93-year-old Cave City POW recounts time as prisoner during Korean War

POW/MIA Recognition Day
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 6:46 AM CDT
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CAVE CITY, Ky. (WBKO) - The third Friday of every September is National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

Established by Congress with the passage of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, it is a day to ensure America remembers and shows that it stands behind those who serve and, as a country, will do what it can to account for those who have not returned.

A local man, 93-Year-Old Korean War Veteran Charles Ross, talked about his experience in Korea as a prisoner of war.

“I was a prisoner of war for 34 months in Korea,” he said. ”It began in November 1950. When the Chinese forces overran our battalion, I was able to evade them for approximately five days. We went through a period of near starvation, extremely cold, lived in a filthy environment, and had thousands of prisoners die, but I was a survivor.”

Ross was 18-years-old when he decided to sign up for the army in 1947.

He was 21 when he was captured by Chinese forces and 24 when he was released.

“I was released on Sept. 1, 1953,” he said.

Ross added that it took nearly 50 years before he would tell anyone about what he went through because the memories of it were too painful.

“I remember seven brave young men that did not make it,” he said. “When the Chinese over on our battalion, two of us went on to become prisoners.”

When he did eventually talk about his time as a POW, it was with the encouragement of his wife and children.

“I wrote a memoir, which I have given copies to several different people,” he said. “It just tells a story of my time of arrival in Korea.”

On Thursday, Ross received a plaque from members of the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary Unit No. 20 with the names of soldiers who were with him the day he was captured.

Written on the plaque were Ross’s rank, name, and days as a prisoner of war along with the names of those who were with him the day he was captured.

“I made a list of their names and carry a wallet with me. I still have it today,” he said.

Ross also spent time in Vietnam as a Chief Operations Officer for the Fourth Infantry Division, although he didn’t see any actual combat.

“While I was in Vietnam, I got a letter from the Commander in Chief Pacific, which was a Navy admiral,” he said. “He asked me if I would accept an appointment as Command Sergeant Major, and I replied Yes, and they appointed me as a Command Sergeant Major.”

Ross continued serving in the army until retiring in 1970 at Fort Knox.

”I’m thankful for my time as a soldier... I do not consider myself a hero. I was a survivor,” he said.

To learn more about Charles Ross and his time in Korea, visit koreanwarlegacy.org.