Larchmont Gazette
1954 Year in Review
Year in

Year in Review interprets Larchmont history year by year. Larchmonters speak for themselves through news reports, pictures, and official documents.

Dedicated to two local men who gave their lives in the Korean War.

Francis J. MacDonnell

Owen A. Norton




Francis J. MacDonnell


Military Record:

  • Rank: Master Sergeant
  • Serial Number: RA06058870
  • State of Record: NY
  • County of Record: Westchester
  • Year of Birth: 1904
  • Branch: Infantry
  • Military Occupation Specialty: (1745) Light Weapons Infantry Leader
  • Assigned Unit: 19th Infantry Regiment 24th Infantry Division
  • Place of Casualty: North Korea
  • Date of Casualty: 1951/01/01
  • Casualty Description: Captured - Died nonbattle

Additional Information:

Dates of the news summary are probably off by one year. MSG MacDonnell would have been sent to Japan in the summer of 1950 (vs. 1951), and would have deployed to Korea with the rest of the division in July of 1950.

Company C, 19th Regt, 24 ID was commanded by CPT Louis "Rocky" Rockwerk, and was overrun by Chinese forces at the Battle of Anju on 4 November 1950. Many of the soldiers in this unit were either killed or captured. Because of his age (46) at the time of capture, MacDonnell would have had a greater challenge in surviving. Temperatures averaged well below zero and prisoners had only the clothing they were captured with; the 24th ID was one of several units that had not been issued winter clothing. On rare occasions, the Chinese forces would move prisoners by truck, but most prisoners had to march all the way to Pyoktong (on the Yalu River), and the Chinese forces often executed those sick and wounded who could not keep up.

The memoir Korea POW: A Thousand Days of Torment by William H. Funchess describes the battle and the events leading up to it in some detail. Funchess was a platoon leader in the company; like MacDonnell, he was captured by the Chinese forces and barely survived the march to Pyoktong. One of the appendices in Funchess's memoir shows a handwritten list of Americans who died in captivity, including the name of MSGT F.J. MacDonald (sic). Funchess hid the list in a fountain pen and smuggled it out when he was repatriated.

According to a former POW, Dr. Sid Essensten, American POWs were dying at the rate more than a dozen per day in January and February of 1951 due to exposure, malnutrition, and dysentery. At that time, the camp was run by the North Koreans. Conditions improved slightly when the Chinese forces assumed control of the camp and milder weather arrived in April of 1951. Conditions improved significantly in July of 1951 once peace talks began with the UN.

Several authors have written about Camp Five, which was one of the most notorious POW camps in North Korea. Albert Biderman's March to Calumny and Raymond Lech's Broken Soldiers are two of the best documented accounts of Camp Five. Clay Blair's The Forgotten War discusses the 24th Infantry Division in detail, to include the Battle at Anju.

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