JONES INTRO A
TAPE RECORDINGS MADE JUNE 1953
(Following Is Background And Only Basic Material. Not In Narrative Form.)
I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, August 23, 1928. (ACTUAL DATE TWO YEARS LATER). I lived in Omaha until 1935 when we moved to Minneapolis.
I have mother, father, one sister. She is six years younger than I. (Watch two-year differential).
I went to John Burroughs grade school on 50th: then we moved to Holmes Avenue, near Lake and Hennepin, I went to Calhoun School, Jefferson Junior High. Finished there and to West High for two months, then down to Texas to Dallas for one year's schooling.
I was an independent, bullheaded kid. My father was making an effort to prepare me for the U.S. Naval Academy. My father went to the Naval Academy. He figured I might go. He didn't graduate, flunked out in navigation mathematics.
I came back after a year and went to Breck school in St. Paul, from which I graduated. It's a military school.
Military school routine, to a young fellow, is alien. At the time, a lot of it seemed foolish to me, and I got tired of it. But I got to like military life and routine very much.
In 1947, Capt. Glenn Stanley, professor of military science, gave a small talk at Breck and said that, in the course of our lifetime, almost everybody in the auditorium would see military service. I laughed at him then and said "you'll never catch me in the army."
I went to work, after school, down to Texas and worked up a wheat harvest up into North Dakota. My mother's been sick for a long time, which made difficulties at home. She was in the hospital a lot of the time…with two growing children needing care. Trying to get help during war and all that.
In 1948 I was out of Breck. I went to work for Barry Ashwell, Inc. interior decorators in Minneapolis. I started driving a truck, tried to learn the business. My father is in the floor covering business---Armstrong Cork Company. I was interested in it.
About that time I got some yearnings to get back with some military life,
JONES INTRO B
and went into service at the end of '48, in December.
I enlisted in the army December 7, 1948---just happened, that date. I started filling out and processing on the 5th of December.
Went in as a recruit. To Fort Riley, Kansas, basic, applied for Officer Candidate. In February 1949 went to NCO training school at Riley…been promoted to sergeant and was assigned as combat-small unit tactics instructor at the school. In May, I went to OCS at Fort Riley. Commissioned November 23, 1949.
To Knox Kentucky, having been commissioned armored cavalry. Stayed at Knox completing officer basic course there in April 1950, and went overseas.
Arrived in Japan assigned 8th Cavalry regiment, stationed Camp King just outside Tokyo where I stayed until war broke out that June.
It was the same as any other Sunday, the 25th, didn't know war had broken out until next morning. Copies of Pacific editions of Stars and Stripes were flying in every direction. We all knew something was happening. Much sentiments about would we be in the war or not and what about our unit.
We embarked on a training and organizing routine that same week---the 29th. We started a ten mile daily road march, then were given orders to pack equipment for combat into a duffel bag. We had a 30-minutes-be-ready-to-move order.
The First Cavalry division was in good shape. My regiment was in best shape in the division. I had 30 men directly under me at that time.
We continued training until about July 2nd. We loaded vehicles and moved out to a camp on Tokyo bay for amphibious training. We did the ten mile hike mornings, and clambered up and down cargo nets afternoons.
We had five days of that training. Then back to a camp outside Yokahama. Stayed there until the 10th. Loaded LST's in Yokahama harbor, our battalion plus field artillery on five LST's.
We sailed on night of 10th. Morning of the 18th we pulled into Pohang harbor. We didn't know if we'd have Pohang in our hands or not. If North Koreans had taken it, we were to take it back from them. As it happened, it was still in our hands. Quiet landing.
We stayed there two days until morning of the 20th. Loaded on a train south of Taejon which was being attacked that night.
JONES INTRO C
NOTE: From then on Jones tells how his unit relieved elements of the 24th Infantry division.
He has 40 men…rifle platoon leader, 3rd platoon of Baker Company.
They received their first taste of combat as enemy tanks rode into their positions.
From there they were in and out of combat.
Felt growth of reinforcements.
The feeling that, just before the Chinese entered the war in November, 1950, that all was over.
In fact, they had gone back to garrison status.
The story was quite usual until, with a quarter-of-a-million man Chinese Army in the war…Jones' real story begins:
The Chinese had been in the Korean war about two days. They had crossed the Yalu and were sweeping south.
We were re-grouping south of Unsan. On my level, we didn't know what was in the wind---but something definitely was. There had been an ammunition redistribution order. Late, at night, we received an alert for movement order. At dawn on the morning of October 28th, we moved out…destination Unsan.
I had gone into battalion headquarters that morning and had read that there were two corps, of three divisions each, of the Chinese in Korea. I began to get the shape-up of what was to come---and it wasn't good.
We moved north that morning, just to the outskirts of Unsan. The ROK first division was already in the area and engaged with the Chinese Army. It was a relatively limited engagement at that moment. The Chinese didn't seem to be too active.
We went into position behind the Koreans. That lasted one day when we received orders to move up and relieve them about eight o'clock in the morning. We moved up, marched right through Unsan, just got north. The ROK forward echelon people met us, said they had been attacked by the Chinese during the night and had lost about 2,000 yards.
"We're organizing a counterattack," they told me. "But you can relieve us as soon as we're set and in the positions on your plan. It'll be later today."
My company commander's orders were to be in those positions at eight o'clock in the morning.
"The hell with 'em", he said. "We're going into those positions. If the Chinese are there, we'll run 'em out."
So we went. We had a platoon of tanks with us, my company, platoon of machine guns, some other equipment. The old man said "Move Out" and we did.
We moved almost into the positions we were to occupy. The funny thing is the company commander and the first sergeant had actually gone out and walked through the positions. Had his rank insignia on, kept walking, never saw a Chinese. He told us we could go in there.
Twenty minutes later, when we started to move into the positions, they were swarming with Chinese.
We engaged them right on the spot. We had some dead right away. Couldn't get anyone to pick up the bodies. Then the ROK attack began to materialize. The M-46 tanks, the only big ones we had in Korea, the new and---at that time---the accepted standard tank in the medium-fighting class, came up. We had had only M-24's, that work against infantry and that's about all.
The Chinese soon withdrew under the ROK attack. The original positions were reoccupied late in the afternoon. We got orders to sit out the night about 1,000 yards to the ROK rear and occupy the positions the following day. But we seesawed around for a couple of days until, on the 30th, we got orders to go up and relieve them. The ROKs were to withdraw at four in the afternoon that day.
Then the Chinese started that attack. They began by firing multiple rockets at us, from vehicular rocket mounts. They were accurate, but relatively ineffective. We had no casualties from the rockets, although we were under fire steadily for about an hour. We were well dug in.
The frontal attack began. The Chinese had green troops. They came to within 500 yards of us. About all you can say about them---they were well camouflaged. They were on the banks of the river, on flat ground, before we ever saw 'em.
They rose up and started an actual walking towards us in a solid line. We were set up on the flat ground with a tremendous number of weapons. It was the only place we could have employed our machine guns. We had 'em. We just mowed them down. They were within 200 yards of us before we ever opened fire.
Then they showed how green they were---what was left after we had cut most of them down. They got into small groups, gathered in hollows in the ground. Our mortars then started slicing them to pieces. And that pretty well stopped the frontal attack in our battalion. (Another unit attacked between my company and the next company, and scored a penetration there. We were in rough shape because we had replaced almost 50% of our strength. In two weeks at Pyongyang we had gone through an almost complete reshuffle of command. A lot of it was done because of the feeling that the war was over, that we were going back to garrison status. The sudden Chinese entry into the war changed that.
It was a little difficult that night. The Chinese had scored another penetration and the order came to us to withdraw.
Under heavy enemy attack, we managed the first phase of our withdrawal. We got back, set up just as it was getting dark. We got into position and, just as the last light went out of the skies, the Chinese began to infiltrate our right flank. We had anticipated it. We knew we were bare on that right flank. They started cutting us up in the rear then---although we didn't know it at the time. They were really shooting us up back there.
Meantime, there was an attack on the battalion on our right flank, about 2,000 yards away. We finally managed to start the final withdrawal…but it turned out to be an attempted withdrawal. The Chinese, by then, were both in our immediate---and distant---rear. They were executing phenomenal control of troops at night, moving and patrolling with bugles and whistles. They moved small units in, assembled them, controlled them well. All in the dark a task that must have required tremendous training. They were shooting hell out of us as we tried to withdraw.
My unit ended as the rear guard of the retreating battalion as we moved through the town of Unsan. What was left of the rest of our battalion had gone through. The Chinese were in the town…between all the buildings, ready. We had two tanks in town with about 100 infantrymen. When I got there, I had 100 more. We started to shoot our way out of town.
The fire was withering. The Chinese were nearly all armed with automatic weapons. They were between every building and we were trying to go down the middle of the street. The tanks, of course, were relatively safe.
That night, I had been in command of the weapons platoon. I'd been sent over to them to try and straighten them out. They were all fouled up. When the action had started that night, my company had been manned by six officers---for the first time in the war. Three of them had never seen action, three of us had. One of the rifle platoon leaders cracked up at 4:30 in the afternoon. One of the others went half batty. The third one's platoon disintegrated. He kept charging around saying "I don't know what to do. My first action and my platoon's disappeared."
The company commander grabbed me and told me to latch on to every straggler I could find.
I picked up everybody, including the men in company headquarters who didn't look busy. When we withdrew that night, I ended up with my former platoon sergeant, who had taken over since his commander had gone batty. His platoon, or what was left, came along. So did about 25 stragglers we picked up.
We took everybody along and started back. The Chinese had set up a couple of pockets of light resistance to the rear and we had to get past them.
The mortar platoon had the trucks lined up in the town, ready to take off. They were bumper-to-bumper, lights on, ready to move. Apparently, at this point, the Chinese jumped those four trucks.
When I got there, not too much later the vehicles were in the same condition. But the men were all over, laying dead beside the vehicles. Lights still on, a couple of motors still running, but not a single Chinese was in evidence. As I later figured out, they were in town, waiting.
We started down along the vehicles and paused there. We wanted a vehicle to transport the wounded. We couldn't carry them and some of them were pretty badly shot up. So we tried to detach the trailer from one of the trucks. It was dark. I'll be dammed if I could remember how that trailer hitch worked. None of the men around me knew either.
About that time, we got a few rounds of small arms fire, over to our left front about 20 yards. The kids with me, the enlisted man, were scared stiff by that time. The Chinese were all around them. They knew it. They were disorganized…away from their own units. We were just a loose group of people. They fell back to the news rice paddy.
I was with my runner, lying by this first vehicle. The Chinese that had been firing just ducked down into the rice paddy and kept on banging away. The men were scared to death. They didn't know how many Chinese were there---just seeing the muzzle flashes.
By that time, our people were firing to beat hell. When somebody gets scared, first thing he wants to do is start pulling the trigger and he's not too careful where he's pulling. There I was with the Chinese shooting in my direction and my own people shooting back at 'em. So I decided to get back with my own people. I did---but fast.
Along about here a couple of more officers and NCOs wandered in, but there wasn't any organization at all.
It slowly became obvious that only a small number of Chinese was holding us up. (We found out later, it was only six of them!)
Another officer and I tried to get our men up in a flat assault. There was no reason in the world why 100 men shouldn't have been able to take six. But it was the same old business. We got our men up on their feet, they got about half way across this rice paddy shooting. The Chinese, by luck or good sense, at that moment poked their rifles up above the rice paddy dike, took at few pot shots. Our men saw those muzzle flashes and stopped. They were all through.
We tried it a second time and the same thing happened. So the other officer and I gave it up, decided to go on around and into town from the side. We left the trucks.
South Korean runner, and American runner, and I, were about 30 yards ahead of the group. We started into town through a back alley---those narrow things with the buildings touching each other. We went on down the alley, walked out on the main street. The six Chinese who had been behind the dike---an extension of the main street.
They just walked up the street and we walked out of the alley into 'em. The first was standing there with a bayonet about a foot from my nose. He was green and he caught me by surprise, had me cold and should have nailed me right there with nothing more to it. I don't know what it was---a fallacy in their indoctrination. Maybe I caught him by surprise as much as he caught me. We both stood there and looked at each other for a minute. It was a bright, moonlight night and we each got a pretty good look.
His five comrades walked up behind him and just stood there. I had my two men with me and both of them didn't know what to do. I had a pistol in my hand and ski mittens on. The pistol wasn't cocked.
He started waving his bayonet. It was quite obvious what he wanted done
there. I was waving the pistol frantically and he wanted me to drop it.
I pretended I didn't know what he was talking about. I managed to get it cocked.
About that time, my own people had come up from behind me and had just mushroomed out with their gun barrels in all directions. The Chinese decided, right about here, that they had a nice big bunch of prisoners.
I raised my pistol in the face of the Chinese who had had his bayonet pointing at me. At the same time, I hollered and the men fired and all six Chinese just dropped in a lump in the street.
We turned right, up the street.
There were two tanks in town at that point. They had difficulty. The Chinese had knocked out a three-quarter ton truck in the middle of the street. In those towns, the street is just wide enough for a three-quarter ton truck.
A tank had shoved it to one side and had tried to go around it. But they'd piled a bunch of wounded on it, had hit a house with a corrugated iron roof. The roof ripped, came down on the back of the tank, trapped some of the wounded and cut 'em up pretty bad.
They had been there for about 20 minutes trying to free the wounded men. That's why they were still there when I came up. The first one had just cleared it and gone through and the second tank had just pushed the truck a little farther into the buildings on the other side of the street.
I climbed up on the second tank. The commander was standing up in the turret with his microphone talking to the driver through the small opening. Our men were in a disorganized group…all shooting away from the general direction in which they were. The Chinese were having a great time taking pot shots between the buildings at us.
I asked where Lt. Strife was and discovered he was in the first tank. I ran up there and met some of my old friends from Japan. Sort of funny place for a reunion. We'd lost most of the old battalion from Japan, but here was fellows I'd run around with in Japan. We all ended up in that town together that night. Lt. Howard Miller, Lt. Dan Mahoney, Lt. Fitzpatrick---all the old friends.
I climbed up on that first tank. As I did, Howard said "What the hell are we gonna do?" and everybody knew: get out of there, fast.
