POW Sgt. Willie Joe Dorrill released from Korean prison in 1953

Published 4:58 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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On December 1, 1950, Sgt. Willie Joe Dorrill was reported missing in Korea.  It was 13 and one half months before his Mother, Mrs. Jean (Randie) Rogers heard from her son after his capture.  After nearly 3 years in a prison camp, he was released in 1953 from No. 3 prison camp in Korea.  He was among 150 Americans released at this time.  Sgt. Dorrill volunteered for the Army on August 9, 1948.  He spent 14 months on Okinawa.  On July 12, 1950, he sailed for Korea and arrived there on August 3, 1950.  In September 1953, this article was published about his experience as a prisoner of war.

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

Sgt. Willie Joe Dorrill, 25, of Troy, told a representative of the Associated Press assigned to get a special interview for his hometown newspaper, The Troy Messenger, that shortly before the Korean armistice was signed, several American prisoners “who had given the Reds a hard time” were removed from his prison camp and never seen again.

     “For all I know they’re still there,” the short, stocky sergeant said after his arrival aboard the troop ship Marine Phenix from Korea.

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     “I think some are being withheld,” he said.  He expressed belief many of them are dead.

Dorrill appeared in good spirits as he left the ship, in spite of nearly three years of hardship as a Red prisoner.  He arrived with 377 other Americans on the ship and was to be streaked cross country to arrive in Montgomery, Ala., Monday where his mother and some friends waited to give him a tearful, joyous welcome.

Dorrill described a Red kangaroo court known as a “Court of Condemnation” which he said pronounced sentences on himself and other prisoners accused by the Reds of being reactionary—meaning they resisted Communist indoctrination.

“They marched them in with about 500 guards with burp guns and read off our sentences.  Some guys got one year, others nine months.  I got six months.

Dorrill said he was accused on 13 counts of being a reactionary mainly for his activities in trying to persuade fellow prisoners to resist the Red attempt to win them over.

“We tried to mess up their studies—we would tear books up and give wrong answers and we would work on the Red stars,” which he said was the name given fellow prisoners who appears to “go along” with the Reds.

He said he and other POW’s persuaded many to resist the Red propaganda line.  He asserted many who did not resist were “opportunists.”

Dorrill was captured when his 2nd Division unit was overrun by the Chinese on Inchon bridgehead in 1950.  He spent 33 months in captivity.

He said his feet froze on the long march to the Yalu River prison camp and expected to have surgery performed on them.

But first, he plans to see his mother, Mrs. Jean Rogers of Troy.

Dorrill said he had a girl back in Troy, but doesn’t know whether she’s still there.  He added he plans to re-enlist in the Army.

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.