CH (LT. COL.) USAF
Air Force Chaplain 5th AF
The children received all necessary
care at the Center. Many were growing healthy and some were ready to
be placed in newly repaired orphanages. At this time, December 1,1950,
the undersigned had returned to Korea to assume the duties as Air Chaplain
5th Air Force. Almost immediately the intervention of the Chinese communists
brought grave danger to Seoul. I made overtures requesting an asylum
on the island of Kyushu, Japan for the orphans. This brought no satisfaction.
It was feared that a repetition of communist reprisals on Christians
and friends of U.N. would be especially severe on children assisted
and sponsored by the U.S. Air Force. After repeated attempts to evacuate
the orphans of both the 5th Air Force Orphanage and the Seoul Orphans
Center had failed, I arranged for the dispersal of the children and
workers with supplies, to various orphanages of the city. However, none
of the workers wanted to remain. Remembering their former experiences
under communist occupation everyone planned to leave the city.
The situation was discussed with Mayor Lee and Mr.
Bogart, UN Welfare adviser to the city of Seoul. We attempted to evacuate
the children but, if successful in getting them out of Seoul, where
would they be safe? Would not the Chinese hoards push all the way to
Pusan? There was much talk of the UN forces abandoning Korea. Yet no
asylum could be found elsewhere, outside Korea. One fact brought hope.
The North Korean communists did not severely mistreat the children unless
they had been associated with Christians and or the U. N. Forces. If
arrangements could be made to disperse the children in little groups
under non-Christian leaders; give them provisions and equipment, maybe
they would be spared at this time. The HQ EUSAK and HQ 5th Air Force
were moving south. Action must be taken soon as the Chinese were crossing
the 38th parallel and coming fast.
At this time the 5th Air Force road convoy was about
to leave Seoul for Taegu. The convoy commander offered to take some
deserving Koreans on a space available basis, provided I went to look
after them. As I could do no more for the orphans, I gathered 87 educated,
cultured people for the trip. Hundreds were anxious to go, but some
selectivity had to be made. We departed Seoul 10 Dec. 50 and reached
Taegu without difficulty, although we heard later that the convoy following
ours was shot up pretty badly by guerillas.
That evening I talked with Lt. Col. Dean Hess, C.O.
of 6146th ABU, advisory group to the ROK Air Force. We discussed the
pitiful plight of the orphans and what might be done about them. He
was primarily interested in the little 5th Air Force Orphanage, as airman
of his unit had placed "mascots" in it and also the unit had contributed
generously to its support. Col. Hess suggested that when his C47 returned
from Japan on the 12 Dec. 50 he might fly out the little 5th Air Force
orphanage from Seoul Municipal Airport to Cheju-Do, where a small detachment
of his unit was to be stationed. We decided to try it. We left the convoy
at Taejon. Staff Sgt. Merle Y. Strang, Miss Alice Yun, both of whom
worked in my office in Seoul, Miss Helen Yun, Alice's sister, and myself.
Chaplain (Maj.) James F. Normal continued to Taegu with the convoy and
took charge of the Korean people aboard.
While waiting for the plane to return to Taejon
we learned that the Korean Air Force had arranged for a Korean LST to
pick up 3,000 sacks of cement at Inchon to be hauled to Cheju-Do. It
was agreed to try to load all the orphans, in the 5th Air Force Orphanage
plus the Seoul Orphanage Center, and all the workers at both institutions,
aboard the Korean LST. Consequently on l4 Dec. 50 Sgt. Strang and I
flew to Seoul Airport and began to make arrangements. Each day contact
was made with Korean Air Force, Korean Navy, Port- Officials at Inchon
and Seoul's Mayor Lee. Mr. Bogart was very helpful and spent much time
working with me on the attempted evacuation. Permission was obtained
from the Inchon Port commander to dock the LST (when it arrived) in
the basin. The tide would allow entry at only 2 times per day, noon
and midnight. Each high tide found us -at the port, but no sign of the
LST. Repeated promises by the Korean Navy Officials brought no results.