Lt. Strife was on the radio talking to his company commander. He pulled his earphones off and we had a sort of odd conversation which went like this:
"Strife---Jones. I've brought the last of the doughs in. Let's get the devil outta here."
We were right at the junction of two roads in the center of town.
"Which road do we take?" he asked.
"Take the left."
He'd pulled his head out of the turret for this conversation, then ducked back in. I grabbed the 50 caliber, the tank started around the corner and then stopped.
There was a straightaway of about 50 yards. Between every building, you could see a damned muzzle flash. You could hear the bullets hitting the tank.
I grabbed that 50-caliber and started shooting. For some reason or other, the tank had stopped there.
I didn't know it until I came through the town on the way back to be released, but there was a monument in the center of the intersection. I hadn't seen it that night, but I remembered the town…even some of the buildings. But that monument I had never seen.
Two bullets hit me. Felt just like somebody taking a baseball bat and hitting me a whack square across the shoulders. It felt like I was leaving my feet, like going up, turning to the right, and starting to fall. I'm sure I never left my feet, but the bullets came from below me and actually gave me the feeling of raising smack up in the air. I felt myself starting to fall and I blacked out.
I went into what I later found out was a spinal shock, although the spine wasn't damaged by a bullet that went up into my neck, right at the base, rode up the spine and then jumped off. I had a sort of paralysis for a couple of minutes.
As soon as I hit the back deck of the tank, I woke up again. I'd only blacked out for a few seconds, maybe ten or fifteen. I remember blacking out and coming to. The tank hadn't moved, up to then.
Funny thing---I felt like I was standing on my head on the tank. I remember
when I first came out of it thinking that I couldn't stay like that---balancing very long.
Then the tanks started rolling. I could see my arms hanging back off the side of the tank, but I couldn't feel anything. My body seemed to be in a sort of crouching position but my arms were straight out in front of me.
I'd heard a lot of stories about how, if you lose an arm or a limb it feels like it's doing things. I saw my arms hanging limp over the side of the tank, but they felt like they were sticking straight out. I thought brother, those characters shot both my arms off. Then it dawned on me that there wasn't a way in the world they could have shot my arms off. But this was all new to me and how's anybody to know the affects…when you weren't even sure about the cause?
The tanks were moving. You could see the muzzle flashes of the guns as we went by. The bullets kept bouncing off the sides of the tank. How I ever kept from being hit again as we moved through that town, I'll never know.
I kept sliding off the tank…the back deck is curved. I kept sliding slowly. I started to regain some movement in my legs and my feet and the feelings progressed up my body. Finally, as we got to the edge of town, where the tank swung to dodge a jeep that had been abandoned in the middle of the road, I was shoved right off the tank over to the side of the road.
The tank was dragging its towline, a heavy steel cable about ¾ inches in diameter, with a steel eye on the end weighing about five pounds. I remember watching the damned thing drag across my chest. I couldn't feel it. Just before the eye got to me, it hit a rock in the road and bounced up, down on my chest, and on down the road. I never felt it.
I hadn't bled too much at that point. I was strong enough to get to my feet. I walked over to the jeep that was knocked out and tried to drive it out. But it wouldn't start. I tried to pull it out on the starter motor, but it had a full trailer and wouldn't even move. I got out of the jeep again. My arms were giving me trouble, going weak. I didn't have complete control over either one of them. I also found out later I damaged my other shoulder pretty badly. When I fell off the tank I lit on it.
I started to go out on the road and managed to walk about ten yards before a fellow shouted at me out of the ditch. It was Sergeant Gerald Cummings out of Charlie company. I walked over. He said he was wounded in the legs and wasn't much I could do for him. We both started down the road. He told me he had a package of morphine. He asked me if I wanted a shot.
By that time, I'd bled enough so I was getting pretty weak. I figured a shot of morphine would fix it so I could walk on out of there. I sat down. That did it. I hadn't realized that the sergeant was just a little bit out of his head at that time, not too far. But he was.
He tried, after a fashion. He didn't know how to give morphine, although it's a simple job. He managed to ruin three syrettes. Then the second tank, and what was left of the infantry came by.
We hollered at 'em. They went by, didn't stop. They weren't going to stop for anybody.
When they passed, Cummings went screaming off down the ditch on his hands and knees and left me sitting there in the ditch.
I figured out what it was I ought to do. There were the Chinese moving out. I was behind the last houses in town. So I sat there for a while.
Pretty soon, some more Chinese came along. They started using flashlights most freely, which seemed to me damn foolishness---can't think of anything at night that would bring in artillery faster. I didn't know it then---but they had already attacked our artillery. It wasn't going to fire.
I adopted the attitude that the best thing for me to do was to look dead. I didn't know that I had a couple of advantages: that the blood from the wound in the back of my neck had run all down into my hair and when I'd gotten back up the blood had run out of my hair into my face. I figured that if I closed my eyes I wouldn't look any deader than if they were open and if I closed them, I wouldn't know what was coming up. I figured if I kept them open, I could see what was coming and maybe keep from reacting. If some guy came up and kicked me unexpectedly, I'd be likely to jump.
I sat there, staring across the road. The Chinese would come up, shine the flashlights on me and use a slang word "lau Me." Has something to do with "old American" or something like that. I kept hearing that all night, "lau Me" as I sat there. They'd point and say it, take one look and decide I was quite dead.
The major share of the Chinese finally cleared the area where I sat. By then, I had reached the 'I don't give a damn' point you get to when you've bled and sat. So, I pulled out my cigarettes and lit one. Put it out when I finished.
Just then, a young Chinese came running down the road, saw me, stopped, started digging round my right wrist, found my identification bracelet. That wasn't what he wanted. So he went over to my left wrist, found my wristwatch, started to take it off. Still being in that I don't care state, I figured if I'm going to die, I'm going to die with my wristwatch. So I just turned and said "what in hell do you think you're doing" and he went screaming down the road. Quite a corpse.
I had figured all the time in Korea I'd never be captured---that I'd be a dead man first. I honestly thought that way that night. I had three magazines for my pistol. I'd gotten it out and decided, the first group of Chinese that came along I'd start popping off. That way, I'd have a few of them before they had one of me. But about the time I decided to do that, cocked the pistol, here came about six of them jogging along the road. Funny thing---they were six medical aid men, bags over their shoulders, big white circles with red crosses on them. This was different from the way the Koreans played the game and I figured, as an American, I don't take shots at the Red Cross. So I put the pistol away and started thinking the thing over. I figured I'd accomplish nothing my knocking a few Chinamen off at this point. I figured I had a chance, by staying alive.
I put the pistol away again, had another cigarette. The Chinese kept coming up all night. They went to work on the jeep which was still about 10 yards down the road. Just before dawn, they got it operating. After they left, I had another cigarette.
Fortunately for me, it was pretty darned cold that night. That helped coagulation. Didn't bleed to death the way I would have in warmer weather.
About daylight, I managed to accumulate enough strength to get on my feet. I'd been watching enough---during the night they moved two regiments forward. At dawn, the two came back and one went forward. It showed that they were committing the major portion of their strength for night fighting. I couldn't miss a thing: I had switched around in the ditch---my butt was in the ditch at the side of the road, my back against the bank and my feet sticking out on the edge of the road. I had enough sense to realize I wasn't getting enough circulation in my hands---I'd lost all sensation in them. I'd stuck one down inside my trousers, the other inside of my jacket to keep them from freezing. I'd lost all sensation in my feet which, amazingly, didn't freeze. Why, I don't know.
I struggled to my feet at dawn and managed to reach the last house in the village. I went in. The Chinese had disappeared when the daylight came. I got my back up against the wall, slid down the wall, sat down, lit a cigarette, put my pistol down just under my leg, and waited to see what would happen next.
Wasn't about 15 minutes before the Chinese came in and set up a command post in the next room!
There wasn't much point in taking a shot at 20 of them, so I just sat there. Funny---they sat and operated in there for about 15 minutes before they even saw me. I was sitting there watching them.
Finally, one of them decided to look through the doorway---and there I was looking at him. He screamed and there were Chinamen going out every door and window in that house.
Then they started poking their heads back in doors and windows…with machine pistols. Pretty soon, they came back in. First thing one of them did, was to jerk off my collar brass. One of them got my cigarettes, lighter off the floor beside me. Another grabbed the pistol by my leg. They took everything I had except a pair of sterling bars in my jacket pocket…never did find them. They took the stuff and left…except the one who took my cigarettes and lighter. He stood there with a few more who wandered in. I asked him for a cigarette.
He offered me one, then offered them all around the room, ran out, threw the empty pack out the door, lit my cigarette with my lighter and then they all left.
About half-an-hour later, the Chinese who had taken my personal belongings came back---wristwatch and everything. I didn't see the wristwatch---although they took pains to show me all my money was still in the wallet---South Korean, North Korean, Japanese, United States. He showed it all to me. I don't think any was missing---I wasn't in any shape to count it. They put it all in my field jacket pocket I couldn't figure what was going on, but at least I wasn't losing anything right then.
About that time, the Air Force jets came in and worked the town over. They hit out in the street in front of the building, didn't hit us. Had the Chinese scared three quarters to death. Apparently we messed up the other end of town pretty well. When things quieted down, a Chinese officer who spoke English came in and asked me if I had a wristwatch. I told him I'd had one but that they'd taken it from me. He went out good and mad. Ten minutes later he came in, dug, into my field jacket pocket, and pulled out my wristwatch. He waved it in front of my face and said "You HAVE your wristwatch." Then he stuck it back in my pocket.
He asked me if I had an identification card and I told him it was in the wallet. But he discovered they had already taken it. He left. The jets came in again. I sat there in the house---and I felt myself going out and coming to. Things fogged up. I started having hallucinations.
Funny how clear they are in my memory.
I actually dreamed---of course it was fixed in my mind that our people would counterattack and I'd be back with them in a day or two at the most. I couldn't visualize our losing ground over any period of time.
I came to once and found a little measly Chinaman digging around in my pocket where the wristwatch was, found it and went screaming out the door as fast as he could run. He left everything else…and I couldn't even holler then. I blacked right out again.
I dreamed our people had occupied higher ground across the road, were just waiting for the Chinese to get everybody down, sucking them into a big trap. They sneaked a patrol over to me and told me they'd have a helicopter in there to pick me up just as soon as they closed up the rear of this Chinese column. They also told me this patrol was to stay there.
I would have to command this patrol, they said. I was figuring things out.
Then I came to, went out the rest of the evening.
The Chinese outside were moving up to the front…just before dark. Nobody paid any attention to me from the next room. They figured, I guess, that I was dying and why worry. Guess I looked it. I was still bleeding a little. Everything I rubbed against got blood on it.
When they got ready to move out, they came in and tried to get me to go with them. I figured the best thing to do---why I don't know---was to act as though I was still semi-delirious. So they moved out.
I got back on my feet, I managed to pull my field jacket off---the sweat rolling down into the wound on my back was painful---that salt. They'd taken my boots off when they searched me. But I didn't care: the one thing I wanted to go---get the hell out of that house and get hidden. I got outside, hid under a brush pile. But everything was so quiet. I came out, walked back to the house, sat down in the door of the room I'd been in, and just plain sat there and watched the Chinese mule train come down the street. The mule train wasn't six feet away. They didn't see me---it was dark…I was in the shadow of the house and the doorway. It was asinine---the whole idea. I watched 'em go by.
Then I went into the house and right away there came a Chinese. He shined his light into the room I'd been in. My boots and jacket were on the floor. He saw them. I was up against the wall beside the door. He couldn't see me.
He came through the door, shined the light over. When it hit me, he went yelling back out the door. When he did that, I took on off the back door through the kitchen, found a cave they use for storing vegetables and stuff. It was little, but I crawled in. There were bags of cotton. I got underneath them to get warm and get hidden. Then---I passed out.
I'd used up too much strength I didn't have---and it laid me out. When I woke up, I was lying over the top of the bags of cotton with a bunch of flashlights shining in my face. How long I was out, I don't know. Maybe only a couple of minutes. Undoubtedly the Chinese who saw me in the house had alerted the others---and it couldn't have taken them long to track me to the cave in back.
They had guns trained all over me. They kept beckoning to me to crawl out. When they saw the wounds on my back, they put their guns away and came up to help me. One of them got on each side.
Incidentally, this whole unit seemed to be professional soldiers and reasonably ethical---which certainly wouldn't characterize any Chinese who were to follow. They were quite obviously the old border guard. Armed with plenty of weapons…all types…old American and old European makes. They seemed experienced soldiers.
They took me two houses down, where they'd set up an aid station, sat me in the corner with some Chinese, bandaged my wounds over the top of my sweater and undershirt…gave me some hot broth---first food I'd had since noon the day before. The Chinese during the day had given me a couple rice bowls of water…but that was all.
They had a fire under the floor---the building was pretty warm---and I was getting relaxed. I was dead tired and didn't much give a damn about anything---just leaned back and started to go to sleep. They woke me up, moved me outside---and here came Cummings on a stretcher. He'd made it about 200 yards up the ditch.
Here's a funny thing---Sergeant Cummings recognized me---I didn't know him. We'd been in the shadows the night before. I don't know why, but I decided to say I was a chaplain. I knew that they knew I was an officer. I was dubious about what treatment I'd receive. I'd seen too damn much and wasn't too happy to be in the position I was. Just as a snap decision, for ten minutes I figured I'd say I was a chaplain. In my right mind, it never would have happened. But there was Sergeant Cummings and another man on a stretcher, who, Sergeant Cummings told me later, was a man out of my company. I would have known that, but half his face was shot away and he was dying.
Cummings had regained his composure---at least temporarily. He told me later, too, that he'd been with me the night before. Maybe THAT was my hallucination about the patrol that came to get me out.
I started asking him what had happened to the man I had stationed outside the house the night before. Well, Cummings couldn't figure out what I was saying:
"I'm Chaplain Jones" I kept saying to Cummings. When they started moving us---I had one walking on each side supporting me. We started around a dark corner.
"They're taking us around here to shoot us, chaplain," Cummings screamed. "Do something, chaplain. Do something."
I said something like "There's nothing I can do for you, son."
Actually, they were just taking us over to a three-quarter ton truck---one of the mortar trucks we'd left the night before. When we got there, they'd rigged a light to the generator of the truck. They were loading up with stuff they'd captured. The truck was still loaded with the 4.2 mortar and the ammunition. They had an American there, all in one piece, a Corporal Lamb. They were making him drive the truck. Virtually at gunpoint---though not literally. They gave us each a can of GI peas and a box of corn flakes they'd captured with our rations. Damned welcome to us.
