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Cecil Phipps

When Cecil Phipps got to Korea on Aug. 1, 1950, he weighed about 190 pounds. After his first winter in captivity, he was down to 75 pounds, eating only millet, sorghum or cracked corn – “never any rice, and no meat,” he says.

“Every morning a Chinese soldier opened the door and yelled, ‘How many dead?’ That’s all he could say in English. There was always one or two.”

After coming home, “I dreamed about him constantly,” Phipps says. 

“I’d wake up swinging. But my wife understood the problems I was having and stayed with me.”

He didn’t realize he was being released until he was put on a truck with other prisoners, and every few miles the Chinese guard would get off and another would board. When an American GI hopped on, everyone cheered.

Though Phipps has never been back to Korea, he treasures a gift from a family friend. The young man’s grandfather was a South Korean senator and received two watches from the nation’s president. In appreciation for his Korean War service, the senator’s grandson gave them to Phipps.

View more Korean War POW stories