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Monday, 21 April 2014 16:21

Roosevelt Powell POW in the Korean War

Roosevelt recently received the Former Prisoner of War Recognition Program medal at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee.(Photos by Paul Orosco - ONN Chief Photography)


On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War. By July, American troops had entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. As far as American officials were concerned, it was a war against the forces of international communism itself. After some early back-and-forth across the 38th parallel, the fighting stalled and casualties mounted with nothing to show for them. Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. The alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China–or even, as some warned, World War III. Finally, in July 1953, the Korean War came to an end. In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. The Korean peninsula is still divided today.

Roosevelt Powell, born October 10, 1927 and lived in Beggs.  He joined the US Army at the age of 18, before he graduated from high school to fight in the war. Later he would become a Korean Prisoner of War and his life would change dramatically.

Powell suffered a broken arm the night he was captured and because of the lack of medical attention his arm was basically set by the freezing temperatures incurred there. Held in Camp 5 North Korea Powell recalls the harsh war experience, "It was 47 below zero in North Korea, unbelievable cold."  The food was parce and he dropped weight to about 100 pounds. Powell said it was a miserable time, all the food they received was cold and he was injured basically the whole time he was in captivity.

Powell said he was not treated too well during his time there.  "Being treated good by the Communist was considered bad."

Powell is 86 years old and currently lives in Okmulgee with his wife, Bobbie Powell, of 45 years.  He is still quite active at home.

On April 30, he will be leaving with other veterans from Oklahoma for Washington DC where the Korean War POW's will be recognized and honored for their service in that war.

Powell met Mao Tse-tung while in captivity in North Korea, Mao later became the head of Peoples Republic of China. "He was just passing through and checking on the prisoners," said Powell.

Mao Zedong, also transcribed as Mao Tse-tung and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), was a Chinese Communist revolutionary and the founding father of thePeople's Republic of China, which he governed as Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. His Marxist-Leninist theories, military strategies and political policies are collectively known as Maoism or Mao Zedong Thought.

Watch Video of Some of Powells comments about his experience: