The Korean War didn’t just involve U.S. troops. In all, some 26,000 Canadians were involved in the battle for the Korean peninsular that raged between 1950 and 1953. Some were unlucky and died in the war, and many returned home seriously injured. Others were far luckier. None, however, was probably as lucky as Gord Manktelow, who became known as “the man the Chinese couldn’t kill”.
Manktelow was just 20 years old when he found himself in Korea as part of the First Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. In March of 1952, Manktelow, who held the rank of Lance Corporal, along with five other men, was tasked with pressing forward and scouting out a section of no-man’s land that was commonly known as Hill 163. Before long, the forward observation team came under Chinese mortar fire and were ordered to withdraw.
Unable to retreat, Manktelow instead tried to play dead as Chinese ground forces approached. They found him lying face down and decided to see if he really was deceased. At first, they pummelled every part of his body with the butts of their rifles. Not satisfied by this, they then proceeded to bayonet him. Manktelow remained still and silent throughout, even though the pain must have been incredible. Then, to make extra sure, the Chinese soldiers took one of Manktelow’s own grenades, pulled the pin and left it by his side.
The enemy soldiers all ran away. Manktelow simply lay there waiting for the explosion to come. When it did, it tossed the Canadian in the air, bringing him back down to earth. There, lying face up, he was kicked again by the returned Chinese soldiers. Satisfied he was dead, Manktelow was at last left in peace. Miraculously, he lay there through a long night, with mortars landing all around him. Finally, a Canadian comrade found him and got him to a field hospital. Though he had lost a lot of blood, he pulled through.
Before long, the media got hold of the story and the legend of the ‘man the Chinese couldn’t kill’ was born. Manktelow returned to Canada and, for more than 20 years, tried to forget all about the Korean War. After some time, he decided to join a veterans’ association and remains proud of his role in the largely-forgotten conflict.