Sgt. Arnold was waiting at the top of the steps, apparently having learned in advance that we would be returning. His greeting was almost ambiguous: "Sorry you didn't make it all the way, Chief, but sure glad to have you back."
Kubicek and O'Shea emerged from the building, apparently coming to greet me. I waved a greeting to them with one hand and indicated to Arnold with the other that we should move away. The two officers waved in return and went back into the building; recognizing my desire for an immediate private discussion with the sergeant. Several of the young enlisted men had come out, but they also went back in shortly and Shaw and Wem with them. So Arnold and I had the small schoolyard all for ourselves.
His first words were, "They took Happy away from us the day after you left."
"For attitude adjustment?" I asked.
"I expect so," he replied, "and maybe something worse. 'Cause he sure made his feelings clear the morning they found you were gone."
"What did he do?"
"He came up to where I was they had us all out here while they were checking things inside the building talked real fast in Chinese ending with 'chief-oo putchooie,' and slapped his hands like this ." Arnold slapped his palms together with one of them sliding upward to indicate up and away. "And Konrad, Tsai, and Peter Love and several others were right here when he did it. So I expect Konrad wouldn't have much choice but to get him away from us and probably away from the whole camp."
"There's more to it than that," I said. And in response to the sergeant's questioning look I added, "He was with the search party the day they found us, and argued with the guard company officer about the way he treated us."
"Yep, very really," I said. "I'll fill you in on the details later. What's our situation here now? I think I saw several new faces peering out of the door. How many, who, and what kind?"
"We've got eleven newcomers since you left," he replied. He then proceeded to name them, together with brief appraisals of their characters. There were three Marine pilots, a major named Harris, and two lieutenants, Williams and Baugh. The major seemed to recognize his special responsibilities as senior officer in the group, and to want to fulfill them. He seemed to recognize also the need to find a roundabout way of doing so because of the enemy's "no rank amongst prisoners" policy. The lieutenants seemed to be sensible fellows. A Navy pilot, Lt. Sam Moritz, was appraised as a sensible and also congenial officer with an interest in helping the major.
Two new Air Force pilots had arrived, Capt Waller and 1st Lt. Tuttle. Tuttle was sick and spent most of the time lying wrapped in his blanket. Waller spent most of his time sitting beside Tuttle. Arnold suspected that Tuttle was at least exaggerating his illness because he liked the sympathy and attention provided by Waller.
Olaf Bergh, a Royal Air Force pilot, Arnold categorized as "very British" but also "very congenial." He had invited that everyone should just call him "Olie, under the present circumstance; with no concern about rank, or nationality, or geographic origin." (He had been born in Kenya.)
There were two army lieutenants, both of ROTC derivation. Dave Shay had been assigned as liaison officer with the Colombian contingent in the UN forces. Arnold rated him as an intelligent, obviously well-schooled young man, pleasant and good-humored. Though not military oriented, he clearly recognized the need for military order and discipline in this circumstance.
He regarded the other army lieutenant as totally unworthy of his commission, and an endangerment to the well being of the group. He said the fellow was so obnoxious that none of the other officers would even talk with him. So he conversed and consorted with the few of the enlisted men who might also be inclined to dissident behavior. Other of the enlisted men wanted nothing to do with him either. "He's not even worthy of his last name," Sgt. Arnold said, " because his last name is 'Manley.' So I call him by his first name, which is 'Omar,' or refer to him as the 'little lieutenant' because he's almost as small of body as he is of mind."
The other two new arrivals during my absence were enlisted men who had been with the group from Pak's Palace, but had gone to the hospital when we arrived at Pyoktong. Arnold said that one of them, "Danny," was a bit slow and with some emotional problems, but respectful and dependable. He was not yet certain about the other one. Having received a quite thorough summation of the situation from the sergeant, it was time to go in and meet the newcomers, personally. Arnold suggested I might as well introduce myself to them. He, meanwhile, would express his greetings to Shaw and Wem, at the same time taking notice of the "little lieutenant's" behavior since "that's where he will be." He repeated, then his previous statement that he was sorry I didn't make it, but glad to have me back; with added comment: "Because I sure need some help in dealing with this crowd."
When we entered the building, the enlisted men were gathered around Shaw and Wem in the northeast corner of the room. As Arnold had predicted, the "little lieutenant" was there also. Gilliland, Rambo, Ribbeck and Wedsworth left that group briefly to greet me, then returned to it as I walked in further to meet and greet the officers. Seated about midpoint of the small stage in the western end of the room was the red-bearded fellow whom I had seen through the peephole in our north door as he was being escorted to the Little Schoolhouse. That was Navy Lt. Moritz. Next to him was Major Harris. As the three of us stood together on that low platform, the others quickly gathered around to listen
Major Harris's first question was if I thought it possible for someone to escape from this area and somehow, somewhere. reach friendly forces. I responded that my experience had convinced me "definitely so." There was natural food and good water readily available in the wooded mountains around us. There was also adequate cover for some careful daytime travel after organized pursuit had lost or been led off the trail. Someone asked if I was able to evade the search party that set out following my trail the first morning. Without going into detail, I said that had been accomplished quite easily by creating a false trail in one direction, backtracking, and carefully moving off in another. While my audience seemed to be admiring the shrewdness of that maneuver, I mentioned that by happenstance we found a comfortable place of concealment from which we were able to see and hear the search party pick up and follow the false lead; and safely rest until they gave up the search in late afternoon and headed back to camp.
"And incidentally," I concluded in that regard, "while we were watching the search party beating the brush where we weren't, we were munching raspberries left over from our early morning breakfast. What did you guys have for breakfast that morning?"
That led to some light banter, including jocular request for location of the berry patch. Following that I gave a summary account of our further travel after the search party had departed and the finding next morning of another good place of concealment. During that, the "little lieutenant" left the enlisted group, came onto the small stage and stood behind me, listening. But when I mentioned that while I was getting some much-needed sleep, Wem had gone out of our concealment and was seen by the Korean woman, the petty fellow interrupted with a shout:
"What the hell kinda guy are you? Blamin' those kids for you getting recaptured! You were the one in charge!"
