Tiger Survivors is a veterans group of American soldiers, one British Marine, and 79 multi-national civilians who were held as prisoners by the Communists in North Korea for 38 or more months from 1950 through 1954. The name Tiger Survivors is taken from the cruel and murdering North Korean Major who was in charge of the group from late 1950 through early 1951. A madman who enjoyed killing, “The Tiger” shot his first victim, Lt. Cordus H. Thornton, in the head.
Fifty-nine percent of the group died in captivity from a variety of causes. Many were shot or beaten to death, but the majority died because of exposure and untreated respiratory infections. Out of nearly 850 who were captured, only 165 are alive today.
There is a complete listing of the entries that could be recovered from Johnson’s List at the DPAA website.
Wayne Archer “Johnnie” Johnson, L Company, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, U. S. Army, was captured on July 11, 1950. Johnson became part of the Tiger Survivors group and was held for nearly 38 months by the North Koreans and then by the Chinese Army. He was from Lima, Ohio.
Johnson started keeping a record of the men so that the families back home would know what happened to their loved ones. The fact that he could have been punished or even shot for keeping such a list did not stop him. Along the way, buddies would tell him about someone dying and others would stand guard while Johnson recorded the deaths.
When Johnson was released in August 1953, he told the authorities on the ship about his list and the debriefing officer noted it in his file. But, nothing was done about it until 1994 when Johnson announced to several of his buddies that he still had the list.
Wilbert R. “Shorty” Estabrook, B Company, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, U. S. Army, founded the Tiger Survivors in 1970. He was working on rosters of the living and dead and Johnson’s list brought the Tiger Survivors roster to completion. Estabrook was captured on 16 July 1950.
Command Sergeant Major Timothy F. Casey, Retired U. S. Army, was also interested in POW affairs of the Korean War, though he was not a POW himself. It was Casey who brought Johnson’s list to the attention of the authorities. Casey soon became an unpaid analyst for the Tiger Survivors group and is considered by many to be an expert on Korean War POWs. With Johnson’s list and other information, Estabrook and Casey began the long process of reconstructing Tiger Survivors records which now include complete information as you see it.
Because of Johnson’s efforts in keeping his secret list, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal at a reunion of the Korean War Ex-POWs. Due to the efforts of many, the complete Tiger Survivors roster is now on the internet. Every Tiger Survivor is accounted for.
By Shorty Estabrook
Beginning on 29 June, 1950, there were 23 women arrested in South Korea by the advancing North Korean Army. These women, along with 58 civilian men, were held with American Prisoners of War who were mostly from the 24th Infantry Division, the first Americans to fight in the Korean War.
These 23 women are now known as Lady Tigers.
Being a Prisoner of War is a terrifying experience for a soldier who never knew when death would end his imprisonment. What was such an experience for a Lady? I think they suffered more than the men did. They were forced to march like the men, endure the freezing cold, sleep out in frozen fields with little cover, endure beatings and malnutrition and suffer the lice and other illnesses — just like the men. No special privilege was afforded to these brave ladies. Two of them had children with them they had to care for. Little privacy was available for them and they had to deal with the natural things related to a female. Despite all this many survived this terrible ordeal.
As of this writing perhaps two still survive. This is a testament of true grit.
Let me now introduce you to these LADY TIGERS.
Theresa Bastin, a Carmelite Nun from Viton, Belgium, was born in 1901 and was 49 when arrested in July 1950 and perished 30 November 1950 at Hanjang-ni North Korea. When World War 1 broke out she was just 13 when the Germans invaded Belgium in 1914. She became a member of “La Dame Blanche” a secret underground group. Several members were executed by the Germans and she was arrested in 1918 but released for lack of evidence. She made socks for others as a prisoner in North Korea but her health kept declining and she knew her end was near. She was with the Carmelite Convent in Seoul when arrested. She is included in a military museum in Belgium.
Mary Clare, an Anglican Nun from County Wicklow, Ireland, was born in 1883 and was 67 when arrested on 2 July 1950. She was shot to death on 6 November 1950 on the Tiger Death March.
Henriette de L’Obit a French Carmelite Nun was arrested 15 July 1950 and released on 26 March 1953. She was with the Carmelite Convent and Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres Orphanage in Seoul, South Korea.
Eugenie Demeusy (Yvonne), France, was with the Carmelite Convent and Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres, Orphanage, in Seoul, South Korea. She served that orphanage for 18 years. Born in 1903, she was 47 when arrested on 17 July 1950, and released on 26 March 1953. Because of her outstanding service during captivity she was awarded a Medal of Freedom from President Eisenhower. In later years, she retired to go to her convent in France and has since died. She was a trained nurse.
Marie Bernadett Descayaux, from France was arrested 15 July 1950 and released 26 March 1953. She was a Carmelite Nun with St. Paul de Chartress Orphanage in Seoul, South Korea.
Mechtilde Devrise, from Belgium, was a member of the Carmelite Convent and St. Paul de Chartress Orphanage in Seoul, South Korea. She was arrested 15 July 1950 and was promoted to Glory at Hanjang-ni North Korea on 18 November 1950. Born in 1888 she was 62 years old when arrested. She was born Godelieve Devriese in Ypres, Belgium. She is included in a Military museum in Belgium. While a prisoner she taught the children with that group several languages.
Nellie Dyer, an American, survived and died at age 97. She was with the Methodist Mission at Kaesong, South Korea (now in North Korea). She was born in 1902, in Conway, Arkansas, USA. Arrested 29 June 1950 and released 30 April 1953. She was a teacher and was 48 when arrested. She was in Korea during part of the occupation by Japan and was expelled when the 2nd World War began. She went to join the Methodists in the Philippines and when the Japanese invaded that country she was arrested and sent to the Santa Tomas prison in Manila and later was sent to Los Banos, which was a terrible prison.
When released from North Korea she was taken to China and allowed to shop for necessary items. She was then sent to Moscow via the Trans-Siberian railway where she caught a Pan American flight to the USA. She taught school in Little Rock, Arkansas until her retirement. She was able to have Charlotte Gliese (KO), who was also with us in prison, come to the USA and they lived together until they both went to heaven. Charlotte had no relatives in Germany. See her write up in this article.
Ann Marie Beatrix Edouard, was a Carmelite Nun from France. Arrested 17 July 1950 and was shot to death on the Tiger Death March on 3 November 1950. She was with the Carmelite Convent and St. Paul de Chartress Orphanage in Seoul. Born in 1874, she was 76 years old and in frail health when arrested.
Mrs. Funderat was a White Russian living in South Korea. She was a widow and 69 years old when arrested in July 1950. She was born in 1881. She was shot to death on the Tiger Death March on 3 November 1950. Commissioner Lord, Salvation Army of England, was actually pulling her along with a rope and was told to leave her by the roadway.
Mrs. Simone Hoang, a French civilian, was arrested in July 1950 and released in March 1953. She was arrested with her 10 year old son, Man Seng Hoang. She was married to a South Korean. I have heard that she returned to France and possibly died some years ago. Attempts to locate Man Seng have failed.
Mrs. Marusya Kilin, a White Russian living in South Korea, was arrested along with her husband and three children. She was born in 1922 and was 28 when arrested. She was released to South Korea on 1 March 1954. This was eight months after the American Prisoners of War were released. They were stateless and the Russians wanted them to go to Russia. They did not want to go to Russia and were sent to South Korea.
The entire Kilin family immigrated to the USA and lived in Maryland. I am not sure if she is still alive. If she is she would be over 90 now. Her family became very religious as Jehovah Witnesses and would not associate with us because we were in the Army and associated with war.
Olga Kilin, daughter of Marusya Kilin, and her statistics are the same as her mother. I learned that Olga had gone to Russia and was an interpreter and translator. If still alive she would be nearly 60 years old.
Charlotte Gliese (KO), a German lady who married a Korean and taught at a University in South Korea. She was most beautiful, was born in 1916 and was 34 years old when arrested in July 1950. She was released on 26 March 1953 and returned to Germany. She had no family in Germany. Nellie Dyer, an American imprisoned with her, was able to have her immigrate to the USA to live with her. She was called Lote and imported beautiful furniture from the orient for resale. She did very well at that business. I visited her and Nellie some years ago. When Nellie was promoted to Heaven, Lote had a hard time coping. She could never accept the death of Nellie. Lote has since died.
Marie Madeleine Marquier, a French Carmelite Nun, was with the Carmelite Convent and St. Paul de Chartress Orphanage in Seoul. She was arrested 15 July 1950 and released 26 March 1953. Born in 1891, she was 59 when arrested.
Marguerite Martel was French. She was in South Korea because her brother Charles was with the French Legation. He was also a prisoner with us. She was born in 1912 and was 38 when arrested in July 1950. She was released on 26 March 1953. She later immigrated to the USA and lived in the Portland Oregon area. Life was difficult for her and she died and was buried in the county cemetery. Several Tiger Survivors went there to honor her. The name “Martel” is a historical name in France, as a long time ago a Charles Martel defeated the Islamists when they tried to invade France.
Amelia Martel, from France, was arrested in July 1950 at age 76. Her daughter, Marguerite, and son, Charles, were also arrested. Charles was with the French Legation in Seoul. Amelia’s father, Frantz Eckert, worked for the Japanese Navy long ago and taught music to the Japanese. He was German and actually wrote the present day Japanese anthem.
Amelia was released on 26 March 1953. She immigrated to the Portland, Oregon area and is buried in the same cemetery as her daughter, Marguerite. Ironically another daughter, Marie, was with a German Benedictine Monastery in Pyongyang, North Korea and they were all arrested by the North Korean Government in 1949. This daughter was within a few miles of her mother, sister, and brother but did not know it. Amelia did know that her daughter had been arrested in 1949. Larry Zellers, who was also with our group, saw graves of some of the Benedictines who had died in captivity. Survivors of that group, including Marie Martel, were released in 1954.
Helene Orchestraia was a Polish Korean arrested in July 1950. She worked for the Foreign Traders Exchange in Seoul, South Korea. She may have married an American soldier. She was beautiful; I have a picture of her. The North Koreans used her as an interpreter. She was last seen in Pyongyang, North Korea and disappeared never to be seen again. Maisara Daulatsch Vorosoff knew Helene during better times in South Korea.
Helen Rosser was arrested on 29 June 1950, before the first battle of the Americans. She was with the Methodist Mission at Kaesong, South Korea (now in North Korea). Born in 1905 at Macon, Georgia, USA, she was 45 years old at capture. She was a trained Public Health nurse with great musical talent, among other things. She returned to Georgia for a short rest and then back to Korea where she founded Boys Town on Friendship Island in Pusan, South Korea. When asked how much longer we would be in North Korea her stock answer was, “It won’t be long now!” I told her once that Goose Neck, the second in command to the Tiger, was actually the missing link. She always remembered that. A great lady indeed and she crossed the river leaving many memories.
Faiza Salahudtin lived in South Korea with her family and was arrested on 28 July 1950. She was arrested along with her husband, a demented sister, her brother, and six children ranging in age from less than a year to 17. They all survived! Born in 1912, she was 38 when arrested. She was released with her family to South Korea and all made it to the USA except her brother, who went to Turkey.
This family was often called “Turks” but they were actually Tatars with Kazan in Russia as the center of their universe. We did not have any “Turks” with us. They were and are a strong race of people. Can you imagine being in that situation with six children. One was a 16 year girl who was beautiful. Mom had to keep a keen eye on her. Only the children are living to this day, all in America. This family was not released until 1 March 1954 and sent to South Korea at that time. They were never turned over to the Chinese like we were. Members of the Turkish Army met them in South Korea. Everything they owned was gone; they had nothing. An American Major helped them come to America. Fiaza was scared when her oldest son, Sagid, escaped with Master Sergeant Fisher Watkins. She was afraid the Communist would shoot her family. Within a few days both Sagid and Sergeant Watkins were recaptured.
Saida Salahudtin Hanmore is the second child of the Salahudtin family and she was 16 when arrested. She was also a Tatar. Arrested and released at the same time her mother was. She was born in 1935. She was most beautiful and everyone was in love with her. She is still alive in Florida. During captivity she became proficient in several languages, taught by one of the Carmelite Nuns.
Miss Sofiya Sultan was arrested along with her sister Fiaza Salahudtin, her family and her brother. She lived to see freedom. She was a Tatar born in 1922. Sofiya was demented and was cared for by her sister Fiaza.
Bertha Smith, USA, was with the Methodist Mission at Kaesong, South Korea. She was arrested in July 1950 at age 65. She survived and died free at age 77. She came to freedom via Moscow, Russia. Seoul City Sue, who broadcast for the Communist, also worked at that mission.
Maisara Daulatsch Vorosoff was a Tatar. She was arrested on 29 June 1950 and released 1 March 1954. She was born in 1921 and was 29 when arrested. She lived in Korea during the Japanese occupation of that country. At one time she sold movie tickets to Japanese soldiers. She was married and had a daughter. She sent her daughter to Turkey because of the coming war in Korea. She was divorced and then was arrested by the Communist. She was never turned over to the Chinese like we were. She married Dimitri Vorosoff while in prison and had a son born in captivity on 24 November 1953. His name is Alexi and he lives in the Portland, Oregon area. Dimitri, a White Russian, died there some years ago. Maisara died some years ago as well.
Maisara came to many of our reunions and was well received. She spoke several languages. In later life she went blind. My wife and I went to visit with her.