Hoengsong Massacre

In early March, 1951, I was a young Marine, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, in Korea. We advanced north from Hoengsong, Korea for about two miles and then entered into an area that I will never forget. There, scattered along that road for about a mile was the destroyed convoy of American military vehicles and men, such as we had never seen before or since. Hundreds of Americans lay dead among the vehicles, all along that stretch of road. I took part in rescuing several wounded Americans who had been left behind , after the Chinese marched several hundred prisoners north. This spot became known as “Massacre Valley” by the Marines. At that time, reporters and photographers were forbidden from taking pictures or reporting what they saw at that time. Very little was ever written about what happened or how many Americans and their equipment were destroyed. There was, in fact, a great cover-up of this disaster and it has been kept out of the official history books.

Now, after all of these years, I am trying to assist Mrs. Merry Helms, an accomplished author, in searching out the facts of what really happened back then and at that place. The American people aught to know. And, the men who either lost their lives, or became prisoners of war through that disaster should be honored and remembered for their sacrifices in behalf of their country.

I am therefore respectfully requesting your kindness and assistance in locating any survivors of the “Hoengsong Massacre” with whom we may be able to communicate and have them help us, in turn, to prepare and publish an accurate account of what took place and how it affected their individual lives. Those of us who served at that time are fast passing from this life and it is of urgent need that we record this story while some of the survivors are still with us. I trust that you can understand what I am saying and asking of you. Please help us in any way possible to find and contact living survivors of the “Hoengsong Massacre.”

We would like to contact any survivors who were there in February 1951.

Please accept our humble appreciation for any assistance you may be able to provide.


Jack M. Witter
e-mail address: JMDL54@charter.net


  1. Dan Hokanson

    Dear Sir,
    I came across your website researching “Massacre Valley” on my way to the plane side service for the remains of Corporal Ben L. Brown of Coos County, Oregon. His remains were recently identified and his funeral will be this Friday, 15 May 2015 at the Roseburg National Cemetary in Roseburg, Oregon. Cpl Brown was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and was killed in action near the village of Hoengsong the night of February 11th, seven days after being deployed to Korea. Oregonians will be in Roseburg to remember one of our own.
    Very Respectfully,

    • Ricky wise

      My uncle was there odis,Hilburn mia feb 12-1951 my family didnt know any thing about this story should be out for everyone to read family member should be able to a say

      • Marianne Masters

        I too share this dreadful date of death of my grandfather william lauer without answers:(

  2. My father, Ray Wilbert Etter, was declared MIA, presumed killed, at Hoengsong. He was in Company A, 13th Engineer Combat Battalion, 7th Infantry Division.

    • Steven Abramowitz

      Robert Juch my father Martin Abramowitz was also in CO A 13th Engineer (C) BN 7th Infantry Division. He was WIA AT Hoengsong on the night of 11 February 1951.

      According to my father he was part of a rearguard force and as they were going through a village they came under heavy fire. There was much confusion and return fire. In the confusion they were ordered to cease firing because they were firing on friendly troops. However, this was not the case as the enemy began screaming and blowing bulges as they charged at them. My father was shot by a Chinese Soldier as he was getting out of the truck he was driving. He survived by playing dead and was picked up several hours later by Allied forces.

  3. P. Justus

    My father was Lt. Bert W. Justus. He was captured at Hoengsong and taken North on one of the infamous “death marches”. We have been told he died of his wounds by the side of the road, but my poor mother died believing her husband was still imprisoned in some No. Korean hell hole. Not knowing has a different effect on a family than mourning a death. I am also writing a historical fiction novel about the incidents because somebody must do something to keep the facts straight. It is a story that must be told. Thank you.

  4. Keith Olson

    My Dad, Cpl. Harold B. Olson, was captured February 12, 1951, during this battle. He was wounded, and my Grandmother was informed he had died as a POW on May 1, 1951. I was 12. The notifications done at that time were primitive. We got a telegram. It took a long time for me to get information about what happened to him.We were not even informed that his named was added to the Punch Bowl Roll in Hawaii. I am looking for books and articles that tell the story. And I hope for a response from someone who may have known my Dad at that time. But I know time is short.

