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Glenn E. Stotts
Gary, Indiana -
"There were those who considered prisoners of war as traitors because of McCarthyism. We were there in a communist country and the Chinese were trying to indoctrinate us, so McCarthy believed that we were all indoctrinated and we had all come back as Communists. He thought we were going to overthrow the government and he was going to stop it. Nobody came back here to overthrow the government. We were tickled to death to get back to Old Glory. We had all of the Communism we wanted in North Korea."
- Glenn Edward Stotts
My name is Glenn Edward Stotts of Gary, Indiana. I was born November 19, 1931 in Hammond, Indiana, a town next to Gary. My parents were Glenn H. and Anna Stonecipher Stotts. My father was born and raised on a farm and started out as a farmer. He farmed even after he and my mother were married at the age of 25 years old. Then the Depression came and he lost everything, so he moved to Hammond. He then went to work for a soap factory up there. He already had several children at this time and when I came along I was seven out of nine.
We moved from Hammond to a rural area before I started school. The school I attended, Black Oak, was more or less a country school because it was in that same rural area. It was an eight-year school when I started there. It had two rooms and all eight grades attended. They kept building on to the school and expanding it, then they cut it back to the sixth grade. From there we went to junior high, but that school was also within the township. I didn't go to high school. I quit in 1948 and went into the Army the next year in the middle of January 1949.
I remember World War II. I was going to school at the time and remember that we had scrap drives and paper drives. I don't know what they used them for but they even had drives where we were picking milkweed pods for the war effort. We also bought war bonds. I had an older brother and two sisters who were in World War II. My brother Walter was in the Army and my sisters Ruth and Anna were WACs.
When I joined the Army it wasn't necessarily because my brother was in it. I had friends that went too. Dean Hamilton and I went together to join the Army. Dean ended up in Korea too and he got wounded pretty badly over there. He came out with a short leg.
My mother didn't say one way or another whether it was okay for me to join, but there was no conflict going at the time. I was only 17 years old at the time so my dad had to sign for me. There was hardly any work of any kind at that time and things had slowed down so there was not really much for me to do. I think Dad figured that letting me join the Army was the only way to keep me out of trouble.
Basic Training & Japan
I went to Breckenridge, Kentucky for eight weeks of basic training. I got just the normal basic training--how to handle a rifle, calisthenics, how to march in time and that sort of stuff. Survival. I didn't really like Army life. It wasn't the way I was used to living and I didn't like the change. I never had trouble taking orders, but I just didn't like it because it was so different. Dean and I joined together and we were at Breckenridge together but we weren't in the same outfit taking basic.
After basic I went home on leave for ten days. After that I spent two weeks in California and then I was sent right over to Japan for advanced training. I traveled to Japan by ship. I didn't get seasick but a lot of the other guys did. I know I landed there on Friday the 13th in March of 1949. The United States had occupation forces in Japan at that time.
I was sent to a training camp at Ota, Japan, which was about 60 miles out of Tokyo. It was an artillery camp or base and we just practiced training with artillery. I was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, the 99th Field Artillery Battalion. The camp where I was had been a Japanese Zero assembly plant. At the back of the camp were huge buildings with huge slide-open doors. Inside of these buildings were airplanes in different stages of completion. During the war the buildings were all bombed and strafed and, of course, went out of business. That's the only thing I saw of the remnants of World War II.
My duty hours in Japan were 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After that we were more or less on our own. We had passes and could go out and do our thing, but we had a midnight curfew. We had to be back in camp at midnight. I did that for 14 months.
War Breaks Out
When the Korean War broke out everybody was gung ho to go. We thought we were going to go over there and kick their butts and get back. I don't remember if I was gung ho. I kind of went along with the crowd, I suppose. I had been driving a jeep a good long while for a Major Lillard and then he left. He wanted to take me along with him but I said, "No. My friends are all here. I'll just stay here." I saw the major later in Korea in the North Korean capitol. At that time he was a Colonel. It was the last time I saw him. Later when I was captured and in a POW camp in North Korea, I thought about him and sure wished that I had gone with him. I wouldn't be sitting in a prison camp if I had.
I don't remember the exact date I arrived in Korea, but it was about the middle of July that we landed in Pusan. I know this sounds screwy, but we loaded onto LSTs in Japan at nighttime. No lights. No cigarette lighters. Nothing. We started out in the daytime for Korea but we got stuck on a sand bar and had to wait until the tide floated us off. When we landed in Korea it was night-time. When we pulled up to the pier we were told to turn our headlights on and get out of the boat. We could hear rifle fire as we disembarked. To turn on our lights now that we were in enemy territory didn't make sense to me.
Korea looked quite a bit like Japan. There were dirt roads that were nothing more than mud tracks just wide enough to get down. I was assigned as a driver in the communications section and brought my equipment with me--a jeep, my own particular gear, and a trailer. The trailer didn't have communications equipment. Instead, it had bedding, supplies, and that sort of stuff. There was a 1st Sergeant and a field 1st Sergeant and they kind of took over the trailer I was towing. They put all of their gear--their clothing, bedding, etc. And, of course, they would drag it out at sleep time, night-time or whatever and then they expected me to pick up after them. I became their orderly. I eventually got fed up with this after a few weeks.
We had two jeeps and I was the driver for one of them. I don't remember who the driver of the other one was. We traveled north after landing in Pusan and we were under fire a number of times. We started losing people early. A guy named Bell who was from Wisconsin was hit by shrapnel during mortar fire. He and another guy jumped for a foxhole to get out of the line of fire. When the mortar fire ceased the other guy said, "Let's get out of here, Bell." But Bell didn't move. The other guy felt something running down his neck and pushed his way out. Bell had gotten hit in the back of the head with a piece of shrapnel. I remember that once I was in a foxhole and my jeep was parked right close by the foxhole. When the barrage of enemy fire finally ended, all four tires on the jeep were flat and there was a big hole. Believe it or not, the thing still ran. I drove out of there on those flat tires and we later got new tires for it.