They loaded us on the trailer of the truck, drove up towards the front. We later found out that our first and second battalions had been almost wiped out. Our third battalion had been in reserve and had set up in perimeter defense. The Chinese hit them, but they held out for four days.
We were hauled up to near where the remnants of the third battalion were still holding out. The Chinese unloaded that 4.2 mortar and ammunition and fired it. That 4.2 is one of the finest infantry large caliber weapons. No mortar in the world can touch it. Pretty rough when the enemy gets hold of one. Broke my heart even then---although I was in the trailer going to and from consciousness. That truck trip in the trailer was bad---bounced the hell out of us. Had a couple of Chinese in with us and they were screaming too.
My wounds broke open during that bouncing ride and started bleeding again. They finally took us 10 miles to the rear to a Chinese collecting station.
Next morning, just before dawn, we pulled up in front of this little building, unhitched the trailer, stuck cornstalks all over us for camouflage in the bat of an eye.
They unloaded the truck but just left Cummings and me in the trailer…sitting there. Didn't know what they planned on doing with us. We weren't in the least bit interested in staying out in that truck and being seen by our Air Force.
Cummings said "I'm leaving" and crawled off across the ground. I didn't have enough strength to get up over the tailgate. I was trying hard and finally a Chinaman saw me and figured he should get me out of the truck. He brought another soldier and they got me to a little Korean shack, Cummings was there too---and just leaned us up against an outside wall and put cornstalks over us again.
About an hour or two later, a medic came and dressed our wounds…first dressing in 48 hours---the first bandage was over my clothes. This time, they did the best job you could, under the circumstances. We lay there---they gave us more of our B rations we'd had on the truck…another can of peas. They gave us some more of our cigarettes.
We lay there for an hour or two. Then in came a Chinese officer who spoke English. He told us he hoped, when the war would be over, he could go to the United States. I don't think he had any understanding of communism. Didn't seem to understand it. He surely wasn't a political officer. Seemed to be a pretty reasonable fellow. Enjoyed talking…both to use his English and to have something to do.
He came around later that day and said "The general is coming to see you." An hour later, an elderly Chinaman, large, fairly tall, well built, about 50-ish at least, dressed like the rest but well escorted. He came, stood five feet away, looked at us for a minute, turned around, left. And that was the general.
They had one medic in this house…a kid I'd say about 14 years old. I think his training was negligible. But he was a good kid.
By that time, you see, I'd lost complete use of both arms. I was so darned weak I could hardly move. They had to have somebody turn me over.
This kid fed me every bite I ate for damned near three weeks. When you're wounded, you develop an insatiable thirst. Well, what with this drinking, you take a hell of a lot of pisses. I did. I couldn't get my pecker out. I'd have to holler for the kid. He was on duty the only one there and he was with me once every half an hour 24 hours a day.
Fed me…watched me…he's one of the major reasons I'm alive today. Without the care he gave me---although medically it was nothing---I couldn't have stayed alive.
The Chinese apparently figured I was going to die. They held up my evacuation to the rear in an effort, I guess, either to let me die or start getting better. They did have the supplies or the facilities to do much.
The first week, that Chinese officer who had showed such interest in me that first day---and who announced the short visit of that general---returned often. Sometimes he spent most of the day with me. Sergeant Cummings was still with me. Corporal Lamb, after three days, left for the rear with the truck.
My regular visitor used to bring in parts of our B rations. He'd mix up powdered milk with sugar---his own that came with his combat rations. He'd sit down and talk---non-political. Mostly, his general interest in the United States. He also brought some of our captured U.S. cigarettes.
One day he said he was leaving, wouldn't be back, but he'd leave a large tin of powdered milk. Said he was sorry he couldn't leave any sugar…he couldn't get it. That was the last we ever saw of him.
Now, this Corporal Lamb---who is now deceased as far as I know---was with us for two days. He was quiet, retiring, non-aggressive. He wouldn't stick his neck out, even though they had our captured rations just outside, had given him freedom of the area. He wouldn't go out and pick them up. I'm sure he could have gotten anything he wanted. The worse the Chinese would have done was hollered at him.
The first day after they bandaged up my wounds, Lamb gave me a wool undershirt…all he could spare. He didn't even have a full allowance of winter clothing when he was captured…and it was cold. I had a sleeping bag the Chinese gave me that first night. It certainly got filthy before I finished with it at the end of that first, long, long winter. One day, Lamb just didn't reappear. I guess he must have driven our truck to the Chinese rear.
The first few days I was there were relatively foggy because I was still blacking out and coming to again. I do remember telling Sergeant Cummings to try to keep as accurate track as possible of our course of movement. I told him that unless we knew where we were, we'd never be able to get back to our lines.
Cummings figured that was foolish because the war would be over in a month or so anyhow.
I told him at the time I figured that wouldn't be the case, that we'd be foolish---inasmuch as the Chinese had entered the war---to do more than establish a line and hold it and attack in the spring. I was certain that would be the course of action taken. I figured we'd attack from what was called the MacArthur line at the narrow waist in Korea…attack in the spring. I figured that, by then, my wounds would have healed, my strength would have come back and I, too, would be ready to consider some form of action.
We just lay around there. Cummings wasn't the world's most agreeable individual. Product of a poor family, not too strong parental control, CCC camps, WPA jobs. In 1939, he came into the army. He had been in it, off and on, ever since. He had a ninth grade education. He was one of those "I've been there, I've seen it" people. You couldn't tell him anything. At the same time, he had no hard knowledge on any subject. It was a relatively difficult situation to live in.
We sat it out there---leaning on the outside of that building, the cornstalks over us. After the first week, they moved out all the Chinese who had been there, moved in some more. It was then that they moved us on inside the building. A couple of Chinese were holed up in there too.
I was still unable to feed myself, but I was gaining strength. After about a week, things began to clear up. I began sleeping normally, but I was still weak, with no control over my arms, hands, or feet…no sensation in them at all.
We continued there in this room until around the 18th of November. One night, they moved the wounded out, including us, starting us for the rear in a big convoy. We may have moved 10 or 15 miles that night before daylight came. We made two more moves over bumpy roads and poor drivers. Oddly, they did all their night driving with their lights on which seemed to me a foolish idea since our airplanes were in the area and were coming over that road regularly. But---they got away with it. How, I'll never know.
We'd stop in a regular Korean house, they'd feed us, sometimes they'd
check our dressings. Most of the dressings used were American-made Carlisle
bandages, or American Army triangle bandages, American Army sulfa---in fact,
nearly all of their supplies were American stuff. They'd either bought it or
captured it from Chiang Kai-shek. It was all old. The sulfa, for example, our
medics don't even use it anymore. Too many people get a reaction from it.
But the Chinese used it, and these old American dressings.
We arrived in a little village 10 miles south of the Suiho dam. I later found out, when I was a free man, that the dam was the fourth largest hydroelectric power installation in the world. The town is in a wide valley.
We moved in that night in a tremendous convoy. The town was completely loaded with Chinese troops. Looked like there wasn't room to do anything but stand. We were taken to a hospital in an old temple about a mile and a half from town. We were installed in the hospital.
At dawn, here came a Korean to try and shoot us. He swore that we'd raped his wife the night before or something equally stupid. The Chinese finally threw him out of the place. Cummings and I had been separated so first this Korean came in to try and shoot me, was bounced out, then went over and tried to shoot Cummings. Out he went again.
The temple building didn't have any doors on it---pretty darned cold. We stayed there that day. That night, they moved us down to the base of the same little knoll the hospital was on and into a small Korean house---maybe 100 yards down. It was about eleven at night we came down.
Next morning, our Air Force apparently figured the town was a marshalling area for troops and they arrived. The 51's came in first---strafed, napalmed, and rocketed the place. Then the F-80's came in and worked it over. Then the 51's came back and left about half the town burning.
I'm sure heavy casualties must have been inflicted---that town was loaded with troops. They cleared it right after the bombing. Four 51's came in, I guess they'd seen some Chinese running around the hospital behind us…they dumped their loads on the hospital. They are making their runs across the valley, right over the house we were in. I could look out the door and see these 51's coming in on their passes. They didn't hit the house---can't figure why one of the boys didn't just drop his nose a little and give a squirt to the house we were in. But they didn't. I just laid there and watched the whole show. Cummings went out of control---always did when we were attacked. Screamed, hollered, cried, would grab me and hug me.
The 51's had eight or more rockets per plane, two napalms per plane, went into that hospital behind us. I know it was still full. But the Chinese brought it on themselves by not marking their own hospitals. I don't think there's a sane American who'll attack a Red Cross-marked building. A rocket hit about 15 yards behind the house we were in, threw up dirt and debris…but the thick dirt wall behind the house protected us.
Dinner was late that night, but it got there.
Late that afternoon, some fellows came in and told us there was another American and they were going to bring him to us. For some reason or other, that wasn't what they did. That night around eleven, they loaded Cummings and me on stretchers, carried us down into town---one of these long, narrow Korean towns that go down a road into a valley.
Just across the road at the bottom was a railroad track and just across the track they put us in a house with the other American---a Cpl. Ernest Contreras of Denver, Colorado, who was also released when I was released. He had an unfortunate wound---a bullet had gone in the back of his knee joint and out the front. He never managed to get satisfactory knee motion after he was captured. He had a splint on him…was from A company, Fifth Cavalry Regt., had been captured the day after we were. Cpl. Contreras had been in the center of town all that day during the bombing and he was shook up boy!
We got in there. He'd been a prisoner for three weeks---no English-speaking people around. That doesn't help. He seemed to be in fair shape. But we hadn't been there a couple of hours before Contreras and Cummings started to fight. And that was to continue as long as we were together.
Damndest thing you ever saw---Cummings bull headed and Contreras hot-tempered, both of them hit in the legs, couldn't do anything…but both sitting up set on fighting then and there. That went on for a very long, long time.
The next morning (the 21st), the B-29's came over. Don't know what they were trying to hit---maybe Sinuiju---they were going over at high altitude. We heard them drop their load…we were about 30 or 40 miles from there. Later, when I was 30 miles from Suiho dam and they were bombing…I could hear it all right.
The raid lasted an hour or so. The planes were coming over on the way back from Japan. One of them must have had a stick hanging or he didn't drop them all, so he spotted our little railroad about 40 yards in front of our house, kicked out the stick---maybe four or five bombs…got a beautiful hit on the railroad. One bomb hit directly between the tracks. Blew out the bed, cut the rails…a 500 pound bomb. One lit about a dozen yards from our door.
God must have been on our side. The room next to us---floor and all---had completely disappeared. The room on the other side, had a wounded Chinese in it, sliced him all to pieces, took everything but the floor of that room. The roof had caved in, walls disappeared. I was cut up in the hand and beside the head…superficial. Finger was cut to the knuckle…but I couldn't feel it anyway…so it didn't make any difference.
Cummings wasn't hurt except a beam on the head…gave him a knot. But Contreras was buried under what had been the ceiling and the wall. After the dust started to clear---I'd crept up into the corner in a squatting position when I heard the bombs coming in. When it was over the beam was down and a shell fragment the size of a saucer only three times as thick was laying in my lap. This beam clipped me in the side of the head as it eased by.
No more Contreras. Big pile of rubble. Cummings was buried to the waist. But where was Contreras? About then I heard a voice calling, sort of muffled, "Get me the hell outta here." Contreras.
There were a lot of sticks and things in the building…they'd propped up over him like a tent, there was a hole by his mouth. He had a little pressure on him---uncomfortable, but that was all.
The Chinese arrived in about five minutes. One of 'em tried to get Cummings out, didn't know Contreras was under the pile of rubble, walked up on top of him and Contreras started hollering, "Who's walkin' around on me?"
They started to dig Contreras out. One Chinese was on his head once and Contreras yelled "Hey, what's that weight on my head?" He was dug out---not a scratch.
They got us out of that building into another right in the center of town.
Right on the main street, I figured, we'd had it now…wait till the Air Force comes back THIS time! Sure enough, next morning, they were back…but two F-80's made one pass, went by once, and left. Why, I don't know.
After that the Chinese decided to move us out of town. They had been handling us separately from their own wounded. That night, they loaded us on stretchers (the 23rd I believe) out to the edge of town, on the way towards Suiho dam about a mile. We stayed there in a house about 500 yards above the highway. We were there until we left for the Korean hospital at the dam days later.
As they carried us in, they immediately pilfered the cheeses in the place…took what they wanted and then left. We stayed there, the Chinese fed us for a few days.
The Korean family was extremely friendly. Every morning the woman, when she finished cooking, would bring in what's known in Japan as a habachi full of coals…a big iron pot. Cummings was still helping me eat…although I had learned to roll over on my side, hang my face by the bowl and sort of shuffle it into my mouth.
I'll say this for Cummings. In his own way he tried to do what he could for me. When we had been in the first place and had been given cigarettes by this English-speaking Chinese, Cummings didn't take his half of the cigarettes. He was making me smoke three quarters of those cigarettes.
That Korean family was afraid to do much for us, because of the Chinese. The woman brought us half a gourd of tobacco. Everybody and their cousins for 10 miles around had to come and take a look at the American oddities. Many of them had never seen a Caucasian before. They'd look…the men, only tried to converse with us. I spoke a few words of Japanese, Cummings a few words more, and we developed an ability to make out.
Every time the local farmers would come to see us, we'd have this gourd of tobacco, and they'd just help themselves and fill their pouches before they left. But every time the gourd would be empty, this Korean woman would fill it again. We were well fixed there.
In town, before we'd moved up, there was a particular Chinese soldier who started taking an interest in us. He started to push us around. I'd reached a don't give a damn attitude. So I'd cuss him out every time he's start pushing. Whether he liked my spirit, but he became partial to me.
He'd sit next to me and try to talk, for hours at a time. Didn't work. But it was interesting in view of what would happen later. A few days later, he came in with eggnog mixture, a bowl of it, and gave it to me. None for the others, just for me. Sat there and yakked awhile. Don't know what he was saying. He spoke Chinese, I English, nobody understood the other…and I had the eggnog. One of his cute little tricks---he liked to tweak our noses. You know how our big beaks fascinate the Orientals. They just LOVE to pull American noses.
