Cover image for Remembered prisoners of a forgotten war : an oral history of the Korean War POWs
Remembered prisoners of a forgotten war : an oral history of the Korean War POWs
Carlson, Lewis H.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xv, 301 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
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DS921 .C37 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS921 .C37 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The Korean War POW remains the most maligned victim of all American wars. For nearly half a century, the media, general public, and even scholars have described hundreds of these prisoners as "brainwashed" victims who uncharacteristically caved in to their Communist captors or, even worse, as turncoats who betrayed their fellow soldiers. In either case, these boys apparently lacked the "right stuff" required of our brave sons.Here, at long last, is a chance to hear the true story of these courageous men in their own words - a story that, until now, has gone largely untold. Dr. Carlson debunks many of the popular myths of Korean War POWs in this devastating oral history that's as compelling and moving as it is informative. From the Tiger Death March to the paranoia here at home, Korean POWs suffered injustices on a scale few can comprehend. More than 40 percent of the 7,140 Americans taken prisoner died in captivity, and as haunting tales of the survivors unfold, it becomes clear that the goal of these men was simply to survive under the most terrible conditions.Each survivor's story is a unique and personal experience, from missionary teacher Larry Zeller's imprisonment in the death cells of P'yongyang and his first encounter with the infamous killer known as The Tiger, to Rubin Townsend's daring escape from a death march by jumping off a bridge in a blinding snowstorm. From capture to forced marches, isolation, permanent camps, and torture , Remembered Prisoners of a Forgotten War is one of the most fascinating and disturbing books on the Korean War in years - and a brutally honest account of the Korean POW experience, in the survivors' own words.

Author Notes

Dr. Lewis H. Carlson is a prolific author, a retired professor of history, and the director of American Studies at Western Michigan University

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Carlson's We Were Each Other's Prisoners was an oral history of WWII POWs; he returns to that form here, offering a well-researched account of the experience of American POWs and a few Western civilians captured by Communist forces during the Korean War. The many first-hand accounts here meld into a chronological narrative via Carlson's annotations and analysis that place reports of atrocities (such as death marches and mass executions) into a historical context. Typical aspects of prisoner-of-war life such as diet, mail as punishment or reward, "guard-baiting" and reprisal are offset by accounts of starvation, indoctrination, brutal executions and collaboration. The testimony's directness is potent: "When they got through shooting, they came around and stepped on everybody and pounded on them with their rifle butts." Postwar effects of incarceration on the former prisoners and their families are detailed; the wives emerge as heroes, pushing their husbands to treatment, enduring their nightmares and working to resocialize them. Carlson wrote the book, he notes, to counter popular misconceptions about Korean War POWs he feels were perpetuated by The Manchurian Candidate book and film (wherein a POW is brainwashed and sent to kill the U.S. president) and other Cold War cultural fallout. While the book is probably too weighted toward testimony to find general readers, buffs and survivors will take it to heart. (Apr. 2) Forecast: The significant percentage of African-American soldiers on the book's cover could broaden its appeal for browsers, but its description of the difficulties faced by soldiers specifically identified as black is limited. An academic marketing campaign targets what will probably be the book's largest audience. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Of the 7,140 Americans who were taken prisoner during the Korean War, about 40 percent died in captivity. Oddly, Korean War prisoners were not treated as heroes; instead, the popular press seemed to regard them at the time, and for some years afterward, as brainwashed turncoats or weaklings. Carlson (We Were Each Other's Prisoners: An Oral History of World War II) here argues that an America affected by the Red Menace and McCarthyism chose to blame the victims. He attempts to correct the misperception by demonstrating that the main causes of POW mortality were starvation, lack of medical treatment, and execution by their captors, using the voices of surviving prisoners as evidence. The narratives of the prisoners themselves are remarkable for their forthrightness and matter-of-fact tone. In many cases, the men's survival, under conditions of extreme privation, torture, and psychological pressure, is nothing short of amazing. This book will fit well into subject collections and should be buttressed with mainstream narrative histories. Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Remembered Prisoners of a Forgotten War 1 THREE PRISONERS OF WAR It is a melancholy state. You are in the power of the enemy. You owe your life to his humanity, your daily bread to his compassion. You must obey his orders, await his pleasure, possess your soul in patience. The days are very long, hours crawl like paralytic centipedes. Moreover, the whole atmosphere of prison is odious. Companions quarrel about trifles and get the last pleasure from each other's society. You feel a constant humiliation in being fenced in by railing and wire, watched by armed men, and webbed about by a tangle of regulations and restrictions. --Winston Churchill Since the narratives of Robert MacLean, Robert Coury, and Akira Chikami encompass so much of what Korean War prisoners suffered in common, they appear in their entirety in this chapter. These three men describe the shock of capture, the deadly marches northward, daily life in the permanent camps, interrogations and propaganda sessions, coping with sickness and death, repatriation and accusations of collaboration, and the long-term effects of captivity, all of which will be covered in greater depth in subsequent chapters. Two of these men served in the U.S. Army; one was in the U.S. Air Force. Two became career soldiers. The other took his discharge after repatriation. Although their stories contain individual differences, collectively they serve to introduce the reader to the POW experience. Biographical sketches of these three men and all the others whose narratives appear in this book can be found beginning on page 257. ROBERT A. MACLEAN I'm a glutton for punishment, and Memorial Day is undoubtedly the worst day of the year for me. I used to get so drunk I wouldn't even know my own name. Now just my blood pressure gets high. All day long the History Channel runs documentaries and movies about the Second World War andVietnam. Then the news programs show people visiting the Vietnam Wall in Washington or feature interviews with World War II veterans. I get so goddamn aggravated, just hoping that somewhere along the line someone will sneak in some recognition for our Korean War guys. How is it that the History Channel and A&E are always running World War II stuff? A lot of it is just a repeat of things we've seen a million times. The same thing is true of Vietnam. Why don't they put on something about our war? If I see something on World War II, I switch to another channel. If I see something on Vietnam, I get pissed off. Don't get me wrong. I don't blame the Vietnam or World War II veterans themselves. They deserve everything they've got. I just want some of our guys to get the credit they deserve. I don't know why I'm pursuing this thing like a vendetta. It must be because I've got too much time on my hands. Even the Andersonville POW Museum portrays the Korean POWs negatively. The director heard that I was very displeased with what they had done to us. In fact, he called me. He said, "This is true information from the government that we want to teach our younger people." Jesus, I damn near blew my stack. My wife got so goddamn mad she asked, "What kind of a government do we have?" I enlisted in the Army on August 27, 1948, when I was seventeen years old. I guess I just wanted to be on my own. I had gone to the tenth grade in a sheet metal vocational program, but I figured I knew more than they were teaching me because I had worked with metals for my father. Back in those days he was called a junk man. Today he would be a recycling engineer. I started working with him when I was six years old. He and I had a great relationship, but I figured it was time for me to see what else was going on in the world. I also had my independent moods in the service, but during basic training I was a good soldier. I was sent to Germany, and I was going up in rank, but I got busted for hitting the CQ. He wanted me to go on KP when it wasn't my turn, so I hauled off and knocked him flat on his ass. But that didn't happen very often. For some reason or another I always had my company commander on my side. I really don't know why. When I came back from Germany, I got into transportation and was sent to Alaska to go on maneuvers with the Canadians. That cold weather training proved very helpful when I was in Korea. When I came back in August 1950, my enlistment was up, but I heard that the 2nd Division was looking for men to go to Korea and that reenlistment would mean an automatic increase in rank. So I reenlisted. We were sent to Japan where our company worked day and night loading supplies and ammunition for what was going to be the Inch'n invasion force. Then they put us on a troop ship and off we went. During the night the damn ship stopped, and they threw those rope nets over the side. I thought, "Holy shit, now I know what we're going to do." I had never gone over the side on one of those rope nets. You've got your pack, your rifle, and everything else, and you weigh a ton. I said, "Oh man, this is disaster." Anyway, we landed in Inch'n on September 15, 1950, and it was a piece of cake. The biggest obstacle was in Seoul, but we finally got across the Han River and off we went. I was captured the day after Thanksgiving in November of 1950. We had gotten all the way to the Yalu River before we learned the Chinese had moved into North Korea. In fact, we were cleaning our equipment in the Yalu River when we got the orders to evacuate. We couldn't take the main roads so we had to take the side roads out of there. We had to dump a lot of our big equipment over the side of a cliff because it couldn't negotiate those hairpin turns. We got back to Hamhung and then had to send trucks up to the Chosin Reservoir. Shit, I didn't know what was going on. We picked up D Company of the 7th Infantry Division and off we went. We got ambushed by the Chinks, and the next morning I got captured. You don't do much thinking about all this until years later, but as I look back now, if those Chinks had wanted to take us out in a quick snuff, they could have done it. There were so many of them they could have overrun and killed all of us, but I think they wanted to take some prisoners. When you're young, you don't think that way. You say, "Jesus, even though we didn't have any bullets left, we put up a damn good fight. We did ourselves proud." But later you start putting all of this stuff together and you say, "Yeah, they needed prisoners to start their propaganda war." [ Several other interviewed prisoners also mentioned they were convinced that the Communist forces early in the war were ordered to take prisoners. ] After I got captured, the Chinese pulled me and a couple of guys out of this hut and told us we could go down and take care of our wounded. Well, how many people would do a thing like that in war time? I think there were four or five of us that went back to the battlefield. On the way we passed this mud building with dead Chinamen stacked in it like cord wood. The Chinese were very quick in picking up their dead. We took care of any of our soldiers we could. One fellow we came across had his whole stomach in his lap. I literally took his stomach and pushed it back inside him and covered him up. I don't know to this day if he lived or not. Ihope he did. I wrapped up a few others with a piece of cloth. Then the Chinese ordered us back. It took us from November of 1950 to Easter Sunday of 1951 to get to Camp One. You can't imagine how tough those marches were. You really can't. It's hard to explain to anybody. I know that later some guys wrote we never tried to help one another, but that simply isn't true. We did help each other as much as we possibly could. Such stories get me so damn upset. I never saw one GI on the march take from another guy. I never did. And we were all starving and in terrible physical shape. We would lay over during the day, and every time I got up to march at night, I'd have to bend over and open the cuts on the back of my feet so the blood would flow and I could move my feet. We got to the point where we had to tie shoestrings or pieces of cloth from one person to the other because you would actually fall asleep while you were marching. Some of those mountains were very steep, and you could literally walk off the goddamn things. So if you felt a tug, you'd reach over and grab the guy and pull him back into line again. I remember one night I fell asleep and I heard this clunk, clunk , clunk. I turned around and saw a Korean kid with a rifle taller than he was. The butt of that rifle was hitting the ground every time he took a step. I said to myself, "Where in the hell do these people come from?" Of course, like in every army, there were always sadistic jerks. There was one Chinaman that wore black, and he would swing his ass over and knock a guy off the side of a mountain. But I didn't see much of that. Jesus Christ, we were starving to death. What more could they do to us? There would be days we didn't have anything to eat because we'd move into a town and there would be no food there. I was a lot more fortunate than a lot of other guys because when I went to Korea, I made damn sure my Alaskan gear was in my duffel bag. A lot of guys froze their feet because they never realized that they had to keep moving. Even though I had snow packs, I kept moving as much as I could. They put us in a ditch one night. You know how the cold settles in low spots; well, all night long I kept going up and down the line saying, "Move your feet, stamp your feet, move them around." But a lot of them didn't, and their feet froze. Trench foot and gangrene set in, and a lot of them lost their feet. We were the first POWs in Camp One; in fact, I was the second man in line coming off the mountain into that valley. Conditions were very, very poor. There was no food or anything else. When we got there, all the campconsisted of was a bunch of Korean houses. The Chinese simply booted the Koreans out and moved us in. The Chinese started their so-called brainwashing very shortly after we got into Camp One. In those indoctrination sessions, some individuals would keep their mouths shut and some would speak up. I happened to be one who spoke up, and there were a few others. Most of us came from big cities. Of course, I had always been very vocal. The Chinese would rip Mellon, Rockefeller, and guys like that. "Imperialist dogs," they called them. I truly believe it was hard for them to believe all that stuff themselves. Some of the Chinese who helped us in the kitchens--the real old-timers that knew Americans from when we had troops in China during and after World War II--could speak English. We'd start talking to them, and they'd tell us, "Hey, they're full of shit. You guys don't listen to all that, do you?" I really took those sessions as a joke. I could never figure out their philosophy. They'd ask, "Who do you think you are, MacArthur? You're a warmonger." They never made any sense. After a few hours you got so numb, it just went in one ear and out the other. They weren't sophisticated at all. If they had fed us something decent, I might have listened, but, Jesus, they were not getting anywhere feeding me cracked corn or millet or sorghum or wormy fish. That just didn't make sense. The Turks introduced us to marijuana. We didn't know what the hell it was. It grew wild everywhere. It was a damn good thing they did because if it weren't for the marijuana a lot more guys would have died. Some of the guys just wouldn't eat. We'd get them as high as kites, and they'd think they were eating a T-bone steak. We saved a few lives that way. We used to dry it on our hibachi. This one time I snuck out during the monsoon rains because we were running low on grass. We'd pick it right out of the fields, and we eventually picked the surrounding terrain dry. Maybe we shouldn't tell these stories now, but it really happened. The marijuana made us very philosophical, and when we were stoned, we could analyze a person better than a psychiatrist could. It also took away any possible effects from the brainwashing. I had this guy in my squad named Friday. He got really sick this one day so I told him, "Friday, you stay inside." It was early in the morning, and we had to go up into the mountains and collect wood. We had roll call and, of course, Friday wasn't there. The instructor asked where he was and I said, "I told him not to come out because he's sick." Jesus, they lowered the boom on me. They sent everybody else off on wood detail andinterrogated me for twelve straight hours while I had to stand at attention with a light bulb in front of my face. Finally, I passed out and when I came to, a couple guys grabbed me and said, "You're coming with us." That was the start of Squad Nine. We started off in Squad Nine with two or three guys and then it increased from there. They were trying to separate the agitators from the rest of the guys, so they could keep tabs on us, and that's what they did. We just refused to cooperate. One time they had a test, but none of us wrote anything down. We didn't suffer any repercussions; in fact, I think they respected us more than they did the guys they were trying to indoctrinate. Eventually, we just flat out refused to go to any of their classes. I really felt no fear that if I did something wrong I was going to get punished for it. That's the way I was brought up. But if they wanted to kick your ass, they could, and I really got in trouble this one time. We were up in the mountains, and I was very weak. I was trying to get a log up on my shoulders, and this Chinese guard kicked me and shoved me down. This was in 1953, just before the armistice. Well, me and this Puerto Rican kid, I forgot his name, we got sick and tired of all this stuff, and I said to him, "I sure would like to get drunk!" He said, "Well, let's just not go back to camp." So we didn't. We hid in the woods until everybody else had marched off back to camp. We then went from one yoho's house to another, and before we knew it we didn't have any sneakers or anything else because we had swapped everything we had for rice wine. We got pretty well shit-faced. When we walked back into camp, I spotted this guy that had given me the hard time, and I went after him. I took his gun away from him, and immediately I had about a dozen Chinamen on my back beating the hell out of me. They sentenced me to five years isolation and put me in this room all by myself. The Chinese had warned us that if we did something bad, after the war we would have to serve our term in China, so I figured, "If I'm going to spend the rest of my life in China, I'm going to have to start looking for a Chinese broad to marry." All kind of thoughts go through your mind when you're all alone. But the thought of giving up never entered my mind. I didn't give a shit whether I had to live in China or wherever, I was going to stay alive. My grandfather had a saying, "You get used to hanging if you hang long enough." That's the philosophy I took to prison camp. You just get used to it, even the bad food. It becomes a way of life. What are you going to do about it? I had a friend who died because of hamburgers. This kid just loved hamburgers, and he talked about nothing else. This eventually killed him. He finally lost his appetite and when you lose your appetite, you begingoing downhill quickly. He stopped eating all together. When he took in his last breath, he was still talking about hamburgers. I saw that and I realized I couldn't be like that. I never dwelled on home when I was in prison camp. The only time was one Christmas. It was snowing and the air was so clear, and I did get a little melancholy. But that was the only time. If you thought too much about home, you were going to make yourself sick, and I didn't want to get sick. If you got too homesick, it would kill you. The Chinese eventually emptied out the whole damn camp. Everybody was gone, and I was still there. Finally, this guy let me out. A truck came through to pick up the stragglers and off I went to the 38th Parallel. Maybe the Chinese had just been giving me a snow job about sending me to China. As for the twenty-one American prisoners who remained behind, I thought they were looking more for adventure than anything else. Someone may have ticked them off in the States or in the Army. The Rats were the guys you had to worry about, not the guys who were going to stay behind or who even seemed to swallow the Communist line. The Rats wanted that extra bowl of rice and that favoritism from the Chinese cadre. And all of them came home. I was in prison camp for three goddamn years, but I tried to put it out of my mind after I got home. McCarthy was on his rampage, we got bad press, and if we said anything, we were likely to get in a fight so we more or less just stayed to ourselves. Having said that, I don't believe there has been a single day since I returned that something from my years in Korea hasn't flashed through my mind. I did try the GI Bill when I got out. I wanted to be an aircraft mechanic, but I couldn't concentrate. Matter of fact, I have problems concentrating today. I don't know if that's an aftermath of what I went through or what. I just knew I had to get out of that classroom. It felt like I was back in prison camp again. I couldn't concentrate on anything they were trying to teach me. So I just said, "This is not going to do me; I'm going to go stir crazy if I keep this shit up." So I got out. I got married after I got home, and this one night I went out to have a few drinks with my brother-in-law. He mentioned that I had been a POW. Well, this guy came over and made some derogatory remarks and that led into a brawl. When I got out of that, I said to myself, "This is not good. I'd better just keep my mouth shut." So I put everything out of my mind. I got a job in a metal-spinning factory, but the walls started coming in onme. So my cousin's husband came up to me one day and said, "You want to be an ironworker?" I says, "Yeah, I want to be an ironworker." I joined the ironworkers' local. I worked outside and was able to move around. I could go several hundred feet in the air with just me and another guy and be myself. That's the way I handled myself during that time. My family didn't know much about my POW experiences. I've got seven kids, and the oldest boy called me after a veteran he worked with began telling him about the Korean War. My son had told him, "Yeah, I think my father was a POW there." So my son calls me and asks, "Hey, why didn't you tell me about Korea when I was growing up?" I guess it was because my first wife wanted nothing to do with it. I took my first wife out for breakfast about a month ago--the first time in twelve years--and she asked me, "Do you still have those terrible dreams?" I asked her, "How did you know?" I figured she was sleeping like a rock. Hell, she could fall asleep on a picket fence. She said, "You had some awful dreams." I said, "Why in the hell didn't you tell me?" She had her reasons. Maybe she thought she was doing me a favor. She asked me, "Is that why you drank so much?" It must have been. That's what they're telling me. Drinking would knock me out and put me into a dead sleep. But after I retired, my drinking pretty much stopped, but I still had these goddamn nightmares. No question, the wives took it on the chin. My second wife is very understanding, even if I go on a rampage over some political thing--which I often do. I didn't go to a POW meeting until after I retired in 1987. I met this former Korean POW in downtown Boston one afternoon and he says, "Have you had your POW protocol?" I said, "What's that?" He explained that it was a kind of physical and that I'd better get over to the VA. He promised to go with me and he did. I had a physical, and then we went to these POW group meetings. Back in those days one group would be made up of guys from the European theater and another group had guys who had been held by the Japanese. On the other side of the room would be a handful of us Korean POWs. One afternoon a discussion came up and all of a sudden I got so fucking mad, I said, "You sons of bitches. You lived in a goddamn Hilton for a stalag." Well, that started a riot. I walked out, and I never had anything more to do with them until I came to Florida. I ended up in Florida because of the warm weather. All my life I had fought snow and cold steel so I moved to Florida. Then my nightmares started getting worse. [ Many of the former POWs suffered increasing flashbacks after retiring from work, often because they had more time to reflect on their horrifying experiences. ] I went over to the VA hospital and talked to Dr. Skelton, aPOW doctor. He called in a psychologist and I sat down with her. I looked at her and I thought, "For Christsake you don't know what the hell this is all about." The next time I saw Dr. Skelton, he asked, "How did you make out?" I said, "Are you shitting me? She didn't know what the hell she's talking about." Boy, did he get mad. He said, "Look, there's a PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] clinic we started upstairs. Would you mind going to that?" And I said, "Sure." So I started going to group meetings with the ex-POWs. Naturally, most of them were flyers from Europe. We had a Vietnam guy from the VA as a PTSD coordinator. Well, with my big mouth I started in on him. I guess I kind of broke the ice. I said, "Well, I guess I am old enough. I'll just keep my mouth shut as far as these other guys go." I've given a lot of thought to the question how all this affected me, and I've asked this question a million times at these different groups that I've gotten into. It's a hard question to answer. If I hadn't been captured, where would I have gone? I don't know. All my life I was orientated to work so I imagine I would have wound up in some sheet-metal shop or something like that. But my outlook on humanity has changed dramatically. I've gotten to a point where I can meet a guy, talk to him for a few minutes, and say to myself, "I'd like to have this guy by my side" or "He couldn't walk in my footsteps." You become very opinionated. At least I did. I'm now the Korean War representative at the VA hospital in Tampa. My job is to get hold of Korean veterans who need medical help, or help with compensation. I also recruit volunteers to work in the hospital. I'm now sending out letters trying to reach more guys. Many of them don't even know there's help that exists