Nielsen -Henderson List

Over the years, Weíve 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.

Itís 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. wasnít 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. Itís been our mission on every trip to the Archives to find that list.

Weíve 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 werenít 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 hereís 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 didnít 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 at all.

Jack doesnít 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 didn't return.

Apparently, the interrogators (aboard the ship and those later on land) were impressed with Nielsen and Hendersonís recollection of other men from Camp 2 who didnít 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 stations

The Air Force then compiled the famous Nielsen-Henderson List in Sep 1953. 

Weíre 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