I turned to look at him and quietly said, "In addition to not knowing what I'm talking about, you obviously don't even know what you're talking about. If you want to learn something, I think you ought to just listen and keep your mouth shut."
"Oh Yeah!" he shouted. "Well I ain't gonna stand for you talkin' that way about those kids! You think your such a damn' big shot! ... " He ranted on with several more of such inanities; for the obvious purpose of trying to impress any of the enlisted men foolish enough to believe it, that he was standing up for them. When he paused for breath, I said:
"You are obviously aware that in any circumstance other than this you would by now be flat on your back, probably with a few teeth missing from your big mouth."
"Oh Yeah!" he shouted again. "You just try somethin'! I ain't scared of you!"
He had positioned himself (no doubt deliberately) at the north edge of the small stage on which we were standing, beside which AF Lt. Tuttle was lying on the floor. Had I backhanded him, as he well deserved, he would have fallen or stepped back onto Tuttle and probably also on Capt. Waller who was seated alongside his squadron mate. So I looked at him and said, "You little punk, you aren't even worth the effort;" then turned back to Major Harris and Lt Moritz and said: "Gentlemen if you'll excuse me for now, I'll give you more of the details later when none of the kiddies are listening."
With a nod to Sgt. Arnold as I passed him, I went to the open door to give some thought to the situation. The little lieutenant's performance had certainly confirmed Arnold's appraisal that he was an endangerment to the well-being of everyone. It was unquestionably calculated to get Shaw and Wem to accept him as their spokesman or "leader," and also to further impress any other of the enlisted men who might already have in some measure so accepted him. If he was allowed to get even a few of them to follow his lead in dissident behavior, it would be very detrimental to proper internal discipline in the group.
My thoughts were interrupted at that point by arrival of Major Harris alongside. "Chief," he said, "I feel compelled to commend you for your self-restraint. I'm sure most everyone here would agree that you would have been fully justified to bash that lieutenant in the face."
"You may be giving me a little more credit than I deserve, major," I responded. "The only reason I didn't was because he would have fallen on the guy lying on the floor just behind him."
"I appreciate that, too," he said; and after short pause, "I've heard quite a bit about you, Chief, from some of the men who've been with you before. I'd like to talk with you soon about our situation here get some of your ideas on how best to deal with it."
"Would right now be soon enough, sir?"
A quick nod was his response to that, and we went out onto the small schoolyard for privacy. The major had himself been at the Little School house for but a short while. He and the two Marine lieutenants, Williams and Baugh, had previously been in custody of the North Koreans in a place adjacent to Pak's Palace which they called "The Caves." Briefly, he expressed several concerns about fulfilling his responsibilities as senior officer in the group, over and against the enemy's "hungachi" (i.e., "no rank amongst prisoners, everybody same-same") policy which essentially forbid him to do so. He sought, therefore, my appraisal of those present residents of the Little Schoolhouse with whom I was acquainted; first of the senior officers, AF Capt. Kubicek and Marine Capt. O'Shea.
I told him, bluntly, that neither of them had leadership qualities commensurate with their rank. Kubicek basically a technician, had neither training nor experience in military leadership, had shown no inclination to assume responsibilities when he was senior officer and even regarded himself as unqualified in that regard. But I thought he would be helpful in support of whatever the major might attempt because he had been supportive of Sgt. Arnold and myself and had considerable of practical knowledge by virtue of wide-ranging self-education. As for O'Shea whatever of military training or experience might have enabled him to acquire his rank was irrelevant, because he had demonstrated a primary motive of self-interest.
"What of the enlisted men?" he then asked; especially their susceptibility to the enemy's "hungachi" policy, or Lt. Manley's effort to gather them around himself for some reason or another.
Four of those whom I had known at the Slave Camp Gilliland, Rambo, Ribbeck and Wedsworth I was confident would hold fast against the enemy's line, and would regard "our little army lieutenant" to be unacceptable, as the other officers seemed to feel. Shaw's attitude was now questionable in both regards. I had invited him to join me in the escape attempt because of his good performance at the Slave Camp. But there was now indication of some juvenile resentment of authority, generally, and of myself in particular because of his realization that our recapture was result of his insistence that his buddy, Wem, go along with us. Wem would just follow whichever way Shaw might go. Hibbert, the British lance corporal, would gather with others who might join the little lieutenant's group because he was himself of dissident character. As for other of the enlisted men, Sgt. Arnold was much better acquainted with them than I.
The major then briefly presented his appraisal of our situation. There was certainly need for some internal discipline instead of the "every man for himself" atmosphere that seemed presently to exist. But it would have to be done sub -rosa because of the enemy's "no rank among prisoners" policy. Which of course made it some difficult to deal with dissident types, either officers or enlisted. He would count on Arnold and myself to keep the enlisted men in line. He would, of course, deal with any of the officers to the extent circumstances would allow; and would promptly be having a discussion with Lt. Manley. He concluded on that by saying "But if he mouths off at you like that again I would not fault you if you bashed him."
"A good bashing is probably the only thing that would make him change his ways," I said. "But I think he knows the only reason he didn't get it a while ago was because he had carefully picked a safe place to stand while he mouthed off. He'll not likely give me another opportunity. If he does, I'll do it; even though I've no doubt the little rat would complain to the enemy about it. Which is something I expect he might also do if you even threaten him verbally."
The major mulled that for a moment, then said he would keep that in mind. Further then in regard to the general situation in view of the enemy's "no rank amongst prisoners" policy, and the close confines, he felt it best to continue the existing informal relationship between officers and enlisted at all times, to avoid suspicion by the enemy that there were efforts to establish internal military order. He felt that "Sarge" and "Chief" were sufficiently informal for Arnold and myself, but he should be called "Bucky" instead of major.
"Oh one more thing Chief,." he said as we started toward the Little Schoolhouse. "I've been told that you did a good job of rationing out the rice before you took off from here. I wonder if you'd be willing to resume that duty?"
To which I replied, "I'd say mess cookin' is a relatively mild punishment for going AWOL, sir Bucky."