for them. They are angry with the VA to begin with, and they're angry with the public. A lot of them have drinking problems, and they have a hell of a divorce rate. There's lots bottled up inside us because of what we went through, but nobody cares except us. ROBERT "BOB" COURY Between early May and June 10, 1953, I flew thirty-eight sorties in Korea. I had just flown a mission on the morning of June 10 when my squadron commander met me at the airplane and told me I was to fly another mission that afternoon. Photo reconnaissance had picked up a buildup about ten miles behind the lines. The photos determined the target was going to be difficult and that we should use a two-ship "pathfinder" to acquirethe target followed by a twelve-ship flight. We were to dive-bomb the target, and I was to lead the twelve-ship gaggle. We found the target, I rolled into a dive, released the bombs, and was immediately hit by antiaircraft fire. I pulled out of the dive and saw two fire warning lights glaring at me on the dash panel. The other guys in the flight began hollering at me to punch out because I had a good fire going. With the situation I had, the book says you have ten seconds to get out. I figured if the bird would hold together for two minutes I could make it back across the lines, and I was going to take that chance. I headed south, but within a few seconds I lost thrust. I continued gliding south and losing altitude rapidly. I then lost the flight controls and went into an inverted spin. I ejected and hit the ground immediately after my chute opened. I landed in a barren, battle-scarred area about fifty meters from enemy lines and some three hundred to four hundred meters from our lines. I had enough time to get out my emergency radio and talk to the deputy flight leader. He told me to head into the sun and that they had already launched a helicopter to pick me up. If I had succeeded in moving in that direction, I would have crawled right into their trench lines. I was crawling along on my stomach and all of a sudden I felt a poke in my back. I rolled over and there were two soldiers armed with rifles. They hurriedly took me into one of the bunkers. At first I thought they might be South Koreans, but when I looked around the bunker and saw a Red Star on a canteen, I knew where I was. I was shot down about four o'clock in the afternoon of June 10, 1953. The soldiers on the frontline were very friendly and curious about the garb I was wearing. As soon as it began getting dark, they started moving me to the rear. I walked through their lines for about a mile and then out on a road. Two soldiers would take me a mile or so, and then two more would come up and continue the trek. I covered about ten miles that night, back to the area that we had bombed. I got so exhausted that I couldn't walk anymore, so for the last couple of miles they were practically dragging me. They took me to a prisoner collecting point that was a compound of caves dug into the side of a hill. These caves were lined with timber, roofed, and covered with soil. They left one corner above ground and used it as a window and put small three-inch timbers in as bars. The first thing that came into my mind was to escape. I was not in any kind of shock. I just had a numb spot on top of my head where the canopy had hit me during ejection. I started twisting these timbers to see if I could get them loose. I finally got them to where I could take them out and put them in at will. This left me enough room to crawl out. I still had my billfold with me with some photos and a pack of cigarettes. I took the tinfoil out of the cigarettesand put it on one of the plastic picture holders, which made a pretty good reflector. I practiced with it when I got some sunshine, and it worked pretty well. I thought if I escaped from the cave, I might be able to signal one of our airplanes, or I might be able to make my own way across the lines at night. On the eighth night of my captivity, I very carefully removed the timbers and started crawling out. The guard was pacing back and forth just a few yards from me. I was watching him and slowly making my way out when I heard people coming up the pathway to the compound. I quickly squirmed back into the cave. I didn't even have time to put the timbers back in place before they came directly into my cave, put a blindfold on me, and put me in a truck with a bunch of South Korean prisoners, and off we went. From the collecting point we traveled all night. We were seated in the bed of a rather large pickup truck with a couple of guards standing over us. Every time I got up to relieve myself a guard would jab his rifle butt into my shoulder. The next morning we were unloaded and put into a room in a Korean hut. All of us tried to get some rest, but within an hour they came in with a huge bowl of rice and put it in the middle of the room. The Korean prisoners all had eating utensils with them, either chopsticks or spoons, and the rice vanished quickly. I reached in with my hand to get some, and the guard made us all stop. He left for a minute or so and came back with a spoon and handed it to me. A few hours later, they blindfolded me and put me in the back end of a truck by myself. It was a cloudy day and I guess they felt they could travel without being attacked by our planes. We traveled until early the next morning when we stopped at a small command post. We woke up the soldier inside, and he proceeded to try to interrogate me. I gave him only my name, rank, and serial number, and he instructed the guards to take me away. We were in very mountainous terrain near what looked like a vacated POW camp. The guards took me down the road a couple of miles, where we stopped at a three-room family hut occupied by an old man, his daughter, and an infant child. They were moved out of one room that was then used as a cell for me. There were eight or ten Chinese guards who guarded me around the clock. It was a bare room with a dirt floor, and they insisted that I sit on the floor. They kept the door closed most of the time, and when they opened it, and I was caught standing or lying down, they raised hell with me. After about the fourth day, they began leaving the door open, and I could observe what was going on outside. Initially they tried to interrogate me a couple of times a day. After about twelve days, they were only interrogating me once a day, but they were alsocutting down on my food. During the last few days I was being fed one small bowl of rice and a can of water per day. I used the same slit-trench latrine the Korean family used. I was allowed to go down to a stream once a day and bathe and brush my teeth. They provided me with a toothbrush and toothpaste. How the Korean peasants lived really amazed me. They were hardly civilized. The daughter carried her baby on her back wrapped in a piece of cloth she tied around her waist. She also did most of the work around the house. I watched her take some kind of grain, put it in this hollow stump, and grind it with a piece of wood. She would spend a couple of hours doing this. Then she would take this meal, make a kind of dough out of it, and put it in a little tin box that had holes in the bottom. By pressing the dough through the holes she made noodles. One time the baby did its business while on his mother's back. The mother untied the sash, and held the baby out to let a small dog lick it clean. Without even cleaning the sash she put the baby back on her back. A few days later they butchered and ate the dog. It was during this time that I was most concerned about what the future held for me. There were no sounds of ground fighting or air activity. I often thought the war could have ended, particularly since just before taking off I was told that a cease-fire was expected momentarily. Once again I was blindfolded and hauled off in a truck. We arrived at our destination about ten o'clock at night. I was forced up a ladder, still blindfolded, into a very small room. As soon as I heard the door slam shut, I removed the blindfold and began feeling around the darkened room. It turned out to be an attic room about six feet square with a four-foot ceiling that slanted to the floor. I stayed there the rest of the night and all the next day. After dark they removed me from the attic, walked me across a courtyard into a room where several interrogators were seated. The Chinese head honcho told me, "We are very displeased with your interrogation thus far. If we don't get better cooperation, we're going to take you behind this building and put a bullet through your head. We've done it before and we will do it again." I believed him, but at that point I just didn't care. I was then taken back across the courtyard to a cell. I could tell by feeling around the interior that this had been a horse stall. It had small double doors leading to the courtyard, and an individual entrance going to the outside. The entire room was sealed with cardboard to prevent seeing outside. There was a small opening at the ceiling. I went to the individual entrance and gave it a good kick, and it flew open. I walked outside into a bright, moonlit night, and for the first time since my capture I knewexactly where I was. I could see the