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Koje-do POW Camp


Summary of Koje-do Riots

Enemy treatment of our POWs was a little different

Enemy treatment of "Politically Incorrect" civilians was also a little different

In most cases the preferred enemy treatment of helpless opposition was simply murder

Koje Do

Prisoners in a compound of the Koje-do POW camp, ca early 1952

The village in background was later evacuated and burned to prevent exchange of information between prisoners and villagers

One of the points of contention which delayed signing of the Armistice was how to deal with POWs who did not wish to be repatriated. We had over 137,000 communist prisoners by January 1952, and about a third of them did not wish to be repatriated, which was a serious embarassment for the enemy. As contrast, the enemy ended up with about 13,500 prisoners from all UN forces, of whom 347 refused repatriation, including 21 Americans. To enflame this situation even further were the events that took place in the UN Command Koje-do POW camp.

The Geneva Convention of 1949 on prisoners of war was designed primarily to protect prisoners, and completely failed to foresee the development of hard-core, organized prisoner groups or to provide protection for captor nations in dealing with their stubborn, armed resistance. Whatever attempts UNC made to control them reflected adversely on the UNC in the public view, further weakening our ability to control and restrain the camp compounds. With North Korean and Chinese leaders, including agents who deliberately allowed themselves to be captured in order to organize cells of resistance, the Koje-do compounds soon turned to beatings and other coercion to subjugate disillusioned anti-communist prisoners, including the murder of scores of such prisoners.

Attempts to screen the prisoners to decide who wished repatriation led to several bloody riots instigated by the communist leadership, with scores of POWs being killed by UNC troops and others murdered by the communists. Only about 1500 prisoners actually took part in the riots, strongly suggesting that only the hard-core leadership was primarily involved. When UNC teams did begin screening the prisoners beginning April 8 1952, they were astonished to find that only 70,000 of the 170,000 military and civilian prisoners consented to repatriation. This was the root cause for the POW capture of Koje commandant General Dodd.

Photos of Koje-do POW compound 76 at this time.

Communist Leader

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.

General Dodd

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 rest of his life.

In June, General Boatner used infantrymen supported by tanks to regain control of the Koje-do compounds, dragging communist leader Col. Lee out of the compound by the seat of his pants. 31 prisoners were killed and scores wounded, but order was finally restored.

Below are some of the weapons seized in compound 76.

Communist Weapons

Causes of the Korean Tragedy ... Failure of Leadership, Intelligence and Preparation

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