INT: On that march question, you said there was seven hundred and fifty people. How many of these people survived that march, what happened to stragglers and that wounded and so on?
RF: Well, there were a lot of men we lost. We had a hundred and eighty five at the end of the march out of the seven hundred and fifty. A lot of them were lost to dysentery, diarrhoea, severe beatings, malnutrition, some of them were, you know, stragglers they were just beat with rifle butts till they died, or bayoneted or... You either kept up or you died, it was that simple. Even if you kept up, you might die, but we lost a great number of men to malnutrition and just give up, some of them just give up, thought there was no point to go on any further and they just sat down and wouldn't go any further. I've seen men sit down and invite the guard to finish him off, they would not go any further. And then the guard would oblige 'em.
INT: Were these Korean guards or were they Chinese guards?
RF: Mostly Chinese. occasionally we had Korean guards and there was a vast difference in the Koreans and the Chinese. The Korean was extremely barbaric and we dreaded the change of the guard when they were turn up Koreans because we knew for the next three or four days we were going to lose a lot of men, 'cos they wouldn't give you one inch and they took a delight in abusing the prisoners.
INT: When you got to this first holding camp, what sort of conditions were there to meet you? I'm thinking in terms food, living condition, sanitation, what was there to meet you?
RF: Well, the barracks were long wooden buildings held over from World War Two, they were old Japanese army barracks as best we could figure out and it was a mining town. We never did know exactly what they were mining, but there were carts overhead cable carts that was moving something from a mine. The buildings, the old buildings, they had an open latrine in mid-section of the building. Of course the roof leaked and then in the rainy seasons those latrines, they just over flowed and the excrement just went in both directions over the floors that we had to sleep on and the sanitation was deplorable. There was no sanitation. There was no water to wash your face and hands with even. Very seldom you got to wash your eating utensils. Now the food mainly consisted of sorghum seeds and turnips and you were fed it twice daily. And that camp we buried two hundred and twelve men in about six weeks' time and most of it was due to starvation and we had an epidemic of relapsing fever to break out and scores of men died from that. I had relapsing fever, but I somehow survived it. My body weight dropped below a hundred pounds, all my hair came out and I was currently a pathetic looking sight, but I did survive.
INT: How did you manage it?
INT: How did you manage to survive?
RF: Determination, some really very good friends who shared any food they could get with me and made... literally forced me to eat it and I was determined to live. I had a lot in life to live for. At that point I hadn't experienced nearly as much as much as I wanted to experience. I just knew that I was going to make it, somehow in my mind I knew I would make it and I did.
INT: But not everybody did, tell us a bit about the people who just didn't have that determination?
RF: Well, they would just die. A lot of them would give up and die. I mean, they would sit down and had... There was one man at the mining camp, he wouldn't eat, he would not eat, so he would eat the last bite of that food he was going to eat. So some of his friends started to force it down him, make him eat and he cussed at them, he said go ahead you arsehole [inaudible] make me eat this tonight, but he said, I will not be here tomorrow for you to force it down. The next morning he was dead, just that simple. He had literally willed himself to die and did, and that happened to a lot of different individuals.
INT: Was there actual disease as a result of lice or was it malnutrition?
RF: It was both. There was a different louse borne disease like the relapsing fever. That was a louse borne disease and there was all types of skin diseases being as a result of the lice and I've seen people, their bodies would just be completely bloody from scratching the sores caused from the lice, and the lice were about the the main [inaudible] and there was no way of getting rid of 'em, no washing of clothes, no bathing, no change of clothes or no insecticides or anything you just... the only way to get rid of lice was to flick them off and crush them and put your clothes back on and an hour later do the same thing again.
INT: And they're only interested in living people aren't they, what happens if somebody died, did the lice just move on to the next person?
RF: You could tell if a man had died, you could literally see a string of lice leaving the body going to a warm body, you could tell the man had dies when you saw the lice leaving him. And after a while you kind of get used to it, you just don't pay much attention to it, 'cos you knew sooner or later you would bury that one and then someone would take his place and you'd bury them. Daily we buried people on the hill beside the camp. Every morning we had this [inaudible] officer, he'd come to the door and he wore a mask and he'd ask how many people die last night? And if you told him ten, then he would cut the ration by ten and if you told him twenty he cut the rations by twenty. If you told him two, he'd cut the rations by two, so we'd say two, three, then that's all they let us bury, so if we'd had twenty dead and we'd say three, then seventeen bodies laid there until we admitted they had died.
INT: That was really the lowest ebb in conditions in that camp. Then you were moved to the camp where you spent not all of the war, but most of the war. Tell us a bit about that, things are a little bit better and more concentration by this time presumably in trying to indoctrinating with their ideas.
RF: Well we get to Changson, camp number one, October thirty first, 1951. The food was better there and you had sanitation there, some. We had a stream that run near by we could bath in daily, we did boil our old clothes and we got a issue of prison clothing. The food consisted... still we got our sorghum about the once daily, then we'd get milled rice daily. We would get an ounce of sugar a week, ounce of pork and an ounce of beef and we'd get a small tobacco ration. This psychologically it was a big improvement over anything else and the march was over, that was the main thing. They did have a semblance of medical care there and that was kind of bargained out to you. If you'd be good you'd get medical care, if you wasn't good, you may not and they did a lot of experiments on prisoners there. They had one experiment they did, they'd take something that looked like a piece of fat pork and they would insert it in the rib cage and that was supposed to take care of all ailments. I wouldn't let them do that to me, I told them I would die first, they was not going to put a pig inside my rib, you know. Naturally, it didn't no good. People got that. Some of them survived it, believe it or not, and then some... most died any way. Their indoctrination programme, 'cos they started that really from day one, but camp one they had a programme set up. You had from twelve to fifteen, sixteehours a day of continuous lectures when you weren't workin. They'd wake you up at morning at six o clock by a loud speaker system they had in the compound, immediately followed by guards going door to door to make sure you were getting up. Then they would follow you outside for reveille and where you stood there while they called reveille, then they would play the Chinese national anthem over the speaker system. You listened to that very morning then. They would start the lectures for about three hours and it... you... repetitious, you know, one hour one guy tells you why you come to Korea, how the war [inaudible] the JP Morgans, the Rockefellers were making money off your blood and etc., etc. Then the next hour, when this other interpreter would get up, he'd say the same thing, then the next hour, he would... it was drummed into you day after day, hour after hour end on end. Sometimes way in the night, sometimes they'd knock it off at maybe six pm, then again maybe they'd wake you up at midnight, the entire compound, and follow you out for two or three hour lecture, repeating exactly what they had said the day before. And very few people seemed to pay any attention to it, but some did go along, they found out if they went along with them they'd get to eat better and they'd get better treatment but the vast majority, they just saw through it and saw it was ridiculous and some of us actually organised a little resistance to it and did a little mischief, disrupted their classes, disrupted their supply lines, a few little things of that nature.
INT: How did it divide out really among the people who kept their heads down, the people who went along with it for an extra ration perhaps and the people like you who weren't having any of it?
RF: Well the one's that went along they did eat better and everything and got along better and course they had to live with themselves when they were released. The one's like myself, it was twenty nine of us all told, we were segregated from the main...
INT: This is... we're doing about the main camp, the twenty nine aren't segregated quite at that stage were they, if we're in the Changsong camp?
RF: The Changsong yes.