History On Line
Although the situation in the prisoner of
war camps did not attain international prominence until May 1952, there had been
numerous indications of the potential danger prior to that time. Riots,
demonstrations, and violence had become common in the compounds housing the
Communist prisoners, but the U.N. Command had preferred to cope with them on a
day-to-day basis. The hope that a truce soon would be negotiated and eliminate
the need for drastic UNC actions fostered a policy of delay. In turn, the lack
of strong UNC measures encouraged the Communist prisoners to become bolder and
more demanding. As UNC control dissipated, the enemy prisoners took charge of
their compounds and began to plan for a coup that would focus the eyes of the
world upon the whole prisoner of war problem.
This remarkable turnabout wherein prisoners
dealt with their captors on what amounted to terms of equality must properly
begin with the landings at Inch'on in September 1950.
The Seeds Are Planted
After the surprise attack at Inch'on and
the follow-up advance by the Eighth Army, the North Korean Army began to fall
back. But large numbers of the enemy were taken prisoner in the swift
maneuver and sent to the rear. The bag of prisoners
rose from under a thousand in August 1950 to over 130,000 in November. Unfortunately,
little provision had been made for so many prisoners and facilities to confine,
clothe, and feed them were not available. In addition, there were not enough men
on hand to guard the prisoners nor were the guards assigned adequately trained
for their mission.1 The quantity and quality of the security forces
continued to plague the UNC prison-camp commanders in the months that lay ahead.
While the prisoners were housed near Pusan,
there was a tendency for former ROK personnel who had been impressed into the
North Korean Army and later recaptured by the UNC to take over the leadership in
the compounds. Since these ex-ROK soldiers professed themselves to be
anti-Communist and were usually favored by the ROK guards, they were able to win
positions of power and control.
As the prisoner total reached 137,000 in January 1951, the UNC
decided to isolate captured personnel on Koje-do, an island off the southern
coast of Korea. But before the move was made, the South Korean prisoners were
segregated from the North Koreans. This left a power vacuum in many of the compounds that were
abruptly deprived of their leaders.2
On Koje-do security problems were reduced,
but there were serious engineering obstacles to be overcome. Since there were
little or no natural water resources on the island, 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.3 Construction began in January on the first
enclosure of UNC Prisoner of War Camp Number 1 and by the end of the month over
50,000 POW's were moved
from the mainland to Koje-do.4
Swiftly, in two rock-strewn valleys on the
north coast, four enclosures, each subdivided into eight compounds, were built.
Originally intended to hold 800-1,2000 men apiece, the compounds were soon jammed to five times their
capacity. Since available land was at a premium on the island, the space between
the compounds soon had to be used to confine the prisoners too. This conserved
the construction of facilities and the number of guards required to police the
enclosures, but complicated the task of managing the crowded camp. Packing
thousands of men into a small area with only barbed wire separating each
compound from the next permitted a free exchange of thought and an opportunity
to plan and execute mass demonstrations and riots. With the number of security
personnel limited and usually of inferior caliber,
proper control was difficult at the outset and later became impossible. But the
elusive hope of an imminent armistice and a rapid solution of the prisoner
problem delayed corrective action.5
It is only fair to point out that although
there were frequent instances of unrest and occasional outbreaks of resistance
during the first months of the Koje-do prison camp's existence, much of the
early trouble could be traced to the fact that ROK guards were used extensively.
Resentment between ROK and North Korean soldiers flared into angry words,
threats, and blows very easily. Part of the tension stemmed from the
circumstance that at first the prisoners drew better rations than the guards,
but eventually this discrepancy was adjusted. In the internecine disputes the
U.S. security troops operated at a disadvantage since they knew little or no
Korean and were reluctant to interfere. Bad blood between guards and prisoners,
however, formed only one segment of the problem.
Although the United States had not ratified
the Geneva Convention of 1949 on prisoners of war, it had volunteered to observe
its provisions.6 The Geneva Convention, however, was designed
primarily to protect the rights of the prisoners. It completely failed to
foresee the development of hard-core, organized prisoner groups such as those
that grew up on Koje-do in 1951-52 or to provide protection for the captor
nation in dealing with stubborn resistance. In their zeal for defending the prisoners from
hardship, injustice, and brutality, the makers spelled out in detail the
privileges of the prisoners and the restrictions upon the captor nation, but
evidently could not visualize a situation in which the prisoners would organize
and present an active threat to the captor nation.7 Under these
conditions every effort at violence by the prisoners that was countered by force
reflected badly upon the U.N. Command. Regardless of the provocation given by
the prisoners, the UNC appeared to be an armed bully abusing the defenseless captives and the Communists capitalized on this
The outbreaks of dissension and open
resistance were desultory until the negotiations at Kaesong got under way. Then
the prisoners realized that their future was at stake. Many had professed strong
anti-Communist sentiments and were afraid to return, while others, anticipating
repatriation, swung clearly to the side of Communist groups in the compounds.
From North Korea, agents were sent to the front lines and permitted themselves
to be captured so that they could infiltrate the prison camps. Working through
refugees, civilians, and local guerrillas, the agents were able to keep in touch with their headquarters and to
plan, organize, and stage incidents at will. Inside the camps, messages were
passed visually by signals, hurled by rocks from compound to compound, or
communicated by word of mouth. The hospital compound served as a clearinghouse
for information and was one of the centers of Communist resistance. Although the
agents wielded the actual power in the compounds, they usually concealed
themselves behind the nominal commanders and operated carefully to cloak their
identities. And behind the agents stood their chiefs,
none other than Lt. Gen. Nam Il and Maj. Gen. Lee Sang Cho, the principal North
Korean delegates to the armistice conference.8 The close connection
between Panmunjom and the prison camps provided another instance of the
Communists' untiring efforts in using every possible measure to exert pressure upon the course of the
As the Communists struggled for control of
the compounds, a defensive countermovement was launched by the non-Communist
elements. Former Chinese Nationalist soldiers and North Korean anti-Communists
engaged in bloody clashes with their opponents. When oral persuasion failed,
there was little hesitancy on both sides to resort to fists, clubs, and homemade
weapons. Kangaroo courts tried stubborn prisoners and sentences were quick and
often fatal. Since UNC personnel did not enter the compounds at night and the
prisoners were usually either afraid or unwilling to talk, the beatings and
murders went unpunished.9 It should also be noted that even if the
beaten prisoners had been willing to give evidence against their attackers, as
sometimes happened, the camp commander was not in a position to prosecute. He
was not permitted by his superiors in Washington to institute judicial
procedures against the culprits. Deprived of this weapon of disciplinary
control, the prison command was forced to operate under a distinct
Another instance in which higher
headquarters contributed unwittingly to the discontent of the prison camp
stemmed from an information and education program instituted in 1951 to keep the
prisoners occupied profitably. For the Communists the orientation course became
the chief target of criticism and abuse. Although attendance at these lectures
was purely voluntary, the subject matter contrasted the advantages of democracy with the fallacies of communism in an unmistakable
manner and the Communists protested vehemently. It should be noted that by far
the greater portion of the education program aimed at assisting the prisoners in
developing vocational and technical skills to help them after their
release.11 The Communists readily accepted the instruction in
metalworking and soon began to produce weapons of all varieties instead of
sanitation utensils, stoves, and garden tools and used these arms to gain
interior control in the compounds whenever they could.
In 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. Troops had to be rushed in to restore
order and remove two hundred prisoners who were in fear of their lives. As
unrest mounted, the 2d Logistical Command, in charge of all prison camps, asked
Van Fleet for more security personnel. Pointing out that protracted confinement,
uncertainty over the future, and Communist agitation against the UNC information
and education program had combined to produce increasing tension among the
prisoners, the chief of staff of the 2d Logistical Command also reminded Van
Fleet that the caliber of the guard troops left much to be desired.12
The September disturbances led to a visit
by Van Fleet and a reinforcing and reorganization of the prison security
forces. From the opening of the camp in January down to mid-September when Col.
Maurice J. Fitzgerald assumed command, there had been eight different commanders
or about one a month. As Fitzgerald later commented, "Koje-do was a graveyard of
commanders."13 Van Fleet's recognition of the difficulties of. the problems led
to the activation of the 8137th Military Police Group in October. Besides three
assigned battalions, four additional escort guard companies were attached to the
group. In November one battalion of the 23d Infantry Regiment was made available
for duty on Koje-do and by December over 9,000 U.S.
and ROK personnel were stationed on the island. This was still some 6,000 fewer then the number
During December the rival factions-
Communist and anti-Communist- vied for control of the compounds with both sides
meting out beatings and other punishment freely. A large-scale rock fight
between compounds on 18 December was followed by riots and demonstrations.