city of Sinuiju and the mouth of the Yalu River. This had to be their top interrogation center. Both to my right and left, there were individuals squatting and watching me. I immediately figured that trying to escape would be fruitless, so I walked back into the cell and went to sleep. They raised hell with me again the next morning. The interrogation process was pretty routine. Once or twice a day they would try to interrogate me. As best I could tell, there were eight Chinese and two North Korean interrogators. One of the North Koreans tried to befriend me by telling me that he was originally from South Korea, but that he had political differences with government officials. Both he and his wife were imprisoned in South Korea. His wife died in prison during childbirth, but he was able to escape, and there was only one place for him to go, and that was to the North. I don't know whether he was sincere or just trying to get me to talk to him. When I first arrived at this interrogation center, there were three other American POWs, all pilots. One of them had been injured and was allowed to walk the interior of the courtyard with a guard. I was able to observe this by peeling back some of the cardboard covering the cracks. Once when he passed my cell, I began humming the "Air Force Song," hoping to get some response out of him. No luck! This prisoner was moved out after a couple of days. Later I learned there were two more American prisoners there. While at this interrogation center, it was easy to tell the war was still on because all the big air battles were taking place overhead. Finally there came a time when there was no air activity despite the good weather. I had gone out to the toilet, and one of the Chinese interrogators came out at the same time. I asked him about the status of the war, and all I got was a grin. Later, a North Korean interrogator came out, and I mentioned there had been no air activity. He said, "We expect a cease-fire momentarily. You should be going home very soon." My morale skyrocketed. A day or two later, they blindfolded the three of us who were left and put us in a weapons carrier. They told us not to talk to each other--which lasted for about three minutes. We were heading up the Yalu River. We spent one night on the road, and the next day we went by a couple of POW camps that had already been vacated. A bit later we went by an active camp, and we could see the guys walking around and playing volleyball. We went beyond the camp about a mile, and were taken into a small command post. There someone told us the war had ended and gave us eacha bottle of beer and a carton of cigarettes. We thought they would put us into this camp with the rest of the guys. Instead, they put the three of us in a little compound and left us there for a couple of hours. An interrogator showed up with some questionnaires he wanted filled out. We put down our name, rank, and serial number and handed them back. He became angry and started raising hell with us. One of our guys, Steve Bettinger, started giving the interrogator a bad time. The interrogator called a couple of guards and they moved Steve into solitary confinement. They took Don Hodges and me back to the regular camp and left us there. We went into the compound, parked our meager belongings, and went out to watch the guys playing volleyball. Nobody made any effort to come and greet us for quite some time. The reason for this was they were divided into two groups: the good guys and the bad guys, those who had confessed to germ warfare and other evil deeds and those who had not. Finally, one guy came over and asked us some very pointed questions. We both gave him a full account of what had happened to us. He reported back to the group and they accepted us as friends. Most of them were pilots, but there were also some enlisted men there as well. Bettinger showed up the following day. Steve was quite a character, and the last "ace" of the Korean War. He had shot down his fifth MIG and then was shot down himself. He told us they had put him in a thatched-roof hut the previous night, and as he was about to go to sleep on the floor, something dropped on his chest. He let out a yell, and the guard opened the door. A big snake had fallen out of the thatched roof. After a couple of days at that camp, we were put on a train headed south. We went into another compound for a few days, and each day they would take a few guys out to be repatriated. I came out the next to the last day of the repatriation cycle. The thing that impressed me the most as we entered Freedom Village were two husky Military Police who were spit-and-polish from head to toe. The folks running the place questioned us a bit, fed us, and let us make phone calls home. I was put on a hospital ship to come home. I weighed 145 pounds when I was shot down and about 105 before repatriation. On the hospital ship the head Air Force guy was Bud Mahurin, a World War II ace and a full colonel. At our first evening mess aboard ship he called all the Air Force guys together and said, "Okay, we've been through the business of being captured and tortured and all that, and there are supposed to be good guys and bad guys, but let's try to forget about that and have a good trip home." One of my fellow prisoners onboard was a Marine colonel who was actuallya staff officer. He was one of the guys who had confessed, and he told me why. He was flying up to Seoul for a meeting and had some top-secret documents with him. He was in a little twin-engine G45 and decided to fly up to the frontlines to observe some Marines. He was shot down and captured. He told me his interrogators had all kinds of information on his family, and they threatened to harm his family members. They had the names of his children, where they went to school, and all sorts of other information. He told me, "Rather than do harm to my family, I was willing to confess to anything they wanted me to say." My personal belief is that you can break anybody down if you really want to, given the time and the right environment. I was very lucky for a couple of reasons. I was a prisoner during the summer months when it was warm, and I knew what had happened to the guys who had already returned during the exchange of wounded prisoners in Operation Little Switch. All of us went through a counter-interrogation on the boat. I was hospitalized after reaching the States, and went through another interrogation. When I got to my next base, I went through a third one. Several months after I got home, I received a letter from the Air Force stating that my conduct as a POW was considered commendable and wishing me future success in the Air Force. AKIRA CHIKAMI I was born March 19, 1927, of Japanese immigrant parents in La Junta, Colorado, but I grew up in Reno, Nevada, where I joined the Army. I got out of the service after World War II ended and became a professional boxer. There was a lot of discrimination when I used to fight on the West Coast, so they would call me an Indian, a Korean, or whatever. But I hurt my hand and had to quit. I thought I'd go back to Colorado and work in the lead mines to strengthen my hands and shoulders. I passed the physical, but when they looked at my papers and found out I was a Japanese American, they wouldn't hire me. They were very discriminatory, even though I had an honorable discharge. In the meantime, I saw a newsreel of the 1st Marine Division getting kicked out of the Chosin Reservoir. I got all excited. I had never seen combat so I thought, "Gee, that's where I want to go." I also had two older brothers who were with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II. I went to a recruiting office in Denver and asked the sergeant if I went back into the Army could I go to Korea. He said, "Sure thing." He signed me up and gave me a ticket toFort Riley, Kansas, where they gave me a two-day refresher course. The first day I took my M-1 apart and then put it back together. The second day I went through the infiltration course. That was my refresher course. This was December 1950. In January I was in the infantry with the 2nd Division on the frontlines in Korea, less than two months after I reenlisted. I never had any regrets, at least not until I got captured by North Koreans in August 1951. At the time we were in the punch bowl and my company was out front as a kind of decoy but also in a blocking position, trying to get the enemy to attack us so we could call in artillery on them. We were only supposed to stay out there three days, but we got into the eighth and ninth days. I knew we were in trouble because I'd been in combat long enough to know we shouldn't be out there that long. Every night the enemy had been probing to find out where our automatic weapons were. Sure enough, on the morning of August 27 our company was overrun. We lost over 50 percent of our company that day. We started to retreat and I got hit in the leg. My first reaction was, "Well, it's not too bad. Maybe it will be good enough to get me a trip to Japan." My company commander came by and said, "Sorry, I'm going to have to leave you." And he did [laughs]. Our medic stopped and helped bandage me up. Then two other guys came along and said, "Come on, Sarge, we'll