Tag Archives: Korean War

Bill Harold Kellum

Big Bill Kellum

Army A Football Yearling, Cow & Firstie Year

Korean War —

Big Bill Kellum led a platoon in the 21st Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division, earning the Silver Star. After his capture, Kellum organized resistance to Chinese indoctrination at Camp Five – Ponktong near the Chinese/North Korean border. His punishment was confinement to a special section of the camp hospital (no prisoner left alive), where he died in June 1951.

Grads would walk next to the wire whistling “On Brave Old Army Team” to encourage Bill.

USMA 1950
Memorial Articles

William Harold Kellum
NO. 17975 20 October 1926 15 June 1951
Died 15 June 1951 (Presumed date) at Pyoktong, North Korea. Aged 23 Years.

COURAGE AND DETERMINATION. These were the words by which 1st Lieutenant William H. Kellum lived, fought, and died. Bill Kellum’s dedication to these words constitutes a capsule explanation of his outstanding athletic achievements, his extraordinary gallantry on the field of battle, and his uncompromising attitude toward his Chinese captors which was directly responsible for his untimely, tragic, but highly courageous and exemplary death.

It is clear that Colonel Earl ‘Red’ Blaik, under whose tutelage Bill achieved AII- East honors at the position of end in addition to three football letters, two of them with Navv stars, was impressed by these characteristics of courage and determination, as he recently recalled that:

“Bill Kellum … in his quiet, rather self-effacing, but uncompromising way … had a depth of determination which would not allow him to play a secondary position even though to do otherwise he was forced to overcome a limited … (physique by college standards). Bill’s competitive urge had a ferocity of purpose which earned him the lasting respect of the troops both on the field and on the field of battle.”

Again, courage and determination are amply evident in Lieutenant Kellum’s combat record as illustrated by the following excerpts from his Silver Star citation:

“…He was assigned the mission of maintaining a combat outpost approximately 3,000 yards in front of the main line of resistance…. At the break of day, he could observe the enemy almost completely around his position. Realizing the threat to his security, he immediately began placing his men to meet the new threat… He ran from position to position, continually exposing himself to enemy fire, in order to encourage his men and direct the fire fight. When last seen, he was running toward the right flank of his platoon to direct that group of men who were then heavily engaged with the enemy …. “

But there was more to Bill Kellum than athletic and military achievements. More even than courage and determination. He was a man of many capabilities and interests, a man who is remembered for his ready grin as well as his courage, a man considerate of and deeply attached to his family, and a man of strong beliefs in God and dedication to country and career. An account which does justice to Bill’s achievements and character cannot be told hit and miss: it must have a chronological foundation.

So let us backtrack to Eastland, Texas, on 20 October 1926, Bill’s date of birth. He was a strong, healthy baby which gave him a good start towards being the outdoor, athletic type he turned out to be. Bill received his elementary education in Sulphur Springs, Texas, and El Dorado, Arkansas. His high school education was at Haynesville, Louisiana, where in recognition of good grades and citizenship he was elected a member of the National Honor Society.

In forecast of football exploits at West Point, Bill was a much respected terror on high school football fields. He made All-State two years and All-Southern one year playing the position of end. Let us look briefly at excerpts from newspaper accounts of games in which he played, for courage and determination were as evident then as thev were to be years later playing for higher stakes in Korea:

“…Kellum is a scrapper from whistle to gun…his fine competitive spirit is an inspiration to his teammates… in spite of the fact that opposing coaches have had their linemen double up on the lanky wingman. He has been a standout in every game with his jarring tackles, precision blocking, and fancy pass catching ……

Of course, football was not Bill’s onIy avocation. He was greatly interested in scouting, an interest which may have been given impetus by the action of a Boy Scout who saved him from death from gasoline fumes at the age of four by administering artificial respiration. Bill was also an active member of the First Baptist Church. Another sporting interest, swimming, he turned to profitable use as he served as manager and life guard of the Haynesville City Pool during high school days.

Bill was close to his family in growing up. He and his brother, Herman, now a doctor, were inseparable. In the one letter he was able to write home from prison camp, Bill’s primary concern was not for his own situation, but rather for news of Herman’s first child. In Bill’s words,

“…Have been thinking about (the family) a lot and have wondered greatly about the new addition to the family …. Let the kid know about his Uncle Bill.”

Bill’s favorite fishing partner was his father who continually encouraged him in his athletic and career ambitions. Bill was close to and always considerate of his mother, never failing in the years he was away from home to call her on special occasions. His only and younger sister, Beth, was the recipient of much advice as well as special concern and protection. An age difference of 12 years was no barrier between Bill and his younger brother, Joe, whose active approach to life was so similar to Bill’s.

Thus did William H. Kellum’s full boyhood prepare him for the responsibilities of manhood.

Upon finishing high school, Bill served five months in the US Navy in the closing months of World War II. While in the Navy, he won a “golden gloves” championship, evidence of his interest and competence in the “manly art of self-defense,” an interest which was to bring further laurels at West Point.

As a recipient of an appointment to the US Military Academy, Bill left the Navy to attend Louisiana State University where he found time amidst his West Point preparatory studies to be first-string end on the football team and to win a second place medal in the ROTC boxing matches.

Matriculating to West Point in July 1946, Bill, by graduation day, 6 June 1950, was able to leave an enviable record behind him. Bill’s football exploits have already been related. In boxing, he won many more bouts than he lost. Skinny for a heavyweight, Bill is still remembered at West Point and by classmates around the world for “cutting down to his size” ring opponents who outweighed him frequently by as much as 50 pounds. Herb Kroten, one of his boxing coaches, accounts for Bill’s success (he went to the finals of the Eastern intercollegiate Championships one year and was elected co-captain of the boxing team his First Class year) by recalling his willingness “to take on anything.”

Athletics were not Bill’s only interests at West Point. He was a member of the Fishing Club and Radio Club and ranked relatively high militarily. However. Bill is remembered by his classmates as much for his personality as for his more objective achievements. The Howitzer was indeed right in asserting that “Bill’s warm Southern personality and ready humor will be long remembered by the Class of ’50.”

Only a few short months after graduation, Bill, in company with so many of his classmates, was called upon to utilize his West Point training on the field of battle sooner than he or anyone else expected. His country and his Alma Mater did not find him wanting! As a platoon leader of Company G, 21st Inf., he distinguished himself on the field of battle being awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. He had every reason to write home proudly when he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant only five months after graduation. Excerpts have already been quoted from his Silver Star citation. Equally stirring and indicative of his courageous spirit and military leadership are the following excerpts from his Bronze Star citation:

“During his regiment’s advance his platoon was the leading element …. With complete disregard for his safety Lieutenant Kellum exposed himself to a hail of withering fire in order to place his men in positions affording the maximum fire power and control. Moving far forward, he directed the effective fire of friendly artillery and mortars …. He then led an assault – routing the enemy … and permitting the continued advance of the regiment ……

Captured during an action in which he was heroically leading his platoon in defending a combat outpost 3,000 yards in front of the main line of resistance, Lieutenant Kellum was taken to a prison camp in Pyoktong in North Korea. Here he faced his final and perhaps his most formidable test of courage. A classmate whom Bill assisted while he himself was weak and sick reports that:

“…under these difficult conditions Bill was a model soldier. He resisted his captors’ every effort to organize a mass indoctrination program in the officers’ compound, and did more than his share of the work in helping his fellow prisoners to survive….

In spite of a complete lack of care and only crackers and rice for food, Bill, by sheer determination. recovered from flu, only to incur the wrath of the Chinese for organizing the ambulatory soldiers at what was, in name only, the prison camp’s hospital. Thrown into detention in a part of the “hospital” from which no prisoners ever emerged alive, Bill died a hero’s death staunchly defending his convictions and the traditions of his Alma Mater and country. Fellow prisoners report that Bill’s death occurred approximately 15 June 1951, a date which is more accurate than the year end date, 31 December 1951, assumed in AG official records.

In their tremendous and irreplaceable loss, Bill’s surviving parents and brothers and sister have been strengthened by a justifiable pride shared bv friends, classmates, and fellow officers in a man who died as he lived: courageous and determined to be true to his own high ideals whatever the danger, whatever the personal sacrifice.

–R.P.L. ’50–















Joe Green

Korean War —- Joe Green Class of 50, another Army football player, was one of the pilots captured during this period. Although Green survived the war, he was held in solitary confinement for the duration of his captivity. Paul Roach remembers getting a glimpse of Green before the end of the war: “After that, a classmate and I always hummed –On, Brave Old Army Team — whenever we passed his compound”.

Football — Fullback Class Numerals and Monogram

Track — Monogram, Army A with Navy Gold Star

John Trent


Led one of Army’s greatest teams. Killed in Korea and posthumously named Footballs Man of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America. – Joseph December 11, 2005


Captain Football Team

Killed in Action Korea

USMA 1950

John Charles Trent
NO. 17938 11 October 1926 15 November 1950

Killed in Korea, November 15, 1950, near Wonsan. Aged 24 years.

“We are landing at the Port of Wonsan tomorrow; it has not yet been secured. Please don’t worry about me.” These were the last words heard from big, wide-smiling, gentle John Trent who met his death near Wonsan, November 15, 1950.

John, or Jack, as he was known to his family and friends in Memphis, was born on October 11, 1926 to Walter and Eleanor Trent. His parents still live in the house on Walker Avenue where he was born – a house filled with memories of his happy boyhood. The youngest of five children, John was born into a family, close-knit in love for one another, and one in which traditions, especially as to holidays and birthdays, are carried on from year to year – family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, trips to the country at Easter and on the Fourth of July, picnics in the summertime and circuses in the fall.

