Winnebago County, Illinois
GENNAROS GET 3RD POW LETTER FROM N. KOREA
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph K. Gennaro, 827 Corbin st., have received their third letter since 1950 from their son, Pfc. Harry C. Gennaro, a prisoner of war, now being held in Korea. The letter, which was written May 7, 1952, was in the form of a Mother's day greeting, with a personal notation on the back. Private Gennaro entered the army in August, 1949, and went overseas the following November. On Nov. 26, 1950, Mr. and Mrs. Gennaro received word that their son was missing in action. In December, 1951, he was listed as a war prisoner. His parents are assured that their son is receiving their letters, as they moved a short time ago and the letter was addressed to the correct address. The young soldiers address is Pfc. Harry C. Gennaro, R.A. 16315854, P.O.W. Camp No. 5, North Korea, c-o Postmaster, APO 100, San Francisco, Cal. [Rockford Register-Republic, July 26, 1952]
PRISON CAMP PHOTO OF SON AIDS MOTHER
Publication of an AP wirephoto of her son, Pfc. Donald Nance, today way a source of comfort to Lucy B. Nance, 624 Trenton ave. Nance, who has been in a Chinese prisoner of war camp for 21 months, and two of his prison camp buddies were photographed recently by Frank Noel, Associated Press photographer, a prisoner of the Chinese reds himself. The picture was published just two days after Mrs. Nance received a Mother's day letter from her son, written May 6. He wrote he was "feeling fine" and hoped to be home soon. Pfc. Nance was a member of the 24th division, first United States unit sent into Korea after the north Korea invasion. On Jan. 1, 1951, he was reported missing action when he was cut off from his unit during the overpowering attack that marked the Chinese communists' entrance into the war. Almost a year later, on Dec. 19, 1951, the Chinese were forced to release a list of the Americans they held prisoner and Nance's name appeared on the list. He entered the army in June, 1948, and was assigned to the far east in October, 1948. [Rockford Register-Republic, September 18, 1952]
REDS FREE SECOND ROCKFORD POW
DONALD NANCE HELD PRISONER FOR 29 MONTHS
Mother Hears Good News From Chicago Radio Station Sunday Night
A Rockford mother, joyful and happy, awaits today the return of her soldier son who was released to freedom Sunday in Korea after 29 months of communist captivity.
The happy mother is Mrs. Lucy Nance, 624 Trenton ave. The son, undoubtedly just as happy, is Sgt. Donald Ivan Nance, 22, the second Rockford serviceman to be released in Korea since "Operation Big Switch" began last week. The other Rockford man freed is Capt. James R. Curry, 32, who was released last Wednesday.
Radio Station Calls
The good news came to Mrs. Nance about 11 o'clock Sunday night as she sat at her kitchen table talking hopefully and anxiously to other sons about the imprisoned sergeant. Then the phone rang. It was radio station WGN, Chicago, calling to inform Mrs. Nance of her son's release "I was so happy and excited, I couldn't think straight." Mrs. Nance said today, and "I couldn't help but cry a little, too, " she added. It's been nearly five years since Mrs. Nance saw her son. He enlisted in the army in June, 1948, at the age of 17, and hasn't been home since, except for a six-day leave after his basic training in the fall of 1948.
Take Good Look
Mrs. Nance said she would take a good look at her son when he returns and try not to let him "out of her sight for a long time." I know he's changed and grown a lot since I saw him last," she said. "He was only 17 then. He's 22 now." In an Associated Press Dispatch from Freedom Village Korea, received late this morning by the Register-Republic, Sergeant Nance was quoted from an interview with reporters there. The young man described his imprisonment as follows: "We could always tell how the peace talks were going down at Panmunjorn. If they were going good, for the communists, that is, our treatment and food improved. But if they went bad, it went bad.
"Right after they started talking everything improved. Then it jumped up and down according to how the talks went and when the talks broke off it deteriorated.
"When they started up again last spring things got better and stayed that way."
Nance also told of "Pong the sheriff," chief disciplinarian for the Chinese. He described him as a character who smiled all the time, even when meting out punishment. Nance said he spoke "extremely good English."
"It wasn't so much that he might have been an American that bothered us as it was that damned smile," Nance said.
