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Old 09-26-2003, 08:00 PM
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Default Tiger Death March In Korea 1950

I would have posted this on the "Korean War Site", but I felt it would be of interest to all, as the facts are not that well known to many!

Received from Shorty Estabrook, one of the Tiger March Survivors!

Shorty Estabrook thought you might like to read this short history of his group and what it was like becoming a POW in Korea;

Capture and Beyond

When the Korean War began, the 24th Division was on Occupation Duty in Southern Japan. On 25 June 1950, the communists crossed the 38th parallel enforce. On 29 June 1950, the first Tigers arrested/captured were American civilians.

On 5 July 1950, the first American soldiers (part of Task Force Smith from the 24th Division) were captured.

Capture is such a horrible and terrifying event. You don't know what will happen to you. We had already seen men with their hands tied behind them and shot in the back of the head. You think that you, too, will be shot after being tortured. All of us were beaten soundly. And, as we moved back through their front lines, attempts were made by the front line troops to hit or stab you.

It was very hot and humid the summer of 1950. The smell of battle and flesh was all around. We were fed twice a day with millet and maize grains, a little rice, and a thin soup of Chinese cabbage and egg plant. But the worst thing was being thirsty. We drank from highly polluted sources such as rice paddies and, soon, we were all sick with stomach pains. Thirst can drive a man crazy.

We were marched from the various battlefields and snowballed into a larger group in the capitol of Seoul, South Korea. This is where the Tiger Survivors became a group.

We were in school buildings on the outskirts of the city and could see our planes bombing and strafing the city every day.

Medical treatment was primitive and lacking. The poor men who had been severely wounded were between a rock and a hard place. No one had died at this point. The smell of the wounded was everywhere.

We departed Seoul in the third week of August 1950 and traveled by rail to Pyongyang, the capitol of North Korea. We traveled at night to avoid our planes. Conditions were beginning to worsen and food, especially water, was in short supply. Those badly wounded were between a rock and a hard place. No medicine was available and the injured only wore the bandages they already had on. Some of the men started to die at this point. The weather was turning cold as winter comes early in North Korea.

We arrived in Pyongyang on 24 August 1950 and were housed in a school on the outskirts of the city. We watched as U.S. planes destroyed the city. We were still in the clothing we were captured in. Some were bare chested and some without shoes. I had no shoes because my size fits all North Koreans and they were taken when I was captured.

On 5 September 1950, in the middle of the night, we were suddenly ordered to move to the train station. Later, we learned that our forces were fast approaching. At the train station, we got our first look at the group of 79 civilians who would join our group. The youngest was under one year old and the oldest was 83 years old.

We boarded a train composed of animal cars and coal gondolas. There was only one coach and the civilians were put in there. All the windows had been broken. Again, we moved by night to avoid U.S. planes. Several died during that trip. We had lost a lot of weight and had little energy but had to go on or be shot.

On 11 September 1950, we arrived in the frontier town of Manpo-Jin, North Korea. NOTE: The -jin at the end of a town's name means "near water." The -ri -or -ni means "small place."

We were housed in the center of the town in Japanese Army buildings. Remember, the Japanese occupied Korea for 40 years. All Koreans spoke Japanese then as the Japanese had banned the Korean language and it had gone underground.

Now, the weather was starting to turn into late fall, but we didn't mind it much because we were inside. A few died there. Our diet did not improve at all nor did the medical care which was primitive and lacking.

The Chinese Army ... all 400,000 of them ... joined the war and poured into North Korea from Manchuria. They said they were all volunteers. They commandeered our buildings and then we became street people ... out in the cold.

On 9 October 1950, we departed Manpo and slept beside the road or in fields. And, when it started snowing, we were in dire straits and the death rate began soaring. We moved around that area through the towns of Kosan and Donakhon. On October 25 1950, we went to a place we now call the "Corn Field" which is just a short distance from Manpo. The winter wind was blowing which made the chill factor very high. We would get in groups of about five guys and dig as best we could or, rather, scrape a shallow hole in the earth where we could get below the force of the wind and lie down side by side, sharing body heat.

We thought this was as bad as it would ever get but IT GOT WORSE. On 31 October 1950 (Halloween), a North Korean Major from the Security Forces took over our group. He was later given the nickname of "The Tiger" because he was so brutal and enjoyed killing. We departed the corn field that day and our death march (the "Tiger Death March") began.

We were not in any shape for marching. We did not have proper foot gear nor winter clothing to protect us from the cold. The new North Korean Major (who we later began calling "The Tiger") started us marching toward the distant snow-capped mountains of the Kosan Pass.

Before long, on 1 November 1950, the line of POWs and civilians was stretched out and The Tiger, now at the head of the column, looked back and spied several POWs sitting beside the road. He had given the order that no one was to fall out of the march and the sick and the dead were to be carried.

We were in 13 sections with an American Officer and a Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of each group.

The men beside the road were too weak to proceed and the North Korean guards told them to stay beside the road and transport would be provided. Then, The Tiger went ballistic and asked his guards about what happened and they denied they had given any such order. The Tiger then ordered Major Dunn, our Commanding Officer, to come to the front. He then ordered officers from each of the sections having men who dropped out to come forward. Now, there were six officers standing at attention on a knoll beside the road.

Commissioner Lord of the Salvation Army of England, who was The Tiger's interpreter, announced that The Tiger would execute all six for disobeying orders. Then, the Commissioner started to beg for their lives and The Tiger threatened to shoot him as well. Finally, The Tiger said he would shoot one officer. He said the section that had the most men beside the road would determine who would be shot and that was Lt. Cordus Thornton.

Lt. Thorton was the officer in charge of the 7th Section. The Tiger asked Thornton if he had anything to say and the gallant lieutenant replied that, in the American Army, there would be a court martial to determine guilt or innocence. The Tiger asked his guards if the lieutenant was guilty and the guards said "Yes ... kill him ... kill them all." The Tiger then shot Lt. Thornton or I should say executed him in front of all of us. He shot him once
through the back of the head. The lieutenant did not beg and he did not flinch or cry. He stood like a man and showed us all how to die. He was the first atrocity of the Korean War that was so witnessed. Lt. Thornton is our hero and we have dedicated our work and rosters to his memory.

The Tiger Death March ended on 9 November 1950 at Chung-Gang-jin, North Korea. We left 89 persons behind who were shot to death by The Tiger and his men. One was a helpless French Nun and an elderly German woman. The only sin committed by these people was that they were too tired to go on or they tried to seek privacy to relieve themselves.

Strong men became weak because they had to carry the sick and dying, as well as the dead, until they were told to leave them beside the road.

At Chung-Gang-jin, we could see the war across a field just to the south. We were hoping to be rescued but that was as far north as the United Nations forces came. I really think that if they had come across that field, we would have all been killed.

On 16 November 1950, we were suddenly ordered to move out in the middle of the night. It was here that my best buddy, Jack Samms, was brutally beaten to death. I was powerless to do anything about it and had a terrible sinking feeling in my gut.

The next morning, we came to a place that was to become our home until 29 March 1951. It was a small place called Hanjang-ni, North Korea. There was a large school building of one story with several outbuildings and a central well. We thought that things would improve now but we were dead wrong.

I won't go into the terrible description of life there. Suffice it to say that 222 brave people were promoted to Glory at that hell hole of all hell holes.

The dead were stripped of clothing, such as it was, and carried to a nearby hill. The clothing was for the living. We had no other choice. We were not allowed to dig a grave nor did we have the energy or tools with which to dig.

We all weighed less than 100 pounds by now and were sick and consumed by lice. We were mental basket cases. The dead were left in shallow indentations in the earth. "God, please take care of our brothers," we would say.

Spring came even to that ungodly place and the warm sunshine was most welcome. And things were really going to get better now that the Tiger was replaced by a kinder North Korean Major. But we were still starving to death and there was little food even for the North Koreans. We would catch frogs to eat as well as other things that I won't mention.

On 29 March 1951, we moved from Hanjang-ni and started to move to Andong to an old Japanese Army Camp. As we approached ChungGang-jin, the sky became full of B-29 bombers ... the first we had seen since Pyongyang. We were happy to see them when suddenly their bellies opened up and the bombs started to fall. Now, we were not so happy. Miraculously, only one POW was wounded.

Summer passed at Andong and 50 more died there. In October of 1951, we were ordered to move again. The civilians went to a different place and we did not see them again.

We were put on river barges and moved down river to Chang-Song, North Korea and turned over to the Chinese Army Prisoner of War Camp system, also known as Camp #3.

The Chinese took us to a parade field of sorts and brought out huge amounts of rice and steamed bread. We couldn't believe our eyes. What a meal! We were in the "tall cotton," so to speak. The next day was the same. More food! We were given new clothing ... the first since our capture. Some tobacco was also issued, along with sugar. From then on, we started to gain weight.

Ten more of our brothers died at Chang-Song. They died as a result of the treatment under the North Koreans. All of them were returned to our side and sent home to their loved ones.

Life became boring and the Chinese tried to make Communists out of us by using the so-called brain-washing method but they did not have any luck. In August 1953, we came to freedom but it was not a quick plane ride to the states for most of us. We were put on ships that took 16 days to get to Frisco, and we were treated on-ship as if we were still in prison.

Then, we were sent home which was a mistake. We should have been taken to hospitals and given thorough mental and physical examinations such as having the worms removed from our systems. The rest is history and I hope that I have explained how it really was.

Sixty-six percent of the Tiger Survivors died in captivity. It was a terrible price to pay when a simple medication could have saved many of our brothers and sisters.

In memory of all the people who did not make it out of that terrible place, I dedicate my life and the ongoing work that I do.

May God Bless America!

In love, freedom, and peace,
Shorty Estabrook
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Old 09-27-2003, 06:08 AM
Sgt_Tropo Sgt_Tropo is offline
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Default POWs


From your post and other things I have read about the KOrean War, the atrocities committed by the North Koreans and their Chinese friends make Hitler and his cohorts look down-right civilized !
As more and more of these "stories" were and still are being verified, is it any wonder that the rest of the world regards the Koreans and Chinese as the ultimate barbarians ? Dating back to days even before Ghengis Khan, the Chinese were making a "name" for themselves. Even today, the Chinese as well as the North Korean leaders continue to show the world that they have no regard for human life, or wanting to be part of the civilized world.
My salute to Shorty and the others who managed to survive atrocities that we can only, in the most vaguest of terms, imagine. I can only hope and pray that God reserves a special place in Hell for the likes of their tormentors.
I\'m temporarily out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message !
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Old 09-27-2003, 07:59 AM
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Thanks Sarge et al -

What was done on the Tiger March (1950) to our troops was an atrocity of the foulest order, and akin to the Bataan March (1942) in my opinion!

I was told by Shorty Estabrook (a March Survivor) that Major Tiger (nickname) was a real bastard, but that he was eventually dealt with by his own people!?

What appalls me, however, and I have gotten with Elizabeth Dole (North Carolina - from my wife's uncle's home State) on this (as well as others), is that here we have a kid (Corporal Melvin Hampton Morgan) barely 20 at the time, that fought courageously through the War's earlier delaying actions, was captured, marched along with 750 other survivors from his and other outfits (a few American civilians included), all the way to the Chinese Border, up by the Yalu. These brave souls were made to drink infested water from putrid rice patties loaded with parasitic matter, beaten severely (some bayoneted and/or shot) , and then starved to death!! And yet, the guidelines say that he Corporal Morgan, and others like him) are not eligible for the Purple Heart, at least as far as I am now aware of at this point!?

And by the way, out of that group of POWs (750) on that death march, over 500 eventually died, on the route or in squalid camps! Those who did survive, were down to about 100 lbs each, and hurting from their ordeal for life, I was told!?

