Korean War Legacy Project

Willis Remus

Bio

Willis Remus was born to a Prussian father and a Canadian mother in 1927.  Raised in Detroit, MI he was working at Sears and Roebuck when he was drafted into the Korean War in 1950.  Remus was captured by North Korean forces in April of 1951 and marched to a labor camp at Chongsong.  While captured Remus kept busy reading and trying to set an example of perseverance for the younger captives.  Upon gaining his freedom from the camp, Mr. Remus returned home and went back to work.  Although his time in captivity was difficult, Mr. Remus says he is blessed with the life he has had, and is proud of his service.

Video Clips

Passing the Time

Willis Remus describes the different activities that he and other captured soldiers did to pass the time when they were not working in the camp. They played cribbage, chess, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. The chess board was made by one of the Prisoners of War.

Tags: Chinese,Living conditions,North Koreans,POW

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tefygD7JtlY&start=1080&end=1212

Food

Willis Remus describes how difficult it was in prison camp to make sure that the other soldiers were eating their rations and what he did to try to encourage soldiers to eat the food they were rationed by the Chinese.

Tags: Chinese,Depression,Fear,Food,Living conditions,North Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tefygD7JtlY&start=890&end=1010

Captured

Willis Remus describes how he and his whole platoon were captured by the North Koreans and marched to Chongsong. He said they were captured without a fight because they were sleeping and surrounded when they woke up.

Tags: Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,North Koreans,POW

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tefygD7JtlY&start=478&end=598

Basic Training

Willis Remus describes how he was trained to be a combat engineer during his time in basic training, but once he arrived overseas in Pusan, he became part of Headquarters Company instead.

Tags: Busan,Basic training,Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tefygD7JtlY&start=250&end=367

Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

0:00:00

Willis Remus:

Willis Remus. W-I-L-L-I-S. Remus, R-E-M-U-S. I was born in Highland Park, Michigan, November the 13th, 1927.

Interviewer:

  1. Tell me about your family, you parents, your siblings.

W:       My dad was born in Prussia.

I:          Prussia?

W:       Prussia.

I:          Wow.

W:       1899.

I:          1899.

W:       Yeah. My mother was born in a small town called Oxberg.

00:00:30

I:          Uh huh.

W:       Canada, Ontario.

I:          Oh.

W:       1903.

I:          Um hmm.

W:       I’m the oldest child.

I:          Out of?

W:       Four.

I:          Four.

W:       Right.

I:          So, did you go through the school in Highland Park?

W:       No, sir, I didn’t.  I was just, that’s where I was born. I lived in Detroit.

I:          Oh. So, tell me about the school

00:01:00

you went to.

W:       Well, I went to Greenfield Park, is a elementary school.

I:          Um hmm.

W:       It was on the corner of Brush and Longwood. From there, I went to an intermediate school.

I:          Um hmm.

W:       Nolan Junior High, that was on Lance and Russell. And then I went to Persing High.

I:          What?

W:       Persing.

I:          Persing.

W:       P-E-R-S-I-N-G.

I:          P-E-R-S-I-N Persing High School.

W:       Yeah.

I:          When did you graduate?

W:       1945.

I:          1945.

00:01:30

W:       January, ’45.

I:          When the World War II ended.

W:       Yeah, just, right then.

I:          Um hmm. And then what happened?

W:       I was working since 1943.

I:          Where?

W:       Sears Roebuck.

I:          Sears?

W:       Sears Roebuck.

I:          Wow. What did you do?

W:       I st-, I started off as a stock boy.

I:          I see [laughs].

W:       And then I, I became a sales person.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       And

00:02:00

When I came back from the service, I got my old, old job back.

I:          Oh, I see.

W:       See, I already had 10 years with the company when I come back home.

I:          You were making good money.

W:       No, I didn’t, 45 cents an hour.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       That’s what I start-

I:          How much?

W:       45 cents an hour.

I:          [laughs]

W:       That’s what wages were at those days.

I:          Yeah, with the 45 cents, what were you able to buy?

W:       Well, the first thing I buy, with a full week’s pay, was a coat.

I:          Full what?

00:02:30

W:       For the whole week’s pay, I bought myself an, an over coat.

I:          Oh, I see.

W:       Cost me $18.

I:          With $1, what were you able to buy? $1.

W:       $1? Oh boy. Well, you could buy a good meal.

I:          One good meal.

W:       Yeah, you could buy a good meal.

I:          How about gasoline? How much was it?

W:       Oh, maybe 10 to 15 cents a gallon.

I:          10 to 15?

W:       Yeah. Well, I never had a car then.

I:          Yeah.

W:       I didn’t get-

I:          I just want to

00:03:00

want to know-

W:       Yeah.

I:          what is the hourly pay-

W:       What-

I:          and what can purchase with it.

W:       You, you gotta remember this, when I went in the service, it was 1950.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       I made $18 a month.

I:          Yeah.

W:       Isn’t that something?

I:          [laughs] Yeah, I’m asking that question, how much did you get, you know,

W:       Yeah.

I:          for your service in the Korean War, and they say, and some say $30, some

W:       Well, you know,

I:          say combat pay $70.

W:       Alright, the, the average person worked 48 hours a week.

00:03:30

And that, 48 hours a week, you got $23.  But, out of that they took taxes,

I:          Yeah.

W:       and social security out of that.

I:          I know.

W:       So, you didn’t have that coming home with you. [laughs]

I:          Right. They rip you off.

W:       No, they didn’t rip you off, no, no.

I:          When did you join

W:       I didn’t,

I:          Army?

W:       I didn’t join. They

I:          You were drafted?

W:       I was drafted.

I:          When was it?

W:       In 1950.

I:          Month?

W:       November, I was, that’s the day I was, that’s

00:04:00

When, they drafted me in 1950. November the 7th, 1950.

I:          Uh huh. Army?

W:       Yes.

I:          So, what did you do? Where did you go for basic?

W:       Fort Fort Belvoir.

I:          Uh huh. Where is it?

W:       Virginia.

I:          Oh.

W:       Right outside of Washington, D.C.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       I was trained to be a combat engineer.

I:          Combat engineer.

W:       Yeah.

I:          What does the combat engineer do?

W:       [laughs] Legally,

00:04:30

Or truthfully. What we, what we

I:          Theoretically.

W:       A combat engineer, they put mines down, building pontoon bridges.

I:          Ahh.

W:       And the biggest job that they have is carry ammo, so that, the, to the rifleman.

I:          Ahhh.

W:       Keep them full of ammunition.

I:          So, by truck, right?

W:       No, you carried it. When you’re on the lines, you got, you don’t have a truck. You carry it to ’em.

00:05:00

I:          You have to carry it to them?

W:       Well, yeah, why I never did it.

I:          Any way, you were trained to be a combat engineer.

W:       That’s right?

I:          But what happened?

W:       I never got to be, to do the job.

I:          [laughs]

W:       I, I got overseas and I ended up in the headquarters company.

I:          Where?

W:       Where? At, at Pusan.

I:          So, did, you didn’t go to Japan?

W:       I went to, oh, I went to Japan, yeah, for

I:          But, when did you leave for Japan from the States.

00:05:30

W:       About the 15thof March.

I:          Oh?

W:       70, ’51

I:          ’51?

W:       Yeah.

I:          You went to Japan?

W:       Yeah, P-, I went to Japan.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And went  Ff-, Fort Drake. Camp Drake.

I:          Camp Drake.

W:       Yeah, it’s in Tokyo.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       And from there I went to S-(Sacival),

I:          Uh huh.

W:       and took a boat to Pusan.

I:          You remember the day you arrived there?

W:       No. Wasn’t too

00:06:00

long. It was, it was in, in March yet, Mar-, maybe March 22nd, 23rd, something like that.

I:          Uh huh.  Tell me about Pusan you saw at, when you arrived there. What was it?  How was it?

W:       How was it?  It was just a typical place where you have docks, you know, storage facilities.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And you’d come walking in, walking in, you walked into there, and they

00:06:30

and they put us in a bus and they transported us to where we were going to stay for a while.

I:          How was the scene there?   How was people? Korean- did you see any Korean people?

W:       Oh, yeah.

I:          How about landscape, was it flattened or

W:       No, no, no, no

I:          crowded?

W:       no, no, no, no, no. They’d, it was busy, it was busy. Typical, typical place where, on wharfs, where the boats were coming in at.

I:          How did Korean people look, at the time?

W:       Well, I had no problem,

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       no problem.

I:          So, from Pusan, where did you go?

00:07:00

W:       They took, transported us by bus up to the front lines.

I:          Front line?

W:       Yeah.

I:          Do you remember the camp name?

W:       No, there was no camp.

I:          So, where was it?

W:       I went, I was, I was assigned to the 23rdInfantry

I:          23rdInfantry

W:       Regiment

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       Headquarters company.  Second platoon.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       But headquarters company.

00:07:30

Headquarters.

W:       Yeah. That’s why I said, I didn’t do that do, do, do my job.

I:          Tell me about the typical day of your duties.

W:       Well, we got to, get up in the morning for breakfast and from there, they, you had little jobs to do.  I helped string barbed wire, tied tin cans to it to make noise.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And, and that was it.

I:          When were you captured?

00:08:00

W:       The 18thday of April.

I:          1951?

W:       Right.

I:          How?  Tell me about the detail, how you were, and captured, and what happened to you.

W:       Alright, we were sleeping in tents. And the first thing, you know, we heard a, a bunch of noise,

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       it woke us and here we are surrounded.

I:          Ohh.

W:       There was no fight, there was nothing.

I:          And was it Chinese, or North Koreans?

W:       North Koreans. They yelled at you, and thos-, you, if you listened, you wouldn’t get nothing.

I:          Mm-hmm. And how many were captured?

00:08:30

W:       The whole platoon.

I:          Meaning 42?

W:       Well, more than that.

I:          More than that.

W:       Yeah.

I:          Oh, do you remember, 50, 60?

W:       Well, it was more than 40.

I:          More than 40.

W:       Yeah.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       Well, you know, you had the, we had the cooks and everything. They all got out, got all. We were behind the lines, we wasn’t up near the lines.

I:          Near the lines?

W:       No, we weren’t even near ’em. We were, we were

I:          And how did they capture you?

W:       The come, that’s what we always tried to figure that one out, how’d they get through the lines and cap-capture us?

00:09:00

We started a march, march go up, up to the north.

I:          Up to north, I have right here the map. Can you pinpoint where you think that you marched into?

W:       Yeah, we was up to Cheongsong.

I:          Cheongsong

W:       That’s camp two.

I:          How many were you in the march?

W:       It was over 100. I made up my mind, if that, what they ate, and if they gave me the same food, I’d eat it, I know it was keeping me alive.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And that’s exactly what

0009:30

happened.

I:          How many meals a day?

W:       One.

I:          On the way to Cheongsong.

W:       One to two.

I:          One to two.

W:       Yeah. And most the, you know what that, what we had, don’t you?  Gruel.

I:          Huh.

W:       They asked me once what I did, and I told them I was a truck driver.

I:          And that’s it?

W:       That’s it.

I:          Many people die of that march?

W:       Oh, yeah, we had lots of them to die.

I:          What is the cause of the death?

W:       Number one, they wouldn’t eat.

I:          When did

00:10:00

you arrive at Cheongsong? Camp two?

W:       It, it was in the fall of the year.

I:          1951?

W:       Yeah.

I:          Uh huh. And how was it?  Camp?  Were there any barbed wire, or borderline?

W:       [shakes head no]

I:          How, tell me about those infrastructure.

W:       We, it was a village.

I:          Just simple?

W:       A village. These mud huts, you know, the houses, made of.

I:          Yeah.

W:       Yeah.

00:10:30

I:          Wow.

W:       Yeah.

I:          Then how did they control you I mean?

W:       Well they had guards on us on the perimeter, you know, every so far. Other than that.  Where you gonna go?  People don’t understand that.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       Why you have to have barbed wire?

I:          Uh huh. No wall, no nothing?

W:       No.

I:          Mmmm.

W:       No, sir. No, sir. No, no.

I:          Tell me the typical day in

00:11:00

the Cheongsong camp? What time, what time did you, did the wake you up, or do you guys wake up?

W:       Oh, no, no, no, you, you. Number one, they, they’d have their own opening to, for their own soldiers, would, to get up, you know what I mean, and you’d hear noises. Everybody would get up. Then we’d eat breakfast, the same thing every day. And, first we had to have role call, to see if, each, each,

00:11:30

each hh-house had about 12 people in it.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       12 to 15 kids.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       In it.

I:          And you do it by yourself, or Chinese come and roll call you?

W:       Yes, well you’d stand up there, all, all the rooms would empty out. Yep. And you’d have to have, and this, each squad lead would have to say if you have all of your men there.

I:          Mm-hmm. To, reporting to Chinese?

W:       Yes.

I:          Right.

W:       And I was a squad leader.

I:          Mmm. Did

00:12:00

they, did they give you the food, or did you cook?

W:       No, no, we didn’t cook, no, no. No, no, no, no. They’d cook.

I:          And they gave you the-

W:       You, you, you gotta remember, the house, you know, the house, you know how the houses are?

I:          Yeah.

W:       You’d have to walk on the one end of the house?

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       They’d build the fire underneath it?

I:          Right.

W:       They, they’d put the, heat it up, and

I:          Yeah.

W:       And, yeah, right. And when the fire was out, they’d put it out. I mean, when the cooking is over. But there was enough heat on the floor anyway,

I:          Right.

W:       so they don’t need it anymore.

00:12:30

I:          But the one that I interviewed last night, okay, they say that they gave, they received the grain from the Chinese and then they cook it.

W:       No, oh no. We had a Chinese cook.

I:          So, in your camp, you didn’t cook?

W:       No, sir.

I:          But camp five, that’s what they say?

W:       That’s Baekgeong.

I:          Baekgeong yeah. So, it’s a different?

W:       That’s the difference.  The officers.

I:          Then what is the routine? You after you done with the breakfast, what did you do?

W:       Well, it all depends on

00:13:00

the time of the year. In the, in the s- summer time,

I:          Uh huh.

W:       we had to go cut, we gotta cut wood to get ready for the fall.

I:          Oh.

W:       Up in the mountains. Yeah. And everybody was assigned a certain amount of weight. To bring ’em back in.

I:          What if it’s, what did you do in other season?

W:       Read, you got a, we, they had what they called instruction period. I read the Manifesto twice in my lifetime.

I:          Manifesto of, Communist Manifesto?

00:13:30

W:       Yeah, I read that twice. That’s the only thing I could get to read.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       But, other than that, we, we’d sit and talk.

I:          With whom?

W:       Well, sometimes you’d have the, their, g-, what the hell you, what do you call, the counselor or whatever it is?

I:          Uh huh.

W:       But the most of those, most of those guys were educated in the United States anyway.

I:          You mean the Chinese

W:       Yes

I:          instructor, right?

W:       That’s right.

I:          What do they say about what?

W:       What.

00:14:00

Well, the most of that w-, they, they’d ask you a question, then you, you’d give them and answer, you know, as a group, there’s a whole group around here.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       They never could believe that I, they asked me if I was exploited. And I told them no. They said how come?  I said I can quit any time I wanted to.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       They said, ah, nah. I said oh yes, I could quit. That doesn’t mean that I’d have a job. They, they couldn’t understand how, that we didn’t have to work,

I:          Uh huh.

W:       if you didn’t wanna.

I:          I see. So, they didn’t understand?

W:       That’s,

00:14:30

[unintelligible] the guards, the ones with the, you wouldn’t call them guards. They, they was the ones that was assigned to you, the whole thing to keep discipline in. And they, they weren’t too bad. If, if you listened, you’d get along fine.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And if you didn’t, hard labor.

I:          Hard labor?

W:       Yeah, you’d have to go get more wood.

I:          What was the most difficult thing in the camp?

W:       Getting the some, getting the, all these guys to eat.

00:15:00

I:          So, you mean securing the, enough food?

W:       Yeah. And letting them each, make sure that they would eat.

I:          What do you mean by make suring them eat?

W:       Alright, when you’re se=itting there, all in a group. You’ve got all these people.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       Some people, all they could think about is desserts.

I:          [laughs]

W:       What they were going to have when they got home. So, they wouldn’t

I:          Ohhh.

W:       eat the food.

I:          I don’t understand. You are hungry, and you still thinking about this dessert?

W:       It’s, it’s right up here. [points to head]

00:15:30

I:          That’s ff-

W:       That’s why they died. Malnutrition.

I:          So, there was food, but they didn’t eat it.

W:       That is correct. That was the hardest part. Seeing them dying and they wouldn’t eat.

I:          That’s unbelievable story. I thought that people dying of lack of food-

W:       They had the food. If I could live on it and the soldiers could live on it, I was going to stay there.

00:16:00

I wasn’t, nothing hurt me. I lost weight. I lost weight. I must have lost 60 pounds of weight.  That’s not the fault of, that was not the fault of the Chinese. Or the Koreans.

I:          But that is also, not the fault of the American soldiers that didn’t eat. They was just too, there was too hard of environment.

W:       That’s right.

I:          Uh?

W:       Well, there were some of them that couldn’t eat, you know, they were sick. But the, but the

00:16:30

ones died, they, that was malnutrition, and their own, their own fault mostly.

I:          How did you, how, ha-, have you tried to make them eating?

W:       Well, you try to h-help ’em.

I:          How?

W:       Talk to ’em.

I:          What did you say to them?

W:       Well, that you’re not going home tomorrow, you’re going to go home may-maybe in another year.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       You, s-, you’d better start eating.

I:          How about the weather?  How did it bother you?

W:       [laughs]

I:          Tell me about it.

W:       Well, mostly the United States is on a,

00:17:00

on a, kind of narrow type of climate.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       You guys would have the monsoon season.

I:          Yeah.

W:       You didn’t have no fall we-, you’d go right in monsoon season, right into winter.

I:          Right.

W:       [laughs] You, you

I:          That’s right.

W:       You, people don’t realize that.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       You go, you go from temperatures in the 40s with a lot of rain, to 40 below. [laughs]

I:          [laughs]

W:       Yeah, yeah.

00:17:30

I:          How was the clothes?  Do they give you the?

W:       Oh, they give you, that was, that was the first thing. We got there in the fall of the year, and they got, they us uniforms.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       You know, pa-padded-

I:          Padded?

W:       padded uniforms. No mittens.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       No mittens.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And then we had padded gym shoes, you know, quilted, quilted gym shoes, with padding in it-

I:          Mmm.

W:       for warmth. . . .

00:18:00

Yeah.

I:          Is there anything that you did, like, playing something, poker, you didn’t have a poker, but you could make it, anything that you did?

W:       Not, not right away, not right away. After a while, we did we, we,

I:          What did you do?

W:       we, we, we had, we had cards.

I:          You did?

W:       Oh, I had a

I:          You made, it or what?

W:       Oh, no, I got a deck of cards from somebody and I, I was teaching people how to play cribbage.

I:          Ahh.

W:       You know what cribbage is?

I:          Uh huh.

W:       That’s a board,

00:18:30

the board game with the, with the p-, holes in it, you can peg and count, with the, with pegs. I taught people how to play cribbage, they taught me how to play chess. We.

I:          Where did you get the chess, did you make it or?

W:       Well, the, one of the guys made a ch-chess board.

I:          They made it, right?

W:       Yeah.

I:          Ahh.

W:       Yeah.

I:          Huhhh. What else did you do?  Any sports?

W:       Not, well we ended, af-after a year or so, we ended up with a basketball court.

I:          What do you mean?

W:       Well, we, they, well you

00:19:00

know, the ground, it was, there was nothing growing on the ground.

I:          Yeah.

W:       Then they did, got a couple hoops and had a basketball court. They-

I:          Did you have a ball?

W:       They gave us a ball.

I:          Oh.

W:       Yeah, and we had a soccer ball.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And then we had volley ball too. I wrote four or five letters to my mother

I:          Uh huh. Do you still keep that letter?

W:       Do I have it?

I:          Yeah.

W:       I have a copy of one letter, yeah. But it was cut, holes cut in it.

