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Colliers, July 14, 1951, p.51

Little Orphan Island

By Bill Stapleton

This is a small story that comes out of the blood and terror of the war in Korea. But it has big meaning. It is the story of Air Chaplain Lt. Col. Russell L. Blaisdell of Fort Worth, Texas, who came to Korea to help servicemen keep faith with God, and would wind up by proving His existence to war-scarred kids.

A Presbyterian chaplain attached to Fifth Air Force Headquarters in the Korean theater, Colonel Blaisdell is largely responsible for taking hundreds of hurt and homeless kids out of the city of Seoul when it was ravaged last December for the second time in the Korean war. Starting with almost nothing but his own courage, he got them to the safety of Cheju-do -- an island about 70 miles off the west coast of battered Korea.

Before the Chinese communists drove American forces out, Blaisdell and Colonel Wallace I. Wolverton, senior chaplain of the Tenth Air Force, with the help of the mayor of Seoul, set up a municipal aid center for orphans. Everybody helped: the American and Korean Red Cross, the Catholic and Protestant missions, and Fifth Air Force personnel. The center was soon handling 50 children a day. But, suddenly, the evacuation order came. Blaisdell and his Korean waifs had to get out.

"By December 15th," says Colonel Blaisdell, "I had 950 children and 110 workers with 30,000 pounds of provisions sitting on the shore at Inchon waiting for a boat. It never came. I called the already overburdened Air Force and in one miraculous half hour , they arranged for 16 C-54s to fly us to Cheju-do. But the trucks I needed to get us to Kimpo airfield never came, either. I was really scared."

The gentle chaplain wasn't too frightened to steal trucks from dock details though. With them he moved his kids to Kimpo and got them to Cheju-do just as Red guns were barking across Seoul.

On Cheju-do a woman entered the picture. Mrs. On Soon Whang was appointed director of the new orphanage. In short order, this quiet, firm woman whose husband and son were both killed in the fighting was saving the kids from hunger, sleeplessness, filth, disease and fright.

Today, there are beds for all on the island of Cheju-do -- though they are wooden slats barely raised above the floor. And there are quilts, one for each group of five children. There is food and water -- though water on this little 15 by 40-mile island is scarce and precious. And packages of food and medicine are arriving daily from U.S. donors. All in all, Cheju-do brings comfort and happiness to children who otherwise would have been sacrificed on their own doorsteps.

Maybe the reward for all this is hearing the Korean kids sing Jesus Loves Me. Maybe it is in seeing sickness disappear and fright calm into playfulness. Maybe it is in realizing that God is in his heaven after all.


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