Fourteen deaths and twenty-four other casualties resulted from this
The acceleration of violence could be
attributed in large part to the inauguration of the screening process in the
prison camps. General Yount, commanding the 2d Logistical Command, later told
the Far East commander: "Until the inception of the screening program, American
personnel had full access to compounds and were able to administer them in a
satisfactory manner although never to the degree
In November and December over
37,000 prisoners had been screened and reclassified as civilian
internees.17 As more prisoners indicated
that they did not wish to be repatriated or evinced
antiCommunist sympathies, the sensitivity
of the Communist prisoners to screening intensified. Thus, when the commander of Koje-do camp decided early in January 1952 to give the civilian internees a second screening, the basic ingredients for trouble were on hand. The object of the second round of interviews by ROK civilian teams was to correct the mistakes made in the first series and also to segregate the
nonrepatriates from the staunch Communist elements.
Despite numerous incidents all the civilian
internee compounds were screened during January and early February except for
the 5,600 inmates of Compound 62. Here the Communists had firm control and
refused to permit the teams to enter. The compound leader stated flatly that all
the members of Compound 62 desired to return to North Korea and there was no
sense in wasting time in screening. Since the ROK teams were equally determined
to carry out their assignment, the 3d Battalion of the 27th Infantry Regiment
moved in during the early hours of 18 February and took up positions in front of
the compound.18 With bayonets fixed, the four companies passed
through the gate and divided the compound into four segments. But the Communists
refused to bow to the show of force. Streaming out of the barracks, they
converged on the infantry with pick handles, knives, axes, flails, and tent
poles. Others hurled rocks as they advanced and screamed their defiance. Between
1,000-1,500 internees pressed the attack and the soldiers were forced to resort
to concussion grenades. When the grenades failed to stop the assault, the UNC
troops opened fire. Fifty-five prisoners were killed immediately and 22 more
died at the hospital, with over 140 other casualties as against 1 U.S. killed and 38 wounded. This was
a high price for the Communists to pay, but human life counted for little. In
any event the Communists won their point, for the
infantry withdrew and the compound was not screened.19
The fear that the story might leak out to
the Communists in a distorted version led the U.N. Command to release an
official account placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Communist
compound leaders. The Department of the Army instructed Ridgway to make it clear
that only 1,500 of the
inmates took part in the outbreak and that only civilian internees- not
prisoners of war- were involved.20 In view of the outcry that the Communist delegates at
Panmunjom were certain to make over the affair, this was an especially important
point. Civilian internees could be considered an internal affair of the ROK
Government and outside the purview of the truce conference.21
But Communist protests at Panmunjom were
not the only results of the battle of Compound 62.
On 20 February Van Fleet appointed Brig. Gen. Francis T. Dodd as
commandant of the camp to tighten up discipline, and the following week Van
Fleet received some new instructions from Tokyo:
In regard to the control of the POW's at
Koje-do, the recent riot in Compound 62 gives strong evidence that many of the compounds may be controlled
by the violent leadership of Communists or anti-Communist groups. This
subversive control is extremely dangerous and can result in further
embarrassment to the U.N.C. Armistice negotiations, particularly if any mass
screening or segregation is directed within a short period of time. I desire
your personal handling of this planning. I wish to point out the grave potential
consequences of further rioting, and therefore the urgent requirement for the
most effective practicable control over POW's.22
Although the orders from Ridgway covered
both Communists and antiCommunists, the latter were co-operative in their
relations with the UNC personnel and ruthless only when they encountered
Communist sympathizers in their midst. The hatred between the two groups led to
another bloody encounter on 13 March. As an anti-Communist detail passed a hostile compound, ardent Communists
stoned the detail and its ROK guards. Without orders the guards retaliated with
gunfire. Before the ROK contingent could be brought under control, 12 prisoners were killed and
26 were wounded while
1 ROK civilian and 1 U.S.
officer, who tried to stop the shooting, were injured.23
April was a momentous month for the
prisoners on Koje-do. On 2 April the Communists showed their interest in finding
out the exact number of prisoners that would be returned to their control if
screening was carried out. Spurred by this indication that the enemy might be
willing to break the deadlock on voluntary repatriation, the U.N. Command
inaugurated a new screening program on 8 April to produce a firm
figure.24 During the days that followed, UNC teams interviewed the
prisoners in all but seven compounds, where 37,000
North Koreans refused to permit the teams to enter.
As noted previously, the results of the screening amazed even the most
optimistic of the UNC when only about 70,000
of the 170,000
military and civilian prisoners consented to go back
to the Communists voluntarily. The enemy, on the other hand, was at first
stunned and then became violently indignant, having been led to expect that a
much higher percentage of repatriates would be turned up by the screening.
Negotiations at Panmunjom again came to a standstill and the Communists renewed
their attack upon the whole concept of screening. In view of the close
connection between the enemy truce delegates and the prison camps, it was not surprising that the agitation of the
Communists over the unfavorable implications of the UNC screening should
communicate itself quickly to the loyal Communist compounds.
During the interviewing period, Van Fleet
had informed Ridgway that he was segregating and removing the anti-Communist
prisoners to the mainland. Although the separation would mean more
administrative personnel and more equipment would be required to organize and
supervise the increased number of camps, Van Fleet felt that dispersal would
lessen the possibility of incidents.25 Segregation and dispersal,
however, had a negative side as well, for the removal of anti-Communists and
their replacement by pro-Communists in the compounds on Koje-do could not help
but strengthen the hand of the Communist compound leaders. Relieved of the
necessity to conduct internecine strife, they could now be assured of
wholehearted support from the inmates of their compounds as they directed their
efforts against the U.N. Command. An energetic campaign to discredit the
screening program backed by all the Communist compounds was made easier by the
transfer of the chief opposition to the mainland and the alteration of the
balance of power on the island.
In addition to the general political unrest
that permeated the Communist enclosures, a quite fortuitous element of
discontent complicated the scene in early April. Up until this time
responsibility for the provision of the grain component of the prisoners' ration
had rested with the ROK Army. But the ROK Government informed the Eighth
Army in March that it could no longer bear the burden and Van Fleet in turn told
the 2d Logistical Command that it would have to secure the grain through U.S.
Army channels. Unfortunately, the U.N. Civil Assistance Command could not supply
grain in the prescribed ratio of one-half rice and one-half other grains without
sufficient advance time to fill the order. Instead a one-third rice, one-third
barley, and one-third wheat ration was apportioned to the prisoners in April and
this occasioned an avalanche of complaints.26
The 17 compounds occupied by the Communist
prisoners at the end of April included 10 that had
been screened and 7 that had resisted all efforts to interview them. There was
little doubt in Van Fleet's mind that force would have to be used and casualties
expected if the recalcitrant compounds were to be screened.27 As he
prepared plans to use force, Van Fleet warned Ridgway on 28 April that
the prisoners already screened would probably demonstrate violently when UNC forces moved into
the compounds still holding out. In anticipation of trouble Van Fleet moved the
3d Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment to Koje-do to reinforce the 38th
Infantry Regiment and ordered the 1st Battalion of the 15th Infantry Regiment
and the ROK 20th Regiment to Pusan. Barring accident, he intended to begin
screening shortly after the 1st of May.28
Confronted with almost certain violence,
Ridgway decided to ask for permission to cancel forced screening:
These compounds are well organized and
effective control cannot be exercised within them without use of such great
degree of force as might verge on the brutal and result in killing and wounding
quite a number of inmates. While I can exercise such forced screening, I believe
that the risk of violence and violence involved, both to U.N.C. personnel and to
the inmates themselves, would not warrant this course of action. Further, the
unfavorable publicity which would probably result . . . would provide immediate
and effective Communist material. . . 29
This request and Ridgway's plan to list the
prisoners in the unscreened compounds as desiring repatriation were approved.
Although failure to interview all the inmates in these enclosures might well
prevent some prisoners from choosing nonrepatriation, Ridgway's superiors held
that if the prisoners felt strongly enough about not returning to Communist
control, they would somehow make their wishes known.30
As forced screening was cast into limbo, the prospects
for a relaxation of tension on Koje-do should have improved. But in early May,
after a tour of inspection, Col. Robert T. Chaplin, provost marshal of the Far
East Command, reported that there was a dangerous lack of control within the
Communist compounds, with the prisoners refusing even to bring in their own food
and supplies. The possibility of new incidents that might embarrass the U.N.
