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 room I have no idea because it was probably two or three miles from where we were ambushed and captured. The next thing I knew, about seven days later, we stopped. That was the first time we had any food to eat then. I was with probably four or five U.S. Marines, and a couple British Marines, and a couple of U.S. Army troops. One of the prisoners was able to get a couple cans of C-Rations which we shared among ten of us, and that was our first food far as I can recall in about seven days.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: So your captors weren’t feeding you?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: No. And they did not provide any medical care. That was probably about the seventh or the eighth of December, 1950. Then they started marching us north towards the Yalu River. Being wounded in both legs, a British Marine and a U.S. Marine carried me and drug me for nineteen days until we reached our first temporary camp.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: What were you thinking about during those days?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: You know, I can’t recall. Everything seems to be fuzzy there. I do know that one Marine, one day when we stopped, he said, “How many pairs of socks do you have on?” And I said, “I have two pairs of socks on.” He says, “Next time we stop, you take one of those pairs off and you put them under your armpits, and every time we stop you change those socks.” Because my feet were frostbitten, but at least I didn’t lose my toes like some of the guys did.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: And you would be warming your socks by putting them in your armpits?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes. This Marine had been captured on the Bataan and he had spent forty-five months as a prisoner of the Japanese, so we became pretty good friends. I was getting a Christmas card from him every year up until last year. Of course, he’s in his eighties, too. I mentioned his name in there. He kindly took me under his wing, since he was also from Oklahoma, and really took care of me and helped me. Without him I don’t know if I could have survived had it not been for him. I have to give credit also to other POW’s who were with me for the first year, who took care of me for nine months to a year. Since no medical treatment was available from the Chinese, it took about nine months to a year for my wounds to heal up.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: Would you say that this attitude of helping one another was typical of the prisoners of war?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes. In fact, the ones that were in decent condition, they went out of their way really to help those who were in bad condition. I have a lot of respect for them. In fact, at one of our reunions, one Marine that helped
carry me, he showed up. So I walked up and I said, “Do you remember me?” He said, “Oh, my God. Your name is familiar, but you’re dead. Last time I saw you I figured you would be dead.” I said, “No, thanks to you I made it.” He broke down and started crying, and he got me going too. Then at another reunion, I was walking my little dog, ’cause always when I went to a reunion my wife would go with me and my youngest daughter would go too. Two guys were sitting there talking and one goes, “Do you remember Jack Chapman?” The other said, “Yeah, he died in Korea.” I just happened to walk by and I said, “No, that’s me.” He said, “No, because you died in Korea.” I said, “No, it’s me, I promise you.” A couple of the other guys come up and said, “Yeah, that’s him.” They just –

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: Very emotional.

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: I kind of got off the –

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: Oh no, that’s very important. So, they were marching you north, did you ever get to a permanent camp?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: It took – we went to the temporary camp which was at Kanggye, in North Korea, and in March 1951, I believe it was, they had broke up the camp which consisted of between two hundred and two hundred seventy POWs. Royal British Marines, U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army; they put us on a train for one night, and we didn’t know where we were going. We came to a tunnel and the train stopped in the tunnel. They kept the engine going and the Chinese said the reason they had to stop in the tunnel was because of an American aircraft. With the engine going, we almost suffocated in there. Finally we got off the train, and that was our last train ride. We ended up just north of Pyongyang, in North Korea where they separated our group, and one group started marching again north, and the other group that I was in they started marching us toward Wonson, North Korea. They marched us for about six or seven months around North Korea. Then in October 1951, they took us back to Pyongyang, up near Pyongyang. Several camps were there, a mining camp, Death Valley, [inaudible] camp. One of the worst POW camps was Pyongyang. When we got there, there were dead American soldiers and Royal Marines and U.S. Marines just laying around, dead on the ground, never been buried. There were some that were half dead. They couldn’t recall who they were or anything like that. So we were there for probably two weeks.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: How did they treat you; did they provide food and water?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: They provided – all we had from the time we were captured up until October ’51 – we were fed a small container, a little bit larger than a coffee cup, in the morning that had millet or barley. It would be the same thing in the evening. For water – we usually got water from the creek or maybe a Korean well. When we crossed the creek we would look for dead fish, and we consumed that.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: What was the weather like?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: The winter of 1950, when we got captured, it was about 35 degrees below zero. The winters were very, very cold in North Korea. I had been in Alaska, that was the coldest place I had been, and also in Montana. And that was 50 below zero. At the time I wished I was back in Alaska.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: How about clothing and blankets?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: We had the same clothing that we were captured in. The Marines were lucky because they had long parkas, and all we had was our field jackets. So we had that up until May of ’52. Then the Chinese finally gave us a set of clothing. When the winter came, they did give us a cotton padded overcoat. We never had blankets or any type of bedding. Usually they put ten to fifteen people into a little room about eight by eight. We slept on the floor.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: Did your captors talk to you?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes. They tried to brainwash us into communists. This went on for almost two years. When we argued with them and we’d be punished. Then we had work details we had to do.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: What kind of work were you asked to do?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: I had a friend, him and I were put on cutting detail. We would go up in the hills and cut timber. Then we’d cut the trees down and then cut them into ten or twelve foot logs, and then the prisoners had to carry them back down into the village. Usually it would take three to four prisoners to carry one of the logs. So this went on for about a year and a half.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: Did the prisoners organize themselves in any way?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: We tried. In 1951 when we got to our first permanent camp, October 25, 1951; at the time it was Camp Three, and it was a compound of Royal British troops, our compound, and there was another compound. At that time we had non-commissioned officers and regular officers in our compounds and black soldiers, too. In March they took the non-commissioned officers out and the officers and assigned them to another camp. Then they removed the black POW’s from there and moved them to another camp, too. That’s when they started us on our work details. Our camp was hit by an American aircraft because there were no markings that would indicate that POWs were being held. The Chinese supply trucks would be going through the center of the camp, and several of the guys got wounded from shrapnel from the aircrafts. There we organized our groups so that we had some type of control. As soon as they found out that we were organizing, they would look for the leader, and then they would take the leader out. At times we didn’t elect a leader; we all became leaders. In May of 1952, they wanted us to march in the MayDay parade, so they got us all out on the road and started marching us. As soon as they started marching, the lead guys sat down, so the whole compound of prisoners sat down. We refused to march in the parade.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: Were you punished?


