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Part Two-Evacuation

R.L. Blaisdell
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 ammo.

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 airstrip.

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



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