Home Editorial Activities Stories Links
  Saving Lives Feature Stories Having Fun Culture Conflict    
  Kiddy Car Airlift Orphanages Adopting Children Help from Home    


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 and orphanage. 


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 all right. 

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.]


Home  |  Editorial  |  Activities  |  Stories  |  Links