Las Vegas Opening
Here is a copy of the evening program for the Photo Exhibit Grand Opening as presented to all guests.
Photo Exhibit Grand Opening
GIs and the Kids – A Love Story
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, 30 May 2005
Reception Program: Hostess = Ms. Terry Moore
• Dr. Buzz Aldrin “A Korean War Veteran looks at the exhibit.”
• ______________ Representing the Republic of Korea, “Korean perspectives on the exhibit.”
• Link S. White “A Korean War orphan looks at the exhibit.”
• Dr. George F. Drake, “Why the exhibit.”
• Thanking the Blaisdell family.
• Touring America via the KWVNML.
Dinner Program: Hostess = Jane Russell and Terry Moore.
• The Kiddy Car Airlift.
• The Sergeant Who Wouldn’t Go Home.
• The Navy’s Baby
• USS St. Paul adopts an island orphanage.
• The Army Security Agency orphanage caper.
• US Marine Corps builds schools.
• 5th Regimental Combat Team and Boys’ Town.
• Jane Russell as Child Advocate for over 50 years.
• Korean War Children’s Memorial Project
• Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library
• Dr. Buzz Aldrin = Closing remarks.
You are invited to visit the Korean War Children’s Memorial Pavilion in Big Rock Garden Park, Bellingham, Washington. Our personal thanks to volunteers Mark Moss and Richard Griffin who help with the web site
Las Vegas Photo Exhibit =
“GIs and the Kids – A Love Story”
When I decided to tell the story of the relationship of our servicemen and women to the children of Korea during the Korean War I felt one way to do so was to create a photo exhibit with pictures taken from the thousands that I had collected. Herein is the story of the first showing of that photo exhibit in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on 30 June, 2005. We decided to have the grand opening of the exhibit in Las Vegas because that was where Chaplain Russell L. Blaisdell, Col. USAF (Retired) then lived. He was in his 90s and in poor health so we took the exhibit to him.
Russ was the hero of the Kiddy Car Airlift that rescued over 950 children on 20 December of 1950. I will tell his incredible story in another posting. His family raised the money to pay for the first printing of the photo exhibit.
I e-mailed a friend of mine in Virginia, Link White, a Korean War orphan who is now a successful realtor, and asked him for ideas for a program for the opening event. He suggested that we invite the well known Hollywood actress Ms. Terry Moore, to be one of the hostesses for the evening event. Terry was touring Korea with the USO during the war and wanted to adopt Link. At that time she was married to Howard Hughes. Many were the guys in Korea who had a pin-up photo of Terry Moore in her white ermine bikini. Link opted to be adopted by an Air Force Sgt. but he and Terry kept in contact all through the years. Terry agreed to come and help out with the program and she offered to bring her good friend Jane Russell. Now you younger guys may not have heard of Jane Russell but we of the ’50s sure as hell did. In person she, as well as Terry, were treasures, just wonderful folks to work with. We made Terry Moore the MC for the reception and she and Jane served as joint MCs for the evening program.
Buzz Aldrin, astronaut and Korean War Veteran was the lead off speaker for the program. He came as a ‘freebie” as did Jane and Terry. We just had to pay their hotel costs.
The main part of the program consisted of presenting certificates of appreciation to Korean War Veterans who had helped rescue the children of Korea during the war. I had located an article in the Readers’ Digest telling of a ‘Sgt. Who Wouldn’t Go Home.’ It was about Sgt. Werner Krenzer who had been assigned to work with a civilian relief project and was specifically assigned to rescue the children living like rats in the rail road yard and rail road station in Seoul. He teamed up with a little Korean kid and together they got scores of children out of the RR ghetto and into orphanages where they could get food and medical attention. When it was his time to rotate back to the US Werner offered to remain for another tour of duty in the army if he could continue doing what he was doing with the children. It is estimated that he saved the lives of over 150 children. His story can be found on my web site Korean War Children’s Memorial .
I was able to track down Werner Krenzer and he agreed to come to Las Vegas to be recognized for his work on behalf of the orphans of the Korean War. To present to him his Certificate of Appreciation I telephoned a friend in Indiana, Thomas Park Clement who is currently the CEO and owner of a major medical instrument manufacturing company. He is a former Korean War Orphan who lived in that same pack of urchins in the rail road yards of Seoul from age 4 years old to age 6 years old! So, one of the kids from the rail road yards of Seoul presented to Sgt. Werner Krenzer his certificate of appreciation for saving the lives of Korean War orphans.
I received a telephone call from a Dr. William Latham who said he would be coming to Las Vegas for the ceremony. He told me of how he volunteered time at the Star of the Sea Orphanage in Inchon. One time, he said, a little day or two old infant had been found and taken to the orphanage when Dr. Latham was volunteering. He and the other doctors saved that infant’s life. The little infant was later adopted by the commanding officer of a naval air craft carrier and taken back to the US on that ship. When little “baby George Ascom” was placed in his bassenette on the deck the announcement went over the PA system telling the guys on the ship that they could visit the baby. He became know as “the Navy’s Baby” and many years later a ‘made for TV’ movie was made of that infant and his trip to America. Dr. Latham suggested that I should find that movie and show it at the exhibit ceremony in Las Vegas.
Well, I did better than that. I found the baby. I called him, now named Dan Keenan, and asked him if he would like to present to one of the doctors who saved his life and other children in the Korean War a certificate of appreciation? Would he? You bet! So, on stage I called Dr. Latham forward to be recognized for his loving care for the orphans at the Star of the Sea Orphanage and specifically for helping save the life of little “baby George Ascom.” After telling his story I said, “And now to present the Certificate of Appreciation to Dr. Latham is that very baby. Dan Keenan will you please come forward.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
And so it went all evening. Lots of tears. Lots of hugs. Lots of emotion from the Koreans present as well as the veterans and their families. Even my wife got an award. Link White called her up to the stage and presented her with a large red paper heart on a ribbon with the letters P U G printed large on the heart. That was her “Putting Up with George” award.
We had gathered there Korean War Veterans who had saved the lives of well over a thousand children and not a single newspaper in America carried the story. Except for my home town of Bellingham, Washington where the Bellingham Herald generally covers activities relating to this project held in Bellingham (they did not cover the Las Vegas or Gwangju, Korea events) not a single newspaper in America has carried the story of the Korean War Children’s Memorial project. On the other hand when a US military vehicle accidently runs over two girls in Korea newspapers around the world carry the headline of how American soldiers killed two Korean girls. Yet tell the same newspapers we saved the lives of 10,000 children and they yawn. “What’s the story line?” they seem to be saying.
Worse yet, we had sent an invitation to the Korean Ambassador in Washington, DC to come and honor those who had saved the lives of children orphaned by the Korean War, or, if he could not come to send a representative or even a letter to be read to the audience. We got no response from the Korean Embassy. We sent a letter to the Consul General of Korea in Los Angeles, asking the same but not only did no one come from the Korean Consulate General’s office but he, too, did not even deign to send a letter or to respond to our request.
The photo exhibit honored the American GIs who had saved the lives of over 10,000 children in the Korean War and not a single representative of the government of Korea found it appropriate to attend. If this were any “civilized nation” of the world the Prime Minister or someone of high status would most certainly be present. Not Koreans. Why? I think I know why but that will be the subject of another entry. This is enough for now.
Dr. Buzz Aldrin’s Address at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada on 30 May 2005 at the first showing of the photo exhibit
GIs And the Kids – A Love Story
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: I am proud to have this opportunity to participate in this event here this evening. This photographic exhibit is an emotionally moving portrayal of the values our servicemen and women take with them when they serve overseas in the defense of our nation.
Here in 35 panels of photographs, newspaper clippings and comments we have a statement of the compassion of our young men and women as they faced the horrors of war and saw the suffering of the most innocent victims of any war, the children. I am deeply moved by these images for I too served in the Korean War. I was witness to the horror and destruction wrought on that small nation. I was serving in the US Air Force while in Korea. Let me quote from a report on some of the ways the US Air Force in 1953 helped the children of Korea.
“Total voluntary contributions by officers and airmen to Korean orphanages and schools reached $206,759.86 by the end of 1953.
“In addition to the money, Fifth Air Force personnel also provided the orphans with 210,000 pounds of used clothing, much of it coming from their relatives and friends in the United States.
“The Fifth’s units supported 86 orphanages and approximately 8,500 youngsters during the past year.
“More important contributions, however, were the construction and rehabilitation of schools and orphanages. The 3rd Bombardment Wing, for example, found 80 children living in a cave on a Korean hillside last spring and promptly raised enough money to build a six-unit orphanage for the youngsters. The children moved into the new buildings by the end of the year. The men also raised $10,000 to build a new home for the children of St. Margaret’s Orphanage.
“The officers and men of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, just one unit of the 5th Air Force, noted ‘The problem looks pretty hopeless when you think of the thousands of these homeless orphans in Korea today, but we’re doing what we can here at the 67th. Not just at Christmas time…it’s a year round thing with us. The Bupyong Orphanage at Ascom City, Oryu at Oryudong, New Hope at Yong Dong Po, Colombia in Seoul, the Christian Mission Orphanage also in Seoul, the school and church at Soss, the Kwahairi Church near Kimpo, all are supported wholly or in part, by the men of our wing.
‘Strange names most of them, not at all like Detroit, or Dallas, or Des Moines, but these kids aren’t any different, really, from those back home…except that they need our help. And we’ve been giving it for a long time, since we came here.’”
The list goes on and on and these figures are only for the Air Force and only for 1953. There was also the Army, Marine Corps and Navy involvements with the orphans and orphanages. Even the Merchant Marine had their piece of the action. The scale and scope of this humanitarian aid was immense.
Many books and articles have been written on the Korean War but until the Korean War Children’s Memorial Project began there had never been such a comprehensive presentation of the role our armed forces played in providing humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Korean children.
This photo exhibit should make all Americans proud of their armed forces. Our GIs, all branches of service and both men and women, take with them to war the values they learned at home, in their place of worship, in school and in their community. As Dr. Drake has stated: “Our young men have to be trained to aim a gun at another human and shoot to kill. They do not have to be trained to offer food to a hungry child, take an injured or sick child to the medic, find shelter for a homeless child or offer solace to a crying child. That comes with being American.”
What I find distressing is the extent to which the good our armed forces do is overshadowed by the misbegotten acts of a few. When several bodies were found under the bridge at No Gun Ri newspapers around the world had headlines “American Forces in Korea commit atrocities.” But tell those same media that US Forces saved the lives of over 10,000 children the media seems to shrug and ask “but what is the story line?”
The pursuit of the negative has gotten so bad that some of the media even report false stories regarding the behavior of members of our armed forces as Newsweek magazine did recently. Here, on the other hand, is a story of immense proportion that has never been told in the over fifty years since the end of hostilities in the Korean War. Where is the media tonight? Where is CBS, CNN, NBC and the press? Why isn’t Newsweek here? They have all been invited.
The Korean War is often referred to as the “Forgotten War.” And within that “Forgotten War” there is this element of love and compassion that has never really been studied before. We need to insist that as historians rewrite the story of the Korean War they include this dimension of the war as an essential element in it.
Bill Asbury, retired editor of the Seattle Post Intelligencer, referred to our armed forces in the Korean War as an “Army of Compassion.” I think Dr. Drake has amply documented that aspect of the war for which we all owe him our thanks.
This photo exhibit needs to be shown throughout America so our fellow citizens can feel pride in their armed forces. They need to know that even in the midst of a horrible war the basic values taught at home were there to guide our young men and women.
This photo exhibit also needs to tour Korea. Contemporary Koreans seem to have totally forgotten the love and compassion of our troops in the Korean War who saved the lives of over ten thousand of their children and helped support more than 54,000 in more than 400 orphanages, most of which were built or repaired by our servicemen. We need to remind them of those dark days and what the American forces did to aid their children in their time of dire need.
On behalf of all Korean War Veterans I commend Dr. Drake for the production of this photographic exhibit and Mr. Al Zimmerman for his talented presentation of the material in these 35 panels. I wish it large numbers of viewers as it tours the United States of America and, hopefully, Korea.
Buzz Aldrin Closing Remarks
“This evening we have heard stories of love and compassion shown by men of our army, navy, air force, and marine corps. These men bear witness of the basic values of our men and women who serve in the military forces of America, then and now. We have heard from the children of the Korean War who are now in their 50s and 60s and the appreciation that they have for those who gave them aid when they needed it the most. It is our responsibility that these stories are not lost to history and that they must be told to each new generation. The photo exhibit we blessed with our presence this evening will help ensure that those stories endure.
Now, at the end of this Memorial Day ceremony let me ask that all veterans of our armed forces please stand and receive an applause from all of us for your service to America.
Here are my program notes for the reception and the dinner programs.
Las Vegas Reception Program
Ms. Terry Moore, Hostess
• Words of welcome:
o 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.
o First I would like to recognize several special guests:
Chaplain Blaisdell, Hero of the Kiddy Car Airlift who saved the lives of over 950 orphans.
Grace Rue, former Director of the Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage who was “mother” to over 1,000 orphans.
Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Korean War Veteran and Astronaut.
Ms. Jane Russell, children’s advocate for over half a century.
_____________________________Representative of the Government of the Republic of Korea.
• 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.
o Dr. Aldrin speaks on behalf of Korean War Veterans.
• Presenting observations on the exhibit on behalf of the citizens of Korea we welcome ______________________________.
• 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.
o Link S. White speaks.
• 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.
o 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.
• This photo exhibit “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story” would not exist were it not for the efforts of the Blaisdell Family. Will they all please come forward.
o TM reads the “Blaisdell Recognition” document.
Calls Susie Allen forward to present certificates of appreciation to those who funded the exhibit.
Susie is given the chance to say a few words about her rescue.
o After Susie gives the certificates to the members of the Blaisdell family 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?
o Drake presents a certificate of ownership of the exhibit to Bill O’Brian, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library.
Bill O’Brian 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.]
• 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 the 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.
o 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?
o TM reads the citation for Krenzer:
In May of 1953 the Readers Digest published an article about the “Sergeant who didn’t go home”. It was about Sgt. Werner Krenzer who had been working with the homeless and hungry children hanging around the Seoul Railroad Station, trying to bring them in off the streets to the shelter and care of an orphanage. One child he found under a heap of filthy burlap bags where he had crawled away to die. He picked the lad up. There was no weight there. The wasted legs and arms, covered with sores, hung limply, like those of a puppet. He took him to an orphanage where his life was saved with medical care. There he found that the boy was only four years old. And so began Sgt. Krenzer’s work in Korea. When his time to rotate came he decided to re-enlist so he could continue working with those children living in gangs in that environment. During his time in Korea Krenzer is credited with saving the lives of over 145 children.
To present a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the war orphans of Korea is Thomas Park Clement who from age four to age six lived as a street urchin on the streets of Seoul in a gang of kids. That gang was his family. It fed him and protected him until the day kids from another gang captured him, beat him up, poured gas on him and set him on fire. He was rescued by an American missionary and placed in an orphanage from which he was adopted to America.
Clement speaks, presents the certificate to Krenzer.
o 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 of his book. By the way, Link White will sign copies of his book which is also for sale tonight. These two authors have donated these copies to the Korean War Children’s Memorial project so all proceeds of the sale go to fund project activities.
• JR: I would like to call forward Dr. Wm. Latham, xxx xxx and Mr. Dan Keenan while I tell you the story of the “Navy’s baby.”
o 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.
o 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.
Dan Keenan comments and presents the certificate.
Point Cruz representative responds.
• JR: The USS Point Cruz was not the only ship in Inchon harbor. Also there was the USS Saint Paul. Mr. Robert Board will you please come forward and bring other men of your ship with you.
o JR reads the citation regarding Fushito and the role of the men of the St. Paul.
o JR reads the story of Korean War orphan Orr and presents to his son the certificate for Mr. Board and the USS Point Cruz Association.
Orr comments, makes the presentation.
• Terry Moore moves to the stage, Jane Russell resumes her seat. TM: Some orphanages existed in Korea even before the war began. Others were founded to meet the needs of the estimated 100,000 war orphans created by the violence of the war. Sometimes unscrupulous individuals created an orphanage as a way to generate an income by selling the food ration meant for the children on the black market. Here is a story of one such situation…. [reads the story. Meanwhile Grace Rue, Eddie Cho, George Drake and Monteverde come to the stage.]
o Eddie Cho is introduced. He comments on the rescue from the old orphanage and the creation of Manassas Manor.
o He presents to Drake two certificates to be sent to the two fellows who began Manassas Manor orphanage.
o Drake responds. Tells of closing Manassas Manor orphanage and sending the kids to Grace Rue.
o 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 xxx Monteverde and also a unit citation for ASA-Korea to him.
o Monteverde 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 Link, will you join us?
o TM reads the citation, passes the certificate to Link White.
Link speaks and presents the certificate
Major Weghorst responds.
• TM sits down and JR comes to the microphone.
• JR: A number of military units were concerned about the survival of the orphanages they created and sought ways to help them meet the needs of their residents. One unit built a bath house for the village the income of which went to the orphanage. Other units purchased land for farming which produced crops for the table. The 5th Regimental Combat Team was unique and I want to invite Mr. Waugh and Mr. xxxx to come forward. Let us also get Jim Henderson up here.
o JR reads the story of the 5th RCT.
She comments on Korean War orphan Robert Rue and passes the certificates to him.
• Henderson speaks and presents the certificates.
• Mr. George Waugh responds for the 5th RCT
• TM joins JR at 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.
o 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 orphans 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.
o Link: Will Doctor and Mrs. Drake please come up here and join me?
• 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.
o Mr. Sassarossi:
• 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.
o Dr. Aldrin:
o Good Night