© 2022 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Remembering the Tiger Death March

Wayman Simpson was captured in 1950, soon after the Korean War began. As a prisoner of war, Simpson came under the command of a Korean officer nicknamed The Tiger, who led the prisoners on a brutal, nine-day trek that claimed nearly 100 American lives.

The ordeal came to be known as the Tiger Death March.

"On Halloween night in 1950, the Tiger took over," Simpson says. "We nicknamed him The Tiger because he was so mean."

Sixteen of the men were wounded and couldn't walk. "Him and his buddies machine-gunned every one of them," Simpson says. "We knew then we [were] in trouble. He shot a man a mile on the march."

On the second day, the prisoners asked The Tiger to slow the pace down.

"Let them march til they die," Simpson says the Korean officer replied.

"He wasn't going to give us any water — that's the way he was going to kill all of us," Simpson says.

The only water the prisoners could get was from the snow they ate, he says.

The march ended at a POW camp near the Siberian border.

"I had been in there a little over 38 months," Simpson says. "We hadn't shaved, cut our hair, brushed our teeth, [taken] a bath or nothing."

The men were also denied medical care. Simpson says he had open wounds in his leg for more than two years. "I finally poured boiling water in them and they healed up after that."

Simpson was released from the camp in 1953.

"I weighed 77 pounds when I came home. That's pretty thin on a 6-foot-3 frame, you know?" he says with a mild chuckle.

"That's about the only way we can get by is to joke about it," says Simpson, who is now 87.

"A lot of youngsters died since we [came] home because they ... just dwelled on it all the time. I ... make a joke about it ... it don't worry me none. I just let it go."

Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.