Within but a few days, my resumption of the rice-rationing job resulted in a clear demonstration that Major Bucky Harris was full serious about dealing with any officer whose behavior seemed out of order, and also that Sgt. Arnold had the wisdom to effectively deal with a unique problem with one of the enlisted men. A partial bucket of scrambled eggs arrived with the rice for our evening meal; a rare but much appreciated event. A long-handled spoon in the egg bucket was convenient size for apportioning about the equivalent of one egg atop each ladled bowl of rice.
Though not the very first in line, among the several foremost was Capt. O'Shea. After I had put his egg ration atop his rice he said, "I get two egg rations, Chief, because I made a deal with Danny for his ration.".
"Oh, really?" I said, "What kind of a deal?"
"I do some things for him," O'Shea replied, "and he does some things for me, And he doesn't like eggs so he said I could have his ration. Isn't that right, Danny?" he called back to the young private who was some distance back in the line.
" Yeah that's right," Danny said. "We made a deal. I never did like eggs anyway so he can have mine. I keep my deals."
"Well it may be all right with you, Danny," I called back. "But it's not all right with me. If you want him to have your ration you can give it to him after I give it to you." More quietly, and with an appropriate look, I said to O'Shea: "But I'm sure as hell not giving it to you."
O'Shea started to respond, but changed his mind, as I glanced at Major Harris, who was at the very end of the waiting line and Sgt. Arnold dropped out of the line just a short way behind O'Shea and moved back to talk with Danny.
Danny was a very young private, with some physical and emotional problems which perhaps should have forbid him from recruitment into the National Guard. But he had been accepted, sent to Korea and into combat, as were many others, in disregard of any inadequacies of basic suitability or training. One of his problems now was inability to make a cigarette from his tobacco ration without spilling more than was kept. Arnold and I had together observed O'Shea rolling cigarettes for him during the past several days and wondered why he was doing it. Now we knew.
When the two of them arrived at the buckets for their rations, Danny was insisting that he must give his egg ration to O'Shea because he'd "made a deal." Arnold was arguing to the contrary, and told Danny he needed the nourishment those eggs would provide unless he wanted to "go back to the hospital." I decided to keep out of that discussion as the sergeant "ordered" Danny to come along with him to discuss the matter further, rather than going just then to O'Shea. When Major Harris arrived and I ladled his ration, he quietly said, "I see what you meant by 'self-interest,' Chief. I'd like to talk with you and Arnold together a bit later."
To which I replied, "Aye - aye, sir, Bucky."
After breakfast the following morning, with someone in the doorway watching that none of the enemy would hear, Major "Bucky" Harris issued his first express order as senior officer present. He quietly announced that anything which the enemy issued to us as individuals, such as tobacco, sugar, soap, etc., the individual could "use, trade or waste," however he might wish. But any food which came from the kitchen for the group was community property, and if someone didn't want his ration, it would be left for equal distribution to the others.
Young Danny had several problems other than inability to roll his own cigarettes. One was due to the fact that when he heard something said which amused him, he would go around repeating it for a while, to others, or sometimes to himself. A few of the others, including a couple of the officers. sometimes would encourage Danny to do that and otherwise tease him for their own amusement; then when tiring of it gruffly put him aside. Major Harris promptly set the officers straight in the matter, and Sgt. Arnold dealt with the enlisted men. Arnold also quietly coached Danny with regard to his sometimes troubling behavior.
Then the enemy decided to see if they could make some use of Danny. It was probably Konrad's idea, but he never personally came to the Little Schoolhouse after I had returned to there. A new interpreter named Chung took Danny away for a couple of hours one afternoon. When he returned, Danny had a big grin on his face. He hurried to give Sgt. Arnold a rice cake, then showed a handful of tailor-made cigarettes to all around and told them what had happened Chung had served rice cakes and tea to Danny, "out of a real teapot. in a real cup and saucer, " and then talked with him about his home, and school and what he did "before joining the army." The same act was repeated the following afternoon, except that Arnold told Danny to sit down beside himself, and quietly explained to him that Chung was setting him up to eventually get him to talk about things going on within our group.
Arnold's bed-down was about midway of the north wall of the building, adjacent to the spaces occupied by the little lieutenant and his three or four "loyal," dissident followers, which now included Shaw. For a while they just listened in on what Arnold was saying. But then Shaw jumped up, positioned himself in front of Arnold and Danny, shook a finger at Danny and said, "And by god, if you tell 'em anything about me I'll sure as hell....!"
I had by then stepped in alongside of Shaw, and interrupted him by saying: "And just what of any importance could anyone possibly tell the enemy about you that you haven't yourself told them or they haven't figured out for themselves?" After a quick glance at me, Shaw said nothing but returned to his own place beside the little lieutenant. After a nod to Arnold and Danny, I returned to my own space which was immediately inside the doorway.
When Danny returned from his session with Chung the following day, he was crying and virtually incoherent. Sgt. Arnold having expected something of that order was waiting at the doorway and led him at once to sit with himself on the floor, shielding him from the several of the group who might have rushed up trying to ask questions or otherwise trouble him further with their stares. The two of them sat so until our evening rice and soup arrived. After that, Arnold related to Major Harris, Lt. Moritz and myself what Danny had experienced, as best he could determine from the young man's emotional and considerably disjointed account of it:
In essence, after leading into the session in the usual of manner a cigarette, setting out of cups and the teapot to brew Chung had asked Danny how he was treated by others in the group. In response to that, Danny had simply said the others treated him "okay." Shortly then, Chung began asking him what the others talked about, particularly Major Harris, Lt. Moritz, Arnold, and myself. When Danny told him he didn't want to talk about such things as that because we were his "friends," Chung first offered that if he would do so, then they could continue to have "pleasant" meetings with tea and rice cakes, otherwise there would be no more of them. When Danny declined that offer, Chung told him that unless he agreed to tell him about such things he would not even be allowed to return to the group, but put someplace all alone.
From that point, Arnold reported, Danny's memory of events was murky at best; probably much of it not remembered by him at all. Quite probably it had resulted in a tantrum, to which the young fellow was quite prone. For Danny seemed to have no idea of how long he had been kept away after that. He did recall that shortly before returning to the Little Schoolhouse two soldiers were physically restraining him and that someone other than Chung was talking to him; perhaps either Konrad or Tsai.
