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Blount County POW's Korea 1950 - 1953

  Affidavit of Fred L. Speer

This affidavit was given by my father in 1954 and after his release as a prisoner of war.

Fred Lewis Speer
December 10, 1919 - December 27, 2005

525th Military Intelligence Group
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
January 1954


I, Captain Fred L. Speer, 01 172 293, was captured on or about 1530 hrs., 1 December 1950 with a group of six enlisted men and one other officer. We were part of the rear guard of the 3rd Nn., 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Division withdrawing from approximately four (4) miles up the east bank of the Chosen Lake (The western lake of two artificial lakes situated forty to fifty (40-50) miles N.N.W. of Wonsan, North Korea.) Capture was made by CCF.

Two enlisted men were separated from the group and marched N.E. from the point of capture. The remainder were marched to the road and marched south. Three of the men and the other officer were wounded. One enlisted man, name and unit unknown by myself, was being assisted by the group. As he had to be carried, the group was moving rather slowly. One of the two Chinese guards took the man bodily from us to the side of the road and shot him. The remainder were marched to an area 1 to 1 ˝ miles SE from point of capture and placed in a potato cellar, a covered hole in the ground. We remained in that area until about 2100 hrs. that night at which time the enlisted men were separated from the officers.  Having joined a third officer in this area, we were put into open foxholes for the remainder of the night and up until about 1600 hrs. the following day, 2 December 1950. At 1600 hrs we were joined by two or three enlisted men and marched for approximately two and one half (2 ˝) hrs. N.E. Here we received our first food since capture, thirty (30) hrs before.

  No medical treatment was offered us, nor was it apparent that any medicines were available. At approximately 2000 hrs on 2 December 1950, we were joined by more Prisoners of War, many of whom were wounded and marched all night, ending up at our starting place. The reason was given that new housing was available near a larger headquarters. Neither housing nor headquarters were found. Several of the wounded were left at various housed during this night march. Some where left with Chinese guards and one that I know of was left by himself in the snow to die. We remained all day in this second location and were fed two meals of beans and hot water. We were marched that 3rd night back to where we were kept the 1st night, and then we turned north toward the Chosen Dam. During that 2nd night’s march, we lost one officer, Captain Marr, Co I, 31st Infantry Regiment. As he was missed after an Air Raid, the cause and circumstances are unknown by myself. The Chinese would not allow
us to look for him. He had been wounded upon capture,
though he was still moving with some help from our group. There were about thirty (30) on this march.  We were put into Chinese houses, 30 or 40 to a house, in a valley that was used as a HQ. Koreans were noted in this area. Location of area was approximately 2 miles N of Chosen Dam and East for about one mile across the river.

I remained in this area from 4 Dec 1950 until 8 Jan 1951. During this period a Korean doctor and nurse game some very limited first-aid to those with frozen feet. Toes were cut off with dull knives and an application of Iodine put on the stumps. Nothing was used to deaden pain or ease the patient. One officer, Lt. Coke I & R Platoon 31st Inf, was operated on for shrapnel and bone chips in his shin bone with the same methods.

Food at this camp was meager. Four to seven potatoes and a C-ration can of boiled water were issued twice daily. The South Korean prisoners of war in the area did the cooking initially and distributed the food. The last week or 10 days that I was there, a SFC Avery, HQ BTRY 57th FA BN, did the cooking.

The building that housed the 40 or more men I was with had heat in 2 rooms, for about 2-3 hours daily. The end room that I was in had no heat. Freezing temperatures, little food and no bed covering caused many colds. Two cases of fatal pneumonia occurred. SFC James Maddox, Co K 31st Inf. Regiment, and a PFC from the 32nd Inf. Regiment (whose name I do not know) died. The sanitation facilities were non-existent. The outside of one end of the house was used for body waste. All the men had diarrhea. Every man was covered with lice, and no water was available for washing. No one was allowed outside to pick off lice or to sun. Practically all hygiene was done inside. This camp was approximately one off the main road. There was one Chinese guarding each house most of the time. For two days we had Korean guards. Approximately one ounce of meat was issued to each man on 1 Jan 1951.

On 8 Jan 51, I and Capt. Ronald Alley were told that we were going to another camp about 5 days travel time away. We both were weak from malnutrition, and I had diarrhea. Boiled potatoes were issued; and we were marched about 12-13 miles the first day, generally north. At every stop we were billeted in a Korean home. We had one Chinese Lt. Leo who spoke good English and a Korean Lt. with us as our only escorts. Our food for all of the march was potatoes and a brown meal, which were the Chinese rations. The second day we covered about 10-11 miles and Alley and I could hardly walk; we both had blisters and the third day I barely made due to my weakened condition. My legs would not operate, and I had an intense pain in my right groin. I had to place my hands under my legs and throw them forward and balance my weight on them in order to take steps. The Chinese Lt. and Alley went ahead and the Korean Lt. stayed near me. We covered about 8-10 miles that day. The following day I could not straighten my leg out, and I was carried about 100 yards to a cable-car in which we rode over a high mountain. I estimate we covered 15-25 miles on it. We were transferred to a steam-locomotive, and I estimate we covered 40-50 miles to a station about 10 miles north of Kange. We stayed overnight there and were fed cabbage and pork. On the fifth day I was furnished a sleigh and oxen; and we traveled to a point about 10 miles, by road, N W of Kange.

