5 Prisoners Of War Who Bravely Defied Their Captors

H/T War History OnLine.

 Amazing stories of escape from P.O.W. camps.

An unfortunate consequence of war is that those involved in the fighting will sometimes get captured by enemy forces. Known as prisoners of war (POWs), they’re often held captive until the conflict ends or something bad happens to them. However, there are many who would rather take their chances and attempt a daring escape.


Escape from Libby Prison

On February 9, 1864, 109 members of the Union Army staged an escape from Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. Led by Colonel Thomas E. Rose and Major Andrew G. Hamilton, the group spent months digging a tunnel with only chisels and a wooden spittoon. They had to contend with the rats that had made a home in the prison’s basement and frequently risked being caught.

After 17 consecutive days of digging, they managed to break through the wall. They made their escape after lights out, following the tunnel to the vacant Kerr’s Warehouse on Canal Street. Libby was considered practically inescapable, so they were able to walk down the streets of Richmond without arousing suspicion.

Artist's rendering of Libby Prison and a portrait of Colonel Thomas E. Rose
Libby Prison and Colonel Thomas E. Rose. (Photo Credit: 1. Popular Graphic Arts / Wikimedia Commons 2. Civil War Glass Negatives / Wikimedia Commons)

By the time the guards noticed they were gone, approximately 12 hours had passed. Despite knowing the local terrain, only 59 soldiers managed to reach safety. Forty-eight were recaptured and subjected to poor treatment and inadequate rations, and another two drowned while crossing the James River.

E.H. Jones and C.W. Hill

Elias Henry Jones and Cedric Waters Hill were soldiers during WWI. Jones was a Welsh officer with the Indian Army and Hill an Australian officer with the Royal Flying Corps. The pair met while incarcerated at Yozgad POW camp in Turkey.

The pair wanted to escape their conditions, so they turned to society’s growing interest in the paranormal. Fashioning a Ouija board out of a polished iron sword and an upside-down jar, they managed to convince the camp’s commanders they were mediums. According to Hill and Jones, the camp’s resident ghost was named “Spook.”

Yozgad's British P.O.W.s in civilian clothes
Photo Credit: Anonymous / ScholarWorks@MSU (Digital Commons)

The con went on for over a year, between February 1917 and the summer of 1918. They eventually convinced the guards they were insane and had themselves transferred to a hospital for the mentally ill. While there, they continued to play up their symptoms until they were able to convince the doctors to repatriate them back home.

Jones and Hill were set free just a few months before the Armistice put an end to the war.

Charles Upham

Charles Upham was a member of New Zealand’s Officer Cadet Training Unit (O.C.T.U.) during WWII. He fought in numerous skirmishes against the Axis powers. During an assault against the Germans at Ruweisat Ridge in the Egyptian desert, he was injured twice: taking a bullet to the left arm and shrapnel to the leg.

Charles Upham eating with other members of the New Zealand Division
Charles Upham and the men of the New Zealand Division, 1942. (Photo Credit: Photo 12 / Getty Images)

His leg injury resulted in his capture. He was first transported to a hospital, where it was recommended his leg be amputated. However, not wanting to risk an agonizing death and with a desire to escape his captors, Upham declined.

He attempted numerous escapes during his time as a POW. While on a transport through Italy, he jumped off the truck and managed to make it 400 yards before being recaptured, despite having a broken ankle. Another incident, in 1943, involved him getting tied up in a barbed-wire fence in broad daylight. Despite having a guard point a gun at his head, he played it cool and lit a cigarette.

Military portrait of Charles Upham
Charles Upham, 1941. (Photo Credit: Keystone / Getty Images)

From this point on, he was considered “dangerous” and was forced into solitary confinement. He attempted to escape this predicament once by simply running out the front gates, but was eventually caught. Fed up with his antics, the Germans decided to transport him to Oflag IV-C in Saxony.

Upham waited out his sentence at Colditz, but did try one more escape. During transport in October 1944, he jumped out of a train window while the locomotive was at full speed. He landed on the track and fell unconscious, before waking up and hiding in a nearby orchard. Due to the lack of cover, the Germans eventually found him.

The Davao Escape

Following the battles of Bataan and Corregidor during WWII, thousands of Allied troops were taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army. Many were forced to endure the April 1942 Bataan Death March to Camp O’Donnell and transferred between camps. The poor conditions and the desire to continue fighting led to the Davao Escape. It would be the only large-scale Allied escape from the Japanese during the course of the war.

Portraits of Willam E. Dyess and Samuel Grashio
William E. Dyess and Samuel Grashio. (Photo Credit: 1. Unknown Author / Wikimedia Commons 2. Schmidty99206 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Whilst stuck in a labor camp in Mindanao, 11 American servicemen — Melvyn H. McCoy, William Edwin Dyess, Luis Morgan, Stephen M. Mellnik, Samuel C. Grashio, Austin C. Shofner, Jack Hawkins, Leo A. Boelens, Paul Marshall, Michiel Dobervich, and Robert Spielman — and two Filipino men made their escape into the jungle.

They traveled through swamp and thick jungle and eventually came into contact with a band of guerrillas whom they joined for several months. They led raid parties with the directive of attacking Japanese soldiers.

Military portraits of Hawkins and Shofner
Jack Hawkins and Austin C. Shofner. (Photo Credit: 1. U.S. Government / Wikimedia Commons 2. Signal Corps / Wikimedia Commons)

In the fall of 1943, they were rescued by an American submarine and transported to Australia. Two of the American officers stayed behind to fight with the guerrillas and were later reunited with their countrymen.

Cho Chang-ho

Cho Chang-ho was a military officer serving with the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) Army during the Korean War. After the Battle of Hanseok Mountain in May 1951, he was captured by the Chinese Army and became a POW in North Korea. By the end of the conflict in 1953, he was one of an estimated 60,000 South Korean soldiers to be captured.

Military action at night during the Korean War
155mm Howitzer fire during night action in the Korean War. (Photo Credit: Keystone / Getty Images)

Chang-ho spent the next 43 years of his life in North Korea, the first 13 as a prisoner of war. In October 1994, he successfully escaped the heavily guarded nation. After crossing the Yalu River border into China, he was helped by fellow Koreans and given passage to South Korea’s western coast aboard a Chinese boat used to smuggle goods.

Both the government and Chang-ho’s family were surprised at his return, as they thought him dead. After acclimatizing back to civilian life, he spent his time advocating for the repatriation rights of POWs. In 2006, he traveled to America, where he testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.


Soldier MIA During The Korean War Returned Home

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Cpl. Ralph Boughman it has been a long journey home to rest.

The remains of Cpl. Ralph Boughman have been missing since 1950, when he was killed during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. For the 70 years since then, his family has remained in the dark about the location of his body. After North Korea agreed to release the remains of U.S. servicemen who were killed during the conflict, Boughman’s remains have finally returned home.

Boughman in Korea

At the age of just 19, Boughman joined the U.S. Army in August of 1948, after being inspired by his older brothers’ involvement in WWII. He began basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, before being transferred to Fort Lawton, Washington. From there, he was sent to Japan. He stayed in Japan for a year, after which he was shipped over to Korea.

In Korea, Boughman was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 32 Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. The 7th Infantry Division was heavily involved in the fighting at the Chosin Reservoir, when the Chinese launched a surprise attack against UN forces in late November 1950. This battle lasted just over two weeks and was fought in bitterly cold temperatures on tough terrain.

Frostbitten members of the First Marine Division and Seventh Infantry Division who linked up in the Chosin Reservoir area in a desperate attempt to break out of Communist encirclement
Members of the First Marines and Seventh Infantry in the Chosin Reservoir, circa December 1950. (Photo Credit: Department of Defense)

Boughman and his unit battled the Chinese on December 2nd. Unfortunately, Boughman was killed during this action, and his comrades were unable to retrieve his body. Without a body, he was declared missing in action.

His family received a telegram in early 1951 informing them that he was MIA, which left the family heartbroken. It wasn’t until December 1953 that they learned he was officially declared dead, four days before Christmas. Later, his family was given Boughman’s personal possessions from his time in the Army. This included a mechanical pencil, sewing kit, silk jacket, a baseball, a Japanese flag, one ring, one bracelet, and three pennies.

The lack of closure meant his family held out hope for the discovery and return of his remains, which eluded them for seven decades.

However, in 2018, North Korea handed over the remains of U.S. servicemen who were killed during the Korean War after a summit with the President of the United States. Unknown to his family at the time, Boughman’s previously missing remains were inside one of the boxes returned to the U.S.

The remains were sent to Hawaii, and with the use of DNA were officially identified as Boughman’s in April 2020. In that same month, his nephew, Larry Boughman, received a phone call from the Army to inform him of the discovery.

Larry said “It was chilling,” and “I could hardly believe it.”

Ralph Boughman’s memorial

His remains arrived in North Carolina in May 2021, where a memorial was held for his burial at Rosemont Cemetery. His family talked about Ralph Bowman during the service, his childhood, his life on the farm and working with his father at a sawmill.

File Photo of Ralph Boughman
Photo Credit: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

At the service, Boughman’s coffin was topped with the American flag, which was folded up and given to his sister, Pansy Boughman Bourne. Pansy, 89, is one Ralph’s nine siblings, all of whom except her have passed away.

Of the service, Pansy said, “I am so surprised we had such a good turnout and appreciate everyone coming.” She added, “It is great and wonderful he (Ralph) is here at last and just a few miles from his home place. I am so glad the Lord let us find him. I prayed for it, and he answered my prayers.”

Glenn Boughman, one of Boughman’s nephews, also spoke about Ralph and the return of his remains.

“From that day the family was first notified, there was a great unknown for the family about what happened to him,” he said. “When his remains were found and identified and released from Korea to here, it took many steps and a chain of events.”

Another nephew, Ernie Boughman, remembers when the family was notified Boughman was MIA.

“Even though I was not quite 6 years old, I remember the family gathering and just remember grandmother was heartbroken,” he said of this difficult time. “She broke down and cried, and there was just sadness in the whole house.”

The Army held a ceremony for Boughman the previous day, where they presented Pansy with Ralph’s long list of medals: the Purple Heart, Gold Star, Combat Infantry Badge, Marksmanship Badge, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Citation, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea War Services Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, and Army Presidential Unit Citation Medal.

Also in attendance of his memorial were the Patriot Guard Riders, who upon invitation will protect and bolster the ranks at military burials, and the Rolling Thunder organization, who aim to bring greater attention to U.S. service members who are prisoners of war or declared missing in action.

George ‘Speedy’ Gaspard, And The Original Special Forces

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. George “Speedy” Gaspard to say you had an extraordinary life would be an understatement.

Born in the summer of 1926 George Gaspard was to become a pioneering career soldier, breaking new ground in battlefield tactics and earning many decorations for service to his country. He first signed up with the Marine Corps in 1944 and soon found himself in the WWII Pacific Theatre fighting the enemy in Okinawa, as part of the 6th Marine Division.


He later joined the Army in 1951 and volunteered for the 10th Special Forces Group, a new unit born of the need for innovative ways of conducting warfare. Gaspard was part of the first group to graduate from the fledgling Special Forces training program.

George ‘Speedy’ Gaspard served in WWII, the Korean War, and in Vietnam.
George ‘Speedy’ Gaspard served in WWII, the Korean War, and in Vietnam.

From then on Gaspard built upon a reputation for fearlessness, running cross-border secret operations throughout the Korean war, which was really just the proving ground for techniques he deployed to great effect during his tours of duty in Vietnam. In Korea Gaspard ran a team of four enlisted American soldiers and up to eighty anti-communist South Korean agents, supported by Chinese intelligence operatives, gathering information on North Korean troop movements and other enemy activities.

