Thunder Rumbles out of Chinese Archives

Xinhua’s English-language service reports:

Chinese military archivists have identified more than 100 documents that could lead to the repatriation of the remains of the United States personnel who disappeared during and after the Korean War (1950-1953).

More than 50,000 U.S. personnel were killed in Korean Peninsula and along the border of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The U.S. Department of Defense still lists more than 8,100 as missing.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Archives Department has been combing more than 1.5 million archives of the then People’s Volunteer Army (PVA), the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the PLA headquarters during the Korean War.

Archivists have given at least four valuable archives found in the first 10 percent to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Chinese archivists have also located the site where a U.S. bomber crashed 59 years ago in south China’s Guangdong Province.

After visiting the site and interviewing 19 witnesses who helped them identify the burial site of U.S. crew, they believe the possibility of finding the remains is high.

The dispatch goes on to chronicle other searches initiated by Donald Rumsfeld for an American pilot shot down off the Chinese coast in 1956. I’ll leave it to others to decode why Xinhua feels compelled to use this dispatch to specifically recollect the bloodshed on the Sino-Korean frontier in the way it does, implying that the heaviest fighting occurred near the Chinese border, which isn’t quite true.

Here is my own original data on this question:

PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archive, Document 118-00235-03, 关于中国扑获的朝鲜战争时期加拿大战俘麦金的释放事. Roughly, “On the Apprehension and Release of Canadian POW MaiJin.”

The file contains quite a detailed discussion of how MaiJin, a pilot from the “5th Air Force,” was shot down over the Korean-Chinese border on December 5, 1952, near the North Korean city of 昌城.

The other POW files I have read in the Chinese archives tend to deal with individual POWs, particularly those whose status was not settled with the repatriations that followed the armistice in 1953.

That, anyway, is what I gleaned after about two hours of requests for documents regarding “Korean War” (朝鲜战争)and “prisoners of war” (战俘). .

I net about twenty documents which deal in some fashion with Red Cross correspondence, or the repatriation of POWs such as Richard Tenneson, who was repatriated via Hong Kong in December 1955.

Often times the individual cases went through Zhou Enlai, which accounts for their presence in the Foreign Ministry Archives — obviously the PLA archives are the motherlode.

One document I later snagged from the MFA archives includes some complaints about prisoner transfers from North Korean custody in Sinuiju before transferring into Chinese custody in Dandong (then Andong). The Chinese weren’t happy that the North Koreans didn’t feed the prisoners, but they also thought the North Koreans did a bad job of searching the foreigners (a motley crew of French missionaries and journalists) before they turned them over to the Chinese.

Thanks to Paul Salmon, author of To the Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea 1951, for the e-mail about the story in Beijing.

Wen Jiabao vists Beijing Childrens Hospital Oct 31 2009
Today's headline photo on Xinhua's English site -- Premier Wen Jiabao at a Beijing Children's Hospital, but that mask might be helpful also for keeping the passageways clean when digging through the archives

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