A FEW IMPRESSIONS ON MEETING THE
HARRY HOLT PLANE, THE “FLYING TIGER,” WHICH ARRIVED
IN PORTLAND, OREGON, DECEMBER 27, 1958, CARRYING 107 KOREAN CHILDREN
WHO WERE ADOPTED THROUGH THE HOLT PROXY ADOPTION PROGRAM BY FAMILIES
IN THE UNITED STATES.
While in Portland during the Christmas holidays I had an opportunity
to see a few of the 107 Korean children who came to the United States
through the Harry Holt Korean Proxy Adoption Program, and the process
whereby the adoptive parents picked up their children at the Portland
The age range of the children was from the infant child (2-3 months
old) to 10 years. Of the 107, there were 50 infant children under
one year. A few children were of Negro-Korean extraction, and they
were adopted into Negro families. These were beautiful children!
I have heard said that the combination of Negro-Korean is an especially
attractive combination, and the children proved this. The Negro
adoptive couples were thrilled with the children they received.
The children tended to be of quite dark coloring.
Although I did not see the children come off the plane because
I was a few minutes late, I did see the boxes that the infant children
arrived in. These were white, heavy cardboard boxes, approximately
three feel long and perhaps two feet wide. There were small round
holes in the ends of each box, I understand, to enable the boxes
to be stacked one above the other.
At the time I arrived the children were in the Immigration Headquarters
having their physical examinations by the Public Health Doctors,
and volunteer workers (I believe) were bathing and feeding the children.
This room was not open to the adoptive parents or “outsiders.”
One could only hear the many children crying.
Many of the children had colds and coughs, but I did not feel that
their general physical condition looked too bad. The children were
as a rule thin, but they did not look sickly. I understand that
thirteen of the 107 children were ill and needed hospitalization.
There must have been about 200 people to meet this plane, including
native Koreans who came in their native dress to see these children
arrive. This number did not include the adoptive parents, but may
have been members of the extended family. In some cases only one
parent came to get the child because of the distance involved. I
saw adoptive couples from Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan,
and the far western states. I asked one couple from Colorado the
process they had gone through to receive their child, and they replied
that their minister (Lutheran) had recommended them, and they submitted
a financial statement including employment status. They did not
mention anything else.
The adoptive parents were all huddled in one large room waiting
for their name to be called by Mr. Holt’s secretary indicating
that their child was ready for release. The adoptive parents had
in their possession papers from Mr. Holt notifying them of their
child’s arrival, plus a picture of the child they were to
adopt. Some of the adoptive parents said they could recognize “their”
child coming off the plane by the picture.
As a group, I would say that the adoptive couples looked like a
lower to middle-class group. The Negro adoptive parents were the
most strikingly dressed and groomed of the group. The preponderance
of women without makeup, and extremely plain dress—almost
drab, was startling. This might indicate that these particular families
were of a strict religious sect. I felt that while the enthusiasm
of the adoptive parents was generally high, that some of the people
showed little affect, and had a “color-less” expression.
This lack of affect even extended to a few of the adoptive mothers
after they received their child. (I felt ill!) . . .
I could not help but feel that a few of the adoptive couples were
disappointed in their child. The expression on some of their faces
were revealing that perhaps this was not the child that they had
dreamed of, and they were still bewildered at the appearance of
the child and his inability to make immediate response as they wished.
I came away from this experience ill and almost as bewildered as
some of the adoptive parents themselves—that this could happen
to children and parents in the United States today! My worries for
these children have never ceased, and one can only hope and pray
that they are doing as well as circumstances have allowed with such
inadequate planning. I could only think how different this could
have been with the participation of good social agencies who could
work with these families to evaluate for their own good and the
welfare of the child, their capacity to adopt a Korean child. How
different the futures of these children might be with more adequate
protective devices through proper legislation and the cooperation
of all people interested in the lives of children, whether they
be American, Korean, or any other children in such circumstances.