In the mean time on 15 Dec.50, 950 children and about 110 workers were
transported 28 miles from Seoul to Inchon. They where housed in a one
room building about 35'X 70' with 30,000 lbs. of supplies and equipment.
Although the facilities were very poor, we expected to load any day
at high tide.
During the succeeding 4 days, while Chinese were
bearing down on the city and everyone, military and civilian, were leaving
Seoul, Whooping Cough and Measles broke out among the children. Eight
of the weakest orphans died. On Tuesday I learned that all trucks would
evacuate the following day and the Port Battalion leave Inchon the same
day. Only one day remained to accomplish the mission. The alternative
would be to leave over 1,000 helpless people to die in the Inchon School
Building. The last day, Tuesday 19 Dec. 50, was spent attempting to
load the children and supplies aboard the boat loading at the basin.
Just as I thought permission was to be given (I had received approval
from G-4 EUSAK and the CO Civil Assistance Command, and the Port Officials)
I was refused by the one man who had the approval authority, a colonel
of the 3rd Log. Command. By this time it was late, 4:30p.m. on Tuesday.
In desperation I went to 5th Air Force Headquarters to see Major Gen.
Earle E. Partridge to ask him to contact General Walton Walker with
the hope that the latter would order the Col. to load the children.
Neither Gen. Partridge nor Brig. Gen. Timberlake, Vice Commander were
in. I then went to see Col. T. C. Rogers, Chief of Operations, 5th AF.
After explaining my plight I asked concerning the possibility of getting
Airlift from Kimpo to Cheju-Do. In 20 minutes it was laid on for 0800
the following morning.
It was now after 5:00p.m.. I rushed into AACS requesting
to send a wire to Lt. Col. Hess. As all circuits were out except AACS,
they agreed. Then to the billet, pack, drive to Inchon to get truck
transportation for the morning. At 10:30 that evening Mr. Bogart and
I were searching for Capt. Long, Port Transportation Officer. I had
known him at Fort George Wright, Washington ten years ago and knew he
would help me. But he couldn't be located. I finally reached a Sgt.
who worked in the Capt.'s Office. He explained the difficulties involved
but would do what he could. At midnight he called back with good news-24
trucks would be at slot 7 of the North Pier of the Basin at 5:30 a.m..
We went back to the orphans but Mr. Bogart was ill and wanted to return
to Seoul. Staff Sgt. Strang slept in the compound near the orphans.
We returned to Seoul. That was fortunate. A wire was waiting from Col.
Hess stating that we must postpone the move until more definite arrangements
could be made. It couldn't be postponed one more day - there would be
no trucks, no planes, no boats. I sent the following wire (Airlift will
proceed on schedule. First plane departs 0800. Will attempt to land
first plane at your base enroute.)
After shaving I went to pick up Mr. Bogart. He was
in bed with a high fever. He asked another UN representative, British,
to take his place. However, the new man knew nothing about the operation
and we must operate from three locations.
Arriving at Inchon harbor in the early morning hours
of a bitterly cold night we waited for the trucks. Some trucks were
loading ammunition on one boat, the rest of the basin was quiet. No
trucks at 0530 nor 0600, then 0630, I began to worry. At 0700 I was
really worried. We had three truckloads of provisions at the pier, two
truckloads in a building, and 32 truck loads of children and supplies.
The Planes were to be loaded at 0800 and it was 26 miles away. I knew
that the Combat Cargo Command could not allow 16 C-54 aircraft to sit
on the ground. And they had no way to contact me to find out what had
caused the delay.
Finally, we scrounged six trucks, started to load
supplies to rush to Kimpo. At 0830 not one orphan was on a truck. I
had the entire port in an uproar, no truck seemed to be where it belonged
and mine were not in sight. In desperation I waited at the boat loading
As a truck emptied I ordered the driver to one side,
waited for the second truck to be emptied, then had them follow me to
the orphans. Their protests went unheeded. I got 14 trucks in this manner.
Finally a colonel rushed into the compound, angry at the commandeering
of his trucks. I explained the situation and he became very helpful.