Communications had what was called a liaison team. The artillery liaison team had four people whose job it was to direct artillery fire. If the infantry had a problem with, say, a tank or a machine gun or artillery piece or whatever that was giving them havoc, they asked for artillery fire on a particular location to knock off whatever was giving them the problem. When they called the artillery to do this they went to the liaison people so they could spot it. The liaison team had maps and coordinated all the grids and so on so it could call for fire on the enemy location. At the time I joined it, the liaison team included Tom Franciola, a guy named Barry, Sergeant Lillis, and a captain. I can't remember the captain's name now. I know he spoke Chinese because he had spent time in China training troops over there. He was, for lack of a better word I suppose, what I would call a coward. He was frightened all the time. If it hadn't been for him being this way I don't think any of us would have been taken prisoner.
We had just one jeep at the time one incident occurred. There was a bluff or wall and we were up fairly close to it. I was standing at one end of the jeep and it might have been Franciola at the other end. A third guy--I can't remember his name, was sitting on the edge of the foxhole and he was scared. The Koreans were shooting mortar shells over the bluff, trying to get the South Koreans that were carrying ammunition up the trail. They couldn't get enough angle on the mortars to get close enough in to get them, but they kept firing. Their rounds were landing in the rice paddy out there. The three of us were talking when a shell lit on the trail. A piece of the shrapnel went through the cushions on the jeep. Shrapnel took a big slice out of the chin of the guy who was sitting at the foxhole and went into his throat. It didn't kill him so I got him into a jeep and got him down to First Aid. They saved him, but he was paralyzed. A guy from Michigan was also wounded but I can't remember his name.
When I went over to Korea I thought it was going to be a big adventure. For me it didn't stop being an adventure. It is my belief that when you go into something like that, be prepared to die. Yes, I was scared, but after a period of time I got kind of hardened. I guess I felt like I was made of steel or something. "Nothing's going to happen to me. It might happen to him, but it's not going to happen to me," I thought. I think everybody had that attitude. Seeing those around me getting killed affected me, but it only made me mad. I thought, "Let's whoop these guys and get out of here." They kept telling us we would be home by Christmas and we believed it. If the Chinese hadn't come in, we probably would have.
During this time I saw a number of enemy being taken prisoner. They were marching down the road--hundreds of them. I also saw enemy that had been murdered, and I witnessed a murder. When the war started they grabbed key people who were already seasoned from the Second World War and sent them straight over to join an outfit that was already in Korea. There was this one guy that I knew from my outfit in Japan. He was a Tech Sergeant I believe, and I saw him in Korea later after they had commissioned him and he was a Lieutenant. I saw him just flat murder an old man. Shot him. Our convoy was stopped on break and we saw an old man walking through the hills. (And there were plenty of them over there.) They asked for somebody to go investigate this so another guy and I decided we would go up here. After we got up there, here came this Lieutenant. The Korean was just an old man who was trying to get out of the battlefield. The Lieutenant hollered, "Get out of the way," and he shot the old man in the head. The man fell forward on the ground and then the Lieutenant shot him again in the top of the head. The Lieutenant did it because he could get by with it. To me that's not war. That's murder.
I eventually joined the liaison team and someone else became the jeep driver after a guy named Higginbotham had a nervous breakdown and cracked up. He ran off down a hill and I went after him, finally catching up with him at the bottom of the hill in a creek bed. He was going to waste his life but I got him stopped. I received a Bronze Star for this action and a cluster for helping the guy at the foxhole who was hit by shrapnel. My mother received the medal and I have it now. After they took him away, they were looking for somebody to replace him and I said, "Sure. Take me and get me out of this mess."
We were in a convoy of trucks and jeeps on the route heading back south on October 31st. Nobody on our liaison team was expecting the Chinese to attack, although I don't know why. Nobody was dug in that night. We were sleeping on top of the ground. Although I never actually saw the town, we were right on the outskirts of Unsan when the Chinese hit the 1st Cavalry Infantry Regiment about 2 o'clock in the morning on Halloween. There were three companies involved.
Prior to them hitting us we got a radio call saying, "Return to Headquarters Battery. We're pulling out." The captain said that it was night-time and therefore he wouldn't leave. We could hear bugles blowing all over but he said, "It's night. Let's wait until morning and go in the daylight." Morning never got there. He was that way about everything. Earlier he had ran off a hilltop leaving his equipment--radios and everything--up there for the enemy to get. Just all kinds of stuff. He wasn't the man for the job that had to be done.
When the Chinese attacked I found a hole, so evidently there were some guys in the infantry who had dug in. There was a lot going on, including lots of grenades exploding, mortar shells, and rifle fire. The whole thing was happening. I was in a hole with two guys from the infantry. I didn't know either one of them and only one had a weapon. I noticed that most of the vehicles in the convoy were on fire.
We could see some Chinese going down the other side of the burning vehicles so I told the guy with the only rifle, "Use that rifle." He wasn't about to use it. I found out why. When he didn't fire I said, "Give me the damn thing." I shot maybe twice before a grenade landed by the edge of our hole. I gave him his rifle back and said, "You know what you're doing." That was the last I shot. The guy from infantry wasn't firing because he didn't want anybody to know he was there. That was one of those lessons that is learned on the battlefield as "on-the-job training."
The siege lasted for three days. There were two tanks in the area that were back a ways from us. Nobody was moving so when sunrise came we couldn't tell if there was anybody beside us out there. I could hear some voices so I figured that there had to be people back there. I knew there were two officers there--Captain Gerard and another officer that I didn't know. Gerard was my commanding officer in basic training. I remember at the time he was a Lieutenant and nobody had ever heard of Korea. Captain Gerard used to give us hell all the time, saying, "Get your so and so in gear and get going right or we'll send your ass to Korea." Now here he was a captain in Korea. He was in a hole and he was scared to death.
When our eyes met he recognized me and I recognized him. He thought I was a medic. I said, 'No, but we're trying to get everybody back here and get some defense going." I found a number of guys in the foxholes around me who were dug in but weren't moving. I sent a number of them back to the tanks and, of course, when they went they came under sniper fire. Anybody who moved got sniped at. Eventually though, I managed to get all these people back there to the tanks and we had a circle. The Chinese kept shooting at the tanks that were right there by us. We knew that if they weren't a good shot with mortars they would hit all around the tanks, which is where we were. So we got the tanks away from us. We had two mortars but they ran out of ammunition for one and broke the firing pin on the other one. In the daytime our Air Force came through with B51s and held the Chinese off of us. They strafed or napalmed or whatever to hold them off but at night they couldn't fly so we were at the mercy of the enemy.
During those three days the Chinese weren't really running in on us at night. Instead, they were dropping mortars on us. All through the day they kept us down with sniper fire. There were a lot of men who got hit by snipers during the day when they got just a little too high in the hole. At night the snipers were doing the same thing. They were shooting mortars at us and at the same time they were digging trenches into us. We weren't shooting back because we didn't have anything to shoot. They knew all they had to do was get up close to our trenches and start throwing grenades over in our trench. Then they could climb in our trench and we were done.
I was scared. Everybody was scared. I went over to the two officers and said, "We've got to get out of here. One more night and they're going to be in our trenches." They agreed but they had no idea how to get out of there. Nobody else did either. I felt that we had to do something, so I said to the senior officer--the captain, "With your permission I would like to leave the trench and go out across the road." The road was probably a hundred yards away. I figured that if I could go out beyond that I could see if I could find some way that we could get out of the area. The captain said, "Well, if you think you can do it." I knew that somebody had to do something, so I did. I left the safety of the hole and ran zigzag to try to stay out of sniper fire. I got across the road and fell into a ditch. The ditch was full of bodies, both American and Chinese. I believe they had been there from the beginning of the Chinese attack.
I didn't know where to go from there. I thought, "What do I do now?" I was crawling over bodies and going wherever I could to get up and out of this ditch. I figured I would come out at a different location and the sniper wouldn't be expecting me. When I got up through there I found a GI who had been hit in the leg and shot through the mouth. He couldn't talk and he couldn't walk either. His leg was all blown up. When I got up to him, I saw a Chinaman who was also wounded. There were all kinds of weapons there so I just reached out and got one. I was going to shoot him but the GI told me no. I didn't understand what was going on. Then the GI started moaning because his leg was giving him a lot of problems. The Chinese guy reached over and adjusted his leg for him and then I understood. When I started to leave, the Chinaman told me no. He then raised up two or three times and finally he told me, "Go." I did. I bailed out of that ditch and traveled way on through to a creek bed. Why did the Chinaman let me know how to get out? I don't know. He was wounded, but he wasn't dead. I really don't know what his reasons were, but he was taking care of this GI and he helped me get out of the trench.
After I found out that we could go that way and we should be able to get out of the perimeter we were in, I had to go all the way back. I told the officers what I had found. The decision was made between the officers that we would pull out of there at dusk, and that's what we did. We ran on across this whole area and there was machine gun fire coming after us all the way. We could see the tracers passing us by and we lost a number of people in that. By then it was dark--so dark we had to hold hands to stay together. We got across the creek and started up the hill. It was Saturday.
Sgt. Edward Merle Barry of Los Angeles County, California was in my outfit. I was holding his hand and somebody else had his other hand in the darkness. The next morning after daylight we were trailing way up on this hillside when we started getting fired on from the top of the hill. Everybody took cover. I must have lost consciousness but I have no idea for how long or what time it was. I don't know what happened to me. I have no idea--and to this day I still don't. The next thing I knew, Barry was gone. Everybody else was gone, too. I was alone. Barry was never seen again. He was never recovered and is still listed as Missing in Action as of November 2, 1950.
I got to thinking that I couldn't stay there so I went on down the hill in a different direction. When I got down to the bottom I found a trail where the hills came down. There was a widening and there was a field of corn or whatever. I remember that the corn had been harvested and it was all in big shocks. After three or four days of having nothing to eat, I was starving to death. I was walking up the trail when I came across a Korean house. I stopped and they gave me something to eat. They also wanted to give me some white clothes so I could put them on and just walk away, but I was afraid to put them on because I had always heard that you could be shot as a traitor or spy. I didn't accept the clothes and continued to walk up the trail with my rifle.
I had walked maybe an hour when I suddenly heard Koreans talking. I understood enough Korean to know that they were saying, "Come here." I ignored them and kept walking. They hollered out several times, then they started shooting. I knew I had to get out of there right then. There was a field to my right that had more corn shocks so I managed to get over there and get behind them. I then started running until I fell off into a dry creek. They only had water in them when it rained. That's where they got me.
Probably about a half dozen enemy captured me. They were coming down the ditch from both sides. At that point they didn't mistreat me, but they took everything I had. I had collected three months back pay, all in military script in $10 bills, as I recall. It was hard to tell if the people who captured me were Chinese or North Korean. I think they were Chinese because I don't think the Koreans had any army left at that point.
The Long Walk
From there they took us by foot. They could only move us at night so we walked again--I have no idea how far. They had some trucks which I believe were captured trucks. They were our own trucks which they had captured. Eventually they loaded us on these trucks and they drove us. I don't know if they drove us all night or just part of that night. The trucks began to break down so we wound up walking again. The only time we saw any ride was for just a short while that first night.
The people who didn't survive the walk died of malnutrition, injuries, cold--just all sorts of things. Everybody was so tired at this point. Tired and just wore out. I thought, "I just can't take another step. Just can't take another step." But we learned early that if we didn't carry those who couldn't walk with us, we would hear a rifle shot in a little while. We knew this was happening. There were people who were just exhausted and they died. We would stop for the night or for the day and when we started to go the next morning we had dead people in the rooms that had died in the night.
They gave us a little millet daily. They fed us in the morning once they stopped marching us for the day. They put us up in huts and gave us a handful of millet or corn. Then before we started out walking again that evening they gave us another handful. That's all we got to eat. Have you ever seen birdseed with those little round flat seeds? That's millet. They boiled it and it took on water like rice swells when it is cooked. Millet does the same thing, but when you eat it it's just dry, even when it's full of water. It's like eating sand. My understanding is that they used to feed it to hogs here in the USA but found out that it didn't have enough food value even for the hogs, so they quit using it. We got water, but it was mostly rice paddy water and that wasn't helping the cause either. A lot of the prisoners lost their lives on this walk.
I know that we were in Death Valley the next morning (the 20th), but how long we were there I'm really fuzzy on. The whole time I was up there I wondered if we would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel because a lot of guys died up there due to wounds and poor sanitation. We stayed there until they rebuilt the mud huts that had been burned out from the bombing at Pyoktong, then they took us back. A lot of the guys say that we went back to Camp 5 in March, but some say we went back in January. Death Valley was a staging point. They brought prisoners there, held them until they had somewhere to put them, and then they were moved on to the camps. There were mining camps, bean camps, and Death Valley. That probably wasn't the only one called Death Valley, either.
It was getting awfully cold and we were in summer clothes. Nobody had any winter clothing. I wore fatigues, a field jacket, and combat boots. The huts they put us in had no heat in them at all. They had clay walls, clay floors, and straw roofs. The only window in them was the door. It was like a lattice affair and it just had enough paper on it to keep the wind from blowing directly in. That was it. We were so cold that guys were stealing wood to burn to keep warm so we could keep from freezing to death. We chopped up the timbers that were actually holding the building up so we could burn it to keep from freezing. We didn't have blankets. No bedding. No straw. Nothing. Just the ground. The floors were clay but the clay was over the top of rock. Big stones.
The way the buildings were supposed to be heated was by a system under the floor. The building was long like a box car. Most buildings had three rooms but to get from one room to the other room we had to go outside. There was no passage from one room to another in the room. One end of the building was dug out low and they had an oven there. That's where the Koreans who normally lived there did their cooking. If they were fortunate to have an oxen, they cooked for him too--boiled water or whatever they did for them. When they dug this oven, the flue for it was on the other end of the building. All the heat and smoke or whatever traveled under the stoves to the other end of the building. I don't think the last room really got any heat at all from that, but it warmed the stoves for them for the day and then they did that again in the evening so it would warm them for the night. We didn't have that luxury. We didn't have any heat at all. Everything was there so the heating system could work but we just didn't have anything to burn. As a matter of fact, they took us every day across the frozen river and up in the mountains to gather all the wood that we could get to burn, and then we brought it back in order for them to cook for us and themselves. We were already weak so we couldn't carry a whole lot. We just did what we could and hoped that they didn't shoot us.
Life of a POW
We got very little meat. They brought some hogs in by barge and they were slaughtered on the bank of the river. Then the meat was stored in a warehouse building with a tin roof. They put the pork in wooden boxes. At this point they cooked soybeans, but as I recall they had to cook them 24 hours before we could eat them, otherwise we couldn't digest them. They were feeding 2,000 men and they put maybe four or five pounds of pork in with the soybeans. All we got was the flavor. The meat was green with mold when it was taken out of the warehouse to cook it. We were dumb too. There was no electricity so we had no way of seeing in the dark. We got a little bowl for our food and eventually they gave us spoons and a cup. We would take the oil or grease off the top of the soybean/pork stuff and put it in another cup. Everybody did this. Some guy was smart enough to figure that he could make a lamp out of the grease and he did. He rolled a piece of cloth for a wick and used it for a lamp instead of eating it. If we had eaten the grease rather than use it for a lamp, everybody would have been a little better off. But who knew we were depriving ourselves.
There was a lot of diarrhea. There was dysentery. There was beri beri. I had malaria and some dysentery. We all had night blindness, which was caused by a vitamin deficiency. After sunset we couldn't see a thing--and the moon was as bright as could be. We could only see it if we held our head up and looked up. In a tilted position it gave the feeling that somebody was shining a flashlight or whatever at our feet. We were standing in a circle of light. After dark when we needed to go to the latrine, somebody had to take us by the arm to get us there and back. Not the guards. Another guy. The only female I saw in the camp was a Chinese woman who occasionally put drops in our eyes for the night blindness. Otherwise, the wounded people were not taken care of in any way. There was no medical treatment for the diarrhea or dysentery or beri beri or anything else. There wasn't a lot of throwing up because there wasn't anything in our stomachs. Everybody had intestinal worms and they were pretty good-sized. I couldn't feel them, but after I had been to the latrine I could see them. They looked like thick night-crawlers or fishing worms maybe six inches long.
My hands--everybody's hands, got so dirty that the only way we could see skin was to actually rub skin and dirt off. We more or less peeled the dirt off. We didn't get any drinking water, so naturally there wasn't any washing water. There was no way to clean our clothes. The lice climbed in them and so did bed bugs and roaches. The lice in Korea were about the size of a grain of rice and they were shaped a lot like an ant. They had big bodies on the back and a head, and they were real hard like a flea is. We could take them between our nail and pop their flesh with our finger. They had a hard shell. The lice really didn't crawl on our bodies as much as they did on our clothes--inside our clothes. We could feel them crawling and dragging their bodies against us as they crawled under the inside of our clothing and inside the seams where the seam was sewn and folded. Behind all that were eggs. It would just be a solid mess of eggs. There were millions of them and it was a battle to pick them off. They were in our hair. They were all over us. I didn't have long hair. As a matter of fact, at that time in my life I didn't shave. Everybody else had big beards but I didn't have anything. Hair grows different than a beard does, but everybody's hair got fairly long. I really couldn't tell whether I had lice in my hair or not.
The first winter our latrine was a cellar. The Koreans used them for storing vegetables. A cellar was a hole in the ground with logs over it and then dirt over the top of the logs. The cellar had an entrance of some sort so the Koreans could get into it. They put their potatoes or whatever in them to keep them from freezing in the winter. When the Koreans moved out before we came, they took all the stuff and all they left was an open hole. We put two logs over the hole and that was our latrine. It was right out in the open. There was no windbreak, no nothing. When we went out there to do a number and it was 40 below zero, we didn't stay out there for very long. Of course, there was no toilet paper or anything to wipe with, and everybody had diarrhea. When we were in the valley we didn't even have that luxury--the hole in the ground.
We went on burial details to bury the dead. Korea was either hills, mud, or rock. There was no in-between. That was it. The ground was frozen colder than anything, so we couldn't bury a person in the ground. We had where the water had run down the hillsides and cut little trenches, making shelf-like indents. We started putting the bodies under the shelves, then we tried to break the shelf off so it would fall in on the bodies. That's the best we could do. A few of the guys would sometimes say some words over the dead. I didn't have to bury anybody I really knew. Acquaintances, yes, but I was with the artillery. I was attached to the infantry so I knew nobody in it. They were the people that were dying and I didn't know them.
I did have a good friend in the POW camp. His name was Joe Bush____ from New Orleans and he was in the infantry. I got attached to him while a POW. When the Chinese hit us he got hit by mortar fire and it took flesh off of both of his arms clear down to the bone. I came across him at Unsan when I was trying to get everybody together so we could defend ourselves. He was laying by a hole where there were other wounded men and he was on top of the ground. I got him down in a hole so that he didn't get hit again. And, of course, the Chinese took these wounded men prisoner, including him, and even with his wounds he survived it. We became good friends. After a period of time his wounds healed. He had trouble with his wounds all through that winter and then in the spring they still weren't healed. He became friends with another guy who put maggots on his arms to keep the infection out of them. Joe healed up and he survived. He died about two years ago with a brain tumor. He had surgery several times prior to his death, and each time his wife said that they took shrapnel out of his head.