This woman, in whose house we lived, wasn't friendly the first two days. She kept yelling at us in Korean for what I figured was stealing her silverware---the stuff taken by the Chinese who brought us there.
Then I guess she looked us over, saw there wasn't a man of us in the room who could stand up…and the stuff taken had all been in the top drawers of a big Korean chest. After that, she did everything she could for us.
It was obvious that the Chinese and Koreans didn't like each other and weren't getting along at all. The Koreans were afraid of the Koreans, the Chinese looked down on the people to the south. Relations got worse the longer the Chinese stayed in Korea.
We stayed there, had our wounds dressed a few times and, roughly on the first of December, a week after we got there, they loaded us one night on stretchers and started loading us on a train that had stopped out there on the tracks. After they started to carry us down to the train, a runner came up with orders. We found out later they ordered us turned over to the Koreans. We weren't to go to China. I figured the Chinese were doing so well, the pressure was off up here in the north and they didn't have to move us out of Korea. So…they took us right back into the house we'd come out of, re-installed us.
Next morning, breakfast was brought by Korean Army personnel. Then
A Korean doctor came and looked in on us. Along with him came a Korean nurse…
very attractive for a Korean girl. She had been taken north when Seoul was occupied. She formerly worked with American doctors at Children's Hospital in Seoul. She spoke darned good English and did everything she could for us---got some aspirin for Sgt. Cummings.
Cummings, by the way, fancied himself a singer and Contreras would egg him on. Cummings would sing "The Sheik of Araby" and Contreras would add "with no pants on" at the end of each line. In a position like that, anything is hilarious. So we got quite a kick out of it.
The nurse talked to us regularly, made arrangements for us to get padded uniforms. She sent in a Korean barber…for our first haircut and shave since we were captured…and the last one for some time to come.
Those padded uniforms were made for the Korean Army---a lot smaller than our size---but they were better than the rags we'd been wearing. We stayed there until about the 15th of the month. Just sitting…the usual group of sightseers arriving, looking, and helping themselves to our tobacco.
But the food was different. The Chinese, although they only fed you twice a day gave you all you could eat. Sorghum seed furnished a main staple of our diet. You get tired of it fast…it's cooked like rice. We got a little rice, too. We got one type of soup or another. Once we had a flour sort of fried pancake, once. Meat in the soup sometimes.
But with the Koreans, it was one bowl of rice, one bowl of soup to a meal and if you wanted more, that was tough. Only thing they'd do---if there was a Chinese around at mealtime, HE'd get on the Koreans and get us service. But we didn't corner a Chinese around mealtime very often.
This Korean nurse who spoke English heard our one-bowl complaint. If you were healthy, that would have been enough, I guess. But we were all run down and our appetites were about three times normal. We just burned up the food. All of us had lost tremendously in weight because of the wounds and the strange food.
About the middle of December, they loaded us on stretchers and hand
carried us to the town at the base of Suiho dam…about a mile from it. It's
an impressive dam…we used to sit in town and see it. However, I wasn't to get a
look at it for many months.
The road was filled bumper to bumper with trucks…our planes flew overhead, but not a bomb came down. About two in the morning, we reached a big concrete and brick building they were using as a receiving station. I found out later, they had just established it as a hospital receiving area. We were taken in there.
First thing happened, of course---everybody in the place had to come out and take a look at us. Took them damned near an hour to quiet THAT down. Finally a Korean officer came up to me and asked "Do you have a pistol?"
I told him no…but he felt around in my sleeping bag. He was happy when he found none…and gave me a cigarette and smiled. We laid around there until they had handled all the Korean patients they had. They moved us off our stretchers onto the concrete floor---we were all separated. Cummings was 15 feet away, Contreras about 25 feet across the room. I decided I'd get some sleep and then I looked up at a fellow sitting on a bench by the wall.
In perfect English, he said, "When did YOU come in?"
He was a Korean soldier. We talked a little. He wasn't particularly friendly. Wanted to stay aloof, so we left each other alone.
Next morning, we saw a Korean major who didn't seem to have any particular love for us. But he didn't seem to have anything to do with us. They fed everybody in the room…except the three of us. Then, half an hour later, this Korean major said,"I suppose you want something to eat."
I said "yes." He stormed off and soon they produced a bowl of food with some soup poured over it for each of us. When I asked the nurses for some water, they got that for us. They seemed to be rather decent about the whole thing. They had both commissioned and non-commissioned nurses there.
We ate the meal, they processed all the Koreans, and about eleven, they
started inquiring about our names, and so on. They made out medical records…I
watched the forms. The girl who filled them out said she had been an English
student in the Kim II Sung Institute in Pyongyang before the war. She didn't
SPEAK much English, but she knew enough so she could write my name down.
They moved us across the street into the main hospital. I found out later it was number one hospital in Korea then, and was to remain in that status for a long time. It had been built by the Japanese for their army men who had protected the dam. It was small, but, when it was built, had been a pretty fair hospital. It wasn't broken down into wards, but rooms.
Contreras, Cummings, and I were installed in one room. Oh yes, while we were having our records taken, a man in what would seem to be a stiffish business suit to us came over to me, sat down and said, solemnly, "Do you speak Chinese?" I said no, "Do you speak German?" I said no. Did I speak Korean? No. Half a dozen…French…Japanese. I kept saying no. Then, after he'd run through these languages, none of which I spoke, he said "Well I'm sorry, I can't converse with you at this time---I'm only just now learning English"…and away he went.
We were first bandaged in a room down the hall. I was first, because, with somebody supporting me under each arm, I could walk. Contreras and Cummings still couldn't manage even that. I still had no shoes, just GI socks.
There was a homely little, plump Korean nurse. She was filling a hypodermic needle. When I walked in, she smiled. It was a warm, friendly greeting. Nothing about it. Just flat being kind. It was one of the most welcome things that ever happened to me. I'd been over there with all this inquisitive business and this anti-American, anti-everything but Russian, nobody agreeable although reasonable…and then this girl gave me that smile, set me at ease, put down her hypodermic needle, got me up on this wheeled table, laid me down, put a support under my head. She went back to the needle. Never said a word. Later I found out her name was San Ok Su---we nicknamed her "Liver Lips." She had a very wide set of lips…but a wonderful girl.
The other two were brought over---one in the doorway, one out in the hall.
There was central heating for all the main buildings in the town---the
Japanese had put that in---for their garrison. It was pretty well built, but
the Koreans had, since the last war, just about torn the system apart.
They have a quality of getting something decent and destroying it in no time.
An English-speaking doctor, a captain in the North Korean Army, with the major who was hospital commander, examined me. Liver Lips stood by during the exam, did the actual dressing of my wound after the examination. She was very competent working with patients.
These people had few supplies. Most of the bandages were bits of cotton cloth they'd cut into long strips. We were to help them pull down the curtains and cut them up in the not far-distant future. Most of the medicine they did have was Russian. Later on, they were re-supplied by the Chinese with brand-new American medicine.
They took care of Cummings, Contreras, and moved the three of us upstairs and installed us in a room. The young captain-doctor came up again, talked to us. Seemed very capable, trained in Japan during World War II. He was a reasonably loyal North Korean, but I don't think his political inclinations were too strong. He just accepted a situation and was living in it. He was a likeable fellow. I was later to spend time with him, talking over English names of parts of the anatomy, helping with his English.
Shortly after that, they installed a guard on us in the room, which we would have 24 hours a day for many, many moons. I stayed in that hospital from December until July, 1951. We didn't lose our guards until March, 1951.
The guards were to prove the most interesting part of life there---but sometimes most irritating. We dubbed all of them with names.
In this room, there was a young sergeant, an equivalent to our stateside nurse's aides in World War II. She came in…a sort of overseer of a section of bedpan toters and sweeper-uppers. She didn't like us. Made it obvious.
When we went in, the window had been opened---they'd been airing it out, empty. It had really been a single room for a single bed…but they had six palettes in there before they finished.
It had been a fairly warm day but it started to cool off. I asked her
to close the window. That did it: that was the wrong thing to do.
She didn't like it---so that window was going to stay open then. If we shouted out something we wanted, the opposite course was the one she was sure to take.
That went on for some time. The window was quite a method of torment. She'd come by in the morning, throw that window open with 30 below zero outside. I still had this American sleeping bag…it had holes in it…and was darned cold. The room was steam-heated, fortunately.
But the halls were cold, all the outside doors left open all the time. That meant the halls were outside temperature. What with nurses going in and out, the door to our room was open a lot of the time. But, opening that window turned it into an icebox.
This business of her coming in and opening this window went on for three or four days. After an hour or so, we could get one of the other little nurse's aides to shut it. Incidentally, in North Korea, when you call for a nurse, they add the word "comrade" to it. They add comrade to every title in North Korea. Word sounds like "dung-moo."
Most of the little nurses were reasonable. Finally, one day the battleaxe came in, threw the window open. It finally dawned on me what was going on. She got the window open, I said in Japanese "Best thing you could have done." That got her all mad. Good and mad. She stepped on my foot, I pulled it back. She moved over, then and STOOD on my feet. So I pulled them back again. Then she kicked me. Good and mad. I pulled both legs back as far as I could and let her have it. Threw her clear against the wall.
She stood there and looked at me with a shocked look on her face. Then she turned around and walked out of the room. We weren't to see her again for a long time. She'd come to the door of the room, peer in, nothing. Next time we DID see her, she was going to bat for us, trying to help us out.
The guards installed in this room---six of us and a small table and chair in the corner which the guard used. One of the first guards we got---don't know what the deal was---but he got on guard duty and decided he had better clean his rifle. He pulled the bolt out of his rifle, took it apart, and started to clean it. But he'd forgotten something. I think he missed the class on putting the rifle back together again.
I'd messed around with their weapons a lot before I was captured and knew them pretty well. So, here he was, fiddling around with the bolt trying to get it back together. He couldn't figure it out. Messed around. Suddenly he realized that we were watching him…so he turned his back to us, facing the corner, still working at it.
This went on for almost half an hour. I called his attention in sign language and indicated I'd be glad to put it back together for him. That scared him half to death. He was a young kid, about 16 years old. He stuck his bolt in his pocket, put the rifle in the corner.
When his relief came, he held the rifle down where the bolt should have been and quick, sneaked out of the room. (END REEL 7)
We didn't see that kid much after that. He left for somewhere.
Then there was the guard who was odd in build: normal for a Korean in height but extremely thick and heavily set. Thick chest, thick neck. He spoke some English and lived somewhere around Seoul.
He used to talk to us while on guard duty. He'd do stuff for us---always cautioning us not to tell anybody about it. He'd get us tobacco. Once, he brought us each an apple.
He pulled another deal that kept happening: he'd flop down on one of the empty palettes on the floor and go to sleep. Just before he'd doze off he'd tell us not to say anything about this.
"No speak" he'd say. "No speak."
After half-a-dozen days, they'd gotten in another American over at the receiving station---a Sgt. Frederick W. Worrall of Savannah, Ga. They decided to move us into a smaller room. This happened the day that our nurse-sergeant had gotten my kick. In fact, she had been giving the orders to move us when I kicked her. She stayed at a respectful distance and supervised the actual move. That was the last we'd see of her for about two days. After that, doorway appearances, followed by the clean-up squad. That combination of aloofness and helpfulness was something I never did figure out.
Sgt. Worrall arrived. He had been captured with the 25th Division in November when the Chinese had hit us. He had been captured in one piece, had been in a building, with other prisoners, that one of our F-80's had strafed. Two had been killed. Worrall caught 50-caliber slug. It had gone down underneath the house, where they heat the place, had ricocheted, and the armor-piercing core had lodged in his hip. The Chinese had operated on him in the field, had removed the bullet and sent him on. By the time he got to us, his wound was still pretty well open. He came in a few days before Christmas.
He was a pretty whipped boy---isolated with only Chinese speaking people for a month. But he snapped out of it in no time and joined the rest of us. The sergeant was a fine boy. He'd gone from Pfc. to Sfc.
Just about then a guard, an older man who said he was 33 or 34, came on duty. These were older conscripts who were in the area being trained---and pulling guard duty on us. This fellow explained in Japanese and sign language that we'd be living with Koreans and we'd have to learn some Korean.
The first thing he taught us was "tobacco, please." Next "thank you" in Korean. That was lesson one. Next time he came on duty, he said he didn't smoke. He had his hands behind his back, indicated that he wanted us to do something. Finally, in desperation, he showed us a handful of tobacco, then quickly stuck it behind his back again. When we said "tobacco please" in Korean, he handed each of us the tobacco…but he wouldn't let go until we said "thank you" in Korean. We went all along the line that way.
Poor guy---that night he went to sleep on guard a little early. The sergeant of the guard caught him, they took him out, and we never say "tobacco please---thank you" again. The silly thing was that, after a few days, they realized we were no great problem and the night guard always slept on duty.
The nurses used to come in, catch them asleep, steal their rifles. We had fun watching them. The nurses would gesture to us to be quiet, not give away the gag, tiptoe out with the guard's rifle. The sergeant of the guard would then come, wake up our man, and give him a dressing down asking "Where's your rifle?, Lost it?, Where is it?"
Life there wasn't devoid of humor---at times anyway. We needed it---not much went on. It took quite a time to exhaust all possible subjects of conversation---but we were to do that, too, before long.
The day before Christmas, we got two negroes in to bring our group to six. They were Cpl. William Mansfield, Detroit, Michigan, and Pfc. Frederick A. Saunders, Buffalo, New York. Saunders is now dead, the rest are alive.
I'll just run through the whole bunch in that room now:
There was myself, lst. Lt. Roy M. Jones.
Sfc. Gerald Kenneth Cummings, out of my battalion, Charlie Company.
Sfc. Frederick W. Worrall, Savannah, Georgia, 25th Inf.
Cpl. Ernest Contreras, Denver, Colorado, one of the released prisoners, with A Company, Fifth Cav. Rgt.
Cpl. William Mansfield, Detroit, Michigan: lst Bn. 24th Inf. Regt., 25th Div., a bazooka gunner, His ammunition bearer was the other boy.
Pfc. Frederick A. Saunders, deceased…Buffalo, New York.
