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In Enemy Hands

In Enemy Hands: A Prisoner in North Korea

With a Foreword by John Toland
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    In Enemy Hands
    Book Description:

    " A newly married Methodist minister, Larry Zellers was serving as a missionary and teacher in a small South Korean town near the 38th parallel when he was captured by the North Koreans on June 25, 1950. Until his release in 1953, Zellers endured brutal conditions and inhumane treatment. Through his story, Zellers shows that, despite the opinion that POWs live only for themselves, many in the camps worked to help others and conducted themselves with honor.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4621-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-ix)
    John Toland

    FOR most Americans, myself included, the emotional exhaustion left by World War II blocked out the three seemingly endless years of the Korean War. We were absorbed by the recovery of America and Europe rather than the perilous involvement in the Far East. We did not realize that this war was unique in our history. In fact, it wasn't even a war, only a police action—according to President Harry Truman. Yet fifteen of the United Nations had joined in fighting North Korea and China, and four million human beings perished in a brutal contest that eventually led to the...

  4. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xxi)
    (pp. 1-10)

    THE North Korean Communist attack began a little after four o’clock in the morning on June 25, 1950, less than two miles from my home in Kaesong. I was awakened by the small arms and artillery fire, but I then did something foolish: I decided that it was simply another border skirmish between North and South Korea. I even turned over in bed and tried to go back to sleep.

    In my two years in Kaesong, I had learned that most such outbreaks of fighting along the 38th parallel took place during the early morning hours. And like many people...

    (pp. 11-22)

    HOW had we six very different people—three men and three women—come to find ourselves together in this uncertain situation?

    Growing up on a farm, I had attended high school in nearby Weatherford, Texas, and Weatherford Junior College, graduating in 1942. Then I went marching off to World War II, where I served as a radio operator on a C-87 transport aircraft operating out of England. Having decided during the war to enter full-time Christian service, I returned home to enroll at North Texas State Teachers’ College in Denton, Texas. I graduated in 1947 with a Bachelor of Arts...

    (pp. 23-37)

    AN officer walked me down a long hallway and turned into an empty office that I at once thought must belong to the commandant. It had better furniture and more of it than any other room I was ever to see in North Korea. On the walls were five large pictures: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and the Communist leader of North Korea, Kim II Sung. Those pictures and what they stood for dominated not only this room but everything in North Korea. The next item that caught my eye was a very expensive-looking shortwave radio on a shelf just behind...

    (pp. 38-49)

    THERE were many interrogators working on me, each with a different tactic. I have no idea where they got their training—certainly not from the Japanese. They appeared to use techniques against me that were very similar to those of the Chinese Communists, techniques intended to achieve the genuine reeducation of a prisoner’s political views: hence their frequent advice to me to purge my old capitalistic thoughts and “have a clear conscience.” To the North Koreans, a clear conscience meant correct political thinking.

    My views about the intense psychological pressures that I endured in prison are similar to those of...

    (pp. 50-58)

    AS our truck moved along the road that took us out of the city of Pyongyang, we were treated to the latest war news. The date was sometime in the second week of July 1950. Commissioner Lord informed us that the British minister, Capt. Vyvyan Holt, and his staff of two from Seoul were on one of the other trucks. We all considered this to be a good sign. With the shield of diplomatic immunity protecting the British diplomats, surely we Americans would not be treated too badly. We tried to reassure ourselves that even the Nazis and the Imperialist...

    (pp. 59-65)

    WAITING in the train at Pyongyang, we discussed where we might be taken. I heard Monsignor Quinlan, from somewhere out of sight, talking to someone. Catching bits and pieces of what he said, I was able to understand that over 500 American military prisoners of war were boarding the train. Soon this information was being whispered about in the various languages of the group. We could not understand what it all meant.

    I tried to look out a window from my crowded position to see what was going on. Long lines of haggard-looking young American soldiers were marching past my...

    (pp. 66-86)

    ON September 11, 1950, when I departed the train at Manpo, the first person I saw was Commissioner Lord. He was running up and down the platform trying to relay to the prisoners the many directives of the North Korean colonel. I looked off in another direction for a moment, and when I looked back, the commissioner was not there. Moving forward, I finally saw him lying on his back on the concrete platform with Helen Rosser holding his head in her hands.

    “What’s the matter, Commissioner?” I asked.

    “I just felt a strange tick in my heart and felt...

    (pp. 87-109)

    OUR journey took us by the old quarantine station about three miles west of Manpo where we had been quartered before. It had been extensively refurbished, and we noted something by the gate that we had rarely seen in North Korea: a large, expensive car. Suddenly, two men with European faces ducked out of sight when they saw us, but they were not fast enough; French Consul-General George Perruche recognized one of them as a former staff member from the Russian embassy in Peking (Beijing), where Perruche had formerly been stationed.

    Up ahead, the guards were making sport of the...

    (pp. 110-123)

    WE were awakened earlier than usual the next morning. Looking out the door of the church, Kris, Monsignor Quinlan, and I contemplated what might be in store for us that day. Till then, the weather had cooperated, with comfortable daytime temperatures, though the nighttime temperatures were low enough to form thick ice on the rice paddies. Early that morning, however the weather signaled a change for the worse. Light snow was falling, and a strong north wind was whipping dust across the road.

    Kris said, “I’m afraid we are going to have snow today. If we do, the mountain roads...

    (pp. 124-143)

    WHEN we entered our new home, we noted that the floor was still warm. Apparently the former occupants had been required to leave suddenly in the middle of the night.

    Walter showed no sign of consciousness as we laid him on the floor. With the aid of a small oil lamp, I could see that his eyes were closed. He remained alive until the next afternoon. His breathing was very heavy at first but became progressively quieter just before he died.

    A very complex man, Walter was someone you didn’t get to know right away. We were all aware that...

    (pp. 144-155)

    THE new commandant came to us in January 1951 carrying no pistol, which was the first indication that he might be prepared to help us; I think he did try. He restricted to some limited extent the beating of POWs by the guards and made an inspection of the entire camp several times each week. Certain problems would remain beyond his control—the starvation diet, woefully inadequate medical service, the lack of warm clothing—but he always gave us the impression that he was trying to keep us alive under difficult conditions. He even gave us lightly padded clothing, but...

    (pp. 156-170)

    OUR march took us through Chunggangjin and back down the road that parallels the Yalu River in a southwesterly direction toward Manpo. We had seen it all the previous autumn on the Death March, but even the most pessimistic of our group did not believe that our present trip would be as long or as bad. After walking for about four miles, we turned to the left and followed a road that led up a relatively wide valley. About two miles farther along we could see our destination on our left, an old Japanese army camp from pre-World War II...

    (pp. 171-186)

    AFTER our move from the main POW camp at An-dong on May 10, 1951, to a private house nearby, Mystery Man began visiting us on a regular basis. He was never a pleasant person to be around. His disposition was hostile, argumentative, and confrontational most of the time, and he was without reserve in kicking anyone in the shins for even minor offenses at any time. When he came calling, we responded to him with extreme caution. We had learned by that time not to discuss anything freely with Communist officials if we had any choice. The rule was, Never...

    (pp. 187-198)

    AN officer and some guards appeared on the scene and ordered us to follow them. Walking farther up the valley, we had a closer view of the teeming activity that we had seen on our arrival. What we saw was not reassuring. Groups of ragged, hollow-eyed men were running about carrying dirt and gravel, whipped along by screaming guards. The dirt and gravel were being dug from the side of the mountain, placed in straw bags, and then carried to other areas by men who looked so weak that they could hardly walk. Our considerable experience in such matters told...

  21. 15. LIFE AT UJANG
    (pp. 199-204)

    TRAVELING to the southwest, we were stopped by some Chinese officials in the village of Ujang. Apparently it had been the intention of our North Korean officer to take us farther, but the Chinese objected for some reason. They seemed to have great authority in some of the internal matters of North Korea. We waited in Ujang for three days while the various officials tried to work out the problem. Finally, on August 16, 1952, we were moved three miles out of the village to five Korean houses located by a small stream. We were told that the Chinese had...

    (pp. 205-213)

    ON arriving in Pyongyang, we found a city totally destroyed. We were quartered in two rooms in a tunnel, one of many in that area which had been dug under a mountain. Our hosts were headquarters personnel of the North Korean People’s Army. The members of this unit and their families were living in other rooms in that same tunnel. The entire complex was supplied with electricity, but there were no switches for turning off the lights. We slept on wooden beds with mattresses that weren’t too bad.

    In Pyongyang we were measured for new clothing, given hot baths every...

    (pp. 214-217)

    FATHER Crosbie followed the American group across Russia to Moscow about two weeks later. The Turks and the Russians had to wait for almost another year for their release. When they arrived at Panmunjom in March 1954, they had added an extra member: Dimitri and Mary, a Russian prisoner, were the proud parents of a new son. Those who are still living now reside either in the United States or in Turkey. None chose to go to the Soviet Union.

    Sadly, the South Korean politicians who were prisoners with us have never returned. There have been unconfirmed rumors over the...

  24. NOTES
    (pp. 218-224)
    (pp. 225-226)
  26. INDEX
    (pp. 227-233)