When you read what happened to the UN POW’s, keep in mind that from 1949 to 1976, Revolutionary Maoist doctrine ruled China with an iron fist.
Most of the powerful Communist generals and politicians that fought with Mao to win the Civil War from 1925 to 1949 spoke out against his harsh actions as the leader of China.
Those men, with few exceptions, were killed or went to prison. A few survived by learning to stay out of sight and shutting up. Deng Xiaoping was one of the few that protested and survived.
After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping reappeared, gained the leadership and embarked on a campaign to convert China to an open-market economy mixing socialism with capitalism creating a hybrid form of government never seen before.
The reeducation camps that existed for much of Mao’s rule and the labor camps that appeared during the Cultural Revolution do not exist in China today. In fact, I know of a cousin of my father-in-law that spent decades in these camps but today, in his 80s, he is free and lives with his son and daughter-in-law in Shanghai.
When the current central government of China came to power after the 1982 Constitution was written, many of the political prisoners that survived were released and received a small pension. This cousin was one of them.
Do we blame today’s Americans for slavery in the US in the 18th and 19th century until the end of the Civil War?
Do we blame them for discrimination that ended with the Civil Right era of the 1960s?
Do we blame them for all the American natives that were killed during the Indian Wars of the 19th century?
Do we blame them for the concentrations camps that locked up Japanese-Americans during World War II?
Do we blame them for the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—the only act of its kind in US history?
In Korea, the UN POWs that survived shared horror stories of the torture, brainwashing and severe hunger they suffered. They told of terrifying campaigns to reeducate them and turn them against the cause of democracy.
The POWs reported that they were forced at gunpoint to speak out against America on the radio.
Many of the POWs went crazy and starved to death.
The UN POW camps in South Korea had problems too. The Chinese POWs split into two factions. One was anticommunist and the other procommunist.
Like rival street gangs in US prisons, the Chinese POWs turned against each other and there was violence.
The peace negotiations were tense and difficult and dragged on.
The fighting continued. The last two years of the war were a series of skirmishes. However, there were also hours without combat when the troops waited to see what happened next.
The armies fought repeatedly for the same hills. The most famous was called Old Baldy. After nine months of fierce battles as the hill changed hands often, Old Baldy finally stayed in UN hands.
To force a compromise at the peace negotiations, the UN turned to air power. The one area where the UN held an advantage over China was air power and UN air forces ruled the skies over Korea. In 1952, the US air force had about 1500 planes flying missions and more from the Navy, Marines and other UN nations.
Korea was the hot button issue of the 1952 American presidential election. Legendary five-star General Dwight Eisenhower promised he would end the war, while his opponent, Adlai Stephenson said he would not withdraw from Korea.
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