    • Darlene Sabol

      I dont know if you still have this email address or will ever see this, but I had an uncle, my mother’s brother, who was also taken prisoner on Feb. 12, 1951. He was in that terrible battle but we know so little. Like your family, my grandparents were notified by telegram. He died in a POW camp. I don’t know which one. I have wanted to find out more information for years. My Uncle was Dale Gustafson. Perhaps your dad knew my uncle.

      • Marianne Masters

        Interested if u found any answers as im in the same situation

      • Marianne Masters

        I have the same story from my grandmother with a death date of 2/12. William lauer 38th infantry

    • Joe Osman

      Anthony Herbert talks about an action in Masssacre Valley in the last few chapters of his book “Conquest to Nowhere.” He was in the 38th Infantry at the time. He later became a controversial figure as a Lt. Col. in the Army.

      • Marianne Masters

        How can i find this? My grandfather was in the 38th and MIA

      • Marianne Masters

        Thank u I ordered this online after reading ur comment. My grandfather was in the 38th infantry and i have his journals tho my grandmother swears what they gave her of his belongings could not have been his…

  5. Janet Blakeney

    My uncle Orvile Byrd was killed in Hoengsong. Remains were shipped home months later. Does the military ever disenterr remains to do DNA testing?

  6. becky clark

    I unfortunately am reading this too late. our neighbor John Brown just recently passed away from old age, he was there on those terrible days. just read an article his wife let me read that the army had given her. He received many medals for that day one was a purple heart. he never spoke of the ordeal even with his own children, they found out about it after his death. He was injured but stayed to continue fighting he was a cannon fighter.

  7. Stanley Bigos

    My father Stanley Bigos, turned 40 January 15, 1951, while serving in Army 7th Infantry Division as machine gunner. Because he could use climbing hooks, he also served as lineman to maintain communications. We were living in Nebraska when he got called up after signing up for the reserves after serving in WWII. He commonly identified himself by his home town of Blaine, Ohio 5 miles from Wheeling WV,

    I heard of “Hoengsong” when Jack Briggs, who served with my father in Korea, would come to visit. They described the “Massacre” as being trapped crawling for 4 days in a bowl with steep ridges with heavy artilery provided by both sides. They were both angry blaming McArthur for hiding the truth about the engagement for political reasons.

    Sorry but those are the only 2 names I can provide as I was 5 years old when he returned from Korea.
    Good luck in your writing endeavors.

  8. Lisa Lawer

    I want my cousin’s remains back; my daughter and I have both submitted DNA. He survived the massacre, was marched for months as a POW and killed.

    Harry C. Prunier 1931-1951, 20 years old

    Purple Heart
    Prisoner of War Medal
    National Defense Service Medal
    Korean Service Medal
    Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
    United Nations Service Medal
    Republic of Korea War Service Medal

    Sergeant Prunier was a member of Battery A, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. He was taken Prisoner of War while fighting the enemy near Hoengsong, South Korea on February 13, 1951 and died while a prisoner on July 31, 1951. His remains were not recovered. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.

    • Sally

      My uncle, Glen E. kritzwiser, was in the 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infanrty, was captured and died as a pow in that war. I received a phone call a few weeks ago that his remains have been identified. He has been buried in the punch bowl, Honolulu memorial since 1954. Don’t give up hope!

    • Ricky wise

      My uncle odis hilburn mia is all my family there was no more imformation on my uncle if there was any one live would some imformation on uncle to here from

    • Marianne Masters

      Sorry for ur loss. I too am looking for answers for my grandfather. Can u please tell me how u submitted ur testing so i can possibly do the same?
      Thank u and ill pray u get answers

  9. My grandfathers uncle was also in the 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd ID. He was Captured on 11 February 1951 with a large group of his soldiers near Hoengsong. He was marched with the other POWs that was captured. Unfortunaly he was one of many that never made it back home and his remains still have not been returned. His name is on the Honolulu Memorial. His name is Sgt Esequiel Alvarez Olachia and he was presumed dead on 31 Dec 1953. If any one has group photos that they can share, I would really appreciate it. My family does not have any photos of him in the army except family pictures. For this unit I have found the 2nd ID command report about this incident if any one would like it, please email me and i will send it to you through email. If any one has any information they would like to share please let me know and what I have I am willing to share as well.

