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Vernon Ray

His commander offered Vernon Ray a deal: he’d go to the front for nine days and get to leave Korea a month early. “We were good until the last night,” he says. “Then we got attacked.”

Ray was the only Marine who came out of his bunker alive, “bleeding like a stuck pig” from pieces of shrapnel in his foot.

His captors removed most of them, but it was seeing another soldier die that truly hurt. “He was all ripped up,” Ray says. “His privates were shot out. That’s the worst feeling, when a guy asks you to help him but you can’t. It pains me today.”

Ray spent six months in captivity, including a few days in solitary confinement. His happiest moment in camp – if one could truly be happy – was seeing a MiG fighter shot down in a dogfight. “That made you feel real good,” he says.

After Ray’s release, he married and had two children. He worked for Chrysler in Detroit and retired in 1987.

View more Korean War POW stories