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Old 09-16-2003, 04:24 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 9,955
Question The Tiger March - A Second Bataan

With everlasting thanks to Shorty Estabrook, an American Prisoner of war in North Korea, who supplied me with the facts and figures, needed to do this story....

My thanks are also everlasting to Johnnie Johnson, who brought home the names of those who didn?t make it back from captivity under a brutally insane North Korean Communist Major! This he did at the peril of his own life, and for this, Johnson was awarded the ?Silver Star? in 1996!

Any student of World War II History is aware of the infamous BATAAN Death March.

In early 1942, after General Douglas MacArthur was ordered to flee the Philippine Islands (then under intense Japanese attack), and after days of holding out without sufficient quantities of food and medical supplies, the gallant general who was left behind in command of the Islands (Lt. General Jonathan Wainwright) was forced to surrender his forces to the Japs (May 6, 1942)!

The resulting Death March, herded together like cattle, some 40,000 Allied Prisoners, and marched them about 70 miles to the enemy?s prison camps. In this brutal march (The BATAAN Death March), more than half of the prisoners died from starvation, maltreatment, a Japanese bayonet, or a hostile bullet in the back!

?This prime example of man?s inhumanity toward man was followed, roughly 8 years later, by a similar atrocity in almost the same geographical region!?

When the Korean War began, the 24th. Division was still on occupation duty in Japan. This was when part of the same Nation (North Korea), that has for years been bitching up a storm over the Japanese brutalization of their women during World War II (Comfort Girls), viciously crossed the 38th. Parallel and attacked in force (25 June 1950)!

The Twenty-Forth Division of the American Army was then on occupation duty in Southern Japan. It was also about this time that the first Americans were captured in Korea, and they were Civilians!

On 5 June 1950, the first American Soldiers, part of Task Force Smith, were also taken prisoner and these men were part of the gallant 24th Division!? As a matter of fact, my wife?s uncle - (then) Pfc. Melvin Morgan, then just 19 years old, of Stanley County, North Carolina, was among those taken as POWs! ?Melvin Morgan was latter elevated to the rank of corporal!?

It was, recalled another POW, very hot and humid in the Korea of 1950, and the stench of battle and rotting humanity permeated the air for miles around. The American prisoners were fed scantily, and existed upon a little rice, as well as a thin soup comprised of eggplant, Chinese cabbage and a little grain!

The worse thing, however, was the crushing thirst! The POW?s were forced to endure by drinking from toxic rice paddies, and before long, all were doubling over with belly cramps! ?And soon, even the stagnant water and infested rice was at a premium!!

With no medicines available, and the wounded forced to wear the same festering bandages and summer issue that they had begun their long trek in, the death toll quickly began to mount. And to add insult to misery, after disembarking the train that our POWs had been traveling upon as far as Pyongyang, North Korea?s Capitol, a frigid cold was settling in, as winter often comes early in that neck of the woods!

After arriving at Pyongyang, the POWs were housed in a school from which they could vividly see our own U.S. planes, as they were blasting the City to Hell! Most of our guys, by this time were also barefooted! ?Shoes in the North were at a premium!?

The POWs then boarded a second train, one with all the windows broken out, and moved only by night. Several more of their comrades died during this trip, and those too weak to continue had too reach deeply within their souls, or risk being shot on the spot! As a matter of fact, even civilians were herded aboard these POW train, the youngest being under one year old, and the eldest in their 80s!

After leaving the questionable safety of that rundown train, the captives were forced to sleep along side the roads, and this is where the death rates really began to soar!! And with the winds beginning to whip up a storm, and the chill factor plummeting, the POWs would gather into groups and attempt to dig out shallow holes to huddle into for warmth!

On Halloween night, 1950, a nasty cuss (a North Korean Major, a member of their Security Forces, nicknamed Tiger) took over control of the group! This guy was so brutal that, in my opinion, he even made Hussein look like a pansy! This butcher then, almost immediately, marched the POWs off toward a distant, snow-capped mountain!

As men began to fall out along the roadside, this North Korean Major (Tiger) ordered six officers brought forward and threatened to shoot them as a lesson to the men who could no longer carry on! After repeated pleas from a highly placed Salvation Army Commissioner who was acting as Tiger?s interpreter, one officer (a brave lieutenant) was singled out and brutally murdered by Tiger himself!

After departing the cornfield where this all took place, the POWs then truly began what became known as ?THE TIGER DEATH MARCH!!?

Not being in any shape to march by this time and not having decent foot wear or winter clothing, almost 90 people were left behind, and these unfortunates were promptly executed! Among the civilian contingent, also executed in this group, was a French Nun and an elderly German woman! And with even the strongest of the POWs beginning to weaken, some of the prisoners were literally pulled aside and beaten to death!!

The next morning, the POWs came to a place that was to be their home until late March of 1951. It was a secluded place called Hanjang-ni, North Korea! There was a large school building there, several outbuildings and a central well! The POWs erroneously thought that things would then improve, but they were wrong - DEAD WRONG!

According to the gent, an ex-POW who suffered through this horrendous ordeal and supplied me with most of the facts contained herein, 222 people were to die there! Naturally, the dead were stripped of their clothing, what there was of it that is!

By this point in time, almost all of the POWs weighed in at less than 100lbs, they were covered in lice, as well as being critically ill! As for the dead, they were left behind, in shallow indentations in the ground!

By the coming Spring, Major Tiger had been replaced (the word has it that he too met a grizzly end at the hands of his own commanders)!? He was replaced by a somewhat kinder North Korean Major. But even at that, there was little food, and the enemy too was in dire straits! The POWs were humbled to the point where even a frog was considered a kingly feast!

Summer passed and 50 more of their buddies died, but then in October of 1951, the POWs were ordered to move again, down the river to Chang-Song, North Korea, where they were turned over to the Chinese Army Prisoner of War Camp System, aka- CAMP 3!

The Chinese took the POWs out to a parade field, where they brought out huge supplies of rice and steamed bread for all to feast upon! And the next day offered more of the same, more good food, tobacco and even sugar, not to mention new clothes!! And even though the prisoners started to gain back some weight, 10 more of the POWs expired due to the shabby treatment afforded them by their North Korean captors!

Of course, even with their (semi) kindly gesture, the Chinese still took the time to attempt to brainwash our brothers at arms, but without much luck I might add!

In August of 1953, the POWs finally came back to freedom. They were placed aboard ships that took a full 16 days to carry them to San Francisco, and the rest (almost) is now American history!

As for my wife?s uncle ?Corporal Melvin Morgan?, as far as I know, he is yet to make his last trip home!?

?And today, with the news out of North Korea still echoing of potential hostility, one has to seriously wonder is we are in for a replay of that War that culminated over a half century ago??

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