Dearest Lorraine and Brian:
Pardon me for not writing last night, but Ken, Ray and I were decorating
the EM [enlisted men’s] mess hall in preparation for the orphans
party tomorrow. We set up the tree, hung it with tinsel, ornaments,
cotton, etc. Didn’t have any colored lights, but it looks rather
pretty and I know the kids will be surprised. They will be brought
here in our trucks tomorrow afternoon at 2 and be taken home at
5. We’ll serve them hot cocoa, cookies and they’ll each have candy
to take back with them, besides two gifts, one of which will be
something to wear.
Ken and I and one of our sergeants took a run down to the orphanage
this afternoon and were just about heartsick at what we saw there.
They have 35 boys and girls, ranging in age from about 2 to 14,
I’d guess. They are living in squalor, with hardly enough to eat
and nothing but dirty rags to wear. None have stockings and only
a few have these rubber Korean slippers to wear. There are no windows
in the place and they sleep on the floor on filthy bedding, what
there is of that. About a dozen kids to a room measuring about
6 ft. by 6 ft. They are long-haired and dirty, but we are taking
steps to correct that.
We took along our Korean barber from the post and he gave each
of the kids a haircut. Believe me, the hair was so long and shaggy
on some of the kids you actually could not tell whether they were
boys or girls. They looked more like animals than humans. We also
took along several bars of soap and some towels and gave instructions
that each kid was to be given a hot, soapy bath before tomorrow.
When we left four or five kids were in the tub getting scrubbed
down. When they arrive tomorrow they’ll still be clothed pretty
poorly but at least they will be physically clean and have haircuts.
What served as a kitchen was littered with rubbish and a pipe which
delivered cold water was turned or, splashing water all over the
floor. The smell almost knocked you out. I don’t see how any child
could still put forth a smile under conditions like that but some
of them did. The most pitiful case was a little boy about 2 years
old I would guess. He was lying in a corner wrapped in blankets
to keep warm and gave us the brightest little smile you’ve ever
seen. He is the kind of heart-melter you want to adopt on the spot.
All there was for him to do all day long was lay there in the blankets
to keep warm, but still he was smiling. Some of the older kids
should be going to school but the schools are not open yet and there
is no one to teach them how to read and write.
There are three men and three women who run the place and we suspect
there is some kind of graft going on. They are the most disreputable-looking
sort you’d ever want to see and it impressed us as being a concubinage
on the side. Not one looked like they had any sort of love for the
kids and one man had a wild look in his eyes like he wasn’t all
there mentally. We saw some of the children nibbling on old dirty
C-ration crackers indicating that from somewhere they had gotten
their hands on army rations. But they were most likely taken down
to the black market and sold for the few dollars the caretakers
could get for them. It may not be true, but we have every reason
to believe it is.
The encouraging thing is that it made Ken, Ray and I so mad that
we are rapidly taking steps to correct the situation. We are now
laying plans for moving the kids out here near the company and take
over a building for them. One of our officers has an “in” with
the Korean police and they can take over an un-occupied house which
is in good condition and we can put our Korean laborers to work
fixing the place up. Also, we can string city electricity into
the place and furnish them with a few stoves and all the firewood
they will need. We can also get them all the rice they will need.
The plan is to have each kid adopted by five soldiers from the company
and they will see that the kid is furnished with shoes and a complete
outfit of warm clothing. We know of a former school-teacher here
who speaks English and she might be interested in the job of running
the place. Once we get the kids in this place we’ll throw those
six characters out of the place and run it ourselves. As for the
salaries of the three people we think it will take to run the place
efficiently, we can [get] enough from monthly donations at the pay-table
to take care of that and since the place will be near here we can
keep an eye on the place and the men can go there in their off-hours
to play with the kids and help around the place.
If all this goes through, and we have every reason to believe that
it will, we can be assured that those poor little tykes will be
well taken care of. I will go down to the 8th Army hospital
and talk to a doctor down there and find some doctor who is interested
in this thing and ask him to give each kid a physical checkup as
soon as we get the place going. Then we can be sure that they are
in reasonably good health and won’t have any sickness on the place.
