Oscar Cortez

From Oscar Cortez:

I arrived at Camp #3 North around October 1951 and the Tiger Survivors arrived probably in November, I remember it was raining when they arrived. We looked out the big windows in our “house” and I felt sorry they were getting wet and I prayed that none would get sick.

In early spring on 1952 some of us were transferred to Camp #3 South. There we joined the guys that were captured in July 1950, The Tiger Survivors. I left some close buddies in Camp #3 North like Lester Todd, Ted Hada and a an older man who knew my mother in Pearsall, TX, Marcos Gonzalez. It surprised me when I told him that my mother was from Pearsall and then he asked what was her name, so when I told him her name he told me that he knew her, that she had blue eyes and was very beautiful.

By the way, over our camp South was known as MIG alley. Our Saber jets and the Chinese MIGS would have a dog fight. We would go to the banks of the river, lay down and wait for them to start shooting, that was about all the entertainment we got.

More from Oscar about life in camp:

David Spears was the butcher in our company. One day I was helping David (Teji) by stoking the fire under the big cauldron to get the water to boil. After David has the hog ready he put it in the pot, David let the hog in the boiling water a bit too long, he pulled it out and was ready to scrape the hair off the hog. All this time there stood a Chinese (Leo) watching every move. When David got the knife and scrape the hair a slice of fat  rolled back. Leo right away started hollering and asked David, who did that heh? who did that. In our camp we had twelve squads so David said “nature did it” Leo asked who is it, what squad is he in, David told him “he is in squad thirteen, so Leo took off and went looking for “nature”. Those Chinese were dumb. My wife and I visited David and his wife some years ago and we remembered all the goofy things that went on in our camp.

I asked Oscar how often they had meat and here is his reply:

I don’t recall exactly But I know that when we had pork the POW’s that were from Pakistan or that region they couldn’t eat the pork , it was against their religion and the Chinese had our American cooks make a special dish for them. The Chinese finally sent them to another camp with the rest of their kind. I’ll try to get the info from Tony Sanchez who was a cook.

Here’s another tidbit from my time with the “yellow sob’s” in the first Chinese camp I was in. While in camp 3 North this young puppy used to come around and me and another fellow POW used to feed him some scraps of food. One morning in early spring of 1952 the Chinese took us on a morning walk for exercise and this pup was running in between us while marching. On the way back I saw the pup cowering besides the road so I fell out of ranks and went and picked him up. Just as soon as I got into formation this Chinese by the name of Leo, I called him moon face because his face was concave, came to me and wanted the dog, I couldn’t understand him so the interpreter by the name of Sue, I called him Susie cause he looked just like a young girl, and Sue told to give the puppy to Leo, he said that the pup had killed a baby chick and he gave me the story about the chick could have more chicks, etc. I really don’t know what came over me but I jerked the dog back and I yelled at Sue “no you can’t have the dog you yellow sons of bitches” Sue kinda raised his voice and asked me “what you say huh. what you say? So I repeated again “you yellow etc. etc.” Finally Leo took the dog out of my arms and he swung him against the rocky side of the road killing him.

After we got back to our compound Sue called me and we went to this mud house where an upper ranking Chinese was sitting, I called that Chinese “a political commissar”. Here again I don’t know what came over me that Sue told me to explain what happened and I answered with “vayan ala chingada, no les voy a decir nada”. “I’m not going to tell a damn thing” Sue again said for me to speak English, again I told them to “go to hell” in Spanish. They talk between them and a Chinese soldier came in, here I thought I was going to be put in a hole for up to a month but no, the soldier took me behind the houses and went out close to the back waters of the Yalu river. I was supposed to be at attention but I was picking up flat rocks and skimming them over the water. After awhile I was sent back to our “house”. After awhile another Chinese interpreter by the name of you guessed it, it was another Sue, but this one was ugly as sin that we called ugly Sue. He took me to his room and started telling me that all the interpreters who spoke Spanish were in the front lines, I said to myself, yeah, right. And that we should decide what we were going to speak. There were only 5 of us speaking Spanish, so I went and told the guys what had happened, I told them I was sorry I got them in that predicament and that we should decide what we were going to speak, we decided to speak English. I went back and told ugly Sue that we decided to speak English, here again I don’t know what made say this: alright but don’t f..k with me and I won’t f..k with you. And they never f with me even though I did a couple of things.
Another installment from Oscar about his experience as a POW:
In the middle of April we were strafed by our own planes. The day before a squad of North Korean soldiers were going by and they heard the sound of an airplane they ran to hide under the roof of the building we were in. I told some of our guys to “lay down” but they didn’t understand us. The plane was a spotter plane and he took pictures of them.

Next morning a guy by the name of Jimmy Chavez and I were out back not far from the building when we heard machine gun fire, it was our planes, I say our planes but I saw the South Korean emblem on the side of the planes. They keep coming around and firing their machine guns and also some rockets. The building was on fire and I heard the GI’s hollering, they were burned alive. That incident cost about 15-20 lives. After it was over I went out and saw the carnage our planes did.

The Korean guards brought stretchers and I helped put the bodies on them, the bodies that were burned the skin came off when I grabbed one by the stiff arm, smoke was still coming from their bodies. We took the bodies to a depression between two roads and we just dumped them there. That scene is engrained in my memory and I used to have nightmares about that massacre, those nightmares don’t come very often now. I


  1. Oscar Cortez

    I would like to hear from the GI’s that were in that strafing in April 1951

    • Hello Oscar, I’ve been trying to find you. I am a Korean War historian, and I’m working on a book about what happened at Changbong-ni and Hoengsong when you were captured. I was losing hope when I spotted your note on the ex-pow website. I have spoken with several other ex-pows who were caught in that trap, and they have mentioned the strafing. But I hadn’t yet found anybody from the 15th FAB.

      Would you be willing to talk to me about your time in Korea? I’m hoping you might be able to talk a little bit about Colonel Keith and also MSGT Jimmie Holloway, as well?

      My Korean War series is called Prairie Boys at War, but my research on Massacre Valley will be in its own book. I look forward to hearing back from you.

      My email address is mhelm (at) cableone.net.

      Thank you for your service in Korea, and I’m relieved you made it home alive.

      All the best,

      Merry Helm

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