On May 7, 1952, the North Korean Senior POW on the Island of Koje-do requested the presence of the camp commander at the gate to his compound, #76. Brigadier General Francis Dodd obligingly showed up.

Prior to this date, a number of American guards had been kidnapped and ultimately released. On April 2nd, MP officer Lt. Colonel Raven had been kidnapped and dragged inside compound #76 before being released.

But General Dodd did not see fit to order the Senior North Korean Officer, Senior Colonel Lee Hak-Ku, to be escorted to his office. He walked to the compound gate to meet with him.

POW camp on Koje-Do Island.
POW camp on Koje-Do Island.

There were no locks on the compound gates, viewed as being “too inconvenient,” prisoners going back and forth all the time. As a group bringing empty “honey buckets” back into compound 76 and the gates opened, the North Koreans grabbed both General Dodd and Lt. Colonel Raven.

Raven fought free, but Dodd was dragged back into a building in the compound. He yelled for the guards not to fire. They did not.

The North Koreans had a field phone provided for them, and they soon made it clear that unless they got exactly what they wanted. Dodd would have his throat slit.

The U.S. and the U.N. command were being held at bay by 6500 of the most fanatic North Korean POWs. There was every reason to suspect that the rest of the 170,000 prisoners on Koje-do would soon be involved.

Senior Colonel Lee Hak Ku NKPA

By the start of the Korean War, the U.S. had almost no experience with foreign prisoners of a significantly different culture, just a handful of Japanese POWs who almost to a man caused little or no trouble.