That traumatic experience was beginning of considerable change in Danny. Under Sgt. Arnold's subsequent guidance, his sometimes disturbing and/or irritating behavior within the group greatly diminished. The petty-minded types, who had sometimes teased or otherwise mistreated him became less inclined to do so. That may have been due in part to their realization that he had rejected the enemy's offer of special treatment. Otherwise, Major Harris had quietly made clear that he would not tolerate such behavior and they knew several other of the officers as well as Sgt. Arnold and myself would back him on it.
Part of the stabilizing change in Danny was recollections of his childhood. He talked frequently with Arnold and myself about his mother, and often would hum or sing quietly to himself songs which she had sung to him. They were the sort of encouraging and inspiring songs many mothers might sing to their children, understandably in this case including "Danny Boy." In the ensuing months it would be seen that despite several inherent deficiencies (which should have prevented his enlistment into military service) in terms of loyalty our "Danny Boy" was a far better soldier than any of his detractors or tormentors; especially the Little Lieutenant and his small gathering of dissidents.
Shaw had at once taken up with Lt. Manley after our return to the Little School house; took a bedding space alongside of him, and shortly began trying to recruit other of young enlisted men into the dissident group. I chanced to overhear part of his "pitch" to Rambo in that regard: "Us little guys gotta stick together, JW. You know damn' well none of the other officers give a damn about us. But he does, because he was an enlisted man once himself. We gotta all stick together form a clique to protect ourselves."*
[* Omar had in fact been in service during World War 2, at least long enough to qualify for schooling under the GI Bill. Shaw's use of the term, "clique," was probably derived from his conversations with the little lieutenant. His own previous working vocabulary would not likely have included it.]
I did not hear Rambo's response to that, but had no doubt he would decline the invitation. Although I did not hear what he said to them, the two young enlisted marines in the group, Ribbeck and Wertman appeared simply to brush Shaw's recruiting pitch aside and turn away from further discussion with him. Al Wedsworth, a Canadian enlisted in the US Air Force who had been with us at the Slave Camp, exchanged several remarks with Shaw, then ended the discussion by turning away brusquely with some last statement.
A day or so later, while most others were outside, Wedsworth was sitting on the floor playing cards with one of the young enlisted men who was part of the "clique" (as Shaw had come sometimes to call it). As was quite often his custom, Wedsworth softly hummed some tune. Shaw came into the building, apparently did not notice my presence as he moved behind Al, dropped to his knees, hooked one arm around his neck in a chokehold and said, "Damn you! I told you to stop humming that song!"
I called sharply to Shaw to "knock it off," but he ignored it. So I reached over his shoulder, cupped my hand under his chin, and flipped him in a complete backward somersault. His head struck the wall hard enough to daze him a bit. He looked at me groggily as I told him that any more of that sort of behavior could get him badly hurt. He said nothing in return, but got up and went outside Al was rubbing his neck when I looked back at him, and said "Thanks, Chief" as I moved back beside him. When I asked, he said he didn't know why Shaw had assaulted him, and began picking up the cards to resume the game. The other fellow sat silent with an open-mouthed expression of wonderment.
Did Wedsworth really not have any idea as to why Shaw had attacked him so? Obviously in any case he did not want to discuss it with me. So I went outside, noted that Shaw was idling by himself rather than joined with his little lieutenant buddy or any of the other "little guys." Which indicated that he would probably not be telling any of them what he had just experienced. I sought out Major Harris and Sgt. Arnold and informed them of the incident. We briefly discussed possible reasons for Shaw's actions. Possibly he held some grudge because Wedsworth had declined to join the "little guys clique." Or perhaps he wanted to convey an impression of his own "toughness" to the fellow who was playing cards with Al, since that fellow was already one of the little lieutenant's small group. For it was by then apparent that Shaw was or at least regarded himself to be the little lieutenant's number one follower in the "little guys clique."
It was agreed in any case that the group could become detrimental to the establishment of internal discipline; simply because the little lieutenant encouraged dissident behavior. Except for British Lance Corporal Hibbert, they were all young draftees, probably with very little of training before being sent to Korea and into battle.. Perhaps the greatest danger was that one or another of them, in addition to Omar, himself, might complain to Konrad about any of our efforts to keep them in line. Particularly worrisome in that regard was a corporal who called himself "Watash" (Korean word for "me" or "I"), whom Konrad had installed as squad leader in my place.
The first wood-gathering detail after return to the Little Schoolhouse enabled a check on any debilitating effects of the several weeks of golyon diet. There appeared to be little loss of strength or stamina. But a slight scratch brought a trickle of pale, pink blood and several minutes of mild compress was required to stop it. It was of course too late in the season to actually try another escape at once. But there was wonder if our rice and beans diet would restore my blood to good condition by the next summer. And there seemed small chance of augmenting the diet which our captors provided. Nothing edible was seen in the areas from which we gathered firewood. Contact with the citizenry was forbidden and even if somehow managed it was not likely they would have food to spare.
A small opportunity developed, however, when gathering of wood from nearby forest was discontinued and firewood was brought across the Suejo Reservoir from Manchuria by barge. We were then escorted to the barge landing to off-load the wood, after which it was hauled to our camp on mule carts. Distance to the landing was sufficient to warrant a rest stop about midway. While the others idled in the shade of trees on the south side of the pathway, Sgt. Arnold and I chose to sun ourselves sitting in a soy bean field which bordered it on the north; having at once decided we might augment our diet of boiled beans with some that were baked. We could boil and bake them over the bucket of coals which we were allowed to have in the Little Schoolhouse at night, in a brass bowl which Arnold had acquired at Pak's Palace and managed to retain through our travels since then.
An elderly Korean, probably owner of the field, quietly observed our presence from the porch of a small house at the field's end. We carefully picked but one or two pods from each plant within our reach so the pilferage would not be readily apparent. Two barge-unloading trips enabled us to acquire enough beans. On the second trip, I carried my otherwise unused tobacco ration with me, and traded some of it to the elderly Korean for a few dried red peppers (after obtaining permission of our escort leader to visit with him). Those, along with some salt which Tsai provided when I said I needed some for gargling because of a sore throat, added some seasoning when we cooked the beans. We could add some sugar from our individual rations for the baking of them, but lamented the lack of other appropriate seasonings..
We abandoned at the outset any hope of getting tomato paste or mustard. Most regrettable was the lack of either hamhocks or bacon to provide both flavor and some grease or oil. But another fortunate turn of events resolved part of that deficiency. A cartload of bok choy (cabbage) arrived on the barge, and we were put to the task of digging a shallow pit in which to store and cover it for preservation from freezing. While we were doing that, two of the guard company soldiers were butchering a hog close by. By showing great interest in what they were doing, I managed to snitch a handful of leaf lard from one of the meat tubs. Baking of the beans was begun that night. Because Arnold's bed space was close by the bucket of coals, he accepted primary responsibility for checking their progress
About mid-afternoon of the following day, Arnold called me to come check because he thought they might be done. Before I had even risen to go there, Little Lieutenant Omar jumped up from his space nearer to Arnold, confronted him and said: "Now look here, sergeant, that food should be shared equally by everyone here! Not just by you and the chief!"
Perhaps some surprised by that, Arnold looked up at him for a moment before responding in effect that since the lieutenant had not contributed in any way to acquiring or cooking of the beans, he therefor had no right to say what should now be done with them. Omar started to say something more, but stopped as I arrived and said, "Well, fella perhaps you should get an appointment with Konrad, and tell him we aren't complying with his 'hungachi' policy since you seem to go along with it." He then went back to his bed space to grumble about the matter with Shaw and a couple more of their "little guys clique."
Arnold and I then put on a show of testing the beans; three beans each, one at time. We agreed that the texture was good but flavor somewhat lacking. We then added a couple of peppermint flavored hard candies (a few of which had been issued to everyone two days previously) and announced for benefit of the observers that we would continue baking of the beans until the candies melted and added their flavor. By the following afternoon, the candies were only partially melted. We tasted again one bean each announced that flavor was now adequate, removed for ourselves the unmelted portion of the candies and invited any who wished to come for sample of the beans.
Only Little Lieutenant Omar, Shaw and three more declined the invitation. After all of the others had savored about one-half spoonful each, there remained three spoonfuls apiece for Arnold and myself to feast upon. So we gained very little of additional physical nutrition from our bean-baking project. But it had provided some measure of spiritual uplift to most of our "classmates" in the Little Schoolhouse, and an indication of the characters and attitudes if the remaining few.
The curriculum at the Little Schoolhouse after my return was much the same as before; the basic Three R's of reading, writing and arithmetic, plus a fourth one of devising recreational activities to deal with the boredom of our confinement.
"Reading" was limited to contents of the circulating library. Since it included no comic books, Penthouse magazines, or such, it held little appeal to many of the "students." But a few of us shortly realized that the US and British communist publications which were included could be sources of fairly accurate information. One had only to ignore the propaganda, then "un-twist" the distortions, to figure out with reasonable accuracy some of the facts of a matter.
Writing ? Tsai arrived one day with some stationery (sheets of paper which would fold into a sort of envelope) and announced that anyone who wished could have some to write letters which would then be turned over to our side at the "peace talks" for delivery. Shaw asked Tsai what we were allowed to write about, and was quickly told he could write anything he wanted to. Which seemed to impress the foolish young fellow and a few others as a quite nice privilege, until Army Lt. Dave Shay explained to them after Tsai had departed that if they wrote something nice about the enemy it might actually be sent on, but if it contained anything displeasing to them it would not. A few days later a small, red cloth-bound book with blank pages was issued to each of us, in which we were encouraged to keep a diary. Again it was necessary to point out to a few that they should expect the enemy to be checking those diaries now and again to see what anyone had written. But the pencil issued with each one was nice to have for keeping scores in card games. And the book itself would be a nice memento because of the picture of Chairman Mao on its first page.
Arithmetic ? For some, there was mathematical exercise keeping score in card games. Perhaps everyone might now and again recompute the number of months and days they had been prisoner. But there was insufficient data to calculate even an estimate of how much longer we might be so held. Such information as was provided to us by our "hosts," together with what we could glean from the reading materials, added up to "indefinitely!"
So the fourth "R" recreational activity to cope with boredom became the most important part of our curriculum. Excursions to the big schoolyard for exercise, and to the stream for bathing and washing of clothes, were some helpful. So also were the occasional trips to the barge landing, for the dozen or so who consistently volunteered. But there was still much more time just sitting in the Little Schoolhouse, or idling outside of it. And it was soon evident that situation was a prime factor in generation of petty quarrels and incidents, such as Shaw's otherwise unexplained assault of Wedsworth.
Because we were not now being abused by the enemy as had been the case at the Slave Camp, but really quite reasonably treated, the emotional stresses of our circumstance turned inward for some; sometimes against others and sometimes against themselves. Mostly, however, close friendships developed between persons of similar age, experience, and/or interests; and there was what might be called neighborly respect for others. The bed spaces of about two by six feet around the perimeter were respected as private property of the occupant. The center space was a "commons." .
Conversations were of course a major part of time-filling activity; concerning an unlimited variety of subjects in a wide range of intellectual dimensions. For Major Harris, Lt. Moritz, Sgt. Arnold and myself, just listening in was often more fruitful than participating. For that provided some insight into the rather surprisingly wide range of characters, motives, and attitudes within such a small assembly. Which was helpful in our efforts to deal with any dissension's which arose and perhaps prevented some.
Kubicek, apparently well recovered from whatever had caused his session of "give-up-itis," was now the same congenial conversationalist he had been at Pak's Palace; ready to talk with almost anyone about almost anything. His wide-ranging self education provided some knowledge in a great variety of subjects. And, as he had explained to me at Pak's, he didn't hesitate to fake knowledge when he thought his audience wouldn't realize it. Since he was not at all "rank-conscious," most of the young enlisted men shared and enjoyed some of his congeniality. Kubicek also upgraded the checkerboard a bit by fashioning some crude chess pieces from sticks and paper and teaching the game to anyone who might be interested
Air Force reservist navigator Lt. Smith (who wanted to be called by his initials, "CJ") had a much different attitude. He held himself quite aloof from the enlisted men, and also some apart from any of the officers who did not at least pretend sympathy for his repetitive complaining that he really should not have been called to active duty. Now added to that was his complaint whenever the "peace talks" were mentioned that our side should not be holding out on the prisoner exchange issue but should agree with whatever the enemy proposed and get the war ended. He shunned any lowly card games such as pitch, rummy, or hearts, but sought out some of the officers to play bridge.. Also he played chess with Kubicek now and again.
