Ellis Ezra Allen
Ellis Ezra Allen was born in Missouri and was drafted into the Army during WWII in July of 1942. He reenlisted in 1947 after the war and held odd jobs prior to serving in Korea. He recalls his first impressions of Korea upon arriving in the Pusan Perimeter and shares that enemy fire began soon after. He details his POW experience, recounting the living conditions and propaganda sessions held by the Chinese. He speaks of his POW release and his return home and shares his thoughts on PTSD. He is proud of his service and offers an account of a few lessons he learned from war.
Landing in the Pusan Perimeter
Ellis Ezra Allen shares his first impressions of Korea upon arriving. He recalls landing in the Pusan Perimeter in August of 1950 and remembers enemy fire beginning shortly after arrival. He describes being in charge of all wheeled vehicles and supplying men with ammunition.
Living Conditions in the Prison Camps
Ellis Ezra Allen describes the long march from the mining camp to Camp 5. He explains that many died of exposure due to the lack of sufficient winter clothing and recalls that within a six weeks period over one thousand men died. He discusses the treatment of POW's by the North Koreans and the Chinese as well as the propaganda campaigns.
Propaganda and POW Release
Ellis Ezra Allen describes the continued propaganda lectures with the Chinese and the living conditions in Camp 4. He remembers them as not being too terrible as they had wood floors and coal-heated stoves. He recounts his release and shares that he was picked up by a helicopter, taken to Inchon, put on a U-boat, and transported back to the States.
Lessons from War
Ellis Ezra Allen shares what he learned from the war. He dismisses PTSD, saying that a man is a man and is supposed to stand up in whatever he gets into. He adds that he acquired good decision making skills and demanded respect from others around him.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
Ellis Ezra: Ellis Ezra Allen. I was born in Dalton Missouri.
Interviewer: Daltron? How do you spell that?
I: and what’s your date of birth?
E: January 23, ’20.
I: So how old are you, now?
E: I’m 94 years old now. I’ll be 95 in January.
I: Wow. How does it feel to be
E: [laughed] well, I’m a–I’m a little slow.
I: What kind of education do you have?
E: I have three semesters college. I was drafted out of school.
I: What year were you drafted?
E: 1942. July the 25th. Never will forget that.
I: Boy you never forget those dates, huh?
I: Were you drafted into the Army?
I: Occupations did you have before you went into the military?
E: Well, I didn’t have a
I didn’t have what you call a steady job.
I: Okay, so what kind of work did you do?
E: Well, farm labor.
I: What are the Korean service dates?
E: August 15th. 33, 40 months actually.
I: August 1950 to October 1950–
E: See, I was a prisoner of war 33 months. I got captured the first day of December
I: Okay, what do you remember about your first impressions arriving in Korea?
E: Well, I landed at Pusan perimeter. They backed us into that little car in Korea.
I: And you landed there.
E: About 3 o’clock and–.
I: On what day or year?
E: I can’t remember the exact day, but–
E: 1950 it was in August. We got off the boat at 3 o’clock.
Our guns had got there ahead of us and we fired at 6:30.
I: So, you practiced shooting?
E: No, we was ready.
I: You oh you were ready. Guns ready.
E: yeah we–we–we went to range every spring and we had been going to range once a week for a month they knew–somebody knew what was going to happen. [Laughing] It didn’t–they didn’t catch us surprised, you know.
I: So, you were in Pusan for how long?
E: We stayed in Pus–we only stayed in Pus–Pusan overnight. We got out in the roads when we–we fired they fired the 6–the 6thartillery battery fired about 6 o’clock. And I was in charge of the wheel vehicles and the–the gun was there already loaded and fired.
And we moved up to the line and the–
I: You were in charge–you were in charge of the trucks?
E: Wheel, yes all wheel vehicles. Trucks, Jeeps the whole thing–battalion.
E: After we got about a mile out of town, the MP’s stopped us and tu–to arm everybody.
I: To–to what?
E: To arm everyone.
I: To make sure–
E: I–I was the only one
who had any ammunition. I only had 7 rounds in my 45. And they wouldn’t let us pass point until everybody had bene given ammunition. So, I was in charge so I had to break open boxes of ammunition on the supply truck and make sure everybody had a clip of ammunition before they let us proceed.
E: And that was on the–up at the Nakdong River.
Were in the second [officer] division. 3rdbattalion of the 9thinfantry was right ahead of us. They got there a week before we did. The Marines, the 19thinfantry had a–was a–ahead there. They was on the front line and the Marines came in and relieved them. Fought back and forth there I never–I can’t remember how many days.
I: You were what–what battalion were you in?
E: It was the 503rdartillery battalion. Until they broke out when
MacArthur landed in Incheon, behind them and that’s when we broke out of there. So, what happened Thanksgiving Day boy they laid us–that’s when they–they really come on.
I: So, Thanksgiving Day the Chinese started the–
E: Thanksgiving Day when they hit us really. But we was ready for them but there was too many of them.
I: And this was 1950?
E: ’50. November 1950. Well, we
I: The Chinese started to assault?
E: Yes. We woke up one morning and the guys–there was a corn field right there on some little creek and there stalks of corn, you know how you stack it?
E: And–and rice and there’s–there’s Chinese’s laying all around there didn’t have weapons [laughing].
I: They didn’t have any weapons?
I: The Chinese?
E: Yes. They had infiltered.
I: They what?
E: Well, they had come infiltered in there, you know?
E: They didn’t have no weapons. We–when we got
Captured when they hit us at Koto-Ri Pass, we had Chinese prisoners. Right on the Yellow River. And so right where the crossing. And the river was backed up there.
I: And that’s camp 5?
E: Camp 5. We got there early January I can’t remember first day.
I: Boy, it was really cold in January.
E: Oh Lord, I spent three winters on the Yellow River
E: You can’t–
you can’t image how cold it was. And right at– I guess you’ve heard of the mining camp, haven’t you?
E: Oh, you haven’t?
E: Well, the mining camp was about half way there. And we was going up this mountain and you could see that gap there, [skray] gap and hell we walked all evening getting up there and as soon as we got in that gap, the wind hit us. Golley it was cold. And that was Christmas Eve night.
I never will forget that was Christmas Eve night. And took us all morning to get down to the foot of that mountain and they took–
I: The wind was blowing that night. Blowing pretty good.
E: Oh boy when we stopped. As soon as we hit that pass up there oh God. And it was a mountain side. You know, a mountain road.
E: And I heard guys screaming, you know what that meant?
E: Somebody just jumped over the mountain.
I: They jumped?
E: And committed suicide I guess.
I: They jumped over the mountain?
E: Off the road, yes.
I: Oh boy.
E: I heard several guys screaming and–and we found out those guys just give up I guess.
I: Were there any houses t the mining camp?
E: Oh they had little houses all up and down there. Where the people–the miners I guess lived.
I: So it was a temporary prison?
I: And how long did you stay there? From December–
E: About a week. About a week.
and when they moved us out of there, well I had my clerk he came–they had him he–he didn’t get captured right with me. I was in the one ga–group and he was in another group and there it looking like the roads come together and he–everybody said I got killed [laughing]
E: and he saw me and he broke left out of formation and he was running across the–and the Chinese were hollering at him [sannow!]
I: You were in a march from the mining camp to camp 5?
E: Camp 5. So we left [Moody] there at camp–camp was it–supposed to been sick and wounded. The mining camp they called it. Boy we lost a lot of people there. I seen them hauling them out of there on a sled.
I: They froze to death?
E: The ox–the oxen and their arms would be flopping.
I: They just died of starvation or frozen or?
E: Exposure. Man it was cold. Guys got caught with–with no–with no winter clothes on.
They got captured with feet. Guys from New Orleans he couldn’t wear heavy underwear.
I: So how many men were in camp 5 do you think?
E: Oh, oh–well for– in six weeks we lost over 1,000 people there. First we got captured they had church all day long. We had a couple guys that were–I called them [Jack Night] preachers, they was preaching and singing you know and they got on me because I didn’t
be singing and preaching with them. You’re not taking part of the service. I said I’m here I–I just because I’m–you don’t pray– I said I pray more than you do, I just don’t pray as loud as you do. You know what I mean?
I: So you were treated not too bad by the North Korean guards.
E: They didn’t–no. if you–but–what did they call it? Anyways, [making shooting sounds] and they’d laugh at them. I said don’t let that fool [unintelligible] the shots on my–
I: Yeah they might activate them, yeah.
E: And I told the Chinese,
I said look, that guy is dangerous. Eventually they moved all the Koreans out of there and the Chinese took over the place.
I: And what happened then?
E: Well, everything was nice. All the–they–they finally gave us one rice meal every three days, you know. And the lenient treatment policy. Lenient treatment policy. Well what they was doing–they was–they was using us just like they did Shanghai [six] soldiers,
they’d convert them.
I: To communism. So, they were using a lenient treatment policy to entice you to convert.
E: Yes. Get you [parole] it worked. If they hadn’t released us and said three months after we got captured guys would have been thoroughly conf–young boys thoroughly confused.
E: You see the Chinese was in charge of us from LA, Massachusetts to. These was
educated from Cambridge. Guys spoke perfect English.
I: The Chinese.
E: See they had–they I made a mistake. They had lectures. Well I had–they made me a squad leader with one bunch. I had a bunch of youngsters. Well I kept regular with our meeting. Well, when I come back from a barrel detail I found they made me the monitor of my squad. [laughing] That means I kept record of all of the
Sessions. You know [laughing] so what happened I had–like I said I had a bunch of youngers and I had one Japanese– Japanese Korean who was our interpreter for our battalion. [We ago Yakamama]. And so, they start these propaganda lectures. Well hell, I’d had social science I knew about Marxist and Engels theory you know.
hell, I’ve heard it. Read about it. And here they come in there with this one big by Marx the–about the communist common form.
E: It was the law laid down for communism. By Marx and Engels. You’ve heard of them, haven’t you?
E: The common form. Well, I had read it too. And then, there it says by Nikolai Lenin. I say the hell that ain’t no Marx and Engels theory, that’s Nikolai
Lennin’s theory. He transmitted it into what the thought. You see, what was that Russian was with Lenin? I mean Stalin? He got killed in Mexico.
I: Right. Did you–did you get moved again or did you stay in camp 5?
E: Camp 5 from January to August or July. That’s later on they moved us captured–oh all–all the sergeants they moved us out of camp 5.
They moved us to camp 4.
I: And all the sergeants went to camp 4.
E: Camp 4. Well, rumors run you know, somebody said they sending ya’ll they sending us to a labor camp. [laughing] you know everybody–
I: How was camp 4?
E: That’s what camp 4 was. But what they did, they put they getting the sergeant away from the rest of the troops.
I: Yeah. What did you do at camp 4?
I: What you kind of just sat around?
E: For a while.
But you see we was right on the Naktong River, I mean the Yellow–the Yellow River
I: What were you January to August 1951?
E: We were living in a school house building that had brick up so far and then the straw on the top. And wood floors and had been built–made stoves in it for us.
I: Wood floors.
E: Yeah. And what happened–
I: And stoves were there too?
E: made–they made stoves out of brick and stone with steel
tops on them. And they bought us coal in there. Hey we were living it up man [laughing]. And when they start the propaganda program.
I: They were giving you coal too?
E: Yeah there was coal in there.
I: And the metal top so you can cook on it?
E: Stoves had a grate in it and everything, but the basic stove was made out of brick and mortar. We stayed in camp for–
I: To Kasan
E: We stayed at camp 4 until they released us. They–you mean when they released us?
They put us on a train and we crossed the river and the train stopped right in the middle of the river.
I: So you were put on a train, and the train stopped on the bridge over the river?