Command, especially at Panmunjom, led Ridgway to remind Van Fleet that proper
control had to be maintained regardless of whether screening was conducted or
not.31 As it happened, Van Fleet was more concerned over the fact
that Colonel Chaplin had not informed Eighth Army of his impressions first than
he was over the prisoner-camp situation. There was no cause for "undue anxiety"
about Koje-do, he told Ridgway on 5 May.32
Actually Eighth Army officers admitted
freely that UNC authorities could not enter the compounds, inspect sanitation,
supervise medical support, or work the Communists prisoners as they desired.
They exercised an external control only, in that UNC security forces did prevent
the prisoners from escaping.33 Thus, on 7 May the Communist prisoners
and the UNC appeared to have reached a stalemate. The former had interior
control, but could not get out without violence; and
the latter had exterior control, but could not get in without violence. With the
cancellation of forced screening, the U.N. Command indicated that it was willing
to accept the status quo rather than initiate another wave of bloodshed in the
camps. The next move was up to the Communists.
The Time of Ripening
It did not take long for the Communist
prisoners to act. As investigation later revealed, they had become familiar with
the habits of General Dodd, the camp commandant, during the spring and by the
beginning of May they had readied a plan. Well aware that Dodd was anxious to
lessen the tension in the camp, they also knew that he often went unarmed to the
sally ports of the compounds and talked to the leaders. This system of personal
contact kept Dodd in close touch with camp problems, but it exposed him to an
element of risk. Only the guards carried weapons on Koje-do and there were no
locks on the compounds gates, since work details were constantly passing in and
out. Security personnel were not authorized to shoot save in case of grave
emergency or in self-defense, and were not permitted to keep a round in the
chamber of their guns. In the past the Communists had successfully kidnapped
several UNC soldiers and although they had later released them unharmed after
Communist complaints had been heard, the practice was neither new nor unknown.
Since the technique had proved profitable in previous instances, the enemy
decided to spread their net for the biggest fish of
all- the camp commandant. Taking advantage of his
willingness to come to them, they made careful plans.34
On the evening of 6 May members of a
Communist work detail from Compound 76 refused to enter the enclosure until they
had spoken to Lt. Col. Wilbur R. Raven, commanding officer of the 94th Military
Police Battalion and the compound. The prisoners told Raven that guards had
beaten members of the compound and searched them for
contraband. When he promised to investigate the charges, they seemed satisfied,
but asked to see General Dodd on the next day to discuss matters of importance.
Raven was noncommittal since he did not wish the prisoners to imagine that they
could summon the commandant at will, but he promised to pass the message on to
Since the prisoners indicated that they
would be willing to let themselves be listed and fingerprinted if Dodd would
come and talk to them, the trap was shrewdly baited. Dodd had just been
instructed to complete an accurate roster and identification of all the
remaining prisoners of war on Koje-do and the chance to win a bloodless victory
was too good to be missed.
Colonel Raven finished his discussions with
the leaders of Compound 76 shortly after 1400 on 7 May and Dodd drove up a few minutes later. As usual they talked
with the unlocked gate of the sally port between them and the Communists
launched a whole series of questions concerning items of food and clothing they
felt they should be issued. Then branching into the political field they asked
about the truce negotiations. Several times they invited Dodd and Raven to come
inside and sit down so that they could carry on the discussion in a more
comfortable atmosphere. Raven turned down these suggestions bluntly since he
himself had previously been seized and held. More prisoners had meanwhile
gathered in the sally port and Dodd permitted them to approach and listen to the
conversation. In the midst of the talk, a work detail turning in tents for
salvage came through the sally port and the outer door was opened to let them
pass out. It remained ajar and the prisoners drew closer to Dodd and Raven as if
to finish their discussion. Suddenly they leaped forward and began to drag the
two officers into the compound. Raven grabbed hold of a post until the guards
rushed up and used their bayonets to force the prisoners back, but Dodd was
hauled quickly inside the compound, whisked behind a row of blankets draped
along the inner barbed wire fence, and hurried to a tent that was prepared for
him. The prisoners told him that the kidnapping had been planned and that the other compounds
would have made an attempt to seize him if the opportunity had
With the successful completion of the first
step disposed of, the Communists lost no time in carrying out the second phase.
Within a few minutes of Dodd's capture, they hoisted a large sign announcing-
"We capture Dodd. As long as our demand will be solved, his safety is secured.
If there happen brutal act such as shooting, his life is danger."37 The threat was soon
followed by the first note from Dodd that he was all right and asking that no
troops be sent in to release him until after 1800.38 Apparently
General Dodd felt that he could persuade the prisoners to let him go by that
One of the most humiliating events for the UNC in the Korean War took place on May 7, 1952, when camp commandant General Dodd was trapped, taken prisoner and put on trial by the communist leaders of compound 76.
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 history. After winning as many concessions as they thought they could obtain, the communists finally released General Dodd, unhurt in body but doubtless in mental agony for the remainder of his life.
In the meantime word had passed swiftly
back to General Yount, the commanding general of the 2d Logistical Command, and
through him to Van Fleet, of the capture of Dodd. Van Fleet immediately
instructed Yount not to use force to effect Dodd's release unless Eighth Army
approved such action. Yount in turn sent his chief of staff, Col. William H.
Craig, by air to Koje-do to assume command.39
Repeating Van Fleet's
injunction not to use force, Yount told Craig: "We are to talk them out.
Obviously if somebody makes mass break we most certainly will resist . . . . But
unless they attempt such a thing, under no circumstances use fire to get them
out. Wait them out. One thing above all, approach it calmly. If we get them
excited only God knows what will happen."40 The fear of a concerted attempt to break out of
the compounds and the resultant casualties that both the UNC and prisoners would
probably suffer dominated this conversation and mirrored the first reaction of
Dodd's superiors to the potential explosiveness of the situation. A major
uprising would mean violence and unfavorable publicity that the enemy would
Dodd's actions in Compound 76 complemented
this desire to localize the incident. He consented to act as go-between for the
prisoners and relayed their demands to the outside. A telephone was installed
and upon Dodd's recommendation, representatives from all of the other compounds
were brought to Compound 76 for a meeting to work out
the demands that would be submitted to the U.N. Command. Colonel Craig attempted
to use one of the senior North Korean officers, Col. Lee Hak Koo, to talk
inmates of Compound 76 into releasing Dodd, but Lee, as soon as he was permitted
to enter the compound, remained and became the spokesman of the
As the Communist representatives met on the
night of the seventh, Dodd urged that no troops be employed to get him since he
did not think he would be harmed.42 This was a reasonable assumption,
since if anything happened to Dodd, the Communists would have nothing to bargain
with. In any event, Dodd's plea coincided with the wishes of Yount and Van Fleet
at this point. Colonel Craig, stalling for time, agreed to sit tight. With the
UNC troops under general alert orders, the night of 7 May passed
One fact seemed evident-the Communists had
won the first round. Not only had they managed to kidnap Dodd, but they had also
succeeded in using him to open negotiations. Playing upon the UNC fears of a
general breakout of prisoners and the concern over Dodd's life, they pressed
their advantage to the hilt.
As the prisoner representatives reconvened
the next day, they presented Dodd with a list of their demands. The chief
preoccupation of the prisoners during this early phase concerned the formation
and recognition by the UNC of an association of the prisoners with telephone
facilities between the compounds and two vehicles for intracompound travel. Dodd
consented to most of the items of equipment that the prisoners were insisting
upon even though he had no command authority to make any agreements.
After the meeting concluded, the representatives
wanted to return to their compounds and report to the rest of the prisoners;
thus another delay ensued. General Yount refused to allow them to leave until
Van Fleet overruled him late in the afternoon. By the time the representatives
discussed events with their compound mates and returned to Compound 76, evening
While the prisoners were carrying on their
conversations, Colonel Craig sent for trained machine gun crews, grenades, and
gas masks. The 3d Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment boarded an LST (landing
ship, tank) at Pusan and set out for Koje-do. ROK Navy picket boats ringed the
island in case of a major escape attempt and Navy, Marine, and Air Force planes
remained on alert. Company B of the 64th Medium Tank Battalion was detached from
the 3d Infantry Division and started to rumble toward Pusan. And from the U.S. I
Corps, Van Fleet sent Brig. Gen. Charles F. Colson, chief of staff, to take
charge of the camp and get Dodd out. The selection of a combat leader to resolve
the crisis indicated that a military solution would now be tried. Colson had no
knowledge of conditions on Koje-do until he was chosen and only a sketchy
acquaintance with the issues being discussed at Panmunjom.45
As Colson assumed command, Van Fleet
confirmed this impression that military measures would now be employed. His
first instructions to Yount set forth the steps to be followed quite clearly.
First official written demands were to be delivered to Compound 76 asking that
Dodd be freed immediately. At the same time the prisoners would be informed that
Dodd no longer was in command and could make no decisions. If they refused to
let him go, Yount would set a time limit and warn the Communists that they would
be held responsible for Dodd's safety when force was used. As soon as the
deadline expired, Yount would enter the compound by force, release Dodd, and
gain full control.46 Yount passed Van Fleet's orders on to Colson late on 8 May.
There were other factors that had to be
considered as the drama unfolded. Within the compound Dodd was treated royally.
The prisoners did all they could to provide him with small comforts and
permitted medicine for his ulcers to be brought in. They applied no physical
pressure whatsoever, yet they left no doubt that Dodd would be the first
casualty and that they would resist violently any attempt to rescue him by
force. Under the circumstances they expected Dodd to co-operate and help them
reach a bloodless settlement and Dodd decided to comply.
Early on the morning of 9 May Colson sent
in his first official demand for Dodd's safe deliverance and six hours later he
issued a second order. When Col. Lee Hak Koo finally responded, he countered
with the statement that Dodd had already admitted that he had practiced
"inhuman massacre and murderous barbarity" against the prisoners. Recognizing
Colson as the new camp commander, Lee asked him to join Dodd at the compound
meeting.47 Obviously, the Communists had no intentions of letting
Dodd go until they had resolved their differences with the U.N. Command.
The refusal of the prisoners to meet
Colson's order should have led to the presentation of an ultimatum with a time
limit, but Colson decided to wait until the tanks arrived from the mainland
before he tried force. Since the tanks would not arrive until late on the 9th,
the action to bring the compound into line could not begin until the following
morning. Both Yount and Maj. Gen. Orlando Mood, chief of staff of the Eighth
Army, agreed to this postponement.48 In the meantime Colson intended
to put a halt to further concessions to the prisoners; his first move in this
direction was to stop the POW representatives from circulating back and forth
between their compounds and Compound 76.49
Perturbed by the stiffening attitude of
Colson and the apparent preparations for action around the compound, the
Communists evidently became nervous and had Dodd ask Colson whether they could
hold their meeting without fear of interruption. They again promised
that Dodd would be freed after the meeting if all
went well. Since the U.N. Command was not going to make a move until
10 May anyway, the
prisoners were informed that they could meet in safety.50
As the prisoners convened on the 9th, the
capture of Dodd assumed a new perspective. They informed their hostage that they
were going to discuss the alleged brutalities committed against their members,
repatriation and screening, as well as the prisoner of war
association.51 Whether the expansion of the Communists' objectives
was spurred by their success in using Dodd and the willingness of the UNC to
negotiate or was a planned development is difficult to determineit may well have
been a combination of these elements that emboldened them to press their luck.
Setting themselves up as a people's court,
the prisoners drew up a list of nineteen counts of death and/or injury to
compound inmates and had Dodd answer to each charge. Although they were
generally disposed to accept his explanations and dismiss the accusations, the
spectacle of prisoners, still captive and surrounded by heavily armed troops,
trying the kidnapped commanding officer of the prison camp on criminal counts
and making him defend his record was without parallel in modern military
While the Communists sat in judgment upon
Dodd, Colson had the 38th Infantry Regiment reinforce the guards
on all the compounds and had automatic weapons set up in pairs at strategic
locations. He directed Lt. Col. William J. Kernan, commanding officer of the
38th, to prepare a plan for forcible entry into Compound 76, using tanks,
flamethrowers, armored cars, .50-caliber multiple mounts, tear gas, riot guns,
and the like, with a target date of 1000 on 10
In the early afternoon, Van Fleet flew into
Koje-do for a conference. He had discussed the situation with Ridgway and his
appointed successor, General Mark W. Clark, who had just arrived in the Far
East, and they were all agreed that no press or photo coverage of the emergency
would be permitted.54 They wanted Colson to be sure to give every
opportunity to nonbelligerent prisoners to surrender peaceably while he engaged
in battle for control of the compound. Van Fleet added that he did not think
that U.S. troops should go into the compound, until firepower from the outside
had forced obedience and driven the prisoners into small adjacent compounds that
had been constructed in the meantime. If necessary he was willing to grant the
prisoners' request for an association with equipment and communication
facilities, but he reminded Colson that he had full authority to use all the
force required to release Dodd and secure proper control and discipline.
Regardless of the outcome of this affair, Van Fleet wanted dispersion of the
compounds carried out. He left the timing of the
Compound 76 operation in Colson's hands, but the negotiating period should end
at 1000 on 10 May.55
Dodd's trial dragged on through the
afternoon as the translation process was slow and laborious. By dusk it was
evident that the proceedings would not finish that night and Dodd phoned Colson
asking for an extension until noon the next day. He felt that they would keep
their promise to let him go as soon as the meeting finished. But Eighth Army
refused to alter the 1000 deadline and Colson passed the word back to Dodd. It
was at this point that the Communists asserted that they had intended to conduct meetings for ten days,
but in the light of the UNC stand they would attempt to complete their work in
During the night of 9-10 May, twenty tanks,
five equipped with flamethrowers, arrived on Koje-do and were brought into
position. Extra wire was laid and the sixteen small compounds were ready to
receive the prisoners of Compound 76. All of the guns were in place and gas
masks were issued; the last-minute preparations were completed and the troops
tried to get some rest. When Dodd and Colson spoke to each other for the last
time that night, they said goodbye, since neither expected Dodd to be alive when
the operation was over.57
There was another dampening note as heavy
rain began shortly after dark and came down steadily all night. As dawn signaled
its arrival, fog obscured the compounds. Yet Colson was ready to go in despite
the weather. He held out little hope to Yount that the Communists would release
Dodd since this would be "silly" on their part and he placed little trust in
their good faith.58
But as daylight broke on the tense island
the prisoners' latest demands reached Colson. Since he and Dodd had already
agreed to most of the eleven requests on the prisoner of war association, the
Communists wasted little time on this matter. Instead they directed their attack
against UNC prisoner policy, repatriation, and screening. Although the English translation is awkward and some of the phrases
difficult to understand, this bold demand deserves quotation in full.
1. Immediate ceasing the barbarous
behavior, insults, torture, forcible protest with blood writing, threatening,
confinement, mass murdering, gun and machine gun shooting, using poison gas,
germ weapons, experiment object of A-Bomb, by your command. You should guarantee
PW's human rights and individual life with the base on the International Law.
stopping the so-called illegal and unreasonable volunteer repatriation of NKPA
and CPVA PW's. 3.
Immediate ceasing the forcible investigation (Screening) which thousands of PW's
of NKPA and CPVA be rearmed and failed in slavery, permanently and illegally.
4. Immediate recognition of the P.W.
Representative Group (Commission) consisted of NPKA and CPVA PW's and close
cooperation to it by your command. This Representative Group will turn in Brig.
Gen. Dodd, USA, on your hand after we receive the satisfactory declaration to
resolve the above items by your command. We will wait for your warm and sincere
The Communist objectives were now fully in
the open, for admission by the U.N. Command of the validity of the first three
demands would discredit the screening process and repatriation policy backed so
strongly by the UNC delegation at Panmunjom. If the UNC was violating the Geneva
Convention and conducting a reign of terror in the prison camps, as the
Communist prisoners charged, then how much reliance could the rest of the world
place in the screening figures released by the United Nations Command?
