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Dallas Wayne "Red" Mossman Sr.
"I thought, 'You son of a bitches aren't going to see me go over. I’ll stand here just as long as you make me.' And maybe that’s why I was able to do it. Because after a while I just was dead. My legs were dead. I was numb. And I just stood there without even thinking where I was at. I was just there. I was doing that so I could show those son of a bitches I could do it. "
- Dallas W. Mossman Sr.
My name is Dallas Wayne Mossman Sr. I was born in Flint, Michigan on October 21, 1928, the son of Elijah Eldon and Leona May Powell Mossman. I've been living in the Flint area for over 70 years. It is the county seat of Genesee County, Michigan.
Dad worked for the Chevrolet Motor Division for 42 years, building Chevrolets. During World War II, he made bullets. I first attended Carmen High School because I lived out on Bristol Road, which is in the southern part of Flint. That school only went up to the 10th grade because it wasn't a big school. For the 11th and 12th grade, I went to high school at Flint Central. I had to ride the bus every morning to get there, and then ride the bus back home in the afternoon. I also had dual jobs. I worked for AP warehouse for a while and I worked for in a bowling alley, setting bowling pins.
I remember attending Carmen School during World War II. Now called Carmen High School because it later became a four-year school, at the time I attended, the teachers moved from room to room, not the students. We went to our homeroom at 8 o’clock in the morning and stayed in the same room until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It was too much trouble for all of the students to move from room to room because there were so many of us in the crowded school. The school had been built in 1930 for farm people who lived in the area, but during World War II, the population of the school just exploded. A lot of people from Missouri and other nearby states moved to the Flint area. In fact, my folks were from Missouri originally. They came to Flint in 1927 and I was born a year later. My older sister was born in Missouri. She was two years older than me.
After the war broke out in Europe, we were allowed to put a radio in our room to hear special broadcasts. Pearl Harbor was a big event. Right after that we got the radio. We heard the actual speech in our classroom that Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave over the radio to congress about declaring war. When D-Day started, we heard that on the radio. They had that piped into the school. I had a cousin who was in it, but he came back.
I really didn’t have anybody in World War II. We used to have to walk out to Maple Grove farm. The owner was Mr. Manderville. He was a big farmer in the community. He had a son Robert Manderville. He was the first one from the Genesee County school district that was killed. They built a new high school after the war and called it the Robert M. Manderville High School. So his death hit pretty close to home because we used to go out to Mr. Manderville's and get milk. Back in those days they didn’t have a dairy, but there were guys who came around with a delivery truck. I can remember the horses coming by and always stopping by at the right house. The milkman walked along delivering milk and the horse walked down the middle of the road. He knew right where to stop.
I remember the school having scrap drives? We saved a lot of stuff. I remember back then we used to buy lard in pails to cook with. Then during the war we couldn’t get it anymore. We had to cook and save the fat. If we had bacon or whatever, we kept the fat to use over and over again. There were also war bonds. I wasn't old enough to buy them but I bought stamps. We kids used to buy a dollar stamp each week until we got 18. I think it was 18 stamps for $18.75, which bought us a $25 bond.
I finished high school early. In the 11th and 12 grades, I earned five credits a year instead of four. I finished high school in the mid term but they wouldn't give me my diploma then because there were no graduation exercises at mid term. By the time the class that I was in graduated in June, I was in the military serving down in Georgia. I spent that June, July, and August in Atlanta Ordnance Depot learning how to repair vehicles before we went over to Germany.
World War II
A recruiter came to the high school before I graduated, but that's not how I ended up in the service. The recruiter came to sign me up for what they called the Navy V-5 plan. That was a plan to train recruits to be a Navy aviator. They sent me to Detroit where I stayed in the Fort Shelby Hotel. I got called cadet all the time I was there. I took tests all day long. Out of the 24 guys, nine passed the written test. Out of the nine guys who passed the written test, I was fortunate to be one. I don’t know how I did all that because a lot of those things were way over my head and I just guessed. I was a good guesser. Then I got to the next day. We did the physical and my eyes were perfect. He said I had the most perfect eyes he had ever seen because I could see farther than most people could. When that guy with the machine came to zero he said, "Zero?!" I had no defections whatsoever. I always had good eyes. But then they went to my chest. When I was seven years old, I was blown up in a gas explosion. One lung is partly collapsed as a result and I only get 70% air volume out of it when I breathe. Then I had a 46% flat feet. That's when he said that I had too many little things wrong with me to become a pilot. It was really a disappointment for me.
I said, "Well how about being a gunner or something like that?" He said no, that I wasn't supposed to go up in an airplane. I fly all the time in a commercial airplane, but they’re pressurized. They said no soup. They wouldn’t take me even as an air crewman. He said, "You can join the Navy, you know." I said no. I didn’t like the water that well. I went home and talked to my sister. She was married to a master sergeant in the ordnance. His name was Leslie "Pat" Cook. He said, “Why don’t you join the Army? Come down to Aberdeen Proving Grounds." That’s where he was stationed. He convinced me to join the Army, so I signed up. It was November of 1945 and I was 17 years old.
Although I joined in November, they didn't take me until February of 1946 because I told them I wanted to finish school first. In February of 1946, I went to Ft. Sheridan. That's where I got my army clothes and stuff like that, and then they sent me by troop train to Aberdeen Proving Grounds. They sent me to Atlanta Ordnance Depot in Georgia to learn wheeled vehicle mechanic. I visited the place in 1999. I looked for the barracks that I stayed in, but there was too much change and I didn't recognize anything. I wanted to go back there and see if the thing was still there. It just so happens that it was, but Ft. Gilliam is the name of the fort now. I don’t think that was the name of it during the war.
I remember the parade ground and I remember the guy who taught me to be a wheeled vehicle mechanic was Mr. Black. He was good, but at 5 o’clock the eagles went on. He was "Colonel" Black from then on and we had to pass in review in front of him. I don’t know how he did that. How could a colonel hold two jobs--unless he was a colonel in reserve who was on duty from five o'clock on? During the day we called him Mr. Black and he taught me how to be a mechanic. In order to repair the vehicles, we were down in a hole. He had to walk up every morning to where the warehouse shops were. We took motors apart and put them back together. Then took them apart, and put them back together again. We took transmissions off the trucks and put them back on, too.
I went into the Army with mechanical skills. When I was going to Flint Central. The reason I went to Central, and not Bendle High School or Flint Technical High School, was because it had a machine shop. I took Machine Shop I, II, III, and IV. In fact, my homeroom was in the machine shop and my homeroom teacher was the instructor in the machine shop. A lot of times when I was in my homeroom, sitting in my chair with nothing to do, the teacher would tell me I could go work on my project if I want to work on it. I was mechanically inclined. I learned how to run lathes and milling machines and then for one whole hour I worked the tool press and the tools for the other students.
I had infantry basic, but I didn't have advanced training until later. When I was at Aberdeen, we went on convoy for two weeks down through Washington DC and down to A.P. Hill, Virginia. We spent it in the field on maneuvers, digging foxholes and stuff like that in Virginia. A.P. Hill, Virginia is still there. It’s still an Army base.
After basic I went over to Germany. They put me in the ordnance department in the 3466th Medium Automotive Maintenance Company (MAM) at Obrussel, Germany. Every so often they came around and said, “Who wants to go to school? We’ve got to send one guy to school.” Everybody sat there but me. I said, “I’ll go.” So I went to Heidenheim, Germany to learn how to work on advanced ignition and stuff like that. Then I came back to the company. About a month or two later they came in and said again, “We need somebody to go to school.” I said, “I’ll go.” And they took me to Esweige. I learned how to do carburetion and ignition and how to rebuild generators and stuff like that. At Esweige we were by a hill where we could look up to the top and see the Russians watching us. The Russian zone went right by the edge of Esweige and Esweige was in an American zone. Across the other side of the road was Wanford, and that was in the Russian zone. I stayed there from September of 1946 until November of 1948.
While I was there, I got to see a little of Europe. The fact of the matter is, I would never have gone had it not been for a guy by the name of Heinrich Pohl. He was Austrian. He came up there one time when I was working in the motor pool. I think at that time I drove the jeep for the executive officer, Lieutenant Patrick H. Meighen. I did that for a long time. In fact, I tried to dump him but he wouldn’t let me. He was an Air Corps officer. One morning I sent another guy (Williams) around with my jeep. Pretty soon he came back and said, "Lieutenant Meighen said, 'Mossman, you get your ass in that jeep and get around there.' He wants you to drive him." I asked him what was the matter with him driving it but he didn't know. He just said that Lieutenant Meighen wanted me to drive him. I went around there and Lieutenant Meighen got in the jeep. He sat there and didn’t say a word all the way into Frankfurt. He just said, “Take me into Frankfurt.” So I went into Frankfurt. He said, “I just put you in for a promotion.” I was a PFC then and they made me a T-5--technician 5th grade.
After my tour of duty in Germany, I went home to Camp Kilmer. My girlfriend was in Kentucky while I was overseas. When I got to Camp Kilmer I called her house to talk to her, but her mother came to the phone and said that Bonnie had gotten married to somebody else just before I came home. That was my first rejection and it hurt pretty bad.
At that time there were 25,000 guys at Camp Kilmer waiting to be discharged. They fed us through a mess hall all day long, 24 hours a day, in order to get everybody through there. The barracks was full. They called out names of the guys who were going to go home one by one, but never my name. It was getting close to Thanksgiving and I wanted to be home for the holiday. This guy came out and said, "I'm going home tomorrow." I asked him how he did that. He said he had joined the reserves and they just sent him home. I thought, "Son of a gun!" I went to see the major and asked him if I could join the reserves too. He said yes and said it was 18 months reserve. So I joined. I signed up for 24 months in the Reserves. The next day I was on the packet to go home. There were a couple of old guys from World War II who had started an airline. They only had one airplane--an old DC3. They called it Meteor Airlines. They had one stewardess who didn't even have a uniform. Passengers could look out the door because the door had a crack in it. It cost $6.00 to fly to Detroit from Tedeborg, New Jersey, and $8.00 to go on to Chicago. So I flew out to the city airport in Detroit. It was a little dinky airport. I got there the night before Thanksgiving and surprised my parents on Thanksgiving morning.
War Breaks Out
I thought my time in the military was over. I went to work for Buick motor division in January. I got papers wanting me to go to the reserve and asking me if I wanted to be active or inactive, so I checked off inactive and sent it back. Then I didn’t hear anything until the year 1950 came rolling around.
In November of 1950 I was still working at Buick. By that time I had a new girlfriend named Colleen. One day she was real sad and I asked her what was wrong. She said that her brother Donald was a prisoner of war over in Korea. I didn't know anything about Korea but I had received a form from the army saying that if I had so many points (I think 30), I didn’t have to worry about being called back. I had 33 points so I didn't think I had anything to worry about. That was around the first week of November. I went out to the mailbox and opened it up. There was a big manila envelope. I said, “Uh oh.” I closed it up and went to work. When I came home that night I opened it to see what the hell it was. It was 20 copies of orders for me to report on or before the 24th of November—not later than the 26th. My reserve time was up the 28th. There was a first class train ticket to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky--an upper berth from Chicago and meal tickets. I said, "Son of a gun." I went down to Buick and said, “Well, I guess I’ve got to go." So I got all signed out and I went down to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
I got there on Sunday, November 26. I talked to a major the next day and said, “Hey, sir. You know I’m in the reserve. My reserve time is up tomorrow." He said, “Well why did you come?” I said, "I’ll go back!" But he said, “No you won’t.” They assigned me to a barracks down there and when I looked in, I could not believe it. There was one private in the whole barracks. One private. By then they had switched my rank to PFC because of the change to the Army. They had two privates—private one and two, then PFC, then corporal. There were no T-3's, T-4's, or T-5’s anymore. They had eliminated those ranks. When I looked around I saw that we had 18 Master Sergeants, about 25 staff sergeants, tech sergeants, buck sergeants, corporals, and PFC's--but only one private in that whole barracks.
I remember talking to a guy from Pickens, Virginia. When I asked him what he was doing there, he said that he had fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. When he came back, he had signed up for the reserves and they called him back in after the Korean War broke out. Most of us were reserves. They had called us back in service and we went. I didn’t hear a lot of people bitching about it, really. We had all trained together as a group at a refresher course down in Ft. Campbell for 21 days. We had a guy there from Massachusetts who was a professional bagpiper. He piped us onto the train and piped us off the train when we left Kilmer for Camp Stoneman. There was a big old sergeant there who lead us when we were out there marching. One day at Stoneman, the sergeant got us out there and we were supposed to practice close order drill. He got to the front gate at Camp Stoneman and we went right out the gate and right down the road. When we got down to the town at Antioch and he said, "Okay, fall out and have a drink." Antioch was just a little town outside of Camp Stoneman full of bars known for their female impersonators. When we went into a bar, we didn’t know if the girls were actually "girls."
While we were waiting to be shipped over to Korea, another problem developed for me. They got the ship there and they came out with the orders. I was on the orders to go with the advanced party on Monday as a mess man in the mess hall. The boat was supposed to leave Tuesday. But Sunday I got sick. I went up to the hospital at Camp Stoneman, but Sunday was the day the doctors took care of the dependents. The kids got their shots and were checked over. I went over there and told a WAC that I was feeling sick. She said, “Well, we’ll get to you. Go over there and sit down.” About three hours later, I was still sitting there. Finally I got in to see the doctor and he stuck a thermometer in my mouth. Pretty soon he looked at it and told the WAC, “Get the gurney down here right away.” They stripped me, put me on the gurney, and started pouring alcohol on me. I had a 105 degrees temperature. That colonel was so mad. He chewed that WAC out. I kept telling him, “I told her I was sick.” He said, “When did you get here?” I told him and explained that I had told the WAC that I didn’t feel good and that I was sick. He said, "Didn’t she take your temperature or anything?" I said no, because she hadn’t. Boy was he mad. I don’t know what was wrong with me. They never told me. They just said that I had a contagious disease. I was there Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. On Tuesday they let me out of the hospital, but the boat had already gone with all my buddies that I had trained with and who I figured I was going to go over to Korea with.