    • My birth father who died before I was born was a communications lineman and radio operator in the 38th 2nd division, There were 5 in that position from his letters. He was wounded on February 13 and died in a MASH hospital on Feb 14.I am trying to piece things together for his biography, and would love to have any information you could direct me to. Please email me. Thank you so much.

      • Marianne Masters

        My grandfather is reported deceased on 2/12 and was in the 38th. Have letters he sent home yet the remains my grandmother swears arent his. William ‘bill’ lauer

    • Dixie Paul

      My uncle Bobby J McGregor, was in this regiment and was one of the prisoners of war who is lucky enough to survive the March. He recalls his experience in the Harlan daily enterprise weekend edition February 10, 1990. He told his story and his words.

      • Marianne Masters

        I would love to read this if u can tell me where to fine it. My grandfather was William Lauer and was MIA until 2/12 and and when his remains went to my grandmother she swore it wasnt his

  10. Greg Beckwith

    On August 4th, 2017 our family was notified that my half-brothers remains have been identified. He was captured on February 13th, 1951, during this battle, and later died on May 3rd, 1951, in the Suan Bean POW Camp, N. Korea. He was assigned to D Battery, 82nd AS A Battalion. He will be buried in October 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  11. Mel McNea

    My uncle, Melvin McNea, was killed in Hoensong on March 2nd, 1951. He was awarded the Bronze Star twice for his bravery at the Chosin-ri battle where he was wounded and again received the bronze star when he was killed saving the life of a fellow American.

  12. Dexter Terry

    My dad was at this place he was in “C” Battery and he made it out.

  13. A fine gentleman, Billy Therwhanger, from our church family just passed away. I just found out he was at the battle that he referred to as Massacre Valley. He told his son that on the 14th he was focused on staying alive to turn 21 on February 16th. He made it out and just passed away at the age of 87. His coffin was respectfully draped with the American flag that he so proudly fought for and honored with his life. He was always a proud American. For Billy I ask for God to Bless America

  14. Terry Robb

    My dad is a veteran of Heongsong. He was assigned to the Army’s 1-38 Infantry. He was captured there and spent 30 months in Bean Camp, Camp 1, and Camp 4. I am finishing up a video documentary now.

  15. My great uncle was killed there, Corporal Rudolph Tellez 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. He was a signal message clerk. Their story needs to be told. I’d like to know more about what happened to my great uncle.

  16. Robert sauer jr

    My uncle on dad’s side was taken prisoner at massacre valley on Feb 15 1951 and was able to escape from Chinese forces.his name was Ronald sauer was part of anti air when over runned.he was in the stars and stripes.he was big reason I joined the usmc.

    • Steven Abramowitz

      My father Martin Abramowitz was in CO A 13th Combat Engineers, 7th Infantry Division. He was wounded as part of a rearguard action during the fighting at Heongsong on the evening of 11 Feb 51. He passed away in 2005.

  17. Elaine Martinez-Tanikawa

    My uncle Manuel J. Martinez of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team was killed in action there. Thank you for doing this. I want to know what happened and possible get photos of him.

  18. Nathan Harbert

    Urgent Request – My father; any veterans’ who knew WILLIAM HENRY HARBERT (Herby) I would be greatly appreciate of contact. 2/13/51 – Missing in Action while company was running an enemy roadblock in vicinity of Hoengsong, Korea. Liberated POW 3/18/51 Liberated from Chinese North-east of Wonju, Korea. Shell fragment right foot. At this time he had been promoted to Cpl E-4

  19. Nathan Harbert

    WILLIAM HENRY HARBERT (HERBY) I believe he was in the 38th Division 2nd Infantry.

