Condensed from V.F.W. Magazine/Readers
The letter that started a flood of generosity
Written by Bud Goodman
Dolores Hallam telephoned home during her lunch hour one day last winter
from the General Motors plant where she worked. Her sister, with whom
she and her two little daughters lived in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn,
said: "Yes, there's a letter - from him."
"Him" was Dolores' husband, Staff Sergeant
Parker Hallam, who had gone to Korea with the Seventh Marine Transport
Battalion nearly a year before.
That evening Dolores, a pretty, slender
woman of 26, opened the letter and read:
"Looking at the pictures you sent of
me of our two beautiful, happy babies reminds me that our outfit is
going to give 400 kids around our area chow on Christmas and we're taking
up a collection for clothes, food and toys.
"These kids are just like our won, except
that half of them will freeze or starve to death this winter, so here's
what I'm asking you to do. Get our minister or some civic organization
to collect food, clothes, shoes and so on. Anything to keep these kids
going this winter. I'm enclosing a note from our chaplain about what
we're trying to do. Try to get something in the paper if you can, honey,
send it to Mom and Dad and have them do the same."
Next day Dolores wrote to the Detroit
Free Press, enclosing a copy of her husband's letter. "I'm must
a serviceman's wife with two youngsters, so there's not much I can do,
and there's no one I know who can get anything done about it. But if
some of your readers could get the bug into their systems, who knows?"
A reporter interviewed Dolores and his
story appeared in the next Sunday's issue. It included the chaplain's
name, Lt. Robert W. Smith, and his Fleet Post Office address.
Monday evening when Mrs. Hallam got home
from work, she found several letters from readers saying they'd already
mailed contributions. Dolores Hallam sat up late replying to them.
On behalf of the Marines and the Korean children, she thanked the kind
strangers and urged them to interest their friends.
Each evening when she got home from work
more letters were waiting, and she stayed up answering them until after
midnight, night after night.
Within two weeks packages and money orders
began to arrive at the Marine base in Korea. Chaplain Smith set aside
a tent to hold the gifts, and kept a record of the money orders that
poured in. He bought 250 pounds of rice, and Sergeant Hallam and his
fellow Marines took it to nearby refugee camps.
More money poured in, and clothing, and
toys. The chaplain set up two more tents. So he had a Quonset hut
jammed full. Still the gifts arrived in every mail. So the Marines
carried food and clothing to refugee camps and shacks in an ever-widening
In early February Chaplain Smith wrote
to Dolores: "We have now given about $35,000 worth of clothing to some
3500 people in two refugee camps and to 250 children in an orphanage
in Seoul. There are five to six tons of rice in storage and we have
money for two more tons. I think we soon shall have all the clothing
we can distribute."
Meanwhile, in shops, offices, churches
and schools all over southern Michigan, men, women and children collected
nickels and dimes and dollars. The project snowballed until the chaplain
wrote that their area was now well clothed and well fed; why not send
any further contributions to similar groups working in other parts of
In the nine months after Dolores Hallam
decided to do something for the "kids just like ours" in Korea, this
is what happened:
The Marines distributed $65,000 worth
of clothing, chiefly to children and old people.
A ton of rice went each week to two refugee
camps and an orphanage.
There was plenty of fuel for the stoves
in two Old People's Homes.
The Marines and the money from the Michigan
finished the construction of three public schools of 200 seats each
on which work had been stopped when funds ran out, and finished the
building of a 400-seat church.
The contributions also financed a new
industry which made a whole village self-sustaining. Chaplain Smith
found that bags to transport and store the rice crop were always scarce,
so with the money left after starvation had been routed the Marines
built a bag factory. In the town today at least one member of every
family is making bags. The payroll is nearly $20,000 a month.
Having seen the campaign to a glorious
conclusion in the best Marine tradition, Sergeant Hallam sent a letter
to the Free Press, thanking it and the people of Michigan for
"The people at home," he wrote, "through
their generosity have done more to thwart Communism in this area than
all our bullets have done. For Communism cannot live where love, kindness
and generosity exist."