At Kange the camp had about 245 officers and man (16 officers) housed in Korean homes in most cases, with civilians still living there; generally 16-20 to a room; and approximately 12x12 or 12x18 ft.

Food at this camp was an improvement over the first location. Grain was cooked by the Chinese twice a day and we usually had a side dish of soy beans boiled in oil or a peppery slaw. On occasion we got a thin pork broth; and in three or four instances, we received a small dole of meat. Dried, fried fish was received for 4 or 5 meals. For about a week we received a noon repast consisting of very watery grain. Sanitation and life in general was much better here. Hot water was available every morning, soap, toothpaste and brush issued; and limited medical facilities were available every other day. My frozen feet were dressed here two or three times. 

Forced indoctrination was started at Kange. A rabid Chinese Lt. who had fair use of the English language would bring materials and hold lectures in the rooms with us. Some of these visits were at nights, lasting up until 2100 hrs. in some instances. Three or four lectures were presented in a large building by the Chinese Commanders. We understood that one Chinese was a Lt. General and a Corps Commander. No insignia of rank was visible.

This camp was cleared of all POW’s able to walk on about 4 March 1951 and we were marched to the marshalling yard in Kange and loaded on box-cars and started south by train. The train was loaded and on its way by about 2200 hrs. and rode generally south until about 0300 hrs. the next morning. We estimated that we were about 50-60 miles east and a little north of Pyongyang. We were marched from the detraining to about 12 to 14 miles generally northwest and placed again in Korean houses.

We stayed in area three days. Two (2) officers and about sixty (60) men were separated from us and we were marched back to the train and again rode two nights and detrained about 100 miles SSE of Pyuktong, the site of Camp #5. I was on the road a total of 11 or 12 days. There was an attempt to take care of the people who were not able to keep up with the main body. This attempt consisted of allowing us more time to make the march.

I reached Camp #5 on 28 March 1951, and was placed in the officers’ compound. Medical care consisted of a Chinese and/or Korean doctor coming by every other day or so and giving us nothing but abuse. The food was


extremely short and of the worst quality. The occupants of this compound picked grass and weeds to supplement their diet. Wood was insufficient for cooking. The little wood that was scrounged, for heat and boiling water was greatly valued.

Forced indoctrination was a must in this camp. The Chinese said that we were not forced to believe their propaganda, but we had to attend and pay attention. These so called lessons lasted until we left this camp on or about 20 October 1951.

The officers and fifteen (15) Air Force enlisted men from Camp #5 were marched to a location about ten (10) miles east, where Camp #11 was established. At Camp #2, we were in a Korean schoolhouse, and a kitchen had been constructed by the Turkish soldiers and in operation there. A school yard was adjoining and available to us for athletics.

Conditions here were a decided improvement over our previous camps. We were cooking our own food, conducting to a certain extent, our own recreation program. This was especially true after February 1952, when the Indoctrination Program was reduced to the level where the Chinese occasionally called us in to feed us propaganda, and material was made available to us in a reading room. Many media available to us were of American origin and every American –periodical communist present was viciously knocking some offices of the American, English, French, or other Non-Communist Block U.N. Members. The country picked on most for this vicious program was the United States.

Mail started coming to us here. In the months of January, February, and March, 1952, mail service was fair compared to what it was before. From January 1952 until I was released in September 1953, I estimate I received forty (40) letters. There was a case of man receiving only one letter. There were cases of men receiving over 300 letters. Some of the progressives received little mail and some of the solid Americans received as much as 300 pieces of mail.

Medical care was increased here to the extent that drugs were available to the worst cases. The Chinese doctors did not care, or evidently didn’t know too much about medicine. I separated my shoulder joint so that it was very noticeable. The Chinese doctor painted the unbroken skin with iodine and told me to get plenty of exercise. The American doctors in our barracks put the arm in a sling. Sanitation in the First Aid area was worse than in many barn yard areas.

We were moved as a body south to be released on or about 17 August 1953. We were transported by truck to Mampo, From Mampo to Kaesong by rail the total elapsed time for the move was about sixty (60) hrs.

Release was effected on 2 September 1953
Fred. L. Speer
Capt, Arty

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 8 day of January 1954 at Headquarters 525th Military Intelligence Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Tom. M. Legett
Capt, Inf


The photograph above was published in many newspapers throughout the United States.
Some of the various captions appear below.

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