US forces in the icy conditions of Korea witness a large detonation.
US forces in the icy conditions of Korea witness a large detonation.

Gaspard was awarded the Silver and Bronze stars for combat actions in 1953 and late in 1954 he arrived at the 77th Special Forces group as a guerrilla warfare instructor for the Psychological Warfare School’s Special Forces Department before he was discharged three years later.

After a stint at the Pentagon in the Special Warfare Department Gaspard he was recalled to active duty. In 1962 he was sent to Fort Bragg attached to the 5th Special Forces group. From here he was dispatched to Vietnam, to a Special Forces camp at Dak Pek in Kontum Province, the first of his seven tours in the country.

In 1985 he was instrumental in successful negotiations to allow the mountain dwelling Montagnard people safe passage to join the South Vietnamese Army. The Montagnard name came from the time of French colonial rule in the region.

In 1966 Gaspard was promoted to the rank of Major and in 1967 returned to Vietnam to direct the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group (MACVSOG) in the Strata program until 1968.

Strata was developed to streamline and clean up intelligence gathering activities that had previously been dogged by poor quality information and the activities of double agents. Gaspard’s new focus was on short-term gathering of intelligence from close cross-border sources. He had an all-Vietnamese team, a Road-Watch and Target-Acquisition group, who would be deployed and recovered for re-use time and again.

Gaspard went in to extract two wounded agents in an emergency when they had been surrounded by the enemy, saving lives and earning an Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism and a Purple Heart.

Gaspard served with distinction in the Vietnam War (Not Gaspard in the image).
Gaspard served with distinction in the Vietnam War (Not Gaspard in the image).

But it did not all go Gaspard’s way. A colleague he knew as Francois was unmasked as a spy some twenty-five years after the war ended, receiving top military honours from Hanoi’s government. ‘There’s no question that he hurt SOG operations,’ Gaspard said later in an interview, but it did not diminish his pride in the overall success rate of the Strata teams.

Having served in three major US wars George ‘Speedy’ Gaspard retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1973. His list of decorations is impressive and numbers more than fifty including medals from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

In his retirement Gaspard continued to serve his country as part of the South Carolina State Guard where he attained the rank of Brigadier General and was appointed Chief of Staff. He was a member of multiple military groups including the American Legion and Sons of Confederacy.

At Fort Benning, Georgia, Gaspard was inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame in 1991, in recognition of his service in three wars and his continual development of the understanding of innovative and disruptive forms of war in inhospitable and difficult terrain. In 2010 he was further honoured as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment.

Gaspard died on January 30th, 2018 and laid to rest in Jacksonville, Florida.


He is Now Home, 70 Years After Being Listed as MIA in the Korean War

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Corporal Billie Joe Hash.

It has been a long trip to your final resting place.

Former Army Corporal Billie Joe Hash came home, more than 70 years after he went missing during the Korean War and presumed dead.


Cpl. Hash was enlisted as a member of the US Armed Forces during the Korean War. He was assigned to Army Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division. He went missing during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. It took place between November and December of 1950. In this 17-day battle, an estimated 30,000 troops belonging to the US, Britain, and the Republic of Korea (South Korean), were attacked by over 100,000 Chinese soldiers.

The battle took place amid a brutal winter where temperatures regularly dipped to 25 degrees below zero, accompanied by biting wind and snow.

Over 100,000 Allied troops died in this battle, and a further 5,000 were listed as missing in action. At the time of the war, Corporal Hash was 18 years old. On the 6th December 1950, he was reported missing in action and was presumed dead on the 31st December 1953.

Ms. Suzie Razmus, the mayor of Corbin, Kentucky, said that she could not imagine the pain the family experienced by not having closure as to what happened to their son.

She went on to say that the story broke her heart and that she was so pleased that his remains would, at long last be returned, Mayor Razmus has sons of her own, so the story really uniquely impacted her.

