By Tamara Boatwright
A claim by Clayton County candidate for sheriff, Clifford R. Hall, that he is a former Korean prisoner of war is being disputed by at least two organizations that maintain records on former POWs.
"There is no record of Mr. Hall ever being listed as a POW," says Tim Casey, the records keeper for the Association of Korean War Prisoners of War Inc.
Casey has been with the organization for 15 years and is used as a source for information by the United States Department of Defense POW-MIA Office headquartered in the Pentagon. He says he has scoured his single and combined lists of former Korean War POWs and while several Halls are on the list, none match Hall's full name, his date of birth or his Army service number.
"There's no name anywhere that matches his," said Casey.
Hall's claim was brought to the attention of the News Daily, with whom Hall has placed several political advertisements, by Chuck and Mary Schantag. The Schantags operate the P.O.W. Network which is dedicated to honoring actual P.O.W.s and revealing those whose claims can't be substantiated. Hall's name appears on the website, pownetwork.org., under the heading "Claiming POW status," along with a list of men with the last name Hall who are POWs that returned from Korea. The Schantags, too, are known by the Pentagon.
The News Daily made several attempts to reach Hall who responded with a faxed letter. In the letter Hall writes (referring to himself as he, not I, "he was captured by Chinese forces at the Chosin Reservoir. He was not in a POW camp. He was held prisoner by the contingent who captured him and several other military personnel. When the guards became drunk and passed out, he and the other personnel managed to escape and walked back to friendly forces."
He continues, "This happened to many of those who were run over by Chinese forces. Not everyone who was taken prisoner was taken to the camps. Some managed, against all odds, to escape. Some were brutally murdered. This information is verifiable." Hall did not sign the letter but his name is included at its close.
Hall maintains that he served in the 2nd Infantry of the U.S. Army, however, according to Larry Greer of the DPMO at the Pentagon, the 2nd Infantry was not at the Chosin Reservoir in November and December of 1950 when the Battle of Chosin was fought. Greer states that the 7th Infantry Division and the 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army and the 1st Marine Division were fighting there at the time. The 2nd Infantry was to the southwest along the Ch'ongch'on River.
Greer also states that if a soldier had been taken prisoner for any period of time, it would have been reported, a record of that capture would be on file and that soldier's name reported.
During a telephone call prior to the issuance of the faxed letter, Hall was asked about his military records and said they "burned up at Levenworth." Military records were kept at the Military Records Office in St. Louis, Mo. that did burn in 1973. Levenworth is home to a military prison.
"But the Pentagon has many other sources to use in investigating records claims," Greer said. "That (fire) was a tremendous loss, but does not mean information can't be checked through other means."
Hall did fax to the News Daily a copy of what he says are his military discharge papers and a copy of his honorable discharge document which shows that he was discharged in February 1953. However, what he presented as his discharge paper, known as a DD 214, shows that he was born in 1936 and entered the Army in 1949 which would have made him 13 at the time. Hall said in early telephone conversations that he was 21 when he fought in Korea and later his wife, Kristina Hall, said he was 18 and gave his year of birth as 32. She also claimed to a reporter that her husband was "dropped into the wrong location during his first parachute drop during the war." However, according to the paperwork offered by Hall, he served in the 557 Medical Ambulance Company.
The record he offered also states that he was wounded by "shrapnel left leg 29 Nov 51." It also states that he was discharged with the rank of Technical Sergeant and earned the Occupation Medal Germany; Korea Service Medal with five bronze stars; Purple Heart; Combat Infantry Badge; Presidential Unit Citation; United Nations Service Medal n Bronze Star.
Kristina Hall also stated that her husband was a member of the Columbus, Ga. Veterans of Foreign War, however, Clark Hovatter, commander of the VFW post in Columbus since 1996, said there was no record of Hall being a member. Hall is also not a member of the Jonesboro VFW, according to Cmdr. Leo Ott, nor is he a member of any American Legion in Georgia, according to Adjunct Charles Knox of the American Legion State Headquarters in Stockbridge.
When offered opportunities to clarify his claim of former POW status, Hall declined. When asked during a telephone conversation on Monday what camp he was held in he replied, "I wasn't in no camp." Then asked if he was in fact a former Korean POW, he replied "I don't want to talk about it."
Casey, who retired after a career in the Army, said he "just can't understand people who do things like that."
"I did two tours in Vietnam and served in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and no matter what someone did in the service, everyone contributed," he said. "You served and contributed, and that's honorable. You don't have to make up stories."
Staff writer Ed Brock contributed to this article.