help you." They picked me up between them and tried to carry me, but a machine gun opened up. They were both killed and fell into a stream. I started crawling, but I looked up and there was a young North Korean soldier staring at me. He was just a kid, but he had a burp gun. I still had a forty-five on me. I didn't know whether to reach for it or not. I decided not to, and I was a prisoner. He immediately took what I had: a watch, a ring, and a bracelet and then turned me over to another group where they had assembled other prisoners. The North Koreans herded us toward our own lines where the fighting was still going on. I couldn't figure out why they were taking us in that direction, instead of to the rear. When we came to a bend in the road where our machine guns were raking the area, I realized, "They're going to make us commit suicide by marching us right into our own fire." But the shooting suddenly stopped. I guess our guys recognized we were Americans. By then there were some thirty-five of us, and they moved us into a little ravine where it became clear they were going to use us to carry their wounded to the rear. Then, I saw one of our spotter planes we used to call in artillery. Sure enough, I heard a couple of incoming rounds, and I knew our own troops were zeroing in on us. Five rounds came in right on topof us. The guy in front of me was hit, which saved me because I was right behind him. He caught a piece of shrapnel in his chest so big I could stick my whole fist in it. When it was over, there were only about four or five of us who weren't wounded. It was getting dusk and the North Koreans were going to move us out. This American lieutenant came up to me and asked, "Sarge, are you going to go?" I told him I was. This lieutenant decided to fake an injury and say he couldn't move. There were four of our guys who stayed behind. As I moved out over the hill, I heard a burp gun go off, and I knew the North Koreans had shot them. I found out some twenty years later that the lieutenant survived, although he was the only one of the four who did. One of our patrols picked him up the next day. He was all shot up, but he lived. I was able to walk with somebody helping me. I had to. I knew if I didn't walk they were going to shoot me. The bullet that struck me hadn't hit a bone, which was lucky. It went right through my leg. Later I picked up a tree branch to use as a crutch, so I was able to walk. They moved us to the rear that first night. The next day we had to cross a river that was flooding and I thought maybe I would get swept away because of my leg. But I made it. They then took us into this huge cave in a mountain that was their headquarters. They tried to interrogate us, but they didn't have an English-speaking person and none of us could understand them. I was the ranking man, and they were surprised to find an Oriental. They were very curious about me because they were afraid that Japan was going to send in troops. So they interrogated me pretty closely. When they went through my wallet, they were amazed to find photos of Caucasian girls. They would look at me and then at the pictures and they would yack, yack, yack. I could only imagine what they were saying. I more or less became a spokesman for our group of POWs for what little I could communicate. You talk about tactics. The first interrogator treated me real rough. He threatened to push me over a cliff and all that kind of stuff. Then he went away and another guy took his place. He offered me a cigarette and tried to explain that the other guy was very bitter because he had lost his family in the war. He was a little more compassionate. He told me, "I know you're just a soldier." Then he wanted to know what outfit I was in, why we were there, and things like that. They were pretty shrewd and they could get to you pretty fast. One of our guys was all shook up. He had just been married and his wife was pregnant, so he was thinking, "How am I going to tell my wife I'm a prisoner?" Someone like him became an easy target for indoctrination, and they completely broke him down. I don't know if you call itbrainwashing, but men like him became easily manipulated. Of course, the North Koreans already knew who we were. I mean they knew everything. There was nothing we could tell them that they didn't already know. They moved us out the next day farther and farther to the rear. We walked mostly at night or in the evening. In the morning we would hole up in some village or they would put us into some kind of shack. The little kids in these villages would see me and holler something that I later found out meant "half-breed." They were fascinated by me because I was an Oriental. I would be lying on the side of the road trying to rest or sleep, and these kids would pick up little rocks and throw them at me. The braver ones would poke me with sticks so they could see my face. I was an oddity to them. About the tenth or eleventh day after we were captured, the guards wanted to know who was going to represent our group. I was the ranking sergeant so I was selected by the other prisoners. Early the next day they took me and this other prisoner, Sergeant Nehrbas, put us in a jeep, and took us directly to Camp Twelve, which was on the outskirts of the North Korean capital of P'yngyang. When we arrived a prisoner who identified himself as Colonel Fleming asked us how the peace talks were going. He wasn't concerned about our welfare so I was a little turned off. Fleming was one of the few prisoners to be court-martialed and convicted after the war.1 Camp Twelve consisted of about fifty or sixty prisoners, both officers and enlisted men. We got a real cool reception from the GIs who were already there. I couldn't understand this; it was like they didn't trust us. I had no idea what was going on. After I was released, I learned that the North Koreans had told the other prisoners they were bringing in some sergeants who had voluntarily surrendered. No wonder they viewed us so suspiciously. The camp commander was a North Korean by the name of Colonel Pak, but not the Pak who was in charge of the notorious Pak's Palace. He was a spick-and-span officer and wore the cleanest clothes and the shiniest boots I had ever seen. He flat-out told us, "The only reason you're alive is because I'm a soldier. If I had my way, I would take you all out and shoot you because you murdered our people. But because I'm a soldier I have to take care of you and see that you stay alive." He meant it when he said he wanted to shoot us all. The North Koreans selected us for Camp Twelve because it was a center for propaganda, and they hoped we might become Progressives and be willing to cooperate with them. Col. Paul Liles was the ranking officer inthe camp. He was a West Point graduate who was also court-martialed after returning home.2 The North Koreans took Nehrbas and me to Camp Twelve because we were the ranking NCOs in our group of prisoners and because I had been voted to represent the men and could communicate with our captors. The North Koreans also hated the Second Division. They wanted to wipe us out because we fought so many bloody battles with them. Within two hundred yards of Camp Twelve was another compound called the Central Peace Committee. It consisted of four or six guys who were definitely cooperative. In fact, one of them was a British cartoonist named Ronald Cox who was a card-carrying Communist when he went into the British Army. He was an excellent artist and drew cartoons for the Chinese propaganda publications, one of which was a newsletter called Towards Truth and Peace . It originated in Camp Twelve with the Central Peace Committee, and then circulated to the other prison camps. The North Koreans wanted to get some of us to make propaganda broadcasts over Radio P'yngyang. Through intimidation and threats, they forced four of us sergeants to do so. When I was scheduled to go, I didn't know what to do, so I asked Colonel Liles how to keep from going to P'yngyang, which was about a day's walk from Camp Twelve. He told me, "Tell them that your leg hurts and you can't make the trip." So I complained about my leg, which did actually still hurt, and they sent me to a field hospital for two weeks. A black sergeant named Clarence Covington was sent to P'yngyang to make a broadcast in my name. He said, "This is Sergeant Chikami." Being in a Chinese field hospital was a strange experience. I was in a tent hospital with all these wounded Chinese and North Koreans. They knew I was a prisoner, but they didn't pay too much attention to me, maybe because I looked like them. I got the same kind of food they did, and I got my bandage changed every day. My leg had never really healed. The only thing that had really saved my leg was I got maggots in it about six days after I got captured. I could feel this pain, and I thought for sure I had gangrene, but when I opened up the bandage a big, fat maggot fell out. My medic, Bill Middleton from Texas, cleaned them out for me, but I knew they were good because I had read stories about how Western cowboys during the Indian wars had put maggots on their wounds to clean them. Howard Adams was in Camp Twelve, and I knew him quite well. He later became one of the twenty-one who chose to go to China instead of coming home. He had been in World War II and received a Bronze Star. I knew him so well because we were both disabled. So when the rest of thecamp went out on work details, he and I stayed back in the camp grinding soy beans. We used to sit there, grind beans, and talk. I thought he was a pretty good guy. He wasn't political at all. He never tried to indoctrinate anybody, and he never talked politics to me. I also knew Richard Corden slightly when I was later in Camp Five. He was another of the twenty-one. He also was not political so I never understood why these guys were so vilified. It is hard to figure what made these guys decide to stay behind. Some people say you get brainwashed, but I have no idea what people mean by "brainwashed." What does that really mean? Were we brainwashed because we had to sit there in a class listening to people talk about germ warfare, an unjust war, and all this kind of nonsense? That doesn't brainwash you. I never saw any instances of any prisoner trying to indoctrinate another into accepting the Communist way of thinking. In December 1951 the North Koreans disbanded Camp Twelve. They told us we were going to be repatriated, and they had a big banquet for us. They gave us some wine, apples, and other good food. The next day they told us to gather up all our belongings and that we would be taken across the river on boats and be on our way to P'anmunjm. A group of over a hundred officers joined us from some other camp, and then all of us went down to the river to wait for the boats, but the boats never came. So the next day they loaded everybody on trucks, but I didn't get to go. Jack Caraveau was so sick that he couldn't be moved. I volunteered to stay back with Jack because we were from the same division and we were the last ones to be captured, as far as I knew. I figured that it was only fair that the other guys get repatriated before us. There was a Capt. Hugh Farler who was also too sick to move, and a Lieutenant Doherty stayed behind with him. The rest of the guys got on trucks and left, and the camp was deserted. I don't know exactly the date, but it was in early December 1951. We thought, "Well they're going to get repatriated," but the next day the planes were still flying. Somebody brought us a little bit of food, but there were no guards. We moved into what used to be the kitchen because there was a lot of firewood there. We burned it all day trying to keep warm, but we didn't get much food. There were just the four of us there. Captain Farler was delirious and didn't know where he was. Caraveau was coughing and was in bad shape. Days went by and there was still nothing. We had nobody to talk to. Whoever brought us our food couldn't speak English, so we didn't have the faintest idea what was going on. But the planes were still flying, and we could still see dogfights, so we knew the war was not over. Captain Farlerdied, and we buried him in a peanut patch. Then one day a couple of fancy American jeeps came whirling in there. They were all painted up, with leopard-skin seat covers. A North Korean general popped out with a couple of female aids all dressed in their spick-and-span uniforms. He looked around the compound and came over to where we were. It was Gen. Nam II, the chief North Korean negotiator during the truce talks. Evidently what happened was the peace talks had broken off, and I guess he just came over to see what was left of Camp Twelve. I didn't think of these things at the time, but I put it all together later. He just looked at the three of us, got in his jeep, and took off. Then a few days later they loaded the three of us on a truck and headed north. We were strafed by a Marine Corsair on the way, but we arrived in Camp Five on New Year's Eve--and that started the next couple of years. I was put in solitary in Camp Five. I was acting crazy just to harass the Chinese. It was warm this one evening, and I didn't want to stay in this hot little hut. So I built a bench outside the hut. I was lying there, looking up at the sky, when this old Chinese guard came by and said, "Sleepo, sleepo." I didn't pay any attention to him so he went away. Fifteen minutes later he came back and again said, "Sleepo, sleepo." I still ignored him. He got ticked and ran off to get the sergeant of the guard. The sergeant of the guard came and said, "Chikami, you sleepo." I mumbled something. Twenty minutes later they got an English speaking instructor who had been sleeping. He asked me, "Chikami, why you not going to sleep?" I tell him, "I can't sleep." He asked, "Why, why? Regulations you go to sleep." I said, "No, I lost my dog." He said, "Your dog?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "You don't have a dog." I said, "No, it's gone." So he got mad and took me up to headquarters. By now it was about midnight, and they got the chief instructor out of bed and he was mad. "Chikami," he said. "Why don't you go to sleep?" I said, "I lost my dog." And he said, "You don't have a dog." I said, "You're right. He's gone." And he said, "Where did you get the dog?" I said, "The Turks gave me a dog." He says, "The Turks don't have a dog." I said, "No, they gave the dog to me." He was getting really mad, and he prided himself on knowing a little slang so he said, "Chikami. Let's call a spade a spade." So I said, "Oh, you want to play cards?" Oh man, he blew up. He yapped, yapped, yapped in Chinese, and three guards came in, grabbed me, and hustled me out. I still only had summer shorts on. They hustled me up on top of this high hill to a mud hut they called solitary and put me in it. It wasn't funny because it was two or three o'clock in the morning, it had got cold, and I had no blanket. The next day they brought me up a little food and water. For about two or three days they didn't say anything to me. Finally they brought me some more clothes and a blanket. I took the blanket and made a hammock out of it and attached it to these beams. Every time I saw the guard come I would jump into my hammock and swing back and forth like I'm enjoying myself. The guard would get mad and tell me to get out, but I would ignore him. Finally, he came in and cut it down with his bayonet. I didn't know what to do, but I found a little hole in the back wall. I poked my finger through it, which allowed me to look down at the Yalu River. All of a sudden I see another eyeball on the other side. It's the Chinese guard and we're looking at each other. I poked my finger in farther and he pulled back. Then he poked his finger at me, so we're playing this little game. I tried to grab his finger, but I could only get the very tip because the wall was pretty thick. Then I'm looking through the hole and wondering, "What the hell is he doing?" All of a sudden he peed on me. He peed in the hole and right into my eye. I mean, hey, I can't even rinse it out because there's no water. Burned the heck out of my eye and he was laughing. They let me outside this hut once a day for exercise, and when they did I'd shadow box. They had never seen anything like that. They thought, "This guy really is crazy." Then the guys down in the company got together and signed a petition to get me out of solitary and took it to the commander. The Chinese had just begun to let us play a little basketball, and my buddies needed me to play on our basketball team. We had what we called a United Nations squad: a Japanese, a Puerto Rican, and a Turk on the same team. But they still kept me in there for two weeks. Another time we were all assembled, and they were talking about how that morning their technicians in their white coats and masks had been out in the hills collecting specimens of germ warfare. They had these bugs in this dish that was covered by a glass dome. They passed it around so everyone could look at these bugs. This one red-haired kid, who was a real rebel, lifted up the lid and popped one of the bugs in his mouth beforethey could stop him [laughs]. Man, they hustled him out of there. They said they sent him to the hospital. We didn't know where the hell he went, but they kept him away for about a week. Then there was the fly-killing campaign. In early 1953 my buddy and I were in the exercise yard, and we're watching this Chinese guard. He was swatting flies. Well, we didn't pay too much attention because he was always doing crazy things. But the next day there is another guard doing the same damn thing. He was swatting flies, picking them up, and putting them into a little paper envelope. We asked the Chinese in charge, "Hey, what's going on?" He said, "Well, we have a fly-killing campaign going on in China. We're going to make China the most fly-free country in all of Asia." The Chinese do things like that. In fact, several years before that they had a starling-killing campaign. They killed all the starlings and then the bugs ate all their grain. So we asked, "Why is he saving the flies?" He said, "Oh, he gets credit for how many flies he kills." We asked, "What good are the credits?" In China everybody did certain kinds of work or read so many works of Mao to amass these credits. You would get credit for all kinds of things, and these credits helped you work toward getting a Mao Zedong Badge. So they were saving the flies to get credits. One of our guys asked, "Why can't we kill flies?" The Chinese in charge thought about it and said, "I'll let you know." A couple of days later the Chinese made an announcement at one of the formations: "We understand that some of the prisoners desire to join our fly-killing campaign. Anybody can participate on a voluntary basis. And as an incentive for you to join our campaign we'll give you one factory-made Chinese cigarette for every two hundred flies. Anybody who wants to join the campaign raise their hands and we'll issue flyswatters." A whole bunch of people raised their hands and soon everybody was out swatting flies. They're all out by the slit trench of the damn latrine swatting flies. Some guys pooled their flies and turned them in when they got two hundred. They did get a cigarette so the Chinese were living up to their end of the deal. Some of us played poker for flies: "Hey, I'll call you three flies and raise you two." This one guy unraveled the yarn from a sock and fashioned a fly trap. The flies would fly in but then didn't know how to get out. He put it over the slit trench and the first day he caught over two hundred flies. I mean just like that he caught a whole mess of them. He turned them in and got his cigarettes. So the next thing you know everybody is trying to make a damn fly trap, but nobody is as good as this guy, and they don't work. This was the only time I almost got into a fight. Iwent out to the slit trench to do my business. There are six slots and a fly trap over everyone of them. So I picked one up and somebody yells, "Chikami, what the hell are you doing?" I said, "What the hell does it look like I'm going to do?" So he says, "Well, move somebody else's trap." The Chinese nurses had the evening duty of counting these flies, but so many flies were being turned in they couldn't keep up. It was taking up too much time so the Chinese said, "Well, we can't continue this so we're going to find a different way. We're going to weigh them." They got a very fine scale to weigh the flies, but, of course, they cheated a little. It probably now took about three hundred flies to get one cigarette, but that's better than nothing. And we're still getting this mass production. This was strictly a capitalistic idea, and the Chinese hated that, but they couldn't do anything because they had made the deal. Sometimes the Chinese would forget to pick up the flies at night and get them in the morning. But by then the flies had dehydrated and didn't weigh nearly as much as they did the day before. So all the GIs were trying to figure out how to keep them fresh. They were putting in little pieces of damp cloth to keep in the humidity so the flies would weigh more. It got ridiculous. My old friend "Sake" Cameron was out there still swatting flies. He had a piece of old goat skin that he covered with excrement and it stunk. He got a little branch and was popping all these big green flies. He was an expert flyswatter. He could hit them and make them pop over dead without crushing them. I asked him, "Sake, how come you're still swatting flies?" He says, "Come over to my place and I'll show you something." So I went over to his hut and he's got a little bench with all his little green flies on it. He had been on work detail and had found these old toothpaste tubes made of aluminum foil. He'd cut a little sliver of that aluminum foil and then pushed it up into the abdomen of the fly. Ten of his flies weighed more than two hundred normal flies. He'd mix them up a little bit. The Chinese could never figure out how come his flies weighed so much more than anybody else's. We did crazy things like this to produce a little entertainment and to break the boredom. I know there was a lot of criticism of us prisoners after we were repatriated, but I think a lot of this negative reaction was because of the McCarthy era. I know Colonel Liles pretty well. In fact, I went to visit him last year and I stayed at his home. You're caught between a rock and a hard spot. He was the ranking man in Camp Twelve. Well, what do you do in order to get better food and better medical treatment for the men? You have to decideif you are going to make a broadcast but keep it toned down so you're not blatantly accusing the United States of something. You have to bargain. You're in a tough, no-win situation. No matter what you do there are going to be some POWs who are going to say you're rotten, that you're no damn good. Others will realize you're in a position where you have to decide how much you are willing to cooperate with the enemy to get food, shelter, and care for your men. Take my situation. I was in charge of just a small group. The Chinese gave me the supplies and cigarettes to divide among the guys. How do you divide everything equally right down to the last thing? Apples are not always the same size. Somebody is always going to be unhappy. There is just no way to satisfy everyone. Gen. William Dean got the Medal of Honor for doing something he never should have. He was stalking a tank. What the hell is a general doing chasing a tank? He ought to be looking after his men. That to me was ridiculous. He also wrote a letter that was turned into propaganda, but he was never singled out. Some of the Air Force POWs wrote propaganda letters admitting to germ warfare and made speeches that were far more serious than anything Colonel Liles or Colonel Fleming did. Colonel Liles is a humble man, and that thing ruined his whole career. It's sad because I don't think he did anything wrong. He was simply trying to save his men. Yet, there were other enlisted men who really hated him for no reason other than what they had heard. We were all victims of circumstance. Being captured is nothing to be proud of, but I'm not ashamed of it because I was wounded. Yet some of these guys get carried away and think they were really heroes. The real heroes are those who never came home. When the Freedom of Information Act passed, I sent for my POW file. I couldn't believe what was in it. If I had known, I would not have stayed in the service. They kept investigating me after I got back even though I was still in the service. And it wasn't just me. I'm sure that almost all ex-prisoners of war were watched for at least three years. I didn't know this until I got my file, and I saw they had censored who I wrote to, and who I got letters from while I was in the service. There were accusations from some people I didn't even know. Some corporal reported that Chikami was a big, mean, son of a bitch in camp, and if you didn't agree with him, he would beat the hell out of you. Where did these guys get these ideas? He also said he saw Chikami sign a good conduct pass, and that I had given up because I thought the war was going to end, and that I didn't want to get hurt. The CIC sent two people up into the mountains of Tennessee with a court recorder to take down word for word what this guysaid. That was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. At that time my ex-company commander was still living so all they had to do was contact him. He saw me get shot, he was the one who left me behind. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, although we had lost over 50 percent of our company the day I was captured. My platoon sergeant at that time threw his rifle away and ran right by me, and he got a Silver Star. I can't say I lost all respect for medals because some were given to the right people, but there were so many that were given to the wrong people and for the wrong reasons. The worst thing in my file was from a master sergeant I didn't even know. He said that in Camp Five I tried to give the impression of being anti-Communist, but that in my heart I actually leaned toward Communism. He reported he had seen me many a night in Chinese headquarters in ernest conversation with camp officials. The only time I went to head-quarters at night was when they threw me into solitary because I wouldn't go to sleep. I couldn't believe these guys. One part of the report said, "Chikami should be notified that he is being investigated." But then another part stated, "No, we can't let him know because this is a national security matter." I was eventually cleared of all allegations, but to think that it even happened, and that all that money was spent investigating us. REMEMBERED PRISONERS OF A FORGOTTEN WAR. Copyright © 2002 by Lewis H. Carlson. Excerpted from Remembered Prisoners of a Forgotten War: An Oral History of Korean War POWs by Lewis H. Carlson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Introductionp. 1
1 Three Prisoners of Warp. 23
2 "Let Them March Till They Die"--The Tiger Death March and Beyondp. 49
3 The Sunch'on Tunnel Massacrep. 97
4 Death Valley and the Temporary Campsp. 107
5 Life in the Permanent Campsp. 121
6 Injuries, Disease, and Medical Carep. 151
7 Escape: Myth and Realityp. 163
8 Interrogation, Propaganda, Indoctrination, and "Brainwashing"p. 177
9 Progressives, Reactionaries, and the Twenty-One Who Chose to Stayp. 195
10 Freedom and Recriminationp. 213
11 Legacyp. 225
Postscriptp. 255
Biographical Sketchesp. 257
Notesp. 269
Selected Bibliographyp. 285
Indexp. 295