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Letter to Capt. Charles G. Ewing on the Repatriation of Prisoners of War in Korea.

August 20, 1952

[ Released August 20, 1952. Dated August 13, 1952 ]

Dear Captain Ewing:

I read with great interest your observations on your interviews with prisoners of war in Korea. Your conversations with those men who prefer death to life under a communist regime point up vividly the compelling humanitarian and moral reasons for the stand which the United Nations negotiators have taken on the repatriation question. We must not use bayonets to force these prisoners to return to slavery and almost certain death at the hands of the communists.

You soldiers in Korea can also well appreciate the fact that behind the Iron Curtain there are millions of people who yearn desperately to regain their lost freedom and sense of dignity. These people look to the free world as their only hope to achieve this goal. This fact applies with special force to those hundreds of thousands of Chinese and North Koreans who have been impressed into the communist armies and forced to face suffering and death to further the brutal ends of aggression.

Thank you for writing.

Sincerely yours,


[Captain Charles G. Ewing, 704th CIC Detachment, APO 59, c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, California]

Note: The President's letter was in response to a letter dated July 20, in which Captain Ewing stated that since the repatriation issue had become a stumbling block to the Panmunjom Conference, and many people were becoming weary of the matter, he thought that the President would like to hear from someone who had talked with large numbers of the prisoners who were resisting repatriation.

Captain Ewing told the President that his job was to determine whether or not the prisoners were enemy agents. He added: "They have been brought to me still bleeding from scratches from the barbed wires, some wounded by stones flung by strong Communists trying to hold them back, some wounded by birdshot from U.N. guards, but smiling and happy because they have fought their way through to a chance for permanent escape from a miserable life under the reds." He said that his contacts with the prisoners had convinced him that they could not and should not be forced to return to their enslaved homeland.

Captain Ewing concluded by stating, "I believe that most of these men who have risked death to .protest being sent back to their homes are telling the truth when they say they would rather die than live under communism again."

The public release of the exchange of correspondence was delayed until the President's letter could be delivered to Captain Ewing.

Harry S. Truman, Letter to Capt. Charles G. Ewing on the Repatriation of Prisoners of War in Korea. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231311

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