Herman F. Naville
Herman F. Naville grew up on a farm in a small town in Indiana. In 1949, he enlisted in the Army and soon became a part of the 24th Infantry Division. He explains how his unit lost a large number of men and he sustained numerous injuries before being captured by the North Koreans. He remembers that the living conditions were horrible, living in filth with little to eat. They were in fear of being killed constantly and did not receive better treatment until the negotiations started. Herman Naville spent the Korean War living “just a day at a time.”
Captured by the North Koreans
Herman Naville remembers that only 16 of the 180 men in his company made it out alive. He explains how he and others found a place on a hillside to hide. There was an explosion that hit Herman Naville in the head causing him to bleed heavily, develop blindness in his one eyes, and shattering his collarbone- he thought he was going to die. While continuing to hide, he was found by North Koreans who took him as a prisoner.
Prisoner Death March
Herman Naville remembers that the North Koreans took their shoes and their dog tags and told told the men to lay down in a trench. He explains that they were told they were going to be killed, but started marching them to a camp. He recalls the terrible conditions they faced in the camps.
Conditions in the Prison Camp
Herman Naville remembers that they lived in filth and ate very poorly as prisoners. He describes not praying for his life, but accepting whatever came to him because he had chosen to enlist. He describes how when someone would die, they would carry the bodies onto the hill, they would bury them under snow or a foxhole.
Prison camp after peace talks
Herman Naville describes when the prisoners were turned over to the Chinese, moving from Apex Camp to Camp 5. He remembers that he had dropped from 225 lbs to about 98lbs, becoming so weak that he could barely stand up. This change in conditions occurred because the Chinese wanted to make the conditions look better for negotiations.
The Tiger Death March
Herman Naville describes when "The Tiger" took over. "The Tiger" was a notoriously evil major, known for his sadistic and murderous tendencies. He describes how they had machine guns ready to kill them all. Instead, the next morning they started the death march, which was full of violence.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
Herman F. Naville
Spell it please.
H: Oh, H-E-R-M-A-N F as in
H: Frank N-A-V-I-L-L-E. Naville.
I: Naville. That’s how we pronounce it?
H: Um hm.
I: Where did you, when were you born?
I: You have a birth date, right?
H: July-July the 23rd1930
I: 30. And where were you born?
H: Floyds Nob, Indiana.
I: Indiana. Please b\tell me about your family when you were growing up, parents, and your siblings?
H: We lived in the country, on a small farm. And we had a few milk cattle and some hogs and chickens and just raised, like strawberries and soy beans and corn and.
My mother was a schoolteacher until the, they had children and then she didn’t teach anymore until after the youngest one got in school,
H: and then she taught until she was about 70.
I: Mmmm. How many brothers and sisters did you have?
H: They were five of us. Two brothers and two sisters.
I: And you are the eldest?
H: I’m the middle.
I: Okay. What
school did you go through?
H: Little country, one room school, all eights grades. They was
I: One room school?
H: Uh huh.
I: Huh. How [inaudible]
H: About 30 students in the whole school.
I: That’s it?
I: And many different grades?
H: All eight.
I: So, how many teacher then?
I: Only one teacher for 30 students in eight different grades.
H: Right. They would have
a, a period, I mean, during the one hour, during one hour period, why they would teach, like, the first grade, maybe 15 minutes or something like that, then they would go to the next grade and each one they would have a certain amount of time that they would use and then go to the net grade.
I: How did that work?
H: It worked fine [laughs]
I: [laughs] Amazing, huh?
H: Yes. Yes.
I: So, when did you graduate high school?
H: I didn’t go to high school.
H: My dad came sick and we had the arm to take care of, so I quit school and milked the cows and stuff like that.
I: So, you were young farmer?
H: [laughs] Ye-yes.
I: [laughs] Then when did you join the military?
H: In 1949, January the 10th,
I: Uh huh. You, you enlist or?
I: What, Army?
H: Army, yes.
I: And tell me about your basic military training. Where did you receive it and what kind?
H: At Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky and it was airborne training.
H: Well, i-it was 101stAirborne.
H: Yes. But it was infantry training.
And, then after the 16 or 12 weeks or whatever it was, then you had the opportunity to go on to the 101stAirborne. But I went in the 24thInfantry, they assigned me to the 24thInfantry Division and I was sent to Japan.
I: You remember when you, when you left for Japan?
