2018-08-01 / Front Page

A man is not dead until he is forgotten...

Publishers note: The news of American soldiers’ remains being returned home from North Korea is often lost in the main stream media’s hate of President Donald Trump. The Story of Cpl. Fletcher Perry which follows in heavily edited form due to space constraints, was written by Ray Davidson and appeared in the Sept. 30, 2009 issue of the Early County News which can be read in it’s entirety at www.earlycountynews.com.

The Kum River basin in Korea is far from Hilton, Ga., and the watershed of the Chattahoochee River. Yet on Saturday morning, July 15, 1950, as Corporal Fletcher Foy Perry looked at the low hanging fog over the Kum River it reminded him of his South Georgia home and his Chattahoochee River.

A devoutly religious man, his thoughts turned to his congregation at the Liberty Assembly of God Church in Cedar Springs; bowing his head, he prayed for them and his deliverance from this war.

He was bone tired on this Saturday morning. The last hot meal he had was June 30 in Japan.

He truly felt welcomed by the people of Japan but that life was shattered on June 25 when the North Korea Peoples Army crossed the 38th parallel.

Perry and his fellow soldiers were joking about how the NKPA would run back across the 38th parallel when they saw the 24th Infantry Division.

What Perry and the others did not know, they were about to face a modern Russian equipped Army of veterans of the war in China.

Task Force Smith took on two regiments of the North Korean 4th Division and thirty-three T34 tanks. Badly outnumbered and without armor, effective antitank weapons, or air support, the Task Force was overrun.

On the morning of July 10 the rear guard of Task Force Smith, A and D Companies crossed the Kum. Orders came for L Company to counterattack. The first counterattack executed by American forces in Korea. As L Company headed up the road they came across five men with hands tied behind their backs and shot in the head, a foreboding fate for American prisoners of war.

News quickly spread of the killing of Americans and a general fear of capture both motivated and struck fear along the troops at Kum River.

Major gaps were breached in the 24th infantry division’s lines. Then on the 16th at 3 a.m. a North Korean plane flew the length of Kum’s defenses and dropped a flare, signaling an all out assault by the NKPA. As the 19th Infantry Regiment of the 24th was overrun that day, Cpl Fletcher Foy Perry from Hilton was taken prisoner.

Also taken prisoner along with Perry, Everett Warren from Meigs, Ga. later summed up their emotions, “Capture is such a horrible and terrifying event. You don’t know what will happen to you. We had already seen men with their hands tied behind them and shot in the back of the head. You think that you, too, will be shot after being tortured.”

Initially beaten by his captors, Perry was moved back through the North Korean front lines. The NKPA troops repeatedly made attempts to hit or stab him. Perry and his fellow prisoners were marched to Seoul where they were housed for several weeks and interrogated by both Russian and Korean soldiers.

The North Koreans took delight in reminding the POWs they were not prisoners of war but bandits and could be shot at the pleasure of their North Korean captors.

They were moved from Seoul to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea by train. Already exhaustion and starvation were begging to take their toll but the injured prisoners suffered the most. There were no medical supplies and their wounds became infected in the sweltering heat and attracted maggots and flies.

They arrived in Pyongyang on July 25 and were housed in an old school building. On Sept. 5, Perry and the other prisoners boarded a train again. They traveled at night to avoid the American bombers, and during the day, the prisoners were forced to leave the train and hide in mountains, while the severely wounded soldiers remained in the cars.

Perry’s journey was interspersed with hunger, abuse, death and summary executions. He was dehydrated by dysentery. Lack of food and water took their toll. Cramped in the train cars, the smell of body odor and rotting flesh of the wounded compounded their misery.

For Perry, Ernest Kelly, Emil Girona, Herman Driskell and Edgar Warren their torment was over. They never arrived in Manp’o Jin. Perry died on Sept. 7 and his body was discarded along the railroad tracks.

In October the remaining prisoners were placed under a brutal Korean major known only as “the Tiger” that would impose a 120 mile death march on the 758 remaining prisoners.

When the armistice was signed in August 1953, only 262 of the original 853 prisoners survived. Perry’s group of prisoners would later become known as the Tiger Survivors.

U.N. forces drove north of the 38th Parallel in early October, penetrating North Korean territory above Kaesong on Oct. 9.

Perry’s body was found by advancing American troops and he was interned at a temporary United Nations Military Cemetery outside of Pyongyang. Later when the Chinese entered the war and UN troops fell back, the cemetery fell into Chinese and North Korean hands.

During Operation Glory, the exchange of war dead between North Korea and the Allies, Perry came home. His breath free from its restless tides of war, he lies under massive water oaks in Cedar Springs not far from his Chattahoochee.

Ray Davidson died April 30, 2018. He was a syndicated columnist from Albany writing a series of columns about POW/ MIAs.

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