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Korean War POWs who defected to China
January 4, 2007 8:37 AM   Subscribe

At the end of the Korean War, James Veneris was an American POW awaiting repatriation. But when his time came, he—along with twenty other Americans and a Briton—declined to leave and chose to cast his lot with Mao and the Chinese Communist Party. Over time, almost all of these men became disillusioned with Marxism and eventually returned to their homelands. The Cold War that informed their decisions has become a chapter in the history books but the story of Western defectors to the Communist bloc is just now being written.
posted by jason's_planet (9 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lee Harvey Oswald's life followed a similar trajectory.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2007


It's really ironic that the image of the tyrannical, devious Communists was that they would create Manchurian candidates. Instead, they sent them to work in pulp factories.
posted by dhartung at 10:42 AM on January 4, 2007


What a great story, thanks for the link!
posted by eparchos at 12:32 PM on January 4, 2007


Lee Harvey Oswald's life followed a similar trajectory.

Good point. His defection and life in the Eastern bloc would make good material for another FPP of its own.

Instead, they sent them to work in pulp factories.

Well, would you trust a defector with an important position?

What a great story, thanks for the link!

You're welcome! I'm glad you liked it!
posted by jason's_planet at 1:02 PM on January 4, 2007


That 4th link seemed more interested in dumping on John Walker Lindh than the Korean POWs so I just quit reading.
posted by wrapper at 7:12 PM on January 4, 2007


I read an interview with Veneris in a Chinese magazine a while back, which was the first I'd heard of these men. There's a recent picture of him and his wife, and one of him as a prisoner of war, in this Chinese article. There's an interview with Howard Adams, the other man who stayed, online here. It says he ended up as an English teacher at Shandong Medical University in the latter years of his working life, but sounds like he was at the same factory as Veneris for a while, and they were sent to university in Beijing together.
Absolutely fascinating story on so many levels - like how his 1940s English colloquialisms were preserved, and the hand-wringing back home about how someone could choose commie China over the US. Not read the PDF yet, but the articles also seem not to mention that a lot of the men who chose to stay were black, from what I read. You can imagine other reasons why the US of the time wasn't so appealing。
Have to agree with wrapper about the whole tenor of how that last story is written too.
posted by Abiezer at 8:28 PM on January 4, 2007


Some more pics here. Mr Veneris was still serving a purpose for the Party hacks at the People's Daily in 2000.
posted by Abiezer at 8:36 PM on January 4, 2007


Great post and moving story jason's_planet, thought about it all day. Like Abiezer, I felt it was fascinating on many levels, including Veneris being caught in a cultural and linguistic time warp with his English. I could relate to that with the mere decade I spent in India from 1975 to the end of '85. I wish Veneris had written a book about his life or that somebody would help him write his story. What he must have seen and lived through all those years!
posted by nickyskye at 10:41 PM on January 4, 2007


that 4th link seemed more interested in dumping on John Walker Lindh

I guess the reporter had to have a hook to draw the audience in to read a story on an otherwise obscure topic. But that is a legitimate criticism.


Absolutely fascinating story on so many levels - like how his 1940s English colloquialisms were preserved, and the hand-wringing back home about how someone could choose commie China over the US. Not read the PDF yet, but the articles also seem not to mention that a lot of the men who chose to stay were black, from what I read. You can imagine other reasons why the US of the time wasn't so appealing。


Thanks! The CPUSA had tens of thousands of members at the end of WWII and probably hundreds of thousands of sympathizers. McCarthyism didn't occur in a vacuum, in other words. They were reacting to something. They exaggerated the scale and scope of American Communism BUT there were Communists out there in the factories, on the docks, in the ranks of infantrymen. There were probably more than 21 guys in the services who sympathized with North Korea and China. The ones in the article just happened to be captured and took the opportunity to defect.

Thanks for the additional links, Abeizer.

Great post and moving story jason's_planet, thought about it all day. Like Abiezer, I felt it was fascinating on many levels, including Veneris being caught in a cultural and linguistic time warp with his English.

Thanks, nickyskye!

He did return to the States for a short visit in '76 but returned to China. I guess it had been too long and he had become too acclimated to life in the PRC.

He's probably stuck in a cultural time warp as well. I read another article about the guy who defected in '65, the one with a kidnapped Japanese wife. (I think that's who it was.) A reporter asked him what surprised him about life in America after forty years in North Korea. He said he was surprised to see so many black policeman and surprised that there were so many restrictions on smoking.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:47 AM on January 6, 2007


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