"CJ" did condescend to inquire of some of the enlisted men if one of them might be willing to wash his clothes for him in exchange for promise of payment after repatriation. Shaw quickly agreed to that arrangement. Whether he actually got paid after repatriation is not known. But he immediately enjoyed boasting about the arrangement to his cronies in the "little guys clique" and pointing to "CJ" as an example of "uppity attitude" of the officers; excepting of course their leader, Little Lieutenant Omar. That small group kept itself quite much apart . It was not likely they would openly revolt against the major's efforts to effect internal discipline. But the Little Lieutenant's resentment of being ostracized by the other officers was increasingly evident. And "Watash," the corporal whom Konrad had installed as squad leader in my place, was several times taken out by Tsai or Chung; we suspected for meetings with Konrad.
The singular common interest, of course, was the prospect of an end to the war. At first appearance of Tsai or Chung on any day one of the "little guys" group (usually Shaw) would rush to ask: "What's the news of the peace talks?" The answer was usually along the lines of, "I don't know, but I'll check." Later that day or within a day or so, we would be called to assembly and given the "good news" that communist negotiators at Panmunjom had made a proposal which could bring about an end of the war quite soon. That would send the hopes and spirits of the emotional types a-soaring; and whoever might suggest a calmer, wait-and-see attitude risked being accused of not wanting the war to end. Then in a day or so, probably in response to the usual how-are-things-going-at-the peace-talks question, Tsai would sadly explain that unfortunately our side did not agree to the "fair and reasonable" proposal which the communist negotiators had made and therefore there was no way of knowing how much longer the war might go on.
Often included with the resultant gloom of the emotional types, was resentment of those who had advised them not to get their hopes too high. And a few other of them would quietly agree with "CJ" that our side should really have accepted whatever the communists proposed in order to get the war ended.
Far more useful than any pronouncements by Tsai in appraising the prospects of the war ending was the information obtainable from the US and British communist publications in the circulating library: Masses and Mainstream, Daily Worker, and Peoples World. Those also contained accounts of several interesting things happening back in the US about which our captors might not otherwise have told us.
There was a tear-jerking series about the trial, conviction and pending execution of Soviet agents Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. [No mention, of course, of the considerable damages to American interests and perhaps inestimable number of American lives lost because of their treasonous actions.]
There were some stories about a fine young man named Alger Hiss, former aide-de-camp of President Franklin Roosevelt and major contributor to the drafting of the United Nations Charter, being unjustly persecuted by an upstart U. S. Congressman named Richard Nixon. [Soviet records available after collapse of the Soviet Union have shown that Hiss was regarded as one of their very best agents in the USA.]
There was mention of an "unfair" trial in New Jersey, under a Judge named Robert Morris, which resulted in conviction of several persons for subversive activities at a US military station. [That one might have been enhanced a bit if its author had mentioned that the judge was linear descendant of a revolutionary character with the same name who had signed the Declaration of Independence.]
There were stories about the "terrible" mistreatment of Chinese POW's in the camps run by our side on Koje-do. (An island off the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula.) When a US general was taken hostage in one of the compounds it was said to have been an act of desperation by the prisoners because of their mistreatment. But since some of us knew that most of the Chinese soldiers held at Koje-do were defectors, rather than captured in combat, we also knew the enemy was sending agents there pretending to be defectors for the specific purpose of creating such disorder.
And there was extensive coverage of an on-going campaign by a US Senator named McCarthy to convince his Congressional colleagues that there were subversives (i.e. pro-Communist) persons in the U.S. Department of State. Some of us upon reading of that wondered if that might be at least part of the reason the peace talks were bogged down. For from our own, on-the-scene perspective we were convinced the communists would not agree to "peace" on our side's terms, unless military action was resumed (or at least threatened) which could cause them to lose the war. So we wondered if someone in our government's policy making apparatus was preventing the kind of policy which would accomplish that. [And some of us who listened in on the Congressional Hearings after our return from captivity, would note that some of the testimonies against Senator McCarthy were almost verbatim of what we had read in the communist publications.]
And of course there was coverage of the on-going Presidential contest in the US between Democrat Adlai Stevenson and General Dwight Eisenhower as the Republican candidate. Because the Communist Party, USA had a candidate of its own neither of the two major party candidates was openly endorsed. But it was apparent that the CPUSA hoped Stevenson would be elected. And it became evident that the communist leadership in China preferred the same. For Tsai and Chung began asking all of the residents of the Little Schoolhouse if we didn't think it would be a bad thing if a military man be elected as our president now, since what we needed was peace, rather than war.
Only a few of the "students" in the Little Schoolhouse spent much time reading those communist publications. because in fact they were fundamentally just propaganda. But Army Lt. Dave Shay (an accountant and stock market analyst by profession) joined with me in quest of anything therein significant to our effort to determine how long the war might continue. What little we found, combined with all other known or suspected factors, we agreed still added up to Indefinitely!
So my major study after return to the Little Schoolhouse was the same as it had been before escape! With what had been learned on the first attempt, chances of success all the way were much improved. And again it had to be a solitary study; unless and until I might find a suitable partner for the venture. For the axiom which Joe Green had so well expressed at Pak's Palace still applied: "Anything you don't want the enemy to know about you, don't mention to anyone else!"
The question was asked, of course, by many of the others if I intended to try again next year. My answer, "That depends " usually brought a follow up question, "On what?" My reply to that, "On many things ," usually ended the discussion. Except with Sergeant Arnold and Major Harris. Arnold studied me for a moment and then said, "Oh yes, of course. I wish you wouldn't, but I realize you have to. You can count on me to help in any way I can." I knew I could also count on him not to mention the subject to anyone else.