Is this the same North Korea (Kim Jong Il) that we are now thinking about bribbing to keep them at bay - to stop them from getting involved with nuclear weapons! Hey, if these sub-human bastards want nukes, maybe we should have fed them a few, one at a time, back between 1950 and 1953!!

Should that slimy little, elevator-shoed, European Whore Loving, cretin (Kim Jong Il), really desire nukes, maybe Old Dug-In Doug MacArthur was right about these people, and a few of their neighbors too!! (opinion) They should have been gifted with several nukes, right up their unwashed little asses! (opinion)

My wife (Melvin's niece) put a little info on him upon the POW/MIA Section of PF that you might like to read....

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Old 09-28-2003, 09:05 PM
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If you have an interest in knowing about those who were on this "North Korean Tiger Death March", and whether they were military, civilian, their calling and final fate, you can go to the following sites!!

These were military personnel:

These were civilian personnel:
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Old 09-28-2003, 09:42 PM
the humper the humper is offline
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Default A DAY OR TWO

after Easter Sunday, in '51, we saw a little hole about two thirds the way up a hill. Several of us went over there with entrenching tools, removed the rocks that had been blown up to close the site, and what did we find!!!!! About l50 S. Koreans soldiers, inside with there arms ties behind there backs and all had been shot it the back of their head. Some were skeletal, others with some flesh etc., and all in uniforms. After that, when we would take prisoners, they were usually turned over tp the nearest S.Korean army for them to take care of them. Wasn't a pretty site to say the least!!!!!
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Old 09-29-2003, 03:41 AM
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catman catman is offline
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HC...appreciate you sharing this with us. just starting to look at the Korean War myself, lots of studing to do.

humper...thank you, welcome home!


Godspeed and keep low!
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Old 09-29-2003, 07:15 AM
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More On The Tiger Death March

Got your package and I am back on line again. I don't know if I told you but I have tried for years to get the Bronze Star (Meritorious) for the Tiger Survivors. We got cheated out of it and no one will listen at the top. I can't let it go.

Love, Peace and Freedom
Shorty the Tiger

Friend Shorty -

Founder and member of the "Tiger Death March Survivors of Korea...."

"How soon we forget!"

Your idea of the Bronze Star for the "Tiger March Victims" is noble and overdue indeed! More than that, the Bronze Star "AND" the Purple Heart for these gallant men (and woman) most of which expired, is, in my humble opinion quintessential to the honor of our nation, as well as these brave souls who gave it their all!

Keep up the good fight, never let go, never accept defeat, and never roll over to those who would take lightly- the honor and sacrifices of others!!

People have got to acquaint themselves with what is (and has) gone on all around them in the past and present!! Only when one knows that something has to be done, or something is wrong, can they unite and correct it!

When, after World War II, we executed some Axis War Criminals, yet we rolled out the red carpet to some of those same enemy scientists who sought to develop nuclear bombs and missiles with which to destroy us, we sent our own people a tragic message!

We also gave a first class welcome to some of those "Japanese Beasts" who were messing around with genetics, chemicals, biologics and other vile experimentation upon the indigenous populations in China, as well as sheltering those who conducted similar Cold War experimentation, 1955-1967 (and beyond), upon our own! "The alarm should have been sounded right then, and some tried, but thus far to little avail!"

Then when some of our own spent better than half of a century, destroying records, refusing to recognize, covering up for, and abjectly denying that these atrocities ever took place, we took a giant leap in the wrong direction (opinion)! We closed our eyes to the truth! And remember this - ?Only the truth will set us all free from the mistakes of the past!!?

Again Shorty, keep up the good fight in attempting to attain the recognition for the "Tiger Death March Survivors of the Korean War!" Recognition and respect that they have earned and deserve!

My wife's uncle, as you know, Corporal Melvin Morgan (L Company, 3rd Battalion, 21rst Infantry Regiment, 24th, Infantry Division) was a member of that captive Tiger group and died as a POW of starvation and beatings, near the Yalu River, North Korea, on 6 December 1950!

"We may not always win every battle, but we can sure as Hell - can fight every fight!"

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