"You never knew if he was getting ready to pour the heat on you or not."
The happy news received Sunday night from the Chicago radio station was confirmed today by a telegram from the army adjutant general in Washington.
Today's telegram read: "The secretary of the army has asked me to inform you that your son, Sgt. Donald I. Nance, was returned to military control in Korea and will be returned to the United States by surface transportation at an early date."
Mrs. Nance now hopes to get a personal message from her son. She said she presumes his health is pretty good because "he always sounded pleasant in his letters from the prison camp." The sergeant's mother received about a dozen letters during his imprisonment, the last being received in June. However, she speculated that her son may have been writing with a forced pleasantness.
Left States in 1948
Sergeant Nance left the United States for Japan late in 1948 and was stationed there until hostilities broke out in Korea June 25, 1950. Shortly after that, he went into action in Korea. He was captured New Year's day, 1951, and Mrs. Nance was informed of this on Jan. 17, 1951.
A brother, George, 24, was released to civilian life only four months ago, after spending 24 months in the army, 18 of them in Korea as an army truck driver.
Sergeant Nance has two other brothers, six sisters, and his father, George, Sr., all residing in Rockford.
The other brothers are Gerald, 18, and Robert, 15, both at home. The sisters are Mrs. Dorothy Welch, 30; Mrs. Donna Haight, 26; Mrs. Darlene Neblock, 20; Mrs. Grace Wagner, 16; and Patricia, 13, and Gloria, 11, both at home. [Rockford Register-Republic, August 10, 1953]
RED RELEASE H.C. GENNARO, H.M. HAMMOND
2 Area Corporals Given Freedom
Cpl. Harry C. Gennaro, 21, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Gennaro, 827 Corbin st., and Cpl. Harold M. Hammond, 21, son of Mrs. and Mrs. Glyndon Hammond, 922 Webster st., Belvidere, were released as prisoners of war by the communists in Korea Monday night. Gennaro was the third Rockford man to be released during "Operation Big Switch." Released previously were Capt. James R. Curry, who was set free last Wednesday, and Sgt. Donald Ivan Nance, freed Sunday. Hammond is the second Rockford area man set free. Sfc. Robert I. Arians, Morrison, was released last Tuesday.
Captured in 1950
Gennaro was a member of the 1st cavalry division at the time of his capture early in November, 1950. Hammond, who was captured on Dec. 30, 1950, was a member of the 24th infantry division. Mr. and Mrs. Gennaro first learned that their son was missing in action during the fighting in Korea on Nov. 15, 1950, through a telegram from the defense department. For more than 17 months, his parents heard no further word about him. Then, in April, 1952, they received a letter from him which was sent from a North Korean prison camp. Enclosed with the letter was a photo, taken by a friendly Korean, showing Gennaro mailing the letter.
Wounded by Shell
Cpl. Gennaro suffered shell fragment wounds shortly before he was taken prisoner, but apparently is fully recovered. The Gennaro family moved to Rockford from Hammond, La., in May, 1949. During the next few months, Cpl. Gennaro was employed by the A. and P. supermarket at S. Winnebago and Chestnut sts. He enlisted in the army on Aug. 5, 1949. He was among the first United States troops to be sent to Korea with the cavalry division after the reds started their invasion. Cpl. Hammond, who enlisted in the army Nov. 16, 1948, was a member of the 195th infantry regiment of the 24th division, one of the first units to reach Korea. He was captured by the reds Dec. 30, 1950. The first word that their son was a prisoner came when his name was mentioned over the Peiping radio.
Listed as Missing
At first the defense department listed Hammond as missing, not confirming that he was a prisoner of war until July, 1951. Almost a year after his capture, the communist radio in Peiping carried his name on a propaganda broadcast. Before entering the army he was employed by the Central Rubber Manufacturing company.
Gennaro's brother-in-law, Maurice Genovese, 920 Ferguson st., was the first to notify the family about Cpl. Gennaro's release. He heard the news about 9:55 p.m. while listening to a news broadcast over radio station WROK. At the time the news came, the Gennaros were listening to Chicago radio stations.
"We have been listening until midnight every night since the prisoner trade start," Mrs. Gennaro said. "Every night we have been sitting here hoping and praying our boy's name would be announced. Now that it has been, I don't know what to say, I'm so happy."