Cpl. Mansfield was extremely intelligent, raised in industrial Detroit, after being born on a small plot of ground in Alabama. He had done a lot to raise himself. Hard-working and industrious---even though he freely admitted a background of some hell raising as a young boy. But no more. He liked classical music, subdued clothes.
The other was Pfc. Saunders, a slow-thinking boy…had his 19th birthday while with us. He enlisted in the army after some mix-up in his personal affairs. He'd heard something about Korea, vaguely and bam, there he was IN Korea. There he was---very young, very immature.
Nothing happened at Christmas that was different. Just conversation about did Koreans know about Christmas, what were our families doing at home.
We had a new guard, a singer…or at least he liked to. For some reason or
other, he was always assigned to guard duty at night. He sang Korean songs
which are not pleasant to listen to unless you happen to be a Korean. He sang
one song that, in South Korea, had been a love ballad about a boy and girl
skipping over the hills. In North Korea, the music was the same but the words
had been shifted around to make it a political song. That was typical---plenty typical.
The biggest share of North Korean military songs are Russian. Sound much different. They sound very, very western.
This singing guard sang all night long and got to be a mighty big pain. He had another cute habit…leave the door open for a long time. Used to hang his head out the door and yak at the nurses all night. I suppose you can't blame him for that. (I found out later that there was a North Korean law against making love during the war. The young men and women were supposed to devote their thoughts and efforts to the war. When it was over, then they could make love again. They didn't obey THAT law too well.)
We had a good chance to watch Koreans---day after day. Each day, they considered more as just patients. We were lucky on treatment. The hospital was commanded by a 2-star colonel---like our lieutenant colonel. He was a fine, ethical doctor. Educated in Japan and Germany, spoke some English. He could read English perfectly with a fine British accent. And he understood what he read. But it had been years since he had the opportunity to practice it.
I was convinced that he wasn't a communist himself, although I saw his home later and he was reading Das Kapital in German. He showed me that book. I don't think he was more than a fine doctor who tried to get treatment to the Korean people and the place he was needed most at that time was the North Korean Army and that's where he was.
He had given orders that we were to be treated the same as any other patients in the hospital. The nurses, of course, could cross that up a little…serve our food last, or what was left over and cold. But we had enough of it to eat.
As a general rule, though, the nurses made a half-hearted attempt to harass us. As time went on and they got to know we weren't the child-eating, raping tools of the warmongers, that we were reasonable people, we became rather popular with the nurses. Before we left, I don't think there was a staff member of that hospital who wouldn't have done anything in the world for us.
I did some embroidery work to pass the time. I tried to get threads in colors and they'd run themselves to a frazzle trying to scrounge up some thread the color I wanted. In high school, I'd tried to embroider names on a shirt…I had a needle, cloth, thread and started to pass the time with embroidery.
There was one little nurse---we called her Burp Gun---who didn't have any love for us. She was a short, fat Korean girl. She'd step into the room, held her hands as though she had a burp gun, and go "Brrruuuppppp" as she swung around the room. We got a kick out of her. But she had no love at all for us.
There was a big girl, bigger than the average American girl…a good 5 ft. 7, taller than most Korean men. Her hair reddish-brown and not black. She avoided us very definitely.
There was a young, second-lieutenant nurse who seemed to divide her time between the overall training and supervision. She had all the qualities of a young second lieutenant. She was attractive for a Korean girl. The average Korean girl is homely---to our western eyes. (They sure have a flock of 'em getting married and having children so they must be attractive to each other.) But not to most Americans.
But the girls they trained for nurses seemed different. They were from urban areas, had better education. The percentage of attractive girls among them was surprising. Some were downright beautiful…some FEW were.
This young lieutenant was very prim and proper and tried to make everybody else that way. Always making inspections. The officer of the day had to carry a pistol.
Well, these girls had a horse pistol, big, clumsy thing. Used it on officer of the day. I swear the thing was a foot long. They get a Sam Browne belt strapped on…little short girls with the great big pistol…ridiculous.
There was one girl who was a sergeant and was promoted to lieutenant. And if anybody went chicken SHE did. More about her later.
New Year's Day the Koreans had a big celebration. They and the Japanese recognized our calendar New Year's and, since the commies took over, the Chinese are whooping it up on January 1st too.
Our part of it, as patients, was an elaborate meal from salad, little pieces of veal deep fried---quite a meal for us. Wouldn't have made a snack in the United States.
The diet along in here consisted of rice---mainly. Because this was the main medical installation that we got that instead of corn. We got a small amount of pork regularly. But that cracked corn started coming in. Other prisoners had it as their only item of diet…we had it only as a side dish with the rice and sorghum seed.
We had a guard we nicknamed Turham Bey---a dead ringer for the actor. A likeable young fellow, decent to us. He was a very heavy smoker and always made long cigarettes out of shorter ones…stick four of them together. Really king size. He'd smoke that gadget all at once.
But he still got cigarettes for us. He is to show up later as a patient after the recapture of Seoul.
Then there was another one who'd come in before dawn and say "Mr. Jones…Mr. Jones…wake up and speak English." He wanted to practice his school English before he went off duty. (END REEL 8)
He always wanted to talk of something he'd seen in English language movies, most of them made during World War II. He had read a few English books---the one I remember more Koreans had read than any other was "Gone With the Wind." It was pretty darned dull. His English was bad. So much for Mr. Jones---a pain to have around.
These Orientals who haven't had much education all read aloud…and that's what those guards did most of the time they were on duty and not sleeping---just sitting at that table in our room reading aloud in Korean.
This room may be interesting---we got to know it for sure.
It was wide enough for four men across one end, two the other way…about 30 inches…I'd say, 10 feet, by 12 feet. We had six men and a guard in there. We slept on bags filled with rice straw. We wore what we had when we came in. Worrall, Cummings, Contreras and I had sleeping bags. The two other boys didn't. The Koreans had given us a cotton blanket that was extremely thin and wasn't worth much for keeping one warm. Wouldn't have been bad, with the heat in the building if they'd kept the door and window closed…but they didn't. These two boys without sleeping bags actually suffered. Both of them had mild frostbite in their feet before they came. It was a painful winter for both of them.
The room had one window with an inner and an outer set of panes. The outer one was covered with blackout paper and was always closed. There was a single, bare light bulb always burning 24 hours a day…for no daylight ever entered that room. There were six straw mats on the floor, each mat covered with a coarse, heavy cloth.
We never left the room, night or day. Performed all the functions of ordinary life there.
The most unexpected visitors we had---a group of Russian soldiers---about February 1951. The Russians must have been transportation personnel of some type. Eight or ten of them, in Russian Army uniform and looking picturesquely Russian---large mustaches, swarthy complexions.
They smelled of gasoline, never came again, so I guess they were convoy men. They seemed jovial, cheerful, insisted on shaking hands with all of us, joking in Russian, of course. We couldn't understand a word they said.
Sgt. Fred Worrall had a beard that looked like Lenin's. All of us had four-month beards, but Worrall's came out a sort of goatee-like affair. Because of this, the Russian visitors, using a poor interpretation through a Korean who spoke a little English, told us they were certain that the Sergeant was an American-Russian. He shook his head NO, but they refused to believe him…and showered him with several packs of Russian cigarettes.
They were strong, not bad in flavor, and welcome to us then.
Then there was a civilian girl---not with the services at all---who had cheek wounds from rocket fragments fired by one of our planes. She had been indoctrinated as anti-American before that ever had happened. When this scarred her cheek, her vanity reinforced this hatred of Americans. She was there at the hospital being treated, apparently her family was politically important to be treated in a military hospital.
We had a little kid pulling guard duty---not much beyond the age when he was discovering that girls were different from boys. This little girl came around when he was on guard duty. When she wasn't there, he was one of the nicest kids you ever saw. No trouble, tried to help us.
Then this girl would come around, start agitating for him to kick us and poke us with his rifle. Nasty little incident happened one night. He was kicking our boy Saunders, middle of the night. She had come in and she and he were BOTH kicking. I finally sat up and started raising hell with them. They quit kicking him and started kicking me.
I got mad, the kid got mad and SHE got mad. I pointed my finger at him and I was giving him the works in English. But HE understood from my tone what the gist of the thing was. But he also got the impression that my finger pointing---they never do that---that I meant that I'd shoot him if I had a pistol.
He kept on kicking. Other patients woke up and came in from the hall and all started kicking. There was one patient who refused to come into our room. You'd see him in the hall, walking up and down. When our door would open, he'd tear down the hall and peer in. When everybody was inside kicking that night, he just stood in the doorway and kicked through the doorway at the kid next to it inside.
The officer of the day was someplace, don't know where. The sergeant of the guard was sent for by the nurses. We knew about the orders for our treatment, that the OD was responsible for us. We could put a guard back in line by calling the OD. The sergeant came in, asked me what had happened. He got the idea…the kid told him HIS story,
about my finger and the pistol threat. He believed the guard. Ran the girl and the patients out. Next day, the officer of the day came around. Only time I ever had seen him.
He asked me what had happened. I tried to tell him in sign language. Meantime, this young guard is jabbering in Korean---own language, own man. He believed the kid. So he told the guard to kick us all he wanted, use a bayonet if he liked, and left. Miss Scarface was there when it happened and we had hell the rest of that day. She was there agitating as long as the little boy was on guard duty.
Then, she was moved out of the hospital and the kid pulled guard dozens of times afterwards and never bothered us. Right back to being the nice kid he'd been in the first place.
A large number of these people had never seen electric lights. They were, from the farms. Of course, we were right there at this dam, power line running from the generators. They had separate lines for the operating rooms and other sections.
These kids were fascinated. They turned that one bulb on, they'd turn it off, take the light switch apart, look at it. About half of them would unscrew the cap off, then they'd pull the chain. The little deal in there that works the circuit would arc. Those would jump, throw the cap up in the air.
One night that light switch provided a real cute incident. Guard sitting in the corner. Air raid. Siren blew. Lights went out, from the hospital main switch.
This kid reached up and pulled the light switch. Our glazed window on the door showed the lights…then they went off. Ack ack popped. We couldn't get a damned bit of daylight through that blackout window, but when the ack ack went off you could see every flash. We had a 90-millimeter battery about 500 yards up the hill from us. The kid got real scared.
The plane flew on, all clear blew, the hospital pushed back the master switch and the lights went on out in the hall. But ours didn't go on and the guard couldn't figure that out. He sat there for a minute, then rushed out of the room. Lights no work.
Came back in five minutes with nurses, a couple of doctors, an electrician. The one nurse asked him---even though we didn't know Korean---had he tried the light switch?
So he sort of tip toed into the room, grabbed the light switch and pulled it. Of course the light went on. So he pulled it real quick again, as if they weren't going to see it go off. Turned around and walked back out of the room.
In February this one doctor came up, by then Sergeant Worrall could walk---I could get up on my feet, though weak, and walk without assistance, pretty well anyway. Cummings had pulled a fast one. His wounds had healed 45 days after capture. Not a scab after 60 days.
When we first came into the hospital, the Korean doctor had examined him and asked why he wouldn't walk. Cummings said he couldn't…although there hadn't been a reason for that at any time.
"But I can't walk" said Cummings. When the wounds healed, he still said he couldn't walk. The rest of us raised such a storm with him that, one night, he decided he'd try. He sort of backed up the wall to his feet, his legs were shaky. He lost his balance, fell down, and didn’t try again for two more months. He'd run a good 300 yards after he was hit, the blood ran down his leg and started sloshing around in his boots and stayed on his mind all the time since. Five and a half months it was before he walked.
When we did get him on his feet, he insisted on using crutches for a month.
The doctor said they'd take us out for exercise…the guard…once a day. Bad weather, we could walk up and down the hall in the hospital with the guard watching. That went on for a while.
The first time we saw the snow outside, the glare nearly knocked us flat…after being in the dark 24 hours. It took a long time to get used to daylight again.
In the middle of March, six weeks later, the doctor said they were removing the guard, we'd have freedom of the hospital the same as any other patient, could go outside, do what we liked.
He left, and shortly after that, the sergeant of the guard came, took our kid away, didn't post another. So we said, good, we're rid of the guard. Now what happens when we try to go out?
We laid around for an hour or so with our new-found freedom: thought about it, talked about it, then we decided we'd go out and get some exercise. We got up, started out the door.
That was as far as we got.
Half a dozen nurses pushed us back into the room, screaming, and leaned up against the door. They figured the Americans were trying to escape. The word hadn't trickled down to them.
They let us out…but little Burp Gun appointed herself as our secret watcher. Whenever we'd go outside, she'd station herself up on the balcony and watch us until we came in. She got tired of that after little over a week and quit.
We got a little "news" of the war from the hospital chief. The colonel would come in and say "our government stated" or "the Russians claim." He never said this is so, or that is true.
He was so different from the others I was to meet. Didn't hear "claim" or "states" very often.
One of the pilots brought us a leaflet one day. Showed it to us. Dropped over the lines. Talked of the great Korean Army that had re-taken Pyongyang and there was no use resisting the onslaught.
I read this thing and it seemed to me they didn't print it up to show to me…it was to be dropped over our lines. And they couldn't tell our people that Pyongyang was in red hands if it wasn't…it was quite a jolt to me. (END REEL 9)
We started going out daytimes. At night, they still kept guards on us. I wanted to go out of the room to the latrine. I hollered for our little nurse. She came and I explained. She stood the guard at attention and proceeded to administer a royal bawling-out. After she had been talking to him for a couple of minutes, she waved me on out. I went to the latrine, came back, she's still standing there, chewing away. I went back in the room, curled up to get back to sleep and the guard came over and asked did I want to go the latrine. He hadn't seen anything…but that very angry young lady!
We got around the hospital more and more. One day, we were sitting in the sun and the colonel---the hospital commander---was in an inspection tour. He came up and asked if we'd be willing to work around the hospital. Said it would help the hospital, and the exercise would be beneficial to us.
We agreed to work. This was a stopper for a minute. I'd told the Koreans I was a staff sergeant---my last enlisted rank. They figured Cummings the senior member of our group. But when they chose the leader for this work---they named me. The Koreans couldn't fathom this---they expected us to pick our senior…which was what happened, only the Koreans didn't know it.
They assigned us a job of moving a tremendous rubbish pile they had out behind the hospital---bandages, odds and ends of operations. Moving that to an old destroyed area 50 yards away took us quite a time. They called the sergeant whom we called Limpy---he'd been a trench foot patient in the hospital and still had a limp---and told him that he was to furnish us with whatever tools or equipment we needed to do the job. That we'd be working under him.
