Brigadier General Frank H. Schwable (July 18, 1908 – October 28, 1988) was a decorated Marine pilot whose prosecution for collaborating with his Korean captors while a prisoner of war was dismissed in 1954.
Schwable, the son of a marine colonel who served thirty years, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929. He was awarded the Cross of Valor by the Nicaraguan government in 1932. In September 1933, he was among 19 aviators representing the Marine Corps at the International Air Races in Chicago. He received the Legion of Merit for his service in World War II.
While Chief of Staff of the First Marine Air Wing, Col. Schwable and his co-pilot were reported missing on a combat mission in Korea in July 1952.On February 23, 1953, the Chinese broadcast charges that 2 officers, including Schwable and his co-pilot, had said that the U.S. was conducting germ warfare. Schwable was quoted saying the purpose was "to test under field conditions various elements of bacteriological warfare and possibly to expand field tests at a later date into an element of regular combat operations". When Schwable was quoted confessing to germ warfare, his wife said: "That's the same old Communist malarkey. Nobody believes it."
United Nations commander Gen. Mark W. Clark denounced China's germ warfare charges. Clark said: "Whether these statements ever passed the lips of these unfortunate men is doubtful. If they did, however, too familiar are the mind-annihilating methods of these Communists in extorting whatever words they want .... The men themselves are not to blame, and they have my deepest sympathy for having been used in this abominable way."
Schwable was released from captivity in September 1953. On April 27, 1954, Marine Corps commandant Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. said he was "an instrument, however unwilling, of causing damage to his country" by the false confession that he later repudiated. At the board of inquiry that considered whether he merited court-martial, a recently released POW testified. He described how he was tortured during six months' captivity and said that in prosecuting Schwable they would "persecute a man who has already been persecuted would merely be playing into Communist hands". Dr. Winfred Overholser, former president of the American Psychiatric Association and longtime superintendent of St. Elizabeths Hospital, a federal mental facility, testified on his behalf.
The court of inquiry ultimately recommended no action against Schwable, but he was shifted, according to Shepherd, to "duties of a type making minimum demands upon the elements of unblemished personal example and leadership". On May 11 he was assigned to serve as the Marine Corps representative on the Navy's Flight Safety Board, based in the Pentagon. The Marine Corps awarded Col. Schwable its Legion of Merit for a third time on June 22, 1954, for his service as Chief of Staff to General Clayton Jerome in Korea for three months before his capture.
The U.S. military had no uniform policy for addressing the approximately 200 cases of collaboration on the part of prisoners of war in the Korean Conflict. The Air Force decided against trials for any of its 83 cases, having determined, according to one report, that the prisoner's survival was more important than "vain heroics in trying to keep from an interrogator information that the enemy already has secured". It cleared 69 and gave honorable discharges to fourteen, making no names public. The few cases that came to public attention also varied in many respects. One Army corporal, Edward S. Dickenson, was a 23-year-old draftee from Cracker's Neck, Virginia. Fellow enlisted men accused him of collaborating for favored treatment and telling his captors about a fellow prisoner's escape plans. By contrast, Schwable was a 45-year-old career officer, the son of a colonel. He was a graduate of the Naval Academy with 23 years as a pilot and had the support of fellow officers. Dickenson was sentenced to ten years at hard labor. Others charged with collaborating were all in the Army: Cpl. Claude J. Batchelor (sentenced to life imprisonment, reduced to twenty years), Lieut. Col. Harry Fleming (dishonorably discharged), and Major Ambrose H. Nugent (cleared).
- Raymond B. Lech, Tortured Into Fake Confession: The Dishonoring of Korean War Prisoner Col. Frank H. Schwable, USMC (McFarland & Company, 2011), 1
- "23 Americans Get Nicaraguan Medals". New York Times. November 6, 1932. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Marines Fliers to Race". New York Times. August 27, 1933. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Abel, Elie (May 2, 1954). "Policy on P.W.'s Now Shaping Up". New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Marine Air Wing Leader Reported Missing in Korea". New York Times. July 13, 1952. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Red Germ Charges Cite 2 U.S. Marines". New York Times. February 23, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "'Malarkey,' Says Mrs. Schwable". New York Times. February 23, 1953. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Clark Denounces Germ War Charges". New York Times. February 24, 1953. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Lech, Tortured, 4
- "Marines Award Schwable Medal". New York Times. July 8, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Marine Ex-P.O.W. Backs Schwable". New York Times. March 3, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Dr. Winfred Overholser Dies; Developed Psychiatric Centers". New York Times. October 7, 1964. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Schwable Assigned to Air Safety Post". New York Times. May 12, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Abel, Elie (May 5, 1954). "Army Convicts Dickenson of Collaborating with Reds". New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Ex-P.O.W. Major Accused by Army". New York Times. November 13, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- "Officers to Study 'Brainwash' Issue". New York Times. August 23, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
- Lech, Raymond B. (2011). Tortured Into Fake Confession: The Dishonoring of Korean War Prisoner Col. Frank H. Schwable, USMC. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 168—9, 188.