In his junior high school years, John became interested in sports, entering every one that was offered in the school. His capacity for leadership was shown by his being elected president of the senior class, captain of the football team, and most popular boy in his class. The newspapers selected him as one of the most promising football players entering high school that year.

His interest and skill in athletics continued to develop during his high school days. As a senior, he was a member of the Student Council, and received many honors in athletics. Immediately after graduation, John attended Louisiana State University, finishing one year’s work before he was called to the Air Force. After fifteen months In the Air Force, he entered West Point.

Whenever John was at home, there was a gathering of the boys from high school days, for a spaghetti supper. These friendships did not lessen with the years, and each time John returned, it became a standing joke to say, as the phone rang and rang, “Jack is home again!”

John’s years at West Point and the few months after graduation, are beautifully described in the following tribute written by “HIS ROOMMATES”:

“On that warm Summer day In 1946, a strapping young man came to us from a loving Tennessee family who had moulded him in the family traditions of love and honor. With those inbred ties of closeness and courage, he lived and died a true All-American. These words are most fitting to John C. Trent, our dearest friend, who left us on the Korean field of battle on 15 November 1950.

“Our initial acquaintance with John took place on a field similar to that from which he left us . . . a Beast Barracks tactics problem on the mock battle grounds that circumscribe our Alma Mater. Here for the first time we met the broad-shouldered, rugged individual who was to be our roommate for three years. John arrived at West Point and we immediately accepted the modest and unassuming typical “Rebel” for the friend that he was. Despite the many laurels and kudos that he earned for his prowess and accomplishments, he departed from us unchanged as the quiet fellow he had been from the start. We remember him for that cool steadiness and amiable personality that depicted a man who lived for the enjoyment of life itself.

“John never lost sight of his eternal goal to return home to his cherished family in Memphis and spend his days with Mom, Dad, his sisters, brother Bud, relatives and friends. The love and ties that are often absent within the American family of today were ever so present with the wonderful Trents. John’s return from every leave aIways found him bubbling over with the joys of having been HOME. Naturally, too, there was always “THE” girl in John’s life which meant that Memphis was the garden spot of the world for him.

“If John’s family and home were his first love, then we must call football his second. In the ALL-American game, John fulfilled his every ambition as he led our Black Knights of the Hudson through the difficult 1949 campaign . . . undefeated and untied. In each of his three years on the gridiron he held one moment to be more cherished than the others . . . 1947 . . . A pass interception against Navy that resulted in a touchdown and a 21-0 victory FOR THE TEAM . . . 1948 . . . His last-second grab of a Galiffa pass that proved the margin of victory FOR THE TEAM against Pennsylvania In a bitterly fought 26-20 battle . . . 1949 . . . Leading THE TEAM in the huge bowl at Philadelphia In defeating our great rivals, the Midshipmen of Annapolis, 38-0, the soundest trouncing in the history of that long series. The shy, reserved pride of this ALL-American John Trent was ever at its highest in receiving from friend and foe alike the simple accolade of recognition, ‘Hi, Big John.’ For this kind of man, it was more than enough. It was this kind of man they called ‘ALL-American,’ the best our beloved country had to offer.

“It was during his graduation leave that the desperate cry came to us from Korea. John came to us again to join the new Team which again was the best we had to offer. Big John was there with his brief words, with a pat on the back from those big fists to bolster spirits that sagged momentarily, just as he had done in every football game he’d fought . . . keeping an eye on the score and the yardage. He was there, his platoon sergeant tells us, on that black Korean night as he started to check his position and see his Team, to give the pat on the back and the brief words to those who were fighting fatigue and sleep In their foxholes as they waited for the enemy. The sergeant had wanted to make the rounds, but as was the way of this ALL-American, Big John insisted on personally visiting his weary Team himself. It was during this necessary check of the perimeter that John received those fatal wounds. He was reverently laid to rest among others from the Team at the Marine Cemetery in Wonsan, Korea.

“That Big John had not changed to the very end is related by his platoon sergeant. His conversation throughout those last days was filled with his true loves . . . his family, his home and friends, ‘the’ girl, and . . . Football.

“Thus it was that we came to know and love and lose our ALL-American friend . . . Big John Trent.”

In him seemed to dwell the promise of greatness the sort of personality that made people love, admire and respect him; he had within him a love of people, kindliness and a deep, abiding faith in God. He has left a heritage of which he, his family and his friends may be justly proud.

Why he was chosen to die is not understandable, but perhaps he and thousands of others have died so that the generations to come shall be able to walk without fear, to live and worship as they please, and to hold their heads high, as free men should.

His Junior High graduation Speech is a strangely prophetic one, entitled “I Am An American,” and ends fittingly:

“I become a link in an unending, unbroken chain, welded together by the Spirit of Freedom, and shining with an undying purpose that will keep forever the principles of Democracy supreme in a turmoiled world.”

– Louise Trent Ferguson