and Stripes, April 17, 1953
By Andy Tarvin NAGOYA, Apr. 17-"We
want to give you something to repay your great kindness, but we don't
have anything. So, we will repay you by being good boys and girls."
These were the words of a 12 year old Korean orphan
speaking in behalf of some 2,000 other Korean orphans who live in the
14 orphanages of Cheju Island off Korea's southern tip. Many of these
same children had been snatched from almost certain death two years
before by the Air Force. They had been airlifted from the doomed city
of Seoul to the island sanctuary of Cheju, and during the two years
since then, most of their clothing, food, medicine, toys, and other
supplies had been given to them by various Air Force units in Japan
"Your smiling faces are payment enough for any kindness
we may have given you," Chaplain (Lt. Col.) R.M.R Rutan, Japan Air Defense
Force said. And then the brief ceremony was over. It was a ceremony
occasioned by successful completion of the Easter-time phase of Operation
Giftlift, JADF wide charity drive which was started last Christmas by
the JADF chaplains and service clubs to provide aid for the more than
2,000 homeless children of Cheju. Eight tons of food, clothing, bedding,
medicine, toys, tools, and other needed supplies were airlifted to the
orphanages by JADF during the Christmas and Easter phases of the command
wide charity drive.
The story of Orphans Island began in the fall of
1950 when many of the same children now living in safety on Cheju were
roaming the streets of beleaguered Seoul. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Russell
L. Blaisdell, former JADF chaplain, was then chaplain for the Fifth
Air Force in Seoul. A foundling center which he had started earlier
in the war-torn city sheltered nearly 1,000 homeless waifs who had been
roaming the streets. As the Communist troops drew closer to Seoul,
the evacuation of these waifs became more imperative.
Chaplain Blaisdell made arrangements to have the
children and their Korean nurses evacuated to Cheju Island by a Korea
At the port city of Inchon, Chaplain Blaisdell, the
children, and their nurses waited four and a half days for the LST,
which never arrived. Meanwhile, seven of the children died in the 40
by 70 foot room where they were waiting. In desperation, the chaplain
returned to Seoul and explained the situation to Col. (now Brig. Gen.)
T.C. Rogers, then assistant director of operations for Fifth Air Force.
Rogers contacted Combat cargo and 16 C-54 Skymasters were soon on their
way from Japan to Seoul to remove the children from the doomed city.
Chaplain Blaisdell returned to Inchon, commandeered
11 trucks, loaded his tiny charges and proceeded to Seoul, where the
C-54s were waiting. Nurses of the 801st Medical Air Evacuation
Squadron helped load the waifs aboard the planes. Most of the youngsters
were less than 5 years old. The oldest was 14. More than 100 of them
were suffering from infectious diseases and wounds, and hundreds more
were victims of extreme malnutrition and exposure.
This was the start of what newspapermen later labeled
Operation Kiddie Kar. When the planes landed at Cheju Island, the children
were loaded on waiting trucks which bore them to their new home, a dilapidated
two story building, which has now been turned into the hospital, classroom,
workshop, dining hall, and administration facilities for the original
Orphans Home of Korea.