Major Harris had a second follow up question: "But you do think escape is possible, don't you?" And after I confirmed that I did so believe, he said: "Well, I don't think I am myself capable of doing it, but I do think that you are. And I think it would be a very good thing if someone could make it out, and give a good report of what is going on here. So if you decide to try again next summer, I'll certainly do anything I can to help you break away." He, too, I could rely upon to not talk about the matter with others.
There were other things to do, of course, besides thinking about doing something six or seven months from now. And also some pleasurable things to do even while thinking about that. I retrieved my blade of sharpened shrapnel from the sole of my shoe and began carving a couple of pipes from a burl which I had found on an earlier wood-gathering excursion. One pipe would be for Arnold and the other for Lt. Moritz, who now regularly joined with the sergeant and myself at mealtimes. Arnold's pipe one day served to Moritiz' benefit far more than it ever benefited the sergeant.
Moritz lost a filling from a tooth. For a week or so it caused no discomfort because he cleaned it after meals and packed it afterward with a bit of cotton extracted from his quilted winter coat. But it suddenly caused severe pain. After suffering it silently through that day and the following night, he asked if perhaps I could extract it with a pair of pliers which we were sometimes allowed to use. The tooth remnant was but a very thin shell; which a well-equipped dentist would have likely had to remove in pieces. The severe pain was because the nerve had come up into the cavity, swollen and so remained exposed to all manner of irritations. We needed somehow to deaden that nerve. He asked if I had any idea how that could be done. I had one cauterization but not likely possible to do without also burning some areas inside his mouth. He said, "I don't care if it does! Do it! Just do it!" But I asked him to "hold on for a bit and let me think" because I thought there must be a better way.
Sgt. Arnold, listening in, said, "Well chief, if you're gonna do some thinkin,' I'll go get my pipe. A man can think better while smokin' a pipe. And since you don't smoke, I'll do that to help you think."
Because he had no filter, the sergeant always cleaned his pipe meticulously before and after smoking it. He pushed a small wad of cotton through the stem with a wire and as it emerged, slightly stained, it provided the answer. "I'm already through with the thinking," I said, "so hurry up with the smoking."
"But if you're already through thinking" Arnold responded, "then I don't need to smoke."
"Yes you do, 'cause I need some fresh nicotine tar from the bowl of your pipe."
While Arnold smoked, I fashioned a set of tweezers from a bamboo strip and a small blunt stick for tamping; then "scrubbed" for the operation in a pan of cold water. Moritz stretched out on the floor of the low stage with a man at each shoulder and one on his legs to hold him steady, and opened his mouth wide when I arrived with a well-saturated ball of cotton in the tweezers. He nearly catapulted the man off his legs when the cotton ball touch the nerve, but it went into the cavity well enough that no tamping was needed. I told him to just clamp down to hold it in place, and myself moved to the doorway as he sat up again on the edge of the low stage..
For five minutes Moritz sat there; silent and motionless, except for a few glances at the wristwatch which he had been allowed to keep. He arose then, and joined me at the doorway; still having said nothing to anybody until after I asked: "Any change, Sam? Any difference at all?"
"Unbelievable, chief," he said. "It's all gone. The pain is all gone. Within ten seconds after you jabbed that in there the pain began to diminish. Soon it was only a feeling like when you bump your elbow the 'crazy bone.' In three minutes it was all gone completely gone. And I stayed sitting there for two more minutes expecting it to come back.*
[* A year later as a dentist in Tokyo Army hospital was preparing to remove that dead tooth, Moritz told him of how it was deadened and asked why that treatment worked. The young dentist didn't know and summoned an older one to hear the story. The older fellow remained silent for some time, until Moritz prompted him with the same question. He then said there were many things in tobacco that could do that; and described that people who chewed tobacco in earlier times often had rotten teeth but never had tooth ache. The reason for his initial silence, he explained, was because he was wondering had he been in that circumstance, if he would have thought of doing what we had done or just wrung his hands because he didn't have the array of equipment which was on hand there in the hospital dental room.]
Significant things could sometimes be learned in the Little Schoolhouse by just listening in or overhearing conversations of others. Several times I heard mention by the three Marine pilots (Harris, Williams and Baugh) of a "Chief" Flynn who had been with them at a location near Pak's Palace which they called "The Caves." When I inquired, Lt. Baugh quickly informed me that Flynn was not a Navy chief; but a Marine captain whom they called "chief" because he was an Indian. Came then the somewhat whimsical thought that he might be the manner of man needed for an escape partner. Did they happen to know where he was from what tribe or what region? One of them thought he was from South Dakota; which struck me as increasing the possibility that he could be a good partner. Did they know where he now might be. They were quite certain he was in another prisoner group in the large building at west end of our village.
So near and yet so far! The enemy's strict policy of non-communication between the several prisoner groups in this village, made it unlikely that I could get in contact with that Marine Captain Flynn. And of course there was no certainty that he would have all of the qualities of resourcefulness, stamina, and so on for which his Indian ancestors were famous. But if he was from South Dakota, perhaps its rangeland region, there was good chance he would have had the manner of experiences which would be helpful in living off the land while working one's way to the coast through these forested mountains. And that was the manner of background experience which was lacking in the few residents in the Little Schoolhouse who otherwise qualified as possible escape partners
A whimsical hope it was, and unlikely to be fulfilled. But ever present in my thoughts of another escape venture was the hope that I might somehow make contact with that Indian named Flynn.
About mid-November, Tsai took Sgt. Arnold and myself to the small room in the headquarters building which Konrad used as an office to "discuss something important." He said he wanted our help to make a "menu for a Thanksgiving Feast." We listened in a state of surprise for a while; even wondering if it was some kind of joke or trick. But he explained that because the camp authorities realized Thanksgiving was a very special, traditional event for Americans it was ordered to provide whatever was possible to enable us to "celebrate."
He "regretted" that it was not possible to provide turkeys for our feast. But it was possible to provide chickens; and one of things he wanted from us was to tell him how many chickens would be needed for all of the prisoners held in this village. (Which he said was about 170 revealing to us something we had wondered about.) He then asked us to tell him what all kinds of food were usually included in a "traditional Thanksgiving feast."
