Hess, Fraudulent Hero

Sixty-eight years ago I went to Korea as a soldier in the US Army and quickly found myself involved with the orphanage committee of my military unit.  Our company, the 326th Communications Reconnaissance Company, had founded a small orphanage across the road from the company motor pool.  There we placed the lost, hungry, ill, and homeless children that came our way.  Soon after my arrival, we moved our 50 children to the Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage but the GIs in the 326th CRC kept up the support of “their kids”.  Meanwhile, almost daily in the Pacific Stars and Stripes, the Armed Forces newspaper, we would read about other units helping orphans. We were not alone in this endeavor.  American military units all over Korea were involved in saving and supporting children.

When plans were being made for activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Korean War I felt it would be appropriate to create a memorial honoring all the American servicemen and women who helped save and support the lost, homeless, and orphaned children of Korea during the war.  The memorial would be in the form of a traditional Korean Buddhist pavilion, a tile roof atop four poles, symbolizing the shelter the GIs gave the children.  I began collecting documentation on the aid the American armed forces rendered the children.  George Kim, Public Information Officer, US Forces Korea, told me about the book Battle Hymn by Col. Dean E. Hess and suggested that I contact him as he was a famous hero who saved a thousand orphans.  In the book, Hess relates the activities of his Air Force unit to help the children.  The most moving portion of the book is the rescue operation known as the Kiddy Car Airlift that saved the lives of over 956 orphans and 80 Korean staff in December of 1950 as the advancing Chinese forces were at the northern edge of Seoul.

The book was made into a movie wherein Hess was portrayed as the hero who saved the children, walking with them from the port of Inchon to Kimpo airfield near Seoul to be airlifted to Cheju-do Island out of harm’s way.  I was deeply impressed.  Hess, to me, epitomized the American military man who, in the middle of a horrible war, took the time to help rescue the children, innocent victims of that war.  As I did not have Hess’s address George Kim suggested I write a letter to him via the Director of the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, a friend of his, inviting him to be the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Korean War Children’s Memorial in Bellingham.  I received no response to the letter.  Several months later I was able to locate Hess’s address and wrote to him again, enclosing a copy of my first letter to him.  This time I asked if he would be a co-sponsor of the memorial and lend his name to the effort to recognize all the servicemen and women who helped the children.  I specifically pointed out to him that I had over 60 articles relating to his exploits and felt it was time to recognize the thousands of other servicemen who also did what they could to help the children.  Again no response was forthcoming from Hess.

Meanwhile, I commissioned preliminary drawings for a bronze plaque that would be placed near the memorial structure showing Hess holding a child with a number of airplanes and children in the background depicting the Kiddy Car Airlift.  By then I had accumulated hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles on American armed forces and the children of Korea. All were being posted on the memorial website www.koreanchildren.org.  A number of those articles were about the Kiddy Car Airlift published immediately after the rescue. Those articles only mentioned Chaplain (Colonel) Russell L. Blaisdell, USAF, as the individual responsible for the rescue.  I became a bit bothered by this discrepancy between the newspaper reports and the book and told the sculptor to put the design of the plaque on hold until I could clear up the confusion.  Shortly thereafter, in about October of 2000, a reporter for Airman Magazine called me asking what I knew of the Kiddy Car Airlift and the respective roles of Hess and Blaisdell in the rescue.  She found my name from the web site that was being developed to tell the story of the proposed Korean War Children’s memorial.  I sent her copies of all the material I had on the airlift.  I recall specifically telling her, “Oh, so you are aware of this discrepancy also.”

In December of 2000, the article appeared in Airman Magazine that told the story of the airlift from the perspective of the man directly responsible, Chaplain (Colonel) Russell L. Blaisdell (US Air Force, Retired) age 91.  Blaisdell’s grandson, on a visit to Korea, showed the article featuring his grandfather to an officer in the Hyundai Corporation who contacted the orphanage that was created to house the almost one thousand children that were rescued.  It was found that Whang On Soon, the director of that orphanage almost from its inception in 1951, was still alive at 101 years of age and still regularly going to the orphanage.  She insisted that Blaisdell visit Korea.

A month later, in January of 2001, Chaplain Blaisdell returned to Korea for a hero’s welcome.  The media followed him everywhere.  He was called the “Schindler of Korea”.  He was invited to the “Blue House” to meet with Lee Hee Ho, wife of the President of Korea, to a meeting with the Prime Minister of Korea, dinners with military officials, and, on the last day, presented an honorary doctorate at Kyung Hee University.  No one, in all of the media reports of that visit, made reference to Colonel Hess, the person who, after the publication of his book and production of the movie, had been given sole credit for the airlift.  Blaisdell later told me that when in Korea he avoided discussing the issue.  He wanted to give Hess credit for the good he did do for the children. But at the same time, he (Blaisdell) was going to tell his own story to explain his role in the airlift and he did not need to comment on Hess, the book Battle Hymn, or the movie of the same name to do that.

In October of 2001, I had the opportunity to meet Russell Blaisdell and talk to him at length about the airlift and activities that followed.  Blaisdell said he was upset about the book Battle Hymn in its treatment of the airlift.  “Hess never inquired as to details of the airlift so he had little information on it.  I felt he lacked a chapter in the book, the chapter that told the real story of the rescue of those children and orphanage staff,” said Blaisdell.  Asked if he saw Hess at the airport during the rescue he said, “No, but we were all so busy he could have been there and I missed him.”  But then he added, “I really do not think he was even there.  First of all, he tried to stop the airlift by sending me a message asking me to delay it for a day as things were not ready in Cheju-do to receive the children.  Then, in the book he writes about the children being at the airport when the planes arrived.  The planes actually had to wait over an hour for the first truckload of children to arrive from Inchon.  In the book, he said many of the children had to walk back to the airport which was not true.  He provided not one single factual detail that was correct about the airlift itself.  No, I don’t think he was even at Kimpo for the airlift.”

Asked why he had not made public his story before this Blaisdell replied, “Well, Hess publicly promised that all profits from the book, and later from the movie, would go to the orphanage.  I was willing to keep my mouth shut so as not to damage his ability to raise funds for the orphanage.”  Blaisdell was adamant about his Chaplain’s Assistant, Sgt. Merle (Mike) Strang, having been essential to bring off the rescue of the children.  “He is one of the heroes of this operation,” said Blaisdell.

Then one of the strangest twists of this story came out.  “You see,” Blaisdell told me, “I almost left the Air Force because of the Kiddy Car Airlift.”  Blaisdell’s superior in the Air Force Chaplain’s Corps, Chaplain (Colonel) John Linsley, based in Japan was very upset with the publicity given the airlift.  It seemed to Linsley that the Air Force was taking on the responsibility for caring for the children.  He was insistent that this was the responsibility of the 8th Army, not the 5th Air Force!  Linsley felt so strongly about this that he called in an inspector from the Office of the Chief of Chaplains in Washington, DC to investigate the matter.  Blaisdell was essentially “called on the carpet” and reprimanded by his superior for the rescue!  After a dinner with Chaplain Linsley, Chaplain (Colonel) Poch, US Air Force, who had flown in from Washington to investigate Linsley’s concerns, turned to Blaisdell and asked, “If you had to do it all over again would you still have gotten involved in this rescue operation?”  Blaisdell responded, “If this is not an acceptable role for a chaplain you can have my resignation from the Air Force.”  Poch responded, “No one is asking for that.”  Linsley’s strong negative reaction to the publicity on the airlift “had a chilling effect on me” stated Blaisdell. 

Blaisdell gave me a copy of an extensive report on the Kiddy Car Airlift that he had written in March of 1951, less than three months after the incident.  Asked why he had written it he explained that it was to get down on paper what happened in case he was court-martialed for doing what he did.  “Did you share this document with Hess or anyone else?” I asked.  “I don’t think so.  The matter never went that far,” he responded.  A year later a portion of the document was published in a newsletter of the seminary where Blaisdell studied for the ministry but the original story had never been published in full until posted on the Korean War Children’s Memorial web site www.koreanchildren.org.

Our research efforts took us to the US National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and later to the archives of the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper in Tokyo where we found hundreds of photographs and stories of American armed forces personnel and the children of Korea.  Of special value were those that related to the Kiddy Car Airlift and subsequent visits by Air Force personnel to Cheju-do and the Orphans Home of Korea that was founded there to house the children.  Those photographs, with descriptions and dates on the back, led us to the conclusion that there is not a single photo yet available to this researcher that shows Hess at Kimpo when the orphans were loaded or later at Cheju-do when the planes were unloaded.  The photos in the Airman Magazine and in Hess’s book, Battle Hymn, are of later visits to the island by Air Force personnel delivering aid packages for the orphanage sent by folks back home to Chaplain Blaisdell’s office.

