In a recent interview on National Public Radio’s StoryCorps, Walter Dixon, a 90-year-old veteran of three wars, spoke to his son Russ Dixon about how, after a case of mistaken identity, he returned home to find that his world had moved on without him.
Walter Dixon had been married for just five days when he was shipped off to Korea for his second war deployment. About a year later, at age 22, he was declared dead. When they published his obituary in the local paper, his wife back home in Waynesville, MO., had no way of knowing that this news was premature. In reality, the enemy captured Dixon as a prisoner.
Dixon was captured while trying to aid his fellow comrades. He saw five men from his unit get hit by hostile fire. One soldier had both legs broken, so he took his field jacket off and wrapped it around his legs to hold them together. When he returned to his weapon, the Chinese forces supporting the North Koreans came up behind him.
When the bodies were later found, Dixon’s jacket, which carried letters from his wife in the pockets, was the evidence that mistakenly counted him as a deceased soldier. For the next two and a-half-years, he was held a prisoner in a North Korean camp. It was a harrowing experience.
Dixon escaped five times, but each time they caught and punished him. When the fighting ended, the Red Cross arrived at the camp and notified the prisoners of their release.