacks by North Korea which would become known as the Second Battle of Naktong Bulge (though Haman was too far south to be officially considered part of the battle), part of the Battle of Pusan Perimeter.
On Saturday, September 2, 1950 Mandia was Killed in Action while helping to repel that attack. He was 21, just 17 days shy of his 22nd birthday. Depending on the actual date of death of Army Corporal William Francis Callahan (sometime between September 1 and 14, 1950 — see this space in last week’s XXXXX Yonkers Rising for more), Mandia may be the very first man from Yonkers to lose his life during the Korean War.
Mandia’s remains were recovered and returned to the U.S. about nine or 10 months later. He was laid to rest on Wednesday, July 25, 1951 in Long Island National Cemetery, Section L Site 24556. He was survived by his parents and sisters: to this day, he is survived by at least one niece, Ms. Linda Garrido — as of press time, attempts to contact her have failed.
Mandia is the recipient of the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (with Japan Clasp), United Nations Service Medal, two Korean Presidential Unit Citations, Republic of Korea War Service Medal and Purple Heart.
Mandia is among the last of Yonkers’ Korean War Heroes for whom we’ve been able to locate an acceptable amount of information. For men we haven’t profiled yet, we have been able to uncover virtually no information. We would like to do them justice, to honor them properly, so we’re reaching out to you for help — if you knew or are related to one of the following men, or you know somebody who did or was, please contact the Mayor’s Office at 914-377-6300 or Yonkers Rising at 914-965-4000:
Alfred E. Ash
Silvio V. Blasetti
Joseph L. Campbell
Raymond R. Eufimia
W. Jay Gannon
Theodore W. Johnsbury
Thaddeus S. Kozlowski
Robert C. Loranger
Edwin K. Love
William P. McMillan
Michael J. Medon, Jr.
Robert J. Paulson
William R. Russell
John J. Sherman
John G. Spodnik
Walter E. Sutton
Andreas C. Thiel
or the following men, who are not listed on the Yonkers monument and may or may not be from Yonkers:
Louis D. Altieri
Richard E. Chianese
Charles Joseph Franks
Robert Cushman Hopping
Charles A. Peugeot, Jr.
V. Slack, Jr.