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Pvt Harry Joseph Addesso

Pvt Harry Joseph Addesso

Birth
New York, USA
Death 28 Oct 2006 (aged 75)
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 54 Site 603
Memorial ID 19854480 · View Source
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Bad luck followed Harry Addesso from the time he was born, but he never gave up and never lost hope. Born in New York City and abandoned by his parents as a small child, Addesso was raised in an orphanage."I graduated from high school in 1948 and decided to sign up for Uncle Sam's army so I could make some money and see the world," Addesso said.He kissed his girlfriend goodbye and took a seat on his first-ever train ride. He headed across the country to Los Angeles and then went by military transport to Northern Japan for commando training.After Addesso fractured his right ankle in Japan, he was transferred to a cavalry unit. He didn't like the cavalry and requested reassignment. On July 1, 1950, just weeks after Addesso transferred into the 24th Infantry Division, they flew to Korea to fortify the South Korean Army perimeter around Pusan, an important industrial port city."Two-hundred thousand soldiers from North Korea attacked the 2,000 troops fighting with South Korea. We didn't have a chance," Addesso said.Staff Sergeant Harry Addesso was one of 763 men taken prisoner in that first battle the US fought in the Korean War.During the month of November of 1950, the POWs were forced to march 120 miles to an internment camp near the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang."I just remember walking and being cold and hungry. The guards stole our shoes, so we were barefoot walking through the mountains. And, we were just wearing thin prison pajamas in the cold," he said.Addesso describes how their feet bled from open sores covered with pus."Four guys were attached to each other with wire around their wrists, so we had to do everything together."The skin on their wrists was raw and cut through by the wires that were not removed day or night."We slept piled on top of each other in the mountain forests. The guys on top were cold, the men on the bottom were hot. We checked each morning to see who froze to death and who smothered during the night."And, he said they were always hungry. Once a day the captors set out pots of cooked maize, resembling rice, for the POWs to scoop into their mouths with their fingers. Addesso not only suffered from his recent ankle fracture, but, like many others, he had also sustained gunshot wounds during the battle before his capture. These wounds were not treated."If a guard saw we were hurting, they would hit us there with a rifle barrel," he said. "Every day guys died." Often, he says, they were shot to death by North Korean guards. They called the meanest guard ‘Tiger,' so the prisoners took the name ‘Tiger Survivors.' One hundred-thirty men died along the way.After arriving at an internment camp on the Yalu River border of China, men died from beriberi, dysentery and starvation. "I decided to do what I could to rise above the depressive situation and lift everyone's spirits," he said.He formed close friendships with three other men: Eugene Scott, Ray Simpson and "Shorty" Estabrook. He and Scott put on entertainment as a duo affectionately remembered as "Duke and Scott."They made zoot suit costumes from their uniforms."We took a couple of outfits and dyed them in tea and put them in the sun to dry."He said they sang and danced to bring some light-hearted entertainment to both prisoners and captors during those dark days of war.When the Chinese took over the internment camp in the spring of 1951, the conditions improved for the prisoners. Instead of being confined in small quarters, they were allowed to walk around the camp. Addesso spent time in the camp library, where he read works of Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck.When the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, only 40 percent of the POWs taken with Addesso were still alive. He was gravely ill when he arrived in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea for Operation Big Switch. When he crossed Freedom Bridge into the American-controlled area in August of 1953, the six-foot-tall Addesso weighed 90 pounds. After medical evaluations, most POWs were sent home in hospital ships, but Addesso was taken by ambulance to a field hospital and was later flown for medical care in Tokyo, Hawaii, San Francisco and eventually in St. Albins in New York.After recovering from the physical ills he sustained in captivity, he had other hurdles to face. While all the other soldiers had a place or a person to return to, orphaned Addesso didn't."My girlfriend married someone else when she heard I was missing in action." He shakes his head. "I couldn't blame her.""When I got out of the hospital I decided to take it easy for a while. I wanted to be a teenager again and do all the things I'd missed," he said.He frequented entertainment spots and drank deeply of the carefree life he missed while he was in Korea. He eventually went to college and earned a degree in accounting, then went to work in the entertainment industry. As singer Sarah Vaughan's manager, he traveled around the world and enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle."It was red-carpet treatment everywhere we went."When Addesso retired, he and his wife Carol settled in Temecula near his three POW buddies. He and Estabrook said goodbye to Scott and Simpson, who each passed away last year. The remaining two often get together with other Tiger Survivors."There are things we went through that no one else can understand. Sometimes the memories get to me," he said.He said scenes from his past haunt him when he watches events of the present war unfolding."When I feel low, I go sit in the garden until I get over it." Addesso also said he counts his blessings to put things into perspective."I am thankful to be alive. Each new day is a bonus day I might not have gotten. I don't regret enlisting in the Army. I got adventure. I traveled and met a lot of interesting people," he said.When asked where he acquired the strength of character to suffer torment and starvation as a POW, he said: "When I was in the orphanage, the nuns took us to church and I guess some of it stuck. I am not a religious person, but I always knew God was with me and that everything would turn out all right."
(Article from the Valley News November 5, 2004 Rebecca Marshall Farnbach)


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  • Created by: Hope
  • Added: 12 Jun 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 19854480
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Pvt Harry Joseph Addesso (19 Jul 1931–28 Oct 2006), Find A Grave Memorial no. 19854480, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Hope (contributor 46790939) .