Earlier in the day, Mrs. Gennaro had called Mrs. Lucy Nance, 624 Trenton ave., whose son was released Sunday.
"I told her how happy I was for her that Donald (Nance) had been released. Now I know exactly how she felt when she got the news about her boy." [Rockford Morning Star, August 11, 1953]
FIRST RELEASED ROCKFORD POW TO LAND IN U.S. NEXT WEEK
Arrival home of Capt. James R. Curry, 32, the first Rockford prisoner of war in Korea released by the communists, is expected next week. Curry, whose wife and their two sons reside at 2802 Kilburn ave., is scheduled to reach San Francisco, Cal., Sunday, aboard the USS General Nelson W. Walker, from Inchon, Korea, according to Mrs. Curry. He was imprisoned more than 32 months. Mrs. Curry explained that her husband's last letter, the third she received since his release, indicated he would sail Aug. 11 and arrive in San Francisco Aug. 23. Mrs. Curry said the American Red Cross has informed her that they would have Curry call her long-distance from San Francisco as soon as he docks. "If he doesn't need medical attention, he'll fly by airplane to Chicago." she added. "In that case, I'm planning to take the boys. (Patrick, 7, and Davis, 5) and meet him in Chicago. "However, if I get more definite word that he'll be arriving Sunday in San Francisco I just might take the boys and meet him in San Francisco." she said. Captain Curry, in his most recent letter, said he was receiving wonderful rehabilitation treatment and that he already had gained 4 pounds since his release Aug. 5. He added that suspicions he had tuberculosis has been eliminated. He was captured by the North Koreans Nov. 2, 1950, when he was a medical administrative officer in the 8th regiment of the 1st cavalry division. Eighteen hours after his capture he was shot and left to die because he could not keep up with the pace of the march. He alter was retaken by the North Koreans. No word has been received yet when two other freed Rockford POWs will be arriving home. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Gennaro, 827 Corbin st., received a telegram Saturday from their son, Cpl. Harry C. Gennaro, 21, in Tokyo, Japan. It read: "Freed from reds at last. Well and fit. Receiving extra care. Coming home at last. Tell family I'll be seeing them soon." Gennaro was a member of the 1st. cavalry division at the time of his capture. Early in November, 1950. He was released by the reds Aug. 10. Patricia Nance, 13, 824 Trenton ave., said Tuesday her family has not received word yet when her brother, Sgt. Donald Ivan Nance, would arrive home. Nance was released Aug. 9 after being a prisoner 31 months.[Rockford Register-Republic, August 19, 1953]
SIX AREA POW'S REACH U.S.
CAPTAIN CURRY'S OWN STORY: SHOT BY REDS, LEFT FOR DEAD
(Captain James R. Curry, one of the first Rockford prisoners of war to be released by the reds in Korea, was held in prison camp No. 2 for 33 months. He was released Aug. 5 and returned to Rockford last week. Here, in a three-installment series, is the 34-year-old captain's story as told to Tom Reay, Morning Star reporter.)
(The following is part one only, parts two and three unavailable)
By. CAPT. JAMES CURRY
There was a British soldier back in prison camp No. 2 who had spent seven years of his professional army career as a prisoner of war. During world war 2, he had been captured and held by the Germans. During this last one, he was a prisoner of the Chinese reds. For him, being held a POW was almost old stuff. He took it lightly. For me, however, once is enough. The 33 months I spent there weren't wasted--don't get me wrong. They were just enough. A professional soldier, like myself, sometimes has it lucky and sometimes he doesn't. In world war 2, I was lucky. I didn't see any combat and, for part of the time, I was stationed right out here at Camp Grant, which is as close to home as you could expect. But this last one was different.
