[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: Hungnam Evacuation
YSK, what happened to your mother and sister after they were unable to board
the train from Hamhung? Did they try to walk to Hungnam? Did they ever
leave North Korea? Do you think UN forces succeeded in clearing Hungnam
of civilians before it blew? The Navy vice admiral in charge of the evacuation,
among others who were there, speculates that at least as many refugees were
left behind at Hungnam as the 98,000 taken out by ship. Do you think some
of these were killed in the detonation of the entire harbor? I have yet
to find any accounts that speculate about it.
Several accounts say walking to Hungnam from Hamhung was a risky journey
for the thousands who tried, as the route passed through minefields as well
as UN checkpoints manned by nervous soldiers on the alert for North Korean
and Chinese infiltrators. What do you know of that? And how often do you
think it happened that communists (soldiers or guerillas) infiltrated crowds
As some of you may know from my prior postings, I am researching a book on
the Hungnam evacuation, so I will share a little of what I have learned in
response to JK's questions. The account below concerns refugees already
in the Hungnam vicinity when the evacuation got underway. Another saga all
together can be told about the frozen, mostly silent hordes who patiently
followed U.N. forces down the gun-pocked, wind-swept, and hazardous "MSR"
-- the "main supply route" and only road to the coast -- following the hellacious
battles around the Chosin Reservoir. No doubt many of those refugees were
lost along the way, but I have yet to track down any survivors of that "march."
(In fact, I'd be most grateful if anyone has leads in that direction.)
Down at the coast, beyond X Corp's tally of 98,000 Korean evacuees total
from the ports of Wonsan and Hungnam, it's hard to get accurate refugee numbers
from December 1950. We do know that those in charge of the evacuation based
their plans in part on X Corps' experiences evacuating refugees farther south
just days earlier, from Wonsan, where a few thousand were expected but many
times that number thronged the port.
In Wonsan, thousands were left on the beach. So, at Hungnam, planners allowed
ahead of time for the likelihood of fleeing civilians; bumping their estimates
up from Wonsan, they expected as many as 25,000. Of course, nearly 10 times
that number eventually showed up, completely overwhelming available facilities,
if not supplies. The 98,000 taken out therefore represent only a partial
triumph, but a brave one at that, given the evacuation's many hazards. (As
indicated above, I have been unable so far to find out what happened to the
100,000 or so left behind.)
As for the thousands who shared the plight of YSK's family members, desperately
trying to leave the inland city of Hamhung as Chinese forces closed in, they
abandoned city offices and civil government posts in the chaos of the nearing
battle front. Many gathered in churches, fearing (correctly) an imminent
end to their religious freedom. On December 16 (I think), there was a desperate
push to board a final train to Hungnam, provided with short notice by the
U.S. Army's Third Division. X Corps Commander Ned Almond authorized the
train in response to the pleas of increasingly desperate Koreans -- as YSK
said, those most likely to face persecution by the communists: known anti-communists,
Christians, government officials, and U.S. staff and sympathizers. Almond
expected the train to ferry "4,000 or 5,000" civilians the short distance
to Hungnam over frozen, mountainous, embattled, and nearly impassable terrain.
Hamhung's citizens received the news piecemeal, by word of mouth, with just
a few hours notice. Word spread nevertheless, and far beyond Almond's 5,000
people. By the designated hour of midnight, some 50,000 thronged the station.
With babies strapped on backs, children and the elderly in hand, with all
the belongings they could carry, they were desperate to board this last train
Perhaps only one fifth their number made it out by rail, some of them atop
the train cars. The train pulled out in the dawn hours of December 17. Others
tried to walk, but half or more were turned back by soldiers of the U.S.
Army's 3rd Division manning the shrinking Hungnam perimeter.
For those who want to know more about the refugee situation, an article entitled
"Christmas Cargo" by Dr. Bong Hak Hyun is among the more comprehensive insiders'
accounts of the evacuation. Like the very interesting war memoir at kimsoft.com
(by YSK, if I'm not mistaken), this article is one of the rare evacuation
accounts written in English by a Korean participant. It's available on-line
at the Korea Society website, www.koreasociety.org. [From the home page,
click on "Teaching More About Korea," then "Table of Contents," then chapter
XXX. The article, and another by Vice Admiral James Doyle, follow several
pages of lesson plans. The whole thing is in "pdf" format, readable with
I'll be grateful for feedback on my comments here. Wishing you all a joyful
and warm season, with high hopes for the new year.
Young Kim wrote:
The residents of Hungnam were forced out.
ROKA troops went door to door ordering them out to the dock for loading.
Their houses were blown up.
In contrast, residents of Hamhung fled
on their own will. In fact, many of them, including my mother and sister,
were turned back by the US military. The Hamhung regugees were mostly
people not in good standing with the Communists.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, December 19, 2002 6:00 PM
Subject: Re: Hungnam Evacuation
In a message dated 12/19/2002
10:50:19 AM Pacific Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org
I spent Xmas of 1950 on an ROKN LST, an evacuation ship from Hungnam.
I have a question concerning the evacuation.
I am wondering whether the US military or S.Korean gov.
encouraged N.Koreans to flee to the South at the time the US troops were
retreating from the North. How many N.Koreans fled by ships
at Hungnam? How do you explain the motivation of the N.Koreans
fleeing? Were they mostly Christians, anti-communists or people who
collaborated with the US/S.K. military rule in the North?
What percentage of the village people fled?