Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Hawkins

David Hawkins of Oklahoma City was the youngest of 20 prisoners to defect during the Korean War. Hawkins talks about his defection and why he eventually returned to the United States.

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Guest: David Hawkins

WALLACE: What you are about to witness is an unrehearsed uncensored interview. My name is Mike Wallace. The cigarette is Philip Morris.


WALLACE: My guest tonight is the youngest U.S. army turncoat of the Korean War. You see him behind me; he is David Hawkins of Oklahoma City. We'll try to find out why Dave Hawkins turned his back on the United States. My guest's opinions are not necessarily mine, the station's, or my sponsor's, Philip Morris Incorporated, but whether you agree or disagree, we feel that none will deny the right of these views to be broadcast. We'll talk with David Hawkins in just a moment.


WALLACE: And now to our story. Three years ago, the United States was stunned by an announcement from war torn Korea. U.S army private, David Hawkins and twenty other prisoners of the communists had become turncoats. They had renounced their own country and disappeared behind Red China's bamboo curtain. The only son of a lady Evangelist, David Hawkins was then twenty years old. Let's try to find out tonight, among other things, why he became a turncoat, and why he returned home just four months ago. Dave, first of all, let me ask you this. Unlike a good many of the turncoats who'd been brought up in near poverty, you had it comparatively easy as a boy, as I understand it. You had a fine home, you received an education. Yet you became a turncoat; you renounced your country. Why? What did you have against the United States?

HAWKINS: Well, Mike it wasn't actually that I had something against the United States. We did spend over three years in captivity. I was, uh, captured only seventeen years old. And I underwent the mass indoctrination program that the Chinese instigated in the camp, and there was a lot of things that they told me that sounded to me like common sense. At the same time, I... I have believed this and I wanted to see for myself. And so, when the decision came, or when it was put to me, I made the decision to go to Red China.

WALLACE: How long after you'd been in captivity did you make the decision to go to Red China?

HAWKINS: Just about two days before repatriation.

WALLACE: In other words, about three years.

HAWKINS: After three years.

WALLACE: Yes. And you said they told you things. What... what kind of things did they tell you about the United States and about Red China, that convinced you that what you'd learned in the first seventeen years of your life was untrue, and that they had a good deal more to offer you than we did here at home?

HAWKINS: Well, basically, when they started these lectures, they told us about the Korean War, asked us a lot of questions about why you came five thousand miles away from home to fight in a civil war that was none of our business? And they pointed out that we didn't know why we were fighting, that we don't understand what the word 'Communism' means. And it went very closely to the way a lot of fellows were thinking.

WALLACE: A lot of fellows? How many actually, decided to turn to go to Red China out of thousands and thousands, tens-of-thousands?

HAWKINS: Well, only twenty-two.

WALLACE: Just twenty-two.

HAWKINS: Yes. It's correct.

WALLACE: Well that's what I'm after in you if we can find it tonight. Why? What was there in your background, what was there in your mind, that made you one of those twenty-two? Uh... in explaining why you became a turncoat, you said the following in last week's "Look" magazine, which I have here. You said, "I had personal reasons for not wanting to go home." What were those personal reasons?

HAWKINS: Well, you've pointed out that I had, in your opinion, a very good family life. But, I personally didn't consider it that way. I was raised in what you would call a broken home, and my father left for overseas in the Second World War when I was about six years old. I didn't see him again until I was twelve. And during that time, my mother had become very religious, and I spent a lot of my time in church, and I missed the idea of why I didn't have a father. And I didn't have what I considered to be a happy family life like other kids, that were my classmates and etcetera.

WALLACE: Uhmmmm... in a book called Twenty-one Stayed by Virginia Paisley, you quote your mother as taking part of the blame for your actions. Your mother said, "I'm sure I was too strict on him. I raised him as a little fellow not to engage in worldly things outside of Church and Boy Scouts. He just didn't have any other activities." Now, certainly there is nothing in the Boy Scouts or in Church that would turn you against the United States.

HAWKINS: You must... I wasn't against the United States. It was just the fact that everything that they told us was about ...About themselves, and their government, their way of life, and the great stride that they were taking to reach a Socialism. But I noticed a lot of fellows in the camp that tried to raise arguments, to stand to bolster their side of the story. But the fellows really didn't understand how we had a United States, how the government worked, and for every argument that... that one of us would try to put up, the Chinese could quote pages and paragraphs out of books to refute that.

WALLACE: In other words, you mean perhaps that in your seventeen years prior to being inducted, you had not been taught either at home, or in school, or in your church, or wherever enough about your own country, enough about the freedoms that we have to offer, that we share in this country.

HAWKINS: I find that personally it's something that I took for granted. I knew we had the highest method of living, the highest living standards. But it's something, like I say, that was taken for granted. I didn't understand how we got it, how we fought for it, or anything.

WALLACE: Tell me this, another explanation of the turncoats was suggested in the 'New York Times', on August 14th, 1955. The late Anthony Laviero wrote as follows, he said, "Officials believed that most of the turncoats really were not converts to communism, but were themselves guilty of crimes against their fellow Americans in captivity and did not wish to return to face the music." What about that?

HAWKINS: I don't consider that true. None of the fellows that were with me were that. I read some articles also on this, on clippings that we received while in China, that said that a lot of us were guilty of murder, or had committed acts of treason while in the camp, or stolen food from their buddies, or were responsible directly for another fellow prisoner-of-war losing his life. This is not true.

WALLACE: All of this is not true?

HAWKINS: All of it is not true.

WALLACE: Did you ever inform on any of your buddies?


WALLACE: I listened to a tape recording by an army psychologist just yesterday, David Ford. He said, from what he gathered from boys that came back, "That the Red Chinese made informing far from being a crime, far from the way that we treat it as tattling, as ratting; but they, in a sense, glorified it. They helped the informer, they gave him cigarettes or apples or oranges or whatever candy, whatever is so awfully important when you are in captivity. And those who were informed upon were not unnecessarily punished, either. Is that not true?

HAWKINS: To a certain degree it is. You had... as was brought out in the story in "Look" magazine, there were three main types of fellows in the prisoner-of-war camp: the progressives, the liberals or the middle-men, and the reactionaries. Of course, about tattling, they didn't look upon it as something that was bad. They put it in the light that you were trying to help your fellow prisoner-of-war... protect his health, or to make the life easier as a whole.

WALLACE: Uhmmmm...

HAWKINS: Now, among your progressive element, you did have a certain number of fellows that for their own personal reasons or for better treatment, did, do these things in order to gain the cigarettes, and candy, and things that, as you say, were important in a prisoner-of-war's life.

WALLACE: You say you never informed?

HAWKINS: No, I figured the fellow's business was his own.

WALLACE: Men who were prisoners with you, David, in Korea, say that you did inform. Let me read to you from the 'New York Times', January 29th, 1954, quote, "The United States Army has sworn statements from returned prisoners-of-war, branding as informers, eleven of the twenty-one Americans who remained with the communists in Korea. The army reports said that the informers eagerly betrayed their former comrades-in-arms, and you were specifically accused as one of the eleven. Now are you prepared to say that your accusers signed false statements about you, Dave?

HAWKINS: I'll say this, Mike. In the first place, the progressives in the camp did not have a high prestige in the camp. And for every person, for instance if somebody in my squad, was doing something that was going against the rules that the Chinese had set up, and he was subsequently taken from the squad for punishment, and I was seen anywhere close to the Chinese headquarters, even though that it would be difficult to say that anybody could I really swear that Hawkins did this. There would be twenty who would say, just from the fact that I'm a progressive, that he did do it.

WALLACE: The progressives were known to be progressive.

HAWKINS: That's right.

WALLACE: And these progressives were the ones who eventually wound up, most of them, or some of them, anyway, as "turncoats".

HAWKINS: Yes, without an exception, all the ones who did wind up as turncoats, did have the reputation of being progressive.

WALLACE: Well, tell me this Dave. As a turn... as a POW first of all, and as a turncoat, did you never do anything about which you felt guilty then or feel guilty now?

HAWKINS: I feel guilty now, because I stayed behind. I felt that I had made a terrific mistake, and that by the time I realized it was a mistake, it was too late to do anything about.

WALLACE: What do you mean by too late?

HAWKINS: I'm sorry...

WALLACE: ...to make your decision?


WALLACE: You could've... you could've... you could have said, "I want to come back," at any time, and you stayed, stayed, and stayed on. There most have been some lure in Red China, there most have been something that they were giving to you, something that you felt inside spiritually, or mentally, or morally. There most have been something that held you there.

HAWKINS: Personally, I went to China to compare what I'd heard with what they actually practiced in China. I went because I was very curious by nature.

WALLACE: What had you heard?

HAWKINS: Well, only what the... our Chinese captives had told us, how great they were working for socialism, the great stride that they were taking in bettering the life of the Chinese people, who for so many thousands of years had lived the life of oppression under various governments and it's backward. And...

WALLACE: But why do you feel the sense of identification of wanting to know about them? Had you not being told by our own Army?


WALLACE: They never discussed the Chinese with you?


WALLACE: They never told you what to expect were you to be captured?

HAWKINS: Yes, they said we'd be killed.

WALLACE: And when you... I beg your pardon.

HAWKINS: Whenever my unit first heard about the Chinese stepping into the war, our officers told us not to fire on them. Without any exceptions, we were under the impression that the Chinese were still our friends. We didn't even know there had been a revolution in China. And they told us that if we come back or had contact with patrols with Chinese troops to not fire upon them, to return and report it to our superior officers. And that's the way it was until the first mortar barrage that they threw at my unit came in. But we didn't know anything about them, or anything.


HAWKINS: Nothing.

WALLACE: Did you feel that when you went to Red China, this was a positive act that you were making? Or was it a negative act, negative in that you were turning your back on the United States? What... what I can't quite get still from you Dave is this, what was so awful in the United States? I can understand a man being disgruntled about his home life, about the way things have happened, about... perhaps he is not getting along well with his buddies or something of that. But you made the tremendous step of turning traitor to your country. What was it? Really, inside you, that made you want to do that?

HAWKINS: Well, I put it this way. I felt that in getting sent so far away from home to fight on a barren rock, against something that I didn't fully understand, that I got a raw deal. I didn't know what was I fighting for, I was in the position that if I don't kill that guy, he's going to kill me. And I felt that the States had made a big mistake, that we had no business over there. And I actually felt that way.

WALLACE: Do you still feel that way, that we were wrong to go to Korea?


WALLACE: Do you say that we and the United Nations was wrong, to try to contain communism there, that President Truman was wrong?

HAWKINS: I think that is was a mistake, still.

WALLACE: Why so?

HAWKINS: Well, from what I understand of communism now, I definitively see the... why it has to be stopped. But I don't think that we have the right to interfere in a civil war of another country, to try to stop it when it's not even close to our own shore.

WALLACE: You believe... you believed then, you believe now, that was not the Civil War?

HAWKINS: Yes, I think it was a civil war.

WALLACE: And then if... let us say the North Koreans, the Red Chinese were to go over the 38th parallel once again, you would believe it would not be our business to try to stop them?

HAWKINS: Now, I would say that we do.


HAWKINS: Have... well, if they ask us to. Well, from what I understand of communism now, I do see the necessity to stop it.

WALLACE: You say from what you understand of communism now. So we get to now to the reason why at the end of three years you decided to come on back? What... what made up your mind finally, that you had been wrong?

HAWKINS: I found that as long as we were segregated and away from the mass of Chinese as a whole, that everything that they taught us had a lot of foundation to it, the theory was very nice mixing with others within China. I found that the theory that they were teaching was practiced...

WALLACE: Did you hear about... (the Hungarian revolution?)

(Loss of audio)

WALLACE: Did you hear about what they did in Hungary?

HAWKINS: That was the main thing that definitely made me take the step to return to the United States.

WALLACE: And when you made up your mind to come back to the United States, did they stand in your way? Did they try to persuade you to stay?




WALLACE: What did they say to you? When you... who did you go to...? How did affect your return?

HAWKINS: Well, when I first started making arrangements I did so on behalf of my wife. So...

WALLACE: You'd married?

HAWKINS: I had married.

WALLACE: I believe a White Russian girl.

HAWKINS: That's right. So I went to the British Chargé D'Affaires, in order to start the the thing rolling rather than to the Chinese Red Cross, as I would have done if it concerned only my self returning.

WALLACE: And they gave you no particular trouble?

HAWKINS: No, no.

WALLACE: Whatever you did as a turncoat, there's no doubt that your actions apply to communists with propaganda that they used effectively the world over; of course you caused your mother untold anguish. Yet since your return to the States four months ago, you've been accepted back in your community at Oklahoma City. You speak at church, and school groups, you've been given a good job by the man who paid your fare back to the States. Wouldn't you say that you've gotten off pretty easy, Dave?

HAWKINS: Exceptionally so.

WALLACE: Were you surprised at your reception?

HAWKINS: Very much.

WALLACE: Are you? When you came back to the States... did you feel a sense of shame in coming back here?

HAWKINS: Yes, I did. Ashamed of what I'd done, I mean, not ashamed of coming back.

WALLACE: ... And I suppose the shame was heightened by the fact that you were treated as well as you were treated when you did get back?


WALLACE: What about the turncoats that were still... still in Red China, I believe there were thirteen of them? What did the communists, the Red Chinese, plan to do with them?

HAWKINS: Well, that depends upon the station that they now occupy in China.

WALLACE: What... do they plan to use them in any specific way?

HAWKINS: Yes, whenever we went to China it was with the understanding that we were going to be revolutionary fighters. By that, I mean that they... we were trained to become communist. And that eventually, in the event of a revolution in the States, that we would return to the United States to take part in that revolution.

WALLACE: They expected that a revolution will eventually...


WALLACE: ...take place here?


WALLACE: And these men, these thirteen turncoats who still remain, will come back here as Americans to work in the revolution that the Red Chinese expect here?

HAWKINS: Some of them will.

WALLACE: Are the thirteen still firmly turncoats?

HAWKINS: Again some of them.

WALLACE: Uh... tell me this, it sounds cloak and daggerish to even talk this way but how, in a sense, can we be sure that you yourself have not been sent back here in some manner to work on behalf of the Red Chinese?

HAWKINS: You wouldn't know for sure.

WALLACE: Do you still have affection, respect for the Red Chinese?

HAWKINS: I think as a people, they're very friendly.

WALLACE: Is that all that you've got to say about them. Would you like to go back to Red China?

HAWKINS: If I was sent back, as a part of a... to work for... I mean on the behalf of the United States, I would go back. If was asked to do so.

WALLACE: Do you believe that the United States should recognize Red China?

HAWKINS: Personally, I think they should.


HAWKINS: Well, in comparison to Nationalist China, that's... that's a very big thing. They have a very large land area, they have six hundred and fifty million Chinese population, and it's like... like saying that there is a very big elephant in front of you, and you say he's not there, until he becomes powerful enough to step on you.

WALLACE: Do you expect that they will become powerful enough to step on us?

HAWKINS: I have no doubt of that.

WALLACE: To step on us?

HAWKINS: Well, if not step on us, to make things very difficult for us.

WALLACE: I understand that one of the things that you couldn't stomach in Red China, Dave, was brainwashing, that they subjected you to. And I would like you to tell us, what is like to be subjected to communist brainwashing? We'll get the answer to that question in less than thirty seconds.


WALLACE: Dave, with that question I asked you about a few seconds ago, we've heard so much about brainwashing. Just, what is it like? How does a brainwashing session work?

HAWKINS: The main idea of brainwashing is to take a person, who is out of what they term... as working class, and to change his complete method of thinking and his outlook on life.

WALLACE: By what means?

