SEOUL - Fifteen years have passed since more
than 900 South Korean orphans were airlifted to sanctuary on Cheju
Island in "Operation Kiddy Car," but the work started then by a now-legendary
American clergyman fighter pilot continues today. Mrs. On Soon Whang,
director of the Orphans Home of Korea, who continues this work, still
recalls Dec. 20, 1950, for it was a very eventful day in her life.
On this day Air Force Lt. Col. Dean E. Hess, a
Republic of Korea Air Force adviser, got Gen. Earle Partridge, Fifth
Air Force commander in Japan, to evacuate the orphans from Kimpo airfield
outside Seoul, after they had been transported there from Inchon,
where they had waited for boats that never came. During this time,
communist forces were approaching Seoul down the Uijongbu Corridor,
a historic invasion route, and the capital city was in danger of capture.
So it was with some relief that Col. Hess and his
associates saw the C-54s wing in over Kimpo and take the waifs to
Cheju Island, where Mrs. Whang ran an orphanage in an abandoned school.
Today the Orphans Home of Korea, now relocated near the Korean Military
Academy, outside Seoul, is still home to 68 of the original group.
These children were infants at the time of the flight to Cheju Island.
The oldest of these is now 17. The home presently has 250 orphans.
The Seoul orphanage site was given to the home
by Americans. Mrs. Whang said, "Col. Hess and many American friends
sent money, and with it we have bought this land."
Members of the (Thunderbird) Division of the Oklahoma
National Guard, which was in Korea during the war, collected $50,000
and gave it to the orphanage. This money greatly helped the construction
program at the new Seoul location.
Buildings at the orphanage include a girl's dormitory,
boy's cottage, a chapel, mess hall, noodle factory, food preparation
areas, and a vocational training school. But as Mrs. Whang pointed
out, the vocational training school, built three years ago, stands
unused due to lack of money to buy equipment.
In order to get the school into operation, Mrs.
Whang said that she needed 50 typewriters, 50 sewing machines, barber
equipment, milk processing equipment and 350 chairs for the children.
Also needed are the funds to pay two teachers.
Presently the orphanage gets $5 and in the near
future will get $6 a month per child from the Christian Children's
Fund. Mrs. Whang said that the orphanage also gets some help from
the South Korean government and other agencies. The orphans go to
school regularly. Kindergarten is held for 44 at the home, and 96
go to local schools in the area daily. Middle school students are
taught at the orphanage two hours a day.
The children feed the cows, pigs, and chickens,
and also help in preparing the food at the orphanage. "Everyone has
to do something," Mrs. Whang said. She pointed out with some pride
that she has seen 22 of her girl orphans married and said that she
had assisted them in wedding preparations.
None of the original 68 orphans remembered Col.
Hess from the dark days of 1950, because they were too young, but
all of them have met the Protestant clergyman turned fighter pilot.
Now a full colonel, Hess is assigned as Director of Advertising and
Publicity at Randolph AFB, Texas. He was assigned as Fifth Air Force
Information Officer prior to this. Hess has adopted one of the orphans
a girl named Marilyn, age nine.