[Source: The following text about Air Force prisoners of war
still unaccounted for was taken word-for-word from:
All credit for this information goes to that website.]
Over the years, We’ve located many lists. Most turned out to be
alternate versions of things we already know. But, one list has
always eluded us, the Nielsen-Henderson List.
It’s a mysterious list of airmen who were awaiting repatriation in
Kaesong in 1953 just a short walk from freedom. As the story goes,
hundreds of men were about to be released, when the Communists
realized that the U.S. wasn’t aware of their existence. The airmen
were hurriedly loaded up and carried away, never to be heard from
again. Heroically, two men, Nielsen and Henderson, compiled a list
of their names and somehow the list got to the Americans.
Over the years, the list had been lost . . . only an occasional
mention in Air Intel reports. It’s been our mission on every trip to
the Archives to find that list.
We’ve been troubled that neither Nielsen nor Henderson ever showed
up on the list of the missing men. It finally occurred to us that,
perhaps, they weren’t missing. Maybe they came home.
With the help of Tim Casey of the Association of Korean War Ex-POWs,
our newly found friend and most valuable asset, We located both
Nielsen and Henderson. Though Nielsen is in poor health and unable
to contribute, Jack Henderson is very much alive, conversant,
helpful, and a delight to speak with.
In an hour-long phone conversation, we learned more than we ever
expected. Interestingly, Jack has been asked about the list only 4
or 5 times in the last 51 years.
So here’s the real story.
In August of 1951, Jack bailed out of his bullet-ridden F-80. As his
chute brought him safely to land, North Korean soldiers aimed
machine guns at him from across the river. Jack realized the
heart-pounding predicament immediately. Before they would cross the
treacherous waters, they would just shoot him. Miraculously, a
Chinese Communist Soldier emerged from the bushes next to him and
took Jack into custody.
Jack was trained and in shape, but not entirely ready, for his next
challenge . . . a 150 mile march north to the Yalu river. Many
less-fortunate men died along that journey.
When he arrived at a converted school-house he had no idea that it
would forever be known as Camp 2. It housed mostly officers, though
some non-commissioned airmen were there, too.
He and his close friend Henry Nielsen would spend almost two years
there. Then, in August 1953, they were loaded up on trucks and sent
to Kaesong to be repatriated. They were going home!
Kaesong didn’t have large buildings to house the 350 men, so they
were split up in small numbers in small buildings. Jack was released
on 28 August, the only one that day. Others were released 2 to 20 at
a time. That made keeping track of each other very difficult. Not
until the debriefings, did they realize that some weren't released
Jack doesn’t remember making any list. He does recall many
debriefings aboard a ship during the long trip home. Though he saw
Nielsen on board, they weren't debriefed together. As far as he
remembers, He and Henry did not write down the names of those who
Apparently, the interrogators (aboard the ship and those later on
land) were impressed with Nielsen and Henderson’s recollection of
other men from Camp 2 who didn’t return. From their debriefs, a list
was created and sent via TWX RDAG 9-26 and 9-021, presumably on Sept
21 & 26. For those of us who weren't around at the time, a TWX
(teletypewriter exchange service) was a switched teletypewriter
service in which suitably arranged teletypewriter stations are
provided with lines to a central office for access to other such
The Air Force then compiled the famous Nielsen-Henderson List in
We’re still hoping to speak with Nielsen to get his side of the
story. In the meantime, the following are some of the names that
were on the list and still missing.
- Allen, Jack Victor
- Beardall, Harold Martyn
- Bell, Donald Edwin
- Bell, 1 Lt William John
- Brennan, John Charles
- Culbertson, Gene Alan
- Dougherty, Joseph Stephan
- Gross, Robert Franklin
- Guthrie, Edward Sheldon
- Hamblin, Robert Warren
- Hawkins, Luther Reid
- Koontz, Frederick Russell
- Martin, Robert Lee
- Miller, Waldermar Willie
- Rountree, Fred Brinson