By Hannah M. Hayner (Fort Drum Public Affairs)October 30, 2008
A veteran with ties to a 10th Mountain Division unit who fought, was injured and held captive during the Korean War has come to Fort Drum to share his story.
William Abbott fought with 31st Infantry Regiment when he was taken as a prisoner of war in 1950 by the Chinese during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
During the battle, men all around him were killed, seriously injured or captured. Abbott suffered his own injuries: a mortar shell landed next to him, sending him flying through the air; he was shot in the chest and fell onto broken ice, which added to the injury; and he was shot again, on the other side of his chest.
He eventually passed out, and a medic thought he was dead because of his extensive injuries. He took Abbott's dog tags for proof of who he was and sent them back to Washington.
Chinese soldiers thought he was dead, too, and left him lying there in about minus-40-degree weather with no shoes, jacket, shirt or bandages to cover his wounds. As he was planning how to get through the snow with bare feet, Chinese soldiers returned and took him on a long journey to a POW camp. His extremities were frozen, and he could not use one arm and one leg.
"I had to crawl through the snow," he said. "We had to go about 40 miles. I remember crawling through a trail of blood from troops who had traveled ahead of me. It's rather vivid in my mind. I remember Soldiers would fall from exhaustion, and I'd go back and drag them to where they could rest."
Abbott was 19 at the time of his capture, and he spent his 20th and 21st birthdays as a POW. He was punished and abused many times, but he said he had a good rapport with many Chinese officers behind the scenes.
"They knew I wasn't going to help them with their propaganda," he said. "In private, they respected me for standing firm on my oath to my country."
He said through the whole experience, he never even thought of death as an option.
"I don't know how I made it, except by the grace of God, but death never entered my mind," Abbott said. "I heard a voice, saw a vision that pushed me on."
In the years following Abbott's return home, he got married, had children, left the Army as a decorated veteran, went to college and worked hard at various careers.
He wrote a book called "Blood Runs Red White and Blue," published in 2007, which tells details of his experience as a POW, as well as life as a disabled veteran after the war.
Abbott said the title of the book actually came from a Chinese soldier. There was a puddle of blood on the ground, and people asked whose blood it was. One Soldier suggested that it was Abbott's.
A Chinese soldier said, "No, it can't be Abbott's blood. That blood is red. His blood runs red, white and blue."
Abbott said his hope is that the book will inspire patriotism among readers, especially present-day Soldiers.
"I hope young people will read it and get a fire in their bellies," he said. "If we can instill in troops a little patriotism and help them realize that just to walk this earth in this country is the greatest gift in the world."
In the introduction to his book, Abbott wrote a message to service members, which includes these words: "God has given you an opportunity to be a citizen and a defender of the freest, most prosperous nation on the face of the earth. That freedom has been preserved through the sweat and blood of others. ... With a lump in your throat, a tear of compassion in your eye and God's hands on your shoulders, be resolute in your heart that freedom shall not perish from this land on your watch."
Abbott will be at the Fort Drum Post Exchange through noon Monday to meet community members and sign copies of his book.