Songs of the Combat Soldier

The Canadian Infantry Solider in Korea and The Songs He Sang.

This book is a companion piece to the CD “Songs of the Combat Solider”. Purchase as a set and save! Price: Book: $10.00, 84 pages. CD: $15.00 Book with CD: $20.00
To order this book or CD, contact Veterans Publications at 613-258-5539 or email at

This companion book to the CD, Songs of the combat soldier, gives an overview of the Korean War and Canada’s contribution. It contains, among other things, a photo of the Canadian battlefield, profiles of infantry soldiers, vignettes from the front and a description of an average soldier’s daily life in front line trenches.

We wanted to not only bring pleasure to veterans of the Korean War but also to preserve a part of history that otherwise might be lost to the Canadian public and our heritage. Korea was the last war in which Canadian soldiers sang around campfires and in tents, canteens and on marches.

The more I listened to the songs and pondered their words the more I came to understand that the songs told a story, revealing the souls of the soldiers who sang them. But the songs didn’t tell everything. Though they hinted at the hardships, the dangers, the sometimes terrible courage, they didn’t flesh them out and they didn’t put the sacrifice into a world context: the struggle between the free world and Communism.

As important, they didn’t tell how the Canadian infantry soldier was honed through “splendid isolation”, a practice not invented by Colonel Stone of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry but certainly perfected by him. Stone isolated his soldiers for five weeks among the Korea hills, away from civilization’s distractions until they were splendidly focused on war. In such an environment, he was able to cull the unfit while the rest grew in camaraderie and integrity through the hardships of training.

It was an approach that set Canadian combat soldiers apart from the rest of the army and prepared the Vandoos to successfully hold off four days of enemy attacks launched from Hill 227 in Korea without giving up any ground. It was this type of approach that prepared Lieutenant Ed Mastronardi and his platoon to hold off a battalion on the Songgog. It was this type of approach that enabled a company of Canadian infantry hit by 2,000 rounds of artillery and mortar in 20 minutes, to hold fast on Hill 187 even after bunkers collapsed and trenches caved in and the ground was shaken as though by an earthquake.

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of having dinner with some warrant officers at Camp Petawawa. They worried about the army’s ability to create “splendid isolation” so essential to cohesiveness and morale building. Soldiers on guard duty among the Petawawa pines or on the sand dunes by the river had trouble experiencing the cohesiveness soldiers did so many years ago. At 8:00 o’clock at night soldiers in Korea turned to singing for their entertainment. But the soldier of today calls his girl friend from the field on his cell phone or listens to music on his iPod.

As much as possible, we have tried to preserve the historical authenticity of the songs, some of the roughness in which they were once sung. Songs that were not suitable for family listening have been omitted, and the language cleaned up a little in a few.

These are singalong songs that Korea veterans as well as other veterans will enjoy. Some of the songs were from WWI and WWII but many are uniquely Korean War vintage. The CD includes the Korean National Folk Song, “Arirang”; the best known war song in the world, “Lili Marlene”; the most popular song of WWI, “Mademoiselle from Armentieres; Barbed wire blues”; and “A young Canuck soldier to Tokyo on leave”. The poem “Blood on the Hills of Korea,” written by Patrick O’Connor the night before he was killed, has been set to music. The final song, “Be not afraid” is a tribute (a pass the torch song) to peacekeepers and soldiers in Afghanistan.

~Terry Meagher

The Crew

Phillip Konopka, music director, piano, accordion.
Mike Fahey, producer and guitar.
Don O'Neill, bass guitar and banjo.
Michelle Odorico, violin.

Female singers: Lee Sori, Brenda Reinkeluers.

Male singers: Mike Fahey, Phillip Konopka, Ted Stiles, Robert Angie.

Army Voices Ottawa: John Cunningham, Leo Regimbal, Eric Morin.

Narration: Ted Stiles.

Voice of drill sergeant: Terry Smart.

Audio engineer: Chris Crawford.

Songs of the Combat Solider Crew

(L-R) Front row: Col. Lee Soo Wan, Military Attache, Korean Embassy; Brenda Reinkeluers, soloist; Sori Lee, soloist; Sergeant Eric Morin, Army Voices, Ottawa; Ivan Huor, piano and singer; Michelle Odorico, violin; Don O’Neill guitar and banjo.

Second row: Terry Meagher, Korea Vet and organizer; Phillip Konopka, music director, piano and accordion; Captain John Cunningham, Army Voices, Ottawa; Robert Angi, singer and artillery veteran; Ted Stiles, narrator, singer and submariner; Mike Fahey, producer, lead singer and guitar.

Missing from photo: Major Leo Regimbal, Army Voices, Ottawa.

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