That began an odd association with Limpy, who was to be our foreman for many months. Fortunate for us it was, too. We got a stretcher-like affair, made of rice straw bags, two poles, shovels, pick, and went to work on this tremendous rubbish pile. We finally got it moved after a couple weeks' work.
They never pressured us on it at all---we might work a day, a half day, an hour, some days not at all. Sometimes we just held off to see if they'd say anything.
They moved us out to a small building by the rubbish pile where ambulatory patients were kept. The room was larger than the one we'd had inside. Living out there, we had absolute freedom. We had only other patients around us who associated with us rather freely. No guards.
We could go out in the middle of the night and walk around the village if we wished. We were all pretty weak at that time, though. I suggested the boys take it easy---didn't want to lose the privileges we'd gained. They were very valuable in case, some day, we might try to escape.
We stayed there, working. When the new patients came in and saw us, they usually were bitter. But if they stayed around long enough, that seemed to disappear. They figured we were fairly reasonable people. We tried to be helpful wherever possible. Sgt. Worrall and Cpl. Contreras did a lot of work sterilizing bandages. I did a lot of bandage rolling.
All the bandages we got at that time were from curtain material cut in strips or cloth that came in. It would be washed and sterilized and re-rolled. There was a lot to be done and the hospital was short-handed.
The patients came in by trainload spurts. Work like the dickens for a week, then an easy few days, then another trainload.
There was another nurse we called a Mama-San. Her English was good, she had a sharp mind, but it was thoroughly communist-indoctrinated. We'd argue for hours. For instance, she refused to believe that the negroes were the same as white Americans. Part of their big propaganda drive is this supposed discrimination. She'd been fed full of it.
One day, our boys made a checkerboard. The Koreans had never seen the game, so we taught a couple of them the game of checkers. Within two weeks, there were 20 checkerboards all over the hospital. You'd go out on the lawn and the Korean officers would be playing checkers. A problem would come up and they'd call one of us over to tell them what to do next.
One Korean soldier was particularly friendly. He had a Korean name. He had lived in Hiroshima, Japan, with his family, had been with the Japanese Army in Singapore when the war ended. The rumor had gone around that all the Japanese troops were going to be shot, but that the Koreans would be sent home.
So our friend said he was a Korean. (He had served there for a time, had learned Korean, and had a Korean name handy.) I suspect his was a Korean family that had migrated to Japan.
He claimed his home was in North Korea…and they took him there. On the boat to Korea, there were some bananas aboard…and that boy loved bananas. The Americans on that boat found he liked bananas and gave him all he could eat all the way.
So, he liked Americans. Thought they were the greatest people in the world. All because of those bananas. He got back to Japan in 1948, saw his family in Hiroshima, had to return to North Korea. He had been a driver for a Russian general in Pyongyang during the Russian occupation. When they left, he was made driver for a North Korean general.
He got down somewhere around Taegu. There was firing. He got shot in the leg, badly. He wanted to abandon the jeep, but the North Korean general pointed a pistol and said "We're driving OUT."
He was a sort of soldier of fortune. Loved to gather a group of Korean officers around him and tell about women in Pyongyang and Singapore and stories of adventure. A generous, kind man. He'd get his entire tobacco ration and give it to us. If he wanted a smoke for himself, he'd bum one from his friends.
He got in trouble for befriending us too much. They told him to quit spending so much time in our room or he'd be in for trouble.
Another friend was a nice Korean kid who'd been wounded along the border in some incident along the border before the war began. Quite an athlete…but we called him Hopalong. He could barely walk on one leg. He'd pull up that bad leg, hop along and race many a two-legged man and win.
He liked us. Got a medical discharge, and his separation payment. He gave each of us 200 North Korean won as a present. He got 5,000 and gave us 1,200. We used it in the stores in town.
You figure that a North Korean private was drawing 50 won a month and he gave us each 200…and you can see the guy's generosity.
The Koreans as a group are extremely generous and hospitable. And yet, they can be coldly unsympathetic. Strange combination.
A general arrived just before May Day, 1951. By that time we were pretty well situated. Limpy had become a regular checker player in our room with Sgt. Cummings, who was pretty good at the game.
Limpy would come in with half-a-dozen Korean soldiers who line up behind HIM and watch, while we'd all cluster around Sgt. Cummings to see what would happen. Limpy would start to lose, then begin to cheat---beautifully obvious. Everybody had a wonderful time.
Then they'd get arguing about rules…bunch of Koreans on one side of the board having it out with a group of Americans on the other side about checker rules.
The war seemed distant these weeks. The ones who were bitter had nothing to do with us. The others were friendly.
Along came May Day. The general had arrived with a male orderly, a female secretary, an aide, assistant aide, and a driver. He was handsome. The first time he saw Sgt. Worrall, our boy was working on a burial pit. Worrell happened to walk around the corner of the building, there was the general who stopped everything, walked up to Worrall, stuck out his hand, shook, and walked back.
The general was young and friendly, but the sergeant was very antagonistic. I told the men to keep that sergeant away from us. He knew just enough English to get us good and mad. Next thing you know, after the Koreans talked to him, that same aide would drop into the room, sit down, and talk to us like old friends.
He used to steal tea from the general and bring it to us. The general himself would send us cigarettes. If the general didn't finish his tea, the aide would stick his head out the window, holler for us, and we'd finish the stuff gladly.
The aide had a German Mauser machine pistol which he carried whenever he was in the general's company. He also carried a regular Russian 762 automatic. The general had a German-made 25 automatic that his lady secretary carried whenever she was in the company of the general. If she wasn't with the general, the side aide carried it, back of the machine pistol on his belt.
He was talking to us about this German-made automatic. All of a sudden, he pulls it out and hands it to Sergeant Worrall. The thing's loaded. Worrall kicked the magazine out, looked it over, shoved the magazine back in, and handed it over again to the aide. Of course, I don't think it would have fired very well…didn't look as though it had been cleaned in six months.
He showed us the Mauser too. Nice guy. He was a third class hero, which means he did something heroic in combat. Guess that's why he was the general's aide.
May Day came along.
"Big celebration" the excited nurses told us early that morning. We'd been seeing preparations for days. And we were going to be guests. They dug us up new jackets and things so we'd look good.
The nurses came back in a cluster to bring us out of the room to where they had set up a speakers' table. The general was the honored guest, along with a couple of full colonels. Patients were all around. The actual participants were the hospital personnel.
May Day is the date of issue for summer uniforms…and they were all out in their new ones. It's also a big day for promotion of people. Seems like the whole darned hospital got a one-rank promotion. There were awards for service and so on. Just about everybody who did anything got a workers medal.
They had a place for us on some rocks and we sat down. They had a track marked out and it looked like some sort of race around this thing.
They put out six pieces of folded-up paper. It was a race when you ran down, picked up the paper. Inside was a needle and a piece of thread. Idea was to get back across the finish line first…with the needle threaded.
A little short character who was the hospital administrative officer won that. He ran down, picked up the paper, squatted down, cross-legged by the finish line, calmly threaded the needle, jumped up and handed it to the judge. The others were trying to run and try and thread it. They lost. He was a shrewd little guy---did all the paper work for the hospital---and had just been promoted to captain that day.
The next race started out the same way---six pieces of paper. This was a sort of treasure hunt---with items to get---general's shoulder board, officer's cap. One of them was GET AN AMERICAN.
This poor little nurse picked up the GET AN AMERICAN instruction. They all pick up their papers, read them…one rushes for the general to get the shoulder board, the other grabs a cap off an officer. Here comes this poor little girl---she stops right in front of us and starts to cry. Just would ask one of us to go with her to the finish line.
Everybody else, it seemed, knew what was going on, but we hadn't been told a thing. Finally, she grabbed Sgt. Cummings and he wouldn't go. When he did figure it out, the race was over and he was still here with the tearful little nurse still tugging at his arm.
They had two repeats of this race with other contestants. The next one who came up with a GET AN AMERICAN slip, saw herself losing. She started towards us.
"Go with her" I told Cummings. And he jumped up, grabbed that little gal by HER arm and dragged her all around the track. They won.
Cummings did it again with another nurse. The prizes for the girls were notebooks and pencils and each of them came back to Cummings and gave him part of their prize. (END REEL 10)
About here, a major came up and gave each of us a pack of cigarettes---compliments of the general over there at the speaker's table. I sent Sgt. Worrall as a delegation of one to thank the general. He did---saluting.
They then had a very off relay race. At one end of the course they set up four buckets, upside down. At the other end, they were assembling teams of four men.
There were to be four teams. We weren't sure when it began who the four teams were, but we found out: one of Korean officers, one Korean enlisted men, one Chinese and one American. You'd be blindfolded, given a six foot branch from a tree. As soon as you had hit the bucket, you could run back to your team and hand the branch to the next man---who was blindfolded---and HE'd go try and switch the bucket.
Of course people went through all sorts of antics. One shrewd Korean, our hospital administrative major, paced off the distance to the bucket very carefully. Only he paced them off normally and, with the blindfold on, took shorter paces.
Our team, Sgts. Cummings, Worrall, Pfc. Saunders, and Cpl. Mansfield, lined up, too. People going down, going past, sweeping around. Cpl. Mansfield was going to sneak up on it. They turned him around a few times and started him off. He's bent way over at the waist, taking those long strides as though his legs were going over the top and coming down again---poking with his stick.
That washed up the afternoon. Back in the room, we had salad, meat, various dishes. There hadn't been any propaganda all afternoon. We were just patients at the hospital, by then.
Then a colonel who had broken his hip…said he skidded on the ice…had us in to his room for a drink and an American song. He loved "My Old Kentucky Home" which he said was Lincoln's favorite song. I think he had his dates between Lincoln and that song a little twisted, but, anyway, he said it was Lincoln's song. He wanted to hear cowboy songs, too.
That finished up May Day, 1951…with My Old Kentucky Home.
One day, there was a colonel, badly wounded in the legs, a big cast on, sitting out in the sun. He called us over to his stretcher. He was a very hot and rabid communist. He had a major there who was a diplomatic and non-emotional oriental. He could interpret without the trace of a thought or emotion on his face. He'd been reasonably friendly to us.
The major turned to me.
"You're an officer, is that right?" he asked.
I said yes, I was.
"What do you think of General MacArthur?"
I said I thought General MacArthur was a great general.
The Korean major never batted an eyelash…just turned and interpreted the answer. But the colonel almost went straight in the air. The major stood there, calm.
"What are your reasons for thinking so?" the major asked. "Look what he has inflicted on the Korean people, this MacArthur."
I just turned and said:
"General MacArthur is a military commander and he takes his orders from higher headquarters just as anybody else does."
I figured it was time to be diplomatic.
"General MacArthur has won many successful military campaigns, "I added as the Korean colonel waited to hear the translation." "He's a respected man."
That apparently quieted the colonel. Then he wanted me to sing a song.
Now, I'm one of those people who's completely tone deaf and just NOT a good singer. In the Korean Army, through Russian teaching, they have the wise policy of encouraging---in fact---demanding singing while marching at work, and on recreation. Takes the soldier's mind off what he's doing. We Americans should sing in uniform more often.
But the trouble with this red system---every officer has to be a song leader in addition to whatever other qualifications he may possess.
You ARE an officer---you MUST sing---that's the reasoning.
So I had to oblige. Of course, the five buddies of mine are all there too and they don't help out at all by saying "Yes, lieutenant, come on and sing. Go ahead."
So I sang "Stout Hearted Men." I'll say this: it was the best singing job I ever did in my life, which isn't much of a boast. I got a few cigarettes and the interview came to an end.
Limpy would get jobs assigned to him that we were supposed to take care of. He'd come out, tell us where the job was. We knew where the tools were and could break them out ourselves and take them to where the job was. We'd size up the job, work until we got tired of it, then quit. Work at it, off and on for a while.
In a week or so, Limpy would be asked by the hospital officer why the job hadn't been done and, bright and early next morning, there would be Limpy in our room saying we had to get the job done. We'd go up, work like anything, get the job done, while Limpy carried the water for us. We'd finish up the job, loaf two or three days, then Limpy would get another job for us to do.
Suddenly, on our trail, was an amazing man, a three star colonel of intelligence named Lee. He had been educated in Korea by American missionaries, and in Japan, spoke English flawlessly. He spoke it slowly and deliberately, by choice. I know he could understand, perfectly, no matter how fast or how colloquially you spoke English to him.
Our first encounter with the colonel---we were sitting outside our room. Sgt. Cummings was cussing out the North Koreans and all of a sudden, this Korean who had been sitting there looked up and asked "Which unit were you with?"
That was our introduction to Colonel Lee. We had been in the bad habit of speaking too freely---so few people understood English we just forgot anybody could. Colonel Lee was cat-footed---he could sneak up on you any time, any place.
He had been wounded in July 1950, had been treated, sent back, but here he was again. He decided to try and pry some information from us while he was stuck in the hospital for his check-up. He conversed with us in English about non-political and non-military subjects. You could argue capitalism versus communism with him and actually make a point. At least you thought you had made a point with him.
Colonel Lee was a senior intelligence specialist with the North Koreans. He set up an interrogation center at Pyongyang, later to become famous as "Pak's Palace."
It was the scene of a great many deaths.
Colonel Lee set it up, trained the interrogators. Then he came to the hospital and left the place in the hands of his exec., Major Pak. That was when the trouble started. Pak, so the men told me, must have funneled off funds for the prisoners---they got so little. The Chinese later told us Pak had been put in jail for stealing. I tend to believe that.
At first Colonel Lee used to come out and catch us all together---then push me into a discussion of politics. He wanted to make pro-communist points in front of an audience. He never got anyplace with them. None of our boys ever fell for "brain washing"…I guess one reason is that they'd been through the toughening process before the Chinese got hold of any of us.
Colonel Lee took the men one by one. He took the negro, Cpl. Mansfield, on the race prejudice angle. Produced pictures of "our singer" Paul Robeson who had seen the light, how there was no prejudice in Russia or Korea and how Mansfield should stay there. Cpl. Mansfield was a mighty solid citizen and told the colonel, very tersely, what effect THAT line wasn't having.
