Atrocities Against American Pows In Korean War - Page 2

On September 27, 1950, approximately 60 American prisoners who had been confined in Taejon prison were taken into the prison yard in groups of 14, with their hands wired together. These men were forced to sit hunched in hastily dug ditches and then were shot by North Korean troops at point blank range, with American M-1 rifles, using armor-piercing ammunition. Of the 2 seriously wounded survivors, only 1 lived to recount the gruesome details. Unnumbered civilians estimated at between 5,000 and 7,000, as well as soldiers of the Republic of Korea, were also slaughtered at Taejon between September 23 and September 27, 1950.

In late December 1950, five American airmen in a truck convoy were ambushed by North Korean forces. Their bodies, discovered shortly after by a South Korean patrol, showed that the flesh had been punctured in as many as 20 different areas with heated, sharpened bamboo sticks. The torture was so fiendish that no one perforation was sufficient to cause death by itself.

Lt. Col. James T. Rogers, formerly in the Medical Section of the First United States Army Corps in Korea, testified:

COLONEL ROGERS: I made a medical examination of those five men and they suffered multiple superficial and deep spear wounds over the body, the face, the chest, and the abdomen. By the nature of the wounds I am of the opinion that the instrument of torture had been previously heated….

SENATOR POTTER: Had been heated?

COLONEL ROGERS: Yes. That after torturing them with the superficial wounds that then they bayoneted them with the same instruments and these fellows were allowed to bleed to death.

Twelve American soldiers captured near Naedae on October 13, 1950, were imprisoned in a Korean hut and later shot without warning by North Koreans. Although wounded, five managed to survive by feigning death. Ironically, the killings took place in front of a Communist propaganda bulletin board showing posters condemning alleged United Nations war atrocities


The North Korean Communists surprised and slaughtered approximately 20 seriously wounded American soldiers. These soldiers were being administered aid by the regimental surgeon wearing the Red Cross armband, and an Army chaplain wearing the Christian cross, neither of whom were armed. The chaplain was also slain and the surgeon, although wounded, managed to survive and escape.

A patrol of 13 American soldiers was ambushed and captured by a large force of North Koreans near Kaesong on November 6, 1950. The prisoners were stripped of their belongings and taken to a small hut, where they were confined for about 3 hours. They were then ordered to march, purportedly to a nearby prison camp. After traversing a distance of approximately 2 miles, they were shot without warning from behind. One survived by feigning death.

An American lieutenant who was captured by North Koreans on September 10, 1950, was tied to a tree and shot 4 times, 3 of the bullets entering his head and neck. 1st Lt. Henry J. McNichols, formerly with Company E, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, testified:

LIEUTENANT MCNICHOLS: … A North Korean officer pulled out some cloth, rice linen… and took it and tore it into small strips and tied my hands behind my back and he told me to sit down and he further tied me to a tree.

SENATOR POTTER: In other words, he tied your hands behind your back first and then tied you to a tree?

LIEUTENANT MCNICHOLS: Yes. About that time this American unit started up the hill…just a straight infantry attack. Immediately all the enemy soldiers ran out with the exception of this lieutenant. As he reached this tree he reached into his pocket, grabbed his pistol, cocked it and I remember it going off once. However, later I found out that I was shot four times that time….

SENATOR POTTER: Where were you hit, Lieutenant?

LIEUTENANT MCNICHOLS: One of them through the mouth, two of them in the neck, one through the shoulder.
On August 30, 1950, four American soldiers were captured and after being forced to carry North Korean ammunition for 1 day, were shot in the back. Two men survived.

A can opener which was on a dog tag hanging around my neck. They inserted that into the wound in my left shoulder and give them a half twist, and one of them said, "ptomaine poison". After he inserted this into my wound then, I took it out. He slapped me and hit me on my shoulder, on the wound, with the butt of his rifle, and put it back in there. Well, I decided it would be best if I left it in there.

Near Hoensong, three Americans were captured by North Koreans on February 10, 1951. After being marched to Hoensong they were taken out on the road and while running, were shot from behind. Two lived.

Evidence before the subcommittee showed that American war prisoners who were not killed at the time of capture, or shortly thereafter, were forced to participate in what was uniformly described by survivors as death marches. The treatment of prisoners on marches was the same in all instances, clearly establishing that such was a predetermined plan formulated on a high Communist command level.

It was determined that the usual procedure was to march the prisoners from the point of capture to a temporary collecting point. The stay at these points varied from 2 weeks to 5 months, then another march would be undertaken to a more permanent prisoner of war camp.

Shortly after capture the Communists confiscated the heavy outer garments and the combat boots of the Americans, forcing them to march barefoot. The suffering was intense as the weather was extremely cold, and many prisoners froze their feet. The average food ration consisted of one rice ball a day and little or no water. Many died from malnutrition, dysentery, beri-beri and pneumonia. Beatings, lack of food, and inadequate medical attention to the wounded resulted in numerous deaths. The prisoners were forced to parade through towns and villages for display before the civilian populace.

Prisoners who were unable to continue the marches because of exhaustion were killed by the Communist guards. Many suffered an appalling loss of weight, and it was not unusual for one man to lose as much as 45 pounds.

Mr. O'DONNELL: How much weight did you lose all told Corporal?

CORPORAL KREIDER: I lost approximately 45 pounds.

MR. O'DONNELL: How much did you weigh when you were captured, and how much did you weigh in the Sunchon tunnel affair?

SERGEANT SHARPE: I weighed 165 pounds upon capture, and when they found me I weighed 76 pounds.

More than a thousand Americans died on these death marches, the exact figure being impossible to establish until all repatriated American personnel are interviewed.

One of the most infamous of these Communist marches was the Seoul-Pyongyang death march, involving 376 American servicemen. These men, who had been assembled at Seoul, commenced their march to Pyongyang on September 26, 1950. After marching a distance of approximately 250 miles, for a period of 3 weeks, suffering the inhuman indignities as set forth above, only 296 survivors arrived at Pyongyang. Testimony was received that of 1,000 prisoners on the death march from Kuna-ri to Prisoner-of-War Camp No. 5 at Pyoktong, 300 Americans died as a result of the aforementioned treatment. Of the 706 prisoners who left Bean Camp and marched to Prisoner-of-War Camp No. 1 at Changsong, approximately 100 are living today. Evidence was received on other death marches, such as from Pyongyang to Prisoner-of-War Camp No 3, and from the Chosen Reservoir to Kanggye, and thence to Prisoner-of-War Camp No. 1 at Changsong, which further demonstrates the uniform method of diabolic treatment afforded the prisoners.

Evidence before this subcommittee indicated that the inhuman treatment given American prisoners in Communist prisoners-of-war camps was a sequel to the brutalities and indignities suffered by the prisoners on death marches. The prisoners at these camps were survivors of marches and were necessarily in poor physical condition.

The deliberate plan of savage and barbaric handling of these men was a continuation of the policy which existed on all the marches, and violated virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention of 1929. They were denied adequate nourishment, water, clothing, and shelter. Not only were they denied medical care but they were subjected to experimental monkey-gland operations. Housing conditions were horrible, resulting in widespread disease.

The prisoners were not permitted to practice their religion and on numerous occasions were beaten, humiliated, and punished. Political questioning and forced Communist indoctrination was constant, and the men were subjected to physical abuse and other punishment when they refused to be receptive to the Communist propaganda. The American newspapers available for reading purposes were the Daily Worker published in New York and the People's Daily World published in San Francisco, copies of which were in the prisoner-of-war camps within 2 months after the date of publication. The Communists utilized prisoners on numerous occasions for propaganda purposes and took posed pictures purporting to show the comfortable life being led by the prisoners, an obvious distortion of truth and fact.

Officers were segregated from the enlisted men and could therefore not exercise any internal control, and were subjected to the same harsh treatment. Prisoners-of-war camps were not properly marked, resulting in bombing by United Nations aircraft. Letters of prisoners were not mailed by their captors, and Red Cross aid was in no way permitted. American prisoners died by the thousands at the rate of 15 to 20 per day. One witness testified that during a 7- to 8-month period 1,500 prisoners died of beriberi, dysentery, pellagra, and other diseases as a result of malnutrition at camp No. 5 at Pyoktong.

COLONEL ABBOTT: At Camp No. 5 it is estimated that in a period of 7 or 8 months approximately 1,500 prisoners died in that camp." Another witness testified that during a 3-month period at camp No. 1 at Changsong 500 Americans died.

MR. O'DONNELL: Of the total number that were there (camp 1), approximately how many American PW's died?


MR. O'DONNELL: That would be between what periods of time?

SERGEANT TREFFERY: May 195, sir, until August 1951." The Chinese and North Korean Communists maintained no record of American dead The exact number of known American dead has not as yet been determined, as interrogations of 'Little Switch' and 'Big Switch' returnees are still being conducted, but it is known that the figure will be in the thousands.

Lt. Col. Robert Abbott, formerly with the United States 8th Infantry Division and a prisoner of war for 33 months, related the following incident concerning treatment afforded prisoners who objected to Communist indoctrination:

COLONEL ABBOTT: They died of malnutrition and lack of medical attention; yes, sir. It was in this camp that we also experienced our first real sadistic treatment of individuals, and I cite one case, the story of a prisoner who when exposed to one of these political indoctrination speeches came back to his quarters and sat down and talking to another prisoner made the statement that the speech that he had just listened to wasn't worth the paper that it was written on.

It so happened that there was a Chinese interpreter standing outside who came in, had heard the statement, took the prisoner out of the room, took him to headquarters where he was taken out and tied up in front of the headquarters where we could all see him. He was required to stand there for a prolonged period of time running into many hours-I'd hesitate to say exactly how long, but a good period of time-until such time as he completely collapsed from exhaustion, couldn't stand any longer.

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