H: About the middle of April of 1949.
I: Mm-hmm. Before we go in the details of your service in Japan, did you know anything about Korea?
H: [laughs] No, no. I know the first I knew about it is when they took the troops out
H: of South Korea.
H: 1949. And some of the guys that was over there was transferred to our
H: And that, that was the first I’d heard of it.
I: You first heard about Korea
I: from them?
I: Didn’t your grade school teacher?
H: We had geography, and, but I didn’t care too much for school.[laughs]
I: [laughs] To be honest with us, right? [laughs]
H: Yes, so I didn’t, I was more interested in playing, or whatever,
H: other than the, but,
No. I, I, I had never heard of, ‘course they’s a lot of countries I’d never heard of by that time either.
I: Why did you enlist in the Army? What motivate you to do that?
H: I, I was looking for a good time. [laughs]
I: In the military?
H: Well, yes.
H: Pretty women and different things.
I: Pretty women, that’s very important, yes.
I: So, tell me about your life in Japan. Where did you go, what,
what did you do there?
H: I was in, assi-, the 19thInfantry Regiment of the 24thDivision.
H: Infantry Regiment.
I: Uh huh.
H: I was in Charlie Company, the 1stBattalion.
H: And we just took training, a-after they’d have a course for a few weeks, and then they then they would have maybe a week or two in between and then you’d take a refresher course. And, that’s what we did all the while. And we was up
at Yokohama, whenever the war broke out there the 25thof June. We was on amphibious maneuvers.
I: I see.
H: We was taking that training.
I: Ooohhh. And, tell me about how much you were paid in Japan, what was your rank?
H: I was a PFC.
H: And, I guess the pay was probably $85 or $90 a month.
I: That’s not too bad.
H: Well, no it, m- it was fine.
I: What did you do with that money?
H: Spent it.
I: For what?
H: Oh, cigarettes and women, and whatever.
I: Oh, you had a good time there.
H: I had a good time, yeah.
I: I see. But did, have you, had you ever imagined that you’d be dragged into the war? In a, into a country that never knew before?
H: No, no. We had, had training on,
like for prisoners of war, but you thought well, it just didn’t, didn’t sink in.
H: But what, what they told us, you know, really wasn’t, like they say, you give your name, rank and serial number and that’s all you have to tell ’em. Well, if you want to get your head knocked off. But, beings I was a farm boy
H: I knew that they kinda like the poorer class of people,
so I just used that and, told them, you know, that I didn’t get the chance to go to school and, like play in basketball and th, sports, so I just, you know, told them I had milked cows and took care of pigs and stuff so they never bothered me that much to, to question me, you know, when they interrogated me.
I: Mm-hmm. What were you thinking when you first heard, heard of Korean War broke out?
H: It scared me. [laughs] Because they confined us to the, to the barracks.
And, so, we didn’t really know, know what was going on, but it was just scary because of the alert, you know, they put us on alert and, oh, then they sent us back to our camp down in Beppu, Japan.
I: Beppu, Japan.
H: Um hmm.
I: Did they brief you about Korea? Culture, people, language, location, geography, whatever?
H: No, nothing.
I: Do you think that you were trained enough
to deal with the battle there?
H: Well, that’s all we did was train. You know, some of the companies in Japan, bases, they didn’t, they talked like they didn’t train them any. I mean that, you know, they was more undertrained, but that was all we did. One refresher course after the other one, you know, different, firing different weapons and all kind of maneuvers. And, so with bayonet training and all.
I: Uh huh.
I: Did you write back to your family that you going to go to Korea.
H: [laughs] Yeah.
I: You did?
H: I did.
I: Oh. Tell me, when did you leave for Korea from Japan?
H: I think I landed in Korea on the 4thof July.
I: Wow, Independence Day.
I: Where? Pusan?
I: Tell me about the Pusan you first saw. What did you see?
H: They put us on a,
like a school compound, I think, there, like maybe a parade field, or play field, whatever it was. And, it was having like a monsoon rain that night and it was kinda, I don’t know what you call it, but they was little kids come up to the fence and they say, wait til the North Koreans get ahold of
you. And, so, well that didn’t sound good. Here they was down there in the south, you know, and, and hoping that the North Koreans would wipe us out.
H: Some of the kids there that come up to the fence, or younger ones.
I: What did you hear about the situations in the front line, Pusan perimeter? Was it desperate or how was it? Did you hear anything about what’s going on in the front line?
