GIs and the Kids – A Love Story

After several years of conducting research on the GIs and the Kids in the U.S. National Archives and the archives of the Stars&Stripes in Tokyo, Japan I had around a thousand photographs, many of which I posted on the project web site”www.koreanchildren.org”.  One day Al Zimmerman approached me and suggested that we make a photo exhibit with the photographs and so we did.  Al did the design work and I worked on the captions of the photographs. The first print copy of the 32 panels in the photo exhibit was paid for by members of the Blaisdell family with Rev. Carter Blaisdell raising the funds from other family members.  We named the exhibit “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story”.

The first showing of the photo exhibit was in a ball-room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.  This site was chosen because the hero of the Kiddy Car Airlift, Chaplain Russell L. Blaisdell, Colonel, USAF lived in Las Vegas and was in ill health. Having the opening there allowed him to participate in the activities.  I contacted Larry Sassarossi, Executive Director of the U.S. Korean War Museum and Library asking his participation in the event and, if possible, obtain the participation of Buzz Aldrin, Korean War Veteran and Astronaut who was a sponsor of the Korean War Veterans Museum and Library.  To everyone’s delight Buzz Aldrin agreed to speak at the event at no cost other than to pay for the hotel room.

When I communicated this information to my good friend Link White who was a Korean War orphan he was extatic and immediately called Terry Moore who was a Hollywood actress who wanted to adopt Link when she was in Korea performing for the U.S.O. to tell her this news.  Link had turned down her offer of adoption (Howard Hughs was her husband at that time) and had opted to be adopted by a U.S. Army Sargent.  She responded to Link with the information that she already knew that Buzz was coming as he had called her and told her so.  She then informed Link that Buzz had once proposed to her but she turned him down.  They were still friends so to meet her again he was coming to Las Vegas for the exhibit opening.  I told Link that I wanted to take a photo of the three of them together as a family that could have been, i.e. Terry Moore the wife, Buzz the husband and Link the adopted child.  He wanted nothing to do with it so I did not take the photograph.  Part of the agreement for Aldrin’s presence was that I had to write all of Buzz’s speeches.  That was a cheap enough price to pay for his presence.

I wanted to use the opening of this photo exhibit to generate national publicity on the efforts of our servicemen and women to save the lives of the children so I informed all of the national media, print and electronic of the event.  I also sent a letter to the Korean Ambassador inviting him to attend the event or, if he could not then send a representative or even a message to be read at the event.  I publicized the fact that Korean War Veterans who had saved the lives of over 1,000 Korean children would be attending.   Since Las Vegas was in the Korean Consular district of Los Angeles I sent an invitation to the Consul General of Korea in Los Angeles to attend and say a few words at the gathering.  To our lasting disappointment and to the shame of the Government of Korea not a single representative of the Government of the Republic of Korea attended the function nor did any of them send a message to be read at the event.  But then the national and even the local media failed to attend and report on the opening of the exhibit.  If one of our vehicles in Korea runs over a Korean child (as had happened) news media world wide would report on it but here in an effort to recognize the fact that our armed forces had saved the lives of over 10,000 children no representatives of the U.S. media attended nor did any representative of the Korean Government.

In preparation for the event I prepared the following outline for the evening program with TM standing for Terry Moore and JR for Jane Russell, Terry Moore’s good friend who she invited to join her at the event.  When I presented this outline to Terry Moore and Jane Russell early in the day Jane Russell tore me apart: “It is obvious you have never written a script for Hollywood.  This is horrible!.”  Since it was all they had they had to adjust and use it as an outline for the evening program.  I present the program below as given to them but have interjected comments in square parenthesis [  ]  that gives some additional information on the action taking place,

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Las Vegas Reception Program

Ms. Terry Moore, Hostess

• Words of welcome:

• TM: The purpose of this reception is to give our “blessings” to the photo exhibit “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story” that is hanging on the walls of this room. Our several speakers will look at this exhibit from the perspective of the Korean War Veteran, from the perspective of the citizens of Korea and from the perspective of the orphans of that war.

• TM: First I would like to recognize several special guests:

Chaplain Russell L. Blaisdell, Hero of the Kiddy Car Airlift who saved the lives of over 950 orphans.

Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Korean War Veteran and Astronaut.

Mrs. Grace Rue, Director of the Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage who was “mother” to over 1,000 orphans.

Ms. Jane Russell, children’s advocate for over half a century.

• TM: We begin our program today by asking Dr. Buzz Aldrin to comment on the photo exhibit from the perspective of the Korean War Veteran. Let us welcome Dr. Aldrin to the microphone.