Colson had already sent a final request to
Compound 76 to free Dodd, but the receipt of the four demands and of two other
pieces of information gave him pause. A disturbing report from his intelligence
officer indicated that the other compounds were ready to stage a mass breakout
as soon as he launched his attack and, as if to substantiate this item, the
native villages near the compound were deserted.60 The prospect of a
large number of casualties, on both sides, including General Dodd, decided
Colson. Since the UNC had not committed most of the charges leveled by the
prisoners, he called Yount and simply told him that Colson could inform Dodd
that the accusations were not true. Colson was willing to recognize the POW
association, but had no jurisdiction over the problem of repatriation. If Yount
could get authority to renounce nominal screening, Colson thought he could
fashion an answer acceptable to the prisoners. General Mood felt that nominal
screening could be dropped and gave his approval to Yount to go
Naturally the Communists wanted Colson's
answer in writing and this destroyed any hope of meeting the 1000 deadline. For
some reason the translator available to Colson was not particularly quick or
accurate and this slowed down the negotiating process.62 At any rate,
Colson postponed taking action and sent off an answer
to the prisoners:
1. With reference to your item 1 of that
message, I am forced to tell you that we are not and have not committed any of
the offenses which you allege. I can assure you that we will continue in that
policy and the prisoners of war can expect humane treatment in this camp.
your item two regarding voluntary repatriation of NKPA and CPVA PW, that is a matter which is
being discussed at Panmunjom, and over which I have no control or
3. Regarding your item three pertaining to
forcible investigation (screening), I can inform you that after General Dodd's
release, unharmed, there will be no more forcible screening of PW's in this
camp, nor will any attempt be made at nominal screening.
4. Reference your item four, we have no
objection to the organization of a PW representative group or commission
consisting of NKPA and
CPVA PW, and are willing
to work out the details of such an organization as soon as practicable after
General Dodd's release.
Colson added that Dodd must be freed by
noon and no later.63
With the exception of the word "more" in
Item 3, Colson's reply was noncommittal and the Communists refused to accept it
or release Dodd. Always opportunistic, they were determined to win more from the
U.N. Command before they surrendered their trump card. The haggling began in the
late morning and lasted until evening as the prisoners argued about the wording
of Colson's answer.64
antagonists on Koje-do wrangled over the details, Ridgway and Van Fleet
encountered increasing difficulty in finding out what was going on. When news of
the four demands seeped back to UNC headquarters, Ridgway had attempted to
forestall Colson's reply, but had been too late. He realized the propaganda
value of an admission of the prisoners' charges, but Van Fleet had assured him
that Colson's answer carried no implied acknowledgment of illegal or
reprehensible acts.65 As the afternoon drew to a close and no report
of Colson's negotiations arrived in Tokyo, Ridgway became impatient. Pointing
out that incalculable damage might be done to the UNC cause if Colson accepted
the prisoners' demands, he complained of the lack of information from Koje-do.
"I have still been unable to get an accurate prompt record of action taken by
your camp commander in response to these latest Communist demands. I am
seriously handicapped thereby in the issuance of further
Actually Van Fleet knew little more than
Ridgway at this point. Colson had been so busy that even Yount was not
completely abreast of all the developments. When the noon deadline passed
without incident, Dodd phoned Colson and presented the prisoners' case. He
argued that there had been incidents in the past when prisoners had been killed
and Colson's answer simply denied everything. Most of the difficulties stemmed
from semantics, Dodd admitted, but until these were cleared up, the Communists
would not free him. With the prisoner leaders sitting
beside, him, Dodd passed on their and his own suggestions for preparing Colson's
reply in an acceptable form and then offered to write in the changes that the
prisoners considered mandatory. Colson agreed and informed Yount in general
terms of the prisoners' objections.67
After a second version failed to satisfy
the Communists, Colson attempted to meet their demands clearly so that there
would be no further excuse for delay:
1. With reference to your item 1 of that message, I do admit that
there has been instances of bloodshed where many PW have been killed and wounded
by UN Forces. I can assure in the future that PW can expect humane treatment in
this camp according to the principles of International Law. I will do all within
my power to eliminate further violence and bloodshed. If such incidents happen
in the future, I will be responsible.
your item 2 regarding
voluntary repatriation of Korean Peoples Army and Chinese Peoples Volunteer Army
PW, that is a matter which is being discussed at Panmunjom. I have no control or
influence over the decisions at the peace conference.
3. Regarding your item 3 pertaining to
forcible investigation (screening) , I can inform you that after General Dodd's
release, unharmed, there will be no more forcible screening or any rearming of
PW in this camp, nor will any attempt be made at nominal screening.
4. Reference your item 4, we approve the
organization of a PW representative group or commission consisting of Korean
Peoples Army and Chinese Peoples Volunteer Army, PW, according to the details
agreed to by Gen Dodd and approved by me.
The release hour was advanced
to 2000 since so much time
had been consumed in translating and discussing the changes.68
By the time the final version had been translated and
examined by the prisoners, it was evening and the Communists endeavored to add
one last oriental touch to what Yount called the "comic opera." They wanted to
hold Dodd overnight so that they might hold a little ceremony in the morning. In
recognition of his services Dodd was to be decked with flowers and escorted to
the gate. But Colson had had enough and would concede no more. He demanded that
Dodd be brought out that night as agreed and the Communists decided that they
could afford to give in now that they had won their main objectives. At
2130 Dodd walked out of
Compound 76 and was
immediately taken to a place where he could be kept incommunicado.69
The "comic opera" with all the overtones of
a tragedy reached its climax with the release of Dodd, but the aftermath
promised to be just as exciting. Before the repercussions of the incident are
discussed, however, a brief analysis of the affair might be helpful.
There is little doubt that the conditions
on Koje-do were clearly known by Ridgway and Van Fleet before the kidnapping
took place. For several weeks UNC personnel had not
been permitted to enter many of the compounds and the possibility of violence
was no secret. Koje-do was like a chronic appendix; the Far East Command and
Eighth Army knew it would have to undergo radical treatment sooner or later, but
they preferred to postpone the operation until the situation became acute.
Since the prisoners had set up a definite
plan to capture Dodd, they probably would have seized him eventually. His
contacts with the prisoners laid him open to kidnapping and as long as they
refused to come out of the compounds to talk to him, it meant that unless he
used force to bring the prisoner leaders out, he had to go to them or break off
relations with them. In view of his orders to complete the fingerprinting and
rostering of the prisoners and the disinclination to employ violent means, Dodd
had little choice. Better security procedures, locks on the gates, a screen of
guards between Dodd and the prisoners during the talks, might have prevented the
kidnapping, but Dodd was careless in this respect and placed too much confidence
in the prisoners' sincerity and good faith.
Actually the seizure of Dodd in itself
might have been relatively unimportant. It was only when the Communists
skilfully used Dodd as a pawn and then backed his capture with the threat of a
mass breakout that they were able to practice extortion in so bold a fashion.
Despite the fact that there were over eleven thousand armed troops supported by
tanks and other weapons and despite the instructions from Ridgway and Van Fleet
to employ force if Dodd was not freed, the Communists carried off the honors.
What had begun as a military problem to be solved by military means became a political problem settled on the
prisoners' terms. The Communists had seized the initiative and never
relinquished it. Using the menace of massive resistance as a club, they
successfully blocked the use of force and played upon the desire of Colson to
bring the affair to a bloodless conclusion.
During the last day of negotiations Dodd's
role as intermediary became more vital. Given a new lease on life by the
postponement of action, he labored zealously to help work out a formula that the
prisoners would accept. Under these circumstances, the concessions that he urged
upon Colson tended to favor the Communist position on the controversial items.
The pressure of time and of translation added to confusion. It is evident that
the Communists knew what they wanted and that Dodd and Colson were more
interested in preventing casualties than they were in denying political and
propaganda advantages to the enemy.
Unfortunately the hurried and continual
negotiations cut down the flow of information to higher headquarters or the
statements open to distortion or misinterpretation might have been caught in
time and excised. As it turned out, Colson traded Dodd's life for a propaganda
weapon that was far more valuable to the Communists than the lives of their
prisoners of war.
It would not be fair to close without
mentioning two matters that were bound up in the Dodd incident and in the events
that followed. If force had been employed, there was the distinct possibility
that reprisals might have been taken against the UNC prisoners under Communist
control. And secondly, the attainment of Communist aims in these negotiations
may very well have softened later resistance in the
prison camps. While it is impossible to judge the importance of these
probabilities, they should not be forgotten or overlooked.
Although Van Fleet tended to discount the
value of the Colson letter, Clark and his superiors in Washington were quite
concerned. They realized the damaging implications that the Communists would be
certain to utilize. Phrases like "I can assure in the future that PW can expect
humane treatment" implied that the prisoners had not received humane treatment
in the past. The promise that there would be "no more forcible screening or
rearming of PW in this camp . . . " conveyed an
entirely erroneous impression since there never had been any rearming of
prisoners and forcible screening had been canceled.70
Since the press was becoming impatient for
more information. Clark decided to publish a statement on the incident. He
included both the prisoners' demands and Colson's reply. Dodd also met the press
and issued a brief account of his capture and release.71 In general the response to the affair and the letter was
unfavorable and at Panmunjom the Communist delegates made full use of the
propaganda value of the episode to
discomfort the UNC representatives.