00:19:30

I:          Why?

W:       They censored it.

I:          What was the most craving thing that you had during the camp?

W:       I like to read. That’s, like I said, I read the Manifesto twice.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       And I had a bible.

I:          Oh, you had a bible?

W:       I had a small little bible.

I:          And they didn’t take away?

W:       They took the flag out of it.  The Gideon bible.

I:          Gideon, yes.  Ohh.

W:       Small one, you know, little, New Testament.

I:          I, I did interview with other Kore-, POWs –

W:       Uh huh.

I:          and

00:20:00

they said that the Chinese were trying to take it away from you guys-

W:       They took, they took my flag out. They gave it back to me.

I:          But, not the, not the bible?

W:       No.

I:          Hmmm.

W:       In fact, I got the bible at home here.

I:          You still have the bible?

W:       Yeah.

I:          What made you through this ordeal?

W:       Faith.

I:          Faith.

W:       Yeah.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       And myself.  I was older than most of the guys.

I:          Right.

W:       See that’s a,

00:20:30

that’s the big difference, too. A lot of these kids were only 18 years old.

I:          Mm-hmm. You were?

W:       Well, you can see. [laughs]

I:          27 right?

W:       When I got out.

I:          Yeah.

W:       Yeah.

I:          I mean, born in ’27, so-

W:       Well, that’s right.

I:          23?

W:       23 years, [inaudible]

I:          24?

W:       25.

I:          25 yes.

W:       26, yes. And I already had, I’d already worked, and I had a job, and I knew I had a job waiting for me when I come home.

00:21:00

I:          Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

W:       Yeah. And, I had just got through the Depression in the United States.

I:          Right

W:       So, I mean, I wasn’t, we, I didn’t come from a rich family.

I:          So, you already went through the horrible time-

W:       Yeah.

I:          in the United States.

W:       That’s right, so.

I:          And that makes you get going.

W:       That’s right, I, I think that all helped me. Pe-people wanted to know why, I said, that was older than me.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       I’m 86 now.

I:          Right.

00:21:30

W:       Another thing, that was bad. They kept notifying us that they was having the peace talks, and they said the Americans were walking out on the meetings. Well, what can you do about it. You’re in a POW camp.

I:          When did you come to know you were going to be released?

W:       Well, I tell you, maybe about four days before they released us.

I:          When did they actually knew that you were captured.

W:       They notified the parents that you were missing in action.

00:22:00

I:          Uh huh.

W:       And then, and then w-, the only time that they, they find out is when the, when they, when the Koreans released the names of their prisoners.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       Well, that was maybe six or seven months after we were captured.  So there was six or seven months, they, they didn’t know where were was at.

I:          So, after you were captured, and six months-

W:       Six or seven months.

I:          you been, you been known as MIA?

W:       That’s correct. At that, that, that, that’s with everybody.

00:22:30

I:          And, do you know when your parents know that you were captured?

W:       Well, I don’t, I don’t remember the date.

I:          What month?

W:       I don’t even know that.

I:          Year?

W:       It was 50, it was 1952.

I:          Describe the day that you were released from the Cheongsong camp. Tell me about it.

W:       You mean, to go home?

I:          Yeah.

00:23:00

No, the day that you were released from the camp two, and on the way to Pow Min Cheong.

W:       Oh, well, they to-, they told us that we were going home. And they put us on, they put us on busses, and then put us on a train. They told we, we’re going, we’re gonna get released, but they didn’t tell us what day.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       But, other than that.

I:          What were you

00:23:30

thinking?  Did you believe it or not?

W:       Oh, I, if they said it, I believed it. Because it was so many guys, they would take us out in groups. Not the whole camp at once.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And it was a lot of them, wen-, a lot before I went.

I:          What were you thinking, on the way down to Pow Min Cheong?

W:       I was wondering how it was going to be, be handled.

I:          What do you mean?

W:       Well, you didn’t

00:24:00

know. You’re in the, you’re in, in their go- go-, in the, in Korean clothes.

I:          Yeah.

W:       Alright, what are they going to do with you? How are they going to release you?

I:          You can have a different clothes. They can give you different clothes.

