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Soldier Who Listed Korean POW Deaths in 1950s - Printable Version

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Soldier Who Listed Korean POW Deaths in 1950s - Mystic Wanderer - 06-12-2018

Years ago during the Korean war Wayne "Johnnie" Johnson was captured along with 758 others and imprisoned there.
During that time he secretly recorded the names of 496 fellow prisoners who had died during their captivity. Without this list we may never have known all the names of those brave men.

Thanks to President Trump's administration's efforts for peace in NK/SK, the remains of the soldiers still over there will be returned home.

May they never be forgotten.  

Soldier Who Listed Korea POW Deaths Finally Honored

Quote:WASHINGTON — Through four harsh summers and three brutal winters in North Korea, the "Tiger Group" of American POWs wasted away. Some froze. Some starved. Some were executed.
In all, about 500 of the original 758 captives died.

Secretly, almost miraculously, one survivor recorded each loss:
Wayne "Johnnie" Johnson, an 18-year-old private first class, six days at the war front, when North Koreans captured him and hundreds of soldiers of the Army's 24th Infantry Division in July 1950 near Chochiwon, South Korea.
Now 64 and living in Phoenix, Johnson talks uneasily of how he defiantly documented death for more than three years as a prisoner of war. It was a painful experience that left permanent physical and psychological scars on the young man from Lima, Ohio.
In tiny handwriting, he clandestinely recorded each death, including about 100 during a nine-day "death march" in November 1950 along the Yalu River. Most were soldiers. Some were civilians, a few nuns, a Korean boy the guys called Johnny.
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First on Johnson's initial list were three or four fellow prisoners killed by an American warplane that strafed the small building in which they were held shortly after being captured. Stirred by the frightening, fatal wounds those men suffered, Johnson decided he should keep track of the deaths he would witness.

About 1 1/2 years later the "Tiger Group," as they called themselves, was put in a POW camp along the Yalu River. In October 1951, Johnson copied his notes scribbled on scrap paper onto a few small sheets he stole from the camp's Chinese guards. He used stolen ink, which he mixed with soot to make it last longer. A stolen pen point was attached to a piece of sugar cane.
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When he wasn't adding to the list, Johnson kept it in a mud wall of his prison shack until a guard found it. Johnson recalls the Chinese camp commander's reaction.

"He threatened me. He hit me with the butt of his pistol," Johnson said. The officer pummeled Johnson about the neck, arms and head with a stiff leather whip and assured him he would never return home if he broke the rules again.
Unbeknownst to the Chinese, however, Johnson had kept a second copy of his list hidden in an empty space beneath his shack's floor.

In August 1953, the Red Cross gave prisoners being repatriated the next day a small green cloth bag of toiletries that included a metal tube of toothpaste. Johnson washed out the toothpaste, rolled up his list and hid it in the tube. Soon he was aboard the USS Black, headed across the Pacific for home.

"The List," as Johnson's tattered tabulation of tragedy has been dubbed, came to light in the Defense Department after Sgt. Victoria Bingham, an Army researcher dealing with Korean War POWs, got wind of what Johnson did. She caught up with him in 1995 at a reunion of former POWs in Sacramento.

Johnson had shared his list with Army debriefers after the war, but some of the information fell through the cracks and was not passed to victims' families.
Officials at Bingham's office, which is in charge of accounting for servicemen missing from the Korean and other wars, are using Johnson's list to cross-check their incomplete database.

Johnson is proud of his Silver Star but still is haunted by memories. He said he relives a horrifying moment of the 1950 death march.

On the morning of Nov. 1, a North Korean colonel the prisoners called "Tiger" halted the procession. He climbed atop a dirt mound and ordered 1st Lt. Cordus Thornton of Dallas to join him. The colonel wanted to show the prisoners the price they would pay if they straggled and slowed up the march.

"He put his pistol to [Thornton's] head and shot him," Johnson said. "It splattered his skull and brains on us right there in the front row. That stays with you a long time."

Here is a website that lists all the names on Johnson's list:  Korean War POW/MIA