The dying eventually got better because the rations got better. The weak and the wounded had mostly died off by then. I also think that the men who had been the only child in their family died in the POW camps. I think that most of them had been pampered all of their lives--had good food on the table at home and wouldn't eat what we had to eat in order to survive in the POW camp. Diseases like beri beri killed a lot of the prisoners too. I don't mean to sound vulgar, but I saw guys there that would go for a bowel movement and their testicles would be swollen real big. It was no fault of theirs. The stronger you were when you went in, the better chance you had of coming out alive. I had been active all of my life and still am. I quit school in the eighth grade and worked in a factory in Indiana Harbor that made drywall, cement, and insulation. The work I did wasn't shoveling or anything like that. It was just watching machinery to make sure that it was doing its job. Also, my dad was a carpenter and I helped him some. So I went into the camp stronger than a lot of the other prisoners who didn't make it. I was also never wounded in Korea, although I mashed my finger once when the Chinese forced us to carry rocks for a building they were building.
One guy died of an accident. He was a black guy who was struck by lightning while he was walking along a path. The lightning didn't hit him directly as I understand it. It struck a ways from him. We had brass spoons that we ate with and he had one in his pocket. I was told that the spoon got so hot it burned its impression into this man. Another black guy drowned. He got out too far and was probably too weak to swim back. We were allowed to swim in the river. It was a mile wide and we didn't get enough to eat to swim that far, so they didn't worry about us. I didn't know either of these men by name. They kept the blacks separate from the whites. They also kept the Turks and English separate from everybody else. We joked about the camp and called it the United Nations camp.
The conditions at Camp 5 made the dying worse. I mean, there was nothing. We had a building there that didn't have anybody in it. I don't even think that there were any doors or anything on it. We put bodies in that building. We stacked them in there like cord wood. The ground was frozen and we couldn't bury them. We started getting snowfall. The river froze. The river was deep enough that it didn't freeze until way up around March or so. The ice didn't get thick enough that we could get onto it until much later. So when it got to where we could travel across the ice with these bodies, we would take them up on the hill on the other side and then just bury them in the snow. We took all of the dead over--but they were still dying. Fifteen, twenty, thirty a day. Dying was a commonplace thing. We more or less dealt with it emotionally this way: "Oh shit. Another one that has to be buried."
We had flies unbelievable in the prison camp and flies are nasty creatures. I can't stand a fly yet today. If flies are around me it just drives me crazy. The Chinese did something that I thought was a pretty good thing. They claimed that they ridded Beijing of flies by rewarding people for killing flies. If they killed so many flies they got an award. The Chinese in the prison camps had cigarettes that came in little boxes. At one point before we were released they gave us rations of cigarettes. The tobacco wasn't treated and it turned our teeth black. It was pretty strong stuff. I never got to the point that I wanted cigarettes over food, but there were some guys that traded their food for cigarettes. Anyway, these cigarettes were like a package of cigarettes, only they came in little boxes. The Chinese made a deal with us that for every box of flies we brought them we could get rewarded with cigarettes. We made traps to catch them. I never got into this, but some guys went out early in the morning while it was still cool and the flies hadn't gotten up yet. They went to the river bank and pulled rocks over. The flies were hiding under there where it was warmer and they would gather them up in the cigarette boxes. We also built fly-traps with clothing. For a while this became a past-time but it was like anything else. The guys began taking advantage of it. They would take a cigarette box and put anything in the bottom of it. It would maybe be only half full of flies and they would get rewarded for it, but the Chinese got fed up with that.
The Chinese worked us some, so we had exercise. They didn't work us in factories and that kind of thing, but we did physical labor. The peninsula we were on came onto the water in sort of a hill. I don't know whose idea it was or how it got started, but we started carrying big stretcher-like loads of dirt, cutting this hill off and hauling and dumping the soil into the river. Everybody worked at it. The peninsula kept extending out into the river, making a large, flat area. It was large enough to play soccer ball on and they did let us play soccer. We also played baseball. As I said, there were a number of camps, and they played sports between the camps in what the Chinese called "inter-camp Olympics." This took place shortly after an episode in which I tried to get out of there. When they played the games they didn't play in the camp so I wasn't allowed to go. It was too risky to let me after I had tried to escape, I guess. I wasn't a sports person but others played soccer, basketball, and other sports in the inter-camp Olympics.
We had English in the camp and they were a great people for survival. They were older people and they knew pretty much what to do. They were a great help to us as far as survival because they taught us to stay busy, exercise, and eat what they gave us. We stayed busy by walking mostly. We also ate what they gave us regardless of what it was, although a lot of people died because they wouldn't eat it. It was eat what they gave us, otherwise we didn't get anything. Guys would refuse to eat and we would try to get them to eat, knowing that if they didn't eat they were going to die. They knew this too, but some of them just flat refused to eat and they did die. There were guys who I knew were going to die and others who died unexpectedly. We would talk to the guy next to us in the hut in the evening--everybody talked--and when we woke up the next morning that guy didn't wake up. He had died for no apparent reason--just died in the middle of the night. Then there were others that I could see were going to die. I learned to look at people and see that their eyes seemed to go back in their head. I'd say to myself, "He's going to die." And he would. As I said, some died because they wouldn't eat, but it wasn't all that way. Some died and nobody knew the reason why. They just went. Everybody had so much weight loss. They got in bad shape and we knew they were going to die.
When we were first put in Camp 5 there was no chance to bathe or keep clean. After we leveled the peninsula area there was a water fountain with a spout. I don't remember when it came about, but it had the only running water in the place. The water in it was pumped out of the river and it ran continuously. Otherwise water wasn't available without a trudge back to the river. After the fountain came, they put a big old black iron kettle out there and we built a fire under it to heat water. There were some wash pans around it and we used those pans to dip water and bathe. Before that there was also one building that had a gutter on it. When it rained the water ran out through the down spout and water ran off the end of the gutter. That was our shower.
