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I am not a Hero

George F. Drake, Ph.D.

4 May 2007

When a messenger comes bearing bad news it is not nice to kill the messenger. Likewise, when the messenger comes bearing good news it is inappropriate to make the messenger a hero. I am not a hero. I am a story teller.

I did not save the lives of thousands of children during the Korean War. I did not donate millions of dollars for their aid. I did not build hundreds of orphanages to provide shelter for the homeless children of the Korean War. That is what American servicemen and women did. I merely am telling their story.

Thousands of American servicemen and women did as much as I to aid the children of Korea during the war years and afterwards and many of them did much more than I did. They are the ones who deserve recognition. I am but one of many.

Yes, I was there. Yes, I did take children to the hospital that were found by the roadside in dire need of help. Yes, I did write over a thousand letters to folks in the ‘States seeking help for the children. But so did many other GIs who were faced with the thousands upon thousands of hungry, ill, injured, abandoned, lost or orphaned children who needed help.

What I have done is to bring together the thousands of stories and photographs of the humanitarian aid rendered the children of Korea during the war and present it in a single package. I am a sociologist, not a newspaper reporter. The newspaper (or TV or radio) reporter needs to interview a single person and tell their story. They tell the story of the individual while I am trying to tell the story of the group. In focusing on the tree they miss seeing the forest.

For me the story is the scale and scope of the aid rendered the War Child of Korea in the years 1950 through 1954 and even later. Collectively we who served in the US armed forces in the Korean War saved the lives of over 10,000 children and helped support over 54,000 in more than 400 orphanages most of which were built or repaired by our GIs. We donated over two million dollars from our meager pay during the war years and brought in from family and friends back home thousands of tons of packages of material aid for the children and their care givers.

I am willing to accept recognition of the fact that I spent over six years as a volunteer gathering the data to tell this story, visiting the US National Archives in College Park, Maryland and later the archives of the Pacific Stars and Stripes in Tokyo, Japan and visiting archives of other institutions that were involved in the Korean War. I spent thousands and thousands of hours copying stories from newspapers, magazines and books in pursuit of information on the topic of the GIs and the kids. I was the one who “hustled” donations and spent over $50,000 of our limited family resources in the stubborn pursuit of documenting this story and constructing a physical memorial honoring the GIs - the men and women of all branches of the service, who helped the children in their time of need.

At times I had an intern from a local work-training program help me in the office and I have had some wonderful volunteers helping with the typing and the web site development but, for the most part, I worked alone. I had no grant from a foundation nor subsidy from any government program. Many individuals donated money to help this project, from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. It was never enough and I ended up using personal resources to achieve the goals of the project. There is a Spanish expression “Each person has their own form of insanity.” This was mine.

I will accept credit for what I did do but not for what I did not do. I am not a hero. I am a story teller.

[This statement is written in response to reports in the Korean media that I raised millions of dollars and saved the lives of thousands of children during the war. The media was focusing on me and mixing me up with the story I was telling. The story is about “the army of compassion” that fought in the Korean War and not about George Drake.]


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