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transparent.gif (42 bytes)HEADQUARTERS FAR EAST AIR FORCES
APO 925
(12 April 1952)

FIFTH AIR FORCE, KOREA--- The warmth and tenderness of Americans recently spilled all over a crowded orphanage in South Korea -- 100 miles south and 12,000 miles west of its point of origin in Westport, Conn.

It all started, explains S/Sgt. Richard J. (Dick) Meskill Jr., 132 8th Ave. N., Texas City, Texas, of the Eighth Fighter Bomber Wing, when Airman Second Class Tom Pritchard wrote his mother, Mrs. T.M. Pritchard of 490 S. Compo Rd., Westport, about the pitiful conditions of children in Korea.

Airman Pritchard told a wringing story of what he saw -- naked children running around village streets with no home or parents to whom they could go, the biting cold and icy streets, all the familiar backwash of battle.

Pritchard's mother was so impressed with the letter that she posted it on the bulletin board in the Editorial Department of the Famous Arts Course of Westport, where she works. The response, Airman Meskill reports, was instantaneous and effective.

Personnel of the Institute pitched into the effort, gathering used clothing and packing it into big boxes. They proclaimed a "Clothes for Korea Day," which netted 14 large cartons of clothing. The 300 pounds of apparel was boxed for mailing by the shipping department at the Institute, and the employees dug into their own pockets for the $100 in postage required to mail the boxes to Korea.

Six weeks later the boxes arrived at the Eighth Fighter Bomber Wing advanced base in Korea, addressed to Tom Pritchard. Arrangements were made immediately with Major Milton A. Heintz, Jr., 1725 56th St., Brooklyn, N.Y., commanding officer of Headquarters Squadron, and the Civil Assistance Command for delivery of the much-needed clothing.

The CAC insisted that Major Heintz and Pritchard, along with several others of the squadron, go along to distribute the clothing themselves. An orphanage in a nearby Korean city was selected as the place of distribution.

A/1c Meskill relates that the group found 300 children at the orphanage, "overcrowded to an almost impossible point." The children ranged from six months to 14 years of age, and each was a victim of the war. All had neither mother nor father.

"The one thing that we noticed, perhaps more than any other," Airman/Meskill says, "was that the children didn't smile."

Shortly after they arrived, the boxes were opened and the clothing distributed to the children who gathered around in the yard. In describing the touching scene, Airman Meskill said: "There was a little bit of crowding. Not too much, but just enough to indicate that the children, while remembering their manners, were very eager. There was a little girl, about two years old, who got a little white sweater with a read and white hood. A little boy just fit into a pair of rubber boots; a 12-year-old girl fitted nicely into a gray blouse and skirt. One little boy, who had never seen a ship, sported a navy blue outfit with a sailboat on its pocket."

"I remember chuckling to see a little boy who had the letters 'WESTPORT' neatly stenciled on his new T-shirt. One little fellow, hobbling around on one leg and a make-shift crutch, scrambled away with a tiny green overcoat and a hat which went with it."

The Air Force group held one box in reserve -- this one for distribution in the orphanage's hospital ward. The "ward" turned out to be a small room 8 feet by 8 feet with 21 children crowded into its small space. Again, Airman Meskill's own words tell the story better:

"To us, the air was foul, and the room impossible. But there was an old Korean lady in there, with a six-months-old baby boy on her lap. The little fellow was crying as though his heart would break, and looked feverish."

"I handed the old lady a lace bobby dress that had been included in the boxes, a little blue baby blanket, and a lace baby cap. She grasped them eagerly and put them on the baby immediately. He stopped crying and just stared at us. Everyone in the sick room got something."

These Air Force officers and airmen were some of those who have seen first-hand the great need Korean children now have, and what it means when someone answers that need.

Probably Airman Meskill said "thank you" in a much better way than any other airmen have expressed their thanks for the assistance of folks back home in helping these miserable unfortunates. He said:

"I have never seen Westport. I was only one of six Americans who helped Tom Pritchard distribute clothing to a Korean orphanage. But if I never see another indication of true friendship in my life, this one was impressive enough. If Westport could have witnessed the happiness that it gave to these children half a world away, I know there wouldn't be a dry eye in Connecticut."



Photo NAR-052+




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