Korean War Legacy Project

Arden Rowley


Arden Rowley was born on June 9, 1930, in Phoenix, Arizona, and spent the majority of his life in Mesa, Arizona. Shortly after high school, he enlisted in the United States Army. His first tour of duty was a fifteen-month tour in Okinawa, Japan, with the 76th Engineering Construction Battalion. In April 1950, he was assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. Immediately following the outbreak of the Korean War, his unit was activated for an overseas duty and headed to Korea. On December 1, 1950, he was captured by Chinese Communist Forces and held in five POW camps until being repatriated in Operation Big Switch in August of 1953. Throughout his experience, he understood why he was in Korea and is thankful to play a role in Korea’s fight to maintain freedom. He is the author of five books, four of which are on the Korean War and the POW experience.

Video Clips

Role at the Pusan Perimeter

Arden Rowley offers an account of his role as a jeep driver at the Battle of Yongsan. He provides an overview of the troop movement that led to the North Koreans being pushed back to the Nakdonggang river. He explains his role in helping transport an inexperienced bazooka team to successfully destroy incoming enemy tanks.

Tags: 1950 Pusan Perimeter, 8/4-9/18,Nakdonggang (River),Communists,Front lines,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Moment of Hesitation Led to Capture

Arden Rowley describes the night of November 30, 1950 and being captured by the Chinese Communist Forces. He describes how his unit was surrounded, which led them to destroy their equipment and leave the convoy. He recalls how he and another soldier became separated from the group and seeing a group of soldiers approaching. He remembers that by the time they could properly identify the approaching soldiers, it was too late. He shares how being captured was a traumatic experience because one minute you are firing at them and then you are at their mercy. He elaborates on his fears while being captured and the twenty-four day march he endured to the first POW camp.

Tags: Chinese,Communists,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,North Koreans,Physical destruction,POW,South Koreans

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Faith and Survival Along the March

Arden Rowley offers an overview of the issues the POWs faced as they marched to the first camp. He explains how they marched during the night and hid in houses during the day. He recalls only thinking about how he would survive after the first few days. He explains how fortunate he was to have multiple layers of protection. He recalls the condition of one Turkish soldier’s feet which were so damaged that he gave his overshoes to the soldier. He remembers a few nights later being forced to give up his new combat boots to a Chinese guard. He believes he is still here because of his faith.

Tags: Chinese,Cold winters,Food,Living conditions,POW

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Arrival at Death Valley

Arden Rowley elaborates on the conditions at the POW camp known as Death Valley. He remembers entering the camp on Christmas Day and expecting the conditions to be better than their experience on the march. He provides an explanation for why the camp received the nickname Death Valley. He shares that between two hundred fifty to three hundred men perished during the first two-and-a-half-week period. He notes that ninety-nine percent of the men suffered from dysentery, but he fortunately never personally dealt with the issue.

Tags: Chinese,Food,Living conditions,POW

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Assisting Others and Incentives

Arden Rowley elaborates on the conditions at Death Valley and the use of tobacco to convince the soldiers to attend indoctrination lectures. A large number of soldiers were suffering and dying from dysentery, yet he shares he was able to stay healthy. Since he was healthy, he remembers helping his comrade acquire clean trousers. In another one of these instances, he recalls attending lectures about communism so that he could bring back tobacco for that same soldier.

Tags: Chinese,Communists,Living conditions,POW

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Resistance and Letters from Home

Arden Rowley describes the indoctrination sessions conducted by the Chinese. He emphasizes how the communists were focused on converting them to the communist ideology. He outlines the organization of the lectures and discussions. As part of the process, he recalls on being assigned as a monitor for his room and how it was his role to report discussion questions back to the Chinese officials. He remembers the process took a toll on him and he chose to provide the real answers to their questions and not what the officials wanted to hear. He feels that this act of rebellion influenced other monitors to copy his actions. He explains the entire company was eventually relocated, and the lectures reached a point of diminishing returns. He shares that once they received letters from home, their courage grew.

Tags: Aprokgang (Yalu River),Chinese,Communists,Letters,POW

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Relief at the Gateway to Freedom

Arden Rowley reflects on the indescribable feeling of hearing the war was over and that he would go home. He recalls being told they would be released after the signing of the armistice and remembers a drastic improvement in how the prisoners were fed. He elaborates on the emotional experience of seeing American soldiers at the exchange point and walking through the gateway to freedom.

Tags: 1953 Armistice 7/27,Kunsan,Panmunjeom,Chinese,Communists,Food,Living conditions,POW

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


A:        I’ve done this a dozen times.

I:          Thank you very much for coming for the interview.  Would you please introduce yourself,  your name, your birthplace and where were you born?
A:        I’m Arden Rowley.  I was born in Phoenix, Arizona.

I:          Um hm.

A:        June 9, 1930, two blocks from the State Capital.

I:          Could you spell your last name>
A:        ROWLEY.

I:          Um hm.



Tell me about your family background, the place where you grew up and the school you went and your siblings.

A:        I was born and raised right here in the Phoenix area.

I:          Um hm.

A:        Like I said, I was born in Phoenix, moved to Mesa when I was just a baby and have lived 76 of my, no 78 or my 84 years here in Mesa, Arizona.

I:          Um hm.



A:        In fact, my home, this home I’m in right here sits in the middle of the 20-acre farm I grew up on as a kid.

I:          What school did you go to?
A:        I went to all of the elementary schools in Mesa. The names of the schools?  I went clear through from first grade through high school here in Mesa.

I:          When did you graduate high school and what high school?
A:        May 28, 1948.

I:          Um hm.



So, what happened after graduation from high school?

A:        Well, I worked here at home through the summer on the farm.  And then, I graduated in May.  In September I enlisted in the regular Army, United States regular Army. I went to Fort Ord, California for two months of basic training, came home on a 30-day furlough and then was sent to Okinawa.



I spent a 15-month tour of duty on Okinawa. And while there, I spent two months in Japan at engineer school.
I:          When did you leave for Okinawa?

A:        I left for Okinawa in January of ’49.

I:          Um hm. So, you were there 15 months, and then you came back.

A:        Fifteen months and came back home in April of 1951, no 1950, April of 1950.



And came home on another 30-day furlough and was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington and became part of the 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division.

I:          Um hm.  Did you know, is that medicine?  Let me ask this question.  Did you know anything about Korea around the time you were graduating high school or while you were serving in Okinawa in Japan?



A:        I knew very little about it.  I had heard that the country existed.  But that’s about all.  And I’m sure that I knew that at the end of the Second World War that we had troops there, occupation troops there.  But that was about the extent of it.

I:          So, how did you come to know of the breakout of the Korean War?


A:        I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, got there in early May and was assigned to the 2nd Engineer Battalion and had just got into the routine of things.  And on June 25, it was announced that North Korea had attacked South Korea.  Almost immediately, the 2nd Infantry Division was alerted for overseas shipment.



And on the 17th of July, my company along with other elements of the 2nd Division left the Port of Tacoma, Washington on the General Patrick, the ship, General M.M. Patrick.  It took us two weeks to get there.  We arrived in Busan; it was Pusan then July 31.



I:          You didn’t stop in Japan?
A:        No.  It was rumored that we were going to go to Japan for some additional training.  But it was changed.  They needed us in Korea. So, we went directly to Korea.

I:          Oh.
A:        From Tacoma, Washington.

I:          That’s very rare because most of the interviews that I had, they stopped by Japan.

A:        No, we didn’t stop at all.  We went right into Pusan.



I:          Tell me about two weeks in the Pacific Ocean.

A:        Two weeks was occupied with training as much as we could, like on radios, and equipment.  We fired weapons off the ship.

I:          What kind of weapons?
A:        Practicing, I was.

I:          Rifle?

A:        I was armed with what was nicknamed a grease gun.  It was a 45-caliber submachine gun.

I:          Forty-five caliber.



A:        Because I was a jeep driver, I drove my platoon leader.  And of course, the M1 rifle and the carbine.  And we had just been issued almost as we got onto the ship, we were issued the new 3.5 rocket launcher, nicknamed the bazooka.  It was the first time we had seen them.  And we practiced aiming off the ship, but we didn’t fire any rounds.



So, they were brand new.  We had no training on them.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And I can tell you a story about that later if you’d like.

I:          Tell me.

A:        Well, my battalion was put into the, my company of our battalion was put into the lines over in Po-Hang.

I:          Um hm.

A:        Over on the West coast.

I:          Yeah.

A:        No, it’s the East coast.

I:          East coast.
A:        Over on the East coast.  And we were put into the lines as Infantry. They needed Infantry right away.



And so, the Engineers Company went in as, and so we set up  a line of defense in Po-Hang.

I:          So, this is not the story inside of the ship, no.

A:        No.

I:          It’s in Po-Hang.

A:        Po-Hang.

I:          We can talk about that later.

A:        Okay.
I:          Alright.  So please tell me about the scene you saw for the first time, Korea after it was Pusan.  What did you see there?



A:        I wasn’t very impressed.  The city didn’t seem to be very large.  But we pulled directly into the docks and started unloading immediately.  And as we unloaded, of course when they got my jeep unloaded, I got my lieutenant and I drove him wherever he needed to go.  In fact, we were sent on a reconnaissance party ahead of all of the other units and found a place for my company to come up and bivouac a few days later.



And within just a few days, they sent us over to Po-Hang.  You pronounce it Po-Hang I’m guessing.

I:          Yeah.  So, Pusan wasn’t really, how about people, Korean people there?  Did you see any Korean people, children.

A:        A lot of Korean people.

I:          Tell me about those.

A:        In fact, what was happening, with the invasion of the North Korean, they called it North Korean People’s Army,

I:          Yeah.



A:        The people were being pushed.

I:          Yeah.

A:        Down into this small perimeter around Pusan.  There had to be a million people, maybe not that many.  But can you imagine how crowded that Pusan Perimeter was about 50 miles radius around Pusan?  And they were just being pushed by the forces of war.  And they had to just keep out of the way of the North Korean Army.



And they were trying to get away from them.  They didn’t want to be under the Communist control.  And so, the refugees, thousands and thousands of refugees. And I remember how my heart went out to them because they had everything they owned on their backs or everything they could carry either in an A-frame or a little cart or a two-wheeled cart pulled by a horse or an ox and that kind of thing.


And it was, and that’s what we saw up until the time that we broke out of the Pusan Perimeter on September 15, after September 15th.  With my division arriving there, it bolstered the lines to the extent that we stopped the North Korean advance. They didn’t advance any further than about the Naktong River.

I:          So, did you participate in the Naktong River battle?


A:        Yes.

I:          Tell me about those.

A:        In fact, the engineers, the whole battalion was put in the line then on September 2nd when the North Koreans came across the Naktong in what came to be called the Naktong Bulge, named kind of like the Belgian Bulge during World War II.

I:          Yeah.
A:        So, they came across to a village called Yong Song.

I:          Um hm.



A:        And on September 2, our engineer unit was put in the line because one of the battalions of the 9th Infantry had been decimated.  And so, we spent at least two weeks fighting in that area.  And we were able to push, the North Koreans came through Yong Song, but we were able to stop them and push them back out of Yong Song the early days of September.  And pushed them back through the Naktong River, the Communist forces.



I:          You said that you were a jeep driver

A:        Yes.

I:          Of a Lieutenant?
A:        First Lieutenant Frank M. Reed.  He was my platoon leader.

I:          Platoon leader.  And so, what was your mission, and what was the typical day of those two weeks?  How did you fight?  Tell me the details because the audience is really curious about this, Naktong Perimeter.


A:        On the morning of September 1,

I:          Yeah.

A:        The North Koreans were pushing through, we were established on the south side of Yongsan.  And the North Koreans came through Yongsan.



And on the morning of September 1, we counterattacked. And before the day was over, we had their forces pushed out of Yongsan and into the rice fields and the hills on the other side.

I:          Were you driving around there?

A:        Well, I had to stay with my jeep.  I couldn’t leave my jeep.  And so, I couldn’t go wit the men who were actually doing the fighting.



And I had to take care of that vehicle so I could take the Lieutenant anywhere he needed to go.

I:          Um hm.

A:        But I’d like to tell you a story about that bazooka.

I:          Um hm.

A:        I mentioned they were issued to us just as we were getting on the ships, and nobody had fired them.  Well, in this battle of Yongsan, an armor officer, tank officer, came and said that we’ve got, there’s some T34 tanks coming out direction.



And so, the bazooka team of our platoon had the ammunition, and they had the bazooka, the rocket launcher and the ammunition.  They had never fired it before.  So, the armor officer said we need a bazooka team up here to take care of those T34s.  And so, the team got in my jeep, and I drove them up close to where the fighting was going on.



And Private Leslie Burris, the gunner, and the loader, or the ammunition loader PFC Myers. Was the team.  And so, they loaded, fired one round, and it went over the tank.

I:          Yeah.

A:        He adjusted his sight, fired another round, and it went right in the middle of the tank. It wiped the tank out.  And not only that, but he got two more T34s that very same morning.



The North Koreans scattered and went into a house in the area.  And the officer said do you think you can put one through the door of that house?  And he did, right through the door.  And the Korean soldiers that were inside were taken care of.

I:          North Korean soldiers.

A:        North Korean soldiers, yes.



So, he wiped out three T34 tanks and a building that had a lot of soldiers in it in a couple of hours.

I:          Do you remember any other scene that you were involved in a severe battle during the first front line of the Naktong Perimeter?
A:        After a couple of weeks, we were taken off the line and shifted over to another part of the line and held there.



See, that was the first of September and first and second of September when I described this battle.  But when the Inchon Landing was made on the 15th of September

I:          Yeah.

A:        Very shortly after that, we were able to break out of the Pusan Perimeter.  And the North Korean soldiers were fleeing trying to get north so they wouldn’t be cut off by the forces, our forces that were going inland towards Seoul.



A:        And so, we were able to  move very rapidly. Sometimes 20, 30 miles a day we would advance.   And my division went over toward the west to, you know where Chongju is?

I:          Yeah.

A:        Went over to Chongju, and then we headed north through Suwon and up to Seoul.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And b the end of September., we had the North Korean Army driven out of South Korea.

I:          Yeah.  Did you move from Pusan to Po-Hang after North Koreans withdrew from there?



A:        We were over, did I what now?

I:          After Pusan, where did you go?
A:        After Pusan?
I:          You went to Po-Hang?
A:        Well, we went up through Sowan and into Seoul.  And we bivouacked.  We stayed in Yeongdeungpo for about a week.  And then our U.N. Command decided then to invade North Korea.



And then by the 15th of September, we were in Chungyang.

I:          Yeah.

A:        And I remember going into a government building in Chungyang.

I:          Uh huh.

A:        And here is a huge portrait of Kim El Sung

I:          Yeah.

A:        On the wall that’s just slashed to pieces.  And I remember that. In fact, we stayed in some buildings there.  And then we stayed near an airport providing security for the airfield that supplies were coming in 24 hours a day.



And General MacArthur came in in his plane at that time.  I remember I was able, as he got off his plane, I could see him from a distance.  Also, Bob Hope gave a show, a USO show there.  We built the stage for Bob Hope.

I:          Where?

A:        In Chungyang.  In the middle of October.  Yeah.

I:          So, from Pusan to Yeongdeungpo, Seoul and Chungyang, you were driving the jeep?


A:        Yes.  I drove my platoon leader the whole way.

I:          You are one of the luckiest soldiers there.  You don’t have to walk, right?
A:        Well, the engineers usually didn’t walk.  We had transportation.

I:          Yeah.  But still, it’s your kind of private jeep.

A:        Yeah.  We had internal transportation.  We didn’t have to depend on an outside source to take us where we needed to go.

I:          When the U.N. Forces move up to North Korea, did you see the Korean people following you or actually they are going down?



A:        They were still trying to get south.  By the hundreds.

I:          Right.

A:        Yes.

I:          Tell me about those things.

A:        As we invaded north, there were still many hundreds and thousands of Koreans trying to get south.

I:          What did you see?  Tell me the details of people.

A:        The same thing I saw in the early stages, when people just had everything they could carry on their backs or on an A-frame or in a cart or just trying to get away from the War.



I:          Um hm.

A:        Just trying, or on their head, yes.  They were just trying to get away from where the fighting was taking place.  As we advanced north, the Koreans were still trying to get south.

I:          While you were moving up, where did you sleep by the way?  Where did your platoon leader sleep?

A:        My platoon leader, if we stayed at least a day or so in one area, which we did at times,

I:          Uh huh.

A:        A tent was erected for my platoon leader.



And sometimes I slept in that tent, usually on a pile of rice shocks.

I:          Shocks, yeah.

A:        You know what a shock of rice is?
I:          Yeah.

A:        Usually I, sometimes that was my mattress.

I:          Um hm.

A:        Because the harvest was in, and these shocks of rice, bundles of rice were standing in the fields.

I:          How was the condition of logistical supplies like uniforms and food and ammunitions and so on?



A:        It was getting cold.  By mid-October, it was starting to get really cold.  By the time, the end of October, it was probably down below freezing or below 32 degrees.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And I was issued a complete compliment of winter  clothing.

I:          Um.

A:        I understand other men were not that fortunate.  But I had everything I owned on my body.



I had six layers of clothing on the top, and I had four layers of clothing from my waist down.  And I had heavy wool socks, combat boots, and overshoes, rubber overshoes, over them. And by the end of November, for example, we advanced north, Sunchon, Kunuri, and on up to the Chongchon river, Kujin dong I think was the name of the place.



I remember there was a little place called Pubwon.

I:          Um.

A:        But anyway, we advanced across the Chongchon River, and that’s when the Chinese struck.  Toward the end of November, the last five days of November, the temperature plummeted from zero to 40 degrees below zero.


I:          Did you see Chinese soldiers in your eye?

A:        I didn’t see any Chinese soldiers until the ones that captured me.  But they were everywhere.  See, here again.  I had to stay with my jeep.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And it was always behind the lines a little bit.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And it was always behind the lines a little bit.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And so, but my company was up on the lines on the night of about November 28.  And we had to withdraw.  The Chinese had struck, and we had to withdraw.



A:        We withdrew as far south as we could until the Chinese set up a roadblock in a mountain pass between Kunuri and Sunchon.  And a six-mile-long gauntlet was formed by the Chinese forces firing down in on our forces.  And the night of November 30, my battalion then was fighting a rear-guard action.  The 23rd Infantry Regiment had been pulled out behind us.



They went over to a road, West coast road and got out that way. And that left the engineers completely exposed to the Communist forces.  And we were completely surrounded.  And that was the night that my battalion commander ordered that our colors be burned so they couldn’t be captured and used as a trophy of war by the Chinese Communists.

I:          Did you know what you were fighting for, why you were there and so on?
A:        I understood well why we were there, yes.



And I can’t speak for the normal, other GI’s.  But

I:          You.

A:        I knew. I knew that the north was Communist, and the south was relatively free and that the country had been divided, Communists in the north and you might say democracy in the south.  And I knew.



And one of the things that helped us is that General, well, the 2nd Division Commander put out a letter to all the men of my, why we fight.  And it was an inspirational letter, and he explained the forces of Communism and freedom and that’s why we were there.  And just that letter sent out to the troops helped a lot of men understand who didn’t really know why we were there.



Understand why we were there.  And we knew that we had been sent there to help a country that had been invaded by Communists’ aggressive forces.

I:          Did you keep that letter?  Do you have it?
A:        I have it, yes.  In fact, it’s printed in my book.

I:          Okay.  I want to look at it please.

A:        Okay.

I:          So, tell me about when and where, how you were arrested by Chinese and put into prison.



A:        On the night of November 30 when things seemed to be impossible, completely surrounded.  And my battalion commander ordered that as much equipment be destroyed as possible so the Chinese couldn’t get it.  And the night of November 30, we were ordered to leave the convoy.  The engineer vehicles were lined up for miles.



We were ordered to leave the convoy and go to the west.  So, on the night of November 30, we did that.  We left the convoy and tried to walk out because everything was blocked on the roads by the Communists.  And so, we walked all night.  And early in the morning, we had set up a perimeter defense on a small hill.  And the next morning, I was with the Sergeant in my platoon.



I was a Corporal at the time.  And my jeep had been left behind.  All the vehicles had been left behind. All I had was my clothing and my weapon.  About 8:00 the next morning.

I:          Talking about February

A:        December 1.

I:          December 1.

A:        The morning of December 1, the Sergeant and I had become separated from the rest of the group.



And so, we were kind of alone.  And we heard some soldiers talking in a foreign tongue down the hill from us, and they were coming up toward us, about eight of them.  And they were just walking up as if they were friends.  I thought they were South Korean soldiers because they didn’t shoot at us.  They just walked up and, you know, maybe gestured, jabbering something that I didn’t understand.



And they came up close to use, and when they got close enough to realize they were not South Koreans, it was too late.  There were eight of them and just the two of us.  And they surrounded us.  I said to the Sergeant, I said are those Chinese or are those South Koreans?  He said I don’t know.



I:          You said you were separated from the Sergeant.

A:        No. I was with the Sergeant.  The Sergeant and I were alone together.

I:          Oh.

A:        Alone together.

I:          So that’s how you were arrested, captured?

A:        I was captured, yes.  That moment of hesitation and wondering whether they were, if they were South Korean soldiers, we certainly didn’t want to fire then.



I had my weapon with me.  And then when they got close enough to realize they weren’t, then it was too late.

I:          What were you thinking when you were arrested, the moment?
A:        When I was captured, I thought oh, it’s pretty traumatic. Here one minute you’re firing at these guys on the other side.  And the next minute you’re at their mercy.  And I remember thinking during the time, when we got to Korea and we advanced in the Pusan Perimeter area,



There were several instances of North Korean soldiers shooting, killing POWs.  In fact, we ran across a group of 36 American soldiers who had been captured and their hands tied behind their backs, and they were shot.  And that went through my mind.  What if they do the same thing to us that they did to those soldiers?



But the Chinese soldiers were not as brutal as the North Koreans.  And they didn’t harm us.  Of course, they didn’t feed us very well.  They marched us for 24 nights to get to our first POW camp.

I:          How many days?

A:        Twenty-four nights.  We walked at night.  We had to take our wounded with us.



And we tried to make sure they didn’t fall out.  Each night we would march until it got early morning, and then they’d put us into buildings out of sight because the U.S. Air Force had complete air superiority.

I:          Did they investigate you, interrogate you as soon as you were captured?

A:        No.

I:          No investigation?
A:        No. In fact, I was never interrogated.

I:          Really?

A:        There were a lot of POWs that were.  But I personally was never interrogated.



I:          Why do you think you were exceptional?
A:        I don’t know.

I:          Did you bribe them with chocolate?
A:        No.  Hey, the only thing I had on me in the way of, I had a roll of Life Savers in my pocket, you know, those candy row Life Savers?
I:          Oh yeah.

A:        And the Infantrymen that was captured with us had a can of asparagus soup in his pocket.

I:          Uh huh.

A:        And the three of us together ate that.  That was our meal.  We hadn’t eaten for probably 24 hours.



I:          So, it was completely Chinese soldiers, no North Korean soldiers.

A:        Completely Chinese, yes.

I:          Did they feed you?  How did they treat you on the way to the prison camp?
A:        They didn’t mistreat us physically.  But they, we had to go a certain distance, whatever they determined, each night.  And we had hardly anything to eat along the way.

I:          They didn’t feed you anything?

A:        Well, we had some.  We might have a rice ball or boiled millet or cracked corn or whole kernel corn, you know, boiled in water.



But that was about the extent of it. And with hardly anything to eat, each night we got a little weaker, and we started losing weight.  And then the disease of malnutrition kicked in like beri beri, polegra, and dysentery.  Dysentery became a huge killer.



Men would literally defecate themselves to death.  Whatever they would eat wouldn’t stay in their body long enough to get the little nutrients they had and would just go out the other end in just a matter of a few hours.  Getting a little graphic, but it was water and, what’s the word I want, mucous, blood.



And so many died from dysentery.  But also, Beriberi and near starvation.  Some men got to the point where they just couldn’t eat.  They got so sick they couldn’t eat.

I:          How did they treat the dead bodies, the Chinese?
A:        Well, each morning we would take whoever in our rooms in the first POW camp, whoever had died in our rooms during the night.

I:          No, I’m talking about on the way to the prison camp.



I:          If somebody died, they just leave it there/
A:        Yeah, just leave them there.

I:          What did you do during the day?  I know that you’d been walking during the night so that you’re not recognized.

A:        We would just talk.

I:          Sitting?

A:        We were crammed into rooms so tightly.  I remember having to sit up in the corner one night just to sleep.  There was no room to lie down.



And we would just talk about, well, we hoped somebody comes and rescues us, that kind of talk.

I:          Were you scared? Tell me about the POW camp.

A:        I guess you wouldn’t say I was frightened, especially after the first few days and knowing that they weren’t going to shoot us.

I:          Um hm.

A:        It just became a matter of okay, how do I live one more day?



I:          Survive.

A:        How do I survive another day?  The temperature took a heavy toll on the men’s feet.  In fact, I told you I had heavy wool socks, combat boots and overshoes.  So, I had three layers of protection.  Well about 10 nights into our march when we were put into rooms early one morning before it got light, one of my fellow POWs came to me and said Rowley, I notice you have overshoes on.



And I said yes. I’m very fortunate.  Most of the men didn’t have as much protection as I had. Well, the person said look at this Turkish soldier’s feet.  And here this Turkish soldier who had been captured with us, the Turkish Brigade was sent there about that time and was fighting in the area.  And his feet had gotten frozen and swollen, and he had three long slits in the toes of his boots.



And his feet were actually swelling out of those slits in his boots.  He could hardly walk. I don’t think he could have made another night’s walk.  But anyway, this person said Rowley, would you be wiling to give your overshoes to this Turkish soldier and I said certainly.  And so, we got his boots off him and dried his feet, and you know, overshoes are huge.  His feet were about that long, and the overshoes were this long.



And so, we knew that if we just put his feet in there, they would rattle around so to speak and become injured more.  So, we found some old rags, and we wrapped his feet large enough for them to fit comfortably down into those overshoes.

I:          Did you believe in God?

A:        Oh absolutely.  I’m here because of my faith in God.  I think, you know, I lost a layer of protection.  But I knew what I had to do for a fellow soldier.



And he was so grateful he kneeled down in front of me, and he kissed my feet.

I:          You mean the Turkish?
A:        The Turkish soldier.  He literally kneeled down and kissed my feet.  Anyway, that was an emotional experience. That’s not the end of the story.  A couple nights later, mornings later as we were being put into rooms again along the route of march.

I:          You were lucky to be in the room actually.

A:        I am.



I:          I thought that you guys most of the nights had to sleep outside.

A:        I suppose some did.  But I was fortunate to always be in a room.  And we were so crowded in there so tightly that our body warmth kept us from freezing.  But anyway, a couple of nights, mornings later, a Chinese guard came up to me and he pointed at my boots with his rifle.  He pointed at my boots and then pointed to himself and jabbered something in Chinese that I didn’t understand.



And I knew what he wanted.  He wanted my boots.

I:          Right.

A:        And I said no no.  And he said oh yes, yes.

I:          But you said that you.

A:        But he took my boots away from me and gave me an old worn-out pair of shoes that he was wearing.

I:          You told me that you gave the overshoes, but you had original boots?
A:        Yeah.  I had a new pair of combat boots on, yeah.  I had combat boots under the overshoes.



I:          I see.  You gave it to him?

A:        I gave him the overshoes.

I:          No, I know.  The Chinese?
A:        Oh yeah.  I had to.  I mean, he took them and gave me his old worn-out shoes.  And so, I had to go at least another week walking at nights to get to our first POW camp.  And I thought oh boy.  I’ve had it now.  I’m really in trouble now when I saw the frozen feet of some of the soldiers.



But you know, I got through that whole ordeal with only slight frostbite.  I do believe in God.  I know he was protecting me.
I:          Weren’t you not complaining and asking why me arrested by Chinese?
A:        No.  I never questioned why me.  I just tried to handle the situations that came up as best I could.



I do remember the second night, walking. It was my mother’s birthday, December 2.  Snow was coming down and here I am on my mother’s birthday walking along and it’s snowing and it’s cold and I just thought I wonder what mom would think if she knew at this moment that I had been taken a prisoner.  She actually didn’t know until the next July, July 1951. She got a letter from me that I was allowed to write.



But anyway.  So here we are. I might explain a little bit.  One of the Sergeants who was with us, all 10 toes were completely frozen.  And the stages are they turn bright red, very painful.  And then they turn brown, and then they turn black, and then the flesh sluffs off the ends of the bones.  And this Sergeant had all 10 of his toes, nothing but bones sticking out the end of his feet.



And a Chinese “nurse” along the way said you know, we’ve gotta get those bones off so his feet will heal.  And the only thing she could find was a pair of hedge trimmers.  And she took those hedge trimmers and chopped the bones off his feet.  Can you imagine the excruciating pain with no anesthesia, you know?  But his toes healed, and he survived. He came home at the end of the War.



Or I should say after the Armistice was signed.  And there were quite a few men that were in that same circumstance.

I:          Did you see that?
A:        No, I didn’t see him personally. I just know of the story because he testified before a Senate Committee when he came home about Korean War atrocities.  He testified and told his story.

I:          Yeah.
A:        But I saw many men who did have some of their toes frozen and the flesh sluffed off the bon, yes.



I:          So, when did you finally arrive at the prison camp?  When ,and what were you thinking when you first saw it?
A:        I was captured on the first of December.  We walked for 24 nights and walked into our first POW camp the next morning, that’s Christmas Day.

I:          What a splendid Christmas for you, huh?
A:        We stayed, we thought oh you know, is things gonna be better?


But we had hardly anything to eat, a bowl of rice, a bowl of millet. We had no rice.  A bowl of millet or cracked corn, one in the morning and one at night.  And that was all.  And then

I:          What is the  name of the prison camp?
A:        It was called, we called it, first we called it the mining camp because it was a barracks for miners at a bauxite mine.



But then it became known as Death Valley. We called it Death Valley because in the next 2 ½ weeks, about 250 men died there.

I:          How many?
A:        About 250.  Two hundred fifty to 300 men died.

I:          In?
A:        In about a 2 ½ week period.

I:          Two-and-a-half-week period?

A:        Yes.  Of dysentery, half starvation, sometimes the cold.



I:          Is it Yuk Tung Prison Camp?

A:        No, that was later.  This was a place called Pukchincheragall area.

I:          What?

A:        Pukchin.

I:          Can you spell it?

I:          PUCK

A:        HIN

I:          CHIN

A:        Puckchin, CHIN.

I:          Yeah.

A:        Puckchin Tarigol, TARIGOL.



I:          TARA

A:        TARIGOL.  That’s been identified as that area.

I:          What is the location?  Do you remember?  Is it close to Yalu Rive?

A:        It was about 40 miles from the Yalu.

I:          West or North?  West.

A:        South.
I:          South.

A:        Forty miles south of the Yalu as the crow files.



Of course, after we were there for 2 ½ weeks, we didn’t bury the men at all.  The Koreans would come in daily and haul the bodies off with oxcarts.

I:          But it was under the Chinese control.  Was it North Koreans?
A:        No, Chinese were in complete control of us all the time.



Well, I could tell you some stories about while we were there.  But

I:          Yeah, the story that you experienced and you saw, please tell me those things.

A:        Well, like I say, dysentery was rampant.  And there again, I was very fortunate. I know that 99.9% of the  men had dysentery.  And a lot of them died from it.  However, I did not have dysentery one single day.



And so, at times, I was able to help those who were less fortunate.  In fact, there was a kid that, we were crammed into rooms like this again still,

I:          Um hm.

A:        And those who had dysentery would have to get up oh, eight to 10 times a night and run outside and relieve themselves.  They’d just run across the top of the rest of us.  They wouldn’t take time to find space in between the bodies.  You could feel a guy running across the top of you several times a night.



And I, most of us just, you know, that’s the way it has to be.  And we didn’t complain.  A few men did.  But we knew we’d rather have them get outside and do it rather than do it in the room, you know, their bowel movements.  Anyway, this kid, our indoctrination started right here at this camp. Do you know of a man named Wilfred Burchett?

I:          No.
A:        Wilfred Burchett, he was an Australian Communist correspondent for some French newspaper.  I think it was Siswa which means denied, I guess.



But anyway,  he gave us a lecture there on Communism.

I:          Can you spell his  name?

I:          Um hm.

A:        Wilfred Burchett.

I:          Um hm.

A:        Maybe French is Bursha, I don’t know.  But anyway, our Communist captors said that if you will go down to this schoolhouse nearby in this village and listen to a lecture, we’ll give you one leaf of tobacco.



You see, the tobacco ration had been cut off cold turkey.  And I know the guys were suffering from withdrawal.  And so, they attracted most of the men down to this schoolhouse with the tobacco. I didn’t smoke, so I wasn’t interested.  So, I just said well, I’m not going.  This kid next to me, he was so sick he couldn’t even get up. In fact, he had soiled his trousers earlier right next to me.



We were still tied.  I couldn’t help but share the experience with him.  But he said oh Rowley, can you get me some clean trousers?  I said where in the world am I gonna get you any clean trousers?  But each morning, the bodies of the men who had died were placed in a room just below us on the hill.  They were stacked up in there.  And I thought well maybe there’s a clean pair of trousers one of the corpses.



So, I went down there the first morning, and all the good trousers were gone.  The bodies were hauled off.  Next morning, all kinds of more bodies down in this room.  And finally, the third morning I got there before all the “good” trousers were gone.  And so, I removed them. I felt guilty, but I removed the trousers from the soldiers’ bodies, and I boiled, I had found a brass bowl by then.



I started a fire and heated some water and had this soldier clean himself up and put the clean trousers on.  And he was very grateful for that.  But I was able to do things like this because I really wasn’t very sick. I was so blessed.  But anyway, talking about this lecture.  This same fellow, he was so sock he couldn’t get up even to go to the lecture.



And so, he said Rowley, would you go to the lecture and get that leaf of tobacco for me, and I said okay.  And so, I did.  And brought it back to him.  And Wilfred Burchett told us that the Communist Chinese and North Korean forces were pushing the U.N. forces into the ocean down at Pusan.  Well, we know that they only got to maybe a third of the way back down into South Korea before we then stopped them and pushed them back out of Korea by the Spring of 1951.



But that’s when our indoctrination started.  And there was a solid 16 months of solid indoctrination, how great Communism is, how terrible Capitalism or Free Enterprise is.  And we had to endure that day after day, sometimes eight hours a day either in a lecture or in discussion groups.  And here we had men that are dying by the dozens and they’re trying to tell us how great Communism is.


We thought to ourselves, boy.  There’s something that doesn’t fit here.  There’s something that doesn’t jive.

I:          How was Wilfred? Was he good to convince you, was he good to speak about those?
A:        It was just that one time that I saw him/

I:          Yeah, how was it?

A:        I didn’t see him after that.

I:          Yeah.  But the first time that you saw him, how did he perform?
A:        I was afraid that we were being driven out of Korea, our forces being driven out and we’d be there all alone at their mercy.



Fortunately, later we discovered that our forces had pushed back up through the 38th Parallel and kind of on a line, at an angle across.  That’s where the whole rest of the War was fought from July of ’51 through July of ’53.  And the Communists did tell us when the peace negotiations started in July of ’51, and they’d tell us when the talks were broken off, and they always blamed the U.N. side of course.



The reason they stopped talking is because, negotiating, was because of the, and they made sure we knew when MacArthur was relieved of command.

I:          I did some interviews with POWs, and former POW Korean War veterans, and they told me that they were able to keep the Bible in their pocket.

A:        Some men did have New Testaments, yes.



I:          New Testament.

A:        Yes.

I:          Uh huh.

A:        It usually wasn’t the whole Bible.  It was the New Testament.

I:          Right.  So that’s true.

A:        Yes.  There were a few of those.  In fact, I used one in my 4th, 3rd POW camp to  help conduct an Easter sunrise service.

I:          How did you get that?

A:        One of the men had it.  One of my fellow POWs had it. It’s I mean I could tell you a thousand stories.  The first eight months was a period of starvation and sickness and death.



But once negotiations started, things got markedly better.  And you know why?

I:          Yeah.

A:        If they were successful in stopping the fighting, they had to send us home in a prisoner exchange.  And they couldn’t afford to, bad advertising for Communism to send a bunch of men who looked like they had been in Dakow or Buchenwald in the 2nd World War fame, you know.



So as  things gradually got better, it’s estimated that most of us probably lost about 40% of our body weight at the worst time. But we had gained a lot of the weight and strength back by the time the Armistice was signed.

I:          How better was it?  Just give me a good example of the amount of rice or the food that you had before and after this.




A:        Okay. The worst case scenario was when we were getting nothing but a bowl of millet or cracked corn, one in the morning and one at night.

I:          Okay, twice a day.

A:        Twice a day, just you know, about that much.  But once the negotiations started, when Spring came and the ice on the Yalu River was 3’ thick.  Oh, I didn’t tell you.  We got to the POW camp, Pyuktong.

I:          Yeah.



A:        After we left the Death Valley,

I:          Right.

A:        We got there the end of January of 1951.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And we thought well certainly things are gonna be better.  But it was the same monotonous diet of millet or cracked corn morning and night clear up through the Spring.  And then when it was hinted that the Peace Talks would start, then things started getting better.

I:          So, after the Peace Talks began, how better  was your food?



A:        Well, it gradually got better, not all of a sudden.

I:          Did you have rice?
A:        We did have some rice.  We were able to, flour with steamed bread and vegetables and a little bit of meat.  The early days in Pyuktong Camp #5, I’ll give you another example. I  say we were on the same diet.  It didn’t improve at all once we got to our permanent POW camp.  And between end of January when we got there till about late April or so, another 1,600 men died.



And it was real difficult to try to bury them in the frozen ground. Only thing we could do was dig a grave maybe the width of their body and the depth of their body and how long they were.  In fact, I remember one burial detail I went on that we had finished burying the last man, and one of them who helped us carry the bodies over there died, and we had to dig one more grave for him.



I:          Was all of Pyuktong Camp under Chinese control or

A:        Yes.

I:          Some of them controlled by the North Koreans?

A:        I think early on, it was controlled by the North Koreans a little bit.  But eventually the Chinese Communists took over the entire camp system and controlled it completely.

I:          Um.

A:        And here again, the reason they, as many of us survived as did which was about 50% is because they wanted to indoctrinate us.



They wanted to teach us Communism, the philosophies of Marx, Ingalls, Lenin, Stalin, Mas Tse Tung.

I:          So actually, they want to indoctrinate so that they had to feed you and make you survive.

A:        That’s right.  That’s another reason that things got better.

I:          How did you know?

A:        That they couldn’t tell us all of this good stuff about Communism when we were still dying.



And so, the deaths essentially stopped by the summer of 1951.  There were hardly any deaths after that for two reasons:  the indoctrination lectures, them wanting to teach us Communism so things got a little better and the peace negotiations.

I:          Yeah.

A:        They didn’t know when the War was gonna end and they’d have to send us home.

I:          When did you first, you said that you wrote back to your mom July of 1951.



A:        No, I wrote to her in February of 1951.  I still have that letter.  And it was, they just gave us a piece of rice paper and a pencil and wrote a brief letter.  And my mother got it in July. I wrote it and sent it in February. She got it in July ’51.  And that’s the first, she had gotten the missing in action telegram, the MIA telegram, but that was all.  And when she got this letter from me, that’s the first she knew that I was still alive.



Some seven months, more than seven months after I had been captured.

I:          Arden, could you show me that letter you first wrote back to your mom?
A:        Right here.

I:          Tell me about the contents.  What did you write?

A:        Well, we couldn’t tell what was really happening cause men were dying by the dozens.



And I could read it to you.  It’s quite brief.  Dearest mom and dad:  I don’t know exactly what to say or how to tell you that I am a prisoner of war.  I know you must have worried a lot about me. I am still in good health. I want you to know that I pray often for you folks at home and also for a lot of us fellows here in the POW camp,



for our quick and early return home.  I know that with God’s kind care and protection, I will come home to you.  Contrary to what has been said, we are being treated as well as these people can treat us.  I’ll close for now hoping that this letter will reach you,



And you will know I am safe.  Your loving son, Arden.  You notice I said contrary to what, these people are treating us as well as they can treat us. So, it was open to interpretation.

