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I Cannot Forget

Imprisoned in Korea, Accused at Home

Judith Fenner Gentry

Publication Year: 2013

Eighteen-year-old Johnny Moore was an energetic, self-confident private first class when he entered combat with a heavy-weapons platoon in Korea. Four and a half months later, after surviving heavy attacks on the Pusan Perimeter and in one of the forward units of the western column advancing on the Yalu River, he was captured by the Chinese infantry.

Moore and other American POWs suffered from starvation rations, bitter cold, and mental torment. Although the intense Chinese efforts to change the prisoners’ ideologies were largely unsuccessful, they were very effective in engendering distrust among the prisoners and abandonment of duty by the officers. Encouraged by an American sergeant, Moore worked with his captors to obtain better sanitation, a fairer distribution of food, and, on two occasions, medicine for the sick. Twice he tried to escape from imprisonment. Just four days after his twenty-first birthday, in 1953, the Chinese released him.

Moore cooperated fully with US military interrogators, giving as much information as he could on the prison camp and the methods his captors had used. But two years later, army officers arrested him at his home and charged him with treason. Although the charge was dropped and a Field Board of Inquiry returned him to regular duty, the army’s treatment of him left Moore further traumatized. He eventually went AWOL and turned to drinking, gambling, and other self-destructive behaviors.

Military historian Judith Fenner Gentry has worked with Moore’s memoirs of his experiences during and after the war to corroborate, clarify, elaborate, and situate his story within the larger events in Korea and in the Cold War. She has consulted records from courts-martial, newspaper interviews with returning POWs, and Freedom of Information Act documents on the Army Criminal Investigation Division and the Army Counter-Intelligence Corps.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-vii


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pp. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xi

The authors wish to thank the unknown readers of the manuscript, who kept us from making mistakes and provided helpful suggestions for improvement; Editor-in-Chief Mary Lenn Dixon and other staff of Texas A&M University Press; James D. Wilson Jr., assistant director at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, for digitizing the photographs that provide another ...


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pp. xiii-xiii

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pp. 1-12

This book is Johnny Moore’s Korean War memoir, as told to Judith F. Gentry, professor of history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. It focuses on his nearly three years as a prisoner of war in Camp 5, where the Chinese carried out their main “brainwashing” effort. It is also a study of the ...

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pp. 13-15

Johnny Moore was born into humble circumstances in West Texas in 1932, and he never really felt good about himself until he joined the army. His father was a farm laborer, operating tractors and other large equipment, and the family moved from one small house (or shack or tent) to another at least once a year, living on the farms where his dad worked. He attended a ...

Part I: B Company, 35th Infantry, In Korea

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1. Scattered Holding Actions and the Pusan Perimeter

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pp. 19-53

June twenty-fifth, 1950, was when the North Koreans attacked the South, and we were on high alert a few days right around that time. Three of us went into the orderly room and told the first sergeant, “We volunteer to go to Korea. We want to help out over there right now.” I had been in supply, and I believed a soldier belonged on the line during a war. I know now ...

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2. From Victory Over the North Koreans to Defeat by the Chinese: Breakout, Pursuit, and Mopping Up

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pp. 54-79

When MacArthur landed at Inchon and cut the North Koreans off, we were ordered forward. It felt good to have held off the enemy successfully, and it felt good to move forward quickly. I remember riding on the tanks. Riding sure beat walking. We had to stop often, and the enemy sometimes shot at us from the hills on one or the other side of the road—or from both ...

Part II: Prisoner of War

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3. Capture, Misery, and Escape Attempt

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pp. 83-95

“Break up into small groups. Try to get back to the line the best way you can.” I thought about those orders so often during the years we suffered in the prisoner-of-war camps in North Korea. Corporal Murray and I were from the same squad, and we decided to team up to attempt to find our way to safety. Murray and I and four or five others set out together to try to avoid ...

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4. The Starving Time

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pp. 94-105

Most of the deaths occurred between the time we got to Camp 5 on January 18, 1951, and May or June 1951. As we entered Pyoktong from the east, we walked about a half a mile through the village and then we could see that we were at the highest point. Looking down we could see a peninsula. The river was frozen over, but you ...

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5. So-Called Brainwashing

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pp. 106-136

Camp 5 was where the Chinese tried their so-called brainwashing. At first, everybody was together, no matter what rank, race, or nationality. But shortly after we got into camp, the blacks were separated from the whites, the British were put in one area, and the white Americans were put in one area. Later, the Turks were placed in a separate area, and I seem to ...

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6. Passing the Time, Plans to Escape, and Getting into Serious Trouble

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pp. 137-158

From the middle of 1951 through August 1953, when the last of us were repatriated, the food slowly improved. At the end we were getting some greens, turnips, and occasionally rice. The Chinese also issued some salt and small amounts of sugar. Starting in early 1952 there were goats and pigs in camp, and I would guess we had one or the other once or twice a ...

Part III: An Army Career During McCarthy-Era Investigations

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7. My Army and My Family

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pp. 161-188

The Chinese would send some people to be repatriated, and then later send some more, and more. That’s the way we went out, in groups. I was somewhere in the middle. I got released August 12, 1953, just four days after my twenty-first birthday. We rode in the back of army trucks part of the way, and then on a train, and then trucks again, from Camp 5 to ...

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8. The US Army Moves Against Former Prisoners of War

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pp. 189-229

I was very happy as a recruiter in Pasadena and did a real good job. This was later proven by what the investigators asked my supervisors and their answers. As a recruiter, I was a salesman for the army. I talked young men into coming into the service. I worked in a recruiting office on Colorado Boulevard, where the Rose Parade goes through. Our office was on the ...

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9. Going Crazy: I Couldn't Clear My Name

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pp. 230-266

After the public arrest with newspapers calling me a traitor, the army said it was going to court-martial me and then changed its mind but would not remove the flagging action on my files that kept me from having a normal career in the army. The army took forever to let me have my field board of inquiry to defend myself and then presented no evidence against ...


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pp. 284-317


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pp. 318-327


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pp. 328-338

E-ISBN-13: 9781623490096
E-ISBN-10: 162349009X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781623490072

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 856017239
MUSE Marc Record: Download for I Cannot Forget

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Subject Headings

  • Moore, Johnny (John Wilson), 1932-.
  • United States. Army. Infantry Division, 35th -- Biography.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Prisoners and prisons.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • Soldiers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Prisoners of war -- United States -- Biography.
  • Prisoners of war -- Korea (North) -- Biography.
  • Trials (Military offenses) -- United States.
  • United States -- History, Military -- 20th century.
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