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The Tiger Death March & Johnson's List

by Chad N. Proudfoot and Dominic Armstrong

"It is with pleasure and sadness that I am able to report to you. I think you might know where the sadness comes from. First let me report on Lt. Barrick. I do not know where his name came from, perhaps it is Johnnie himself since both were members of the Love Company, 21st Infantry at the fight of Chochiwon on July 11, 1950. I was also a member of that same company. Lt. Barrick was never a POW, however, he did die at the hands of the Koreans on July 7, 1950.

"Let me tell you what happened, this as told to me by Lt. Wadie Roundtree. When Wadie (Jiggs) was captured and taken past a spot where Lt. Barrick was laying besides the road without any clothing on his upper Torso and was holding his bleeding head, apparently mortally wounded, Jiggs was able to ask him if the North Koreans had done this to him, his answer was yes. Wadie was wired to another POW and that is all that could be done for Lt. Barrick. When I passed by that same spot, somewhat later, it looked like Lt. Barrick had been run over by a tank. Both Lt. Roundtree and myself were tied together with Telephone wire, in separate groups."

Lt. Col. Ralph "Eli" Culbertson, 21st Infantry, Love Company

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. All of us were beaten soundly. And, as we moved back through their front lines, attempts were made by the front line troops to hit or stab you."

Wilbert "Shorty" Estabrook, B Company, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, U. S. Army, founder, Tiger Survivors. Just a few years after the end of World War II, America found itself mired in another conflict that took our troops to fight on the other side of the world. When communist North Korea invaded South Korea, breaking an established treaty, the United States could not stand by and watch Stalinism spread to another country. Operating according to the “domino theory,” America felt that allowing Communism to spread to any other nations would mean that it would quickly move from state to state until the world would be engulfed. Under the leadership of President Harry S. Truman and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the United States won approval and support from the United Nations to begin a campaign to push back the North Korean Army.

The Korean War is often known as the "Forgotten War," because it was a war that the United States did not win (it ended in a stalemate on the line where it had begun), and the American public was enamored with the prosperity at home and did not want to worry about remote foreign affairs. Most Americans only became familiar with the Korean War through the motion picture M*A*S*H in 1970 and the television show that followed it. But there are many more stories about the Korean War than just what the men and women of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital portrayed.

On June 25, 1950, the 24th Division of the Army was on Occupation Duty in Southern Japan when communist forces crossed the 38th parallel. As the fighting began, the North Koreans began to take prisoners, including American civilians on June 29, 1950. The U.N. forces and civilians were moved to Seoul, South Korea where troops from the 24th Division met up with troops from the 21st and others. By October, the group that would endure the Tiger Death March was formed.

"You are now under strict military discipline. We are going to march to Chunggang-jin. No one is to fall out without my permission. If anyone does, I will deal severely with him!" Thus, on the Halloween of 1950, a North Korean major forced the group to turn out their pockets and give up their penknives, and begin a rugged, hundred mile march in the cold, Korean November.

PFC Wayne "Johnnie" Johnson was a young man of eighteen from Lima, Ohio. He was captured as a prisoner of war on July 11, 1950. During his first few nights as a prisoner he watched several of his comrades perish from various means and he realized that no one was keeping track of their deaths. He vowed to preserve their memories so that there families could at least know when and where they died. It was at this point that Johnnie began keeping a list of the dead using a pencil stub and whatever scratch paper he could find.

The prisoners were forced to live in deplorable conditions, and just when they thought that things could not get any worse, a brutal North Korean army major called The Tiger took command. When asked about his name, Mr. Estabrook said, "No one knows the real name of the Tiger. That is a testament to his brutality." The Tiger ordered the prisoners to march for nine days over 120 miles of steep Korean terrain. The weather during that fall had been rather warm during the year of 1950, so the soldiers had continued to wear their summer fatigues through their capture. During the march, the temperature had continued to drop. Sick and exhausted prisoners were dropping rapidly, and their buddies were ordered to leave them for later execution. Even though he knew it was a great risk to his own life, Johnnie was able to record the names of over 100 men who died during the nine-day death march. Johnnie Johnson eventually compiled a list of 496 names of his fellow American soldiers who had given the ultimate sacrifice.

Once the prisoners reached the Yalu River prison camp, Hanjang-ni, even more died. Over 222 soldiers lost their lives during their 4-month stay there. The mild fall led to one of the coldest winters in history. By March 29, 1951 the remaining prisoner weighed less than 100 pounds and were sick and consumed by lice. They were then taken to another camp in ChungGang-jin, where they were nearly killed in friendly fire by B-29 bombers. Miraculously, only one POW was injured in the raid. Finally, they were taken to a Chinese Prisoner of War Camp, Camp #3. The soldiers were forced to participate in a makeshift "parade" and fed huge amounts of rice and steamed bread. After being given new clothing and receiving the first adequate treatment of their experience, they were subjected to brainwashing in order to convert them to Communism.

Only once during his captivity was Johnson's List discovered. While in Chinese control, a guard discovered a copy of the list buried in the wall. He beat Johnnie severely for constructing it, and Johnnie was almost executed. For whatever reason, the guard did not fire the gun that was pointed at Johnnie's head and the list was also spared.