W:       Well, they didn’t.

I:          Right.

W:       So, so, you want to know how it’s going to be handled by the-

I:          By Americans?

W:       Yeah.

I:          Yeah. How did they handle you?

W:       Well, first thing they told us is to str-, strip our clothes off.

00:24:30

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And then go through, take a shower. And then they started issuing us clothes. How are you going to kill lice?  We had the theory that if you put, put it in the water, and it’s gonna freeze, and things are gonna be dead.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       Uh, huh.  Those damn things, they still lived after they got out of, out of the ice.

I:          [laughs]

W:       So that’s what I mean. We tried everything. Then, then the next thing, was to boil your clothes, boil, kill them that way.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       ‘Cause you could sit there all day, and pick ’em, and it still wouldn’t do you-

00:25:00

I:          Rr-right.

[laughs] So there’s, we tried everything to kill ’em.

I:          Mm-hmm. But failed?

W:       Failed, yeah.  But I, but that’s life, you know.  Thingis, you’re sleeping on a floor with a straw mat. It’s not like, that you’re sleeping on a sheet that you’re gonna shake the sheet off, you can’t see ’em.

00:25:30

Some had, some people got more lice than the other guy.

I:          What kind of person are you because of this experience? What is the impact of this?

W:       Well, number one, the, it was either kill or be killed. That’s the theory. When you’re in war, it ‘s either kill or be killed.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       But the point is, after you, after you, after you, everything is all over with, don’t, don’t hold

00:26:00

it, hold against them people. I never did. Like I told you, I’ve been back to Korea, and the Orient.  . . .  That, that’s a, that’s a good theory. You know, don’t worry about it. Tomorrow’s coming.

I:          Why do you think it happened to you?

W:       Just fate.

00:26:30

That’s F-A-T-E. [laughs]

I:          You’re not complaining about it to God, when you pray?

W:       Well, no, you don’t complaint about everything. No. I, I think I’ve been blessed.

I:          Why?

W:       I’ve had two wives, I buried both of them. I’ve had three healthy children. I have three step children.

00:27:00

I’ve been on, I’ve been retired for over 30 years, I don’t want anything.  I don’t need it. That’s why I say I’m blessed.

I:          What is Korea to you now?

W:       That it is a peninsula.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And that, that the Japanese h-h-, had held it during the second World War.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       They had the same thing with, with China. China was held by Japan too.

I:          Right.

W:       And,

00:27:30

W:       and, everybody was supposed to hate the Jap-, the Japanese. I never hated them. We got most of our goods in Sears Roebuck from, form. the Orient.

I:          Yeah.

W:       We’d send the raw, raw materials there, they’d sew it up for us and we’d bring it back as goods.

I:          Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

W:       That as part of my job, so I mean [laughs]l. I had no problem with that.

I:          Mm-hmm.  And, was is Korea

00:28:00

now to you?

W:       It’s, it’s, South Korea is our ally. And I think we got a crazy man up north.

I:          Mm-hmm. I mean, the Korea that you went through all those ordeals, and the Korea the you saw, 60, 50, I mean, 70 years ago, and now the Korea and, when you think about Korea, with the memories of all those ordeal, what is Korea to you?

W:       When I went back there in, in

00:28:30

2003 or 2004.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       I was surprised how much it had rebuilt. And it, they were doing a good job. And the people there were happy to see me.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       They like tourists to come to the country. My wife didn’t like the Or-, Asia, she didn’t like the foot. [laughs] We were sitting in the Great Hall of China-

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       and they

00:29:00

Got a table, big tables, there’s 12 people sitting at the table. And in the center of the table, got a turnt-, turn-, turntab-, thing, and it’s got all these different dishes on there. Of the 12 people, I was the only one eating.

I:          [laughs]

W:       And the rest of the people are s-, looking there. And they, they, I says, how, why aren’t you eating?  Mm-mmm.  [shakes head no] My wife’s one of them. Nuh-uh. I says you guys have never been hungry, that’s your problem.

I:          Right. You’re right.

W:       Yeah. See, and I, I was eating it.

00:29:30

You go, you go to China, you go to Korea, the hotels right now are, are very, very much like American hotels.

I:          Yeah;

.

W:       And they treat you fine.  Well, sure, you go, you get back out into the, out in the cour-, out the countryside, you still have, that old, the people are still living on the rice paddies, and that, that’s their life. They don’t know anything but it. Why do they need a big house?  They’re used to that small house.

00:30:00

I:          When you left Korea, when did you cross the 38th parallel from from Cheongsong Camp?  August or September?

W:       Was, late August, or early September.

I:          You don’t remember the date?

W:       No, no.

I:          Uh huh.

W:       I didn’t have any clothes on me, I didn’t have any clothes. I had a pair of pajamas and slippers on my feet.

I:          And

00:30:30

were your parents alive when your parents alive when you returned home?

W:       Yes, sir.

I:          Mmm.

W:       My dad died in ’67, my mom died in ’83. Close to 100 years old.

I:          Describe the day that you saw your parents again.

W:       They didn’t know when I was coming home again either.

I:          They didn’t know?

W:       No, they knew I was coming.

I:          Uh.

W:       They didn’t know what how I was going to get home, or

00:31:00

anything else.  I, I got home on a different way than most people. I came home on a hospital ship. Without a, without a uniform.

I:          Mmmm.

W:       And my brother, which was in the Air Force at the time, hes met me at the, at the, coming off the thing. And they wanted me to go to the hospital. And he asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital, and I says no, I’m tired, I’m tired of that sort of stuff. He told me, go on into the restroom over there, and go into the last stall. There’s a uniform.  Go put it on.

00:31:30

And come on out. I did that. He put me on an airplane, sent me to an Air Force base in Michigan.

I:          Ahhh. [laughs] You-

W:       So, nobody knew who I was at, well.

I:          You sneaked out!

W:       That’s what I was saying.

I:          [laughs]

W:       Nobody knew I was, where I was at, nothing.  A month later, close to a month later, two months later, I called, I called the, the Army. I says to them, I’m home, where do I get my discharge?

00:32:00

So, I had to go to Fort, I had to go to Fort, Illinois to get a discharge. No uniform, no nothing.  They didn’t have no telephone in the house.

I:          Right.

W:       This was 1953, they still didn’t have a telephone.

I:          Right.

W:       Didn’t have a television.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       They had a small radio. Like I said, we, we didn’t have the th-, all these things you’ve got today.

I:          And you’re still thankful?

W:       Oh, yeah. Mm-hmm.

00:32:30

I:          This is the last reunion of POW.

W:       S-, you gon-, gonna be just, just like Isreal. I think everybody, when they’re 18 years old, should serve six months or a year in the service. I think everybody, that’s girls, women, I don’t care what. Isreal does that. Then you have no complaints. Right now, is, there’s no drafting. These are volunteers right now, that fight. So, they have no excuse what, what’s happening to them. We had an excuse, because were

00:33:00

drafted.

I:          Right.

W:       But, if everybody had to do it, no, no exceptions, everybody have to go, you wouldn’t have that problem.

I:          Mm-hmm. Any other message you want to add to this interview?  You have a message for Korean people?

W:       Like I told you, I have nothing to say against anyone That’s the Chinese, the Koreans or nothing. They was doing their job. That’s it.

I:          Mm-hmm.

00:33:30

I got the same message from James Stone, the colonel, Colonel James Stone, who passed away.

W:       Uh huh.

I:          He was POW in (Peokgong)

W:       Uh huh.

I:          He said, what do we have to do with North Koreans? He said, give what they want.

W:       That’s right.

I:          Trade with them.

W:       Yeah.

I;          They did it because they wanted to survive.

W:       Yeah.

I:          That’s what, that was the message for him.

W:       Yeah, that’s the, that’s the big difference right now. South Korea, and really stepped up by taking care of it and built theyselves up. The North Koreans, they don’t

00:34:00

know what they’re doing.

I:          Right.

W:       They’ve got a dictator in there.

I:          Mm-hmm.

W:       And all the, he’s the only one that’s getting rich.

I:          Willis, thank you very much.

W:       You’re welcome.

[End of Recorded Material]