The 'happy valley'

A Senior View

Ed LyonsFebruary 23, 2012 

It was in 1950 that our country decided to increase our confrontation of the communist thrust towards the dominance of international politics.

This time, the line was drawn between North and South Korea and we were joined in this by the United Nations while our opposition was supported, both politically and militarily, by the new communist government of China.

My job for this "police action" was flying an anti-submarine patrol of the Kamchatka Peninsula (Korea). This, in general, was a long series of flights that established our presence in the combat zone rather than actual combat contact.

My most memorable part of the "Korean thing" actually came after the combat had ceased -- a review of the reaction of American Prisoners of War to their captivity was that it needed improvement.

In accordance with this, a facsimile POW camp was set up on Whidby Island where U.S. soldiers would be exposed to the same treatment received by past POWs.

I, together with other Naval airman (a typical crew) were posted to this facility in the fall of the 1950s.

Supposedly, we were a crew that had bailed out over enemy territory during an armed conflict.

We were equipped accordingly with, half of a parachute (economy!), a combat knife (for obvious reasons -- the normally carried side arm was excluded) and, our normally worn flight apparel.

We spent the first week surviving the "wilderness" we had landed in and then were captured by enemy troops. The following is what happened to me during the next four days.

My shoelaces were tied together and we were trotted behind a slow moving truck to a Quonsett hut in an area that was called "the happy valley, student compound" where I was stripped, interrogated (tell them nothing! sign nothing!) then my hands were cuffed behind me and my head was covered with a canvas bag (a "ditty" bag), my I.D. card was put in my mouth, and I was put in a cage in which I could neither stand up or lay down. From there I could only hear what was going on.

Suddenly the guards yanked me from my little "study room" and began to beat me -- the first blow hit the I.D. card that was stuck in my mouth and cut my lips back a couple of inches and the second broke my nose. (I found that out a couple of days later.)

Then we, all eight of us, were put into a dugout and for the next two days and were taken individually for our toilet break and more interrogation.

On the last day, those who had not confessed or signed anything (we did not!) were put in a 4X5 box and told we had enough oxygen for 30 minutes.

I believed then, and during that time I found that I could remember a childhood prayer, "The Apostles Creed" after all.

Then (it seemed like hours) I was dragged (literally) out and hung by my wrists on a fence for the next eight hours and then it was over.

I had been indoctrinated. Now I knew who the bad guys were and that I was one of the good guys.

Grandpa sez' "But time makes that memory grow dimmer ... and Vietnam was still to come."

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