H: Well, when we got
up to Taejon, they were some that had, like I don’t know whether it was Task Force Smith, or
H: the ones that the first ones, they was a few stragglers coming through, they said, man it’s suicide up there, you know. So,
H: but we didn’t have a choice so you, they s-, hauled us up to the Kum River there on trucks.
H: And, we were there-
I: Oh, so you went to Kum River?
H: The Kum River’s where
H: we got wiped out.
I: Wow. How many from you there?
I: From your regiment?
H: I think they was about four companies.
I: Mm-hmm. Four companies, so we talking about 400?
H: Well, 180 men in a company.
I: Oh, okay, so about f-?
H: About, what, four
H: Yeah, closed to 800.
H: But they were so scattered out that they was openings in between one company and another one, so the enemy could come through without,
you know, without being detected. And, another thing, they was a lot of refugees fleeing south.
H: And I saw some film on it, that was actual film on the, d-during that time, and they might be 75 men in white unif-, or white clothes, and with no women in, you know and so they were probably North Koreans in civilian clothes
’cause they come in from behind us.
I: So, must be very dangerous. You don’t know who the real enemy is, right?
H: Right, right.
I: Mmm. You said wiped out. How many men were killed there?
H: Well, I, they was one of the officers that made it out and he told me they was 16 of our company made it out.
H: No, 16 men made it out of the 180.
I: Out of 800?
H: Out of, out of our, no 180, out of our company.
I: Out of your company?
H: My company commander got killed. Well, he, they took him prisoner on the 16thand I didn’t get captured until the 17th. I got, the company commander give us order to withdraw towards the north.
H: And, they-
I: Towards north?
W: Yes, because they were coming in from behind us,
W: they were just off of the mountain there. And they was about maybe
25 of us that got over to the river there, we went down. And, we didn’t, the leader of the highest ranking was a sergeant.
H: And he, he didn’t have too much [laughs] brightness about him I don’t think, because he led us right back up to where the enemy was coming, instead of trying to go, you know, off to the, one side or the other, east or west, and get around them. And we
got run into an ambush. And then, we got back out of that, and they was about, maybe 12 of us. So, we found a place on the hillside, we was gonna just lay there til dark but, and then try to move at dark. Well, I, they was an explosion that got me. We was laying there and we just resting, and I, all of the sudden I heard a holler, and I looked up and there was a North Korean
about, oh I don’t know, maybe 50 yards from me.
H: And all, and that’s the last I remember. They’s and explosion and I felt my head land on my arm, but I could still think for a few seconds. The blood was rushing out of my head, every heartbeat of it squirting out. And I thought, well I knew I was dead. So, I asked God for forgiveness, you know, and maybe He’d receive me in his Kingdom, ’cause I was brought as a Catholic.
I: Christian family?
H: Yes, I was a Christian.
And, so, later on when I woke up, I said, well I’m not dead yet, so. I, I was in and out of it. All through the night I found myself walking around on the hillside hollering for the bat-battalion aide station.
H: And, then, so I would crawl back in the bushes there, and it was, I thought, well I had to find a place to hide, and they was a rice paddy on the other side of the road. I was going to try to get to that.
Well, when I got in this trench to go around to the, to get it, well I saw three silhouettes coming back across the field.
W: Well, so, any, about the time when I started in the trench, why, here come a North Korean, so I just rolled over the side. And he went up where I just come from, so I went on around the hill there and I got in this creek bed and they was a convoys of North Koreans crossing that bridge. So, I was leaning against the bank, it was about as high as the ceiling.
H: And, in a little bit, here, they, them three officers had their pistols pointed down at me in that creek bed. And they took my, I had a hand grenade left. It was in my pocket, but that was all I had. And, but I was covered with blood. I had a place taken out of the top of my head, and my ear and I was blind in one eye, splintered collarbone. And, so here they was, I was just like in an ant’s nest, they was all, the enemy was all over.
H: They had their headquarters right up about 75 feet from where I had just come from.
I: So that, that’s July 17th?
I: That’s when you were captured?
H: That’s when I was captured. And they turned me over, they just, they was, like I said, the enemy was all over the place. They turned me over to some other ones, and, and that one guard put his rifle up to my head and he said, you die. Or you, what was it? Sindi, is that die?
H: In, in Japan, in Japanese? Is that sinda?
