Hidden History: The 21 Korean War POWs Who Defected to China


They Chose China

Directed by Shui-Bo-Wong (2006)

Film Review

This documentary is about 21 US Korean War POWs who chose not to repatriate to the US when the Korean armistice was signed in 1953. Initially there were 23. The first two returned to the US in the early fifties, where they were court martialed and given 10 and 20 year prison sentences.

For the most part, the US media echoed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s view that the 21 who remained in China were Communist traitors. However in a 1954 interview about their reasons for defecting, most cited their opposition to imperialist wars or to McCarthy’s witch hunt against US political dissidents, which they equated with fascism.

The 21 were also clearly influenced by their extremely positive treatment during their three years in captivity. The Chinese who ran the North Korean POW camps allowed them to have American food, as well as encouraging them to organize football, baseball and soccer games.

On arriving in China, they were given a choice between working in a factory, joining a collective farm or attending university. Most would leave China prior to 1966, when Mao launched his brutal Cultural Revolution. In giving their reasons for repatriating, some talked of a changing political climate that was less tolerant of foreigners. Other cited concerns about the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary.

Three of the US defectors are profiled in this film:

Clarence Adams – an African American from Memphis who enlisted in 1947 to escape a gang of white supremacist cops who had targeted him. His main reason for defecting to China was to escape white terrorism, as well as economic opportunities denied to him in the US. After spending several hears at university, he worked as a translator in Beijing and broadcast propaganda speeches directed at Black soldiers in Vietnam.

David Hawkins – in a 1957 60 Minutes interview (following his return to the US), he asserts the US had no business invading a country (Korea) that posed no threat to them militarily.* He also strongly advocates for the US to recognize China (the US officially recognized China in 1972 during Nixon’s first term).

James Veneris – the only defector profiled in the film who remained in China, as a factory worker, until his death in 2004.

*See See Hidden History: The US Wars Against Japan, Korea and Vietnam and The Long US War Against the Third World

This film can be viewed free at https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/they-chose-china/


Expose: US Concentration Camps in Post-War Germany

Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans After World War II

by James Bacque

General Paperbacks (1991)

Book Review

This book is a mind boggling expose about the 5 million German soldiers and civilians crammed into barbed wire cages in Allied occupied Germany. According to reliable witnesses, as many as three million of these detainees were civilians, ie had no military status. Survivors, military personnel and camp visitors reported seeing pregnant women in the camps, as well as children as young as six. The prisoners had no access to shelter, warm clothing, sanitation or medical facilities. Many were deliberately given starvation rations.

War Department records reveal the camps had death rates of approximately 30% annually from exposure and starvation related illnesses – though the US Army officially recorded them as “other losses.” For the most part they were buried in mass graves, some of which were later uncovered by German construction crews and grave diggers. Because the US military made no effort to identify them, by 1947 German families were reporting one million loved ones missing and unaccounted for.

How Eisenhower Circumvented the Geneva Convention

Military personnel who worked closely with Eisenhower and his aides believe this policy (to imprison large numbers of Germans in concentration camps) was devised in 1944. In April 1945, Eisenhower announced to the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS)* that he was creating a new category of military prisoner – Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF).**

Although other generals in the CCS advised him against capturing any more DEFs after VE Day,*** Eisenhower went on to capture an additional 2 million.

In addition to denying them any form of shelter or adequate rations, Eisenhower also prohibited the Red Cross (ICRC), Quakers, Unitarians, YMCA and concerned German civilians from providing them food parcels.

Heavy Censorship: How the Camps Were Kept Secret

Owing to heavy censorship in US-occupied Germany, the deplorable conditions of these camps were kept secret outside of Germany until the US began transferring prisoners to French camps for slave labor assignments (which also violated the Geneva Convention). The French camps were allowing ICRC visits. Horrified by the extreme emaciation and poor health (with many on the verge of death) of the former US prisoners, Red Cross representatives made formal complaints with the US and French government and the press.

US Blames Fictitious “World Food Shortage”

In response, the US government launched a massive PR offensive shifting the blame for the prisoners’ horrendous condition first to the French and then to a non-existent “world food shortage.” There is incontrovertible evidence there were global surpluses of wheat, maize and potatoes in both 1945 and 1946. There were also hundreds of thousands of food parcels piled up in US Army and ICRC warehouses that the Red Cross was prohibited from delivering. There were also hundreds of thousands of unused tents captured form the German army.

There was absolutely no military reason for the Allies to keep millions of disarmed Germans in prison camps after Germany surrendered. The French kept them for slave labor and, where possible, to recruit them to the Foreign Legion to fight in Vietnam and Algeria. According to Bacque (based on actual statements by Eisenhower), the sole purpose of the US camps was a perverted and sadistic desire to take revenge on German soldiers and civilians.

Low Death Rates in Canadian and British POW Camps

The experience of POWs in Canadian and British camps was markedly different from that in the US and French camps. In the former, all inmates were provided tends or other shelter and, in all but one case, adequate food rations. The Canadian and British military also provided hospital care for sick and wounded inmates. The result was death rates comparable to the general population.