I:          Yeah, you had to write it that way.  Otherwise, that letter would not go out.

A:        I couldn’t say men around  me are dying every day.  I had to make sure I said,



I remember sometimes the POWs would write home, and they would say mom, I’m in good health.  I’m back up to 145 lbs. indicating he’s in good health so the letters got through.  But the kid was a strapping 185 lbs. or something like that.  He got the message through that, how much weight he had lost.



I’m back up to 145 lbs..

I:          Were there any kind of groups that were trying to survive?  What did you do?  What did you talk, or how, is there any mechanism or anything that you guys were trying to survive?
A:        During the period of almost starvation, we would be forced to go to these lectures.



And then they would give us questions.  We’d take them to our room, and a Chinese official would  usually be there to make sure we discussed the questions.  And we had to make sure we wrote the answers they wanted

I:          Um hm.

A:        to the questions.  I called them Commie pleasing answers.  We knew that if we just answer them right away, write them down and get them out of the way, then we could talk about food.



And that was the subject of almost complete conversations, talking about food, talking about mom’s, oh, delicious pot roast. My mother, my aunt’s delicious cinnamon rolls. Men would describe meals in detail, how their mother would fix them, and we’d feel like we were actually eating them which we were not, you know.



But when things got better, then the subject of conversation got off from food onto other things. Oh, those, there was very little physical torture because the Chinese wanted us to teach us Communism.  I guess if there was any torture, it was mental torture, having to listen to that what I considered baloney, bunk, day after day after day.



And we resisted the indoctrinations pretty well, even though in the final analysis some 21 Americans chose to stay with the Communists.

I:          Twenty-one?

A:        Twenty-one, yes.  I knew eight of them personally.

I:          Oh.

A:        Cause I was in five different POW camps altogether.



And they moved me around for various reasons.

I:          Why?  What is the reason that you conjecture?

A:        Well, you know what?  Each one of the squads, each room was called a squad.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And the Chinese assigned or appointed a monitor, what they called a monitor who would, after the lectures were over, the monitor would be handed a sheet of questions,



Take them back to their rooms, we discussed them, sometimes with a Chinese present, sometimes not.  And we wrote the answers we knew they wanted quickly and talked about food. Well, I was assigned as a monitor in my squad.  So, I’d get the sheet of questions, would answer them, and this would go on day after day after day.  Finally, we decided amongst us, my squad leader who was a guy named Sarish,



You know, this is baloney.  We know they’re not gonna kill us because they’re trying to, they would have by now.  And so, we got our heads together one day, and when we were given the questions, we’re gonna write the answers how we really believe they are. And so, we wrote answers that were just exactly the opposite of what they expected.  Well, each time, all the monitors would have to go down to Chinese Headquarters and report,



Tell the Chinese officials what we had discussed and what answers and so forth.  So, each one of us would take our turn.  When it came to my turn, they said well what about you, Lowly, they can’t pronounce Rs.  So, I was Lowly, not Rowley.  And I said well this, this and this and this.  And I told them how we really felt, and boy he got really surprised.



He said no, no good.  Wrong answer, wrong answer.  And so, for a length of time that we were sitting there trying to convince me that my answers were wrong, and the other guys were impatient.  They said oh Rowley, come on.  Tell him the answer he wants to we can get out of here.  Well finally they let the other monitors go, and they kept me there and lectured me for a couple of hours about how bad I was because I wasn’t making any progression in the lectures.



And finally, they let me go.  I wasn’t mistreated. I wasn’t tortured or anything.  But from that point on, I think that idea grew in our company.  And all of the other monitors started doing the same thing.  And soon the Chinese realized that our company was rotten according to them.  And in October of 1951,



they took our entire company out of that POW camp, put us on barges and moved us down the Yalu several miles and established another camp. And I’m sure it’s because we had decided that what they were trying to teach us was bunk, and we let them know it.



And really from that point on, up into the Spring of 1952, things got worse and worse and worse, our attitude at the lectures got to where the lectures were a circus.  I mean, we were doing everything but listening to what, we’d say oh that’s a bunch of BS. But we would say it in full word, you know what that means.  Or that’s, you guys are crazy.  You don’t know what you’re talking about.



And they finally, in late Spring of 1952, they stopped the indoctrination program.  They realized that they reached that point of diminishing returns.  They were doing more harm to their cause than they were good because we were just fed up with it.  And one of the things that helped us bolster our courage was finally in January of 1952, when we got letters from home.



So, there’s a year and three months after I was, a year and two months, I got a letter from my mother.  And a lot of the men in the camp did get mail from home.  And already the lectures are deteriorating.  But boy, once we got that mail from home, our courage was bolstered, and we told them what they could do with their lectures on Communism.  They could put them where the sun doesn’t shine.



I:          Arden, do you have that letter you received from your mom?  Do you have the letter?

A:        I think I do.

I:          Can you show it to the camera and read it?  Can you show it to the camera first?

A:        Oh.  Let me see.  I know I have the envelope.



In fact, I put the date on it.  Where is it?

I:          Take your time.

A:        I just, oh.  I think it’s in here.  See that?  See the date on the left?
I:          Show it to the camera.

A:        January something, 1952.

Female Voice:  January a4 I think it says.



A:        This is the first letter I got.  And a lot of the other POWs did get mail from home at the same time. And it was a celebration.  I mean, we were jumping all over and hollering and saying oh, letter from home.  My mom knows I’m alive. My family knows I’m still alive.

Female Voice:  (INAUDIBLE)



I:          Do you have the letter now with you?

A:        I, let’s see which letter.  July ’53.  You see, my mother kept all the letters that she received from me.  And I was only able to keep a few.  Let’s see.



July ’52, ’52.

I:          Okay.

A:        I don’t know where I put it.

I:          What did she write?
A:        She just told me what was happening with the family and the fact that she had gotten mail from me, and she knew I was alive and so forth.



Here it is.  December 30, 1951.

I:          Show me.

A:        Oh no, that’s ’51.

I:          Show it to the camera please.

A:        There is it right there.

I:          Can you read it?



A:        December 30, 1951.  Dearest Arden:  Just wrote to you a few days ago.  But now we have been given a new address, and I’m afraid you won’t get the other one.  So, I’ll try again.  And I didn’t get the other one.  This is the first one I got.  Everything at home is fine.  I’ve written several letters to you, all with about the same  news.



I figured if you didn’t get one, you might get another.  The latter part of July, I got two letters from you, and that’s the one I wrote in February, none of which had been written in February and March. You’ve no idea what those letters meant to me old as they were.  My faith that you’re still alive was given a big boost.



Then when I got the telegram from the government that you were on the Prisoner of War list, and that was December of 1951, that you were on the Prisoner of War list, I was indeed grateful. And there was great rejoicing in the family.  Of course, we spent the evening phoning people.



And when it came on the radio news, vast people started phoning us.  And then she just went on with some brief news about the family.  So that’s pretty much what she wrote.

I:          Thank you.

A:        Yes.  There was, the official POW list wasn’t release by the Communists even though my mother had gotten this letter in July, it wasn’t release until December of 1951.



And by that time, at least 50%of the POWs had died.  And I can just imagine when those lists were published in the newspapers throughout the United States, how some families looked at that list hoping to find their lived one, and those names weren’t there because so many had died by then.



I:          What was your weight at the time/
A:        At what time?
I:          When you returned?

A:        When I returned, by the time I got back home, I was 160 lbs.  I was 175 when I was captured.  But as soon as the Armistice was signed, and as soon as they thought even before July 27, when they thought that things were pretty close, I mean we saw food that we hadn’t seen in 2 ½ years.


They started giving us everything they could get to us.

I:          Meat?
A:        Yes, meat, eggs, all kinds of eggs and meat and vegetables and some fruit. And that took place.  And when I was put on a train finally to go South to Kaesong to wait to be released, I mean it was like a banquet every day.  I was there three days.



It was almost like a banquet.

I:          But that was the food provided by the Americans.
A:        By the Communists.

I:          By the Communists?

