Open main menu

Frank Schwable

Brigadier General Frank Hawse Schwable (July 18, 1908 – October 28, 1988) was a decorated U.S. Marine pilot whose prosecution for collaborating with his Korean captors while a prisoner of war was dismissed in 1954.

Frank Hawse Schwable
Frank H. Schwable.jpg
Schwable as Colonel, USMC
Born(1908-07-18)July 18, 1908
Died28 October 1988(1988-10-28) (aged 80)
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service1929–1959
RankUS-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General
Service number0-4429
Commands heldVMF(N)-531
Battles/warsWorld War II

Korean War

AwardsLegion of Merit (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross (4)
Air Medal (3)



Schwable, the son of a marine colonel who served thirty years, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929.[1] He was awarded the Cross of Valor by the Nicaraguan government in 1932.[2] In September 1933, he was among 19 aviators representing the Marine Corps at the International Air Races in Chicago.[3] He received the Legion of Merit for his service in World War II.[4]

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.[5] 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."[6] When Schwable was quoted confessing to germ warfare, his wife said, "That's the same old Communist malarkey. Nobody believes it."[7]

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."[8]

Schwable was released from captivity in September 1953.[9] 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.[10] 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 be "persecut[ing] a man who has already been persecuted [and] would merely be playing into Communist hands."[11] 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.[12]

The court of inquiry ultimately recommended no action against Schwable,[10] but he was shifted, according to Shepherd, to "duties of a type making minimum demands upon the elements of unblemished personal example and leadership."[10] On May 11 he was assigned to serve as the Marine Corps representative on the Navy's Flight Safety Board based in the Pentagon.[13] 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.[10]

Schwable retired on June 30, 1959, as a brigadier general. He died on October 28, 1988, and is buried in Ebenezer Cemetery, Loudoun County, Virginia.[14][15]



  1. ^ Raymond B. Lech, Tortured Into Fake Confession: The Dishonoring of Korean War Prisoner Col. Frank H. Schwable, USMC (McFarland & Company, 2011), 1
  2. ^ "23 Americans Get Nicaraguan Medals" (PDF). New York Times. November 6, 1932. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  3. ^ "Marines Fliers to Race" (PDF). New York Times. August 27, 1933. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  4. ^ Abel, Elie (May 2, 1954). "Policy on P.W.'s Now Shaping Up" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  5. ^ "Marine Air Wing Leader Reported Missing in Korea" (PDF). New York Times. July 13, 1952. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  6. ^ "Red Germ Charges Cite 2 U.S. Marines" (PDF). New York Times. February 23, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  7. ^ "'Malarkey,' Says Mrs. Schwable" (PDF). New York Times. February 23, 1953. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  8. ^ "Clark Denounces Germ War Charges" (PDF). New York Times. February 24, 1953. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  9. ^ Lech, Tortured, 4
  10. ^ a b c d "Marines Award Schwable Medal" (PDF). New York Times. July 8, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  11. ^ "Marine Ex-P.O.W. Backs Schwable" (PDF). New York Times. March 3, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  12. ^ "Dr. Winfred Overholser Dies; Developed Psychiatric Centers" (PDF). New York Times. October 7, 1964. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  13. ^ "Schwable Assigned to Air Safety Post" (PDF). New York Times. May 12, 1954. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  14. ^ Lech, Raymond B. (2011). Tortured Into Fake Confession: The Dishonoring of Korean War Prisoner Col. Frank H. Schwable, USMC. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. pp. 168–9, 188.
  15. ^ Gen Frank Hawse Schwable at Find a Grave

Additional sourcesEdit