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First Washtenaw Prisoner Released By Communists

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First Washtenaw Prisoner Released By Communists

Ypsilanti Man’s Family Hears Joyous News

YPSILANTI — News of the release of the first Washtenaw county prisoner of war brought a nightful of excitement to the Ypsilanti family of Pfc. Robert W. Fletcher. The celebration began at 1:30 this morning and centered at the home of Fletcher's sister, Mrs. Evelyn Campbell, 27, of 466 Madison St.

Fletcher's mother, Mrs. Mae Woodson, 45, who lives a few blocks away at 1052 Monroe St., was perhaps the happiest person in the large family.

'Answer To Mother's Prayer’

In a solemn moment she said, "It's the answer to one mother's prayer. I only hope the thousands of other mothers get the same answer."

The 21-year-old Fletcher, who is unmarried, will get a joyous reception from his four sisters and two brothers. He’ll live with Evelyn "until he decides what he wants to do,” his sister said.

The glad news came to Mrs. Woodson after two months of silence from her son, who before being reported missing in action on Nov. 28, 1950, was with the 24th Infantry Division. A year later he was reported to be in North Korean hands.

The last word Mrs. Woodson had heard from her son was a Mother's Day card last May. On the top was a poem written to her by the young soldier.

Reports Narcotics Used

Following his release with 89 other GI's last night, Fletcher told newsmen in Korea how some of the POW’s used a narcotic smoke they called "Sumchi." He said that the Chinese guards tried to stop it' but that "some GI’s were too slick.”

The Ypsilanti soldier also told of seeing a POW beaten after being accused of stealing food. "They tied his hands behind him and beat him with sticks and belts. He cried for them to stop, but they kept it up for about 15 minutes. They didn't knock him out but they sure scarred him up plenty.”

Fletcher said he saw several Russians during his stay in Red prison camps. Asked how he knew they were Russians, Fletcher explained: “Some of the fellows served in Germany and would holler in Russian at these guys. They would look around but never said anything. They wore fur hats black boots and heavy coats.”

Fletcher said he knew one of three Americans who were reported to have remained in the prison camps. "I don't think he wanted to. At first he sort of bought that Communist stuff, but later he changed. I saw him the day I left the camp to come here and he didn’t say anything about staying there.”

Left School To Enlist

Fletcher's sister said her brother was attending Ypsilanti High School when he left school to enlist in the Army in April, 1950.

As it happened, his sister said, Fletcher served with the 24th Division, the same unit his father, the late Charles E. Fletcher, and an uncle, Robert Fletcher, for whom he was named, served with in World War I.

Besides Evelyn, Fletcher will be returning to three other sisters, Mrs. Christine Ellison and Wilma Fletcher, both of Ypsilanti, and Mrs. Clara Flowers of Cleveland, O.

His brothers are Charles E. Fletcher, jr„ 23, of Ann Arbor, and William F. Fletcher, 13, of Ypsilanti.

The released POW's mother is employed at the Varsity Laundry in Ann Arbor.

Mrs. Mac Woodson, 45, of 1052 Monroe S., Ypsilanti, lovingly holds a picture of her son, Pfc. Robert W. Fletcher, released last night by the North Koreans with 89 other American soldiers. Fletcher Is the first Washtenaw county POW to regain his freedom.