Remembering the Forgotten War: Korea, 1950-1953

The Prisoner Exchange

The most hotly contested issue at the armistice talks were the fate of prisoners of war, particularly North Koreans and Chinese who did not wish to return to their country of origin. In the end, both sides agreed that all prisoners would be funneled through a Neutral Nations Commission for Repatriation. Each would be interviewed and allowed to choose to go to North Korea, the People's Republic of China, South Korea, Taiwan, or a neutral country. The formality of the interview and exchange process prolonged the painful ordeal for many a prisoner. Repatriating Communist prisoners frequently staged demonstrations for the onlooking press, alleging inhumane treatment and harsh conditions in Allied prison camps.

A Man With One Leg
Hugh Cabot #86
Pencil, 1953


Waiting for the doctor to have a look, this man smokes his first American cigarette and looks at the men working on the receiving lines at Freedom Village during Little Switch. He has a hard time realizing that all the new faces around him are friends; he feels good to be back but can't quite believe it. He wants to say he's glad to be back, but he doesn't, he just thinks of going home with one leg.


The Lists
Hugh Cabot #79
Pencil, 1953


One of the most complicated and time consuming aspects of the prisoner exchange was the exact listing in all languages of the prisoners held by either side. Chinese and South Korean officers checked the prisoners as they left the trucks and ambulances. For the South Korean officer, this is a sad job. South Koreans held by the communists were badly mistreated, some were dead by the time the ambulances arrived at the exchange point, but this job was routine.


Hugh Cabot #78
Pencil, 1953



Screaming and waving their makeshift flags, North Korean POWs stimulated by their leaders make their way to reception officers amidst the torn clothing and boots they had recently thrown at the United Nations' officials.


A North Korean
Hugh Cabot #80
Pencil, 1953


This North Korean prisoner is one of the many that shared the same baffled expression upon seeing the Communists and their noisy, motley reception. This man did not shout and tear his clothing and swear revenge against his captors, nor was he merely sullen. As the doors of the ambulance were opened, he was then released from prison but not freed.


Navy Combat Artists in Korea

Herbert C. Hahn was a Navy Reservist, a photographer, called to active duty when the Korean War broke out. He was assigned to U.S.S. Boxer and during his spare time aboard ship began making drawings of the ship's activities. His work attracted the notice of senior officers until they reached the Secretary of the Navy, Francis P. Matthews. On his request, Hahn was reassigned to the Public Information Office, Tokyo, as a combat artist. He spent the rest of the war following and recording the action of troops in and offshore Korea, particularly the armistice talks.

Hugh Cabot left his civilian life as an artist and ski instructor to join the Navy soon after the start of the Korean War. He was assigned to the Office of Naval Personnel as a Journalist-Seaman and sent to record action in Korea as a combat artist. He observed action with various ships and units throughout the war, including overwintering with the First Marine Division above the 38th parallel, traveling with the "Commonwealth Division" across the front line, and joining Navy corpsmen with Marine units at Bunker Hill.

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