September 19, 2003
Delivered July 27, 2003 - Kennedy Park
I am honored to be here today to share my experiences as an Ex-Prisoner of the Korean War, , and as a representative of the Korean Ex-POW Association as this is the 50th anniversary of the end of that war. A .37 postage stamp is being issued today honoring the Korean Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C.
I immigrated from Ireland in Nov.of 1947, was drafted in 1949, released to the Reserves in Feb. of 1950 and recalled to active duty in Sept. of 1950. Joined the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea in Nov. 1950. Anyone entering the United States as a permanent resident was subject to the draft. Total years of service - 5.
Winters in Korea are bitter cold - 30 below with strong winds from Siberia. Summers are hot. Korea is a country of mountains and narrow roads; our tanks could not be utilized. After several encounters with the enemy, the Chinese Army made their big push in Feb. of 1951. There were so many of them, they were like ants on a hill! We were surrounded, out of ammo and now suffered the humiliation of being taken a prisoner of war.
The Chinese Army moved only at night. We were marched endlessly over hills and mountains by our captors . Days were spent on the side of a mountain. We were lucky to have food once a day. Food consisted of half cooked crushed field corn and beans, This caused extreme dysentery and diarrhea and we had no control of our bowels. I hope you can picture what this is like when you have no change of clothes and it is bitter cold. The discomfort and smell never left you!
We arrived exhausted and dehydrated to an area we called "Bean Camp" the early part of April. This was a row of mud-houses used as a staging area for prisoners. With no markings that this was a POW camp, we were subjected to bombing and strafing by our own planes. Sixteen of our officers were killed in one day! We complained that the camp was not marked and were told by the Chinese that they did not recognize the Geneva Convention nor the International Red Cross. We were moved further north arriving May 17, 1951 to camp 1 which was a town near the Yalu River. The Korean civilians were moved out of their homes and this was now our POW camp.
All of us had beards and long hair - not by choice but razors and scissors were not part of our world. Every seam in our clothing were infested with lice. Body lice suck the blood from their victims and we were the victims! We deloused every day; by this I mean squeezing the lice between your thumbnails and killing them. I saw toes of our men fall off from frostbite. All of us experienced frostbite. Young men with strong hearts begging God to take them due to high fevers, malnutrition and no medical or dental care. There were approximately 700 POW's in Bean Camp; out of that number approximately 130 came home. Every day our group buried four or five of our POW's on a hill. We named it "Boot Hill."
It was now summer. There were millions of flies and wounds were full of maggots. We suffered from beriberi, night blindness, high fever and malnutrition. There were 10 of us to a 10 x 10 room. We slept head to toe on the floor. In the winter, the walls were white with frost from our breath. A change of clothes was issued in July. Medical care - on limited basis - was started in late Fall of '51. We were subjected to Communist propaganda every day. We were not prepared for this indoctrination. A question that regularly comes up is - why didn't we escape? The answer is, we were too weak to climb the mountain and where would we go! Our features are different so we would be easily recognized. WE WERE STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE! We looked forward to the day we would be liberated. After the exchange of the sick and wounded in April of '53, our conditions improved. On July 27th a cease fire was signed and the POW's were to be exchanged.
As we left to come home, I looked up at Boot Hill and with tears in my eyes I prayed for all that were not coming home with me. After 31 months in captivity I was released Aug. 19,1953. There were no parades ; we were just happy to be home and try to pickup where we left off. Unfortunately most were not able to as we suffered from post-stress syndrome. We didn't win and we didn't lose but we stopped the spread of Communism. YOU have no idea what Communism is like!
I was proud to serve under the American flag even though I was not an American citizen. I knew of 27, who like myself came from Ireland, and were not U.S. citizens but died in Korea serving under the American flag. You may have seen a picture of Mary Doody in the papers requesting citizenship posthumously for her brother, Michael Fitzpatrick who was killed in Korea. I knew him well.
Since Korea was not a declared war but was referred to as a Conflict, citizenship was not automatic. Thanks to an Act of Congress and the signature of Pres. Clinton on Sept. 22, 1998, Korea was reclassified as a War. Please correct anyone who refers to Korea as a conflict. It was a brutal war. YOU make the decision from these statistics: 37000 killed in action - 103,284 wounded in action, 7140 POW's. 43% died in captivity thru starvation from Nov.of 1950 thru June of 1951.
There are still approximately 8000 MIA's. Most of their remains are on the frozen trails of North Korea where they were too sick or wounded to continue and we were unable to help them any further due to our condition. Our guards made us move on.
Thru the Korean Ex-POW Assn. families are getting information concerning their loved ones and closure. For example: a few weeks ago I traveled to NY to bring closure to the daughter of Elmer Kallmeyer who was four years old when her father went to Korea. He was captured with me and killed by our own planes in Bean Camp. The family had no details of his death.
Let us never forget the MIA's, POW's, those who made the supreme sacrifice, those who are serving today and their families. And let us never forget...........................FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!!
Pat Quinn was born in Kilkeel, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. He emigrated to the United States in 1947, and was drafted in 1949. Discharged into the Reserves, he was recalled to service on the outbreak of war in Korea.
Captured by the Chinese Army in February 1951, he would spend the next 31 months as a POW in North Korea. This is Pat's story of what he and his fellow POWs endured during that time.
We at "The Irish in Korea" would like to express our thanks to Pat for permitting us to publish his potent and moving remarks, delivered at Chicago's Kennedy Park on July 27th, 2003, the 50th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.