A:        Yes. I was still a POW at the time.  In Kaesong, we were there three days until my name was called, and they put us on trucks, and we went to Panmunjom to be exchanged.

I:          When was that? When did you first know that you were going home?



A:        They told us the day the Armistice was signed; I was in my 5th POW camp by then.  They told us on the day that it happened.  And they said the fighting had stopped.  War is over.  Soon you will go home.  It was another on about the 14thof August, we left that POW camp,



got to Kaesong on about the 15th of August, and on the 18th of August, I as released.  It came my turn to be released.

I:          On the what day?

A:        The 18th of August 1953.  I boy, talk about a good feeling that day.  When I walked under that arch that said Gateway to Freedom.

I:          Tell me.

A:        Pardon?

I:          Tell me about it.



A:        It’s just really indescribable.  First of all, on the Chinese trucks, we approached that exchange point.  And when I saw in a distance those GIs with those uniforms on, those American soldiers with their GI uniforms, I thought boy, we really are going to be free.  And when we pulled up to that exchange point, put a ladder up to the truck and we walked down and walked under this arch that said Gateway to Freedom,



As soon as I walked under that arch and into the hands of the American soldiers, I mean it felt like a 50-ton anvil was lifted off my shoulders.  It was just a day of  celebration.  Of course, that’s one high point.  And the next high point is when I got to San Francisco and part of my family was there to meet me on the 5th of September.



It took us two days to drive home in my brother’s car. I got back in Mesa on the 7th of September, it was Labor Day, and met the rest of my family.  So those three highlights were the times that I, were absolutely


Female Voice:  (INAUDIBLE)



A:        No.  The Bridge of No Return was on the way from Kaesong to Panmunjom.  That bridge that I went down to in June, that that Lieutenant Colonel Edwon was his name took me, escorted me personally down there, and I walked out on that bridge.  That was the bridge the Communist trucks came across as we were going from Kaesong to Panmunjom for us to be released.



I:          What did you do after you returned home?  Tell me about those briefly, until you went back to Korea.

A:        I didn’t do anything for a while.  Well, I tell you.  I bought some civilian clothes.  I started dating a few girls.  But it wasn’t until I got home on the 7th of September.  On the 18th of September, 11 days later, I went to a Friday night dance here in Mesa and met the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, Ruth Martin.



A friend introduced me to her at the dance that night. I danced with her five times or so, asked her if I could take her home, she said no, I came with some friends and I’m going hone with those friends.  But I asked her if I could take her home from work. She worked at the drug store on Main Street.



In fact, the day I came home from Korea, a cavalcade of cars driving down through Mesa honking their horns, police sirens and so forth, passed everybody’s drug store, had no idea there’s that girl, Ruth Martin was right there in that drug store seeing that cavalcade of cars go by.  And 11 days later I met her.

I:          Did she tell you later that she saw you in the truck?

A:        Yes. I was on the back of a convertible sitting up on the back of the back seat, my mom and dad on each side.



Driving down through town. I have a home movie of that event.

I:          What was the thing that you really wanted to do right after, I mean when you’re thinking if you’re going to return home, what was the first thing that you wanted to do?

A:        I just wanted to relax for a while.  And I did.



I just took it easy. Course I ate like crazy the whole, so I started gaining some more weight.  But anyway, I just took it easy for a while until I met Ruth.  She wasn’t quite 18 when I met her.  She just started her senior year of high school. She was 5 ½ years younger than me.  Introduced to her,



Took her home from work a couple of times, took her to a drive-in movie, took her to a Mesa High football game, met her on the 18th of September.  The evening of the 2nd of October, I proposed to her, two weeks, and she said yes without hesitating.  And we were married on the 25th of November.



About 2 ½ months after I got home.

I:          Did you regret that you were in Korea?
A:        No.  Never. I consider to this day.

I:          Be honest.

A:        I consider to this day a great honor to have participated in saving the Republic of Korea from Communism.  All of them, I feel personally and I’m sure all Korean War veterans feel that was an honor.



Every sacrifice was worth it because of what Korea is today. It’s a shining light in the world.  When you compare it, you’ve seen the lights of the world.  Can you compare it to that dark North Korea, and South Korea completely light?  Tells the story right there.  Slavery, freedom.  And I was honored to be a part of it.



And I’m sure that if you could ask all of the men who died in combat and who died in the POW camps, I’m sure that if they could see South Korea today, they’d say yes.  The sacrifice was worth it.

Female Voice:  When you were in the POW camp, were you proud to be in the Korean War or were you angry?



A:        Well, I never became what you would call angry about being there. I  just, most of us just accepted it, and we adjusted to the circumstances, hoping that we would be one of the ones that survived to come home.  The continual indoctrination kept our minds busy quite a bit.



And I was thinking about well, we know that that isn’t true and so forth. I remember, Sunny, in my 4th POW camp I got a letter from home, and there was a picture of my sister posing on the hood of a brand-new Oldsmobile automobile.  The Chinese instructor came and said who is this? And I said well, that’s my sister.  Who’s car?  I said well, that’s a brand new Oldsmobile.  They just got.  No, no impossible.  Nobody can afford an automobile in the United States.



I suppose you wouldn’t believe that every home has a refrigerator either then.

I:          You were there in the camp more than two years and

A:        Thirty-three months.

I:          Yeah.  And looking back those years now from Mesa where you were growing up, what do you think?  How do you put that period into perspective?  How do you deal with it?



A:        Well, I usually tell people this.  It was a million-dollar experience.  I wouldn’t take a million dollars for it.  But I also wouldn’t go through it again for a million.

I:          Why?

A:        I feel I was strengthened by the experience. I certainly knew why we were there, to ward off Communist aggression.



I knew that the Cold War had turned hot in that part of the world and that I was a part of it. And I wasn’t happy to be there, but I was content to be there knowing what we were doing, why we were there.  And when they started to shove this Communist doctrine down our throats, boy, like I said first we said everything that they wanted to hear.



But that got old.  I mean, that got old, and we told them where they, you know, forget it.  This is what we believe.  So anyway.

I:          You said that you didn’t know anything about Korea except the fact that where it was located.

A:        Yeah.

I:          Now after those, what is Korea to you?



A:        Today?
I:          Yeah, to you now.

A:        Well, I tell you.  I’ve been there five times since I came home.  The first time I went with Ruth and my son Brad. And Ruth was hesitant to go.  But I sort of talked her into it. I didn’t have to talk very hard.  But once she got over there and we went on that 11-day tour of Korea, she fell in love with the people and the country.



As I did. I don’t suppose I loved the country when I was there fighting the War.  But when I revisited and have been back more times, each time I go, I admire more and more the Korean people and the country.  And I was just proud to have been part of it.  I just, when you think the Republic of Korea now is the largest cell phone manufacturer, Smart Phone manufacturer in the world, it’s the second largest ship builder in the world, and it’s the fifth largest manufacturer of automobiles and has the 10th strongest economy in the world, it’s a miracle.



When I came home from Korea in 1953, Seoul was just a rubble.  You remember seeing pictures. The one in Korea Reborn book.  And when you think here’s Seoul with 11 million people. I gauge it by the number of bridges. When Brad, Ruth and I went in 1994, we went to the top of the 64 Building, the tallest building in Seoul at the time.



And I looked out this plate glass window. I looked down on the Hahn River and I said to Brad, look at all those bridges over the Hahn River.  And he said what’s that such a big deal, dad? He said, I said there was one bridge. When I went through Seoul in 1950, there was one bridge, and that bridge was constructed by U.S. Army engineers that we could get across so we could go on and drive the North Koreans out of the rest of Korea.



And I said look at those bridges.  There are 30 bridges across the Hahn River in Seoul today, and that’s a measure of the progress they have made, from one bridge to 30.

I:          What would you say to God when you go to Heaven?  What would you say to God about the Korean War?


A:        I would say I thank thee for the opportunity that I had in the history of mankind to have helped a nation that needed to help.  You know that inscription at the foot of that lead soldier in the Korean War Memorial, our nation honors its’ uniformed sons and daughters who answered their country’s call to defend the country they did not know and a people they had never met.



And I was honored to be part of that.

I:          To you, what is the legacy of the Korean War and Korean War veteran?
A:        The legacy of the Korean War, the fact that we did not let the Communists take over a free country set the pace and marked the tone for the Communist countries in the world.



