RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Time now for StoryCorps, the project where everyday Americans share the stories of their lives.
Today, a POW story. Wayman Simpson served in the Korean War. He was captured in 1950 soon after the fighting began. As a POW, Simpson came under the command of a Korean officer. They nicknamed him the Tiger. He led the prisoners on a brutal nine-day trek that left nearly a hundred of them dead. The ordeal came to be known as The Tiger Death March.
Mr. WAYMAN SIMPSON (World War II Veteran): On Halloween night in 1950, the Tiger took over. We nicknamed him the Tiger because he is so mean. The first thing he did was we had 16 men with their wounds in their leg, they couldn't walk, and him and his buddies machine-gunned every one of them. We knew then we were in trouble.
He shot a man a mile on the march, and the second day, we asked him to slow the pace down, and you know what he said to us? Let them march until they die. He wasn't going to give us any water that's the way he was going to kill all of us.
But it started snowing the second day out, we ate the snow if we get it next to us. That's the way we got our water. We got up to prisoner war camp 12 miles in the Siberian Border. I had been in there a little over 38 months. We hadn't shaved, cut our hair, brushed our teeth, take a bath, and nothing. And I had two holes in my left leg. It wasn't healing up, no medical care. They stayed open wounds for 26 months. I finally poured boiling water and they healed up after that. I weighed 77 pounds when I came home. That's pretty thin on a six-foot-three frame, you know?
That's about the only way we can get by now, to joke about it. And a lot of them youngsters died since we come home, because they couldn't turn it loose. They wouldn't - they just dwelled on it all the time, you know? And I make a joke about it - it don't worry me. I just let it go.
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MONTAGNE: Wayman Simpson at StoryCorps in Lawton, Oklahoma. His interview, like all StoryCorps interviews, will be archived at the American Folklife Center, at the Library of Congress.
You can read more of these stories in the new StoryCorps book, "Listening is an Act of Love." Hear more at npr.org.
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