Ex-POW aids search for soldier’s remains
Stars and Stripes August 20, 2006
GYEONGGI PROVINCE, South Korea — Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph L. Annello is in the midst of a trip back in time.
He was held as a prisoner of war by the Chinese here more than 50 years ago.
Today, he’s back to help find the remains of a fellow prisoner.
Annello’s story began on April 24, 1951, when two divisions of Chinese soldiers with heavy artillery advanced on the then-sergeant’s company during the height of the Korean War.
Two days before, the Chinese had begun their offensive against the Kansas line, which ran a few miles north of the 38th Parallel dividing the two Koreas.
While fighting the larger force the best he could, Annello remembers a bullet striking his leg.
A grenade exploded as he fell, sending metal fragments into his back.
“The next morning, a Chinese soldier prodded me with a bayonet,” Annello said. “He motioned me to get up, but I couldn’t.”
When the Chinese forced a group of 20 prisoners to march, Sgt. Hiroshi Miyamura carried Annello about 15 miles before he was ordered to drop him.
“They figured I wasn’t worth the price of a bullet, so they left me there,” he said.
Two days later, another Chinese unit loaded him on a pushcart and carried him to an outpost where five other prisoners of war shared a shack with barnyard animals.
Although they were prisoners at a medical unit, they received no food or care.
The Chinese allowed the one prisoner who could walk to get them water from the river each day.
For more than a month, they survived on “roots, dandelions and anything else we thought was edible.”
During that time, one of the soldiers died from his injuries. The remaining prisoners buried him.
Fifty-five years later, Annello is back at the scene.
It looks far greener and a flood has sloped the land but he still remembers several features of the property.
After the soldier died, the prisoners knew they had to find a way to escape.
While fetching water one night, Air Force 2nd Lt. Melvin Shadduck dove in the river and swam for three days before making contact with the 5th Cavalry Regiment.
Shortly after, five tanks surrounded the encampment and whisked Annello and the others to safety.
Three years later, Annello picked up a copy of Newsweek and saw a picture of Miyamura, the man who had carried him, being awarded the Medal of Honor.
Annello traveled to Gallup, N.M., and found his comrade in arms.
“You’re dead!” Miyamura said, stunned but elated.
“No, I’m not,” Annello said with a smile.
Annello remained in the Army until 1970, retiring as command sergeant major of U.S. Forces Japan.