Dr. Aldrin speaks on behalf of Korean War Veterans.

• TM: Presenting observations on the exhibit on behalf of the citizens of Korea we call on a representative of the Ambassador of the ROK.

No representative of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea seems to be present. We will note their absence. They have been invited.

• TM: Over fifty years ago when I was touring Korea with the USO I attempted to adopt an adorable war orphan from North Korea but that strange little kid turned me down for an Army sergeant. I would like to call that kid up here now to comment on this exhibit from the perspective of Korean War orphans.

Link S. White speaks.

• TM: I would like to invite Dr. George Drake, Coordinator of the Korean War Children’s Memorial Project to comment on the creation of this exhibit.

Dr. Drake takes the microphone.
Comments on the need for the photo exhibit.
Introduces Al Zimmerman

Al comments on his “almost brother.”
Drake asks Link White to present the certificate to Al.

• TM: This photo exhibit “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story” would not exist were it not for the financial support of the Blaisdell Family. Will they all please come forward.

• TM: Chaplain Russell L. Blaisdell, is the hero of the Kiddy Car Airlift that saved the lives of over 950 war orphans and over 100 orphanage staff just as the Chinese forces were coming into Seoul in December of 1950. Chaplain Blaisdell’s role in the rescue of those children began even earlier, when Seoul was first liberated after the Inchon landing. He helped develop a center for processing and placing children picked up off the streets of the devastated city. Daily a 5th Air Force truck would go out to pick up children from the streets, alleys and by ways of the city.

• Photographs of that truck and the processing of those children are shown in the photo exhibit. A number of historical photographs of the actual air lift are also presented and, finally, other photographs show Chaplain Blaisdell with his assistant, S/Sgt. Mike Strang, visiting the children in the Orphans Home of Korea, on Cheju Do Island, safely to the south of the Korean peninsula.

• The Blaisdell family all knew that story and wanted to ensure that the photographs of that incredible rescue operation be part of an exhibit of photographs honoring all who helped the children of Korea during the war years.

• With us here today is Susie Allen, a Korean War orphan who was one of the many rescued in the Kiddy Car Airlift. Calls Susie Allen forward to present certificates of appreciation to those who funded the exhibit.

• Susie Allen is given the chance to say a few words about her rescue.

• TM calls on Rev. Carter Blaisdell to respond.
Rev. Blaisdell has 2 minutes to talk.

• TM asks “Dr. Drake will you explain what happens to this exhibit after tonight

• Drake presents a certificate of ownership of the exhibit to Bill O’Brien, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library.
Bill O’Brien responds.

• TM “Let’s go eat.”


Las Vegas Dinner Program

• TM: As you have seen in many of the photographs in the exhibit the children in the orphanages were taught to say grace before the meal. Let us do the same. I have asked Chaplain Russell L. Blaisdell to offer a grace for us as we begin this meal and our evening program. [The microphone is passed to Russ, who prays.]

When the dessert is passed TM takes the stage.

• TM: Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we will be honoring a number of individuals and military units that played a role in providing aid to the war child of Korea in their time of dire need. The number of individuals who helped the children probably exceeds tens of thousands of young men and women who served in Korea during the war years. What we have here tonight is a small representation of men from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Ms. Russell or I will read the citation for the individual or unit to be recognized and call the individual to receive the certificate of appreciation signed by a Korean War orphan up to the stage. The orphan will make a brief comment, present the certificate and the recipient will then make a brief comment. By brief I mean 20 to 30 seconds.

• TM: The first individual we want to recognize is Chaplain Russell L. Blaisdell. Chaplain Blaisdell you need not come up here, we will pass the microphone down to you. I commented on Chaplain Blaisdell’s actions that saved the lives of over one thousand persons but there is another element in that rescue story that has never been told to the public before. I ask that Dr. Drake relate that story to us now.

Drake tells about Blaisdell being sanctioned for the mis-use of Air Force property and then, later, not “blowing the whistle” on Dean Hess. Drake presents Blaisdell with a scroll with the paintings done by the children he rescued.
Russ has a chance to respond.

• TM: Let us now tell the story of Sgt. Werner Krenzer. Will Mr. Krenzer and Mr. Thomas Park Clement please join me here

• TM reads the citation for Krenzer and background on Clement, gives Clement the certificate to present to Krenzer.

Clement speaks, presents the certificate to Krenzer.
Krenzer speaks.

• TM: Thomas Park Clement’s life story is in his book that is for sale at the book table at the back of the room. After dinner he will autograph copies for those who so desire.

