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McCormic Speaking, Vol. VI, Dec. 1952, No. 3

A Chaplain in Korea
By Russell L. Blaisdell, Chaplain (Lt. Col.),USAF Graduate Class of 1937

As an average pastor who has been interested in, but not overly enthused about, foreign missions, I found my experiences in Korea very enlightening.

I discovered the wonderful work accomplished against almost impossible odds by Doctors Underwood, Moffett, and others; and I am convinced that their selfless devotion to their duty and to their Lord places them in the ranks of Livingstone, Higgenbottom, Schweitzer, and Jones.

One experience should be related. During August and September of 1950, while we were hanging on to the Pusan Perimeter, the North Korean forces out-numbered us ten to one. It appeared that we would be pushed into Pusan Bay. During the late summer we slowly fell back to new positions.

Finally we were at the last stand. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans, North and South, had migrated to safer places to the south.

During this period the Air Force worked from sun-up to dark at the North Korean troop concentrations and supply centers.

The Korean people understood what many of our people did not, that the Air Force was keeping us in Korea. Every rainy day brought a new threat to the precarious situation, for then the planes were grounded.

In Pusan about 250 refugee pastors from both sides of the 38th parallel met daily for prayer. Many of them had led their little flocks from the North and were ministering to them in the mudflats where they had built rice sack shelters.

Their prayer meetings were very serious affairs, each continuing for over two hours and conducted with an earnestness I have never witnessed before. This fervency was explained to me one day by an American missionary when I was invited to speak at the prayer meeting.

Recognizing the essential role the Air Force was playing in keeping Korea from falling to the Communists, they prayed all during the rainy season for clear skies. This was done with full knowledge that no rain had always meant no rice crop, and no rice meant starvation.

Continuing their prayers for good weather "without ceasing," they were gratified that during the entire season when it normally rains every day, there was but one day when the planes could not fly.

But the real miracle, and so they believed it to be, was that without the rain they were about to harvest a 100 per rice crop. Their deeply rooted faith was now more vital and living. Thanksgiving prayers knew no limits as they recognized the hand of God in their lives.

How great was their joy when in September and October of that year the UN Forces drove the Communists back, and the people of South Korea were able to harvest the rice which had been so miraculously furnished them, I was informed that the movement of fighting troops and equipment destroyed only two per cent of the crop.

One thought stands out in my mind: although the Christians comprise only five per cent of the population of the country, I have never witnessed anything closer to New Testament Christianity than I witnessed in Korea.

As Christians and as representatives of a so-called Christian nation, we must maintain standards and conduct commensurate with the teachings of the missionary representatives we have sent to foreign lands.

May God forgive us our lethargy and our blindness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


When we re-entered Seoul late in 1950, we found buildings bombed out and leveled to the ground. We saw families digging in the rubble with their fingers, seeking for bits of charcoal or other usable material.

We heard through the streets and in the compounds the wailing of little children, babies, some too weak to make a loud sound. Their bodies were bloated and emaciated from lack of food, covered with vermin. A number of them were resigned to death and lay quietly awaiting the end.

The American airman is tough and hardened to devastation and hardship, even death. But the up-raised hand and pleading face of a small naked orphan will melt his heart.

The airmen of the 5th Air Force Headquarters picked up the cutest of the most winning age (4-7 years). They took the waifs to the billets, washed, disinfected, fed, and clothed them.

Their loving care brought an immediate response from the child, but of course only a small number could be helped in this manner.

The problem of care was brought to me as Air Chaplain of the 5th Air Force in Korea. First, we set up a small dispensary with a Korean doctor and a nurse in charge.

Then, because this emergency measure grew beyond the facilities of the Air Force Headquarters Building, we decided to take up a collection in the Headquarters to assist a small independent orphanage in Seoul.

Into this orphanage we could place the waifs and "mascots" picked up by the men. The contributions grew to $1,600, and an orphanage was renovated to care for 100 orphans.

But it was estimated that there were 6,000 homeless children on the streets of Seoul in October, 1950.

The normal agencies for welfare were not yet in a position to take care of the situation. The city government was almost bankrupt. The orphanages had been looted and burned.

At this time Chaplain (Col.) Wallace I. Wolverton came to Korea. After discussion it was decided to establish a Seoul Orphans' Center where the orphans could be bathed and given medical treatment, food, clothing, and shelter.

Later they would be distributed by the city government to the various agencies as these agencies were capable of receiving them. The City of Seoul provided a large school building and supplied fuel and rice. Laborers, laundresses, etc., were hired by the city.

Other organizations cooperating were the American Red Cross, Korean Red Cross, YMCA, Catholic Mission, Protestant Missions, and the Chaplains of the 5th Air Force.

The Orphans' Center was immediately flooded with children, over 250 the first week of operation. A truck was dispatched daily at dawn taking Korean social workers around the city to pick up orphans sleeping in the streets.

Clothing was needed, and large donations were received from the bases of the 5th Air Force in Japan, FEAF Chaplains in Japan, Okinawa, Philippines, and Korea raised approximately $10,000.

In December a new emergency arose. The Chinese communists had intervened in the fighting, and the City of Seoul was again in danger. It was feared that Communist reprisals would be severe on children helped and sponsored by the US Air Force. Action had to be taken quickly because the Chinese were crossing the 38th parallel and coming fast.

Our first plan for evacuation was to load all the orphans of the 5th Air Force orphanage and the Seoul Orphans' Center on board a Korean LST at the Port of Inchon.

The tide would allow entry at only two times a day, noon and midnight. Each high tide found us at the Port, but there was no sign of the LST.

In the meantime on December 15th, in preparation for the departure, 950 children and 110 workers were transported from Seoul to Inchon, a distance of 28 miles.

They were housed in a one-room building about 35' X 70' with 30,000 pounds of supplies and equipment.

During the next four days, while the Chinese were bearing down on that city and every one was leaving Seoul, whooping cough and measles broke out among the children.

Only one day remained before the port would be evacuated.

Finally, after frantic communication with headquarters, permission was granted to load the children on planes to be provided at the Kimpo Air Port the following morning, but when we reached the harbor in the early hours after a bitterly cold night, the trucks ordered were not to be found.

In desperation we "scrounged" 14 other trucks that were unloading at the pier, and in them the children were transported to the Air Port where the 16 C-54's had waited two hours for us.

We landed at Cheju on this large island south of the mainland and were met by military officers and local dignitaries. Part of the Agricultural School for Boys in the City of Cheju was opened for us.

We were immediately faced with the problems of water and fuel and the training of a staff of workers. Fortunately the publicity connected with the evacuation brought responses from church and other organizations and individuals in the United States.

Boxes of clothing began to pour in, and money gifts were used to purchase items not otherwise available. I am glad to report that at present time, aside from the few who died during the early days, all the children are healthy and happy.


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