At 2d Logistical Command headquarters,
Yount established a board to investigate the matter and it found Dodd and Colson
blameless. This did not satisfy Van Fleet, who felt that Dodd had not conducted
himself properly nor had his advice to Colson been fitting under the
circumstances. He recommended administrative action against Dodd and an
administrative reprimand for Colson.72 Clark was even more severe; he
proposed reduction in grade to colonel for both Dodd and Colson and an
administrative reprimand to Yount for failing to catch several damaging phrases
in Colson's statement.73 The Department of the Army approved Clark's
The quick and summary punishment of the key
officers involved did not solve the problem of what to do about Colson's
statement or the more basic question of how to clean up the longstanding
conditions in the prison camps. Although the Washington leaders did not want to
"repudiate" the letter, they told Clark to deny its validity on the grounds that
it was obtained under duress and Colson had not had the authority to accept the
false charges contained in the Communist demands.74 The first count
was no doubt true but the second was certainly moot.
Denial was not enough for the press, and on
27 May Collins gave Clark permission to issue a concise and factual release. The
Chief of Staff felt that the U.N. Command had always abided by the Geneva
Convention and allowed the ICRC regular access to the camps. Clark's account, he
went on, should stress this and emphasize that the incidents stemmed from the
actions of the fanatical, die-hard Communists. In closing, the Far East
commander should outline the corrective measures being taken.75
In the wake of Koje-do came a series of
actions. The stiffening attitude of the UNC revealed itself first at Prisoner of
War Enclosure Number 10 at Pusan for hospital cases. Among the patients and
attached work details, 3,500 in Compounds 1,
2, and 3 had not been screened and segregated. Hoping
to forestall concerted action, the camp commander, Lt. Col. John Bostic,
informed the prisoners on 11 May that food and water would be available only at
the new quarters prepared for them. He planned to screen and segregate the
nonpatients first as they moved to the new compounds and then take care of the
sick. Although he had two battalions of infantry in positions around the three
compounds, only Compound 3 made any attempt to negotiate conditions under which
they would be screened and moved. Bostic refused to treat with the leaders of
Compound 3; the other compounds simply remained indifferent to his
After a deceptively quiet night, the
prisoners became restive. Signs were painted, flags waved, demonstrations
mounted, and patriotic songs sung as feelings ran high. Infantrymen of the 15th
Regiment surrounded the compounds with fixed bayonets and a couple of
tanks were wheeled into positions, but no attempt was made to start the
Despite complaints from the prisoners, they
made no effort to comply with Bostic's instructions. Compound 3 set up sandbags
during the night of 12 May
but no further violence occurred. On the next day, loudspeakers started to
hammer home the UNC orders over and over again, yet the prisoners laughed at
offers of hot food and cigarettes available to them in the new
A few stray shots were fired on the 14th
and the prisoners hurled rocks at the guards, but the
deadlock continued. To break the impasse, Van Fleet permitted several ICRC
representatives to interview the prisoners. Compound 1 requested the first
conference with the Red Cross men and then the other compounds followed suit.
The prisoners became quieter after the ICRC talks, but they were not ready to
obey Bostic's orders. On 15 May Yount won Van Fleet's approval to put the emphasis on control
rather than screening, with the prisoners not screened to remain unrostered
until a settlement was reached at Panmunjom. Armed with this authority and with
ICRC help, Bostic reached an agreement with the leaders of Compound 1 on 17 May. There was no screening and
the prisoners moved without incident to their new compound.79
Hope that the other two compounds would
follow the example of Compound 1 proved forlorn. On 19 May, Van Fleet approved
the use of force to clear the recalcitrant compounds. After a brief announcement
the following morning warning the prisoners that this was their last chance to
obey, infantry teams entered Compound 3 and advanced against mounting
resistance. Armed with stones, flails, sharpened tent poles, steel pipes, and
knives, the defiant prisoners screamed insults and challenges. The infantry
maintained excellent discipline, using tear gas and concussion grenades to break
up the prisoners' opposition. Herding the prisoners into a corner, the U.N.
troops forced them into their new compound. Only one prisoner was killed and
twenty-nine were wounded as against one U.S.
injury. The example of Compound 3 evidently was borne home to Compound
2, for on 21 May they put up no resistance as the
infantrymen moved them into new quarters without casualties to either
Whether the prisoners were screened or not
became secondary after the Dodd incident. Van Fleet was most anxious to regain
control over all the compounds and he had his staff examine the situation
carefully in mid-May. They submitted three alternatives on 16 May: 1.
Remove all prisoners from Korea; 2. Disperse the prisoners within Korea;
and 3. Combine 1 and
2 by removing some
prisoners and dispersing the rest. If all of the POW's were transferred out of
the country, the Eighth Army commander would be free to concentrate on his
primary mission and be relieved of a rear area security problem. Under the third
alternative, at least some of the prisoners would be shifted and the Eighth Army
responsibility lessened. Van Fleet preferred the first, but found the third more
desirable than the retention of all of the prisoners in Korea. Dispersal within
Korea would ensure better control, to be sure, but it would entail more logistic
support and more administrative and security personnel. But Clark did not accept
the movement of any of the prisoners out of Korea and he instructed Van Fleet to
go ahead with his dispersal plan as quickly as possible. He was willing to send
the 187th Airborne
Regimental Combat Team to Van Fleet to aid in the operation. Additional
tank support would have to be supplied by Eighth Army
if it were required.81
Besides the reinforcement of the Koje-do
forces, Van Fleet intended to construct barricades and roadblocks at strategic
points until he was prepared to deconcentrate the prisoners. The new enclosures
would be located on Koje-do, Cheju-do, and on the mainland and he estimated that
twenty-two enclosures, each holding 4,000
prisoners and at least one-half mile apart, would be
sufficient. Compounds would be limited to 500
men apiece with double fencing and concertina wire
between compounds. When the new camps were finished, Van Fleet was going to try
to use the prisoners' representatives to induce them to move voluntarily. But if
resistance developed, as he expected it would, food and water would be withheld
and the prisoners would receive these only at the new compounds. As a last
resort, he would employ force. Both Clark and his superiors agreed that although
the plan might incur unfavorable publicity and had to be handled carefully, the
Communist control on Koje-do had to be broken.82
Van Fleet accepted the recommendations that
ICRC assistance be utilized as much as possible and that other UNC contingents
be added to the forces on Koje-do. He had the Netherlands Battalion already on
the island and he would send a U.K. company, a Canadian Company, and a Greek
company to provide a U.N. flavor. As for the press, normal
coverage facilities would be provided.83
To supervise the difficult task of moving
the prisoners, Van Fleet appointed Brig. Gen. Haydon L. Boatner, assistant
division commander of the 2d Division, as the new commander of
Koje-do.84 Using infantrymen as well as engineers, Boatner pushed the
construction of the smaller, stronger enclosures by working his troops in two
twelve-hour shifts. He also moved over 6,000 civilians away from the camp and
off the island.85
By early June Boatner was prepared to test
his plan for securing control of the Communist compounds. Despite- repeated
orders to remove the Communist flags that were being boldy flown in Compounds
85, 96, and 60, the prisoners ignored Boatner's commands. On 4 June, infantrymen
from the 38th Regiment supported by two tanks moved quickly into Compound 85.
While the tanks smashed down the flagpoles, the troops tore down signs, burnt
the Communist banners, and rescued ten bound prisoners. Half an hour later they
repeated their success at Compound 96 and brought out seventy-five prisoners who
wished to be freed of Communist domination. The only enemy flags still aloft
were in Compound 60 and the infantry did not need the tanks for this job. Using
tear gas, they went in and chopped down the poles.
Not a single casualty was
suffered by either side during these quick strikes.86 Although the
prisoners restored the flagpoles the following day,
the experience gained in the exercise seemed helpful.