When the prisoners were returned home, the United States interrogated all of the soldiers to find the names of any of their dead brethren. When Johnnie was questioned he pulled the List from a toothpaste tube in which it was hidden. The Captain interrogating Johnny made sure to note the List in his report, and recommended a commendation for Mr. Johnson. However, the Army ignored that recommendation, and the List was forgotten. Some forty years later Johnson's List was discovered when he attended a reunion of those who had survived under the Tiger. A disinterested Army had not put too much thought towards Johnson's List in 1953, but now they gave it a second look. After providing the proof that many Americans who were still listed as missing in action were actually killed, the Army saw fit to reward Johnnie for risking his life to make and save the list. On August 3, 1996 he was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

Of the 496 names on Johnson's List, eleven persons who died were, or claimed to be, West Virginians. The information Johnnie collected about them follows:

George Milton Barrick, Jr., Second Lieutenant L Company, 21st Infantry. Born in Morgantown, WV on January 11, 1923, Lt. Barrick was the son of George and Margaret Barrick and the brother of William Mathers Barrick. He attended West Virginia University for 3 years and was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Lt. Barrick was killed in action when fighting ensued near Chochiwon, South Korea on July 12, 1950. He was reported missing in action and presumed dead until the revelation of PFC John Johnson's list. Tau Kappa Epsilon, on hearing of Lt. Barrick's passing, pledged his surviving son, who lived with Lt. Barrick's wife, Sara E., in Columbus, GA. While serving, Lt. Barrick was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

Glenn Maynard Clark, Private First Class Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment. PFC Clark was born in 1932. He was taken as a prisoner of war on the Tiger Death March starting July 12, 1950 and died between November 16 and November 30 of that year at Chunggang-jin, North Korea. During his service, he was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal.

Robert Gale Detamore, Private First Class Company A, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. PFC Detamore was born on September 9, 1932 to William and Cynthia Detamore in Cowen, West Virginia in Webster County. He was taken as a prisoner of war on July 20, 1950. During the Tiger March, Pvt. Detacore was diagnosed with pneumonia and dysentery. He died at the "Cornfield" near Manpo in North Korea on November 29, 1950. Pvt. Detamore was considered lost until October 23, 1953, when his mother was finally informed. He was promoted posthumously to Corporal on May 1, 1953. Corporal Detamore was awarded the Prisoner of War Medal, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Korean War Service Medal.

Eldred Jennings Hensley, Corporal Company C, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Corporal Jennings was born on October 10, 1930 in Shegon, West Virginia in Logan County. His father was Pete Hensley and his mother was Edna Conley. He was captured by the enemy on July 5, 1950, and forced to participate in the Tiger Death March, until his death on November 5, 1950. He was killed by a guard near Chunggang-jin. Corporal Hensley was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal.

Thomas Dale Jones, See Biographies

William V. Kolberg, Corporal Company L, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Born on February 21, 1906 in Maryland, Corporal Kolberg eventually moved to Keyser, West Virginia in Mineral County. He had served as a truck driver during his civilian life, and was married to Thelma V. Corporal Kolberg was taken as a Prisoner of War on July 11, 1950 while fighting near Chochiwon, South Korea. He completed the Tiger Death March and died while a prisoner of war at Hanjang-ni, North Korea on December 28, 1950. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the Nations Defense Service Medal and the Korean War Service Medal.

Keith LaVelle Lingle, Sergeant Headquarters Battery, 63rd Field Artillery Battalion, 24th Infantry Division. Sergeant Lingle was born on February 19, 1919 to Hilda Lingle in Cleveland, West Virginia of Webster County. After working as a Mechanic, Sergeant Lingle enlisted to serve in the Army during the Korean War. He was taken prisoner along the Kum River, South Korea on July 14, 1950, and forced to march on the Tiger Death March. Sergeant Lingle died while prisoner on January 1, 1951 at Hanjang-ni, North Korea. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal.

Richard Ray Lipes, Corporal Company A, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Corporal Lipes was born on January 13, 1931 to Mr. and Mrs. James M. (Doc) Lipes. He lived in Lewisburg, West Virginia, Greenbrier County. Corporal Lipes worked for a Lewisburg service station before enlisting in the Army at the age of 17. He was quite comfortable in the military and had expressed wishes to his father of being a lifetime military man. Richard went missing in action on July 16, 1950, when he was fighting the enemy. He died of malnutrition upon concluding the Tiger Death March on December 23, 1950. Corporal Lipes was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal.

William Joseph Rainey, Corporal 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Corporal Rainey was born in Washington County, Virginia as Oliver Leonard in September of 1928. On June 3, 1950, Oliver was adopted by his foster family, Joe and Violet Rainey of Minden, West Virginia in Fayette County. On February 12, 1951, Corporal Rainey was captured by the enemy while fighting in South Korea. He died a prisoner on June 23, 1951. He was not involved with the Tiger Death March, but was placed on Johnson's List.

Lee Bright Reed, Corporal Company K, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Corporal Reed was born September 2, 1927 to Robert and Cora Reed in Organ Cave, West Virginia of Greenbrier County. He became a Prisoner of War in South Korea on July 7, 1950, and after surviving the Tiger Death March, died of malnutrition and dysentery on November 30, 1950 at Hanjang-ni, North Korea. Corporal Reed was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal.

James Cornelius Ruddell, Jr., Captain Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Captain Ruddell was born August 25, 1926 to Col. and Mrs. James Ruddell in Ft. Hamilton. We currently do not know the whereabouts or history of Capt. Ruddell, and only know that he was a graduate of West Point, his father was also a military man, and have this testimonial of him as a soldier from RE Culbertson: "He died on January 21, 1951. He died in one of those unheated huts just 12 days after the Death March. There was little or no food on the Death March, and that coupled with staying in an unheated hut must have contributed to his death. I did know Lt. Ruddell very well as a POW and found him to have kept his Military bearing very well, kept himself clean and presented himself as a clean shaven man up until the Death March when I lost track of him."

If you know any more information about Capt. Ruddell or any of the men from Johnson's List, West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history. Contact (304) 558-0230.


West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archives Database

West Virginia Archives and History

West Virginia Archives and History