We will also set up rules for feeding and bathing (each kid to get
a bath at least twice a week). One thing we know…anything we can
do for those kids will be a hell of a lot better than they’re getting
now. And even if we pull out of here later on we can probably get
another outfit to take over their care. If not, the few months
of good living we will give them is better than none at all.
Darling, I might ask help from you and the KEN club later on in
regard to this project. I know that you are planning to make an
old clothes collection for Korea and this will certainly be the
place for that stuff. Most of the girls have children in this age
bracket and I am sure they’ll have out-grown clothing they’ll be
glad to donate for this cause. You might mention it to them at
the next meeting but please do not do anything about collecting
it and sending it until you hear from me. Just remember that regardless
of how poor shape their clothing is in it will still be better than
what these children now have and it will probably mean a better
chance of survival this winter. So after we finish formulating
our plans and see the right people I will let you know what to do
about the clothing angle. I know they will need warm underclothing,
socks, shoes, etc. … in fact just about anything you can collect.
Their feet will be larger than those of the American child of similar
age becase they haven’t been wearing shoes for quite a while.
The company commander has giver the okay for our project so we
will be able to get some cooperation in getting this accomplished.
As soon as we line up the house, and we have two or three in mind
within walking distance of the post, we can set the carpenters to
work fixing the place up, putting glass in the windows and stringing
up wires for the city power. We’ll have to fix up a kitchen, scrounge
some new bedding and other necessities, then we’ll have ourselves
Yesterday we had our party for the orphans and it was a very nice
affair. Each kid got all the candy and fruit and cookies he could
hold, plus one toy and one item of clothing. Most of them got wool
sweaters in bright colors. We had already given hem all wool socks
the day before and of course they had heir haircuts and were well
scrubbed. We are still going ahead with our plans to adopt them
and move them out here to the village off the post so I guess you
can go ahead and start collecting children’s clothing. The most
needed item I think is warm underwear. None of them have undies
and I hope the mothers can collect all sizes of that article. Also
shoes and anything else they have.
I picked up one little fella who was 2 years old and nothing but
skin and bones. He was old enough to toddle but didn’t have enough
strength in his legs to stand up. I had him cradled in my arms and
his hip bones stuck right though his flesh, didn’t have any buttocks
whatsoever. He also didn’t have anything on except a light cotton
sun suit, so we gave him an all wool coat with a little hood on
it and gave them strict instructions to take good care of him.
He was really a pitiful sight, believe me. He just couldn’t smile
back at us cuse the little guy has never had anything to smile at
and probably doesn’t know how. He was trembling most of the time
I held him but not from fright I’m sure. I’m afraid he won’t last
out the winter unless we can get to him and get him under our care
with decent treatment. Most of the others I think will survive
We have gotten our hooks on a house in the village and ae now making
plans to have it repaired and ready for them to move in by the end
of January, maybe sooner. It is a solid concrete building, one
story, with thick alls and a good roof. We will put in a good floor,
replace the windows and reconstruct the toilet facilities and have
it well fixed up for them. The whole company will pitch in on the
job and we can drop a line down from a nearby pole to give them
electricity. With them close by we can supervise the running of
the place and keep them supplied with what they need.
Well, I’ll close now, mama, and write more tomorrow. Please contact
your club members right away and start collecting clothing. Get
the first shipment out as soon as you can and send it to me and
I’ll take care of it. We have to get something right away because
it’s getting colder right along now. Just get as much as you can
in the first box and send the other stuff later on. You can tell
the girls they have my personal assurance that the stuff is very
critically needed by these little kids and they’ll be performing
a great humanitarian service by donating the stuff. I know they’ll
want to go along.
[Extracted from a letter Charles (Chuck) Stephen of the 326th
CRC sent to his wife in December 1951.]