Samuel David Hawkins

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Samuel David Hawkins
Born (1933-08-01) August 1, 1933 (age 84)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Allegiance  United States (1950–1953)
 China (1953–1957; defector)
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service 1950–1953 (defected)
Rank Army-USA-OR-02-2015.svg Private

Samuel David Hawkins (born August 1933) was the youngest of the American defectors of the Korean War.[1][2] Hawkins was one of only twenty-two American and British servicemen to defect to China after the conclusion of the war in 1953. Hawkins returned to the United States in 1957.


Early life and wartime experience[edit]

Hawkins was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His father, Clayton O. Hawkins, whom Hawkins says he had an unhappy relationship with during his childhood, had served in World War II.[3] He enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 16. Captured and made a prisoner of war by the Chinese People's Volunteer Army troops, he chose to remain in China after the signing of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, one of twenty-two American and British servicemen to do so.[2] While in China, he studied politics at the People's University of China in Beijing, and later worked in Wuhan as a mechanic.[4] Hawkins was featured in Virginia Pasley's 1955 book 21 Stayed: The Story of the American GI's Who Chose Communist China—Who They Were and Why They Stayed.[2] His father died in a fire in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma while Hawkins was in a prisoner-of-war camp in China.[5] In 1954 Hawkins was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army.[6] In 1956 he married a White Russian woman named Tanya who had grown up in a French convent in China and worked at the Soviet embassy in Beijing.[7][8]

Hawkins was permitted to speak with the foreign press in China. His interviewers included African-American journalist William Worthy, as well as correspondents from Reuters and Look magazine.[9] As early as June 1956, Hawkins indicated his desire to return home in an interview with a British journalist.[10] Finally, in late February 1957, he took a train from Guangzhou to the border with British-ruled Hong Kong and departed mainland China by walking across a rail-bridge to the British territory. Upon his arrival in Hong Kong he was met by U.S. Vice Consul S.M. Backe, who questioned Hawkins and issued him a one-way passport to the United States.[6] He stated that the major motivation for his departure from China was the way the Soviets had suppressed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which turned him off Communism. He was the seventh ex-U.S. Army soldier to come back after defecting to China.[11]

Return to the United States[edit]

Neither the U.S. nor the Chinese government provided Hawkins money for his return trip to North America. Rather, a wealthy Oklahoma City oilman, M. H. Champion, paid for Hawkins' ticket after Hawkins' mother, Carley Sallee Jones, made a public plea for assistance. Champion also promised Hawkins a job after his return to America.[12] Hawkins landed in Los Angeles, California, on March 2, 1957. He had defected for more than three years[13] and spent more than seven years in East Asia. On June 23, 1957, he was interviewed by Mike Wallace, and explained his decision to defect and his motivations for eventually returning to the United States.[3] The following week, Wallace interviewed World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Charles E. Kelly. Wallace described how Hawkins had been "accepted back into his community," and asked Kelly, "How do you think that we should treat U.S. Army turncoats?" Kelly responded:

He's a human being; we should treat him the same as we treat any other G.I. In my opinion, I think the boy deserves it; he just got off on the wrong track. And I know for a fact when he went to Korea, he didn't know whether he was going to come back or he was going to stay there. So, maybe he got a little scared when he was captured. Maybe he was pressured, tortured. I don't think it's the boy's own fault. No doubt at the time—I never seen him or never met him—no doubt he was young and he wasn't trained properly.[14]

In June 1957, it was announced that Hawkins' wife Tanya would arrive in Hong Kong, with the intention of traveling to the United States to be with her husband.[15] She arrived in the U.S. in the fall of 1957. She claimed that after her husband left China, she lost her job there.[7]

After his return to the United States, David Hawkins worked in Oklahoma City as a salesman in an oil firm. In 2001, the United Press and Associated Press reported that Hawkins had studied to become a physician's assistant, was married, and had children.[16] Hawkins returned to China to participate in the filming of Shuibo Wang's 2005 documentary film They Chose China, about the 22 American and British soldiers who defected. The film features fellow defector Clarance Adams and his personal story extensively.[17]


  1. ^ "Warner Prisoner's Name on Car List", Ada Evening News, 1952-03-11, retrieved 2008-04-17 . "Perhaps the youngest Oklahoma prisoner is Pvt. Samuel David Hawkins, Oklahoma City, who won't be 19 until August."
  2. ^ a b c Pasley, Virginia (1955), 21 Stayed: Who They Were and Why They Stayed, Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, pp. 107–111 
  3. ^ a b Mike Wallace (1957). The Mike Wallace Interview - David Hawkins Episode (TV Broadcast). United States: American Broadcasting Company. 
  4. ^ "7th U.S. Turncoat Leaves Red China", The New York Times, p. 3, 1957-02-27, retrieved 2008-04-17 
  5. ^ "21 Who Stayed: Story of American GIs who Chose Communism", The Pittsburgh Press, 1955-07-14, retrieved 2010-12-31 
  6. ^ a b Roderick, John (1957-02-27), "Russ 'Killing in Hungary' Causes Turncoat to Return", Times Daily, retrieved 2010-12-31 
  7. ^ a b "Ex-P.O.W. and Wife into Seculsion at Oklahoma Home", St. Joseph News-Press, p. 3A, 1957-10-06 
  8. ^ "Mother Says Turncoat Son May Wed Russian", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. 3A, 1955-06-12 
  9. ^ "Seven Out, Fourteen to Go!", Washington Afro-American, 1957-03-05, retrieved 2010-12-31 
  10. ^ "U.S. Turncoat Wants To Quit China: Briton", Chicago Daily Tribune, 1956-06-08, retrieved 2008-04-17 
  11. ^ MacGregor, Greg (1957-02-28), "Turncoat Cites Budapest Plight; 7th Ex-G.I. to Come Back From Red China Says Acts of Soviet Changed Mind", The New York Times, retrieved 2008-04-17 
  12. ^ "Gratitude is Voiced by Mother", St. Joseph News-Press, 1957-01-20, retrieved 2010-12-30 
  13. ^ "U.S. Turncoat Arrives, Happy But Apprehensive", Los Angeles Times, p. 22, 1957-03-03 
  14. ^ Mike Wallace (1957). The Mike Wallace Interview - Commando Kelly Episode (TV Broadcast). United States: American Broadcasting Company. 
  15. ^ "8th Turncoat is Ready to Leave China", The Miami News, p. 8C, 1957-06-12 
  16. ^ Where are Korean War Defectors Now? Grey Beards. Vol. 16. No. 4. July–August 2002.
  17. ^ They Chose China. CM Magazine. Vol. xiv. No. 11. January 25, 2008

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