AP writer Hal Boyle interviewed Blaisdell at Kimpo Airport as the children were being loaded on the planes and wrote several follow-up articles on the airlift.  In the book, Battle Hymn Hess makes reference to the immense amount of publicity the airlift generated.  Had Hess read those articles he should have been fully aware that nowhere in any of this publicity is his name mentioned as the person responsible for the rescue of the children.  In those articles, Blaisdell is accorded full credit for the rescue.  If Hess had read only the article printed in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on the 21st of December reporting on the airlift he would have been aware of Blaisdell’s role in the rescue operation.  Hal Boyle, an AP reporter in Seoul, told how Blaisdell got the trucks to bring the children and staff to Kimpo and how Blaisdell got the planes from the Combat Cargo Command to effect the rescue.

Blaisdell’s role is even more specifically stated in the Pacific Stars and Stripes article published on 17 April 1953. 

“At the port city of Inchon Chaplain Blaisdell, the children, and their nurses waited four and a half days for the LST which never arrived.  Meanwhile seven of the children died in the 40 by 70 foot room where they were waiting.

In desperation the chaplain returned to Seoul and explained the situation to Col. (now Brig. Gen.) T.C. Rogers, then assistant director of operations for Fifth Air Force.  Rogers contacted Combat Cargo and 16 C-54 Skymasters were soon on their way from Japan to Seoul to remove the children from the doomed city.

Chaplain Blaisdell returned to Inchon, commandeered 11 trucks, loaded his tiny charges, and proceeded to Seoul, where the C-54s were waiting.”

In his diary account of the rescue operation, Blaisdell tells how he had sent a radio message to Hess on the 19th informing him of the arrangement for the planes on the 20th.  Hess, Blaisdell reports, sent him a return message asking that the airlift be delayed as he was not ready at Cheju-do to receive the children.  Blaisdell responded that the airlift would proceed as planned.

In the book Battle Hymn Hess gives no indication that he actually made contact with anyone who promised to send a flight of aircraft to pick up the children.  If he actually had gotten a commitment for a flight of aircraft he fails to explain how he made contact with Blaisdell, then in Inchon with the children, to inform him that he had to get the children to the Kimpo Airport at 8 am on the 20th of December.  Hess writes that the arrival of the planes was a miracle.  In this statement Hess admits he did not know who made the commitment to get the planes or that one was even made.  Blaisdell moved the children to Kimpo because he, and not Hess, had gotten the commitment for the flight of C-54s to rescue the children.

Hess states the children were at the airport before the planes arrived.  Not so.  The planes had to wait for over an hour before the first truck with children arrived.  Hess stated that some of the children had to walk from Inchon to Kimpo to be rescued.  Not so.  All of them came by truck.  Hess states that the children had to be put in the trucks to back them up to the doors of the aircraft as the aircraft doors were so high off the ground.  Not so, the children were already in trucks.  Many of them walked up a portable ramp to the door of the planes while others were carried by orphanage staff or military personnel.

Hess virtually had not a single fact about the actual airlift correct!  It seems patently clear that Hess was not at Kimpo to witness the airlift!  Nor was he responsible for getting the aircraft for the airlift. Yet with the publication of the book Battle Hymn and the production of the movie of the same name Colonel Dean E. Hess fraudulently accepted full credit for that rescue and, even though knowing how it actually came about, he continued to withhold recognition of the role of Chaplain Blaisdell and Sgt. Strang.

In addition to claiming credit for the airlift, Hess’ self-serving writing style in the book Battle Hymn infers that he and his military unit were the main supporters of the Orphans Home of Korea which housed the orphans.  He fails to include any mention of the immense amount of aid that was given to the Orphan’s Home of Korea by units other than his own.  Within weeks of the airlift Blaisdell was able to deliver over 10 thousand dollars as well as ten tons of material aid to the orphanage on Cheju-do donated by the US Army or by persons who had read Hal Boyle’s article on the airlift published throughout America. On occasion Blaisdell would accompany a shipment of the tons of packages arriving in his office to the Korean island while on other occasions it went without his presence.  Hess was often on the island visiting his crew stationed there so he was fully aware of what was coming from Blaisdell’s office.  On occasion he was there to help unload the shipments sent by Blaisdell…and be photographed. 

On the first anniversary of the airlift the officers and men of the Air Force Combat Cargo Command made a special flight to bring several tons of material aid and a donation of $3,000 from fellows in their unit.  In April of 1954 the 42nd Army unit donated $41,000 to the Orphans Home of Korea.  All of this information was available to Hess before he wrote Battle Hymn yet to read Battle Hymn you would believe Hess and his unit did it all.  Hess not only steals credit for the airlift, he also lacked the decency to give others credit for providing a significant amount of support for the Orphans Home of Korea following the rescue of the children.

When reports appeared that the book was to be made into a movie Michael Strang, who was Colonel Blaisdell’s assistant all through the rescue operation, tried to contact Colonel Hess in Washington, DC to ask for a chance to play himself in the movie.  Hess told him to meet him in Los Angeles and he would see what he could do.  Strang drove out to California and contacted Hess there.  Hess agreed to have dinner with Strang in Hollywood at which time he asked Strang for details of the airlift.  Michael (whose real name was Merle Y. Strang) had hoped for a role in the movie.  After the dinner Hess never called him again and the movie portrayed Hess accompanying the children from Seoul to Inchon and back to Kimpo airport on foot! Of course Hess would not want Strang on the movie set!  He might “spill the beans” and tell someone that Hess had nothing to do with the rescue and that it was he, Michael Strang, who accompanied the orphans in that rescue operation, and that they did not go on foot, they all went in trucks!  Thus one of the real heroes of the Kiddy Car Airlift was denied by Hess the opportunity to play a role in the movie of his exploits while Hess, who had nothing to do with the rescue, was depicted as the hero.  What is even sadder is to realize that this gross injustice was perpetrated by Hess the “flying parson” (Hess was an ordained Minister). 

On seeing the movie Battle Hymn Strang was outraged. He wrote to Blaisdell on 12 March 1957:

“Dear Chaplain Blaisdell:

“One of the main reasons for writing this letter is to tell you that I think Colonel Dean Hess is doing something which I consider very wrong.  I do not know whether or not you have seen the motion picture or read the book Battle Hymn, but if you have sir, you will probably understand why I am very mad about the whole deal.  It seems from the movie and book … that Colonel Hess did everything for those orphans and nobody else had a thing to do with it.  It seems to me that both you and I Chaplain had quite a bit to do with it, or was it a dream?  As far as any of the technical knowledge in the picture being true, it is not.

Over a year ago, Chaplain, I saw where Colonel Hess was going to make a movie on the subject of orphans or it was supposed to be a true story of his life, and I called him here in Washington and he said he would be in California and if I got out there to see him and he would see what he could do to get me in the movie, which as you probably know would have been a wonderful starter for me.  Well I went out there and he met me one night for dinner and asked me a few questions about what happened on Kiddy Kar Operation and I never heard from him after that, as a matter of fact, I called him any number of times and he never even had the courtesy to return my call or even leave a message for me.  I have just returned to Washington after having been out there a year.  I sold my car when I arrived out there in order to stay out there and I did not get a place.  Unless you know someone in Hollywood that is willing to help you, one gets nowhere, but I learned a lesson the hard way but did not think Colonel Hess was that type of a man.

Since I am no longer in the Air Force I would like to do something about this whole shady mess but do not know exactly what to do.  Yourself, along with a few others, deserve a great deal more credit than Colonel Hess but he is the Hero and it is all quite untrue when it comes to what he had to do with Kiddy Kar Operation.

What do you think should be done about it, sir?  Or do you think we should just let things alone and he will eventually receive his just reward?  I am quite mad at him for what he did not try to do for me in California and I must say have lost all respect for him.  How he can set back and take all this credit is far beyond my belief….”


Blaisdell responded a few days later,

“Dear Mike:

What a wonderful surprise to receive your letter.  We have been wondering for a long time where you might be.  You neglected to state what you are now doing.  Are you married and what are your future plans?    In regard to Colonel Hess’s book and the motion picture, Battle Hymn, I have read the book and have seen the movie.  You are correct in your statement that the story is definitely slanted to create a hero and that many liberties were taken in violation of the facts.  Some of the liberties appeared to me to be totally unnecessary.  In some respects, the true story would have been a better story, either in print or on film.

In regard to doing anything about it, I have decided in the negative.  Although I agree with you in principle the goal of our efforts, in regard to the orphans and also in the evacuation of the Koreans by convoy, was the saving of lives, which would otherwise have been lost.  That was accomplished.  In a sense, Mike, well-doing has its own reward, which is not measured in dollars, prestige, or goodwill, provided the avowed principle is fulfilled in the publication of the book and the preparation of the movie, which is to turn all proceeds over to the orphans.  I rest content and would not becloud the issue at this time with an attempt to criticize or correct the portions which we know to be false.  In the event that the proceeds did not go to the orphans in Korea, I may be inclined to change my attitude.

I am sorry that you, personally, went to the expense and travel to go to California.  I am doubly grieved that you received such a cool reception.  What you may desire to do from your status and experience will be a matter for your own decision.  I have stated my position as you asked.  This does not mean that I would not be willing to state the facts as they existed to anyone who might properly request them to substantiate your story.

I have heard little about you since we parted, Mike, but I would like to take this opportunity to say again that I have the highest respect and admiration for you in your integrity, devotion to duty, and especially in your self-sacrifice during the time we worked with and transported the orphans.  No one could have conceived of a more devoted, hard-working individual to have by his side during such a strenuous, uncertain and, at times, dangerous job than I had in you.  You and I know what really happened, and I am sure that the memory is as indelible in your memory as in mine.  Knowing you are interested, I will enclose a copy of the letter from Mrs.Whang in which she tells about the orphans’ home burning.  I am trying to get a little money together to send her.

Again, it was a pleasure to hear from you, Mike, and I hope I will hear again soon.  If it is possible for us to travel via Washington, D.C., en route overseas I will try to contact you.

Sincerely yours,
Chaplain (Colonel) USAF
Staff Chaplain

Strang “bit his tongue” and neither Russell L. Blaisdell nor Mike Strang confronted Hess for his fraudulent theft of credit for having organized the airlift of the children from Kimpo on 20 December 1950.  From then on the movie Battle Hymn has been shown in Korea year after year presenting Hess as the person responsible for saving the lives of over 1,000 children in the Kiddy Car Airlift.  After the meeting with Strang, Hess could no longer claim he was not fully aware of the role Blaisdell and Strang played in saving the lives of the children and orphanage staff.  Much of that information, though, had already been printed in the Pacific Stars and Stripes in articles written by Hal Boyle, AP reporter, and in other articles which Hess makes reference to in his book.  It is worth noting that not one of the reporters for the Pacific Stars and Stripes who later wrote articles about the airlift (cited below) and the awards Hess was accepting for it ever read the early articles on the air lift nor, obviously, did the writers for the movie studio.   And, of course, no one bothered to call Russell Blaisdell to get his side of the story.

The release of the movie catapulted Hess to international fame for his supposed rescue of the children.  Article after article published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes credited him for the airlift. I quote from some of them below:

9 March 1956. “Hess … saved the lives of 800 orphans during the Korean hostilities by organizing an air lift for them to Cheju Island.”

27 September 1956. “Hess to Seoul to present book to S.Rhee.  Using AF C-119 Aircraft, Hess gathered some 800 orphans from different sections of the country and flew them to safety.”

29 January 1957. Battle Hymn, the story of Col. Dean Hess, the “flying parson” of two wars. …tells the story of how Hess, while fighting in the Korean Conflict, flew over 1,000 orphans to safety.”

30 June 1957.   Battle Hymn Has Seoul Premiere  Seoul (INS)-  Korean waifs and ROK Air Force bands teamed up to provide fanfare marking the premiere of Battle Hymn describing Col. Dean Hess’s heroic actions in saving trapped Korean orphans from the Chinese Communists in the winter of 1950-1951.

The 40-piece band from the Orphans Home of Korea, which houses most of the children Col. Hess airlifted to safety, and the 60-piece Korean airmen’s band played at the Kookdo Theater in Seoul for the special premiere charity showing Wednesday.

The public showing which began Thursday was marked with formation flights of U.S. Fifth Air Force jet planes over the theater.”

16 June 1959.   “Gifts For Korean Tots  ASHIYA AB, Japan (S & S) – Three crates containing 2,700 pounds of gifts from the people of Texas to Korean orphans in Seoul will be airlifted June 18 from here. …

Col. Hess gained fame after he organized Operation Kiddie Car in the winter of 1950-51 that airlifted more than 800 Korean waifs to safety from the Chinese Communists to Cheju Island off the southern tip of the war-torn country.”

20 June 1960. “HESS AIRLIFT SAVED CHILDREN FROM REDS By SP4 Bruce Brugman S&S Korea Bureau.  Cheju Island, Korea”  [ This article is almost entirely based on the film version of the rescue.  Totally wrong in almost every detail.]

18 December 1960. “Hess to Get ROK Honor  Osan AB, Korea (OI)—U.S. Air Force Col. Dean Hess, whose Korean War exploits were depicted in the movie Battle Hymn will receive the Republic of Korea Order of Cultural Merit Tuesday in Seoul ceremonies.  ROK President Posun Yun is scheduled to present the award at a banquet in Hess’ honor.

During the Korean War, Hess was instrumental in saving the lives of some 800 orphans.  He airlifted the waifs from battle-torn areas to Cheju Island, some 70 miles off the Southeast coast of Korea.”

21 December 1960. “‘Flying Parson’ Gets Coveted ROK Medal  S&S Korea Bureau     Seoul—Republic of Korea President Posun Yun Tuesday presented the Order of Cultural Merit to U.S. Air Force Col. Dean E. Hess, the “flying parson” of Korean War fame.  Hess, first American military man ever presented the Korean medal, received it for his humanitarian assistance to Korean children.

The presentation was made 10 years to the day after his Operation Kiddy Car airlifted 1,000 Korean orphans from the communist-menaced Seoul to the safety of Cheju-do Island. Hess’ Korean War exploits were depicted in the movie Battle Hymn”.

11 May 1961. “Col. Hess To Get Citation  S&S Korea Bureau  Seoul—Air Force Col. Dean E. Hess will be awarded the Saessak Society’s Sopa Prize for 1961 in recognition for saving 900 homeless children during the Korean War. Hess, now head of the Air Force Information Office in Hollywood, airlifted the orphans to the safety of Cheju Island in an exploit later depicted in the film Battle Hymn.”

18 January 1962. “Col. Hess To Receive Sopa Award  SEOUL-  The annual Sopa Memorial Award will be presented to U.S. Air Force Col. Dean E. Hess during ceremonies here at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Korea House.   Hess, public information officer of the Fifth Air Force, is being cited for his extraordinary service in saving some 900 homeless war children during the Korean War.”

21 January 1962. “Col. Hess Arrives WELCOMED TO ROK-  Col. Dean E. Hess, information officer for U.S. Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force, is greeted at planeside Sung-Hwan Chang, vice chief of staff for the ROK Air Force, Hess was to receive the annual Sopa Memorial Award at Korea House in Seoul Saturday.  Hess is being cited for his “extraordinary service” in saving about 900 homeless orphans during the Korean War.  Pioneer Korean educator Ben Sopa was to make the award.”

22 August 1976. “The man with the thousand Children.   It was December of 1950 when Communist Chinese forces unleashed a mass assault southward from their border with North Korea after U.N. forces had pushed North Korean armies all the way back to the Yalu River frontier.  “Thousands of children were wandering loose in areas where the communists had been,” Dean Hess recalls, and the youths had been wounded or suffered from malnutrition to a point that “death would have been merciful for them.”

In article after article Hess is credited with the rescue of the children but Hess, meanwhile, is fully aware of who really rescued the children and how they did it.  How Hess, an ordained minister, could continue this charade and accept these awards for a rescue he did not organize or even witness is difficult to imagine.

Meanwhile Sgt. Merle Y (Mike) Strang, USAF died in 1998 at age 70 without ever having been recognized by either the US or Korean governments for his absolutely essential role in saving the lives of over 950 orphans and over 80 orphanage staff.  Hess’ egocentric and fraudulent claim to having effected that rescue denied Strang the heartfelt appreciation of the Korean people for what he did.  Every one of the honors and awards are given to Hess noted above should really have been presented to Chaplain (Colonel) Russell L. Blaisdell (USAF-Retired) and to Sgt. Merle Y. (Mike) Strang.  But this sordid story of the theft of credit for the Kiddy Car Airlift by Colonel Hess does not stop there.  In June of 2000, Hess authorized a translation of the book Battle Hymn into the Korean language, further perpetuating the fraudulent portrayal of “Hess, the Hero of the Kiddy Car Airlift.”

We began our journey of discovery asking Colonel Dean E. Hess, retired, USAF, to help us honor the many thousands of American servicemen and women who, while serving in the Korean War, stopped to help the children.  We pause in our journey with dismay and sorrow now aware that a person who really did do a lot for the children also took it upon himself to steal credit for what he did not do.  The book he wrote (Battle Hymn) presented a self-serving and grossly inaccurate portrayal of the Kiddy Car Airlift.  The movie of the same name took the deception much further.  Incredibly, it seems that Hess began to believe his misstatement of the facts and accepted all the accolades and awards given him for a rescue that he did not organize, that he tried to delay, that he did not witness and that was the work of someone else. 

Now I think I understand why Hess never responded to my requests that he join me in honoring all the servicemen who helped save the children.  He wanted to keep all the credit for himself.