    • I recently found out my birth father, Jame Wilson Lund, was wounded on February 13 in this battle and died in an army field hospital the next day. His family hasn’t know any details about this massacre. I am trying to find out some specifics for his biography. He was in the 38 Division 2nd Infantry. It seems he was lucky to have been killed other than taken prisoner by the Chinese. Does anyone have any more details about what happened ?

  20. Rudy Gacobelli

    PFC Rudolph Valentino Gacobelli is listed as MIA from the massacre at Hoengsong. His remains were never recovered. He was with the 38th reg, 2nd Inf.

  21. Darlene Sabol

    My uncle, Dale R. Gustafson, was in the battle of Hoengsong and was taken prisoner on Feb. 12, 1951. He later died in the POW camp. If anyone reading this knew him I would be grateful to hear from you. He was a MSGT in CO A, 38th infantry regiment, 2nd Army Division. Any information at all would be most welcome. Thank you.

  22. Julie Kerr

    I only just learned of one of my father’s cousins, Joseph M. Cantrelle from Convent, Louisiana was taken prisoner on Feb 13, 1951 and died while held captive on May 31, 1951. I am only just learning of this and would like to know more. He was an only child and it devastated his family. My father said for years people would randomly show up and try to extort money from them saying they had information about their son. Reading about this terrible massacre that we have learned nothing about, I hoper their story will be told!

    • Julie Kerr

      Also, his remains have never been recovered. Hoping one day soon he will be returned home.

  23. Priscilla

    Wondering if anyone remembers these men from Maryland: Pfc Charles Stotler, C btry 15th FAB, Pfc Robert Thomas, hq btry 15th, Cpl James Hare, B btry, Pfc William Seggie,A/1/38 or Cpl Louis Saunders D btry 82nd AA? These men deserve more than a cover up. Thanks

  24. My father was shoot in the knee on the night of Feb 12th at Hoengsong Massacre trying to help an injured Dutch soldier. My father was left for dead by the Chinese. He was in the Dutch Detachment United Nations and was transferred and assigned to the Regiment van Heutsz under the commander, Lt. Col. den Ouden
    My father survived for 18 days surviving on a packet of Life Savers and eating snow. He was rescued by two American soldiers on the 4th of March. I have found a lot of information about what happened to my father but I would like to know the names of the 2 American soldiers that rescued my him. I know it is like finding a needle in a hay stack but hopefully someone may have this information or know where I can find this information. Thank you

  25. Margaret E. Hinson

    Our father, then Lt. Andrew “Larry” Goodwin took part in the battle as one of three KMAG officers in the 10th Regiment. He was shot through his left knee and was helped by RKO Major Ok who put dad on an ox but later had to hide him in rocks and bushes, with the promise of returning to save him.

    Dad spent the next three years in Camp 2, reserved for officers and aviators, on the border of the Yalu River until he returned to the US in 1953. Dad continued his career in the Army and, despite the Geneva Convention stating POWs were not required to return to their places of internment, dad returned to Korea as Aide de Camp to General Bonesteel.

    He discovered that Major Ok, true to his word, had returned to find him and was subsequently killed in the attempt. Seeking out the major’s family, dad discovered the wife had died of cancer, leaving behind their only child, a girl in her late teens. Feeling a great debt to Major Ok, my parents adopted his daughter. She is our deeply loved “sister” who lives near us in Northern California with her precious family.

    • Korean War Ex-POW Association

      Margaret, that is an amazing story. Thank you for sharing.

  26. Rich Kleber

    My Great Uncle was a POW from this battle. Is there a memorial on the 38th post in Indianapolis?

  27. Bob Tegethoff

    I was in this battle. The pictures you see are the real thing. I was wounded in this battle. I was part of the Army unit that went back there in March, The scene still haunts me today.

  28. Andrew Velazquez

    My girlfriend’s great uncle John “Jackie” Minor (Stratford, Conn.) was with I/3/38th I.R. at Hoengsong. He was killed there sometime between the night of the 11th-12th. His family always thought he died in a plane crash. We did not know how he died or that he was buried close to where we live today until I began researching his war chronicle. He was 19 years old when he died. His family did not know he was killed until March ’51 when his MIA status was updated to KIA. Story goes his mother’s hair turned white in the months to follow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *