Korean War POW honored after 60 years


By Catherine Hunter –

“I wonder if our nation and military today has the same intestinal fortitude as those Korean War Vets,” said Army National Guard Brigadier General Jim Ernst as he pinned a Purple Heart Medal on Korean War Veteran Joseph E. Ford.

Ford, a Rutherford resident, received his Purple Heart Medal, a Prisoner of War Medal and a Republic of Korea Service Medal Saturday, January 19 at the Asheville VA Community Living Center. Ford was captured in Korea February 13, 1951 and released two years later on August 8, 1953.

Veterans Legacy Foundation President John Elskamp said it took 60 years for Ford to receive his Purple Heart because there was no record of his wound. According to, Elskamp, Ford was wounded before his capture by shrapnel in his hip. Fearing poor treatment, Ford chose not to report his wound to the North Koreans. Upon release he was given the option to go to Japan for treatment, but again decided not report the wound.

“The shrapnel is still in his hip,” said Elskamp who added that Ford had been on at least 2 death marches similar to the well known Bataan Death March of World War II. He said they used the injuries known to be inflicted on US soldiers during the death marches to re-submit for Ford’s Purple Heart through Senator Kay Hagan’s office.

Approximately 150 people attended the award ceremony including several chapters of Rolling Thunder, INC. whose mission is to support repatriation of American Prisoners of War and those missing in action. Other former prisoners of war attended the ceremony, including Franklin resident and former Vietnam POW, Nathan Henry, Korean war POW’s Baily Gillespie and Emmett Harrison.

Korean War Veteran Bob Bostwick of Greenville, S.C. told his story of being captured when his machine gun burned up. Bostwick said managed to escape two days later using his boot knife to overpower and, “… do away with,” his two captors.

“I didn’t talk about it for 50 years,” he said. “But now I’m gradually coming out of my shell.”

The support the Veterans give each other is making it possible for many to now receive the recognition they deserve. It is this same kind of support that helped Ford, and many others like him, live through the hell of enemy prison camps.

“We took care of one another,” said Ford as his eyes took on a sad and distant look. “It was hell.”

Ford expressed heartfelt appreciation to all the veterans and officials that made the award ceremony possible and to those who attended Saturday. But most of all he expressed concern for our soldiers who are currently serving a long way from home.

“We need to bring our soldiers home,” Ford said.

Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Al Evans, who had the honor of escorting Ford during the ceremony, said he wished the government would bring home the MIA’s and POW’s who are still not returned.

“A lot of Vietnam POW’s and MIA’s were taken to China and the Soviet Union. We need to demand the government [US] quit denying they’re there,” Evans said.

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