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Korean orphan grateful to GIs

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  • Sunny Jo
    Saturday, October 20, 2007 Korean orphan grateful to GIs Statue depicts bonds forged in wartime By Thomas Caywood TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF Link S. White, left,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 21, 2007
      Saturday, October 20, 2007
      Korean orphan grateful to GIs

      Statue depicts bonds forged in wartime

      By Thomas Caywood TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

      Link S. White, left, and Korean War veteran George F. Drake discuss
      the relationship between American GIs and Korean orphans. (T&G
      Staff/CHRIS CHRISTO)
      Enlarge photo


      Enlarge photo


      WORCESTER— Five decades ago, an 8-year-old North Korean boy fled his
      home in Ham Hung with a group of American soldiers retreating south
      as the vast Chinese army poured into the country.

      The boy's father had him flee the fierce fighting, expecting him to
      return with the GIs in a few weeks after they repulsed the Chinese

      The two armies instead fought to a bloody stalemate in the middle of
      the Korean Peninsula over the next three years. The boy never saw his
      home or his family in the north again. GIs collectively raised him on
      a base in South Korea for five years until one officially adopted him
      and brought him to the United States.

      The man that boy became, 64-year-old Link S. White of Virginia,
      shared his story with U.S. history classes at Burncoat High School
      yesterday morning. He is in Worcester to speak at the dedication of
      the Korean War Memorial at 2 p.m. today. A large bronze statue of a
      Korean War-era GI and a young Korean boy, designed to symbolize the
      bond between soldiers and war orphans such as Mr. White, will be
      unveiled during the ceremony.

      Mr. White earned his keep on the Army base working as a house boy,
      then a janitor and finally — at 10 years old — as a pint-sized
      bartender at the base NCO club. He said he's never forgotten the
      kindness of the American soldiers who sheltered him for so many

      "It was due to them I was able to come to South Korea and lead
      another life. Simply put, they gave me a new lease on life," Mr.
      White said.

      The Burncoat High students also heard from a Korean War veteran who
      was moved to action by the plight of Korean orphans.

      George F. Drake, 77, of Bellingham, Wash., helped to care for and
      raise money to support destitute Korean children during his combat
      tour in Korea. He became a sociologist after the war and has
      researched the efforts of American soldiers to save Korean children
      from starvation during the war.

      After high school, Mr. Drake had left for Mexico with $160 in his
      pocket. He ended up spending a year and a half cruising the country
      on his motorcycle before returning to the United States expecting to
      enroll in college. When the Korean War began in June 1950, soon after
      he got home, Mr. Drake enlisted in the Army as a military
      intelligence specialist.

      The Army sent him to its language school to learn Chinese, then
      shipped him out to Korea. The capital city, Seoul, had been reduced
      to rubble by the time he arrived.

      "I have to tell you, I was not prepared for what I found," Mr. Drake
      told the 11th-grade students, most of whom will be old enough for
      military service in a year or two. "People were still fleeing. You
      could still see the bodies not yet picked up."

      Nothing more could be done for the sea of corpses littering the
      landscape, but he and other GIs opened their hearts and their wallets
      to the thousands of emaciated war orphans.

      "We didn't have to train the armed forces to pick up a crying child,"
      Mr. Drake said. "That came out of our homes, our communities, our
      churches. When you see a little kid starving in the gutter, what are
      you going to do? Step over him? No."

      Mr. Drake's research indicates American soldiers and marines saved
      roughly 100,000 Korean children from starvation or death from
      exposure during the three-year conflict and its aftermath. GIs, whose
      Army paychecks ranged from $45 to $90 a month, depending on rank,
      donated $2 million to support orphanages, he said.

      "Every company had somebody at the pay line shaking the can trying to
      get donations," Mr. Drake recalled.

      His unit went even further and built an orphanage. They wrote home
      for supplies to stock the orphanage. Apparently they weren't alone,
      because the Army had to lease cargo ships to fetch the flood of
      packages to Korea, he said.

      Despite missing five years of school during and after the war, Mr.
      White said, he was able to catch up with his peers in the United
      States, thanks to his adoptive father's encouragement and help.

      Mr. White went on to serve as a U.S. Army infantryman in Vietnam.

      He urged the young students to be grateful for all they have and to
      remember that soldiers such as Mr. Drake, and especially those who
      fought back fascism in World War II, made it all possible.

      "Take advantage of it," he advised. "If you want to show your
      appreciation, make something of yourself."

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