January 1951, the UNC decided to
isolate captured personnel on Koje-do, an island off
the southern coast of Korea.
Col. Hartley F. Dame, the first
camp commander, had to build dams and store rain
water to service the 118,000 natives, 100,000
refugees, and 150,000 prisoners.
by the end of the month over
50,000 POW's were moved from the mainland to
Four enclosures, each subdivided into
eight compounds, were built.
Originally intended to hold
700-1,200 men apiece, the compounds were soon
jammed to five times their capacity.
The space between the compounds
soon had to be used to confine the prisoners too,
with only barbed wire separating each compound
from the next, permitting free communications
between all the prisoners.
With the number of security
personnel limited and usually of inferior
caliber, proper control was difficult at the
outset and later became impossible.
Outbreaks of dissension and open
resistance were desultory until the negotiations
at Kaesong got under way.
September 1951 fifteen prisoners were
murdered by a self-appointed people's court.
Three more were killed when rioting broke out on the
19th in Compound 78.
December, 1951, rival factions -
Communist and anti-Communist - vied for control of
February, 1952, Compound 62 refused
UN access for prisoner interrogation (screening).
February 18: 3rd Btn 27th
Infantry moved in and were attacked by over a
thousand prisoners, armed with improvised
The 27th opened fire, killing
fifty-five prisoners immediately, 22 more dying
at the hospital, with over 140 other casualties.
The 27th lost 1 killed and 38 wounded.
March 13, 1952. An anti-Communist
detail and their ROK guards, while passing a hostile
compound, were stoned. Without orders the guards
retaliated with gunfire.
May 7, 1952. General Dodd, the camp
commandant, lured to the unlocked gate of Compound 76
on pretense of discussions to ease camp tensions, was
violently set on and captured.
Rather than forcing a military
solution which would have cost the General's
life as well as that of untold numbers of the
prisoners, replacement commandant General Colson
and the reinforced 38th Infantry Regiment sat and
watched as the communists put General Dodd on
trial on criminal charges for abuse of prisoners,
a farce unequalled in modern military
May 9, after comic-opera
negotiations, with real lives at stake, General
Dodd was released.
Subsequently, both Generals Dodd
and Colson were reduced in rank to Colonel.
Brig. Gen. Haydon L. Boatner,
assistant division commander of the 2d Division,
was appointed new commander of Koje-do.
June 4, 1952. 38th Regiment infantry,
supported by two tanks, quickly smashed through
Compound 85 and Compound 96, rescuing 85
anti-communist POWs, without casualties.
June 10, 1952. Paratroopers of the
187th Airborne RCT moved into Compound 76 without
firing a shot. Using only concussion grenades, tear
gas, bayonets, and fists, they drove or dragged the
prisoners out of the trenches they had built within
the compound. As a half-dozen Patton tanks rolled in
Colonel Lee was captured and
dragged by the seat of his pants out of the
During the two-and-a-half-hour
battle, 31 prisoners were killed, many by the
Communists themselves, and 139 were wounded.
One U.S. Paratrooper was speared
to death and 14 were injured.
Leaders of Compounds 78 and 77
swiftly agreed to do whatever Boatner wanted.
In Compound 77 the bodies of
sixteen murdered men were found.