McCormic Speaking, Vol. VI, Dec. 1952,
By Russell L. Blaisdell, Chaplain (Lt. Col.),USAF Graduate Class of
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.