In Push to Yalu
I was stationed with the 1st cavalry division in Japan when the Korean war started in June, 1950. We shoved off for Korea the next month and, in our first three months, engaged in the big push by the U.M. up to the Yalu river. That was just before the Chinese came into the war and just before I was captured. We were about 60 miles south of the Yalu when the reds broke through on us. Our company was cut off, and I was left stranded with some South Koreans behind enemy lines. My first though was to get back to our lines, and I headed south. I walked for three days, traveling at night and resting in the day. On the third day, now alone, I walked into a deserted group of huts and began looking around. I had some tobacco and a pipe, but I didn't have any matches. As I was searching, a North Korean civilian walked by. Remembering stories that many are friendly to the U.N. troops, I motioned to him. He was able to provide me with matches and helped me get a small fire started in one of the huts. I lit my pipe, and for a few moments, was really comfortable. Then, outside one of the huts, I heard some wire being unraveled. I checked--through a hole in one of the hut's walls--and saw some North Korean soldiers setting up communications lines.
Captured in Hut
Shortly afterward, one of the Korean reds wandered in, found me, and took me back to his commander. The Korean officer could not speak English so we had to converse in sign language. He took a $2 pocket watch my wife had given me and two rounds of ammunition. The watch puzzled him because it did not work and the "ammo" puzzled him even more because he could not find a gun, an item which I no longer had. In search of the gun, he took me back to the hut where I had been found. He would stand there, point to the ammunition, then to his gun, and say something that must have meant "where?" in Korean. When I would shake my head and shrug my shoulders, he would hit me over the helmet with the gun butt. It didn't hurt, but it scared me. After 20 minutes, he took me over and put me in a make-shift compound. I was the only prisoner. Most of the North Koreans apparently had never seen a white man before. They called us "long noses" because our noses are so much larger than theirs.
Kept Twisting Nose
During the nights, Koreans came to my cells, reached out, and twisted my nose. At first it wasn't too bad, later it got tiresome. The next morning they woke me and gave me some sorghum to eat. I hadn't eaten in three days, but, honestly, I still couldn't eat that. I took one bite and stopped. Then I went out, under guard, and stood in line with the troops to march ahead. As I stood there I felt a whack--like a truck--hit me in the head and shoulders--and turned around and saw a Korean--the latest I ever met. Then he raised the shovel again. I turned around, felt it hit again and took off with the Korean troops. As I still hadn't eaten, the walk during the day was rough. I had a hard time breathing and walking. The Koreans were moving fast, on the offensive, and it was hard keeping up. At dusk, they were still moving. I was out of breath. I stumbled once, twice, and then slipped and fell into a ditch.
Shot in Shoulder
As I lay there, trying to get my breath, I heard shots behind me. I though a red must have shot at me eight times; and I felt like I had been hit three times. It wasn't until several days later that I learned I'd been hit only once--in the left shoulder. As hard as it was to breathe, I stopped breathing immediately. I knew it was my only chance. The Koreans, luckily enough, did not come back to examine me. They went right on marching. Later, in the prison camp, I recalled those moments. I wondered what would have happening if the reds would have come back. Some nights I'd wake up perspiring after dreaming about the experience. I must have passed out shortly after that. All I remember is a cold rain waking me up. My fever had already started. The bullet, I learned later, chipped a bone in my shoulder. It was actually the only "mistreatment" I really received, but it bothered my almost up until my release. Now, as I recall it, the Korean officer actually wasn't "mistreating" me. From a military standpoint, he had to move fast and he couldn't afford to have a single prisoner slowing him down. Resumed Wandering When I awoke in that ditch I began wandering again, hoping I could reach our lines. For some reason, all I'd ever learned about following directions without a map left me. I forgot all about the North star, for example. My only method of travel was by watching U.N. artillery and trying to reach it. For five days I walked towards it, but each day it seemed to move away faster than I could. On the fourth day I found three U.N. tanks abandoned along a river back. Remembering that they are usually equipped with all kinds of supplies, I started prowling around inside. The only food I found was a jar of grape jelly. But the good things I found were a package of cigarettes and a sleeping bag. I kept on traveling after that, but it was hard. I must have had a very high fever because I couldn't seem to go more than 100 years without water. I eventually staggered into some sort of valley, put up my sleeping bag, and crawled in.
