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Pacific Stars and Stripes, December 24, 1952

The Island of Orphans

Cheju, Korea (AP)- A new life of hope has begun on this rugged island for nearly 1,000 war orphans saved from Seoul by "Operation Kiddy Car."

And today Americans opened their hearts to these children of disaster in a sequel by the U.S. Air Force to the flight that rescued the orphans from the streets of Seoul.

Two C-47 transport planes flew through foggy weather Monday afternoon to land 10 tons of gift supplies for the war waifs on their island sanctuary, 70 miles off the southwest tip of Korea. The gifts included several tons of food donated by the Army. There was also a ton of badly-needed medical and toilet supplies purchased in Japan with funds contributed by U.S. Far East Air Forces personnel, and clothing donated by individuals and organizations from all parts of America. "And this is only a trickle of what we have been promised," Lt. Col. R. L. Blaisdell said happily.

Blaisdell, who lives in Fort Worth, Tex., is chaplain of the Fifth Air Force. It was he who inspired Operation Kiddy Kar, Dec. 20, an airlift that removed from battle danger these hundreds of orphaned or abandoned children who had been picked up off the streets of the Korean capital by kindhearted American soldiers. Since then he has raised more than $10,000 for their share. The orphans are housed in the old wooden buildings of an agricultural school on the outskirts of Cheju.

They came running in eager curiosity as the trucks rolled in form the airport loaded with their gifts.

"Hello, hello, hello," they called. Chaplain Blaisdell turned to a group of small girls leaning out of a window and sang to them, "Jesus loves me, this I know-for the Bible tells me so."

The girls laughed merrily and immediately sang back to him the same song in Korean.

The carefree friendliness of the children was in marked contrast to the dispirited group that had been flown here last month. Three weeks of fresh air and nourishing food had given them back childhood's gift of laughter.

"We have 27 deaths-all children less than a year old," said the orphanage doctor. "They were too weak to save. But the health of the children now is generally good, although 96 are still ill. Most are suffering from malnutrition. Thirty-five have contagious diseases, chiefly whooping cough."

The orphanage would be regarded as shocking by American standards. The rooms are overcrowded and only those sheltering the youngest children are heated. There is no fuel available yet to heat the others.

But the 849 orphans are enjoying a life richer than most have ever known. Chaplain Blaisdell is working night and day to carry out his own dream for them-a real home where they can be warm and well clad, and can get the best of schooling. He feels the promised generosity of American civilians will enable him to carry out the dream.

"The first thing I want is for each of these children to have two changes of clothing," he said. "And I want the name of each child marked in his clothing to teach him pride of ownership and possession."

The orphanage has a staff of 80 native Koreans. None at present-not even the superintendent or the doctor-receives a salary. All they get is food and quarters. Blaisdell would like to correct that situation too, but he says, "the children come first."

By Hal Boyle




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