Korean POW’s at Normandy

by Richard Riehle

Kyoungjong YangWWII is still a treasure trove of obscure details. These details, in turn, are the grist from which many amazing stories are produced. Taking this point of view I think the following story is one of the stranger ones… I heard about this wartime hegira a long time ago, but it is still worth hearing about.

During the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy (Utah Beach), four of the POW’s were Koreans. This is what could be called the end of most of this story, it began several years earlier. These soldiers were conscripted into the Japanese Army in 1938. In battle against the Soviets in Nomonhan they were captured and turned into POW’s…for a while, the Russians then conscripted them into the Soviet army to fight the Nazi’s. In 1943 they were captured, most likely in the battle of Kharkov, where they were in turn, conscripted into the Nazi army as laborers.

They ended up working on the Atlantic wall defenses, and ultimately were captured by the Allies. Kyoungjong Yang, and the other three ‘soldiers’ spent the rest of the war in a British POW camp. He ultimately moved to0 the USA, became a citizen, living near Northwestern University (just north of Chicago).

As you could imagine, this became quite a cause célèbre in South Korea, a documentary show was filmed for Korean TV…

As I said, this is a story which has always amazed me, and makes me wonder why it has never been covered to the degree that many of the much more conventional war stories from WWII have been…

Koreans in Normandy

Korean Soldiers in WW2 German Army