They better not try it again.  They better not try it in East or West, in West Germany.  Germany was divided.  If they had succeeded in Korea, you can bet they would have tried it in Germany and in Europe.  But we said no, hands off.  You’re not gonna take.  And even though we didn’t unify Korea, and that’s a sad note of the Korean War is that we did not, and we could have unified Korea if the politicians had let us, hadn’t gotten in the way.



We learned how to fight the Communist Forces and to stop any attacks that they made.  We learned how to advance.  And we could have taken North Korea.  But no.  The politicians, no, we’ll start World War III.  So, the sad part of the Korean War is that we did not unify Korea.  And here all these 60 some years later, you see all those people suffering under the thumb of, you know, I call Kim Jung Ill, that pudgy little dictator with a bad haircut.



And his son now is worse than his father was.  That DVD that I showed you talks about life under Kim Jung Un.

I:          Arden, any other message?  You told me that you have done this interview like several times, so many times.  But any story or any comment that you want to leave to this interview?



A:        I feel that our freedoms are in jeopardy in our nation today.

I:          Now?

A:        Yes.  Let’s put it this way.  And I’ve had a chance to talk to high school students recently.  One day, 270 students.  I tell them at least one point in my presentation,



We POWs who survived the death and the indoctrination of the Korean War POW camps, we resisted the indoctrination. We came home with a strong faith in our country.  We went about our lives meeting and marrying our spouses.  I lived with Ruth for 57 years before she passed away about three years ago after a 20-year battle with cancer.


We went about our lives living under the freedoms that we enjoyed. Yet today, there are those in high positions of government who are trying to take us toward that kind of government that we resisted in the POW camps under those terrible circumstances.  And I resent it highly.  I resent these political leaders.



I’ll say it outright.  It’s starting with the man in the White House. I resent them trying to take us toward that which we resisted more than 60 years ago.  And my message to the American people is we better wake up and get back to our Constitution.

I:          I gave you the brochure, the Korean War Veterans Digital Memorial Foundation.



And also, I gave the program book that my foundation uses for the Korean War Veterans Youth Corp.  It’s like the Peace Corp. created by President Kennedy.

A:        Oh yeah.

I:          And we launched the Youth Corp. last year in Washington, D.C.  It’s a group of high school and college students of Korean War veterans descendants so that we can continue in your legacy. If we do not, if we fail,



A:        There is Legacy Workshop, yes.

I:          And can you read the subtitle of that, the Legacy,

A:        This one right here?
I:          Yeah.

A:        First Korean War veteran legacy workshop.  What good can come out of Korean War veteran legacy?

I:          Yes.  The good came out of Korean War is Republic of Korea. You just mentioned it.



A:        Yeah.

I:          Unbelievable story of economic growth.

A:        Oh yes, absolutely.

I:          That’s yeah.  But in 10 years, there are not many Korean War veterans here.

A:        Right.
I:          And unless we activate your own descendants, nobody will remember it.

A:        I suppose.  You know I have indoctrinated my family pretty thoroughly on my experiences.



The talks I’ve given in my church and in my youth groups and so forth, my kids grew up  hearing my story.

I:          That’s very important because there are not many

A:        And I’ve published books that they’ve been given and read and so forth, especially my son Brad.  He is a historical encyclopedia, especially my son Brad knows.  And my son Steve, of course, helped me publish a book about Ruth which has a lot of the legacy of my POW experience within it.



Within her story.  So, and I’ve published four books about the Korean War POWs, one book about my battalion, the history of my battalion in the Korean War which covers that story I told you, the Battle of Yongsan and all of that other that followed that.



And then the latest book is about the prisoner repatriation, about big switch, little switch and big switch.

I:          So, do you have grandchildren in high school or college?
A:        Oh yeah.  I have grandchildren that are in their mid-40’s, I guess.

I:          No, in the age of high school or college.

A:        Oh yeah, I have. My youngest grandchild is a girl who will be a senior in high school next year.

I:          How about in college?



A:        I have one grandson that just graduated from ASU with a degree in

I:          Arizona State?
A:        Yeah, Arizona State University.  He just, a couple of weeks ago, graduated. I have a granddaughter who graduated a couple years ago from ASU. I  have another granddaughter who had a full scholarship and was in about her junior year and is married and is busy raising a family.



I:          This year, my foundation will host the second convention of Korean War Veterans Youth Corp. It’s from July 25 to 28.  And the foundation will cover everything, hotel, meals, and three days program including Pentagon visit and National Mall and except half of the, you know, ground trip.


A:        The grandchild has to be enrolled in college, in university work though, right?
I:          No, high school or college.

A:        High school or college.

I:          So, if you want them to come to Washington, DC and mingle with other descendants of Korean War veterans and working on your legacy, please tell them about this convention and ask them to contact me. The foundation will cover most of the, 99% we’ll cover the cost.



A:        The granddaughter will be a senior in high school.

I:          Yeah.  She’ll be perfect.

A:        In August.

I:          And the grandson who just graduated?
A:        My oldest great-grandson is 16.

I:          No.  The son who graduated from ASU, just graduated.

A:        Oh yeah.

I:          Yeah.

A:        Yeah, Austin.

I:          Yeah, Austin.  Could you tell them about this opportunity because, as I told you, unless our own family

A:        Yeah.

I:          work on your legacy,  nobody will remember it.

A:        That’s true.



A:        And I don’t know whether my grandchildren are paying enough attention.  They’ve been exposed quite a bit.  But I don’t know whether, and Austin, he works for Boeing, the Boeing Corporation in computers.  And he, I don’t know, anyway.

I:          Yeah.  Just tell them about this and encourage them to contact us, okay, either me or Sunny.

A:        This information would be good for doing that.


I:          That’s last year’s.  But we can give you this year’s, and please talk to Sunny and me

A:        I’d like to, I’d like to, my granddaughter’s gonna be a senior, what were the dates of that?

I:          July 25 -28.

A:        This year?
I:          Yes.

A:        Hm.

I:          And even you can come with them, you know?

A:        I’ll be at my POW reunion in Louisville, Kentucky at that time.



I:          Yeah.  You know it’s after, you going to have a reunion around July 30.

A:        Yes.

I:          Yeah.  So, it is right after the, our convention.  You guys can go from Washington, DC to Louisville, Kentucky.

A:        Oh, I see what you mean.

I:          Yeah.

A:        First day, my first day at the reunion will be the 29th of July, in Louisville, Kentucky.

I:          Yeah.  I’m planning to be there, too.

A:        Oh, that would be great to be there.

I:          Yeah.  So please talk to your grandchildren.



A:        I can go with my granddaughter.  Is that what you’re saying?  Oh mercy.  She would be so thrilled at that.

I:          And if you come, I can, I want to ask you to talk something about your experience at the convention.  I invited Al Cooper from Utah.

A:        Um hm.

I:          He is one of the most learned Korean War veterans I have known.

A:        Uh huh.

I:          But your experience is also very exceptional. So, if you come with your granddaughter and stand in the podium and talk about the importance of transfer of this legacy to our younger generations.



A:        Yes.

I:          That will be dynamite, okay?  So please think about it.

A:        I’ll talk to my granddaughter.

I:          Yeah.

A:        You know, when she found out that I was going to Korea again, Sunny, she said oh grandpa, I’d like to go with you.  I said well, it’s not conducive for family to go on this particular trip.

I:          No.  But as soon as she gets into college.

A:        She can go to Washington with, huh?



I:          As soon as she gets into college, my convention and KWDYC will recommend her to go to Korea as a Peace Camper

A:        Yeah.

I:          And also, there are scholarship opportunities from my foundation, too.

A:        Oh, that would be so great.

I:          Yeah.  So please encourage your

A:        Will you have some current literature that you’re gonna be giving me on this, sending me on that

I:          Yes.  Sunny will talk to you.
A:        Oh, I want it, Audrey is her name.  I want to talk to Audrey.



I:          So, let us wrap up this interview.  Thank you so much again for your service, your sacrifice and all the stories that you shared with us today.

A:        It was an honor and a privilege.  Thank you.

I:          And any other last message to this interview?
A:        Save your money.