Known as “Dago”, Richard Donatelli was born in Cook County, Illinois just outside of Chicago on October 11, 1930. Richard enlisted in the Army in the summer of ’49 and served in Korea till August 1953. While he was in Korea, he was taken as a Prisoner of War and eventually sent to Camp 5. He tells how they lost many men on the “death march” north. While in the camp, he remembers the Chinese would try to indoctrinate the prisoners while forcing them to live in horrible conditions. In an attempt to help warm the floor boards in the small hut the prisoners were forced to stay, Richard tried to steal wood from a cabinet, and would be punished by forcing to stand on a hill for over 90 minutes in freezing temperatures. He was released from the camp in August 1953 and was so thankful to be back in the United States.
Remember the Death March North
Richard Donatelli remembers that in spite of the heavy artillery being used, it was no match for the Chinese near Kotori who would over run their unit, forcibly moving them with bayonets north.
He explains that they lost a lot of men on this "death march" due to the rough, cold conditions and lack of water and food. During a few times, Richard Donatelli wanted to give up, but he kept going.
POW Camp-Teaching of Capitalism
Richard Donatelli explains that they tried to teach them about the downfalls of capitalism in the POW Camp. They placed them in a circle sharing stories of the businessmen ruining the country on a daily basis, an argument for socialism and communism. In addition to this, they would have to sing a patriotic song daily while living in the horrible conditions of the camp.
POW Camp 5 Morning Ritual
Richard Dontelli says that they hard a hard time sleeping and medical care was not the best. The Chinese doctors would only give them pills. He remembers that if you didn't eat what they gave you, you died. Richard Dontelli tells the story of one time he was caught stealing wooden shingles off of one of the cabinets and he was punished.
Release from POW Camp
After the armistice agreement in July of '53, Richard Donatelli was released from Camp 5 (August 17, 1953). He explains how they moved the prisoners and started to treat them better. He recalls that after their arrival at Panmunjom, the former prisoners started taking off and tossing the prison uniforms over the edge of the truck in exchange for winter clothes. He was so thankful to see the bright colors and beautiful women when they arrived back in the states.