Korean War POWs surprise reunion 65 years in the making
KERVILLE, TEXAS - It is not every day you get to hear real stories from a Korean War Prisoner of War.
"I knew they were going to kill me when they got to grilling me,” Lt. Allie Burton recalled.
In front of a room full of friends and family, Burton remembered November 6, 1952. It was the day the enemy shot down his Air Force jet near the Chong-Chong River in North Korea.
"The first thing I could think of was I wanted a last smoke before I die,” Burton said. “I just knew they were going to shoot me in the back."
North Korean and Chinese forces captured Burton and held him in captivity.
"I could see myself being hauled off into china at the end of the hostility and never heard of again,” Burton said.
One month into being what he called a "war criminal," he was finally reunited with three Americans. One of those Americans was Corporal Jim Alder. The two had not seen each other since they were freed 65 years ago. Alder now lives in Phoenix, Arizona. He surprised Burton while Burton was telling war stories.
“I’m looking for a fighter pilot. Is there one around this house?” Alder asked as he walked into the room.
“Who’s this?” Burton asked. “What’s your name?”
Before Alder said who his was, he told Burton he was going to pull his leg for a bit.
When Burton was in captivity, he kept a journal he called "Podo," which was a Korean origin word he said American prisoners used for themselves. Inside of the book was hand-written notes of his POW experiences and a log of other POWs who were held in the same camp as him. Burton went through the names in the book until he saw Alder’s name.
“Jim Alder. You’re not Jim Alder, are you?” Burton asked.
The two picked up as if decades had not passed.
"Do you remember how cold it was that winter? 53, 59 degrees below. Remember everybody around the pot stove trying to get warm, your back was freezing?" Alder asked Burton.
They even made jokes at times.
"We thought we were God's gift to women as fighter pilots," Alder said.
“Oh yeah,” Burton replied.
The surprise reunion also happened to fall on Alder’s 87th birthday.