I: Oh, I don’t know.
H: Whatever it was. And, so, I just looked at him and then they took me back up on top of the hill there where they had five or six of our, out of my company, and so they took our shoes and our dog tags. And, maybe
about noon, why, they brought us some food and they said they was gonna shoot us at sundown. Sundown, they made us lay, lay face down in the trench. And, I don’t know whether another officer took over, or what, but then he stopped them. And so, they started marching us and one of the guys was shot through the foot so two of ’em was helping him and we got about 100 yards and they shot him. And then they marched us
through the night and then they grouped us up with about 25.
H: They kept us there that day, and the next night they moved us, we waded the river on sandbags. And, they said if anybody escapes, they’s gonna shoot the rest of ’em.
H: Well, when we was crossing the river, I got my hands out of the thing, but I couldn’t do it if they’s gonna shoot the rest of them, so I just, I flipped them back in.
I: How was the treatment from
North Korean soldiers? How did they treat you? And other, other POWs.
H: They were as, [laughs] about as mean as they could be.
H: Well, if you barely got out of line or something, they would hit you with the rifle butt and even I, I, I saw ’em do their own. They
was a, kind of a handicapped
H: boy along the road there. He was probably 16. And, he was kind of begging, and the guard hit him with his rifle.
H: And, but, we was starving.
H: And thirsty.
H: And later on, they took us up to Manpo. Ah, well, you know, s-, kept us in
a fire station someplace, that, about the second day and then they moved us a little farther up. Then, then we went to Suho. We stayed there for, I don’t know, maybe two weeks or something, and then on to Pyongyang and they kept us there for two or three weeks, and then they put us on trains and then took us up to Manpo.
H: And that was a fairly decent camp, where they had us there, but then the Chinese come in and they moved us out of
there, and they’s trying to keep us from getting liberated. And we slept out on the ground, and it was, like the, well, it was the around the 20thof October there whenever the Chinese came in up there. ‘Cause they would march us right through them and they was just hundreds of ’em.
I: So where did you go from Manpo to?
H: We went, kinda west for maybe 20, 25 mile and then they,
they kept us one night. And then they moved us back over the mountain and they kept us there for a day. And, then they moved us back up towards Manpo.
H: Right outside of Manpo, well, I-I don’t know, maybe the 27thof
I: No, no, no October, yes.
H: And we slept in a corn field.
H: And then the 31stwas when the tiger took over. And then, they had
moved us out that night over, and they was gonna shoot us. They had machine guns set up and they had it up against this cliff or something.
I: Uh huh.
H: And, ’cause they was some missionaries there that could understand and the one was a cryin’ and she said there, she spoke French and they, my buddy was a French, and he said that the nun, thsss-
missionary said they’re gonna shoot us. Well, they c-, they didn’t, and anyway, we slept there overnight and then the next morning is when we started the death march.
H: And, then that same day, they said nobody, the tiger said nobody’d fall out, well they had us in groups of about 50 and an officer in charge of each group.
H: And so, we started out, we wasn’t much more than an hour away, and
the guard made, these guys that was helping this other guy, made them put him to the side. Well, when the tiger found out, he stopped the whole column. And, he was, called the officers up that was in charge and he was going to shoot them all. And, at that particular time, I was closest, from here to that wall, from the, they was a mound there on the edge of the road, and he had them, about four officers up there, I think, I know,
Major Dunn, Lieutenant Stavericks and Lieutenant Thornton. And then Commissioner Lard, he was the interpreter. And, he going to shoot them for disobeying his order. Well, Commisioner Lard was trying to talk him out of it, you know, that the guard made him do it, but he wouldn’t hear to hit, so, he was about to shoot him. And so, he said he’d just shoot one of them. So, Lieutenant Thornton said, well in America, you know, we have a trial. Well, so he said well,
we’ll have a trial. He asked, hollered out, do you know that, the, for disobeying
H: command or treason, or whatever he called it. So, they all hollered killing, you know, so he had that little towel, that they, we had, and he just put it around his eyes, pushed his cap forward. Or no, maybe he didn’t put the towel around his eyes. He just pushed his cap forward, and put his pistol up to the back of his head and shot him.
I: Right there.
H: Right there.
I: The tiger?
H: The tiger shot this,
H: Lieutenant Thornton. Yeah.
I: What were you thinking when you saw that?
