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Hal Boyle's Notebook

GI's Remember Operation Kiddie Kar

NEW YORK, -(AP)- A little more than two years ago the heart of America was touched by one of the most unusual military operations of the dreary Korean war.

As Red Chinese massed for their successful assault against Seoul, a fleet of big U.S. transport planes landed on a field outside the city.

They were quickly loaded with nearly 1000 frightened, bewildered Korean orphans-war waifs picked from the city streets-and flown to Cheju, an island off South Korea's coast.

"Operation Kiddie Car" or "The Great Kidlift'-it was known by both names-dramatically saved hundreds of innocent small lives.  Gifts for the children flooded to Korea from all parts of the U.S., thanks largely to Lt. Col. Russell L. Blaisdell, an air force chaplain, who had conceived the rescue project.


But what has happened to the kids since then?  How are they faring two years later?

I am indebted to Nancy Lowe Gray, a Far East reporter, for bringing the picture up to date, as follows:

Cheju is now nicknamed "Orphans Island."  It is a refuge for 2000 homeless children, housed in 14 orphanages.  Other youngsters still arrive by fishing boats and other small craft.

The first group flown over from Seoul are learning to become self-sufficient.  Instructors are teaching them arts and crafts.  Small girls eagerly knit and embroider with the skill of old women.  They also make colorful dolls from native clay, paint them and sell them for souvenirs.

Most of the children were ragged, vermin-ridden, ill and half-starved. But today they are clean and regularly fed.

Those blinded or maimed in war mishaps are given as much therapy as funds permit.  A UN welfare agency is helping rehabilitate them.


This last Christmas Blaisdell and Mrs. Peggy Harris of New York, director of service clubs for the Japan air defense force, organized a drive for funds and clothing for the orphans.

The heart-warming result was a "Christmas airlift" of four tons of supplies, ranging from bubble gums and rattles to sewing machines, blankets, shoes, clothing and toys. Mrs. Harris said:

"The orphans love a UN uniform. We had to hold back the tears as small arms and smiles reached out to greet us in every orphanage."

"The only kindness these children have ever known has come from military personnel. Most of them were picked up from the streets, where they lay either wounded or dying from starvation."

"All this happiness was made possible because GIs, officers and dependents alike gave time and money so unselfishly."

Mrs. Harris and the chaplain now plan an "Easterlift" for the children. Hundreds of American soldiers in the service clubs of the Far East theater are collecting old clothing, repairing broken toys.

Many of the salvaged children of "orphans island" had been mascots of U.S. military outfits.  It is pleasant to chronicle that many American GIs, who often felt lonely and forgotten in Korea, still after two years have not themselves forgotten to remember the lost waifs they originally befriended.

It gives us on the home front a reason to search our own hearts, too.

Written by Hal Boyle,
San Antonio Light paper,
 25 March 1953


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