E: Taking us back down to Kasan and Freedom Village.
I: Kasan you went to a helicopter to Incheon?
E: and then–then to Incheon. They put us on a boat. And boy was I happy. Now, I had–I had–I was
interviewed by some people and they brought me morning reports for me to mark of people I knew who got killed. I just got tired and I told them no I don’t want to be bothered.
I: Yeah. So you were brought to Incheon you fed the steaks and then they put you on a ship to go home?
E: From–from Incheon to San Francisco.
I: You–what ship did you go on?
E: I can’t remember.
I: What is the most memorable part of your Korean War Experience? What was the most memorable that you think about a lot
Or remember the most?
E: I don’t–I–I
I: Anything stick out in your mind that you think about a lot?
E: I–that’s one thing you see, I’ve never let it bother me. You see some people talk about post-something stress? I’ve never suffered none of that and I don’t believe in it. What they call post stress something?
I: Yeah post-traumatic stress.
E: See, I don’t want to hear that crap. A man is a man
and he’s supposed to stand up whatever he get into . I volunteered for my second hitch. I got drafted at first but I reenlisted and so I blame myself for it and hell I ain’t gonna sit around and cry.
I: Right. What how did the Korean War, in general, impact you? From the time you got there, to the time you got home, what–what–what did you–how did your war experience impact you at all?
E: It just
one thing I learned, was how to make a decision. You know I was set right on a bridge. I aint gonna stay in the Army, but when I got out after World War II, the Civil Rights thing was going, and you know how that went.
E: And I had a guy in my home town, in my town– in my town I was living in you know what he told me? He addressed me as son, he was a wealthy guy, he said son don’t you be walking around here at night by yourself.
E: Well you see, what had happened, I had several
confrontations with some pastor who disrespected me and–and if he couldn’t respect me, he better be ready to fight. And I pop him. [laughing] you know what I mean, I was a–I–I always had a lot of fire, you know.
I: Yeah. Yeah.
E: My grandmother reared me and this guy told me don’t you be walking around here by yourself. And here my mother in law, who worked at a restaurant said you can’t be like that you got a family. What the hell you mean I can’t be like that? I’m a man, and if you
disrespect me you’d better be able to whip me and if you go to far I’ll get an equalizer. That was my policy.
E: So, you know what I did? I reenlisted. I got out of that mess.
I: When did you reenlist?
E: November of ’47. I’d been in the reserve two years. Came back in the Army.
I: And that’s when you went to Korea?
E: Yeah. Well, I went through a lot of things. I went to school and I joined the second infantry division. I–I thought I was going to get my wife to come and stay with me. See, once I got made staff sergeant I was eligible for housing.
I: What–what would you like the people to remember about the Korean War from your experiences?
E: Well, the–there was–you see we were fighting the communists they called it,
you know? See, Americans don’t know much of comm-about communism. Here were are not communicating with Cuba. American can’t play talking about their communists. They’re not communists, they’re a socialist organization run by the communist party.
I: Cuba, yeah.
E: Do you understand me?
I: Yeah, yep.
E: China is a socialist country it is not a communist country. Its run by the communist party.
E: How many people do you–need to know this?
I: Mm-hmm. Not many.
E: People are ignorant.
E: That is the biggest trouble in this country right today. Ignorance. You see, our schools don’t train our children, they don’t teach them history anymore. And it burns me up, you know. I sit there in church and listen to the preachers. They don’t preach it–they don’t–they–they need–I say you don’t need preaching they need teaching.
I: We’d like to thank you for telling us your story.
And we appreciate it, because of the Vietnam, Korean, World War II Veterans are disappearing. And this video will go on our website. And I need you to sign a thing allowing us to do that.
I: And we also want to give you a–a book this is a book from the Republic of Korea. The Koreans made this for the soldiers.
So, you’re welcome to have this book and read it. It’s got a whole bunch of history, it’s got photographs and everything about the diff–The Korean War and Korea itself. Well, thank you very much Ezra.
[End of Recorded Material]