PHOENIX, Md. (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Dale E. Horan, deputy director for Operations, Joint Staff, presented the Purple Heart Medal to former U.S. Army Corporal Charles B. Elder for wounds he received during the Korean War as a POW, at the Jacksonville Senior Center in Baltimore County, Maryland, June 22.
Elder was wounded by shrapnel from friendly fire during an engagement while serving with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.
He was taken into captivity by North Korean Forces and turned over to the Chinese at Camp 3 where he was held from 1951 to August 1953.
"Mr. Elder's wife approached me about the missing Purple Heart Medal when I made a Veteran's Day Speech at the Jacksonville Senior Center on Veteran's Day in 2014," Horan said. "I contacted the Army about the medal. After Army officials reviewed his records, they said there was no question that his repatriation documents showed he was eligible for the medal.
"When the Army asked me if I would present the medal to Corporal Elder, I was more than happy to do so for this very deserving veteran who served his country and suffered greatly as a prisoner of war," said Horan.
"This is a very special day that I have been waiting for," Elder said to the three hundred friends, family, and state and local officials who attended the ceremony.
Elder recently recounted his story for other Korean War prisoners of war after receiving word that he would be receiving the Purple Heart Medal.
He said that he was captured by North Koreans on Heartbreak Ridge, North of the 38th Parallel.
"I was wounded the day that I was captured. I walked for a while until [I was] unable to walk any further. I was put on an ox cart as we zig zag (sic) back and forth across Korea to the prison camp. We marched for 25-30 days before reaching the prison camp," said Elder.
He said he was "operated on by North Koreans on the march in [a] hut using kitchen utensils and holding down my arms and legs with no anesthetic. There were 8 to 10 on [a] single ox cart during [the] march. I was the only one to survive the march to the prison camp... my platoon leader said I smelled horrible, my hip was full of infection and maggots.
"To pass the time I was forced to attend propaganda classes. Able ones were sent on wood detail, carrying wood for the Chinese to keep warm. We were turned over to the Chinese when we got to prison camp," he said.
Elder said the camp was on the Yalu River near the Chinese border. The winter temperatures plummeted to 50 below zero during his internment. The POWs were given cotton padded clothing and lived in thatched roof huts. He did prepare an escape along with others, but their preparations were discovered. As a result, he was placed in solitary confinement for some of his internment.
The armistice ending the Korean War was signed on his birthday in 1953. He was repatriated through Freedom Village on the 38th Parallel and discharged at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, later that year.
He said at the time of his discharge, the office processing his discharge "ran out of medals" and attempts to receive the Purple Heart were unsuccessful over the years until now.
His long-time friend and fellow prisoner of war, Ray Unger, who had been determined to get the missing medal for him, died earlier this year.
After his discharge, he worked on the family farm and attended Baltimore Engineering Institute for three years. He worked for Westinghouse from 1955-1957 and was a payroll accountant for AAI from 1957 until he retired in 1991.
Elder previously received the Prisoner of War Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, Combat Infantry Badge, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea - Korean War Service Medal, Republic of Korea - Presidential Unit Citation, and Cold War Recognition Certificate.