H: I closed my eyes when they, when he shot him. I didn’t need that to live with, so I just, I, I think that God had a lot do with my survival. He gave me a peace that just gave me a blank mind to do whatev-, you know, if he said get up, get up. But, so
then after that, we started out and we was like, between a fast walk and a run.
I: Lieutenant was your, the only one that was shot, killed?
H: He was the only one that was shot right there.
I: And rest of them survived?
I: And then where did you go from there?
H: We went, marched for nine days up towards what, I forgot, he was a-marching us so fast because he was afraid they’s a pass get closed with the snow. And, but we slept out on the ground,
and it was freezing weather, and s-, even snow on the ground some then. But they averaged, they was, we lost about 100 men in the nine days and I think they shot about 80 of them.
H: And they, even some of the missionaries he shot. That was there, you know, teachers in school. . . . But we lived in filth all the time, we never had,
never took a bath or anything. We’d eat with, most of the time we’d eat with our fingers, if they got a corn ball or rice ball, or millet ball.
I: How many times a day?
H: Well, we’s lucky if got one on the march. Well, before, when we’s sleeping in the cornfield, we didn’t even get a rice ball, we got a bowl of hot water that was supposed a been some Chinese cabbage in it. But you didn’t even, for that many men, you didn’t even see a leaf in it, it was just broth. But at least it was some liquid.
And, I even, they was some corn stalks there and I even broke a corn stalk apart, took the inside out of it just for moisture.
I: Were you still praying to God at the time?
I: Were you still praying to God?
H: I, I never begged for my life. I just accepted, you know, whatever coming. I mean, but if He took me, I, whatever, I, I, I wasn’t frightened, I wasn’t afraid to die.
But, so, I know my parents did, and a lot of people back home were praying for me and. But, I had, you know the training helped you prepare to die too. I mean, like before all that there.
I: Did you regret?
H: No, never. I mean, I did [laughs] some then, because I never thought we’d ever get out, well, I didn’t know,
you know, if they did prisoner exchange or anything, I just, you just lived. And, as long as you didn’t give up, you had a chance to survive. I asked for it, I mean. When I enlisted in the military, you know, I but I, I really didn’t, wasn’t smart enough. Well, most of ’em, I guess, wasn’t, that really knew what was involved in it.
I: So, then, did you check in to any camp later?
H: Yeah, they moved us up to, I think they call it the Apex Camp, or something.
I: The Apex.
I: Ohh. Tell me about it.
H: And, that first winter, well we-
I: What, wh-, when did you arrive at Apex Camp? Apex?
H: Well, it was, we stopped at the end of the nine days and spent maybe one or two days at a-
H: what was it, Junjong or something like that?
H: They moved us on up to this other village. So, they was a school house there were they kept part of ’em. And I was in a mud hut.
Which was a blessing, because the, they had heat under the floor, I mean the farme still come and put heat in, or you know, built a fire.
H: So, we had at least a warm floor to sleep on. And we’d get a rice ball before daylight, and one before, after, right after dark. When somebody would die, they would take their clothes off of ’em and lay ’em outside. And whenever we’d bury ’em, it was just like a,
you’d put them across one of the poles, whatever you call them thing, you know, two guys carry shoulder, put the bodies across ’em and carry them up on the hill. You kn-, the guard would make you cover them over with snow, or stick ’em in a empty fox hole. One time, we carried four, put four in the fox hole and the leg wouldn’t go over, and the guard gave one of the guys an ax, made him cut the leg off and put then, put brush over it. But.
Then we had lice.
H: Oh, it-
H: like, like hog lice. They were big. We used take, to go through out clothes and mash the eggs.
H: Go through our hair, pop the lice.
I: Tell me about the Apex Camp. Was it kind of village, or-
H: Yeah, it was-
I: was it?
H: just a small village.
I: Small village.
I: And was there any barbed wire around it?
H: No, no, no.
I: No, it’s just plain?
H: Just, but we could look into Manchuria from that camp.
H: And, across the river there, the Yalu River, they was some people in white clothing, set up, like, some kind of a I don’t know, some sort of building up there, where there were quite a few men in white, that would set out sometime.
I: When did you arrive at Apex? 15?
H: Probably the, let’s see, the 9th, 10th, about the 11thor 12th, something like that.
I: Of 1950?
I: How many people were in a room?
H: [laughs] Well, you had to lay with your feet connect-, or, you know, when everybody had to lay on the same side.
H: So, they was a, it was a, what about a, maybe a eight by ten room, or something, they probably 20 of us, or.
I: What do you mean, 20 people in a room?
I: How large was the room?
H: About a eight by ten.
I: No, no, the each room, how many?
H: Well, there was only two rooms.
I: Only two rooms?
I: And how many were there, 80?
H: No, it’d have been like forty, let’s see, that, why I know how ever many was lay on your side, and during the day, some would have to set out in the middle.
H: Because they wasn’t room enough to set along the walls, so, that was then,
six, 12, it, maybe it was just 12 or 14, I don’t know. But it was just enough that we didn’t have room to lay side, lay flat, flat out.
I: So, 12 people, prisoner of war, in a room.
I: And you only have two rooms?
I: But that means, you have, you didn’t even, your more then, not more than 30 people?
H: Well, but they had the school house.
I: Uh huh.
H: Where they kept, the m-majority of them was in a emp-, a school
I: Oh, okay.
H: And they were a few of us in three huts, I think, they.
I: But why do you call it Apex rather than, I mean all other-
H: I don’t know that-
I: camp is camp one, two, three, four, five?
H: Well, that was before we were turned over to the Chinese.
I: So, there was still under the North Korean control?
I: And after you turned over to Chinese, what happed to the Apex?
H: Well, they took us.
I: Oh, the Chinese took over the Apex?
H: No, they took us down the
Yalu River on these here boats that you know, got the thing-
H: paddle out the back?
H: Okay, they took us e-end of October,1951.
I: Uh huh.
H: But then the spring of 1951, they moved us out of the Apex Camp down about 25 or 30 mile west.
I: West, yes.
H: And, we spent there until October that win-,
H: in ’51.
H: And, then that’s when they took us, they was some kind of communist official came in-
H: and our major that was in charge, Major Dunn, told them that if they didn’t get rid of the tiger, we’re all gonna be dead and it wouldn’t look good for the propaganda?
H: So, it was shortly after that that they moved us out and took us down the river by the boats, and that’s when we went down to what Camp Five, or?
H: Pyoktong, yeah, uh huh.
I: So, when was that?
H: In 19-, about, ’round the first of November 1951.
I: So, you are actually happy you are getting out of Apex and out of tiger?
H: Oh, yeah. But, I, I was about dead. We lost, we had dysentery. I weighed 225 when I was captured and I was in perfect condition.
H: I carried a BAR and we trained up in the mountains-.
H: and stuff. And they was, platform scales there at that, that, right before we was turned over to the Chinese, and I got on it and I weighed 96 pounds.
I: From 225 to 90?
H: 96 pounds. I had, I was so weak I had to roll on my stomach to get up. But I could still walk whenever they moved it, walked us to the boat was about three mile out the river. And whenever they turned us over to the Chinese,
we walked up through this group of prisoners, and they was some Chinese dump truck up there, and some of us that was the weakest, they pulled up in this dump truck. And I couldn’t even pull my knees up under me, I was so weak. And they, they took us down to, they called it the hospital group but they was some mud huts there-
H: and they kept, they put four of us in a room. They kept me there until spring.
I: In Pyoktong right?
H: And we got, whenever we got
There that first evening
H: they’d put a bucket of rice in, in the room with four of us, about that big. And we ate that whole bucket of rice. And they give us, next day, the give us a new cotton padded uniform and a cotton padded had and tennis shoes.
I: Do you know why they change the situation for you guys?
I: Bring you out of the Apex and put it into the
H: Well it-
I: Because the, the peace talk has been started.
H: Oh, is that right?
I: Yeah, so that, the Chinese wanted to show the
I: Red Cross or whatever-
H: Oh yeah.
I: that we are treating POW better.
H: Well, we did get better, we got enough to eat, and we had warm clothes and a comfort. And we finally, finally got a bath. [laughs]
I: In Yalu River, right?
H: No, they
had a bath house there-
I: Oh, really?
H: in that little, vil-village and we got one bath there and then in the spring, why, we went in the Yalu River, we’d bathe in there.
I: So, during the winter, you had the actually had a kind of bathing house there.
H: Well, they was one time.
I: One time.
H: It was in a, it was in a hut too, I mean it was clothes, and
H: it was hot water and a tub about a, maybe a eight by eight, or six by six, something like that.
H: And that was our first bath in a
year and a half. [laughs]
I: When did your family kne-, know that you were in a camp?
H: In about January of ’52, I think they, Chinese turned our names over that we were prisoners.
I: Mm-hmm. So, did you receive any letter from your?
H: Yes, we were able to receive, I don’t know, maybe one or two a month,
I: Uh huh.
H: something like that.
I: Oh, that’s not too bad.
H: No it wasn’t. Nuh-uh. At least they knew we’s alive.
I: Mm-hmm. Do you remember the content of the letter that you receive? From your parents?
H: Well, we got to write a letter first, I guess.
H: And I just told ’em, I just wanted ’em to know I was alive so I said we was getting good treatment and all that. And so. [laughs]
I: To pass the investigation.
H: So, I, I,
no, I don’t have any, I can’t remember what-
I: I got it now. What was the most difficult thing in the camp? Throughout the Apex and Camp Five? What was the most difficult thing to you?
H: The death march.
H: Well, you was forced to either march, and you was freezing, you was hungry. I know sometimes when they’d be ready to move out in the morning-
they had, had the like, corn balls made up. And, the tiger moved us out sometimes where we didn’t even get a ball, ri-, so we’d go all day without anything to eat or drink. And then that evening, you’d maybe get a, a ball of rice, or millet, or corn. But, you know, sleeping out on the ground, sometimes the next one’d be froze to death, it just, laying next to ya.
I know one of my buddies, we’s laying up, sleeping out on the ground, and there’s a little, little snow on the ground, and ‘course, we’s all crammed together, and, he had, had dysentery and he had to got to the banjo, or the-
H: Pinto, yeah.
H: And, anyway, he, he filled his pants before he got there. So, he said he said he just sit down and
cried, because he knew whenever he went to crawl back in, they’d push him out. But he just took snow and cleaned up his pants the wa-, as best he could and then he crawled back up, and in between the other guys and, they didn’t, didn’t push him out. I mean, everybody was the same.
I: You believe in God and why do you think that this unbelievable things happened to you?
H: Well, God Himself suffered.
I mean, He took, He died on the cross, or Jesus did, on the cross, and so people’s gotta suffer as well. I mean, that was a example of what we had to do, I guess to-
I: That’s how you put it into perspective?
H: I’m, I’m, thankful for being a part of it, I, I, I really am proud that I got to be a part of the Korean War.
So, when were you released?
H: August the 25th, 1953. They had us in these little ambulances like trucks, and when we got over to the Freedom Village there, why, they, they put a step down and you stepped out and here’s an officer, an MP, somebody come and escorted each one to a tent. Well, first of all, I guess a Chaplain was the one that
talked to us, and then they, I think they gave us an ice cream cone. [laughs] And then they took us down through this tent, it had a, and we stripped off everything and got some toilet articles, and we went in and was deliced and then took a shower. Some new clothes for us to put on.
I: What were you thinking at the time?
H: I was just happy. [laughs]
I: Have you ever thought that you
going to survive it?
H: No. I-
H: No, well, you, you just l-lived a day at a time, and I didn’t know that they exchanged prisoners of war. Well, they w- they didn’t intend to, did they? That as part of the negotiation, for exchange prisoners of war. And, but I didn’t, I just thought well, we just live until we die, we take a day at a time. But-
I: One step at a time.
H: Yeah. I know, used to see the
moon coming up and you think about all your free buddies and stuff back home, partying and, getting enough to eat, and, but, yep. But like I said, I, I’m thankful that I got to be a part of it. It’s a part of our freedom and your freedom.
I: What is Korea to you?
H: Well, I’m thankful that I got to be apart of it, so I, I appreciate it and I appreciate what the
Korean people are doing.
I: Hmmm. Do you, have you been back to Korea?
H: No, uh uh.
I: Do you know what happened to Korea?
H: Yes, yes.
I: What is it?
H: I mean, it’s rebuilt,
I: Uh huh. How do you know?
H: Well, on TV and then they had the Olympics over there.
I: Uh huh.
H: And, so yeah, it’s a, I don’t know how much, I-I know exactly where I was at when I got captured, and I think I could find it, or whenever I got wounded.
If I was over there today, I believe I could find, walk right to it, but.
I: Are you proud of what Korea has accomplished?
H: I, I am, yes. I’m real-, very proud of it.
I: Thank you, sir.
H: Thank you, thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]