The US had only released 40% of their prisoners by January 1946. A year later 24,834 remained in custody.

*The Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) was the supreme military command of the military forces of the US and Great Britain during World War II.

**Clearly Eisenhower hoped that by calling them DEFs instead of Prisoners of War (POWs), he would avoid violating the Geneva Conventions governing POW treatment. It was for this exact reason, George W Bush declared all the detainees at Guantanamo Bay Enemy Combatants, rather than POWs.

***Victory over Europe Day (May 7, 1945) – the day the Allies accepted the German terms of surrender.

British and American War Crimes During World War II


Hellstrom: the Death of Nazi Germany 1944-47  

by Thomas Goodrich

Aberdeen Books (2010)

 Book Review


The victor always writes history. Only German war crimes were prosecuted at Nuremberg. British and American war crimes were whitewashed out of history. If not for Kurt Vonnegut’s best selling 1969 novel Slaughterhouse Five, Americans would have no knowledge of the deliberate targeting of civilians in the firebombing of Dresden.

Hellstrom: the Death of Nazi Germany 1944-47 is a meticulously researched encyclopedia of Allied war crimes during World War II. In it, historian Thomas Goodrich carefully compiles statements of scores of eyewitnesses, including Allied pilots and war correspondence about US, British and Russian atrocities against German civilians and POWs during and after the war.

A Deliberate Campaign of Terror Bombing

Dresden wasn’t the only German city subjected to carpet firebombing aimed at terrorizing civilians. Based mainly on victim and pilot statements, Goodrich details the deliberate firebombing (with phosphorus-based incendiary bombs) that occurred in Hamburg, Berlin, Nuremberg, cologne, Daimstat, Pforzheen and Wurzburg. The allies also firebombed three Swiss cities, another war crime, as Switzerland was a “neutral” country with no identifiable military targets.

Goodrich mainly focuses on Dresden, one of the last German cities to be firebombed. Many residents believed it would be spared, owing to its culture treasures and role as a hospital city for injured civilians. Dresden had no defense installation, major factories or air defenses. Owing to the absence of anti-aircraft weapons, the Allied bombers could fly low enough to target fleeing civilians and hospitals designated with a large red cross on their roof. The Red Cross later estimated that the Dresden massacre killed 300,000 – 400,000 civilians.

Prior to Dresden, the American pilots, unlike the British Royal Air Force (RAF) deliberately refrained from targeting. At Dresden, this changed, with Americans planes deliberately targeting civilians who survived the initial firestorm.

Eisenhower Deliberately Circumvents Geneva Convention

Like Bush II, Eisenhower deliberated created a new category of prisoners called Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF), so he wouldn’t be bound by the Geneva Convention regarding treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs).

His treatment of POWs worsened following the May 8, 1945 armistice with Germany, as he no longer feared German retaliation against American POWs. In all, 800,000 German POWS died in French and US POW camps after the war ended the armistice. This contrasts with German treatment of Allied POWs, which followed the Geneva Convention 99% of the time.

The book contains victim statements from German POWS held in outdoor pens where they were drenched by continuous rain and fed 1/10 of a K ration three or for days a week. Eisenhower denied the Red Cross access to POW camps, as well as prohibiting them from supplying German prisoners food. The British, US and French military also used German POWs as slave labor, despite formal Red Cross protests that this, too, violated the Geneva Convention.

Forcible Repatriation of Soviet Dissidents

In addition to the maltreatment of POWs, the Allies honored a commitment they made at Yalta to repatriate one million Soviet dissidents (including White Russians who fought the Bolsheviks in 1917) to the USSR. This included 4,000 Soviet dissidents in the US who were forcibly repatriated. Stalin, in turn, summarily executed them or sent them to slave labor camps.

The Brutal Allied Occupation

The treatment of German civilians and POWs by invading forces varied. On both the eastern and western fronts, experienced front line troops tended to be the most civilized. They reasoned that good treatment would make the Germans in the next village more likely to surrender. The rear guard tended to be far less experienced and more inclined to engage in rape, gang rape, looting and torture. Stalin refused to sign the Geneva Convention, and Russian troops were particularly feared for their savagery.

During the occupation, Eisenhower and Truman deliberately engineered a famine in the Allied sectors (US, British and French) of Germany. The massive carpet bombing had totally destroyed the food infrastructure and millions of German civilians starved as they tried to survive on boiled grass and roots. Truman outlawed private food relief to Germany until the Pope, former president Herbert Hoover and numerous high profile senators and journalists objected to the Truman’s policy of deliberately starving the German civilian population. In all, far more Germans died in the first two years of peace than had died in six years of war.

The Allies also carried out a particularly brutal regime of “de-Nazification” in which German adults (including prominent anti-Nazis) were arbitrarily arrested and tortured until they confessed to being members of the Nazi Party.

The treatment of German civilians would improve in 1947, as the Cold War gained momentum and Truman recognized Germany’s importance as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.

Dresden9photo credit: Dresden bombing

Also posted in Veterans Today