Reactionary — Revised 2000, By 1SG Lloyd Pate, U.S. Army (Ret)

(Vantage Press, 2001; 200 pp. $21.95 — ISBN 0533138337).

Funny how men from the wrong side of the tracks, those eulogized by the blues and down-home and country-and-western singers, resisted Communist attempts to brainwash them in Korean hell camps.

Sergeant Lloyd Pate, was one of the hard-core, the “reactionaries,” who fought the captors at every step of the way, using leadership, his love of country and common sense.

Pate was captured at the end of December 1950, after his unit had no means to further resist. His story describes facets of the march north seldom told. Contrary to popular opinion, most soldiers helped their wounded buddies until six months of starvation and torture sapped their physical and mental abilities to resist.

Sergeant Pate pointed out approximately 5% of the soldiers supported the Communists for extra rations; 5% of the hard-core, such as Lloyd Pate, fought them and paid a terrible price. The remainder tended to sway. Pate found them most dangerous of all.

He tells in detail of the lack of medical care and food, the brutal wind out of Siberia up on the Yalu, and the tactics captors used to try to break them down. Pate found the keys to success were organization, trust and unity.

Surprisingly, some of the mildest of prisoners fought the hardest. One told his brutal interrogator, “One of these damned days Uncle Sam will come here with tanks and run all you back in that damned river.” Our black troops simply laughed at their conversion attempts. So did the Hispanics. They said, “These are OUR problems, not yours, and we will solve them!” Pate never lost his faith in those towers of strength. There were attempts to escape from the camps on the Yalu. That’s the first time I had ever heard that.

Certainly, some crossed the line. One went to prison for life, based mainly on Pate’s testimony.

The collective experiences of those men resulted in the superb performance of our prisoners in Viet-Nam. While the Code of Conduct is not perfect, at least it provided guidance for American prisoners.

This is a good account of POW life and survival. Pate was awarded the modest Army Commendation Medal (“Green Weenie”) for his dress blouse. He deserved something better. I think any reader would agree. Lloyd Pate was truly “hard-core!”