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Death March
Part 4

Written by Bobby P. Stringer

The first night with the Chinese wasnt too bad.  I had walked a long way with them.  However, the next night started a whole different life style.  I was handed off to a new group of Chinese.  These Chinese appeared battle beaten.  They only grunted and pushed me around like I was a horse or a cow.  There was another American prisoner.  He said his name was Mac.  He said that he was a doctor.  They guy was shot bad.  His entire side was wet and saturated with blood.  He told me that he lost too much blood, and was too weak to walk any further.  He indicated that if I didnt carry him, he would be killed.  I didnt have a choice.

That night the march went under way, with Mac on my back as his blood soaked through me.  Although I was in the best shape of my life, the march was a climb.  Mac and I were holding our own, until we came to a mountain stream.  The Chinese took off their boots, and so did I because walking with a boot full of water would bog me down.  Mac and I got across okay.  We were on our way again.  The Chinese rendezvoused with another Chinese unit that that had 15 to 20 American prisoners.  Two of them were in bad shape.  The march continued.  Within 4 or 5 miles, one fell on the ground.  Two guards fell behind, and later ran to catch up.  Now I knew what the doc was talking about.  We figured they were clubbing the stragglers over the head with a rifle-butt and then stabbed in the heart with a bayonet.  Life is now getting worse.  Now Im realizing that the Chinese that we were with are picking up POWs and talking them to the rear of the POW camp. 

The Korean War Memorial takes on an eerie look of combat reality as photographed following a blizzard in Washington, D.C. in January 1996. (Photo by Paul Stone)

We marched nightly for miles, picking up more and more POWs.  The march was draining the life out of me.  I was weak and tired.  To make matters worse, they rationed the food in small amounts.  The food was appalling.  The Chinese wouldnt even handle it themselves.  It was splattered in the hands of the diseased, the prisoners.  We weakened with every bite.

Life continued to worsen.  More prisoners were joining the march as we climbed the steep grade.  The temperature fell with the rising altitude.  Patches of snow and ice became part of the landscape.  I had carried Mac a ling way.  I began to tire.  I couldnt walk straight.  Mac was beginning to sag on my back.  I wavered and slipped on black ice.  I twisted my back and the aching pain shot through me.  It was so painful, that walking made t worse (The damage was permanent).  A couple of troopers said they would carry Mac, for it was well understood to all of us by now that we were on a death march. 

The weather was becoming extremely cold.  The new POWs that joined us had the wounded on a stretcher.  As the grueling march continued, the guys would fall.  We didnt have the resources to pick some of them up.  So like always, the two guards stayed behind.  Maybe it could be called mercy killing.  Perhaps it was more humanitarian to deliver an instant death, then to die a slow, cold, bitter demise. 

After the grade, we had accumulated scores of POWs.  There were approximately a hundred of us, with guards at the rear and to the sides.  We finally arrived on level ground, so walking was easier. 

It was daylight when we entered the region ahead.  The land reeked with carnage.  Americans had just bombed the town.  I only saw Korean civilians.  Broken families of mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and children that cried in anguish over their slaughtered loved ones.  In anger and despair the Koreans threw rocks at us as we marched through their small settlement.  I hope the hell I never see anything like that again.  That picture will never leave my mind, not ever!

As the march continued, GIs were getting sick with dysentery.  One of the symptoms is diarrhea and anyone that stopped out of formation to relive themselves would be terminated.  To stop was to die.  The sick used money to wipe as long as it would last.  Then, they were using the bible, the New Testament (given to them before going into combat).  After that was gone, there wasnt anything left.  Many of them soiled their pants and could hardly walk.  As bad off as they were, believe me, they didnt want to stay behind.  As dusk drew on, the weather quickly fell below zero.  When the march stopped for the night, the wounded men on the stretcher were frozen to death!  It was one terrible thing after another.  The worst had not come yet.

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