"Don't be silly," said Mansfield. "As long as you have people different from other people there'll be prejudice. Here I've met many Koreans who never saw a negro in their lives. No reason for prejudice. But they walk into my room and say "Korean black man no good." They rub my skin to see if the black color rubs off. They ask me why I don't wash. Don't give me a line, colonel, you haven't anything to offer me."
That was the last interview Colonel Lee ever had with Cpl. Mansfield!
He worked on Contreras, on the Mexican idea. The corporal was as unconvinced as Mansfield, Sgt. Cummings wouldn't even listen to the colonel.
Colonel Lee told me about the capture of General Dean---and it checked out with one that became public much, much later.
Colonel Lee was corps intelligence with the unit that took
Taejon. In the action, in Taejon, they captured General Dean's jeep
and some staff officer, who told them General Dean was missing in town.
That immediately started a search for the general.
Some elderly-looking American man, without rank or insignia, was wandering around the hills of Taejon for a couple of days. He found a young South Korean and asked to be directed to the road that led to Taejon. He promised the man a reward.
In a few minutes, General Dean had been led, not to the road, but delivered to the North Korean police. When they took him into custody, General Dean identified himself. Said that his service ribbons, seven of them, were in the glove compartment of his jeep. The service ribbons WERE there, but nine, not seven.
That aroused suspicion…maybe this older man was a general's jeep driver and not the general himself. They took him on to Seoul, got him a shave and haircut. They brought in some captured South Korean government officials, put them in the next room, let them look through the door.
That did it: they all identified the captured older man as General Dean. Colonel Lee said he sent the general on to higher headquarters and hadn't heard what happened after that.
Armament was going south to the front. One night, at dusk, an armored division started passing by---tanks and tracked vehicles went by until five in the morning…steady---interval about 50 feet---speed about 20 miles an hour. I tried to get the colonel to slip division numbers in conversation but no luck.
The armor we saw was all Russian, of course.
About the fifth of July, Colonel Lee called me into his room and said "There may be very good news for the world very soon." I couldn't figure out what he meant right then. "I'll tell you more later," he added.
Of course, at that time, they were just concluding arrangements to start armistice talks on the tenth. The Koreans expected the war to be over. They set up loudspeaker systems all over the place, announced the latest news. The Koreans had been ready to quit ever since the Chinese kept them in the war.
Colonel Lee, figuring the war was almost over, kept me informed every day of progress of the negotiations. He also told us that we were to be moved to a prison camp before long.
Those drawn-out negotiations pressured us smack into that…prison camp.
Finally on the 14th of July, a truck pulled up outside the hospital with about 15 allied prisoners on it. They'd come up from the torment of Pak's Palace at Pyongyang. (END REEL 11)
The people in the truck were: Major Carl Kopiskie, 2nd Division, Major Bert Santora, ROK adviser…Major Harry Gibb, ROK adviser…Major Carl Aubrey, F-51 pilot---Major Shirlaw. Shirlaw was flying over North Korea, got weathered in, starts south, his radio compass went out. He radioed into Seoul requested a heading. The tower operator gave him a reciprocal heading by mistake, so the major headed north, had to make a landing in enemy territory and was captured. Capt. James Majury of the Royal Ulster Rifles, former British Isles shot putt champion…Pilot 3rd Ralph Henry Johnson, Royal Navy.
They were all way underweight. Capt. Anthony Picarrero, engineer officer, was support officer for the Wolfhounds for Col. Mike Michaelis.
Most striking person in the whole group was Major Dupishke. He was smoking a big pipe, sitting up on the truck like a little king. I walked up to the truck to talk to him. A Korean told me to go away…with which the major took the pipe out of his mouth and said "Just a minute, I'm talking to this man." The Korean shut up and we finished our conversation.
We were told to get packed, get on the truck. We were all going to prison camp.
We were taken back, fed lunch, issued new North Korean uniforms, packed what few belongings we had gathered, went out to the truck. Also on that truck were Lt. John Ori, Signal Corps adviser to the ROK's…Lt. Robert Lempke from Wisconsin, an F-80 jet pilot.
The men on the truck hadn't had lunch…something we didn't realize until we had climbed aboard to leave. The Koreans had provided for the entire journey cucumbers…just cucumbers.
They careened around some curves in the truck and arrived at Changsong, Camp No. 3…just south of Suiho reservoir. We went into Company 6, a transient company for the camp. There we started camp routine. The diet was surghum seed, a few cucumbers, not much of anything. The Chinese figured we wouldn't be there long…the peace talks were going fairly well and we were on a five-10 day schedule.
We were processed, forms filled out and all that. Who were our closest friends…family…occupations. You put down your relatives as farmer…laborer…not know where he lived. I listed my closest friend, Donald Bridgeman, as "soda fountain attendant." I figured a soda fountain attendant would sound better than a member of the family owning the ice cream company.
You never listed anybody you knew as owning anything. And you never owned a car yourself---at least not for those prisoner-of-war processing forms. They moved us to Company 9, the officers company. Sixty in it…thirty British and American a piece.
They issued us Chinese prison clothes…blue jacket and trousers…and Chinese tennis shoes which come only to size 42…which is size 8 American. I wear 11 ½! I wasn't to get a pair of shoes to fit for a year later. I lost my boots when first captured.
We went down to the river, boiled our clothes in pots, bathed completely, put on the new things, and got installed in camp.
I had picked up a case of malaria when I was with the Koreans. Prison routine had started classes…background of the Korean war…how the South Koreans had started it…the decadence of American form of government…exploitation by the capitalist system…the super profits of our foreign trade…the Moscow line, in other words.
That is where they tried to teach us that black is white. Lectures, reading material, with "discussions." You'd be given so many questions to give answers on. You'd have a man assigned as a recorder. He had to put down the answers of the men in his particular discussion group. He had to put down group decisions on questions.
You'd go down to the parade ground in the morning. They had a platform set up there. The lecturer would hold forth. I remember one on the feudal system in England and how it formed a pattern for capitalism.
You'd figure out your group answer to questions, then talk about cars or whatever until you saw the snoopers. Then you'd use words like "capitalism", "warmongers"
…they'd go by, and you'd go back at the argument of which are better---British or American automobiles.
That was the general setup. Wood runs were what were tough…but out at dawn, march to the woods, cut trees, and drag them in by ten in the morning. Then the measly meal of sorghum seed and cucumbers again, sometimes rice and a little fish.
Along about the end of July, I started a violent malaria attack. My earlier light attacks had been quieted with aspirin, but this was something else again. Very violent. The Chinese moved me to their so-called hospital at the camp. Some of the officers in our compound offered to carry me up to the hospital. They got a stretcher. Carried me up there.
A Chinese Doctor Wang met me at the door. Immediately ushered the men who carried me up…OUT. Didn't want them to talk to any of the other men in the hospital. When men came in from various compounds in the camp in the hospital, they could exchange group information. Or try to.
They took an old Chinese padded overcoat, threw it on the floor and told me that's where I'd be. I was just in the middle of a terror of an attack. I kept trying to think about the car I'd buy when I got home…then I'd say I don't care if I ever get a car…and then the answer would be shut up Jones, you're getting a car. On and on, like that. What kind of car you're gonna get? Now look…
I did that all night, back and forth. I kept wanting to say the hell with everything…then I knew I couldn't do it that way. Chinese came in a couple of times…I was alternating between chills and fever.
I did most of my attempted thinking during the fever. During the chills, I was just so damned busy shaking, I couldn't do anything else.
That went on until the next night when they gave me a shot that cut the fever down. Next morning, August 1st, I felt better and a guy came with clippers and gave me a haircut. Got rid of what beard I had at the time.
The hospital was in a big old Korean temple. Men around the place in various states of dying.
A large number of them suffered from dysentery, beriberi.
I saw those buzzards for the first time. Not too sick. Making profit on the men who were dying. Trading little odds and ends---a canteen for their food. They'd eat double, then the fellow they traded to would die and they'd get the canteen back, and the rest of his possessions. Hover around like a buzzard. This was going on.
They wouldn't allow our medics up there. If they had, a lot of our men would still be alive now. I know it. They had a little building off to one side they called the dungeon. That's where they put the man in the final stages of dying. You saw men with big open wounds…crawling with lice and maggots…a seething mass of white. Men would be in their own excrement, having lost bodily control. Others were wild with dysentery. Men at night would scream "get these worms off of me, they're eating me alive."
I was going back and forth between chills and fever. On August 2nd, atabrin and quinine brought me around. I'd come back up, just before coming to that prison camp to about 145 pounds…but now I was down to about 100 or so. I was extremely weak.
They moved me up on a higher building of the temple, where the men were not so sick. Up there, I made up my mind to get out of that hospital---it was full of contagious diseases. Relapsing fever, with the louse that carries the disease galloping all over the place. A lot of beriberi…dysentery which is contagious.
It was just a matter of time, it seemed to me, when anybody in that hospital would just plain die. It was a death hole. The Doctor Wang in charge was a political writer, a fanatic. His political inclinations were more important to him than care of patients, medically. Those who played ball politically got better treatment…for there were "classes" at that so-called hospital.
They passed out communist literature every day, too.
There was one man there, British trooper Peter Rowley, of the 8th Royal Russars who turned traitor. He was working for the Chinese there under a strange deal:
In the action in which he was captured, Trooper Rowley lost his dog tags and they were found near or on the corpse of another man when the allies re-took the ground. It was reported to his family that he was killed in action.
However, the Chinese produced interviews with one of these communist reporters who saw this man. The London Daily Worker and the Chinese combined forces and took pictures, had radio recordings of his voice, more interviews to prove he was alive as a prisoner.
At this point, Trooper Rowley took sick and the Chinese were put in the position that they just HAD to keep him alive. So they started treating him better. In fact, Rowley went along with them, as the treatment got better. He worked in the hospital kitchen and handled some political instruction.
Rowley ate at least five rations instead of one…but when there's a starvation diet to start with, it hurts everybody. He was doing the same for some of his friends.
Wasn't much you could do about him or those people.
In the hospital, the Chinese were using an operation they claimed the Russians had developed…installation of a piece of chicken liver under the skin underneath the left arm, next to the ribs. It was supposed to be the ultimate cure, for almost everything. Our own doctors thought it was something Americans had tried around the turn of the century and had given up. It was supposed to be a combination of liver shots and builder-upper as your system tried to get rid of this piece of chicken inside you.
The operation probably wouldn't have hurt anybody. But, because of the lack of sterile conditions, many got badly festered. The infections caused the weakening of already sick and dying men. The results were sometimes very unfortunate.
I got over my dysentery, had gained a bit of weight---back up just over 100 pounds---but I was certain of one thing: if you stayed in that hospital, you'd end up a very dead man. I kept asking to be released from the hospital, to be allowed to return to the officers' compound. But Dr. Wang, the political fanatic, kept telling me that, first I had to undergo the chicken liver operation.
Finally, one day, when Dr. Wang was away and a young doctor made the rounds instead, I'd gotten up, gotten dressed as well as possible, had wrapped a towel around my neck to keep from showing how thin I was, told them I was fine and would like to go back to the officers' company. The young doctor decided to let me go. I got cleared that day before Dr. Wang got back.
I rejoined the officers in 9 Company, Camp 3, although I couldn't go out on wood runs and work details---still mighty weak. I was temporarily left off political indoctrination, too. I did only a few classes.
I worked with a major in the kitchen, doing what I could---cleaning turnips, for instance. I made a couple of decks of cards from the cardboard inserts in Chinese tobacco packages.
About the first week in October, a group of prisoners taken the previous May came in. Among them was a group of officers---eight or 10 of them. The next night we were bombed by a B-26.
I don't know whether the Chinese had shown a light on the road, or some trucks attracted attention…we caught it. The Chinese didn't mark prison camps until the middle of 1952. It was a natural thing---a night intruder bomber came over he saw a target, kicked out a brunch of these scatter anti-personnel bombs and they lit all over the officers' compound.
It was quite a night.
The bombs started popping all over the place. I woke up, they were coming down. A British doctor, next to me, was sitting up saying, calmly,
"Well…is anybody hurt?"
It had blown the doors in, scattered a lot of dirt around. He suggested we step outside and see what we could do. At that time, there were some buildings burning out there.
A British lieutenant said, "I think I've lost half my hand." The doc said, "Well, then, let's step outside and take a look at it."
The B-26 had made a swing for another pass. There were fires in several places in our compound. We were scared to death that he was going to machine-gun the area. When he started around, people scattered in all directions. A South African air force boy, who had a broken leg, beat everybody out of the compound. An F-80 jet pilot, a lieutenant, with two broken ankles, was right in the lead. And I wasn't the last boy out of there that night.
We all went for the nearest holes, but, for some reason, the plane decided not to strafe, pulled away. One room had been blown up pretty badly. One man, in the latrine, was hit from below, up into his stomach. The two British doctors tried to help him first---using towels and things for bandages. One of them grabbed all the towels he could find---and was known as the "Thief of Towels" the rest of the time. Grabbed everybody's but his own in the excitement. Two men died of wounds received that night.
A few days later we moved to the officers' Camp No. 2. The Chinese, luckily for me, rode me in a truck with the sick and wounded. I was still plenty weak. (This was in the end of October 1951.)
We loaded on a truck one morning. They didn't tell us where we were going---they never tell you anything…the Chinese don't even know most of the time. We drove up to the main Chinese headquarters at Pyokdong, Camp No. 5. They put us all in the hospital---the dozen in the truck. They fed us well for a couple of days, then on to Camp No. 2.
It was set up in a valley, 10 miles east of Pyokdong, just south of the Suiho reservoir. We had a schoolhouse there that was the actual compound with a big parade ground in front of it. There was a small building set up as a hospital.
When we got there, they checked each of us over carefully. They decided that six of us would be put into the hospital. I was still so weak and had some beriberi swelling.
The hospital here was a different deal. It was under the command of a Dr. Hsiang, who was a Chinese Red Cross volunteer. He had formerly had a hospital of his own just outside Shanghai. He was a good and conscientious doctor…and was proud that he never had a prisoner die in his hospital in Korea. The supplies were all furnished by the Chinese Red Cross. He even had a little penicillin available.
I stayed there in that hospital until just before Christmas. On the holidays, they allowed those of us in good enough condition to go to the compound for the Christmas holidays. At that time, it looked as though the war would end soon. The demarcation line had just been settled. The Chinese were optimistic and were throwing a big celebration for Christmas.
That was the time they released the prisoner list, agreed to exchange of mail. They started pressuring us for a letter of thanks---for their "kind" treatment, addressed to the Chinese commander. They produced a letter, supposedly from our General Dean, to that same effect. They threatened to cut off the Christmas celebration unless we signed. But we didn't.
We compromised by signing a card reading,
"WE WISH A MERRY CHRISTMAS TO THE CHINESE PEOPLE'S VOLUNTEERS." It was quite different from their deal that had stuff like thanking them for fine clothes, good food, and all that nonsense.
About three days before New Year's, a colonel and I were turned loose from the hospital. We'd been asking for that, for weeks, since we were feeling much better. I went back to the compound into a squad, into normal prison life.
Now, the Chinese seem to have a violent dislike for two things: snow and grass. Whenever either collects anyplace they are, the Chinese want to move it. You've got to pull up grass and move snow. You spent the winter shoving snow off the parade ground. When spring came, we played volleyball. I played bridge, since the Chinese at Christmas '51 gave out packs of playing cards. They issued us toothbrushes and tooth powder and a meager soap supply.
The diet in the late fall, had included a few sweet potatoes, rice, a steamed bread with flour, water, salt, caustic soda and vinegar and a sour dough mixture. It was better than the rice, but not much of a bread. The soups often were made with a vegetable that's a cross between a radish and a turnip. A lot of Chinese cabbage which is somewhere between celery and cabbage.
We stopped getting sorghum seed along about here, began to get meat twice a week. It was to show a continual improvement until late spring, when it got very good and eggs came in.
After the first of the year, the Chinese told us we could write letters as regularly as we wanted to. Then, all of a sudden, they cut that off and said they had made arrangements for a mail exchange. It was made at Christmas, we heard about it in mid-January when we had our first mail call there.
Darned near everybody in the camp had a letter. I had a number from my family and friends. I learned that my name had been released on the prison list. I was glad to know my family would be relieved of that question in my mind of where I was.
Life went on in the winter---moving snow, playing bridge, having a lot of bull sessions. We developed a group of experts in the camp on everything. Even the sanitary habits of an owl. Later in the spring, we got a pet owl, and the owl's owner became an expert on THAT subject.
When you're in a position like that and have no accurate information, no
sources, no way to check, you find you have an expert develop on every subject.
The field grade officers lived pretty much together:…they were known as the House of Experts. Arguments were fast and free. You were on edge, always under tension. You'd get into arguments on politics, religion, whether you liked redheads or blonds. As everybody began to get better, the conversation would switch more and more to girls. They'd been a non-existent conversational factor for a long time.
During the winter they had a couple hours of day in the library when the Chinese read to us from the works of such people as American communist William Z. Foster. Some of Eugene Dennis' stuff came too. A lot of stuff had been published by the foreign language houses. They bought in a few books…Dickens, Howard Fast, the leftist American. "Steel and Slag" was a Russian novel we had.
We discovered that nobody seems to write anything in Russia unless it has a political fishhook in it. It's all anti-American imperialist and pro-communist. It seems that everybody gets a Stalin prize and none of 'em can write worth a damn.
One fairly good book, Russian-written but published in the United States---"Quiet Flows the Don," about the Don River Cossacks in the revolution. It was lusty. The men found it enjoyable because it didn't have much of politics.
By spring, just about everybody had his normal weight back. The boys got together, made baseball bats, made gloves out of old shoes, softballs from wool from sweaters covered with old shoe tongues, stitched together with nylon thread from parachutes. We turned up with some pretty fair equipment after experimenting around and finding just how to make it.
The boys made a wooden leg for a colonel who had lost his in a jet crack-up. Another boy made a hand-carved crucifix for Sunday church services---it stood about four feet tall.
The Chinese allowed the one chaplain in camp---a Britisher---a one-hour
service each Sunday. That is, provided the entire service had been submitted
to the censor a week ahead, word-for-word. You could mention religion
ONLY during that one hour on Sunday and not again the rest of the week
The chaplain used to get in trouble for holding weekday Bible classes, or for giving a half-hour service in the kitchen for the cooks who couldn't get to that official hour Sundays.
Religious freedom is a cute little thing---they cut it to a mere hour…a mere toleration of the fact that you believe in God. They only do that because they have to.
We played a lot of softball, basketball, volleyball that spring. We carried logs daytimes for new buildings around the camp. We'd go down to the Suiho reservoir, about three miles away, once a week, to stack firewood that was coming in from China on barges.
Political indoctrination stopped in early '52. Except for the screaming and hollering about bug warfare. Of course, we'd have people tell us about things happening when they were the only ones there. So we figured it never happened. They had exhibits, big blow-up pictures, accused the United States of using inhuman bacteriological warfare. We spotted lots of inconsistencies in the pictures. And we had a hard time keeping a serious face when they told how U.S. pilots supposedly dropped bag lunches to Korean children---with germs inside the sandwiches.
They showed us all sorts of confessions and depositions to try and get us to poke holes in them---which we were very happy to do. Only thing, the confessions got so much better that we shut up. In a way, we figured we were writing them by finding those holes.
They cut out all classes just after---as we found from the Shanghai News---the Chinese in the UN protested that the Americans were trying to indoctrinate the men THEY held in their prison camps.
We had no more indoctrination among the officers, anyway. The "brain washing" just laid an egg---didn't get anywhere. Instead, they left around such reading matter as the New York Daily Worker, the London Daily Worker, People's Daily World, National Guardian, Masses and Mainstream. We had Chinese and Russian English-language periodicals such as Soviet Union, People's China, China Monthly Review, East German Republic, and Czechoslovak Life. That last was the best---had girls' pictures.
During the summer of '52, the food got better, things went along well enough. The routine repeated in the fall as we went back to the reservoir to pull in winter wood, the bridge games picked up in the cooler weather. During the summer we had built a new compound about a mile down the road---we had been crowded with 300 men in one smallish schoolhouse. Since most of our names had been released, the Chinese knew they'd have to turn us over one day, so our comfort was at last considered. They want to keep us alive and not too uncomfortable.
Minneapolis boys in our camp are still prisoners included Capt. Sidney Estensen, a doctor, who worked hard trying to help us, Lt. Chester Osborne of south Minneapolis, formerly of Robbinsdale, who had been in the army a long time, career officer, and Lt. Peterson from Hancock, Minnesota, a young artillery officer commissioned the same time as I was, captured in the same action I was.
It was a slow winter of Chinese cabbage, soybeans, the new buildings were as warm as they looked, our bathhouse broke down, temperatures touched 50 below zero some nights. We were on the 42nd parallel, which is farther south than the Twin Cities, but we were up in the mountains.
Letters from home came spasmodically. You got every one of three or four letters your family wrote. Almost any envelope enclosure would get there: packaged soups, coffee, tea, powdered milk, vitamin pills, fishhooks and line, a slide rule…what was in that envelope was limited only by the imagination of the people sending it. The most desired and frequent enclosure---pictures. You wanted pictures of the family, the house, the inside, outside, the city, civilization---anything you felt was once yours and hoped would be again, some day.
We had a period of mental depression as the truce talks stalled and stalled. The next spring, people were up and around. I had malaria in the winter, with pneumonia and bronchitis. I had lung trouble, which turned out to be pleurisy. I lost a lot of weight and the Chinese finally gave me quinine shots. I was still short of wind, had loss of appetite. By the first of April I was better.
By April first, the Chinese news release from the Central People's Government in Peking released the news that there would be an exchange of sick and wounded prisoners.
General Clark had made that proposal about the 20th of February.
We found out only one piece of news fast the whole time in the camps: that was Stalin's death. We knew about that the next day. Later, they had a loudspeaker system around camp that broadcast Stalin's funeral from Moscow.
I was working on potato peeling detail, since the doctors had taken me of all heavier jobs. I was in bed early nights. They never told me what they suspected about my lungs. Fortunately, their suspicions turned out wrong---but much later, when I was back in the United States last month.
We sat, our emotions going up and down at the prospect of a prisoner exchange. Some of the men thought it on the level, others were cynical. It was just like when a new prisoner came in---he always said the war would be over in a couple of weeks. We'd razz him, and then remember that, no matter when WE had been captured, we thought the same thing.
One morning, the platoon interpreter came into my room. He asked me to take a walk with him. He kept prying and questioning where I'd been since I was a prisoner, what I'd done. I got sore and shot off my mouth about what was the idea of the inquisition. He kept prying around anyway.
A few days later, when the prisoner exchange idea came up again, I started wondering about that walk…and if my big mouth had gone and crossed up my chances of getting out and getting home.
The morning of the 12th of April they told me I was going to the hospital. They had taken a major out the day before. There was a lot of joking as I packed my stuff about my being one of the first ones home. We didn't believe it. Nobody did. Just wisecracks. But they told me to call their wife, their mother, some relative…and I wrote a lot of addresses on the backs of letters I'd received from home, put the letters back into the original envelopes. This turned out to be a pretty fair hunch.
We were taken up to the main camp headquarters where several other
officers were waiting. We sat around and talked. I looked at the men…an
arm missing, frozen feet, other obvious disabilities. I figured this WAS
it, rolled a couple of cigarettes and started to sweat it out all over again.
The camp commander had prepared a feast of fried chicken, little sweets, boiled eggs, bottles of wine. We called him "Snake Eyes"---a young, brilliant Chinese, as sly as a fox. He came in finally to the assembly of big wheels waiting him.
"This is to be a great day for you" said Snake Eyes.
All of a sudden, it came over us. This was it.
"I'll propose a few toasts" said Snake Eyes. "I am happy to inform you that you are to be among the first to go home. I want to drink to your happy return home."
I got a dirty look when I raised my glass and said I'd be glad to drink THAT toast with anybody.
After the feast, they took us down to a truck for Pyokdong, with some men from the ROK camp who were being released too. The Koreans handled the ROK prison camps; the Chinese took care of the UN people. We were the first in Pyoktong where the camp commander gave us each a sack of sugar for a present, a brooch as a souvenir of our "Chinese friends."
"Remember your friends in the prison camps and fight for peace," he told us. Then a big meal, with eggs, fried potatoes, chicken, more wine, the works. There were propaganda slogans all over the walls like:
YOUR CHINESE FRIENDS WISH YOU BON VOYAGE
FIGHT FOR PEACE
The second day we were bathed, shaved, issued new clothing, DDT'd: Then they ran around with cameras to get pictures for propaganda publications. A medical check followed. They had a fluoroscope there and said I had pleurisy with fluid in my left lung. I hadn't thought I was really sick---but at that point, I was happy to BE sick. I'd been scared to death I'd be funneled off this thing somewhere, find I was healthy and kick me right back into the camp.
I had some enlisted men come up to me in that overnight camp, asking me advice, should they tell thus-and-so, what would happen because they had collaborated. I couldn't think of anything but to tell them they were men, soldiers, and Americans and decide on that basis.
The took all our blankets, issued new virgin wool ones. One night, they assembled all 75 of us in a room. Everything was planned, set up, somebody had direct responsibility for everything. First time I saw those Chinese know just what was really supposed to be happening.
An interpreter in the room said,
"For your own protection, we must look carefully at all your belongings. You must surrender all of our publications. If you were to take them back, it might cause trouble for you with your narrow-minded, imperialistic governments."
They checked everybody over, taking all written material away. We could keep names and addresses, they said. In some cases they did, others not. Names of dead men, they grabbed---very touchy about those. The next group after us didn't get out with any names and addresses at all.
I had my names and addresses on my personal letters, put back into the envelopes. They just slid their thumb along the outside of the envelopes, handed them back, and that was all.
On the morning of the 15th of April, we started out in a 20-truck convoy, all new Russian ton-and-half trucks. It was a long, long, rough ride down. We rode daylight until three hours after dark down to around Anjou. Every fifth cab had a Chinese boy on top with a red and white flag. They maintained amazing march order despite the rough mountain roads.
The roads north of Anjou were in twice as good condition as they had been before. Widened, resurfaced, quite a show. South of there, our bombs took care of those paving attempts. We stopped for another feast, more wine, canned beef from China, even apples. We had three times as much of that beef as we could eat…so we kept tossing it out of the truck at the Korean children.
Second day, we made a short haul, for which we were thankful. We got bounced up and bruised pretty terrible…banging against those sideboards. We stopped for the night just outside Pyongyang. The planes that kept coming over ours---were scaring us half to death. We discovered later that the boys were flying protective cover for us!
The third day we drove the rest of the way from Pyongyang into Kaesong. The town was really beyond use---we had really gutted it.
The men, on the way back from the first camp, had spotted places where they were captured. In Unsan, I saw the monument behind which the commie who shot me was crouching 892 nights back. I saw the rusted battered hulk of the second tank that was in that main street, the house doorway in which I had sat. It was sort of a neat ending…a this-is-where-I-came-in.
In Kaesong they had set up nice wooden bunks with straw mats and clean covers. Chinese medics, wearing white coats and Red Cross armbands were running all over the place. They sprayed us with DDT when we came into the buildings. We were bathed, given another haircut and a shave.
They came in, read a list of 25 names, the men fell out, boarded polished-up Russian ambulances and away they went. The rest of us stood, and wondered-and prayed a little. The next list of 25 had my name on it.
For the first time since we had been with the Chinese, they recognized rank. They loaded the ambulance so that I, being the senior in rank, would be first to leave. I was followed by two master sergeants, sergeants, corporals, down the line to Pfc.'s.
I had promised Frank Noel, the Associated Press photographer who is still in prison camp, that I'd carry some messages for him. When our ambulance pulled up to the exchange site, there was a press tent and I hollered "I'm Lt. Roy Jones of Minneapolis---I've got a message for Bob Tuckman of the AP." A nice looking gray-haired boy stuck his head out said "I'm Tuckman." But he never did manage to catch up with me.
They had a communist officer there with a list of names…an American officer with HIS list. They checked us off, took us over to records section asked for name, rank, serial number, and we knew we were home. The names were cleared by public information for release…and the good word to the folks at home.
Since, I've been queried, interviewed, I've tried to drop a note to all the relatives of men I know are still alive and well back in the camps. I've gotten acquainted with my mother and dad and sister all over again---gotten a new convertible…met some nice girls…eating big meals.
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