AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Dan “Lee” McKinney, a War World II and Korean War Veteran, turned 93 this year.
He was one of only four WWII Veterans who went on this year’s Texas Panhandle Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. and the only Prisoner-of-War on the trip.
Lee McKinney, a Clovis native, had served as a buck Sgt. In WWII before re-upping to join the Army infantry in the Korean War effort.
“I joined the unit, January 18, 1951. We were in several firefights. The temperature was down to about 72 below.”
McKinney said U.S. forces had the upper hand, pushing Chinese forces back, until one night in April when the tide turned.
He said they ran out of ammunition and did not hear the command to pull back. McKinney was stuck, with U.S. artillery firing on their positions. He hid, thinking he would catch up with his unit in the morning, but that was not the case.
“So, I didn’t have a chance. And they caught me that morning,” McKinney said.
The conditions as a POW were not good, McKinney said. They slept 10 men to a small room. Food was scarce and many other prisoners did not survive.
“I was down to 165 pounds and I went down to 110. I was lucky. I never got sick,” McKinney added. “Some of the guys got so sick it just hurt to watch them. We buried as high as 25 a day that died from wounds and sickness.”
Despite the odds, McKinney knew he would survive.
“Oh, I just..I was just redneck enough, I knew I was coming home.”
McKinney was captured on April 23, 1951. He was a prisoner of war for 28 months.
“I was captured on the day I was supposed to get married. She had set up a wedding date in September for April. And that’s the day I got captured. She had to wait three years,” he said.
His future wife did wait for him.
McKinney was released on August 20, 1953, and although the engagement lasted a bit longer than either of them would have liked, Lee and Joyce Ann McKinney were finally married on October 16 and they’re still together to this day.
When McKinney looks back on his time as a POW, he says it did not break him.
“Oh, it just made me more patriotic. I love my country,” he said.
McKinney said he would even serve his country again if he was needed.
“Oh, yeah for the country. They could find something a 93-year-old man could do, answer the phone if it has a good hearing aid on it.”
McKinney said he blocked out his time as a POW until recently. In 2005, he was inducted into the wall of heroes at Cannon Air Force Base. There, he shared his story more than 95 times with Airmen’s Leadership students.