Minutes from Freedom,
Yet Missing Forever

by John Zimmerlee

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The cease-fire agreement was signed at the end of the Korean War. The Communists were bringing our previously captured men down from the prison camps and housing them in the village of Kaesong where they waited for us to read their names from our POW list. Then the Communists would retrieve them from Kaesong and deliver them to Freedom Village for release.  This was standard practice during the months of August and September 1953.

When we ran out of names of known POWs, we folded up the chairs, tables, and tents. Recently-released men started shouting, “Where’s Allen, Beardall, Bell, Brennan, and Culbertson?”  “What about Dougherty, Gross, Guthrie, & Hamblin?” ....  “I just spent the last six days with Hawkins, Koontz, Martin, Miller, and Rountree.... Where are they?”

It was too late! The Chinese had loaded them up and hauled them away . . . never to be heard from again. We know of these names because Henry Nielsen and Jack Henderson started a list which resulted in hundreds of names, which was telexed twice in September 1953, yet conveniently lost over the years.
When the list was thought to be found and about to be declassified in August 2015, the document went mysteriously missing again.

Yet, there is hope. Through private research, each debriefing report of thousands of returned ex-POWs is being scrutinized for comments about men last seen alive in camp or in Kaesong August/September 1953 . . . who did not come home.

We have evidence that repatriated Eugene Thronson stated that he saw ‘Robert Alreds’ in Camp 1 in August 1953. That name doesn’t appear in the unaccounted-for list, but ‘Robert Allred’ does and he went missing 21 April 1951. Oddly, Eugene Thronson’s debrief was withdrawn from the box at the Archives on 27 July 1989 and hasn’t been available for review since.

Ex-POW William Ring recalled a Billy Anderson at Camp 5 in August 1953. Charles Panco recalled an Anderson of 24th Division was taken from camp the day the Armistice was signed, destination unknown. Yet our government seemed to be content that he died in captivity in 1951 when they removed him from the 944 List in 1954.

David Apt was supposedly KIA on 21 November 1950, yet Will Remus recalled an “Apte” alive on 13 August 1953 at Camp 1. Hmmmm?

William Botter was known to be a POW and our government kept him on a “Believed Alive and in Captivity list until 1984. Could he actually be the ‘Bottler’ whom Harold Souza had seen alive 15 August 1953 . . . but didn’t come home?

While informing the family that Richard Bower is merely MIA, our government listed him as “Believed POW” on a Navy/Marine list submitted to the Communists in 1951. Then Ken Porter reported seeing a Marine ‘Bowers’ in Camp 3 on 28 August 1953. Richard is the only ‘Bower(s)’ missing from the Marines.

While informing the family of Otis Broome that he was merely MIA on 8 August 1950, our government had him on a list of 944 men believed to be alive in enemy hands after the war. The list was reduced two times, but Otis was still on the list in 1984. Could it be because Clarence Banks saw him alive in Camp 5 in August 1953?

Charles Byers supposedly died in captivity in December 1950. He was definitely defying that when Oren Hanbaum spotted him alive in Camp 1 on 6 August 1953.

John Goery’s Marine aircraft went down 27 December 1952. Though not witnessed, he was labeled Killed-In-Action. Jack Perry defied that when he reported seeing him alive in Kaesong in September 1953 awaiting repatriation.

The family of Charles E. Lovett was told that Charles is simply MIA. Yet at the same time, our government was demanding his return in 1953. He was seen alive in Camp 3 by Curtin, Grape, Kostich, Adams, Gaddy, Thompson, Publicover, Servatius, Wolfe, Loutner, Moreland, Lamphier, and Latora. Loutner boldly signed a 546 form stating he saw Charles leaving Camp 3 alive 28 August 1953. Rather remarkable for a man labeled merely MIA.

And then there is William F. Harris, a Marine who went missing 8 December 1950. A body surfaced that was thought to be Harris, but the family wasn’t convinced and DNA could not verify as late as the year 2014. Perhaps, the family should receive Jack Perry’s debrief that states that he saw Harris alive in Kaesong awaiting repatriation in September 1953.

These are merely just a few of hundreds of similar live sightings of men left behind.

Though details are sketchy at best, the families deserve to have all documents and reports mentioning their loved-ones, even when their accuracy is in question.


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