Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

"Jimmie" Pon Son See

By Andy Bisaccia, The Sailor Who Tried to Adopt Him


Andy Bisaccia, ca 1998


Let's Start by getting his name straight!

We'll go to the "horse's mouth" for the correct name. Jimmie himself is the ultimate source. On the envelope below, addressed completely in his own handwriting, you'll notice the return, he signed it as he always did, Jimmie Pon Son See. I believe I have the only documents in existence, from that era, in Jimmie's own handwriting. Surely he is the ultimate authority on his own name. I think that someone from the Stars and Stripes Newspaper must have been cutsie and named him Jimmy Pusan. I never heard him referred to by that name, ever! He was simply called Jimmie. Pon Son See, minus the Jimmie, was his real name.


Envelop in Jimmie's Handwriting


Adoption Plans

I was in the process of adopting Jimmie and had the consent of my parents, to bring Jimmie into our home in Santa Barbara, California when, as fate would have it, we were given orders to Sasebo, Japan for R&R, and to receive further orders. Because Jimmie was a Korean national, we were not allowed to take him outside Korean waters. To further complicate matters, I believe that Japan also, ironically, had an oriental exclusion act. Thinking that we would eventually be returning to Pusan, we arranged to have G-2, Army Intelligence, look out for him until we got back. They consented to do this for us.

Allow me to retrogress for a moment. Before we left Korea, I had several things in the hopper, pertinent to Jimmie's adoption. One, a letter from Senator Richard Nixon (below) about getting a bill passed allowing Jimmie to enter the U.S. Secondly, Jimmie wrote several letters to my parents establishing contact from both sides and rapport for the eventual adoption. Thirdly, I had made arrangements with a Navy Attorney to represent me, and to introduce an adoption request to the "Korean Supreme Court", to allow Jimmie to leave Korea and be adopted. We were blazing new trails because this had never happened before. I understood that Sygman Rhee, the leader of South Korea, was contacted on this with a favorable response. Of course all the grandiose plans became academic and unraveled when we were called back to Japan and given orders to deploy to the Yellow Sea, along with some other Naval vessels, to make our presence felt, due to the fact that Russian sub/s had been sighted prowling the waters off the coast of Korea. We patrolled these waters for a prolonged length of time. The ship received a dispatch from the Chief of Naval Operations to put me ashore at the earliest possible time, and to commission me as Ensign with orders to report to Naval Intelligence Headquarters in Washington D.C. for training and further assignment. (I had applied earlier for Special Designator 1635, Navy Intelligence) I turned this down because, by now, the release dates had been posted and my name was at the top of the list due to the health of my parents who needed me more at home than the navy needed me. I also wanted to get back to Pusan, if possible, and bring some kind of closure to the adoption of Jimmie Pon Sun See.

Jimmie returns home and so do we.

I have a suspicion that G-2 was using Jimmie to do some spy work for them. Several of these Korean orphans, boys as well as girls, were used for this purpose.
They could pass, unnoticed, as grimy little rug rats, to be pitied and ignored. I wasn't with him every minute so he had a life separate from our relationship. I remember one day I was near the G-2 headquarters and they had just brought a dozen or so prisoners, captured in the hills surrounding Pusan, handcuffed and shackled. A grim looking bunch. They were undoubtedly commie guerillas. Lurking in the crowd nearby, alone, was Jimmie. I felt there was a connection. There were other sub rosa activities that most of us weren't privy to, I'm sure.

One time I had a bill that was unlike the rest of my South Korean currency. I asked Jimmie if he knew what it was. He looked at it glaringly, spat on it, and shouted, "Communist!" He had no love for them, especially since they had killed his parents. I'm sure he'd do anything asked of him to wreak vengeance on the commies. This may be the reason G-2 was more than willing to take care of him when we were ordered to Japan. All of this is speculation, you understand, based on intuition, observation, and plain old gut feeling.

After our stint of duty in the Yellow Sea, we returned to Pusan. Jimmie was gone.
This is what I learned from G-2 about what happened to him. When we left, Jimmie was taken in by a Korean woman. She knew he was well connected and possessed two sea bags full of precious commodities and a pocket full of money. She cleaned him out and disappeared. He was too trusting and she was desperate. The story goes that he made friends with the crew of a Korean vessel and worked his way aboard. It seems he knew this ship was going to Seoul from whence he came. The last anyone saw of Jimmie was when this ship weighed anchor and departed. Jimmie apparently departed with it. As you can see, he was not turned over to an orphanage. For one thing, I of anybody, would have know it. I don't know what's behind that scuttlebutt. If he had still been around, I would have pursued adoption. I gave up because he was no longer around.

I met the CEO of a big firm in Seoul here in Ojai several years ago. He and his wife, who is American, visit Ojai about twice a year and stay in the health spa here in town. He also likes to play our golf course while here. We became friends. . He was fascinated with the story of Jimmie and offered to search for him. I loaded him up with info about Jimmie to take back to Seoul. He returned the following year and told me that he'd run adds in the paper and contacted various agencies but with no luck. Jimmie could have moved away, didn't see the ads, or just didn't respond. I haven't given up. I have a very good friend here in Ojai whose wife's parents were missionaries in Seoul many years ago, and are apparently remembered and revered today. The Huylers still have connections there and I believe they have a son who resides in Seoul. I will pursue that route in search of Jimmie.


Jimmie salutes BMC McMahon. The picture was taken from "The United States in the Korean War" , Abelard-Schuman 1964 . It was captioned: A Korean boy named Jimmie was temporarily adopted by United States sailors during the fighting near Pusan. Other Korean boys of about Jimmie's age later helped the Navy perform an important intelligence mission before the amphibious landings at Inchon. (Official U.S. Navy photo)

Andy Bisaccia has contributed several  stories to the Whitehurst Web site:
Pusan Flashbacks is the most recent. Other stories by Andy: Escapades of Andy and Harry in Kyushu, The Day I Borrowed the Commandant's Limo, The Navy Way, The Great Engine Heist, Toothache, and a Great deal of material on "Jimmy" Pon Sun See, the Korean boy adopted by the Whitehurst crew in Pusan. You can learn more about Andy at this link.
Andy's Bio Sketch

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