Our captors were sometimes mean. They had rules, of course. We had to stay in our company area. We had to do as we were told. There was punishment for disobeying or doing wrong or stealing food, which we did. They would force people to stand on the river ice holding whatever they had stolen. They had to hold it over their head and stand out there for long periods of time--several hours. There were people who lost parts of their feet. Parts of their hands. I remember that they marched a group of guys into the prison with their hands wired behind them. One guy didn't have anything between the two joints of two fingers. There was just bone between them. They were black.
The Chinese forced people, including me, on wood details. We were totally exhausted. We didn't have enough energy to climb those hills so the guards knew we weren't going anywhere after they chased us up them. We weren't strong enough to go anywhere so they didn't have to worry about us being up there while they stayed down below. I came down a hill one day with some wood, but not a lot. One of the guards was going to chase me back up the hill to get more wood but I refused to go. He didn't speak English but he pointed his rifle at me and made all the motions that he was going to shoot me if I didn't go back. I just told him to go ahead and shoot because I was not going back up there. Obviously he didn't shoot, but I didn't go back up there either.
I can't say that I ever took a beating over there, nor did I ever see anybody else take a beating. Sometimes we were put in solitary confinement. We called the place they put us "the hole." It was one of those vegetable cellars. They put us down there and put a cover over it. I was put in there because I ran off. There were three of us who decided to leave. One guy had been stationed in Korea before the war. Another guy was named Cordineer. He was from New York. The other guy was from Iowa and his name was Collette. The three of us decided to run off and we were gone for about three days. Collette is the one who had been in Korea between World War II and the Korean War. He had it all figured out. He figured that if we could get out and he knew directions, we could get to the coast. We had to first steal a boat to get up the river and then try to get to the coast before we got caught. We didn't follow the river and after three days the Korean home guard caught up with us. They were like the police in the USA.
When we were recaptured it was warmer weather so they took our shoes and anything that we had that they thought they wanted. They then gave us shoes that they had taken from somebody else. They were too big for them, which also meant they were too big for us. We wobbled back. Of course it didn't take us three days to get back, but we made it down the road going back. Then they put us in solitary. We weren't separated. They crammed us all in the same hole and the only way they would allow us to get out was with a confession. (They let us out to go to the bathroom but there was a guard standing over us at all times.) They wanted us to confess that we had done the wrong thing and that our government was all wrong in this thing and had no business being in Korea. They wanted us to write the confession. I couldn't even read it to begin with. So we stuck it out in the hole probably three weeks before they decided that they weren't going to get it and they let us go back to our companies.
Later that fall Collette and I tried to run away again. We didn't even get out of camp that time before they caught us. They were waiting for us, and back in the hole we went. Oddly enough it wasn't as long the second time. I guess the Chinese thought they had a handle on it. This "hole" wasn't a hole. It was another building off away from the others. There were rats and stuff inside of it. That's where I went the second time around. The rats didn't bite us, but at night they came pretty near to running over us. And the roaches dropped off the ceiling on us.
The Chinese began an indoctrination program to try to turn us into communists. They thought they could. They took us out to an area--not the whole camp at one time but maybe two or three buildings of prisoners. They made us sit on the ground and listen to an English-speaking Chinaman lecture us on how good communism was, how bad imperialism was, what the imperialists were doing, and what the communists could do for us. They wanted us to write letters to people back home about how good of a treatment we were getting and they wanted us to agree with what they told us. There was nobody willing to do this.
My family did not know that I was alive for 14 months. I didn't really have time to think about this. I was too busy trying to stay alive. My family first found out I was alive when the two governments exchanged lists of prisoners. In all those 14 months I never got a letter nor was I able to write a letter home to my parents. This changed, but it was a slow change. If we wrote a letter home it took three months for it to get home. Then a return letter would take another three months. Of course, once the people at home found out they could write, they waited to get a letter before they wrote one. I never got a lot of mail while I was there, although I did get some. I never got a package. Nobody got any. The only package I saw after I was taken prisoner was when I was released. That's when I didn't need it. The Red Cross gave me a package that had toothpaste and shaving cream, a razor, cigarettes, and whatever.
We knew when Christmas came, but not because something special happened to us or we got any extra ration of food or anything. It wasn't sentimental to me because I didn't really have time to think about it. The only time I ever cried over there was over a dream. The hardest thing for me about being a POW in Korea was not being able to be with my family. I came from a large family and we were close. One night I dreamed that I was home and I was talking to my dad. I woke up and he wasn't there. That's when I cried. It was probably in my second year of captivity.
Mostly what all of the prisoners longed for was food. An awful lot of guys knew how to cook. I never cooked and I still don't, but they talked about recipes they would cook, cakes they would bake, and food they would fix if they were home. They talked about the best place to get barbecued ribs. I mean, talk of food was a big conversation all the time. For me, the thing I longed for was my mother. She was a big part of my coming back, I believe. I didn't long for her because of her cooking. I longed for her because she was my mother. There were a lot of married fellows there too, and they wanted to get back to their wives. But I worried about my mother. She was never a strong person. When I was a kid there were days when she didn't get up because she was sick. When I was a POW, I always kind of felt that when I got back she wouldn't be there. As it turned out, she was there when I got back. My father had had a heart attack in June of 1953 and he was in pretty bad shape. He did survive a year, dying almost a year to the hour after I got home. When he died he was 60. My mother lived to be 90. They were the same age.
Though conditions of lice, dysentery, beri beri, inadequate food, and being away from our homes were miserable, there were some lighter moments. There was a guy from Arkansas that made a guitar. His name was ________. I don't know what he used as wood, but I know that he made the strings of the guitar from strands off of a guy wire on a utility pole that wasn't in service anymore. He sang and played his guitar. There was another guy who could also play the guitar. His name was Carlton Harkey. He would sit on the floor, open his legs, and the guy who made the guitar would slide up between his legs in front of him. Then the two of them would play the one guitar at the same time while Hark sang. It was hilarious. I remember that the strings of the guitar were made of steel cable so they would stretch. ___ was continually tuning it until it got to the point where there was no tuning left, so he would go steal some more cable.
We were also entertained by lies. There were all kinds of lies. It was a joke among everyone that the first liar didn't have a chance. I mean, somebody told a story and someone had to top it. This was a form of past-time. There was a type of religious service too for a time. In the beginning there was a Catholic priest. He was a priest in the regiment that I was supporting--the artillery, and he was taken prisoner when the others were. There were a lot of Catholics in the camp that went to him for a while. He died, and I think it was from malnutrition, although I'm not sure.