LOUISE S. FORSHAW: How were you punished?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: They put you into solitary confinement. If I can – I’ll show you –

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: And you’ve written a book about your experiences. And now you’re going to show me –

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Here are some drawings, this is what solitary confinement would look like.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: The prisoner who is put in solitary confinement was put underground, like a root cellar. And a door covered him so he was in darkness.

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes, he’d be in there from anywhere to one or two days. A couple of them
were in there for almost a month.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: Were they fed while in solitary confinement?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes, they got one meal a day.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: What would you say was the mind set, or the mental situation, among the prisoners of war?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Well – I’ll have to tell you what we would do – we had this sort of courtyard. We would walk around the compound like we were playing an imaginary musical instrument, or we had our imaginary dogs that we’d take for walks around the compound. One guy, he had an imaginary motorcycle. Another one of the POW’s would gather what belongings he had and he would go sit at the end of the compound and he’d say, “The helicopter is going to
come pick me up.” This is because we wanted them to think we were losing our minds.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: But it also helped you – I would think – to be doing that.

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes, in fact I think I mentioned in here about my imaginary dog. I have to tell you this story. Robert Blewitt was another POW; him and I were walking my imaginary dog around the compound, and all of a sudden he turns to where the guard is at and he starts screaming. The guard wanted to know what was going on. He said, “His dog just bit me.” So the guard couldn’t understand; he sent the interpreter out. The interpreter says, “His dog bit me.” He says, “What dog?” And Robert says, “Oh my god, Jack! Look! He’s pissing on his leg!”

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: [Laughter] Must have confused the guards.

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yeah. He grabbed his leg, and he said, “You can’t have a dog any more!” The guy with the imaginary motorcycle, he would run around the compound, he’d run into a guard, knock the guard down and keep going. So they took him to the guard headquarters, and the commander says, “Get in here!” And he says, “Can I bring my motorcycle in with me?” And he says, “No, you can’t bring that dirty thing in with you.” So he had to go bury it. He had to dig this big hole, and threw parts of his imaginary motorcycle in it. Those were the types of things we did; in other words, we wanted to screw them up.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: And you seem to have succeeded.

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: But they would take us to guard headquarters at night, we’d have to stand at attention for three or four hours, and then we’d be put back in our huts. One night, when they took me out, there was a little wall, and the
guard shoved me into it, and broke my nose then and there. That was just one of the incidents. I got hit in the back with a rifle butt, and I broke a rib. That was some of the treatment that they dished out.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: They were pretty brutal then.

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes. And with the prisoners; a prisoner of the Japanese said, “At least with being a prisoner of the Japanese you knew what you were in for. But the Chinese were worse because you didn’t know what was going to happen to you.” I think I mentioned that in here too.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: How many camps were you in altogether?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Seven – let’s see, about five temporary camps and two permanent camps.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: And they were all pretty much the same?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes, in 1952 I was taken out of Camp 3 and put into Camp 1 in 4th Compound. That’s where I met several other POWs I became very good friends with. In fact, we are still in touch with a lot of them.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: This is probably a foolish question. Were you able to receive mail or Red Cross packages?

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: No Red Cross packages. Mail, we started receiving it in May or June of 1953, when the peace talks were going on. I think I got two letters. The latter part of ’52, because the peace talks were going on at the time also, in ’52 and ’53; we did get a decent meal for Christmas in ’52. The Chinese did tell us – when the peace talks were going on – that some of us would not be coming back, that we would not be returned. It really put fear into us then. Fear that we would never be released. In April ’53, they had what they called a little switch and they released the sick and wounded. Several of the guys who got released were not sick or wounded.

LOUISE S. FORSHAW: But some were released.

FRANKLIN JACK CHAPMAN: Yes. Then in August they started releasing the POW’s. By August 18th, the camp I was in was deserted. There were about sixty or sixty-five of us. We would see the trucks going through with POW’s on them. We were really getting scared that we wouldn’t get released because our camp had been pretty well cleaned out except for sixty-five of us. There were four compounds of Americans. Of the sixty-five we all came from one of the compounds. The morning of the 18th, the Chinese came in with a truck and loaded us on a truck, sixty-five of us. They took us straight to Panmunjom and we arrived there on the 20th of August. We went directly across and got released.

While we were there, this Colonel told us that if it hadn’t been for our British POW, he went and told them that there were still guys left in Camp 1, and he said that’s the only reason we got out.

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