American prisoners of war (POW) in Korea endured unimaginable hardship and pain while in captivity. American POWs suffered through long marches through the freezing mountains of Korea, were given little food or medical attention, and were sometimes executed on the spot when captured. Upon reaching the permanent POW camps along the Yalu River, POWs encountered a new challenge: Communist indoctrination. When the war ended, twenty-one American POWs chose to stay behind with their Chinese captors instead of returning. Additionally, American POWs were accused of collaborating with the enemy, and some military officials and journalists were suspicious of some POWs having become brainwashed communists.
This thesis analyzes how American POWs became viewed as threats to national security and attempts to explain the betrayal of American soldiers caused some to believe that American society was ill-preparing the next generation to fight the Cold War. On the other hand, Americans who were sympathetic to the plight of American POWs revealed that there were limits some were willing to go to fight the Cold War.
Dr. Thomas Knock
Dr. Crista DeLuzio
Dr. Jeffrey Engel
Number of Pages
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
Fearer, Brett, ""Prodigals of Traitors: American POWs during the Korean War, Brainwashing, and National Security"" (2023). History Theses and Dissertations. 18.