Aerial view of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Aerial view of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Corporal Hash will be honored with a flag, raised in his honor, in Nibroc Park. Each flag marks a local fallen service person.

The story of this serviceman touched the hearts of many people in the area. One such couple was Ronald and Melissa Gray.

This couple lives in the Tri-County but found themselves in Lexington when they saw the procession for Corporal Hash. Melissa Gray said that she had read the story of Corporal Hash earlier in the day. They decided to follow the funeral procession back to Corbin to pay their respects to this veteran of the Korean War.

The Department of Defense continues to investigate missing service people, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) has the responsibility of locating, identifying, and returning the remains of US service people lost overseas.

The DPAA investigates the cases of soldiers reported missing during the Korean War, with assistance from the US Military in South Korea and Korea’s Government.

In 1990-1994, the North Korean authorities exhumed 208 boxes of remains, returning them to the US Military in South Korea.

On investigating the remains in the boxes, the Department of Defense said they estimated that the boxes could contain around 400 individuals. Sorting through the remains and identifying the various individuals is a time consuming and complicated task.

The DPAA said that Corporal Billie Joe Hash’s remains were identified on the 27th May 2020. The Department of Defense says that at this time, over 7,800 US service personnel are unaccounted for from the Korean War.

US Service Members Repatriated from South Korea

H/T War History OnLine.

Once the remains are properly identified they can be finally laid to rest and it will give the families some closure.

United Nations Command returned 55 cases of remains from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, to Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018 (Photo by US Air Force Technical Sergeant Ashley Tyler.)
United Nations Command returned 55 cases of remains from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, to Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018 (Photo by US Air Force Technical Sergeant Ashley Tyler.)

The remains of six US service members are on their way back to the United States after a repatriation ceremony at the Osan Air Base in South Korea.

The remains were contained in a single casket which was placed in a Boeing 747 that was chartered for the flight to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

An honor guard consisting of service members from the US, the Philippines and Thailand carried the casket which was draped with a UN flag.

Howitzer position near the Kum River
Howitzer position near the Kum River

On the way to Hawaii, the flight made a stop in Japan where the UN flag was replaced with a US flag.

In Hawaii, the remains will be examined by the Defense POW\MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to be identified. Authorities are certain that the remains are of US service members due to the location where they were discovered being the sites of battles during the war and also due to artifacts found in the same location.

At the repatriation ceremony, UN Command Chief Chaplain (Col.) David Bowlus prayed that those who had waited for the day their loved ones would be found would find peace in their return to US soil.

The remains were found by the South Korean Ministry of Defense Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification (MAKRI).

G.I. comforting a grieving infantryman
G.I. comforting a grieving infantryman

According to the DPAA, there are over 7,500 US personnel unaccounted for from the Korean War. Approximately 3,500 of those are believed to be in North Korea.

There is another repatriation ceremony planned for when the remains reach Hawaii. The ceremony will conclude a series of events which commemorate the beginning of the Korean War on June 25, 1950.

Korea was divided into two separate countries following World War II. Prior to the war, the Korean peninsula had been part of the Japanese empire.

After the war, the Soviets and the Americans had to come to terms with how to handle Japanese possessions. In August 1945, to aides at the State Department divided the peninsula at the 38th parallel. The Soviets occupied the northern portion and the Americans occupied the southern part.

The Korean War began with 75,000 North Korean soldiers crossing the border between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south.

Within a month, US soldiers were deployed to defend South Korea. To the Americans, the war was a fight to prevent the spread of communism. President Harry Truman said that letting Korea down would encourage the Soviets to “keep right on going and swallow up one [place] after another.”

The two sides fought back and forth with no real gains for either side but a mounting loss of life on both sides.

In July 1953, the war ‘ended’ after the Americans aggressively sought an armistice to avoid what they saw as a bigger threat of the war spreading to Russia or China, or possibly turning into World War III.

Some refer to the war as the “Forgotten War” because it did not receive the same coverage in the US as the World Wars or the war in Vietnam. Approximately five million soldiers and civilians were killed in the conflict.

Meet the Chinese-American Marine Who Single-handedly Saved 8,000 Men in the Korean War

H/T NextShark.com.

R.I.P. Major Kurt Chew-Een Lee January 21, 1926 – March 3, 2014.

Nearly four years after passing at his home in Washington, Kurt Chew-Een Lee and his valor in the Korean War lives on in grateful memory.

Lee, a Chinese-American Marine, is remembered by many for single-handedly driving Chinese attackers away during the Battle of Inchon in 1950.

Born on Jan. 21, 1926, in San Francisco, Lee was the son of a Guangzhou-born man who moved to Hawaii in the 1920s, and later, California.

Lee attended high school with the nickname “Kurt” — which he adopted legally later — and joined the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) at the age of 18.

He was assigned to learn Japanese, and upon graduation, was retained to teach the language. This disappointed him as he wanted to fight in World War II.

But in 1950, Lee became the first lieutenant of a machine-gun platoon that shipped out to Inchon on Sept. 21 to attack North Koreans and drive them northwards.

The People’s Republic of China supported North Korea by sending troops, marking the beginning of a perilous but legendary battle.

Then came the night of Nov. 2, when Chinese forces advanced to attack his unit.

“All hell broke loose,” Lee told the Smithsonian Channel before his death in 2014.

“The whole place erupted with gunfire, explosions. The cacophony was tremendous, it was like we’re in the middle of a trembling bowl of jelly.”

Lee had his men shoot the enemy’s muzzle flashes, and they also formed a defensive line.

Then, Lee advanced by himself to provoke the Chinese to open fire and consequently reveal their locations. He carried out a one-man assault, firing at irregular rates to confuse the enemy.

His strategy worked.

Photo: Screenshot via YouTube / Smithsonian Channel

Moments later, Lee crept up on the enemy outpost and fired off what the rest of his unit could not: the Chinese language.

“Don’t shoot, I’m Chinese!” he yelled in Mandarin.

The enemy was briefly distracted, but that gave Lee enough time to throw his last two grenades and shoot them on sight.

“Their fires suddenly ceased and some whistle sounded,” he recalled.

Shortly after, Lee went closer to the outpost and that’s when he discovered that some had been killed, while the rest retreated to safety.

The lieutenant sustained wounds in the battle, but his courage and loyalty to the American flag earned him the Navy Cross, the second highest honor given for combat bravery.

The citation read, via The New York Times:

“Despite serious wounds sustained as he pushed forward. First Lieutenant Lee charged directly into the face of the enemy fire and, by his dauntless fighting spirit and resourcefulness, served to inspire other members of his platoon to heroic efforts in pressing a determined counterattack and driving the hostile forces from the sector.”

Lee was still recovering the following month when news of another problem broke out. This time, he led a 500-man thrust to rescue 8,000 American troops trapped by Chinese forces.

With heavier relief loads, his pack of men braved freezing hills and limited visibility from the blizzard. Without instructions to carry out the mission, the lieutenant, nonetheless, pressed forward with only a compass to guide his way.

Lee and his men were suddenly pinned down by enemy fire, but they shot back stronger. While his right arm was still in a cast, he was able to take down two soldiers.

Eventually, they reached the trapped forces and established communication for assault reinforcements.

For his final wounds in Korea, Lee was awarded the Silver Star. The citation read:

“First Lieutenant Lee’s platoon was pinned down by intense hostile fire while attacking south on the main service road from Koto-Ri. Observing that the heavy fire was inflicting numerous casualties, he exposed himself to the deadly fire to move among his troops, shouting words of encouragement and directing a withdrawal to covered positions. Assured that the last of his wounded was under cover, he was seeking shelter for himself when he was struck down and severely wounded by a burst of enemy machine-gun fire.”

With an undeniable display of valor, Lee, the first Chinese-American Marine, has truly become a legend in history.