About Thursday a guy came and said, “Saddle up all of your bags and stuff.” I had everything that the Army had issued me—gloves, summer clothes, winter clothes, overcoat, rifle, bayonet, grenade pouch. I didn’t have any live ammunition or live grenades, but I had everything else. I had a full field pack. They used those of us going to Korea as clothes horses. We went over there hauling all this stuff to Japan. When we got over to Japan, they took away the things we wouldn't be needing at the time. If it was summertime, we kept the summer stuff. If it was wintertime, we kept the winter stuff and they took all the away. That way they had supplies.
They put twenty of us on a bus and took us down to Travis Air Force Base. Then they put us on a DC6 to Tokyo. It was piloted by United Airlines. There were also Pan American planes there, sitting there, waiting to go to Tokyo. They had women stewardesses, but the plane I was on had a male steward. The Pan American planes were going to Anchorage, Alaska—the Aleutians to Tokyo. We were going to Hawaii to Wake Island to Midway to Tokyo. It took 33 hours. We got to Hawaii and disembarked from the plane. The plane took off down the runway and left us. I said, “What the heck?” I thought they were just going down to fuel it. Six hours later someone in the sky room at the Honolulu airport told us that we couldn’t leave yet because the plane had a broken oil line. They had to take the engine apart and fix it. Since we were going to be there longer, they brought a whole bunch of women out from the Salvation Army to play cards and keep us entertained—which I thought was nice. That plane not only held us, there was also a bunch of Marine, Air Force, and Army officers, and there was one director for the Red Cross going to Japan. When we got to Wake Island, all we did was park, go in and have breakfast, and get right back on the plane. We took right off again for Japan.
Once we landed in Japan, they took me to Camp Drake. I was there probably two or three days just waiting for processing. Then they put me on a train to Sasebo. By that time I didn't know if I was in a group or was on individual orders. At Sasebo I got on a Japanese ship (the Kara Maru) that took me over to Pusan. I arrived in Korea on February 4, 1951. They called me back by false pretenses. I was called back as an ordnance man with an MOS of 945, but I became an infantryman in Korea.
My first impression of the country of Korea was that it stunk like poop. The Pusan area was wall to wall people huddled in shacks and tin cans and under brush. I never saw so many--and nothing else. There were hardly any buildings standing. It was like a big Dog Patch with the people huddled here and there and fires going to try to keep warm. I said, "Son of a gun." That was my impression of Pusan. That part of it anyway. I didn’t know what was over the hill, but right there it looked like something had already wiped it out. There was no grass. It was February, but there was no snow there. The sunshine was actually pretty nice down in Pusan that day, but when I got up to Chunchon there was snow. As I said, it was February and it was cold. Not as cold as it got, but it was cold that day.
About 100 feet from the gangplank of the ship was the hind end of a train. It was backed practically right up to the dock. There were some guys standing there with a whole bunch of stuff. We walked down the gangplank toward the train and a guy was standing there issuing bandoliers of ammunition to those of us getting off the ship. He said, "M-1?" I already had my M-1 and all my stuff--my overcoat, my winter stuff--but not any ammunition. He handed me my bandolier and I said, "What the hell is this for?" He said that they were shooting at us up the road and told me to get on the train.
The train moved only in the day time. As soon as nighttime came, we stopped and sat all night on the dang siding. Koreans ran the train. The train had passenger cars, but the seats had been taken out and wooden bunks were put in there instead. There was a platform like and we just laid on that wooden bunk. There was one here and one there. One guy could lay here and one guy could lay there. The whole thing was boards. It was new lumber. I think there were windows, but there were holes in them. There were also holes in some of the cars where the enemy had been shooting at them. They never shot at us on the way up there. If they did shoot at it, they must have shot at the engine.
I was almost clear to the back of the train. The only time that I got up by the engine was one day when they stopped. It was barely morning. I said, "Geez, I’d like to have some coffee." And the guy said for me to go up to the engine and get some hot water. So I went up to the engine with my canteen cup and I got some hot water. The engineer had a fire going for steam and I got him to get us some hot water and we made coffee.
They gave us K-rations for the two-day train trip. Checkchon was the repo depot or rear headquarters for the 2nd Division. When we got up to Checkchon, they put a whole bunch of us guys in a big tent. But the thing about it is, they put the tent on the ground after it froze. The first night there I had all my clothes on, and I slept in my sleeping bag. It wasn't the winter kind, but it was water-sealed. I took that fuzzy hat like a trooper hat and I stuck it up in the hole that I was supposed to be breathing through. When I got up the next morning, my hat was full of icicles caused by my breath in the cold weather. The 1st sergeant came around and he said the following men are going to the whatever. When he got to the 702 ordnance, I picked up my stuff. When he got done reading the names out, I said, "Say, sergeant. You didn’t call me. He said, "Well, that's because you’re not going to ordnance." I asked him where in the heck I was going and he said that I was going to the 38th Infantry. I said, "You’ve got to be kidding me." He said he wasn't. "You’ve had infantry basic haven’t you? I said yeh. He said I was a rifleman man now. I said, "You can’t do that." He replied, "We just did." So what could I do?
I was assigned to B Company of the 38th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Indianhead Division. Indianhead. The only reason I was in B company was that one of the guys on the train was a hospital returnee—a guy named Hoskins. He talked me into it. I got to be friends with him and he said, "Oh come with me. We’ll be in the same company." I said okay. I didn’t know. My platoon leader was 1st Lt. Conley Clarke. He is from South Carolina now. He and I are the only two guys from our platoon who are still alive today.
At Chechon, about nine truckloads of men were taken to B Company up on the line. The 38th Infantry was over at Hongsong fighting their ass off. The 23rd was over at Chipyong-ni with the French. They made that into a great battle. It’s in the history books and everything because that’s as far south as the Chinese ever got. The 23rd Infantry and the French Brigade stopped them at Chipyong-ni. But in the meantime, the whole Chinese army was over here beating the 38th Infantry at Hongsong. I was sent up there as a replacement for them because when I got to the 38th Infantry B Company, there were only two guys left out of the whole company.
I don’t really know what I felt about that. I never was scared. Never nervous. I don’t know. Maybe I was in a state of shock more or less. I never got scared until just before an attack. I’d be in a foxhole and I’d be waiting for them to attack and my leg would go numb. But as soon as I saw one of them and shot, I settled right down. I was into my "killing mode" then. As soon as the first shot was fired I was okay because I had done what I had to do. I did things by training. I was never afraid to shoot at them because I never fired the first shot at anybody. They shot at me and I shot back to kill them.
It was the same way with the very first battle I was in. We had just come through a town—this was in March 1951. Our squad just happened to be out in front. I was the first one the North Koreans saw. I was coming around the corner of this building when BANG. A bullet hit me right in the side of the helmet and put a big dent in it. My squad leader hollered, “Mossman, get across that river.” There was a river right there. A village and then the river. So I ran to get across that river. I didn’t know how deep the water was. It just so happened that it was up to my knees. I hit that bank on the other side and I immediately fired two clips. I saw where they were firing from on the hill behind us and I started shooting at them. I fired at them and they fired away at me, but nothing happened. I thought, "What in the heck?" What had happened was when I hit that bank, I got sand in my breach and it knocked the firing pin right out of my bolt. I had an M-1, ammunition, and everything, but I didn’t have a firing pin to fire the bullets. Sergeant Young was beside me and asked what was the matter. I told him I didn't have a firing pin and asked him if he had a rifle. I had to have a rifle. He said he didn't have one so I knew I had to find my firing pin. I dug around in the sand and finally found it. I field stripped my M-1 right there and put it back together, got the firing pin back in, and then I took off. By that time the Mosquito guy who was with us had called in a Mosquito plane and they had targeted the hill. I had worked myself up to the side of the hill and I was probably 50 yards from the pillbox at the end of the hill. I continued to work my way up around there and that’s when I saw James Flanigan of Wayne, Michigan. He was one of the first casualties I ever saw. His helmet went about 100 feet in the air and after that it was over. The Marine corsairs finally came in and just blew the place to hell. All we had to do was just get up and walk up there when it was over. They were all dead--all 15 of them. About nine of them had tried to get out of the hole and run but the Corsairs strafed the woods behind them and they were lying dead back there in the woods too. I walked around the hill to see Franklin and looked in the hole. I could look right in the back of his dead. A grenade had hit him back there and shot his helmet off.
I was upset when I saw Flanigan and I'll tell you why. We had been in a little battle before that and four of our guys were killed. Sixteen were also wounded, so we needed 20 replacements. One night we were in a foxhole and Flanigan was the runner. He seemed upset so I said, "What’s the matter?" He replied, "Those guys over there are crazy. I’m afraid to go over there." There was a guy who said he was going to leave his foxhole and go over and see his buddy. They were both from Michigan. Some other guys shot him because they didn’t tell each other the password. The guy who was shot was new to combat and apparently just didn't realize that he was in a war and it was dangerous to leave his foxhole under nighttime conditions. All he wanted was to talk to his buddy. Flanigan was worried because we weren’t giving the password and he was a runner. We knew that the enemy used to try to sneak up on us, so naturally there were guys in the unit who kept their finger on the trigger. That day we took Hill 328 and moved forward to the next group of hills and that night dug in.
Two the enemy did sneak up on us. When Sergeant Eustick ran out of grenades, he used mortar shells. We learned to crack them with our helmet and then throw them out there. It was just like throwing a grenade. He killed seven North Koreans one at a time as they were trying to crawl up there. They had one burp gun. Eustick shot the first one. He said that it was a good thing that he had a .45, because he looked up and there was a North Korean right there in front of his face. He pulled out his .45 and shot him. Then the next one crawled up there to get the burp gun. People don’t realize that the North Korean army was ill-equipped, but they had a lot of men. A lot of those that attacked us in human waves didn’t have guns. The ones in front had the rifles and burp guns and stuff. When we knocked one off, then the one behind him that didn’t have a burp gun would run up there, pick it up, and keep coming. Then we knocked that one off and the next guy would run up and pick up the gun and keep coming. They were trained to "leap frog."
A guy in our company named William H. Turner was hurt just before Flanigan was killed. That same day, we were crossing a river that had water up over our knees. The North Koreans were way up on top of a hill in bunkers, shooting at us while we were crossing the river. Most of our platoon was across the river when Turner started across. He took his time like he was on an afternoon stroll. (He was a little loose in the head.) We said "Run, Turner. Run!" Lieutenant Clarke came up behind him and told him to run too. Turner got hit in the side of the head while he was in the water but the Koreans were so high up, the bullet was almost dead by the time it reached Turner. It didn't do much damage other than skinning his head. The bullet didn't go into his head. Lieutenant Clarke told us that he was going to send Turner to the back and that he hoped they would keep him there. He wanted to get him out of there because he knew that eventually he was going to walk into trouble. He was just trying to save his life really because he had no business being over there considering his mental condition. They call people like Turner "retarded" nowadays. Even so, about 30 days later here came Turner again. He had been returned to the front lines. He was killed in action on 18 May 1951.
I remember that I was on tank patrol one time with B Company. We went out with a big tank to no man’s land. That day we rescued some guys who had been captured back in February. This was on March 22. Frank Plocha, Ed Price, and I were about 1,000 yards in front of the tank. I was the first one in front as we walked up the road. We went around a curve and there was a house. There were 20 Americans in there. They wouldn’t come out because they were afraid. They didn’t know if we were the Chinese, North Koreans, or who. Across the road was a big hole. There were five dead Americans in there and they were all naked. We had to wait there for Graves Registration. They came up from the hamlets and put the dead in body bags and took them away.
They sent a truck up for the living ones. If I recall correctly, our mission ended there. That was it. We waited there quite a while for the rescue truck. Some of the POWs could walk. In fact, one guy was jamming to beat heck. I forget what his name was. He was from the 2nd Division. I don’t think that was Don Hudson. It’s too bad that Don Hudson isn't still living. He used to come to these reunions and really loved it. He died quite a few years back--about 10 years, I think. He was only captured for 30 days and it was uneventful for him. He was captured in South Korea and then recaptured in South Korea. One of the guys that we rescued from the house now lives down in Hudson, Alabama. He was a superintendent of a school before he retired. One time I had a book about the 2nd Division that I gave to him. It explained all the action and stuff and told about him being rescued. It said it was G Company that rescued him, but I told him that it wasn’t G Company. I was from B Company and I was on that tank patrol.
That same day we came across a Chinese soldier down the road. Ed Price said, “Shoot him, shoot him.” But I said that the Chinaman didn't even have a gun. So we waited until he walked up to us. He was shaking like a leaf. He was an old Chinese guy. We searched him and all he had was flint. I said that he was probably a cook because he had flint. (They started fires with pieces of flint on a stone.) We took him back to the tank and the tank commander said that we had been out there long enough and he was going to send three new guys out there. I got up on the tank and looked down in the turret. The tank commander was in there making a cup of coffee. When I said that it smelled good, he offered a cup to me. He said, "Boy, we’ve got it made today. We’ve got the infantry out in front of us. Yesterday we went on a patrol, went over a land mine, and blew a track." I thought, "You son-of-a-bitch." They never told us that we were out there ahead of them while they were looking for land mines, otherwise I would have been looking on the ground instead of looking higher. It hadn't occurred to me that we could be stepping on a mine or that we were a buffer between the landmines and the tank. But that’s what we were. We were the buffer more or less for that tank. They didn't want the tank to be hurt, but it was okay to hurt the infantrymen.
During March and April, we got C-rations when we could. When we got close enough to our kitchen they used to bring up buckets of food to us. One time when one of the cooks came up there with a hot meal, we had gotten our canteens and we were sitting along the trail waiting for our food. The guy came around and was scooping the food into our mess kits. He had one of those food chests that they could keep food hot or cold. As they were passing out the hot coffee and food, one of the guys in the company asked them to give him a little more. The cook said, "I ain’t carrying this all up here for you." The next day that cook was a runner for the company instead of a cook. The captain had heard him the day before and said he didn't want any cook treating his GI's like that. He took him out of the kitchen and put him in one of the rifle platoons.
