Family remembers Indy vet who survived years as POW during Korean War
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (November 12, 2015) – What is 2.5 years? It’s 30 months. 878 days. 21,072 hours. Every second of which Indy native Paul Clements spent as a war prisoner in a cave in North Korea.
“The Korean War was only 36 months long, 37 months long. He was a prisoner of war for 30 of them,” said Paul Clements’ son, Ron Clements.
At 21 years old, Paul had just begun to live his life– working as a combat engineer during the Korean War.
“That’s what he was doing when he was captured, driving a truck that carried a bulldozer,” said Paul’s daughter, Diane Hepler.
Captured by Chinese soldiers, Clements was put on a death march hundreds of miles through North Korea. All the while, he endured sweltering heat and brutal, subzero temperatures. One third of his fellow prisoners died on the journey.
“You would never know he went through the experiences he did because he would never bring them up,” said his wife, Betty Clements.
After two and a half years suffering through manual labor, living in a cave and surviving off little to no food, Paul’s condition was poor.
“He lived in shambles, he was covered in body lice, he had dysentery, and when he got out everything was clean. That’s why this house looks like that… that and Betty,” said Ron.
When he returned, Paul would receive a Purple Heart for a myriad of wounds. Four kids, grandchildren, a marriage, and decades later, he’s remembered by his family gathering around the kitchen table and telling stories about him.
Paul Clements died of cancer on Election Day at 86 years old.
His family now remembers the soldier that was through scrapbooks– one for each son and daughter with articles written in the then Indianapolis Times, about his trials as a POW.
“It was his will to live which kept dragging him on, forward every day while he was a prisoner, he wasn’t going to give up, he wanted to come back to the United States,” said Paul’s oldest son, Rocky Clements.
“He was proud of what he did but he didn’t think it was exceptional. That’s the kind of man he always was,” said Betty.
Paul Clements literally snuck into the military, multiple times. First, in World War II, he tried to enlist at 15. He wound up serving two years later when he became eligible.
After his time in Korea you would think he’d had enough, but he enlisted again. This time, in the Air Force. His country, appreciative for his service and recognizing his time as a POW, had to respectfully ask him to step down.