Stars and Stripes, Jun. 7, 1953
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
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.