Manassas Manor

by George F. Drake

 
Manassas Manor was the name given to the small orphanage created by the officers and men of the 326th Communication Reconnaissance Company, an Army Security Agency unit located between Seoul and the DMZ.
 
The documents and photos herewith presented constitute a story of one military unit's response to the dire need to help the children of war torn Korea. Manassas Manor existed for less than one year as it was opened in January of 1952 and closed in November of that year and the children moved to the Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage. Even though the orphans were moved from the small dwelling near the company motor pool the servicemen in this small unit continued to support "their" kids in their new location.
 
Several of the children who lived in this orphanage found out about the Korean War Children's Memorial project and came to the dedication ceremony in July of 2003 and met, for the first time in 50 years, the author of this web site (former Sgt. George F. Drake) who was a member of the 326th CRC in 1952 and 1953. He was able to give them copies of these photos. One of them remarked that Drake gave them back their childhood as they had no photos of their years in the orphanage.
 
We begin this story with several articles that appeared in the Manassas, Virginia newspaper that tell about how and why this orphanage was created. Only after the Korean War Children's Memorial dedication ceremony, over 50 years after their publication, did we find out about these articles. They were sent to us by Col. Ulyses X. White, USA, Retired, member of the Manassas, VA, City Council. A year later, in November of 2004, we made contact with other members of the 326th CRC who were actual participants in the decision to create the orphanage. Here is the story of the founding of Manassas Manor.
 
Manassas Captain's Company Adopts Korean Orphans
Cpt. Consolvo ... titles Korean Orphanage 'Manassas Manor
Ltr. from Charles Stephen, one of the founders of "Manassas Manor" 9 Nov. 2004
Ltr. from Chuck Stephen, Dec. 1951, telling of the horrible conditions of the orphanage.
Flyer sent to friends in Stephen's home town calling for help for the orphans.

 Photos of the move of the orphans to the 326th area and their first night in the new site.

 

 
  
"Manassas Manor, How It Started". Note on Bulletn Board in company area, Korea.
12 April 1953 "Manassas Manor is No More" Ltr to editor when the orphanage closed.
 
Recently Chuck Kolodjeski, who was a member of the 326th CRC in late 1951 through about May of 1952, sent me a small group of photos of the kids at Manassas Manor taken in early 1952. They predate my photos so I show them here.
 
 
 
Manassas Manor was only a short distance from the company gate. Here are a few photos I took of the kids and their home in September, October and November of 1952. Click on the thumbnail for a larger photo with a description.
 
 
  
 
Before we moved the children to the Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage I took a photo of each of the children in Manassas Manor. Here are portraits of 30 of the 50+ residents along with five of the staff. I don't know if I failed to take pictures of the others or have since lost the negatives. Frankly, I am surprised I saved as much as I did.
 
  
 
 
 
On 22 November of 2004 I got a note from Jim Ludwig that read as follows: "I was with Detachment Dog of the 330th CRC. We were located in the NE corner of Korea a few hundred yards in from the Sea of Japan. At the end of July, 1953, just before the cease fire, we were in danger of being over run so we had to evacuate to Seoul. We were tempory assigned to occupy an area with the 326th CRC. ... Perhaps you recall when we came in. We brought with us a Korean boy about 6 to 8 years old who lived with us up North. We called him "Mike." When we got to the 326th our CO [Commanding Officer] said we had to put him in an orphanage. He was very upset and didn't want to go. ... I have six pictures taken [when I visited him later] which I will share with you and your project."
 
 
 
 
 
Among the items that I had in my "Keepsakes - Do Not Thow Away" box were carbon copies of some of the letters I had written as Corresponding Secretary of the company orphanage committee as well as other documents relating to the orphanage. I even found that I had the negatives of over 200 black and white photographs of the children, the orphanage and the scenes around the area. Here are some letters selected from more than a hundred.
 
9 July 1952, Letter written by James Smith who preceeded me as secretary.
List of the children in the orphanage.
December 1952, note regarding the Christmas Party
Jan. 23, 1953, Ltr. to Bowman Dairy, Illinois
Jan. 29, 1953, "kids climbing into my army, hugging me, seeking attention"
Jan. 31, 1953, "kids starving and freezing"
Jan. 23, 1953, "a crying girl at the barbed wire fence"
April 14, 1953 "Girl Scout Troop"
April 14, 1953, "Needs of the school"
April 15, 1953, "Tonight I had a feeling of elation."
April 17, 1953, "Each was allowed to choose but one toy."
April 22, 1953, "List of packages received."
April 22, 1953, "Over 500 letters sent last month."
April 22, 1953, "the guys donated $252 at the pay table this month"
April 23, 1953, "it is such faith that keeps us going."
April 23, 1953, "Disabled American Veterans: thanks for your donation."
April 29, 1953, "Ltr. to mother of soldier who died in Korea."
May 17, 1953, "This week two GIs start giving English Lessons."
May 17, 1953, "My reward is watching the children get well."
May 19, 1953, "During the last six weeks we sent out over 1,000 letters."
May 22, 1953, "Over 22 parcels from the people of Schnectedy."
6 Dec. 1952, "I was deeply moved..."
 
Here are some of the newspaper articles resulting from letters sent home by guys in the comany. I include copies of two "draft" letters distributed to the fellows as suggestions.
 
31 Oct. 1952, "Soldier in Korea Appeals for Clothing"
Dec. 1952 Letters that appeared in the Utica, NY newspaper.
24 Nov. 1952, "6-year old aids Korean Orphans."
19 March 1953, "Rotterdam Soldier "Dad" to 274 orphans."
Jan. 1953. Draft letter to be sent to home town newspaper.
7 April, 1953, "Aid for Korean Orphans."
1 April, 1953, "I Like it here - George Grim"
November, 1952, Draft letter to be sent to home town papers.
Feb.-Mar. 1953? "Troops Aiding Korean Needy."
April 1953, "Church asks aid for Orphans.
 
 
 

Utica Tool and Die Company in Utica, NY ran a campaign for Korean orphanage aid for the 326th CRC orphanage. Here are a few photos from that campaign.

 
7 November 1952, Ltr. from Drake to home town paper.
1 Jan 1953, copy of letter sent to 150 persons who sent aid to orphanage.
27 March 1953, Schenectedy Union Star article. 
 
When I returned home to the 'States and began college at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, California (January, 1964) I was elected President of the International Relations Club. The club organized aid drives for the orphans in the local public school district. Here are stories about the results of those drives and a few photos.
 
1954, "freeze to death before being found.
1954 "MP College Students in Second Drive for Orphans"
7 Jan 1955 "Ten Tons of Gifts for Korea"
"Pipeline Korea", press release in Dec. 1954 for College Aid Drive
Ltr. to School Principals re. Orphanage aid drive.
28 July 1954, "It is wonderful what all of you have done for us."
10 August 1954, "Report on the orphanage."
 

Photo page of the college drive for aid for the orphanage.

 
 
 
 
Half a century later, at the dedication of the Korean War Children's Memorial in Bellingham, Washington, on 27 July of 2003 Eddie Cho and Robert Kang, two former residents of Manassas Manor, came to partake in the activities. Here is a copy of the letter that Eddie Cho read at the banquet, their photos and the plaque they presented to Dr. Drake..
 
 
 
 

Going back to Korea 52 years later.

 
In August of 2004 I had the opportunity to return to Seoul for two weeks and took advantage of that visit to make contact with two more of the children of Manassas Manor. Eddie Cho gave me the phone numbers of two of the children and when staying in the Seventh Day Adventist Guest House in Seoul I asked one of the staff to call the first name of the two that Eddie had given me. He was told someone at the guest house wanted to see him. He came that evening wondering why I wanted to meet him.
 
I first showed him some photographs of Manassas Manor orphanage and he looked at the pictures without comprehending what they were. Then I showed him a portrait I had taken of him when he was but 11 years old (he is now 63). He looked at that photo, his eyes opened wide, his mouth quivered and he began to cry. He jumped up and hugged me, realizing what these pictures were. We found photos of his sister, now deceased. Of course he had no photos of himself or her at this age nor photos of the orphanage where he spent almost a year of his life nor of the SDA orphanage where he lived many years. I gave him about 20 photographs of himself, his sister and his classmates in the orphanage. He insisted on taking me immediately to a local restaurant and treating me to a Korean meal. It was a very simple restaurant on the second floor of a nearby building located at the end of a long hall past the beauty salon. The decor may have been simple but the food was great!
 
Later in the week he met me at the gate of the SDA compound and asked what time I would be back that evening. I told him I would probably return about 6 p.m. He said someone wanted to meet me. When I returned to the compound that evening an elegantly dressed woman was there with Mr. So. She was another of the children of Manassas Manor. She had several large shopping bags in which she had elegant gifts for me. All three of us went to another Korean restaurant nearby for another good dinner. She explained that she studied nursing (the children from Manassas Manor were moved to the SDA 'Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage' where there was also a nursing school.) She subsequently married a doctor, had several children who were educated in universities in the US. On leaving she requested that her name not be posted on my web site or in the newspapers and that her picture not be identified. Her concern was that she and her family would loose status in Korean society if anyone knew that she had been raised in an orphanage. When we parted I gave her a collection of photographs of herself and 'brothers and sisters' (the other orphans) in the orphanage where she grew up. Whether she ever shows them to her family I would be interested in knowing.
 
 
 

The 326th CRC and the men of the company.

 
Earlier in this document we presented photos of Manassas Manor Orphanage and some of the children residents of our little home for lost children. Here I would like to present some photos of the men of our military unit, the 326th Communications Reconnaissance Company. Perhaps these photos and those that follow on the environment around our unit will convey to the reader what life was like in Korea in 1952 and 1953. Remember, hundreds of other military units serving in Korea also were helping the children. This is an attempt to convey to the reader the situation under which these men (and, in numerous instances, women) served.
 
 
 
 
 

The area near our company compound.

 
Our unit was located in an area of large rice paddies near a small village. They had an offal smell about them. In the not too far distance were mountains where I would go hiking when I could get away from the company. There one had to stay on the trails used by brush and wood gatherers or risk being blown apart by land mines. I was intrigued by the old buildings, grave stones, the markets and the local folks. Here are a few photos I took of the area near our company.
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
Here I post a special request to my former colleagues of the 326th CRC, the 501st CRG and also to all membes of ASA Korea to make a donation to this project. You guys were a shining example of what this project is all about, i.e., GIs helping the kids. Now help me pay for the construction of the memorial pavilion honoring you and all the others servicemen and women who, during the Korean War and the years following, helped the kids in their time of dire need.