I got letters and packages from home, but they usually didn't have any food in them. I didn't need any food. I got enough to eat and what I didn't get to eat I could usually get when somebody came by in a jeep or truck. I'd say, "Hey, got any C-rations?" They always had Spam and we could get things like corned beef hash. They loved to give that away. My dad was the one sending me packages. I wrote to him and asked me to send me a razor, which he did. But every time I went into battle, I dropped my backpack. Where the fighting was going on, we were generally way ahead of our backpacks. They told us they would send somebody back to get them, but they never brought mine up. I guess the Koreans got mine. I sent two letters to my dad asking for razors. He wrote to say, "What are you doing with all those razors?" I told him that I thought the Chinese were trying to kill me. One of their bullets bounced off my helmet. I said that I didn’t think they liked me too well.
We were up there on the front line all the time during March and April. On the 21st of April, they came around and took us off the hill. We were on top of this big hill and the guns were down below. They told us that the trucks were going to come up and get us the next morning to take us back to army reserve. The whole 38th Infantry Regiment was going to go back about 20-25 miles into reserve for 30 days of rest, revitalizing, and getting good food. However, our brilliant battalion commander decided that we weren't going to wait until the trucks come in the morning. Instead, we were going to walk back earlier. We walked 25 miles all damned night. When we got back to the reserve area, here come the trucks. They said, "Where did you guys go? We came up to get you." What our battalion commander was doing was trying to build us up. We had been walking up and down the hills but this was a 25-mile stretch of level road. We walked through the artillery--first the 155 artillery, then the 20mm artillery, and we kept on going.
Another guy and I came over the top of a hill one day and found an artillery shell still smoking. It had to be a 155. Right beside it was a pile of dead Chinese soldiers--piled up and half covered with dirt. This guy (I don’t know who he was) went over there, grabbed a foot, and pulled it out. I said, "What the heck are you doing?" He said he was going to see if they had got any gold teeth. He said the Chinese always carry their gold in their mouth. He said that he had gotten a lot of gold off of them. I said, "You son of a gun." When he found a Chinaman with gold teeth, he busted their teeth off by stomping on their jaw to break their teeth out of their mouth. I said. "Jeez. How crude can you be?" He gave me a couple of the teeth to keep me quiet and I carried them in my pocket for a while. But I always worried that they might find them on me someday and say, "This guy has some of our comrades' teeth." So I didn't keep them. I dumped them along the trail one day because I didn’t want the Chinese to find them on me. They were just gold crowns. There wasn't that much gold.
When we finally got into the valley, they made us go to the edge of the hills and pitch our shelter halves and pair up. Four guys from my squad put our shelter halves together and made one big long tent. In the morning we went down to the mess hall. There was Able Company mess hall, B Company mess hall, and C Company mess hall right down in a row. We went into our mess hall, got our food, and then went back up to our tent to sit there and eat it under the trees. Then they brought in a stage and set it up. That night they had a USO show come in. I remember that all of the musicians and entertainers came from WRVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. There was a guy by the name of George Trimble and they had a guy with crazy clothes on, playing a big bass. His name was Crazy Don. They had a couple of women singers. I remember thinking, "Boy it’s a good thing that we're here and the guys on line are over there." We could see the fighting going on over the top of the entertainment tent. We could see the tracers going up. I said, "Boy, oh boy. Somebody’s catching hell up there." It went on and on.
Come to find out, that was when the Chinese captured the 29th Brigade. They attacked at the Hwachon Reservoir on April 25th. A lot of guys in the 25th Division got captured. Soon after that we went back on line. Our 30-day Army reserve had lasted for only five days. We were right back up on the front lines. We went up to what they called the No Name Line and they put us in a position. Unbeknownst to me at the time, they had the 5th ROK Division and the 7th ROK. One of the ROK divisions was out in front of us in the next batch of hills. When the Chinese attacked in May, that’s when I got captured. Two days before I got captured, one of the military advisors--a sergeant with the ROKs--was shot through both legs. The ROKs brought him back to our front lines, dumped him down, and took off. The medic was with him so I helped carry him back to battalion so they could get him out of there. I don't remember his name. All I know is that he was a blonde-headed sergeant. He was shot in one leg and the bullet went through and then came out in the other leg. The medic gave him morphine to keep him calm. Four of us had to carry him because he was a big guy. Each of us got one corner of the stretcher and we had to walk from our company all the way up the hills to battalion. They took him to battalion aid station to get him out of there because there were no trucks that came up from battalion to our company. The trail was just too narrow. Everything that came up there had to be carried up. I went back there a lot of times from the time I got there the first of May to the 17th of May.
During that time, we built foxholes with covers over them. We cut logs down. We built a minefield out in front. We set trip flares. We fastened grenades to the trees with trip flares. We had barbed wire aprons. I knew how to do that stuff because I had had training on it in the Second World War. My squad leader, who was regular army whereas I was reserve, said, "Mossman, we’re going to get a flame thrower. I said, "Great! We need one." Then he said that I was going to operate it. I said, "No I’m not!" The flame thrower was the first guy that the enemy shot at.
Our company was ordered to Hill 1051. We put barbed wire around our position and set a mine field in place as additional protection. Hill 1051 was part of the No Name Line and Hill 800 was to the left of it. That’s where our second battalion was. That’s where the attack on May 15 started. The battalion commander had the guys cut logs, put them over the top of their foxholes, and then cover them over with dirt. They were going to bring the artillery right in on top of us because they had already figured that there were a couple hundred thousand Chinese troops out there. Intelligence had told them that the Chinese had shifted from one place to another just for that.
On May 14, a patrol of Chinese probed us in the middle of the night. Frank and I were here and the machine gunner was over there when they tripped the trip flare. No sooner did that crack than that machine gun guy was going. Man, he just mowed them down. They counted 21 bodies down there the next day. Frank and I had got some of them because we were right close. We looked down and the trail was here and the minefield was over there. In order to get from our position we had to go down the hill and right through the rest of my squad. In my squad, Frank and I were the highest foxhole up the hill. There was nothing past us. They said we were tied in with Able Company. Baloney. We were not. We couldn’t see them. We couldn’t see anything between my foxhole and up the hill. The first time that I knew Able Company was up there was on the 14th.
The Chinese must have attacked Able Company in the daytime because two guys from Able brought a guy down. I asked them, "What the hell is the matter with him?" They said was shell shocked. He was shaking all over. They had to hold him on both arms to bring him down. He didn’t know where the heck he was. He was out of it. He was in shock. I found out that the Chinese had thrown a grenade in his hole and it went off in it. It wasn’t like our grenades. Their grenades were a big glob of black cast iron with a wooden stick. It had a little string in there with a match. They pulled the string and it struck the match and set off the grenade. We didn’t know if it was going to go off in ten seconds, two seconds, one second or what. A lot of times they split in two when they went off—one chunk went here and another piece went there. That's probably happened to that guy because I don’t think he was wounded anyplace. The concussion was what got us--not fragmentation shrapnel like ours. Our grenades were a knobby thing that were supposed to break up in fragments. Shatter. The Chinese grenade was cast iron with a hole in it. The charge and the stick were inside. Chinese soldiers had a pack on their backs and they had those wooden sticks hanging down. They just grabbed one, pulled the string and threw it. Very crude. The Chinese had invented gunpowder long before the Korean War.
I had my own white phosphorus grenades. I knew what they were. I had them where my hole was—on the parapet—so they were ready to throw. L Company, 2nd Battalion was on Hill 800. 1st Battalion was on 1051 with Able Company at the top (although we couldn't see them). B Company was on the same hill, but down lower. Because we couldn't see Able Company, there was a gap in the line, which was a mistake. That mistake was compounded on the 15th when Able Company got overrun by the Chinese. In the massacre, there were human wave attacks by hundreds and hundreds of Chinese troops. A lot of the men in Able Company were killed or captured.
The very top of 1051 was all solid stone. In fact, at the top it’s almost right straight up stone. It was rumored that there were six guys up there from Able Company that the Chinese never bothered. They just left them up there. They couldn't do anything up there to the Chinese, and it would cost them more men to go up there and get them than it would be worth, so they just left them up there isolated. What the heck were they going to do? That was the story going around anyway. I have no idea whether that was true or not, but it was feasible and it could be true.
After overrunning Able Company, the Chinese then noticed us. They came around behind us and got in the woods between us and battalion and stayed hidden there all that day. Single guys went back and forth to battalion, walking up that trail right by the Chinese that were hiding in the woods not making a sound. I walked the same trail on the 15th because I had a slight strain and went to battalion to see the corpsman. I think it was from carrying those 80-pound bags up the hill. A full roll of barbed wire was heavy. I went to battalion to get a shot of penicillin in my hind-end. The penicillin was in bee's wax so it could go into my blood stream slowly. At the battalion aid station, I talked to a guy with a gold leaf on his collar. I asked him what kind of insignia it was and he explained that he was a Navy commander. I said, "Navy? What the hell is the Navy doing way over here?" He said that the Army didn't have any doctors so they sent for a Navy doctor. He told me to come back the next day for another shot. On the way back up the hill, I had to carry an 80-pound bag of barbed wire up the hill. If I had gone back to the aid station the next day, I would have gotten out of the battle. Dumb me. I found out later that the Navy doctor got killed in a Chinese massacre, along with Captain John Fields of Douglas, Nebraska, our executive officer from 1st Battalion, on May 18, 1951.
Just before dark on the 16th, we had received orders to pull out of our holes. By that time battalion knew that the Chinese had annihilated Able Company and put a big hole in the line. They told us to pull back to battalion and bury all the ammunition. Frank Polcha of Rocky River, Ohio, and I had a whole case of grenades in our hole. They told us to take all we could get and bury the rest, so we dug a hole and buried our excess ammunition. Then we pulled out and got down to the bottom, where we sat and waited in a rice paddy. We waited and waited for about an hour. I thought, "What the heck is going on?" We were waiting for battalion to let us know when we could come in. In the meantime, unbeknown to me, the Chinese army was ready to attack. They were right there by a mine field. Suddenly, here they came. They made lots of noise. We heard the banging of the drums and bugles and whistles blowing. Any more when I hear whistles--man! They didn’t care if we knew they were coming. Hell, they announced it. They hollered back and forth at each other in Chinese. On our end of the attack, there was just panic and everybody took off. We thought the minefield was going to stop them, but it didn't.
I ran over and got into a little ditch and tried to get turned around. My squad leader (Mr. Anderson) came over and stepped right on me. He and I never got along because I was regular reserve and he was regular army. We had some complications anyway. Being the squad leader, Anderson was in charge of the beer rations when they were brought up. He would hand the cans out--"Here's a can for you, a can for you, and a can for you." When I asked him what he was going to do with the other six cans, he said he would give them to us later. But they never came. He sucked them down. Same way with candy bars. Some candy bars came up one time and he gave two to each guy. When I asked him what he was going to do with the rest of them, he said he would pass them out later. But, again, later never came.
When he stepped on me in that ditch, I turned around and looked up at him. He said, "Mossman, be sure you know who you’re shooting at." I told him that he better get out from in front of me. I got turned around, but in the meantime everybody left, so I took off on a trail going up a hill. When I got up there, I got by a big tree, a big tree and shot at the Chinese as they came up the hill. I shot about four or five clips. Then I looked over there and the Chinese came running across. One of the guys from my company had just turned and was starting down the hill. The Chinese ran right up behind him with a burp gun and shot him in the back. I turned around and gave that old Chinaman a whole clip--eight rounds. Then I turned back. The Chinese didn't care if we killed them. I think they had them designated. They told them before they went into battle, "Kill the Americans. Kill them all. Don’t take anybody prisoner.
While I was shooting at the Chinese attacking us, another guy--I think it was the machine gunner Bill Ruff--was trying to set up a heavy machinegun. He hollered, "Where’s the water jacket?" It was a water-cooled machine gun. He had the machine gun, but he didn’t have a tripod or water jacket, so it was useless. He could fire it for a little while, but then it got overheated and it wasn't worth a darn. Meanwhile, I was firing and firing and firing. Every time I saw a Chinaman I shot him. I probably killed 20 of them. All of the sudden, it got quiet. I looked around and there wasn’t a damn soul with me. I was by myself. The rest of them were all dead or gone. So I started down the hill. I slid down the hill until I came upon Frank Francis Richardson. There was nothing wrong with him, but Haskens was shot in the hand and Foote was shot to the shoulder. The bullet had gone in the shoulder and out the back. We’ were laying there and I said, "What are we going to do?" We decided to see if we could maybe hold off until daylight and find out where we were going.
About that time I heard the Chinese digging foxholes up there at the top, throwing the dirt over. Rocks came down as they were digging and went. “TINNNGGG” as they hit the top of our steel helmets. I said, "Son of a gun. They’re going to come down." Foote was making some noise so I told him to shut up, but he didn't. I looked up and here came two Chinese down the hill. I got ready to shoot them. They got about three feet from Richardson and he stood up and put his hands in the air. When he did that, I couldn't shoot them because I would have to shoot right through him. Son of gun.
I was captured by two Chinese at 3:00 a.m. on May 17, 1951. It was two days after Able Company was overran. One was an old guy and the other was just a kid. I don’t think he was more than 12 or 13 years old. I was pretty observant after I got captured. I noticed that the Chinese took us down a trail and then it would split. At the split, I saw something on the ground. It was a round circle with an arrow pointing and the number 60. I found out afterwards that the Chinese 60th army, the 27th Division, and the 12th Division were all part of that May Massacre. I saw other signs, too. That’s how they told their own troops which way to go rather than using 300 radios like we did. Our radios weren’t any good in the mountains anyway.
Maybe it was just as well, because they took us prisoners right there. They took us the rest of the way down the hill to where the trail went up to battalion. There was Sergeant Luna standing with his hands up and two or three Chinese around him. I was surrounded before I was captured but didn’t know it at the time. As I said earlier, I found out afterwards that the Chinese who had breached Able Company were hiding in the woods. They already had plans to not only attack us through Able Company, but also back in the woods. Colonel Clarke called back to battalion and told them that we were receiving fire behind us. Battalion replied, "Aww. That’s the Dutch back there." But it wasn't the Dutch. The Dutch brigade had came down off of 1051 and pulled out back farther the night of the 16th. The Chinese had us pinched. They had us surrounded. They came in, massacred our troops, took prisoners, and then pulled back. Five days later, the Americans took back all the land they had lost to the Chinese, but by that time I was in captivity.
