Home Editorial Activities Stories Links
  Saving Lives Feature Stories Having Fun Culture Conflict    
  Kiddy Car Airlift Orphanages Adopting Children Help from Home    

transparent.gif (42 bytes)

Stars and Stripes, Jun. 7, 1953

Waif Eyes Boys Town Life

By Cpl. Dan Lutz

TOKYO, June 7 (Pac. S&S)-The tale of a young Korean boy, orphaned even before the start of the Korean war, who has undergone almost unbelievable hardship for three years in a not-to-be-denied effort to reach the United States, will have a happy climax this week.

Joseph Anthony, who can't remember the exact year of his birth, but believes it was 1940, will leave for Seattle by Northwest Orient airlines Wednesday, on the first leg of his journey to Boys Town, Neb., his new home.  He is the second Korean waif to begin a new life in the famous boys' home.

"Little Joe" was given his Christian name by his most recent benefactors, Miss Marjorie Binder, service club program director, and the Rev. Donald Werr, catholic chaplain at Itazuki Air Base, who named him after the patron saint of missing persons.

Joe has no recollection of parents, relatives, or his early years, except a vague idea that his father was a coal miner.  His history begins in June, 1950, when he was living in a Seoul orphanage with 40 other children.  He remembers the Korean woman supervisor as being harsh and stern, and recalls living in one small room and selling vegetables on the streets for his keep.

When Seoul was invaded by the North Korean army, Joe and three other boys separated from the rest in the confusion, found their way to Taejon, 80 miles to the south.  Here they existed for some time in the usual fashion of displaced persons, begging and scrounging the bare necessities of life.  The four youngsters managed to escape detection and capture amid the crowds of refugees when the Reds captured Taejon, and their outlook improved when U.S. forces recaptured the city in September.  They were befriended by a mess sergeant, who allowed them to sleep in the mess hall and help with minor chores during the day.  When the Americans moved north, the quartet of ragged orphans moved with them.

Through his newly acquired but hesitant English, and pictures in magazines circulated among the men, Joe learned of American ways and became obsessed with the idea of getting to the U.S.  At this time, during his drifting from outfit to outfit, he became separated from his young buddies.

A friendly Korean interpreter took Joe under his wing, and sympathizing with the small wanderer's unquenchable desire to go to the States, told him to travel to Pusan and from there to try and reach Japan, where he might find his way across the Pacific.  The interpreter equipped Joe with a "cover" story to conceal his true nationality.

He was to tell anyone who questioned him that he was a former resident of Fukuoka, had been orphaned during World War II by bombing raids, had later been befriended by American occupation forces and gone to Korea with them, and was now trying to return to Fukuoka to search for possible living relatives.

His benefactor gave him the equivalent of $45 in hwan, and sent him on his way to Pusan.  After several delays, including hospitalization for a leg wound from an overturned truck which drained much of his precious money for penicillin, he finally stumbled onto the U.S. Air Force base a Suwon.

The Air Police took him in and allowed him to sleep in their tent and eat with them while he was being investigated.  Joe's carefully recited "cover" story came to the attention of a colonel at the base, who bundled him aboard an airplane bound for Itasuki, only a few miles from Fukuoka.

From this point, events moved fast toward the realization of Joe's goal.  He was "adopted" by the 58th Air Police Squadron while his story was looked in to.  Miss Binder gave him a daily job at the Skyline club while he was waiting the outcome of the query, and Rev. Werr gave him daily instruction in reading, spelling, and writing.  Through the efforts of his two temporary guardians, he was eventually admitted to the American school on the base, and placed in the fifth grade, where his teacher, Mrs. Mary Hazen, was amazed at his zeal for learning.

Although Joe was not pressed to reveal his true story, his friends, who by now included nearly everyone on the base, were skeptical because he could not converse in Japanese-supposedly his native tongue-and his facial features were not typically Nipponese.  Convinced he was among friends, however, in time he revealed his story to Miss Binder.

Meanwhile, his two guardians had written to Sen. Homer Ferfuson (R., Mich.) in an effort to have a special bill passed in Congress to allow Joe to enter the U.S.  They had already secured approval from Msgr. Nicholas Wegner of Boys Town for Joe to become a new resident, if he were allowed to come to America.

The senator assured them he would be glad to help in any way, but told them he believed Joe could be admitted under newly opened Korean immigration quotas.  They applied to the U.S. consulate at Fukuoka, and his visa was received May 27.

With $55 tucked away from shining shoes in the Itazuki officer's club, Joe will at last go "home."  He will travel from Seattle to San Francisco, where he will be met by a chaplain with whom he became acquainted at the Suwon air base, who will see that he gets started on his last leg to Omaha.



Home  |  Editorial  |  Activities  |  Stories  |  Links