Koje-do (part two)

a compound at Koje-do

a compound at Koje-do

10 May 1952,  General Colson signed a statement admitting to past UN POW guard infractions and promises for improved future treatment, and at 2130 hours, Gen. Dodd walked out of Compound 76.  Clark wanted Ridgeway to make a public statement on the situation, but he refused until 12 May.  An investigation began.  Dodd and Colson were returned to their originals ranks of colonel and General Yount received a formal reprimand.

General Francis Dodd

General Francis Dodd

Gen. Clark appointed BGeneral Hayden “Bull” Boatner as new camp commander; a man with 10 years experience in Asia.  Col. Harold Taylor was made his deputy.  The 187th  RCT were notified in Japan that they had 4 hours to be ready to go back to Korea on 15 May.  They were amazed, disgusted and shocked upon seeing the camp.  The sections put under their control were, 76, 77, 78, 80 and a female compound.  76 was the “headquarters” and had tunnels linking it to the others.  The British Commonwealth Division was also brought in and assigned to Compound 66.

Libert statue built by POWs

Liberty statue built by POWs

10 June, Boatner had the 187th ready to move POWs and Colonel Lee was told to prepare his fellow prisoners.  Lee refused and the Rakkasans went into attack mode.  The CO of C Company went to the gate an hour later and asked to see an officer – the prisoner spat in his face.  With the POWs armed as well – literally all hell broke loose.  As the troops entered the compound, the POWs began throwing sheet-metal spears and others made from tent poles.  They used Molotov cocktails and carried flails made from barbed wire.

General Hayden "Bull" Boatner

General Hayden “Bull” Boatner

The “HQ” tent, filled with prisoners, was set on fire and the troopers ran in to save POWs from the blaze.  Tanks from B Co/64th Tank Battalion/3rd Division moved in and still the battling went on for another 2 hours.  Unfortunately, the 187th could see POWs, who were trying to surrender, being murdered by their own camp leaders.  The “battle” of Koje-do cost the POWs 43 men killed and 139 wounded (about half by their own officers).  The 187th lost Cpl. John Sadler KIA and 13 wounded.

Koje-do camp

Koje-do camp

After the prisoners were moved, Compound 76 was cleared and the troopers found stashes of 1,000 Molotov cocktails, 3,000 metal-tipped spears, 4,500 knives and a working telegraph set.  In the tunnels they discovered a woman and child.  In another area, 50 anti-communist prisoners who had been executed  and thrown down the wells were discovered, along with approximately 100 bodies in shallow graves.  They also found plans for a break out and take-over of the island set for 20 June.  Col. Lee was found cowering in a trench and attempting to pass himself off as a female.

Communist POW, Col. Lee

Communist POW, Col. Lee

The next day, as screening continued, the troopers found that since the compounds, who had witnessed # 76’s display, more amiable to obeying orders.  After these prisoners were moved out, the intelligence dept. moved in and discovered human excrement in every drawer, file cabinet, pots and pans and cargo packs.

From the men who were there –

Ralph Hodge, 38th Regiment/2nd Infantry Division, who had witnessed Dodd’s capture, “As young grunts, fresh from 5 months on the line, we thought being assigned to guard POWs would be a ‘walk in the park’.  Little did we realize that we would become embroiled in an epic situation that would have a serious impact on the outcome of that god-awful Forgotten War.”

Fred Ervin of Company K/9th Infantry Regiment/2nd Infantry Division, said,” I was on radio duty that night Dodd was released from the compound.  I woke up my CO, Captain Worrick of New York and told him.”

Marshall Rogers said, “I was a platoon sergeant in Charlie Company/38th Infantry Regiment.  If an order would have been given to destroy us, it would have been successful.  Hundreds would have been killed by us, but eventually the numbers alone would have overwhelmed and destroyed us.  In reality, we were the prisoners.

Ron Simmons  from Support Co/187th ARCT spoke of when they first arrived, “…we drove through a series of dirt streets that were surrounded by POW compounds…some had dead bodies laid out near the fences covered with blankets.  It was a tense situation…we were located above the base of the hill, we could look down on the compounds.  They were an ugly sight.  Mean and hostile.”

guarding a work detail

guarding a work detail

Lt.Col. Russell Whetstone, commander of the 1st Battalion/187th , related, “…the “honey-bucket” details, guarding 50 POWs each, was a daily, dawn-to-dusk operation.  And, by Geneva Convention rules, the POWs were allowed a 10-minute break each hour…the prisoners would drop their poles and honey buckets, squat, smoke and yell their demands.”

Click on images to enlarge – 

##########################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Richard Basden – Miami, FL & Surprise, AZ; US Air Force  MSgt., 30 yrs., Vietnam

James Belhassen – Boone, Iowa & Scottsdale, AZ: US Army, Korea

Silver Star w/ Oak Leaf Cluster

Silver Star w/ Oak Leaf Cluster

Joseph Croci – Elmhurst, IL; US Air Force, Korea

Thomas Flanagan – Chicago, IL; US Navy, Vietnam

Robert Friedrich – Irving Park, IL; US Army Signal Air Corps, Sgt. , WWII

James Hansen – Chicago, IL & Jupiter, FL;  US Navy Lieutenant, WWII

Richard Howell – Lake Worth, FL; US Air Force, Vietnam

Thomas Murch – Gilbert, AZ; US Air Force, Lt. Colonel (Ret.)

Edward Pettengill – Phoenix, AZ; US Army Sgt. Major (Ret.), Korea, Vietnam; Purple Heart, Bronze Star & Silver Star w/ Cluster

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on November 18, 2013, in Korean War and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 51 Comments.

  1. Outstanding posts . . . have been away for a while, and I’m mainlining them all.

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    • I can see that – your stamina is not only amazing but appreciated! Fiends like you help to keep me going. I hope it wasn’t health issues that kept you away.

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      • Just got busy with stuff, but also went on a vacation. It all bunched up in November, and I fell way behind on many blogs.

        Some, like yours, need and deserve more attention, and more than a cursory glance, and they were the ones I fell behind in the most.

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  2. That is a fascinating glimpse into history,these sort of historical details did not get the media coverage that todays modern technology allows.Well researched and written.
    Emu

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  3. Securing POWs is a necessary, but difficult and thankless task. Dodd was demoted and drummed out of the service, ending what had been a distinguished career. I note that it wasn’t until 1977, 4 years after his death, that the Army finally corrected the injustice and restored his rank to brigadier general.

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    • He was obviously a respected officer – even as he was being captured, he ordered his men not to fire on the POWs and they didn’t. That type of obedience from his men should have warranted a more complete investigation before they court martialed him – don’t you think?

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      • You would think, but apparently he was not even allowed to see some of the evidence Clark’s board used because it was “classified.” Hard to know the rest of the story – he may have been convinced to accept his fate “for the good of the country/service,” an argument that was trotted out all too often in that day. (Marshall’s use of that argument on Dewey, when convincing him not to reveal details about the extent of FDR’s foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, comes to mind.)

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        • Oh, good one John. Some people get testy with me when I mention that one about FDR (Teddy wasn’t any better, and THAT really brings down the house). Truth hurts sometimes – what can I say?

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  4. This was obviously a preplanned endeavor by the Communists in China and N. Korea. This was not a practice ever implemented by Russian POW’s in German camps, nor by any Axis POW’s in US or British camps. This leads me to wonder if perhaps it was done because the PRC and NK believed that as we did in WWII with captured Axis troops, all POW’s would be sent to camps in the USA and Canada.

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  5. Amazing how little you hear about these things. Thanks for the read. Love history, even when it isn’t pretty.

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    • Glad to see you reading. I’m afraid all history needs to be remembered. Like you said, “even when it isn’t pretty”. (But, I’m afraid I did leave out some gore in case an impressionable child is also reading.)

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  6. gpcox… All I can utter is holy-moly. I am still surprised beyond belief at what happened. Your camp photos really added magnitude to your story.

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    • Thank you, very much, Koji. I agree, I was very happy to locate those photos, so as to add dimension to the story, rather than the readers having to use their imaginations for such a horrific episode.

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  7. I’m surprised that anybody would think that guarding enemy POWs could be a “walk in the park”. Prisoners, of all sorts, can be assumed to be plotting insurrection and escape at all times. A lesson, to the contrary, learned at high costs.

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    • Outside of WWII and Korea, I have little knowledge of POW camps – are you aware of uprisings such as these previous to WWII? If so, I can only suppose that the soldier was unaware of the dangers.

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  8. History is something we should never forget whether it be good or bad. We shouldn’t roll around in the bad history but we should never for where we came from. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Grim reading! I imagine each of these camps had vast numbers of men, very crowded and with nothing more to lose. You add a Colonel Lee or others similar to that and the results have to be disastrous.

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  10. It proves that war creates more problems than it solves.

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  11. Horrific, generally untold stories. Obvious why this stuff is not general knowledge. However, it is necessary for this to be told. I am learning hidden facts here.

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  12. As I read these posts I realize that I know almost nothing about this war. Thank you for shedding some light on the ‘forgotten war.”

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  13. It sickens me that even one UN soldier – Cpl. John Sadler – was killed and another family had to grief. What do you think the commies would have done if the roles were reversed? Probably went in with flame throwers, I reckon.

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    • Our troops had the flame throwers too, but not to use on the POWs. The prisoners kept putting blankets over the fences so they couldn’t be observed – those got torched. I am hesitant to check into what went on in the communist camps with the UN prisoners.

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  14. What a nightmare situation to be caught in !

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  15. What an interesting and horrifying perspective.

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  16. Do we know what became of the nefarious Col. Lee?

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    • According to the US Army records, after he was dragged out of the compound by the seat of his pants, he was transferred to another camp. Thanks for reading, Gary.

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  17. Yet another nightmare in this forgotten war – thanks again for the education.

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  18. The treatment and confinement of POWs has a long, tragic history. The link with MIAs is unquestionable, too.

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  19. Wow, that’s an interesting story from the war. I don’t know how our a soldiers refrained from treating the POWs as enemy combatants and wiping them out. I’ve never heard of POWs rioting like that!

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