The POW Experience


Thanks to a friend who attends our reunions and gathers recollections from the POWs. He then takes those recollections and combines them into a narrative which helps them with the recovery of those that still remain in Korea. Many of these reports are from him and give us some insight into what the POWs endured.


Stan Gawley: UK POWs

Posted by on Dec 10, 2013 in The POW Experience | 2 comments

Stan Gawley: UK POWs

From Stan Gawley to Lew Villa: MAD-16 (nothing to do with the loony bin – the guys name is Mick A Dellow) is of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers and the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Some of these lads would have been fellow POWs with you from whom you would have picked up strange pronunciation of the Queen’s English. An English film star called Michael Caine was a Private in the RNF in Korea (before he was a film star, of course). In MAD-18 Col. Carr VC was a POW. You may recall the battle of Gloster Hill where the Regiment fought a rearguard action to delay the Chinese from getting to Seoul. They lost a hell of a lot of men and what men were left after running out of ammo were taken prisoner. MAD-19 are the “other ranks” (as we were quaintly referred to) who were proudly marching from the troopship at Southampton. You may have known a few of these lads. MAD-22 These Black Watch were on the Hook in November ’52 three days before this photo was taken and one of our tanks was called up to the top of the hill to support them. Taff Lewis, the driver, was badly wounded when a bazooka hit the front of the tank. Williamson the Wireless Operator pulled Lewis through into the turret and reversed the tank back down the hill to offload Lewis and get a replacement driver. They used to call Lewis “The Beast” on account of his body hair. They got him out of the tank onto a stretcher to take him to the Aid Post but after falling off three times due to the incoming shells he said, “Bugger this, I’ll walk”. And with that he gathered his protruding guts into his arms and walked up to see the medics. After a cup of tea (how English can you get?) the new driver, Bill Ward, started back up the hill. On the way the tank caught fire around the gun mounting. Williamson climbed out of the turret and in full view of the enemy snipers he tackled the blaze jumped back in the tank and they continued along the ridge before going over the top so the gun could point down the other side.They stayed there all night blasting away as attack after attack came at the Black Watch trenches. They had one of these big US search lights mounted on the main gun which helped the crew to see but it also gave the enemy something to shoot at. There were search lights shining on them from other hill tops in the rear which also lit up the tank. By the next morning the Chinese finally gave up and a platoon of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry came and cleared up the remnants. I was talking on the phone to Ron ‘grouch’s Marks the other day. He was the tank gunner on that night. He recalled that as the tank prepared to reverse back over the hill the Infantrymen formed two lines either side of the tank as it pulled away over the hill. No saluting or cheering or hand clapping. Just a silent gesture that said good job – well done. The commander of the tank was Lt. Michael Anstice son of...

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Oscar Cortez: Bridge of No Return

Posted by on Dec 10, 2013 in The POW Experience | 0 comments

Oscar Cortez: Bridge of No Return

From Oscar Cortez: This was taken in 2001 when we made a return trip to Korea. My compadre and I were the only ones who could get off the bus and we were told by a S/MAJ that we could walk to the center of the bridge. This is only one picture, there is one where we both were at the center and we embraced and we were teary eye. I crossed that bridge on Aug. 26 1953.

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Tom Hollis 3 RAR

Posted by on Nov 13, 2013 in The POW Experience | 2 comments

Tom Hollis 3 RAR

This was written by Tom’s son, John, as Tom reminisced. As you said Dad was captured on the 21-1-51. He was sent out on patrol behind enemy lines with LT Angus Macdonald, Cp Laurie Buckland, Private Ted Light, Don Buck and Dad. They were all Green Beret Commando’s except for Buck, the first three from the same Squadron from the Second World War. They were sent out as the Americans wanted to know where the Chinese were. They had been on their feet from 06.00 the day before and were then chosen to go on the Patrol. They were turning from the Patrol and came to a town called Ichon and 2 of the blokes weren’t feeling well as they had been on their feet for 46 hours. They came across a house on the edge of town and decided to rest up. Upon entering the house they came across a Korean and took him captive, not realising it was a 2 bedroom another Korean had slipped out and informed the Chinese who then came and surrounded the house and took them Prisoner. They were taken back to what he thinks was a Divisional Headquarters they were put in a room which was on the front line where they stayed about a week, then they separated MacDonald, Buckland and Light and took them away. Dad and Buck were kept for about another week and were used to carry food down the Chinese Troops. They were then moved back because they needed further education, as they were taken back they were picking up more prisoners from a few didn’t countries. They finally go back to what they called the bean camp. ( Now this is where the story changes the Bean Camp was called the Gold Camp because it was on the site of an old Gold mine. They found that out as some other death marches were started there and the troops said it was called the Gold Camp. Now the prisoners in Dad’s group called it the Bean Camp because all they were fed was beans, till this day Dad has never been able to another bean). Over a period of time other Prisoners from other Countries were bought in, a lot of Americans etc. They were losing about 40 a day dying from one cause or another either from the wounds or starvation. Dad got paraded to the Camp Commander who spoke perfect English, he gave him a Cigarette and told Dad to sit down on his veranda where Dad asked him if they could mark the camp with POW so it wouldn’t be bombed. He said they couldn’t as they had done that before and The American Imperialist had bombed it. He then told Dad it wouldn’t be bombed because of the terrain, it had a hill here and a mountain there. Not long after that the camp was bombed by he thinks the South African Air Force flying P51’s. They fired 4 rockets and killed 38 prisoners and that was the reason they moved the prisoners north. Now we are at the start of the Death March, on the first night they moved 350 and on the second night they moved another 350. That’s when they were all put together. Now they were put on...

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Shorty Estabrook: Task Force Smith

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in The POW Experience | 3 comments

Shorty Estabrook: Task Force Smith

Today, actually this morning, some 63 years ago, the sun came out as usual and it was very humid in that far off land called Korea. Task Force Smith, a group of a little more than 500 men, from the 24th Infantry Division including Artillery and Medical, spent the night of the 4th of July, 1950, hunkered down in fox holes waiting the onslaught of the North Korean Army that was steam rolling down Korea. They woke up tired and hungry and had that feeling in their stomachs. Then, on 5 July, “ the you know what”, hit the fan.  A gallant fight followed and the Americans fought bravely even though outnumbered, out gunned and unprepared for battle. This morning, 63 years ago, many Americans were killed in action, wounded in action and captured.  The first Americans captured in the Korean War began their long imprisonment in Korea.  Many would not make it home and are still bleaching in the sun of North Korea. These men were subjected to torture and barbaric brutal captivity. This year we will commemorate the 60 years since the Cease Fire in Korea. But let us not forget those brave men who met the enemy on this day 63 years ago today.  Don’t let history move the brush so quickly. I have to think that without Task Force Smith, many good friends of mine, North Korea might have taken South Korea by storm.  Think of the implications if that had happened. And there is no such thing as the “Forgotten War.”  Communism was dealt a death blow and now many who lived under Communism are free. Freedom is indeed not free and that is not true in North Korea where there is no freedom at all. We salute the men of Task Force Smith.  Brave men, who were sent into the inferno of battle, and who, deserve our praise and thanks for a job very well done. Shorty Estabrook July 5,...

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Master Sergeant James Henry Barber

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in The POW Experience | 1 comment

Master Sergeant James Henry Barber

Master Sergeant James Henry Barber was a member of G Company, 2nd Battalion of 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He was captured in North Korea on 3 December 1950, along the road running westward from Hungnam on the east coast. This was the port through which allied forces advanced to the Chosin Reservoir, farther north, and through which they fell back when almost surrounded and cut off by large Chinese forces entering the war. Your father’s unit had an especially important task, of keeping this lateral road open, to prevent other Chinese forces from encircling Hungnam from inland and cutting off the friendly units then withdrawing through the port. As a POW, MSG Barber marched northward, past the Chosin Reservoir, to spend Christmas of 1950 at Kanggye, deep within the interior of North Korea. Later that spring, he continued on to Camp 5 at Pyoktong and finally Camp 3 at Changsong, both on the south bank of the Yalu River. He returned to friendly hands during Operation Big Switch on 5 August 1953. He was not a Master Sergeant at the time, so he went from Camp 5 to Camp 3, instead of Camp 4 at Wiwon, which was reserved for...

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Phillip R. Anderson, Jr.

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in The POW Experience | 0 comments

Phillip R. Anderson, Jr.

Phillip R. Anderson, Jr., , served in A Company, 1st Battalion of 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.  He was captured near Seoul, the capital of South Korea, on New Year’s Day 1951 as friendly forces fell back under very heavy attack by a large Chinese Army.  Badly outnumbered, U.S. and U.N. forces had to give up Seoul to the enemy, although it would be taken back later in the year.  After several days in the local area with front-line units, Phillip Anderson began a long march northward into the interior of North Korea.  They stopped first at a former workers’ camp near Suan, which would later be known as Suan Bean Camp, but he was among the very first men to rest there.  A few weeks later, he continued north, around the edge of Pyongyang, to reach the Pukchin-Tarigol Valley, another temporary stopping point.  This time they met many more POWs, from December 1950 battles around Kunu-ri in North Korea.  From there, he marched on to permanent Camp 5 at Old Pyoktong on the south bank of the Yalu River, during March 1951.  He survived that first terrible winter, and stayed there for the rest of his captivity, returning to friendly hands in Operation Big Switch on 7 August...

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Interview with Franklin Jack Chapman:

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in The POW Experience | 0 comments

Interview with Franklin Jack Chapman:

At Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. In Camp Carson I received training in heavy weapons, a track vehicle which was the “weasel” at the time, (they called it a “weasel”) and cross-country skiing and rock climbing. Then in December 1949, we went to Alaska for two months on maneuvers. We returned from Alaska in March or April and then I was sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, to help train ROTC. At the time they had openings in Japan. So I volunteered to go to Japan. That was in June of 1950. When I got to Japan, I was assigned to Company D, 31st Infantry, 7th Division. Company D was heavy weapons. Shortly thereafter, the Korean War broke out, June 27, 1950; we were getting prepared to go to Korea. In the early part of September we board a ship en route to make the Inch’on landing, which we did on the 18th of September. The Marines went in on the 15th of September. The Marines went to Seoul. Our organization went to Suwon to liberate the airfield at Suwon. In October of 1950, we were pulled out of combat and taken to Pusan, South Korea, where we boarded ships again for another landing. The Marines made a landing at Wonson and we made a landing one hundred miles north of Wonson at Iwon, North Korea. We proceeded from there to the Yalu River. In the latter part of October, we pulled back to the city of Hamburg. Then we were told that they needed reinforcements at the Chosin Reservoir. Our platoon and Company B of the 31st Infantry was assigned to Task Force Drysdale, which was named for Colonel Drysdale from the 41st Royal British Marines. He had a group of Royal British Marines, several American Marines, and our detachment, Baker Company and one platoon from Delta Company, 31st Infantry, which consisted of approximately 900 men, proceeded to go to the Chosin Reservoir. This was in November. On November the 29th, we were ambushed about four and a half miles from the 1st Marine Command post. We fought through the 29th and the morning of November 30th. We had made about four and one half miles from the Marine Command. We were about four or five miles south of the Chosin Reservoir, when we were overrun by the Chinese Army. When I came to, the evening of November 30th, 1950, I was in a room with several other wounded guys. US Marines, US Army, and Royal Marines. The estimate was that they outnumbered us ten to one. During the two days fighting there, I was wounded seven times. LOUISE S. FORSHAW: How seriously were you wounded? FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: I was shot in the head (in the forehead), both legs, both arms, and in my left hip. So when I came to the evening of November 30th, 1950 I was in a room with several other guys who had been wounded, U.S. Military, Marines, Royal British Marines and Army guys. LOUISE S. FORSHAW: Was this a hospital run by your people? FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: No, it was a Korean house that the Chinese had put us in. LOUISE S. FORSHAW: I see, so you had been captured as a wounded person. FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes. And how I got to that...