Sensing that as an opportunity, we combined our talents to provide him a list of everything either of us could remember having enjoyed eating plus, perhaps, a few extra we'd only heard about or imagined. He then "regretfully" acknowledged that many of the things we had mentioned such as cranberries, yams, marshmallows, pickles, oysters, shrimp, lobster and pumpkin pie would not be possible to provide. After that he gave us a much shorter list of things which could be provided, and asked us to think about them and figure out how much of each would be needed to "make a Thanksgiving feast" for all of the prisoners in the village. He would meet with us "tomorrow" for our answers..
Upon return to the Little Schoolhouse we told only Major Harris and Lt. Moritz of what had just happened. They agreed it was best for the moment to tell no one else. We wondered together with them if this might be indication of some progress at the "peace talks;" perhaps a pending or already reached armistice agreement. Or it might be that our side's demands for Red Cross inspections of the Chinese camps were succeeding. But the more immediate thing to figure out was the menu for the Thanksgiving feast, so we took ourselves aside to do that.
Two major concerns confronted us. One was that the amount and variety of foods which Tsai had said could be provided would be more than our long deprived stomachs could handle if served in just one meal. While the variety was far short of the exaggerated list which Arnold and I had told him was customary at Thanksgiving feasts, it included some much richer foods than the beans and rice to which our stomachs had become accustomed. In addition to the chickens there would be pork, eggs, dried fish, peanuts, chestnuts, potatoes, cabbage, seaweed, apples and prunes.
The other concern was that none of the young men who had been cooking the rice and beans would likely have any idea of how to do other than toss things in the pots and boil them. There was need to cook some of the things in manner which would enable each man to put part of his ration aside for a day or so without danger of spoilage. To deal with that, we decided we must somehow get ourselves in charge of the cooking. It didn't seem a good idea to tell Tsai the young fellows weren't capable. So we told him we thought they deserved a little vacation and volunteered ourselves to replace them for the Thanksgiving Feast.
And it worked! Beautifully! On the following day we took Gilliland and Rambo with us and, after they had shown us the layout of the facilities, sent the previous cooking crew to the Little Schoolhouse for their "vacation."
The cooking equipment consisted of two 30-gallon cast-iron pots over fireboxes constructed of rocks and clay, in a small shed on the north side of the roadway through the village. A few large scoops and ladles were the only utensils at hand; all that had been necessary for cooking soup and rice. The two small crude tables upon which they lay would have to serve for any preparations of the foodstuffs we would be working with. Several large buckets were at hand. Water was available from a hand-dug well nearby, or from the stream about 50 yards downslope south of the roadway.
The supply officer introduced himself, and led us across the road to a couple of small buildings which housed the foodstuffs. His real name is not now remembered. But because he had a markedly receding chin mindful of the old-time comic strip character Andy Gump, Arnold decided we should call him by that name. When eventually he asked Arnold why we called him "Andy," the sergeant explained simply that he resembled a "very popular" character in a comic strip. Our "Andy" was in fact popular with us because he was both respectful and respectable, and spoke English quite fluently.
Most impressive of the foodstuffs in the buildings were two tubs of chickens, plucked and drawn, and several crates containing 500 or more eggs. It would be a simple matter to hardboil the eggs so they could be held aside a few days without spoilage. We had discussed that chicken could be kept aside longer if fried, and now asked Andy if there was some kind of cooking oil available. "Oh, yes " there were several large, square cans of soy bean oil on hand because the "others" had not used much of it. We had discussed that it would certainly be helpful if we had some vinegar; especially because most of us were experiencing the beginning signs of beri-beri. Arnold tentatively asked Andy if he knew of something we called vinegar. "Vinegar? Of course!" Andy responded. "We use much vinegar ourselves. We have some for you but the others say Americans don't use vinegar."
We learned shortly that it was really only one "other" who had decided that. The corporal who called himself "Watash" had put himself in charge of the kitchen crew because the others were privates. He, therefore, was the decision maker. And there were other things which he had decided not to use including dried peppers, garlic and ginger root. We learned later from one of the other kitchen workers that some pork had frequently been provided but after cooking it in the soup pot Corporal "Watash" would remove it for themselves to eat. He had even given some of it to Koreans who lived nearby in exchange for a pair of crude sandals and other things kept for himself. All which, Arnold and I decided, may have been part of the reason Konrad had removed him from the kitchen crew and installed him as replacement for me as squad leader. It was in any case further reason to suspect "Watash" would collaborate with Konrad if it might benefit himself in any way
But the immediate thing to do was begin preparation of the Thanksgiving Feast. As we started to carry some of the foodstuffs across the roadway to the kitchen, the platoon of prisoners from the large building at the western edge of the village came marching by; on their way, we assumed, for exercise in the big schoolyard or bathing in the stream. By both his appearance and manner, I judged that the man walking alongside the platoon and calling cadence must be the Marine captain whom Major Harris and the others called "chief" Flynn. No effort was made to talk with them as they passed, of course. But when they returned later, Arnold and I positioned ourselves on opposite sides of the roadway and shouted back and forth to each other in manner as follows:
"Hey Bill! If we cook all this stuff at one time they couldn't eat it all in one meal and keep it down! How can we fix some so it can be ratholed until later?"
"We can hardboil the eggs! They would keep like that for 2-3 days.!"
"Okay! And we'll fry the chicken, so it could be kept for a day or so.!" ....
"Yeah! And the apples will keep just as they are; and the prunes no need to cook them. They can soak them in water themselves or just eat 'em dry!".
All eyes of the platoon shifted back and forth along with our shouting. So we assumed the message had been well conveyed. But a few months later I would learn from "chief" Flynn, that until the food actually arrived the following day they had all thought we were just trying to be smart-alec about it.
The Thanksgiving Feast was a great success; in effect lasting three days because some of it could be kept without spoilage. And on that third day, Tsai took Arnold and myself to the office again. Because "everyone was much pleased" by our cooking, the camp commander had directed him to ask if we would be willing to take over the cooking entirely. If so, better cooking facilities would be provided for us at another location, which Tsai would show to us before we had to "make decision."
No conference between the sergeant and myself was necessary for agreement with that.
Due to the death of the author, the next chapters are not all available. Please see the Table of Contents.
Table of Contents
©2002, 2003 by Lynn Waterman; used by permission of the author, Duane Thorin.