• JR: I would like to call forward Dr. William Latham, and Mr. Dan Keenan while I tell you the story of the “Navy’s baby.”

• JR reads the citation on the rescue of George Ascom and his arrival at Star of the Sea Orphanage. At this point she gives George Ascom/Dan Keenan the certificate to present to Dr. Latham who volunteered at the Star of the Sea Orphanage while in Korea and for years there after while in the U.S.

Dan Keenan comments and presents the certificate.
Dr. Latham responds.

• JR continues reading the story of the adoption of George Cruz Ascom by Dr. Keenan and the role of the ship USS Point Cruz. She gives Dan Keenan the certificate for the representative of the USS Point Cruz. [If no one is present from the Point Cruz Association Dan will take the certificate and present it at the next reunion of that organization.]

Dan Keenan comments and presents the certificate.
Point Cruz representative responds.

• JR: Also in Inchon harbor was the USS Saint Paul. Mr. Robert Board will you please come forward and bring other men of your ship with you. Jim Harrison will you also come up here
• JR reads the citation regarding Fushito and the role of the men of the St. Paul.
• JR reads the story of Korean War orphan Jim Harrison and hands him the certificate for Mr. Board and the USS Saint Paul Association.

Jim Harrison comments, makes the presentation.
Robert Board responds.

• JR: Everyone knows of Boys’ Town, Nebraska but in Korea there also is a Boys’ Town. The Korean Boys’ Town was founded by the 5th Regimental Combat Team. Will men of that unit please come forward and will Korean War Orphan Robert Rue also come up.
• JR reads the citation.

Robert Rue comments and presents the certificates.
George Waugh responds for the 5th RCT

• Terry Moore moves to the stage, Jane Russell resumes her seat.

• TM Not all orphanages were created by servicemen. Sometimes servicemen found an orphanage in a sorry condition and intervened. Here is a story of one such situation…. [reads the story. Meanwhile Grace Rue, Eddie Cho, George Drake and Anthony Monteverdi come to the stage.]

• Eddie Cho is introduced. He comments on the rescue from the old orphanage and the creation of Manassas Manor. Eddie Cho reads the document from the City of Manassas, Va.

• He presents to Drake two certificates to be sent to the two fellows who began Manassas Manor orphanage. [Ray Adams and Chuck Stevens]

• Drake responds. Tells of closing Manassas Manor orphanage and sending the kids to Grace Rue.

• Grace Rue is introduced. She comments on the aid received from many military units for her orphanage but especially notes the aid from the various units of the Army Security Agency. She presents a personal certificate to Anthony Monteverdi and also a unit citation for ASA-Korea to him.

• Monteverdi responds on behalf of ASA Korea and self.

• TM: After the armistice the orphanage population was still growing by over 1,000 children a month as the kids came in off the streets. Now many military units had men with idle hands so a program was developed to help rebuild the orphanages and schools. Tonight we have an individual who was responsible for building a large school that still exists today. Will Major Weghorst please come up here And Robert Rue, will you join us
• TM reads the citation, passes the certificate to Robert Rue.

Rue speaks and presents the certificate
Major Weghorst responds.

• TM invites JR to the microphone.

• TM: Many of you know my dear friend Jane Russell from her movie career but she had another life. She was a strong advocate for children and in 1953 lobbied for the passage of legislation that permitted the adoption of Korean War orphans to the United States. Prior to that time all such adoptions had to be individually approved by the US Congress.

• Mr. Thomas Park Clement, who sits on the boards of directors of several organizations of Korean War orphans and Korean American Adoptees, would like to thank Ms. Russell for her work on behalf of the more than 100,000 Korean adoptees now resident in the USA by virtue of the legislation she helped pass.

Clement speaks, then presents the framed certificate and a copy of the Azalea map of Korea to Jane Russell.
Jane Russell responds and then sits down.

• TM: Link White has asked to speak about the Korean War Children’s Memorial Project and its creator, Dr. George F. Drake. Link, the microphone is yours.
• Link: Will Doctor and Mrs. Drake please come up here and join me

Link speaks.
Drake responds

• TM: Mr. Larry Sassarossi, Executive Director of the Korean War Veterans Museum and Library would like to make a few comments on that project as it relates to this evening’s program.
• Mr. Sassarossi: [3 minutes]

• TM: I would like to close this evening’s session by asking our first speaker of the day, Dr. Buzz Aldrin, to offer his comments on what has happened here tonight.
• Dr. Aldrin speaks:

• Good Night

 

Once the photo exhibit was completed with the title “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story” Al felt we could print the photo exhibit as a booklet, each photo panel serving as a single page in the booklet.