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1953: UN and Korea begin prisoner exchange

The Allies and Korea have exchanged sick and wounded prisoners of war at Panmunjon, just a mile away from continued fighting at the north-south border.

One hundred United Nations prisoners were freed today under Operation "Little Switch". They included 12 Britons, 30 Americans, 50 South Koreans, four Turks, one Canadian, one South African, one Greek and one Filipino.

Dressed in blue padded Chinese-style uniforms and Russian-style caps, they were take to a reception centre at nearby Munsan for a warm welcome.

There, the Red Cross distributed cigarettes and toiletries.


"It feels very good indeed to be back"

Corporal William Greenaway, freed British PoW

The 12 Britons looked thin but happy to be freed. They shook hands with several generals including General Clark, the UN commander.

Seven of them agreed to talk to the waiting press. It emerged the Chinese had given them new uniforms and fed them well a few days before their liberation.

Last night they were treated to a special farewell banquet at Kaesong, on the north-south border.

Corporal William Greenaway of the Gloucestershire Regiment, captured two years ago, said: "I feel like I'm entering a new world. It feels very good indeed to be back."

On the whole the British and Americans had few complaints about their treatment, although conditions in the prison camps were described as "pretty grim".

But the South Koreans said they were treated like cattle, given "terrible" food and forced to attend indoctrination sessions.

Also today, 400 North Koreans and 100 Chinese prisoners arrived at Munsan and were transferred by ambulance to be sent back to North Korea at Panmunjon.

Further prisoner exchanges will take place over the next few days.

In Context
The Soviet Union and the US had split Korea along the 38th parallel after Japan's defeat in World War II.

Following a series of border skirmishes, the Communist North invaded the South in June 1950 and a United Nations force under General MacArthur drove the invaders back to the Chinese border.

China entered the war and together with the North Koreans occupied Seoul in 1951.

The UN forces counterattacked and by 1953, after an armistice, retook all territory south of the 38th parallel.

The Korean War ended with the signing of the armistice on 27 July to restore the 38th parallel as a border.

In August, prisoners of war were exchanged in Operation Big Switch - 77,000 Communists for 12,700 UN men, of whom 3,597 were Americans.

But a peace deal has never been reached. American troops remain stationed in the demilitarized zone on and around the 38th parallel separating North and South Korea.


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