We heard the news on the loudspeaker the day that they signed the Armistice. There was jubilation in the camp and a lot of noise, but yet there was kind of disbelief too because so much stuff had happened. Then it was just a day or two and they started calling names over the speaker of the men that were leaving the next morning. I was in the first group to leave.
When they took us out of Camp 5 to go home, we crossed the river in boats and they put us on trucks. We were hauled to a railroad railhead and put in boxcars. We traveled about three days in the boxcars until we got to __________. Close to that point we had to get off of the train and get back into trucks which took us the rest of the way to Panmunjom. When we pulled in there everybody on the vehicles stood up and shouted and hollered and carried on. There were big signs at Panmunjom saying, "Welcome Back," and all that. I don't remember who was greeting us, I was just so tickled to get out of there. I can still remember the GI's all waiting for us. It was very emotional. We were all able to get off the trucks and walk on our own. We were the ones who had survived. Back in April they had what was known as Operation Little Switch for those who were in bad physical shape. The only ones that were left in the POW camps were the ones that could get around on their own. We were released in Operation Big Switch. Evidently we were exchanged for Chinese prisoners, but we didn't see any of them because they weren't in the same place.
The first thing they did when we got into Panmunjom was to run us into an area and make us strip off. They ran us through showers and gave us uniforms, then they fed us. I don't remember what they fed us at that point. Maybe they didn't even feed us there, I'm not sure. I do remember that they put us a few at a time on helicopters and flew us to Inchon. We spent about two weeks there while they checked us out, interrogated us, and debriefed everybody. There was a lot of stuff going on there. I think the Red Cross gave me an opportunity to send a telegram home.
I'm not sure who was interrogating us. I guess you would call it the CIA. They asked us all kinds of questions about the other guys. "Was this guy a collaborator? How about that guy?" There were 21 guys who stayed over there instead of coming back with us to the United States. Two of them were in Camp 5, I think. One was a guy named Batchelor. I know that he spent a lot of time with the Chinese, but as far as what they did, I don't know. He believed what they were telling him. I don't know how anybody could trade a life here for a life of communism.
We left from Inchon on the USS General Walker. There were a bunch of Marines on the ship and all of us former prisoners of war. The Marines did all of the duty. We were interrogated all the way back on the ship. That's when it started--guys implicating other guys.
After two weeks we arrived at Oakland, California. There was no band waiting for us, but when we docked an announcement came over the ship's PA system that said there were people to meet some of the POWs, and that they would be the first to get off the ship. They started calling a bunch of names, including mine. I had cousins who lived in California, so I thought that this was possibly who it was. When I came off the ship I couldn't find anybody. I couldn't find a soul that was there to meet me. I got a phone call from the Red Cross and found out that my mother was supposed to be there to meet me, but she wasn't there. Nobody knew where she was. They had everybody looking for her. She was supposed to have been on a straight-through flight but it turned out that she had a lay-over somewhere so she was late getting there. At this point everybody was afraid that something had happened to her. Several hours later she walked up to me while I was on the phone calling home. Seeing her was very emotional.
Something else happened while I was there that just blew my mind. When I went into the Army I think there was one television in the whole area where I lived. When I got back to California my mother and I were sitting and she was showing me pictures in her billfold of her new grandchildren and that sort of thing when somebody took our picture. We got on a plane the next morning and flew non-stop to Chicago. When we got off the plane there was a guy standing at the gate waving a Chicago newspaper that had the picture of my mother and me that was taken in California. I didn't know they could do this.
A lot of things had happened in the five years altogether that I was gone. The fact is, I enlisted for two years and was taken prisoner on the second of November. I was due to get my discharge in the middle of January. By the time I got my discharge in September 1953, I had four years and eight months in the military.
I got married in 1955 to Patricia Scheidt. She said that I was restless at night, kicking and carrying on. I still wake up at night. There are nights when I'll be in a cold sweat. My wife says that I am dreaming, but I don't remember the dream. She blames it on Korea.
When I think back on Korea I am not really bitter, but I don't want to go back there for any reason, not even to revisit. As a matter of fact, my wife wrote to my daughter in Texas and told her about a reunion that was going to take place in Korea. My daughter called me and said, "I don't want you to go. I've never said this to my father before, but I'm going to put my foot down." She didn't want me to go because she didn't think it would be good for me. She thought it would bring back too many memories. Sometimes memories of Camp 5 come back to me. That's the worst part. I could take combat again, but I couldn't take Camp 5 again. That's a part of my life that I wouldn't take a million dollars for, but I wouldn't give a penny for it again.
Going to reunions brings back thoughts of Camp 5 again too. Up until 1982 I never spoke to anybody about being a POW. I never tried to contact anybody. I didn't tell my parents what happened. Nobody knew. Some people asked me about it, but their first question was always the worst question to answer. They would say, "How did they treat you?" If I got right down to what it really was like, I always felt that they would think I was looking for sympathy. On the other hand, if I said that it wasn't too bad to try to get out answering the question, I felt I would be leaving them with the impression that I had been put up in a nice hotel over there. So I don't have an answer for the question, "How did they treat you?" I haven't gone in front of any group to talk about being a POW. I haven't talked to my children about it. I have only told my wife a little about it. It's hard to talk about it. It hurts. It's hard to think about the conditions that I had to endure. I was just a kid when I was in Korea. I lost a part of my life there.
I do think that the United States should have been in Korea. I think they were there for a good cause. When Communism starts taking over the world and they keep creeping in closer and closer, then they'll be on our shore next. We've got to stop it somewhere. Korea was as good a place to start as any, I guess.
People don't remember Korea and they don't remember the POW's. I got a letter some time back from the police. They wanted to build a monument in Washington for the police officers that fell in the line of duty. That's fine. But I was reading the letter and it said that the fallen police officers were no different than those people and soldiers who died in World War II and Vietnam. I just tore the letter up and threw it in the garbage. They skipped right over Korea, and we lost a lot of people there. Why should we be forgotten? I have no idea why we are forgotten. I know we didn't receive the same welcome home at the Vietnam vets, but we also didn't get all the fanfare the World War II veterans did either. We defended our country a long range way, I guess. It wasn't like the people in World War II who beat the Germans and Japs off, that's for sure. It was a different situation and I can understand it being that way. Vietnam was a television war. Everybody knew all about Vietnam. But when they hold Korea like it never happened, it irritates me.
The FBI agents asked me about other people who had the same thing said about them. They asked me about those people and they asked those people about me. When it came right down to it, the people that said these things had to go back and say that it was all hearsay. They hadn't actually seen it or actually knew it. It was all hearsay. I got upset about these agents coming to my house. By that time I was married. They didn't come to the house and talk to me about my activities. They put their questions to me this way: "Do you know so and so?" Well, I knew who he was. "Okay," they said. "He's trying to get a government job. We want to know if he was involved in this or that." They were trying to get the dirt on somebody else. Three years ago we were in Schaumburg, Illinois for an ex-POW reunion. I got word there that the government had declassified all of the POW records they had--the interviews they did and all the things in a former POW's dossier. I was entitled to get mine so I sent for it. The stuff I read in there made me awfully angry. It was all lies. I never got any names of who said it. It was just said.
Just coming out of Korea in 1953, I didn't know what was going on in the United States at that time. I was still only 22 years old. It was McCarthyism. McCarthy was a senator from Wisconsin. Everybody was a Communist to him and he was going to eradicate Communism from this country. If somebody whispered to someone else, "Hey, I think that guy's a Communist," they prosecuted that person right down to the last. They took their citizenship away and the whole thing. They didn't care who they did it to, either. They were doing it to celebrities in Hollywood. They were doing it to anybody. And they ruined a lot of lives. They caused suicides. There was a lot of stuff going on like that. This is what was happening to me. All of us that came out of Korea had this same thing leveled on us. There were those who considered prisoners of war as traitors because of McCarthyism. We were there in a communist country and the Chinese were trying to indoctrinate us, so McCarthy believed that we were all indoctrinated and we had all come back as Communists. He thought we were going to overthrow the government--and he was going to stop it. Nobody came back here to overthrow the government. We were tickled to death to get back to Old Glory. We had all of the Communism we wanted in North Korea.
I wasn't upset with my country because of this. I had volunteered for the Army. I volunteered to do what was called upon for me to do and that's what I did. I wasn't disappointed with my country, but I was upset that somebody would come to my house and ask me such questions. I didn't know about McCarthyism at the time. I war really illiterate about it. I didn't have any idea what was happening. I didn't even know that anybody was saying anything about me when they were coming to my house to talk to me about other people. I didn't know this was going on until I wrote for those declassified records. That's when I found out they were trying to court martial me. As I said, when it came right down to it, it was all hearsay. The trouble was all because one guy said, "I think." In all the records that I read, the interrogator was leading people into saying what he wanted them to say. They were just almost carbon copies all the way through the darned thing. It wasn't what these people were wanting to say--he was leading them into saying what he wanted them to say. This was happening nation wide. Say one FBI agent was assigned to investigate me. He would go anywhere in the country where there was somebody that he thought he might talk to who would say, "Yeh, he did that." And he would question them and lead them into saying what he wanted them to say.
It was at the first ex-POW reunion that I attended in 1982 in Louisville, Kentucky that people from national advised us to file for disability because we were entitled to it. I filed and was rejected so I appealed. I was rejected again. The service officer who was helping me said that was all he could do and that there was nothing more that could be done. So I went to another service officer. I even joined the Disabled American Veterans because I am eligible to belong to it. Their service officer filed on my behalf but my request was again rejected. He said there wasn't anything else he could do so I just put all of my papers in a box, put them in the attic, and forgot them. My oldest daughter Robin became acquainted with another lady while she was in the Air Force. This lady had put 20 years in and so had her husband before they were discharged. She lives in Texas outside of Dallas and was a VA service officer. One day she was on vacation visiting my daughter and it happened to be Father's Day. They came to visit me at our house and she saw that I had a POW license plate. Up until this point she didn't know that I was a POW. She asked me if I had compensation and I told her that I only had 20 percent--10 percent for PTSD and 10 percent for ulcers. That was the limit because supposedly nobody could do anything more for me. She said that she thought she could help me and filed on my behalf. I got 100 percent because of my heart condition, PTSD, frost bite, the ulcers--the whole ball of wax. Frost bite hurts me in cold weather. I live in Northern Indiana and it gets pretty chilly up here at times. I have trouble with my fingertips and toes when I go outside. I didn't lose any fingers or toes and none of them are discolored, but the pain is there when they get cold.
Sometimes when I think about being a prisoner of war I feel guilty. Not because I was captured. I don't feel guilty about that. I had no control there. My guilt was, and still is, that I survived when there were people who didn't survive. Maybe they were people who could have done much more for their country than I could. I was an uneducated person. They at least had high school educations. I sometimes wonder why I survived and they didn't. It's a guilt deal and I can't really explain it. It doesn't interfere with my life, but it is in the back of my mind. I can be talking with someone or hear someone else talking and they'll say something that doesn't have a thing to do with being a POW or Korea or war of any kind. But just a phrase and BAM -- I'm right back in Camp 5.
Appreciation for Home
Obituary - Glenn E. Stotts
Glenn “Jake” Stotts, age 84, Gary, Indiana, passed away on Wednesday January 6, 2016. He was born November 19, 1931.
He is survived by his children Jeff (Kim Derr) Stotts, Robbin (Joel Hedrick) Stotts, Jill (Bill) Worley; six grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Ruth Matthews; brother Roy (Dee) Stotts, numerous nieces and nephews, and by his four legged companions Aby, Daisy, and Kitty.
He is preceded in death by his parents Glenn H.”CY” and Anna E.(nee Stonecipher) Stotts, wife of 60 years Patricia, siblings Hazel, Mary, Etta, Walter, Robbianna and Shirley, daughter-in-law Marsha Stotts and grandson Joshua.
Funeral services will be held on Monday, January 11th at 10:00am at White Funeral Home located at 921 W. 45th Avenue, Griffith, with Father Theodore Mens officiating. Burial will follow at Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens in Schererville. Friends may meet with the family on Sunday, January 10th, from 2:00pm-8:00pm at White Funeral Home
Glenn retired from Ford Motor Co. in 1994. He was a member of UAW #551, Griffith American Legion Post #66, and Griffith VFW # 9982. He was Korean War Veteran who was held captive for 33 months and a lifetime member of POW Association. Jake enjoyed telling stories and jokes, wood working, playing computer solitaire, emailing, and making his rounds to drink coffee with his friends. Among his many accomplishments are 2 Bronze Stars with Valor.