Four of us were captured. They took us back through the mine field that was supposed to have helped protect us from them. When they attacked us, they didn't go through the barbed wire. They didn't come that way. Instead, they went through the mine field. When they led us back through the mine field after they captured us, we found out how they got through it without being killed. The Chinese knew the mine field was there, so they drove three cows through it in front of them. That's how they got through there so fast. We passed three cows dead in the mine field as we were led out. There were so many Chinese dug in there that we almost stepped on them. There were thousands of them. They had dug holes and squatted down in them, waiting for the artillery and airplanes to come. The Chinese were not necessarily good fighters. Instead, they had the numbers. They lost over a million men in Korea. They don’t tell anyone that. The Chinese government would never admit that. But I’ll bet there’s a million families in China that lost sons over in Korea. They just never came forward to say, "My son is one that died in Korea."
When we were captured, they didn't take our belongings right away. But after we got back a ways, they took our bandoleers of ammunition, belts, bayonets, first aid kits, shovel, C-rations, etc. They shook the C-rations, which were heavy with food, and then threw them down. They then took my helmet off and threw it down on the ground. I made a reach for it because I had a 5x7 picture of my second girlfriend inside the helmet liner. I thought one Chinese son of a gun was going to stab me with a bayonet. He hollered at me and I pulled back up. There was no way I could get the picture out of the helmet liner anyway since my hands were tied behind me. The only time I was hit was when I was standing up and one of the guards wanted me to move. I guess I wasn’t moving fast enough for him, so he punched me in the back with a rifle butt.
They had us with our hands tied behind our head with something that looked like a big, long, ace bandage. We were roped together end to end, with me on the tail end. There were streamers of the bandage-like material dragging behind me. While we were walking down the trail, a Chinese soldier behind me stepped on that dang bandage and I thought, "Holy Mack. They’re going to jerk my arms right off." He then wadded it up and stuck it in my hand. I held the last bit of the stuff so it wouldn't fall down.
One time on the trip up north, Claude Pence from Missouri had a blanket and I didn’t. We stayed in a house that had a stables where they kept the cows, but there weren’t anymore cows because during the war they had killed them all. We stayed in there one night and I stayed under his blanket. This was September. I got up in the morning and I stumbled. I said, "Son of a gun. I’m losing my equilibrium. I don’t feel too good." Claude said that he didn't feel to well either. I said, "Well, let’s stay here." When the Chinese interpreter came up to the door and said we were going now, I said, "We don’t feel good. We want to stay." He said, "You stay, you die." He got a guard with a rifle and came over to stand by the door and I said, "Okay. Okay." We left as ordered. We had learned that we could push the Chinese guards only so far.
We had an Indian kid called Preston Franklin in our company. His wife was a schoolteacher in Oklahoma. He was a Blackfoot Indian. She taught on the reservation in that school. Betty was her name. Betty Franklin. He used to get letters from her. For a while I was his assistant BARman. Then I started buddying up with Frank Leonard Plocha. I was from Michigan and he was from Rocky River, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland. Frank told me that when he was captured, he and Price stood up and put their hands up. I was with Frank Plocha until he died on June 9th during the march up north.
We never rode anywhere. We always walked. A week or two after I was captured, Korean people or whoever stole my boots. From then on I walked all the way up to North Korea barefooted. We walked every place from May until about July, when we were taken to what was known as "the mining camp" at Suchon. I lost my friend Frank during this time period--not at the mining camp, but earlier than that. I know he didn’t want to die. He was just miserable. He and some of the others were so miserable they didn’t know they were going to die the next day. They were sick and weren’t getting any care. That’s what the hard part was--wanting to help them so badly, but having nothing to help them with. It was hard for me to sit there watching them die, knowing that I could do nothing, but also knowing that I could save them if only I had the right stuff. But I didn't have the right stuff.
Frank Plocha died beside me in a prison camp on June 9, 1951. He didn’t last very long because he couldn’t take the food for one thing. He got dysentery and shit himself to death. He couldn’t quit. He said, "I’ve just got to go." I told him, "No you don’t. You've got nothing to go." But he said he had the urge and he just had to go. I looked at him and his guts were literally hanging out of his hind-end. Finally one night he laid down beside me and when I woke up in the morning, his eyes and nose were full of flies. He was stone cold. He had passed on. Died during the night.
Life in the Mining Camp
We moved on to the mining camp. There was a guy (whose name I think was Erikson or Emerson) who died before I got there. He was one of those guys that fell for a bowl of baloney from the Chinese when they told him that he could go back to our lines. They said, "We’re going to take you back to your lines and we’re going to release you. You go back there and tell those American soldiers to come up here and surrender." So Erikson and his friend—I don’t know who his friend was—they came around there. They had Chinese uniforms on. They took them down to the front line but there was too much activity going on--too much battle, too much fighting. The guards said they would have to take them back to camp. Erikson and his buddy didn't like that, so they killed the Chinese guards and took off for the American lines. They didn't catch the other guy but they caught Erikson and brought him up to the mining camp. It was either the mining or bean camp. I think it was the mining camp before I got there and before I realized what was going on. Anyway, they held a kangaroo court, sentenced him to death, and executed him. They took him out there, put him up against the side of the building, and had the Chinese firing squad shoot at him and kill him. He wasn’t dead yet so Mr. Lee walked over and shot him in the head with a pistol. Everybody had to stand out there and watch it because the Chinese wanted to show them what would happen if they did the same thing.
The mining camp was terrible, just terrible. It was actually two camps side by side just above the 39th parallel by Pyongyang. There was a building here and a building there (they might have been individual rooms), and a well. The building where we stayed was like a schoolhouse. It was up on a hill and there were steps coming down from the first part. The other was open and flat, and might have been used as a soccer field or for whatever Korean school kids played. There were houses nearby. We never got to see the officers who were captured with us, but I understand that they were kept in one room. Across the road was the river. There were some heavy rains that summer, and that river became thick and deep. Back up where the mine was, there was a big, tall building. I don't know what they were doing (maybe making salt petre), but whatever it was, it turned the water blue and white foam came floating down the river.
There were about 485 American prisoners of war in the mining camp. There were also about 17 Turks from the Turkish Brigade who had been captured on April 25th. One of them could speak English and talked for the other ones. He called him John. They had one guy that was real bad sick. According to history books, the Turks never lost one man in Korea. But I know for a fact that they lost one, because that guy died.
We had some guys that just plain gave up. We had a guy who said he wouldn’t eat the food. I told him that he had to eat something. "Oh no," he said. "I can dream of better food than that. I can dream of milkshakes and ice cream." Well, he’s still dreaming. He’s still dreaming because he didn’t survive. I don’t remember his name. He was one of the guys that had to carry ammunition for the M-57 recoilless rifle team, I think. He was a little guy. In fact, I remember sometimes trying to help him. It seemed like the army always gave the littlest guy the heaviest job. They had to carry ammunition for the M-57 recoilless rifle in a sack-like apron that fit over their shoulder so that the weight would be distributed evenly. The apron carried three shells in the front and three in the back. Just one shell was big around and heavy, so we used to help him by taking a shell and carrying it up the hill for him. When we got to the top of the hill, we put it back in the sack.
We tried to encourage the sick to hold on. Fred ____ was a farmer from Wisconsin. He used to tell us that his father made cheese up in Wisconsin. He was a Lutheran. He had a Bible and he read it. He tried to encourage the guys to get up and get walking around a little bit. The ones who survived generally had some endurance that they had built up before they were taken prisoner. I know that’s one reason why I’m alive today. First of all, back in the States my job at Buick was doing physical labor. I lifted 12 tons a day, 14 pounds at a time. My job was to pick up two seven-pound parts, set them on a machine, and run them through it. I figured out one day that I picked up 300 of them a day, or about 122 tons. I was in the best shape I was ever in in my life when I got over to Korea in February 1951. Then I started to go up and down those mountains. And I eat everything I could eat. I went up to 212 pounds. I was stomach and muscle bound. It was like training for the Olympics. When I got captured I had a heck of a time pulling my pant leg over my muscle. So I was in perfect physical condition. But some of the guys who came over there--like the twenty replacements that we got--heck, they had only been in Korea for about a month. A lot of them didn't make it. John Bowles made it. He lives in Corunna, Michigan. He was one of the replacements that came into our company. He got captured and he made it through, but again, he had worked for Chevrolet before he was sent to Korea. He was in good physical shape when he got there.
An average of five, sometimes ten, prisoners died every day in the mining camp. I helped bury 19 guys and then I got so weak I couldn’t bury them anymore. When we buried them ourselves, we buried them one at a time as far down as we could. A lot of the time we buried them in a nearby cornfield. We dug with our hands and used pieces of rock. A lot of times it was rocky where we dug. The Koreans didn't remove the stones from the gardens where they raised corn. They did that so the straw would stay in place during heavy rains. Every time it rained in monsoon, the rain washed all the dirt down if the stones weren’t there to hold it in place. So they plowed through stones and all to plant their corn. The corn grew up between the stones. When we went to bury a guy, we had to go out there and there were stones all over. So we cleared a space out and dig down in the dirt until we could get him covered over. All we could do was get him down low enough to cover him over with dirt and then put some stones over the top of him. We put a dog tag in his mouth and covered him up. There was no way we could mark the grave or anything. We just said the 23rd Psalm over him and that was it. The guards were along so we couldn’t do a heck of a lot. After I got released from captivity, I made a list of the 19 guys that I helped to bury. I had to make the list from memory because the Chinese would not let us take any papers with us when we were released.
We buried our own for quite a while and then we just couldn’t do it any more. There was too many going too fast. They were going faster than we could bury them. When we couldn’t dig anymore, the Chinese took over. They wore white things over their face so they couldn't breathe. They didn't want to touch the dead, so they wouldn't pick anyone up. Instead, they came in with a big piece of canvas, rolled the guy into it, dragged him out, dragged him on the ground, and rolled him into the ditch. That’s the way they buried them. Who they were I don’t know. That’s the way those five guys were buried when we were on that tank patrol and I found them. They were in that hole buried ass naked. The Chinese had taken everything off of them and had just thrown them in there one on top of the other.
Sometimes I lost a few friends that I knew. Then there were guys who died that I didn't know. Some of those guys I had never seen before in my life. They were from different companies and regiments. The mining camp was a collection point more or less. I found out later that there were two groups almost side by side. There was the mining camp and the bean camp. We were in the same area but at the time I didn't know it. The prisoners in both of these camps died of malnutrition, lack of medical care, and not the right kind of food available. Not only did we have intestinal problems because of the food, we also had tape worms. Sometime in July or August, the Air Force strafed a mule train. They came up to us one day and said, "We’ve got some dead mules over on the road. Would it be okay if you eat one?" Hell, I didn’t care. So the very first meat that I got after I got captured was mule meat. They put it in the soup. The mule was good, except I chewed and chewed and chewed on the meat. I remember sitting on some steps eating it. I chewed that for about an hour. I couldn't swallow, so I spit it out. About that time a Chinese walked by and, oh my god, you would have thought I murdered Mao Tse Tung the way he got after me.
The Chinese always gave us a bowl of rice or sorghum or millet and a side dish. They got the name for chop suey because they had a little bit of this and a little bit of that and they threw it in the pot and that was their soup. We never knew what we were going to get in it--a bean, a peanut, or whatever. They had this little tiny shrimp. They went out in the Yellow Sea and scooped up the shrimp when they were baby like that and they cooked the whole thing, skin and all. We had that once in a while.
We had lice something terrible in the mining camp. They got around where we sweated--around our stomach--and they got up in our hair. We used to see the Korean kids standing one behind the other, looking through the other one's head, killing lice. That country was floating with lice. And they were big. They were not little tiny ones like the head lice we’ve got in the United States. Theirs were big. If we squeezed them, we got blood because they bit us and sucked the blood out of us. When we first got up north, we couldn't get rid of the lice because we had the same clothes on that we were captured in back in May. We stayed in those clothes through June, July, August, and September, up until October 6.
I think I got immune to the conditions at the mining camp. Every day I woke up and I didn’t know what was going to happen. Also, by that time I had been through an artillery barrage, been bombed twice, and had the airplanes come over and strafe the top of me. I knew that our side wasn't trying to kill me. They were trying to kill the guy who was holding me prisoner. I didn’t give a shit if they killed all of them. The biggest thing that worried me during all that time was my parents. I worried that they didn’t know that I was alive. That I was in the camp. That I was going to make it. I kept telling myself, "I’m going to make it."
I was already getting smart, see. I knew that I could push those people just so far. Still, sometimes there were things we could do to get back at them. For instance, there was this building near a cornfield. We used to go out there and pick up rocks during the day. At night there was a guard here and a guard there on either end of the building. There were windows in back. So what we did was take rocks and throw them at the building. They went "ting, ting, ting, ting" against it. One of the guards ran around the corner and saw the someone running around the corner and shot him. He didn't realize that it was the other guard who was also running to see where the noise had come from. It made us feel good to get one guard to shoot the other. They took him and hauled him away. I would not have wanted to be in the shoes of that Chinaman who killed one of their own because I think when one of them messed up, they treated him worse than they did anybody.
Every time things looked bad at Panmunjom, they told us. Every time that things looked good, we never heard a thing. Negotiations weren't going well at this time so there was a recess at Panmunjom. It looked like the negotiations were going to drag through the winter. They told us that they were going to move us up north where the camps were better and where we could get better shoes and new clothes. We had to walk. Every day we walked about twenty miles, rain or shine.
About halfway up was the town of Anju. Anju was a big town and they had it pretty well. There were a lot of people there and there was a lot of activity going on in town. There was a lot of anti-aircraft around it. Just before we got there, they made us go out into a pine forest woods and hide in the pine trees because there were planes coming over, bombing and strafing. The ack acks were shooting at them. I think another reason for the delay to move us through town is that they wanted to tell the people that they were going to bring a bunch of prisoners through that town and they wanted them to all to come and watch. This was a big deal. They wanted to show them how they got the Americans. Look at them. Look at how bad they are. Look how raggedy and dirty they look with long, dirty, crummy beards. I had not shaved since I was captured.
We got about halfway through town and here came a jeep. There were guys in it that I knew dang well were Russian. They were blond headed as can be. They made a mistake to come down where we were. We went out of town, made a turn, and then a sharp turn right. There at the corner was an ack ack gun. I was coming around the corner and I looked up there and this guy stuck his head up. Blonde hair. He looked long at us and I said, “Ahhh. Ruskie.” The Chinaman standing beside me said, "No, no, no, no. Northern Chinese." I said Northern Chinese my ass. They said there were no Russians in Korea. Only Chinese. But come to find out later--in fact, it was proven--there were not only Russians in there, but there were East Germans, Romanians, and Polish. Everything from the Warsaw pact sitting in there to volunteer. Volunteer. They sent them over there to help fight.
The talks dragged on all summer. September came and they said that they couldn't take care of us at the mining camp, so we were eventually moved. Apparently the prisoners in the bean camp were put on trains and sent north. I was in the wrong camp. They rode the train, but we had to walk up north.
Move to Camp 1
My captors were always Chinese. The only North Korean I saw was on one of the roads going up. We had stopped in a town for the night and a North Korean soldier was there. He had a uniform on. He saw my watch. The Chinese had taken all my other stuff, but they let me keep my fingernail clipper and my watch. The North Korean came over to me and grabbed my watch. He pulled on it and I pulled back. It had a white gold expansion band on it. I think it was a Benrus watch. We pulled back and forth but finally he got it off my arm. So I went over to the interpreter (the one who had told me earlier, "You stay you die.") I told him that the North Korean soldier took my watch. The Chinese had told us that they wouldn't take our personal items. He told me to go back to my room. Pretty soon he called me out of the room because he wanted an audience. He handed me my watch. I never saw that Korean soldier again, so I don’t know what the hell they did with him.
We went all the way up to Changsong to Camp 1. It was way up there almost to the Yalu River. We walked from the 16th of September to the 6th of October. About halfway up there—I think it was past Anju, I got so I couldn’t keep up because of my bare feet. I had blisters on top of blisters on top of blisters, and it got so I couldn’t function. I began to fall behind. Unbeknownst to me, the Chinese got together and decided they weren’t going to shoot me. Well, maybe they wanted to, but they didn’t. So what they did was they gave me this kid who I think was probably about 15 years old. He got me up in the morning and we started out going down the road ahead of the other ones. But before noon, they had all passed me by because I was slower, plodding along in my bare feet. The other guys walked fast and passed me by. Every night before dark they found a house for us to stay in. By that time, the 485 prisoners who were at the mining camp had dropped down to about 165, 175, maybe 200 at the most. Half of the guys died at the mining camp. Over half. The rest of us just left.
There was Camp 5 (Pyuktong) over on an outer peninsula sticking into the Yalu River, and Camp 1. Like I said, I had my own private guard. By the time I got to where they were camping for the night, all the other guys were already eating their food. I then got my food, went to sleep, and got up the next morning and took off. Every day they passed me by again. But I finally made it up there. I was taken to Camp 1, which was just a wide spot in the road. It was just an old village that was at one end of the river. The road came up, turned, and then went east. Part of the town was here and then there was a gap. No houses. The rest of the town was at the other end. There was like a monument in the middle--a monument to Buddha or whatever. There were a few Korean houses there, enough for all of us to be in that end of the town. There were at least a couple of dozen. There were a few houses across the road and then there were U-shaped houses.
Some of us were taken over to a hut and others were put in houses all along the road. The hut I was in was for guys with bad feet and everything else. I still had no shoes the day I arrived. There was another house here. Then headquarters here. Houses. Then another house. And over here there was another row of houses. Down here was a place where they cooked all the food. And back here was where they had us go to the toilet. (Our toilet was just a hole in the ground with a stick stuck across the hole to stand on. We had to squat down when we had to go.) Back here was a cornfield. And then there was a path through here like this. There was a road through here and trucks used to run through there all day and all night long--mostly at night.
The next day after we got there, we had to line up for roll call. A Chinese guard came in the room and made me squad leader. He said we had to fall out in the road. I said, "We don’t have any shoes. You promised us shoes when we got here and I don’t have any shoes. We can’t fall out in the road until we get some shoes." He said we were holding up the other guys up there in the road. They were waiting for us to come out. But I said I wasn't going to make the guys in the hut go out there, he would have to do that. I told him I was staying there until I got some shoes. They finally let the other guys go. They took me to one room, took the next day and put him in another. Put the next guy in another. They broke us up and put us in different rooms because they thought we were troublemakers. About two days later I finally got some shoes and some new clothes. We got our first set of winter cotton pants.
Life was slightly better in Camp 1 than in the mining camp because we could clean ourselves up. I got rid of my beard and long hair in the very first shave I got at Camp 1. They didn't have any razors to cut with but they had a set of sheep sheers there and that's what we used to cut our hair. We had to get rid of the lice. And that first set of cotton pants? After a while they were infected with lice, too. There was lice in the clothing, in the buildings, in the rooms, and everything. Our biggest problem was boiling our clothes to get rid of the lice and kill them. We had to practically be naked and wash ourselves down first to get rid of the lice first. Then we boiled our clothes and put them back on. We finally got so we were lice free. But the thing about it was, if we went into a strange Korean house, we picked it up again because lice were all over North Koreans. The civilian girls used to stand one behind the other one picking lice out of their hair and killing them. They were so big we could see them. We put them between our fingernails and squashed them. That was the only way we could kill them--that or boil them to death.
An American Bedcheck Charlie came over regularly to drop a bomb and try to hit the camp. He didn't know that, at the time, he was bombing a prisoner of war camp full of Americans. That’s what happened two days after I got there. A B-25 bomber flew over and dropped a bomb. Several buildings were destroyed and about twenty prisoners were killed. About a year after that, the Chinese stuck a big sign up and painted it red with white Chinese symbols on it. I don’t know what the heck they said, but it was a Chinese symbol that showed Camp 1 was a POW camp. Sometime in early 1951, Carl Bishop was found buried alive after an airplane bombing and as a result he was deathly afraid of airplanes. So when that plane came over at night, he had to get out of the room and head for the cornfield. If we were standing in his way, he would step on us because he was out that door now as soon as he heard the airplane. Terrible, terrible. I hope he’s better today.
The road through camp went on down and made a turn. Down there was a whole bunch of British prisoners and some more Americans. At that time they had the blacks in with us. Then there were some more buildings in here and that was where the sergeants were. After I had been there maybe four or five months, they took all of the sergeants out and sent them to Camp 4. They took the blacks and put them all together in another area of Camp 5 so they could tell them that we were racist. They worked on that.
I was in Camp 1 from September of 1951 until September of 1952. I was there for the whole winter of the first winter and I was there all summer until the next fall. I was in a room with Richard K. Davis, Thomas Lyke, Louie Augunagi, Clarence D. Kay, Vigal, Dale Clabaugh, Bill Bailey, Carl Bishop and Richard Raby. We were so tightly packed in there that we had to sleep stacked--this guy with his head up there, this guy with his head down here, and this guy with his head up there. Everybody had to turn over at the same time almost. Claybaugh was beside me. He had a nervous twitch all night. I would be laying there sound asleep and then all the sudden I would feel jerk, jerk, jerk. I said, "Son of a gun." So Vigal and I moved out to the kitchen to sleep to give us more room. He fixed up a kind of bunk. It was winter time and we figured out a good way to keep warm. We put a couple of poles across the kitchen. We had mat-like things that they used to carry their fish and stuff in made out of woven straw. We placed them on the poles, then I got down on one end with my blanket and he got down at the other end and we slept toe to toe. Underneath was the kitchen and there was a fire going to keep the heat going. We stayed in there nice and cozy warm still in our clothes. We had it nicer than the rest of the guys because we didn’t have nobody kicking us. Vigal was Mexican. His name was spelled Virgil, but he wanted to be called Vigal.
In the fall they put a Chinese guy in charge of each squad room. Ours was an old guy--a Chinese soldier probably from the Chinese war against Japan or something. I would say he was about 35-40 years old. We called him Ed. He used to take us to the work detail or whatever. He gave us a Chinaman who could speak English. He gave him orders and then he came down and made us do what we were supposed to do. At Christmas time they gave me a pair of socks. I put them on my feet. They weren’t made too good because as soon as I pulled them on, my toes went right out the end. I said those things weren't any good and I just waded them up and threw them out in the yard. He got mad over it. He said, "Look what I give you. Look what I give you." I think I made Ed mad from then on because he never treated me as good as he did the other guys. The other thing reason why I made him mad was because every day we were supposed to have study period for an hour. We were supposed to read the Shanghai News, the Chinese News, and the Daily New York Worker which they furnished to us. I said I wasn't going to do that crap. Instead, I sat on the front porch and sang hillbilly songs. This guy said I was crazy. I said, "Crazy like a fox." This went on for a while.
I always went on work detail and carried my share of wood back so I wasn’t ashamed of that. During the summertime, it was hot. One time I only had my shorts on. I wanted to wash my clothes out in the river because they were kind of dirty. They took us down to the river and I had just gotten my clothes all soaped up and was just getting ready to rinse them out and beat them. Over there we used a stick to pound our clothes to beat the dirt out of them, because the soap didn’t do too good of a job. Just as I was getting ready to clean them up, Ed came down and said, "Let’s go." I told him that I wasn't done yet. He said, "Mossman come." I said, " F_ _ _ k you" and he said, “ccccccckkkkccccckkk.” He went and got a guard who came down and ran me up to where the recruitment was. They ran me behind the building and made me stand up against the wall.
I was still just my shorts. My face was against the wall, the sun was shining down on me, and the guard was standing behind me. They made me stand at attention for so long I got tired and shifted my weight from one leg to another. When I did that he hollered in Chinese and jabbed me in the back of the leg with a bayonet. This went on until about time for supper. I figured I wasn't going to get any supper but pretty soon Clarence Kay from my room came down with a bowl of food. I don’t think the guard knew what the hell to do. He came down and handed me the bowl of food and I just sat down and started eating. When I got through, Clarence took my bowl back to the room and I had to stand back up and stand at attention again. I was there until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Finally they moved me from the side of the building to what was a little room. I was allowed to stand inside of that and I stood in there for quite a while. The interpreter finally came and got me.
They took me across the road to headquarters and there sitting at a table was the camp commander. The interpreter was standing there and I was standing there. They gave me a piece of paper and wanted me to write my self criticism. That was a practice from the Chinese. They used it if they did something wrong and they made us use it, too. I wrote, "I’ll try to do better in the future" and I handed it to him. But he said that it wasn't good enough so I said, "Well, in the future I will try to do--I forget just what it was, and I handed it to him again. He wasn't supposed to be able to understand English, but before the interpreter even told him what it was in Chinese, he hit me in the face with a wooden fan that had wooden slats on each end. It was wide and thick. It was a big fan and he had it open fanning himself when all of a sudden he hit me right across the face with it and made a lot of noise. I figured out later what was going on. Headquarters was across the road in the first row of buildings all along there. The other guys were laying there in bed listening because they were close enough to hear what was going on. When they heard that loud crack they thought, "Oh boy. He’s really getting it." So it was psychological. He is using this for a deflector. When he finally accepted my criticism and was all through, he told me to go back to my room and not to cause any trouble. He told me not to tell anybody. I just went back to my room and went to sleep then. But the next morning I told everybody. But do you know that there are guys who were in the camp the same time I was that until recently didn’t know I was there? They didn’t know I was down there standing at attention. I tried to find some guys that knew that it happened and who would write to the records center on my behalf so I could get disability for my knees and stuff. I think standing at attention for so long that day is one reason why I’m having problems with my legs today. But they were not generally mean to me at Camp 1. The times that they were mean, I think I probably brought some of it on myself.
Our cook was a Chinaman that we named Lu Chen. He cried when the guys left because he was so caught up with what they had done. He was in the Chinese army before Mao Tse Tung took over. He had worked for Chang Kai Shek. He used to tell us that Chang Kai Shek was a lot better than Mao Tse Tung because Chang Kai Shek let them play cards and sing and drink. Mae Tse Tung didn’t do that. Some of the prisoners tried to make a deck of cards out of a bunch of paper cardboard, but they had a heck of a time making them because we couldn’t get enough cardboard to make 52 cards alike in size and so on. There was a prisoner named Juan Gusman from Puerto Rico. He used to be on a radio show there. He was a flamingo guitarist. Man, could he ever play. Someone made a guitar out of wood and he played it. The Chinese finally brought a guitar in for him. By that time things were starting to get better in the camp because of what the Chinese were trying to do at Panmunjom.
The food was about the same as what we had had at the mining camp, but it was some better. Nobody was getting fat over it, let’s put it that way. We still didn’t get the nourishment out of meat. Of course we used to get some fish once in a while, but the Chinese never believed in cleaning the fish. They just brought it in and laid the corpse, guts, head, and all on the table. When we ate the soup, it had bones, heads, and eyeballs in it. It was terrible. Another thing was, they brought in the rice in the bags. They put the bag on the ground and we would look down there and there came little tiny bugs crawling out of it. It got so we couldn’t eat our rice if we were looking at it because every once in a while there would be big, long bugs in it. It would have taken all day long to stand there and pick out all the bugs, so we just closed our eyes and ate the rice.
We also had what they called flour. There was a big round thing that sat on top of a steam pot filled with water. They put a fire under the pot and got the water steaming, then they put a big bamboo rack on it. They took the uncooked bread and cut it into little loaves. We didn't have anything to make the bread rise. It was called steam bread. They put the bread in ropes and filled up the racks. Then they filled that one up and put another rack up there and filled that one up. They had about four racks of bread. Then they took a big piece of cloth and put it over the whole thing so the steam could get on it. They steamed that for two or three hours and we made bread as a result. It was like a heavy, leavened bread. It wasn’t bad. It was better than nothing. Then they gave us tofu. It was bean curd. It tasted like nothing except a big gob of white foam. Bean curd. they boiled the bean and the stuff would float to the top. Then they scooped it off when it was like water coming in from the ocean. We could see foam on top.
The death rate had lessened when we got up there. Less guys died in Camp 1. I remember when James O'Boyles died. It was the strangest death of anybody. James looked like he was healthy as a bull and the next day he died. Nobody knows why or what caused his death. He was running around one day and the next day somebody said that James O'Boyles died. I said, "Wow! I just saw him yesterday. What did he die from?" Nobody knew. He just died. Maybe even if he had been in the United States he might have died. Maybe he had heart problems or something that nobody knew about--an enlarged heart or something. He just keeled over and died, I guess of natural causes. I don't know of others who died in Camp 1. There were an awful lot of guys up in the hospital, like Tom Peasner. He had a disease. The Army doctors had a word for it. It was lack of something in his system that made his feet hot. His feet ached and hurt and he’d be out there rubbing them. He used to put his bare feet in the snow bank. I said, "Tom, what the heck are you doing?" He said, "Ooh, that cold feels so good on them." But the snow also froze them so he ended up in the hospital and they had to cut his toes off because they all turned black. He’s dead now. He was from St. Petersburg. Donald Elliott lost some toes too. I think one of them was called "Twinkle Toes." But there were an awful lot of guys up there in the hospital that were laying there without any toes.
The hospital looked like a place where someone would go to die. At least, it looked it to me. I think that some of the guys that did go up there, didn't come back. Offhand, I didn’t know anybody personally that went up there and died. But I do know that Peasner lost his feet and Elliott went up there and lost a couple of toes. They came back. Some of the guys that I know worked in the hospital. I understand there were 2,000 guys that died at Camp 1. They didn’t die the year I was there, but they died before I got there. A lot of the first guys who were up there died. That was before there was a Camp 1. When we went up there we established Camp 1. Our group became Camp 1. The guys that were already up there—the British and the guys at the other end of town, were in what was known as Camp 3.
The only plane that I ever saw shot down was a MIG when I was up at Camp 1. That just happened to be a Chinese guy, I think. About two hours later after he came down parachuting—an American shot him down and he come down by parachute. They brought him through town. He was walking, carrying his gear and stuff, his parachute and his boots and all of that. The Chinese had on what we had on--heavy leather winter stuff on because up there in the air it was so damn cold.
Maybe about a year after I was captured, I found out that my girlfriend had married somebody else. My mother wouldn’t tell me but my brother's wife finally wrote and told me. My friend in camp kind of fixed me up with his sister’s girlfriend. Her name was Helen Lee and she lived over in Tennessee in Newport. She wrote me some letters for a while but finally she wrote and said to me, "I’m sorry I can’t write to you anymore. I’m getting married." I had the worst luck with girlfriends in those days, but later I realized that I had a chosen one in Massachusetts and I found her. I was married to her for 42 years.
In September of 1952, they took me out of Camp 1. I was in the toilet when they came down to it and told me that I had to leave. This was after the time I had to stand at attention for so long. I said I had to go back to the room. The guy said, "No, no, no, no. You come and get on truck." So they put me on a truck and Clarence Kay brought me my stuff--my sugar ration and my tobacco ration, my blanket, and my clothes and stuff and brought them to me and handed them to me on the truck. They took me to Camp 2. The Chinese told me—right out flat ass told me—that I was a bad influence on the other prisoners. That’s why they sent me away.
I was sent to Camp 2 and stayed there from September of 1952 to June 3, 1953. I didn't know where Camp 2 was back then. I know about where it was now because Phil O'Brien from the Department of Defense gave me pictures of it. It was on the back waters of the Yalu River. Down the road and around the corner from the South Korean POW camp was a big concrete bridge over the back waters. They had it camouflaged over with sticks and brush and stuff so it wouldn't be found. We used to have to go there because of barges coming in carrying food supplies. The mule train brought it back up to our camp. Camp 2 never had a marker that told pilots flying overhead that it was a prisoner of war camp, but it did in those pictures. Phil said that the Air Force took the pictures from the air. I told him that they must have been taken after they ended the damned war because we didn't have any POW market when I was in Camp 2. Using the pictures he gave me, I showed him what building I was in and what room I was in.
Camps 2A and 2 were where the officers were, but I didn’t know that at the time. When I was in Camp 2, we used to go out on wood detail north of our camp. It was right beside the river so they used to take us down to the river to take baths and to go swimming. We went swimming in that dang thing in October and we froze our hind ends off. While out on wood detail we discovered that about halfway up the valley was a place where the Chinese had a big milling stone. By it there was a little donkey tied up to a stake. It was blindfolded and it went around and around in a circle pulling that stone around. The stone was used by the guards to grind up their grain. At some of the reunions years later, I talked to the officers (remember, they were held separately from us), and they said that they saw the same thing. Once they took a bunch of POWs up there to play softball against the guards. I didn’t get to go. Come to find out, that donkey was between where the enlisted men were kept and where the officers were held just north of that. The officers came down to the same area near the milling stone and donkey, but they only came on the days we weren't there. The guards never wanted us to come together to see each other. We were within probably a mile of each other.
When I first got to Camp 2, we were out in the open. All of the sudden they started right at the front gate putting posts in the ground. The Chinese guards made a fence out of big, high poles. They cut big trees down and laced them together with bark, putting the fence up completely around us. There were three buildings at Camp 2. There was one big, long building, and then another. Then there was an opening and another long building. In the back was another building where they did the cooking. Then there was a field and down below was like a compound with a few other buildings and there was a headquarters. They had a room down there that had a ping pong table. If we asked, sometimes we could play ping pong when the guards were down there on guard duty.
We had a little more room in each room than we had had in Camp 1. In my room there was Jake Miller, Rocky Holmes, W.W. Smith, J.P. McMillan, and me on one side. There was Ivan Eaton, George Maryea, and James "Jimmy" Cougan on the other side. In Camp 2 there was a room beside us that had all English prisoners. They included Charles H. Sharpling, Norman A. Ward, Bernard M. Smith, Frederick Quibell, E.G. Busby, William Palfrey, Ken Walters, Varner (Frank, I think), and Bill Westwood.
While I was at Camp 2, the two sides in the war conducted "Little Switch", which was returning sick and wounded prisoners of war back to their own side. We were allowed to send six home, whether they were wounded or not. That was the limit. So we said to the Chinese to be sure and send W.W. Smith. He suffered from epileptic fits and it took three or four guys to hold him down. He went out of his mind, swallowed his tongue, and had super human strength during the seizure. Then it would pass and he would wake up and not even know anything had happened. When I told his wife that a few years back, she didn’t even know he had ever had that problem, because he’s never had a seizure since he’s been home. He didn't know why he had been singled out. Nobody ever told him why he was sent home. We also send Jimmy Cougan back home. He hadn't been there very long when his wife sent him divorce papers and told him that she wanted a divorce right away. She wanted to marry some other guy. He went berserk. Here was the love of his life and she wanted a divorce. So we sent him back. Jimmy used to come to our reunions but he is now deceased. His brother-in-law was a POW in Korea too.
Nobody died at Camp 2 as far as I know, but Joel Adams was shot. It happened one day when we were out on a work detail. They gave us a little axe--a chop like thing that had a hole in it where we put a stock of wood to use as a handle. We couldn't actually "cut" a tree with it. Instead, we basically beat and pounded on the trees to knock them down. A Chinese guard was always with us. He was like our boss Ed in Camp 1 but he couldn't speak English. We walked in the woods on the side of the hill until we got to the area where we were supposed to chop the trees. Unbeknownst to us, before we went on work detail some of the Chinese went out and hid in the hills. One day Joel Adams went out on work detail and decided to sneak out over the hill and try to escape. They shot him in the leg. We brought a wagon up there, put some straw in it, and put Joel on it so they could take him over to Wonju to the hospital and have his leg fixed. Just before they took him away, he said, “I got my Purple Heart. I got my Purple Heart.” I still remember that. He made it out of Korea okay but he died a few years back. He used to come to some of our reunions. A real nice guy.
Some of the work they had us do was silly. They made us dig bomb holes in the back and dig slit trenches. But we couldn't dig a straight trench. We had to zig zag. We got them all dug out and then they made us fill them in again when there wasn't enough work for us to do on wood detail. All of the houses in the camp needed a lot of wood to keep the fires going in the wintertime. The fire in Korean houses burned all day long so we had to get a lot of wood. They brought in an axe from Sweden or someplace, but it was just axe head with no handle. They said we had to make a handle. I was jack of all trades, so I became the official axe handle maker. I picked up a piece of wood that was nice and I skinned it. They trusted me and gave me a damned knife. I skinned the wood all down to make axe handles. I made four or five handles, I guess. The guys were out there chopping in the woods and suddenly they would hit the axe handle on something and "BANG"--the handle broke off. So I'd have to make another handle.
The guards told us why we had all been sent to Camp 2. We were 130-some prisoners considered to be "reactionary." On page 301 of Max Hastings' book, "The Korean War," it says:
We "reactionaries" who were together found strength in each other. Arden Rowley, Dave Fortune, Lloyd Pate and I are good friends still today. Arden has a book. I was in the same camp with him. I never met Lloyd while I was in Korea, but I was kept prisoner not too far away from where they kept him. Pate, Frazier, and Kenney were kept together down in a hole and the Chinese would not let them associate with the rest of the prisoners. Kenney was a British guy. He won the Victoria Cross while he was in Korea. That is the same as our Medal of Honor. He fought the Chinese guards and hit a couple of them. They hung him up by his thumbs so his toes barely touched the ground and they beat the heck out of him. I think that was before Camp 2, because by Camp 2 he was down in the pit. During our POW reunion in 1999, Dave Fortune and I talked about the guys in the pit. We remembered that we furnished their food. Like I told Lloyd Pate at the same reunion, here the rest of us prisoners were at Camp 2, going out on wood detail, as well as going to down to the barge to get not only our food, but also to bring up the food for Pate and the rest of those who were lying down there in the hole, sitting around doing nothing. We even had to cook it for them and bring it down to them. Frazier tried to escape from the pit but they caught him and gave him four years at hard labor. Now how can someone be a prisoner in the first place and then have their captors give them hard labor? That was their stupid mind.
Their building was down the hill a ways. Our barracks was on a kind of grade. I could sit on my front porch and look down the hill where the road was. That’s where they used to butcher the hogs. That’s another thing too. They used to give us a hog every two weeks. One hog for 130 guys—well, 160 counting the guys down in the pit because, as I said, we had to feed them too. The hogs were Korean hogs that were skin and bones more or less. What they did was bring a bunch of hogs up and then they dumped them into our trenches up the hill. That’s where we kept them. When they got ready to butcher one, they just went down there, grabbed hold of one of them, and dragged him out of there. They hauled him down the hill to where they had a place set up to heat the water. They doused the hog in the water and then they had to scrape him because Korean hogs were like hogs in Tennessee. They were like a wild boar in that they had long black hair on them. The Chinese didn't throw anything away on that hog except the squeal. They even cut him at the throat and caught the blood to make blood pudding out of. We weren't allowed to do the cutting because the knives they used were so big. The Chinese cut the hog and then we had to soak and boil him in hot water and drag him out of there. After that the Chinese came along and cut his hoof in the back. They took a steel rod, stuck it through the hog, and then pulled the skin away from his hide. In order to scrape him, the guys tied raw hide around the hog and then blew him up like a balloon. After he was puffed up, we could scrape him. Otherwise he was just wrinkles and we would never have been able to scrape him. Then they let us cook it.
Our cook was a mess sergeant in the army. He was from Massachusetts. Boy, could he do fabulous things with that food. The first two weeks we were there, the cook was a black guy called Richard Cooke. We got his hind end out of there because he was no cook. The guy from Massachusetts was. For one thing, he got what they called dicons. They were like a big white sugar beet that had a white radish taste to it. They gave him some oil and then they give him some flour. One time the guards made twenty of us walk six miles over to a Korean camp and then six miles back, each carrying a bag of flour in sixty below zero weather. I asked them why they didn't use the mule since we had a mule train assigned to us--a Chinese guy with a mule train. He didn't have mules, but he had three horses. The Chinese didn’t have reins on their horses. Instead, they used a whip and a big, long cane pole. If he wanted the horse to go straight ahead he hit the horse in the hind end or the back of the neck. But if he wanted the horse to turn, he hit the horse on the side. I told the Chinese that I wanted the mules to help carry the flour but they said it was too cold for a mule. It was too cold for us, too, but we had to go out in that weather to bring back the flour. After I got out of the military, I tried to get my frostbite confirmed because on that trip to get the flour I came back with my face all red around my beard and my moustache. In fact, my moustache had icicles all the way across and my nose was frozen shut. I took that bag of flour and put it down on my face to try to protect my face from the cold. All anybody could see was my eyes when I was going through town. Walking down to get the flour, the winds were behind us on our backs. Coming back with a bag of flour, the wind was hitting us in the face. I have skin problems to this day because of that trip to get the flour. I have an awful lot of dead skin on my face.
There were 132 of us at Camp 2 after Little Switch. On June 2, 1953, they suddenly broke up Camp 2 and they sent us to camps where we had never been before. I was sent to Camp 5 and I didn’t know anybody there. When people at Camp 5 asked me where I came from, I didn't know what to tell them because I didn't know where Camp 2 was other than it was "over there someplace in the mountains."
They rescinded the sentences of Lloyd Pate, Frazier, and some of the others who were considered "the baddest of the bad." When they moved them back to Camp 5, they just let them go. They didn’t take them back into irons or chains, nor did they isolate them like they did at Camp 2. They wanted the others to see them, but we couldn't talk to them. That was a no no. Even while I was standing at attention that time at Camp 1, if a guy come by and I saw him out of the corner of my eye, I couldn’t talk to him or anything. I just was alone. When we were being punished, we were by our lonesome.
I was at Camp 5 for four days. It was located at Pyuktong on the Yalu River, as far north as we could go and still be in North Korea. It was on a peninsula sticking out in the Yalu. We used to go swimming off a point where there was a diving board. The tides in the Yalu River were something else. One time we could go out there and be way up above the water. The next time, the water could be right there because the tide went up and down. I don't think anybody got killed in the water. Nobody tried to swim across to Manchuria because it was a long way across. That booger is as big as the Mississippi, you know. Probably bigger.
I couldn't believe it when we got to Camp 5. We had bunks! I was on a bottom bunk and Robert Wiggle was on a top bunk. I forget who was in the bunk with him. There were only four guys to a room in Camp 5. In my room there was Wiggle (from Detroit), Tommy Peterson, a guy that I will simply refer to as Howard, and me. In 2006, at an ex-POW reunion in Nashville, I learned that the Chinese had assigned a "cooperator" (spy) to each room to try to get information on the other POWs. Howard was the Chinese cooperator in our room.
Robert Wiggle went out fishing all the time in the Yalu River. One day the little Chinese cook went down there, dumped a stick of dynamite in the water, and blasted the fish out of the water so they would all come to the top. Meanwhile, there was Robert, out there trying to catch fish with a hook made out of an old piece of wire and stuff. But he liked it. Anyway, I said to him, "Hey, where does this guy (Howard) go all the time?" Robert said, "Oh, he goes up to the Chinese and has dinner them." I said, "You’ve got to be kidding me!" I guess he and the Chinese had a nice little meeting along with their meal.
They gave me a razor. It was the first time I had ever had a Swedish razor. I got a blade, a regular razor, and some soap. I was out there lathering up my face and shaving on the front porch when a Chinese photographer started taking my picture. I turned my back on him because I didn't want him taking my picture. He jumped up off the ground and hollered, “You broke the agreement. You broke the agreement.” Pretty soon he left and then a Chinese runner came down to get me. Off I went to headquarters. Chang--the camp commander in Camp 5--was notorious for playing with his guns like a cowboy--said to me, “You came from another camp. You’re supposed to be here and not cause any trouble." I should have kept quiet right then. I remember him saying that I was only going to be there a short while so I had better behave. He said, “Do you understand?” I told him that I did. He said, “We have agreement. Chinese go to river, take picture." I said that I didn’t make any agreement. He said that Frank Noel, a photographer from the Associated Press, was to take a picture and then the Chinese were to take a picture.
Noel went to Panmunjom along with the others in his party--national press corps, military police, APC, or whoever they were. They gave him a camera, took him to Camp 5, and there he took pictures of the guys doing things. He sent the pictures back to Panmunjom and they came out in the paper in the States. Meanwhile, the Chinese took pictures and sent them over to China so that the Chinese people could read and see pictures about the beautiful way they were treating us. So anyway, the guard gave me orders to do as I was told. He said, "Do you understand?" I said I did. Then he said, "Are you sure you understand?" He pulled out that gun and BANG! I thought the son of a gun was going to shoot me. He shot right beside my ear. Now I’ve got a hole in my ear drum because he shot so close beside my ear. The son of a gun went right through the wall, I guess unless it had a blank in it. But it scared the shit out of me. I went back in with him and the guy never came back to take my picture anymore. It was done.
I went up there one time. I sneaked into that room where they used to meet and I looked at some of the papers they were writing. It was sickening. Because this guy (Howard) wrote about how glorious the Chinese treated him and all the great things they had for him. I thought, "That guy’s got to be sick. I mean where’s all this good food?" A few times we had a big shot from the Communist party in Britain. Her last name was Quinn. When she came over they put a big, big feast out on the table while they were taking pictures. As soon as they were finished taking pictures and she was gone, they came and took the food away. The guys who were there told me that they didn’t get to eat any of the food. The speaker for the Communist party in Australia came over once, too. His name was Wilbur or Wilmer or something. Then there was a guy in camp. I forget what his name was, but his mother and father were members of the Communist party from California. But he didn’t get any better treatment than I did, really. In fact, I think that when the Chinese found out they couldn’t do anything to us, we actually got better treatment because they just left us alone after that. They didn’t try to come there and say we had to do this and we had to do that. They used to work our ass off.
I was at Camp 5 from June 2, 1953 to August 5. I don’t even remember what the food tasted like. I wasn’t there that long. It was evidently sufficient enough. We got canned meat there. The Turks wouldn’t eat pork but they would eat beef, so we gave them our beef for their pork.
There was a Greek in captivity at Camp 5. He was Antonio Sandorinaios from Athens, Greece. Some Australians taught Antonio how to speak English, but he didn't let the Chinese know it. When they come around, he wouldn’t talk to them. The Australians were: Thomas H.J. Hollis, Robert Parker, Donald P. Buck, and Keith R. Gwynther. These were English-speaking POWs. Antonio (Tony) went back to Greece after the war, but then migrated to Australia later on.
Release to Freedom
At this point in time, everything was settled in the Korean War but the POW question. China demanded all the POWs back and they figured they were going to send all the records back. But when it got down to talking about the nitty gritty, there were problems. Come to find out, if they’re going to give us five, we’re only going to give you 10 back. And we’re going to keep 100 Americans. China said oh boy we’re going to keep all of those we can because we’re worth the trade. See, it was not a prisoner give back. It was a prisoner exchange. Eight of us for 200 of them. They would not send any more until they got their 200. It went back and forth like this.
It just so happens that we were the first ones to be exchanged. By 10 a.m. we had broken up the camp, got on trucks, and were moved out. I found out later from a member of the Australian Red Cross that the Red Cross was supposed to be there at noon to bring packages to us. That didn't happen, however. The Chinese never came up and said that we were going to go, but when we went through other camps, we knew that we were on our way back. I got a bar of soap, a comb, a toothbrush, and some toothpowder from the Chinese. Apparently the guys up at Camp 1 got a carton of cigarettes and a bunch of goodies from the Red Cross.
The day they released me they lined me up with seven other guys. They took eight of us at a time on a truck to Kaesong across from Panmunjom. It was like an assembly line with eight guys standing by a truck ready to go the next trip, and eight already on the truck going. A Chinese guy that I had never seen before was wearing a little yellow ribbon that I guess gave him the authority to be down there. He must have been a head honcho there. He said, "Mossman, come." When I asked him, "Come where?" he said, "Never mind. Just come." He wanted to take me behind a building and search me for anything I might be trying to smuggle out of North Korea. There was an Australian Red Cross worker there who told me to just go with the Chinese guy and not make any waves. He said for me to wait until I got across to the American side. So I went with him and I got behind a building. They took my clothes off and they started cutting the seams of my pockets and my pants to look inside of them. I said, "What the heck are you looking for?" They thought I had papers. I told them, "I don't have any papers, you dumb ass. I’ve got it all up here." They let me put my rag tags back on, ragged as they were, and go back and get on the truck. When I got on the truck, some of the guys were sitting in one part of the truck and I was sitting away from them. The Chinese guy sat right beside me. That son of a gun Chinese sat beside me all the way down. I got dog tracked all the way down from up north. I had my own private watch dog. They never officially told us that we were leaving Camp 5 until we got on the train that took us to Kaesong.
Once we got to Panmunjom, all eight of us were taken down to a tent. We went through one end of it and in the middle there was an American colonel. We gave him our name and he welcomed us back. Then we went to the other end of the tent and two Marines were waiting to pick us up. They were happy and greeted us with "Welcome Back!" We didn't have to climb up in the truck at all. When I started to climb up into it, the Marines picked me right up and put me in there. I didn't even have to have the strength to get up and sit down. From there we went on a long, winding road to where there was a whole bunch of tents set up about ten miles away. There was a big high fence and they said that Horace Hight was on the other side of it with his girls. Horace Hight was a band leader who was also famous for having an amateur talent show on radio. I didn't get to see him, though, because once I got inside I was surprised to see a neighbor of mine from Flint, Michigan. He lived on Bergen Street, five streets back from me in Flint. His mother and my mother conversed back and forth. Now he was wearing an Air Force uniform and he was a volunteer over in Korea. He heard that I was in Kaesong. He said to me, "They're looking for a red head over there in Kaesong who is causing all kinds of trouble." I told him that I wasn't causing any trouble. There was a television crew set up to interview returning POWs. Apparently there were two red-heads--that guy and me. He was one of the first guys captured on July 12, 1950. My friend from Flint offered to get me an ice cream cone and it was great.
The television crew interviewed that other red-head because I could hear him talking on the loudspeakers. After I ate the ice cream, we started going through the processing. I was still wearing a Chinese uniform, so went to the tent to take a shower, get my new clothes, and be deloused. In the next section, they shot me full of more delousing powder. They must have really thought we were bad. We got shoes, socks, and stuff like that, and put on the clean clothes.
After that I was told to go around in the back and lay down on a cot for about an hour to rest up before the helicopter came. There were a whole bunch of cots there. I looked around and I was the only guy in there at the time. I no sooner sat on the cot when here came a three-star general. He knew that I was the redhead they actually wanted to interview. I talked to him for an hour. I told him about different things that happened. Pretty soon two guys came up and stood there for a while. They didn’t want to interrupt the general but finally they said, "Sir, we’re going to have to take him because he’s got to get on that helicopter." Once I got on the helicopter, I was flown to Inchon.
When I got there, they handed me a piece of paper with a list of Army rules and regulations. I wasn't allowed to discuss anything with the press because of the fact that there were still guys being exchanged. They didn’t want anything to go wrong with the exchange yet. It was okay that I had talked to the army general, but I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone else about what I had seen as a POW.
I don’t know when I got "the worm," but almost all the POWs that came back from Korea had a tape worm in them. When I got to Inchon, the first thing they gave us was a pill to kill the tape worm. I went to the toilet to go to the bathroom. I looked down and there was a worm about a foot long and a lot bigger than an angle worm. It was about as big around as my thumb.
At Inchon, we boarded the General Hasse. It had 1200 Marines returning home and 400 ex-POWs. When we got out to sea, the officers began to interrogate and psychoanalyze us. There was a major who was a provost marshal. About four days into the trip back, there were a few guys who didn’t like what some of the prisoners were doing, so they started beating them up. Some of the prisoners were put in protective custody to save their lives so they wouldn't get thrown overboard. They were ex-prisoners of war who had ratted on somebody and now the person they had ratted on was seeking revenge. They weren't so much collaborators as guys who had talked out of turn. Although they asked me repeatedly, I never told a Chinese what division or regiment I was from or my name, rank or serial number. But they knew. Somebody told them. "Yeh, Mossman. He’s from B Company." The "revenge" I'm talking about was beating them up. A few fisticuffs. I remember that we could take showers with sea water and then rinse off with fresh water on the ship. Once when I was standing in the ship's shower, a guy came in there to hide back in a corner. He said, "They're going to kill me. They're going to kill me." I said, "Hey, you made the mistake--not me."
Back in the States
When the ship docked in August of 1953, my sister was waiting for me. She lived in Danville, California and knew the ship was coming in. My mother and father couldn't make it because they were not in any physical shape to make the trip. The Red Cross had sent them a telegram when we were at Inchon telling them the name of the ship and when it would be arriving. It was an emotional time for me. In the four years that I had been gone, my grandma had died. She was 80 years old. My sister lived in San Leandro when I saw her last at Camp Stoneman. When I got back from Korea, she had moved to Danville.
The first thing I did when I got off the ship was hit the ground. I remember that there was a Hollywood actress named Marla Powers standing there on the dock singing songs and stuff to us. She was singing to a band but nobody was paying any attention to her. Instead, we came down that gangplank bang, bang, bang, as fast as we could. I had already seen my sister from the deck of the ship. The ex-prisoners were the first ones off the ship. The Marines had to wait until they got us 400 guys off the ship first. left the Marines up there until they got us 400 guys off. There were 400 prisoners on there. And they were the guys that came off last.
After processing, I came home for a 30-day furlough, then I was sent to Ft. Sheridan. I thought I was going to get a discharge but I found out that I had orders to go up to Great Lakes. The army said that I had too much wrong with me to be released yet. When they had weighed me at Inchon, I only weighed 104 pounds. I was weak and run down and I had a hernia. I had to have 35 fillings in my teeth and six teeth had to be pulled. They wanted me to build me up because I was anemic. By the time I went home and ate for a month, I was starting to get bigger, but I still was small and I still wore the same uniform size. I think I had a 32-inch gear form. I’ve got pictures of me how skinny I was.
I’m not going to say his name in this memoir, but in 1957 I got a summons to appear in federal court as a witness in a case where a former POW (I'll call him "Bayes") was being court martialed for collaborating with the enemy. When I first met him in Camp 1, he had the run of the camp. The Chinese let him go anyplace. In Camp 1, the Chinese required that we write an autobiography about ourselves. We were supposed to write when we were born and things that had happened in our life and all this other stuff. They gave us paper and pen to write it, but I gave the piece of paper back to them. I refused to write an autobiography. The Chinese sent this collaborator down to convince about six or seven us to go ahead and write one. We told him to shove it up his ass. But we were told that if we didn't write an autobiography, some of the other prisoners would be punished. It wasn't right that others would be punished for what someone else did or didn't do. So one of the guys said, "All right. I'll write one." He wrote that his name was Sam Spade and his dad was a police chief in Chicago and that he was a private detective. A bunch of lies, you know. And then he gave it to them. I think they probably knew it was a lie. Later in Camp 2, Bayes was put in confinement with those prisoners considered to be reactionaries. Pate and Frazier knew all about Bayes. They never said anything to Bayes--at least nothing important--all the time they were down there.
Then in 1957, I got a summons from the federal government. I was at home when an Army major came up from Flint and handed me a subpoena to be in a courtroom in California on Monday. This was Friday night. I said, "Son of gun." They paid for my flight out there and put me up in an officers club out there in California. I was surprised to find out that I was a witness for the defense. I said, "You've got to be kidding me." Sergeant Frazier was there and he asked me if I was a witness. I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. The other guys were for the prosecution and I was for the defense. Frazier told the prosecuting attorney all about me and I told the defense attorney that I could hurt his client more than I could help him. Apparently he didn't remember some of the stuff that he did to me that would come out in the court. He said they had to go with what they had. I said, "Well, okay." At Camp 5 I was in a group with Wiggle, R.A. Smith, and Bayes. Bayes dog tracked me all the time we were in Camp 5. He wanted to set up a secret organization where we had to do this. We had to do that. My reply was always, “Yeh. That might be a good idea.” I never spoke bad to him but I told him that I would never put anything down on paper. He said, "We’ve got to set up an escape committee and start getting some guys out of here." I didn’t realize at the time that he was trying to lead me on more or less. I think he was trying to get back in with the rest of us because he knew the handwriting was on the wall.
Anyway, there I was in the courtroom. I had to get sworn in and then I had to testify. The defense guy questioned me and asked me about some things I knew about Bayes. Then the prosecutor got up and said that he had to first establish my character. He said, "Were you forced to stand at attention?" I said, "Yes sir." He asked me how many hours I stood at attention and I told him 18 hours. He asked what had caused me to have to stand at attention and I told him that I had called one of them a bad name. There were women and a lot of generals in the courtroom, but when he asked me what I had said to the guard I told him, "I said 'Fuck you.'" The court reporter was so shocked she stopped typing momentarily. Then he went on. He said, "Do you know Sergeant Frazier?" I said, "Yes sir." He said, "Do you know Thomas Bayes?" Again, I said yes. He said, "Are they friends?" I told him that Sergeant Frazier was my friend but that Bayes was just an acquaintance. He asked me what the difference was between an acquaintance and a friend. I told him that an acquaintance was just someone that I knew but that a friend was somebody that I would go to the plate for. Then the incident with the autobiography came up. I told the court how the Chinese had sent Bayes down to try to get information out of us. Bayes didn't remember that I was one of the prisoners he tried to convince to write the autobiography in Camp 1. My testimony didn't help Bayes' defense any.
When I was off the witness stand and out of oath, I could converse with everybody outside the courtroom. I said, "Hey, I told you that my testimony would hurt you more than it would help you. You should never have asked me to get up on that witness stand." He was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years in prison. I think they suspended it though. Thomas Lyke was from Texas and so was Bayes. Thomas said his sentence was suspended. I think that he tried to get a new trial and that's why it was suspended. But they did not take back his dishonorable discharge or give him back pay. All of his pay was forfeited and anything due to him then or in the future was forfeited when they gave him a general court martial and dishonorable discharge. That's the worst thing you can get--a dishonorable discharge. The fact that my testimony helped find him guilty always has bothered me. I've mellowed as I've gotten older and I have realized that some of those guys had particular breaking points. I had a high breaking point and I'm proud that I could tell them to kiss my hind end, whether it was when I was asked to write an autobiography or when I was told to study. I've been my own person all of my life. It was the way I was brought up.
Being a prisoner of war in the Korean War changed me. It made me like this--not having any peace. I remember being a POW every day of my life. It never goes away. Not a day goes by that I don't think back about it. The war always comes back. The prison camp always comes back. I didn't need any notes to write this memoir. I've got everything in my head as long as I have my memory. I haven't told all of it. I just went through little parts. There were other things that happened--things that happened day to day. I almost remember every day I was in prison camp. I remember what everybody said, as well as a lot since of what guys said to me. I remember what I was doing on certain days. I haven't talked about the really bad things.
I think I’m level headed, but now I have a temper because of my post stress syndrome. I get real mad sometimes, it lasts for a while, but then it goes. My wife is no longer living, but while she was alive, she was my controller. We would be going down the road and somebody would cut me off and she would say, "Take it easy." But I don’t have that now and I have to watch myself. I just grit my teeth now. When I was a kid I went hunting with my father. I’m not afraid to kill pheasants and deer and whatever then. I don’t hunt anymore. Maybe I’m against killing now.
I often think back on my combat experiences before I was captured, too. My wife said that I talked in my sleep and would say things like, "Come on you guys." She said that a couple of times I hit her, but I don't remember that. I told her to wake me up when I got like that but she said she didn't want to even touch me, "You come out of that bed like you're flying," she said. "I don't want to touch you when you're having bad dreams because you think you're still back in Korea." I told her that I wanted her to wake me up. I didn't want to hit her. I never would want to hurt her. I guess I had dreams that I didn't even know I was having because I was asleep at the time.
I have physical problems associated with my time in Korea that bother me still today. I got a bone infection from shrapnel, so they had to take skin from my belly and graft it on my left leg. The process was much more complicated back then than it is today. They had to adjust muscles, bones, and veins back then. The scars are fading, I guess, but I have difficulty when I walk even today.
It wasn't until after 1995 that I finally got my Purple Heart medal. I had to put in for it. Even with the scars and my records at Great Lakes Naval Hospital, it took me eleven months to get the medal after I applied for it. In 1995 when they dedicated the Korean War Memorial in Washington DC, I worked the Second Division Information Booth for the 2nd Division. Chuck Novak and I worked there every day. Right beside us was the booth for the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Jesse Helms was the national commander at the time. I told him about my injury and how I never got my Purple Heart medal. He told me that he could get it for me, even though I wasn't a member of the order. All of the sudden, I went out to the mail box one day and there was a big box. I opened it and there was my Purple Heart in it. I said, "Those cheap son of a guns." I wanted it pinned on me like everybody else. But I found out later that the one I got is original. They’re a lot different than the reproduction ones. Mine is solid. The ones for sale in military magazines and stuff are often hollow. There’s a world of difference between them. Mine came with my name engraved on the back and everything. It’s an official Purple Heart that the Army gave me.
I didn't try to contact Frank Plocha's family when I got back to the States. I didn’t think it was right then. In 1995 when we dedicated the memorial in Washington DC, I went over to the place where they had the printouts. I wanted to see what they had for Frank Plocha. They had it down that he died the 18th of May of 1951. I said, "No he didn’t. He died right beside me during the night in 1951. He was a prisoner of war." They said they had him down as MIA on the 18th of May but I told them they were wrong and they had to change it. When I told them I wasn't a relative, however, they said that only the next of kin could mage changes. I told them that that was stupid. I wouldn't tell them if I didn't know for a fact that my foxhole buddy died right beside me. This Christmas I went to the kiosk in Washington DC and found that they had changed Frank Plocha's information. He was listed as a prisoner of war that he died of malnutrition June 9, 1951.
I think that the United States was right to go to Korea in 1950. If they hadn't, there would be no more South Korea. I also think, however, that some of the things that happened in the Korean War were messed up. I think that "Dugout Douglas" MacArthur was really stupid. I have felt all along that if only we had gone up there in the first part of the war, I might not have had to go there at all. Once they got to Kunu-ri and the Chosin Reservoir, the American forces should have stopped right there. They were still some 50 miles from the border. They should have let the South Koreans go up there and capture the few remaining North Koreans that were up there and they would have had the whole damned country right today. It would be all Korea. Then we could have drawn our forces out of there gradually and China would not even matter. The only reason they put those Chinese soldiers in there in October was because MacArthur kept saying that he was going to shove to the Yalu and go to Pyongyang. And he did. The 31st Infantry went up the side of the Chosin Reservoir and got all the way to the Yalu River. They were sitting there in foxholes with machineguns pointed toward China.
I have a girl and a boy, ages 32 and 40. I have talked to them about North Korea some, but not in detail. I didn't tell my wife the war stuff either. I don't think she wanted to know. She never really pressured me to tell her. My son wants to know. He wants me to get a tape recorder and put down everything that I can remember. One time when he was kid in school he wrote about POWs as a high school project, knowing that I was one. He made a scrapbook. He wrote about the German prisoners in World War I, the prisoners in Andersonville, and those in Vietnam. When he got to Korea he wrote the teacher a note. He said, "This section is just too sensitive. I cannot continue to write any more." I had told him that it was no picnic. Gradually I provided more details to him. I think he realizes that I wouldn’t be like I am (sometimes I get really mad) if it wasn’t for my POW experience.
I used to hold everything in and wouldn’t say anything to anybody. The guys at work didn’t know that I was a prisoner of war for a long, long time because I never said anything. Whether I was ashamed or not I don’t remember. I used to have ulcers frequently. I would have an ulcer, it would heal, and then I’d have another ulcer. Finally I had three ulcers all at the same time and that’s when I had three-fifths of my stomach removed in 1970. Dr. Evanoff told me to let my feelings out. Say what I had to say and get it out of there. He said not to worry what people think. He said that I was keeping this balled up inside of me and it was tearing me up inside. He said I had to let it out and that people would understand after a while. So that’s what I started to do. A guy I used to work with told me around the time I retired, "I told those bastards to leave you alone. If they had gone through what you had, they would understand why you are the way you are. None of them can hold a candle to you." Some of my co-workers used to get me pissed just to see what I would do. He said I used to tell them that. I don’t want to blow myself up about surviving what I did in Korea. Never did.
What upsets me most about being a former POW is that people sometimes think I'm easy. They think that because I give in once and surrendered, I’ll give in all the time. I didn't consider myself a coward. Like I said earlier, I would have shot the son of a gun that captured me if Richardson hadn't stood up in my line of fire. I didn't want to shoot him. I know that if I had shot the Chinese guy, I would probably have been dead, but I was ready to shoot him and the other guy that was coming down the hill. I had just got through killing some of the other ones and I would have killed those two as well if it hadn't been for Richardson standing up. The thing about it is, I didn’t know those guys. I had never met them before in my life. They were Chinese communist soldiers coming at me trying to kill me and I was trying to kill them. I used to think of my mother back in Michigan, worrying about me being over there in Korea--whether I was killed or not. I killed many a Chinaman. Here those Chinese soldiers' mothers were, back in China worrying about their sons, and I killed them. Sometimes that bothers me. I think, "Geez, why did that have to happen? Some greedy son of a gun dictator didn't want us in there. He didn't want South Korea to take over North Korea. That’s what it all boiled down to. Because it was happening. North Korea was beaten until the Chinese came in and changed the whole war.
Actually, there wouldn’t be any South Korea if it wasn't for the United States and 19 other countries. Because they were down at the Pusan Perimeter. They would have pushed the South Koreans into the sea and taken over the whole country. The whole of Korea would be Communist right today. North Korea would be one Korea and Kim Il Sung would be running the thing instead of the North Koreans starving. South Korea wouldn’t have half the stuff down in South Korea that they’ve got today. You would be amazed at what they’ve accomplished in 40-some years. I went back to Korea in 1990. It was like another world compared to what it was in 1950-53. I went back on the 40th revisit for the 2nd Division. In fact we had three busloads. Some of the French and some of the Dutch came back for the reunion, too. The Dutch were attached to the 38th Infantry and the French were attached to the 23rd Infantry. Many people don’t realize that the French brigade was made up of all French foreign legionnaires. They came from Vietnam to Korea and then France replaced them. In order to get them to Korea as quickly as they did, the United States agreed to furnish Vietnam with American military advisors. They were the VMAG--Vietnam Military Advisory Group--sent down to Vietnam to advise the Vietnamese army on how to fight the enemy.
I wasn't hesitant to go back to Korea. I enjoyed. In fact, I took my wife over there. For years I had told my wife about the mountains, how high the hills were, and how hard it was to get up over the top of them. I also told her about some of the battles. Then, like I said, she knew that I had had a few nightmares. She knew some of the problems I had had. At that time I wasn’t getting any PTSD but she knew that I should have been getting it. That was called "nerves" then. When I married my wife I was getting 40 percent disability, then they reduced it to 20 percent. Then from 20 it went down to 10. Then it was a struggle going from 10 to 20 to 30 to 40 to 70 to 100.
Going to Korea helped me. Climbing up to Hill 1051 helped more than anything, because when I got up there, the foxholes were still there. Chuck Novak, Bruce Ritter from Able Company, Colonel Clarke who was my platoon leader, and I climbed up to Hill 1051 to go back to the place of that last battle and our capture. We got a picture of all four of us on our way back up there. The thing about it is, the bus we were on stopped at a park in a big resort area up by the 38th parallel. Coming back on the bus I talked to the bus driver about 1051. He got out and stopped an old farmer who was plowing. He asked him where 1051 was. He pointed to it. As we started down the road again, I looked up there through the valley and saw the twin peaks and the big stone on top. I said, "There it is," and I think I started to cry. I said, "Geez, there it is. There it is." Everybody on the bus was consoling me.
The next day I told Colonel Clarke that I had found it. I saw it from the bus. We got the Eighth Army historian, who had a truck with two seats in it. He said he could only take four guys. He took me, Bruce Ritter, Chuck Novak, and Colonel Clarke. Some other guys wanted to go, but there wasn’t room for them. We went up the back way, which was also the highest way. We should have gone one more valley back. That’s where battalion was and everything. That was the low hill. Then we would have been over the hill and we would not have had to climb that big hill. It took us three hours to get there to this side. That’s where Able Company got it. It took us two hours to get back down.
I told the historian that in 1951 I could go up there in 45 minutes. In 1990, it took me three hours. When we got up there, Colonel Clarke went over to where the stone was. I sat there for a few minutes and I told Chuck that I could hear them. He said, "Hear who?" I said, "I think their spirits are here. I think the spirits of the ones that died here are still lingering here." And I just sat there for a while. I thought, "I hope you guys are okay. One of these days I’m going to be joining you." I think I heard them say, "Okay. We’re waiting on you." Sometimes I get emotional thinking back about them and what happened that day. Hill 1051 is now a famous hill over there in Korea. The Koreans have climbing clubs that go up there and hang tags and colored ribbons--yellow, green, blue--that indicate that different climbing clubs spent the day going up that mountain. They have lunch up there and come back down. That's 1,051 meters.
I don't have regrets about Korea. I wish that everybody could have lived, not just me. I don’t know why God picked me to live, but I did. I’m on this earth now and I try to do my best to make people understand the fact that, "Hey. Those guys wanted to live, but they died. They died over there to make our country better and to help a neighbor. We helped Korea. People we never knew who didn’t know us. We went over and helped them.
When I went over in to Korea in 1990, there was a Korean-born man on the airplane, going back to Korea to see his family. When he found out that I was a former prisoner of war, he wouldn’t let me do anything. I couldn’t have been treated better in my life. Every two or three minutes he said, "Are you okay? Can I get you a glass of water? Can I get you this? Can I get you that?" He really made me feel like I had really helped somebody do something. And the people over there when we were there visiting--they were just wonderful. They just couldn't do enough for us. We went to this one valley and an old woman came out. She was just a kid when the battles were going on. She hid in the caves and so on. She was just happy as can be.
As to my own contribution to the Korean War, I was just one of thousands who did what they wanted me to do. I just did my duty the best I could and I did it as long as I could. I also did it after I was captured. I tried to give them just as hard of a time as I could give them. Like I said, I learned how far I could stretch them. I could protest to a certain limit and then I had to back off because I was afraid they would kill me--which they probably would have if I had gone too far. I never got a chance to haul off and hit back at them. Like that day I was standing at attention. I got tired of them. But I thought, "You son of a bitches aren't going to see me go over. I’ll stand here just as long as you make me." And maybe that’s why I was able to do it. Because after a while I just was dead. My legs were dead. I was numb. I just stand there without even thinking where I was at. I was just there. I was doing that so I could show those son of a bitches I could do it.
The following names of fellow POWs are written in a notebook that I brought home to the States from Korea:
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