Killing of enemy who were wounded and
helpless was done by all sides in the Korean War, and
in all wars. In the desperation of combat, particularly
when there is no provision for caring for wounded and
no troops to spare to guard them, this sometimes is a
practical necessity, however horrible the idea.
On the east side of the Chosin
Reservoir, CCF 80th Division troops killed about 300
helpless men from the US 31st Regimental Combat Team.
Almost all the men were wounded, who had been packed
like sardines into trucks or trailers. Abandoned by
3-31, the rear guard during
the RCT's precipitous dash for safety with the
Marines at Hagaru-ri, the wounded were trapped at a
fire block. They were mostly killed by thermite
grenades, thrown into the halted vehicles. A hideous
Hundreds of other 31RCT wounded, left
behind because of limited space in the trucks,
presumably met a similar fate.
The CCF didn't take the wounded
American soldiers prisoner, and then murder them. They
were caught up in an assault, were ill-equipped to care
for hundreds of wounded prisoners, were facing possible
counter-attack by our formidable 1st Marine Division,
and just killed the prisoners out of hand, during
battle. The Marines also killed many CCF soldiers who
were wounded, or dying from the terrible cold, during
their fight-out from Chosin. To most soldiers, the
difference between killing during the peril of combat
and murder when safe from retribution, is enormous and
But North Korea seemed to see no
difference. The NK did murder hundreds of American
POWs, as well as tens of thousands of captured ROKs and
helpless South Korean civilians, as a
matter of policy. Frequently prisoners were first
horribly mutilated, and even set on fire, while they
were still alive. For the Americans, one of the
worst was the slaughter of almost 100 American
prisoners north of Pyongyang.
Over 53,000 ROK and UN soldiers were
MIA, including over 8,000 Americans. Because of the
brutal history of the North Korean army, one assumes
the majority of the American soldiers were murdered
after they had surrendered, or been found wounded. The
rest probably died without record during imprisonment
in the terrible conditions of Chinese POW camps.
The following account of NK murders of
POWs early in the Pusan Perimeter battles is not
conjecture or unproven accusation. We found and buried
tens of thousands of civilians and UN servicemen who
had been captured and bound, and then shot. First are
shown photos and a contemporary Associated Press
account, followed by a historical story in the Boston
This is one of the few accounts of
willful murders by the NK, from a survivor.
Rediscovering Pvt. Ryan
Two US veterans recall
forgotten massacre during Korean War
By Indira A.R.
Lakshmanan, Globe Staff , 06/25/99
AEGWAN, South Korea -
Forty-nine years ago, Private Frederick M. Ryan and 41
other American prisoners of war were gunned down on a
Korean hillside, their hands tied behind their backs,
and left for dead.
A priest with the American unit that
found the men kissed the wounded Ryan's forehead,
administered last rites and draped a cross and a Purple
Heart around his neck. But even though Ryan's side
had been shattered by five bullets, he was one of five
soldiers who miraculously survived the Aug. 17, 1950
massacre, their bodies shielded by those of their dead
Ryan has returned to Hill 303 to find
the massacre site and to say goodbye to the ghosts of
the past. Today, on the 49th anniversary of the
outbreak of the Korean War, Ryan and his fellow
soldiers from a mortar platoon of the Army's 1st
Cavalry Division are being recognized for their
sacrifice, half a century late - thanks to an amateur
military historian from New Hampshire.
''I've got to say goodbye
to my friends. Their bodies might not be there, but
their spirits are,'' said Ryan, 67, a retired
railway conductor, mechanic, and gas station attendant
from Cincinnati. ''If I could, I'd bring
them back in a minute, but they died that day cussing
out the other side ... and I know they'd die again
just as they did for peace in this
The 1950-53 Korean conflict is often
called the ''forgotten war,'' and the
massacre of American POWs at Hill 303 is one of many
largely forgotten incidents from the chaotic early
months when communist troops pushed South Korean and
United Nations forces into a 100-mile-by-50-mile tip of
There was never a full accounting of
what happened, nor a recognition of all the POWs. All
these decades, the five survivors themselves did not
know how many had made it out alive.
Enter Army Captain David Kangas of
Greenville, N.H., a graduate of Fitchburg State
College, who heard about the mass execution in 1985
when he was posted at Camp Carroll near Hill 303.
Kangas asked around the base, and then at the Korean
War Museum in town, and found that no one knew anything
about it. The few historical accounts were sketchy.
He began a
''needle-in-a-haystack'' search through
historical accounts, contemporary news reports, and the
National Archives, hoping to find clues. The massacre
had prompted General Douglas MacArthur to drop leaflets
over North Korean territory warning that soldiers would
be held accountable for war crimes. But later it was
all but forgotten.
''When I finally found the area
of the execution site, I said, `Someday, I will find
the survivors - someday.' It was an act of
faith,'' recalled Kangas, 42.
Official records of the massacre were
incomplete. Ryan, for one, was declared dead at the
hill, and those accounts were never corrected when the
18-year-old recruit recovered. A government documents
building in St. Louis burned down in the 1960s, taking
records of that day with it. The survivors never knew
how to correct the record or even that they could. Once
Kangas found the men he launched a campaign to get them
recognized for POW benefits and medals.
But first, he had to find them. Nearly
a decade after Kangas began his search, another war
history enthusiast read an interview with him in a New
Jersey newspaper and linked him up with Ryan and the
two other remaining survivors, re-uniting the men for
the first time.
''They told me Fred was dead.
They told me I was the sole survivor,'' said
former private first class Roy Manring, 67, a retired
maintenance worker from New Albany, Ind.
Manring was shot 13 times and spent 18
months in hospitals in Korea, Japan, and the United
States. ''I tried to forget about it. ... I
didn't want to talk to anyone about it except my
wife. My kids knew I was an ex-POW, but they didn't
know what I had been through.''
The time for forgetting ended when
Manring met up again with Ryan and former private James
M. Rudd of Salyerville, Ky. First they were awarded the
POW medal and other honors. This year, they were
invited and sponsored by South Korean veterans and US
soldiers at Camp Carroll to come back to identify the
massacre site for a memorial. Rudd was too ill to make
the journey. Ryan, who fears flying, had vowed never to
board a plane again after leaving Korea - except if it
was to come back.
Ryan and Manring spent the day trudging
around the forgotten hillside, now covered with
vineyards and partly dug up for a tunnel under
construction. After hours in the sun comparing the
much-changed terrain to their memories of mortar
emplacements and lookout points, Manring froze, fell to
his knees on a rock and said he knew this was it.
''I was laying right here after
they shot me,'' he said with a shudder. His
grandfather appeared to him and ''put his arm
on my shoulder and said, `They're coming back, get
out of here.''' When Manring struggled up,
he was shot five more times by an approaching American
unit that couldn't identify his ragged uniform. The
victims had been 15 minutes shy of being saved.
The massacre was the culmination of
three days of captivity for 67 Americans, Manring and
Ryan say, during which the North Koreans tied them
together and moved them constantly. The first night, 10
of the POWs were taken away with shovels - presumably
to dig their own graves - and never returned. A few
escaped overnight, but the second day, when one soldier
slipped on the hillside and briefly separated from the
others, the angry captors decapitated him with a
After taking some minutes by himself in
the gulley, Manring whispered, ''I talked to
the boys. I hope I'm at peace now. I begged their
forgiveness. I have dreams about them all the time. I
feel guilty that I survived.''
Ryan, trying to locate the spot where
he was shot, recalled being shielded by the body of a
6-foot-3, 280-pound fellow soldier.
''As soon as the North Koreans
turned around, I shook the guy on top of me, but he
didn't respond. Then I got up and lifted my friend
Hernandez. He told me to get down, they were coming
back. I didn't talk to him 30 seconds before he
died in my arms, and I started crying,'' he
Ryan said he stayed alive by thinking
of his mother, his girlfriend, and the chocolate malts
at his favorite soda shop in his hometown of Dayton,
The emotion of being in the spot where
he almost died finally overtook Manring.
''I'm going to tell you something I've
hardly told anyone,'' he began softly.
''I shot a little Korean girl. She was maybe 8
or 10 years old.''
Manring recounted that his platoon was
approached one day by a group of refugees, but when he
took out his binoculars, he saw a girl holding a
grenade in her hands, and no pin in it, headed their
way. Before she had a chance to throw it, ''I
put a bullet in between her eyes,'' he said,
sobbing. ''She bothers me to this day.
''I don't know who that
little girl was or who put a grenade in her hands, but
the communists will do anything. That's why if I
had to fight all over again, I'd do
This story ran on page
A2 of the Boston Globe on 06/25/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper