Photo Caption: Korea, February 1952. One of the “Sunburst” Divisions tanks, colorfully dubbed “Pappy’s Pig” is parked on a Korean Plain as crew members Sergeant First Class Howard D. Jones, left, of Baldwin Park, California talks to Red Cross Assistant Field Director Jim Ryan of Tacoma, Washington. As a member of the Red Cross staff attached to the 40th Division, one of Ryan’s jobs was to locate men in forward units to deliver personal messages.

On April 20, 1861, Clara Barton, who later founded the American Red Cross, first came to the aid of servicemen and their families when she provided assistance to the men of the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War. The Red Cross has served military members and their families in every war since, as well as in times of peace. Soon after hostilities began in Korea in June 1950, the Red Cross responded. Services provided to members of the armed forces and their families included:

At the request of General Douglas MacArthur, the Red Cross expanded its emergency mobile recreation services, enabling the Red Cross to give service not only to American troops, but to all United Nations forces.

Photo Caption: Panmunjom, Korea, August 5, 1953. A United Nations soldier arrives at Freedom Village during the POW exchange, “Big Switch”, and is greeted by an American Red Cross Field Director. The repatriated soldier carries his guitar and a ditty bag of comfort articles given to prisoners by the Red Cross. American GIs were offered a free radiogram home as a gift from the American Red Cross, and a free telephone call to their family when they landed in the U.S.

By November 1950, the Red Cross had opened a center in Pusan and started up subsidiary canteen and clubmobile services for isolated military units, combat returnees, military personnel moving by troop ship, flying personnel, ground crews, and air-evacuated patients. By the spring of 1951, there were 24 Red Cross operational locations servicing Korea, including the stationary centers at Pusan, 5 airfields, and 17 subsidiary installations, including one at the mobile Army surgical hospital (4077th).

Also in 1951, President Truman established the federal blood program, designating the Red Cross as the blood collection agency for defense needs. Overall, between 1950 and 1953, the Red Cross collected and procured nearly 5 million pints of blood for the armed forces.

Photo Caption: Washington, D.C., August 25, 1950. First shipment of whole blood for combat forces in Korea from the American Red Cross Regional Blood Center in Washington, D.C. is loaded aboard a plane at the Washington National Airport. Shipments of blood from all of the 34 regional blood centers in the United States are being sent to the west coast for transmittal to Korea. From left to right, J.H. Bonnell, American Air Lines representative; Dr. Ross T. McIntire, National Director of the American Red Cross Blood Program; and Mrs. Rollin Friedman, Red Cross volunteer motor service member who delivered the blood to the airplane.

In 1953, the American Red Cross played an active role in Operation Big Switch, which involved the exchange of some 89,000 prisoners of war, nearly 12,000 of them with the United Nations forces that were held in North Korea. As part of a joint international team, the American Red Cross facilitated POW repatriation and provided badly needed supplies and comfort articles to POWs in North Korea who had been denied them during captivity. Upon their return across the 38th parallel, the American Red Cross provided free telephone calls to their families and other morale and welfare assistance.

Each month in 1953, 18,000 Red Cross volunteers, the Gray Ladies, served in military hospitals around the world. Each year of the Korean War, an average of 1,100,00 servicemen received Red Cross assistance at camps and hospitals, at home and abroad. Two Red Cross workers gave their lives in service to the Red Cross during the Korean War.

Photo Caption: Private First Class Thomas Dudley (center foreground) and Private First Class Lawrence Langston, call the right shot in a game arranged by Doris Williams, left, and Helen Wodard, American Red Cross Clubmobile, for the men of A Battery, 68th AAA in Korea. The American Red Cross Clubmobile Program provided recreational activities for troops in Korea, encouraging active soldier participation in amateur dramatics, social games, theme programs and other leisure-time activities.

Photo Caption: Korea, 1951. Red Cross worker Helen Stevenson is swamped by returning First Marine Division men at an airstrip near Pusan, Korea, while passing out coffee and doughnuts from an American Red Cross Clubmobile. A member of a well-known Red Cross World War II family, Miss Stevenson is the daughter of William E. Stevenson, president of Oberlin College (American Red Cross photo).

Photo Caption: Korea, January 1953. American Red Cross Field Director Carl Chandler writes notes on a message which a young soldier has asked him to send home. Chandler makes regular visits to the men of the 224th Infantry Regiment wherever they may be located to deliver and pick up emergency messages to the folks back home. He offers counseling to the GIs and distributes comfort items. All these services are part of the Service to the Armed Forces Program of the American Red Cross, currently known as Armed Forces Emergency Service (Red Cross photo).

“During those two terrible days in November when wounded and frozen members of the 7th Infantry Division were being rescued across the ice of the Chosin [Changjin] Reservoir by men from the 1st Marine Regiment, there was one of their number who refused to be evacuated. Once rescued, he dragged other men to safety from under the fire of Chinese snipers, only 150 yards away. Lost in admiration of this performance, the Marines wanted to decorate him. He said, ‘I’m supposed to do this work; I’mthe Red Cross man with the 7th Division.’ “

Colonel Marshall
Letter to the Editor
Detroit News, March 1951


American Red Cross press release, 1998.

Gilbo, Patrick. The American Red Cross: The First Century (1981).

For additional information contact:

American Red Cross
National Headquarters
Historical Resources Department
8111 Gatehouse Road
Falls Church, Virginia 22042