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William E Baker

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in The POW Experience | 3 comments

William E Baker

William E. Baker was a member of Service Battery, 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division.  He was among the men who kept ammunition moving forward to the battalion’s firing batteries.  He was captured near Kunu-ri, North Korea, on 30 November 1950.  After a few days in the local area, he began marching, usually at night, from village to village, arriving at Pukchin-Tarigol, the site of a large mining camp, on or about Christmas Day.  Men from several groups gathered there.  Conditions were very bad, but at least they were out of the wind.  In January 1951, he marched on to permanent Camp 5 on the south bank of the Yalu River at Old Pyoktong, passing the rest of the Winter there.  During the Summer that followed, he went by barge down the Yalu River to a new site, Camp 3 below Changsong, where he spent the rest of the war.  He returned from captivity on 28 August 1953. Meanwhile, the Chinese had changed their tactics, trying to indoctrinate POWs in study sessions.  Bill was able to take notes, but not on what the Chinese intended.  He wrote down the names of friends and companions, in hopes of getting them out should any not return.  Some of these men died in captivity, but many others returned.  When we borrowed the book, out best hope was in being able to reconstruct who moved between Camp 5 and Camp 3, and this was one of the resources that helped us to do so.  We often chat with friends at FBI and other agencies, but we did the immediate work here, at Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office.  We are very thankful for the information Bill provided.  In many cases it was not unique, for other friends had also spoken of companions, but it helped to fill in a lot of the details.  We know who returned home, and we know, with pretty good reliability, who died in captivity, when and where.  This will be very helpful if we are ever allowed to work in North Korea again, as we have in several past...

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June 2013

Posted by on Jun 1, 2013 in The POW Experience | 0 comments

On 11 April 2013, a long journey came to an end.  Capt/Chaplain/Father Emil J. Kapaun [Hq/8 Cavalry, POW 2 November 1950, death reported on 23 May 1951] posthumously received his Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama.  Nine surviving POWs who had known him were there, alphabetically: Gerald “Bob” Cavagnaro, Richard A. Caverly, Ray Michael Dowe, Jr. Robert L. McGreevy, Herbert A. Miller, Joe E. Ramirez, William J. Richardson, Jr., Paul Adams Roach, Jr., and Robert Stephen Wood.  Father Kapaun’s nephew, Mr. Ray Kapaun of Pilsen, Kansas, received the award on his behalf, and several other family members were present, as well. Father Kapaun was among the 8th Cavalrymen captured at Unsan when their positions were overrun by massive Chinese forces.  He was taken at the 3rd Battalion Command Post, where he had stayed behind to help care for the wounded, actually on 5 November.  Marching northward, he did all that he could for the men around him, first at the holding point of Sambakkol and then at Camp 5 at Old Pyoktong on the south bank of the Yalu River.  In an act of continuing sacrifice, he knowingly exhausted himself, and finally passed on 23 May 1951.  We know that he died at the Pagoda Sick House, and that he was buried behind it, not across the back water arm that extended behind Camp 5 on its north side. His remains have never been identified, but do we have them now?  Some bodies were returned after war’s end during Operation Glory, including about 560 remains from Camp 5.  All but 75 men from this group were identified at Kokura, Japan, in 1954-56, and returned to their families.  The 75 were then among the Unknowns buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) in Honolulu, Hawaii, in May 1956.  In recent years, we have done exhumations from NMCP, and among others, we have identified six men from Camp 5.  Beyond all of that, the North Koreans returned an additional 208 containers with U.S. remains during 1990-94, and 21 of these were from Camp 5.  Five additional Camp 5 identifications have come from this group. Work continues.  The 208 containers from 1990-94 are in a respectful, working storage above ground.  So the scientists at Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) can examine them freely.  But we will not request an exhumation from NMCP unless there is good, probable cause, meaning well done preparations for a likely identification.  The rules are different, but we’re making progress with both groups It’s not just a case of Father Kapaun’s remains.  As we fine-tune good methods, other identifications will surely follow.  Very often, an identification “here” will suggest a name from “there.”  As many of you already know, Father Kapaun is also under consideration for beatification and sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.  This question is outside our venue, but there’s no harm in simply wishing a good man, an exceptional man, well.  He and his companions, either returned from Camp 5 or still resting at Camp 5, are a very special responsibility.  Efforts at resolution continue . . . . The Sambakkol [125 30 45 E, 40 34 33 N] and Camp 5 [125 26 00 E, 40 37 30 N] sites are still intact, and you can look them up.  Go to...

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