Water in Helmet
In the morning, my helmet, which had filled with water the night before, was frozen over. I had to breathe on it several times before I could get water. At that point, tired and hungry as I was, I actually didn't care what happened either way. I just stayed there and smoked cigarettes, trying to be as comfortable as possible. While there, another Korean walked up. At first I was watchful, but he stuck up his finger to his lips and went "ssh." I'd been lucky again. He motioned for me to stay where I was and left. Thirty minutes later he returned with six steaming hot sweet potatoes. They looked wonderful. Perhaps it was because I hadn't eaten in so long, perhaps it was something else. But I got half of one of the potatoes down and couldn't eat any more. They just seemed to stick in my throat. Used Sign Language I talked in sign language, with the Korean for some time and then he left. I imagine he would have been back later if it wouldn't have been for the three kids who came by shortly afterwards. The children, when they first noticed me, seemed astounded. I looked up, leaned out of my sleeping bag, and said something--I don't remember what. The next thing I knew they screeched and took off. A few minutes later three people arrived, all with rifles. They ordered me off and wouldn't let me take my sleeping bag, helmet, or the potatoes. This times, instead of Koreans, I had been captured by Chinese. The soldiers themselves seemed friendly enough and, at intervals, one of them would pat me on the back and say something which must have meant "Hello."
It wasn't too long before I was taken before an English-speaking Chinese officer. He seemed even more friendly. When I showed him I couldn't eat the sorghum, he gave me a chicken heart he had boiling on his stove. Then, after a few moments, he gave me some words that sounded wonderful. "Do not worry," he said "we will not harm you." Then, they took me away. I was en route to prison camp No. 5 and, eventually, prison camp No. 2. It was a journey that started 33 months of captivity. --Rockford Morning Star, August 30, 1953
CPL. GENNARO RETURNS HOME FROM COMMUNIST CAPITIVITY
Cpl. Harry C. Gennaro Monday started the second day of a rest treatment for which he has waited more than two and a half years and called it "wonderful." The 21-year-old soldier, who was captured in Korea Nov. 2, 1950, arrived home Sunday. He was met at the dock in San Francisco by his mother, Mrs. Joseph C. Gennaro, 827 Corbin st., Saturday night. His father met him at the airport in Chicago Sunday evening.
Gennaro was captured when his unit was cut off and surrounded. Slightly wounded when captured, he was made to march with the North Koreans for three days on their advance to the south.
Then followed a 95-mile forced march to the cramped, frigid, ill-fed conditions that never will be forgotten entirely.
Gennaro and a Mexican boy, with whom he was captured, were marched only a night for 12 nights. During the days, they were put in corn cribs along the route.
"They were anxious to get us to the prison camp," Gennaro said, "and didn't bother us much along the way.
Conditions were rough when we first got there," Gennaro said. Medical care was "lousy."
"The temperature got down to 35 below zero the first winter. They didn't give us any extra clothing that winter." The next winter, we got cotton, quilted clothes.
"We lived in mud huts, about 10 feet square, with thatched roofs. About 25 or 30 men shared one hut when we first got there. You couldn't lie down. All you could do was sit up and sleep the best way you could.
"Conditions got a little better after the peace talks started. They thinned us out to about five men per hut."
Gennaro's weight dropped from 165 to 105 pounds during his first months imprisonment. "But I started gaining once I became conditioned to the unusual food," he said. Compulsory propaganda lectures were part of the daily camp routine. "They rounded us up and told us how the war was our fault. We got the whole story on socialism and communism.
"Then they'd start on capitalism. Told us everybody in the United States was starving."
Peace petitions were distributed regularly. "Some of the progressives signed them," Gennaro said disdainfully.
"They got parties and get-to-togethers every once in a while and other privileges." Gennaro added. Attempts to get confessions to trumped up charges were not uncommon in camp, he said. "A friend of mine was worked over for about four hours while they were trying to get a confession out of him."
"The mental strain was the worst thing of all." Gennaro recalled.
"The only newspaper we got to read was The Daily Worker and it always was about two months old. The few magazines and books we got were along the party line too."
Gennaro was in camp with Sgt. Donald I. Nance, who returned with Gennaro on the transport, Gen. W.F. Hase. Mrs. Lucy Nance, 624 Trenton ave., was unable to travel to San Francisco to greet her son. Gennaro called Mrs. Nance immediately after he got home and said Nance is fine and looking good. Mrs. Nance said she received a telegram Sunday night in which her son said he would arrive home by train sometime Wednesday. [--Rockford Morning Star, September 1, 1953]
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