Satisfied by this test run, Boatner decided
to tackle the big task next. On the morning of 10 June, he ordered Col. Lee Hak
Koo to assemble the prisoners of Compound 76 in groups of 150 in the center of
the compound and to be prepared to move them out. Instead the prisoners brought
forth their knives, spears, and tent poles and took their positions in trenches,
ready to resist. Crack paratroopers of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team
wasted little time as they advanced without firing a shot. Employing concussion
grenades, tear gas, bayonets, and fists, they drove or dragged the prisoners out
of the trenches. As a half-dozen Patton tanks rolled in and trained their guns
on the last 300 prisoners still fighting, resistance collapsed. Colonel Lee was
captured and dragged by the seat of his pants out of the compound. The other
prisoners were hustled into trucks, transported to the new compounds,
fingerprinted, and given new clothing. During the two-and-a-half-hour battle, 31
prisoners were killed, many by the Communists themselves, and 139 were wounded.
One U.S. soldier was speared to death and 14 were injured.87 After
Compound 76 had been cleared, a tally of weapons showed 3,000 spears, 4,500
knives, 1,000 gasoline grenades, plus an undetermined number of clubs, hatchets,
barbed wire flails, and hammers. These weapons had been fashoned out of scrap materials and
metaltipped tent poles by the prisoners.88
The aftermath proved how quickly the lesson
was learned. After leaders of Compounds 78 and 77 had witnessed the fight, they
swiftly agreed to move whereever Boatner wanted them to. In Compound 77 the
bodies of sixteen murdered men were found. The show of force was effective in
eliminating the core of Communist defiance and paved the way for the relatively
uneventful transfer of the other compounds on Koje-do
to their new stockades during the rest of June.
With the dispersal plan successfully
completed, Clark decided to remove the POW problem from Eighth Army
jurisdiction. On 10 July the Korean Communications Zone was established under
the Far East Command and took over responsibility for rear area activities from
the Eighth Army.89 One of the lessons that had to be relearned during
the Koje-do affair was that an army commander should not be burdened with the
administration of his communications zone, since the distraction could not fail to
detract from his efficiency in carrying out his primary mission- to fight the
There were other lessons that were brought
home during this period. In most cases, after a prisoner was captured, he might
attempt to escape and this was about as far as he would go. With the Communists
a new element of experience was added. The Communist prisoner's service did not
end with his capture but frequently became more important. In the prison camp
his responsibilities shifted from the military to politico-military duties. Easy
to organize and well-disciplined, the loyal Communist
prisoners required strict control or they would exploit their position for
propaganda purposes. Death or injury was readily accepted if the ends were
worthwhile and soft treatment merely made them more insolent and disobedient.
Only force and strength were respected, for these they recognized and
understood. As for the administration of the Communist prison camps, the
necessity for high quality personnel at all levels was plain. Unless the
leadership and security forces were well briefed politically and alert, the
Communist would miss no opportunity to cause trouble.
At Koje-do the lack of information of what was going on inside the compounds
pointed up another deficiency. Trained counterintelligence agents had to be
planted inside to keep the camp commander advised on the plans and activities of
the prisoners and to prevent surprises like the Dodd capture from happening.
In assessing the effects of the Koje-do
incidents, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that they seriously weakened
the international support that the UNC Command had been getting on its screening
program and on voluntary repatriation. In Great Britain, questions were raised
in Parliament implying that the screening in April had been improperly or
ineffectively carried out. Japanese press opinion reflected a growing suspicion
that the US authorities had lost control of the screening process and permitted
ROK pressure to be exerted directly or indirectly against repatriation. As
General Jenkins, Army G-3, pointed out to General Collins early in June: "The
cumulative effect of sentiment such as that reflected above may tend to obscure
the UNC principle of no forcible repatriation, and appear to make the armistice
hinge on the questionable results of a discredited
The presence of International Committee of
the Red Cross representatives during the clean-up activities at Pusan and
Koje-do did little to enhance the reputation of the UNC prisoner of war
policies. Although the ICRC could offer little constructive advice on how the
UNC could regain control and admitted that the prisoners were committing many
illegal acts, they protested vigorously against the tactics of the UNC.
Violence, withholding food and water- even if these were available elsewhere-
and the use of force on hospital patients were heavily scored and the reports
that the ICRC submitted to Geneva were bound to evoke an unfavorable reaction in
Despite the fact that focus shifted from
Koje-do as the dispersal program brought the Communist prisoners under tighter
controls, the mushroom cloud of doubt and suspicion that hovered over the
Koje-do episode could not help but make the task of the UNC delegates at
Panmunjom more complex.
1 Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May
52, p. 2.
2 Samuel M.
Myers and William E. Bradbury, The Political Behavior of Korean and Chinese
Prisoners of War in the Korean Conflict: A Historical Analysis, Tech Rpt 50
(Human Resources Research Office, George Washington University, 1958) , p. 65.
3 Interv with Col
Dame, 20 Oct 59. In OCMH.
4 Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52,
5 (1) Hq 2d Logistical Comd,
Comd Rpt, May 52, Vol. II,
tab F. (2) Interv with Col Dame, 20 Oct 59. (3) Interv with Col Maurice J.
Fitzgerald, 2 Dec 59. In
6 See Chapter VII,
7 DA Pamphlet 20-150, October 1950, Geneva
Convention of 12 August
1949 for the Protection of War Victims.
8 Hq UNC/FEC MIS, The
Communist War in POW Camps, 28 January 1958, pp. 6-8. This account is based upon
seized enemy documents, interviews with prisoners and captured enemy agents, and
9 Ibid., pp. 26-28.
10 Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52, vol. II, tab
11 Msg, C 50603, CINCUNC to DA, 21 Jun 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jun 52,
CinC and CofS, Supporting Docs, tab 83.
12 (1) Ltr, Col
Albert C. Morgan to CG Eighth Army, 18 Sep 51, sub: Security for POW's in Hq 2d
Logistical Comd, Coma Rpt, May 52, vol. II, tab A-10. (2) Hq 2d Logistical Comd,
Comd Rpt, May 52, vol. II, tab H.
13 Interv with
Col Fitzgerald, 2 Dec 59. In OCMH.
14 Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52,
vol. II, tab 3, pp. 8-9; tab G, Chart 3.
15 Msg, CX
69250, Clark to CofS, 28 May 52, DA-IN 144360.
16 Gen Yount's
Statement to Gen Clark, no date, in FEC Gen Admin Files, Gen Clark's
17 See Chapter VII, above.
18 The 27th Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division was called
the Wolfhounds and had been moved to Koje-do during January to bolster the
19 (1) Msg, G 71528, Van Fleet to CINCUNC, 19 Feb 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt,
Feb 52, an. 1, incl 11. (2) Msg, G 71542, Van Fleet to CINCUNC, 19 Feb 52, in
UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Feb 52, an. 1, incl 12. (3) Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt,
May 52, p. 7.
20 (1) Msg, G 4615 TAC, Van Fleet to CINCFE, 20 Feb 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt,
an. 1, incl 14. (2) Msg, DA go1675, CSUSA to CINCFE, 20 Feb 52. (3) Msg, DA
901709, CSUSA to CINCFE, 22 Feb 52.
21 UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Mar 52,
22 Memo, Maj Gen Bryan L. Milburn, G-1 FEC, for Gen Van
Fleet, 29 Feb 52, sub: Planning for POW's . . . , in FEC Gen Admin Files, CofS,
23 (1) Msg, CX 65213, CINCUNC
to JCS, 14 Mar 52, DA-IN 115842. (2) Msg, CX 65281, CINCUNC to JCS, 14 Mar 52,
24 See Chapter VIII, above.
25 Msg, GX 5410 TAC, Van Fleet
to Ridgway, 13 Apr 52, in FEC Gen Admin Files, CofS, Personal Msg File, 1949-52.
26 Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52, vol. II, pp.
27 Msg, GX 5410 TAC, Van Fleet to Ridgway, 13 Apr 52, in FEC Gen Admin Files,
CofS, Personal Msg File, 1949-52.
28 Msg, GX 5637 TAC, Van Fleet
to Ridgway, 28 Apr 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Apr 52,
an. 1, incl 73.
29 Msg, CX 6750, CINCFE to JCS, 29 Apr 52,
30 (1) Msg, JCS 907528, JCS to
CINCFE, 29 Apr 52. (2) Msg, JCS 908093, JCS to
CINCFE, 7 May 52.
31 Msg, CX 67888, Ridgway to CG Eighth
Army, 5 May 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, May 52, an. 1, incl 56.
32 Msg, GX 5746 TAC, Van Fleet to Ridgway,
5 May 52, in FEC Gen Admin Files, CofS, Personal Msg
33 Extract, Visit to Eighth Army Headquarters with Col Chaplin, 8 May 52, in UNC/FEC, Comd
Rpt, May 52, an. 1, incl 58.
