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DoDs POW/MIA Office Holds Prayer Breakfast

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 1996 – Accused of being a spy, Larry Zellers sat on death row wondering whether hed live or die. His anxiety intensified when two smiling young North Korean soldiers were introduced as his executioners.

The condemned American schoolteacher said to himself, "If Im to die tomorrow morning, I have too little time to live and just enough time to pray."

Zellers told about 90 people attending DoDs recent second annual POW/MIA prayer breakfast prayer becomes easy and natural in a death cell.

About 20 former prisoners of war from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War attended the breakfast. They shared their stories with representatives from DoD POW/MIA Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, family groups and special guests.

Zellers was keynote speaker. While teaching school in Kaesong, South Korea, he was captured along with other foreigners when the North Koreans attacked the South, June 25, 1950. His schoolteacher wife, Frances, was in Seoul at the time and escaped.

Zellers endured the "Tiger Death March" with American servicemen and other foreigners through the mountains of North Korea in the height of winter.

"In a survival situation, whether you have equipment or not, theres nothing more important than what you carry in your head," Zellers, a former Air Force Survival School instructor, told his fellow exPOWs and guests. He taught "Inner Resources for Survival in a POW Camp," "What Communists Interrogations are Like," and "Code of Conduct."

"Experts say you have to survive in the Arctic, the jungle, the desert and at the hands of the enemy," Zellers said. "But the only defense and only weapons you have are whats inside you, and prayer is the best resource you have."

After his release in 1953, Zellers earned a master of divinity degree and joined the Air Force as a chaplain

Zellers said when someone is a POW, those who hate you are there to trouble you every day. "Their business is to create pain in one way or another. They had many weapons, external and internal. Your weapons are only internal. But unless you caused trouble, the North Koreans had a rule that its better to convert than to kill you.

POWs spirits brightened a bit the day a captured American pilot was thrown into the camp. "He had a New Testament Bible and let us use it," Zellers said. "We lived in the land of the dead and were trying to get back to the land of the living. We were happy to be alive, but sometimes we didnt enjoy being alive. The Bible helped us cope."

Watching the American POWs pray was fascinating to the North Koreans, Zellers said. "They couldnt show they believed in anything other than the party line.

"After the first year of captivity, through prayer and discipline, we won the spiritual war. The remaining two years of captivity were better."

Defense POW/MIA Affairs Navy Lt. Steven B. Shepard said the annual prayer breakfast is held "to do work of the Lord and to lift our hearts in prayer for the missing."

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Click photo for screen-resolution image"In a survival situation, there’s nothing more important than what you carry in your head," retired Air Force chaplain (Lt. Col.) Larry Zellers tells an audience of ex-POWs, their spouses and guests at a recent DoD POW/MIA prayer breakfast in Arlington, Va. Zellers was a civilian schoolteacher in South Korea when he was captured by communists in June 1950. Rudi Williams   
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