Fred Liddell was born in Seattle, Washington on October 20, 1928. He enlisted in the army at 18 years of age, and was sent to Fort Lewis in 1947 for basic training. He was stationed in Japan for 30 months where he loaded supply ships. Fred Liddell’s specialty was troubleshooting in the 2nd Division Army Signal Corps. He was a POW captured by the Chinese, and suffers from PTSD. Vivid nightmares still come back to him from when he was being chased by North Korean soldiers, but he simply couldn’t outrun them. He served in the army from 1947-1953. He revisited Korea through a POW program, and on his own, and he reveled at the modernization of South Korea.
The capture of Fred Liddell: POW
Fred Liddell was captured by the Chinese in May 1951 at Hill 151 (Jirisan Mountain). His regiment was supposed to hold this hill until the US artillery saturated the hill. As Fred Liddell went down a slope around rocks, he met up with the Marines that were milling around near multiple vehicles on fire. The Chinese surrounded the US soldiers even as Fred Liddell was killing some of them in the bushes. Injured US soldiers were burned to death in a hut while over 300 POWs were forced to march to a cave and then onto Camp Suan.
Valuable Historical Context: 1949
Fred LIddell knew a lot about the conflicts that occurred in East Asia including Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and China. Most American soldiers knew very little of this geographic area, let alone the differing political ideologies present. Fred Liddell and his fellow soldiers who had served and traveled in East Asia became more aware of the reasons for the turmoil in East Asia as the war continued.
Comparing POW Camps
Fred Liddell had to survive in multiple POW camps from 1951 through 1953 when he was released. At Camp Suan (the mining camp), there was a "hospital," but it was really a death house. Fred Liddell tried to feed a friend of his that was in the death house, but he didn't survive the next day. The surviving POWs were allowed to bury their follow soldiers, but only in a 2 foot grave. Fred Liddell is surprised that some of the bodies of POWs have been identified and sent back to the US.
Korean War POW PTSD
Fred Liddell suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the experiences that he had to endure as a POW during the Korean War. Nightmares would come every night where Fred Liddell was running from the North Koreans because they performed terrible torturous acts on POWs such as stabbing and shooting soldiers for no reason. Many people would think that the Chinese would be worse, but Fred Liddell saw first-hand the terror created by the North Koreans.
Korea Revisit Program in 1986: The Evolution of Korea
Fred Liddell could not believe that evolution of South Korea in 1986 when he revisited through the Korea Revisit Program. He remembered Seoul train station completely in ruins along with all the buildings, but when he saw it rebuilt, it was a miracle. When he visited the Suan cultural center, Fred Liddell was able to share all of the changes that he saw from 1951 to 1986 including straw huts to homes and women plowing fields to mechanization. Fred Liddell was invited to visit the hut where the peace treaty was signed, but he felt extremely nervous because it was so close to North Korea.
POW Release and Chinese Propaganda
Fred Liddell was released from Panmunjom on September 5, 1953 and then sent to Incheon by helicopter with other inured POWs. He remembered that one horse patrol North Korean soldier led the POWs toward their release at Tent City near Panmunjom. The first meal he received from the US when he was released was roast beaf, baked potatoes, and peas, but it tore up his stomach. Listening to the Chinese lectures was the worst part of being a POW because they spoke about a variety of topics, but Fred Liddell believed that anyone who attended school knew that it was all lies.
Letters From Home as a POW
Fred Liddell received letters from his wife who delivered their baby right after he was released from the hospital, but before he became a POW. He received a picture from his wife and the baby and it was supposed to contain a religious medal, but the medal was taken. Fred Liddell was so upset that he screamed at the leaders of the POW camp and was punished by standing overnight with his arms outreached. He was thankful that another man, who had been thrown through the door, was there to lean on during those long hours.