The children were loaded and the convoy on its way. Although we were
2 hours late, the planes waited and we loaded the fleet of 16 C-54s
and I climbed aboard the lead ship with Col. Cecil Childre, commander
of the Combat Cargo in Korea.
All during the trip I worried about (1) taking 1000
helpless people to a place I had never seen, and (2) concerning which
I had received word from the one making the arrangements that we were
not to come. The longer I thought the more concerned I became. "How
will we haul them from the airstrip?" "Where can we procure billets?"
"How can we cook food?" "Where will we put the hospital patients?" Many
questions now bothered me.
As our plane taxied up to park, I was amazed to
see a large crowd of people, 2 trucks, 2 buses and a weapons carrier.
Next I saw an officer, Major General Turner. He had personally flown
down in a C-47 to provide radio for the C-54's. The provincial governor,
Mayor of Cheju, and many dignitaries were present to greet us. Also,
the CAC team had arrived on the island the day before and were at the
I then learned that we were to have a part of the
Agricultural School for Boys, in the city of Cheju. It was quite adequate
for our needs. I started to breathe again.
The last children were off-loaded and hauled to
their new homes. We were not aware of the fact that two planes did not
complete the trip. One landed at Pusan, stayed over night due to motor
trouble. The other landed at Itazuke Air Base. All night at Itazuke
the Air Force wives gathered clothes, washed, fed, and cared for the
100 children. The next day these children were added to the group.
Now the routine problems arose. Where to cook? How
to get water? Water was a great problem as the nearest water for drinking
and cooking was 3 1/2 miles to the city source. Water for bathing, cleaning,
etc. was over 3 miles in the opposite direction. There was no transportation
available. At first the CAC hauled some water in 5 gallon cans. Then
a 500 gal. tank was repaired. Later the ROK Air Force helped. Then 2
horses were purchased. The next problem was heat. No stoves, no fuel.
Enough stoves (barrels with stove pipe) were purchased to heat the rooms
for the little children, babies, and hospital patients. Older children
and adult workers had no heat. Wood was expensive-to heat a few rooms
and cook the meals cost 35,000won per day, approximately $10.00.
Additional anxiety arose from the lack of experience
on the staff. Some very capable people were working in the medical section,
but the administrators were woefully inexperienced. The director had
never operated an orphanage. The group was fairly efficient at operating
an Orphan Center for processing children but had no understanding of
the extremely important matters peculiar to the operation of an orphanage
of this size.
After a few weeks the need for more experienced
personnel became very apparent. Consequently, Mayor Lee, after a trip
to the orphanage assigned Miss WHANG ON SOON as director. She had operated
an orphanage for eleven years and returned last year from England where
she had studied child welfare under the auspices of the United Nations
Public Health and Welfare Commissions. Assistance was rendered by individual
and units of the 5th Air Force from the onset. Others aided also-FEAF
Commanders and Eight Army, CAC, UN Welfare representatives.
Packages have been mailed to me in regular flow
since October 1950. These began with a project started by Mrs. Dorothy
Blaisdell upon my request for clothes and cloth to cover naked orphans.
Through the press this need became known and mushroomed up in Iowa and
Minnesota through further family contacts. Many boxes of clothing were
mailed to me and some money.
The publicity connected with the evacuation brought
responses from Church and other organizations and individuals in the
U.S. Letters came from every state, and boxes of clothing began to pour
into my office. These were immediately delivered to the orphans, largely
to the group evacuated by air. However, other groups of orphans shared.
The money received was used to purchase items not otherwise available,
also to supplement the refugee diet which was entirely inadequate for
sick, emaciated children.
At present the Korean government (city of Seoul)
has complete responsibility for the orphanage at Cheju-Do with assistance
continuing from the 5th Air Force, ROK Air Force and Civil Assistance
Command team at Cheju. An overture has been made by Mayor Lee to the
South Korean National government recommending that a National orphanage
be established at Cheju. At present no action has been taken. As of
15 March 51 there were 872 children and 87 staff members at the orphanage.
[Written by Blaisdell in March, 1951. The manuscript
was typed but never published. gfd]
1 Referring to Cheju-do Island
2 Col. Dean Hess