34 Hq 2d
Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52, pp. 12ff. The compound leaders were afraid that the UNC would transfer
them to another area if they left the safety of their own compounds. This made
them reluctant to go to Dodd's office and if Dodd wanted to talk to them, he had
to go to the compound.
35 Statement of Col Raven,
12 May 52, before a Board of Officers at
Koje-do, in FEC Gen Admin Files, Proceedings of Board of Officers.
Statement of Gen Dodd, 14 May 52, in FEC Gen Admin Files, Proceedings
of Board of Officers.
O4(1), in FEC Gen Admin Files, Exhibits.
38 Exhibit N4(1), in FEC Gen
Admin Files, Exhibits.
40 Hq 2d
Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52, p. 21.
41 Ibid., pp. 22-23.
M4(2) and M4(4), in FEC Gen Admin Files,
43 Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52,
44 Ibid, pp. 24-25.
author with Gen Colson, 4 Oct 59. In OCMH.
46 Msg, GX 5775
TAC, CG EUSAK to CG 2d Logistical Comd, 8 May 52, in FEC Gen Admin Files,
47 (1) Ltr, Colson to POW Compound 76, 9
May 52, Exhibit E4(6) (2) Ltrs, Lee to Colson, 9 May 52, Exhibits
E4(2) and E4(4). Both in FEC Gen Admin Files, Exhibits.
48 Teleconf, Mood and Yount, 9 May 52, in
Rd Logistical Comd, Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May-15 May 52, tab 20.
49 Teleconf, Colson and Yount,
9 May 52, in 2d Logistical Comd, Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May 52, tab 28.
50 Teleconf, Gen Dodd and Col
Alvin T. Bowers, G-2, 2d Logistical Comd, 9 May 52, in 2d Logistical Comd,
Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May-15 May 52, Tab 34.
51 Teleconvs, Colson and Dodd,
9 May 52, in 2d Logistical Comd, Telecon File, vol. 1, 7 May-15 May 52, tabs 38
53 Ltr of Instr,
Colson to Staff, 8137th Army Unit et al., 9 May 52, in FEC Gen Admin
Files, Proceedings of Board of Officers.
54 General Clark served as
U.S. commander in Italy during World War II, then became American High
Commissioner for Austria after the war. He was Commanding General, Army Field
Forces, prior to his assignment as CINCFE.
55 CG Conf at 091340 May at Koje-do, tab 55, in 2d Logistical Comd,
Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May-15 May 52.
56 (1) Teleconvs, Yount, Bowers and Colson, Yount and Mood, g May 52, in
2d Logistical Comd, Telecon ,File, vol. I, 7 May-i5 May 52, tabs 48 and 49. (2)
2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52, p. 35.
57 Interv, author with Colson, 4 Oct
59. In OCMH.
Yount and Colson, 9 May 52, in 2d Logistical Comd, Telecom File, vol- I, 7
May-15 May 52, tab 57.
59 Msg No. 2, Lee to CG Koje-do PW Camp, 10 May 52, Exhibit
E4(8), in FEC Gen Admin Files, Exhibits.
60 Interv, author with Colson, 4 Oct 59- In OCMH.
61 Teleconvs, Yount and
Colson, tab 60, Yount and Mood, tab 61, to May 52, in 2d Logistical Comd,
Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May-15 May 52.
62 See Teleconv, Bowers and
Murray, to May 52, in 2d Logistical Comd, Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May- May 52,
tab 85. It was unfortunate that a firstclass translator was not called in until
too late to help in these intricate negotiations, but it should be remembered
that the decision to negotiate did not come until the morning of the 10th.
63 Ltr, Colson to Compound 76, to May 52, in 2d
Logistical Comd, Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May-15 May 52, tab 55.
64 Msgs Nos. 4 and 5, Lee to Colson, 10 May 52, Exhibits E4(6) and
E4(12), in FEC Gen Admin Files, Exhibits.
65 Teleconv, Hickey and Van Fleet, 10 May 52, in FEC, Gen
Admire Files, Gen Clark's File.
66 Msg, C 68268, Ridgway to Van Fleet, to May 52, in FEC
Gen Admire Files, Gen Clark's File.
67 (1) Testimony of Colson
before Board of Officers, 12 May 52, in FEC Gen Admire Files, Proceedings of
Board of Officers. (2) Teleconv, Yount and Colson, 10 May 52, in 2d Logistical
Comd, Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May-15 May 52, tab 74.
68 (1) Testimony
of Colson before Board of Officers, 12 May 52, in FEC
Gen Admin Files, Proceedings of Board of Officers. (2) Transcript of Conference
in Office of DCofS FEC, 18 May 52, in FEC Gen Admin Files, Gen Clark's File.
Colson had confused his second and third letters in his earlier testimony. The
version quoted above was the third and final letter accepted by the Communists.
69 (1) Teleconvs, Craig and Yount, 10 May 52, tab 81 and tab 97; Yount
and Mood, 10 May 52, tab 103. All in 2d Logistical Comd, Telecon File, vol. I, 7
May-15 May 52.
70 (1) FEC Memo for Rcd,
Teleconv, Clark and Van Fleet, 12 May 52. (2) DA-CINCFE Teleconf, 13 May 52.
Both in FEC Gen Admin Files, Gen Clark's File.
71 Mark W. Clark, From the Danube to the Yalu (New
York: Harper & Brothers, 1954) , pp. 45-46 Colson later stated that he never
understood why Clark published his letter and aggravated the situation. See
interview of the author with General Colson, 4 October 1959. In OCMH.
72 See: (1) Rpt of Board of Officers, i2-ig
May 52; (2) Memo, Van Fleet for CINCFE, 16 May 52, sub: Proceedings of Board of
Officers. Both in FEC Gen Admin Files, Proceedings of Board of Officers.
73 Lt.r, Clark to TAG, 2o May 52, sub:
Proceedings of Board of Officers, in FEC Gen Admin
Files, Gen Clark's File.
74 (1) Msg, JCS 908789, JCS to CINCFE, 15
May 52. (2) Clark, From the Danube to the Yalu, p. 46.
75 Msg, DA
909857, CofS to CINCFE, 27 May 52.
76 Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52,
77 Teleconv, Bostic and Yount, 12 May 52,
in 2d Logistical Comd, Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May-15 May 52, Tab 172.
78 Teleconvs, Bostic and Murray, SGS; Bostic and Col
Morton P. Brooks, 2d Logistical Comd, Bostic and Murray; 13 May 52. All in 2d
Logistical Comd, Telecon File, vol. I, 7 May-15 May 52, tabs 179, 181,
79 Ltr, Craig to CO 93d Mil Police Bn, 17 May 52, sub:
Segregation of Personnel, in 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, vol. II, May 52, tab
80 (1) Memo for Rcd, by Col
Craig, 21 May 52, sub: Opns at No. 10, in Rd Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, vol. II,
May 52. (2) Hq Rd Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, May 52, pp. 60-61.
81 (1) Msg, C 68728, Clark to
CG Eighth Army, 20 May 52, in FEC Prisoners of War. (2) Hq Rd Logistical Comd,
Comd Rpt, May 52, pp. 62-64.
82 (1) Msg, CX 68852, Clark to
JCS, 17 May 52, DA-IN 140107. (2) Msg, JCS 909231, JCS to CINCFE, 20 May 52 .
83 Msg, G 6001 TAC, CG Eighth Army to CINCFE, 21 May 52, in FEC
Prisoners of War.
84 Msg, G 5849 TAC, Van Fleet to Clark, 13 May 52, in FEC
Gen Admin Files, Gen Clark's File.
85 Hq 2d Logistical Comd, Comd
Rpt, May 52, p. 66.
86 Teleconf, Lt Hall and Maj John E. Murray, 4
Jun 52, in 2d Logistical Comd, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, tab
87 Hq 2d Logistical Comd; Comd
Rpt, Jun 52, vol. I, tab 5.
88 UNC Rpt No. 47, 1-15 Jun
52, in UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jun 52, CinC and CofS, Supporting Docs, tab
89 UNC/FEC, Comd Rpt, Jul
90 Memo, DA
145230, Jenkins for CofS, g Jun 52, sub: International Concern over UNC
Prisoners Screening Opns, in G-3 091 Korea, 8/33.
91 Msg, CX
69236, Clark to JCS, 28 May 52, DAIN 14063. This forwarded a letter from Dr.
Otto Lehner of the ICRC to Clark.
Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation