Broken Soldiers

Front Cover
University of Illinois Press, 2000 - History - 330 pages
0 Reviews
Traversing the no-man's-land of political loyalty and betrayal, Broken Soldiers documents the fierce battle for the minds of American prisoners during the Korean War. In scorching detail, Raymond Lech describes the soldiers' day-to-day experiences in prisoner-of-war camps and the shocking treatment some of them received at the hands of their own countrymen after the war. Why, he asks, were only fourteen American soldiers tried as collaborators when thousands of others who admitted to some of the same offenses were not?

Drawing on some sixty thousand pages of court-martial transcripts Lech secured through the Freedom of Information Act, Broken Soldiers documents the appalling treatment and the sophisticated propagandizing to which American POWs fell victim during the Korean conflict. Three thousand American soldiers perished in North Korean camps over the winter of 1950-51, most from starvation. Through the unsentimental testimony of survivors, Lech describes how these young men, filthy and lice-infested, lost an average of 40 percent of their body weight. Many also lost their powers of resistance and their grip on soldierly conduct.

After six months of starvation, the emaciated, disoriented prisoners were subjected to a relentless campaign to educate them on the virtues of communism. Bombarded with propaganda, the Americans were organized into study groups and forced to discuss and write about communism and Marxism, even to broadcast harangues against capitalist aggression and appeals for an end to the war.

Lech traces the spiral of debilitation and compromise, showing how parroting certain phrases came to seem a small price to pay for physical safety. Threatened with starvationand indefinite confinement in Korea, many POWs succumbed to pressure to mouth communist slogans and provide information far in excess of the regulation "name, rank, and service number".

Of the thousands of American soldiers who, while prisoners in North Korea, spoke and wrote favorably of communism and disparaged their country, a handful were charged with collaborating with the enemy. Why were so few singled out? Why did each branch of the armed services judge parallel circumstances differently, and why were American soldiers not realistically prepared for capture? A powerful indictment of justice miscarried, Broken Soldiers raises troubling questions that remain unanswered decades after the events.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

Broken soldiers

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The 4000 POWs who returned from the Korean War were intensively interviewed, and Lech (All the Drowned Sailors), a former director of the Navy League, has researched all 80 volumes of testimony ... Read full review

Contents

Part1 Hell
7
Into the Valley of Death
29
Death and New Life
65
Toward Truth and Peace
91
Traitors Row? m
141
Limbo
145
My Words Their Thoughts
162
Pledge of Allegiance
184
Purgatory
201
And Justice for All?
229
Again Prisoners
264
Epilogue
279
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (2000)

Raymond B. Lech, an independent scholar and a past national director of the Navy League of the United States, is the author of All the Drowned Sailors, a main selection of the Military Book Club.

Bibliographic information