Clarence Adams (Korean War)

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Clarence Adams
Born (1930-01-01)January 1, 1930
Memphis, Tennessee
Died 1999 (aged 68–69)
Allegiance  United States (1947–1950)
 China (1950–1957; defector)
Service/branch United States Army seal United States Army
Years of service 1947–1950 (defected)
Rank Army-USA-OR-04a.svg Corporal

Clarence Adams was an African-American GI during the Korean War. He was captured on November 29, 1950, when the People's Liberation Army overran his all-black artillery unit's position. Adams was held as a POW until the end of the war. Instead of returning to the United States during Operation Big Switch, Adams was one of 21 American soldiers who chose to settle in the People's Republic of China.[1] As a result of their decision, these 21 Americans were considered defectors.

Early life[edit]

Adams grew up poor in Memphis, Tennessee.[2] He dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Army in 1947, at the age of 17.[3]

Korean War[edit]

After basic training Adams became an infantry machine gunner. He travelled to Korea shortly after the war between North and South erupted in June 1950 and was posted to Battery A of the 503rd Artillery Regiment, attached to the 2nd Infantry Division. This was his second tour in Korea, as he had first been posted there in 1948.[2]

Adams took classes in Communist political theory, and afterwards lectured other prisoners in the camps. Because of this and other collaboration with his captors, his prosecution by the Army was likely upon his repatriation. During the Vietnam War, Adams made propaganda broadcasts for Radio Hanoi from their Chinese office, telling black American soldiers not to fight:

You are supposedly fighting for the freedom of the Vietnamese, but what kind of freedom do you have at home, sitting in the back of the bus, being barred from restaurants, stores and certain neighborhoods, and being denied the right to vote. ... Go home and fight for equality in America.

Adams married a Chinese woman and lived in China until the increasingly anti-Western atmosphere of the Cultural Revolution led him to return to the United States in 1966. The House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenaed Adams upon his return but did not question him publicly.[4] He later started a Chinese restaurant business in Memphis. Clarence Adams died in 1999. Adams' autobiography An American Dream: The Life of an African American Soldier and POW Who Spent Twelve Years in Communist China was posthumously published in 2007 by his daughter Della Adams and Lewis H. Carlson.[5]

Return to the United States[edit]

Adams returned to the United States from China via Hong Kong on May 26, 1966, citing that he missed his mother.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adams, Clarence (June 6, 2007). An American Dream: The Life of an African American Soldier and POW Who Spent Twelve Years in Communist China. University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 978-1558495951. 
  2. ^ a b Gillam, James. "A POW's Return to America". 
  3. ^ "An American Dream: The Life of an African American Soldier and POW Who Spent Twelve Years in Communist China". 
  4. ^ "Defectors: By Mutual Consent". 15 July 1966. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Michael Lollar. "The long road home". MCA. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Chicago Tribune article May 26th 1966".