Koje-do (part two)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
Posted on November 18, 2013, in Korean War and tagged 187th RCT, Army, family history, History, Korea, Military, Military History, nostalgia, Pacific War, veterans. Bookmark the permalink. 51 Comments.