HAWKINS: By... well, they teach you the theoretical part of it, and then they watch your progress through criticism meetings. You open your mind and bring out all of your personal shortcomings, or if I do anything wrong, anyone has the right to bring the shortcoming out to me, that is contrary to the teachings of Marxism.

WALLACE: Who does this to you? Did the Chinese, did your teachers, your professors, or your fellow students, the fellow turncoats?

HAWKINS: Well, the Chinese, of course, were the ones that initiated it, and after we got the hang, so to speak of how to carry it on, then it was conducted among ourselves.

WALLACE: And you mean, just a group sit around and they criticize each other?

HAWKINS: That's right.

WALLACE: And, in what sense does this wash your brain...? I'm not... I'm not clear on this...

HAWKINS: Well, it depends upon the individual, he either becomes very adept in covering up his shortcomings so that they won't show, or else he becomes very open minded, and really makes an effort to correct these... the ideological basis that causes these shortcomings.

WALLACE: Did they try this in prisoner-of-war camp prior to your going to Red China? Did they do this there too?

HAWKINS: No, not so much. The main thing came after we first went into China. We underwent a six months' course which was primarily concerned with this brainwashing.

WALLACE: Couple of things that I'd like to go back to, if I may, David. One is you mentioned this elephant that is going to step, this Red Chinese elephant that is going to step on the United States, I'm not sure that I understand what you mean. Do you mean that you look forward eventually to a clash between our country and that country, and that country winning?

HAWKINS: I look at it this way. The Chinese are very rapidly making great strides so far as their standard of living is concerned, or in the adapting of modern warfare. And eventually, if for any reason they... uh... a war does break out, that they're on one side and we're on the other, they're going to be a very formidable power to contend with. It's not going to be a very backward nation that can easily be dealt with. It's going to be something, it's going to take a lot of effort to overcome.

WALLACE: And among the people, among the Red Chinese themselves, the rank and file of the people, is there hatred of the United States, is there enthusiasm for this stomping operation that you talk about?

HAWKINS: No, as all the few Chinese that I've come in contact have a very good opinion of the American people as a whole. The most common thing you'll hear from the Chinese is that we don't have anything against the people, it's just... we don't like your government.

WALLACE: Do they believe in our freedoms?

HAWKINS: No, they... they... to them, it's much different than... We have an aggressive government that's always humming for war, and that we are downtrodden and oppressed, etcetera.

WALLACE: And you could not have set them straight from your own experience... set what small group you were exposed to... set them straight?

HAWKINS: Well, of course I talked with a lot of Chinese, and I put forward my own personal life and that we did have freedom, but they don't consider it freedom in their... in that... in their sense.

WALLACE: And finally, the group of thirteen who are still there... will be used as traitors to the United States, will be used as, quote, "Peace Fighters?"

HAWKINS: Well, like I'll point out to you again, some will and some won't. There are some of these fellows who, since they've been in Red China, feel very much the same as I do. But, again for their own personal reasons, they are either afraid or feel that they can't come back at the present time. On the other hand, there are some of them that will.

WALLACE: Thank you Dave for coming and talking with us. After the Korean War, Marine Colonel General Shephard said that our ultimate weapons against communism were, as he put it, "Faith and Courage." Those weapons obviously couldn't be issued by the army to David Hawkins when he went into battle, and was captured. Faith and courage are instilled by home, in church, in school, and in that sense David Hawkins' problem certainly has become our own. I'll bring you a run-down next's week interview in just a moment.


WALLACE: Next week, we go after the second part of our study of men in war and peace, from a hero. You see him behind me, he's Congressional Medal-of-Honor Winner Commando Kelly, whose exploits included killing forty Germans within twenty minutes in the Second World War. If you're curious to know what Commando Kelly thinks of turncoats, of American-German friendship today, and why he says, "You can't eat your medals," we'll go after that story next Sunday. Till next week then, for Philip Morris, Mike Wallace... good night.

ANNOUNCER: The Mike Wallace Interview is brought to you by Philip Morris Incorporated, the Quality House.

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